Category: Humor


Harvard Law Review and Others to Cease Hard Copy Publication; Going Digital

Embracing post-print modernity, the Harvard Law Review and several other journals announced over the weekend that they would cease producing hard copy versions in favor of publishing only on-line.

The announcement, joined by the group of journals that co-edit “The Bluebook,” a  leading guide to legal citation that went digital five years ago, responds to rising costs of printing along with declining demand for the format.

“Legal scholars, like other people, do their reading digitally,” said the announcement, issued jointly by the editors of Harvard, Columbia and Penn Law Reviews and Yale Law Journal, which already has a substantial on line commitment.

Reaction from across the legal academy was mixed.  Some law review editors at other schools expressed relief. “We have long desired to move this way too, but feared ridicule if we got out ahead of the fanciest journals,” confided one journal’s editor in chief, insisting on anonymity.

Other editors criticized the move as over-broad.  “There  continues to be widespread belief that printed versions of symposium issues are cost-effective and in demand,” opined Allen Nobile, symposium editor at Cardozo Law School’s top journal.

Among those applauding the move were some who attributed the development to advocacy on this blog, especially the recent post by Aaron Zelinsky urging this step.  After all, as Zelinsky noted, law reviews are among the last cohort to make the shift, lagging behind such organs as the Internal Revenue Bulletin, ProPublica, and the science journal PLOS-ONE.

More old-fashioned sorts were seen poised to lament the move as continued evidence of the decline of the printed word, bound volumes of historic and cultural value lost at some cost, perhaps.


“Yes, Prime Minister” on Leaks

I was reading a draft of David Pozen’s terrific article, forthcoming in the Harvard Law Review, about “The Leaky Leviathan:  Why the Government Condemns and Condones Unlawful Disclosures of Information.”  With my bent of mind, though, I was reminded of this:

Sir Humphrey Appleby:

“What is the difference between a breach of the Official Secrets Act and an unofficial briefing by a senior official? The former is a criminal offence. The latter is essential to keep the wheels turning. Is there a real objective difference? Or is it merely a matter of convenience and interpretation? You, prime minister, will inevitably argue that it is up to you to decide whether it is in the public interest for something to be revealed or not. This would be your justification for claiming that a leak … which must have come from an official is a breach of the act. However, this raises some interesting constitutional conundrums.

1. What if the official was officially authorised?

2. What if he was unofficially authorised?

3. What if you, prime minister, officially disapprove of a breach of the act but unofficially approve? This would make the breach unofficially official but officially unofficial. I hope this is of help to you.”


Innovate or Innovation, Your Assurance of Meaningless Assertions

In the words of Portlandia, innovation is over. Or as another era of hipsters might say, innovation is dead anyway (Swingers). Take a look at the posturing of European Publishers Council and Google over the recent German bill to force search to pay for material longer than a snippet.

“As a result of today’s vote, ancillary copyright in its most damaging form has been stopped,” Google said in a statement. “However, the best outcome for Germany would be no new legislation because it threatens innovation, particularly for start-ups. It’s also not necessary because publishers and Internet companies can innovate together, just as Google has done in many other countries.”

Translation: Insert resistance is futile jokes as needed, but you will work with us and win! We all will win, because we innovate and belong to the Church of Innovation (located somewhere south of San Francisco and north of San Jose).

“With the right legal conditions and the technical tools provided by the Linked Content Coalition, it will be easy to access and use content legally,” the European Publishers Council said in a statement (PDF) on Friday. “This will mean that publishers will have the incentive to continue to populate the internet with high-quality, authoritative, diverse content and to support new, innovative business models for online content.”

Translation: We have no idea what is next. But please give us more time, protection, and money. We promise we will come up with something new.

Confession: Have I invoked innovation. Of course. It is seductive. It is too seductive. Pam Samuelson is a fan of Orwell’s Politics and the English Language, as is Neil Richards, and as am I. I must confess that I have sinned. I slipped away from Orwell’s mandate and went with the easy, meaningless word. I hate when that happens. I will try and stop.

Of course, what other word or words would say more is the next struggle. The German law says only a snippet is allowed. Right. What’s a snippet? Someone says innovate. I say, “Right. What’s innovate?” I hope to find out. If I am lucky, I may be like Bill Cosby’s Noah and come up with an answer no one else thought of. Hmm is that innovat… Khannn!!!!

Enjoy the clip


Bring on Jurassic Park!: Resurrection of Extinct Animals

Scientists have come to a “technical, not biological” problem in trying to resurrect a once extinct frog. Popular Science explains the:

gastric-brooding frog, native to tiny portions of Queensland, Australia, gave birth through its mouth, the only frog to do so (in fact, very few other animals in the entire animal kingdom do this–it’s mostly this frog and a few fish). It succumbed to extinction due to mostly non-human-related causes–parasites, loss of habitat, invasive weeds, a particular kind of fungus.

Specimens were frozen in simple deep freezers and reinserted into another frog. The embryos grew. The next step is to get them to full adulthood so they can pop out like before. Yes, these folks are talking to those interested in bringing back other species.

As for this particular animal, the process reminds me a bit too much of Alien, which still scares the heck out of me.

the gastric-brooding frog lays eggs, which are coated in a substance called prostaglandin. This substance causes the frog to stop producing gastric acid in its stomach, thus making the frog’s stomach a very nice place for eggs to be. So the frog swallows the eggs, incubates them in her gut, and when they hatch, the baby frogs crawl out her mouth.

Science. Yummy. Oh here is your law fodder. What are the ethical implications? Send in the clones! (A better title for Attack of the Clones, perhaps).


C.V. / Resume in Word Cloud

My students tell me they sometimes get advice to word-cloud their resumes.  Advisers say this can help assure that the document conveys the most important messages students wish.  I’ve toyed with word clouds for other applications and decided to word cloud my own c.v.  (below).  Nothing surprising to my eyes.  It does make me curious what I’d see in the word clouds of other prawfs. Also, could a refined version of this rival the entry-level AALS forms now used for aspiring prawfs?


The Pope’s Red Stefanelli’s

The following is from the News Democrat (IL) via McClatchy-Tribune Information Services, dateline March 5, 2013; byline Roger Schlueter, headline “The devil wears Prada … but what about the pope’s red loafers?”

In 2006, Hollywood showed us that “The Devil Wears Prada.” Could it be that Pope Benedict XVI made questionable fashion choices concerning his very sole?  This was the rumor that began swirling after Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI in April 2005. Retiring the brown shoes worn by his predecessor, John Paul II , Benedict brought back the red loafers favored by many previous popes.

His fashion sense, which, included Serengeti sunglasses and Geox-donated walking shoes, quickly gained the notice of designers.   In its 2007 list of the best-dressed men in the world, Esquire magazine named Benedict “accessorizer of the year” for his ornate papal habits paired with those red shoes. Perhaps because of that, you’ll still find stories that claim Benedict’s red footwear are none other than that chi-chi Italian brand Prada costing who knows how much.

Well, those shoes are worth hundreds of dollars a pair, but they aren’t Prada — and they didn’t cost Catholics a penny. They’re the work of Adriano Stefanelli , an Italian shoemaker who, out of love for his church, reportedly began making shoes as a gift for the pope a decade ago.

“When I was a child and people would ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I used to answer, ‘I’d like to make the pope’s shoes,'” Stefanelli told Catholic Online ( in 2008. “Today, it seems to me, I’ve realized my childhood dream.” . . .  The shoes — which Stefanelli describes as “ruby red, almost bordeaux” — are hand-sewn and take nearly a month to make. [They cost about $550 a pair.]  

The return to red served several purposes for Benedict, who loves cats and relaxed at night by practicing the piano, [said] Lawrence Cunningham , a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame . . . .  Traditionally, he said, red is worn to symbolize the blood shed by Catholic martyrs. It also signifies the burning fire of God’s love. . . .


Boston College Moves Up in Jurist Ranks

National Jurist has recalculated its law school rankings under pressure from critics who stressed the dubious reliability of the “Rate My Professor” component. Critics had objected to many other flaws in the methodology as well, some comparing it to the widely-ridiculed  approach taken by the Thomas Cooley Law School, in which that school turns out to be the second best law school in the country overall, edged out only by the Harvard Law School. Among the most vociferous critics of both systems, as well as pretty much every other but his own, is the ubiquitous Brian Leiter, professor at U. Chicago Law School.

Notably, Chicago was among a group of schools where “Rank My Professor” had manifest and profound flaws, such as counting professors who do not teach at the school.  About 8 schools moved up in the rankings, including my esteemed former employer Boston College. In correcting itself, the National Jurist’s headline beamed “Best Law Schools Updated, Corrected: U. Chicago Jumps Into Top 5.” 

If that were meant as a cynical ploy to silence Prof. Leiter, however, the plan has backfired, as he continues to opine that National Jurist should scrap its entire methodology and start over. He suggests hiring consultants to help with the task.  If they do, I would encourage editors to avoid retaining any present or former law professor, however, as they all naturally have tendencies akin to those behind the Cooley study. Go Eagles!


Identity Theft: Coming to Screens Near You (and Not Just the Movies)

Identity theft, now so common, we can joke about it.

Or as Alan Alda’s character in Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors says, “comedy is tragedy plus time.”  Time to transform tragedy into comedy, indeed.  Scanning the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse database demonstrates that reported data breaches are a daily occurrence.  Since January 1, 2013, private and public entities have reported over 20 major data breaches.  Included on the list were hospitals, universities, and businesses.  Sometimes, the most vulnerable are targeted.  For instance, on January 8, 2013, a dishonest employee of the Texas Department of Health and Human Services was arrested on suspicion on misusing client information to apply for credit cards and to receive medical care under their names.  Bad enough that automated systems erroneously take recipients of public benefits off the rolls, as my work on Technological Due Process explores.  Those designed to help them are destroying their medical and credit histories as well.

We have had over 600 million records breached since 2005, from approximately 3,500 reported data breaches.  Of course, those figures represented those officially reported, likely due to state data breach laws, whose requirements vary and leave lots of discretion with regard to reporting up to the entities who have little incentive to err on the side of reporting if they are not legally required to do so.  So the bad news is that identity theft is prevalent, but at least we can laugh about it.