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Kudos to the Seattle Times

August 31, 2005 at 3:14am By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

I became a C-Span junkie in my 3rd year of law/grad school (God knows you have enough time to watch a lot of TV in 3L), and have been as faithful addict ever since. This past week, they recently covered a panel discussion featuring none other than James Yee - the Chinese-American Muslim convert US Army Chaplain who was the subject of a pretty intense investigation for alleged mishandling of materials at Gitmo. It was actually Yee’s first public appearance ever since the entire debacle, and the journalists in attendance were hot and heavy for some questions of his experience.


The entire show, which I highly recommend watching/listening, is available at CSpan and so is a related, and belated, story by Ray Rivera - now a Washington Post journalist - about Yee’s ordeal at the Seattle Times’ excellent special investigations website.

Travel Problems for Chucky

August 28, 2005 at 8:30pm By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

A few of the Senate Foreign Relations guys got held up in Russia. I don’t know what to think. I don’t know who to blame. I just found it sort of funny.

 

Big Bitch

August 28, 2005 at 8:16pm By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

A good friend of mine lives on the gulf coast of Florida south of Tallahassee and is planning on riding this sucker out (he lives in a high rise apartment and a friend is letting him park his car in their garage). With all the attention given to New Orleans (and rightfully so) it should also be kept in mind that when this hits its going to affect the entire Southeast.


I’ve been to New Orleans before and had a great time. It was a wonderful city. Lets hope it gets through this.

Chahal Redux (“outsourcing torture”)

August 28, 2005 at 12:34am By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

Finally got done with a few pages today on a forthcoming article regarding the Soering case (violation of ECHR by the UK for extraditing a West German to Virginia’s death row) and its prodigy the 1996 Chahal case. Chahal was an Indian national living in the UK under an immigration amnesty who was very active in anti-Indian government activities - including publicly advocating for a violent separatist campaign against India, various domestic indictments, and alleged involvement in an assasination attempt of Rajiv Gandhi - following massacres of Sikhs in 1984 in India. The UK moved to deport Chahal to India as a threat to national security, but Chahal claimed that his deportation would likely lead to torture and persecution by Indian authorities.


However, unlike in Soering, the UK argued that Chahal’s deportation and possible risk of torture upon his expulsion to India should be balanced by the national interest of removing him from the UK as a threat to domestic security. The good old Strasbourg Court, however, ruled against the UK and held that no matter how serious Chahal’s alleged threats were to the UK’s national security, the Convention’s prohibition of torture stopped the UK from deporting him to India because of the real risk he would face of being tortured or otherwise persecuted by Indian authorities (which he had previously experienced while in custody of Indian police).


Expect to hear more about the Chahal and Soering cases in the near future, particularly given the UK’s recent announcements that non-citizens will be deported for “inciting terror.” I recently heard both BBC Radio and NPR elude to this issue in recent broadcasts late last week.


Somewhat related international crime trivia

, in the course of my research I also found that Jens Soering - the West German national who allegedly murdered his girlfriend’s parents in Virginia and then escaped to England - is today serving a couple of life sentences in Virginia, has converted to a strict Catholic school of belief, and now writes regular stories that are available on the internets.

Attention All International Law Watchers in Lincoln?

August 22, 2005 at 3:33am By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

...Both of you… I recently heard a rumor, to be taken with a healthy dose of salt (as all rumors should be), that the good old European Court of Human Rights might play a role in the future of everyone’s favorite guy - Saddam Hussein. I’m currently doing some research on the ECHR line of cases involving extradition to foreign jurisdictions. A little less than 2 months ago, the ECHR denied a request from Hussein’s lawyers (who were recently fired) to prevent the transfer of him to a jurisdiction where he might face the death penalty (ie Iraq).  I imagine the request was made assuming the UK’s involvement in the now defunct occupation “Coalition Provisional Authority,” with reference to the classic ECHR Cyprus cases and the recent 2004 Ilascu case (recognizing responsibility and ECHR obligations of European governments for actions of proxy governments/areas under occupation).

Well there are a few problems here for Saddam’s lawyers - the main one namely being that the UK had, I believe, a limited or no role in his actual capture and current dentention. And even if they did, it wouldn’t seem to fit the Soering line of cases requiring a direct link between extradition to foreign jurisdictions and possible death due to the criminal codes of non-European nations. Still, I am told that the ECHR MAY accept further arguments from his lawyers. I will try and keep an eye on this but I personally doubt anything will come out of this, but it does make for an interesting footnote for your next paper/argument at least.

Terror in the UK Redux

August 17, 2005 at 1:48am By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

Myself and my co-authors are currently revising our earlier article about the UK and its extraterritorial obligations to the European Convention on Human Rights before this sucker gets to the printer. We are specifically looking at the policy of “rendition” (ie outsourcing torture) that the US and UK have been accused of in the “war on terror.” This is an issue since the UK has recently announced that it will pursue a policy of deporting individuals to other (Middle Eastern) nations who are deemed “dangerous.”

Unlike the US, there is a relatively rich line of cases applicable to the UK vis-a-vis the ECHR that I am looking at, including the Soering case (extradition of a West German by the UK to Virginia’s death row), the Al-Adsani case (UK national tortured in Kuwait), and others in which individuals travelled to or were deported or extradited to foreign nations to experience torture, religious persecution, or other forms of maltreatment.

More later.

Pre-Buzz on RV: “A Second Job?”

August 14, 2005 at 4:55pm By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

I may end up writing regularly on the upcoming Roma Victor game. I am seriously looking forward to this one and am currently planning on pre-purchasing the game because, as promised by the devs, pre-purchasers will have exclusive access to the game world 2 full weeks before the commercial boxes hit the stores.    The early days of any MMORPG are always a fascinating and fun experience. Yes it can be frustrating too since bugs are worked out and downtime comes with little or no notice when devs bring the game down for maintenance (ie WoW), but I have found it just fun to observe how players begin forming the economy and in-game social mores.

What attracts me to RV is the purported historical accuracy of the game, and the number of options it allows for players. It is much more in line with “The Sims” than any other MMORPG I have played with the possible exception of Final Fantasy Online (which was still a swords and sorcery world but had a very deep crafting system).

Anyway, this “historical accuracy” component of the game has also raised some questions in my mind in regards to how fun it might (or might not) be. There was a recent post in the RV forums which I found to be very articulate and echoed some of my doubts as well. Let me quote at length:

I’ll preface this by saying I’m not in beta, and my research time into RV is roughly a week of reading the forums and supporting sites. Please no flames; I’m just giving my initial impressions and I’m posting this for feedback rather than saying “how I bet RV will be.”


As I read the forums, and the push is realism, realism, realism. Hey, I’m all for realism for things to be historically accurate, but the *true* reality of Rome was that life was tedious, especially by present day society’s current standards of instant gratification.

I’m reading posts with c

ontributing forum members saying things like:
- “If you come to a river, you might have to walk for days to find a good place to cross.”
- “Most people in that time are born, live, and die right in the same spot.”
- “Crop rotation would provide realism, and so would flooding.”
- “If you hurt your arm, it may take weeks of rehabilitation before you can use it again, and there may be permanent damage.”


Now, I’m not arguing that this isn’t realistic. These are ideas that break the mold in a constant stream of cookie-cutter MMOGs. But the bottom line… is it fun? Is the fun sustainable? After waking up at 05:30, working all day and getting home in the evening, am I going to be saying, “ooo, hot-diggity, time for some hot crop-rotating action, and maybe I can chop wood for an hour after that!”

With all MMOGs, there’s a honeymoon period where you’re so excited to play where everything is cool. “Hey look, I’m chopping wood! That’s so neat!” However, in week 6 if you’re still chopping wood, there’s a problem. But hey, that was what life was like back then, right?

 

I might also add that:

1) In the Roman Empire, in which slaves were the vast majority of the population, the vast majority of the vast majority of slaves really were doing the most brutal and degrading work that existed. For example, a typical slave may be born, worked in mines as soon as he reached an early pre-adolescent stage, and died a handful of years later from mining related diseases or mishaps and maltreatment. Yes there were those slaves who did reach citizen like status, gaining prominence as merchants, crafters, and military leaders, but the vast bulk were treated like human garbage. Thus, if you want “realism” and start in RV as a slave, your doing pretty damn extraordinary if you even manage to get so far as obtain a few nice tools, let alone learn skills or obtain some semblance of private property. 

2) The status of women. Basically, women were also treated like shit. They were considered objects and not humans. In RV, female characters just would not have access to particular occupations or skills beyond serving and maybe some other basic manual labor skills and crafting abilities.

Anyway, the debate continued:

 

In any other game, if your homeland is invaded, put your entire house in your magic bag and go somewhere else. But now, if you are in danger, you fight. Your house took a while to build, its worth something. Think of the game as a second life, but a life where nothing seriously bad ever happens. If you die, you get reborn. If your house burns down, you can build another one. Sure, there might be some work… but there is also a lot of fun. Just like real life.

 

And here is the response:

If I spent a month collecting resources and money out of abject poverty as a newly freed slave to build a house, and someone comes along while offline and asleep and burns it down, explain to me how it’s fun to start over.

Please, correct me if I’m wrong if this is not how the game works.

Again, this is justification that the game will be fun because it’s realistic. As realistic as we’re dreaming, it is in the end a game with no real world consequences. If repeatedly restarting with nothing because some antisocial, non-RP kid has 24/7 to play and finds it hilarious to repeatedly make good on his pyromaniac predisposition at your expense ...

.. like that doesn’t happen.

 

Heh Heh. I’ll continue to post thoughts about this one until it comes out later in the fall.

 

The KFOR Cases

August 13, 2005 at 1:12am By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

An interesting line of cases is about to hit the Strasbourg ECHR Court involving the NATO Kosovo Force which I am keeping a keen eye on. One case involves alleged unlawful detentions of individuals by KFOR. Think Gitmo (without the torture?) except its not the US in control, but KFOR acting under UN mandate.  Ironic eh? Another involves the death and injury of two children caused by an unexploded bomb which KFOR allegedly failed to secure (ie they were negligent in failing to protect the civilian populace from unexploded bombs in KFOR jurisdiction).  Once again, the extraterritorial application of the ECHR is rearing its head, and I am currently working on an article featuring these cases.

I’m also planning to include a detailed analysis of how the Ilascu case fits in on this (which I have noted in previous articles but not done a detailed examination yet), since dicta in Ilascu does touch on notions of “imputability” vs. “responsibility.” Ilascu - involving responsibility for human rights violations in Moldova by both Russia and Moldova - I just learned, also happens to be the longest case ever issued by the Court due in part largely to internal disagreements by the Strasbourg judges (believe me, if you think dissenting and concurring opinions by scotus is bad, you gotta read Ilascu - its a book).

On another ECHR note - the Chechen cases are really starting to hit Strasbourg now, and I predict that Russia is gonna be the next ECHR bad boy after Turkey (and the UK). Poor old Vladmir. I wonder when he’ll wake up from his state of denial and smell the coffee.

Roma Victor Redux

August 10, 2005 at 1:27am By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

Man, I am really getting excited about Roma Victor. I’ve been reading over the community forum and it appears to me that the fans awaiting the game are not only a mature lot, but also have some significant knowledge about ancient history and the Roman world. This excites me because I’m sick to death of MMORPGs where the majority of players are 14 yr old “l33t dUDEz” with handles like “Goku Ironfist” or “Marco Deathman” (i.e. World of Warcraft, Guild Wars).

No Moss

August 9, 2005 at 2:00am By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

I noticed there was an above the fold cover link on the USA Today about the Minnesota Vikings. I was deeply shocked and saddened to hear that the Vikes traded Randy Moss to the Raiders earlier. My logic was – “The Vikes have a great QB at the top of his game in Daunte Culpepper…without Moss, they are basically minimizing Daunte’s potential.”

Well we’ll have to see how well the Vikes do this year. 

By the way, don’t ask me about the cornhuskers. I have absolutely no interest in the cornhuskers at all (or college football in general).  For me, whenever I hear Nebraskans talk about the cornhuskers, its just background noise.

Roma Victor

August 9, 2005 at 1:51am By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

I just signed up for the Roma Victor open beta – which, according to the website, truly is “open” so I hope to get my pass within a few days. RV is, thank God, NOT a fantasy MMORPG but based on the ancient Roman empire and the devs have apparently tried their best to make it as true as possible to the real world of that day. I am a bit of a history freak and have always been fascinated by ancient history, which made RV attractive to me.

What is also VERY different is exactly how real the game is, at least according to the devs. For instance:

1) Crafting: “flax can be grown, carefully harvested, left in a muddy retting pit to rot, taken out and dried, heckled into tow fibres with a comb, spun into twine at the distaff and then woven into a linen sheet at a loom. Grain can be milled into flour, which can be mixed with saltwater to form a basic dough, which when left out will go sour. Mix the sour dough with some fresh dough and bake it in an oven to make some bread.”

2) Environment: “There’s a realistic day and night cycle that actually tracks the real celestial locations of the sun and moon according to the exact (in-game) time and day, longitude and latitude - of course adjusted back to the second century calendar!”

3) Skills: “as in real life, your skills and personal statistics decay. This means that without practise your character’s ability in a given skill will worsen. If, for example, as a newbie you spent a lot of time developing your archery skills but then moved on to focus on your farming you’d find that your archery decreased over time.”

4) Armor: “Furs, hides, plant-fibre textiles, metals and alloys can all be crafted into wearable items and this natural diversity yields substantial variation in character appearances.”

5) Wounds from ba

ttle: “In combat characters can sustain both wounds and injuries. Wounds decrease your character’s six Attributes (Muscle, Vision, Agility, Dexterity, Intuition and Stamina), which can have a significant effect on the character’s skills and activities. Wounds heal slowly over time although the healing process can be greatly hastened with the right medical treatment.”

6) Music: “A broad range of authentic ancient musical instruments have been painstakingly brought back to life, each with their own unique set of notes. Player musicians can learn songs, play together and entertain the masses in full 3D sound.”

7) Food: “Although nowhere near as dire as such consequences can be in real life, those players interested in maintaining efficient character development will definitely want to keep their characters well fed. Different types of foods can have very subtle effects, but the most noticeable effects will come from alcohol, stale food and poisons.”

You get the idea. I figure that this may become to cumbersome to play because it sounds like it might require very active management (similar to The Sims – which I have never gotten into but am aware of how addictive it can be from friends).

Two other things to note: First, there is no monthly fee to this one, which is nice. Second, you can actually spend real life $ to acquire better items in game. Now this last part is a little dangerous here. I have never ever been the type to go to Ebay to buy items for MMORPG characters. However with this set-up, the temptation may be stronger, and I think a lot of what one ends up doing will depend on the degree to which this aspect of the game evolves.

I am hoping that this deep of an MMORPG will attract mature players, which I like (particularly after slogging away with 15 yr olds in “Guild Wars” and “World of Warcraft” for so many months).

Anyway, the beta is free of course so if I don’t like it, I won’t buy it. D & D is around the corner, which is another one I’m looking forward to.

Twenty Fourty Six

August 6, 2005 at 1:27am By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

Very positive review today in the NY Times of 2046 - the new Wong Kar Wai film - (you need a login to view the review btw). I am a big Wong-Kar Wai fan ever since seeing “Chungking Express” - which is a contemporary masterpiece (although the US release was tainted by a goofy intro from Quentin “Rip off Hong Kong films” Tarantino). If you have not seen “Chungking Express”, RUN do not walk to your nearest blockbuster. Other good WKW flicks are “Fallen Angels” and “In The Mood for Love” - which I’m proud to own as an excellent Criterion Collection DVD.  If its a Criterion, you know its good.


Anyway, I’m looking forward to 2046 when it comes out on DVD (unfortunately I doubt it will make it to Lincoln theaters).

Yay Me!

August 6, 2005 at 12:46am By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

Finally got 100 off-prints today of an earlier article I wrote last summer and fall, an analysis of extraterritorial application of regional human rights treaties. I wrote this sucker with consultation from a dutch attorney who argued the Bankovic case (NATO vs. Yugoslavian nationals) in Strasbourg (albeit on the losing side - Yugoslavia). The article is an analysis of the ECHR’s divergent case law in the application of Europe’s human rights treaty to alleged violations by European nations abroad, whether in Europe or in non-European nations. The crux of my analysis focused on a prediction regarding the UK’s responsibility for the torture and murder of an Iraqi national in Basra, a case which ultimately went to the High Court of England and Wales in which the UK was found to be liable for the murder, which I correctly predicted. Yay me! (OK I’m done patting myself on my shoulder).

 

One Nation, Under Intelligent Design

August 4, 2005 at 1:09am By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

Another bone thrown to the religious right, Bush has come out in support of teaching “Intelligent Design” in the school curriculum. Is it just me, or, has this issue not already been discussed in the Edwards case? I’ve always thought that the power of religion comes from voluntary belief and the personal experience one gets from choosing to follow a particular faith and its set of beliefs. I’d hate to think that federal $$$ is needed to support the teachings of any particular religion.

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