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ZombieLaw studies zombies in law, politics and current events.

kill them with fire – or why “zombie” blogging is dangerous

There’s a new strategy in the fight against zombie properties. Actually it’s not a new strategy at all. It’s probably one of the oldest real estate strategies in history, and it’s a classic way to kill zombies. Fire. Kill it with fire. And so when the zombies are run-down vacant buildings, we call that arson.

CBS6 reporting from Schenectady, NY: “Arrest made in string of fires“:

City leaders acknowledge that vacant buildings, or so-called “zombie properties” where some of these arsons were, are a problem and they say they are working to clean those properties up or tear them down.

Now it looks from the article like this 22 year old is just a crazy arsonist, likes to play with fire. Or maybe he’s just the fall guy. Maybe I’ve seen too many Batman cartoons but it really wouldn’t surprise me if some larger interest encouraged that arsonist. Now of course, I am (half-)kidding. Because it’s dangerous to think this way.

Words have effects. The things we say make other people feel stuff, and sometimes very differently than the speaker intended. I don’t intend to encourage anyone to burn down buildings. I think I would prefer the strategy in Huntington — use the existing blight laws. See Newsday: “Huntington officials work to resurrect zombie houses, other abandoned homes” by Deborah S. Morris.

And Huntington’s success only further makes me wonder why we need Schneiderman‘s legislation. All the news rhetoric has been about vacant abandoned houses that should be considered blight, and yet the law is about banks and foreclosures… I suspect there are a lot of houses in the grey area and the town doesn’t really want to blight the homes, it wants them repaired, occupied and paying taxes.

Anyway, all this political conjecture is sort of dangerous because this ZombieLaw blog has always been a mix between serious academic newsworthy information and satire. Some people really don’t like satire. It scares them to not know for certain what is true. For many people it seems that it may be scarier to be uncertain than to be lied to. However, false information is also scary and I do try not to be false…. still there is a very real danger of playing into the very media politics I am trying to criticize. Truth becomes a zombie.

Part of why my hiatus lasted so long is that the Charlie Hebdo incident scared me. The first post that started this ZombieLaw blog was about “zombie Mohammed“. A recent headline at Ars is about a blogger being hacked to death (haha at the pun: he’s a blogger being “hacked” … with a machete!). Now, I don’t think anything I’m writing should get me killed but hey, ya never know who I’m pissing off. This whole ZombieLaw activity is sort of an OCD hobby of collecting zombie references, and sometimes that OCD-mentality makes it difficult for me to write at all. I really can’t control what people think after reading. So, this blog only exists when I can suppress that fear and just click publish anyway. Every time I click ‘publish’ it’s sort of like saying ‘fuck it all’. On the one hand, really, who cares what I write on the internet, it’s just another byte on the crap pile.

On the other hand, see, KDVR: “Denver woman wants apology after judge acquits her of lying to police“:

“I think they retaliate on anybody who speaks up, anybody who stands up for their civil rights,” said Lebrun, referring to Denver Police and the City Attorney’s office. Her legal nightmare began October 18th, when she became separated from a friend during Denver’s annual Zombie Crawl downtown
… Her attorney, Siddhartha Rathod argued, “Ms. Lebrun was charged because she complained about the conduct of Denver Police and they wanted to silence her.”

Yes, speaking is dangerous these days.

There is another more important danger, a new study reported in Journal of Applied Communication Research by researchers Julia Daisy Fraustino and Liang Ma about the “Use of Social Media and Humor in a Risk Campaign” (h/t NewsWire). The researchers reexamined the CDC zombie apocalypse emergency preparedness media campaign and studied the

benefits and pitfalls of using social media and humorous messaging for risk communication. Findings show social media can quickly spread information to new publics for minimal costs; however, experiment participants who received the humorous (i.e., zombie) risk message reported significantly weaker intentions to take protective actions in comparison to those who received the traditional, non-humorous risk message.

The researchers conclude:

Ultimately, this research found that the CDC’s zombie-preparedness campaign, while vastly increasing emergency-preparedness message exposure and deemed effective by campaign management, may have decreased publics’ intentions to take any of a host of preparedness actions or even to seek additional information. So, perhaps zombies have overtaken not only pop culture but also publics’ intent to prepare for a zombie apocalypse—or any emergency.

The word “zombie” helps spread the controversy but it doesn’t really help focus the problem or help us understand if any particular position is correct, worse it may lead to inaction. Nevertheless, the humorous juxtaposition of metaphors helps spread the message, so we are constantly exposed to zombie symbols in a big conceptual blender, buy much of it is deathly serious.

It’s sort of like Amanda Knox singing the Cranberries song “Zombie” in NYC (via TMZ): “Amanda Knox — Killing It At Karaoke“. Spreading celebrity and blurring meaning to keep her name alive in cultural consciousness. It doesn’t tell me one bit about what to think of her or what she may have done or didn’t do, and then by my commenting on it, I am unavoidably doing the same, spreading her meme, drawing attention away from other potential ideas. Like meanwhile, in the Irish Mirror, the actual: “Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan to face ‘air rage’ charges” in Ireland after landing on a flight from NYC. Is NYC zombie central?

Recall some old ZombieLaw posts from last year: “In Defense of Satire” and “Rebel Art“. There is a real value in trying to comprehend truth through alternative lenses. Many of the issues associated with zombies are very serious real issues. Hackers and identity security, guns, meat-eating, animal consciousness, the history of slavery, cultural appropriation, psychological impairments, Social Security, memory loss, climate change, ebola and global capitalism, and that’s just off the top of my head. There are lots of other issues that are of insanely serious concerns for the future of the anthropocene. We need to spread awareness and humor can do that, but it also threatens to weaken the importance of our cause, not to mention seriously offend some people (to the risk they might kill us for saying so).

What choice do we have? Do we sit silent. No. It’s funny. We must laugh. People will want to know what we’re laughing about. And they will laugh with us, and then we can all cry together, before we die together.

I hope you don’t think this makes zombie foreclosures or arson or blogger deaths or NYC or the philosophical difficulty of truth any less serious. It’s all funny but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do something about it. It’s not just a zombie, it’s somebody’s home. We can prepare for disasters. We can help save the community. See this message from Norwell Fire Department: “FIRE BLOG: Preparing for a zombie apocalypse could save your life” by Capt. Jeff Simpson

Or maybe it’s all just promotion. There’s Zombie Burger in Illinois using the “Human Centipede” to comic effect to sell the human consumption of animal flesh. Des Moines Register: “Look at Zombie Burger’s Human Centipede creation“. The cartoon South Park also used the human centipede idea, I actually thought it was a South Park original idea (“HUMANCENTiPAD“) but no, it’s a whole horror movie franchise “Human Centipede” with the third installment coming out next week, May 22. Human centipede gives whole new meaning to middle class, and to the entire capitalist food chain. Eat shit and pass it on. It’s part of social (media) contract.

Zombies, all of us, playin’ with fire, gun’ get burned. Livin’ in glass zombie houses, gotta put down the rock, gotta live together in this community, gotta make sure the place is safe for everyone, for the kids too, but there’s just no denying that the world’s become a human-shit-chain of zombie debts … we need to fix that.

Legislation about Zombie Properties #ZombieHomes

I have been eager to post about the abandoned properties legislation. There are new developments in Indiana and New York. But the truth is I really don’t know what to say. Looking at the New York Bill A06932 / S04781, I like it but I have many concerns. I have no idea if these concerns are legitimate. I have not yet really read the Indiana law SB 415. So I am not competent to pass any useful information about this important area of zombie foreclosure law.

In New York it is being called zombie properties by many news outlets and that language is championed by Attorney General Schneiderman. The bill aims to charge the banks to repair any abandoned properties on which they hold mortgage. In Indiana, the Governor has signed a new law that seems to do the opposite making it difficult for the local towns to pursue the banks, but also changed some tax code to maybe make sale easier.

I still want to know where the homeowners went? I want to know why the government law isn’t aimed to more directly help those people? As far as I can tell the Indiana law protects the banks and the New York bill empowers local governments (the upstate mayors like it and this week was the Nassau County photo-op and opportunity for the AG to sit across the table with the Nassau County Executive). It’s nice to see the cross-party collaboration but what about the previous homeowners, where are they at the table? Taxed out maybe? And now they’ll send bank inspectors to the houses to see if any people still live there, force the bank to mow the lawn, pay the taxes, and start short selling. Some of these families’ properties went financially underwater in the bank crisis and then literally underwater during Superstorm Sandy. Why isn’t government forcing the banks to make principal reductions and interest rate modifications to bring the loans to current fair market value? Let the owners get the windfall instead of the banks or the towns. Let the economic flood waters wash away the debts not the homeowners. ?

All we hear about are the abandoned homes, what about the one’s with people still struggling to keep them? The zombie debt crisis isn’t just the abandoned homes and the visible blight. We’re still in the same sinking float of the bank-crisis induced, robo-signed mortgage, collateralized debt, quantitative easing, too-big-to-fail, foreclosure hell. What seems clear is that many politicians want to talk about abandoned blight and not the underlying financial apocalypse. Of course we need to clean up the blight, but there are also a lot of healthy-looking zombies out there, and I might prefer a broader legislative package to help more of those other zombies find agreeable settlement.

Is the New York bill as surely a “no-brainer” as the Attorney General has said (see Newsday: “Schneiderman: Legislation to combat plague of zombie houses on LI ‘is a no-brainer’” by Carl McGowan)? The legislation has some teeth to fine the banks, and even some zombie eyes in the form of bank inspectors checking the properties. How would it actually affect the world? I have no idea but that’s no problem, it’s a promised “no-brainer”, no need to think about it, right? So we don’t need to ask why the bill creates a special foreclosure court part? What’s wrong with the regular foreclosure proceedings? What judicial protections might be lost in an expedited special foreclosure process? Will robo-signed notes be as extensively scrutinized as they should? How will it affect the other cases remaining on the regular foreclosure docket? Where’s Governor Cuomo on this issue? And how will this be affected by who he appoints as the next Chief Judge to replace Lippman?

On all these questions, I have no idea. This post has been a a real no-brainer.

Zombie Federal Courts – first trimester 2015

The first trimester of 2015 is basically over and here’s a roundup of all the “zombie” mentions in Federal courts so far this year.

Mostly these are appeals from Social security cases (easily identifiable by the defendant name being either Commissioner of Social Security, or more frequently the name of the current commissioner, currently Ms. Colvin, and still one case named with the previous Commissioner, Mr. Astrue). Most of these social security zombie cases are quotations from the record about the claimant’s behavior and/or their feelings of incapacitation, often cause by taking some kind of prescribed pharmaceutical.

Additionally in this set, notice a case about the LA Zombies gang, a citation distinguishing the facts from the Baribeau zombie dance party case and most recently (listed last in this list), from just this past week, denial of a habeas petition on a death penalty case in Texas.

  • Tomlin v. Colvin,
    No. 4:13CV2424 SPM,
    2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 286,
    January 5, 2015

    Plaintiff visited Dr. Gaskin on August 11, 2011, and reported that he felt like a zombie. Dr. Gaskin determined to decrease plaintiff’s Abilify. Plaintiff’s current medications included Albuterol, Allopurinol, Aripiprazole, Atenolol, Bupropion, Capsaicin, Lisinopril, Loperamide, Omeprazole, Topiramate, and Venlafaxine. Plaintiff reported no side effects. Plaintiff reported having no migraines since taking Topamax.

  • Milan v. City of Evansville,
    Cause No. 3:13-cv-1-WTL-WGH,
    2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 750,
    January 6, 2015

    officers performing surveillance on Milan’s home noticed Derrick Murray, a known LA Zombies gang member and a “thorn to the police department for a while,” two houses down from Milan’s home on his mother’s front porch. Murray had a prior conviction for intimidating a police officer and had sprayed “187” on an officer’s garage.


    Detective Seibert also considered a possible familial relationship between Milan and LA Zombies gang member Marc Milan, due to their shared last name.

  • Hennion v. Colvin,
    CASE NO. 3:13-cv-00268-MWB-GBC,
    2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25466,
    January 14, 2015,
    Adopted by, Remanded by Hennion v. Colvin, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24637 (M.D. Pa., Mar. 2, 2015)

    When Celexa made him feel like a “zombie,” he switched back to imipramine and then added Ativan.

  • Henning v. Colvin,
    Case No. 5:14cv87-CAS,
    2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6248; 211 Soc. Sec. Rep. Service 468,
    January 20, 2015

    Prior to the hearing, the claimant alleged that her medication side effects included sleepiness, increased rage, increased depression, increased suicidal thoughts, problems with attention and short-term memory, and zombie-like/comatose effects that made it hard to function. However, she admitted that she was not taking medications at times

  • Alaura v. Colvin,
    CAUSE NO. 1:13-CV-287,
    2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14394,
    February 6, 2015

    Alaura reported that he was experiencing excessive daytime tiredness, difficulty concentrating (“zombie-like state”), trouble falling asleep, unsteadiness and possible vertigo when he moved rapidly, fluctuating headaches, light sensitivity, and pain that increased with exertion.

  • Withrow v. Colvin,
    No. 1:14-cv-3037-FVS,
    2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18910; 212 Soc. Sec. Rep. Service 614,
    February 11, 2015

    Plaintiff was 24 years old at the time of the hearing. (Tr. 53.) She testified she finished the ninth grade. (Tr. 36.) She did not start tenth grade. (Tr. 37.) She started living on her own at age 16. (Tr. 37.) She testified she doesn’t really do anything during the day because she is depressed. (Tr. 41.) She sees a counselor once a month for her depression. (Tr. 41.) She has tried medication for depression, but it made her feel “like a zombie” and she would “freak out.” (Tr. 43.) She sleeps a lot. (Tr. 60.) Some days she does not get out of bed. (Tr. 60.) She has anxiety. (Tr. 44.) Plaintiff was diagnosed with ADHD as a child. (Tr. 50.) She has work experience housekeeping and at a fast food restaurant. (Tr. 51.) She feels she cannot work a 40-hour workweek because of her depression, anxiety and mood swings. (Tr. 64.) She feels like she needs to be on medicine and she needs help with her problems. (Tr. 53.) She has no friends. (Tr. 54.) She had a previous boyfriend who was abusive. (Tr. 56.) She has nightmares and feels guilty, worthless, helpless and bad about herself. (Tr. 56-57.) She does not feel safe. (Tr. 57.) She snaps at people by raising her voice and swearing. (Tr. 58-59.) She loses track of what she is doing and starts something else. (Tr. 61.) She has a hard time keeping track of things like her keys and wallet. (Tr. 61.)

  • Whistler v. Colvin,
    Case No. CIV-13-388-RAW-KEW,
    2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35152,
    February 17, 2015,
    Adopted by, Remanded by Whistler v. Colvin, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34194 (E.D. Okla., Mar. 19, 2015)

    She reported discontinuing the Remeron because it made her “feel like a Zombie the next day.” Claimant continued to feel very depressed, very anxious, and was having lots of panic attacks. Dr. Farrow diagnosed Claimant with bipolar disorder and PTSD.

  • Zerbst v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec.,
    CIVIL ACTION NO. 14-cv-10754,
    2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37857,
    February 20, 2015,
    Adopted by, Summary judgment granted, in part, summary judgment denied, in part by, Remanded by Zerbst v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36288 ( E.D. Mich., Mar. 24, 2015)

    During the day he mainly stays in his room because he does not like to deal with anything or anybody. T 44. He does not sleep well at night because numbness and tingling in his arms wakes him up at night, and his medication makes him sleep periodically throughout the day as it makes him “extremely drowsy.” T 44. Wellbutrin turns him into a “zombie,” and Xanax “knocks [him] out cold.” T 49. He does not walk the dog because he does not like to get too far from his house. T 44. He tried to go to the grocery store by himself, but halfway through the trip he felt like he could not breathe; but he can go with his mother or girlfriend because he feels like they provide a buffer. T 45.

  • Coleman v. Colvin,
    Case No.: 3:13-cv-23805,
    2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21000,
    February 23, 2015,

    Nurse Kearns restarted Prozac and discontinued Trazodone, which caused Claimant to feel like a “zombie.” Claimant was instructed to continue with therapy.

  • Fisher v. Dir. of OPS of CDCR,
    Case No.: 1:14-cv-00901-BAM PC,
    2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26597,
    March 4, 2015,

    While in the hospital, Plaintiff was injected with some drug for refusing his medication. It made him lethargic. Plaintiff also was given Zyprexa, which had him walking around like a zombie. Plaintiff alleges that he was overmedicated for the EOP program. He alleges that a Kehea hearing on February 25 came as a surprise to him. (ECF No. 18, p. 7.) Plaintiff met with Inmate Counsel Christopher Reid, who asked if Plaintiff had been served his copies. Plaintiff alleges that he had not in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights. The lawyer was aware and they clashed. The lawyer also treated adversarial staff and the judge with deference. The judge dismissed Plaintiff’s Fourteenth Amendment claim.

    Plaintiff contends that the doctors are insensitive to his basic needs and he is overmedicated like a zombie. Plaintiff asserts that his clinician has threatened him with a Department of Mental Health Crisis Bed if he does not attend therapy, which is in a small cage. Plaintiff alleges that the medication he is forced to take gives him tremors, nausea and lethargy. He disagrees with the type of treatment he is receiving.

  • Brady v. Colvin,
    No. 4:13CV2076 RLW,
    2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26910,
    March 5, 2015,

    Plaintiff reported previously taking psychotropic medications, but they made her feel like a “zombie.”

  • Pentakota v. Colvin,
    CA 14-0190-C,
    2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27387,
    March 6, 2015,

    The claimant alleges disability because of various mental conditions including problems with anxiety, insomnia, manic depression, bipolar disorder, having hallucinations, and being hospitalized for mental problems. According to testimony, she has problems concentrating. She was placed on medications that make her sleepy. She testified that her medications make her feel like a zombie and make her sleep.

    *This Pentakota case also ends with a wonderful footnote about plaintiff counsel’s use of the phrase “atmospheric extraction”

  • White v. Perkins,
    CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:14CV-223-CRS,
    2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29515,
    March 10, 2015

    The Ashbaugh affidavit recites that after the accident “Paul White’s whole person seemed to change…After the wreck, Paul White was like a zombie. His memory got bad, he did not seem to focus on details like he used to about anything…After the wreck, due to these changes, it was not safe for Paul White to work on the property equipment.”

  • Gilmore v. City of Minneapolis,
    Civil No. 13-1019 (JRT/FLN),
    2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32090,
    March 16, 2015

    This case is also different than in Baribeau, where the Eighth Circuit, interpreting the same Minnesota disorderly conduct statute, concluded that the police did not have probable cause to arrest a group of anti-consumerism protestors. 596 F.3d at 478. The court first held that the Minnesota Supreme Court’s narrowing construction of the disorderly conduct statute — which holds that the statute only proscribes expressive language or speech that amount to “fighting words” — also applies to expressive conduct as well. Id. at 477. In other words, expressive conduct is only barred under the disorderly conduct statute if it has an effect similar to fighting words — conduct that inflicts injury or tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace. Id. at 475, 477. The plaintiffs in Baribeau were engaged in expressive conduct in order to protest consumerism: they were dressed as zombies, playing loud music, walking around, and coming up close to other members of the public. Id. at 471. The court concluded that the officer defendants did not have arguable probable cause to arrest the protestors, because they were engaged in expressive conduct that “did not amount to fighting words.” Id. at 478. In this case, however, Gilmore does claim that all of his alleged conduct and statements fall under the umbrella of expressive conduct. Indeed, the reports from witnesses of Gilmore’s threat against Glazer, and angry advances and statements against Glazer and the two women, describe combative, threatening, and disruptive conduct that led to a large crowd of people gathering and attempting to intervene. They do not describe the type of expressive conduct at issue in Baribeau.

  • Jackson v. Colvin,
    CASE NO. 5:13-CV-1890-KOB,
    2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34158,
    March 19, 2015

    During the evaluation, the claimant told Dr. Rogers that “‘I take so much medication, I fell like a zombie.'” She also stated that her medication side effects impair her ability to function.

  • Meyen v. Colvin,
    Civil No.: 3:13-cv-00936-JE,
    2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53957,
    March 19, 2015

    Plaintiff’s weekly injection of pegylated interferon (peg IFN) “knocks [him] out” for three or four days. During that time he is like “a zombie,” moving slowly and feeling “drained.” He spends most of the day lying in bed or in a chair. Before starting treatment he experienced fatigue but it was less severe.

  • Howell v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec.,
    Case No. 13-cv-13444,
    2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36513,
    March 24, 2015

    The treatment notes consistently indicate that he was staying sober and working hard on his treatment, and that although he was prescribed psychiatric drugs, he refused to take them. He told one of his treatment providers: “he took one or two doses of his medication and felt like a zombie and didn’t like the feeling at all, would prefer to be without them. States he doesn’t feel like the problem is present when he is not using street drugs.”

  • Marconi v. Colvin,
    CASE NO. 1:13-cv-02531-GBC,
    2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39195,
    March 27, 2015

    Plaintiff’s husband also testified that he set out a daily list of chores for Plaintiff to do, otherwise, “[s]he’d sit in front of the TV all day long like a zombie.”

  • Carey v. Astrue,
    Civil Action No. 10-413 GMS,
    2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39851,
    March 30, 2015

    Carey reported to her therapist on May 10, 2006 that she stopped taking Wellbutrin because she felt like a “zombie” and the medication was hindering her ability to clean. (Id. at 12, 272.) On May 17, 2006 Carey reported to Dr. Nixon that she stopped taking the Wellbutrin because it made her irritable, and the Ritalin was not helping. (Id. at 270.) Instead, she took Xanax, which was provided by a friend. (Id.)

  • Denny v. Colvin,
    Case No. 14-3143-CV-S-ODS,
    2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47836,
    April 13, 2015

    In January 2012 Plaintiff discussed with Dr. Wang the need for him to complete a Medical Source Statement (“MSS”). It was also during this meeting that Plaintiff discussed (apparently for the first time) that the “zombie apocalypse is ready to begin” and she was “prepared to survive.” Dr. Wang diagnosed her as suffering from migraine headaches (resolved), mild polysubstance abuse, and disassociative disorder not otherwise specified.

  • Davila v. Stephens,
    Civil Action No. 4:13-CV-506-O (death-penalty case),
    2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51854,
    April 21, 2015

    Regarding Davila, Olivas testified that he was diagnosed with ADHD5 when he was a child and had very poor vision. Id. at 69:22-24. He additionally had a difficult time controlling his temper. Id. at 99:22-25. Although he was prescribed Ritalin for his ADHD, Olivas quit administering the medication to him because “[w]hen he took it, . . . he was like a zombie.” Id. at 70:12-17. As a student, Davila “had good grades until high school.” Id. at 71:1-2. When he was twelve or thirteen, Davila began wearing colored clothing suggesting that he was involved in gang activity. Id. at 71:14-25. Olivas often picked Davila up from school and he was “beat up.” Id. at 82:14-15. His teachers additionally reported that Davila “was exhibiting behaviors that are unacceptable in the classroom, and at times [was] endangering the lives of other students in [the] classroom.” Id. at 100:4-8.

  • This hiatus has gone on long enough – ZombieLaw, it’s baaaaack!

    Hi zombies. I wasn’t sure what it was going to take for me to resume this odd hobby. When I left for the new years holiday I had been intending a much shorter hiatus, but instead when I returned I shifted my zombie obsessive tendencies toward simply tweeting instead of blogging. I felt I had written enough about zombie and the new links could stand for themselves.

    There have been some big moments the past few months when I thought it was time to come back, and I will maybe try to catch up to some stories I missed in the past few months. There were two Friday the 13ths this year already. And there are continuing parallel stories of a zombie cat and zombie dog (both buried alive and crawled out, and then custody issues for who gets the animal after the veterinarian – property rights or best interest of the animal), are sort of interesting in the way they have grabbed media attention. Questions of animal consciousness remain an important part of the zombie meme set (also related to zombie vegans).

    Also the Zombie Foreclosure issues rage on. There are still homeowners who are trying to negotiate with banks and the banks are still playing games. New York’s newly re-elected Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is still stumping for legislative efforts but quite honestly it’s a lot of pomp and circumstance and other than lots of pictures of run-down houses and talk of community banks buying property… I don’t know what this is about. How can we help the homeowners who are still struggling battling bank frauds from like a decade ago? It’s basically nothing exciting on this issue since 2013 when ZombieLaw wrote: “Zombie Foreclosures are Bank Fraud“. OK, that’s not true, and there are exciting zombie foreclosure developments all the time (including lots of press on the NY bill this morning), so probably I’ll write more about that later this week. I’ll have to read the bill but I’m not sure the banks aren’t still screwing the borrowers with government assistance.

    And then there’s Bill Bonner still zombie’ing – this week attacking Social Security zombies, claiming social security recipients are zombies and then comparing zombies to a herpes infection (so social security recipients are diseased?), in MoneyWeek: “Social Security is braindead, but that doesn’t make us all zombies“.

    There’s so much interesting zombie art (not just zombie formalism – see also Bruce La Bruce exhibiting at MoMa). And there’s zombie drug law reform efforts and the pharmaceutical’s zombie side-effects, and debts, lots of zombie debts from all sort of zombie companies. And Canadian hackers (see “Foreign hacker sentenced for first time ever in US” – involved hack of “Zombie Studios”). And zombie parasitic insects (see this zombie praying mantis). Yes, there are still so many fascinating zombies on a daily basis.

    And yet, I had been contenting my zombie obsession with mere tweets and not sure when I might return to this blog, but it’s this weekend’s NYTimes that I finally has me rise from the dead. Both Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd using the word in their respective NY Times columns. Now, I am still really not sure what the point of this ZombieLaw blog is or ever was, but mocking the NYTimes zombies has definitely been an important part. Recall ZombieLaw previously listed Maureen Dowd’s “zombies” and would tag Paul Krugman with significant frequency.

    maureen dowd zombie
    paul krugman zombiebill bonner zombie

    This week “zombie” is in Krugman’s headline, “Zombies of 2016“, and he repeatedly uses the term throughout his column to describe the status of current Republican politics. Starting in on zombie Chris Christie (who used to fashion himself the zombie-killer), Krugman says “a zombie went to New Hampshire” then assails the GOP primary process for adherence to false economic ideas (“classic zombie”).

    Recall Krugman thinks of “zombie ideas” as “zombie lies,” and in this column he directly refers to the voodoo economics of supply-side politics. This is a important connection for zombie political rhetoric: that zombie economics is the result of voodoo voodoo economics = supply-side economics! For Krugman, it’s the supply-side voodoo that makes zombies. And it was George H.W. Bush (the father) who helped popularize “voodoo economics” as a denigration of then candidate Ronald Reagan’s supply-side proposals in the Republican primary in 1980. See this NBC report from 1982. Bush as VP denied having ever said “voodoo economics” but it the camera can catch zombie doublespeak (be careful camera’s might also steal souls).

    The voodoo connection runs through West Africa to Haiti . Recall my visit with George Pfau to the African Burial Grounds, a Federal property with voodoo symbols. But note that the George Romero and the modern fast zombies have transcended the voodoo roots, (perhaps with the aid of computer technology?)

    Meanwhile, in Maureen Dowd’s column, “Beware Our Mind Children” is promotions for “Ex Machina“, a new movie written by, Alex Garland, who previously wrote “28 Days Later”. So Dowd’s zombie reference was sort of obligatory, and we all know zombies and robots are well-connected ideas in terms of automaticity, worker-slavery and mindlessness (coincidentally interesting, it’s partly a robo-signing problem causing the zombie foreclosures). Dowd asks:

    what will end humanity first, zombies or robots?

    and Garland responds:

    We’re going to manage that perfectly without any help from zombies or robots.


    Krugman’s column also concludes with a question, asking:

    why has the Republican Party experienced a zombie apocalypse?

    Whatever the reasons, the result is clear. Pundits will try to pretend that we’re having a serious policy debate, but, as far as issues go, 2016 is already set up to be the election of the living dead.

    And, Forbes still loves zombies, quickly responding to Krugman with: “Paul Krugman’s Zombie Social Security Reform Idea” by Tim Worstall.

    Consider also from The National: “Zombie facts that pose as real science” by Robert Matthews discusses why false facts don’t die.

    So yeah, it’s a political circus, a rhetorical mess of zombie facts, so look out zombies, ’cause like Arnold in “Maggie”, we be back… to, ya know, save the children from the future we’ve created for ourselves. I’m not promising to be back forever, this may just be a last hurrah at the end of the zombie movie when the monster rises one last time. Be sure to also keep watching the @Lawzombie twitter feed too, because there will surely still be more zombie links than I will blog.

    flying underground #nomnom to you all

    Ok zombies, I’m out.

    Gone fishin’, python huntin’, whatever Florida zombie metaphor you want (down to where they go to die?). See ya when I see ya. Save some brains for me.

    While I’m gone, read the previous three posts (Part1, Part2, and Part3) for about two years worth of failed “zombie” cognitive research. Part1 is junk science but Part2 still really excites me and Part3 is a cute proof of a rhetorical paradox. None of it is particularly ground-breaking but I do think Part2 could be a new way to study character words in legal opinions, and Part3 should make us pause every time anyone refers to their supposed reality. But then we already pause at “zombie” and, of course “creativity“, and “anonymous” and soon every word is pause-worthy and none of the words make any sense. All we can do is add more words.

    For more recent zombie themes, read the posts that precede those three. Zombie scholars should note particularly George Pfau’s presentation, and cultural theorists will be additionally interested in the SVA Zombie Formalism panel discussion.

    Haven’t heard of zombie formalism yet? See my attempts to explore it here and here. And for more of the artist names being associated to this see Howard Hurst asking: “Who Has the Cure for “Zombie Formalism”?“.

    That article is about the art world in which the answer might be obvious: stop buying it. But many wonder what is the cure for zombie. So as I pause this blog, let’s recall some zombie cures: salt, lemons, frogs, love, yoga, puppies, comedy, iron(y), juju, sadhu, water in the ear, mirror boxes, muscle transplants, shotguns, legislation, fire. I’m sure I’ve left some out and even more I’ve yet to discover, but “not buying it” is a good one to add to the list.

    This blog isn’t dead, just a hiatus. Until them, nom nom…

    My failed “zombie” cognitive research, Part 3: taking pride in real success, quitting anyway

    It started when I noticed so many journalists (and others) writing that “zombies aren’t real”. I began asking survey participants (recall previous failed survey efforts) to identify which is the “real zombie” from two choices (“Uncertain” was also a third option). The two choices included one fictional answer choice: “A “zombie” is a mindless monster that eats human brains” and that was tested individually against three alternative answer choices (other alternatives were tested in pilot research but these three were used in the controlled version of this experimental design):
    – “A “zombie” is an insect controlled by a parasite,”
    – “A “zombie” is a computer that has be taken over by malware,” or
    – “A “zombie” is a mixed drink made with rum and fruit juice.”

    Each of these alternative definitions is something that exists tangibly and has been called a “zombie” by popular press (see for examples ZombieLaw posts tagged: rum-drinks, botnets, and insects). The survey instructions specifically told participants that both of the choices were ways the media had used the word.

    The majority of participants responded that the “real zombie” is the “mindless monster that eats human brains”. This was somewhat surprising to me because I would have thought that the other objects were more real. I have frequently argued that zombies are real but not as monsters, as words. These results show that most participants think the fictional zombies are more real.

    The cover of last month’s November 2014 National Geographic was Carl Zimmer’s article with cover headline: “Real Zombies”, about parasite-controlled insects. And yet, the majority of my survey participants seem to disagree.

    real zombie insects

    Another question on the survey asked these same participants whether they believe zombies exist in reality. Most participants respond “No.” but the proportion of “Yes” increases significantly if the order of the questions asks about whether zombies exist after the comparison question. This makes sense because the comparison question answers remind some participants about the existence of an alternative definition. This simple exposure is enough to increase the proportion of participants that will say zombies exist.

    Yet many participants who claim that zombies do not exist will still select the fictional definition as the “real zombie”. This means that the participants are willing to label something as “real” even after claiming it doesn’t exist. This suggests that “real” is not a reference to tangible reality, but is perhaps something more about authenticity or essential referent.

    This result excited one adjunct professor in my department, so I worked with him to write it up for a Masters degree. After depositing that thesis, I continued to explore the word “real” as related to zombies but continued to fail to intrigue my doctoral advisor. In fact, he claimed I was “harassing” him for trying to get him to read that paper draft too early in the semester. Without any ‘real’ academic support or advisement this process is impossible. Honestly, it’s not entirely my advisor’s, nor the school’s fault. I have been a difficult student and clearly I still don’t get it. My writing is disjointed and poorly styled. I love ideas, but I don’t particularly like the pragmatism of neoliberal institutions nor the insidious mentality of the ivory tower. Grants are all they care about. If the practical applications are not immediately obvious than it’s not science. This is the modern academic system. I should have known better.

    My graduate studies have reminded me that I don’t particularly like academia. Like I said, I like ideas but academia is a terrible style. After a decade of trying, I think I’ve learned an important lesson. I’m ok without them. It would be hypocritical of me to keep paying money to a zombie institution that I don’t respect. They want over $4000 a semester just to maintain continuous registration. No credits, just continuous enrollment in supposed “doctoral advisement” except the only advisement I have managed to get is denigration (see Part1 and Part2 of this series of posts on my research failures). I’m done with this crap.

    Nevertheless, I conducted one more follow-up study, even though I don’t even care what they think about it anymore. I am sharing it here because I think it’s interesting and you all can decide for yourself. The crumbling zombie Ivy league is an elitist scam and I have wasted enough of my life trying to impress them. Their style works for them, good for them.

    real nonfictional

    I think this last study is pretty great but I’m sure it still doesn’t explain the cognitive implications. The results show that participants do distinguish between the words “real” and “nonfictional”. This was a controlled study, the participants were randomly assigned by the survey software to either a question asking participants to indentify the “real zombie” (as above) or the “nonfictional zombie”. The answer choice options were the same as the version above (the fictional version tested individually against rum-drink, malware and insects, plus an “uncertain” option). The variable of interest is the one word changed in the question asked (to identify either the “real zombie” or “nonfictional zombie”).

    The difference between these groups shows a statistical difference in the understanding of the words. Participants are more likely to select the fictional definition when asked for the “real zombie” than when asked for the “nonfictional zombie”. Hence, the rhetorical “real” is not perceived as synonymous with the “nonfictional”. Therefore, being “real” is different than being “nonfictional”, at least as applied to zombies (and also seems to work on some pilot testing I did with “wizards”, i.e. participants are likely to think “real wizards” are spellcasters as opposed to math, finance, computer, or pinball experts).

    Surprisingly, many participants still select the fictional monster definition even when asked for the “nonfictional zombie”. I don’t have a good explanation for that. Perhaps participants don’t know what nonfictional means or perhaps this word also has something more to do with authenticity than it might seem. Still, the main effect is significant, and there is a proportional difference in the interpretation of “real zombie” versus “nonfictional zombie” on all three sets of answer choices tested. Again, as mentioned in the previous post about my other MTurk surveys, some of the samples had inconsistent results, but I didn’t throw out any of the data and summed overall and the effect holds.

    I do believe this project was on it’s way to maybe finding some ‘real’ cognitive implications potentially regarding the perception of rhetorical reality. However, without a supportive advisor, I refuse to continue paying for so-called “doctoral advisement” that I am not getting. Honestly, who cares about the letters appended to the end of my name? It’s all so bourgeois-gauche. Sorry mom, but this work ain’t doctoral material. Maybe it could have been… Surely it’s as much my fault as anyone else, this program was a bad fit and I kept trying for way too long. There is an “adjunct crisis“, and still the adjuncts are the only faculty that care at all. Paying any more money to this zombie institution would be psychotic. It’s time to stop being a zombie student and try making a real living…


    “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
    J.K. Rawling, in the book “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”

    Reality is merely an illusion albeit a very persistent one.”
    Albert Einstein (* is this an authentic quote or a persistent attribution?)

    “what the art of physics is, is the ability to sniff out which mathematics is relevant for reality and which mathematics isn’t”.
    Brian Greene, modern physicist in “The Hidden Reality” (2011)

    Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
    Philip K. Dick, science fiction writer

    “It’s now reality. It’s not science fiction. It’s real and you can look at it.”
    – Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, chief of naval research, about a new rail gun weapon system

    “It was so real it didn’t seem real.”
    – School Police Officer on scene of Newtown school shooting

    “It doesn’t have to be understood to be real.”
    Peter Lanza, father of Newtown school shooter Adam Lanza.

    “I challenge you to make sure all students feel like the ‘realist person on earth'”
    Sonia Nieto at the Teachers College 2014 commencement

    “too many of them are getting addicted to video games, and we just can’t let them do that, nope, we gotta get out there, and you gotta get them out there, doing real stuff.”
    Temple Grandin at the Teachers College 2014 commencement

    “Pick any metric you want — America’s resurgence is real.”
    President Barack Obama, December 20 2014 weekly address

    “that’s how you want to portray the world but we know a different reality.”
    Mayor Bill de Blasio, December 22 2014 press conference

    My failed “zombie” cognitive research, Part 2: character does not equal causation

    So this is part two of presenting some old research ideas. The previous post was about some really silly cognitive studies I tried. They didn’t work out so well.

    This post is about another failed study. I really love this one. I still think it’s super fascinating and deserves more attention. Like the work described yesterday, this work did not particularly stir interest amongst my so-called advisor. Particularly, it was pushed aside because it was not experimental.

    Well of course it’s not experimental, how could I experiment on the Federal Courts? Even the jurisdictional experiments of our 50 state democracy are not really experiments, they are iterations. They can’t test their legal theories in controlled setting, every repetition is a new case in a new court. Judicial opinions are always unique decisions in time.

    Lexis gives incredible access to the public record. I don’t understand why the public can’t provide equal access to it’s own record. Pay-walls are a plague on the intellectual community. Still, as a student with academic access, Lexis was great. I would frequently spend time digging around and randomly search for funny words. This led me to create my book series “Law of the Horse” compiling some of these funny words from the courts’ opinion record.

    I started noticing some unusual associations. I’ve discussed these association regarding zombies before. Early ZombieLaw posts frequently noted the abundance of Social Security references, and particularly regarding medications. Also multiple Statute of Limitations puns, corporate Ponzi-scheme banking, and other crimes.

    So for another research attempt I tried to show that there was some kind of conceptual pattern in the association of this character word to those correlated legal topics. I figured that if it was happening for zombie maybe other character words also had conceptual character patterns. And I think I found some.

    My theory is that characters adhere to contexts which associate to themes and meanings in the world. I hoped this was evidence for the transmission of cultural ideas and conceptual blends. My hypothesis was that character words associate to legal subject matter words in federal court opinion in ways that differ by character and suggest a portrait of attributes relevant to the character.

    The character words chosen for this research were inspired by Mark Rayner’s game variation on rock-paper-scissor: “Monkey Ninja Pirate Robot Zombie”

    And also by Tim Buckley’s artwork of a robot-pirate fighting a zombie-ninja-on-a-dinosaur, entitled: “This is the way the world ends”

    My methodology was very simple. I searched the text of federal court opinions using Lexis Academic search. I counted how many court opinions have the character word and then how many of those court opinions with that word also had another word. This method is admittedly unreliable for some reasons discussed below but it demonstrates an exploratory method to use the corpus of federal court opinions as a tool for cultural study. A fuller semantic analysis is warranted. Perhaps one day all of these cases can be put into a Coh-metrix by someone more organized than me. That would help account for word correlations that were not counted here.

    The sample size (number of Federal Court opinions) varies for each character word. “Zombie” had about 360 cases at the time of this research; “Ninja” about 120, “Robot” almost 1000, “Dinosaur” about 500ish, “Monkeys” about 2000ish, and “Pirates” about 2500. There were very few cases that included more than one of these character words in the same opinion.

    In the table below I report some of the most interesting associations that show differences between the characters. These are straight correlations of the word counts from Lexis. Either a case has the two words or it doesn’t. The graph reports the proportions of those cases within the character word set that also have the other target word. It reveals something like a unique fingerprint for each of these characters.

    In the first graph notice that each of the searched characters correlated with some legal topic words. From these graph we can see that at the time of this research the characters had somewhat different patterns of association.

    “Zombie” shows strong proportion of social security, criminal, contracts and constitutional. The word “ninja” is predominately in cases of criminal and constitutional law. Recall my blog of NinjaLaw and consider that “constitutional” cases often correlate with the criminal claims because many of the “ninja” cases are habeas petitions filed by convicted criminals alleging violations of their constitutional rights at trial, or rights violations in prisons.

    Notice also that “pirate” and “robots” and “dinosaurs” have sizeable proportions of copyright related cases but probably for different reasons. The dinosaurs are more the intellectual property being infringed, whereas the pirates are that too but also the persons doing the infringing. Those kinds of narrative details are not available in this kind of raw correlation research.

    Interestingly, “monkey” has a noticeable proportion of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission cases (EEOC), (“robot” and “dinosaur” too) because these words have applications as slang about worker performance. They are quotes from testimony used in much the same way that “zombie” gets quoted in the social security opinions. Still, the judges (or their clerks) had to decide which quotes to include in the opinion, and so it is still noteworthy to try to track these associations.

    In the second graph, the character words are analyzed for correlations with some non-legal words. Otherwise it is the same method of raw counting word association data. Here we see “zombie” related to “depression”, “death” and also some “technology”. Compare “ninja” and “pirate” which both correlate to “technology” and “death”, but “ninja” is more “death” than “technology” and “pirates” are more “technology” than “death”. “Dinosaur”, “monkey” and “robot” are all somewhat correlated to “death” and “technology” in the federal courts, so it’s not really clear what any of this means. Still I found it fascinating to learn that only the “robot” has noticeable connection to “welding”.

    “Correlation does not equal causation.”

    It’s possible that some of these patterns would wash away as the sample size increases. Alternatively, once a case is decided, the rules of stare decisis and of citing precedent make it more likely that the words will be quoted again for the same topic. This research does not account for those repetitions of case precedent quotations. Nor does it account for any other connections to the ideas that don’t use the exact word. This is a pure computer word correlation. Additionally the word correlations are not mutually exclusive categories, though, as mentioned above, the character words themselves have very little overlap.

    Since most of the readers of this blog are primarily interested in the “zombie”, here are some more of the associations for “zombie” in the federal courts opinions. This graph shows words that appear in a sizeable proportion of the “zombie” cases but not so much in the other character word sets. By way of contrast, consider some words that appear proportionately more frequently in the “ninja” cases.

    The purpose of this research was to show that these character words correlate to other terms and that the record of federal court opinions can demonstrate some intriguing pattens of the cultural character. This is not experimental research and the variables are not controlled in any way. It only shows by raw correlation of words in federal court opinions that there may be some pattern amongst these character words that adhere through language and into the law. This suggests the possibility that these character memes exist in an idea space of metaphor and language in which they are attached by other semantic features.

    Unfortunately, none of my advisors really had any idea what to do with this data, and again I didn’t find any cognitive effects or implication that the words were impacting the outcomes of these judicial decisions. So, I moved on. In my next post, I will describe the zombie research that ultimately earned my Masters, but honestly I still think the research reported in this post was a more important idea. I might like to return to this idea in the future and if anyone has any suggestions please let me know.


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