Monthly Archives: February 2023

Somebody is Having a Good Week

An amazing barrage of good headlines for someone in the news:

  • Ukraine:
    • CNN, Biden’s trip to Kyiv delivers the starkest rebuke possible to Putin:

      “One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands,” he declared. “The Americans stand with you and the world stands with you.”

      Biden’s words might have lacked the poetry of “Ich bin ein Berliner,” or “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” But Biden’s visit instantly went down in history alongside two defining trips to divided Berlin by Presidents John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan that were flashpoints of the Cold War and each of which sent their own image of US resolve to the Kremlin.

    • The Atlantic, Biden Just Destroyed Putin’s Last Hope:

      “Simply by taking the hazardous trip to Kyiv, Biden made a strategic move of cardinal importance.” […]

      This is a gut punch to Russia’s leader. The Russians received word of the trip, we are informed—and presumably the threat, stated or implied, that they would get a violent and overwhelming response if they attempted to interfere with it. For a leader obsessed with strength, like Putin, that is a blow. His own people will quietly or openly ask, “Why could we not prevent this?” And the answer, unstated, will have to be, “Because we were afraid.”

      The visual contrast between an American president with his signature aviator sunglasses walking in sunny downtown Kyiv with the pugnacious and eloquent president of Ukraine and a Russian president who has yet to visit the war zone is also striking.

    • CNN, Biden’s Ukraine visit upstages Putin and leaves Moscow’s military pundits raging: “‘Biden in [Kyiv]. Demonstrative humiliation of Russia,’ Russian journalist Sergey Mardan wrote in a snarky response on his Telegram channel.”
  • The Border Crisis: Daily Beast, Biden’s Plan to End the Border Crisis Is Already Working:

    [C]haos is already dramatically on the decline, as President Biden’s Jan. 5 immigration actions were the first major step in decades to get the border under control.

  • Domestic Policy: NYT, Rick Scott Drops Social Security From Plan as G.O.P. Retreats From Entitlement Cuts:

    Senator Rick Scott of Florida finally recognized this week what leading figures in his party had been telling him for a year: Most Republicans no longer wish to discuss cutting Social Security and Medicare as a way to balance the federal budget and bring down the soaring debt.

    After decades of talk of scaling back the popular — and increasingly expensive — federal entitlement programs for older Americans, Republicans have for now abandoned that approach. It is an acknowledgment of the political risks of shrinking benefits relied on by millions of voters.

    The capitulation by Mr. Scott, who on Friday relented and explicitly walled off Social Security and Medicare from his proposal to terminate all federal programs every five years and subject them to congressional review, was the latest evidence that Republicans would be looking elsewhere for savings in a coming showdown with the White House and congressional Democrats.

The guy just might be tough to beat in 2024…

Posted in Politics: US | Comments Off on Somebody is Having a Good Week

Avast Antivirus Blocks DisplayFusion

I was called in to debug a relative’s Windows 10 PC. All of a sudden DisplayFusion, the program that ably manages multiple monitors, was not doing anything.

Investigation showed DisplayFusion was active in the Task Manager. The item it creates on the Windows right-click task menu was still there, but none of the items in the sub-menu did anything. The telltale extra button in other programs’ windows, the one that lets you send them to the screen, was missing.

Various combinations of stopping DisplayFusion, restarting it, rebooting the machine did nothing. Updating everything in sight made no difference. Malwarebytes reported no viruses. Google revealed no useful hints. Stopping Avast did nothing either…

But totally uninstalling Avast (and replacing it with Windows Defender) then rebooting–that did the trick.

So I’m writing it up here, in case anyone else has the same issue, likely caused by a recent update to Avast’s antivirus files. Then again, who uses Avast these days?

Posted in Software | Comments Off on Avast Antivirus Blocks DisplayFusion

Where Are the Florida Senate Candidates for 2024?

Fla Senate results by County

County map of Florida 2022 Senate results by Aldinz333, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Now’s about when you would expect serious candidates for 2024 Senate election to let it be known they have an interest.  For legal reasons, it often makes sense to delay a formal declaration until much later, but you would expect to see subtle online campaigns, maybe an exploratory committee or three. Yet on the Democratic side it seems awfully quiet.

Although far from great, the general political picture is more mixed than it might seem:

That last point is in my mind the key: I can’t think of any Democrats with a statewide profile who’d be a plausible candidate.  Val Demings lost to Rubio, and I’ve seen no sign she wants another Senate race. That means the best Democratic candidate will be someone with a strong local base. I don’t follow local politics outside South Florida to even have an idea what the field is–which is a sign of the problem.

Thoughts, anyone?

Posted in 2024 Election, Florida | Comments Off on Where Are the Florida Senate Candidates for 2024?

Attention Law Review Editors

The odds that any actual law review editors read this blog is vanishingly small, but if you, gentle reader, happen to know one, please tell them about this terrific article, Saving Democracy from the Senate, co-authored with one David Froomnkin, that they might want to publish in their journal.

This article is the first to take stock, in a systematic and comprehensive way, of the constitutional and statutory avenues available for reforming the malapportionment of the U.S. Senate. Collecting together the various options available enables reformers to think both programmatically about the normative choices at stake and strategically about a reform agenda. This in itself is a substantial contribution, not just to constitutional theory but also to ongoing practical efforts to reform the legal architecture of U.S. democracy. Moreover, by systematizing these considerations, the article also helps to make clear the relationship between statutory and constitutional reforms of the Senate, proposing a two-track strategy for reformers.

While the work of synthesizing the options and providing a comparative analysis is the most significant contribution, the article also provides several significant and novel analytical contributions that advance legal debates in these areas:

(1) The meaning of the Article V Entrenchment Clause. The article’s claims that (a) disempowering the Senate and (b) abolishing the Senate would not violate the Entrenchment Clause are claims that have been made before, although rarely. But they are not claims that have ever, to our knowledge, received extensive analysis. The article provides this extensive analysis, explaining why a range of ambitious constitutional reforms of the Senate would not violate the Entrenchment Clause and responding to objections.

(2) The referent of the Article V Entrenchment Clause. We are not the first to suggest that the Constitution could be amended to remove the Entrenchment Clause and then subsequently amended to alter the composition of the Senate. But we provide a crisper analysis of the reason than scholars have done previously. The reason is that the referent of the Entrenchment Clause is not a provision in Article V but a provision in Article I. The Entrenchment Clause, by its language, is not a self-entrenching clause.

(3) Article V and Equal Protection. The article provides a novel argument about the relationship between the Entrenchment Clause and the application of equal protection principles to the Senate. Orts in 2019 made a related argument, but his suggestion that Congress could reapportion the Senate by statute takes an idiosyncratic view of the Entrenchment Clause. We advance the more restrained argument that, while the Entrenchment Clause at present bars the application of equal protection principles to the Senate, amendment of the Constitution to remove the Entrenchment Clause would enable reapportionment of the Senate under Reynolds v. Sims.

(4) At-large Senators. Building on our argument about what the Entrenchment Clause prohibits—and what it does not—we explore the addition of a substantial number of nationally elected Senators to make the Senate more representative of the Nation. Whether or not we kept the existing Senators, no state’s “equal Suffrage” would be altered.

(5) Statehood. The article surveys the relevant legal authorities on the admission of new states, compiling an extensive range of relevant material. In the course of discussing the currently most salient cases of Puerto Rico and DC, the Article analyzes a Twenty-third Amendment issue that has not been extensively discussed.

(6) Breaking up (and merging) states. The article provides novel analysis of practical challenges confronting breakups (and, analogously, mergers) of states. It also suggests a promising policy response to these challenges, arguing that federal legislation to mitigate states’ costs and help to incentivize state breakups would be feasible, desirable, and constitutional. This prescription is, to our knowledge, original—perhaps in part because scholars have not yet grappled with the magnitude and stakes of the problem requiring a remedy.

Although we canvas a very wide variety of alternatives, and we weigh the difficulties, virtues, and vices of each, our recommendations center on certain constitutional reforms and the admission of a few new states.

All this, and yet even with the footnotes it’s still under 30,000 words!


Posted in Law: Constitutional Law, Law: Elections, Law: Reading the Constitution, Writings | 1 Comment

Une Préface Pour <<Un droit de l’intelligence artificielle: entre règles sectorielles et régime général>>

I was very honored to be asked to write the preface for Un droit de l’intelligence artificielle: entre règles sectorielles et régime général. Perspectives de droit comparé (Céline Castets-Renard, Jessica Eynard, eds.) which should be forthcoming shortly. An English edition is due to follow in a few months.

Since a Preface is short, I decided to compose it in French, relying on the able editors to correct any infelicities and the occasional failure to agree gender or the like. The result is not my first foreign-language publication, nor even the only one due this year, but it is the first where the foreign version is not a translation. Here it is en version originale:

L’intelligence artificielle sera bientôt, si elle ne l’est déjà, une des technologies les plus importantes et aussi une des plus dangereuses que nous n’ayons jamais rencontrées. Comme William Gibson nous avertit, « l’avenir est déjà ici, il n’est tout simplement pas encore uniformément réparti ».

L’enfant de l’informatique et des mégadonnées, l’apprentissage automatique, dit l’intelligence artificielle (IA), a infiltré plusieurs domaines, y compris des décisions gouvernementales (soit les bénéfices sociaux ou l’administration de la justice), les services de santé, le champ  de bataille, et des tentatives de manipulation des élections et de l’espace public, ainsi que les marchés financiers.

Actuellement, les systèmes d’IA ont tendance à être opaques. Jusqu’à ce que nous ayons appris à en construire de meilleurs, il restera difficile d’identifier les informations spécifiques les plus susceptibles de déterminer une conclusion donnée. De même, sans schéma de provenance des données, il restera difficile de détecter les caractéristiques subtiles qui peuvent entraîner diverses formes de discriminations involontaires, mais néanmoins indésirables, et même illégales.

L’IA soulève de nombreuses questions sociales, tel que l’avenir du travail. Tous, des ouvriers d’usine aux professionnels tels que les médecins et les avocats, pourraient voir leurs emplois transformés. Ce que nous ignorons encore est de savoir si l’IA deviendra notre conseiller, notre collègue, notre patron (et notre surveillant qui voit tout), ou si peut-être certains d’entre nous ne travaillerons plus du tout parce que les IA auront pris nos emplois, étant à la fois plus précises et plus perspicaces.

Nous juristes avons tendance à considérer que le rôle de la loi et de la réglementation est au cœur de l’enquête sur l’IA. Je reconnais que les choix sociaux concernant la configuration et le déploiement de l’IA ne devraient pas être laissés au marché sans contrôle légitime. Mais ce qui devrait passer en premier, ce sont les questions éthiques liées à l’IA. Les principes éthiques de l’introspection et de l’engagement sont essentiels pour tous ceux qui construisent, entretiennent, réglementent ou utilisent l’IA et, encore plus certainement, lorsque nous considérons les intérêts de ceux qui font l’objet des actions prises par l’IA. Mais cela doit être fait de manière soignée. Actuellement, la prolifération des standards éthiques aux États-Unis, par exemple, permet aux moins scrupuleux de chercher le standard qui leur permettra de revendiquer la vertu sans la pratiquer.

Même si l’on croit qu’il n’y a aucune chance que la technologie actuelle produise une IA consciente, il est concevable que, tôt ou tard, une IA puisse si bien imiter une personne que nous ne pourrions pas discerner le silicium sous le sourire. Cela finira plus probablement dans la fraude que dans la sensibilité. Bien sûr, il pourrait devenir commode d’adopter une fiction juridique dans laquelle nous attribuons certains aspects de la personnalité à l’entité computationnelle artificielle, tout comme nous le faisons pour certains aspects d’entités économiques artificielles – les entreprises. Dans tous les cas, les questions essentielles seront ce que nous voulons que nos machines fassent, et ne fassent pas, des questions qui devraient éclairer le chemin vers l’établissement des règles qui encourageront des résultats favorables.

Les problèmes éthiques et juridiques créés par l’IA sont  interdisciplinaires, mais pour compliquer encore les choses, ils sont également transnationaux. Premièrement, n’étant que des données et des logiciels, à la fois les algorithmes et les méthodes de formation pour générer de nouveaux algorithmes, peuvent être partagés dans le monde entier en open source, dans la littérature académique, ou vendus au-delà des frontières. D’un autre côté, certains pays considèrent les informations sur leurs citoyens, par exemple les données nationales sur la santé, comme une ressource stratégique faisant partie de la politique économique nationale… mais les données et le code sont difficiles à enfermer.

Deuxièmement, la réglementation de l’IA est dans une période de débat, de développement rapide, et de concurrence. L’Union européenne, les ÉtatsUnis, la Chine et de nombreux autres pays sont confrontés au double défi de contrôler l’IA tout en l’encourageant – par peur d’être laissé derrière dans ce qu’ils décrivent comme une compétition commerciale et militaire. Dans le cas de l’UE, le RGPD crée chez certains un appétit bien compréhensible pour une seconde occasion de la création d’une norme transnationale, c’est-à-dire un système potentiellement extraterritorial, même viral.

L’IA doit-elle être réglementée en tant que technologie, de haut en bas ou de manière sectorielle par des experts versés dans les différents domaines où l’IA sera déployée ? Je prédis que l’IA deviendra trop importante, trop dominante, pour nous permettre d’avoir un seul organisme de réglementation, car cet organisme contrôlerait non seulement la majeure partie de l’économie, mais une grande partie du gouvernement, ainsi que de nombreux aspects de la vie privée. Mais cela ne signifie pas que des efforts réglementaires plus ciblés ne puissent ou ne doivent pas être guidés par des principes généraux et, en effet, nous pourrions avoir besoin à la fois des principes généraux et des règles ciblées pour maximiser les avantages de l’IA tout en minimisant ses effets secondaires.

Quelle que soit la nature de la réponse de la société (ou devrais-je dire des sociétés ?) aux bénédictions et aux malédictions mitigées de l’IA, il est clair que nous ne sommes qu’au début d’une longue évolution. Je suis convaincu que nous avons beaucoup à apprendre les uns des autres, tant au niveau transnational qu’à travers les disciplines académiques et techniques. Les savants et experts contributeurs à cet ouvrage se sont lancés dans ce projet essentiel d’enseignement et d’apprentissage, et nous devons tous leur en être reconnaissants.

Coral Gables, Floride, États-Unis
Avril 2022

Amusingly, when I agreed to write this, I was not aware that the awesome editors were planning an English edition. I was thus a little surprised when they offered to translate the French into English for me, but I said I would do it myself.

Continue reading

Posted in AI, Writings | Comments Off on Une Préface Pour <<Un droit de l’intelligence artificielle: entre règles sectorielles et régime général>>