A Fact-Check for the Four-Color World

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Stone Mountain

Monday night on Vanished, the greatest new show of the season, the action drew even closer to home. Near the end of the episode, the agents in the Atlanta-based show discovered a lead that sent them to Stone Mountain. I was enthused.

Stone Mountain is the Atlanta suburb where I was raised, and is named for its chief landmark. Which is, as the name would suggest, a giant granite outcropping. Imagine a smaller, grayer version of Ayers Rock, located in the Deep South, with the images of three Confederate leaders carved into the side.

My enthusiasm soon turned to annoyance, though, once the characters actually arrived on the scene. An FBI snuck up on a cabin and entered, only to discover that their quarry had already left.

Something tells me that no one on the show checked to see what Stone Mountain actually is, beyond the name. Because Stone Mountain isn't an inhabited mountain; it's the centerpiece of a state park in metro Atlanta. Nobody lives there. There aren't any cabins to hide in, and even if there are some hiding up there, you couldn't utilize them (e.g., drive up the mountain) without tipping off the park rangers.

On the whole, this series may have taken its share of small liberties with the Atlanta area, but it definitely captures the city a lot better than The Walking Dead did.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Wonder Woman: Double Jeopardy?

The new DC Solicitations for December includes this listing:

Jump aboard for a new era of MANHUNTER with the start of the 5-part story "Unleashed," guest-starring Wonder Woman! Manhunter Kate Spencer takes on her biggest case yet with Wonder Woman as the client, but the stakes are higher than anyone knows! Is the Amazon princess guilty of murdering Max Lord?

This is a surprise, since DC already had a trial of Wonder Woman for Lord's murder in her own title last year. I even critiqued it. Granted, that last trial never actually had a resolution that I can recall, and there's no double jeopardy prohibition against Diana being tried by a U.S. court after standing trial before an international court. But it still feels like going to the same well twice.

I said before that only two countries would have jurisdiction over the killing of Maxwell Lord: Switzerland and Themyscira. It didn't cross my mind at the time, but the United States would likely be able to claim jurisdiction over the event as well. The "passive personality" principle allows countries to exercise jurisdiction over crimes committed against that country's nationals when they are abroad. Since Max Lord was (presumably) a U.S. citizen, the United States could prosecute Wonder Woman for killing him.

I'm not sure why the U.S. would be terribly interested in doing so, given Max's villainous conduct at the time of his death. And as I shared before, I firmly believe that Wonder Woman acted in self-defense, as well as in the defense of others.

In any case, I'm looking forward to December, and I'm glad that Manhunter got an extension on life.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Loren Collins for Congress

*Pulls out the soapbox*

I've mentioned it before, and you've probably noticed the links on the left sidebar of this page, but I am running for Congress. No joke, the real, honest-to-goodness United States House of Representatives.

I've got the campaign website, campaign blog, an initial and ultra-cheap campaign ad, and I'm listed on Wikipedia. And we all know Wikipedia doesn't lie.

Granted, I'm only a write-in candidate in this election, but that's an unfortunate consequence of both election law and pragmatism. Running for a major party nomination would have been an exercise in futility with either party, and Georgia has remarkably restrictive ballot access laws for other candidates. Plus, there was the difference between the $4863 filing fee to be on the ballot, versus the $10 charge to be a write-in.

I realize that I'm lucky if there are a handful of Georgia Fourth District constituents among this blog's readership, but it is still a fantastic means of outreach. And write-ins (especially write-ins on limited budgets) benefit greatly from word of mouth.

So aside from petty matters like where I stand on the issues, and the fact that most of you can't actually vote for me, what reason is there to support me? What sets me apart?

  • Whether you agree with me or not on a particular issue, I'd like to think that my posts on this blog illustrate my dedication to research, accuracy, and informed and persuasive argument. So even if we come down on opposite sides of an issue, you can at least trust that I got there honestly.

  • People love the idea of grassroots campaigns, and campaigns don't get more grassroots than this one. Tired of Democratic and Republican shenanigans, Jim MacQuarrie and I are working together on launching the Bull Moose Party. I have no special interest connections, a miniscule campaigning budget by national standards, and a personal history so clean that you'd think I retcon-punched away all the bad stuff.

  • I am a young and spry 28 years old. The average age of US House members is 55, possibly the oldest in US history. When some of the big issues of the day are Social Security, Medicare, and deficit spending, Congress needs younger voices taking part. Our generation has a direct interest in the consequences of federal decisions in these areas, because we will live out those consequences firsthand. For the average member of Congress, Social Security is something they're about to collect on; for me and my generation, it's something we're preparing to spend the next four decades funding.

  • With all the recent talk of the power of bloggers, I'm a blogger who's actually making a stab at running for office myself. And unlike many candidates who attempt campaign blogs, I actually write my own posts.

  • I imagine I'm the first comic blogger to run for Congress. In fact, there aren't many public officials who are known to be comic fans. Clarence Thomas is one, being a big fan of such books as Icon and the original Rawhide Kid. I've met Clarence Thomas, and do you know what we talked about? Comic books.

  • And I can virtually guarantee that I will be the only Congressional candidate in the entire country to tackle the most pressing fictional political issue of our day: the Super Human Registration Act.

Now it's around Labor Day when election season typically kicks into high gear, and it's no different for me. That's why I'm sharing this here, on a blog that gets considerably more traffic than my campaign one right now. If you'd be willing to lend some support, I'd greatly appreciate it. More on that later, but for now, I'll leave you with this:

Monday, September 11, 2006

Conflict of Interest

I don't know if one of my co-bloggers has mentioned it, but Jennifer Walters has a major conflict of Interest in representing Robbie Baldwin (Speedball). Baldwin has been charged with, among other things, violating the Super Human Registration Act by not registering. (Not that he could, being unconscious and all.) Any competent lawyer, as part of his defense, would attack the Act as unconstitutional. But Jen has not only supported the Act, but is assisting in enforcing it! That would seem to me to be prevent her from defending Baldwin or anyone else who is alleged not to have complied with the Act. There must be lawyers other than Walters who can defend him. Well, maybe not in the Marvel Universe. BTW, Jen has been representing Baldwin in issues of Frontline. She has been enforcing the Act in issues of her own book.

"We've Reached the Top"

Last night I watched the 9/11 documentary on CBS, which focused on the firefighters of Ladder 1. There's nothing I can say that can add to the heroism and sacrifice of the men depicted in the film. The footage and the interviews speak for themselves.

In its final minutes, the documentary simply showed the photographs of all 343 NY firemen killed in the attack of 9/11. And that reminded me of the 9/11 editorial cartoon that touched me the most, coming from the pen of the AJC's Mike Luckovich:

Cross-posted at Loren Collins for Congress

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Family Matters

After Booster Gold's funeral in 52 #18, Skeets notices a young man named Daniel Carter, and determines that he is an ancestor of Booster's. Stephen Wacker says of the encounter, "Discovering Booster’s ancestor is legitimately a surprise to [Skeets] and hopefully the plans for him work out next week."

Michael Jon Carter, aka Booster Gold, is from the 25th century. That is, conservatively speaking, at least twelve generations removed from today. Booster should have somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 ancestors living today, of various ages. It is likely that number could be upwards of 50,000.

So the real coincidence here isn't in locating an ancestor of Booster's, it is in stumbling across Booster's (presumably) direct paternal ancestor. A Carter. Of which there are probably, at most, three: Daniel Carter, his dad, and his granddad.

If we assume that Daniel is twelve generations removed from Booster, then there should be 2047 other male ancestors of the same generation. Skeets just happened to find the one who contributed his surname and his Y chromosome. That's the real coincidence; not finding one of tens of thousands of direct ancestors.

This character device of the direct male ancestor has been seen in comics any number of times before, but the use that perhaps irritated me the most was in one of my favorite comics, Starman. During the "DC One Million" crossover, we were introduced to Jack Knight's descendent from the 853rd century, Farris Knight. 85,000 years removed, well upwards of 2000 generations, and it's still a direct male descendant who's carrying on the family business.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

She-Hulk #8: DestroyAllWarriors.com, Part 2

She-Hulk #8
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Paul Smith

The Issue:

At the heart of the controversy in She-Hulk #8 is a website called DestroyAllWarriors.com:

As Justice says, the person behind the site has been 'outing' members of the New Warriors, exposing their real names and addresses one at a time. The site also includes pictures of members, indicating who is alive and who is dead:

(I find myself wondering when the Warriors all posed for face-front headshots.)

Apparently, those whose names and addresses were given out subsequently suffered violent attacks. Hindsight Lad had a message burned into his lawn, Debrii's car was torched, and Timeslip was attacked by a mob.

So Rage and Justice come to She-Hulk for legal assistance in having the website shut down. (And they appear to be suffering from a serious case of the stupids, as they come in costume, which leads to them getting harrassed every time they show their faces in public.)

The Background:

Slott's inspiration for this plot element is undoubtedly The Nuremberg Files, an anti-abortion website that, during the 1990s, posted the names and home addresses of abortion doctors, as well as other personal information (such as the names of family members).

Perhaps the website's most infamous and memorable features were its 'Wanted'-style posters of certain abortion doctors, and its list of names with the names of killed doctors struck out, and the names of injured doctors colored grey.

Planned Parenthood sued in federal court in Oregon, and won a $107 million judgment against the defendants, because the jury determined that the website's content constituted true threats. An injunction was issued, forcing the removal of the website's 'Wanted'-style posters. The defendants appealed, and a 3-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the verdict (in a decision written by Judge Kozinski, who is a favorite of mine). Planned Parenthood appealed that, and the full Ninth Circuit Court reversed again in a 6-5 split decision, reinstating the verdict but reducing the award to $500,000 (completely throwing out the $106+ million in punitive damages). The Supreme Court declined to hear a further appeal.

(If you're interested in reading either of the above-linked cases, a word of warning. The first one is fairly short and readable, and includes a good description of the offending posters, but the latter is rather lengthy.)

The Law:

What we have here is a prime question of free speech and First Amendment protection. The Nuremberg Files case involved state and federal laws that prohibit threatening statements, and we'll assume that similar laws apply here.

For the record, in rereading the issue since my last post, it's actually not entirely clear from the courtroom scenes that She-Hulk is attacking the website on the grounds that it is making illegal threats. Given the odd testimony and questioning, it almost appears as though Jen's strategy is to claim that the website shouldn't be allowed to reveal secret identities. It would certainly help to explain why Iron Man shows up to talk about secret identities, yet nobody makes a peep about threats.

Maybe Jen was relying on the "secret identity shield laws" referenced in She-Hulk (Vol. 1) #2; but such laws would have to do with courtroom conduct, not real-world reporting. Conceivably, if secret identities were deemed to be classified information (a la Valerie Plame), then 'outing' a superhero could be outlawed, but that doesn't comport with the ongoing Superhuman Registration Act controversy. And judging from Bendis' "Out" storyline in Daredevil, it's safe to say that the New York of the Marvel Universe doesn't have any laws prohibiting the reporting of secret identities.

So regardless of She-Hulk's tactics, the best way of attacking the DestroyAllWarriors.com website would be to allege that it is engaging in illegal "true threats."

Here we hit an unfortunately snag in our analysis, as we're not exposed to very much of the website's content. We know only the following:

1) It is called DestroyAllWarriors.com
2) It has posted the secret identities and home addresses of New Warriors.
3) It has posted news footage about attacks on 'outed' New Warriors.
4) It features the photo 'deadpool' seen above.

Given that Hindsight Lad subsequently states that he didn't intend for anyone to get hurt, I'd like to assume that he didn't put any explicit threats or calls for violence on his website. (The Nuremberg Files didn't have any direct threats either.) However, calling the website "DestroyAllWarriors" has a distinctly threatening tone that doesn't comport with Hindsight's proffered motivation.

Admittedly, as I stated in the comment section of my last post, I can't make heads or tails of Hindsight's motivation. He apparently posted his own name and address, got attacked, and continued posting his friends' names and addresses. He seems to suggest that his hope was to scare the Warriors into giving up their costumed identities...but given that he'd just exposed their real ones, I'm not sure how he expected them to avoid further retaliation.

The core question is not whether the target was frightened, or whether the defendant wanted his target to be frightened. It is whether "a reasonable person making the statement would foresee that the statement would be interpreted by those to whom it is communicated as a serious expression of an intent to bodily harm or assault."

If we treated the 9th Circuit majority opinion as absolute binding law, that would tend to support the argument that DestroyAllWarriors.com contains illegal "true threats." That court's decision relied largely on the posters and stricken names that have functional equivalents on this website. Well, sort of. From what we're shown, the only parallel to the 'stricken names' is that Speedball, Microbe, Namorita, and Night Thrasher are labelled as "Dead." All four of them were killed (or believed killed) in Stamford, prior to the creation of Hindsight's website, and definitely not as a result of the website's content. Debrii, despite being the victim of arson, is merely listed as "Alive." On the other hand, specifically identifying individuals as "Alive"

(There's also a minor issue here of standing, because Rage and Justice are the ones challenging the website, but we don't see their photos or any other information about them on the website. For the sake of argument though, we'll just assume that it's there, and simply not shown on-panel.)

Furthermore, even if there's not a direct association between the website's creator and the violent actors, we still have instances of violence that followed certain information being posted. Plus, there is the call to violence in the website's own title and URL. All of this could support a reasonable belief on the part of the New Warriors that the website is expressing a serious intention to cause them harm.

But the decision's realiability is less than absolute. The court did not say that the posters on the Nuremberg files were true threats; the court said that that was a question for a jury to decide. Another jury might not make the same decision about DestroyAllWarriors.com, and it certainly wouldn't be obligated to do so.

The 9th Circuit decision was also, as I said earlier, a 6-5 split decision. The same court could review the DestroyAllWarriors.com case, and if only a single majority judge found sufficient reason to switch sides, then the court would have declared that the website was Constitutionally protected. We're dealing with an area of the law that has a lot of disagreement among judges themselves.

Plus, while it may be the most on-point case, the Nuremberg Files decision is not binding law in a New York court. Its judges may have decided the Nuremberg case differently, and may say that DestroyAllWarriors.com is protected speech.

By contrast, in his dissent, Judge Kozinski says "A true threat warns of violence or other harm that the speaker controls." Under Kozinski's application of the law, the names and addresses and photos and news footage of the Warriors would all be protected speech, because none of the violence is actually flowing from Hindsight himself. You don't punish the speaker (especially in a financial way) for the offenses of other people the speaker doesn't control. Only the 'DestroyAllWarriors.com' title would be problematic, as it might be a "true threat" by Hindsight, depending on the context of the rest of the site. A court following Kozinski might issue an injunction against the title and URL, but would probably allow the rest of the site to remain online. And that wouldn't be much of a win for She-Hulk, because it's not the website's name that her clients are concerned about.

Now She-Hulk's chances of winning a temporary injunction, and shutting the website down pending a later hearing, are a little better given the contentious nature of this claim. But that's not where the meat of this controversy is; Rage and Justice aren't interested in merely delaying the website's revelations, they want the site shut down permanently.

So in the end, all of this means that the answer to the question "Is DestroyAllWarriors.com a legal website?" is a big and longwinded "It depends." A court that follows the 9th Circuit majority might be inclined to allow a jury to shut the site down. A court following Kozinski (who I, personally, favor) would leave it be.

That's my take. Any thoughts? Opinions? Rebuttals?