Five Dangerous Things You Should Let YOur Kids Do

Jeremy linked to a fascinating talk by Gever Tulley in which he describes dangerous activities you should let your kids do.

I don't have kids (yet), but when I do, we're gonna do all this stuff.


New Job and a Move After Graduation

A quick update on the job search: I've accepted a job offer from a Public Defender's office in a Western state. I'll be moving out there very shortly after I graduate from law school in May to find a house and study for the bar.

This isn't the plan I had when I started law school, but it's one of the best opportunities available for me to get trial experience and I get to stick it to the Man (or at least his representatives from the State's Attorney's office). It's also very important work in an age of police and prosecutorial abuse.

Wish me luck.


Supreme Court to hear D.C. Gun Case

The announcement from the Plaintiff/Respondent:

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear the case of Heller v. District of Columbia, and decide whether the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right to own guns. At issue is a 31-year-old Washington, D.C. law banning handguns and requiring that all shotguns and rifles be kept unloaded and either trigger-locked or disassembled at all times. There is no exception for self-defense.

Alan Gura, lead counsel for the Heller plaintiffs said, “The Bill of Rights does not end at the District of Columbia’s borders, and it includes the right to keep and bear arms. After three decades of failure trying to control firearms in the District, it’s time for law-abiding city residents to be able to defend themselves in their homes. We are confident the Supreme Court will vindicate that right in Washington, D.C., and across the nation.”

Coverage at SCOTUSblog here.


ABA Journal article on the D.C. Gun Case

The November issue of the ABA Journal has a feature article about the D.C. Gun Case. This is the first article I've seen that carefully examines the role of the NRA in trying to torpedo the case and obtained comment from all of the lawyers.

After they had assembled a group of six plaintiffs, Levy and Neily filed Parker on Feb. 10, 2003. Also on board by then was Alexandria, Va., litigator Alan Gura. He would do most of the heavy lifting, crafting pleadings and arguments as the case slogged on for four years. But Levy and his lawyers hadn’t heard the last of the NRA.

Seven weeks later, on April 4, the NRA filed Seegars through veteran outside counsel Stephen P. Halbrook of Fairfax, Va. Without even calling the Parker lawyers first, he moved to consolidate Seegars and Parker. Levy and his colleagues were not pleased.

“You just don’t do that to another lawyer,” Neily says. “Honestly, that set the tone for things. It was not well-received.”

Instead of the Second Amend­ment claim the Parker plaintiffs had envisioned, the NRA loaded its case with a Fifth Amendment due process claim, another mixed due process and equal protection argument, a civil rights claim under section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, and a theory that the district lacked the authority under its municipal code to enact the ban in the first place.

It's well worth the read if you're interested in the political underpinnings of gun rights in America.

The plaintiffs have a blog with links to all of the filings, if you want to keep up with developments.


Why People Have to Make Their Own Mistakes

Found in an Economist article on how a central bank can (or cannot) stop a bank run:

"the ultimate result of shielding man from the effects of folly is to people the world with fools."

- Herbert Spencer, State Tampering with Money and Banks


Being a Happy, Healthy, Ethical Lawyer

Orin Kerr posted a question on the Volokh Conspiracy from a not yet employed 3L looking for career advice. There are good suggestions in the comments, but the best one is from "Anonobvious," who linked to Patrick J. Schiltz's law review article, "On Being a Happy, Healthy, and Ethical Member of an Unhappy, Unhealthy, and Unethical Profession."*

It was written in the late 90s, so the numbers are a little off (though that amplifies the points made), but the reasoning is simple: Big law firms are driven by money. Money does not make one happy. People driven by pressure to make money are more likely to behave unethically. If you want to be happy and ethical, stay away from big law firms.

On why big firm lawyers don't give up a little extra money for a lot more happiness:

More importantly, though, the flaw in my analysis is that it assumes that the reason lawyers push themselves to make so much money is the money itself. In other words, my analysis assumes that the reason lawyers want to earn more money is that they want to spend more money and enjoy the things that money will buy. When put in those terms, giving up 600 hours of life for another $40,000 on top of a $160,000 salary makes no sense for most lawyers. What you need to understand, though, is that very few lawyers are working extraordinarily long hours because they need the money. They are doing it for a different reason.
Big firm lawyers are, on the whole, a remarkably insecure and competitive group of people. Many of them have spent almost their entire lives competing to win games that other people have set up for them. First they competed to get into a prestigious college. Then they competed for college grades. Then they competed for LSAT scores. Then they competed to get into a prestigious law school. Then they competed for law school grades. Then they competed to make the law review. Then they competed for clerkships.229 Then they competed to get hired by a big law firm.230 Now that they’re in a big law firm, what’s going to happen?
Are they going to stop competing? Are they going to stop comparing themselves to others? Of course not. They’re going to keep competing — competing to bill more hours, to attract more clients, to win more cases, to do more deals. They’re playing a game. And money is how the score is kept in that game.

On the difference between "legal ethics" and what people generally think of as ethical:
As a law student, and then as a young lawyer, you will often be encouraged to distinguish ethical from unethical conduct solely by reference to the formal rules. Most likely, you will devote the majority of the time in your professional responsibility class to studying the rules, and you will, of course, learn the rules cold so that you can pass the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam (“MPRE”). In many other ways, subtle and blatant, you will be encouraged
to think that conduct that does not violate the rules is “ethical,” while conduct that does violate the rules is “unethical.”
It is in the interests of your professors, the organized bar, and other lawyers to get you to think about ethics in this way. It is a lot easier for a professor to teach students what rules say than it is to explore with students what it means to behave ethically.

On how the Stoics have it right about how to truly find happiness:
This is the best advice I can give you: Right now, while you are
still in law school, make the commitment—not just in your head, but in your heart—that, although you are willing to work hard and you would like to make a comfortable living, you are not going to let money dominate your life to the exclusion of all else. And don’t just structure your life around this negative; embrace a positive. Believe in something—care about something—so that when the culture of greed presses in on you from all sides, there will be something inside of you pushing back. Make the decision now that you will be the one who defines success for you—not your classmates, not big law firms, not clients of big law firms, not the National Law Journal. You will be a happier, healthier, and more ethical attorney as a result. ... (“[T]here may be no way to permanently increase the total of one’s pleasure except by getting off the hedonic treadmill entirely. This is of course the historic teaching of the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers, Buddha, Jesus, Thoreau, and other men of wisdom from all ages.”) (quoting Philip Brickman & Donald T. Campbell, Hedonic Relativism and Planning the Good Society, in ADAPTATION-LEVEL THEORY: A SYMPOSIUM 287, 300 (M.H. Appley ed., 1971).

Please, if you are a law student or a lawyer, read this article. It may be some of the most valuable time spent in your career.

* - 52 Vanderbilt Law Review 871.

Muckraking of the First Order

Radley Balko has a shocking account of how Steven Hayne cornered the autopsy market in Mississippi. During his years, he's testified that a skeletonized woman was strangled (even though there was no muscle tissue to make that determination), testified that two people's hands were on a gun from the bullet wound, and performed 1,800 autopsies per year (the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME) says a single medical examiner should perform no more than 250 autopsies per year and will not accredit a practice with more than 325 annually).

Even worse, there's a man on death row because of his testimony.

Consider Jeffrey Havard, convicted in 2002 of killing his then-girlfriend’s six-month-old daughter. Havard claims he was bathing the child when she slipped from his hands and hit her head on the toilet. But Hayne testified at Havard’s trial that bruises, scratches, and cranial bleeding indicated a case of shaken baby syndrome. Hayne also testified that the child’s anus was dilated, indicating sexual abuse. The DNA evidence was inconclusive: Havard’s DNA was not found on the baby, but both his DNA and hers were found on a sheet from the bed where she had gone to sleep that night, which was also the bed Havard shared with his girlfriend.

Because there were no witnesses to the incident, the evidence of sexual abuse was key to securing Havard’s conviction and death sentence; the charge was “murder in the commission of sexual battery.” Havard, who had no money, was assigned a public defender. His lawyer was suspicious of Hayne’s conclusions and at trial asked the court for funds to hire an independent pathologist to review Hayne’s findings. The judge refused, ruling that Hayne, the prosecution’s witness, was qualified and sufficient.

After Havard was convicted, attorneys from Mississippi’s post-conviction relief office, which represents indigent defendants in their appeals, were able to get James Lauridson, Alabama’s former state medical examiner, to review Hayne’s work in the Havard case. According to an affidavit he filed with the Mississippi Supreme Court in 2004, Lauridson found significant problems with Hayne’s testimony. Most notably, factors not related to abuse—e.g., rigor mortis—can often cause the anus to dilate after death.

In February 2006 the Mississippi State Supreme Court nevertheless upheld Havard’s conviction. It refused even to consider Lauridson’s review of Hayne’s work, ruling that any expert testimony refuting Hayne’s conclusions had to have been introduced at trial. Havard’s attorney had tried to do that, of course, but the trial judge denied him the necessary money.

This is why being a public defender is such an important job. The PD is the only person who has the opportunity to stop a wrongful conviction before it happens.


Poker Stars Blogger Tournament - October 14

Texas Holdem Poker
I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 7483439

UPDATE: I finished 1046th out of 1337 players with this hand:

PokerStars Game #12625899736: Tournament #63028692, Freeroll Hold'em No Limit - Level IV (150/300) - 2007/10/14 - 15:50:16 (ET)
Table '63028692 113' 9-max Seat #4 is the button
Seat 1: MarnieT (16175 in chips)
Seat 2: CarlosMuch (12350 in chips)
Seat 3: CK Pony (5625 in chips)
Seat 4: HappyStoic (7700 in chips)
Seat 5: confieri (26375 in chips)
Seat 6: L'ildeveau (5950 in chips)
Seat 7: G.Petro (5500 in chips)
Seat 8: x68000onfire (10675 in chips)
Seat 9: nskylinezz (15075 in chips)
confieri: posts small blind 150
L'ildeveau: posts big blind 300
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to HappyStoic [Jh Ah]
G.Petro: calls 300
x68000onfire: folds
nskylinezz: raises 900 to 1200
MarnieT: folds
CarlosMuch: folds
CK Pony: folds
HappyStoic: calls 1200
confieri: folds
L'ildeveau: folds
G.Petro: folds
*** FLOP *** [Ad 5s 3s]
nskylinezz: bets 1800
HappyStoic: raises 4700 to 6500 and is all-in
nskylinezz: calls 4700
*** TURN *** [Ad 5s 3s] [As]
*** RIVER *** [Ad 5s 3s As] [2d]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
nskylinezz: shows [Ac Qc] (three of a kind, Aces)
HappyStoic: shows [Jh Ah] (three of a kind, Aces - lower kicker)
nskylinezz collected 16150 from pot
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot 16150 | Rake 0
Board [Ad 5s 3s As 2d]
Seat 1: MarnieT folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 2: CarlosMuch folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 3: CK Pony folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 4: HappyStoic (button) showed [Jh Ah] and lost with three of a kind, Aces
Seat 5: confieri (small blind) folded before Flop
Seat 6: L'ildeveau (big blind) folded before Flop
Seat 7: G.Petro folded before Flop
Seat 8: x68000onfire folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 9: nskylinezz showed [Ac Qc] and won (16150) with three of a kind, Aces


Brutal Bimodal Distribution

...or Why Law Students Get Ulcers.

The Empirical Legal Studies blog has an excellent post analyzing a salary chart graphic for 2006 law graduates. Click through to see this shocking bit of infoporn and the analysis thereof.

As an aside, I've spent about $200 in postage and burned through three reams of paper in the last few weeks applying for Federal judicial clerkships. Not because it's fun, but because it's one of the better ways to break into the second mode in the chart.

Wish me luck.


Better presentations

Merlin Mann has a new post up about how he made his presentations a little better. One of the best recommendations he has is to use Guy Kawasaki's 10/20/30 rule for PowerPoint.*

Both posts offer excellent advice for anyone who has to give presentations. Using their tips will instantly make you a better presenter than 80% of professionals in the workplace.

* - Regular readers will remember my previous post about Kawasaki's 10 things to learn this year.


The Economist style guide available online

I was reading last week's Economist on the metro and noted that they've published their style guide online. I'm fond of their clear, pithy style, especially after a day of reading legalese. More modern and accessible than Strunk & White, it should serve you well in all your writing.


What would you ask a famous economist?

Tyler Cowen, economist, cultural omnivore, and proprietor of Marginal Revolution, has written a new book called "Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist." As an incentive for people to pre-order the book, he has offered to create a personalized podcast for anyone that pre-orders before Thursday, July 26th.

I'm planning on taking him up on the offer and wondered what you would ask a famous economist?


Good things to know about the workplace

Guy Kawasaki has an excellent post with the top 12 things he wished he had learned before graduating from college. My experience is that there are quite a few people well into their careers who still have not learned some of these lessons, such as how to write a five sentence email ("All you should do is explain who you are, what you want, why you should get it, and when you need it by."), how to survive badly run meetings, and how to leave an effective voice mail.

Read the whole thing, it'll probably be the most valuable five minutes you will spend all week.


Iowans for Tax Relief: Ron Paul not "Credible"

According to a press release from Iowans for Tax Relief, they invited all "credible Democrat and Republican Presidential candidates" to speak at the candidate forum on June 30, 2007. However, the Free Liberal confirms that Ron Paul was not invited.

Iowans for Tax Relief will not allow Dr. Paul to participate in a debate they are co-organizing with the Iowa Christian Alliance. This seems strange, given that Paul placed second in a straw poll conducted at the NTU conference this weekend. Anti-taxers are generally pro-Paul.

Strange indeed. Tom Woods from LewRockwell.com called Edward Failor, an officer of Iowans for Tax Relief, to confirm the story.
I said I was calling about the exclusion of Ron Paul from his candidates’ forum, particularly in light of Paul’s extraordinary record on taxes.

"Is there a question in there you want me to answer?" came the annoyed reply.

"Well, yes. Are you excluding Ron Paul, and if so, why?"

Failor explained that the event had been scheduled months ago, and that at that time they had made a decision about who the most "credible" candidates would be.

I didn’t quite understand his answer, though it was apparently more than he’d bothered to provide the Paul campaign. "You thought Tommy Thompson was a more credible candidate than Ron Paul?" I asked. (Can you imagine people gleefully sharing YouTube clips of Thompson with their friends, or holding up "Tommy Thompson Revolution" signs?)

Failor refused to answer that or any other question I posed to him, and closed with, "That is the only statement I am willing to make."

Yesterday, Jan Mickelson of WHO News Radio 1040 in Des Moines interviewed Ken Snyder from the Ron Paul campaign about the exclusion. Later in the program, Ed Failor called in and tried to explain himself. The host was unconvinced, calling Failor's explanation "pretty lame." Listen to the mp3 of the interview (a little more than 1 hour in) to hear Failor sputter.


Results Oriented Thinking in the War on Terror

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Orin Kerr works himself into knots in two convoluted posts about the al-Marri case (4th Circuit rules that Qatari student living in the U.S. can't be held indefinitely as an "enemy combatant"). Prof. Kerr trots out a hypothetical familiar to anyone who has studied Criminal Procedure generally and the 4th Amendment exclusionary rule in particular.

To see why I think the results of Al-Marri are so puzzling, consider the following hypothetical. An Al-Qaeda cell of five individuals, all citizens of Qatar, enter the United States on student visas. The cell members' plans are to detonate a "dirty bomb" in New York City, and they rent a hotel room in Jersey City, New Jersey (just across the river) to build the dirty bomb. One of the hotel employees thinks the group is suspicious, and he calls up the local police and tells an officer that there is a group of Arab men in the hotel staying in one room and acting very secretively.

The officer visits the hotel when the men are out one day and he requests that the hotel employee show him the room. The employee agrees; he opens the door with his key and shows the officer inside. They immediately see the bomb-making materials along with several photographs of Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 attacks taped to the walls. The officer contacts the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. An hour later, the FBI has obtained a search warrant for the room and arrest warrants for the five men.

The men are arrested and charged criminally. A search of the hotel room discovers all the bomb-making materials. The room search also uncovers videotapes the men made celebrating their pending attack; the men each spent a few minutes on tape describing what attacks they will execute and hoping and praying that the streets of New York will "run red with Jewish and imperialist blood."

But there's a major problem with the criminal case: The evidence against the cell members was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Under Stoner v. California, the men have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the hotel room and the hotel clerk lacks authority to consent to a law enforcement search. As a result, the evidence against the five men was obtained in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights. The evidence -- including the videotapes in which they each celebrated the attacks and confessed to their plans -- must be suppressed.

Later, after a long comment thread full of mostly skeptical comments (pretty natural, since we've all seen this hypo before in law school), Prof. Kerr made another post to explain "the continuum between war and crime." In it, he creates a list of scenarios and asks readers to think about whether they should be handled under the "war" rules or the "crime" rules.

The problem with Prof. Kerr's premise is that he has in one of the most common poker leaks amongst amateur players: results-oriented thinking. This leak is at play every time some player tells you about how he folded 77 to a big preflop raise, but then the flop came 773 (which would have given him the four 7s for the nuts). The only way he can justify playing a medium hand like 77 in the face of a big raise is to talk about what happened after the flop; it doesn't make sense to play it if you don't know what cards are going to come next.

Prof. Kerr's hypothetical is useless, because it assumes we know everything about this "al-Qaeda cell" when we're making the decision about how to play the game. In the real world, we don't know everything about every suspect and we can't decide how to play the game based on assumptions about what's going to happen in advance. That's never the case in reality.

In the real world, you have to decide how you want to play the game without knowing what everyone else is holding or what's going to come out on the flop. You can play poker playing every hand in the hope that you'll draw lucky. It's stupid, but you'll only lose your money (probably to people like me).

We can't play the game of law enforcement that way, though, since we'll end up losing something much more important than money. We'll end up losing our civil liberties.


Kenyan Economics Expert: "Stop the Foreign Aid!"

Spiegel International has an interview with Kenyan economics expert James Shikwati about foreign aid. They seem shocked that his main plea is for foreign governments to stop sending aid.

SPIEGEL:Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa...

Shikwati: ... for God's sake, please just stop.

SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.

Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.

Foreign aid money is an inefficient transfer of tax dollars from the middle class in developed countries to the corrupt governments of developing countries and seldom (if ever) results in an improvement to the underlying problem in the developing country. In fact, in the case of food aid, it leads to even more famines.

SPIEGEL: Even in a country like Kenya, people are starving to death each year. Someone has got to help them.

Shikwati: But it has to be the Kenyans themselves who help these people. When there's a drought in a region of Kenya, our corrupt politicians reflexively cry out for more help. This call then reaches the United Nations World Food Program -- which is a massive agency of apparatchiks who are in the absurd situation of, on the one hand, being dedicated to the fight against hunger while, on the other hand, being faced with unemployment were hunger actually eliminated. It's only natural that they willingly accept the plea for more help. And it's not uncommon that they demand a little more money than the respective African government originally requested. They then forward that request to their headquarters, and before long, several thousands tons of corn are shipped to Africa ...

SPIEGEL: ... corn that predominantly comes from highly-subsidized European and American farmers ...

Shikwati: ... and at some point, this corn ends up in the harbor of Mombasa. A portion of the corn often goes directly into the hands of unsrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign. Another portion of the shipment ends up on the black market where the corn is dumped at extremely low prices. Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away; no one can compete with the UN's World Food Program. And because the farmers go under in the face of this pressure, Kenya would have no reserves to draw on if there actually were a famine next year. It's a simple but fatal cycle.

Like with domestic welfare, a hand up is what's needed, not a hand out. NGOs like KickStart and their MoneyMaker irrigation pumps provide actual poor people with the tools they need to get out of poverty. Traditional foreign aid is just money being sent from bureaucrats to other bureaucrats who stash it away in offshore accounts.


What is Atheism?

There's a common misunderstanding when talking about atheism that has reared its ugly head in the stoic philosophy forum I participate in. This post seeks to identify the problem and work toward greater understanding between those who believe and those who do not.

When an atheist describes his/her beliefs, he/she will typically use the phrase, "I do not believe in God."

When a theist argues with an atheist, he/she will typically use the phrase, "That atheist believes that there is no God."

The second statement is not an accurate translation of the first. Theism, in its many varieties, is a positive belief that there is a god or gods. Atheism is properly understood as a lack of this belief, not a positive belief in the non-existence of god.

As Dawkins notes in his book, The God Delusion, Christians are atheist with regard to Zeus, Vishnu, Tiamat, et al. The atheist just goes one god further.

The caricature of an atheist as someone who is sure that god does not exist makes it easy for the theist to beat up the straw man argument that both sides are equally unprovable. "I can't prove God exists, but you can't prove God doesn't exist." Then the theist will say that both positions are a matter of faith. The fallacy is that the theist is claiming that a deity exists without any evidence. A rational person suspends belief in the absence of evidence. I can't prove that leprechauns or the Flying Spaghetti Monster don't exist, but that doesn't make belief in them any less irrational.


Bostonians: Still Stupid

No, it's not blinky cartoon characters this time, it's a garbled fax from marketing.

In a scene reminiscent of the Cartoon Network bomb scare that paralyzed the Boston area in January, police shut down a strip mall yesterday in this small western suburb after employees at a Bank of America branch mistook a botched fax for a bomb threat.

Frustrated shop owners said the branch overreacted to the strange fax, which turned out to be an in-house marketing document sent by the bank's corporate office.

This lady shut down a bank and all the nearby businesses because of a garbled fax. But that's not the worst of it; this is:

Added Rohmer, "I think it was reasonable to assume there was a threat, based on what they saw on the fax."


"I wouldn't have taken it as a bomb threat, personally," said veterinary technician Amy Tatreau. "However, you have to, I guess, treat things seriously these days."

How do these people make it through their day without peeing themselves at the sight of their own shadow? Is there something in the water in Boston?


Congress Buys Pork with Soldiers' Lives

Yesterday afternoon, right before they went on vacation, your 110th Congress (including the Maryland Senate delegation) decided to go against the wishes of almost 3/4 of the American people and give in to the President to pass a no-strings-attached war funding bill. As one blogger noted, there's some goodies in the bill for the Democrats, like Katrina relief funding, minimum wage hikes, and various pork projects. Good to see that, while Congress won't stop sending American soldiers to the meat grinder to die in another country's civil war, at least they got some "good pork" out of it.

Senate Roll Call Vote. Contact page to call/write your Senator.

House Roll Call Vote
. Contact page to call/write your Representative.

Give them a call and let them know how you feel about this latest betrayal.


Games and Poems

Bruce Godfrey tipped me off to a nice blog post about the five games you need to play to live well. It's a good post, and worth the read. In the section on gambling, there was a snippet from Rudyard Kipling's poem, If:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

You really should read the whole poem; it's a wonderful litany of what it means to be a man and worth reading periodically to focus one's endeavors.

Oh, and in the spirit of the poem, there will be no trip report about Vegas.


Rep. Wayne Gilchrest on the War

Reason has an excellent interview with Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) in which he talks about the GOP, the war in Iraq, and what history can teach us.

The whole thing is excellent, but I especially enjoyed the stoic overtones in his final answer:
Reason: You don't worry about another primary challenge from a Republican who thinks this war has to be won or those issues are important?

WG: I don't worry about a primary challenge. It's inconvenient. My eternal soul will last a lot longer than my short, pathetic political career."

Gun Control on the Way to the Supreme Court

The D.C. Circuit has denied a petition for en banc rehearing of Parker v. D.C., so the way is clear for the Supreme Court to hear the case.

Analysis of the denial and the likely timeline for Supreme Court review.

Interesting article about how liberal law professors have been instrumental in shifting the gun control debate in this country.


Interhash 2006 Photos

I went to the World Interhash in Chiang Mai, Thailand last October. Over 6000 hashers from around the world in one place with unlimited beer and official sanction from the Thai government. Imagine the insanity, if you dare.

There's an album of pictures from my trip up here:

As usual, I didn't take enough pictures and few of them include me, but there's some nice shots. You can find galleries posted by other attendees here.

Sorry for the delay in posting.

Prodigy + Apache = Video Mashup Madness

So freaking awesome!


God Debate: Sam Harris vs. Rick Warren

Newsweek setup a sit-down debate between Sam Harris, outspoken atheist and author of Letter to a Christian Nation, and Rick Warren, evangelist and pastor at the Saddleback Church. As Bruce Godfrey pointed out, Harris can be quite a jerk sometimes, but there's little of that in evidence here.

JON MEACHAM: Rick, since you're the home team, we'll start with Sam. Sam, is there a God in the sense that most Americans think of him?
SAM HARRIS: There's no evidence for such a God, and it's instructive to notice that we're all atheists with respect to Zeus and the thousands of other dead gods whom now nobody worships.

Rick, what is the evidence of the existence of the God of Abraham?
RICK WARREN: I see the fingerprints of God everywhere. I see them in culture. I see them in law. I see them in literature. I see them in nature. I see them in my own life. Trying to understand where God came from is like an ant trying to understand the Internet. Even the most brilliant scientist would agree that we only know a fraction of a percent of the knowledge of the universe.

HARRIS: Any scientist must concede that we don't fully understand the universe. But neither the Bible nor the Qur'an represents our best understanding of the universe. That is exquisitely clear.

WARREN: To you.

HARRIS: There is so much about us that is not in the Bible. Every specific science from cosmology to psychology to economics has surpassed and superseded what the Bible tells us is true about our world.

Read the whole thing and feel free to opine as to who won in the comments.

Terry Jones Speaks Out on British Captives in Iran

Terry Jones, film director and Python, has a lovely op-ed in the Guardian entitled "Call that humiliation?" that's worth a read.

I share the outrage expressed in the British press over the treatment of our naval personnel accused by Iran of illegally entering their waters. It is a disgrace. We would never dream of treating captives like this - allowing them to smoke cigarettes, for example, even though it has been proven that smoking kills. And as for compelling poor servicewoman Faye Turney to wear a black headscarf, and then allowing the picture to be posted around the world - have the Iranians no concept of civilised behaviour? For God's sake, what's wrong with putting a bag over her head? That's what we do with the Muslims we capture: we put bags over their heads, so it's hard to breathe. Then it's perfectly acceptable to take photographs of them and circulate them to the press because the captives can't be recognised and humiliated in the way these unfortunate British service people are.

Read the whole thing, it only gets better.


Of Angels, Coffee, and Trademarks

Bruce Godfrey posted about a coffee shop in Utah ("Just Add Coffee") that was selling shirts depicting the Angel Moroni having coffee poured into his trumpet. The LDS Church was not amused and sent a letter to the coffee shop owners asserting that the Angel Moroni was a registered trademark and they had to stop selling the shirts.

From the Deseret News story:
In a letter sent to Beazer's home last week, the shop owner was informed that the image of Moroni is a registered trademark of the LDS Church. The letter also requested that Just Add Coffee discontinue use of the image in advertising campaigns.

Attorneys for Just Add Coffee have sent a letter to church officials to inform them of the shirts and request that the shop owners be sent proof of the trademark.
"If they provide proof, we're going to comply," Beazer said. "We don't want to break any laws or anything."
Church spokesman Scott Trotter confirmed to the Deseret Morning News on Thursday that the image is an LDS Church trademark.

If the LDS Church has a trademark on the Angel Moroni, then there's a clear violation of their rights and the coffee shop owners are infringing. I say if, because there's no evidence that the LDS Church has any registered trademark for the Angel Moroni.

As noted on the Deseret Spectacle blog, a search of the U.S. Trademark Office's database yields no results for the Angel Moroni. I did a search for all marks registered to Intellectual Reserve (the LDS Church corporation that owns their intellectual property rights) just to avoid missing any image marks (like this one), but no results for the Angel Moroni.

Now the Washington Post picked up the story, continuing to accept the assertion from the initial story that the LDS Church has trademarked the image of the Angel Moroni.

Admittedly, it's possible that the LDS Church has a state trademark in Utah, just not a Federally registered trademark. In preparation for my Trademark class tonight, I decided I'd search the Westlaw database of state trademarks, going back to 1900. Still no luck finding any Angel Moroni marks.

The upshot of this research is that the LDS Church does not have a registered trademark on the Angel Moroni. At best, they may have some common law trademark rights acquired through using the depiction of the Angel Moroni, but that's a far, far cry from a "registered trademark" as asserted by the LDS Church lawyers and spokesmen.

And here, I thought that Mormons weren't supposed to lie about stuff.


Maryland Libertarian Convention Report

I attended the 2007 Libertarian Party of Maryland convention last Saturday. The official business was focused on ratifying our constitution and selecting our new Executive Board.

One of the speakers was George Phillies, who is running for the 2008 Libertarian Presidential nomination. I've heard him speak at previous Libertarian National Conventions, most notably when he was running for LNC Chair. He was not the best speaker at any of these appearances, though he always presented clear ideas.

His speech on Saturday was much improved from all those previous experiences. He was impeccably dressed in a grey suit and red tie, his hair was well coiffed, and he looked more Presidential than professorial. More importantly, he was animated and well spoken. His positions on issues were presented with enthusiasm and in plain language (with the possible exception of the issue of foreign debt held by China). He answered questions, even pointed ones, with ease and confidence.

The most pointed question was mine. I asked him what he had done to improve his speaking since the last time I had seen him. He said simply, "I listen to suggestions and take good advice." He's never going to stop being professorial, but he's turned into a much more engaging speaker, and he'll continue to improve.

Prior to seeing him speak on Saturday, I was leaning towards Steve Kubby, due to his speaking skills. However, I was ambivalent about it, since I thought Phillies had better positions. After Saturday, I'm confident that Phillies is the best choice we have for our Presidential candidate.

Yours truly,
Mr. X

...back on politics...


Just a Tiny Crack

The filling in one of my bottom molars has developed a tiny crack between the edge of the filling and the surrounding tooth. It's not really loose yet, but I can feel the gap when I run my tongue over it during the day. Which I do. A lot.

Good thing I have an appointment to get it fixed next Tuesday.


Boston = Stupid

I hate to impugn an entire city, but the insane response to an Aqua Teen Hunger Force marketing prank is the stupidest thing I've seen in a long, long time.

They ought to fire their police chief for being an idiot and send a "Thank You" cared to Turner Broadcasting for exposing his incompetence.

UPDATE: David Weigel has a good article on the Bostonian panic.

Let's all empty our lungs and say it: Three cheers for Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens.


Nutritionism Demystified

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

That's the upshot of Michael Pollan's fascinating article deconstructing nutritionism. Good advice, too.


Fighting for the Law

"The people should fight for their law as if defending the city's wall." -Heraclitus of Ephesus, Fragment 100"

This quote was so inspirational that one lawyer got it tattooed on his arm in the original Greek (scroll down).

The Fragments can be found here with the Greek and English side-by-side, for those interested.

Alberto Gonzales, Master Weasel

Attorney General Gonzales has been busy testifying before Congress. His careful parsing brings you the following entertaining episodes of Constitution shredding and defendant torturing.

First, courtesy of Hit & Run, habeas corpus is not for everyone:

Sen. Arlen Specter: Now wait a minute, wait a minute. The Constitution says you can't take it away except in the case of invasion or rebellion. Doesn't that mean you have the right of habeas corpus?

AG Gonzales: I meant by that comment that the Constitution doesn't say that every individual in the United States or every citizen has or is assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn't say that. It simply says that the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended.

Ain't careful parsing grand?

Second, brought to our attention by eudaemonia, Patrick Leahy loses patience with "assurances from Syria":
GONZALES: I think General Ashcroft confirmed this publicly, that there were assurances sought that he would not be tortured from Syria.

LEAHY: Attorney General... (derisive chuckle) ... I'm sorry. I don't mean to treat this lightly. We knew damn well, if he went to Canada, he wouldn't be tortured. He'd be held. He'd be investigated.

We also knew damn well, if he went to Syria, he'd be tortured. And it's beneath the dignity of this country, a country that has always been a beacon of human rights, to send somebody to another country to be tortured.

You know, and I know, that has happened a number of times, in the past five years, by this country. It is a black mark on us. It has brought about the condemnation of some of our closest and best allies. They have made those comments both publicly and privately to the president of the United States and others.

And it is easy for us to sit here comfortably in this room knowing that we're not going to be sent off to another country to be tortured, to treat it as though, well, Attorney General Ashcroft says we've got assurances.

Assurances from a country that we also say, now, we can't talk to them because we can't take their word for anything?

Senator Leahy was not amused and promised more hearings if he didn't get better answers within the week.

Attorney General does not sound like the most fun job in the world right now.


Queer Eye for the Stoic Guy

Robin Turner has an excellent examination of the Stoic theory of emotions using...umm...unorthodox examples in his post, Queer Eye for the Stoic Guy.

Short Stories

John Collier's The Chaser, in which a young man learns the relative price of love and death.

Herman Melville's Bartleby the Scrivener, a tale of maddening politeness in the office.



Altering "The Contract"

My legal interests and my IT day job seldom overlap, but this post from The Daily WTF provides an example of insanity at the intersection of both.

At the end of the second interview they handed me a 14 page contract, a mere review copy of their standard Employee Agreement. The document mostly spelled out the various entertainment devices employees were not allowed to bring into the building, the number of minutes per lunch break, and the process of turning in notebooks at of the end of each day. This didn't mean that I was hired; it was simply an opportunity to read through the contract in case I had any questions about it. In the meantime, once they were sure I was not a corporate spy, they might ask me back for a third interview.

Another week passed and I was back in their conference room, ready to discuss the Employee Agreement. The first question I had was about the workweek: the contract described a forty-hour week in one part, yet mentioned that employees would work six days a week, eight hours a day. Before I could finish the question, the VP suddenly froze and starred stunned by my copy of their Sacred Contract.

He saw my pencil marks on the page, where I underlined the two conflicting sections. He snatched the document out of my hand and glared at the pencil markings. He flipped from page and to page, and to his disgust he found MORE PENCIL MARKS! Not just in the margins, but on the words themselves! Pencil marks! There were ugly questions marks, lines, arrows, and circles around words; it was appalling to him! He looked up from the paper and gave me stare of utter sadness and betrayal.

"You ... altered The Contract" he mumbled.

"No," I corrected him, "I made a few notes on the review copy you gave me; you told me to review it, and so, these are my notes."

"You altered ... The Contract!," he insisted.

Read the whole thing. It's like Kafka goes on a job interview.

Ten Changes for the New Year

As in years past, I'm giving myself the month of January to figure out what my resolutions will be.

A starting point and one that you might find useful is the ToDo Institute's Ten Changes That Will Start You Off on the Right Track for the New Year. While all the suggestions may not fit your situation, they can get you thinking in the right direction.

Happy New Year!