so we all know this

May 18, 2010

Don’t use Jerry Guierinot as your lawyer if you are on trial for capital murder.


Neoliberalism, Regulation, and Volcanic Ash

April 20, 2010

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.


Shocking a Dead Man — Update

August 14, 2008

Back on July 28, I posted a link to a story about a cop in Winnfield, Louisiana, Scott Nugent, who killed Baron Pikes by Tasering him nine times while he was handcuffed — the last two times while he was unconscious. Guess what? The cop was indicted yesterday for manslaughter and official malfeasance. Here’s some local color for those too busy to click the link:

The Pikes’ [sic –note inappropriate apostrophe] case, first recounted in the Tribune in July, aroused fears of a cover-up among family members and civil rights groups because Winnfield, the birthplace of Louisiana Govs. Huey and Earl Long, has a long history of political corruption.

[D.A.] Nevils’ predecessor as district attorney committed suicide amid allegations that he had skimmed $200,000 from his office accounts and demanded payoffs from criminal suspects. The former police chief, who was [officer] Nugent’s father, also killed himself, after losing a close election campaign marred by fraud allegations. The current police chief was convicted of drug possession as a young man and was pardoned by former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, who is now serving a federal prison sentence for corruption while in office.

Sing along with the Chevy ad, everyone — “This is our country!” And so no one thinks I’m picking on the South, let’s hear it for our very own Alderman Troutman! Completely corrupt, and her “reputed boyfriend” is a high-ranking drug-dealing gang member! She’s pleading guilty, but proudly not cooperating with the feds! Sweet home, Chicago!


New forms of (grand) jury nullification

June 19, 2008

The New York Times today brings us another of the sort of story it loves to do:  look, folks, the antiabortion folks are at it again, and it’s the usual metholodology:  take old law (in this case, state statute dating from 1880s that permits citizens to petition for empaneling grand juries) and twist it from its intended purpose in order to attack abortion providers whom they have not yet succeeded in putting out of business.  In short, if you get the requisite number of signatures (no problem there, obviously), you can get a grand jury empaneled to consider returning indictments on whether crimes have been committed in the provision of abortion services.  The laws governing the provision of these services are still being debated in the courts, by the way, so it’s not as if the grand juries have clear standards to guide them.  But hey, you know, when you’ve got righteousness and whatever else on your side, it’s full speed ahead.  Several interesting facts jump out at me from this account:

1.  Kansas is still not a state I’d want to live in (despite the fact that Kathleen Sibelius is the governor, and despite the fact that I live in Indiana, which is nearly as crazy);

2.  The elected officials there seem to be the voice of reason–scary thought (at least the ones quoted in the story);

3.  The grand juries have proven unwilling, in almost every case, to return the desired indictments against the abortion doctor who is the target of most of these petitions.

4.  One grand jury essentially warned the legislature that the statute was being abused by citizens using the provision for this purpose and all but declared its refusal to indict as a result.

If the recent reports about how white supremacists are going to use an Obama victory to foment civil war over the imposition of gun control and abortion are in fact true, I might point out that the seeds of discontent were sown long before Obama gained national prominence; he just makes an awfully visible lightening rod for the forces of rage.  As we go forward, I am far less worried about the terrorists abroad than those within. 


Texas Polygamy Kids and Canadian Kids with Swastikas!

June 9, 2008

What in the kitty cat is the world coming to?  (My family is adopting kitty cat as the new good for all occasions swear word).

So the Texas kids were returned to their families and now this story about a kid coming to school with a swastika painted on her face.  Grounds for removal? 

When I read the headline I thought it was a tattoo (in which case I would argue yes even if the tattoo were of something less offensive — isn’t almost everything less offensive? — if it were on her face.  Make up makes it harder.  More investigation needed.  Perhaps I should head on up to Canada and find out more.  I only need a few minutes alone with the parents.


Can’t imagine this on any college campus…

April 25, 2008

This would never happen today. I’m wondering: What’s caused our culture to change so much?


The violence worsens

April 23, 2008

At least seven people were killed in 36 shootings last weekend in Chicago, and 13 of the victims were CPS students, according to the Tribune. Chicago is not releasing death counts on a daily basis, so the actual count could be higher, the Trib reports. Meanwhile, the AP pegs the death toll at nine.

UPDATE 6:27 p.m. 4/23: And five more killings today.