Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Last week, I blogged about a pro-tort reform editorial/article from Newsweek. This week, Newsweek has allowed a response, from a woman who had a double mastectomy because the doctors accidentally switched her biopsy slides. Her conclusion:
I also know that if all those who want to restrict the legal rights of ordinary citizens have their way, I wouldn't have waited seven months for an apology from the doctors, which I got only after my story became public. I would have waited forever.

I had a thought, in the category of what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If victims of negligence should be limited in their legal rights, why shouldn't doctors guilty of negligence be limited in their legal rights? I suspect doctors, or any other tortfeasors, would object mightily to such a limitation, which is why plaintiffs object just as vociferously.

Monday, December 15, 2003

I think I've finally smoked it: all this stuff from The Onion is...a joke! Well, except for the following:
NASHVILLE, TN—After more than 40 years of absorbing vast quantities of hard alcohol, George Jones' liver finally fled the famed country singer's body Tuesday. "I can't take it anymore," the liver said. "A liver can only process so many toxins before it says to hell with it." Jones' liver absorbed its final drink early Tuesday morning, a bourbon and branch water that Jones had with some eggs for breakfast. Until it can find a place of its own, Jones' liver plans to share an apartment with Merle Haggard's liver and Hank Williams Jr.'s lungs.

CALCUTTA—More than 12,000 mourners were treated to a performance of "The Bitch Is Back" by Elton John at Mother Teresa's funeral Saturday. The delighted mourners, clapping their hands and swaying from side-to-side in time with the song's pounding, rollicking barrelhouse piano, joined John in singing the song's refrain, "Bitch, bitch / The bitch is back," dozens of times. "This is the perfect tribute to Mother Teresa," said Sister Nirmala, Mother Teresa's successor as leader of the Missionaries of Charity Order. "The bitch is indeed back with God."

This stuff has gotta be true.
Hee Hee. I guess we can blame this on Bush, too [Note: strong language in the post].
I've been too critical of doctors; they really do have it rough:
HOUSTON—Dr. Martin Kenneth Rinjipur, a neurosurgeon at Methodist Hospital, was heckled from the observation deck Monday after removing a cancerous tumor from a patient's occipital lobe. "You call that closing an incision?" the unidentified man shouted. "I could make a cleaner suture with 15 centimeters of frayed chromic gut and a pair of barbecue tongs. Go back to Johns Hopkins." Rinjipur did his best to act like he had not heard the comments.

Who was that masked man?
According to The Onion, Bill Clinton is (a) Googling, and (b) bored.
You think you've got problems? Fred Durst is REALLY in bad trouble!

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Ralph Nader for president again???!! Maybe this time, he'll be the spoiler for the incumbent. On the other hand, if Dean is the nominee, maybe I want him to be the spoiler for him....

On the other hand, with the likes of Susan Sarandon endorsing him, Nader could...win! (hee hee)
You want info? I've got info! How 'bout the discovery of the largest known prime number? On the other hand, "a neat accomplishment, but it really doesn't have any applicability," says the guy who discovered the number.

Maybe I should change the top of this post to: You want useless ino? I've got useless info!
If California is going to prosecute Michael Jackson with this report lurking in the background, they've got problems. It begs the question: what do they know NOW as opposed to February 2003?
Tyco's rats are turning on each other. Good. Remember the old saying: dogs make money, cats make money, pigs get slaughtered. I hope it's ham for dinner soon.
Israel: not the Riviera in France. Thank goodness.
If only I had these when I was a teenager. Life would have been much clearer, at least.
And you thought only those mean "plaintiffs" were the only ones filing stupid lawsuits? Think again.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Newsweek is out to get YOU. A compendium -- dare I say, fisking -- of this story's inaccuracies is here.

UPDATE: This Newsweek story is not hard news; its author admits his articles are opinion:
He has long admitted that his work is opinion and not news, saying, "I left the New York Times in 1988 and it's been no secret that virtually everything I've written since then has contained commentary--that is, opinions growing out of reporting and analysis." (LA Times, 4/23/98). In the past, his opinions have been strong enough to have him removed as a guest commentator on PBS, and even caused his friends to worry that he might be "tarnishing his hard-won reputation as a dispassionate legal analyst." (Washington Post, 3/11/98). His column's effusive praise of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr resulted in Taylor having to apologize for a conflict of interest when it was revealed that he had been simultaneously contemplating Starr's offer of a job on the investigation.

He also used to work for a well known pro-tort reform law firm.
My 6 year old wants a GameCube for Hanukah. Anyone know where I can find one cheap? Uh, cheaper?
Wish list: that Josiah Bartlett was real, that he wasn't such a gun control nut, and that he really could be our president. Too bad Martin Sheen seems to be a would-be assassin: "In an apparent bid to become the undisputed leader of the Hollywood-Actor-Activist set, Martin Sheen stands accused of hatching a plot to assassinate his main rival, actor Mike Farrell."

Hmm. Mike Farrell. Justifiable homicide? Irresistable impulse? Nah.
Gore endorses Dean. (a) Who cares. Gore is as politically dead as, say, Jimmy Carter. (b) Isn't that a kiss of death for Dean? If you care about the various statements, here is the text from the Dean blog.

My take on it was that Gore looked rusty and out of practice. Dean's remarks after Gore finished showed me that he doesn't have the gravitas that one would expect of a candidate and presidential would-be. I admit it. As a democrat, I don't much like Dean. My gut says that absent a Bush self-destruct, Dean could be the McGovern for the millenium. On the other hand, what do I know?

Joe Lieberman was caught out by the endorsement [thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the link]. I must say that pundit opinions that the Dean candidacy is an extension of a Gore move to the left in the 2000 general election campaign have the ring of verity. Extemism in any form is no good, from the left or the right. I believe Dean is a far left liberal in moderate's clothing, and despite all the alleged fear from the Bush camp, they are fairly salivating over running against McGover--uh, Dean in the general.

I still like John Edwards. Hope he makes a move. Unfortunately, his headline today is . . . well, he really doesn't have a headline today.
After only four months, Instalawyer is back on the blogosphere. Unfortunately, with some sad news. Former Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois has died at age 75. Here's a Chicago video stream, with comment by Illinois' Lt. Governor. Sorry about the ad preceding the news report; I don't know how to get rid of it. Here's a print story.

I have personally fond memories of Sen. Simon. In my third year of law school, I interned for Simon's Senate Judiciary subcommittee staff. One day, because my boss was throwing up in the bathroom, I had to staff the Senator at a subcommittee meeting featuring the Secretary of Commerce [Malcolm Baldridge] and the head of the Antitrust Division [Doug Ginsburg]. I was ready to go, as I had done the entire briefing book anyway. Naturally, the Senator's first question to me was (a) not in the book, and (b) a question to which I did not know the answer! After a sprint to the nearest library [1 floor down and, it seemed, a half a mile away], I had an answer. Aside from that, all was fine, and I must say that during that hearing and at other times when I had interaction with him, he was incredibly gracious, especially to an unpaid intern who was not even a constituent.

Another memory of my service in his office was when I saw the Challenger blow up, live and in color, from a TV in his personal office in the Dirksen building. Everything came to a halt in the normal kicked-over beehive of activity that was his senate office. I don't recall a peep from the room for about 30 minutes.

The reports are that he dies after having single bypass and heart valve replacement yesterday. That doesn't sound too onerous. I hope nobody screwed up. We've lost another of the Old Guard.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Weasel words from NASA hierarchy:
Could anything have been done to save the astronauts, if not the shuttle, had the problem been identified earlier?
If you look realistically at where [the shuttle] was it didn’t have many options going for it: a very limited duration, few consumables, no ability to go to the [space] station or do repair and limited ability to even do any type of inspection. We would have had to rush to launch the other vehicle [shuttle] on the ground and that would have been a risk for that vehicle. Even if you knew for sure that you had damage on the first that made it not recoverable—and I’m not sure how you would do that even with all the imagery you thought you could get—it would still be a very tough management decision to launch a second vehicle with exactly the same kind of external tank and the same likelihood of that kind of problem. So it made for a very difficult decision. Conceivably could something have been done if we’d known such-and-such information on such-and-such a date? Well, yes, but when you look at all the things that would have had to happen to make that possible the chances of it making a difference is remote in my opinion.

There has been plenty of reporting that NASA staffers suspected strongly that the foam caused the problem. If the NASA mindset had been proactive instead of staid and apparently discouraging of dissent in the ranks, a rescue mission could have been mounted that might have saved the astronouts and Columbia. Had that happened, NASA would have been seen as heroes a la the NASA of Apollo 13 days. Instead, they sat on their thumbs, ignored the problem and hoped it would go away, and are grounded, maybe for another year, maybe forever.

Gene Kranz, well-known former flight director, responded to the following question as follows:

Q: After a while, the public came to see the success of the space program as inevitable, but you paint a different picture of facing constant risk and danger. How did we get through the program without more disasters? What were the guiding principles?

Good question, one that is difficult to answer briefly. The "human factor" was the key when all of our glittering technology broke down. It was people working with the knowledge and very primitive technology at hand that controlled the risks of our work. We knew there would never be a second chance, so our personal readiness was extensive. The spacecraft and the technologies were fresh from the laboratories. There were no books on our jobs, no manuals on the systems we would fly. We learned our job and then taught the rest of our teammates. We were engineers and scientists flying a spacecraft that moved five miles a second, with a communications system that dated back to the Old West and the pony express. We succeeded because we were a team. If one of us did not have the answer, we searched for the teammate that had one. The cumulative experience of our training and our missions was additive, and with each successful escape we gained the confidence to walk closer and straighter on the edge. We became a team, experienced and unafraid to make time-critical risk judgements in front of the entire world.
The principles of flight control were often simply expressed: "If you don't know what to do, don't do anything! Learn to say I don't know, then go find an answer! Dammit, there are no books; use your judgment! You better be right the first time; you don't have a second chance." We got through the flight program because of the human factor. We were a brotherhood and when times got tough and our equipment broke down, we stood together. When we won it was everyone's victory.

My sense is that this esprit de corps, or cameraderie, that was prevalent in Apollo days doesn't exist any more at NASA. Look at that last paragraph; nobody running the show said that during Columbia's last mission. Without that team spirit, that brotherhood, manned space flight is that much more dangerous. As Apollo 13 [the mission and the movie] exemplified, the real stars at NASA were the guys on the ground, who refused to consider failure as an option.

George W. really hates plaintiffs. Even when they are POWs and even when the defendant is Saddam's Iraq, and even when the judgment by default has already become final. Says one of the affected former POWs: ""It's a sorry situation when our government puts more value on the former government of Iraq than the people who went there to fight that government." Even Repubs are disturbed by the Administration's action: "Sen. George Allen, R-Va., a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, has signaled his concern over Bush's position. '[Allen] has a hard time understanding how pending lawsuits and judgments can simply be erased,' says Michael Waldron, the senator's communications director, adding that Allen supports the use of Iraqi assets for paying American victims' claims."

Which reminds me of one of the conclusions drawn from the recent PBS Watergate special: Even the President of the United State is not above the law.

100 of our friends and family will die today in hospitals due to patient injuries from their care, and not from their diseases. And tomorrow, and the next day. But that'll stop if we limit or bar lawsuits against those responsible. Oh yeah.
From the subscription-only A.M. Best BestWire, on July 29:
Three weeks ago, a handful of congressmen asked the General Accounting Office to find out why medical malpractice premiums were kyrocketing. Its conclusion? There's not enough data to say for sure. The GAO made no recommendation for any executive action based on its report, which was produced at the request of 10 Democrats led by U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Michigan. The report did say Congress "may wish to consider encouraging" the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and state insurance regulators to gather more data to better understand of the market.

Rep. John Conyers said in a prepared press release:

Rep. John Conyers, Jr. issued the following statement concerning the GAO Report on medical malpractice: "Today's report makes it clear that extreme, anti-victim tort 'reform' of the type proposed by the Republicans and President Bush will not resolve the insurance crisis but will simply serve to inflict greater harm on the victims of medical malpractice and wrongdoing by HMOs and drug companies." Among the information included in the GAO Report:
* There is no correlation between losses paid by medical malpractice insurers and limitations on non-economic damages. Minnesota, which had no caps on non-economic damages, had the smallest increase in losses paid by insurers during the period covered (1992-2002), while Florida, which has among the most severe caps on non-economic damages in the country, experienced the greatest increases in insurance losses.
* Lack of competition had an important impact on medical malpractice rates. "Because fewer insurers are offering [medical malpractice] insurance, there is less price competition." "When a large insurer leaves a state insurance market [as St. Paul did in 2002], the supply of medical malpractice insurance decreases, and the remaining insurers may not need to compete as much on the basis of price."
* Reduced investment income by the medical malpractice insurance industry also had an impact on the insurance market. "The approximately 1.6% percentage drop in the return on investments these insurers experienced from 2000 through 2002 would have resulted in an increase in premium rates of around 7.2% over the same two year period."
* The terrorist attacks of September 11 and the cyclical nature of the medical malpractice insurance business further contributed to premium spikes. "Reinsurance rates overall have increased as a result of reinsurers losses related to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001." "Cycles in the medical malpractice market tend to be more extreme than in other insurance markets because of the longer period of time required to resolve medical malpractice claims and factors such as changes in investment income and reduced competition."
* The GAO has no idea as to what contributes to increased insurance pay outs, and concluded that what's needed most is greater information. Possibilities leading to insurance company losses include "a sicker, older population," "a reduced quality of care," "the breakdown of the doctor-patient relationship owing, for example, to factors such as the increasing prevalence of managed care organizations," and other potential factors. "While we could not analyze such potential causes for increased losses, understanding them would be useful in developing strategies to address increasing medical malpractice premium rates." Conyers concluded, "The Republican approach of capping non-economic and punitive damages, capping attorneys fees, and insulating HMO's and drug companies from liabilities clearly misses the mark. The Democratic alternative of limiting frivolous actions, subjecting medical malpractice insurance companies to the antitrust laws, requiring that savings from legal reforms are passed on to consumers, and giving Congress greater information to assess the root causes of the insurance crisis is clearly more in tune with the GAO's findings."
"Political Malpractice" -- that's what a Florida legislator recently called attempts to use unsupported findings of fact in consideration of a tort limitations bill:
Summing it up, Rules Chairman Tom Lee said the Senate would have to rewrite the findings of "fact" that went into its bill last week. "We're not going to put legislative findings in a bill that can't be sustained by the evidence," he said. "That's malpractice."

As the editorial correctly states, the big question is not what limitations to impose, but whether limitations are needed at all.

I changed my blog template. I like it OK, I think.
Ugh. Serious Ugh.
Ever bemoan the lack of a cold [emphasis on "cold"] frosty one when you need it? Here's the solution!
Now I know how to be a better blogger.
The RIAA is out to get YOU. Here's a link to a list of names and ISPs the recording industry outfit is targeting.

UPDATE: Here's how not to get sued by the RIAA
Larry Flynt for Governor! Courtesy of No Watermelons Allowed, and via C-Log.
Marriage between two people bad, polygamy good?
Dennis Prager says that the U.S. is a Judeo-Christian country governed by a secular government. He doesn't much care for the ACLU, either:

That the ACLU would write a letter protesting three little plaques at the Grand Canyon with verses from the book of Psalms provides a clear example of how intent the organization is on destroying the Judeo-Christian moral foundations of this society. This, after all, is the same ACLU that went to court in Florida to protect a Muslim woman's right to be photographed for her driver's license ID wearing a veil! If it ain't Judeo-Christian, the ACLU is a big fan of religion.

For what it's worth, I always thought the U.S was a nation with moral and historical underpinnings based on Judeo-Christian concepts. I'm sure my hindu, arab, buddhist, etc. friends might agree with me there. Also, Prager misses the point in the quoted material above. The religious placques are assertedly a violation of the constitutional Establishment Clause to the first amendment. Allowing the moslem woman to wear her veil is consistent with the Free Exercise Clause to the first amendment.
Sgt. Stryker posts about the Hiroshima bombing anniversary, and comments on the revisionist theory that dropping the A-Bombs were unnecessary.

I ran into the same revisionist thinking when I was in college over 20 years ago. I was taking a History of WWII course, and it was straight revisionism, from start to finish. As I already knew a fair amount about that war, I was shocked and offended that the 2 teachers of the course would sell their revisionism as established historical fact. In fact, I refused to spout back their theories, and my grade in the course suffered. My dad liked my stand, but my GPA didn't. These were also the types of teachers that completely believed that there was no way to be objective in reporting history; one must always approach the research with one's personal outlook, so one better have the right outlook. Really, they tried to teach me that. Contrary bastard that I am, I resisted.

Incidentally, every WWII veteran I have ever spoken to is convinced that the use of nuclear weapons in 1945 (1) shortened the war, (2) saved in the neighborhood of 2 million american lives by making an invasion of the Japanese home islands unnecessary, and (3) probably saved their lives, as well.

Had I been Truman in the moment, with the information I had about the planned home island operations and anticipated casualties, and without any of the [now justified] fears about nuclear weapons that have developed over the last half century, I would have used the bombs, too.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Any home studio enthusiasts out there? I'm playing with a bunch of new software using Cubase/Nuendo and various VST instruments. I've got 2 MIDI keyboards, and I want to be able to record or play back both MIDI from the keyboard and VST instruments. After hours fussing with it, I still can't get it to work right. Any emailed suggestions or web sites pertinent to the subject would be gratefully appreciated.
"Is Democrat Howard Dean President Bush's biggest competition?" I'm sure the Bush folks hope so, because Dean is a real lame-o, in my opinion. Not surprisingly, these guys don't much care for Dean either. Uh Oh. Rush Limbaugh is after the guy, too.

I think that Bush wants to run against someone at least generally perceived to be far to the left [it doesn't matter what he really is; perception is everything in politics]. Dean is that candidate. Personally, my gut just doesn't like the guy; maybe it's his excessive opportunism leading up to the Iraq war.

What the Repubs fear, I would think, is a centrist democrat who can get traction with the current Administration's shockingly cavalier attention to the economy. Foreign policy is fine, but I'm betting that people will be asking themselves the penultimate question at election time: "Am I better off now than I was four years ago?" There are a lot of folks out there who decidedly are not. Say what you will about his taste in women, Clinton's attention to domestic affairs -- and his track record in that area -- beats Bush's, hands down.

Now, I was a supporter of war in Iraq, based on two factors, mostly. First was the Administration claim of WMD. Second was the realization that the Administration's sabre-rattling had put us in a no-back-down situation; we couldn't gear down without losing complete credibility at home and in the world community. So, I said, let's go clear Saddam out, because of the WMD threat and because we have backed ourselves in a corner. Now, months after combat ops have ended, there is nothing more than a hint, if that, of WMDs in place at the time the war began. Bloggers are relegated posting to stories about finding detritus back in 1995

If it turns out that we led down a garden path to war and military occupation by misstatements and -- dare I say it -- lies by our government, then God hel George W. Bush. To paraphrase the famous Nixon line, "You're entitled to know whether your president is a liar. Well, I'm not a liar." Well, Nixon was a crook, and Bush may well be a . . . .

While there is some level of mistruth in a lot of political statements, lying to push us into war -- no matter how desirable it was to oust Saddam -- is simply unacceptable, especially given the result in U.S. lives and depletion of treasury.

From the "He Oughtta Get An Award for This Piece of Idiocy" Department, Mike Tyson is filing for bankruptcy.

Why don't I ever get the chance to spend that kind of dough?
An interesting email from a Drexel med student, which says in part: "We are taught that the only thing we can do to
decrease malpractice suits is to develop a better rapport with patients. I think getting doctors to try and improve their empathic skills is great, and is the only possible benefit to the malpractice mess we are in now."

This guy hits the nail on the head. I can't tell you how many times I've head a client say something like "I never would have considered making a claim if he had just apologized." Often, especially in my part of the world, people just want (a) forthrightness and (b) common human decency. Unfortunately, so many doctors have that well-known arrogance, which translates into either apparent contempt for their customers [patients], and/or the absolute certainty that they have NEVER screwed up a case.

As I have said previously, it takes a special set of facts to justify the time, risk and expense of a medical malpractice case. How many cases would never be contemplated if the doc just said, "my bad. Send me the bills and I'll take care of it." Not all, but a lot.
My old school chum, back on April 22, kindly emailed me the result in that Tommy Lee wrongful death lawsuit over that little boy who drowned in Lee's pool. My off the cuff opinion is that the jury reached the correct conclusion. One of the jurors even laid the blame where it should have been -- at the feet of the babysitter who was supposed to be watching the child. It is noted that the parents are an actress and a TV producer. It begs the question: where were they? As the parents of a six and a three year old, I know that I can't let them out of my sight, especially when a swimming pool is involved.
Email from "doclevittMD" on April 24. How sweet:

This business of 50% of the malpractice cases coming from 5% of the doctors is incomplete and poorly described. If those 5% are neurosurgeons, obstetricians and orthopedists it becomes quite understandable . A bad result (not bad medicine) in those fields leads to the most devastating damages. If you can find liability you guys have it made! The next time you quote that 50/5 thing you should check your sources and the specialists involved. You would get rid of most of the neurosurgeons in the state of Florida if insurance rates matched payouts. The average neurosurgeon in the state has 3 pending suits. Are they bunglers? No they are the most highly trained physicians of all and most come from the top third of their medical school class. Most lawyers, even the ones involved in medmal haven't a clue of what it's like to be a practicing physician. The complexity of it is astounding and it takes a lifetime to master all of it. Ever see a doctor say "I'm not sure what the medicine is on that subject but I can research it and get back to you" and then bill for looking up information that should have been on the tips of his fingers? You people can take years second guessing what a surgeon had to decide in a split second to try and save a patient's life in an operating room. And I'll let you in on a little secret: despite taking that oath to tell the truth lots of plaintiffs expert witnesses lie in court. Our professional societies are just catching up with such prostitutes. Sanctions against neurosurgeons who bear false witness against their brethren for profit have been held up in Federal Appeals Court.

It is simplistic to assume that the insurance companies and doctors are evil or fools and therefore won't jump at obvious simple solutions. Patients need to be cared for. Most of them get very good care. Let's hope it's always available for our families, Counselor.

Gee, doctors have it so tough. They're crying all the way to the bank, after which they're off to their multi-million dollar homes, etc. I recently read in the newspaper that an OB/GYN that I know just sold his house [he moved out of town] for well over a million bucks. And I thought that all the OB/GYNs had gone out of business.
Checking my long-ignored email, I found that my ship has come in, care of Mr. Udenta Chukwu:

I am Mr.Udenta Chukwu, the manager of bill and exchange at the foreign Remittance department of African Development Bank, A.D.B. I am writing to you following the impressive information about you i got in a business attachee from your embassy here through my private search for a reliable and God fearing someone in your country that will help
me to achieve this laudable aim.

The information assured me of your capability and reliability to champion this business Opportunity together. In my department, we discovered an abandoned sum of $38m (THIRTY-EIGHT MILLION DOLLARS) in an account that belongs to one of our foreign customer that died in A Concord plane crash in the year 2000 in Paris that took the whole lives of passengers on board. Since we got the information about his death, we have been expecting his next Of kin to come over and claim his money because we cannot release it unless somebody applies for it as the next of kin or a relation to the deceased as Indicated in our banking guidelines. But unfortunately, we discovered that his supposed next of kin or relation Died along with him in the Plane crash, leaving nobody behind for the claim.

It is therefore upon this discovery that I and other officials in my department now decided to make this business proposal to you and release this money to you as the next of kin or a relation to the deceased for safety and subsequent disbursement, since nobody is coming for it and we don’t want this money to go into the Banks treasury as unclaimed Bill, for the Banking law and guideline here Stipulates that if such money remains unclaimed after four to five years, the money will be transferred into the Banks treasury account as unclaimed fund.

The request of foreigner as next of kin in this business is occasioned by the fact that the customer was a foreigner and a witin the African country cannot stand as next of Kin to a foreigner. We agreed that 25% of this money will be for you as a foreign partner in respect to the provision of a foreign account, 10% will be set aside for expenses incurred during the course of this business, and 65% will go for me and my colleagues. Thereafter, my colleagues and I will visit your country for disbursement according to the percentages indicated. Therefore, to enable the immediate transfer of this fund to you as arranged, You must apply first to the Bank as relations or next of kin to the deceased, Indicating your Banking particulars, your private telephone and Fax numbers for easy and effective communication and location where the money will be remitted. Upon receipt of your reply, I will send to you by email the text of Application.

I will not fail to bring to your notice that this transaction is a hitch free and that you should not entertain any atom of fear as all required arrangements have been made for the transfer. You should contact me immediately as soon as you receive this letter. Trusting to hear from you immediately.
Yours Faithfully,

MR.Udenta Chukka.
N.B.My intention of writing you through email is
Because I believe it is very confidential.


Oops. I missed that confidential thing. Everybody just ignore this post....
I'm back......

I've now gone, like, four months without blogging even once. I've got excuses, if anyone cares [one partner had heart surgery; the other partner just had prostrate cancer surgery -- they're dropping like flies!]. And, as sage friends have said, you have to be in the mood to do this sort of thing.

Also, I was getting bored by blogging just about tort limitations. And depressed. When you have a doctor masquerading as Senate Majority Leader, and there are questions as to his motivations, then you just have to wonder why you should beat your head against the wall any more. Ultimately, it's not a question of right or wrong, as much as it is the usual naked grab for power.

The original thrust of this blog was to ameliorate that power to some extent, by countering the big propaganda machine with my modest effort. Some of you were listeninging, and some were hearing without listening. That's what's cool about blogs. I'll still post news and fun facts/rumors [lies, damn lies, and...what's the rest of it?] on the tort limitation debate, but I thought I'd weigh in on other sundries, as well.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Brian King emails:
The comic strip Rex Morgan M.D., which I never read [Ed.: here's some background on the venerable strip], is launching onto a tort reform comment regarding med. mal. I don't know if your paper carries it but in the first frame one character asks another what is wrong and the second replies that the office's med mal insurance premium just went up $40K. The first character asks if the doc has been sued by someone and the second character says "never . . . in all our years of practice we've never had a claim." End of today's strip. I'll be interested in tomorrows and the next days'.

The strip is poised to make a great point against med mal tort reform. Why is it that premiums skyrocket (assuming they are) for docs who have a clean claim history? Is this a lawyer/plaintiff problem that needs remedying? It certainly seems that the doc is an innocent victim but if no one has sued him it seems to me the problem is not with frivolous claims either. Seems to me its an insurance industry in need of reform.

I am not qualified to address the ins and outs of actuarial practice or how med mal insurers can or should be setting premiums. But it is my understanding that many (most? all?) med mal insurers do not take a doc's claims experience into account in setting that docs premiums. If that is true, it is a travesty. Especially when you read the stats from various states (Florida comes to mind although I don't know where I read this) that a huge percentage of the money paid out over time (my recollection is approaching or exceeding 50%) to plaintiffs come from malpractice committed by less than 5% of the docs. Why don't insurers do a better job of adjusting the premium based on a docs own claims history? I, with an accident free driving record over the past 5 years, would certainly not be pleased to pay the same auto insurance premium as someone who has had three DUI convictions over the past 5 years. Med mal insurers are not doing a very good job of weeding out the bad docs by making a direct correlation between premiums charged in the future for a given doc and that doc's claims experience. If they did so, we'd have fewer bad docs practicing medicine, fewer injured plaintiffs and lower premiums for competent docs. Why is this not being discussed more often?

Tort reform in the funny papers? Why, that's, uh, appropriate! By the way, you can see the strip in real time here.

Gary O'Connor, who blogs at Statutory Construction Zone, emails with a link to Blackstone's Commentaries on the subject of tort limitations [to read the original from the link click Edit, Find, enter 379 and enter; the full quote runs from p. 379 to p. 381]. Here's some background on Blackstone, for the uninitiated.

I have taken the liberty of correcting the archaic spelling from the original to ease readability:

The impartial administration of justice, which secures both our persons and our properties, is the great end of civil society. But if that be entirely entrusted to the magistracy, a select body of men, and those generally selected by the prince or such as enjoy the highest offices in the state, their decisions, in spite of their own natural integrity, will have frequently an involuntary bias towards those of their own rank and dignity: it is not to be expected from human nature, that the few should be
always attentive to the interests and good of the many.


Here therefore a competent number of sensible and upright jurymen, chosen by lot from among those of the middle rank, will be found the best investigators of truth, and the surest guardians of public justice. For the most powerful individual in the state will be cautious of committing any flagrant invasion of another's right, when he knows that the fact of his oppression must be examined and decided by twelve indifferent men, not appointed till the hour of trial; and that, when once that fact is ascertained, the law must of course redress it. This therefore preserves in the hands of the people that share which they ought to have in the administration of public justice, and prevents the encroachments of the more powerful and wealthy citizens. Every new tribunal, erected for the decision of facts, without the intervention of a jury, (whether composed of justices of the peace, commissioners of the revenue, judges of a court of conscience, or any other standing magistrates) is a step towards establishing aristocracy, the most oppressive of absolute governments.

As Gary notes, "This isn't some 20th/21st century liberal talking, it's an 18th century conservative!" Which begs the question of why we are revisiting this issue over and over, every 10 years or so. Perhaps we're seeing the latest "step towards establishing aristocracy"? Thanks for the [always] timely email, Gary.

On April 14, the Daily Rant is going to be hosting Pet Blogging Day as kind of a break from all the war coverage. It's meant to lighten things up a bit. Although, with the war news as good as it seems to be right now, we might not need any more lightening up.
Big Insurance [HMO subset] takes a hit. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that a 1974 federal law does not apply to Kentucky's HMO statute, and that any doctor that agrees to the terms of the HMO contract must be accepted as an HMO doc, per the state law.

Makes sense to me. While the HMOs say that there will be cost and quality implications affecting the level of care they can provide if they can't be selective, I don't see how, if the docs are agreeing to the HMO contract.

Is Tommy Lee at fault for the drowning of a little boy in his pool at Tommy's son's birthday party? A very interesting torts question. Each kid was supposed to have their own adult supervision. The decedent child was brought by a caretaker, who left the party and left the child in the care of another caretaker. As far as that goes, I don't see it as Tommy's fault; it's the caretaker who has now disappeared or the substitute caretaker who should be held to account.

Where Tommy may be in some trouble is over the apparent fact that there was only one life preserver, which his own son was wearing. My guess is that the jury will assess some percentage of fault for (1) making the pool available to the kids, and (2) not having enough flotation jackets for all the anticipated child swimmers.

UPDATE: Here's an interview with Tommy from March 2002. This article alleges that it was Tommy's caretaker who was not watching the deceased child. Uh oh for Tommy, if that's the case.

But, we should all feel better, since Tommy has taken strong steps to prevent it happening again: ""I had a very good friend of mine come by and set up a cleansing. We drained the pool; we blessed the new waters and my sons were part of it."


We're finally going to look for Scott Speicher. The odds are not good, but at least we'll know.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned a $145 million punitive damage verdict. Seems State Farm thought it was too much, and the Supremes agreed. Hre's a news release from ATLA. Also, for those interested, here's the ATLA amicus brief. Here's the text of the opinion. How Appealing has a detailed write-up of the case -- just scroll down to item 2. There are links to other newspaper articles about the decision here.

In the strange bedfellows department, Justices Scalia and Thomas dissent from the majority, arguing that there is no constitutional authority for limiting punitive damages. I'm with 'em on this one.

Has it been five days since I've blogged? Can't be. Jeez, I'm working too hard.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Following up the previous post, where's Scott Speicher? The world wonders. Here's a blurb, based on a FoxNews site, indicating Speicher may have been seen in the past minth, in Iraqi hands.

A disturbing thought is that, when faced with imminent defeat, the Iraqis may well dispose of Speicher, to cover up for their perfidy in holding him for over 10 years.

Poster child for the war: Jessica Lynch! She singlehandedly fought off her Iraqi captors, continuing to fire at them even after suffering multiple gunshot wounds. That's guts.

Now, as to the multiple fractures she sustained, does anyone else wonder whether they were the result of torture by the Iraqis? Was she raped? Given the level of physical injury, rape seems consistent with these bastards' mentality.

In any event, in my book, Jessica Lynch = Soldier. Oh and by the way, why can't women serve as soldiers in fighting units? Jessica proves women are tough enough. Any married men will already have figured this out, of course.

And one more:

Even another!

And another:

Here's a photo of the pro-USA rally:

Check out this statement from Iraq's Information Minister:
Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, however, called coalition reports that their forces were on the outskirts of Baghdad "an illusion."

They're not even [within] 100 miles," he said. "They are not in any place. They hold no place in Iraq. This is an illusion ... they are trying to sell to the others an illusion."

Some information minister. Pop quiz: who's divorced from reality here, us or them?

We just had a roving pro-USA rally come by my office here in Knoxville. Probably 75 to 100 people, waving american flags, boisterously shouting "USA, USA!" They came up the block from the Duncan Federal Building, turned left on Main Avenue, and were still yelling when I lost sight of 'em. Nice punctuation to my morning, even though they moved too fast for me to shoot a photo of them.

UPDATE: They're in front of the City-County Building now, singing "God Bless America."

More UPDATE: I just emailed long range photos to Instapundit, who can store them on his site. Look soon. I'll put them up here if I can remember how....

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Tort limitations on life support in the Senate?
Meanwhile, Bush's proposal to place a $250,000 cap on jury awards for noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, in medical malpractice cases has stalled in Congress. Frist was working with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on changing the plan by doubling the cap in most cases, and quadrupling it in extreme cases. But Feinstein backed away from the deal after physicians groups objected to it.

That's encouraging. Interesting read on on the Senate's best doctor [and worst senator?], Bill Frist, who is shown himself unable to hold moderate repubs in line with their party leader. The story thinks it's because maybe Frist wants to distance himself from the Administration and prove himself his own man. I think it's because Frist is an amateur trying [metaphorically] to play quarterback in the NFL, and he, like his president, isn't big enough for the job. Also interesting is the report in the story that Bush is ignoring Congress now that war is under way. That's consistent with his past behavior, in that many repubs were publicly critical of Bush's lack of focus and people skills with Congress in the months prior to 9/11.

Maybe he's got Attention Deficit Disorder?

They're calling it the way they see it in Dayton, Ohio:
Just like in small-town coal country, business interests find people and institutions they can't control to be a nuisance. And nothing bugs them more than having to answer to ordinary citizens sitting in judgment of them as jurors.

So their strategy — not just in Ohio, but nationally — is to remove an important part of juries' traditional power to dispense justice in civil cases.

That's what "tort reform" is all about — at least in the radical form Republican state senators are expected to roll out this week.

This editorial discusses something not often discussed: the delay factor in how defendants litigate cases:

If these ideas are adopted, no defendants will be in a hurry to take responsibility for their mistakes. Why should they? There's no downside to duncing around injured parties for a couple of years. In fact, that's a smart business calculation under tort reform. Maybe the victim will get tired and settle for less.

Anyone who thinks corporations and their lawyers won't take full advantage of tort reform's money-saving tricks — including delay, delay, delay — is kidding themselves. Risk of larger liability and fear that a jury could be offended by a company's carelessness or misconduct encourages offending parties to be reasonable. This version of tort reform removes that pressure.

An excellent point, highlighting a facet of litigation not generally recognized or understood by the public -- delay is usually a deliberate tactic by the defense, in the big cases especially.

Delaware courts offer best protection against excessive jury awards:
Many, if not most, lawyers take medical malpractice suits on contingency; that is, they get paid only if they are successful. Such lawsuits are almost always complicated and involve not only doctors backed by big insurance companies but well-financed medical institutions as well.

An intelligent lawyer is unlikely to take a case on contingency without believing it has merit. Accepting bad cases on contingency leads to financial ruin.

In addition, there can be other consequences of serious negligence besides economic loss. Injuries can damage lives for years in ways difficult to determine financially. Shouldn't victims receive some compensation? Shouldn't the negligent pay?

Of course, the editorial also posits that punitive damages should be paid to the state. If that was the case, then what lawyer, who knows that neither he nor his client will be paid based on a punitive award, will pursue such damages? His duty is to protect his client; punitives that don't go to his client not only don't benefit his client, they also draw the focus away from the client's case. Thus, it would be unethical to spend effort and focus on a claim that does not work to the client's benefit.

It's getting nasty: New Hampshire's governor to docs: "When I pick up a paper and read about how some doctors in New Hampshire beat up a poor Democratic candidate driving through the snow in his station wagon, I'll know you're doing your job."
The Oregonian opposes federal tort limitation legislation, and says leave it up to the individual states:
But an artificial limit isn't the right answer. Not only has it been soundly rejected by Oregon voters, but it also would put the civil courts out of reach for most consumers. Lawyers can't afford to pursue contingency-fee civil lawsuits that call for expensive research and expert testimony unless they have a chance to recover their costs.

Further, it's not entirely clear that damage awards are the sole drivers of premium increases.

Unfortunately, the editorial also proposes, in a shot from the hip, "rational analysis that connects awards to the degree of negligence involved." Let's not forget that the more serious the injuries as a result of malpractice, the higher the verdict should be. And, how does one determine the "degree" of negligence in any particular situation? I like our current setup better: The question of deviation from standard of care [negligence] is basically a yes/no question. If "yes," then consideration is given as to whether the negligence caused the injury, and the degree of injury. What's wrong with this procedure? It makes sense to me

Sorry about the lack of blogging. I'ts hard to do this when they expect you to work for a living, too.

The Volokh Conspiracy is a little critical of the ACLU cyberchief's concerns over potentially eroding privacy. The thought is that the discussion should focus on what the law is now, as opposed to the potential for abuse in the future.

I see where the ACLU guy is coming from, though. It's important to consider how trends may affect us. Often, legislative initiatives or regulatory mandates might not have an immediate effect on us, but are simply the first salvo in a longer term effort toward a goal that's kept in the dark. Prognostication as to what might happen in the future based on the current state of affairs is valid, and valuable.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Instapundit reports that Gary Hart is blogging. Skeptic that I am, I note that the sidebar says, "Questions pertaining to this blog can be emailed to: kevin at garyhartnews dot com." So. Is it Gary or is it a staffer that's writing the blog? My guess is that it's a staffer, putting out campaign pap. If you look at the only post on the blog, it says nothing, but does it in the typical quasi-condescending way of political rhetoric.

Understand, I have nothing against Gary, particularly. But I do think that if he wants to blog, then HE should do it, and not a staffer. Otherwise, what's the point?

Saddam and Syria, sittin' in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes marriage, then come "dozens of volunteers, primarily Palestinians from the refugee camps in Lebanon, [crossing] over into Iraq through Syrian-controlled border posts" in a baby carriage.

OK, so I'm feeling cute today. Read the whole story.

Thanks to David Mercer, who gives me a good URL for Salam Pax's blog, Where is Raed. He also says, in response to my musings that Salam is French:
I caught the weird spelling of cousin too, but in French a male cousin would still be spelled cousin, cousine would only be a female, so he messed up twice in one mis-typing. Doesn't surprise me though, the French have had a large influence on the Middle East, so I'd think a francophone misspelling would be expected over here. I put it in the same category as black people from England having a British accent.

David, you're probably right.

Sorry I've been off the "air" for a few days, but my law partner had a heart attack on Monday, bypass surgery yesterday, and guess who has had to step into the breach? I'll try to get back into the swing of things, but my caseload has now doubled or tripled, so I'm likely to be off and on for a while.

Monday, March 24, 2003

I blogged a while back about a lousy 60 Minutes story about the tort reform bill. Here's an open letter to Mike Wallace from ATLA's president, in response. Among other things, the letter says:
"A Gannett News Service examination of court records and [Florida] state and national insurance data found no significant increase in malpractice cases in recent years, few jury awards to speak of, and only modest growth in payments made to settle cases with patients. That's true across Florida and throughout nation, records show. To be sure, doctors have endured painfully sharp rises insurance premiums. But much of the conventional wisdom about what's causing the so-called malpractice crisis is wrong. And although insurance companies would enjoy a $100 million windfall from capping pain-and-suffering awards for patients, there's no indication they would lower rates for doctors, industry financial documents show."

$100 million windfall. Don't let anyone tell you differently. To Big Insurance, it's all about the money. Which puts me in mind of a wonderfully malicious line from "Jerry McGuire": it's not called "show friends," it's called "show business." [ed. note: go to p. 63 of the script. This linked script of "Jerry McGuire" is not completely consistent with the finished movie. In the movie, the snake agent, Sugar, says the line, not the father of the blue chip athlete.]

This Salam Pax, who is blogging from Baghdad, well, don't try to access his blog, because all I can get is an invalid URL error. CNN does have this report on him, though, which makes me wonder why I can't read his blog, since CNN obviously can. My guess is that he's French or Belgian, since one of CNN's quotes caught him misspelling "cousin" by using the french spelling of "cousine." Call me S. Holmes.
Instapundit links to Lileks' rant [in part] about the BBC approaching war coverage from an arabist point of view. It doesn't surprise me, and it doesn't concern me. Britain has perennially been arabist in nature. Lovers of history will recall that when the British pulled out of the Palestine Mandate in 1947, it left the Jews on the scene essentially defenseless against 100 million arabs surrounding the soon-to-be-birthed [re-birthed?] Israel. In fact, in the months leading to the proclamation of the State of Israel, the British turned over bases and arms to Arab irregulars and the Arab Legion. Britain's support of arab regimes relative to western-style democracies, i.e., Israel, has been pretty consistent since the creation of Israel in 1948. Said the British Ambassador to Israel last year, referring to other british envoys in the region: "British Arabists send back highly colored reports, forgetting the realities in Israel," he said. "My job is to remind them of those realities".

Considering Britain's history of siding with the arabs, its support of and participation in the Iraq war may be seen as perhaps a watershed event in global relationships.

Ever'body wantsta get inna de act [apologies to Jimmy Durante]: Coalition forces have come under fire from Iranian military units across the border from Iraq, British commandos said. Iranian anti-aircraft gun emplacements and fixed machine-gun posts have opened fire sporadically at British Royal Marine commandos and low-flying US aircraft.

Friday, March 21, 2003

A fellow named Fred Nicholson seems awfully upset at my blogging the photos of the relatively moribund anti-war rally yesterday in Knoxville. Let's see what he has to say, kids:
Am I right? Do you feel that by bludgeoning anyone who opposes the war -- attacking their patriotism and accusing them of lack of support for the troops -- you are doing this country a service? Do you take satisfaction in silencing the opposition?

This is very similar in many ways to the Republican position vis a vis the Florida recount in 2000 -- if a crime has been committed and the criminal has been successful -- GET OVER IT!!! Here we have it again -- the domestic criminals in Washington have turned this country into an international criminal -- WELL, IT'S OVER NOW!!! GET OVER IT!!! AND SUPPORT THE TROOPS, ALREADY!!!

Anybody who believes in free speech is unAmerican! Anyone who believes in international law is unAmerican! Anyone who opposes a war of aggression is unAmerican!

Did you ever have to study the constitution? That is, as a document based on certain underlying principles (not just as something that you will learn -- as a lawyer -- to try to get around and subvert). Do you have no feeling for the American system of government? I don't think you can plead ignorance (like the president -- he, at least, has a good case). Or are you actively opposed to the American system of government? Do you hope by supporting this administration to change America into something that
you're more comfortable with -- eliminating a lot of that freedom and democracy bullshit?

I guess I have to admit, I just don't understand you. But I will say that you frighten me. (Does that please you? I'm guessing it does.)

Whooo! I was just having fun with my digital camera.

Perhaps Fred hasn't read previous posts from this blog, where I hope I spelled out a reasonably thoughtful rationale for why I support military action. As I have said, I have no love lost for this Administration, and I do wonder if they are actually smart enough to have set up over the last 8 months the scenario where war was the only viable alternative. Because that's where we were when the decision was made to go.

As to that business about understanding the Constitution, I have done my share, but I sure don't understand why you should impugn my belief in the principles of the document. I don't believe I've said anything here that would be construed as a refutation of it. And that snipe about lawyers trying to get around and subvert it is just plain mean. Oh, and untrue. So there.

For the record, I have always considered myself a Democrat. That doesn't mean that I will slavishly support any activity identified with Democrats. I think the anti-war movement has taken the wrong position, has taken it stupidly, and has not taken it with any kind of analytical consistency. I think, just as the Republicans were incensed with Clinton winning in 1992 [remember the "Don't Blame Me, I Voted for Bush" bumper stickers], the Democrats refuse to get over the fact that this Bush, according to the Constitution, won in 1992. I don't like that fact, but it's done. Get over it.

So much of the anti-war protest is not about the war, it's about hating Bush. That's fine, but it confuses your message. Allying with anti-semitic/anti-Israel groups like ANSWER doesn't do much for your credibility, either, as far as I'm concerned.

Learn from history: those same post-1992 Republicans, rabidly motivated to oust Clinton in 1996, ended up with a candidate that lost by a landslide. Recriminating about the 2000 election result will not lead to a change in the White House, in my opinion.

Finally, it seems to me that I was doing the rally-goers a favor by publicizing their get-together. They're exercising their First Amendment rights; so am I. As I said, whatever makes 'em happy....

Thursday, March 20, 2003

I use my digital camera so seldom....

Here's another picture from the rally in Knoxville:

So, I'm sitting in my office looking at Anne...Straight From the Hip [Hi, hon -- and that's 4503; ed. note: check her blog journal out to see what he means], when I hear chanting and singing from outside my 8th floor window. I grabbed my trusty Minolta digital and this was the result. A somewhat desultory anti-war rally being held in front of the John H. Duncan Federal Building. A little silly to hold the "rally" here, especially as the building closed about 2 hours ago....Oh, well, whatever makes 'em happy.

Thanks to Instapundit for online storage space [and instructions on how to post a pic; boy I feel like a real techie guy now!].

Either you're with us or you're not. And here's the rogue's gallery of some of those who are NOT: Palestinians [about 700 Palestinians, most of them schoolchildren, waved Iraqi flags and posters of Saddam Hussein and burned two U.S. flags after the attack in Iraq. Among the slogans they shouted were "Death to America, death to Bush," and "We will sacrifice our soul and our blood for Saddam."], Egyptians ["God, you are almighty, you are capable of turning this [war] against" the
Americans, said Egyptian Bashir el-Afesh as he finished his prayers in Cairo.], Syrians, er, Lebanese, er, ah, what's the difference these days [In the Lebanese capital, papers pushed back deadlines to include war news and appeared on newsstands.] Of interest is Iran, who while deploring the military action ["American military operations on Iraq are unjustifiable and illegitimate"] nevertheless is remaining neutral: "The Islamic Republic of Iran will not enter into action to the benefit of either side."
Pax Americana? In the case of Scott Speicher, the American aviator shot down in 1991 over Iraq, declared KIA, and now believed to be alive and held by the Iraqis, I think it's worth going to war to save even one American held captive by these bastards. Sgt. Stryker posts about it, and links to another article about this brave and somewhat overlooked American, which then links to the web site set up in part by Speicher's wife. There are plans for a rescue in the early phases of the war. If anything will make this a popular conflict, getting Scott Speicher out of Iraq and back with his family ought to do the trick!

Now here's the thorny dilemma. Scott's wife, believing him dead for years, married another man and has had children with him. If Speicher returns to the land of the living, so to speak, what then? Does she stay with the new husband, go back to Scott, or move to Utah and practice polygamy?

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Is/Are Mel Gibson and/or his family anti-semites? This story suggests that to be the case, at least as regards his father, who is 85 years old. Check this out:
The actor's father, Hutton Gibson, told The New York Times he flatly rejected that the terrorist group led by Usama bin Laden had any role in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon Sept. 11.

"Anybody can put out a passenger list," the elder Gibson told The Times.

"So what happened? They were crashed by remote control."

He and the actor's mother, Joye Gibson, also told The Times that the Holocaust was a fabrication manufactured to hide an arrangement between Adolf Hitler and "financiers" to move Jews out of Germany to the Middle East to fight Arabs.

"Go and ask an undertaker or the guy who operates the crematorium what it takes to get rid of a dead body," Hutton Gibson told The Times. "It takes one liter of petrol and 20 minutes. Now six million?"

Said Joye Gibson: "That weren't even that many Jews in all of Europe."

This Bill O'Reilly interview of Mel [scroll down about half way to get to the interview] suggests that journalists were hounding Gibson's father to "dig up dirt." Maybe this counts, although I don't place much stock in the musings of an 85 year old private citizen.

Mel is "implicated" because he is making a movie about the last 12 hours of Christ, and there is some hint that the approach of the picture is to repudiate Vatican II, in which the Catholic Church, after 20 centuries, rejected the notion that the Jews were collectively responsible for the death of Christ. Here's another article that alleges the inflammatory statements came from a family friend:

The friend, Gary Giuffre, a traditionalist Catholic, also said that the film will lay the blame for the death of Christ where it belongs -- a reference that some traditionalists believe means the Jewish authorities who presided over his trial, the article said.

* * * *

Discussing his film in a recent TV interview, Gibson was asked whether his account might particularly upset Jews. He said, "It may. It's not meant to. I think it's meant to just tell the truth."

Whose truth? The fact that there is no denial from the Gibson camp as to the approach of the film may suggest that, in fact, the Jews are going to get blamed yet again. If so, I will certainly be disappointed. Question: has he become a zealot?

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Maybe I'm greedy. But Glenn R.'s MSNBC blogumn [I just made that up] says, interestingly, "And with large numbers of troops in Iraq, and de facto control of Iraqi oil production, the United States will have the power to make that sort of thing [punitively disfavoring French influence in the region] stick." So I got to thinking: if we control Iraqi oil when this thing is all said and done, can we just hold on to it long enough to get gas prices down to a sane level? Or, on the dark side of things, would Bush hand over control of the Iraqi oil facilities to his Big Oil buddies? Just musing at the end of the day....
NEXT DAY UPDATE: Maybe prices will come down after all, like I mused.
The French Ambassador to the U.S. says that if Iraq goes chemical/biological, then that "would a create a completely new situation for the whole world." Saddam has already used chemical/biological weapons in military action [see the interactive sidebar: "Chemical and biological weapons Iraq says it has manufactured in the past"]. To summarize, he used mustard gas in the Iran war, he used Tabun, a nerve agent, during the Iran war, he used Sarin, a nerve agent, during the Iran war, he used Cyclosarin, a nerve agent, during the Iran war, and he used CS, a tear gas, during the Iran war. What's changed?
Of great concern in these days leading to war is how to deal with an "enemy" who doesn't fight conventionally, i.e., army to army, on recognizable fronts or in defined theatres of action. Here is an analysis of the "Arab way of war", with some suggestions as to responses. Interesting reading. From Jerry Pournelle's web site.
Call it evolution in action:
It seems that many, if not most, of the hundreds of journalists assigned to combat units can't be bothered with carrying around their chemical warfare equipment. So many reporters plan to use the journalists (at least the ones who refuse to take their chemical protection gear with them) as chicken replacements.

And they say that birds are not very bright....

Fox News Watch thinks that the wait from hell has allowed the public to be well informed about the different sides of the war issue. Maybe. But it makes no reference at all to the incredible information dissemination in the blogosphere. Shame, shame.
While I don't particularly agree with the theme of this TomPaine.com editorial, there is a nicely depressing -- and unfortunately apt -- quote from the late Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, at the Nuremburg trials:
Supreme Court Justice Robert L. Jackson, who was this country’s representative to the International Conference on Military Trials in August 1945 and the chief prosecutor at the Nuremburg war crimes trials, told his colleagues then that "we must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it. And we must not allow ourselves to be drawn into a trial of the causes of the war, for our position is that no grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy."

One wonders how Jackson would have responded to the Iraq situation, or for that matter, any of these screwy post-cold war scenarios. If someone could suggest a way out of the Iraq situation that did not involve the use of force, and which would also keep our economy and national prestige from suffering profound damage, I'd like to hear about it.

From our prolific Atlanta Bureau Chief, RJGator, comes this quasi-legal analysis:
InstaPundit wrote last evening, "The big question: if Saddam makes clear that he won't step down, will we start before the 48 hours has expired?"

Looking at this from the perspective of a contract attorney, there is no legal reason why we should not. We made an offer: leave within 48 hours, and there will not be a war. According to the Atlanta news this morning, Saddam's sons rejected the offer. It is a fundamental rule of contract law that rejection of an offer kills the offer. Once the
offer is dead, it can't be revived: Saddam can't change his mind and accept.

As our colleague David Epstein colorfully put it, "If it is dead, we can't mess with it any more. It would be unnatural to mess with it. That would be necrophilia."

Thus, there is no longer any offer or other impediment on the table. The table being clear, we can run it.

It would be nice if the world in general ran according to basic principles of contract law. Hell, it'd be great if contract law ran according to basic principles of contract law. Heh.

One does wonder whether the Hussein rejection of the invitation to run [and did anyone actually think Saddam & Sons would really leave?] will lead to action before Wednesday night. I doubt it, because Bush seems to have guaranteed time for the UN folks and other neutrals to get out of Iraq. However, given that surprise still remains the most important tactical advantage in war, it's maybe not a bad idea to go sooner rather than later. I mean, between the Administration and the media, Saddam has basically our entire disposition of forces. The only thing left to surprise him with is when we go, and exactly how we go.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Instapundit links to John Scalzi, who believes, as I do, that we must fight, but that the Administration has incredibly bollixed up the situation:
If Bush and his people had the slightest bit of competence in dealing with the rest of the world -- competence that should have begun on January 20, 2001, not just in the last six months or so -- this war would already be over. There would have been no real dissent in the Security Council, no ability for Saddam to play other countries against us, less time for the "no war ever under any circumstances, ever" crowd to build up its head of steam, and we'd have had international support for a war that would be both useful and had the potential to eventually be a humane action. Saddam would probably already be dead (or rotting in a dinky little cell, which I would prefer) and the UN instead of the US would be stuck with keeping the various hate-filled factions within Iraq from gleefully murdering each other. We would have gotten what we wanted, and we would have made it look like a team effort. Then everybody could have had their Coke and gone home.

Glenn gives Bush & Co. credit for bending over backwards to make the UN process work. I don't think there was that goal in mind. I think there has been no coherent long term strategy in preparing for war, or whatever. Like the Energizer Bunny, the situation just kept going, and going, and going.

Well, the waiting's about over. There will be no vote on a second UN resolution. Bush is set to address the nation tonight. Hopefully, it will coincide with an attack in progress; some tactical surprise would be nice. Even the possibility that the excruciating wait is ending has caused the markets to jump up.

To the anti-war types, what are you all so afraid of; if Saddam is telling the truth, there won't be any bio-terror or nuclear disasters. What I [and probably the Administration] am afraid of is that Saddam has been lying. Example [from the first link]:

Meanwhile, unnamed U.S. officials in Washington told CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr on Monday there was "more chatter in the system" pointing to the possibility that Iraq may be preparing to use chemical weapons in a possible U.S.-led war. Chatter is usually defined as monitored, yet unspecified, intelligence messages.

I'd certainly prefer that Iraq not use WMD. Iraq's use of those weapons would, however, validate everything we have been saying.

UPDATE: at 2:27, the markets are now up 242 points. Boy, we need to win big and win fast.

I stumbled across this alleged debunking of the Erin Brockovich story, apparently by some guy named Michael Fumento, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in D.C. Here's Erin's reply. It strikes me that this guy's got an axe to grind. Not surprising, since he has a pedigree that includes the American Enterprise Institute [conservative think tank] and the Washington Times [Moonie paper somewhat to the right of Attila the Hun]. Like most arch conservative types, he thinks it insignificant that the defendant in the Hinkley case voluntarily negotiated and paid -- as a settlement -- about $333 million. Apparently that's peanuts for PG&E and people like Fumento. I wish I knew defendants that would pay up that kind of dough on my undeserving cases.

For perhaps a more realistic viewpoint, Michael Asimow, a UCLA law professor, enjoyed the movie, and apparently didn't agree with Fumento's smarmy attack on the case or the movie. Just as an example of what Fumento failed to consider:

The killer document implicated the top management of PG&E in the Hinkley cover-up. Under Calif. Civil Code §3294, in order to support a claim for punitive damages against a corporation, it is necessary to show that an officer, director or managing agent of the corporation ratified the wrongful conduct. The document was clearly the key to the arbitrators' huge punitive damage awards. In the film, the document is turned over to Brockovich in a bar by a rather sinister looking fellow who Brockovich thought was trying to pick her up. He was a PG&E employee who had been told to shred documents but had saved the critical ones. He was out for revenge since his brother (also a PG&E employee) had just died from chromium poisoning. In fact, there were two sources for this material, including a bartender; PG&E hired them to transport all the historical records about the chromium from the "boneyard" where they were stored to the dump. This episode illustrates what all trial lawyers know--the difficulty of covering up evil conduct and the likelihood that somebody will spill the beans. [emphasis added]

If PG&E didn't do anything wrong, how come they tried to destroy the "smoking gun" evidence? Also important is to comprehend Ed Masry's gamble and the expenses necessary to get to that settlement. Masry ran a two lawyer shop; it was the gamble of a lifetime to go after corporate giant PG&E. Also, as Asimow notes, the plaintiffs in that case had expenses of over $12 million. Now that's a gamble.

A buddy of mine emailed the following to me:
To: French Embassy in Washington French Consulate in Los Angeles

Dear French Nation! Shalom!

As a Jew, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I would like to thank your President Jacques Chirac for saying that Israel needs to be convinced that peace is better than war.

Never mind that peace (shalom in Hebrew) is the most common word in Jewish
prayers. That it is endlessly repeated in synagogues, when greeting or taking leave, when getting up or going to bed.

Never mind that shalom (peace) is mentioned 77 times in the Torah, and 275 times in the Jewish Bible (The Old Testament of Christians). Never mind that of all the world's literature the United Nations chose to inscribe the words of Israeli Prophet Isaiah on the wall across from its building in New York. Here are these words, "and they shall beat their words into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."

Never mind that these words are said in every synagogue at nearly every assembly, and that peace is called "God's greatest gift, " Therefore, the President of the Nation that still venerates general Napoleon would do better teaching cows how to make milk, or teaching grass how to grow quietly than teaching Jews (Israelis) that peace is better than war. Thank you, Jacques Chirac, for informing me about the encyclopedic extent of your ignorance.

I would like also to thank the unnamed cinema near the Paris Opera for canceling a screening of the "Harry Potter" film for Jewish kids. But I am even more grateful to the police of Paris, which has failed to provide protection for these kids. Apparently Jews of any age are no longer guaranteed complete equality with the rest of the population. France was the first country in Europe to offer Jews this guarantee, and now it is
apparently also the first to revoke it.

I congratulate your great Nation for keeping up at the foreskin of progress, no matter in which direction progress turns. And how can I not mention the doctorate degree in history, which was offered to Mustafa Talas (who just happens to be Syria's Foreign Minister) by the Sorbonne. The Honorable Doctor Talas has written a book on the Damascus Blood Libel of 1840, in which he claims that Jews kill Christians to obtain their blood for Passover. A true genius of historical science is Mustafa Talas, and certainly worthy of Sorbonne. I am infinitely glad that good old blood libels (perhaps the most imaginative product of European civilization), nearly forgotten in the last 50 years, are being revived in French academic circles.

You French are just wonderful: not only do you keep at the foreskin of progress, but also revive ancient traditions. (The Damascus Blood Libel started with disappearance of Father Thomas, a Franciscan superior. The French consul accused a group of rabbis and other Jews of ritual murder and extracted a "confession" by torture in which one of the victims Pogroms followed throughout the Middle East. The consul then requested permission from Mahemet Ali to kill the rest of his suspects. Others, including sixty children, were arrested and starved to convince their parents to confess. The charges were dropped when Sir Moses Montefiore, Adolphe Cremieux and Salomon Munk intervened on behalf of the Jews.)

I also cannot forget the events of October 2000, with synagogues firebombed and burned, Jewish worshipers attacked and stoned. I know that President Chiraq spoke out against all this, saying that this is not what he meant when he criticized Israel. Well, as English playwright Shakespeare said, "Methinks the Lady doth protest too much." The President's criticisms of Israel had been (and remain) so extensive, so
common and so unforgiving, that I cannot possibly believe him. The events of October 2000 is exactly what he meant. And if there is any doubt about it, your ambassador to the United Kingdom Daniel Bernard has cleared it up. Not only did he call Israel "that shitty little country," (quite a polite and diplomatic fellow is Daniel Bernard, is he not?) but he also ante-factum (before the fact) blamed the Jewish people for starting World War Three. My greatest gift of gratitude, therefore, goes to him. He has discovered in me (after all, I belong to "those people") a horrifying quality of causing world wars, a terrible character flaw about which I hitherto had been completely unaware. He has also forewarned us of our pre-assigned guilt.

I would like to inform you that I have decided to join the campaign against France. I will not visit or fly through France and its colonies of Guadeloupe, Martinique, and St. Pierre. That I will also boycott all products made in France, including perfume and cosmetics industry, designer fashion labels, French wines, chocolates, etc. That I will use my money to buy Israeli products, and travel to Israel and other countries who still think that Jews are human and should not live at the mercy of Palestinian

I gues the theme of the day on this blog is the rising tide of anti-semitism, which we in the U.S. have not paid enough attention to.

And while we're at it, let's do this war already! The economy is worsening day by day.
Is this new mystery pneumonia a bio-terror attack? No one's reported on that aspect yet, but it shows you where my mind is these days.
Jim Moran is in trouble. And he ought to be. Nice quote from the Anti-Defamation League:
"This is one voice in the chorus spreading a new lie, the age-old anti-Semitic canard that when our country faces danger, Jews are responsible," it said.

"As we move closer to an invasion with Iraq, the drumbeat of 'blame the Jews' -- meaning Jews in the administration, the 'Jewish lobby' and the Jewish community -- is intensifying and multiplying.

"Congressman Moran's remarks are symptomatic of a more serious problem -- that in times of crisis and anxiety, Jews continue to be a convenient and tempting option for scapegoating."

This post dovetails with the previous one about that anti-war rally in D.C. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see the anti-semitism when these anti-war types are talking about Israel and "Palestine" in the same breath as the Iraq situation. It's all the Jews' fault.

You know, if Jews had half as much influence as these idiots think, there would have been, by this time, a Greater Israel that had taken over all the middle east.

Anybody see that ANSWER rally in DC over the weekend? Here's the C-Span link that will show you some of that video. What got me during my 20 seconds of viewing over the weekend [not on the video at the link] was the guy who equated "Israel's invasion of Palestine" with Bush's soon-to-be war on Iraq. True colors shown by this group. If ANSWER represents the liberal or democratic mainstream, I guess I'm not a liberal or a democrat any more.
The democrats [of which I have always been one] are in serious danger of losing their base [I figure I'm typical of the centrist democrat] over the war question. But, just when I thought it was over for the dems, here comes John Edwards, who has the guts to speak his mind in a very hostile environment. He was roundly booed by the crowd at the California Democratic Party convention for supporting the use of force, if necessary, to oust ole Saddam. I love his quote:
'It is also a test of presidential leadership to have the backbone to say to those who strongly disagree with you, even your friends, what you believe,'' he said before expressing support for using force.

It's at least a threshold consideration, i.e., whether the candidate has the guts to say [and impliedly do] what he believes is right, in the face of concerted opposition. I'd say that Edwards passed the test with flying colors.

Meanwhile, here's Howard Dean, who shows he can pander with the best of them: 'What I want to know is what in the world some of these Democrats are doing supporting the president's unilateral intervention in Iraq,'' he said to sustained applause. Dean and the other candidates flunked, big time.

Interestingly, California Republican Party spokeswoman Karen Hanretty said the conventiongoers did not represent the average California voter -- or the average Democrat for that matter.

"Obviously, Dean is telling the liberal activists in the Democratic Party what they want to hear, but it doesn't sound like he's offering a message that mainstream voters are going to relate to," she said.

Significantly, Edwards' position over the the weekend is not new, and he's had trouble with protesters in his home state long before the weekend convention.

It doesn't hurt that Edwards is a trial lawyer, so I know he'll do the right thing when it comes to protecting the rights of negligence victims. I'm for Edwards!

Friday, March 14, 2003

Here's the rest of the story. Howard Fast may have written the novel "Spartacus," but Dalton Trumbo wrote the screenplay. And while Fast may have been a well-known radical, Trumbo had been blackballed from the picture industry and imprisoned for his communist tendencies. Kirk Douglas, who produced the movie, insisted on having Trumbo write it under his real name, as opposed to a pseudonym. And that's...[wait for it] the rest of the story.
On a lighter note, Glenn and Griff and I, we're going diving. We're going diving! OK, not till the summer, but: We're going diving! We're going diving!
Yes, it's true: Glenn Instapundit Reynolds and I broke bread the other day. That ought to be news enough. I mean, we live 10 minutes away from each other, work 5 minutes away from each other, and actually manage to get together for lunch or whatever once every 3 months or so. My fault, I'm sure; I'm just a damn surly creature.

Glenn speaks the truth, however, on my Iraq position. I have very deliberately been on the fence, as previous posts on this site indicate. But I thought I should explain what has led me to come out in favor of doing this damn war, already.

First, Saddam is a bad man, and should have been completely dealt with in 1991. That was the mistake of a Bush White House with significant input from Colin Powell. While I don't have much confidence in the current Bush White House [with significant input from Colin Powell], it doesn't change the necessity of getting rid of Saddam.

Why get rid of him? The argument is that he's a known quantity; better someone who is relatively predictable than a wild card. I think that perception has changed over the last several months. The problem with this guy is that we can't predict what he's going to do. There is at least some evidence that Saddam is working on bioterror weapons, and he has had a well-known relationship with nuclear technology [which is probably being supplied to him by the French -- hence their eagerness to prop him up]. That he has not used these weapons on people other than Iraqis and Kurds does not mean that he will not -- at any moment -- use them on us, or the Israelis, or whoever. Given the climate of the last 7 or 8 months, we cannot allow him to continue holding over the world this potential for catastrophic destructiveness.

We must move, and soon. Our reputation in the world community, not strong to begin with, has suffered from the waiting. The UN maneuvering, while maybe justifiable in theory, has turned out to be a waste both of time and national prestige for the U.S.

We are now, based on the Administration's handling of the issue, in a no-win situation regarding Saddam. If we go militarily without UN "permission" we are villified as ignoring that "august" body. Even if we do get a UN OK, we will be villified by the fairly significant [at least vocally] anti-war movement, that finaly has found a cause since Vietnam is a dead issue. We won't get UN permission, however, because France or Russia will veto. France especially continues to villify us in the world press. And, simply doing nothing will get us villified, too. We cannot allow Saddam to remain in place, because if we back down now, we are seen as a laughing stock, and Saddam may very well become the leader of the arab world as a result of "defeating" the U.S. We're going to get villified any way we go; we may as well have the villification of our choice [ed. note: can the Administration have been this smart? Can it have actually set up this scenario where going to war is the lesser of evils? Nah.]

Our administration has placed us in a remarkably difficult situation by its ham-handed handling of the Iraq issue. By waiting as long as we have, we have destroyed any semblance of strategic or tactical surprise, which is the single most important factor, militarily speaking. We have been turning the Rooseveltian "speak softly and carry a big stick" on its ear, since we are screaming about how great we are and how we are going to squash Iraq. Not smart politics. Not smart war-making. We should just -- as a government, that is, just shut up and do the job.

If we start taking casualties, the early and vocal predictions of a military cakewalk are going to come back to haunt the Administration. We all want to achieve the goal of cooking Saddam's goose with a minimum of fuss and human loss, but we must also remember that basic military tenet: No Battle Plan Survives Contact With The Enemy.

The economy is taking body blows because of this interminable shucking and jiving. We are economically in the toilet: over 300,000 more unemployed in the last month, gas prices the highest in history, the airlines about to go belly-up because of the political climate and the fuel prices, the stock market about the lowest it's been in five years, a loss of 25 to 30% in the value of stocks over the past yearand a $300 billion deficit and climbing. And still, the idiot in the White House [strike previous, insert "President"] wants to cut more taxes. We just got out of financial trouble and within 2 years he's made it worse than it ever was. So much for small government. Anyway, we've got to get off the nut before our economy completely tanks. This domestic economic rationale may be the single most urgent reason for going, and going now. Also, I understand that we've already spent 3/4 of the money prosecuting this war will take. So at this point, it's not a money issue.

OK, so I do have some ambivalence; just not about whether it's time to make war on Iraq. I hate this Administration, and I think it has mishandled this Iraq situation from the start. But, given the situation on the ground, I also believe that we have no choice but to get rid of Saddam, and do it soon. As a wise man said, "sh-- or get off the pot." It's time to go to the bathroom. On Iraq. And get rid of this 9 months of constipation.