January 2005 Archives
After more than two months I finally pulled my drawing pen out of its deep state of torpor and stripped again, choosing as the subject the reason it's taken me so long to get back on the crime-fighting horse. Maybe it was the truncated winter break, the cold weather, the grim reality that I only have a few more months of easy-going student life before I work until I die, but for whatever reason I've had trouble motivating myself to do anything but play Dragon Warrior for the past two weeks or so. And Dragon Warrior is a terrible game.
My final group of courses is also proving to be less than inspiring. I somehow managed to enroll in two courses taught by Economics Ph.D.s. I really hate Economics. Another one of my classes resembles the kind of crap that would force a freshman Poli Sci major to question the legitimacy of his chosen field. I considered keeping myself interested by writing an independent paper on labor law and strip clubs, but initial research revealed that the subject has already been thoroughly written on by people more important than me. So, there's very little to keep me going.
Tomorrow (or Tuesday, perhaps) I should be able to decide whether I'm going to try at all this semester. For tomorrow is Grades Day, and if my grades from last semester weren't both super and duper there's really nothing stopping me from drinking five days a week until June. Here's hoping.
Much has transpired since my holiday Sharper Image debacle, and now the matter seems to have finally come to rest. After I received the fancy hairbrush and electronic joke machines and called the Sharper Image to complain, they said they'd send a UPS person to come pick up the items when my Bar Master arrived. The Bar Master came and no pick up was made. So, I called again and explained the situation and asked them if they wanted their $111 worth of shit back. Meli, meanwhile, was enjoying the increasing possibility of her getting a free fancy hairbrush out of the deal.
While I was on the phone with the Sharper Image guy I tried to explain the situation as best I could, and after taking the order number he said he'd send me a paid postage label and would I please take the box down to the post office where it would be shipped with no charge. I agreed and hung up. About twenty minutes later I realized that I hadn't given him my name or address, and it was exceedingly likely that the postage label would be sent to Palm City, Florida (the original intended destination of the misdirected package). Meli and I agreed to give it ten days. If the label didn't show up, the hairbrush would be ours, and the joke machines would be gifted to children whose parents we didn't like.
Within a week, the postage label miraculously appeared in our mailbox, dashing all hopes of free Sharper Image merchandise. I prepared the package and shipped it off, think that was that. Then, a week ago, I got a postcard from the Sharper Image which read as follows:
Dear Sharper Image Customer:
The merchandise you returned was received on the date indicated on the reverse side of this card.
As requested, your credit, refund, or exchange is being processed. All credit card credits should be reflected on your next monthly statement. Please allow two weeks for an exchange and ten days for a refund check.
Thank you for ordering from The Sharper Image.
Keep in mind, at this point I've already had the Bar Master for several weeks, and by now I'm done playing with it and will likely never pick it up again. Still, it's been delivered and their obligation to me has been fulfilled. So when I got the postcard I could only hope that the geniuses at Sharper Image were going to send me a check for the value of the returned merchandise -- $111 -- which I would definitely keep.
Today, however, I received another parcel from the Sharper Image. And inside it was... another Bar Master. So now I have two, one of which will become a birthday present for someone we don't feel like shopping for.
So there's that. And, as always, seven curses with it.
Steve gets totally robbed by the judges on two questions, reveals his refusal to take notes on national television, comes back from -$1,800 to within $100 of the leader going into Final Jeopardy, misunderestimates his knowledge of best-selling novels and is out-betted by the hot Bryn Mawr alumna. At least the nervous Scotsman never had a chance.
What's next for our trivia hero? How about finding a job?
Steve misses a really hard daily double, gets out-buzzed on a single question that involves early U.S. history AND Thomas Jefferson AND elections, earns a nickname that will stay with him until he dies, and wins the game by a damn dollar after some shrewd Final Jeopardy wagering.
For the record, I would have guessed Casey at the Bat in Final Jeopardy. Way to go, Steve!
Will Steve's winning streak continue, or will he be sent home with a lifetime supply of Rice-a-Roni and an all new Jeopardy! Home Game? Tune in tomorrow to find out! Motherfuckers!
Andrew Jackson enthusiast and erstwhile IFTL commenter Steve Kaplan will be appearing on Jeopardy! this Wednesday, January 19th. The UCLA 3L who has ruthlessly schooled me on such subjects as the procedural Constitution and Dr. Lugae will be showcasing his intellect on national television. Feel free to tune in and root against him.
I just finished reading May God Have Mercy by John C. Tucker. The take-away point of this post is this: I think you should read this book, whoever you are.
The book is about the Roger Keith Coleman death penalty case. Coleman was convicted in 1981 of raping and murdering his sister-in-law, sentenced to death, and executed in 1992. Among the numerous procedural nightmares associated with Coleman's experience in the criminal justice system was a U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court decided, 6-3, not to intervene where the state had dismissed an appeal that had been filed one day late. (If you read the book it turns out that the delay wasn't just sloppy lawyering, but a good-faith misinterpretation of when the time limit began to run.) Identified as "a case about federalism" in the first sentence of Justice O'Connor's majority opinion, the Coleman decision is a shining example of the Rehnquist Court's long-standing hard-on for states' rights and limited protection for prisoners.
On some level the Coleman decision is defensible. The Court wasn't necessarily condoning the state's draconian adherence to its procedural rules; it was limiting the role of the federal judiciary in state criminal proceedings and entrusting state courts with most of the heavy lifting with respect to the protection of criminal defendants' constitutional rights. The Warren Court had greatly expanded the landscape of prisoners' rights and the Rehnquist Court diligently scaled back these liberalizations. For those who thought the Warren Court went to far, the Rehnquist Court's agenda of removing federal restrictions on state criminal procedure and granting states more power and flexibility was anything but objectionable.
What makes the Coleman decision less than palatable is the fact that Coleman himself was almost certainly innocent. This also makes May God Have Mercy extremely depressing. From the very beginning, you see criminal investigators hurrying to identify a suspect under pressure from the mob-mentality of a small Appalachian mining town. It's clear that the investigators had let their suspicions of Coleman guide the search for evidence rather than the other way around. The trial is abysmal, with Coleman's inexperienced court-appointed lawyers demonstrating the worst kind of incompetence (though, to their credit, they did appear to stay awake during the trial, unlike the lawyers in many Texas death penalty cases). The vigorous appeals activity and the growing crusade to prove his innocence are inspiring, but also demoralizing in light of the completel lack of interest and cooperation on the part of the state and the stubborn refusal of federal courts to get involved. Tucker reminds us repeatedly, if somewhat dejectedly, that under current Supreme Court doctrine the execution of an innocent person does not violate the constitution if there are no violations of procedural due process.
Which is not to say that the system treated Coleman fairly. While state officials appeared to maintain a good-faith belief that Coleman was guilty, there are numerous instances where the state was either needlessly uncooperative with Coleman's attorneys or actively obstructive in preventing them from finding the truth. The federal courts, meanwhile, through a combination of arrogance, laziness, and good ol' federalism, were more than happy to let the state do whatever it wanted.
May God Have Mercy is not a flag-waving treatise against the death penalty. It's a very personal story about a handful of individuals. Really, what makes the book so jarring is how effectively Tucker is able to humanize Coleman and the people fighting for him. In the background are the notions that Coleman's story is not necessarily unique, that his story is indicative of numerous fundamental flaws of capital punishment, and the sense that, God damn it, you should get up and do something about it. But Tucker isn't condescending enough to spell these things out for you. He forces you to discover and confront them yourself as you get to know the individuals involved. Ironically, by writing a book about Roger Coleman, John Tucker reduced him from the media icon against capital punishment he became in the early 1990s to a genuinely human figure, making it all the more difficult to read about everything he and the people he loved went through.
I've never considered myself to be particularly passionate about the death penalty. On the record I've always been against it to varying degrees and for various reasons. I think it's barbaric, I think the racial inequalities in its application are undeniable, and I believe there is simply no way to avoid executing the occasional innocent party. I didn't read this book because I'm against the death penalty, and I'm not recommending it because I think you should be against the death penalty. I'm recommending it because it's a gripping story about real people, and because it raises issues about the criminal justice system across the board (not just with respect to capital punishment) that are important to consider. But make no mistake -- this is not a book to read if you're already depressed. Indeed, I believe this is the only book ever to make me cry.
Strips are on the way, I promise. In the mean time, here are more pictures! Pictures!
The Matt & Molly New Years photo album is available here, nested snugly within Gene's album, which is significantly more extensive. Like our Christmas album, the New Years album is very Matt-and-Molly heavy and contains gratuitous cat content.
Happy 2005, everybody. I always feel more comfortable in years that are divisible by five.