Power of the Brain

A little while ago, I was wondering to myself how much power the brain uses. Today, BoingBoing helped me answer that question:
From www.boingboing.net:

The brain consumes 20 percent of your body’s energy, but what for? Turns out a third of the energy is spent on “housekeeping.”

I crossed check this and 20% appears to be dead on (see http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2001/JacquelineLing.shtml). As it turns out, it’s also about 20 Watts of power to run the brain (on a roughly 2000 food calorie diet).

“Blah” is What I’m Looking Forward To

Charles Dickens’ begins A Tale of Two Cities with, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

I think that line adequately reflects my current mood.

After today, I’ll have three more days of class (which is actually just one real day since I have no class tomorrow and Thursday I only have rock climbing). There is no new material to learn, which is great because my brain was full about five weeks ago. This is the final push to get through these last few days and then three days of finals next Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.

But I want to be done now.

It’s basically been sixteen weeks of “go, go, go” and it’s worn me out mentally and, to a degree, physically. I’m looking very forward to May 7th after my last final when I can just go home, sit in my chair, and just be “blah”.

A Man’s House is His Castle: Summary

…continued from A Man’s House is His Castle: Arguments Against Fourth Amendment Limitations.

Summary
It is the recommendation of this author that rights established in the Fourth Amendment be interpreted broadly. While this author recognizes the need for National Security, this author also realizes the dangers of ceding one’s rights to government power.

It seems clear to this author that while the main intent of the Framers was to prevent government from performing abusive searches and seizure of a person’s home and belongs in the name of tax collection, the Framers also intended the Fourth Amendment to prevent all forms of search and seizure, reasonable or not, without a proper warrant.

The warrant system is one of the many checks and balances employed by this great nation to ensure that no one person or organization has all the power. To allow the Government to suspend or eliminate the parts of the Fourth Amendment at will is no different from reinstating general warrants or writs of assistance.

To allow the United States to realize a time of general warrants or writs of assistance would be catastrophic and could lead to civil unrest.

In 1763, during a debate over a cider tax and its enforcement requirements that would have allowed a liberal search provision, William Pitt remarked, “The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail – its roof may shake – the wind may blow through it – the storm may enter – the rain may enter – but the King of England cannot enter; all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement!”1

The King is not above the law.

The President is not above the law.

The Constitution shall protect us.

–30–

Special thanks to those who edited it:

  • Kim Russell
  • Corinne Johnson
  • Joyce Raveling
  • Mom

Download: A Man’s House is His Castle: A Discussion on the Fourth Amendment and National Security


  1. Cohen, William and Danelski, David J. Constitutional Law: Civil Liberty and Individual Rights. New York : Foundation Press, 2002. 1-58778-075-5. p. 775 

Blogging: WordPress vs. Blogger

A good friend from college asks:

I’m thinking of starting a blog. (Not sure how good of an idea this is but whatever, it’s an idea.) I was shopping around the different platforms and was wondering what your take is on them. You obviously use WordPress, why? What about Blogger? Any insight would be great as they both look to be about the same to me, having not used either.

Blogging, for me, is a great place to offload stuff from my mind and I find that’s it’s particularly helpful for the ADHD in me.

As for different platforms, a quick overview:

  • There is WordPress, which, as you pointed out, is what I use. You can host WordPress yourself of have them host it for you for free (WordPress.com)
  • The main competitor to WordPress is actually MovableType, which is free to download and host yourself, but you have to pay $5/mo to have them host it for you (Typepad.com)
  • Blogger is the lite weight version of blogging. It’s backed by Google and does pretty well. You can’t host it yourself, but it is free to use.

From this point on, the differences are more or less semantic. I like WordPress because it’s completely open source, they have a great community of developers that are constantly evolving the platform and making it better. The hosted (free) version of WordPress is very full featured, but not overwhelming. I particularly like that the URLs are date/title formatted. For example: http://example.wordpress.com/2008/04/22/the-world-is-just-awesome/, would have been posted on April 22,d 2008 with the title “The World is Just Awesome.” I also like the commenting system much better in WordPress compared to Blogger.

I don’t know much about Blogger because I haven’t investigated for a while now, however I do know that hosted (free) WordPress has lots and lots of themes that you can choose from.

Going down the features list now:

  • WordPress has a pretty spiffy tagging system (in addition to the traditional catagories) that I think are a superior form of content labeling.
  • This shouldn’t be a huge deal for you, but WordPress has (in my opinion) the best comment spam protection system.
  • You can have pages in addition to posts. Pages are basically the same as posts, execpt that they live outside of the normal hierarchy.
  • No advertisments.
  • Statistics. It’s nice knowing who your readers are and how many of them. WordPress stats are pretty full featured and very helpful.

I think you also get something like 5GB (yes, that’s gigabytes) of space to upload content. And of course, I use it. Which not only means that WordPress is the best ;), but that I can also help you out more if you ever need it.

Hope that helps.

A Man’s House is His Castle: Arguments Against Fourth Amendment Limitations

…continued from A Man’s House is His Castle: Statement of Question and Arguments Favoring Fourth Amendment Limitations.

Arguments Against Fourth Amendment Limitations
The necessities for Fourth Amendment protection extend over half a millennia. History has shown repeatedly that when presented with the chance, government cannot and should not be trusted with voluntarily protecting the best interests of its people. Originally, the Fourth Amendment was designed to offer protection against the search of physical property in the name of collecting taxes. At the time, abusive use of writs of assistance helped propel a call to arms that ended with the birth of a new nation. America was formed because “[t]he history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations.”1

However, with the advent of the Internet and other forms of non-tangible communication, it seems as if history is doomed to repeat itself. While the Framers designed the Fourth Amendment with a particular set of circumstances in mind, it should not be construed that this was the sole objective of the Amendment.

Like all Amendments, the intent of the Fourth Amendment was to limit the Government in all its forms – executive, judiciary, legislative, and, by extension, militarily as well, from causing intrusion into the lives of the people.

In the battle between the right of the people and the power of the Government, the Court has often shown that it favors the right of the people.

The “clear and present danger” test used in Schenck and referenced as cause to expand government powers in the previous argument was later overturned in Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969). In its opinion, the Court wrote, “Freedoms of speech and press do not permit a State to forbid advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”2

This narrower limit on government power restored rights to the people and forced the Government to provide critical evidence to support its claims before it can suppress the rights of the Amendment.

In United States v. U.S. District Court, 407 U.S. 297 (1972), the Court ruled on the case involving a warrantless wiretap used for the purpose of “’gather[ing] intelligence information deemed necessary to protect the nation from attempts of domestic organizations to attack and subvert the existing structure of the Government.’”3 The United States argued that “wiretaps involving domestic security should be exempt from the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment because of the secrecy necessary for successful intelligence gathering, the importance of domestic security, and the complexity and continuous nature of intelligence gathering.”4 This case, which was argued in 1972, is similar in scope to what the United States Government is currently attempting to do in the name of National Security. In United States v. U.S. District Court, the Court held eight-to-zero (Justice Rehnquist did not take part in the consideration or decision of the case) that a warrant was needed for a wiretap, writing:

But we do not think a case has been made for the requested departure from Fourth Amendment standards. The circumstances described do not justify complete exemption of domestic security surveillance from prior judicial scrutiny. Official surveillance, whether its purpose be criminal investigation or ongoing intelligence gathering, risks infringement of constitutionally protected privacy of speech. Security surveillances are especially sensitive because of the inherent vagueness of the domestic security concept, the necessarily broad and continuing nature of intelligence gathering, and the temptation to utilize such surveillances to oversee political dissent. We recognize, as we have before, the constitutional basis of the President’s domestic security role, but we think it must be exercised in a manner compatible with the Fourth Amendment5.

To see the Court vote unanimously on such the issue should only reaffirm the need to be ever vigilant in protecting the freedoms the Fourth Amendment offers.

Recently, the United States Justice Department rescinded its belief that “the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations.”6 In response to the Yoo memo, Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said, “We disagree with the proposition that the Fourth Amendment has no application to domestic military operations. Whether a particular search or seizure is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment requires consideration of the particular context and circumstances of the search7.”

Continued tomorrow with the Summary


  1. United States Declaration of Independence. 

  2. Brandenburg v. Ohio. 395 U.S. 444, Washington, D.C. : Supreme Court of the United States, 1969. 

  3. United States v. U.S. District Court. 407 U.S. 297, Washington, D.C. : Supreme Court of the United States, 1972. 

  4. Cohen, William and Danelski, David J. Constitutional Law: Civil Liberty and Individual Rights. New York : Foundation Press, 2002. 1-58778-075-5. p. 805 

  5. United States v. U.S. District Court. 407 U.S. 297, Washington, D.C. : Supreme Court of the United States, 1972. 

  6. Yoo, C. John. Memorandum for William J. Haynes II, General Counsel of the Department of Defense. Department of Justice, United States. 2003. Memorandum. p. 8 

  7. Hess, Pamela and Jordan, Lara Jakes. Memo Linked to Warrantless Surveillance. [Online] April 2,
    2008. [Cited: April 14, 2008.] http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hJKgeE0Z-SivATjokutYBdh9wDwD8VQ5HFO4. 

A Man’s House is His Castle: Statement of Question and Arguments Favoring Fourth Amendment Limitations

…continued from A Man’s House is His Castle: Interpretation of the Fourth Amendment.

Statement of Question
Thus, the stage is set. In light of recent global developments, specifically the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the ensuing “global war on terrorism,” should the right of unreasonable searches and seizures be limited to protect national security?

Arguments Favoring Fourth Amendment Limitations
Like most issues that deal with constitutional law, there is a battle between the rights of the people and power of the Government. Under very rare and certain circumstances, there is compelling state interest to limit the scope of constitutional protection.
This limitation of constitutional protection is easiest seen in the First Amendment and free speech. In the decision for Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919), Justice Holmes wrote in the opinion of the Court:

The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.

The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that the United States Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree. When a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right1.

Justice Holmes made it clear that even within a right as simple as freedom of speech, there is a line that the people cannot cross and still expect constitutional protection. Justice Holmes also noted that the line is subject to move during a time of war.

The Schenck decision sets a precedent that can easily be applied to the Fourth Amendment. While not engaged in a traditional war that consists of nation-on-nation fighting, the United States is engaged in a war with persons, both domestic and foreign, who are attempting to cause undue harm to America and its inhabitants. It would be a dereliction of duty for the United States not to perform its due diligence in attempting to thwart such attacks in the interest of National Security.

In United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, 494 U.S. 259 (1990), the Court held six-to-three that “[t]he Fourth Amendment does not apply to the search and seizure by United States agents of property owned by a nonresident alien and located in a foreign country.”2 This decision, in part, laid the groundwork for a memo written by John C. Yoo, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice.

On March 14, 2003, Yoo wrote a memorandum for Wiliam J. Haynes II, General Counsel of the Department of Defense. Yoo wrote, “Indeed, drawing in part on the reasoning of Verdugo-Urquidez, as well as the Supreme Court’s treatment of the destruction of property for the purposes of military necessity, our Office recently concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations.3(Emphasis added)

As such, there appeared to be a compelling state interest to limit the scope of the Fourth Amendment to protect the people of America. By limiting the Fourth Amendment and restoring writs of assistance, the Government is in a better position to more effectively prevent terrorism on home soil. For example, being able to more thoroughly conduct taps of telephones lines could lead to the arrest of suspects trying to cause harm.

Continued tomorrow with Arguments Against Fourth Amendment Limitations


  1. Schenck v. United States. 249 U.S. 47, 39 S.Ct. 247, 63 L.Ed. 470, Washington, D.C. : Supreme Court of the United States, 1919. 

  2. United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez. 494 U.S. 259, Washington, D.C. : Supreme Court of the United States, 1990. 

  3. Yoo, C. John. Memorandum for William J. Haynes II, General Counsel of the Department of Defense. Department of Justice, United States. 2003. Memorandum. p. 8 

Postcrossing to the Netherlands

I sent another batch of Postcrossing postcards out in the mail last Friday and the first one has arrived in the Netherlands!

Thamar wrote back:

Hey!

Tanx for your great card! Are you such a good photographer or was it just luck? 🙂 Very nice idea, to get your own postcard from a picture you made. If you ever come to the Netherlands, you’ll be able to make the best photo’s!

Happy postcrossing,

Thamar

Thamar-US-177508 (by Mr Ferguson)

A Man’s House is His Castle: Interpretation of the Fourth Amendment

…continued from A Man’s House is His Castle: Historic Development.

Interpretation of the Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment has been in place for over 200 years. In that time, America and the world have changed drastically. Nations have literally come and gone within that time, and yet the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights have remained steadfast. There does, however, remain a question of how one should interpret the text of Fourth Amendment.

With the advent of electricity, telegraphs, telephones, radio communication, and the Internet, the question of what the Framers of the Fourth Amendment intended is more important now than it ever has been before.

Broken into sections, the Fourth Amendment seems straightforward in its meaning: People within America have the right not to be unreasonably searched themselves or in their place of residence. People within America also have the right not to have papers and other items seized unreasonably. These rights shall not be violated unless someone under oath (or affirmation) declares that there is probable cause that describes the places to be searched and/or the persons or items to be seized. Only then shall a warrant be issued for only the above-mentioned places described to be searched and/or the persons or items to be seized.

However, there remains much to interpret. Thomas Davis, an Associate Professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law, explains that “evidence indicates that the Framers understood ‘unreasonable searches and seizures’ simply as a pejorative label for the inherent illegality of any searches or seizures that might be made under general warrant…thus, they never anticipated that ‘unreasonable’ might be read as a standard for warrantless intrusions.”1

The idea that the Framers never considered there might be ‘reasonable’ searches and seizures is shown by the fact that the “ex officio authority of the peace officer [was] still meager in 1789. Warrant authority was the potent source of arrest and search authority. As a result, the Framers expected that warrants would be used. Thus they believed that the only threat to the right to be secure came from the possibility that too-loose warrants might be used.”2

Based on Davis’ research, it then becomes entirely reasonable to assume that the Framers intended warrants to be used significantly more liberally than warrants are used currently. Thus, the only reason warrants are not used as liberally would be due to the expansion of the ex officio authority of peace officers to search and arrest, which is exactly what happened during the 19th century3.

Throughout the 20th century, the Supreme Court often had to clarify ambiguous parts of the Fourth Amendment. In Olmstead v. United States, 27 U.S. 438 (1928), the defendant argued “that the wiretapping of ‘private telephone conversations between the defendant and others…amounted to a violation of the Fourth Amendment.'”4 In a five-to-four ruling, the Court held that the defendants Fourth Amendment rights were not violated because the Court could not “justify the enlargement of the language employed beyond the possible practical meaning of houses, persons, papers, and effects, or so to apply the words search and seizure as to forbid hearing or sight.”5 Moreover, the majority wrote that “[t]he reasonable view is that one who installs in his house a telephone instrument with connecting wires intends to project his voice to those quite outside, and that the wires beyond his house and messages while passing over them are not within the protection of the Fourth Amendment.“6(Emphasis added)

The Court interpreted the Fourth Amendment literally and since the telephone was not listed in the Amendment, it was not covered. The dissent countered that a “sealed letter entrusted to the mail is protected by the Amendments. The mail is a public service furnished by the Government. The telephone is a public service furnished by its authority. There is, in essence, no difference between the sealed letter and the private telephone message.”7

While the Olmstead decision was a blow to the right to be secure, Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967), overturned Olmstead and established a wider scope of protection given by the Fourth Amendment. The Court wrote, “For the Fourth Amendment protects people, not places. What a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection. But what he seeks to preserve as private, even in an area accessible to the public, may be constitutionally protected.”8 The Court also took time to correct the thinking in the Olmstead case, writing, “[the] Amendment was thought to limit only searches and seizures of tangible property. But ‘[t]he premise that property interests control the right of the Government to search and seizure has been discredited.'”9

The major development from Katz was the implementation of the “Katz test – whether the individual has an expectation of privacy that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable.”10

Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27 (2001), furthered the protection offered by the Fourth Amendment and affirmed the decision set forth by the Katz decision. However, Kyllo is not as straight forward as Katz. In Kyllo, an Agent of the United States Department of the Interior performed a thermal imaging scan of the petitioner’s home from the passenger seat of the Agent’s car and from the street behind the petitioner’s home. Performing the scan allowed the agent to “[conclude that the] petitioner was using halide lights to grow marijuana in his house.”11

The Court had already ruled that “[visual] surveillance [is] unquestionably lawful because “‘the eye cannot by the laws of England be guilty of trespass.'” Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616, 628 (1886) (quoting Entick v. Carrington, 19 How. St. Tr. 1029, 95 Eng. Rep. 807 (K.B. 1765)).”12 Thus, one might think there is little thought required to assume that the passive surveillance conducted by the Department of the Interior Agent is “unquestionably lawful.” The Agent simply shifted the frequencies of the emitted energy rays into ones that could be perceived by humans. However, the Court took a more philosophical approach.

Referring back to the Katz decision, the Court writes, “We held that the Fourth Amendment nonetheless protected Katz from the warrantless eavesdropping because he ‘justifiably relied’ upon the privacy of the phone booth. Id., at 353. As Justice Harlan’s oft-quoted concurrence described it, a Fourth Amendment search occurs when the Government violates a subjective expectation of privacy that society recognizes as reasonable.”13

When the Katz test is applied, is becomes apparent that Kyllo‘s right to privacy as provided by the Fourth Amendment was, in fact, violated.

The Court concluded in its opinion:

While it is certainly possible to conclude from the videotape of the thermal imaging that occurred in this case that no “significant” compromise of the homeowner’s privacy has occurred, we must take the long view, from the original meaning of the Fourth Amendment forward.

“The Fourth Amendment is to be construed in the light of what was deemed an unreasonable search and seizure when it was adopted, and in a manner which will conserve public interests as well as the interests and rights of individual citizens.” Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 149 (1925).

Where, as here, the Government uses a device that is not in general public use, to explore details of the home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion, the surveillance is a “search” and is presumptively unreasonable without a warrant14.

Continued tomorrow with Statement of Question and Arguments Favoring Fourth Amendment Limitations


  1. Davies, Thomas Y. Recovering the Original Fourth Amendment. Michigan Law Review. 1999, Vol. 98, 547. p. 551 

  2. Davies, Thomas Y. Recovering the Original Fourth Amendment. Michigan Law Review. 1999, Vol. 98, 547. p. 552 

  3. Davies, Thomas Y. Recovering the Original Fourth Amendment. Michigan Law Review. 1999, Vol. 98, 547. p. 552 

  4. Cohen, William and Danelski, David J. Constitutional Law: Civil Liberty and Individual Rights. New York : Foundation Press, 2002. 1-58778-075-5. p. 781 

  5. Olmstead v. United States. 277 U.S. 438, 48 S.Ct. 564, 72 L.Ed. 944, Washington, D.C. : Supreme Court of the United States, 1928. 

  6. Olmstead v. United States. 277 U.S. 438, 48 S.Ct. 564, 72 L.Ed. 944, Washington, D.C. : Supreme Court of the United States, 1928. 

  7. Olmstead v. United States. 277 U.S. 438, 48 S.Ct. 564, 72 L.Ed. 944, Washington, D.C. : Supreme Court of the United States, 1928. 

  8. Katz v. United States. 389 U.S. 347, 88 S.Ct. 507, 19 L.Ed.2d 576, Washington, D.C. : Supreme Court of the United States, 1967. 

  9. Katz v. United States. 389 U.S. 347, 88 S.Ct. 507, 19 L.Ed.2d 576, Washington, D.C. : Supreme Court of the United States, 1967. 

  10. Kyllo v. United States. 533 U.S. 27, 121 S.Ct. 2038, 150 L.Ed.2d 94, Washington, D.C. : Supreme Court of the United States, 2001. 

  11. Kyllo v. United States. 533 U.S. 27, 121 S.Ct. 2038, 150 L.Ed.2d 94, Washington, D.C. : Supreme Court of the United States, 2001. 

  12. Kyllo v. United States. 533 U.S. 27, 121 S.Ct. 2038, 150 L.Ed.2d 94, Washington, D.C. : Supreme Court of the United States, 2001. 

  13. Kyllo v. United States. 533 U.S. 27, 121 S.Ct. 2038, 150 L.Ed.2d 94, Washington, D.C. : Supreme Court of the United States, 2001. 

  14. Kyllo v. United States. 533 U.S. 27, 121 S.Ct. 2038, 150 L.Ed.2d 94, Washington, D.C. : Supreme Court of the United States, 2001.