Search results for "zombie"

The Zombie Defense

In the proud tradition of the Twinkie Defense and the Chewbacca Defense, we now have the Zombie Defense:

A young transient who said he was trying to shake zombies off a stolen semi-trailer truck he was driving caused a major freeway incident in southern California that sent four people to the hospital and tied up traffic for hours, the California Highway Patrol said.

Jerimiah Clyde Hartline, 19, was arrested in connection with the theft an 18-wheeler fully loaded with strawberries on Sunday near Temecula, according to the highway patrol.

Officer Nate Baer said Hartline had been riding with truck driver Daniel Martinez since his trip started in Tennessee after being kicked out of his home. When Martinez stopped to fill out paperwork at an inspection site, he left Hartline alone in the truck, Baer said. Hartline then jumped behind the wheel of the truck, sped off and soon after crashed into several vehicles on the freeway, Baer said.

Hartline was apparently under the influence of a substance that caused him to hallucinate, Baer said.

“He thought zombies were chasing him and clinging to the truck,” Baer said in an e-mail….

Hartline has been charged with taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent and receiving known stolen property, court records said.

Mr. Hartline and his defense team will have to read up on the politics of zombies, which I blogged about here. For an appropriate fee, I would be happy to serve as an expert witness on the law and economics of the undead, as well as on the special legal rights and obligations of those who are called upon to defend humanity against them. […]

Continue Reading 0

More from Judge Mark Martin (of the Zombie Mohammed Incident), on CNN

From a CNN interview (starting at 2:15):

Interviewer: When I spoke to him over the phone, Judge Martin acknowledged it’s his job to protect the rights of people like the atheist, no matter how offensive they might be.

Interviewer to Judge Martin: … There are some who believe you were failing to protect that right.

Judge Martin: No, I don’t think so. Here’s the thing: It’s a right, it’s not a privilege, it’s a right. With rights come responsibilities. The more that people abuse our rights, the more likely that we’re going to lose them.

But I don’t quite see how this is “the thing,” at least in the sense of an explanation of the judge’s actions at the trial. I don’t think that we’re in danger of losing our free speech rights because some people say things that are offensive to Muslims. I do think that free speech rights are in danger when judges berate alleged crime victims for their anti-Islam speech, and thus convey the message that the legal system may be biased against those who engage in such speech and may fail to protect those people because of such speech. […]

Continue Reading 204

“Zombie Mohammed” Judge Responds

A reader passed along this message that appears to be from the judge in the Zombie Mohammed case:

This story certainly has legs. As you might imagine, the public is only getting the version of the story put out by the “victim” (the atheist). Many, many gross misrepresentations. Among them: I’m a Muslim, and that’s why I dismissed the harassment charge (Fact: if anyone cares, I’m actually Lutheran, and have been for at least 41 years).

I also supposedly called him and threatened to throw him in jail if he released the tapes he had made in the courtroom without my knowledge/permission (Fact: HE called ME and told me that he was ready to “go public” with the tapes and was wondering what the consequences would be; I advised him again to not disseminate the recording, and that I would consider contempt charges; he then replied that he was “willing to go to jail for (his) 1st amendment rights”- I never even uttered the word “jail” in that conversation).

He said that I kept a copy of the Quran on the bench (fact: I keep a Bible on the bench, but out of respect to people with faiths other than Christianity, I DO have a Quran on the bookcase BESIDE my bench, and am trying to acquire a Torah, Book of Mormon, Book of Confucius and any other artifacts which those with a faith might respect).

He claims that I’m biased towards Islam, apparently because he thinks I’m Muslim. In fact, those of you who know me, know that I’m an Army reservist with 27 years of service towards our country (and still serving). I’ve done one tour in Afghanistan, and two tours in Iraq, and am scheduled to return to Afghanistan for a year this summer. During my first

Continue Reading 352

The Irrelevance of Anti-Sharia Laws to the “Zombie Mohammed” Case

As I note below, I highly disapprove of the judge’s comments in the “zombie Mohammed” affair. But the suggestion that anti-Sharia laws would help avoid this (see also here) doesn’t make much sense to me.

This is not a situation where the judge “applied Sharia law” in any normal sense of the phrase. The judge claimed that he simply didn’t find enough evidence against the defendant. Perhaps the judge was biased against the victim because of the victim’s anti-Muslim speech, but an anti-Sharia law wouldn’t have helped avoid that. More broadly, a law banning judges from “consider[ing] … Sharia Law” (in the words of the Oklahoma anti-Sharia amendment) wouldn’t keep judges from concluding that someone who insults members of other religious groups should be admonished, punished, or even stripped of the right to legal protection — they would just conclude this based on their own notions of refraining from offending other groups.

Even a judge who wants to give a break to a defendant who attacks an alleged blasphemer, on the grounds that the defendant comes from a culture where such blasphemy is illegal, could do that without “consider[ing] … Sharia Law.” He could just consider the actual practices of the foreign country, just as an immigration judge who gives asylum to a convert from Islam who faces a possible death sentence for apostasy back home could make an observation about actual practices in the foreign country without “consider[ing] … Sharia Law.”

The same is true with regard to the rightly infamous New Jersey trial court decision accepting a cultural defense with regard to nonconsensual sex in a domestic restraining order case. (I might be mistaken, but I think this blog was the blog that first reported on that case.) The court there did consider the Muslim […]

Continue Reading 56

Charges Dismissed in Pennsylvania Prosecution for Attack on “Zombie Mohammed” Atheist Parader reports on this case, in which Talaag Elbayomy was accused of attacking a man who was marching in a Halloween parade (alongside a “zombie Pope”), and shouting “I am the prophet Mohammed, zombie from the dead” [UPDATE: and apparently carrying a sign that said “Muhammed of Islam” on one side and “only Muhammed can rape America”]. UPDATE: The video from the parade is here.

The judge concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Elbayomy of the crime, and it’s possible that there was indeed inadequate evidence. A police officer reports that Elbayomy had admitted that he grabbed the parader and tried to grab his sign; but it’s possible that the judge found this evidence to not be credible enough to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Moreover, it appears that Elbayomy was prosecuted for criminal harassment, which requires an “intent to harass, annoy, or alarm,” and a mere physical attack with an attempt to grab a sign might or might not qualify, see the pen-grabbing discussion in this case. The acquittal itself might thus be justified, depending on exactly what evidence was introduced.

But the worrying thing is what the judge (Mark Martin) seems to have said at the trial, based on what appears to be a recording of the hearing: The judge — who stated that he (the judge) was himself a Muslim and [UPDATE: see below] found the speech to be offensive — spent a good deal of time berating the victim for what the judge saw as the victim’s offensive and blasphemous speech, which seems to raise a serious question about whether the judge’s acquittal of the defendant was actually partly caused by the judge’s disapproval of the victim. Consider, for instance, this statement, at 31:15:

Then what you have done

Continue Reading 231

Theories of International Politics and Zombies

Just got a copy of this new book from Prof. Dan Drezner (yes, it’s real). An image, and an excerpt (some paragraph breaks added):

Some realists would go further, arguing that, in the end, human-zombie alliances of convenience would be just as likely to emerge as human-human alliances. As previously noted, many zombies in the canon start out possessing strategic intelligence, making them more than capable of recognizing the virtues of tactical agreements with some humans.

Some zombie studies scholars might object at this point, arguing that flesh-eating ghouls can neither talk nor develop strategic thought. Even if they did not, though, realists would point to Romero’s zombies for empirical support. Even in Night of the Living Dead, Romero’s ghouls demonstrated the capacity for using tools. In each of his subsequent films, the undead grew more cognitively complex.

The zombie characters of Bub in Day of the Dead and Big Daddy in Land of the Dead were painted with a more sympathetic brush than most of the human characters. Both Bub and Big Daddy learned how to use firearms. Bub was able to speak, perform simple tasks, and engage in impulse control—that is, to refrain from eating a human he liked. Big Daddy and his undead cohort developed a hierarchical authority structure with the ability to engage in tactical and strategic learning. In doing so they overran a well-fortified human redoubt and killed its most powerful leader. It would take only the mildest of cognitive leaps to envision a zombie-articulated defense of these actions at the United Nations.

By the end of Land of the Dead the lead zombie character and the lead human character acknowledge a tacit bargain to leave each other alone. This is perfectly consistent with the realist paradigm. For zombies to survive and thrive, they

Continue Reading 15

The Politics of Zombies

Political scientist Dan Drezner has an interesting essay in Foreign Policy magazine that explores how different international relations theories would cope with an invasion of zombies. It’s based on his forthcoming book Theories of International Politics and Zombies, scheduled to be published by the Princeton University Press. Drezner analyzes the possible responses to a zombie invasion predicted by realist, liberal, and neoconservative theories of international relations. Great stuff!

Unfortunately, he doesn’t consider the possible predictions to be derived from libertarian theories of politics. So I will take a (merely metaphorical) stab at it myself:

I would expect many governments to try to use zombies for their own nefarious ends. Zombies might be an excellent tool of repression for authoritarian states. Government efforts to combat the zombie menace might well be hampered by public choice problems. Various interest groups would surely exploit the zombie crisis as an opportunity to lobby for special benefits for themselves under the pretext of combatting the zombies. For example, farm subsidies for dead farmers will surely go up, as lobbyists argue that the dead farmers might turn into zombies themselves unless they are paid off. In democracies, anti-zombie policy might also be compromised by widespread voter ignorance of zombies and irrationality about them. I venture to predict that voters are likely to be even more ignorant and irrational about zombies than they are on most other policy issues.

Finally, I want to congratulate Drezner on his success in persuading a major academic press to publish a book on this subject. It is a great inspiration to all academics who love science fiction and fantasy literature. As soon as I finish my own forthcoming books on political ignorance and the Kelo case, I hope to try to follow up Drezner’s achievement. Perhaps it’s not […]

Continue Reading 58

The Returned

My wife and I have been much enjoying this new TV show, which we’re watching on Amazon Instant Video. It’s in French, with English subtitles, but they haven’t interfered with our getting into the story. The premise is that dead people are coming back to life (as apparently ordinary people, not zombies) in a small French town; the tone is realistic, though with an unrealistic premise, rather than fantastic. In any case, I thought I’d pass along the recommendation.

UPDATE: I particularly like the music (by Mogwai), and I usually don’t much notice TV music, and don’t much like it if I do notice it. […]

Continue Reading 0

A Brief Review of World War Z

I saw the movie version of World War Z last night. Although it was mostly for entertainment, I was also conducting in-depth academic research for my article on political ignorance and the undead, my planned contribution to Economics of the Undead: Blood Brains and Benjamins, edited by Glen Whitman and James Dow! The article builds on my forthcoming book Democracy and Political Ignorance, and explores the portrayal of political ignorance in literature and movies on the undead (public ignorance and the resulting public policy errors play a major role in many such stories).

But the beleaguered taxpayers of Virginia need not worry about my charging this movie ticket to my academic expense account. That’s because Hollywood basically turned Max Brooks’ fascinating political and psychological story into a standard-issue action/horror movie. Moderately fun to watch, but barely more intelligent than the zombies themselves. I would offer a more detailed critique. But Daniel Drezner (author of Theories of International Politics and Zombies) has already done all the heavy lifting for me [warning: his article contains plot spoilers, not that the plot is all that good].

I understand that some changes had to be made in order to convert the book into a movie. For example, there had to be a central protagonist that the audience can identify with (the character played by Brad Pitt), as opposed to the melange of separate stories in the book. But it’s a shame that the adaptation process essentially stripped the story of nearly all its intellectual content, and much of its internal consistency as well.

If you’re in the mood for some relatively mindless zombie-like entertainment, the movie will do. Otherwise, stick to the book. […]

Continue Reading 0

“Economics of the Undead: Blood, Brains & Benjamins”

My friend Glen Whitman passes along this Call for Abstracts:

Call for Abstracts

Economics of the Undead: Blood, Brains & Benjamins

Glen Whitman & James P. Dow, Editors

The editors seek abstracts for essays exploring the relationship between economics and the undead, especially zombies and vampires. The chosen essays will appear in a collection to be published by Rowman & Littlefield.

Ideal contributions will use economic reasoning to address issues related to the undead, use the undead as a means of exploring economic thought, or both. Abstracts and final essays should be written in an accessible and engaging style for a popular audience. Contributions should also make relevant reference to the undead in pop culture, such as the Twilight saga, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the novels of Anne Rice, World War Z, the films of George Romero, True Blood, and The Walking Dead.

Possible topics include: supply and demand in the market for blood; the operation of zombie labor markets; the political economy of responding to undead threats; macroeconomic recovery after a zombie apocalypse; what zombie and vampire behavior tell us about rational-choice modeling; etc.

Submission Guidelines:

1. Send abstract of paper (100-500 words) in Word or compatible format.
2. Include resumé/CV for each author.
3. Submit by email to both and
4. Submission deadline is 7 April 2013.
5. For accepted abstracts, first drafts of essays will be due 15 July 2013.

Feel free to forward this to anyone with economics training or experience who might be interested in contributing. Although we are only asking for abstracts at this time, if you have already written an unpublished article that fits the subject matter, you may submit the article in its entirely.

Continue Reading 0

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Testimony on the First Amendment and Anti-Muslim/Anti-Islam Speech

I was invited to testify on this subject at today’s U.S. Commission on Civil Rights briefing on Federal Civil Rights Engagement with the Arab and Muslim American Communities Post 9/11, so I thought I’d pass along my written remarks. You can read them in PDF form here, or in plain text below (though without the footnotes). My sense from the questions was that at least some commissioners (and not only the conservative ones) found the subject matter of the remarks interesting.

* * *

October 29, 2012

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
624 9th St., NW
Washington, DC 20425

Dear Members of the Commission:

I entirely agree that the religious freedom rights and free speech rights of Muslim Americans, as well as all other Americans, should be protected. I have publicly spoken out, for instance, in favor of applying religious accommodation law to Muslim employees as well as to others. I have condemned attempts to criticize Muslim office-holders for taking their oath of office on a Koran. I have spoken in favor of extending mosques the same property rights extended to other property owners, and against attempts to exclude mosques from particular areas. And I agree that the government should take steps to make Muslim Americans, like Americans of all religions, feel welcome in America.

At the same time, attempts to make adherents of minority religions feel welcome should not end up suppressing the free speech rights of others who seek to criticize those religions. Islam, like other belief systems — Catholicism, Scientology, libertarianism, feminism, or what have you — merits evaluation and, at times, criticism. And under the First Amendment, even intemperate and wrong-headed criticism is fully constitutionally protected. Yet unfortunately attempts at suppression of criticism of Islam have been distressingly frequent.

Universities: Thus, for instance, San […]

Continue Reading 0

Letting People Get Away With Attacks on Offensive Ideological Expression

The incident in which a judge dismissed charges against a Muslim who attacked a “Zombie Mohammed” parader — possibly because of the judge’s expressed anger at the parader’s expression — reminded me of this episode from 1990 (New York Times):

The Louisiana House passed a bill today that would lower to $25 the fine against those who assault people who burn the American flag. The House voted, 54 to 39, to waive the normal aggravated-battery penalties of six months in jail and a $500 fine in cases in which flag-desecrators are attacked.

I’m glad to say that the bill was never enacted; excusing attacks on those who insult ideological symbols is wrong whether the symbols are religious or political. […]

Continue Reading 39