Saturday, August 16, 2008

Thinking Outside the Jury Box

This article at simple justice got me thinking. The author points out the downside to requiring unanimous jury verdicts: a single holdout can turn an acquittal into a hung jury and possible retrial (and possible conviction). (Which is the other side of the coin of the fact that a single holdout can prevent a conviction).

This then triggered some neurons in my brain to fire, a rarity these days in blogtopia as my new job consumes all available brain resources. Why not combine the best of both? Require unanimous verdicts to convict but allow simple majorities to acquit, and then only call a jury "hung" when you get something in between? This, to my mind, would be consistent with the often touted (but much easier-than-it-sounds-to-acheive) standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" that is supposed to be a massive burden on the prosecution but often is just a speed bump. Changing the jury requirements to my suggestion would finally really put that standard into practice in a more systematic way. If "reasonable doubt" is, as described in lawschool, another way of saying 95% sure (as opposed to maybe 51% sure for "preponderance of the evidence" and maybe 70% sure for "clear and convincing evidence"), then it fits that you need every juror to convict but that if you have at least a simple majority who say "wait a minute" then really, there wasn't evidence beyond a reasonable doubt - after all, six or seven people had doubt, and so acquittal, not a hung jury, is the proper result.

Prosecutors would have a cow about this, of course. But I don't really care what prosecutors think. Their job is SUPPOSED to be hard. Beyond a reasonable doubt is supposed to be a very high standard. I don't pretend to know exactly how this would work out in practice, though it would be interesting to see how conviction rates change once this system is in place (like it ever would be, but I can dream, can't I?)

I'll have to add this to my list of reforms for the justice system, right after the item that disallows prosecutors from bribing witnesses (or at least evens the playing field in that regard).

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Take-Out Blues

Some might think that jobs like being a lawyer or doctor, which require extra years of schooling and then years of "apprenticeship" to do effectively are hard jobs. But apparently, it is working in food take-out that is the real rocket science of the employment world. At least, that's what I'd have to conclude from a non-scientific sampling of take-out from many restaurants on a repeated basis over many years now.

It doesn't matter if it is McDonald's or Outback steakhouse. It doesn't even seem to matter which restaurant or person fills the order. With consistency that would make the trains run on time in Switzerland, orders are messed up, things are missing, or in the wrong quantity, on upwards of 1/3rd of the time (or more). Sometimes it seems like every other time we go to a certain restaurant for take-out, we are using a coupon or some other thing we got from when the screwed up the order the previous time.

What I'd really like to know is: What the hell is the problem? It should be simple enough to keep an order straight. I mean, why not at least have a system in place where you have a checklist of what is supposed to go in an order and then double check it before it goes out the door? It is not like our orders tend to be all that large or complicated. Far from it - often, they are fairly simple. It amazed me just how often even an order at McDonald's drivethrough like: 2 hotcakes and 2 egg mcmuffins (and NOTHING ELSE) would still get messed up - I'd either not get the mcmuffins or I'd just get one, and I'd not get the hotcakes or I'd just get one.

As a result, I now check over every single item every time I pick up take-out. And maybe that ultimately is what we're all just going to have to do, but I would hope that this is an extra failsafe rather than a requirement because the packers don't bother to get it right in the first place.

Really, just what is so complicated? I asked it above and I ask it again. This isn't complicated. Make a check list. Then check the list. Why oh why does this simple thing seem to evade so many across the spectrum of so many restaurants? My enquiring mind wants to know.

I was planning on posting this yesterday after getting take-out from Outback steakhouse where the person assured me she checked twice on my order. And my food was, in fact, correct. My drink was another matter. It was entirely missing. Then the busy-ness of the weekend took over and I forgot about it. Then this morning, Cracker Barrel. Biscuits and gravy. Or rather, just gravy, hold the biscuits. Just what we needed. And so I remembered again to do this post. Btw, if anyone got the biscuits without the gravy, I'm willing to do a half-and-half exchange.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Almost There

I'm almost settled in enough in my new job that I'll have a few brain cells left over for writing here. In the meanwhile, here's an interesting post (which links to an earlier post) at Barefoot Bum's about a lawsuit (and about lawsuits in general). I'll probably comment more later.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

CIA Forgery for Bush to go to War?

Ron Suskind apparently has a book that makes this claim. A reader at Sullivan pointed out some problems with this. Really the only thing I want to comment about is his one point that, if this really happened, it wouldn't have been ordered on White House stationary, it would have been paperless. To which the first response that came to mind was, "Yes, that is what you would expect from someone who was actually COMPETENT." Something which this administration has demonstrated over and over that it clearly is not. That is all.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sensitivity Training

Penn and Teller's show on Showtime this past week was on Sensitivity Training. I enjoyed the show. It is sometimes uneven in the topics (perhaps they are running out of the really fun ones), but this was one of the better ones. The basic gist of this show was about how all the "sensitivity training" workshops various companies do in response to (or to avoid) lawsuits are total bullshit that don't really accomplish anything and are a waste of money just for companies to CYA.

While it is nice to see that pointed out, what really inspired me to post about it was how they ended the show. They had a foul-mouthed comic saying all sorts of insults to both Penn and Teller. They explained this was their own version of training - insensitivity training. They said that there are two ways to deal with people who say stupid (and hurtful) remarks. One is you can try to control the behavior of six billion people and try to prevent them (most likely in vain) from saying anything stupid to you. The other option is simply to form your own personal "armor" (the proverbial "thick skin") and so no matter what anyone says to you, you are protected. Looked at it that way, it is rather obvious what is the easier and simpler (and actually doable) solution. People will be assholes. Some do so to be mean, others do so out of ignorance or lazyiness. Some even by accident. Get over it. You can't control what others will say, nor should you try. Part of living in a free society is having to deal with people being mean to you. Better that you grow a thick skin than you try to harness the power of the state to stop it - because that power will inevitably be used in rather horrid ways.

And you can't brainwash people into not being assholes. Hell, I think all this "awareness" can have the opposite effect. Sort of like how if you are told not to think about something, that's a sure way to end up thinking about it. If you want people who ignore race and look at the person, you need to stop freakin' talking about race all the time. Sorry, but you just do. And in that regard, I'm going to talk about something else next...


Ok, so I admit it, I'm disappointed that no one has had any comment on my post on the Derror case. I'll just have to get up the other posts that are rattling around this weekend. My new job has kept me busy, but I should be getting into a nice routine soon.