opinions, everybody's got one...
Saturday, February 09, 2002
the supreme court waltz
Just how many justices can dance on the head of a pin? This is asked, analyzed, and discussed in Affirmative Action or Reverse Discrimination: Trick or Treat, by Professor Thomas E. Baker. Professor Baker discusses how the U.S. Supreme Court is tackling with the logical inconsistancies of allowing racial discrimination on one hand, while declaring it unconstitutional on the other.
In effect, a different set of laws for people of different races. Isn't that what we were trying to eradicate with Brown v. Board of Education? Have we achieved nothing but dipping the brush in another color? Shouldn't we be looking for Martin Luther King's dream? ...to be judged 'based upon the content of [our] character, rather than the color of [our] skin'.
[The Supreme Court, in November of 2001 Dismissed, as Improvidently Given, Certiorari in the underlying case. This means that The Supreme Court declined to hear the case. There were substantial reasons for this dismissal. This issue will now be moved lower on the dance card.]
brown v. board of education
In a couple of years, we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of one of the most important decisions that the US Supreme Court has made.
Today's local Wilmington News Journal carries a story about the two Delawareans nominated by the State's Congressional Delegation to serve on the national committee which will commemorate the date in two years. Delaware is very well represented by the selection of Littleton Mitchell and Superior Court Judge Charles H. Toliver, IV.
When reading over pages about previous celebrations of the decision, I came across an editorial called Marks and Markers of Remembrance, by O. L. Davis, Jr., of The University of Texas at Austin. Mr. Davis had the following to say on the 40th anniversary of the landmark ruling:
Maybe 40 years is not a long enough period for mindful remembrance. Perhaps the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board ruling will be the appropriate event for remembrance. Both these possibilities vulgarize and demean our profession. The judicial decision and its consequences merit regular remembrance, routine observance unattached to a particular year. Other important events and individuals deserve no less. Without such markers, individuals and the entire community will forget.
The points that Mr. Davis makes are strong ones, and I hope that in some way whatever comes out of the 50th anniversary celebration can act to serve as a more constant reminder of the fight for rights of people than a celebration every half century. As Mr Davis tells us in the introduction to his essay, "A people knows itself by what it remembers together."
The Statement of J.C.Watts, Jr., who introducted the Bill creating the Commission, to the House of Representatives.
President Bush's press release on the "Brown v. Board of Education Anniversary Commission."
The Commission will advise the Secretary of Education on activities to help celebrate one of the most important decisions ever issued by the U.S. Supreme Court -- the decision that recognized the constitutional right to freedom from racial discrimination in our public schools.
The Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research publishes a newsletter for classroom teachers called the Brown Quarterly. Titles from some past issues: Native American Issue, Black History Month Issue, Ellis Island/Immigration Issue, Asian American History Month. Their Brown v. Board 45th Anniversary Issue covers the efforts involved in building the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas.
- William Slawski
Friday, February 08, 2002
On Tuesday, Larry posted an invitation for commentary from the community at large. We received a passionate email that covered a subject that is of considerable importance in our community. The author asked that it be signed "a concern parent." I'd like to thank the author for submitting this message. They are some words for us all to think about carefully. Here's the message:
How safe is the school bus your children ride on every day?
We all want to believe that everyone has safety and concern for others set as priorities, especially when it comes to the ones we love and care for; our children. We cannot fathom anyone caring any less for them than we do.
However, it seems that transporting our children to and from school everyday may not entirely be about safety. Have the bus companies, our school districts and local governments been lulling us into a false sense of security? How safe realistically are our children when they walk up the steps of the big yellow bus every single school day?
Just think of the immense responsibility that weighs on bus drivers. They may carry upwards of fifty children at a time. They are however barely paid above the minimum wage. We also expect them to drive defensively, follow school and bus company procedures while babysitting and taming our cherubs during every trip. Most of us can relate to having to drive down the highway with a couple of screaming kids in the backseat. Can you imagine thirty, forty, even fifty?
Are we certain it is realistic to expect one person to assume all these responsibilities? Which brings me to my next concern; which criteria are used to select a bus driver? Is it his or her love for children, his or her impeccable driving record, his or her clean police record or his or her stable employment history? What are the school bus companies and school districts actively doing every day to ensure that any bus driver can be completely trusted with your child?
Let's not kid ourselves. If parents did their homework, bus companies, school districts and government would uphold sound safety rules and regulations. We must make our children's safety the bottom line and for once not the all-mighty dollar.
We cannot afford to wait for a child, maybe yours, to get hurt before "something good comes out of it". We can make something good happen right now for our children and their children. Talk to your school officials, your Senator. Find out what the law is when it comes to our childrens' safety on and around the school bus. We, as parents, must do more to guarantee the safety of our children because it is OUR responsibility, WE THE PEOPLE.
Transporting our children should not be a business. The buck must stop here or we are looking at many accidents to happen. One of them may even involve your child. It did mine!
- A concerned parent
Thursday, February 07, 2002
internet friendly state court
The Justice of the Peace Courts took a giant leap forward for mankind by taking the one little step of making their primary complaint form not-only online, but usable online. What I mean is that you can go to the JP Court site, bring up the form on your computer, and fill in the blanks. You then print the form, and you are off to the lawsuits. It is wonderfully convenient and simple. Why don't all the courts do this?
around the law
The first major judicial confirmation battle faced by the Bush administration? A New York Times opinion piece (free registration required) has less than flattering words about the nominee.
They want their ID chips now. About a family desperately wanting to be the first to have chips implanted in them, which can be detected up to four feet away by a special antenna. Scientifically, this chip technology is intriquing. Legally, it's more than a little frightening.
science behind the myth?
You've possibly read greek mythology, and came across a passage where an adventurer consulted with the Oracles at Delphi, to find his or her destiny. Geographic studies cast a new light on this subject, and raise the question, "were the Oracles at Delphi High?"
delaware's legal community has the blues
Make that Dem Courthouse Blues, as the director of the Delaware Community Legal Aid Society (CLASI) gathered together a number of Delaware attorneys and produced a cd to benefit the Society. Some features of the album include artwork by the talented Commissioner Mark Vavala, and Superior Court Judge Carl Goldstein playing guitar. CLASI provides free legal services to poor, disabled, or elderly residents in Delaware.
thumbnails are fair use
A federal District Court ruled that the image search company doing business as Ditto.com can continue to show thumbnails, or smaller renditions, of images used as links to a full-sized image's page of residence. However, a discussion of linking and framing without permission made it appear that the court wasn't keen on the concept of displaying someone else's work within a frame as if it were your own property.
harmless household tools?
Sometimes you come across something on the internet, and you find yourself wondering whether it's parody or not. I own plenty of tools, and yet when I go looking for a screwdriver, I can never seem to find the one I want when I need it. Maybe that's a tie-in to the next article, but I find myself questioning whether these folks are serious when they advocate the boycotting of screwdrivers. (And, by all means, watch out for those assault screwdrivers).
Will teleportation become something commonly used in our lifetimes? This could make some profound changes in the way we live.
- William Slawski
Wednesday, February 06, 2002
some federal services online
The Federal government is getting more friendly to internet users:
gifts of money
The Bureau of Printing and Engraving has a number of unique gift ideas available online in the Moneyfactory.gov. As far as I can tell, they are the only (legal) manufacturers of many fine products, including Lucky 777 Notes, and uncut sheets of currency in many denominations. If you visit the Moneyfactory.gov, make certain that you view their flash enabled description of how to detect counterfeit money. The bobble headed Treasury Agent displayed would make a great addition to the fine paper products that they produce and sell. If you prefer metal gifts, visit the U.S. Mint's online catalog.
check out beach weather from home
When you ask people what the seven uniformed services of the United States are, they usally leave out the smallest of the bunch. It's not easy to think of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the same light as Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, et. al. (Just what are the other two?). Check out the history resources on their pages if you want to find out the roles they've played in working with the American military. One of the services they offer online is the ability to check on the water temperature at the beach. At the time I wrote this, the Lewes, DE, waves rolled in at a frosty 46 degress farenheit, as measured by buoy 44009.
send a valentine, to someone in the armed forces
Since a letter found its way to Abigail Van Buren of Dear Abby in 1967, from a service man asking for a christmas present in the form of a letter from home, Operation Dear Abby has been busy bringing letters to service man and women. With recent concerns about mail delivery, this year's letter writing campaign has been suspended. But Operation Dear Abby is now on the net. Send a valentine to someone, and let them know how things are at home.
Any idea how much you might be entitled to in Social Security benefits? You can request a copy of your social security statement online. You don't receive the information directly over the net, but a copy of the document will be mailed to you within 2 - 4 weeks.
plain english guide
The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have put together a document in pdf format called A Plain English Handbook: How to Create Clear SEC Disclosure Documents that is worth looking at by anyone interested in writing well. The document does describe how to write a disclosure statement well. But it also provides a couple of other functions that make it worth looking over. It incorporates some really great ideas about how to write within the frame work of its subject matter. It also is an excellent guide for people who are working together on a project that involves writing. It gives some great strategies for organizing, and overseeing the production of a multi-person generated document.
buy a home (or former federal building)
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is in the real estate business. As are a number of other federal agencies. Homes for sale is a page on the HUD web site that can lead you to agencies selling land and houses. So, if you're looking, why not check out some of the homes for sale by Customs. The store front apartment building in Harrisburg, Pa., looks mighty interesting. The U.S. General Services Administration has some nice looking homes and former federal properties for sale, too. The only thing listed in Delaware was a 60' tall steel light tower, which is on the registry of historic places. Someone beat me to it though. I did see a former post office and court house in Eureka, California.
travel tips and warnings
Interested in visiting another country? Willing to take travel suggestions from the U.S. Depatment of State? They have a full list of Services and Information for American Citizens Abroad.
- William Slawski
Tuesday, February 05, 2002
court records online
Online Journalism Review probes the question, "Should Court Records go online?" While asking this question, they point towards a web site that posts commentary about five or six appellate court decisions daily, including the awards in the cases. Morelaw.com is the product of a Tulsa civil rights attorney, and provides the type of information that only larger law firms were able to afford in the past.
There is debate over different types of data from court cases being placed on the internet. A great amount of information is collected during civil suits for witnesses, defendants, and plaintiffs. While most of it doesn't get reported in a judicial opinion, it is possible that some states will include more about cases online than just the official opinions of the courts.
Some say that releasing the addresses of jurors and witnesses could lead to intimidation. Somehow, I don't see that type of information being made public on a web site.
Certain jurisdictions in California have placed abstracted information online; avoiding giving all details of a civil or criminal case. Other states, like Oklahoma, are working towards publishing considerably more of the facts and circumstances online.
Should all the information that would be available to you if you visited the courthouse in person also be obtainable from the Court's home page?
If you haven't taken down your christmas lights yet, it might be time.
The President's recommendations to Congress over a budget have been released, for fiscal year 2003. I've always been entranced by our space program, and the thought of people going into space on a rocket, and having their lives sustained while in a hostile environment amazes me everytime I think about it.
One back door means to information about what an agency is planning for the coming year is to sneak a glimpse at its budget request. The NASA budget request includes a pretty good status report of their many programs. Though, the Planetary Society has some words about some of the proposed cutbacks in NASA's budget.
- William Slawski
opinions, everybody's got one
If you would like your opinion published here, forward it for editorial review to: firstname.lastname@example.org. We encourage the exchange of responsible ideas.
Monday, February 04, 2002
danny sullivan's take on the lawsuit over paid placements
The litigation that Mark Nutritionals filed against four search engines last week is the subject of an article by Danny Sullivan in the latest Search Engine Report. It's excellent, in-depth analysis of some of the issues involved in the suits.
Can failure to include the Mark Nutritional site in the top results for their trademarked product be considered trademark infringement? Is the fact that the advertisement based sites have the appearance of relevance based search engines important? Does Altavista fit with the other three named defendants? Is the old "bait and switch" tactic taking place? What is Google's opinion of the suit?
Interesting questions. Good answers. The Search Engine Report also links to the actual complaints filed.
- William Slawski
slight pollution or light pollution?
A recent report of an oil spill at a southern Delaware DuPont plant at first said that there was no impact upon the environment, and then later said that there was not yet any confirmation of impact upon wildlife.
Can there be a fuel oil spill in a river that doesn't hurt the environment?
I applaud the worker who risked his neck to turn off the pump and limit the amount of the spill. It was in the middle of the night, on a slippery barge, and he was being sprayed with fuel oil. He was courageous.
But let's not dance around whether there is an environmental impact - of course there is. Is it less of an impact because of the efforts of the barge operator and other workers? Yes, and thank goodness.
While this pollution was on my mind, and while web surfing for a replacement light fixture, I came across a list of web sites dealing with light pollution. At first I didn't understand (not being an enviromental attorney by specialty). Were they talking about a little pollution?
No, it turns out that there is a thing called light pollution dealing with too much light, or light of the wrong color, or light during the wrong hours of the day. There are even ordinances controlling all of these things (pdf), in some jurisdictions.
Just another argument to buy a 100,000 acre ranch in Montana and hunker down smack dab in the middle.
I noticed a news article today about an attempt in the UK to allow people to file lawsuits online. Here's the beginning of what I was going to write:
An Online cybercourt is in the works in the UK. See the pilot page for the service, which is called Money Claim Online."That's when I saw that "Vexatious Litigants cannot use the service." So what, exactly, is a Vexatious Litigant?
It's not something that we have in Delaware, but it seems to have found its way into other state courts.
It appears that legislatures have passed laws limiting, or denying, the use of the courts to people who pursue pro se actions that may seem to be an attempt to use litigation as a weapon to harm others. People are put on an official blacklist, barring them from filing any litigation, except possibly in small claims court.
California has such a statute, as does Florida. I stopped looking for others after I found out next that Texas also has a similar statute.
These statutes are aimed at people who aren't represented by an attorney. One of the means of being declared a "vexatious litigant" under a number of these statues, is to lose five (pro se) civil actions in a span of five years.
Is there a constitutional right to access to the courts? Does a statute like this deny that right? Or, is the statute a necessary evil, used to protect against those who would use civil litigation to frivilously harass others? I hope that we don't see something like this come to Delaware.
- William Slawski