opinions, everybody's got one...
Saturday, July 20, 2002
On July 25th, Puerto Rico will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the date that their constitution went into effect, declaring them a Commonwealth. Exactly what does Commonwealth status mean? There's been a lot of confusion about the relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico since that association began in 1898. There are questions as to whether the 1952 constitution did anything to provide more clarity on the subject.
The Puerto Rico Herald is running a multipart article about Puerto Rico's 50 years as a Commonwealth. The first part, Establishing the Commonwealth Constitution, 1950-1953 raises a number of issues regarding the nature of the island's governance. It begins by considering whether the consitution was intended to change the relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico, or to define local politics and rights.
The second part in the series, "Perfecting" the Commonwealth, 1959-1976, contains an interesting analysis of the interactions between Puerto Rico and the U.S. Congress. I'm looking forward to the third part of the series which will bring us through the 1990s to the present regarding the political status of Puerto Rico.
In anticipation of the date that the constitution went into effect, a "resolution 'celebrating' the 50th anniversary of Puerto Rico?s territorial constitution" was discussed by the U.S. House of Representatives with some unexpected results. I'm not sure what the future holds for Puerto Rico. There's dissatisfaction with the status quo, but there's also fierce debate over whether the island should become a state or seek self rule. The first two parts of the Herald's recounting of the political struggles over the past 50 years was an interesting and thoughtful analysis. I expect that the third part will be published within the next few days.
To gain a little more perspective, I looked at some other articles on the web, including this one from the Library of Congress called In Search of a National Identity: Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Puerto Rico. Another page, which appears to be set up to attract tourism to Puerto Rico (compellingly, I may add -- I'd like to visit), includes a comprehensive view of its government without discussing any political controversies. The CIA -- World Factbook has some interesting data about the Commonwealth, but doesn't address the current political climate there. The best page I've found on the subject of the political status of Puerto Rico is the Puerto Rico Online Resource Center.
Congratulations Puerto Rico, on the 50th anniversary of your constitution.
Friday, July 19, 2002
the nation's pastime
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-80748
What's going on with baseball? The Oakland Athletics have voted to authorize a strike date, and there are mumblings in the news about the search for a new pastime. It's beginning to look like the season will be interrupted by a strike.
When I saw this picture of the loss of the Polo Grounds in 1911, it made me think of the state of baseball today. The tale above almost had a miracle ending. Even with the loss of their home field, the New York Giants did make it all the way to the world series that year, where they eventually lost to the Philadelphia Athletics. The Giants played the remainder of their homegames at the Highlanders' (later Yankees) field. How devastating would a strike be to the national pastime? It took years for baseball to regain some of the popularity it lost with the last strike...
Thursday, July 18, 2002
double jeopardy in jeopardy
The prohibition against double jeopardy is something that we may take for granted as a right guaranteed to us under the United States Consititution. We adopted it as one of many legal traditions from Britain, and it was incorporated into our Bill of Rights. It's a little striking to see that Britain may stop following that 800 year old bar against trying a person twice for the same crime. I can't help thinking that the problem of Britain's rising crime rate would be better served by better training for their investigative officers than by removing double jeopardy. But, then again, we've had some battles here, in the States, over how the prohibition against double jeopardy should apply. And, you know, if you remove the prohibition against double jeopardy in "cases where you know that the defendant is guilty," you might as well get rid of the right to have a trial by jury too. Oh.
This Saturday is Delaware City Day with a parade at 11am and fireworks at 9pm. I've seen the fireworks display before, and it's a good show. Last year, over 5,000 people came to watch firecrackers light up the sky over the waters of the Delaware Bay.
The Delaware State Fair officially starts tomorrow with Bill Cosby leading off as the main attraction. Willie Nelson and Lee Ann Womack will perform together Saturday night, at 8pm.
A number of other interesting events happening in the State can be found on the Wilmington News Journal's online 55 Weeks section.
social engineering at the university of delaware
A University of Delaware student is facing some serious charges for supposedly breaking into the school's computer system and changing her grades. Rather than using some sophisticated computer skills and software, the student is alleged to have called the University Help Desk three different times and asked to have passwords changed so that she could gain access to where the professors record grades. Normally, help desk staff won't do this over the telephone at the U of D. The third time, they supposedly allowed her to change a password again, and also called the police.
There are some good suggestions on this page on how to avoid this type of social engineering. I feel sorry for this student, and I wish that the help desk had not been so helpful to her. Another good, itemized list of ways to thwart social engineers.
do not call meets verisign
From a seemingly unlikely source comes a new service for telecom call centers to make certain that they are in compliance with telemarketing "do not call" statutes. Verisign will be offering a database and service in conjunction with a New York company to help telemarketers keep track of whom they shouldn't call. On paper, this sounds like a good idea. It's been more than ten years since Congress passed a "do not call" statute. It's questionable as to how effective that law has been. Will having someone like Versign offering a national database make it easier for companies to comply? Is Verisign up to the task?
Wednesday, July 17, 2002
When I saw the title of an article from CNN called A journalist's view from the jury box, I was set to read a negative review of the author's experience within a court house, being forced to perform his or her "civic duty." What I read when I got to the story was another matter:
Most importantly, the system permitted a jury of a citizen's peers -- not some government bureaucrat, secret police squad or dictator -- to weigh the evidence. I could have easily blown off jury duty, as so many people do. I'm glad I didn't.Many people look at jury duty as something that should be avoided. I like to look at it as a chance to exercise a right that might be an example of democracy at its finest. Ordinary people, like you and I, get to look at the facts surrounding a case involving real people, and make decisions that have profound effects upon people's lives, liberty, and property. When we vote, we are choosing a representative. When we run for office, we often have to yield to the will of our constituents. When we serve as a juror, we shape our society.
Oil first started being moved through the Alaska pipeline in 1977. The leases held by the pipeline's owners, for use of the state and federal land that it stretches across, are up for renewal in 2004. There are a lot of issues to discuss, such as reports of permafrost melting in Alaska and how that might pose safety and environmental risks.
A number of people are calling for public hearings to discuss environmental risks. Others are emphasizing the importance of making certain that the pipelines continue to operate. Both sides appear in agreement that the pipelines should be used into the future. The debate seems mostly over the type of oversight that will be involved the next lease period, which would probably be for thirty years. I expect that we will hear a lot more on the pipeline as we get closer to the 2004 renewal date. Some of the reports of permafrost melting that I saw online go back a few years, like this one from 1983.
The article mentions the Joint Pipeline Office, which is a group of federal and state agencies that regulate the pipeline and its Valdez terminal, and consider themselves to be the advocacy group for public concerns. Here are some documents that they've put online regarding the renewal of the right-of-way lease. One request voiced by some members of the public is that citizen's groups should be appointed to provide some review of the spending of the companies leasing the land. Their fear is that cost-cutting decisions might create unnecessary risk to safety and to the pristine wilderness that much of the conduit passes through. The Joint Public Office hasn't included such oversight in their recommendations.
Tuesday, July 16, 2002
migrant workers, part two
The picture that Larry posted below, of a migrant camp surrounded by barb-wire, from the 1940s, was a scene that I think may have been repeated in a number of places around the country. There were some hard times for people who moved where the work was, and there still are. The population of migrant workers in the US hasn't gotten smaller, and the work hasn't really gotten much easier. There is some hope, and some efforts to try to make things better.
I found a couple of sites that focus on today's migrants' problems and concerns. Rural Migration News considers such issues as Housing in San Diego, new difficulties for non-citizens to get driver's licenses, the December indictment against Tyson Foods, and many others.
The Geneseo Migrant Center is an advocacy group for migrant farmworkers and their families. The center provides a number of health and educational services near where they are located in New York. They also have a pretty good links page, which leads to a number of other regional and national sites.
The U.S. Department of Labor also includes in their Employment Law Guide a section about Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection which gives a brief overview of Title 29, Chapter 20 of the U.S. Code -- The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.
One local organization that helps migrant workers with housing, education, job training, and food is Telamon Corporation. The Legal Aid Bureau, in Maryland, has a Farmworker Program that provides advice and legal representation to migrant and seasonal farmworkers in Maryland, and Delaware. The Food Bank of Delaware also provides assistance and support.
Farm labor has always been an important element of the agricultural industry in Delmarva. Here is a historical scene from that element.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
Reproduction Number: LC-USF33-020607-M2
government sponsored internet filtering
Should the government filter web sites? Should they block out certain web pages for our protection? What criteria should they use? There are many governments that do filter pages.
Jonathan Zittrain and Benjamin Edelman of Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society are working on a study to document internet filtering worldwide. One of their first country specific studies focuses upon Saudi Arabia:
Abstract: The authors connected to the Internet through proxy servers in Saudi Arabia and attempted to access approximately 60,000 Web pages as a means of empirically determining the scope and pervasiveness of Internet filtering there. Saudi-installed filtering systems prevented access to certain requested Web pages; the authors tracked 2,038 blocked pages. Such pages contained information about religion, health, education, reference, humor, and entertainment. ...The authors conclude (1) that the Saudi government maintains an active interest in filtering non-sexually explicit Web content for users within the Kingdom; (2) that substantial amounts of non-sexually explicit Web content is in fact effectively inaccessible to most Saudi Arabians; and (3) that much of this content consists of sites that are popular elsewhere in the world.Some of their examples of non-sexually explicit sites that are blocked:
Women in American History section of Encyclopedia Britannica Online
Rolling Stone magazine
Warner Brothers Records
ivillage.com Women's Network
I'm looking forward to some other country specific documentation. The scope of their review will expand beyond looking at what specific countries filter to what content certain commerically available filter software makes unavailable. Great study.
Monday, July 15, 2002
the link controversy page, and online expression
A comprehensive multi-lingual resource on legal issues involved with linking to web pages:
The Link Controversy Page is intended to provide an overview of the legal problems of using hyperlinks, inline images and frames on the WWW. Right now, this page covers problems in the area of copyright, trademark, trespass law as well as unfair competition law.I seem to recall that Denise Howell wrote on her site about a month ago that she wished the Link Controversy page was still being maintained. Well, Denise, you got your wish. The latest update is July 13, 2002.
Another page worth looking at on linking is Brad Templeton's Linking Rights page. Brad Templeton is the Chairman of the Board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and a long time mover and shaker on the net.
One of the Foundation's latest efforts is a collaboration with a number of other groups to bring us Cyberslapp.org, which is fighting against efforts to chill online speech. If you're a member of a message board or online community, the Cyberslapp.org site is one you might want to visit.
Sunday, July 14, 2002
immigration law abuses
An excellent article on the subject of immigration law, and how there's a new and growing class of criminal activity centered around immigrants trying to enter the United States, called Welcome to America: How immigrants are ripped off, points to two types of abuses: "people who practice immigration law without a license and attorneys who exploit immigrants." This country was founded as a place that immigrants could flee to. It shouldn't become a place where they are exploited and deported.
Later: Another article on this subject, called The Snakehead Lawyers, via Ernie the Attorney. While both articles consider the problem from a national perspective, the first has more of a California slant, while the Snakehead Lawyers discusses more examples from New York City.
minor league baseball
It's past time to go to a baseball game. I haven't been to one yet this year. The local minor league team, the Wilmington Blue Rocks, are a lot of fun and the minor leagues seem to be a lot smarter than their major league counterparts when it comes to handling things like ties in all-star games, and the business end of running their organizations. It's also fun to see players like Mike Sweeney and Johnny Damon learning their craft before they become all-stars in the big leagues. No post about the Blue Rocks would be complete without lauding the efforts of the Celery Squad, who prove that minor league fans are smarter, too:
The Celery Squad exists to provide unconditional support to Mr. Celery, and more importantly, the Wilmington Blue Rocks. We challenge ourselves to provide support that is entertaining and boisterous, while maintaining a family-friendly atmosphere. We seek to revolutionize umpire taunting by developing poignant and comedic criticism. Our ultimate goal is to be extraordinary baseball fans.(Thanks for linking to us, Mr. Celery fans!)
silly about snapple
From the something completely different department: I really love the little folks who wander about the snapple web site, and some of the statements that spout in word balloons over their heads. The sound effects are fun, too. (via iconomy)
working for state government
The University of Delaware has released a study suggesting changes to the way in which government employees are hired. It looks like it might have some really good, practical suggestions, like the following:
Among the study's recommendations was a call for eliminating traditional civil-service-type tests and replacing them with processes that examine a job applicant's skills and qualifications. The report said that traditional tests have been vulnerable to court challenges because they don't adequately reflect the actual skills needed by employees.Between that report, and one just issued by the National Governor's Association (see below for more on them), called A Governor's Guide to Creating a 21st-Century Workforce, I think that there are plenty of good ideas circulating about how to change the way government does business when it comes to their most valuable resources --the men and women who work for them.
governor minner in boise
It's the beginning of the summer meetings of the National Governor's Association. I love the idea of governors getting together and rubbing elbows and learning from each other. Though sometimes I wonder if the the lessons learned that they might have for one another are all that useful. Sometimes, what's good for California might not be good for Delaware, and vice versa. The meetings last for four days, through July 16th. I really like some of their "Best Practices" Reports, like the one named A Governor's Guide to Building State Science and Technology Capacity.