Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"Gay Marriage Arguments Divide Supreme Court Justices"

So says the headline to this New York Times article.  The headline suggests that the prior to today the Supreme Court was not divided. Some evidence suggests the justices have divided on other issues before today.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Destroying the dreams of children.

Slate has an article today entitled "New Hampshire Legislators Kill Fourth Graders' Bill, Dreams In Front of Them."  The story concerns how fourth grade students from Hampton Falls, New Hampshire had proposed a bill making the Red Tail Hawk the "State Raptor" for New Hampshire.  The bill apparently sailed out of committee and last week the students attended a session of the New Hampshire House of Representatives where, I assume, the student thought their bill would pass, especially after the representatives gave the kids a round of applause.  But the bill didn't pass.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Is Oklahoma ok?

The Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the University of Oklahoma was shut down this week after a video of members of the fraternity chanting racial slurs hit the Internet.  CNN's story about the incident is here.

The CNN story has a number of quotes from University of Oklahoma President David Boren, a former Oklahoma governor and senator.  President Boren is quoted as saying that it was "unbelievable that this could have possible occurred" with OU students and that "Sooners are not racists. They're not bigots." I hope that is true but some might suggest that the video indicates otherwise.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bad at math

I have a friend who is a cement mason by trade. Like many construction jobs, in order to be a good cement mason you need to be competent at math. Since I am somewhat math challenged, my friend refers to my mathematical errors as "history major math." As I write this it occurs to me that this may be my friend's polite way of calling me "college boy," but I don't think so.  In any event, my point is that I am not good at math so take the analysis that follows with a grain of salt.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wisconsin leads the nation in what?

I suspect the Venn diagram for people who listen to This American Life and people who read this blog is either a circle or a figure eight.  In case it is the latter, I wanted to point out that last week's episode on policing is very well done.  You can listen to it here

Of particular interest to me, and perhaps interesting to others given Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's apparent interest in becoming President of the USA, was the shows mention that Wisconsin has the highest rate of incarceration of African-Americans per capita of any state in the Country.  At first, I could not believe this was true.  However, this paper put out by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Workforce and Training Institute, cites U.S. Census Bureau statistics that support the claim.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The pen is mightier than the sword. But which is more expensive?

My office evidently shares an elevator bank with a company that sells pens for prices ranging from ten bucks to $75,000. I have yet to visit the place. My taste-or perhaps, my lack of taste-runs to the Bic BU2 Grip. I could be mistaken, but I think the BU2 runs about 50 cents per pen if you buy a dozen. As a result, I am never too concerned about leaving my pen somewhere because I know I have other pens back at the office.

But what if one acquired a very valuable pen? Would one display it or use it?  For those who would use such a pen, This Omaha World Herald story offers a cautionary tale. Omaha attorney John Kerwin left a $500 pen at the Douglas County Courthouse and wants it back.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Government is just another word for "things we do together"

Like not letting other people's 10-year-olds walk around without an adult escort.

Some thoughts:

1) Apparently the parents were forced by CPS to sign a "safety plan" agreeing not to let the children play unsupervised until CPS could marshal their full administrative resources to review the case. When the father at first refused, the CPS official said they'd take the kids if he didn't sign the contract. This is a strange sort of "agreement." Obviously, it's not voluntary in any sense of the word, and coercive in every sense of that word. Kafkaesque.

2) The Washington Post leaves out the details of what happened when the police came:
The police asked for the father’s ID and when he refused, called six patrol cars as backup. Alexander went upstairs and the police called out that if he came down with anything else in his hand “shots would be fired,” according to Alexander. (They said this in front of the children, Alexander says). 
At least they didn't specifically threaten to kill the kids.

3) In America, black people get shot for walking in the street. I guess white people might get shot for letting their kids walk alone where there might be black people.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The full spectrum.

The ABA Law Journal has a story about Warren Redlich, a Florida attorney who has some interesting suggestions for how to behave at a drunken-driving checkpoint. Mr. Redlich is the founder of Fair DUI.

Mr. Redlich advises motorists facing these checkpoints to hang a plastic baggie to the exterior of their car. The baggie should contain the driver's licence, registration, proof of insurance, and a flyer that says "I remain silent," "no searches," and "I want my lawyer."  According to Mr. Redlich the purpose of the flier is to protect drivers from bad cops.  You can see a video of Mr. Redlich following his own advice here.

So that is one way to handle the possibility of being stopped on suspicion of drunk driving.  A counter example comes from Freeborn County, Minnesota.  Fox 9 News has the story of a woman who had a blood alcohol content of .45%.  The story notes that this is more than 5 times the legal limit for driving in Minnesota and was the highest.  recorded in the state during the month of December.  The story also notes that the woman was found passed out in the driveway of a home owned by a trooper with the Minnesota State Patrol.

The fact that the woman was passed out in a state trooper's driveway intrigued the Fox 9 news team to do this follow up report. The report revealed that the did not know the state trooper and had apparently followed the trooper's boyfriend home from a bar. The boyfriend did not know the woman but did call the police to say she was passed out in her car in the trooper's driveway.  When police arrived at the scene, the woman's car was running. Perhaps because she was unaware of Mr. Redlich's advice, the woman allegedly told the police that her home address was "28780 I'm drunk."

Unfortunately for the woman, Clark's Grove, Minnesota-the town where the woman lives-does not have a street called "I'm Drunk."  A quick google search of the woman's name reveals that she did get the numeric portion of her address right.  However, being half-right about her address was not enough to prevent the woman from being charged with driving while intoxicated.

I don't know that there are any lessons to be drawn from these two stories besides the one should not drink and drive. I did find it amusing that there at the southern tip of the country there is a story about how to avoid being charged with drunk driving while at the the northern tip of the country there is a story about how to not avoid being charged with drunk driving.

You've spent time in both states Mr. Torvik, do these tales tell us anything about the advantages or disadvantages of living in Minnesota or Florida?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Judge Michael J. Davis has informed President Obama that Judge Davis will assume senior status in August 2015. This means that President Obama will have his second opportunity to name a federal district court judge to the bench in Minnesota. I think Mr. Torvik and I both agree that President Obama did a great job in selecting Susan Richard Nelson for his first pick.

It will be interesting to see how the President Obama's nomination to fill Judge Davis's seat does in a Republican-controlled Senate. It took nine months for Judge Nelson get confirmed when the Senate was controlled by President Obama's own party.

What do you think Mr. Torvik? Care to pick an over/under on how many months it will take President Obama's nominee to get confirmed? Will President Obama take this opportunity to redress half of his inexplicable failure to name us to the federal bench?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

More on Maryland and the death penalty

As we noted at the time,Maryland abolished its death penalty back in May 2013. We did not note, however, that the bill abolishing the death penalty did not apply to people in Maryland who had been sentenced to death. i.e., on Maryland's death row, but not yet executed. For those people, any celebration over the death penalty being abolished was probably muted.  

The Washington Post reports that outgoing Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has commuted the sentences of the prisoners on Maryland's death row to life in prison without the possibility of parole. According to the story, four prisoners are affected by Governor's move. The Post also says that at the time the death penalty was abolished in Maryland there were five prisoners on death row but that one died of natural causes.

What do you think Mr. Torvik? Is commuting the sentences an act of mercy? Is it thwarting the will of the Maryland Legislature? Or is Merle Haggard (via the Byrds here) right that serving life in prison is worse than being executed?