Friday, July 29, 2005
What's a Planet?
Apparently, these are good questions...
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Pinball Soul Caliber Wizard
However, the reverse league comes with this one confounding tradeoff. If the coach figures out that your star reverse fantasy football player is the superscrub that he is, he'll get benched and he won't have the opportunity to screw up.
If you're interested in playing, you'll need a yahoo id (it's free) and the following info:
League ID: 195497
League Name: Polyscifi Football
League Password: polyscifi
Live Draft Date: Wed Sep 7 5:45 PM EDT
League ID: 273089
League Name: Reverse Polyscifi Football
League Password: polyscifi
Live Draft Date: Wed Sep 7 9:00 AM EDT
The draft times may change based on what time is convenient for the league participants.
New Criterion Contraption
It won't have much of an effect on the US economy (candy ought to be relatively cheaper in a few years), but it's good in principle and good symbolically for the "free trade economy" to implement.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
From the Same People that Brought You Alan Keyes
Creative Procrastination and Originalism
In a comment to my post arguing in favor of originalism (or KFC - Give me another Thomas or give me chicken!), Scott offers a criticism of an Originalist interpretation of Kelo as well as three scenarios that he would like me to address from an Originalist perspective.
His criticism (paraphrased - it's a lengthy argument, perhaps better presented as a blog post like his original post on Kelo which I would really briefly summarize as "Outcome bad, but Constitutional; time to amend" - as always feel free to correct me if I'm mischaracterizing) is that all sorts of things that we think are good takings as well as some things that would be bad takings (I infer) were not considered when the takings clause was drafted and thus Originalism can't address them.
But here, Scott is making a common error in his criticism of Originalism. The key to originalism is identifying the principle that the legislators were trying to enact (in the case of an amendment, the legislators become the public at large). New, unconceived specifics, are merely judged against the original principle, particularly on Constitutional questions. If there is no principle to judge the case by, then an Originalist judge would punt to the legislatures.
Helpfully, Scott introduces the following series of Kelo-like situations that can be used to illustrate how originalism fits specifics into Constitutional principles:
- Can a city condemn blighted property not only to raise tax revenues, but because said property is spreading crime and lowered values throughout the city?
- Can a city condemn private property to build a freeway? How about if a private business asked for the freeway, such as in the case of a football stadium?
- Can a city condemn land to build a city hall? What if they did so and gave the old city hall to a private developer that had been asking for the land?
To answer this question let's review the principle written in Thomas's dissent from Kelo:
"The most natural reading of the [Takings] Clause is that it allows the government to take property only if the government owns, or the public has a legal right to use, the property, as opposed to taking it for any public purpose or necessity whatsoever. "Breaking down this principle we see that there are two different conditions for a public taking:
- The government owns the property.
- The public has a legal right to use the property.
With that brief discussion in mind, the following addresses each of Scott's scenarios. Note throughout the following I differentiate between a public taking (the government takes your property for the public good) and a punishment taking (the government takes your property as a punishment).
1. Can a city condemn blighted property not only to raise tax revenues, but because said property is spreading crime and lowered values throughout the city?Yes.
But the phrasing as such is that there are actually four conditions (presumably simultaneously satisfied), which if any one condition is satisfied, then the scenario is a valid government taking. However, if we break apart the conditions, then we come to different conclusions.
Condition 1: Blighted property - Yes.
This is not really a public takings, but it's not one that gets my blood boiling. That's because taking blighted property is the maximum fine for not living up to building/zoning laws and technically isn't a taking for public use. (If this formulation sounds ripe for abuse, that's because it is.)1
Condition 2: Raising taxes - No,
There's no public use that the property will be applied towards and there's no other grounds by which it can be condemned.
Condition 3: Spreading crime - Yes.
While Scott isn't specific as to what he means by "spreading crime," I interpret a property to be spreading crime if crimes are being committted there and if it is in someway facilitating crime - like a crack house (but for the Blacksburg readers, not "The Crack House" where numerous crimes of underage drinking occured). In this case the property in question is aiding the commission of a crime and can be seized (like drug money or cars that were transporting drugs) as long as due process is served.
Again, this is not a public takings, but the property is permissable to be condemned.
Condition 4: Lowering values - No. There's no public use that the property will be applied towards and there's no other grounds by which it can be condemned.
2. Can a city condemn private property to build a freeway? How about if a private business asked for the freeway, such as in the case of a football stadium?Yes.
While this may appear to be multiple conditions like in the previous example, there's really only one condition - a taking to build a freeway. A freeway is both owned by the government and the public has a legal right to use the property. That the freeway may also facilitate or was prompted by private interests is irrelevant.
3. Can a city condemn land to build a city hall? What if they did so and gave the old city hall to a private developer that had been asking for the land?Yes.
A city hall is government owned property. Subsequent or prior actions with respect to the old city hall are irrelevant to the public taking. However, if the property were truly "given" to a private developer, then corruption charges should be filed against the city officials that authorized the taking.
So to reiterate the two key points in this discussion:
- Originalism matches up specifics with their associated original principles. If there is no previously legislated controlling principle for the specific, then the judges cannot rule and must defer to the legislatures.
- The specific principle of a public taking is that the property must either a) end up in government hands or b) the public must have a legal right to use property [previous brain/type fart in b) has been fixed]. All of Scott's scenarios are readily addressed by this public takings principle which Thomas's scholarship says is the original intent of the public takings clause.
"Taking land and giving it to another private entity (assuming it's not a private company that provides a government sanctioned monopolistic public service ala TVA - a kind of "common carrier") does not constitute a "public use". That this is not public use is made clear in section (a) of the syllabus where the following appears: "the city is not planning to open the condemned land–at least not in its entirety–to use by the general public".Not publicly owned + no legal right for the public to use the property = not a Constitutional public taking.
Thus the proposed actions of the New London city council (a quasi legislative/executive entity) are unconstitutional in clear violation of the takings clause."
While I am heartened that numerous state legislatures have been moving to limit the impact of this ruling, there never should've been a need for such action in the first place.
Transformers - The Live Action Movie...
Friday, July 15, 2005
From today's Cryptogram:
This Newsweek article on the insurgents in Iraq includes an interesting paragraph on how they adapt to American military defenses.One man's flypaper is another man's training field, I guess. Usual disclaimers apply w/r/t but of course we should be in Iraq and so on. The speed at which terrorists are developing better battlefield tactics is a problem. Schneier also writes the following, w/r/t the London bombings."Counterinsurgency experts are alarmed by how fast the other side's tactics can evolve. A particularly worrisome case is the ongoing arms race over improvised explosive devices. The first IEDs were triggered by wires and batteries; insurgents waited on the roadside and detonated the primitive devices when Americans drove past. After a while, U.S. troops got good at spotting and killing the triggermen when bombs went off. That led the insurgents to replace their wires with radio signals. The Pentagon, at frantic speed and high cost, equipped its forces with jammers to block those signals, accomplishing the task this spring. The insurgents adapted swiftly by sending a continuous radio signal to the IED; when the signal stops or is jammed, the bomb explodes. The solution? Track the signal and make sure it continues. Problem: the signal is encrypted. Now the Americans are grappling with the task of cracking the encryption on the fly and mimicking it-so far, without success. Still, IED casualties have dropped, since U.S. troops can break the signal and trigger the device before a convoy passes. That's the good news. The bad news is what the new triggering system says about the insurgents' technical abilities."The CIA is worried that Iraq is becoming a far more effective breeding ground for terrorists than Afghanistan ever was, because they get real-world experience with urban terrorist-style combat.
I would also like to urge everyone not to get wrapped up in the particulars of the terrorist tactics. We need to resist the urge to react against the particulars of this particular terrorist plot, and to keep focused on the terrorists' goals. Spending billions to defend our trains and buses at the expense of other counterterrorist measures makes no sense. Terrorists are out to cause terror, and they don't care if they bomb trains, buses, shopping malls, theaters, stadiums, schools, markets, restaurants, discos, or any other collection of 100-plus people in a small space. There are simply too many targets to defend, and we need to think more intelligently than simply protecting the particular targets the terrorists attacked last week.That seems right on to me, especially given the above example of quickly adapting battlefield tactics in Iraq. It's a bad variant of the old joke: Doc, they keep shooting me when I attack their subways! So don't attack their subways.
Smart counterterrorism focuses on the terrorists and their funding—stopping plots regardless of their targets—and emergency response that limits their damage.
On the other hand, it seems a stretch of the imagination to think that the terrorists will give up New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston as targets in order to focus on Wyoming. Which means I think this New York Times editorial is right about Susan Collins and Joseph Lieberman's craptacular fight to increase anti-terrorist and disaster recovery funding for small states. To some extent, the terrorists will go where the money isn't; but the thing to remember is that they want to cause panic on a national scale. Hitting a symbolic target like New York or D.C. has much more value to them on the world stage than hitting a high school football game in Nebraska, even if the casualties would be similar.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
On an unrelated note, I'm going to be putting together two free yahoo fantasy football leagues - one normal and one reverse. I'll post info on joining the leagues tonight.
Plame Affair solves Supreme Court Vacancy
Stephen... Esteban [ed: reference to an earlier bit about "the Colombia School of Journalism"], what are the ramifications of this now that Rove's involvement is known?
Well, Bush has a real problem on his hands here, Jon: what honor should he bestow on Karl Rove?
What...did you say what honor?
Yes, Jon. George "Slam Dunk" Tenet got us into Iraq on mistaken intel; he got the medal of freedom. Condi Rice sees a memo warning "Bin Laden determined to attack the United States," ignores it, boom! she gets kicked upstairs to the Secretary of State. For a bungle this bad, I think we might be looking at Chief Justice Karl Rove.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Something else happened during that chaotic scene, something that convinced Chen of the monkeys' true grasp of money. Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of money, after all, is its fungibility, the fact that it can be used to buy not just food but anything. During the chaos in the monkey cage, Chen saw something out of the corner of his eye that he would later try to play down but in his heart of hearts he knew to be true. What he witnessed was probably the first observed exchange of money for sex in the history of monkeykind. (Further proof that the monkeys truly understood money: the monkey who was paid for sex immediately traded the token in for a grape.)
This is a sensitive subject. The capuchin lab at Yale has been built and maintained to make the monkeys as comfortable as possible, and especially to allow them to carry on in a natural state. The introduction of money was tricky enough; it wouldn't reflect well on anyone involved if the money turned the lab into a brothel. To this end, Chen has taken steps to ensure that future monkey sex at Yale occurs as nature intended it.
Think of it as an odd little addendum to a hypothetical situation I raised in this comment. The upshot being, even Yale monkey researchers are not above thinking that free consensual sex is ok, while consensual sex for profit is not ok.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
A Note on the Return of BSG
Why I Want an Originalist for the Supreme Court
But in my mind, labels like "Moderate", "Conservative", and "Liberal" technically shouldn't matter.
What I want is an Originalist, specifically, a jurist who interprets the law/Constitution as it was intended at the time of its writing.
I desire an Originalist for several reasons:
1. A lack of an Originalist philosophy makes us a pure common law society and not a Constitutional society. After all, if the any later day meaning can be read into the Constitution, then the Constitution itself has no value and the law of the land is whatever the Court says it is.
Theoretically, a living Constitutionalist could read the First Ammendment as "KFC must give Jody a free bucket of chicken every Monday?" Less hyperbolically, living Constitutionalists did read the 5th ammendment's takings clause "public use" to mean whatever the government wants it to mean.
2. It makes the legal system straight forward.
Really, I have no idea what laws will be ruled Constitutional for what reasons anymore. From my point of view, the government has been run by the whims of 7 men and 2 women over the last decade.
Seriously, who saw McCain-Feingold being held up? Not the President, who signed the bill even though he thought the bill was unConstitutional. (To me, that's an impeachable offense - failing to uphold the Constitution - and it rather pissed me off at the time. But if that's the grounds I'm going to use for impeachment, virtually all 'dem bums are going to be thrown out.) To this day, I don't understand how the Court held it up in light of either the plain text of the First Amendment or Buckley. 1
3. It solves a lot of bad outcomes. McCain, Raich, and Kelo come to mind.
4. The current living Constitution approach results in a world of contradictions.
For example, suppose the feds pass a law outlawing prostitution. By Raich they're allowed to as it's a regulation of interstate trade. By Lawerence, they're not because it's an activity engaged in between two consenting adults.
Constitutionally, both were bad decisions as the regulation of interpersonal activities is a power reserved to the states by virtue of being a power not formally delegated to the feds.
5. Any bad outcomes that may be created by a bad outcome under an Originalist doctrine have a clear path to being fixed - either legislatively or by an ammendment.
I join Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion. I write separately to note that the law before the Court today “is … uncommonly silly.” Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 527 (1965) (Stewart, J., dissenting). If I were a member of the Texas Legislature, I would vote to repeal it. Punishing someone for expressing his sexual preference through noncommercial consensual conduct with another adult does not appear to be a worthy way to expend valuable law enforcement resources.
Notwithstanding this, I recognize that as a member of this Court I am not empowered to help petitioners and others similarly situated. My duty, rather, is to “decide cases ‘agreeably to the Constitution and laws of the United States.’
” Id., at 530. And, just like Justice Stewart, I “can find [neither in the Bill of Rights nor any other part of the Constitution a] general right of privacy,” ibid., or as the Court terms it today, the “liberty of the person both in its spatial and more transcendent dimensions,” ante, at 1. [emphasis added]
In turn, consider what recourse the people have in Kelo. Passing an ammendment that says "public use means public use for real this time"? How long before that too is interpreted away? Passing state laws? Under a living Constitution, state laws are no guarantee either. They can just as easily be read in a different and apparently opposite manner.
Theoretically, an Originalist could be of any political stripe and still be an Originalist, though the most prominent Originalist on the court today is also a Conservative and I haven't seen any Liberal Originalist jurisprudence. So perhaps, in the short term, I have to look towards Conservatives (perhaps Luttig, but I'm really taking people's word on his or any nominee's Originalist inclinations).
So I guess I'm stuck looking for a Conservative for the Court. However, if I can be convinced that a centrist or a Liberal is also an Originalist, then I would prefer a Moderate/Liberal Originalist over an Living Constitution Conservative any day of the week.
And here's one last reason for me to support an originalist.
An Originalist philosophy effectively removes politics from the bench as an Originalist does no legislating by definition. Without legislation, politics is moot. So if we could get back to an Originalist mentality, the judicial nomination process shouldn't be so fractious.
In the comments, Matt raises a traditional critique of Originalism that I should've addressed in the original post.
If I may paraphrase/infer, the critique is
"Civil rights reforms of the 50s/60s were a very good result which could not have been enabled via Originalism and were too important to be left to the slower amendment process."
(This blockquote is not the text of the original comment. I'm merely using the conceit so I can have a specific argument to respond to. If it's an incorrect characterization, leave a comment with a correct characterization [Matt or anyone else] and I'll post a second update.)
I'm further refining my own phrasing of the critique as "an Originalist would not have ruled for Brown."
The Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments were intended to provide equality before the government (of the races, but actually not gender - that took the 19th amendment). To present the relevant Court cases only on their buzz phrases, this is why Plessy v Ferguson ruled that "separate but equal" is ok, but Brown ruled that separate is "inherently unequal".
The difference between the rulings is a different finding of fact. In theory, separate can be equal. In practice, it almost never is(see Sweatt and McLaurin). Accordingly, an originalist would find that segregation of the races can not provide equality before the government and would use the very same phrase that separate is "inherently unequal".
Now the Brown decision does note that public education was not specifically addressed by authors of the 14th amendment (public education was neither mandatory nor integrated at the time). However, the principle was clearly laid out (equality of the races before the government) and equal treatment of the races in public education is an example of an unadressed specific instance of that principle. For an Originalist, the same finding of fact as Warren used (separate is unequal) is enough to show that the specific instance of segragation of schools violated the14th amendment's principle of racial equality before the government.
I think if I could actually be guaranteed a free bucket of KFC every Monday, I might have to reconsider my position. As long as the skins were included, of course. A bucket of skinless KFC chicken would obviously be a deal breaker.
1. To me, a much better campaign finance reform would've been using daylight as a sterilizer, that is, requiring all campaign contributions to be public domain.
2. I imagine there will be a question as to how I support Thomas's opinion but am against gay marriage. In my understanding of how legal marriage works, a marriage is a contract between man, woman, and society to protect/bless that union of husband and wife. (The societal protection/blessing part is why people other than the bride and groom attend the ceremony.)
My issue is homosexuality is a sin (see Romans 1:26-28, and that whole incident with Sodom) so I can't approve of it. As a member of society, I can't/won't impart my blessing/protection on something I find sinful which gay marriage implicitly requires. The homosexual act, however, I can tolerate as it doesn't place any requirements on me to further the action.
I am, however, amenable to the solution of getting government out of the marriage business all together.
For Our Indian Readers
The compound that makes curry yellow could help fight skin cancer.
Researchers in the United States say curcumin, found in turmeric, interferes with melanoma cells.
Tests show that curcumin made melanoma skin cancer cells more likely to self-destruct in a process known as apoptosis.
The same team found curcumin helped stop the spread of breast cancer tumour cells to the lungs of mice.
New Criterion Contraption
Sunday, July 10, 2005
For the Blacksburg Readers
Flarion is the likely solution for 802.20 (mobile broadband) and can average 6 Mbps in the download (while driving on I-81).
Bottomline, we're going to have high speed net access everywhere, even in our speeding cars.
New Criterion Contraption
Friday, July 08, 2005
What Happens if You Cross Sheep with Lemmings?
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
My Neighbor's In A Military Detention Facility In Iraq
Kar is a 44-year-old naturalized American citizen who was shooting a documentary about Cyrus the Great. He'd already shot 50 hours of interview footage, and visited Afghanistan and Tajikstan. For his big finale, he was shooting in Babylon. Or that was the plan, anyway; he was in the wrong taxi at the wrong time and since May 17th, he's been held in various U.S.-run detainment facilities. It seems pretty clear that he has no ties to the insurgency (he served in the Navy in the 80s). He hasn't been given a lawyer or a hearing, although he is a U.S. citizen. It's worth noting that Kar's family learned he had been detained only after a Red Cross worker, who had visited him in prison, called them. And he hasn't done anything. Money quote:
Mr. Kar's relatives and their lawyers said they had been utterly stymied in trying to learn his fate despite repeated inquires at the Defense Department, the Justice Department, the State Department, the allied forces in Iraq and the offices of two United States senators.The New York Times mentioned his Silver Lake apartment, so I looked him up on Zabasearch. This guy lives a block west of Hillhurst Avenue, right in the middle of Silver Lake. We probably shop at the same grocery store. I'm sure I've walked by him on the street more than once (Silver Lake is one of the few neighborhoods in Los Angeles where people do a lot of walking). He's obsessed with making a movie, just like I am. He's done more for his country (re: the Navy) than I probably ever will. And although he was "cleared" on June 14, as of today, nobody knows where he is or how much longer we're planning on holding him. This is one of our own citizens; somebody like me, but better (hell, he's got somebody paying for post production on one of his projects!)
The relatives said the only detailed information they had received came from one of the F.B.I. agents who searched Mr. Kar's apartment in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles on May 23. They said that after analyzing his personal files, computer drives and other materials, the agent, John D. Wilson, returned the seized items on June 14 and assured them that that the F.B.I. had found no reason to suspect Mr. Kar.
"He's cleared," one of Mr. Kar's aunts, Parvin Modarress of Los Angeles, quoted Mr. Wilson as saying, "They were waiting for a lie-detector machine, but they finally got it. He passed the lie-detector test."
You can agree or disagree with me as to whether U.S. overseas detainment facilities are a gigantic, soul-destroying mess right now. You can agree or disagree that torture is systemic there (for what it's worth, Kar claimed to have been tortured in a brief phone call home). But I think we should agree to let Kar out of prison, let him finish his movie, and bring him back to Silver Lake. Perhaps we could pay for post-production on his movie, a digital transfer, and a few nice prints for the festival circuit. Although if I were Kar, I'd make a documentary about the last few months, instead.
Read the whole thing.
Update: SF posted in the comments a link to the ACLU's habeas brief on Cyrus's behalf; you can find it here. It's worth reading, especially for the declarations that follow the petition; they make it clear that Cyrus's worst offense was singlemindedly trying to finish his movie. They're also pretty visceral about what a miserable experience this has been for his family. From his cousin Shahrzad Folger's statement:
When I would protest about him going out of fear of his safety his response was that, because he looks Middle Eastern, Al Qaeda and other insurgents would not know that he is American. It never occurred to him that his country--his military--might detain him.Here's hoping she's right on that last point.
I have trouble sleeping because I don't know if Cy is sleeping comfortably. I don't enjoy meals because I feel guilty eating good food while I don't know what he is being served. I look around and see all these wonderful Americans around me that have no idea what is happening to one of their own at the hands of their government, in their names. I do, however, also feel hope that our judicial system will come to the rescue and, like many times in our history, right the injustices of our executive and legislative branches.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
First clips from "Extras"
UPDATE: Four promos that Gervais and Stephen Merchant put together for Live8, along with a clip of Gervais introducing R.E.M. at the show and Madonna (!) announcing that he's her favorite comedian ever, are available here. Clip 2 is especially good, as it features the Ricky Gervais Plan to Solve African Hunger (eat the elephants and sell the ivory).
Ramón Raquello's Worst Concert
Friday, July 01, 2005
Zaji - Miscellany
Welcome to the blogosphere... err... online magazine o sphere.
But that's not the only nomination game in town. According to the Weekly World News, Bush is also looking to nominate Yoda to be Tom Ridge's replacement as Homeland Security Chief:
Yoda may not look like much on the outside," the commander in chief told a stunned White House press corps. "But the little guy is one heck of a warrior.Oddly, the current Homeland Security Secretary- Michael Chertoff - wasn't available for comment.
"Anybody with half a brain can see he's the perfect choice."
Bush noted that he was also impressed with the fact that Yoda is pint-size.
"I'll tower over him at press conferences -- which is important since I'm the president," he added.
On the face of it, the 894-year-old Yoda, a member of an undisclosed alien species, would seem like a good replacement for outgoing Homeland Security boss Tom Ridge.
Like Ridge, Yoda doesn't have a neck.
Also, Yoda is a master of The Force and has trained some of the top Jedi knights in the Star Wars galaxy, including Obi-Wan- Kenobi, Mace Windu, Qui-Gon- Jinn, Luke Skywalker and even Darth Vader, who turned evil. 1
However, Yoda was. But Yoda only wished to comment on O'Connor's resignation:
"Begun, this Court War has."Footnote:
1. Yes, I know Yoda wasn't the master for any of those Jedi other than Luke. But hey, it's the WWN who also ignored the fact that Chertoff had been confirmed to the post some four months prior.
Scribble, scribble, scribble
So, do you think they still complete and deliver judicial commissions, like they did when Marbury v. Madison was decided?
And if they do, and if Judge Owen's commission hasn't yet been delivered (just as Marbury's wasn't), do you think the President is at all considering crossing out "5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals" and writing "Supreme Court of the United States" over it?
Because I hear there's a job opening there he might want someone like her to fill...
Evil Overlords Wisdom
URL made into hyperlink - Jody