The $67 Million Travelling Pants Suit

Walter Olson has the best take:

This sort of mechanical damage-multiplication has been a key engine in shakedown scandals in California (where roving complainants have mass-mailed demand letters to small businesses over technical infractions); in “junk-fax” litigation demanding billions from hapless merchants in Texas, Illinois and elsewhere; and in important sectors of litigation aimed at bigger businesses, including claims against credit-card providers and purveyors of “light” cigarettes. Whole dockets’-worth of opportunistic litigation would dry up if we revised these laws so as to require a showing of actual injury. Doing so would require overcoming epic resistance from the litigation lobby.

It’s nice to see that even the organized plaintiffs bar piously deplores Mr. Pearson’s abuse of the law. It would be even nicer if they agreed to stop opposing reforms that would give the Chungs of the world a fighting chance the next time around.

If you don’t read Olson’s overlawyered blog, do so.

Oh, Yeah

Crooks and Liars points out that not only was the detention of Al-Marri violating the Consitution, it specifically violated the Patriot Act.

In sum, Congress has carefully prescribed the process by which it wishes to permit detention of “terrorist aliens” within the United States, and has expressly prohibited the indefinite detention the President seeks here. The Government’s argument that the President may indefinitely detain al-Marri is thus contrary to Congress’s expressed will.

But who cares about the law?! They’re terrorists!

Nanny State Empowerment

The latest from Oceania Britain, is a campaign against drinking.

Britain still subscribes to a system where health care is for the most part socialized. When the bureaucrat-priesthood of the National Health Service decides that a certain behavior is unacceptable, the consequences potentially involve more than scolding. For example, in 2005, Britain’s health service started refusing certain surgeries for fat people. An official behind the decision conceded that one of the considerations was cost. Fat people would benefit from the surgery less, and so they deserved it less. As Tony Harrison, a British health-care expert, explained to the Toronto Sun at the time, “Rationing is a reality when funding is limited.”

But it’s impossible to distinguish such cost-cutting judgments from moral ones. The reasoning is obvious: Fat people, smokers and — soon — drinkers deserve less health care because they bring their problems on themselves. In short, they deserve it. This is a perfectly logical perspective, and if I were in charge of everybody’s health care, I would probably resort to similar logic.

But I’m not in charge of everybody’s health care. Nor should anyone else be. In a free-market system, bad behavior will still have high costs personally and financially, but those costs are more likely to borne by you and you alone. The more you socialize the costs of personal liberty, the more license you give others to regulate it.

Do you really want Barrack Obama or Mitt Romney bossing you around about your health?

Good Riddance

Mike Nifong has been disbarred. I just hope that the people who were so zealous on behalf of the lacrosse players will find time to advocate for the hundreds or thousands of men – mostly poor and black – who are behind bars right now under similar circumstances.

Keep in mind, he’s not the only showboat prosecutor out there. There are many out there, including one who indirectly caused the death of a friend of my mother’s. And the reason they showboat for political gain is because it works. After all, one of them is a leading candidate for President.

Friday Linkorama

North Carolina has a shortage of illegal immigrants:

“Americans today don’t want to sweat and get their hands dirty,” said Doug Torn, who owns a wholesale nursery in Guilford County. “We have a choice. Do we want to import our food or do we want to import our labor?”

No, we don’t need tort reform. It should be perfectly fine to sue someone for $54 million because he lost your pants. I know this story has gotten a lot of ink. But I hadn’t heard about it and every sentence of the article enrages me.

The Democrats have a plan to raise taxes past 100%. Al Gore had a similar plan. But it’s overtaxing the “rich”, so that’s OK


The story of the two “wronged” border patrol agents is still circulating in conservative circles. Read the statement from the US Attorney who prosecuted them (warning: PDF). It deals with a lot of shibboleths being spread by the Right.

One thing I will comment on: reading between the lines, I think Johnny Sutton thinks the 10+ year sentences were excessive as well. But a Clinton-era law puts in a mandatory 10-year sentence for using a firearm to commit a felony. So he had no choice.

I hate mandatory sentences in general and this business of tacking on extra years because a gun was used violates the right of due process. These men were given an extra ten years for a crime the jury never convicted of. And we have seen this guideline abused over and over again — in Texas, against the Branch Davidians, for example.

Perhaps if conservatives focused their energy away from the prosecutor and onto the unconstitutional insanity of 10-year sentence mandates, we’d make more progress.

Quote of the Day

Right now, I’m reading, somewhat belatedly, Team of Rivals. A lot of Bush’s supporters — his few remaining supporters — like to make the comparison of Bush to Lincoln. But apart from both being Republicans, both facing a difficult conflict and both having opposition from peace-seeking Democrats, there is no comparison.

In the face of the greatest crisis in our nation’s history, Lincoln held together a new Republican coalition, got rid of an incompetent Secretary of War and numerous blundering generals and was masterful on foreign relations. Facing a handful of extremists who can’t seem to figure out which end of the bomb to point at the enemy, Bush has fractured the Republican party, stuck with incompetent twerps beyond all reason and alienated the entire world.

But moreover, Lincoln’s use of military tribunals and suspension of certain liberties has been used to justify Bush’s. But again, Lincoln was facing open rebellion, for which exemptions are specifically granted in the Consititution. Bush is not, unless you’re going to go the Algore route and proclaim any opposition to be a fifth column.

And Lincoln himself said and, I’m finding out, lived, the following:

I fear you do not fully comprehend the danger of abridging the liberties of the people. Nothing but the very sternest necessity can ever justify it. A government had better go to the very extreme of toleration, than to do aught that could be construed into an interference with, or to jeopardize in any degree, the common rights of its citizens.

“Aught that could be construed” — i.e, we shouldn’t be finding little legal loopholes to justify violating liberties. We should not even give the apperance of violating the spirit of the law while obeying its letter. In contrast, this Administation has lawyers figuring out rationaliziations for wiretaps, opened mail, torture and indefinite detention.

“A government had better go to the very extreme of toleration” – in other words, this is the last desparate step. In contrast, the Right’s first inclination is to suspend civil liberties, break the law and violate our treaty obligations.

Night and day, people. Night and day.


Interesting NYT article on sports droughts. Apparently, Cleveland has now gone 123 team-season (i.e., 123 combined NFL, NBA and MLB seasons) without a championship. Could it be worse?

Yes. You could have been a kid in Atlanta in the 80’s. When the Braves won the World Series in 1995, we’d had 29 dry years with the Braves, 28 with the Falcons, 27 with the Hawks and nine years with the Flames. That’s 93 years of frustration (and 43 since).

Gore Takedown

Michael Moynihan assaults Algore.

What this means, of course, is that television stations like Current TV (which he co-owns) and films like An Inconvenient Truth (in which he stars) are cracking good fun, full of unmolested “reason,” while the hyenas of AM radio should be actively combated. Money is pernicious in the hands of Rupert Murdoch, owner of the New York Post, The Weekly Standard, and Fox News, but less so in the hands of Joan Kroc, who bequeathed $225 million of her fortune to National Public Radio. Knees knock and boots shake when Clear Channel lards its schedule with right-wing radio hosts—whom Gore, shockingly, calls “fifth columnists”—but less so whenClear Channel launches a handful of left-leaning stations, determining that progressive talk is simply “good business.”

I’ll add a related point: I find it odd to be lectured on fear-mongering from a man who is constantly exaggerating the impact of global warming and latching onto every natural disaster to support The Cause.

Remember, fear-mongering and hype are evil when conservatives do it. But it’s OK when liberals do it. Because it’s true. Calling Republicans evil is OK because they are evil, dontchya know.

Over the last twenty years, I have heard Democratic politicians, including Al Gore, tell me that, if Republicans were elected, social security would be ended, medicare would be gutted, seniors would be eating dog food, blacks would be dragged to death behind trucks, we’d all be homeless, we’d all lose our health care, school children would be starved, the air and water would be polluted, etc., etc., etc. For Al Gore, who has fear-mongered his entire career, to now lecture the nation on their use of irrational fear for political means, is the height of arrogance.

But then again, Gore is so comfortable on that height.

A Tangled Web

NYT looks at some of the myriad issues involved in the energy bill.

The more I look at it, the more I think a national energy policy is a dumb idea. Our congressmen are not smart enough to understand a complex industry and the result of their attempts to interfere — tens of billions wasted on synth-fuels, billions more on ethanol to pollute the air and drive up food prices, billions more for oil companies to do what oil companies do anyway — have been laughable.

No, let the market decide. Restrict the federal role to funding basic research and environmental controls, but get them out of the micro-management and subsidy business. They don’t know what they’re doing. Would you want a bunch of lawyers rushing in and telling you how to do your job? Why do we have this national delusion that energy is somehow a different industry and government can run it better than the people who have spent their lives within it?

Galactica Down

Next season will be the last for Galactica.

This is good. The worst thing that could happen to the show is for it to artificially stagger around for an extra season or two and screw around instead of going where it needs to.

“This show was always meant to have a beginning, a middle and finally, an end. Over the course of the last year, the story and the characters have been moving strongly toward that end and we’ve decided to listen to those internal voices and conclude the show on our own terms,” Eick and Moore said in the statement. “And while we know our fans will be saddened to know the end is coming, they should brace themselves for a wild ride getting there –- we’re going out with a bang .”

Bravo. Sometimes the hardest words to write in a story are the lsat two.[ed – and sometimes they are even harder to spell!]

The Courts Come Through

The US Circuit Court restores habeas and a Georgia Court brings sanity to an out-of-control prosecution.

I am sure both will be bashed by “conservatives” as judicial activism. But, dammit, we need some judicial activism when the President is determined to shit all over the Constitution, the law and our treaty obligations. That’s what they are there for. If they are just going to jump every time the President says “frog”, what’s the point in having a judiciiary.

It’s called checks and balances, you totalitarian twerps. Read up on it.

One other point to make regarding habeas: it shouldn’t have gotten to this point. Too often we think that the constitutionality of a law can only be decided by the courts. But the Congress and the President take an oath:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter

Both the President and the Congress are obligated to oppose any law or statute which they believes violates the Constitution. But the attitude of both became obvious early on — when they supported a McCain-Feingold law they knew restrained free speech because it was popular. That was an early warning sign that the GOP saw the Constitution as an impediment, not a pact.

We should rarely have to fall back on the courts to defend liberty. And shame on this Administration that we had to on such a fundamental liberty.