Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Come again?

Ah stop mitherin', ya dozy twonks. Nowt wrong with appopriating coloquiallisms of Gods Own County if tha means well. Now gerron wi'it, ya smarmy get. | Link |

Poster girl for frontal assaults

Aeryn by douggiedoo16.
Farscape: The name of the show came from the Texan mispronunciation of the phrase fire escape, a Macguffin-type device the show's writers frequently fell back on to get the main character J.R. Ewing (John Crichton) out of sticky situations which were often the result of his own devious machinations. | Farscape - Uncyclopedia |

I watched several episodes of Farscape this weekend. I still like the series and watch it when I'm in the mood for sci fi. Aeryn is definitely my favorite character and not just because Claudia Black looks good with a pulse pistol.

I can be a bit hard-headed, I've even been called bloodthirsty by some. Aeryn and I share the conviction that there are some individuals who could only be improved by death, but we are loyal and honorable. I try not to accumulate enemies, I actually go out of my way not to give unnecessary offense to others and try to get along. Most of the time, there are better alternatives than force. But once in while, force is the only option left. In a real fight, there is no second place.

I still like Farscape after all these years and watching them again, I have the chance to enjoy the odd turns of phrase that the writers use, like dog and bone for a communicator. The Australian accents do make it a bit hard to understand at times, but that just adds to the other worldly illusion.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

MySpace used to show lack of remorse

NPR has an interesting audio (available here) of how a prosecutor used a defendant's MySpace page to show state of mind and a lack of remorse.

The defendant killed another person during a crash while driving under the influence of alcohol. The prosecutor feels the MySpace page was very helpful in obtaining a prison sentence.

When will people learn to set their profiles to private if they're going to be honest about themselves (and their vices) on MySpace?

The joys of the two party system

The binary nature of the American political process is enough to turn off all but the most hardened of partisans, as Cindy Sheehan recently learned.

Bill Maher pokes fun at the entrenched political process and articulates what Jimmy Carter should have said when the Republicans excoriated him for his denunciation of Bush's wretched foreign policy.

[L]et's be honest, we would have been better off over the past six years if the Oval Office had been occupied by an orangutan with a Magic 8-Ball. And that's why it's so depressing that when the right-wing noise machine pretended to get upset at what Jimmy Carter said, he did what Democrats always do and backed down....

Why couldn't [Carter] have just said, "No, I meant what I said. And speaking as the first citizen of Habitat for Humanity, let me take out my toolbox and build you a house where we can meet and you can blow me."


If a Democrat who's out of office and 100 years old can't speak out, what chance do we have for the ones who are in office? Like the ones who are in Congress now who, emboldened by widespread public approval of their plan to bring the troops home ... this week abandoned that plan. You see, you don't get to become the worst president ever without a little help from the other side. |When Democrats Collapse - Salon|
Ah, the joys of the democratic political process.

I really do love this country.

It is precisely because I love this country so much that I am so violently upset at the horrible damage Bush has done to our military, our economy, our image and prestige.

I want this country to succeed by playing its part as a contributing citizen of the international community and contributing to the promotion of welfare for all citizens of the world, not just serving the corporate interests located in the United States.

What would you give for a new kidney?

I didn't realize that we can thank the Dutch for pioneering reality television, but now they are going even further to push the limits of reality TV.

A Dutch reality television show in which a terminally ill woman is to select one of three contestants to receive her kidneys when she dies is to air this week despite criticism that it pushes the boundaries of the format too far.

The government has called [for the show] to be dropped because it is "unethical" and "wretched" but the broadcaster BNN said it would go ahead to highlight the difficulties of searching for kidney donors.

In the show, due to be broadcast on Friday, a woman identified only as Lisa, 37, will select a recipient based on their history, profile and conversations with their families and friends. Throughout the 80-minute show, viewers will be invited to send Lisa text messages to advise her. |TV contestants to compete for woman's kidneys - Guardian|

While I can see some value to publicizing the plight of people needing organ transplants, it does seem a bit cheeky for a television studio to set up its own organ donation program for the sake of ratings. Couldn't they do a nice documentary instead?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

On hatred of the Republic

I started reading Balkinization because it was on the Bellman's blogroll, and I'd like to thank them for the introduction.

Scott Horton has posted a long commentary gleaned from the Fourth Annual Conference on Counter-Terrorism at Villa La Pietra, Florence, Italy, May 26, 2007, but I think an excerpt on the misuse of Machiavelli's by neocons to justify their aggressive insanity is worth reading.
America has suffered a very grave series of reputation setbacks. America is now at the lowest point it has ever occupied in the world’s esteem. Public opinion polls around the world show the country at levels of popular dislike and distrust which, seven years ago were almost unimaginable....This is a staggering feat of reputation-sabotage.

Should we be concerned about this? In my mind the answer is clear. We are creating a progressively more dangerous world – more dangerous for everybody, but especially for Americans. In some corners in America, concern about world opinion will be dismissed with sneers. At some point, a commentator on Fox News will say “Let them hate us, so long as they fear us.” The commentator will probably present this as a saying of Niccolò Machiavelli, Florence’s great political theorist.

[Let us] dwell for a moment on this saying and Machiavelli’s relationship to it, for Machiavelli was undoubtedly a very wise student of statecraft, and one of the true gems in his work on political theory is an exploration and exposure of the foolishness of just this idea. First, we should recall that this statement is not Machiavelli’s – it comes from the Emperor Caligula, a man who has secured his reputation in the United States through pornographic movies. Hardly a figure worthy of being emulated by the leader of a modern democratic state, much less a Family Values Republican.

In chapter 17 of The Prince Machiavelli says that “it is much safer to be feared than loved” – a very shrewd rearrangement of Caligula’s statement. But he doesn’t stop there – he goes on immediately to say that the one of the worst mistakes a prince can ever make is to be hated; for in this way he converts himself to a target. He compounds the risks he personally and his subjects must face. Stephen Holmes has an excellent discussion of this in his new book The Matador’s Cape, an extremely insightful study of America’s recklessness in responding to the terrorist threat that struck on 9/11. The point is obvious: reputation matters.

The balance that Machiavelli commends to us is this: don’t strive to be loved, but at all costs avoid being hated. A modern state need not flinch from being feared, but its position is strongest when it exhibits the values of virtue of which he writes. A state which is seen as virtuous, strong and decisive is best able to assure its security. |Balkinization|

UCLA Medical Center used secret fund to raise male salaries

An American Association University Women Legal Advocacy Fund-supported plaintiff has received the $4.07 million jury award from her sex discrimination suit against the Regents of the University of California. The California Supreme Court has chosen not to hear the UC-Regents’ appeal.

Janet Conney, a former assistant clinical professor at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital, sued the UC-Regents and UCLA in 2003 for sexual harassment, retaliation for complaining about discrimination, and pay inequity. She also sued three former male colleagues individually for other claims....

In addition to the original complains Conney had against the school, it was discovered during court proceedings that her UCLA department had a secret reserve of money that they used to supplement the salaries of male faculty members only. |AAUW Press Release| (emphasis added)
I saw this news item over at Bitch, PhD. It's amazing what comes out in court-ordered discovery sometimes.

Sounds to me like the UCLA medical school has more problems than just employees selling corpses donated to the school on the black market.

I like to tell myself that higher education as a repository for bright, ethical people... but it isn't always so. The academy is a business and a voracious one at that. Liberal faculty often come into conflict with conservative adminstrators and support staff often have no interest in anything other than a civil service salary.

As a UCLA graduate, I'm even more annoyed to hear about this moronic sex discrimination going on at one of my alma maters.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The forgotten clusterfuck

Matt Waldman, Oxfam's head of policy for Afghanistan, writes in the Guardian that the American occupation of Afghanistan is in danger or running off a cliff.

America is bankrolling Afghanistan. It is responsible for more than half of all aid to the country (aid that accounts for about a third of GDP), and it plans to provide $10.6bn in the next two years. But as in Iraq, a vast proportion of aid is wasted. Political pressure in donor countries for rapid results has led to projects that are unsuitable and unsustainable. Most aid money goes to programmes in the opium-intensive, insecure provinces in the south. To neglect secure provinces is to invite the insurgency to spread.

Close to half of US development assistance goes to the five biggest US contractors in the country. Too much money is lost to high salaries and living costs, non-Afghan resources and corporate profits. The overall cost of one expatriate consultant is about half a million dollars a year. International contractors are indispensable, but there needs to be rigorous scrutiny, with targets for increased use of Afghan resources. An aid ombudsman could monitor complaints and make recommendations.

There is rising anger about civilian casualties, particularly at the hands of US units outside Nato command - a recent assault in western Afghanistan left 50 civilians dead, and in the past six weeks coalition forces have killed up to 100 civilians, compared with about 230 for the whole of 2006. If international forces lose the support of the people, militants and insecurity will spread.

A third of Afghans think democracy is incompatible with Islamic values, and many resent the massive foreign presence. If rapid steps are not taken to improve the delivery of aid and to control the excessive use of force, there could be devastating consequences. At the same time, action is required at regional level to crack down on insurgents, control narcotics, manage refugees and promote trade and investment. |Guardian| (emphasis added)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Conservative Kansas and Declaratory Judgments

When I was enrolled in the Public Policy Clinic at the University of Kansas, my professor said that Kansas is usually the 26th state to adopt any law. They don't want to get too far ahead or behind the national norms.

So, when I read today that Kansas was the 30th state to pass a law banning picketing at funerals, I wasn't surprised.

But, it turns out that having 29 other states pass the law first isn't enough for the Kansas legislature. They also want the Kansas Supreme Court to declare the law constitutional before it becomes law.

I think they may have a mootness problem with this type of legislation. Until the court issues a decision, there's no law in force for them to rule upon. So if the court twiddles their thumbs and ignore it, then this law truly will go away.

The Kansas Supreme Court has refused to issue advisory opinions, but the legislature is trying to force them to issue an advisory position.

That dog don't hunt.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

On negotiating with the Republicans

So, the Dem's have caved to Bush and are going to stand idly by while he continues his grand clusterfuck in Iraq.

I don't know who I'm more pissed at right now. The morons in the administration or their handmaidens in the Democratic party.

The personal, as everyone's so fucking fond of saying, is political. So if some idiot politician, some power player, tries to execute policies that harm you or those you care about, take it personally. Get angry.

The Machinery of Justice will not serve you here... Only little people suffer at the hands of Justice; the creatures of power slide out from under it with a wink and a grin. If you want justice, you will have to claw it from them. Make it personal. Do as much damage as you can. Get your message across.

That way you stand a far better chance of being taken seriously next time. Of being considered dangerous. And make no mistake about this: being taken seriously, being considered dangerous, marks the difference - the only difference in their eyes - between players and little people. Players they make deals with.

Little people they liquidate. And time and again they cream your liquidation, your displacement, your torture and brutal execution with the ultimate insult that it's just business, it's politics, it's the way of the world, it's a tough life, and that it's nothing personal.

Well, fuck them. Make it personal.

- Richard K. Morgan writing as Quellcrist Falconer

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Happiness is a Warm Gun



The firearm used in this video is a Heckler and Koch G36 with a 40mm grenade launcher. Modern Firearms details the design of the firearm.

The G36 is a reliable rifle, much more so than the M16 series. Though hard core M16 and AR-15 aficionados will have a difficult time accepting what they might describe derisively as 'Euro-Trash,' there is no denying the fact that the G36 rarely, if ever, jams. The most desirable departure from the M16 design is the fact that the gas used to operate the action is vented in the forearm, and not blown back into the action like the 'exhaust pipe' of the M16 gas tube. The G36 jams so rarely that HK has said that they have a G36K that has been fired more than 25,000 rounds without cleaning and no failures. I defy an M16 to duplicate that. |HK Pro|

Reader's Poll: Strongest human desire?

The other day we were discussing what was the strongest human desire around the water cooler. I contend hunger and thirst are the most fundamental drives and other interests only begin to assert themselves once these have been satisfied. Americans are so well fed that they typically only think about these desires long enough to decide if they want Italian or Vietnamese food.

Others contend that sex or the lust for power are the most fundamental of drives. A biology major in the crowd suggested that protection of offspring (or the welfare of your tribe or clan) is probably the strongest desire since there are many cases of people sacrificing themselves to protect their children or comrades.

An interesting point, culture certainly precedes individuals and conditions them.

I still say a hungry person will do just about anything to obtain food, just ask the Donner party.

Any other votes? Feel free to leave them in the comments.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Attorney Revolt in Pakistan

I don't know why the constitutional crisis going on in Pakistan isn't getting more press, I blogged about it briefly back in March. But Washburn Law School professor Ali Khan is covering the story.

A senior Supreme Court advocate in Pakistan tells me that this is the first time in Pakistan’s history that lawyers have dropped their conflicting political affiliations and forged an unprecedented professional unity to restore the rule of law.

More than 80,000 lawyers are acting in solidarity to challenge arbitrary powers that the President exercises on a regular basis with no constitutional authority. The suspension of the Chief Justice on March 9 was the President’s most blatant act to intimidate the judiciary.

The edifice of law cannot stand and the state cannot survive, says the senior advocate, when the President wearing the uniform of the Army Chief summons the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) into a military camp, grills the CJP in the presence of others including some generals, and then orders his suspension. This Presidential vaulting, I am told, is too much for the lawyers to let stand.

In his petition to the Supreme Court challenging his suspension, the CJP paints the picture of an arrogant President who humiliated his person and his office - “crimes” tantamount to “the subversion of the Supreme Court.” ....

These stories have stirred many of Pakistan's lawyers into hard action. The lawyers are protesting in the streets to mobilize a popular uprising against the President. They are making it difficult for the Parliament to grant another five years term to the President. They are petitioning the Supreme Court to force the President to leave even earlier....

While the people and the Parliament are still unsure what to make of the crisis, the lawyers have pooled their resources to fight for a distinct legal objective - suspension annulment [for the Chief Justice]. |Jurist|

Monday, May 21, 2007

Study of Veterans in Prison

I ran across a recent Bureau of Justice Statistics study while doing some unrelated searches on Google News. The study found that veterans are less likely to be imprisoned than the rest of the population, but among those who are in prison, a far higher percentage are in prison for violent crime and especially for rape.
Among adult males in the U.S. population in 2004, veterans were half as likely as non-veterans to be in prison (630 prisoners per 100,000 veterans, compared to 1,390 prisoners per 100,000 non-veteran U.S. residents)....

Over half of veterans (57 percent) were serving time for violent offenses, compared to 47 percent of non-veterans.

In particular, veterans (23 percent) were twice as likely as non-veterans (9 percent) to have been sentenced for sexual assaults, including rape.

Among violent offenders, a higher percentage of veterans reported victimizing females (60 percent for veterans compared to 41 percent for non-veterans) and minors (40 percent for veterans compared to 24 percent for non-veterans).

“We couldn’t come to any definite conclusion as to why,” said Margaret E. Noonan, one of the study’s authors told the AP.

The numbers mirror a trend seen in military prisons, where populations have declined but sexual assault remains the most common crime.

“I don’t want people to come away from this thinking veterans are crazed sex offenders,” Noonan said. “I want them to understand that veterans are less likely to be in prison in the first place.” |Salem News|

Worst President Ever, agrees Jimmy Carter

The Guardian's Ed Pilkington writes:

Former US president Jimmy Carter unleashed a torrent of criticism against George Bush and Tony Blair over the weekend, in which he accused the Bush presidency of being the "worst in history" and said Mr Blair's support had been abominable and subservient....

In a newspaper interview, Mr Carter said of the Bush years: "I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history." And speaking on BBC Radio 4, Mr Carter criticised Mr Blair, who leaves office next month, for his close relations with Mr Bush, particularly concerning the Iraq war....

Even for a former politician with a reputation for plain talking, Mr Carter's blazing criticism took observers by surprise and had the Republican leadership responding in equally harsh measure. The White House spokesman yesterday called Mr Carter "increasingly irrelevant", adding that his "reckless personal criticism is out there". |Guardian|(emphasis added)
Carter and Bush make an interesting study in contrasts. Both had their presidencies ruined by developments in the Middle East, for Carter it was the Arab Oil Embargo and for Bush it was his elective war in Iraq.

Carter failed to be an effective, I contend, because he was too idealistic and had trouble reaching compromises with other parties.

Bush, on the other hand, has no respect for human life and seeming total indifference towards the Constitution, the balance of powers, or international law.

UPDATE: Carter is now backpedaling a bit.

Well, I am sticking to the proposition that Bush is the worst President ever.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

US gov't tries to seize Sicko, Michael Moore's new film

Moore's production of his new documentary, Sicko, is being investigated by Treasury to see if he spent money in Cuba in contravention of American law. Moore's attorneys have responded with a FOIA request according to the Guardian's Charlotte Higgins.

Whether you love or hate Michael Moore, you have to admit that he develops some interesting controversies. I think the moratorium on dealing with Cuba is too strong and should be revised, if not totally lifted.

Friday, May 18, 2007

For the Sake of a Parking Ticket

This odd story on CNN discusses a mother who forced her children to pretend to be retarded in order to mooch off the state.

Rosie Costello, 46, must also pay nearly $288,000 in restitution after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to defraud the government and Social Security fraud. Last week, a judge sentenced her son, Pete Costello, to 13 months in prison.

The scheme was discovered after Pete Costello, now 28, was seen contesting a traffic ticket in a Vancouver, Washington, courtroom. Since he was 8, his mother had represented to state and federal officials that he was so severely retarded he could not perform simple tasks. |CNN|
How utterly lazy and despicable. Of course, the restitution order is a moot point. I'd wager she'll never pay back even one-tenth of what the state paid her under false pretenses.

She may be sentenced to prison for non-payment of her restitution, but that just means she'll be an even larger burden on the state. This is another case where I think corporal punishment might be in order.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Reality TV... how low can you go?

Have you heard of the upcoming reality show Kid Nation? Defamer has some coverage here.

CBS television, desperate for a hit to follow on from its reality shows Survivor and Amazing Race, has had the bright idea of emulating Lord of the Flies, Golding's 1954 dark masterpiece that earned him the Nobel prize for literature. The network has chosen 40 kids aged eight to 15 who will be left to their own devices for 40 days in a ghost town in New Mexico....

The challenge that CBS will set the kids is to see whether they can be any more successful in establishing a functioning society than those original frontiersmen. They will elect four leaders to guide them and set bedtimes. They will have to cook their own meals, clean their own outhouses and run their own businesses....

In the case of Kid Nation, the producer is Tom Forman, who made his name with the home improvements version of Extreme Makeover (as opposed to the plastic surgery variation which seeks to give participants a "Cinderella-like experience").

CBS says the main point of the series will be to see whether the kids "come together as a cohesive unit, or will they succumb to the childhood temptations that lead to round-the-clock chaos?"

Executives are not at this stage making clear what they will do should chaos extend into anarchy. (emphasis added) |Guardian|

I think the only sport will be in seeing just how quickly things descend into anarchy, but I take a very dim view of human nature and, well, especially children.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

AmmuNation

Sarah saw this on the Consumerist. It makes me feel like I've crossed over in an alternate universe populated by Tommy Vercetti and AmmuNations.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Love the sin, love the sinner

My only regret about Jerry Falwell's death, is that I didn't get to kill the fat bastard myself.

While I respect people's right to believe whatever they want, Falwell more than crossed the line into forcing his beliefs on others.

So here's a toast to Falwell's demise and the hope for a better tomorrow where Christians can learn to accept others and embrace the charming decadence of our society.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Rule by Law instead of Rule of Law

Interesting discussion at Balkinization of how the Bush administration's corruption of the Justice Department threatens the very fabric of our society, the rule of law.

Although there are various definitions of the “rule of law,” a core element that all definitions share is the notion that the government and its citizens must abide by the law. This idea raises a problem that prompted philosophers as diverse as Aquinas and Hobbes to express doubts about whether the rule of law is possible....

Aquinas put it in these terms: “The sovereign is said to be exempt from the law; since, properly speaking, no man is coerced by himself, and law has no coercive power save from the authority of the sovereign. Thus then is the sovereign said to be exempt from the law, because none is competent to pass sentence upon him, if he acts against the law.”

We have partially solved this conundrum through an institutionalized separation of the “sovereign.” Now there is no single sovereign in control of producing and applying the law, but rather legal actions are divided up between the legislature, executive, and judiciary. Thus it is no longer the case that a sovereign “is bound to himself only,” because each institution has various ways to hold the others accountable to the law.... More specifically, how can we insure that the Justice Department, which holds the coercive power of the federal government, abides by and enforces the law?

We can try internally dividing up the Justice Department [but if] the entire Justice Department is compromised, it is impossible to construct any mechanism that will be capable of “coercing the coercive power.” Under these circumstances, the rule of law, in the sense that the government is bound by the law, would indeed be impossible.

In the end, Hobbes and Aquinas were right: whatever wields the coercive power cannot coerce itself. The only possible answer to this problem was given by Aquinas: the source of coercive power, through a commitment of its own will, must bind itself to abide by the law in good faith. Without this, the rule of law would not exist. It’s a thin reed on which to rest the rule of law, but there is no other way.

For this reason, although it has largely gone unnoticed from the outside, the non-partisan culture within the Justice Department has made a large contribution to the rule of law. Although the heads of divisions are political appointees who change with administrations, the rank and file have always taken pride in being excellent lawyers committed to upholding the law. The political party membership of the lawyer didn’t matter. Administrations may be Republican or Democratic, but never the Justice Department itself. What made this work was the commitment of each lawyer to, above all else, abide by and act consistent with the law....

When the institution that has the authority to enforce the law — wielding the awesome coercive power of the government — becomes “politicized,” the “rule of law” [ceases] to exist.

The system becomes one of “rule by law,” in which those who control the levers of government utilize the law to advance their ends... |Balkinization| (emphasis added)
The comments are interesting as well, if you're interested in reading more.

However, I stand firm in my conviction that Bush and Cheney both belong in prison for their many outrages. The lobotomization of the Justice Department is just the last in a long list of crimes.



Web 2.0 hysterics

The BBC is covering Jakob Nielsen's commentary on Web 2.0. Nielsen is one of the gurus of web design and I've pulled out a couple of comments below, not in their original order.

"The idea of community, user generated content and more dynamic web pages are not inherently bad in the same way, they should be secondary to the [basic\ things sites should get right."

Good practices include making a site easy to use, good search tools, the use of text free of jargon, usability testing and a consideration of design even before the first line of code is written.

"They should get the basics right first," he said. "Sadly most websites do not have those primary things right."

[T]he rush to embrace Web 2.0 technology meant that many firms were turning their back on the basics.|Web 2.0 distracts good design, BBC|
I really enjoy playing with all the Web 2.0 toys, but the proliferation of userids and passwords in my life is beginning to overwhelm even me...

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Hard and fast: 28 Weeks Later


Pointy by A.J..
Sarah and I went to see 28 Weeks Later today.

It wasn't as good as 28 Day Later, but that's a high standard.

There are several obvious plot holes, but I found I was able to suspend disbelief and enjoy the movie nonetheless. I won't engage in too much discussion, since I don't want to spoil the plot for those who haven't seen it yet (and intend to do so).

While some critics have charged that 28 Weeks is anti-military... the first movie was equally anti-military.

Insofar as the movie is a parable for the Iraq situation, it reminds me that omnipotence is useless without omniscience.

Killer toothpaste?

Health authorities in Panama have ordered toothpaste to be removed from shelves over fears it contains a chemical that killed at least 51 people last year...

It is alleged that a Chinese factory made the diethylene glycol and passed it off as harmless glycerin to a Spanish company, which sold it to Panama. |Guardian|
I've no idea if this is true..

But it's interesting to me how a few pet deaths has the potential to rattle the entire global commerce network now that so many products are sourced from China.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Slap on a little lipstick

The Guardian has given its homepage a facelift, check it out.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Songs of Reference

The following song lyrics showed up in my email today, they're from Yale law school's Habeas Chorus. I don't think you have to be a law librarian to appreciate the song.


Sixteen Hours (to the tune of Sixteen Tons)

Some people say librarians' lives are a cruise
A law librarian's got five floors to choose
Five floors to choose and stacks and nooks
Plenty of stairs and big, heavy books.

You work sixteen hours, whaddya get?
Another new ulcer at the reference desk.
Hey family don't 'cha call me 'cuz I can't go,
After this 2L there's 1L's galore.

Du du du du du du du du

I clocked in one mornin' when the sun didn't shine,
Signed onto Lexis and wished I could resign.
I searched sixteen hours for law in Jaipur
And the student said, "Well-a just one more!"

You work sixteen hours, whaddya get?
Another new ulcer at the reference desk.
Student comes a-callin', says, "If you can,
I need a torts case from medieval Japan."

Du du du du du du du du

When I see 'em comin' I try to step aside,
Some librarians didn't, some librarians died.
Been here for hours -- there's no appeal
If the JD's don't get you, then the LLM's will.

You work sixteen hours, whaddya get?
Another new ulcer at the reference desk.
If I should expire you'll still ask my ghost
For criminal law from the Ivory Coast.

Du du du du du du du du

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Protecting America



Check out this Saturday Night Live skit exploring the enigma that is Homeland Security.

Too Stupid to use a Password

In a recent case, US v. Barrows, the defendant asserted that he had a privacy interest in his personal computer that he brought to his workplace at a small city hall in Oklahoma.

He left the computer unattended without password protection or any other type of security. This makes him a moron because he had downloaded child pornography onto his computer, and guess what, a police officer found it.

Read the whole opinion, if you're interested. |PDF|

Jose Padilla to finally get his day in court?

It's amazing how time and distance muffles emotion. I remember being furious at the way our government was holding Jose Padilla without charges, violating fundamental rights of due process that citizens have come to expect since the signing of hte Magna Carta.

But my fury at the Bush administration seems spent, my mind is so boggled by their criminality and rank stupidity, that depriving Jose Padilla of his constitutional rights seems like a minor footnote in a long list of crimes.

But it appears that Jose Padilla will finally get his day in court.
Five years after his initial arrest, Padilla's criminal trial appears finally destined to actually take place, with jury selection concluding today and opening arguments scheduled to begin next Monday, May 14. The beginning of Padilla's criminal trial and the coincident anniversary leave me to wonder just how significant this trial actually will be, the ultimate result notwithstanding...

[T]here are two points that I think bear mentioning, even if together they may be somewhat irreconcilable.

1. It's remarkable, in its own right, that the trial is actually happening--that Padilla got what, in effect, he had sought from the get-go, i.e., a meaningful day in court.

2. It's a troubling reflection upon the law "after 9/11" that it's taken five years to get to this point, without any final and determinative resolution of the merits of Padilla's military detention, and with the almost summary rejection of the argument that such a delay violates Padilla's right to a speedy trial. If Padilla is ultimately convicted, one could see this case as setting a dangerous precedent for the future, where the government can hold terrorism suspects in military custody up until the point that a court is set to rule on the merits of such detention, and then moot such a decision by indicting the individual in a civilian criminal court. [It is this reality against which Justice Kennedy was arguably inveighing in his opinion respecting the denial of certiorari in Padilla last January.]


Ultimately, I'm not sure these points are in as much tension as they might seem to be. The system is working the way it's supposed to; it just took the better part of five years to get there, and much will turn on the extent to which this case becomes precedent over the next five years.|Concurring Opinions: Five Years On... How Significant is Padilla?|



So here's a toast to the men and women who have fought the long fight to ensure that the right of habeaus corpus lives and that Americans can once again rely on their right to stand before a judge and have their alleged crimes declared in open court.


Monday, May 07, 2007

Sarkozy wins French Presidency

The conservative candidate has triumphed in France and riot police stand ready to put down all protests. Sarkozy has outlined his plans for the first 100 days.

Among other things, he has promised to kill the mandatory 35 hour work week and allow workers to put in overtime, a very capitalist response to France's economic problems. He also plans to raise import duties on Chinese goods. And he takes a hard line of civil disobedience and rioting.

The Guardian's full coverage of French news is here.


Image courtesty Portable Planet

Sunday, May 06, 2007

New Report: Feds refuse to Enforce Laws on Reservations

Amnesty International recently released a report, Maze of Injustice: The failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA. The report details how federal law stripped tribes of the authority to prosecute felonies (with the Major Crimes Act) and the abdication of responsibility for law enforcment on reservations by the federal government.

Tribes cannot prosecute non-Indians for any crime with the decision in Oliphant v Suquamish Indian Tribe, 435 U.S. 191 (1978). Amnesty has put together a video clip of materials to help explain the how the US government has allowed tribes to become a lawless no-man's land where rape and murder continue to decimate First Nations.



I'm not an expert on Federal Indian law or tribal law, but my wife is and I've a pretty good understanding of the law, so feel free to post questions in the comments or send me an email if you'd like to know more.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

A modest proposal for mandatory government service

I've long advocated a system of mandatory government service and I think all Americans should take some time out of their lives to work for the common good. I've advocated creating a variety of forms of service: the postal service; the military; a public works administration; an environmental remediation corps.

We could also provide a system of differential rewards based upon the service. Working for the postal service would entitle people to a reduced postal rate for the rest of their lives. Members of the military would be allowed to carry concealed weapons (and would be given appropriate training and were appropriately regulated). Members of the public works administration would be entitled to government assistance to finance the maintenance and rehabilition of real estate. Members of the enviornmental remediation corps would be the only individuals entitled to certain public parks that would be closed the general public (both to protect the environment of the park and to provide an incentive to enroll in the environmental remediation corps). The private parks could rotate, so that land would not be removed from the public domain forever, but as a necessary resting period. Unfortunately, you can love wilderness to death.

Norway divests US Corporations as Unethical

Norway has decided that they aren't going to invest their nation's oil revenues into businesses they consider unethical. It's hard to argue with that.
Norway has amassed a fortune of more than $300 billion over the last decade, thanks to its profits from oil exports. Yet few countries are more ambivalent about their vast wealth than this modest, socially conscious society of less than five million people.

So rather than managing their monstrous nest egg simply for the best returns, the reluctant billionaires of Norway are using the money to advance an ambitious ethical code they established in 2004 for their oil reserve, known as the Government Pension Fund.

Norwegian officials reject the criticism, saying they have devised a policy that compares well with major funds in Europe and the United States that practice so-called socially responsible investing. “We’ve managed to combine professional fund management with an ethical approach,” said Kristin Halvorsen, the Norwegian finance minister. “We see them as two sides of the same coin.”

Socially responsible investing, she said, has not hindered the fund’s performance. In 2006, it generated a return of 7.9 percent, a shade higher than the government’s target.

Ms. Halvorsen is an unlikely choice to oversee one of the world’s richest funds. She is the leader of the Socialist Left Party, which draws support from students, teachers and left-leaning intellectuals.|Norway Keeps Nest Egg From Some U.S. Companies - New York Times |(emphasis added)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Would a post-US Iraq pose a threat to the US?

For several months Bill Maher has been questioning why we should believe the Bush administration's reasons for staying in Iraq. They've been wrong about in all their other predictions, so why should we listen to them now?

Today, Juan Cole wonders if the Iraqis will actually pursue vengeance against the United States once we leave.

The US military and politicians made a key mistake when they saw the North Vietnamese Communists of Ho Chi Minh as primarily Communists, when in fact they were Vietnamese nationalists. It was the nationalist component that proved so attractive to many of their collaborators in the south. After the North Vietnamese Communists took over they almost immediately had a firefight with Communist China. It would be tragic if the US makes another such error in Iraq.

Bush and Cheney speak as though the enemy there is a terrorist international, a stateless al-Qaeda dedicated to establishing an Islamic superstate and bringing down the United States. That is 99.99 % wrong. Almost all those fighting in Iraq are Iraqi nationalists. Just as Communist Vietnam posed no real threat to the US and was of little use to other Communist states as an ally, so a post-US Iraq would be a country of Iraqi nationalists (with, admittedly, ethno-religious subnationalisms playing either a decisive or an important role). Informed Comment

Murder by Dueling Charged in West Virginia

Interestingly, this isn't a concealed carry case, these gentlemen weren't carrying pistols when they quarreled. But they seem to have mutually decided that the other individual would be greatly improved by death.

[A West Virginia] law, written in 1849, reads: "If any person fight a duel in this state and in so doing inflict a mortal wound, he shall be deemed guilty of murder."...

Witnesses saw the men argue in the road, part ways to retrieve handguns and return with weapons... Testing determined that both weapons were fired. [The deceased] was fatally shot in the torso. |CNN|

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

News Flash: Bush has a mind, can change it

The Bush administration today made it clear it was willing to engage in high-level talks with Iran. |Guardian|
I'm glad that it only takes two full years of the Democrats putting forth a reasonable idea before it can percolate into our moron president's frontal lobe.

We've only had combat troops on two sides of Iran for four years now... and Bush finally realizes that we should officially speak with them rather than sending back alley contacts.

Worst. President. Ever.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Are you a Transhumanist?

Take the transhumanist test at Cyborg Democracy.

Also, here's the caption to the Flickr photo on this post:

Prof. Kevin Warwick to the left.
Manoj Undercity to the right, organiser of the Kevin Warwick talk in Second Life.

Prof. Kevin Warwick, a professor of cybernetics at the University of Reading, England, gave a talk in second life on the issue of using technology to upgrade human capabilities. As well as discussing the possibilities that lay ahead of us, he spoke of previous experiments he has already done on himself using chip implants. One of which was a micro-electrode array connected directly into his peripheral nervous system that allowed him to control objects like a wheel chair, and a robotic arm using only nerve impulses. This same implant also allowed him to send and receive neuronal signals to and from his wife, who had a single micro-electrode connected to the median nerve fibers in her left arm.

Taken in Uvvy Island on the 23rd of April 2007 in the main auditorium.

Professor Warwick is one of my personal heroes.

Are you a Green Hawk?

The last post indicates that some people in the military-industrial complex are waking up to the threats to the US posed by energy dependence and global climate degradation. This group is sometimes referred to as Green Hawks.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, [former CIA director James Woolsley has] become one of the most influential advocates of energy independence, and one of the few security hawks to champion the environmental benefits of shifting away from fossil fuels. He's argued his opinions in the pages of such prominent publications as The Wall Street Journal, and played key roles within the Energy Future Coalition and the National Commission on Energy Policy, two nonpartisan groups of experts in business, labor, the environment, and national security that are pressing for a more forward-looking energy strategy, and, most recently, trying to convince senators to add stronger fuel-economy and renewable-energy provisions to the fossil-fuel-friendly energy bill.
|Grist| (emphasis added)

A new report produced by retired generals and admirals also points to the threats posed by the environment.

The study, “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,” explores ways projected climate change is a “threat multiplier” in already fragile regions of the world, exacerbating conditions that lead to failed states—the breeding grounds for extremism and terrorism.

The CNA Corporation... brought together eleven retired four-star and three-star admirals and generals to provide advice, expertise and perspective on the impact of climate change on national security. CNA writers and researchers compiled the report under the board's direction and review. The full report will be available on SecurityAndClimate.cna.org....

“People are saying they want to be perfectly convinced about climate science projections,” he said. “But speaking as a soldier, we never have 100 percent certainty. If you wait until you have 100 percent certainty, something bad is going to happen on the battlefield.”....

The first step recommended in the study is for the national intelligence community to include comprehensive assessments of climate change in future security plans, just as agencies now take into account traditional but uncertain threats.

As part of its five specific recommendations for action, the Military Advisory Board stated that “the path to mitigating the worst security consequences of climate change involves reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.” |CNA| (emphasis added)

US Military foresees its Doom

Wired's Danger Room is blogging that the U.S. Military is just twigging to the fact that their use of energy is totally unsustainable.

I predict that this Pentagon report will get shelved somewhere and our military will be the world’s mightiest up until the moment it runs out of gas. Then it will chug to a stop and become one of the world’s least powerful Armies. Much like our economy will do.

Unfortunately, the the government is encouraging denial by citizens, not facing reality. This administration is only part of the problem, but their lack of leadership on this issue makes real change unlikely.

But our entire governmental structure is at fault. Congress has become so corrupt that it's almost impossible to change the nature of military acquisitions. Even when top Pentagon leadership want to kill a weapon's system, they are often unable to do so because the military contractors have learned to source parts from many different states and any weapon system will often have representatives from 30 different states lobbying for it. Rumsfeld's war on the Crusader artillery system and Cheney's attempt to clip the death trap known as the Osprey are mentioned in passing here.

And the military has become a small government unto itself and Congress has proved unable to seriously police the Department of Defense.

All our government is doing at this point is re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Don't worry, though, we'll all get ring side seats to watch this economic and ecological disaster play out.