Friday, May 11, 2012
App Enables Users to File Complaints of Airport Profiling
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim in the United States have been subjected to public and private acts of discrimination and hate violence. Sikhs -- members of a distinct monotheistic religion founded in 15th century India -- have suffered the "disproportionate brunt" of this post-9/11 backlash. There generally are two reasons for this. The first concerns appearance: Sikh males wear turbans and beards, and this visual similiarity to Osama bin Laden and his associates made Sikhs an accessible and superficial target for post-9/11 emotion and scrutiny. The second relates to ignorance: many Americans are unaware of Sikhism and of Sikh identity in particular.
Accordingly, after 9/11, Sikhs in the United States have been murdered, stabbed, assaulted, and harassed; they also have faced discrimination in various contexts, including airports, the physical space where post-9/11 sensitivities are likely and understandably most acute. The Sikh Coalition, an organization founded in the hours after 9/11 to advocate on behalf of Sikh-Americans, reported that 64% of Sikh-Americans felt that they had been singled-out for additional screening in airports and, at one major airport (San Francisco International), nearly 100% of turbaned Sikhs received additional screening. (A t-shirt, modeled here by Sikh actor Waris Ahluwalia and created by a Sikh-owned company, makes light of this phenomenon.)
In response to such "airport profiling," the Sikh Coalition announced the launch of a new app (Apple, Android), which "allows users to report instances of airport profiling [to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)] in real time." The Coalition states that the app, called "FlyRights," is the "first mobile app to combat racial profiling." The TSA has indicated that grievances sent to the agency by way of the app will be treated as official complaints.News of the app's release has generated significant press coverage. For example, the New York Times, ABC, Washington Post, and CNN picked up the app's announcement. (Unfortunately, multiple outlets could not resist the predictable line, 'Profiled at the airport? There’s an app for that.') Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund, tweeted, "#FlyRights is a vanguard in civil and human rights."
It will be interesting to see whether this app will increase TSA accountability, quell profiling in the airport setting, and, more broadly, trigger other technological advances in the civil rights arena.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
On the Move
Jane Yakowitz and I have accepted offers from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. We're excited to join such a talented group! But, we'll miss our Brooklyn friends. Come visit us in Tucson!
Posted by Derek Bambauer on December 14, 2011 at 05:39 PM in Current Affairs, Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, Housekeeping, Information and Technology, Intellectual Property, Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law, Travel | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Blankness at Conferences: Good for Graphics, Bad for Badges
I just finished attending Intellectual Property Scholars Conference 2011 – a wonderful event. But it reminded me that I have a couple of simple suggestions for all scholarly conferences that I'd like to pass along.
First, put a PowerPoint presentation consisting of a single blank black slide on every podium computer. That way, if someone doesn't have a slide show, the blank slide can be turned on for them. With the aid of a blank slide, nothing will be competing for the audience's visual attention while the presenter speaks.
Mark Lemley of Stanford, for instance, seems to have a penchant for presenting slideless. That's fine, of course. But for Mark at this particular conference, that meant that during the first portion of his very interesting presentation, he was competing for attention with a rather sternly worded message reminding podium-computer users that ALL FILES ON THIS COMPUTER WILL BE DELETED. It only got worse when the screensaver came on. As if because of something Mark said, suddenly a hyperactive, menacing “DePaul University” in 3-D chrome lettering began furiously pivoting left and right, and pacing back and forth over Mark like it was getting ready to attack him. It was pretty hard to concentrate on what Mark was saying, if, like me, you were mentally trying to gauge whether the graphic was getting especially agitated when Mark mentioned overturned Federal Circuit precedent.
Who is this person I'm talking to? I recognize the face, but have I just seen it in some bulk-rate postcard law porn, or was this person actually in my Torts class in law school? Well, no problem, I'll just casually look down at their name tag ... DANGIT! It's spun around to its blank side! Hmmm. Maybe I should drop my pen and see if their name tag spins around when they try to pick it up for me. No, wait, that's even weirder than admiting I don't know their name. Or is it? OH FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, who am I fooling? If I wasn't so socially awkward, I would have gone to business school.
So, if you are organizing a conference, just print out the text for the name tag on two slips of paper, and then insert them both back-to-back into the plastic thing. (And congrats and thanks to the organizers of IPSC 2011!)
Monday, June 13, 2011
Who would be your graduation speaker ...
if you could have anyone do it? Here's Conan O'Brien giving the commencement address at Dartmouth:
Wednesday, June 08, 2011
Fear and culture
My first purpose in this post is to direct readers to a fascinating research endeavor headed by Yale law professor Dan Kahan and George Washington University law school professor Donald Braman - the Cultural Cognition Project. Here is a brief description of the project from its website:
The Cultural Cognition Project is a group of scholars interested in studying how cultural values shape public risk perceptions and related policy beliefs. Cultural cognition refers to the tendency of individuals to conform their beliefs about disputed matters of fact (e.g., whether global warming is a serious threat; whether the death penalty deters murder; whether gun control makes society more safe or less) to values that define their cultural identities. Project members are using the methods of various disciplines -- including social psychology, anthropology, communications, and political science -- to chart the impact of this phenomenon and to identify the mechanisms through which it operates. The Project also has an explicit normative objective: to identify processes of democratic decisionmaking by which society can resolve culturally grounded differences in belief in a manner that is both congenial to persons of diverse cultural outlooks and consistent with sound public policymaking.
I've been doing some reading in recent months on the topics of fear and risk and find the topic very compelling, especially with regard to how it plays out in our day to day lives (sometimes on rather mundane matters). My second purpose in this post is to pose to you, dear readers, a quick question: Can you think of any fears that could be described as distinct to a country you are familiar with - this doesn't mean that it only occurs in a given country, but rather that it is much more prevalent or pronounced in that country. Alternatively we might think in terms of regions within the United States. Sunstein offers the example of European nations taking a much more precautionary approach to genetically modified food than the United States. I'm thinking more along the lines of individual fears - are there things that you have seen people fear greatly in this country that are largely ignored in others? Or vice versa?
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
My Devalued Marriage
I recently kissed my wife good-bye at the airport and took off for California, where, just days before, a federal district court had declared a ban on gay marriage to be unconstitutional.
Many of those who support the ban on gay marriage argue that marriage between a man and a woman will be devalued if same-sex couples are allowed to marry. "Huh?" you may be thinking. "How could that possibly be the case?"
I know, it sounds absurd. But amazingly enough, though it defies logic, I actually noticed the effect as soon as my plane crossed into California airspace. It was weird, but I could actually feel my marriage devaluing.
It doesn't seem like all that long ago that I married my wife Kit in Santa Monica, Calif. We had a caterer, a florist, a bunch of guests, a cake – all that stuff. Kit got her hair done and wore a special dress for the occasion. I wore a tux. At the time it seemed extremely special. But being back in California after Judge Walker's ruling, it all felt so ho-hum, so devalued. Riding the BART train from the airport, I found myself wondering if it would have helped if we had hired a live band for the reception. It was hard to know.
That night I actually had trouble sleeping because my wedding ring felt uncomfortable and foreign on my hand.
Here's the really weird thing – while I was experiencing all this marriage devalument, I wasn't even thinking about the court case! It didn't hit me until I was flipping around through the cable news channels. That’s when I figured it out: It was the Equal Protection Clause! That was why my marriage felt so dull and generally unspecial.
But how could this happen? How could two dudes (or dudettes) getting married to each other possibly affect my marriage?
Well, I was fortunate enough to see a person interviewed on one of the cable shows who explained it. This guy put it in language that I, as a law professor, could understand. He pointed out that counterfeit currency devalues regular currency. (I had to admit that was true.) So, he reasoned, gay marriage, as a kind of counterfeit marriage, devalues everybody's regular marriages.
The force of this argument is really undeniable. Tried though I have, I can not find even the tiniest hole in this guy’s analysis. In fact, the more deeply you think about what he was saying, the more sense it makes. It's really one of the smartest things I've ever heard anyone say. It shows an uncommonly strong grasp of economics, sociology, and some very basic rules of logical thinking. Wow.
Anyway, it got me to figuring, we should not only amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage, we should also take affirmative steps to strengthen the institution of traditional marriage.
(Images courtesy U.S. Mint.)
U.S. currency was strongest back in the 1960s when we were still on the gold standard. Ergo, we should put marriage on a gold standard. Think about it: If every married heterosexual could, at any time, freely convert his or her spouse into a specified quantity of gold bullion, then every person who is married would value their marriage more. Divorce rates would plummet. That's just logic.
A lot of the same conservative talk show hosts who are opposed to same-sex marriage are also enthusiastic supporters of returning America to the gold standard. That’s why it’s such a public service for radio talk show hosts to tell us about important gold investment opportunities. It is my hope that thought leaders like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity will realize the synergy here and support the adoption of a marital gold standard.
My own personal story has a happy ending. I got through the whole trip without trying to hook up with any of the women around me. Now, that wasn't because my marriage felt like it was worth anything at the time. It's undoubtedly because I was attending a conference of law professors. That's its own libido kill.
Most importantly, now that I am safe and sound back home – outside of the jurisdiction of California – my marriage once again feels like it is valuable. (Granted, not as valuable as it would be if I could take Kit down to a federal reserve bank and turn her in for gold, but, you know, still pretty valuable.)
Monday, June 21, 2010
Some musings ...
Monday, April 19, 2010
Phones and Flying
A few months ago I was flying into National Airport in DC, and I noticed that the teenage boy next to me was texting. I’m a wimpy flyer, and since September 11th the landings at National have become particularly harrowing because pilots are required to follow the Potomac River (an awfully twisty river) to the airport.
So while clutching my armrests and taking very deep breaths, I tell the kid next to me to stop texting. To his credit (or perhaps because I didn’t look completely rational), the kid put his phone away, and after we landed he asked why I wanted him to stop texting. I told him that they tell us to shut off our phones during flights for a reason, and so it must not be safe. To which he responded “do you think that is really true?”
I’m not certain whether it is unsafe to text or make cell phone calls while flying. I’ve occasionally seen news reports that some airline or another is going to allow cell phone use in flight. But I’ve always interpreted the instructions from the pilot/crew to turn off phones for the flight as an implicit warning that their use is dangerous (maybe the warning has been explicit on some flights, I can’t remember). But without clear information that such behavior *is* safe, shouldn’t we keep our phones off? At least when flying next to someone as scared as me . . .?
Sunday, January 03, 2010
Whither law firm prestige?
With the economic and law market downturn we are hearing a lot about shifts in the legal market paradigm - the end of the billable hour, changes in associate recruitment and training, etc.. I recently came to find out about a web entity that made me thing about potential changes in the way clients choose and manage their law firms. Traditionally, firm prestige has been very important in attracting clients, however as with many business situations it has historically been driven by word of mouth and other fairly informal measures of the quality of past work. In the information age we inhabit, many traditional paths to acclaim and reputation have been either supplanted or at least augmented by more direct and systemic measurements of perceived quality.
For instance, consider Tripadvisor and similar hotel rating programs. They provide a good bit richer information than the traditional star rating, word of mouth, or travel book recommendations. Prior guests post numerical ratings on a number of dimensions, provide specific comments on their experience, and can even upload photos of their room and the rest of the hotel. In similar vein, professors now are subjected to online ratings for their classes. How long will it be before clients come to primarily use similar services to inform their choice among law firms? Granted, I am pretty sure that the NLJ 250 probably won't be displaced by small local firms completely. Further, there are the M-H peer review rankings to consider.
Still, I am curious as to whether firms will be able to fend off these type of evaluation systems that have, at least to some degree, come to drive markets in other areas. Further, might clients also take note of sealed bid proposal systems that have become popular in e-commerce (similar to traditional construction firm practices) in deciding which law firm will represent them? Now, back to that web entity I had alluded to previously - Elance.com. This site allows clients seeking expertise (including legal expertise) to evaluate potential contractors with rich evaluation data and it incorporates a bid system for hiring. Is this the future of law firm hiring? Whither traditional notions and pathways of law firm prestige? I'm guessing that it's unlikely that such a system would largely supplant traditional firm prestige, but I would not be surprised if certain aspects of such a system became increasingly utilized in the law market. Below is a short video explaining how Elance works - rest assured, I have no stake in their success; it just started me thinking on these matters.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Respect Copyright Law: Don't Print Your Own Canadian Money
Of all the reasons not to churn out banknotes in your own cellar, worries about liability for copyright infringement never occurred to me.
Until my wife and I took our two boys up to Winnipeg for the weekend.
Although we could probably have made it through the weekend on credit cards, I was super psyched about getting a wad of Canadian currency out of an ATM machine.
To experience the full excitement of traveling abroad, you've got to have a pocket full of unfamiliar money. Nevermind that their pennies, dimes, nickels, and quarters look almost identical to U.S. coins. And put aside the fact that the exchange rate right now between the U.S. and Canada is almost exactly one-to-one. I was still excited to use different cash.
Inspecting the colorful bills, I got a delightful surprise: a copyright notice!
Aspiring counterfeiters be warned – the bills are copyrighted by the Bank of Canada! That will make you think twice before xeroxing off a sheaf of north-of-the-border moola.
In the United States, we discourage that sort of thing with specially crafted counterfeiting laws. Under these laws, you can be arrested by Secret Service agents who, in proving their mettle to make the presidential security detail, will take you down in broad daylight in a swarm of dark suits and sunglasses while never ceasing to speak covertly into their earpieces.
The Secret Service is all business. To my knowledge, they've never waterboarded anyone, but if they did, you can be sure they would do it without taking off their ties or unbuttoning their collars.
If you counterfeit money in Canada, you could, apparently, get sued for copyright infringement. Don't think just because Canadians say "sorry" a lot that they will go easy on you. They will be all over you like the RIAA on a mother of two who downloaded a couple dozen songs from the internet.
But honestly speaking, of all the absurd and hyperactive claims of copyright, I think this has got to take the cake. Now, I have no doubt about the law. I am not a student of Canadian copyright law, but I am quite sure the Bank of Canada is entitled to the copyright in their currency designs. But under the Berne Convention, Canada does not need to use a copyright notice to have copyright protection. And to the extent the copyright notice is designed to have evidentiary value in a lawsuit, it's just funny.
And more to the point, why would Canada care to assert a copyright claim over their bills anyway? What possible copying of Canadian banknotes could there be that does not constitute protected fair use or criminally prosecutable counterfeiting?
The only thing I can think of that might fall between the cracks would be if some lazy foreign government decided to rip off Canadian currency designs to avoid the the annoyance of having to come up with their own. But there are two glaring problems with this argument.
Princess Joan, one-third the population of Sealand, on her principality's coinage.
First, the smaller a country is, the more fired-up it gets about designing its own money.
For instance, the dubiously sovereign Principality of Sealand – perched on an abandoned gun platform in the English channel, population three – has far more coin denominations and stamp issues than people.
Second, to be blunt, no third-world nation out there wants to put an engraving of pond hockey on their banknotes.
[Cross-posted on Pixelization.]
Friday, September 11, 2009
Disneyland and property rights in tickets
Due to a family matter, I had to head down to Los Angeles last week, so naturally my wife and I took our two little boys to Disneyland as well. While there, the following two possibly analogous incidents occurred that got me thinking about property rights in tickets.