September 30, 2005
Funeral Parlors and Hooters Restaurants Don't Mix
The Wisconsin legislature continues to work hard to address the key social issues of the day. Earlier this year the legislature banned Internet hunting and flirted with legalizing cat hunting. Now, Phil Montgomery, a Wisconsin state legislator, wants to ban funeral parlors from locating in any building that has more than one other occupant. According to the AP story, Montgomery believes "To put it in a strip mall next to a Hooters or an auto parts store doesn't serve the industry or consumers well." If you want to investigate this further, I'm pretty sure that there are several law review articles on SSRN validating that standalone funeral parlors significantly advance social welfare.
UPDATE: I was a little late to this "party." In the face of some opposition from some sectors of the funeral parlor industry, Montgomery has withdrawn the bill...for now...
September 29, 2005
"It is now illegal to blast Bambi over the Internet in 11 states"
September 23, 2005
Why I Rarely Read Anonymous Blogs
I'm giving a talk next week to lawyers about participating in the blogosphere, and this has been a good opportunity for me to think about how I choose blogs to read. In looking over my blogroll, I realized that I had almost no anonymously-authored blogs on it--Cracker of an Issue and Law on Caffeine are the only two that I can recall (and I know who writes Law on Caffeine).
I've been trying to isolate why anonymous blogs don't make my blogroll. I can offer 2 possible (and overlapping) reasons:
1) Part of my decision to add blogs is based on the credibility of the author. If I can't determine the author, then I can't gauge the appropriate level of credibility to give the blog.
In this respect, it prompts me to think of Ender's Game, where a young punk was able to change the world through prolific pseudonymous postings. In theory, it's possible for words alone to be compelling enough to subscribe to them, but that's a very rare feat. Indeed, a number of blogs I subscribe to solely because I've grown to know and respect the author from offline contacts.
2) I think there may be a cause-effect between the motivations for retaining anonymity and the quality of the blog. Anecdotally, I've found that anonymous blogs tend to be lower-volume and to fizzle out more often/more rapidly. I don't know if the lack of attribution diminishes the incentives, or if the motivations for anonymity affect the ability to produce blog content. Whatever the case, I've found that anonymous blogs rarely pay off the reader as much as attributed blogs do.
So, a friendly tip to bloggers: if you want my readership, you should plan to stand behind your words!
UPDATE: Unused and Probably Unusable (an anonymous blog) has collected various postings about anonymous blogging.
September 22, 2005
US News Rankings and Mailbox Overflow
Academic reputation is a big component of US News rankings, but it's hard to influence. The academic rankings are partially self-reinforcing--our perceptions of other schools are influenced in large part by what prior rankings said.
To overcome this, many schools send marketing mailers to showcase the school. These materials highlight the quantity of the faculty's scholarship, the school's interesting programs, the accomplishments of its alumni, and the physical attractiveness of its facilities and its students. In theory, these marketing mailers improve academic rankings by helping recipient professors form more positive impressions of the mailing school.
As a practical consequence, we as professors get a deluge of marketing pieces around this time in the semester (i.e., coinciding with distribution of the US News survey). Every day this week, I've gotten several items of US News-inspired promotional mailings; yesterday I got four pieces, including a 100 page plus glossy magazine, a thick brochure about an IP program and a couple conference announcements.
I would like to read these mailings because I'm genuinely interested in what other schools are doing. On the other hand, the volume is simply too much to keep up. If I spent all of my time reading the inflow about other's accomplishments, I'd never accomplish anything of my own!
This means, realistically, that many of the mailings go straight into the trash unread. In particular, I've now adopted an across-the-board rule: the big glossy magazines automatically go into the trash because they take too long to read. Mailing schools, take note!
UPDATE: October 17: 7 law school promotional items today.
September 19, 2005
The Wall Street Journal Declares Us a 24/6 Economy
It's always interesting to see reactions when a cherished institution changes its business practices (recall the furor over Coke changing its recipe). Today's example: the Wall Street Journal is now publishing a Saturday edition. Perhaps this is the most reliable bellwether yet that our economy is inevitably becoming 24/7: The Daily Diary of the American Dream has finally declared that Saturday is enough of a business day that the paper should publish. However, the WSJ isn't fully ready to concede that Saturday is a workday; they sent their Saturday edition to people's homes, not their office.
One other interesting aspect of the NYT coverage: the story leads off with bloggers' critiques of the WSJ move. My, how times have changed!
September 10, 2005
The "Southwest" Viewed Through Wisconsin's Eyes
We went to the grocery store today, and the store was having an outdoor "Taste of Southwest" event to celebrate food from the Southwest. The grills were smoking and the music was blaring. So, what constitutes a taste of the Southwest by the standards of Southeastern Wisconsin? Exotic foods like cornbread with black bean soup...corn chips with guacamole...and...cheddar brats? The music? A synthesizer instrumental version of the "Yellow Rose of Texas."
September 08, 2005
Snow Season is Coming...
When the roads get salted down to reduce snow/ice, where does all the salt go? Surprise!--it drains into our fresh water system. Surely people have realized this before...haven't they?
September 02, 2005
Two Recent Items About Preferred Stockholder/VC Liability
A couple of items came across my desk that may be apropos of the lawsuit over the Epinions/DealTime merger.
Jesse M. Fried and Mira Ganor, Common Shareholder Vulnerability in Venture-Backed Startups, UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 784610.
The abstract (the bolding is mine):
"The capital structure and governance of venture-backed startups have received significant attention from economists and legal academics. Much of this literature has focused on venture capitalists' use of preferred stock and control rights - including board control - to reduce agency costs. Recently, it has also been suggested that VCs' use of preferred stock is tax-driven. However, scholars have failed to notice that these arrangements, whatever their explanation, lead to a highly unusual and perhaps unique corporate governance structure: one in which preferred shareholders, not common shareholders, control the board and the corporation. The purpose of this paper is threefold: (1) to highlight the unusual governance structure of venture-backed startups; (2) to show that this structure leaves common shareholders vulnerable to opportunistic behavior by preferred-holding VCs, especially under current corporate law doctrines; and (3) to consider changes in these doctrines and the tax laws that would reduce common shareholder vulnerability and enlarge the startup pie for all its investors."
Another interesting item:
Montgomery Cellular Holding Co. Inc. v. Dobler (Delaware Supreme Court 8/1/05). Though the Supreme Court decision turned on a denial of attorneys' fees, the underlying litigation turned on the failure of the majority shareholder to get a valuation when doing a merger to squeeze out the minority shareholder.