Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Man and Nature

So many have so much to say about the astounding devastation of Katrina on the Gulf Coast.

This cartoon says all I could say about the relationship between man and nature.

False Gods

The humorless among us will regard the photographs at left as utterly sacriligious and without redeeming social commentary. I happen to disagree, but then, I do have a sense of humor.

"Bottoms up."


Blogroll Addition

After months and months of summertime bloggerific sloth, and staring into the eyes of Labor Day Weekend, I noodled around my own blogroll to see what folks were up to. Having ignored Venomous Kate for way too long, I paid her a visit, and slid over to her pal, Velociman -- he's got a lot of unique things to say in his digs at Velociworld. I'm addin' him to my roll pronto.

Check that out.

Update: I also discovered that, unknown to me until now, I have been added to the blogroll of Layman's Point of View. He's from down the road in Connecticut, and I am glad to add a fellow New Englandah to my Homeys.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

One Embarrassed Alumnus

Boy am I embarrassed.

I had the enormously good fortune to attend one of the very best private boarding schools in the world, Phillips Academy, from which I graduated in 1973. My wife also graduated from Andover, in 1976. Her brother and I were classmates there. And my daughter is entering her junior ("Upper") year in days. To this day, I regularly socialize with a small group of my classmates who long ago became life-long fast friends.

Over the years since graduating, I have religiously made gifts to the school, sometimes well in excess of my means -- and I have been actively involved in alumni affairs for 30 years.

Most assume that a place like Andover is a playground for rich kids. It is not. While many of my classmates were from privileged backgrounds, just as many were not. I shared a dorm with a guy from South Bronx, a guy from south-side Philadelphia and a guy from inner-city Baltimore. Because of its enormous endowment, Andover was able to execute a "blind" admissions system, and the great majority of the student body was enjoying some degree of financial assistance. That's what great institutions do with their endowment, and it is how they remain great institutions.

So when I found this column by Alex Beam in today's Boston Globe, I was red-faced:

...why did the prestigious Phillips Academy at Andover, a $33,000 a year upper-class finishing school that claims both George Bushes among its alumni, recently threaten to sue a brand-new, tiny, all-black charter school in the poorest part of New Orleans? Because the school calls itself the KIPP (for Knowledge Is Power Program, a San-Francisco based chain of charter schools): Phillips Academy.

[uh...finishing school?]

Now, I might be willing to accept the notion that a school of Andover's reputation might be overly protective of its tradename, and for the sake of this piece, let's assume that is legitimate in this instance. Phillips Academy doesn't wish to have its tradename diluted by the presence of other private schools with the same name...But there is a time, a place and a method for pursuing one's interests, and my alma mater blew it big time on this one. According to the original story in the Times-Pickayune, after a series of "nasty letters and phone calls" from Andover's attorney, Michele Whitman, a co-managing partner at the white shoe Boston firm Foley Hoag & Eliot,

Robichaux called her to assure that the two schools, serving opposite ends of the socioeconomic scale, one in the Deep South and the other in New England, couldn't possibly be confused. "I said, 'You can't be serious,' " Robichaux recalled. "I started laughing on the phone. She didn't like that."

Whitham, of the Boston firm of Foley Hoag, could not have been more serious, Robichaux said.

"Are you aware that President Bush graduated from our school?" Whitham said, according to Robichaux. "There's nothing funny about this -- we could go further. . . . And do you have the resources to fight this?"

This sort of "do you know who we are," "we'll bury you in paper" attack on a tiny minority school is dispicable and ludicrous, and is the type of behavior that makes a caricature of the school as an institution and lawyers as people. (I wonder where Michele Whitman did her finishing -- hopefully not at Andover).

Now the story ends on an up note:

But cooler heads have prevailed: Mike Feinberg, the head of the Knowledge is Power Program foundation, had a cordial conversation with Barbara Landis Chase, the "head of school" in Andover. They agreed the KIPP school would change its name to KIPP Phillips College Prep, and the Andover school would contribute $2,000 to their costs for changing the name on signs and students' uniform T-shirts.

Barbara Landis Chase is a brilliant, good humored and charitable soul, and she has done an impeccable job during her eleven year tenure in making Andover accessible to an enormously diverse world of young students. Although Beam accuses her of having "initiated this idiocy," I sincerely doubt that she called up Ms. Whitman on the phone and said "I want you to call this man and threaten to sue him -- and be sure to mention that George Bush went here."

It would be my hope that in the future, Dr. Chase sees the efficacy in picking up the phone herself, before the white shoe litigators are unleased on the unsuspecting principals of struggling minority charter schools in the Louisiana bayou, and suggesting (in the convincing manner that heads-of-school quickly develop) that Andover would be most willing to contribute the cost of a name change, if that would be fine with him, and "do please keep me informed of any of your students who you consider to be compelling candidates for an Andover education."

Come to think of it, there was no one from New Orleans in my class.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Guideposts Through A Thicket

In today's edition of, of all things, the Washington Post, Columnist Sally Jenkins takes a (unusually fair) peek at what some of the scientists studying concepts of intelligent design have to say about their subject, and offers a fair middle ground for us to consider:

Athletes do things that seem transcendental -- ... they possess a deep physical knowledge the rest of us can learn from, bound as we are by our ordinary, trudging, cumbersome selves. Ever get the feeling that they are in touch with something that we aren't? What is that thing? Could it be their random, mutant talent, or could it be evidence of, gulp, intelligent design? ....

...[A]thletes also are explorers of the boundaries of physiology and neuroscience, and some intelligent design proponents therefore suggest they can be walking human laboratories for their theories....

...The idea, so contentious in other contexts, actually rings a loud bell in sports. Athletes often talk of feeling an absolute fulfillment of purpose, of something powerful moving through them or in them that is not just the result of training. Jeffrey M. Schwartz, a neuroscientist and research professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, is a believer in ID, or as he prefers to call it, "intrinsic intelligence." Schwartz wants to launch a study of NASCAR drivers, to better understand their extraordinary focus. He finds Darwinism, as it applies to a high-performance athlete such as Tony Stewart, to be problematic. To claim that Stewart's mental state as he handles a high-speed car "is a result of nothing more than random processes coming together in a machine-like way is not a coherent explanation," Schwartz said....

...Instead, Schwartz theorizes that when a great athlete focuses, he or she may be "making a connection with something deep within nature itself, which lends itself to deepening our intelligence." It's fascinating thought. And Schwartz would like to prove it's scientifically justifiable....

...Schwarz finds little or nothing in natural selection to explain the ability of athletes to reinterpret physical events from moment to moment, the super-awareness that they seem to possess. He has a term for it, the ability to be an "impartial spectator" to your own actions. "The capacity to stand outside yourself and be aware of where you are," he said. "Deep within the complexities of molecular organization lies an intrinsic intelligence that accounts for that deep organization, and is something that we can connect with through the willful focus of our minds," he theorizes....

....None of this is to say that we shouldn't be wary of the uses for which ID might be hijacked. In the last year, numerous states have experienced some sort of anti-evolution movement. That makes it all the more important for the layman to distinguish the various gradations between evolutionists, serious scientists who are interested in ID, "neo-Creos," and Biblical literalists. One of the things we learn in a grade school science class is a concrete way of thinking, a sound, systematic way of exploring the natural world.

But science class also teaches us how crucial it is to maintain adventurousness, and surely it's worthwhile to suggest that an athlete in motion conveys an inkling of something marvelous in nature that perhaps isn't explained by mere molecules. Johann Kepler was the first to accurately plot the laws of planetary motion. But he only got there because he believed that their movements, if translated musically, would result in a celestial harmony. He also believed in astrology. And then there was Albert Einstein, who remarked that "Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind." Historically, scientific theorists are sandlot athletes, drawing up plays in the dirt.

I think Ms. Perkins' approach is one that fairly puts scientific discovery of our origin into proper historical context -- and her use of Einstein's own words to reach the point is lovely. Drawing upon that theme, here are a few other notables who offer some perspective on competitive ideas and the illusory nature of objective truth:

F. Scott Fitzgerald: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. "

Ernest Hemingway, in a 1958 Paris Review interview with George Plimpton discussing great fiction, defined the racing form as "the True Art of Fiction," because all of the facts are there, but they don't add up when you put your money down. [He also said that "the most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof shit-detector," but that is the subject of another post.]

William Faulkner: Facts and truth really don't have much to do with each other. The end of wisdom is to dream high enough to lose the dream in the seeking of it.

Ah, so much can be learned when you're not so convinced you already know.

(Hat Tip: B. H. Roscoe)

Teaching Punctuality

Here is a subject near to my heart.

In an apparent accident of fate, I was born with the annoying "punctual" gene. I don't think that during my fifty years of breathing, I've been late more than a half-dozen times (except for circumstances entirely out of my control, such as massive traffic accidents or the fault of others). I do admit, I have forgotten a lunch date or two -- but forgetfulness is a different animal than tardiness.

This has caused me a substantial amount of stress over the years, because -- well, because as a general rule, the whole rest of the world is at least fifteen minutes late.

I have always regarded this as an outrage, but one that I am helpless to affect. So, following the old maxim that "if you can't beat them, join them," I have only recently begun to relax my punctuality standards. Of course, for business meetings, hearings, committee meetings, appointments and the like, I remain a minimum of ten minutes early. But for the garden variety social occasion such as meeting someone for dinner or a drink, I can casually stroll in five minutes late and feel no guilt at all.

And then wait another twenty minutes for others.

So I find this new initiative in Massachusetts schools to compel students to be on time for class admirable , if also a bit too late:

Fed up with students routinely strolling into class well after the bell rings, high school principals across the region plan to crack down on excessive tardiness with new punishments, and to lure pupils with new incentives.

In Needham, starting tomorrow, officials at the high school will try to entice students to show up on time by offering approved days off.

In Springfield, authorities at one high school plan to hand out T-shirts and water bottles to pupils with records of punctuality.

In Wellesley, high school administrators plan to reward prompt juniors by letting them leave for free periods -- a perk normally reserved for seniors.

Rewards for the exhibition of common courtesy! Now what have we come to. According to one official:

''There's something in today's youth. They're just not putting value in showing up on time," said Paul Richards, the principal at Needham High. ''The sheer number of students who are late to school or late to class is pervasive."

Do you suppose it has anything to do with conditioning? Monkey see, monkey do? "I wanna be like my dad?"

Now I will grant (being the owner of two) that a sleeping teenager is a dangerous animal to disturb. And the notoriously slothful body clock of the common teen may have much to do with being late for first period. But third period? Gym?

There's more at work here. And high school principals are just the people to grab the bull by the horns. After all, since public schools are now feeding and medicating our kids, it's not too much to expect that they might instill some of the basic courtesies that parents have no time to instill (if they ever had them).

Oh damn! I'm late -- gotta go.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Scaling the Pinnacle of Lunacy

How is your cell phone coverage?

If you say 100% perfect, you're lying, no matter who your provider is. And one of the reasons that is the case is that, in most urban and suburban areas, there are pockets of opposition to cell phone towers that make the behavior of the Gaza settlers look positively stellar.

As a legal practitioner of wireless telecommunications permitting, I have been exposed to outright hatred, and bilious, vile insults. I have been called a murderer, a liar, a polluter -- and I'm "just the messenger" (actually, I think the term is " mouthpiece")!

Strident opponents of cell towers come in a variety of stripes and colors -- many just do not want to look at an "ugly tower," although they say so without regard for whether or not they'll actually see the damn thing (from their homes, at least).

But there is this special brand of zealot who opposes wireless telecommunications technology because of the fear that microwave radiation is a health risk.

Of course, the health risk of radio frequency emissions has been a topic of such a vast amount of research over such a long period of time that there's really no reasonable argument that "the jury is still out." In fact, the exposure risk has been so conclusively proven to be miniscule that Congress saw fit to exclude health and environmental harm as a basis on which local governments could deny a permit.

But that doesn't stop people from fearing the unknown.

Yes, I thought I had pretty much heard everything. But I was wrong.

You see, according to these kooks, "Many people believe that once a tower is set up for cell phones, other instruments are being added that are being used, or will be used, for electronic mind control. "

Electronic mind control. Yep.

In case you're a circumspect type that wishes to give the benefit of the doubt on the first pass, let's look at the source reference that is offered to support this outlandish claim:

"The fact that viglante stalking and electronic harassment has become common, and is NOT prosecuted by the justice system of any country, means that constitutional rule of law is DEAD. When citizens can be targeted for years and DECADES without law enforcement acting to stop the crimes, you have no rule of law, you have the rule of the jungle."

"Daily, unexplainable harassment. Break-ins at home, work, and car. Thefts and sabotage just below a cost where police will act. Vicious, well organized rumour campaigns. Destruction of reputation, career, and relationships. Unusual medical symptoms for which doctors find no cause. Well organized, very cleverly engineered 24/7 harassment by vigilante-style stalking gangs, activities of which are ignored and denied by all levels of government. These vigilante gangs are NETWORKED and moving to a different city does NOT stop the harassment.
Electronically induced sleep deprivation and PAIN.

This web site is about one type of the ongoing (and vigorously denied)
government ignored or backed crimes. This crime can be called "gang stalking" or "vigilante gang stalking" and is sometimes accompanied by invasive, through-the-wall, zero trace evidence "electronic harassment."

Wow. What are the government-backed crimes, you might want to examine?

"The deliberate engineering of the 9/11 terrorist attacks by the U.S. government, clear from the obvious use of internal demolition charges in the two World Trade Center main towers and a third not hit by an aircraft or even heavy sections of the main towers. "

OK, we can stop here. No need to continue, you get the point, right?

The marvel is that this lunacy is the cornerstone for the sale of a special "product" from Metatech called the "Tower Buster." What is this miraculous device that will save mankind from "them"?

"The Tower Buster is a 3oz paper cup, like the ones for bathroom dispensers, filled with a half/half mix of resin and metal particles into which I insert a single, funky quartz crystal. Like the Ugly Duckling, these lonely crystals are dear to me because they demonstrate that our devices work extremely well with an absolute minimum of attention to quality and refinement."

I am not making this stuff up, folks. You might refer to it as the high-tech equivalent of the tin hat.

So friends, remember when you lose a call on I95 that, as annoying as it may be to have to redial, it may be that these people are engaged in a more important mission -- protecting you from the onset of world martial law -- and this minor inconvenience is a small price to pay for freedom from tyranny.

Other secret information you should know about that metatech is protecting you from:

The Mars Records, "Clearing sessions with a biofeedback meter where a man regained hidden memories of military service on Mars, Time Travel, Killing with Remote Viewing, Mind Control, and Military and Alien abductions. "

There's also "Reptilians Steal Babies" and "Do you Have Alien Implants in Your Ears?"

Metatech isn't all about useless ranting drivel, however. They have provided us all with the answer to the age old problem of dealing with the stress of relationship difficulties:

"Relationship Troubles may be Caused by Commands Inserted into the Brain during Alien or Military Abduction ."

I'm going to try that one out the next time I get in at 2:30 am.

And then I'm going to grab a blanket and pillow, and head to the couch with my new tin hat.

This Man Embarrasses Me

At this delicate point in time, conservatives do not need to be deflecting or disavowing the outlandish statements of Pat Robertson.

And I was not terribly impressed by mild response from the White House which apparently is concerned about "offending" the CC base.

The man deserved to have been denounced for his words. Republican leaders should have shown more backbone and called him out. The good Christians can't be too eager to defend him.

And Pat's apology, while prudent, also came too late.

Be Careful What You Wish For

There's not only this, but you've got to believe that the evicted residents have left Gaza much in the same fashion as graduating seniors leave their college dorm rooms.

Nonetheless, as they say in real estate, it's all about "location, location, location."

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Knowing of my fascination with birds from my posts on the spring migration of warblers, a friend of mine sent me this link, where one lucky fellow shot a series of pictures in the Oso Flaco Dunes nature preserve, on the Central Coast of CA.

This hummigbird had built her nest in brambles only 30" from the ground, and set about doing what all birds do -- raising chicks.

It looks as though this enterprising creature broken into a fiber-fil factory to steal its cushy product.

Some comfortable-looking nest, ain't it?
These guys sure seem to think so. Looks like they're getting big, doesn't it?

Ohhhhhhhh, you didn't see this coming, did you?

Another stunning demonstration of the irreducible complexity of evolution!

Cindy Sheehan -- a Cartoon of Herself

I am one of those who believes that Cindy Sheehan's war protest is cartoonish in a pathetic sort of way.

Nonetheless, the start Texas landscape and juxtaposition of her and the President does lend itself to a sober commentary (even if I don't agree with the message).....

My perspective is, however, more along the lines of this.....

H/T: Wizbang

Discerning a Politician

An old country preacher had a teenage son, and it was getting time the boy should give some thought along the line of choosing a profession.

Like many young men, then and now, the boy didn't really know what he wanted to do - and he didn't seem overly concerned about it. One day, while the boy was away at school, his father went into the boy's room and placed on his study table a Bible, a silver dollar, and a bottle of whiskey.

"Now then," the old preacher thought, "I'll just hide behind the door here, and when my son comes home from school this afternoon, I'll see which of these three objects he picks up. If he picks up the Bible, he's going to be a preacher like me, and what a blessing that would be! If he picks up the dollar, he's going to be a businessman, and that would be okay too. But if he picks up the bottle, he's going to be a drunkard - a no-good drunkard and Lord, what a shame that would be."

That afternoon, the preacher heard his son's footsteps as he came into the house and headed back to his room where he spotted the objects on the table and stopped to inspect them. Shortly, he put the Bible under his arm, dropped the silver dollar into his pocket and took a big swig from the whiskey bottle.

"Dear Lord," the old man wailed sorrowfully, "He's gonna be a politician!"

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Eat Here and Get Gas

Cost me as much to drive to Maine last week as it did to buy my family dinner at Shackford & Gooch's Clam Hut in Kennebunkport.

Might as well give this a try.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Knock Knock Joke

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Spending, Republican Style?

Okay people, I can't be the only one who is unwilling to give my fellow Republican majorities and President a free pass for the LARD coming out of Capitol Hill. We used to be tight-fisted, now we can't keep our hands to ourselves. But I'm not going to rant and rave about it. I'll just allow bro to do the talking.

A Great Bit of Parody

In response to the ridiculous AP story about a conservative group out of Virginia opposing Judge Roberts because of his pro bono involvement in the Romer case, some wacky group of conservative bloggers have erected a fabulous parody site, Conservative Bloggers Who Support the Gay Judge Roberts. Heh heh. I'm in.

James Taranto is quite
amused that the AP seemed to play the story straight when the group's leader is clearly a well-documented prankster.

The blog, by the way, bears a striking resemblance in its design and color scheme to
Feisty. Do you have something to say, dear?


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Backgrounding Judicial Nominees

Following the outrageous report that the New York Times was looking into the adoption of John Roberts' adoption of two children, one might closely consider the necessity and importance of vetting the backgrounds of judicial candidates.

In the first instance, it is the responsibility of the Executive (Governor or President) to perform his or her own examination of the background of the candidate. Setting aside the candidate's political philosophy (which, regrettably, is almost an irrelevancy here in Massachusetts), it is essential to the public's confidence in the judiciary that judges be intelligent, temperate, experienced in the law, and (here it comes) that they don't bring any baggage to the position that would cause their actions on the bench to bring disrepute or disrespect to that very essential branch of government.

An effective Executive with a team of seasoned professionals working for him will be able to spot trouble before it arises -- or, alternatively, as has been the past in Massachusetts (and I'll bet most every state), a Governor's relationship with a particular candidate will trump whatever questions about competency, temperament or bias. In some of these cases, the body that ratifies judicial selections (here the all-impotent Governor's Council) will do so notwithstanding the candidate's weaknesses (typically when the candidate is as wired with the Council as s/he is with the Governor.

Here in Massachusetts, the risk of such an occurrence has been presumably reduced with the establishment of a Judicial Nominating Commission, whose job it is to review and recommend candidates for the judiciary to the Governor. According to their website, they seek "men and women of the highest quality whom by temperament, ability and integrity will freely, impartially and independently interpret the laws and administer justice." Pursunt to an Executive Order establishing the Commission, the JNC is the arbiter of first resort on an applicant's qualifications, which are reviewed initially by the JNC without knowledge of the identity of the applicant. There follows an elaborate and extensive review and due diligence process that may or may not result in an applicant's name being forwarded to the Governor with the JNC's imprimatur of "qualified."

With all of these highly proper safeguards in place, it would come as a grave disappointment that an applicant for the jduiciary would pass through the crucible of such a process with some serious and obvious skeleton in his or her closet.

Consequently, I am perplexed to have found a story in the Boston Herald this morning that appears to portray a rather gaping insufficiency in the Commission's work.

A top Bristol County prosecutor up for a juvenile court judgeship allegedly recently told her ex-husband she should ``just shoot'' him as their bitter custody battle rages in Plymouth Probate and Family Court, records show.

State police Sgt. Barry J. Domingos claimed that his ex-wife, former homicide prosecutor Renee Dupuis, said: ``We would be better off if you were dead. I should just shoot you,'' according to a June 6 affidavit reviewed by the Herald. ....

....The Herald reported Saturday that Dupuis and Domingos were in a nasty legal war over the care of their daughter. In a deposition Dupuis gave to her ex-husband's attorney in 2001, she accused him of physical violence during their 10-year marriage. Domingos, in turn, accused Dupuis, 44, of drinking to excess during the marriage. Both have vehemently denied the accusations. ...

... Domingos has also accused Dupuis in court documents of failing to buy proper clothing for their daughter, calling him ``dumber than dirt,'' and allowing her dog to urinate and defecate on his lawn.

Dupuis, meanwhile, has accused Domingos of physical violence toward her during the marriage, calling her a ``lush'' and a ``drunk'' in front of their child, and taking the child out of school without Dupuis' knowledge, court records show.

Now, I am not suggesting that every potential judicial candidate that has gone through a nasty divorce should per force be disqualified from appointment to the bench. While I have successfully evaded any involvement in a divorce case in my 25 years of legal work, I surely understand that divorcing couples say some exceedingly nasty things about one another, many of which may be wholly fictional. But what appears unusual in this case is that the JNC's process of due diligence did not discover this sordid record before forwarding the candidate's name to the Governor, and have only now been asked to investigate it.

Having done a fair share of litigation in the Commonwealth's courts, I have come upon too many instances where sitting judges bring their personal biases to their job (sometimes blatantly so). In no other venue is this more prevalent than the probate and family court, where sexual biases (blatant or subtle) can have a significant impact on a litigant because the court, by its nature, deals frequently with issues affecting the relationships of spouses and their children.

While this is perhaps less true in the juvenile court, the court does deal with involving the care and protection of children, termination of parental rights, guardianship and other family matters, and hence, a juvenile court judge must look inside the family dynamic on a daily basis in making her judgments. A judge who has experienced her own bitter family dissolution cannot help but find it difficult to set those feelings aside in judging the circumstances of the litgants before her.

It is almost an unrealistic demand that we place on judges, to remove from their mind's eye all pretense of personal opinion while determining the rights of others. And yet we must demand it, because the application of the law according to an individual judge's personal perspective results in uncertainty and inequality of outcome. The public thus loses confidence and respect for the institution and its judges.

We do the public and the applicants a disservice when we don't assiduously ensure that candidates are free of the scars and deformities upon which they will be compelled to render judgment in the future.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Utterly In Contempt of COurt

In a story sure to tickle Bruce and Jay G, an Illinois woman was jailed for contempt of court for refusing the court's order to turn over a handgun to her ex-husband. She had attempted to tell the court that her husband was a convicted felon and could not own a gun, but the judge wouldn't listen. When, in court, the woman's father suggested to the judge that the woman instead hand the gun over to her (the judge), she order both the woman and her father arrested.

From the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

...Beth Ritchie said she did not know of her husband's felony convictions until she opened a letter in 2003 from the Illinois State Police declining Tim Ritchie's request for a Firearm Owner's Identification Card. In a divorce court order splitting possessions, Tim Ritchie was awarded the pistol, a 9 mm automatic. He said the weapon was a gift from his father.

Beth Ritchie said that, without her husband's knowledge, she had asked her father, Richard Swift, of Grafton, to take the pistol out of the couple's house in 2003. "I was worried about Tim having the gun there, that it was illegal and could get us both in trouble," she said.

Beth Ritchie said she had mailed certified letters a month before Thursday's hearing to three court officials - Associate Judge Nelson Metz, State's Attorney Bill Mudge and Circuit Clerk Matt Melucci - informing them of the legal dilemma over the pistol. She said she followed the letters up with calls but never heard back from the officials. ....

So, during a status hearing in which she was asked why the gun had not been returned....

...Beth Ritchie said that she explained the situation to [Judge Ellar] Duff but that the judge refused to listen.

"She said she didn't care about other circumstances, that I had better return the gun to Tim immediately," Ritchie said.

At that point, Beth Ritchie's father approached the bench, after getting permission from the judge.
"I could see the letter Beth had written, outlining the whole matter, right there on the bench in front of her (Duff)," said Swift, 59.

Swift said he asked whether the pistol could be given to Duff to transfer, "so that we wouldn't be the ones breaking the law."

"At that point, Judge Duff just snapped and ordered my daughter and me arrested for contempt of court," Swift said. Swift said Duff quickly recanted the order against him. Beth Ritchie was shackled and taken away. ...

Now I suppose most readers have discerned by this point that Judge Duff is not the star of the Illinois judiciary. But it's fun to witness extraordinary displays of idiocy, so let's listen in:

Duff said Friday that she had ordered Ritchie arrested because she had been disrespectful.

"This was a disgruntled person who flat out refused, blatantly and disrespectfully in open court, to comply with a court order," Duff said.

When asked whether Duff knew that complying with the order would constitute a crime, the judge said she did not know that Tim Ritchie was a convicted felon.

"That did not come out in open court. If they said it did, they are liars," Duff said.

When asked whether a court reporter had been present at the hearing, so that a transcript could determine whether Ritchie and her father were, indeed, liars, Duff said, "I never said they were liars. You're twisting my words."

There is an old saying: It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

H/T: Overlawyered

Grey Lady Gets Her Fingers Dirty

Last week I noted the beginning of the liberal establishment's attack on John Roberts, what with his "elusive views" and counseling his client (Sandra Day O'Connor) to "cloak her views."

That's all just garden variety innuendo-laden slant, compared to this:

According to Drudge, "The [New York] TIMES has investigative reporter Glen Justice hot on the case to investigate the status of adoption records of Judge Roberts’ two young children, Josie age 5 and Jack age 4, a top source reveals....A TIMES insider claims the look into the adoption papers are part of the paper's "standard background check." "

This is simply despicable.

H/T Professor Bainbridge.

Roberts' Work on Gay Rights Case a Curve Ball

Courtesy of Ann Althouse, I learn that, while in private practice at Hogan & Hartson, Supreme Court nominee John Roberts worked pro bono on behalf of the plaintiffs who challenged a voter-approved 1992 Colorado initiative that would have allowed employers and landlords to exclude gays from jobs and housing.

The L. A. Times reports:

Then a lawyer specializing in appellate work, the conservative Roberts helped represent the gay rights activists as part of his law firm's pro bono work. He did not write the legal briefs or argue the case before the high court, but he was instrumental in reviewing filings and preparing oral arguments, according to several lawyers intimately involved in the case.....

....Jean Dubofsky, lead lawyer for the gay rights activists and a former Colorado Supreme Court justice, said that when she came to Washington to prepare for the U.S. Supreme Court presentation, she immediately was referred to Roberts....

"Everybody said Roberts was one of the people I should talk to," Dubofsky said. "He has a better idea on how to make an effective argument to a court that is pretty conservative and hasn't been very receptive to gay rights."...

She said he gave her advice in two areas that were "absolutely crucial."....

....She said Roberts served on a moot court panel as she prepared for oral arguments, with Roberts taking the role of a Scalia-like justice to pepper her with tough questions.When Dubofsky appeared before the justices, Scalia did indeed demand specific legal citations from the lower-court ruling.

"I had it right there at my fingertips," she said."John Roberts … was just terrifically helpful in meeting with me and spending some time on the issue," she said. "He seemed to be very fair-minded and very astute."

I think this is marvelous.

What is Nan Aron going to do with this information? I hope she chokes good and hard on it.

And how about those on the hard right who are privately nervous because they haven't received rock-hard reassurances that Roberts will do their bidding? Oh, there'll be some hand-wringing on this, for sure.


The only thing conservatives are entitled to get from this conservative President is the nomination of a candidate of impeccable qualifications, character and integrity who has credibly espoused a philosophy of judicial (not political) conservatism.

And the only thing liberals are entitled to is a candidate of impeccable qualifications, character and integrity. It seems to me that this is another example of a man whose humanity and professionalism trump ideology.

I can't wait to have him on the Court.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

World-Class, My Ass

The Mayor of Boston and assorted Movers & Shakers are always going on and on about how Boston is a "World Class City."

"We don't need to keep the bars open all night to be a World Class City!"
(Well okay, but what do you tell the Japanese businessmen who would like a scotch at 3:00 a.m.?)

"We don't need a 'gentlemens' club' to be a World Class City!"
(See above.)

Of course, bar hours and adult entertainment are only two of the more controversial issues that mire Boston in this perennial struggle betwen "small city" and "big city." Here's one of the more mundane incidents that demonstrates more eloquently than any strip club or all-night entertainment why Boston will continue to be just an assortment of small towns within a city limit:

For years, it was a crafts store that sold homemade afghans and a place where mothers in Fairmount Hill gathered for knitting lessons.

Last winter, the shingled Hyde Park storefront took in a new tenant -- a business that neighbors say has turned their quiet streets into screaming raceways, shattering the peace of their summer evenings and terrifying car drivers and pedestrians alike. Scooter X Press has become one of the most popular minimotorcycle dealerships around, selling at least 800 bikes since it opened in March -- and driving many neighbors to distraction.

''It's like having a firecracker store in your neighborhood," said Bob Vance, president of the Fairmount Hill Neighborhood Association.

So, a scooter vendor opens up a storefront in "Hyde Pahk," starts selling them to neighborhood families by the truckload (800 units in five months!!), and the neighbors are clamoring for action because the kids are riding them in the street.

And what are our World Class City Leaders going to do about it?

Just as the City did with Fenway area parking lots during the ALCS and World Series, they've come down on Scooter X Press owner, Steve Davis:
The city has cited Davis for several violations, including repairing bikes without a permit and unpermitted use of the sidewalk for displaying bikes.

Davis says he followed the permitting instructions given to him by the city and that he never used the sidewalk -- only his own property -- for displaying his bikes.
Hassle the store owner. Only in a World Class City like Boston would a business owner need a permit to repair bicycles. A world-class solution to the problem. But that's not all. Surely an issue this grave requires legislative action.

In its latest bid to confront what some call the scourge of shrieking minibikes, the Boston City Council today is scheduled to consider a ban on selling minibikes in residential neighborhoods and local business districts. City Councilor Rob Consalvo, who proposed the idea, happens to live a few blocks from Scooter X Press and says his office has been inundated with residents' complaints.

''We should be selling these bikes in manufacturing zones, industrial zones, away from families, from children, from the elderly," he said. ''Our residential neighborhoods, our local business districts are not the appropriate place for these bikes to be sold."

Can you see how plainly stupid Councilor Consalvo is? Does he not understand that it is not the presence of the scooter store that makes the noise, but the scooter riders? Can he not see that, no matter where the store is, the owners of the scooters will ride them in their neighborhoods, not where the store is located?

Surely someone is going to clue him in to the error of his logic. After all, Scooter X Press is not the only store selling the items.

Since the minibike craze first seized Boston last year, all sorts of retail businesses have rushed in to capitalize. Auto dealers, toy shops, and minimarts have begun selling them on the side. Icon Barber Shop on Washington Street in Dorchester has sold 60 of them this year, according to an employee there.

''We've got computer stores selling them, we've got a clothing store selling them," said Davida Andelman, the director of community health for the Bowdoin Street Community Health Center in Dorchester. ''People are not driving them safely; they're not driving them with helmets on. I've seen little kids riding them. . . . They're loud and they have no redeeming value whatsoever."

No redeeming value. Maybe the kids would be better off hanging on the corner. Would she and the neighbors consider talking to the parents of the scooter riders and trying to work out some fair use rules? Nah. Right to City Hall, where even the smallest problem can be the subject of a city ordinance.

So Councilor Consalvo is proposing a zoning change that would forbid retail shops from selling the bikes, and outlawing scooter sales in residential and local business districts.

Surely the Mayor of this World Class City can see that this is going overboard -- that in a world class city, there are more sensible ways to address such a mundane neighborhood problem.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino would have to sign off; yesterday he said he would. ''Sometimes government has to step in and protect people," he said.

Sometimes? Especially during an election year. It is imperative that the highest powers in the city step in to protect the neighborhoods from teenagers riding scooters by harrassing a neighborhood business and putting him out of business.

Petty politics, certain to prevent Boston from ever entering that vaunted category of world-class.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A Real Threat to Power

A while back I posted on a legislative hearing involving a proposal to revampt the process of congressional and legislative redistricting. The legislation would have established a special commission, the members of whom would be independent of the legislature (but perhaps not completely), who would be responsible for redrawing legislative district boundaries based upon a few simple principles:

Districts must be comprised of contiguous towns, respect town and city borders, and maintain compactness. The commission would not be allowed to consider the home addresses of any sitting lawmaker or the party affiliation or voting history of residents.

The idea would be to remove the almost irresistible power of the legislature's leaders to use the redistricting process to reward allies, punish enemies, and maintain or consolidate the power of the ballot box.

The proposed legislation is going nowhere, as predicted, so the coalition of advocates is taking their constitutional amendment to the people, and will attempt to garner sufficient signatures to have the question appear on the ballot in the next statewide legislative election. Backers must gather more than 66,000 signatures this fall for their ballot question, then get at least 51 of the Legislature's 200 lawmakers to vote for it in two successive sessions. After that, a majority of voters would have to approve of the change in the 2008 election.

This is an idea whose time has arrived. Practically speaking, if you look at some of the congressional and legislative districts that current exist as the result of years of political maneuvering , you have to wonder how much worse it could possibly get.

For instance, here's Congressman James McGovern's district.McGovern was originally the congressional aide to Congressional dinosaur Joe Early. Early served back in the days of Tip O'Neil and Joe Moakley. He got caught up in the congressional banking scandal, where congressmen were cashing checks on insufficient funds for years.

Early's district looked quite a bit different then. But Peter Blute, a state rep from Shrewsbury, came out of nowhere and beat Early. To get the seat back, the Democrats carved up Blute's district and Jim McGovern won the seat (with solid support from organized labor -- no surprise there). Note how the district runs from Fall River (east of Providence) all the way to Princeton (north of Worcester).

Here's the district of Barney Frank at the right. It starts in Newton (where, I believe, Frank used to live), and snakes through eight single towns before it begins to show continuity between towns. Frank's district evolved to this point beginning many years ago, when the Democrats had an opportunity to combine the district of Frank and Margaret Heckler, a Republican who eventually became President Reagan's Ambassador to Ireland. This was a good way to do it, adding gritty blue collar Fall River, taking away some of Heckler's base towns. Frank's district inherited New Bedford after the retirement of Gerry Studds, when Bill Delahunt, long from Quincy, preferred to have his old Quincy base added to the 10th, necessitating the shrinking of the district at the southern end.

Here's one more that raises a laugh. The Middlessex Suffolk and Essex state senate district of former Senate President Tom Birmingham. Here is a description of the district:

Consisting of the cities of Cambridge, ward 3, precinct 2, ward 6, ward 7, ward 8, precincts 1 and 2, ward 9, precinct 1, ward 10, precinct 2, Everett, and Somerville ward 1, precinct 1, ward 2, precinct 1, all in the county of Middlesex; the city of Boston, ward 2, ward 21, precincts 4, 6, and 7, ward 22, precincts 1, 2, and 5; the cities of Chelsea and Revere ward 6, all in the county of Suffolk; the town of Saugus, precincts 2, 6, and 10, all in the county of Essex.

While this effort is well-intentioned, and I may even collect signatures for it myself (been a long time), it will suffer the same fate as other efforts of the citizens in the past. It will be ignored by legislative leaders, because each of them understands that they will not lose an election as a result of ignoring their constituents on such an issue.

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