Tuesday, August 20, 2002

'Housekeeping' announcement

One or two teething troubles on the technical side (most significantly, moving to monthly from weekly archiving) have necessitated a switch:

Lincoln Plawg posts from 11 August to 19 August, are now to be found here. No further posts will be made.

From now on, posts will be made here, same name, same URL as before.

Monday, August 19, 2002

Chocolate City pantomime back on the road!

I can't say I've followed the DC Democratic mayoral primary with much attention. But, from what I have seen, it's a pretty sorry tale.

First there was Barry, the population of DC's vehicle for flipping off their ultimate lords and masters on the Hill. Caligula put a horse in the Roman senate, Washingtonians put a cokehead in charge of their city.

Then, sanity, and Williams, prevailed. After the fuss about the 'niggardly man' , so far as I'm aware, Williams went on to do a pretty good managerial job.

DC started to be the sort of place folks moved to. There was even something of a blacklash, in the form of Natalie Hopkinson's notorious article in the Washington Post (scroll down).

Surely the guy's reelection was a no-brainer?

And that, it seems, was precisely what his election team thought,
judging by the signatures farrago.

According to the Washington Times, included amongst those purportedly supporting William's candidacy were:

Dudley Moore (deceased British entertainer);
Kelsey Grammer; and
Tony Blair (presumably, to judge from the other signatures the Tony Blair).

He should surely be dead in the water now (though he's mounting a 'dog ate my homework'-type appeal).

Especially if this Post columnist is to be believed. Except the guy wants to have it both ways: Williams has the reputation of a suit, happier in a tux at the opera [ie, with white folks] than down home with his constituents. But, when he tries to get amongst the people and show some passion: he's a phoney!

Looks like his best hope of the mayoralty is a Barry-style resurrection in 2006.

Out of Africa: phoney stats

After dubious UN statistics , the NY Times wises us up to fantasy numbers from the Dark Continent.

Numbers on disease, for instance:

"......kids tend to die of more than one condition at a time......But each program would `take credit' for the death, so the total number of annual deaths, when you added up the claims of programs, would exceed the actual number of annual child deaths."

And the snow job performed with consummate skill by NGOs and globalophobes in relation to the '15,000 Malian slaves' on Ivory Coast cocoa plantations.

The uncontrollable yen of Western media for a sanctimonious liberal newgasm (provided there are decent pictures, of course!) can always be counted on......

(Not, of course, that the intention to deceive embodied in African stats is likely to be greater, in general, than in those from anywhere else. Point is, it's unlikely to be less.

And, that's before considering the manifold practical difficulties that the fairest agency would experience in collection and analysis of data; with their consequential effect on the reliability of the stats produced.)

WTO: That explains the Bush farm giveaway!

An article on the expected travails of upcoming trade talks suggests a definite plus to the farm subsidy bill: raising the base from which US can offer subsidy cuts in the WTO negotiations!

The 'Zoellick plan'

"....would cut American [agricultural] subsidies from $19 billion to about $10 billion a year, a reduction that is a bit more than the subsidies that the new farm bill provided."

So, the US is offering to reduce subsidies to a tad below the pre-Bush level. The farmers are not much worse off, and the trade negotiators have $10bn or so to put on the table. Enron or what?!

Not that that impresses the EU:

"While annual American farm subsidies would fall by almost half, by Mr. Zoellick's estimate, [under his plan] European Union subsidies would drop by about 80 percent, to $12 billion from $60 billion."

But think how much worse it would be without George's handouts.

Of course, that probably wasn't how things were explained to the US farm lobby......

Podunk judge: no death penalty, county can't afford it!

Capracorn? A lost episode of 'Ed'?

Whatever, the latest contribution to the jurisprudence of capital cases comes from Hicksville, Ohio. Or, more precisely, that Oliver Wendell Holmes of Vinton County, OH, Judge Jeffrey L. Simmons .

".....The court finds that the potential impact of financial considerations could compromise the defendant's due process rights in a capital murder trial.".

So, rather than risk a succession of appeals against a death sentence, the learned judge prefers - a succession of appeals against his decision.

Even the Public Defender's office shows a strange attitude to the law relating to the death penalty:

"There's a lot of procedural rigmarole that applies only in death penalty cases....".

Doesn't sound as if his heart's really in it, does it?

(Though, given that a panel of the Federal 5th Circuit has decided (reversed en banc) that a person on death row, whose lawyer was

"asleep for long periods of time during the questioning of witnesses",

had nevertheless received 'effective assistance of counsel', commitment (leave alone, competence) is scarcely something to be expected by a defendant in a capital case.)

Sunday, August 18, 2002

The Naievty of Diversity

This is a piece I posted to Usenet on August 12, on a rather extraordinary article on the teaching of 'diversity' in journalism school.

Owing to the fact I am unable (pro tem) to get Blogger to accept many more than 400 words per post (for reasons as yet unexplained, and at which a mere novice like me cannot guess!), I'll be keeping my longer contributions, including this one , elsewhere for the moment.

Naturally, they will all be linked from here!

ADA's Asylum: First Casey's Cart, now Flipper Boy

Via Volokh , a sad tale of a bad law screwing up decent folks' lives.

There's no deep pocket for the sleazoid shyster trial lawyers to extract their contingent fees from, but the law manages to cause havoc regardless.

Jury = Justice? Forget it!

Probably the scariest article I've read this year.

It amply demonstrates the fundamental weaknesses of the jury system:

1 The finding of facts, marshalling the findings, and coming to conclusions from those facts is a highly specialised and difficult job.

Even a lot of the best lawyers in the country would not be up to the task.

The US system, as with all common law jurisdictions, delegates this job to rank amateurs. And in the most serious and most complicated cases, too.

In England, fortunately, jury trial in civil cases has been quite rare since the mid 1930s. Law and fact are both decided by judges. There is no regret, that I am aware of, that the change was made.

One only needs to look at some of the judgements of English trial judges to see the complexity of the process laid bare.

2 Juries, as well as being amateurs, do not give reasons for their decisions.

Reasons are vital in regulating any intrusion of the state upon the individual. Government departments (in the UK, certainly) are often bound by statute to give reasons for their decisions. Judges almost inevitably do so.

Reasons serve two main functions: they require the decider to come up with an explanation that will sound reasonable when read out in court; and give tribunals with appellate jurisdiction a much better chance of identifying errors of law and fact whereby those decisions deserve to be struck down.

And, for the most vital decisions, sometimes affecting whether the state is to kill a man, we have no reasons at all. We deliberately put ourselves in the dark. As some bizarre medieval act of faith, making as much sense as trial by combat.

In England, the situation is worse, in that any research into jury deliberations constitutes a criminal offence! At least, US jurors are allowed to condemn themselves out of their own mouths.

It's high time this antique institution was consigned to the junkyard.

Never going to happen? Think slavery: in 1720, everyone in England thought it was fine - even that eventual vanguard of anti-slavery, the Quakers; in 1833, it was abolished in British colonies. That, I reckon, is about the timetable for the demise of the jury......