Monday, November 29, 2004

Awards, Attaboys, and Attorneys

Minnesota Lawyer is a weekly newspaper covering the legal profession in this state. In addition to reporting recent court cases and other developments, it sponsors the Attorneys of the Year Awards. Unlike the bar association publications, Minnesota Lawyer is not allergic to conservative opinion. They even occasionally recognize a conservative lawyer as one of the attorneys of the year.

Readers of Minnesota blogs, especially attorneys, should consider filling out a nomination form for attorney of the year. Nominations are due December 3. Here are some possible candidates:

John Hinderaker
  • Won a multi-million dollar ruling for taxpayers in the five-county Milwaukee area concerning claims over the retractable roof at Miller Park baseball stadium.
  • Currently pursuing claims under the Alaska Tort Claims Act on behalf of approximately 700 Alaska residents who lost homes or other property in the Miller’s Reach Fire of 1996.
  • Credentialed journalist at Republican National Convention.
  • Provided commentary on MSNBC and NBC during presidential debates and coverage of election returns.
  • Featured in Time magazine for helping to break the CBS document forgery story on his weblog, Powerline.
  • Co-host of Northern Alliance Radio Network on local Minneapolis radio station.
  • Fellow at the Claremont Institute.

Scott W. Johnson

  • Featured television and radio commentator on varied subjects like the retirement of Dan Rather, the 1973 murder of two U.S. diplomats by Yasser Arafat, and the PATRIOT Act.
  • Publicized on his weblog, Powerline, allegations that National Guard documents relied upon by CBS News were forgeries.
  • Spoke truth to power by debunking claims of racial bias in the legal system in front of a hostile audience at St. Thomas Law School (broadcast on PBS Affiliate TPT-17).
  • As in-house counsel, briefed all officers of TCF National Bank on the PATRIOT Act, Bank Secrecy Act, and other important legal requirements.
  • Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists awarded second place in 2004 for In-Depth Magazine News or Feature for his article on the Star Tribune poll.
  • Co-Host of Northern Alliance Radio Network.
  • Fellow at Claremont Institute.

Elliot C. Rothenberg

  • Expert on First Amendment and media law.
  • Co-author of forthcoming book, Defending the First.
  • Author of Taming the Media.
  • Courageously placed his own professional license at risk in defending First Amendment rights. Although the U.S. Supreme Court did not grant certiorari, he exposed some of the outrageous and ideological classes that qualify for mandatory "Elimination of Bias" training for lawyers. The Minnesota Supreme Court tacitly admitted problems with the courses by cryptically ruling that the Board of Continuing Legal Education should "exercise continued vigilance as it reviews and approves courses for the elimination of bias credit."

Johnson, Hinderaker, and Free Speech

For more information on the University of Minnesota Duluth case mentioned below, try this article. You may see a familiar name.

One point of clarification on the "racial slur" mentioned in the article. As I recall, here is the joke at issue:

Reporter: Mr. President, what is your position on Roe vs. Wade?

Clinton: I don't care how the Hatians get home.

I blog, you decide. Is it a racial slur, or a dumb play on words within a page of jokes, among an entire booth of conservative literature (pre-blogosphere)?

A false accusation of racial slur has added significance in light of recent events. It is being used as justification for murder nowadays.
Homecoming, History, and Hysteria

The New York Times has published a story about colleges, including Saint Cloud State University, that allow women to run for homecoming king and vice versa. King Banaian of SCSU Scholars weblog has said about all that needs to be said about the controversy (before moving on to other topics like unrest in the Ukraine). After the male homecoming "queen" reportedly received death threats, the university administration requested that his name and likeness be removed from the weblog.

SCSU Scholars made the right decision in complying with the administration request, although they could have had some fun with it by obscuring the identity with a "blue dot" or pixelization. There is no indication that the action by the weblog was anything other than voluntary.

What is troubling, however, is the university administration's apparent linkage between legitimate criticism of the homecoming stunt and the threats. The name and likeness of the student were already widely publicized, just not in a critical way. The idea that intelligent criticism on a weblog could turn a law-abiding citizen into a cowardly criminal who makes death threats is preposterous.

This is reminiscent of a case ten years ago at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. The UMD history club wanted to highlight the specialties of the history faculty in a photographic display. One of the pictures featured an American/military history professor wearing a coonskin cap and holding a pistol. Another picture featured a professor wearing a cardboard laurel wreath and carrying a roman short sword. Because of earlier, unrelated death threats against a female professor elsewhere on campus, the chancellor ordered the photographs removed. Student and faculty members of the history club sued and eventually won a substantial settlement. In that case, as in the current controversy, it was wrong to imply that legitimate First Amendment activity is responsible for death threats.

The lawyers for the plaintiffs in the UMD case? Scott Johnson and John Hinderaker of Powerline.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Murder, Media, and Blaming the Victim

Some of the reaction to the recent murder of six hunters in Wisconsin is disturbing. Before they are even buried, activists are trying to paint the hunters as responsible for their own deaths. Check out this quote (from a law school classmate of mine, no less):

``So many people in the community were like, 'Well, let's try to listen to
the story the way that this man is being treated,''' she said. ``Why did he feel
like he had to shoot them? ... If it's just one against so many, what did they
do to him that made him a threat?''

Claims of "backlash" and "cultural misunderstandings" abound. This almost as distasteful as the notion that average American citizens needed to be begged not to attack Arabs and Muslims after 9/11.

This also reminds me of the talk of anti-bullying efforts after various school shootings. Reports after recent shooting at Ricori High School defamed the victims as having bullied the killer (they had not). Even if the victims had picked on the killer, would that have justified their killing?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Kubrick, Strangelove, and Strange Ideas

Check out this Wall Street Journal piece by James Earl Jones marking the 40th anniversary of the release of Dr. Strangelove. One quote jumped out at me:

Amazingly, the Cold War ended without a nuclear war. Even more amazingly, the
former antagonists who once amassed enough nuclear weapons to kill every man,
woman and child on earth seven times over have become "good friends," even to
the extent of signing the nonproliferation treaty.
"Amazingly"? Even the revisionists who seek to deny President Reagan credit for winning the Cold War agree that it was won by the U.S. and its allies. To Jones, the Cold War merely "ended." And it was pure luck that the planet was not destroyed by the morally equivalent superpowers.

Herein lies the danger of doing so much voice-over work. When you read scripts as the voice of CNN and Darth Vader, you start to believe what you are reading.
Wodele-esque, Windage, and Vindication

This observation is a little bit late, but the "Kentucky Windage" post is vindicated. Simply add 5-7 points to the Republican candidate in the final Star Tribune poll, and you can predict the outcome of the election. Good thing that the Strib pollster didn't accept the bet from Trunk at Powerline.

D.J. Tice left his job as the (relatively speaking) conservative columnist at the St. Paul Pioneer Press to be the state politics/government editor at the Strib. His defense of the Strib poll is half-hearted, at best. It's OK to print bad polling data if the headline is not prominent? Or if the Pioneer Press slightly over-reports Republican support, thus canceling out your under-reporting of it? Tice's defense of the polling data reminds me a little bit of the former spokesman for the Ventura administration. John ("What the governor meant to say...") Wodele also was forced to defend the indefensible.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Watching, Waiting, and Wednesday

My weekly posting must be pushed back to Wednesday this time. Sorry. Really busy. While you wait, you can look at the Pioneer Press website (no link, find it yerself!) for more details about the race/crime study that I posted about last week. This site now has comments enabled, so you can post your links and your insights below.

Help me raise the barn, folks. This is neighbor helping neighbor 21st Century style. At least I don't have a tip jar.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Cops, Stops and Racialists

Here we go again. Sigh. Yet another study publicized in the Minneapolis Star Tribune showing a "disparity" between whites and minorities in some aspect of the criminal justice system. I am not a statistician, but just using common sense, one can raise questions about the study:

Did you control for poverty?

Did you get the racial population figures from statewide data, citywide data, or on a comprehensive examination of the racial makeup of individuals whom the police encountered on the street?

Are there any measurable differences in behavior among different races/cultures?

Answering these questions might call into question their main thesis, so don't hold your breath for a response.

The Big Trunk and Rocketman over at Powerline have written various rebuttals to these apparently shoddy pieces of scholarship, including this one. I anticipate that the new study will trigger another rebuttal. The Strib article does nibble around the edges of the truth in saying that community leaders have alleged that "police used arrests or citations of low-level crimes against people of color as a fishing expedition that might lead to charges for more serious crimes." That statement is true if you delete "people of color."

Trunk and Rocketman have pointed out that Minneapolis officials implemented the same "broken windows" policing that Mayor Rudy Guiliani had employed in New York City. The resulting CODEFOR program worked to reduce the crime rate that had given rise to the nickname, "Murderapolis." After an outcry from racialists, the broken windows policing diminished and the crime rate went back up.

Another criticism of the study is that it ignores the fact that racial "disparities" remain constant all the way from victim identification through imprisonment. This is important because the victim does not choose the race of his/her perpetrator, and has the greatest motive to ensure that the correct person is apprehended.

I am sure that there are more holes in the Council on Crime and Justice study, but I don't want to steal any of Powerline's thunder.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Votes, Quips and Quotes

Overheard at the Byerly's Ridgedale Post Office on Saturday after the election:

Customer: "Could I have a different book of stamps?" Clerk: "Sure, what kind would you like?" Customer: "Anything besides the flag ones, I don't feel too patriotic after Tuesday."

Exchange at the Not-Quite-100-Feet-from-Polling-Place Booth:

After voting here in Golden Valley, I grabbed a doughnut from the MoveonPAC people and asked them where the name came from. They weren't sure. Then I said that I thought it was from the impeachment where some people needed to "move on" from their hatred of the incumbent president. I asked them whether the name was kind of ironic given that it was supposed to encourage people to get over their hatred for whoever was the incumbent president. One of the booth staffers actually agreed, but I think the others didn't get it. It was a good doughnut, though. Maybe they should change their name to something less ironic, like "Americans Coming Together." Oh wait...never mind.

Overheard on National Public Radio Wednesday Morning:

"There are a lot of long faces among Kerry and his staffers."

Exchange in Parking Garage ("Ramp" in Minnesota-Speak) Outside Republican Headquarters in 2000 after Gore Telephoned to Concede Election (Before He Called Back):

Parking Lot Attendant: "So, you guys won, huh?" Me: "We all won tonight. You won, too!"

(I should have sent this to Aaron Sorkin, so he could reverse the situation and have a snarky Democrat on The West Wing saying my part.)