Thursday, March 31, 2011

Snake on a phone

Down here in the provinces, I just heard about (1) the Bronx Zoo Cobra, and (2) its Twitter feed.
Donald Trump is thinking about running for president?! Don't worry, I'll handle this. Where is Trump Tower exactly?

Brother, can you spare a Rolex?

Wisconsin GOP rep Sean Duffy achieved deserved notoriety for telling his constituents what a tough time he was having, trying to make it on $174K a year.

The Wisconsin Dems, in a very un-Democrat-like move, exploited the remark beautifully:

Well, there *was* that one time he killed a million peasants ....

Jay Taylor has penned a revisionist biography of Chiang Kai-Shek, but hey, Chiang had his flaws:
Taylor points out that Chiang did many bad things, and not always for reasons that made sense. He aligned himself with Shanghai gangster boss Du Yuesheng, who brutally massacred the communists and labor activists in Shanghai. He raised funds by taxing rather than suppressing the opium trade, unleashed an enormous flood that killed millions of peasants by breaking the dikes of the Yellow River in order to slow the Japanese advance, tolerated corruption among his military officers and his wife’s relatives, oversaw assassinations and kidnappings and torture by his security people as part of a series of ruthless political wars, and intervened unwisely in the tactical operations of his generals in the field.
Uh, could we rewind to the part where Chiang "killed millions of peasants"?
Waters flooded into Henan, Anhui, and Jiangsu. The floods covered and destroyed thousands of square kilometers of farmland and shifted the mouth of the Yellow River hundreds of miles to the south. Thousands of villages were inundated or destroyed and several million villagers driven from their homes and made refugees. An official Nationalist post-war commission estimated that 800,000 were drowned, which may be a low figure.
Oh, well, maybe only a million or so.

Much like the Allies' own efforts at deliberately killing thousands of civilians, the military efficacy of this 1938 Yellow River Flood has been questioned.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Our higher level of training makes our misconduct less culpable

Yesterday the SCOTUS let the Orleans Parish D.A.'s office off the hook for a $14M verdict for prosecutorial misconduct. Typical 5-4, with Thomas writing for the Court. The Times-Pic reports.
[The district court's] findings relied on an earlier Supreme Court decision that found that a police department, for example, could be found to be deliberately indifferent to needed training if it sent out officers to apprehend felons without telling them under what circumstances they can use deadly force.

But Thomas wrote that prosecutors, who must be licensed attorneys, are a different kind of public employee than police officers, who without proper training might not have any idea about the legal restrictions on use of force. Instead, lawyers are educated and are required by law to know about their ethical obligations, Thomas noted.

"We do not assume that prosecutors will always make correct Brady decisions or that guidance regarding specific Brady questions would not assist prosecutors," Thomas wrote. "But showing merely that additional training would have been helpful in making difficult decisions does not establish municipal liability."
How is turning over exculpatory evidence a "difficult decision"?

Does unemployment not matter to the Fed?

TBA reads more about unemployment and monetary policy than we report on it, but this NYT analysis is worth linking.
One group of Fed officials and watchers worries constantly about the prospect of rising inflation, no matter what the economy is doing. Some of them are haunted by the inflation of the 1970s and worry it may return at any time. Others spend much of their time with bank executives or big investors, who generally have more to lose from high inflation than from high unemployment.

There is no equivalent group — at least not one as influential — that obsesses over unemployment. Instead, the other side of the debate tends to be dominated by moderates, like Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, and Mr. Meyer, who sometimes worry about inflation and sometimes about unemployment.

The result is a bias that can distort the Fed’s decision-making. Just look at the last 18 months. Again and again, the inflation worriers, who are known as hawks, warned of an overheated economy. In one speech, a regional Fed president even raised the specter of Weimar Germany.

These warnings helped bring an end early last year to the Fed’s attempts to reduce long-term interest rates — even though the Fed’s own economic models said that it should be doing much more. We now know, of course, that the models were right and the hawks were wrong. Recoveries from financial crises are usually slow and uneven. Yet the hawks show no sign of grappling with their failed predictions.
A small increase in inflation would be no great penalty to pay for getting millions of Americans back to work. But the Fed simply does not care about unemployment ... unless indeed the "hawks" see unemployment as the GOP's best shot at retaking the White House in 2012.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Another win from Ogden & Kidd

We've noted before the remarkable success plaintiffs have when represented by Ashley Ogden in a tort suit presided over by the Honorable Winston Kidd. The Mississippi Jury Verdict Reporter (a most useful publication) brings news of another verdict: $3.6 million for water damage to an apartment and alleged subsequent mold injuries which however produced less than $4K of medicals. The clever theory of recovery is impressive:
Important to this case, Ohazurike is a designer of Bible-based board games. While to date, Ohazurike hasn’t generated any profits from his games, he has generated several valuable designs that were ready for the market.
His game designs were destroyed (and, evidently, not reconstructable?) So, in addition to $500,000 "suffering" per member of the family, the plaintiff took $2M for "lost profits." He'd asked $17M, so that seems only fair. The silly defendants found the lost profits "speculative," and their carping post-trial motions were denied by the honorable court.

I'd like to say with confidence that the plaintiffs would be insane not to settle this case for about 20% of the verdict before the damages can be reversed on appeal, but who knows.

Another great result from Ogden & Kidd!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Uh, sorry Rachael, I've already got supper plans

The dog looks so unsuspecting; I'm glad they didn't put her family on the cover too.

H/t Sullyblog.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dep't of So Also Ye Did Unto Me

The death of Elizabeth Taylor leads to remembrance of her AIDS activism in the 1980s, including prodding Reagan to speak publicly on the subject:
Throughout his presidency Reagan had distanced himself from the AIDS issue. Two years earlier [i.e., in 1985] his staff prepared a briefing paper suggesting he deliver a statement expressing sympathy with parents who were worried about sending their children to school with a child who has AIDS and emphasizing there was no danger from casual or routine contact.

But John Roberts, a young White House lawyer -- and future Supreme Court chief justice -- reviewed the paper and advised: "I would not like to see the president reassuring the public on this point. ... We should assume that AIDS can be transmitted through casual or routine contact until it's demonstrated that it definitely cannot be."
Such a nice young man.

1789, 1914 ... 2011?

The NYT reports on dissensions within Germany over Merkel's abstention from Libyan intervention and retreat from nuclear power post-Fukushima:
Taken together, the actions in Berlin demonstrate anew Germany’s increasing willingness in a post-cold-war world to act like other countries, subordinating relations with allies for the sake of national interests — and even for domestic political reasons.

Mrs. Merkel’s decision to abstain from the Security Council vote was fiercely criticized by many in her own party, while Joschka Fischer, a member of the opposition Greens and a former foreign minister, wrote that ”Germany has lost its credibility in the United Nations and the Middle East” and that “German hopes for a permanent seat on the Security Council have been permanently dashed.”

Klaus Naumann, the former head of the German military, said that “even the idea of a European Union seat” on the Security Council had been damaged, adding, “Germany has turned the idea of a unified European Union foreign policy into a farce.”

In a meeting of Mrs. Merkel’s own parliamentary caucus, Ruprecht Polenz, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, called Germany’s abstention “a catastrophic signal,” according to Der Spiegel. Christian Ruck of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party, complained that “the European Union is falling apart.”
So what's the German government saying?
The German government, caught up in the political fallout from the Japanese nuclear calamity, decided to abstain at the United Nations because that was a “more honest” expression of Germany’s aversion to military action of its own in Libya, said a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity, following diplomatic protocol.

The official stressed, however, that the government’s attention had been focused primarily on Japan. When history is written, he said, “people will remember 9/11, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Kennedy assassinations and Fukushima.”
Uh, sorry, what? TBA's been as concerned as the next guy about Fukushima, but it ain't even up to Chernyobl standards -- hell, George Monbiot is not obviously mistaken to conclude that Fukushima proved the (relative) safety of nuclear power.

The German government sounds very, very confused, and the article suggests that Merkel's coalition may shortly be a minority government.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Or he could have cited John Lennon

Via DeLong, Jason Kuznicki is skeptical of Leo Strauss's notion that "the many" must believe in an afterlife of rewards and punishments:
. As John Stuart Mill wrote about a century earlier:

It is, in short, perfectly conceivable that religion may be morally useful without being intellectually sustainable: and it would be a proof of great prejudice in any unbeliever to deny, that there have been ages, and that there are still both nations and individuals, with regard to whom this is actually the case.

But Mill had a bit more courage than Strauss; he ends his essay in part:

History, so far as we know it, bears out the opinion, that mankind can perfectly well do without the belief in a heaven. The Greeks had anything but a tempting idea of a future state. Their Elysian fields held out very little attraction to their feelings and imagination. Achilles in the Odyssey expressed a very natural, and no doubt a very common sentiment, when he said that he would rather be on earth the serf of a needy master, than reign over the whole kingdom of the dead. And the pensive character so striking in the address of the dying emperor Hadrian to his soul, gives evidence that the popular conception had not undergone much variation during that long interval. Yet we neither find that the Greeks enjoyed life less, nor feared death more, than other people.

No existential, civilization-ending crisis of unbelief for him! Without it, no need for philosopher-kings to trick us into a belief in natural right.
The irony of refuting Strauss by reference to the Greeks is a pleasant one.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Amnesia about Palmerston

Andrew Sullivan says he wishes Obama were more like Lord Palmerston:
what Palmerston showed is that it is possible to be thrilled by and supportive of democratic movements in foreign lands, while remaining strictly uninvolved. Revolutions and rebellions are by their very nature unpredictable, fickle and confounding.
This is to misunderstand Palmerston, who acted under constraints Obama doesn't share, first and foremost a very limited military capacity for intervention. The British navy could not intervene in Hungary, or Poland.

When there was a small or weak power to be manhandled in British interests, say Greece or China, Palmerston had no inhibitions about military action. (See "Don Pacifico" or "Opium Wars.")

Obama's intervention in Libya is more Palmerstonian than Sullivan allows. Qaddafi is a relatively weak dictator in a state readily accessible to European and American military force. And intervention, at least if the U.S. does not in fact put its own boots on the ground, is relatively cheap. Nor are there any great-power allies of Libya's whom Obama need fear to offend; this is an important difference between attacking Libya versus attacking Iran, or North Korea.

Palmerston is the poster boy for liberal interventionism; claiming his mantle in opposition to Obama's liberal intervention in Libya is odd indeed.

More amnesia about Charles Clark

We commented a little while back on the passing of Charles Clark, longtime judge on the 5th Circuit, and how odd it was that his AP obituary omitted to mention that he was an attorney for the State of Mississippi in the James Meredith case.

Judge Leslie Southwick has now penned a commemoration of Judge Clark which suffers from the same amnesia: all Southwick writes about Clark's pre-bench practice is "He practiced law in Jackson until being appointed by President Nixon in 1969 as a judge on the 5th Circuit." There is literally more about his military service than about anything he might've done while being a practicing attorney.

As our first post noted, Judge Clark thought he did well to represent the State in Meredith's case, and by all accounts the Fifth Circuit's judges were generally pleased with his advocacy and professionalism. Omissions like Judge Southwick's create the impression that there is something to hide about Charles Clark -- an impression that the late judge surely would not have wished anyone to create.

(H/t to How Appealing -- I'd seen the op-ed yesterday in the dead-tree edition, but Bashman's post reminded me to blog on it.)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Where'd the water go?

Updating our Fukushima FUBAR post, the mystery of the water in Unit 4's spent-fuel pool may have an answer:
Additionally, a senior Western nuclear industry executive said that there also appeared to be damage to the floor or sides of the spent fuel pool at Reactor No. 4, and that this was making it extremely hard to refill the pool with water. The problem was first reported by The Los Angeles Times.

Engineers had said on Thursday that a rip in the stainless steel lining of the pool at Reactor No. 4 and the concrete base underneath it was possible as a result of earthquake damage. The steel gates at either end of the storage pool are also vulnerable to damage during an earthquake and could leak water if they no longer close tightly.

The senior executive, who asked not to be identified because his comments could damage business relationships, said Friday that a leak had not been located but that engineers had concluded that it must exist because water sprayed on the storage pool has been disappearing much more quickly than would be consistent with evaporation.
Units 2 and 3 also continue to deteriorate, and we are now being warned about "recriticality" when melting fuel rods clump together in a mess.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

So apparently we're going to war?

Just so you know. Sullivan wonders "by what authority" can Obama commit forces on the strength of a UN resolution? Ask Harry Truman.

The standard of review: it means something, folks

Free appellate advice from Howard Bashman and the Seventh Circuit:
Judge Posner offers this practice pointer for appellate advocates:

We'll state the facts as favorably to the plaintiffs as the record permits, as we must given the procedural posture. The statements of facts in the defendants' briefs present the evidence they'd like a jury to accept, rather than just the evidence that, being unrefuted or irrefutable, provides a permissible basis for a grant of summary judgment. Such a mode of presentation is unhelpful to the court.

No doubt it pains many advocates to actually set forth the evidence in the light most favorable to the opposing party in an appellate brief, but failing to do so (when it is necessary to do so under the applicable standard of review) can inflict real harm on your own client's chances of prevailing on appeal.
Amen. You are setting yourself up to get hamstrung on the response/reply brief. If you can't win the case on the correct standard of review, then why are you appealing?

Fukushima FUBAR

Yesterday, the head of the NRC basically dismissed Japanese claims as whistling Dixie:
The military also announced that it had postponed plans to drop water on Reactor No. 4, which Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, on Wednesday pinpointed as a cause for serious alarm.

On Thursday afternoon, the Self-Defense Forces and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police had begun deploying eight water cannon trucks to Reactor No. 3. Before the radiation level drove them back, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police had planned to use the trucks, which are usually used in riot control, to spray at least 12 tons of seawater into the reactor. * * *

The maneuvers seemed at odds with the most startling assertion by Mr. Jaczko that there was now little or no water in the pool storing spent nuclear fuel at the No. 4 reactor, leaving fuel rods stored there exposed and bleeding radiation into the atmosphere. His testimony before Congress was the first time the Obama administration had given its own assessment of the condition of the plant, apparently mixing information it had received from Japan with data it had collected independently. “We believe that radiation levels are extremely high, which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures,” Mr. Jaczko said.

His statement was quickly but not definitively rebutted by officials of Tokyo Electric, the plant’s operator.

We can’t get inside to check, but we’ve been carefully watching the building’s environs, and there has not been any particular problem,” Hajime Motojuku, a spokesman for Tokyo Electric, said Thursday morning in Japan.

Later, a spokesman for Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, Yoshitaka Nagayama, was more equivocal, saying, “Because we have been unable to go to the scene, we cannot confirm whether there is water left or not in the spent fuel pool at Reactor No. 4."

At the same time, officials raised concerns about two other reactors where spent fuel rods were stored, Nos. 5 and 6, saying they had experienced a slight rise in temperature.

On Wednesday night, Mr. Jaczko reiterated his earlier statement and added that commission representatives in Tokyo had confirmed that the pool at No. 4 was empty. He said Tokyo Electric and other officials in Japan had confirmed that, and also stressed that high radiation fields were going to make it very difficult to continue having people work at the plant.
This continues to be disputed, but apparently no one can get in to *look* at the pools; there's a report that the temp in one spent-fuel pool was 84 C on March 15, but apparently no one's been able to check since then. N.b. "Celsius."
If the American analysis is accurate and emergency crews at the plant have been unable to keep the spent fuel at that inoperative reactor properly cooled — it needs to remain covered with water at all times — radiation levels could make it difficult not only to fix the problem at No. 4, but to keep servicing any of the other problem reactors at the plant. In the worst case, experts say, workers could be forced to vacate the plant altogether, and the fuel rods in reactors and spent fuel pools would be left to melt down, leading to much larger releases of radioactive materials.
Nice to see that "diplomatic considerations" aren't muzzing Jaczko.
American officials who have been dealing with their Japanese counterparts report that the country’s political and bureaucratic leadership has appeared frozen in place, unwilling to communicate clearly about the problem’s scope and, in some cases, unwilling to accept outside assistance. Two American officials said they believed that the Japanese government itself was not getting a clear picture from Tokyo Electric.
It's increasingly likely that the entire plant will exude such high radiation that no one can get in, and the reactors will have to be left alone to (possibly) melt down, both the active fuel rods and the (relatively) spent ones.
The spent fuel pools can be even more dangerous than the active fuel rods, as they are not contained in thick steel containers like the reactor core. As they are exposed to air, the zirconium metal cladding on the rods can catch fire, and a deadly mix of radioactive elements can spew into the atmosphere. The most concern surrounds Cesium-137, which has a half-life of 30 years and can get into food supplies or be inhaled.
Hence the U.S. advice to its nationals to clear a 50-mile zone around the plant, not the 20-mile zone advised by Japan.

... So, how are the Japanese reacting to the U.S.'s dissing their government's assessment?
Most Japanese citizens did not react to Mr. Jaczko’s comments, which presented a far bleaker assessment of the unfolding nuclear crisis, for the simple reason that they went nearly unreported in the Japanese news media. * * *

Reporters who cover agencies and ministries are organized in press clubs that have cozy ties with officials and decide what to report — and what not to. The lack of attention received by Mr. Jaczko’s comments was consistent in the news media.
How much did those "cozy ties" contribute to Fukushima's continued operation (rather than its dangers being publicized and the plant shuttered & replaced) in the first place?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Seattle death watch

In addition to its vulnerability to a freighter-borne al-Qaeda nuke attack, Seattle is also at risk for a tsunami-earthquake combo like that which hit Japan.

It seems like an inefficient way for God to smite an ex-girlfriend, but who is TBA to judge?

Hume tricentennial

Via 3QD, an accessible overview of the greatest British philosopher, David Hume, b. 1711.
To his publisher, who earnestly solicited him to complete his History of England, Hume replied, “I must decline not only this offer, but all others of a literary nature, for four reasons: Because I’m too old, too fat, too lazy, and too rich.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The ides of March have come, but not yet gone

... so it's still timely for you to jump into this thread about whether Caesar's assassination was a Good Thing or a Bad Thing, with various ill-informed contributions by y.t.

Dep't of Dead? You Mean They Were Still Alive?

The NYT reports the death at age 76 of Owsley Stanley, LSD producer to the California counterculture, whom TBA encountered in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Possibly his longevity may've been due to not personally testing his product. Or maybe it was his diet:
Mr. Stanley, who became an Australian citizen in the 1990s, was treated for throat cancer in 2004. In the Rolling Stone interview, he attributed his survival to his carnivorous diet. (A heart attack he had suffered some years earlier he ascribed to eating broccoli as a child, forced on him by his mother.)
Owsley did not just enjoy meat but seems to've eaten nothing else, which among other issues led to his parting ways with the Grateful Dead.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The city on a hill

The anniversary of My Lai is March 16.

Tom Ricks finds oodles of Congressional testimony online.

His post is illustrated with this photograph.

Of which he writes:
everyone in the accompanying foto was shot and killed a few minutes or even moments after the foto was taken
Remember, only one soldier was convicted for killing these people and hundreds of others. He did three years' house arrest. A couple of years ago, he got around to stating that he's sorry about all that.

Some people like to say that America makes too much of its own crimes. It's not true. It wasn't true in 1945, it wasn't true in 1968, it's not true in 2011. We let ourselves off the hook, because we think that we are special somehow.

John Winthrop is too seldom quoted in context:
for wee must Consider that wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all people are uppon us; soe that if wee shall deale falsely with our god in this worke wee have undertaken and soe cause him to withdrawe his present help from us, wee shall be made a story and a byword through the world, wee shall open the mouthes of enemies to speake evill of the wayes of god and all professours for Gods sake; wee shall shame the faces of many of gods worthy servants, and cause theire prayers to be turned into Cursses upon us till wee be consumed out of the good land whether wee are going.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Running down the melting down

Here is a good place to keep up with the state of Japan's reactors.

This thread has some knowledgeable discussion of the accident(s) as well as of reactors and energy in general, tho I am always skeptical of solar-power advocates. FBOW, we are likely stuck with nuclear, so the problem is to make it as safe as possible. ("Don't build your plants in a notoriously earthquake-prone country" is one unkind thought that came promptly to mind when the news broke.)

... Brad DeLong has more links, taking a conservative view. Scientific American does the worst-case scenario.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bully pulpit

Compare & contrast:
Obama takes on bullies at White House anti-bullying summit
Obama: "I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not procedures on [Bradley] Manning meet basic standards, they assure me that they are."
... And now P.J. Crowley, the spokesguy at State who called the treatment of Manning "ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid," is said to be stepping down under pressure from an angry White House.

Note that Crowley, like many critics of America's turn to torture and cruelty, has a military resume himself: 26 years in the USAF. Soldiers often take "honor" seriously.


The tsunami in Japan.

Black presidents don't count, in Mississippi at least -- UPDATED

You really can't make this stuff up, can you? Philip Thomas blogs a photo of the inscription at the new federal courthouse in Jackson, MS:

That must be right, because 9/11 happened when Clinton was president: so, 2002-2010.

... Seriously, if someone isn't fired over a deliberate insult to the president of the United States, then I don't know what this country is coming to.

UPDATED: Mea culpa. NMC actually bothers to look up the rule on how these inscriptions are formulated:
The cornerstone should be a cut stone block having a smooth face of size adequate to present the following incised letters: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, (PRESIDENT’S NAME), PRESIDENT, GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION, (ADMINISTRATOR’S NAME), ADMINISTRATOR, (YEAR OF PROJECT COMPLETION). The words, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, should be in letters 50 mm (2 inches) high and other letters should be proportionally sized by rank.

All names should be of those individuals in office during project development prior to construction, if construction is completed during a subsequent President’s term of office.
Agree with NMC that this is "a silly rule." The confusion to future archaeologists alone militates against it. And really, what's wrong with having the names of both presidents on there -- in office during "development" as well as at "completion"? So the heads to roll should be those of the GSA twerps who concocted this rule.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I think she looks *cute* in blackface

Via Bookslut, what is very likely to be the most photos you've ever seen of Eva Braun.

Jennings v. Patton

The Fifth Circuit has reversed and rendered in the case of James Jennings, Jr. v. Judge Houston Patton of Hinds County Court. The underlying facts are recounted in the opinion, and one can also read the MSSC's summary of the Bar complaint tribunal's factual findings in the matter of Keith Shelton, Jennings's attorney. Essentially, the civil suit proposed that Patton and Ed Peters had conspired to get Jennings arrested and indicted on false grounds.

District Judge Tom Lee had dismissed the case vs. Peters on immunity grounds but held that an issue of fact existed as to whether Patton lied to the D.A.'s office and denied immunity on that basis. The Fifth Circuit reversed because it found it puzzling that Judge Lee would find anything unconstitutional in what Patton was alleged to've done:
Indeed, even taking the facts in the light most favorable to Jennings, we do not see how, based on our precedents, Jennings has alleged a cognizable constitutional violation. To begin with, “there [i]s no Fourteenth Amendment ‘liberty interest’ or substantive due process right to be free from criminal prosecution unsupported by probable cause.” [Citing cases.] * * *

Nor has Jennings raised a claim actionable under the Fourth Amendment. We have held that “causing charges to be filed without probable cause will not without more violate the Constitution.” [Citing more cases.]

Because Jennings has failed to allege the deprivation of an actual constitutional right, Judge Patton is entitled to qualified immunity.
Wow, that old Constitution isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Eyes must now turn to the Mississippi Bar. As Justice Dickinson wrote:
Shelton's proposed findings of fact with supporting evidence represent only Shelton's view and interpretation of the evidence. However, once they were adopted in toto by the Bar, Shelton's findings of fact took on new significance. The Bar, in substance, represented to this Court that it not only adopted Shelton's factual submission, but also that the Bar had taken reasonable and necessary steps to satisfy itself that they were, in fact, true. In that regard, I finding it amazing that the Bar would agree with the numerous and serious allegations of wrongful conduct by Judge Patton without taking the necessary steps to obtain Judge Patton's testimony and response to Shelton's allegations.

Furthermore, the Bar adopted the following as one of its findings of fact:

Although the reasons [Shelton's] case was presented to the grand jury still are a mystery to Mr. Taylor, one theory of Mr. Taylor's is that Mr. Shelton and Jennings “were indicted on a dare. This was on occasion done during the tenure of the previous District Attorney, Ed Peters.”

As with Judge Patton, I find it equally amazing that the record reflects no effort by the Bar to obtain Peters's testimony and response to such a serious allegation.
If the past is any indication of the future, what the Bar and the JPC will do is, exactly nothing.

The existence of qualified and judicial immunity means that the courts cannot hold judges to a higher standard as their position deserves; they are indeed held to a lower standard. The disciplinary bodies have a duty to raise the standard. They appear to be a failure. If the Mississippi Bar were abolished tomorrow, it's difficult to see that the legal profession in this state would suffer.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Any number of Pulp Fiction quotes would work for a post title

There may be many reasons why federal judges are generally more respected than state judges, but one reason surely is that federal judges generally don't allow counsel to fuck with them.

For ex, contrast our recent post about the "discretion of counsel" to disregard Mississippi court rules on the filing of briefs, vs. Judge Posner's opinion striking an appellate brief that violated the federal court rules. (Via.) The court also ruled for the appellee.

True, Posner finessed the issue:
The flagrancy of the violation in this case might well justify the dismissal of the appeal: let this be a warning. But in addition it is plain from the briefs that the appeal has no merit. To allow time for the appellants to file a compliant brief and the appellees to file a revised brief in response, and to reschedule oral argument, would merely delay the inevitable.

The motion to file an oversized brief is denied and the judgment of the district court summarily AFFIRMED.
Oral argument would've been worthwhile just to have Judge Posner look down at appellant's counsel and ask, "Does this Court look like a bitch?" in his best Samuel L. Jackson voice. Or, "did you see the sign outside this courthouse that said 'oversized briefs welcome'?"

This smudge on your head? That's you.

Sullyblog excerpts a meditation on Ash Wednesday:
Ash Wednesday should be seen as standing guard over Lent, reminding us at its start of the core truth of Christianity: we must give up.

We must give up not this or that habit or food or particular sin, but the entire project of self-justification, of making God’s love contingent on our own achievements. And the liturgy of this day goes right to the ultimate reality we struggle against, which is death itself. We are reminded, both by the words we say and the burned palms imposed on our foreheads, that we will die. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Give up! Give up, for you will not escape death.

The entire logic of the theology of glory, of all our Pelagian impulses, of all human attempts at mastery and control, are searched out and stripped away on Ash Wednesday. We are seen for what we are – frail mortals. All power, all money, all self-control, all striving, all efforts at reform cannot permanently forestall our death. Our return to dust is the looming fact of our existence that, in our resistance to it, provides a template of sorts for all the more petty efforts we make to gain control of our lives.

In this way, the repentance that takes place on this day also can be seen for what it is. The penitential rite is not a kind of shame inducing act of self-hatred. It simply is a recognition, and thereby acceptance, of our inability to love and do perfectly, which no amount of self-help strategies can change. It points to the utter gratuity of grace, its unearned, unmerited, even inexplicable nature. Repentence, then, is liberating.

On Ash Wednesday, our confession of sin really is saying, “we give up.” By repenting, we opt out of the logic that turns the good news of Christianity into another form of bondage, of accusation and moralizing. We do not, on this day at least, pretend to be anything other than the flawed human beings we are. And it is this very lack of pretending that is such a relief to sufferers weighed down by guilt. Ash Wednesday is a day for honesty. We no longer have to fear or elide the truth about ourselves.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

See, and here I thought they were Libyan Rebels

The opposition to Qaddafi includes at least one Missisippi State grad, it appears.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Obama on closing Gitmo: Kidding!

President Obama signed an executive order Monday that will create a formal system of indefinite detention for those held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who continue to pose a significant threat to national security. The administration also said it will start new military commission trials for detainees there.
Next up, I suppose he'll send Bradley Manning there.

I know in my head that supporting the Dems is still preferable to the GOP's regaining the White House; but thanks to Obama, my head is the only place I know that.

Hon. Charles Clark, R.I.P.

Judge Charles Clark, formerly of the Fifth Circuit, has died at 85. (Via Bashman.)

As the obit says, Judge Clark was widely respected; the Jackson, MS Inns of Court chapter was named after him. Clark was also counsel for the State of Mississippi in many civil-rights cases: "one of his state's leading strategists to hold down desegregation," Jack Bass wrote in Unlikely Heroes, his book about the 5th Circuit in the 1960s. His appointment by Nixon in 1969 heralded the beginning of the end of the 5th Circuit's days as a force for desegregation. None of this in the remarkably sanitized AP obit.

... Judge Clark was interviewed about the James Meredith case, in which he was an attorney for the State, for the Eyes on the Prize documentary, in 1986:
Alright. I think given the conditions, the social conditions that existed in Mississippi in 1961, if when James Meredith brought this lawsuit against the university, the university system had simply said well if you sue us, we'll, we'll admit you[,] had capitulated without testing his right to be admitted ... [i]n the regular processes of litigation[,] there would have been a great deal more unrest and ferment, turmoil uh as a result. I think that it was important to the state of Mississippi to conduct a test in accordance with the usual procedures of law, to determine whether or not Meredith was entitled to admission. And from that standpoint I think that it was the right decision by the, I thought it was the right decision by Mississippi at the time, I continue in retrospect to think that it was the correct decision to raise all proper legal defenses.

* * *


Judge Charles Clark:
I've got a sense that the university suffered immeasurably. It has never been since then the same institution that it was before that time in my eyes, I think that it, it has achieved some uh successes since then but I think that it was irreparably damaged, uh, well irreparable is too big a word, I think that it was measurably damaged by the Meredith incident for many years afterwards.


Judge Charles Clark:
Because of the publicity, because it was the focus of a racial integration incident uh, and the university got a bad name for even defending itself in the courts. Historically, and as I tell you that as far as I'm concerned then and now it had a complete legal right to make a defense in the courts to the charges against it.
Interesting .... (The transcript is unedited or seems to be, and I've modified punctuation etc. in brackets to convey the apparent thought better.)

... In almost, but not quite, completely unrelated news, the mom and dad on Wizards of Waverly Place (yes, I have a 6-year-old) are dressed up for their Civil War reenactment. I guess I missed the episode where they're away at the Tea Party rally.

"Now we're just haggling over price."

"I wonder why this did not appear in the U.S. press," muses Andrew Sullivan. Of course, he doesn't really have to wonder:
"President Obama recently warned Libyan President Muammar Gaddafithat the brutality inflicted on his own citizens was 'outrageous and it is unacceptable", saying it violates 'international norms and every standard of common decency'. He said those responsible 'must be held accountable'. President Obama ended his remarks by saying 'the United States will continue to stand up for freedom, stand up for justice, and stand up for the dignity of all people.'

"The United States cannot stand up for justice and the rule of law when it sits idly on its own record of torture. It diminishes the weight of its moral authority to influence others around the world when it treats its binding legal obligations as options it can choose to exercise or ignore. If President Obama is sincere about standing up for fundamental values, then America's actions must live up to its rhetoric." - Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor at Guantánamo.
Of course, neither Obama nor Bush is on the same level as Qadaffi. But the difference seems to be one of degree, not of kind.

... Sully also links to this useful timeline of psychologists' participation in crafting American torture methods.

Call me back when a court sanctions a computer

As part of a worthwhile article on a "hollowed-out" jobs economy, where midlevel jobs can be performed by computers, the NYT waxes a tad breathless over computers that can do document review for lawyers:
Now, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, “e-discovery” software can analyze documents in a fraction of the time for a fraction of the cost. In January, for example, Blackstone Discovery of Palo Alto, Calif., helped analyze 1.5 million documents for less than $100,000.

Some programs go beyond just finding documents with relevant terms at computer speeds. They can extract relevant concepts — like documents relevant to social protest in the Middle East — even in the absence of specific terms, and deduce patterns of behavior that would have eluded lawyers examining millions of documents.

“From a legal staffing viewpoint, it means that a lot of people who used to be allocated to conduct document review are no longer able to be billed out,” said Bill Herr, who as a lawyer at a major chemical company used to muster auditoriums of lawyers to read documents for weeks on end. “People get bored, people get headaches. Computers don’t.”
That's swell and useful, but what happens if and when the computer misses a document and you fail to produce it -- or fail to recognize its value for your client?

I can do a word search on a scanned PDF document, but I know that scans don't always catch every instance of the word. Does the scan relieve me of my duty to actually read the document?

Friday, March 04, 2011

Now, compute the truth-value of "this is Marie of Roumania"

Late one morning [Hendrik] Hertzberg got a phone call from a man who identified himself as William Shawn, the editor of the New Yorker. "Yes," Hertzberg replied before hanging up, thinking that his friends were playing a prank on him, "and this is Marie of Romania." Then the phone rang again, and the caller insisted, "No, this really is William Shawn."
This anecdote's charm derives in part from the fact that Hertzberg was quoting the last line of a short poem by famous New Yorker writer Dorothy Parker:
Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong --
And I am Marie of Roumania.

Is supersymmetry in super-trouble?

The Standard Model, and even moreso string theory, have tried since the 1970s to incorporate supersymmetry or "SUSY" to solve various issues. SUSY postulates that the particles we observe have counterpart particles on the other side of the fermion-boson (loosely "matter-force") divide, so that instead of the seeming discrepancy between 12 fermions and 4 bosons that make up everything, there would be a "supersymmetry." (That sentence is probably too amateurish to be correct, but there is always Wikipedia.)

Anyway, one of the perks of the Large Hadron Collider was supposed to be testing whether SUSY really exists, or rather, existed back when the universe was a livelier place. Signs point to "no":
SUSY's utility and mathematical grace have instilled a "religious devotion" among its followers, says Adam Falkowski, a theorist at the University of Paris-South in France. But colliders have failed to turn up direct evidence of the super particles predicted by the theory. The Tevatron at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, for example, has found no evidence of supersymmetrical quarks ('squarks') at masses of up to 379 gigaelectronvolts (energy and mass are used interchangeably in the world of particle physics).

The LHC is now rapidly accumulating data at higher energies, ruling out heavier territory for the super particles. This creates a serious problem for SUSY (see 'SUSY's mid-life crisis'). As the super particles increase in mass, they no longer perfectly cancel out the troubling quantum fluctuations that they were meant to correct. Theorists can still make SUSY work, but only by assuming very specific masses for the super particles — the kind of fine-tuning exercise that the theory was invented to avoid. As the LHC collects more data, SUSY will require increasingly intrusive tweaks to the masses of the particles.

So far the LHC has doubled the mass limit set by the Tevatron, showing no evidence of squarks at energies up to about 700 gigaelectronvolts. By the end of the year, it will reach 1,000 gigaelectronvolts — potentially ruling out some of the most favoured variations of supersymmetry theory.
As the article goes on to note, some folks' 30 years of studying SUSY could begin to look rather pointless, not to mention a crash in their Nobel futures. Most attempts at string theories also require SUSY, so this could be bad news for those guys as well.

(Via, who else, 3QD.)

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Mississippi Rules of Advisory Procedure

From a pleading making the rounds:
Appellants first allege that ___'s brief violates M.R.A.P. 32(a) because of the use of single spacing in the body of the brief. ___ agress that the rule requires "double spacing between each line of text, excluding quotations and footnotes," but in the discretion of ___'s counsel, single-spaced text was used in parts of the brief because of counsel's opinion that these parts were easier to read and process in this format.

The majority of ___'s brief is double-spaced, and ___ used single-spacing in some part of the brief to emphasize or draw attention to certain points.
(Boldfacing added.)

Ah yes, the well-known "discretion of counsel" exception to court rules! Almost as well known as the use of single-spacing to increase readability or provide emphasis.

... The court refused to strike the brief in question or afford any other relief (such as resubmitting it in rule-compliant format), so I guess the rules *are* merely advisory.

Witnessing "experts"

Tom Ricks flags this article on "counter-terrorism instructors" who "certify" cops after inculcating them in the Glenn Beck School of Islamofascist Studies.
Kharoba told the class that there are two types of Muslims in America: "honest ones who Americanize their names, and those who use long Arabic names as a smokescreen. 'If I pull someone over at a traffic stop,' said Kharoba, 'I'll ask for a couple of IDs. And if I see different spellings of a name, my Christmas tree is lit up. That's probable cause to take them in.'"
This from a guy named "Kharoba"? What is that, Scottish? Ricks has more, or you can read the whole thing.

Mark Kleiman thinks what this story tells us about police "certification" as experts:
One point the piece doesn’t note: Having gone through this nonsense “training,” the officers will then be able to qualify themselves as “expert witnesses” in court. I’ve heard some astonishingly bad testimony from alleged police drug experts, claiming expertise from “trainings” just like this one. Judges seem quite incurious as to the content of the process that makes someone an “expert,” and it seems to be the convention that lawyers for the other side attack the testimony but not the capacity of the witness to offer an expert view in the first place.
I wonder how much discovery criminal-defense lawyers get into police "expert" qualifications? Not as much as in civil proceedings, I think.

... Oh, "Kharoba" is a Jordanian name. I guess it's a short Arabic name, which seems to place Mr. Kharoba in some third category.

You're their leader, Obama -- follow them

Widely reported is the new NBC/WSJ poll on how Americans want to handle the deficit:
[The survey] listed 26 different ways to reduce the federal budget deficit. The most popular: placing a surtax on federal income taxes for those who make more than $1 million per year (81 percent said that was acceptable), eliminating spending on earmarks (78 percent) [because no one knows what an "earmark" is but it sounds bad], eliminating funding for weapons systems the Defense Department says aren’t necessary (76 percent) and eliminating tax credits for the oil and gas industries (74 percent).

The least popular: cutting funding for Medicaid, the federal government health-care program for the poor (32 percent said that was acceptable); cutting funding for Medicare, the federal government health-care program for seniors (23 percent); cutting funding for K-12 education (22 percent); and cutting funding for Social Security (22 percent).
The Democrats in Congress, perhaps because they are millionaires themselves, absolutely will not get behind the public. Obama needs to do it.

The article goes on to note that jobs, not budget cuts, are the major concern for the public, and then suggests why the GOP can't or won't listen (besides the obvious, that they are elected to make the rich richer and the poor poorer):
Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the survey with Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, says these results are a “cautionary sign” for a Republican Party pursuing deep budget cuts.

He points out that the Americans who are most concerned about spending cuts are core Republicans and Tea Party supporters, not independents and swing voters.

It may be hard to understand why a person might jump off a cliff, unless you understand they’re being chased by a tiger,” he said. “That tiger is the Tea Party.”
With any luck, the GOP wins in 2010 may be a blessing for the Dems in 2012, as the public gets a reminder of what the GOP stands for. But Obama has to do more than sit on his hands.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

When you put it like that, Your Honor ...

It's sometimes fun to read the first sentence of an appellate decision and guess who won. This example (via Bashman) does not disappoint:
The question this appeal presents is whether Florida’s license requirement for interior designers practicing in commercial settings within the state violates the United States Constitution.
If you're thinking that doesn't sound too good for the renegade interior designers, you are correct.

Dorothea de Lieven

The waltz, originally a German country dance, appeared in revolutionary France in 1793, and spread from Napoleon's Court to St. Petersburg and Vienna. Madame de Lieven brought it to England in 1812, but did not venture to dance it at Almack's until Tsar Alexander, on his visit to London in 1816, danced it there with her. A dance in which the man seized his partner around the waist and clasped her to him, in public, had not been known in polite society since the sixteenth century, and it naturally created a sensation; and in the atmosphere of Almack's in Regency days, it could hardly have the innocent significance which it had, as an already established custom, in staid Victorian times. Even after the Tsar had set an example, most members hesitated to dance the waltz; but Captain Gronow states that in course of time Palmerston might be seen 'describing an infinite number of circles with Madame de Lieven', and the Austrian chargé d'affaires, Baron Neumann, waltzed regularly with the Princess Esterhazy.
-- Jasper Ridley, Lord Palmerston, at 43.

The Princess Lieven (a German married to a Russian noble) was at different times the mistress of Guizot and of Metternich, and had more to occupy her mind than waltzes:
Princess Lieven “succeeded in inspiring a confidence” with prominent men “until now unknown in the annals of England”, wrote Russian foreign minister Count Nesselrode. Her friendships with George IV, Prince Metternich, the Duke of Wellington, George Canning, Count Nesselrode, Lord Grey, and François Guizot gave Dorothea Lieven the opportunity to exercise authority in the diplomatic councils of Great Britain, France, and Russia. She was a political force, a position reached by no other contemporary female.

The Princess participated, either directly or indirectly, in every major diplomatic event between 1812-1857. She knew “everyone in the Courts and cabinets for thirty or forty years”; she “knew all the secret annals of diplomacy”, wrote a French diplomat. Palmerston seems to have resented her interference, writing " a busy woman must do harm because she can do no good."
That was ungracious of Palmerston to his erstwhile dancing partner and, it may be, mistress.

There seem to have been a couple of English biographies of her, none in print. This 1903 review by Sydney Smith of one volume of her many letters (they are important sources for diplomatic history) goes into her biography in some detail, including her introduction of the waltz to England -- in 1816, says Smith.

... Nicholas I's deficiencies as a human being have been well recorded by Edward Crankshaw and others, but Smith's review provides a new example. The Tsar did not approve of the princess's leaving Russia to settle in Paris, after two of her sons had died in St. Petersburg:
Incredible as it may seem, he did not permit her husband to announce to her the death of a third son, which she only learned through a letter addressed to him being returned to her through the post with the word 'Dead' written on the envelope.
... And she was a Lutheran! Philip Mansel, Paris Between Empires: Monarchy and Revolution 1815-1848, at 334. Her [husband's] family was Baltic German, tho she seems to have identified strongly with Russia. [Correcting basic stupidity on my part.]

Maybe it's not an empire when you're just keeping the coloreds in line

Apropos of Huckabee Hound's latest "Obama grew up in Kenya" dog-whistle -- hey, is it really a dog-whistle if the rest of us can hear it too? -- Andrew Sullivan finds himself puzzled:
And as a Brit, I have to say I find it remarkable to hear Americans of all people deny that the British Empire was, in fact, imperialist. Well, wasn't it? I mean: how else would you describe British rule in Kenya? Enhanced occupation techniques?