Category: Humor

7

Santorum: Please Don’t Google

If you Google “Santorum,” you’ll find that two of the top three search results take an unusual angle on the Republican candidate, thanks to sex columnist Dan Savage. (I very nearly used “Santorum” as a Google example in class last semester, and only just thought better of it.) Santorum’s supporters want Google to push the, er, less conventional site further down the rankings, and allege that Google’s failure to do so is political biased. That claim is obviously a load of Santorum, but the situation has drawn more thoughtful responses. Danny Sullivan argues that Google should implement a disclaimer, because kids may search on “Santorum” and be disturbed by what they find, or because they may think Google has a political agenda. (The site has one for “jew,” for example. For a long time, the first result for that search term was to the odious and anti-Semitic JewWatch site.)

This suggestion is well-intentioned but flatly wrong. I’m not an absolutist: I like how Google handled the problem of having a bunch of skinheads show up as a top result for “jew.” But I don’t want Google as the Web police, though many disagree. Should the site implement a disclaimer if you search for “Tommy Lee Pamela Anderson”? (Warning: sex tape.) If you search for “flat earth theory,” should Google tell you that you are potentially a moron? I don’t think so. Disclaimers should be the nuclear option for Google – partly so they continue to attract attention, and partly because they move Google from a primarily passive role as filter to a more active one as commentator. I generally like my Web results without knowing what Google thinks about them.

Evgeny Morozov has made a similar suggestion, though along different lines: he wants Google to put up a banner or signal when someone searches for links between vaccines and autism, or proof that the Pentagon / Israelis / Santa Claus was behind the 9/11 attacks. I’m more sympathetic to Evgeny’s idea, but I would limit banners or disclaimers to situations that meet two criteria. First, the facts of the issue must be clear-cut: pi is not equal to three (and no one really thinks so), and the planet is indisputably getting warmer. And second, the issue must be one that is both currently relevant and with significant consequences. The flat earthers don’t count; the anti-vaccine nuts do. (People who fail to immunize their children not only put them at risk; they put their classmates and friends at risk, too.) Lastly, I think there’s importance to having both a sense of humor and a respect for discordant, even false speech. The Santorum thing is darn funny. And, in the political realm, we have a laudable history of tolerating false or inflammatory speech, because we know the perils of censorship. So, keeping spreading Santorum!

Danielle, Frank, and the other CoOp folks have kindly let me hang around their blog like a slovenly houseguest, and I’d like to thank them for it. See you soon!

Cross-posted at Info/Law.

8

Ben Stein and the ABA’s Facepalm

The American Bar Association is kicking off its 2012 tech show with an address by… Ben Stein. Yes, who better to celebrate the march of technological progress and innovation than a leading defender of intelligent design? Who better to celebrate rigorous intellectual discourse than a man who misquotes Darwin and fakes speeches to college audiences?

This is a pretty embarrassing misstep. The ABA is irrelevant in the IP / tech world, and this facepalm is a nice microcosm of why. (Wait, what is the ABA relevant to? Now that’s a hard question.) We geeks don’t like it when you dis science. Thanks anyway, ABA – maybe you should stick to having your judicial recommendations ignored.

Hat tip: health law expert Margo Kaplan.

Update: I found the perfect keynote speaker for ABA’s 2013 TechShow: Marshall Hall!

Cross-posted at Info/Law.

1

Some Words of Advice for Law Students, from 1811

As the year draws to a close, it might be worthwhile to review the following advice, provided to American law students (clerks, really) precisely two centuries ago.  These words of wisdom come from William Wright’s Advice on the Study of the Law, as published by Baltimore’s Edward J. Coale  with “additional notes for the American student” back in 1811.  (One can view the complete text here, on Google Books.)

  • The student should commence with a firm resolution to become one of the most eminent attornies [sic] of the age : and though the difficulties which he will at first meet with may be great, he should not despond; because despondency will produce negligence. Let him persevere, and he will succeed.
  • Genius is more equally distributed among mankind than is generally allowed. . . . If all men would accustom themselves to reflection, few would be ignorant; and their want of reflection proceeds from their own folly and love of leisure, and not from the insufficiency of their natural endowments.
  • Habits of attention and application, properly directed, produce what is commonly called genius.
  • The student should make himself most intimately acquainted with the practice which is likely to be the most useful.
  • Mankind will undoubtedly form their opinion of the morals and attainments of the young lawyer from those of his companions. . . . If he selects for his confidential friends the libertine, the dishonourable, the malevolent, the trifler, or the uneducated, among such he will himself be classed.
  • The companions of a student should be few; if they are numerous, he will probably be induced to sacrifice more time to friendship and pleasure than is consistent with his professional duties, and his hopes of honourable distinction.
  • Politeness, says Lord Chatham, is benevolence in trifles. This then is all I require of the student.
  • Young men should carefully guard themselves against forming any attachment, even upon honourable principles, till years shall have matured their judgment, and a proper course of study supplied them with knowledge sufficient to enter on the world and to transact their professional business with accuracy. Attachments formed too early in life are commonly of a romantic nature, and tend to dissipate thought and unhinge the mind, and seldom terminate so happily as lively imaginations are willing to expect.
  • An attorney should commence his professional labours with the laudable resolution of preventing litigation, as much as possible; for petty suits are always vexatious, and seldom productive of advantage either to the litigant parties or to society.
  • When consulted professionally, a young attorney should not, if he can avoid it, give his opinion hastily; but consider and re-consider.
1

Some Selected New Year’s Resolutions of the Federal Judiciary

Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit:

Write at least one opinion in which every word is a contraction

United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts:

On June 29, at precisely 6:30 a.m., move part in hair from left side of head to the right side; change it back moments later

United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (retired):

Track down John Riggins; tell him to “loosen up”

Guido Calabresi, Senior Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit:

Climactic showdown with 101-year-old Ron Coase atop the Eiffel Tower

United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy:

Finally receive “SWNGVOT” personalized license plate from the Washington, DC, Department of Motor Vehicles

***

If any of you have heard of any other judge’s resolution, please feel free to relate it in the comments below.



2

FTC v. Santa

Jeff Jarvis has this humorous piece about the FTC vs. Santa:

Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz today announced a record fine against Santa Claus for violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

“Mr. Claus has flagrantly violated children’s privacy, collecting their consumer preferences for toys and also tracking their behavior so as to judge and maintain a data base of naughtiness and niceness,” Leibowitz said. “Worse, he has tied this data to personally identifiable information, including any child’s name, address, and age. He has solicited this information online, in some cases passing data to third parties so they may fulfill children’s wishes. According to unconfirmed reports, he has gone so far as to invade children’s homes in the dead of night. He has done this on a broad scale, unchallenged by government authorities for too long.”

I also heard that DHS has called for the arrest of Santa for flying over restricted airspace.  The FBI is seeking his records about those who are naughty.  The TSA is upset that he bypassed security screening.  Meanwhile, his reindeer are being charged with cyberbullying Rudolf.  And he’s in trouble with the NLRB for his restrictive social media policy forbidding his elves from blogging about their low pay and inability to unionize. . . .

 

1

Trivia Time: (Legal) Person of the Year

As Gerard indicated when he introduced me to this blog, he and I were on the Stanford College Bowl team together way-back-when.  I remain amazed by Gerard’s encyclopedic knowledge of Roman emperors. I was merely the go-to guy for pop culture and sports trivia.

In any event, in honor of Time’s unveiling of “The Protester” as its 2011 Person of the Year, consider the following trivia question:

Who is, or was, the only United States judge to be named Man (or Person) of the Year while he (or she) was sitting on the bench?

(And no, one cannot point to Time’s designation, say, of “American Women” as its People of the Year for 1975, and say that this cohort captured many judges; we’re talking about specific individuals here—even though North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Susie Sharp was among the women on the cover of that issue.)

The answer, after the jump.

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2

The Annals of Article Placement

To: Editor-In-Chief, Impressive Law Review
From: Kyle Graham
Date: January 5, 2012
Re: My Article “Madison’s ‘dock-Yards’? The Founding Fathers, Sailing, and Article I, section 8, clause 17 of the United States Constitution.”

Dear Sir or Madam,

Please find attached, for your review and publication consideration, a copy of my recent article, “Madison’s ‘dock-Yards’? The Founding Fathers, Sailing, and Article I, section 8, clause 17 of the United States Constitution.” As you will see, my scholarship sheds light on this heretofore overlooked, but (as I discuss) extremely important, provision.

I am prepared to give the Impressive Law Review exclusive publication rights for this piece until January 12, 2012.

Please contact me at your first convenience, should you wish to publish this article.

Regards,

Kyle Graham

***

To: Editor-In-Chief, Impressive Law Review
From: Kyle Graham
Date: January 12, 2012
Re: My Article “Madison’s ‘dock-Yards’? The Founding Fathers, Sailing, and Article I, section 8, clause 17 of the United States Constitution.”

This message follows upon my earlier note to you, sent via e-mail on January 5, 2012. As indicated in that e-mail, I had originally planned to make my article available to other journals as of today. However, I appreciate that with the New Year, the Winter Break, and the various college football bowl games on television, you may not have been able to turn to the piece quite yet. Or, perhaps, you did not receive my earlier e-mail; I know how sometimes these messages can get lost in the wires. Accordingly, I am pleased to relate that I will continue to hold my “exclusive” window open for another two weeks, through January 26, 2012.

Regards,

Kyle Graham

***

To: Editor-In-Chief, Impressive Law Review
From: Kyle Graham
Date: January 26, 2012
Re: My Article “Madison’s ‘dock-Yards’? The Founding Fathers, Sailing, and Article I, section 8, clause 17 of the United States Constitution.”

I am just about to distribute my article to a variety of other law journals via ExpressO—seriously, my right index finger is hovering above the “submit” button, even as my left hand types this message—but before I do, I want to make absolutely certain that you have (1) received the article; and (2) had an opportunity to review it.

Having not heard from you as yet, I assume the answer to both of these questions is “yes,” but one never knows.  I really think the piece is a good fit for your journal, especially seeing as how your law school is in a coastal state. Accordingly, I am pleased to relate that I will grant one final extension of my “exclusive” window, now holding it open to February 3, 2012.

Regards,

Kyle Graham

***

To: Editor-In-Chief, Impressive Law Review
From: Kyle Graham
Date: February 3, 2012
Re: My Article “Madison’s ‘dock-Yards’? The Founding Fathers, Sailing, and Article I, section 8, clause 17 of the United States Constitution.”

Just a friendly reminder that this is the expiration date of my “exclusive” offer!

Regards,

Kyle Graham

P.S. Did you get the gift basket I sent?

***

To: Editor-In-Chief, Impressive Law Review
From: Kyle Graham
Date: February 10, 2012
Re: My Article “Madison’s ‘dock-Yards’? The Founding Fathers, Sailing, and Article I, section 8, clause 17 of the United States Constitution.”

This letter follows upon my earlier communications. As previously related, I have circulated my article to other journals via ExpressO, such that my “exclusive” offer is no longer in effect. However, I remain open to publication with your journal; please contact me if interested.

Regards,

Kyle Graham

***

To: Editor-In-Chief, Impressive Law Review
From: Kyle Graham
Date: February 21, 2012
Re: My Article “Madison’s ‘dock-Yards’? The Founding Fathers, Sailing, and Article I, section 8, clause 17 of the United States Constitution.”

I have just received offers to have my article published by several highly reputable journals that I cannot disclose at this time and which I absolutely, positively did not just make up.  Given this turn of events, I ask that you expedite your consideration of my piece.

Regards,

Kyle Graham

***

To: Editor-In-Chief, Impressive Law Review
From: Kyle Graham
Date: February 29, 2012
Re: My Article “Madison’s ‘dock-Yards’? The Founding Fathers, Sailing, and Article I, section 8, clause 17 of the United States Constitution.”

Thank you very much for your letter of February 24, 2012; it is nice to finally hear from you, and to put an autopen signature to your journal’s face.

I admit that I was both surprised and impressed by your diligence in checking with the editorial board of, apparently, every other law journal in the United States and Canada.  Based on your report, I must acknowledge that I may have misconstrued their prior communications to me.  In my defense, how was I to know that an advisement that my article was “under review” was anything less than a binding commitment to publish?  I’m just a law professor, not a rocket scientist, after all.

In any event, I do hope that this little misunderstanding does not affect your continued consideration of my article. I remain eager to see it published in your journal.

I may be in the neighborhood of your institution for a conference within the next few weeks.  If so, I hope you will not mind if I take the liberty of dropping by your office to discuss the potential publication of my piece.

Regards,

Kyle Graham

***

To: Editor-In-Chief, Impressive Law Review
From: Kyle Graham
Date: March 12, 2012
Re: My Article “Madison’s ‘dock-Yards’? The Founding Fathers, Sailing, and Article I, section 8, clause 17 of the United States Constitution.”

I write this letter to acknowledge my receipt of a restraining order, apparently taken out by your publication against me.

In response, this letter also serves as a formal withdrawal of my article, “Madison’s ‘dock-Yards’? The Founding Fathers, Sailing, and Article I, section 8, clause 17 of the United States Constitution” from consideration by your publication.  This is your loss, but I feel that your recent actions leave me no choice in the matter.

Regards,

Kyle Graham

P.S. There was a glaring citation error on page 2340 of your last volume.  Which sucked, by the way.

***

To: Editor-In-Chief, Impressive Law Review
From: Kyle Graham
Date: May 26, 2012
Re: My Article “Madison’s ‘dock-Yards’? The Founding Fathers, Sailing, and Article I, section 8, clause 17 of the United States Constitution.”

How are you doing? Well, I hope.  How are classes?  Looking forward to that post-graduation clerkship?

I also hope that you realize by now that I was just joking with my last message. If you don’t remember, don’t worry about it. It was nothing important. I simply wanted to “lighten” what I am certain is a laborious review process for you and your staff.

In any event, I write to offer my article “Madison’s ‘dock-Yards’? The Founding Fathers, Sailing, and Article I, section 8, clause 17 of the United States Constitution” for inclusion in your online journal “Supplement.” As you will see, I have modified the introduction and thesis so as to draw a closer connection to the 2013 America’s Cup, such that I believe the piece will be cited frequently in connection with that regatta.

Please contact me at your first convenience, should you wish to publish this article.

Regards,

Kyle Graham

5

Professor Graham’s Top Nine Failed Attempts to Increase His SSRN Downloads

9. Offering Justin Bieber $2,500 to rave about latest article on Twitter

8. Frequent integration of trendy words and phrases like “jeggings,” “Winning!” and “Tebowing” into article titles

7. Legally changing my name to “Eddie Murphy” for one month prior to, and following, the posting of each new piece, because if Eddie Murphy were to write a law-review article, that would really be something else

6. Ill-fated promise to students that if I get up to 5,000 total downloads, A+ grades for everyone, unless I don’t like them

5. Offering Charlie Sheen $2,500 to rave about latest article on Twitter

4. Having article titles painted on the sides of the turkeys thrown from the WKRP helicopter pursuant to their Thanksgiving giveaway

3. Extensive unsuccessful efforts to have Oprah name “Why Torts Die” as her Book of the Month

2. “Rick-Rolling” people over from Cass Sunstein’s latest article on SSRN

1. Prominent advertisements that each article is guaranteed to be “100 percent Kardashian-Free”

3

“The Legal Elephant Parade That Is the Ninth Circuit”

In an editorial published yesterday, the Wall Street Journal casually referenced “the legal elephant parade that is the Ninth Circuit.”

Though the Journal gets points for originality, the wittiest critique of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that I’ve heard remains a comment attributed to a district-court judge within the circuit.  This judge reported thusly on the status of a decision that had been appealed from his court to the judges above: “I’ve just been affirmed by the Ninth Circuit, but I still think I’m right.”

Interestingly, the quote immediately above seems to have originated with (or at least, been popularized by) Stanley Weigel, a rather liberal, now-deceased Kennedy appointee. More likely than not, to the extent that this comment provides some insight into the thoughts of its speaker, Weigel was lamenting the tendencies of the relatively conservative Ninth Circuit panels of a bygone era.