Monday, November 26, 2007

Garner, Scalia Tag Team!

Okay, so this news probably won't be exciting to anyone outside the legal profession.

But Bryan Garner is the Michael Jordan of legal writing education. Teaming him up with the best writer on the Supreme Court is a stroke of genius. This book is sure to sell hundreds, nay, thousands of copies!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Death of Email

Good article in Slate today about the decline of civilized e-communication.

It reminds me a little of the state of the video gaming industry, and the ascendency of so-called "casual" games (Diner Dash, Wii Sports, Guitar Hero, the Sims). I hope the success of the Wii will not inadvertently spell doom for deep, mature, thought-provoking entertainment like Bioshock: games that require more expensive platforms and longer development times.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Justice O'Connor: Universal Merit Selection; Interchangeable Prosecutors & Defense Attorneys

Sandra Day O'Connor has been pretty outspoken since she stepped down from the bench, God bless her.

In a recent conference she extolled merit selection for judges -- not exactly a controversial topic to anyone but far-right Foghorn Leghorn types, but a Good Thing nonetheless. But she goes on to suggest that the artificial dividing line between prosecutor and defense attorney be done away with. She proposes that we follow the example of the English (and other European countries), where attorneys fill both roles. One of the chief causes of prosecutorial abuse -- the U.S. attorney scandals, the Duke rape cases, the Genarlow Wilson case -- is politics. Removing politics from the election of judges has given us better judges. If we remove politics from the prosecutor's office, might it not give us better criminal trials (i.e. fewer reversals, fewer habeas petitions, less taxpayer money)?

My note touched upon this issue briefly in the context of the French system. European countries tend not to view the criminal justice process in such stark, adversarial terms. Whether this has truly led to a reduction in prosecutorial abuse in those countries is something I'm not prepared to say. (And there are plenty of other things that go on in French courtrooms that would make us uncomfortable, to say the least.) But Justice O'Connor raises a fascinating issue that should be openly discussed.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Suicide Bombing in Halo 3

Clive Thompson has a great article on his Wired blog about how Halo 3 has given him insight on the personal economics of suicide bombing. In short, he resorts to "sticking" players with plasma grenades at close range because it's the surest, easiest way to kill another player. He writes:

I, however, have a completely different psychology. I know I'm the underdog; I know I'm probably going to get killed anyway. I am never going to advance up the Halo 3 rankings, because in the political economy of Halo, I'm poor.

Specifically, I'm poor in time. The best players have dozens of free hours a week to hone their talents, and I don't have that luxury. This changes the relative meaning of death for the two of us. For me, dying will not penalize me in the way it penalizes them, because I have almost no chance of improving my state. I might as well take people down with me.

Or to put it another way: The structure of Xbox Live creates a world composed of two classes -- haves and have-nots. And, just as in the real world, some of the disgruntled have-nots are all too willing to toss their lives away -- just for the satisfaction of momentarily halting the progress of the haves. Since the game instantly resurrects me, I have no real dread of death in Halo 3.

At the risk of sounding flippant, this is true. I often sacrifice myself on suicidal runs just to help out my team. Even if I don't have the highest kill tally at the end of the round, I can at least deny a flag capture or chalk up one more kill for my team.

Thompson also finds a way in which interactive worlds can communicate complicated differences in perspective (see: Virtual Guatanamo). More on that later.

Friday, November 2, 2007


I don't watch the news on television. So I don't know how much coverage the Mukasey nomination fight (if it can be called that) is getting. TPMMuckracker set up a vote tracker to follow the senators who are officially for and against his nomination. I think it's an important story because it gives our government the chance to make a stand against waterboarding, for all the world to see. Andrew Sullivan has a brilliant quote from Teddy Roosevelt which happens to pertain directly to waterboarding, and it's worth quoting again here:

"The president desires to know in the fullest and most circumstantial manner all the facts, ... for the very reason that the president intends to back up the Army in the heartiest fashion in every lawful and legitimate method of doing its work; he also intends to see that the most vigorous care is exercised to detect and prevent any cruelty or brutality and that men who are guilty thereof are punished. Great as the provocation has been in dealing with foes who habitually resort to treachery, murder and torture against our men, nothing can justify or will be held to justify the use of torture or inhuman conduct of any kind on the part of the American Army...."

It's difficult to believe that we've fallen so far in the past fifty years that we even have a debate on this issue.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

It's Alive!

Watch Wikipedia evolve, in real time.

The Internet Is For Porn

The infamous record keeping requirement of 18 U.S.C. 2257 -- the one that you see at the bottom of every internet porn website, certifying that all participants are 18 years of age or older, and identifying the custodian who keeps the verifying records -- has been struck down as facially overbroad by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

A victory for the First Amendment, but perhaps not so good for the niche adult entertainment law business.

Atlanta's Water Shortage

What happens when a city runs out of water?

Stay tuned to find out.

Start investing in chamber pots and water filters!

Democrats kick Republican ass in Maricopa County

6,000 new voters in Q3.

State Dems outraised the GOP 3-1 during the same period. Impressive!