Monthly Archives: May 2007

600 Blows

I make it 600 more days of the Bush admnistration

Posted in Politics: US | 1 Comment

A Fool for a Client

The mind boggles.

Blogger unmasked, court case upended: As Ivy League-educated pediatrician Robert P. Lindeman sat on the stand in Suffolk Superior Court this month, defending himself in a malpractice suit involving the death of a 12-year-old patient, the opposing counsel startled him with a question.

Was Lindeman Flea?

Flea, jurors in the case didn't know, was the screen name for a blogger who had written often and at length about a trial remarkably similar to the one that was going on in the courtroom that day.

In his blog, Flea had ridiculed the plaintiff's case and the plaintiff's lawyer. He had revealed the defense strategy. He had accused members of the jury of dozing.

With the jury looking on in puzzlement, Lindeman admitted that he was, in fact, Flea.

So, here's a little tip for anyone who finds themselves involved in a lawsuit: don't blog about the case (or, at least, have every posting approved by your lawyer). And if you do have a blog, maybe you should mention this fact to your lawyer…

P.S. I'm sure someone in the blogosphere will try to spin this case as some sort of attack on bloggers' inherent right to anonymity. It isn't.

(Thanks to DF for the link.)

Posted in Blogs | 6 Comments

Call Me a Churl If You Like

I remember getting really excited about the idea of Heifer International, giving donations that would buy need people around the world cows and goats. Until, that is, I read the (very) fine print and discovered that my gift would not in fact buy someone an actual cow or goat, but would go into the charity’s general fund.

The prices in this catalog represent the complete livestock gift of a quality animal, technical assistance and training. Each purchase is symbolic and represents a contribution to the entire mission of Heifer International. Donations will be used where needed most to help struggling people.

How many actual cows or goats emerged at the other end was uncertain.

How unfortunate therefore to see a great group like Oxfam stoop to the same tactic. If you read their online pitch for Oxfam America Unwrapped you could easily come to believe that your gift of $75 would actually buy someone an actual cow.

But that’s not how it works:

In technical terms (what the lawyers tell us we need to explain):
Oxfam America works in 26 countries around the world. This catalog contains gift items that symbolically represent our work. The items selected represent project goals from grants disbursed by our seven offices around the world. The purchase of each gift item is a contribution toward Oxfam America’s many programs, not a donation to a specific project or goal. Your donation will be used where it is needed the most–to help people living in poverty throughout the world.

Or, as the FAQ says:

Am I really buying a camel?
First off, let’s be clear: Neither you nor your gift recipient will receive a camel (other than the handsome photo on the gift card). When you buy a camel from Oxfam America Unwrapped, you are actually giving much more. The impact of your donation will have far-reaching effects. In each case, your donation will be used where it is most needed. For more information, click on the “How it Works” tab (at the top of the page).

Does a camel really cost $175?
Since our gifts are symbolic, these prices represent a suggested donation. We have drawn from a range of gifts so that you can make a donation that is meaningful—and fits your budget!

Good causes, especially Oxfam, but I don’t like the tricksy marketing.

I’m not sure what the going rate is for a camel, but I suspect that when you “give a camel” you are not giving a camel, not to mention “so much more” — the going rate for a camel seems to be £300 to £2,000. If so, that $175 will thus buy at most half of one of the mangiest variety.

[If all went according to plan, I’m just back from Italy now, but very jet lagged. And I am leaving for my next trip … tonight. So I’ve queued up some more posts to cover for me. This is one of them.]

Posted in Econ & Money | 4 Comments

Justice Holmes Recorded on His 90th Birthday

Paul Horwitz at Prawfsblawg points to an amazing live recording of the sometimes odious and usually brilliant Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. made at the conclusion of a symposium in honor of his 90th birthday.

Truly a dead voice from the past.

And as Faulkner said, “The past is never dead. It's not even past.”

[I'm in Italy until late Wednesday, so I queued up a few posts to cover while I'm away. This is one of them.]

Posted in Law: The Supremes | 2 Comments


The site got very seriously hacked some time in the last 24 hours. As I'm going to be traveling home, there may be little I can do about this if they come back for second helpings, at least until I get back to a secure connection Wednesday night.

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President for a Day

Cute piece of Senate trivia: President for a Day:

Until the 1930s, presidential and congressional terms began at noon on March 4. In 1849, that date fell on a Sunday, causing President Zachary Taylor to delay his inauguration until the next day. For some, this raised the question of who was president from noon of March 4 to noon of March 5. Of course, we now know that Taylor automatically became president on the fourth and could have begun to execute the duties of his office after taking the oath privately, a day before the public inauguration.

In 1849, the Senate president pro tempore immediately followed the vice president in line of presidential succession. That era's ever-present threat of sudden death made it essential to keep an unbroken order of succession. To ensure that there was a president pro tempore in office during adjournment periods, the vice president customarily left the Senate chamber in an annual session's final days so that the Senate could elect this constitutional officer. Accordingly, the Senate duly elected Atchison on March 2, 1849. His supporters, to the present day, claim that the expiration of the outgoing president's and vice president's terms at noon on March 4 left Atchison with clear title to the job.

Unfortunately for Atchison's shaky claim, his Senate term also expired at noon on March 4, thereby denying him the chance to become president. When the Senate of the new Congress convened the following day to allow new senators and the vice president to take the oath of office, with no president pro tempore, the secretary of the Senate called members to order.

No one planning to attend Taylor's March fifth inauguration seems to have realized that there had been a “President Atchison” in charge. Nonetheless, for the rest of his life, Atchison enjoyed polishing this story, describing his “presidency” as “the honestest administration this country ever had.”

[I'm in Italy until late Wednesday, so I queued up a few posts to cover while I'm away. This is one of them.]

Posted in Law: Constitutional Law | Comments Off on President for a Day