opinions, everybody's got one...
Saturday, June 15, 2002
segway lobbies for sidewalks
Whether you call the motorized scooter by the name Ginger, It, the Segway Human Transporter, or "electric personal assistive mobility device," there's been a flury of activity by its creator and manufacturer to bring the vehicle some public visibility. Testing by mail carriers, police, and warehouse workers was only one start to its adoption as a mainstream source of transportation.
The vehicle hasn't been released yet to the public, but its manufacturer, Delaware limited liability company Segway, has been actively courting politicians. Company lobbyists have been visiting state houses, and working to convince legislators to allow use of the motorized scooter on sidewalks.
They've even been attempting to remove the ban that prohibits the use of the vehicles on sidewalks and trails paid for by federal funds. Though, there have been some concerns voiced about the use of the vehicles on federal wilderness trails.
The Center for Injury Research and Policy has compiled a considerable amount of information about the Segway, and includes links to Segway legislation pending as of March 6, 2002 in many statehouses. Twenty four states have passed laws allowing for the vehicle's use, and in four others, legislation awaits governors' signatures.
AmericaWalks.org provides a good list of positives and negatives relating to the use of the Segway transporter.
In Delaware, legislation on the Segway moved into the Senate Public Safety Committee on June 11, 2002. Here are some of the Delaware provisions that are part of the bill:
"Section 4198N. Operation of Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Devices (?EPAMD?).The requirement to give an audible signal everytime you pass a pedestrian may leave some riders with hoarse voices after long trips.
For more news and information about the vehicle, visit Paul Nakada's Segway News, where he is blogging about the appearances of the scooter on the web. (I wish I had found his site before I started writing this post, instead of after it was almost done - his pages are a great resource on the subject)
clifford brown jazz festival
Jazz takes over the City of Wilmington next week (June 17 - 23). At least, in the evening hours it does, as the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival comes to Rodney Square. This is the 14th year for this series of free concerts, and the list of performers makes it look like it will be an incredible event. I know that I can't be there for all of the nights, but it's going to be difficult deciding which acts to see. Saturday's show starts at noon, and Sunday's kicks off at 2:00 pm. Mayor Baker's press release has more details, including some biographical data about the performers.
orange juice to replace milk as the commerce dispute beverage of choice
Milk was the king of US beverages when it came to the commerce clause. Cases like West Lynn Creamery v Healy, H. P. Hood and Sons v Dumond, and Dean Milk Co. v Madison are some of the dairy cases that have been before the US Supreme Court involving interstate commerce. It's beginning to look like orange juice might replace milk as top drink for disputes involving trade.
jurors' note in the arthur andersen case
"If each of us believes that one Andersen agent acted knowingly and with a corrupt intent, is it for all of us to believe it was the same agent? Can one believe it was Agent A, another believe it was Agent B, and another believe it Agent C?"On the eighth day of deliberations in the criminal case against Arthur Andersen, for obstruction of justice in the destruction of documents relating to Enron, the jury came back with the above note to the Judge. That's a great question, and it says some very positive things about the level of discourse that's going on in the jury room. The judge's response came today, telling them that they "do not have to agree on who committed the crime as long as each of them believes somebody did." While the prosecution agrees with this result, the defense argues that based upon the nature of the charge, the jury would have to be able to agree upon the identity of a specific wrongdoer.
electronic fingerprints snare serial killer?
We do leave our footprints behind us when we travel through the web. Police in Illinios believe that they may have apprended a serial killer based on tracking his passage through cyberspace.
An online generated map, sent by the suspect to taunt a local paper which ran a story on one of the victims, was used to locate him.
An Illinois State Police search of online mapping companies led to an exact match between features on the newspaper-received map and one found on Expedia.com.Was the person they captured a serial killer, involved in the deaths of at least 10 women near the Mississippi? It's uncertain. Their suspect was found hanging in his jail cell three days after his capture. It was ruled a suicide. Was he the person who committed the crimes, or might someone else have had access to the account he used to get online?
The police should be applauded for their efforts in trying to find a serial killer. But should we be worried about how they were able to track someone from traces left on the net? The Associated Press article raises the questions of how such abilities might be used in the future, and how widespread their use may become. There are a number of issues that will come up as the use of computer forensics becomes more common in criminal investigations. One that I'm thinking about is what expectations of privacy we might have in the files on someone else's computer which show our movements through their web site. Another is how evidence like that in this case would have been presented to a jury.
Friday, June 14, 2002
I liked the following quote, from a federal court opinion in Massie v. Henry:
With respect to hair, this is no more than a harkening back to the fashion of earlier years. For example, many of the founding fathers, as well as General Grant and General Lee, wore their hair (either real or false) in a style comparable to that adopted by plaintiffs. Although there exists no depiction of Jesus Christ, either reputedly or historically accurate, He has always been shown with hair at least the length of that of plaintiffs. If the validity and enforcement of the regulation in issue is sustained, it follows that none of these persons would have been permitted to attend Tuscola Senior High School.What brought me to it was the story of a 12-year-old student who received detention because of his hair color. He was rewarded for his good grades at home by being allowed to dye his hair in his school's colors - a nice shade of blue. School officials took offense. (It also made me wonder how many school administrators out there might touch up a dash of gray with a little something out of a bottle.) A section from the Massie opinion I liked even more was this one:
So, too, we turn to the sufficiency of proof of state interest and violation of the rights of others in this case which may constitute justification for the regulation. There was no evidence that consideration of health entered into the picture; the only claimed justifications were the need for discipline and considerations of safety. We think the proof of the disruptive effect of some students having long hair was insufficient to justify the regulation and its enforcement. Proof that jest, disgust and amusement were evoked, rendering restoration and preservation of order difficult, and that there were threats of violence was insufficient. Moreover, there was no proof of the ineffectiveness of discipline of disrupters or a showing of any concerted effort to convey the salutary teaching that there is little merit in conformity for the sake of conformity and that one may exercise a personal right in the manner that he chooses so long as he does not run afoul of considerations of safety, cleanliness and decency. In short, we are inclined to think that faculty leadership in promoting and enforcing an attitude of tolerance rather than one of suppression or derision would obviate the relatively minor disruptions which have occurred.The other case referred to, but not named, in the article about the blue-haired pupil wasn't about hair, but rather about three children who wore black armbands to school to protest the war in Vietnam. That case is Tinker v. Des Moines Independent, and a line that frequently is quoted from the opinion in that one is that students do not, "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."
Thursday, June 13, 2002
mtv finds reality is hard
You and your spouse decide to take a vacation to Vegas. You both check into the hotel room, only to find the victim of a homicide, covered in blood. As you attempt to escape from the room, two security guards and a paramedic block your exit. An executive producer shows up, and tells you that it was just a prank, and was captured on film for future viewing on a reality show in development by MTV. The couple this happened to has filed a suit in federal court, asking for compensatory damages in the amount of $10,000,000.
religious diversity in america
There are clashes over the separation of church and state in the United States. Despite that, and maybe because of it, the United States is one of the most religious countries in the world, and the country with the most diverse mix of religions. The Voice of American has an article on America's Diverse Religious Identity that discusses how the country and churches have benefitted from keeping the two apart.
the fight over the marvel(ous) universe in delaware
While I was humbly toiling a few blocks away, the fate of the Marvel Universe hung in the balance in the courtrooms of Delaware's Bankruptcy Court, and in the lobby of the Hotel duPont. This was before Spider-Man set box office records, and in advance of the comic book company even having a modest hit with the X-Men movie last year. Ben Affleck hadn't yet tried on his tights to play blind attorney Matt Murdoch fighting crime as Daredevil. It was definitely prior to director Ang Lee agreeing to work on the Incredible Hulk.
Super-heroes and super-villains weren't the ones slugging it out. It was lawyers. Lots of lawyers. So says the author of a book called Comic Wars, about the battle for Marvel, set on New York's Wall Street, and Wilmington's Market Street Mall.
Wednesday, June 12, 2002
The guys who run the web site Dumb Laws, which often receives 500,000 visitors a week, have written a book based upon their web site. That's not all they have to celebrate these days though. On June first, they graduated from High School. I'm glad to say that their collection of dumb laws in Delaware isn't all that large.
A Georgia county issued a directive to its workers telling them that they could no longer have conversations with other county employees in any language other than English, while on the job. A number of other Georgia counties were poised to follow it with similar directives of their own. State officials convinced the county to overturn the policy in response to complaints by employees, and by the ACLU.
baseball labor primer
I'm hoping that the baseball season doesn't get interupted by a strike. The Village Voice has written an article on the subject called A Labor Conflict Primer: The Baseball Wars. Best line:
Selig is not clinically insane. An alien mind-control device has not been ruled out, however.
"Not in My Back Yard" is a common phrase in the environmental law field, often shortened to the acronym "NIMBY." Chances are good that not too many Delawareans have been paying much attention to the plans to bury radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. After all, Nevada is clear across the country. Well, National Geographic points out something that many of us weren't considering. The waste has to get to Yucca Mountain before it can be buried there. You can calculate how close one of these travel routes is to your home and your place of work with an online map from the Environmental Working Group. The closest path to me is 2.5 miles. That's almost in my backyard.
Monday, June 10, 2002
Will Delaware become the 20th state to collect DNA information for all people convicted of felonies in the state? Yes, if a bill introduced to the House of Representatives makes it's way into law. Presently in Delaware, genetic information can be collected from people who are convicted of sex offenses and of crimes against children. The cost of the increased testing is estimated to be between $600,00 and $700,000 over the next three years.
Before that happens, however, there is one definite about DNA information from Delaware. It will be shared with 41 other states in a national database of genetic information. That's something that started this week.
baseball on steroids
The Senate will be investigating steroid usage in baseball after admissions by two former MVPs that they took the drugs to enhance their game play. Some of these ballplayers might want to find out how Olympic Weightlifting Champion Gerd Bonk is doing these days, or read the words of one of my newly favorite football players, T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
law on tv
Does television distort viewers' expectations of the criminal justice system? Do jurors judge the prosecution's case based upon what they've seen on TV? Does the defense have to live up to the antics of the cast in The Practice or Ally McBeal? A summer series called Crime and Punishment will be coming into peoples' homes shortly, and it's a little different than Law and Order and CSI in that the cases are real, and so are the participants. Will it give its watchers a more realistic portrayal of how a court functions? That's a difficult question to answer. According to the article, every minute of action on screen is the result of 200 hours of filming. I'll probably watch at least an episode or two, but I may turn it off convinced that the only way to really let the people at home understand how the criminal justice system works is to allow cameras in courtrooms during actual trials, without any editing for artistic purposes.
mexico's first freedom of information law
Today, Vincente Fox signed Mexico's Federal law of Transparency and Access to Public Government Information, which will require that public information be made more accessible to society. It looks like the internet will play a large role in the sharing of that information.
dogs can't vote
Registered as a Republican, and at a legitimate address, it wasn't discovered that Barnabas was a poodle until he received a summons for jury duty.
visa and mastercard ruling today?
The US Supreme Court will likely decide today whether it will review a decision of a federal appeals court to allow the certification of a case against Mastercard and Visa as a class action suit. The case is about whether the two companies have a monopoly when it comes to the use of debit cards at retail stores, and if the fees they have been charging retailers is too high. It was originally initiated by Walmart, but was joined by a number of other retailers, and last year an appeals court allowed it to become a class action lawsuit with nearly every retailer in the country eligible to be awarded damages. I've seen estimates of damages between $39 billion to $47 billion.
[June 10, 2002 update - The Supreme Court ruled to let the class action suit proceed forward today.]
The Illinois Commission on Capital Punishment has issued a report with a number of proposals, including one recommending that police interrogations of suspects in homicide cases be videotaped. Good idea or bad idea? Minnesota has been videotaping all interrogations of people in custody for almost a decade. The National Governor's Association includes a list of the specific recommendations made by the Commission, and a link to the full report.
the fbi at the university of california
In the late 1950s, a question on an aptitude test for high school applicants to the University of California asked, "What are the dangers to a democracy of a national police organization, like the FBI, which operates secretly and is unresponsive to public criticism?" In response, the FBI started an investigation of the school. Now, after 17 years of litigation, the San Francisco Chronicle has received thousands of pages of FBI reports involving investigations at the University of California.