John Edwards Indicted
June 3, 2011 7:34 AM   Subscribe

Former U.S. Presidential candidate John Edwards, the Democratic Party's nominee for Vice-President in 2004, has been indicted on felony charges stemming from illegal use of campaign contributions to hide his affair with film producer Rielle Hunter, with whom he belatedly admitted fathering a child while his wife suffered from an ultimately terminal recurrence of breast cancer.
posted by The Confessor (160 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Christ, etc.
posted by spicynuts at 7:36 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


John Ensign's next, right?
posted by infinitewindow at 7:38 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Couldn't happen to a scumbaggier scumbag.
posted by tommasz at 7:40 AM on June 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


Mazel tov.
posted by anya32 at 7:40 AM on June 3, 2011


Previously on Metafilter:

Elizabeth Edwards dies.
An alleged insider's account of Edwards' disintegrating marriage and campaign.
Edwards admits fathering Rielle Hunter's child.
posted by The Confessor at 7:42 AM on June 3, 2011


From the article:
Edwards' lawyers have argued that the funds were gifts from friends intended to keep the affair a secret from his wife, Elizabeth, who died of cancer in December.
When this is your defense, you've pretty much failed at life.
posted by BurntHombre at 7:43 AM on June 3, 2011 [47 favorites]


Fuck it, Dude, let's go bowling
posted by growabrain at 7:44 AM on June 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


His punishment should be to be surgically attached to Newt Gingrich for the rest of his life.
posted by spicynuts at 7:45 AM on June 3, 2011 [21 favorites]


Wait, a sex tape?!!!

Oh my.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:45 AM on June 3, 2011


Expected that coming for a long while, actually. Him, Newt, and McCain should start a dance troupe together.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 7:47 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


The article is a little vague, but it sounds like the money didn't pass through the campaign, but should have....?? There's not much there in the way of facts. I'll wait to see the actual indictment.

I confess I wonder how this prosecution might bear on other cheating politicians recently in the light of day.
posted by warbaby at 7:48 AM on June 3, 2011


What a disaster. I feel terrible for his children.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:48 AM on June 3, 2011 [8 favorites]


Can we quit punishing people for consensual sex?
posted by PinkMoose at 7:48 AM on June 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


Can we quit punishing people for consensual sex?

It's not the sex. It's the money.
posted by anastasiav at 7:50 AM on June 3, 2011 [19 favorites]


The money wouldn't have been a factor if we didn't have a reputation for punishing people for consensual sex; it's like liberals who said about Clinton it's not the blow job, its the abuse of power, when he was v. much being railroaded for the blow job.
posted by PinkMoose at 7:53 AM on June 3, 2011 [11 favorites]


Ah, this brings back sweet sweet memories.

I knew Hillary's negatives were too high for her to win in the General, so it was John Edwards or this new guy Obama.

Which one has the best chance, I ask myself, of beating Hillary, beating whomever the Republicans put up, and, the ultimate goal repairing the abuse to the 4th Amendment and 8th Amendments while also getting me health insurance that won't exclude my life-threatening pre-existing condition?

The Southern guy seems pretty populist, which can be good or bad. He's made a lot of money, mostly by dubious suits against OB/GYNs.

The new black guy is a hell of a speaker, but he has a reputation for compromise and lack of follow-through.

Which one do I give my money to?

I picked Obama. As disappointing as Obama has been, I shudder to think what would have happened if Edwards had gotten the nomination. Inevitably, his infidelity would have come out, and that probably would have given the election to McCain/Stupidhead.

Just as I excoriate McCain for not caring about our country if he was willing to risk putting Stupidhead a heartbeat from the Presidency, I excoriate Edwards for risking the Democratic Party's chances in 2008 by putting himself up as nominee, knowing that he was hiding and infidelity and now allegedly, committing Federal crimes as part of his cover up.

Not cool John. Not cool to your supporters, to Democratic voters, to your country. More than not cool, arrogant and criminally stupid. You put your vanity ahead of your country, and for that you deserve our derision. The right thing, the patriotic thig, would have been to have dropped out before Super Tuesday.
posted by orthogonality at 7:54 AM on June 3, 2011 [90 favorites]


The money wouldn't have been a factor if...

Doesn't matter, he still mis-used campaign funds. That's a bad thing, and should be punished.
posted by aramaic at 7:55 AM on June 3, 2011


When we're talking about having a mistress, I think consensual means that we need all three parties to consent.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:56 AM on June 3, 2011 [32 favorites]


The money wouldn't have been a factor if we didn't have a reputation for punishing people for consensual sex

Is this a joke? He was cheating on his cancer-stricken wife.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:56 AM on June 3, 2011


yeah, it was shitty behaviour, it shouldn't have been illegal behaviour.
posted by PinkMoose at 7:58 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dude,

he's being investigating for misusing campaign funds.

his infidelity is not illegal and he's not being punished for it.

he's being investigating for misusing campaign funds.

his infidelity is well established, and has been for quite some time.

he's being investigating for misusing campaign funds.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 8:00 AM on June 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


You put your vanity ahead of your country, and for that you deserve our derision.

Like there is a single person that has run for President in the last 20+ years that wasn't a completely self-centered, narcissistic, maniac? I think it is sort of qualification for the job. Anybody willing to put themselves and their family through that gauntlet has issues, our current President included.

Any person capable of getting themselves elected President should be immediately disqualified from consideration. - HHGTTG
posted by COD at 8:02 AM on June 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


Fucking hell this pisses me off. I mean, Yeah, the guy did wrong and deserves punishment and shaming, or whatever. But his stupid inability to keep his libido under control kept the country from having a rational voice on helping the poor.

He was one of the few politicians who made helping low-income families a big part of his campaign, and then he went and screwed the whole thing up by letting himself become embroiled in a really awful scandal completely of his own making.

And now we're back to basically no politicians taking his unpopular stance. And the poor get screwed again.

That to me is his worst crime (Well, maybe second only to screwing over his sick wife, that's hugely fucked up too.)
posted by quin at 8:03 AM on June 3, 2011 [27 favorites]


I thought he was being investigating for misusing campaign funds.
posted by storybored at 8:04 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


If Americans weren't so fucking weird about the occasional peice on the side, then he could use his own money to support his own child. Palin misused campaign funds, as did Bush Jr, and neither of them are being indicted.
posted by PinkMoose at 8:04 AM on June 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


Wait, a sex tape?!!!

Dear God... you know I don't ask you for much, I don't ask that this wicked world be magically transformed, but please, please let me never see one second of a John Edwards sex tape.

Can we quit punishing people for consensual sex?

I actually think people are harder on Edwards than he deserves... a person with a terminally ill spouse having an affair is deplorable, certainly, but also understandable and, I have to suspect, far from uncommon. But if Edwards donors secretly funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into hiding his affair and illegitimate child in order to save his presidential campaign, well there is certainly a case that he broke the law in a way that had nothing to do with being censured for adultery.

You have to wonder how anyone could have thought something like this - where there was tons of evidence and lots of people knew and there was a genetic offspring of the affair - could be hidden. If he'd managed to keep it under wraps AND secure the nomination AND get elected president (big ifs, all) it would have been a sword of Damocles over every minute of his presidency. Edwards could have spared himself all this by coming clean before anyone tried to take the rap for him or spend away the evidence of his actions. There was no clean exit for him but he could have prevented all this. Even so I hope he doesn't end up in jail or stripped of the ability to do positive work as a lawyer, because honestly what earthly benefit would that have for anyone?

Finally... can we indict some of the assholes that destroyed our economy and messed up millions of peoples' lives now?

No? Big bonuses all around? All right well you noble prosecuters go get that philandering jerk Edwards then. I mean we are talking about maybe a couple hundred thousand dollars, that's not any little bit of chump change, fercryinoutloud.
posted by nanojath at 8:05 AM on June 3, 2011 [17 favorites]


Considering how much hot money floats around in politics, any prosecution is unusual.
Federal officials have approved criminal charges, deciding that the hundreds of thousands of dollars two Edwards donors gave to help keep his mistress in hiding were contributions that should have been reported publicly by his campaign fund because they aided his bid for the Democratic White House nomination.
That's a very weird and broad standard that doesn't get applied very often.

Which raises the question of how all the other politicians with side-affairs handled the costs of their fooling around without falling afoul of the inquisitive prosecutors? Is the crime here a failure to properly launder funds? Newt and Arnie get free passes because they are cheap dates?
posted by warbaby at 8:05 AM on June 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


So, PinkMoose, let's say the funds we used to hide the existence of the baby, but the sex was out in the open? Would you still have your panties in a bunch?
posted by spicynuts at 8:05 AM on June 3, 2011


couldn't have happened to a nicer fellow.
posted by modernnomad at 8:06 AM on June 3, 2011


If Americans weren't so fucking weird about the occasional peice on the side

I'm okay with being weird about that. As is my wife.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:07 AM on June 3, 2011 [11 favorites]


As much as I'm all for society becoming far more sexually liberated, Edwards is only being punished for this behavior because of the money and the money is only an issue because Edwards chose to be measured by those standards.

I can fuck around as much as I like and nobody but my partners will care. That's why among many other reasons I'm not a politician. I can screw around with as many fellow campaign volunteers as I want and my only take away is pleasant memories. (Ah 2004!)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:08 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


The money's a problem, but he is only being prosecuted for it, because he is a democrat, and it is attached to sex.
posted by PinkMoose at 8:10 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well at the other end of the spectrum you get everybody shrugging off pieces on the side and you end up with Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
posted by gaspode at 8:12 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Who would have thought it, a corrupt politician... At least someone like Blagojevich had style.
posted by derekmallard at 8:13 AM on June 3, 2011


...it is attached to sex.

Depending on one's tastes, many things are attached to sex.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:14 AM on June 3, 2011


Just as I excoriate McCain for not caring about our country if he was willing to risk putting Stupidhead a heartbeat from the Presidency...

Point of order -- since Tina Fey's new book came out, I believe that with respect to McCain, we have changed being a "heartbeat from the Presidency" to being "one weird-shaped mole from the Presidency."

posted by Capt. Renault at 8:17 AM on June 3, 2011


he is only being prosecuted for it, because he is a democrat, and it is attached to sex.

Cite?
posted by to sir with millipedes at 8:17 AM on June 3, 2011


I wonder if he will be punished as lightly as those who leaked Valerie Plame's cover... oh wait...

Politicians constantly misuse funds, don't see Palin or the rest being brought up do we?
posted by usagizero at 8:19 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Clinton vs Gingrich to start.
posted by PinkMoose at 8:19 AM on June 3, 2011


His punishment should be to be surgically attached to Newt Gingrich for the rest of his life.

Two-thirds of the worst Human Centipede ever.
posted by hermitosis at 8:24 AM on June 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


If Americans weren't so fucking weird about the occasional peice on the side

This phrasing suggests an amazing level of open-mindedness.
posted by yerfatma at 8:24 AM on June 3, 2011


I've never liked Edwards (he's always been the Smiler from Transmetropolitan), but it's sort of sad that he's getting indicted when others who have done worse, albeit without the philandering, walk free.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:24 AM on June 3, 2011


Data point: Tom DeLay was not just indicted, but convicted of misusing campaign funds. Metafilter had quite a different reaction to that news.
posted by mattbucher at 8:27 AM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


yerfatma, not sure how to parse that comment
posted by PinkMoose at 8:28 AM on June 3, 2011


As a fellow open-minded person, I'd call it a compliment
posted by scrowdid at 8:30 AM on June 3, 2011


PinkMoose: this is very possibly just a prelude to an Ensign indictment for basically the same thing. The campaign finance law issues in both cases are real and substantive enough, even putting questions of improper sexual behavior (and arguably, more important questions about abuse of the public trust in the specific manner of engaging in improper sexual behavior) aside, there's still literal campaign finance law breaking involved here. Such cases are not always this clear cut because pols tend to be slippery little buggers. But all cases where campaign finance law abuses are in evidence should be prosecuted, period. The Supreme Court ought to be impeached for having encouraged further laxity in this area of regulation in so many of its recent rulings.

In any case, previous regulatory failures shouldn't make regulatory failure the new rule. Just because a specific crime goes unpunished in some cases doesn't mean it should always go unpunished. Especially not when the offender is such an unrepentant asshole.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:35 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


he's being investigating for misusing campaign funds.

My reading of this (admittedly sort of vague and hard to decipher) msnbc article is that the charge is not that he misused campaign funds, but that this $900k that his two rich friends paid directly to Hunter to keep her quiet and out of sight was in fact a material aid to his campaign, and as such should have been booked as campaign contributions, in which case of course it would have been pretty flagrantly illegal.

That's a different kettle of fish entirely, in my view, that will take some legal proving. Maybe you agree with the theory here, and maybe you don't. But to say "he's being investigating for misusing campaign funds" completely misrepresents what's going on here.

Full disclosure, in case you want to dismiss me as biased: I worked for Edwards's PAC and 2008 campaign in a technical role, as a contractor.
posted by rusty at 8:36 AM on June 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


I voted for that fucker in 2004 because I thought he was more electable than Kerry.

It's bad enough he cheated on his cancer-stricken wife, but he put the whole nation at risk by running for president. What if he'd won the nomination and then it came out during the general?

Oh and then he misused campaign funds.

/rant
posted by callmejay at 8:36 AM on June 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


(post-preview, I see I was wrong about "misused campaign funds." How about "Then he broke the law in a big way.")
posted by callmejay at 8:37 AM on June 3, 2011


Even so I hope he doesn't end up in jail or stripped of the ability to do positive work as a lawyer, because honestly what earthly benefit would that have for anyone?

The guy was an ambulance-chasing scumbag. The kind you see on the back of phone books or on billboards. He was admittedly good at what he did, but his biggest victories were won through showmanship and appeals to sentimentality rather than a commanding knowledge of law or facts. His verdicts were so problematic that the North Carolina legislature passed a bill specifically disallowing a particular type of award without more proof than he had in his case.

I think his subsequent misconduct--both financial and sexual--is simply indicative of the same attitude he seems to have brought to his practice of law: "I'm so charismatic and awesome that the rules don't really apply to me."
posted by valkyryn at 8:39 AM on June 3, 2011 [10 favorites]


If Americans weren't so fucking weird about the occasional peice on the side, then he could use his own money to support his own child.

That's true. However, Americans are fucking weird about the occasional piece on the side, and Edwards fucking knew it, and his decision was to break the law. So now he's being indicted for breaking the law. This is his fault, not American Puritanism's.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:42 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've never liked Edwards (he's always been the Smiler from Transmetropolitan)...
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:24 AM on June 3 [+] [!]


You would say that, wouldn't you?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:43 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


the occasional peice on the side

Man, I haven't heard anyone use the term "piece" since, like, Alabama in 1974. People used to say "piece of ass" or "piece of tail", which I always thought sounded truly ugly and vulgar. An extremely unappealing term.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:45 AM on June 3, 2011 [18 favorites]


My reading of this (admittedly sort of vague and hard to decipher) msnbc article is that the charge is not that he misused campaign funds, but that this $900k that his two rich friends paid directly to Hunter to keep her quiet and out of sight was in fact a material aid to his campaign

I think this kind of begs the question: the allegation is that these financial "gifts" which Edwards used to help cover up the scandal were in effect being used to help his campaign though they weren't declared as campaign contributions. Apparently, there's strong evidence Edwards' chief concern was spending the money to minimize the impact to his campaign--so in other words, he spent the money to support his campaign, but didn't declare it. So the charge would be that he did misuse campaign funds--or more accurately, tried to conceal campaign funding he was using. If you buy the government argument (and tentatively, I do), he knowingly concealed the collection and use of de facto campaign funds he tried to pass off as personal financial gifts.
"Edwards knew that public revelation of the affair and the pregnancy would destroy his candidacy by, among other things, undermining Edwards' presentation of himself as a family man and by forcing his campaign to divert personnel and resources away from other campaign activities to respond to criticism and media scrutiny regarding the affair and pregnancy," the indictment added.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:46 AM on June 3, 2011


not cool, arrogant and criminally stupid

Yeah, ortho, that about describes the majority of politicians when they get in to office and all the rest of them after six months.

I don't care who they screw, as long as their not screwing over all of us at the same time. I do care that they won't keep their long, hypocritical noses out of my bedroom, while at the same time crying Oops, just a minor slip. Now I'm born again! after they're caught with their rentboys/prostitutes/mistresses.

Americans think their government is the greatest in the world, so far above corruption and bribery. Whoo, democracy. Our 'elected' officials are bought and sold, folks. We call it lobbying or 'campaign donations.'

Edwards is no different than all the rest, he was just too stupid to cover his tracks.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:47 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Edwards is no different than all the rest, he was just too stupid to cover his tracks.

So, since he's been busted for misusing campaign funds specifically to "cover his tracks", evidently he should've spent more, and done it right!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:50 AM on June 3, 2011


The guy was an ambulance-chasing scumbag. The kind you see on the back of phone books or on billboards. He was admittedly good at what he did, but his biggest victories were won through showmanship and appeals to sentimentality rather than a commanding knowledge of law or facts.

This doesn't surprise me at all. I'm a cynical son-of-a-bitch and he had me completely fooled.

and arguably, more important questions about abuse of the public trust in the specific manner of engaging in improper sexual behavior

In principle I'm with Pinkmoose on this, perfectly legal sexual behavior is none of the public's business and has very little to do with the job of governing. The concept of "moral authority" is overused, I had rarely heard invoked prior to the Clinton fiasco.

The main issue here seems to be the misuse of campaign funds, but when there's soap-opera sex scandal details that's all that's going to be talked about.
posted by Hoopo at 8:55 AM on June 3, 2011


But his stupid inability to keep his libido under control kept the country from having a rational voice on helping the poor.

I see no reason for assuming that he would have been better at keeping his campaign promises than any other politician.

In fact, there's good reason to assume he would have been worse.
posted by Trurl at 8:57 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


but that this $900k that his two rich friends paid directly to Hunter to keep her quiet and out of sight was in fact a material aid to his campaign,

Shouldn't it generally be bad for people to pay expenses of a person running for office, especially at amounts far above the normal legal limits for contributions? Money a candidate doesn't have to spend is money they can spend on their own campaign and I think self-spending has no limits so it seems like a good loophole / workaround. It seems very similar to boosters paying for NCAA athletes' expenses rather than just paying them money directly.
posted by smackfu at 8:57 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


so our choice is womanizers/perverts on the left who care about the poor and middle class or womanizers/perverts/closet homosexuals on the right who only care about the rich and corporations. The problem I see is the sublimation of women in our society as a powerful political voice in the last 20 years. Where the fuck did all the feminists go? What ever happened to the League of Women voters? When I was young there were over a dozen powerful woman who could organize and strike fear into the heart of any conservative who dared crossed them on their issues. Today I couldn't name one.
posted by any major dude at 8:57 AM on June 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


Man, I haven't heard anyone use the term "piece" since, like, Alabama in 1974. People used to say "piece of ass" or "piece of tail", which I always thought sounded truly ugly and vulgar. An extremely unappealing term.

Agreed. Aside: My dad used to have a bumper sticker on his crappy pinto in the late 70s/early 80s that said: "Gas, Grass, or Ass--Nobody Rides for Free."


In principle I'm with Pinkmoose on this, perfectly legal sexual behavior is none of the public's business and has very little to do with the job of governing.

That's simply not true if you actively use the authority of your position to engage in the sexual behavior. For example, giving people appointments to cushy positions in return for sexual favors or discretion. That's an actual corruption of one's duties, directly related to sexual conduct. That kind of behavior--actually abusing the power of an office or position of trust to feed one's sexual appetites is a form of corruption that we shouldn't tolerate, anymore than we should tolerate the use of public trust to indulge in an expensive golfing addiction.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:59 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anybody willing to put themselves and their family through that gauntlet has issues, our current President included.

Wait, you're comparing Obama to John Edwards because they're both willing to undergo "the gauntlet" (of media scrutiny I guess?)?? "Anybody" is such a red flag generalization. I'd say the gauntlet is a necessary part of our current political system and that Obama passed the test whereas Edwards failed it in a big way. Not the same thing at all. In a democracy of 300 million people, should the mass media not investigate the lives of its leaders? What "issues" are you accusing Obama of having? Should we just not vote for any one since all politicians are scummy narcissists?
posted by mattbucher at 9:00 AM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


The guy was an ambulance-chasing scumbag.

Spare me the readings from the conservative playbook. I was never a political supporter of Edwards and I'm certainly no particular fan of him now but this unqualified characterization of his career comes out of purely partisan politics - and is usually tendered in the same breath as advocating tort reform - you know, where you eschew unpleasantries like "showmanship" and "charisma" and opt for the decorous and time-honored methods of paying off politicians to hobble the ability of individuals to seek legal remedies when they are harmed by the callous indifference of wealthy corporations.
posted by nanojath at 9:05 AM on June 3, 2011 [16 favorites]


That's simply not true if you actively use the authority of your position to engage in the sexual behavior

Did that happen here?
posted by Hoopo at 9:05 AM on June 3, 2011


(Having said all that, I somehow mistook the figure involved for a couple hundred thousand rather than over 900,000, which makes me... a lot less sympathetic to John Edwards' legal position at the moment...)
posted by nanojath at 9:07 AM on June 3, 2011


Will this indictment distract us from Weinergate?
posted by futz at 9:08 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Um, again, isn't this NOT because he "misused campaign funds", but that he used private gifts to keep a personal matter quiet that some people are saying helped his campaign and should have been declared?
posted by scrowdid at 9:10 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


saulgoodman: That's pretty much my understanding of the prosecution argument here, yes. And like I said, you can believe it or not. I can see how it's a coherent argument. I'm not sure it's clear cut or self-evidently correct though.

smackfu: "Shouldn't it generally be bad for people to pay expenses of a person running for office, especially at amounts far above the normal legal limits for contributions?... It seems very similar to boosters paying for NCAA athletes' expenses rather than just paying them money directly."

Kinda, yeah. I think that's the way they're approaching it. I'm not sure I buy that these were "Edwards's expenses" in such a direct way, though. I mean, let's play "what if." What if, instead of paying off his mistress, Edwards's rich friends had hired his wife to do some sort of nominal work for them, for the same amount of money? It would have made his life easier, helped him not worry about his family's income and get on with his campaign. Would that be an illegal campaign donation? You can keep pushing down that road, removing the tawdry mistress angle and just looking at what should or should not count as a campaign contribution. It's not clear to me that this should count.
posted by rusty at 9:14 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Um, again, isn't this NOT because he "misused campaign funds", but that he used private gifts to keep a personal matter quiet that some people are saying helped his campaign and should have been declared?

Yeah, that would seem to pretty much sum up the legal question here. They should have a trial or something to figure out which one it is. You show me another example of someone being "gifted" almost a million dollars by anyone who's not an immediate family member to "keep a personal matter quiet" with no ulterior motive and I will accept your characterization as the default interpretation of Edwards' situation.
posted by nanojath at 9:14 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think when the wife's gizinta is out of commission, the married American male politician is better off sugaring his own churro until after her funeral. I wonder what the Continental reaction would have been?

We're lucky Edwards did not get the nomination in 2008; Palin might be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office today instead of the national punchline.
posted by Renoroc at 9:16 AM on June 3, 2011


and is usually tendered in the same breath as advocating tort reform - you know, where you eschew unpleasantries like "showmanship" and "charisma" and opt for the decorous and time-honored methods of paying off politicians to hobble the ability of individuals to seek legal remedies when they are harmed by the callous indifference of wealthy corporations.

Please don't bring tort reform into this, the American concept of "legal remedies" can be problematic to people of all stripes
posted by Hoopo at 9:16 AM on June 3, 2011


sugaring his own churro

Best euphemism for masturbation ever. Please tell me you made that up yourself.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:19 AM on June 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


Please don't bring tort reform into this...

The phrase "ambulance-chasing scumbag" has already brought tort reform into it. That's what that phrase is for. That's what it means.
posted by rusty at 9:20 AM on June 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


@flapjax: I have to give credit to Milhouse van Houten for that gem, after Lisa Simpson rejects him yet again. Sorry...
posted by Renoroc at 9:24 AM on June 3, 2011


Finally... can we indict some of the assholes that destroyed our economy and messed up millions of peoples' lives now?

No.
posted by homunculus at 9:25 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


The phrase "ambulance-chasing scumbag" has already brought tort reform into it.

Err, no it doesn't. You don't have to be pro- tort reform to acknowledge the existence of parasitic scumbag injury lawyers.
posted by Hoopo at 9:28 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it was a rhetorical question homunculus. A depressed, cynical, rhetorical question. Ugh I think I better go look at some pictures of kittens or something.
posted by nanojath at 9:29 AM on June 3, 2011


Former U.S. Presidential candidate John Edwards, the Democratic Party's nominee for Vice-President in 2004, has been indicted on felony charges stemming from illegal use of campaign contributions to hide his affair with film producer Rielle Hunter, with whom he belatedly admitted fathering a child while his wife suffered from an ultimately terminal recurrence of breast cancer.

This sentence needs an alleged in there. His lawyers say non-campaign money was being used.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:32 AM on June 3, 2011


Hoopo: I would respectfully disagree. But regardless of whether it is theoretically possible to consider the phrase "parasitic scumbag injury lawyers" meaningful without inherently taking a stand on tort reform, in this particular case, for this particular politically high-profile individual, calling him an ambulance-chaser is part of an overall rhetorical frame that was created, repeated, and intended to advocate tort reform which was a big Republican priority during that 2008 campaign.

So, to call John Edwards in particular an ambulance chasing scumbag is to pull in the set of talking points that existed and continue to exist around that phrase, whether you intend to or not, in approximately the same way, for example, that using the phrase "the chickens are coming home to roost" dragged the writings of Malcolm X into the conversation when Jeremiah Wright used it in a sermon. You get to choose your words, but you don't always get to choose the connotations of your words.
posted by rusty at 9:39 AM on June 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


Edwards fortune was built on gigantic jury awards for cases in which children were born with conditions like Cerebral Palsy, and Edwards argued that the delivering oB should have performed a Caesarean.

Clearly, when child will require expensive care for all its life, we want someone to pay for it.

What's not clear is that it's necessarily the doctor's fault, or that a Caesarean would have prevented the CP.

And if we had something like Single Payer this would be much less of an issue, because we could fund the child's care without an adversarial process.

The consequence of Edwards's litigation is that many many more women are given Caesareans that often aren't necessary, as doctors practice defensive medicine. This increases the cost of medicine, and results in worse outcomes for most women delivered and their babies, in order to possibly prevent some cases of CP.
posted by orthogonality at 9:40 AM on June 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


Err, no it doesn't. You don't have to be pro- tort reform to acknowledge the existence of parasitic scumbag injury

you are doing the work of the insurance companies, sir.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:42 AM on June 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


I see no reason for assuming that he would have been better at keeping his campaign promises than any other politician.

No, but him simply being there meant that his platforms on helping the poor were part of the conversation, once he dropped out, no one else picked up those talking points.

Just having him there forced the discussion to address the issue, or at the very least, give it some publicity, and once he was gone, there was no politically expedient reason for anyone else to take up his old cause.
posted by quin at 9:46 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


WHERE'S YOUR PRECIOUS MILL NOW, EDWARDS?
posted by Afroblanco at 9:46 AM on June 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


Hoopo: I would respectfully disagree. But regardless of whether it is theoretically possible to consider the phrase "parasitic scumbag injury lawyers" meaningful without inherently taking a stand on tort reform, in this particular case, for this particular politically high-profile individual, calling him an ambulance-chaser is part of an overall rhetorical frame that was created, repeated, and intended to advocate tort reform which was a big Republican priority during that 2008 campaign.

See above for an object lesson in partisanship, and how it debases language and free thought. By this logic, I suppose we shouldn't call out the occasional corrupt union boss or sleazy abortion doctor... but feel free to draw attention to hypocritical religious leaders and greedy wall street bankers.
posted by BobbyVan at 10:05 AM on June 3, 2011


His full name is Johnny?
posted by torticat at 10:10 AM on June 3, 2011


BobbyVan: My point is that these pat phrases are all part of a political frame. "Sleazy abortion doctor," "greedy Wall Street banker," "corrupt union boss" (or really just "union boss" which carries the ghost of "corrupt" without even needing it to be present). And on and on. I was unpacking the context and political connotations of "parasitic personal injury lawyer" in particular. You could do the same with any of the phrases you mention, and many more besides. It's a worthwhile thing to do whenever you find yourself reaching for a pat phrase like that.
posted by rusty at 10:11 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Whenever I hear "John Edwards", I always assume "John Edward".

I'm not sure I like what that says about me.
posted by dendritejungle at 10:14 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think his subsequent misconduct--both financial and sexual--is simply indicative of the same attitude he seems to have brought to his practice of law: "I'm so charismatic and awesome that the rules don't really apply to me."

Seems to have worked fine as a lifelong coping strategy for George W. Bush.
posted by blucevalo at 10:16 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


The consequence of Edwards's litigation is that many many more women are given Caesareans that often aren't necessary, as doctors practice defensive medicine. This increases the cost of medicine, and results in worse outcomes for most women delivered and their babies, in order to possibly prevent some cases of CP.


Woah, woah, woah. You are going to have to cite your sources here. I'm going to give birth in the next few months and I have been researching the fuck out of this topic (including immersing myself in anti-c-section activism) and there is nothing clear-cut about the rising C-section rate in the US, by any means.

I think you are really parroting some odd talking points here.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:16 AM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, most women and their babies? Most women don't get C-sections.

I think you have no clue what you're talking about, orthogonality.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:17 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


rusty, my answer to that would be to ask: what's a less politically fraught way to describe an "ambulance chasing parasitic personal injury lawyer"? and if you can think of one, are you incidentally neutering your language in the process (and protecting john edwards from deserved criticism in the process)?
posted by BobbyVan at 10:21 AM on June 3, 2011


also, most women and their babies? Most women don't get C-sections.

If you read the sentence, which you abridged, in context it clearly means "most women delivered [by c-section] and their babies."

Your responses read as knee-jerk.
posted by OmieWise at 10:25 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seems to have worked fine as a lifelong coping strategy for George W. Bush.

I'm hoping "no worse than Bush" isn't the new standard we hold politicians to.
posted by kmz at 10:26 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


BobbyVan: Well, you could use the phrase that the people who do that job use, and say that he's a trial lawyer. Even "personal injury lawyer" is more descriptive than pejorative. Surely you can see that "ambulance chasing" and "parasitic" are not strictly descriptive, nor are they neutral little flourishes of language, right? You could consider it neutering your language, or you could consider it saying what you intend to say, rather than unwittingly passing along a load of politics in what you meant to be a limited and neutral statement.

I don't for a second question your or anyone's right to criticize John Edwards or personal injury lawyers in general. This all started with Hoopo saying that calling personal injury lawyers parasitic scumbags did not mean you were expressing a position on torts in America. I was just pointing out why I disagreed with that -- that the negative critique embedded in "parasitic scumbag personal injury lawyer" all by itself conveys the position that we should stop these parasitic scumbags from practicing their parasitic scumbaggery. Which is a statement about tort reform.

I'm not saying we should all be nicey-nice and P.C. in our language. I'm just saying that you don't get to use political language and then deny that it means what it means when someone points out what it means.
posted by rusty at 10:30 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


He had amassed a pretty serious pile of money, always struck me as slimy and stupid for not using his own resources to deal with the issue.
posted by ambient2 at 10:32 AM on June 3, 2011


If you read the sentence, which you abridged, in context it clearly means "most women delivered [by c-section] and their babies."


Fair enough, and apologies for that, orthogonality.

I'm still madly curious about the John Edwards --> increased C-sections thing being treated as obvious because it is very, very much not obvious. Obstetric care in the US is tangled, messy, and complicated, and it's easy to blame lawyers but it's not very thoughtful.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:32 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


BobbyVan: rusty, my answer to that would be to ask: what's a less politically fraught way to describe an "ambulance chasing parasitic personal injury lawyer"?

A nice handsome family man whose father who slaved away at a cotton mill?

The Democratic Party (and the media) is furious at Edwards because it doesn't want to admit that the imprint that he left on the party's direction, whatever his moral failings, was substantive and real. I can remember lo the many threads here that waxed frothingly rhapsodic over his populist ire in 2004 and 2008 -- the same man that many in this thread are now vilifying as no better than a Southern version of Lionel Hutz now that he's turned out to have clay feet (but you always knew that he was an ambulance-chasing sleazebucket, even when you were singing his praises!). Same with the media, who loved this man to death when he was the crusading hero with the brave wife and the shining backstory, complete with frolicking puppydogs on North Carolina lawns and the tragic death of a 16-year-old son in an auto accident.

kmz: I'm hoping "no worse than Bush" isn't the new standard we hold politicians to.

It sure worked enough as a "new standard" to get him re-elected by "us" over the pious Democratic warrior-scholar-activist John Kerry and for him to be the president for 8 years. If hopes of happy unicorns were enough, maybe Dennis Kucinich would be president instead of scrambling to get re-elected in a district in which he's never lived, right?
posted by blucevalo at 10:39 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Rusty, I appreciate your digging into this with me. I think where you go wrong is when you presume that by calling one person a "parasitic scumbag personal injury lawyer" one is also conveying "the position that we should stop these parasitic scumbags from practicing their parasitic scumbaggery. Which is a statement about tort reform."

Perhaps. Or maybe it's just a statement about one scumbag. And maybe by shaming that scumbag, and others like him, the entire profession of plaintiffs lawyers won't be tarred with the same brush (which, ironically, is a conclusion that could be drawn by calling Edwards a simple "trial lawyer").
posted by BobbyVan at 10:40 AM on June 3, 2011


this unqualified characterization of his career comes out of purely partisan politics

Bullshit. Whether or not I'm a conservative, I am a defense attorney. Going up against dipshits like Edwards is my daily bread. It's hardly "unqualified." The vast majority of cases I see are complete and utter garbage, and most of the attorneys I go up against are doing plaintiff's side tort litigation because they weren't good enough to get jobs doing corporate or defense work.

And I don't give two shits about tort reform.

Why? Here's the thing. The plaintiff's bar doesn't want tort reform, because if tort reform is passed, they don't get the big verdicts that buy their Porches and summer homes. Insurance companies and corporations want tort reform, because passing it limits their liability.

But the defense bar is in a weird position. Our clients really want it, but we... don't necessarily. We make our living on litigation. If plaintiff attorneys file fewer cases, we bill fewer hours. Heck, Indiana's passage of some medical malpractice tort reform is making it a lot harder for me to break into that practice area. So we really don't talk about it all that much. We don't want to advocate against it, because that would royally piss off our clients, but we don't really want to advocate for it either.

Just because you've got a partisan hammer doesn't make me a nail.
posted by valkyryn at 10:53 AM on June 3, 2011 [8 favorites]


COD: Like there is a single person that has run for President in the last 20+ years that wasn't a completely self-centered, narcissistic, maniac?

Absolutely.

This kind of thinking is cynical hope-kill. Saying stuff like this accomplishes nothing but to discourage people from participating in the political process. And unless you're advocating a shift to some form of governance that involves no political process, that's not a viable path for this country (or any other).
posted by lodurr at 10:56 AM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


So, valkyryn, you're saying that you're glad we have "ambulance chasing scumbags," and you hope they keep on with what they do? What does that make you?
posted by rusty at 10:57 AM on June 3, 2011


What does that make you?

A working stiff with a conflict of interest?
posted by valkyryn at 10:59 AM on June 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


So in reading more about the big malpractice cases Edwards won, I'm struck that some of them were about failure to moderate or reduce pitocin despite the resultant fetal distress. Certainly his legislation hasn't kept doctors from inducing labor with pitocin or leaving dosage, administration, and fetal monitoring up to unsupervised nurses (something I've heard again and again).

Perhaps doctors are using c-sections because they want to keep giving pitocin irresponsibly/unnecessarily.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:59 AM on June 3, 2011


More seriously, I think that plaintiff's attorneys in general are a negative influence on our society and that society as a whole would be better off with fewer guys like Edwards.

That being said, I know which side my bread is buttered on.
posted by valkyryn at 11:01 AM on June 3, 2011


valkyryn: Ok, which is all fair enough. And "society as a whole would be better off with fewer guys like Edwards" is, I'm saying, a statement that is favorable to tort reform. Imagine I'm your buddy who doesn't know anything about personal injury law. and I've heard you say lots of times that plaintiff's attorneys like this guy are scumbags and parasites. And then I hear someone give a speech about tort reform, and say how it'll put ambulance chasing plaintiff's attorneys out of business at last. Aren't I going to recall what you've said, and think "hey now! That's something I can get behind."

I'm not saying you support tort reform. It's clearly a complicated situation. I'm saying that the description of Edwards conveys a support for tort reform, and is therefore political regardless of your personal opinion or intent.
posted by rusty at 11:10 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


you are doing the work of the insurance companies, sir.

I do indeed do work of insurance companies. The one I work for is a quasi-governmental self-insurance pool rather than a big mutual, and I never wanted to be here, but we all gotta pay the bills. I am and have been quite a vocal critic (even at work) about practices common in my industry.

I know that there are plenty of valid claims and plenty of lawyers who do good work. What I am referring to are the kinds of trolls I see on TV encouraging people to sue over any number of minor symptoms that may or may not be related to something that happened years ago. Apparently acknowledging this happens means I agree with Republican tort reform policies even though I'm not even American. I live in a country with universal healthcare. Frivolous lawsuits can be detrimental to the viability of our healthcare system that your Republicans call "socialist" and we hold dear.

that the negative critique embedded in "parasitic scumbag personal injury lawyer" all by itself conveys the position that we should stop these parasitic scumbags from practicing their parasitic scumbaggery. Which is a statement about tort reform.

You are telling me what I think. I do not claim to have a solution for the problems with an increasingly litigious society. I don't think caps on rewards is the way to go about reforms. I also do not believe all injury lawyers are inherently scumbags. I am, however, frustrated by people who I perceive to be trying to make a quick buck though litigation, knowing that many companies will settle instead of going to court to defend against frivolous lawsuits. I was frustrated by this long before I ever got involved in insurance. In Canada we used to hear about stuff like the McDonald's hot coffee settlement and laugh at the crazy people in the USA. As people become less and less willing to accept responsibility for their actions, it's not so funny anymore.
posted by Hoopo at 11:11 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


In principle I'm with Pinkmoose on this, perfectly legal sexual behavior is none of the public's business and has very little to do with the job of governing. The concept of "moral authority" is overused, I had rarely heard invoked prior to the Clinton fiasco.

The main issue here seems to be the misuse of campaign funds, but when there's soap-opera sex scandal details that's all that's going to be talked about.
posted by Hoopo at 11:55 AM on June 3


Let me explain something because there appears to be some confusion about this despite it being glaringly obvious. The reason Clinton's consensual sex with Lewinsky become such a "fiasco" is because he first, lied to the public about their relationship, then he lied under oath. That latter one was a choice he made, separate from the choice to have sexual contact with her. They arose out of the same facts, but they were two different choices made at two different times.

This is the same thing. Edwards chose to have an affair, and yes, he chose to father a child. Then he chose to cover it up, rather than be honest about it. Then he chose to take money from other people to help cover it up. Then he chose to handle the funds not just improperly but illegally so that the funds and their source would be hidden.

In both cases, the men made choices to cover-up the underlying and in your opinion vaunted consensual sex. The reason they tried to cover it up is because, TA-DAA, they believed themselves that they would be punished for it if they got caught. This isn't some bizarre value system the religious right is imposing after the fact, it is a ex ante set of rules that these men themselves were completely aware of and was the prime factor motivating their subversion.

Either one of these men could have stood their ground and said, "Yes, I cheated on my wife, and I did so because...." Neither did that.

One more thing: their personal conduct is all that matter. It's not a secondary consideration or something to round out the picture. Every single one of these politicians is grossly incompetent when it comes to the actual job-managing the country's finances, foreign affairs, etc. Every single one we have elected in recent memory from either party has arrived in the white house and promptly shit the metaphorical bed. We don't elect them based on their competency because no one running has any, and we all know that.

They get elected because they package themselves as celebrities. The personal histories, their beliefs, their wives and families they parade in front of the cameras. The function of a celebrity in modern culture is to collapse the massive national scale culture of politics, TV, and mass media all the way down to the individual scale. "All politics is local." WRONG. Not anymore. All politics is personal. The level of mass scale to the level of one and nowhere in between.

The celebrity is the individual person who lives on that national scale and who shares the intimate details of their personal lives with the world so that you the individual can know about them and unconsciously come to believe that you know the celebrity personally.

The candidate is simply another form of celebrity. You need to know about them so you think you can trust them so you'll vote for them. Because no one has any fucking clue anymore about how to make a judgment about anything. So it's all about trust and likability and the political equivalent of Hollywood Q points. This is their whole life, these are the people around them, this is the food they eat, the shows they like, the sports they follow, boxers or briefs, and the rest. And yet, just like it is essential to the celebrity existence of Jennifer Aniston that we get constant updates about who she went on a date with where, it is essential for us to know the upstanding sexual attitudes of any candidate if we are going to trust them enough to be our national daddy. And when we learn that they are not as upstanding as we thought, then it's schaudenfreude time.

So of course we judge them on this nonsense. We sure as hell aren't judging them on anything else.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:11 AM on June 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


We'd have fewer guys like Edwards if we had more robust regulation and enforcement.

Even then, he did things like finally punish the huge company that was selling drain traps that suck out people's intestines, knowing how unsafe they were and paying out piddling little settlements after lives were destroyed by their product. Who else was helping them? Defense attorneys?

(I admit to being biased with two parents who made a living constantly suing a local meat-packing plant that went through its largely powerless workers' bodies like they were tissue paper. Where was OSHA? What great benefit to society was provided by the lawyers who defended those callous fucks and their insurance companies?)
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:14 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


In Canada we used to hear about stuff like the McDonald's hot coffee settlement and laugh at the crazy people in the USA.

McDonald's deserved to lose every penny of that judgment. Unless of course you think it's perfectly safe to serve coffee that causes 3rd degree burns that require skin grafts and more than a week in a hospital for treatment (here's a hint--it's not safe, and it's not okay even if it saves your company money).

I'd also like to see some form of evidence that Canada is "increasingly litigious" and I wonder why Canadian judges don't simply throw out frivolous lawsuits. Surely that is their job?
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:19 AM on June 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm saying that the description of Edwards conveys a support for tort reform, and is therefore political regardless of your personal opinion or intent.

Again, you can take your partisan hammer and shove it. You're the one who brought up tort reform, not me, and you're the one who called me "unqualified". Being neither "unqualified" nor having an uncomplicated position on the subject, I decline to submit to your categories. You can think whatever the hell you want, but just because you can interpret what I say according to whatever rubric you like doesn't mean I have to think it's reasonable.
posted by valkyryn at 11:19 AM on June 3, 2011


Either one of these men could have stood their ground and said, "Yes, I cheated on my wife, and I did so because...." Neither did that.

What I'm saying is that they shouldn't have to explain that to you or I. I really don't know what to say about your comments about celebrity; I don't read The Superficial either because I similarly don't give a damn about what the people who act in movies I watch do in their spare time.
posted by Hoopo at 11:20 AM on June 3, 2011


Every single one we have elected in recent memory from either party has arrived in the white house and promptly shit the metaphorical bed. We don't elect them based on their competency because no one running has any, and we all know that.

I don't know that. I don't know either of those things to be true.

I do know that assuming them to be true would be a great way to make me feel like I had no responsibility for participating in solutions.
posted by lodurr at 11:20 AM on June 3, 2011


Hoopo: You are telling me what I think.

No, precisely the opposite. I'm teling you what you're saying. I don't think it actually is what you think. If it were, there wouldn't be such a debate going on here. I believe that you don't actually have any firm grasp on what personal injury law and torts are like in the US, and that you don't really know what you're expressing by using the phrases you're using, which is why I took the trouble to explain it. And referencing "the McDonald's hot coffee settlement" as evidence of "the crazy people in the USA" is pretty much the last bit of evidence needed. I'd urge you to look up the details of that case, if you never have. It's interesting reading.

"I am, however, frustrated by people who I perceive to be trying to make a quick buck though litigation, knowing that many companies will settle instead of going to court to defend against frivolous lawsuits."

Edwards is most famous for several cases where he won truly enormous monetary awards by going to trial and arguing the case before a jury. He may have made most of his money in settlements, I don't know. But he's a national symbol of "trial lawyer" because he famously went to trial and won. So, again, why does Edwards stand, in your mind, for the kind of lawyer who does not go to trial?

-----

valkyryn: I'm sorry we're failing to connect here. I'll let it go. I hope this conversation was interesting for others reading it.
posted by rusty at 11:23 AM on June 3, 2011


McDonald's deserved to lose every penny of that judgment.

I was sitting in the cafeteria at Kodak headquarters one day about 14 years ago and overheard a conversation between two Kodak lawyers. One was in litigation support, apparently. He was explaining this suit to the other, and saying pretty much what you've just said: In the public mind, it's a totally different suit from the one that you know about if you're an attorney studying the case.
posted by lodurr at 11:25 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


What great benefit to society was provided by the lawyers who defended those callous fucks and their insurance companies?

Those sorts of cases represent a tiny minority of tort cases. The vast majority really are motor vehicle accidents, slip-and-falls, and the like. The vast majority of defendants aren't manufacturers or even major corporations, they're private individuals, restaurants, grocery stores, etc.

And the benefit to society is procedural fairness. Even if a plaintiff objectively does deserve a particular award, there is a benefit to society--Due Process--in making them prove every element of their claim. Otherwise anyone could just claim an injury, name their award, and be done with it.

It's the same benefit provided by criminal defense attorneys: making the prosecution prove its case. Criminal defense attorneys defend people they know are guilty all the time, but there is a benefit to society as a whole, not just the people involved in the case, in making sure that every time the prosecution wins they have the evidence they need.
posted by valkyryn at 11:27 AM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


In the public mind, it's a totally different suit from the one that you know about if you're an attorney studying the case.

Very true. If I remember correctly, the plaintiff had originally tried to settle with them for $800 to cover medical expenses, and they refused that and many other offers to settle. She'd never filed suit before in her 80+ years. Not exactly someone out looking to milk the system for all its' worth, but that's how it was portrayed.

An enormous PR coup for tort-reform proponents in the most ridiculous way.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:36 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


And the benefit to society is procedural fairness.

Indeed, and a decent case could be made for a public defender system for civil suits as well as criminal prosecutions.

Certainly plantiffs' attorneys are just as necessary to the system and it's odd to argue for the benefit of one without the other, as though plantiffs can easily pop into court without knowing anything about the system and sue someone without representation. Especially when we're discussing attorneys who specialize in suing large corporations and insurance companies--which is generally when we start talking about tort reform "parasitic ambulance chasing scumbags" etc like John Edwards. Because like it or not, tort reform isn't about your average grocery store small business owner, it's about insurance companies looking to shift blame from their billion dollar profits and corporations like McDonald's who want to operate completely free from both regulation and liability.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:43 AM on June 3, 2011


I do not claim to have a solution for the problems with an increasingly litigious society.

Part of the reason, I suspect, that the US seems like such an increasingly litigious society is that waves of deregulation and government down-sizing since the 80s have left many Americans in adverse circumstances with no recourse but to litigate.

Now, I know for a fact there are some people out there who deliberately exploit the civil court system for personal gain; but I also know for a fact that, in many cases, the courts have taken the position that a private citizen's only recourse under the law is to sue for some judicial remedy, in the absence of specific legal remedies for particular commercial or other abusive practices. The way we make and enforce law in the US, IMO, may be partly to blame for any growth in litigation.

On the other hand, it's also not entirely clear there has been any growth in personal injury claims in the US, despite all the uproar from Republican quarters.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:46 AM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


occasional corrupt union boss or sleazy abortion doctor...

name a current example of these two stereotypes you so calmly toss out.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:53 AM on June 3, 2011


No, precisely the opposite. I'm teling you what you're saying.

That's not your job.


And referencing "the McDonald's hot coffee settlement" as evidence of "the crazy people in the USA" is pretty much the last bit of evidence needed.


It was a bad example but it's one of the most high profile, and I'm sorry for bringing it up. What I find crazy about it was that the jury awarded her millions. That's what seemed like a reasonable award to an American jury. Even the judge agreed that was too much.

you don't really know what you're expressing by using the phrases you're using

That's pretty condescending.

First off, "tort reform" has a broader meaning than what it means to Americans, or what Republicans advocate. You have been called on this repeatedly for putting this in a partisan context.

Second, I didn't bring up tort reform, you did. It is not a necessary part of a discussion about John Edwards.

Third, I'm not the one that called Edwards an ambulance chaser. I replied to Valkyryn's comment that it didn't surprise me. It was an allegation that I had never heard before, and the reason it didn't surprise me is because he was a very, very convincing "good guy" and this scandal seemed so completely out of character based on my impression of him that in retrospect I could see him selling just about any line to anyone. Being a really convincing at portraying yourself as a strong values good guy would be a huge asset to a trial lawyer.


On the other hand, it's also not entirely clear there has been any growth in personal injury claims in the US, despite all the uproar from Republican quarters.


I really wouldn't know, I'm not involved once things go to court. Basically I go with what my clients are telling me, and they say they're getting more and more claims. I know that won't satisfy anyone here in terms of evidence, and frankly I haven't been in my position long enough to verify their statements myself. I'm certainly open to the idea that litigation may even be decreasing.

The key phrase in your link for me is this: Civil trials are not clogging the courts; the vast majority of tort cases are resolved by neither juries nor judges.

A lot of these never go to court, or merely involve strongly worded letters form lawyers. Insurance companies don't like going to court, it's costly, and God knows they don't like spending money. They get challenged and they'll often offer a settlement whether the claim has merit or not, because they think it will be cheaper than fighting it.
posted by Hoopo at 12:07 PM on June 3, 2011


a decent case could be made for a public defender system for civil suits as well as criminal prosecutions.

That's an interesting point, actually, but there's a lot less interest for a couple of reasons.

First, most tort defendants have access to counsel, because defense is provided by insurance companies. As the context in which most people are likely to get sued is as a result of a motor vehicle accident, the vast majority of defendants are going to be represented. The ones who don't have insurance aren't going to have any money either, so plaintiffs' attorneys don't spend much time trying to sue them.

Second, the other big civil context is family law. If there's money involved, both parties need a lawyer, but they can afford it. If there isn't, lawyers are lot less important, because the likelihood of getting screwed is a lot lower. A couple with no assets and no kids doesn't even really need a lawyer to get divorced. Kids admittedly make things more difficult, but there is provision for publicly-funded guardians ad litem in many states.

The one place where there might be some injustice here is when people need help dealing with governmental administrative agencies like Social Security or Medicaid. These are byzantine organizations with regulations even most lawyers find daunting. But providing free lawyers to anyone that needs them would inundate these agencies with frivolous claims. Most of the claims they deal with already are bogus, so letting these people lawyer up for free isn't going to help anything.

So yeah, there's really not much incentive for such a program.
posted by valkyryn at 12:12 PM on June 3, 2011


Civil trials are not clogging the courts; the vast majority of tort cases are resolved by neither juries nor judges.

Civil trials may not be, but civil litigation certainly is. Just because the case never makes it to trial doesn't mean that we don't take up a huge amount of judicial resources. Trust me, this is what I do every damn day.
posted by valkyryn at 12:12 PM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


What I find crazy about it was that the jury awarded her millions. That's what seemed like a reasonable award to an American jury. Even the judge agreed that was too much.

The problem here is that awards can and in the current system arguably have to be to some extent punitive because otherwise, any given ruling on an abusive practice won't have any meaningful impact on the offender.

For example, suppose in the McDonald's case, the award had been only the $800 the plaintiff originally asked for. Well, since the court system is in many cases the only enforcement mechanism in such cases, slapping a small $800 penalty on them isn't going to meaningfully influence them to change the business practice(s) that got them into court in the first place. The civil courts do a kind of double duty in the US: often it's the only enforcement mechanism available. So when some company engages in practices that are clearly illegal under civil law, but the law doesn't provide any mechanism for enforcing the law or discouraging the abuse, then the courts have to make rulings involving large cash penalties to punish the behavior in a meaningful way.

An $800 court ruling against them isn't even going to get McDonald's attention, though it might remedy a grievance in a particular case. The large awards are a feature not a bug of the court system, and the less our other regulatory systems actually effectively regulate and punish abusive practices, the more frequent and larger the awards would tend to be.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:21 PM on June 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


Who's gonna get crackin' on a Scumbag John meme?
posted by symbioid at 12:25 PM on June 3, 2011


Civil trials are not clogging the courts; the vast majority of tort cases are resolved by neither juries nor judges.

Civil trials may not be, but civil litigation certainly is. Just because the case never makes it to trial doesn't mean that we don't take up a huge amount of judicial resources. Trust me, this is what I do every damn day.


The answer is, of course, more courts, not less justice.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:32 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


[ironmouth]: name a current example of these two stereotypes [...occasional corrupt union boss or sleazy abortion doctor...] you so calmly toss out.

[me] links above aside, you miss my point entirely. i wasn't making blanket statements about either of those professions. quite the contrary. i was suggesting that one should be able to identify people who fit those descriptions as such without hitting political tripwires. but apparently you can't even speak about those concepts in hypothetical terms without raising hackles.

to reiterate, calling a particular abortion doctor "sleazy" doesn't necessarily make one anti-abortion. calling a particular union leader "corrupt" does not mean that you don't believe workers should have the right to organize and collectively bargain. and calling john edwards an ambulance chasing scumbag doesn't mean you support tort reform. those are separate conversations.
posted by BobbyVan at 12:33 PM on June 3, 2011


Civil trials may not be, but civil litigation certainly is. Just because the case never makes it to trial doesn't mean that we don't take up a huge amount of judicial resources. Trust me, this is what I do every damn day.

Me too, valkyryn, but I'm still fairly new at it.

saulgoodman, I think the initial proposal for settlement was for $20000, not $800. Also McDonald's had already settled a number of hot coffee burn cases for up to $500,000 prior to this one (problematic detail in itself). They wound up settling for $640,000, and I'm not certain if the additional $140,000 has much more deterrent value than $500,000 in any event.

This was a bad example for me to bring up for a number of reasons and I'm sorry for doing so. For one, it's not really debatable whether McDonald's was selling coffee that was way too hot, and knew of the problem. This says to me they should definitely be on the hook for some part of her medical bills. What they didn't do is spill the coffee on her. This muddies the water for me somewhat because I'm simply not the type to look at situations like these when they happen to me and think "lawsuit."
posted by Hoopo at 12:33 PM on June 3, 2011


corporations can't go to jail, and they're too big to be influenced by a single non-punitive ruling. So you've got to find a way to influence them.

Tort reform makes me a bit mental, frankly. I'm as opposed to frivolous lawsuits as the next guy, but damage caps take away what's pretty much the last means of influence that ordinary people have over the behavior of corporations. Follow the money: Who's paying to push the tort reform agenda? Corporations that get sued, of course.

Scumbag trial lawyers are a side effect of the system, not the primary feature. I don't know how to fix that, but I've been interested to read the several posting here talking about how it works in practice.
posted by lodurr at 12:35 PM on June 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm simply not the type to look at situations like these when they happen to me and think "lawsuit."

Unfortunately though, in the US, someone has to think lawsuit, or widespread illegal practices will simply go unpunished across the board, because we basically use our civil court system to regulate business practices in the absence of strong regulatory entities (which are extremely hard to put in place and maintain in the US, as the political challenges the fledgling Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has faced before even getting off the ground amply demonstrate).
posted by saulgoodman at 12:40 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


The answer is, of course, more courts, not less justice.

Settling out of court is not a lack of justice
posted by Hoopo at 12:45 PM on June 3, 2011


Settling out of court is not a lack of justice

It can be. If you're required to go to arbitration, for example, or if simply don't have adequate counsel.
posted by lodurr at 12:50 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is really getting off track. Why is arbitration unjust? Are courts unable of making an unfair verdict? Can someone not have inadequate counsel in court? What am I even talking about now?
posted by Hoopo at 12:55 PM on June 3, 2011


Arbitration's not inherently unjust. It just often is. Often you have no choice, and in those cases, arbitration does tend to favor corporate entities over individuals.
posted by lodurr at 1:06 PM on June 3, 2011


For one, it's not really debatable whether McDonald's was selling coffee that was way too hot, and knew of the problem. This says to me they should definitely be on the hook for some part of her medical bills. What they didn't do is spill the coffee on her.

That's why she was considered to be liable for 20% of the actual damages.

I should also apologize for bringing the $800 into this, it was my faulty memory. I believe that's what McDonald's offered initially, whereas she was asking for the actual cost of her skin grafts, hospital stay, and ongoing medical care (which was much more than $800, as you can imagine).
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:07 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well I'm glad I never chose that douchebag.

Of all the candidates and potential candidates for 2008...Obama is the least likely to beat/cheat on his fam, right?

Maybe I should use this as a criteria since douchebags are sometimes hard to spot.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:11 PM on June 3, 2011


the young rope-rider: "Wait, a sex tape?!!!

Oh my.
"

Am I the only one who can't read "oh my" anymore without hearing it in George Takei's voice?
posted by symbioid at 2:11 PM on June 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


and calling john edwards an ambulance chasing scumbag doesn't mean you support tort reform. those are separate conversations.

But what part of his trial lawyering was sleazy? You see what I'm getting at? You're referring to stereotypes. Edwards has not been accused of being a sleazy trial lawyer. He's accused of cheating on his wife and then using funds which the government said should have been considered campaign donations to pay for the upkeep of his mistress and love child and committing a conspiracy to do it.

His "trial lawyering" has nothing to do with it.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:20 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


For one, it's not really debatable whether McDonald's was selling coffee that was way too hot, and knew of the problem. This says to me they should definitely be on the hook for some part of her medical bills. What they didn't do is spill the coffee on her.

That's why she was considered to be liable for 20% of the actual damages.


Comparative liability. Her negligence also contributed to the problem. Say you had a car, uh, a Ford Pinto. Now say, uh, it had a bad gas tank that blew up when the rear of the car suffered an impact. Now say a guy negligently backs into a telephone pole. He's partially responsible, but most of the time you just replace a fender, not need skin grafts from being burned in your car when the gas tank explodes.

Note, this does not apply in DC, Maryland or Virginia, where if you are at all responsible you do not collect.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:32 PM on June 3, 2011


The answer is, of course, more courts, not less justice.

Settling out of court is not a lack of justice


Agreed, 100%. But the "tort reformers" are arguing the "courts are clogged" so we need to take away people's god-given right to seek redress. I say open more courts. What? You say it costs more in taxes? I say that the unassailable fact is that taxes are lower on the rich than they have been in many, many decades--lower than in Reagan's time, even. So raises taxes on the rich and get more courts.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:39 PM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


We call it "contributory negligence" up here, and I'm a lot more sympathetic to your Pinto example anyways. No one expects an explosion for backing into things, it's not a reasonable outcome to anticipate as a result of a minor collision. Hot coffee burns though, so beyond the seemingly arbitrary "2 days of McDonald's coffee revenues on top of 80% damages" rewarded, 20% responsibility seems low to me for spilling coffee on yourself. In any event, they should have given her the medical expenses and saved themselves the trouble. They'd given people more than she was asking before.

But the "tort reformers" are arguing the "courts are clogged" so we need to take away people's god-given right to seek redress. I say open more courts.

I agree with you, and it's why I was not pleased to have been lumped in with Republican tort reformers because of an opinion derived from my day-to-day experience with claims of sometimes questionable merit.
posted by Hoopo at 3:05 PM on June 3, 2011


Wake me when we start indicting investment bankers.
posted by Work to Live at 3:31 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


We call it "contributory negligence" up here, and I'm a lot more sympathetic to your Pinto example anyways. No one expects an explosion for backing into things, it's not a reasonable outcome to anticipate as a result of a minor collision. Hot coffee burns though, so beyond the seemingly arbitrary "2 days of McDonald's coffee revenues on top of 80% damages" rewarded, 20% responsibility seems low to me for spilling coffee on yourself. In any event, they should have given her the medical expenses and saved themselves the trouble. They'd given people more than she was asking before.

In the US it is comparative negligence where the plaintiff and defendant split the damages according to the amount each are negligent, and contributory negligence when the plaintiff cannot collect at all when he or she has also been negligent. I'm licensed in D.C. and Maryland, two of the three jurisdictions that still stick to contributory negligence.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:09 PM on June 3, 2011


About the coffee case - it does not seem so straightforward to me. Some customers may prefer hotter coffee because it will stay warm longer. If coffee is hot, you can make it cooler by adding water, you can't make lukewarm coffee hotter. I know McD coffee is swill anyway, but generally coffee is best brewed at around 205 degrees, while the coffee in question was, IIRC, around 190. Black tea should properly be brewed at 212 degrees. I sometimes make tea a few times a day and if I were to stumble and spill from kettle on myself, I could get even worse burns than she did.

Kettles have warnings on their packaging, but it's really not clear where to draw the line. The warnings on kettles are their for CYA reasons, it's hard to imagine someone would be careless with boiling water in the absence of a warning, but could I bring a case against them saying the the warning did not clearly say I may need skin grafts in the worst case, or that I could lose vision if it splatters on my eyes, etc?

I don't know if it was proved or could be proved that they only had it at high temperature in order to save money, but you can be sure that all kinds of small coffee cafes will have it at even higher temps for legitimate reasons.

Or am I missing something? I've read the wiki page about this case some time ago and I don't think I saw any proof they were clearly at fault.
posted by rainy at 5:04 PM on June 3, 2011


hmm, that's interesting. Here's how it works in Canada. It doesn't carry the same consequence of making it so you can't collect at all, just that you won't collect for the portion you're found responsible for.
posted by Hoopo at 5:07 PM on June 3, 2011


What seems strange to me is that, if the prosecution is successful, then any funds expended to stave off scandal become campaign expenses whether they are drawn from the official campaign funds or not. In other words, there is an expectation that candidates will have something to hide and that if they try to do so, they must declare the expenses because knowledge might influence voters (de facto, I think, this leads to total revelation of a person's life). The candidate doesn't want people to know that he has a bastard child (not a new problem in American presidential elections), this is specifically interpreted as a campaign issue. Suppose the candidate wants to keep medical records private (and there's been chat about this over the years), suppose he/she has had cosmetic surgery, a vasectomy/tubal ligation, are these private or public matters? If the surgery enhances you as a candidate, do you have to declare it as an expense? If birth control surgery hurts you with certain voters, are you required to declare it? I don't understand the legalities here but it's probably just me.
posted by CCBC at 7:04 PM on June 3, 2011


I'm no apologist for Edwards, but just be glad you don't have Dick Nixon to kick around any more.
posted by Pressed Rat at 9:20 PM on June 3, 2011


george w bush stole our damned shoes, man, we don't have nothin' to kick with
posted by pyramid termite at 9:30 PM on June 3, 2011


The money wouldn't have been a factor if we didn't have a reputation for punishing people democrats for consensual sex; it's like liberals who said about Clinton it's not the blow job, its the abuse of power, when he was v. much being railroaded for the blow job.
FTFY. This is bullshit. Clearly what Edwards did was scummy, but indictments? Seriously? It's bullshit. And you never see republicans held to the same standard. Who was the last republican prosecuted for an affair?
Doesn't matter, he still mis-used campaign funds. That's a bad thing, and should be punished.
That's not what happened. Some of his donors paid for her living expenses. The theory is that this was somehow a "campaign contribution" because covering up the affair was key for the campaign. But they weren't donations directly to Edwards, as far as I know, they were to Hunter.
he's being investigating for misusing campaign funds.
Again, no, he's not. He's being investigated because of a theory that payments from Edwards friends to Hunter should have been considered 'campaign donations' as far as federal law goes, which is absurd really. Money flows between friends and associates of politicians all the time. The only reason this is a 'scandal' is because there was sex involved.
Well at the other end of the spectrum you get everybody shrugging off pieces on the side and you end up with Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Because there's no difference between cheating with a woman who throws herself at you and trying to rape a maid who has no idea who you even are.
Data point: Tom DeLay was not just indicted, but convicted of misusing campaign funds.
Again, the argument is that these funds should have been considered campaign donations, even though they were going to Hunter and not Edwards. There were never any actual campaign donations that were used to pay her living expenses.

---
This doesn't surprise me at all. I'm a cynical son-of-a-bitch and he had me completely fooled.
I suppose you think MLK jr. didn't really care about the poor because he had affairs too, right? Maybe Edwards was full of shit, maybe he wasn't. But judging someone's moral outlook based on who they fuck seems ridiculous.
The problem I see is the sublimation of women in our society as a powerful political voice in the last 20 years. Where the fuck did all the feminists go?
The Edwards campaign actually tried to hire Amanda Marcott, but she ended up being too controversial. This would have been before the Reily Hunter affair started, I think. Anyway, the point of feminism -- as far as I can tell -- is not to chide men for having affairs.
most of the attorneys I go up against are doing plaintiff's side tort litigation because they weren't good enough to get jobs doing corporate or defense work. -- valkyryn
Wow. So talented people should strive to defend corporations from average people they've harmed, and anyone who doesn't must suck? And you expect us to take your opinion of Edwards seriously? That ought to have as much weight as the average drug dealer's opinion of the police.

Secondly, while plaintiffs lawyers may seem like 'scumbags' to you there are plenty of scumbags in industry who would haply pollute and poison and injure employees if they could get away with it. The fact that liability keeps them in check if a good thing for the world.
In Canada we used to hear about stuff like the McDonald's hot coffee settlement and laugh at the crazy people in the USA.
That whole case was misrepresented. The women had serious burns and required surgery, and the coffee was way hotter then it's normally served. In Canada, she could have been treated without worrying about the costs, but that's not the case in the U.S. Someone has to pay, either the victim or the company, and the courts have to figure out who's at fault.
posted by delmoi at 9:39 PM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Who was the last republican prosecuted for an affair?

That would be Larry "wide stance" Craig.

One thing I never understood is that the wider stance you have on the toilet, the smaller poop opening you have.

Why would someone do that? Oh, I know...they want some anon sex at the prairie home companion airport bathroom.

Just want people to remember the legacy of that hypocrite.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:57 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


The women had serious burns and required surgery, and the coffee was way hotter then it's normally served. In Canada, she could have been treated without worrying about the costs, but that's not the case in the U.S. Someone has to pay, either the victim or the company, and the courts have to figure out who's at fault.

Her hospital costs and lost wages were approximately $18,000. She initially asked for $20,000, not unreasonable. The jury awarded her $2.86 million. You seem to have skipped a lot of this thread.
posted by Hoopo at 12:26 AM on June 4, 2011


I suppose you think MLK jr. didn't really care about the poor because he had affairs too, right? Maybe Edwards was full of shit, maybe he wasn't. But judging someone's moral outlook based on who they fuck seems ridiculous.

What? You're on a mission to be as uncharitable as possible as usual. In the same fucking comment that you just selectively quoted from I said I DON'T think anyone should be judged on those things, and that it's none of anyone's business here.

Since you clearly are more interested in tossing out accusations about how I must also think MLK is a fraud, I'm sure you won't bother reading here where I explained the comment you're objecting to. "I'm not the one that called Edwards an ambulance chaser. I replied to Valkyryn's comment that it didn't surprise me. It was an allegation that I had never heard before, and the reason it didn't surprise me is because he was a very, very convincing "good guy" and this scandal seemed so completely out of character based on my impression of him that in retrospect I could see him selling just about any line to anyone. Being a really convincing at portraying yourself as a strong values good guy would be a huge asset to a trial lawyer."

Anyways, thanks delmoi, you've convinced me it's break time.
posted by Hoopo at 12:41 AM on June 4, 2011


and the reason it didn't surprise me is because he was a very, very convincing "good guy" and this scandal seemed so completely out of character based on my impression of him that in retrospect I could see him selling just about any line to anyone.
Let me see if I can follow: He seemed like a nice guy, but because he had an affair he's not a nice guy. And, because he's not a nice guy and he acted like he was one, he's a liar? Or something?
posted by delmoi at 3:35 AM on June 4, 2011


McDonald's deserved to lose every penny of that judgment. Unless of course you think it's perfectly safe to serve coffee that causes 3rd degree burns that require skin grafts and more than a week in a hospital for treatment (here's a hint--it's not safe, and it's not okay even if it saves your company money).

Google the brew temperature of coffee. It is nearly the boiling temperature. That is what you get when you order coffee. It has nothing to do with saving money; that is how the beverage is supposed to be prepared.

The degree of the burn is not simply a factor of the temperature, but of time * temperature. According to the hot water safety people, 120 degrees for 5 minutes will give you a 3rd degree burn.

I'd also like to see some form of evidence that Canada is "increasingly litigious" and I wonder why Canadian judges don't simply throw out frivolous lawsuits. Surely that is their job?

Unless the canadian judicial system is very different from the American, no. That is what the trial is for. The closest a judge can get is to determine that no damage could possibly have been suffered, or that the cause of action is somehow invalid.
posted by gjc at 11:51 AM on June 4, 2011



For example, suppose in the McDonald's case, the award had been only the $800 the plaintiff originally asked for. Well, since the court system is in many cases the only enforcement mechanism in such cases, slapping a small $800 penalty on them isn't going to meaningfully influence them to change the business practice(s) that got them into court in the first place. The civil courts do a kind of double duty in the US: often it's the only enforcement mechanism available. So when some company engages in practices that are clearly illegal under civil law, but the law doesn't provide any mechanism for enforcing the law or discouraging the abuse, then the courts have to make rulings involving large cash penalties to punish the behavior in a meaningful way.

An $800 court ruling against them isn't even going to get McDonald's attention, though it might remedy a grievance in a particular case. The large awards are a feature not a bug of the court system, and the less our other regulatory systems actually effectively regulate and punish abusive practices, the more frequent and larger the awards would tend to be.


Incorrect. The civil court system is to figure out how to right wrongs. The law, whether legislative or regulatory, is where regulation should be occurring.

(You are right in that the court system sometimes ends up working this way, but only because of the failure of regulation or law enforcement. But it isn't how it is supposed to work. You are actually arguing for the libertarian view- regulate nothing, and let the market and civil courts show companies what the costs of their behavior will be.)
posted by gjc at 11:59 AM on June 4, 2011


If the alleged money was a contribution as it benefitted the campaign, then the alleged affair should be viewed as a debt of equal amount Edwards incurred, and thus the value gained or lost is zero. Chewbacca is a Wookie; I rest my case.
posted by zippy at 9:13 PM on June 4, 2011


One thing I never understood is that the wider stance you have on the toilet, the smaller poop opening you have.

What? Isn't it the opposite?
posted by andoatnp at 11:49 PM on June 4, 2011


I think the ideas is that by widening your stance you exert pressure on your anus and thus would have more trouble pooping.

Man, how about being the under cover cop they have patrolling the airport bathroom for gay sex. I wonder who you have to piss off to get that job.
posted by delmoi at 8:41 AM on June 5, 2011


The degree of the burn is not simply a factor of the temperature, but of time * temperature. According to the hot water safety people, 120 degrees for 5 minutes will give you a 3rd degree burn.

Yes, this was mentioned several times during the trial--if you have 5 minutes to dry yourself off, for the liquid to cool, or for you to remove your clothing you're not going to get that 3rd degree burn. No one sits there for 5 minutes letting themselves sizzle.

They weren't just making coffee at that temperature, they were holding it there deliberately, which caused numerous burn injuries, which they knew about for a long time. Yes, you need to get water hot to brew coffee. No one is saying otherwise. No, you don't need to keep coffee at 180-190 degrees when you know it burns people badly. If you want it to stay hot while it's getting to its destination (because it's certainly not drinkable at 185 degrees) make cups with better insulation, or put a decent warning on the cup. Don't let people become burned and mutilated over and over and over.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:22 AM on June 5, 2011


Incorrect. The civil court system is to figure out how to right wrongs. The law, whether legislative or regulatory, is where regulation should be occurring.

Those are not mutually exclusive goals. 'Righting wrongs' sometimes requires punitive action to encourage behavior that is not likely to or cannot be encouraged as a result of legislation or other forms of regulation.

Put another way: You seem to be suggesting that the appropriate response to McD's coffee policies would be to enact regulations governing the temperature at which coffee can be stored and served, instead of encouraging McD's to act in a more responsible manner w.r.t. the physical well-being of their customers.
posted by lodurr at 6:17 AM on June 6, 2011


(I thought the whole 'stance' thing was [a] because wide stance increases the display-prominence of your crotch, and [b] because it's a suggestive impingement on the fraught neutral space between two men in a bathroom. or am I taking that thread of the conversation too seriously?)
posted by lodurr at 6:19 AM on June 6, 2011


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