Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

October 31, 2006

The Nature of the Sacrifice

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:42 pm

By example: The story of 2LT Joshua L. Booth.

October 16, 2006

Bombing — For Free Tuition

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:22 pm

I few days ago, I posted the story of an unemployed fellow who robbed a bank to get arrested, so he could live rent-free in jail until he was old enough for social security benefits.

Now, we hear from that young Palestinians are carrying small bombs through Israeli checkpoints to get arrested — so they can get an Israeli high school diploma while in prison! The Israeli radio broadcaster Arutz Sheva reports:

Faking Attacks in Order to Graduate: Correspondent Haggai Huberman reports on a new phenomenon among the Arabs of Judea and Samaria: Youths carry knives or small bombs across checkpoints in order to get themselves arrested so that they can study for high school matriculation exams at the State of Israel’s expense.

Sitting in jail for a number of weeks or months is a small price to pay, and the returns are significant: A high school diploma, and a high social standing as a “freed terrorist.”

Huberman notes that earlier this week, IDF soldiers reported that they had thwarted an attack in the northern Shomron when they arrested two 19-year-old boys carrying two pipebombs of one kilogram (2.2 lbs.) each. However, the IDF later concluded that the boys were merely trying to get arrested for the purpose of matriculation exams, and that the pipebombs were not designed to cause significant damage.

Hat tip: James Taranto, who adds: “Or maybe they wanted 72 dates to the prom.”

October 13, 2006

A Bank Robbery — for Free Room and Board

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:28 am

People often complain about how criminals in jail get “free room and board” paid for by tax dollars. But most of them would gladly give up the “free” stuff in excahnge for some actual freedom. Yet, we’ve heard the stories — probably urban legends, but maybe true — about how homeless people commit petty crimes in the winter to get into the warm jails for a few months. Now, we have a true story — and it seems even sadder than that:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A man who couldn’t find steady work came up with a plan to make it through the next few years until he could collect Social Security: He robbed a bank, then handed the money to a guard and waited for police.

On Wednesday, Timothy J. Bowers told a judge a three-year prison sentence would suit him, and the judge obliged.

“At my age, the jobs available to me are minimum-wage jobs. There is age discrimination out there,” Bowers, who turns 63 in a few weeks, told Judge Angela White.

The judge told him: “It’s unfortunate you feel this is the only way to deal with the situation.”

Well, it certainly is unfortunate. Normally, I’d say that someone who does that should be punished by not being sent to jail, since it’s what he wanted. In fact, the prosecutor considered making that argument:

Prosecutors had considered arguing against putting Bowers in prison at taxpayer expense, but they worried he would do something more reckless to be put behind bars.

“It’s not the financial plan I would choose, but it’s a financial plan,” prosecutor Dan Cable said.

But note that in this case the fellow didn’t actually really steal the money at all. he “stole” it from the teller, then immediately handed it to a guard at the very same bank. If he had changed his mind after teh incident but before trial, I bet he could even have argued at trial that he didn’t actually commit a robbery. (This would depend on the details of how robbery is defined in the law.)

(Hat tip: Orin Kerr.)

A Chilling Effect on Free Speech

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:19 am

One of my favorite blogs, Likelihood of Confusion reports that it is in danger of being shut down by draconian regulations. See, that blog is written by a lawyer licensed in New York, and if certain proposed rules are put into effect, blogging will considered a prohibited form of advertising for lawyers:

Public Citizen’s CL&P (Consumer Law and Policy) Blog wrote last month that New York is considering draconian advertising rules that would essentially make it impossible for lawyers to maintain blogs. I am excerpting liberally, but urge you to follow the link and the discussion at the CL&P Blog:

Stripped to their essence, the proposed amendments would define the term “advertisement” extremely broadly as any public communication made “by . . . a lawyer . . . about a lawyer.” Sec. 1200.1(k). This definition explicitly includes all forms of communication on the Internet, including websites, email, and instant messaging. Sec. 1200.1(m). There is no requirement that the speech be commercial in nature or related to the lawyer’s practice of law.

You might think, given my opinions on some issues, that I’d think it’s a good idea to shut lawyers up. But you would be wrong.

First, I am a strong believer in free speech, and I don’t think one’s speech should be restricted because of one’s choice of profession. I understand there are certain things about their professions that people can’t talk about (e.g., attorney-client privileged information, classified information, trade secrets, etc.), but that’s no reason to restrict speech that is not “related to the lawyer’s practice of law” or anyone else’s practice of any other profession.

Second, any damage that might be done by lawyers (as a class) to society is not done by lawyers blogging, or exercising free speech in any other way. It usually comes about by abusing the court system, with or without the assistance of an equally abusive client. (“Without” in the case of class actions.) How this can happen is a subject for another post — but it has nothing to do with blogging, emailing, instant messaging, or writing articles for newspapers or journals. Or even, usually, with advertising. While there are no doubt some sleazy “ambulance-chaser” types who advertise for socially damaging services, that’s not a big part of the problem, in my view.

Third, there are an awful lot of very good blogs written by lawyers. Likelihood of Confusion by Ronald Coleman is a fascinating blog about trademark law. The Volokh Conspiracy is a great group blog about (mostly) constitutional law and law education. There are several more linked on the blogroll to your right.

But the over-riding concern here is free speech. I’d be against this rule even if all the law blogs were bad. The great thing about the internet is that if thery were bad, they wouldn’t be read.

As Mr. Coleman points out:

You can comment on the proposed rules by writing to:

Michael Colodner, Esq.
Office of Court Administration
25 Beaver Street
New York, New York 10004

by November 15, 2006. I encourage it.

Meanwhile, before it’s too late, I’d be interested in Mr. Coleman’s opinion on this case:

“The producer of the canned pork product Spam has lost a bid to claim the word as a trademark for unsolicited e-mails. EU trademark officials rejected Hormel Foods Corp.’s appeal, dealing the company another setback in its struggle to prevent software companies from using the word ‘spam’ in their products, a practice it argued was diluting its brand name. The European Office of Trade Marks and Designs, noting that the vast majority of the hits yielded by a Google search for the word made no reference to the food, said that ‘the most evident meaning of the term SPAM for the consumers … will certainly be unsolicited, usually commercial e-mail, rather than a designation for canned spicy ham.’”

Seems to me that if Hormel had acted earlier — before the use of the word “spam” for junk e-mail were so widespread, they might have had a better case. Is that right? Then again, that’s based on what I (think I) know about U.S. trademark law. The E.U. could have different rules.

October 10, 2006

Edmund Phelps

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:32 am

I would not be an eocnomics blogger if I did not mention that this year’s Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics is going to Edmund Phelps. But I can’t give a better explanation of, or collection of links to, his work than Tyler Cowen’s.

October 9, 2006

Nuclear Test, or Earthquake?

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:33 am

Around 11:00pm Eastern (U.S.) Time on Sunday Oct. 8, the North Korean news agency reported that North Korea conducted a successful nuclear test. Stay with me for a second, and pay attention to the times.

According to the Associated Press report, the test was conducted at 10:36 a.m. Monday Oct. 9 local time, which corresponds to 9:36 pm Sunday Eastern (U.S.) Time, or 01:36 Monday UTC (GMT). The AP report was stamped “11:25 PM US/Eastern,” or a bit less than two hours after the reported time of the test.

Now, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is reporting they detected an earthquake centered in North Korea, occuring at “Monday, October 9, 2006 at 10:35:27 AM” local time, or “Monday, October 9, 2006 at 01:35:27 (UTC)” — which is to say, and pretty much the exact same time as the reported nuclear test.

Incidentally, the AP quoted the North Korean news agency as saying, “there was no radioactive leakage from the site.”

Now I don’t know all that much about earthquakes, or all that much about underground nuclear weapons tests, but it seems to me that a good question to ask would be whether they look the same to seismographs (earthquake-detection equipment).

Now there has been a lot of speculation that the purported nuclear program of North Korea is all a bunch of lies, and according to this theory, the reason why Bush hasn’t attacked them (yet) is that he knows they are lies. So if we allow for that, there are three possibilities here:

  1. This was a nuclear test that “looked” like an earthquake and was detected as such.
  2. This was an earthquake, which the North Koreans opportunistically claimed to be a nuclear test.
  3. This was a nuclear test, and the U.S. is trying to make it look like an earthquake to buy time to figure out what to do.
  4. This one heckuva coincidence!

Now, the first possibility is unlikely if in fact there was no radioactive leakage. But so far we only have the work of the North Korean news agency on this, and I don’t trust them much. I’m pretty sure the U.S. and perhaps other governments can monitor radioactivity from a distance, and perhaps they’ll tell us what they find. Maybe. Because, ya’ know, an earthquake doesn’t have any readioactive leakage, either.

The third possibliity seems really unlikely — there would have to a contingency plan in advance to set something like that up, and if there’s a contingency plan, it would probably involve some more substantial response.

The second possibility seems more likely — I can actually believe that the North Korean regime would announce for several years that there is an imminent nuclear test, and wait for an earthquake they know the West will detect to claim to test occured. It is completely in character for them.

In fact, it’s even possible that the North Korean people charged with developing the nuclear weapon have done this to deceive their leader, Kim Jong Il. I’m imagining something like this: he orders them to build a nuclear weapon or be tortured to death, they either don’t know how to do it or don’t want to, so they decide the Dear Leader could be fooled by the next earthquake, so they wait for the next earthquake and tell him it’s the nuclear weapon.

The only trouble with this theory: According to the USGS “Historic Seismicity” map, most of the earthquakes in this region, at least since 1990, have been along a line that passes well to the east of the site detected today.

And oh yes, one other thing — the reported depth of the “earthquake” is “0 km” — which is pretty darn close to the surface for an earthquake, but well within the digging capabilities of North Korea.

October 1, 2006

Does the “anti-war” side have a plan for after we pull out of Iraq?

Opponents of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy are fond of accusing Bush of “not having a plan” for dealing with Iraq after the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein. This is, of course, just a self-righteous way of saying they didn’t like the plan Bush actually did have, and that the plan has not lead to perfect results immediately.

Nevertheless, it’s worth asking those who call for an immediate pullout from Iraq, or a timetable for a pullout within a specified short time frame, what their plan is for dealing with the situation that will result from a pullout.

Clayton Cramer has posed this question, and given some realistic answers. All of his answers are worse than the worst likely scenarios resulting from staying in Iraq. As he points out:

But if the American people decide that the cost is too high, what is the alternative strategy? Leaving Iraq alone right now will lead to full civil war, and probably the crowd that likes to torture people to death with power tools will be back in power–just like the way things were under Saddam Hussein. As the declassified Key Findings of the National Intelligence Estimate last week pointed out, if we lose in Iraq, it will embolden jihadists throughout the world. The reason isn’t hard to figure out: it will be perceived that like what happened in Somalia, Americans are weak, and lack the willingness to fight.

What are the options? Here’s Clayton’s list (I’m summarizing here, not quoting — for his more complete explanations click here):

  1. “Fortress America”: Lock down the U.S. at the border and within, and curtail civil rights in the pursuit of terrorists who are here. Of course, it only takes one terrorist to get through — either shipping a nuclear weapon with a long-period timer, or getting one single legal U.S. resident to cooperate. So we are probably looking at more 9/11-scale attacks. (Why is this less likely if we are in Iraq? Because so many jihadists are fighting us over there on their home turf. We don’t want them freed up to attack us at home.)
  2. Make the terrorists happy: Don’t just leave Iraq — forget about stopping the Al-Qaeda-backed genocide in Darfur, give them back Afghanistan, cut off aid to Israel and acquiese when Iran uses nuclear weapons to annihilate Israel. And this will only work until they decide it’s time for all of us to convert to Islam also and replace the Constitution with Shari’a law, at which point we will have to either acquiese to that, or go to war with a much stronger enemy.
  3. Here I’ll quote: “Treat Muslim nations the way they have treated every other nation. Invade them; occupy; convert their mosques into churches; send in troops with orders to kill anyone that gives them any lip; assess a special tax on Muslims; pass laws that give Muslims less legal rights than non-Muslims, not just in ways that matter (say, a ban on Muslims possessing anything more deadly than a butter knife), but in ways intended to degrade them, like the laws that Muslims nations had prohibiting non-Muslims from riding horses.” I don’t think we, as a society, are willing to do that. We still believe in religious freedom.
  4. Prove that Islam is not really as superior as it claims, by nuking Mecca. I don’t think we’re willing to do that, either.
  5. Nuke a lot of Muslims. I don’t think we’re willing to do that, either.

So next time someone tells you we should pull out of Iraq, ask them one question: What’s your plan for after that?

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