August 20, 2005

Duke Cunningham is not the most sympathetic of victims, but there is something very disturbing about the lis pendens placed on his Rancho Santa Fe mansion (or, as they would call it in Texas, his "ranch"). It is based on a "secret" civil suit, filed but not served on the defendant, which alleges he is the beneficiary of a bribe, and the lis pendens is the first step toward the oft-odious use of a civil forfeiture claim. The lawsuit is being kept a secret so as to not give away evidence against the Congressman, which makes it next to impossible for him to defend himself. His only option is to move the court to release the lis pendens; the government will undoubtedly argue that to present evidence justifying their case would imperil ongoing criminal investigations, as if a politician receiving a bribe was tantamount to a plot by Al Qaeda. He may be a sleazy politician, but in the eyes of justice he must be seen as innocent.

August 19, 2005

Please tell me the puzzle in this morning's LAT was not rated "diabolical"...I've become a bit of a sudoku fiend the past few weeks, so I know that any "diabolical" puzzle has to be one that gives you few leads and much guessing. Any sentient being should be able to solve the "easy" puzzles without resorting to notes; giving the highest rating to a puzzle that I was similarly able to solve in ten minutes does violence to the English language, and frankly insults all past and present Sudoku Masters. I'm just not that good yet.

August 18, 2005

August 17, 2005

Law of Unintended Consequences, Part 145: Dwight Meredith, another blogger who passes the time away by practicing law, points out the biggest reason why frivolous lawsuits happen; the "tort reformers" themselves. In reference to the investigative series in the LA Times this week, he notes:

Part of the tort reformers' narrative is that greedy lawyers push clients into bringing marginal law suits. That may be true in some class action suits in which the lawyer is committed to a certain amount of work regardless of whether the class is large or small but in everyday individual suits, it is almost always the prospective client who is pushing the hardest for a suit to be brought.

The client has been told over and over by the tort reformers and the media that a jury may award him the
riches of Croesus regardless of whether he has suffered significant damage and regardless of whether he has been wronged. It is not surprising that prospective clients are eager to collect.

If the tort reformers and the media provided a more accurate picture of the nature of the litigation system, fewer people would be so eager to sue. The tort reformers do not really care if people bring frivolous suits or potentially meritorious suits with small damages. The frivolous suits lose early and often. The trivial suits do not cost much. The tort reform lobby is quite willing to accept an increase in trivial suits if they can create a political climate that allows them to limit the exposure of businesses and insurance companies on the really bad cases. Perhaps the media should expose that game. It would not even have to make stuff up.

[link via Charles Kuffner]
...to err, DeWine: As if his heartbreakingly-close loss last month didn't caused enough pain, now comes word that any possible U.S. Senate run by Paul Hackett in Ohio next year has now been doomed by the Curse of Zuniga: Kos has predicted his victory.

August 16, 2005

File this under the "Who Knew He Was Still Alive" category: Tonight, Bobby Bragan became the oldest manager in professional baseball history when he helmed the Fort Worth Cats of the independent Central League to an 11-10 victory. Bragan, who is just three months shy of his 88th birthday, previously managed several major league teams, as well as the legendary Hollywood Stars of the PCL in the mid-50's.

I'm sorry, but this just blows me away. My father, who died seven years ago at the age of 61, used to tell me anecdotes about his beloved Stars, and their manager during his boyhood years, Bobby Bragan. Bragan used to pal around with a young actor and baseball fanatic named Jack Webb, who according to an apocryphal tale, later decided to playfully wink at his buddy by giving a character he created, Joe Friday, a badge number that referenced a certain legendary baseball statistic. For a few seasons, the Stars decided to play a few games each summer in shorts, drawing the derision of much of the sports media in the country; Bragan was their manager.

In terms of having celebrity backing, the Stars made the Lakers seem like the Clippers. Besides the aforementioned Webb, Jack Benny, Gary Cooper, George Raft, Humphrey Bogart and Laurel & Hardy were regular fans; Elizabeth Taylor was even a batgirl one season. And of course, Raft wouldn't have been caught dead at Gilmore Field (next door to Farmer's Market and CBS-Television City) without his "associates", Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen.

Jeez, the guy managed Carlos Bernier. He managed against the late Gene Mauch, when Mauch was still a minor league player (with the L.A. Angels).

It's like finding out Al Lopez is still alive....
Two points, concerning what is becoming an increasingly dull debate in the blogosphere:

1. The use of racist and sexist vulgarities against non-white bloggers is always uncalled for, no matter what they write. And that even includes someone as racist and vile as Michelle Malkin. Just don't go there.

2. Those who are unwilling to repudiate the bigotry that streams out of websites like Malkin's and LGF have no credibility when it comes to speaking out on this issue. Go fart somewhere else.

UPDATE [8/17]: What he said.
She's been snubbed by the President. She's been shot at, seen a local thug desecrate a memorial to fallen servicemen near her camp, and insulted by complete strangers. She's been falsely accused of anti-Semitism based on a probably fake e-mail, had her motives questioned for having the audacity to question the war, and had her private life targetted by the revanchists of the Right. And of course, she has had to grieve the loss of a son, which a national pundit, the adult children of whom are not in uniform, had the temerity to call a "piffle".

She is Cindy Sheehan, the woman who symbolizes the crystalizing opposition to the war in Iraq. And, according to this blogger, she's doing it all to divert attention from...the Air America "scandal".
The Los Angeles Times has a good investigative series this week about the "tort reform" movement, and in particular its use of bogus or exaggerated anecdotes, and the reference to inflated jury awards, to argue its case to the public. The corporate lobby, for example, often mentions the lady-who-spilled-coffee-and-sued as an example of how the system has run amok, without mentioning some other telling details (such as the third degree burns the lady suffered when she spilled the caffeinated magma over her lap). Even worse, it will refer to high jury awards without mentioning that the verdict was later overturned, or the award reduced, on appeal. Due to the prevailing bias against lawyers, the public (and more importantly in this case, the media) buy stories that are as factual as letters to the Penthouse Forum.

As long as we're on this point, why exactly should even the most frivolous, bad faith awards be detrimental to the economy? It's not as if the money leaves the country or disappears; it simply goes from one sector, corporations, to another, consisting of consumers. The ambulance-chasees, as it were, then spend their ill-gotten gains on items such as housing, food, and various consumer items, boosting the economy. The price of goods may theoretically increase to accomodate the higher legal costs, but if more consumers have more money to spend, what's the problem? Why is it more important to protect Exxon or Phillip Morris from boneheaded juries than it is to protect consumers from the same?
Swift'd: It appears that Samgrass, Drudge, and others have been conned by a bogus e-mail about Cindy Sheehan.
Waist Deep in the Big Muddy: It has been said that LBJ knew that South Vietnam was lost when Walter Cronkite came out in favor of withdrawal, but Armstrong Williams ?!? [link via John Cole, who uses a much better headline on his link]

August 15, 2005

Quickie Trivia Answer: Tampa Bay. I didn't give credit to those who guessed too many teams.

The Nationals have hosted every team in the National League this year, save Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Frisco, as well as two of the three AL expansion teams (Seattle and Toronto) since 1971. And of course, before moving to Arlington, the Senators played the remaining eleven American League teams. The catch: Washington played in the National League for a few years in the 19th Century; the Reds, Cards and Giants all previously visited D.C. the last time the city had a team in the Senior Circuit, in 1899.
Volokh Conspiracy is generally considered by lefty bloggers to be the best conservative blog out there. It's intelligent, provocative and fun, and for a lawyer like myself, it is indispensible in finding out what the other side is thinking without the demeaning, partisan tone that exists elsewhere. When the competition consists of nothing more than posts of "Heh. Indeed", "Religion of Peace?" and "Wankers", and when argument is limited to the banal overuse of the word, "liar" (which, among bloggers, means "a person who stated something that I consider to be factually incorrect"), the VC is an invaluable resource.

So it's a bit of a disappointment to read Prof. Volokh's list of "supporters" of the insurgency in Iraq. Inspired by the death of an American journalist a few weeks back (originally attributed to the insurgency, but more likely the result of his having run afoul of Shi'ite bigots upset with his plans to marry a local), the professor recently asked his readers for examples of Westerners who support the Iraqi insurgents. By any fair meaning of the term, that should be limited to those who've provided rhetorical support not only for the insurgents' goals, but also those who have cheered their tactics, including the killing of American G.I.'s and murder of civilians.

Of the people mentioned on the site, they are either are marginal political wack-jobs, such as George Galloway, or some professor emeritus back east, or they are people whose past statements have been so blatantly taken out of context so as to earn the most scornful term that can be used by a blogger, "dowdification". That would include the most famous American on the list, Michael Moore, who is there because he compared the insurgents to the Minutemen and the Viet Cong, and predicted that like those forces, they would ultimately win. Anyone who has seen Fahrenheit 911 knows that although Moore opposes the war, he is not anti-G.I., nor has he glossed over the horrors of terrorism.

Another example concerns former British Cabinet minister Clare Short, because she supposedly told a Dubai "newspaper" in an interview that the cause Osama bin Laden was fighting for was "just", and that the insurgents were analogous to the French Resistance during WWII. Criticism of the latter is simply political correctness; the analogy she drew between the Resistance and the insurgents was that they were fighting an occupying army, not that their goals were equally praiseworthy. And the former statement was in reference to a book about bin Laden that Ms. Short was citing to the interviewer, and had nothing to do with whether or not she supported Al Qaeda. Had Prof. Volokh decided to do some actual research on the subject, he might have come across this article, written by the same Clare Short only a few weeks ago:

"Let it be proclaimed without qualification: the messianic millenarianism of Osama bin Laden is a form of fascism that has no place in any society that believes in or aspires to freedom.

But we need to think more ambitiously still. The objective should be to get an international consensus, including the leadership of the Muslim and Arab world, which places all attacks on civilians and non-combatants in a war situation beyond the pale. We have, fortuitously, a series of opportunities to advance this seemingly simple, but until now impossible agenda." (emphasis mine)

Well, if you believe the professor, it seems the Right Hon. Clare Short was a supporter of terrorism before she was against it. More logically, though, you could conclude that maybe her earlier remarks were jumbled, taken out of context, or even misquoted.

If guess if you try hard enough, and cherrypick your source material on Google, you can prove that anybody supports the terrorists. I just thought that wasn't the sort of rhetorical game a law professor ought to play.
Today's class assignment is to read Bray v. Alexandra Clinic (1993), the U.S. Supreme Court decision which has recently played such a prominent role in the John Roberts' nomination. Roberts is getting a bum rap for his role in writing an amicus brief in favor of the defendants' position whilst at the Solicitor General's office. Notwithstanding the fact that the defendants included some pretty unsavory characters, an attorney should be allowed to question the constitutionality of the Patriot Act, or the treatment of prisoners at Git-mo or Abu Ghraib, without being called "pro-terrorist"; the same standard should be applied when deciding whether it is appropriate to use a particular federal law to prosecute people who blockade abortion clinics. Since the high court ultimately agreed with his position, it begs credulity to argue that Roberts' position was extreme.

NARAL's ad is the leftish equivalent of Roger Simon's blanket condemnations of "objective pro-fascists" behind every tree. It was a stupid, counterproductive ad, and did nothing to weaken Roberts.

August 14, 2005

Wigan 0, Chelsea 1: The first-ever Premier League match for the hometown squad of the Idiotarian Savant's ancestors ended in heartbreaking fashion, as an injury-time goal by Hernan "Shit-eating Cocksucker" Crespo gave the defending champions an undeserved victory. Can you believe it costs $20 to get the match on pay-per-view? Are there that many pubs servicing the ex-pats to make that profitable?