Posts concerning law

Justice Aphorism

18:51 27 Dec 2010. Updated: 02:24 28 Dec 2010

“The story is told of a Chinese law professor, who was listening to a British lawyer explain that Britons were so enlightened, they believed it was better that ninety-nine guilty men go free than that one innocent man be executed. The Chinese professor thought for a second and asked, ‘Better for whom?’”

I came across this in Eugene Alexander Volokh’s “n Guilty Men”, which I was reading as a result of a longer post I was writing about the problems of dealing with allegations of rape; the question that the apocryphal Chinese professor is disingenuously raising (i.e. whether it’s really better for a society to err on the side of innocence in such matters) is quite central to issues arising out of trying to deal with rape, in evidentiary terms. I bit off a little too much in that post, which is why you’re not seeing it now.

There’s also the question of whether any kind of enforcement mechanism solves more problems than it causes, but rather than ponder that right now I’m instead pondering the injustice of my having to get up in the morning to play Twilight Imperium.

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The Federal Everything Clause

23:28 21 Oct 2010

The US government has never been willing to let mere technicalities impede its actions, as has been evident since at least the reign of Andrew Jackson. Judges are both aware of this and unlikely in any case to fight too hard against the system that has put this in place, and so at the higher levels their job description is something like “convincingly rationalize why the government can do as it pleases”—as can be seen in this article on how much the “Federal Commerce Clause” covers.

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I Know, I Know, My Regard for the First Amendment is Touching and Quaint

22:25 21 Sep 2010

The EFF bulletin covers all the salient points. Clearly a “blacklist” with many easy ways to get on it, and few to get off it, is going to create all kinds of problems with abuse. Censorship—even if done in the name of fighting copyright infringement—is a very powerful tool, and many people tend to forget that it grants powers not merely of enforcement but also of definition.

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Fear and Stupidity Go So Well Together

23:30 13 Sep 2010

Sometimes it’s just too ridiculous: San Luis Obispo police are warning parents about Pedobear. No, not just a throwaway comment by a spokesperson. They have a flyer (two pages) about it. Amazing.

For some perspective, how about “5 Worries Parents Should Drop, And 5 They Shouldn’t”. I grant you that it doesn’t specifically mention Pedobear, but I’m pretty sure we can place that in the first list.

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Tal Ben-Shahar on Practical Happiness

22:30 08 Jul 2010

Even though Oakland apparently isn’t too bad so far after the Mehserle verdict, thinking about police–protester interactions is depressing, and watching this take on recent events in Toronto didn’t help. So what better than five ways to become happier?

You should follow the link and watch the video, but if you really don’t have time to spare to become happier, a quick summary:

  • Accept emotional pain. It’s indicates that we’re still alive and not psychopathic.
  • Focused time with loved ones. We need it, and we need it without distraction.
  • Regular exercise. We’re not supposed to be sedentary. Even three times a week for thirty–forty minutes helps tremendously.
  • Be grateful. He suggests noting five things you’re grateful for every night.
  • Simplify. Stop trying to jam more and more into less time.

I have experience with some of these, and they work. This includes exercise; the difference it can make is extremely significant. (It doesn’t have to be CrossFit—but do some kind of strenuous exercise three times a week for forty minutes!). I haven’t gotten too far with simplification. The “gratitude journal”, despite its New Age veneer, has some strong evidence behind it. I might try that out.

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The Failure of Anti-Public Energy Proposition 16

18:28 13 Jun 2010

Proposition 16 was the most important initiative on the ballot in California last Tuesday. It was funded more or less entirely by PG&E, in an attempt to make it harder for municipalities to start their own public power utilities.

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Arizona and Ethnic Studies

19:57 06 May 2010

In addition to the immigration law that Arizona recently passed, there’s another gem, an apparent attempt to outlaw ethnic studies.

My personal favorite quotation on this subject is from Representative Steve Montenegro: “They shouldn’t be taught they’re oppressed”. He presumably means that nobody in the US should be taught that they’re being oppressed since he’s sure there’s no oppression—rather than being against actually teaching the oppressed about their oppression, but one never knows. He also says “We’re trying to prevent the promotion of victimology”, which might seem reasonable unless you think that exploitation and prejudice based on ethnicity are prevalent, in which case it again sounds more like “we don’t want the exploited to learn that they’re exploited”.

Apart from the specifics, the bill also reflects a struggle over political control of public education; the individual school district presumably has a political makeup that supports the ethnic studies program, while the state as a whole does not, and so the state as a whole is trying to enforce orthodoxy on the topic.

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Anthrax Persecution

15:39 22 Apr 2010

You may remember the antrax mailings of late 2001. From 2002 to 2006, the FBI seems to have spent much of its time focusing on Steven Hatfill, who was later dropped as a suspect. However, while investigating Hatfill, they also apparently waged a campaign of harassment against him, as detailed in “The Wrong Man”.

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Another Try at Legalizing it

23:40 25 Mar 2010

In November, a ballot measure that would legalize[1] growth and possession of up to an ounce of marijuana will be put before California voters. I’d love to see this pass for a bunch of reasons—none of which affect me personally.

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Poisoned by the Feds

15:36 21 Feb 2010

No, not by accident. Not as part of a war effort. Not as part of a biological weapons test. Rather, on purpose, as part of Prohibition enforcement efforts:

Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.

Horrific. At least, as the article points out, when they tried poisoning marijuana crops in the 1970s, there was enough outcry to stop it.

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Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Show Trials

18:58 23 Nov 2009

Glenn Greenwald points out some inconsistencies in the government’s stance, which is certainly interesting, but I think the more important critique comes from Arthur Silber. He highlights the key point, which is this:

Other Justice Department officials have said that even if Mr. Mohammed is acquitted, the Obama administration will keep him locked up forever as a “combatant” under the laws of war.

So even if he’s found not guilty, he stays in jail “forever”. If that doesn’t make it a show trial, I don’t know what does.

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Attitude Test Clip

23:30 28 Sep 2009

The following is a short clip of news footage from the Pittburgh G20 protests:


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What Conflict of Interest?

23:47 21 Sep 2009

There are arguments for the death penalty. One significant argument against it is that any human system is going to be fallible and prone to mistakes, and that no amount of mistakes are acceptable when the state executes people as a result.

The judicial system of Texas is providing some awfully good support for that argument. Take the case of Charles Dean Hood, currently on death row, whose case was decided by a judge who had an affair with the prosecutor.

Well, people are human, these things happen, but there’s a system in place to guard against such misconduct, right? In Texas the Criminal Court of Appeals is where Hood’s case would end up—except that the CCA essentially said it wasn’t interested.

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Obama Administration on Copyright: Same Old

20:37 20 Apr 2009

I missed a lot of these moves when they occurred. Even though the “copyright czar” position hasn’t been filled yet, it looks very much like Obama’s administration is little better on copyright issues than the previous administration.

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Pirate Bay Guilty Verdict

23:35 17 Apr 2009

I’m not surprised, but I’m not happy: ‘Court Jails Pirate Bay Founders’.

I figured, given the amount of pressure brought to bear, that the court would use any means it could to find them guilty. I’m not sure they actually are guilty given the way the laws are written.

(Oh, and for anyone who wants to claim that their defense was to get away on a “technicality”: as my friend Deirdre used to say, all laws are technicalities.)

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Greenwald on the Anthrax Attacks

18:26 04 Aug 2008. Updated: 18:04 28 Jan 2009

I don’t know how much the media has been covering the recent developments in the 2001 anthrax attacks, but I suspect they’re not doing much coverage of their own role—just as with the “weapons of mass destruction” story, or maybe even worse, they were a conduit for what the government wasn’t willing to come out and assert: the link with Iraq.

Glenn Greenwald has been doing a good job covering it.

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Just Don’t Talk To Police

23:04 28 Jul 2008. Updated: 18:06 28 Jan 2009

I think I’ve blogged about this subject before, but with my real web server still down, I can’t check… but even if I have, and even though this was on BoingBoing and probably other major linkgrounds, and even though the primary speaker is a Law Professor at Regent University, it’s still important to watch these videos.

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British Military Pays Detention Death Settlement

23:57 11 Jul 2008. Updated: 18:14 28 Jan 2009

I wish I could have found a source for this other than the Times, but this article discusses the British Ministry of Defence paying out almost three million sterling to the father of an Iraqi killed in British custody in Basra.

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Cumulative Micro-Fraud

17:36 05 Jun 2008. Updated: 01:57 06 Jun 2008

I love this. I’m sorry that it appears to be fraud—I’d be perfectly happy if he had found a legal as well as technical loophole and exploited it. I’m curious about whether or not it would have been fraud if he’d used his real name and details every time. Lastly, it’s quite interesting that he was caught due to government snooping on bogus accounts, and not by financial security systems.

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Wartime Legal Niceties

17:39 02 Jun 2008

There’s plenty to find disturbing in this story about the interference of the Pentagon with their own judges in their “military tribunal” kangaroo courts, but one thing that caught my eye was the following:

Khadr, now 21, faces up to life in prison if convicted at Guantanamo on charges of murder, conspiracy and supporting terrorism. He is accused of lobbing a grenade that killed U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher J. Speer during the firefight in which he was captured.


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Lidl Spying on Retail Employees

23:38 30 Mar 2008. Updated: 17:10 28 Jan 2009

From the what-were-they-thinking department: the German supermarket chain Lidl has been caught spying on their employees.

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Wal-Mart Versus Brain-Damaged Accident Victim

19:52 27 Mar 2008. Updated: 09:56 28 Mar 2008

Contrary to what you might expect, this post is not a rant against Wal-Mart per se. I was prompted to write it after reading this CNN article about Wal-Mart suing a disabled woman who was an ex-employee. The summary is that she was in a bad accident, was covered by Wal-Mart health insurance for her treatment, then successfully sued the person responsible for the accident—at which point Wal-Mart sued her to recover that money, because her employment contract entitled them to recoup the money they spent on health insurance in that fashion. The CNN article raises some questions about this, but I think they’re the wrong questions.

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Information is Power, Government is Control

23:55 21 Mar 2008. Updated: 16:50 24 Mar 2008

The recent revelations that State Department contractors have been snooping through the passport records of presidential candidates, not to mention the fact that Eliot Spitzer’s purchases of sex were uncovered first by his bank and then the IRS, have highlighted the reach of the surveillance state, particularly the sheer amount of information that the government actively tracks. A recent LA Times editorial points out that purely personal privacy isn’t the real key, but rather the ability to use surveillance for political advantage—which should be pretty obvious, even more obvious given its blatant presence in the not-very-distant past.

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