Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Happiness Project
Mike Rappaport

Alas, this movie really does sum up both the joys and the bittersweetness of parenthood.  At least it does for me.  While you're there, take a look at this quite excellent blog on happiness.  It is filled with insights, if I could just make myself follow them more. 

January 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

PreCYdent widget
Tom Smith

I think this is pretty nifty:  A PreCYdent widget you can put on your blog, webpage, or wherever, so you can go directly into our search system and look for US Supreme Court or US Court of Appeals cases, and later, lots of other stuff.

PreCYdent logo


Want more? Go to

You too can have a PreCYdent widget, and really, don't you think you should?  If you have this widget on your legal blog, your readers can go to the library and see for themselves.  Reading Supreme Court cases is not always fun, but it is, alas, often necessary.  And sometimes it is fun.

You can get it here.

The default is our authority ranking, which puts the good stuff on top.  Or you can go to those big legal sites, log in, ho hum, sort through the randomly organized results, and just keep feeding the monster, when you could fight the power, and so forth.  You too can support the scrappy startup!  Well, I have to get ready for go to class, so that's enough of that.

But just to be clear, yes, this is a bleg to link to this post so anyone out there can can build in this widget to their blog or website.  Many thanks in advance.

AND HERE is a very positive review.

January 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Keeping It Private
Maimon Schwarzschild

I have posted an article, "Keeping It Private", which is coming out in the San Diego Law Review and also in the University of Queensland Law Journal in Australia, where it is part of a symposium on the role of public policy in private law.

"Private law" is about the relations of private people and institutions, whereas "public law" is about the government and people's relations with it.  So private law includes commercial law, property law, and private wrongs like negligence.  Public law includes constitutional law and criminal law - where the powers of government are directly involved.

In common law countries, not surprisingly, private law tends to be common law.  Common law has a history, style, and ethos of its own; and it tends to have a (small-l) liberal flavour.  Academics and activists sometimes urge that private law should be more like public law: that courts should treat tort and contract cases more in the way they (sometimes) treat public law cases - more overtly and self-consciously politically.

I argue in the article that this would be a bad idea.  It would make private law less stable, as judges of different parties would judge cases differently; it would politicise the courts (even more than they are already); and perhaps most importantly, it would erode habits of impartiality among judges - accelerating what Larry Solum calls a "downward spiral of politicisation" among judges.

You can download the article here - scroll down past the "abstract" to the "SSRN Electronic Paper Collection" near the bottom of the webpage.  Read the whole thing!

January 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Those darn Clintons
Tom Smith

This guy puts it well

January 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

PreCYdent on law librarian blog
Tom Smith

Here is a short interview about PreCYdent's new legal search engine on the law librarians blog.

January 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bush's Lateness
Mike Rappaport

The Wall Street Journal reports that George Bush will announce some actions against earmarks in his state of the union:

he will tell Congress that he will veto any fiscal 2009 spending bill that doesn't cut earmarks in half from 2008 levels. He will also report that he is issuing a Presidential order informing executive departments that from now on they should refuse to fund earmarks that aren't explicitly mentioned in statutory language.

That's fine.  The problem is that he is too late.  This one is much like the surge.  While Bush is trying to claim credit for the surge -- and he deserves some -- the problem is that he waited so long to do it.  Even if it continues to work, he will only win half a victory on that one. 

Here Bush's actions are even later.  As the Wall Street Journal argues, Bush could have applied some of these actions to existing  earmarks but he has chosen not to. 

Yes, hindsight is 20 - 20.  But this is not hindsight.  I -- and many others -- were making these arguments about the surge and earmarks a long time ago.

January 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Lawyer lifestyle update
Tom Smith

Some law firms attempt to humanize themselves.  Now get back to work.

January 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Let's begin with Bill
Tom Smith

Capitalism is so mean.  Just ask Bill Gates.  While it makes some people billionaires it leaves the rest of us struggling to get by, unable to afford the new MacBooks.  It's baffling, almost as baffling as trying to figure out how to adjust the margins in Word.  And don't tell me by adjusting the little sliders at the top of the document.  That only works sometimes.  Perhaps the whole world should be organized like Microsoft.  We could all work for one guy because we don't know any better.  We could just do what he thinks is best.  If anybody tried to compete, we would squish them.

Capitalism is not perfect, as anybody who has ever contemplated why IE has 90 percent of the browser market knows.  It's just better than all the other systems.  One of the things we have to put up with in capitalist systems are guys who make a pile of money because they were there with the right widget at the right time and think because they are now zillionaires they actually know something about global politico-economico-social everythingology.  They don't.  They know about widgets and were lucky enough to get in at the creation of the widget market.  Gates is not even the future of operating systems, let alone the world economy.  If he has time on his hands, let him invent a word processing program that doesn't suck.

It is somewhat consoling to the rest of us, however, that so many rich dudes make fools of themselves when they go global sage.  Henry Ford became a Nazi, Howard Hughes grew his fingernails, and John Foster Kane retreated to his fantasy castle and got as fat as Orson Wells.  If Bill isn't careful, he'll end up wandering around wearing a sheet, carrying a bowl, and babbling about interest rates.  It ain't pretty when it happens.

I don't know what it is about Davos.  You put a bunch of extremely rich and powerful sorts together in an isolated Swiss jet set retreat, and the next thing you know, they want to run the world, benignly of course.  There's not much we can do, except assign some junior 007a sort to monitor them.  If they get too full of themselves, we might have to cause a little accident while they're visiting their underwater headquarters, but 99% of the time, it's all just self-congratulatory bloviation, something really rich people do when they have gotten bored with being productive.  Somewhere in Bangalore there's a 9 year old, smarter than Gates ever was, burning with the desire to change the world with computers or biologicals or whatever.  He's a lot more interesting to me than the Dumbness in Davos.

January 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

Supreme Court Legitimacy?
Mike Rappaport

On the Volokh Conspiracy, Ilya Somin and Orin Kerr have been debating the relative roles of the judiciary and the legislature in promoting legitimate government. Both Kerry and Somin make some good points. Without agreeing with either of them, I want to comment on one point that Somin makes. 

Somin argues that the Supreme Court has very high approval ratings and that this is some evidence that it behaves legitimately. Perhaps, but there is a basic problem with this argument. It is not known whether these ratings are based on the Court’s decisions or on other seemingly irrelevant factors. The Supreme Court makes decisions in private and the criticism of the Court before the public is generally muted by comparison with criticism of politicians. The personalities of the justices are not generally deemed fair game and there are rarely accusations of corruption. We know from negative campaigning that strong criticism of individuals, especially on television, seriously reduces their popularity. That the Supreme Court is exempt from this kind of criticism and instead is treated with dignity can easily explain why they have such high approval ratings. This can be reinforced by the fact that the Court masquarades with rhetoric about how it follows the law, even when it is obviously not doing so. And for the most part, people let them get away with it.

 To sum up, we simply don’t know if approval of the Supreme Court is due to its decisions or to the fact that it is treated better than the other government actors.

January 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Guns and Self Defense
Mike Rappaport

I watched this video on Fox News.  Pretty funny.  And I suppose it makes a point.

January 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)