Category Archives: The Law

Is American Tourism Hurting Cuban-Americans?

For Cuban-Americans who had family property confiscated by the Castro regime 60 years ago, the new wave of American tourism to the island is not a positive development.

A number of US cruise lines are docking in Havana and Santiago, whose ports were once privately owned by Cuban citizens.  Today, those families of the former owners, who have since come to the US, want the financial benefits they believe they have a right to.  And because the US government is allowing such water travel, they are asking the US government to help recoup.

Within the Helms-Burton Act of 1996,  Americans or Cuban-Americans whose properties were stolen after the 1959 Revolution are allowed to sue.  However, that part of the agreement is not enforced.

In retaliation for the claims, Cuba is asking for, “hundreds of billions of dollars for its counter claims, which it says are the accumulated damages of more than a half-century of U.S. hostility.”

This makes Cuban-American reimbursement seem very unlikely. Another point: Cuban exile benefits in America are already notoriously cush. So, dear reader, do you think these two families have claim to the port revenues?

Your Linguistic Footprint

In the new Discovery TV series, “Manhunt: The Unabomber,” the identity of Ted Kaczynski is determined from the linguistics in his manifesto. A profile was built around someone who read the Chicago Tribune growing up, and received a PhD within a defined time period.

With some study, we can all become trained to infer a writer’s geographic origins, educational institutions, and news sources from word choice, sentence structure, spelling, punctuation, and slang (#teamoxfordcomma right there).

In the show, the linguistics alone are not enough to charge Ted; rather, they form the basis for the search warrant of Ted’s cabin–which is where the FBI obtain bombmaking materials as evidence.

Since that case in 1995, forensic linguistics seems to have been used more, both by the prosecution AND the defense.

Some interesting subtypes include:

  • Forensic Phonetics–correctly identifying a voice, especially on a recording
  • Forensic Dialectology–determining a person’s origin, which can be especially helpful in asylum cases
  • Discourse Analytics–sorting out who is introducing ideas and who is agreeing. Most relevant for covertly recorded confessions.

There is still much variance in the acceptability of these methods. Despite its intuitive resonance, as a relatively new field it must fight for credibility.

Do you think forensic linguistics deserves more prominence in the legal field?  Write us!

License to Shut Out

The Boston Globe recently discussed the well-established trend toward increasingly expensive professional licensure.

The demand for heavily regulated licensing to allow anyone to legally charge for almost any service: haircuts, medicine, legal defense — has the tradeoff of making these services more expensive, and thus unattainable for many.   Also, prohibitive barriers to entry, such as education and unpaid work experience, may be hurting the job prospects for otherwise able and willing Americans looking for work.

Hitting the sweet spot of maintaining standards for the public while creating availability of the service is an ongoing battle across most industries, especially since most professional associations set the requirements for industry entrance.  In the fall, the US Supreme Court heard a case from North Carolinians who wanted to offer teeth whitening without dental licenses.  The FTC decided the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners was guilty of antitrust since the dentists on board had a clear interest in limiting competition.

The SC has yet to decide the case, and ModCon can’t wait to hear the outcome and reasoning, since its result has the potential to affect the entire US labor market.

A Cop’s View of Use of Force

From the Washington Post:

“Community members deserve courtesy, respect and professionalism from their officers. Every person stopped by a cop should feel safe instead of feeling that their wellbeing is in jeopardy. Shouldn’t the community members extend the same courtesy to their officers and project that the officer’s safety is not threatened by their actions?”

The Space of Justice


The LA Times had a very interesting article this week about seeking the input of prison inmates for architectural design.

Because the current US prison system has such high recidivism, two consultants set up a project to address the environment of the perpetrators.  Current inmates in one San Francisco jail  sketched and then presented prototype jails that included healing rooms for socialization, natural sunlight and plants,  bathrooms with increased privacy, and a waterfall.  The hope was that future builders would take the prisoners’ needs into account when designing a space meant to rehabilitate the criminal.

“Architects are sort of the psychiatrists of the system,” said Linda Bernauer, chair of the American Institute of Architects’ Academy of Architecture for Justice. “We have to listen to everyone, and victims and perpetrators don’t generally have much of a voice…The intent is to talk about how therapeutic spaces can provide better outcomes and have architects be the leaders as opposed to just being hired to do what we’re told.”

Such attention to murderers’ comfort may strike many as undeserved, and ModCon tends to agree.  Unless there can be demonstrable savings to the taxpayer, and a demonstrable contribution to public safety, for creating spaces that can heal people who have committed violent crimes, such an enterprise is not valuable.  Can a violent criminal even be rehabilitated anyway?

So-Called Random Acts of Violence

Elliot Rodger, who killed six and wounded 13 in CA on May 23rd before killing himself.

What many people call random, or senseless, acts of violence are usually neither.

Such words have been used to describe this weekend’s mass shooting at UCSB by Elliot Rodger (pictured above).

Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano–current head of the University of California system–said that a mass shooting in the community around UC Santa Barbara is, “almost the kind of event that’s impossible to prevent and impossible to predict.”

Yet, Rodger’s web video series of detailed threats, his parents’ outreach to police, and his long record of mental health intervention lead one to think that events like this are, in fact, almost assured if there is insufficient intervention first.

Gift of Fear author Gavin de Becker has spent his career preaching that there are reliable indicators of violence.

Unfortunately, this shooting was highly predictable, and could have been prevented had both mental health and crime prevention services been more aggressive.


Castle Doctrine Case

Castle Doctrine is the right to shoot or kill an intruder in your own home whom you reasonably believe poses an imminent threat, without fear of prosecution.  Naturally, gray area abounds.

This 65 year old guy in Minnesota, having once been burgled, expected the teen perps to return.  He then made it look like he wasn’t home, waited in his basement with a gun, and shot the kids to death when they came back.  Then, he waited hours before reporting the incident and recorded his rambling thoughts–thus ruining any argument of sanity.  He has now been sentenced to life in prison.

What do you think?