A student I know writes,
My grandmother and I have a unique relationship. We talk about the usual family gossip, but we really get into it when we talk about politics. Why is this unique? Because my grandmother is in her eighties and she lives in Tbilisi, Georgia. Having spent my formative years in the U.S., I make sure to tell her of the liberties that I take for granted that she did not have for the majority of her life in Communist Russia. I tell her that I could support any candidate running for office without fear of retribution from the sitting party (or can I?). Unlike her, I don’t have to fear being audited by the KGB if I support the opposing party (or do I?) (OK maybe I am safe from the KGB). Unlike her, I could become a journalist and try to uncover the truth without fear of being investigated for criminal conspiracy (or can I?). Unlike her, I could rely on my government to tell me the truth about what is going on in the world (or can I?). Unlike her, I am protected by the Constitution to say what I want without being punished (or am I?).
My grandmother does not like being told that she is missing out on these basic liberties by not being in the U.S. (or is she?). Recently, my grandmother visited us in the U.S., and then she visited some family in Israel. She told me about her experience at JFK International Airport. She told me how she was patted down. She told me how she had to stand for what felt like hours (Georgians tend to exaggerate) waiting for the honor to be patted down. She told me how strangers rummaged through her bags. She told me how the TSA threw out her water bottle and how she had to buy another one inside the airport for $3 so she can take her medicine. She told me how rude the TSA agents were to her. She told me how hard it was for her to remove her shoes and then she told me how frustrated she was when she found out she did not have to. I tried to tell her that this is the price we all pay to make sure we have a safe society.
She knew I was going to say that. That’s when she told me about her experience flying to the U.S. and flying from Israel back home. She told me that she was treated with respect and sensitivity. She told me that there were no pat downs, no waiting, no shoe drama, no bag drama, and no “administrative” searches and seizures. I told her it sounds like the security at those airports is lacking. She was not having it. She said there have been no terrorist attacks from those airports and she did research (research-really?) and in fact those airports are safer than their U.S. counterparts. I was stumbling. She was just getting warmed up. Then she went for the jugular. She asked me, oh by the way, whose society is really free?
I realized that in Russia the government knows what you have before you get to the airport so there is no reason for the authorities to scrutinize low-risk passengers. In Israel, law enforcement could track people suspected of terrorism and some form of profiling is prevalent at Ben-Gurion Airport so again there is no need to burden the elderly. However, the U.S. does not use as much profiling nor can the authorities track people’s movements without some kind of judicial oversight. This is the upshot of the discrepancy between how my grandmother was treated at the three airports. My grandmother said she agreed with me and she added that she does not mind being tracked or profiled as long as she can have her dignity and her water while she is traveling.
I asked her if I could write about our exchange. She said sure, but she warned me against using my name. (She said I could use hers, but it’s probably not a good idea because that’s too easy to track. I better listen to her — she has more experience with this stuff.)
Myself, I’d rather undergo some difficulties at the airport rather than live in a surveillance state, but this either goes to show that tastes vary, or that tastes in what counts as freedom are to some extent defined by culture and expectations. Of course, there’s always the possibility that we may end up with both the surveillance and the TSA.
Nice profile of Susan Crawford, highlighting her campaign against telco internet monopolies, by David Carr in today’s NYT.
A taste of Telecom’s Big Players Hold Back the Future:
Susan Crawford, a professor at [Cardozo School of Law], has written a book, “Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age,” that offers a calm but chilling state-of-play on the information age in the United States. She is on a permanent campaign, speaking at schools, conferences and companies — she was at Google last week — and in front of Congress, asserting that the status quo has been great for providers but an expensive mess for everyone else.
Ms. Crawford argues that the airwaves, the cable systems and even access to the Internet itself have been overtaken by monopolists who resist innovation and chronically overcharge consumers.
The 1996 Telecommunications Act, which was meant to lay down track to foster competition in a new age, allowed cable companies and telecoms to simply divide markets and merge their way to monopoly. If you are looking for the answer to why much of the developed world has cheap, reliable connections to the Internet while America seems just one step ahead of the dial-up era, her office — or her book — would be a good place to find out.
‘Calm but chilling’ – that’s Susan when she’s doing business; she’s warm and funny when off duty.
One key difference from past practice: EFF will liquidate any Bitcoins it receives as soon as it gets them.
EFF’s announcement pointed me to this recent (March 18, 2013) Fincen guidance document, Application of FinCEN’s Regulations to Persons Administering, Exchanging, or Using Virtual Currencies which I had missed. Key graph:
A user who obtains convertible virtual currency and uses it to purchase real or virtual goods or services is not an MSB [Money Services Businesses] under FinCEN’s regulations. Such activity, in and of itself, does not fit within the definition of “money transmission services” and therefore is not subject to FinCEN’s registration, reporting, and recordkeeping regulations for MSBs.
Most people are now familiar with President’s Obama’s proposal to cut Social Security by reducing the annual cost of living adjustment. While the final formula is somewhat convoluted, the net effect is to reduce benefits by an average of roughly 3.0 percent.
Since Social Security benefits account for more than 70 percent of the income of a typical retiree, this cut is more than a 2.0 percent reduction in income. By comparison, a wealthy couple earning $500,000 a year would see a hit to their after-tax income of just 0.6 percent from the tax increase that President Obama put in place last year.
While President Obama is willing to make seniors pay a price for the economic crisis, his administration his unwilling to impose any burdens on Wall Street. Specifically, it has consistently opposed a Wall Street speculation tax: effectively a sales tax on trades of stock and derivatives. The Obama administration has even used its power to try to block efforts by European countries to impose their own taxes on financial speculation.
If the idea of taxing stock trades sounds strange, it shouldn’t. The United States used to impose a tax of 0.04 percent until Wall Street lobbied to eliminate it in the mid-1960s. Many countries, including the United Kingdom, Switzerland, China, and India already impose taxes on stock trades.
Oh, wait, it’s simple:
Wall Street bankers have a lot more political power than old and disabled people who depend on Social Security. That is why President Obama is working to protect the former and cut benefits for the latter.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, let me repeat two things I’ve said often before:
1. We need a Tobin Tax too.
2. Consider this administration the flowering of the Nelson Rockefeller wing of the GOP. Obama governs like the moderate-liberal Republicans of my youth — a species now all but extinct in its original habitat, but thriving like red lionfish in their new home.
The internets are going nuts over this stunning video remake of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Station.
It’s a visually stunning video, a fun idea, the law prof discussion about the copyright implications of creating a derivative work in space have been loads of fun … but I still can’t help but think that Commander Hadfield’s revisions (made for understandable reasons) took out the sting that made the original song so great back in the early ’70s when they just didn’t play stuff like that on the radio.
But wait. It seems that the canonical version isn’t even the original! In hunting for the version I of the song I knew, I found this subtly weird, and in one place [circa 2:26] quite awful, version that is apparently part of an original 1969 video. I’ll stick with the ’70s version, thank you.
Sooner or later, a record of voting against your constituents’ interests has to catch up with you, no matter how nice you are. Our own IRL voted to allow employers to take away overtime pay, which is currently required by law. Instead she would allow employers to choose to give workers comp time for overtime, and keep the money. The bill would disproportionately hurt women and mothers.
Stuff like this should case you electoral trouble. Unless of course the other party gives you a free pass.
My colleague Mary Anne Franks is the subject of an unusual (for a law professor) profile in the current issue of Ocean Drive magazine. For those unfamiliar with Ocean Drive, it is a big thick glossy thing aimed squarely at the handmaidens of the plutocracy. The magazine celebrates Miami’s (and especially Miami Beach’s) moneyed party-goers, and is stuffed with ads for wildly expensive clothing and jewelery. In between the ads there are little articles about photogenic local celebutantes and charity party-goers. As far as I know, in 20 years in Miami I have never attended an event covered by Ocean Drive, but then again I’m hardly a regular reader. The thing does appear in the mail at my house — I’m guessing I got on their mailing list by subscribing to the Economist, which says something about either the Economist or Ocean Drive‘s demographic assumptions.
Anyway, Mary Anne is not Ocean Drive‘s covergirl — that’s a Bond girl — but she is the background for the table of contents, which must be the next best thing, and the subject of a writeup that begins, “Mary Anne Franks could shatter your kneecap if she wanted to” and goes on to discuss her expertise in Krav Maga, an Israeli martial art; it also touches on her expertise as a feminist legal thinker.
Before joining the Miami Law faculty, Mary Anne Franks was a Bigelow Fellow and Lecturer in Law at the University of Chicago Law School. She received her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2007. She received her D.Phil in 2004 and her M.Phil in 2001 from Oxford University, where she studied on a Rhodes Scholarship. Mary Anne’s latest article is How to Feel Like a Woman, or, Why Punishment Is a Drag, which is forthcoming in the UCLA Law Review.
Judge Otis Wright issued a doozy of a sanctions order against Prenda Law, the notorious copyright trolls.
I could have done without the Star Trek references, but given the overall context of the case, footnote five did make me laugh long and loud.
Normally, I worry that when Judges try to write creative orders they are reversal bait. In this case, the conduct appears to be so bad, and the punitive sanctions mild in context, so I don’t think that’s a major risk.
Ars Technica has been all over this story if you need background. The transcripts of the hearings are amazing reading.
Update: JT points me to the font of all things Prenda, Popehat.
Two good things happened yesterday:
• The bill to provide a large public subsidy for the refurbishment of the the Miami Dolphin’s stadium died in Tallahassee. The combination of outrage over the fiasco of the Miami Marlins deal, and the fact that the team’s lead owner is a multi-billionaire seemed to scuttle it.
• Chartwell’s workers (UMiami dining hall workers) voted to unionize.
Apparently there are now two groups of Republicans in the House. First, there’s a group of firebrand conservatives headed by Eric Cantor, which, as near as I can tell, is mostly dedicated to finding slightly more slippery language to sell its usual right-wing agenda of school vouchers, block granting Medicaid, increased tax credits, and gutting labor laws. Second, there’s a group of insane, frothing-at-the-mouth conservatives who think of Cantor as Nancy Pelosi’s lapdog and are basically uninterested in anything other than repealing Obamacare, slashing taxes even more, ending the welfare state, and making speeches about how Obama is destroying America. It’s quite a little group that John Boehner has up there.
What put him over the edge? Could it be this? No, that was about the Senate.
Given the source — AbovetheLaw.com — I would have been prepared to dismiss it out of hand. But Brian Leiter, who is a very discerning consumer of rankings, says that that the “ATL Top 50” is “not nuts and contains some useful information”. Coming from him, that is fairly high praise.
U.Miami Law comes in at 49th on the list — considerably higher than our usual US News rank, and right near the middle of the range (41-55) I would put us at if I were Ratings Czar. And Yale is #1, so they got that right too.
The attempted rebranding of May Day as ‘Law Day‘ by anti-communist Cold War legislators never took off. I think the idea of a ‘Law Day’ isn’t bad (although isn’t every day law day?), but as a piece of counter-programming it has always been both too half-hearted and rather tone-deaf.
Reading about Sen. Cruz calling other Republicans ‘squishes’ because they were not, at least in his telling, as hard-line as he is, reminded me of when I lived in the UK and the late Margret Thatcher and her supporters derided their less-immoderate fellow Tories as the “wets”.
It also made me wonder about the national differences the two terms imply. Am I alone in thinking that there’s some suggestion of unmanliness about ‘squishes’? And if so, is that in fact tied to a national difference, or just to the gender and general sexism of the particular speaker?
Wikipedia tells me that,
Historically, the term “wet” was English public school slang for someone judged to be weak, feeble or “soppy”. Within the political context it was used both as a noun and an adjective to describe people or policies which Thatcher would have considered to be weak or “wet”.
So maybe it isn’t all that different after all?
EPIC has announced the 2013 members of the EPIC Advisory Board. They are Michael Froomkin, Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Miami School of Law; Sheila Kaplan, student privacy advocate and founder of Education New York; Eugene Spafford, a/k/a/ “Spaf,” professor of Computer Science at Purdue University; and Tim Wu, professor at Columbia Law School and author of “The Master Switch.” The EPIC Advisory Board is a distinguished group of experts in law, technology, and public policy. Joining the EPIC Board of Directors in 2013 are current Advisory Board members David Farber, Joi Ito, and Jeff Jonas. For more information, see EPIC: EPIC Advisory Board.
The EPIC Advisory Board is a large group of privacy luminaries, and I’m proud to join them. (The 2013 members are the new members, not the whole Board.)
The discovery of a new, more solid, superionic phase of water, made me think of Kurt Vonnegut, who in his novel Cat’s Cradle imagined an ultimately deadly state of water he called ice-nine, which was solid at room temperature. Fortunately the real stuff requires vastly greater temperature and pressure than found on the Earth’s surface:
One lesser known phase of water is the superionic phase, which is considered an “ice” but exists somewhere between a solid and a liquid: while the oxygen atoms occupy fixed lattice positions as in a solid, the hydrogen atoms migrate through the lattice as in a fluid. Until now, scientists have thought that there was only one phase of superionic ice, but scientists in a new study have discovered a second phase that is more stable than the original. The new phase of superionic ice could make up a large component of the interiors of giant icy planets such as Uranus and Neptune.
I was working up a long post on the looming food workers strike against Chartwells, which operates the food court and dining areas at UMiami, but it looks as if there may not be one. Responding, undoubtedly, to pressure from the U, Chartwells has agreed to the workers’ demand for a card check election regarding a union.
UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI STATEMENT ON UNIONIZING EFFORTS The University is aware of a possible work stoppage as part of a unionizing effort. Today, we have learned that Chartwells offered the union a card check, and the University is hopeful this will resolve the issues. The University assures the campus community that residential college dining halls and our food court operations will continue as scheduled through the remainder of the semester. The University values its faculty and staff, as well as employees of its contractors, including Chartwells.
This is very good news for the workers and for the rest of us. I would like to think that the faculty letter I and about 300 others signed, and the subsequent action by the UM Faculty Senate played at least a small role in this development.
Article Headline: Rewinding History, Bush Museum Lets You Decide
Date Published: 4/21/13, Print (National Edition, p. A1)
Phrase in Question: “As president, he rarely had a chance to rest….”
Your Concern (please limit to 300 words):
In the page A10 continuation of the front-page article in today’s paper by Peter Baker, “Rewinding History, Bush Museum Lets You Decide”, Mr. Baker writes,
“As president, he [Bush] rarely had a chance to rest….”
In fact, George W. Bush spent 32 months at his ranch (490 days) or Camp David (487 days) — an average of four months away every year, according the the Washington Post’s POTUS tracker (as cited at http://theweek.com/bullpen/column/235844/deconstructing-the-5-most-ridiculous-myths-about-barack-obama).
I understand Presidents sometimes take their work with them when they travel, but I submit that there were plenty of chances to rest in those 977 days.
University of British Columbia researchers have found a new potential use for the over-the-counter pain drug Tylenol. Typically known to relieve physical pain, the study suggests the drug may also reduce the psychological effects of fear and anxiety over the human condition, or existential dread.
I think it would have been better poetic justice if the cure for existential angst were an anti-nausea drug.
Meanwhile, just remember: if it you take too much Acetaminophen, it will destroy your liver.
On the bright side, though, Acetaminophen is the only painkiller that doesn’t interact poorly with any of my meds….