Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Right to Bear Ye Olde Arms

(Crossposted from American Constitution Society :: Columbia Law School)

The ACS/Federalist Society sponsored discussion/debate on DC v. Heller – the first SCOTUS case since 1939 to address the meaning of the Second Amendment – won't begin for another 2 hours, but I am prepared to upstage the speakers by offering a workable solution for Second Amendment jurisprudence in the 21st Century.

Although the language of this amendment provides infinite grist for the mill of constitutional interpretation, my solution focuses exclusively on one word: arms.

My proposal: The Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms as such arms existed at the ratification.

Arms in 1791

Let's look at arms – specifically, guns – as they existed at the time of the ratification.

Guns in 1791 WOULD
Guns in 1791 WOULD NOT
Courts can't wish the Second Amendment away, but they can construe it in a manner that works in today's society.

Arthur Goldberg, the little-remembered Supreme Court Justice who sat on the bench from 1962 to 1965, has been long-derided by social and political conservatives as something of a fool due to his concurrence in Griswold v. Connecticut, where he found a right to privacy in the Ninth Amendment. Lately, these same conservatives have been quoting and paraphrasing Justice Goldberg when they say things like "while the Constitution protects against invasions of individual rights, it is not a suicide pact," a line Justice Goldberg included in Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. 144, 159-60 (1963). Applying an admittedly severe form of originalism to cabin the Second Amendment prevents the kind of suicide pact that Goldberg was worried about.

Michelle Obama created a bit of a stir earlier this week when she talked about how the need for guns might vary regionally within the United States. A backstop interpretation of the Second Amendment – one that only protects the individual right to bear arms as they stood in 1791 – permits states to develop right to bear arms appropriate to their circumstances.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Mine! All Mine! Mwa-ha-ha-ha!

Although he played it cool on Thanksgiving morning during the parade down Central Park West & Broadway, Ronald McDonald let his true thoughts on world domination be known the night before at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Inflation.

Lest you think that the balloon inflation is an intimate affair, here's a shot of the crowd gathering at the entrance to the inflation area.

My advice: Unless you're bringing someone with an early bedtime, go after these kids' bedtimes.

Monday, November 12, 2007

One Laptop Per Child: Give One. Get One.

Back in 2005, I was at the conference in San Francisco where Nicholas Negroponte first announced that he and others at the MIT Media Lab intended to sell a laptop for $100 with the goal of putting a laptop in the hands of every child the world over.

That mission has since become One Laptop Per Child, an organization that has just started manufacturing these machines for use around the world. Rather than describe at length the wonders of this little machine, I encourage you to watch this review from the New York Times' inimitable David Pogue.

On the theory that this machine is targeted at the developing world and that sales to rich countries would unduly divert computers away from kids who desperately need these devices today, it's going to be pretty difficult for you to get your hands on one. That's right, you can't buy one.

Well, that is, starting in two weeks you can't buy one.

For the next 15 days, you can buy one of these remarkable machines through a program called "Give One Get One." For $400, you can buy a laptop and pay for a laptop to go to a child in the developing world. As a bonus, you'll get a one year subscription to T-Mobile's Hot Spot service. (As Amos pointed out to me, the T-Mobile promotion, which can be used on any wifi-compatible device, appears to have a retail value of $360.)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Smarty Pants

This cool gizmo lets you know what level of education is required to understand a given blog.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Found On The Internets: Unusual Instruments' Music Videos

The creative and strange set of folks who brought you A Soviet Poster A Day now bring you the Unusual Instruments' Music Videos blog. As with its sister site, once you've written the title there's really no need to describe site's contents.

One of the gems from the site:

The instrument at the core of that performance is a theremin, played masterfully in the video by a musician adjusting the proximity and shape of his hand relative to two antennae. If you've ever heard the Beach Boys' song Good Vibrations, you've heard a theremin an instrument designed to sound like a theremin (see comments). The model above is an Etherwave Pro Limited Edition theremin recently manufactured by Moog.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Massive Market Irrationality in Alibaba IPO?

I'm no economist, so I'm really looking for some clarity.

3 Steps to a Massively Irrational Market

Step #1: Yahoo buys 39% of Alibaba's holding company.

Step #2: Today, the Alibaba IPO skyrockets its market cap to $164B. Yahoo's stake should be worth $64.2B.

Step #3: Today, Yahoo's market cap remains at $37.72B.

What am I missing here, people?

Link: Efficient market hypothesis

Update (4 pm, 11/7/07): When you quickly post something to your blog, only to later realize that you've made a big blunder, there's a temptation to redact the mistake. In this case, I'm going to resist the temptation to erase and leave the mistake up.

Alibaba is worth 164.71 billion Hong Kong Dollars, not US Dollars. In US dollars, Alibaba's currently worth 21.21B USD. Thus, Yahoo's 39% share of this company is hypothetically worth 8.27B USD, not 64.8B USD.

The market may still be behaving irrationally regarding the relative valuations of Alibaba and Yahoo (After all, Yahoo does now own an asset that went from being worth 2.75B USD last week to being worth 8.27B USD this week. Its share price has not moved in accordance with the increased value of this asset.), it's just not irrational on a truly massive scale.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Durian: The gift that keeps on giving

The majority of the posts on this blog could be classified as "ramblings." We see something odd, unusual, captivating, or just shiny, and we post about it.

I'd like to use today's post to provide an important public service announcement....about durians. A few months back, Andy introduced Sauntering readers to the durian. His post doesn't do justice to just how terrible this fruit is, the fruit that has been most accurately reviewed as tasting like like the musty crotch of Satan himself. My roommate purchased one of these in our local asian market, where it can be found deep frozen in a special freezer wrapped in plastic wrap. This should have been a give away. That and the weird, flexible thorn-like things covering the outside of it.

The smell and flavor of this thing have been well described elsewhere. What they don't tell you is that these things seem to be pressurized. That opening them releases a burst of terribleness that probably gives a fair taste of what tomb raiders would have encountered. You can also fire directional bursts of durian smell as visiting guests if you are handy with a nail and a hammer.

What they don't tell you is that after eating durian, you will burp durian for hours.

What they don't tell you is that if you vomit durian, and you may, your vomit will also taste like durian, causing more vomiting until you lie, depleted, currled like a child at the base of your toilet.

Its been three days. My fridge smells like durian. The patio smells like durian. Oh, oh God, this is terrible. Who thought this was a good idea? Even the raccoons aren't eating the leftovers.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

So What'll It Be, Oklahoma City?

Last night, the group that owns the Seattle SuperSonics announced its intention to move the Sonics to Oklahoma City. Although Seattle certainly would lament losing its basketball team, Oklahoma City did show itself deserving of an NBA team through its rabid support of the New Orleans Hornets during the two seasons that team played in Oklahoma after Hurricane Katrina.

If the Sonics move to Oklahoma City, the main question I'll have is what the name of the team will be.

The Sonics began in 1966 and were named after the Boeing 2707 airplane, a supersonic plane to be built in Seattle to compete with the European-made Concorde. Environmental concerns and federal budget cuts led to the cancellation of the Boeing 2707 in 1971, before a single plane was manufactured. Thus, the Seattle SuperSonics are named after a plane that was never manufactured. [If other cities followed this example and had sports teams named after things that were never built, I guess we'd have the Chicago Mile-High Buildings and the New York Expressways (or, arguably, the Cathedrals).]

So what are the Sonics going to do with a name that is only relevant if it is in Seattle? Well, they've got a number of examples to follow.

The Region-less Name
First, most relocated franchises aren't in the position of the Sonics. It's not too confusing when the aforementioned Hornets decide to retain their moniker after moving from Charlotte to New Orleans, since no one exclusively associates flying pests with North Carolina. In baseball, the Athletics have marched from Philadelphia to Kansas City to Oakland and (it appears) now to Fremont without changing their name.

The Abandoned Regional Name
If the Sonics dump their current name, they'll follow in the footsteps of the former Houston Oilers.

Before they rebranded their team the Tennessee Titans, the former Houston Oilers played one season as the Tennessee Oilers. Although this franchise (quite bitterly) held onto the rights to the name "Houston Oilers" (preventing Houston from following in the footsteps of Cleveland and returning the Houston Oilers to the field down the road), they escaped to a different (if not more relevant) name the next season.

The Retained Regional Name
If the Sonics retain their current name, they'll join a strange group of teams whose names hearken back to an abandoned geography.

Two of these regionally confused teams are in Los Angeles. What are the Los Angeles Dodgers dodging? Trolleys in 19th century Brooklyn, of course. What lakes are the Los Angeles Lakers talking about? Well, that'd be the 10,000 lakes of Minnesota, back when they were the Minneapolis Lakers.

Finally, the gem of relocated franchise names: What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Utah? Jazz music, perhaps? Mormons in Utah get to swing because the Utah Jazz played five seasons as the New Orleans Jazz before moving to Salt Lake City in 1979.

So what'll it be, Oklahoma City? Are you keeping the Sonics – and with it a Seattle-centric reference to a plane that was never built – or are you going in a different direction?

My advice? Go with a truth-in-advertising name. Giants, Titans, Chargers — these mythic names are generic, for all their braggadocio. I like my teams named after an occupation that is associated with the region: Packers, Steelers, Brewers. (I guess gambling on this theme is what got the Sonics in trouble.)

Since Oklahoma City is home to two of the nation's largest energy companies, how about a name along those lines:

  • The Oklahoma City Drillers or Oklahoma City Pumpers (probably too much playground taunting with these two)
  • The Oklahoma City Carbon (a name Al Gore would love)
  • The Oklahoma City Wranglers (too close to Cowboys?)