Elected Officials: Ask Us for Solutions.

Reddit reports that the President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, posts a question on Yahoo Answers. Yahoo states that this is really from the President of India. He also has a Yahoo 360 page.

Here’s his question:

What should we do to free our planet from terrorism?

Human society, from origin until now, has always been at war within and between groups and has led to two World Wars. Presently, terrorism and low intensity warfare are affecting many parts if the world.

As the current global population of 6 billion increases to 8 billion by 2025, national and international conflicts will continue to be a source of concern for humanity. When evil minds combine, good minds have to work together and combat. In this context, what are the out-of-the-box solutions to free the planet earth from terrorism? Your answers when processed and implemented can lead to a peaceful, happy and safe planet earth.

When is the last time your elected official asked you for your ideas on solving problems in United States or the World?

Handwritten Electronic Notes

Handwritten NoteAdriana at I Heart Tech posted about an email she received that was an electronic handwritten note. She received it on her Treo. All it said was “<Handwritten Content>.” So she tried another email application on her Treo and she was able to view the GIF file that was the electronic handwritten note. She showed it to her friend who said, “Whoa – that’s so much more personal than a regular email!” The note was written using a tablet PC.

I agree the electronic handwritten note is more personal than a regular email. I don’t have a tablet PC and I prefer to type anything rather than write it out by hand. But considering the impact of handwritten notes, I use them in certain circumstances.

I wonder whether sending a message as an attached graphic file might risk the possibility that the recipient cannot open it. Like when Adriana initially was only able to see “<Handwritten Content>.” What if the recipient was not as tech savvy or not otherwise able to open the note in their mobile device? Maybe he or she would wait and open it later on a PC.

The impact of a handwritten note probably outweighs the risk of non/delayed-receipt.

Illinois Has One Appellate Court

Illinois Appellate Court MapI am surprised at the number of Illinois attorneys who do not know that Illinois has one appellate court. Yes the appellate court is divided into districts, and the first district is further divided into divisions. But the Illinois Supreme Court has long held that all the divisions and subdivisions should be seen as one court. [People v. Layhew, 139 Ill.2d 476, 489-90 (Ill. 1990); People v. Granados, 172 Ill. 2d 358, 371 (Ill. 1996)].

What does this mean? It means, a decision from any district appellate court is binding on circuit courts outside of that district unless there is a conflicting opinion from the appellate court of the district where the circuit court sits. [Schmidt v. Ameritech Illinois, 329 Ill. App. 3d 1020 (Ill.App. 1st Dist. 2001)]. For example, a decision from the Fifth District Appellate Court is binding on the 18th Circuit Court—which sits in the Second District—unless it conflicts with a Second District case.

This is different from the federal court system. There appellate courts are labeled circuit courts, whereas Illinois State Appellate Courts are labeled district courts. In the Federal system appellate decisions are not binding on district courts (trial level in the federal system) outside of the circuit.

The Core of Persuasion

Harvard Law School's CyberOneDuring the fall of 2006 Harvard Law School provided podcasts, videocasts, and other means for anyone to participate in its Law in the Court of Public Opinion Course (better known as CyberOne). The course covers “many different media technologies to understand how their inherent characteristics and modes of distribution affect the arguments that are made using them.”

I began listening to CyberOne podcasts late in the semester and now I’m listening/watching each class starting with the first. Its loaded with excellent information and you don’t need to be a lawyer or law student to understand the information provided.

Today I was listening to class number five (9/25/06) [audio, video, wiki page]. At about 36:20 on the audio version Professor Nesson makes some interesting points about empathic advocacy/argument. He stated, as paraphrased from Rebecca Nesson’s notes:

If you are going to persuade someone you need to change their interpretive stance. You need to reach them emotionally. You need to convince them that you understand what the world looks like from their point of view.

As paraphrased from Jordan’s notes:

Changing your point of view is at least in part an emotional experience. You can only persuade someone if you persuade them that you understand what the world looks like from the viewpoint they already have.

The last sentence struck a chord with me. A few years back I decided to make a conscious effort to understand the foundations and reasons taken by those with views in opposition to my own. It is an effort to check myself to see if I’m wrong about a particular issue. The result is the ability to recognize the core of the other person’s view, to address that foundation, and communicate (empathic) reasoning that is more likely to be persuading. Understanding the other person’s worldview is not only effective in persuasion but is helpful in uncovering truth and obtaining a just result.

Help Me Build a School and Give the Life Long Gift of Education

Children Benefit From New Room to Read SchoolThe sun burned off the morning chill and the only sounds were the river and feet walking along a dirt path on the three-hour hike to a school in Bahundanda, Nepal. The trekker reached the school after climbing 1300 vertical feet in the last mile. The school had eight classrooms, each overcrowded with students who sat crammed on benches without desks. The headmaster showed the trekker the library. There were so few books that the teachers did not want to risk the children damaging them, so they were pad-locked in a cabinet. The books were likely ones left behind by other backpackers, and therefore not age appropriate for the students. Before leaving, the headmaster said to the trekker: “Perhaps, sir, you will someday come back with books.”

This unplanned detour on a 21-day hiking trip caused John Wood to quit his successful career as a technology executive working for Microsoft in China and to establish Room to Read. Since 2000, Room to Read has built 221 schools, established 3370 libraries, donated 1.2 million books, funded 2,344 long-term girls’ scholarships, and established 108 computer and language labs.

I recently read John’s book titled “Leaving Microsoft to Change the World.” My goal for 2007 is to raise $11,000 to fund a complete school in Nepal. Please join me in this endeavor and contact me at blog [at] waltmire dot com.

Listen online or download Jerome McDonnell’s interview of John on Chicago Public Radio’s Worldview.

RTR seeks to intervene early in the lives of children and help provide them with an education and the lifelong gift of literacy. The countries of current focus are Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Africa, South Africa.

To increase the likelihood for success, Room to Read (RTR) enlists community involvement. Our challenge grants require villages to raise a significant portion of the overall expenditures through donated land, labor, materials and cash, thereby allowing our cash donations to go further so that we can help more villages. Our challenge grants act as catalysts for community building while also maximizing the local participation and expertise brought to our programs to ensure they are run efficiently and effectively.

Research Tip: How to Quickly Find (for Free) Cases Supporting a Rule of Law

Often when writing a legal memo I come to a point where I want to recite a widely accepted rule of law, like a canon of statutory interpretation. For example, when interpreting a statute the court must determine and give effect to the intent of the legislature. I know there are hundreds of cases which recite this principle. But in legal writing any rule of law should be supported by citation to authority. Running a search on LexisNexis or Westlaw could be expensive. The solution is to search the Illinois Supreme Court website for an opinion supporting the rule of law. Here’s how to do it:

  1. The Illinois Supreme Court website does not make it easy to find the opinions search page. If you click on the opinions link from the main page, you come to a list of recently released opinions. Scroll to the bottom of the page and find the “For opinions older than 90 days, please go to our Opinions Archive page.” Click on Opinions Archive. Then scroll to the bottom of that page and you’ll finally find the search opinions search box.
  2. Now search for the proposition or rule of law. Use quote marks when appropriate to get the best results. Here I typed “legislative intent” (quote marks included).
  3. Click Search
  4. Click on the first result (note that the first result may change as new opinions are added to the website).
  5. Its a 2002 case from the Fifth District Illinois Appellate Court (Balmoral Racing Club, Inc. v. Topinka)
  6. Use your web browser’s search function (Ctrl-F in Firefox) to find “legislative intent” within the current page.
  7. That finds the following paragraph:
    • “The cardinal rule of statutory interpretation, to which all other rules are subordinate, is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the legislature. People v. Maggette, 195 Ill. 2d 336, 348 (2001). In determining the legislative intent, a court should first consider the statutory language. This is the best means of determining the legislative intent. Maggette, 195 Ill. 2d at 348. A court must consider the entire statute and interpret each of its relevant parts together. If legislative intent can be ascertained from the statute’s plain language, that intent must prevail without resort to other interpretive aids. Paris v. Feder, 179 Ill. 2d 173, 177 (1997).”
  8. Now I can cite to People v. Maggette to support the “intent of the legislature” canon in my memo. You should probably look at the Maggette opinion to make sure its a case you want to cite (i.e. the case doesn’t come to the opposite conclusion that you are asking the court to come to in your case). You can probably find the Maggette opinion by following the steps below.

If I wanted to cite to Balmoral Racing Club, Inc. v. Topinka in the above example I would:

  1. Go back to the opinions search page and search for “Balmoral Racing Club, Inc. v. Topinka” (quotes included).
  2. Click on the first result.
  3. It is the 2003 Second District case (People v. Harrell).
    • You can tell its a 2003 case because the url: http://www.state.il.us/court/opinions/appellatecourt/2003/2nddistrict /august/html/2020026.htm is in the 2003 folder on the court’s website.
  4. Use your web browser’s search function to find “Balmoral Racing Club, Inc. v. Topinka” within the current page.
  5. That brings you to:
    • “Moreover, we must construe criminal statutes narrowly in favor of the accused (In re Detention of Tiney-Bey, 302 Ill. App. 3d 396, 400 (1999)) and so that no portion of the statute is rendered meaningless (Balmoral Racing Club, Inc. v. Topinka, 334 Ill. App. 3d 454, 459 (2002)).”
  6. There you have it. The full cite to Balmoral Racing Club, Inc. v. Topinka.
  7. It was not a problem here, but sometimes you can’t get a pin-point cite to the partition of the case supporting your legal proposition. You should use pin-point cites for almost all citations. You don’t want the judge (or law clerk) to have to read the entire case to find the point of law for which you cited the case. But better to exclude a pinpoint than fail to support a rule of law with citation to authority.

This method of finding a reporter citation to a case does not work when searching for a case that is relatively new because that case is not yet likely to be cited in other cases.

Consumers Empowered?

A patent targeted by EFF’s patent busting project caught my eye. A company called NeoMedia claims:

the general concept of reading an “index” (e.g., UPC number1) off of what it calls a “data carrier” (e.g., consumer product) and crossreferencing that index in a database in order to find the necessary information to look up and connect to a remote computer (e.g., URL fetched out of a database which is then inserted into a web browser).

The November 15, 2006 edition of the EFF’s Effector email newsletter summarizes the patent:

NeoMedia claims to have invented the basic concept of any technology that could, say, scan a product on a supermarket shelf and then connect you to price-comparison website.

This technology has the potential to empower consumers and force prices to reflect real-time supply and demand. Think about scanning the bar code of a product at a retail store with your phone. The information is transmitted to a price-comparison site and the results display on your phone. Now you know instantly whether the price there at the retail store is the best price.

This technology has the power to put some real teeth into those lowest-price-guarantees. What if the price-comparison surveyed not only online retailers but also traditional retailers? So you could scan a product at Circuit City and find out it is available for $50 less at the Best Buy store one mile down the road?

A company called Scanbuy already provides a free service that allows consumers to enter a bar code into their cell phone and receive: best price, other online prices, product reviews, and information about the product. This service will probably only really catch on when it is easy to use, i.e., when the users cell phone scans the barcode instead of requiring the user to manually enter the number.

Will retailers honor their lowest-price-guarantee when a customer shows the retailer the price comparison results on their phone? Some guarantees do not apply to prices of online retailers, and some match only in-print advertisements from competitors. The cost of redeeming a lowest-price-guarantee has been described as a hassle cost. Can retailers afford to continue providing guarantees when the consumer’s search cost incurred in discovering a lower price is virtually eliminated? Will this technology be the death of low-price guarantees? Or will retailers just retreat to price matching only in-print advertisements from competitors? If they retreat will the guarantees loose their effectiveness (if they are effective in the first place)?

Price-guarantees aside, a service like Scanbuy, should offer the option to “buy it now” that lets the user purchase a product using their phone from the online retailer with the lowest price. E-commerce continues to expand. The ability to purchase products with your phone while standing in a retail store maybe the next step in the evolving way we purchase goods.

Will Google Provide a Free Web OCR App?

Today I had an image of a document that I needed to convert to text. In this age of free web apps I wondered whether there was a Free OCR web app. I found Jon Galloway’s post which basically concludes there are no satisfactory free OCR app. He did find Microsoft Office Document Imaging acceptable, but its not free and its not on the web. It comes with Microsoft Office XP and Microsoft Office 2003. I also discovered this web OCR app, but I did not get a chance to try it because the document I needed to OCR was in PDF format.

All this got me wondering whether Google will provide a free OCR app in the future. Google is doing a load of OCR work with their Book Search project. Did Google write its own OCR software or did it purchase the software from a third party? Duff Johnson proposes Google wrote its own OCR software. If Google did, it might be easy for them to provide that app free to everyone. Will they?

Judges are Real People (even when acting in an unreal world)

Recently the Seventh Circuit started podcasting oral arguments. Now, Judge Richard Posner of that circuit has taken a step into Second Life. He is no stranger to technology as he blogs at The Becker-Posner Blog. James Au provides a transcript of Judge Posner’s December 7th Second Life question and answer session. The discussion covered serious topics, but Posner showed his sense of humor when he ordered the raccoon to appear. Just another example of how judges are real people (even when acting in an unreal world).

Documentarians All Around

The talks hosted by TED are incredible. TED is an annual conference were speakers talk about the latest ideas in Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED), and also Business, Sciences, and The Arts “… in fact any subject area offering something fresh and important.” The talks are available at TedTalks and you can subscribe to their podcast feed.

Today I was listening to Peter Gabriel’s talk. He described the work of Witness, the organization he founded in 1992. Witness describes its mission:

WITNESS uses the power of video to open the eyes of the world to human rights abuses. By partnering with local organizations around the globe, WITNESS empowers human rights defenders to use video to shine a light on those most affected by human rights violations, and to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools of justice.

His talk reaffirmed the power of video and photography to expose human rights violations. Recent news stories about a conference of Holocaust deniers show the important documentary power of an image. One of the reasons the existence of the Holocaust is not reasonably doubted is because there is video and photographic evidence.

Now that many cell phones have video and photography functions, the ability to easily and quickly document human rights violations is enhanced. Programs like GrameenPhone are bringing cell phones to the developing world. If Witness partners with programs like GrameenPhone, its net will be expanded, and human rights violations will be reduced. People with cell phones are now documentarians.