Saturday, March 30, 2002

taxing ideas
Delaware, like many other states, is experiencing a time of financial difficulty. It probably doesn't hurt to see what some other states are doing, and have done in the past, to overcome times of economic disadvantage. I don't know if people in Delaware would consider following up on the tax ideas coming out of California. If nothing else, considering them might spark some debate on the role of a taxing body as a social engineer.

A panel studying cancer put together by Governor Minner recently made a number of recommendations, including a tax on cigarettes. California is also thinking of increased taxes on cigarettes and alcohol. But they have some other ideas on items to tax.

One is a five cents per bullet tax to aid California trauma centers.

Some other taxes being looked into in California include a soda tax to help fight obesity in children, and a junk food tax to use to to pay for dental and health services, also for juveniles.

Whatever Delaware might decide to tax, a lesson from our neighboring State of New Jersey should be kept in mind, as our governor looks at ways to raise revenues. Do not tax toilet paper. Let me repeat that with periods between each word for added emphasis: Do.Not.Tax.Toilet.Paper.

Why? A lesson learned from Governor Florio of New Jersey almost a decade ago, as recited by one of the then Governor's aides:
Extending the sales tax to toilet paper didn't help. The plan had been to tax cable TV service, but the industry cleverly aired ads urging people to write their legislators in protest (reminding me of the old admonition never to argue with folks who buy ink by the barrel). Too bad for us; no one would have marched on the Statehouse tossing televisions like they did toilet paper.
I'm not certain that you could consider the taxing of toilet paper with the other items above as a sin tax, to be used to both raise revenue for the State, and to shape society in some fashion. But, in a country with a history of demonstrations against taxes like the Boston Tea Party, I don't know that I want to see a Dover Toilet Paper Party.
gambling and the kentucky navy
Urban legend debunkers at snopes have a little more to say on the Kentucky resolution calling for the purchase of a submarine and the start of a Navy.

The piece of legislation is a resolution, and not a bill. This means that if it is passed, it does not have a binding effect upon the State.

It was issued not to declare war upon riverboats, but rather to draw attention to a very large movement of money from Kentucky to Indiana every year:
The resolution was introduced by Tom Burch, a state representative from Louisville, as a wry commentary on Kentucky's continued prohibition of gambling. Kentucky doesn't allow it, yet thousands of Kentuckians simply cross the Ohio River to Indiana, where gambling is legal, and drop an estimated $500 million per year in their casinos. Wouldn't it make more sense, Rep. Burch reasoned, to allow casinos to operate in Kentucky and funnel some of that money into education and social service programs rather than filling Indiana's coffers?
Maybe they should talk with some government officials from Delaware, where slot machines video lottery machines (gambling is prohibited by Delaware's constitution, except for limited instances of lotteries, and horse track betting) have earned the State at least $650 million since 1995.

New Hampshire is examining the possibility of installing slot machines video lottery machines, and possibly even building full fledged casinos. As a matter of fact, they've had the benefit of some input from Delaware:
The Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce sent legislators a short video featuring legislative leaders from Delaware, which legalized video slot machines several years ago. Speaking to an off-camera interviewer, the Delaware officials report that gambling has hugely benefited their state's economy without increasing crime.
It really truly does appear that there has been no increase in crime that can in any way be related to the slot machines video lottery machines in Delaware.

I just wish that I could call a slot machine a slot machine, and not a "video lottery machine" with an accompanying wink and shoulder shrug.

Friday, March 29, 2002

kentucky to form navy
From the Kentucky Legislature comes HR256, proposed by Representative T. Burch:

A RESOLUTION encouraging the purchase and vigorous use of the USS Louisville 688 VLS Class submarine.

WHEREAS, in the past few years the scourge of the casino riverboat has been an increasingly significant presence on the Ohio River; and

WHEREAS, the Ohio River borders the Commonwealth of Kentucky; and

WHEREAS, the siren song of payola issuing from the discordant calliopes of these gambling vessels has led thousands of Kentucky citizens to vast disappointment and woe; and

WHEREAS, no good can come to the citizens of Kentucky hypnotized from the siren song issuing from these casino riverboats, the engines of which are fired by the hard-earned dollars lost from Kentucky citizens;

NOW, THEREFORE, Be it resolved by the House of Representatives of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky:

Section 1. The House of Representatives does hereby encourage the formation of the Kentucky Navy and subsequently immediately encourages the purchase and armament of one particularly effective submarine, namely, the USS Louisville 688 VLS Class Submarine, to patrol the portion of the Ohio River under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth to engage and destroy any casino riverboats that the submarine may encounter.

Section 2. The House of Representatives does hereby authorize the notification of the casino riverboat consulate of this Resolution and impending whoopin' so that they may remove their casino vessels to friendlier waters.
Should we file this under the sometimes-declaring-war-might-not-be-the-best-solution department?

Thursday, March 28, 2002

shortened sentences?
One of the most famous criminal cases decided by the US Supreme Court was Gideon v. Wainwright. It focused upon whether a defendant who couldn't afford to hire an attorney had a right to have one appointed to him or her by a court.

The answer was yes. Those simple three letters eventually lead to the release of more than 2000 other prisoners who were forced to represent themselves at trial in Florida, because they couldn't afford an attorney.

The Supreme Court now has a case before it that might shorten thousands of sentences.

Under the sentencing guidelines that judges use in federal courts, and many state courts (including Delaware), a sentence longer than what is called for in the guidelines may be given to someone if there are "aggravating" circumstances present at the time of the offense. For instance, if a Judge thinks that a crime was a hate crime, he might step outside of the guidelines and impose a longer sentence. In some jurisdictions, if a gun was used at the time of the offense, it might have been considered an aggravating factor which would allow for a longer sentence than what set forth in guidelines. The Supreme Court is being asked to determine if a jury should be the ones deciding if these aggravating circumstances existed.

Will this case make the United States Sentencing Commission's What's New page? Well.... that will depend upon how the Court decides.

Monday, March 25, 2002

Tricks of the Trade
By Private Investigator Michael T. O’Rouke

Question: . I am a Paralegal for an Attorney associated with the State of Delaware’s Public Defender system. Could you provide me a brief overview of a Death Investigation?

Answer: Certainly. All Death Investigations begin with the Positive Identification of the deceased. There are two types of identification. The first, legal identification, is determined by official sources such as driver’s licenses, similar picture identification, and relative, or known associate confirmation. The second source of identification is Medical Identification. This type includes visual inspection, dental records, fingerprints, medical histories that could include x-rays, MRI’s, or Cat Scans. The visual inspection identifies tattoos, scars, and physical abnormalities or peculiarities. The Medical Examiner will provide a great deal of information. Positive identification is the beginning of a background investigation. The background investigation will reveal sources to assist in the conclusion of the investigation.

The Time of Death. A timeline is invaluable in your investigation. Working from a known fact to the unknown fact organizes the investigation, and provides momentum. Several methods are utilized to estimate the time of death. Rate of rigor mortis, livor mortis, desiccation, decomposition (putrefication), body temperature, insect presence and observation thereof, and available eyewitness interview. The time of discovery is compared to the time the deceased was last observed to narrow down the variations. The date, and time, of loss are relative to the Manner of Death.

The Cause of Death. Identify the trauma causing death. Review all reports and analysis provided by the Medical Examiner/ Coroner. The cause of death includes loss of blood, blunt force trauma, disease, toxin absorption, respiratory failure, and other specific causes. This is a specific medical diagnosis denoting a disease or injury (myocardial infarction, strangulation, gunshot wound). In particular, the Proximate Cause of Death (the initial injury that led to a sequence of events that led to the death of a victim). And the Immediate Cause of Death (the injury or disease that finally killed the individual). This information will lead to the Mechanism of Death. This term describes the altered physiology by which a disease or injury produces death (arrytrhmia, hypoventilatory hypoxia, exsanguination).

The Manner of Death. There are four determinations: Suicide, Homicide, Accidental, and Natural Caused. If the cause of death cannot be ruled accidental, or natural, the investigation should include crime scene analysis. Forensic evidence collection will support, or exclude, hypothesis and/or factual evidence. The Manner of Death will identify negligence, liability, and/or criminal involvement. Forensic investigation involves photography, measurement, fiber collection, fluid (DNA, blood, saliva) collection, chemical analysis, trace evidence, serology, toxicology, forensic anthropology, forensic ondontology, and physical object inspection and analysis.

Death investigation can support both criminal and civil litigation. Fact collection can be interpreted defensively or offensively. An investigator assists in trial and testimony preparation, interprets police reports, and assists in obtaining and analyzing forensic evidence, and documentary evidence through independent, and governmental sources.

Det. Michael T. O'Rourke is a Member of the National Association of Investigative Specialists, The National Association of Professional Process Servers, and Sustaining member of the Delaware Paralegal Association. A Court Certified Special Process Server, and a Licensed Private Investigator in DE and PA, Michael specializes in Insurance and Criminal Defense.

He invites your questions to:

Loss Solutions, Inc.
824 N. Market Street, Suite 425,
P.O. Box 368, Wilmington DE 19899-0368.
(302) 427-3600.

Or you may e-mail him at
free speech
Salsa-dancing roosters taunt Guatemalan president
Silly title, serious topic:
Thousands of Guatemalans line the streets every year to see students wearing executioners' hoods poke fun at politicians, the church and the country's powerful military. The parade began as a protest against late 19th century dictator Manuel Estrada Cabrera.

This year students dressed in yellow rooster costumes stole the show by changing the words to hit songs to take jabs at Portillo, who newspapers have accused of opening bank accounts in Panama to smuggle millions of dollars out of the country.
Why the hoods and costumes? Because past participants in these student marches have been assassinated as recently as in the 1990's.

The students weren't the only ones protesting this year:
For the third time in 10 days, thousands of Guatemalans filled the streets of the capital Friday to demand the resignation of President Alfonso Portillo and others accused of skimming hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds while children in the countryside are dying of malnutrition.
The Strike of Sorrows (or Huelga De Dolores) is a tradition that dates back to 1898. It's one of the few ways that criticism of government can be aired in a country with a long history of repression.

President Bush met with Central American Presidents yesterday. He had made a statement earlier last week about withholding aid from countries from governments that it identified as being corrupt. News reports don't indicate that the topic came up during the meeting.

I'm sure that most Guatemalans don't want aid money withheld. But, as we can see from their marches and protests, they would certainly like to see some changes take place in the way that the money is spent. The Strike of Sorrows happens around this time each year, so it wasn't timed to coincide with our President's visit.

Saturday, March 23, 2002

send a comment to the senate committee on the judiciary
The Committee has set up a special page where you can submit a comment on the subject of Protecting Creative Works in a Digital Age or the "Security Systems Standards and Certification Act (SSSCA), er... Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA). You can also read other people's comments. Many long, passionate, and intelligently articulated statements have been made. But there is room for more.

I was glad to see that someone had posted the Bill of Rights:

1. Users have the right to "time-shift" content that they have legally acquired.
This gives you the right to record video or audio for later viewing or listening. For example, you can use a VCR to record a TV show and play it back later.

2. Users have the right to "space-shift" content that they have legally acquired.
This gives you the right to use your content in different places (as long as each use is personal and non-commercial). For example, you can copy a CD to a portable music player so that you can listen to the songs while you're jogging.

3. Users have the right to make backup copies of their content.
This gives you the right to make archival copies to be used in the event that your original copies are destroyed.

4. Users have the right to use legally acquired content on the platform of their choice.
This gives you the right to listen to music on your Rio, to watch TV on your iMac, and to view DVDs on your Linux computer.

5. Users have the right to translate legally acquired content into comparable formats.
This gives you the right to modify content in order to make it more usable. For example, a blind person can modify an electronic book so that the content can be read out loud.

6. Users have the right to use technology in order to achieve the rights previously mentioned.
This last right guarantees your ability to exercise your other rights. Certain recent copyright laws have paradoxical loopholes that claim
to grant certain rights but then criminalize all technologies that could allow you to exercise those rights.
I've read enough to believe completely that the Act is the wrong approach. (But has the Judiciary Committee?)
legal notices and email
Attorneys from a Las Vegas Casino wanted to pursue a trademark infringment case against an off shore casino. They only had one problem. How do they serve the offshore casino when they had a valid email address, but all of their other address information was wrong? A federal appeals court ok'ed the use of email to send legal notices in this instance:
This week, an appeals panel affirmed a lower court's decision to allow the Las Vegas casino to serve the offshore casino electronically after attempts to reach it via traditional methods failed.

"When faced with an international e-business scofflaw playing hide-and-seek with the federal court, e-mail may be the only means of effecting service of process," the court said. The judges also pointed out that the offshore casino had gone so far as to set up a business that only accepts e-mail correspondence.
While this ruling probably won't have law offices filing service of process electronically on a regular basis, it's interesting to see a court recognize that email can fulfill such a role in certain circumstances.
the persistence of paper
I've been looking at imaging and document management software a lot. So much of technology seems geared towards ridding offices of paper. Easy access to information at the fingertips is the promise of technology. No more need for scrambling through stacks of pages on desktops.

But, it's possible that paper will continue to hold a place in the workspaces of many of us. It simply can fill a role at times that a computer monitor can't. A look of its role in the work of an air traffic controller:
This is, of course, a difficult conclusion for us to accept. Like the managers of the office-technology lab, we have in our heads the notion that an air-traffic-control center ought to be a pristine and gleaming place, full of the latest electronic gadgetry. We think of all those flight strips as cluttering and confusing the work of the office, and we fret about where all that paper will go. But, as Sellen and Harper point out, we needn't worry. It is only if paper's usefulness is in the information written directly on it that it must be stored. If its usefulness lies in the promotion of ongoing creative thinking, then, once that thinking is finished, the paper becomes superfluous. The solution to our paper problem, they write, is not to use less paper but to keep less paper.
So, maybe it's not the paper that I need to be worried about getting rid of, but rather the filing cabinets.
- William Slawski
lessons learned from lobstermen
An excellent article from the Atlantic Monthly, on ecologists learning about lobsters from Maine Lobstermen, called Stalking the American Lobster
Government scientists say that lobsters are being dangerously overfished. Lobstermen insist that stocks are plentiful. It's a familiar kind of standoff—except that now a new breed of ecologist has taken to the waters, using scuba gear, underwater robots, and even nuclear submarines, in order to figure out what's going on. It turns out that the lore and lessons of the lobsterman are worth paying attention to.
no fun at the sxsw
The Austin American-Statesman has a nice story about the SXSW from the Fire Marshall's perspective.

Friday, March 22, 2002

hazardous materials
One of my thoughts when looking at pictures from September 11th in Manhattan has to do with all of the dust. Dust and debris everywhere, covering the streets, and coating people fortunate enough to survive.

I've heard mumbled statements from the media about the possible effects of people breathing in particles of the crumbled twin towers. Nothing too loud. Nothing that causes any positive feelings.

I don't know that I want to think about it too much.

A friend forwarded a link tonight to a story published in April, 2000, by the Philadelphia Inquirer. It's about people who responded to a fire in Chester, Pennsylvania, which is a short distance across the state line from Delaware.

The fire was in 1978. So, why a story 22 years later?

It's because those who responded to what they thought was a tire fire were really confronting a chemical nightmare run wild.
More than 200 firefighters, police and paramedics had answered the alarm, assuming a tire fire had erupted. Instead, they waded unwarned into one of the worst illegal chemical dumps in the nation - a witches' brew so poisonous that the federal Superfund was born, in part, from it.
At least one in five of those running towards harm, to put out the fire have come down with serious illnesses, and a number of those have died.

The clean-up at ground zero continues. But what about the many contaminated grounds like the one in Chester, described in the Inquirer article?

How many traps are out there just waiting to be sprung on the unsuspecting?

The article mentions that the Superfund was created to identify places that are hazardous to people's health. And to find a way to clean those up. The Chester story illustrates why it's important that they be dealt with as quickly as possible.

It looks like there's a problem with funding the Superfund.
The idea behind Superfund is simple, fair and more effective than anything that came before it. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and states cooperate on identifying and designating sites that are high priorities for cleanup. Montanans who’ve followed the recent designation of Libby as a Superfund site have some inkling of the process. The government encourages parties responsible for the pollution to clean up their messes. Alternatively, the government pays for the cleanup and recovers the cost from the responsible parties. As a last resort, in cases where no responsible party is identifiable, the government pays for the cleanup out of the trust fund. That fund has been financed by a tax on polluting industries.

In 1995, the Republican-controlled Congress let the tax expire and rejected subsequent efforts by the Clinton administration to revive it. Now President Bush says he won’t seek to reinstate the tax.

As a result, the fund is drying up fast. The fund’s balance will fall to $28 million next year, down from more than $3.5 billion in 1996.

The implications are serious. EPA already has begun scaling back its cleanup work. And without money to pay for cleanup work from the fund, EPA will be at a decided disadvantage when negotiating with polluters who no longer run the risk of paying after the fact for cleanups done by the government.
Tonight's 6:00 news ran the same story, but the only place I could find it online was from this newspaper in Montana.

It's a quiet crisis, like the dust from the collapse of the World Trade Center.

Thoughts of the Chester Fire, the ground zero clean up, and the sad shape of the superfund made me wonder where the superfund sites are in Delaware.

The EPA does have a list of Superfund sites for Delaware. I don't know what incentives exist these days to go out and identify new sites, so that rescue workers can be aware of them. But I hope that the tragedy of the Chester fire doesn't get repeated for lack of money to identify and clean up hazardous sites.

We owe it to those brave enough to run towards danger on our behalf, like firefighters and paramedics and police officers, to not let that happen.

Thursday, March 21, 2002

cia agrees to stop giving out cookies
It was all a misunderstanding, say CIA spokespeople.

A memo from the White House Office of Management and Budget, dated June 22, 2000, gives instructions regarding federal government web sites and privacy policies. Among the instructions are the following:
Particular privacy concerns may be raised when uses of web technology can track the activities of users over time and across different web sites. These concerns are especially great where individuals who have come to government web sites do not have clear and conspicuous notice of any such tracking activities. "Cookies" -- small bits of software that are placed on a web user's hard drive -- are a principal example of current web technology that can be used in this way. The guidance issued on June 2, 1999, provided that agencies could only use "cookies" or other automatic means of collecting information if they gave clear notice of those activities.
The memo also lists some other restrictions to the use of files placed upon a visitors computer:
"cookies" should not be used at Federal web sites, or by contractors when operating web sites on behalf of agencies, unless, in addition to clear and conspicuous notice, the following conditions are met: a compelling need to gather the data on the site; appropriate and publicly disclosed privacy safeguards for handling of information derived from "cookies"; and personal approval by the head of the agency. In addition, it is federal policy that all Federal web sites and contractors when operating on behalf of agencies shall comply with the standards set forth in the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 with respect to the collection of personal information online at web sites directed to children.
The page from the CIA that was placing these "tracking files" upon visitor's computers was their Electronic Reading Room, where you can find out more about the Freedom of Information Act, and can look through de-classified documents.

Some other federal web sites that have been seen giving out cookies include the portal, the FBI's jobs site, as well as the main sites operated by the Small Business Administration, the Department of Education and the Selective Service.

Checking these, I see a section from the Selective Service that very reasonably explains what cookies are, and how they are used on the site.

The Department of Education makes no mention of cookies on their front page, but does have a registration process which allows you to personalize the site for your visits, and probably uses some type of file like a cookie.

I say "like a cookie" in the previous paragraph, because when I read over the Small Business Administration's Privacy Policy, they explained how they don't use cookies, but rather use small files known as "session variables" which are stored in the visiting computer's memory but not upon its hard drive. So, it looks like a cookie, and smells like a cookie, but it isn't because it isn't placed upon the user's hard drive.

I'd rather see a good reason for a "session variable's" use than an something that reads like a shortcut around the cookie/privacy tracking requirements.

Of concern to some people visiting the Electronic Reading Room was that you can view the most frequently requested documents that they are willing to disclose, from the page, or perform a keyword search. Keeping track of whom is performing which keyword searches is a little like spying upon your visitors.

A contractor who redesigned the CIA site had inadvertently added the cookie technology at the end of January.
more delaware judges
Four new judges in Delaware? That's what's being suggested, and recommended by the U.S. House and Senate, according to reports from U.S. Rep. Michael N. Castle's congressional staff.

Bankruptcy Court in Delaware has been making due with two judges, and visiting judges from Delaware's District Court, and from other federal courts in the region. The Court is one of the busiest bankruptcy courts in the nation, but needs help. As a favorite place to file cases involving complex reorganizations of corporations under chapter 11, many say that Delaware's Bankruptcy Court is at it's full capacity.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

of sewers and crime
The City of Wilmington has a big problem. With big problems often come big pricetags - 120 million dollars over the next 19 years or so.

The problem - raw sewage mixes with rainwater run-off from streets and is supposed to enter into the City's wastewater treatment facility. But there's too much. And the system can't handle it when it rains.

The overflow ends up going into the Christina and Brandywine rivers.

From the News Journal report, the City appears to be working to comply with federal requirements. But, it's difficult to tell.

There's a bit of a side story to the whole process, and it involves a citizen based environmentalist group named Green Delaware. Their leader was caught stenciling:
"WARNING RAW SEWAGE" on a Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO) that spews raw sewage into the Brandywine River whenever it rains.
He faces criminal charges for this "defacement" of government property. I don't know about you, but this is something that I would want to know if I was motoring past on a boat. And, according to him, the Clean Water Act requires such a warning to be in place. (I didn't dig through the text of the Act to confirm or deny his assertion.)

Subsequently, the group was asking the public to support them by joining in a protest in Wilmington on March 14th. I don't know how well their protest went, but I don't feel bad that they are trying to get someone to listen to them about this problem.

How serious is Wilmington's sewage problem? How serious is the problem with clean water in Delaware?

A 2000 report from the Sierra Club of Delaware (pdf) tells us that:
Many older cities were built with connected systems of storm water and sewage systems to handle runoff from major storm events. This situation persists in Wilmington, where even 0.1 inch of rain in a limited period can lead to raw sewage running into the Brandywine and Christina Rivers.
Friends of the Earth gave Delaware's compliance with the Clean Water Act a failing grade in 2000, citing the City of Wilmington's Sewage system as one of the problems.

Somehow, I suspect that the grade hasn't changed much in the last couple of years. The cost of clean water is expensive. But, it's a bill that needs to be paid.

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

pictures of tibet
Rae forwarded the following email to me about a presentation being given at the University of Delaware by an award winning photojournalist:

The UD Chapter of Amnesty International will be hosting Steve Lehman, an expert on the Tibetan struggle for independence, on March 26.

When: Tuesday March 26, 7:00pm
Where: Kirkbride 205

Mr. Lehman will be presenting on his experiences with the people of Tibet specifically related to the era of pro-independence that began with demonstrations in 1987 that he photographed and broke the story of to the Western world.

"In his multimedia presentation, Steve weaves together photographs, Tibetan voices, personal anecdotes and political analysis to create a narrative that is both accessible and informative. The lecture addresses the evolution of the contemporary political unrest in Tibet, non violent political struggle, U.S. policy toward Tibet, Tibet's future, coverage of Tibet in the media and working as a photojournalist in a repressive country. In light of recent attacks on the United States. the lecture is particularly relevant because of its emphasis on tolerance and the resolution of conflict through peaceful means."

Mr. Lehman's award-winning photobook "The Tibetans: A Struggle to Survive" will be on sale, and Steve will signing it after the lecture.
A review of The Tibetans: A Struggle to Survive tells us that Steve Lehman went to Tibet to spend a year photographing a:
visual anthropology of an 'untouched culture' whilst at the same time 're-examining his own life experience'.
What he captured on film were the stirrings of revolution.

CNN has an interview online with Lehman, and a description of some of his visions in Tibet during that time:
Just out of college, Lehman took his camera and documented the bloody Chinese National Day demonstrations on October 1, 1987. "To witness people being shot dead in the streets ... it had a very, very powerful impact on me."

The monks especially moved Lehman; despite their vows of non-violence he saw them pick up stones and hurl them at police and soldiers in one of the most dramatic clashes of the independence movement.
Davidson College had a visit from Steve Lehman last April, and seemed to have been entranced by his presentation:
In a refreshingly casual manner, Lehman presented slides and pages from his book The Tibetans: A Struggle to Survive, which was recently named as "Best Book" in the prestigious "Pictures of the Year" photo competition. His photographs have also been featured in publications such as National Geographic and Time.
Thank you Rae. This looks like it's worth setting an evening aside for. I'm looking forward to the author's reflections of the events he captured on film.

Visiting, the reviews for the book are all overwhelmingly positive. An award from the National Press Photographer's Association is not something given lightly.

Here's a map of the campus if you are interested in attending, and don't know where Kirkbride Hall is located. Kirkbride is in the center of the map, closest to the intersection of West Delaware Avenue (W. Del. Av., as they label it) and South College Avenue.
not the brand, but the product
When George W. Bush hired an advertising executive to fight anti-americanism around the world, he may have misunderstood the problem. An article from Alternet looks at what can happen when government uses the business concept of branding as an approach to influencing world-wide opinion.
who is buggin' Joe Biden?
Why is it that I envision government office buildings in Washington being filled with the latest in anti-surveillance devices? It seems to make sense that they would be.

Maybe it was because I was haunted by the ability of Gene Hackman's character in the movie The Conversation, to listen in to almost any dialogue between people that he wanted to. Maybe it's because of sites like

I mean, if private industry can tackle issues involving espionage, the FBI or the NSA should be pretty capable. Aren't those the types of agencies where surveillance experts get their training?

So with the news coming out in today's Delaware paper that Senator Joe Biden's office in Washington DC was bugged during 1987, when he made his failed run for the White House, it brought up a number of questions.

When the bug was discovered, it wasn't functioning. But it possibly was providing someone with some information that they shouldn't have been able to access.
Tim Ridley, who managed Biden's run for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination, said there was an atmosphere of distrust in the campaign because it seemed as if other campaigns anticipated Biden's speeches and announcements, information he now suspects was obtained through the bug. "You can imagine that kind of suspicion is very debilitating for an organization," he said.

I also can imagine that there are some senators and representatives who might be directing people to conduct some sweeps of their offices in light of this story. But, who do you get to do that? Who do you trust? (Or should I say, who do you distrust?)

I wonder if the Spybusters' phone was ringing nonstop this morning?
singing robots
Sony has unveiled a new toy for those of us who were fascinated by the robotic dogs they released last year. I thought the best part of the movie AI was the robot Teddy. Sony's singing robots aren't too far away from reproducing Teddy in real life.

And they only cost as much as a luxury car.

Monday, March 18, 2002

st. patrick's snow
A record 28.6 inches of snow thumped down on Anchorage, Alaska yesterday, almost doubling the previous record from 1955.

Photo by Jim Lavrakas / Anchorage Daily News

Sunday, March 17, 2002

exploring delaware online
It's been a slightly overcast Sunday in Delaware today, so I spent some time online looking for museums, parks and gardens to visit on another day. Some of these look like trips that could last all day, and other look like mild diversions. There are a number of other interesting looking places to visit in Delaware that don't have web sites, but this seemed like a list that could keep me busy for a while. Some of these places aren't open on Sundays, and other require advance reservations. If anyone has suggestions for other places in (or around) Delaware to visit, please leave a comment or send an email. (thanks)

Air Mobility Command Museum

"The Air Mobility Command Museum, located in Hangar 1301 on Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware, houses some of the most unique and distinguished military flying machines of the past 50+ years. Stand in the bomb bay of the B-17, gape at the gargantuan C-5 transport, examine the combat scars of the C-47. An online tour will introduce you to these and others, along with the many thousands of other artifacts on display that chronicle the history of the Dover base and Military Airlift."

Biggs Museum of American Art
Presently showing an exhibit of women artists from the early twentieth century in Delaware

Brandywine River Museum
"Exhibiting American art in a 19th-century grist mill, the Brandywine River Museum is internationally known for its unparalleled collection of works by three generations of Wyeths and its fine collection of American illustration, still life and landscape painting."

Christiana Fire Company Museum

Delaware Agricultural Museum
I've driven past this place a number of times, but had no idea what was actually going on inside. Seems like a lot more than a collection of tractors and plows from days gone by, as I envisioned from the name. An exhibit going through March 23 is The Vanishing Landscape: Farmland of Central Delaware -- Artist John McGiff’s one-man project to document the vanishing agricultural landscape of central Delaware. March also includes Women's History Month Programs such as: March 9: Laura Ingalls Wilder (children's program), March 16: Fashion Through Time, and March 23: Native American Women

Delaware Archaeology Museum
12,000 years worth of archaeological history in the State of Delaware

Delaware Art Museum

Delaware Center for Horticulture

Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts

Delaware History Museum

Delaware Museum of Natural History

Delaware Nature Society
Their web site includes information about the Ashland Nature Center and Abbott's Mill Nature Center

Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
Currently under development at Frawley Stadium in Wilmington, but I'm looking forward to its opening

Delaware State Parks
There are some very nice parks in Delaware. My favorite is White Clay Creek, where you can travel along one trail and find a Mason-Dixon marker that indicates a corner where Delaware and Pennsylvania meet. Here are the other parks: Bellevue State Park, Brandywine State Park, Brandywine Zoo, Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware Seashore State Park, Fenwick Island State Park, Fort Delaware State Park, Fox Point State Park, Holts Landing State Park, Killens Pond State Park, Lums Pond State Park, Trap Pond State Park, and Wilmington State Parks.

Delaware State Police Museum

Delaware Toy & Miniature Museum

DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum

Hagley Museum and Library
There is a lot to see here. A description from one of their pages of a couple of their attractions: "Blacksmith Hill focuses on the social and family history of the workers who operated the powder mills. Interpreters in period dress reflect life of the late nineteenth century in the Gibbons House, home to powder yard foremen and their families. In the Brandywine Manufacturers' Sunday School, constructed in 1817, children of mill workers learned to read, write, and cipher before Delaware provided public education"

Historic New Castle, Delaware
One of my favorite places to visit to get a taste of long ago. Check their schedule to see when tours are available, or visit anyway, and look into places like the old courthouse. The iron rod on top of the courthouse was used as the center point for the arc that describes the top boundary of Delaware's state line.

John Dickinson Plantation

Kalmar Nyckel Shipyard
Delaware's tall ship. A reproduction of the ship that brought the first settlement to Delaware from Sweden. The ship travels around the world, and is not always in port in Wilmington. A number of programs take place at the shipyard even when the ship isn't in port, such as wood carving, sailing classes and blacksmithing.

Longwood Gardens
A great place to bring a date for a romantic afternoon. From their website: "Longwood Gardens was created by industrialist Pierre S. du Pont (and is sometimes referred to as the DuPont Gardens) and offers 1,050 acres (425 hectares) of gardens, woodlands, and meadows; 20 outdoor gardens; 20 indoor gardens within 4 acres (1.6 hectares) of heated greenhouses; 11,000 different types of plants; spectacular fountains; extensive educational programs including horticultural career training and internships; and 800 horticultural and performing arts events each year, from flower shows, gardening demonstrations, courses, and children’s programs to concerts, organ and carillon recitals, musical theatre, and fireworks displays"

Nanticoke Indian Museum

Riverfront Delaware
The Wilmington Riverfront project is an attempt to build something special that tries to follow Baltimore's success with their "Inner Harbour." With the First USA RiverFront Arts Center, and the outlet shops in place, it's an enjoyable place to visit. There are also some great places to eat in the Riverfront Market.

University of Delaware Mineralogical Museum

One of the best museums of its type on the east coast or anywhere. From their web site: "Explore and enjoy our museum, garden and library. See the museum's magnificent collection of American antiques celebrating the best in style and craftsmanship. Delight your senses with a stroll through the glorious 60-acre garden and surrounding landscape of hills, waterways, and rolling meadows."

Zwaanendael Museum

Saturday, March 16, 2002

expunged, not sponged
A recent court case highlights a problem with the drafting of a statute. The Delaware Supreme Court overturned a Superior Court decision which had incorrectly denied the request to expunge a criminal record.

In the case of Ryan v. State of Delaware, a young fellow who had pled guilty to a minor offense in Newark had filed to have his record expunged in accordance with 11 Del.C. 4372(a)2. He had been given "Probation before Judgment" (PBJ) in Alderman's Court according to 11 Del.C. 4218 and he had successfully completed the terms of his probation. In exchange, the Alderman dismissed the charge against Ryan so that he could have his record expunged.

The problem is that to be eligible for probation before judgment, according to the PBJ statute, one must not have participated in that program within the last five years. Well, if you shred his record (via expungment) how will the Court or the Attorney General know if he is eligible the next time around? The State wanted to delay all such expungings for 5 years to allow the records to be compiled and checked.

Truth be told, the Attorney General's Office would probably be happy to do away with expungements all together. But the Supreme Court ruled that the expungement statute is clear, and that if a case is dismissed by PBJ or any other method it is eligible for consideration under the normal expungement process and is not burdened by the record keeping dilemma created by the poorly written PBJ statute.

Wouldn't it have been a good idea to have used a pseudonym for this poor fellow, instead of publishing his name in the Supreme Court opinion? Especially since the opinion was laying the groundwork to have his records shredded and all indicia of his arrest eliminated. I guess he won. But did he?

So remember expunge early and often. Keep your record clean. You might even try not getting in trouble in the first place, if nothing else works.
make a face
Ever considered being a sketch artist for the police? Now you can try it out online.

I've come to the realization that this career path should be denied to me, after trying to recreate the faces of some people I know with very limited success.
cleaner air in delaware?
Delaware's largest polluter (from 1998) has drastically reduced the emissions coming from its smokestacks.

Why is it that the statistics produced in 1999 are just being released now?
house of commons has soul
Alicia Keys played the House of Commons across the Atlantic, in a meeting of music and politics. The event left voters happy, and some politicians, and staff, cross.

While there were some ruffled feelings, and some concern about the commercialization of a political process, the real victors were the members of the House who got to experience first hand the power of music to bridge gaps between the politicians and the people they represent.
After the event, Mr Lammy denied he had broken any rules and instead argued that Parliament should make an effort to be "a little more modern, a bit more hip, a bit more relevant to young people."

"This is a young woman who sings from the heart about neighbourhoods like mine. This House is a House for the people," he added.

"And because I'm the youngest MP, I choose to do things in my way," he said. "I'm not here to promote the status quo."
And you know, it's not your fellow politicians who reelect you, it's your constituents. I'd love to see a younger politician in Delaware make an effort like this to reach out to the people he or she represents.
california courts fight delaware by getting bankruptcy friendly
Bankruptcy judges and lawyers in California are joining together to try to make the bankruptcy laws, and court rules there easier to understand. Part of why they are doing this is to stem the tide of companies that go to Delaware instead of California, as a place to file for bankruptcy. Delaware presently receives 60 percent of all of the bankruptcy filings nationwide.

A corporation may file for bankruptcy in the state in which it is incorporated, or in one where it has its principal place of business. Because many corporations are formed in Delaware, it is one of the available choices for many businesses. Delaware's Bankruptcy Court has a reputation for "being faster, more predictable and friendlier to debtors."

California is not the only place that is trying to catch up to Delaware by being more user friendly:
By considering new rules, the Central District joins a growing list of federal Bankruptcy Courts trying to woo distressed firms who would otherwise make tracks for Delaware. Bankruptcy Courts in Chicago, Miami, Nevada and Texas have either adopted or are considering such changes.

If the rules are approved, which is likely, they would be implemented about May 1.
biden seeks movement towards reconciliation with iran
Delaware's Senator Joe Biden met with the American Iranian Council, and offered to speak with Iranian law makers to find ways to bring improved relations between Iran and the United States.
Washington and Tehran found common ground to cooperate on Afghanistan, and Bush has continued to offer Iran talks. But some believe he undercut that position by lumping Iran in the "axis of evil" during his State of the Union speech this year.

Biden said improved ties with Iran were in U.S. interests, given the Islamic republic's importance to a region studded with oil-rich nations.

The United States was not in a position to have a major impact on Iran's internal power struggle and it should not intervene in any way, the senator said.

Washington must show Iran's youthful population it was "squarely with the Iranian people in their desire to have a democratic government and a democratic society," he said.

Friday, March 15, 2002

atheist keeps plate
Vanity license plates. Good idea? Bad idea? My thought is that as long as they can be used to identify the vehicle, and they don't cause accidents, they are fine. Who determines whether or not a choice of language on a plate will be accepted? Are first amendment rights implicated in the choice of wording on a plate, and the granting or denying of that plate?

It's really a gray area, when it comes to the law. A motorist in Florida applied for, and received a vanity license plate that has the word "atheist" on it. The driver is the vice president of an organization called Atheists of Florida.

Florida's DMV recently sent him a letter telling him that they had received ten complaints about the plate, and were asking him to turn it in because it was objectionable. Rather than turning the plate directly over, the ACLU was contacted. Research uncovered that Florida had issued a number of plates with religious language upon them, such as "Jesus."

When the story about the recall of the plate appeared in the St. Petersberg Times, the decision to cancel the atheist tag was reversed. A review committee is now being put into place for all decisions regarding canceling plates that might have questionable language upon them.

Why write about something that seems so trivial? The ACLU doesn't appear to have even made mention of this incident on their website. As problems with legal implications go, this barely appears on the legal radar. We aren't advocating a certain belief, or lack of belief in religion.

But, mundane problems like this one are the types of things that go wrong that can slowly erode our freedom of expression. If "Jesus" on a license plate is OK, then why shouldn't "atheist" be also? Small problems are the ones that court battles aren't often fought over. Here, the press was instrumental in bringing a problem to light, and having government reconsider their actions. Nice job, St. Petersberg Times!
drivers photos in criminal lineups?
The picture on my new license isn't terrible. It isn't one that I would want splattered all over the web, or on most-wanted posters in the postoffice either.

So, what if someone I knew reported a crime to the police, and was asked to come to the station, and look over some photographs? Imagine if my picture resembled the description they had given to the police. One step further -- consider whether the police could use in photographic lineups, the collection of photos from the Division of Motor Vehicles that were taken when people applied for, or renewed their driver's licenses?

Now, what if the police weren't telling people that they were using those pictures in this manner? And if your employer was contacted about your whereabouts because you were chosen from such a lineup?

I'm average height, average weight, and have no features that are extremely distinquishing. With brown hair, and brown eyes, there are a lot of people who resemble me, somewhat. I've had people tell me that I look like Paul McCartney. Others have told me that I look like Sylvester Stallone. Even others ask me if I went to high school with them, when I didn't, because I resemble someone who did.

But one of the last things I really want someone to tell me is that they saw my picture in a photo lineup at the police station. Or not tell me, but tell other people that I know.

This is a controversy that was uncovered in Colorado last week. State Senators weren't even aware that the photos were being used in such a manner. The Denver police officer quoted in the article stated that DMV photos were being used in like fashion nationwide. Do we do this in Delaware? It looks like Florida is using a similar practice.
married to an alien?
I went to the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles today to renew my driver's license. It was a pretty pain-free experience. There were very few people in line ahead of me, and the line flowed very quickly.

I barely had time to read the signs that were a recent addition on the walls of the office, about proof of legal status within the United States. While I was interested, I didn't spend more than a few seconds reading about the change in gaining a driver's license if you originate from outside of the US. I didn't have time to.

I understand from a News Journal article from a few days ago, that the DMV had mandated a showing of additional forms of proof because Delaware had recently become the easiest place within the Mid-Atlantic states for someone to get a driver's license without proof of being with the country legally. This was because Virginia, the previous weakest link, had imposed requirements making it more difficult to get a license.

The newspaper said that the parking lots of Delaware's DMV's were being converged upon by vans full of people with license plates from outside of the State. After these groups of folks would enter, and receive licenses, they were exiting and giving each other high-fives. The impression the reporter was attempting to convey was that these were people who were taking advantage of Delaware's previously less than rigorous requirements for gaining a legal proof of identity in the form of a driver's license.

Whether that was true or not, I saw no such spectacle today.

A new law proposed by Delaware's legislature seeks to address the possibility that people will take advantage of Delaware's laws regarding marriage licenses to gain the appearance of legal residence through a loophole. Presently, there is no need to show proof that you are in the country legally when you apply for a marriage license. A bill being reviewed in Dover would change this.

New Castle County's Clerk of Peace Ken Boulden has stated that ten percent of the marriages he performs each year involve people who could not show proof of being in the US legally. His fear is that people could then try to use that marriage license as proof that they are in the country legally, in other states.

The driver's license requirement is a policy that the DMV has imposed, and is not yet backed by a law from the legislature, though they are reviewing it in Dover, also.

Should people who are in the country illegally be allowed to marry here? Should they be allowed to get driver's licenses? That's questionable. But what they shouldn't be allowed to do is to show a driver's license or a wedding license to someone from another state, and use those documents as proof that they are in the country legally when they are not.

Thursday, March 14, 2002

Al's shallow expressions
Several times in the past, I have bitten my lip when reading columnist Al Mascitti's witty rhetoric in the Wilmington News Journal. Those are the times when he deviates from reason and insight to bash lawyers. Today is both different and the same.

Lawyer bashing for the sake of lawyer bashing does a disservice to our system of government, and to the people that we all are. Many, many attorneys work 15 hour days, year after year, in the hopes of making a the hopes of helping people. Most attorneys that I have ever met would much rather reach an agreement out of court than to proceed through the expense and time of a trial.

For the most part it is worse than a thankless job. It is normally thankless because clients frequently mentally link the attorney with the difficult situation that brought them to that attorney, thereby transferring the bad feelings of the event to the attorney.

It is Worse than thankless because despite our best efforts, we wake up to read the verbal slaughter of our reputation in the morning commentary.

And then reading further, I see that Al advocates discriminating against people in democratic elections because of their education or profession!?

"If we want to return to government that gets its work done without overburdening the court system, maybe we ought to be leery of electing so many lawyers."

Please, tell me it isn't so. The logic of Mascitti's column today is that since two legislators have decided to file lawsuits, we should not elect lawyers to public office. Or, if you prefer, that lawyers cause lawsuits. The vast majority of lawyers that I know try to avoid lawsuits, not cause them.

And when we cannot avoid them, we do our best to make sure that the case proceeds in as orderly and expeditious way as circumstances allow. His logic is better described as an exercise in the use of fallacies. An interesting analysis of these fallacies can be found on the internet.

Just like the irrational prejudices that Al swipes at with one key stroke, he emulates with another. In today's News Journal we see an example of a campaign of misinformation and prejudice. I shake my head and wonder what traumatic past events have so warped that commentator's perspective. Perhaps he comes from Philadelphia.

It is fine, as far as I am concerned, to criticize a particular attorney for that attorney's bad acts. We see this in the News Journal also. And, I have no quarrel with it.

But to make such wide and baseless dark comments as he continues to make would be like me saying that all newspaper columnists are hypocritical bigots. I wouldn't say that.
girl scouts beyond bars
Usually, the first thing I think of when I hear "girl scouts" are the cookie sales that they hold. I came across an article today that has me thinking about the organization in a much different light.

The Girl Scouts started Girl Scouts Beyond Bars in 1992, as a pilot program in Maryland, with a 2 million dollar grant from the federal government. The idea is a simple one. Give mothers and daughters a chance to communicate and interact with one another.
Girl Scouts Beyond Bars is open to girls ages 5 to 17. The program provides bus transportation to the prisons and volunteers to sit with the girls during the often long rides. Meetings are conducted by licensed social workers, volunteers or Girl Scouts Beyond Bars staff members. In a typical meeting, mothers and daughters chat informally and work together to earn Girl Scouts badges, from science, architecture and math exercises to a "beauty badge" that helps girls to select age-appropriate clothes, hair, makeup and nail polish.

The girls work toward community service badges by creating crafts for local women's shelters, earn art badges by painting murals on prison walls and receive budgeting badges by constructing household budgets based on mock salaries and expenses. As part of earning a communications badge, mothers and daughters are ask to role play, acting out how they would handle situations such as an unexpected pregnancy or a drug-abuse problem.
The article indicates that the program is currently in place at 23 facilities in 22 states.

I think I'll be buying a lot more cookies from the Girl Scouts from now on if it helps them support programs like this one. Today was the Girl Scouts' first Congressional Lobby Day. I hope they made a good impression in Washington, D.C. They have with me. If the Girl Scouts aren't involved with this program in Delaware, they should be. It looks like it would be worth pursuing further.
towers of light
The story of a journey to watch the memorial to the World Trade Centers sounds like a disappointing trip, at least until you see the photo of the towers of light.

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

please, not another fee
The judicial branch proposed yesterday that a new and separate fee be charged defendants to help pay for the cost of contract attorneys. This is one right idea but a wrong way to go about it.

In a former life, I supervised the collection and accounting of these types of fees, for one court, theoretically. The administrative overhead in accounting for, collecting, and enforcing separate fees will most likely cost more than will be collected. We already have too many special purpose separate fees.

How high do we expect the collection rate to be for the insular class of convicted criminals? And how many court clerks and accountants must we hire to calculate separate fees that aren't being paid? Wouldn't it be better if we just doubled or trebled the 'court costs' and did away with the special interest fee structure? We could still use the funds we don't collect to pay for the things we want. The accounting will just be cheaper.

And, despite three separate notifications to two separate News Journal reporters, that their reports are missing the big picture and are in effect inaccurate, they continue to follow the false trail like sheep. The conflict attorney program is just one of several such programs. All of the reported numbers of cases, dollar figures, and the overall valuations of the problem are incomplete and thus, wrong. Why would they continue to print incomplete and inaccurate reports?
harvard law school offers free classes online
The Berkman Center for Internet & Society, from Harvard Law School is offering a free class on the subject of privacy in cyberspace.

Individual sections of the non-credit class includes: Online Profiling, Employees Privacy on the Net, Governmental Collection of Data, and Cryptography and other Self-Help Mechanisms.

The opening session started on Monday, so if you're interested register quickly.

Another class to be offered by the Berkman Center is: Violence Against Women on the Internet
(via metafilter)
school drug testing comes to the Supreme Court
Should a school be allowed to ask for a urine test from any student who wants to be involved in an extracurricular activity? The US Supreme Court has a couple of cases before it on the subject of drug testing that may shape how we deal with the subject of drug testing in schools, at work, and when running for a political office.

An involved, and reasoned argument against such drug testing makes its case based upon a rationality and proportionality basis:
Given the serious intrusion, judges must insist on a serious government interest that is significantly furthered before blessing the policy as reasonable. The school district's asserted interests of deterring illegal drug use are substantial. But there is no tight fit between that goal and the means chosen here.

Crucially, there is no reason to believe that students who want to be in the choir or the chess club are more likely to use drugs than all other students. (Indeed, one might think students who choose to forgo participating in any extracurricular activities at all might be more disaffected with school, and more likely to use drugs in their greater leisure time - though some of these students might instead need to work afterschool jobs or take care of siblings.)

That lack of fit between ends (deterrence of drug use) and means (testing only those engaged in extracurricular activities) decisively distinguishes the Earls case from the student athlete drug testing upheld in the Vernonia case. The Vernonia Court explicitly relied on the facts that athletes were the leaders of the local high school drug culture, that athletic participation itself created special health risks for those on drugs, and that the incremental intrusion of a drug test was small given the other privacy intrusions inherent in sports themselves. Athletes also face special temptations to take drugs such as steroids to boost their athletic performance. None of these factors applies to the school stamp club.
I think that the authors of this article make a strong argument. But, will the Supreme Court see it that way?
amateur archeologists earn beer money with rare find
A couple of treasure hunters unearthed a trove that contains one of the most spectacular finds ever. They then proceeded to sell the artifacts they uncovered for just enough money to buy a new stereo, and some beer.

How amazing a find is this?
Experts say they are certain the haul, which included a circular disc depicting the heavens with sun, moon and stars, is at least 3,600 years old.

This shows Europeans had a rudimentary knowledge of the solar system and its influence on our lives far earlier than previously thought. Harald Meller, an archaeologist, said: "This ranks as one of the 20 most important finds of all time, up there with the tomb of Tutankhamun and the discovery of Otzi the iceman in the Alps.
So what is the punishment for trying to unload ancient priceless artifacts? Maybe the original discoverers had the right idea. The folks they sold their bounty to were arrested when they tried to sell the goods in the lobby of a Swiss hotel for considerably more money.
it is alive
Debates over genetically engineered crops have been raging for the past couple of years. The battle has shifted from corn and wheat, to a new arena - seafood. Critics have labeled gene modified foodstuffs with the moniker "frankenfood," after Mary Shelly's Frankenstein.

So now, questions have arisen about frankenfish. Our neighbors to the south in Maryland have passed a law allowing genetically modified fish to be grown in lakes and ponds that aren't connected to other waterways. California is considering imposing a fine up to $50,000 for the possession, release, or import of frankenfish into the state.

The Food and Drug Administration is presently considering whether such fish are safe to eat.

Monday, March 11, 2002

no tv for you
Can the taking away of television viewing be considered "cruel and unusual punishment?" Cruel maybe, but as many children around the world may have experienced, it's probably not unusual.

But when the order to not watch television comes from a judge, and is the result of a sentencing in a criminal case, it might be the grounds for an appeal. A federal district court judge sentenced a defendant (ny times, reg. req'd) to ten months of home confinement, with the condition that the home be televsion free.

After originally agreeing to the condition, the defendant has had second thoughts and is claiming that his first amendment rights are being violated.
how effective are drug courts?
Delaware was one of the first states in the country to have a drug court program. The focus of such a program is prevention, and rehabilitation rather than punishment. Successful completion of Drug Court can mean that a person can apply to have their charges expunged, and emerge with a clean record.

The Attorney General's Office has to decide whether a person should be offered the opportunity to take part in Drug Court. There are a number of things that they look for involving the offense in question, and the person charged with the offense.

So, how effective are Drug Courts? The Office of Justice Programs, from the federal government released the results of a study called: "Looking at a Decade of Drug Courts," back in 1998, which showed some remarkable results:
Unlike traditional treatment programs, becoming –clean and sober” is only the first step toward drug court graduation. Almost all drug courts require participants (after they have become clean and sober) to obtain a GED, maintain employment, be current in all financial obligations, including drug court fees and child support payments, if applicable, and to have a sponsor in the community. Many programs also require participants to perform community service hours -- to give back to the community that is supporting them through the drug court program. One drug court requires prospective graduates to prepare a two year –life plan” following drug court graduation for discussion with a community board to assure the court that the participant has developed the –tools” to lead a drug-free and crime-free life.

The original goals for drug courts -- reductions in recidivism and drug usage -- are being achieved, with recidivism rates substantially reduced for graduates and, to a lesser but significant degree, for participants who do not graduate as well. Drug usage rates for defendants while they are participating in the drug court, measured by the frequent, random urinalyses required of all participants, are also substantially reduced, generally to well under 10%, dramatically below that observed for nondrug court offenders.

The "outcomes” drug courts are achieving go far beyond these original goals, however: the birth of over 500 drug free babies to drug court participants; the reunification of hundreds of families, as parents regain or are able to retain custody of their children; education and vocational training and job placements for participants, to name a few. Most significantly, many of the judges who have served as the "drug court” judge have requested an extension of their assignment, and many have taken on the drug court duty in addition to their other docket responsibilities.
In addition, the costs of drug court supervision is substantially less than of incarceration, and of a hospital stay within a prison.
truth in advertising
Wonder Bread does your body good, doesn't it? As a settlement in a law suit, Interstate Bakeries has agreed to stop showing an advertisement that makes the claims that calcium-enriched bread can help children think better or improve their memories.

The FTC brought charges stating that Interstate Bakeries had no scientific evidence to back the claims made in the commericials. The company had pulled the ads before being contacted by the FTC because the campaign appeared to not affect sales positively.

However, they agreed to not run similar ads in the future unless they had scientific evidence to back such statements.

Saturday, March 09, 2002

netscape making a list
Why is it that this news doesn't come as a surprise with all the other shenanigans being perpetrated on the web?

A network traffic analysis performed by the Washington Post indicates that searches performed through the URL bar and search button function of Netscape Navigator 6 are being tracked and recorded by Netscape.

This tracking isn't disclosed on the Netscape web site in their privacy policy concerning the browser.
pennsylvania memorial
A national park and memorial has been proposed for the site of the crash of flight 93. No news as to what shape the memorial will take, but I think that this is a good idea worth pursuing.
who decides?
Legislation was approved this last Thursday by the Energy and Commerce Committee's telecommunications panel to create an internet domain safe for children. A company named "NeuStar Inc." will be responsible for setting standards, and making decisions about content for sites in the domain.

So who is "NeuStar Inc?"

For one thing, they keep track of telephone numbers in the United States:
Based in Washington DC, NeuStar operates the authoritative registry of all North American telephone numbers and administers the database, which all North American carriers rely upon to route billions of telephone calls daily. NeuStar also operates the dot-US registry, ``America's Internet Address''. NeuLevel, NeuStar's subsidiary, operates the .BIZ registry, the world's first top-level domain dedicated exclusively to business. Over 4000 telecommunications and service providers currently rely upon NeuStar's services.
But I'm wondering how this qualifies them to set standards for safe surfing for children under 13 years old.

And why a "" suffix instead of a ".kids" suffix?

Maybe the House has recognized some of the problems behind their good intentions:
While there was widespread support for the bill among lawmakers, Rep. Anna Eshoo said issues to be addressed include how to enforce it and the international implications of regulating certain Internet content.

"We may be creating an impossible task," said Eshoo, Democrat-California.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the international body that governs domain names, has refused to create a ".kids" suffix, questioning who would determine what material was appropriate for children.
the superior court funding saga continues...
Several weeks ago I brought to this dim light that the crisis of a lack of funding for state funded legal representation was much more serious than reported. As is typically done, there was a temporary band-aid thrown at one case, and it was suggested to us that the problem is at least temporarily fixed.

Today we have another case before us that was delayed for a similar reason.


There is a never ending line of cases waiting to move through the courts. You cannot solve a system-wide problem by writing a check on one case.

And still, no one has yet acknowledged the plight of the mentally ill and their even more poorly paid attorneys and the Black v. Black attorneys. Yes, I am one of them. And yes, if there were an increase in the payments I would be a likely recipient. If I weren't directly involved I probably wouldn't know about that aspect of this crisis.

Like, apparently, the rest of the State.

Wednesday, March 06, 2002

the delaware state defense force
When I first heard that we were going to be forming a volunteer militia, called the Delaware State Defense Force, I was both pleased and concerned.

I was pleased that steps are being taken to plan responsibly for emergency situations within our state.

I was concerned that it might be handled in a less than an organized and professional way.

In researching this matter, I found to my surprise that the laws regarding the establishment of this force are already in place:
20 Del. C. § 301. Establishment and composition.
(a) The Governor may organize such military forces within this State in addition to the Delaware National Guard as the Governor deems necessary for the defense of this State. Such forces shall be distinct from the Delaware National Guard and shall be known as the Delaware State Defense Forces. Such military forces shall be uniformed and comprised of officers and enlisted personnel who shall be citizens of this State who shall volunteer for such service.

(b) The Delaware State Defense Forces shall not be called into active state service unless the Delaware National Guard or a part thereof has been called into active federal service.

(c) The Governor may organize a command staff for the Delaware State Defense Forces which staff shall develop plans for mobilization of said force.

(d) The command staff of the Delaware State Defense Forces may maintain lists of volunteers for service in such forces and develop an organizational structure for such forces when called to active service.

(e) Nothing contained herein shall prohibit the Delaware State Defense Forces from meeting on a voluntary basis at no cost to the State when not in active service.
I was also pleased to learn that this force is being organized by solid military professionals, under the eye of our Governor, and staffed with trained veterans.

The history of Delaware's militia is rich and significant in the establishment of Delaware as a separate State. And, it was the predecessor to the Delaware National Guard.
dmca and extraterritoriality
A motion to dismiss was filed in a case which asks a judge to Just Say Nyet to U.S. Net Laws. In Russia, it is against the law to release software which does not allow you to create a backup copy to archive. The Adobe ebooks programs don't enable you to create archival copies.

A Moscow company released software on servers located outside of the United States which would enable you to make additional copies of the ebooks released by Adobe. Is the Russian company in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, for releasing their software?

This case, and some others like it, which deal with questions about a country's overview and regulation of internet activities will be important in mapping out our rights online and are worth watching carefully. Another case, referred to in the wired article involves Yahoo.
There have been few other decisions on how one country's legislation affects Internet users and businesses in other countries, the most sensational of which involves Yahoo's battle with the French government over the Internet company's sale of Nazi-related memorabilia on its site.

A French court initially required Yahoo to abide by the French law, but last November U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel ordered that the French law violated Yahoo's First Amendment rights.

In a tit-for-tat move last month, the French court brought criminal charges against Yahoo and Timothy Koogle, its former chief executive, for allegedly condoning war crimes with its Nazi sales. A trial date will be set on May 7.
Does it matter that the server you download the Russian software from resides in Michigan? The attorney for the defense claims that that it shouldn't, but I'm not so certain. Playing devil's advocate, I just have to ask, does any of the Adobe ebooks software download from a Russian server?

blog indexing
Want to find a blog near you? The Pepys Project indexes weblogs by geographical regions, and added us as their first Delaware listing yesterday. Any other Delaware weblogs out there? We're a small state, but I know that there are some other diamond staters keeping a weblog.

always carry your ID?
I can't count the number of times that I've done this, but I live on a one-way street. The California Supreme Court ok'ed the arrest (ny times - reg. reg'd) of a bicyclist who didn't have ID on him when he was pulled over for pedaling down a one-way street the wrong way. (via Organizing the Anarchy) Note to self: must remember to carry ID when riding bike.

always buckle up?
I was stopped today at a seatbelt checkpoint on Delaware Avenue, in Newark. Delaware has a website dedicated to getting the word out about the requirements to wear your seatbelt. You can't get a citation for not wearing your seatbelt unless you are pulled over for some other moving violation first. That's a fortunate thing for me, since I wasn't wearing mine when I was stopped. I usually strap myself in, but didn't today. The police officer kindly reminded me of the legal requirement in Delaware to wear a seat belt. Note to self: must remember to buckle up when driving.

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Today seemed to be a music day on the web. There's been a lot of focus in the media recently about the legal squabbles between the recording industry and file sharing services, and about digital copyrights. Maybe law plays too large a part in art and entertainment these days. While I was surfing around the web, I came across a number of articles about art and music. The first one is about a program which benefits the arts, and which many perceive to be in danger. It's such a beautiful recognition of what artistic endeavors bring to our society, that I hope it survives:

construction supporting art
I had never heard of Philadelphia's "Percent for Art" initiative, but it sounds like a good idea to me. Unfortunately, it's now facing a challenge. The program has developers within the City using one percent of their construction budget for public art. An exemption has been asked for by the developer of a multimillion-dollar riverfront apartment high-rise. If granted, many are fearful that others will try to skirt around this program, which has been in place for the last forty years and is responsible for making Philadelphia a very interesting looking city. I frequently wondered why there were so many statues and murals in the City of Brotherly Love. Now I know.

I wish more cities would adopt a program like "Percent for Art."

spending billions to make a million worldwide
An article in Billboard Magazine reports that over four billion dollars have been spent by online music providers to see a return of almost one million dollars worldwide, in an article entitled The Music Industry's Web Of Intrigue. An interesting perspective in this rant that takes the recording industry to task for their shortsighted practices:
Recent studies show that even hardcore fans have scant knowledge of the latest releases by established acts. The satisfactions of album-length releases have been systematically obscured in the marketplace by limited public exposure on either radio or TV. Many of the songs receiving the most aggressive pushes are designed to appeal to the prurient interests of nominal/cursory listeners. Such tacky sideshows rarely translate into a stable consumer base.

small screen music sales
And what music is being advertised on the radio and television? Pop Music's New Creed: Buy a TV Commercial, from the Washington Post, is about the appearance of two types of advertisement on television, and it blurs the line between the two without making much of a distinction between them. It does make some thoughtful observations.

A number of acts have turned to TV to advertise their music, including Bob Dylan, and Creed. A popular place to see the ads are during primetime shows like WWF Smackdown. Creed's marketing plan seems to take a clue from the marketing magic of Boxcar Willie, complete with a toll free number.

Another place where music is showing up is as background music in ads for products and services, which can be a risky proposition. The small screen can end your career, as it seemed to do for MC Hammer (Burger King), or it can bring you sales, as it did for Rufus Wainwright (The Gap) and Sting (Jaguar). A volkswagon ad brought Nick Drake back to the public's attention years after his tragic death. And when I see BB King in a Burger King ad, all I can think about is that he is getting well deserved recognition and a payday for years of hard work, rather than seeing him as selling out to corporate interests.

pirate radio
Some interesting going-ons in the world of small band broadcasting and the courts.
Pirate broadcasters get a boost from free-speech ruling
as a federal court made a ruling last month that may return the rights of some people to start broadcasting again.
Microbroadcasters -- a diverse assortment of community groups, churches, music lovers, students, political dissidents and eccentrics -- were driven underground in 1978 when the FCC stopped licensing them and set a 100-watt minimum for most stations.

The FCC's position was upheld in court but came under increasing attack as giant media companies gained control of most of the commercial airwaves. In January 2000, the commission passed new rules authorizing a limited number of noncommercial FM stations of 10 to 100 watts, with a range of one mile to a few miles. Former pirates could apply only if they had shut down when ordered to do so.
The federal appeals court ruling overturned a provision of the laws governing small band broadcasting that limited access, and denied it to those who had continued to carry on as pirates.

james carter, where art thou?
Sometimes in our deepest, darkest moments, something good happens. In James Carter's case, it was his singing "Po Lazurus" while working on a chain gang in 1959, and being recorded by Alan Lomax. Now, almost half a century later, his voice appears on a record that is outselling "the latest records from Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey." Mr. Carter was part of that large crowd that took the stage at the Grammys last week when "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" was announced as the Album of the Year. Congratulations, James Carter.

goodbye sheet music?
Harry Connick, Jr., received a patent (ny times - registration req'd) for a computerized: "system and method for coordinating music display among players in an orchestra."
In fact, Mr. Connick approached Apple Computer (news/quote) about helping him develop the system.

"I love their products and I thought for sure they would go for it," he said. "They put up a lot of `Think Different' posters and I sure think different. But they weren't interested."

On the day his patent was issued, Mr. Connick said, his wife, Jill Goodacre, a former Victoria's Secret model, asked him if he was proud of himself.

"I said not really," Mr. Connick recalled. "It's not like I invented Velcro or anything."

sony and filesharing
Something that may be a good sign for the recording industry: Sony Licenses Music for Song-Swapping CenterSpan
CenterSpan Communications Corp. CSCC.O on Thursday said it struck a deal to distribute Sony Music Entertainment's music on its peer-to-peer service, marking the first time a major record label has licensed its content to a file-sharing company.
I haven't looked at the CenterSpan service yet, but it might be worth taking a peek at.

other opinions regarding music
I came across the neumu site tonight, and it looks like it's filled with some interesting observations regarding modern music. They appear to be just as happy discussing the artistic merits of albums recorded on home boomboxes for fifty dollars as they do new major label releases. One article that caught my eye was It's no surprise major-label music sales are down - the music sucks! The site is filled with some solid writing on music; well worth a visit.

Monday, March 04, 2002

written in invisible ink
I remember when my father taught my brother and sister and I the magic of invisible ink. We wrote a message on a piece of paper in lemon juice, and let it dry. A short time afterwards, he held a match under it, just far enough away so that the paper didn't catch on fire. The heat from the flame caused the letters to show back up. I don't remember thinking of this as anything more than a curiosity, and never used the method to transmit intelligence reports to anyone. I guess the subtlety of espionage was lost upon us. Playing cowboys and indians, and little league baseball was more fun.

The James Madison Project (JMP) tried to discover the formula for invisible ink that was used by the intelligence offices of the United States almost 100 years ago. It looks like the greatest way to make invisible ink remain invisble is to hide it away where no one can read it. Chances are good that the method used is nothing greater than that home science experiment that I referred to above.

The JMP is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., and created in 1998. Their mission is:
to promote government accountability and the reduction of secrecy, as well as to educate the public on issues relating to intelligence and national security through means of research, advocacy and the dissemination of information.
One of their earliest efforts was to try to identify the oldest documents that exist which are classified as "Top Secret" by the United States Government, and they filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to do so. They received a response from the National Archives and Records Administration identifying the titles of the six oldest documents on record, all of which have to do with secret inks for invisble writing.

The JMP followed up their FOIA with a request that the documents be declassified. They weren't so much interested in the secret to invisible ink as much as they were in trying to get the goverment to stop protecting documents that probably no longer contain secrets worth protecting. Their request was rejected by the Agency, and they filed a complaint in Federal Court in an attempt to have the denial overturned. The Court made it's ruling this February. It appears that the secret to invisible ink will remain a secret.

During the exchange of documents filed in the case, the JMP's memorandum of law in opposition to a motion for summary judgment contains some great material regarding some of the information that our government has protected in the past, and an excellent history of the use of invisible inks. Some of the documents which they point to as having been held secretly:
  • The U.S. Army classifying a study on archery under the heading "silent, flashless weapons." David Wise THE POLITICS OF LYING 67 (Random House, 1973)("Politics of Lying").

  • The U.S. Navy classifying a report on sharks that was derived entirely from publicly available sources, purportedly to keep the documents from falling into the possession of the Soviet Navy, but more likely to keep the information from discouraging recruitment. Id. at 67-68.

  • The Joint Chief's classifying as "TOP SECRET" a report which criticized the gross abuses of secrecy classification at all levels in the military. SANFORD J. UNGAR, THE PAPERS & THE PAPERS 219 (Columbia Univ. Press/Morning side ed., 1989).
  • The Pentagon adamantly refusing to publish information that acknowledged that NASA had sent monkeys into space, despite the fact that the Washington Zoo had already identified its monkeys with a plaque praising their participation in rocket experiments in the U.S. space program. The Washington Post reported that the Pentagon explained it was trying to preserve the U.S. relationship with India, where certain obscure sects still practiced "monkey worship." Politics of Lying, at 67-68.

  • The classifying of White House menus as "Top Secret." Id. at 70.

  • Weather reports produced by an aid to General Eisenhower during World War Two still being classified even thirty years after the fact. Commission Report, at 52.

The memorandum also gives a description of the uses of invisible inks by the ancient greeks, by both sides during the American Revolutionary War, and by spies during World Wars I and II. It also cites the wide spread dissemination of formulas for hidden inks by books and through the internet, and gives examples of different types, including: Israeli Pale Blue Secret Ink No. 2, Gestapo Blood-Red Secret Ink, and Australian Secret Vapor Ink. JMP insists in their memorandum that the secrets of over 80 years ago regarding invisible inks are likely no longer secret anymore.

Should the government protect secrets that are probably not still secret? Is national security threatened by the release of these documents? The Judge in this case issued his decision without actually reviewing the documents in question, on the basis of a statement from the CIA that disclosure of the technology involved could affect national security. I hope that isn't true. I'd like to think that our intelligence agents are using methods a little more sophisticated than something I learned as a child.