Begging The Question

Friday, July 30, 2004

The SJC's "Get Out Of Jail Free" Card
Sorry I've been kind of quiet lately. I've been pretty busy at work for reasons I wish I could explain, and I honestly haven't had a lot to say. I just haven't felt moved to write anything substantial. I'll try to have a few things this weekend.

Anyway, until then, I thought I'd pass along an interesting case I saw the other day. Via the Southwest Virginia Law Blog, pointing me to a Jurist "Paper Chase" post, I find this opinion from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. A group of indigent criminal defendants sued the local court because they were sitting in jail without a lawyer. Before you start thinking that "Bay State" is a reference to Guantanamo Bay, let me explain.

The claim was that the state paid lawyers so little that there was a shortage of appointable counsel, thus depriving the pre-trial detainees of access to a lawyer. The SJC called this a violation of their rights under the Massachusetts constitution. Another interesting issue was remedy. The plaintiffs wanted the court to essentially order pay raises. The court declined, and said that the remedy was that (a) any prisoner who doesn't get to see a lawyer within seven days of arrest gets out of jail, and (b) if he or she still doesn't get to see a lawyer within forty-five days, case dismissed.

Anyway, it makes interesting reading. I know there is a similar suit in either Alabama or Mississippi now, but I don't have time to track down a link. The deal there is that the county is suing the state because the county says it can't afford the appoint all the lawyers it needs, and says the state should help out. I don't recall all the details there, though. But these are intriguing methods for getting around common problems in reforming indigent defense. First, legislative solutions are incredibly tough to get, because lawmakers are so scared to be branded as mollycoddling criminals. Second, you can't get systemic reform in an individual case, for lots of reasons, not least of which is that it would require a finding that one attorney didn't work as hard as he or she could because of the money, and then imputing that to the whole system instead of just calling that lawyer greedy and lazy, which is what the court would do. But it looks like the prisoners in the Massachusetts suit figured it all out.

More on Deer Hunting with Shotguns
I wanted to provide some additional information on hunting deer with shotguns. For those of you concerned about picking shot pellets out of the deer carcass, rest easy. While buck shot is called buck shot for a reason, nowadays almost all shotgun loads for deer hunting are either slugs or sabots - essentially really big bullets (.62 caliber seems to be standard for sabot rounds). The effective range is short - typically 50 to 100 yards - which might require one (even John Kerry) to crawl or shoot from a prone position (though how likely that is I cannot say). Anyway, here are some links for more info on shotgun loads for deer hunting:

Lightfield Saboted Shotgun Slugs

Game & Fish Magazine article on shotgun slugs

a great explanation of slug guns and deer hunting on a Kansas hunter's personal website

Mossberg Shotgun's website (complete with a picture of a deer hunter and his quarry on the main page)

Outdoor Life's review of the Remington 870 SPS Super Slug Deer Gun (in 20-gauge)

To purchase buckshot or slug loads, go to Cabela's Online Catalog for Remington buckshot and slugs or Winchester buckshot and slugs. You can also purchase rifled barrels and open choke tubes for your shotgun here.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Thoughts On The Democratic Convention

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Shh. Be vewy vewy quiet. I'm hunting ignowance.
There has been a lot of pooh-poohing by bloggers and pundits who find John Kerry's description of hunting for deer with a double-barrel shotgun to be a work of fiction. The general theme of these ignorant bits of snark has been "Nobody hunts deer with a shotgun! Nobody! Obviously he is making it up. What a buffoon!" Well, I hate to burst your bubble, Mr. "I always feel like ordering an extra rare steak after burning through a thousand rounds at the range" Blogger, but not only is it legal and ordinary and acceptable to hunt deer with a shotgun in the blue states of the Northeast, it is legal to do so in the red states, too. EVEN TEXAS! Just because you don't do it and you don't know anyone who has, that doesn't mean that others don't do it.

God almighty, I expect ignorance about hunting from crazy lefties, but I am extremely disappointed to find it in gun-totting right-wingers too. I'm not going to mention specific names, but I've seen this ignorance on display at (among other places) The Corner, Southern Appeal, and a host of other right-wing sites. Wisen up, gentlemen. It's embarrassing.

Massachusetts clearly permits deer hunting with shotguns (link to MA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife). New York does as well (See here). So does Sweaty Ted Nugent's home state of Michigan (link to MI Dept. of Natural Resources).

But wait! It gets even better. Georgia allows shotguns too (link to GA DNR)! So does Alabama (link to AL Dept. of Natural Resources). And so does the Lone Star State (link to TX Parks and Wildlife Dept.). Yes, Dirty Harry, even Texas permits deer hunters to use shotguns.

Sorry to belabor the point, but as an avid hunter and a hunting guide, it's a little disheartening to see that so many hunters and self-professed gun nuts took issue with the idea of shotgun hunting for deer without really knowing anything about the topic.

Now look, I won't vote for a guy who ruins his bird gun by shooting buckshot or slugs through it, nor am I inclined to vote for a guy who thinks I am so stupid that I'd believe he hunted this way. Trust me, I believe there are plenty of reasons to dislike John Kerry, and plenty of reasons to doubt his hunting bona fides, but I don't think that deer hunting with a shotgun is one of them. Is it likely that he actually hunted deer with his bird gun? Not at all - he'd ruin the barrels. It is possible? Actually, yes. It is unwise, but it is possible.

UPDATE (10/01/04): A reader emailed to clarify that Kerry referred to the shotgun as "his trusty double-barrel" gun. I am quite certain that no one, and I mean no one, would hunt deer with a double. You cannot easily (if at all) replace the barrels on a double like you can on a turkey gun or a deer gun. And no self-respecting "hunter" or "gunner" (as Kerry refers to himself) would ruin a nice bird gun by putting slugs through it. So, to reiterate my earlier point: Yes, you can hunt deer with shotguns. Many people do. So the larger point Kerry could have made is true. However, with the little glosses that Kerry added - crawling on his belly, using a double, etc. - I am confident that Kerry's story is not true. Possible? If he is a complete and utter idiot who doesn't care about ruining his shotgun. But only if.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Random Sports Thoughts
1. I know this is untimely, but a month or so ago, I read a Sports Illustrated article about the explosion of fantasy sports. I don't think it's still available online, but you can find it at 2004 WL 77875699 if you really want it. A couple of interesting tidbits. First, one of the founders of Rotisserie baseball was New York Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent. Also, EA Sports, the video game outfit, is working with the NFL players' union to allow gamers to play using their fantasy teams.

None of this appeals to me. I'm not into video games, and even if I were, I can't imagine using a fake team for anything more than a curiosity. And fantasy sports overall never made sense to me. I decry the me-firsting of team games so prevalent in the professional leagues ("See Shaq take on Kobe, with eight other guys hanging around! Sunday on ABC!"). Fantasy sports just take that to another level. Plus, so many things that are just crucial to winning a team game aren't accounted for in fantasy leagues, especially things like defense in baseball and offensive line play in football. (Granted, I'm not an expert, so maybe a sophisticated game takes these into account, but I doubt it's relative to their actual importance.)

Ultimately, for me, I think I'm not into fantasy sports for the same reason I don't bet on sports (even when I can afford it). The game itself is enough for me; I don't need to "spice it up" to fully get into it. Of course, this is only true of the sports I watch, which these days are almost always college sports. If I'm not excited enough to watch an NFL game, I'm sure not going to spend hours every day poring over roster changes.

2. Here's what NASCAR ought to do. I watch a little bit of racing here and there, and having grown up in NASCAR country, I understand it. Anyway, the deal there is that drivers accumulate points over the course of the season. The points system rewards consistency above all. This season, they are screwing things up six ways from Sunday by trying to have a playoff-style competition within the confines of the regular racing schedule. It makes no sense. But the worst thing about it is that the ten drivers who make the playoff are the only ones who matter -- the other 33 might as well not even show up for a race. It's like they way the BCS has made all the bowls but one pointless, except on a larger scale.

What all this nonsense leads to is risky situations like last week, when an injured Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had to start the race and then switch off to a relief driver, because the driver who starts is the one who earns the points. Junior couldn't skip the race because it would hurt him so badly in the points.

Another problem NASCAR has is really more of a philosophical issue. The sport is growing so fast that it has outgrown the smaller regional tracks where it started, like Rockingham, for example. Plus, big shiny new tracks all over the country want races, and the sport is trying to expand to big cities like Chicago and even New York.

What they ought to do to solve all these problems is to copy the PGA or the tennis tour. They should expand the season from the current 35 or so races to 42 or 45 or something. This would give all the new tracks two races, and allow smaller ones to get a race too. For the points system, count only a driver's 35 best finishes. It still rewards consistency, but it doesn't destroy your whole season to miss a race. And an injured driver isn't forced into a risky scheme like Junior's. Go a step further and have something akin to golf and tennis's majors, maybe four or eight or ten races that count a little more and pay a little more. NASCAR would have its Masters, but it would also have its Greater Hartford Opens.

There are a few details that would need ironing out, but this would work. I've already come up with a plan to save the WNBA (item #8), and now NASCAR. And I'm giving this stuff away! Other sports leagues are welcome to come seeking advice from Milbarge.

3. The United States needs a team name. I thought of this after reading a story about Greece's victory in the European soccer championship. The Greeks refer to their team as the Hellas. (Prediction: Poon makes a South Park "Hella cool" comment.) It reminded me of the South African rugby Springboks. I'm sure other countries do this too, but I'm too lazy to do a bunch of searching. Anyway, the USA teams need a nickname too. First of all, it would reinforce the notion that they're a team, rather than an aggregation of individuals, and a well-chosen mascot and nickname could forge a strong identity with that team. Secondly, it would offer some kind of continuity, as opposed to teams that form up every four years like so many pickup games. We're never going to have a full-time national team in sports like basketball, so this would be a way to have some flow from one team to the next. Third, it would allow new marketing and licensing ventures, and the lesser-known Olympic sports could use the revenue generated thereby. Fourth, and most practically, it would make calling the games a lot easier than having to repeat the same phrases and country names over and over. I guess "Eagles" would be the obvious and safe choice, given our national symbol. Other nominations welcome. I'll do some thinking about this, but maybe it's better suited for the Sports Guy.

4. I'm not going to get into this, but SEC football is f'ed up. I'm giddy with anticipation for college football season.

5. This one is for TP. The preseason ACC poll has Florida State ahead of Miami. Yeah, show the new kids how we do it. Two thoughts here. First, no way Duke finishes last, not with UNC suiting up. Second, I don't think Clemson will be satisfied with a fourth-place finish. I think Tommy Bowden is on one of the hottest seats in the country, especially because (as I have long predicted), Clemson is the perfect spot for Steve Spurrier to return to college ball. Clemson has a wicked-hard schedule, too: at Texas A&M, at FSU, and at Virginia in twenty-seven days, plus at Miami later. They don't have a single gimme on the sked. I'm telling you now, so mark it down, and let Google find it later: Tommy Bowden will get fired after this year, and Spurrier will replace him.

Drink By Drink, I'm Takin' The Bar Exam
Good luck to the folks taking the Bar Exam this week (Mr. Poon, Scott and Mat, Mr. Fun Ball, and anyone else I'm forgetting). I haven't shared a lot of bar memories because I have forgotten most of it. I didn't study very much, never took a full practice test, skipped a few of the BarBri lectures, and still did okay. My state had a 75% or so passage rate, so I felt fairly confident upon showing up and seeing that at least a quarter of the bunch were complete yokels.

I don't normally freak out at tests. I liked law school exams because it finally gave me a chance to yammer for three hours about the issues. So I wasn't too stressed about the bar. I packed up my apartment the day before, which did two things. It got me worn out enough that I would be able to get a good night's sleep, and it got my mind off the thing. After the first day, I was dead beat. I staggered back to the hotel room I was sharing with Fitz and barely moved. I had big plans about studying a couple of hours, but I couldn't do it. We ordered room service and crashed. The next morning, we overslept by an hour, but had set the alarm so early out of paranoia about being late that we still arrived early. During the state section -- the essay portion -- I got really lucky. I was shakiest in the commercial area, things like commercial paper and secured transactions. But the question we got in sales was about a topic I understood, so I nailed it. I did pretty well on all the procedural questions, except from missing an obvious thing about removal. The thing that really threw everyone was a question about local government law. It is very rarely tested, so no one paid a lot of attention to it. I was reliably informed later on that the average score was 30%, which then got scaled up. So even the topic I completely bombed didn't hurt me too much. The strangest thing was that they didn't ask a question about family law, which they had done for at least twenty straight administrations of the exam. Anyway, it was thorough and a pretty good reaming, but at least it was a reaming that everyone got equally.

The funniest thing were the people who got all wigged out. They had nightmares about all the possible scenarios -- what if my pencils break, what if my chair squeaks, what if the guy next to me has a heart attack.... And then we heard that a couple of years before, the power had gone out. About half the test-takers are below ground in an exhibition hall, and it was pitch black. So that gave the worriers more ammo -- what if the power goes out.

I found out I passed a few months later, when a co-worker popped in my office and said "congratulations." I had been refreshing the results web site, but apparently wasn't quick enough. I was pretty relieved, but since my job didn't hinge on passing, I hadn't been really sweating it. I know I was in a pretty fortunate position, though. I don't ever want to take another bar exam, but I have a feeling that eventually I will.

It was interesting to see the folks who didn't pass. There were several in my class whom I would think were smarter than some folks who did. Knowing that perfectly capable lawyers are perfectly capable of failing the bar exam should give me a shot of humility (there but for the grace of God and all). But mostly it just makes me feel lucky. And sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.

(This post's title from the fabulous drinking song by The Derailers, "Bar Exam.")

Monday, July 26, 2004

My guest-blogging stint at Crescat Sententia is over. Thanks to Will for the invite, and thanks to anyone who is reading BTQ because you met me there. I hope you'll stick around.

My last post is available here. It's about (what else?) guest-blogging. I may have some further thoughts later, but for now I just wanted to mention it, invite you to go read it, and establish a post here in case anyone wanted to comment on it.

In light of all the guest-blogging I've been doing, maybe I should change my motto to "Have Blog, Will Travel."

Sunday, July 25, 2004

On Blog Crushes
Are blogs real? How accurate a representation of a blogger is one's blog? Could I get to know someone just by reading his or her blog? How well? Well enough to fall in love? For that matter, how well could I get to know someone in the non-blog-world, the "real world"? Is there any guarantee that the person I meet out there is showing me his or her true self?

If I say I have a crush on another blogger, is that simply pathetic?

Here's the thing: I get crushes pretty easily. I go goofy over a girl at the drop of a hat. There's a certain physical type I like, but what I really go for is brains. I really like smart women. So, all my life I've had crushes on teachers (including law professors), women in the grades ahead of me (having another year or two of classes meant they knew a little more, I figured), and women in my class who were smarter than me, regardless of what the class rank said.

Now, a couple of minor points. First, the intensity of these crushes varied dramatically. I'm not talking about stalking or sending flowers for every one of these women. Um, and I'm not talking about stalking for any of them....darn ambiguous phrasing. Some of these women I just thought were nice, some of them I pined over a bit more, and some I even dated. Second, I'm not saying that smarts are the only thing I look for, or that I like all smart women. It's just a big factor for me, is all.

Anyway, this still happens to me. There are a couple of women at work I am smitten by. They're both married, naturally. (My tendency to get crushes on unattainable women merits a post of its own.) But the other way it manifests itself is via blog crushes. (Technically, that might ought to be hyphenated: blog-crushes. But I don't want to do it that way; it's unwieldy.)

I get blog crushes.

I've been talking a lot about this with a friend of mine. My friend confesses to a blog crush here and there, too. But my friend's position is that the crushes are on the blog, not the blogger. I think my friend believes that the image of bloggers we get via the blog aren't "real," and my friend would rather have a crush on the idea of a person, based on what one sees on the blog, rather than the reality.

Because, after all, how much do we really know about even the most exhibitionist blogger. Most of you reading this don't know my real name, where I am, what I look like, etc. Okay, I'll clue you in a little bit. Warning: spoilers ahead. When I blog, it looks a little like this. (Just kidding -- I don't have a Mac. And just kidding, that's Kevin Smith. But my co-blogger Fitz and I did once go to a Halloween party as Jay & Silent Bob. I had to grow a full beard, and then shave it the next day for a clerkship interview. I'm dedicated that way.)

So, you don't know much about me, but you know me better than any of my co-workers and most of the people I went to law school with. And the same is true for me and the bloggers I get crushes on. Because I definitely get crushes on the bloggers, not (just) the blog.

Because here's my point (and I really think I have one this time). The people I meet in real life are just showing me their best selves or only what they want me to see, no different than bloggers. When you're around somebody in person, you might get a better sense of certain physical characteristics or quirks or bad habits. And of course no one has a "backspace" button in real life. So maybe blogging can't give me a perfect sense of what the blogger is all about. Maybe I'm cynical, but I'm not always sure I'm getting a perfect sense of what a person is all about when I meet him or her in person, either, especially with some of the phonies I went to school with. People "reinvent" themselves all the time, and let's just say that I take 90% of what I read on with a grain of salt. And maybe I'm naive, but I really do think that the image I get of most bloggers I read regularly is as good as I could get from meeting them in person.

Alright, I admit it. Even though I had a point when I started this, I think I've lost it by now. So, I'll close with two things. First, I've been trying hard to think of ways in which I'm different in person than on the blog. People who know me should feel free to mention them in the comments. It's not that I can't think of any, it's just that I think they are differences only because of the nature of speaking in blog. For example, writing multiple posts instead of weaving multiple stories together with a "What was I talking about?" transition. But I don't think it will suprise any of my readers to find out that I'm kind of disorganized, a procrastinator, and a little bit of a whiny navel-gazer (but I don't think I'm obnoxious about it). I'll leave the rest of my faults to others. But I'd be pretty amazed if they told me that they don't think the picture I present on the blog is the "real me." I don't know if that's worth anything, other than as an admonition to anyone who might be getting a blog crush on me that what you see is what you get.

The last thing I want to mention before I go is the two women who have inspired this post, my two blog crushes. My first blog crush was on Scheherazade at Stay of Execution. The first time I found her blog (when I saw the title, I thought it was about the death penalty; I'm not sure I would have read it if I had known it was a bankruptcy term too), I sat down and read the entire archives, about five months at the time. It was crush at first sight. Anyone who writes this beautifully is beautiful to me. True, there are things I don't know about her. She doesn't write much about her love life on the blog, for instance. But does a client of hers know her as well as I do? The client probably doesn't know she blogs at all.

My other blog crush is more recent. (Sherry's still got a place in my heart, even though she spurned me -- I didn't even make her top three!) My newer crush is a young woman who calls herself Larry and writes a blog called Lone Star Expat. She's bright and witty and wild and I just know I could be a good designated driver for her.

Oh, and here's my point. I wrote long enough to remember it, which happens a lot with me. My point is that people don't think it's automatically crazy when I say I have a crush on a woman I work with, or the woman who sat next to me in Property. (My right side, if the woman who sat on my left is reading this. Wait. I had a crush on you too, just not as big. Never mind.)

So, why would people think it's automatically crazy if I say I have a crush on a person whom I know only though her blog? My point is that I don't think I know these women so much less than most women when I first get crushes on them. I see a side of them a lot of people who know them personally don't. Maybe it's true that if I met them, I would see something that turned me off them and destroyed the crush. But I'd sure like to have the chance to cross that bridge. You never know....

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    The views presented here are personal and in no way reflect the view of my employer. In addition, while legal issues are discussed here from time to time, what you read at BTQ is not legal advice. I am a lawyer, but I am not your lawyer. If you need legal advice, then go see another lawyer.

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