The Web is a hodgepodge of ideas that violates every rule of epistemological etiquette.
Much of what's posted is wrong. It's expressed ambiguously. But it also returns knowledge to its roots in the heated arguments in the passageways of Athens.
Knowledge is what happens when people say things that matter to them, others reply, and a conversation ensues. In many Web conversations, we've given up certainty. But certainty isn't a requirement for believing something. |Internet 101- Fast Company|
Friday, November 30, 2007
Recently the Chiquita fruit company plead guilty to a felony for making payments to a right wing paramilitary group, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, commonly known as the AUC.
Chiquita paid protection money to the AUC to ensure that their employees and operations were not attacked. They continued to make these payments until they were charged with MURDER.
What makes this story even more bizarre is the dithering role played by Michael Chertoff, the current head of Homeland Security, who wasn't sure what to do with the case.
[L]egal sources on both sides [of the case] say there was a genuine debate within the Justice Department about the seriousness of the crime of paying AUC.
For some high-level administration officials, Chiquita's payments were not aiding an obvious terrorism threat such as al-Qaeda; instead, the cash was going to a violent South American group helping a major U.S. company maintain a stabilizing presence in Colombia. |In Terrorism-Law Case, Chiquita Points to U.S. - Washington Post| (emphasis added)
Chiquita self-reported in this case, which they hoped would protect them. It didn't. Will this outcome discourage self-reporting in the future?
If companies don't pay off these armies and death squads, how do they operate in these areas?
Do they just pull out? Should they hire their own private military companies (like Blackwater and Dyncorp) and turn the region into their own corporate fiefdom, a literal banana republic in Chiquita's case?
Or maybe, they should pull out of the U.S. They could base themselves in Bermuda instead.
What makes this all the more complex is the Military Commissions Act, Public Law 109-366 which allows the President to declare anyone (citizen or no) who materially aids a terrorist as an enemy combatant and with limited judicial review.
[Military Commissions Act] broadens the definition of “unlawful enemy combatant” to include not only those who fight the United States but also those who have “purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States.” The latter group could include those accused of providing financial or other indirect support to terrorists, human rights groups say. ....But enough of the hypothetical questions, let's get back to what happened to Chiquita and how the recent court case came to pass.
Bruce Ackerman, a critic of the administration and a professor of law and political science at Yale University... said the bill “further entrenches presidential power” and allows the administration to declare even an American citizen an unlawful combatant subject to indefinite detention. |Detainee Bill Shifts Power to President - New York Times| (emphasis added)
[On September 10, 2001, the day before 9/11], the AUC's legal status changed. Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell added the AUC to the roster of "specially designated foreign terrorist organizations." Being placed on this list, which contains mostly Middle East-based groups like Al Qaeda and Hamas, means that U.S. companies cannot legally do business with them....Roscoe Howard taught my criminal procedure class in law school and it sounds like he enjoyed nailing Chiquita to the wall on this one. Chiquita paid a $25 million fine but no executives were held personally criminally liable.
[In 2003, discovered the AUC's terrorist status and Chiquita's] board decided that the company should disclose the payments to the Justice Department and seek its guidance. So in April of 2003, [Chiquita's attorneys met] with Justice officials led by Michael Chertoff, then assistant attorney general for the criminal division at the Justice Department, now the secretary of Homeland Security.
[Chiquita] told Chertoff that if the company simply stopped paying the terrorists, Chiquita would be endangering its employees. Moreover, suddenly pulling out of Colombia would have serious economic and political repercussions for that country, a close U.S. ally. Chiquita suggested that Chertoff consult with the U.S. Department of State and other federal agencies concerned about Colombia's stability.
Exactly what Chertoff told the Chiquita executives became a hot-button issue in the case. The Justice Department admitted in the plea deal that Chertoff said the payments were illegal and "the issue of continued payments was complicated."
According to [Chiquita's attorneys], Chertoff told the Chiquita officials that "this is a heavier meeting than I expected," and that he would get back to them.
[Chiquita claims] there was an "unspoken but clear understanding" with Chertoff that they could temporarily continue the payments while Chertoff considered the options.
Chertoff declined to comment for this story.
[Chiquita's lead defense attorney, Eric Holder Jr.] told the sentencing court that he suspects the government did not want to explicitly say to stop the payments "and then have blood on its hands if someone was, in fact, killed." So Justice took what Holder called a middle position-acknowledging that the payments were illegal, but not explicitly saying "stop."
Holder was clearly outraged by the department's waffling. He said in court that if Chiquita's disclosure had occurred under his watch as deputy attorney general, and if his Justice Department staff had failed to act on it, "heads would have rolled."
But Chertoff failed to act. Records show that [Chiquita's attorneys] reported back to Chiquita's board of directors that there would be "no liability for past conduct," but there was "no conclusion on continuing the payments." They said Chertoff would get back to them. But he never did.
The executives did, however, eventually hear from the U.S. Attorney's Office. Chertoff handed off the case to U.S. Attorney Roscoe Howard Jr., then the U.S. Attorney in D.C., just before Chertoff left office in June 2003. Howard opened the Chiquita probe as a murder investigation. Murder?
"They [terrorists] were capturing American citizens in Colombia and holding them for ransom or killing them. What would you call it?" asks Howard...
|Blood Money Paid by Chiquita Shows Company's Hard Choices - Law.com|(emphasis added)
The Wall Street Journal had some interesting earlier coverage as well.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
"I do not deny that our charges look insane," says Dr. Pont, [California Pacific Medical Center's] chief medical officer. But all hospitals operate the same way, he says. "It's the reality of the industry." Once its operating costs are factored into an item's charge price, Dr. Pont says the hospital marks up that price by threefold to account for the fact that it only collects on average a third of what it bills in any given year. |WSJ|
Read an interesting little piece in the Wall Street Journal about the Special Investigator who is reviewing the actions of Karl Rove to see if he illegally used federal government agencies to assist in 2004 election contests.
Mr. Bloch's investigation of the White House political operation began after a Rove deputy gave a series of political presentations to government agencies on Republican prospects in specific congressional races. Mr. Bloch's office wants to know whether such presentations violated the Hatch Act, a law forbidding the use of federal resources to back candidates for office...Compared to the many war crimes, felonies, and systematic corruption engineered by the White House in the past seven years, this doesn't surprise me... but it's still pretty lousy.
In one email...disclosed this summer, an official quotes Mr. Rove as being pleased that officials at the Commerce, Transportation and Agriculture departments went "above and beyond" the call of duty in arranging appearances by cabinet members at Republican campaign events...
The special counsel's probe has already found one alleged violation, at the General Services Administration, where Rove deputies gave a presentation on Jan. 26. At the end of the presentation, according to a report by Mr. Bloch's office on the incident, GSA Administrator Lurita Doan asked, "How can we help our candidates?" Twenty participants in the meeting recalled substantially the same words, the report said. |Head of Rove Inquiry in Hot Seat Himself - WSJ|(emphasis added)
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
RU Sirius has proposed an Open Source Party with a seven plank platform.
1: Let's Have A Democracy
2: Let's Have Civil Liberties and a Bill of Rights
3: Let's End the Imperial Foreign Policy
4: A New "Energy Task Force"
5: Let's Explore The Possibility of an Open Source Monetary System
6: Let's End Corporate Personhood and Other Rules that Unfairly Advantage Corporations
7: Let My Web People Go!
Read more about it at 10 Zen Monkeys.
A recent law review article on copyright titled, Infringement Nation: Copyright Reform and the Law/Norm Gap, illustrates the way that culture infiltrates our lives and how we are all on the front line of the copyright wars.
Copyright law is playing a profound role in shaping our very identities. Copyright’s regulation, propertization, and monopolization of cultural content determine who can draw upon such content in the discursive process of identity formation.The author uses a hypothetical to illustrate how ridiculous the claims of copyright hardliners is (or at least how it criminalizes all sorts of everyday activity).
Thus, the contours of our intellectual property regime privilege certain individuals and groups over others and intricately affect notions of belonging, political and social organization, expressive rights, and semiotic structures. In short, copyright laws lie at the heart of “struggles over discursive power—the right to create, and control, cultural meanings.”
As Madhavi Sunder has powerfully argued, we are in the midst of a “‘Participation Age’ of remix culture, blogs, podcasts, wikis, and peer-to-peer file-sharing. This new generation views intellectual properties as the raw materials for its own creative acts, blurring the lines that have long separated producers from consumers.”
In the digital age, we are all regular consumers and producers of copyrighted content. |Infringement Nation: Copyright Reform and the Law/Norm Gap|
By the end of the day, John has infringed the copyrights of twenty emails, three legal articles, an architectural rendering, a poem, five photographs, an animated character, a musical composition, a painting, and fifty notes and drawings. All told, he has committed at least eighty-three acts of infringement and faces liability in the amount of $12.45 million (to say nothing of potential criminal charges).One final point, the article concludes by invoking loss of privacy as a leading enabler of the ability of the copyright holders to track down (and punish) infringement, which is an interesting combination of two seemingly disparate topics.
If copyright holders were inclined to enforce their rights to the maximum extent allowed by law, he would be indisputably liable for a mind-boggling $4.544 billion in potential damages each year. And, surprisingly, he has not even committed a single act of infringement through P2P file sharing. Such an outcome flies in the face of our basic sense of justice. Indeed, one must either irrationally conclude that John is a criminal infringer—a veritable grand larcenist—or blithely surmise that copyright law must not mean what it appears to say. Something is clearly amiss. Moreover, the troublesome gap between copyright law and norms has grown only wider in recent years.Id.
The loss of privacy is often mentioned in the context of criminal law or national security, but it is less often invoked in the civil damages context.
The author illustrates how copyright has embedded itself in the public imagination, unfortunately it's such an arcane topic that few seem sure of the contours of intellectual property law anymore.
As I've noted elsewhere, the fear mongering of the RIAA and MPAA seems to be intimidating quite a few people, including educators.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Feisal Istrabadi, Former Deputy Ambassador to Iraq, recently pointed out how the entire political system in Iraq, reinforces the divisions between Iraq's different religious and ethnic groups.
Fundamentally, [Iraq's political] parties ...posited themselves, on all sides, either as [ethnic] parties, which is what the Kurds did, or as confessional parties, sectarian parties, which is what the Arab Shia and Arab Sunni of Iraq did.Now that's my definition of a clusterfuck.
And these were the parties that unfortunately in the system that we inherited from the Bremer vice regency, these were the parties that were then elected.
And so, in a sense, they were -- each of these parties was elected based upon their differences. And so once they get to power, they find it very difficult to make the compromises necessary. And a lot of it is personal, and a lot of it is very petty... |In Iraq, Violence Falls but Political Gridlock Remains - Online Newshour|(emphasis added)
There isn't going to be any political solution in the near term. The current political system is untenable and after the US leaves it will tear itself apart and something new will be established in its place.
Imperial Life in the Emerald City illuminates how the Bush administration's devotion to neo-conservative dogma over pragmatism assured that no lasting political order would be established in Iraq.
I really wish it were different, I want to see Iraq settle down and for the US to salvage some honor from this ordeal, but wishing doesn't make it so.
[Professor Hugh White, the head of Canberra's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre] says the US cannot win in Iraq, but nevertheless is unlikely to pull out.
"I think that's the tragedy of the American position," he said.
"I think they're in the situation where the scale of resources that America has available, and the nature of the problems that it needs to deal with, simply preclude the United States achieving the kind of outcome that we all hope that we could find in Iraq - a stable government that controls the whole territory that governs more or less justly in the interests of all Iraqis, and so on.
"That just seems to be, to me, beyond reach.
"And even though... there may be, as some reports suggest, short-term improvements in security, for example, I think the chances of that leading to a long-term political evolution that would achieve our long-term objectives is very low." |Coalition 'cannot win' in Iraq or Afghanistan - ABC News|
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Denial of the harsh, violent, or dangerous aspects of the world is a commonly used psychological defense that allows us to go about or lives without constant fear of harm.
If we are unsuccessful at "blocking out" unpleasant parts of our world, the horror we would feel each day at the violence and suffering that are always taking place would overwhelm us.
We depend upon the police to keep such horrific sights, sounds, and smells away from our lives and our experience of the world. Our ignorance can be catastrophic, however, for police departments, individuals officers, and their families.
| Stoning the Keepers at the Gate: Society's Relationship with Law Enforcement by Lawrence N., Ph.D. Blum |Amazon| Google Books|
People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. - George Orwell
Friday, November 23, 2007
You can add school yard massacres to the United States' contribution to global culture. Apparently in the wake of the recent Finnish school attack, authorities have uncovered chatrooms where disaffected youth encouraged one another to plan and carry out their own bloodbaths.
On Friday, police in Cologne [Germany] apparently foiled another plot by two students to launch a massacre in their school using crossbows, air guns and molotov cocktails, which was also planned to coincide with the Emsdetten anniversary. The police have come under criticism for sending the two students home after questioning. The younger boy later committed suicide by throwing himself under a tram.From my CERT training and the law enforcement periodicals that I read, I know that police are concerned about terrorist attacks on schools, but it really makes things more complex if the terrorists are students at those schools.
German police and education authorities have pointed to a worrying growth in copycat incidents as well as a sharp rise in the number of pupils sharing information on the internet, and goading and inspiring each other into carrying out attacks.
The Finnish killer Pekka-Eric Auvinen was believed to have been in touch via the internet with a Pennsylvania teenager who had been planning a Columbine-style attack. This week a British woman alerted police in Norway to a massacre threat against a school in Askoey near Bergen after seeing a suspicious video of on YouTube.
The Columbine massacre in Littleton, Colorado, in which two students killed 13 people before killing themselves, has served as a catalyst for a series of attacks across the United States and abroad, particularly in Germany.
"The phenomenon of massacres by young people in schools in Germany has only existed since Columbine," said Frank Robertz, a Berlin criminologist and author of a book on violence in schools.|School Massacre Plots Hatched on Internet - Guardian| (emphasis added)
Loren Coleman discusses the pattern of school shootings (including some I had not heard of) over at his blog Copycat Effect.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Tuesday, November 20th is the Transgender Day of Rememberance.
Dylan Vade writes of the double standard society sets out for the transgendered.
Why do some folks feel that transgender people need to disclose their history and their genitalia, and nontransgender people do not? When you first meet someone and they are clothed, you never know exactly what that person looks like. And when you first meet someone, you never know that person's full history.I once attended a presentation by a genderqueer youth who suggested that gender, far from being binary, is an infinite plan and I think that is probably the truth.
Why do only some people have to describe themselves in detail -- and others do not? Why are some nondisclosures seen as actions and others utterly invisible? Actions. Gwen Araujo was being herself, openly and honestly. No, she did not wear a sign on her forehead that said "I am transgender, this is what my genitalia look like." But her killers didn't wear a sign on their foreheads saying, "We might look like nice high school boys, but really, we are transphobic and are planning to kill you." That would have been a helpful disclosure. |No issue of sexual deception: Gwen Araujo was just who she was - SF Chronicle|
It's so sad that people who do not fit into someone's pre-conceived notion of gender are subjected to so much violence and hostility.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
A recent report from the Urban Institute, Is There an iCrime Wave? |PDF|, suggests that the recent spike in violent crime is can be tied to the explosion of Ipods in our society.
The study suggest several reasons why Ipods are special targets of theft.
There are [five] reasons iPods may be especially criminogenic (crime creating).
First, they contain almost no easily accessible antitheft protection.
Second, unlike cell phones, there is no subscription associated with iPods, so the offender can continue to use them even after the robbery is reported.
Third, iPods are high-status items and may be stolen for their status, not as items to be resold....
[Fourth], since iPods transmit sound to both ears, rather than just one in the case of cell phones, iPod users may be less aware of their surroundings than users of other consumer products.
[Fifth,] iPod users are easy to identify... and iPods are typically worn in public places (44 percent of robberies occur on public streets),
[T]he device is a lightning rod for criminals.| Is There an iCrime Wave? (PDF)|
I think all of these reasons make sense, but the authors also outline some some statistical data to support their arguments. (I think only philosophers write articles these days without statistics.)
Anecdotal evidence [of a link between Ipod sales and thefts] is strong...
In the first three months of 2005, major felonies rose 18.3 percent on the New York City subway—however, if cell phone and iPod thefts are excluded,felonies actually declined by 3 percent....
The increase in iPod robberies on the [San Francisco] BART [subway system] between 2004 and 2006 accounts for 23 percent of the increase in robbery in the entire city [of San Francisco]over that time.
The increase in iPod-related crime appears to be an international phenomenon.
Britain’s Home Office reports a 10 percent rise in gunpoint robberies from 2005 to 2006. The BBC quotes British Home Secretary John Reid as identifying devices like iPods as the cause, stating that the increase in robberies “is largely driven by a rise in the numbers of young people carrying expensive goods, such as mobile phones and MP3 players.”
Likewise, Ian Johnston, chief constable of the British Transport Police and spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said the rise had “a lot to do with the products that are available to be stolen these days. The mobile phone explosion is continuing. The iPod explosion is continuing. All of these gadgets that people carry around with them are very attractive to robbers, so that puts the opportunities up. We’ve obviously got to respond to that in a very positive way.”
The scale of iPod sales and the increase in robberies also lend credence to this hypothesis. Increases in robbery in 2005 and 2006 translate into about 40,000 more robberies than in 2004; during that period, 78 million new iPods went into circulation. In order for iPod robberies to explain all of the recent increase in robberies, just 1 in 1,960 iPods would need to have been stolen in a robbery, a rate of less than one-tenth of 1 percent.
The relationship between the release of the iPod and the recent rise in robberies is purely correlational, and our conclusions should therefore be interpreted with caution.
That said, the properties of the recent crime increase — a rise in robbery and homicide with a corresponding decrease in other types of crime, an increase in juvenile arrests for robbery, and temporal increases in robbery that mirror trends in iPod sales — are all consistent with the iCrime hypothesis. Moreover, observational data from New York City; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; and the United Kingdom (jurisdictions where some iCrime data are available) suggest that iPod robberies are on the rise.
Finally, the magnitude of the increase in iPod-related crimes (in the U.S. cities) is consistent with increases in robbery rates. |Id.| (emphasis added)
The argument is much stronger when expanded to cell phones. Actually, it's getting harder and harder to distinguish between phones, PDAs, and music players.
London's metropolitan police reports here that roughly 10,000 cell phones are stolen every month in London.
The authors of the report contend this was all quite foreseeable and suggest that we should focus more on prevention and less on retribution.
[T]he iCrime wave was predictable and could have been prevented or mitigated, and yet little was done, or is being done, to slow the wave before it washes out on its own. U.S. crime policy is overwhelmingly focused on increasing the cost of committing crime for would-be offenders and pays little attention to the behavior of potential victims. As technology races ahead, we should expect to see more iCrime-like waves. | Is There an iCrime Wave? |PDF|
My own experience as a criminal defense attorney led me to the conclusion that most of my criminal clients were simply not able to plan ahead and did not even consider what the consequences of their actions would be, they simply acted on impulse and then had to deal with the consequences as they came.
So it's important not to act like a victim. And blocking out all auditory input certainly increases your chances of being a victim. I use my Ipod in public, but I make sure when I do that I keep my head on a swivel and I try to keep a wall to my back.
Via the Law Librarian Blog.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
So, just in case there was any doubt about whether or not our government commits torture, Gitmo's operating manual has been leaked and the government is hiding prisoners from the Red Cross.
And our government condones torture as a recently redacted Court of Appeals decision indicates.
Oh, and the Iraq war (that was supposed to pay for itself) is going to cost $3.5 trillion.
And it's only Wednesday...
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
The Bellman asks who would you put up against a wall and shoot, based on a post at Unfogged. The author suggests killing the smarmy John Yoo.
While I would certainly put a bullet in Yoo, he strikes me as a small part of the debacle that is our current excuse for a foreign policy.
The first person I would line up in front of a wall would be Douglas Feith, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy from 2001-2005.
Feith was ostensibly in charge of planning for the occupation of Iraq. Feith is also the individual who actually implemented the torture policy (at least in the Department of Defense) that Yoo attempted to legitimize.
While the invasion of Iraq was never a good idea, Feith is the man whose incompetence ensured that no real planning was done.
I'll sleep better when that son of a bitch is dead.
Who do you think would be greatly improved by death?
Feel free to answer here, at the Bellman, or Unfogged.
Monday, November 12, 2007
The Electronic Freedom Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Knowledge, and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School has created Fair Use Principles for User Generated Video Content to enshrine the principles of Fair Use and protect free expression by providing guidelines to content publishers (such as YouTube).
The principles are designed to protect transformative, creative uses of copyrighted material and ensure that filters are not set to automatically delete any content that might be uploaded with pre-existing material without some review to see if the content is combined in a new, creative manner.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
[T]he line between where my memory leaves off and Google picks up is getting blurrier by the second. Often when I'm talking on the phone, I hit Wikipedia and search engines to explore the subject at hand, harnessing the results to buttress my arguments.I don't think the cyborg future will have arrived until I have a subdermal computer implanted in my body, so that I'm never out of contact with the Net.
My point is that the cyborg future is here. Almost without noticing it, we've outsourced important peripheral brain functions to the silicon around us.|Your Outboard Brain Knows All - Wired|
My cell phone/PDA is certainly a wearable computer, but it's clunky and strikes me as soooo 20th century.
And resistance is futile.
Thanks to Joe Hodnicki for the link.
Above is a clip from a 2006 documentary Iraq for Sale. Watch the whole thing at Free Documentaries.
On a related note, earlier I discuseed Naomi Klein's observations in her new book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.
I think this can ony be described as treason. I think impeachment is the very least that is required.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
At the feet of Your Excellency, most worthy representative of the public majesty, the craftsmen of Gardone bow down.
Born among the mountains, suckled on iron, raised in the smithies, from all of which they draw the sustenance that maintains them, bronzed by the endless heat of the fires, they can earn their living only by labouring with heavy hammers on the anvils.
If this work is lacking, they are deprived of life itself.
- Letter from gunsmith Giovanni Beretta, then Mayor of Gardone, Italy to the Capitanio of Brescia, forwarded to the Italian Senate in in April 1683, as found in the foreword to R.L. Wilson's World of Beretta.
Naomi Klein reports on the rise of private disaster response companies.
I used to worry that the United States was in the grip of extremists who sincerely believed that the Apocalypse was coming and that they and their friends would be airlifted to heavenly safety. I have since reconsidered. The country is indeed in the grip of extremists who are determined to act out the biblical climax--the saving of the chosen and the burning of the masses--but without any divine intervention. Heaven can wait. Thanks to the booming business of privatized disaster services, we're getting the Rapture right here on earth. |Rapture Rescue 911: Disaster Response for the Chosen - Nation|In some ways it is comforting to me that these incredibly anti-democratic trends were forecast in the science fiction I've been reading since middle school.
Robert Aspirin's Cold Cash War published in 1977 foresaw much of what we're seeing today with the rise of Blackwater. Gibson's Count Zero also deals with this topic well and Morgan's Market Forces is an interesting take on our impending future as well.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
So when we traveled this past weekend, I put my pocket knife in my checked suitcase along with a larger, fixed-blade knife (just in case...)
When we arrived in Wichita, my pocket knife was missing although the fixed blade knife was still there. I went through the suitcase a couple of times and then decided that a TSA employee must have stolen my pocket knife. Sarah thought I'd left it at home, but I was certain I'd put it in the suitcase.
Upon returning home, I checked the drawer where I keep my pocket knife when I'm not carrying it... and it's not there. Those bastards stole my pocket knife.
Apparently, my loss is just the tip of the iceberg.
Monday, November 05, 2007
I just returned today from Kansas. I was in Wichita for a couple of friends getting married and then we visited with Sarah's grandparents for a day. Flying into Wichita, I realized that I'd forgotten how incredibly flat that part of Kansas is.
The eastern part of Kansas is beautiful, it was good to be back in Kansas.
But I Minnesota is now my home. Even though it snowed today and Old Man Winter has moved in for a bit.
Time to break out the wool clothing...