Tuesday, June 26, 2012

England's Agony!

England lost another penalty shootout (the 6th such loss in major tournaments since 1990) in the Euro 2012 quarterfinal match against Italy yesterday.  Even though the Italians outplayed them in the 120 minutes of regular time, to again suffer such a defeat was a painful experience.

A despondent Englishman said it all:

“I can take the despair.  It’s the hope I can’t stand.”

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jury Duty!

I was summoned for jury duty this week.  I was among the prospective jurors called to sit in the jury box for selection, but was “excused” by the lawyer for the plaintiff during the peremptory challenge process.  I’ll give you my theory about why I was bounced at the end of this post.

The matter at hand is a bizarre civil case.  A doctor who has been found guilty of malpractice is suing a lawyer (who represented him in the malpractice suit) for malpractice.  I think I got that right even though it does sound redundant.  Seems that because he lost the original case the doctor was reprimanded by the Medical Board and thinks his reputation and income are damaged.  He’s asking for financial compensation for what he claims is the wrong done to him.

I haven’t heard the evidence so I don’t have an opinion about who is right.  I do have an opinion about whether this kind of lawsuit should be the subject of a jury trial.  Why should we taxpayers have our resources squandered on what is a pissing match between two parties who by their own admission are wealthy?

If they can’t settle their differences and need an outside adjudicator, let them hire a mediator or arbitrator or judge who can render a binding decision.  To require a hundred private citizens to spend several days sitting in a courtroom while a jury is chosen, tie up a Superior Court judge, staff and facilities for weeks, and incur all the ancillary costs associated with a trial that is essentially a private dispute is an outrageous and unnecessary waste of public time and money.

About my being bounced from the jury pool:  During questioning of prospective jurors the judge asked a man who said he was a writer whether he’d written about legal matters.  As readers of this blog know, two years ago I wrote an extensive report on a murder trial on which I was the foreperson of the jury.  It was a difficult, wrenching and in the end unsatisfying experience – and I said so. 

Before I was called to the jury box this time it hadn’t occurred to me to talk about writing the earlier blog.  But after the judge questioned the other juror I thought it might be relevant and brought it up when I was being questioned.  Lawyers for both the plaintiff and defendant asked for more details.  I told them the story I wrote was widely read on the Internet by the lawyers, witnesses, families and friends of those involved in the case, and many others.  One lawyer asked if I used names.  “Yes,” I responded.

Going in I hadn’t intended to use my previous experience as a reason not to sit on this jury.  But after the questions I was asked I thought there was a good chance one or both of the lawyers would want me off the jury.  At his first opportunity, the lawyer for the doctor “Thanked and excused Mr. Miller.” 

Why?  My theory is that win or lose there was no way he or his client wanted to run the risk that this case would find its way into the Internet universe.  They must have feared that the doctor’s reputation would be further damaged.  Had I been on the jury, would I have written about it?  I have no idea.  Would I have gone out of my way to disparage the doctor?  No.  Even so, if I were the doctor’s lawyer would I have wanted me on the jury?  Not a chance!

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Two elections this weekend are getting a lot of attention.  One is in Egypt, the other Greece.  What’s going on in both countries is confusing to say the least.  Not only is there no clear cut favorite in either election, no matter who wins there is no certainty about what the victory will mean – for the Egyptians, for the Greeks, for the rest of us.

In Egypt things have come unglued – big time.  The promise of the Arab Spring last year in in the toilet.  On the surface it looked OK.  A Parliament was elected in January.  Presidential elections were being held.  Soon a constitution would be written.  Mubarak was convicted of doing bad things.  Like that.

But behind the scenes the Islamists and the secularists were struggling for power.  The military was still running things.  The various secularists couldn’t agree on a candidate for president and so their vote was split.  In the end a Muslim Brotherhood candidate was to face a guy who was in the Mubarak regime in the bad old days.  Then a court ruled that Parliament had to be dissolved, the military leaders imposed martial law and on the eve of the election the country was left trying to figure out what was happening.  It looked and sounded and smelled like a return to the way it was before the Arab Spring. 

Maybe they should call on the Sphinx to sort things out.

In Greece, the country is polarized.  People on all sides can agree on only one thing – the place is a mess and no matter who wins the election, prospects for the future are dismal.  The right wants to endorse the deal made with the European Union to bail Greece out of its economic disaster.  The left wants to reject the deal.

Will Greece leave the Euro zone and resurrect the drachma?  If they do what will happen to the other 16 countries that use the Euro?  And the rest of the European countries?  And the economies of the rest of the world, including ours?  No one knows.

And if they retain the Euro what will happen?  How much outside support will they need?  How much will they get?  Who will provide it?  And in the end will it do any good?  And then what about Portugal and Spain and Italy and other Eurozone countries that are in trouble?  What about them?  No one knows.

So no matter who wins the election this weekend, it is only one event along a road to nowhere.  It’s time to call on the Oracle of Delphi.  But she tells me she’s not available for this one.  

Thursday, June 07, 2012


Money talks.  The cigarette industry and allies spent $47 million to defeat a California ballot proposition that would have added an additional tax of $1 a pack on cigarettes.  They were successful.  No new taxes.  A couple of months ago polls showed that nearly 2/3 of the voters favored the tax.  What happened?  Money talks!

Counterinsurgency.  Not long ago that was THE winning strategy for coping with unwinnable military situations – like Iraq and Afghanistan.  It was the mantra promoted by David Petraeus, genius du jour back then.  Throw in enough troops, set them up to win the hearts and minds of the local people, and all will be well.  Some say it worked in Iraq.  I don’t think so.  It was a convenient cover that allowed us to leave, and that’s a good thing.  But a panacea?  I don’t think so.

Building on that misguided strategy, it was now time to put it to work in Afghanistan.  Obama embraced it in 2009.  Did it work?  Not even close.  So we don’t hear much talk about counterinsurgency any more.  It’s back to counterterrorism.  Take out the bad guys with drones, Seals and the rest.  Accept the inevitable killing of civilians and babies.  Forget about winning hearts and minds.  Just blow them to pieces instead.  Well, the good news is that we’ve got a new cover for getting out.  And that’s a good thing.

Euro 2012 begins tomorrow in Poland and Ukraine.  There is concern that the ugliness of racism will take center stage.  Unlikely.  The publicity and a united front against racism in football will suppress the problem.  It won’t get rid of it, but will put a damper on it, at least until Euro 2012 is over in July.  I wish the same could be said of match fixing.  There are allegations in dozens of minor football countries and now again in Italy, where many players, teams and officials are under investigation.  Is it a cultural thing?  Not really.  Greed and cheating don’t respect national borders.

Who will win Euro 2012.  Spain is still the best team in Europe.  Just behind them are Germany, Holland and France.  As for my friends in England?  Sorry, lads, it ain’t gonna happen for you – again.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Wisconsin +

Until recently I’ve figured that in the end Obama would be reelected:
A weak opponent. 
The economy still down but slowly moving in the right direction. 
Strong leadership in foreign affairs. 
Bin Laden dead.
A do-nothing obstructionist Congress.
Reasonable likeability numbers.

I’ve changed my mind.  He may still win but if I had to bet today it’d be that he’ll lose.  Walker winning big in Wisconsin is only the latest, not the only, harbinger.  On the surface Wisconsin was about public sector unions and a Governor willing to challenge them.  Just beneath the surface, and much more important, is a mood, a dissatisfaction with the status quo that we’ve seen over and over again during the past two years.

Below expectation job numbers and slow growth provide evidence.  They’re like the fire we can see.  But the fuel feeding the fire is the mood.  And the fuel is gaining strength.  Obama’s unwillingness or inability to make his case, to set in motion a backfire to counter the mood, exacerbates the situation.  The longer he dithers the tougher it will be to mount an effective counterattack.

I hope I’m wrong.  And even if I’m not, a Romney presidency and a Republican congress will not be the end of the world.  It’ll just hasten the inevitable end of American preeminence.  Many would argue that’s not a bad thing.

Different, but related subject:  Today is June 6 – D Day.  68 years ago today allied forces, led by the United States, crossed the channel and invaded France.  We were very proud of ourselves that day, and deserved to be.  It was “The Greatest Generation” at it’s finest.  Seems a long time ago.  That’s because it was a long time ago, he says wistfully.