If a Supreme Court judge claps in the woods…

If you’ve just been appointed as a supposedly impartial Supreme Court judge, and are invited to attend the President’s State of the Union speech, there is one consideration more important than which robe to wear… when can you clap?

At times, Alito followed the lead of the other three justices who sat with him in the front row. When Bush said “We love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it,” Thomas looked at Roberts, who looked at Breyer, who gave an approving shrug; all four gentlemen stood and gave unanimous applause.

At other times, Alito showed independence from his senior colleagues. When Bush delivered the stock line “The state of our union is strong,” Alito dissented while the other three robed justices in the front row applauded. When Bush declared that “liberty is the right and hope of all humanity,” Alito was the only member of the judicial quartet to provide his concurring applause.

It seemed from their frequent conferences that the justices had agreed on some ground rules: Any mention of Iraq or hot domestic disputes were off limits; broad appeals to patriotism were deemed applause-worthy. But there were disputes. When Bush said “We will never surrender to evil,” the justices conferred briefly. Breyer shook his head, but Roberts overruled him, and Breyer reluctantly stood with his three colleagues.

I guess the Queen faces a similar dilemma when listening to the Prime Minister.
Hat tip: James Joyner at Outside the Beltway.

Stupid statement alert

I don’t have too much to say on the whole issue of the government’s defeat yesterday over the incitement to religious hatered bill.  Essentially, the government lost because the Labour whips miscalculated how many votes they’d need, didn’t call back some MPs from Scotland, didn’t tell Tony Blair that he should vote and, as a consequence lost by one vote.

So what do the Tories have to say about it?

“We didn’t expect to win,” one senior Tory admitted. “But they took their eye off the ball, that is the arrogance of power.”

This is possibly the most moronic statement I’ve read all day.  Someone makes a mistake – a stupid one to be sure – but a mistake nonetheless. And it’s down to “the arrogance of power”.  Not incompetence, or miscalculation, or lack of sleep, or too many things to do, or anything straightforward like that, but because of the “arrogance of power.” 

Sigh.  If this person is a “senior Tory,” one has to wonder about the Tories’ grasp of reality.  Do we really want to elect someone who doesn’t actually understand that mistakes are usually made because someone did something stupid?

OK, rant over.

Syrian blogosphere

Yet more good news about the way that blogging is reaching into Middle Eastern society – in this case, Syria:

He has glasses and the kind of baby face that relatives probably like to pinch. But beneath the mild exterior of this Syrian mobile phone operator there is some righteous, youthful anger.

He expresses that anger in a blog.

“I write about everything I’m pissed off about, the things that make me angry: extremism, poverty, religion,” he says with an incongruous smile.

However, it looks as though the Syrian blogging community beginning to reach the critical mass that attracts the unwelcome attention of the authorities:

And even though he and the other two bloggers, Ghalia and Sara, have made great efforts to emphasize to me they are not political, Majd’s blog has already garnered the blogger’s badge of honor: enough notoriety to prompt authorities to block access to it. For Majd, this happened at work.

“My blog got banned at the office,” he says, after he posted “Calm Tsunami,” a fable of sorts.

One to watch.

New Zealand GP closes practice, opens brothel

A doctor from New Zealand has decided that there just isn’t enough money in doctoring these days, and has closed his medical practice so he can open a brothel instead:

Dr Benson said his brothel would employ “beautiful, experienced professional girls” from outside the district and cater for tourists and locals.

“Running a brothel is about providing a private service and maintaining confidentiality,” he said. “That is what my medical practice was about, so it’s not a big leap really.

“The standards of my medical practice were high and that will cross over to the brothel environment.

Catering for all your medical kinks.

Russia Today fights Russia Today

Russia Today (russiatoday.com) is a news portal about Russia, run from within the United States.

Russia Today (rttv.ru) is the RIA Novosti’s (in other words, the Kremlin’s) spangly new 24 hour Russian language tv channel, launched a few months ago.

And now, they’re fighting over the right to use the name ‘Russia’.  I know this because the fight is so serious that people are sending out press releases about it.
Russia Today…. um, that’s russiatoday.com… kicked the whole thing off a couple of weeks ago.  They sent a letter to Russia Today… um, to rttv.ru… demanding that Russia Today… that’s rttv.ru, in case you weren’t sure… immediately change their name, or face legal action.  Apparently, visitors to Russia Today… yes, russiatoday.com, the ones that sent the letter… were getting all confused, and thought that Russia Today… the Russian one… was something to do with Russia Today… the American one.

With me so far?  Good.

So, anyway, Russia Today… the one sponsored by the Kremlin… thought that this was a rather frivolous claim, and sent a letter to Russia Today… oh, come on, keep up – the American one… with the not entirely unreasonable request:

Please provide us with the following documents for consideration of your letter of January 17 2006:

  1. Legal papers, which prove the registration of the word combination “Russia Today” as a trade mark;
  2. Authorisation of the Government of the Russian Federation to use the name in the title

I await the Russia Today’s… come on, you know which one… response with baited breath.

In the meantime, I’m going to start a spread on when the United States, the United Kindom, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Nations launch a four way court case over who gets to be United.

Wikipedia fights back… badly

It seems like far too many US congressmen (or, at least, their staff) are re-writing their Wikipedia entries for comfort.  And now, some Wikipedia regulars are fighting back… they’re attempting to ban anyone with a house.gov internet address from editing articles.

Nice idea but… take just one look at the “Request for Comment” that they’ve posted.

I’d include an excerpt here, but it’s so overly technical and filled with pseudo legalese that it’d never make sense unless you saw the whole page in all its glory.

I predict bad times ahead for these Wiki activists.  They’ve made the schoolboy error of choosing to fight on someone else’s home-field.  They’ve chosen to take on Congress staffers in legalese, and bad legalise at that.  The staffers do this all day, every day.  They’ll eat the Wiki activists for breakfast.

Far better to have stuck to a medium they know – the dissemination of information, preferably to the press.

By the way – some are already beginning to say Wikipedia is beginning to look stupid:

Defenders of Wikipedia has said if you don’t like an entry edit it. Well, someone did. It didn’t expand readers’ knowledge. For political and other controversial subjects Wikipedia is turning into a propaganda stage. Its reputation is slowly dropping to the level of a James Frey memoir.

Blair invited to Iranian holocaust debate

Via Aljazeera comes the clearest indication yet of the Iranian government’s sincere desire to build a lasting partnership with Britain – an invitation to speak at their debate on the conference on the holocaust (or, rather, the imaginary holocaust):

Hamid Reza Asefi, a foreign ministry spokesman, said: “It would be good for Mr Blair to participate in the Holocaust seminar in Tehran.

“He can also contribute with an article. If he wants to defend the Holocaust in that article, he can do so. We will give him the time to read out his article so others can hear his point of view.”

Unfortunately, I think Tony probably has to wash his hair that day.

German Wikipedia closed down

Wikipedia has temporarily closed down in Germany, because of a legal dispute. The family of a dead German hacker, Tron, whose real name had been posted on the site, have claimed that Wikipedia is violating their right to privacy.

James Enck notes though, that the family’s efforts to protect their privacy have largely failed:

It’s all a bit silly when you can read all about it here (English). This is, of course, the US site of Wikipedia, where the same information is available, including in German. National litigation rendered nonsensical by a supranational web.

It’s good news in one sense, as it demonstrates yet again the difficulties of inhibiting the spread of information via the internet.   But, sadly, not such good news for the family in question, as by launching this ill-advised lawsuit they’ve spread their son’s identity so far and wide that even I’m writing about it.

I know it’s easy to say this in hindsight, but one really has to question the competence of the lawyers who led them into this case.

Bosnian Serb General Mladic to surrender?

The BBC reports that the family of Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb General who masterminded massacres of thousands and who is currently wanted by the Hague for war crimes, have been in ‘secret negotiations’ with the Serbian government:

Zoran Stankovich, the Serbian minister involved, has denied that the talks are about Mladic’s surrender.

“I spoke with (his son) Darko and his mother just before New Year’s Eve, in this office. I can’t talk about it for obvious reasons,” he said.

“As you know, while something is still in progress any comment will be inappropriate. It would only interfere with the ongoing investigation.”

Serbia wants to join the EU at some stage, and won’t want to suffer the same embarrasment as Croatia, whose membership talks were delayed because they weren’t co-operating sufficiently with the Hague.

Even more pressing though, are the upcoming negotiations over the future status of Kosovo.  Demonstrating that they are acting in good faith, they will reason, can only help their cause, and decrease the chances of Kosovo gaining full independence.
So, I can see two potential reasons for releasing this story:

  • One, they are making it up, or making an inconsequential discussion seem like more than it is, in order to persuade the world that they really are looking hard for Mladic.
  • Two, they are actually negotiating his surrender.

The loudmouthed cynic who stands on my right shoulder would have me put my money on option one.

But the tiny voice of the optimist that stands wittering away on my left shoulder, seems to think that this is an opportunity for the EU and US to make it clear to the Serbian government that everything rides on the handover over Mladic and, more, on the handover of Radovan Karadzic.

I’m off to the bookies.