Jonathan B. Wilson

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Jonathan Wilson is an Atlanta attorney with more than 19 years of experience guiding growing private and public companies.  He currently serves as the outside general counsel of several companies and is the former general counsel of (NASDAQ: WWWW) and EasyLink Services (NASDAQ: ESIC).  He is also the founding chair of the Renewable Energy Committee of the American Bar Association's Public Utility Section.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Endorsing Giuliani
Steve Forbes endorses Rudy Giuliani in today's WSJ
Closer to home, I've seen an invitation to a fundraiser for Giuliani sponsored by pro-growth conservatives Bernie Marcus (co-founder of Home Depot), Ron Allen (President, Delta Airlines), John Bekkers (CEO, Gold Kist), Pete Correll (former CEO, Georgia-Pacific), Rusty Paul (State Senator and former chair Georgia GOP) and Fran Tarkenton (former NFL MVP and Atlanta entrepreneur). 
Giuliani seems to be lining up the kind of support you would expect of a surging GOP candidate.
8:27 am edt 

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Lewis Libby Takes the 5th
He didn't, but he should have.  That's the advice well-counseled civil servants should take when asked to testify under oath about what they knew and when they knew it.  From today's WSJ:
If Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy wants to investigate the Bush Administration's dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys, that's certainly his prerogative. But he and other Democrats determined to play up this faux scandal shouldn't be surprised if government officials decide they'd rather not step into this obvious perjury trap.
The Judiciary Committee is seeking testimony from, among others, Monica Goodling, the Justice Department's liaison to the White House. Democrats want to quiz Ms. Goodling on her communications with other Justice officials such as Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, who testified about the firings before the Senate committee in February. This week Ms. Goodling indicated she will exercise her Constitutional right to keep mum.
Sad to say, this is one more unfortunate result of the Beltway's modern habit of criminalizing political differences, a la the Scooter Libby travesty. Congress has the right to conduct oversight of the executive, and in a better world government officials would be willing to testify and give as good as they get. Thus would the public be educated about the facts and policy differences be aired.
8:11 am edt 

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

$865 Billion
That's the price of the U.S. litigation system, according to a new study by the Pacific Research Institute. 
I haven't finished reading it yet, but the PRI study seems to find a higher cost than the Tillinghast study quoted in my book, using indirect costs and other "spillover costs" to drive a higher number. 
4:34 pm edt 

Friday, March 23, 2007

Taxation Without Representation
Democrats have been trying to get another vote in Congress via the DC "non-state" issue for at least the last twenty years.  Today's WSJ explains why their civil rights argument is a ruse:
If you've visited the District of Columbia, you may have seen the license plates declaring "taxation without representation." This isn't a gripe about taxes, which they love in D.C. It's a complaint about the District's lack of seats in Congress. The rest of the country might have more sympathy if D.C.'s politicians were seeking representation according to the U.S. Constitution.
* * *
The Framers were well aware of the D.C. question, and as David Rivkin reminds us, none other than Alexander Hamilton noted during debates over New York's ratification of the Constitution that giving the District a vote might make sense. But Hamilton also said it'd require a Constitutional amendment. Amendments take years to pass, however, so the Democratic majority would prefer to pass this political deal that would allow them to take credit while the courts are left to sort out the legalities.
We hope the Senate doesn't fall for this line, and in any case the White House is threatening a veto. Meanwhile, the House vote is another lesson in how politicians run roughshod over Constitutional principles when it suits their narrow purposes.
9:46 am edt 

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Author of "Hillary 1984" Ad Speaks Out
Phillip de Vellis, writing on Huffington Post, explained why he created the anti-Hillary ad that spoofed the famous Apple advert:
Hi. I'm Phil. I did it. And I'm proud of it.
I made the "Vote Different" ad because I wanted to express my feelings about the Democratic primary, and because I wanted to show that an individual citizen can affect the process. There are thousands of other people who could have made this ad, and I guarantee that more ads like it--by people of all political persuasions--will follow.
This shows that the future of American politics rests in the hands of ordinary citizens.
The campaigns had no idea who made it--not the Obama campaign, not the Clinton campaign, nor any other campaign. I made the ad on a Sunday afternoon in my apartment using my personal equipment (a Mac and some software), uploaded it to YouTube, and sent links around to blogs.
The specific point of the ad was that Obama represents a new kind of politics, and that Senator Clinton's "conversation" is disingenuous. And the underlying point was that the old political machine no longer holds all the power.
12:51 pm edt 

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Charlie Ross for Mississippi Lieutenant Governor
Mississippi State Senator Charlie Ross, one of the architects of tort reform in Mississippi and and early endorser of my book, is moving forward in his campaign for Lieutenant Governor of that state. 
It's noteworthy that he has remained true to his beliefs on civil justice as he has moved ahead with a statewide campaign.  Unlike some politicians, who discover how covenient it is in statewide office to give away AG cases to plaintiffs' lawyers, Charlie Ross is sponsoring an "attorney sunshine" bill that would dissuade politicians from giving lucrative attorney appointments to political donors.
Champions of civil justice reform need more politicians like Charlie Ross. 
10:55 pm edt 

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Wanted: Attorney General of the United States
Must be able to start immediately
Ideal candidate will have excellent communication skills (especially in front of hostile members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the White House press corps) and be able to think on his/her feet.  Experience in Constitutional law, contracts, corporate, securities, tax, and national security law vital.
Candidates with a Zoe Baird problem need not apply. 
1:05 pm edt 

Monday, March 19, 2007

Barack Obama's "1984 Hillary" Ad
Watch it here
It may be the most stunning and creative attack ad yet for a 2008 presidential candidate -- one experts say could represent a watershed moment in 21st century media and political advertising.
Yet the groundbreaking 74-second pitch for Democratic Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, which remixes the classic "1984" ad that introduced Apple computers to the world, is not on cable or network TV, but on the Internet.
2:03 pm edt 

The Dark Side of AutoAdmit
A Yale law student has an op/ed in today's WSJ that decries the online bulletin board, AutoAdmit, for hosting discussion boards in which various other Yale law students have been passing salacious gossip about each other.  According to the piece, the gossips in New Haven have been talking about whose breasts are enhanced, who is sleeping with whom and even other more interesting topics.
This would be nothing more than a gossp piece itself if one of the supposed targets of this gossip hadn't claimed to be denied a summer clerkship as a result, according to a piece in the Washington Post. 
I don't begrudge the targets of this gossip their right to take offense and perhaps even file suit against the posters.  But what kind of law firm would deny a clerkship (or a callback interview, according to the WP article) on the basis of cybergossip? 
The Internet is a very big place and, without looking all that hard, you can find someone who is willing to say almost anything.  That being the case, why would any employer make a hiring decision because somewhere on the web someone said something about a recruit?
The stories being told on AutoAdmit are nothing different from the stories law students (and human beings generally) have passed on as gossip for years.  The only difference is that gossip online lives forever and has the capacity of being spidered and searched by billions of worldwide computer users. 
The Yale student writer who penned the op/ed in the WSJ made several comments about the bulletin board being "unpoliced" as if "policing" would cut down on the gossip.  But policemen can't do much without laws to police and it would be a far worse outcome if Congress decided what could and could not be published on the Web. 
The Yale gossip story is a cautionary tale: Take care what you do and say on the Web.  But it should also shine a light on the dark side of law firm recruiting: Google is not an acceptable short cut for clear thinking.  Just because it's written on the Web, doesn't mean that it is true. 
9:16 am edt 

Saturday, March 17, 2007

NYT "Credulous Fools"
Walter Olson skewers the NYT's fawning coverage of Dickie Scruggs at PointOfLaw:
Even assuming Katrina litigation were to be the article's only focus, Friday's beat-sweetener has curious omissions. For example, in a passing mention of "complaints from rival lawyers about potential fees of more than $46 million for Mr. Scruggs and the pick-up team of two dozen lawyers in his Scruggs Katrina Group", you'd think a Times reporter might pursue the question of how well that $46 million figure squares with Scruggs's talk a year and a half ago about how "he did not see the insurance battle as a personal gold mine. He said he was prepared to take as little as 1 percent of any settlement or jury award -- far less than the typical contingency fee of one-third or more". It's hardly as if reporter Treaster could have missed the earlier profile where those lines appeared, since it carried his co-byline. Or is the danger that readers will suspect that they -- and the newspaper's own editors -- are being played for credulous fools by Mr. Scruggs's public relations machine?
4:20 pm edt 

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Viacom v. Google: Whose to Blame?
One of my favorit skits from the short-lived comedy troupe, The Kids in the Hall, featured an over-zealous business owner who, upset that an afternoon thunderstorm might cancel the company softball game, went ranting through the office, pointing his finger at each employee, and shouting, "Who's to Blame?!"  After every employee points a finger at another, moving down the line of seniority, the boss finally corners the janitor in a stairwell.  The janitor has no one else to blame and the boss yells, "you're fired!" at which point the sun peers through the clouds and the softball game can go on. 
Viacom's recently announced suit against Google's YouTube is not all that different.  Viacom hates that YouTube can generate ad revenues by running ads along side clips of well-know TV shows (like the Daily Show, for example).  Sumner Redstone wants to know "who's to blame" that Viacom is not getting a cut of that revenue.
YouTube almost certainly complies with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, taking down copywritten content whenever it receives a proper "take down" notice from the copyright owner.  YouTube, and Google, blame their users for posting the copywritten content, but don't mind keeping the ad revenue for themselves.
In the long run, Viacom and all the other copyright owners in the world have a point: broadcast media relies on the idea of copyright ownership and if new media distribution networks, like YouTube, can divert revenues that copyright owners otherwise would receive, copyright owners will have less of an incentive to produce new content.
But there is also a point that consumers, as Paul Kedrosky says, are in "rebellion".  They don't want to buy a CD when they only want to hear a single song and they don't want to sit through a 30 minute TV segment when all they want to see is Jon Stewart's latest gibe against President Bush. 
I don't share the view of the utopians, however, who think that the conflict between copyright law and individualized digital media will result in some new legal construct.  The law and its traditions have a certain momentum that is very hard to disturb.  When the law comes into conflict with commerce (and the potential for profit) those two powerful force tend to find an accommodation.
And that, most likely, is what Viacom v. Google is all about.  Viacom wants Google to buy an all-you-can publish license to Viacom's media properties so that YouTube users can post as many clips as they like.  In exchange, Viacom wants a cut of YouTube's future advertising revenues.
The lawsuit will force Google to reckon with Viacom and, Viacom hopes, to reach an accommodation. 
8:52 am edt 

KSM Tells All
Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, believed to be the mastermind behind the September 11th attacks and a key al Qaeda organizer appears to have confessed to his role in that and dozens of other actual or planned attacks against the west, including planned assassinations of Presidents Carter and Clinton. 
The transcript of the military tribunal at Gitmo makes for interesting reading.  
8:21 am edt 

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Poverty Isn't Solved With Donations
Contrasting his own approach with those of U.S. billionaires, the richest man in Mexico, Carlos Slim, quipped that "poverty isn't solved with donations." 
Slim reportedly created a new record last year when his net worth grew by more than $19 billion, making him 3rd on Forbes' list of the world's richest persons.
One of Slim's more provocative ideas is to transfer U.S. Medicare patients to hospitals to be built in northern Mexico, where the cost of care would be lower.  Slim's advice is not entirely philanthropic, however, as his construction company would likely get contracts building those very same hospitals. 
4:15 pm edt 

Monday, March 12, 2007

Christianity and Conservatism
Steven Warshawsky continues the debate that Heather Macdonald began several months ago on the relationship between conservative Christians and conservatism. 
Macdonald was right to warn against "religious triumphalism" in which every American success is interpreted as a holy endorsement of American policy.  Viewing policy wins and losses through a lens of theology not only alienates those voters whose religious views are different but also makes a breathtaking leap of presumption.  (By what authority can anyone argue that "X" occurred because God is [punishing/rewarding] America because of "Y"?  Doing so invites ridicule and so it should.) 
Macdonald was also right to see the connections between those who make their public policy choices on the basis of a conservative reading of Christianity with those whose conservatism is agnostic or atheistic:
Conservative atheists and agnostics support traditional American values. They believe in personal responsibility, self-reliance, and deferred gratification as the bedrock virtues of a prosperous society. They view marriage between a man and a woman as the surest way to raise stable, law-abiding children. They deplore the encroachments of the welfare state on matters best left to private effort.
But Macdonald, and many of those who wrote after her, were wrong to suggest that secular conservatives should divorce themselves from religious conservatives in the battle to win a working majority in U.S. politics. 
Secular conservatives do (and should) uphold traditional American values because their role in American society works and is part of a dynamic balance that makes American government and the American polity healthy.
When that keystone of conservatism, Edmund Burke, railed against the French revolution, he did so not because he adored the French monarchy, but rather because the revolutionaries were destroying all of the traditional sources of morality and civility in their society.  Burke was right.  The guillotine, Napoleon and nearly two hundred years of decadent French socialism followed. 
The conservatism that Burke preached was one that valued the stability and morality that flowed from a balance of power developed over time and history.  He warned against any revolutionary who would overturn that historical  balance in favor of a new order, designed in theory but never before seen in practice.
So, in our own day, when 21st century revolutionaries would overturn traditional concepts of marriage, morality and society in favor of a new scheme that flies in the face of history, conservatives of Burke's stripe oppose them for the damage they would do to the traditional balance of power.
Christians may also oppose those types of changes for reasons of faith and for reasons that spring from a theological view.  Those same Christians of faith, may also be conservatives of choice, and their politics may, on those issues at least, be aligned. 
But conservatism is not Christianity and not all Christianity is conservative.  This is a condemnation of neither but rather a recognition that each approach is different in its epistemology. 
8:29 am edt 

Monday, March 5, 2007

Miscellaneous IT-Related News
The latest MIRLIN has lots of interesting stuff:
Identity Theft.  Is it actually decreasing?  One study says so, despite rampant mainstream media descriptions of a growing problem. 
U.S. Companies Responsible for Nation's Data Security.  The new U.S. cyber-security chief, Gregory Garcia, says that it is the responsibility of U.S. companies to ensure the security of U.S. data. 
Congress Mulls Breach Notification Law.  Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders have introduced a bill that would federalize much of the country's data security breach notification laws.  The Personal Data Privacy and Security Act (S. 495) would require U.S. companies to give notice when a security breach occurs and empower the Federal Trade Commission to conduct an audit of security controls after a breach occurs. 
Google v. Rescuecom Briefing.   Last summer Google won dismissal of a trademark infringeclaim claim filed against it by Rescuecom, who claimed that Google's practice of selling advertising triggered by a search for a trademarked term constituted an infringement of that marak.  Rescuecom has appealed and the parties' briefs make good reading
U.S. Broadband Penetration Breaks 50%.  Broadband penetration to the home is projected to exceed 50% during 2007.  The U.K. is lagging only slightly behind the U.S. 
Bloggers Protected Under CDA.  A panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals has confirmed that bloggers enjoy safe harbor from liability from publication torts under the Communications Decency Act.  (Opinion; Article). 
8:00 am est 

Guiliani Up 25 Points over McCain
According to a recently-released poll in Newsweek
7:39 am est 

Friday, March 2, 2007

Why Guiliani is Smiling
If Republicans are smiling over their prospects for 2008 and if, as John Dickerson writes, McCain won't know how far he can go until he sees how far Guiliani will fall, does that make Rudy the Republican front-runner?
1:20 pm est 

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Warrior Ethos
Daniel Henninger has a touching tribute today to Major Bruce Crandall, who was just awarded the Medal of Honor for his service in Vietnam:
Mr. Crandall, then a major, commanded a company with the 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, carrying soldiers to a landing zone, called X-ray, in the la Drang Valley. An assault from the North Vietnamese army erupted, as described at the White House ceremony Monday. Three soldiers on Maj. Crandall's helicopter were killed. He kept it on the ground while four wounded were taken aboard. Back at base, he asked for a volunteer to return with him to X-ray. Capt. Ed Freeman came forward. Through smoke and bullets, they flew in and out 14 times, spent 14 hours in the air and used three helicopters. They evacuated 70 wounded. The battalion survived.
* * *
Most schoolchildren once knew the names of the nation's heroes in war--Ethan Allen, John Paul Jones, Stephen Decatur, the Swamp Fox Francis Marion, Ulysses S. Grant, Clara Barton, Billy Mitchell, Alvin York, Lee Ann Hester. Lee Ann who? She's the first woman to win a Silver Star for direct combat with the enemy. Did it in a trench in Iraq. Her story should be in schools, but it won't be. 
All nations celebrate personal icons, and ours now tend to be doers of good. That's fine. But if we suppress the martial feats of a Bruce Crandall, we distance ourselves further from our military. And in time, we will change. At some risk.
12:42 pm est 

Is Guiliani Going to Satisfy the Conservatives?
Is Rudy Guiliani the frontrunner for the GOP primary or is he emblematic of a conservative void waiting to be filled any any conservative with the right credentials, including Newt Gingrich?
Time will tell, of course, but Guiliani's address tomorrow at the Conservative Political Action Committee's convention is clearly aimed at making the case that he is as fit a conservative as anyone.
While Rudy may not be the first choice of "family values" conservatives, he is a winner and he is a winner with new ideas and that may be enough in 2008.
Conservatives would choose just about anyone is they thought it would keep Obama or Hillary out of the White House.  A Rudy Guiliani who is on his game -- with new ideas for fighting crime and envigorating urban economies -- can make the case that he is an alternative that can command the middle and win a general election.
12:34 pm est 

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Jonathan B. Wilson is an Atlanta attorney at the law firm of Taylor English Duma LLP.  Jonathan B. Wilson provides legal advice to investors, companies and business executives involving corporate law, securities law, SEC matters, intellectual property, website and Internet legal issues, start-ups, limited liability companies, partnerships, 1934 Act matters, outsourcing, strategic alliance agreements, contracts, and other matters of importance to growing private and publicly-traded companies.