Friday, August 06, 2010

Kindling Interest In an Historical Book

A while back, I got interested in an 1817 memoir of William Sampson, an Irish Protestant lawyer exiled to America for his support of Irish Catholics. I bought a copy and carefully typed it up, but then what? Publishing is expensive and time-consuming, and this was never going to be a best seller.

Now, however, eBooks makes it pretty easy to give this into "print". I am experimenting with making it available for Kindle downloads, and if this works, I may try some other formats. I don't know whether this will actually sell any copies, but it's an interesting experiment!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Proposition Eight: Equality And Rationality Win

The Prop 8 ruling is much more than merely a victory for equal rights (although it certainly is that ...)

I don't want to merely echo the praise it deserves for making our great nation just that much greater ... although it does. I want to go farther, and point out that it is a reassuringly fact-based decision, hinging upon whether the State had enacted a private moral view without advancing a "legitimate government interest". The key issue became whether there was or was not a legitimate government interest, and it is very telling as to the methods each side used to "prove" that fact.

Really. The methods each side used to prove a fact says a lot.

(You don't have to trust what I say about it: read the Prop 8 ruling yourself!)

When you read the case, you see that one side introduced 17 witnesses, whose expertise the other side did not challenge (...perhaps realizing they would have lost the challenge due to the experts' qualifications.) The judge nevertheless carefully documented the basis for each witness' expertise (starting around page 25 of the decision) and concluded each was credible and their testimony relevant.

The other side had had a reasonably long list of witness, but at trial decided not to present most of them!!! It offered no witnesses at all on some of the issues, and only two witnesses total on any of the issues. On matters where one side presents some evidence and the other side presents no evidence except its naked assertions, judges have little choice but to make a factual determination in favor of the former.
Part of the problem may have been that, as is normal, the expert witness got deposed well ahead of trial and, as is not normal, was more helpful to the opposing side with their admissions.
But it gets more interesting. Both of the witnesses were challenged by the other side, which is just good strategy. The judge meticulously analyzed the qualifications for each witness and the testimony they gave. The grounds each of the two gave for their claims of expertise is almost comical, and the evidentiary support for their opinions was riddled with non sequiturs. Their cross-examinations are comedy material!

Regardless of one's attitude toward the disposition of the case (naturallly I think it was correctly decided) is it not noteworthy that one side brought a gun to a knife fight and the other side brought only the fact that they feel gays are icky?

Did they seriously expect to win? Were they so arrogant as to think that they could send two guys, one of whom admitted that he hadn't actually read all the material he cited in his expert report, up against two of the top legal gunslingers of our era ... and win?

Whether this matters to our current Supreme Court is a whole 'nother matter (the law and the facts have never mattered to the Rehnquist/Roberts Court; whatever decision better serves their corporate owners is always the one for which they selectively pick, overturn or invent precedent. Let us hope that corporations simply don't care one way or another in this case ...) For the moment let us celebrate a victory not only for equality of our gay and lesbian friends, but also for reason itself.