- The Guardian: Mexico City considers fixed-term marriage licences
The city is considering offering two-year marriage licenses. Couples would get married, and two years later their marriage contract would end, though they could, of course, renew it. Why? Because so many marriages end after two years, requiring an expensive and trying divorce. I've been forecasting limited term marriage licenses for years, but I never would have guessed that it might start in the heavily Catholic Mexico.
- CNet: Was legal site rewrite a liberal plot? Not quite.
Justia made a mistake in a regular expression (I made the same mistake last week), resulting in some SCOTUS rulings going missing from their website. The conspiracy-theory responses are remarkable, especially the bizarre call for a criminal investigation. Justia is a private site—they're free to exclude any rulings for any (or no) reason!
I am embarrassingly excited about this thermostat. I've put a lot of thought into thermostat design over the past few years, convinced that they could both look and function a great deal better than the best models currently available. (In my new home, we got top-flight ones installed, and they're still ugly and work poorly.) The Nest Learning Thermostat is quite a bit more advanced than anything I'd imagined. One more feature I'd like: the ability to detect the presence of people in the home based on whether their phone is on the WiFi network.
- Bloomberg: Obama Lawyers Signal Likely Supreme Court Appeal on Health Care
The White House wants to end the federal appeals court rulings on the president's health care reform, and for the Supreme Court to take up the case. That's likely to bring a decision in June, in the middle of the presidential campaign. "President Barack Obama is trying to resolve the legal issues on his watch, said Alex Castellanos, Republican consultant. 'This is not politics,' he said. 'This is governing.'" Damned straight.
- NPR: Silence From Rep. Bachmann As Vaccine Challenge Expires
Remember the bioethicist's $10,000 challenge to Michele Bachmann if she would simply identify a single person who was rendered mentally retarded by the HPV vaccine? The money would have gone to Bachmann's charity of choice. That's an easy $10k, right? Apparently not—Bachmann couldn't do it. And of course not: her repeated claim that middle school girls have received the shot and promptly been rendered retarded is ridiculous on its face. It's important that dangerous lies like this be responded to like this, because the alternative is for people to come to believe that it's true.
- Wikipedia: Tontine
A tontine is an investment system by which a bunch of people pay into a pot and take their proportional share of the interest on a regular basis. As more participants die, the remaining participants all get a greater share of income with each payment. The last person alive gets a lump payment of all the remaining money. It was popular in the 1700s and 1800s, but they've both fallen out of favor and made illegal in many places.
- PolitiFact: Bob McDonnell says he cut $6 billion from Virginia’s budget
Gov. McDonnell keeps claiming that he cut $6B from the budget "by cutting spending, not raising taxes." This is a lie. Spending reductions eliminated just $2.34B from the budget, only slightly more than the $1.9B of funding provided by federal stimulus dollars. (Apparently, federal stimulus money is "cutting spending.") The balance of the $6B is bookkeeping chicanery—mere slight of hand.
- New York Times: The Prosecution Rests, but I Can’t
John Thompson spent fourteen years on death row for a robbery and a murder, neither of which he committed. Prosecutors knew he hadn't done it—they covered up the ample evidence demonstrating his innocence. If a private investigator hadn't uncovered the conspiracy against him, he'd have been executed by now. In this op-ed, Thompson wonders what to make of a legal system where doing this to him and others is perfectly legal, as the Supreme Court ruled last month.
- Los Angeles Times: Ikea—Workers’ complaints surround Ikea’s U.S. factory
Ikea's Danville factory is becoming a national shame in Sweden. The story is par for the course for Virginia—the company is treating workers terribly, allegedly discriminating against black employees, paying employees terribly and providing lousy benefits. The employees have tried to unionize, but a) Ikea is preventing them from doing so—despite their corporate commitment to unions—and b) it's Virginia.
- The Gavel: 0—Number of Republicans Who Voted To Cut Taxpayer Subsidies for Big Oil
Whether we should continue to subsidize big oil companies (the world's most profitable businesses, let's remember) came to a vote in the House. Republicans voted unanimously in favor.
- IT World: Asus motherboard box doubles as a PC case
Asus is going to start shipping one of their Mini ATX motherboards in a padded cardboard box that can double as a case for the computer. They figure it'd only last for about a year. Whether or not anybody actually wants a cardboard box as a computer, I have no idea, but it's definitely clever. A cardboard box computer is sort of the anti-Apple, to a degree that I have to admire.
- Supreme Court: Snyder v. Phelps
Good for the Supreme Court for ruling in favor of Westboro Baptist Church. While Phelps and company are wretched human beings who behave in outrageously awful behavior, they have every legal right to do their thing. What's notable about this decision is that there was a dissenter—Justice Alito.
The Republican Party of Virginia sent out an e-mail to supporters today, complaining about President Obama’s nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.
Kagan, famously, joined in an amicus brief in a lawsuit fighting the Solomon Amendment, the law that prohibits federal funding to universities that bar military recruiters from their campus. Kagan did so on behalf of Harvard Law School, where she was dean, because the school prohibits any organization from recruiting on campus that discriminates. The military, of course, prohibits gays from serving, ergo they weren’t allowed on campus. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the military, and that was that.
Here’s the odd thing: the RPV doesn’t mention the nut of this, the fact that it’s about “don’t ask, don’t tell.” They claim that Kagan prohibited recruiters to send the message that “somehow the armed forces are not a valid career, and that military service is something to be shunned.” The dispute wasn’t about the military, it was about discrimination against gays. The same RPV that spearheaded the marriage amendment just four years ago now can’t even bring itself to mention to its own supporters that Kagan was standing up for gay rights. In 2006, that would have been worse than barring recruiters. In 2010—when both Laura Bush and Dick Cheney have come out in favor of gay marriage—the RPV won’t even acknowledge the reason behind the dispute in question, because they know that their membership is increasingly A-OK with homosexuality.
The times, they are a-changin’.
The original text of the letter follows.
Speaking of the Sunlight Foundation, they’ve done a guerilla redesign of the Supreme Court website. It looks really nice. That’s the sort of thing that I could definitely see putting some time into, but of course it would require a trend of government entities implementing those designs to make it worth the trouble.