A long way from home

Random thoughts on the way to Josh’s graduation from Army Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, Columbia SC–

  • I flew for the first time with my new hip components.  The airport security metal detector issued a loud beep when I walked through.  “Turn around and try again” said the screener.  I replied  “I have metal parts in my hip.”  “Come over here.”  I stood in the security corral until a male screener was summoned with a metal-detecting wand.  He passed it up one side and down the other, confirming that my right hip triggered the alarm.  He noted “this is how air travel will be for you for the rest of your life,” adding “at least they didn’t give you some cheap plastic parts.”
  • We knew we we were not in the northeast when we left the Charlotte-Douglas Airport for Columbia (if I had a daughter I’d name her Charlotte Douglas) by way of the Billy Graham Expressway.  What name would cause an equivalent jolt to a Bible Belt conservative?  George Carlin High Way?  I drove carefully on the Billy Graham Expressway, observing the 55 MPH speed limit in my red rental Nissan Altima until we reached I-77 south.  Ninety minutes later the Billy Graham had faded to memory, until I saw the sign for “Fort Jackson–Strom Thurmond Boulevard.”  (Strom Thurmond Boulevard? It turns only to the right, penetrates a black neighborhood, and ends in a cul-de-sac with a lovely view of the 19th century.)  What might be its northern parallel?  Rosie O’Donnell Way?
  • The service personnel at the car rental agency, the hotel, and the Waffle House (Shoney’s was closed!  What else could we do?) have been remarkably friendly, helpful, and pleasant.  Another sign we are not in the northeast.

Web Liability Without Section 230

In 2006 four Italian youths used a cellphone to video their taunting of a boy with Down syndrome, and then posted the video on Google-owned YouTube.  Four Google executives, including Google’s senior vice president and chief legal officer and its former CFO, now face criminal charges of defamation and privacy violation in Italy over posting of the video. (The trial was to start last week but the start was delayed.) European Union data collection laws give the subject of a photograph or video rights over its use.  The executives had no direct role in posting the video, of course, but there is no equivalent to the First Amendment protection of speech in Italy or the EU, and no equivalent to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act  limiting liability of websites for defamatory or unlawful content created by third parties.

Bad Times

Random indicators show that the economy continues to go south:

  • Brandeis University recently announced that to address its deteriorating financial condition it would close its Rose Art Musuem and sell its entire collection. Howls of protest by donors, trustees, art lovers, and others caused Brandeis to step back from the edge to reexamine its plan, but the idea is still on the table.
  • Larry Bodine’s Law Marketing Blog reports the following, under the headline Economic Hell Coming in 2009 for Big Law Firms:  “Two leading advisors to major law firms predicted a declining demand for legal services, a 15% drop in net income from 2008, the inability to raise rates, additional layoffs, salary freezes and cost cutting, heavier fee discounting, expenses rising faster than revenues — and a long wait for better times.”
  • The Wellness Community of Greater Boston,  which provides support for cancer patients and their families, announced that funding problems have caused it to suspend its operations for an undetermined period.
  • The Dow closed below 8,000 today.

We have not begun to comprehend the wholesale economic, political, and social transformation that unfolds daily with each layoff, business failure, and dashed dream.