Going to be posting a lot less frequently for the next few months. Life has gotten quite busy, and I find that something needs to give. Though I don't spend a lot of time on this, not posting here will probably have the effect of reducing the amount of extracurricular online reading I do, and that does represent a significant chunk of time.
I'm writing three major papers this semester, for a total of around 100-120 pages, perhaps 30,000-40,000 words. Fortunately, there is significant overlap in the body of research, so this is technically possible, if still quite an undertaking.
I'm also looking for a job. I've an interview with a Washington DC firm next month, but I'd really like to have at least half a dozen more interviews by the end of October, and thus far that isn't going very well.
On Wednesday I start teaching logic to the homeschool co-op at my church. It's a ten week, once a week class, and should be a lot of fun.
So posting here is going to be reduced. I'll probably throw something up once a week, especially if something interesting turns up in my research. I might even decide to blog that. But overall, I'm hunkering down to get some real work done.
Professor: "I know the judge in this case, and I think she's a great lady, but I think she got it wrong here."
Law student (notorious gunner and all-around jackass): "Just blame it on her clerks."
Professor: "My wife was one of her clerks."
Likes it well enough to include it with an official court filing.
Me, I hope he gets disbarred.
A few weeks ago I posted about a study showing two spikes on the income distribution curve of recent law school grads. Now there's a Wall Street Journal piece (free for today, at least) on very much the same thing, but with more information and better research.
The author looked into the marketing practices of law schools and found--as has frequently been alleged both online and off--that they're being perhaps a big disingenuous. The article reports that the real income for the bottom 75% of lawyers has increased only nominally or seen a real decrease for the past few decades. For people who land jobs at large firms--which are defined as being more than 50 attorneys--this are great. Starting salaries are higher than ever, and they keep going up. But for everyone else, salaries are either growing with inflation or flat.
Some of this has to do with the economy. The 1980s boom fed pretty much directly into the dot-com boom, and both caused an explosion in demand for legal services, a demand which has largely returned to normal levels. Very large firms have found huge demand for international legal services, but only the largest firms are capable of capitalizing on such opportunities, as only the most visible and reputable firms get any of that business. No one's going to entrust a $500 million dollar deal to a solo practitioner.
Some of this also has to do with legislative reform. Personal injury lawyers are having a really tough time of it. Tort reform not only limits the maximum liability in many states, but also restricts class actions and the ability of out-of-state plaintiffs to sue, both of which were major money makers. While one can make an argument that this is in fact redressing a social ill of too many ambulance chasers--an argument to which I am not unfriendly--personal injury lawyers make up a significant percentage of the lawyers in the country, especially for those who didn't go to a top-30 school, the vast majority of lawyers.
Finally, the number of new lawyers has skyrocketed. About 35,000 degrees were awarded in the early 1980s. About 45,000 degrees were awarded last year. The increase has been fairly steady. This means that top firms can be more selective in hiring top talent. But with student debt increasing an average 18% in the past five years, more students need lucrative jobs just to survive.
This could get interesting. Notre Dame is in that top tier, but only just.
The UAW has launched a national strike against General Motors, the largest automaker in the country (no longer the world; Toyota surpassed them last year). As if the auto industry didn't have enough problems already, labor unrest is really what they needed. They're already got 339,000 retirees and surviving spouses to take care of, which has got to cost the company billions of dollars per year. About $3000 of the price of every GM vehicle goes into benefits for its employees and retirees.
This is no way to run a business.
I stumbled across Mental Floss this evening. A characteristic article is Life Before Air Conditioning, which describes how people dealt with heat and cold before modern climate control. Temperature is actually a more significant architectural problem than one might realize: buildings in excess of 200m weren't built before air conditioning. Though you can open a window in a five, ten, even twenty story building, the higher you get, the faster the wind gets, which makes natural ventilation something of a problem.
The site in general has a lot of really fascinating articles. Check it out.
In the wake of the release of 700MB of internal emails, MediaDefender is attempting to pull another 09-f9-11-02-9d-74-e3-5b-d8-41-56-c5-63-56-88-c0 and is sending out legal nastygrams, as well as launching a DDoS (down near the bottom).
I think we might be seeing the utter implosion of MediaDefender as a going concern. If this is the kind of professionalism and competence companies can expect from them, I don't see why anyone would want to use their services. MediaSentry just got a boost.
One thing worth pointing out though: the lawyers here, though clearly tilting at windmills, aren't actually incompetent, despite the seeders' allegations to the contrary. This isn't a DMCA takedown notice, and such a thing would have been inappropriate. The charge isn't that the files are copyrighted, which would invoke the DMCA, it's that they're misappropriated trade secrets and other confidential information, for which there is a remedy under numerous tort theories, as indicated by the letter. The seeders are still probably correct that no US court has jurisdiction, but that doesn't prevent them from attempting to file suit in Norway or wherever.
This, however, does not mean that a court in Norway is likely to hear the case. There's an argument to be made that a US court, assuming it were able to acquire jurisdiction, would dismiss the case for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The relief sought would probably be injunctive, and you can't enjoin the internet. As courts don't like issuing futile orders, they might just throw out a suit which would require them to do so.
Okay, been experiencing something a bit odd lately. I find that I have almost no contact with advertising anymore. People complain about being constantly bombarded with it, but I'm just not. I don't watch TV (not on TV anyways), I don't listen to the radio (except NPR occasionally), and I use AdBlock Plus, so I don't see online advertising. I don't get a hard-copy newspaper.
So right off the bat, most of the standard advertising outlets don't reach me. But I find that I'm also kind of blind to ads. I really couldn't tell you how may billboards there are on South Bend Ave., because I just don't know. Couldn't tell you where they are either. I just don't see 'em.
Though this is generally a pleasant thing, I'm starting to find that this can be a bit problematic, from time to time. Sometimes I actually do want to know who's having sale. Sometimes I actually do want to know who's recently released a new product, and what it costs. This doesn't generally wind up being a huge problem, as this is generally not that hard to find out, but it does require me to spend time on something that I wouldn't otherwise have had to do.
But there's also the fact that advertising seems to form a kind of common cultural currency. We don't necessarily watch the same television shows, but even people watching different channels on the same evening are likely to see the same ads. By not watching TV at all (or at least in a format that doesn't include ad space) this is something I wind up missing. Same with not going to the movies very often. I've absolutely no idea what's being released in the next six months. None. And last year, a student at a stand-up comedy night on campus made a joke about Head-On, which everyone thought was hilarious, but I didn't get.
How bizarre that one of the most reviled features of our modern media culture is perhaps one if its only common threads.
The court is obviously going to throw this suit out as soon as it gets before the judge. But for form's sake, the court could find that God has, *ahem* "diplomatic immunity" as a sovereign. Senator Chambers couldn't sue Putin if he showed up in Nebraska, so I don't see why he can sue God.
But the more likely result is that Chambers has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. I highly doubt that the District Court of Douglas County Nebraska can issue an effective injunction against the Almighty.
Research released today suggests that about 1.2 million Iraqis have died by violent means since April of 2003, almost half by gunfire, and another 20% by car bombs. Aerial bombardment seems to account for 9%, with 12% from accident or other explosions.
Several conclusions here. First, though the sample does seem to be fairly representative, if more than one person from a household responded, that'd magnify the numbers pretty drastically in ways that are really hard to account for. It's possible that the pollsters took this into account by only taking reports from one person in a household, but this could be really hard to do if done over time.
Second, the difference between weighted and unweighted results is rather drastic, almost half a million. As n is rather small--only one out of 1500 respondents reported either four or six people killed--and weighting results is always guesswork, saying that 1.2 million Iraqis have died cannot be said with a high degree of certainty. The official estimate is around 650,000, which is almost certainly too low. I think it's pretty clear that the poll indicates that the result is somewhat higher than this, perhaps 750,000 or 850,000, but I'm skeptical about their upper figure.
Third, any way you slice it, that's a lot of people. This is an event of historic proportions. The Rwandan genocide, Armenian genocide, and Khmer Rouge are each estimated to have killed somewhere between 800,000 and 3 million, so we're talking an event on that scale.
Finally, Iraqis (or, more properly, Muslims, as many of the insurgents aren't Iraqi or even Arab) are killing each other in massive numbers. Aerial bombardment only accounts for 9% of the deaths. Car bombs account for a full 20%. Gunfire is the largest offender, but as there have never been more than 300,000 Coalition troops on the ground, Coalition forces are only thought to be responsible for about a third of the total casualties (more data here, but bring your salt-shaker). If we left today... Madness.
Very evil, in fact. MediaDefender is a company dedicated to "p2p mitigation", i.e. spreading bad uploads and torrents on filesharing networks in an attempt to make getting actual content harder to do. Last week, a 700MB batch of emails was leaked as a torrent which confirms earlier allegations that they were in fact developing their own download service which one can only imagine is to be used as a honeypot, i.e. record all the IPs of people who download from the site and sue the bejeezus out of 'em. Can we say "entrapment"?
But the email leaks also reveal that the company is providing remote access to law enforcement, the purposes for which are not entirely clear. Thus far, analysis of the emails suggests that they're going after people downloading illegal pr0n, but any time you're turning IPs over to an AG's office is enough to make most of the Internet freak the hell out.
How did this leak occur? A MediaDefender employee forwarded all of his emails to a gmail account, the password for which was cracked, which is kind of apropos of this article, reporting that employees are more of a threat to electronic security than virii.
I'm thinking the appropriate response to outfits like MediaDefender--and competitors like MediaSentry--is simply "Rot in hell."
A few months ago, a British toddler--Madeline McCann--was reported missing while her family was on holiday in Portugal. Authorities launched a search now in its fifth month, and questioned numerous individuals, following leads as far away as Belgium. The story has received intermittent attention in the states but regularly grabs mentions, if not headlines, in European news sources.
As of Sept. 6, the McCann's, Madeline's parents, are officially suspects. Today, a report surfaced suggesting that she was actually killed by her parents with an overdose of sleeping pills. It is alleged that her mother did the deed and her father helped dispose of the body. As a result, British authorities--who have been very supportive and criticized this report--are now considering whether to take away the McCann's two-year-old twins.
This is starting to get a bit Kafkaesque.
Ars Technica, usually devoted to things electronic, has branched out a bit, with this excellent gouging of homeopathy. For those of you that don't know, homeopathy is an alternative "medical" theory that operates under the assumption "like cures like". When a patient presents with certain symptoms, the homeopath looks for some herb, mineral, etc. that is supposed to produce the same effect. He then prepares a solution dilute to the point that no actual molecules of the reagent are left. This is supposed to cure whatever is afflicting said patient.
In short, it's utter and absolute bunk. The article concludes with a list of traits one can use to distinguish science from pseudoscience:
* Ignore settled issues in science: We know a great deal about the behavior of water (and evolution, and other contentious topics), but there are many efforts to introduce new science without ever addressing the existing body of knowledge. As such, many of the basic tenets of topics such as homeopathy appear to be ungrounded in reality as we understand it.
* Misapplication of real science: Quantum mechanics is an undeniably successful description of parts of the natural world, but the limitations of its applicability are widely recognized by the scientific community, if not the general public. Pseudoscientists such as homeopaths appear to cynically target this sort of ignorance by applying scientific principles to inappropriate topics.
* Rejection of scientific standards: Over the centuries, science has established standards of evidence and experiment to ensure that data remains consistent and reproducible. But these strengths are presented as weaknesses that make science impervious to new ideas, a stance that is often accompanied by...
* Claims of suppression: Pseudoscience is rejected because it does not conform to the standards held by the scientific community. That community is depicted as a dangerous hegemony that rejects new ideas in order to perpetuate a stifling orthodoxy. This happens in spite of many examples of radical ideas that have rapidly gained not only acceptance, but major prizes, when they were properly supported by scientific evidence.
* A conclusion/evidence gap: Many areas of pseudoscience do not set out to examine a phenomenon but rather have the stated goal of supporting a preordained conclusion. As such, they often engage in excessive logical leaps when the actual data is insufficient to support the desired conclusion.
* Focusing on the fringes: All areas of science have anomalous data and anecdotal findings that are inconsistent with the existing understanding. But those anomalies should not obscure the fact that the vast majority of current data does support the predominant theories. In the hands of a pseudoscientist, these unconnected edge cases are presented as a coherent body of knowledge that supports the replacement of existing understandings.
Apply this to... oh, I don't know... creation science and what do you get?
I've just learned that President Nielson has elected to postpone the adoption of the new student publications directive until such time as it can be evaluated by a committee of three faculty, students, and staff. Dr. Foreman has been reinstated, and the Bagpipe will continue publication without prior restraint, at least for the time being.
This is a very positive step. I'm a bit ambivalent about the idea of a committee, but the fact that the new policy has been at least postponed is quite a reprieve.
Microsoft has apparently just activated a
major flaw *cough* "feature" in Vista which effectively kneecaps an installation with a non-genuine CD-key.
Two things here. First, by making it harder to pirate, they're going to massively decrease the rate at which the OS is adopted. Most Windows installations in Asia are pirated, so you can kiss Vista adoption goodbye.
Unless, second, this proves just as easy to bypass as every other attempt at blocking piracy has been. I'm betting this shite gets disabled within the month.
Martin Amis has a fitting essay to mark the passage of another September 11th.
Towards the end:
"Islamism has been with us for the lion’s share of a century. The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928, and within a decade there was an offshoot in what would soon become Pakistan. But the emotionally shaping event, one is forced to deduce, was the establishment of the Jewish Homeland. In the war fought to bring that about, Israel, occupying 0.6 per cent of Arab lands and with a proportional population, defeated the armies of Egypt, Syria, and Trans-Jordan, together with the supplementary forces of Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.
"In the other 99.4 per cent of Arab lands, this event is known as al-nakba: the catastrophe. And that epithet hardly overstates the case. The “godless” Soviet Union, after a comparable reverse, might have fallen into troubled self-scrutiny; but what does it mean for peoples who sincerely believe that an omnipotent deity is minutely attentive to their desires and deserts? Having endured several centuries of Christian prosperity, global power and reach, and eventual empire, the Islamic nations were vanquished by a province the size of New Jersey. In the Koran, the Jews are portrayed as cunning and dangerous, yet they are never portrayed as strong: “Children of Israel . . . Dread My might.” We in the West have ceased to understand the meaning of the word “humiliation”, and we use it, in descriptions of our daily struggles, with the lilt of comic hyperbole. Now we must further imagine how it feels to be humiliated, not only by history, but also by God. "
Six days, bitch!
The LA Magazine has a lengthy piece on an altercation between two Jewish public figures that occurred at UCLA a while back. It's apparently become something of a watershed event in the community, highlighting what seem to be increasingly intractable divisions along political lines.
In a nutshell, a well-known, highly-respected rabbi acclaimed for his peace activism physically assaulted a well-known pro-Israeli activist. For pro-Israeli Jews, this highlighted the utter compromise of the Left, as not only are they "weak on Islam" and vaguely anti-Semitic, but they'll actually use violence against those who support the Israeli state. For the Left, this signifies the cynicism, jadedness, and lack of civility of the Right, that they would so provoke a man known for his dovish tendencies to use violence.
If we grant my assumption that this story is indicative of the wider divide between Left and Right outside the Jewish community, I offer the following analysis: the divide is rapidly reaching a point--assuming that point is not already passed--where dialog across the aisle is impossible. I that we're approaching an ideological war every bit as bitter and potentially as destructive as the religious wars of the 17th century. I also think that because we've decided that ideology==religion, that the safeguards we've erected to prevent overt religious conflict will be utterly ineffective in preventing the looming ideological conflict.
NOTE: As of 10:15AM, The server seems to be borked. Hopefully it'll be up again in a hour or two.
I'll break my informal policy of avoiding current events to point out that the recent video supposedly announcing Bin Laden's survival is likely a forgery. If you look at all carefully, you'll note that the video freezes at around 1:56 and doesn't resume for ten minutes. The audio track doesn't have any breaks, so it's likely they had another voice record the speech and then use previously unreleased footage of the Big Bad, freezing the frame when the audio proved longer than the video.
Cheap tricks. I think he's dead.
Just got a second rejection letter. This one I'm a bit bummed about, as I really liked the firm and thought the interview went better than the other.
Seven left, though really only six, since I don't have any expectations about one of them.
Time to start mailing those resumes...
This should also get tagged with "Bad Science".
Bill Henderson, who maintains the blog Empirical Legal Studies, has a post on the income distributions of the graduating class of 2006. The post prominently features a graph with two dramatic spikes, one around the $45-50k income level, and one around the $135-145k income level. The median is $62k, but there is no clustering around that point.
The conclusion drawn from this graph is that there are a few people--perhaps 20%--of graduates who "make it", securing high-paying private practice careers, the majority are stuck making less than $60k, quite a dramatic difference. There are relatively few graduates making between $60k and $120k. This reflects the gap in compensation between most public service type jobs--ADA, public defender, legal aid, city attorney, etc.--and your standard major firm compensation, which this year looks to start at $145, with the very top firms at $160 (there's a small bump there on the graph).
The implication of this conclusion is that if you graduate from an elite law school--we're talking top ten here--you stand a reasonable chance of "making it". The term carries more than simply metaphorical import, as even graduates of third-tier law schools are likely to be burdened with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, which is almost impossible to pay off at a $50k salary while maintaining even a middle-class lifestyle, which the graph and post suggest is what most law school graduates are likely to earn. Anderson thus calls for a radical reformation of the legal profession in general and legal education in particular.
I tend to agree that change is needed, but the graph and figures he cites are not necessarily grounds for change. The data is all self-reported. Though a bit more controlled than your random internet poll because law schools keep track of who has reported and who hasn't, this is still rather unscientific. If the reports are evenly distributed across all 196 law schools that produced graduates last year, that would help, but we really don't know that. We also don't have any idea which people are reporting. 50% is a pretty good sample size for doing statistical analysis, but only if that 50% is randomly selected. One possible interpretation is that the people who report their salaries are either proud of them or annoyed about them, ergo you get the high fliers and low earners.
NALP reports that of the 44,000 graduates of the class of 2006, they have employment information about 40,000 of them, and 56% of those are working for a private firm. 14% are working in business--and heaven only knows what ungodly sums they're making--and almost 10% are judicial clerks. There are about 700 federal clerks, so if you throw in the desirable state clerkships that's about 3% of all graduates. These people have the ability to make plenty of money once they get out, but for this reporting year, they're making $50k.
But just reading the graph is pretty instructive. By my quick counting, 40-50% of graduates are making north of $100,000, and an additional 20% are making between $60,000 and $100,000. And I suggest you knock off three to five points from the peak on the left and add them to the peak on the right, as clerks finish their terms and start making real money. Furthermore, 5% of graduates chose to go into public interest, which as everyone knows, pays crap. But you don't go there unless you chose that, and public interest concerns are sexy enough that they can afford to be choosy a lot of the time.
Supreme Court clerkships are for the fortunate few, but respectable jobs with firms are for the above average. There clearly aren't enough sexy jobs to go around--just like not everyone gets to be an astronaut when they grow up, neither does everyone get to work for Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. But as long as you don't mind working for a rather obscure, state-oriented firm doing construction contracts and transactional work, you can get a job.
Here's a map, complete with documented news sources, of botched paramilitary police actions all around the country from 1985 onwards. I haven't crunched the numbers much, but we're looking at 296 entries. I know there's at least one duplicate, but that's still a hell of a lot of wrong addresses and innocents killed.
The quote from Hudson v. Michican is rather appropriate, I think: "If a widespread pattern of [knock-and-announce] violations were shown . . . there would be reason for grave concern."
Mike Nifong has been sentenced to a single day in jail for prosecutorial misconduct related to his handling of the Duke lacrosse rape case.
This isn't as nominal as it sounds. The charge only carries a potential of 30 days and a $500 fine, but any time any ethics violation ends up in jail time, someone screwed up majorly, and the fact that it's a prosecutor doing the time is absolutely huge. This is just not done.
Which, I think, is what the judge is trying to say here. You can't pull a stunt like Nifong did and hope to get away with it.