Monthly Archives: April 2009

HOPE Auction

The law school's Helping Others through Pro Bono (H.O.P.E.) public interest resource center is having its annual auction. Bidding ends in a few hours.

It's a good cause, so I encourage you to go bargain hunting.

Interestingly, the number two most bid-up item (perhaps because there was a low reserve) is a 5 Day/4 Night Escape to Cancun, Mexico. This despite the fact that Mexico has been much in the news lately….

Posted in U.Miami | Leave a comment

Rice: Just Following Orders

It takes a special person to invoke both the failed Nuremberg defense (“just following orders”) and the failed Richard Nixon defense (“when the President does it, it's not illegal”) in one brief Q&A session, but it seems that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is that special person when it comes to explaining why she signed off on waterboarding.

See Think Progress » Rice Channels Nixon: Since The President Authorized Torture, That Makes It Legal, and play the excruciating video.

Posted in Torture | 7 Comments

The Case for the Hate Crimes Bill

The House passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act today yesterday. Supporters describe it as follows,

This bipartisan bill focuses on providing new resources to help state and local law enforcement agencies prevent and prosecute hate crimes. The current federal hate crimes law authorizes federal aid in cases of hate crimes committed because of a person’s race, color, religion, or national origin. This bill closes gaps in federal law to also help combat hate crimes committed because of a person’s gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

As an abstract matter, I'm actually not a great fan of 'Hate Crime' legislation. I think in a perfect world we'd be a lot closer to strict liability than we currently are. While I'd make room for some mitigation defenses, I'd avoid most enhancements (including 'during the commission of a felony' type enhancements). The case for punishing all harms equally regardless of the nature of the motive is that the victim suffers equally.

But that's also the strong case for the other side: the argument, and it's a good one, is that in the case of a real hate crime the victim doesn't suffer equally, but rather extra. Worse, other people in the community suffer disparately if they think there's an extra chance of being targeted for whatever attribute is the object of hate. And that last point has more than enough truth to justify laws such as this one. (Note that in my opinion none of this argument applies with any force to 'Hate Speech' claims; however hurtful I see those in the main as protected First Amendment speech so long as words (without true threats) are the only thing involved.)

Having said all that, there's something very stirring about the some of the supporters of this bill, enough to make one's support less reluctant. Consider this Statement of Rep. Al Green,

I rise in support of the Declaration of Independence. All persons are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights–among them, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not some people, not people of a particular race, not people who just happen to be heterosexual. All persons are created equal. And for the record, I support the rights of gay people. Gay people have the same rights as any other Americans, and they have the right to pursue happiness. I support this, the Declaration of Independence speaks of it, and but for the Grace of God we all ought to realize, there go I.

Now the bill goes to the Senate, where it may face rough sledding.

Posted in Law: Criminal Law | 3 Comments

Don’t Do Nothing

A long, hard, sad read from Group News Blog, but worth it: Habiiti Dawo Ga'an, Habi'do'atiil (I Didn't Choose These Ghosts, They Chose Me). Here's a taste of the start:

One of the strange things about haunting is that one doesn't get to choose the shit that sticks.

I am nobody's hero, I'm flawed grievously. There were a few times when I performed well and was noticed. There were many other times when I fell very short of any mark or goal. Probably those times of shortfall were the bulk of experience.

The main reason I am so worked up over the failure to take a firm, and legal stand against torture is that I know very well the price to be exacted from doing nothing.

While I was in Vietnam, and later Africa, I saw instances of atrocity, murder, torture, and rape. I either did nothing at all, or when I was told it wasn't my business, I shut up, rucked up, and moved on.

I'm told that the author of this piece is a member of the Apache Nation, did three tours in Vietnam with Seal Team Two and was awarded the Silver Star and three Purple Hearts.

Posted in Torture | Leave a comment

Another Tweak to the Comments Policy

It's time to update the comments policy again. The old version, 1.2, said:

1. Participants in the comments are kindly requested to be civil, and at least vaguely on-topic.
2. I will delete (or disemvowel) comments that are duplicative, commercial, needlessly foul or mean or otherwise inappropriately offensive.
3. Instead of deleting a post, I may disemvowel the URL to commercial sites even if a post is arguably on-topic when I believe the poster is engaged in a pattern of linking to different commercial sites under false names.
4. I will use blocking software to block links to sites using words or strings commonly associated with commercially oriented blog posts or references
5. I will ban the IP number of any poster who serially violates this policy.
6. My decisions are final. I’m happy to discuss them by email.
7. I’ll amend this policy as I gain experience.
8. In the long run, it remains to be seen if comments is a workable commons or not. I will not have my work be used as billboard for your ads (at least, not without a cut, and this is a resolutely non-commercial activity). I’m prepared to turn off comments if vigilance proves too time-consuming.

Version 1.3 adds a new prohibition which is italicized below:

1. Participants in the comments are kindly requested to be civil, and at least vaguely on-topic.
2. I will delete (or disemvowel) comments that are duplicative, commercial, needlessly foul or mean or otherwise inappropriately offensive.
3. Instead of deleting a post, I may disemvowel the URL to commercial sites even if a post is arguably on-topic when I believe the poster is engaged in a pattern of linking to different commercial sites under false names, or even to a single site under multiple names or linked terms.
4. I will use blocking software to block links to sites using words or strings commonly associated with commercially oriented blog posts or references
5. I will ban the IP number of any poster who serially violates this policy.
6. My decisions are final. I’m happy to discuss them by email.
7. I’ll amend this policy as I gain experience.
8. In the long run, it remains to be seen if comments is a workable commons or not. I will not have my work be used as billboard for your ads (at least, not without a cut, and this is a resolutely non-commercial activity). I’m prepared to turn off comments if vigilance proves too time-consuming.

You know who you are and why I am doing it.

Posted in Discourse.net | Leave a comment

Not Real. Please. Not Real.

Please tell me that this Wonderful Life thing is a made-for-Internet-event like LonelyGirl15, not something real. It's got to be. Got to be.

Wonderful Life is a daily regimen involving a powerful and organic oral supplement and a spiritually based ritual practice.

… The Wonderful Life daily practice is based on a combination of vinyasa yoga, ancient Siberian folk song and dance, and contemporary extreme walking.

Is Wonderful Life safe?

Wonderful Life is 100% safe because it is 100% organic and herbal.

Are there any side effects?

In the first two weeks of use, those following the Wonderful Life regimen experienced fatigue, delirium, vivid dreaming and sleep walking. In the third week, people experienced short bouts of mania. People following the Wonderful Life regimen should not operate vehicles or heavy machinery in the first 21 days of use. During the forth through sixth weeks, most people experienced a waning of side effects as the benefits of the regimen began to take root.

Some people taking the Wonderful Life supplement continued to experience mania, combined with delusions of grandeur, hyperhidrosis and hallucinations. In these cases, once the use of the supplement had been discontinued, these people returned to a normal resting state within 72 hours. The presence of these side effects occurred in only 15% of Wonderful Life testers.

Less than 2% of people following the Wonderful Life regimen experienced seizures and migraine-like headaches after six months of use. It is recommended that people following the Wonderful Life regimen discontinue use of this product after 120 days to avoid serious injury.

(Spotted via a link from RockCookieBottom)

Posted in Science/Medicine | 5 Comments

The Art of Torture

YouTube – Torture Memos: Waterboarding

Posted in Torture | 8 Comments