“Government Insecurity”

When a B-29 crashed in 1948, the Air Force fought to hide the details. Now, the families of those killed want to reopen the case that became precedent for official secrecy.

This fascinating story details attempts to reopen a 50-year old Supreme Court case that may have been influenced by a fraud on the Court. Details here from The Philadelphia Inquirer. (via How Appealing)


Electronic Frontier Foundation and Stanford Law Clinic Sue Electronic Voting Company

A nonprofit Internet Service Provider (ISP) and two Swarthmore College students are seeking a court order on Election Day tomorrow to stop electronic voting machine manufacturer Diebold Systems, Inc., from issuing specious legal threats. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Center for Internet and Society Cyberlaw Clinic at Stanford Law School are providing legal representation in this important case to prevent abusive copyright claims from silencing public debate about voting, the very foundation of our democratic process.

Diebold has delivered dozens of cease-and-desist notices to website publishers and ISPs demanding that they take down corporate documents revealing flaws in the company’s electronic voting systems as well as difficulties with certifying the systems for actual elections.

Apparently the ruling from the Northern District of California in San Francisco is expected by noon on Tuesday. Details here.


Actor, Producer Trade Lawsuit Tirades

In dueling lawsuits over the move Why Men Shouldn’t Marry, actor Sean Penn accuses producer Steve Bing of blacklisting him because of his opposition to a war in Iraq, while Bing accuses Penn of blackmailing him over a movie deal that never materialized. Read all about it here.




Next President Will Shape Supreme Court

One of the most momentous and least-discussed topics in the presidential campaign is the likely departure in the next four years of as many as three of the more liberal justices on a closely divided U.S. Supreme Court.

When the subject of judicial appointments was raised during Wednesday’s debate, Democrat Barack Obama observed that Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion, “probably hangs in the balance” on the outcome of the election.

Obama, who supports the ruling, and Republican John McCain, who wants it overturned, then took pains to deny that they would use the case as a “litmus test” in choosing a future justice – denials that their own words appear to contradict.

As McCain put it, he doesn’t believe anyone who backs Roe vs. Wade “would be part of those qualifications” he will require for judicial nominees, such as “a history of strict adherence to the Constitution.” Obama, for his part, has said he favors nominees who support the constitutional right of privacy, the legal underpinning of the 1973 ruling.

But abortion is only one of many issues in which the court’s moderate-to-liberal bloc of four justices has joined with the moderately conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy to form a precarious majority – one that would probably be undone by a McCain appointee.

Details here from Bob Egelko of the San Fransisco Chronicle.


Two Federal Judges Hold Key to California Prison Reform

Two veteran jurists may find themselves reluctantly stepping in where there is a political vacuum to address inmate overcrowding.

SACRAMENTO — Both are past 70, with creaky limbs, gray beards and an eye on retirement after long careers in the black robe.

But like it or not, federal judges Thelton E. Henderson and Lawrence K. Karlton hold the power to help California fix a catastrophic failure: its broken prison system. It is a task neither man covets.

Karlton has had heart surgery and carries a full load of cases aside from his prison work. Henderson suffers an autoimmune disorder that is attacking his muscles. He says he’d be enjoying his golden years already if not for his desire to see inmate medical care improve.

“I want to retire and go fishing and hang out with my grandson,” Henderson said in a recent interview. “But Larry and I feel an obligation, a duty, here.”

Now the judges’ long-running role in California corrections is taking on new urgency. Each is poised to decide a potentially far-reaching question: whether crowding in the state’s floundering prisons has become so severe that a cap on the inmate population is warranted. Hearings are set for June.

Details here from the Los Angeles Times.


Pagefucker Update

They’re not just from Florida anymore:

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A judge on Wednesday ordered the state Senate to suspend an investigation into accusations that one of its members fondled an 18-year-old legislative page.

The order, sought by Sen. Dan Sutton‘s lawyers and signed by state Circuit Judge David Gienapp, said the Senate must stop disciplinary proceedings against the Democrat until a court hearing Jan. 19 in Sutton’s hometown of Flandreau.

At that time, lawyers will present arguments on whether the Senate has the legal authority to investigate or discipline Sutton.

Sutton is accused of fondling a male high school student during last year’s session. Sutton has not talked publicly about the allegations, but his lawyers have said he did nothing wrong.

Details here from the AP via the New York Times.


Anshe Chung: First Virtual Millionaire

Anshe Chung, a real-estate tycoon in the digitally simulated world known as Second Life, has apparently become the first virtual millionaire–i.e., someone whose holdings in a make-believe world are legally convertible into genuine U.S. currency worth more than $1 million.

Chung is the nom de keyboard of Ailin Graef, a former schoolteacher who says she was born and raised in Hubei, China, and is now a citizen of Germany. She will give a press conference about her achievement tomorrow (November 28) at 9:00 a.m. PST, although it will occur in-world, i.e., to attend you will need to have downloaded Second Life’s software from the company that created and maintains it, Linden Lab.

Details here from CNNMoney.com‘s Legal Pad.


“Shedding the Unreality”

Duped by Neocons

This entry’s title is from The Washington Post, quoting “a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion [of Iraq].”

Let me give you the full quotation:

“We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we’re in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning.”

My translation: The neocons who dominate the Bush Administration are finally having to wake up and smell the coffee. They thought there would be no resistance and few casualties, that the Iraqi people would welcome our soldiers with flowers, that the war would be over in weeks, and that democracy and peace would spread throughout the Middle East like a virus. Turns out, they were wrong.

Sane people – and all the lessons of history – told them they were impossibly wrong from day one. They wouldn’t listen. They huffed and puffed and bragged and denied for more than three years, while over 1,800 Americans died, countless others were maimed and wounded, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed.

Now, while things continue to worsen, Bush takes a five-week vacation, while “a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion” says: “We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we’re in and shedding the unreality1 that dominated at the beginning.”

Second translation: “We were full of shit from day one. We’ve pretended we weren’t for three years, but now the jig is up. We are desperate and trying to figure out how the fuck to save face. Help!”

Maureen Dowd sums it up nicely in a New York Times op-ed column here. Sleep tight.

1 Wishful thinking, but does “shedding the unreality” include hanging Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld by thier ankles from lamp posts? It should.