opinions, everybody's got one...
Saturday, August 03, 2002
a history of the fbi
American Heritage magazine takes a look at what they call the Most Dangerous Institution, from its formation in 1908 as the Bureau of Investigation to these post-September 11th days. I especially like their sidebar "FBI Turning Points: 10 Critical Cases" which discusses investigations that have shaped the FBI into the organization it is today. An excerpt from the article:
With fewer than 400 agents in 1934, the FBI could hardly police the whole country. That wasn?t the point. What FDR wanted was theater, and Hoover obliged. He selected cases that guaranteed publicity. The slaying of Dillinger and the hunt for various ?public enemies? ?Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, the Barker gang?made the Bureau famous (after several name changes, it finally became the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935). As movies and magazines trumpeted the G-man myth, newspapers proclaimed Hoover ?Public Hero Number One.?The FBI's web site has more details about their 94 year history online. And, yes, the story of John Dillinger does make for pretty good theatre.
a look at clarence thomas
It's been a long 11 years since his confirmation hearing, but perhaps that public proceeding has affected people's perceptions of him more than anything he has done since then. The Washington Post paints a portrait of Clarence Thomas and his life in Washington, D.C., in an article called Supreme Discomfort.
protecting widlife and diversity
Environmental problems often transcend state boundaries. The federal government doesn't always share the same interests in monitoring and protecting the environment that state government does. What has been needed is a forum where the different states could have their representatives get together and communicate. It looks like one has just been formed.
That conduit of information exchange is a new organization, with membership from 46 states, called the Natural Resources Leadership Council of the States (NRLCS). Its membership consists of representatives from the state agencies that administrate programs involving "conservation, resource management and outdoor recreation." Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) issued a press release this last Wednesday offering more details on the bipartisan organization and their involvement with it. The Conservation Fund was instrumental in helping the states form the NRLCS.
a penny for your thoughts
The accounting of funds by an attorney must be exact. I have run into a recurring problem in this regard, when probating estates. What to do about the odd penny(s) left over after the distribution to the beneficiaries. I am right now closing an estate which required 3 years of work, and resulted in a specific Order of the Court to disburse the funds to almost 50 distant relatives of the deceased, in specific shares. But I have a penny left over. I can't keep it. I can't give one beneficiary more than his or her share. I can't write it off, as trust accounting must be precise. I can't go back to the judge over a penny. Does anyone have the ultimate, ethical solution? I may be able to pay one penny as a consulting fee to the person who provides me with the right answer (in my sole discretion).
Friday, August 02, 2002
Delaware history quiz
Who is this man? Soldier; U.S. Representative; Governor; U.S. Senator.
delaware history quiz
What antislavery newspaper was founded in 1854 by Delawarean Mary Ann Shadd Cary?
sluggish car sales(persons?)
I have recently been shopping for a replacement vehicle, spurred on by the upcoming conclusion to a lease and the low/no interest financing available with some vehicles. Even though it is clear that the economy is squeezing the new car industry I have experienced the following examples of "squeezing back":
A local GMC salesman denies having a vehicle that was on sale in the newspaper, even though that same salesman rode on a test drive with me and my wife in that vehicle. Yes, I could make a stink. But I just want to buy a vehicle. I am not looking for a lawsuit - I work with lawsuits every day and they are just that...work;
A very local Dodge salesman located a minivan that met my needs, at another dealer in Pennsylvania, but couldn't afford to bring the vehicle here unless I bought it first, sight unseen. I was given the option to drive an hour to the other dealer to inspect the vehicle, or to even buy the vehicle from that other dealer. He was pleasant about it - he just was so far down he couldn't dig out;
My local Honda salesperson doesn't need to sell. For $1000 in advance, they will order a minivan for me to test drive in a month or two. None were available for me to view at the dealership. No sale, no incentive, no special deal, no discussion. They are apparently immune from the squeeze.
I was pleased with the folks at Sheridan Ford. They had plenty of information, without pressure, and decent incentives. Unfortunately, I don't think their vehicles suit my current needs. My wife and I did however see a really nice Thunderbird convertible there that excited our imagination. With kids, that kind of a car is only imagination.
I recommend not giving name and phone number information to salespersons, unless you want to be called.
Utah has a new anti-spam law, and it appears that the first case to test it involves a class action suit against Sprint. Utah's law requires that "ADV" appears in the subject area of the email, and a full name and address, as well as a legitimate way to remove the receivers from getting future mailings at no cost to them. It's possible that 100,000 people in the state received an unsolicited commercial email from Sprint.
Delaware has an anti-spam law that is regarded as one of the strictest in the country. But, as recently as a couple of months ago, a statement from the Attorney General's office was made that no one had ever been prosecuted under the law. Delaware does define civil procedures for bringing an action against people sending unsolicited commercial email. If the case in Utah is successful, perhaps someone in Delaware will be inspired to pursue one of those civil remedies.
saving internet radio
Doc Searls takes a long and impassioned look at the demise of small internet webcasters:
The other side's purpose is plain. They want to turn the entire world into an extension of Hollywood, where nothing happens until leagues of lawyers "clear rights" to every imaginable piece of intellectual property that might show up in a movie, a musical recording or some other "content" that will flow from a few huge producers to millions of "consumers" through government-regulated and industry-controlled distribution pipes. They want to tear up the Internet's commons and replace it with the same cartelized piping system that controls television, movie distribution and commercial radio.He then offers a number of links to sites that have more information about how you can help prevent this from happening.
Thursday, August 01, 2002
initiative and referendum
Is the greatest burden that the effort to legalize marijuana for medical uses faces one of perception? An ABC news article examines that question. Are Representatives and Senators hesitant to vote on this issue because of concerns about their image? To make this point, ABC mentions processes that have taken the decision out of politician's hands:
So NORML has appealed directly to voters to overcome the congressional gridlock. Via the initiative and referendum process, nine states have approved the legalization of medicinal marijuana and 12 states have passed laws that decriminalize the responsible possession and consumption of pot ? turning what was previously an arrestable offense into a ticketable misdemeanor.What I find interesting about this look at medical uses of marijuana isn't so much the arguments over whether or not it should be legal, but rather the initiative and referendum processes. The Initiative and Referendum Institute is one organization that is trying to share more information on how these processes work, and their site makes for some good reading.
Wednesday, July 31, 2002
standardized software law
Should there be consistent nationwide laws dealing with software, software licensing, and digital transactions? The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) is a group that creates recommendations for "uniform" laws that states can adopt so that certain legal issues are handled consistently from one state to another. There's a great deal of controversy over a nationwide model law they are reviewing now in Arizona, between the NCCUSL and states and consumer advocacy groups and software manufacturers.
An example of a model law from NCCUSL that works well and has been adopted in most, if not all states, is the Uniform Act to Secure the Attendance of Witnesses from Without a State. A Delaware subpoena doesn't have the power to compel someone in Maryland to attend a criminal case in Delaware. Under the Uniform Act, a Delaware attorney would get a Maryland attorney to file in a Maryland Court a certification signed by a Delaware Judge that testimony from a Maryland resident was material to a case in Delaware. The certification would be accompanied by a request to have the Maryland resident come into the Maryland Court, and explain to a Maryland Judge why he or she shouldn't be compelled to go to Delaware and testify in the Delaware trial. The Maryland Judge can then order that the Maryland resident go to Delaware to testify. This model rule works well because it allows the states to work together, and it safeguards the citizens of each state by allowing a hearing within their own state.
The uniform model law that NCCUSL is looking at in Arizona this week, and trying to amend is the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA). The proposed law originally came out three years ago, but most states, including Delaware haven't adopted it:
UCITA (pronounced you-see-ta) has met with fierce criticism since its introduction three years ago. Consumer groups, legal associations and library organizations have excoriated the proposed act for the freedom it would grant software makers to restrict the use of software and dictate the settlement terms for conflicts.A vote, possibly tomorrow, by the Commissioners will decide whether a number of amendments to the model law will be accepted by the organization. Regardless of whether the amendments are brought into UCITA or not, it will still be up to each state to decide if they want to take the model rule and make it part of their laws. Neither the software manufacturers nor the consumer groups appear to like the amendments, which were attempts at a compromise between them. Getting the states to accept them under that cloud of disagreement is asking a great deal.
Tuesday, July 30, 2002
An federal appellate court in Pennsylvania reinstated a case brought by prisoners who would like to be able to watch adult-themed movies. A 1996 federal law bans all R, X and NC-17 rated movies. One US Supreme Court case that is often pointed towards when issues of prison regulations and prisoner rights clash is Turner v. Safley. Does that case apply here? It's possible. As the Yahoo article suggests, a broad prohibition against R and NC-17 movies would mean that prisoners can't watch films like Amistad and Schindler's List.
jury duty -- a different perspective
An interesting take on Jury Duty as theatre, from San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ken Gracia. Well, maybe not jury duty itself, but rather the excuses people sometimes find to try to get themselves from having to participate.
Were the stars and stripes first brought in to wave over a battlefield in Delaware? The Battle of Cooch's Bridge will be re-enacted on August 24th, and some controversy exists as to whether or not the Stars and Stripes had yet been sewn in response to the Congressional Flag Resolution. The Continental Congress had officially decided what the flag would look like on June 14th, 1777. Fighting at Cooch's Bridge took place a few months later on September 3rd. Another re-enactment, that of the Battle of the Brandywine, will take place on September 22 near Chadds-Ford, Pa.
blogging by and about northeastern pennsylvania
I had the chance to visit northeastern Pennsylvania today. Well, not in person exactly. The NEPA Blog is an example of the type of regional blogging that I think is an awesome addition to the web. As the authors write on their "about" page:
This is a blog about Northeastern Pennsylvania. It's a collaborative blog by a group of NEPA residents, discussing & linking to news, happenings, and web sites in NEPA.If you're from northeastern Pennsylvania, NEPA Blog is a great place to learn about what's going on around you -- and they are inviting others to participate by posting, or by commenting. If you're not a citizen of that region, it's still a terrific opportunity to explore the area. Some recent topics on the NEPA Blog have included: drug addiction treatment, community image, cultural events, fast food and zoning laws, and West Nile Virus. Great site.
opening icann's books
California's laws require that a nonprofit group allow access of their records to board members. That's the basis upon which a judge in California ruled to require the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to allow a board member of the organization to review the organization's books:
During the 90-minute hearing, Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs said that ICANN board members could not be denied their right under California law to review financial records, travel logs, legal contracts and other internal documents.I'm amazed that a nonprofit would deny a director a chance to read this material.
A Massachusetts teacher asked students to bring in books on their Christmas traditions. One brought in a book about Jesus Christ, and the student was asked to stop reading when she came to a passage about the birth of Jesus. The school was sued in federal court today for violating the student's right to free speech and exercise of religion. I'm not certain that this case will rise to the same level of media attention that the recent Ninth Circuit decision involving the Pledge of Allegiance did. Chances are that it won't. But, cases involving a clash between the anti-establishment clause and freedom of speech will probably draw more attention now then they did prior to the ruling on the pledge. Will there be a different ruling in this case than there would have been without the shadow of the political reaction to the Ninth Circuit decision?
social security security
A new law in California now has an official guidebook to go with it to help companies comply with the law. As for the new privacy law:
The law went into effect this month and prohibits businesses from posting or displaying Social Security numbers, printing them on identification cards, or requiring people to transmit the numbers over the Internet unless the connection is secure.Both the guidebook, and the law sound like good ideas.
paid leave in california?
Will California become the first state to offer the right to paid leave "to care for sick family members or a new child?" A legislative proposal there would set up an insurance fund in which employers and employees contribute, and could mean 12 weeks of leave per year at fifty-five percent of a person's salary from that fund. A large number of other states have been considering something similar. California may become the first state to actually offer such benefits.
wireless court network hacked
A computer security analyst in Houston, was indicted by a grand jury on charges of fraud, after he demonstrated to a county official how simple it was to hack into the county court's wireless network, about a month after it was set up. I find myself wondering, as the UK's Messenger does, is this "prosecution a case of shooting the messenger?"
Monday, July 29, 2002
the daniel herrmann courthouse
It's not until you reach the center of downtown Wilmington that you discover the true character of the City. Perhaps the most recognizable sight to most residents of, and visitors to Wilmington, is Rodney Square. In addition to a statue of Delaware's constitutional hero, Ceasar Rodney (featured on the back of Delaware's quarter) is a public area that's been home to a very large number of speeches and concerts and public events.
If someone was to describe this block of grass, and benches, and bus stops, and landscaping to you as the Heart of the City, they would be on the mark. When firefighters who rescued people at the World Trade Center came to Delaware last November, to be honored by the State, the ceremony was held in Rodney Square. When Governor Minner signed Delaware's Indoor Clean Air Act recently, it was under the shadow of the statue of Ceasar Rodney.
The buildings that surround the square are also well known.
On one side is the Wilmington Public Library, built in 1924.
On another is Delaware's most famous hotel, and the choice accomodation for owners of more than half of the Fortune 500 companies, when it comes time to have a shareholder's meeting. The Hotel duPont has long been given top honors for the quality of its food, and until recent times, its theatre was often used as a place to preview a play before it opened on Broadway.
On the next side around, if one were to travel clockwise about the square, is what is now the Wilmington Trust Building. Its front facade however, is that of Wilmington's long time federal building and post office. A number of years ago, the federal courts and offices moved down King Street a couple of blocks, but the facade remains as a reminder of the location's former significance.
The last side has often been recognized as the center for justice and democracy in New Castle County, and the State of Delaware. Long known as the "Public Building," it has also been called the Daniel Herrmann Court House the last few years. It holds within its walls Chancery Court, Superior Court, the Court of Common Pleas, and a number of other government offices. The structure's past has seen many other tenants:
The building was symmetrical, with all New Castle County government offices and the courts at the north end, and all city offices, including the board of education, the municipal court and the Wilmington police, at the south end. Each side had its own entrance, with the words "Court House" over the county side entrance and "City Hall" over the city side entrance. Inside, the two were joined by a wide, two-story arcade that was lined with the city and county offices that had the most dealings with the public. Each office had a door and a teller-style window and shelf where citizens could do business.Starting next week, Family Court will be the first of many of the courts in New Castle County to begin the move to a new Justice Center, which will officially open for business on September 3. The Wilmington News Journal describes in some detail the history of the Public Building and provides audio links to memories of what the Courthouse meant to some of its inhabitants. We will provide more about the move, and what it means to Delaware and Delawareans in the weeks to come.
Sunday, July 28, 2002
ivy league shenanigans
Not to take away anything from the immorality of what happened. But, there's a problem with this picture. We know that a Princeton recruiter hacked into Yale's web site to find out whether or not certain students who applied at both schools were accepted. If Yale had instituted a password protection system for the information, it wouldn't have been so easy for the Princeton Associate Dean to do. More details have followed, including the news that the acceptance notices of Lauren Bush and Ara Parseghian, grandson of the Notre Dame University football coach, were amongst those viewed. The Princeton admissions officer has admitted entering the site, and claims that he was testing its security. (No news from either article as to whether Princeton has an online admissions acceptance notice database, and whether it might or might not be password protected.) Using name, date of birth, and social security number as the keys to a "secured" system is just not a good idea.