Camera Lucida

January 22, 2006

Life skills

Filed under: Uncategorized — CL @ 12:25 pm

How to eat a banana the right way. Learn from monkeys.


January 21, 2006

Political activism

Filed under: Society, Tech — CL @ 3:21 pm

boing boing has a post describing the new Digital Content Protection Act of 2006. According to EFF’s analysis, the legislation would limit individuals’ use of any new emerging technology to “customary historic use of broadcast content by consumers to the extent such use is consistent with applicable law.” As it notes,

    “Had that been the law in 1970, there would never have been a VCR. Had it been the law in 1990, no TiVo. In 2000, no iPod.”

But the bill does not impose the limit that EFF decries. Instead, it directs the FCC to develop regulations in this area, and it requires that the regulations “permit customary historic use of broadcast content by consumers to the extent such use is consistent with applicable law”. It does not specify that those are the only uses that the FCC shall allow.

In other words, the new bill would define the minimum, not the maximum level of freedom of action. It would appear that, if this bill passes, efforts to oppose additional restrictions will need to be made when the FCC proposes new rules.

boing boing’s post is similarly misleading. It says that, under this proposal, “digital media technologies would be restricted to using technologies that had been certified by the FCC as being not unduly disruptive to entertainment industry business-models.” That sounds very scary, but I have read the new bill [PDF] (only six pages long) and I see nothing similar to that language in there.

The EFFers should heed one reality of political activism: do not misstate the person or position you oppose. Mischaracterizing what the opposition is up to will likely impair your own credibility in the eyes of the public.

January 20, 2006

Seen on Ask MetaFilter

Filed under: Tech — CL @ 8:25 pm

“Craigslist is just about the ONLY means of advertising apartments in San Francisco. . . Even [an older advertiser] said ‘No one reads the newspaper anymore!'”

January 13, 2006

The constitution and presidential authority

Filed under: Constitutional law, Politics — CL @ 4:36 pm

The current debate about the power of the President to order the interception of communications between Americans and persons outside the U.S. has raised some interesting points about Constitutional interpretation. It is very commonly stated by conservatives and by those who support the President’s position that the Constitution “expressly grants that authority” to him. Of course, it does no such thing. It does provide that the President is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and the asserted power is said to derive from that grant of authority.

Some of these are the same conservatives who regularly respond to the assertion of a constitutional right of privacy by demanding “show me where in the constitution it says that”. These people are no longer constitutional literalists. Now, they are suddenly willing to engage in a broad and liberal reading of the constitution, reading into its words powers and grants of authority that are not stated in its words.

January 8, 2006

Google Pack

Filed under: Tech — CL @ 6:57 pm
Google Pack is a new offering from the King of All Online Media. It is a collection of what Google considers to be the most important items of open source software that are available. Of course, Google’s own Desktop and Picasa are included. 

This is similar to a CD that I put together last year for my college-age daughter, called “Essentials”. Some of the items under Essentials are shareware rather than freeware, but they still represent the software that one should have available if one is to be productive and efficient.

January 2, 2006

Notable quote

Filed under: Politics — CL @ 3:01 pm

William F. Buckley, Jr.’s definition of a moderate – “If liberals engaged in cannibalism and conservatives denounced cannibalism as sin and abomination, a moderate would be someone who ate only selected people on limited occasions.”

[Found at the Free Republic site.]

Michigan property rights amendment

Filed under: Constitutional law — CL @ 2:11 pm

Michigan lawmakers adopt property rights was published in the Washington Times on December 16, 2005. This article reports on the overwhelming vote in favor of a ballot proposal to adopt a constitutional amendment in Michigan to prevent the use of eminent domain power in aid of private property owners.

A selection: 

“This is a solid constitutional amendment. Michigan has a bad track record of eminent-domain abuse, and the proposed amendment goes a long way toward stopping these practices,” said Scott Bullock, a senior lawyer at the Institute for Justice, a public-interest law firm.

It is true that the 1981 Poletown decision was a bellwether for the principle that the courts will permit a wide-ranging use of the power of eminent domain to assist private developers. But Bullock makes no mention of the 2004 decision of the Michigan Supreme Court in Hathcock, which overturned the Poletown decision.

See also: Mussoff, Adam, “The Death of Poletown: The Future of Eminent Domain and Urban Development after County of Wayne v. Hathcock”, published in the Michigan State Law Review in 2004, and found at SSRN at

In Eminent domain abuse, an op-ed in the Washington Times by Timothy Sandefur, published on February 20, 2005, the author blamed the Poletown decision for a host of other abusive cases:

“The Poletown decision led to an epidemic of eminent domain abuse. In 1999, the city of Merriam, Kan., condemned a Toyota dealership to sell the land to a BMW dealer instead.

“That same year, Bremerton, Wash., condemned 22 homes to resell the land to private developers. In one notorious case, billionaire Donald Trump convinced Atlantic City, N.J., to condemn an elderly widow’s home so he could build a limousine parking lot.”

The cited cases are:

  • Poletown Neighborhood Council v. City of Detroit, 410 Mich 616, 304 N.W.2d 455 (1981) 
  • County of Wayne v. Hathcock, 471 Mich 445, 684 NW2d 765 (2004)

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