Art Immitates Law

In Yann Martel’s novel of magical realism The Life of Pi, the protagonist finds himself lost at sea in a raft. His only companion, a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

“Who is Richard Parker?” you ask.

In 1884, a ship sank off the Cape of Good Hope leaving three men and a boy trapped in a life raft. By the end of the two weeks things were looking desperate. The group had no food, save a sea turtle they caught and ate, and they were in imminent peril of death. One thing led to another and the boy was killed by two of the men and eaten by all three of the men. Four days later, they were rescued by a German merchant ship. The men were returned to Britain where they put forth the famous necessity defense, which failed, and sentenced to death. However, the Queen commuted their death sentence and everyone lived happily ever after.

The name of the boy cannibalized by the men — Richard Parker.

Regina v. Dudley and Stephens, 14 Q.B.D 273 (1884).

The Psychology of Firing Squads

Firing Squads. There has to be something said for a method that takes into account the psychological effects on unintended parties. Traditionally in a firing squad, one gun was loaded with a blank round. This bullet is known as the “conscience round” and promotes diffusion of responsibility among the executioners. A heavy conscience is supposed to take solace in the fact that he may have had no part in a murder. A wax dummy round is sometimes used because has more recoil than a blank, making it harder to tell which rifle had no part in the execution. As reported by the BBC, in the execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner a wax dummy round was employed:

None of the firing squad will ever know for sure if he fired a lethal shot. One gun was loaded with a dummy – probably wax – bullet, which is said to deliver the same recoil as a live round.

From the BBC.

Department of the Army 1947 Pamphlet Procedure for Military Executions:

The officer charged with the execution will command the escort and make the necessary arrangements for the conduct of the execution. [The execution squad will consist of 8 men]. He will — (g) Cause eight rifles to be loaded in his presence. Not more than three nor less than one will be loaded with blank ammunition. He will place the rifles at random in the rack provided for that purpose.

Note: The above image is a blank, not a wax dummy round.

End of Days Growing Nearer

Administrative and regulatory law is a prickly beast.¬† And when it comes to net neutrality, Comcast’s deep pockets are going to make certain that net neutrality slows to a crawl. Today, the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia held against the FCC finding that the Commission does not have the authority to exercise jurisdiction to force net neutrality over the cable giant. The Court stated:

The Commission may exercise this ‘ancillary’ authority only if it demonstrates that its action . . . is ‘reasonably ancillary to the … effective performance of its statutorily mandated responsibilities.’ The Commission has failed to make that showing.

The FCC will likely appeal the ruling and Congress will likely step up its efforts to pass legislation governing internet speeds.

Read more about net neutrality here and here(!).

Read about why the EFF believes the FCC is the wrong body to legislate net neutrality here.