February 14, 2003

Pulling an All-Nighter

In an odd twist of fate, both Dineen and I are pulling all-nighters for work tonight, since we both have deadlines looming the in the morning.

It's 3:30 am and I'm still at the office.


Posted by wasylik at 03:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 08, 2003

Daubert Tracker

Bookmark this cool legal news: See if the expert witness in your case has been accepted as "reliable" by other courts with the Daubert tracker service.

Posted by wasylik at 07:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dineen, Hero of the People

First, she fought to save internet radio. Now, she is one of the primary attorneys working on Verizon's appeal of a court order to turn over the names of certain DSL subscribers pursuant to a subpoena by the RIAA, alleging that those unnamed people were sharing music files illegally.

I think she's great, too, but isn't the bronze statue a little much?

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Jennifer Government

I borrowed Jason's copy of Jennifer Government, a new novel by Max Barry. it's a pretty unsublte moral tale, seemingly a rebuttal to Orwell's 1984 in which government is on its last legs and mega corporations have taken over the world. In Barry's words:

Welcome to paradise! The world is run by American corporations (except for a few deluded holdouts like the French); taxes are illegal; employees take the last names of the companies they work for; the Police and the NRA are publicly-traded security firms; and the U.S. government only investigates crimes it can bill for.

In other words, corporations bad, government good. It's actaully a pretty interesting read, at least between eyeball rolls. Barry has a good pace and an interesting ear for dialogue and plot. But as a social commentator, Barry fails. His idea of the current social regime is that taxes lend a sense of "community" (p. 230) to the citizenry, and that, govenrment is the "biggest impediment" to the interests of megacorporations like Nike, I.B.M., and General Motors.


First off, anyone that feels a sense of community from having their earnings confiscated by the government needs their heads examined. Since World War II, the U.S. government has raked in an average of 18% of the entire American economy per year in taxes, compared to around 5% before - almost all of that increase coming out of the pockets of individual Americans in form of payroll and income taxes. (Prior to the war, most government revenues came from excise taxes on imported goods and certain goods like liquor and tobacco). Has there been a corresponding increase in the sense of "community" in America? That question is left as an exercise to the reader.

As to the second point, government is a drag on big business, yes, but big busines has become very adept at co-opting government power to its own benefit. Big business has the resource to comply with government mandates; small business often don't. The loss of small neighborhood businesses decried by anti-globalist ideologues can be seen as a fairly close correltor with the rise of big government and big corporations in tandem. Government, more than anything, is a partner of big business in keeping the little guy down. Barry, whose anti-coporate screed on was published by Doubleday, and probably written on a corporate-produced computer, seems willfully ignorant in his desire to trash business and idealize government and anti-corporate vandals.

If someone lends you the book, it's worthwhile reading, if only to see inside Max Barry's mind and those who sympathize. I can't predict whether the upcoming movie will be any better.

Posted by wasylik at 06:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Liberal Media Bias

The graphic about the prospective budget deficit that's been floating around for a few days is a prime example of liberal media bias, and many people who ought to know better have linked completely uncritically, accepting the media message at face value.

The graph, compiled by Reuters from Congressional Budget Office data, is titled "Bush Record Budget Deficit" and is a flat-out lie. Virtually everyone linked to that graphic passed it on at face value, noting "Not to be Outdone by Daddy," one calling it a simple, clear picture which aided, rather than undermined, understanding of the issue. Others who ought to know better remarked "enough said," gave credit to "The Clinton Era" (as if Clinton's economic policies have nothing to do with today's economic condition), and finally, endorsing it as something that "can't be seen too many times." (Yes, but not for the reason you think.)

Here's why the Reuters graph is misleading, and deliberately so. It uses raw dollar numbers, unadjusted for inflation and gross domestic product (a rough estimate of the size of the American economy). Even the greenest budget journalist would know that such a comparison is worse than meaningless, it is outright fraudulent. The CBO itself reports that the actual deficit will peak in 2003 at 1.9 percent of GDP, returning to surplus in 2007. (Source: The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2004-2013, Chapter One (Congressional Budget Office, January 2003). Even assuming a larger absolute deficit of $300 billion, as suggested by the Reuters chart, total deficits would never exceed 3 percent of GDP.

Is this a "record" deficit, as Reuters claims? Absolutely not. The true record was set in World War II, when the deficit hit a stunning 30.3 percent. Since the end of WW II, the largest post-war deficit came two year into Reagan's first term, in 1983, of six percent. That, nearly double the proposed Bush budget gap, would be the post-war record.

There's a reason economists talk about government budgets in terms of GDP. The budget of the U.S. government is funded from the activity of the American economy. The larger and stronger the economy, the more revenue comes in to government coffers. The size of the budget, and any deficit, should be considered in light of financial support it had - in this case, the entire economy.

To paint an example... right now my wife and I have "record" debt in absolute terms. But we're in better financial shape than ever. Why is that? First off, much of that six-figure debt is for our house. Instead of paying rent, we're paying almost exactly the same amount of money towards a home loan.

Second, we make much more money now than we did even five years ago. When Dineen had a government job and I worked for a small Florida law firm, our income was a fraction of what it is now that she's got a big firm job and I have my own firm. So, if we had, say $10,000 in debt five years ago, that would have been serious. The same amount of debt right now would be easily manageable, even adjusted for inflation.

The reason budgets are considered in light of GDP is pretty closely related to that second reason. In 1965, a $300 billion deficit would have broken the bank. This year, it's less than 3 per cent of the economy.

So the Reuters graphic is downright fraudulent, and the fact no one has called out Reuters for this blatant propaganda baffles me. I am especially surprised that Jason didn't say something, since he is well versed in the art of breaking down the true meaning of graphical information design. But I suspect that thoughtful critics were few because so many found it fit so neatly with their preconceived notions of what they want to believe about the economy under this President. Unfortunately, it's just another liberal media lie.

Posted by wasylik at 05:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 03, 2003

Now Hiring Attorneys

In light of the recent dissolution of the Brobeck law firm, please be aware that I would be interested in hiring any attorneys formerly employed there.


  • Graduated at an ABA-accredited law school with demonstrable academic success
  • Licensed to practice (or eligible to sit for the bar) in Virginia. DC, Maryland, and other jurisdictions a plus.
  • Demonstrable experience and ability in litigation, business law, internet law, copyright or trademark law, or other related fields
  • Portable book of business exceeding $250,000

Salary commensurate with experience and portables. Direct all inquiries to the firm.

Posted by wasylik at 11:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Who Owns the Debris?

Once upon a time, I pondered Who Owns the Moon? This morning, Dineen and I fiercely debated (as married attorneys are wont to do during the morning grooming ritual) Who Owns the Shuttle Debris?

Ernie has pointed out that selling shuttle debris on eBay would be a federal crime... but that assumes that shuttle debris is federal property. I think it's not so clear cut. Yes, the shuttle was federal property, but what happens when that vehicle, upon its destruction, rained debris over three or more states, some landing on private property? There's at least one case I recall from property class where space debris (a rock) became the property of the owner or the land it fell on. [Here's a reference to one such case] And of course, when Skylab and Mir fell, many folks tried to sell pieces of that space wreckage. There must be international treaties and such addressing the issue. What do they say?

(I won't even touch on the question of whether there might be different definitions of "property" in Louisiana than anywhere else in the nation, since it would seem to be a federal and international issue, not a question of state law.)

Posted by wasylik at 10:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Feeding Frenzy

Michael Sippey asked a while ago, If you could put anything into an RSS feed, what would it be?

This morning I thought about that topic just a little bit and can see a dozen or more blindingly obvious ideas for lawyers. First is that every court that uses the web to post opinions could throw up an RSS feed for them. The stream would include court, case name and number , reporter citation(s) if any, the type of opinion (i.e. is this an appellate decision, summary judgment opinion, motion to dismiss, etc.) and an even more sophisticated feed might include the general area of law, a list of cases and statutes cited, and so forth.

How about jury verdicts? The plaintiffs' bar loves to track that kind of information, and many legal sources provide it. How about an RSS feed including jurisdiction, verdict, area of law, and so forth.

The list is endless. How about a CFR feed? New administrative regs, and so forth. Medley recently reported that the federal government has created www.regulations.gov, a new web portal for access to exactly that kind of information. Could they put up an RSS feed? [note: even though the title graphic says "regulations.gov," don't forget the heading "www" or it won't work.]

I'll bet Marty would love a trademark registration feed. Patent lawyers would want one, too, if they could agree on who got the royalties.

Any other sharp legal minds out there with ideas for RSS feeds?

Posted by wasylik at 10:11 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 01, 2003

Challenger Memories: To Touch the Face of God

I was in high school. Leaving history class, I heard someone say the shuttle, which had taken off that morning, had blown up. I had always regarded him as a clown, so I didn't believe him.

We could see the vapor trail from where we were - this was Tampa, just across the state from the Kennedy Center - and it didn't appear as obvious as it did later than day. The trail just tapered out, as I imagined it would on an ordinary launch.

I got to my next class - Latin - and the teacher made a brief mention that something had happened to the shuttle, he didn't know what, but that we should keep the astronauts and their families in our prayers. (I went to a Catholic high school). That's when the reality hit me - it was true.

After that class, many of us just skipped the rest of the day and watched CNN in the school library, on a TV the librarians had rolled out on one of those ubiquitous AV carts all schools have. My calculus teacher was there, too, and I remember the look of concern on his face.

Later on, President Reagan gave a speech that still chills me to this day when I hear it: "We will never forget them this morning as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God."

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Famous Last Words

A Washington Post article written before the shuttle breakup quoted one of the crew:

"Do we really have to come back?" astronaut David Brown jokingly asked Mission Control before the ride home.

and in the preceding paragraph:

Some of Columbia's crew members didn't want their time in space to end.

And here's the one before that:

The only problem of note was a pair of malfunctioning dehumidifiers, which temporarily raised temperatures inside the laboratory to the low 80s, 10 degrees higher than desired.

Very eerie.

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Shuttle Columbia Lost Over Texas

I'm watching the developing CNN story that the Space Shuttle Columbia was lost this morning on re-entry. After re-entering the atmosphere, the shuttle broke up into several pieces and scattered all over central and eastern Texas.

As of 10:00 a.m. EST, the speculation is that the shuttle was damaged on takeoff, when a piece of debris dislodged from the main fuel tank and apparently struck the wing of the shuttle. This may have dislodged some of the ceramic tiles that protect the shuttle from the enormous heat buildup during re-entry (at speeds of about six times the speed of sound).

Government officials have said that terrorism is "highly unlikely" as a cause of this event. The shuttle was just too high and traveling too fast to be vulnerable to a shoulder-fired Stinger missile or the like.

This is horrible news for the space program. After we lost the Challenger in 1986, it was more than a year before another mission went off. The program was set back immeasurably.

Who knows what the impact of today's event will be? I think this administration will continue to place an emphasis on space because of tis perceived importance to the national security - and, as cynics will argue, to the defense industry.

Right now, more than sadness, more than fear, more than any other emotion, I feel anger, because my gut tells me that there must have been some way this could have been prevented... and it wasn't.

UPDATE: ext|circ has some good coverage as well.

UPDATE: The official history of Columbia and the mission page for STS-107.

UPDATE: Thadk caught an image of Dallas weather radar during the descent.

Posted by wasylik at 10:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack