The Squirrels Are Watching

Life Experiences – An Example

Posted in Fact and Law by andrewfong on July 14, 2009

A follow up regarding the role of life experience in interpreting the law:

In Jacobellis v. Ohio, the Supreme Court examined whether a particular film violated obscenity laws. In his concurrence, Justice Potter Stewart famously wrote, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within [hardcore porngraphy]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.” (emphasis mine).

I humbly submit that the life experiences of Justice Stewart figured prominently in his knowing it when he saw it.

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Impartial Defined

Posted in Fact and Law by andrewfong on July 14, 2009

I’m going to Berkeley Law this fall, and in an attempt to get my toes wet, spent some time going over the transcript of the Sotomayor hearings earlier today. One of the issues that came up repeatedly was whether allowing “life experiences” to affect your judgment violated the duty of a judge to remain impartial. The most experience I have with judging is high school debate, so … big grain of salt, but myinitial reaction is no, it doesn’t. To understand why, let’s step back a little bit and consider what it even means to be impartial.

Law is not math. It is subject to interpretation. When your laws are written over the course of over two hundred (occasionally turbulent) year by thousands of (occasionally boneheaded) individuals, you’re going to get contradictions, gray areas, and general stupidity.  Ideally, you’d ask the legislature to clarify, but it’s possible (probable?) that individuals within the legislature will disagree on what they meant when they wrote it. And that’s assuming the individuals are still alive and conscious.

Therefore, law cannot be impartially interpreted in the same manner that, say, a calculator impartially interprets a mathematical equation. Instead, the best a judge can do to be impartial is to be consistent and by extension, predictable.


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Health Care. Please fix.

Posted in Stories by andrewfong on July 13, 2009

I haven’t made up my mind about how to achieve health care reform. But shit like this needs fixing.

A friend of mine, let’s call her Susie, recently graduated from college and was about to start work. She moved into Boston from her native Wisconsin a week earlier to unpack and get settled. Unfortunately, shortly after moving in, she developed a urinary tract infection.

The timing of this could not be worse. Because she had already graduated from college, she was no longer covered under her the university’s health care plan. Her work provided health care, but it didn’t kick in until after she started several days later. While she was still signed up with an HMO from Wisconsin, but the HMO did not cover out-of-state care. In the only week of her life that she was without health insurance, Susie got sick.


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Fun with AutoHotKey

Posted in Code and Tech by andrewfong on July 1, 2009

I’m rather fond of the e text-editor. Coming from TextMate, e presents a familar environment for Windows users. The one beef I had though was the inability to configure keyboard shortcuts. Specifically, I felt Ctrl+G should be “Find Next”, like it is in so many other programs, instead of “Go to Line”.

I tried a few other editors, but they all annoyed me to no end. Habits, familiarity, and all that. So rather than wait for e to add it’s own configurable keyboard shortcuts or muck around the in source code (brief aside: the availability of the source code actually makes me pretty happy — it means I can compile an alternative to vim / emacs on *nix that I actually like), I decided to use AutoHotKey.

In short, AutoHotKey lets you write scripts that remap keyboard shortcuts as you see fit. Some (minor) programming ability required and the documentation is a little convoluted, but it still beats all the alternatives. My e remapping below the fold.