The Other Cases

Yesterday, I went to the U.S. Second Circuit to observe the oral arguments in the Doninger case. However, before we got to those arguments, there were several other cases being addressed. It is useful to look at these cases a little to get some background for the Doninger case. In my reflections about the courtroom, I observed that there were two busts at the entrance to the courtroom. One was of Learned Hand, and the other was of Henry Friendly. Judge Hand is noted for his cases involving freedom of speech. However, that is not all that the court hears. Judge Friendly is noted for his expertise in Securities Law and that was part of the mix.

The first case seemed a bit arcane and, at least to me, uninteresting. I’m sure that it was interesting to people with a vested interest. As best as I could make out, it is continued legal wrangling about Computer Associations and a Special Litigation Committee that they set up to investigate Charles Wang, founder of Computer Associates, of fraudulent accounting. Key issues seemed to be whether or not cases were filed in a timely fashion by the right people or legal entities.

This was followed by questioning about several motions. A representative of the National Labor Review Board appeared by the judges to discuss the wording of some document. There was a long complicated discussion about some company in Brazil and trademark issues. A lot of people were very interested in this case and left after the arguments. There was another trademark case. Both of these seemed to be about who would be permitted, or not to permitted to take which legal actions, when and where. Like the Computer Associates case, this is probably really important to some people, but I didn’t see anything important coming out of the cases.

Then, there were two cases where sentence reductions were argued. One case centered around ‘robotic incantations’. The key issue seemed to be whether or not the judge in assigning the sentence properly considered all the factors, or simply rubberstamped the sentence. In another case, a repeat offender was given 96 months for possessing 50 grams of crack cocaine, even though he had worked with the government and worn a wire. In this case, one judge expressed concern about the prosecutors being draconian and pursing ‘vindictive prosecution’. I wondered if this would be a foreshadowing of the Doninger case, where people have asserted that the school administration was draconian and vindictive.

The other interesting case was of an asylum seeker. The person had fled from China after being a supporter of the Falong Gong. The representative of the immigration service argued that since we did not know why the police ripped the shirt off of the asylum seeker or why they came to his house, we cannot assume it is because of persecution. As I listened to him, I thought of our responses to genocide. Would he have said the same thing about not knowing why Hitler’s S.S. agents coming to the door of a person who has spoken sympathetically of Jewish people. I was disgusted by the performance of the representative of the immigration service.

This case was perhaps the closest to having meaning for me. One of the things that Avery has been focusing during the time when she has been deprived of being Class Secretary is genocide issues. She has testified before the Education Committee in Hartford about teaching genocide awareness. We do need to think more about how we deal with genocide, with political persecution, as well as the simplest forms that it takes in our schools, bullying.

All of this sets the background for the oral arguments in the Doninger case.

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Reflections in the Ceremonial Courtroom in the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse

Yesterday I had the privilege of spending several hours in the Ceremonial Courtroom in the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse in New York City. It is an impressive room where many important cases are heard, yet the cases often over shadow the room and room deserves its own place in the spotlight.

The courthouse, like most courthouses, do not allow you to bring camera inside, so it is difficult to find pictures of the courtroom, so I will try to conjure an image with my words.

As you enter the courtroom, you are greeted by busts of Learned Hand and Henry Friendly. Judge Hand served as an active judge in the Second Circuit from 1924 until 1951, including three years as chief judge. He wrote important decisions about Freedom of Speech. Judge Friendly served as an active judge in the Second Circuit from 1959 until 1974, also including a three-year stint as chief judge.

The courtroom is cavernous. The ceiling is twenty to thirty feet high. Dark wood, leather and ornate marble add to the ambiance, as does rich fabrics used for the curtains and the carpets.

It has the feeling of a temple to justice and lawyers and observers spoke in hushed voices before the judges arrived. I looked around the room to see if there were any electrical outlets where I could plug in my laptop and found none. I didn’t even check to see if there was WiFi.

As I sat in the courtroom for the first time and felt a sense of awe, I wondered if lawyers who have argued in the court many times have that same sense of awe, and at least one affirmed that afterwards, also speaking of the nearly religious feeling the courtroom imparts.

So, I sit on the long wooden benches that resemble pews and wait for the judges to enter. While the powdered white wigs of yesteryear are gone, the sense of dignity and privilege remains. The court considers many important issues, yet one of the important issues, perhaps left to journalists, bloggers and educators is how to make the courts accessible which maintaining their dignity and decorum. I hope this blog post will have done its little part.

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The Doninger Case and Transit Disruptions

What a day!

10:40 PM. I am finally home after a very long day. Today, I went in to hear oral arguments about the Avery Doninger case at the Second Circuit. My father-in-law had spoken with me beforehand about what a beautiful courtroom it is. I agree, and a description of the courtroom deserves a blog post of its own.

There were three judges hearing the arguments on several different cases. The judges probably deserve their own blog post as well, as do the other cases. However, I was there to observe the Doninger case. The judges spent a lot of time hearing the other cases, often going over the allotted time for each case, and so the Doninger case didn’t start until about 3:45. Each side was to receive ten minutes for their oral arguments, and before Jon Schoenhorn, who was representing the Doningers got a chance to launch into his prepared remarks, the judges started peppering him with questions about Hazelwood.

Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (doc. #: 86-836) was a case that addressed the issue, “To what extent, consistent with the First Amendment, may educators exercise editorial control over the contents of a high school newspaper produced as part of the school’s journalism curriculum?” It seemed a strange place to start, especially if there were only going to be twenty minutes for arguments. However, the questions went on and on from there. Nearly two hours later, the court adjourned.

The court does not allow you to bring cellphones into the courtroom, especially phones like mine that can be used to take pictures, so I left my cellphone with the U.S. Marshals. When I picked up my cellphone, I received several text messages from Kim about the building collapse that disrupted MetroNorth trains for several hours.

Even though the trains were supposed to be running again by the time the court adjourned, I figured that the train schedules, and the backlog of commuters would make the train trip back particularly complicated, so I went to dinner with the Doningers and Attorney Schoenhorn. Even after dinner, the trains were still not fully back on schedule and I rode a crowded train combining the 8:04 and the 8:07 train.

So now, I am home. I’ve taken a little time to write initial comments. I will head off to bed, and then write up more details about the court, the judges, the other cases, and the two hours of oral arguments of the Doninger case tomorrow morning when I’m not so tired.

While it was a long day, it was also a wonderful day. I am glad I got a chance to go see the case continue to unfold, and I urge everyone to pay closer attention to the judicial processes in our country.

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Lots of Random Stuff

Slowly, I’m digging out of all the emails and other content that has piled up. I’m down to less than 400 unread emails in my inbox, not counting the 3000 or so that I’ve moved to folders and will probably never get around to reading. I’ve also flagged around 500 for following up. Some are email discussions that need to be had. Others are ideas worth investigating. Some are simply interesting things that I want to highlight.

So, with that, I’m going to spend a little time highlighting some of them that are out there to at least clean up my list a little.

Tom Atlee sent out an interesting email wondering what public engagement looks like to Barack Obama. I think this is a great question. With Sen. Edwards out of the race, I’m now supporting Barack Obama, in part because of the way he is encouraging public engagement. However, public engagement is about much more than people chanting “Yes we can”, or “We are all individuals”.

So, would an Obama election be a mandate for him pushing through his agenda? Would it bring about a more open government where people can see more clearly what is going on and take a more active role? Will it support a more deliberative democracy, where people can come together and develop wiser solutions to the problems our country and our world changes? Will it bring about systemic changes that will make things like deliberative democracy easier and more likely?

Natasha Chart has a blog post up on BlogsUnited entitled, Internet Marketing: They Copy Us, If They Know What's Best. I’ve scanned it, and it looks like a good starting point, especially for progressive bloggers that want to get their message out more widely.

Avery Doninger invited me to the Purple for Peace - Genocide Awareness Day. Wear purple on March 14th, to get people to think about genocide in places like Darfur.

Various people have written to me about EENR blog. Since there was a discussion about it up on MyDD, it seems like it is public now.

Sue Henshaw wrote about the CT For Lieberman statewide party meeting on March 6th at 6:30 PM at 243 Zion St.,Hartford, CT 06106.

There are plenty of other things, but the Metanomics forum in Second Life is about to start, so, I should post this as is.

A different view of Immersion and Augmentation

Recently, there have been some discussions about immersion and augmentation in Second Life. They are presented as a continuum. Either you focus on an immersive experience of Second Life, where your avatar takes on a life of its own, and the role of technology in mediating the experience becomes less and less important, or you focus on using the technology to augment your communication with other people in Second Life.

Some augmentation folks view immersion as a subset of augmentation and some immersion folks view augmentation as a subset of immersion. In thinking about it, I wonder if Immersion and Augmentation are different ends of a continuum, or if they are orthogonal axis.



Augmentation and Immersion, originally uploaded by Aldon.

In the lower left corner, we find people who are neither particularly immersed in Second Life nor particularly good at using Second Life to augment their communication. These are people just starting out in Second Life, the Noobies.

Some people become more and more immersed in Second Life. Those that become immersed without augmenting their communications become the Spectators, swept up in the wonderful immersive environment. These people become more adept at navigating in Second Life, at using the camera angles, mouselook and other tools to get the most out of their experience in Second Life. They may enhance their own avatars as part of their effort to be more immersed in the environment.

Those that focus on augmenting their communications in Second Life become the Performers. Some people participate in Second Life, performing, being interviewed, speaking on panels. They take advantage of groups, voice chat, and other tools to communicate more effectively. They may also enhance the appearance of their avatars, but they do this to communicate more about themselves as opposed to as part of an effort to become more immersed in the environment.

Yet really, none of us exist on just one axis or the other, and we spend different amounts of time enhancing our ability to communicate with Second Life as well as our ability to immerse ourselves in Second Life. With that, you get people who actively role-play in Second Life. They combine both the immersive and the augmentive aspects of Second Life.

So are immersion and augmentation orthogonal axis, instead of a continuum? Where do you exist on such a plane? How does it change your perspective on being in Second Life? Or, am I looking at things completely wrong?

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