Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Anna Nicole Smith's Day in Court

(Crossposted from the American Constitution Society :: Columbia Law School)

Anna Nicole, meet Ruth Bader.

Today's the day that Vickie Lynn Marshall (otherwise known as Anna Nicole Smith) has her oral argument heard before the Supreme Court of the United States.

As LII's bulletin on the case notes, the questions presented in the case are:

  1. What is the scope of the probate exception to federal jurisdiction?
  2. Did Congress intend the probate exception to apply where a federal court is not asked to probate a will, administer an estate, or otherwise assume control of property in the custody of a state probate court?
  3. Did Congress intend the probate exception to apply to cases arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States (28 U.S.C. § 1331), including the Bankruptcy Code (28 U.S.C. § 1334), or is it limited to cases in which jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship?
  4. Did Congress intend the probate exception to apply to cases arising out of trusts, or is it limited to cases involving wills?

UPDATE: Ms. Marshall's story really captured the country's imagination on this cold February day. Given the survey below, it's a safe bet that it's the only time this year that many Americans will think a whit about SCOTUS:
According to a December 2005 national survey conducted by FindLaw, only 43% of American adults can name at least one justice who is currently serving on the nation's highest court. 57% of Americans can't name any current U.S. Supreme Court justices.

The percentages of Americans who could name each current justice were as follows:
  • Sandra Day O'Connor — 27%
  • Clarence Thomas — 21%
  • John Roberts — 16%
  • Antonin Scalia — 13%
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg — 12%
  • Anthony Kennedy — 7%
  • David Souter — 5%
  • Stephen Breyer — 3%
  • John Paul Stevens — 3%
Actually, I'm a little impressed that 3% of those surveyed knew of Stevens and Breyer, considering that only .2% of the US population are practicing lawyers.

FINAL UPDATE: I'm no statistician, but it appears that since knowledge of Breyer's and Stevens's presences on the SCOTUS bench falls within the margin of error for the survey, we are forced to accept the distinct possibility that no American is aware of their status as associate justices.

My apologies for any role I might have played in the revelation of this apparent state secret.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Not to Be Misread as Player Sold for Meat. I'm Pretty Sure that'd be Illegal

Romanian player sold for a chunk of meat

We think you're a great player, Regal Horia, but that ribeye just looks delicious.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

AP Breaks Story that Chills Me to the Bone

I remember very clearly sitting in a darkened theatre in 1991, a 15 year-old living in Grand Island, Nebraska. It was December and I was watching Oliver Stone's JFK.

During those scenes in which Kevin Costner's character played narrator, detailing Stone's elaborate (if imagined) conspiracy, I clearly remember an uncomfortable feeling — as if something was crawling up the back of my neck.

I don't think I've experienced that feeling in the 15 years since.

For reasons I can't quite identify, reading this story gives me the same feeling: Arab Co., White House Had Secret Agreement

(If you need some conspiracy theory music to accompany your read, here's a sample of a John Williams theme from JFK.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Augment the English Language

What does George Bush do when he feels like no one agrees with him — y'know, like when he is party to a state-owned UAE venture taking over port operations at 6 Eastern seaboard ports?

He coins a new phrase. In this case, he's invented the phrase Great British.

Tech Magazine → Lifestyle Magazine → Dirt Bike → Musician → Be an Astronaut

Cross marketing is a vexing thing. Although there's currently no Wikipedia definition for cross marketing (gasp!), I consider cross marketing to describe 2 related business circumstances:

  • Intracompany Cross Marketing: The purveyor of Product A (which you've purchased) encourages you to buy Product B (which you haven't purchased).
  • Intercompany Cross Marketing: Purveyor B purchases the right to contact some customers of Purveyor A to offer a product that they believe to be of interest to Purveyor A's customers.
On the positive side of cross marketing, you have the work of Amazon.com, who (through their Customers Who Viewed This Also Viewed and Customers Who Bought this Also Bought features) seem to open a window into the human psyche — recognizing that customers who like Product A also might like Product B allows people to uncover new (albeit superficial) ways of being that they otherwise might have missed.

Usually, when discussing the darker side of cross marketing, folks hearken to Big Brother themes that focus on violation of privacy or cavalier use of sensitive information. I'll avoid rehashing these topics. Today, I'll just point out that cross marketing can occasionally be so unrelated as to seem profoundly silly.

Permit me to explain.

I subscribe to Wired Magazine. The demographic subscribing to Wired Magazine must be an attractive (disposable income-wise) set, because other entities are constantly cross marketing other magazines and products in our direction.

Today, I receive an email from Wired on behalf of GQ, offering me a chance at a free dirt bike autographed by famed musician Pharrell Williams.

This is akin to cross marketing by mad libs. Or perhaps GQ is running a cross marketing machine that has run amok and can't be shut off.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Google Pack

I just stumbled across the as-yet-unheralded Google Pack, a free bundle of 13 excellent software programs.*

Included in the pack is a free 6-month subscription to Symantec Antivirus. While I don't know about any attached strings, free-as-in-beer antivirus subscriptions are good in my book.

Google doesn't replace any of the included programs if you've already got them; however, it provides the latest version if you have an older one.

* I realize calling RealPlayer excellent might be a bit of a stretch, but I consider its averageness offset by the loveliness of Trillian and Ad-Aware.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

While in Law School, I am Habitually Living Upon the Earnings of My Wife

In the 1972 case of Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville, 405 U.S. 156, the US Supreme Court held Jacksonville's Ordinance Code § 26-57 was unconstitutionally vague. I posit that SCOTUS was in error, and that the ordinance is supra-constitutionally dope for its use of quaint troublemaker synonyms:

Rogues and vagabonds, or dissolute persons who go about begging, common gamblers, persons who use juggling or unlawful games or plays, common drunkards, common night walkers, thieves, pilferers or pickpockets, traders in stolen property, lewd, wanton and lascivious persons, keepers of gambling places, common railers and brawlers, persons wandering or strolling around from place to place without any lawful purpose or object, habitual loafers, disorderly persons, persons neglecting all lawful business and habitually spending their time by frequenting houses of ill fame, gaming houses, or places where alcoholic beverages are sold or served, persons able to work but habitually living upon the earnings of their wives or minor children shall be deemed vagrants and, upon conviction in the Municipal Court shall be punished as provided for Class D offenses [punishable by 90 days' imprisonment, $500 fine, or both].
I'll also add that the logic of fining homeless people is just airtight. Yeah... we'll fine 'em. That'll show them homelessness doesn't pay!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Hey, The List is Growing Every Day

My brother and I reflect on the Best Wikipedia Page Ever:

[15:31] Andy: I haven't blogged about this, but it's just precious: http://tinyurl.com/d3raq
[15:32] Joe: Hey, the list is growing every day
[15:32] Andy: I want to add historical names for grins. Millard Filmore
[15:33] Joe: I know, people would be like "Really?"
[15:33] Joe: Have Taft shooting Adolf Coors or something.
[15:34] Andy: I'm now laughing silently and uncontrollably in the library.
[15:34] Joe: I thought you might like that one.
[15:35] Andy: Mine was less funny
[15:35] Andy: I was in the process of writing...
[15:35] Andy: "I know someone shot Burl Ives, but I forgot it was Spiro Agnew."
[15:35] Joe: Perfect. Somebody shot Burl Ives?
[15:35] Andy: Nope
[15:35] Joe: Nice
[15:36] Andy: Have Teddy Roosevelt shooting, perhaps, a whole baseball team.
[15:36] Joe: He'd have done it, too.
[15:36] Andy: Yeah... did you hear about the Black Sox thing?
[15:36] Andy: Yeah,
[15:36] Andy: ...they shot all those guys.
[15:36] Joe: That's why we have Octoberfest.

Perazzi: When Only the Finest Friend-shooter Will Do

The Dick Cheney shotgun of choice is a Perazzi, the same fancy Italian model that conservatives scolded John Kerry for toting during the 2004 Election campaign.

Interested in a Perazzi? Got a few thousand bucks sitting around?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Video Simulation of Cheney Shooting — Corpus Christi Caller-Times

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times has a video simulation of how much shot could have hit Harry Whittington when Dick Cheney shot him with a 28-gauge shotgun from 90 feet.

Monday, February 13, 2006


The message here? Just say lust.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Beware of Armed Vice Presidents

In a duel on July 11, 1804 Vice President Aaron Burr purposefully shoots Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton.

EXACTLY 73,630 DAYS LATER, Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shoots campaign donor and fellow hunter Harry Whittington.

Anyway — heal up, Harry. We're rooting for you.

Why does Dick Cheney even go hunting anymore? It only seems to bring him trouble.

How Do You Know When It's a Big Winter Storm?

...when it has an eye. Plus, until today, I'd never even heard of a snowstorm accompanied by thunder and lightning.

Don't worry, though. It's not all suffering. Maggie, Molly, and Mel like it just fine.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Buy the Doutzen Kroes Donut for Breast Cancer Research

So my lucky friend is a fashion photographer.

On a whim today, he, another photographer, and supermodel Doutzen Kroes were backstage at the Ralph Lauren show and decided to make the world a better place.

Friends, they are auctioning off a donut handled by the supermodel Doutzen Kroes for Breast Cancer Research.

Bid away!

Online Poll: Abramoff Only 3x More Credible than President Bush

This one's gotta hurt.

Asked about his relationship with Jack Abramoff on Thursday, President Bush said "I don't know him."

In an email released on Friday, Abramoff claims he has met Bush "almost a dozen times." Abramoff went on to say "the guy saw me in almost a dozen settings, and joked with me about a bunch of things, including details of my kids. Perhaps he has forgotten everything, who knows."

It's entirely possible that President Bush may have forgotten talking to Abramoff time and again. In this AOL poll, however, more than 60% of the respondents don't think this is the case. They think Abramoff is being more truthful than the President.

(parroting ThinkProgress)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Cumbersome German Legal Term of the Day

Waffenungleichheit: Literally, inequality of weapons. Used to describe a fight/confrontation that is not well-matched.

In German law, used to describe a situation were the prowess of one side's counsel far exceeds the skill of the opposing side.

Book Title Seen in Columbia Law School Library

Military Justice is to Justice as Military Music is to Music by Robert Sherrill

Worth Your Time: Podcast of Richard Rorty on KQED's Forum

My favorite thinker & teacher, Richard Rorty, was interviewed by Michael Krasny on 1/31/06. The podcast is here. (iTunes link)

Harold Bloom calls Rorty the "most interesting philosopher in the world today," but I agree with Rorty. If you're attempting to talk about a distinct human activity easily distinguishable from other literary traditions, there is no such thing as philosophy.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

This Was the Best Headline They Had?

For the record, the President is also opposed to Melodramatic Sappiness, Overly Dry Wit, and 1980's-style Action Movie Arbitrary Nudity.

Bush v. Science, Round 37: George Carlton Deutsch III

After it became clear that he had been less than truthful on his résumé, George C. Deutsch III resigned his post at NASA yesterday, where he had taken it upon himself to see that NASA's online references to the "Big Bang" were amended to read the "Theory of the Big Bang."

His rationale for the change? "It is not NASA's place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator," moreover, he explained to one NASA employee that the Big Bang "not proven fact; it is opinion."

The 24-year old Mr. Deutsch's credentials for his post as a writer and editor in NASA's public affairs office in Washington? He worked the Bush/Cheney reelection war room in 2004 (It turns out he does not, in fact, have a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, Class of 2003, Texas A&M — hence the resignation.)

Of course, Mr. Deutsch's choice of preface for "Big Bang" is technically correct, but for profoundly incorrect reasons. I love the way Josh Marshall sums up the problem:

(The Big Bang is) not just some idea someone thought up which stands on an equal footing with any other idea anyone else could cook up. Among cosmologists today, it's the dominant theory about how the universe began. It is based on various theoretical work (which I won't try to understand or explain) and supported by a lot of astrophysical data.

The theory could turn out to be wrong. And it will almost certainly end up being revised in one or more ways. But it is not 'opinion'.

It's worth taking note of the word choice because it captures the mix of obscurantism and relativism which has characterized all the Bush administration's attitude about science and, really, pretty much all empirically based knowledge...

The rub here is the failure to see that knowledge which has been subjected to and survived – indeed been strengthened by – empirical and theoretical scrutiny stands on a higher footing than information that hasn't. This isn't pedantry. Nor is this some obscure alcove in the science curriculum.

This mindset – obscurantism and relativism duking it out to be of most use in the pursuit of power – suffuses the Bush administration: a lack of respect for facts and the set of tools we use to discern factual information from chatter and bombast.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

We've Come Traveled A Long Way, Baby Friend

January 13, 1967 — Ed Sullivan finds the Rolling Stones' lyric Let's Spend the Night Together objectionable, forces the band to sing Let's Spend Some Time Together.

February 5, 2006 — NFL officials, haunted by wardrobe malfunctions and panicked by America's apparently frail sensibilities, force the aged Rolling Stones to alter two of their songs during the Super Bowl halftime show.

For They Sow the Wind, and They Shall Reap the Whirlwind  (Hosea 8:7)

Upon reading that President Bush weathered some uncomfortable political speech at Coretta Scott King's funeral, my intial reaction was to feel bad for him.

Maybe it's something about the way I was raised — I just hate the idea of people being embarrassed in public.

Then – after about 10 seconds – I remembered how Bush's minders keep him secluded from anything resembling dissent and I ceased to feel pity for our unpopular President.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Multiple Images, Singular Anger

This is neither here nor there, but the gallery image that Matt Drudge includes at the top of the Drudge Report to demonstrate Pan-Islamic rage in reaction to the Danish cartoon scandal is just a bit deceptive.

The signs in the top two images are clearly the work of a single person. The handwriting similarities are just too uncanny. Look at the E's.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Titles For Canadians For Dummies

9 out of 10 amateur book critics agree: They should retitle this series For Canadian Dummies.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Justice Deferred is Justice Denied

This is a travesty. This crime was committed (at the latest) in June 2003.

I'm astonished that District Judge Walton is waiting until January 8, 2007 to begin Lewis Libby's trial.

January 8, 2007 is 2 months after congressional elections and more than 14 months after Libby was indicted by a federal grand jury.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

We Must Not Rest Until this Article is Complete

At Wikipedia, the list of pages needing expert attention are those pages that caring Wikipedians have identified as requiring the special care of someone with a professional level of fluency on the topic in question.

The entry for Care Bears: Journey to Joke-a-lot is currently among this set.

How can we sleep at night, knowing that the world's public knowledge on this vital topic is so partial and incomplete?!

Help us, Wikipedians! Help us!