March 29, 2011

"Publish or Perish: The Budget Bill is not Law"

In Wisconsin, a law can only take effect once it has been published. State law requires the secretary of state to designate a date to publish laws within 10 business days of the governor signing it. Makes sense? What, then, can be done if a judge has barred the secretary of state from publishing the law in the state's official newspaper (so that the law cannot take effect just yet)? Is it enough if the law is published by a state agentcy on a website, in this case that of the "Legislative Reference Bureau?" Is this to be counted as "publishing" in the relevant sense? The Walker administration says 'yes,' but Edward Fallone, a constitutional law professor at Marquette University, says 'no.' 
At the moment, the law provides for one method of satisfying the constitutional requirement of publication: designation of a date by the Secretary of State and public dissemination via publication in the newspaper of record.  So long as this is the only method provided under the statutes, this is how publication must occur.  Any attempt to give legislation the force of “law” without following the statutory provisions already in place is an attempt to bypass the publication requirement of the Wisconsin Constitution.
Today, judge Maryann Sumi, made it clear, make that "crystal clear," that she sides with Fallone. The purpose of her earlier restraining order was to prevent any steps that would result in implementing the law.
"Apparently that language was either misunderstood or ignored, but what I said was the further implementation of Act 10 was enjoined. That is what I now want to make crystal clear." (WSJ)
Assistant Attorney General Steven Means does not agree with the judge and said the legislation was "absolutely" still in effect. It's legislation by loophole in Wisconsin.

Update 3/31: Judge Sumi ordered today that the law "has not been published within the meaning" of state statutes and is "therefore not in effect"  (WSJ)." State Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch still thinks the law was "legally published and is indeed law," but he has now agreed to stop implementing it "to abide by the court orders."

March 25, 2011

Sailing under a "false flag" may get you sunk

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reports that Carlos Lam, a deputy prosecutor in Johnson County (IN), resigned after he could not deny any longer that he had sent an e-mail to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker suggesting that Walker "employ an associate who pretends to be sympathetic to the unions' cause to physically attack you (or even use a firearm against you)" so that the pro-union movement in Wisconsin could be discredited (this was after he professed to be "flabbergasted" that such an e-mail could have been sent from his account). Lam's e-mail to Gov. Walker became known after an open-records settlement between the Walker administration and the local media.
Employing a false flag operation would assist in undercutting any support that the media may be creating in favor of the unions. God bless, Carlos. F. Lam.
The expression is derived from the naval concept of flying a flag of a friendly country (rather than one's own) to deceive the enemy.  Wikipedia reports that according to a 1977 addendum to the Geneva Conventions "it is prohibited to make use in an armed conflict of the flags.... of neutral or other States not Parties to the conflict."

Lam wasn't very good about sailing under his own flag. Before he resigned, he denied that he had sent the incriminating e-mail and professed to be "flabbergasted"(a word of unknown origin and first used in the late 18th century)  that such an e-mail could have been sent from his account. On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog.

March 24, 2011

Maggie the Cat was a dog lover

One of her most famous roles was "Maggie the Cat," but she was known as an ardent dog lover. One of her early film roles was in the first "Lassie" movie, but later in life, she preferred white lap dogs.



She was often photographed with a white ball of fur on her lap or in her arms -- a Pekingese dog, Lhasa Apso, or Maltese. Her dogs had names like Sugar (whom she brought to an interview on Larry King Live), Honey, and Daisy. She took her dogs everywhere and is said to almost not have accepted the title "Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire" because she couldn't take her dog due to the strict quarantine laws in the UK. After she had had brain surgery in the late nineties, she did not hesitate to have her picture taken in the hospital, head shaved and all, right after the operation. She held a dog in her arm.

R.I.P., Elizabeth Taylor.

March 22, 2011

Dogs with a call number

Yale Law School is one of the most prestigious law schools in the country. And now they're getting even better: Students can check out Monty, a therapy dog, for a 30-min stress-relieving cuddle session.
Law School, renowned for competitiveness and its Supreme Court justices, is embarking on a pilot program next week in which students can check out a “therapy dog” named Monty along with the library’s collection of more than one million books. While the law school is saying little so far about its dog-lending program, it has distributed a memo to students with the basics: that Monty will be available at the circulation desk to stressed-out students for 30 minutes at a time beginning Monday, for a three-day trial run. “It is well documented that visits from therapy dogs have resulted in increased happiness, calmness and overall emotional well-being,” Blair Kauffman, the law librarian, wrote in an e-mail to students.
I think it's safe to bet that this is going to be a successful program, even if some faculty  members are skeptical:
“I’m surprised to hear of it,” said John Witt, a professor who was awarded a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship last year for a project on the laws of war through American history. “I’ve always found library books to be therapeutic. But maybe that’s just me.”
Perhaps he should talk to students in Wisconsin, who had visits from therapy dogs during exam week two years ago

March 11, 2011

"Dogs for Wisconsin"

Wisconsin is seeing red.



Ever since Gov. Scott Walker (R) introduced his "Budget Repair Bill," which takes away most collective bargaining rights from public employees, people in Wisconsin have been rallying around the State Capitol in Madison. Many bring their children, some bring their dogs and make them wear protest signs.







This one reads: "The only good walker is a dog walker."




People  around the country (and their dogs) show solidarity.  
They organize rallies and send pizza donations




After almost a month of peaceful, yet forceful demonstrations,  the bill was passed yesterday.

ETA (after big tractorcade rally on 3/13):






March 06, 2011

Keep "On Language" in the New York Times

Randy Cohen's Ethicist column gone, Frank Rich's column gone (almost), Ben Zimmer's weekly column On Language gone (after only one year).

On Language is finally coming to a close, at least in its current incarnation. For more than 30 of those years, it was the domain of the Language Maven (as Safire jauntily called himself), until his passing in September 2009. I’ve had the privilege of carrying on that legacy for the past year, but now it is time to bid adieu, after some 1,500 dispatches from the frontiers of language.
The first two decisions are head-scratchers, the third is just short-sighted and wrong. What's up with the New York Times? Do we really need more recipes for soup and less discussion of etymology, linguistic bias, language change?

If you'd like to see On Language kept in the NYT, you might want to join this group on Facebook and write the NYT editors in charge:
  • NYT Magazine letters to the editor: magazine@nytimes.com
  • NYT Magazine editor Hugo Lindgren: hugo.lindgren@nytimes.com
  • NYT public editor Arthur Brisbane: public@nytimes.com