March 2010

You are browsing the site archives for March 2010.

I was skimming through an episode of Stossel on the subject of city management, particularly Cleveland city management, and at around 21:30 the chair of the Cleveland planning commission (attempting to justify her city’s bloated planning policy) says, “I’d hate to look up one day and see a strip club next to one of my day care centers.”

Curiously, she never explains why (and host John Stossel never asks). How exactly does it hurt a day care center to have a strip club next door? It’s not like strip clubs are filled with child molesters and perverts (unless you think wanting to see naked women is some kind of perversion). And even if strip clubs attract some creepy people, it’s not as if day care centers allow the kids in their care to wander the streets.

Also, you know who’d really like to have a day care center near a strip club? Strippers. Of course, it would have to have late hours…

Reading the latest at Not Guilty, I realized that my blogroll is a bit out of date, not in the least because Not Guilty isn’t on it. I have short descriptions for each blog in the list, so even for blogs I already have, I might have to change the description.

Let’s see, going through the categories…

Bloggy Goodness


Cataloguing every inch of our daily slide down the slippery slope towards a more totalitarian state.


Free markets and free minds.

I don’t need a link to Reason and Reason‘s blog. I’ll just keep Hit & Run. And I’ll put the spaces back in the name.

Virgina Postrel

Author, columnist, brings depth to the simplest subjects.

That doesn’t seem quite right. Maybe “Author, columnist, and famous kidney doner.”


Your basic working philosopher.

Lindsay Beyerstein has moved her blog to Big Think and renamed it Focal Point because she’s doing some video media now, and when you say Majikthise out loud, it sounds like she’s one of the less well-known Bond girls.

A Stitch in Haste

Kip Esquire, lawyer, investment banker, and full-time pop scholar.

These days Kip’s blog is just a digest of his daily twitting. I’ll let him stay a little longer, but with the description “Kip Esquire, mad twitterer.”

War on Drugs

Vice Squad

Vice, in all its forms.

Jim Leitzel’s blog has stopped publication. Out it goes.

Last One Speaks

Injustice in the war on drugs.

Libby seems to have changed the thrust of her blog since I wrote that description. I’ll change it to her tag line (“A complicated woman with simple tastes”) and move it out of the drug war section.

Vigil for Lost Promise

A counterweight to the DEA’s exploitive site.

The link was bad. It now goes to Pete Guither’s site.


The So-Called “Austin Mayor” Blog

Just a tad to the left of my usual tastes, but always very interesting.

This blog has stopped publication.


There should be lots of changes in this section.

26th St. Bar Association

Chicago criminal defense.

This blog seems dead, so I’m going to remove it, despite the hope it brings that a Chicago crimlaw blogger will emerge.


A big, goofy, ballcap-wearing prosecutor who even likes dogs.

Lammers remakes himself every month or so, so I should probably change that description…but to what?

Blonde Justice

Funny stories about criminal defense.

Blondie doesn’t post much any more, but she stays, because she’s Blonde Justice.

Crime & Federalism

Legal analysis and bitching about federalism issues.

Not so much with the federalism lately.

Seeking Justice

Tom McKenna, Virginia prosecutor on a mission from God.

It keeps getting crazier, but that’s still a good description.

Woman of the Law

Defendin’, datin’, drinkin’.

The blog may be shutting down, but she’s a fun read so she stays for a little longer.

Prosecutor Post-Script

Sarena Straus, author and former Bronx D.A.

This blog seems dead, so I’m removing it.

Iowa Champion

Iowa criminal defense

This blog seems dead, so I’m removing it.


Bird Flu Breaking News

A bird flu news and blog aggregator.

Okay…I can safely remove this.

Citizen ICAM

Map of recent criminal activity in Chicago.

Link broke. It’s history.

CIA World Factbook

A brief summary about every nation.

It moved, so I changed the link.

That wraps up all the changes. Now for all the new additions to the blogroll…

First, there’s Mirriam

Not Guilty

A lawyer in search of a clue.

That was my summary back when she couldn’t decide what kind of work she wanted to do. It stays until I can think of something better.

Second, Norm’s back. Wait, let me check…yes, he hasn’t taken this one down in a fit of…Norm…yet, so the link goes back up with the same description as last time:

Norm Pattis

Norm will fight for you!

Now for the truly new blogs on the roll. In the legal section:

Gamso – For the Defense

An Ohio criminal defense lawyer

I’d love to think of something better, but I haven’t read enough yet.

Crime and Consequences Blog

Because we’re just not punishing people enough

Criminal Defense

It’s like a criminal defense blog, but from Florida

D.A. Confidential

Making prosecutors seem just like normal lawyers

Graham Lawyer Blog

Interesting writing about the law.

The Matlock Blog

Young Shawn Matlock discusses criminal law in Texas and beyond

He’s not really “Young” Shawn anymore according to Greenfield, but I’ve got nothing else.

New York Personal Injury Law Blog

Better than you’d think from the SEO-friendly name

West Virginia Criminal Law Blog

Also better than you’d think from the SEO-friendly name

South Carolina Criminal Defense Blog

And one more that’s better than you’d think from the SEO-friendly name

It’s your fault I can’t come up with better descriptions.

I’m also adding a new section for geeky computer stuff which includes the following blogs:

The Daily WTF

Crazy stories about bad things inside computer software and how they got there.


Extremely geeky comics

Google Blogoscoped

Smart writing about search engine technology.

And it’s about time I collected up a few economics blogs:

Steven Landsburg

The Armchair Economist

Greg Mankiw’s Blog

Aurhor of the most popular macroeconomics textbook

Marginal Revolution

The margins are where everything happens

Megan McArdle

Business and economics

Then under Media, I’ll add

Roger Ebert’s Journal

A great writer and a useful film critic.

And under photography, I really ought to include these guys:


How to light everything in the world with speedlights

I think that will do for now.

One of the most disgusting aspects of the current economic unpleasantness is the way our local governments have betrayed us. Instead of tightening the belts like the rest of us, they’ve been trying to find new ways to squeeze money out of us to meet their bloated payrolls.

Here in Illinois, the cost of license plate stickers has gone up $21. No reason for it, they just need to squeeze us a little more.

And the city of Chicago is installing hundreds of new traffic cameras. They even have a plan to use them to find uninsured motorists so they can collect millions of dollars in fines. They’re not even pretending it’s about safety any more.

Daisy Nguyen has more in an AP wire story:

LOS ANGELES — Shomari Jennings was willing to pay the $70 ticket he received for driving without a seatbelt, but not the slew of tacked-on fees and penalties that ballooned the cost more than tenfold.

Every $10 of his base fine triggered a $26 “penalty assessment” for courthouse construction, a DNA identification program, emergency medical services and other programs. Other fees ranged from $1 to $35.

“It’s the new tax,” Jennings, 30, complained while waiting in traffic court to contest a staggering bill compounded by a $500 fine for missing a court date.

It’s not just Chicago and L.A. either:

In Iowa, lawmakers grappling with shortfalls in the state’s public safety budget are exploring ways to increase fines for traffic violations. There’s a proposal in Maryland to add a $7.50 charge to traffic fines to help pay for law enforcement and fire protection equipment.

I’ve got an idea, how about if Iowa pays for law enforcement and fire protection out of their general revenue like they’re supposed to! Lawmakers always like to tie new taxes to important things — education is another big one — to make it harder for people to argue against the taxes, as if there weren’t tons of other less-critical services they could cut. (Or, you know, stop wasting money on victimless crimes. I’m just sayin’.) I mean, what the fuck are Iowans paying their taxes for if not police and fire?

Naturally, California is the most fucked up:

Last year, lawmakers agreed to a budget deal that nearly doubled the vehicle license fee that owners pay when they register their cars every year. The fee rose from .65 percent of a vehicle’s value to 1.15 percent. A significant portion of the revenue goes to the state’s general fund, and the rest to local crime prevention programs.

This year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suggested retrofitting 500 city and county traffic cameras to cite not only drivers who blow through red lights but speeders, too. The state, facing a $20 billion deficit, would collect 85 percent of the money, using the projected $338 million to help pay for courts and court security.

This, on the other hand, has a certain poetry to it: 

State Sen. Jenny Oropeza, however, has introduced legislation prohibiting local governments from collecting and keeping traffic fines.

[Los Angeles city councilman Dennis] Zine argues that the city pays for the cameras as well as training and equipping police.

“The state collects a majority of the fine for doing nothing when we’re burdened with all the responsibilities,” he said.

Welcome to the party, pal. That’s exactly how a lot of us feel about our income taxes.

The people who run our city and state governments have betrayed us when we needed help the most. Come election time, lets make them pay.

(Hat tip: Radley Balko.)

I was reading Mark Bennett’s account of the long and winding road that lead to the U.S. Supreme Court granting a stay of execution for Hank Skinner, a Texas man who’s claiming that some untested DNA evidence might prove him innocent. It’s a fascinating procedural tale, if you’re into that sort of thing, which I’m not.

But one thing Bennett wrote really sticks out:

If the State is ordered to provide the evidence for testing and that ruling is upheld, the DNA gets tested. If it is exculpatory, it’s not entirely clear what Skinner’s remedy is. As I previously noted, factual innocence is not itself grounds for reversal of a death sentence. It has to be coupled with a constitutional violation like ineffective assistance of counsel (but here Skinner’s trial counsel has blocked an IAC claim by saying that the decision not to seek testing of the DNA was a strategic one) or prosecutorial misconduct.

I’ve noticed this sort of thing before. Some new test becomes available, or the victim recants, or someone else makes a credible confession to the crime, and suddenly the lawyers are hard at work. But it’s a funny kind of work…

You’d think the lawyers would just go into court and file some sort of  “motion to examine new evidence” or a “writ of errorneous fact finding” or something like that, but there’s no such thing. Only the original trial court can examine the facts of the case, and once it has determined that the facts point to guilt, no other court can change that determination. The only way to get the courts to examine new evidence or reconsider a factual decision is to find some legal basis for throwing out the entire original trial.

So the defense lawyers end up casting about for some legal hook that will get them a retrial. Maybe they accuse the defendant’s previous lawyer of being legally ineffective, or maybe they accuse the prosecutor of misconduct. Quite often they try to find some ruling by the original trial judge which they can appeal. In any case, the legal basis for the appeal is essentially a pretext to get the factual issue back before the court.

This is an ridiculous situation. Our court system apparently has no simple, honest method of dealing with the possibility that a criminal court followed all the correct procedures and — perhaps due to facts unavailable at the time — still reached an erroneous conclusion.

So the lawyers end up hoping to find either an actual error by the original court (which has not already been denied during an earlier appeal) or at least something that looks enough like an error that a sympathetic judge who knows the real situation will throw out the original case. Or if that doesn’t happen, maybe the governor will step in with a pardon and relieve the court of the embarassment of going through this charade.

I’m sure I’m oversimplifying, but isn’t this an absurd way to run a justice system? Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but if I’m convicted of murder, and one day later the victim turns up alive and well (“Huh? What? I was just in my mountain cabin writing my novel…”) won’t my lawyers be scrambling to find a legal basis for an appeal instead simply confronting the court with the fact that the crime never happened?

In the movies and on television, bank robbers are daring and audacious. After storming the bank in a blitz attack that stuns the guards, they force the bank manager to empty the vault while they raid the teller drawers. All the while, one of them yells out a precise two-minute countdown that will allow them to escape before the police respond.

In real life, bank robbers are mostly kind of dopey. You’d expect that, since the thought process behind most bank robberies goes something like this:

  • I want money.
  • Banks have money.
  • I’ll rob a bank.

This is why there are so many stories about robbers who can’t think of any other bank to rob besides the one they use, where everybody knows them, and they write their demands to the teller on one of their own deposit slips.

Gideon points us to the latest development in dumb bank robberies:

Two accused bank robbers might have just been trying to save time when they called ahead and demanded that the bank have the cash ready when they got there. But placing and order for cash didn’t get them far.   

Albert Bailey, 27, and a 16-year-old, both from Bridgeport, called People’s United Bank on Stratfield Road about 10 minutes before they came to rob it on Tuesday afternoon, the Connecticut Post reports.

“You can’t make this stuff up,” Sgt. James Perez, Fairfield police spokesman, told the Post. “They literally called the bank and said to have the bag of money ready on the floor because they’re coming to rob the place.”

Then, true to their word, they showed up – just as police were coming to greet them.

Gideon wants us to decide what sort of sentence these two clowns deserve.

In my latest piece for When Falls the Coliseum, I try to explain why we work, and it’s not for the money.

To be honest, I kind of rushed this piece out to meet my self-imposed goal of posting something on WFTC every week. It’s really not very good. I wouldn’t read it if I were you.

I just got my 2010 Census form in the mail. I assume some of you got one too. You may have noticed that the cover letter includes the following paragraph:

This is your official 2010 Census form. We need your help to count everyone in the United States by providing basic information about all the people living in this house or apartment. Please complete and mail back the enclosed census form today.

Today, huh? So, you take a look at the form, which seems otherwise well designed, and this is the first question you see:

How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment, or mobile home on April 1, 2010?

Uh, that’s just over two weeks in the future, so what should you put down? At first, you’re tempted to guess, but a piece of the federal Census law in 13 U.S.C. 221 says:

(b) Whoever, when answering questions described in subsection (a) of this section, and under the conditions or circumstances described in such subsection, willfully gives any answer that is false, shall be fined not more than $500.

Or if that doesn’t seem harsh enough, there’s always 18 U.S.C. 1001:

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully–

(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;
(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or
(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;

shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both. If the matter relates to an offense under chapter 109A, 109B, 110, or 117, or section 1591, then the term of imprisonment imposed under this section shall be not more than 8 years.

(emphasis mine)

Now I’ve never heard of anyone getting five years in Leavenworth for lying on a census form, but do you really want to take that chance?

Let’s put it this way: If you’re a financial executive, and a frustrated federal prosecutor has been wasting thousands of investigative hours trying to launch his political career by indicting you for the entire bank meltdown, and you’re looking at your census form…call your lawyer first.

Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice has a long-running debate with the Volokh Conspiracy‘s Orin Kerr over how search and seizure laws should apply in the digital world. Briefly, Kerr advocates what he calls a “technology neutral” approach, in which we try to create a mapping between real world concepts and their digital analogs in order to apply centuries of real-world search and seizure jurisprudence to the digital world. Greenfield sees several problems with that:

Given that emails and other electronic communications are our future, and given that the means by which they are transmitted will never eliminate the involvement of third parties and the maintenance of copies on somebody’s equipment somewhere, are we satisfied to be arguing over the arrangement of deck chairs on the Titanic…?  Unless we develop a brand new approach to the future of communications, that does not rely on hard copy precedent and recognizes that people want to have a secure means of communication available to them in the future (and the future is a very long time), we’re watching the death of privacy in our own communications happen before our eyes.

This does not meet my reasonable expectation of privacy.  We need to rethink the approach, start to finish, to deal with the digital world and whether we will have any privacy whatsoever in our future communications.  How about a simple new rule: Emails are private communications and require a warrant upon probable cause as determined by a neutral magistrate?

I’m with Greenfield, mostly because I like the outcome of greater privacy. I think Kerr’s argument is going to win the day, however, because applying past law to present situations is what courts do. Radical change is the legislature’s job, and I just can’t see our current Congress giving a damn about our privacy.

To get an idea of the issues, check out Kerr’s lastest post on a sticky issue regarding just how and when people have Fourth Amendment rights in an email message: Eleventh Circuit Decision Largely Eliminates Fourth Amendment Protection in E-Mail.

I can’t help feeling, however, that there’s a technological issue both sides are missing. Kerr just barely mentions it in passing (emphasis mine):

The Fourth Amendment ordinarily protects postal mail and packages during delivery.  The same rule applies to both government postal mail and private delivery companies like UPS:  As soon as the sender drops off the mail in the mailbox, both the sender and recipient enjoy Fourth Amendment protection in the contents of the mail during delivery.  When the mail is delivered to the recipient, the sender loses his Fourth Amendment protection: The Fourth Amendment rights are transfered solely to the recipient.  In practice, this works pretty simply:  Each party has Fourth Amendment protection in the mail when they’re in possession of it, and both the sender and receiver have Fourth Amendment rights in the contents of the mail when the postal service or private mail carrier is holding the mail on their mutual behalf.

I should be clear that there are exceptions to these rules.  For example, if a person sends a letter in what the Postal Service used to call “Fourth Class” mail — that is, mail that the Postal Service reserves the right to open — then it is not protected by the Fourth Amendment.  See, e.g.,   Also, the Fourth Amendment protection only applies to the contents of the communication, not the outside.   But the basic approach has governed postal mail privacy for a long time.

The highlighted clause in the above paragraph is what I’m talking about. When we send postal mail, we consider the contents private, but we expect lots of people to see the outside of the envelope. Whe it comes to email, it’s usually considered to have an envelope too, in that information controlling the delivery — most prominently the recipient email address — is not generally considered part of the message.

The problem is that this division of an email message into envelope and letter is a fiction perpetrated by our email software. An email message in transit — whether held on a server traveling over a wire — is just an undifferentiated chunk of data. Once someone gets that data, both the envelope and the letter lay open to them. Unlike a real-world envelope, an email envelope doesn’t really protect anything.

In other words, as Phil Zimmerman has pointed out, email isn’t like sending a letter, it’s like sending a postcard. And who in their right mind would have any expectation of privacy in a postcard?

I believe that, regardless of the law, if we want privacy in our email, we’re going to have to start sending our email in envelopes that actually protect the contents. Such envelopes already exist, and they’ve been around for years. In fact, the aforementioned Phil Zimmerman invented one of the most famous ones. But for some reason, we hardly ever use them.

I’m talking, of course, about encrypting our email.

The whole issue of just how and when government agents can access copies of email in the hands of a third party would be far less important if all they could get out of it was a meaningless block of encrypted data.

There was a time when cryptographic software was complex and available only to the military and large corporations. But Phil Zimmerman changed all that when he released his PGP software, which featured near-military-grade encryption. Such high-quality encryption took a lot of computing power, so people were reluctant to use it. Since then, however, computing power has become dirt-cheap, and encryption has become commonplace on the internet. Every time you access a web URL that begins with “https:” your communication with that site is protected by some of the most secure encryption every created.

Yet, as a society, we don’t use encryption for email. I don’t understand it. And the fact that I don’t use it either doesn’t help me understand why it hasn’t caught on. I’ve had PGP on my computers for years, yet I doubt I’ve sent or received more than two dozen PGP-encrypted messages. And half of those were the equivalent of “I’ve just installed PGP, can you read this?”

Encryption can be a difficult technology, but we’ve solved so many other problems on the internet, so why is email encryption so hard? Why don’t more email clients support encryption? Google recently announced that they’ve turned on gmail encryption, but they’re just talking about communications between your browser and their data center; the end-to-end message is still in the clear. Why doesn’t Microsoft Outlook have built-in PGP encryption instead of a random collection of third-party certificates? Or if PGP isn’t the answer, why hasn’t a better answer emerged?

And why hasn’t more infrastructure emerged for distributing encryption keys? I have a PGP key, and you can send me encrypted email if you want. There’s a link to my public PGP key in the right-hand sidebar. But you’d have to have PGP installed, and you’d have to right-click and download the key and install it in your keyring. It’s weird: The HTML standard has a built-in tag to indicate an email address, but not a built-in way to pass along a public encryption key for that address.

I’d think a social networking site like Facebook would be great for distributing public keys, but the built-in profiles don’t include encryption keys. There’s a third-party application called Keystore that can hold a PGP key, but it has only 35 active users.

It’s a mystery to me. Why don’t more people encrypt their email? If it were up to me, everything I sent would be encrypted just on principle. But it’s not up to me, because most of the people I email haven’t given me their PGP keys. Maybe everybody else is in the same boat. But then nobody was on Facebook before everybody was on Facebook. Nobody was on Twitter until everybody was on Twitter.

Nobody encrypts their email until…it’s been almost 20 years now, so I don’t know.

When Falls the Coliseum is a way-cool group blog run by Scott Stein. I know its cool because (1) an earlier version of the site had posts and comments just like a blog even though it launched in 1999 and had to be administered by hand because nobody had written blogging software yet, (2) Nick Gillespie likes it, and (3) I’m now one of the contributors to it.

My first piece is up. It’s about why government spending is worse for the economy than taxing.

A few days ago, the fine folks at Popehat explained why they want to kick a harmless German immigrant family out of the country. The Popehat guys seem like nice folks, so I assume they don’t mean it the way it sounds, ’cause it sounds pretty bad.

The Romeike family didn’t like the way the public schools taught their children, and so they wanted to homeschool them. Unfortunately, the Romeikes lived in Germany, which doesn’t allow homeschooling. I have my doubts about the motives of a lot of homeschoolers, but the justifications coming from German officialdom are not to be taken seriously:

In Germany, mandatory school attendance dates back to 1717, when it was introduced in Prussia, and the policy has traditionally been viewed as a social good. “This law protects children,” says Josef Kraus, president of the German Teachers’ Association.

That sounds nice, but the president of the German Teachers’ Association is not exactly a disinterested party. I’m pretty sure he likes this law because it protects teacher jobs.

Homeschooling parents tend to want to shield their children from negative influences. But this quest often runs counter to the idea that schools represent society and help promote tolerance. “No parental couple can offer a breadth of education [that can] replace experienced teachers,” says Kraus, of the German Teachers’ Association. “Kids also lose contact with their peers.”

I tend to agree that contact with ones peers is a good thing, but Kraus is glossing over the ugly way these laws can be enforced:

In 2007, Germany’s Federal Supreme Court issued a ruling – which did not specifically involve the Romeikes – that parents could lose custody of their children if they continued to homeschool them.

In other words, the German government thinks the breadth of education and opportunities to socialize at school are more important than keeping families together. If losing contact with their peers is bad for kids, how much worse is it to be torn from their parents?

In any case, the Romeikes family decided to leave Germany and go someplace nicer. They came to the United States, but they did it in an unusual way: They requested political asylum. And they got it.

This outrages Ezra at Popehat for reasons that seem rather petty:

The issue here, is one of scale. How about instead of applying for political asylum you move? Home schooling is perfectly fine in neighboring Austria, and if you are (as you say) really concerned about the impact of culture on your kids Austria would be far less jarring in every way to them.

What puzzles me is that the Romeikes did exactly what Ezra suggested: They moved. Granted, they didn’t move to Austria as Ezra suggested, they came here to the United States instead. Perhaps they felt our culture was better than Austria’s, at least for raising their children. Ezra never explains why he thinks that moving to the United States is bad but moving to Austria is okay. Is it just that Austria is closer?

Ezra then descends into what is almost a parody of a resentful liberal:

Apparently, the Romeike’s were contacted by a US home school advocacy group, and encouraged to seek asylum here. Hmm. That doesn’t seem political at all. I wonder how the religious right would feel if a Salvadoran family applied for asylum under the same pretense? I guarantee you that [our] inherently racist immigration policies would make it a lot more difficult than it was for the German family. Or how about a gay man legally married in the US? Nope, but let the German family in right away.

In other words, Ezra is arguing that it’s unfair to allow these people to enter the country while other people—who I presume Ezra finds more likeable—are still barred from entering.

Although I have no doubt that it’s unfair, the injustice here is not that the Romeikes were allowed to enter the United States, but that all those other people were turned away. Ezra wants to champion fairness, but it sounds a lot more like envy, which is a poor basis for public policy.

The bottom line is that this is a gross misuse of the political asylum statutes.

No, the bottom line is that a family was unhappy with where they were living, so they moved to someplace they liked better, and now unkind people want to send them back. It helps to remember that homeshooling is completely legal here, but in Germany the government wants to take their children away. If that isn’t grounds for asylum, what is?

They should be used for people who are in genuine danger, and who do not have the means to extricate themselves from this danger, not for a family that could easily have moved to several Euro countries that are ok with home schooling instead of engaging in political grandstanding.

What’s the logic here? Once they leave Germany, what’s the basis in moral theory for preferring they settle in one country over another? Is it really just the length of the trip? Arguably, it’s less trouble for us if they settle elsewhere, but everyone living elsewhere can make the same argument. If they had gone to live in Austria, couldn’t there be some hacked-off Austrians complaining that they should have gone to the U.S. instead?

And by the same logic—that other opportunities are available—bigots could argue that gay people don’t need to marry because they have civil unions, and black people don’t need to get into our favorite restaurant because there are so many other places they could go. These people want to live here. And as long as they pay their way and don’t commit crimes against us, who the hell are we to tell them “no”?

I’ll end with the good news that the US will likely appeal the asylum, and hopefully the family will have their asylum revoked, and be forced to return to the tyrannical regime they fled, the German school district.

Ezra’s evident glee at forcing this family to relocate is disturbing, and it’s not helped by the article’s explanation of the asylum appeal:

The ruling is tricky politically for Washington and its allies in Europe, where several countries – including Spain and the Netherlands – allow homeschooling only under exceptional circumstances, such as when a child is extremely ill. That helps explain why in late February, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement formally appealed the Romeike ruling, which was issued by an immigration judge in Memphis, Tenn…

“It’s very unusual for people from Western countries to be granted asylum in the U.S.,” says David Piver, an immigration attorney with offices in a Philadelphia suburb and Flagstaff, Ariz. In 2008, the most recent year for which data are available, only five Germans received asylum in the U.S. (The Justice Department declined to comment on specific cases.) Piver, who is not involved in the Romeike case, predicted the U.S. government would appeal the decision “so as not to offend a close ally.”

In other words, the asshats at Immigration and Customs Enforcement are selling out this family in the interest of international politics. Yet another reason why our immigration laws deserve no respect.

The blog comments at Popehat aren’t very encouraging. Patrick, another Popehat blogger, tries to come to Ezra’s defense:

I don’t see any inconsistency between supporting broader legal immigration (as Ezra does) and opposing a gross misuse of laws presently on the books (which I agree this is), nor with the observation that INS and ICE frequently apply the law in a racist fashion. These people should be sent back to Germany.

And Ezra again:

Again, my problem isn’t with home schooling per se (although I think it’s a bad idea, much like being a fan of Creed it’s a personal choice..) it’s with this family abusing the political asylum statutes. Political asylum is for people with no other recourse.

Again, you can’t tell me that there is any reason the German family should have been let in, and the Brazilian man not let in. Other than blatant racism of course. 

I’m sure that racism was involved, but the racist discrimination here is in keeping the Brazilian man out. Letting a German family emmigrate to the United States, if they want to, is not a racist act.

What it comes down to is that a family came to the United States because they like it here. But now that they’re here, some people want to kick them out of their home, uproot them from their community, and deport the from the country. And the only reasons offered for treating them so cruelly are that they didn’t suffer enough back home, that they came from too far away, and that they twisted our absurd immigration laws…plus a rather unattractive bit of envy.

I don’t know anything else about Jim Gray, but this is about as good an explanation as I’ve ever seen of how the War on Drugs fails so badly:


Well, the Academy Awards were last night, and I’m sure all the trendy ironic folks will be making the usual comments about Hollywood self-congratulation, but I mostly enjoyed it. I like movies, and I think good filmmaking deserves to be honored.

I do have one nit to pick, however, with the movie montage they showed as part of their salute to horror movies. Less than halfway through it, I noticed that they were showing a lot of scenes from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. And then I noticed that they kept coming back to Psycho and The Exorcist and the Elm Street series and I started wondering… Was the Academy’s horror montage put together by people who didn’t really know much about horror films?

I think so. I’m hardly a scholar of horror films, and I haven’t gone over the montage in slow motion, so maybe a missed a few, but it seems like the anonymous editors of this montage certainly left out a lot of the horror genre.

To start with, the only zombies I saw were from maybe a one-second clip of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. There’s a huge sub-genre of zombie films that they completely missed. They didn’t even include Dawn of the Dead, or Return of the Living Dead or Re-Animator, let alone modern takes like 28 Days Later or Shaun of the Dead.

It’s a little shocking. I mean, I can understand how they might leave out horror specialist films like Videodrome or  C.H.U.D., but where were Scanners and Invasion of the Body Snatchers? How about The Thing? The Howling? The Dead Zone? Altered States? Any version of The Fly?

Where were Fright Night and Arachnophobia, and the Twilight Zone movie? What about Creepshow and Pumpkinhead and Near Dark? Where were Seven, and Final Destination, and The Lost Boys? Why didn’t we see any piece of the incredible Phantasm series?

It’s a truism that Hollywood has always slighted horror films, but last night they managed the amazing feat of slighting horror films in the middle of a montage honoring horror films…

And for fuck’s sake, how the hell do you leave out Evil Dead?