Thursday, May 27, 2004

If you need to give a commencement speech, Iowa Hawk's got your template here.
Just when the sex scandal called Washingtonienne has about jumped the shark - word has it she's appearing on "Save Washintonienne" bumper stickers and getting calls from playboy, yet seems to have a good attitude about it all - there's a new blog-related firing to fill the gossip lines.

Unfortunately for Amy Norah Burch, her case lacks the juicy sex scandal that could lead Washintonienne to a nice, soft book deal landing. According to the article in the Harvard Crimson, Ms. Burch, an "undergraduate coordinator for the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies" has included in her email signature a link to her personal website, That site included a link to her online blog. Inevitably, someone in her department decided to follow the trail, and wound up reading items like this one:

"“Work is aggravating me. I am one shade lighter than homicidal today. I am two snotty e-mails from professors away from bombing the entire Harvard campus.”

Harvard decided it would rather not be bombed, and took the opportunity to fire her blogging behind. And I don't think the Enquirerer is interested.

I don't understand why one would create a public blog with the idea that no one will read it. According to the article, Burch has deleted the contents of her blog, replacing the archives with a single entry: “Voyeurism is bad. Please go peep someplace else, Tom.” WTF? You put a blog onto the net. That's not voyeurism. If you take an ad out in the local paper, don't get mad if it's been read and taken seriously.

Caught the story on How Appealing. Blogger also has an article on "How to Not Get Fired Because of Your Blog."

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The Iowa Libertarian is back. Follow his links to find out what prompted the sudden resurrection of his blog.
An interesting theory by Rehka Basuin today's Des Moines Register. She equates Senator Hollings’ support of the Jewish Conspiracy behind the Iraq War theory with Bill Cosby’s criticizing some lower-income African-American parents he said would rather spend money on fancy shoes than phonics. She claims that each are seen as “racist” but neither truly are, they are just attempts to open an honest discussion like her earlier article questioning whether John Kerry is the correct democratic candidate for the presidency.

At first blush, it would seem the analogy holds. The stereotypical, racist view of African-Americans is that they are lazy, shiftless, etc. That theory has been used to support both slavery and the idiotic “separate but equal” policies of the last century. As I pointed out earlier, the stereotypical, medieval view of the Jewish people is that they are cheap, power and money-hungry people who conspire to rule the Christian world. That was used to support pogroms, genocide, and the Nazi regime of the last century.

However, I suggest that there are some differences that belie Ms. Basu’s point.

First, examine her analogies: Bill Cosby, an African-American himself, could be seen as a traitor to his own cause by his castigation of lower-class blacks. Secondly, Rehka Basu, as a democratic columnist, could be seen as a traitor to her own cause for questioning the qualifications of Senator Kerry. From those two points, one would expect Senator Hollings to be Jewish. Um, no. He’s Lutheran, according to his website. His Jewish connection?

“We have a very, very proud Jewish community in Charleston. In fact, it is where reform Judaism began. The earliest temple, Kadosh Beth Elohim, is on Hasell Street. I have spoken there several times. I had the pleasure of having that particular temple put on the National Register. This particular Senator, with over 50 years now of public service, has received a strong Jewish vote.”

Sound a bit like “I can’t be anti-Semitic, some of my best friends are Jewish?”

Second, I find the freedom with which even intellectuals use discriminatory slurs against the Jewish people telling. When I was on vacation recently and bargaining for a parea from a beach vendor, I had several American bystanders advising me to “jew him down.” Would we use the n-word so freely in casual conversation? I find it strictly taboo in my circles. So why do we feel free to use that particular expression?

I also linked earlier to this article regarding the attitudes expressed towards the Jewish people at Berkely, under the guise of “anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic.” If they are not anti-Semitic, why use phrases in their protest signs like “F*CK JEWS” and 'Die, Juden.' I’m sorry, but anyone who thinks that those phrases are not anti-Semitic needs to have their head examined.

I do agree with the idea that political correctness should not preclude an honest discussion of the facts. But the conspiracy theory put forth by Senator Hollings is so far-fetched as to be ludicrous. To reiterate the theory, as outlined by the Senator: The Jews in Israel must have known whether or not Saddam had WMD’s prior to this war, because, well, Mossad knows everything. They knew he didn’t have any, knew there was no Al-Quaeda connection, but wanted us to invade anyway to help secure their borders. Meanwhile, on our side, from the day he took office "Bush thought tax cuts would hold his crowd together and that spreading democracy in the Mideast to secure Israel would take the Jewish vote from the Democrats." Even in his explanatory article, he continues to propound this theory. He claims this is the American and Israeli joint “domino” policy, to topple Arabic governments, indiscriminately bulldoze Palestinian homes and kill children.

Given the above, I still find the theory smacks of the “don’t you know Jews control the government” ideas in pre-WWII Germany. I am concerned at the level of anti-Jewish sentiment that is allowed to pass under the "anti-Zionist" label. And while I don't believe political correctness should censor rational, logical debate, neither do I believe one should allow remarks that smack of racist, sexist, or anything-ist to pass unchallenged. Holling's motivation for his actions should be as open to inquiry as Bush's. That is the nature of debate.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The overly-organized criminal. Maybe you and Martha Stewart can share a cell,if she's sentenced to jail time.
Very stupid laws: Oregon man kicked out of park for playing ball. Games were banned according to park rules. Saw it on Dave Barry's site. He's also got a lot of posts on the movie he's currently shooting, complete with photos.
Brent has some cool pictures of the storm clouds last night over on Cop Talk. Fortunately, the funnel cloud never touched down.
Meanwhile, over at the Des Moines Register, one of the Dixie Shanahan jurors speaks out in a thoughtful, well-reasoned piece. Its always cool to hear how jurors have reached their decision, and I'm impressed with how seriously this jury took the authority given to them. Too often, the only stories you hear are about "runaway" juries who do things like consult ouija boards in reaching their decision (yes, that's an actual case). But despite the legal adage that you can never tell what a jury is going to do, most of the people I've talked to took their duty quite seriously and came to the best decision they could.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Yet another flag-burning case, an opinion in Lawson v. Hill by the 7th Circuit. Ruling: the mere existance of an anti-flag-burning statute on the books does not create sufficient risk of arrest or legal action against the plaintiff to create a cause of action for damages, absent an actual attempt by the government to prosecute her under that law.

The prosecutor had refused to proceed because it is axiomatic that laws banning flag burning are unconstitutional restrictions on free speech under the first amendment: the "U.S. Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment forbids punishing people who desecrate the American flag (although it does not forbid punishing the theft of an American flag by someone who means to burn or otherwise deface it or the burning of it in circumstances that would create a safety

hazard) in order to make a political statement . . . United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990); Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989); Spence v. Washington, 418 U.S. 405 (1974)(per curiam)."

But one cannot draft a flag burning statute without focusing on the political statement behind the burning, since technically the correct way to dispose of a flag is by burning it.

It has always annoyed me that every election year certain politicians trot out this type of legislation, knowing full well it's unconstitutional but hoping it will snag the flag-waver vote anyway. They presume your average voter won't know the difference, and they can just bask in the rhetoric because it sounds good. I find that highly condescending.
The Press Citizen has a new advertisment editorial on the fake rainforest in Coralville. Different day, same old . . . :

"While many questions have been asked about what happens if the components fail, the community also might want to ask what will happen if they succeed. Will other attractions - a casino quickly comes to mind - soon be proposed for the area?"

I understand. Don't bother with silly things like underreported budgets, inflated attendance forecasts, the basic stupidity of the idea. Just ask yourself: "What if?"

Okay, I can play that game.

What if I win the multi-state lottery?

What if I discover that the internal combustion engine can be run solely on dirt?

What if money really did grow on trees?

What if my mother really was right?

What if I . . . Think of a wonderful thought, any merry little thought. Think of Christmas, think of snow, think of sleigh bells, here we go!!!!! . . . .

Nope. That didn't fly either.
On a more serious note, I'd previously blogged on the deafening silence from the media regarding Senator Holling's assertion that Israel and American Jews were somehow the driving force behind the Iraq war in a vast Jewish conspiracy.

The tacit acceptance of the paranoia expressed by Holling is disturing, but what's been going on at Berkely is worse:

This article in the East Bay Express chronicles the experiences of Jewish students on campus:

"He remembers pro-Palestinian protesters insisting that Israeli border crossings are as bad as Nazi death camps. He remembers the glass front door of Berkeley's Hillel building -- where he attends Friday night services -- shattered by a cinderblock, with the message F*CK JEWS scrawled nearby. He remembers the spray-painted swastikas discovered one Monday morning last September on the walls of four lecture rooms in LeConte Hall accompanied by the chilling bilingual message, 'Die, Juden.'" . . .

"Student Daniel Frankenstein recalls being heckled and called a "conservative Zionist bastard" when he ran for student-body president last year. "One girl working on my campaign was followed around by someone who kept asking her, 'Are you a Jewgirl? Frankenstein's a Jew, so isn't everyone who's working for him a Jew?'" he said."

Eugene Volokh blogs about the article, and includes quotes from the clash between invited speaker Daniel Pipes and student protesters:

""Why was the World Trade Center attacked?" Pipes asked. "What was the reason?"

"Zionism!" someone yelled.

When Pipes proposed that global unrest can be addressed only "when we call it what it is: not a war on terrorism but a war on militant Islam," a chanting chorus erupted: "Ra-cist! Ra-cist!"

"Let him speak!" came a strangled yell. "Freedom of speech!"

"Ra-cist! Ra-cist!"

"It's so satisfying to see one's theoretical points proven so quickly," Pipes said in his best butter-cookie voice.

When he went on to call for Palestinian acceptance of Israel's existence, hisses swirled in the hall like steam. "No!" shouted many in the crowd.

"Death to Zionism!" proclaimed a voice."

I have no problem with the intelligent debate, peaceful protest, and reasonable criticism of Israeli politics and policies regarding the Palestinian people. It would take volumes to expound on my views on the conflict in the middle east, and you really don't want to read it all. But this level of hatred goes well beyond the pale. Why does it seem to be acceptable?

(NOTE: Censorship on the f-bomb was mine).
But they didn't cover that in Ethics class. . .

A New York lawyer has been fined for barking like a dog at witnesses.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Gilbert Cranberg has an editorial in the Des Moines Register proposing that every person charged with a felony in the state of Iowa be forced to have a lawyer whether they want one or not. The premise: "Greathouse, like the average person, was not competent to decide whether he should have an attorney to represent him."

At risk of alienating criminal defense attorneys' pocketbooks, I respectfully disagree.

The case cited by Cranberg hails from 1957. A judge who was unfamiliar with the sentencing laws insisted that life was mandatory for bank robbery, and sentenced a man accordingly. The Des Moines Register pointed out that the law had changed to allow for sentences as little as ten years, and pushed for resentencing:

"We soon heard from the sentencing judge; he insisted that life was mandatory for bank robbery, and that he had recently sentenced to life terms not only Greathouse but two other Iowans who had held up banks. The Register editorialized further, the judge retracted, Greathouse was resentenced to 35 years, and then-Gov. Herschel Loveless commuted the life terms of the other two to 25 years. . . .In each instance, the defendants were told they have a right to counsel, but they reasoned, 'Why bother? I'm guilty,'. . . "

I agree that the case cited by Cranberg was a miscarriage of justice. But it was the judge who dropped the ball there. They have a duty to know the law, and to apply it justly. Fortunately, judges take this duty quite seriously and I am not surprised Mr. Cranberg had to reach all the way back to his original 1957 story to find such a travesty.

He did try to find a more recent example:

"The court last year went further, overturning a conviction because the accused who pleaded guilty without a lawyer had not been told that "there are defenses to criminal charges that may not be known by laypersons and that the danger in waiving the assistance of counsel in deciding whether to plead guilty is the risk that a viable defense will be overlooked."

This, of course is the State v. Tovar decision I blogged about back in March here and here.

Of course, Cranberg conveniently refrains from mentioning that the United States Supreme Court decided that the additional warning was not required by the constitution. Even a cursory review of the decision in that case shows that Tovar was amply informed of his rights:

The Court: We are on the record in the State of Iowa versus Felipe Tovar, Case No. 23989. This is the time and place set for arraignment on a trial information charging the defendant with operating while intoxicated. Mr. Tovar appears without counsel and I see, Mr. Tovar, that you waived application for a court appointed attorney. Did you want to represent yourself at today’s hearing?

Tovar: Yes, sir.

. . . .

The Court: And did you want me to read that information to you or did you want to waive the reading?

Tovar: Waive the reading.

The Court: And how do you wish to plead?

Tovar: Guilty.

. . . .

The Court: All right. Gentlemen, if you continue with this desire to plead guilty, there are certain rights that each one of you will be giving up and I now will explain those rights to you. First of all, if you enter a plea of not guilty, you would be entitled to a speedy and a public trial by jury. But, if you plead guilty, you give up your right to have a trial of any kind on your charge. . . Do you understand that, Mr. [Tovar]?

Tovar: Yes, sir.

. . . .

The Court: If you would enter a plea of not guilty, not only would you have a right to a trial, you would have a right to be represented by an attorney at that trial, including a court appointed attorney. That attorney could help you select a jury, question and cross-examine the State’s witnesses, present evidence, if any, in your behalf, and make arguments to the judge and jury on your behalf. But, if you plead guilty, not only do you give up your right to a trial, you give up your right to be represented by an attorney at that trial. . . . Do you understand that, Mr. [Tovar]?

Tovar: Yes, sir.

. . . .

The Court: Gentlemen, those are the rights that you will be giving up if you plead guilty. Knowing that, did you still want to plead guilty? . . . . Mr. [Tovar]?

Tovar: Yes, sir.

Those warnings wouldn't be sufficient to protect Tovar from a misinformed judge who misapplied the law, as in the Greathouse case. But if you have that kind of a judge, not even a lawyer could have prevented the original incorrect sentence from being handed down. Greathouse had a judge who insisted he knew the law when he clearly did not. All an attorney can do for a client under those circumstances is register an objection, try to reason with the judge, then file an appeal. When you look at it, that is exactly what happened to Greathouse. The paper tried to reason with the judge, and eventually the man was resentenced. So the entire premise, that having an attorney would have prevented the Greathouse miscarriage of justice, is false.

But I can hear the Register op-ed guy now: what's the harm? Why not require lawyers to represent clients on every felony? Two reasons. First, lawyers cost money. A lot of money. Even "court-appointed" lawyers are $50 per hour, which the defendant must pay back to the state as part of his or her sentence upon conviction. For many Iowans, that's an astronomical sum. There are an entire host of crimes that are technically felonies - the State v. Tovar case was a third offense Operating While Intoxicated. These are not all life imprisonment charges, the vast majority are a two year term, if it's not suspended in favor of probation. When faced with the level of fines and jail costs involved, a defendant who knows he or she is guilty may choose to forego the additional legal expense, particularly if the prosecutor has agreed to recommend a suspended sentence to the Court. They have the right to do so. Which is my second reason. Charles Manson was pro se for some time during his trial. So was the subway bomber (whose name currently escapes me). They were facing life in prison. They chose to proceed pro se. According to precedent, we actually have the right to defend ourselves rather than relying on someone else to do it for us, so long as we are mentally competent.

The Des Moines Register puts the entire article in terms of "giving" people a lawyer or "allowing" them the right to consult with counsel. The article fails to mention that this proposal would actually "force" people to have a lawyer whether they wanted one or not. Because I believe in each person's right to do as they choose so long as it doesn't infringe on other people, I have a hard time justifying taking away the right to self-representation on the presumption that "the average person, was not competent to decide whether he should have an attorney to represent him."

Friday, May 21, 2004

Checked back in with the blog this evening - tons of new people, all looking for Washingtonienne's picture. If I had it, don't you think I'd sell it to the Enquirer before posting it for free? Sheesh.
Light blogging, if any, today. I have a funeral to go to.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Wonkette examines. . . . well, its worth a look. I snorted up my coffee when I got to Colin Powell.
More debunking: David Bernstein of The Volokh Conspiracy refutes Senator Fritz Holling's position that the Jewish community is somehow responsible for the Iraq war.

Holling's premise:

"President Clinton responded to Saddam's attempt on the life of President George H.W. Bush by putting a missile down on Saddam's intelligence headquarters in Baghdad. Not a big kill, but Saddam got the message -- monkey around with the United States and a missile lands on his head. Of course there were no weapons of mass destruction. Israel's intelligence, Mossad, knows what's going on in Iraq. They are the best. They have to know.

Israel's survival depends on knowing. Israel long since would have taken us to the weapons of mass destruction if there were any or if they had been removed. With Iraq no threat, why invade a sovereign country? The answer: President Bush's policy to secure Israel. . . .

Bush felt tax cuts would hold his crowd together and spreading democracy in the Mideast to secure Israel would take the Jewish vote from the Democrats. You don't come to town and announce your Israel policy is to invade Iraq. But George W. Bush, as stated by former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and others, started laying the groundwork to invade Iraq days after inauguration."

So Bush came into office intending to invade Iraq in order to sway the Jewish vote? Read the response, it's thorough and devastating.

I don't agree with how we started the Iraq war, but a Jewish conspiracy?

My question:

I recall reading about the pre-WWII rhetoric regarding vast Jewish conspiracies being behind the depression, moral depravity, etc. The proponents formed the bedrock of the Nazi party. History class traced these theories back through the pogroms, the massacres in middle ages, etc., but I always maintained a sense of incredulity: how could anyone be so insanely prejudiced? How could this type of fanatic paranoia possibly reach a national or international level?

When I read editorials like Senator Hollings', I can't help but wonder if I'm seeing the very beginning phases of history repeating itself. Why is it perfectly acceptable for him to blame the Jewish people, both at home and in Israel, for our war? Are the "the Jews own the world" ideas still bubbling under the surface somewhere, just waiting for the right vent to burst through?

Just wondering.

Major Ben Connable writes in from Ramadi, Iraq to discuss the situation there.

A key quote:

"Nothing any talking head will say can deter me or my fellow Marines from caring about the people of Iraq, or take away from the sacrifices of our comrades. Fear in the face of adversity is human nature, and many people who take the counsel of their fears speak today. We are not deaf to their cries; neither do we take heed. All we ask is that Americans stand by us by supporting not just the troops, but also the mission.

We'll take care of the rest."

A highly articulate article.

Via Instapundit.
The Iowa City Press-Citizen implies driving is a luxury:

"How high would gas prices have to go before you stopped driving or looked for alternate transportation?

“I’m already looking for alternate transportation. At $3, I’ll stop driving altogether.”

Curtis Hakeman, 35, Coralville

“Three dollars. It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s there soon.”

Chelsea Campanelli, 21, Cedar Rapids

“Four dollars to $5 per gallon before stopping. America is so used to driving, we would probably drive.”

Ron Johnson of Nebraska

“(You don’t stop) because you drive. I’d probably find a way. Hopefully, it won’t reach that point.”

Rita Sotelo, 55, Iowa City"

This is brought to you courtesy of the same city that eviscerated its downtown area by making free or cheap parking damn near impossible to find. When does the light bulb come on?

Hello, liberal reporter-type person?

We live in a rural community. Lots of land, ya know? Space?

If I don't drive, I don't eat, I don't work, and certainly don't come to your town to spend my money. That would put a crimp in the old fake rainforest in Coralville idea, wouldn't it?

We don't drive because we love staring at the pretty yellow dotted lines on the asphalt. We drive because we no longer live in feudal times where everything one needed was contained within the walls of the local manor. If I need groceries, I can't produce them out of thin air. Driving to the store takes 45 minutes, do you really think I have half a day to do a bike trip? Same with work. I simply don't have the stamina or the time to bike 42 miles one way. Of course, I could move into Iowa City where you could prohibit me from having my bonfires, restrict to the square inch the number of windows I can have in my home, and eventually raise my taxes to pay for the aforementioned Rainforest.

But then, where would you put me? You'd have to build things, contributing to urban sprawl. With bulldozers. That use gasoline.

The only way we are going to stop using fossil fuels is to obtain a reliable, inexpensive alternative. Work on that and leave the poor drivers alone.
Clayton Cramer addresses at length the issue of the Air Force's role in the 9/11 attacks. The question has apparently been circulating on the web via email forwards:

"'Where was our Air Force on Sept 11, 2001?'

Normally deployed whenever any private or commercial plane goes off course or is not responding, there will typically be a half dozen US Air Force fighter jets escorting an errant plane in less than 5 minutes. Yet none even left the ground in the 40 minutes between the two airliners flew into the twin towers, and still none in the many long minutes before the 3rd plane hit the pentagon and the 4th went down in PA.

Make you wonder?"

He's got the facts to answer that one.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Highly detailed posts about the legal aspects on the Brown v. Board of Education case at The Volokh Conspiracy. You can follow links to actual briefs, etc. Probably more than non-lawyers ever want to know.
Scrappleface reports:

"Rover Reboots 23 Hours After Phoning Tech Support

(2004-05-18) -- Almost a day after phoning tech support to solve a software glitch, NASA's Mars Rover rebooted this morning and seems to be functioning normally. . . .

"Actually, we were delighted that the Rover was able to get through to a tech support representative in only 23 hours," said an unnamed JPL spokesman. "There was an initial bit of confusion due to the Rover's difficulty comprehending the tech guy's Indian accent, but after the trouble ticket was written and the issue escalated only twice, the Rover was told to hold down its Control, Alt and Delete keys simultaneously. That did the trick."

It's worth the read.
Iowa blogger David Hogberg of Cornfield Commentary gets linked by Instapundit for his anti-war talking points memo. Its worth the read.
Cop Talk's a geek. Pass it on. Goofy


He's also an osculater!!
Duck and Cover

According to John Carlson's column in today's Register, American atheletes planning to attend the Athens Olympics are being asked to refrain from waving the flag, and might not even carry one. The column quotes Bill Martin, acting president of the Olympic Committee, in discussing the idea that

"the 600 American athletes carry small Greek flags in honor of the host country and possibly the flag of their country of origin during opening ceremonies.

"We may end up doing something like that," Martin told USA Today. 'This is an opportunity for our country to make a statement and soften our image. It is so important that we give the right impression.'"

I checked around the web. The Washington Times has this story:

"American athletes have been warned not to wave the U.S. flag during their medal celebrations at this summer's Olympic Games in Athens, for fear of provoking crowd hostility and harming the country's already-battered public image. The spectacle of victorious athletes grabbing a national flag and parading it around the stadium is a familiar part of international sporting competition, but U.S. Olympic officials have ordered their 550-strong team to exercise restraint and avoid any jingoistic behavior."

Am I to understand that our Olympic Committee's official position is that the type of "celebration lap" that's traditional in the olympics, and that other country's atheletes will presumably continue to engage in, will be perceived as hostile and discriminatory if a US athelete does it? I visited Cambridge Dictionaries Online to refresh my understanding of the adjective "jingoistic" just to see if I'm missing some nuance here. It says: "the extreme belief that your own country is always best, which is often shown in enthusiastic support for a war against another country" So by implication, Mr. Martin says that if the atheletes wave our flag they are supporting the war?

These sentiments were echoed in the same article by Mike Moran, a consultant hired to coach the atheletes on how to behave:

"Regardless of whether there is anti-American sentiment in Athens or not, the world watches Americans a lot now in terms of how they behave and our culture. What I am trying to do with the athletes and coaches is to suggest to them that they consider how the normal things they do at an event, including the Olympics, might be viewed as confrontational or insulting or cause embarrassment."

I have to reiterate that: no matter whether there is anti-American sentiment or not, waving the flag might be viewed as confrontational or cause embarrassment so we shouldn't do it.

In my not-so-humble opinion, this policy should tick everybody off. Traditional conservatives should be livid at the suggestion that pure patriotism is somehow offensive and should be squelched. Liberals and Libertarians should be shocked at the blatant attempt to censor the atheletes' speech and behavior and encroach on their civil liberties in such a manner. The Committee argues that atheletes should be cautious, as they will be perceived as representatives of the American people. I agree, but point out that in being our representatives, they are there to represent our democracy and freedom as much as our athletic capability.

Agree or disagree, Here's the contact page for the USOC if you'd like to make your feelings known on the subject.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

In case you missed it - I'm still playing catch up from last week - Tusk and Talon has a great analysis on the junk science flick of the year "The Day After Tomorrow".

I blogged a bit about this previously, when a Daily Iowan editorial tried to slip similar propoganda by as fact. Actually, it wasn't originally a blog. It was originally a letter back to the editor of the DI. Somehow it must have fallen into their circular file, because it never was published. Go figure.
An interesting idea via Truth Laid Bear: the Democratic National Convention is working to give bloggers press credentials to cover their conventions. Presumably, the Republicans aren't far behind. TLB proposes that readers contact their favorite blogger and pitch the idea of a tipjar-sponsored trip to blog one or more conventions. Not only personalized news stories, but your own sponsored correspondent to get the scoop? Trés democratic. How awesome is that?
Lower-level scandal in Washington via Wonkette. Apparently a female staff assistant ("or "Staff Ass," as the men on the Hill like to say. It's the entry-level job in each office.") created a public blog called Washingtonienne regarding her extra curricular activities, most of which are rated at least a hard R if not an X, and some of which involve money changing hands. (Says Wonkette: "So she has some extracurricular money-making projects -- it's not like she was selling crack. Uhm, OK. . . We mean, it's not like she was selling drugs. She was being entrepreneurial.") Washingtonienne's take on the situation was rather unique: "If you investigated every Staff Ass on the Hill, I am sure you would find out some freaky shit. No way can anybody live on such a low salary. I am convinced that the Congressional offices are full of dealers and hos."

Well, after Wonkette linked her, go figure, the word got around. Now she's been fired "in front of the interns and everything. " Some freaky stuff.


Swamp City cites it in reminding us blogging can be hazardous to your job.
Dave Barry posts THE RULES for saving seats, talking on the cell in public, and generally not being obnoxious in his Sunday column. Those who read his blog will recognize some of the issues from the ultra-scientific polling conducted through the comment area there.
The Iowa Supreme Court also issued some opinions on May 12th. One is Sager v. Farm Bureau Mutual Ins. Co.:


"Robert Sager intentionally set a fire in the basement of a house he shared with his wife Ramona in DeWitt. Angry after Ramona told him she was ending their relationship, Robert torched Ramona’s Christmas decorations in the basement of their house. . . . At a deposition conducted months later, Robert described the scene and his subsequent actions as follows: She had Beanie Babies everywhere and I was sick of them sons of bitches and I decided I was going to barbecue them. I had a big brush pile that I was going to burn outside and I had decided I was going to get all her Beanie Babies and take them out and barbecue the sons of bitches and went to get the charcoal lighter. Christmas has always been another big issue between us just because, you know, she sees it differently than I do, and I went in the basement to get the charcoal lighter and take it upstairs and fry her Beanie Babies and all her Christmas stuff was sitting there and I sprayed some charcoal lighter on her Christmas stuff and threw a couple of matches at it and it flared up a lot faster than I thought it was going to . . . . The fire quickly spread, and portions of the house were soon engulfed in flames. Robert’s pyromaniacal act caused approximately $100,000 damage to the house and its contents. Not surprisingly, Robert and Ramona later divorced."


Ramona wanted her insurance company, Farm Bureau, to pay for the damage. When she submitted her claim, they pointed to the “intentional loss” exclusion in her policy, which barred coverage for “any loss arising out of any act committed . . . (1) [b]y or at the direction of an ‘insured’ . . . and (2) [w]ith the intent or expectation of causing a loss.” Farm Bureau contended this exclusion precluded payment to Ramona because Robert, an insured, had purposefully started the fire.

There was a 1990 Iowa Supreme Court case called Vance v. Pekin Insurance Co., 457 N.W.2d 589 (Iowa 1990), which confirmed that the words ‘an insured’ meant just that: if any insured had intentionally caused the damage, there was no coverage for the loss. While it seems harsh to an innocent co-insured, the rationale behind the rule is that it precludes collusion and fraud against the company. In general, the Iowa Courts differ from other states in that they choose interpret simple language in a direct manner, without throwing in convoluted, strained interpretations just to arrive at the desired solution. So long as it isn’t a blatant public policy violation, they will let the simple terms of a contract stand.

However, Iowa Code Section 515.138 Fire insurance contract -- standard policy provisions -- permissible variations, states:

“It shall be unlawful for any insurance company to issue any policy of fire insurance upon any property in this state . . . different from the standard form of fire insurance policy herein set forth . . . . An insurer may issue a [different] policy . . . if such policy includes provisions with respect to the peril of fire which are the substantial equivalent of the minimum provisions of such standard policy . . . .”

General rule: when a policy provision conflicts with a statutory requirement, the policy provision is ineffective and the statute controls. The Standard policy referred to in the statute consistently used the term “the insured,” not “an insured.” Ramona argued the consistent use of the phrase “the insured” showed a legislative intent to apply the exclusions only to the “guilty” insured, and not to the innocent insured. Therefore, whenever a homeowner’s policy denies coverage whenever “an insured” intentionally causes the loss, it conflicts with statute. The Court hadn’t been confronted with this issue before, so it looked at what other states said on the subject. It found the great majority of states make the distinction Ramona was requesting. Therefore, the Court ruled that the provisions of the policy violated Iowa Code and that Ramona could get the money.


But there is one last twist, for those of you who might still be awake: in 2000 there was a case called City of Waterloo v. Blackhawk Mutual Insurance Assn. , 608 N.W.2d 442 (Iowa 2000). In that case, Blackhawk Mutual had paid it’s insureds, Kerry and Christine Corcoran, $15,750 for fire damage to their home. The City of Waterloo sent a letter to Blackhawk and asked it to set a “demolition reserve” pursuant to Iowa Code Section 515.150 (1993) – a different part of the same code section used in this case. 515.150 states: “An insurer shall reserve ten thousand dollars or ten percent, whichever amount is greater, of the payment for damages to the property excluding personal property on which the insurer has issued a fire and casualty insurance policy as demolition cost. . .” In other words, Waterloo wanted Blackhawk to set aside some of the settlement money for clean-up costs as required under the Iowa Code in section 515.

Blackhawk argued that the provisions of Iowa Code Section 515, which governed "Insurance Other Than Life" didn’t apply to it at all, because it is a county mutual insurance company. It argued it should be governed only by the provisions of Iowa Code Section 518, which governed "County Mutual Insurance Associations." It argued based on the distinctions between the provisions, and the general legal rule is that the more specific statute trumps the more generic one.

The court reviewed the distinctions between the code sections:

". . . [N]either chapter 515 nor chapter 518 suggests that any of their provisions are interchangeable. Chapter 515 is broad in scope, covering all corporations formed for the purpose of providing insurance other than life insurance. Iowa Code § 515.1. Chapter 515 is a much older chapter, first appearing in the 1873 Code, while chapter 518 was first enacted in 1965. See 1965 Iowa Acts ch. 401. Associations under chapter 518 have a more restricted scope of authority. Under section 518.11, they are authorized to insure only against loss or damage by (1) any perils "resulting in physical loss or damage to property," (2) theft of personal property, and (3) "[i]njury, sickness or death of animals and the furnishing of veterinary services." These associations are not authorized to write liability insurance. Also, under chapter 518, the properties that may be insured are limited to (1) farm properties including residences and other buildings; (2) buildings used in agricultural processing; (3) city residences; and (4) churches, schools, and community buildings. Iowa Code § 518.12. Just as the types of insurance and property covered by chapter 518 associations are more abbreviated, so is the scope of the statutory provisions themselves. Approximately seventy sections under chapter 515 have no equivalent provisions under chapter 518. . . . When Iowa Code section 515.150 was adopted in 1988, both chapters 515 and 518 were in existence. Yet, the legislature added the demolition-reserve provision only to chapter 515. See 1988 Iowa Acts ch. 1176, § 1. If the legislature had intended to apply the demolition-reserve requirement to county mutuals under chapter 518, we believe it would have added a similar provision to that chapter."

So apparently Ramona will have different coverage depending on where she buys her fire insurance. Always read the fine print.
New opinions of the Iowa Court of Appeals were published May 14th. I've culled one to blog on. The first is a license revocation, Hager v. Iowa DOT.


"Hager was arrested for operating while intoxicated on October 9, 2002. He was initially stopped for speeding. The deputy observed that Hager’s eyes were red and glassy and that there was a strong odor of alcohol inside his vehicle. Hager admitted he had consumed alcohol.[1] In addition, an open container was observed in his vehicle. Accordingly, the deputy requested Hager perform field sobriety tests. Hager told the deputy he had problems with his knees but that he could perform the tests. Hager failed several field tests, including the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk-and-turn and the one-leg stand. A preliminary breath screening test (PBT) indicated an alcohol concentration of .10 or more.[2] Hager was not allowed to physically see the results of the PBT. However, the deputy may have informed him the PBT indicated that his alcohol concentration was .10 or more. Hager was read an implied consent advisory and then was asked to submit to an Intoxilyzer test. He was allowed to call and speak with an attorney. He then refused the test and also refused to sign the implied consent form. The DOT revoked Hager’s driver’s license on the basis of his refusal to take the Intoxilyzer test. Hager requested a hearing, which was granted. He argued his refusal to submit to the Intoxilyzer test was invalid because he was not allowed to see the results of the PBT."


On the surface of the case, Hager merely wanted his driver's license back, because he claimed he never got to see the PBT results. But an additional defense tactic behind this argument becomes apparent if you understand that the PBT (preliminary breath test) is not admissible in court. Essentially, this rule would have forced the police to PBT every suspected drunk driver, and also forced them to show the driver the results. If the results are over .08, the legal limit in Iowa, then unless the driver is so intoxicated as to be really stupid, they are going to refuse the intoxilyzer breath test that is admissible in court. The State would then be forced to prove intoxication through circumstantial evidence such as manner of driving, performance on the field sobriety tests, smell and appearance of the defendant, and so on. It’s much harder to prove that someone was drunk that way, even though the law technically allows it:

Iowa Code Section 321J.2:

1. A person commits the offense of operating while intoxicated if the person operates a motor vehicle in this state in any of the following conditions: a. While under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or other drug or a combination of such substances. b. While having an alcohol concentration of .08 or more.

When there’s no test, the State has to use the first prong of the statute. But if they don’t have a test, the jury tends to be quite skeptical about the amount of alcohol the State can prove the defendant consumed – as well they should.

In my opinion, if the Court had ruled in his favor, Hager would have essentially eviscerated the .08 law, and even a .10 standard in many cases. I saw a video once of one hard-core alcoholic ( a county attorney, by the way) who had been picked up on an OWI. From the behavior of the defendant, you never would have guessed the blood alcohol content was over two and a half the former legal limit of .10. The individual was so used to alcohol that they seemed almost normal, only a bit of swaying.


"Section 321J.5(1) permits, but does not require, an officer to request a PBT for use as an early screening device. State v. Albrecht, 657 N.W.2d 474, 479 (Iowa 2003). A PBT is a “quick, convenient test,” to assist an officer in determining whether an arrest should be made. State v. Deshaw, 404 N.W.2d 156, 158 (Iowa 1987). There is no statutory requirement, nor any authority in Iowa case law, requiring law enforcement to provide PBT results to an individual. . . . [Hager’s] argument is based on supposed public policy principles. We find his argument unpersuasive. We agree with the district court that a PBT is legislatively intended simply as a preliminary investigatory device for use by peace officers to help determine if an individual has engaged in illegal activity and an arrest should be made. Peace officers are under no duty to visually reveal or verbally inform an individual of the results of a PBT. To rule otherwise would negate the legislative intent that a PBT serve as a “quick, convenient test.” We specifically hold that a peace officer is not required, as a condition precedent to implied consent, to provide PBT results to an individual."

So the ruling went well. I also looked up on Iowa Courts Online what happened to the OWI case. Mr. Hager had been charged with OWI second offense, based on a prior conviction of OWI in 1999. His case was pled down to a violation of 123.46, public consumption: "A person shall not use or consume alcoholic liquor, wine, or beer upon the public streets or highways." That's a simple misdemeanor, rather than a serious misdemeanor, and he was given a $500 find and no jail time.

(On a side note: According to the Iowa Courts Online records, for the 1999 OWI he'd been given some jail, some time suspended, probation. He ended up having a contempt hearing for some failure in completing the terms of the probation, for which he was apparently sentenced an additional two days with credit for time served. This should give some idea of the concessions made by the prosecution, though I can't state whether these were based on the lack of an intoxilyzer test.)

Mr. Hager's license was suspended by the DOT for two years for his refusal to submit to the alcohol test based on Iowa Code Section 321J.9 Refusal to submit -- revocation:

"1. If a person refuses to submit to the chemical testing, a test shall not be given, but the department, upon the receipt of the peace officer's certification, subject to penalty for perjury, that the officer had reasonable grounds to believe the person to have been operating a motor vehicle in violation of section 321J.2 or 321J.2A, that specified conditions existed for chemical testing pursuant to section 321J.6, and that the person refused to submit to the chemical testing, shall revoke the person's driver's license and any nonresident operating privilege for the following periods of time: . . .

b. Two years if the person has had a previous revocation under this chapter."

By my count, if Hager had won this appeal he would have gotten his license back a whopping five months before it would have been given back anyway. I hope it was worth the money.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Eugene Volokh blogs on the proposed law against low rider jeans in Louisiana:

It shall be unlawful for any person to appear in public wearing his pants below his waist and thereby exposing his skin or intimate clothing.

Apparently it provides for a punishment of up to six months in jail.

The post notes: "Still, it seems to me a bit odd that, if this law passes, it would be illegal to wear low-riding pants that show your underwear -- but perfectly legal to take off those pants and just walk around in the underwear."

I'd also add that I'm relieved to see that it only covers pants - low riding skirts apparently perfectly appropriate. Is this a sexist commentary on who the LA legislature would like to see wearing low-riders? Could be a pro-Britney, anti-plumber conspiracy at work.


It didn't pass.
I was so pleased to see they're going to close the major street through Iowa City a little earlier than the start of football season this year. I'd always wondered when the powers that be who plan construction would get a clue and actually start in the spring. Not looking forward to the detour, but at least the timing is right.
Meanwhile, Wide Eyed Insolence has a great take on those annoying Onstar commercials.
I've got a ton of work to catch up on, so I'm squeezing blogging in between projects. Cop Talk has a post up about the difficulty in dealing with death and despair. That is the occupational hazard I think is the most likely to lead to complete burnout. In my past career incarnations as a prosecutor, I've had to do both juvenile and domestic violence law. These occupations put you into indescribably atrocious situations, and requires you to be the voice of reason, when all you really want to do is take the perpetrator out and do the whole "eye for an eye" bit on them.

On the rare occasions that you can truly make a difference, there is no better job to have. Once or twice I'd run into people who were victims or relatives that thanked me for turning their lives around, and I felt like I was flying the rest of the day. But the majority of the time, it's as though you are trying to wipe up the ocean with a kleenex. Hang in there, Brent. The world needs good cops.
Iowa City Community Theater has a new website, with photos and everything. Very cool, Jeff!
Rob Bignell's article on the scarcity of silence reminds me how nice it is to live outside city limits. I rarely hear cars when I open my windows at night, just the crickets and frogs. One winter a few years back I lost power for three days. I kept the fireplace stoked and toasted things in there or outside on the gas grill. It was inconvenient, but peaceful. You wouldn't believe how deafeningly loud the fridge and furnace sounded when I finally got them back. It showed my how much background noise pollution can be generated even without the traffic and tv. Amazing what we can get used to.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Okay, I'm not supposed to be here. I'm really not. I'm supposed to be sipping a nice bottle of Sol con rocas y limon on the beach at Isla right outside Chi Chi Y Charlies'. When I have enough sun, I will go sit on the swings in the bar and make bead and wire necklaces and woven bracelets which I give to the bartenders and anyone else who seems to need one. I call it my arts and crafts therapy. (I tried drawing, but my aunt and Eunice were so much better at it than I that my stuff had no value.) It was funny to trade tips with the people selling their bracelets and necklaces on the beach. Pretty soon, they'd time their breaks to coincide with our bar and we had a few impromptu lessons back and forth.

Tonight I'm supposed to go out to eat at one of the street bistros and then go dancing at Jax's or Feyne's then hit the afterhours club La Penya until about five in the morning. Then I catch a few winks before getting up, heading out for breakfast and some light shopping, and the beach all over again.

That's pretty much the jist of it. I did get to tour the island, but never managed to do any diving or real adventurous things. Which was fine by me, I'd spent the last vacation rock climbing and river rafting in Colorado, and the one before that on a kayak camp trip on Lake Superior - I was ready for what I call a "chick vacation" - drinks, dancing, shopping and sand. Isla Mujeres is a very small island with a small town that it utterly safe to walk in at four or five in the morning - not that a twenty or thirty-something female with a modicum of attractiveness won't be able to find several people willing to escort her home. Discerning the cassanovas from the knights in armor is a skill best honed on the fly - always keep moving.

But even though it might seem monotonous, the people I met made it quite interesting. There was "John" the ex-agent who sailed the caribbean and was very adverse to having his picture taken. I take the ex-agent bit with a grain of salt - as with the mafia, the act of admitting membership generally proves the opposite. But regardless of what he did or didn't do, he was an intelligent guy and has great stories. Chris, the self-proclaimed redneck from Virginia who was down with his grandpappy, a spry old guy that had wandered around the islands for years and seemed to know everybody. Chucho, the "main man" at Chi Chi y Charlie's, along with Omar, Dylan, and Eunice who truly paint beautifully and has two boyfriends besides apparently running the endless paperwork trail produced by the bar. I have to wonder if the fill out a separate receipt for each lime wedge.

There was a girl, her name escapes me: I made a necklace for her birthday, and she had me try the beer she was drinking. It was so good, I tried to order another - then found out we'd drank all her birthday beer brought over specially from Cancun. The sheer friendliness of the people was incredible. There were the self-titled "Ya Yas" on their annual pilgrimage from Fox Run and other various points, enjoying the shopping and cocktails on the beach on a rotating basis.

Then there was "the entourage" as my aunt called them: The waiter at Feyne's who bought me a rose and showed up at the beach the next day to see me. Gabriel who kept following us down the street and asking to kiss us. The cuban dance instructor who really thought he was too cool to live. Too many others to list. They follow all the girls, fortunately I was only one duck in a target-rich environment.

Finally, Heath, Tess, Travis, Heather, and their parents, a beautiful family down to celebrate a wedding. I spent three days in their company, and had the best time in years. Congratulations Heather and Chas (I think that's how you spell it?). I'm still smiling, Heath.

A few pics to replace the generic postcards from last week:

The first is a cook at the restaurant we ate at when we first got on the island. It seemed so incongrous, his talking on a cell phone against that backdrop, that I couldn't resist. It's the only people picture, because I don't have permission to post the others and I wouldn't want to do it without.

The second is the street bordering Playa Norte, the main beach. I loved how the walls curved around the palm trees.

The third is a view down the main restaurant drag, featuring the tree across from Feyne's. I thought the horizontal branch looked like a lizard leaping into oblivion.

Forth and fifth are the obligatory beach chair and flower shots.

The last is the view of the beach snapped from the swings at Chi Chi y Charlies. I was done with sunning for the day and on to photography. By the way, if you go and are not familiar with Spanish, please note that "Chi Chi" means breasts. Poor Chris shortened the name of the bar when he came out looking for us one day, and he almost got himself slapped.

The vacation was to serve two purposes: relaxation away from a tremendous amount of personal stress I've been through in the past year, and a time to make major life decisions on where to go from here. I accomplished both.

And got a majorly cool tan.

Friday, May 14, 2004

I'm back the states, though not by choice. I keep wondering if I can make a living selling necklaces on the beach. I'd have to learn Espanol, but hey. . .

I met some amazing people while on the Island and I will blog a full report after the weekend.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

I'm in the middle of that last-day-before-vacation work crunch. Anything I don't get done this afternoon will be squatting in my in-box glaring at me upon my return, along with fifty or sixty friends it will have picked up while I'm gone. I've got a bunch of topics to blog on, just no time to do it - the Murphy's law of blogging: the amount of material you have to blog is always in inverse proportion to the time you have for blogging.

I may try to sneak some in this afternoon, otherwise I'll just have to drown my sorrows in a few Margaritas while I'm on Isla Mujeres. I've never really been to Mexico, so this should be a blast. I keep coming up with more things I forgot to pack.

The picture I set as my desktop background shows this colorful little boutique. I really like a couple of the skirts. I've already been window shopping, and I haven't even left the office yet.

I'm hoping to take a refresher scuba course and do a little low-key diving. I am in no way PADI certified but it's such a cool way to spend an afternoon.

But above all, I don't think the cell phone will operate there and I'm not gonna lug my laptop through O'Hare and Dallas International, so I'll be utterly out of touch with everything for the duration. Yay!

Vacaciones, vacaciones

Deseo nadar en el mar

Vacaciones, vacaciones

Deseo con usted bailar

Vacaciones, vacaciones

Déme otro tequila

Vacaciones, vacaciones

Vayamos a hacer compras

(Tune of La Cucaracha. Yes, I'm aware the grammar reeks. It's a drinking song, get over it.)

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

In case you were wondering - here's a chart on the price of gas for the past 25 years, with a second graphing for it adjusted for inflation.

Very informative, but very scary that they've actually kept track of this.
Never underestimate the power of blog. A blogpost prompts the 9th Circuit to amend its decision in the rather high-profile California three-strikes case. Its very cool when the net functions as it should. Would've been cooler if the judges had emailed the blogger to say thanks for the fact-check, as a Fifth Circuit judge did when Howard Bashman's How Appealing blog pointed out one of its errors.

Saw it on Instapundit.
Iowa criminals aren't all that bright. He hands the teller a $20 and asks for change, then demands all the money. She refuses. He flees - leaving the $20.
What it with spam and bloggers anyway? When I put my email on this blog I noticed the spam took a distinctive pharmaceutical and masculine turn. A batch from this morning had the following subject lines:

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The Register has this article on the Dixie Shanahan sentencing. Because I didn't attend the trial, I don't feel qualified to say that Ms. Shanahan should or should not go to prison for her actions. Generally, I do agree with some mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines because otherwise I feel there's a tendency to give "just one more chance" over and over and over until someone gets seriously hurt or killed.

That said, I also agree there should be a mercy "out" for ultra-extraordinary circumstances. Not the extraordinary circumstances that everyone who commits a crime seems to feel excuses their behavior (just attend a sentencing hearing sometime, you'll understand). But for the truly exceptional circumstances, we should allow judges to impose some intermediate step between the mandatory minimum sentence, which in Ms. Shanahan's case will be about 35 years, and the full Governor's pardon, which will impose no sentence whatsoever and immediately restore Ms. Shanahan to non-felon status with the exception of possession of firearms laws. Of course, it would require a high burden of proof to be met that there is legitimate reason to vary from the standard minimums, in order to prevent everyday excuses from being used. But it would allow the flexibility needed in a justice system.

By the way, generally state mandatory minimums are fair and should be applied as-is. I disagree with the Register's opinion that "The prisons are full of people who, if their cases were reviewed, could be released to get a new start in life and offer no threat to society again. Because of the state's inflexible sentencing rules, they will serve their sentences, taking valuable space that should be used for criminals who are a real threat to society." In fact, two days on an aggravated domestic assault (intent to inflict serious injury, use of a dangerous weapon, or has committed a prior domestic, with either the current charge or the prior or both having caused an injury) is too little, in my opinion. The feds, however, are another story. . .
Glad I read this before I went to Mexico: hemp-oil suntan lotions will trigger drug dogs and according to the article might cause a false positive on a drug test. I'm wondering how it could get into your urine? Where exactly do those people put their tanning lotion anyway???

This reminds me of the time my friend Danette had to take a drug test for her job, and forgot to ask the list of items to avoid. She'd had five lemon poppy seed muffins the day before. Whoops.
Speaking of international incidents. Only in Missouri.
I feel like going a bit more global today, given what I've been reading.

This article in the NY Times (registration required, but it's free) is titled: "In Sudan, Militiamen on Horses Uproot a Million".

Key quotes:

"Hawa Muhammad, 15, lost just about everything when the men on horseback came. They took her family's horses, donkeys and small herd of goats and sheep. They took her cooking pots and her clothing. They took her mother and her father, too. 'The men on horses killed my parents,' she said, referring to the Janjaweed, loose bands of Arab fighters. 'Then the planes came.' Now it is she to whom her six younger sisters turn when their bellies rumble. She recounted her tale as if in a trance. . .

Hawa's account of how the attack unfolded is the same as those heard in camp after camp across Darfur, as well as the settlements across the border in the desert of eastern Chad, where the United Nations estimates another 100,000 villagers have streamed.

Many were driven away by the Janjaweed, a few thousand uniformed militia men who have worked with government soldiers and aerial bombardments to purge villages of their darker-skinned black African inhabitants. . . .

Human rights groups and international officials charge that the Janjaweed have been used as a tool of the government to pursue a radical policy resembling ethnic cleansing.

The United Nations, which conducted its own tour of Darfur last week, said the crisis in western Sudan would last another 18 months — if the government managed to disarm the men on horseback soon.

But it remains to be seen whether the lawlessness will be tamed. . . ."

The second story is from CNN. Key quotes:

"African nations have ensured that Sudan will keep its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission, a decision that angered the United States and human rights advocates who cited reports of widespread rights abuses by the Khartoum government.

A coalition of 10 organizations concerned with human rights issues went further Monday, complaining that too few democracies are being nominated for seats on the commission.

In elections Tuesday for 14 seats on the main U.N. human rights watchdog, the coalition said three out of four African seats will be filled by non-democratic regimes -- Sudan, Guinea and Togo. In Asia, Vietnam and Pakistan, which both have questionable human rights records, are vying for seats and at least one will be elected, it said.

Under U.N. rules, regional groups decide which countries are nominated to fill seats on U.N. bodies."

Sudan is going to stay on the Human Rights Commission? This is the same Sudan where the government stonewalled Human Rights Watch efforts to investigate and end slavery, and not in 1794 or 1850, but in 2002? The same Sudan in which apostasy from Islam carries a death sentence? Where a pregnant woman was sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery under sharia law - when she wasn't even Christian?

Given my profession, I believe strongly in having the legitimate authority for any given action, preferably granted by a fairly elected representative body. When the Iraq situation arose last year, I was in favor of working through the UN to resolve the WMD issue on that basis, as it's the closest thing to a world-wide legitimate "authority" we have even though its technical status is debatable.

But according to the CNN article, regional areas that wish to engage in aggregious violations of human rights are able to band together into coalitions on the UN council and impose the candidates of their choice - i.e. Sudan on the Human Rights Commission. Therefore, the legal legitimacy of the UN as an authority is being rightly called into question, as these candidate's actions violate the purposes of the UN itself:



Article 1

The Purposes of the United Nations are:

. . .

2. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;

3. To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and. . .

I reviewed the requirements for membership in the UN in general, since it appears that member nations in the UN simply elect nations to fill slots on the Human Rights Council. I found the following:



Article 4

1.Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations. . . .

Article 6

A Member of the United Nations which has persistently violated the Principles contained in the present Charter may be expelled from the Organization by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.

It appears that a nation must not violate the Principles of the UN in order to remain or become a member. But the language regarding respect for human rights is in the Purpose section of the UN Charter, not the Principles section. Therefore, it is apparently not required that members grant their citizens any human rights, even at the most basic level. In addition, nations such as the Sudan are not democratic governments, but dictatorships imposed on the people. So groups of dictators can legitimately choose to band together within the UN to preserve their "right" to inflict horrific human rights violations upon whichever race/religion/sex/etc. is the persona non grata of the week? And that's our "legitimate" international governmental body?

Given the length of this post, I won't go into the corruption in the Iraq oil-for-food program and the subsequent speculation that financial interests were what motivated UN amassadors to prefer indefinite continuation of the WMD inspections, rather than authorizing a final deadline after which UN member's forces would reenter Iraq and take down Saddam Hussein's government.

The civics professor in my brain keeps reminding me that this is pure democracy at work - the good, the bad, and the ugly figuring out a way to get along. On the other hand, that's why we're a republic, and not a democracy: authority derived solely through mass meeting or other form of "direct" expression results in mob rule of public affairs without respect to law, precedents, or vested rights. I still believe that if we're going to live on this planet without destroying one another we've got to come up with a legitimate international authority that can fulfill at least the limited role of the United Nations and itsInternational Court of Justice, and ultimately in the distant future, a true world government. But when the legitimacy of the UN organization itself is called into question by the practices of its members, it must either be reformed or scrapped and rebuilt.

Monday, May 03, 2004

More evidence human beings are idiots.
Cedar Pundit has decided to take a break. It should be interesting to see what he comes up with for the sequel. has a tribute post.
Speaking of that, ever wonder what's inside the Magic 8-Ball?
Clayton Cramer posts these neat little clauses from John Locke's 1669 Fundamental Constitution of Carolina:

79th. To avoid multiplicity of laws, which by degrees always change the right foundations of the original government, all acts of [the Carolina] Parliament whatsoever, in whatsoever form passed or enacted, shall at the end of a hundred years after their enacting, respectively cease, and determine of themselves, and without any repeal, become null and void, as if no such acts or laws had ever been made.

I love this idea: no law lasts more than 100 years unless you prove there's a reason to keep it around. Every hundred years there's a nasty amount of work to do, but it would keep things current.

80th. Since multiplicity of comments, as well as of laws, have great inconveniences, and serve on to obscure and perplex: all manner of comments and expositions, on any part of these Fundamental Constitutions, or on any part of the common or statute laws of Carolina are absolutely prohibited.

What, no law reviews? No law blogs? What would we talk about? Is this a backdoor "kill all the lawyers" clause?

But then - how could the court comment on the laws in an opinion? There's no exception here. Just think - all decisions would be summary. Then we could really use the Magic 8-Ball approach to practicing law. I've got a vision in my brain of the lawyers trying to pass this law without commentary, in order not to violate it. It goes something like the "he said it again" bit from "Knights who no longer say ni" sketch in Monty Python's Holy Grail.

Saw it on The Volokh Conspiracy

Yet another guest editorial pointing out the fuzzy math behind the fake rainforest in Coralville.

"It is one thing when an individual or a group of individuals wishes to invest time and money in a cherished dream project. It is something entirely different, however, when such individuals get a U.S. senator to sneak an extra $50 million of federal taxpayer money as a rider on page 441 of an omnibus appropriations bill."

I agree - if the backers are so certain this will be such a money-maker despite our serious doubts, they should provide the funds through private contributions and tell the rest of us where to go. I suppose that's too visionary for them.
Just when you think there's hope for the human race, it turns out we're really just idiots after all.