Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How to Defeat Westboro Baptist Crazies

The small town of Brandon, Mississippi has figured out how to prevent Westboro Baptist from protesting the funerals of fallen soldiers. They put their playbook into action in preparation for the recent burial ceremony of Staff Seargent Jason Rogers on April 14, 2011.

Local friends of Rogers' family scoured the town looking for Kansas plates on cars at restaurants, stores, and motels. Pickup trucks were "mysteriously" found blocking these cars in their spots - and police explained that the tow service was running behind a few hours, and they would sadly have to JUST WAIT. :-)

When Jason Rogers' body was transported back into his hometown under a heavy police escort from the State Troopers, County Sherriff's Office, and local patrols - literally thousands of citizens lined the streets to pay homage to their local hero. A giant American flag was hoisted from the ladder of a city utility truck in the center of town where mourners left the funeral, and another flag was hoisted from a fire truck at the end of the route, near the cemetery. No Westboro Crazies in sight - for an incredible display of patriotism.

And here is the video, from the dash camera of a Mississippi Highway Patrolman's car:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Breaking News

Aleksandr Lukashnko, of Balarus, looks just like my undergraduate political science professor, Bruce Johnson. With just a bit more hair.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Price of a Gigabyte, Internationally

YEAR — Price of a Gigabyte

1981 — $300,000
1987 — $50,000
1990 — $10,000
1994 — $1000
1997 — $100
2000 — $10
2004 — $1
2010 — $0.10

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Rand Paul will be on the Daily Show

New Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, son of Libertarian Ron Paul, will be Jon Stewart's guest on the Daily Show tomorrow. I'm hoping Stewart will question the Senator about his extreme position on foreign aid. Paul favors cutting ALL OF IT. Perhaps Stewart can ask him how he expects this to help in the War on Terror. It is almost universally agreed that Foreign Aid is a central part of our National Security

Darwinian Terrorism

It turns out that the most violent threat to Darwinism comes from Islamists in London rather than Christians in Texas.

A prominent British imam has been forced to retract his claims that Islam is compatible with Darwin's theory of evolution after receiving death threats from fundamentalists.

Dr Usama Hasan, a physics lecturer at Middlesex University and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, was intending yesterday to return to Masjid al-Tawhid, a mosque in Leyton, East London, for the first time since he delivered a lecture there entitled "Islam and the theory of evolution".

But according to his sister, police advised him not to attend after becoming concerned for his safety. Instead his father, Suhaib, head of the mosque's committee of trustees, posted a notice on his behalf expressing regret over his comments. "I seek Allah's forgiveness for my mistakes and apologise for any offence caused," the statement read.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Security Council: Lybia

Amazing that right now the UN is imposing historic sanctions and no US network is covering, only: http://bit.ly/5Fnf

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Today's Links

And in the world of International Law:

And finally, I just FOUND GOLD:

A website for lawyers who use iPhones.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bar Exam

I take the Bar Exam tomorrow! ...And Wednesday. Here goes nothing!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Shaking Things Up

This is really interesting. "Maryland is one of 14 states with a constitutional requirement designed to make voters decide at least once a generation whether to start over. The protection goes back to the Founding Fathers and the thinking that, every now and then in a healthy democracy, the People probably have to shake things up."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Amount of Oil Leaking Per Day

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for linking to this graph.

Oklahoma's Silly Constitutional Amendment

Most of my readers know I am from Oklahoma, and studied law in Oklahoma - thus I have been keeping tabs on a rather unusual development happening here. State legislators have proposed amending the state constitution to ban the consideration of Shariah Law and International Law in their rulings. The amendment was approved to be sent to voters last month by the State Senate, and is a clear illustration of just how odd Oklahoma lawmakers are. Especially the author of the amendment, State Senator Rex Duncan. The relevant text of the amendment is below:
The courts shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures. Specifically, the courts shall not consider international law or Sharia Law. The provisions of this subsection shall apply to all cases before the respective courts including, but not limited to, cases of first impression.
Professor Julian Ku has pointed out that while the amendment is Constitutional, it is incredibly over-broad and could end up hurting our state in some significant ways when it comes to foreign business investments into our state economy, as well as international trade. Believe it or not, we do have some significant international transactions happening in the state, especially in the oil and natural gas industries. Here is what Professor Ku says:

amendment is overbroad because it does not define “sharia law,” and appears to prohibit Oklahoma courts from considering international law or any other kind of foreign law in their decisions. So, a contract which selects German law, but is litigated in an OK court (like Campbell v. AIG, 976 P.2d 1102 (1999)), would be interpreted contrary to the parties’ clear intent. And a case which involves principles of international law to determine river boundaries, like Hanes v. State, 973 P.2d 330 (1998), could not be decided under those principles.... what is interesting is that Oklahoma voters will likely pass this amendment. As a constitutional amendment, I assume Oklahoma’s legislature is stuck with it, and Oklahoma courts as well. Indeed, there is no obvious basis for a constitutional challenge that I can think of offhand. This means that we may see some odd litigation and judicial decisions down the road out of Oklahoma. And it means that most foreign investors should be extremely wary of assenting to the jurisdiction of Oklahoma courts.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fringe Benefits of the World Cup

The U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, Donald Gips, just noted, "Americans have bought more tickets for the World Cup in South Africa than any other outside group." How/why did a country with a scant interest in Soccer compared to our other national sports gain such an interest in the World Cup? Partly, its because of our incredible diversity - folks in the U.S. with a heritage of Soccer in their family blood have always been huge Soccer fans - and just because they are outnumbered by Football and Baseball fans doesn't mean they have insignificant numbers, especially in our major cities. Additionally, I would suspect there is an adventurous side to the Americans who bought their tickets to South Africa this year. Post-Apartheid South Africa is an interesting place, with unique characteristics that you don't find in Europe or Asia or elsewhere. Not to mention, that next to Egypt, its about the only place on the African continent thats safe to go, and has touristy things to do. Thus, one of the fringe benefits of the World Cup will be to rekindle the warm relationship between the U.S. and South Africa - it wasn't too long ago that U.S. diplomacy helped that nation out of the mire of racism and sent them surging into modernity.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Tragic Under-coverage of the Kyrgyzstan Crisis

Southern Kyrgyzstan is burning, and there is barely a blip in the U.S. media about the crisis boiling over in the country. New violence has erupted in a fury, and I haven't even seen Obama say anything about it. Uzbeki people are being slaughtered, and more than 75,000 people have fled the town of Osh running for their lives. This violence had been the aftermath of a deadly coup organized by an opposition party - and the cause of tension is mainly ethnic. The Kyrgz majority and the Uzbek minority have always been less than good friends, and the overthrowing of President Bakiyev has not helped things. Perhaps the U.S. media think we don't care about an ethnic crisis on the other side of the planet, much in the same way they failed to cover Darfur and other tragedies. But in this case, we actually do have an important interest - an airbase. Manas air base is one of the main stops on the way to Afghanistan, and is hugely crucial to our operations there. If this conflict disrupts electricity to the base, or clean water, or even damages the local economy - it could have far reaching implications for the base, and could force the U.S. to close up shop and locate elsewhere at great cost to U.S. taxpayers. So, take an interest folks.
"People are desperate to escape the violence but without international assistance there's no way out, and every minute of delay is costing lives," said Andrea Berg, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, who left Osh on June 13, 2010.
The price we pay for ignoring events like this, is a further closeting of American news-watchers from the rest of the world. Already, the number of people who watch the news at all are far too few - lets not skimp on the details is all I am saying. We have four major 24-hour cable networks covering far more trivial items over and over all day long. Part of the reason nobody protests the lack of coverage, is that they fail to grasp the significance of the event they are missing. And the reason they fail grasp it, is the lack of coverage. Its a vicious circle if there ever was one and its tragic. Its tragic for our taxpayers, for our kids - who inevitably will learn less about the world beyond our borders, and tragic for the future of our government. Much of government is the proper handling of foreign affairs situations, and our elected leaders are responsible for those hard decisions. Unfortunately those folks are elected and held accountable by voters who don't even know how to spell Kyrgyzstan, much less have an educated opinion on what should be done. I blame the media. But, hell, you could also blame our education system which has chosen to barely cover Geography - if it even covers it at all.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Afghanistan: Vast Mineral Wealth

This breaking news, reported first my the New York Times, revolutionizes the region. One of the poorest nations in the world just found its ticket to becoming a developed nation. A vastly improved Afghan economy is exactly what U.S. forces have been trying to accomplish for 9 years. Thats a task so hard, in a rocky, war plagued region, that it has been the longest war we have ever fought. With an improved economy, all the isolated parts of the country that have been so hard to control for so long, will become linked by paychecks, banks, loans, and other types of interdependence. In other words, with a better economy comes less ethnic tension and less divisiveness among regional separatists. This is a game changer. Not only does it offer a huge chance for industry in Afghanistan, but it gives the one most important missing thing to a destitute people: Hope.

(The photo above is of the Bamyan Valley, where the Taliban destroyed many priceless historical artifacts when they were in power. The story is interesting and heartbreaking. Perhaps, now, the glory days of Afghanistan will return.)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Versatility of a Law Degree is a Myth

I went to law school with only a vague interest in law, and a greater interest in government and higher education. For some misguided reason I was under the impression that a law degree was the perfect gateway for a career in public service - a versatile tool that would open a hundred doors.

In reality, it turned out to be quite the opposite. I am not the only person this has happened to. Recruitment folks and pre-law advisors often refer to a law degree as highly useful and applicable to non-legal fields such as business, government administration, politics, public relations, and so on. But that's quite a stretch. I realized this during my first year of law school when I noticed that Law School, while offering an intellectual challenge and new way of thinking about society, only offers skills and training to be a lawyer and not much else - go figure. Also, the economy has made it horrendously difficult to find employment in legal jobs, making things tough for us all. I would recommend hesitancy to anyone planning to go the law school route.

Israel and Gaza

I guess you could count this as the news story of the day.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Some Elena Kagan Quotes

And what my constitutional values are are wholly irrelevant to the job, and so neither you nor anyone else will know what they are.
Elena Kagan

I do not espouse the unitarian position. President Clinton's assertion of directive authority over administration, more than President Reagan's assertion of a general supervisory authority, raises serious constitutional questions.
Elena Kagan

I have no regrets. I don't believe in looking back," she says. "What I am proudest of? Working really hard... and achieving as much as I could.
Elena Kagan

I think that if there are positions that you can't argue ... then the responsibility is probably to resign. If one's own conscience is opposed to the requirements and responsibilities of the job, then it's time to leave the job.
Elena Kagan

I think the nine justices think the solicitor general is the 35th clerk.
Elena Kagan

If I am confirmed, I will commit to show Heller and the principles articulated in it the full measure of respect that is due to all constitution decisions of the court.
Elena Kagan

In fact, corporate and union moneys go overwhelmingly to incumbents, so limiting that money, as Congress did in the campaign finance law, may be the single most self-denying thing that Congress has ever done.
Elena Kagan

It was a very cool thing to be a smart girl, as opposed to some other, different kind," she says. "And I think that made a great deal of difference to me growing up and in my life afterward.
Elena Kagan

It's not that there are no masters, but that there are many. And the job of the solicitor general is to balance those masters and to accommodate them all, each in their proper places, wisely and well and in so doing to represent the people of the United States.
Elena Kagan

To have the opportunity to lead the Solicitor General's office is the honor of a lifetime. As you know, this is an office with a long and rich tradition, not only of extraordinary legal skill but also of extraordinary professionalism and integrity. That is due, in large measure, to the people who have led it.
Elena Kagan

What my political views or my constitutional views are just doesn't matter.
Elena Kagan

When the Senate ceases to engage nominees in meaningful discussion of legal issues, the confirmation process takes on an air of vacuity and farce, and the Senate becomes incapable of either properly evaluating nominees or appropriately educating the public.
Elena Kagan

Kagan and International Law

So what are her views?

  • “They’re upholding all these reprehensible Bush antiterrorism policies that have been condemned by every human rights and civil liberties organization in the country,’’ said Francis Boyle, a professor of international law at the University of Illinois. “There has been no retreat by Kagan. She could have backed off on all these Bush positions and she refused.’’

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sanjay Gupta and the Role of Jouranlism

Sorry for the short post, but this story is absolutely fascinating, and interesting.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

SCOTUS: Citing Foreign Court Decisions

The United States Association of Constitutional Law has posted a transcript of the recent debate held at American University College of Law which hosted Justice Scalia and Justice Breyer. In the debate each of the Justices outlined their approach toward international law, specifically the relevance of of the decisions of foreign courts in our domestic legal system. Here are some insightful quotes from the event:

Scalia: "...I do not use foreign law in the interpretation of the United States Constitution. Now, I will use it in the interpretation of a treaty.

Scalia: "...you know, you talk about it's nice to know that we're on the right track, that we have a same moral and legal framework as the rest of the world. But we don't have the same moral and legal framework as the rest of the world, and never have. If you told the framers of the Constitution that what we're after is to, you know, do something that will be just like Europe, they would have been appalled. And if you read the Federalist Papers, it's full of, you know, statements that make very clear they didn't have a whole lot of respect for many of the rules in European countries."

Scalia: "Why is it that foreign law would be relevant to what an American judge does when he interprets -- interprets, not writes -- I mean, the Founders used a lot of foreign law. If you read the Federalist Papers, it's full of discussions of the Swiss system, German system. It's full of that. It is very useful in devising a constitution. But why is it useful in interpreting one?
Now, my theory of what I do when I interpret the American Constitution is I try to understand what it meant, what was understood by the society to mean when it was adopted. And I don't think it changes since then. "

Breyer: "Well, it's relevant in the sense that you have a person who's a judge, who has similar training, who's trying to, let's say, apply a similar document, something like cruel and unusual or -- there are different words, but they come to roughly the same thing -- who has a society that's somewhat structured like ours."

Breyer: [talking about a specific case on which he sought out foreign legal decisions] "So here you're trying to get a picture how other people have dealt with it. And am I influenced by that? I am at least interested in reading it. And the fact that this has gone on all over the world and people have come to roughly similar conclusions, in my opinion, was the reason for thinking it at least is the kind of issue that maybe we ought to hear in our court, because I thought our people in this country are not that much different than people other places. "

Scalia: [Referring to the risks of citing foreign decisions] " I mean, it lends itself to manipulation. It lends itself. It invites manipulation. You know, I want to do this thing; I have to think of some reason for it. What reason -- you know, I want to come out this way. ...I have a decision by an intelligent man in Zimbabwe -- (laughter) -- or -- (laughs) -- or anywhere else and you put it in there and you give the citation. By God, it looks lawyerly! (Laughter.) And it lends itself to manipulation. It just does."

Breyer: "I've been reading about the Founding Fathers, and I think Franklin and Hamilton and Jefferson and Madison and maybe even George Washington all would have thought that we, on occasion at least, can learn something about our country and our law and our document from what happens elsewhere."

Breyer: "Do you think things outside the United States cannot be relevant to an understanding of how to apply the American Constitution? That's what's at issue. What is at issue is the extent to which you might learn from other places facts that would help you apply the Constitution of the United States. And in today's world, as I've said, where experiences are becoming more and more similar, I think that there is often -- not a lot, not always -- but in a finite number of instances there is something to learn about how to interpret this document..."

Is Google Serious?

Today's reccomended reading: Google is Bluffing.

Also: They ran out of jet fuel in Haiti, so the FAA is suspending flights there.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cancel Haiti's Debt Now

Annie Lowrey over at Foreign Policy has a post up about the best possible way to help Haiti in the aftermath of the recent earthquake. Cancel their debt. She quotes an article in the Times of London that explains in simple terms how Haiti's debt is crimping any advancement in the country, and how they became indebted in the first place. Its my recommended reading for the day.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New Year, More Free Time

Now that the break has ended I am back to work, and with just a bit more free time. I have dropped some responsibilities, and the International Human Rights Clinic has ended. The next group took a trip to Panama, and when I hear back from them about it, I will post something about it here.

Which is the long way of saying, I can begin to update this periodically once again! Its my last semester at OU Law, and all of my classes will be comparatively easy. By comparatively, I mean only about twice as hard as undergrad classes as opposed to ten times as hard:-)

Anyway, continuing my theme of presenting my readers with links to unusually interesting news stories in the arena of international law, I present you with this little treasure. As far as I am concerned, its the most interesting thing I've read all year, albeit the year is young!