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 | Comments Off on Fingerprint Exit Scans Only for US Visitors

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, 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 | Comments Off on Sotomayor By the Numbers