Monthly Archives: April 2006

Meanwhile, Back in Tallahassee

The Florida legislature has been unusually busy this year, and by and large the results are pretty ugly.

The legislature passed, and Jeb Bush signed, a bill repealing the doctrine of joint and several liability in Florida. Henceforth, joint tortfeasors will no longer be required to contribute more than their percentage of the judge or jury’s assessment of their share of the total fault. Deep pockets can rest easier. The value of patsies just increased. And victims (and taxpayers) will have to pay more when some members of a group of joint tortfeasors are judgment-proof.

Florida is infested with billboards. And south Florida is full of billboards blatantly erected in violation of local law…which for years wasn’t enforced in exchange for bribes and/or campaign contributions. Eventually, the laws here got changed to ‘grandfather’ them in so that some streets I drive on, like Bird Road, are overrun with the things. The Florida legislature’s reaction to this will, however, boggle your mind. It has just passed a bill that…protects billboards from the threat of being obstructed by trees.

Ladybird Johnson must be spinning in her grave. [UPDATE: As noted by an astute commentator, Ladybird Johnson is in fact living; according to the wikipedia “She has been protected by the Secret Service longer than anyone else in history.”] This isn’t just a failure to ‘beautify’ roads — it’s a public commitment to permanent uglification. If Jeb Bush signs this one, local governments will be forbidden from planting any trees where they might obstruct the public’s view of those glorious billboards.

The bill requires that billboards be given a clear sight line of 500 feet on roads with speed limits above 35 mph and 350 feet where the speed limit is under 35 mph. If counties or cities plant trees within that zone, they have 90 days to remove them or face a court fight and fines.

And if existing trees near a billboard are knocked down in a hurricane or if they die, they cannot be replaced except by low-growing shrubs or flowers that do not block the sign.

Still on the legislative agenda: proposals to gut the class-size amendment, the voter-approved mandate to have small classes in schools. That amendment has been a perennial bone in the Republican throat since at some point you might actually have to appropriate money to build those classrooms and pay those teachers.

There has been a ray of good news: spurred by the public scandal of an on-camera murder of a child by guards at a Florida “boot camp” (and the furor over the ensuing attempt at a coverup, then a whitewash), the legislature has voted to “demilitarize” the boot camps to which youthful offenders can be sent. Instead of a regime where guards, who were essentially unregulated and unsupervised, could and did use as much violence as they wanted for minor infractions such as ‘not looking respectful’, the new statute “bans the use of stun guns, pepper spray, pressure points, mechanical restraints and psychological intimidation unless a child is a threat to himself or others.” Yes, in Florida this really is enormous progress, so let’s be grateful for it.

Posted in Florida | 11 Comments

Good News / Bad News

1000 days to go in the current Presidential term.

Posted in Politics: US | 2 Comments

Meet the Bloggers

I will be attending the Harvard Law School Berkman Center conference on blogging and legal scholarship tomorrow and Friday.

As part of the fun, Eugene Volokh is organizing a Thursday evening get-together between bloggers and (one hopes) readers from about 9 pm to about 11 pm in the Zephyr Lounge of the Hyatt Regency Cambridge, 575 MemorialDrive.

I’ll be there, as will

Ann Althouse, Althouse
Randy Barnett, The Volokh Conspiracy
Howard Bashman, How Appealing
Douglas Berman, Sentencing Law and Policy
Paul Butler, BlackProf
Paul Caron, Taxprof
Eric Goldman, Technology & Marketing Law Blog
Gail Heriot, The Right Coast
Christine Hurt, Conglomerate
Orin Kerr, The Volokh Conspiracy and OrinKerr.com
Peter Lattman, Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog
Jim Lindgren, The Volokh Conspiracy
Betsy Malloy, Health Law Prof Blog
Ellen Podgor, White Collar Crime Prof Blog
Larry Ribstein, Ideoblog
Gordon Smith, Conglomerate
Dan Solove, Concurring Opinions
Larry Solum, Legal Theory Blog
Eugene Volokh, The Volokh Conspiracy

If you are a reader of this blog, and live within striking distance of Cambridge, Mass, I’d enjoy meeting you. Whether you want to look under the hood of this blog is of course up to you.

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“Well, there’s your problem”

(cartoon by Edward Koren)

Posted in Talks & Conferences | Leave a comment

Annals of Mind Control

They had a special event over at the 7th grader’s middle school yesterday, in which a special guest speaker lectured students on the “dangers of the Internet”.

This is something like the fourth program this year for parents or students about the evils of high technology. So far we had the evils of violent video games, the dangers of instant messenger, something or other about how you should never surf bad places or the gremlins will get you and more that I forget. (The stupidest by far was the violent video games talk, by one Jack Thompson. I wrote a letter complaining about that one.) The other talks have been optional evening events, but this one was during school hours, so it was the first one that one of us actually attended.

The 7th grader found it all rather dull. He had on board the idea that it would not be too bright a move to agree to meet a stranger that one ‘met’ online (and indeed is mostly interested in single-player games at the moment). He found the repetition of this idea for more than 50 minutes to be rather boring.

“She talked for the entire period,” he moaned. “And after the first few minutes I just sat there and thought ‘you won’t get me with this Jedi Mind Control’“.

I more than half suspect he is thinking the same thing when we talk to him…

Posted in Internet | 3 Comments

This is Amazing

Sometimes there really is a conspiracy:

The multimillion-dollar lobbying effort to repeal the federal estate tax has been aggressively led by 18 super-wealthy families, according to a report released today by Public Citizen and United for a Fair Economy at a press conference in Washington, D.C. The report details for the first time the vast money, influence and deceptive marketing techniques behind the rhetoric in the campaign to repeal the tax.

It reveals how 18 families worth a total of $185.5 billion have financed and coordinated a 10-year effort to repeal the estate tax, a move that would collectively net them a windfall of $71.6 billion.

The report, available at www.citizen.org, profiles the families and their businesses, which include the families behind Wal-Mart, Gallo wine, Campbell’s soup, and Mars Inc., maker of M&Ms. Collectively, the list includes the first- and third-largest privately held companies in the United States, the richest family in Alabama and the world’s largest retailer.

These families have sought to keep their activities anonymous by using associations to represent them and by forming a massive coalition of business and trade associations dedicated to pushing for estate tax repeal. The report details the groups they have hidden behind – the trade associations they have used, the lobbyists they have hired, and the anti-estate tax political action committees, 527s and organizations to which they have donated heavily.

Please note: this is NOT posted to the politics:tin-foil category.

Posted in Econ & Money | 3 Comments

Where Evil Predators Pick Their Victims

This little ditty from the Daily Mail explains what is going to happen if you go on to the Internet today. Really funny!

Posted in Completely Different | Leave a comment