Tag Archives: law

When is a loophole not a loophole

13 Feb

In this morning's Kaimin (UM's student newspaper), there is a story entitled "Loophole found on student aid application" that examines the loss of eligibility for federal student aide for people convicted for using drugs.  The story claims that the lack of verification by the Department of Education of student's self-reported answers to a question on the FAFSA is a "loophole."  I took considerable offense to this and emailed the editors:

Dear Kaimin Editor,

I was very annoyed by your inaccurate headline for the story "Loophole found on student aid application."  According to my dictionary, a loophole is "an ambiguity (especially one in the text of a law or contract) that makes it possible to evade a difficulty or obligation."  Lying on your FAFSA about past drug convictions is not a "loophole," it is in fact lying.  If a murderer were to avoid punishment by lying to the police, would you consider that a loophole in the statute against murder?  I am pretty confident that most people wouldn't.  Breaking the law to avoid the consequences of a law is not a loophole.  It is breaking the law.  The law may be unjust and/or stupid, and breaking it may be an act of civil disobedience, but you're still breaking the law not exploiting a "loophole."  Thus, a better headline would have been "Lying about drug use on FAFSA rarely caught."  It's only one character longer and much more accurate.

By the way, your story also failed to mention that lying on the FAFSA for any reason is a federal crime punishable by jail time, a fine of $20000, or both.

Eric Hines

The main reason this headline and the story itself bothered me is that is a reflection of a growing sense of entitlement among members of our society that fundamentally threatens our civilization. That is not hyperbole.  The same process of rationalization that justifies calling the act of lying on the FAFSA about a drug conviction a "loophole" because you probably won't get caught is the same  process of rationalization that holds that the President is above the law because Congress won't hold him accountable.   If we stop following the rule of law to follow the rule of men (i.e., the law is what we say the law is no matter what the law actually says), we are no longer a democratic society.

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New Jersey is dumb

11 Mar

No offense to my collegues from NJ, but New Jesey's attempt to make a fruit the state vegtable are really stupid. Tomatoes are not vegetables, unless you're Ronald Reagan or the Supreme Court.

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That’s a spicy wiretap

26 Feb

When you read something like this you just have to blog it:

The Italian mobile operator TIM, one of the largest mobile phone companies in Italy has issued a unique warning that the number of wiretaps has reached the limit. In a fax sent to all Italian public prosecutors they say that they have already over-stretched their capacity from 5.000 to 7.000 simultaneously intercepted mobile phones. New requests now have to be processed on a 'first come first serve' basis, they write.

Link: Italian GSM provider warns: too many wiretaps

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Only in the South

20 Feb

Karmaic Retribution?

6 Jan

Although Apple was in the news this week for suing some rumor websites in advance of next week's MacWorld, Apple is also in the news because they are being sued:

A user of Apple's iTunes music service is suing the firm saying it is unfair he can only use an iPod to play songs.

He says Apple is breaking anti-competition laws in refusing to let other music players work with the site.

This has to be one of the dumber law suits I've seen in the last year. The iTunes music store is not the reason people by iPods. Therefore, the fact that the iPod only works with the iTunes music store is irrelevant. The iPod has a natural monopoly because it is "cool", which isn't illegal.

Link: BBC NEWS | Technology | ITunes user sues Apple over iPod:

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This is America Baby

12 Dec

What do you do when you return a Supermodel's dog because she is offering a "no questions asked reward of $5000," but she has you arrested anyway and, even though the police clear you of any charges, she never gives you the money? Well, in America we issue a press release and out her on trial in the court of public opinion. Take that evil supermodel.

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“Snooping on kids” in court

11 Dec

In a surprisingly bad piece of reporting from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that the Washintgon State Supreme Court rules that parents cannot evespdrop on their kids:

In a victory for rebellious teenagers everywhere, the state Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a mother violated Washington's privacy act by eavesdropping on her daughter's phone conversation.

Privacy advocates hailed the ruling.

The mother, however, was unrepentant.

"It's ridiculous! Kids have more rights than parents these days," said Carmen Dixon, 47, of Friday Harbor. "My daughter was out of control, and that was the only way I could get information and keep track of her. I did it all the time."

While it first appears that the Mom was being barred from snooping on her daughter, in fact the court was not considering the legality of the Mom's actions.  They were considering the legality of action by local police in investigating a crime:

The Supreme Court ruled that Dixon's testimony against a friend of her daughter's should not have been admitted in court because it was based on the intercepted conversation.

The justices unanimously ordered a new trial for Oliver Christensen, who had been convicted of second-degree robbery partly because of Dixon's testimony.

The Court  essentially said the action of the mother lead to knowledge of a crime that as inadmissible in court.  The court would have said the same thing if the police had wiretapped the daughter's phone without a court order.  Because the mom had been asked by the police to keep an eye on the daugher, she was acting as an agent of the police and her actions were illegal. 

The article does try to clarify at the end:

The ruling will not likely result in parents being prosecuted for snooping, Cumming said.

But it forbids courts and law enforcement from using the fruits of such snooping.

But the damge is already done and who reads to the last paragph anyway?  A bunch of teenages are going to be like, hey you can't listen in on my phone calls or read my diary or whatever.  While I think those things are dumb in most cases, they do have there place in parenting and the court didn't actually say anything about that.  So parents keep on snooping and reports don't try to make "cute" stories out of things that aren't all that interesting.

Link: Mom's snooping on daughter violated privacy act, court rule.

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