Begging The Question

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Let's Hear 'em
I'm working on two or three longish posts, but I just haven't been able to tie them up in any coherent way yet. I know, that's never really stopped me before. But I'm still trying to get these to semi-coherence. And, I've got an even bigger one cooking, and although it's not going to require much original thought, I'm still collecting links. (And, despite the fact that I know they have interesting things going on in their lives, my guest-bloggers haven't been posting anything!)

Anyway, in the meantime, and since I haven't done one in a while, how about let's have an ALL-REQUEST WEEK? Let's make this place a little more interactive. Help me help you.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Duke Lacrosse News
I've been following the Duke Lacrosse story, but have elected not to post too much on it, for various reasons. My prior posts are here and here. But I thought today's news warranted mentioning. Lawyers for the lacrosse players say that DNA tests have not only resulted in no matches for any of the players, but also that there was no evidence at all from various tests -- no mystery DNA, no latex or lubricants or spermicides from condoms, etc.

Of course, this doesn't prove that nothing happened. But if it's true, it certainly makes the prosecutor's job a lot tougher. Call it "the CSI effect" if you like, but the more unanswered questions there are, the closer the defendants are to reasonable doubt.

A couple of minor points. First, I've seen commenters at various places accuse the defense attorneys of lying, absent any basis for such a claim beyond the belief that "all defense attorneys are liars." I don't think they're lying here simply because the flat-out statements that the DNA doesn't match and there were no DNA samples recovered are too easy to refute if they're not true. This isn't some kind of wishy-washy "My client's DNA was there but that doesn't prove anything!" It's a pure and simple "no sale." But hey, if they're lying, I expect the D.A. to call them on it any day now....

(For the record, I don't practice criminal law. Some of my best friends do some criminal defense, and some are prosecutors, and I once worked in a prosecutor's office. I don't think either side is inherently more virtuous or venal, and I sure don't think that either side is made up entirely of liars.)

Second, I said above that I still have a lot of unanswered questions. We may never know everything that happened that night. This DNA news addresses some questions I had, but raises others. But even if the lacrosse players didn't commit rape that night, they're guilty of, at a minimum, horrendously bad judgment and embody an attitude and culture I don't want at my alma mater. I'm glad the coach resigned and the season was cancelled.

Third, those moves are an important start to changing some things at Duke that led to this situation. This isn't about keeping an eagle-eye on athletes every minute of the day, or imposing all sorts of draconian restrictions. Duke should have sports teams that don't have to have that kind of scrutiny; led by coaches who instill the right kind of attitude; recruited with attention to character as well as athletic skill; accountable to the larger university community; in short, athletes who resemble their non-athlete classmates, rather than exist as a breed apart. There's always going to be underage drinking or other incidents when young men and women venture out into the world for the first time without direct parental supervision. The important thing is not to have insular groups whose entire culture promotes anti-social behavior.

I think I've come to the conclusion, like the student newspaper, that current Athletic Director Joe Alleva isn't the man to make that change at Duke. I'm not saying this event wouldn't have happened if Alleva weren't the AD. But not only has Alleva had some problems with other sports, but (a) I haven't seen any indication that his presence made situations like the lacrosse party less likely to occur, and (b) he's not the man I want to be responsible with hiring the next lacrosse coach. I don't think Duke needs to emulate Vanderbilt, which folded its Athletic Department into the Division of Student Life. But the alternative is having an AD who can keep the house in order, and I don't think Alleva can do that any longer.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Nation's Immigration Situation
I'd like to thank Hei Lun at "Begging to Differ" for saying everything I wanted to say about the current immigration imbroglio (and much more eloquently than I could). So I'll just point you there and "ditto" what he said. I agree with pretty much everything in that post. Except for the part about being an immigrant, of course. But it's a very good post and I'm happy to sign on to it. Even though there may not be many easy answers, I think a lot of politicians are going to be very happy to run on the immigration issue this fall instead of some other issues.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

What's Black and White and Red All Over?
The answer is Communist Pandas! Or maybe they're Trojan Pandas. Last week, my intrepid staff of interns sent me this story from "Newsweek" about an interesting development in Chinese-Taiwanese relations. Basically, China offered Taiwan two pandas. The Taiwanese people were quite excited about the opportunity, and two zoos fiercely competed for the honor of housing the animals.

Ah, but there was a catch! Under the governing endangered species treaty, pandas can only be lent, not given. Taiwan can't afford to pay the necessary costs, but China was offering the pandas for free, on the theory that they were merely being moved within the same country. Accepting the pandas would be an admission that Taiwan is actually a province of China, as the mainland government insists. Sure, Taiwan could still assert its formal independence, but the panda gift would be a huge propaganda victory for the mainland.

So, after much hand-wringing, Taipei finally decided to decline the offer, with the face-saving explanation that Taiwanese officials had determined that the local habitat wouldn't be good for the pandas. The Chinese papers are naturally shocked that Taiwan would have misinterpreted such a benign goodwill gesture. Meanwhile, the Taipei Times says "Enough about the pandas, already."

I've written a little about Cross-Straits relations here and here. Taiwan's pro-independence President Chen Shui-bian was caught in a tight spot on this one, and it might be the kind of thing to make both sides even more bitter. I expect more cross-straits tension as we get closer to the 2008 Olympics in the PRC. Stay tuned.

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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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