PHILLIES’ PHANATIC TAKES OUT FAN WITH DUCT TAPED HOTDOG

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We previously discussed the torts case involving the Kansas City Royals mascot Slugerrr, who blew out a fan’s eye with a foil-covered hotdog launched with an air cannon. Now the Phillies’ could be facing a similar lawsuit after Kathy McVay was hit by a duct taped hotdog launched by the Phillies mascot Phanatic.

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Till Death Do Us Part: Nellie Ohr Invokes Spousal Privilege To Refuse To Answer Questions From Congress

Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the surprising invocation of spousal privilege by Nellie Our to refuse to answer questions about her communications with her husband, Justice Department official Bruce Ohr. While the privilege remains an important protection, this invocation raises serious questions about its use where a husband and wife mix marital and professional relationships.

Here is the column: Continue reading “Till Death Do Us Part: Nellie Ohr Invokes Spousal Privilege To Refuse To Answer Questions From Congress”

Nevada Teacher Faces Calls For Termination After Her Son Dresses As Hitler For Halloween

Janet Arsanian, a teacher at Cortney Junior High School, is facing calls for her termination after her son dressed as Adolf Hitler for Halloween.  The controversy rekindles our long debate over the free speech rights of teachers and public employees in controversial statements or actions in their private lives. Arsanian insisted that “we don’t worship Hitler or agree with what he did.” More importantly, there is no allegation that Arsanian has shown any intolerance or inappropriate responses in her role as a teacher.  I share to reaction of many to such a costume as offensive but, as many on this blog know, I tend to follow a robust view of free speech in such controversies. Continue reading “Nevada Teacher Faces Calls For Termination After Her Son Dresses As Hitler For Halloween”

Bar Complaint Filed Against Counsel For Dr. Christine Blasey Ford

Judicial Watch has filed a bar complaint against counsel for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. The complaint follows the issue raised earlier on this blog on the statement made by Ford that she was never told that the Committee had offered to fly to California. Attorneys Debra Katz, Lisa Banks, and Michael Bromwich deny the allegation and say that Ford was fully informed.  These are very accomplished lawyers and I am inclined to believe them. That however raises serious questions about Ford’s sworn testimony and the attorneys offer a rather tortured explanation of the conflict. Continue reading “Bar Complaint Filed Against Counsel For Dr. Christine Blasey Ford”

Another Useful Perspective For The Controversy Surrounding Taking a Knee At US Sporting Events

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Often we can find value in the wisdom of other cultures, especially when we have arrived at an impasse where opposing groups cannot find common ground and the same arguments tend to dominate the discussion. Often this results from the refusal or inability to find outside evidence or analysis.

I believe eventually such an impasse over the NFL kneeling controversy will become moot as the interest in such displays will eventually go away, like many other movements. People eventually move on to other controversies. Yet for those who desire to continue to debate the matter, a family member of mine suggested watching the following video produced in India that structurally presents the same type of controversy–of whether or not to stand during their national anthem at sporting events.

What I found fascinating was seeing the expression of the two sides’ positions through the lens of one of the cultures in India, and especially the contrast between an element representing the traditional thinking versus a younger generation having a different definition of fairness and inclusiveness.

Continue reading “Another Useful Perspective For The Controversy Surrounding Taking a Knee At US Sporting Events”

Ireland To Hold Referendum On Removing Anti-Blasphemy Offenses From Constitution

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

This October twenty-sixth, voters in Ireland will decide at the polls if the country’s prohibition on blasphemy should be removed from the nation’s constitution. It comes for me as a welcome sign of some progress against what otherwise was a trend in Western Europe toward establishing an international blasphemy standard that many regard as censorship and a vehicle for possible criminal prosecution of speech and expression.

While the Irish government has insisted that no persons have been successfully prosecuted for blasphemy since the 1850s, the existence of any such statute serves as leverage by the state to control what its citizens may say or what behavior it considers objectionable. The time for repeal I believe has arrived.

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THE WONDERS OF THE OLD RAG

As many on the blog know, one of my favorite hikes is the Old Rag trail the Shenandoah National Park.  Depending on your trail, it is roughly 11 miles to the parking area and is one of the most challenging hikes in the area.  Due to my travel schedule, I had hoped to see the fall foliage on Friday but the trees are not ready to their annual show.  Nevertheless, it was spectacular.  I followed my usual practice of starting at dawn as the sun was rising. (That means leaving Northern Virginia at 5 am to make it near the trailhead in Sperryville, Virginia). Continue reading “THE WONDERS OF THE OLD RAG”

Video Captures The Thrill Killing of an Elephant . . . And A Herd Charging The Trophy Hunters

As many on this blog know, I am no fan of trophy hunting.  I fail to see why it is impressive or thrilling to shoot a giraffe or elephant with a high-powered rifle.    I just do not understand the thrill kill.  I often hike in remote areas to observe wild game.  It is thrilling to see them in their natural habitat. However, some people want to enjoy killing such animals.  The video below captures why some of us simply do not understand the joy of killing such animals. In the video, hunters sneak up on elephants in Nakabolelwa Conservancy in Namibia to kill an elephant.  One excitedly encourages his friend to shoot the elephant between the eyes.  They then shoot the animal and run away when the herd chases them. Continue reading “Video Captures The Thrill Killing of an Elephant . . . And A Herd Charging The Trophy Hunters”

St. Lawrence University and The Effort To Rescind The Honorary Degree Of Susan Collins

Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the call by alumni and professors at St. Lawrence University to strip Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) of her honorary degree in light of her vote to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh.  The university has now confirmed that they have never rescinded an honorary degree and will not start with Collins.  Putting aside the prevalent “rape culture” declared by almost a hundred faculty members, the two letters reflect the diminishing hold of intellectual honesty and integrity at our places of higher education.

Here is the column: Continue reading “St. Lawrence University and The Effort To Rescind The Honorary Degree Of Susan Collins”

Fifth Circuit Rules Walmart Is Not Liable For Selling 60 Cans Of Fatal Dust Remover To A Clearly Deranged Addict During a 27-Hour Period

There is an interesting case out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Allen v. Walmart, 2018 WL 4998231 (5th Cir.  Oct 16. 2018. Judge Edith Brown Clement ruled for Walmart in a novel claim that the chain should not have sold Karalee Alaine Williams a dust remover. Williams was found dead in the parking lot after inhaling the product. It reads like a dram shop claim for dust removers.  Notably, Williams kept returning in worse and worse shape, including her final visit naked from the waist down — but was still sold additional dust remover.  Her mother brought an array of claims, including negligence, negligence per se for violating Texas Health & Safety Code Chapter 485, negligent entrustment pursuant to Restatement (Second) of Torts § 390 and  breached a duty to Williams under a theory of premises liability. She also alleged that Wal-Mart owed Williams a duty in the products liability context, invoking Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code § 82.003(6) (2009).

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North Carolina University Student Found Guilty Of Destroying Confederate Statue But Given No Punishment

I have been critical of the handling of cases where protesters destroy statutes that they find offensive.  When various protesters in North Carolina who torn down a statue in public and then celebrated their criminal acts in broad daylight. Because the statue of a civil war memorial, the act of property destruction was condoned by many and Durham District Attorney Roger Echols caved to the pressure in dropping all charges against everyone.  It was effective immunity for a popular criminal act — a dangerous concept in any legal system.  Not surprisingly, others soon claimed the right to unilaterally destroy property, including protesters on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s campus who took it upon themselves to destroy the controversial Silent Sam Confederate statue. 

I was critical of not only the failure to stop the destruction of the statue despite police at the scene but the decision not to charge above the misdemeanor level. Maya Little, a 26-year-old doctoral student of history, mixed with her own blood with red ink on the statue and was equally unapologetic before the court in declaring “The Orange County court system must also reckon with the Black blood that stains it.”

Now Orange County District Judge Samantha Cabe has found Little guilty but the declined to impose any penalties. Cabe seemed to yield to the argument of Little that she was triggered by the statue or, as her counsel argued, “One person’s defacement is another person’s improvement.”

Cabe backed away from any punishment despite the premeditation of the act and lack of remorse.  Cabe effectively left some public art without the real protection of the law in granting  “continued judgment” — sparing Little for even paying court costs or a technical criminal violation.

The concern is that, once again, there may be no penalty (and thus no deterrent) for those planning and then destroying public art due to public support or sympathy with their acts.

Senior Treasury Official Charged With Leaking Material Related To Russian Investigation

In what could prove the most serious leak prosecution in decades, senior Treasure Department official  Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, 40, has been charged with leaking information to the news organization, Buzzfeed, that she removed from her work at  Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). According to the criminal complaint,  she was the source of leaked financial information on Paul Manafort, Maria Butina and other suspects charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.  While she allegedly first sought to conceal her relationship with a report and denied any contacts with the media, she later claimed to be a whistleblower. That is not likely to help her. She was reportedly found with a drive or memory device containing information in what could prove a lengthy sentence if convicted. Continue reading “Senior Treasury Official Charged With Leaking Material Related To Russian Investigation”

The Washington Post Publishes the Last Column Of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi Before His Brutal Murder By The Saudi Government

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Journalist Jamal Khashoggi apparently wrote one last column before he was savagely murdered by agents of the the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia within its consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.  There is mounting evidence that Khashoggi was killed by a team sent from Saudi Arabia including a forensic expert and a close security aide to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.  Turkish sources released the contents of a tape indicating that  Khashoggi was literally cut up while alive by the Saudis and may have taken seven minutes to die.  There are strong indications that the United States is desperately seeking any way not to sanction Saudi Arabia or lessen such sanctions, including the suggestion by President Donald Trump that “rogue” elements might be responsible.  While Trump initially promised severe punishment if Khashoggi was murdered in the consulate, the fear of many is that the Administration will find a way to protect Saudi Arabia in the face of the torture and dismemberment of a respected intellectual.  For some,  Khashoggi is merely a name while Saudi Arabia represents billions in contracts and thousands of jobs.  However, he was a person living in the United States and a journalist who fought for freedoms in the Middle East.  While he also praised the Saudi Crown prince for some reforms (particularly in giving women more rights), he was a danger precisely because he bravely spoke of freedoms of speech and the press in a region where such expression often results in arrest or execution.  The Crown Prince has insisted that Khashoggi was a “friend” and that he exited the building, but the Saudis can offer no proof of the exiting.

Now the Washington Post has published his last column.  As fate would have it,  Khashoggi wrote about press freedom and his dream that Middle Eastern nations could some day join the West and free and open nations.   Continue reading “The Washington Post Publishes the Last Column Of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi Before His Brutal Murder By The Saudi Government”

Faculty Members Denounce The “Rape Culture” At St. Lawrence University As Part Of Its Calls To Rescind Sen. Collins’ Honorary Degree

I wrote a column yesterday in The Hill newspaper on the effort to strip away the honorary degree awarded to Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) in 2017 in retaliation for her vote to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh.  One of the letters seeking the rescission was from roughly 100 professors from virtually every department within St. Lawrence University.  What was most surprising was the assertion of these faculty members that St. Lawrence University has a “rape culture” and that Sen. Collins’ vote was in furtherance of that culture. Notably, there are only 217 full-time and part-time faculty at the university.

Continue reading “Faculty Members Denounce The “Rape Culture” At St. Lawrence University As Part Of Its Calls To Rescind Sen. Collins’ Honorary Degree”