December 2007

You are browsing the site archives for December 2007.

Random shots around the web:

  • When the revolution comes, can somebody make sure that these RIAA jerks are the first ones up against the wall?
  • Seriously, I’d probably vote for any presidential candidate that will pledge to screw the recording industry into the ground for this crap.
  • Improving medical care may be illegal if you skip the stupid paperwork.
  • If you’re a city mayor or town manager and your police have time to do stuff like this, I think you can safely cut the police manpower budget without hurting the crime rate.
  • The most difficult voting choice I’ve had to make in a long time: Worst Prosecutor of the Year.

 

Looking through the server logs for Windypundit, I noticed that my bandwidth usage was up to 40 gigabytes this month, which is pretty high. A little investigation showed that just over half the bandwidth consisted of this stock photo from last year:

Ms. Clause

That photo was served to the web 170,000 times this month. Since Windypundit didn’t have anywhere near that many visits this month, I can only assume that someone has hotlinked the file into their own web site. Shame on them.

I just replaced that file with one about 1/4 the size, which should reduce my bandwidth usage by about 35% if people keep hitting that photo.

I know that a few criminal defense lawyers read this blog, so as a service to them, I’m going to take this time to explain an exciting new 3-step process for building a successful private practice.

Step one, start law firms that focuses on an area of criminal law such as traffic offenses or DUI, like Virginia lawyers David Albo and H. Morgan Griffith.

Step two, get elected to the state legislature.

Step three, work to pass harsh laws against the very offenses you make money defending, so more people will have to hire lawyers.

With this simple proces, you should soon begin raking in the dough. You can thank me by donating a portion of your earnings using the “Make A Donation” button off to the left there.

xmas2007_ornament.jpg

Well, it’s that time of year again. I know I’m going to be too busy with Christmas to post much myself, so I want to try to amp up my stats without doing a lot of work.

Last year’s sexy Miss Santa post seems to have earned me a few hits, so I’ve decided it’s now a Windypundit tradition for us to have a little cheesecake at Christmas time.

(Since the Reason magazine crowd has a certain fascination with the “Reason Pillow Girl,” I’ll get that out of the way right now with the photo on the left of her trying to get you drunk for the holidays.)

Another reason I’m doing this post today is that I keep getting email from iStockphoto telling me that my download credits are about to expire, so it’s use ’em or lose ’em.

If you login to iStockphoto and do a search for “sexy woman santa”, you’ll get over 1000 hits. It’s a popular theme for photographers because all you need is a camera, a light source, some seemless paper for the background, and a model.

Actually, of course, there’s one more thing you need if you want your stock photo to be a Christmas stock photo: It’s very important that you have the model wearing a Santa hat. It’s just doesn’t say Christmas without one.

The result, at least when you buy from a low-budget stock photo site, is something of a mixed bag. Sometimes the result of applying the formula is pretty good:

xmas2007_good.jpg

And sometimes…not so much.

xmas2007_bad.jpg

Well, I have to get going. I’ve got some Christmas visiting to do. Also, that just about uses up all my download credits, and I don’t want to spend any money on this.

Merry Christmas, everybody.

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Go read this first-hand account of Icelandic citizen Eva Ósk Arnardóttir’s visit to the United States. Because she overstayed her visa by three weeks in 1995, she was refused admittance, meaning she had wasted the cost of her flight.

Then she was detained, photographed, fingerprinted, questioned, searched, refused access to someone from her nation’s embassy, handcuffed, led through the airport by armed men, and jailed.

I guess this is part of our attempt to keep out undesirable foreigners.

But when I hear about things like this, it’s not the Eva Ósk Arnardóttirs of the world who bother me, it’s the folks at Homeland Security who did this to her that make me the most angry. I am ashamed they are my countrymen.

So when it comes to the half-million or so people who enter this country illegally every year, I say “Welcome.” As long as we have these Homeland Security thugs (and others like them) in our country, your presence can only improve the average quality of the American people.

(Hat tip: Simple Justice.)

I’m fascinated by the conservative obession with evolution. On Illinois Review, Jill Stanek quotes with some approval this statement by Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee:

If anybody wants to believe they are the descendants of a primate, they are certainly welcome to do it. I don’t know how far they will march that back. But I believe all of us in this room are the unique creations of a God who knows us and loves us and created us for His own purpose.

Well, I certainly believe I’m descendant from primates. I just saw them a few days ago. It was mom’s birthday.

You see, Huck, it’s worse than you think. No only are we descended from primates, we are primates.

If you examine us humans carefully, looking at our bone structures, our organ systems, our eyes, brains, blood chemistry, the proteins that we’re made from, and the DNA that makes the proteins, we bear a close resemblance to all the other animals in the order of Primates.

In fact, we fit into the Hominidea family, along with orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees, also known as the great apes. So, we’re already living on the Planet of the Apes, because we are apes too.

This has nothing to do with evolution. The morphological similarities between humans and the apes was obvious well before Darwin proposed his great theory. Some discoveries, such as the similarities of our DNA, came after the theory of evolution, but they are true independently of whether evolution is true.

 

 

If you think I overstate the dangers of a Giuliani presidency, check out the cover The American Conservative uses to promote it’s article about Giuliani’s grind-our-enemies-under-our-chariot-wheels foreign policy.

 

IRudy.jpg

I ought to admit here that I tried to read the article, but it was kind of a boring analysis of various people’s influences on Giuliani.

(Hat tip: Hit & Run)

I speak, of course, of our Congress. They’ve actually gone and outlawed the light bulb. Thomas Edison’s lightbulb.

I don’t want to alarm you. They haven’t gone and outlawed all illumination, they’re only after your conventional incandescent light bulbs. They still want us to buy energy efficient compact flourescent bulbs. You know, to save energy.

I have no clue how bills like this get passed. This is none of the federal government’s business. My first guess would be that a bunch of congressmen are sitting around when one of them says, “Hey, our term is half over and we haven’t done anything nearly as stupid as outlawing high-volume flush toilets. How can we make our mark?”

Don’t get me wrong, the bulbs themselves are a great idea. Compact flourescent bulbs cost more than regular bulbs, but they last longer (about a full year of continuous burning) and are about four times as efficient as regular bulbs.  Replacing a 100-watt incandescent bulb with an equivalent 25-watt CF bulb might cost $10 more, but it will save you about $70 in electricity over the life of the bulb.

I like these bulbs so much that every non-dimmable bulb in my house is CF. Of course, that’s one problem with these bulbs: You can’t dim flourescent lights.

Another problem with CF bulbs is that flourescent illumination is ugly. It’s gotten a lot better in recent years, with manufacturers doing more to control the emission spectrum to avoid odd colors. In fact, if you’re doing something that requires careful color judgement, you’d do well to use one of the true-white flourescent lamps for illumination. But true color isn’t always the best color. People look more attractive in the warm light of incandescence, and that counts for a lot.

All that is beside the point, however. The real problem with this kind of legislation is not whether CF bulbs are good enough, but that legislators think they’re smart enough to know the right answers for everyone. You see this attitude with a lot of SUV haters, the self-righteous belief that there couldn’t possibly be a legitimate reason for someone to have desires different from your own.

Speaking of SUVs, the incandescent ban is only the craziest part of this stupid bill, which purports to set all kinds of energy policies. For one thing, the bill raises the Corporate Average Fuel Economy targets from 25mpg to 35mpg by 2020.

I remember when I was a child, I thought it was crazy to set corporate fuel efficiency goals. How can the car company control which of its vehicles the public wants to buy? What if the public doesn’t want any 35mpg cars?

Now that I’m older and more sophisticated, I realize it’s even worse than that. With corporate targets the same for everyone, the car companies can’t specialize. Instead of some companies building large multi-purpose vehicles and some building economy cars, every company needs to have several brands. The result is some pretty bad carmaking and pressure for mergers to meet the goals.

The article says that “By 2020, the measure could reduce U.S. oil use by 1.1 million barrels a day[.]” Well, it’s certainly true that it could do that, but it might not. If you make cars 40% more fuel efficient, maybe people burn 40% less gasoline. Or maybe they increase the amount of driving they do each year by 40% since they can afford longer trips.  My guess is they’ll do a little of each.

The bill also includes a payment of tribute to King Corn, in the form of somehow vastly increasing our use of ethanol. It’s not clear to me if they’re going to force farmers to grow it, oil companies to add it to their fuel blends, or consumers to use it, but since the government is insisting on more ethanol regardless of what the free market wants, it’s clear they’re going to force someone to do something.

They always do.

Random shots around the web:

Kip links with some derision to an op-ed by journalism professor David Hazinski about the trend toward citizen journalism. Kip, who has other unkind things to say about the piece, quotes this bit:

Advocates argue that the acts of collecting and distributing makes these people “journalists.” This is like saying someone who carries a scalpel is a “citizen surgeon” or someone who can read a law book is a “citizen lawyer.”

Kip’s objection:

It is precisely the fact that occupational journalists are not “professionals” on the same plane with physicians (or nurses, attorneys, veterinarians, accountants or even optometrists) that is finally being exposed by blogging.

Elsewhere, Kip wrote:

…journalism is not a true profession, therefore there is no such thing as a “professional journalist”…

Actually, I think anyone who gets paid for journalism is a professional journalist, but that doesn’t make journalism a profession. It’s unfortunate that the word root has these two different meanings, but I think the first one is as correct as the second.

That said, one of the distinguishing features of a profession is that you can get sued if you screw it up, and that just doesn’t happen to journalists, as far as I know.

I’m not just talking about getting sued for libel or invasion of privacy—we can all be sued for those—I’m talking about a legal obligation to give correct information. If journalism was a profession, then licensed journalists who screwed up a story could be sued by readers who relied on it and suffered damages.

Kip continues:

Occupational journalists face no mandatory educational curricula. They face no licensing examinations, no continuing education requirements, and need not subscribe to any legally binding code of ethics.

The very fact that occupational journalists often cannot see the difference between a journalist and a surgeon is why they are increasingly being ignored. They are not credentialed — and it drives them batty that laypersons no longer see any need afford them the respect that they afford the true (i.e., credentialed) professions.

From my reading of Hazinski’s piece, that’s precisely what he’d like to change, with national standards and licensing—much of which would depend on journalism professors like him.

Although Kip characterizes this as “licensing bloggers” I really don’t think that’s where Hazinski was going. I think he’s mostly trying to warn mainstream media companies to be careful about publishing web stories or photos contributed by outsiders, and to that end, he has several recommendations:

  • Major news organizations must create standards to substantiate citizen-contributed information and video, and ensure its accuracy and authenticity.
  • They should clarify and reinforce their own standards and work through trade organizations to enforce national standards so they have real meaning.
  • Journalism schools such as mine at the University of Georgia should create mini-courses to certify citizen journalists in proper ethics and procedures, much as volunteer teachers, paramedics and sheriff’s auxiliaries are trained and certified.

(There’s so much wrong in that last paragraph. I’m not sure which is worse, that he thinks an uncertified journalist is as dangerous as an uncertified paramedic or that—by lumping them in with volunteer teachers and cops—he seems to think paramedics are are some kind of volunteer doctor.)

The national standards and certification are a silly idea, but the training is not. I do some citizen journalism for the Chi-Town Daily News, and we have regular training sessions where experienced journalists explain the rules and the tricks of the trade. The stories are small-time and local, but that’s kind of the point of citizen journalism.

Random shots around the web:

  • Some scientists think the invention of agriculture was so revolutionary that it made us humans start evolving really really fast. For example (if I understand correctly) lactose intolerance is not a defect. Rather, the ability to digest milk long after infancy is a recent mutation that hasn’t spread to the entire species yet.
  • You just know political speeches really are planned like this.
  • Marathon Pundit has been all over the eminent domain fight in Lincoln Square, which ended in a minor victory as Alderman Schulter backed down on his plan to give someone else’s land to private developers.
  • But Evil never sleeps: Now the city wants to take some land in the 1800 block of Fullerton.

That last one has this great bit:

Department of Planning and Development spokesman Pete Scales said the city could eventually use eminent domain to take control of the land, though it will first negotiate with the property owner.

Some negotiation. “I could shoot you and take your wallet off your dead body, but for now I’m being a nice guy by asking you to give it to me voluntarily.”

(Hat tip: Kip)

A couple of weeks ago, Windypundit was getting about 300 visits per day.

I just checked, and now it’s getting about 400 visits per day.

Apparently, the less I post, the more popular I become.

It must be a week or three since Norm Pattis blogged this, but I’ve been meaning to say something, and it might as well be now.

Norm starts with a hypothetical call about a wrongful death suit from a potential client:

He had bronchitis. The doctors failed to diagnose it on time. As a result, he died; his heart just gave out. The decedent was only 47 years old. You quickly calculate loss of earning potential for the twenty or so years he could have worked.

What did do for work, you ask? He didn’t work. Why is that you ask. He couldn’t, you see he was mentally, er, challenged. Your heart sinks. Death is tragic, but death without ascertainable economic loss is a tragedy only a plaintiff’s lawyer can fully appreciate.

But he so loved life, the caller tells you. Each time there was a fire in the neighborhood, he would run to the scene and direct traffic. You are tempted, but still there is nagging doubt. How much can such a case be worth?

It turns out this case is actually real (but not one of Norm’s) and it’s just been decided:

A Connecticut jury just answered, awarding the estate of the decedent in this case $3.5 million for the loss of enjoyment of life. No part of the verdict reflected damages for economic loss…

Norm doesn’t like that:

Forgive my cynicism, but the verdict seems like a triumph of politically correct sympathy over common sense. The decedent has lost the ability to enjoy life…But tell me, reader, how do you compensate a man for a life not lived? It just can’t be done.

I do not mean to suggest that a mentally handicapped person can’t enjoy life. But this verdict simply makes no sense. … [P]erhaps it’s time to revisit whether it makes sense to provide compensation for the loss of enjoyment of life. The simple fact is a death cannot be undone, even by creative lawyers playing on the heartstrings of a jury.

I’m apalled beyond words.

I know our legal system tends to calculate civil damages for a death based on lost earning potential, but until now I didn’t think about how awful that is. Norm’s stark summary makes me feel a gut-level revulsion that’s hard to describe.

“Loss of enjoyment of life” does matter. It’s the only thing that matters.

The whole point of working for a living is to earn money, and the whole point of earning money is to buy goods and services for consumption. And the whole point of consumption is to improve the quality of your life. The loss of income is only important because it reduces your ability to enjoy life.

What Norm’s concerned about, I think, is that “enjoyment of life” is so subjective that the courts will drift away from any sort of predicatable standard for calculating it. Lawyers will be putting on grand shows with weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. That will make a mess of our civil courts. Our legal system works better when there are bright lines, clear precedents, and well-defined procedures.

Norm’s a very skilled lawyer, so I’m sure his prediction of chaos is correct. I don’t doubt it for a minute.

However, just because something is hard to measure and quantify doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Enjoyment of life is real, and it’s important.

I have very little experience at civil litigation and wrongful death (thankfully). Perhaps our legal system works it all out in the end. Still, I can’t help but think that enjoyment of life is too important to ignore without some sort of dire consequences.

Given the principles this country was founded on, can it really be right to ignore the pursuit of happiness?