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  • Archive for May, 2006

    Sony’s Poor Customer Service

    Posted by Jonathan on 31st May 2006 (All posts by )

    I ordered a Sony camera that arrived with dust inside the lens. The dust showed as a dark spot on photos made against light-colored backgrounds. I should have returned the camera immediately, but like an idiot I trusted Sony’s warranty service system.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Customer Service | 11 Comments »

    “They shall in all Cases …”

    Posted by demimasque on 30th May 2006 (All posts by )

    Finals season is over, but all is not quiet in Law Law Land. It is now time for the write-on competition for positions on the school’s journals, the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, the Loyola of Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Review, and the Loyola of Los Angeles Entertainment Law Review. The subject just so happens to involve Amendment IV, which came up obliquely as part of another topic I’ve been keeping my eye on lately: The raid of Congressman William Jefferson’s offices.

    I won’t get into the nitty gritty of the particular events, but I wanted to recall a conversation I had with an online friend lately. The friend had said, in part, the following:

    Whether or not the warrant is valid is a separate issue from whether or not the search is allowed ab initio. The warrant could have been perfectly valid and any special procedures could have been followed and the search could still be entirely illegal per AI S6.

    This is what I wrote in response:

    Hrm. Let me restate what I think you’re saying: Regardless of whether or not procedures are in place and followed in order to separate Speeches and Debates material from material required for a major criminal investigation (specifically, AIS6 excepts “Treason, Felon and Breach of the Peace”), the presence of Speeches and Debates material exempts all other materials in the office.

    If I’m misunderstanding you, skip the rest of this post and correct me.

    If I’m not misunderstanding you, we have 2 issues raised by that interpretation:

    1. Are there ever any circumstances in which a MoC’s office can be searched? What about in case of a bomb scare, in which officers (presumably led by Capitol Police, who report to Congress, but possibly including ATF and/or FBI officers, who report ultimately to the Executive) are called about a possible bomb in one of the offices? Such a thing was unfolding this morning when someone reported that there were gunshots at the Rayburn House Office Building. Capitol Police fielded the call, but FBI were involved as well.

      If there are some circumstances in which a MoC’s office can be searched, what might pose such a circumstance?

    2. AIS6 poses the following (as you’re aware):

      They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

      Notice:

      1. The privilege from Arrest has nothing to do with “Speech or Debate”.
      2. The exceptions come first. So where a major crime is involved, there is no privilege.
      3. Nowhere does it mention an extraordinary privilege from searches and seizures, except possibly with regard to Speeches and Debates.

    It seems to me that Jefferson’s Complaint claims not so much that he is protected by the privilege from Arrest than that his office is immune to searches and seizures because searches and seizures should be interpreted as questioining him about his legislative operations.

    From there, I can see another way of getting to your conclusion, that validity of warrant is irrelevant. The core issue, as proposed by Jefferson, seems to be: Searches and seizures of an office which holds legislative material should be interpreted as questioning his speech and debate material.

    I think there is definitely an issue of law there. A judge must then consider the practical effects.

    1. If he agrees with the interpretation (i.e., a search of an office, regardless of the target and regardless of procedure, is an unrebuttable per se violation of AIS6), then the following becomes true:
      1. Jefferson wins.
      2. Any Member of Congress can hide evidence of treason and felony in his office and claim immunity.
      3. There would be new issues as to what exigencies, if any, can justify any searches. (That goes back to the item about today’s reported gunfire.)
    2. If he disagrees with the interpretation (i.e., a search of an office, regardless of the target and regardless of procedure, is an unrebuttable per se violation of AIS6), then the following needs to be resolved:
      1. Must searches and seizures be limited to Capitol Police, which report to the Congress?
      2. May Executive Branch officers ever be involved (considering the FBI’s heavy involvement in D.C., it probably would not be practicable to exclude Executive Branch officers entirely)?
      3. Under what circumstances may Executive Branch officers be involved? (Presumably, only when the Judiciary signs off on a warrant; i.e., no unilateral action by the Executive Branch.)
      4. Under what circumstances, if any, may a Judicial Branch officer sign off on a search?

    My guess is that no judge will grant absolute immunity of the sort Jefferson seems to be looking for. I also don’t think any judge will lay down an exact rule as to how a search may be conducted. If anything, the court would probably issue a guideline or a balancing test to help future judges decide whether or not appropriate precautions have been and will be taken before signing off on a warrant.

    [Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

    Posted in Politics | Comments Off

    Memorial Day: Remember the Dead, Support the Living

    Posted by Lexington Green on 29th May 2006 (All posts by )

    I am asking our readers to support the troops in some concrete way this Memorial Day.

    I had this post last year, and I got several supportive emails, and at least one person matched my donation, so I am repeating the effort in 2006.

    This year I have donated $1,000 to Wounded Warriors.

    I hope others will match me, or make a generous gift of some greater or lesser size to this cause, or for example to one of the good causes listed on this page.

    God Bless America.

    Happy Memorial Day.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    Soft America Meets Hard America The Junior College

    Posted by Ginny on 28th May 2006 (All posts by )

    Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. It is not important that he should mature as soon as an apple-tree or an oak. Shall he turn his spring into summer? If the condition of things which we were made for is not yet, what were any reality which we can substitute? – Thoreau

    Last week, my husband marked up a paper written by one of his favorite students although that is not how he thinks of Allen. He & my husband have been through a lot together, their relationship going back to their junior high days in a small Texas town. Now both are in their fifties. Allen needed English grad hours to broaden his teaching fields at the junior college where he now works. So he rather industriously read a pile of books and wrote an interesting & scholarly paper. (About which more in a later post.)

    Nor is this, frankly, how I think of him. The night of our first date, my husband invited me to his small rent house near U.T. Allen, his neighbor, popped in and out several times, until he persuaded his wife to come over and dry her just-washed hair while talking to us. This wasnt exactly how my date had planned the evening, which included dinner for two and some semi-romantic music on the stereo. This was Allen thirty-five years ago dropping acid often, flunking out of U.T. with 48 hours of Fs, being supported by a too-understanding first wife whose father rented out the other two small houses on Washington Square to him and his wifes brother.

    Fast forward to the mid-eighties and we find Allen doing fairly well at business. Hed begun as a collector for a rental company (his duties included keeping a gun in his glove box and being willing to use it). Having some money himself, he started his own TV rental business, building it into a small chain. He lived with us while expanding in our area. One day, we were comparing our luck with bad checks. I said we didnt get all that many it probably said something about our clientele. He pointed out that they didnt get many because they didnt accept any. He said he thought maybe half their clients were ex-felons. The manager of his local store, drinking a beer with my husband in the dining room, looked at him somewhat critically. No, Allen, he interjected, Im pretty sure its a lot more than half.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Education | 15 Comments »

    Book Review: Vinge — Rainbows End: A Novel with One Foot in the Future

    Posted by James McCormick on 28th May 2006 (All posts by )

    [cross-posted on Albion’s Seedlings]

    Computer scientist and mathematician Vernor Vinge is credited with inventing the term “technological singularity,” a moment of impending accelerating technological change so profound that “seeing beyond” the point isn’t possible. Vinge’s ideas have been widely discussed, and a recent book by Ray Kurzweil called the The Singularity is Near documents many supporting trends in computation and scientific development suggesting that a Singularity is entirely likely. In late 2004, Jim Bennett further proposed that the English common law countries have a unique cultural advantage in dealing with rapid change and with any Singularity that might appear. So how does Professor Vinge view the Singularity at the moment?

    Fortunately, in addition to his academic activities at the University of Californa (San Diego) [UCSD], Dr. Vinge is a famous science fiction writer and winner of four Hugo awards. His latest novel is called Rainbows End. Though I’ve not read his earlier books, a positive review and podcast on Rainbows End by the Instapundit encouraged me to give it a try.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes | 1 Comment »

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th May 2006 (All posts by )

    “…your merry heart goes all the way, your sad one tires in a mile.” – Emerson

    Posted in Diversions | Comments Off

    The Anglosphere and the Economic Historians

    Posted by James McCormick on 28th May 2006 (All posts by )

    [cross-posted on Albion’s Seedlings]

    The success of Europe, and especially the Anglosphere, in the last few centuries has kept historians busy, pondering just why and when the Europeans made such an impact on the world.

    Not surprisingly, the theories of causality often mirror their times. Way back when, European success was seen as religious and cultural vindication. Later, it was seen as a genetic or perhaps geographic predisposition. At the dawn of the 20th century, as non-Europeans and radical philosophers got an opportunity to make suggestions, earlier “gifts” were turned on their heads and proclaimed as intrinsic “evils.” Thus Europeans, and by extension, the Anglosphere, were successful specifically because they were monstrous in comparison to other human beings — more cruel, more greedy, more lacking in humanity (specializing in anarchy, greed, and heresy … to quote one witty Amazon.com reviewer). European destruction was therefore a solemn obligation and no doubt ordained by higher powers, real soon now.

    As the wheels of history ground on during the 20th century, and people (both European and non-European) had a chance to ride the hobbyhorses of fascism, communism (and perhaps socialism) into political and economic oblivion, a more intellectually useful historical theory was needed. Europe and the Anglosphere was showing a distressing tendency toward further prosperity. The intellectual solution, particularly with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and orthodox communism in China, was to claim that the entire question of European success was based on a false premise. The truth was … Europe was never the centre of anything much. And if it was, it was only a relatively recent event that is passing quickly now from the historical stage. Eurocentrism was therefore obscuring both the global achievements of other peoples and cultures and its own transitory significance.

    In a nutshell, three views of Europe: (1) Good, (2) Bad, or (3) Indifferent.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes | 1 Comment »

    Apron Strings

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 28th May 2006 (All posts by )

    I noticed last year that most of the people I encountered through my self defense class wanted to ask about methods to protect their children or grandchildren from the Internet. At first I thought they were concerned about shielding underage people from adult content, and I started to carry around info that I had downloaded which explained about blocking software like Netnanny.

    It turns out that wasnt what they wanted at all. News reports had started to appear that breathlessly hyped the dangers lying in wait for children that use the Internet as a social medium. Kids that set up a Livejournal account, so the talking heads said, were waving a red flag in front of a bull. And the bull in this case are pedophiles that obsessively surfed the Net in search of their prey.

    Reports of this nature have gotten pretty prevalent of late, maybe even routine. Most local law enforcement agencies, always sensitive to charges of lacking positive action, have set up little task forces to try and catch adults who search online for teen victims. The conclusion that any reasonable person would reach is that a child who visits the Internet is just a few mouse clicks away from being singled out for a kidnapping.

    (As an aside, most of the websites look annoyingly similar because they got started from a grant from the US Department of Justice, and I suppose they just put up a modified version of DOJ’s template. The most interesting webpage of this variety I’ve come across is the one for Idaho, which also has a great deal of useful child-friendly links at the bottom. Kudos to Idaho!)
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Law Enforcement | 8 Comments »

    “Men Against Tanks”

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th May 2006 (All posts by )

    Via Lex, a German WWII training film in two parts:

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Posted in History | 2 Comments »

    Going Towards the Sound of the Guns

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 26th May 2006 (All posts by )

    The cable news networks are all abuzz about a reported shooting at The Rayburn House Office Building, one of the complex of buildings that house US government offices around the US Capitol in Washington, DC.

    According to the talking heads sitting at their desks in the TV studios, someone called the Capitol Police and reported the sound of gunfire on the underground garage level. The police reportedly didn’t find anything, but they did sniff the distinctive odor of cordite (modern gunpowder). The cops locked down the building, refusing to allow anyone to leave, and now they are making a room-to-room search.

    This is the proper response, of course. Footage shot by reporters being escorted out of the building by way of the parking area show it to be really huge, taking up more than one level and stretching for some distance. If somone ripped off a few rounds from an autoloader, it will take a fair amount of time to find the spent shell casings. They could have used a revolver, though.

    There would be shell casings only if some shots were fired in the first place. I routinely hear distant sounds that I could swear are gunshots while I walk my dogs in the wee hours of the night. It turns out that it is only garbage trucks emptying dumpsters.

    This could be a false alarm. We will see.

    I have decided to watch the Fox News Channel. The reporters are able to phone elected officials trapped in their offices by the lockdown to get their impressions. Pretty neat.

    There is going to be a press conference in 20 minutes.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Crime and Punishment | 2 Comments »

    Voting With Your Joystick

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 25th May 2006 (All posts by )

    My fridge crapped out on me some months ago. I bought a new one from Sears and paid extra to have the old one hauled away to the dump. They contracted the heavy lifting out to a couple of guys with their own truck.

    When they showed up I noticed two things right away. The first was that they had heavy Latin American accents, which is hardly surprising considering that both were from Venezuela. The second is that they were very surprised that I was willing to help them with the grunt work.

    All of the doors in the house were too small to get the old fridge out. (How did it get in there? When they were building the house, did they install the kitchen appliances before framing the doors?) I dumped the box on the floor and took my ten pound sledge to the cooling coils on the back, pounding them flat. The contractors stood around and chatted with me while I worked out my frustrations.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Latin America | 13 Comments »

    What is a reward?

    Posted by ken on 24th May 2006 (All posts by )

    A reward is a consequence of an activity that encourages more of that activity.

    A punishment, of course, is a consequence of an activity that encourages less of that activity.

    Now a reward can be in the form of a monetary profit. The reason that a monetary profit works as a reward is because people like to make money, and the reason for that is that people who liked to make money consistently outbred and outlived people who didn’t. You can work out further links in the chain of causation yourself.

    At any rate, most of what we think of as rewards are rewards because most individual humans will change their behavior to get more of them.

    A reward can also work by causing more humans to exist who tend to behave in the rewarded way. This would obviously be a longer-term reward. But it does the same thing… encourages more of the rewarded activity to occur.

    So having kids and raising them to adulthood is itself a long-term reward for whatever behaviors are handed down to them through example or heredity. Having kids and letting someone else raise them to adulthood is a long-term reward for whatever behaviors are handed down through heredity, and raising someone else’s kids is a reward for whatever behaviors are handed down through example.

    Which means the “free-rider” problem that appears to obtain from parents not getting monetary rewards for raising kids is not as bad as it might seem. The reward is a slower one, acting over several generations instead of a few years. But it is there. And so is the punishment… if you don’t have kids, whatever behavior caused you not to have kids will not be handed down and will occur less in the future.

    The real problem comes from just what behaviors are being rewarded and punished in this way…

    Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

    Great Minds Think Alike

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th May 2006 (All posts by )

    Now here’s a man with good taste.

    (Related posts: Here and Here)

    Posted in Humor | 17 Comments »

    Tangential Barone

    Posted by Ginny on 23rd May 2006 (All posts by )

    If Sandy P is right (that Nagin was the better candidate) – and she may well be, then how did New Orleans arrive at that point? I am willing to readily accept that he might be because A) I don’t know LA politics, but he was hardly a picture of leadership, & seemed to screw up pretty badly & pretty self-righteously; and B) I remember the LA bumper stickers of a few years ago: Vote for the Crook, It’s Important. Choices that might under normal conditions seem bad, in some political climates may well be the best of the two.

    And how much does gerrymandering take what should be hard America – where bad policy & bad choices are punished at the next election – and make it soft America?

    Posted in Politics | 2 Comments »

    Depression

    Posted by ken on 22nd May 2006 (All posts by )

    It’s sometimes said that our affluent society causes or encourages or fails to discourage depression, and that in previous eras when people actually had to earn their keep and/or fight to stay alive, they didn’t get depressed because they had more important things to worry about.

    Is this true? Do people actually succumb to depression more often in our affluent society? Or are there simply more surviving depression sufferers around?

    When it takes a lot of effort to stay alive, depression can drastically shorten your life expectancy, often in ways that don’t make its presence obvious. It’s really easy to miss in a culture with a higher overall death rate and less meticulous record-keeping than ours.

    This is doubly true in wartime. A war offers endless opportunity for a man growing weary of his mortal coil to be relieved of it without anyone (including himself) realizing the nature of his condition.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments »

    Problem solving

    Posted by ken on 22nd May 2006 (All posts by )

    Let’s say you’ve been keeping cats for a while, and you’ve been feeding them outside in the yard. Every time the bowl gets low, someone pours in more cat food.

    One day you notice that you’ve been going through multiple bags of cat food per day. Then you look outside and notice that there are entirely too many stray cats in the yard. You’ve successfully deduced that the stray cats coming in your yard from all over the neighborhood are eating all of the extra cat food you’ve been buying. Now how do you solve this problem? Do you:

    a) Keep putting cat food in the yard. Round up as many stray cats as you can find and drop them off next door. Repeat as necessary.

    b) Keep putting cat food in the yard. Build a large wall around your property to keep the stray cats out.

    c) Keep putting cat food in the yard. Patrol the perimeter of your property with a gun to keep the stray cats out.

    d) Keep putting cat food in the yard. Adopt the stray cats that are currently in your yard, but this is it! After this you aren’t taking in any more, and that’s final. Repeat as necessary.

    e) Stop putting cat food in the yard. Feed your cats and only your cats in a place where the strays can’t get access to the food.

    Let’s say you go with (e).

    Result? There’s fewer cats in the yard, and the ones that do show up aren’t eating any of your cat food. You’re buying significantly less cat food than before. There’s also a distinct shortage of mice on the premises. Life is good.

    Of course if this decision is made by committee, especially if that committee features heavy representation from the ones that originally advocated adopting several cats and feeding them outside, this solution might meet with some resistance…

    Posted in Immigration | 12 Comments »

    Barone 1 – The Personal

    Posted by Ginny on 22nd May 2006 (All posts by )

    In most books, the I, or first person is omitted: in this it will be retained; that, in respect to egotism, is the main difference. We commonly do not remember that it is after all, always the first person that is speaking. I should not talk so much about myself if there were any body else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience. Thoreau, Walden

    Ive been reading Michael Barones Hard America, Soft America. His subtitle is Competition vs Coddling. But he describes quite theoretical & profound differences in weltanschauung. Of course, most agree in some situations (say raising a child) coddling is in order and in others (say training for combat) it isnt. Statist economics coddle; free markets compete; closed societies protect their people from ideas, open ones let the bad ones compete.

    But Barone is also getting at a larger notion to live is not merely to succeed but often to fail; what we do is often & actually (even if we pretend it is not) irrevocable; that our time is limited and we can not revise endlessly not acting can mean a choice is lost. In short, Hard America sees consequences (sometimes unpleasant and sometimes even disproportionately bad) of our choices. This is a world where authority is earned by risking ones own self, money, time, work, future. This is not the world of the hesitant Prufrock nor of modern social science nor of some tort legislation. It is not therapeutic; it doesnt blink; it doesnt give quarter nor expect it; in short, it isnt soft.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Personal Narrative | 13 Comments »

    Good vs. Bad Online Advertising

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd May 2006 (All posts by )

    I couldn’t resist posting this unintentionally funny screen shot, but I don’t think there’s anything inherently bad about advertising, online or otherwise. Done well, it adds value for advertisers, publishers and readers alike. But it has to be done well if it is not to subtract value for the reader. (If it subtracts value for the advertiser or publisher it never gets published.) A lot of online advertising is still of the intrusive popup type, and pretending that it’s “context sensitive” because it’s linked to unrelated, vaguely related or overly general keywords doesn’t transform it into something valuable for readers. The best context-sensitive ads I’ve seen are in a hobby forum that serves its own ads and makes it easy for advertisers to select keywords that readers will find interesting enough to click on. Those are ads that you want to see if you are interested in the topic of a discussion. By contrast, the typical served-by-third-parties popup, like the one shown above, is nothing more than an irritant unless it happens to deliver a relevant message by chance.

    Posted in Advertising | 2 Comments »

    Your Sunday Culture Blogging

    Posted by Jonathan on 21st May 2006 (All posts by )

    Now that you’ve been warmed up, step right up and check out Dan from Madison’s learned discussion of Tilt-A-Whirl lore, followed by. . .

    The Great Tilt-A-Whirl Video!

    Let no one say that this blog ignores the important things in life.

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

    Best! Video! Ever!

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th May 2006 (All posts by )

    If you do nothing else this weekend you must watch this masterpiece.

    Do it now.

    Do it often.

    Make it a part of your lifestyle.

    Posted in Humor | 3 Comments »

    Of course the Gitmo detainees aren’t really enemy combatants…

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th May 2006 (All posts by )

    Nah, just a bunch of nice boys who were improperly rounded up by the BushCo military machine.

    Posted in Terrorism | 4 Comments »

    I Always Wanted to Visit Houston

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th May 2006 (All posts by )

    Corbusier discusses its many admirable qualities.

    Posted in Society | 4 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th May 2006 (All posts by )

    The Chicagoboyz blog: better than some other places you could be.

    UPDATE: Phil Fraering asks an interesting question in the comments. I didn’t know the answer but a little googling revealed that the farm is a private establishment, and apparently quite a well known one. Here’s an aerial view of the neighborhood. (The photo was made from the intersection indicated by the red mark and looks Southeast .)

    Posted in Humor | 2 Comments »

    Paying For Productive Adults

    Posted by Shannon Love on 19th May 2006 (All posts by )

    Glenn Reynolds links to an article by Philip Longman in Foreign Affairs that covers much of the same ground that I did in a previous series of post [Family Free-Riders, Family Free-Riders Part II, The Gratis-Giddyup Problem] that looked at how modern economies fail to support the raising of children into productive adults.

    I argued that from the perspective of economics we can think of productive adults as a type of product or resource that an economic system must produce in order to maintain itself. From this perspective, a child represents the production phase of the adult. We seldom think of the problem in these terms. Indeed, the entire debate is framed as to what is good for children as if children were the end goal when in fact children are economically useless in the modern world. Any society could get a short-term economic boost from decreasing the number of children it raises. Many sub-population have done exactly that.

    Longman points out that birthrates are falling in all parts of the world regardless of economic system.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 19 Comments »

    When the Only Way is Through

    Posted by Ginny on 17th May 2006 (All posts by )

    Some suggestive juxtapositions:

    A&L notes Gerard Alexanders Baathed in Blood: Chronicling the horror, and scope, of Saddam’s tyranny, a review of Le Livre noir de Saddam Hussein, edited by Chris Kutschera. Put beside this, the news from Iraq, mixed as it may be, seems a good deal more hopeful. Surely, it is in such a context that we should view the overall optimism of Gen Barry McCaffrey’s 2006 report; it is usefully (and as always thoughtfully) compared to his observations in 2005 by Wretchard.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Iraq | 1 Comment »