Category: Jurisprudence

A Fine Mess at the FCC

Last week President Bush signed legislation that will increase the fines broadcasters pay when their programming exceeds “the bounds of decency.” For language or imagery the Federal Communications Commission doesn’t like, the over-the-air media faces penalties as high as $325,000 per incident — a 1000% increase beyond the former maximum. This legislation is the climax...

Pay to Play in the USA

In a rare show of bipartisan outrage, this week both of our nation’s interchangeable political machines expressed their mutual displeasure at the recent FBI searches of a Democratic lawmaker’s Capitol Hill office. Representative William J. Jefferson, of Louisiana, was videotaped accepting a $100,000 bribe; most of the marked money turned up in his freezer; and...

Learning from Piracy

In a gesture of international goodwill — and because there’s a big trade meeting coming up — the Chinese government recently shut down an enormous bazaar in Shanghai that exclusively offered counterfeit goods. Merchants and shoppers admitted to reporters that the closure would be momentarily inconvenient but that the bazaar would soon move to another...

Keeping the World Safe with the Patriot Act?

Your elected representatives voted yesterday to renew the so-called Patriot Act, the noxious piece of legislation originally penned in the weeks following the September, 2001 terrorist attacks. The new version, we are assured by our senators, is a vast improvement over the old version, which granted the federal authorities unprecedented powers to seize and imprison...

To Kill a Mockingbird, Revisited

The plot of Harper Lee’s book about racism, childhood, and paternal love revolves around the rape trial of a black man, Tom Robinson, defended by a white lawyer, played in the movie version with transcendent nobleness by Gregory Peck. In both the novel and the movie, the evidence strongly suggests that Robinson is innocent and...

The Strange Case of Stanley Williams, Icon

The astonishingly strange saga of Stanley Williams, a murderer found guilty by four courts, reached the zenith of its narrative arc yesterday when the Los Angeles Times published a full-page advertisement (paid for by celebrity supporters, one assumes) in which the convict pledged his allegiance to God and asserted his dedication to “redemption.” He did...

Fighting City Hall

Last month my car was towed from a Hollywood street and placed in impound, where I was forced to pay a $177 ransom to liberate it. The car was found by an enterprising (and rather imaginative) traffic officer to be illegally parked, allegedly blocking a residential driveway. Based on the officer’s curious powers of observation...

Randomly Searching for Terrorists

In the wake of the London Tube bombings, New York City has adopted a new policy to screen subway riders. Teams of police officers set up tables near turnstiles. Signs nearby announce that backpacks and handbags are subject to inspection. If riders don’t want to be searched, they’re free to leave the station without their...

The Abortion Quandary

The spectacularly enlightening exhibit “Bodies,” which has been shown around the world and is currently on display in Las Vegas, features dissected and preserved human beings and their various body systems. Amid all the exposed muscles and nerves, intestines and livers, bones and brains, is a section devoted to complete embryos and fetuses in various...

Remind Us Again. . .

Remind us again…why one group of people should be permitted to tell another group of people what they may (or may not) eat, drink, or smoke? Why is it illegal to make a bet on a football game but legal to make a bet on the stock market? Why is it illegal for a woman to earn money...