28 September 2007

Imbalance of Powers

The United States Constitution, normally a touchstone not only for lawyers but all citizens, residents, and visitors of this country, may seem out-of-touch with reality to immigrants trying to pass their civics test to become naturalized Americans.

One question, for example, asks "What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful?"

The real-world answer, in the real world of the Bush executive branch, is of course, "Nothing."

But for wannabe Americans who are better advised to adopt the current Administration's low regard for "reality-based" governance, you should still answer, "Checks and Balances" or "Separation of Powers." And welcome to America.

Indecent Charges

In my hometown (Boulder, Colorado), I'm sorry to say at least one of our police officers expressed a prurient interest in a high school senior by writing him a ticket for indecent exposure after the boy tried to streak (mostly) naked across a football field. He (the boy, not the officer) was attired in purple paint and stylish racing flats. I say the officer's interest was "prurient" because indecent exposure requires that the boy "knowingly expose(d) his genitals to the view of any person under circumstances in which such conduct is likely to cause affront or alarm to the other person."

Now the only people who apparently might have been offended were the officers themselves, because the lad was arrested in flagrante but not delicto, before he had actually started to streak the field. As far as I can tell from the newspaper account, there were no other witnesses to this shocking, absolutely shocking behavior. And we all know what kind of affront or alarm it must have caused the officers to prompt them to scotch-tape snack napkins over the child's purple pubescence. It is devoutly to be hoped that our guardians of public decency allowed the boy to apply the sticky strips himself.

The law itself presupposes circumstances that are NOT likely to cause affront or alarm. Surely streaking is one such circumstance, where the only alarm one might experience is that the poor kid will trip and suffer a debilitating turf-burn.

Other students have started a campaign to free the misdemeanant. Of course, free him. And in the spirit of giving people the benefit of the doubt, let's free the officers too, and cease this fruitless speculation about whether they're spending their off-hours in a museum somewhere, ogling a Michaelangelo.

21 September 2007

We Get By with a Little Help from Our Friends

A Filipino judge, unconscionably fired from his bench for hiring invisible (at least to the less perceptive among us) elves as court clerks, wants his job back. Florentino Floro Jr. says that if he is re-elevated to the bench (judges must be elevated to the bench because it's a few steps up) he'll call off the king of the elves, who's turned hit man, inflicting illness and car accidents on Floro's former bosses, the Supreme Court.

Floro says the elves only help him predict the future on his personal time, and never used them to help him make judicial decisions. Of course not: that would be unethical.

18 September 2007

Fifth and Goal

It has always been about getting O.J. Simpson. He is now being held without bail on a charge that other people with a high public profile -- or no public profile -- would be released on bail or no bail at all.

And why not? O.J. Simpson murdered Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman and then went golfing. What many people -- maybe most people -- don't realize is that exactly the right thing happened in both his murder trial and his wrongful death conviction. California prosecutors dazzled by their months and months of fame had a slam-dunk case and then blew it. The jurors were right: even when everybody knows the defendant is guilty, prosecutors still have to prove it. Instead they turned the trial into a fashion show and stood gawking when the model walked down the runway and kept walking.

Game over?

Not really, as you are about to see. Nevada will take its turn with Simpson, and if that state's police and prosecutors can avoid screwing up they will get the conviction they didn't get in California, and a judge will sentence Simpson to consecutive terms the effect of which will be to keep him in prison for as long as would have the murder convictions.

Don't like the outcome of the game? Put a little more time on the clock.

13 September 2007

A Man of Big Little Words

By the way, my translation program translates "über" as "more über." I knew that.


Did you have a bad day today?

Protesters in Chile celebrated, with gusto, the anniversary of the murderous coup that brought über-murderous dictator Augusto Pinochet to power, killing a policeman by shooting him in the face.

The parents of 26,575 children, aged 5 or under, buried them today, as other parents bury the same number of their children, aged 5 or under, every day.

Three more American boys and girls serving in Iraq were put in the ground; who knows how many Iraqis went under (we don't like to count those boys and girls).

Another child who isn't old enough to take her first drink spent the day recounting to police how she had been raped, stabbed, beaten, and burned for a week.

A Tennessee man made the headlines by becoming the first guy the state strapped into an electric chair and burned and fried in almost 50 years. I'm sure he deserved it; I'm not sure the rest of us did.

And Woody Allen opened his New York Times this morning to learn that in five billion years the sun is gonna die.

Did you have a bad day today?

06 September 2007

Singing for His Life

I heard Luciano Pavarotti sing live only once. It was on the Esplanade along the Charles River in Boston. Scores of thousands of people sat on the grass or stood to hear the greatest voice of the century. Many of them wept openly at the stunning beauty of the sound. I was one of them.

I don't believe in God, but hearing that man sing, I knew why people do believe in God. This morning, although I know it isn't true because there are and will be other voices to remind us of what we call divinity, it feels as though there is a little less God on this planet Earth.