Blog Ipsa Loquitur

In the wake of America’s most recent mass murder, one New York newspaper took it upon itself to create an online map of all the gun permits issued in Westchester and Rockland counties. Silliness ensued.

Firstly, some gun owners became rather upset, as they felt their privacy was being violated. I’m not quite sure why. The New York State Penal Code §400.01, Paragraph 5 specifically states

The name and address of any person to whom an application for any license has been granted shall be a public record.

So are they upset because the paper published public information, or because the information is public in the first place? If it’s the latter, why? If you don’t want your name and address to be a public record, get a shotgun or a rifle. New York State doesn’t require permits for those. Nobody forced you to get a pistol. (Or any gun.) Nobody forced me to become a lawyer, but you can look me up on the New York State Bar Association’s public lawyer directory. I could have become a professional chef, and you could have bought a shotgun. (Or no gun.)

Sidebar: I have to commend The Journal News for the way they carried out this map. Users can’t search for names or addresses or filter any of the entries. Users can’t interact at all with the database which the map implements. The only way to see all 44,000 names and addresses is to click all 44,000 dots. For the most part, gun owners are pretty well hidden within the noise. The obvious counterpoint is that the only folks who you don’t want to know you have a gun are your neighbors, who probably zoomed into your neighborhood and clicked on your house while I was typing this sentence.

why so serious

Secondly, why do you care if other folks know you have a gun? Isn’t the whole idea of owning a handgun self defense? If criminals can look up your house and find out that you have a permit for a handgun, are they not going to go somewhere else? Do you think burglars are motivated by the possibility of a shootout, or by the possibility of grabbing your laptop and running off into the night without being shot at? Gun owners are thusly saved the expense of buying ammunition and engaging in running/costly firefights with burglars. Bullets don’t grow on trees.

Thirdly, the State Senator representing Putnam County (the next county for which the paper plans to map gun permits) has referred to this map as casting a scarlet letter on gun owners.

Now, the actual scarlet letter was for adultery, which is forbidden by the Sixth Commandment, and also mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6:9. Gun ownership is not really discussed in the Bible, and lots of people own lots of deadly machines. According to George Mason University, 133 Americans were killed by lawn mowers in 2006, but nobody’s ashamed to own a damned lawn mower. We’re not talking about publishing the names and addresses of folks with a permit to own embarrassing pornography.

So apparently, this whole kerfuffle has gotten so contentious that The Journal News has hired armed guards to protect its offices. Who’d have thought annoying 44,000 gun owners could make one fearful of violent reprisal?

Filed on under The News

Do you, Dear Reader, recall when I wrote at great length about the crimes committed by Ferris Beuller in the classic movie about his Day Off? That kind of geekery is as apt for the law as it is for medicine. Now if only there were a doctor of some sort willing to learn about medicine and then use his or her education for our collective entertainment rather than the betterment of our fellow man.

Oh hey that happened yay – Dr. Ryan St. Clair of the Weill Cornell Medical College analyzes Home Alone and the various bodily harms therein:

The set-up: Thwarted by the BB gun at the back door, Marv runs around to the basement stairwell — which Kevin has deliberately iced. Once he has stumbled his way down into the dark basement, Marv grabs for what he thinks is the light bulb cord. It’s actually a rope attached to a steam iron that is propped up on the laundry chute door. The heavy iron comes plummeting down and smacks Marv in the face.

The doctor’s diagnosis: “Let’s estimate the distance from the first floor to the basement at 15 feet, and assume the steam iron weighs 4 pounds. And note that the iron strikes Marv squarely in the mid-face. This is a serious impact, with enough force to fracture the bones surrounding the eyes. This is also known as a ‘blowout fracture,’ and can lead to serious disfigurement and debilitating double vision if not repaired properly.”

Ha! Ha! “Serious disfigurement!” Oh, Kevin. You lovable scoundrel.

Filed on under Irreverently Irrelevant

Representing clients and losing their cases is hard enough. But no matter how badly a lawyer argues a case, the client’s still alive at the end of the day. (Unless you’re litigating over a will, but then the client wasn’t alive at the beginning of the day, now was he?)

Then there’s being a doctor. The stresses there are somewhat unique, to say the least.

A normal day at my job is hard: I’m running nonstop for 8-12 hours, I’m constantly interrupted, I have patients making demands of my attention and empathy, I’m saturated with information and need to make rapid decisions without adequate information, and I know that if I make an error or miss some important piece of information, the human, professional and financial consequences can be disastrous. It’s a pressure cooker.

And that’s a day where things go well. A bad day can be very bad indeed. Sometimes it’s just the emotional strain of dealing with particularly difficult patients. Maybe you go through a run of giving out terrible diagnoses. Maybe you deal with the death of a child. Or a patient who pulls at your heartstrings in some unique and personal way. Maybe someone dies on you unexpectedly. Worse, maybe someone dies on you and you’re not sure if it was your fault or not. Perhaps you know you made an error, and that you’re going to have to face accountability for it.

These are the days that drive physicians over the edge. I’ve had them, and I remember them so vividly even years later. There was the one lady with a gallbladder attack on Thanksgiving, many years ago. She had classic signs and I saw gallstones on my bedside ultrasound. She crashed and died right in front of me from a ruptured thoraco-abdominal aortic aneurysm. Her abdominal aorta had looked normal on my scan; the aneurysm was in the chest and ruptured into the thorax, which is very unusual. That didn’t make it any easier to go home and sleep that night.

Read the whole post on how Doctor “Movin’ Meat” deals with losing. Hint: based on the name of his blog, you can assume he employs gallows humor to cut the tension.

Filed on under Irreverently Irrelevant

On Friday, I co-hosted a panel at the 4th annual Capitol Camp in Albany. There were lots of really great panels to choose from, but I’m happy we had a good audience and a lively discussion.

My presentation was on the antiquated Freedom of Information Law process in New York State, specifically how to modernize it and the considerable benefits of doing so. You can watch the whole thing here, but make sure to watch my joke about South Dakota at 11:30. That might be my favorite part of the whole thing.

And thanks to Camille Jobin-Davis from the New York State Committee on Open Government for sharing her time and expertise with me and the rest of the discussion on FOIL.

Filed on under A Day in the LifeGov 2.0

Remember the other day when I said if you’re reading software patent articles on tech news sites not written by Nilay Patel, you were doing it wrong? Let’s add “trademarks” to his beat:

News broke all over the web today that Apple had lost a “major” trademark case against a company called iFone that might prevent it from selling the iPhone in Mexico. The story seemed almost too good to be true, especially since Apple was the first to bring the suit against iFone, a small call center company that filed for its mark in 2003, four years before the iPhone came out. The tech media, in love with the idea that Apple’s litigious ways had backfired, took the story and ran with it.

Unfortunately, it just isn’t accurate — while Apple did lose an appeal over the iFone trademark in Mexico, it has no bearing on its ability to sell the iPhone in that country.

Read the rest of iPhone, iFone, and Apple’s Mexican trademark standoff: what’s really going on at The Verge. Hint: nothing important.

Filed on under The News