Monthly Archives: June 2006

Hamdan Analysis

They do it, so I don’t have to (besides, they do it better):


Posted in Law: Constitutional Law | 2 Comments

Hamdan Highlights

In the extended I post the syllabus (summary) of the case, pending publication of the full text somewhere.

Three key points (I think) on a quick reading:

  • 5-3 for most of it, with Kennedy writing separately from the majority, avoiding decision on some of the finer points of what the Geneva Convention requires
  • Five votes for the proposition — rejected by a majority in the DC Circuit, with prescient concurrence on this point by Judge Williams — that common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention applies to the people held in Guantanamo Bay, whatever label the administration tries to stick on them (e.g. “enemy combatant”)

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Posted in Guantanamo | 11 Comments

Hamdan Reversed!

Supreme Court Rejects Guantanamo Tribunals

Justices rule the Bush administration overstepped its authority in creating military war crimes trials for detainees as part of its anti-terror policies.
–Associated Press 10:09 a.m. ET

I have a lot of meetings today, so it may be a while before I can write about the decision. This is good – it remains to be seen how good….

Posted in Civil Liberties | 1 Comment

A Sign of the Times

Want to know why political journalism is such a mess? A piece of it is that they don't do their homework. (Another piece is that they used to be the intellectuals of the working class; now they are professionals who went to college with the people they cover.) It's gotten to the point that it's news when a political reporter actually reads to the end of reports, as can be seen in this profile of (obsessively) hard-working NYT reporter Sewell Chan:

NYO – Off the Record: “The story I like to tell about Sewell is you hand him the M.T.A. budget, and two days later he’s digging through it and he’s finding B1 story leads on page 250,” Mr. Jamieson said. “I think he’s home in bed reading it. He flips through it and finds things like they’re going to take conductors off train lines this year. It’s just classic good reporting.”

This is unusual? Ouch. No wonder Murray Waas is such a standout.

I think the problem is particularly acute among reporters who cover “politics” which they see as somehow divorced from underlying realities of governing. The reporters with more specialized beats are sometime impressively well informed. Certainly quite a few of the Washington Post and NYT tech journalists I've spoken to had done real homework, as had the main AP guys. But, in my admittedly limited experience, pound for pound the real standouts in terms of preparation are the Wall Street Journal reporters. Either they routinely read in depth or I'm just the last guy they call when no one else is around.

Posted in The Media | 1 Comment

Decoding the Media

Brad DeLong explains how to maximize your chances of getting accurate information if you are among what Jay Rosen calls The People Formerly Known as the Audience and are restricted to the traditional media. Brad’s focus is on economic reporting where the problem is especially large, but I think it’s more widespread than just economics:

If you want to understand Washington DC, the American government, and American economic policy, then: trust the news pages of the Wall Street Journal, trust the Financial Times, trust the political and lobbying coverage of the National Journal. Trust Bloomberg and Knight-Ridder to try as best they can to get the story straight under immense time pressure. Trust nothing else until it is verified. Use yesterday’s *Post* for fishwrap. Use today’s *Post* to line the kitchen floor while you continue to housetrain the new puppy.

Why is the Washington Post so bad? Because too many of the big hitters at the Post (on the National desk as opposed to, say, Metro) are not actually particularly interested in policy reality but rather are focused on its first derivative, which is politics, and its second derivative, which is inside-the-Beltway chatter about the future of politics,

The problem is not that the Washington Post hires people who are unintelligent or lazy while the Wall Street Journal hires whip-smart workaholics. The problem is that conveying accurate information about the economy is high up on almost all the *Journal’s* news reporters’ and way down on almost all the Post reporters’ list of priorities.

Making a splash–yes. … Saying who is one-up politically inside-the-beltway today–yes. Pleasing your editors so they’ll give your stories better placement–yes. Pleasing your sources–like Denny Hastert–so they’ll keep talking to you first–yes. Informing the public about the functioning of the economy and about the dilemmas of economic policy–what’s that?All of this seems very sad and largely true, although there still are some terrific reporters on the print Post who are still doing great traditional reporting (e.g. Pincus), not to mention several folks at the online But it’s striking how often the Post’s editors bury some of their work deep inside the A section…

Reading Brad’s media guide, though, I was struck by how it felt like half of a Europe joke.

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Posted in The Media | 3 Comments

Banned from IRC Chat!

It takes you back to the old days.

Only I never did IRC (Internet Relay Chat) in the old days. (And don't IM or text today — signs of fogeydom I suppose.)

But Tuesday, for the first time in my life, I seem to have be banned from an IRC channel.

About three times a year I go onto slashnet, to the #slash channel to get some help/support with occasional problems I have with a slashcode-based web site I more or less run called ICANNWatch. Sunday was one of those rare occasions.

I posted a three line query. Didn't get an answer. There was basically no traffic at all — looks like people had better things to do on a Sunday. Late that day my research assistant solved the problem. I logged off.

Today I logged on thinking to ask how I might enhance ICANNWatch's RSS feed so it carries full text instead of just headlines. But lo and behold:

[INFO] Network view for “slashnet” opened.
[INFO] Attempting to connect to “slashnet”. Use /cancel to abort.
[INFO] Connecting to irc://slashnet/ (irc://, attempt 1, next attempt in 15 seconds…
= *** Looking up your hostname…
= *** Checking ident…
= *** Found your hostname
= *** No ident response; username prefixed with ~
=== *** Your GECOS (real name) is not allowed on this server (Invalid real name) Please change it and reconnect
[ERROR] Closing Link: icw[] (Your GECOS (real name) is banned from this server)
[ERROR] Connection to irc://slashnet/ (irc:// closed.

I duly attempted to follow the FAQ on how to get reinstated, but to no current avail. I don't even know if this is because the previous user of my DSL link “ did something naughty, or they think I did, or some other cause entirely….

Update: well, banned in the sense that if you don't change the default user name in the Chatzilla plugin it gets banned…

Posted in Internet | 3 Comments

110 Faculty Sign Open Letter to UM Administration

110 faculty signed the following letter to UM Vice-President Whitely and UM Dean Sandler; the number would surely have been much higher if it were not summer:

Dear Vice President Whitely and Dean Sandler,

It is with a mixture of indignation, sadness, embarrassment and weariness that we find ourselves forced to write another letter to advocate for justice at the University of Miami.

In the course of the last few months, our students have shown an array of human and civic virtues that one does not see often these days. Through peaceful and respectful demonstrations and with minimal disruption to campus life, they supported the fight for justice and dignity of people they barely knew. Anyone who has spent any time with these young people knows that they are gentle and respectful, that they care deeply about their academic careers, and that they have a keen sense of justice. These are qualities we all unequivocally encourage in our students. As former President Tad Foote told one professor, there was something noble in what these students did and he was proud of them. We agree.

The university administration has responded to the students’ actions on behalf of the janitors and groundskeepers first with harshness, and now with underhanded and petty strategies aimed at thwarting their right to an unbiased and fair hearing. We find this behavior deeply reprehensible and unacceptable at a university. A university is first and foremost about its students. These are our students. These are the people to whom we dedicate the largest part of our professional lives. These young people are the raison d’etre of what we do as faculty, staff, and administrators of this university.

The administration has used some deplorable tactics with the students. They served summonses to them in class, a violation of federal law (the Buckley amendment guarantees a student’s privacy) and of faculty rights as well as a disruption of the academic mission. They called students to “preliminary hearings” about potential serious charges, leaving the possibility of these charges hanging over them through commencement. They also were told that they had an “administrative stop” placed on their registration (in the middle of registration period) and they would have to see Associate Dean Singleton to register for classes. He is not an academic dean. He is their prosecutor and ought not to have anything to do with their registration. Along with the students and their lawyers, we see all of this as intimidation, something that should never take place at a university.

We deeply regret that these students have been targeted for disciplinary action for acting on the principles we teach regarding democracy and social justice. As currently implemented, the process by which they are being judged is profoundly flawed and characterized by arbitrary and unfair decisions. Specifically:

1) Students who pleaded not guilty were denied postponement of their hearings to the Fall, at which time they would appear before a University Disciplinary Hearing Panel including their peers. Instead, Associate Dean Singleton, who is a witness in some of the cases, now serves simultaneously as investigator, prosecutor, judge and jury. There are clearly multiple conflicts of interest here, and the students cannot possibly have an impartial hearing. Moreover, by holding the hearings in the summer, the students are deprived of valued advisors and witnesses to support their cases who are out of town. The first summonses were delivered on 21 April, which allowed sufficient time for hearings to take place with a full panel to adjudicate the cases and with supporting witnesses and advisors still on campus. This was not done, however, because the Dean of Students granted his own office a continuance to do additional investigation. How is it possible that the Dean of Students grant one side a continuance to be able to present its best case but not the other? The cards are clearly and purposefully stacked against the students and they cannot possibly have a fair hearing in these circumstances.

2) Some students have now seen added to their previous charges the further charge of unauthorized distribution of printed material. The violation cited from Students’ Rights and Responsibilities Handbook is B.16, which references the Poster Distribution and Advertising policy on p. 47. The policy refers specifically to advertising, and requires the approval of the Vice President for Business Services. The materials distributed by the students were not advertisements but statements relating to social justice. They were acts of free speech and therefore not covered by any advertising policy.

3) The students who pleaded guilty or no contest to the charges brought against them were given absurd and even insulting penalties, including community service. They are being punished precisely because they did hundreds of hours of community service to improve the University and South Florida’s communities by assuring that workers at UM have freedom of choice, the right to work with dignity and respect, and to earn a living wage. Moreover, these students regularly do other community service, working at clinics and homeless shelters, for various environmental and civic groups, etc. And now you are going to punish them by making them do such work? How inappropriate! Adding to this absurdity, students who have graduated or will graduate this summer or fall have been given two semesters of probation. When asked how this affects them, Associate Dean Singleton told these students that this punishment means nothing for them. Then why give it, except to be vindictive? Finally, two students have been singled out for a particularly spiteful punishment: the loss of campus housing in the fall at University Village.

We ask that all students who have been charged with offenses in relation to their peaceful and respectful protests during the janitors’ and groundskeepers’ strike be granted amnesty. We need to be a model of openness and dialogue, a beacon for the free exchange of ideas and true learning. To punish these students is to undercut these fundamental goals.


Posted in U.Miami: Strike'06 | 5 Comments