Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Long Arm Of The Law

People have asked me various questions about the Roman Polanski situation. And despite the fact that I am not a criminal lawyer, I think I have a pretty good handle on some of the answers. So here goes:

1) He committed the crime (raping and drugging a 13 year old girl) in the late seventies. Hasn't the statute of limitations run? No. The SOL applies to the period of time the State has to bring the charge. Polanski pleaded guilty thereby tolling the statute. There is no SOL on apprehension of a fugitive. So Polanski is, shall we say, SOL.

2) Why did he flee the United States? Rank cowardice is the easiest explanation. But his people say-and who knows if this is true- that the sentencing judge-now deceased-was influenced by an improper communication from a prosecutor not involved with the case to impose incarceration beyond the 30 days in a psychiatric facility Polanski caught initially. But it is said that this was immediately interpreted by Polanski as a potential miscarriage of justice. So before you could say, "Sacre bleu!" he was headed for France.

3) Why didn't the United States ask France to extradite him? I did not know this until the other day but Polanski was born in France which makes him a French citizen. Most countries, the United States included, will not extradite a citizen except for the most heinous of offenses. Statutory rape evidently is not one of those offenses. Besides, it is my understanding that France's concept of what crimes they will extradite over is something of a fluid concept. It could be that France would have been loathe to send an artiste like Polanski back to face the music at the hands of barbarians back in the States.

4) What did it take so long to extradite him? I mean he was running around making movies and stuff while he was on the lam and stuff? Unlike what is shown on cop shows on TV and in the movies, it is really hard to trace money and people. I mean, the entire intelligence apparatus of the United States and Great Britain have been looking for Bin Laden since 9/11. How has that worked out for them?

Further, and I am engaging in speculation here, despite the heinousness of the crime, Polanski was a relatively low level offender that didn't really justify that level of scrutiny. This is especially important when you consider that the victim received a large settlement and forgave Polanski. Besides, L.A. law enforcement was busy fucking up the prosecutions of OJ Simpson and Robert Blake for a large part of this time.

5) So how did they catch him? Polanski's lawyers recently filed a Motion to have his conviction overturned. This was a dubious strategy for two reasons: 1) American courts typically don't view post-conviction motions for relief filed by a fugitive with favor. I mean, when you take a powder you ain't exactly working with the system. So legally it was a dubious strategy in the first place which undoubtedly had the secondary effect if 2) pissing them off according to various news reports and putting Polanski back on the radar screen where lo and behold they found out that the Zurich Film Festival was going to give him an award. They asked the Swiss authorities to pick his ass up pursuant to the extradition treaty between the two countries. Which they did. Nice work counselors!

6) Isn't it kind of ridiculous to extradite a 74 year old man who isn't exactly accused of war crimes? Sure, especially when evidently the prosecutors failed to make him surrender his passport back when he pleaded out in the first place. Which makes them kind of complicit in my view.
But legally, it's a pretty simple case. I am assuming that even in Switzerland Polanski would have a hard time making bail because, well, he's a flight risk. Duh. Once they get him back here in the US they can and will charge him with all kinds of stuff. And he will go to jail. Once again hubris and narcissism is the downfall of yet another smart ass who was squarely in the cross hairs of The Man.

Somebody put on my Facebook page that Woody Allen has come out in his defense.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Sunday Feeling

We were sitting at the kitchen table when the kid asked me, "Have you ever been stoned?"

"Huh?" I replied.

"Have you ever been stoned?"

"On drugs?"

" Yeah."

"No. I never fooled around with drugs," I said.

"How about alcohol?"

" Yeah. But not in a very long time."

He put the question to his Mom. Her response was the same.

One never knows what is percolating around in a teenager's brain. Maybe he confused my laconic aura and red eyes with some form of intoxication. I have a defense. I was tired from running around for 8 hours with the Miracle League kids and I had forgotten to put in my new eyedrops, which judging from the price, are made from water hauled in from the Shrine at Lourdes. Secondly, it was 8:30 at his mother's house. We were having a glass of wine. C'mon.

Maybe he just wanted to talk. He just turned 14, I am pretty sure. 14 or 15. That's certainly an age where one is typically first confronted with certain temptations with which we all contend with varying degrees of success for the rest of our lives. Better he get his information from adults than from one of his knucklehead associates.

God knows I have had the "good time fun" in the immortal words of Arlo Guthrie. But after awhile, once you start accumulating a few objects you start to make the risk calculation. My friends and I talk all the time about how we are generally at home by 9 or so. About how it's not worth it. We have all become what we once would have derided as "no fun." And that's OK. As one of my buddies once said, "The people that still party hearty in their late forties and fifties are referred to as alcoholics." As for me, God in His unquestioned wisdom granted unto me a fail-safe device.

I get tired pretty easily nowadays. And thank God for that. And as for street drugs, I wouldn't begin to know where to obtain them if I were so inclined.

I hardly would call my friends a bunch of sticks-in-the-mud. But I scarcely know anybody who smokes cigarettes. I discovered a cigarette butt in the empty base of a flower pot on my front porch. I had to think long and hard before deducing that it was most likely left there by a lady friend who has taken up the infernal habit once again while she is going through many troubles. Which was the reason she presented herself at my little house in the first place. And once her life settles down, I suspect she will kick it once again with renewed vigor.

H.L. Mencken once said something along the lines of "Vice is too dangerous to be left in the hands of the virtuous. It should only be dabbled in by the sinful who know when to fool with it and when to let it alone."

I've been lucky in that regard. For the most part I've known when to fool with it and when to let it alone. And the older I get the more I let it alone. My Uncle Howard no longer partakes in the amber liquid. This is an outcome as unlikely to me as his not breathing oxygen. But he said he just wasn't interested in it anymore. He just lets it alone.

The kid didn't ask anymore questions or let us know what caused him to broach the subject. Maybe it just popped into his head. He's a kid. There's not much of a filter between his brain and his mouth.

Like all of us, he will have to make his own choices and choose his own path. And he's a really good kid. I just hope that he learns to make an accommodation with trouble. And that he learns when to fool with it and when to let it alone.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Henin back. More drama for women's tennis?

Henin back. More drama for women's tennis?

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Vox Populi: Them Old Cotton Fields Back In Atlanta

The following is a text message from yesterday:

tmfw: Have y'all been getting all that rain out there in North Carolina?

Don: Not around here yet.

tmfw: It's been raining like crazy here. The cotton people say that the crops are dropping to the ground and mildewing.

Don: Well, when them cotton bolls get rotten you can't make very much cotton.

tmfw: This is based on personal experience right?

Don: Well, when I was just a little bitty baby my Mama would rock me in that cradle.

tmfw: I know for sure that you don't know the first damn thing about cotton farming. I know that you didn't spend your infancy in Louisiana. And for the record, there's no place in Louisiana that's just about a mile from Texarkana.

Don: I have to go now.

tmfw: Take an umbrella to work tomorrow.

Don: Bye

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My Sunday Feeling

I tried to think of when I was last in an elementary school and concluded that to the best of my knowledge it was 13 years ago when I went to pick my nephew Eli up from school to take him to the hospital when his brother Henry was born. I once walked over to Holy Souls to to get FSO's boys when she was jammed up at the restaurant but I didn't get have to go any further than the playground. Suffice it to say that it had been awhile.

But there I was a week or so ago at Marguerite Vann Elementary School in Conway to be the "secret reader" for my nephew Max's second grade class. While I had never done anything like this before I figured I could get through it as I can read pretty good for a lawyer. Besides it beats working.

I stood in the office and they called for the Vice-Principal who would usher me back to Max's class. There was artwork up and down the hall at chest level to me. I forgot that's how they hang art at a kid's school.

After a few minutes Jeanne the VP showed up. I actually have known Jeanne since the 7th grade or so. She still speaks to me despite that fact.

"I'm glad you could do this," Jeanne said, as we walked arm in arm down the hall. " Max will be so surprised."

"I know," I said. " He hasn't seen me sober very many times."

She stopped and looked at me over the top of her glasses. Whoa. I hadn't gotten an official "teacher look" since high school. It did not bring back fond memories.


" It better be."

I kept my mouth shut until we got to the class.

"You stand here out of sight and look through this window. I'm going to go in and tell the class that I have a surprise for them. When I tug on my ear, that's your cue."

I stood in the hall and bent over to look through the glass. It was like I was in a structure that was designed for midgets. Which in a very real sense I was. Young teachers were going up and down the hall. I never had elementary school teachers that were as hot as the ones I beheld that afternoon. Probably just as well. I had focus issues as a young kid. Having sexy teachers would not have helped on that score.

I looked back through the glass to see Jeanne yanking her ear lobe as if it were the pull cord on a lawn mower. Shit. I was on!

As I walked in, Max's little eyes resembled a slot machine.

" Who's that, Max?" Jeanne asked.

" It's Unc...Unc...I mean it's my Uncle...."

"Paul." she said gently.

"It's Uncle Paul!"

"This is gonna be fun." I thought to myself.

"Class," the teacher said. " This is Max's Uncle Paul. He came aaaaallllllllllll the way from Little Rock to read for us. Say hello."

"Hello Uncle Paul!" came the voices below me.

There were two chairs at the front of the class. One for me and one for Max. The teacher asked me to tell the class what I did for a living. Explaining the practice of law to 8 year old kids is not the easiest thing.

" Wellllll," I said. " Sometimes when people can't agree they have to go see the Judge, who is very wise, to decide stuff for them. And people hire lawyers to help explain their side of it to the Judge."

"Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" was the response.

A hand shot up. I pointed.

"What do you like to do for fun?" a black kid asked.

I told them that I liked to read, take pictures, play golf and libel people on this blog. I then put Max in a headlock and started acting like I was pounding his head.

"And I like to beat Max up!" I yelled.

"He really does too," said a familiar little voice from beneath my armpit.

The class roared. Like I said, this was gonna be fun.

After that, I read a couple of books. One was about a little Chinese boy named Ping who wanted to grow flowers to impress the Emperor. The other was about a teacher who liked to wear funny ties.

And that was that. I thanked the class for letting me come read to them and I wished them a good day. I also told them that if they studied hard they could go to LAW SCHOOL!

Ok. That part was a lie.

I asked Max's mom the other day what he had to say about my cameo appearance.

" Not much," Shirley said. " He said he got to sit next to you in the front of the class."

"That's it?"

"Look," she said. " Small children are in their own little worlds. They don't remember what you DID. They only remember that you were there. And because you were there Max got to sit in the front of the class."

Which I guess is pretty big stuff when you are 8.

The teacher asked me if I would come do it again. I told her that I would be happy to.

I have to come aaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllll the way from Little Rock. But Max will get to sit in the front of the class. I guess that's pretty big stuff when you are 8.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Stakes Are High

In his column today Wally Hall actually wrote the following sentence about tomorrow night's game against Georgia:

"When the teams meet Saturday night, it will be with anxious anxiety."

You cannot make this stuff up.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Another Example Of The Lack Of Civility In Our Society

As far as baseball fights go, this is a good one. As ESPN Magazine's Bill Simmons has pointed out, you could drop a running chainsaw in the middle of most baseball fights and still nobody would get hurt. This one looked like they meant it.

And they say baseball players don't care anymore......

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Sunday Feeling

Forget the debate about health care reform. Let not your heart be troubled over a congressman yelling at the President during a speech before a Joint Session of Congress. Do not be troubled by the apparent fact that a not inconsiderable number of the citizenry repose trust in the lunatic raving put out by the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs of this world.

No. For high drama you need only turn to women's tennis!

Let's set the scene. Serena Williams was playing unseeded Kim Clijsters in the semi-finals of the US Open last night. And she was getting it handed to her. Clijsters was ahead in the match 6-4, 6-5 and Serena was serving at 15-30 to try to force a tiebreaker. On her second serve she was called for a foot fault, meaning her foot had touched the service line as she served. This made it 15-40 whereupon Serena went off on the line judge as you can see here at the jump:

Accounts vary as to what Serena actually said to the judge. The New York Times reported that she used profanity. Comcast reported that Serena told the line judge that she could "ram the ball down her throat." The line judge evidently told the Chair Umpire that Serena threatened to kill her. And that was enough to give her a penalty point. But she didn't have a point to give and Clijsters was awarded the match.

Now some of you might be asking: Penalty point? Did tennis come down hard on Serena to protect the officials as the NBA or Major League Baseball might have done? Of course not. Tennis is too pussy a sport to do anything like that. On the tape you will not hear the Chair say " Code Violation Miss Williams. Thugging out on the line judge. Penalty point."

No. Serena had reacted to the loss of the first set by destroying a racquet which got her a warning for racquet abuse. The next step in the progression is a penalty point. Which we now know threatening a line judge will get you. And at 15-40 she had no points to squander in that fashion. Game,set, and match Miss Clijsters.

On the tape you will hear noted diplomat John McEnroe bitch that a foot fault should never have been called at that point in the match. McEnroe, who got his own self thrown out of the Australian Open 20 years ago after a heated discussion with the Chair and got disqualified from the US Open for showing up late for a match , is right. These guys foot fault all the time.

And this has already sparked NBA gambler level paranoia in the press and on the Internet. Michael Kay on the Sports Reporters has speculated that Serena basically threw the match so she could blame the ignominy of losing to an unseeded player to getting jobbed by the officials. As if Cljisters showed up from the St. Vincent's tournament here in Little Rock. As if she were Melanie Oudin.

Clijsters, was unseeded because she retired to have a baby and to mourn the death of her father, soccer legend Leo Clijsters, from she says she inherited her steel girder like legs. Prior to that she was a former top 10 player and past US Open champ herself.

Whether Serena threw the match, which is unlikely, or lost her shit at a really bad time which is more likely is beside the point. The WTA is a joke. The Williams sisters pretty much show up to play in Majors when it suits their purposes and routinely mow down the field. Clijsters lays off a couple of years, comes back and does likewise. A 17 year old high school kid cuts a swath through a bunch of Russian models with no other weapons except young legs and a head that's screwed on straight.

You wouldn't see this kind of stuff on the men's side where Federer and Rafa are now starting to get dinged up by the field. And you haven't seen a Serena level meltdown in a Major in the men's game since Jeff Tarango retired. I think he retired. Either that or he was institutionalized.

I may watch the finals tonight. One thing everybody in the claw-your-eyes-out world of the WTA agrees on is that it is good for the game that Clijsters is back because she is such a nice person.

Imagine that.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Backfire in Crazytown

There must be something in the water down there that causes Republicans in South Carolina to take complete leave of their senses. First, the governor leaves the state on Father's day weekend, lies about his whereabouts and goes to Argentina to fool around with a woman he would later describe as his "soul mate." And last night Congressman Joe Wilson, shouted "You lie!" at President Obama as he was addressing the Congress about health care reform in question.

Now there has been no dearth of lyin' during this exceedingly fractious debate on health care. Most of it, if not all, has been put out by right wing radio pundits and the whack jobs that subscribe to their bullshit. Think "death panels" and "no health care for Gammie." What riled Rep. Wilson was Obama's statement that he never proposed health care for illegal immigrants. Which actually is the truth.

Look, I think it might actually be a good thing for the President to go to Capitol Hill from time-to-time to take questions from the legislative branch much as the Brits do. I used to watch various Prime Ministers engaged in vigorous debate during "Question Time." It was great fun to watch and damned if the participants didn't seem to be enjoying it as well.

But the Brits are a civil lot who enjoy verbal jousting. Here across the pond we have folks who are convinced despite all evidence to the contrary that the President was not born in the United States. We have guys packing guns outside venues where Mr. Obama is speaking. Here we have a radio host who says that the President "obviously has a deep seated hatred of white people." This despite the fact that Obama's mother was white as were one set of his grandparents. And we have at least one Member who called the President a liar on national TV. There is a difference between strong disagreement with a proposed policy and calling somebody a liar.

But Wilson's big mouth and hot temper may have backfired on him. His opponent in the next election raised $300,000 overnight. His behavior has been condemned by people on both sides of the aisle. Undoubtedly some folks who might have approved of such an intemperate display were disappointed when Wilson apologized. That's not gonna help him any with the wing nuts. And he may have stiffened the resolve of wavering Dems to get some version of this damn thing passed for no reason other than to show folks that the country is not run by utter fools.

But in the meantime maybe the GOP ought to check the water down there in the Palmetto State. There's something that's making some of your elected officials bad crazy.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

My Sunday Feeling

No MSF today Sports Fans! I'm taking the weekend off. Be back at it soon!