Monday, January 31, 2005
(the photo points to Dakotapundit)
(And click here for my earlier post about the Iraqi elections) Random memory association: I went to a high school where it was actually fashionable ("cool") to show up in school with ashes on your forehead on a certain day at the beginning of Lent - a lot of symbolic value (history, faith, community, and the fact that a few students has gotten up early to go to church before school). I'm no longer part of an ash-distributing church (for unrelated reasons, of course!), but the ashes were definitely "cooler" (had more powerful and multilayered symbolic value) than little red-white-and-blue stickers... these stained fingertips remind me of the ashes a little bit (in the good sense). They just tell a whole story, really capturing a significant moment in history.
"Brazil's federal system does not provide for metropolitan
government. For example, while the municipality manages the city's bus network,
the state runs its trains, the metro and inter-city buses. The system links the
city to satellite municipalities, but moving between these is a nightmare. This
cuts people off from potential jobs. Likewise in health: federal funding goes
straight to municipalities in accordance with their populations, but services
are not co-ordinated."
A farmer spraying his rapeseed field in Germany with pesticides. Growers of
rapeseed, one of the primary sources of cooking oil, have discovered their crop
has a new calling at petrol stations. Heated to a high temperature, it becomes a
biological form of diesel that emits only a fraction of the carbon dioxide.
I cannot find any news articles where LeMoyne College responds to the accusation - if anyone does, please post it in the comments.
I've heard and read many arguments for and against legalized prostitution (personally, apart from moral concerns, I think prostitution in general exploits female illegal immigrants), but I hadn't considered the possibility that it would mean adding the "world's oldest profession" to the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, which would mean Social Security Disability claimants would have the burden of proving they were physically unable to perform this job. Ugh.
Readers who share my intense Puritanical dislike of prostitution can click here to get rankled by the Economist's coverage of a new prostitution resort planned in Nevada with a museum and gift shop. From the story: "George Flint, head of the Nevada Brothel Association, insists that a trip to the Mustang Ranch could be 'just as important as driving to Mount Rushmore'.” I guess I haven't done that yet, either.
Sunday, January 30, 2005
I don't mind Democrats holding the administration accountable for any real acts of wrongdoing, but they undermine their credibility when they call a good thing "bad" just because it looks good for Bush. This was a better turnout than most industrialized democracies usuall have in their elections - and the Iraqis voted in spite of death threats from insurgents.
It's really petty for critics to naysay the election because of the intense security offered by U.S. troops for the event. If we hadn't done this, and there was a bloodbath or a low turnout, the same people would have lambasted the administration for forcing an election and not making the country secure. Kerry opined that Iraq is less safe today than it was while Saddam was in power. He's being contradictory - first, the election is not truly legitimate for him because we made the country so secure, and then he criticizes the Administration for not making it secure enough. I don't get it. The Bush-bashers seem genuinely disappointed that the vote went well, that no bloodbath occurred, and that the turnout was really tremendous. Sorry to let you down, guys.
I know voter turnout was low in some Sunni neighborhoods - either because the people were more afraid of insurgents there, or because they resent the idea of democracy. It's sort of like the MTV audience in America - don't vote, don't matter. Every democracy has pockets or groups that choose to marginalize themselves by not participating or voting.
Friday, January 28, 2005
The book(let) I was really excited about, though, is The Cognitive Style of Power Point by Edward R. Tufte. He articulates many things I've been feeling intuitively for some time, but for which I could not find the right words (actually, I simply don't possess his expertise in cognitive theory and design, so I could offer nothing more than amateur hunches). I think I may never use Power Point again. He has a convincing argument (I thought it was, anyway) that Power Point purges 80% of the important content in a presentation, and bores the intelligent people in the audience, just so speakers feel less jittery because they have a colorful outline to read from during their talk: "The short-run convenience for the presenter comes at an enormous cost to the content and to the audience." The real treasure of Tufte's book, though, is not his sound bites, but the intense graphical examples he uses, dissecting classic slide presentations from meetings at NASA, sales conventions, etc., and explaining how they distort the information and generate shallow group-think. He has me worried about students who like it. You can get an idea of Tufte's arguments by visiting his website, www.edwardtufte.com.
"Power Point allows speakers to pretend they are giving a talk, and audiences to pretend they are listening."
Thursday, January 27, 2005
1) This was a settlement, not a jury verdict (the World Net Daily article blurs the distinction). The fact that the judge signed the settlement as an order doesn’t mean the judge thought the plaintiffs should win; judges always sign judgments to settle cases so they can be cleared off the trial docket, except where the settlement involves a promise from the plaintiff to withdraw the case completely. The latter is less likely where the defendant appears to be headed to bankruptcy court, meaning the settlement will be difficult to collect if it is a mere private agreement and not an order entered by a court.
2) The plaintiff’s case is based mostly on a scientific study published in the mid-1990’s indicating that abortion raised the risk of breast cancer in women – 150 times higher for girls under 18, and much more for those with a family history of breast cancer. Unsurprisingly, the study itself remains very controversial, being hotly contested by pro-choice groups. Its authors, however, were doctors at a Seattle Cancer Center (i.e., not just pro-life activists), and was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. I’m not attempting to vouch for the accuracy of the study, just its basic legitimacy as genuine scientific inquiry – it’s not pro-life propaganda, but it should still be subject to scientific scrutiny, like any other medical research. Let the medical establishment do further research, I say, as long as neither political side gets to silence the conclusions.
3) The girl was 15 when she had her abortion, stated on her clinic paperwork that her mother, grandmother, and an aunt had all suffered from breast cancer, and still the folks at the clinic told her nothing about a possible heightened risk of cancer for her. This seems odd given that doctors now are so afraid of malpractice liability that they normally are quick to disclose even possible risks. Each time my wife had a baby, her doctors would tell her about one or two new articles in medical journals indicating a possible connection with this or that and various ailments for the mother or child, even when the study was still new or controversial. I’m surprised the clinic wouldn’t have bothered with some simple disclosures like that. The girl did not acutally get cancer, but she is very worried about it. (which means they may have had trouble proving damages if they'd gone through a trial).
4) The abortion clinic in this case actually went out of business last year (with a reported $150,000 in unpaid bills), and their lawyer says the decision to settle was made by the insurance company to avoid the costs of going through a full trial, which they maintain they would have won. I believe them; I don’t know who would have won. But the case really settled because there’s no more money coming in to pay their lawyer to go ahead with a trial, to hire experts to contest the cancer report, etc. – not because of the merits.
5) All that being said, law students shouldn’t discount the value of litigation as a policy advocacy tool (for better or wrose). Civil litigation (not government regulation) removed Joe Camel billboards from the area surrounding the junior high schools. For all the flack about the McDonald’s “fat” case (partially revived this week by the Second Circuit), as soon as the first suit was dismissed McDonald’s introduced a new line of GREAT salads (much improved from their plastic cup of white iceberg lettuce they used to hand you) and alternative Happy Meals with fresh fruit, etc. Only one case against an airline over deep vein thrombosis has settled so far (from what I’ve read) out of the thousand or more that have been filed, but all the airlines have started giving warnings to passengers on overseas flights about the risks of DVT and the need to move around or do certain exercises during the flight. I like the new McDonald’s salads (and have no choice about eating there, because I have young children), and I’m hoping that the airlines will think twice about shrinking the economy class seats any more than they already have in light of the potential DVT liability (I’m 6’4” and really notice the ever-smaller seats in economy class). I’m sure the companies felt like victims, but I think the world is a better place because of these lawsuits –many of us have already benefited (yeah, I know McDonald’s has to pass their litigation costs through to their shareholders or customers, but that’s a pretty thin spread when you serve “billions and billions”). More recently, lawsuits have started to pop up around the country against alcohol manufacturers for marketing their products to irresponsible youth and contributing to drunk driving accidents. The courtroom provides a different set of incentives for people than picket lines and protests. If the (still controversial) cancer study about abortion turns out to be corroborated by other scientific research, I think patients should get to hear due warnings. A wave of litigation could follow if they don’t.
I like private litigation as a tool for social change (better than old-fashioned civil rights litigation, in fact). The common law tort system has built-in elements that are more free-market based and democratic, in some ways, than command-and-control regulation by unelected "experts" at an administrative agency. The tort system allows more room to consider any exceptional equities involved with particular parties, more room for private insurance markets to step in and offer financial incentives to reduce the risks of harm, and a financial incentive (plaintiff's contingency fees) to screen out the ridiculous. This is why I've argued for gun maker liability - I'd rather private litigation than escalated government regulation, which is often the only alternative. If it goes too far, the jury can say, "Nay." The private companies can decide for themselves how to manage their risks - whether by reduction, spreading, or viewing it as a straight business cost.
The other thing I like about civil-litigation-as-policymaking: the advocates have to engage in a lot of sharp, analytical thinking every step of the way, whereas the usual political route is tainted with shouted slogans, misleading propaganda, and personality cult/popularity contests. Taking these grand social battles into the courtroom forces the advocates to research and think through (carefully) issues of standing, jurisdiction, cognizability of harm, causation, relevancy and reliability of evidence, and the best remedies (damages, injunctions, etc.). This is a good thing, because the policy results can be more well-informed and fine-tuned.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
The Fourth Circuit decision, Moore v. City of Asheville, involved a North Carolina carpenter who travels around doing street preaching; in March and April 2003, he twice received tickets/fines for violating the city's noise ordinance. He paid the fines at the time (the first was $50 and the second $100, because he was a repeat offender), and then waiting a long time before going to court to protest this infringement on his free speech rights. He waited too long; the time had elapsed for state administrative review of his fines, so he went into federal court. The Circuit Court's opinion does not address his free speech rights, but rahter the procedural question of whether a federal court can entertain a case about state or local fines when the petitioner let the time elapse so he could no longer pursue them through the normal state-level channels. He cannot (he lost). Lesson to street preachers: if you get fined or ticketed, and think you have a legal case to challenge the fine, do it right away - file an appeal with the state's administrative review system. You snooze, you loose, basically. Sorry.
The Sixth Circuit decision is more interesting (Parks v. City of Columbus). In this case, the city of Columbus, Ohio, licensed a private entity, the Arts Council, to hold its annual Arts Festival along Civic Center Drive (it was a permit to hold a block party; they were also licensed to sell alcohol). Significantly, these permits are always "non-exclusive" - meaning the event hosts must allow other citizens to use the sidewalks, etc. Mr. Parks is a traveling street preacher/evangelist to goes to public events to hold evangelistic signs, distribute leaflets, and talk to people. He entered the area of the Arts Festival while it was underway wearing a sign with a religious message (the case record does not indicate what the sign said. An off-duty policeman, who was wearing his uniform and identified himself as an officer, had been hired by the Arts Council as a security guard, and he ordered Parks to leave the area; Parks obliged grudgingly. He later sent a letter to City official protesting what happened, and he was rebuffed - they said he had no right to be there. A federal district court agreed; the Sixth Circuit disagreed and reversed the lower court's decision, holding that there was no compelling state interest to justify the restriction of sppech in this case, that the permits were non-exclusive and therefore Parks had a right to enter the area, and that the action of the off-duty but uniformed officer constituted state action. Lesson for street preachers: city festivals might be fair game, even if someone tells you they aren't. But it depends in part on the types of licenses or permits issued in that particular city, and the reason you were asked to leave. If Parks had been disrupting the Festival itself, the outcome would have been different.
Monday, January 24, 2005
Saturday, January 22, 2005
If any of my readers are also researching in this area, or have suggestions for good material, or simply know a lot about it and have lots of well-informed opinions, I'd be much obliged. Thanks!
Friday, January 21, 2005
Francisco Serrano, 21, attended
classes and slept at a Minnesota
high school he used to attend.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
(thanks to Legal Reader for posting this first...)
Saturday, January 15, 2005
It is an inherent risk in a democratic election - especially one that allows voting from outside the borders, as most do - that some feared foreign interest could get a share in the vote and undermine the purported national interest. There was a risk (small, but still a risk) when our country was founded that "Tories" or loyalists could vote to turn America back over to its colonial rulers; or that millions of Muslim-American voters today could force a change in our foreign policy (like our support of Israel). The risk that Iraqi Israelis would engineer something crazy, like annexation, is even more remote.
But this risk carries a benefit as well, especially in an era of globalization. Healthy freedom for immigration, combined with democracy, means that there is a voice in the electorate calling for good relations with other countries. It stabilized the Middle East for several years after Anwar Sadat made a peace treaty with Israel at Camp David. It would greatly stabilize the Middle East if the country that is potentially the strongest militarily and economically (Iraq) could engage Israel seriously. In understand that Al-Qaeda would hate this. But maybe this would give them an incentive to "get out the vote" on their own, instead of threatening to sabotage the election. Our country was deeply divided in the last election, but the benefit is outstanding voter turnout, and a challenge for the losing party to convince more people to vote for them next time.
Israeli descendants of Iraqi Jews are being offered the possibility of voting in
the first free democratic elections in Iraq, the Independent Electoral
Commission for Iraq (ICI) has announced. The elections, which are due to take
place from January 28 to January 30 at 14 polling stations in Iraq and around
the world, are open to all ethnic Iraqis, the ICI said....Israeli turnout is
likely to be low – the closest polling station to Israel is in Amman, Jordan.
Some 130,000 Iraqi Jews immigrated to Israel after the establishment of
the state. Today, there at least 75,000 Iraqi-born Israeli citizens but the
number of eligible voters – including their children – is much higher. Iraq's
Out-of-Country Voting (OCV) committee decided not to open a polling station in
Israel, whose population of eligible voters is much greater than other countries
with polling stations, for example, the Netherlands.
Asked why Israel doesn't have a polling station, [Farid] Ayar, whose organization [ICI] is the independent body of Iraqi citizens that determined the stipulations for voter eligibility and the location of the polls, said it "is because Iraq has no relations with this state, and we don't recognize this state." . . . More details may be found on www.ccicoa.org.
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Duh. You didn't expect one of those evil, assertive lawyers to get sick of it and complain at some point? As a practitioner, I didn't enjoy standing in line outside the courthouse in the freezing New England weather any more than the rest of the people - actually probably less, because most people appearing on charges seemed to bring friends and family with them to keep them company. These protestors really must not have enough to do! Get a job or something!
"The pair said that for years they have stood outside courthouses on Long Island and mocked lawyers."
If somebody finally decided he'd had enough, how was he supposed to know these guys were there that day for an actual criminal charge, instead of just standing near the line heckling the poor attorneys like usual? Sheesh. And thanks a lot for your loathsome drunk driving - lucky you didn't kill a nice family in a minivan or something. I know there are lots of lawyers who really deserve all those lawyer jokes, but we seem to have a shortage of ways to mock, scorn, abuse, and ridicule drunk drivers. (I know, they're just not funny, but are most lawyers that funny?) The two jerks (in my book) with too much time on their hands are pictured below...
When not driving around drunk,
these noble citizens stand around
and heckle innocent bystanders
outside their local courthouse.
Get a blog or something!