opinions, everybody's got one...
Saturday, September 14, 2002
big brother in the UK
A chilling article from the Guardian Unlimited on the monitoring of emails, internet habits and mobile phone usage in the UK:
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), introduced in 2000, handed them extensive powers to intercept communications. Obtaining the content of phone calls or emails still requires a warrant from the home secretary and can only be done on grounds of national security, investigating serious crime or safeguarding economic wellbeing. However, Ripa allows police, the security services, customs, and the Inland Revenue to access communications records on their own authority for a much broader range of purposes, from national security to the collection of taxes.They further report on even more intrusive legislation that has passed through the legislature since September 11th, 2001. Paranoia, or an accurate portrayal of the state of privacy in the United Kingdom? The collection of useful links at the bottom of the Guardian article do lead to some interesting pages. One is to the National Criminal Intelligence Service, which I found to be fascinating.
suing weight watchers?
Back in May, Salon ran an article called Can we sue our own fat asses off? The author wrote that victories over the tobacco industry might lead activists to fight obesity by going after the sellers of junk food in a similar manner.
There might be some problems with that type of litigation. One of the most successful strategies in getting public opinion shifted against the tobacco industry was to focus upon the harm to people suffering from "second hand" smoke. Not the people who used cigarettes, but rather the ones who were forced to put up with the smoke. The Salon article painted a reasonable picture of the difficulties of legislating or litigating away the problem of obesity.
But, what if the sellers of junk food are the wrong targets? Susie Orbach, who is the author of a best-selling anti-diet book from 1978 called Fat Is a Feminist Issue, is claiming that the diet industry is to blame for obesity:
Fat Is A Feminist Issue author Susie Orbach has identified two main reasons for the Western world's obesity crisis ... a sense of guilt and the diet industry.Of course, threats of a legal nature aren't the same as filing a complaint in court. And, the cynic in me says that publicity over threats of legal action against the diet industry might be aimed towards making the author's newest book a best seller, too. Regardless of that suspicion, maybe she has a point.
us solicitors general
Just who is the US Solicitor General, and what does he do? And, even more importantly, what was he and five previous US Solicitors General doing at the J. Reuben Clark Law School on Thursday and Friday?
I thought that this quote, from an excellent History of the Solicitor General (found on the pages of the Office of the Solicitor General) was an interesting job description:
The Solicitor General is the only officer of the United States required by statute to be "learned in the law." He is one of only two people (the other being the Vice President) with formal offices in two branches of government. And perhaps more than any other position in government, the Solicitor General has important traditions of deference to all three branches.So, what does this government officer do, in the position that Thurgood Marshall is quoted (on that history page) as being "the best job I've ever had?"
new bail law to be argued
Delaware's new bail law, which I wrote about here last week, is unique. And some have claimed that it's unconstitutional. The controversy surrounding the law was the focus of a proceeding today in Superior Court. The judge hearing the case has requested written arguments, and attorneys, including one representing a bailbond company, have four weeks to be file them with the Court.
The defendant has pending drug and weapons charges, and was released from jail on bail for those charges. He was brought into Court today on a new drug charge. Under Delaware's law, the bail for the previous pending charge is revoked because of the new charge. The defendant is required to be held without bail. The law also gives the State the right to seize the bail posted on the original case. The bail law applies to "violent" felonies. A number of drug charges in Delaware are classified as violent felonies.
scoobydoo, the uk, and domain name disputes
How does the UK handle a dispute over a web site's address when a trademark infringement complaint has been made over the use of the domain's name? Just what is an abusive registration? The case Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc -v- Graeme Hay gives us a little insight into internet law in the United Kingdom.
I found the appeal decision for the case through the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., which sends out a free email on weekdays called BNA?s Internet Law News. I've received copies the last three days, and I'm impressed. If you're interested in legal matters on the net, it's worth spending a couple of minutes and subscribing. I signed up after reading a post about the service by Donna Wentworth over at copyfight. Thanks, Donna!
Friday, September 13, 2002
google in china
Information is power these days. The recent blocking of Google and Altavista by the Chinese government has the potential to deprive researchers of information that they might need. But those search sites also have the capacity to bring information to people who aren't in power. Information that the government might not want them to see.
Is the blocking politically motivated? News came out towards the end of last week that visits to Google were being redirected to Chinese search engines. Was the idea to boost ad revenue for those sites, and to try to get Chinese internet visitors to use China-based internet services? Maybe both motivations played a part.
This Washington Post article is the most detailed analysis on the blocking of the engines that I've seen so far. They report that Google was accessible again this morning. One of the interesting aspects of the report was the description of how China's computer network is set up, and how that enables them to have some control over access to sites that Chinese citizens can visit:
China's control over the flow of information owes much to the unique architecture of its computer networks. The Internet is a global web of interlinked computers that swap information, but China's government has limited the places where its networks can link to those in other countries. Only nine such networks are allowed to connect via satellite and undersea cables to the computer systems of the rest of the planet. The rest of China's Internet service providers are dependent on buying wholesale links from one of these giants.An article called The Internet and Power in One-Party East Asian States (pdf) from The Washington Quartery this summer also addresses some of the practices that the Chinese government follows in attempting to control what people see and do with the internet.
game law ruled overbroad and unconstitutional
I feel a little guilty when I spend too much time sitting at the computer playing solitaire or other games. Between July 30th, and yesterday, I could have gone to prison or have been faced with a hefty fine if I was playing one of those games in Greece. A law there, meant to stop illegal gambling, was declared unconstitutional because it included playing electronic games that didn't involve gambling. An article from last week went into more detail about the types of games in question. The ruling applied to two cases involving three defendants, and didn't have the effect of overtuning the law. Hopefully, the law will be. Otherwise, the following exchange might actually take place: "What'd they lock you up for?" "Ummm, solitaire."
the death penalty in a "hybrid" state
Another Delaware death penalty case has been put on hold by the Delaware Superior Court. This time it's the Thomas Capano case:
Capano's direct appeal of his death sentence and murder conviction was upheld in August 2001. He could next elect to ask the Superior Court to review whether he was provided an adequate defense at his trial. But everything is on hold for him until attorneys petition Henley to reactivate Capano's post-conviction proceedings, or Henley does so automatically, according to the order.One of the interesting documents that accompanies this story in the Wilmington News Journal is a transcript (pdf) between a Superior Court Judge and attorneys in another one of the cases in question. Just what do you do when you're a "hybrid" state that the US Supreme Court may or may not have addressed in a recent ruling?
[update - September 13, 2002 - An administrative directive has been issued by Superior Court's President Judge which puts all Delaware capital cases on hold until Delaware's Supreme Court answers "constitutional questions about Delaware's death penalty law." ]
Thursday, September 12, 2002
Happy Birthday, Dad!
Wednesday, September 11, 2002
falwell parodies and personal jurisdiction
Back in June, I wrote about the owner of two sites parodying Jerry Falwell who had success against a legal challenge by the Reverend in arbitration. Within a few weeks after that defeat, Jerry Falwell's lawyers filed a complaint in a federal court in Virginia. This article, Falwell parody site preaches free speech, is an update on the status of the proceedings. Defendant Gary Cohn's attorney works for Public Citizen, which issued a press release Monday about the case. The release provides a link to the brief filed in support of their motion to dismiss, and to another page which contains some of the other documents filed during the lititgation. Part of their argument focuses upon the lack of personal jurisdiction over the defendants. As for in rem jurisdiction over the domain names themselves, the brief also addresses that particular issue.
happy belated birthday BackRub
Since we've been talking about birthdays here, I like to offer belated best wishes to the creators of the search engine formerly known as BackRub. Four years ago, on September 7th, a couple of young programmers who had developed the search engine BackRub, created a corporation for their business. They may or may not have wanted to create a corporation at that time, but the check they had received for $100,000 as an investment from Andy Bechtolsheim at Sun Microsystems was made out to a business name, rather than to either of them. And, it was burning a hole in one of their desk drawers for two weeks before they actually created the business. The check was made out to Google, Inc. (link via Kim Krause over at cre8pcblog) (some pictures of how Google celebrates)
partying for music
You know, it's events like the EFF Music Share-In Festival 2002, being held this Saturday, that makes me wish sometimes that I lived on the west coast. It sounds like quite a party at the Golden Gate Park's Music Concourse Bandstand in support of the Campaign for Audiovisual Free Expression (CAFE). CAFE is the organization that's overseeing the EFF Open Audio License and other projects. If you have the chance to attend, have a good time. And, if you attend and write something in your blog about it, please send us a link. We really need to encourage some events like the EFF's party here in Delaware...
Tuesday, September 10, 2002
gender and golf
The Augusta National Golf Club is a private men's club. It also hosts one of the largest public golf tournaments held in the country -- the Masters. Martha Burk, the head of the National Council of Women's Organizations, has been lobbying support amongst sponsors of the event, and the media, to try to get the club to open its membership to women. Her efforts have been listened to, and it appears as though the tournament will be played next year without commercial sponsorship on television. (I'm not sure that I've ever seen a major sporting event on the small screen that hasn't been interrupted by commercials.) The UK's Guardian frames this as a battle between the first amendment right to assemble versus a moral obligation to not descriminate based upon gender, in an article called Par for the Course. By their account, Martha Burk is winning by a large margin.
quality of life
The Village Voice looks at three books about transitory art and New York City in a review called American Graffiti. Is graffiti art, or is it a scourge upon society? Maybe that depends upon who is holding the aerosol can. I liked this quote from the review:
But everyone seems to agree that graffiti's perpetual removal catalyzes innovation and ingenuity. Its countless deaths generate countless rebirths. Austin points out that when the MTA repainted its entire fleet in 1973, it launched a golden age of style. In graf's status hierarchy, piecers who don't bomb barely rate. ESPO sums up the ethic nicely: "Illegal work has to say 'fuck you.' It can't say 'hello,' or 'how ya doing?' " In other words, what makes graffiti an art form is the ability to dangle itself over the abyss?and occasionally fall in. Graffiti needs to be championed, its practitioners seem to say, but it doesn't need to be saved.It's possible that every mayor who is ever elected into office in NYC will make graffiti removal their own personal mission. Even when the city was going through bankruptcy a few years back, 20 million dollars was found to remove the work of subway artists. Do random acts of art lead to random acts of violence? Is the Broken Window Theory described in the article on the right track? How many artists were inspired by the drive-by spray paintings of graffiti creators?
Monday, September 09, 2002
Happy Birthday Everyone!
It's difficult to celebrate the first birthday of this blog this week. The initial entry, on September 10th of last year, was something that Larry wrote about filing documents in Family Court of Delaware called Deficient Practice of Advisory Notices of Deficiency.
The second blog entry was made a little more that two weeks later, and was a question and answer session written by Private Investigator Michael T. O'Rourke, who contributes some really interesting material to the blog under the title Tricks of the Trade, approximately once a month.
After a week or so into October, I joined Larry in posting to the blog. We hadn't figured out yet how to have more than one person use their own logons to get to the site in Blogger. I didn't think to differentiate the postings I made from the ones that Larry was making by writing my name above the poster name stamp that blogger inserts (i.e., posted by Larry Sullivan at 6:16 PM). ( We weren't trying to mislead anyone. We were just tying to use a technology that we didn't quite understand fully at the time. Bloggers' documentation has gotten better.) A little later, when I realized that might be misleading, I started signing my name to the posts I made as part of the body of the post. When Larry switched to Blogger Pro, about a month or so later, that was a lot clearer on how to write a blog as a "team."
So, while tomorrow is the first birthday of this blog, it wasn't very active for at least a month. Instead of writing about what happened last September 11th, we sort of put the blog aside. I think that both of us were more than a little staggered by the events of that day. And when we did start writing, we both engaged in a bit of "defiant normalcy," as I've seen someone else describe it, by not focusing or writing about terrorism, or warfare, or our government's response. To a large degree, we've avoided those topics. It gets harder to do, and harder not to think about as the anniversary of that date approaches. I started to go through the BlawgRing (set up by jca at Sua Sponte -- thanks jca!) tonight, and the first blog I came across (jmbzine.com) began with a thoughtful and expressive post from Saturday, called 911 Commentary, which is very much worth a visit.
We probably won't focus too much on those topics this week, and will continue with our "defiant normalcy." This blog was intended to be about a law practice in Delaware, and about news, information, and web sites that we found interesting. There have been a lot of other weblogs that started up over the last year or so which include legal issues, and we've received an incredible amount of amusement, information, and inspiration from the authors of those sites. We've added a number to our links list on the page, and will probably be adding more in the days to come.
Larry had espressed a desire to celebrate by having cake, and treating the day like a birthday. I'll join in, but I won't just be celebrating the birth of this blog, but also the sites of the many other people out there who spend part of their day sharing their thoughts, their experiences, and their insights online. Thanks to you all. You're a very large part of what makes this interesting and fun.