Thursday, March 29, 2007

Another Example of Why We Love Golf

A lot of people don't get pro golf -- especially watching it on television.

They don't know what they're missing.

Because not only are "these guys good," they're also good. Good people, that is. Most of 'em, anyway.

Here's a fine example:

Having completed his second round at the CA Championship, Paul Goydos was basking in the less-stressful atmosphere of a World Golf Championship, which he was experiencing for the first time.

Goydos was there thanks to his win at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January. It was his second career win on the PGA Tour, but talk soon rolled around to Doral's 18th hole and other finishing holes, such as the one at St. Andrews.

"I've never played St. Andrews," said Goydos.

Eyebrows were raised, and a reporter suggested that if Goydos's PGA Tour were secure by October, which it should be, then maybe he would entertain thoughts of playing at St. Andrews in the Dunhill Links Championship. He liked the thought of that. "It's their version of the Pebble Beach [Pro-Am]," said Goydos.

When told he could perhaps even get an appearance fee, Goydos shook his head.

"I'm not into that," he said. "If somebody's willing to pay me to have me in their field, then I've got to think there's something wrong with the tournament."

Goydos gets it. Not that I begrudge, say, John Daly for his gluttonous pursuit of appearance fees -- he's got so many alimony checks to write, he needs everything he can get, and his actual play isn't going to win him enough to cover the nut.

But here's a guy who is willing to go compete for a prize, straight up, no guarantees. Passing up the easy money.

Wow, I hope that attitude wins him a few more tournaments.

Patrick's Inexplicable Defense of Bump

Governor Patrick has responded to yesterday's story about is labor chief's political interference with the labor relations commission with the following statement:

""I don't know all the details, and I haven't talked to her," Patrick said about Suzanne M. Bump's discussions with the Labor Relations Commission. "But it sure doesn't sound like it" was inappropriate.

This is an astonishing statement, coming from a seasoned attorney and former Justice Department official.

Two commissioners of the Labor Relations Commission are meeting with the individual in charge of making their budget request. They state to this agency head that they have a serious backlog of cases due to staff shortages and they need more funds to increase staff levels.

The agency head responds: "We're very interested in the outcome of this particular matter that is before you."

Is there really any question in a reasoned person's mind that such an exchange (which Bump admits occurred) should raise a question of propriety? Is there a plausible explanation that is innocent? Well, maybe plausible, but barely so. Normal people see this. Why doesn't Patrick? And if he does see it, why does he make such an astonishing statement (especially in light of the burgeoning series of blunders out from which he is attempting to crawl)?

Years ago, the current Speaker of the House, Sal DiMasi, was Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. His Committee (well, he, really) was principally in charge of constructing the budget for the entire branch of the judiciary. Literally, trial court judges' salaries depended on his support. During this period of time, his private civil and criminal litigation practice flourished as he was retained to appear before trial court judges all over eastern Massachusetts. Imagine a trial judge hearing a Motion to Dismiss a criminal charge (say, oh, a DUI) brought by the Chairman of the legislative committee before whom the judge's pay raise is pending. Does the Chairman have to say to the judge, "I'm watching you?" No, he doesn't, and he knew it. Why I can envision him describing the scenario: he walks into the courtroom, whereupon the judge's mere sight of him causes an embarrassing scatalogical mishap.

This is a no brainer. And that is both a literal truth and a double entendre.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Patrick Administration Blunders Worsen

As the new administration of Deval Patrick lurched from one boneheaded blunder to the next, I once found myself thinking that, as dumb as each one was, they were all more or less "symbolic" and were the product of inexperience or amateurism.

That changed this morning with the revelation that Patrick's very experienced head of "workforce development" (formerly, and soon to be, "Secretary of Labor") Suzanne Bump admitted to accusations that she raised labor union political issues directly with commissioners of the independent Labor Relations Commission. Her actions represent an egregious breach of propriety and suggest that the public employee unions that supported Patrick in his campaign are enjoying a gaudy degree of influence.

Under state law, the Labor Relations Commission is an independent, quasi judicial panel that resolves labor disputes and enforces state labor laws. The commission falls within Bump's agency for budgetary reason, but under statute is "in no respect subject to the jurisdiction thereof."

Two commissioners, Paul T. O'Neill and Hugh L. Reilly, alleged to the Boston Globe that Bump committed two inappropriate acts:

Bump made an irate phone call to commission chairman John F. Jesensky after the agency made its initial ruling that the Boston Teachers Union was violating the law with its threats to call a strike. They said she complained to him that she had not been given notice before the decision was made in the case.

About a week later, O'Neill and Reilly said, during a review of the commission's budget, Bump expressed strong support for a petition pending before the commission by Service Employees International Union, Local 1199, which spent more than $600,000 last year in support of Patrick's candidacy.

The former incident could be construed as Bump asserted -- she was angry that she had not been given the "courtesy" of being notified in advance of the decision's release to the media. But as the commissioners observed, they hadn't extended this "courtesy" to the Romney people preceding her. I think this is more a statement about Romney's people than it is about Bump. Assuming that a vote had already been taken and the written decision prepared and filed, providing courtesy notice to the managing head of the department does not raise any ethical issue. What does stand out, however, is that she would allegedly express "extreme displeasure" with the oversight. What would she have preferred? And why would she be so upset?

The second incident is far more serious, and should not be permitted to pass without further review.

Just over a week after the phone call about the Boston teachers decision, according to O'Neill and Reilly, Bump inappropriately raised a pending case when she met with them and Jesensky to discuss the agency's budget requests. During the meeting, she conveyed the administration's strong support for a petition by Service Employees International Union, Local 1199, to extend collective bargaining rights to personal care attendants for Medicaid clients.

"The message was received that this issue was of great importance to them," O'Neill said. He said Bump's comments were made as the commissioners were arguing for more funding for their beleaguered agency, which the two commissioners described as swamped with more than 600 cases a year.

For an agency department head to raise the subject of a pending union petition in the midst of a discussion about the jurisdictional agency's budget is indefensible -- especially for a seasoned attorney, lobbyist and legislator such as Bump.

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously wrote about pornography in his concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio , "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it."

In this instance, I think that intelligent people will know improper influence when they see it. A person of Bump's education and experience cannot credibly argue that she had no appreciation for the significance of her action. If she truly did not, she does not belong in the position. If she did appreciate it, she doesn't belong anywhere in an honest administration.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

What They Said

I confess to becoming a sloth in regards to posting material here -- it has something to do with the impositions of real life demands, coupled with a mild case of lassitude about the developments here in Massachusetts and in Washington.

The current manufactured "scandal" unfolding -- the President's replacement of 8 U. S. attorneys who he alone appoints and removes -- has me especially piqued, and yet, I still cannot muster the energy to bring my own complete thoughts to the battlefield.

Nonetheless, I have found two very lawyer-like posts that clearly and thoroughly analyze the issues at hand -- and since a few of my "loyal fans" have expressed genuine intellectual curiosity, I dutifully refer them.

First is an excellent piece by Marty Lederman at Balkinization that looks critically (among other things)on statements made by Michael Carvin, former deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel during the Reagan administration,in support of President Bush's claim of executive privilege. In recounting the News Hour discussion Carvin was quoted from, Lederman provides this pithy articulation of the issue from Stuart Taylor:

As Stuart Taylor remarked on the NewsHour: "You fire the U.S. attorney because you want him to do more death penalty cases, that's fine. You fire him because you want a Republican, that's fine. You fire him because you want to put a patronage appointee in the job, that's fine. You fire him because he's not prosecuting Democrats or because he is prosecuting Republicans, that's not fine.""

That is, of course, the "crux of the biscuit" (orig.: Frank Zappa, "Stink Foot," Apostrophe 1974) -- but does not address the question that Congress's claimed right to subpoena the WHO folks assumes: Can the subpoena power be used as a means to determining whether or not some firing activity has not been "fine?"

The answer to that question, I think, is "no," as artfully explained by Beldar in his rebuttal of Lederman.

At the risk of butchering Beldar's impressive intellectual rigor and bullet-proof analysis, his conclusion boils down to this:

In order for Congress's subpoena power to trump the President's executive privilege, Congress must have some existing (and independent) basis to demonstrate the likelihood that criminal activity has occurred. A "smoking gun," if you will. Otherwise, as Beldar suggests, if it is justified to subpoena WHO officials in order to investigate whether or not any criminal activity has occurred, the claim of executive privilege would be swallowed whole.

What I found most exhilarating in Beldar's post (probably because of its use of one bogeyman to defend another) was the citation to that most celebrated of SCOTUS precedents on the subject of executive privilege -- U. S. v. Nixon. That case reminds us that criminal activity was not only under investigation at the time Nixon's tapes were subpoena'ed, it was under trial; and furthermore, SCOTUS was so deferential to the concept of executive privlege even under those circumstances that it ordered the lower court to undertake a painstaking document-by-document review before any of the material was turned over.

In impressive flourish, Beldar says what I've thought --if not said -- from the outset:

Bring me a single Assistant U.S. Attorney who can give names, dates, places, and an explicit statutory reference to support the nebulous assertion that some crime was committed in connection with the firing of any of the U.S. Attorneys, and then I'll begin to take such arguments seriously. I find completely unbelievable, and frankly insulting to them, the notion that hundreds of career federal prosecutors would stand by and say nothing in the face of even one chargeable criminal offense affecting the integrity of our national law enforcement system. If any such crimes happened, they had to have happened literally right in front of their eyes.

What we have instead is a bunch of partisan assholes seeking to abuse their subpoena power to go fishing for evidence they can't obtain through their already quite extensive means (i.e., cooperation of the disgruntled dismissees, for a start) -- in other words, they have nothing, there is nothing.

It's time to make some new case law, then.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Lacking Confidence

Alberto Gonzales may be the most brilliant Attorney General ever to serve a President.

But he sure doesn't make me think it.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A Scientific Postulate

[ed. note: this is an email I received some time ago from one of my "sources" -- I don't know who the author is, but a (inferior) variant is contained at Inbox Humor]

Ahh, but to be in college again and have a brain like this......The following is supposedly an actual question given on a University of Washington chemistry mid-term. The answer by one student was so "profound" that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well:

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic(absorbs heat)?

Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant.

One student, however, wrote the following:

First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave.

Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the different Religions that exist in the world today. Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell.

With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.

This gives two possibilities:

1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.

2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.So which is it?

If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, "it will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you, and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number 2 must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over.

The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct...leaving only Heaven thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting "Oh my God."

According to lore, the student received (of course) an A+.

Friday, March 02, 2007

What A Difference a Speaker Makes

If ever there were a poignant example of how the control of Congress matters, the House's March 1st passage of the euphemistically-titled "Employee Free Choice Act" is it.

Ignored by every MSM news outlet in the country, the passage of this bill (inexplicably sponsored by 215 representatives) offers an employee anything but "free choice."

The bill radically amends the National Labor Relations Act to dispense with the requirement of a secret ballot employee election before a union is certified by the NLRB. Instead, a union organizer is free to approach every worker face-to-face, put a petition in front of him, and ask for his signature. Does this suggest a "free choice" to you? What do you imagine happens when the worker says to the union organizer, "I'm sorry sir, but I am not comfortable making this decision in front of you. I would prefer to make my choice in the privacy of the ballot box."

This law would be great for the tire business.

Instad of the secret ballot election, "If the Board finds that a majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for bargaining has signed authorizations designating the individual or labor organization specified in the petition as their bargaining representative and that no other individual or labor organization is currently certified or recognized as the exclusive representative of any of the employees in the unit, the Board shall not direct an election but shall certify the individual or labor organization as the representative...

There is no oversight of how those "authorizations" are requested or obtained.

Lest there is any confusion over who is pushing this gem of labor policy, my Google shows me who's paying attention:

AFL-CIO, who trumpets the "bipartisan coalition" of legislators sponsoring the bill -- 215 house members, seven of which are Republicans: two from the boroughs of New York City (Vito Fosella, Peter King) (no mystery there), one from upstate NY (John McHugh), one from the Cleveland-Akron OH district (Steve LaTourette), Chris Smith and Frank Lobiondo from New Jersey and the inestimable Chris Shays from Connecticut. Thanks, fellas.

"American Rights at Work", whose chairman is David Bonior, the former bomb-throwing radical from Michigan who left Congress in 2002 to run for Governor and was trounced in the Democratic primary, now the Chairman of John Edwards' presidential campaign.

While the news of this "workers progress" seems to have evaded MSM, it was quick to be picked up at those bastions of centrism, Democratic Underground, which called it "passed the most important labor law reform legislation in 70 years," (they could be right) and Daily Kos", whose poster avers that Republican efforts to kill this bill will go against "millions of non-union workers in this country who want to join unions."

No explanation of how the secret ballot provisions of the NLRA go against anyone, union or non-union.

What a horrible piece of legislation.

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