Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Cornyn's Folly -- Hunter/Gatherer Journalists

Thanks to May it Please the Court and Lauren Gelman for being the first to speak out.

Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) along with several others, are sponsoring the Free Flow of Information Act, a law that sets out some pretty detailed requirements that must be present before a court can compel disclosure of material from the media, or "covered person."

John Cornyn's interpretation of "covered person" doesn't include bloggers.

The bill's text clearly does, though, which begs the question of whether or not it will be changed. Certainly if Mr. Cornyn has his way, it will be.

I quoted Jay Rosen in a previous post, and I believe it's worth posting again:

"Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one, and blogging means practically anyone can own one. That is the Number One reason why weblogs matter."

What is it, really, about bloggers that makes so many people so nervous? Is it "Big Media" leading the charge? Is it that our elected officials are afraid of bloggers and what they can do?

Certainly not. The possibility for inaccuracy and bias that exists in the blogosphere exists in traditional media, as well. Just ask the New York Times. The simple fact of the matter is that bloggers are journalists, and they're not. Not really so simple, I know. I realize that there are bloggers who actively cover stories, hitting the streets with their cell-phones and laptops, but most of the blogosphere is a collection of editorializers, passively accepting reported news and commenting on it.

We're gatherers, not hunters.

The question is, should the hunters among us be considered journalists?

My answer is, absolutely. I seek no protection for myself, at least not right now, other than my freedom of speech. I consider myself a journalist only in so far as I am a "disseminator" of information, to a certain extent. I don't actively cover stories. My practice suffers enough from the small amount of time I spend editorializing. I'll certainly never (well, maybe never) have a confidential source whose identity I need to protect. But does that mean those gatherers like myself are doomed to sit in a journalistic limbo, forced to atone for our lack of editors, fact-checkers, and proofreaders by rolling over on our similarly situated hunter brethren?

I think not. Besides, hunters are hunters for a reason. I don't fancy my head on a virtual wall.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Everybody Get Down!!!! It's a... Cookie!!!!

From the You've-Got-To-Be-Kidding-Me Department, San Diego evacuated AN ENTIRE AIRPORT after the x-ray genius thought he saw bomb making material in a carry-on bag.

Apparently, children's toys and cookies, when placed in the same bag, look suspiciously like improvised explosive devices.

They evacuated the airport at 7:45a.m., and here's the kicker. They apparently didn't figure out it was a cookie until sometime around 9:20a.m., when they opened the doors to let passengers back into the building.

My questions are as follows:

1. What kind of toy was it?
2. What kind of cookie was it?
3. What kind of carry-on bag was it?

I know, they seem like silly questions, but hey, how are we supposed to protect ourselves from the evils of toys and baked goods if we don't know which ones to watch out for?

I'd also like to know how the owner of that carry-on bag felt, when the TSA employee raised the alarm.

I've got an idea to fix the problem, though. We can add another step to the airport security gauntlet, in which we force everyone to empty their carry-on bags onto a table, so the x-ray dude doesn't blow a gasket and shut the place down for an hour and a half.

Or, we could simply outlaw toys and cookies which, when taken together, are a dangerous combination. We can now add Chips Ahoy to the list of items too dangerous to be taken on an airplane.

So leave 'em at home, folks. Right next to your fingernail clippers and your breast milk.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The "Benevolence" of Insurance Companies

The ramp-up has started. Insurance companies, most notably Allstate, have begun airing television commercials telling us of their disaster-response teams. Allstate is even telling us how important it is that they hand out teddy bears to small children who have lost everything.

How nice.

What's interesting to me is how important it must be to people that the insurance company bring them ice for their insulin. My question is, how long are they gonna keep bringing that ice, while you're living under a bridge somewhere?

Look, everybody, insurance companies (individual employee attitudes notwithstanding) don't care if you survive the disaster. They're dressing up their couple-of-thousand-dollars-a-year efforts at "disaster-response" for one purpose and one purpose only. To make you think they care. Why don't we ask them how many claims they expect to pay out as a result of Hurricane Katrina & Hurricane Rita. Go on, ask them.

May It Please The Court is discussing how the courts will determine the legal cause of damages for the purposes of the insurance contracts. So, we'll get hundreds, if not thousands, of homeless people with their future tied up in court, attempting to get the ever-so-caring insurance industry to pony up.

The industry is going to fight. They always do. After all, as everyone with a brain knows, they're not in the business of paying claims. It disrupts their bottom line.

The Red Cross, United Way, a host of private charities, churches, and the government are doing everything they can in order to help those displaced by the hurricanes get immediate needs met. We don't need a "disaster-response" team from an insurance company. Let's tell them to use that money to pay the victims back a little for the windfall profits they've brought in.

Otherwise, we're left with this:

Disaster Responder -- "Hello little girl. I'm from the Ol' Granddad Insurance Company. Your parents have paid us thousands of dollars over the years, to gain peace of mind."

Little Girl -- "Our house just blowed away."

D.R. -- "I know, and I'm sorry about that. Here, have a teddy bear."

L.G. -- "But what about our house?"

D.R. -- "Check your policy. We'll be in touch."

Yeah. Right.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Roberts and "Drawing the Line"

I watched some of the confirmation hearings on Chief Justice nominee John Roberts last night, and I was struck by one exchange in particular.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), brought up the fact that Judge Roberts had said, regarding one of the cases he had argued before the Supreme Court, that he would have taken the other side's case if they had approached him first.

Durbin went on to ask Judge Roberts where he would "draw the line." He specifically asked about the Colorado case in which Roberts had provided advice to a gay/lesbian group that was seeking to overturn a Colorado law. He asked Roberts if he would have taken the State's case if they had approached him first.

Roberts replied that he would, and referenced the words carved above the door of the Supreme Court.

Equal Justice Under the Law.

I just don't think he explained adequately.

The reason you, as a lawyer, take the state of Colorado's case (if approached by them) is simple.

If both sides of a case are not argued ably, and to their fullest extent, then what you wind up with is wishy-washy precedent, or worse, no precedent in a win by default. If you don't have an advocate who is able to put aside their personal views, and argue the merits of a case based upon the rule of law as it applies to your client, then you essentially, completely, and without fail reduce the argument to a moral one. Since Justice is Blind, then both sides of a case must have equal opportunity to have their case presented in a way which clearly and expertly outlines their view of the law.

After all, that's what courts are for. Roberts said that, when sworn in to the Supreme Court Bar, you are welcomed as "an officer of the Court," and in doing so he merely touched on the bigger picture. That being that "Equal Justice Under The Law," means equal opportunities for representation, consideration, support, and fair judgment; not just by the Judges or Justices deciding a case, but also by the attorneys arguing it.

Imagine, if you will, a time where the societal norms regard a certain group of people as less-deserving of certain rights. Those people are attempting to obtain access to the courts. Imagine, then, that everyone has done as Senator Dick Durbin would, and "draw the line" by not taking cases which are outside of society's generally accepted principles.

Would our system of justice mean anything at all to those people? I think not.

Now, I know, it sounds like I'm comparing Colorado's arguments with the plight of American black people after reconstruction. Truth is, I am, and I'm not. There's certainly no philosophical parallel between a state arguably wishing to deny someone's rights, and a group of people whose rights have been denied. But what we've got to do is recognize that their arguments must be given equal footing, equal opportunity to be heard.

If we don't do that, then we're allowing someone's subjective judgment to whip the blindfold from Justice's eyes. Dick Durbin might think that's a good thing, but if he thinks he's going to be the one who gets to do it, he'd probably find there are many, many groups in line ahead of him.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Blawg Review Guest Map

Found this at The Common Scold, via Legal Blog Watch.

Blawg Review has set up a guest map so that blawgers can show their locations in the United States (and even around the world).

I've added my site (look for little ol' Odessa, Texas). Here's hoping this thing takes off!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Tom Delay -- Please Don't Argue My Side (Or Anything Remotely Like It)

One of our illustrious House Leaders from Texas has been shooting off his mouth again lately.

Tom Delay is still going hog-wild on the "Judges-as-legislators" kick.

Grand. Just what I, and every truly law-abiding member of the conservative public needs. Does anyone wonder what it does to our argument when it's being made by one of the poster-boys for federal politics in the corporate washroom? Has anyone told Mr. Delay that he just might be hurting more than he's helping?

I'm sorry. I fully agree that there's too much legislating going on in the halls of the judiciary. Delay's right on that score. But his comments (and those of many of his fellow speakers at the event) come way too close to implicating the destruction of the independent judiciary.

And I'd like to remind Mr. Delay that, though "All wisdom does not reside in nine persons in black robes," if even a little bit of wisdom resided in 435 persons in tailored suits, those nine persons in black robes would be that much less relevant.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Texas Young Lawyers Association -- Serving the Texas Public and Elsewhere

I just returned the other day from the 2005 Texas Bar Leadership Conference in The Woodlands, Texas.

I got to meet and talk with Bar leaders from around the state on a myriad of subjects, including:

1. How to clean up the erroneous perceptions people have of the legal profession. Truly, a couple of bad apples have been seen to spoil the whole bunch.
2. What the Bar can do to further educate the public on the legal system in general.
3. How we can stress to the public the importance of an independent judiciary (current Bar President Eduardo Rodriguez' pet project).

I also was able to meet people from all walks of life, who are taking an active role in the leadership of our profession here in Texas. I went as the Vice President (read:President-Elect) of my local affiliate of the Texas Young Lawyers Association.

TYLA is widely known, and highly touted, as "The Public Service Arm of the State Bar of Texas." The organization is doing some great things for the people of this state, most recently embarking on a campaign to educate the elderly regarding telephone/telemarketer scams. The campaign consists of public service announcements made by famous Texans such as Barbara Bush, former Texas Governor Ann Richards, and Freddy Fender. In the spots, they exhort senior citizens to "Just hang up."

What a great program.

That's not all.

Of interest to young (and even old) lawyers all across the country, is TYLA's "Ten Minute Mentor" program. It's a joint effort of TYLA and TexasBarCle, and consists of ten-minute spots educating lawyers, young and old, in areas of the law they might otherwise not have knowledge of. There's some fantastic resources there, and the program's been getting raves from Illinois, South Carolina, Robert Ambrogi, Jim Calloway, Al Nye, andMyShingle, among many others.

I suppose it's no secret that I'm a "young lawyer." I've yet to determine whether that gives me the right to claim that I'm still young, or just that I'm relatively new at the lawyering gig. I'm gonna go with both.

Anyway, I couldn't possibly say anything better about the Ten Minute Mentor than has already been said, and by bloggers much more widely read than I am. So I'll only say that TYLA wants more.

If you're a Texas lawyer (or a Federal practitioner), and you'd like to contribute 10 minutes of your time to help out your profession, or you've got a topic idea that you'd like to see included, please follow the "Contact Us" link on the Ten Minute Mentor website. I believe you'll be glad you did.

There's more projects and initiatives sponsored by TYLA. If you'd like to know more about them, just hit their website,

I can't say enough how proud I am of TYLA as an organization. I'm honored to be a part of it, and I hope to contribute to their already stellar record of public service.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Bloggers vs. Journalists? Or, Bloggers as Journalists?

May It Please the Court has an interesting post up recently. It's regarding a letter from the Attorney General of California, soliciting comments. Essentially, what the AG wants to know is whether bloggers are journalists.

I know I'm not the first to comment on this, but it's difficult to have a sincere discussion of blogging vs. journalism. It's difficult because the two are at the same time completely interrelated and mutually exclusive. Make sense?

Of course it doesn't.

I can blog to my heart's content, and I've got about zero chance of ever scooping a mainstream media outlet. I'll link them like crazy, but I just haven't got the resources, or the time, to devote to the gathering of original content to place here. No blogger does, really. Oh, sure, there are "professional" bloggers who, I suppose, live for nothing else, just as there are attorneys who live for their work. I fall into neither category.

Now, a sincere discussion of bloggers as journalists, that's a different story entirely.

First, let's define "journalist."

Three results appear when you hit Google and search "define:journalist."

Princeton University defines "journalist" both as "a writer for newspapers and magazines," and also "diarist: someone who keeps a diary or journal." Do we get some help there? Not really. As I pointed out above, inherently interrelated and mutually exclusive, right?

San Diego State University, in a glossary of journalism terms, defines "journalist" as "Someone who works in the news gathering business, such as a photographer, editor or reporter." That definition is a little more helpful I suppose, although it still (coming from a school of journalism) needs to be taken with a grain of salt, no?

And finally, we have the singularly helpful definition provided by Wikipedia, stating that "journalist" means "A journalist is a person who practices journalism, the gathering and dissemination of information about current events, trends, issues and people." Thanks.

But let's go with good ol' Merriam-Webster. A "journalist" is "1 a : a person engaged in journalism; especially : a writer or editor for a news medium b : a writer who aims at a mass audience 2 : a person who keeps a journal "

Kinda wraps all the other definitions up in a nice little package, doesn't it?

The conclusion to be reached from this cursory examination of the term is that, yes, bloggers are journalists. At least, each and every blogger is a journalist in one sense of the word or another. Take me, for example. I am definitely "a person who keeps a journal," and "a writer who aims at a mass audience." Granted, I fall terribly short of the mass audience, but that's beside the point. What I do here, I do because I hope that someone, somewhere, will learn something from me that they otherwise might not learn. My efforts similarly fall under the category of "gathering and dissemination of information," etc. All blogs are like that, really. The only difference between blogs is readership. We're reminded constantly that something is "newsworthy" only if the public is interested in hearing it. Jokes about the obvious (due to my sitemeter) non-newsworthiness of this particular blog aside, I believe we're left with the threshhold question. That is, should we (bloggers) be recognized as journalists, regardless of any lack of formal training in conventional journalism? Should we have access to the rights and privileges afforded to members of the conventional journalism community?

In answer, I'm going to leave you with one particularly applicable statement from the link on May It Please The Court, referencing an essay by Jay Rosen on PressThink:

"Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one, and blogging means practically anyone can own one. That is the Number One reason why weblogs matter."

Thank you, Mr. Rosen.

Now, where's my fedora?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Chinese Hegemony: Are We Getting the Message?

Intense debate surrounds China's current bid to take over Unocal. I'll just add my voice to the massive number of people who understand that allowing a Chinese-government-owned company to buy a hugely powerful American oil company is simply a bad idea.

Were that alone not enough, with all of China's posturing, and the possible raising of bids, they're discouraging even the smallest amount of foreign involvement in their country. They've even forbidden Chinese media from associating with foreign companies.

So, are we getting the message? We can't afford a round of "Do as we say, not as we do." As good at that as America itself is, we simply can't match the ability of the Chinese government to divert funds for direct economic take-over of American companies.

If they won't let a privately owned enterprise make deals with their local media outlets, why in blazes should we extend them the courtesy of, for heaven's sake, owning an American oil company? It makes no sense.

Makes me wish I owned a substantial number of shares of Unocal, though. I'd be voting to nix China's bid.

As it stands, all I can do is hope Unocal's shareholders make the right decision. If they make the wrong one, though, what can we do?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Small Firms, Unite! Or... Wait. Don't...

What I mean is, unite in your resolve to remain insulated from the mentality of the big lawfirm.

I was just alerted to a great blog-post on, entitled "Starting a Firm May Be the Only Escape from Biglaw Culture."

All I can say is, "Amen!"

While I was in law school, I began the process of fighting with my classmates over the few big-firm associate positions. I was all set, sadly, to give my life to one of them, and likely sacrifice my wife's affection in the pursuit of a bunch of dollars. Then something happened to me.

My wife gave birth to our first child while I was a 2L. She was born 3 days before fall-semester finals. I looked at her once, and immediately decided to take my Dad up on his offer of an office. We're now a 2-lawyer firm, and I (with another daughter born early this year) am well on my way to being remembered as a Father-who-happens-to-be-a-lawyer rather than a Lawyer-who-happens-to-have-kids.

It means less money, but hey, I've already proven I'm the richest man on earth.

Friday, July 08, 2005

To Londoners:

My heart goes out to you all.

You are, and will remain, in my prayers.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Is Betamax Buried?

The Supreme Court has ruled. Internet file-sharing companies may be sued if they encourage illegal activity. Necessarily, such a finding of encouragement is a question of fact for a jury to decide.

"'We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by the clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties,' Justice David H. Souter wrote for the court."

It is a great victory for Hollywood, but it's not a total victory. The question now becomes whether or not the RIAA et. al., can drive all of the P2P providers out of business. There are packages that exist which are extremely hard to police (ICQ and mIRC come to mind). And those packages are completely neutral as to advertising and/or content. It makes me wonder where this will all go.

As soon as I've read the opinion, I'll have more comment.


From the opinion:

"Evidence of active steps . . . taken to encourage direct infringement, such as advertising an infringing use or instructing how to engage in an infringing use, show an affirmative intent that the product be used to infringe, and a showing that infringement was encouraged overcomes the law's reluctance to find liability when a defendant merely sells a commercial product suitable for some lawful use..."

Soooo. Even though there was similar evidence in the Betamax case (the Court even discusses Sony's trumpeting the virtues of building "your own library of your favorite shows") SCOTUS declines to draw the parallels.

They have dealt a blow to innovation this day.

Thanks to Ernest Miller for links to the bench opinion.


I forgot to answer my title question: Is Betamax Buried?

Answer: No, but the hole's been dug, it's teetering on the edge, and lots of corporations are set for a big push.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Home is Where the Home Depot Is

Well, folks, the Supreme Court announced today that there's nothing stopping your local government from taking your property and shuffling it off to a private developer for the purpose of bolstering the economy and increasing tax revenues.

I haven't seen the opinion yet, since the slip opinion hasn't been posted and won't until later in the day.

Let me just say that I'm disgusted by this ruling. The takings clause has traditionally been interpreted to mean that private property may only be "taken" for public use. Five members of our Supreme Court have apparently determined that, even if the "use" is private, it's still okay as long as there's some demonstrable benefit to the community.

Ooooh how I wish I were on the City Council of the town in which John Paul Stevens lives. I'd "pave paradise, and put up a parking lot," quicker than you can say, "Get off the Court you old fascist!"

More later.


I've read the opinion, and here's my take.

"Promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted function of government."

--John Paul Stevens

Essentially, what they're saying is that because the City of New London "carefully considered" its economic development plan, and because we don't quite know yet which corporate giants will be benefitting from it, they can take whatever they want to as long as it fits into that plan.

They continue the idiotic assumption that "public use" means "public purpose," which is contrary to the ideals upon which our conception of private property is based.

Accordingly, they reject the argument that the government must show a "reasonable certainty that the expected public benefits will actually accrue." Meaning, if your city says that they want to take your property for "economic development," they may do so without even being required to show a likelihood that a developer will even be interested in the property.

"We emphasize that nothing in our opinion precludes any State from placing further restrictions on its exercise of the takings power." Actually, their opinion gives government the moon, the stars, and the kitchen sink, unless they themselves choose to limit that right.

Start lobbying your state legislatures, people, 'cause that's the only way to stop this wholesale theft and corporate welfare.

From the dissent:

"Today the court abandons this long-held, basic limitation on government power [that government may not take property from A to give it to B]. Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded -- i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public -- in the process."

"To reason, as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings "for public use" is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property -- and thereby effectively to delete the words "for public use" from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment."

" [W]ere the political branches the sole arbiters of the public-private distinction, the Public Use Clause would amount to little more than hortatory fluff."

-- Justice O'Connor

What else can be said? Nobody's property is safe anymore.


"This is not a prank."

I certainly hope that the above-linked individual didn't get his idea from me. What am I saying? Of course I hope he read it here first. Still, I must admit that my comment about Justice Stevens' house was tongue-in-cheek.

The reason being that, in the Kelo opinion, there is plenty of discussion of the illegality of the use of the eminent domain power (enough "of"'s already!), when it's being used vindictively against a specific person or group of people. Such as, a case of the City of Weare, New Hampshire attempting to oust a Supreme Court Justice from his home.

Further, the opinion discusses the comparable illegality involved when the private party to be benefited by the taking is already known. Such as, a case where a private developer actively petitions the Council for the use of eminent domain.

Both of those things above apply to Freestar Media, L.L.C.'s attempt.

That's why, in my original post here, I stated my wish that I were a member of the City Council of Stevens' hometown. In that case, I could "carefully develop" a plan for "economic development" that just happened to include Stevens' house, and the Supreme Court wouldn't be able to second-guess me.

A brilliant plan, and a fond wish, but then some yahoo from New Hampshire had to go and ruin it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


I just can't help myself. I've got to say something.

Michael Jackson has been found "not guilty" of all charges. Okay.

But comparing the verdict to the collapse of the Berlin Wall? Or Nelson Mandela (which seems to be a common comparison)?

Come on, people! I know Letterman's been having a field day with referring to Jackson as "creepy." Heck, who are we to argue with that? The guy's obviously loonier than a run-over dog.

But you know what scares me?

It's not the jury, who I think made the only decision they could make for our system of justice to retain any integrity. It's not the prosecutors, who had little to work with, and an apparent inability to argue anything remotely resembling good law. It's not the defense attorneys, either, who, after all, were only doing their job.

It's those fans.

Those unbelievable, mouth-breathing, died-in-the-wool followers of the Cult of Jackson. The comparisons made on his website are only the tip of the iceberg. These people seem like they'd gladly drink the kool-aid of Michael Jackson's insanity, if only he'd allow them to gaze for a moment upon his image.

It will forever puzzlie me how a celebrity can command such blind devotion from his/her fans. I mean, even the jurors said that they were convinced he'd molested children before, just not this particular kid (which is why I said they made the only decision they could make).

So the question is, what's it going to take to turn these people off? What's Jackson going to have to do in order for these people to realize that he's drawn them into the World of Creep so deeply that they, probably literally, stink from it?

I hope they wake up soon.


Monday, June 06, 2005

Supreme Court says, "No Weed for You!"

Today, SCOTUS released an opinion stating that it's A-ok for federal authorities to prosecute people who smoke weed for medicinal purposes under the advice of a physician.

The interesting thing is that the 6-3 decision was written by Stevens, with O'Connor, Rehnquist and Thomas dissenting. They argue that states should be able to make their own rules on such matters, since they do not implicate interstate commerce in any way.

Who'da thunk it?

Now, I'm as against drug-use as the next conservative thug, but come on, people! I know all the arguments against giving certain people "a pass" on drug laws, but let's think about this seriously for a minute...

Since I agree with Sandy, Billy, and Clarence that the feds should keep their noses out of the states' legitimate business, I obviously wouldn't begrudge these people being able to take advantage of their states' political processes. Which is what they're doing!!!

Hello? Mr. Justice Stevens?!!? Anyone home?

Stevens gives us the tired-old, "If you don't like the law, yada yada yada, you should work within the law to change it, yada yada yada."

But they do like the law, and that's why they argued against you changing it, Johnny.

Why can't the Supreme Court get their black-robed federal elitism out of my state's political process?

One thing about this decision is going to be interesting, though. It certainly shows the liberals on the court to be against states' rights at all costs, especially since the states with medicinal marijuana statutes are traditionally liberal bastions. It's going to be great watching how this is spun by the left.

Unless they just ignore it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Will Video Games Ever Be The Same??!!!?? The Horror!

I'm not much of a gamer. I haven't bought a new video game since I spent $20 on a used copy of Silent Hill for the original PlayStation. I haven't played any of those games in 3 years. So, I may not be much of an authority on the subject,... but that's never stopped me before.

There's a new furor from, you guessed it, the actors' unions. This time it's about whether or not "voice actors" should get a percentage of profits from video game sales.

Well, anyone can see that they absolutely, without a doubt, should be paid in line with their abilities. I mean, c'mon, it's hard, grueling work to sit in front of a microphone for literally minutes a day, repeating lines like "Die, Alien scum," or "We've tracked the evil villain Prozac to the planet Ambien. Go get 'em, tiger." Sometimes they even run out of throat-soothing water, and must wait, actually wait, for some pimply-faced intern to bring them a re-fill.

Oh, the humanity!

I really like the quote in the article from the rep for the gaming industry:

"The union's demand for an equity stake, or residual structure, is unreasonable and not fair to the hundreds of people who often spend years developing a game," Howard Fabrick, an attorney representing publishers in the talks, said in a statement. "Voiceover work represents a small fraction of a video game's development and consumer enjoyment."

Kinda says it all, doesn't it?

Well, certainly not for the actors. They're already not satisfied with making only infinitely more money than the "hundreds of people" who develop movies or television shows; so why in heaven's name should we expect them to demand any less for their minimal efforts in the gaming world?

Why do we even put up with such garbage?

I know. Let's socialize the entertainment industry. How does the following sound?

From each according to his overly-inflated sense of ability; to each according to his actual, not imagined, need.

Sounds great, huh? We'll do an experiment in the entertainment industry, and see if the results can be translated throughout humanity. We take all of the gross earnings from every entertainment venture, and divide them equally among the people involved in the entertainment industry. That'd be fair, right?

I certainly think so.

See you all later. I'm going to go dust off my PlayStation so I can see if it's worth writing to the game's makers to demand that they give more money to the label-printer-guy.

Open Letter to Motley Crue

Dear Motley Crue,

I recently read of the detestable behavior exhibited by NBC regarding the utterance of an expletive by your front-man Vince Neil.

I must say that I am appalled.

OK, well, not really.

I've got some questions for you, though.

1. How do you expect the sales of your new (and undoubtedly mediocre) album to go now?
2. How did you expect the sales to go before you pulled off this unbelievably juvenile publicity stunt?
3. Don't you think another Tommy Lee "video" would have been a more profitable way to go?
4. Where did you find your lawyer?
5. Seriously, he came to you, right?
6. No, really, he is a lawyer, isn't he?
7. I'm sorry. Back to the topic. Any other lawsuits in mind? I mean, you've been grievously wronged before, right? Like by whomever's been doing your hair?
8. Or by your tailors?
9. Your schoolteachers?
10. Your parents? Aunts? Uncles? Cousins?

To Mr. Sixx (I feel silly even typing that), I would direct a specific question. When you said you were being "discriminated" against, did you mean because you are a washed-up 80's-era scream-band, and the networks don't have any respect for you anymore? Or are you a member of some other minority group of which we're not aware?

Did you ever stop and think that maybe it's because NBC believes that Mr. Neil (giggle) simply can't keep it clean?

How about this. Why don't you own up to your actions, and take the consequences? That'd be a wonderful idea, wouldn't it? Seriously, I wouldn't suggest that such an illustrious hairband as yourselves has any dignity left to salvage, but c'mon, guys, take one for the team.

Or don't. I don't really care, I just wanted to rant.

In closing, I'll say this. Vince, good luck with the wine. Not so much with the whine.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Local Paper Weighs in on Minutemen

My local rag (it's sounds like I'm claiming it, but really, I'm not), the Odessa American, released an editorial today weighing in on the Minutemen down in Arizona.

The grand paragons of journalistic truancy first discuss a Chicago Tribune article chronicling the exploits of one Minutemen group on their first night of "patrol." Apparently, a rumor flew that the Mara Salvatrucha 13 gang was planning to attack the Minutemen under the cover of a moonless night. What happened after that, the OA says, made the Minutemen look like "Keystone Kops."

The OA editors make assumptions that the Minutemen "high-tailed it out of there," despite the Chicago Tribune article making it apparent that the only definite place they "high-tailed it" to was a Minutemen command post.

They follow with a "discussion" about how dangerous it would be to have armed citizens patrolling our Texas borders. This also, despite repeated assertions by Minutmen directors that if conflict arises, they are not to engage. The OA, along with most other "media" outlets, are painting the Minutemen as yahoos and "neophyte warriors," in complete contradiction to the Minutemen's stated goals.

It's interesting to note, also, that the Odessa American considers the current problem of illegal immigrants on welfare as "dreamed up," and "paranoia."

Their main point, though, is that the Minutemen are unnecessary. They believe that the Border Patrol is adequately equipped, staffed, and trained to handle the flood of illegal immigration.

The OA's final two paragraphs:

"Illegal immigration should be addressed, but it should be left up to people who are trained and who know the terrain and, most importantly, the rights of those they might catch crossing illegally as well as everybody else who lives near the area. "

"The Minutemen’s statement has been made. Now, for the safety of all involved, they should go home and leave the delicate and complicated job of patrolling our borders to members of the Border Patrol, who actually know what they’re doing. "

I suppose, then, that the ever-so-enlightened editors of Odessa's daily don't like citizen enforcement of laws. They must know, although they do not mention, that the Minutemen are breaking no laws, nor are they seeking to actively detain illegal immigrants. Despite the media's assertions that the numbers reported by the Minutemen are unsubstantiated, it is obvious that present patrols will observe and report at least some illegal immigrants who would not otherwise have been caught.

But, I guess we should abandon any effort to make sure our laws are enforced. Illegal immigrants are costing this country approximately $60 Billion a year. Big whoop. Write it off, I guess.

Are you kidding me?

Does that mean we should discontinue all of the neighborhood watch organizations and "take back the streets" initiatives that have been so successful in reducing crime in this country?

According to the OA's half-witted knuckleheads, we should. We should leave such patrols to the police who "know what they're doing," instead of taking an active role to reduce crime.

Final Word: If you believe as the OA Editors do, you must not take steps to enforce the laws of your country, state, county, or city. If you do, despite the fact that you break no laws in doing so, you are a "Vigilante."

All you neighborhood watch programs out there? You're "Keystone Kops."

The real solution is that we find the vending machine from which the OA editors received their journalistic degrees and/or credentials, and shut it down.

Once and for all.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Will Betamax Be Buried?

In 1984, the Motion Picture Association of America went to war with innovators, suing Sony over the sale of the video-tape-recording "Betamax" machine. This was due to the fact that the machines were capable of, and were being used to, illegally pirate copyrighted material.

The Supreme Court said that, because the videotape recorders were capable of substantial non-infringing uses (e.g., home-movies, recording televisions shows for later viewing, or "time shifting," etc.) the makers of those machines were not liable for copyright infringement.

Well, since then, the Betamax has gone the way of the dinosaur, but the continuing consumer demand for newer, better, faster, and more efficient ways to stock their video and music libraries has recently exploded. It began anew in 2001, when the 9th Circuit heard the Napster case, and muddied the waters significantly.

Still, with the Betamax ruling in full force, technology marches on. Armed with the Supreme Court's language, file-sharing megafirms re-vamped their formats to allow not only the sharing of music files, but also photos, texts, and video files. These re-workings significantly broadened the "substantial non-infringing uses" engaged in by users of the sites.

"Not good enough," say the Recording Industry Artists of America (among many others).

The Supreme Court will revisit the Betamax case when it issues an opinion in the case of MGM Studios v. Grokster.

My opinion:

While I believe the Supreme Court will, through its well-known artful torture of the English language, find in favor of the price-gougers over the file-stealers (in a lesser-of-evils dance); I certainly hope that they do not. Established precedent (Betamax) says that if a technology is capable of the promulgation of legal materials, the creators of that technology will not be held liable for those who use it illegally.

It's a wonderful thing, really. I don't condone the practice of indiscriminately downloading tens, hundreds, even thousands of copyrighted files without paying the owners. Still, I don't think the problem's going to go away. Despite the proliferation and popularity of the new pay-per-download sites (like the reconditioned Napster), I think people are simply tired of paying outrageous prices for music and movies, just so that J-Lo can have a new Escalade every other day.

It should have served notice on the music/movie-makers long ago. The market will dictate prices, and when you engage in serious price-fixing, the public isn't going to stand for it. This hole was not dug by devious computer nerds, hoping to cash-in on advertising revenue.

It was dug by money-hungry corporations who have no respect for those who give them their money.

I know, I know. If Grokster gets off the hook, the music and movie industry will simply go after grandma again. I'd rather see that happen, though, than a Supreme Court mandated stranglehold on the free exchange of ideas.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Home Improvement Idiocy

My wife's a big fan of those newdesign shows on TLC, HGTV, etc., and I must admit that I've grown a little addicted to them myself. Okay, so most of the time I'm watching to see people's reactions when some overzealous pseudo-designer turns their beloved family room into a 1960's love-den; but sometimes it's great fun!

Pseudo-designer: "Do you like what I've done with your space?"
Homeowner: "AAAAAAarrrrrrrrrrrrggggghhhhhhhhh!!!"
Pseudo-designer: "I just knew you'd love it. Look, America, they're speechless!"

That brings me to my main point, though.

What's with all of the rooms in a house being referred to as "spaces" now? It's no longer a "living room," but a "living space." A bedroom is apparently a "sleeping space." A kitchen is, depending upon the layout, a "cooking" and/or "eating space." We won't go into what a bathroom is, but I've gotta tell you this is my biggest current TV pet-peeve. Really. I'm not kidding.

They're ROOMS, already. They started out as rooms, and no matter what you do to them, they'll still be rooms. Not "spaces." Never "spaces."

If I ever hire a designer to re-design a room in my home, and he/she comes in and says, "So, what are you looking for in this space?" So help me, I'm gonna punch them in the face. And have my oldest daughter kick them in the shins.

And throw them out on the street.

And film the whole thing.

As notice to the world.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Another Death Knell

This one announced by Sam Donaldson.

Yes, folks, broadcast news is either dead or dying, depending upon which overpaid mouthpiece you choose to believe.

Personally, I'm not so sure it's a bad thing. I haven't watched any news on television for some years now. (Although I must admit to an almost morbid fascination with the world's reactions to Pope John Paul II's then-declining health).

So, I suppose the question then is, where do we hold the funeral?

I vote for my blog. I promise, once reports of the death of broadcast news are substantiated, I'll deliver a stunning eulogy. I promise not to talk trash, really I do. It'll be sort of a pop-culture, transcribed media montage a la "Newsies, we hardly knew ye."

Okay, so there's another question. What do we do about it? Should we re-make broadcast news in our own (i.e., Bloggers) image? I don't think so. Could you imagine tens of thousands of people converging on the airwaves, each trying in vain to develop their own sufficiently serious that's-the-way-it-is style taglines?

I shudder at the mere thought of it.

I suppose all we can do is just wait and see.

In the meantime, Mr. Donaldson, I've got an opening for the position of "Contributor" to the Blaggle Universe. The pay really sucks, but hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Your Info Is Not Safe

Lexis-Nexis, a grand and wonderful information-gathering system that I made much use of during law-school, has been falling asleep on the job.

What's more valuable these days than information? Nothing, and that's why companies like Lexis (Reed-Elsevier) and Westlaw (Thompson West) are pulling in huge numbers every year.

Problem is, they're not protecting what they're gathering. Well, maybe Westlaw is, but Lexis certainly isn't. They recently announced that the personal information compiled or gathered on 310,000 people has been stolen over the last couple of months.

What does this mean to you? Well, Lexis-Nexis is an information clearing-house. From the article:

Seisint [a "unit" of Lexis-Nexis], based in Boca Raton, Florida, uses property records and other public
data to build profiles on millions of U.S. consumers, which it sells to
law-enforcement agencies and financial institutions. (Additional reporting by
Adam Pasick in London)

Scary, isn't it? When you read the linked article, hopefully you didn't skip over the part about "a rash of similar break-ins at other companies handling consumer data."

Check your credit reports every year, people.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

My Thoughts on the Schiavo Case

Would I really be able to call myself a "blogger on the law" if I didn't make some comment on this issue? No? Okay, here goes.

I'm a conservative. Really, I am. I just don't get it, though, why most of my conservative brethren (and sisteren, for that matter) are getting all in an uproar about this Schiavo case. We, as conservatives, are supposed to care about the rule of law, aren't we?

The law in this case, despite the wranglings by our U.S. Congress, places the responsibility for such determinations on the state courts. The ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) in Cruzan v. Director, MDH clearly stated that the previously stated wishes of an person, now incompetent, may be carried out by a surrogate if those wishes are proven in state court by "clear and convincing evidence."

That standard, "clear and convincing," is not for public opinion to decide. It is for the courts, and the courts alone. The Florida Supreme Court itself, in In Re Guardianship of Browning, clearly showed its support of SCOTUS' Cruzan decision, and even went so far as to broaden the scope of the holding, by making it clear that, in the case of an incompetent person, the surrogate may act without court intervention.

If such action is challenged, as it has been in the Schiavo case, that's when the clear and convincing standard comes into play.

I can't begin to understand what the parties in this case are going through. What's different between me and my conservative colleagues is that I don't pretend to.

We hear constantly on conservative talk radio how "evil" Mr. Schiavo is. He's compared to Hitler, the anti-christ, etc. But none of the people making these claims, despite their volume, have any idea what his motives are in doing what he's doing. They say that he has every opportunity to walk away, and leave her to the care of her family, and thus it points to some malicious motive that he does not do so.

I would posit that it's equally likely he's simply fighting, to the bitter end, to carry out his wife's wishes as they were explained to him earlier.

I won't for one second advance such a claim as the God's-honest truth, because I can't. Only Mr. Schiavo knows for sure.

My prayers go out to him, to the Schindlers, and, most importantly, to Terri.

An Aside: or, For the Benefit of Brent

Since I've been so recently told that my blog is suffering from a sincere lack of public substance (a la no Brad & Jen references), I decided to speak out on an issue of critical societal importance. This particular post will, hopefully, revolutionize the way we look at a service we all utilize on a regular basis.


I offer these little tidbits to any restaurateurs who may be listening, and to all of you who care about the state of our eating establishments both locally and state-wide.

Rant #1:

Miracle Whip is not Mayo, and vice versa. If I say I want Mayo one more time, and get Miracle Whip instead, I believe I might just have to take matters into my own hands.


Actually, that's all I got.

But that Miracle Whip thing really pisses me off.

More substance later, I promise.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

SCOTUS Oversteps... Again

SCOTUS decided today that minors may not be executed any longer. Basing its decision upon an illusory "national consensus," it said that severity of the crime no longer matters, nor does the jury's ability to weigh evidence at the punishment phase of a trial. It's a free ride, youngsters! Since the death penalty had no appreciable deterrent effect upon you before, you don't have to worry about it at all any more.

O'Connor makes the best argument, that you can't arbitrarily exclude an entire class of people from the application of the death penalty based solely upon a subjective reason. What's next? If someone made an argument that white people are traditionally less likely to resist peer pressure, or that women don't normally see themselves in a class that traditionally is punished severely for their crimes, they shouldn't have the death penalty applied to them, either?

It's ridiculous. O'Connor's right. The reason for the death penalty being so rarely applied to juveniles is not because people are loath to do it, but because juveniles so rarely engage in criminal acts of a sufficiently depraved nature to warrant its application. It's a chipping away at the basis of the death penalty by means other than the process by which such laws should be changed.

Every time the courts start acting as moral arbiters, and we allow it, we are doing nothing more than setting the stage for a ramming of the morality of the few down the throats of the morality of the many, or vice-versa.

SCOTUS shouldn't concern itself with why people do what they do. The process is there, and may be utilized by everyone, to prove mitigating factors denying the application of the death penalty in any case. For SCOTUS to step in and simply announce that a penalty that it itself has deemed to be neither cruel nor unusual no longer applies to an entire class of people. It's simply age discrimination by the highest court in the land. And it's also one of the worst examples of legislation by judicial fiat that I've seen in quite some time.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

"Death Knell for Reality Television" (?)

I was just reading a book (remember that, people?), when I glanced up long enough to see the cast of Desperate Housewives accepting some award from the Screen Actor's Guild.

Some expertly coiffed Ken-doll accepted the award and said something to the effect of, "Here's to this award sounding the death knell for reality television."

I could honestly, hardly believe my ears.

Aside from the fact that the Screen Actors Guild is one of the tightest "labor" unions in the country, I just can't muster up any sympathy. Really. It's not that I don't admire the work that many actors do. I have family in the profession, and believe me, I couldn't do what they do.

It doesn't change for one second that this group of people are the most self-congratulatory bunch of glad-handing back-patters on the face of this planet. Honestly, any given week will find some awards show devoted to beautifully dolled, impeccably tailored, red-carpet-trodders who seem to have nothing better to do than announce to the world how wonderful they are.

Let's put that aside for the moment, and address the subject of "reality television." We all understand that a reality TV show can be fully funded and expertly shot for a fraction of the cost of a series (or even a miniseries). Is that a bad thing? The public love these shows. There are new ones coming out all the time, and the ones that make the cut, last, those that don't, don't. We still have Survivor and The Amazing Race, two wonderful examples of the staying power of "reality television."

But no, because SAG doesn't get to demand massive amounts of money (a la Friends cast) for the participants of these shows, they simply must be an evil to be eradicated. My question is, Why now?

Why wasn't Cops a problem? Or America's Most Wanted? Or America's Funniest Home Videos? Or Jerry Springer? Jenny Jones? The People's Court? Or, heaven forbid, Oprah?

I'll tell you why. Because nobody watched(es) the first 3. Numbers 4 and 5 were a flash in the pan that lasted longer than anyone ever thought they would. Number 6 had Judge Wapner (and everbody loved Judge Wapner;-). And Oprah, dear Oprah, has so much of America's fairer sex in her pocket that the promotional value of appearing on her show would be enough to propel a modest entertainment venture into the arena of the blockbuster.

Now, there's real competition. Competition that doesn't, in any way, allow the overpaid SAG-masses to get their paws on it. Competition that is eating up market share like Microsoft Windows on a steroid coctail. SAG's gonna have to learn something, and they need to learn it fast. For all their high-minded, red-ribbons-will-make-it-better mentality, they're becoming less relevant. They are removing themselves from the "common man/woman" that the liberal ideals (that actors profess to cherish) hold at the center of their reason for being.

I don't have any links. I'm sure there'll be no story. In the long run, who cares?

I suppose that SAG cares. I suppose that Ken-doll (among others) will continue his crusade against the evil forces of "reality television." I suppose that he may have a chance of one day succeeding, too.

But you know, for that to happen, I think the first reality television that hits the chopping block should be the glitz, glamour, style, fashion, fawning, and ferality that are the original reality shows.

The Oscars alone has been televised since 1953.

Thank you, and good night. I see the music has started.