Thursday, April 30, 2009

1976 Swine Influenza Outbreak.

The following public service announcement was propagated in 1976 to encourage the US civilian population to get vaccinated for the swine influenza virus.

According to Wikipedia, in 1976, an army recruit at Fort Dix (New Jersey) died from swine flu. Trigger happy public health officials convinced President Ford that every person in the United States must be vaccinated for the disease.

A little less than 33% of the US population voluntarily received the vaccination. Pulmonary complications killed about 25 people, so the vaccine killed more people than the disease did.

I don't want to downplay the potential threat of global pandemics, but seriously? Take a chill pill people.

A little common sense can help mitigate the chances of diseases like the common cold from spreading.

If you feel ill - quarantine yourself, and stay away from other people.
Wash your hands before/after you go to the bathroom, eat, touch your mouth, rub your eyes, etc. Use a paper towel to open the doors because you can't trust other people to wash their hands. Or buy a N-95 mask and wear it.

The picture you see to the right was taken moments before my Constitutional law final exam during my 1L year. I pixelated the poor victim to my left to protect her identity, because after her picture was taken next to an East Asian with a mask, she was suspected to be infected with the SARS.

In reality? I was afflicted with the common cold, and didn't want to cough on the poor soul in front of me and infect other stressed out law students.

Now I realize I could have quarantined myself, but the idea of having to retake Constitutional law was too terrifying and horrific. I also realize that the mask was not approved as a N-95 respirator, but I had the right intentions (and I did reduce the chances of aerosol droplet contamination).

Or you can listen to Vice President Joe Biden, and protect yourself from swine flu by avoiding all centrally air conditioned closed spaces.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Car Ad with Andy Richter & James Adomian.

Unfortunately the final exams are approaching so I have not been able to drum up the necessary creativity to write anything new or amusing.

In the meantime - this will have to suffice.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I am a Fire Starter!

Not literally, OK? So on Tuesday I was dying from boredom (figuratively), and at the urging of a friend, I decided to write a Facebook application titled "Which Pitt Law Professor Are You?".

I published it later in the afternoon, sent it to maybe four friends for beta testing, and by the time I got home later that evening approximately 100 people had already accessed it.

In approximately 46 hours, approximately 414 independent users have used the quiz. I think that it could mean that our law students/graduates really really love their professors, maybe a large proportion number of our law students want to procrastinate from their impending finals, and a lot of law graduates have idle time in this economy... :|

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Funniest/Most Tragic Supreme Court Oral Argument in Recent Memory

Today the Supreme Court heard Safford Unified School District #1, et al., v. April Redding. I usually follow SCOTUS cases quietly and make few if any remarks concerning them. However, the transcript was too good to pass up.

In this case, a thirteen year old student was subjected to being strip-searched after another student accused her of distributing prescription-strength Ibuprofin. One of the legal issues is... does the Fourth Amendment prohibit school officials from strip searching students suspected of possessing drugs in violation of school policy?

In essence - the justices will have to decide whether strip-searching under those circumstances constitute an unreasonable search.

For some justices, what constitutes "reasonable" will possibly be informed by normal human experience. This quickly degraded into hypothetical involving drugs being possibly hidden in underwear, and then whether it was reasonable human experience to have to remove one's clothing in school.

During one particular line of questioning during oral arguments, Justice Stephen Breyer remarked:
"So what am I supposed to do? In my experience when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old, you know, we did take our clothes off once a day, we changed for gym, okay? And in my experience, too, people did sometimes stick things in my underwear--"

(Laughter erupts in the courtroom), but Justice Breyer resumes:
"Or not my underwear. Whatever. Whatever. I was the one who did it? I don't know. I mean, I don't think it's beyond human experience, not beyond human experience."

I don't know whether to laugh or to cry. I think Justice Breyer was bullied as a child when he grew up in San Francisco (or maybe the kids just played a lot of kinky games in the locker room). So folks... tell your kids not to bully kids in school, their victims could one day become an esteemed Justice in the Supreme Court of the United States!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Awareness Months are Dumb.

The proliferation of awareness months have largely rendered them pointless.

For example, apparently April is Alcohol Awareness Month. April is also STD Awareness Month, as well as the National Poetry Month, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Stress Awareness Month, Community Service Month, Pets Are Wonderful Month, American Cancer Society Month, National Garden Month, Mathematics Month, National Soyfoods Month, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, Fresh Florida Tomato Month, National Food Month, National Pecan Month, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and finally the National Financial Literacy Month.

If you made it to the end of that rambling long meaningless list, congratulations, you are one of the few people who can be properly influenced by these "heightened awareness" programs that are supposed to positively affect your behavior or educate you on a particular topic.

If you do a little digging - you'll find many Congressional awareness months are basically pieces of legislation inserted by members of Congress trying to appeal to a certain demographic/interest group. The interest group then turns around and tells its sponsors that it successfully increased issue awareness by getting the awareness month (and asks for more money). The cycle continues and will continue until we have so many awareness months that no one will take them seriously anymore (if anyone ever did).

Do a Google search on any awareness month you can imagine, and it probably exists.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Drug Induced Indifference.

Aside from the fact that it binds to opioid receptors, I don't exactly know the pharmacology of vicodin. But after having taking it (with a legitimate prescription), I can't say I care.

It is potent stuff. I would describe its effect as... indifference. For the last two days, when the pain of the empty tooth socket was inconvenient or unbearable, I took the prescribed dosage. After approximately 15-30 minutes, I stopped caring.

Now... don't get me wrong, the drug induced indifference was not of the type that will cause me to refrain from dodging a wrench, but it was the type where there was a lack of motivation to do anything my rational brain did not not find... essential.

What is essential? Well it depends on the moment.

I had a seminar paper presentation yesterday, which I had thoroughly prepared for months earlier by researching/writing the paper, and specifically preparing for the presentation several days ahead of time.

The topic? The interpretation of price-delivery terms under the UN CISG.

Under normal circumstances, I would have been slightly to moderately nervous about the presentation. I was giving it before a class of people, including one of the most respected authority on the UN CISG.

I went to the classroom about 30 minutes before class was to begin, plugged in my computer and got the projector setup. I was not indifferent to the presentation - I wanted to do well, but for some reason, I was just completely indifferent the possibility that I could fail miserably and get laughed out of the classroom. I thought... well I've prepared for this, I am as ready as can be - why should I worry about it? What good will my worries do?

Once I regained my ability for reflection and introspection - I had an awakening!

The indifference allowed a level of unsurpassed rational focus on the present.

I suspect vicodin limits my ability to anticipate the future. This is obviously not good when person is operating a motor vehicle, but is quite helpful when the individual is in a controlled environment, where they are expected to execute a well-rehearsed plan/act.

What is the significance of this? Well... it is now my hypothesis that North Koreans are all high on vicodin.

Watch this video - nuff said.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

PLA Liberation Propaganda.

It has been a relatively slow day - and being unable to think of anything particularly amusing to write about, I've shamelessly recycled some PRC propaganda for everybody's collective enjoyment.

This is a PRC propaganda poster dating back to probably the 1950-1960s. The mainland girl is holding up a poster (presumably of starving Taiwanese kids) and urging the People's Liberation Army to "liberate" the poor kids living in Taiwan.

Oh the irony... almost as ironic and tragic as the "Great Leap Forward"...

Monday, April 13, 2009

My dental surgeon rocks!

So I've had two teeth that needed removal for the longest time, and finally got around to getting it done.

I walk into the dentist's office - this jovial older lady begins talking to me and we strike up a good rapport (unbeknown to me, she was the surgeon's wife/assistant).

When the surgeon calls me - she follows me in (this was the point when I realized she was probably a staff/employee and not a friendly patient in the waiting room).

After many needle jabs and several minutes of nice banter, the local anesthesia kicked in and my jaw/lip/tongue was gone. After that they started doing what they do - and before I knew it, the teeth was out, I was discharged - and filling a prescription for antibiotics and painkillers at RiteAid.

In any case - I am publishing this short blurb before I take a hydrocodone induced nap in class (I promise it isn't Secured Transactions putting me under).

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

Privacy Policy Update.

Although readers/editorial board members of Legally Irreverent overwhelmingly voted (click to see results) to allow Google AdSense advertising on the sidebar - I still want to be upfront and transparent about how Google AdSense works.

Above you should see a "Privacy Policy." Basically AdSense figures out the "interest" of this blog - and displays ads in the approved boxed area to the right. Life most websites, there are cookies involved, and unfortunately they are not edible.

This allows me to blog, generate revenues to support my coffee habit, without doing you wrong. Thanks!

PETA's Sea Kittens.

A friend recently told me about PETA's Sea Kitten campaign. PETA's idea is... kittens are cute, so people do not want to kill them. So let's rename fish as "sea kittens" - so that people will not want to kill fish.

There are several problems with the campaign. PETA says...
"Given the drastic situation for this country's sea kittens—who are often the victims of many major threats to their welfare and ways of life—it's high time that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) stop allowing our little sea kitten friends to be tortured and killed. Who'd want to hurt a sea kitten anyway?!

Sea kittens are just as intelligent (not to mention adorable) as dogs and cats, and they feel pain just as all animals do. "

Do we really want to make decisions regarding whether or not a creature is killed/harvested/conserved based on cuteness? Really? So is PETA essentially endorsing the view that "physical attractiveness" = "value of life"?

Alternatively, PETA says that sea kittens are just as intelligent as dogs and cats - which also endorses the view that "intelligence" = "value of life".

Under that world view - a human being who has been diagnosed with profound mental retardation (IQ < 20), arguably has less intrinsic value than someone at the statistical mean (IQ = 100). It also implies that a highly intelligent functioning dolphin is more valuable than a human diagnosed with mental retardation.

I once watched a PETA documentary, which was intended to promote the organization. However, instead of promoting the organization, the co-founder, Ingrid Newkirk just came across as a loony.

In one particular moment, Ingrid and her colleagues "found" an animal that they claimed was being sent to slaughter. They brought it back to their office, placed it in a confined office, then turned on the radio to play it some music, and closed the door.

I had an awakening. I think that particular moment captured Ingrid's problem. She suffers from a lack of empathy. You might be surprised at this conclusion, but hear me out.

Empathy is the ability to share and understand another individual's emotion and feelings. Empathy is not compassion or sympathy (which Ingrid has plenty of). An individual may have a high capacity for empathy for another, but still not have compassion or sympathy (for other reasons).

Crudely put - empathy is one's ability to understand another's thought process/emotion. Great communicators have a high degree of empathy. They implicitly understand another individual's through process/emotions, and can tailor their method of communication accordingly.

Ingrid assumes that the animal would appreciate classical music blasting loudly from the radio. She had no way of knowing whether or not the animal in fact appreciated her intervention, but if Ingrid thought it is better for the animal (absent of any facts), it was better for the animal.

It is this incapacity for empathy, that leads PETA to kill more domesticated dogs and cats annually than they save. PETA does not dispute the fact that they kill these animals (just search their website). PETA insists that the animals are un-adoptable, and that their killings constitute an act of mercy.

In 2003, Ingrid wrote a letter to Yasser Arafat to protest the use a donkey in a bomb attack against Israeli nationals. Ingrid did not really care about the potential innocents in either the Israeli or Palestinian sides of the conflict - she took a stance against the bombing because of the donkey. I wonder what Arafat thought when he read the faxed letter.

In 2005, several PETA employees were arrested and charged with animal cruelty in North Carolina, after being caught dumpling dead bodies of dogs and cats at a supermarket dumpster. PETA had apparently been soliciting local animal shelters for the animals, telling the shelters that they would find homes for the animals. Instead? They were "put out of their misery" and dumped at a dumpster.

PETA members have also been known to "rescue" animals from labs. In addition to committing criminal trespass, burglary, ruining years of research and potentially voiding the sacrifice of other animals, and creating potential public health threats, when PETA "rescues" animals from research facilities, if the organization does not have the funds to keep the animals alive, it "puts them out of their misery."

So will I hurt a sea-kitten? Yes. I will hurt a sea-kitten incidental to control their overpopulation (usually occurs when humans erroneously introduce them to new ecosystems). I will also hurt a sea-kitten, incidental to me wanting some yummy protein.

I will consume sea-kittens not because I'm particularly evil (I may be - but I promise I'm not doing it out of evilness in this instance), but because I refuse to differentiate between the intrinsic value of different animals and plants. I am homosapien, I have eight incisors and four canines. Regardless of whether an intelligent almighty created my kind out of dirt, or whether I evolved from other mammals, humans are part of the environment and developed as a part of the ecosystem (for example, cockroaches and rodents have developed around homosapien ecosystems).

I need protein to survive - it can come from fields of crop that displace other animals, or from animals. Either way - my human existence is going to harm the interests of another animal.

Thus, I will eat anything that is sustainable, tastes good and/or beneficial to my health.

Papa Bear vs. The Mustache.

Why can't Fox News always be this amusing?

Geraldo Rivera broke the Willowbrook State School scandal back in 1970s. Since then he has had some bad bad moments - but overall I'll say he owned Bill O'Reilly during this confrontation.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The National Organization for Marriage is dumb.

The National Organization for "Marriage" (NOM) [disclaimer: website extremely moronic] is a organization with non-profit status under the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(4). This gives the organization the opportunity to raise funds free of most income tax liabilities for the purpose of political policy advocacy.

NOM claims to "provide political intelligence and donor infrastructure on the state level, with a focus on developing new strategies for increasing influence in the Northeast and West Coast, where marriage is most under threat." In reality? It is really moronic.

The Human Rights Campaign has a "End the Lies" campaign in response to NOM.

NOM has this stupid "There's a storm gathering..." commercial that makes some strange claims... click here to watch it. [disclaimer: commercial extremely moronic]

Oh no my child is being exposed to alternative viewpoints at school! (Uh... you can always talk to them at home? Aren't parents supposed to be the primary socializing for kids anyway?)

Help! my marriage with my wife is falling apart because gay people can get married too! (See a shrink?)

One of the lamest claims made is...

"I'm a California doctor who must chose between my faith and my job."

The statement is a reference to a decision issued by the California Supreme Court last August. In Benitez v. North Coast Women's Care Medical Group, some unprofessional doctors withheld medical treatment to a patient (who happens to be lesbian), claiming that their religious beliefs gives them a right to refuse medical treatment to lesbians. The California Supreme Court, applying Californian anti-discrimination law, found that doctors cannot withhold medical treatment based on sexual orientation.

What does same-sex marriage have in connection with doctors denying treatment based on sexual orientation? With the exception of insidious discrimination, I don't see the connection.

I'm not going to address the legal nuisances because the commercial debates policy, not law.

I don't know about you, but if my profession required me to conform to a group of value sets that I am uncomfortable with, and fundamentally conflicts with my faith, I'll quit.

What sort of person engages or continues to work in a profession where the customs of practice contradicts their fundamental values? If a doctor has a fundamental objection to the medical treatment and well being of patients, should they really be a doctor?

I think we can all appreciate that different people have different values. Consistent with those values, some doctors refuse to perform certain medical procedures that they find objectionable (i.e. abortion, fertility treatment, contraception). OK - I can respect that. These individuals opt out of an entire category of potentially profitable endeavors out of a moral conviction, refer patients to other doctors, and move on. When their profession conflicts with their faith, they choose their faith, and aren't whining about it.

But in Benitez, the doctors are willing to provide the same medical treatment to patients who appear to be heterosexual (I doubt the doctors are actually capable of differentiating their patient's sexuality). Really? Do we really want to give doctors the "religious right" to discriminate against each individual patient based on the doctor's particular sensitivities? And ignore patient's well being?

What sort of lame public policy is that?

What if a fundamentalist LDS Mormon doctor, who has actually read Brigham Young (the second "prophet" of the LDS Mormon church), denies medical treatment to an person of African descent suffering from leprosy? Let's pretend that the doctor believes that persons afflicted with dark skin and flat noses are decedents of Cain (murderer of Able), and that the person's ethnicity and leprosy is punishment from God? Should we really say - oh religious freedom - yah go ahead and deny round of antibiotics?


Do we really want a society where professionals in any trade or practice can arbitrary discriminate against consumers based on race, sex, gender, nationality, sexual orientation?

Do we really want an environment where every individual on the planet who has a personal idiosyncratic viewpoint can redefine their job description?

A white supremacist working in the Peace Corp? Aw damn I'm not helping no brown person.

A volunteer combat infantry who is a pacifist? I'll take government pay but when it comes to deployment I'm declaring conscientious objection?

A firefighter who worships fire and has a fundamental objection to putting it out? Burn baby burn!


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

ROC condemns DPRK long-range rocket test...

I was surfing the Republic of China (i.e government on Taiwan)'s Ministry of Foreign Affairs' website - and oddly enough, the ROC government issued a condemnation of North Korea's long-range missile test.

Taiwan and North Korea have a strange history.

During the Korean war, the KMT government and military was itching to start a "second" front in the Korean conflict by invading the Chinese mainland. Chiang Kai-Shek also offered ROC troops for use on the Korean peninsula, and Taiwan was a POW detention location for captured North Koreans & Chinese military personnel.

In the late 1990s, Taiwan and North Korea entered into a deal under which North Korea will be paid to receive nuclear waste from Taiwan.

The statement was issued in traditional Chinese. Click here to read it in traditional Chinese. I've taken the liberty of doing a quick five minute translation of the statement.

"The Republic of China government condemns North Korea's launching of the long-range rocket and urges the rational resolution of the dispute.

North Korea's disregarded the international community's concern and opposition, launching a long-range rocket on April 5, 10:30am Taipei time. The launch has evoked great international concern, in addition to strong condemnation from the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, other states, and the European Union.

North Korea's long-range rocket launch is in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1718. Regarding international peace, North Korea's conduct has particularly created tension and negatively impacted the security and stability in the Asian-Pacific region.

The Republic of China, as a member of East Asia, expresses deep regret and condemnation at North Korea's undermining of East Asian stability; and urges all parties to abide by international standards of conduct, and resolve the conflict through the attitude of rationality and self-made (juche) basis.

The Republic of China reiterates that issues involving the Korean peninsula should be resolved via peaceful dialogue in order to preserve regional peace, stability, and prosperity."

My first response was... uh... really? Who really cares what the ROC says about the Korean peninsula? I also struggled with the translation of "self-made," because it was so strange a usage that I initially interpreted it as "ad hoc," but realized it was a subtle reference to Juche ideology. Wow - is that an attempt to butter up the North Korean government? Sweeten the condemnation? What is going on?

Too bad no one cares about what Taiwan has got to say.

1985 Isuzu Gemini.

The 1985 Isuzu Gemini was the last car ever designed by automobile designer Giorgetto Giugiaro for Isuzu. General Motors and Isuzu had an arrangement where Isuzu would produce cars under its own badge and also under GM's multiple brand names for the international market.

Apparently Isuzu presented the concept design to GM, and at GM's request, altered the design without consulting with Giorgetto Giugiaro. Giugiaro, a proud Italian who had previously worked on iconic cars like the original VW Golf Mk 1, the Maserati Bora, and countless supercars, was offended - and quit working with Isuzu (and disavowed having worked on the Gemini).

Isuzu subsequently generally dropped out of the regular passenger vehicle market and is now better known for its commercial truck business (I make no causal inferences between the departure of Giugiaro and the failure of Isuzu's passenger vehicle, but it is interesting).

In any case - Isuzu had a very cool commercial for the 1985 Gemini. They sure don't advertise cars like they use to.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Someone from GM paid us a visit.

I was doing my habitual blog visitor analytics today and I noticed that someone from General Motors Corporation had visited Legally Irreverent. I've posted the screenshot below, click to enlarge.

I have dissed GM on multiple occasions. See The Chevy Volt is Dumb. The Chevy HHR is dumb. And GM spokesperson, Glenn Beck is a moron.

But I've never expected someone from GM to actually visit Legally Irreverent. Now... there can be multiple interpretations of this visit.

        1. GM employees are surfing on the job.

        2. GM is researching the public's opinion.

        3. GM is checking out how Google is advertising GM.

Which is more plausible? You decide!

Check out the screenshot below.

GM, which is currently burning cash and will probably need to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (unless the US tax payers throw them a lifeline), is advertising on Google AdSense. I sure hope Google is making GM pay cash for its advertising, because it may not be able to collect on advertising already rendered in a few months.

Because AdSense is a client of this blog - I guess that indirectly makes me a spokesperson for General Motors.

Unlike Glenn Beck - I don't have blind faith in the people or ideas behind General Motors. So as a honest spokesperson - let me reiterate.

The Chevy Volt is DUMB! And the HHR is ATROCIOUS! If you want to support GM and want a good solid vehicle, buy a Pontiac Vibe. It is the most reliable and fuel efficient vehicle sold by GM in North America.

The Vibe is really a Toyota Matrix. The Vibe is assembled in Freemont, California by unionized workers at the New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI), which is a joint-venture between Toyota and GM. In my opinion, NUMMI is proof that the American worker is not to blame for GM's problems.

If someone from GM is reading this - hello! Keep paying for advertising on Google AdSense!

Behold the mighty OXO Y Peeler.

I love OXO products. They are simple, affordable, and ergonomic.

Originally intended for the arthritic, OXO products are generally nicely rubberized, well balanced, and impervious to wear and tear in the kitchen.

I have had my $7 dollar OXO "Good Grips" Y Peeler for almost 7 years. It is still sharp and as easy to use as when it was fresh out of the box. The peeler's handle has a good circumference (other peeler's lend to be too narrow and rounded, which does not fit the closed human hand).The soft touch finish makes it comfortable to use for peeling up to 20 pounds of potatoes in a single sitting (I have to take a break after 21).

I award this product five out of five truffles.


If I were in charge of product development at OXO, I may steer them towards the direction of surgical equipments. OXO already makes a mandoline slicer - which in my lay opinion - can easily be modified to work as a dermatome (medical instrument which plastic surgeons use to take thin sheets of skin for grafts).

More ergonomic tools = less fatigued surgeons. Which will most certainly increase the number of procedures they may attempt while decreasing the number of medical errors caused by fatigue.

I'll assume that the soft-touch rubber and plastic may have to come out (since you probably can't put either materials in an autoclave), but maybe they can replace the soft touch rubber with the silicon material utilized in most soft spatulas (which are resistant to temperatures of up to 480°F/248.8°C).


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Free Speech for Morons.

I'm starting a new series on Legally Irreverent, called "Free Speech for Morons." Despite the name of this blog, I actually do revere the rule of law and most laws (except for the dumb ones).

The First Amendment protects things like political discourse and political dissent during turmultuous times, the right to flip off police officers, and free speech for morons (and blog).

So in the spirit of encouraging free speech and political discourse, I will cherry pick morons at their best.

Today, I will feature Glenn Beck. Now... I don't watch Fox News. But I can't help but notice the idiocy of talking heads like Glenn Beck on YouTube.

Glenn Beck is simultaneously a firm believer of the "free market," who has blind faith in General Motor's ability to turn itself around, yet at the same time expects the US government to actively support GM. Why? I thought he loved the free market.

Under Rick Wagoner's tenure, GM's costs have decreased, while its quality have increased. However, he's also failed to recognize emerging consumer demand - initially dismissing hybrid technology (even if it is a bridge technology), and heavily investing in GM's traditional strengths like large SUVs and pickups (while failing to create more competitive sub-compacts/compact cars). Under Wagnor's tenure, GM's shares have devalued by 90%, and GM is burning up cash reserves, and now throwing its apples in plug-in hybrid technology in cars like the Chevy Volt, which is dumb.

GM is burning through cash so quickly it cannot survive absent government "loans." Whether these "loans" will be repaid (and thus becoming bridge loans that help a business get through tough times) vs. becoming sunk costs if GM goes under, will be affected by how GM will be restructured in the next coming months.

Glenn Beck confesses ignorance of Wagoner's "niceness" or abilities, saying that "I don't know, I don't even care," but then takes issue with the Obama Administration's decision to ask CEO Rick Wagoner to resign (in exchange for the US government's continued support), calling it a "mob" tactic.

Since when did the mob ask business leaders to quit their job before handing guaranteed low-interest rate loans to failing companies?

Glenn Beck also confesses that he is a paid spokesperson for GM, but then states that he only has faith in the cars, the ideas, and GM employees - not in the corporation. Beck calls for people to get out of the way - because GM can fix the problem. Uh... so wait... the tax payers are supposed to hand over money and get out of the way? Is that what "free market" means?

Anyway - free speech for morons.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Obelisk of Washington and the Reflecting Pool of Death.

During the past summer, I had the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C.

I have always seen pretty pictures of this nation's great capital. Films like The American President [1995] further reinforced images of grandeur about Washington in my head.

So I've always wanted to see the George Washington Memorial, which always reminded me of the Obelisk of Light (the best defensive weapon in the Command & Conquer Brotherhood of NOD arsenal). I also semi-seriously think its phallic symbolism, paired with the fact that the George Washington Memorial is the world's tallest true obelisk, explains a lot about the stereotypical US attitude vis-à-vis the world.

I've also always wanted to check out the reflecting pool - because I've always wondered whether one can really run across the pool like Forrest and Jenny did at that anti-war rally.

So I arrived at the National Mall... and here are my observations...

Why are there no paved paths around the reflecting pool? How expensive could it possibly be for the federal government to allocate some money for the National Park Service to pour some concrete?

Is there some symbolism about threading one's own path? An attempt at fiscal responsibility by the federal government? What is going on?

Moving On!

The Obelisk of Washington is really quite tall. I really think the Department of Defense should consider retrofitting the tip of the obelisk with a megawatt-class chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL). We can mount the majority of the components below ground, and focus/direct the beam through optical fiber and aim with with high quality lenses.

I've even created a rendition of how such a system could protect the National Mall! (Note: The Arab-descent victim was purely coincidental - he happened to be in the picture).

The Department of Defense would be able to use it against soft surface and airborne threats, scare foreign visitors with wanton and capricious demonstrations of American technological power, and maybe also use it against birds that poop or die in the reflecting pool.

I don't hate all birds. I just think birds should have a little more respect and decency for this great country's political heritage. After all, the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, which sits in the Constitutional Gardens, was intended to honor Lincoln and the Washington Memorial. Don't these birds know they are trampling and defecating on the spirit of this country's great Constitution? Why are they pooping on Lincoln's reflection? Or the phallus of Washington?

I thought it was my civic duty (as a non-citizen) to bear witness and document this avian travesty and disrespect.

Look at this mess. Feathers and poop protein were foaming at the surface of the water, and the reflecting pool smelled of death (even worse than when I did taxidermy because at least formalin covered up the smell). It was just not right.

To the right is another picture of the dirty pool next to the National World War II Memorial.

If the reflecting pool was this bad when Forrest and Jenny wandered in... Jenny must have been high as a kite (Forrest gets a pass because he had just returned from Vietnam so the dirty water probably didn't bother him too much).

Unless it was the deseigners' intention for the Lincoln Memorial & National World War II Memorial to smell like death and bird poo, I would say the reflecting pool somewhat detracts from the atmosphere of the place.

Is there no way to keep the pool clean?

Maybe pay a few custodians to skim the top with a net? Install some water pumps and sand filters?

<law student hat>
In most jurisdictions, under the tort doctrine of attractive nuisance, fountain/pool owner and operators have a duty to either properly enclose their fountains or ensure the water is clean.

Children are not assumed to understand the dangers of dirty water from the reflecting pool. Because the pool is not enclosed and children may stumble in, play in the water, get the water on their hands, introduce the contaminated water to their mouths, and get sick - the owners/operators of the pool may be subject to civil liability.

Uncle Sam has sovereign immunity, and has only narrowly waived sovereign immunity under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and the Tucker Act. For my non-legal readers, sovereign immunity basically means the "king can do no wrong," and represents a bar for courts to have jurisdiction in the case.

Luckily, negligence (with the exception of product liability & strict liability claims) is generally allowed to proceed under the FTCA.

So watch out National Park Service - clean up the reflecting pool or prepared to be served.

In the mean time, I am looking for a professional plaintiff who have minor children (preferably more than a dozen) that is comfortable with letting them play in bird poop and foamy water.
</law student hat>

Oh btw - Happy April Fools' Day!