Monthly Archives: July 2011

Thunderbirds

There’s no accounting for taste – de gustibus non est disputandum – but it seems to me objectively ascertainable that whereas the first four “generations” of Ford Thunderbirds (1955-1966) were beautiful cars, the fifth generation – beginning in 1967 – became progressively uglier, mirroring perfectly the staggering decline of Detroit’s automakers at the time.  American iron peaked around 1965.  Even the Ford and Chevy sedans of that year were pretty cool.  A little less in 1966, but in 1967 suddenly everything went to hell.  Except the muscle cars.  They were still cool.

Not that I necessarily remember all this personally, you understand.

See the Thunderbird article, and the telling photographs of the various models  here.

The American tendency to self-satisfaction and overconfidence in auto-making also took firm hold in other areas of endeavor during these years, culminating in the pointless escalation of the Vietnam War and breaking the last vestige of the gold standard in 1971.

So you see, while it’s all related, at bottom it’s all about the cars.  Especially Thunderbirds.

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It’s Not Enough, Jeff (Update)(x2)

I love when Gamso quotes Shakespeare.  Especially that Henry V stuff, glorifying battle and war.  We few, we happy few – as they ride off to their deaths.

Then again, there’s “Dulce et Decorum Est“, if we’re going to run with the war metaphor.

I don’t think it’s enough to tell the young lawyer, who still gives a shit, that the battle itself is the important thing.  You’re just playing Jessie Pope to his Wilfred Owen.  He’s pointing out the pointless murderous carnage, and you’re telling him to don his gas mask and pick up his rifle for the next round.

Who is the enemy?

The fault, dear Gamso, is not in our stars but in ourselves, that we are underlings.

Just how far under?  Under the police.  That can never be allowed to happen.  Judges must respect lawyers more than they respect the police, political power differentials notwithstanding.  Even criminal defense lawyers.  Especially criminal defense lawyers.

But they don’t.  They respect political power and nothing else.  This marks them as men and women of low character, but let’s get past that.  What is to be done?

First, let’s identify the enemy:  the judge is the chief adversary.  Followed by our own acceptance of the status quo, much as we might complain about it.  The prosecutors and police are bit players in the drama.  They fill the void left by our weakness.  Malevolently, yes.  But we cede them the high ground.  We bring it on ourselves, to that extent.

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Section 4 Of The 14th Amendment (Update)

This is creating quite the buzz in connection with all the hoopla over the “debt ceiling”.

The otherwise obscure constitutional provision was enacted in the wake of the civil war, mentioned briefly in a Supreme Court opinion (US v. Perry, 294 US 330) in 1935 – which was a good year for Supreme Court opinions – and as far as I can tell never mentioned again in some published form in connection with any debate about the national debt by anyone on earth until this blog – yes, this blog – noted in passing six months ago that it would have to be repealed in order to accomplish the universal debt cancellation proposed in these pages (look at proposed section 9, further explained here) through the passage of a 28th amendment.

The New York Times, demonstrating once again that they are behind the curve in this and other matters, has finally gotten around to trotting out “experts” to parse this particular section and tell us what it all means.  It’s in the constitution, so evidently it is undecipherable without an expert opinion.  And I don’t mean to whine, but I chafe a little at the fact that somehow I am not seen as an expert on the section since I beat everyone to the punch as a matter of record.  But that’s a small point.  I digress.

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The Politics Of Judging – An Anecdote For Gamso

This one out of Alabama comes out all right, I suppose, in a manner of speaking:

In this case, several high-profile law enforcement officials actively lobbied the judge to ignore the jury’s verdict and impose a death sentence. Among others, Attorney General Troy King and state Fraternal Order of Police President Bill Davis called for an override in the media and in letters to the judge…The judge in this case resisted the political pressure. At the March 26, 2010, sentencing hearing, with King and Davis in reserved front-row seats, the circuit judge reviewed the evidence in detail and concluded the jury had reached the appropriate result based on the law and the facts.

 

I like how the pandering AG and the police union rep get reserved seats in the courtroom.  The better to openly glare at the judge from if he doesn’t do what they want.

I notice there are no reported seats in the courtroom reserved for members of the criminal defense bar who might feel strongly the other way.  Yet the criminal defense bar probably wouldn’t play this game.  What does it say about the AG that he will?  He obviously feels it is worth his while, even if it didn’t work out this time.  And maybe it did work out, in political terms.  The AG is the police union’s hero.  The judge?  Well, he’ll find out later.  Or maybe he has already in a behind-the-scenes sort of way.

I’m just following up to a comment I made over at Gamso’s in repsonse to his post today.  It’s an interesting discussion point for me, and perhaps for him.

 

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Norway

The dead are not yet buried, but the horror du jour will no doubt generate a lot of commentary.

If it bleeds it leads.  But to be fair, the shock value of this story would make it news no matter what else was going on in the world.

Word is that Norwegian “authorities” have a “suspect” in custody, and contrary to initial impressions that the whole bombing and shooting rampage must have been the work of radical Muslim Al-Queda, it now looks as if the “terrorism” was more of the home-grown variety.  It’s kind of remarkable how the news reports are referring to the suspect as tall, blonde haired and blue eyed to drive home the point that for now the usual suspect Arabs are off the hook and we’re dealing with something else entirely.

These horrible incidents happen from time to time.  I know it seems unsatisfying to put it that way, but it’s true.  In the aftermath, we flounder around looking for reasons, and usually come up empty.  And then the next one happens and the exercise – searching for some meaning – begins again.

I want to suggest two aspects of these incidents that I think apply across the board, to all of them.  One is practical, the other is moral or perhaps spiritual.

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Punt

Nino Scalia has been a Justice of the Supreme Court for nearly a quarter century.  He’s 75 years old.  He could go on for another 20 years.

What sort of Justice has he been?  A brilliant one.  And not a very good one.

I had been looking for a quote of his for some time because I thought it was so odd, coming from a judge.  It was to the effect that the primary check on prosecutorial abuse is political.  Turns out this was one of Nino’s early efforts in one of his trademark blistering dissents in a case about “independent counsels” under the Ethics In Government Act.  The name of the 1988 case was Morrison v. Olson, at 487 US 654.

In retrospect this opinion was a harbinger not only of many learned and pointed dissents to come, but also a rather peculiar intellectual error that has no doubt shaped Supreme Court jurisprudence during his tenure in an especially deleterious way.

The actual quote is:

“Under our system of government, the primary check against prosecutorial abuse is a political one. The prosecutors who exercise this awesome discretion are selected and can be removed by a President, whom the people have trusted enough to elect. ”

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Discipline Nancy Grace

I’ve been thinking about this for a few days.

I began this blog with the lawyer’s strike idea:  take an especially pernicious robed flavor of the month – so many to choose from  – and see if you can rally some lawyers from the relevant jurisdiction to strike until some sort of action is taken.

I tried it out on a pretty good target, one Sharon Keller of Texas.  At least I thought she was a pretty good target.

In any event, the effort fizzled and failed.  Indeed, it was noteworthy primarily for incurring criticism and disdain from the very people one might have expected to have appreciated the idea and the effort:  luminaries of the blawgosphere, many of whom adorn the blogroll to the right.

So, you know, I had to think about whether a similar – not identical, obviously, but similar – effort should be made with respect to Nancy Grace.  And I think the effort should be made, for whatever it is worth.

This is not a free speech issue.  Mark Bennett has it wrong, I think.  Scott Greenfield is right:  voice all the opinions you want, but not under the mantle of being a lawyer.

Nancy Grace is guilty of serious misconduct, though not the kind for which attorneys are normally disciplined.  That should change.

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