Archive for December, 2007

Cuteness Overload

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

Thought I would give readers a quick update on the puppy. Magnus will turn 1 year old next month, and is currently weighing in at about 120 lbs. In case you were wondering how he and Baby Haff are getting along, I present the following picture.


Hope everyone’s 2008 is happy, healthy and prosperous.

The Internet and Crazy Cases

Monday, December 17th, 2007

My eye caught the news last week that Marrita Murphy filed a cert petition in the Supreme Court. See more at How Appealing, SCOTUSBlog, and the Tax Prof Blog. The petition is noteworthy because Ms. Murphy won a short-lived victory in the D.C. Circuit a few months ago in her suit against the IRS. I wrote about it here.

Basically, a D.C. Circuit panel held that the IRS could not tax her recovery in a lawsuit for a non-physical personal injury (emotional distress and loss of reputation), because that section of the tax code was unconstitutional under the 16th Amendment. Well, that’s just crazy talk. Not only was it wrong as to the 16th Amendment, it still left Congress’s taxing power under Article I, which the court didn’t address. Long story short, the internet generally and tax experts specifically went berserk, the panel granted rehearing (in the face of a very strong en banc rehearing petition from the government), and reversed itself. It is from that new judgment that Ms. Murphy now seeks cert. Odds the writ is granted: 0.01%, and that slim chance is only in case the Supreme Court wants to drive a stake into this claim forever.

It’s obvious to me that the internet obloquy played a large part in the panel’s reversal. That’s not to say that the decision would have slipped completely under the radar without the blogosphere drawing attention to it. But enough people who were in a position to make a difference — judges, justices, law clerks, government attorneys — read those blogs; it was like having dozens of amicus briefs and rehearing petitions. That had to factor in to the panel’s decision.

And so I had to wonder if this kind of thing would have made a difference if the internet had been around years ago. I’m not talking only about the cases that still generate controversy and commentary. I’m thinking of the kind of case that would have been nearly universally mocked and ridiculed to the point that the court might have been shamed into changing its mind (or motivated a higher court into reversing). The first case that came to mind was the infamous 1947 Texas Court of Criminal Appeals case where the court reversed a conviction because the indictment did not specify that the defendant stomped the victim to death with his feet. It’s amusing to imagine the kind of treatment that case would have gotten around the blogosphere. (Any other suggestions?)

On the whole, I think this phenomenon is a good thing. I don’t think judges (or clerks) should write opinions with an eye towards getting blog cites. (Whether they do is a topic for another post.) But the increased chance that a truly strange decision will get noticed can only be good for the ultimate direction of the law. And I can’t complain about anything that saved us from the original Murphy decision.

How are you dealing with the tv writers’ strike?

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

Now that most network tv shows are running out of new episodes, thanks to the writers’ strike, I’m realizing that I have a lot of free time. I don’t watch as much television as I used to, but there are several shows I watch every week. Or did, that is.

So I have saved up about forty hours’ worth of various shows on my dvr. I wasn’t planning on having a storehouse at first, but I started the season taping a few shows and have just let those build up. I just bought the 30 Rock first season on dvd. (I’ve seen them all, but it was on sale and I’m really looking forward to the commentaries.) And then Amazon.com was running a big sale on the first three seasons of The Wire, so I got that. I haven’t watched The Wire, other than a couple of episodes, but have always been wanting to check it out without trying to jump in on season four.

I didn’t really have a point to all this. But I was curious if anyone had any other suggestions. Apparently, I’m not substituting blogging for tv…yet. We’ll see how long the strike lasts.

Least bad Democratic candidate

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

Milbarge asked me for my take on the least objectionable Democratic presidential candidate. I will profess some ignorance of the lesser candidates policy points, so will focus on the Big 3.

Clinton
Actually seems like the most centrist of the three. Is not completely naive about foreign policy and the consequences of an immediate troop withdrawal in Iraq. She has some domestic ideas that could bring the economy to a screeching halt, but those are the same ideas that all of the democratic candidates have. So no points lost there, relatively speaking.

Edwards
There are two Americas, and he lives in the rich one. I’ve never been able to shake Bob Shrum’s story about Edwards using the story of his dead son as a tool to try and secure the Veep spot on Kerry’s ticket. Also have never liked that he started angling for the Presidency immediately after getting elected to Congress. He causes a level of distrust in me that few people are able to reach.

Obama
Don’t trust him a bit on foreign policy. Given a few more years on the national stage, that might be less of a worry.

To be completely honest, policy wise they all seem pretty much the same. This likely stems from the early debate clips where they all stood around agreeing with each other. So at that point it comes to whose judgment and character do I trust the most. That’s a hard one, because my initial take is “none of them”. I probably trust Edwards the least. Obama might not be horrible if he picks the right VP and good advisers. Oddly, Clinton doesn’t scare me much in her first term. She’d be too cautious to do something stupid and risk re-election. Clinton in a second term bothers me greatly, especially if she has the luxury of a Democratic congress. I can see her swinging for the fences to secure her place in history, and doing lasting damage in the process. For all of them, the Republicans taking back at least one house of Congress lessens my worry. 90% of the time my ideal state of government is deadlock.

For my pick, I think I have to go with Obama. He seems like his heart is in the right place, if not always his head. I just really don’t like the thought of another Clinton/Bush in the White House for some time. I’m tired of it, and I want something on late night TV other than 8 more years of intern/cigar jokes. The country needs to get out of the two family rut. The GOP took care of their end by not letting Jeb run. Too bad the DNC couldn’t do the same with Hillary.

Bottom line is the country is stronger than the President. We survived Andrew Johnson, we survived Woodrow Wilson, we survived Jimmy Carter. If the Democrats take the White House, we’ll survive whoever that is too.