Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Sue the Bastards!

Over on Findlaw, John Dean has an interesting suggestion for John Kerry regarding the whole Swift Boat fiasco: sue the bastards. Dean contends that Kerry has a legitimate claim for defamation, even given his public figure status and the need to prove "actual malice" to prevail in court. He points to a similar suit filed by Barry G0ldwater because of allegations made during the 1964 presidental campaign that was successful. Of course, Goldwater's campaign wasn't, so maybe a lawsuit is not the best plan of attack.

Monday, August 30, 2004

At Least Sell Out Accurately, Alice

By now you've no doubt seen the OfficeMax (or Staples - six of one . . .) ad with Alice Cooper doing back to school shopping with his daughter. She asks, "I thought school was out forever." Alice then corrects her that, no no, it's just "out for summer." Well, no it's not, Alice:

School's out for summer
School's out forever
School's been blown to pieces

If you're gonna sell out, at least get your own lyrics right! I can see it now - Lynard Skynard doing tourism ads for "Sweet Home California!"

Why Is Defense Not Important Anymore?

USA Today is in the process of laying out 10 things that need changed in sports (one per day per sport). Today was football's day and the thing to fix is the NFL's overtime system. Specifically, get rid of sudden death. The major argument for getting rid of sudden death in the NFL is that about 40% of the time the team that wins the coin toss wins the game, usually by field goal, and the other team doesn't get the ball on offense. Is that really such a problem? Since when was stopping a team on defense not part of the game? The article glosses over the fact that the 1958 NFL championship game, usually listed as one of the league's greatest games and a perfect example of sudden death, came out the way it did because the Colts defense actually stopped the Giants offense (3-and-out, no less). The coaches and fans who whine about not getting the ball in OT should work on their defense a little bit.

Happy Birthday to the Net

This week marks the 35th anniversary of the birth of the Internet. It wasn't very much at the time, but the building blocks were all there. On September 2, 1969, a professor and some students at UCLA sent data between two computers in a lab via a primitive network. What do you get the global information network that has everything?

Friday, August 27, 2004

Fix Our Mess, Please

OK, the whole Olympic gymnastic judging fiasco is officially lapsing into insanity. The latest twist is that the international gymnastics government body is asking (not ordering) American Paul Hamm to return his gold medal in an "ultimate demonstration of fair play." Hamm has been silent, but US officials have given the governing body the finger, in essence telling them to stand up and correct their own mistakes (or accept that human error is a part of all sport and just move on). While I agree that Hamm turning over his gold medal would be the "ultimate demonstration of fair play," I don't think it would be just. But, if the powers that be want to bring some more pressure to bear, just unleash one of those welcoming Greek crowds on the Americans. That should do the trick.

"It's Too Bad She Won't Live! But Then Again, Who Does?"

CNN.com reports that a survey of 60 top scientists named the Ridley Scott classic Blade Runner the top sci-fi film of all time. I can't really argue, except that(I'd put their 2nd choice, 2001, on top. Blade Runner gets major points for its groundbreaking and much imitated vision of the future as bleak and overly commercialized. And then there's the concepts of what it means to be human (or not) that run throughout the film. Although it may not have been completely faithful to the Dick short story on which it was based, on its own merits it is a brilliant film. Seek out the director's cut if you haven't seen it yet.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

How Can You Do That?

Anybody who practices criminal defense law will get asked this question: "how can you represent criminals?" As a PD, I get the question all the time. Another blogging criminal lawyer, over at CrimLaw, posted a lengthy answer to that question. Ironically, he ends up in the same place I do, although I get there without relying on Christian morality to do so. As he put it, "[t]he Defender is the person who stands between society and the descent into vengeance." I would just add that while most people I represent are guilty, many aren't charged with what they actually did or are sentenced to terms much more harsh than they deserve. Trying to limit that damage for the guilty, and maybe preserving some hope for rehabilitation in the future, is as important a function of my job as anything else.

Bruce Never Went Away

CNN.com has a nice article on "The Return of Bruce Hornsby" on its website, talking about his new album, Halcyon Days. Of course, Bruce never really went anyway, except on the road. And I don't get the "no piano" line about his last album, Big Swing Face. There's lots of piano on there -- electric piano, but piano nonetheless. I only wish the new album was doing something for me. After several listens, I'm left with a lukewarm feeling and the sense that Bruce's halcyon days (Harbor Lights and Hot House, specifically) are behind him. In the studio, at least.

All Sports Are Judged

It was only a matter of time, in the wake of the Olympic gymnastic judging farce, before some sportswriter called for the elimination of all "subjective sports" from the Olympics. The argument is that because there is no "objective" measure to determine a winner (like time, distance, etc.), those sports (which, to the guy's credit, includes boxing) lack credibility. While that's a nice argument, it overlooks a key weakness: every sport is judged. How many times do teams and fans bitch about being cheated out of a win because of an inept ref? The impact of the officials in most sports is smaller than the judges in something like gymnastics, but there's still plenty of room for human error. Anything conceived, run, or done by humans is inherently flawed. The sooner everyone realizes that, the sooner everyone can let go of the perceived "injustices" of subjective sports.

And You Thought the Bush Daughters Were Embarrasing

At least they're not plotting the overthrow of a small third-world government, as Margaret Thatcher's son was. Thatcher was arrested in South Africa and charged with being part of a plot to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea. Wherever that may be.

All Sport Is Technology

As a race fan, I'm keenly aware of the fine balance between concerns of sport and advancing technology. F1 is dealing with that very issue right now, and most other race series restrict some technological angle in the name of competition. But I never could have figure that the same debate takes place in international javelin competition. As this article from Fortunte.com discusses, engineers are constantly in search of a better javelin, and the rules makers are constantly trying to stay one step ahead of them.

Me v. The Blind(s)

The lack of new info here at the Ranch the past couple of days is due to a freak industrial accident I suffered on Monday. The boss and I went to our satellite office in Huntington so I could get a client (whose appeal I won) resentenced. Once at the office, I decided to let the sun shine in by opening the horizontal blinds in the window. Big fucking mistake. Said blinds tumbled from their brackets and came hurtling towards me. Thankfully, I broke their fall with my left hand, my left thumb, specifically. Several hours, two hits of Lydocane, and a tetanus shot later, I had a lovely five stitches across my thumb and a very clumsy splint to boot. What fun! Typing with that thing was nearly impossible, but I've been upgraded to a sleeker model that allows me to type a wee bit. So it's back to business!

BTW, my client got more than a year knocked off of his sentence and got the best result he could get right now in the Fourth Circuit. So let it never be said that I haven't shed blood for my clients.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Soccer - The American Financial Juggernaut

ESPN.com has an article that points out the good financial health of soccer in this country. Most interesting to me is the fact that even though MLS attendance appears lackluster at just over 15,000 per game, that is well better than the average attendances in such soccer-crazed countries as Argentina (!) and the Netherlands.

This Is Why I'm Not Religious

Stupidity and religion go hand in hand so often, but this just about takes the cake. An 8-year old girl in New Jersey is being denied communion in her local Catholic church because, due to the girl's allergy to wheat, she cannot consume traditional wheat-based communion wafers. One would think that here in the 21st Century the Church might have a solution for those who are incapable of eating wheat. I guess it does, in a way - you just go to hell. Wheat-less wafers, the church says, aren't sufficient stand-ins for the body of Christ, apparently (I had no idea Christ was composed of wheat). My advise to the girl's family: when your chosen faith damns your child to hell because of a medical condition, they the powers that be to go fuck themselves and just move on.

Could Dubya Pick a Soccer Game Out of a Lineup?

In another demonstration that politics knows no shame, the Bush campaign is not using the success of the Iraqi men's soccer team in the Olympics in a campaign ad as evidence of how great things are in Iraq now. While the Iraqi players aren't mourning the loss of former Iraqi sports guru Uday Hussein, they are pissed about being used as a political prop. Good for them.

God Is My Co-Signer

This story from FoxNews tells of a man who walked into a New Mexico car dealership and tried to buy a new car. When asked how he would pay for the new ride, the man said Jesus would finance it for him. On the plus side, I'm sure Jesus has fine credit. On the other hand, having the Son of God as a co-signer for you loan may make people think your nuts. And guess what? He was! After being turned down for the car purchase, the man went back into the parking lot, got into his pick-up truck, and drove through the showroom window. After which he calmly waited for the police, while reading his Bible, of course.

More Wisdom from the Local Paper

I wonder how long it took the fine folks the Charleston Daily-Mail to come up the knowledge expressed in this headline:

Getting people to vote may be
key to winning race
Gee, ya' think?

Racing for Gold

I suppose that every four years during the Summer Olympics it's inevitable that some gearhead proposes making motor racing a part of the Games. What I never knew is that there once was a serious proposal to do just that. Eddie Gossage is the man in charge of Texas Motor Speedway, home to NASCAR and IRL races. When Dallas was in the running to host the 2012 Games, Gossage floated the idea of making motor racing an exhibition sport. Dallas's bid didn't win, so the proposal was dropped with a lot of details to work out.

The most frequent problem that those who makes such proposals is what kind of racing would you have? Oval or road course? Dirt or asphalt? What about rallying, time trialing, or (dare I say it) autocross? To be honest, I don't see that as a huge impediment. After all, most Olympic sports have multiple disciplines. Swimmers have different strokes and distances, while gymnasts compete as a team and as individuals in both overall and individual apparatus competitions. Surely it wouldn't be a deal breaker to have a few different racing disciplines represented. The better question is exactly where would the cars come from? Spec cars (the same for every driver) might make sense, but what about forcing each country to build a car for its drivers? Also, would we want Olympic gold decided by the failure of a 5-cent part, as sometimes happens in racing? I'm not so sure.

Regardless of the fate of Olympic racing, there is one place where you can see drivers compete for gold, silver, and bronze in the not to distant future: the SCCA National Championship Runoffs Presented by Kohler. The Olympics of amateur motorsports take place this year from September 20-26 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course north of Columbus. If you're a race fan and you're anywhere near the area, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

About the New Banner

Regular visitors will notice that the Blogspot ad panel at the top of the page is gone, at least for now. In its place is a nifty banner that you can use to do various things. The coolest, IMHO, is the "next blog" button. Clicking on that will take you to a randomly selected recently updated blog. Hours of cheap entertainment! I spent a while playing with it last night and found lots of interesting blogs, some much more elaborate than the Ranch. Enjoy!

Ain't That a Shame . . .

The New Republic has an interesting column about the concept of shame as punishment. Lest you think that the concept went out of fashion with the first printing of The Scarlet Letter, the Ninth Circuit last week upheld a shaming condition as part of a defendant's supervised release. The defendant was convicted of stealing mail and sentenced to a few months in prison. As with all those convicted of federal crimes (at least until Blakely gets extended this far), he must serve a term of supervised release, which is sort of like probation or being on bond. There are certain conditions with which you must comply. Failure to do so is a ticket back to prison. Anyway, one of the conditions this guy had to comply with was to stand in front of a post office with a sign that said "I stole mail. This is my punishment" for one day.

On appeal, this guy argued that the condition was only impose to shame him in the community and didn't have any relation to the goals of punishment, like deterrence or rehabilitation. The Ninth Circuit disagreed, by a 2-1 vote. The column rightly takes the Ninth to task for getting it wrong in this case.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Imagine All the Prisons . . . Gathering Dust

An article in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine put forth an interesting question: should we get rid of prisons or, in the words of the article, "decarcerate?" The article wonders locking people up is our country's "moral blind spot" and whether it will go down in history along with slavery as a blotch on an otherwise civilized culture. While it seems unfathomable (and it's pointed out that the goals of "abolitionists" right now involve prison and sentencing reform, rather than true abolition), it seems to be working in Finland, where the rate of incarceration has dropped dramatically in recent years without an concurrent increase in crime.

I Wonder If He Hogged the Covers

A Baton Rouge, Louisiana, man has been sentenced 5 years of probation for engaging in an odd hobby: he would break into women's homes and go domestic. He "roused the residents to ask about a party, helped himself to beer and pizza, folded clothes, made nachos and crawled into one woman's bed to rub her stomach." He was dubbed the "serial snuggler." His attorney, not surprisingly, blamed his client's escapades on a bad reaction to a combination of Xanax, booze, and pot (sounds like a winning trio, doesn't it?). It's a shame the guy didn't just move to New York, where he could have all the anonymous snugglebunnies he could handle.

Damn Those Re-Activist Judges

New York Times columnist Dahlia Lithwick wrote this weekend about that great boogeyman of the right: liberal activist judges. As she rightly points out, those conservative judges who ignore "activist" rulings in order to return to the legal days of yore are no less activist than their liberal brethren. And what to call these reactionary right wing judges? Why, "re-activists," of course!

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Goddam, That's a Big Fat Ass (Redux)

And I thought the one-ton dude from the other day had a high "eww" factor. He's strictly small potatoes comapred to this woman, who weighed 480 pounds when she died. Her cause of death? She had literally not moved from her couch in six years and had become one with the couch. I'm not kidding:

Removing her from the couch would be too painful, since her body was grafted to the fabric. After years of staying put, her skin had literally become one with the sofa and had to be surgically removed.

She died at Martin Memorial Hospital South, still attached to the couch.


Sort of Like a Moonie Divorce

Today, in the blink of an eye, almost 4000 marriages legally ceased to exist. The California Supreme Court held that the mayor of San Francisco exceeded his powers by ordering the city/county clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in violation of California law. The court reached that conclusion unanimously, in an opinion that really is hard to argue with. To allow Mayor Newsom to ignore controlling law (without ever challenging it in court) would have set a horrible precedent for officials around the state. While Newsom's motives may have been noble, it's not the role of the mayor to pass on the constitutionality of state law. The only dissent amongst the court came over the issue of what to do with those people who got licenses earlier this year. By a 5-2 vote, the court simply invalidated them. Because Newsom lacked the power to ignore state law in the first place, the marriages were void ab initio. While possibly legally correct, it wouldn't have killed anyone if that issue was remanded to a lower court for factual development while the broader question of gay marriage in California made its way to the Supreme Court. Still, if the right to gay marriage is announced at some later date, nothing will stop the 4000 marriages voided today from being reborn.

On a side note, do you think that Newsom might be sharing any space in panel discussions with disgraced Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore? While they are ideologically poles apart, the logic that got them where they are today is very similar. Both placed their personal interpretation of the law above other valid sources of it and based their right to do that on their oath to uphold the state and U.S. constitutions. Their paths are not identical, but there are some interesting parallels.

Props to the Michigan Supreme Court

Findlaw columnist Marci Hamilton writes today about a recent Michigan Supreme Court case that may have a ripple effect across the rest of the country. The court sided with a landowner against a county government that wanted to seize his land (for a price) using the power of eminent domain. The goal of this seizure was so the county could give the land to a private firm to develop the site as an industrial and technical park. The case is noteworthy because it may stem an unwelcome trend in property law over the past few years. Eminent domain can only be exercised for a "public good," which used to mean things like roads or airports - public works, in other words. More recently, however, local governments have used the power to take lands from one private citizen and give it to another, usually a commercial venture like a Wal-Mart. The theory was that stimulating the local economy was a "public good" and thus this was a proper use of eminent domain. The Michigan court rejected that argument. The court hopefully recognized that this was, in essence, redistribution of wealth, from individuals to businesses. It tramples on the notion of private property that is the basis of capitalism in the first place.

The Other Side of Tort Reform

A Findlaw columnist writes today about the shenanigans that most "tort reform"ers don't want you to know about - what civil defense attorneys do in litigating personal injury suits. The column focuses on one particular tactic - erroneous removal of suits to federal court. State courts are generally more plaintiff-friendly than federal courts, so choice of venue is important to the parties. Removal is automatic (regardless of whether it's proper) and it costs lots of time and money to correct. So a plaintiff with a lawyer working on a contingent fee basis is in a weaker position than a corporation or insurance company with hordes of attorneys who, since they get paid by the hour (win or lose) have no incentive to move the process swiftly along. Where are the tort reformers on that kind of abuse?

Is that NASCART I See on the Horizon?

Once again, Speed's Ben Blake uses his weekly column to vent some more about the current state of NASCAR. Aside from the idiocy continuing victory lane flap (a "tempest in a pisspot"), he makes some very good points about a possible shift in the balance of power in the series. The days of the one-car independent team are pretty much over, with most of the cars in the Nextel Cup series (and lots in Busch and the trucks) owned by some combination of 6 or 7 owners. At some point, Blake argues, that bunch will realize that they will have the power to stand up to the NASCAR oligarchy and have more say in how the series is run. Sounds an awful lot like the situation in open wheel racing back in the late 1970s that lead to the formation of CART. Of the big owners in NASCAR, two, Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi, have lots of experience with the (failed) CART experiment. I wonder if that will damper their quest for power?

May the Best Chemical Compound Win

USA Today has an interesting column today that ponders the question of whether there is anything wrong with the use of performance enhancing drugs in sports. The columnist thinks that there isn't, and makes a fairly compelling case. Technological advancements in other areas of sport are embraced (he cites oversized tennis rackets and pole-vault poles made from the latest high-tech unobtanium), so why not pharmacological ones? While I kind of think he's right, he pretty easily wipes away the "it's against the rules" argument in terms of current enforcement. Change the rules if you want, but everyone has to live by them to ensure the integrity of the sport.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Teaching Lawyers Ethics

An article in today's New York Times discusses a book called The Myth of Moral Justice. Written by a disenchanted big-firm attorney, it attacks the way law schools educate would-be lawyers when it comes to ethics and morality. To be blunt, they don't. "Ethics" classes (like mine at WVU) consist mostly of learning the Rules of Professional Conduct. Useful as those are (dealing with things like attorney-client relationships, duty to the court, etc.), they are largely divorced from broader questions of morality. I actually took a class in law school called "Moral Philosophy for Lawyers" (the final product of which you can access here) that tried to address those issues. Should law schools do more? That's not where I'd reform legal education, but it wouldn't hurt.

Welcome to the United States - Now Get the Fuck Out

The New York Times is reporting that Department of Homeland Security is going to give Border Patrol Agents the authority to unilaterally deport illegal aliens they capture within 100 miles of the Mexican and Canadian borders. No due process, no judicial review, no immigration judges, no lawyers. Just pure, unbridled border justice. Not to worry, those of the Hispanic or Canuck persuasion who live near the border and might fear an overzealous BPA - the agents will supposedly be focusing on aliens from "other countries." Does anybody in the administration think this will pass constitutional muster?

A New Way to Have a Family Feast

At your daughter's wedding, your cousin stumbles and accidentally touches your daughter's butt. What do you do? Get pissed, maybe throw a clumsy punch ("A Punchup at a Wedding" for the Radiohead fans out there). OK, fine. How about killing and eating your cousin? It seems extreme, I know, but it apparently happened in the Philippines. To top it off, the irate father/chef and his posse brought some roasted cousin back to the wedding reception and fed it/him to some unsuspecting guests (who were, it is alleged, very very drunk). This the new groom is having second thoughts about marrying into that family?

Goddam, That's a Big Fat Ass

CNN.com has a story about a Nebraska man who has lost 321 pounds and is looking to lose 450 more. Why? He weighed a whopping 1072 pounds. Aside from the petty jokes (like images of Cartman yelling "beefcake!"), holy shit, can you even fathom that? I've autocrossed against cars -- real cars, not go-karts -- that weighed less. My high school football team's offensive line couldn't match that (granted, they sucked, but still . . .). Wow. More power to him.

On another note, will the "fat acceptance" loonies picket the hospital where he's being treated?

Monday, August 09, 2004

The Diploma Privilege Lives

The Milwaukee Jounal Sentinel has an interesting article about the "diploma privilege" in Wisconsin. Graduates of the state's two law schools do not have to take the bar exam to become members of the bar in Wisconsin. West Virginia used to have the same system (as Chief Justice Larry Starcher says in the article), but the Supreme Court struck it down back in the 1980s, well before I went to law school (sadly). I had no idea that it was still in effect anywhere else.

Atheist Pride

A columnist for the St. Petersburg Times wrote this weekend about her unabashed atheism and the trouble that brings those who believe the same way. Interestingly, recent studies show that those who do not believe in God represent a bigger chunk of the U.S. population than Jews, Muslims, or Buddhists. Preach on, sister!

Breaking News from Charleston

The local paper, thanks to the director of the regional jail authority, has made a startling discovery: most people in jail are poor! The story goes on to note that many folks in jail didn't have a job and have no real idea on how to get one (aside from the clever one who listed his employer as "Housebreaking, Inc."

This revelation reminds me of a quote from former WV Supreme Court Justice Richard Neely that is posted to my file cabinet at work:

Violent crime is almost always committed by the poor, the uneducated, or the stupid. Crimes of passion are committed by everyone, of course, but a trial involving a middle-class man meticulously planning the murder of his wife, so he can collect the insurance and run off with his secretary, is sensational precisely because it is so rare. Traveling salesmen who spend their off-hours robbing all-night grocery stores, married schoolteachers who take nights off to rape sixteen-year-old girls, and prosperous farmers who eliminate market competition in the neighborhood by setting fire to their neighbors’ barns are real oddities. Consequently, the entire criminal law system most often boils down to the powerful state with all its weapons – police, prosecutors, courts, prisons, and probation officers – going after poor, uneducated, stupid folks.

State v. Rummer, 432 S.E.2d 39, 55 (dissent).

Just about sums it up, doesn't it?

Is Jimmy Carter Involved?

In what should be a humbling precedent, a group from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will serve as observers in the upcoming Presidential election. That's right - our elections will be observed just like those in some third world country. I'm proud to be an American right now.

Friday, August 06, 2004

The Unintended Consequences of Laws

Last week I mentioned a FindLaw column dealing with the Marriage Protection Act. The MPA would deprive the federal courts (including the Supreme Court) of the jurisdiction "to hear or decide any question pertaining to" the Defense of Marriage Act or the MDA itself. The idea is to keep the courts from recognizing gay marriages from state to state. However, FindLaw columnist Vikram Amar today points out that the MDA, even if it is constitutional, won't accomplish the goals of the law's backers. That's because suits to seek recognition of gay marriages from other states would not be brought under MDA or DOMA, but rather the Fourteenth Amendment and the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution. The MDA would only succeed in preventing the sued states from asserting DOMA as a defense.

How to Succeed in Music With a Lot of Effort

USA Today had a big story about how musicians make the largest chunk of their livings from touring, not album sales. The paradigm for this in the story is banjo whiz Bela Fleck and his band, The Flecktones. They perform about 120 shows a year and get very little money from album sales. It's a harder gig than most people realize.

Pot, Meet Kettle

Four years ago, Alan Keyes said this about Hillary Clinton's senate run in New York (according to FoxNews):

I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton's willingness to go into a state she doesn't even live in and pretend to represent people there, so I certainly wouldn't imitate it.

My, how things have changed. Keyes will declare his bid for the Senate this weekend as the GOP candidate from Illinois (taking on rising Dem star Barack Obama). The only problem is that Keyes lives in Maryland and has no ties whatsoever to the state of Illinois. That can be rectified by the time of the election, of course, but apparently Keyes has no sense of irony (or shame or hypocrisy) for pulling a Hillary in this situation. Does this make him a flip-flopper?

Talk About Conservative Voters

The Bush campaign is going after a largely untapped group of voters, the Amish. They tend not to vote very often, but then they do they tend to vote Republican. However, that may prove a bit more difficult this year, as the Amish are also notorious pacifists.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Dubya Speaks the Truth

I can't improve upon this headline and opening paragraph from CNN.com:

Bush misspeaks during signing ceremony

McClellan: 'This president speaks with clarity and conviction'

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush offered up a new entry for his catalog of "Bushisms" on Thursday, declaring that his administration will "never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people."

I'm not sure which president Scott McClellan is referring to, but is sure as hell ain't Dubya!

Videot Jurors

USA Today's cover story today covers what is called the "CSI effect" in the nation's courtrooms. Apparently, jurors who have gorged on a steady diet of TV shows about forensic science are bringing that "knowledge" with them and applying it to real life cases. Sometimes, they hold prosecutors responsible for a lack of scientific evidence, even though it doesn't exist in many cases. In other instances, they believe every bit of expert testimony fed to them by the state, in spite of numerous examples of human error and flat out deceit (West Virginia's own Fred Zain comes to mind). The problem seems to be that because the techs always get their man on CSI (or its spinoffs), many jurors believe they do in the real world, too. In truth, DNA and other forensic evidence almost never answers the ultimate question of whether someone committed a crime. At best, it can tie someone to a crime scene or an implement used in the crime. But important things like state of mind and the human interactions that led up to the event are still up to the jury to determine.

Personally, I passed on the CSI franchise once I saw an episode of CSI: Miami where the techs seemed to be the lead criminal investigators and even interrogated suspects. Sorry, I'm simply not willing to suspend reality that much.

Tigger Gets Off (In a Good Way)

A bit of follow-up from the other day. The amusement park worker who was accused of groping a young girl during a photo op was acquitted yesterday by a jury in less than an hour. One juror said there was "no evidence to convict," noting that "[t]hey couldn't even prove who was behind the Tigger mask." Tigger's lawyer, himself a moonlight Tigger at Disney World, donned parts of the costume during his closing argument, including the head and gloves. I guess this is a twist on the "if the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit" strategy.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Learning to Turn Right (Slowly)

As expect for some time, the IRL's 2005 schedule,announced yesterday, included two road courses: Sears Point (still won't call it Infineon, sorry) and Watkins Glen, the two road courses also visited by NASCAR's Nextel Cup series. However, they won't run the exact same courses. At Watkins Glen, at least, the IRL guys will run the full "grand prix" circuit, not the truncated course NASCAR uses. No indication yet whether the IRL will run the full course at Sears Point as well, although that's less likely. It would allow direct comparison with the ALMS guys, which would not be flattering for the IRL.

Just so we're clear, this formally marks the end of the IRL as it was originally promoted. The drives for up and coming American oval races never materialized, Toyota and Honda brought their high-budget engine leases with them from CART, and now the all-oval concept has bit the dust as well. I wonder what that says about the golden era of CART? That it was cut short by the power quest of a greedy Tony George? BINGO!

What Choice is There Left But to Die?

The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting article about the ongoing battle over Terry Schiavo's fate. Schiavo is the Florida woman who has been in a vegetative state for 14 years while various parties bickered over her medical treatment. Her husband, her legal guardian, has argued (persuasively, the courts think) that she would not have wanted to be kept alive with artificial means and plans to unplug her. Her parents, on the other hand, have fought a losing battle to keep their daughter "alive" at all costs. After every conceivable court held against the parents, Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the state legislature intervened (spurred on by numerous "pro life" groups). They enacted a law specifically protecting Schiavo from the courts. Such a narrowly defined law, that benefits only one person, is unheard of. It's also a tragic use of the state's power to interfere in one of the most private choices a person (or her loved ones) can ever make. Lawyers are set to battle it out in state supreme court over the law's constitutionality. At some point, you just have to let go - everyone should have realized that sometime in the past 14 years.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Driving for Dollars

And you think your life is complicated. Check out this column from Speed's website detailing the many sides to the current battle for rooftop real estate in NASCAR's victory lane. Competing cola companies own the rights to various parts of the victory lane festivities. It's gotten to the point that drivers sponsored by the "wrong" company have been knocking the bottles of the top of the car or, as was the case this weekend, putting a sign in front of them! All of this makes F1's run-like-clockwork podium ceremonies seem perfectly sensible.

I Thought Pooh Was the One Interested In Honey?

The underlying facts of this story from CNN.com really aren't funny: a 13-year old girl is allegedly molested at a major amusement park. The giggle factor comes from the identity of the attacker: Tigger. More particularly, a guy in the Tigger suit who copped a feel while the girl was posing for a picture with the bounding feline. His defense? The defendant "didn't know where he was placing his hands because of the bulkiness of the costume's paws." As part of the trial process, not only will the jury see the Tigger suit, they will actually get to handle the suit - and, hey, why not just try it on? The whole thing seems just a bit surreal.

You Were There: Richmond, Yesterday

The blog Begging the Question has an eyewitness report from the Fourth Circuit's en banc oral argument in US v. Hammoud, it's vehicle for taking on Blakely. As we have no opinions yet from the Fourth, this is as close as we can get to a sense of what the court was thinking in not dealing the Guidelines a fatal Blakely blow.

What a Load of Shit

There are many ways to exercise your rights under the First Amendment: write a book, blaze the phone lines of talk radio, or door-to-door campaigning all come to mind. Until today, I would have not put dumping three tons of shit into the street as another. Said shit was dumped by a farmer in Arkansas as a protest against a planned local gay rights parade. He dumped it in front of a gay couple's home, as well (so much for Southern hospitality). "[A] man is allowed to protest. That's what I was doing." My guess is that a court will say otherwise. At the very least, one imagines that the First Amendment would allow time, place, and manner restrictions on shitty protests.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Blakely Fourth Circuit Update

The excellent Sentencing Law and Policy Blog is reporting that the Fourth Circuit has upheld the constitutionality of the Sentencing Guidelines. This is obviously a well considered opinion, as the case was argued this morning! Opinions shall be forthcoming.

Well, I asked for them to make a decision. I didn't know it would be this quick. Sadly, they got it wrong.

Pondering MLS's Talent Drain

In the wake of the departures of Bobby Convey to Reading and DaMarcus Beasley to PSV Eindhoven, one commentator is wondering if this is a good thing. The concern is that MLS will become nothing more than a minor league feeder system for bigger leagues in Europe. In the world of global soccer, however, every league is in some ways a minor league for another. Players move from league to league on a yearly basis (some more often than that). There's always more money, more playing time, or a bigger stage on which to ply your trade. Until MLS can compete on semi-equal terms regarding salaries with some leagues in Europe (Beasley and Convey probably stand to triple their salaries immediately), players will always see Europe as a bigger, better stage. We'll get there - it's just going to take a while.

Big Blakely Doin's

Today brought a few major developments in the continuing saga of Blakely and the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. First, for a bit of background, consider this article from Sunday's Boston Globe that ponders the unique situation of Justice Breyer. Breyer was in the forefront of the push for guidelines in the 1980s and was part of the initial U.S. Sentencing Commission that drafted the Guidelines. He is now in the position of trying to salvage what is left of his creation or, as one of my coworkers put it, watch the last 20 years of his life go up in smoke.

Breyer will get his chance on October 4, when the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases in which the United States petitioned for cert. Those two cases, Booker and Fanfan (yes yes!), should allow the Court to settle the issue of whether the Guidelines survive Blakely once and for all (which seems like a forgone conclusion at this point) and, more importantly, how sentencing will take place in a post-Guideline world.

Finally, the Fourth Circuit heard en banc oral argument this morning in US v. Hammoud, their hand selected case to decide the Blakely issue. According to early reports, the court may hold off and wait to see what the Supremes do. While I can see some wisdom to that approach, I hope the Fourth makes a decision on its own. Even if it's wrong. Sentencings are backing up in my district as the judges await some guidance from above. Please give it to them. I'll be sure and tell them if they get it wrong.