Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists and engineers sued NASA and the California Institute of Technology on Thursday, challenging extensive new background checks that the space exploration center and other federal agencies began requiring in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
The lawsuit says NASA is violating the Constitution by calling on employees — everyone from janitors to visiting professors — to permit investigators to delve into medical, financial and past employment records, and to question friends and acquaintances about everything from their finances to sex lives. Those who refuse could lose their jobs, the suit says.
Friday, August 31, 2007
Wayne Roberts has an interesting article at Now in which he contends that glossy, designer food photography is having the same distorting effect on our culinary appetites that fashion photography has had on our norms about body image.
In short, we are becoming pickier about perfect produce.
Writing from a redearth farm in PEI, Roberts contends that as a consequence,"most of the food we toss, perhaps one-fifth of the harvest, is wasted simply because it disappoints visual expectations..."
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Two men sealed the state's first legal same-sex marriage with a kiss Friday morning, less than 24 hours after a judge threw out Iowa's ban on gay marriage and about two hours before he put the ruling on hold...
By late morning, 20 had applied for marriage licenses when Recorder Julie Haggerty announced that she had been instructed to stop accepting the applications. Hanson later said that he had formally stayed his ruling.
The judge's stay means the recorder's office is not permitted to accept any more marriage applications from gay couples until the Iowa Supreme Court rules on the county's appeal.
MONTREAL - A Quebec coroner is calling for major changes to the practice of midwifery in the province following the "preventable" death of a baby boy during a home birth in Montreal last year.
The baby, Siloan Lorrain, had asphyxiated from his meconium -- a greenish-black stool passed by newborns -- before the birth, yet the midwives were unaware of the danger at the time, coroner Paul Dionne concluded.
And when the baby was born not breathing, they also failed to properly intubate him.
Dr. Dionne also blasted the Quebec Order of Midwives, accusing the professional organization of failing to enforce standards and not investigating the incident promptly.
"Upon examining this case, the order must ask itself serious questions as to how ... it can better assure quality of care," Dr. Dionne
One of the most dangerous journeys we will ever take is down the birth canal. But in our recent zeal to make every human event into a kinder, gentler, personal growth experience, many now seem to think that women would have a better time giving birth at home with midwives instead of in hospital -- so cold and clinical and "medical" , you know.
What we cannot forget is this: the goal of childbirth is not that the mother should have a good birth experience.
The goal is that the baby should be born alive and healthy.
The case was filed by civil rights group Lambda Legal on behalf of six same-sex couples and their families. Each couple was denied a marriage license from Polk County officials on the grounds that they did not meet the gender requirements according to Iowa law.
Couples, such as plaintiffs, who are otherwise qualified to marry one another may not be denied licenses to marry or certificates of marriage or in any other way prevented from entering into a civil marriage ... by reason of the fact that both person comprising such a couple are of the same sex.
The full text of Judge Hanson's decision is here.
The Judgment prompted a number of immediate applications for marriage licenses in Des Moines. Six licenses were immediately issued to the Plaintiffs.
The County will appeal the ruling.
The political fallout from the decision was immediate, if largely predictable. From the Cedar Rapids Gazette:
Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said he expects the Legislature will wait until the issue makes its way through the judicial process before weighing in to see if and how the state law needs to be revised.
"Today's civil-rights ruling by Judge Robert Hanson is another step in what is expected to be a lengthy legal process," Gronstal said. "The prudent approach would be for the Legislature to await an expected appeal and subsequent ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court before taking any steps in reaction to this decision."
However, House Republican Leader Christopher Rants of Sioux City said the Legislature should fix the problem as soon as possible by adopting a constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. That should be the first order of business when the 2008 session convenes in January or earlier if lawmakers and Gov. Chet Culver deem a special session is needed to protect Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses.
“I guarantee you, there's going to be a vote. One way or another, people are going to have to pick a side, you can't be on the fence," Rants said. "You either believe marriage is between a man and a woman or you don't and we'll find out."The House GOP leader called today's ruling "shocking" but something that could have been averted had Democrats chosen not to "play hide and seek with the issue" when Republicans were pushing for a constitutional marriage protections.
"That would be the cleanest, easiest way to fix it," Rants said. "I can't believe this has happened here in Iowa. We knew when all these folks were applying for these marriage licenses, their intent was to try to get the law overturned. The law shouldn't have been overturned. That's why we tried to put it in the Constitution."
Thursday, August 30, 2007
I will tell you that when you get in the Green Zone, there is a physiological phenomenon I think called Green Zone fog. … It’s death by powerpoint. … It’s always that their argument is winning.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
"Tonight I also offer this pledge of the American people: Throughout the area hit by the hurricane, we will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives. And all who question the future of the Crescent City need to know there is no way to imagine America without New Orleans, and this great city will rise again."
Angry legal activists have formed a tribunal to try to build a case under international law accusing the United States of human rights abuses during and after Katrina. The tribunal has been convened to take testimony from victims.
NEW ORLEANS (Yahoo News) - Prayers, protests and a lingering disgust with the government's response to Hurricane Katrina marked the disaster's second anniversary Wednesday, with a presidential visit doing little to mollify those still displaced by the storm.
Clarence Russ, 64, took a dim view of politicians' promises as he tried to put the finishing touches on his repaired home in the city's devastated Lower 9th Ward.
"There was supposed to be all this money, but where'd it go? None of us got any," said Russ, whose house was the only restored home on an otherwise desolate block.
Not far away, President Bush visited a school. "We're still paying attention. We understand," he said before heading to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, also devastated by Katrina.
But Gina Martin, who is still living in Houston after Katrina destroyed her New Orleans home, was unconvinced. "Bush was down here again making more promises he isn't going to keep. The government has failed all of us. It's got to stop," she said.
The neglect of New Orleans is shameful mess. It ought to be a national scandal.
Nothing like teamwork. Two men in Wisconsin were arrested for operating the same vehicle while intoxicated. Harvey J. Miller, 43, who has no legs, was steering the 1985 Chevrolet truck from the driver's seat while Edwin H. Marzinske, 55, operated the brake and gas pedals. Police pulled them over and Miller admitted he was too drunk to drive but argued he wasn't operating the vehicle because he couldn't push the pedals. Miller was issued a citation for a third drunk driving offense, while Marzinske was cited for a second. Both men were also cited for operating after revocation.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
From Yahoo News:
A U.S. appeals court gave the green light on Tuesday to continued Canadian beef and cattle imports, rejecting a rancher group's effort to impose a ban amid mad cow disease concerns...
"Having reviewed the merits of this case, we conclude that the agency considered the relevant factors and articulated a rational connection between the facts found and its decision to designate Canada a minimal-risk country," Judge Cynthia Holcomb Hall wrote for the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
A Canadian man jailed for murder at the age of 14 was acquitted Tuesday of raping and killing a female school classmate -- 48 years after the horrific crime.
The five-judge Ontario court of appeal ruled that the 1959 conviction of Steven Truscott, now aged 62, was "a miscarriage of justice, and must be quashed."
"It's a dream come true," an emotional Truscott told a press conference, as his wife and three children sobbed for joy beside him.
Disgraced former media baron Conrad Black has asked a Chicago judge to throw out a verdict reached in July that found him guilty of three counts of fraud and one count of obstruction of justice. He is asking for a new trial.
The Montreal-born Black, who upbeat U.S. prosecutors said could finally be classified "a convicted felon" after last month's verdict, had his lawyers file a motion with a Chicago court late Monday, saying it "would be a miscarriage of justice to let the verdict stand."
Monday, August 27, 2007
Children's Aid Society workers in York Region walked off the job Monday to protest their salaries and what they call a "crippling workload."
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union, negotiating on behalf of the 180 CAS employees affected by the strike, said talks collapsed Friday after the union rejected the latest offer. They officially walked off the job at 12:01am Monday.
Wages and an unmanageable workload are the issues that so far haven't been resolved.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Monday said he reluctantly accepted the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whose "good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons."
Alberto Gonzales was dogged by controversial issues including wiretapping programs and fired U.S. attorneys.
After months of standing by his top prosecutor and "close friend," Bush spoke briefly in Texas to praise Gonzales, saying the attorney general endured "unfair treatment that has created harmful distraction at the Justice Department."
Bush said it's "sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person" is impeded "from doing important work."
Sunday, August 26, 2007
The absolute worst of the rot that has infected America because of the policies and actions of the Bush administration has originated from the office of the vice president. The nonsensical response to the terror attacks of 9/11, seeking a “global war” versus defending the rule of law at home and abroad, taking the lead in spreading the lies that got us involved in Iraq, legitimizing torture as a tool of American jurisprudence, advocating for warrantless wiretappings of U.S.-based communications (regardless of what the Fourth Amendment says against illegal search and seizure), and pushing for an expansion of America’s global conflict into Iran—all can be traced back to the person of Cheney as the point of origin. America today is very much engaged in a life-or-death struggle against the forces of evil.
The enemy resides not abroad, however, but at home, vested in the highest offices of the land.
Mark Pasternak said he lost his state job helping troubled youths because he couldn’t stand working under a black boss who called him racist names like “cracker,” “polack” and “stupid white boy.”
Pasternak was dismissed from his position as a youth worker with the state Office of Children and Family Services in 1999. But today, he feels some relief and vindication.
After a rare reverse racial discrimination trial in Buffalo’s federal court, a jury Tuesday awarded Pasternak $150,000. Jurors found that his former boss, Tommy E. Baines, discriminated against him racially and created a hostile working environment.
Federal court officials said they could not recall any reverse discrimination case in Buffalo resulting in a larger monetary verdict. Most such cases wind up being settled or dismissed before they ever go to trial.
Having recently returned from vacation on the east coast in Massacheussets and Maine, I thought I'd share a few snapshots from the political landscape:
Minnesota Lawyer Blog has been following this story:
Several local plaintiffs' lawyers recently set the bar buzzing when they made a highly unusual offer -- they would handle the cases of victims from 35W bridge collapse without taking a fee.
...Minneapolis-based Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, which, ironically, pocketed one of the biggest fees in state history a few years back when it got $440 million for handling the state's $6 billion tobacco settlement. The Robins firm has already signed up several several bridge victims as clients, none of whom it is charging a fee.
The Star Tribune has an interesting story today on the liability questions and potential lawsuits arising out of the collapse of the 35W bridge. (See "Question of liability rises.")
Given the limitations on state and municipal liability and the fact that the bridge was constructed 40 years ago, attorneys pursuing liability claims will likely have to focus on the private entities involved in the bridge's maintenance, the article correctly points out.And there will, of course, also be a bevy of legal issues relating to insurance coverage that will crop up.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
The Bush administration is preparing to speed up the executions of criminals who are on death row across the United States, in effect, cutting out several layers of appeals in the federal courts so that prisoners can be "fast-tracked" to their deaths.
With less than 18 months to go to secure a presidential legacy, President Bush has turned to an issue he has specialised in since approving a record number of executions while Governor of Texas.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Bar-Ex reports that Honda's appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada is scheduled to be argued Feb. 20, 2008.
Mr. Keays’ has also cross-appealed from the Ontario Court of Appeal decision reducing the $500,000.00 punitive damages award he received at trial to $100,000.00.
In this case, a former Honda Canada worker was awarded two years' salary in lieu of notice plus $500,000 in punitive damages for harassment and discrimination.
Mr. Keays, who suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome that emerged in the later years of his 14 year tenure with Honda, was exposed to progressive discipline by his employer for absence due to his illness. Ultimately, his employment was terminated.
The trial Court held that Honda had wrongfully dismissed and discriminated against Mr. Keays. The punitive damages awarded at trial were unprecedented in Ontario.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Legal Tree is a site I came across today. It seems to be a promising resources portal for Canadian lawyers.
It is self-described as "a website of Legal Tree Project Inc. that is run by two recent graduates of the Faculty of Law at the University of British Columbia."
Friday, August 17, 2007
A well-built man was forced to take a drugs test in Stockholm recently after a police officer assumed that muscles like his could only have been developed with the help of illegal substances.
The female assistant police officer got into a conversation with Tomislav Boduljak and his friend late at night in central Stockholm.
According to Boduljak, 27, the police officer was pleasant at first, but changed her attitude when he said he worked out. Saying his muscles were 'abnormal', she said he must have used drugs."
I asked if she didn't think it possible that I work out a lot and eat well. She said that if someone looks like me, she assumes they have taken drugs," he told Metro.
Despite Boduljak's assurances that he didn't use steroids, she forced him to go to the police station and give a urine test. In her report, the officer said he had "unusually large muscles, particularly large arm muscles, which are a sign of steroid use."
The test was negative, and Boduljak made an official complaint against the police officer. Prosecutors looked into the case, but decided not to pursue it.Janne Magnusson, an officer at Stockholm Police's drugs unit, told Metro that he thought that the officer had been "a bit too ambitious".
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Last week, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled against Pattie Tomasson, an adoptive mother of two in British Columbia, whose application for Employment Insurance maternity benefits was originally disallowed by EI.
Tomasson appealed, arguing to the Court that Canada's Employment Insurance plan discriminates against adoptive mothers by failing to granting to them the 15 weeks of maternity leave that biological mothers are entitled to.
The Court’s analysis, which focused on whether the federal employment insurance provision violated adoptive mothers section 15(1) equality rights under the Charter, concluded the following:
The reasonable adoptive mother would no doubt recognize that by reason of the physiological and psychological experience resulting from pregnancy and childbirth, biological mothers are deserving of special benefits so as to accommodate their particular needs. The reasonable adoptive mother would also no doubt recognize that the maternity benefits are essential to protecting the wellbeing of these mothers so that they can, in due course, effectively return to their employment. The reasonable adoptive mother would also recognize that Parliament has considered and recognized her own needs by the enactment of the parental benefits provisions and that she has in no way been excluded from Canadian society. Hence, the reasonable adoptive mother would not feel demeaned by the granting of the maternity benefits to biological mothers.
I find it to be a reasonable conclusion from the evidence that the large majority of pregnant women defer their leave time until after the delivery of the baby and they do so because of their desire to spend as much time as possible with the baby after the baby’s birth…I am satisfied on the evidence that the time spent by a mother in the first year attaching to its mother is critical to the child’s development.
Currently in Ontario, the Employment Standards Act sets out the rights of parents wishing to take pregnancy and parental leave. The maximum duration of pregnancy leave an employer must provide under the Employment Standard Act is 17 weeks, which must be taken consecutively and can commence as early as 17 weeks before the child’s due date and ends on the child’s actual date of birth. Employment insurance benefits for the child can commence as early as 8 weeks prior to the expected birth date of the child, and as late as 17 weeks following the actual date of birth of the child. An employee taking any or all the time off provided under pregnancy leave is eligible to receive maternity benefits from the federal government employment insurance program for up to 15 weeks at the rate of 55% of their averaged insured earnings for up to a maximum of $413.00 per week.
The maximum duration of parental leave an employer must provide under the Employment Standard Act is 37 weeks. Each parent is entitled to this leave. A biological mother, who has taken maternity leave, is only entitled to 35 weeks of parental leave. Parental leave must be started within 52 weeks of the child’s birth, or if you are an adoptive parent, from the day the child is placed with you. An employee taking any or all the time off provided under parental leave is eligible to receive paternal benefits from the federal government employment insurance program for a maximum of 35 weeks between both parents at the rate of 55% of your averaged uninsured earnings up to a maximum of $413 per week. Therefore, if both parents take paternal leave together, then each parent is eligible for 17.5 weeks of benefits. If the parental leave is taken consecutively, then the first parent is eligible for a 37 week leave with 35 weeks of benefits, and the second parent is still entitled to a 37 week paternal leave from work, but will not be entitled to any more benefits. Parents can choose to allocate the benefits in any manner, but not to exceed 35 weeks of benefits between them.
Further information on employment insurance benefits can be found here. Information on leaves provided pursuant to the Employment Standards Act can be found here.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
A new study by two law professors says two factors appear to influence the outcome of certain cases – which political party appointed the judge and the judge’s gender.
(h/t - Michael Fata)
...Stribopoulos and Yahya looked at every reported decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal – Canada’s busiest appellate court – between 1990 and 2003 and collected data on votes cast by individual judges. Each case was categorized – as criminal or constitutional law, for example – and tracked based on variables such as the type of litigant, the political party that appointed the judge, and the judge’s gender.
"There is an assumption, mostly embraced by the Canadian legal establishment that, unlike their American counterparts, Canadian judges are apolitical in their judging," Stribopoulos says. "Our study empirically evaluated that assumption by analyzing over 4,000 reported judgments of the Ontario Court of Appeal over a 12-year period. In the process, we also decided to consider the potential influence of a judge's gender on case outcomes. The result, in a nutshell, is that – at least in some categories of cases – party of appointment and gender did indeed matter to case outcomes."
My name is Kirk Bloodsworth, and my case was the first capital conviction case in the United States to be overturned through DNA testing. I was exonerated in 1993 after spending almost nine years in prison, including two on death row, for a crime I did not commit.
... My life changed dramatically when I was arrested for the rape and murder of 9-year-old Dawn Hamilton in August, 1984. I was arrested after an anonymous caller told police that I was seen with the victim the day of the crime and an identification made by a witness from a police sketch that was based on the recollections of five eyewitnesses.
Two little boys described the suspect as six feet five inches tall with a slim build and dirty blond hair – but at the time of my arrest, I was six feet tall, with a thick waist, fiery red hair, and long sideburns. Even so, I was identified in a line-up as the last man seen with the victim.
My family and friends swore that I was with them at the time of the murder, but the jury convicted me in less than three hours and I was sentenced to death for the crime.
I spent 8 years, 11 months, and 19 days behind bars before DNA testing proved my innocence. After years of urging, officials in Maryland finally ran the biological evidence that exonerated me through the state’s database, and it matched the DNA of the person who had committed the horrific crime.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Sunday, August 05, 2007
I'm just about to leave for vacation, but this post from Inside the CBC caught my eye (on the way out the door):
Any CBC employee who wants to start a personal blog which “clearly associates them with CBC/Radio-Canada” now requires their supervisor’s permission, according to a new policy “guideline document.
The unsigned document [ed: The document came with an email that noted which office developed the guidelines] also states that this rule applies “not only to CBC/Radio-Canada journalists but to any corporation employee.”
Besides what you’d expect in a document like this, like not using the CBC’s resources (email, bandwidth, time, etc.) to update your blog, the policy states that such bloggers are “expected to behave in a way that is consistent with our journalistic philosophy, editorial values and corporate policies.”
Further, the blog cannot advocate for a group or a cause, or express partisan political opinion. It should also avoid controversial subjects or contain material that could bring CBC/Radio-Canada into disrepute.
To start and maintain a blog of this kind, you need your supervisor’s approval.
Saturday, August 04, 2007
Congratulations are in order for our intrepid Student-at-Law, Annie Noa Kenet, on the official completion this week of her Articles of Clerkship at Wise Law Office.
Regular readers will know Ms. Kenet as an occasional contributor to this Blog and as Wise Law's resident Facebook expert.
All of us at Wise Law are looking forward to Annie's Call to the Bar in September, 2007, and her continued, significant contributions to our firm's ongoing work.
So, congratulations to Annie on this important milestone - and for a job very well done - from Shashi, Diana, Justine, Bogdan and I.
Several Ohio state representatives who normally take an anti-abortion stance are now pushing pro-choice legislation - sort of.
Led by Rep. John Adams, a group of state legislators have submitted a bill that would give fathers of unborn children a final say in whether or not an abortion can take place. It's a measure that, supporters say, would finally give fathers a choice.
"This is important because there are always two parents and fathers should have a say in the birth or the destruction of that child," said Adams, a Republican from Sidney. "I didn't bring it up to draw attention to myself or to be controversial. In most cases, when a child is born the father has financial responsibility for that child, so he should have a say."
As written, the bill would ban women from seeking an abortion without written consent from the father of the fetus. In cases where the identity of the father is unknown, women would be required to submit a list of possible fathers. The physician would be forced to conduct a paternity test from the provided list and then seek paternal permission to abort.
Claiming to not know the father's identity is not a viable excuse, according to the proposed legislation. Simply put: no father means no abortion.
"I'm really pleased that this has been proposed for one reason - it draws attention to the fact that many men are concerned and care for their unborn children," said Denise Mackura, the director of the Ohio Right to Life Society. "You have no idea how many men call telling me about their girlfriends who plan to abort, asking what they can do to help her. They do want to help and they should have a voice."
With the proposal, men would be guaranteed that voice under penalty of law. First time violators would by tried for abortion fraud, a first degree misdemeanor. The same would be the case for men who falsely claim to be fathers and for medical workers who knowingly perform an abortion without paternal consent.
In addition, women would be required to present a police report in order to prove a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
As is the case whenever abortion is the topic, sharp opposition has come from members of the House, along with multiple activist groups. The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Activist League and the Ohio Right to Life Society have both spoken out against the legislation.
"This extreme bill shows just how far some of our state legislators are willing to go to rally a far-right base that is frustrated with the pro-choice gains made in the last election," said NARAL Pro-choice Ohio executive director Kellie Copeland. "It is completely out of touch with Ohio's mainstream values. This measure is a clear attack on a woman's freedom and privacy."
Friday, August 03, 2007
Minutes later, two Arlington County police officers were pointing their flashlights at the young couple in the darkened theater and ordering them out. They confiscated the digital camera as evidence and charged Sejas, a Marymount University sophomore and Annandale resident, with a crime: illegally recording a motion picture.
... Sejas faces up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 when she goes to trial this month in the July 17 incident. Arlington police spokesman John Lisle said it was the decision of Regal Cinemas Ballston Common 12 to prosecute the case, a first for Arlington police.
...The movie industry needs to recognize that their audience isn't the enemy," said Cindy Cohn, general counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit group that specializes in digital rights issues. "They need to stop treating their fans like criminals. . . . What they're doing is extremely unreasonable, coming down on this poor girl who was actually trying to promote their movie."
Copying a motion picture from a theater performance is a felony under the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005, punishable by up to three years in a federal prison. Several states, including Virginia, also have anti-piracy laws
Maclean’s Magazine has ignited significant controversy in Canada's legal community with its August 6th cover story, Lawyers are Rats: Interview with Philip Slayton.
Slayton, a former Bay Street lawyer, law professor and law school dean is currently promoting his book, Lawyers Gone Bad: Money, Sex and Madness in Canada's Legal Profession.
Some choice snippets from the Maclean's interview:
Q: You taught law for 13 years, both at McGill and the University of Western Ontario, where you were the dean of law. Is there something about legal training that nudges lawyers toward amorality?
Slayton: Yes, I think so. Law students are taught and lawyers subsequently believe that it is not their job to pass judgment on their clients as people, or to pass judgment on what their clients want to do. Lawyers are enablers. They are there to try to do what their client wants, and are in many cases paid handsomely for it. The whole question of the values behind the rules of the legal system is not on the whole of great interest to law schools or the legal profession. And there's an additional point: lawyers are taught to manipulate the rules in favour of their clients. If you're a manipulator of rules, then you can't respect the rules as such or believe that they incorporate important values....
Q: Have you ever felt embarrassed to tell people you're a lawyer?
Slayton: When people on airplanes ask what I do, I say I'm in auto parts. No one wants to talk about auto parts. But if you tell them you're a lawyer, everybody has a story about how they were screwed by a lawyer, or the terrible thing a lawyer did to Aunt Bessie.
Maclean's Magazine has decided to fill the yellow journalism void created by the decision of Weekly World News to cease publication. Its cover story this week is titled Lawyers are Rats. The cover features photographs of supposedly representative lawyers with captions that read "I'm dishonest" and "I take bribes". The cover promises an exclusive interview with a "top legal scholar and ex-Bay Street partner" who "expose” the corruption of his profession."The promised exposé is an interview with an author who is promoting a book that can be found in the True Crime section of your local bookstore. The book features 15 or 20 lawyers and former lawyers who were disciplined for egregious misconduct. Some were also convicted of serious criminal offences. The exposé is in fact enabled by the transparent nature of the discipline process the author condemns.Maclean's allows these few stories to stand unquestioned as representative of the legal profession, even though the author says in his book what one would hope would be obvious to any fair-minded editor of a national newsmagazine: "Only a few lawyers are dishonest. Most behave honourably, serving their clients, profession and community well. My stories of dishonest lawyers are about a handful of people in a profession that now, in Canada, has over ninety thousand members."Yet in the Maclean's article the author is dismissive of this obvious response to his unconvincing attempt to extrapolate from the misdeeds of the few: "I know lawyers are going to say, 'Come on, he's talking about 15 or 20 members of a profession that has 90,000.' But in telling these stories I'm trying to extract general ideas."The general ideas he is trying to extract, the author goes on to say, include "the amoral nature of legal practice". The clear implication from both the Maclean's cover and the interview itself is that the reprehensible conduct of the thieves, conmen and sexual predators featured in the book is somehow typical of the legal profession, that lawyers generally are venal, duplicitous, and fraudulent. The author reinforces this implication in a follow-up interview on Maclean's website, in which he says that though he had nothing to do with the cover, he "quite liked it."…
Q: Did you ever pad your bills?
Slayton: My carefully considered answer is that I was part of the legal culture of the times and I did what it demanded. [emphasis added]
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Congress’ smoke-and-mirrors approach to the Iraq war creates the impression of much activity while generating no result. Even more sadly, the majority of Americans are falling for the act, either by continuing their past trend of political disengagement or by thinking that the gesticulation and pontification taking place in Washington, D.C., actually translate into useful work. The fact is, most Americans are ill-placed intellectually, either through genuine ignorance, a lack of curiosity or a combination of both, to judge for themselves the efficacy of congressional behavior when it comes to Iraq. Congress claims to be searching for a solution to Iraq, and many Americans simply accept that this is this case.
The fact is one cannot begin to search for a solution to a problem that has yet to be accurately defined. We speak of “surges,” “stability” and “funding” as if these terms come close to addressing the real problems faced in Iraq. There is widespread recognition among members of Congress and the American people that there is civil unrest in Iraq today, with Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence tearing that country apart, but the depth of analysis rarely goes beyond that obvious statement of fact. Americans might be able to nod their heads knowingly if one utters the words Sunni, Shiite and Kurd, but very few could take the conversation much further down the path of genuine comprehension regarding the interrelationships among these three groups. And yet we, the people, are expected to be able to hold to account those whom we elected to represent us in higher office, those making the decisions regarding the war in Iraq. How can the ignorant accomplish this task?
After posing this question, Ritter then provides a fascinating historical backgrounder as to the ancient break between Sunni and Shia.
Karbala is a holy city for the Shiites. Its status as such is based on the fact that Hussein, a grandson of the prophet Muhammad and son of Ali, the fourth caliph, was killed outside Karbala in a battle between Hussein’s followers and forces loyal to Yazid, son of Muawiyah, the fifth caliph. The two sides were fighting over the line of succession when it came to leading the Muslim faithful after the death of Muhammad in the year 632. Abu Bakr, a close colleague of Muhammad but not a member of Muhammad’s biological family, was elected as the first caliph after the prophet’s death, an act that many Muslims believed broke faith with a necessity for the successor of Muhammad to be from his family. Abu Bakr’s death brought about a quick succession of caliphs, all of whom met untimely deaths and none of whom were from the family line of Muhammad.
When Ali was elected as the fourth caliph, many Muslims believed that for the first time since the death of Muhammad the caliphate had been restored to one properly authorized in the eyes of God to lead the Muslim faith. In fact, upon Ali’s accession as caliph, one of his first acts was to seek to restore the Muslim faith to its puritanical origins, which Ali believed had been departed from by the merchant families closely allied with the third caliph, Othman. Ali’s efforts were bitterly resisted by merchant families in Damascus, which refused to recognize Ali as the caliph. The head of the Damascus rebels, Muawiyah, fought a bitter conflict with Ali, which weakened the caliphate and paved the way for Ali’s assassination.
Upon Ali’s death, the caliphate was transferred to his elder son, Hassan, but when this succession was challenged by Muawiyah, Hassan relented, transferring the caliphate to Muawiyah with the caveat that once Muawiyah died, the caliphate would be returned to the lineage of the prophet Muhammad. When Muawiyah died, the caliphate passed to his son, Yazid. This succession was challenged by Hussein, Hassan’s brother and Ali’s younger son, who believed that the succession, as dictated by Hassan when he abdicated, should have gone to someone within the direct line of the prophet Muhammad, namely Hussein. Yazid’s treacherous attack on Hussein and his followers, occurring as it did during prayer time, set the stage for the split in the Muslim faith between the Shiat Ali (Shia, or followers of Ali) and the Ahl-i Sunnah (Sunni, or the people who follow in the custom of the prophet Muhammad). Both Shiite and Sunni view one another as deviants from the pure form of Islam as taught by Muhammad, and as such functioning as apostates deserving death.
Ritter's historical treatise continues to the present:
Wahhabi concerns over the weakening of the Muslim world by those who practiced anything other than pure Islam were certified in the minds of the faithful when, in April 2003, American soldiers captured Baghdad in what many Wahhabis viewed as a repeat of the sack of the city at the hands of the Mongols in 1258. Adding insult to injury, the role of Iraq’s Shiites in aiding and abetting the American conquest was seen as proof positive that the only salvation for the faithful could come at the hands of a pure form of the Islamic faith, that of Wahhabism. As the American liberation dragged on into the American occupation, and the level of violence between the Shiites and Sunnis grew, the call of jihad as promulgated by the Wahhabis gained increasing credence among the tribes of western Iraq.
Ritter's article is a must (but not an easy) read.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Children born with the help of donated sperm or eggs should have the fact recorded on their birth certificates, a group of MPs and peers has suggested.
They say the measure would give parents an incentive to discuss the topic before children found out themselves.
... At present, a child conceived using donated sperm or eggs can grow up not knowing this fact, if his or her parents choose not to reveal it. They only gain the right to check on their parentage at the age of 18.
The committee said that this amounted to the state being party to a "lie" and called on ministers to give consideration to compelling parents to include the detail on the birth certificate.
But Liberal Democrat science spokesman Dr Evan Harris said the recommendation was a "bizarre and intrusive solution to a problem that has never been demonstrated to exist."