Archive | October, 2007

Forget the light bulbs…vote!

22 Oct

Thomas Friedman’s recent NYT column makes a lot of sense.

Reliving an experience

18 Oct

God, I love the Internet and what some people are doing with it.

The Oyez Project is an effort to bring oral arguments from the U.S. Supreme Court to the public. Although I’ve never argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, I was rather involved in a Supreme Court case while I was in law school. And now thanks to the Oyez Project, I can relive a rare experience: attending a complete argument of a Supreme Court case.

Some background may be in order to explain why this experience is so rare. The Supreme Court oral arguments are open to the public, but seating in the courtroom is limited. To accommodate tourists and other interested persons, at the time (1990), the Court’s marshals would seat people in various sections, and after fifteen minutes or so, would rotate those people out and bring new people in. Since I was part of the legal team in the case, I was allowed to stay for the entire argument. Lawyers who are admitted to practice at the Court (as I am now) have the privilege of sitting through as many arguments as they like, but most non-attorneys do not get to stay for the whole thing.

While in law school, I ended up using my computer background to help an attorney populate his new offices with computers (Macs, naturally) and a network. He then invited me to work for him as a clerk, and I accepted the invite. The very first project he handed me was to draft a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court.

Now, you have to understand this was a huge assignment. The Supreme Court at that time heard around 100 cases each year, and about 80 of them were ones that the Supreme Court selected out of the thousands of petitions filed with the Court during the year. Statistically, your odds were ridiculously low.  To get the Court to hear a case, you had to explain in your petition why the case was worthy of the Court’s attention.

I admit it, I was a bit overwhelmed by the responsibility. The task is somewhat like being a freshman quarterback and being told to play all four quarters of the conference championship–if your team wins, it goes on to the national championship. Heck, it’s worse than being a freshman quarterback. It’s more akin to being a freshman quarterback who has never even played a game of football.

I tried to give the assignment back at one point, and my employer, Michael K. Sutherlin, refused to let me give it back. He had other things that he needed to attend to, and as he said at one point, I was as qualified as he was since he’d never written one either.

To make a long story short, I wrote it (and rewrote it and rewrote it). Mike made a few changes, aided by his wife who taught English at Butler University, and then we filed it. It still blows my mind to think that my work was going to be considered by the Supreme Court.

To our collective thrill and surprise, the Supreme Court granted the petition. At that point, Mike Sutherlin took responsibility for writing the brief to be filed. I offered my comments on the various drafts, but the briefs filed on behalf of our client didn’t have much of my work in them. To continue the football analogy, I got us to the championship game. The rest was up to him.

After both sides file their written arguments, the Court holds an oral argument, usually about one hour in length. We all traveled to Washington, D.C. to watch the oral argument (how could I not–I had one professor who practically threatened to fail me if I didn’t attend instead of going to her class). The entire experience was one I probably will never get to enjoy again–I’m not knocking my own abilities as a lawyer, it’s just that the opportunities are so very few. But at least I got to be involved once. That’s more than the overwhelming majority of attorneys will ever get to do. And perhaps luck will shine on me again one day.

You can now listen to Mike Sutherlin argue the case, along with the arguments from the Indiana Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Justice, who opposed our client’s position. All thanks to the Oyez Project.

Fortunately for us, the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in our client’s favor. I got us to the big game, and Mike Sutherlin beat the other side in a shutout.

You can read the Court’s decision, which also contains a review of the rather bizarre and frightening facts that gave rise to the case. I’d suggest reading the facts and the decision, and then listening to the argument that led to the decision.

It was an experience I will never forget.

More on the Nobel Prize selection

16 Oct

The right wing is in full panic mode, apparently. Bill Kristol said the award is given to “bloviators” by other “bloviators.” Charles Krauthammer insists the prize is given to people who are anti-American or anti-Bush.

Let’s look at a few of the past winners:

  •  Andrei Sakharov–he took it on the chin from the USSR for his human rights activity. Definitely anti-American, no?
  • Henry A. Kissinger–a definite anti-American, anti-Bush bloviator
  • Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin–yes, the US has always been anti-Egypt and anti-Israel
  • Mother Teresa–is there a bigger bloviator out there?
  • Lech Walesa–he only brought democracy and freedom to Poland, which really threw a wrench into US foreign policy
  • Elie Weisel–those Holocaust survivors are so annoying
  • Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, two more Israelis who were enemies of the US (they shared the award with Yasser Arafat)
  • South Korea’s Kim Dae Jung–another anti-US bloviator

Clearly, I’m being sarcastic here. The list of winners includes many people who have worked tirelessly to improve the world in some way, whether by bringing peace to Northern Ireland or the Middle East. Henry Kissinger received the prize for his work with the Vietnam peace accord. I may not be a fan of Kissinger’s, but I can recognize good works no matter who gets them done.

It’s really unfortunate that the right wing has to smear so many good people just to attack one person. Of course, they have used this tactic many times before.

Enviro-Blogging-Monday

15 Oct

Blog Action Day Well, it’s not officially Enviro-Blogging-Monday, but today is the day bloggers are supposed to blog about the environment. The timing is good, because my local newspaper featured a letter to the editor written by someone who is probably having spasms since Al Gore was named a co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace. Paul Krugman has a very nice column about what drives the right wing bat-excrement crazy about Al Gore.

So…what is it about the environment I’m most passionate about? I don’t know that I can answer that question. I know what worries and depresses me: no matter how much I do, it’s not enough. On an episode of the Colbert Report last week, one of the guests explained that every 30 minutes in this country, we’re throwing away an unbelievable number of recyclable aluminum cans. The figure is like 163,000 every 30 minutes.

Big deal if I’m recycling my aluminum cans. The odds are that most of the people I will encounter today will not do it.

And that’s what bothers me. It’s not that tossing my Diet Coke can in a recycling bin is a big inconvenience–it’s clearly not. But if my efforts are going to be undone by the person in the office next to me, it can be downright discouraging.

I’ll continue to recycle my aluminum cans, wine bottles, newspapers, etc. because it’s the right thing to do. And I do have to say that a lot of my neighbors put a good amount of stuff out every other Tuesday for our county’s recyling program–there are signs of hope out there, but there’s still so much more to do.

Please do me a favor–make me feel better by recycling as much as you can, replacing a light bulb or two with compact fluorescents, driving a bit less, etc. You can make me feel even better (and feel better yourself) by persuading your friends and neighbors to do the same.

If you can’t win, smear the messenger

11 Oct

SCHIP, a children’s health insurance plan for families that can’t afford private health insurance, was vetoed by President Bush, despite bipartisan support in Congress. Bush called the SCHIP expansion a threat to private health insurance.

The Democrats used their weekly radio address (does anyone actually listen to it? I’ve never heard it) to showcase a person who benefited from SCHIP: a twelve-year-old boy.

The right wing went berserk and smeared him and his family, accusing them of being wealthy people. Too bad their facts were wrong. At least Graeme Frost can join the ranks of Cindy Sheehan and Michael J. Fox, who have had a bit of slime thrown their way by the right wing.

Comparative religion

8 Oct

Not very politically correct, but still pretty humorous: 

Taoism: Shit happens

Hinduism: This shit has happened before.

Buddhism: If shit happens, it isn’t really shit.

Zen: What is the sound of shit happening?

Islam: If shit happens, it is the will of Allah.

Catholicism: If shit happens, it’s because you deserve it.

Protestantism: Let shit happen to someone else.

Judaism: Why does this shit always happen to us?

Existentialism: What is this shit?

Atheism: I don’t believe this shit.

Jehovah’s Witness: Let me in your house and I’ll tell you why shit happens. 

Rastafarianism: Let’s smoke some shit. 

Here we go again

3 Oct

The Senate voted 92-3 yesterday for an appropriations bill that includes another $200 million for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Roll over and die, Dems, way to go.

As further proof the Dems are spineless, after Rush Limbaugh refers to soldiers favoring withdrawal from Iraq as “phony soldiers,” what do the Dems do? Nothing. Oh–wait. Harry Reid went to the Senate floor and said Rush was insulting the troops. Hey Harry, why not introduce a resolution condemning Rush like the Cornyn resolution condemning MoveOn.org?

It’s soooo discouraging. Do the Dems not want to fight, or don’t they know how? One would think after several years of getting their asses kicked by the Reps that they’d have some idea of how it’s done. We need a new leader in the Senate.

Meanwhile, I’m giving my political dollars to MoveOn.org.