Archive for February, 2006

R.I.P. Don Knotts

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

Conference Calls With the Attorney General

Monday, February 20th, 2006

The other day I saw this story reporting that 21% of survey respondents think the government has listened to their phone calls. My first reaction was that 21% of people were really dumb. To think the government is listening to your phone calls, you either have to (a) be a terrorist, (b) be a Dale Gribble type who think the government has been monitoring everything for years via dental implants, or (c) be so terribly full of yourself that you think anyone cares what you have to say on the telephone.

Type (c) people make me think of the “Malkovich, Malkovich” scene in Being John Malkovich. They’re probably surprised they weren’t quoted by name in the story, and will probably tell all their friends they were interviewed by USA Today. The type (b) people don’t strike me as the types to respond to Gallup polls, given that they probably think their poll responses are being stored in a big government database. I’m not saying the government always listens to the right phone conversations — no government program is that efficient and accurate. But nor do I believe the government is listening to one in every five calls in America. The government has better things to do — like spend money on a missile-defense system and plan missions to Mars.

But seriously, imagine the sheer number of people the government would have to employ to monitor that many phone calls! Imagine the overtime they would have to log on Mother’s Day! I know a lot of people who work for the government, but I don’t know any who spend their days listening to phone calls. (Caveat: as far as I know.) If the government was listening to the phone calls of 21% of the population, it would have to employ another 21% of the population just to operate its surveillance program! Hence, I return to my original conclusion, 21% of people are dumb.

Can We Get a Zamboni in Here?

Tuesday, February 14th, 2006

A germophobe friend, perhaps upset that I’ve been talking so much about ice — what with my post about hockey and interest in the Olympic “Curl Girls” — sends me this appetizing story about a student’s science fair project involving ice dispensers at fast food restaurants. Big surprise: the ice was swarming with bacteria, and in some cases had more bacteria than the restaurant’s toilet water. Were they getting their ice from Uga?! And via the Sports Law Blog, news of a Massachusetts Dunkin Donuts where the coffee came with some, shall we say, off-menu additives. I don’t drink coffee, so at least I can dodge that one. And I’m not going to start carrying my own ice to fast food restaurants. (Didn’t Harrison Ford’s character go nuts about ice in the underrated Mosquito Coast?) I guess my only option, like Puddy, is to learn to live with it “for the most part.”

Katrina Roundup

Monday, February 6th, 2006

A few interesting items relating to the legal community in New Orleans trying to get back to semi-normal.

1. A series of articles in the latest “ABA Journal” giving some overview.

2. This article in the New York Times about people appealing the building inspector’s determination of how damaged their houses are. If the damage assessment is more than 50%, they have to rebuild it flood-proof. Surprise: most of the buildings are more than 50% damaged, yet most of appeals lead to reductions, allowing people to rebuild without making them flood-proof. Why do I think this is going to end badly? (Thanks to PG for the link.)

3. And this article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune about all the evidence that was destroyed or washed away in the floods. That includes evidence to be used in criminal trials, meaning a lot of guilty people will probably never be tried, as well as evidence that might have exonerated innocent people, if they could have gotten new DNA tests.

Good luck to everyone who’s still trying to straighten things out in New Orleans. I have a feeling we’ll be hearing stories like this for a long time.

Oh, and don’t forget Mississippi, too. Its Gulf Coast was devastated as well. Some residents felt snubbed that President Bush didn’t mention Mississippi in his State of the Union address. Here’s some info on how to get your tax information from Mississippi casinos. I don’t mean to make light of the situation in Mississippi. But maybe one reason we’re not hearing as much about it is that Mississippians have been going about their cleanup more quietly. Here’s some coverage of Governor Haley Barbour’s State of the State address.

Scattered SOTU Thoughts

Wednesday, February 1st, 2006

1. Dick Cheney’s tie is not tv-friendly, at least on my low-def set.

2. Dennis Hastert is third in line to the presidency.

3. President Bush seems almost pleased — well, amused — when the applause only comes from one side of the aisle. To me, he seemed ready to chuckle at it. And then the Dems got him back by applauding his Social Security efforts being stymied. I thought the finger-wagging was a bit much, though.

4. During the portion of the speech devoted to the war on terror, Bush mentioned that it would “be fought by Presidents of both parties.” I won’t say which network I was watching, and it may have been a pool camera or something, but very shortly thereafter, they showed Hillary Clinton close-up. Subtle.

5. I think Bill McKay from The Candidate wrote the Democratic response. (The joke there is that McKay’s slogan was “There’s got to be a better way,” and Tim Kaine kept saying “There’s a better way.”) The speech suffered both because Bush isn’t as inept as Crocker Jarmon (although the smirks are similar) and because Tim Kaine is more reminiscent of The Rock than Robert Redford.

6. I like seeing Supreme Court Justices at the State of the Union speech, but I also kind of like not seeing them, too. I like seeing them out and about, but still acting like judges, and not just giving some q-and-a at some law school. It was also nice to see the warm greeting Homeland Defense Secratary Michael Chertoff gave his former colleague Justice Sam Alito. But I’m also glad to see that not all the Justices are present. One reason is security, of course. But another is the same reason that I’m glad to see the Justices not clapping or standing during any but the most banal applause lines: I like that the Justices (and, incidentally, the generals behind them) strive to appear to be nonpartisan. It’s a nice touch.