Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Why Our Future does not need Firemen (Fahrenheit 451)

The Providence Journal's Edward Achorn has just won my heart! His column on February 27, "Tossing Print onto the Digital Fire," considers the movie Fahrenheit 451. In that movie, based on the novel of the same name by Ray Bradbury, the government employs firemen, not to put out fires, but to start them -- with books and all other print! Achorn begins by considering that dystopian future, and comparing it with our current world. He says:

the film’s vision of the future looks rather silly these 40 years later. For one thing, there’s too much leisure time, walking and public transportation in it! And though giant, flat, wall-mounted TV screens have come to life in our age of plasma high-definition sets, the government requires no squads of Men in Black to keep a stupid and “happy” citizenry from reading books and newspapers.

We’re doing it ourselves.

The love of print on paper — the magic many of us felt in holding, touching, smelling books, and then reading, disappearing into a world of imagination, or learning about the past, or sounding out beautiful phrases, or meeting some of the smartest and most interesting humans who ever lived — seems to be vanishing right before our eyes.

Computers are providing our information now — in little snippets that, because of human neurology, fail to convey information the way the printed word does.

The brains of homo-sapiens react to pulped wood differently than to electronic light. A computer is great at giving us segments of sorted information at a quick speed. But reading print requires a special form of thinking, an ability to focus for long periods of time, to retain information, to pause and reflect. Print can be underscored with a finger, marked up with a pencil, carried easily under a tree or into a nook. I think that’s why even today’s college students print out computer material onto good old-fashioned paper.

Achorn notes that librarians, rushing to meet the perceived demand of their public, are pushing music, movies and computers. He considers the problems with this trend:

* People don't know they want or need something until they stumble over it by serendipity. Serendipity is finding a book on the shelf, or coming across a fascinating article on the way to the page you thought you wanted.

* Context is easily lost when you search in databases. For instance, you know where a statute fits into the structure of the code, because you had to look at the whole set of statutes to pull off the single volume that has your citation. You lose that physical marker of the structure when you search a database. Or, you use a table of contents to browse for the statute (or section in a treatise), and locate other relevant items as well (this is sort of like serendipity, but it's also context -- it matters WHERE in the subject-ordered universe things sit). You can browse the shelves of a library and find books you never find through the OPAC (maybe that means we need to improve our catalog further, but I think it also means physical location still carries meaning if you visit live).

* Achorn makes a fascinating argument, one I don't think I've seen before. He thinks that reading in print will become the purview of the power elite, and maybe an age-demarker, too. This is so much the other side of our long-time arguments about "information illiteracy" and the "digital divide" where the have-nots lack access to computers! Here is what he says:
This anti-print trend, naturally, sends tremors of terror through my industry. Newspaper circulation is in decline as older readers die. Many young people can’t be bothered. In the early 1970s, 70 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds read a daily newspaper. Today, the figure is 35 percent, and falling.

That’s a disaster for journalists, but it’s an even bigger disaster for our society. Printed papers offer something of incalculable value: context. It is easier to see how important something is by its placement on a page, something even a newspaper Web site cannot easily duplicate. Often, by means of turning a page, I stumble onto an important story about some topic I might never have clicked onto, or “called up” on a Web site’s search engine.

The elites will continue to read print, including history and fiction, because intelligence often translates to power and money. Books will survive, as will specialty periodicals. But, if our culture continues in its rapid flight from print to digitized information, many citizens will lose the ability to ponder seriously, to vote intelligently, or to understand the world around them.

Many in government would like that just fine. And just think: It can be done without the messy drama of burning anything!

Ironically, the image is of an audiobook of Bradbury's novel, at

I have an idea! Let's design Librarian Insignia!

I had a conversation the other day with a former student and a former LR&W instructor. They commented first on how students needed to learn to respect librarians (Yay! gotta love these folks!), and then the conversation turned to how confusing it was for students who did not know if they were speaking to a professional librarian, a full time staffer or a student working part-time at the desk. This is a serious problem! How can students learn to genuflect to librarians properly if they don't know which of us are the librarians?

So, I had a brainstorm. Let's design something to set librarians apart. You could go modest and have a name tag. How boring! Nurses get those cute little hats (I don't think I've seen a nurse's hat for years, but you still see them in cartoons). Why couldn't there be a librarian uniform?

You could take off on the Order of the Coif (for top law students at school that belong to the Order; kind of like Phi Beta Kapp keys. But the coif means a little wig or bit of cloth like a hair-do:

In England of the medieval period, serjeants-at-law wore, as a required mark of their station, a close-fitting hood covering all but the face. As a consequence of this special headdress, they were known also as serjeants of the coif and their corporate society as the Order of the Coif. When wigs came into fashion,
the symbol became a circular piece of white lawn fastened to the top of the wig. What gave significance to the Order was the fact that for centuries only its members were appointed judges of the Court of Common Pleas or, later, of King's Bench.
Librarians could have the Order of the Bun.

Ooh, that's so stereotypical! No, no, no! How about black leather and whips? That would put some oomph into the Pop Cop routine! "You aren't allowed to have a disposable or open container drink in the library, sir. {CRACK!}" Or the Conan the Librarian outfit? Actually, I don't think that one would be very attractive on most of us. Hmm. Ideas, folks? How can we design some kind of insignia or uniform to mark us a librarians?

McCain and Kennedy set to file changes to immigration bill

The title above links to an article in today's Boston Globe written by Rick Klein.

Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John McCain are set to introduce a revised version of their sweeping plan to overhaul the nation's immigration laws, in a bill that's likely to restart a tense debate in Congress.

The measure, which is being drafted in consultation with the White House, will largely mirror the immigration bill that stalled last year, according to lawmakers and aides involved in the process. That measure was blocked primarily because House Republican leaders were adamantly opposed to provisions that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to become US citizens.

Though negotiations are still ongoing, this year's bill will most likely leave in place the 700-mile border fence, the creation of which was signed into law last year. It would also double the size of the US Border Patrol and add new means to crack down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants, a further attempt to assuage concerns about the nation's porous borders.

But the bill is likely to enrage advocates of a get-tough approach to immigration by allowing most of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants already in this country to earn legalized status. Early drafts of the bill would allow them to become citizens after about 12 years if they meet requirements such as learning English, passing a criminal background check, and paying back taxes and a $2,000 fine. (snip)

The bill, set to be introduced in the House and Senate as soon as next week, will also include a "guest worker" program for immigrants to work in the United States under temporary visas -- an oft-stated goal of President Bush. (snip)

The bill's sponsors are looking to jettison the three-tiered approach to citizenship included in last year's measure, which allowed undocumented immigrants who have been in the United States the longest to take a far easier path to citizenship than newer arrivals.

That system would have made it all but impossible for anyone with fewer than two years' residence in the country to gain citizenship -- a circumstance that some officials warned would probably have kept the status of a substantial number of immigrants unclear.

The bill's sponsors are still discussing whether to require undocumented immigrants to register at a US port of entry in order to qualify for citizenship. Though some immigrant-rights groups warn that meeting that qualification would be a burden for low-income families, many conservatives insist the so-called "touch back" is legitimate and should be a part of the citizenship process.

"It's a way to avoid the amnesty concerns, and avoid people breaking in line ahead of those who have been waiting outside of the country to enter legally," said Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican with ties to the White House.
Since the bill has not been filed yet, there is no link yet to a text of the bill.

Death of the Desktop

The main article in the Information Tech section of the March 2 Chronicle of Higher Education, titled and link above, looks at a fascinating survey at the University of Virginia, running frmo 2000 to now. They asked incoming freshmen about their computers and other digital paraphernalia. There is a dandy chart showing that vastly more freshmen come with laptops and only very few (90 compared to 2,993 laptop holders) are coming with desktop computers. The survey also shows that Macs are gaining steadily on Windows machines, rising from 2.8% in 2000 to 19.6% in 2006. The excellence of the Mac notebooks is undoubtedly driving the surge in popularity. But the survey also looks at "digital music devices," and IPods may also be giving the MacOS a halo effect increase in popularity. IPods seem to be by far the most popular brand, and 77% of freshmen at UVA are coming in with some kind of digital music player. Maybe I'll have to break down and get an IPod to listen to Jim's Check This Out programs!

Here are links to the UVA's own posting of the results of their survey, both in graph form: Computers
and More graphs. Thank you, UVA, for doing such an interesting survey over time, and then sharing the info! This age group is becoming our students, and will be our students in the future. Here at Suffolk, we feel increased pressure from our students to support the MacOS as well as the Windows system. I guess the pressure is just going to grow!

The beautiful drawing of an apple (edible kind) is by Boyd Purdom.

DMCA Takedown Notice vs. Fair Use

Visiting Professor Wendy Seltzer, while at Brooklyn Law School, posted a snip of the NFL standard copyright statement from the Super Bowl on YouTube. She wanted to show how exaggerated can be the claims of copyright holders. Alas, when the NFL sent a complaint to YouTube, they caved immediately and removed the snip. How's that for irony? The link in the title is to a brief article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 2, 2007, Information Technology section, p. 32 in print. (more irony; I don't know if my readers will be able to link to the article without a Chronicle password).

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Microsoft new attack on open source

Hiawatha Bray, in today's Boston Globe reports on the uproar in open source circles over a clause in the agreement whereby Microsoft purchased Novell, a Linux distributor.

Last year's surprise partnership between software titan Microsoft Corp. and leading Linux distributor Novell Inc. was supposed to be a kind of peace treaty. Instead, it's brought the open-source software community to the brink of civil war, over a provision that could help Microsoft sue other open-source software companies for patent violations.

As part of the deal, Novell agreed to compensate Microsoft for features in Linux that Microsoft claims to have patented. Critics say Novell has betrayed other Linux vendors and made it easier for Microsoft to threaten Linux companies with patent infringement suits.

"Anybody who has not signed a deal now . . . is somehow under a cloud," said Peter Brown, executive director of the Free Software Foundation, a group that oversees the creation of most Linux code. "When will Microsoft act against them?"

But for renowned open-source programmer and former Novell employee Jeremy Allison, the deal came at too high a price. Allison helped develop Samba, a popular program that lets Linux computers interact with machines running Windows. In December, Allison quit . "I left Novell over the deal because I felt it was not consistent with the responsibilities of an open-source company or an open-source programmer," Allison said. (snip)

But it's Novell's $40 million patent payment to Microsoft that infuriates open-source specialists. That's because Novell's SUSE Linux, like all versions of Linux, is made up of hundreds of pieces of software produced by the GNU Project, an open-source development group led by the Free Software Foundation in Cambridge. Linux companies like Novell and Red Hat compete by selling support for their Linux products. Meanwhile, the Free Software Foundation insists that no version of Linux violates patents held by Microsoft or anybody else.

Brown, the foundation's executive director, said that those who buy Novell's version of Linux will be shielded from Microsoft patent litigation. But people who buy from other Linux companies are still exposed to patent lawsuits, even though all versions of Linux are nearly identical. (snip)

within days of signing the deal with Novell, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer told guests at a software industry conference that Linux contains Microsoft intellectual property. "In a sense you could say that anybody who has got Linux in their data center has an undisclosed balance-sheet liability," he said, suggesting that Microsoft might demand compensation from Linux users not covered by the Novell agreement. Microsoft agrees that Novell did not concede any patent violations in Linux, saying that the companies have "agreed to disagree" on the issue.

Leaders of the open-source movement are at work on a legal strategy that could let Novell retain the benefits of the deal, while preventing Microsoft from using it to attack other open-source firms. They're drafting a new version of the General Public License or GPL, the Free Software Foundation's legal rulebook, which governs how Linux and other open-source code can be used.

Under the new license, called GPL3, if a company waives its patent rights over GPL software distributed by one company, that waiver will apply to all other companies distributing the software. If the provision had been in place when Novell and Microsoft struck their deal, the patent protection won by Novell would have applied as well to Red Hat, Ubuntu, and other Linux versions. Microsoft would have forfeited its patent infringement claims against all Linux distributors.

The foundation hopes to have the new license completed within a couple of weeks. It can then issue future versions of Linux code under the license. As they're upgraded over time, the hundreds of programs that make up Novell's Linux will be covered by the new license.

Brown said GPL3 would ensure that no other Linux company will be able to make a separate peace with Microsoft. "We want to attempt to stop these type of deals being struck," he said.

Here is a link to a story on ZDNet/Australia, reporting Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer's talk to financial analysts in which he states
... the company's partnership with Novell, which it signed in November 2006, "demonstrated clearly the value of intellectual property, even in the open-source world." (snip)

In a clear threat against open-source users, Ballmer repeated his earlier assertions that open source "is not free", referring to the possibility that Microsoft may sue Linux vendors. Microsoft has suggested that Linux software infringes some of its intellectual property, but has never named the patents in question.

Ballmer said: "I would not anticipate that we make a huge additional revenue stream from our Novell deal, but I do think it clearly establishes that open source is not free, and open source will have to respect the intellectual property rights of others just as any other competitor will."

And IT World Canada reports here on an interview with programmer Allison, about his leaving Novell in protest:
Don Marti, You’ve been in the news lately for leaving Novell over the controversial Novell/Microsoft patent licensing deal.

Jeremy Allison: That’s true.

LinuxWorld: Now, when I talked to you a while ago, you said, "I don’t give away my software. I cooperate with people who cooperate with me. How does that relate to what’s going on here, patent licensing-wise?"

Allison: Well, kind of peripherally really. Essentially, this is going back to the misnomer of "free software." A lot of people, corporations included, hear the word free, and they don’t think about the second meaning of the word free. They just think, "oh, it’s without cost." And, of course, it isn’t. And the cost is you have to reciprocate. You have to give exactly the same terms to people you give it to that you get yourself. It’s the share and share a like kind of license.

So, when somebody violates that essentially by negotiating favorite terms for themselves, that they don’t want to give to other people, then that I object to strenuously, up to and including leaving a company because of it. (snip)

LinuxWorld: Now the reason that you left Novell has to do with Microsoft and Novell setting up a deal to in effect pay Microsoft a patent royalty on copies of Linux sold.

Allison: That’s right. I mean essentially, it’s a patent cross license. They don’t call it that. They call it a covenant not to sue with customers. But when you boil it down, and you look at it really closely, it is a patent cross license. And section seven of the GPL specifically states that you can’t cut yourself a special patent cross license deal. Essentially it’s one of those situations where everyone has to hang together not separately, as it were. So, in other words, you can’t cut yourself special deals. And as I said, I wanted to like the deal. I had no objections. People were claiming, "oh, we just hate Microsoft." And this is not true. I actually had no objections whatsoever to any of the parts of the deal other than this one. But this one just killed it for me -- totally and completely I’m afraid. (snip)

LinuxWorld: One of the persistent rumors that’s going around is that certain large IT customers have already been paying Microsoft for patent licensing to cover their use of Linux, Samba and other free software projects. And the Novell deal -- isn’t it just taking that and doing the same kind of thing wholesale?

Allison: Yes, that’s true, actually. I mean I have had people come up to me and essentially off the record admit that they had been threatened by Microsoft and had got patent cross license and had essentially taken out a license for Microsoft patents on the free software that they were using, which they then cannot redistribute. I think that would be the restriction. I would have to look quite carefully. So, essentially that’s not allowed. But they’re not telling anyone about it. They’re completely doing it off the record.

The problem with the Novell deal is -- Novell gave Microsoft what Microsoft dearly wanted, which is a public admission that they think that Linux violates the Microsoft patent. So, that’s the difference between this and the sort of off-the-record quiet deals. This one is public. This one is Novell admitting, "yes, we think that Linux violates Microsoft patents." Now, of course, Novell has come out and said, "no, that’s not what we said at all. We don’t think that." To which, of course, Microsoft publicly humiliated them and said, "oh, yes, that’s really what you were saying." It’s kind of funny. They couldn’t even wait until the press conference was over to start threatening users with a Linux system.

There is more interesting and detailed stuff covered in the full article, which I recomend, but this is a long entry already, so I quit here.

Cheney and Scooter Libby -- wait - has Jim already dealt with this in a podcast?!

I want to share with non-Boston Globe subscribers the excellent op-ed by H.D.S. Greenway that ran today. Link to full above, and here is an excerpt:

What the perjury trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby really revealed was the astonishing lengths to which Vice President Dick Cheney and others in the Bush administration went to discredit Ambassador Joseph Wilson for his 2003 claim that the administration had been dead wrong about Saddam Hussein trying to buy material from Niger to make nuclear weapons. The intensity and single mindedness of this pursuit leapt out from the testimony.

The decision to "out" a covert CIA officer, Wilson's wife, which is a federal crime, showed a kind of desperation. The concept that she had sent her husband to Niger on some kind of boondoggle, instead of to investigate the Saddam sale, is bizarre in the extreme. With all due respect, Niger is neither Wilson's, or anybody else's, ideal boondoggle destination.

Second , the intensity of the Wilson smear campaign, long meetings with favored reporters in hotels and on the phone, even the using of classified information, seems obsessive.

As The New York Times put it: The evidence shows Cheney and Libby "countermanding and even occasionally misleading colleagues at the highest levels of Mr. Bush's inner circle" as they pursued a "covert public relations campaign ," not only to protect the case for going to war, but also Cheney's connection to flawed intelligence.

There you have it. In the most dysfunctional administration of our time, the vice president's office felt free to use classified information to bolster a false impression of Saddam's nuclear capabilities -- going to absurd lengths to keep the truth from the American people and perhaps even the White House. According to testimony, Cheney got Bush to declassify secret material, but the president was not told how Cheney was going to use it.

Here is a nice summary of the case on Scooter Libby's trial from the New York Times, and this is a link to their handy Diary showing all the dates and witnesses laying out who knew what, when. Of course, the trial is with the jury, now shortened by one, but continuing with their original deliberations. Meanwhile, Cheney's shadow looms large:

... White House Watch reader Joseph Britt of Sun Prairie, Wis., writes in response to yesterday's column about Cheney's omnipresence: "It's interesting that very expansive claims of Presidential authority have over the last few years been made on behalf of a President so weak that he has done what none of his 42 predecessors ever did -- assign vast responsibilities for making and implementing policy to the one official he cannot fire. . . . I wonder that this aspect of the Bush administration has been so little remarked on; one would think that something that had never happened in over two centuries would attract more notice."
(from Dan Froomkin's White House Watch column in the Washington Post at .

The political cartoon above is by R.J. Matson. You can link to more political cartoons at Adam Zyglis' cartoon archive,

Monday, February 26, 2007

Bar-Bri, a monopoly? Who would have guessed!?

A New York Times article over the weekend covered a class-action federal law suit by law students who felt that Bar-Bri has been abusing them and competitors to maintain its monopoly. See the link in the title.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Crime-fighting with YouTube!

An AP story by Eric Tucker (link in title above), reports the growing use of YouTube by police departments. While the story notes that YouTube also gets used to record and publicize excessive police force in making arrests, the focus is a new and growing adoption by police to post videos of suspects. They ask the public to help them identify the people in the video. Sometimes it works really well, as in the incident

in Hamilton, Ontario, in Canada, where police in December posted a 72-second surveillance video to locate a suspect in a fatal stabbing outside a hip-hop concert. Det. Sgt. Jorge Lasso sent messages on Web sites frequented by hip-hop fans alerting them to the clip. He said the video received around 35,000 "hits," and police had enough information within two weeks for an arrest.
Other times, it has not been so quickly successful.

The article briefly mentions the issues of privacy that may be raised by this use of Internet technology. It's hard to analogize this posting of videos to the old "Wanted" posters. Can you say, "Ripe for a law review article?"

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Congrats to Fred Shapiro!

Fred Shapiro, Associate Law Library Director at Yale, has an new book out, Yale Book of Quotations link. He receives a lengthy, entertaining and favorable review from Louis Menand in the current issue of The New Yorker, here. The Yale University Press site linked above, shows that the book was voted Book of the Year at, and received many more great reviews from all over the world. Fred is the only law librarian I know to have been auditioned for "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." He says he wasn't fast enough with the button and didn't even make it to air time. I think Fred may have found another way to fame and fortune, with this excellent, and popular, book! Well done!

A new charity

The link above is to a Boston Globe story about 2 St. Louis University Medical School students who are distributing treated mosquito nets in Africa. There are apparently several organizations that do this, but these guys have no overhead, since they travel to Africa on their own dime, and bicycle around the countryside (where one worked 2 years as a Peace Corps volunteer and learned the language), distributing nets to villages. Read the interesting article, and then go to their organization, Netlife (here is the link printed out: to donate.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Greetings from Hawaii!

Betsy has been very quiet for some days here, and it's because I was in Hawaii. I went as a member of the board of directors for LLMC. It was the first time I've ever been to Hawaii, and it was a wonderful break in a winter that had suddenly turned cold, gray and icy. The image here is a photo posted by Hawaii Community College at It's a good picture of the beach at Ala Moana beach park, where I was able to get to a beach several times in a hard-working trip. The directors toured the facility at LLMC, which was an awe-inspiring experience. The quality of materials produced by LLMC, and the brilliance of Jerry Dupont led me to expect a more modern facility. The employees of LLMC, from Jerry down to the most-recent hires should all be congratulated on the consistent high quality of their product, especially in light of the very difficult in which they are working. The board authorized renovation if the University of Hawaii will grant a 20 year lease to LLMC. But in the meantime, the excellent scanning operation is being carried on in a shabby pre-WWII nurses' dorm in the small town of Kaneohe. What a great team!

Rhode Island AG opinion recognizes same-sex marriages from Massachusetts

The New York Times reported Feb. 20 that Rhode Island Attorney General Patrrick Lynch issued a requested opinion in response to the question raised by three state employees who had been married in Massachusetts.

Responding to a request for a legal opinion from the commissioner of the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education, Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch said the state prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation and did not explicitly prohibit same-sex marriage.

“Rhode Island will recognize same-sex marriages lawfully performed in Massachusetts as marriages in Rhode Island,” the seven-page opinion said.

Mr. Lynch said his interpretation permitted recognition of the marriages, although he acknowledged that it was just an opinion and did not have the force of law.

“This is about Rhode Island citizens who entered into a valid, legally recognized same-sex marriage and returned here to live and work,” Mr. Lynch, a Democrat, said in an interview. “There is no way, no law, no constitutional provision and, in my estimation, no right to allow the denial of basic human rights.”

A spokesman for Gov. Donald L. Carcieri, a Republican who opposes same-sex marriage, said Mr. Carcieri and his legal counsel were studying the opinion.

The request from the board, which oversees the state’s three public colleges, went to Mr. Lynch on Feb. 1 after three employees who had same-sex marriages in Massachusetts asked that their personnel files be changed to reflect that they were married, said Steven Maurano, a spokesman for the board. Mr. Maurano said the board would abide by the attorney general’s opinion. (snip)

Mr. Lynch said businesses and state agencies could choose whether to abide by the opinion.

“Perhaps litigation will flow from it,” he added.

Bills to allow and to bar same-sex marriage, as well as one to create civil unions, were filed this year in the General Assembly. Previous bills on the subject died.

In September, a judge in Massachusetts ruled that Rhode Island couples could marry in Massachusetts because Rhode Island did not have a law barring same-sex marriage.

At the time, Mr. Lynch said that the ruling did “not mean that Rhode Island will recognize a same-sex marriage performed in Massachusetts.”

Mr. Lynch said Wednesday that the statement applied because a Massachusetts judge could not determine the course of Rhode Island law.

The Boston Globe ran a brief AP article today here about Lynch having attended a same-sex ceremony for his sister earlier this month. He stated that his sister's marriage to her long-time partner had "zero impact" on the opinion, which he called " 'well-grounded and well-researched' by his staff and based on a 1904 state Supreme Court ruling."

The blogosphere fight to maintain credibility

The Boston Globe's Alan Wirzbicki writes in the article linked above about growing concerns that political publicists will infiltrate blogs, posing as unaffiliated citizens. These fakers are called sock puppets, shills, and trolls. They have already surfaced as various marketers post to blogs, MySpace, and other Internet gathering places, pretending to be regular folks, praising a product and faking a grassroots swell of support. I was tickled to find that this sort of fake grassroots movement is called Astroturf. I was also intrigued to read that the attraction of posting to the blogosphere is that marketers and operatives can "can fly under the radar and have no fingerprints attached to them."

I think we need to be alert (though I doubt a librarian blog is going to be subverted this way), but can't help but be amused by the new language that is being coined to describe these attacks. It's similar in a way to the stupid vendor tricks we have seen popping up in our library mail again, little post-it notes and attached memos from first-name only mystery correspondence, saying, "Why don't we have this in our library?" Fake come-ons usually are recognized pretty quickly, and then back-fire on the scammers who try them out.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ave Maria Announcement

The Chronicle of Higher Education carried Ave Maria School of Law's announcement today that it will move from Ann Arbor, Michigan to a new town being built in Florida:

February 20, 2007
Conservative Catholic Law School Founded by Pizza King to Move From Mich. to Fla.
The Ave Maria School of Law announced this afternoon that it would move in 2009 from Ann Arbor, Mich., to the new town of Ave Maria, Fla., which is being built in former tomato fields in southwestern Florida between Naples and Immokalee. The law school was established in 1999 by Thomas S. Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza and a supporter of conservative Roman Catholic causes. The town of Ave Maria will also be home to Ave Maria University, also backed by Mr. Monaghan. Both institutions’ missions, like an Ave Maria College campus in Ypsilanti, Mich., that is now closing, are to provide an education in a conservative, Catholic intellectual tradition.
Bernard Dobranski, the law school’s president and dean, said in an interview that its Board of Governors had decided on the move after five years of discussing its options. He said Collier County, Fla., where the school will be located, is one of the nation’s fastest growing metropolitan areas, yet is without a law school. The school’s proximity to the university will create an intellectually stimulating milieu, he added. “Our presence there will be mutually beneficial to them and to us.” He said that although some faculty members have opposed the move, “everyone on the faculty and the staff is invited to come.”

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Law Students in New Orleans

Here's an inspiring story from the Chronicle of Higher Education about how law students are helping New Orleans rebuild its legal system, which is still struggling in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Blogging Out of Bankruptcy

I was struck by an article in Sunday's New York Times that dealt with individuals in debt who are attempting to blog their debt away. The article is called "Debtors Search for Discipline via Blogs," and discusses how some individuals with large amounts of personal debt are now sharing the details of their financial lives in an effort to impose some discipline on their spending. This is fascinating--most people would rather tell you about their sex lives than discuss their finances. This observation is even more true when people are in debt and feel shame, as one blogger admits she does. In our society, money equals success, and, therefore, debt equals failure. Now obviously it takes more than the act of blogging alone to get out of debt. But a woman named Tricia who blogs at says that she "thinks about this blog every time [she's] in the store and something that [she doesn't] need catches [her] eye." As the Times article points out, the "blogs open a homey and sometimes shockingly candid window on the day-to-day finances of American households in a time of rising debt, failing mortgages and financial uncertainty. In 2006, the average American household carried...$21,000 in total debt." Even a professional financial consultant has a blog devoted to her efforts to "escape from $19,947 in credit card debt"!

The fact that the debtors who blog acknowledge that they feel embarrassment and shame about their situation runs counter to the arguments put forth by proponents of the misnamed Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, who portrayed debtors as profligate spendthrifts who ran up large amounts of debt without remorse. The Act was passed in 2005 after years of lobbying by banks and other financial institutions and by the credit card industry, all of whom stood to gain if it were harder to file for personal bankruptcy.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Black History Month, the Library, and Aesthetics

The Brooklyn Court House has been celebrating Black History Month. I have enjoyed the events, but had not thought to involve the library. After a weekend in discussion with attendees of BAM’s ( African Diaspora movie festival, I understand how important it is to participate.

During one of the post-movie discussions, three black women from my gym class, all professionals, compared incidents of harassment by sales clerks who questioned their identity when they presented credit cards for purchases. Each woman had been followed through department stores by security. Such humiliations were wearing.

When I mentioned that my library had not contributed to Black History Month, they were very surprised. I had lost some respect, I sensed.

Their comment tied into another conversation I had. An attorney came into the library after what must have been a difficult day in court. He thanked me for the help he had received from the staff. He told me that the library had been a place for him to revive and decompress during hard days. We got into a discussion about how the library was a neutral space in the court house. It was place where people posed questions and made connections. I asked if he would be interested in a Friday afternoon tea hour in the library—he was interested.

We Court Law Librarians can get overwhelmed by “the undertow of the world,” (Robert Cole). Before these conversations I had not thought that the court library could draw upon its strengths to create an aesthetic space that could restore visitors and oppose the brutalities diminishing us. These conversations have given me a lot; I am fortunate to have received such confidences.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Media consolidation

Fighting for Air : The Battle to Control America’s Media by Eric Klinenberg is a wonderful book on the consolidation of media ownership. The declining number of independent legal publishers is part of this story.

Klinenberg emphasizes mass media, not the publishers we are familiar with. He describes how national chains have closed the state capital news bureaus. This means that not only have lobbyists been unmonitored, but coverage of state agencies has almost ceased. Trying to do a newspaper search on a local topic will not obtain much information, but will pull up a lot of duplicate wire copy.

An effect of this media consolidation has been the loss of small publishers who published local materials. It was never comprehensive, but now even more is falling through the cracks.

How can we law librarians help people research, if the information is unpublished? Our concern with access to government information is shared by many who have organized to participate in politics and rule-making. These interest groups would value the insights and work of our colleagues.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

Dear OOTJ Readers,

Happy Valentine's Day! I wondered how the heart came to be considered the seat of affection, and also how the stylized hearts we see on valentines today came to represent the anatomical heart. Other mysterious choices for Valentine's Day symbols are birds and flowers. I have not solved the mystery, alas! If anybody knows these things, I'd love to hear.

In noodling around the Internet in search of answers, I found a charming site with a valentines exhibit: The American Antiquarian. They detail the long history of a day to celebrate love. The early Lupercalia in Rome actually celebrated fertility, at the right time of year to match our modern Valentine's Day (see Wikipedia). Then, we have a long pause until one of two (or is it three?) possible Christian martyrs named Valentinus gave name to our current holiday. The rise of courtly love in medieval Europe changed the way love was defined. Possibly, the first romantic valentine, rhymed romantic letters, may have been sent by Duc Charles d'Orleans to his wife while he was held in the Tower of London after being captured at the Battle of Agincourt. Geoffrey Chaucer, in the 1300's, wrote in The Parliament of Fowls, in honor of the one year anniverary between England's King Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. Chaucer discusses what must have been a folk-belief that all the birds choose a mate on February 14. Shakespeare also mentions this belief in A Midsummer Night's Dream. A character in the play discovers two lovers in the woods and asks, "St. Valentine is past; Begin these woodbirds but to couple now?"

See Annie's Page, which extracted this history of Valentine's Day from the 1998 World Book Encyclopedia:

One description of Valentine's Day during the 1700's tells how groups of friends met to draw names. For several days, each man wore his valentine's name on his sleeve. The saying wearing his heart on his sleeve probably came from this practice.

The custom of sending romantic messages gradually replaced that of giving gifts. In the 1700's and 1800's, many stores sold handbooks called valentine writers. These books included verses to copy and various suggestions about writing valentines.

Commercial valentines were first made in the early 1800's. Many of them were blank inside, with space for the sender to write a message. The British artist Kate Greenaway became famous for her valentines in the late 1800's. Many of her cards featured charming pictures of happy children and lovely gardens. Esther A. Howland, (featured in the American Antiquarian site, above) of Worcester, Massachusetts, became one of the first U.S. manufacturers of valentines. In 1847, after seeing a British valentine, she decided to make some of her own. She made samples and took orders from stores. Then she hired a staff of young women and set up an assembly line to produce the cards. One woman glued on paper flowers, another added lace, and another painted leaves. Howland soon expanded her business into a $100,000-a-year enterprise.

Many valentines of the 1800's were hand painted. Some featured a fat cupid or showed arrows piercing a heart. Many cards had satin, ribbon, or lace trim. Others were decorated with dried flowers, feathers, imitation jewels, mother-of-pearl, sea shells, or tassels. Some cards cost as much as $10.

From the mid-1800's to the early 1900's, many people sent comic valentines called penny dreadfuls. These cards sold for a penny and featured such insulting verses as:

'Tis all in vain your simpering looks,
You never can incline,
With all your bustles, stays, and curls,
To find a valentine.

The lovely Victorian Valentine is from a wonderful exhibit at the Indiana University Lilly Library here

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The only thing worse than being talked about...

is not being talked about, said Oscar Wilde.

The latest "legal hotties" contest: The Hottest Law Librarians! (Thanks, Grace!)

Technological change has always been hard

Thanks to Bonnie Shucha for passing this one on:

Molding their little minds: New Science of Neurology

The most recent Discover magazine features a book review of Train Your Mind Change Your Brain (Link to Amazon), by Sharon Begley. Link to Science Friday , which also interviewed Begley on their show for a nice excerpt of the book. Evidently, neuroscientists are coming to the exhilirating conclusion that adult brains are more plastic than had long been thought. This means that adult brains have a better chance to recover from damage, with proper care. (The image is from an ad on Mind and Life Institute,, for a dvd of a talk by His Holiness at Denver in Sept., 2006).

It also means that you can change your mind, literally. The excerpt linked above discusses the link between activities, imagination, meditation, and brain structure and development, not just in childhood, but also in adults. Begley also tells about the Dalai Lama's remarkable work with western scientists, through the Mind and Life Institute link. "Buddhism defines a person as a constantly changing dynamic stream," according to Matthieu Ricard, a French-born Buddhist monk quoted by Begley. He goes on to explain that mental training, such as meditation, can reshape our patterns of thought and emotion, bringing us to enlightenment, and actually affecting the brain. The Dalai Lama, himself, has said many times that, while Buddhist traditions use very different terms, they agree with newer neuroscience findings that the human brain is very adaptable, and can be rewired. New findings show that the brain can rewire existing neurons to replace the work of damaged portions of the brain, and can even grow new neurons in adulthood. From changing such brain-based disabilities as dyslexia and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, to changing habits of thinking such as defeatism, xenophobia and bitterness, the Mind and Life Institute envisions that we can learn to retrain our brains. Exciting stuff.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

IP law versus nature and national interest!

The New York Times reports that Indonesia is negotiating to sell its avian flu virus to a U.S. vaccine company, and is halting shipments of the virus to World Health Organization. Follow the link in the title to read this article in full. A spokeswoman for the Indonesian government cited concerns that some company could research and then patent the flu's DNA, and that the country might lose access to any rights in either the flu strain or any resulting vaccine. The article reports that while the Indonesian government has signed a memorandum of understanding with Baxter, Inc., the agreement does not require this to be an exclusive relationship.

I feel certain that the thoughts of the Indonesian government, leading to their halt of shipments of flu strains to WHO, were influenced by the experience of India. The rush to patent living organisms began with the U. S. Supreme Court case, Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303(1980)Findlaw link. An Indian academic, article by Dinar Godrej at Findarticles, comments:

In 1980 a paradigm shifted. Or rather it collapsed altogether.

Ananda Chakrabarty won a US Supreme Court case allowing him to patent a bacterium he had genetically engineered to digest oil. Suddenly a legal construct that had been designed to protect inventors' ideas from appropriation jumped over the not inconsiderable fence that separates the inanimate world from the sentient and animate. This however didn't seem to exercise the presiding judge unduly. He declared that the 'relevant distinction is not between animate and inanimate things but whether living products could be seen as human-made inventions'.

And there's the nub. Reproduction aside, can human beings really claim to create life? Chakrabarty himself said that he 'simply shuffled genes, changing bacteria that already existed - it's like teaching your pet cat new tricks'.

Genetic engineering involves the juggling of pre-existing components of life. No new gene or genetic material is ever created, just different combinations. So if a genetically engineered organism reproduces, it does so of its own accord following a natural process. How then can it be owned?

In order to be patented an invention must fulfil three criteria -- it requires an inventive step (which is not obvious to someone skilled in the field), it must be novel and it must be useful. But patents on life usually fail the first two, if not all three. It would appear the criteria have been downgraded in many instances to simply possessing the technology to tamper with life and the ability to describe the extent of the tampering.

Chakrabarty's oil-chomping bacterium opened the floodgates in the US. Five years later the US Patent and Trademark Office allowed genetically modified (GM) plants, seeds and plant tissue to be patented. By 1987 animal patenting was permitted. Today human gene sequences, cell lines and stem cells are allowed (see over).

What all of this means is that corporate interests (and university research departments which are increasingly corporate funded) can corner life forms for the lifetime of a patent (usually 20 years) and have a monopoly over their exploitation.

2 What's fair game?

Patents on life actually represent ancient Western obsessions -- conquest and colonization. Except here science, in the deep pocket of corporate finance, seeks to subdue the natural world and venture boldly into the 'interior spaces' of genes and cell lines. (1) Human beings have no rights to their own genetic heritage -- after all, they did nothing to exploit their usefulness, claim some scientists.

On 26 June 2000, the world learnt that a draft of the entire human genome had been completed independently by two competing bodies. The publicly-funded Human Genome Project aimed to keep the data in the public domain, whilst the company Celera Genomics sought to license use of its data for a fat fee. (snip)

3 Biopiracy

Natural resources known to indigenous peoples for centuries are easy plums for the biotechnology companies to pick. A remedy from India, where I grew up, comes to mind. The neem tree's anti-bacterial and insecticidal properties had over 80 patents slapped on them by eager US and Japanese corps, although at least one has been overturned. But these properties aren't news to anyone. My mother would mix neem twigs and leaves in with her store of wheat to keep the bugs off. Neem soap has been going for years -- especially popular with pustular teenagers on the subcontinent. And a good chew on a revoltingly bitter neem twig substitutes for brushing one's teeth for many a poor Indian.

You can see a very nice website on the patenting of the Indian Neem tree products (among other things) by western biotech companies at TED Case Studies Number 665, 2002 (by Sara Hasan, at American University) here. They have a nice website explaining this incident and others of the collision between western intellectual property law and cultural rights of traditional groups. Here is an insightful explanation of the situation:
While the neem tree has been used in India for over 2000 years for various purposes such as pesticides, spermicides and toothbrushes, a US company has been suing Indian companies for producing the emulsion because they have a patent on the process. The dispute is over the rights of companies to conduct research and development by using patents against the interest of the people who live at the source of the resource. To what extent can multinational companies claim and patent resources from the develping countries, like India? The movement around the issue of the neem tree and trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS) represents a challenge to the developing countries.

A good bit of the material at this website is derived from The Third World Network article by Vandana Shiva The Neem Tree, a Casehistory of Biopiracy. in this, Shiva notes:
W R Grace's justification for patents, therefore, pivots on the claim that these modernised extraction processes constitute a genuine innovation:

'Although traditional knowledge inspired the research and development that led to these patented compositions and processes, they were considered sufficiently novel and different from the original product of nature and the traditional method of use to be patentable.'

'Azadirachtin, which was being destroyed during conventional processing of Neem Oil/Neem Cake is being additionally extracted in the form of Water Soluble Neem Extract and hence it is an add-on rather than a substitute to the current neem industry in India.'

In short, the processes are supposedly novel and an advance on Indian techniques. However, this novelty exists mainly in the context of the ignorance of the West. Over the 2,000 years that neem-based biopesticides and medicines have been used in India, many complex processes were developed to make them available for specific use, though the active ingredients were not given Latinised scientific names. Common knowledge and common use of neem was one of the primary reasons given by the Indian Central Insecticide Board for not registering neem products under the Insecticides Act, 1968. The Board argued that neem materials had been in extensive use in India for various purposes since time immemorial, without any known deleterious effects. The US EPA, on the other hand, does not accept the validity of traditional knowledge and has imposed a full series of safety tests upon Margosan-O.

The allegation that azadirachtin was being destroyed during traditional processing is inaccurate. The extracts were subject to degradation, but this was not a problem since farmers put such extracts to use as and when they needed them. The problem of stabilisation arose only when it needed to be packaged for a long time to be marketed commercially. Moreover, stabilisation and other advances attributable to modern laboratory technology had already been developed by Indian scientists in the 1960s and 1970s, well before US and Japanese companies expressed interest in them.

Related, helpful web resources on the collision between westernized concepts of intellectual property and traditional cultural property:

Article at International Center for Technology Assessment (a U.S. non-profit, bi-partisan group)

Lawfirm of Schwegman, Lundberg, Woessner and Kluth, "Bring Them Back Alive! Patents on Products of Nature." The author, patent lawyer Warren Woessner, comments that patent issuance on natural products is only the first step in the collision. He argues that the patenting and commercialization of cultural and natural property is not "genetic colionialism." He comments that, far from putting neem tree products out of the reach of Indian natives,
Colonialism implies that a Third World country is somehow robbed of its resources for the benefit of the developed countries. In the case of the neem tree, Grace built an extraction plant in India which thus far employs sixty Indians. In addition to the employment provided, the factories presumably are taxed, and purchases are made from local suppliers.

The recent neem patents (but only provided that Grace has obtained patents of some sort in India) leave the Indian farmer with two choices: continue to use the crude preparations or the old formulations as always, or pay a premium for the convenience of the new, more active stable formulation. The hypothetical Indian farmer can make that choice, based on his own balance of cost and benefit. Even if he cannot afford the new formulations, he is no worse off than before, since a patent cannot remove the tree or the old formulations from the public domain.

In addition, the farmer may have a new cash crop. ...

The Indian perspective is largely different, as may be seen at

Thimmakka Newsletter
and many articles by Dr. Shiva.

Apparently, the EU Patent office revoked the patent it gave the W.R. Grace Company in the neem tree link. Undoubtedly, this decision was affected by finding by the WTO and GATT, reported at Biotech Monitor, and Declaration of Berne, Article at WTO, TRIPS article at the WTO, and TRIPS summary. The beautiful illustration of a neem tree is from the World Book article on alternative pesticides link.

Texas considering Open Document format - SB 446

Texas, following Massachusetts (covered .here and here at OOTJ), is considering a bill that would mandate use of open document format rather than Microsoft's product. Commentary by Sam Hiser at his blog. I'll bet Microsoft is mad.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Brave Librarian in Baghdad

Today's New York Times includes an inspiring but ultimately tragic story about Saad Eskander, the director of Iraq's National Library and Archive in Baghdad. Dr. Eskander, who is working under harrowing conditions to safeguard the collection and protect his staff, is keeping a diary of his experiences. The diary is available over the British Library website. "Written in a flat, unemotional style, the entires relate the bombings, blockades, shootings, threats, shortages and petty frustrations that make up everyday life for the cadre of civil servants working at Iraq's main cultural and literary storehouse. A complaint that heating fuel prices are 40 times higher than in the fall is followed by a report on the assassination of one of the library's bright young Web designers and the need to ask the government to keep the electricity on." The British Library has been publishing the diary since December 30, but it includes material from mid-November. One of the most sobering parts of the diary is Dr. Eskander's chart that makes clear the impact of sectarian violence on his staff for just the month of December: four employees assassinated and two kidnapped, "66 murders of staff members' relatives, 58 death threats and 51 displacements." I can't even imagine working under conditions like this, and am very proud of be part of a profession that that includes people like Dr. Eskander and his staff.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Bush Presidential Library In the News Again

Many members of the faculty at Southern Methodist University are against plans to build the George W. Bush Presidential Library on their campus, reports today's issue of Inside Higher Education. The object of their opposition is not the library itself, but rather "a policy institute to be affiliated with it that would have as its mission promoting the Bush philosophy." This institute would have "an explicitly ideological identity" and would report to the "president's foundation instead of to the university"; this situation would run "counter to academic values," according to the critics. The university, predictably, argues that the library would have a great deal of scholarly value and bring long-term gains to the campus.

Enter "national groups of archivists and historians" who are attempting to expand the debate to the question of access to presidential papers. They argue that a presidential library that does not contain all the papers of a particular president is nothing more than "a museum of political propaganda." The reason for their concern is Executive Order 13233 signed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. This executive order gives "presidents and former presidents much more control over their records" and extends "that right to a family member when a former presisdent dies"; in effect "the Bush order goes beyond the control asserted by any president since Nixon (whose efforts to control his papers led to various laws to promote access)."

According to Benjamin Hufbauer, an associate professor of art history at the University of Louisville and author of Presidential Temples: How Memorials and Libraries Shape Public Memory, as long as the executive order stands, SMU has no justification for arguing that the Bush Library will be a great scholarly resource. Groups such as the Society of American Archivists and the Project on Government Secrecy of the Federation of American Scientists are pushing SMU to reject the library unless Bush reverses the executive order. "Steven Aftergood, director of the [Project on Government Secrecy], said, 'I think the decision about where to locate the library has the potential to merge with a larger debate regarding Bush administration information policy.'" There is no indication that SMU will rethink its position on the presidential library, however.

The Empire Strikes Back! Disputing Global Warming

The Guardian reports that ExxonMobile and a think tank (American Enterprise Institute) closely affiliated with the Bush (W) administration has been offering cash to scientists to dispute the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI's board of trustees.

The letters, sent to scientists in Britain, the US and elsewhere, attack the UN's panel as "resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work" and ask for essays that "thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs".

Climate scientists described the move yesterday as an attempt to cast doubt over the "overwhelming scientific evidence" on global warming. "It's a desperate attempt by an organisation who wants to distort science for their own political aims," said David Viner of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

"The IPCC process is probably the most thorough and open review undertaken in any discipline. This undermines the confidence of the public in the scientific community and the ability of governments to take on sound scientific advice," he said. [snip]

Ben Stewart of Greenpeace said: "The AEI is more than just a thinktank, it functions as the Bush administration's intellectual Cosa Nostra. They are White House surrogates in the last throes of their campaign of climate change denial. They lost on the science; they lost on the moral case for action. All they've got left is a suitcase full of cash."

On Monday, another Exxon-funded organisation based in Canada will launch a review in London which casts doubt on the IPCC report. Among its authors are Tad Murty, a former scientist who believes human activity makes no contribution to global warming. Confirmed VIPs attending include Nigel Lawson and David Bellamy, who believes there is no link between burning fossil fuels and global warming.

ick. Meanwhile, The Christian Science Monitor published a report Jan. 31 headlined: "Has the White House interfered on global warming reports? A new report claims that the Bush administration has suppressed scientists' climate-change work."
More than 120 scientists across seven federal agencies say they have been pressured to remove references to "climate change" and "global warming" from a range of documents, including press releases and communications with Congress. Roughly the same number say appointees altered the meaning of scientific findings on climate contained in communications related to their research.

These findings, part of a new report compiled by two watchdog groups, shed new light on complaints by a scattering of scientists over the past year who have publicly complained that Bush administration appointees have tried to mute or muzzle what researchers have to say about global warming.

"We are beyond the anecdotal," says Francesca Grifo, director of the scientific integrity program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), one of the two groups, referring to press reports of a dozen instances of interference that have emerged over the past 12 months. "We now have evidence to support the view that this problem goes deeper than just these few high-profile cases." [snip]

Meanwhile, Congress is considering several pieces of legislation that would impose controls on industrial carbon-dioxide emissions – blamed for trapping heat in the atmosphere and contributing to the noticeable warming effect on the earth's climate.

The question is not so much about federal scientists' ability to publish their results in specialized journals that few but their colleagues read, the report's authors say. Instead, the trouble arises when agencies translate "journalese" into language the general public or lawmakers can grasp for use in official government reports or media releases. [snip]

Sometimes scientists and career public-affairs officers would send press releases related to global warming up the ladder for review, then never hear back. Or appointees changed the wording in ways that scientists felt distorted the results or their implications, and the researchers weren't given a chance to argue their case. One of the most blatant examples focuses on the issue of hurricanes and global warming. According to the report, in 2005, the White House stepped in to block an interview MSNBC sought with NOAA scientist Thomas Knutson, who a year earlier had published a modeling study on the potential link between hurricanes and global warming. The interview was to focus on new research by other scientists that suggested global warming has contributed to trends toward stronger hurricanes.

Documents GAP obtained showed that instead of approving subsequent interviews with Dr. Knutson, high-level public-affairs officers routed interview requests to NOAA scientist Chris Landsea in Miami, who argued, in part, that the quality of global hurricane data was too poor and inconsistent to draw meaningful conclusions. In another instance, reporters interested in interviewing a NOAA scientist who had coauthored a new research paper concluding that modern warming "is dominated by human influences" were sent instead to then-deputy administrator Jim Mahoney.

Details of interference

In all, 150 scientists reported a combined 435 instances of real or perceived "interference" related to global-warming research within the past five years. This has led to self-censorship, Mr. Maassari says,

Link here for the Executive summary from the joint report.

Link to Government Accountability Project, the second group that sponsored the investigation and report. This site, like the UCS link above, has excellent links and lots of reports and information on environmental issues, as well as lots of other topics.

Link to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman. They held hearings (link) on governmental interference with environmental scientists. Visit this last link for a nice collection of the hearings' testimony, list of witnesses and various statements.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Signing Statements Update

The Boston Globe reported on February 1 that John Conyers, Jr., the new chair of the House Judiciary Committee, stated that "he is launching an aggressive investigation into whether the Bush administration has violated any of the laws it claimed a right to ignore in presidential 'signing statements.'" The issue boils down to whether the administration has abused its powers, which Conyers plainly believes it has. "Bush has claimed that his executive powers allow him to bypass more than 1,100 laws enacted since he took office. But administration officials insist that Bush's signing statements merely question the laws' constitutionality, and do not necessarily mean that the president also authorized his subordinates to violate them." Six attorneys have been added to Judiciary's staff in order to pursue the investigation, a measure of how seriously Conyers considers this issue to be. The article cites data compiled by Professor Christopher Kelley, a political science professor at Miami University in Ohio. According to Professor Kelley, "Bush has used signing statements to challenge 1,149 laws that were contained in 150 bills...By comparison, all previous presidents combined challenged about 600 total laws."

Improve Basic Research Skills

Whether you are doing legal research, or another kind, online or paper, here are some basic research skills that will improve your results:

I. Develop a Research Process
A. Stop to think before you start researching. It's worth the time you put in at the start because you'll be much more efficient (get it more quickly) and effective (get everything you need) if you plan!
B. Identify significant facts, and develop search terms.
1. Be creative and come up with synonyms.
2. Be flexible and add new terms when you run across them in your research.
3. Be meticulous and note the date you added the new term -- you might want to re-run earlier searches using the new term!
C. Frame issues (you may need to read a bit in a hornbook or textbook to help identify issues)
1. May need to subdivide, narrow or broaden, or even add
issues as research continues.
2. Arrange in a logical manner, with issues which depend upon
the outcome of other issues listed later.
3. Most methodical research method is to exhaust all relevant
authority on 1 issue before beginning research on another.
Keeps your research focused; keeps you from straying
into irrelevant areas; and lets you quickly get an idea
of the time required for the project. Legal issues can't
be compartmentalized by the source of law.
D. Identify relevant sources (whether paper or electronic) For any kind of research, think about what kind of resource might answer your question. Would there perhaps be a statute or regulation on this matter? Might it be discussed in a journal article or a practice manual?
1. List them in the order to be used for each issue, at least
when you are just a beginner in legal research. This will
keep you from omitting a source or researching in a less
efficient way.
2. Good beginning places (for law) if you are unfamiliar with the
a. Hornbook or Treatise, nutshells.
b. CLE and jury instructions (excellent if available; jury
instructions are good sources for the elements of the cause of action. CLEs will mention the state cases, statutes, constitutional sections that will govern.)
c. Law journal articles (or other journals, too).
d. Legal encyclopedias (state encyclopedias are better if
available because national are too general)
e. ALR (American Law Reports, 1st - 4th and Fed.) Good
if your case is very fact-sensitive or if there are no cases in your jurisdiction. These survey cases nationwide, so you can see what other states have done, find a case that is more factually similar, and discover if there are clear
patterns among the states or circuits.
3. To decide where to start, use these pointers:
a. Look at comprehensiveness, type of material included, level of detail and dates covered, to choose the set or database that best matches your research needs.
b. For broad overviews, choose paper sources, such as hornbooks, treatises or a local encyclopedia or CLE materials. Don=t go online until you have enough background to know the terms of art and the most important primary sources of law in the area!
c. For broad concepts, begin with paper sources, as in b, above.
d. For statutory or regulatory research, usually begin with paper sources.
e. For common terms or terms that can have more than one meaning,
begin with paper or a carefully structured electronic search.
f. For unique or unusual words or phrases, choose electronic searching.
g. For cases that define a word or phrase, use the set Words and Phrases or the volumes at the end of most digests marked Words and Phrases.
h. For proper names and terms of art, choose electronic searching.
i. For fact sensitive research (details of the facts would change the outcome), choose electronic sources or ALRs.
j. For multi-year or multi-jurisdiction searches, choose electronic sources or ALRs.
k. For the elements of a cause of action, try looking at jury instructions!
l. If a computer search turns up nothing, use the books! There may be a problem with the term(s) you used, or you may be in the wrong database.
D. Research the issues: Take careful notes of which sources you have looked at, what terms you searched and what you found. Include dates! You will save yourself time in the long run, because you will avoid redoing research. Develop your own method of taking notes, but be orderly and consistent. Write down the complete cite! If you are on Westlaw or Lexis, use the "Research Trail" or "History" to keep your records. You can keep refreshing these so they don't disappear after 3 days!
1. As you gain expertise and confidence, you'll develop
2. You'll also develop insight into when it's safe to
terminate your research. Generally, it's better to err on
the side of caution, but you need to balance cost as well.
Eventually, you will notice that all the cites are to statutes
and cases that you have already seen. This is a sign that
you have found the leading cases in your jurisdiction.
E. Read before going online unless you are confident you know
the terms of art in the area!!!!
F. Communicate your solution - organizing and writing legal
memoranda is beyond the scope of this course, but vital.

II. Statutes first!
A. Look first at any relevant statutes. More law is governed
by statutes than it looks like when you are in law school. If
there is a governing statute, that is what will decide the case
more than case law. Also, annotated statute books are excellent
case finding tools, and can lead you to forms, and other resources.
B. Be sure you have updated and shepardized all statutes. Re-
member to use interim supplements and legislative services or
online services to be sure the statute hasn=t changed.
C. Follow up with regulations from relevant agencies, if any.
D. Be alert to constitutional issues, as well.

III. Finding Relevant Cases
A. If there are any statutes, regulations, constitutional issues, be
sure you have looked at cases construing them. If not, or after
doing that, use digests to locate cases by subject matter. Remember
to use the West key number if you have a case from another juris-
diction to locate cases in your jurisdiction=s digest. Key numbers
can also be used on Westlaw to help target your search.
B. Be aware of jurisdiction! If the case is higher up in the judicial
chain of command in your jurisdiction, it is mandatory authority.
If the case is from another jurisdiction, it is only persuasive. If it
is the same court, your judge(s) will probably follow, but are not
obliged to in the same way as if the precedent were from a higher
C. Shepardize all relevant cases, not only to make sure they are still
good law, but also to find other relevant cases in the same jurisdiction.
Sooner or later, your shepardizing will lead you in a circle; when that
happens, you will know you have probably found all relevant cases in
your jurisdiction.
D. Update your research by looking at advance sheets, using online or
CD-Rom services, the latest Shepards or Westlaw=s new West Cite service.

Eco-shift; the politics of global warming has changed at last!

The upcoming issue of The New Yorker has a short report on the recent changes in U.S. government following the November elections here. Here are highlights with some helpful links:

release last week of the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change represents an important, perhaps even historic, event.

Founded in 1988, the I.P.C.C. is a joint venture of the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization. Every four or five years, it conducts an exhaustive survey of the available data and issues a multi-volume assessment of the state of the climate. By the time the I.P.C.C. publishes an assessment, it has been vetted by thousands of scientists, as well as by the organization’s hundred and ninety-odd participating governments. The process guarantees that I.P.C.C. reports are conservative—indeed, frequently out of date

IPCC link includes the report referenced above, plus a number of other working group reports.

PhysOrg website with news reports about the report. Also the source of the photo above of polar bears on melting icebergs. This website notes about the image, that it was released by the "Canadian Ice Service Friday Feb. 2, 2007 and taken by photographer Dan Crosbie in 2004 shows two polar bears on a chunk of ice in the arctic off Northern Alaska.

Back to the New Yorker article, which moves on to focus on U.S. politics:

As it happens, the release of the report coincides with an important political shift. Though President Bush remains recalcitrant—he could barely bring himself to utter the phrase “climate change” in his State of the Union address last month—the Republican defeat in November has removed from power Congress’s most reliable obstructionists. In the Senate, James Inhofe, of Oklahoma, best known for having declared global warming the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” ceded the chairmanship of the Environment and Public Works Committee to Barbara Boxer, of California. “For the last twelve years . . . all we’ve been talking about is, ‘Is there global warming?’ ” Boxer recently told USA Today. “I’m over it. We need to move forward.” Boxer herself has signed on to a bill, sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, that would cut America’s carbon emissions by eighty per cent by 2050.
On the House side, the Democratic majority has elevated Representative John Dingell, of Michigan, to the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Dingell assumes the post from Joe Barton, of Texas, whose tenure was marked by a series of investigations (or, if you prefer, witch hunts) targeting prominent climate scientists. Now eighty, Dingell has spent more than half a century in Congress protecting the American auto industry. Nevertheless, he has promised to hold hearings on climate change, and has invited Al Gore to testify. Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has gone a step further, creating a Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, reportedly to be headed by Representative Ed Markey, of Massachusetts. “The science of global warming and its impact is overwhelming and unequivocal,” Pelosi said, announcing the committee’s formation last month. “Now is time to act.”

Here is Nancy Pelosi's press release announcing the establishment of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

Link here to an in-depth article from The Washington Post on House actions, titled "House Repeals Tax Break for Big Oil."

And lastly, the New Yorker article discusses the coalition of several large U.S. corporations into the U.S. Climate Action Partnership. Their website includes the names of member organizations, their principles and a report, "A Call for Action," in pdf.

Take a look at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change for more helpful info.

And The New Scientist Climate e-magazine has helpful articles.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science webpage on climate change has helpful articles and links.

And to see the text of bills in the House and Senate introduced since 2007 began, search Thomas with terms ["carbon dioxide" AND reduction AND DATE 2007].

Sunday, February 04, 2007

And now for something completely different

A cat that likes to be spanked:

Is the VP the Fourth Branch?

Many law librarians and research and writing instructors have lamented the lack of comprehension by first-year law students of the basics of high school civics classes and the three co-equal branches of government--legislative, executive, and judicial. Recent decades--certainly as far back as Nixon's claims that "if the president does it, it's legal" and on through the Reagan administration's Iran-Contra scandals (and, to be fair, repeated Democratic and Republican calls for a line-item veto) through Bush's novel use of presidential signing statements to make legislation say the opposite of what it was meant to say--may have left many of us understandably muddled about the relations among the three branches. But at least I've always assumed that the Office of the Vice President was firmly located in, and subservient to, the President. Until I read this by Joshua Micah Marshall:

I will confess to having been extremely skeptical in the early years of the Bush Presidency that Cheney was really running the show. It seemed too facile an explanation for what I was convinced was a far more complicated situation. Until the 9/11 Commission report came out.

Even the watered-down version of events in the Commission's report made it absolutely clear that Cheney, ensconced in the White House bunker on the morning of the attacks, had issued shootdown orders outside of the chain of command and then conspired with the President to conceal this fact from the Commission.

Since then, I've gone from being open to the idea of an Imperial Vice Presidency to being convinced that historians will debate whether something approaching a Cheney-led coup d'etat has occurred, in which some of the powers of the Executive were extra-constitutionally usurped by the Office of the Vice President.

Last week, in trying to break the lock on who actually works in the OVP--which the Vice President refuses to reveal--the guys at Muckraker stumbled across this entry from a government directory known as the "Plum Book":

The Vice Presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch, but is attached by the Constitution to the latter. The Vice Presidency performs functions in both the legislative branch (see article I, section 3 of the Constitution) and in the executive branch (see article II, and amendments XII and XXV, of the Constitution, and section 106 of title 3 of the United States Code).

It appears that Cheney's office submitted this entry in lieu of a list of its employees, as federal agencies must do. It sounds like something Cheney's current chief of staff, David Addington, might have written. Cheney and Addington have been the among the most powerful proponents of the theory of a "unitary executive," but there are indications that they have also advanced, though less publicly, a theory of a constitutionally distinct and independent vice presidency....

By custom and tradition, the Vice President's role had been circumscribed by how little express power and authority the Constitution granted the position. Hence, all the jokes over the years about the vice presidency. But in a move that is decidedly anti-conservative, in the conventional sense, Cheney moved to fill the void. I fear that what we will eventually find are structural flaws that were deliberately exploited by the OVP, which in turn further undermined constitutional and statutory structures.

Still, I can't help but be fascinated by the more pedestrian issue of how Cheney continues to assert himself so vigorously without running up against the ego of a cocksure President. How is it that Bush, who is so caught up in macho public demonstrations of his own personal strength and courage, can tolerate a shadow presidency within his own White House? What kind of spell has Cheney cast that allows Bush to continue to believe he is the decider? You can imagine all sorts of dysfunctional psychological dramas playing out behind the scenes.

Friday, February 02, 2007

New Yorker on Google Book Project

Jeffrey Toobin has a lengthy article in this week's New Yorker magazine (link to full article in title, above), in the Annals of Law, "Google's Moon Shot." He recaps the history of the Google Book Project to create a digital library fully searchable with the Google search engine. He then considers two recent copyright suits against the project, and what Google's likely response will mean for the rights of users.

In addition to forming partnerships with libraries, the company has signed contracts with nearly every major American publisher. When one of these publishers’ books is called up in response to search queries, Google displays a portion of the total work and shows links to the publisher’s Web site and online shops like Amazon, where users can buy the book. “We are helping the publishers reach consumers that otherwise might not have known about their books and helping them market their books by giving limited but relevant previews of the books,” Jim Gerber, Google’s director of content partnerships, told me. “The Internet and search are custom made for marketing books. When there are a hundred and seventy-five thousand new books each year, you can’t market each one of those books in mass market. When someone goes into a search engine to learn more about a topic, that is a perfect time to make them aware that a given book exists. Publishers know that ‘browse leads to buy.’ ” (Google says that it does not take a cut of sales made through its books site.)

Still, on October 19, 2005, several leading publishers, including Simon & Schuster, the Penguin Group, and McGraw Hill—all of which are partners in Google Book Search—filed a lawsuit against the company, seeking to stop the project. The publishers don’t object to Google’s plan for helping them sell new books, but they assert that the library component of the project is illegal. They claim that Google’s “massive, wholesale and systematic copying of entire books still protected by copyright” infringes on the publishers’ rights. They demand that Google stop further copying and “destroy all unauthorized copies made by Google through the Google Library Project of any copyrighted works.” (The Authors Guild filed its lawsuit around the same time.) The publishers, who have the support of the Association of American Publishers, are suffering from a version of the problem that John Kerry had in the last Presidential campaign: they are for Google Book Search at the same time that they are against it.
The legal assertion at the core of Google’s business plan is its purported right to scan millions of copyrighted books without payment to or permission from the copyright owners. Approximately twenty per cent of all books are in the public domain; these include books that were never copyrighted, like government publications, and works whose copyrights have expired, like “Moby-Dick.” Google has simply copied such books and made them available on the Web. Roughly ten per cent of books are copyrighted and in print—that is, actively being sold by publishers. Many of these books are covered by Google’s arrangement with its publisher partners, which allows the company to scan and display parts of the works.

The vast majority of books belong to a third category: still protected by copyright, or of uncertain status, and out of print. These books are at the center of the conflict between Google and the publishers. Google is scanning these books in full but making only “snippets” (the company’s term) available on the Web. (Google searches turn up only the search term and about twenty words on either side of it.) Copyright law has never forbidden all “copying” of a protected work; scholars and journalists have long been allowed to quote portions of copyrighted material under the doctrine of fair use. Google maintains that the chunks of copyrighted material that it makes available on its books site are legal under fair use. “We really analogized book search to Web search, and we rely on fair use every day on Web search,” David C. Drummond, a senior vice-president at Google who is overseeing the response to the lawsuits, told me. “Web sites that we crawl are copyrighted. People expect their Web sites to be found, and Google searches find them. So, by scanning books, we give books the chance to be found, too.” (Google also has an “opt out” policy, which allows copyright holders to request that specific titles be omitted from the company’s database.)

However, according to the plaintiffs in the cases against Google, the act of copying the complete text amounts to an infringement, even if only portions are made available to users. “What they are doing, of course, is scanning literally millions of copyrighted books without permission,” Paul Aiken, the executive director of the Authors Guild, said. “Google is doing something that is likely to be very profitable for them, and they should pay for it. It’s not enough to say that it will help the sales of some books. If you make a movie of a book, that may spur sales, but that doesn’t mean you don’t license the books. Google should pay. We should be finding ways to increase the value of the stuff on the Internet, but Google is saying the value of the right to put books up there is zero.”

Google asserts that its use of the copyrighted books is “transformative,” that its database turns a book into essentially a new product. “A key part of the line between what’s fair use and what’s not is transformation,” Drummond said. “Yes, we’re making a copy when we digitize. But surely the ability to find something because a term appears in a book is not the same thing as reading the book. That’s why Google Books is a different product from the book itself.” In other words, Google says that being able to search books on its site—which it describes as the equivalent of a giant library card catalogue—is not the same as making the books themselves available. But the publishers cite another factor in fair-use analysis: the amount of the copyrighted work that is used in the creation of the new one. Google is copying entire books, which doesn’t sound “fair” to the plaintiff publishers and authors. “Traditional copyright analysis says that a transformation leads to the creation of a new and independent work, like a parody or a work of criticism,” Jane Ginsburg, a professor at Columbia Law School, said. “Copying the entire work, which is what Google is doing, does not preclude a finding of fair use, but it does fall outside the traditional paradigm.”
The key legal question is whether the courts will allow Google to continue to scan copyrighted material without permission. But the schedule of the lawsuits may turn out to be as significant as the merits of the cases, which are before Judge John E. Sprizzo. In keeping with the stately pace of federal litigation, the depositions of witnesses are to begin sometime this year, and the parties will be allowed to file motions for summary judgment—in Google’s case, to dismiss the suits—in early 2008. Then there could be a trial. If the cases are appealed, they could linger well into the next decade.

However, most people involved in the dispute believe that a settlement is likely. “The suits that have been filed are a business negotiation that happens to be going on in the courts,” Marissa Mayer told me. “We think of it as a business negotiation that has a large legal-system component to it.” According to Pat Schroeder, the former congresswoman, who is the president of the Association of American Publishers, “This is basically a business deal. Let’s find a way to work this out. It can be done. Google can license these rights, go to the rights holder of these books, and make a deal.”

The terms of such a deal aren’t hard to imagine. The Authors Guild is concerned that pirated copies of the books on Google’s site could leak to the public, and so the organization would insist on security measures. (Sadly, for writers and publishers, demand for their products has never been robust enough to generate a major piracy problem.) As for distribution of the proceeds from the site, Google might agree to share revenue with publishers, in the way that radio stations pay for the music they play; publishers could receive a fee based on a statistical analysis of how often their books are viewed. Google could pay in cash or in kind, with advertising.

But a settlement that serves the parties’ interests does not necessarily benefit the public. “It’s clearly in both sides’ interest to settle,” Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Stanford Law School, said. “Businesses in Internet time can’t wait around for years for lawsuits to be resolved. Google wants to be able to get this done, and get permission to resume scanning copyrighted material at all the libraries. For the publishers, if Google gives them anything at all, it creates a practical precedent, if not a legal precedent, that no one has the right to scan this material without their consent. That’s a win for them. The problem is that even though a settlement would be good for Google and good for the publishers, it would be bad for everyone else.”
Among Google’s potential competitors in the field of library digitization are members of the Open Content Alliance, which facilitates various scanning projects around the country and overseas. Funded largely by Microsoft and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the O.C.A. has formed alliances with many companies and institutions, including the Boston Public Library, the American Museum of Natural History, and Johns Hopkins University. For the moment, though, the O.C.A.’s members are copying only material in the public domain (and works from copyright owners who have given explicit permission), which limits the scope of the projects substantially.

Google’s advantage may well be cemented if the company settles its lawsuits with the publishers and authors. “If Google says to the publishers, ‘We’ll pay,’ that means that everyone else who wants to get into this business will have to say, ‘We’ll pay,’ ” Lessig said. “The publishers will get more than the law entitles them to, because Google needs to get this case behind it. And the settlement will create a huge barrier for any new entrants in this field.”

In other words, a settlement could insulate Google from competitors, which would be especially troubling, because the company has already proved that when it comes to searches it is not infallible. “Google didn’t get video search right—YouTube did,” Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School, said. (Google solved that problem by buying YouTube last year for $1.6 billion.) “Google didn’t get blog search right— did,” Wu went on. “So maybe Google won’t get book search right. But if they settle the case with the publishers and create huge barriers to newcomers in the market there won’t be any competition. That’s the greatest danger here.”