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By Dave Hoffman

Pick up the Phone!

From Redstone Federal Credit Union’s credit card agreement:

“Collection. If your Account should become past due, or otherwise in default, you will accept telephone calls from us regarding collection of your Account. You understand that the calls may be automatically dialed and a recorded message may be played. You agree that such calls shall not be “unsolicited” calls for the purpose of state or federal law.”

Translation: screening us is breach of contract!

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The Good Life and Gun Control

Like many of you, I’ve been horrified by the events in Newtown, and dismayed by the debate that has followed.  Josh Marshall (at TPM) thinks that “this is quickly veering from the merely stupid to a pretty ugly kind of victim-blaming.”  Naive realism, meet thy kettle!  Contrary to what you’ll see on various liberal outlets, the NRA didn’t cause Adam Lanza to kill innocent children and adults, nor did Alan Gura or the army of academics who helped to build the case for an individual right to gun ownership.  Reading discussions on the web, you might come to believe that we don’t all share the goal of a society where the moral order is preserved, and where our children can be put on the bus [...]

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Unrepresentative Turkers?

Like many others, I’ve been using Amazon Mechanical Turk to recruit subjects for law & psychology experiments.  Turk is (i) cheap; (ii) fast; (iii) easy to use; and (iv) not controlled by the psychology department’s guardians.  Better yet, the literature to date has found that Turkers are more representative of the general population than you’d expect — and certainly better than college undergrads! Unfortunately, this post at the Monkey Cage provides a data point in the contrary direction:

“On Election Day, we asked 565 Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) workers to take a brief survey on vote choice, ideology and demographics.  . . . We compare MTurk workers on Election Day to actual election results and exit polling.  The survey paid $0.05 and had seven questions:  gender, [...]

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The Problem With Voting About Corporate Policies

The problems of corporate democracy are well illustrated by this embarrassing showing:

“The largest experiment yet in direct voting ended with a whimper on Monday, when Facebook closed its user polls on its new proposed terms of service, with what looked to be just 668,872 of Facebook’s 1.01 billion global users having even cast a vote, or just 0.067 percent (sixty-seven tenths of a percent) . . . Kicking-off December 6, Facebook had given all of its over 1.01 billion users around the globe one full week to vote on the changes it has proposed to its key “governing documents,” the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and Data Use Policy, which spell out what type of user data Facebook can collect and what Facebook may do with it.”

Regarding corporate democracy (and its cousin, shareholder franchise): [...]

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When is it ok to be “descriptive”

I presented a taxonomy of federal litigation today to a terrific audience at Rutgers-Camden. As I’ve covered in exhausting detail, the paper sets out to describe how lawyers organize causes of action together into complaints.  It uses a method called spectral clustering to illustrate the networks of legal theories that typically are pled together.  (It does some more stuff, but that’s the gist.)  As often happens when presenting this particular paper, it was pointed out to me that the project lacks a clearly defined normative “so what”.  This is basically correct. The “so what” of the paper is “this is a different, more-finely grained, way to see how attorneys think and produce cases. With pretty pictures. How do you like them apples?”

As I said, I tend to get [...]

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