It’s an outrage! Anti-government intrusion Tea Party types to the barricades! What, he’s a Mexican-looking guy with an accent in Arizona? Never mind, then.
I hope no planes fall from the sky. And yet I think:
The pressure to get those planes in the air is unsafe; it is motivated by business interests and the giant neoliberal push over the last 20 years means that there is no one in a position to stand up for consumer safety in a meaningful way (meaning they have the power/authority to intervene).
Here’s why I am freaked out:
1. My good friend and fellow blogger, Bob Nelson, is in Germany trying to get home. I need him if I ever want to finish my next book. Plus I love his kids . . . but let’s not go too far down this road.
2. Every business/airline that sends test flights into the ash reports no damage but every military or government test shows some engine damage. Read all about it here.
3. The plane manufacturers recommendation for acceptable particulate level for jets flying through is ZERO (the flight safety foundation concurs (opens as PDF) and so does the USGS (opens as PDF) and the airline industry group EIN.
4. We actually have had some planes unavoidably fly through DIFFUSE ash clouds in the not too distant past. This ash cloud is not diffuse. Here is what happens.
So basically, the hot engines suck in ash which is made of sand and glass. It melts and then clogs the tiny cooling holes. Engines overheat, stop working, and the plane plummets to the earth. BUT if the pilot reduces throttle (the opposite recommendation from normal power loss) until the plane drops oh say 10,000 feet and then he guns the engines, the cold fresh air MIGHT break the glass and the plane could keep flying.
So why is this appropriate for a Legal Studies blog? Well, maybe it isn’t but I had to get this off my chest. But I think it is because here you have the CLASSIC model of business in trouble (through no fault of their own — I mean really, what is a more convincing “act of God” than a volcano?). You have regulators with less power as the EU has consolidated it has definitely taken on a more “free market” mentality to encourage business; regulators and regulations have less bite than they used to (though more than in the US) and you have pretty much every piece of empirical data I can find which says this is a no-brainer — you don’t fly through ash clouds if you can help it.
I don’t think business people making these decisions are evil (let me be clear). I think they are not the proper neutral party to make the safety determination because they are facing a boat load of pressure from the people that the law has set them up to be responsible to (shareholders primarily though also customers).
So I am just sayin’ – here we are in a situation where you really want some top scientists, pilots, etc etc making the safest decision for everyone but that system is not in place because we have deferred regulation to business (here and in Europe). And the regulatory authorities that do exist and have called for these cancellations can resist for about 5 days before business goes on. And I hope it is safe, but I am skeptical.
On the train to downtown this morning, I listened on my ipod to the first two movements of Dvorak’s Piano Trio in F minor, Opus 65. Then the train pulled into the station in the middle of the third movement, and I turned the music off. It’s a beautiful piece, and I wanted to listen to the whole thing before getting down to work, and so I checked the world’s greatest jukebox, youtube, and found this — a video of the third movement posted two weeks ago by a young trio who appear to be based at the music school at SMU in Dallas. If you are looking for a political point, I would note that the cellist is Italian, and the violinist is Lithuanian. Don’t know about the pianist, Elena Zyl, but I’d guess Russian. But no point is intended, just enjoy.
Eugene Robinson nails it. LB, please make your students read this.
‘Al-Qaeda 7′ smear campaign is an assault on American values
By Eugene Robinson
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
The word “McCarthyism” is overused, but in this case it’s mild. Liz Cheney, the former vice president’s ambitious daughter, has in her hand a list of Justice Department lawyers whose “values” she has the gall to question. She ought to spend the time examining her own principles, if she can find them.
A group that Liz Cheney co-chairs, called Keep America Safe, has spent the past two weeks scurrilously attacking the Justice Department officials because they “represented or advocated for terrorist detainees” before joining the administration. In other words, they did what lawyers are supposed to do in this country: ensure that even the most unpopular defendants have adequate legal representation and that the government obeys the law.
Liz Cheney is not ignorant, and neither are the other co-chairs of her group, advocate Debra Burlingame and pundit William Kristol, who writes a monthly column for The Post. Presumably they know that “the American tradition of zealous representation of unpopular clients is at least as old as John Adams’ representation of the British soldiers charged in the Boston Massacre” — in other words, older than the nation itself.
That quote is from a letter by a group of conservative lawyers — including several former high-ranking officials of the Bush-Cheney administration, legal scholars who have supported draconian detention and interrogation policies, and even Kenneth W. Starr — that blasts the “shameful series of attacks” in which Liz Cheney has been the principal mouthpiece. Among the signers are Larry Thompson, who was deputy attorney general under John Ashcroft; Peter Keisler, who was acting attorney general for a time during George W. Bush’s second term; and Bradford Berenson, who was an associate White House counsel during Bush’s first term.
“To suggest that the Justice Department should not employ talented lawyers who have advocated on behalf of detainees maligns the patriotism of people who have taken honorable positions on contested questions,” the letter states.
But maligning is apparently the whole point of the exercise. The smear campaign by Cheney, et al., has nothing to do with keeping America safe. It can only be an attempt to inflict political damage on the Obama administration by portraying the Justice Department as somehow “soft” on terrorism. Even by Washington’s low standards, this is unbelievably dishonest and dishonorable.
“Whose values do they share?” a video on the group’s Web site ominously asks. The answer is obvious: the values enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
The most prominent of the nine Justice officials, Principal Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal, represented Osama bin Laden’s driver, Salim Hamdan, in a case that went to the Supreme Court. In a 5-to-3 decision, the court sided with Hamdan and ruled that the Bush administration’s military tribunals were unconstitutional. Are Liz Cheney and her pals angry that Katyal was right? Or do they also question the “values” and patriotism of the five justices who voted with the majority?
The letter from the conservative lawyers points out that “in terrorism detentions and trials alike, defense lawyers are playing, and will continue to play, a key role.” It notes that whether terrorism suspects are tried in civilian or military courts, they will have access to counsel — and that Guantanamo inmates, even if they do not face formal charges, have a right to habeas corpus review of their detention. It is the federal courts — not defense lawyers — that have made all of this crystal clear. If Cheney and her group object, they should prepare a blanket denunciation of the federal judiciary. Or maybe what they really don’t like is that pesky old Constitution, with all its checks, balances and guarantees of due process. How inconvenient to live in a country that respects the rule of law.
But there I go again, taking the whole thing seriously. This is really part of a death-by-a-thousand-cuts strategy to wound President Obama politically. The charge of softness on terrorism — or terrorist suspects — is absurd; Obama has brought far more resources and focus to the war against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan than the Bush-Cheney administration cared to summon. Since Obama’s opponents can’t attack him on substance, they resort to atmospherics. They distort. They insinuate. They sully. They blow smoke.
This time, obviously, they went too far. But the next Big Lie is probably already in the works. Scorched-earth groups like Keep America Safe may just be pretending not to understand our most firmly established and cherished legal principles, but there is one thing they genuinely don’t grasp: the concept of shame.
Will a NY judge’s decision hold up in appeals? Is it legal for him to erase this man’s mortgage debt?
About a month ago, another, more conservative, lawyer and I were discussing regional differences in attitudes about guns with a group of northern, urban law students. You may not like guns, my friend told the students, but many of your jurors, especially in rural areas, will feel very differently. Good advice, I thought.
And then my friend added something to the effect that the good people of rural America (he had the grace not to refer to them as “real Americans”, although I suspect he might have had that phrase in the back of his mind) know how to use guns, and never use them improperly, unlike the people who are turning the poor neighborhoods of large cities like Chicago into horror zones. I suggested that while that might be the common belief of gun ownership advocates, gun crime in rural areas is actually more prevalent than he apparently believed. Who was right?
Well I didn’t find statistics on gun crime, per se, but I did find a great website, run by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, that has assembled a large number of public health statistics on a state-by-state basis, including firearm deaths. This includes not just murder, but suicide, accidental deaths, justifiable police shootings — everything. Here’s the link.
I thought that the results were very interesting, although I’m not sure exactly what to make of them. DC has the highest rate, 20.6 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2006, more than twice the national average of 10.2 — no surprise, it’s a single, violent big city. Louisiana is second — how much of that is from New Orleans, and how much from rural areas? The rest of the top ten are Alaska (17.1 deaths per 100,000), Alabama, Mississippi, Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Wyoming (15.0 deaths per 100,000). Toward the bottom of the list, rural states Maine (7.3) and New Hampshire (6.1) have rates that are half or less than the rural states in the top ten. Also, among urban states, New York (5.1) and New Jersey (5.7) are significantly lower than Illinois (8.0) and California (9.1).
I haven’t looked at all of the statistics on the website yet, but I did notice that in addition to being 1 and 2 for highest rates of gun deaths, DC and Louisiana are 1 and 2 for highest rates of syphilis infection. So you might just want to stay home on Saturday night.
Conforming to stereotypes, West Virginia and Tennessee are at the top of the list for percentage of adults over age 65 who have had all their natural teeth extracted. There are also statistics for a catagory labeled “Attempts to Quit Smoking by Sex,” but it’s not what it sounds like.
I’m very late to the party moaning about the imminent demise of the Times, and what it means for informed democracy in our country. But c’mon, folks. Read this article, and then decide whether saving investigative journalism on a national level is worth two bucks a day. Plus, you get the crossword puzzle!