The Supreme Court opened its season this week. Lawyers came from far and wide to do battle in half-hour increments, fending off rude interruptions and aggressive questions in the attempt to portray their cause as just and their reasoning correct.
Two of them had particularly difficult times.
Maryland v Shatzer
Under current Constitutional interpretation, when you are held in police custody, and ask for your lawyer, the police have to stop questioning you. They're allowed to resume if you start talking to them, or if your lawyer shows up, or if you leave (and are therefore out of the presumptively coercive environment of police custody) and then they find you later and start asking questions again.
So this dude is in prison. The police call him in to ask him questions about some other crime. They read him his rights. He asks for a lawyer. They stop talking to him. For other reasons, they close the investigation, and he never talks with a lawyer about this investigation.
Three years pass. They reopen the investigation because of new evidence. They call him in. They read him his rights. He forgets to ask for a lawyer. He confesses.
Now he's trying to get his confession suppressed. See, he was in police custody the entire time, and never got his lawyer, so they weren't allowed to talk to him about it.
[This is likely to fail on a 9-0 vote].
US v Stevens
Congress was concerned about the existence of a market in animal snuff porn and wanted to ban it. [I've heard basically two reactions to this: (1) doesn't Congress have bigger fish to fry, and (2) eeeew, people get off on that?). They wrote a law banning any actual depiction (exempting, say, computer simulation) of animal cruelty, unless it had legitimate educational, scientific, or artistic merit.
So this dude gets arrested for producing a dog fighting video. He didn't film it, he didn't fight the dogs, he just pieced together a video out of things someone else had filmed.
This led to an entertaining discussion in which, among other things, Justice Scalia asked about the difference between dog fighting (illegal to film) and bull fighting (presumptively educational), Justice Alito wondered about whether Congress could ban a pay-per-view human sacrifice channel, Justice Ginsburg asked about whether one could tell from reading the law whether cock fighting would be prohibited, and Justice Scalia wondered about whether the law would prohibit PETA from showing videos of animal cruelty as part of a political campaign to discredit the mass meat industry.
This law ain't gonna stand.
Sometimes you have to laugh because the alternative is too unpleasant; today has been one of those days. Without going into too much detail, our customer has been pushing us to enable the use of 257gsm papers as book covers; this has turned out to be extremely difficult to do, and has required a lot of work and rearchitecting around some bad design decisions. The work finally done, we hooked it up, and tried it on our customer's printer, only to discover: due to the mechanical limitations of the printer, (a) only one side of paper of that weight can be printed on, and (b) it must be the inside of the cover, not the outside.
Who wants such a feature? Especially when it's not documented anywhere that it will behave this way?
It's ludicrous, I tell you. Ludicrous.
Paul Simon (Live at the Stimmen Festival, Loerrach, 2008):
I missed this tour, so it was nice to be able to get a copy of a show from it; and it's particularly nice in that he reached into his back catalog for songs that I like which he hadn't been performing (Duncan, The Only Living Boy in New York, Train in the Distance); it's nice to hear them live.
And yet ... Paul Simon used to be my favorite musician, and sot here's a degree to which i've overplayed and overlistened to all of his catalog, so even songs that I like don't move me as much as I feel like they should. Then, too, I loathed Surprise, and the loathing doesn't go away with hearing them performed live rather than before a studio audience. But the big problem: the recording is mixed too low, either because the guy who made it didn't realize or because he was too far in the back to get anything better ... meaning the whole thing has a rather distant feel, a bit like listening to an echo of the show from the room next door.
Not one of my better acquisitions.
Massive Attack (Live the Brixton Academy, Sept 19, 2009):
One of the amazing things about modern technology is that a band can have a live show a continent away and I can download it to my laptop less than two weeks later. The bootleggers of the 80s wouldn't have been able to imagine it. :)
I'm not a big Massive Attack fan - the one time I saw them in concert they bored me, and I sat on a hillside talking to someone ignoring them - but this came to me basically free, and I figured that maybe my tastes have changed and I should check it out. Maybe my tastes have changed, maybe this was just a better performance; it was a perfect thing to listen to Sunday morning while half-asleep with Saturday's thumping still echoing in my mind, and it was nice again this morning: soft, ethereal, dreamy. Reassuring and relaxing, an injection of tranquility into the hurly-burly of the day.
Kings of Convenience (Declaration of Dependence):
Aside from a remix by Royskopp, I was unfamiliar with this band, but the disc came highly recommended by a friend of a friend of mine. It's a beautiful piece of music; it has a sparse simplicity which is riveting, calling to mind the beauty of a lonely moment on a wind-swept rocky bluff. It doesn't hurt that it's almost perfect for my mood at the moment, but it's more than just that; the harmony of the voices and the crispness of the sound make it shimmer with greatness. (It is certainly an engineering wonder; I've very seldom heard anything as crisp as this).
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