June 26, 2003


Regardless of what Steven thinks, most British historians would date a recognizable modern British government's origins to the Reform Act of 1832, passed under William IV, not Victoria (along with the emancipation of Protestant dissenters in 1828 and Catholics in 1829). Minor quibble, though. I'm not sure what Steven means by "active rule," but the last time a monarch effectively thwarted the wishes of an elected British parliament would have been William's second-thought attempts in May, 1832 to halt the Reform Bill's passage (in the end, he only managed to delay it). After that, figurehead status was inevitable, and the PM's supremacy generally assumed. (The last gasp of monarchy would have to be when William tried to undo what he had done in 1834, when he summarily appointed conservative opposition leader Robert Peel as PM, but Peel had to concede he could not govern without a majority in the reformed Commons, and further direct royal interference in British politics after that point would effectively cease... Victoria, who was crowned in 1837, and her successors, would have to find other means of leverage.)

Posted by BruceR at 05:30 PM


Great piece this. I love crazy historical theories. (from Rand)

Posted by BruceR at 03:21 PM


Harry Schmidt's going for total victory in the Kandahar bombing case.

From the Star, today:

"A police officer at night who finds himself facing down a gun isn't required to ask first whether it is a real gun, whether it is a loaded gun or whether the guy is a good shot," [Schmidt's lawyer Charles] Gittins said. "The police officer is entitled to use the force he thinks is required to kill the person with the gun. That is exactly the situation Harry Schmidt found himself in."

No, it's not. From his position, Schmidt was immune to all conceivable fire, and given an absence of preconceptions and a rational decision-making process, can only have concluded that. So that analogy falls apart. Here's the proper police analogy:

Hypothetical: A police sniper is headed home from work with his rifle and his cell phone in his car. He sees what looks like a hostage situation in progress, with police on scene surrounding a building. He scales a building across the street, and, unobserved by anybody, finds a position, then calls in to his own station, says he's at the hostage situation at Front and Main, and asks for permission to engage. His squad sergeant orders him to hold fire until he figures out what the heck he's talking about. The police sniper then believes he hears shots, or a threatening gesture, and shoots to kill a person he sees brandishing a handgun. A few seconds later, the station gets back on the line and tells him to stand down, he's actually shooting at a realistic police training drill the sniper hadn't been told about before, and the gun-waving man he just killed was a cop from the next town over, participating in the drill. QUESTION #1: What, if anything, do you charge the sniper with?

QUESTION #2: The sniper's defence, taking a leaf from Schmidt's book, comes in one of three flavours:

a) The police sniper probably deserved to be informed of all police activities in the local area in advance, so that this kind of mistake couldn't have happened.
b) The sniper believed the gesture or shots he thought he saw or heard were directed at him, and so had a right to self-defence... even though the criminal's handgun demonstrably did not have the range to hit him except by fluke accident, and there was no other indication anyone else had even seen him yet.
c) The sniper had just come off a long shift, and had drank a lot of coffee, and his judgment may have been impaired as a result.

Would any of those be grounds for acquittal on the charges you chose?

QUESTION #3: The local DA tries to plea out the sniper on a no-time endangerment-type misdemeanor, with a high probability of follow-up administrative action that would see him removed from the sniper squad. The sniper refuses the plea, and demands a full trial. Given that the policemen in the next town over are understandably upset about this officer walking away without any punishment, what should the DA do now?

Answers to Flitters, please. I think it's a pretty close analogy, although you might want to read some of the background here if you don't agree. (And thx to SDB for keeping me apprised of the American news coverage, btw.)

Posted by BruceR at 10:00 AM