Patterico's Pontifications

1/12/2010

Amy Alkon Sees Rude People

Filed under: Books,General — Patterico @ 9:36 pm

My friend Amy Alkon has a book out which I just finished: I See Rude People: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society. Fans of Cathy Seipp will be pleased to learn that Amy dedicated the book to Cathy.

It’s a very funny book and a quick, entertaining read. You learn some serious facts (like the scientific explanation for why cell phone calls are irritating — there are actually two reasons, one technological and one psychological), but the book is mostly a collection of amusing anecdotes about Amy playing the role of “Revengerella” and making rude people’s lives miserable. I have heard many of these stories before, both from Amy’s blog and from her personally, but it was still a joy to read them all in her lively prose.

And if you don’t know about the Sadly, No! commenter who called her a “tranny” — and whom she then tracked down and called at work — you’re really missing out.

The book is now out in paperback and is only $11.53 at Amazon ($9.99 on the Kindle, if you’re interested in immediate ownership, as I am). Go buy it now.

Earthquake in Haiti

Filed under: General — DRJ @ 9:06 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

A major 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti today and early reports indicate there is significant damage:

“The strongest earthquake in more than 200 years rocked Haiti on Tuesday, collapsing a hospital where people screamed for help and heavily damaging the National Palace, U.N. peacekeeper headquarters and other buildings. U.S. officials reported bodies in the streets and an aid official described “total disaster and chaos.”

Reports say hospitals, the Haitian Parliament and President’s home, and scores of buildings and homes have been damaged or destroyed. Likewise, there are many reports of injuries and deaths.

— DRJ

Coakley on Crime and Terrorists

Filed under: Politics — DRJ @ 5:01 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Massachusetts’ Attorney General and Democratic Senate candidate Martha Coakley is taking on the tough cases … like Ladies Gardening Clubs:

“[H]ere’s Martha Coakley, getting tough with the ladies’ gardening clubs of Massachusetts two weeks ahead of an election. May seem like a bad move for a politically conscious AG who is relying heavily on the women’s vote, but maybe she figures the ladies are all Republicans anyway. It’s quaint, it’s old worldy, it’s weird, it’s a headscratcher, and it’s in the Boston Herald:

Linda Jean Smith, president of the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts, has been besieged with calls from frightened, angry members after a prickly Jan. 4 letter from Coakley’s office declared many of them were breaking the law for failing to file their financial records for the past four years.

“One club president asked me if she was going to be led away in handcuffs,” said Smith, adding that many members are in nursing homes or in Florida. “These ladies are confused.”

And then Coakley turned to Afghanistan:

“I think we have done what we are going to be able to do in Afghanistan. I think that we should plan an exit strategy. Yes. I’m not sure there is a way to succeed. If the goal was and the mission in Afghanistan was to go in because we believed that the Taliban was giving harbor to terrorists. We supported that. I supported that. They’re gone. They’re not there anymore.”

Tough on little-old-lady crime. Not so tough on the Taliban and terrorists. Is that a winning combination in Massachusetts? We’ll see next week.

— DRJ

Can the Killer of Abortion Doctor George Tiller Argue That the Killing Was Not “Murder”?

Filed under: Crime,General — Patterico @ 7:39 am

Abortion rights groups are up in arms because Scott Roeder, the killer of late-term abortion doctor George Tiller, may be allowed to argue that the killing was voluntary manslaughter:

Before the first juror is selected or witness called, a decision allowing a confessed killer to argue he believes the slaying of one of the nation’s few late-term abortion providers was a justified act aimed at saving unborn children has upended what most expected to be an open-and-shut case.

Some abortion opponents are pleasantly stunned and eager to watch Scott Roeder tell a jury his slaying of Wichita doctor George Tiller was voluntary manslaughter. Tiller’s colleagues and abortion rights advocates are outraged and fear the court’s actions give a more than tacit approval to further acts of violence.

This is an interesting issue, but off the top of my head, the judge’s ruling may be legally correct — but only because he doesn’t yet know what the evidence will be. It’s very hard for me to believe that a voluntary manslaughter instruction will ultimately be given, however.

Here’s the basic principle (and I’m oversimplifying): you can’t be convicted of murder if you have an honest belief that your actions were necessary to prevent someone else from committing an unlawful killing. Under Kansas law, it appears that the killing must have been “imminent.”

If your belief was reasonable, it’s a justified killing. Say, for example, you are a customer in a robbery, and the robber raises his gun to kill the clerk, so you kill the robber. That’s a justified killing. Not guilty.

If your belief was unreasonable, it’s voluntary manslaughter. It’s still a crime, but it’s not murder. (It’s hard to come up with a simple example of this that clearly illustrates this concept, because people will argue about whether the belief was reasonable or justified, depending on the fact pattern.)

Roeder’s trial is in the jury selection stage. No evidence has been presented. As I understand the news reports (which are really quite bad and all over the map), it looks like the judge has already ruled that the killing is not justified, because Tiller’s abortions were legal. (The Wall Street Journal article suggests otherwise, but I think it’s wrong based on other articles I have read, e.g. here. I think the WSJ reporter doesn’t understand the arguments.) Thus, Roeder’s killing was unreasonable as a matter of law. He can’t legally get an acquittal based on the argument that he needed to kill Tiller to save babies.

As for the manslaughter charge, the judge is in a different posture. He hasn’t heard any evidence, so he doesn’t know whether Roeder would be able to argue that he honestly believed his actions were necessary to prevent an imminent killing. The stories say that the judge is skeptical, and rightly so.

Interestingly, if the killing had happened in Tiller’s office, the imminence would be far less of an issue.

To me, the more interesting and problematic issue is this: what if Roeder knew that the killing(s) he hoped to prevent were legal — but he honestly disagreed? In that case, I believe, there is no mitigation and no voluntary manslaughter instruction. (For the legal types, this is a “mistake of fact” vs. a “mistake of law” issue.) [UPDATE: But see UPDATE below.] None of the articles I read confront that issue — but that, and not the imminence of the abortions, is the real issue, it seems to me.

Of course, there’s always nullification. The instructions don’t matter when the jury has decided not to follow the instructions to begin with. And so I pose this question to the radical libertarian Balko fans who support abortion: the jury could still nullify. How do you like nullification now?

UPDATE: I wrote this post in a hurry this morning and I’m not entirely happy with the way I expressed the analysis — especially the comment about the “mistake of fact” vs. “mistake of law” issue. Don’t hold me to that language. I think this is a very cutting edge issue with few clear precedents and I’ll have to think about it more.

A commenter points me to an analysis by Paul Cassell at Volokh that agrees with the prosecution on the question of imminence. I agree that the instruction may not ultimately be given, but I disagree that the answer is obvious. The key is the unreasonableness of the belief: you might unreasonably believe that the danger is imminent even if it isn’t.

For example, it’s not unheard of at all for a battered woman to kill her husband in his sleep and get a jury instruction on voluntary manslaughter. There’s no way such a woman will get a self-defense instruction, but she might get an unreasonable self-defense instruction.

I still think the more interesting question is whether the defendant must subjectively and honestly believe that the killing he is preventing is unlawful. And then, unlawful according to whom? What if he knows these abortions are considered lawful, but he truly believes them to be unlawful under U.S. law . . . but he thinks the courts have it wrong?

Somewhere in here is an interesting law review article . . .

The Mass. Senate race… and beyond

Filed under: General — Karl @ 7:13 am

[Posted by Karl]

Whatever the polls may say (and Scott Rasmussen has more on that), the fact that the DNC is sending a senior press aide to Massachusetts to help state Attorney General Martha Coakley fend off Republican challenger Scott Brown tells the world that Democrats are worried. And that was before Brown’s million-dollar money-bomb detonated on Monday.

Nevertheless, the conventional wisdom remains that Brown has an uphill battle at best, now that Bay State Dems are mobilizing to turn out more of their base vote in this special election. Moreover, if Brown wins, it would not be much of an obstacle to Congressional Dems pushing through ObamaCare. There is not even much need for them to resort to measures like delaying Brown’s swearing-in, as the House could be strong-armed into passing the Senate bill, with promises that it will be “fixed” later, perhaps through budget reconciliation.

So what does a victory — or close loss — by Brown mean in terms of the general political landscape? Lefty bloggers see green shoots for the rightroots. TPM’s Eric Kleefeld:

Regardless of whether Brown wins or loses in this Democratic state, one thing is clear: National conservative activists have been able to take a clear interest in this race, and they could mobilize themselves for a cause in a similar way to the liberal Netroots during the Bush years.

Markos Moulitsas tweets, “Scott Brown reminds me of Paul Hackett. Like Hackett, Brown will lose, but grassroots cons learning how to better organize.”

But the implications of the Brown campaign are larger than that. Paul Hackett ran (and lost) in Ohio, a swing state. Brown is running in Blue Massachusetts, for a seat held for decades by a Kennedy. Yet his showing to date is not utterly shocking, because neither the test version of Barack Obama nor ObamaCare are very popular there, just as the bills are starting to come due. The Brown campaign highlights future political problems for national Dems that will remain, regardless of the results of the Massachusetts Senate race.

–Karl

Product Tampering as Art

Filed under: Crime — DRJ @ 12:23 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

Some Gatorade bottles in the Denver area have turned up with labels showing Tiger and Elin Woods and marked “unfaithful.” The label-maker has apparently already been identified … because he put his email address on the label:

“9Wants To Know investigators tracked an e-mail hidden in the label’s small print to Jason Kay of Longmont.

Kay admitted he helped a friend pull of what he called a “pop art” project.

“He doesn’t want to be contacted,” Kay said. “The artist wants to remain anonymous because there are similar future projects in the works.”

Kay said the object of the project was to create conversation.

Bottles turning up in the Denver area have hand-written numbers on the bottom indicating each is one of 100.

Kay said there are actually about 1,000 such “unfaithful” bottles planted in stores from Longmont to Denver. He said the hand-numbered ones are just the “collectors’ edition.”

The products are being tested to see if more than the labels have been altered.

— DRJ


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