Funny: In Florida, it's unlawful to have sex with a porcupine. Sad: In Russia, it's illegal to tell minors that gay people exist. (Sam O'Nella)
Texas passed a new regulation requiring "cremation or burial" of fetal tissue after a miscarriage or medical abortion, and to hear the lawmakers who passed this idiotic rule, this requires grieving women to dress up minute scraps of tissue in little funeral suits and stand contrite over a tiny casket while a clergyman excoriates them for disappointing god with their selfish uteruses. Read the rest
The evidence against tipping is voluminous and damning: it plunges workers into sub-subsistence wages, subjects woman servers to sexual harassment, encourages servers to deliver poor service to people of color (and old, young, and foreign people), incentivizes workers to take actions that harm the business (free drinks for big tippers!), and covers up a system of widespread criminal wage-fraud that lands disproportionately on the backs of workers who are already poor and marginalized. Read the rest
Howard Arthur Klein, 87, was nabbed in Grand rapids, Michigan for soliciting a prostitute. Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth decided not to pursue the matter, saying, "He wouldn't and shouldn't go to jail and 87 years without involvement in the criminal justice system has, in my opinion, earned him a pass." Read the rest
Jim Fouts, mayor of Warren, Michigan, has proposed a ban on flamethrowers.
Chris Byars, seen above, is CEO of Detroit-area flamethrower firm Ion Productions Team. He says that to automatically assume people will do stupid things with his company's products is "insulting and discriminatory." Read the rest
Banning the homeless from sleeping outside when they have nowhere else to sleep is unconstitutional, argues the United States Department of Justice in a statement of interest filed regarding a Boise, Idaho court case about an anti-camping ordinance. Read the rest
The state of Tennessee extended its "Good Samaritan law" this month, allowing people to smash a car window to save a dog from dying in a hot car.
“If you act reasonably, as any reasonable person would respond, you will not be at fault to save a life," says Nashville Fire Department Chief of Staff Mike Franklin. "You will not be at any fault to save a life and/or animals."
Apparently, acting "reasonably" includes first searching the for car's owner and calling police. I don't think I'd waste the time.
According to the Humane Society, "On an 85-degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. Your pet may suffer irreversible organ damage or die."
Yes, pinball is illegal in Oakland, California. But this week, the 80-year-old law, tied to anti-gambling ordinances, will be reversed. Read the rest
Senator Joe Manchin delivered a grandstanding, technologically clueless, facepalm-inducing request to the Treasury Department to ban Bitcoin. In response, Rep Jared Polis (who proudly wears Boing Boing tee-shirts in his spare time, and rocks some snazzy duds on the floor of Congress) wrote a mock-serious request for dollar bills to be removed from circulation, pointing out that practically every objection that Manchin raised over Bitcoin applies equally well to paper money. Read the rest
Mother Jones has published a heartbreaking story about the survivors of the Florida School for Boys; children who were, basically, kidnapped by southern cops and sent to a hellhole where backbreaking labor, torture, and murder were the order of the day. A state court has finally given the go-ahead to exhume the graves of the children who were killed and buried in anonymous, unmarked graves by their jailers. The survivors returned for a press-conference, but found themselves with almost no press to speak to.
Mike Mechanic writes, "Johnny Gaddy, 68, still doesn't understand how he landed at Florida's Dozier reform school. When he was 11, the police showed up at his front door. 'They told me the judge wanted to talk to me,' he recalls. 'I'll never forget it as long as I live. I was watching 'The Lone Ranger' on TV. My mama said, 'The officer going to take you down, the judge going to talk to you.' I said, 'Mama, why's he going to talk to me?' She said, 'Go ahead.' He took me to the police station, told me to get in a cell. I never saw a judge. I wasn't sentenced for anything as far as I know. I was handcuffed all the way to Marianna.' Read the rest
Sherwin from Public Knowledge writes, "The Copyright Office and the Library of Congress think that copyright law and the DMCA make it illegal to unlock your phone and take it to a new carrier. This is plainly ridiculous: a year ago, 114,000 Americans wrote the White House to tell them that, and the White House agreed. So did the FCC. And, eventually, so did the phone companies, who say they'll work to unlock most consumers' phones for them. But the law has stayed the same. It's still illegal for you, even if you've paid off your entire contract, to take it upon yourself to unlock your own phone." Read the rest
Popehat's Ken White (a former federal prosecutor) uses the arrest of alleged Silk Road founder Ross "Dread Pirate Roberts" Ulbricht to explain how the criminal justice system works, including the difference between a grand jury indictment and a criminal charge, and how to understand sentencing guidelines and "maximum possible sentences." It's a great way to use current events to deepen your understanding of important, complicated systems.
If you enjoy that, you should also check out Ed Felten's post that contrasts the Silk Road story with the shut down of Lavabit to explore how crypto does -- and doesn't -- change the criminal justice system. Read the rest
In Matot v. CH, et al, a middle school assistant principal named Adam Matot asked a court to find that two students who'd set up parody social media accounts mocking him had violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and when the court laughed that out the door, asked the court to find that the students had violated the RICO Act and were engaged in organized crime. Thankfully, the court understood that this was raw sewage disguised as legal theory [PDF] ("Congress did not intend to target the misguided attempts at retribution by juvenile middle school students against an assistant principal in enacting RICO.") and found for the kids. Here's some trenchant analysis from Venkat Balasubramani: Read the rest
Pity the British establishment. Like their American counterparts, they keep insisting -- against all evidence -- that they're winning the war on drugs, that drugs are an unimaginable scourge and far worse than tobacco or booze, and that the real problem is that we're not jailing enough addicts for long enough. Despite this, well-informed, respected people continue to publicly state that the war on drugs is a public health, economic, and legal disaster. Last time, it was UK Drugs Czar David Nutt, who called banning marijuana and psychedelics "the worst case of scientific censorship since the Catholic Church banned the works of Copernicus and Galileo" and wrote an amazing book about the awful state of drug policy.
Now, Mike Barton, Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary, one of the UK's most senior police officers, has published an editorial in the Observer comparing the war on drugs to the American alcohol prohibition of the 1920s and 1930s. He calls for drugs to be legalised, so that their sale will no longer fund criminal gangs, and for the NHS to distribute drugs -- including Schedule A drugs (cocaine, morphine, mescaline, LSD, oxycodone, psilocybe mushrooms, and many others). Read the rest
We've written often about Carl Malamud, the rogue archivist who has devoted his life to making the world's laws, standards, and publicly owned information into free, accessible, beautiful online documents. Now, I'm pleased to help him launch an ambitious, vital Kickstarter project aimed at raising at least $100,000 to turn the world's public safety codes into thoroughly linked, high-quality HTML documents (presently, many of the 28,040 public safety codes that Carl and public.resource.org have put online exist as scanned bitmaps that can't be searched or linked). The project involves a careful re-typing of all that scanned material and re-tracing of images and formatting them as vector-based SVG files.
Carl and his colleagues have fought in the courts for their right to publish the law that we, the people, are expected to follow. They have passed on lucrative careers in the private sector to devote themselves to public interest, public spirited work that makes the sourcecode for the world's governments available at our fingertips. The work they are doing unlocks untold billions in value -- from being able to ensure that your weekend DIY rewiring project meets code and won't burn down your house, all the way up to giving workers in deadly factories in Bangladesh access to the laws that are supposed to be honored in their workplaces.
$115 gets you a copy of their giant, amazing book of global safety standards, but there are interesting and awesome premiums at price-ranges from $10 (public acknowledgement on the Wall of Safety) to $475 (the Big Box of Propaganda!). Read the rest
In the Columbia Journalism Review, Sarah Laskow looks at the empirical research on whether, and how, copyright works. From Christopher Buccafusco et al's experimental work on the motivations for creative work to Paul Heald's work on copyright term-extension, which showed that the negative impact of extending copyright on most works -- as their copyright terms extended, they simply disappeared. Bill Patry's amazing How to Fix Copyright and James Boyle's wonderful The Public Domain both make a case for copyright policy as an "evidence-free zone," and this is a timely reminder of just how true that is. Read the rest