Monthly Archives: May 2009

Stark Foreclosure Data for 2009

Via EYE ON MIAMI, some stark numbers on foreclosures in Miami-Dade county:

In the first 4 months of this year we have had 25,577 foreclosures in Miami Dade County. That is almost as many as we had the entire year in 2007 (26,391) and more than 3 times as many as we had the entire year in 2005 (7,829). During the same 4 months in 2008 we had 16,248 foreclosures, and ended 2008 with 56,656 total. If we keep up with the current trend, we will close 2009 with more than 75,000 foreclosures. If you add all the foreclosures between 2002 and 2007 (6 years) the total is 79,812. We could possibly reach that mark in one year!

Which is why doing something is so important….

Posted in Econ & Money: Mortgage Mess | 7 Comments

Internet Access, Human Rights (and Search Engines)

Cory Doctorow suggests that internet access will soon be considered a human right,

Homeless people and the Internet – Boing Boing: Here's a prediction: in five years, a UN convention will enshrine network access as a human right (preemptive strike against naysayers: “Human rights” aren't only water, food and shelter, they include such “nonessentials” as free speech, education, and privacy). In ten years, we won't understand how anyone thought it wasn't a human right.

Personally, I think it won't happen nearly that soon — we still need clean water world-wide, but it would be nice to imagine a world where we think we can't afford not make internet access a basic right.

I'm pretty sure Bruce Sterling imagined something like this in 'Islands in the Net'; I know that so many science fiction authors have characters from rich places describing their idea of abject poverty as being unable to afford 'net access for it be hovering between cliche and trope. Although in my imagined future, basic access to the cloud in rich places will be free; in nice places it will be plain free, in less-nice places you'll get ads in your head.

Incidentally, I had a fifteen-minute mental blackout about the author/title for 'Islands in the Net' — although I could remember the story. (Norman Spinrad? Nope. Stirling Robinson? Nope.) This is the one sort of search I make from time to time where Google is basically useless: I know the plot of a short story, or a book, but can't recall the title, the name of the main character, or the author. Amazon doesn't help either.

I could bleg about it when it happens, but that's not usually my style. (Oh heck: anyone recall the old pulpy short story about the guy who invents a ray gun you can make in your basement from common parts that can cut the world like a tomato, prevents the government from suppressing it, and justifies it by saying that now we'll have to be nice to each other? Who wrote that? What was it called? Paging the Nielsen Haydens.)

I'm like that with case names sometimes too, but legal facts tend to be sufficiently stylized that I can usually find them, or references to them, on Westlaw pretty quickly.

Posted in Internet | 5 Comments

Obama Eschews Cyber-Hysteria

Plenty to digest in Obama's new cyber-security policy statement, and I plan to do so after grading is finished.

Meanwhile, here's the very best part, from the President's remarks:

“Let me also be clear about what we will not do,” the president said during the announcement. “Our pursuit of cyber security will not — I repeat, will not include — monitoring private sector networks or Internet traffic. We will preserve and protect the personal privacy and civil liberties that we cherish as Americans. Indeed, I remain firmly committed to Net Neutrality so we can keep the Internet as it should be — open and free.”

Posted in National Security | 7 Comments

Fingerprint Exit Scans Only for US Visitors

The story that we'll all have to undergo fingerprint scans to leave the US is apparently false, at least for now.

It got wide currency, e.g. Slashdot's Homeland Security To Scan Citizens Exiting US, but according to Stewart Baker, ex Dept. of Homeland Security policy czar, it's not quite true; instead, only foreigners will be subjected to the fingerprint screening on exit. As Baker notes, this isn't really a security measure (since whatever harm the exiting person might have committed is a done deal by then), but rather about immigration controls. And the (not cost-effective) scans are something mandated by Congress, not a choice made by either the Bush or Obama administrations.

I think there would be some constitutional issues in requiring a fingerprint scan to exit the US (but not, alas, if foreign countries require it as a condition of entry, and airlines do it here to save the cost of returning travelers who are held undesirable). But that's for another day, it seems

Posted in Law: Right to Travel | Leave a comment

Akoha: Pokemon + Real-Life Second Life for Grownups

This Akoha thing has some potential to be a grownup craze, somewhere between grown-up Pokemon Cards and a real-life Second Life.

Basically, it's a card-based game where players do kindnesses (at least in version 1.0) to others and score points for doing so. Being the recipient of a kindness (e.g. a small gift) enmeshes you in the game as you have to log into the Akoha site to acknowledge receipt of the card and the kindness. Then you can track where the card has been…and it's now yours to play on someone else…but they you're out of the game unless you buy some more cards.

And like any good Pokemon game, there will be ways to buy a bigger deck. (And for organizations to commission special decks and use them in promotions….) Going Pokemon one better, once you amass enough points, you will get the power to design new cards (“missions”).

There's something attractive about the idea of channeling power-madness towards acts of kindness, but I can also see this getting out of control. And I can image some social attacks: a small gang gets together and pass cards around to each other without actually giving away cups of coffee in order to amass points, but perhaps there's a rule limiting the number of cards you can inflict on one person.

The FAQ addresses some of the obvious questions, including “Doesn’t Akoha turn sincere acts of kindness into insincere ones?”

It seems like one of the founders of Ahoka is Austin Hill, who've I've known since before the Zero Knowledge days. I don't know whether to be peeved or relieved that he hasn't sent me a deck yet. Mostly relieved, I think. Although it might be fun to design a card that said, Represent someone pro bono in a foreclosure action.

Posted in Kultcha | 2 Comments

Sotomayor By the Numbers

Prof. Eric Posner blogs at the conservative Volokh.com, that if you ignore her first couple of years — on the theory that it takes new appellate judges some time to find their groove — Sotomayor may well be one of the top appellate judges in the country in terms of influence as measured by citations per opinion.

In various other measures, she ranks average, above average, or well above average.

Posted in Law: The Supremes | Leave a comment

FIU Makes a High-Stakes Bet on Alex Acosta

Controversial Alexander Acosta has been named Dean at neighboring FIU Law. See the AP story and the FIU statement. He'll be stepping down as US Attorney in a few days, and starts soon after.

FIU President Modesto A. Maidique said, “His connections at the national and local level and his proven leadership here at home will inspire the next generation of law students at FIU.''

I've never met Mr. Acosta, but I hear from those who have that he's a genuinely impressive human; smart, confident, very articulate. These are good qualities for a Dean. He'll need all those qualities, because jumping into academe is much harder than it looks. There have been some fine practitioner law Deans, but they are in the minority (cf. Why A Practitioner Dean Sounds Like A Better Idea Than It Usually Is). One thing to look forward to: a visit by Justice Alito, for whom Mr. Acosta clerked while he was on the Court of Appeals.

In addition to his extensive local ties, Mr. Acosta also has a sterling c.v., including praisworthy work on language-access issues, but there are also some question marks. Before becoming the local US Attorney, Mr. Acosta served in a leadership role in the Bush Justice Department as the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. That means he was responsible for among other things:

By some accounts Mr. Acosta did much better at the US Attorney's office than I would have predicted from his resume, or from his initial statement that his chief law enforcement priority would be porn rather than terrorism, narcotics trafficking or, say, public corruption. But there are also reasons to doubt whether things were as great as some local lawyers have liked to suggest: his office tried the Liberty City Six (Seven, Five, whatever) three times, at the cost of millions that surely could have been better spent. It was on Mr. Acosta's watch that prosecutors in the US Attorney's office made recordings of defense lawyer (and blogger) David O. Markus in violation of internal policies of the U.S. Attorney's Office and federal evidentiary rules. This lead U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold, only a few weeks ago, to issue a strongly worded, 50-page opinion, reprimanding prosecutors from the US Attorney's office, and requiring the government to pay $600,000 in sanctions for Mr. Acosta's subordinates' misdeeds.

Although the gracious Prof. Wasserman says at Prawfsblog that the public nature of the FIU Dean search did not affect the outcome, one can't help wondering. Once a local reporter mistakenly identified Mr. Acosta as a leading candidate (when he was in fact at the top of a very long alphabetical list), that made it much more difficult for him not to be shortlisted. The faculty may or may not have wanted him. Then again, we don't know whether the other top candidates kept their hats in the ring, or whether this is something FIU law faculty member and irascible columnist Stanley Fish lobbied for, or FIU President Mitch Maidique just wanted.

I hope FIU Law prospers under Dean Acosta — their students and faculty deserve it, and it's certainly good for us intellectually to have another thriving faculty so near by.

Meanwhile, I'm happy about our new Dean. (See Patricia D. White to Be Dean of University of Miami School of Law.)

Posted in Law School, Miami | 6 Comments