Anything from current events, campaign finance reform, sports (especially baseball), corporate/political/legal ethics, pop culture, confessions of a recovering comic book addict, and probably some overly indulgent discourses about my 3-year old daughter. E-Mail: sardonicviews -at-
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Friday, March 25, 2005

Bloggers and Libel

When I saw this article, I thought back to what Adam was wrote about last week from the meet-up. Adam wrote about a discussion started with Jay Miller of Crain's Cleveland and the issue bloggers and libel. I know it stirred things up for some of the bloggers.

The article that sent me back to this concerned how the MSM might seek to reign in blogging. One of the approaches:
Libel Law -- The MSM used to fight aggressively against any expansion of libel law, but I predict this soon will change. The MSM can handle the burden of defending itself from libel suits much more easily than bloggers can. By increasing the scope of libel law the MSM would impose costs on all journalists which they, but not bloggers, could absorb.
Just after reading the article, another Cleveland writer sent George some of her thoughts on the matter.

Honestly, if libel law gets expanded, it will be due to increased globalization.

The US has one of the broadest and strongest protections for free speech in the world. The libel laws in England, for example, are much more stringent. The burden is shifted. It is up to the person who made the alleged libelous statements to prove they were not false or made with malice. In the US, it must be shown by the person claiming to be libeled that the statements were false and made with malice.

At the same time, the US keeps extending the length of copyright that is exceeding many other countries. As attempts are made to reach a balance, I would not be surprised if there would at least be talk of changing libel laws in the US.

Plugging A Friend

With his latest book about to be released, my friend John Temple now has a Web site.

Congratulations John. Now that it is done, maybe it's time for you to contribute again at Pitt Sports Blather.

Collective Stupidity

That was my first reaction when I came across this story.

Nine students were sent to a hospital after eating caffeine-laced mints taken to class by a 13-year-old boy. The boy was suspended from school for 10 days.

The students at Jackson Memorial Middle School, ages 12 to 14, were treated and released Wednesday for symptoms such as a racing heartbeat.

Police were investigating and said they would file charges if the mints contained illegal substances. Caffeine is legal.
Police estimate about 39 mints were unaccounted for and could have been eaten by the students. According to the label, a single serving is six mints, which contains 15 milligrams of caffeine. That's about half the amount of caffeine in a regular can of soda.

Something isn't adding up correctly. It appears some 13 kids shared in these mints at this middle school in Massilon, Ohio.

The "ringleader" was suspended for "for violating the school's ban on drugs, which covers drug-free items that look like pills." So according to the policy mints look like pills. And the assistant superintentint is treating this like a drug ring, and the local authorities are really flipping.

"It (Blast) was being distributed," he said.

Haschak said Wednesday the investigation will focus on the children’s intentions for taking the supplement.

The superintendent said Blast is a over-the-counter drug that comes in a tin box and looks like mints.

Jackson Police Chief Harley Neftzer said an investigation will be turned over to the Stark County Prosecutor’s Office.

He said students may face unruly juvenile charges.

[Emphasis added.]

Good grief, these kids got themselves overstimulated. Probably gave themselves an extra rush by drinking some sodas with the stuff. It takes 12 of those mints to even equal a can of soda. A bit of a rip-off, to me. My favorite caffine mint only needs 2.

But we must protect the children!


More Fallout from Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment

Another judge, this time in Cleveland Municipal Court, found that the new "Marriage Amendment" invalidates the use of the domestic violence charges against unmarried individuals.

There are changes to the domestic violence statutes to work around this proposed, but no one is actually sure when it will happen.

As I said, this shouldn't be a shock to anyone. It's the unintended consequences of a discriminatory and poorly thought out piece of self-righteous, moralistic dreck that is now a state constitutional amendment.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Can't say this is a surprise.

Ohio voters who approved a constitutional amendment last fall that denied legal recognition of unmarried and gay couples probably didn't envision the measure being successfully used as a defense in domestic violence cases.

But that became a reality Wednesday when Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Stuart Friedman ruled that the amendment, approved by voters as Issue 1, made part of the state's domestic violence law unconstitutional.

Friedman said that because Ohio's domestic violence law recognizes the relationship between an unmarried offender and victim as one "approximating the significance or effect of marriage," it represents a direct conflict with the amendment's prohibition against such recognition and is thus unenforceable.

When you mess with a constitution, even a state constitution, you create new problems. When the amendment outlaws any recognition in the eyes of the law of unmarried couples as having a relationship approximating marriage, then domestic violence charges can't apply to an unmarried couple living together. It's just assault.

County prosecutors argued that Issue 1 was not intended to negate the statute, and that the domestic violence law does not create any new legal status for unmarried persons.
Of course it wasn't the intent. But that was the effect. RICO laws weren't supposed to be used to go sieze property in every criminal case, just organized crime. Funny how things change.

"Judge Friedman's opinion misses the point. The constitution is not an invitation to strip legal protection from the most vulnerable in our community," Cuyahoga County Prosecutor William Mason said in an interview.
No, but the amendment has that effect.

Lewis Katz, a Case Western Reserve University law professor, said the legal battle could eventually reach the Ohio Supreme Court. He said that court may try to save the statute, and an effort will made by the state legislature to revise the law to make it constitutional.

Until then, he expects to see more lawyers raise the constitutional issue in domestic violence cases, and "judges bending over backwards to save the domestic violence statute from such attacks.

"My own guess is that Judge Friedman is correct because the language of Issue 1 is so clear, it's hard to get around that," he added.

Phil Burress of Cincinnati, a leader in the drive to pass Issue 1, said the domestic violence law needs to be amended "to bring about equal treatment," and noted that legislation to that effect has been introduced by Rep. Jim Raussen, a Cincinnati Republican.

"There's nothing wrong with the constitutional amendment," he added. "If there's any law contrary to the constitutional amendment, we will fix it."

Even the backer of the amendment is acknowledging the court is probably right.

Supporters of Issue 1, backers of domestic violence. A little extreme on the rhetoric, but that's what happened.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

If It Wasn't So Stupid, It Would Be Funny

Stealing manhole covers to sell as scrap.

Akron officials say about 70 of the covers have been stolen from streets since January, costing the city thousands of dollars and raising safety concerns.

"If someone was to fall in (an uncovered manhole), the person could be seriously hurt," said Jim Hewitt, the city's sewer maintenance superintendent. "We have manholes that are in excess of 20 feet deep."

So far, no one has been injured from driving or falling into a hole, but the potential for accidents worries city officials. They're also concerned about flooding or other water system problems that could arise if an uncovered manhole is struck.

The thieves are stealing the 138-pound sewer manhole covers as well as storm-water inlet covers and grates. The thefts have occurred as recently as the last few days.

Steel is selling at an all-time high of about 5 cents/pound. That means, for a 138 pound manhole cover -- about $6.90.

Figure that you have to do this quickly, so it's got to be a 2-man type of operation. Even if just one person goes out and takes the cover, someone else should be behind the wheel. Expect that it is really late at night/very early in the morning. They can't take too many at a time for risk of getting caught and hauling around too much material like that, even in a pick-up.

I guess it's an income supplement, but hardly one to be considered very profitable assuming 2 people splitting the proceeds. You earn more money per hour flipping burgers or working at a convenience store.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Just How Stupid Does He Think Everyone Else Is?

All those who believe this, please bang your head into a wall for the next five minutes.
European Union countries would not start selling weapons to China if they lifted their arms embargo against Beijing, French President Jacques Chirac said in a newspaper interview distributed by his office on Tuesday.

Chirac told the Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun that lifting the arms embargo, a move opposed by the United States, would also not mean any change in European policies on arms exports.

His support for lifting the ban was meant to normalize relations with China, which he noted had been chosen to host the summer Olympics in Beijing in 2008 and a world's fair in Shanghai two years later.

"Lifting the embargo does not mean selling arms," he said. "The Europeans have no intention of launching a policy of arms exports to China, which is not asking for this. What the Europeans want to do is normalize relations with China."

You know, permitting arms sales to China is merely a gesture of good will. Purely symbolic. Nothing more.

This would have nothing to do with the EU starting to change its mind on lifting the embargo. Especially in the face of this sort of noise from China.

Plans by the European Union to lift its 15-year-old arms embargo on China have been set back by China's renewed threat to use military force against Taiwan, EU officials said.

A law passed last week authorizing military action to counter any declaration of independence by Taiwan is "one of the elements that makes the process more complex," said Cristina Gallach, a spokeswoman for EU foreign-policy chief Javier Solana.

A French-led campaign to lift the embargo, imposed after the violent Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, "remains the objective, but we cannot give a timetable," Gallach said before a meeting of EU leaders today in Brussels.

After all, we know that France can be trusted when it comes to business dealings with authoritarian countries. It's not like they have a history or something...


More Dwarf

Sticking with Red Dwarf, the wife just got me Series V & VI over the weekend. I haven't quite finished watching all the episodes on Series V, but I was viewing some of the stuff on the Extras DVD. It included a half-hour backstory feature on the failed Red Dwarf USA pilot from 1992.

A classic study in screwing up a great British comedy in the US (here's a list of British Shows converted to US and vice versa). They only showed some snippets from the pilot. Lots of interviews with the show's writers/creators and some of the British cast's feelings. The general observation was that they eventually turned it into "White Dwarf," and that everyone cast was taller and better looking.

They cast Craig Bierko the role of Lister. Bierko is a classic "that guy" in TV. He also has the distinction of being cast as "Chandler" in Friends, but turned down the role. In a reshooting of the pilot they recast "Cat" as a white female, Terry Farrell -- who a year later would end up as part of Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Jane Leeves was put in the role of "Holly."

Apparently there are copies of the pilot floating around.

Screwing Up My Daughter

The plans proceed apace.

We have been watching a lot of Red Dwarf together. She loves the theme song, so I'm thinking of trying to track down a copy of the extended version. She knows the words and sings them out loud. Apparently she did this while the wife had taken her to the play class last week. For some reason the idea of Angie singing, "I want to lie ship-wrecked and comatose" around lots of uptight parents really amuses me.

She kind of pays attention to the actual show, but generally just plays with her toys. But when the music goes at the end of the credit she starts jumping around and singing.

Since the level of violence and gore is at worst cartoony, and the laughtrack reassures her that it is funny. She actually asks for it to be put on by saying, "Want to watch... BBC America." She's seen the logo enough times with the spoken overlay that she recognizes it as such on the DVD case.

Being 2 1/2 years we are trying to be careful what she sees on the TV. Hence, most of the movies I'd like to watch these days end up being played back on the computer where she can't go. For a while we felt okay about watching Coupling, since people talking about sex -- but not doing or showing it -- with British accents was likely to go right over her head. And again, she likes the show's theme song, "Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps."

We had to stop watching that show around her, when she started running around the house cheerfully shouting, "Naked! Naked! Naked!" over and over. We didn't leave the house for a couple days after that incident.

Jim Paxson Must Go

Not for firing Paul Silas. That was probably a necessary move. The Cavs have fallen apart, and Silas had been pulling some Captain Queeg maneuvers all season (paranoia regarding Eric Snow, benching McInnis, not playing Varejao, no development of players not named LeBron James).

No, Paxson needs to go because he has done nothing but create an average team to surround the most dynamic player in the league, and despite the alleged salary cap space the team will have in the off-season it doesn't look to improve.

Last July, I did a 3-part posting on Boozer and the Cavs. The final part, was really about the Cavs' GM Jim Paxson. I looked at his legacy regarding the NBA Draft and trades. Not pretty. Under Paxson, the Cavs future for finding players will only be through trades and free agency. In the next 3 drafts, Cleveland has only one pick each year. They have a 1st round pick this year and next, and a second round pick in 2007 (the trade to get Jiri Welsch). That's it. Granted, given what Paxson has done in the draft, that may not be such a bad thing.

His trades, at best, have been to merely keep the team afloat to cover for disastrous draft picks and meaningless free agency ventures. This is what I concluded then about Paxson:
Why can't Paxson make deals when he isn't under the gun? His best trades have come in desperate points. Unloading malcontents mid-season. Losing the starting power forward unexpectedly, and needing to find replacements. Getting rid of a contract that looks to sink the entire team for years.

The fact that Paxson has proven unable to act pro-actively to improve the Cavs suggests he misreads the talent and the situation at hand until it reaches a clear crisis.

The best GMs -- like Jerry West, Kevin McHale, Rod Thorn and Greg Popovich -- see things coming down the pipe. They recognize talent early, but don't just wait and see. They seek to tweak and improve in the present, but with a clear eye on staying good in the future. The bad GMs are either too obsessed with winning now (Isaiah Thomas with the Knicks) or are always talking and looking to the future. Paxson seems to have fallen into the latter category.
I have seen nothing to change that opinion.

Assuming Cleveland actually has the cap space it assumes it will, along with its 1st round pick in the draft -- they need someone competent in the GM position making those decisions and finding the next coach. So, sometime between now and whenever the Cavs exit the playoffs, Paxson has to be fired and a new GM hired. This is their window to set this team in the right direction. Otherwise, the countdown to LeBron leaving really begins.

Gilbert, who bought the franchise for $375 million several weeks ago, is scared James might bolt the team when he becomes a free agent after the 2006-07 season.

The minute Gilbert took over, the clock started ticking. He has roughly two years to create a world-class organization that can persuade LeBron to sign a long-term contract.

With the length of contracts likely to be shortened, along with raises, by a new collective bargaining agreement, the Cavs' advantages in keeping LeBron are likely to get slimmer. As Insider first reported months ago, James has lucrative kickers in his endorsement contracts should he move to New York, Chicago or L.A.

Persuading LeBron to stick it out in Cleveland will be a monumental task. The Cavs not only have to make the right choices in free agency this summer, they also have to find the right coach and upgrade almost every area of the organization.

Those endorsement deals far dwarf any salary he earns for playing for the Cavs. If LeBron leaves, not only does the ability of this team to even dream of championship die, so does fan interest.


(Copyright © 2002-2005 Chas Rich All rights Reserved.);
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