Monday, May 23, 2016

US is an oligarchy, not a democracy

Study: US is an oligarchy, not a democracy
BBC News

The US is dominated by a rich and powerful elite.

So concludes a recent study by Princeton University Prof Martin Gilens and Northwestern University Prof Benjamin I Page.

This is not news, you say.

Perhaps, but the two professors have conducted exhaustive research to try to present data-driven support for this conclusion. Here's how they explain it:

Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.

In English: the wealthy few move policy, while the average American has little power.

The two professors came to this conclusion after reviewing answers to 1,779 survey questions asked between 1981 and 2002 on public policy issues. They broke the responses down by income level, and then determined how often certain income levels and organised interest groups saw their policy preferences enacted.

"A proposed policy change with low support among economically elite Americans (one-out-of-five in favour) is adopted only about 18% of the time," they write, "while a proposed change with high support (four-out-of-five in favour) is adopted about 45% of the time."

On the other hand:

When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organised interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it.

They conclude:

Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organisations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America's claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.

Eric Zuess, writing in Counterpunch, isn't surprised by the survey's results.

"American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it's pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation's "news" media)," he writes. "The US, in other words, is basically similar to Russia or most other dubious 'electoral' 'democratic' countries. We weren't formerly, but we clearly are now."

This is the "Duh Report", says Death and Taxes magazine's Robyn Pennacchia. Maybe, she writes, Americans should just accept their fate.

"Perhaps we ought to suck it up, admit we have a classist society and do like England where we have a House of Lords and a House of Commoners," she writes, "instead of pretending as though we all have some kind of equal opportunity here." Read more

Oligarchy Wikipedia

Oligarchy is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people. These people might be distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, education, corporate, religious or military control. Such states are often controlled by a few prominent families who typically pass their influence from one generation to the next, but inheritance is not a necessary condition for the application of this term. Read more

Bernie Sanders

Bernard "Bernie" Sanders (born September 8, 1941) is an American politician and a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in the 2016 election. He is the incumbent junior United States senator from Vermont. A member of the Democratic Party since 2015,[2] Sanders had been the longest-serving independent in U.S. congressional history, though his caucusing with the Democrats entitled him to committee assignments and at times gave Democrats a majority. Sanders became the ranking minority member on the Senate Budget Committee in January 2015; he had previously served for two years as chair of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. A self-proclaimed democratic socialist, Sanders is pro-labor and favors greater economic equality.

Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt

The Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt was the executive branch of the United States government from September 14, 1901 to March 4, 1909....

...Owing to his charismatic personality, his extremely high energy levels and span of interests, and his reformist policies, which he called the "Square Deal", Roosevelt is considered one of the ablest presidents and an icon of the Progressive Era...

...He distrusted wealthy businessmen and dissolved 44 monopolistic corporations as a "trust buster." He took care, however, to show that he did not disagree with trusts and capitalism in principle, but was only against their corrupt, illegal practices...Read more on PBS

TR Center - Theodore Roosevelt - The Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890 became law while Theodore Roosevelt was serving on the U.S. Civil Service Commission, but it played a large and important role during his presidency.

Opinion: We also live in a Republic, not a Democracy. Recall your Pledge of Allegiance:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

We live in a Republican Oligarchy. 

Link to free PDF of the study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens.

US Is an Oligarchy Not a Democracy, says Scientific Study, Common Dreams

Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Former senator: Release the uncensored truth about 9/11

In this Sept. 11, 2001 file photo, smoke rising from the burning twin towers of the World Trade Center after hijacked planes crashed into the towers, in New York City. (Richard Drew/AP)

Former Senator Bob Graham
Former senator: Release the uncensored truth about 9/11
The Washington Post
Opinion, Bob Graham
May 11, 2016

Bob Graham, a Democrat, represented Florida in the U.S. Senate from 1987 to 2005.

Nearly 15 years after the horrific events of 9/11, President Obama must decide whether to release 28 pages of information withheld as classified from the publicly released report of the congressional inquiry into the terrorist attacks that killed thousands of Americans.

On April 10, the CBS program "60Minutes" aired a story about the missing 28 pages. I was one of several former public officials — including former House Intelligence Committee chairman and CIA director Porter Goss (R-Fla.) ; Medal of Honor recipient and former senator Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.); former Navy secretary John Lehman; and former ambassador and representative Tim Roemer (D-Ind.) — who called on the White House to declassify and release the documents.

Two days after that broadcast, I received a call from a White House staff member who told me that the president would make a decision about the 28 pages no later than June. While that official made no promises as to what Obama would do, I viewed the news as a step in the right direction.

My optimism about the administration’s action on this critical issue was short-lived. On May 1, when CIA Director John Brennan appeared on NBC’s "Meet the Press," I watched with astonishment as he argued that the 28pages should not be released because the American people are incapable of accurately evaluating them.

When asked by host Chuck Todd to make the case against releasing the information, Brennan replied, "I think some people may seize upon that uncorroborated, unvetted information that was in there that was basically just a collation of this information that came out of FBI files, and to point to Saudi involvement, which I think would be very, very inaccurate."

With all due respect, that argument is an affront not only to the American public in general but also to all those who lost family members, loved ones and friends on that fateful September day in 2001. Americans are fully capable of reviewing the 28 pages and making up their own minds about their significance.

As co-chair of the Joint Inquiry Into the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, I have read the 28 pages. My oath of confidentiality forbids me from discussing the specifics of that material. But while I cannot reveal those details, I strongly believe the American people deserve to know why this issue is so important. All of the references below are from the declassified, public version of the Joint Inquiry’s final report. Read more

 Bob Graham Wikipedia

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Antiwar Priest Daniel Berrigan Remembered

"One of the Great Revolutionaries": Daniel Berrigan Remembered as Hundreds Gather for Funeral
Democracy Now
by Amy Goodman
May 9, 2016

Left: Father Berrigan, right and his brother Philip Berrigan seized hundreds of draft records and set them on fire with homemade napalm in 1968.

More than 800 people packed into the Church of St. Francis Xavier in New York Friday for the funeral of Daniel Berrigan, the legendary antiwar priest, poet and activist. He died on April 30 at the age of 94. Today would have been his 95th birthday. Dan and his brother, the late Phil Berrigan, made international headlines in 1968 when they and seven other Catholic antiwar activists burned draft cards in Catonsville, Maryland, to protest the Vietnam War. Prior to the funeral, hundreds took part in a two-hour procession beginning at Mary House, a Catholic Worker house in the East Village. Democracy Now!’s Mike Burke was there and spoke to participants including singer Dar Williams, the Rev. John Dear, Dan’s niece Frida Berrigan, Kathy Kelly and John Schuchardt, who was arrested with Dan in 1980 when they broke into the GE nuclear missile plant in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, launching the Plowshares Movement. Read more

Rev. Daniel J. Berrigan gave an anti-war sermon at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, 1972. William Sauro/NYT

Daniel J. Berrigan, Defiant Priest Who Preached Pacifism, Dies at 94
The New York Times
April 30, 2016

The Rev. Daniel J. Berrigan, a Jesuit priest and poet whose defiant protests helped shape the tactics of opposition to the Vietnam War and landed him in prison, died on Saturday in the Bronx. He was 94.

His death, at Murray-Weigel Hall, the Jesuit infirmary at Fordham University, was confirmed by the Rev. James Martin, editor at large at America magazine, a national Catholic magazine published by the Jesuits.

The United States was tearing itself apart over civil rights and the war in Southeast Asia when Father Berrigan emerged in the 1960s as an intellectual star of the Roman Catholic "new left," articulating a view that racism and poverty, militarism and capitalist greed were interconnected pieces of the same big problem: an unjust society.

It was an essentially religious position, based on a stringent reading of the Scriptures that some called pure and others radical. But it would have explosive political consequences as Father Berrigan; his brother Philip, a Josephite priest; and their allies took their case to the streets with rising disregard for the law or their personal fortunes.

A defining point was the burning of Selective Service draft records in Catonsville, Md., and the subsequent trial of the so-called Catonsville Nine, a sequence of events that inspired an escalation of protests across the country; there were marches, sit-ins, the public burning of draft cards and other acts of civil disobedience. Read more

Thursday, April 28, 2016

When will lawyers rise (like elevators) to the occasion?

D. Casey Flaherty

When will lawyers rise (like elevators) to the occasion?
ABA Journal News Online
By D. Casey Flaherty
March 17, 2016

It took 50 years from the advent of the driverless elevator for the public to become comfortable enough to use them. Even then, it was only because the elevator operators’ union went on strike and Big Elevator finally went the Mad Men route of advertisements showing children gleefully pressing the buttons. Before the public campaign, people would get into the empty elevator, wait, and angrily exit to find the operator.

It is a matter of intense debate whether lawyers will find themselves facing the same kind of technological unemployment that has caused elevator operators to all but disappear. That, however, is not the analogy that interests me. I am not sure what the future holds.

But in the present, too many lawyers share much of the helplessness, frustration and unnecessary labor of the passengers who take the stairs for want of operators to hit the elevator buttons for them. The truth is that even if we could press pause on technological progress, the legal community would still have considerable work to do to integrate existing process and technology improvements into the delivery of legal services.

With the focus on the divergent conclusions reached by those welcoming our new robot overlords and those doubting the mass displacement of lawyers by capable machines, overlooked is the fact that these authors fundamentally agree that technology already has changed and will continue to change the way that law is practiced. The point of disagreement is over the scope of the change in the future, not whether change is happening or whether that change means that lawyers need to adapt. There is unanimity that the profession cannot meet the challenges of the modern world without taking advantage of the innovations that make the world modern.

The sardonic engineering joke that when brute force fails, you aren’t using enough, has long been an operating a principle in legal market that has thrown highly educated bodies at the accelerating problems of scale and scope (think legions of document review attorneys). Brute human force only goes so far in the era of big data. "Big data" is one of those labels that, like "disruption," may suffer from terminal misuse. But the framework erected to explain big data does a serviceable job of describing the mounting challenges of operating in the modern world. The standard four V’s of big data are volume, velocity, variety, and veracity. We operate in situations of increasing uncertainty as we attempt to handle more diverse matter faster. Or, in the mantra of in-house counsel, we keep trying to do more with less. This means increasing reliance on machines. As economist Alex Tabarrok explains:

  • It’s not simply that the algorithms are good and getting better: It’s that the highest-productivity people will use their human intelligence to complement machine intelligence. That means trusting the machine to curate millions of items, bringing only the most important to your attention, and then using human intelligence to take action on the most important items … Even when the filter is imperfect, you are more likely to discover something of importance from 100,000 items imperfectly filtered to 100 than from 1000 items perfectly filtered to 100.

As Tyler Cowen argued in Average is Over, the future belongs to people who can defer to the algorithm.

Google and spam filters are further examples of algorithms that are both imperfect and absolutely essential given our concerns about the veracity of information that keeps increasing in volume, velocity, and variety. Indeed, one could argue (jokingly) that Google is just trying to replicate at scale that which lawyers have been doing all along: "Google’s algorithms produce educated guesses based on similar, recent, citable precedents from the highest authority in your jurisdiction. Google just happens to do this instantly and at an incomprehensible scale (45 billion pages and counting)." Despite our head start, Dan Katz estimates that lawyers are about 40 years behind other industries on the spectrum of technology diffusion.

Lawyers are absolutely using more technology than ever before (and expressly reducing their administrative support staff on that basis). Some lawyers are quite good with technology. But, overall, the rate of adoption and adaption are maddeningly slow.

To take the most ordinary examples, we remain universally terrible with Word, Excel, PDF and other ubiquitous desktop software that we’ve been using since the dawn of Windows. Our inboxes (PDF) are both a disaster and our primary document management systems, a function for which they are ill suited. Time wasted on digital research remains a huge pain point (PDF). We are way behind on the use of e-signatures (PDF) despite technological advancements and legislative changes that are almost two decades old. We have barely scratched the surface of document assembly, document automation (PDF), knowledge management, and expert systems that have been available since the ’80s. And the less said about cybersecurity (PDF), the better.

It may very well prove true that human + machine will outperform human or machine alone. But that only holds if the human is actually using the machine instead of waiting angrily for the operator to arrive.

D. Casey Flaherty is the founder of the legal tech consultancy Procertas, provider of the Legal Tech Assessment. He was a 2013 ABA Legal Rebel. He also serves on the board of advisors of NextLaw Labs.

Editor’s note: The New Normal is an ongoing discussion between Paul Lippe, the CEO of Legal OnRamp, Patrick Lamb, founding member of Valorem Law Group and their guests. New Normal contributors spend a lot of time thinking, writing and speaking about the changes occurring in the delivery of legal services. You’re invited to join their discussion.

Updated on April 15 to fix a typo.

 My response here after the ABA comments closed: mcorleone wrote: "Legal intellect is a commodity outside of the top 5% of lawyers." Agreed, one of the best comments ever on this site. Problem for the public, the other 95% of lawyers generate excessive rents and contribute little value for their "commodity" which arguably could be provided by a paralegal or Watson, etc.

Generally, the 95% maintain the status quo through mandatory state bar organizations, UPL laws, and the Lawyer-Judge Bias in the American Legal System. Another problem not discussed, certain unified state bars (Florida) that have essentially abandon the rule of law, and make a mockery of Model Rule 8.3: Reporting Professional Misconduct

Maintaining The Integrity Of The Profession
Rule 8.3 Reporting Professional Misconduct
  • (a) A lawyer who knows that another lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, shall inform the appropriate professional authority.
  • (b) A lawyer who knows that a judge has committed a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct that raises a substantial question as to the judge's fitness for office shall inform the appropriate authority.
Until the judiciary replaces the lawyer-judge model, the legal profession will continue downward. Lawyers are trained to advocate for clients. Prosecutors are trained to advocate for the state. Judges are supposed to be neutral, but all judges are either former lawyers and/or are former prosecutors. A truly independent judiciary requires a judicial profession separate from the legal profession, civil servant judges who are not trained as lawyers or prosecutors, and who have not practiced law. Civil servant judges trained as neutral judges, aided by Watson, Al, or computer judges.

Under our current lawyer-judge model, judges too often are lawyers who can’t earn a living practicing law anymore. They take campaign contributions from lawyers, money with an implicit expectation of return.

Likewise with the adversarial system; really just a fee generator that is broken in many parts of the country. See Amy Bach, Ordinary Injustice, collapse of the adversarial system
The collapse of the legal system is only a matter of time. These stories are too little, too late.
 Can/Should Computers Replace Judges? by Anthony D’Amato
11 Georgia Law Review 1277-1301 (1977)

"The most important inquiry in jurisprudence has always seemed to me to be whether it is
possible to have the rule of law rather than the rule of persons. In what sense can an abstraction
called "law" actually shape the lives and channel the behavior of persons? Does law "dictate" the
proper result in a given case even if the judge's personal inclinations would be to award the
decision in a different fashion? And how can we tell? Judges are preeminently capable of
rationalizing their results and couching them in appropriate-sounding legal phrases."

Judges in Jeopardy!: Could IBM’s Watson Beat Courts at Their Own Game?
ABA Technology Assisted Review: The Judicial Pioneers

Monday, April 11, 2016

Judge orders eviction of 100-year-old woman for causing commotion

Evelyn Heller
Judge orders eviction of 100-year-old woman for causing commotion
ABA Journal
By Debra Cassens Weiss
April 05, 2016

A judge in Riverside County, California, evicted a 100-year-old woman from her Palm Springs apartment on Friday based on a request from her landlord, who sought her ouster because of alleged loud arguments and "deplorable conditions" in her apartment.

The woman, Evelyn Heller, defended herself, the Desert Sun reports. She did a brief hula dance after being sworn in, then later hovered by the judge’s bench during arguments. She was unable to read a court document until someone in the audience volunteered her eye glasses.

A Desert Sun reporter who visited Heller’s apartment said her carpet was dirty and her living room was cluttered with boxes and stacks of magazines. The mess, however, was "far from the point of hoarding," the newspaper reported.

The landlord, Deep Canyon Desert, was represented by William Windham. He told the Desert Sun he felt conflicted but it was part of his job as an eviction specialist.

"I’ve evicted people off of their death beds and regretted every second of the trial," Windham said. "But my job is unfortunately to set my feeling aside and do what my clients ask me to do."

"It would be same if this was a lady who was 30 years old and had five children, or a little old man with cancer," he told the Desert Sun. "If you have a commotion being caused on the property, and the people won’t stop, you have no choice but to take action."

Heller didn’t realize she had lost the case until a deputy told her outside the courtroom. She has two weeks to find a new place to stay. Read more

100-year-old woman booted from her Palm Desert home
The Desert Sun
By Brett Kelman
April 2, 2016

Evelyn Heller, a frail-but-feisty great-grandmother with a long white ponytail, shuffled across a Palm Springs courtroom, barely lifting her feet taking tiny steps. When she reached the judge’s bench, she eased forward on to her toes, then leaned in close, as if unable to see the man in front of her.

"I’m 100 years old!" Heller shouted, before turning her attention to an attorney on the other side of the courtroom. "And I don’t understand what they are talking about."

Heller, a Coachella Valley resident who was born in 1915, was evicted from her Palm Desert apartment during a brief trial at the Palm Springs courthouse on Friday morning. Despite reluctance voiced by both the judge and the plaintiff’s attorney, Heller was ordered out of her home, and told to pay $616 in prorated rent and more than $800 in court and attorney’s fees.

She now has about two weeks to leave her apartment. Heller said she does not know where she will go.

"I have four grandsons, but I don’t want to be dependent on them," Heller told the judge, pleading. "I can’t be a burden to my family. They don’t have room for me. That happens in life."

Heller’s landlord, Deep Canyon Desert LLC, which owns and manages a small cluster of beige apartments at 45200 Deep Canyon Road, said it wanted Heller evicted because she often had loud, disruptive arguments with one of her daughters. The company threatened to evict her twice before, but nothing improved, so it followed through this time.

The apartment complex manager, Melody Morrison, also told a judge said Heller kept the apartment in "deplorable conditions." A Desert Sun reporter who visited the apartment on Friday afternoon found the carpet dirty and the living room cluttered with boxes and stacks of magazines, but far from the point of hoarding.

After court, Morrison declined to comment, then walked briskly away from a reporter to avoid questions. The company’s attorney, William Windham, an eviction specialist, said his client did not want to evict Heller, but felt it was a reality of their business.

Windham said he felt conflicted too.

"I’ve evicted people off of their death beds and regretted every second of the trial," Windham said. "But my job is unfortunately to set my feeling aside and do what my clients ask me to do."

"It would be same if this was a lady who was 30 years old and had five children, or a little old man with cancer," he added. "If you have a commotion being caused on the property, and the people won’t stop, you have no choice but to take action."

In this case, that action came in the form of an "unlawful detainer," which is a mundane court filing in which a landlord asks a judge to force a tenant from a property. Cases like these are rarely worthy of media attention, but the trial held on Friday morning was a strange one.

Heller defended herself, despite the fact that she could barely see or hear. After she took an oath to tell the truth, she kept her hand raised and did a brief hula dance, then laughed under her breath. Her eyesight was too poor to read court documents until someone volunteered a pair of eye glasses from the courtroom audience.

And finally, when it came time for arguments, Heller refused to stay at the defendant’s table, and instead hovered on the edge of the judge’s bench, unwilling to sit. For most defendants, this would result in a firm response from the bailiffs – including possible arrest – but as Heller pleaded with the judge, barely out of arm’s reach, deputies stood back and watched, uncertain how to react.

This leniency appeared to be a sign of sympathy, but in the end it didn’t matter. Riverside County Judge Charles Haines ruled against Heller without any deliberation. He issued his judgment in a low, hushed tone that she couldn’t hear.

Outside the courtroom, a deputy had to explain to her that she had lost.

"What? What kind of ridiculous thing is that?" she snapped, as the reality of the ruling set in. "But I don’t have any money." Read online

Reporter Brett Kelman can be reached at (760) 778 4642, or @TDSbrettkelman on Twitter.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

How extortion mills (courthouses) work

How extortion mills (courthouses) work
By Carey Wedler

A couple weeks ago, [Carey Wedler] spoke with victims of the state's force and fines on their way out of court. Here we discuss [with Dustin Kelly] why the government does whatever it wants and whether or not its services are worth the hassle.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Judge Posner suggests changes to improve jury trials

Posner says Bluebook is '560 pages of rubbish,' suggests changes to improve jury trials
American Bar Association (ABA) Journal
By Debra Cassens Weiss
March 29, 2016

Judge Richard Posner acknowledges his reputation as a "naysayer" and "faultfinder" yet proceeds to find fault with The Bluebook (it is "560 pages of rubbish") and the uneven quality of trial lawyering.

Lawyers often differ greatly in quality, and that distorts the trial process, according to Posner, a judge on the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A uniform system of lawyer pay—funded by the government—could reduce uneven quality, Posner says in an article (PDF) for the Green Bag. His one-paragraph pay suggestion is part of a broader analysis of problems with jury trials and appellate litigation.

"Differences in the quality of lawyers wouldn’t matter a great deal," Posner writes, "if, for example, they were compensated as judges are: with a uniform government salary unrelated to outcomes or the relative wealth of the respective parties in a case. (The analogy is to a ‘single payer’ system of medical care.) There would then be no contingent fees and no $1,100 an hour billing rates. My pay isn’t docked if I’m reversed by the Supreme Court, and neither do I get a bonus if the Court affirms a decision of mine."

Posner goes on to quote a commentator who says commercial lawyers are working in a "zero-sum tournament" in which additional legal effort purchased by a party increases the chances of winning, rather than generating more justice. In a footnote, Posner says he wouldn’t limit the critique to commercial lawyers.

Posner calls the legal profession "complacent, self-satisfied" despite a legal system that has proven ineffectual at dealing with a host of problems. Among them: problems in delivering useful legal training at bearable cost, and in providing representation to "the vast number of Americans who are impecunious or commercially unsophisticated (so prey to sharpies)."

Posner goes on to propose changes that could improve jury trials. He endorses judges appointing neutral experts in cases involving difficult technical issues, giving jurors transcripts of testimony that can be read simultaneously with the testimony, and allowing trial judges to do Internet research (as long as lawyers can contest the results).

Posner also suggests that judges eschew pattern jury instructions that are "largely unintelligible to jurors." Posner says he writes his own jury instructions when he conducts trials as a volunteer in his circuit’s district courts.

Posner also dislikes The Bluebook. He has his own instructions on citation format, consisting of two pages in an office manual he gives to his law clerks.

"The first thing to do," Posner writes, "is burn all copies of the Bluebook, in its latest edition 560 pages of rubbish, a terrible time waster for law clerks employed by judges who insist, as many do, that the citations in their opinions conform to the Bluebook."

Posner also criticizes appellate opinions, which "tend to be overlong, crammed with irrelevant facts and repulsive legal jargon." Read more

What is Obviously Wrong With The Federal Judiciary Yet Eminently Curable
19 GREEN BAG 2D 187, Part I, by Richard A. Posner

The problem when capitalists make nothing but money
The Times Literary Supplement, by Paul Collier 

The Green Bag Official website; Green Bag literature; The Green Bag Wikipedia
The Bluebook A Uniform System of Citation; Bluebook Wikipedia
 Baby Blue (PDF) is a free alternative to the Bluebook

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The End of Lawyers, Period.

The End of Lawyers, Period.
The ABA Journal Online
Legal Rebels 
By D. Casey Flaherty
March 3, 2016

The law does not exist for the purpose of keeping lawyers employed. I cribbed that line—and many others—from Richard Susskind back in the days when there was still a question mark punctuating The End of Lawyers?

I think it is fair to say that Susskind has gotten past the interrogative. In his latest book, The Future of the Professions, he and his son, Daniel, write "we foresee that, in the end, the traditional professions will be dismantled, leaving most (but not all) professionals to be replaced by less expert people and high-performing systems."

If that is not clear enough, consider:

"Our expectation is that, over time—by which we mean decades rather than overnight—there will be technological unemployment in the professions. In other words, there will not be sufficient growth in the types of professional task in which people, not machines, have the advantage to keep most professionals in full employment."

Similar pronouncements in other sectors has given rise to a general sense of automation anxiety, where worries of a jobless future lead to headlines like "A World Without Work" that in turn engender further headlines like "Americans Are More Afraid of Robots Than Death." There is plenty of counterprogramming that relies on the Luddite Fallacy and the automation paradox to assure us that on net, technology increases the demand for human labor and to explain that the automation of tasks rather than jobs will change, not eliminate, work.

Automation anxiety is fairly acute in legal (or, maybe, it just seems that way because that is where I spend my time). The 2015 Altman Weil Law Firms in Transition survey (PDF) asked managing partners if a law-focused Watson would replace timekeepers—just as technology has displaced legal secretaries, seemingly permanently. Only 20 percent responded that computers will never replace human practitioners. That was down from 46 percent when the same question was posed to the same group in 2011, the year Watson first won Jeopardy! As always, there is counterprogramming like the recent New York Times’ Bits blog post "The End of Lawyers? Not So Fast." that, among other sources, cites to a draft study Can Robots Be Lawyers? which, while not yet for quotation, seems destined to conclude that the popular accounts of the potential displacement of lawyers by automation are a bit overblown. Read more

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Hideaway from politics

Kiesza is a fine antidote to Trump and his gilded glamour. Hideaway, now an international hit, was filmed by Kiesza’s brother in Brooklyn on the second take.

Kiesza trained for a career in ballet until a knee injury, studied classic piano, and served in the reserves of the Royal Canadian Navy. Kiesa Rae Ellestad (born January 16, 1989), better known as Kiesza, is a Canadian singer and multi-instrumentalist from Calgary, who has most recently worked in New York City and London. Wikipedia

Interview with Kiesza, by Kelly Alexander on Virgin Radio Montreal.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Trump’s pitch: His gilded glamour

Trump’s pitch: His gilded glamour
Stars and Stripes
By Virginia Postrel
Special to The Washington Post
March 20, 2016

Why would anyone vote for Donald Trump? One popular theory holds that his supporters are bigots angered by America’s changing racial mix. Another is that they’re salt-of-the-earth working folks left behind by the loss of manufacturing jobs, alienated from the moneyed ruling class and irritated by the tyranny of political correctness. Or some combination thereof.

These theories, which contain elements of truth, emphasize Trump’s dire assessment of present-day America and his followers’ discontent. They focus on negative sentiment. But an important part of the story is Trump’s positive allure — the way the candidate taps into, and projects, the most fundamental outlines of the American Dream.

Conventional explanations miss the glamour of Trump’s message.

The word "glamour" originally meant a literal magic spell that makes people see things differently than they are. Understood correctly, glamour is not a particular style — different styles seem glamorous to different people — but, like humor, a form of communication that creates a specific emotional response. Glamour generates a feeling of projection and longing: "if only." If only I could walk that red carpet, drive that car, wear that dress, belong to that group, have that job, be (or be with) that person … if only I could have that life.

The feeling is universal, but the manifestation is particular: One person’s glamorous vacation may be a busy trip to Paris, while another dreams of the solitude of a mountain cabin. What you find glamorous depends on who you are — and who you yearn to be.

To tastemakers and TED talkers, Trump may seem impossibly vulgar, with his braggadocio, teased hair and preference for well-done steaks. But one definition of "vulgar" is "of or relating to the common people," and a lot of folks find Trump their kind of tycoon: a totem of success in whom they can imagine their ideal selves. "Trump is the big time, the bright lights, the fancy everything, and wealth and fame and all things I am not but would like to be," said supporter Michael Stuart Kelly, who runs an Internet marketing company. Kelly believes that the candidate appeals to "good, intelligent, productive people who dream big, even when they can’t live it." Unlike moguls who inspire resentment, Trump encourages his audience to imagine sharing his success.

Even more than fashion and film, the real estate and travel industries — where Trump has made most of his money — employ glamour as a tool of persuasion and sales. With carefully crafted words and imagery, marketers invite customers to project themselves into a different, better setting and, through it, a different, better life. Stay in a Trump hotel, the corporate website promises, and you won’t just get a nice room and good service. You’ll enjoy "a lifestyle where you can do more, experience more and live life without boundaries, limits or compromise." Glamour is much more than luxury. It promises transformation.

In this way, Trump combines powerful charisma, which draws audiences to enlist in his cause, with the glamorous salesmanship of a real estate brochure. At times the appeal is so explicit, it’s meta: "We need somebody that can take the brand of the United States and make it great again," he said in announcing his candidacy.

His branding efforts permeate everything he says, with his repetition on the campaign trail of certain words: "win," "respect," "strong," "powerful," "rich," "leader" and, of course, "build." The right words can cast a spell, even if they don’t really make sense. "We are going to do something so good and so fast and so strong, and the world is going to respect us again, believe me," Trump told supporters after his win in New Hampshire, letting them fill in the blanks with their own desires. (It’s a trick well-honed during his business career. He once asked a vendor: "What should I call my next project? Celestia? Empyrean? Royal Imperial Regal?")

Like all forms of glamour, this salesmanship transmits an artificial sense of grace. It conceals effort, costs, difficulties and flaws: the constant maintenance that keeps the golf course pristine, the wear from real-life traffic on the white rug, the sand in the bathing suit, the jet lag, the family squabbles. Like the performance of a magic trick, glamour relies on the suspension of disbelief.

On the campaign trail, the candidate portrays himself as a maker. "Who can build better than Trump? I build; it’s what I do," he said, defending the practicality of his proposed border wall. For his supporters, the attraction is not just the possibility that the wall will be built but the belief that their candidate is a doer, someone whose abilities transcend the quotidian and inadequate skills of the political class currently in power. The builder image carefully omits the fact that these days, Trump doesn’t make his money by erecting new high-rises or resorts. Instead, he’s turned himself into what branding consultant Robert Passikoff calls "a human brand extraordinaire." He licenses his name to other developers as a lifestyle promise, which turns out to add significant value. Read more