October 3, 2007
Open Access Dark Data
Wired just ran this article that discusses the "dark data" that never sees the light of day when scientific research fails to prove a positive. When the answer to a research query is no, isn't that just as important as when the answer is yes? Some people now think so. Much scientific data is currently languishing in file cabinets around the country which could be restudied and repurposed. Just as librarians and scholars have brought "open access" into everyday parlance, now the push is to bring this dark data into the open. Creative Commons, Google Book, Open Access, and Metadata are all discussed. Interesting stuff. Check it out! [JJ]
Professional Reading: E-Government and the Promise of Performance
Michigan Business School profs Forrest Morgenson and Sunil Mithas have deposited E-Government and the Promise of Performance: Comparing End-User Perceptions of E-Business and U.S. Federal Government Websites in SSRN. Here's the abstract:
The goal of this essay is to critically examine the U.S. federal government's implementation of e-government, defined here as the use of the Internet, the World Wide Web, and particularly agency/department websites to deliver services to citizens. This essay focuses on the success of federal agencies in providing high-quality service to their customers through e-government websites, an ideal of success defined from the perspective of the end-users of these websites and measured through customer survey data. The approach adopted for determining the success of federal e-government performance is the comparative method, with mean values across a range of relevant variables for agency websites compared to a private sector equivalent, e-business websites. This exercise will allow us to draw some conclusions about the federal government's success in implementing and providing high-quality service through e-government, something that has yet to be adequately investigated. Our findings suggest that federal e-government websites are not yet, in the aggregate, providing the same level of quality as their e-business counterparts, and that greater variability among individual agencies is the reason for this. Further, some implications of these findings for the dominant market-centered theories of administrative reform driving this and similar transformations to government practice are also suggested.
Outsourced: Fact and Fiction
Fact. Yesterday Julie Jones posted links to the the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearings on private security contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan featuring executives from Blackwater USA. For some of the very best commentary and analysis on this subject in the blogosphere, I recommend R. J. Hillhouse's The Spy Who Billed Me. See posts indexed under Blackwater and Private Military Corporations.
Fiction. Last summer, R. J. Hillhouse's novel, Outsourced, was published. In it, Hillhouse does for the War on Terror what the early John le Carré did for the Cold War.
by R. J. Hillhouse
List Price: $25.95
Publisher: Forge Books (June 12, 2007)
Book Description: In the 21st Century war and espionage have been transformed. With the CIA on the ropes, the armed forces stretched thin, and the need for special operations capabilities at an all-time high, the United States government has turned to private corporations to help shoulder the load. Companies such as Blackwater USA, Triple Canopy and Abraxas field over 50,000 private soldiers and spies who conduct missions formerly restricted to the military and the CIA. National security has been outsourced.
In Outsourced Camille Black, a former CIA counterterrorism officer, has left the Agency to create Black Management, a private corporation that specializes in providing former Special Forces operators and CIA case officers for covert operations. Active in the volatile Middle East, it competes heavily in the cutthroat counterterrorism business.
One day, the CIA contracts Camille to track down and eliminate her ex-fiancé Hunter Stone, a Pentagon spy accused of selling arms to terrorist cells. Battling her old feelings, but fueled by Stone’s disloyalty to both his country and to her, Camille slips into the shadows of the War on Terror to track him down. Dodging death with each step, she finds herself in the crossfire of the Pentagon and the CIA, where good and evil blur and trust is bought and sold.
Outsourced exposes the headlines of tomorrow. Impeccably researched and masterfully crafted, Outsourced is an edge-of-your seat thriller with a rare glimpse behind the scenes into how private corporations conduct and profit from the multi-billion dollar War on Terror.
Courts Feel Effects of PACER's Growing Popularity
"The success of the federal judiciary's Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) is well documented: Hundreds of millions of pages of court documents retrieved online each year by customers who numbers are approaching 750,000. Less attention, however, has focused on PACER's impact on court staffs.
"It's definitely changed the way our office does business, and I think it's been a change for the better," said Monica Menier, clerk of the bankruptcy court in the Middle District of Louisiana."
Transcripts of Federal Court Proceedings Nationwide To Be Available on PACER
"The Judicial Conference of the United States voted to make transcripts of federal district and bankruptcy court proceedings available online through the Judiciary's Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system.
Under the new policy, transcripts created by court reporters or transcribers will be available for inspection and copying in a clerk of court’s office and for download from PACER 90 days after they are delivered to the clerk. Individuals will be able to view, download, or print a copy of a transcript from PACER for eight cents per page." [RJ]
US: Sex Offender Laws May Do More Harm Than Good
"Laws aimed at people convicted of sex offenses may not protect children from sex crimes but do lead to harassment, ostracism and even violence against former offenders, Human Rights Watch said in a report. Human Rights Watch urges the reform of state and federal registration and community notification laws, and the elimination of residency restrictions, because they violate basic rights of former offenders.
The 146-page report, “No Easy Answers: Sex Offender Laws in the United States,” is the first comprehensive study of US sex offender policies, their public safety impact, and the effect they have on former offenders and their families. During two years of investigation for this report, Human Rights Watch researchers conducted over 200 interviews with victims of sexual violence and their relatives, former offenders, law enforcement and government officials, treatment providers, researchers, and child safety advocates." [RJ]
Nixon White House Tapes and Transcripts Online
Check out nixtontapes.org, providing side-by-side access to tapes and transcripts of White House conversations recorded by President Richard Nixon between 1971 and 1973.
From the site: "Currently, approximately 2,100 hours of these tapes have been declassified, released, and are available to the public. However, neither the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) nor the Nixon Presidential Library has made official transcriptions. Instead, they have left this monumental task--a task that NARA once estimated took 100 hours of staff time to transcribe 1 hour of tape--to researchers.
The purpose of this website is to make these transcripts available, side-by-side multiple audio formats, to members of the public who are not able to travel to the National Archives and Records Administration's (NARA) Archives II facility in College Park, Maryland, or to the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California, to listen to and transcribe the conversations for themselves." [RJ]
Ian "Gizmo" Richards' Tech Support Alert follows freeware developments and evaluates the best utilities and apps "out there" on a regular basis. Check out his list of the The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities and his free monthly newsletter called "Support Alert" which updates his list: Current Issue | Subscription Information.
Static lists abound in this field, here's a relatively new list (to me): "94 of the Best Free Software Applications that are Better than Purchased Software." [JH]
October 2, 2007
Blackwater hearings live online
In the wake of more disturbing news coming out of Iraq re: the Blackwater defense contracts, congressional hearings are underway. Check it out here.
This morning at 10:00 a.m., the Oversight Committee is holding a hearing to examine the mission and performance of private military contractor Blackwater USA in Iraq and Afghanistan. Erik Prince, the owner of Blackwater, will testify as well as three State Department officials.
The hearing will address three key questions: (1) Is Blackwater's presence advancing or undermining U.S. efforts? (2) Has State Department responded appropriately to the shooting incidents involving Blackwater forces? (3) What are the costs to U.S. taxpayers for the reliance on Blackwater and other private military contractors?
And click here for additional info on Blackwater USA from the Oversight Committee.
Hat tip to Pat Court at Cornell Law Library and the GovDocs listserv. [JJ]
At least librarians are happy
Many of you probably heard about the NYT story on who is happiest, men or women. It spawned many reader comments, informative to the last. But this site lays out the science behind the survey, and puts it all into context.
Which got me thinking... who's happier: librarians or non-librarians? I think the librarians have it. And even though this study flubbed it by ignoring librarians, the results are interesting. Apparently, this is the equation for happy careers:
prestige + helping others = happy work (unless you're a lawyer or physician). [JJ]
The Web 2.0 Predicament: Making the Web Inaccessible Again?
Check out the videos posted on Law X.0. [JH]
Professional Reading: An Introduction to the History of International Human Rights Law
Dinah Shelton, Patricia Roberts Harris Research Professor of Law, George Washington University Law School, has deposited "An Introduction to the History of International Human Rights Law" in SSRN. Here's the abstract for this very interesting paper:
"As part of a lecture series given at the International Institute of Human Rights, in Strasbourg, France, in July 2003, the author presents an overview of the history of international human rights law. The author explores numerous religious, political, cultural, philosophical, economic and intellectual movements throughout history that have informed and guided the development of human rights law on the global stage. In doing so, the author examines the moral and ethical dimensions which underpin international human rights law, including what she defines as the innate human desire for protection from abuse. The author highlights the world's most significant historical events and people who have influenced modern concepts of human rights law. Despite the many successes of the human rights movement, the author draws attention to international institutions established to protect human rights, which are often too weak to address many contemporary human rights violations and atrocities occurring in failed states or at the hands of non-state actors. As this area of international law continues to develop, these shortcomings must be addressed if human rights progress is to continue."
USC Law Students Adopt University-Branded Google Apps for Education
USC Law is the first school in the university and one of the first law schools in the nation to implement Google Apps for Education, an online suite of communication and collaboration tools including Gmail (e-mail with 2 GB of storage per account), integrated chat, and applications for calendaring and document and spreadsheet production. Read more about it. See also an overview of Google Apps for Education being added to the USC curriculum. [JH]
China-Taiwan Comparison of Rule-of-Law-Without-Democracy Strategy for Transition
Weitseng Chen, a Yale Law School student, has deposited Cross the Bridge When There? China-Taiwan Comparison of Rule-of-Law-Without-Democracy Strategy for Transition in NELLCO. Here's the abstract for this very interest paper:
This paper contests a long-standing conventional wisdom that China will eventually democratize, along with its rule of law reforms and increasing integration into the world economy. Sharing an identical rule-of-law-without-democracy model during its transition, Taiwan has been one of the major resources to compose this viewpoint; however, surprisingly little research about the rise and fall of this model in Taiwan has been conducted to support this assertion. Through a comparison of China and Taiwan’s rule of law transitions, this paper does find strikingly similar patterns and progression during the development of this model on both side. The author also identifies four critical structural conditions, as a result of Taiwan’s international context and history legacy, that eventually brought about the spillover effects of legal reforms on democratization. These conditions, however, do not exist in China. In addition, this paper further points out the limits and resilience of this model, with empirical evidences supported by the statistics of Taiwan’s law enforcement. The core feature of rule of law -- putting the state under the law -- was not achieved until after democratization.
In the chambers of the US Supreme Court
Jeffrey Toobin, of the Christian Science Monitor, examines the nine personalities that sit on the nation's highest court. Check it out! [RJ]
States Failing to Ensure Accurate Count on Electronic Voting Machines
"The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law released a new report today that suggests a majority of states have not adopted adequate security measures to ensure the integrity of election results tallied on electronic voting machines.
While much of the voting security conversation to-date has focused on the importance of producing paper records of votes cast on electronic machines, today’s report questions that focus and suggests - absent improved post-election audit practices – the security value of new requirements for paper trails is highly questionable.
The report, "Post Elections Audits: Restoring Trust in Elections," details how few states are fully equipped to find sophisticated and targeted software-based attacks, non-systemic programming errors and software bugs that could change the outcome of an election." [RJ]
China Financial Markets blog
GW law prof and Chinese Law Prof Blog editor Donald C. Clarke highly recommends Michael Pettis's blog, China Financial Markets. In addition to covering China financial markets, the blog also comments frequently on issues in US-China financial relations and the bilateral trade balance. Pettis is a finance professor at Peking University's Guanghua School of Management and author of "The Volatilty Machine: Emerging Markets and the Threat of Financial Collapse" (Oxford University Press, 2001) and "Is China Vulnerable: Understanding the Causes and Cosequences of Financial Fragility" (Tsinghua University Press, 2003). Performing research in this area? Check out this great source for current information and analysis. [JH]
CIO's Guide to the New Federal Rules on Civil Procedure
This Symantec sponsored whitepaper details the changes to the FRCP and how those changes impact IT at three different organizations. (free registration required) [JH]
October 1, 2007
Britney Spears To Lose Custody of Children
Robert Oakley, 1945-2007
I just received some very sad news. Bob Oakley, Director of the Library and Professor of Law, Georgetown Law Center, died suddenly Saturday. Bob was in the hospital following surgery and was expected to fully recover.
Bob served as Director of the Law Library at the Georgetown University Law Center since 1982. Prior to that time, he was the Director of the Library and Associate Professor at the Boston University School of Law and the Associate Law Librarian at Cornell. He received his law degree and B.A. from Cornell, and his library degree from Syracuse.
Please join me in extending prayers and thoughts to Bob's wife Barbara and his children. [JH]