Friday, November 30, 2012

Need a cheer-up boost? Dewey B. Strategic's Thanksgiving post

Aww, that was NICE! Here is the link to a very nice meditation on how law librarians have been helpful to practicing lawyers. Guest blogger Phil Rosenthal, late of Covington & Burling, now with FastCase, tells why associates should get to know their firm library -- assuming it still exists!

Kind of like a Valentine for Thanksgiving... image courtesy of an Etsy site that had this "vintage" card for sale, once upon a a time. I think you can find anything on the Internet, sometimes.

The ITU Showdown is looming

Reuters and the British Guardian have covered the looming showdown at the ITU in Dubai... I wonder why we aren't hearing more about this in the U.S. press?

Really, do YOU want Vladimir Putin and the imams in Iran to make decisions behind closed doors about access to the Internet?

You can go here to send your signature to the U.S. government asking them to oppose the changes. There is also a video that explains more about the ITU and what is planned at the upcoming meeting in December! See my earlier blog post about the modifications to the Internet Telecommunications Regulations.

Tip of the OOTJ hat to my terrific colleague Roy Balleste for alerting me!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Secession Movement - has it peaked?

Geez, what is it with us Americans?! When we get upset with an election result, or don't like how things are going, our first impulse often seems to be: Let's leave! In 2003, a group of Vermont citizens formed a secession group, the Second Vermont Republic. The Florida Keys ostensibly seceded in 1982 to form the Conch Republic which exists through an annual parade and this website. Texas' current governor, and erstwhile presidential candidate Rick Perry, has asserted that state's right to secede. The link to the Rick Perry quote (from 2009) includes a fact check that tells us that the 1845 compact where Texas entered the Union as a state included an agreement that Texas could split into five states, not that it had a special agreement that it could seceded if it didn't like being part of the U.S. In fact, our blogger, R.G. Ratcliffe, at Chron, tells us that the U.S. Supreme Court in 1869, ruled that Texas did NOT have a right to secede, in the case, Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (second link for full text from Justia; link on the name of the case is to the Wikipedia article about the case for an explanation).

But all that is historical background to say that secession is not just very current events. Because there has been a flurry of petitions on the website, President Obama started a link for petitions to allow an interactive way for the American people to contact the Whitehouse. The commitment has been that there would be a prompt response to any petition gathering more than 25,000 signatures. Since President Obama's re-election, there has been a flurry of petitions from citizens of various states asking to secede. This is, if you think about it, a totally ridiculous and non-legal way to go about beginning a secession movement. It's not really about secession, but about dissatisfaction. There are a number of ludicrous topics. If you sort the petitions by government reform, you will pop up the secession petitions as well as in-your-face challenges asking the President to step down from office for no reason, to allow examination of his birth certificate (again!) as well as his college and university records. But the numbers of people signing the state secession petitions is interesting. They are not necessarily citizens of the state involved.

Here is a fascinating map created by a professor and class at the University of North Carolina examining the signatures on the petitions and calculating the percentages of the population for each state signing such petitions. The notes there say that the numbers seem to have peaked and not be growing much any more.

There are bloggers who assert that the petitions are purely racist and would not have happened were there not an African American man in the Whitehouse. While some of these petitions seem very ad hominem and personal, possibly racially motivated, it's quite clear that there were secession movements before President Obama was elected, and that they crop up for a wide variety of reasons. Some are quite openly racially motivated, and not aimed at President Obama, such as the Northwest Front which plans to take Oregon, Idaho, Washington state and part of Montana to create a homeland for white or Aryan people to live in. It's hard to tell from their website when this movement began, but I presume it predates Obama's presidency. On the other hand, the Conch Republic began when the state police blockaded the single road that connected the Florida keys with the main body of Florida. The Vermont Second Republic seems to have sprung from the trauma of 9/11. There is a very nice survey in the Wikipedia article on Secession Movements in the United States on more secession movements than you can shake a stick at.

The flag with the cut-up snake is from Revolutionary War era American, with a slogan from Benjamin Franklin: Join or Die. Still a pretty good motto. Courtesy of Wiki Commons.,_or_Die

Friday, November 23, 2012

New threat to the Internet: ITU


he ITU is the International Telecommunications Union. It is quite an old organization: telegraph old -- ITU originally stood for International Telegraph Union when it was founded in 1865 in Paris. It has always been an international organization for cooperation around communications networks. Now it helps allocate radio spectrums, telecommunications satellite orbits, and set international standards for telecommunications so that networks can communicate from one nation to another. They also help developing nations set up their networks.

However, they are preparing to meet this December and vote on a number of proposals that would affect the governance of the Internet. This organization gives each member country one vote, and is non-transparent. No information is shared with the public, no open discussions ahead of votes. The representatives vote and then the results are announced.

Leaks have revealed several very disturbing issues that the ITU plans to vote on this December at their meeting. According to the video at the link in the previous paragraph, they will be discussing such issues as:

* reviewing and revising International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs)...

* Including ones that allow broadening of reasons for cutting off Internet access (remember Egypt during the Arab Spring?);

* Allowing governments more power to monitor Internet traffic and block it with a heavier hand by defining spam more broadly;

* Rules to charge online content providers to reach the users, and allow the government to cut off those who don't pay.

Visit this link to join the list of those who are protesting to their government.

The image of the laptop in chains is courtesy of the U.S. Small Business Administration at

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cambodian War Crimes Tribunal

Earlier on this blog, Marie posted about the War Crimes Tribunal in Cambodia (8/4/09, 8/10/09, 12/17/09 and 7/26/10). Last Sunday's Boston Globe had an interesting essay about the United States' involvement in the tribunal, as a form of diplomacy, of competing against the massive investment that China is making in Cambodia by exporting Western values of justice and due process. By Peter Canellos, the essay quotes David Scheffer, the former US ambassador for war crimes in the Clinton administration, identified by Canellos as a key instigator of the court.
When you have egregious crimes of this character, they sweep across society. Achieving the rule of law is a means of addressing the challenges of corruption, and land rights, and human rights. With Cambodia, sustaining a court of this character has an effect on the entire society as it confronts other challenges.

It’s one of the cheapest ways of projecting American values in the world.
Canellos, the Globe's editorial page editor, visited Cambodia for onsite investigative reporting on this story, according to the article and Globe website. He also spoke with He Kranh Tony, a Cambodian official who is the main liaison between the government and the Court, who told him
After 1979, there were less than 10 people who were judges and lawyers in the whole country. There is [still] no real administration in the national courts. ... [For average Cambodians and jurists alike, the court has been a revelation.] They see that we are doing it properly. They see the due process. They see the judges. They see the defense.

You can visit the home page for the Cambodian war crimes tribunal, which is a very rich site. There are videotaped recordings of the witnesses being questioned in the court. The testimony is delivered in English through the voice of translators, but one has the impression that even in Khmer, the answers are very dispassionate. But the content of the answers are blood chilling, telling about whole villages being uprooted and moved to other villages where there was no food or housing for them. Minority populations were treated particularly harshly. The rationale for all this was that these people had "betrayed the revolution." Of course, that is what happened to all those judges and lawyers as well. Besides the videotaped proceedings of the tribunal, there are lots of links to news stories from around the world, reports from ECCC and NGOs, materials from the prosecution background and history on the tribunal and commentary.

Just by coincidence there was a recent story in the Boston Globe about a children's book about the Cambodian genocide, told as the biography of Arn Chorn-Pond, a child survivor who was eventually adopted by a family in Massachusetts. Arn Chorn's family were musicians, another class which was systematically destroyed by the Khmer Rouge. Ironically, it was Arn's ability to play the flute which saved him. But very few people in Cambodia today know anything about music, and one of his projects is to teach Cambodian children to play instruments and to sing.

The Khmer Rouge killed thousands of their countrymen, but I had never considered until these two things came together for me how they had destroyed the culture of their country. It was a great deal like the "Great Leap Forward" of the Cultural Revolution in China, but I think it was more devastating in Cambodia. They managed to kill far more of the educated elite, and artists of all sorts, apparently. The carriers of cultural values of all sorts. How chillingly efficient.

The image of a Cambodian man visiting Tuol Sleng (formerly S-21 prison) Museum in Phnom Penh is courtesy of the Herald Sun of Australia,

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Poison Twinkie negotiating strategy - Hostess takes a dive

Hostess, maker of iconic childhood treats like the Twinkie, has decided to dissolve rather than negotiate further with striking union workers!

(Update from Betsy. The Bankruptcy judge in the Southern District of NY has required Hostess to mediate with the Bakers union, which is the union which is still striking against Hostess). Also, even if Hostess continues with the bankruptcy, it appears that there are many buyers interested in purchasing their product line. So those who have been purchasing Twinkies for $500 and more may end up with buyer's regret in more ways than one!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Justice Sotomayor Comes to Town

It's not every day that a law school plays host to an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and this is why Pace Law School pulled out all the stops for Justice Sonia Sotomayor today. Fresh from her appearance on Sesame Street on November 9, Justice Sotomayor spent the day at Pace, meeting with students, faculty, staff, and other members of our community.  Justice Sotomayor had a lengthy question-and-answer session with over 200 students this morning in the moot court room (there were a number of other locations on campus where the event was being broadcast).  All of the students' questions had been prescreened, and certain subjects were off limits, including anything to do with cases currently before the Court and cases that might come before the Court.  This is an understandable restriction which most Justices seem to follow.  When asked about her judicial philosophy, she said she really didn't have one; however, she believes strongly in process, that everyone has the right to be heard. 

During lunch with the faculty, Justice Sotomayor answered more questions, but our questions had not been prescreened.  She told us that her day is spent "Researching, thinking, and writing," and lamented the poor writing skills she sees in many attorneys; this is not much of a problem at the Supreme Court because the attorneys who appear before the Court tend to be a small, elite group, but it was an issue at the Second Circuit.  She said law schools need to do a much better job training students in legal writing, and should focus less on teaching the "law and" curriculum and more on teaching the law and practical skills.  One writing course is not enough; students need as many opportunities to write and to get feedback on their writing as possible.  I don't know anyone who would disagree with that statement; the problem is, of course, that working with students on writing is labor intensive and can usually not be done effectively through large-enrollment courses.  I was also interested to hear her say in response to a question about the future of legal education that no one school can be great at everything.  Law schools should collaborate to diversify their curricula rather than build new programs; schools with specialized curricula should team up with schools that specialize in other areas to enrich both schools' course offerings for the lowest cost.  This is hardly a new idea, but it is one whose time may have come.

Turning to the Court, when asked about the proliferation of concurrences in recent terms of the Court, Justice Sotomayor stated that they resulted from the concurring judges' sense that while the correct result had been reached, the majority had not considered other approaches to achieving the same result.  It is important for the concurring judges to put their views on the record, for the benefit of their colleagues and the public.  When asked about the length of today's Supreme Court opinions, Justice Sotomayor agreed that they tend to be longer than those of the past, but she pointed out that earlier opinions were often marked by a paucity of analysis which makes it difficult for later Justices to interpret them and use them as precedent.  In response to a question about the value of legal scholarship, specifically law review articles, which Chief Justice John Roberts has criticized, Justice Sotomayor said she disagreed; the briefs she receives often include references to law review articles, but the most useful are those that trace the growth and development of an area of the law, in other words, the traditional law review article.  The farther afield legal scholarship goes, the less useful it is to sitting judges who must decide real cases. 

Everyone who met with Justice Sotomayor noted her warmth, intelligence, and engagement with those to whom she spoke.  These are the same qualities the Pace community noted during her visit in 2003 when she was our commencement speaker.  Her goal today was to get to know Pace Law School better, and I think she did. 

Beyond Honor

The Boston Globe has a great story today (Nov. 12, 2012) about Massachusetts’ programs to support veterans. Apparently, the Commonwealth has become a model in this regard. The article appears in the print version of the paper on pages B1 and B3, titled “Helping Veterans on their terms,” by James Sullivan. Online, the title is “Mass. Agency reaches out to help veterans; Innovations called model for US.”

The Massachusetts model involves serious outreach efforts, spearheaded entirely by veterans on staff. The services overlap, so they try not to have gaps for vets to fall into. The programs are very proactive. And it seems to be working in a very positive way to reach veterans where they need the services most. They find them on the streets, and homeless shelters. These folks don’t just sit in offices waiting for people to come and apply for services.

I am a peace activist myself. I wish we had never gone into Iraq or Afghanistan. But I absolutely honor the service ethos of the men and women in the military, and the sacrifices they make, and that their families make when they serve. My older brother is a vet, my nephew from my sister is in the military now. My brother works for the Veterans Administration, treating veterans’ mental problems. I try to listen and understand.

We owe veterans a huge debt, of gratitude, and honor. We also owe it to heal the wounds they return with. They often sign up as very young people, full of idealism, or at least naiveté. They are trained to kill other human beings, and put into situations of appalling brutality and violence. We should be prepared for some damage when they return, and provide the support network they need. I was so pleased to read about the Massachusetts program!