- Hust v. Phillips (can a prison librarian be held personally liable for not allowing an inmate to use a binding machine for his Supreme Court brief?)
- Kentucky v. Leach, et ux. (do police knocking on a back door for an interview violate the Fourth Amendment?)
- The Long Island Savings Bank, FSB, et al. v. United States (is a federal common law government contract voided if it was formed based on a misrepresentation?)
- Bussell v. United States (is it possible to convict a defendent for making a false statement when it was in response to an ambiguous government question and when the defendant believed that it was truthful?)
- Kay v. United States (must an indictment that leaves out an element of an offense be dismissed?)
- Wilcox v. United States, ex rel. Stoner (can an officer considered a 'person' under the Federal Claims Act be held liable as an individual for acts done in an official capacity?)
- City and County of San Francisco, et al. v. Rodis (can police officers be held personally liable for arresting someone who employees of a store thought had passed a counterfeit bill, though the bill turned out to be genuine?)
- Owens v. Kentucky (do police violate the Fourth Amendment by frisking someone whose companion is being arrested, based solely on that fact?)
Sep 29, 2008
This past weekend, a group of friends and I went to a bar to listen to two fantastic bands. The first, a strange combination of banjo, guitar, and kora, was unbelievable. The banjo player, Jayme Stone, went to Mali to study the west African origins of the banjo. He apparently met a Mali guy named Mansa Sissoko, and they began to sing. Together, they've done an album called Africa to Appalchia. It's well worth a listen. The second band was from Sweden and was composed of three guys, one on the viola, one on the guitar, and one on the nyckelharpa. They were called "Väsen" and played a bunch of polskas for us. Afterward, they hung out and talked with people; random note, Swedes are huge (at least these three--the shortest one was at least 6'2"). I highly recommend the music and the experience for anyone interested random ethnic tunes.
Sep 27, 2008
Reconsideration respects democratic processes. Without rehearing, there will be no practical way for our polity to demonstrate, now or in the future, that this Court’s reading of the Eighth Amendment was incorrect. Legislation will be impossible; opponents can, in good faith, point to this Court’s June decision as evidence that proponents are acting unconstitutionally in violation of their Oath...“[w]hen asked to encroach on the legislative prerogative [the Court is] well counseled to proceed with the utmost reticence.” Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238, 431 (1972) (Powell, J., dissenting).
Sep 22, 2008
Also, be aware that the first oral argument will be held on October 6.
Host: Washington Legal FoundationDate: Tuesday, September 16 at 9:00
a.m.Location: Washington Legal FoundationMore information: Click herePanelists:
Thornburg, K&L Gates (moderator)
Sri Srinivasan, O’Melveny &
J. Scott Ballenger, Latham & Watkins
Cato InstituteDate: Wednesday, September 17 from 3:45 to 5:00 p.m.Location: Cato
InstituteMore information: Click here (see panel 4 of
Constitution Day program). Annual “Supreme Court Review” publication available here.Panelists:
Tom Goldstein, SCOTUSblog
Eugene Scalia, Gibson
Bradford Berenson, Sidley Austin
Georgetown University Law CenterDate: Tuesday, September 22 from 8:30 a.m. to
11:00 a.m.Location: Gewirtz Student Center, 12th floorMore information: Click here.Panelists (all Georgetown
Host: National Chamber
Litigation CenterDate: Tuesday, September 23 at 8:30 a.m.Location: U.S. Chamber
of CommerceMore information: This event is for members of the media. To
RSVP, contact Sheldon Gilbert at 202-463-5337 or email@example.com.Panelists:
Conrad, National Chamber Litigation Center (moderator)
Paul Clement, former
U.S. Solicitor General
Seth Waxman, former U.S. Solicitor
Host: American Constitution SocietyDate:
Wednesday, September 24 from 12 to 2 p.m.Location: National Press ClubMore
information: Click here Panelists:
Preet Bansal, Skadden
Debo Adegbile, NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Morrison & Foerster
Walter E. Dellinger, O’Melveny & Myers
Kerr, George Washington University Law School
David Vladeck, Georgetown
University Law Center
Host: William & Mary School
of LawDate: September 26-27Location: William & Mary School of LawMore
information: Click herePanelists: (listed
at above link)
Host: American Civil Liberties
UnionDate: Thursday, October 2 at 8:30 a.m.Location: Washington Court HotelMore
information: Click herePanelists:
Shapiro, ACLU Legal Director
Jonathan Hafetz, ACLU National Security
Chris Hansen, ACLU First Amendment Working Group
McDonald, ACLU Voting Rights Project
Sep 17, 2008
Here's the deal. U.S. Treasury securities (in common parlance, bonds) are issued by the U.S. government. They come in many variants, but here are the main three: Treasury bills (which mature in one year or less), Treasury notes (two to ten years), and Treasury bonds (ten to thirty years). There is also the inflation-adjusted bond, but that doesn't matter so much here. Now, bonds are sold by the government to raise money. They pay a certain (usually non-adjustable) interest rate over a period of time. At the end of that time, they mature and stop earning interest. You then present the bond to your local bank, and they cash it in for you using a handy chart provided by the feds (an exciting activity that I used to do as a local bank teller). If you cash it in early, you don't get the fully matured amount. Your grandparents probably own a lot of bonds or gave you a lot of bonds when you were growing up. They often earn good interest in the long run (assuming inflation stays low), and they can keep stupid teenagers from buying an iPod instead of paying for college or a house.
Well, then, what does this all mean, and why is it relevant in any way to the current financial situation? Good question. The Treasury likes to sell its securities. People like to buy them. Then, as enterprising entrepreneurs, they like to sell them on the open market. Right now, people want to play it safe with their money, which means that short-term bond rates have been pushed very low (as you can see here). It makes sense. More people want bonds because they are a safer investment than volatile stocks (still with me?). That means demand for bonds increases. Those with bonds, who also want safe investments, basically say to those who want to buy their bonds: "will you pay me this super-low rate for my safe investment? You won't make much, but it will be safe. How low are you willing to go for it?" Rates (the interest for the bond) drop. Bonds become less appealing. Demand levels out to a nice, comfy equilibrium.
That's how it works. But what are the practical effects? Treasury bonds are safe investments, remember? They are backed up by the government, which doesn't default (even when trillions of dollars in debt). The problem, however, is that by buying the government bonds, investors are moving away from company bonds (or company debt) and company stocks, since they don't trust the company on the return. For today's example, AIG got too involved in the suprime market; they insured homes against default (meaning that they agreed to pay the company with the insurance policy if the people holding their mortgages couldn't pay). Oops! Suddenly, people are defaulting on their (out of their means expensive) homes. The financiers are trying to cash in on their insurance policies. AIG doesn't have enough money on hand to cover it. What do they do? They try to sell bonds, asking investors to temporarily trust the company and give it money, which will be returned with interest in the future. Problem is, no one had trusted AIG to keep running and making money (at least in the short-term), so they said "no thanks, AIG. I'll go to a safer investment." Ta-da! Government bond demand goes up, interest rates are driven down. Effectively, investors would rather trust the government right now than the finance company.
So, in the end, what does it mean? It means that people want to run under the umbrella of the government because it keeps out all the rain. It means that people don't want to invest in companies because they perceive those companies as struggling. It means that I'm glad that I have no stake in any of these financial firms.
Try it out here!
So, happy birthday, you lovely old document. Thanks for forming a more perfect union, establishing justice, ensuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defence [sic], promoting the general welfare, and establishing the blessings of liberty on us, your posterity. It's been a bumpy ride, but I think you've handled the road pretty well thus far.
Good links on Constitution Day here, here, and here.
Sep 14, 2008
Sep 12, 2008
1. The Piano Hinge
The top of the desk was all fastened on, including the bar that will hold it up at an angle and the light fixture. Here are two views, from the back and from the front. We needed to attach that top onto the body of the desk. First, we had to cut down the hinge from the original 3' to about 28". Using the router, we took out a roughly 1/16" deep and 1/4" thick strip along the front edge of the desk. We did the same thing to the bottom of the desktop (on the front side...I hope that makes sense). We then drilled the hinge in, top and bottom. The routing does a good job of hiding much of the hinge itself. Once it is attached, the desktop should hinge from the front (meaning that the back should lift up), leaving you with an angled drawing surface.
Here it is at this point:
II. The Light
Once the desktop and the body were attached, we could finally wire-up the light. We had already attached the light fixture itself to the bar on the back of the desktop. We decided that the switch would be a little off-center (to the left) behind the front of the desk body. We first hammered in the electrical housing (the blue plastic thing) and proceeded to attach the wires. We determined that it had been done wrong the first three times when we killed the circuit for a room in my house three times in a row. A simple Google search to here gave us exactly what we needed. Apparently, you shouldn't attach both the white and black wires to the switch. Only the black one. The white from the switch attaches straight to the other white wire on the end of the cord. After playing with it a little, we got it hooked up, and we finally got the light to run without throwing the circuit breaker, and here it is:
At this point, we were effectively done with the actual 'desk' part. A few finishing touches remained, but all the really hard work was done. All that was left was the disc.
III. The Disc
At this point, we had two circular pieces of aspen: one that was 16 1/2" in diameter, and one that was 18" in diameter. Something very handy is the fact that the smaller one came from cutting the hole out of the desktop. This will come in handy later. For now, simply put that one to the side.
We took the bigger circle and spent a lot of time and sweat in curving the top edge with some heavy sandpaper (followed by a round of the fine stuff) (see picture). This circle is the one that holds the plexiglass and the bars, so my arm would be resting on it a lot. I wanted a smooth edge for that. Once it was sufficiently sanded down, we took the 16 1/2" circle. We centered it on the larger circle and attached it about an inch from the top and an inch from the bottom. We then measured out a 10.5"x13" rectangle, centered to the center of the circles. That size works well--it allows me to use 10f and 12f paper (which is good enough for me, in all my amateur-ness). Using the jigsaw, we cut through both circles. Now, on the back of the disc, you should have two curved pieces. These will fit into the hole on the desktop, and once sufficiently sanded down, should allow the disc to rotate freely. Put a few more screws into those pieces to make sure they are secure.
When that had been cut using the jigsaw, we pulled out our good friend, the router. One note: be very careful when using a router. My dad hates the thing (so I graciously let him take the lead this time around), and my roommate's dad lost a finger to his router while working on a project.
We were almost done with the disc. The last step (if you want) is to bore a 1/2" diameter hole through the disc (about 1" below the top). I use it as a finger hole to help rotate the disc easily.
And that's it--all the hard stuff is over.
And, once again, here's the final product:
Thanks for reading--and good luck making your own!
Sep 10, 2008
Hobbes: "Will you lock up your possessions before leaving?"
Hobbes: "Ah-HA! Therefore, you do not believe in the innate goodness of man. You don't trust him."
Calvin: "Uh...duh. I'm John Calvin. Ever heard of Original Sin? Of course man isn't innately good."
Calvin: "C'mon, let's go for a walk. We were predestined to have a beautiful day and to enjoy it."
Hobbes: "But what if something happens? I live in continual fear and danger of violent death. My life is but solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short ."
Calvin: "Good grief. You won't die a violent death. Let's go."
Hobbes: " Now I am about to take my last voyage, a great leap in the dark."
Calvin: (to self) "Sheeeesh."
I was reflecting a bit on the end of my first post-collegiate summer, and as I am apt to do while thinking, reading Calvin and Hobbes. There are very few life cues that I would take from Calvin, but relaxing under (or in) a tree would be very nice. It's a pleasure usually reserved for those who are careless and pre-pubescent, or at least for those who haven't passed that arbitrary threshold of 18 and 'adulthood.' Unfortunately, cities don't lend themselves to that kind of escape very often. One time, one of the first really nice days of spring, a friend was sitting on a bench on the University of Chicago quad. I walked over and sat next to her, and she said "Look out there. I've counted two guys in trees and one in a bush." Sure enough, two guys (both shirtless and bearded) were taking naps in two different trees. And, also sure enough, there was another guy somehow balancing himself in the branches of a bush. I'll probably wait until it gets a little more autumnal before I climb a tree. After all, the leaves are still green. We have another month or so before that shift happens. In the meantime, I will continue to sit in my office, overlooking the treeless city of Chicago, drinking chai, and impossibly pretending that summer isn't really gone.
Also of note, it appears that the Court is considering rehearing Kennedy v. Louisiana. SCOTUSBlog says (in part):
The Supreme Court on Monday called for new legal briefs on possible rehearing — and, maybe, revision — of its ruling striking down the death penalty for the crime of child rape. In an order in Kennedy v. Louisiana (found here), the Court sought briefs from lawyers for both sides in the case, as well as from the federal government. The new briefing in 07-343 is to be completed by Sept. 24 — in advance of the Court’s first Conference of the new Term, on Monday, Sept. 29.
We'll see what happens. It would be interesting for the Court to rehear a case less than six months after it was decided. Of course, the result could be the oppopsite that those opposed to Kennedy desire; if the decision is upheld by a majority, the precedent only becomes stronger. For years abortion opponents have been foiled by having cases brought before the Court, only to have the right to an abortion more entrenched (though usually in a more refined form). Once again, we'll see.
Sep 9, 2008
Sep 8, 2008
Sep 7, 2008
Here's the link to the news story.
Cheney’s great-grandfather was Capt. Sam Fletcher Cheney, born in Boscawen in Merrimack County, N.H., in 1829. He was an aide-de-camp to Col. William Sirwell, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division of the XIV Corps.
The vice president will be on hand for the opening ceremonies, according to Ed Hooper, editor and publisher of The Civil War Courier. The Courier, a national Civil War publication based in Morristown, is sponsoring the five-day event.
Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne, have spent much time learning of the career of Sam Cheney. They even commissioned a painting of the vice president’s ancestor based on a photo in Cheney family archives.
[In the portrait, Dick Cheney is standing behind Sam, scowling...or smiling. No one can quite tell.]
[That last part was my own addition. So is this one.]
As you can see, we put three spruce pieces together to make the bar that holds the light fixture in place. You can't see in the pictures, but afterward we used the bolts and washers to let the bar rotate.
We didn't attach it right away, since we had to put the table itself together. Once we had tapered each of the legs, we routed out strips from the two internal sides in order to create a mortise and tenon joint (or, more like a Bridle joint that doesn't cut all the way through the female edge), deep enough to allow the spruce pieces that would form the body of the desk to fit snugly inside. We glued them (and needed a little wood putty to finish it up). After cutting the sides and creating the two inside pieces with four notches apiece (for the bar on the back to rest in), we glued the legs and sides together, clamped it all, and let it sit for a few days to dry.
That's the end of part III. Part IV coming soon!
We sketched it out a bit at the beginning.
A few days later, we sanded them down with the belt sander to make the glued edges smooth. We then marked which legs were which (right/left front, right/left back) and tapered them down on the table saw.
We measured out the 20"x48" piece of aspen and cut it into one 20"x30" piece and one 20"x18" piece.
Using a makeshift compass (see photo), we carefully cut out a 16 3/8" diameter circle in the center of the 20"x30" piece. We then cut out an 18" diameter circle from the 20"x18" piece.
That's the end of Part II. More coming soon.
Sep 6, 2008
The Supreme Court issued its third and final round of summer recess orders on Friday, but the Justices announced no action on the plea to reconsider its ruling in Kennedy v. Louisiana (07-343), striking down the death penalty for the crime of child rape. The state of Louisiana on July 11 asked the Court to reopen the case to consider the effect, if any, of the fact that the Court had overlooked a federal military law on that death sentencing issue. The Justice Department has asked the Court to allow it to join Louisiana in its plea for rehearing. The Court did not act on that motion, either, on Friday.
While action on the rehearing issue could come at any time, the next scheduled point for releasing orders is the week of Sept. 29, following the Court’s first private Conference of the new Term. It is unclear whether the Court has yet actually focused on the rehearing request, since the Justices have been in summer recess. They have acted on a list of other rehearing requests, but most of those appeared to be without significant legal impact; the Court rarely grants rehearings of decided cases. Kennedy v. Louisiana was decided by a 5-4 vote; to grant rehearing, five Justices — including at least one from that majority — would have to approve a rehearing petition.
I wonder if one of the Justices in the majority (Stevens, Souter, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer) would be willing to rehear it. Kennedy wrote the (terribly argued) opinion. It's not really the result that was so wrong (I'm honestly not sure whether I think child rapists should be executed), it's the reasoning behind the argument. Americans find the practice repugnant because only six states have enacted laws that allow for the execution of child rapists? All of those laws have been passed within the last dozen or so years, and there were more being pushed in the legislatures of many more states. That doesn't sound like it's unpopular. No one has been executed for child rape for many years? That doesn't mean it's unconstitutional. The fact that the last time we executed anyone for treason was the Rosenbergs in the 1950's doesn't mean it's unconstitutional. Kennedy never defines "evolving standards of decency," but assumes that a) they exist and b) he knows what they are. That's stupid reasoning. I think that it should be reheard, at the very least in order to let a new, better-reasoned opinion be written.
So--how does one go about making one of these bad boys? That's an excellent question. Though I don't have plans on paper (a lot of it was ad hoc and written on the wood itself), I will attempt to explain what we did as best I can. To begin, here is a sufficient (but not exhaustive) list of supplies that we used:
- Aspen; one (1) 20"x48" sheet (you can get whatever wood you want, but aspen is soft, pretty cheap, and attractive). You'll use this as the top of the desk and for the disc. The desktop will be 20"x30" in the end. The extra 20"x18" piece will be used for the disk. More on that later.
- Eight (8) 1"x2"x3' pieces of aspen (for the legs...they'll be glued together in pairs)
- One 1"x8"x8' that you cut to make the four sides. We used clear spruce, which had no knots. It is a little darker than the aspen, but it stains seamlessly.
- Scrap for light support: One (1) 1"x4"x18", two (2) 2"x4"x6" (we used birch plywood)
- Scrap for mechanism on back of desk (we used spruce): one (1) 1"x6"x4' (you will rip it into two (2) 1"x4"x19.25" pieces later), one (1) 1"x4"x6' (you will rip it into two (2) 1"x2"(true)x17" pieces, and one (1) 1"x2"(true)x23 5/8" pieces), one (1) 1"x2"(true)x9.5" that we made from scrap.
- Piano Hinge (3 ft.)
- 1.25" drywall screws
- Four (4) 1.5" L-brackets
- Two (2) 4" carriage bolts
- 5-10 washers
- One (1) circular (12" diameter) fluorescent light and bulb(s). Mine has two bulbs.
- One (1) switch
- One (1) switch cover
- One (1) plastic one gang switch box (should come with nails)
- One (1) 6' non-grounded cord
- Peg bars (2; mine are acme)
- 10.5"x13" sheet of frosted plexiglass (.250 in. thick; we couldn't find any at that thickness, so we put in two that were .125 in. thick on top of each other)
- The circle that you cut out of the aspen (more on that later)
- Some scrap wood to cut out that will be cut in a curve to allow the disc to rotate (not sure on sizes)
- 1/4"x1/2"x4' scrap pieces (we ripped them) that will be used to hold the plexiglass
- Four (4) tiny L-brackets (3/4"x3/4"x1/2", I think)
- Battery Drill
- Electric Drill
- Table saw (with dado blade)
- Clamps (at least two; "you can never have too many clamps" -my Dad)
- Belt sander (if you have one)
- Saw compass (if you want; we just used the jigsaw very carefully after being unhappy with our compass's results)
- Wood glue
- Wood putty (make sure it's sandable and paintable)
- Black paint (if you want; I used flat so it wouldn't shine with the light)
- Stain (I got a lighter color, which worked out really well. It was a stain/polyurethane combo, which I was a little nervous about, but it worked fine.)
- Clip-on desk lamp (if you want--there was one on sale at Menards for $5 bucks, so I grabbed it, and it works marvelously.)
If I remember anything else that we used as I continue writing this series, then I'll add it on. Don't ask me how much it all cost, since I honestly couldn't answer you. First off, I can't remember, and second, we used a lot of stuff that we already had. It was more costly that I wanted to make my own disc; the supplies for it were definitely more than a student disc (which runs around $80). In total, the project probably put us back between $250 and $500 (including a second piece of aspen, since we messed up the first one). By far the most expensive thing for me was the peg bars (which I wanted to be a good, solid aluminum). They cost $42 each from the Cartoon Colour Company. I don't know if that was a rip-off.
That's it for now. I'll begin posting on the actual building process soon.
But, back to Gettysburg. Since it was a national, there were tons of sutlers around, and there were two guys doing ambrotypes and tintypes with all the old equipment. We got a tintype made. I think it turned out really well. See?Three pretty good looking privates from the 44th Tennessee, Co. K, no? I'm the one on the far right.
The first is a yawning yeti (in the intro):
Next is the boy when he first runs into the yeti:
Both are very short and very rough, but, hey, it's a start.
Fun fact: the kid's name is Chitra, which means 'drawing' or 'picture' in Nepali. Get it? I crack myself up.