Was Saint Patrick Really Italian?

March 17, 2014

Irish is, without a doubt, the dominant immigrant culture in Massachusetts. Growing up there, in a town where Sicilians were the plurality, St. Patrick’s Day was always a little underwhelming. Instead, we celebrated St. Joseph’s day on March 19. Of course, every St. Joseph’s Day, someone would bring up the old story that St. Patrick’s day should be “our” day too — since St. Patrick was really Italian. We wanted to believe it, so we did.

Every year, articles pop up repeating the story that St. Patrick was really Italian. Even GoErie.com repeats the tale.

St. Patrick was born around 432 AD and died around 461 AD. He was Italian not Irish. Story is that St. Patrick was kidnapped at age 16 from Rome and brought to Ireland as a slave. (source)

Reviewing multiple sources finds conflicting stories of St. Patrick being born as early as 370 and dying around 460 AD. He was born Maewyn Succat. A number of sources say he was born in either Scotland or in Wales to parents Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were reportedly high status Romans.

Given the time periods in play, it is certainly likely that there would be high ranking Romans in Britain at that time. However, at that time, being “Roman” didn’t necessarily mean that one came from Rome.

For centuries before Maewyn’s birth, the concept of being a Roman expanded beyond the narrow definition it had in the early Republic. In 212 AD, Emperor Carcalla issued the Constitutio Antoniniana, which granted Roman citizenship to all free men in the Empire. Even before that, select groups of conquered peoples and powerful and important rulers of conquered lands were often granted full Roman citizenship.

So, it seems that Maewyn Succat was most likely a Roman. But, he could have been “Roman,” without possessing have a single strand of DNA originating from from the Italian peninsula.

Nevertheless, for the sake of argument, lets just assume that his family came from ancient Patrician blood, and that his parents were born in the shadow of the Colosseum. While this is entirely unlikely, lets say that’s how it was — and therefore, little Maewyn Succat was so Roman that he bled eagle blood and preferred his wine mixed with wolf’s milk.

Does that make him Italian?

One problem with claiming him as Italian is the difficulty of accurately defining “Italian.” What we now call “Italians” are really a mixture of a diverse ebb and flow of ethnicities made up of pre-Roman populations like the Etruscans, who later mixed with various Celts, Greeks, Germanic tribes. Sicily? Don’t even get me started. “Italy” as a nation didn’t even exist as an idea until the Risorgimento in the 1800s.

Back then, some like Austrian Prince Metternich angrily declared that Italy was nothing more than a “geographical expression.” Those who drove the Risorgimento would have found this insulting, but after Italy gained unification and independence, Massimo d’Azeglio seemed to affirm it by writing “we have made Italy; now we must make Italians.”

At the time of reunification, only about 3% of “Italians” spoke Italian. Even the King, Vittorio Emanuele, barely spoke it. Even today, much of Italy communicates in regional dialects at home, which are often mutually unintelligible.

So I suppose the answer is this: St. Patrick was likely Roman of some color or another. It is unlikely that he was Roman under the definition used by Italians who try and claim him. It is very likely that little Maewyn was actually some kind of Gaul. Even if he was as Roman as Marc Antony, most Italians trying to claim him as their very own have a somewhat loose grip on their own connection to the Romans as their ancestors.

It seems that the Irish should be permitted to maintain their claim over Maewyn Succat. Not that he was Irish either. But, if his historical significance is that he was an important missionary in Ireland, and he died there, well then they can have him.

The only thing they can’t have is the story about him banishing the snakes from Ireland. That’s not true. Glaciers did it almost 10,000 years before St. Patrick was born. (source)

So, this St. Patrick’s Day, the correct thing to shout is Erin go Bragh, and not Viva Italia.


No…. Section 230 does not prohibit you from being responsible

March 15, 2014

There are three kinds of people who talk about Section 230: 1) Those who know the law and speak the truth, 2) Those who know the law, but lie, 3) Those who don’t know the law, and still spew stupidity.

I’m not going to try and separate the 2s from the 3s. I just want to spread the truth. But, once armed with the truth, would you dear readers please yell BULLSHIT at the 2s and 3s when you hear them speak?

A really brief overview: 47 USC Section 230 is the federal statute that provides legal immunity to online service providers for lawsuits based on content provided by third parties. Because of this law, if someone posts a defamatory comment on this blog, I am not liable for that content. Period. There are some very very narrow exceptions, which don’t warrant discussion for the purposes of this post — because we aren’t going to delve into nuance here.

I want to clear up one bit of bullshit that seems to continue to walk the earth, sort of like a legal bullshit zombie. The bullshit is the notion that if I delete ANY comments on this blog, then I lose my Section 230 immunity.

This comes to mind because this Friday, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Attorney At Blog conference. During that conference, a very nice lady “informed” the audience that her blog would delete problematic comments, but they couldn’t, lest they lose Section 230′s protection.

I felt like a dick having to correct her. But, I can’t let a room full of people leave dumber than they came in. If you come to a place for CLE credit, the least you should do is learn something true, right? Shockingly, she defended her position by saying that it was based on the advice of her attorney. I advised her to fire that attorney immediately.

Read the statutory language below:

(c) Protection for “Good Samaritan” blocking and screening of offensive material

(1) Treatment of publisher or speaker
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

(2) Civil liability
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of—
(A) any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected; or

(B) any action taken to enable or make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to material described in paragraph (1) (emphasis added)

I do delete comments from time to time. If I notice them and they are “excessively violent” or “harassing” or “otherwise objectionable,” I delete them. Why? First, its my blog, so my fucking rules. You have a right to express yourself, but not necessarily here. Second, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that I can delete one comment and leave 100 filthy, objectionable, harassing, defamatory, nasty, and brutish comments and still not be liable.

Section 230 has been a wonderful thing. It has allowed the Internet to grow, and allowed services like Facebook, Craigslist, Fling.com, Pissedconsumer.com, and any number of other fun websites to exist. It allows me to have a comments section on each post, without worrying about whether I’ll be liable for something posted there. It does foster free speech online. So hooray Section 230.

Despite the fact that Section 230 gives me the right to be arrogant when it comes to the comments on my blog, it does not prohibit me from being responsible. I know very well that Section 230 is not there because of any Constitutional mandate. It is an immunity from liability bestowed upon us by Congress — and what Congress gave us, Congress can take away. One day, I expect that Congress will take away Section 230 (at least in part).

Why?

Because we can’t have nice things… One day, it is going to be the wrong Senator’s daughter who gets a rape threat or defamed on a comment somewhere, and you’re going to see some rollback to the freedom that Section 230 has given us. And that will be too bad, because it didn’t need to be that way.

You see, lots of bloggers and tech companies realize that Section 230 does allow them to have their own rules – and they act responsibly in the face of that freedom. If someone posts a comment on my blog saying that they are going to rip a woman’s eyes out and fuck the eye sockets (a threat lobbed at the nice lady who was misinformed about Section 230) then by the power of The Dude, I will delete that comment (and ban the commenter forever)MJR Dudeist Minster

Unfortunately, there are Section 230 protected websites who decide that they will simply go all the way to the edge of what Section 230 protects today. I at least respect them (on some level) when their rationale is “fuck you, Section 230 says I can, so everyone can suck it.” But, there are the liars and dipshits who say “If I delete any posts, I lose my Section 230 protection.”

If you are at a fifth grade reading level or better, the plain language of the statue should make it clear to you that this just isn’t true.

If you’re a Section 230 protected website operator and your lawyer has ever told you that you can’t act responsibly, lest you lose protection, then pick up your phone and dial his number (or her number, whatever). I presume you’ll get his voicemail. Leave this message “Hey, you’re either really stupid, or fucking dishonest. In either event, you’re fired, fucktard.”

Thank you. You are now less stupid.


Happy 50th Birthday, New York Times v. Sullivan

March 9, 2014

By Reed Lee, Esq.

Today rings in the 50th anniversary of the SCOTUS decision in New York Times v. Sullivan. In my view, this was the single most important free speech case the United States Supreme Court has ever decided. Alexander Mieklejohn described the Sullivan decision as “an occasion for dancing in the streets.” I would like to suggest its 50th anniversary as an occasion for reflection on some of its most powerful words, which encapsulate its meaning:

Thus, we consider this case against the background of a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.

We might reflect even more on the underlying “pre-suppos[ition] that right conclusions are more likely to be gathered out of a multitude of tongues than through any kind of authoritative selection.” As Judge Hand once famously put it: “To many this is, and always will be folly; but we have staked upon it our all.

I sometimes travel in circles where it is fashionable to have nothing good to say about a status quo power like the United States. But I’ve walked out of courts having represented clients who admitted shouting “fuck the police” but were acquitted because they personally did not throw the bottle at the cop.

A government and a legal system built on the propositions that the sole legitimate purposes of government is to protect individual rights and that all government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed gives us a great deal of room to argue for–and to often obtain–results which are the envy of the oppressed everywhere.

That’s worth remembering every once and awhile. Not perfect, to be sure; and that’s why the struggle continues.


Cross at WTC, yea or nay?

March 8, 2014

Amy Alkon (who I fucking adore) thinks that its a bit too petty to try and gank the cross from the WTC memorial. (here) I disagree, but whatever.


If a Judge Wants Prosecutors to Follow the Law, He Must Be Biased

March 8, 2014

Gideon, at the Connecticut Law Tribune gives us a peek into the souls of the prosecutor corps. (here)


An Open Letter to Journalists

March 7, 2014

Dear Members of the Media,

I sincerely appreciate all of your hard work in bringing us the news of the day. In this day and age, there is a lot of burgeoning information and it is cumbersome to sift through all of it to provide summaries to the masses. However, there is one thing you do not do that is incredibly frustrating–provide citations.

In reporting on a new science publication, you do not always provide a citation so that the interested reader can learn more. Worse, you rarely identify bill numbers, session laws, or case name/citations when reporting legal news. As a privacy attorney, I found the recent Massachusetts “upskirting” issue might warrant attention. It would have been helpful if you cited the case as Comm. v. Robertson, SJC-11353 (Mar. 5, 2014), even better if you provided a link: http://www.socialaw.com/slip.htm?cid=22645&sid=120 . Or, when the legislature promptly acted to outlaw the actions taken by Mr. Robertson, it would have been nice if you cited Acts of 2014, Chapter 23 (or H. 3934): https://malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2014/Chapter43

As a journalist, I am assuming you read the primary source, so that way I can trust your reporting, correct? So, since you have the primary source, please make it easier for us and let us know how we can find it, too. Because, if you don’t share, it might turn out that you missed the real story. Let me spell it out for you–Massachusetts just made many previously lawful and proper hidden security cameras potentially unlawful.

According to the new law, it is now unlawful to secretly record images of fully clothed breasts, buttocks and genitals. Full stop. Your nanny thinks she’s alone, but you have a nanny-cam. Sorry, you probably just broke the law. You want to know which of the neighborhood kids have been going into your backyard when you aren’t home and stomping your daisies? That’s double the punishment.

Bad reporting of bad reactionary legislative lawyering. At least the reporting can be easily fixed.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Jay M. Wolman


Help Wanted: Paralegal

March 5, 2014

RLG is looking for someone to act as a paralegal/office manager for the Vegas office.  

The successful candidate must be enthusiastic about working for a firm that does First Amendment Law and international intellectual property law. Candidates must be in Las Vegas or willing to relocate to Vegas.

You must be organized. In fact, really organized, because the boss lacks that quality. You must have a healthy relationship with porn. That means you must not be bothered by it, but if you’re all “oh, goody, porn!” then you’re an idiot who will be a liability to us all.

Experience as a paralegal is helpful, but not required. College helps, but is not necessary. Although, if you did go to college and you majored in English or Journalism, please step this way, past the velvet rope, and sit down. You’re going to the VIP lounge of candidates. You know why I like English/Journalism majors? Because usually they can compose a coherent sentence, or guess what word I wrote in some edits that are in my terrible, terrible penmanship.

If you can’t spell or notice typos, you’re not going to last more than a week. Attention to detail really matters. I stop reading when I see the first typo in a letter, and then I tell you to do it again. If you get the letter handed back to you three times, you get a prize! A new job. Somewhere else. I don’t care where. Your job will be to make mine easier, not harder.

Send your resume to me with a short cover email. If you are wondering if it is too long, then it is. One page resume only.

If you do not know where to send a resume, that’s too bad. Figuring shit like that out is going to be part of your job. Figure it out.

NOTE: Every time I post a job like this, I get attorneys and recent law grads applying too. I’ll consider JDs for the position, but only if you’re prepared to make a 1-2 year commitment to staying in the support staff ranks. Also, if you’re a JD who thinks “I’m a JD, lah dee freakin dah, I can do a paralegal’s job drunk ” then you’re an idiot. A paralegal’s job is way harder than a first year associate’s job.


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