Training Tip 5: What Not to Do (The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation)

Peter Norvig’s clever demonstration of how computer slideshow software would have mangled the Gettysburg Address provides more than its share of laughs, but there is also much to learn from it.

In an accompanying essay, Norvig seems to suggest that Powerpoint presentations are always bad.  Antipathy toward slide shows is understandable: A large majority of the ones I’ve seen have been poorly done. 

However, it’s important to keep things in perspective.  Slide shows are merely tools.  They can produce good results or bad results, depending on the skill of the workman. 

One of the goals of Training Tips is to help trainers make sure their presentation skills are workmanlike.  We will be devoting multiple columns toward helping you come up with high quality audiovisual aids, including slide shows. 

Off the Clock: Prospects of Trump Conviction

The conventional wisdom is that a divided Senate means impeaching Trump is next to impossible. I’m not so sure. I believe there is some risk to Trump, and that things could turn against him rapidly.

If all Democratic Senators vote for conviction, they would only need to flip 20 Republican Senators to reach the 2/3 majority needed to convict.

Most Republican Senators are sophisticated enough to recognize that Trump is a blowhard and loose cannon. They would much prefer to go into the 2020 election united by Mike Pence, someone they consider more stable and electable.

The problem is that while most Republicans Senators despise Trump, they are afraid of him, or more accurately, Trump’s base. If there were an anonymous vote, Trump would be convicted.

As noted by Politico, an anonymous vote is a possibility. A bare majority of the Senate can set the rules. If this were to happen, getting the needed 20 Republican votes begins to look very possible. As Politico explained:

[I]t’s not hard to imagine three senators supporting a secret ballot. Five sitting Republican senators have already announced their retirements; four of those are in their mid-70s or older and will never run for office again. They might well be willing to demand secrecy in order to give cover to their colleagues who would like to convict Trump but are afraid to do so because of politics in their home districts. There are also 10 Republicans senators who aren’t up for reelection until 2024 and who might figure Trumpism will be irrelevant by then. Senators Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski have been the most vocal Republicans in expressing concerns about Trump’s behavior toward Ukraine.

More good news for the Democrats: Monolithic support for Trump is less likely in the Senate. House district boundaries can be drawn to make seats “safe” for a Republican. Senators are more vulnerable, because it’s not possible to gerrymander a state. Senators have less reason to be afraid of Trump’s base, which remains a minority of the country as a whole.

As Politico concludes:

A secret ballot might get Trump out of office sooner than everyone expects: The sooner any three Republican senators make clear that they will support nothing short of a secret ballot, the sooner Trump realizes his best course could be to cut a deal, trading his office for a get-out-of-jail-free card—a clean slate from prosecutors—just as Vice President Spiro Agnew did. And if Trump were to leave office before the end of the year, there might even be enough time for Republicans to have a vibrant primary fight, resulting in a principled Republican as the nominee.

All in all, Trump may be more vulnerable than he initially appears.

My Shingle 17th Anniversary

Carolyn Elefant’s My Shingle is celebrating its 17th anniversary. I remember with pleasure working with her as a co-presenter at a Maryland Bar Association CLE program many years ago.

Carolyn’s blog served as an inspiration to countless lawyer blogger wannabes. It also helped her to established her as a force to be recognized in the legal world, building an versatile, enviable career, as evidenced by her LinkedIn presence.

Kevin O’Keefe, of Real Lawyers Have Blogs, would be proud of her.

 

Bob Ambrogi’s Random Tips for Writing Better Blog Posts

Veteran Net lawyer Bob Ambrogi‘s post Some Random Tips for Writing Better Blog Posts has some tips that will benefit even experienced legal bloggers. Many of Bob’s tips deal with the best way to write for a non-legal audience, but some apply just as well to writing for other lawyers. Here’s an example.

Don’t bury the lede. I often see posts that start with something like:

“On June 1, 2019, the Supreme Court decided the case of Smith v. Jones, ___ U.S. ___, on appeal from an en banc decision of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.”

Later – maybe in the same long paragraph or lower in the post — it goes on:
“This is the most important decision ever in the area of widget law and will require manufacturers to make major changes in their business processes.”

Why make me wade through the muck to find the flower?

Thanks, Bob. I hope I never get too old to learn, and I’ll be trying to follow your advice in this and other matters.

Off the Clock: Trump, Dingell and the Press

Nancy Pelosi’s reaction to Trump’s disrespectful comments about the late John Dingell hit exactly the right note. It was the mainstream media’s reaction that missed the mark. Once again, they let Trump play them to his advantage.

It’s not news that Trump is a jerk. The impeachment of Trump yesterday was historic news. The mainstream media let Trump distract them from what really mattered. Every minute spent talking about Trump’s crude insult of a dead man meant one less minute that should have been devoted to the real news: A President was impeached.

This is even worse because Trump’s tasteless remarks helped him with his base, who adore him precisely because they like his ability to “trigger the libs.” The mainstream media inadvertently did Trump a favor by amplifying his message.

Trump will continue to get away with murder so long as the mainstream media allow themselves let his antics distract them from what matters most.

Password Mangers: What to Look For

PC World has a review of password managers (they like Lastpass), but perhaps more important, they provide a list of reasons to adopt one of these products:

  • Password generation: You’ve been reminded ad nauseam that the strongest passwords are long, random strings of characters, and that you should use a different one for each site you access. That’s a tall order. This is what makes password generation—the ability to create complex passwords out of letters, numbers, and special characters—an indispensable feature of any good password manager. The best password managers will also be able to analyze your existing passwords for weaknesses and upgrade them with a click.
  • Autofill and auto-login: Most password managers can autofill your login credentials whenever you visit a site and even log you in automatically. Thus, the master password is the only one you ever have to enter. This is controversial, though, as browser autofill has long been a security concern, so the best managers will also let you toggle off this feature if you feel the risk outweighs the convenience.
  • Secure sharing: Sometimes you need to share a password with a family member or coworker. A password manager should let you do so without compromising your security.
  • Two-factor authentication: To an enterprising cybercriminal, your password manager’s master password is as hackable as any other password. Increasingly, password managers support multi-factor authentication—using a second method such as a PIN, a fingerprint, or another “trusted device” for additional verification—to mitigate this risk. Choose one that does.
  • Protection for other personal data: Because of how frequently we use them online, credit card and bank account numbers, our addresses, and other personal data can be securely stored in many password managers and automatically filled into web forms when we’re shopping or registering an account.

Password generation: You’ve been reminded ad nauseam that the strongest passwords are long, random strings of characters, and that you should use a different one for each site you access. That’s a tall order. This is what makes password generation—the ability to create complex passwords out of letters, numbers, and special characters—an indispensable feature of any good password manager. The best password managers will also be able to analyze your existing passwords for weaknesses and upgrade them with a click.