Comments or suggestions: Gerard Van der Leun

Its the Law

Yes, Down My Pants. Oh, Like You Haven't?

Sadly, Sandy Berger passed away today at the age of 70. In lieu of a formal obituary I am reviving this item written during the time when Berger proved his then undying loyalty to the Clintons.

As a teenager my addiction to science fiction paperbacks often came into conflict with my ongoing cash-flow problem. To wit, I hadn't any. But, for a few brief, shining weeks I did discover a resource better than cash for acquiring science-fiction paperbacks -- my pants.

Yes, at some point it dawned on my tiny teenage brain that, if I could just get these piles of paper down the front of my pants and walk without a waddle out the door of the store, the latest Asimov or Heinlein would be free. What was even better was my discovery that I could, after reading these stolen gems, take them back to the bookstore from which I boosted them and sell them back to that dull owner for a credit to buy other paperbacks. Cost of stock: $0, Price received: $0.25, Profit -- infinite. What a business! I was a confirmed capitalist. I even thought of a name for my company, World Wide Pants, and was quite upset years later when David Letterman stole it from me.

Of course I knew on some level that stuffing things down my pants, waddling out of a store and then coming back later to sell the purloined items back was .... a teeny bit wrong. But the bookstore owner had so many science fiction books and I had so few. "From bookstores according to their stock, to me according to my need to read," seemed to be my moral code at the time. Besides, I wasn't "really" stealing them because I "returned" them for a fee. It was a way of letting the bookstore owner sort of reverse-rent them to me.

I started small -- maybe a slim collection of short stories like "The Green Hills of Earth," or a novella such as "Children of the Atom," would find their way to their temporary home between my belt and my underwear. But then I decided to expand. After all, it seemed to me that my pants had room to spare especially if I let my shirt tails hang out. Once that was in my mind, I started to up the ante and began to go for multiple copies of Ace Doubles. My pants became, in effect, a small bookshelf.

The owner of the bookstore down in the slums of Sacramento was, I was certain, clueless as to what was going on. He was a wispy simulacra of William Burroughs with the gray haze of alcohol hovering about him and a tendency to give me a smile that was a little too warm whenever I came into the shop. He'd often disappear into a curtained nook with the sign "Special Titles -- Ask for admittance" thumbtacked to the bookshelf next to it.

My undoing came one day when I think I had probably added a full two inches to my waistline in the science fiction section. I waddled to the cash register with one tattered copy of some space opera and slid my quarter across the counter. He looked at it, looked at me, took the quarter and slid the book into a flimsy paper bag and handed it back. "See you soon," he said with a wink. I turned and had gotten out the door and a couple of steps down the sidewalk when the bony hand of retribution clutched my shoulder. " I see you're gaining a little weight," he said in a voice that betrayed an unhealthy interest in Lucky Strikes. "I think we need to talk to your parents about this. Come on back in."

There's no way to describe the churning, burning hunk of fear that forms in your stomach the first time you're busted. If, at that moment, you could chose between death and juju, death would win every time -- but only because you don't know that you'll get death only after juju.

Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 2, 2015 6:32 PM |  Comments (25)  | QuickLink: Permalink
They Shoot Pirates, Don't They?

IN THIS POST-PATRIOT ACT ERA, perhaps the Feds are getting just a bit too enthusiastic about intellectual property thieves, what?

Federal effort to dead off TV piracy challenged | CNET

Well, if you're gonna be that snippy about it, I'll re-up my Netflix suscription.

Posted by Vanderleun at Feb 21, 2005 9:41 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
"The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a law meant to punish pornographers who peddle dirty pictures to Web-surfing kids is probably an unconstitutional muzzle on free speech....

The majority, led by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, said there may have been important technological advances in the five years since a federal judge blocked the law. And, in a startling departure from tradition, Justice Kennedy sang his decision from the bench in what was reported to be a pleasing contralto:

Porn free, as free as the Web flows,
As free as your inbox grows,
Porn free to follow your spam!

Porn free, yes, beauty surrounds you!
The Web still astounds you
Each time you click on a link!

Porn free, where no filters deny you!
You're free as the broadband tide!
There's no perversion we hide!

Porn free, online life is worth living,
But only worth living
'Cause you've free porn!

Children, especially adolescents and their aged fans in libraries and AOL chat rooms, were thrilled by the continuing efforts of the Supreme Court to decide not to decide in this matter.

-- High Court Upholds Block of Web Porn Law

UPDATE: In an apparent homage to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg's assistance in keeping Porn free across the web, her personal page on shot to the top of's list of mature amateur sites with her "InChambers Cam" gaining an estimated 73,000 new subscribers in the last 24 hours. Although no new retirements were announced at the end of the Court's session, Justice Ginsberg's prospects for comfortable golden years now seem assured.


In other news, lines were long at the Washington, New York, and Los Angeles airports where 600 ACLU lawyers were taking planes to Havana in order to start the 600 appeals of Guantanamo terrorists through the federal court system. Flight delays multiplied as Federal security agents at the airports suspended their "no-profiling" policy and searched the body cavities of any passenger fitting the description: "lawyer."

Commander William F. Probity of the LAX detachment commented: "I know we'll catch hell for this from the ACLU, but some of those lawyers could hide a SAM missile inside their orifices and we'd never know the difference if we didn't look."

Advised of the immanent arrival of 600 ACLU lawyers at the base, commanders promised to find them accommodations suitable for them as well as 600 orange jumpsuits.

Elsewhere, lawyers in the Justice Department were busy yesterday assembling the various stratagems and paperwork necessary to appeal any adverse findings in the above cases to, well, the Supreme Court.

Posted by Vanderleun at Jun 29, 2004 9:28 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Microsoft Gets Your Skin in the Game

I'M PROBABLY FAR FROM ALONE IN THINKING this is the creepiest news out of Microsoft in a long time: Microsoft patents body power

Microsoft has been awarded a patent for using human skin as a power conduit and data bus.

United States Patent: 6,754,472, which was published Tuesday, describes a method for transmitting power and data to devices worn on the body and for communication of data between those devices.

In its filing, Microsoft cites the proliferation of wearable electronic devices, such as wristwatches, pagers, PDAs (worn on people's belts) and small displays that can now be mounted on headgear....

Microsoft said, the physical resistance offered by the human body could be used to create a virtual keyboard on a patch of skin. And just to make sure it has covered all its bases, the filing concludes with a reference for Fido.

"It will be apparent," it says, "that the body may be that of a wide variety of living animals and need not be limited to being a body of a human being."

It is at times like this that I hear that old line from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: "Who are those guys?"

Posted by Vanderleun at Jun 23, 2004 1:27 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Fingerprints for Ammo

Senator Jack Scott,
Democrat, Pasadena:
If you want a bullet, this
man wants your fingerprints.


(c) No vendor shall sell or otherwise transfer ownership of any ammunition without at the time of purchase recording the following information on a form to be prescribed by the Department of Justice:
(d) The vendor shall also at the time of purchase or transfer obtain the right thumbprint of the purchaser or transferee on the above form.
(f) (1) ... If the right thumbprint is not available, then the vendor shall have the purchaser or transferee use his or her left thumb, or any available finger, and shall so indicate on the form. If the purchaser or transferee is physically unable to provide a thumbprint or fingerprint, the vendor shall so indicate on the form.
Ah, the latest proof that the law is an ass on which every one gets a turn. You've got to admire that last bit where, if you have no fingers or thumbs,you get a pass on the fingerprint requirement.

This extension of government power and intrusion into your life passed the California Senate last week, 22-16. The record of those who voted for and against is: Here.

You'd think that requiring citizens to fingerprint other citizens when they go out to buy legal products would have something like the ACLU up in arms. But no. They don't care about this. Maybe you don't either, but think for a minute about the power of precedent in law. A fingerprint for a bullet now, a fingerprint for a bottle of vodka later, a fingerprint for those deadly cigarettes a bit after that, a fingerprint to vote, a fingerprint to buy a book, a fingerprint to buy anything.

Of course, this law requires that the person selling the ammo keep the fingerprints at his place of business. This year. Next year it will be, "You know all those fingerprints we made you keep, well send them in. We not only need to know who has the guns, we need to know how many rounds they have. Why? We're the Democrats, we're the Buttinsky Party. We don't need a reason."

Posted by Vanderleun at May 30, 2004 9:30 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Fingerprints for Ammo

Senator Jack Scott,
Democrat, Pasadena:
If you want a bullet, this
man wants your fingerprints.


(c) No vendor shall sell or otherwise transfer ownership of any ammunition without at the time of purchase recording the following information on a form to be prescribed by the Department of Justice:
(d) The vendor shall also at the time of purchase or transfer obtain the right thumbprint of the purchaser or transferee on the above form.
(f) (1) ... If the right thumbprint is not available, then the vendor shall have the purchaser or transferee use his or her left thumb, or any available finger, and shall so indicate on the form. If the purchaser or transferee is physically unable to provide a thumbprint or fingerprint, the vendor shall so indicate on the form.
Ah, the latest proof that the law is an ass on which every one gets a turn. You've got to admire that last bit where, if you have no fingers or thumbs,you get a pass on the fingerprint requirement.

This extension of government power and intrusion into your life passed the California Senate last week, 22-16. The record of those who voted for and against is: Here.

You'd think that requiring citizens to fingerprint other citizens when they go out to buy legal products would have something like the ACLU up in arms. But no. They don't care about this. Maybe you don't either, but think for a minute about the power of precedent in law. A fingerprint for a bullet now, a fingerprint for a bottle of vodka later, a fingerprint for those deadly cigarettes a bit after that, a fingerprint to vote, a fingerprint to buy a book, a fingerprint to buy anything.

Of course, this law requires that the person selling the ammo keep the fingerprints at his place of business. This year. Next year it will be, "You know all those fingerprints we made you keep, well send them in. We not only need to know who has the guns, we need to know how many rounds they have. Why? We're the Democrats, we're the Buttinsky Party. We don't need a reason."

Posted by Vanderleun at May 30, 2004 9:30 AM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Bad Blabbermouth! No Bentley for You!

THE SILICON VALLEY NEW PORSCHE MARKET TANKED TODAY on news that Salesforce's CEO Marc Benioff's big mouth had run his company's IPO right off the rails.

True to form, Benioff proved once again that he does not understand the word "quiet' in the SEC's pre-IPO quiet period requirement.

The New York Times noted that in its interview with Benioff, the CEO had said that "the SEC prohibits me from making any statements that would hype my IPO," but then proceeded to discuss the software business and his competitors.
-- IPO delayed -- reports
And where did Mr. Benioff learn his executive techniques? That paragon of mum's-the-word, that citidel of silence, Oracle.

As of this writing SalesForce employees who had hoped, at last, to cash in, we're seen cancelling orders for Porsches and passing an envelope around the office hoping to raise enough to buy Mr. Benioff a large, hot, streaming cup of STFU.

Posted by Vanderleun at May 19, 2004 3:00 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
USPS and Microsoft Announce Anti-Spam Measures


USPS and Microsoft Join Forces To Deliver Next-Generation Spam and Personal Validation Solutions

First Solution Includes Email Micropayment E-Stamp Powered by Microsoft Passport Approved and Enforced by US Postal Service


WASHINGTON, DC, and REDMOND, Wash., May 17, 2004 -- The United States Postal Service and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq "MSFT") today announced a global strategic relationship to jointly develop and market the world’s first “e-stamp” to combat Spam via Microsoft’s Passport Services. “This represents a quantum leap in Spam reduction and privacy protection,” said Microsoft’s Bill Gates. Postmaster General John E. Potter agreed, “We’re very excited to be working with Microsoft at this watershed moment in the evolution of the Internet....” More at: USPS and Microsoft Join Forces To Deliver Next-Generation Spam and Personal Validation Solutions

U.S.-based news media needing further information should contact the Waggener Edstrom Rapid Response Team at or 503-443-7070.

Posted by Vanderleun at May 16, 2004 1:56 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Gates to Europe: "And to whom shall I make out the check?"

AN ITEM ON THE WHOPPING MICROSOFT FINE in Europe from Christopher Booker's Notebook

Gates's billions are safe

A month ago, to some fanfare, the Brussels competition commissioner, Mario Monti, announced he was imposing a £331 million fine on Microsoft, the giant US computer corporation, for the crime of giving away a "media player" as part of its Windows operating system. Even though there is nothing to stop customers installing a free rival media player, Mr Monti and his officials had decided that this constituted "unfair competition".

Lord Pearson of Rannoch then asked in the House of Lords how the European Commission proposed to collect the fine. Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean, a Foreign Office minister, explained that, under Article 256 of the Treaty, fines on commercial organisations must be collected by member states. Since Microsoft sells its products in every EU country, I therefore asked the Foreign Office to explain who decides how much of the fine must be collected by the British Government, and who is responsible.

The Foreign Office suggested that responsibility for taking the money off Microsoft would probably fall to the Office of Fair Trading. When I asked the OFT, they said it was nothing to do with them and suggested I should ring the European Commission.

The Commission's London office said it was nothing to do with them and that responsibility probably lay with the Competition Commission. They also said it was nothing to do with them, and that I should go back to the European Commission. I suspect Bill Gates of Microsoft can be confident of holding onto his money for quite a while.

Ah, tell me again about the European Union and its ability to govern better than the member states. In the meantime, if nobody can decide who should get the money, I'll take the check and hold it in my account until this gets sorted out.

Posted by Vanderleun at May 1, 2004 5:47 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Things They Carried


We've all had the experience of concealed outrage when watching a airport security guard take grandma or grandpa aside to have a closer look at their walker. How idiotic, how rude, how utterly abhorant to our sense of liberty and freedom, we think. What can a person confined to a walker or feeble enough to need a cane do, we think.

Well, it's time to think again. A brief perusal of the FBI's Guide to Concealable Weapons, 2003 [Illustrated] will give you chills just thinking about some of the edged weapons options available to people. From the introduction:

In the wake of the September 11, 2001, airline hijackings the FIREARMS AND TOOLMARKS UNIT of the FBI LABORATORY has started a collection of small and easily concealed knives. This is the first installment of a continuing effort to collect and distribute information on knives that otherwise may be dismissed as non threatening items. Many of the knives in this collection were commercially purchased and typically can be bought for less than $20. Some of these knives are common items found in most homes and offices. You will notice also that some are made of a plastic material, making them less likely to be considered a weapon. Each of these tools was designed to
cut and is fully functional in that respect. Whether used to cut paper, cardboard, or other material, these knives should be treated as potentially dangerous weapons. Each knife is shown with an accompanying scale for size reference and many include an X-ray photograph to show how these weapons might appear if placed in luggage and passed through a scanning device.
The 2.1 megabyte PDF file can be downloaded from this site.

Yes, there are a lot of silly items shown, but the inclusion of the ghostly images of what things do and do not look like in the scanners packs a whallop. You might even remember them the next time you have to take off your shoes in front of a bunch of perfect strangers.

Pointer via Grow-A-Brain

Posted by Vanderleun at Apr 14, 2004 11:42 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Evil Bush Plot to Increase Home Ownership

It will be interesting to see the Democrat's demolish Bush's current action's and plans to put more Americans into their own home.

Our nation's 68 percent homeownership rate is the highest ever, and our government is taking steps to make owning a home a reality for more Americans, especially minorities and those with low incomes. In June 2002, I set the goal of adding 5.5 million new minority home owners in America by the end of this decade. Since then, more than 1.5 million minority families have moved into houses of their own. And for the first time, most minorities own their own home.

We are building on this progress. I have signed into law the American Dream Down Payment Act, which will help low-income Americans to afford the down payment and closing costs on their first home. I'm asking Congress to provide an annual $200 million for this program. That additional money would help an estimated 40,000 low-income families every year become first-time homeowners. I'm proposing that we make zero down payment loans available to first-time buyers whose mortgages are guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration. And this will help about 150,000 families buy homes in the first year alone.

Another obstacle to homeownership is the often complicated process of buying a home and getting a loan. My budget for 2005 would more than double funding for housing counseling services from 2001 levels.

A house and a mortgage represent a big personal commitment, and we want to prepare more Americans to make that commitment with confidence. To make homeownership attainable for more of our citizens, I have asked Congress to create a tax credit to encourage the construction of affordable homes. Under my proposal, builders will have an incentive to provide an additional 200,000 affordable homes over five years for families with low incomes.
--- President Bush's Weekly Radio Address Emphasis Added

Let's see.
1) Add 5.5 million new minority home owners. 1.5 million already done.
2) Aid on down payment and closing costs. Add $200 million to the fund. Net increase of 40,000 minority or low income home owners per year.
3) Zero down-payment loans to first-time buyers backed by the FHA. 150,000 families in their own home in first year.
4) Double the funding for home-buying counseling services
5) Tax incentives to create 40,000 low income homes per year.

What will be the Kerry campaign response to this? Perhaps he can spin in a promise to so increase taxes on those earning more than $200,000 a year to buy everybody making under $40,000 a year a new house.

It would be an upgrade on the 'chicken in every pot' promise. "Elect Kerry and it will be new houses on the house."

Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 27, 2004 12:54 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Europe Doomed to Real Media Player. Fate Sealed

I don't know about anyone else, but to me some of the most discouraging words I can read online are: "This Requires RealPlayer." This is a company that has been trying to pick my pocket and ripping time out of my life for years. I don't know what this company's problems are, but they are legion and probably revolved around some founder "not being Bill Gates." At least that's the whiff I get off the site and the app this group produces. That's why it depressed me to see that the EU shakedown of Microsoft was also going to involve the innocent of Europe in even more RealPlayer moments than they have previously had:

Q. What effect will the verdict have on computer users?

A. Some analysts have said in Europe it will mean less choice if Microsoft is forced to take its Media Player software out of Windows. Microsoft says it will mean less functionality for many consumers since the vast majority of all PCs are sold with Windows software. MS rivals say it will give consumers the opportunity to review a number of media players that they can download off the Internet before choosing which one they like. - Q&A: Why the EU took on Microsoft - Mar 24, 2004

Yet another reason to mourn for Europe. Too bad. She had, long ago, some nice ideals.

Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 24, 2004 2:58 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Gift That Does Not Keep On Giving

HEADLINE OF THE DAY, SO FAR: From The Age of Australia

Judge gives Schiavo the right to die

Pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 22, 2004 12:11 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Supersized Sanity Eruption in Congress
House OKs Ban on Fast Food Obesity Suits By JESSE J. HOLLAND

The GOP-controlled House on Wednesday voted to ban supersized lawsuits that blame the food industry for people's expanding waistlines and health woes, saying such cases could bankrupt fast-food chains and restaurants.

The 276-139 vote is intended to prevent class action lawsuits that contend food companies and their offerings are responsible for Americans' putting on the pounds and lurching toward obesity.

Ah, the sweet if brief breeze of sanity in government. Now, if only we could pass a Constitutional Ammendment stating that if you walk into a McDonalds to purchase and hoover 15 happy meals a day, if is you and only you that is putting on the pounds and lurching towards obesity. We note in passing that a "276-139 vote" indicates that non-"GOP controlled House" politicians voted for the bill as well. An advanced bit of mathematics no doubt beyond the ability of Jesse B. Holland, AP.

Another benefit of this bill is that it will keep

the Drive Thru Menus of America as permanent parts of our uban landscape.
UPDATE: On the other hand, just because they can continue serving you the food you like, it doesn't mean they should be above regulation:

Photos Show Fast-Food Restaurant Workers Bathing In Kitchen Sink
ADVANCE, N.C. -- State law requires restaurant workers to keep their hands clean. Two employees of a Wendy's in Davie County took it a little further. Health officials said the two workers were photographed bathing in a dishwashing sink at the fast-food restaurant in Advance. The sink has cleaning jets and is normally used to wash pots, pans and other cookware.

Davie County Health Department Director Barry Bass said photographs of two men in swimsuits taking turns bathing in the large, bubble-filled sink prompted an investigation. Bass said while he's never seen anything like it, the act didn't pose a health hazard.

Probably not. But the five-foot bong in the bathroom is a different matter.

Posted by Vanderleun at Mar 10, 2004 5:40 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Threatening Email from the ABA

Today I received this unsettling, but wise, email. Others might do well to heed it.

From: The American Blogging Association
To: Gerard van der Leun,,
CC:David Winer,

Subject: This Is Your Final Warning

Over the past few years, we're happy that you've been able to put the new "Blogging" phenomena to good use (well, in Mr. Winer's case, "happy" is stretching the point a bit).

While American Digest has served as an illuminating and sometime humorous signpost in today's media, other Blogs have served to keep nattering Jr. Naderites like Joi Ito off the street and out of the mainstream of society. Illumination, humor, and keeping the Joi Ito’s of the world either in their room or ruining all-you-can-eat restaurants are noble goals and we endorse them.

However, after receiving thousands of complaints both by email, letter bomb, and one person who actually set himself on fire in our reception area, we must insist the both of you cease and desist a writing a species of posts which are apparently driving millions of Web users right off their feed and right round the bend.

No, Mr. Winer, it's not your inane little habit of posting about every 12 lines of code you've written, each cigarette you didn't smoke, your TMI little medical details, or even your RSS feed of information on your bowel movements. And No, it's not your endless proclamations that you invented RSS, or blogging, or the internet, or four-day lithium holidays.

It's that both of you just won't leave the pathetic lame duck candidates alone!

Mr. van der Leun, PLEASE stop posting about Howard Dean. No more posts, no more songs, no more photo-shopped photos. Just stop it, now.

And Mr. Winer, STOP defending him, and, while you're at it, stop posting about internet democracy, "Vote Blog", and anything even vaguely inferring that your silly little blog has any more influence on the election than the color of your stools. Oh, wait, we take that back. New tracking data shows that 84% of Dean's supporters read your site, and were so distraught that you were supporting him and might receive an appointment if he were elected that they are switching their support to Ralph Nader.

In both of your cases, this is your final warning. We have friends in the browser business, and it would be very easy for your sites to become "invisible", or, worse yet, point to each others, in the near future.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Well, that’s it for me. I shall not risk the wrath of the ABA.

I hereby declare that American Digest will now be a “Howard Dean Free Zone” from now until the last ding-dong of Doom. The name “Howard Dean” will henceforth not appear on this site. This is the last time you will read the words “Howard Dean.”

Set your search engines to “Howard the Duck.”

Old Candidate (Left) New Candidate (Right)

Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 25, 2004 12:50 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Law of Curves

Gopnik's Learning Curve

The ability to learn is inversely proportional to years of school, adjusted for hormones.

Gopnik's Gender Curves

The male curve is an abrupt rise followed by an equally abrupt fall. The female curve is a slow rise to an extended asymptote. The areas under the curves are roughly equal. These curves apply to all activities at all time scales (e.g. attention to TV programs, romantic love, career scientific productivity).

-- The World Question Center, 2004

Alison Gopnik

Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 16, 2004 8:28 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Get the Hook!

If you're not a fish,
don't swallow this.

"A five-inch fishing lure which sports three steel hooks and cautions users that it is, "Harmful if swallowed," has been identified as one of the nation's wackiest warning labels in an annual contest sponsored by the Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch."
-- From M-LAW's Wacky Warning Labels
Posted by Vanderleun at Jan 7, 2004 4:56 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
5."People. People who sue people...

sometimes, just sometimes, get what's coming to them. Case in point, the sane decision by a California court this week to throw Barbra Streisand's suit again the California coastline project off the cliffs of Malibu. The decision: Barbra's Bogus and Must Pay

Los Angeles - 12/3/2003 - In a decision that reaffirms the public%u2019s First Amendment right to participate in matters of public significance, a Los Angeles Superior Court issued a 46 page opinion today holding that Barbra Streisand, the well-known entertainer and Hollywood celebrity, abused the judicial process by filing a lawsuit against aerial archivist Ken Adelman, his Internet Service Provider Layer42.NET, and Pictopia.COM. The court also firmly rejected Streisand%u2019s request for an injunction to force the removal of a panoramic photographic frame that happens to include her sprawling blufftop estate from Adelman%u2019s website,
Bottom line: Nobody cared about the pix of her cheesy little Malibu digs until she made a stink about it. Now, if that same attitude would just append itself to her latest album...

Posted by Vanderleun at Dec 4, 2003 3:10 PM |  Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Good Question

The astute James Taranto at WSJ Online writes:

What's curious about the partial-birth debate, though, is that although journalists feel compelled to add the disclaimer that only "critics" or "foes" use the term "partial-birth abortion," the other side of the debate doesn't seem to have a term of its own. The New York Times does provide one synonym, referring to "a procedure that doctors call intact dilation and extraction but critics call partial-birth abortion." But "intact dilation" is just a clinical way of saying "partial birth"; the Times' formulation is the equivalent of saying "a condition that doctors call melanoma but critics call skin cancer."

So the question remains: If only critics and foes call it "partial-birth abortion," what do advocates and enthusiasts call it? One suspects they would simply rather not talk about it.

OpinionJournal - Best of the Web Today

Posted by Van der Leun at Oct 23, 2003 10:08 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Soviet Style Lines at U.S. Patent Office

U.S. Patent Office Backlogged 500,000 Applications; Biotech to Blame

The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office is backlogged with some 500,000 unprocessed applications, a number expected to double in the next five years. Part of the reason is the growing number and complexity of biotechnology patent applications, which are overwhelming patent office investigators. Needed: An invention that can process patent applications faster or -- better yet -- stricter rules on what can and cannot be patented... [Mike's List: The Raw Feed]

Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 23, 2003 9:45 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Only Problem with Shakespeare's Exhortation...

to kill all the lawyers, is that he didn't set a date.

Welcome to America. Mud and reeds have been dumped on natural and necessary human activities throughout American society. Playgrounds have been stripped of all physically active equipment, like monkey bars, with the effect, among others, of contributing to a crisis in childhood obesity. Health-care costs are skyrocketing, in part because paranoid doctors are in the habit of ordering unnecessary tests to provide a possible defense in case there's a lawsuit. Because of fear of legal claims, teachers can't put their arm around a crying child.

From: - When Judges Won't JudgeBy Philip K. Howard

Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 22, 2003 6:56 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Lame Duck Davis Still Signing for Bribes

Overlawyered alerts us that someone has neglected to ties Gray Davis's hands behind his back and lock him in a limo trunk for the duration of his "term":

Calif.: here comes labor-law bounty hunting

Outgoing Calif. Gov. Gray Davis has quietly signed S. 796, a first-of-its-kind bill that authorizes lawyers to file private damage suits over labor code violations. Business leaders "argue it could have far-reaching financial consequences to employers across the state and and be more costly than the landmark employee health bill, SB 2, signed by the governor earlier this month. ... The legislation would allow a worker to sue on behalf of other employees for wage and labor code violations. Moreover, it permits a judge to force employers to pay attorney's fees and penalties." (Gilbert Chan, "Sue-your-boss bill becomes law", Sacramento Bee, Oct. 20). "This is probably the worst bill I've seen in my three years in the State Legislature. Senate Bill 796 is the 'Son of 17200' – California’s much-maligned and highly abused Unfair Competition Law," said Assemblymember Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach. "Large employers in California will now be a cash cow for trial lawyers thanks to SB 796," said Harman. "A minor one-year Labor Code violation at the business employing 3,000 workers will generate civil penalties totaling more than $31 million". ... [Overlawyered]

Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 21, 2003 12:34 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
The "I Know What Didn't Happen" Defense

Today's Washington Post leads with the news that accused sniper John Allen Muhammad fired his lawyers and chose to defend himself Monday.

In a sidebar to this story, "A Legal Move That Rarely Helps," the Post quotes Edward B. MacMahon Jr., a defense attorney, as saying:

"If a witness testifies that they saw him, what's he going to say, 'It wasn't me'?"

Meanwhile, back in the courtroom, Muhammad said,

"And I say to these people: We know something happened. They wasn't there. I was. I know what happened, and I know what didn't happen."

Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 21, 2003 8:33 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Pattern
Haven't you seen the pattern yet?

First they tell you what you OUGHT to do that's good for you.

Then they tell you what you SHOULD do that's good for you.

Then they tell you what you WILL do that's good for you.

Then they just dump the bullshit and DO to you what's good for you.

-- From a comment on: Hit & Run: Blowing Smoke
Posted by: Tom from Texas

Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 20, 2003 10:15 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Supremes to Take the Pledge

Supreme Court to decide on use of Pledge in U.S. schools

The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will decide whether the Pledge of Allegiance recited by generations of American schoolchildren is an unconstitutional blending of church and state....

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the First Amendment and the Supreme Court's precedents make clear that tax-supported schools cannot lend their imprimatur to a declaration of fealty to "one nation under God."

The White House hinted that an administration-written brief in the case could be in the offing, with Scott McClellan, President Bush's spokesman, calling the Pledge of Allegiance "an important right that ought to be upheld."

We're not sure that the "Pledge" is a "right that ought to be upheld." We are sure that by hearing this case, the Supreme Court is going to be sending a big signal on the way it views the current direction of the ship of state.

Just in case they decide that God has no little desk in the classrooms of America any longer, here's a new version of The Pledge of Maybe that we published last July:

To: The Central Committee to Make America Nice Instead of Evil
From: Newspeak Central
Re: The Way Cool New Pledge

Dudes,Dudettes, and Others Between Genders,

At your command Newspeak Central has reviewed the "old and in the way" Pledge of Allegiance. After six months of multicultural diversity focus groups this is the new one. We hope you give us hugs for it.

Original Bad Pledge:
"I pledge allegiance to the Flag
of the United States of America,
and to the Republic for which it stands:
one Nation under God, indivisible,
With Liberty and Justice for all.

Stinky, right? Who can say that with a straight face? Nobody cool, that's for sure. (Our new version is something MTV could make a video of once Justin Timberlake records it.)

Here's our edit and our thinking:
"I "
[ Too narcissistic -- Alter to "One may or may not"]

"pledge" [ Too binding, implies a commitment to something no matter what may happen to it -- Alter to "hereby loan on a revocable basis"]

"allegiance" [Just far too antiquated a notion for today's fast time. Change to: "a smidgen of one's attention"]

"to the Flag" [ The Flag? You've got to be kidding. No symbols drenched in blood, betrayal, slavery, corporate greed, unbridled lust of global domination allowed. Let's change it to "to the rainbow of diversity"]

"of the United States of America," [ No way! We are not really citizens of the USA. We're citizens of the, dare we say it? United Cool Nations! Strike and replace with "of the United Cool Places of One World of Really Well Meaning Persons" "Nations" had to go. See below.]

"and to the Republic" [Scratch that. It was the Republican form of government that got Bush elected. The Republic is so over. We'll go for Direct Democracy where we all vote on everything, every day on the Internet! Delete and insert "and to the Ruling Elite of Technosavvy, Well-Educated, Nice People" Hey, you can't let everybody in. Most people are so uncool.]

"for which it stands:" ["Stands" is too aggressive. We need a lighter touch here. Let's say "which it may represent sometimes"]

"one Nation" [ One? Nation? Doesn't everyone agree that the Nation-state is finito? Let's get jiggy here and substitute "many different global cultures and traditions each one just as good as yours"]

"under God," [ Man, this is the Big One! This is just too much to be believed. All those billions of antiquated, superstitious, unscientific, blindly believing, stupid UNCOOL people who are cluttering up OUR planet with their foolish faith -- when they could be as smart as us and know, absolutely know, that there's nothing going on in the universe except "purposeless matter hovering in the dark!" The UNCOOL have got to be stopped and saved from their own delusion. This one is right out! Insert "under nothing but our own current ideas of what is cool as we choose to understand cool."

"indivisible," [Way too harsh, man. Insert "and able to go our own ways at any time that makes us feel good."]

"With Liberty" [We like this concept. Let's flesh it out to: "With Liberty and license and free cable TV and unlimited weekend minutes."]

"and Justice" [ An obvious typo in the original. Revert to "Just Us."

"for all." [Inadvertently truncated in the original. Extend to: "for all those that agree one hundred percent with Me."

We've taken all those items, buffed them up, pushed them together and made them sing!

Here it is, the New and Improved "Pledge of Maybe":

"One may or may not hereby loan (on a revocable basis) a smidgen of one's attention to the Rainbow of Diversity, and the United Cool Places of One World of Really Well Meaning Persons, and to the Ruling Elite of Technosavvy, Well-Educated, Nice People for which it may represent sometimes: Many Different Global Cultures and Ethnic Traditions (each one just as good as the next), under Nothing but our own current ideas of what is Cool as we choose to understand Cool, and understanding that Me and You is Free to go our own ways at any time that makes us feel good .... with Liberty and License and Free cable TV and Unlimited Weekend Minutes, and Just Us -- meaning for all those that agree one hundred percent with Me."

You gotta agree that that JUST ROCKS!!!

Stay cool and rock on,
Joe Conason, Head Scribe,
CREEPC: Committee to Re-Elect President Clinton.

Posted by Vanderleun at Oct 14, 2003 10:46 AM |  Comments (2)  | QuickLink: Permalink
There are times when citizens just have to start going down to City Hall with a baseball bat and a bad attitude.

St. Paul Wants $60 in tribute

No license? No pop stand, St. Paul tells 2 youngsters

Mikaela Ziegler, 7, and her 4-year-old sister, Annika, were selling refreshments Wednesday afternoon near the State Fairgrounds when a woman approached them. But she wasn't there to buy."She said, 'You can't sell pop unless you have a license,' " Mikaela said.

That's how it came to be that an inspector with St. Paul's Office of License, Inspections and Environmental Protection shut down Mikaela and Annika's pop stand.

Their outraged father, Dr. Richard Ziegler, called City Hall for an explanation. He was told that St. Paul is cracking down on unauthorized merchants and that his daughters would be free to hawk their beverages once they obtained a $60 license.

Posted by Van der Leun at Aug 29, 2003 12:53 PM |  Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Bloomberg to New York City: DROP DEAD

Property owners now liable for NYC sidewalks

NEW YORK—New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law Wednesday a provision that transfers liability for personal injuries on public sidewalks from the city to the adjacent building owner.

In addition, a companion bill the mayor signed will require property owners to carry liability insurance that provides coverage for sidewalk injuries.

Yes, yet another move by Mayor Mike to make sure that New York City never recovers from his administration.

Posted by Vanderleun at Jul 18, 2003 1:06 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Ebay's Law Enforcement Suckupathon Continues

Ebay's Number One Rent-A-Cop Joe Sullivan put police around the country on notice that Ebay won't ask them for anything as inconvenient as a court order when it comes to getting your personal information from the online leviathan. As reported in The Nation's recent article Buyer Beware , Sullivan announced:

If you are a law-enforcement officer, all you have to do is send us a fax with a request for information, and ask about the person behind the seller's identity number, and we will provide you with his name, address, sales history and other details--all without having to produce a court order.
Ah, those court orders. So time consuming for all involved. And besides, resisting law-enforcement might risk having law enforcement notice that not only is Ebay dominating the area of online sales, it is also clearly the leader in enabling online fraud. That would not be good. After all, depositions might cut into the time founder Pierre Omidyar spends touting the hapless Sidekick
The Sidekick (Danger hiptop from T-Mobile)This thing is so neat that I've forgotten how neat it is. The color display is really great, much better than I've seen on any other handheld. It's always connected to the network, so AOL instant messages come and go without having to tell the thing to connect. It syncs instantly to a web interface -- too bad it can't sync with my Mac via iSync. Not to mention not syncing with corporate e-mail/organizers.
... while neglecting to mention his own investment in the company that makes Sidekick.
Palo Alto's Danger, the start-up that sells a mobile device that combines e-mail and instant messaging with a phone and other features, said Monday it raised $35 million. Chief executive Hank Nothaft said initial sales through T-Mobile, the carrier that sells Danger's device under the name ``Sidekick,'' have been in the ``tens of thousands'' since the October launch.

The funding will help Danger gain additional carriers, one of which Danger hopes to announce over the next couple of months, he said. The funding came from Softbank Capital Partners, Meritech, Mobius, Redpoint, Diamondhead Ventures and other investors, including eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

All in all a minor exercise in duplicity, but indicative of the internal hubris at Ebay which is, day by day, taking it closer to the bleak shores of Enron.

Perhaps Ebay is hoping that by playing nice and getting cozy with law enforcement that the Justice Department, from which Sullivan was hired, won't look too closely at Ebay.

Sullivan even offered to conscript eBay's employees in virtual sting operations: "Tell us what you want to ask the bad guys. We'll send them a form, signed by us, and ask them your questions. We will send their answers directly to your e-mail."
How helpful. If only Ken Lay and Enron had a similar attitude, they might be in business today.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh has taken me to task for this on The Volkoh Conspiracy and I am, as always, enlightened by him; indeed I'm even feeling somewhat corrected. Still, to my mind, it is more the general attitude behind Ebay than the black letter law concerns me in this instance. Volokh is quite correct in his assertion that we all want to help law enforcement put away the bad guys, but an announced standing policy of turning over any information at any time for any reason (which is how I understand Sullivan's invitiation) strikes me as being just a little too co-operative. If I was a bank with millions of financial records of businesses and individuals at my command (Ebay owns Paypal) wouldn't those people be made just a bit nervous to know that anybody waving a badge can saunter into my bank and see my account?

Then there's the issue of Sullivan volunteering the Ebay/Paypal staff to act as covert agents of law enforcement. Just this week, there's a story on the Nets of bogus Paypal email being sent around to Paypal users in an attempt to winkle some essential information out of them. If things like this are compounded with a general awareness of the willingness of the company to act as agents, it seems to me that the sometimes too-blind trust on which Paypal and Ebay and thousands of other online businesses depend is threatened. It would be one thing for a police agent, in pursuit of some sting, to pass himself off as an Ebay employee. It seems to me to be quite another to have a core of corporate 'volunteers.'

No, the core question here seems to me to be Sullivan's and Ebay's intent. To say that they Ebay stands ready to help the police combat fraud and other crimes online sounds a bit too much like Claude Raines declaring he is "...shocked, shocked to find gambling is going on here." Ebay, as a transaction mechanism, was designed to be highly scalable. It is regretable that as a business it needs to be chummy with law enforcement to scale up the control of online fraud. They might net a shark or a whale from time to time, but holes in the Ebay net let millions of minnows get clean away.

Posted by Vanderleun at Jul 7, 2003 12:22 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Traitors' Grate

This just in from Declan McCullagh's invaluable Politechbot: a thoughtful and unbiased examination of the fashion of calling this person or that person or some organization a "traitor" guilty of "treason." In it Jamie McCarthy has done a yeoman's job of bringing us up to date on this trend. Informative, but it seems to have an aura of "continuing crisis in civil liberties" underneath it all that I just can't share.

Granted Mc Carthy has done some very worthwhile searching on this issue of treason and I read his citations of blather from the right and the left with interest. Still, I found myself retroactively immune to either alarm or despair.

While I understand that the flinging about of "traitor" and "treason" is a phenomenon more closely associated with the last two years than immediately before, it all in the end strikes me as merely much of a mushiness. Indeed, those who bemoan the treason epidemic seem to be in the same category as those who tout the daily suppression of their free speech - in front of a raft of various media only too ready to lay their plaints before as many of our 300 million fellow citizens who care to listen. Tim Robbins shameless and endless bleatings in front of the National Press Club a few months back come to mind as a sterling example of the unsupressed victim of speech suppression.

In the case of "Treason" as in the case of "Free Speech," I am always left wondering how so many can concatenate the actions of the citizens of the United States with the powers reserved to the Government of the United States.

It seems to me that I can, or you can, or any person can call another a traitor, or say that his or her behavior is treasonous, at any time and on any pretext. At most the speaker risks a suit for libel or slander from his target. Thus it would seem that it is the accuser that is much more at risk here than the accused. The accuser, in this case Anne Coulter, is not - at least as far as I am aware - a lawfully empowered agent of the Federal Government. She is as free to call any individual or group a traitor as, say, James Carville would be to call Coulter a "whacked out bimbo with the political morals of a ferret and an inexplicable attraction to unbald Republicans." Not that such a southern gentleman as Carville would ever utter such a sentiment.

In like manner, those who carp about the suppression of their speech through the criticism of their fellow citizens always make me wonder what part of "Congress shall make no law..." they fail to comprehend.

As a citizen, it seems to me that I am perfectly at liberty to say:

"Declan McCullagh is an American set upon the destruction of this country by consistently filing reports that do not make it comfortable for the powers that be, and for failing to toe the Washington Establishment line in exchange for lots of free lunches with lobbyists. Because of this his web site should be shut down and he should be imprisoned for a very long time in a very small room with a television that only receives Fox News."
I can call for this daily until the sun falls from the sky, and it doesn't seem to me there's much that can be done to stop it. My speech certainly can't suppress Declan's. It may or may not stimulate agreement, but it can't operate like a restraining order or custom-fitted ball gag.

Hence I don't see from what source all the anxiety springs concerning treason and the suppression of speech. As long as these charges arise from individual or organizations with no formal ties to the government, anxiety would seem to be mere paranoia unless it helps raise money from those who are easily startled.

Should the government actively see to put someone on trial for treason, I think they would probably need more than Anne Coulter's observations and assertions. Indeed, the requirements for such a charge are spelled out in some detail in the Constitution, but I won't rehearse them here.

Likewise, should the government attempt to formally shut down Politechbot in response to something transmitted on it, it had better be something akin to childporn or a secret terrorist message embedded deep within that jpeg of Phil Zimmermann on the home page (How very clever would that be?) to avoid a firestorm of protest and the launching of 30 Habeas Corpus packing ACLU lawyers from their underground silos in San Francisco.

Yes, I know, I know about the dreaded Ashcroft, that Eldritch Horror, but I've still to get a real case of Ashcroftitus raising a rash on my brain. In so many places and at so many times, the man has shown himself to be a mere gasbag. A dangerous one to be sure, but it really isn't in what he says, it is in what he can do that counts. And if we compare his pronouncements with his actions we'll see that the former far exceed the latter. Does this mean I favor the evil Patriot Act? Heaven forfend, but that's headed for the Supreme Court with a JATO booster so we shall see what we shall see.

Does Anne Coulter command the Justice Department or the National Guard? Does Bill O'Reilly have the power to shut down the presses of the New York Times? I know it is fun to get all hot and bothered by these professional blatherers, but until such time as they meld into the Government, it might be best for every one to take a deep breath and say, with Glinda the Good Witch: "You have no power here. Begone, before somebody drops a house on you."

Posted by Vanderleun at Jul 1, 2003 6:56 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Ebay:Enron for 2004?

Whitman: How Much Would You Bid?
CBS News | eBay's Bid For Success | June 12, 2003 15:53:46

eBay. Yes, good, old eBay. Your own personal eBay.  You've found and snagged those Trolls you had as a kid. You've gotten rid of all that junk you've been moving from house to house for a decade at a premium. You've nailed that stuffed Jackalope for only $468. Great. Now kick the habit and get clean before your are really addicted.

As more and more people are finding out, the web auction monolith built on "trust" currently only trusts the sellers to keep kicking coins into its bloated coffers. Buyers are left to the not so tender mercies of one of the largest and most rapidly growing centers of online fraud in the Infosphere.

Could eBay clean it up? Yup. Will they? Only if their stock price starts to auger into the ground.

EBay began to drift down in overall dependability about the time it hired the

Posted by Van der Leun at Jun 23, 2003 11:18 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Supremes Reaffirm Default State of Democracy: Everybody's In. Nobody's Out.

CNN reports: Narrow Use of Affirmative Action Preserved: Law school policy upheld; undergrad program overturned

A close decision, but nobody really expected anything else from the branch of government whose motto might as well be: You Complain, We Decide.

In upholding the broader principle but setting guidelines for undergraduate admissions, it seems to me that the court is keeping with, rather than setting the pace of, the improving state of racial equality in the United States.

Tsunami of Pundit Blather and Spew Warning Issued by National Institute for Mental Health

Posted by Vanderleun at Jun 23, 2003 1:25 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
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