Thursday, October 30, 2003


today's commerce department figures, 7.2% quarterly economic growth, "the strongest in nearly two decades," and 57,000 new jobs in september (not great but a good start per the cognescenti). unless the president gets caught with a live boy or a dead girl, that's about all she wrote for the demos.

unbelievable that this knucklehead, this gentleman's "c" legacy, this failed oil man, who LOST the 2000 election, who has run an arrogant, ruthless, very right-wing administration, THIS guy is going to get reelected in a landslide. and the democrats will counter with the most illegitimate, laughable opponent, someone who will reinforce all the polity's fears about them. this could be a landslide of epic fdr/lbj proportions.

happy halloween.

-benjamin harris

the university of southern california, whose nickname is the "trojans," plays washington state university ("cougars") today in a college tackle football game. usc is favored to win by 12 points. they won't.

additional lingering doubts about our founding fathers faith in the wisdom of the common man are raised by the predictions that oklahoma will beat oklahoma state by 16 points or more and that THE ohio state university will squeak by (+6) THE pennsylvania state university. interest rates are at all time lows. a home equity loan placed on these two outcomes will return handsome dividends.

take the pittsburgh "panthers" getting one point against the boston college "eagles."

-benjamin harris

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Good News, Bad News


the best overall indicator of the vulnerability of an incumbent president has always been the "right track, wrong track" question. the latest polls show that the president is in trouble. 53% say the country is on the wrong track. not as important, but reinforcing that result, is bush's approval rating, also at 53%, it's lowest since before 9/11.

but there are more ominous signs for the democrats. the lead economic story today is the robust corporate earnings report and the reinvigoration of the economy in general. this was also the story in sunday's times. this is a quote from today's article:

"the strong corporate profits are being reported as the economy
appears to have had its strongest quarter of growth in almost three
years [OUCH], spurred in part by the tax cuts earlier this year [DOUBLE
OUCH]. when government data are released later this month, economists
are expecting to see growth in the gross domestic product near 6% for
the third quarter, and they are forecasting strong growth--if slightly
lower--for the remaining three months of the year."

let's be realistic. the democrats have no shot, none, zero, zip, zilch, nada, of winning back the white house if these figures, or anything like them, hold up in 2004.

in a healthy two-party system them's the breaks. sometimes you're the windshield and sometimes you're the bug. as has been said here before though, what the democrats have to avoid is illegitimacy and the appearance of illegitimacy.

and there's more bad news on that front. some democratic poobahs were on the diane reem show this morning handicapping the candidates. the first significant sign this political season that howard dean was going to be a force were the early reports of his phenomenal fund-raising. this year he has raised more money than any democratic candidate EVER besides bill clinton in 2000.

what i did not know is that there is an iron law of politics: whoever is the fundraising leader at the end of the year preceeding the start of the primaries (that would be this year) has NEVER failed to win either party's nomination, and unless something really unexpected happens, that is going to be howard dean.

this is on top of the bad news that two major centrist figures, gen clark and sen lieberman, have decided to bypass the iowa caucuses. say what you will about that political strategy; what it can't help but do is dampen efforts by both to raise more money. that great snapping sound you just heard? that was the sound of wallets throughout the Democratic Nation snapping shut when lieberman comes calling for cash.

this page has spoken often and at length at the disastrous prospect of a dean nomination on the democratic party. so to avoid repeating myself, i'll let david brooks say it this time. his column today is titled "rescuing the democrats" it deserves to be quoted at length.

"john edwards has the most persuasive theory [of what's wrong
with the democrats]. he argues that most voters do not place
candidates on a neat left-right continuum. but they are really
good at sensing who shares their values. they are really good at
knowing who respects them and who doesn't. edwards's theory
is that the democrats' besetting sin over the past few decades
has been snobbery."

"edward draws an implicit contrast between himself and howard
dean and johny kerry...

"he draws an explicit contrast with george bush, arguing that the
bush administration rewards wealth and punishes work. this is
not about economics, he says; it is about values. the bush admini-
stration disrespects working americans. it lowers taxes for people
who sit around the pool and collect capital gains..."

this is EXACTLY right. the one thing i would disagree with brooks on is the following. after acknowledging that edwards campaign has not caught on he writes,

"but that doesn't mean edwards's theory is wrong, OR THAT THE

it's not that they, the democratic primary voters, don't understand the party's plight. they do. they're very "bright." it's that they don't care. they are selfish, self-centered elitists and they have one of their own in howard brush dean III and they don't care what happens to the democratic party.

brooks quotes edwards as saying "not only will i run for the real america, i will run in the real america...democrats too often act like rural america is just someplace to fly over between a fund-raiser in manhattan and a fund-raiser in beverly hills."

the problem for edwards and the democrats is that those elitist jet-setters are overwhelmingly influential in the democratic primaries.

brooks ends his column with this:

"except for bill clinton, democrats have nominated presidential
candidates who try to figure out middle american values by
reading the polls, instead of feeling them in their gut. if they do
it again, the long, slow slide will continue."

-benjamin harris

Monday, October 20, 2003

big political news today. gen. wesley clark and sen. joseph lieberman have decided to pull out of--bypass is their word--the iowa caucuses.

reason: in clark's case, too late a start. a caucus state puts a premium on organization, which puts a premium on locking up key figures and groups in the state early. whatever clark's strengths as a candidate they were going to be dimished by the political machinations needed to do well in iowa.

lieberman though has been in the race for a long while. he certainly has had the time and has the money to have organized the state. his problem: iowa's leftist activist democrats, disproportionately powerful in the state, were never going to be receptive to a strong supporter of the iraq war and of free trade policies.

very risky strategy by both. noone has succeeded in doing this before. al gore punted on iowa in '88 hoping for favorite-sonism in the south, and although he did well on super tuesday, he was overwhelmed by big mo from iowa and new hampshire.

gore was a marginal candidate though in '88, very much like john edwards is this year, too young, too green, not enough previous exposure on the national scene. gore's run in '88 was a trial balloon for future efforts and to make himself visible as an attractive veep candidate for whomever won the nomination that year. in fact, michael dukakis went south for a running mate but went for maturity and someone who knew the intricacies of capitol hill rather than a fresh southern face.

it has been the suspicion all along, here and elsewhere, that this is gen. clark's strategy, to run for veep. he was a consultant to howard dean and others before entering the race himself and while his anti-war bona fides are almost as strong as dean's he had no chance of matching dean's or gephardt's organizational head start in iowa.

the problem for lieberman is that the race doesn't just go from iowa into super tuesday. the new hampshire primary is in between. gephardt must win in iowa to stay viable beyond. his campaign has explicitly stated that. but right now, dean is the favorite in iowa and all the other major candidates are mounting major efforts there.

let's say dean and gephardt come in one-two in some order in iowa with kerry third. that would be a major accomplishment for a governor from vermont. he would go into new hampshire with momentum, as a favorite son, and with a commanding lead in new hampshire's polls. gephardt would limp along and compete in new hampshire but barring a major upset he would be all but gone. new hampshire would then be waterloo for kerry. if he didn't win there he would be effectively done.

new hampshire has a way of shaking things up (see buchanan v bushI and mccain v bushII) and an outsider like clark might surprise in the primary there. if clark finished second to dean, kerry would certainly be done. if kerry finished second and clark even third, clark would live to fight on super tuesday.

lieberman and clark are hoping, in the new york times words, to put an asterisk beside the iowa caucus results to stop big mo. lieberman is a very smart man, a very shrewd politician and he's got a lot of money. it would be foolish to underestimate him. if somehow his strategy succeeds he will have forever changed the democratic nomination process, all to the good, in the opinion here.

if a dismal finish in iowa was inevitable, might as well make a virtue of a necessity. but pulling out removes the possibility of a surprise. if lieberman even finished third in iowa, behind say dean and gephardt, that would seriously hurt kerry and give lieberman, who is from connecticut after all, a real chance to narrow the race to him and dean in new hampshire.

but it seems far the more likely outcome of all this that lieberman will be permanently mired in the second tier of candidates and one more obstacle will be removed from howard dean's path to the nomination.

-benjamin harris

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Some Look at the World and Ask 'Why?' Others Look at the World and Ask 'Why Not?'"


there's probably some mlb rule against this, but why i don't know.

nosebleed seat tickets for world series games in miami are going for three and a half bills. primo seats are going for ten times that. that's through scalpers of course. the face value is for something like $65 and $150. all that extra money people will pay for these seats goes to someone other than the supposedly cash-strapped, definitely season-ticket deficient marlins.

mlb clearly has some say in, if not complete authority over, the setting of prices for the "fall classic." fine. but what would be wrong with this: all those bandwagon jumping marlin fans (like me and a per-game average 48,000 others), all those yankee-loving, south florida-living cockroaches who want to go to a world serious game, you have to buy tickets to a whole bunch of games next year.

doing the math as they say, it'll work out the same for mr and mrs cockroach but give the club more money and avoid the scalping laws as well as the charge of price gouging. during the regular season--hell, during the division series against the gints--marlins tickets ran from about $9-$50, face. decide what you're going to charge for season seats next year--$10-$75?--. seats in section 430 row z going for $350 for the world series through scalpers? we will sell you a ticket up there to see the yankees but you have to buy tickets to 35 games next year too, our choice by the way. hey, you'll enjoy seeing the padres in may.

you mr. big-spender willing to part with $3500 for a box seat with a $150 face, you must buy 23 tickets to games next year, again our choice of dates.

this has been done for years in other sports. at the university of pittsburgh for instance, to get a ticket to this years game against notre dame you either had to buy a season ticket or bundle your purchase with tickets to two other attractive games, ball state and kent state. they've been doing that for years. single game tickets against notre dame? you've got to be kidding, bud.

public relations fallout. bull----. the public relations fallout in miami is over all these bandwagon jumpers and evil empire fans who are not "real" marlins fans. it would be treated as it is in pittsburgh, as a deliciously clever, understandable and fair way for the team to keep "its" money and provide some security for the future.

obviously, it's too late for the marlinskis to do anything like this now and as i said there's probably some mlb rule against it but there shouldn't be.

-benjamin harris

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Reincarnation, Cont.


"by forty a desreputable series of matrimonial scandals had been varied, and sometimes advertised, by a succession of [his] publications."

"...his [mirabeau's] reputation was such that he was barred by the not very sqeamish society of the paris drawing rooms..."

Friday, October 17, 2003

True Crime Stories: Bailey/Haversham

TRUE CRIME STORIES: Bailey/Haversham

robert johnson sat at his desk reading a box file. he had gone through all of the meat of the case, the reports and statements, and now because of his obsessive-compulsiveness, he had begun reading the case-law that his predecessor had pulled and stuck in a folder.

the concentration required to parse the more important documents not needed, he sat back in his chair and read easily. he read the headnotes and the case summary and then moved on to the next one.

it was about the fourth case, jerome e. bailey v state. "jerome bailey, jer-ome bailey," where had he heard that name before? common enough name; the way the brain works, it was probably a false connection with some receptor that housed the memory of a basketball player or a porn star.

two sentences into the case summary it clicked and robert johnson sat up straight.

the brain is an automaton at these moments and all of the associated memories came back to him instantly, unconsciously.

he had been in the city only a couple of weeks when he first read about the case the first and last time until now. that was in june of 1982. he remembered exactly where he was when he read about it, in the open-air lobby of his apartment building one steamy morning waiting to give a friend a ride into work, the same work he had had for the last 21 years.

his mind riveted on the story, he could still see the photographs of the defendant, one from 1955, looking handsome but slick and, mouth slightly open, a bit deer-in-the-headlights overwhelmed by the phalanx of media reporters that he was trying to push through; and the other current photograph, looking old and haggard and smoking a cigarette. he had just been released from prison so that he wouldn't have to die of the cancer inside the institution. he remembered bailey's quote, "i knew what was going to happen, i could have prevented it, but i didn't."

robert johnson's friend came down to the lobby and they left. he didn't remember if he had finished the article or just left the newspaper there in the lobby. he was 27 and starting his career and he was in a hurry.

he thought of the case often over the years, had thought of going to the library and researching it, but he was in a hurry and over time details were forgotten. first to go was the defendant's name. jerome bailey was just too common.

for a long time after that he remembered the other name, h.d. haversham, so typical for 1955, so anachronistically anglo and southern for 1982.

no city had ever been transformed so suddently and completely and shockingly as miami had been, first in 1959 then again in 1980. and yet the past was so near. new york, as one contrast, has always been diverse and chaotic and edgy and ethnic and violent. you could go back one hundred years and find stories like this probably.

miami was new but with its past close by the contrast was more stark and it was easy to imagine the shock created by such a black act in that simpler, slower time.

robert johnson read the case intently now. he passed over the legal issues and tried to find the factual summary, to have his memory refreshed on the details. a defense attorney had told him once that you can always tell how the appellate court is going to rule in a big case by the detail they go into in the factual summary. the more detail, the more they reveal of the the heinousness of the crime, the more likely it is that they will affirm the conviction.

elizabeth haversham? he had forgotten. the wife had been murdered too. drowned, both of them. but there were no facts just "murder" drowning" and the legal reasoning.

it wasn't here but at least now he had the mother lode. he typed jerome e. bailey's name into westlaw and there was the companion case.

h.d. haversham, judge h.d. haversham. murdered by the procurement of jerome e. bailey, judge jerome e. bailey.

this wasn't even miami. this was palm beach. what was palm beach in 1955? wealthy and privileged and waspy. beautiful and natural and peaceful. staid, closed, clannish. proper. scandals, if at all, kept behind closed doors. the kennedy's longtime winter home. what a great name for palm beach, h.d. haversham. "judge" should be prefixed to that name.

robert johnson remembered from the newspaper article. there had been a scandal. haversham had caught bailey doing something and raised hell and went public with it. robert johnson remembered reading between the lines and thinking there was some bad blood there, maybe blueblood versus the ariviste bad blood, at least to the extent haversham made it so public. no black curtain of silence shielding the brethren here.

when the judge and mrs. haversham turned up dead, everyone in palm beach knew who had done it in the way everyone in small towns knows everyone else's business. it was an open secret yet bailey had not been indicted until 1960 and robert johnson recognized the irritation in the court's circumspect language. "the evidence reveals that despite the complete information obtained by law enforcement officials regarding the facts and circumstances surrounding the murder event...the state nevertheless continued its investigationn without charging or arresting any of the suspects awaiting the time when further evidence might be developed..."

but even in the opinion in judge haversham's murder there was no factual recitation beyond mentioning "murder" drowning." bailey's status as judge was buried in both opinions, on page 13 of the 17-page opinion in h.d. haversham's case, on page 4 of 7 in his wife's. not a black curtain of silence, but of whispering at least.

a judge having another judge murdered was like incest in 1955. one simply didn't speak of it in polite society like the small, closed, clannish, polite legal community in palm beach in 1955, where every member of the bar knew each other as was reflected in the courtliness in both opinions paid to the "able attorney for the defendant."

but the details were kept out so that the case could be forgotten and lawyers generations later would not really know what had happened. this was one case where robert johnson's defense friend was wrong. this case was too big, to scandalous, too painful to remember. decide the case and forget about it. "we shall utter their names no more," is how it was put after the lincoln assasination conspirators had been tried, convicted, and hung. so robert johnson was left with his memory and the details would have to be sought in another forum, at the library or on google.

robert johnson read both opinions straight through now. the deference only went so far. the irritation in the delay in the arrest, "despite complete information," and the outrage at the act was evident in the legal "reasoning" affirming each conviction.

"much emphasis is placed by appellant upon the statements of counsel for the state that appellant when testifying in his own behalf 'took the fifth amendment.' the trial record discloses that appellant's counsel failed to object to such argument..." and further "once a defendant elects to testify, as did the appellant herein...argument directed to what he says and does not say is justified." robert johnson laughed out loud.

another point of error asserted was to the pre-trial and in-trial denial to bailey of access to "certain...tape recordings secretly made by investigating law-enforcement officers under the direction and supervision of the state attorney--some tapes recording the voice of defendant bailey and other tapes recording the voice of the [hitman who testified against bailey]." "the defendant failed to properly object to the procedure he complains of as to discovery." "PROPERLY" object. the opinion reflects that able counsel for the defendant damn well had objected, early and often, but apparently not "properly" so, in the court's opinion. johnson laughed. one must always take care to be "proper" in palm beach in 1955.


there were eight other cases that came up in robert johnson's westlaw search of "jerome e. bailey." his convictions were affirmed in per curiam opinions by the florida supreme court and his petition to the united states supreme court was denied.

a related case involved one of the hitmen. in 1957 the florida legislature passed an extraordinary law authorizing the payment of $100,000 for information leading to arrest and conviction in the case. one of the hitmen took the bait and contacted the lawyer who promptly made a deal with the state. the lawyer then sought to collect the reward. that was denied.

in 1959 bailey applied to withdraw from the florida bar. in its opinion granting the application the supreme court wrote that "approximately one year ago the grievance committee...conducted hearings concerning the applicant and that he believes that shortly he will be afforded the opportunity of offering testimony in connection with further proceedings in said matter but that he does not wish to avail himself of the opportunity to do so [at this time]."

in 1958 jerome e. bailey represented one j.c. clinton, who was convicted for possession of moonshine whiskey. that conviction was affirmed too.

the next to the last entry in the westlaw search was a 1953 workmen's comp case. bailey represented the employer. the appellate court ruled in bailey's favor, "reversing the judgment of the circuit court of palm beach, h.d. haversham, judge."

-benjamin harris

Saturday, October 11, 2003


"mirabeau [french revolutionary leader] was the life-long victim of two passions. he could not see a pretty woman without falling in love with her, nor encounter a subject of controversy without writing about it. "

-benjamin harris
money-making opportunities abound today in college tackle football, perhaps not for followers of the advice offered here, but in general.

i think the penn state "nittany lions" will get closer to the purdue "boilermakers" than the 12 1/2 point line.

were i to offer wesley clark more economic advice i would recommend a home equity loan placed on michigan state to beat illinois by more than 3 1/2.

similarly, i think las vegas is wildly wrong in the nebraska-missouri game. take the "cornhuskers" giving 7.

wake forest will not beat georgia tech by 4 1/2 or more.

my contrarian personality is offended by the chatter on fsu-miami. i wouldn't have touched this game except for reading this morning, in the miami herald, of predictions of a seminole rout. fsu is snake-bit against miami! these games almost always come down to a field goal. so, just to be a punk i will take miami getting 7.

finally, i like the notre dame "fighting potato, or is it potatoe? eaters" getting 9 1/2 against pitt.

-benjamin harris


Tuesday, October 07, 2003


what a disgrace this recall is.

let's take one of the most plausible scenarios. you really want davis recalled, you really want bustamente to replace him, but you really don't want schwartzeneger to win. what do you do?

if you vote for what you really want, yes to the recall, and for bustamente, you will probably end up with gov. arnold.

if you vote no on the recall and vote for bustamente you're voting for something you don't want with vote-one which may in fact cancel out vote-two.

so you have to try to predict probable outcomes. what do you want more, davis recalled or no arnold? what is more likely to happen if you vote this way or that?

the result therefore is not a democracy, a registration of voters wishes; it is perhaps more so, a demonstration of their
predictive (dis)abilities.

i bet there are a lot of californians who are in exactly this position right now; hispanics and women who are fed up with davis but who are more opposed to a nazi groper who supported prop. 54.

what a horrible position to put voters in.

voters shouldn't be thrown into these existential dilemmas. they have enough trouble with punch cards.

-benjamin harris