Saturday, July 30, 2005

More Poo Flinging in Court (Sort of)!

Over at Sentencing Law and Policy, Prof Berman recently posted about a very interesting district court opinion from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The defendant in US v. Schwartz was convicted of several counts of fraud and related charges after a jury trial. After a lengthy discussion of the fairly nasty facts of the case, Judge Dalzell launches into a long dissertation on lying, bullshit, and associated things that justified an above-the-Guidelines sentence for Schwartz.

After quoting Aquinas on the eight different kinds of lying, Dalzell moves on to the recent bestseller On Bullshit (which I discussed here way back in February) with complete frankness. In fact, in footnote 11, Dalzell notes that “[o]n the theory that readers of judicial opinions are all grown-ups, we choose not to be squeamish about the book’s title or subject – unlike the [New York] Times, which found the word “unfit to print.’” Amen, brother! Nothing pisses me off more than judicial opinions that pull punches when it comes to languages. Any kiddies who bother reading judicial opinions at a tender age are already way too far gone down the path to self destruction and mental illness to be helped, anyway. Judge Dalzell’s conclusion on Schwartz? He’s a “paradigmatic” bullshitter.

While the judge gets points for the On Bullshit discussion, he misses the boat when it comes to A Clockwork Orange, probably through no fault of his own. In footnote 13, the judge references the Burgess classic (and the equally classic Kubrick film) for the proposition that he should be dubious of the argument that Schwartz’s bullshitting tendencies will dissipate in his later years. This reflects a common misunderstanding of Orange based on a fluke of publishing. The original American printing of Orange, upon which Kubrick’s flickwas based was missing the final chapter from the novel's original British printing. In that chapter, we see that Alex really did, in essence, grow out of his taste for the ultraviolence and become a productive member of society. Thus, Judge Dalzell may be right in his thoughts on Schwartz’s chances for rehabilitation, but his cite checking needs work.

Friday, July 29, 2005

A Defender By Any Other Name

Imagine what it would be like to get up in the morning looking forward to your first ever start with the United States men’s national team, only to have a USSF official get your name wrong at breakfast. Wizards defender Jimmy Conrad, who helped lead the States to the Gold Cup title last week, has the details in this hilarious column over on ESPN’s Soccernet.

Ever Since He Was a Young Boy . . . has this interesting article today about a 17-year-old videogame phenom who just happens to be blind. No word on when or whether he’ll have a massive showdown with Elton John, the whole thing to be directed by Ken Russell while Pete Townsend windmills in the background.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Flinging Poo in Court

I've participated in some fairly intense courtroom proceedings, but none of them ever went as far as a recent case that ended up in the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. The case was an employment discrimination action brought by the Civil Rights Division of the state's Attorney General's office against a company working on a road building project. During an eight-day hearing before an administrative law judge, things apparently got a bit, well, frayed:

The fireworks began when Goldberg, representing the Human Rights Commission, exclaimed, "Jeez."

Miller, representing the construction company: "Judge, I'm going to ask him not to use curse words during the hearing."

Goldberg: "I said Jesus. Is that a curse word?"

Miller: "Absolutely. That's taking the Lord's name in vain."

Goldberg: "I'm terribly sorry. I know how committed you are to Christian charity."

It got worse:

After that, according to the Supreme Court's transcript, Goldberg stated that Heeter's co-counsel called him a "dick" under his breath. The co-counsel denied it. Then Goldberg stated that he responded by calling Heeter's co-counsel a "jerkoff."
And, yet again, worse:

The atmosphere remained contentious until the last day, day eight, when the question of poultry excrement became an issue.

Miller: "Judge, I'd like to put on the record this morning that after I gave that (motion for contempt) to (Goldberg) that he came in the hall, threatened me, pointed his finger in my face and called me a sh-t head, and I would also like on the record what he said to my client."

Goldberg: "Judge, she's being dishonest, flat out, undeniably dishonest. I didn't threaten her. I didn't call her what she says I called her. I called her a chicken sh-t."

I admire Goldberg's honesty, at least. The upshot of all this is that the ALJ found that the company was discriminating, but the Supreme Court reversed because the ALJ failed to maintain an unbiased proceeding. Neither of the two poo-flinging lawyers appeared before the Supreme Court, BTW.

On a somewhat related note, I learned today that the Boston Massacre was triggered off when someone in the American mob, which had been taunting British soldiers with a ferocity not seen since Monty Python and the Holy Grail, shouted "go clean my shithouse." You learn something new every day.

From One Blasphemy to Another

First Porsche decided to build a truck. Now, the German company has announced plans for the Panamera, a four-door coupe that will go into production in 2009. From the drawing, it looks like they're taking a page from the Mazda RX-8 in using four doors but keeping a coupe-like style. Still, the company that brought us the 911 and a string of other legendary road and race cars once against disappoints the purists.

Of course, if their new LMP2 car really lives up to its promise and floods the ALMS with cars, all will be forgiven.

UPDATE: Having viewed a couple of better pictures in this thread over at, is appears I was wrong about the RX-8 comment. I do agree with one person in the threat that the Panamera's rear end looks a lot like the new Mitsu Eclipse.

Bill's Holding Out For More Cows, I Think has this weird story today of a standing offer of a Kenyan man for the hand of former first daughter Chelsea Clinton in marriage. He made the proposal five years ago in a letter to President Clinton before his visit to Kenya. The deal apparently includes a dowry of 40 goats and 20 cows. Neither Bubba nor Chelsea have responded to the offer, prompting the would be groom to "remain single until he gets an answer to his proposal."

Now I know what to add to my online dating profiles - livestock! :)

Monday, July 25, 2005

We Are the Champions

Yesterday I had a cool experience. I watched my national team hoist a trophy after winning a semi-major international tournament. Yeah, OK, so it was only the Gold Cup (the championship of the North & Central American and Caribbean region - CONCACAF) and it took PKs to wrest the cup from that mighty soccer power Panama, but it's still a championship. In fact, it's the third time the US has won the Gold Cup, but the first since our rise to prominence in the last World Cup and the first for the new generation of US players (Donovan, Beasley, etc.). And it is the second-most important trophy we can win, behind the World Cup itself. Kudos to Univisison for such extensive coverage of the final (even if I didn't understand a word of it)!

So, hooray for us!

Bobblehead Buddy Christ to the First 500 Fans!

Minor league baseball teams are always looking for new ways to bring people to the ballpark. Gods knows, it can't be the thrilling spectacle of minor league baseball. But now they're brining in the heavy hitters (so to speak). Friday's USA Today had a cover story about the growth of Faith Nights in baseball, in which the game itself is supplemented with Christian music, testifying (sometimes from players), and Biblical-themed bobblehead dolls. Sorry, no Jesus bobbleheads yet (or even a Buddy Christ). It's working, bringing people to the parks in droves, apparently the kind of people who share this sentiment:

'Baseball, faith and Americana, it's a perfect fit,' says C.J. Johnson, director of marketing for the Suns.
Another reason I'm a soccer fan.

My New Favorite Blog

Train your browsers over towards Nancy Grace Is A Stupid Bitch. No blog has ever spoke such truth. Thanks to Crime & Federalism for the link.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Daylight Savings Time Is an Affliction

Can we please just do away with the time-switching nonsense? It seems to make infinitely more sense to me to just change our schedules around if we want more daylight time (open earlier, close earlier, etc.) rather than force everyone to reset their clocks en mass every so many months. Besides, it leads to problems, for it “could adversely affect livestock.” So the livestock are wearing watches now? Aren’t the days pretty much the same for them, regardless of what time we get around to doing things?

Root Root Root for the Home(less) Team

As World Cup qualifying takes a breather this summer (for such monumental tournaments as the ongoing Gold Cup), Scotland is playing host to the third (that’s right, the third) annual Homeless World Cup. The 4-a-side tournament, played not on grass (or faux grass) but on the street, is hosting teams from 27 nations, including the U.S. It is not, as you might expect, some pathetic attempt for freak show publicity, but rather a way of trying to help people turn their lives around. Says the tournament founder, “[i]t's about recognizing people who are taking an effort to move on.” And it seems to work, at least for some folks:

Of the 204 players who competed [last year] in Sweden, 78 found steady jobs, 95 improved their housing situation, and 70 returned to school. Young said a handful of players have gone to play professionally.
Of course, some things are bound to be problematic when you’re dealing with homeless Peles:
Five of the seven African teams - Burundi, Cameroon, Zambia, Nigeria and Kenya - were denied visas because British authorities said they were too poor to pay expenses.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Scotty Gets Beamed Up

James Doohan, best known as engineer Montgomery Scott of the U.S.S. Enterprise in the classic Star Trek, passed away today after a long illness. In addition to his Trek work, Doohan had an extensive acting career, particularly in radio, where his talent for accents and dialects was developed (it was Doohan who convinced the Trek powers that be to make Scotty a Scot). He was also part of the D-Day invasion and a pilot in the Candian Air Force. His influence, or rather Scotty's, was felt beyond your typical sci-fi fans:

Star Trek's impact became apparent when he was awarded an honorary doctorate in Engineering from the Milwaukee School of Engineering, after half the students there said that Scotty had inspired them to take up the subject.
My personal favorite Scotty moment? When he leads a barroom brawls against a group of Klingons, not because they bad mouth Kirk, but because they call the Enterprise a garbage scowl. :)

Nice Bit of Timing

Hot on the heels of Dubya revealing his nominee for the Supreme Court, a special committee of the West Virginia State Bar is recommending that we do away with elections for our Supreme Court of Appeals and replace them with an appointment system. Under the proposal, a committee of 13 members (part lawyers, part laypersons) would recommend three nominees to the Governor, who would then appoint one of those folks to the bench. Details, such as the length of terms and whether there would be retention elections, haven't been worked out yet. I've never been a big fan of judicial elections, so maybe this is a step in the right direction. It would hardly be a giant step. The Governor already appoints judges to fill unexpired terms after a retirement or death. In fact, 70% of the current West Virginia judiciary were appointed to their current posts (and subsequently reelected).

Monday, July 18, 2005

A SCOTUS Nightmare Vision

I know I said I wasn't going to talk about the Supreme Court vacancy, but I saw the headline on this column (thanks to How Appealing) from the Birmingham News and nearly went apeshit. Turns out that under the heading of "Roy Moore for Supreme Court" is an editorial laying out why the disgraced ex-state Supreme Court justice would make a disastrous pick for SCOTUS. Nonetheless, more than 100,ooo if his followers have signed a petition seeking just that. The mind boggles at the prospect (and the stomach lurches).

Also on the Supreme Court beat, there's this interesting article from the Christian Science Monitor on stare decisis and the role of precedent and how the view of the nominee on that subject may be a key item for confirmation hearings.

Your Terrorism Dollars at Work

A friend of mine pointed me towards an episode of the public radio program This American Life from last week that detailed the trial of Hemant Lakhani. Lakhani, a 70-year old British citizen of Indian descent. He made a career of selling things and making deals for people. His last "deal" was selling an inoperative Stinger-style missle to a Government informant after purchasing the faux missile from another Government informant. In short, he was convicted for being the only non-Government member of a conspiracy to aid terrorists.

The program, which you can listen to here, details the story, with insight from Lakhani, his attorney, and the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey who prosecuted (and who was nominated for the post by Dubya on September 10, 2001). At trial, Lakhami used an entrapment defense, aruging that he wasn't capable of completing the sale without Government assistance (22 months passed between the "deal" and the actual delivery of the Govt-supplied prop). One juror bought it, but was muscled by the 11 other jurors into changing her mind. 12 Angry Men it was not.

The point of the story, I think, is that this is the type of case that has been the bread and butter of the PATRIOT ACT. Indeed, it was cited by DoJ as one of the primary successes stemming from the Act. As such, it shows the poor use of our limited anti-terrorism resources in this country. Having said that, it's hard to be too sympathetic to Lakhami. He appears to be a long-term braggard who engaged in relentless puffery about who he knew and the kind of deals he had done. It also seems fairly clear that, even if he couldn't actually deliver a missile, he sure as hell intended to.

Just the Sort of Sensitivity I've Come to Expect in the GOP

Remember shortly after 9/11 when Dubya let fly with the "C word" (Crusade) in describing our military response? That slip of the lip was quickly explained away, but it will be a little harder to get out from underneath a GOP Congressman's idea to bomb Mecca. Colorado Rep Tom Tancredo floated that idea as a possible reaction to nuclear terrorist attacks in the US during a radio interview:

Well, what if you said something like -- if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites.
To which a radio interviewer responded, "[y]ou're talking about bombing Mecca," to which Tancredo responded, "yeah."

Can we all agree that we should not be positing hypothetical responses to hypothetical nuclear attacks on talk radio? Can we also agree that such a response would inspire the entire Muslim world into a jihad that is currently being perpetrated by a small group of Koran-thumping fundies? Can we also agree that that would be a colossally bad thing?

Friday, July 15, 2005

Marvel at Credit Card Security

Ever wondered if merchants who take credit cards pay any attention to your signature? This guy did and decided to find out, with hilarious results.

Gotta Change My Movie Viewing Plans, I Guess

Ya' know, I was really on the fence about whether to plunk down my hard-earned dollars to see the new big-screen version of The Dukes of Hazzard when it opens next month. But now that Republican Congressman Ben Jones, better known as "Cooter" from the Dukes TV series, has come out against the film (which, in good Republican fashion, he has yet to see) as a "sleazy insult" to the "family-friendly" TV version I guess I won't. He might not be far off on the flick being "sleazy" (the preview got boos from the audience I saw Batman Begins with), but am I misremebering some youthful memories by thinking that the TV series wasn't exactly "family" entertainment to begin with?

UPDATED to include a complete thought in the first sentence. Evidence that I shouldn't blog on my days off.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

All the Live8s in the World Won't Help This

The goal of the Live8 shindig, as I understand it, was to put pressure on First World political leaders to erase Third World (Africa, particularly) debt and reexamine the economic relationship between the two areas. Worthy goals, but one wonders how much difference that would make in a place like Angloa. As this horrifying story from the BBC lays out, religious superstition and custom run rampant in the country, sometimes masquerading as "medicine." As a result, lots of people, including many kids, are dying for the sake of someone else's beliefs. Take this passage, for instance:

Lying on the floor of the main hall was the limp, bloated body of an eight-year-old boy. Domingo Jose was barely conscious, his face, belly, arms, legs, even his fingers gorged and inflamed. He was barely alive.

Mr Kitoko took a large swig from a glass bottle and spat water into Jose's face. The child winced, too weak to cry out. Mud was smeared on his belly. The priest grabbed and twisted at Jose's groin.

It was clear this desperately ill boy belonged in hospital - but Mr Kitoko insisted he would respond to his traditional medicine. He explained his methods.

'First you start with holy water and mud, two things that are well prepared. Because you know that our bodies are all made of earth - and when we die and rot, the bones remain and the hair remains but every part of our bodies goes back to earth,' he said.
Or this one:
Sitting on the floor was a terrified, near naked girl of eight, her head shaven. She cowered as her mother and a pastor shouted at her.

This was an exorcism, the pastor told us. The mother's marriage had broken down, it was the child's fault as she was possessed with Kindoki.

Something had been rubbed into the girl's eyes as part of this ritual. Her ordeal had already lasted three days, and there was another 24 hours to go.

The pastor dismissed the risk the child could die from such treatment. He said: 'Why should the child die? If the child dies, it means the child is evil.'
I'm sorry, but all the economic benefits in the world won't significantly change the lives of people in these situations as long as such deadly superstitions take such deep route.

Of course, the First World doesn't look much better sometimes. As I type, ABC News is running a story about the Pope's negative opinion of the new Harry Potter book as presenting a false vision of Christianity and poisons the soul before Christianity can "take root." Thank goodness - more Harry Potter!

Stretching the Law

When one thinks of the crime of tresspass, you think of a person being on or in your private property without your permission. It's a fairly minor offense, but it is a criminal offense nonetheless. But police in one New Hampshire town are taking trespass to whole new level. The chief there, upset that federal immigration authorities failed to arrest an illegal immigrant in town who posed no danger to anybody, arrested the man for trespass, on the theory that he is in the country illegally and is thus "trespassing" on public land.

Marvel at that concept for a second- someone being able to trespass on land that is open to everyone! Aside from the serious racial/ethnic overtones to the case (the cop in question questioned the man based solely on looks as he sat on the side of the road making a call on his cell phone), it would so broaden the power of the state to restrict your movement as to greatly impact personal liberty. What's up in these little New England towns with these municipal power grabs? First Kelo, now this.

Whoops! Sorry About That Execution.

The state of Missouri is officially reopening the case of Quintin Moss, a 19-year old drug dealer who was killed in 1981. What makes this case so unique? The person convicted of Moss's murder, Larry Griffin, was executed in 1995. This is not a case where some lone champion of justice is challenging the case, either. Parties in support of reopening the case include prosecutors and Moss's family. If Griffin was innocent (as he always maintained), it will finally show that the innocent have been executed in this country (some dispute that such a thing is possible). If nothing else, that should make people seriously reconsider their support for the death penalty.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Curing Kelo

In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in Kelo, and the ensuing backlash, I said (possibly not here, however) that this was an easy problem to fix if state legislatures stepped up to narrow the eminent domain powers that cities and towns exercise. Guess what? Connecticut is looking at doing just that. It may even prevent the takings at issue in Kelo from ever taking place.

UPDATE: The original link was bad, but now it is fixed.

The Future of F1 - Passing and Batteries?

Last week, Max Mosley released the results of a survey of F1 fans conducted via the FIA website. Turns out that 94% of those answering the survey thinks F1's biggest problem is the lack of passing, particularly for the lead. That finding led Dave Despain this weekend to proclaim that he is not alone, that millions of other "rubes" want to see fierce passing during each Grand Prix. Those "rubes" are setup as the yang to the yin of "true" F1 fans for whom passing is nice, but hardly necessary to their enjoyment of the races. Honestly, I think it's the very rare F1 fan who wouldn't want more passing than F1 has now. But there are fewer, probably not a majority of that 94%, who would get more enjoyment from F1 if it had so much passing that any individual pass becomes meaningless.

When Champ Cars used to run on superspeedways, the passing at the front of the field was almost constant. But that was due to aerodynamic tricks that made breaking away from the pack almost impossible and increased the power of the draft. To me, that just cheapens things.

Watching the GP2 races on Sunday mornings before the last two GPs confirms that modern open wheel formula cars can cut and thrust on the road courses that make up the F1 circuit. Can F1 adopt some of the GP2 car's areo setup to aid overtaking? It certainly should be looked at. It probably makes more sense than Mosley's bright idea to turn F1 into a series for gas-electric hybrids (with the batteries providing a version of Champ Car's "push to pass" system).

Monday, July 11, 2005

Help Help I'm Being Oppressed

Over at Balkinization today, Mark Graber has a provocative post for the wake of the Fourth of July. Cutting to the chase:

The Fourth of July may be a difficult holiday for those with pacifist tendencies. Not the least of the bad practices associated with independence day is the American tendency to define oppression downwards. Might Americans have been better off forming an independent nation in 1776. Of course. But whether the level of injustice justified shooting a lot of people strikes me as dubious, at best. And worse, when we teach our children that conditions in 1776 were so oppressive as to justify violence, they are inclined to think of oppression indiscriminately.
I never really thought of it that way. Revolutionary America was hardly the most oppressive place on Earth at the time and would have been well down any all-time list of oppressive places to live. Was it unjust to be ruled from thousands of miles away by a monarch who claimed a divine right to rule and a Parliament in which you had no voice? Yes. Was it worth the bloodshed that ensued? Who knows. Certainly the Canadians and Australians got out from under the yoke of Your Majesty with less violence (I think). Bringing up the question while you were waiting on the fireworks to start probably wouldn't make you very popular, tho'.

Sweet Home New Jersey? and Money released their list of the best places to live in the United States today. I'm a little crestfallen that my hometown was the only West Virginia city to even be considered and it didn't make the final cut. But, then again, any study that concludes that someplace in Jersey is the best place to live in the country has some explaining to do.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Being Mother to a Murderer

USA Today is running a series this week about Eric Rudoplh, the (among other things) Atlanta Olympic bomber who killed two, wounded many others, and then eluded authorities for years. The source material for the series are the hundreds of letters Rudolph has sent to his mother since he was captured. Yesterday's installment was particularly interesting, as it focused not on Rudolph himself, but his mother and how she struggles to come to terms with what her son has become. Unlike many family members, she does not persist in believing her son is innocent. That only makes her life now more difficult, as she plumbs the depths of her son's past for some clue as to what turned him into a home-grown terrorist. Today's installment detail's Rudolph's means of avoiding capture for so long.

One More 10 Commandments Thought

I read this interesting column over at Tech Central Station the other day and had to pass it along. The author comes to the conclusion, from a Christian perspective, that the relentless drive of the fundies on the right to turn the public square into one continuous tent revival cheapens the message by turning it into, essentially, "elevator music." That idea would seem to be supported by the experience of western Europe, where most countries have a state religion but the populace has become less and less religious (particularly when compared to the US).

Friday, July 01, 2005

Album of the Day

Deadwing, by Porcupine Tree (2005): I suppose after the complete home run that was In Absentia, it was only natural for PT to backslide a little bit with their newest album. It's not bad - quite the opposite - but it feels a little more "done that" than In Absentia. Having said that, "Shallow," "Arriving Somewhere But Not Here," and "Start of Something Beautiful" are all classics. If you've never heard the Tree, this is a good place to start.

And with that, dear readers, the 2005 version of Album of the Day comes to its final installment. It took a month longer this year than last, but I think that was due to my busy travel schedule this spring than a huge load of new tunes. Still, plowing through 598 albums spread over 668 discs totaling 25 days, 3 hours, 9 minutes, 11 seconds is bound to take a while.

O Sandy, We Hardly Knew Ye;

Well, for the first time in more than a decade, there is a vacancy on the United States Supreme Court. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to sit on the Court, announced her retirement this morning. A retirement from the Court wasn't a surprise, but most Court watchers were surprised to see O'Connor go before the Chief Justice. What happens now? Will the ensuing confirmation battle (which CNN has fully covered here), be, as the BBC speculates, "a battle for the legal soul of the nation?" It depends on what Dubya does. If he remembers his 2000 campaign promise to be a "uniter not a divider," he may select a moderate to replace the fairly moderate O'Connor. On the other hand, if he bows to pressure from the far right and appoints a hard liner, the effect on the Court will be profound. What will Dubya do? Only time will tell.

This will be my last post on the whole shindig, until we have a new justice (barring something really extraordinary). It would do my future clients no good to have their lawyer spouting off in cyberspace about the qualifications of a judge who may preside over their case (I have appeared before the two potential nominees from the Fourth Circuit, BTW). So, on this issue, I'll keep my opinions to myself.