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Month: September 2002

Nullify this

South Dakota is about to vote on a constitutional amendment permitting jury nullification. This means that juries could vote not guilty on the grounds that the relevant law was unfair or otherwise misguided. The supporters have a site, and the South Dakota State Bar has this to say.

The actual amendment would rewrite Article VI, Section 7 of the South Dakota Constitution as follows. The changes are marked in italics.

In all criminal prosecutions the accused shall have the right to defend in person and by counsel; to demand the nature and the cause of the accusation against him; to have a copy thereof; to meet the witnesses against him face to face; to have compulsory process served for obtaining witnesses in his behalf; and to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the county and district in which the offense is alleged to have been committed; and to argue the merits, validity, and applicability of the law, including the sentencing laws.

The supporters don’t actually do a very good job addressing the arguments against jury nullification; there is, in fact, an existing mechanism for allowing citizens input into the law, and it is reasonable to ask whether or not 12 jurors selected at random should have the ability to override a majority vote of the entire populace. I think the answer may be yes, but I dislike the arrogance of claiming that the question is irrelevant. “Common sense isn’t.”

And the lawyers of South Dakota are not universally evil people who rely on scare tactics. Claiming that “they are insulting your intelligence” is the worst kind of populist rhetoric. Sigh.

So the impression I get is that South Dakotans in favor of jury nullification are not in fact capable of constructing or analyzing legal arguments, or logical arguments of any kind. This does not convince me that it’s a good idea to let South Dakotan juries decide cases based on their opinions of the laws involved. Sorry, guys; if you can’t move beyond populist rhetoric, you shouldn’t be trusted with more complex decisions on a jury.

Scenes from an exhibition

Guilty pleasure: Billy Joel. I suspect this New York Times article is morosely grim even if you’re not a big fan, though. Or maybe it’s just pathetic. The man is certainly whining — but if he was more credible, wouldn’t there be something worthy about a guy who weighs the value of love so high against the rewards of fame? Instead, it’s just the Piano Man, and he’s hard to respect.

Broadcast media

Doc Searls makes a really good point about the nature of weblogs, and I think it’s relevant to why I chose to move my daily meanderings off of LiveJournal. (Yes, I know some of you are reading them there. Don’t distract me.) He says, inspired by this comment by Clay Shirky, that weblogs are like radio. Webloggers are broadcasting to the world, rather than having a conversation with their readers. And you know, that’s pretty much true.

LiveJournal is much more oriented towards conversations. The community feature is perhaps the most obvious facet of this, but the friends pages are another one. You create a community with your friends page. I’ve had, on occasion, the experience of being surprised that two people on my friends page don’t know each other — “but they post right next to each other! How odd!” And, of course, since everyone can see who you’re friends with, there’s a tendency for friend groups to overlap like crazed Venn diagrams. It’d be kind of fun to crunch some numbers on that, see if it’s possible to find the friend clusters and how much they overlap, but I don’t really have the techniques.

I’d be curious to hear from any of my LJ readers: does my journal there feel any different than anyone else’s? Do you notice that I’m not really writing for that particular submedium? Do I look odd on your friends list, besides that I have links in all my titles and I ramble on at great length?

Nick, Phil, something like that

I always go through this whole painful fifteen minute searching process when trying to find Nick’s Fonts. Phil’s Fonts has a place of precedence in my memory palace, so I invariably go there first after a bit of guessing. Philfonts? Philsfont? Philsfonts! Oh, wait, wrong site.

So now I’m logging it. Excellent, excellent source for art deco typefaces. I love his stuff. I want it all.

Ah, Mr. Sullivan

I haven’t picked on Andrew Sullivan for a while, have I? (And why do I do it? Because he keeps getting held up as an example of modern conservative thought, that’s why.)

Let’s start with this condemnation of Dianne Feinstein (scroll down a bit). I can swing to that rhythm. Feinstein is one of my least favorite Senators. So, she said something dumb… which Andrew inflates into a commentary on all Democrats everywhere. Sure, OK. Dianne’s a prominent Democrat.

But what about this? (Scroll down again; the headline is “Conservatives and Mental Health”.) Sullivan’s OK with extending one Democrat’s remarks to represent the opinion of the entire party, but it’s not OK to notice when a Republican differs from the Republican mainstream? It’s utterly factual to say “Republican House leaders opposed this mental health bill,” and it’s fair to point out that individuals within the Republican Party supported it.

So much for the right to hold opinions as an individual.

Need for speed

My DSL is up and running, a day early (and less than a week after I ordered it). Even happier, the speed is up to snuff — a quick test suggests that I’m getting 1280/585Kbps speeds, which is darned close to the 1500/786Kbps I was promised. Since the test server is in LA, I’m not going to worry about the lossage. It’s certainly much faster than my Pacifica PacBell speeds.

Now, if only my things had shown up today as promised… but ah well. The new should be here tomorrow, and as soon as my OpenBSD CDs arrive I’ll get the thing up and running. Mmm, faster server.