Monday, December 19, 2005

Last year, state voters approved Amendment 3, which places strict limits on the contingency fees that lawyers earn from representing people who sue doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers for malpractice. But lawyers have found a way to sidestep the cap: They ask clients to waive their rights under the amendment, allowing the attorneys to collect higher fees.
Doctors responded by asking the court to change the ethical rules that all lawyers in Florida must abide by, and both sides went before the court two weeks ago. Justices expressed skepticism that the court could prohibit anyone from waiving their constitutional rights. But several justices also said that there should be some safeguards to guarantee that medical malpractice victims are aware of their rights.
The order on Wednesday says it is not a final ruling in the case, but it sends a strong signal as to how the court will eventually rule. Justices said that the new rules developed by the Florida Bar must ''include a procedure'' where medical malpractice victims can free their attorney from the fee caps.

Here is text of the Supreme Court Order. Here's a link to the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers page, with links to other neat stuff for lawyer and quasi-lawyer geeks, like oral arguments, briefs and the like.

One must understand that the effort to cap attorney's fees does not help the average person, it hurts them profoundly. If a lawyer must limit his fees to an arbitrarily low figure, while still having to finance a case often well into the six figures, then that puts an incredibly chilling effect on the ability of malpractice victims to hire a lawyer. The doctors and Big Insurance haven't been able to win the day on substance, so they are trying to achieve the same goal through the back door. If a client can't get a lawyer, they won't file suit. No lawsuit, no insurance exposure. Pernicious, but not surprising.

Friday, December 09, 2005

I read it. It's called London Blues. Not bad, either.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

You know, I gave up watching lawyer shows on TV some time ago. I think it was "Ally McBeal" that really did it to me. Now it's another David Kelley show, "Boston Legal." I happened to catch an episode [TIVO's playing it back as I blog], and it is so insulting for lawyers, as well as the poor audience that might actually think lawyers act this way, that I'm just disgusted.

Now, I didn't see the whole episode, but apparently a four year old got kidnapped, so two associates of this fictional firm masquerade as FBI agents, abduct a person with knowledge about the kidnapping, truss him up, threaten torture, violate every constitutional right the guy might have had, and get information from him. Then -- if that's not bad enough -- they go to a suspect's priest, and in an effort to get him to violate his confessional confidentiality, misrepresent themselves as federal officers, threaten him with a fraudulently fake search warrant, threaten to knock down the priest's door with an axe, and when the priest puts his hand up to stop them, they cut off three of the priest's fingers! Still with me? THEN, they blackmail him at the hospital by refusing to give him back one of his severed fingers until he breaks his vow of confidentiality. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the firm's managing partner knew what these two lawyers were up to, and turned a blind eye to it.

Oh. My. God.

This insult to my intelligence was like a law school ethics question -- how many ways to get not only disbarred, but hell, arrested and prosecuted for multiple felonies? I suppose I should laugh about it like I did with "The Verdict," but I just can't. People believe this crap. I know they want it controversial, but can't they do it without making the lawyers look like the biggest bunch of lawbreakers, crooks, and generally bad people since Jesse James?

UPDATE: OK, here's a wild contrast: on AMC is "To Kill A Mockingbird." Atticus is very cool

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

More thoughts on ideology and zealotry. Bill Moyers's fears are, in my opinion, entirely justified:

there is an even harder challenge - to pierce the ideology that governs official policy today. One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the oval office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington. Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a world view despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality.

Read the whole thing.

Monday, November 14, 2005

There's an argument being floated that Bush is no more culpable for taking military action against Iraq than is Clinton, who launched missile strikes in 1998. If life were a debating society, the point might be good. But I can't help but note that (1) The Bush Administration had five more years of intelligence; (2) there are serious questions whether the Bush Administration tweaked the intel to suit their ends-oriented analysis; (3) when no WMD were found, the Bush Administration shifted their alleged motivation for war to "the fight against global terror"; (4) evidence indicates that the Bush Administration was fixated on Iraq even before 9/11; and most importantly, (5) The Clinton Administration's military action against Iraq did not cost (to date) 2,065 American lives and many thousands more maimed and wounded.

I also have a long enough memory to recall just what the Administration said, both explicitly and by innuendo: that Saddam had WMD, that he would use them imminently, and we had to take military action right away, or else. The Bush Administration resorted shamelessly -- and effectively -- to the worst kind of fear-mongering.

The Administration had an unrealistic assessment of the presence of WMD, it had an unrealistic assessment of the cooperation of Iraqis, and it had an unrealistic assessment of how to win the peace. When collectively pink with embarassment for not having found any WMD, the Administration resultingly resorted to attempted political retribution against Joe Wilson when he went off the reservation to expose the Administration's shortcomings in the decision to commit to war.

In its zeal to find out something -- anything! -- to justify the war decision, the Administration has condoned, nay, approved the use of torture to extract information of questionable reliability from prisoners. In short, the Bush Administration, acting for the United States, has acted contemptibly, and has caused us, in the eyes of the world, to become that which we detest the most.

Before I'm castigated for being unpatriotic, let me say that this discussion has nothing to do with our troops on the ground. They are simply soldiering. But we went to war in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons, because we, the people, were misled about the necessity for military action.

Americans don't like to be lied to, and the public is just now starting to suspect they were duped into support for this war. There will be a price to be paid ultimately by this Administration.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

MED-MAL "REFORM" UPDATE: Ken Connor, former president of the Family Research Council and attorney for Florida Governor Jeb Bush in the Terri Schiavo case, injects fresh air into the debate over changes to our civil justice system. His column, with support links, persuasively argues the following:
All told, the top 15 medical malpractice insurance carriers raised their rates a startling 120% between 2000-2004, even though their payouts increased less than 6%. Some companies continued to raise the rates doctors pay even though their payout expenses were declining.

The industry’s clear strategy is to blame injured patients and their attorneys in order to deflect attention from their avarice.

The truth is that there is a medical malpractice crisis facing our nation. It has its origins in the operating room, not the courtroom. According to an Institute of Medicine study published a few years ago, between 44,000 and 98,000 Americans die in hospitals every year due to preventable medical errors.i (To put that in context, we lost 58,000 soldiers in the entire Vietnam War).

Another way to improve the quality of patient care is for doctors to police their own ranks more vigorously. In Florida, for instance, one study has shown that over half of the malpractice in that state is committed by just six percent of the doctors.iv The proper response to that fact is not to attack the injured patients and strip them of their legal rights, but to more aggressively discipline errant doctors. A “three strikes and you’re out” program for negligent doctors would not only be good for patients, but also for the non-negligent doctors who are currently forced to pick up the tab for their negligent colleagues.

Another way to reduce insurance premiums for good doctors would be to institute a “risk pooling” method of insurance coverage. Doctors with a history of neglect would be placed in “high risk” pools separate and apart from those with good track records. The result will be that insurance premiums will be more commensurate with the risk posed by those in the “pool”.

Connor will be speaking to the ATLA Republican Trial Lawyers Caucus tomorrow. Just goes to show that sometimes, the differences between "red" and "blue" types is not that great after all.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Some thoughts on the University of Tennessee football Vols:

This year's offense has seesawed between mediocre and pathetic. During Satruday's debacle against Georgia, my seatmate and I figured that Tennessee has failed to score in 9 out of the 20 quarters of football it has played this season [I don't count that "last minute" touchdown referred to in the link's headline; we scored with no time left to make the score 27-14 -- it was meaningless]. While I have seen [very] poor Tennessee offenses before, never have I seen such poor performance after everyone, from the head coach down the line, told us how fabulous this team was going to be. It's no one player; it's a comprehensive offensive problem.

I refuse to believe it's the level of talent. Tennessee consistently recruits top classes. As a general assumption, it's fair to say that Tennessee's talent level rivals any other program in the NCAA.

If that is the case, then the reason for the poor play comes down to one of two things: either the outstanding prospects are simply and collectively not as good as everone thought, or those outstanding prospects are not being developed into the top college football players they could be. My vote, for several years, has been the latter.

Casey Clausen, who was a starter most of his Tennessee career, had stats almost as good as Peyton Manning's. Where's Casey these days? Graduate assistant for some SEC school. He never achieved the way Manning did because he wasn't developed as well as Manning. David Cutcliffe brought along Peyton, as wel as Eli, both successful college and NFL quarterbacks. Who developed Clausen? Randy Sanders.

In every year since 1999, the year Sanders became Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach, the Tennessee's offensive output has either gone down, or at the very least, has never reached the levels of previous teams, including the 1998 National Championship squad. While the defense under John Chavis has consistently excelled, the offense has sputtered, or fallen apart [see Florida game in 2002].

I was the first person to laud Sanders after his magnificent work in the 2004 campaign. He got two completely green quarterbacks ready to play, he got the third-stringer ready when both the first two went out with injuries, and he was able to construct an offensive line game after game, from a group that had been decimated with injuries. He should have been named the assistant coach of the year. Alas, it appears that Sanders's performance in 2004 was the exception to the rule.

Player preparation is weak. Offensive lineman are not opening holes or moving the pile to allow the running game to breathe. Receivers are dropping the ball more than I can remember in the last 16 years. The offense is consistently plagued with penalties that reflect a lack of coaching and a lack of discipline. As I said over and over again during last Saturday's game, "it's one step forward, two steps back."

The play-calling is adequate, but there are definitely times when the opposing defense has known what we're going to run, before our offense does. We are consistently told that we have a tremendously sophisticated playbook, but I seem to see the same 20 or so plays every game. If we've got it, why aren't we using it?

The bottom line is that, seven years after our shining National Championship, Tennessee football has become average. The players have lost that edge, that innate ability to do whatever is necessary to win the game that top rank teams have. Seven years ago, we would have roared back to beat Georgia, the way USC has been coming from behind to beat teams this season. Unfortunately, Tennessee is no longer in USC's league.

We need to shake things up in the Tennessee program. If that means making a change in Offensive Coordinator, so be it. I'm open to suggestions.
Comparing George W. Bush to Harry Truman is an insult to Truman.
Michael Brown and Harriet Miers have caused the spotlight to shine on the Bush Administration's remarkable track record of promoting unqualified Bush cronies to positions of power and responsibility. The New Republic lists top 15 of the Bush "Hackocracy." Just two examples:

No. 13. Claire Buchan, Chief of Staff, Department of Commerce: She used to be a White House Deputy Press Secretary, "a public affairs underling for the Treasury Department under former President Bush, a flack for the Republican National Committee, and (during the Clinton years) an image czar for the lawn care, extermination, and appliance repair company ServiceMaster. Some of Buchan's erstwhile colleagues in the White House press corps were left speechless when her new assignment was announced in February. One White House reporter who worked closely with Buchan for five years called her 'the most useless in a Bush universe of enforced uselessness. She took empty banality to a new low.'"

No. 3: Rear Admiral Cristina Beato, Acting Assistant Secretary for Health, Department of Health and Human Services: In June 2004, Cristina Beato admitted to her hometown newspaper that she hadn't paid much attention to the details of her resumé. That's too bad, because those silly little details seem to have stalled her confirmation for assistant secretary for health for over two years now. Beato said she earned a master's of public health in occupational medicine from the University of Wisconsin (but the university doesn't even offer that degree). She claimed to be "one of the principal leaders who revolutionized medical education in American universities by implementing the Problem Based learning curriculum" (but the curriculum was developed while Beato was still a medical student). She listed "medical attaché" to the American Embassy in Turkey as a job she held in 1986 (but that position didn't exist until 1995). She also boasted that she had "established" the University of New Mexico's occupational health clinic (but the clinic existed before she was hired, and there was even another medical director before her). For her part, Beato has offered a simple explanation: English is her third language, after French and her native Spanish, and sometimes the language barrier is just too much to handle. How does one say "pants on fire" in Spanish?

And that's just two on the list. Sheesh.

I guess I don't mind being loyal to one's friends and getting them positions in the government. Most administrations have done it. But at least let them be qualified for the job. As it stands, it is an insult to the taxpayer who pays their salary, the department that is saddled with apparent incompetents, as well as the government employees who work with and under these hacks.

Anyone who wants to talk about "good government" and "government waste" should start by looking at the hackocracy.

Monday, October 10, 2005

This Harriet Miers thing has me alternately guffawing at Republicans practicing political cannibalism, and depressed over what it appears to mean.

Most of the establishment "Reagan" Republicans, have, without so much as a by your leave, roundly attacked and decried the Administration. OK; that's fun. But why are they doing it to "their" president? Because he's "their" president only so long as he does their bidding. Message to W:toe the line or face the consequences.

If I am right, it supports what I have been saying since 2000: George W. Bush is and has been nothing more than a placeholder for the Republican establishment, a figurehead who was put up for the job because he had a name and he was pretty and they had no one else at the time who was any better. Right wing pundits seem to confirm this theory, because just as soon as he does something not "cleared" with them, they vomit vitriol against him that is extraordinary. Unbelieveably, they've got me feeling sorry for Bush, and I consider the guy a political dunderhead!

The larger issue of what this "eat your young" exercise reflects is the true agenda of the Republican party, and especially its right wing. They want to pack the courts [including the Supreme Court] with right wing ideologues who will redraw our country in their image. Want a picture of their image of the U.S.? Just ask Ann Coulter -- Democrats are traitors. It's the ultimate crushing of dissent.

The dirty little secret about the judicial debate is that it is not between "strict constructionism" and "judicial activism." For over 200 years, it has been elementary that we must have independent judges who "say what the law is." We must have judges who will be the ultimate arbiters on what our statutes and our Constitution means, in light of the 21st century that we live in.

The conservatives want the Supreme Court to be activist, too. They just want it to judicially legislate to suit their image of our country and for their interests. They want the Court to abolish the right to choose. They want the Court to curtail or abolish privacy rights. They want the Court to do away with the rights of the accused. They want the Court to "say what the law is," but in the way they want it to be.

The conservatives and right wingers have firm control over two branches of our government. Even a cursory listen to a Pat Buchanan type makes it obvious that they want the fight with Democrats over control over the third and last branch -- the Judiciary. Because they think they can win.

This free-for-all is about getting and keeping power, nothing more or less. The right wingers think they've got the votes to ram a conservative ideologue down the Senate's collecive throat. Bush sidestepped the fight. The zealots are livid that their figurehead didn't do their bidding.

What's got all us middle-of-the-roaders so worried is the adage that "power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." I don't trust the Republicans to be good stewards of our nation, based not only on their positions and philosophy, but also on their track record in the White House since 2001 and in Congress since 1995. If the Republicans in general -- and increasingly, that means the right wing fundamentalists -- gain control of all organs of government, I truly fear for us.

Friday, October 07, 2005

The 2 or 3 people who actually visit this site might have noticed I have been playing musical templates the last day or so. I like this one all right; the last one didn't show the hyperlinks well, so I changed it.
It's no great news that I went to the Tennessee-Ole Miss game last weekend. What was cool about this game was that I got to sit in the East Skyboxes. Here's an exterior view of the structure. For the well-heeled (and lucky hangers-on like me), they set out a heckuva spread here both before and during the game. We're talking lamb and beef tenderloin, lobster ravioli, shrimp etouffee, and a delightful white chocolate mousse for dessert that cleaned the pallette jusy right.

My assessment: it was OK, and quite plush, but considering the thick glass separating you from the game itself, there still is a disconnect feeling about sitting there. Don't get me wrong, though: if asked, I would attend there in the future!

Interesting coincidence: the last [and only other] time I was in a skybox was in 1984, when my friend Glenn had an invite from UT Chancellor Jack Reese to come up to the Chancellor's box. Who were we playing that day? Ole Miss! Oh, and we won that day, too.

UPDATE: The Skybox links above don't work right. However, just click on the links in the page you are directed to, and you will see some interior photos.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Not only is Ann Coulter crazy and dangerous, she's a snob, too.

Don't get me wrong. I honestly don't know whether this Harriet Miers would be a good Supreme Court Justice or not. I do know that there is nothing in the Supreme Court Justice job description that says, "Must have attended elite university, such as Harvard, Yale, et al." Coulter's reasoning is insultingly forced ["I think we want the nerd from an elite law school" remarkably denigrates "nerds" and non-nerds at the same time], and is fundamentally flawed.

I think there is too much academic in-breeding in the federal judiciary anyway. Why SMU? Why not SMU? Or Tennessee [home of my friend Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds]. Or American University's Washington College of Law [my alma mater]. Where a lawyer went to school has no impact on what kind of mind that lawyer has, or what kind of judge he/she would make. I say that a little diversity would be good for the Court, and the country.

Now, I guess I'm not too surprised at Coulter's ranting about Miers's background. She went to an "elite" undergraduate school [Cornell], an "elite" law school [Michigan], she was an editor of the law review, she clerked for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, and she worked for Floyd Abrams's "elite" law firm in New York City [highly-paid, hundreds of lawyers, most with pedigrees such as Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Virginia, Michigan]. Coulter's looking for a bird of a feather, and appears to take an immediate dislike to an appointee who has the wrong color feathers.

One thing I've figured out over the last 20 years or so: legal elitists tend to a pack mentality; they are most comfortable with people who have similar backgrounds. If I had been top 5% at American University, I might have gotten an interview with Coulter's former firm, had I been so inclined. It's unlikely they would have made me an offer, however. I'm just not in the same club, so to speak.

And at the end, that's what's got Coulter and the other elitists, "liberal" or "conservative," upset. Miers is not in the right club. She doesn't belong.

If we're going to judge this appointee on whether she's "fit" [whatever that means] to sit on the Supreme Court, we should have a reasoned discourse on her qualifications for the job. Maybe she doesn't have the gravitas to deserve the job, but where she matriculated should have nothing to do with the debate.
A lawsuit by the widow of a policeman who was killed when bullets penetrated his bulletproof vest has led to a federal lawsuit and criminal investigation against that manufacturer. Turns out the allegedly defective vests were used by Secret Service, the President, and the First Lady:

Prosecutors have gathered documents showing that Second Chance was alerted as early as 1998 by the Japanese material maker, Toyobo Co., that Zylon had trouble maintaining its protective properties.

By 2001, Second Chance's research chief, Aaron Westrick, was pleading unsuccessfully with his company's president to replace the vests after his own tests showed them degrading, the memos show.

"Lives and our credibility are at stake," Westrick wrote then-Second Chance president Richard Davis in a Dec. 18, 2001, memo. "We will only prevail if we do the right things and not hesitate. This issue should not be hidden for obvious safety issues and because of future litigation."

Westrick urged Davis to "immediately notify our customers of the degradation problems," let those with pending orders cancel them and cease all executive bonuses to save money so the company could pay for a replacement initiative, the memo shows.

But Second Chance customers were not alerted to the problems until September 2003 _ after a California police officer was shot to death wearing the vest and a Pennsylvania officer was seriously wounded.

In the interim, the Secret Service paid $53,000 in 2002 to Second Chance for body armor, enough to equip the president and the security detail that protects him and other VIPs, federal procurement records show.

Legal professionals and government officials familiar with the inquiry confirmed Westrick's account about the Secret Service and Bush. They said the criminal investigation is in addition to a Justice Department lawsuit filed last summer that accuses Second Chance and Toyobo of fraud. The officials spoke only on condition of anonymity, citing grand jury secrecy.
While the purpose of lawsuits is to get compensation for the wronged, this situation illustrates how legal action can force changes -- or at least investigations -- that serve the greater good.
W.R. Grace to asbestos victims: You're not so sick:

Most of the 870 people under a medical plan for Libby-area residents sickened by asbestos exposure have been sent letters saying they no longer have asbestos-related disease, or may not be as sick as they thought.

About 700 people received the letters this month from HNA/Triveras, administrator of a medical plan for W.R. Grace & Co., which operated a vermiculite mine here until 1990. Some health authorities blame the mine for killing 200 people and sickening one of every eight residents.
Apparently, blue is green and red is purple, according to W.R. Grace.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Regarding the ongoing levee problem in New Orleans, why isn't this solution being considered or used? Moreover, why isn't Aqua-Levee bringing its miracle product down to N.O. on its own. If nothing else, imagine the worldwide positive publicity it could garner.

Monday, September 19, 2005

I know the president has more or less backed off his statement that no one expected Katrina to cause so much damage. But I just had to link here, because Nashville lawyer John Day makes a good point: the National weather Service predicted Katrina damage pretty well:
Katrina is a demonstration of the failure of imagination in government -- nobody, apparently, ever imagined it would be so bad, even though we all knew, intellectually, that such a thing was possible. What we need are government people tasked specifically to spin out disaster scenarios, so that prepared responses may be formulated and executed. I think Instapundit suggested just this type of thing long ago. When I get the time, I'll find a link.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

By now, y'all have probably heard that Merck, maker of the infamous Vioxx, got slapped with a jury verdict for a whopping $253.5 million, including punitive damages of $229 million. But did you hear that, under Texas law, that punitive verdict is automatically cut to $1.6 million? Let's put it in perspective:
$11.772 Billion: The total worldwide sales of Vioxx from the time it was introduced in 1999 to the time it was removed from the market in 2004.

1999: $472 million ["S&P Affirms Ratings on Merck & Co.; Outlook Stable," Standard & Poor's press release, Business Wire, 2/23/00]

2000: $2.2 billion ["Merck's Strong Performance in 2000 Driven by Five Key Medicines, Chairman Ray Gilmartin Tells Stockholders," Merck & Co., Inc. press release, Business Wire, 4/24/01]

2001: $2.6 billion ["Merck's Continued Focus on Innovation Will Drive Growth, Merck Chairman Tells Stockholders," Merck & Co., Inc. press release, Business Wire, 4/23/02]

2002: $2.5 billion [Merck & Co., Inc Annual Report, 2002, p. 24]

2003: $2.5 billion [Merck & Co., Inc Annual Report, 2003, p.19]

2004: $1.5 billion ["Cholesterol Drugs on Top," Med Ad News, Vol.24 No.5, May 2005]
$505 Million: The amount Merck spent ($505,207,440) on direct to consumer advertising for Vioxx. ["The new face of consumer advertising," Med Ad News, 24(6):1, June 2005, "Consumer ads reach peak, Med Ad News," Pg. 1(8) Vol. 21 No. 6, June 2002, "Direct-to-consumer spending by brand," Med Ad News, Pg. 46 Vol. 19 No. 6, June 2000]

$37.8 Million: The amount Merck's Chief Executive Officer, Raymond Gilmartin made ($37.775 million) in 2004 from a salary, bonus, and stock options that he cashed-in. He was paid a base salary of $1,600,008, and received a bonus of $1,375,000. In addition to this salary and bonus, Gilmartin made $34.8 million by exercising stock options that he previously received from the company. It should also be noted that Merck gave Gilmatin additional stock options in 2004, estimated to be valued at $19.2 million. [Merck & Co. 2005 Proxy Statement, p.24-25; USA Today, 3/30/05; Washington Post, 3/22/05; The New York Times, 5/6/05]

$30.4 Million: The amount Merck spent ($30,390,294) lobbying Members of Congress and Federal agencies between 2000 and 2004. [The Center for Public Integrity]
$1.511 Million The amount Merck's Political Action Committee contributed ($1,511,885) to federal candidates since 1997. [Center for Responsive Politics, as of July 31, 2005]

$675 Million: The amount Merck has set aside to pay its corporate defense lawyers in Vioxx-related lawsuits. [Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/20/05]
Note that last statistic. And they call plaintiff's lawyers greedy?

Friday, September 02, 2005

There's no point belaboring how bad things are in the Katrina-affected areas. The American Trial Lawyers Association has a way of making tax deductible contributions for hurricane relief, though.

Monday, August 01, 2005

As most musicians will tell you, the magic of playing happens when the whole exceeds the sum of the parts. There are relatively few groups that achieve that goal. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, The Who, Chicago come to mind in this respect, as the solo output of these groups’ respective players seldom matches the music of the group. Loggins and Messina, reunited after 29 years, achieves the goal handily, even effortlessly.

The duo, who were paired almost accidentally back in the early 1970s, only played together for 4 or 5 years, but their music remains entrenched as some of the most notable tuneage of the 1970s. While both Loggins and Messina, as solos, have created some good music, none of what they have done since their amicable parting in 1976 approaches the soul and staying power of the Loggins and Messina catalog.

I drove 200 miles to see them in Atlanta, at Chastain Park Pavilion. Not that I'm superstituos, but because I brough no rain gear other than a couple of small umbrellas, it rained for about 2/3 of the show. Regardless, I had waited 25 years to see them again, and I was not disappointed by their performance. Loggins was his usual animated self, while Messina laid back and sang/played, essentially flawlessly.

Their voices are as pure as they were 30 years ago, which is quite a contrast, compared to other icons, such as Elton John and Paul McCartney, whose voices have suffered changes with age. Harmonies were spot on; I failed to detect any glitches in the vocals.

It was the same with the band, populated with musicians new to the Loggins and Messina scene. There were a couple of songs I thought were played slightly too slow, but it wasn't tentative, it was measured. There were no self-indulgent solos like we heard back in the day. The song selection, while mostly centered on the songs they are “known” for, was fine. As a fan, I always want to hear more, but I was not disappointed by what they played.

Not counting the down time during the intermission, the group played for about 2 ½ hours through on and off [mostly on] rain, and the audience that persevered through the elements was left wanting more.

Ultimately, it was a fine show, demonstrating that this duo needs to be making new music together. Loggins’s tendency toward fluff is perfectly counter-balanced by Messina’s grittiness. Their vocal styles complement each other well. They are both approaching 60 years on; it would be a horrible shame to their musical legacy, as well as the fans that enjoy their music, if they finished this tour and simply went their own separate ways again. If not now, when?

8:05 PM
1. Watching the River Run
2. House At Pooh Corner
3. Travelin Blues
4. Sailin’ The Wind
5. Long Tail Cat6. Country Song/Holiday Hotel
7. Back to Georgia
8. Changes
9. Trilogy
-Lovin Me...
-To Make a Woman Feel Wanted
-Peace of Mind
10. Your Mama Don’t Dance
(End at 9:00 pm)
Around 9:20 they started showing clips of them from the 70s
The “General Store” part of the show
11. You Better Think Twice (A Poco Song)
12. Love Song
13. Keep Me In Mind
14. Kind Woman (A Buffalo Springfield Song)
15. Alive and Kickin
16. Growin’
17. Be Free
18. Same Old Wine
19. You Need A Man
20. Vahevala
21. Angry Eyes
22. Nobody But You
23. Danny’s Song
End about 10:55 pm

And then we drove 200 miles home again. Whew!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Based on this footage, thank God the French didn't help us out in Iraq [PG-13 site, caution for underage viwers]!

Monday, March 14, 2005

To no one's surprise, there is no "crisis" in medical malpractice cases. That is the conclusiosn of a study to be published in the July 2005 Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, a peer-reviewed publication, and authored by four law professors. Some conclusions:

The number of large paid claims (>$25,000 in 1988 dollars) per year was roughly constant. The number of small paid claims (<$25,000 in 1988 dollars) declined sharply.

Mean and median payouts per large paid claim were $528,000 and $200,000, respectively, in 2002 and were roughly constant over time.

Roughly 5% of paid claims involved payments over $1 million, with little annual variation.

In 2000–2002, there was an average of 4.6 paid claims per 100 practicing Texas physicians per year, down from 6.4 paid claims per 100 practicing physicians per year in 1990–1992.

The total number of closed claim files averaged 25 per 100 practicing Texas physicians per year in 2000–2002. Of these, about 80% involved no payout.
In 2002, payouts to patients were about $515 million and Texas health care spending was about $93 billion, meaning that malpractice payouts equaled 0.6% of health care spending.

Mean and median jury verdicts in trials won by patients were $889,951 and $300,593, respectively, in 2002 and showed no significant upward or downward trend.
The sum of payouts and defense cost rose by about 1% per year. Defense costs, which grew 4.4% annually, drove this increase.

No surprise here. These facts and figures are consistent with my experience in Tennessee, too.

Anti-semitism at UC Irvine. Cloaked in the old rubric of "anti-zionism," the muslim students have hauled out yet again this old chestnut: "Malik Ali unleashed an attack about the Zionist control of the American media, Zionist complicity in the war in Iraq and Zionists’ ability to deflect justified criticism."

And how about this: "More recently in October, somebody scrawled the messages, “Kill the Jews” and 'Make it snow Jewish ash' in a classroom at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. That same month at UC Riverside, a pro-Palestinian display equated the Star of David with a swastika and Zionism with Nazism." It's the bg lie -- scream loud enough and long enough, and people may just start to believe it.

We're back to late 1930s Germany here. We must be very careful not to let this spiral get out of control.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

It's official: bloggers beat Tom Daschle. What's interesting is that two of the most vociferous pro-Thune and anti-Daschle blogs were funded by the Thune campaign, and the bloggers closely associated either with Thune or with the GOP.

It's one thing if you're a blogger who just happens to like one candidate over another. It's quite another when you represent yourself as objective, fair and/or balanced, and it turns out after you have significantly influenced a campaign that you were bought, paid for, and propagandizing for your candidate.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Glenn spoke yesterday about poor Helen about having had it with being in he hospital. His comments about being in the hospital long periods of time is right on the mark. It's called ICU psychosis. Basically, the longer you are in the ICU [specifically, and hospital generally], the crazier you get. It happened to my father, when he was in the hospital for nine weeks following cancer surgery in 1992. He just got further and further away from us, to the point where a family friend [and doctor] told us to get him out, no matter what, or he was going to die. We did, and he didn't.

Being in the hospital sucks.
We now have a new law that restricts class action lawsuits, further limiting the rights of people to be compensated for their injuries. The Houston Chronicle, in our president's back yard, is critical of the legislation. The Chronicle's point: what happened to the concepts of limiting federal power, espoused by the republicans? Good question. My answer is that the Republicans never really believed that stuff; they say whaever they need to in advancing ther own agenda. Thus, if it serves their purpose to say "get government out of peoples' lives," they take that tack. When they want something in line witht their iedologu, all of a sudden restrictive legislation that takes perennially state matters out the states' hands becomes perfectly acceptable. Logically inconsistent, but ideologically useful.

Now that class actions are out of the way, it's back to this ridiculous effort to limit, first medical malpractice lawsuits, and ultimately all lawsuits for damages. Here are some interesting truths demonstrating that caps on damages and other limitations as proposed by the Administration do not reduce healthcare costs. Read the whole report, but here are some bullet points:
Despite caps on damages enacted in 19 states, most insurers continued to increase premiums for doctors at a rapid pace, regardless of caps.

States with caps on damages have premiums on average 9.8% higher that states that do not have caps.

Past and present medical malpractice judgments/settlements do not seem to be the driving force behind increases in premiums.

California doctors' premiums rose 450% in the 13 years after passage of caps on damages, and did not go down until California passed, by referendum, insurance reform.

The state of Texas's passed caps on damages in 2003. Its second largest insurer has now requested a 19% increase in premiums, stating that caps do not lead to any significant savings.

Modern Physician: "The real drivers of the rise in premiums over the past four years have been low interest rates, a sour national economy and the legacy of overly aggressive pricing policies in the years before the ‘crisis’ began in late 2000. . . ."

Many of those who support medical malpractice caps – even many tort reform “experts” and insurance company executives, admit that caps will not significantly lower premiums.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that caps will not significantly reduce overall healthcare costs.

Even the Budget Submitted by the Bush Administration – the Administration’s FY ’05 Budget did not state any savings as a result of caps.

"Insurance was cheaper in the 1990s because insurance companies knew that they could take a doctor's premium and invest it, and $50,000 would be worth $200,000 five years later when the claim came in. An insurance company today can't do that." (Victor Schwartz, general counsel to the American Tort Reform Association, "Dose of Legality," Honolulu Star-Bulletin, April 20, 2003).

The number of physicians has risen in every state every year over the last 3 years (of available data – 2000–2002), and the numbers of physicians are higher in every state than they were in 1996. (American Medical Association, “Physician Characteristics and Distribution in the U.S.,” 2003-2004 edition)

In studies done in 1995 and 2004, the median plaintiff award in tort cases has dropped from $50,000 in the 1990s to $37,000 by 2001. (; University of Chicago Law Review, Winter 1998). Between 1992 and 2001 the number of jury trials with punitive damages remained stable (4% to 6%) and the median punitive damage award decreased slightly from $63,000 to $50,000. (Civil Trial Cases and Verdicts in Large Counties, 2001, Thomas H. Cohen, Steven K. Smith, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2004).

The General Counsel for the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) – admitted that so-called “frivolous” malpractice cases are “very rare.”

In August 2003, tort reform advocates, including insurance industry executives, were forced to admit their arguments lacked merit after they were placed under oath by the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee. The St. Petersburg Times reported: “The Senate Judiciary Committee, frustrated by the conflicting information given it by different interest groups, discredited much of the medical malpractice rhetoric by placing witnesses under oath. Suddenly, there were no frivolous lawsuits and
Florida was a profitable place for insurance companies to do business after all.” (St. Petersburg Times, 8/17/03)

The bottom line is that this whole "reform" effort is nothing more than a shell game by Big Insurance and the chambers of commerce, in the hopes that a not-well-understood issue slides past the public's eye. It's much harder to undo something that has already been done. Which is exactly what they're trying to do.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Courtesy of my very good friend, Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds, I've got a quote in the Wall Street Journal [see third paragraph from end]. He's a firecracker, that Glenn!

The quote itself is correct, if incomplete. What I said more fully was that by shoving worker's compensation "reform" down our collective throats, he sold down the river not only lawyers like me, but more importantly, the clients whom we represent. That, of course, is the implicit point of Bredesen's worker's compensation "reform" package: to discourage claims by reducing benefits [and resulting attorney's fees], which disinclines lawyers from taking the case, and disinclines the claimant from pursuing benefits because they are so low, relatively speaking. I have had many lawyers here in Knoxville tell me that they will not take any new worker's compensation cases, because there is no way for them to make any profit from the representation. Altruism aside, we do have to make a living. My firm and I still accept meritorious worker's compensation cases, however.

As to Bredesen, there's an old political saw that goes something like this: "he's a bum, but at least he's our bum." The problem with Bredesen is that while his party affiliation is Democrat, he sure has been acting like a Republican. So maybe he's not "our" bum, after all.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Very disturbing news about the Catholic Church's and Pope Pius XII's role in the aftermath of the Holocaust:

The latest scandal to rock the Catholic Church, causing a storm in Italy and elsewhere, follows a familiar pattern: first the crime, then the cover-up. It concerns whether the Church kidnapped Jewish children after the Holocaust and has at its center, yet again, Pius XII, the pope that the Church appears determined to make into a saint despite his criminal role during the Holocaust and, we now learn, quite probably afterward. A Church document of October 23, 1946, recently disclosed in Corriere della Sera, contains papal orders for the French Church forbidding the return of entire classes of Jewish children entrusted to Church institutions during the Holocaust. . . . "If the [Jewish] children have been entrusted [to the Church] by their parents, and if the parents now claim them back, they can be returned, provided the children themselves have not been baptized. It should be noted that this decision of the Congregation of the Holy Office has been approved by the Holy Father."

It took almost 60 years for this scandal to come to light, and while an investigation is warranted, it is unlikely to happen. Given Pius XII's deplorable record during World War II -- "systematically spreading hatred and bigotry against a people while they are being persecuted and slaughtered . . . . approving Nazified race laws persecuting an entire people . . . . failing to command bishops and priests subject to his absolute authority not to participate in the deportations of tens of thousands of people to their deaths . . . . ordering a policy of kidnapping children . . . from people who had been through the Nazi" -- any reasonable person, Catholic or otherwise, must wonder why in the name of all that's holy the Church wants to make a saint out of this man.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The leader of the free world is out to settle some scores:

Sounds like ole George is on to something, doesn't it? And even if he isn't, what's to like about lawyers, anyway?

Well, sad to say, ole George has let us down. He's right that physicians are hit hard these days with insurance costs. And trial lawyers do love to sue them,sometimes frivolously. But there's another player in this drama he overlooked: the insurance industry and it's not clear why. George W. isn't dumb, as Democrats like to say, but he's not the brightest bulb on the Washington Christmas tree either. So maybe he just forgot. Or maybe he found the facts inconvenient.

A study by the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, using the experience in California and statistics developed by the federal government's auditing office, makes the case that capping jury awards has had little impact on malpractice insurance rates. What works best, the foundation found, is tighter regulation of the insurance industry.


Why does Bush ignore this aspect of the problem? No mystery there. It's politics. This is the most blatantly political administration in Washington in decades, and the trial lawyers are viewed by the Bush-Cheney crowd as simply Democratic auxiliaries. Not without reason, one should add. The trial lawyers have been big sugar daddies for the Democrats for more than a decade.

Bush, the politician, has an understandable beef with the tort bar. But Bush, as a proper president, isn't allowed that luxury. As chief magistrate and the people's tribune, he was elected to solve problems like this, not to indulge petty political peeves. Make no mistake, the physicians' growing insurance burden is a crisis. But it can't be resolved without recognizing the insurance industry as part of the problem.

The industry likes to claim it loses money on malpractice coverage. And some companies undoubtedly do. But on the whole, the industry is profitable beyond the wildest dreams of avarice. Moreover, the opportunity for cooking the books is greater in the insurance dodge than in almost any other line of work. The industry is not subject to federal regulation; indeed, it's exempt even from antitrust laws.


This contest involves some of the wealthiest segments of American society and the least regulated: the physicians' lobby, the plaintiffs' bar and the insurance industry. But the greatest potential losers in the struggle are ordinary Americans who need dependable physician care and legal redress when that care is shoddy. They look to the president for help in providing it.

In using the crisis to settle a political score with the trial lawyers, Bush is guilty of presidential malpractice.

He hit the nail on the head.

Robert Landauer:

Bush chose the Illinois site [to redirect his attack, this time to benefit the insurance industry] because "(a) recent study ranked Madison County the number one place in the country for trial lawyers to sue" -- the nation's worst "judicial hellhole," the American Tort Reform Association called it, followed by neighboring St. Clair County. Health care professionals should be fighting illnesses, not "junk lawsuits," Bush declared.

A closer look at the numbers by lawyers, advocacy groups and news reporters presents a less alarming picture locally. Also, analyses by the Congressional Budget Office indicate that Bush's legislative prescriptions won't cut medical costs any more than a tummy tuck will cure a runny nose.

Of nearly 700 malpractice/wrongful death suits filed in Madison County between 1996 and 2003, only 14 resulted in verdicts. Only six of those favored the plaintiffs. Of those six, only one was large enough to be affected by the president's proposed $250,000 cap.

So even in the nation's leading "judicial hellhole," courts throw out most baseless lawsuits early in the process, and the system usually does work.

Did you all get that? Only one verdict in Madison County, Illinois was over $250,000 over a seven year period. What litigation crisis?

The Administration is campaigning for tort limitations the same way it campaigned for the presidency: using fear, truth distortions, and out and out mistruths. As usual, it relies on the public not paying attention. Some of us do.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "Wrong medicine: caps:"

According to a 2004 study by the Congressional Budget Office, malpractice costs account for less than 2 percent of total health care spending. The same study estimates that even a reduction of 25 percent to 30 percent in malpractice costs -- the president's plan certainly doesn't claim to save that much -- would lower health care costs by less than half of 1 percent.

The answers to lowering the fiscal effects of medical malpractice lie not with arbitrarily limiting compensation to injured patients but with bolstering identification and discipline of dangerous doctors and better regulation of the medical malpractice insurance industry.

So why, oh why, does our president want to limit people's access to the courts? Could there be another reason, such as giving yet another break to Big Insurance and Big Business? Nah.

Sidney Zion weighs in on the President's deplorable effort to limit access to the courts. Some great zingers:

"This war [on trial lawyers] is apparently Bush's top domestic priority. It's not the economy, stupid, it's the trial lawyers!"


"He [the president, while in Madison County, Illinois] paraded a few doctors who said they no longer could practice in Madison, as the verdicts had raised their malpractice insurance sky-high.

"Chances are these docs got the same vetting from the White House as Bernard Kerik, but so what? The cons and neocons of the American Tort Reform Association are the bunco artists of our time, and as such fly from facts as Dracula from the cross."


"Frivolous malpractice suits are rare. The reason? They cost too much to file. Trial lawyers finance these cases themselves, with contingent fees - which the tort reformers would abolish.

"The cap - and this is the real skinny - would leave young people and the elderly, those without economic damages because they have no incomes - without recourse to the courts. All they have is pain and suffering, and even without caps, it's difficult to get lawyers."


"Only 2% of patients injured by physician negligence sue. Which means these victimized doctors may be getting away with 98% of their malpractice."

I have been remiss in not blogging in opposition to the Administration's current tort limitation effort, as I had two years ago, when I first started this blog. I'll try to do a better job in the future.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

More depressions like this? No thanks!
Another highly publicized campaign fallacy was that Americans are making less money today than before Bush was inaugurated. As illustrated by the chart below, when Bush took office, the average weekly pay for production or non-supervisory employees was $485. In December, it was $536 -- a 10.52% gain. This increase in wages -- also contrary to politically oriented assertions -- is greater than the 9.77% rise in inflation during this four-year period as measured by the Consumer Price Index (through November 2004). This means that when you combine lower tax-rates for all wage earners, the inflation-adjusted after-tax incomes of Americans have continued to rise during Bush's first term.

I don't know about the rest of you, but my salary hasn't gone up in the entire four years of the Bush presidency, as contrasted with the Clinton years. Another quote:

Certainly, another sign of depression would be declining consumer net worth -- the total of consumer assets minus liabilities -- which obviously plummeted during the 1930's. Strangely, during the Bush "depression," this statistic rose to a new all-time high of $45 trillion by the end of 2003 -- yes, even greater than at the stock bubble peak in March 2000. Without the final data for 2004, it is safe to assume that this net worth is significantly higher today given last year's 9% increase in stocks (S&P 500), and a likely similar gain in residential real estate values.

This guy may be an economist, but that doesn't comport with my personal and anecdotal experiences. Perhaps this is an example of misleading statistics, or the rich are getting richer, the poor getting poorer [not that I'm poor, but I worry...].

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

I just played a pretty cool AI game of 20 questions. Try it out; I'll bet you can't beat it!

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

How's this for subtle stifling of dissent? the Department of Education, through a PR firm cutout, paid a nationally syndicated television pundit almost a quarter of a million dollars to push the No Child Left Behind program:
The campaign, part of an effort to promote No Child Left Behind (NCLB), required commentator Armstrong Williams "to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts," and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004.

Williams said Thursday he understands that critics could find the arrangement unethical, but "I wanted to do it because it's something I believe in."

Forget Tax cuts. Stop this crap and we'll save some real money. More odious, however, is the Administration's cavalier manipulation of public opinion by using a perceived independent commentator to shill for an Administration program. That he failed to disclose his bought-and-paid-for relationship to the Administration is damning fo both Armstrong Williams and to the Administration. It also begs the question of how many other "journalists" out there are pushing Administration positions while being paid sub rosa for their support?

By the way, he is keeping the $240,000.

UPDATE: Tribune Media Services, who syndicates Williams, has terminated its contract with Williams:

In a statement, TMS said: "[A]ccepting compensation in any form from an entity that serves as a subject of his weekly newspaper columns creates, at the very least, the appearance of a conflict of interest. Under these circumstances, readers may well ask themselves if the views expressed in his columns are his own, or whether they have been purchased by a third party."

That's about right.

ANOTHER UPDATE: According to friend Glenn, The government has done this before, for example, spending millions during the Clinton Administration to insert anti-drug messages into network television shows. I don't think much of that either, but I think one can distinguish between entertainment shows and what is passed off as "news" or "news commentary." It's easy to say "trust, but verify," but in practice, on-the-fly fact-checking news shows or determining the honesty/integrity of news commentators and pundits, is well-nigh impossible. In the spirit of good faith and fair play, potential conflicts in such shows must be disclosed.

Friday, January 07, 2005

In the "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is" category, here's a story about a law professor [whoever said they were savvy], who got scammed by the same Nigerian get rich quick scheme we have all received in our email.

Note: I've got this great bridge in New York for sale....

Thursday, January 06, 2005

I just scanned [quickly] Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds' long post on torture. What it boils down to for me is: what are we, as a nation and a people? One of his emailers asks, "If we have to do something that would heretofore have been considered barbaric in order to extract information that will save innocent lives, so be it." I disagree. Because our opponent tortures and horribly murders its captives, that in no way justifies us using torture tactics for those opponents in our custody.

This begs the question, of course, "what is torture?" We have operated for many years under the definitions set forth in the Geneva Convention, which definitions the Administration apparently seeks to change, via the policy memo written by AG nominee Gonzales. I still have not heard a convincing rationale to change that well-established definition. On the contrary, abusing our prisoners cheapens us internally and in the eyes of the world, and it places our people in greater danger; our abandonment of humane treatment standards will inevitably lead to other nations doing the same.

We are a nation of laws, committed to the rule of law in the way we live and conduct ourselves. When it is most difficult to remember that, such as now, is when it is most important to adhere to our basic values: good faith, fair play, and the law. If we slide down the slope to where the enemy wallows in the muck, we will soon have as much mud on our face as the enemy.

It's gut check time, and the United States is in danger of failing the test.
I'm playing around with a new browser, called Firefox, created by Mozilla. It's pretty cool, and apparently deals with a lot of the security holes present in MSIE. The best part so far is that you can open multiple browser tabs [different web sites] in one window. Apparently, lots of functionality, it seems significantly faster than MSIE in opening and drawing pages, and it's open source code, too, for those who don't think much of the Microsoft stranglehold on the cyber-world.

UPDATE: I learned of Firefox from this NPR Morning Edition Story.
For any fans of the rock group Chicago, here's a review I did on Amazon [with links inserted for this blog] for Robert Lamm's 2003 album, Subtlety and Passion:
Robert Lamm is one of the creative voices behind Chicago, the band that revolutionized pop/rock music in the 1970s. While Chicago has not released an album of original music since 1991 (the unreleased, yet still awfully good 1994 Stone of Sisyphus is widely available online as a bootleg), Lamm has become a de facto solo artist, releasing several albums in the past decade. None, however, had that stamp of Chicago, which endeared him to legions of fans. Although members of Chicago are quite close-mouthed about the rationale, it appears that there will be no new new album of Chicago originals for quite some time, if ever. Lamm makes up for it, however, with his 2003 collection, "Subtlety and Passion."

Featuring several members of Chicago, this album is, more or less, what a new Chicago release could have been. Opening with "I Could Tell You Secrets" Lamm sings that "All things are connected, much more than we suspected, nothing is by chance, how would you know." True words, here. Reading between the lines, and reviewing the online session notes, reveals that several of the S&P tunes were demoed for a Chicago release in 2001. Clearly, when the group failed to get its act together, Lamm went ahead and did his own thing.

Other highlights of this collection include "Somewhere Girl," which includes a nifty horn break with some some 6:8 measures thrown in for good measure, "Another Sunday," a wistful look at dreams once had and still hoped for, "Gimme Gimme," a biting and gutsy look at the plethora of awards shows and competitions, and "For You Kate," a sweet but not sappy love song to his daughter.

Lee Loughnane, Chicago's trumpet-meister, plays throughout the record, with appearances also by Walt Parazaider and James Pankow, Chicago's reed and trombone men. The horn arrangements, although often written by others, are pure Chicago in style, tone and composition. And, in a techno-achievement reminiscent of the Beatles recording new songs over old John Lennon demos, Lamm and producer-co-writer-co-performer Hank Linderman have taken a 1972 Chicago demo called "Intensity" with a Terry Kath guitar break, and constructed a contemporary song around that solo. Touches in this song remind the listener of Chicago in its best period, with horn riffs straight out of Chicago VI and VIII, and even an audio artifact at the beginning of the song that sounds just like the beginning of "What's This World Coming To," off VI. Definitely cool.

The best part of S&P, however, is that -- finally -- one of the sources of the Chicago sound has given us the next best thing to a Chicago-in-its-heyday album, full of hope, full of musicality, and full of promise of things to come. At this late date, and with the principals approaching and passing age 60 (scroll down), we may never see or hear the Chicago that got us excited years ago. Robert Lamm's "Subtlety and Passion" comes close, however.This is the best composition, performance and horn work on a Chicago (or proto-Chicago) record since Chicago XIV, released in 1980. Any fan of Chicago, or horn driven rock and roll, must have this album.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Others, i.e., Instapundit, have commented on the Administration proposals for lifetime imprisonment of suspected terrorists. Call me a raging radical if you will, but when I hear of things like lifetime -- or indefinite -- imprisonment, without due process, right to counsel, burden of proof, adnd the like, I think two things: (1) ridiculously unconstitutional; and (2) gulags/concentration camps.

What we've been hearing is that the idea has come about because these are terrorists; we just can't prove it. Not to be too skeptical, but shouldn't we have to prove it?

Fortunately, Senators from both sides of the aisle seem to agree.

Instapundit thinks it's an Administration trial balloon. OK, if it is, and the Administration pretty much knows it'll get shot down, then what is actually on thir collective minds? Even so, it sticks in my craw that the President of the United States is floating a trial balloon suggesting establishment of an American version of some of the worst that the Nazis or the Soviets ever perpetrated. That we can treat it so lightly is -- or should be -- of great concern to us as a society.
In the wake of the extraordinary disaster in Southeast Asia, help is coming from all quarters:
Four doctors from the Hadassah Medical Center at Ein Kerem left Israel for Colombo, Sri Lanka on Sunday to aid victims of an undersea earthquake that struck off the coast of Indonesia.

Prof. Avi Rivkind, Head of General Surgery and the Trauma Unit, Prof. Dan Engelhardt, the Head of Pediatrics, and anesthesiologists Prof. Yoel Donchin and Dr. Yuval Meroz were sent at the request of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and will use their vast experience and expertise to provide medical services to those suffering in the aftermath of the catastrophic tidal wave.

Israel and the Hadassah Medical Organization have a long history of sending rescue missions to parts of the world affected by natural disasters and war, most recently including the Turkish earthquake and the war in Kosovo, where Drs. Engelhardt and Donchin set up a Macedonian mobile medical unit to treat refugees from the war.

Every little bit counts.