Wednesday, July 31, 2002

standardized software law

Should there be consistent nationwide laws dealing with software, software licensing, and digital transactions? The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) is a group that creates recommendations for "uniform" laws that states can adopt so that certain legal issues are handled consistently from one state to another. There's a great deal of controversy over a nationwide model law they are reviewing now in Arizona, between the NCCUSL and states and consumer advocacy groups and software manufacturers.

An example of a model law from NCCUSL that works well and has been adopted in most, if not all states, is the Uniform Act to Secure the Attendance of Witnesses from Without a State. A Delaware subpoena doesn't have the power to compel someone in Maryland to attend a criminal case in Delaware. Under the Uniform Act, a Delaware attorney would get a Maryland attorney to file in a Maryland Court a certification signed by a Delaware Judge that testimony from a Maryland resident was material to a case in Delaware. The certification would be accompanied by a request to have the Maryland resident come into the Maryland Court, and explain to a Maryland Judge why he or she shouldn't be compelled to go to Delaware and testify in the Delaware trial. The Maryland Judge can then order that the Maryland resident go to Delaware to testify. This model rule works well because it allows the states to work together, and it safeguards the citizens of each state by allowing a hearing within their own state.

The uniform model law that NCCUSL is looking at in Arizona this week, and trying to amend is the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA). The proposed law originally came out three years ago, but most states, including Delaware haven't adopted it:
UCITA (pronounced you-see-ta) has met with fierce criticism since its introduction three years ago. Consumer groups, legal associations and library organizations have excoriated the proposed act for the freedom it would grant software makers to restrict the use of software and dictate the settlement terms for conflicts.

About half of the U.S. state attorneys general have come out in opposition to the law, joining the Consumer Project on Technology, the Consumers Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Free Software Foundation
A vote, possibly tomorrow, by the Commissioners will decide whether a number of amendments to the model law will be accepted by the organization. Regardless of whether the amendments are brought into UCITA or not, it will still be up to each state to decide if they want to take the model rule and make it part of their laws. Neither the software manufacturers nor the consumer groups appear to like the amendments, which were attempts at a compromise between them. Getting the states to accept them under that cloud of disagreement is asking a great deal.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

prisoner's rights

An federal appellate court in Pennsylvania reinstated a case brought by prisoners who would like to be able to watch adult-themed movies. A 1996 federal law bans all R, X and NC-17 rated movies. One US Supreme Court case that is often pointed towards when issues of prison regulations and prisoner rights clash is Turner v. Safley. Does that case apply here? It's possible. As the Yahoo article suggests, a broad prohibition against R and NC-17 movies would mean that prisoners can't watch films like Amistad and Schindler's List.
jury duty -- a different perspective

An interesting take on Jury Duty as theatre, from San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ken Gracia. Well, maybe not jury duty itself, but rather the excuses people sometimes find to try to get themselves from having to participate.
revolutionary delaware

Were the stars and stripes first brought in to wave over a battlefield in Delaware? The Battle of Cooch's Bridge will be re-enacted on August 24th, and some controversy exists as to whether or not the Stars and Stripes had yet been sewn in response to the Congressional Flag Resolution. The Continental Congress had officially decided what the flag would look like on June 14th, 1777. Fighting at Cooch's Bridge took place a few months later on September 3rd. Another re-enactment, that of the Battle of the Brandywine, will take place on September 22 near Chadds-Ford, Pa.
blogging by and about northeastern pennsylvania

I had the chance to visit northeastern Pennsylvania today. Well, not in person exactly. The NEPA Blog is an example of the type of regional blogging that I think is an awesome addition to the web. As the authors write on their "about" page:
This is a blog about Northeastern Pennsylvania. It's a collaborative blog by a group of NEPA residents, discussing & linking to news, happenings, and web sites in NEPA.
If you're from northeastern Pennsylvania, NEPA Blog is a great place to learn about what's going on around you -- and they are inviting others to participate by posting, or by commenting. If you're not a citizen of that region, it's still a terrific opportunity to explore the area. Some recent topics on the NEPA Blog have included: drug addiction treatment, community image, cultural events, fast food and zoning laws, and West Nile Virus. Great site.
opening icann's books

California's laws require that a nonprofit group allow access of their records to board members. That's the basis upon which a judge in California ruled to require the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to allow a board member of the organization to review the organization's books:
During the 90-minute hearing, Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs said that ICANN board members could not be denied their right under California law to review financial records, travel logs, legal contracts and other internal documents.
I'm amazed that a nonprofit would deny a director a chance to read this material.
christmas traditions

A Massachusetts teacher asked students to bring in books on their Christmas traditions. One brought in a book about Jesus Christ, and the student was asked to stop reading when she came to a passage about the birth of Jesus. The school was sued in federal court today for violating the student's right to free speech and exercise of religion. I'm not certain that this case will rise to the same level of media attention that the recent Ninth Circuit decision involving the Pledge of Allegiance did. Chances are that it won't. But, cases involving a clash between the anti-establishment clause and freedom of speech will probably draw more attention now then they did prior to the ruling on the pledge. Will there be a different ruling in this case than there would have been without the shadow of the political reaction to the Ninth Circuit decision?
social security security

A new law in California now has an official guidebook to go with it to help companies comply with the law. As for the new privacy law:
The law went into effect this month and prohibits businesses from posting or displaying Social Security numbers, printing them on identification cards, or requiring people to transmit the numbers over the Internet unless the connection is secure.
Both the guidebook, and the law sound like good ideas.
paid leave in california?

Will California become the first state to offer the right to paid leave "to care for sick family members or a new child?" A legislative proposal there would set up an insurance fund in which employers and employees contribute, and could mean 12 weeks of leave per year at fifty-five percent of a person's salary from that fund. A large number of other states have been considering something similar. California may become the first state to actually offer such benefits.
wireless court network hacked

A computer security analyst in Houston, was indicted by a grand jury on charges of fraud, after he demonstrated to a county official how simple it was to hack into the county court's wireless network, about a month after it was set up. I find myself wondering, as the UK's Messenger does, is this "prosecution a case of shooting the messenger?"

Monday, July 29, 2002

the daniel herrmann courthouse

Daniel Herrmann Courthouse

It's not until you reach the center of downtown Wilmington that you discover the true character of the City. Perhaps the most recognizable sight to most residents of, and visitors to Wilmington, is Rodney Square. In addition to a statue of Delaware's constitutional hero, Ceasar Rodney (featured on the back of Delaware's quarter) is a public area that's been home to a very large number of speeches and concerts and public events.

If someone was to describe this block of grass, and benches, and bus stops, and landscaping to you as the Heart of the City, they would be on the mark. When firefighters who rescued people at the World Trade Center came to Delaware last November, to be honored by the State, the ceremony was held in Rodney Square. When Governor Minner signed Delaware's Indoor Clean Air Act recently, it was under the shadow of the statue of Ceasar Rodney.

The buildings that surround the square are also well known.

On one side is the Wilmington Public Library, built in 1924.

On another is Delaware's most famous hotel, and the choice accomodation for owners of more than half of the Fortune 500 companies, when it comes time to have a shareholder's meeting. The Hotel duPont has long been given top honors for the quality of its food, and until recent times, its theatre was often used as a place to preview a play before it opened on Broadway.

On the next side around, if one were to travel clockwise about the square, is what is now the Wilmington Trust Building. Its front facade however, is that of Wilmington's long time federal building and post office. A number of years ago, the federal courts and offices moved down King Street a couple of blocks, but the facade remains as a reminder of the location's former significance.

The last side has often been recognized as the center for justice and democracy in New Castle County, and the State of Delaware. Long known as the "Public Building," it has also been called the Daniel Herrmann Court House the last few years. It holds within its walls Chancery Court, Superior Court, the Court of Common Pleas, and a number of other government offices. The structure's past has seen many other tenants:
The building was symmetrical, with all New Castle County government offices and the courts at the north end, and all city offices, including the board of education, the municipal court and the Wilmington police, at the south end. Each side had its own entrance, with the words "Court House" over the county side entrance and "City Hall" over the city side entrance. Inside, the two were joined by a wide, two-story arcade that was lined with the city and county offices that had the most dealings with the public. Each office had a door and a teller-style window and shelf where citizens could do business.

The mayor had an office on the top floor of the city side with a reception area and fireplace. The City Council and the county government, then called the Levy Court, shared the council chambers on the same floor, a practice that continued when both moved to the Louis L. Redding City-County Building.
Starting next week, Family Court will be the first of many of the courts in New Castle County to begin the move to a new Justice Center, which will officially open for business on September 3. The Wilmington News Journal describes in some detail the history of the Public Building and provides audio links to memories of what the Courthouse meant to some of its inhabitants. We will provide more about the move, and what it means to Delaware and Delawareans in the weeks to come.

Sunday, July 28, 2002

ivy league shenanigans

Not to take away anything from the immorality of what happened. But, there's a problem with this picture. We know that a Princeton recruiter hacked into Yale's web site to find out whether or not certain students who applied at both schools were accepted. If Yale had instituted a password protection system for the information, it wouldn't have been so easy for the Princeton Associate Dean to do. More details have followed, including the news that the acceptance notices of Lauren Bush and Ara Parseghian, grandson of the Notre Dame University football coach, were amongst those viewed. The Princeton admissions officer has admitted entering the site, and claims that he was testing its security. (No news from either article as to whether Princeton has an online admissions acceptance notice database, and whether it might or might not be password protected.) Using name, date of birth, and social security number as the keys to a "secured" system is just not a good idea.

Saturday, July 27, 2002

playstation in australia

Playstation modification chips (aka mod chips) were at the heart of a federal case in Australia. Australia has a law similar to the United State's Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), which can impose criminal charges for distributing software or hardware, or both, that circumvents techology used for copyright protection:
Mod chips are add-ons that typically have to be soldered to a game console's main circuit board. Properly installed, they defeat copy protection measures built into the consoles, allowing users to play games originally sent to different geographic markets, backup copies and bootleg discs. Hackers have also seized on mod chips for Microsoft's Xbox as a way to run homemade software on the console.
The Court ruled that the technology that the modification chips circumvented was not a "technological protection measure" under the Australian law because "it also prevents legal activity, including the playback of imported games and personal backup copies of games." Note that the Australian ruling has no impact upon US courts, and is no indication of how a ruling might go under the DMCA.
safire on blogging

I expect that the New York Times article Blog (reg. req'd), by William Safire, will earn its author a number of emails hoping to help him expand his definition a little:
Blog is a shortening of Web log. It is a Web site belonging to some average but opinionated Joe or Josie who keeps what used to be called a ''commonplace book'' -- a collection of clippings, musings and other things like journal entries that strike one's fancy or titillate one's curiosity. What makes this online daybook different from the commonplace book is that this form of personal noodling or diary-writing is on the Internet, with links that take the reader around the world in pursuit of more about a topic.
I know I'm tempted to send one off to him. There is no such thing as an "average Joe or Josie," which is what makes weblogs such compelling reading.
battle over biotech moves to court

Syngenta has brought a couple of lawsuits in District Court in Wilmington alleging patent infringement against competitors such as DuPont and Monsanto, and others, over seeds to grow genetically modified corn and genetically modified cotton. The plants have been altered to make them resistant to certain types of insects.
what you buy matters

That's the tagline of a UK site called Get Ethical which enables you to purchase ethically responsible products. They also have some very fascinating reading on their online magazine - Ethical Matters. I really like this site. Anyone know of similar online shops in the US? Get Ethical doesn't deliver outside the UK.
declaration of independence

From The Stylistic Artistry of the Declaration of Independence, by Stephen E. Lucas:
The Declaration of Independence is perhaps the most masterfully written state paper of Western civilization. As Moses Coit Tyler noted almost a century ago, no assessment of it can be complete without taking into account its extraordinary merits as a work of political prose style. Although many scholars have recognized those merits, there are surprisingly few sustained studies of the stylistic artistry of the Declaration. This essay seeks to illuminate that artistry by probing the discourse microscopically--at the level of the sentence, phrase, word, and syllable. By approaching the Declaration in this way, we can shed light both on its literary qualities and on its rhetorical power as a work designed to convince a "candid world" that the American colonies were justified in seeking to establish themselves as an independent nation.
A beautiful essay on the power and language and philosophy of the Declaration of Independence.

Friday, July 26, 2002

public humiliation as punishment

A new reality show, on a Denver station, shows pictures of men convicted of soliciting prostitution. Denver's cable access station aired Johns' TV on Thursday. They're not the only ones:
Many newspapers across the country routinely publish the photos of men convicted of soliciting prostitution, among other crimes, and several other cities have already started TV shows featuring johns: "BUSTED" in Orlando, Fla. ; "Shame TV" in Charlotte, N.C.; and in Calgary, Alberta, the "Calgary Ho Down."
The Calgary show actually appears to be a web page by a citizens' activist group, which has received coverage by local stations rather than a government sponsored action. I couldn't find more on the Orlando show referred to by the San Francisco Chronicle, but the City of Orlando does post pictures of people who have been arrested, but not yet convicted, of certain offenses including prostitution on a page titled Busted. Charlotte's Shame TV is a real television show, airing on the government channel.

The ACLU is working in Denver to try to stop the broadcasts, claiming that the family members of those shown are the ones who end up being punished, and that the publicity as punishment exceeds the penalty described by the law. Here's the official word from Denver's Mayor Wellington E. Webb, who introduced the program in his final State of the City address. The pictures will also be shown on the City's website.

Denver and Charlotte's Shame TV aren't breaking new ground. Kansas City has broadcast John TV since 1997. Still, I can't help but find myself agreeing with a columnist from Little Rock, Arkansas, who had the following warning when a similar program was proposed there at the end of 2000: "I say to all of you who think this is a good idea, BEWARE! You might be surprised at who's face may appear on such a program." Of course, she was talking about some local politicians.
good news for internet radio?

A trio of legislators introduced the "The Internet Radio Fairness Act" in the US House of Representatives today, in an effort to aid small webcasting radio stations. The bill would remove much of the financial hardship on small businesses (less than six million dollars in gross revenues) that broadcast music over the web. The Digital Media Association is very positive about the bill, and has provided a copy of it online (pdf). The Radio and Internet Newsletter is also excited about the legislation. While this would benefit a very large number of webcasters, the question, with five weeks left before the House adjourns and hundreds of stations already closing, is might it have come too late?
Delaware in the civil war

Liberty, wrapped in American flag, holds Delaware state seal. White envelope with red and blue ink. Image on left. Border and decorative pattern cover sheet. Loyal to the Union

Civil War Treasures from the New York Historical Society, [Digital ID aj50001]

Thursday, July 25, 2002

citizen blogging

A public interest citizen-run advocacy group in Minnesota, Citizen's League, has started a weblog called The Pulse, which looks at what governments are doing in other places to consider how their lessons learned might benefit Minnesota. Another group, doing something similar but on a wider scale is Citistates, which I discovered from The Pulse. This is a great idea, and I would love to see a citizen's group in Delaware doing something similar. (Link via Blog the Organization! which has the potential to turn into a really wonderful resource. Its focus is "news and commentary on the use of weblogs by organizations.")
delaware's copy of the constitution to return

Delaware's copy of the constitution of the United States will be making a return to Delaware in December of 2003, when it will be displayed in the renovated state archives building. Each of the original 13 states had a copy so that they could meet with their legislatures, and decide which of the original 12 amendments to the constitution they wanted to ratify. Delaware was the only state to actually mark upon their copy which amendments they accepted. The federal government is retaining ownership rights over the document because it is legal proof that the constitution was ratified, and will be "loaning" the copy to the state. I'm looking forward to getting a chance to see it.
happy 50th anniversary, commonwealth of puerto rico

It's a celebration that half the population of Puerto Rico may likely ignore. Puerto Ricans have been US citizens since 1917, but it wasn't until 1952 that a constitution was passed declaring them a commonwealth. The governing document went into effect on this date, 50 years ago, but focused more on the local operations of government than the status of the island in its relationship with the United States. The Puetro Rico Herald is running a number of stories on what being a "commonwealth" means to Puerto Rico, including one called Commonwealth Drove the Modernization of a Caribbean Backwater, and another on an effort to get more Puerto Ricans who live on the mainland to register to vote to give the island more political power in Washington, D.C.
pipeline penalties

On Tuesday, legislation was passed to strengthen laws regarding 1.6 million miles of pipeline in the US used to transport oil and other petroleum products and natural gas. The following paragraph just jumped out at me while reading the article:
An average of four major pipeline accidents causing death, injury or property
damage of more than $50,000 occur each week, according to the General Accounting Office. But environmental groups claim only one in 25 pipeline violators are hit with fines.
The law calls for more safety inspections, and greater penalties for companies that "don't keep their pipelines in good condition."
now policing for 60 years

A police officer in the Milwaukee Police Department, Lt. Andrew Anewenter, has been carrying a badge for sixty years. Now 86 years old, this article calls him "one of the oldest active police officers in the country." Totally amazing.
freedom of the school press

Should a university newspaper be free to print stories without fear of oversight by one of the school's deans? High school principals have the right, under a Supreme Court ruling, to read the school paper before it is distributed. The answer may come from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
thousands of new crimes

The number of federal crimes that a person might be charged with almost doubled recently, under a bill that would have given statutory authority for prosecutors to indict under a new class of attempted crimes. The provision was part of the corporate fraud bill that is being examined by the House and the Senate.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

blogging for businesses

I'm happy to see that Chapter 8, Using Blogs in Business, from We Blog: Publishing Online with Weblogs is now online -- before the book has even been released for sale to the public. I think that the many possible uses of a business weblog can bring positive results to those willing to try one out. This chapter does an excellent job of describing how a blog can focus upon knowledge management, project management, and improving communications within a business atmosphere. It also includes an exercise you can follow to set up a blog for your business.
oh brother

You're an attorney employed by a movie studio, and you're asked to draft a letter to the Marx Brothers. The working title to the movie they're making is somewhat similar to a movie that your studio released five years earlier. It's your job to ask him not to use that title. You get a letter back, signed by Groucho Marx, which includes the following:
You claim that you own Casablanca and that no one else can use that name without permission. What about “Warner Brothers”? Do you own that too? You probably have the right to use the name Warner, but what about the name Brothers? Professionally, we were brothers long before you were. We were touring the sticks as the Marx Brothers when Vitaphone was still a gleam in the inventor’s eye, and even before there had been other brothers—the Smith Brothers; the Brothers Karamazov; Dan Brothers, an outfielder with Detroit; and “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” (This was originally “Brothers, Can You Spare a Dime?” but this was spreading a dime pretty thin, so they threw out one brother, gave all the money to the other one, and whittled it down to “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”)
and also
It wouldn’t surprise me at all to discover that the heads of your legal department are unaware of this absurd dispute, for I am acquainted with many of them and they are fine fellows with curly black hair, double-breasted suits and a love of their fellow man that out-Saroyans Saroyan.

I have a hunch that his attempt to prevent us from using the title is the brainchild of some ferret-faced shyster, serving a brief apprenticeship in your legal department. I know the type well—hot out of law school, hungry for success, and too ambitious to follow the natural laws of promotion. This bar sinister probably needled your attorneys, most of whom are fine fellows with curly black hair, double-breasted suits, etc., into attempting to enjoin us. Well, he won’t get away with it! We’ll fight him to the highest court! No pasty-faced legal adventurer is going to cause bad blood between the Warners and the Marxes. We are all brothers under the skin, and we’ll remain friends till the last reel of “A Night in Casablanca” goes tumbling over the spool.
It's no wonder at all that a link to this letter is listed under "related resources" on the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse web site.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

accounting for the music industry

The California Senate's Judiciary Committee heard testimony from singers and entertainment attorneys today. Are the largest recording companies underpaying royalties to musical artists? Or, is the hearing part of power negotiations on the behalf of performers who want to have the terms of their contracts changed? Is the situation of Sam Moore a typical one:
Among those testifying, singer Sam Moore, formerly of Sam and Dave, recalled learning in his 50s that his retirement fund would be $67 a month because his record label never reported income to his pension fund.
In light of accounting irregularities being discovered throughout other parts of corporate America, it's a timely issue worth looking into, regardless of how it's characterized.
moon rocks for sale

From the what-were-they-thinking department, employees of NASA were charged in the theft of moon rocks. OK. They look like rocks. The people selling them can't prove the rocks authenticity without possibly being arrested. And, they aren't something that you can sell on a street corner. Just where would you sell something so unique? How about the web site of the Mineralogy Club of Antwerp, Belgium?
a cleaner california

The state with the largest market for automobiles in the U.S. now has a much stricter emissions law, which would go into effect in 2006. On Monday, Governor Gray Davis signed a bill into law which would drastically reduce green house gas emissions. There weren't any any positive responses coming from the automobile industry over the new law, and even talk of federal challenges from that quarter. However, legislators from some other states have announced that they will be looking at the law to see if it is something that they would also like to put into place.

The Zacarias Moussaoui case is causing us to consider some aspects of self defense representation that may stick around a long time after the case is resolved. How much access to legal help should a defendant in a terrorist case have, when the potential exists for that defendant to pass along information through someone to a terrorist organization? Things such as the identities of intelligence operatives, or other such classified information. Then again, as Moussaoui wrote in a motion to the court:
I have nobody to investigate the case for me outside [the detention facility], to contact witnesses. I have no access at all to news. No right to TV, to newspapers, to radio. No phone. No printer. That [is] the only way for them to win this case: To have no opposition
So, what's the solution? It's something that we do need to be spending some time considering.

Monday, July 22, 2002


Here is an interesting twist on a copyright notice from a Woodie Guthrie song...

This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do.

This blog entry has been boinging around this dithered glish net. Not necessarily in that order.
save a cub foundation

Bear with Cubs
Rudy De Bock provides insight and perspective with his photography of bears. This picture and the others, are only to be used to promote the SAC Foundation site. Their webmaster tells me that they are on the verge of an english language version of the site. Once that is available, we can know more of the purpose and methods of the SACFOUND. And Rudy, we are looking forward to your next visit to the States!

Sunday, July 21, 2002

amish cooking

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may notice that I like to point out articles dealing with the Amish. The law tends to affect them in strange and unusual ways because they aren't the people that many of our laws are written on behalf of, and they don't have much of a voice. Mostly, they just want to live their own lives simply, and peacefully.

Imagine that you're on a bus tour through Amish lands in Pennsylvania, and the opportunity comes up to feast with the Amish in one of their homes. Of course, they are going to charge you for this, but I'd expect a good meal, and a chance to see a different lifestyle. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania would like to see the Amish who feed tourists get restaurant licenses and be subject to occasional health inspections, fearful of such things as e.coli outbreaks. Now, if many of them went ahead and procured licenses to serve food as restaurants, they would be running into zoning laws which don't allow restaurants in agricultural districts. Chances are in the future that your bus might just pull up in front of a McDonalds or Burger King.
allen iverson and legal commentary

Allen Iverson's recent legal troubles have not only earned him a high level of media attention, but also a bit of scrutiny from people who write about legal issues. A couple of articles that I found interesting were Allen Iverson and the Presumption of Innocence and a Philadelphia Inquirer article that compares the investigation of the Iverson case with another that didn't involve a celebrity:
The two cases suggest what many would already assume: that police give preferential treatment to cases involving people of prominence. In this instance, however, it would appear Iverson's prominence did as much to hurt as to help him. If anyone benefited, it would seem to have been his alleged victims, Charles Jones and Hakim Carey, whose charges received prompt and unusually extensive attention from police.
Sometimes the price of fame is having to live under a microscope. [July 22 -- A gag order was issued in the Iverson case today to help avoid the problems that publicity might raise in a high profile proceeding:
Municipal Court Judge James DeLeon barred police, the district attorney's office, and the lawyers involved from talking to reporters about Iverson's criminal case. He said he would revisit his decision after Iverson's preliminary hearing, scheduled for July 29.
This was probably a good idea considering all of the press that the case has been receiving locally.]

It was only a matter of time before someone set up a satire page dealing with the Terrorism Information and Prevention System (TIPS). Now you too can report TIPS informants. (via greplaw)

Later: It appears that the TIPS program, which would have used volunteers to conduct domestic surveillance has been scrapped. The links from Brad Templeton's site above (with the interesting domain name "") still make for some good reading. In addition to being the chairman of the EFF, he also started the newsgroup rec.humor.funny.

Saturday, July 20, 2002

puerto rico

On July 25th, Puerto Rico will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the date that their constitution went into effect, declaring them a Commonwealth. Exactly what does Commonwealth status mean? There's been a lot of confusion about the relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico since that association began in 1898. There are questions as to whether the 1952 constitution did anything to provide more clarity on the subject.

The Puerto Rico Herald is running a multipart article about Puerto Rico's 50 years as a Commonwealth. The first part, Establishing the Commonwealth Constitution, 1950-1953 raises a number of issues regarding the nature of the island's governance. It begins by considering whether the consitution was intended to change the relationship between the U.S. and Puerto Rico, or to define local politics and rights.

The second part in the series, "Perfecting" the Commonwealth, 1959-1976, contains an interesting analysis of the interactions between Puerto Rico and the U.S. Congress. I'm looking forward to the third part of the series which will bring us through the 1990s to the present regarding the political status of Puerto Rico.

In anticipation of the date that the constitution went into effect, a "resolution 'celebrating' the 50th anniversary of Puerto Rico’s territorial constitution" was discussed by the U.S. House of Representatives with some unexpected results. I'm not sure what the future holds for Puerto Rico. There's dissatisfaction with the status quo, but there's also fierce debate over whether the island should become a state or seek self rule. The first two parts of the Herald's recounting of the political struggles over the past 50 years was an interesting and thoughtful analysis. I expect that the third part will be published within the next few days.

To gain a little more perspective, I looked at some other articles on the web, including this one from the Library of Congress called In Search of a National Identity: Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Puerto Rico. Another page, which appears to be set up to attract tourism to Puerto Rico (compellingly, I may add -- I'd like to visit), includes a comprehensive view of its government without discussing any political controversies. The CIA -- World Factbook has some interesting data about the Commonwealth, but doesn't address the current political climate there. The best page I've found on the subject of the political status of Puerto Rico is the Puerto Rico Online Resource Center.

Congratulations Puerto Rico, on the 50th anniversary of your constitution.

Friday, July 19, 2002

the nation's pastime

Baseball Parks - N.Y. and Phila. players at site of fire - Polo Grounds, NYC, April 14, 1911
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-80748

What's going on with baseball? The Oakland Athletics have voted to authorize a strike date, and there are mumblings in the news about the search for a new pastime. It's beginning to look like the season will be interrupted by a strike.

When I saw this picture of the loss of the Polo Grounds in 1911, it made me think of the state of baseball today. The tale above almost had a miracle ending. Even with the loss of their home field, the New York Giants did make it all the way to the world series that year, where they eventually lost to the Philadelphia Athletics. The Giants played the remainder of their homegames at the Highlanders' (later Yankees) field. How devastating would a strike be to the national pastime? It took years for baseball to regain some of the popularity it lost with the last strike...

Thursday, July 18, 2002

double jeopardy in jeopardy

The prohibition against double jeopardy is something that we may take for granted as a right guaranteed to us under the United States Consititution. We adopted it as one of many legal traditions from Britain, and it was incorporated into our Bill of Rights. It's a little striking to see that Britain may stop following that 800 year old bar against trying a person twice for the same crime. I can't help thinking that the problem of Britain's rising crime rate would be better served by better training for their investigative officers than by removing double jeopardy. But, then again, we've had some battles here, in the States, over how the prohibition against double jeopardy should apply. And, you know, if you remove the prohibition against double jeopardy in "cases where you know that the defendant is guilty," you might as well get rid of the right to have a trial by jury too. Oh.
delaware celebrates

This Saturday is Delaware City Day with a parade at 11am and fireworks at 9pm. I've seen the fireworks display before, and it's a good show. Last year, over 5,000 people came to watch firecrackers light up the sky over the waters of the Delaware Bay.

The Delaware State Fair officially starts tomorrow with Bill Cosby leading off as the main attraction. Willie Nelson and Lee Ann Womack will perform together Saturday night, at 8pm.

A number of other interesting events happening in the State can be found on the Wilmington News Journal's online 55 Weeks section.
social engineering at the university of delaware

A University of Delaware student is facing some serious charges for supposedly breaking into the school's computer system and changing her grades. Rather than using some sophisticated computer skills and software, the student is alleged to have called the University Help Desk three different times and asked to have passwords changed so that she could gain access to where the professors record grades. Normally, help desk staff won't do this over the telephone at the U of D. The third time, they supposedly allowed her to change a password again, and also called the police.

There are some good suggestions on this page on how to avoid this type of social engineering. I feel sorry for this student, and I wish that the help desk had not been so helpful to her. Another good, itemized list of ways to thwart social engineers.
do not call meets verisign

From a seemingly unlikely source comes a new service for telecom call centers to make certain that they are in compliance with telemarketing "do not call" statutes. Verisign will be offering a database and service in conjunction with a New York company to help telemarketers keep track of whom they shouldn't call. On paper, this sounds like a good idea. It's been more than ten years since Congress passed a "do not call" statute. It's questionable as to how effective that law has been. Will having someone like Versign offering a national database make it easier for companies to comply? Is Verisign up to the task?

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

jury duty

When I saw the title of an article from CNN called A journalist's view from the jury box, I was set to read a negative review of the author's experience within a court house, being forced to perform his or her "civic duty." What I read when I got to the story was another matter:
Most importantly, the system permitted a jury of a citizen's peers -- not some government bureaucrat, secret police squad or dictator -- to weigh the evidence. I could have easily blown off jury duty, as so many people do. I'm glad I didn't.
Many people look at jury duty as something that should be avoided. I like to look at it as a chance to exercise a right that might be an example of democracy at its finest. Ordinary people, like you and I, get to look at the facts surrounding a case involving real people, and make decisions that have profound effects upon people's lives, liberty, and property. When we vote, we are choosing a representative. When we run for office, we often have to yield to the will of our constituents. When we serve as a juror, we shape our society.
alaska pipeline

Oil first started being moved through the Alaska pipeline in 1977. The leases held by the pipeline's owners, for use of the state and federal land that it stretches across, are up for renewal in 2004. There are a lot of issues to discuss, such as reports of permafrost melting in Alaska and how that might pose safety and environmental risks.

A number of people are calling for public hearings to discuss environmental risks. Others are emphasizing the importance of making certain that the pipelines continue to operate. Both sides appear in agreement that the pipelines should be used into the future. The debate seems mostly over the type of oversight that will be involved the next lease period, which would probably be for thirty years. I expect that we will hear a lot more on the pipeline as we get closer to the 2004 renewal date. Some of the reports of permafrost melting that I saw online go back a few years, like this one from 1983.

The article mentions the Joint Pipeline Office, which is a group of federal and state agencies that regulate the pipeline and its Valdez terminal, and consider themselves to be the advocacy group for public concerns. Here are some documents that they've put online regarding the renewal of the right-of-way lease. One request voiced by some members of the public is that citizen's groups should be appointed to provide some review of the spending of the companies leasing the land. Their fear is that cost-cutting decisions might create unnecessary risk to safety and to the pristine wilderness that much of the conduit passes through. The Joint Public Office hasn't included such oversight in their recommendations.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

migrant workers, part two

The picture that Larry posted below, of a migrant camp surrounded by barb-wire, from the 1940s, was a scene that I think may have been repeated in a number of places around the country. There were some hard times for people who moved where the work was, and there still are. The population of migrant workers in the US hasn't gotten smaller, and the work hasn't really gotten much easier. There is some hope, and some efforts to try to make things better.

I found a couple of sites that focus on today's migrants' problems and concerns. Rural Migration News considers such issues as Housing in San Diego, new difficulties for non-citizens to get driver's licenses, the December indictment against Tyson Foods, and many others.

The Geneseo Migrant Center is an advocacy group for migrant farmworkers and their families. The center provides a number of health and educational services near where they are located in New York. They also have a pretty good links page, which leads to a number of other regional and national sites.

The U.S. Department of Labor also includes in their Employment Law Guide a section about Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection which gives a brief overview of Title 29, Chapter 20 of the U.S. Code -- The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.

One local organization that helps migrant workers with housing, education, job training, and food is Telamon Corporation. The Legal Aid Bureau, in Maryland, has a Farmworker Program that provides advice and legal representation to migrant and seasonal farmworkers in Maryland, and Delaware. The Food Bank of Delaware also provides assistance and support.
migratory workers

Farm labor has always been an important element of the agricultural industry in Delmarva. Here is a historical scene from that element.

The barbed-wire enclosed camp for migratory workers at the Cannon Company of Bridgeville, Delaware[ca 1940]
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
Reproduction Number: LC-USF33-020607-M2
government sponsored internet filtering

Should the government filter web sites? Should they block out certain web pages for our protection? What criteria should they use? There are many governments that do filter pages.

Jonathan Zittrain and Benjamin Edelman of Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society are working on a study to document internet filtering worldwide. One of their first country specific studies focuses upon Saudi Arabia:
Abstract: The authors connected to the Internet through proxy servers in Saudi Arabia and attempted to access approximately 60,000 Web pages as a means of empirically determining the scope and pervasiveness of Internet filtering there. Saudi-installed filtering systems prevented access to certain requested Web pages; the authors tracked 2,038 blocked pages. Such pages contained information about religion, health, education, reference, humor, and entertainment. ...The authors conclude (1) that the Saudi government maintains an active interest in filtering non-sexually explicit Web content for users within the Kingdom; (2) that substantial amounts of non-sexually explicit Web content is in fact effectively inaccessible to most Saudi Arabians; and (3) that much of this content consists of sites that are popular elsewhere in the world.
Some of their examples of non-sexually explicit sites that are blocked:

Women in American History section of Encyclopedia Britannica Online
Rolling Stone magazine
Warner Brothers Records Women's Network
The Onion

I'm looking forward to some other country specific documentation. The scope of their review will expand beyond looking at what specific countries filter to what content certain commerically available filter software makes unavailable. Great study.

Monday, July 15, 2002

the link controversy page, and online expression

A comprehensive multi-lingual resource on legal issues involved with linking to web pages:
The Link Controversy Page is intended to provide an overview of the legal problems of using hyperlinks, inline images and frames on the WWW. Right now, this page covers problems in the area of copyright, trademark, trespass law as well as unfair competition law.
I seem to recall that Denise Howell wrote on her site about a month ago that she wished the Link Controversy page was still being maintained. Well, Denise, you got your wish. The latest update is July 13, 2002.

Another page worth looking at on linking is Brad Templeton's Linking Rights page. Brad Templeton is the Chairman of the Board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and a long time mover and shaker on the net.

One of the Foundation's latest efforts is a collaboration with a number of other groups to bring us, which is fighting against efforts to chill online speech. If you're a member of a message board or online community, the site is one you might want to visit.

Sunday, July 14, 2002

immigration law abuses

An excellent article on the subject of immigration law, and how there's a new and growing class of criminal activity centered around immigrants trying to enter the United States, called Welcome to America: How immigrants are ripped off, points to two types of abuses: "people who practice immigration law without a license and attorneys who exploit immigrants." This country was founded as a place that immigrants could flee to. It shouldn't become a place where they are exploited and deported.

Later: Another article on this subject, called The Snakehead Lawyers, via Ernie the Attorney. While both articles consider the problem from a national perspective, the first has more of a California slant, while the Snakehead Lawyers discusses more examples from New York City.
minor league baseball

It's past time to go to a baseball game. I haven't been to one yet this year. The local minor league team, the Wilmington Blue Rocks, are a lot of fun and the minor leagues seem to be a lot smarter than their major league counterparts when it comes to handling things like ties in all-star games, and the business end of running their organizations. It's also fun to see players like Mike Sweeney and Johnny Damon learning their craft before they become all-stars in the big leagues. No post about the Blue Rocks would be complete without lauding the efforts of the Celery Squad, who prove that minor league fans are smarter, too:
The Celery Squad exists to provide unconditional support to Mr. Celery, and more importantly, the Wilmington Blue Rocks. We challenge ourselves to provide support that is entertaining and boisterous, while maintaining a family-friendly atmosphere. We seek to revolutionize umpire taunting by developing poignant and comedic criticism. Our ultimate goal is to be extraordinary baseball fans.
(Thanks for linking to us, Mr. Celery fans!)
silly about snapple

From the something completely different department: I really love the little folks who wander about the snapple web site, and some of the statements that spout in word balloons over their heads. The sound effects are fun, too. (via iconomy)
working for state government

The University of Delaware has released a study suggesting changes to the way in which government employees are hired. It looks like it might have some really good, practical suggestions, like the following:
Among the study's recommendations was a call for eliminating traditional civil-service-type tests and replacing them with processes that examine a job applicant's skills and qualifications. The report said that traditional tests have been vulnerable to court challenges because they don't adequately reflect the actual skills needed by employees.
Between that report, and one just issued by the National Governor's Association (see below for more on them), called A Governor's Guide to Creating a 21st-Century Workforce, I think that there are plenty of good ideas circulating about how to change the way government does business when it comes to their most valuable resources --the men and women who work for them.
governor minner in boise

It's the beginning of the summer meetings of the National Governor's Association. I love the idea of governors getting together and rubbing elbows and learning from each other. Though sometimes I wonder if the the lessons learned that they might have for one another are all that useful. Sometimes, what's good for California might not be good for Delaware, and vice versa. The meetings last for four days, through July 16th. I really like some of their "Best Practices" Reports, like the one named A Governor's Guide to Building State Science and Technology Capacity.

Saturday, July 13, 2002

bounty hunters

She sends me blue valentines
All the way from Philadelphia
To mark the anniversary
Of someone that I used to be
And it feels just like theres
A warrant out for my arrest
Got me checkin in my rearview mirror
And I'm always on the run
Thats why I changed my name
And I didn't think you'd ever find me here

--Tom Waits, Blue Valentine

Bounty Hunters. They have a tough job, and at times it can be an ugly one. When someone is out on bail, and wanted by the law for failing to appear at court, there's a good chance that a bounty hunter will be the one to discover where they are at rather than a police officer.

The rules and laws regarding being a bounty hunter vary from state to state. They're an important part of the criminal justice system, but they can also be one of the most unregulated actors in that system.

Should there be a federal law, with a licensing and education program? That's what a family from Kansas is urging after the unfortunate loss of one of their family members. He died in a struggle with bounty hunters who were looking for his brother.

Most people who haven't had brushes with the criminal justice system probably know of how bail enforcement works from Hollywood, with characters like Josh Randall, from the old television chestnut Wanted Dead or Alive. Or, in more modern times, the potrayal of a bounty hunter by Robert DeNiro in Midnight Run or Lorenzo Lamas in the 90s television series, Renegade. There's also the popular character from Star Wars, Boba Fett.

Chances are good that if you walked past a bounty hunter in the hallways of a courthouse, you wouldn't connect him or her with that profession.

Laws in Delaware requiring registration are a recent addition. The Delaware Code was amended just last year by the legislature to add a chapter on the licensing of bounty hunters, or bail enforcement agents. The law requires the collection of information from applicants and a criminal history background check. It doesn't mention any form of training or education programs.

It also doesn't describe any programs to oversee the actions of a bounty hunter, but does require that the money collected as a licensing fee be deposited into a Bail Enforcement Regulatory Fund. The fund pays for the fingerprinting and background checks for bounty hunters, and for "investigation of any charge made against a licensee." The law doesn't provide any information regarding how charges would be brought against a licensee.

An earlier version of the bill, from 1999, had more requirements, including police notification of attempts to capture people who failed to show up for court, and are out on bail.

There are private companies that provide information and education, such as Bounty Hunters Online. The bail bond companies and the insurance companies that use these private enforcers probably have some incentive to provide training to help avoid civil liability.

Joshua Armstrong's group, called the Seekers have been around for 20 years and claim an 85 percent capture rate, as well as having never been sued, and having never captured the wrong person. They seem more organized than the police or the army. I'm not sure that they are typical of most operations.

Should there be federal regulation? The most up-to-date collection of state laws regarding bounty hunters that I've been able to locate is on the pages of the American Bail Coalition.

The last federal attempt to come up with a law appears to be the Bounty Hunter Responsibility Act of 1999. Delaware's 1999 bill that didn't pass through the legislature looks very similar to the federal bill. Here's the testimony that took place before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Committee on the Judiciary for the House of Representatives.

Will the federal government return to this issue? I would prefer that states regulate the actions of bounty hunters within their jurisdictions. But, I'm not sure that many of them are taking steps to do that. Maybe this is something that could be addressed through the efforts of the National Governor's Association sharing best practices with other states, which could then get their legislatures and judiciary to work together. Maybe.
evolving standards of cruel and unusual punishment

Two prisoners in pillory with another tied to whipping post below and man with whip in prison in Delaware [ca 1907?]
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, reproduction number LC-USZ62-98905

Delaware was the last state to remove the whipping post as a legal form of punishment, in 1967. The 1973 edition of the Delaware Code includes a law that made it a criminal violation to bring a camera to a public whipping, with a fine of $500.00. The picture above is estimated to be from around 1907.

Friday, July 12, 2002

capitation taxes

Delaware only has three counties; Kent, Sussex, and New Castle. In many ways, the laws don't differ drastically from county to county. One difference is that Sussex County has a capitation tax. That's a type of tax that is imposed upon a person for being a resident of the county. School districts also require payment of a similar head tax upon people in Sussex County. The County tax is three dollars per person, and the school taxes are also fairly small sums.

One of the difficulties with a capitation tax is that you need to identify the people who owe the tax, and inform them that they need to pay it. The downstate schools and Sussex County are having problems locating people and collecting those taxes.

A reason for using a capitation tax in addition to relying upon a property tax is that some people don't own property. Taxing fairly means collecting from people who don't own property too. That's the main rationale behind this form of tax, and has been since the first of the capitation taxes was collected during medieval days.

While the effort to collect capitation taxes does earn more money than it loses, maybe it's time to stop the process. It's a lot easier to collect property taxes -- property doesn't move. And most people have to live somewhere, whether they own a home or rent. Given that landlords will usually pass along the cost of a property tax to their tenants, most people are already paying taxes for being residents of the County and of one of the school districts. Sometimes they just aren't paying it directly.

In addition to a practical argument against a capitation tax, I find myself agreeing with this observation on the subject from by Jean Jacques Rousseau:
Contributions levied on the people are two kinds; real, levied on commodities, and personal, paid by the head. Both are called taxes or subsidies: when the people fixes the sum to be paid, it is called subsidy; but when it grants the product of an imposition, it is called a tax. We are told in The Spirit of the Laws that a capitation tax is most suited to slavery, and a real tax most in accordance with liberty. This would be incontestable, if the circumstances of every person were equal; for otherwise nothing can be more disproportionate than such a tax; and it is in the observations of exact proportions that the spirit of liberty consists. But if a tax by heads were exactly proportioned to the circumstances of individuals, as what is called the capitation tax in France might be, it would be the most equitable and consequently the most proper for freemen.
Using a property tax goes a lot further towards proportioning a tax to "the circumstances of individuals."
delaware a tax haven?

A number of states are upset about how corporations are using Delaware Holding Companies to avoid paying taxes upon intangible assets such as securities, patents, licenses, copyrights or trademarks. The article States seethe at Delaware over taxes gives a good overview of both how a Delaware Holding Company works, and which states are upset because they aren't earning taxes on income from those intangible assets being managed by holding companies located in Delaware.

Thursday, July 11, 2002

the weblog handbook

I was just given a copy of "The Weblog Handbook, Practical Advice On Creating And Maintaining your Blog", written by Rebecca Blood who, by the way, has a high energy blog. I have just begun to read it, and I am already applauding. I have a weakness for practical guides, and this is one that is a must for those who want to start their own blog. Nicely Done, Rebecca. It looks to this relative novice that you can purchase the book for a pittance, online.
high energy blawgs

I can't keep up with these folks: Ernie the Attorney, and Bag and Baggage. They are way out there with current legal events, spiced with wit and insight. Sometimes, when I feel like I am buried in the brown stuff, I check out these sites and they brighten my day. There is a longer list to the left...
smoking ban

Delaware's Clean Indoor Air Act, which goes into effect in November, is one of the strictest bans on smoking in public places in the country. It has a lot of restaurant and hotel owners concerned that they might lose some business when November comes around. Race track owners warned that there was the possibility of a substantial loss of revenues at their video lottery (slot machine) venues. If the experience of Victoria, Australia is duplicated here, it might relieve some of those worries. Their law requiring smoke free dining rooms went into effect in July of last year, and restaurant attendence has increased. Victoria's gaming rooms will be mostly non-smoking as of September. We'll have to check back then to see the effects of clean air on gambling.
toxic beauty

I remember the first time I worked with auto-body fill. You need to mix in a hardening agent to the goop to get it to dry, as you apply it to a surface. As I read the label on the tube of hardening agent, which was benzoyl peroxide, a popular radio ad for a skin care medication came to mind. I don't remember which brand, but it was announced as having "real benzoyl peroxide." Being neither a chemist nor a doctor, I can't tell you whether it's a good thing or a bad thing that compounds with the same name can be used as a key element to auto-body repair and acne medication. An article on Alternet named Are Your Beauty Products Killing You? brought that memory back to me. If you use cosmetics, it's definitely worth looking at, and thinking about.
creative commons

A great look into the workings of Creative Commons -- a new idea in intellectual property ownership rights and licensing -- can be found on Denise Howell's Bag and Baggage. The idea behind Creative Commons is to make it easier for people to define how they would like their artistic property to be used by others. The explosion of created materials on the internet has brought with it a lot of confusion to the public over which materials are copyrighted, and which can be used and incorporated into other works. Creative Commons is leading an exciting effort to let people share ideas and work together. As they state on their pages:
Our initial goal is to provide an easy way for people (like scholars, musicians, filmmakers, and authors--from world-renowned professionals to garage-based amateurs) to announce that their works are available for copying, modification, and redistribution. We are building a Web-based application for dedicating copyrighted works to the "public domain," and for generating flexible, generous licenses that permit copying and creative reuses of copyrighted works.

Shining a Spotlight on Sharing: We want to make it easy for people to find works that are in the public domain or licensed on generous terms. We are developing a method for labeling such works with metadata that identify their terms of use. Potential users could then search for works (say, photos of the Empire State Building) based on the permitted uses (say, noncommercial copying and redistribution).
Denise's presentation is a wonderful start on giving us an idea of how these efforts will come about.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

5th Generation Mountain Boy
courtesy at the bar

The Delaware Supreme Court overturned a criminal conviction in a drug case where the prosecutor argued that the jury should believe the police and that the defendant is a liar. This is an example of the force with which the Delaware Supreme Court enforces courtesy in the courtroom. I am still searching for a copy of the opinion, if any of you find it please let me know. From the newspaper article it appears that the legal theory was that the word "liar" would so predjudice the jury that they could not decide upon the case in a fair and impartial manner. According to the news report, the Supreme Court suggested that the prosecutor should have said that the defendant was mistaken. As a member of the Delaware Bar, it would be inappropriate for me to comment.
dna legislation

A bill recently passed by Delaware's Senate but not yet signed by Governor Minner calls for the collection of DNA information from all people convicted of felonies in Delaware. What happens if the people required to be tested say no? In California, a law was passed four years ago requiring DNA testing for people convicted of violent felonies. There are 900 Californian inmates refusing to take part.

Another bill that was signed by the Governor would possibly change the appearance of some indictments filed with Superior Court. When the identity of the person who committed a crime is unknown, but DNA evidence has presumably been collected, "it is sufficient to describe the accused as a person whose name is unknown but who has a particular DNA profile."
legal marijuana in nevada?

75,000 signatures on a petition were enough to put the issue of legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana on the ballot in Nevada. The measure calls for marijuana to be "sold in state-licensed shops and taxed like cigarettes and other tobacco products. A distribution system would also be set up to provide low-cost pot for medical uses." A major drawback to this petition-based ballot item is that marijuana possession is banned by federal law. I'm beginning to wonder what might be on the back of the Nevada quarter.
michelangelo in the maid's room

Last night, I watched the Antique Roadshow for the first time. The premise is a simple one, really. People clean old junk out of their attics, and bring it to appraisers, and every once in a while some of the stuff might be worth a fair sum of money. Nothing on the show compared to a discovery in what used to be the maid's room at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York City. Mixed in amongst a box filled with sketches of lighting fixture designs, purchased in 1942 for $60.00, was a drawing of a candelabrum by Michelangelo, which has been valued at $12 million. I guess it might be time that I got around to cleaning out my attic.

Later: More details from the New York Times: The discovery was made by a visiting Scottish Museum Director who likes digging through old ignored boxes of artwork at museums and snooping through flea markets on his vacation to see if he can make discoveries like this one. Maybe I can get him to help me clean the attic.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

nursing fraud in california

A story like this one coming out of California may show the importance of issuing professional licenses in a form that isn't easily duplicated, and that can be verified from a reliable source, and stricter identification procedures at testing facilities. A scheme to issue nursing assistant certficates without having the applicant take the required test has resulted in over 70 arrests and the revocation of more that 100 nursing assistant certificates.
sheriffs' web site now showing porn

Somehow a web site run by a Florida Sheriff's department since 1995 has been taken over by company that is providing access to pornography at the address. The registration of the domain name for the site supposedly wasn't due to expire until November of this year. The domain name system has some serious problems. Maybe the law enforcement community, and their supporters, will work to help bring about some changes.
chickens and computing

It's easy to drive past one of the composite materials laboratories on the campus of the University of Delaware and not give too much thought to the work that goes on inside. I remember watching the University of Delaware football team play an away game in Princeton a few years back, and the New Jersey announcer informed the crowd (with tongue-in-cheek) that the Delaware State motto was "better living through chemistry." With the State's close ties to the chemistry industry, we often take for granted some of the marvels that are created at places like Dupont, Hercules, and Astro-Zeneca. The University of Delaware has a good national reputation when it comes to the study of chemical engineering, and it's partially because of the efforts of companies like those I mentioned that the school excels in that field.

Some news from the university's Affordable Composites from Renewable Sources (ACRES) project has received a bit of publicity recently. The ACRES project looks "at existing products and tries to find a waste product or an easy-to-grow crop that could be used to fabricate it." The media is looking at and writing about a patent filed from a chemical engineer working at the laboratories that would allow faster computer chips to be made from chickens' feathers.

Monday, July 08, 2002

wallet document portfolio

Starting today, the law office is offering scanned copies of your legal documents (such as wills, living wills, power of attorney, etc.) on a specially prepared business-card-sized CD.

This process will allow you to conveniently carry signed copies of these important legal documents in your wallet, purse, or the glove compartment of your vehicle. They are marked so as to notify emergency personnel as to their importance and they are readable by every computer with a CD reader.

You should still safeguard your original documents and have them available for use. But this new process should assist in those times when you might not otherwise have your paper copies handy. As copies of documents are frequently acceptable, your legal documents may now be viewed or printed from the business-card sized CD, to provide you with emergency access to your records.

It is our belief that we are the first law firm to offer such a service, and the cost is negligible.
county land use data

The counties now allow online access to property data. This is a tremendous help. New Castle, Kent, and Sussex Counties in different ways, are opening up to us on the internet. But good luck in figuring out how it works in Kent County. It was just a little too complicated for this country boy.
president and king

In 1970, the King met with the President. It was arranged that a Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge would be specially prepared for Elvis as a Federal Agent At Large.

Sunday, July 07, 2002

the way you say the things you say

A story in today's Wilmington News Journal called 'Caint' hear 'guilty as a suck-egg dog' much takes a look at the disappearing idioms and accents unique to the State of Delaware.
code talkers

In World War II, Native Americans used their languages with a code to communicate sensitive information. While Navajo code talkers were honored in a ceremony by President Bush last year, there were actually 17 other tribes involved, including the Meskwaki. Senator Tom Harkin has introduced legislation that would honor all code talkers with the Congressional Gold Medal.
tiger woods and art

Tiger Woods has brought a lawsuit claiming that an artist is "exploiting his likeness for commercial gain." The case calls into question when artistic creation ends and commercial exploitation of an image begins.
bringing the battle into homes

The rift between the big record companies and the peer-to-peer network software manufacturers may see a new tactic soon. The music industry may start bringing lawsuits against individuals involved in the unauthorized trading of songs on the internet.

Friday, July 05, 2002

hindering persecution
Writing the report on the minority, below, reminded me of an example of a few years back. A New Castle County police officer threatened to arrest me for "hindering prosecution" because I correctly advised my client of his constitutional rights. Get a clue! Please!

I support the police. My father was a policeman, as was I. But the Constitution and the rule of law must prevail. We cannot give the government free reign to tread on us, because given half a chance it will.
hard cases make bad law
It's an expression they taught us in law school, meaning that legal decisions that are difficult to make, when applied to different cases, end up in the wrong result. We've got a number of hard cases in the news, lately. Cases that are exigent because of heinous crimes and war.

Yes we are at war. I am very much aware of that, and I strive to support it in the ways that I can. We are at war with a people who hate us because of our freedom, and that it so contrasts with their views as to how the world should be managed (at least that's the best that I can figure). Religious and political oppression would suit them just fine.

Well there are plenty of our own who have the same goal, to have their vocal minority exert political and religious oppression over the flaccid majority. And they are surfing the wave of crisis to get there.

The police in Storm Lake, Iowa have sought the disclosure of all of Planned Parenthood's local records of pregnant women to solve a horrible child murder case. They are surfing, or rather fishing. The police have no suspect, and yet they want to force the disclosure of very private information.

Similar situations are occurring here in Delaware. I have been recently fending off fishing expeditions by the IRS. They want the customer records of a local private business, under the guise of protecting us from terrorism, and they won't even go to the trouble of writing out a subpoena. Bald and unsupported assumptions lie at the crux of their position, that...if the IRS is investigating these people, they must be criminals. And they ask me, why I as an attorney and a U.S. citizen would harbor terrrorists and criminals.

To allow this sort of trampling of our rights would be to surrender to the goals of the terrorists. These terrorists of our own scare me much worse than the bomb toters.

Thursday, July 04, 2002

The Declaration Committee, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Reproduction Number: LC-USZC2-2243
The Declaration Committee, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs
, Reproduction Number: LC-USZC2-2243

Wednesday, July 03, 2002 appeal

An appeal in a case that saw a person win a $65 million lawsuit over the fradulent taking of his domain name (, may have implications for people who have lost their web site addresses (domain names) because of registry negligence.
last gunslingers

In my trial advocacy class, my teacher used to claim that lawyers were the last gunslingers. I bet that he would have liked to have been part of this lawsuit which pits cattle ranchers against meatpackers. I've read enough westerns that I envisioned a showdown on the courthouse steps while reading about it.
postal confusion

The price of mailing a letter jumped three cents on Sunday. I've always been confused by the public/private nature of the U.S. Postal Service. If it's a private company, should competition be allowed for first class postal service? If it's a government agency, shouldn't there be more public accountability in their actions, and the possibility of exercising political restraint upon them, by exerting pressure upon elected oficials?
animal rights

I remember a Supreme Court decision in an environmental case that hinged upon whether or not a tree had standing to bring a lawsuit under one of the environmental statutes. (The tree lost.) A review of a recent book, called Drawing the Line: Science and the Case for Animal Rights describes an author who is pretty serious about his subject matter.
He talks vaguely about basic liberty or dignity rights that might include immunity from enslavement and torture. But even assuming the animals deserve protection, who will assert these rights on the animals' behalf?

It may all sound pretty far-fetched and impractical. Then again, just as Wise's book was released, the lower house of Germany's parliament voted to guarantee some rights to animals in its constitution
Next, I'll probably be telling you that we should consider letting animals run for office.
percy for congress

Katherine Harris has competition for a congressional seat in Florida. Her opponent, Percy, is a real dog though. Didn't someone recently get in trouble for registering their dog to vote? Fortunately for Percy, it wasn't in his district.
self-help for copyright owners?

A California congressman is working to fight against the sharing of copyrighted files on the internet by people using peer-to-peer network software. Part of the legislation that he is working on drafting would allow copyright owners to hack into other peoples' computers to locate the presence of copyright protected materials that haven't been purchased. (Copyright owners, or just large multi-media companies?). Between this law, and some of the recent posts on copyfight, I've begun to wonder what types of abuses of privacy and civil libeties will happen in the name of protecting property. I'm not sure that government sanctioned vigilantism is ever a good idea.

Monday, July 01, 2002

tobacco settlement money?

North Carolina is using $400,000 dollars of tobacco settlement money for infrastructure improvements to attract a tobacco processing plant. Might as well just give the money back to the tobacco companies. Oh, wait. They are.
death penalty unconstitutional?

A federal trial judge in New York declared the federal death penalty statute unconstitutional today. While the decision is not binding upon other federal judges, and upon state capital cases, an appeal of the decision will probably have the effect of staying federal executions in New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.
asian-americans unite to show patriotism

Former Delaware Lieutenant Governor and University of Delaware Professor S.B. Woo is the president of a large group of volunteers who are actively passing out thousands of American flags to Asian-American shop owners in Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Houston, Boston, Washington, D.C., and New York. The group is known as the 80-20 Initiative, and their purpose is to to show their love for America, and overcome feelings of xenophobia that mainstream America might have towards new immigrants and citizens. I like the effort, and I wish that it does have the impact that they are hoping it will.
new sister city

The cities Wilmington counts as its sisters are Kalmar, Sweden; Watford, England; and Fulda, Germany. Osogbo, Nigeria may be next. The designation would come with an exchange of arts, and cultural and business programs. A festival celebrating African culture on the banks of the Brandywine River would be used to raise scholarship money for African students to attend school here.
legislative results

The final day of Delaware's legislative session has come and gone, and a number of bills passed which will change Delaware's legal landscape. The ones receiving the most attention involve criminal law. One bill will shift the role of a jury, in death penalty cases, from an advisory body to the finder of fact making the final decision regarding whether the sentence is death. That bill has already seen some debate amongst members of the bar. Another law involving the death penalty would allow defense to raise the the issue that the defendant is mentally retarded, to avoid that sentence.

DNA testing will become a reality for all defendants who have been convicted of a felony. A database will be maintained of that genetic information and will be shared with other states.
dupont celebrates 200 years

Congratulations to the Dupont Company on its 200th anniversary. The company was founded in 1802 as a manufacturer of gunpowder, just outside of the City of Wilmington. Dupont has always been active in helping the people of Delaware, whether through charitable giving, community involvement, or partnerships with the University of Delaware. The Wilmington News Journal ran a special spread on Dupont this Sunday covering the past, present, and future of the chemical company in the First State. Dupont is the oldest industrial company on the Fortune 500, and the oldest in the Dow Jones industrial average.