Begging The Question

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Bright Ideas
I've seen burglar alarms that play a recording of vicious-sounding barking dogs. I wonder why someone doesn't market a burglar alarm that sounds like gunfire when triggered.

I'm sure that would be, at a minimum, quite disconcerting for the would-be burglar. Then again, I guess it would be just as frightening for the homeowner who sets the alarm at bedtime.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Coming Next Week: A Supreme Court Conversation
I'm very excited to announce that next week I'll be having an end-of-term Supreme Court conversation with Will of Crescat Sententia and PG of De Novo.

A few months ago, I had the brainstorm to emulate Slate's similar yearly dialogue. (Here is a link to last year's edition). I thought that type of back-and-forth roundatble would work well in the blog medium. I asked two of my favorite law nerd bloggers, Will and PG, to join me, and I'm looking forward to discussing a very interesting Supreme Court term with them.

All of the posts will appear at De Novo, so you can find them all in one place. (I'll provide links here for the convience of my regular readers, as well as to let them know what I'm up to and that I haven't forgotten them.) We all have day jobs, so a lot of the posts may appear in the evening, but I'm still confident we can have a lively and engaging chat.

By my count from this list at SCOTUSBlog, there are about ten cases awaiting decisions for next week. I'm sure we'll talk about many of those cases, as well as some of the other highlights (and lowlights) of the term. In addition, we've got a total of a term-and-a-half's worth of new Justices to examine. And who knows -- we might even get another retirement announcement! All in all, I think there's plenty of fodder for three Courtophiles to have a heck of a time. I hope you'll swing by De Novo next week and check it out.

In my continuing effort to make BTQ unsafe for Feddie's kids, I present:

1. N.W.A.'s "Straight Outta Compton" edited down to just the curse words. Still a catchy rap tune.

2. Scarface edited down to just the f-words. I don't think it loses anything.

Needless to say, these are NSFW (Not Safe For Work) and NSFK (Not Safe for Feddie's Kids).

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

"This is some nasty --"
A few weeks ago, I wrote this post about the tradition of giving condemned inmates a chance to say some last words in the death chamber. I wondered why we have the official, formal, final statement at a moment that would seem to be nerve-wracking in the best case. Now I'm reminded of the Jerry Seinfeld bit about common fears (paraphrasing): "The number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two! That means that at a funeral, more people would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy!"

Anyway, I immediately thought of that post, and the collection of final statements from Texas inmates, when I saw this AP story at CNN. A few excerpts:
Lamont Reese, 28, had to be carried into the death chamber.
"I want everyone to know I did not walk to this, because this is straight-up murder," he said. "I am not going to play a part in my own murder. No one should have to do that."
As the drugs began taking effect, he said, "This is some nasty." Then he gasped.
At that moment, his mother, Brenda Reese, began pounding with her fists on the chamber window and began screaming repeatedly, "They killed my baby."
She kicked two holes in the death chamber wall and eventually was taken away.
It's heart-rending stuff. I'm sure the family of the victim were thinking the same thing as Ms. Reese, but I feel for her, too. While they were probably startled late one night several years ago by a knock on the door, she at least was able to prepare for her son's death. Her reaction makes me think she was in denial that it would happen, though. I wonder if they'll charge her for the damage to the prison.

But what was really compelling to me about this story was the line "This is some nasty --" It's so...something. Evocative, I guess. (And I think I've punctuated it better than the AP, who makes it seem like he was modifying the noun nasty, like "That is quite a nasty.") It's easy to speculate what the next word (his real last word) was going to be. It's speculating what "this" was that makes it so intriguing to me. Maybe opponents of lethal injection will suggest he was referring to something about the chemicals used in the process. Does that mean lethal injection is "nasty"? Does "nasty" mean lethal injection is cruel and unusual? I don't think Reese's dying declaration will settle that debate, but I imagine it will stick with me. And that is some nasty --

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Somewhere, Losers are Weeping
I found a ten-dollar bill on the sidewalk while walking home today. There was no one else in sight, and no chance of identifying the original owner. So I kept it. My philosophy on found money is that I have to waste it, or at least not put it to any good use. I'm currently debating options.

I once found a fifty-dollar bill during college. I probably could have been more diligent about finding the rightful owner, but at the time I just considered it a supplement to my student loans. I'm willing to do the right thing, though: If someone who was at Duke during the 1994-95 school year can tell me where I found the bill, I'll gladly waive any statute of limitations defense I might have and repay the money, as long as you agree to waive any accrued interest.

What's the coolest thing you've ever found? Or, alternatively, what's something you deeply regret losing? I'll have to think about my answers, but that encounter with President Grant was pretty sweet.

ALL-REQUEST: Third Parties
Longtime Friend-of-BTQ (and soon-to-be first-time-father) Sebastian asks, "Ok, I've got a legitimate post request I would like your take on. Given your study of US and [Canadian] populism, what do you think of the chances in the current political environment for a legitimate 3rd party to get established. What do you think a third party would need to grow and be sustainable? (think tanks, billionaire sugar daddy, etc.)."

None of my thoughts are truly innovative or original, but here they are. I guess there might be a sticking point over the definition of "legitimate." Does that mean a party that fields candidates in several successive elections and makes a fair showing at the ballot box? Elects state officials or Congressmen? Elects Presidents? I think it will be a minimum of fifty years before we see a President who is not a Democrat or Republican. The other hangup is the "current political environment." I just don't see anything now that could be the catalyst for the formation of a major third party. The Democrats and Republicans seem pretty capable of co-opting the best ideas from third party upstarts. Also, billionaires like George Soros seem to prefer to work within the established parties rather than spend their capital on a start-up. And when the big boys aren't responsive, the disillusioned voter tends to stay home rather than seek a third way. Basically, I think we're going to see the status quo for a while.

Some nuances to that broad statement. First, I think there is a small (10%?) possibility that the Democratic Party could be riven over Iraq. However, I think the desire for both segments of the Dems to get back in power is greater than either's willingness to sacrifice power for principle. If the Dems get back in charge of the White House and Congress, disputes could boil over. But that depends on the situation in Iraq staying the same for a few more years. By definition, that won't happen -- in a few years, if nothing changes, it will be much easier to call it a "quagmire" and propose withdrawal.

Second, I think there is a somewhat larger (25%?) possibility that the GOP could be riven over abortion. Assuming the Supreme Court overturns Roe, state officials will have some hard choices to make. (My prediction, though, is that many would like put off those choices as long as possible, possibly through state constitutional litigation around the country.) I get the sense that the Feddies of the world are perfectly willing to sacrifice power for principle and abandon the Party if other Republicans aren't sufficiently rock-ribbed over abortion. I think such a development would be the most fascinating development in American party politics since the birth of the Republican party. I don't think the Life Party (what else would they call themselves?) would be able to do more than swing a few close races here and there, but that would still be significant.

Third, all bets are off if some truly outsized figure decides to run. Judging by his popularity before the 2000 election, Colin Powell might have been able to run on the Kill Whitey ticket and win. Such people are of course very rare, and even more rarely able to have coattails or spark some long-term shift in party politics. We don't speak of the "Eisenhower Revolution," after all, even though he was so popular after World War II that both parties courted him as their presidential candidate. But who knows -- maybe President Oprah will change all that.

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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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