Archive for the ‘law’ tag
Really strong (and long, because it’s the New Yorker) essay about how the way some civil forfeiture laws are written make them prone to reckless abuse, and how that abuse actually happens. It’ll probably make you at least a little angry, but knowledge of the practice is probably one of its most powerful antidotes.
They could face felony charges for “money laundering” and “child endangerment,” in which case they would go to jail and their children would be handed over to foster care. Or they could sign over their cash to the city of Tenaha, and get back on the road. “No criminal charges shall be filed,” a waiver she drafted read, “and our children shall not be turned over to CPS,” or Child Protective Services.
“Where are we?” Boatright remembers thinking. “Is this some kind of foreign country, where they’re selling people’s kids off?” Holding her sixteen-month-old on her hip, she broke down in tears.
Alex Tabarrok writes a slightly different version of a story I wrote a few years ago (I’m under no delusions that I was the first to think of it, just some self-pimping): we’re all criminals.
I broke the law yesterday and again today and I will probably break the law tomorrow. Don’t mistake me, I have done nothing wrong. I don’t even know what laws I have broken. Nevertheless, I am reasonably confident that I have broken some laws, rules, or regulations recently because its hard for anyone to live today without breaking the law.
Really interesting story from Brendan Koerner in Wired about a speaker installer whose side business in putting secret compartments into vehicles landed him in jail. The heart of the issue in the case:
Alfred Anaya’s case makes clear that the government rejects [the “technology is morally neutral”] worldview. The technically savvy are on notice that they must be very careful about whom they deal with, since calculated ignorance of illegal activity is not an acceptable excuse. But at what point does a failure to be nosy edge into criminal conduct? In light of what happened to Anaya, that question is nearly impossible to answer.
This is progress. Unlikely to make a dent in the mountains of unintelligible legalese that exist elsewhere (EULAs, etc), but progress.
That’s right: Pursuant to regulations promulgated thereunder and commencing in accordance with a statute signed herein by President Barack Obama, the government shall be precluded from writing the pompous gibberish heretofore evidenced, to the extent practicable.
(via Austin Kleon; though my aversion to the HuffPo is strong enough I found a different host of this AP story)
This blog has briefly mentioned the idea of giving legal rights to nature before, but Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow offers an interesting analysis of the logic, history, and ramifications of the practice. Consider:
Richard Stewart, a law professor at New York University, believes that inanimate objects such as trees and rivers do not have interests or values. Rather, he says, the argument really concerns “human ideas about what’s good for nature.”
It’s not that this is an exceptionally well-researched or argued essay, or one that transfers any intellectual heft by a link, it’s just that I agree with it and felt a desire to make that clear.
With it’s governor having mentioned secession, Nate Silver poses a more interesting scenario: what if Texas made itself into five states, as is its legal right? (A fact I hadn’t known.) I was rather surprised by the result.
Ceaselessly patrolling the boarders of our corporeal liberties, William Saletan notes the looming attack on “sugared beverages.”
New York City’s health commissioner, Thomas Frieden, is leading the way. He’s the guy who purged trans fats from the city’s restaurants and made them post calorie counts for menu items. Lately he’s been pressuring food companies to remove salt from their products.
Now he’s going after soda.
That paragraph put into my head this line: “First they came for the transfats, I said nothing…” Apologies to Niemöller fans.
Even if soon-to-be-president Obama wants to close the prison at the naval base, he’s got a nearly Hereculean set of problems ahead of him. Just one example:
Where should the remaining detainees be held? The new administration will presumably have to hold the remaining suspected terrorists in facilities in the United States. But where? They will likely end up in a prison on a military base, since it would be unsafe to hold them in normal prison populations. But few states will want to house Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his friends. And members of Congress will give NIMBY-ism a whole new meaning when it comes to keeping them out of their districts.
Lebanon has announced plans to sue Israel over the food copyright for tabouleh, kubbeh, hummus, falafel and fattoush. The suit relies on the absurdly named feta precedent; as David Kenner describes:
Six years ago, Greece was able to win a monopoly on the production of feta cheese from the European Parliament by proving that the cheese and had been produced in Greece under that name for several millennia.
Perhaps the fact that I discovered this on Metafilter is a commentary on the nature of news-flow or my inattentiveness, but it seems that Raphael Correa got a new constitution of the term-extending type that Hugo Chavez recently failed to secure.
Perhaps more interesting, the document gives inalienable rights to nature, like:
Art. 1. Nature or Pachamama, where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution.
Every person, people, community or nationality, will be able to demand the recognitions of rights for nature before the public organisms. The application and interpretation of these rights will follow the related principles established in the Constitution.
An interesting bit of cocktail chatter, if nothing else:
Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party’s nominee for president, has filed a lawsuit in Texas demanding Senators John McCain and Barack Obama be removed from the ballot after they missed the official filing deadline.
“The seriousness of this issue is self-evident,” the lawsuit states. “The hubris of the major parties has risen to such a level that they do not believe that the election laws of the State of Texas apply to them.”
The internet’s a place where people often call themselves strange things. In the legal realm, however, a judge has to allow you to take such a name. Eugene Volokh documents some of the most interesting names, and the judge’s ruling:
1. 1069. No dice. The North Dakota Supreme Court (1976) and Minnesota Supreme Court (1979) both say: Names can’t be numbers.
2. III, to be pronounced “Three.” Nope, on the same grounds, said the California Court of Appeal in 1984 to Thomas Boyd Ritchie III. A concurring judge asserted that the problem was that III was a symbol, rather than just that it was a number. Such subtle distinctions are what law is all about.
The ICC and Omar al-Bashir
I haven’t been following too closely, but I found both of these pieces on the (recommended) indictment of the Sudanese president to be useful:
- John Boonstra clarifies a few points — like that Bashir hasn’t yet been “indicted” — that don’t come across clearly in most reporting of the story.
- Richard Goldstone considers whether this will help or hinder the prospects for peace.
Perhaps the most absurd part of the High Court’s ruling that Pringles are exempted from the VAT on crisps is that Proctor & Gamble happily pointed out how completely unnatural and unfoodlike their product is.
“It has a shape not found in nature, being designed and manufactured for stacking, and giving a pleasing and regular undulating appearance which permits comfortable eating.
“In this respect, it is unlike a potato crisp and, I would add, a potato stick or puff.”
He added: “A Pringle does not taste like a crisp or otherwise behave like one. Crisps give a sharply crunchy sensation under the tooth and have to be broken down into jagged pieces when chewed.
The New Scientist’s Technology blog point to some odd facets of the iTunes EULA:
“Licensee also agrees that Licensee will not use the Apple Software for any purposes prohibited by United States law, including, without limitation, the development, design, manufacture or production of nuclear, missiles, or chemical or biological weapons.”
(via Freakonomics, who found another odd clause in a different iTunes EULA)
This month, the libertarian Cato Unbound is discussing copyright. The first two (of four — the others haven’t been posted) essays are rather interesting reading. Rasmus Fliecher kicked off with a rather bleak vision of the future:
The real dispute, once again, is not between proponents and opponents of copyright as a whole. It is between believers and non-believers. Believers in copyright keep dreaming about building a digital simulation of a 20th-century copyright economy, based on scarcity and with distinct limits between broadcasting and unit sales. I don’t believe such a stabilization will ever occur, but I fear that this vision of copyright utopia is triggering an escalation of technology regulations running out of control and ruining civil liberties. Accepting a laissez-faire attitude regarding software development and communication infrastructure can prevent such an escalation.
More optimistically, Timothy Lee offers a (radical-sounding) new paradigm:
The starkness with which the copyright debate is often framed reflects a misunderstanding of the function copyright served in the 20th century. Copyright is commonly conceived as a system of restrictions on the copying of creative works. But until recently, it would have been more accurate to describe copyright as governing the commercial exploitation of creative works. From this perspective, the inevitable legalization of non-commercial file sharing looks less like a radical departure from copyright’s past, and more like an incremental adjustment to technological change. It will require the rejection of some misguided policy developments of the last decade, to be sure, but in a sense it will simply restore the common-sense principles of 20th-century copyright law.
(via Matt Yglesias)