Saturday, October 15, 2005

Proof That No Good Deed Goes Unpunished...

Wired News is running a story about a group of animal rights activists that is suing the proprieter of the Altamont Wind Farm because of the environmental hazards its poses to avian ecosystems. Everyone has seen the Altamont Wind Farm in a green energy commercial, usually through some cinematic footage flying over the turbines of the giant wind generators. While the wind farm is hearlded by many as the greatest experiment in green energy ever conducted, some of the animal friendly oppose the full operation of the farm because of its desparate impact on migritory birds whose flight path goes through the wind farm. The large blades of the generators are responsible for an increasing number of avian deats each year.

This is one of those stories you can't help but scofe at. Apparently the hippies don't have anyone else to annoy with frivolous lawsuits, so now they have taken aim at one another. Conversely, this could be the begining of seeing green energy as viable corporate production equal to, or supplanting, utilities dependent upon non-renewable resources. While I hope its the latter, what stands out in this story is the fact that like minds have now decided to sue one another. This situation also demonstrates that there are very few things modern man can do to preserve the environment without impacting mother nature in some other adverse way.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Following up on open documents

A while ago, there was quite a to-do over the Massachusetts legal system choosing to go to open document formats. The title link goes to an article responding to criticisms by Microsoft boosters. In this particular harangue, I want to throw out a constitutional ideal. Open document formats are available free to the public through the open source licensing scheme and the general public license scheme. This could equal a brave move by the state of Massachusetts to allow access to the courts by anyone with a computer and an internet connection. OpenOffice.Org allows anyone to use a full suite of programs to create documents. Now, these documents are admissible for court filings in Massachusetts. Allowing the everyman to participate in the legal system breaks down the walls and opens the doors Kafka contemplated as the bar to many individuals from influencing the legal system.

Abstracting Booker

This column was printed in the October 12, 2005, issue of the Valparaiso University School of Law newspaper, "The Forum."

Last term, the United States Supreme Court considered the Booker case. This opinion dealt with the sentencing scheme in criminal cases. More specifically, the confusion that has resulted in the Court's decision to declare the standing sentencing scheme unconstitutional. The coming terms will tell how this decision will affect the federal criminal justice system in the future.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Not So Free Information

It boils down to limiting the use of broadcast information by embedding it with a tag. The Broadcast Flag is a function of lobbiests jockeying for legislation that would allow the MPAA and RIAA to increase the strength of their relentless campaign against the average individual, freedom of information, and the interests of free speech. As the linked article above indicates, the federal courts have already demonstrated that the flag exceeds the constitutional power of the FCC to mandate that every television be capable of interpreting the flag. Interestingly enough, the legislation is coming before Congress for a mandate by the federal government.

Increases in personal technology allows the everyman to do much more than she or he could before. This includes record media transmissions. The first major manifestation was Napster. Now, advancements in video recording hardware and software have allowed access to video content in the same way. The Broadcast Flag aims to prevent this by limiting what information may or may not be recorded. Oddly, it only works with high definition television. Entities standing to benefit from this legislation could include the MPAA, the RIAA, any electronics manufacturer (your 3 year old HDTV will now be obsolete), Comcast (specifically their On-Demand business), and DVD rental establishments. It hurts the average person and the non-corporate visual and musical artists, and will annoy TIVO users. Why should the everyman be interested in this legislation? It will significantly inhibit your ability to exercise free speech by requiring a form of government intervention to determine whether or not you actually have a right to speak. It gives big business the ability to control what is said, who says it, and what method it is disseminated. Contact your Senators and tell them to prevent the creation of the broadcast flag.