July 16, 2009

Why I joined this fast thing.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Charles Caplan @ 3:04 pm

So I signed up for the Fast for Gaza, despite the fact that their understanding of teh intertubes is kind of awful. Anyway, today is the first fast day, and I thought I’d explain here why I signed up and why I’m fasting.

To be clear, I do not think that Israel’s policy or actions in Gaza have constituted any kind of illegal acts. I think at worst they constitute stupid policy. Of the four statements listed on the fast web page, I definitely agree with #1 and #4, probably disagree with #3 and probably agree with #2. So why am I doing it?

Dick Gregory (whose politics I don’t follow, but whose views on fasting I do) wrote in his memoirs that one feature of a political fast was that every time he thought about food, or somebody who knew about his fasting thought about food, they would think about the reason behind the fast as well. Regardless of one’s position on the blockade in Gaza, and mine certainly isn’t thoroughly worked out yet, I think it’s a helpful thought experiment, once a month, to force myself to consider the blockade by abstaining from one of the things cut off by it.

Finally, a legal services organization on topic that seems interesting (but whose policies I  don’t always agree with: see, inter alia, my note on illegality above) is Gisha. Their web site has a good deal more information on the issue than I can imagine wanting to read.

June 20, 2009

Time Matters, but does freedom?

Filed under: New Categories,Project Bentham,Soapbox — Scott Charles Caplan @ 3:57 pm

There is a legal services crisis in this country. The legal services needs of the rich are met, and approximately one-quarter of the civil needs of the poor are, as well. What about the poor man whose case isn’t so sympathetic? Or the struggling middle-class single mother who can’t qualify for assistance?

The legal market has stratified, and smaller shops are the last resort of the lower and middle classes, who often pay more than they can in fact afford, to have a lawyer. A small shop has a few basic costs, and a few others. Some of these are necessary: lawyers will always have to pay rent on their offices. But some of these costs are not necessary. Among these is the cost of law firm management software, including installation, hosting the database, and service.

Shouldn’t there be an open-source alternative for such unnecessary costs that come between struggling clients and struggling smaller shops? Maybe Time Matters, but doesn’t freedom too?

June 7, 2009

I am created Doctor of Soup

Filed under: Friends & Family — Scott Charles Caplan @ 10:51 am

On Thursday I received a Juris Doctor degree. Of course, Juris can be translated as “of law” (singular), but it can also be translated as “of soup/sauce/broth.” If you’ve been wondering why I’ve been calling myself a Doctor of Soup, or a Doctor of the Sauce, that’s why.

I’ve learned a few things in law school. Here is a partial list:

  • You give me the procedure, I’ll give you the substance, and I’ll whup you every time.
  • Never underestimate the recreational value of litigation.
  • The first case tried in a federal district court in what is now Maine was a piracy trial in the 1790s.
  • It is possible to have three post-graduate degrees from Harvard and Yale, including a PhD in philosophy from the inferior of the two, and still manage not to understand propositional logic.
  • The courts of the more democratic Muslim countries have had to grapple harder with questions of Islamic finance than have those of the more theocratic ones.
  • President Nixon’s lawyers were either not terribly creative, or none of them was a gardener. (Little/nothing to do with Watergate).
  • Buy, Borrow, Die.
  • Conflict of Laws issues are ignored surprisingly often.
  • “It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV. It is still more revolting if the grounds upon which it was laid down have vanished long since, and the rule simply persists from blind imitation of the past.”
  • I have a great landlord.
  • Leading questions on direct are not only improper, they’re less effective.
  • Federal courts issues are ignored surprisingly often.
  • I have no idea why Holmes picked Henry IV for the quote, but I am reasonably certain that the Chancery started around 1461 to provide relief where the feoffees to use had died seised.

I’m a liar Part II

Filed under: Friends & Family,Snobbishness,Soapbox — Scott Charles Caplan @ 10:01 am

This is more of a delay in reporting something than an actual lie, but I’ve rejoined facebook, deciding that I should pick my battles, and having a convenient address book that updates itself is not worth the stubbornness. Shortly after I rejoined, though, facebook took a giant step forward.

If anybody knows how I can link my account, that’d be a big help. On a related note (OpenID-related, which you will find out is related if you follow the link), I’ve been using http://scottc229.myopenid.com, instead of this blog’s URL, since I updated WordPress and forgot to change the headers to delegate the former. I won’t get to fixing this terribly soon, but I’d hope before I start work in September.

May 23, 2009

Rachel Maddow and boingboing’s overreaction

Filed under: Soapbox — Scott Charles Caplan @ 11:12 am


I must admit that I had a hard time sitting through the whole thing; what helped me most was not watching the tape constantly because it only adds to the lack of consideration for the opposing viewpoint. Pres. Obama in his speech did not really explain the legal justification for such prolonged detention, and that was probably a mistake, but my first hunch is that it’s perfectly constitutional, and in fact generous under the laws of war.

Habeas corpus is a writ requiring an end to unlawful detention. But the laws of war, at least as I understand them, allow detention until the end of hostilities. The laws of war were not created for conflicts as long in duration as those against terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda, and it seems inhumane as a result to leave the determination to one of POW status at the beginning of captivity. The legal framework Pres. Obama suggests creating, and which Rachel Maddow scoffs at as horribly illegal, is actually more than what the law requires.

Without any further research into habeas or the Geneva Conventions, that’s my current understanding of the legal framework. I believe I read a Scalia opinion (not usually my favorite authority on these things, but he’s the one who said it) endorsing detention until the cessation of hostilities, but I can’t find it at the moment. If this initial reaction of mine is wrong, I’d love to hear why.

May 15, 2009

Military commissions

Filed under: Soapbox — Scott Charles Caplan @ 10:10 am

Am I the only person who does not see the alleged flip-flop? There is a big difference between favoring civilian courts or courts martial ab initio and providing for military commissions once 43 screwed everything  up. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been sleeping a lot lately, but America is the only country in the world with deterrence-grounded exclusion of evidence. If all of the evidence we have against some detainee is reliable, should we knowingly try that war crime in a court which can’t hear reliable evidence? I don’t have any problem with ensuring that reliable or independently-verified evidence be admitted.

43′s stupid policies produced this state of affairs. Now, if Pres. Obama detains a terrorist, finds out through traditional (i.e., non-43) evidence that that person is guilty of war crimes, and then tries that detainee in a military commission, that would be a flip-flop.

April 1, 2009

Israel Summary

Filed under: Friends & Family,Soapbox — Scott Charles Caplan @ 4:18 pm

Things I learned in Israel:

  • There’s not nearly as much security as I thought there would be.
  • Independence Hall was sand dunes 90 years ago, but its 1948 ceremony was more of a miracle than its construction was.
  • Arabs make much better falafel than Jews.
  • Jews compensate with wine, but Palestinian beer is better than Goldstar.
  • Yisrael Beteinu has at least two racists in it besides Avigdor Lieberman, one of whom takes it to such an extreme that I am ashamed she represents the Jewish state.
  • Israel is much better at observing the law of war than her critics would think, and much worse at protecting her Arab citizens than her proponents would think.
  • Aharon Barak is awesome.
  • Backgammon is bigger than chess in Jerusalem.
  • I come from a people that will spare no expense and no effort to protect their own, whether they are Ethiopian villagers, the last Jews in Yemen, or Gilad Shalit. We’re good-looking, too.
  • The ultra-Orthodox in Jerusalem are just as rude as I suspected they would be. This is made up by the fact that I saw at least one Holy Roller on actual roller skates. Then again, that was in Tel Aviv.
  • The Jews of Qumran were weird, and the woman who hands out headsets at the Israel Museum is a bit slow.
  • The coffee in Israel is better than the stuff widely available here.
  • Pomegranate juice is delicious.
  • I get the romance of Western Jerusalem, and the excitement of East Jerusalem, but I don’t get the G-d vibe everybody else seems to.
  • F-15s make a lot of noise when they take off.
  • The people in Sderot have been screwed over psychologically more than I can comprehend. Some will turn to the sword; I hope some turn to the pen as well.

I didn’t make it to the Jerusalem Chess Club, so I guess I’ll have to go back some time.

March 17, 2009


Filed under: Friends & Family — Scott Charles Caplan @ 9:28 pm

I still haven’t posted anything about my trip to Iceland, during which I played chess with drunken sailors and got a private tour of the Supreme Court of Iceland.

Anyway, I’m going to Israel from 3/18 to 3/28. If you feel the urge to call me, you can reach me at +44 7924009540.

Of course you could always just email me, but that would be less fun.

March 12, 2009

Still not back on facebook, but…

Filed under: Friends & Family — Scott Charles Caplan @ 9:10 pm

I am on Twitter: scottc229. I’ll probably be making my posts publicly viewable in the near future.

In the meantime, before I post anything, I should start using del.icio.us more often, and enable openID comments on this blog.

This blog is awful

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Charles Caplan @ 9:06 pm

A while ago I found myself reading over some of my old posts. I’ve deleted two of them, and while I suppose that the old versions are retrievable on the Internet Archive, I took them down anyway. I took down one of them because it was a project I didn’t follow through on, and the other because it was a poor attempt at humor that bordered on offensive.

Many of my posts, one of the deleted ones included, are rife with bad spelling, and plain old sloppiness. I apologize for that. Hopefully that will improve, but I doubt I’ll be able to tell until I wait a few years and look again.

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