07 September 2008

Sheila Wins Contest: and Observations Too Numerous Even For Me to Title

The Still Unnamed Law Firm Thanks You, and You, and You Especially, Sheila!

The mysterious new partner and I reviewed the submissions to the help us name the firm contest with a lot of interest and even chuckles. We haven’t QUITE decided yet, but are down to a couple of alternates. My favorite, “Armageddon Legal Group” has been vetoed. So sad, what a delicious image that has. In any event, we have agreed that the winner hands down of the contest is Sheila222 for her multiple submissions which were original, creative and enjoyable. Sheila, dearest, email me your snail mail, and the cornucopia of books will be heading your way! And thank you!

The new partner and new name will be announced in about 2 weeks, projected start date is about 20 October.

Follow-up: My brother Pete’s tattoo -

As a legitimate practitioner of Oriental spirituality, I’m betting that Bro. Pete wasn’t depending on some tattooist telling him what the Chinese symbols meant. That’s the flip-side of the tattoo thing, an irrevocable commitment to take a stand and make a statement.

Service? Hints of Sex? What are they selling?

In the Fairmont Times-WV today, they stuck in an insert for “Palm Springs Massage Center” or some such. The primary visual is that of a 20-something smiling, attractive, blonde woman. It doesn’t say that she is one of the massage therapists, that that is the fairly implied conclusion. My opinion of massage is generally more positive than my opinion of chiropractic. Massage therapists are simply claiming that they make your muscles feel better temporarily and that seems to work most of the time.

It is no big secret that “sex sells.” If it didn’t, young, conventionally attractive women in somewhat revealing attire wouldn’t be featured in auto parts calendars displayed in most automotive repair shops. What is the message in the massage ad? Well, I’m thinking that the implication is that you come in and give us your money, and this woman or her twin is going to run her hands over much of your body and probably carry on a scintilating conversation with you and even admire your now-flabby/once-average body (if you’re a guy.) I’d like to know what this and similar therapists think about this. They are not being marketed, at least in this ad, for their qualifications and skill as a massage therapist. A few months ago, I met a massage therapist when I was doing a business deal. This was a 50-something year old lady who obviously kept herself in excellent physical condition. She was wearing short sleeves and had remarkable upper body strength and the kind of hands you see on wiry auto mechanics. I asked about her work, and it included work for semi-pro sports teams, so I presume that she is real good at what she does. That, to me, would be a far better thing to advertise and far more germane to the decision to patronize her services than conventional physical attractiveness.

(Some months ago, I talked about “conventional physical attractiveness” being so much hogwash. I’ve never met a woman who wasn’t pretty.)

As bad a a Klan hood . . .

West Virginia has a statute prohibiting wearing hoods and masks in public (which has a Halloween exception). Code section 61-6-22 provides, in part:

[N]o person . . . while wearing any mask, hood or device whereby any portion of the face is so covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer, may:
(1) Come into or appear upon any walk, alley, street, road, highway or other thoroughfare dedicated to public use;
(2) Come into or appear in any trading area, concourse, waiting room, lobby or foyer open to, used by or frequented by the general public;
(3) Come into or appear upon or within any of the grounds or buildings owned, leased, maintained or operated by the state or any political subdivision thereof;
(4) Ask, request, or demand entrance or admission to the premises, enclosure, dwelling or place of business of any other person within this state; or
(5) Attend or participate in any meeting upon private property of another unless written permission for such meeting has first been obtained from the owner or occupant thereof.

This statute was enacted when, for some odd reason, there was fear of a resurgence of the Klan in West Virginia. (That resurgence never came about. There has only been one prosecution I know of under that statute.) I don’t know if the idea is constitutional – I can make the argument that if you have the right to speech, that right includes having the lack of guts which leads you to hide your identity. But the idea is still good, in the marketplace of ideas, we can make a LOT better analysis of an argument or factual representation if we know who is making it and, therefore, what their interests are to tint it one way or the other, or simply to make stuff up.

We have a Supreme Court election coming up. Two seats are in issue. Former Justice Margaret Workman is a shoe-in for one of them. (I strongly supported my friend Justice Spike Maynard in the primary, and he lost big time. His friends say, dirty politics, his enemies say, justice prevails, at the end of the day it’s the number of votes and we have to move on. I like Justice Maynard, always have, always will.) The other seat in play has two candidates. The Democrat is Menis Ketchum. Prior to the primary, I had never heard of him. I was talking to a major plaintiff’s lawyer in Morgantown a month ago who’s his friend, and he gave me a glowing recommendation. Mr. Ketchum is a plaintiff’s lawyer who is a good-to-great trial lawyer, is very respected, and has largely escaped the “tacky” designation that much of the advertising plaintiff’s bar gets stuck with. I still haven’t met him. The Republican is Beth Walker. She is younger (40's?), has stellar academic credentials (Ohio State), great community service credentials, and is a partner at a major defense-oriented/business-oriented law firm, Bowles Rice. I hadn’t heard of her prior to the campaign either. With Justice Maynard out, she’s a strong contender despite the difference in party registration. Justice Benjamin did it against Justice McGraw in 2004.

Since there is a clear liberal-conservative, plaintiff-defendant-orientation split, this election is going to smoke out BIG MONEY. That is unpleasant to contemplate. Welcome to Earth. It is NOT necessarily corrupt, even though it presents a really bad appearance. The winner will not vote in a liberal or conservative way because s/he receives lots and lots of money from liberal or conservative interests. S/he will receive lots and lots of money from liberal or conservative interests because s/he already believes strongly in a philosophy which benefits those folks financially. But those donors and advertisers aren’t going to have the guts to admit that this is a cynical dollars-and-sense decision.

I have problems with the primary liberal group, the “West Virginia Association for Justice.” It’s the name which bothers me. It’s like “People for the American Way.” Who could possibly be against justice? Or the American way? Or motherhood? Or Twinkies? The the WVAJ website has this neat symbol with the caption: “People Over Profits - Your Grassroots Network to Protect Civil Justice” There is nothing grassroots about it. It is the organization of trial lawyers, the people who represent civil plaintiffs, and who make a living from those cases and who, therefore, want a liberal court so that they make more money. I was a member of that group when it had a different name: West Virginia Trial Lawyers Association. That was open, honest, and hid nothing. If we were interested only in justice, we would give everything away to the poor, found the Order of St. Michael (random choice of saint, my favorite because he’s patron of public service including paramedics) which would send brothers and sisters from the cloisters into the courtroom to represent the injured against the unGodly. Well, if you look at the WVAJ website long enough, you do twig to the notion that it’s a lawyers’ group, it’s just hard to find.

I have a disagreement with one of the conservative players, the state Chamber of Commerce. However, that disagreement is over policy. The state Chamber is flying an honest flag, there is no concealment of where their money comes from. Another conservative player, though, is a snake in the grass. The West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse also bills itself as a “grassroots” group. It is gearing up to trash candidate Ketchum, ostensibly because the poor consumer is getting stuck by the nasty trial lawyers. There is NO PLACE where the CALA reveals that it is the insurance industry that is funding it, that an insurance person runs it, and that he makes a HELL of a lot of money doing so. They have attracted a lot of right wing deluded conspiracy theorists as a sort of citizens’ veneer, but the organization is an insurance shill through and through. This is an immoral LIE. If they advertise exactly as they do and state that this group is funded by Aetna, Allstate, and so forth, I will disagree with the message and respect the messenger. As it is, they are moral cowards. Let's see (1) where the money comes from to run the organization (IRS filing would be good) and (2) the CEO’s salary. All in the interest of truth, you see.

Footnote - Judicial races in West Virginia are partisan. Locally, in partner Amy Swisher’s Family Court Judge contest, she features that she is the Democratic candidate (Marion County is 65% registered Dem) and her opponent (Friend Shirley Stanton) hasn’t mentioned her Republican affiliation once.

Rescue Me?

According to the NY Times, the feds are talking a bailout of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, even though government economists say that they ignored clear warnings that the mortgage market was tanking and took no protective actions. Well, hell, I’m not all that financially responsible. I wonder if the feds will bail ME out? I would also like to avoid responsibility, have a golden parachute and get paid a bonus for driving a business into the toilet. Isn’t that the American way? President Clinton didn’t end welfare for the corporation, why should he have ended it for me?

White Heritage Festival

I almost used poor judgment here. (Oh, I can hear the chorus from Friend Dave, from the Bookshelvers, from myriad others, "Oh, Roger, why stop now?) A friend was featured in the Times WV Saturday as having been picked as King of the Black Heritage Festival. A funny but rather rancid post could have been made extolling the contribution that white people have made, yadda, yadda, yadda. It’s all bullshit. We are going to get NOWHERE until we stop prancing around in diversity and start talking in Unity. I think I mentioned, I saw a billboard for a Scottish Festival this summer, and the thought of it is sickening - idiots in kilts who’ve never been closer to Glasgow than the East Coast cavorting around tossing cabers, endangering bystanders by swinging inaccurate reproductions of claymores (swords), and talking in hideous accents. With every respect to my black, white, hispanic, english, italian, icelandic, indian and so forth friends, get over it. You’re in America. Be American. The Curry ancestor got to this continent in 1649 from England; the Stiab ancestor around 1900 from Germany. There’s an Indian (probably Shawnee) in there somewhere. I’m not English. I’m not German. I’m not Shawnee. I’m American. I probably had an ancestor in Oldevai Gorge. I’m not African, either.

Language - Is there a “rest of the story”?

Last week, the newspaper had a headline about a “Tragedy at Valley Falls.” Just about every summer, there is a similar headline. For those readers not familiar with Marion & Taylor Counties, there is a porion of the Tygart Valley River near the county line which runs through a narrow section at an unusually steep drop for a ways, and it’s really rocky. What do you get? White water, with strong currents that are not readily apparent or predictable to someone who hasn’t been there before. This section of the river and the bottom around it constitutes Valley Falls State Park, which is a comfortable and pleasant place to take a six-pack and spend the afternoon. (That’s illegal, by the way, drinking beer in a state park.) There are lots of large signs saying “Keep off the rocks,” “No swimming,” and so forth. Nevertheless, anybody reasonably sure footed goes out on the nearby rocks, where the current isn’t bad and indeed, there’s one large rock that is a favorite place for couples to have pictures (especially engagement pictures) taken. And despite the fact that the water a little further out is really fast, there are people who go way out.

The tragedy to which the paper referred happened when a Mexican national here working went onto the rocks and fell in. He was taken under by one of the wicked currents and held underwater. His younger brother attempted to rescue him, and the same or a similar current got him, too. Water rescue responded as fast as you could expect, but it was still 30+ minutes before one of the men was brought out of the water. Both men died.

The signs at the park are in English. These men did not speak English. Hispanics aren’t numerous in Marion County, so it took the police a little time to find a Spanish speaker to communicate with relatives and friends in the park, none of whom spoke English. Could signs in Spanish have avoided the deaths? Is that a reasonable precaution? Should my oft-stated position, if you’re here, learn English, yield to this sort of need? This is troubling and is yet another example of the utter folly of assuming that every problem can be solved with an “if only” simple solution. “If only we allow no immigration,” “If only we require that they ALL speak English,” “If only we cut out welfare, they’ll work,” and so forth. There are some absolutes. But we are lazy and stupid if we look for them everywhere.

I’m troubled by this, but I still come down on the speak English side. Moreover, the danger is pretty clear. If you know fast water, you should know that the currents are stronger than you are. If you don’t know fast water, you should stay the hell out of it. One of my favorite places is Coopers Rock State Forest, on the Monongalia-Preston County line. If you are really, really stupid, you can walk a step too far and walk into the Cheat canyon, the last step being 400 feet or so straight down. Humans fly real good. They land real bad. There are no signs and no fences. Someone who needs those should stay out of the woods.

The Potent Power of Video Games

Amazon publishes a frequently updated blog for its Kindle ebook users. A recent article was delightful. It extolled the video game “Grand Theft Auto 4" because a family had a rollover car wreck. Their 11 year old daughter had played the game and she knew that in rollovers, cars blow up. So, she dragged the other family members to safety before the car blew up. Fortunately, however, it didn’t explode.

Hollywood idiocy, now idiocy of reality-null pudgy savants who design video games ---- Folks, cars do not blow up unless the Hollywood stunt people have put (usually petroleum based) explosives in the car with some sort of command detonator. Cars seldom catch fire. When I worked EMS, I went to some thousands of car wrecks. I saw three car fires from them. One was from a car which was annihilated by a train. The second was an engine compartment fire that we accidentally started after we started freeing the driver. (Boy, did we get noise from the Chief about that one.) The third was at an accident I ran across on vacation which was a slow engine compartment fire (probably oil) that spread to the interior after the occupants were out and which I put out with a fire extinguisher from the first ambulance, which had only one guy on it. No other fires, no matter how much gasoline, fuel or chemicals were spilled. No explosions at all. Oh, there were incidents where dragging people out of the car improperly because some moron taught children to do that would have hurt or killed some occupants. A good friend for years was in a car wreck in the 50's. He would recount how he was dragged from the car and how he knew the moment that the cervical fracture cut the spinal cord, making him a quadriplegic. (Hell of a guy - he went to work full time and retired normally.)

And you wonder why the Iraq situation is screwed up?

Even after the start of the war, some of the administration policy makers (the political ones) were surprised to learn that there is a difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims.

Pippa passes.



rosa said...

The problem with the English only stuff, Roger, is that tourists (and your Mexican national very may well have been a tourist) don't LIVE here, but they will go places that are dangerous and without signs alerting them to that, they become accidents waiting to happen. Tourism is too big a business in the USA for us not to consider bi-lingual signs. If undeveloped and underdeveloped nations can do multi-lingual signs then why don't we? Afterall, we Americans almost never bother to learn the language of our vacation destinations. And certainly warning signs should be bilingual if not universal and purely visual.

Fairness for West Virginia said...

I think Beth Walker will be a great judge. The last thing we need on our Supreme Court is a television advertising personal injury lawyer like Menis Ketchum

Anonymous said...

always fascinating, your blog

sheila222 said...

I send my address to your rogercurry@aol.com email. Thanks!

Bertram000 said...

Holy Crap, Bro. Roger, but you sure do write long dispatches!!

I skipped around...

Regarding the massage therapy, I've been to both. Legitimate massage therapy, now at $60/hour is great stuff. I wanted no scintillating conversation as I wanted to fall asleep as quickly as I could. I have knots in muscles between my shoulder blades and spine. She said it was probably from all the driving. She never could get rid of them but her trying sure felt good.

Regarding the sexual massage, State Farm paid me to an activity check on a plaintiff. I found out she was a massage girl and State Farm authorized me to patronize her establishment. So on December 07, 1981 she was the first woman to see me naked since I became an adult and with whom I did not then have sex. She was agreeable, even feigning desire, but I didn't think State Farm would reimburse me. Her massage was about three minutes of superficial muscle massage and then she started in on the sexy stuff, and then when saw my rising interest, asking me what I wanted. Gay Talese covers what all is available in one of his books, and it boils down to if you can afford it, she'll do it.

Regarding the dead Mexicans, they could have been tourists from Bulgaria or any other non-English speaking country. Foreseeability... You lawyers love it. Had that happened in SoCal, the heirs would have filed a suit against anyone associated with that park.