Monthly Archives: October 2003

Old Fashioned Politics — Throw Money To Your Friends

There's been a little bit of headscratching about why why the government would spend $32 million to promote the new $20 bill (noted via Eugene Volokh).

The Slate article notes the ostensible justification, “the campaign … [is] really designed to put everyone on notice that a change in currency is afoot: The new bill has some different color and design elements (to deter counterfeiters), but it's real, so don't freak out,” althought in fact free media do a fine job of that.

Funny thing is, when our city and county governments down here buy lots of ads in the local media we know exactly what's going on: they are throwing money to their friends and encouraging them to stay friendly. Naturally that could never happen at the national level.

Posted in Politics: US | Leave a comment

‘Knee Defender’ Is Actually Air Aggression

The next air war will not be over Iraq. It will be over the Knee Defender which advertises itself as a way to “protect against reclining seatbacks on airplanes – save more legroom – can help you guard against economy class syndrome – thrombosis – DV”. It's a little piece of plastic that air passengers can slip on the seat in front of them, and freeze it in place — turning every seat potentially into one of those awful immobile ones sometimes found just in front of the exit row.

Already, one airline has banned it in response to traveler complaints. What drives people to carry a plastic block onto a plane to reduce the comfort of the folks in front of them? I'd wager that in most cases it is not a concern with proper posture, nor the supposed health advantages. Rather, it's to make room for that laptop—on which it so often seems the business traveler plays solitaire and watches movies…

Actually, this would make a decent law school exam question: does the deployment of Knee Defender in order to prevent the other passenger's seat's from reclining amount to the commission of any sort of tort? [I'll bet there are no contract claims against the airlines—they have their boilerplate down to an art form.]

[PS: this lawtechguru site is worth a visit.]

Posted in Sufficiently Advanced Technology | 122 Comments

Readers Shower Joshua Marshall With Donations

Joshua Micah Marshall writes a great political blog complete with actual original ideas and investigative reporting called Talking Points Memo. The other day he posted an item asking for financial support in order to take his blogging on the road to cover the New Hampshire primary. Readers responded so generously, that in less then 24 hours Mr. Marshall was saying “I never thought I’d say this, but: No More Contributions!”. Gentleman that he is, he then started describing how he'd give some of the money above what he actually need back to the later contributors.

Now, we're only talking about $4864.00 here; I don't think this is a sustainable business model for the starving artists of the world (although things like it have been suggested), nor is it the next shot (after open source?) in an ongoing transition towards a gift-exchange model amidst a culture of satisfaction and plenty.

But it's pretty cool whatever it is.

Posted in Blogs | 1 Comment

John Hart Ely

John Hart Ely, Constitutional law giant, and for nine years an important part of the law school's intellectual community, died this weekend. The New York Times has a full obituary, which recites his honors and achievements, but it fails to capture the human side of the man I knew.

When he settled here permanently after a one-year visit that was a sort of mutual love-fest, he took up the corner office four doors away from me—so I saw him often. From the start, John made it clear that he had not come to Florida to scuba dive and retire, but to carry on his distinguished career in a congenial setting. And he did. In addition to his writing and teaching, he played an active part in faculty seminars, and often chaired our speaker series.

It took me a while to learn that interpersonally he was somewhat shy; what seemed at first to be gruffness was a form of uncertainty about people, although not about ideas. He often seemed least uncomfortable with people younger than him, and dispensed advice when pushed, but always self-deprecatingly.

His death was not sudden, but the end of months of fighting a tenacious and visibly losing fight against cancer. Until nearly the end, he came into the office as often as he could manage, and remained unfailingly, painfully, brave in the face of disaster.

He was an evangelical vegetarian, and a big fan of music, especially jazz, and of all things underwater. But mostly, he was a beacon of decency and clear thinking. I'll miss him. We all will.

Continue reading

Posted in U.Miami | 1 Comment

They Have Great Conversations In the DeLong Household

I have two great children who I'm very proud of, and who say all sorts of interesting things. But—maybe because my oldest is only ten? or more likely due to genetics—our conversations are never quite like the entertaining discourse in the DeLong household. Especially this weekend, when every other word I said seemed to be “homework”.

Posted in Completely Different | Leave a comment Seeks to Put Iraq Statements Down the Memory Hole

I had a small cascade of reactions to this (via Eschaton).

First thought: It's disgusting that the White House is trying to relegate its statements about Iraq to the Memory Hole.

Second thought: It's great to live in a free country where this doesn't work.

Third thought: This demonstrates the same level of technical (in)competence we see in so many things this Administration does.

Fourth thought: Maybe it does work more often than not — many people have come to rely on Google. Efforts like this often won't get spotted most of the time.

Fifith set of thoughts: How do we prevent, or at least identify and publicize and warn about, this sort of activity in the future? Will this mean that commercial databases which keep pristine copies of things and promise not to santize still have a place? Can something like overcome this sort of attack on our online history? Is there anything Congress could or should do about this? (Needen't ask “would”—we know the answer to that.)

Update: Sixth thought: Well, they just made it much less accessible (although people who rely on google might get the idea the statements didn't exist), as far as we know they didn't actually delete them. It could be worse. But it's also more deniable.

Seventh thought: If I ran Google, would I now instruct my spiders to ignore the robots.txt file at

Posted in Internet | 4 Comments

Linking as Civil Disobedience

Lawmeme asks How Direct is Too Direct When It Comes to Hyperlinks?

Let's see. Can't host the files. Can't link to the files. Can't link to a site with the files. Where will the madness end? This is the Internet. Hyperlinking doesn't supply easy dividing lines, and when you start telling people what they can and can't link, you start murderizing the Web.

Then they give links to

  • a site with the memos
  • a site that links to a site with the memos.
  • a site that links to a site that links to a site with the memos.
  • a site that links to a site that links to a site that links to a site with the memos.

Then, there's the kicker:

Here's a link to a site that links to a site that links to a site that links to a site that links to a site with the memos. Whoops, that's the Diebold home page.

My own personal view is that a hyperlink is and should be every bit as illegal as a footnote in an academic article.

Posted in Law: Copyright and DMCA | Leave a comment