The Musings of

Something full of magic, religion, bullsh*t.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

And everyone has recourse to the law

It's been great fun over the past couple of weeks reading the posts from newly minted 1Ls as they nervously begin taking their first classes. If I focus really hard, I can actually dredge up a few memories from that time -- the excitement, nervousness, and general confusion as you tackle a foreign and seemingly vast task with little or no outside preparation. (Does "Wayne's World" flashback sounds and motions "doo-doo-loo, doo-doo-loo).

I have been wrongfully accused of being a "gunner," and I want to clear my good name. I admit that I have no problem dispensing my opinions about, but I made a concerted effort not to talk too much in law school unless I had something to add or a serious question. Sure, I participated more due to the former reason than the latter, but that doesn't make me a gunner.

As I remember it, there were 2 reasons that I had a small reputation as a gunner: (1) the infamous Prince Albert case and (2) because I was a conservative in Con Law. Lemme 'splain.

1. Krell v. Henry: There are certain unwritten laws of law school. When I started, I assumed one that turned out to not be true. I thought that in large section classes, once you were "on call" for a case, you could slide the rest of the semester -- or at least until everyone else in the class has been called on. I was wrong.

I took Contracts first semester and had a very engaging professor. I was called on relatively early in the semester, and I was thrilled because I could cruise through the rest of the semester without having to prepare to get peppered on every case. Life is good.

Fast forward a month or so. I'm sitting in class, enjoying some space out time, when the Prof states, "I was going to call on Mr. Centinel for this next case, but since we only have a few minutes left and I want to get it done, I'll just cover it." This surprised me quite a bit. As I stated, I had been called on, and, more importantly, no one had been called on twice, and half the class still hadn't been in the hot seat.

I got home that evening and began my reading for the next days class. As I was working through the next case, I had an interesting thought -- what are the odds that I'll be called on tomorrow in Contracts? The more I read, the more convinced I became that I was going to be called on, so I decided to C my A.

The case de jour was English case of Krell v. Henry. The facts were fairly simple. Guy rents an apartment overlooking the parade route for the coronation of King Edward VII. Eddie gets sick. Coronation is called off. As both parties to the room rental agreed that the purpose of the contract was for Defendant to view the coronation, and as that purpose had been frustrated, the court refused to make the Defendant pay the rent. It was a simple case, but I was curious. What was Ol' Ed's illness, and why was the coronation called off? So I flipped on the internet and read up on King Edward VII for 10 whopping minutes just to sate my curiosity.

The next day, the professor begins his discussion of Krell, and calls on me sure as shootin'. "Mr. Centinel, have you had the opportunity of reading Krell v. Henry?" "I have." "And are you prepared to discuss it?" "I am." "Well, Mr. Centinel, this case concerns the coronation of King Edward VII. Do you know anything about him?" "Yes I do." "Please, enlighten us." So I did. I explained his background, why he was being coroneted, and why he called it off. When I got done, the Prof began slowly clapping his hands and led the class in a round of applause.

Now, if you had been in class, I'm sure you would have thought I was the Gunner Supreme, but remember, I thought I was going to be called on. Therefore, it shouldn't be a surprise that I was ready the next day. Several people asked me if I was a history major (no) and other similar questions. Clearly, they'd forgotten that I'd almost been called on, so they assumed I was just a nerd (true to an extent). Whatever the case, this class (unjustly) helped cement me as a gunner.

2. Class Bitch: I took Con Law during my 3rd semester. On the first day of class, my Con Law professor got done fisking the first poor soul, and then addressed the class in general -- "Who's my 'class federalist?'" Most of the class turned at unison and looked at me. Smiling, the Prof proceeded to engage me in a lengthy argument on the subject matter at hand for the rest of the class.

What I didn't know was that this was the Prof's M.O. -- in the first class he would identify a conservative foil to play off and he would call on him/her to comment on every @#$% case. Sure, I spent a good amount of class time debating the professor, but I didn't ask to -- he called on me! How does that make me a gunner???

Ridiculous. I want a new trial.
Centinel 2:20 AM # | |

She was Lola in slacks... Dolly at school... Dolores on the dotted line.

I have not been following this case (more here, here, and here), but I think it is instructive on how confusing our legal system can be.

The facts are somewhat simple. Michael Koso, a 22-year old Nebraskan, had a relationship with Crystal Guyer, who is currently 14-years old, when he was 21 and she was 13. Guyer got pregnant, and both parties and their parents agreed that the two should get married. Nebraska does not allow people under the age of 17 to get married, but nearby Kansas has no legislated minimum age for marriage as long as the parents give their consent and a judge signs off on the arrangement. So Koso and Guyer got married in Kansas and returned to live in his parents' home in Nebraska.

Unfortunately for the happy couple, the local constables found out about their, um, situation, which led to Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning filing a charge of sexual assault against Koso that could result in a 50-year sentence if Koso is convicted (this was after the local prosecutor refused to prosecute the matter following the marriage).

My first thought when first reading about this matter was that the AG was violating the rule of law. If this couple was married in Kansas, and Nebraska recognizes marriage in Kansas, then under what law does the AG intend to convict the man? Is it ever illegal to have sex with your own wife? These thoughts arose before I read on and discovered that Koso had sex with Guyer in Nebraska before they were married. This, of course, it an important distinction. There is a huge difference, under the law, in saying, as some news outlets have, that Koso is getting charged for having sex with his 14-year old wife, and saying that Koso has been charged for having sex with a 13-year old girl who later became his wife.

There is apparently no doubt that, under state law, Koso has committed statutory rape and sexual assault of a child. He had sex with a minor out of wedlock. The controlling Nebraska statute states as follows:
Sexual assault of a child; penalty.
28-320.01. (1) A person commits sexual assault of a child if he or she subjects another person fourteen years of age or younger to sexual contact and the actor is at least nineteen years of age or older.
The statutory rape law covers individuals 19 or older who have sex with someone 16 or younger. Koso was 19 at the time of the alleged intercourse and Guyer was 13. Interestingly, there does not appear to be an exception under this statute for married couples. In fact, based on my limited research, it appears that there is not common-law exclusion for married couples under the statute. See State v. Willis, 223 Neb. 844, 394 N.W.2d 648 (1986). In looking solely at Nebraska law, this makes sense -- to be convicted you must have sex with someone under 17, but only individuals 17 or older can get married. The problem, of course, arises in situations such as this where the marriage took place legally in another jurisdiction.

It is a principal of family law that courts in one state will recognize valid marriages in another "unless contrary to natural laws or statutes." Shea v. Shea, 294 N.Y. 909, 63 N.E.2d 113 (App. Div. 1945). I can't help but wonder, considering Nebraska's seemingly strict marriage age laws, whether the courts would consider any marriage where one of the parties was under 17 to be contrary to their statutes and therefore, like gay marriage, void (I submit that there is an argument that the legislature must specifically declare a type of marriage void for it to be so. See Loughran v. Loughran, 292 U.S. 216 (1934)). This would certainly explain the attitude of the AG who stated, "Of course the marriage is valid ... but it doesn't matter. I'm not going to stand by while a grown man ... has a relationship with a 13-year-old -- now 14-year old -- girl."

If this is true, then where is Nebraska drawing the line? Would the AG have taken Koso to court if he had married Guyer before they had sex on the theory that (1) there is no marriage exception to the statutory rape laws and/or (2) that Nebraska will not recognize marriage to a 14-year old? That's what a bright-line rule would demand. And if it would be statutory rape to have sex with your 14-year old wife in Nebraska, would that also apply to having sex with your 16-year old wife? If not, why?

As if this wasn't confusing me enough, I can't help but consider the equity argument here. I've stated before that it seems strange to me that men can be considered sex offenders when they end up marrying their "victims." In the words of one commentator, doesn't the marriage "balance the scales of social justice"? By prosecuting Koso, isn't Nebraska punishing him for "doing the right thing" and marrying the mother of his child? And if Koso is sent to prison, isn't Guyer (and their child) the one who is really getting punished by removing her husband and support when she needs it most? Isn't she the one these laws were designed to protect? Like I said, complicated.

Of course, in the end, the AG will get some great press, so I suppose the thing isn't a total waste.
Centinel 12:12 AM # | |

Monday, August 29, 2005

This post sponsored by *

Part of me finds this appalling, and part of me wonders how much tickets would cost.

However you come down on the issue, I'm sure the event makes the Super Bowl look like East Peoria High School's production of "Arsenic and Old Lace."

*Of course this is a joke. This post was actually sponsored by the 700 Club and meant to be read while listening to Jungle Love by Morris Day and The Time. Jesse. N-n-now Jerome. Yesssss!
Centinel 10:37 AM # | |

Useless fact of the day

I just discovered that Lana Wood, who is best known for her stirring portrayal of Bond girl "Plenty O'Toole" in Diamonds Are Forever, is the sister of Natalie Wood.

I also answered something that's bothered me for some time. In the movie, Bond meets Plenty in the casino and they go upstairs to his room. After he undresses her, some mafia guys hiding in the room throw her out of the window into the pool 10-stories below, ostensibly so Ms. Tiffany Case, played by the lovely Jill St. John, can put the moves on Bond. When next we see Plenty, she is bobbing in Ms. Case's pool. When Ms. Case asks Bond who she is, he makes some lame comment about how Plenty must have come looking for Ms. Case and the assassins sent to kill Ms. Case must have mistaken Plenty for her.

The problem is that Plenty never saw or even knew about Ms. Case, so why would she come looking for her? The hole is due to scenes removed from the final cut of the movie. Evidently, after being tossed from the window, Plenty returns to Bond's room (perhaps to locate her clothes) and spies Bond and Ms. Case in bed. Pissed off, she rummages through Ms. Case's purse, finds her address, and leaves. The rest is history.

If you have no understanding of any of this, then you clearly have not watched enough James Bond movies, and need to go rent something with Sean Connery in it, you commie.
Centinel 9:47 AM # | |

Sunday, August 28, 2005

I am afraid we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar.

Disclaimer: I am not a Grammar Nazi. Hell, I can hardly spell, much less string a proper sentence together, but on occasion I run into one of those little rules of grammar that bug me for one reason or another. One that has gotten me arguing recently is whether singular possessive nouns that end in "s" should be given and apostrophe and another "S" or whether the apostrophe should stand alone. In short, which of the following is correct: Charles's or Charles'? Or are they both acceptable at this time?

Here's why I ask -- from my meager research it seems clear that the proper first singular plural form is Charles's (see here, here, and here), but the overwhelming majority of writers seem to use Charles' instead (see here, here, and here). (Interestingly, the Texas A&M Style Guide states that names ending in "s" should only be followed by an apostrophe, but seeking grammar advise from Texas A&M seems about as wise as seeking advice on good bar-b-que from a Yankee).

Up until a couple of years ago, I placed a lone apostrophe behind all possessives ending in "s," whether singular or plural, but now I am going with Strunk on the subject. I am a traditionalist by nature, but much like Liberals view of the Constitution, I tend to view grammar and a living organism that evolves over time. William Safire cemented this concept in my brain when I read one of his old columns about "retronyms." With that in mind, I'm willing to accept that should the overwhelming majority of individuals decide to dispense with the extra "s" following singular possessives ending in "s," then I'm willing to go along for the ride.

I'd be curious to hear what other people think about this example and perhaps provide others of rules that are being broken to the point where the error is now the rule.

Addendum: And what the hell's up with commas joining sets? Is it "Jimmy, Johnny, and I" or "Jimmy, Johnny and I"? I used to use the latter, but I've switched to the former over the past few years. Everybody tells me that either is correct as long as you're consistent, but that sounds like a copout.
Centinel 10:22 PM # | |

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I wanna go home with the armadillo.

In case I haven't mentioned it yet, you need to know that my new yard is thrashed. Seriously. It is the Courtney Love of yards. This is likely the result of the yard being completely ignored for a year. Oh, sure, there were yard guys that mowed every couple of weeks, but no one watered the grass or maintained the beds. I've got vines resembling kudzu choking my shrubs, and one vine-covered trellis fell over and just about killed one of my boxwoods. There are, like, four different types of grass, and the only one growing or green is the crabgrass. To top it off, when the mortgage company drained my septic tank and replaced the biomat the week before we closed on the house, they covered over it with gravel. So now I have a little gravel pit in the middle of my backyard. Awesome.

In an attempt to start reviving the lawn, I fertilized it a couple of days ago and have been watering every night. This morning, I looked out the window on the front door to see how everything was progressing, when I noticed the shrub at the side of my house move. Curious, I walked around to the bay window in the study to see what was moving. Was it a cat? No. Was it the rabbit that lives in my front lawn? Uh-uh. It was an armadillo. Now, regular readers know that I'm a proud non-Texan who grew up in Georgia and North Carolina. I've seen my share of reptiles, amphibians, and mammals rustle through the local fauna. But until today, I had never seen an armadillo that wasn't lying on it's back beside an Oklahoma highway.

I know, for all intents and purposes, that the little bastards are basically just armor-plated possums, but that doesn't change the fact that they creep me out a little. One of my co-workers actually asked me if I was sure it was an armadillo. No, genius, how can I be sure that it was an armadillo, when so MANY things resemble armadillos? Such as, um, well, 15-pound roly-poly bugs?
Gimme a break.

If I were a weirdness magnet (or a copycat of a weirdness magnet) I would have some crazy story about how I got chased by the armadillo and climbed a juniper tree only to find out I was allergic to juniper when I broke out in hives the size of Toyotas. But I'm not, and I didn't. The armadillo scurried off into the woods, and I grabbed a Coke Zero and headed for my 45-minute commute.

Realizing that I now live in "armadillo country" I decided to find out the proper method of dealing with the critters. Fortunately, I work with a farm boy from West Texas who proved to be a fount of knowledge on the subject. Here's his advice: Evidently, armadillos are fairly blind so it is easy to sneak up on one. What I need to do is put on some work gloves, sneak up behind the bastard, grab it by the tail, throw it in the back of my truck, drive far away and drop it off. The only trick is not allowing the thing to scratch me, because I could get leprosy. Seriously. There is a second option, which involves pinning it to the ground and shooting it in the head, but I don't think my neighbors would approve. I was warned by my co-worker not to startle the armadillo before I grab it, because they can jump 3-4 feet straight in the air when startled. This was a nice heads up, because I'm sure the sight of an armadillo jumping that high while I'm bending over him would startle the piss out of me, and I like my piss where it is.

The upshot of all of these is that my wife now has a reason not to do any yard work, and I don't want to go near the bushes lest a rogue armadillo go off like a Bouncing Betty.

This crap never happened when I was living downtown. Still, it beats dealing with panhandlers.

Addendum: If you are going to write about armadillos, the appropriate music to listen to is Adam Ant.
Centinel 4:10 PM # | |

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

I hear the [war]drums echoing tonight

I was asked several months ago to join the Coalition for Darfur, a group of bloggers from across the political spectrum who banded together to raise awareness about the problems (genocide, famine) in the Sudan. I declined for two reasons. First, I didn't think that a weekly PSA was right for this blog. Call it an aversion to filler. Second, and most important, I wasn't sure I was in agreement with the founders' ideals. I just don't know enough about Africa to commit myself to someone else's viewpoint.

While I haven't participated, I have perused the postings of others on the subject, and am now willing to categorically say that I disagree with the Coalition. I didn't have any problem with their call for awareness or their goal of raising charity money for the region. What I have a problem with is their call to have the UN become militarily involved in the region. The Coalition seems to want the UN to become involved, other commentators have suggested that NATO step in, but either would mean U.S. soldiers once again fighting in East Africa.

I cannot support either of these suggestions. In his commentary on NPR this morning, Christopher Preble of the Cato Institute presented a thorough analysis on why military intervention in Darfur is a bad idea and why it is an African problem best left to Africans. I encourage those Conservatives/Libertarians who are part of the Coalition to take a listen.
Centinel 10:56 AM # | |

My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.

Sometimes the ethical obligations of law practice can be annoying. Case in point -- I have an acquaintance who is a musician popular among a certain set and who is the nephew of a somewhat well-known musician (how's that for vague). My friend, we'll call him Billy, is a rebel. I'm not talking about a "Justin Timberlake, I'm leaving the Backstreet Boys" rebel or even a "Kid Rock, I'm gonna talk about what a badass I am" rebel. Billy's more of a "I love doing drugs, getting in fights, and having sex with underage women" rebel. I should stress that Billy and I aren't tight -- he's a friend of a friend that I've hung out with a few times -- although I think he's a hell of a musician and songwriter.

I was talking to our mutual friend, Jimmy, on Thursday night and he happened to mention that Billy had just been sued. (I should mention that Billy lost a six-figure suit a couple of months ago to a major record label in a breach of contract case, so he is rather cash-strapped). What Billy had actually received was a "cease and desist" letter. It seems Billy had decided to use the likeness of a major name brand product in the production of his web site. The association was intended to be a funny one, but the corporation manufacturing the product was not amused.

Jimmy, knowing I was an lawyer (although not an IP lawyer) asked me about the issue. I did what I always do, instructed him to tell Billy to talk to a lawyer. Jimmy said Billy had, and then told me the advice the lawyer had given Billy. The advice didn't sound right to me, so I looked briefly into it the next day and basically found that Billy's lawyer is what we in the business call "malpractice waiting to happen."

Long, boring story short, Billy is going to cease and desist. The only thing that irks me is that I could not have done more to help him out. After reading the corporation's letter, I feel that Billy may have a case. I would have liked to have been more open with him about the issues involved, but I couldn't because it cannot objectively appear I am giving him legal advice. There are two reasons for this. First, my firm might view giving free legal advice as a violation of the conditions of my employment. Second, if Billy were to follow my advice and run into legal trouble, he would have a basis for bringing a malpractice action against me.

This type of thing happens more than I'd like. A friend will ask me for what they view as simple legal advice, but I am constrained from helping them out because I don't want to open myself up to liability, no matter how slight. Generally they're looking for some general advice regarding a divorce, traffic violation, or, these days, about starting a small business. Each time it happens, I try to weasel around providing an answer or to just explain that this "little advice" might lead to me losing a job or becoming disbarred -- and that I'm not going to risk hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts and earning potential to give some free advice, not matter what assurances the receiver makes.

So, if you are a non-lawyer friend of mine (the best kind), I just want you to know that the reason I don't answer your legal question is not because I'm a dick. It's because I'm a wuss.

I'm glad I could clear that up.
Centinel 8:09 AM # | |

Monday, August 22, 2005

Natural selection in action

On our way into Dallas for a night of drinking and debauchery, my wife and I saw a chesty, blonde woman talking on a cell phone held in her left hand. While applying mascara with her right. At night. Driving a Miata. On the interstate.
Centinel 12:02 PM # | |

Sunday, August 21, 2005

40+ minutes with : Narishkayt

It's been a while since I've written on the gristmill of democracy, NPR, and their never-ending search for truth, justice and the American Way ™, as underwritten by the Foundation for the Advancement of Liberal Bedwetters. Part of the reason I haven't posted on the subject is, well, because I quit posting on anything for a couple of weeks, but part is to to the fact that NPR hasn't really been reporting on anything interesting. That is, NPR has been focusing on international political stories and I don't find them interesting.

Now that I've opted for a 40+ minute drive, I'm hearing more, but it's no more interesting. What am I going to say about a story concerning oil production in Nigeria? Nothing, because I don't care. Now, if Steve Innskeep were to report that aliens had landed in Nigeria, then that would be a story, if only because it would indicate that aliens lack the intelligence to know not to visit Nigeria.

Today, however, NPR did present a brief story accompanied by interviews that made me just shake my head at how stupid some people are. I'm sure you've heard a little bit about the Gaza pullout considering its on the news about as often as Natalee Holloway. Anyway, as you may have heard, Israel was offering to buyout any settlers who left Gaza before the pullout deadline, and now they're going door-to-door hauling out anyone who refused to leave.

The NPR correspondent went and spoke to some people who are now living in a hotel following their forceful removal. The mother was complaining that they were only allocated 10 days in the hotel, and that following that they did not know where she, here husband, and their two young children would live. When asked why she didn't plan for this little eventuality, she replied that they didn't believe the Israeli government would actually vacate them from the settlement.

Way to contingency plan, sister. Despite being told repeatedly for months that they would be forced to evacuate their house, and despite being offered money and assistance in locating a suitable replacement home for their family, this woman and her husband decided that it just wasn't going to happen. So they blissfully went on living their lives until they were dragged out of their house by Israeli police. I understand that these people didn't want to leave -- I wouldn't want to be forced off my property -- but they to at least suspect that the Israeli government might have the political will to forcibly remove them from their homes. By not hedging their bets, they are now essentially homeless and reduced to trying to convince reporters that they have been victimized. The only victims are their children who have to live with their parents' bonehead decision.
Centinel 11:48 PM # | |

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Huh! and that ain't cool

Pat the Chooks has presented the "ultimate cultural question": Hey Joe or Hey Jude? I've never really thought about it, but I think he's on to something here. Other than the similarity between the names, these two songs have nothing in common.

Hey Joe is a earthy song based on the most primal blues tradition -- a guy going to shoot his unfaithful lover and then run off to avoid being killed himself. Hendrix's slowhand action on guitar only contributes to the dark nature of the story -- you can actually feel the fatalism. This song is damn near Faulkneresque, and is, I believe, American to the core.

Hey Jude, on the other hand, is a slightly moppish pop song written to John Lennon's son. It is as optimistic as Hey Joe is realistic. It is a prime example of British songwriting during the 1960s, and, I contend, is popular for its hook and sing-along chorus.

I suppose you could divide humanity up into these two camps and it would tell you as much about them as any division. So which is it?
Centinel 4:18 PM # | |

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

All right, if someone deserves a tip, if they really put forth an effort, I'll give them something a little something extra.

This article is a microcosm of what's wrong with the media these days. For those too lazy to read the article, it's about a 19-year old waitress in Sweden who had a customer give her a Porsche as a tip.

If you were to look at the headline, you would assume that the waitress was the recipient of a sportscar worth at least $50,000. Instead, it turns out that she got a 1979 junked out Porsche worth a whopping $4,000. It would have been a better tip if she had gotten a new Hyundai, but that wouldn't have made international news. This, by itself, insults the intelligence of the reader, but the news agency lamely attempts to sell the article by adding a COMPLETELY UNRELATED picture of some guy getting into a much newer Porsche (which is like a newspaper printing a story on some minor league baseball player hitting a grandslam with a picture of Barry Bonds next to it having the caption "Baseball player hitting grandslam"), and by finishing the article with the following gratuitous statement:
The incident is reminiscent of the 1994 Hollywood movie "It Could Happen To You" starring Nicolas Cage and Bridget Fonda, in which a waitress becomes a millionaire when her customer offers to share his lottery ticket with her in lieu of a tip.
Please. This guy pawned off a rundown old car that had probably been darkening his driveway under a moldy tarp for years, and now some reporter wants to compare it to a multi-million dollar tip. News sucks.

Not that I care or anything.
Centinel 11:58 PM # | |

This Old F***ing House, Part 1

Moving blows, and moving into your first house blows big time, which, one can assume is worse than just blowing. It's not just the "packing everything up and transporting it to the new location and unpacking" that is so effervescently sucky, but the fact that there is so much to do once the stuff is moved. I could make a list of projects that would stretch longer than a Milbarge post,and I want to have them all done by the end of this weekend. Oh, and I don't want to perform any actual work in the process, because, as it turns out, I'm very lazy.

If you have never bought a house, here is my advice: Expect to spend at least double the list price of the house. Sure, your mortgage may only be for $150,000, but you can bet your ass that you will spend at least that much during the first few weeks on other crap, like extra soap dispensers, bedding, lawn mowers, trimmers, edgers, clippers, phones, furniture, pictures, wheelbarrows, hoses, tools, electronic parts and connectors, shower curtains, towels, etc. Hell, I've been to Lowe's so many times in the past two weeks that some folks think I work there, and I'm going to have to sell off my first-born just to pay for all of the crap I've bought there.

Also, be aware that you cannot walk into any store without buying twice as much as you expect. For example, I went in to Circuit City last night to buy a $15 cord, and came out with a $70 alarm clock, a wireless router, and the complete 2nd season of Joanie Loves Chachi on DVD.

Some of this stuff is superfluous, but if you live in Texas the ant-killing crystals and spreader are mandatory. I got bitten by several fire ants last week, and within a day it looked like I had developed boils where they had nailed me. The rash acts of these few bad apples cost the lives of thousands of their friends and family members as I laid waste to the nearest football-sized mound with chemicals, water, and the "Nike of justice."

The previous owners also had the hots for roses. I hate roses so naturally the damn things were in beds all around the house. Some of them had stalks as wide as your thumb with inch-long, wicked-looking thorns. I finally decided on the most effective way of removing them -- wrap a chain around the base of the rose bush, wrap the other end of the chain around the ball hitch on your pickup, and let the V-8 do the rest. Unfortunately, my wife didn't want me digging up the front yard and running over the embedded sprinkler heads, so many of the rose bushes experienced what I like to call "ground level" pruning.

Tune in next week when or topic will be, "Crabgrass: Nature's Attempt to Really Piss Me Off."
Centinel 1:50 PM # | |

Confucius say, law school like sitting on cactus -- many pricks, pain in ass

I wrote this post several months ago as people were getting accepted into law school. Since it relates to my thoughts about being a successful law student, I'm linking to it now.

If you are starting your 1L year over the next couple of weeks, I wish you well. I imagine I speak for a good number of us practicing attorney-types when I say that we are all a bit envious and, at the same time, a bit glad it isn't us. The next three years of your lives will be challenging no matter what you do, but will only be as fun as you decide to let them. With that in mind, stop to smell the roses whenever you can.

But remember, exams are only four months away. ;)
Centinel 11:48 AM # | |

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Catfish on the table and gospel in the air.

I've gotta admit, I'm shocked you don't see more of this kind of thing. While I have not spent much time in Connecticut, what I've seen there and in the other New England states are cities in decline -- old mill towns with old buildings and infrastructure. Anyone who has ever driven through Hartford and then been in Charlotte has to wonder why anyone would stay up north. Our weather is milder, our women are better looking, and our people are friendlier.

Add in the cost of regulations, taxes, and unions, and it seems to me that any company that remains north of the Mason-Dixon line is just being stubborn. Those managers moving from Connecticut to Tennessee will now enjoy no state income tax, lower total taxes, and don't even get me started about cost-of-living differences -- in real terms these workers just DOUBLED their salaries (to match the purchasing power median income of $128,000 that these employees make in Memphis, they would have to be paid $261,000 in Stamford). Hell, Memphis even has passable bar-b-que joints, something that I'm sure Connecticut can't say.

So welcome home, boys and girls. Grab yourselves a pulled pork sandwich w/ slaw on the bun, head on down to Beale St. for a beer and some blues, and wonder what you ever did to be so lucky. Even if you don't realize it now, in a few months you'll know what it's like to paroled out of prison.

Just remember that we don't give a damn how you did it up North, and we're all going to get along just fine.
Centinel 3:53 PM # | |

Friday, August 12, 2005

No good deed goes unpunished

If the plaintiffs bar wants a clue as to why many people hold them in contempt, it need look no further than a suit filed today in California. Evidently, the show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition built a house for a couple who had taken in 5 orphaned teenagers. The teenagers allege that the couple then began making their lives miserable in a successful attempt to force them out.

So what do the kids do (with the help of an enterprising lawyer)? They file suit against ABC because ABC's got the money, not the couple. The kids claim ABC promised them a home, and therefore ABC owes them a home. Here's hoping that someone explains to their attorney the legal difference between a "promise" and a "contract."

Look, I don't know all the facts here, but I feel safe in saying that ABC did absolutely nothing wrong, even if the couple forced the kids out gunpoint. However, the plaintiffs' attorney knows that ABC will likely be willing to pay to make the thing go away.

Stories like these make me dislike people more and more.
Centinel 1:08 PM # | |

But users, cheaters, six-time losers hang around the theaters

One benefit of my move to the country is that I won't have to deal with panhandlers every time I walk down the street. I love Deep Ellum, but the homeless population here is starting to get to me. That is, while I'm sure I had compassion for the homeless at some time in my life -- perhaps while in elementary school -- I have reached a tolerance point as of late. I can't tell you if I'm getting panhandled more or if my patience is just getting thinner, but I am getting sick of it. I cannot walk 2 blocks in my area without some guy with his handout and some story honing in on me. "I'm not a thief/drunk/addict. I'm a former veteran/Christian/HIV positive, and I'm just looking to get in a shelter/to buy some food/to get my feet on the ground." No matter how good their story is, it's all crap. They want money for one of four things: drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or food. And most aren't concerned about cigarettes (which they can bum) or food. I know this because I have talked to them and watched them for the past two years. They have been an unfortunate part of my daily existence, and I won't cry leaving them behind.

There was a short segment on the local NPR affiliate the other day about some local homeless "solutions." First, they talked with a developer who has this brilliant idea to build subsidized private housing downtown for the homeless. He stated that the overwhelming majority of homeless individuals he had spoken with said that they couldn't wait to turn their lives around and "were already thinking of ways to pay the rent."

There truly is a sucker born every minute. Of course these indigents are going to tell you that they love your idea. They have the practiced ability to tell you whatever they think you want to hear because they know that's the way to a handout. This guy could have asked them how they thought about his idea to hang them up like suits every night with big hangers, and they would have told him how much they enjoy sleeping vertically. Understand, the overwhelming majority of homeless are low-level con-artists and thieves. They'll swipe a tip jar from a bar when no one's looking, but they will not stick you up in an alley. They are scavengers who will rely on their pitifulness or your need to help them to get what they want.

Case in point: A few months ago, a friend of mine and I were leaving a local bar one night when we were approached by a scruffy looking white guy. He was bald and scrawny with a beard and dirty clothes. He first asked if we were from Texas, and when my friend said he was this guy starts saying things that were so racist Robert Byrd would have blushed. Most of his comments concerned how we were white, he was white, and how there were too many blacks in the area. Not that he used the word "blacks," mind you. My friend and I told him to hit the bricks, and he did. Fast forward to two nights ago. I stopped in a local store and Whitey was at the counter asking for a hand out -- FROM A BLACK GUY. Get this, the black guy actually gives him a couple of bucks and our koncerned klansman started kissing the guy's ass like it was made of sugar, telling him how much a help he was and, oddly, telling the black guy that "when [he] lands on his feet, [he'll] but him dinner at Red Lobster!" Evidently, Red Lobster is high-class fare in the white trash community. If a man will sublimate his hatred of a group for a couple of bucks, then he's lacking a bit of sincerity in my book.

The second part of the NPR report focused on some do-gooder who owns a restaurant chain and drives a food van around to the homeless "camps" ("Welcome, boys and girls to Camp Under-The-Bypass. This summer we'll be learning outdoor skills such as how to make a shelter out of soup cans and cardboard.") Anyway, the city has apparently been trying to impede his charity by telling him that he's not helping the homeless by feeding them where they live, but he is not to be deterred. He is on a mission from God. As I recently read, he has his own truth and its useless to try to convince him otherwise.

What I'm seeing are people who have no basic understanding of who and what the homeless are, but are willing to wade waist-deep into the problem. Here are the facts, as I see them:

  1. Most panhandlers are homeless by choice, not because of the Bush tax cuts or evil corporations. There are some crazy mothers out there, but most of them end up in jail or dead. While homeless people may whine about how bad their lives are, they are still unwilling to work a steady job in order to earn a paycheck.

  2. Panhandlers want you to give them money when they ask for it. They don't really want you to buy them dinner (although they won't turn it down) or bring them clothing. They sure as hell don't want you to offer them a job.

  3. Some panhandlers foster an illusion that they are trying to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. This is not true. The person may actually believe it, but odds are that they are just using it to make their marks feel like they are contributing to a greater good.

  4. If a homeless person tells you something in the course of panhandling you, it is almost certainly a lie. They don't need food, they want drugs. They don't need $3 to get into a shelter at midnight -- most shelters won't even let them in after that time!

  5. If you give money and/or food to a homeless person, you are just, and I hate using this psychobabble word, enabling them. People are like other animals. If you want to know how giving money to a homeless person affects the population, I encourage you to go to the nearest beach and feed the seagulls. See how many show up. Better yet, start feeding a stray cat, and then see if it shows by up. By assisting them, we allow them to continue their lifestyle.

  6. Panhandlers will not die if every person was able to tell them to screw off. When's the last time you heard of a homeless person dying of starvation? It doesn't happen.

  7. Contrary to belief, don't ignore panhandlers because you might run into one that wigs because you're not treating them like a person. Always answer, be firm, don't stop to chat.

Am I flogging a deceased equine? Probably, but it's only because it's started to get to me. The rules around here as relates to panhandlers are simple -- they ask, if declined they back off. But lately they've been getting more aggressive. I've been approached in bars and actually had one follow me into a bar one night to argue with me after I'd told him to scram. Unfortunately for him, before I even realized he was behind me, a customer who was evidently a local bouncer bounded up and threatened to kick the guy's ass if he didn't leave (I've noticed that a lot of local employees are more than willing to threaten the homeless).

In order to help the homeless, we've got to all practice tough love. As long as they can count on handouts, they will continue to look for handouts rather than find a job or contribute to society in any way. Anyway, would you give panhandlers money in your neighborhood? Hell, no. You know it would just lead to more panhandlers, and that would just lead to you car getting broken into every other week and people using your backyard as a restroom. All I ask is that you remember that if you feel the need to give someone a dollar in someone else's neighborhood.
Centinel 11:13 AM # | |

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Return of the Native

How lazy do you have to be to disappear for a couple of weeks without telling anyone? Apparently, I set the standard.

First, let me apologize those who may have regularly clicked over to check for updates during this time. I'm certainly not the first to note that blogging has its own social contract, whereby the monster must be fed fresh life experiences and/or thoughtful commentary. I'll admit that I have scoured the net for something for post material when I didn't feel like writing, and I've written passionately about things I don't care about just to keep the home fires burning. Unfortunately, I couldn't sustain that level of disinterest for long, so when my extracurriculars (definition = those things I do when not blogging) began to bear down on me, I decided to take an unannounced sabbatical. I have not written (other that several 12(b)(6) motions and MSJs), I have not read other blogs (other than E.Spat's mind-blowing serial on Ex #1), and I have felt little to no guilt about it.

What have I been doing? In a nutshell, I've been absolutely deluged at work, and I have been doing the house stuff (buying, inspecting, closing, cleaning, packing, moving, buying, buying, buying, etc.) As you can imagine, none of this lends itself to interesting posts, so I have spared you the pain of diatribes about crabgrass and idiot opposition counsel. I have also done my best to avoid posting any meaningless commentary about how I feel about the state of the world.

During my time off, I've thought a bit about what I'm going to do with this site, including whether I want to continue at all. I haven't decided what direction I'm going, but I have decided to keep trucking. Now that I've cleared my desk a bit, I feel somewhat rejuvenated. I still enjoy this outlet, and I have enjoyed the relationships I've made with other bloggers. I don't think I'm ready to lose either.

The fact is, I'm facing a lifestyle change. Tomorrow, me and the Mrs. are officially moving over to the house, which is roughly 25 miles away from where we are now.. My late-night forays into seedy bars will be replaced by . . . I don't know. I suspect that once we get settled, I will have time every night to write. That may lead to a posting explosion. Or it may lead to me sitting around in my underwear watching reruns of the Family Guy.

Whatever the case, I'm back, and I hope some of my friends are still around.
Centinel 8:48 AM # | |