Begging The Question

Friday, November 05, 2004

Do I make you horny baby? Do I?

You have questions. We have answers.
The BTQ Answer Man cometh. And so we present another post in our wildly popular, wildly irregular series where total strangers ask stupid questions and we give them stupid answers.

(1) Q: Will Hillary run for 2008?

A: Does a bear crap in the woods? Runner-up for the dumbest question in the world. Honestly, did someone from the National Institute of Standards and Technology need to consult the internets on this one?

(2) Q: He's 9 years younger than me

A: And that's totally cool, unless you are younger than 25 or older than 55. Or if you are fat. Or fugly. However, if you are younger than 25 and hot, then he'll probably appreciate the gesture, but the law's just not gonna understand.

(3) Q: Be attractive woman in gym

A: First, you need to be a woman. Second, make sure you are attractive. Third, go to the gym. Lather, rinse, repeat.

(4) Q: Does anyone deserve to die?

A: Oh yes. Sadly, due to server issues, we don't have the space to get into it here.

(5) Q: I needa [sic] brief summary of the 2004 presidential election

A: Some guy won. The other guy lost. A lot of people cheered. A lot of other people cried themselves to sleep. America survived. Captain Needa bought it for being honorable and admitting to Darth Vader that he lost the Millennium Falcon in an asteroid field. No one cheered. A lot of stormtroopers cried themselves to sleep. The Empire eventually fell.

(6) Q: Non nude girls in the shortest skirts possible

A: I wish BTQ was the source for such things. Really I do.

(7) Q: Where did the music group Eagles get there [sic] name from?

A: Congratulations for being the internets' dumbest citizen. And for asking the world's dumbest question. They got their name from the damn birds, you jackass. Have you ever seen their album cover art? The little stylized wings on the band name (and the wings of hair on the band members) is a big effing clue. Wings => birds => eagles. You're smart enough to enter a google search, but you can't figure out where the Eagles got their name?

That's all we have time for today. Stay tuned for the next edition of the BTQ Answer Man, destined to grace this blog sometime between tomorrow and 2025.

Did you get that memo?
A couple of weeks ago, I promised pictures. Here is what I consider to be substantial compliance with your requests for subject matter (with lots of alt-text fun):

My Office Space
PC Load Letter? What the f**k does that mean?

You've missed a lot of work lately.  I wouldn't say I've been missing it, Bob.

My fly tying stuff (flies tied by yours truly)
Insert your own witty comment here

My lucky charms (yes, a ballcap and a pair of socks)
They're always after me lucky charms!

My porn collection
What did you expect Sebastian?

My shame
You paid how much for that?

My dog Dash
Aww, isn't he cute?

He's the one climbing out of the basket.

3/4 border collie, 1/4 beagle

He's growing up.

You're my special boy. *sniff*

What a noble breed.

No one requested it, but here's the view from my front porch
Snow in the middle of October

Mayor McCheese for Attorney General!
[Alternative post title: Hamburglar Gets Off on a Technicality!]

I love when I'm looking for some tidbit of legal information and run across something else that's irrelevant for my larger purposes, but is the kind of interesting and fun thing I can't help but waste time perusing.

Case in point: United States v. Chandler, a recent Eleventh Circuit opinion concerning the scope of conspiracy law. You may vaguely remember a scheme a few years ago to rig the McDonald's "Monopoly" contest. (The restaurant affixed game stamps to food items; most winning stamps were for food coupons, but a few were for expensive prizes and large sums of money.) Insiders in the marketing company contracted by McDonald's to run the promotion embezzled the big-money stamps, and then conspired with others to redeem the stamps and split the proceeds. It was a big conspiracy (62-page indictment charging 43 defendants with conspiracy and mail fraud), and as I dimly recall, a lot of bad publicity for McDonald's. Here's a news account of the arrest, announced by John Ashcroft.

Anyway, the Eleventh Circuit reversed the convictions. Part of it had to do with the outer boundaries of conspiracy theory -- what the Government had to prove the far-flung members had to know about how the whole mess started (Did the person cashing in the stamp know it was stolen?). But I love this description of how the prosecution was flawed:
First, it was based upon a problematic interpretation of the McDonald's game rules, since those rules do not prohibit someone from receiving a game stamp from another person prior to application to McDonald's for the prize. Second, the government's position that defendants' claims to be legitimate winners constituted the underlying fraud in this case appeared to charge the defendants with a non-crime -- violating the rules of McDonald's games.
To translate, the Government's theory was based on the purportedly illegal transfer of the game pieces. But the rules don't bar that. A McDonald's rep testified that you can give the stamps to the stranger in the next booth for all they care, and the stamps were sold on eBay and on McDonald's own web site. And the Government acknowledged that under its theory, you could end up being liable for the conspiracy even if you just found a (previously stolen) stamp in the street! Moreover, since when does violating the rules of a McDonald's game constitute fraud punishable in federal court?

To its credit, the Government finally wisened up (but not before the end of the three-week trial) and asked the appeals court to vacate the convictions. So I guess the McDonald's Monopoly game -- just like the board game version -- has a "Get Out of Jail Free" card.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

This just in from the BTQ sports desk
I have just received the following email from one of BTQ's top sports correspondents:
Steve Spurrier will not return to Gainsville.

So says ESPN.

Listen to the collective sighs of relief in Athens, Knoxville, Baton Rouge, and Tuscaloosa.

Blame it on the acid rain that was fallin' fallin'
I watched Aaron Brown's show on CNN last night - it is called The Whip I think - and he had 2 segments on how Bush won and how the media failed to see it coming (a partial transcript of the show should eventually be available here). Brown prefaced the whole episode with the suggestion that Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction and Kerry's Hollywood supporters played at least some part in galvanizing the "values" voters and turning out the vote for the President. Seems like there might be some truth to that, and I respect that Brown needed to find a slightly different take on the election so as to separate himself from the rest of the talking heads. There were two issues raised during this program that I want to address.

In the first segment of the program, Brown had on Will Saletan of Slate, Arianna Huffington [Why does the media continue to believe that she is relevant? -- Ed.], and some other guy (name not important) discussing the Democrat Party's failure to appeal to "values" voters. Blah, blah, blah. Insert the tired platitudes here. Insert plug for Barak Obama here. The fact of the matter is that Bill Clinton was able to appeal to many of these people, so was Jimmy Carter, and so was Joe Lieberman. Likewise, Truman and JFK did not come off as moral lightweights.

Anyway, the only really interesting moment in the first segment was, shockingly, Arianna's one contribution to the program. She made the point that job creation, the environment and healthcare can be "values" issues and that those are issues where Democrats traditionally have an advantage. She bemoaned the fact that the Kerry campaign was either unable or unwilling to couch the issues in those terms, though. I don't have any opinion about why the Kerry campaign made the tactical and strategic decisions they did, or whether Kerry's faith and values positions resonated with voters, but I do agree with Arianna that many issues besides abortion and gay marriage can be presented as moral issues. UPDATE: For more thoughts on this, go read Dylan's post on the theme that "opinions on the war on terror and domestic economic policy are also informed by moral positions" here.

On to the second segment of the show, which featured Bill Schneider's analysis of the "values" voters and his explanation of how the media missed this issue in pre-election polling. An obvious point to me would be that they were not asking questions about values or they were not asking the right questions. Just as an example, I participated in 2 telephone polls this year regarding the presidential election, and in neither poll was I asked whether character issues or values would affect my choice for president. Schneider did not make that point, though. [He's on TV and you are not. Coincidence? -- Ed.] Rather, in a new twist on an old theme, he explained that Karl Rove was mobilizing "values" voters in a clandestine plan. According to Schneider, the media didn't see it because Rove's people kept the issue under the radar. Ah, I see, it's Rove's fault. That's such a sad abdication of responsibility, but with Karl "Satan" Rove to scapegoat, why not make use of him for that purpose. It's certainly easier to admit you've been duped by Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius, than to admit that you were just flat out wrong. It's a tiresome theme in this day and age. At that point, I quit watching CNN and flipped over to Showtime to catch a few minutes of Killing Me Softly, a mediocre movie that I nonetheless enjoyed because it combines two of my favorite movie subjects: (1) mountaineering and (2) Heather Graham in multiple nude scenes, including some light bondage.

Where was I? Oh, the explanations of how the media missed what apparently was the dominant issue in the campaign. This morning at the breakfast table I was thumbing through my latest issue of Backpacker magazine and came across an article about the importance of environmental issues in the presidential election. Tucked inside the article was a poll of Backpacker readers that I think gives lie to the easy Rove-stealth-plan-excuse advanced by Bill Schneider and lends some support to me theory that pollsters were not asking the right questions. Backpacker asked 3 questions, and here are the results:

1. Which of the following wilderness issues is of the greatest concern to you?

39% Protection of air, water and land in wilderness

24% Funding to maintain trails and public lands

12% Future of the Roadless Rule

9% Pace of designating new wilderness

8% Access to wildlands for extractive industries

5% Oil and gas development in ANWR

3% Enforcement of the ESA

2. Which of the following issues will have the greatest impact on your voting this November?

30% The character of the candidate

20% The war

19% The environment

16% Social or moral issues

15% The economy

3. Can a candidate's position on environmental issues influence you to vote for or against him/her?

85% Yes

15% No

Character of the candidate beat out the war (which I assume meant Iraq + the war on terror) and social or moral values beat out the economy in the minds of Backpacker readers - a group which is probably not a bastion of Red State gun toting and gay hating. Back-freaking-packer Magazine caught this, but CNN was totally blindsided? How, exactly, does that work? Oh, just blame Rove.

Before anyone tears me to pieces for citing one poll as proof, let me say that I don't think it's proof, but it is some evidence that at least someone was asking election polling questions that produced results identifying character and moral values as very important issues for some people. I know that reliability, sample sizes, methodology, etc., etc., etc. are not addressed in the above poll. I know that the plural of anecdote is anecdotes. Still, I think it's worth considering that the big media pollsters and pundits might have missed this because they were not asking the right questions. Perhaps they had assumptions about what should or should not have been important to voters and designed their polls with those erroneous assumptions built in. I really don't know. But I suspect that Darth Karl's on-the-down-low voter mobilization was not the major reason that the pundits missed this issue. If he can't use his Jedi mind tricks successfully to keep Backpacker magazine under thumb, I kinda doubt he had the power to keep bigger media outlets out of the loop either.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Habeas, Schmabeas
Via How Appealing, I see this report on the oral argument at the Virginia Supreme Court concerning convicted DC sniper John Muhammad. Basically, Muhammad contends that (a) he can't get the death penalty for the convictions he's appealing because he wasn't the triggerman, and (b) the "terrorism" aggravating factor was unconstitutional as applied to him.

Anyway, the report seems fine as far as it goes, until this line at the end: "The court is expected to rule on the appeal in January. If the court rejects Muhammad's arguments, he can then appeal to the federal courts."

Uh, not really. He can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, claiming constitutional error, and can later bring a habeas corpus petition. But he's not really "appealing" the Virginia Supreme Court's decision in the same way that he is now appealing the trial court judgment. I won't go all Federalist Society and lament the lack of respect for the notion of dual sovereignty; it was just another example of sloppy legal reporting. The truth is that this appeal is probably Muhammad's best shot at avoiding the death penalty in Virginia, and none of the federal courts are likely to grant the writ in this case.

Another example of voter intimidation?
A sign on the door of my polling place warned that attempting to vote more than once in the same election is a misdemeanor. I wonder if this threat of criminal charges counts as voter intimidation. Probably not, but the sign prompted me to search for and post the relevant section of the Nevada Revised Statutes:
NRS 293.780 Voting more than once at same election.
1. A person who is entitled to vote shall not vote or attempt to vote more than once at the same election. Any person who votes or attempts to vote twice at the same election is guilty of a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.
2. Notice of the provisions of subsection 1 must be given by the county or city clerk as follows:
(a) Printed on all sample ballots mailed;
(b) Posted in boldface type at each polling place; and
(c) Posted in boldface type at the office of the county or city clerk.
Anyone see the problem with this statute? Of course you do because you are smart people. According to the statute, if I try to vote twice I'm in trouble. But what if I vote or try to vote three times? Four times? Eleven times? Is it clear that I've violated this law? I'm not sure I would counsel a client to use the "No, I voted thrice, not twice" defense, but it's hard to conceive of a worse way to draft this law. Yes, judges would probably carry out the intent of the law, but why give the accused law breakers any wiggle room?

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
So I voted this morning instead of going in to work early. I found my polling place last night to make sure I knew where it was. I arrived there this morning at 6:40am and was greeted by a small crowd of early-birds - about 15 octogenarians, most of whom appeared to be Navy veterans. I joined the line and watched the sun rise over the county park while maintenance men placed American flags on all the light poles in the parking lot. By the time the sheriff's deputy arrived to unlock the doors at 7am, there were more than 100 people in line. I was disappointed that I did not have to present any form of identification, though at least I had to give them my signature before I could obtain the key card for the voting machine. The electronic voting went very smoothly, even for the grandparents, and I was out the door in 22 minutes.

By the time I finished voting, the crowd had swelled to something on the order of 200 people. It was very cold this morning, low 30s, but nobody was complaining. In fact, no one complained inside the polling place either. Everyone was patient, even when the poll worker at the door continued to misread people's sample ballots and subsequently send them to the wrong lines (two precincts were voting at our polling place today). We just chuckled about it and shuffled along. Lots of folks had their kids with them. Everyone was eager to take the "I voted" and American flag stickers as they left.

I have to admit, the whole experience was quite moving. I know, I know. It's ridiculous to get misty-eyed about election day, but I got so verklept. As usual, someone else summed it up better than I could:
Election Day, November 1884
by Walt Whitman

If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene
and show,
'Twould not be you, Niagara - nor you, ye limitless prairies - nor
your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite - nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic
geyser-loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,
Nor Oregon's white cones - nor Huron's belt of mighty lakes - nor
Mississippi's stream:
- This seething hemisphere's humanity, as now, I'd name - the still
small voice vibrating - America's choosing day,
(The heart of it not in the chosen - the act itself the main, the
quadriennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous'd - sea-board and inland-
Texas to Maine - the Prairie States - Vermont, Virginia,
The final ballot-shower from East to West - the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling - (a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome's wars of old, or modern Napoleon's:) the
peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity - welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
- Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify - while the heart
pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds wait precious ships,
Swell'd Washington's, Jefferson's, Lincoln's sails.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Survey Says...
I went to get a hair cut at lunch today. By that, I don't mean I had my hair cut while I ate; rather, I spent part of my lunch hour getting my hair cut. Anyway, a tv in the establishment was airing "Family Feud." Apparently the stylist at Supercuts is a big fan -- she made the buzzer noises and laughed very hard at it.

I was able to hear two guesses in between revolutions of the clippers. The first was Condoleeza Rice, and the second was Madonna. I have no idea what the category was, and have been trying, without success, to think of what it could have been. I'm pretty sure that Condi's name did not appear on the big board, but that doesn't suprise me: I'm confident that a survery asking "Who is the National Security Advisor?" might not produce too many votes for Dr. Rice.

So I open the floor to you, Dear Readers. What category/question would lead to successive answers of "Condoleeza Rice" and "Madonna"? The best guess wins a prize.

She's Pretty. Pretty Dumb, That Is.
Via The Note, I saw this story, which I clicked on because it's about the possibility of challenges to voters tomorrow. But buried at the bottom of the story is a quote from Ashley Judd, who was appearing at a campaign rally for John Kerry.
Actress Ashley Judd, in Jupiter Thursday to campaign for John Kerry, on why the entertainment industry seems to be dominated by liberals and Democrats:
"Maybe it's because so much of our work is cyclical and episodic and we have time between jobs to really think about it."
I have previously mentioned that Judd gets on my nerves sometimes, but this is just ridiculous. It's statements like this that make people hate liberals. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, a few responses. First, what about conservative entertainers, like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Tom Selleck or Patricia Heaton, to name just a couple who come to mind -- are their jobs not "cyclical and episodic" as well? One wonders what they spend their down time "really think[ing] about." And, I'm really sure that all those liberals in Hollywood spend their free time compulsively reading policy papers or attending economic forums or whatnot, studiously boning up on the issues. I'm so sure that none of them spend time between flicks, say, doing drugs or hookers or nothing at all. In fact, I'd bet that for the vast majority of the Hollywood population, the way they spend their time between gigs is trying to make sure they have a next gig -- reading scripts, auditioning, touring to promote whatever their latest project is, getting plastic surgery, etc.

But really, the underlying messages of Judd's position is that (a) only liberals are smart enough to spend time thinking (excuse me: "really" thinking) about important issues, as opposed (I guess) to making knee-jerk responses; and (b) once one does this high-level thinking, the only possible conclusion one can come to is that the liberals are right; and (c) ergo, conservatives are conservatives not because they have genuine, thought-out beliefs about the way things ought to be, but rather because they're too dumb to know any better. Grrrr!! I hate, hate, hate that attitude -- and way too many liberals have it. These are the same people who pillory President Bush for not considering alternative approaches or closing his mind to other possibilities or generally being intellectually incurious. I would refer these folks to Matthew 7:3-5. (Hint: You can find that in the Bible, available at your local library.) That's the one about removing the plank from one's own eye before attempting to remove the speck in another's. Perhaps we should all remember Proverbs 12:15: "The way of the fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice."

This intellectual snobbery -- which is so prevalent among so many clueless liberals -- is wrong on so many levels. From a purely cyncial politcal standpoint, the more you recognize that reasonable, intelligent people can have differences of opinion, the more likely you are to be able to cobble together a majority of Americans rather than a coalition of the fringe elemets. But more fundamentally, it's wrong for a party (or a belief system not necessarily affiliated with a party) that professes to care about people to be so elitist and out-of-touch to say "You're dumb (or evil) if you don't agree with me." It's also a slap at hard-working folks with regular jobs, because Judd's statement implies that they aren't able to "really think about" important issues. Instead of dismissing others as unthinking or unfeeling, these kind of liberals would do much better by opening their minds to the possibility that others might have valid opinions, too. I'm not a resident of Hollywood, but I'm pretty sure that a visit from the Welcome Wagon doesn't include a list of the right answers to all the hard questions. I might consider myself a liberal, but Ashley Judd does not speak for me.

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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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