Mother Jones Fascinating Murder Mystery with an NRA Twist—and Documents

Mother Jones has a fascinating, longer look at an early murder mystery associated with none other than the NRA’s general counsel, Robert Dowlut. It would seem that Dowlut was originally convicted of second degree murder, a conviction that was later overturned.

In an act I’ve come to expect from Mother Jones, the publication has also provided easy access to all of the documentation that provided the basis for the story.

Journalists can’t always provide all of their background material, but when they can, they should. This allows others to review the material, enabling them to either agree or disagree with the writer based on the same material, if the writer forms a conclusion. At a minimum, this sharing ensures open access to documents that may be difficult for non-journalists to obtain—documents that may form the basis for other, future works.

There is nothing to agree with or disagree with in the Mother Jones article, since it’s very careful to remain neutral and factual in its retelling of the older story (and the more recent activities Dowlut has undertaken for the NRA). But the author, Dave Gilson, provides much to think about.

Legal, Laws, and Regs

Who keeps e-mails?

fishing expedition

If you’re following the BPI vs. ABC “pinkslime” lawsuit, than you might be aware that the company is attempting to subpoena emails from several journalists and food safety experts.

The subpoenas to Food Safety News reporters are a bit tricky, because the publisher for the online site is Bill Marler, who is providing pro bono legal defense for the two former USDA workers who are also being sued in this lawsuit. I’m not a lawyer, but this means attorney-client privilege to me. I’m surprised that the Judge would allow such a fishing expedition so close to this privilege, but maybe this is the way they do things in South Dakota’s courts.

Michele Simon responded to the subpoena, but as she noted, she doesn’t keep emails. Come to think of it, I don’t keep emails, either. Nowadays, when you have corporations shotgunning subpoenas under indifferent judicial eyes, perhaps none of us should keep emails. Not unless we primarily write about cats or JavaScript. Or the latest squabble between the WhatWG and the W3C HTML working groups (because no one would ever want any of these emails).

If BPI, Inc doesn’t have what it needs to to win its case, or can’t get it from those directly involved in the lawsuit, maybe it should focus on how to explain away both the pinkness and the slimy feel of its product when the defendant lawyers bring a mess in for the jury to fondle. And spend some time contemplating the fact that, yes, people in this country really do want to know what’s in the food we’re eating.

Update: ABC has also covered the subpoena story. Must have been a bit cathartic for them.


Missouri’s Amendment 1: Missouri’s sucker bet

$3, 173.70.

That’s the amount that Missouri tax payers have paid between March 3, 2014 and May 30, 2014 for Chris Koster’s lawsuit on behalf of large egg producers against California’s egg laws. It doesn’t sound like a lot of money until you realize that this just covers the fees paid to the California legal team representing Koster (and supposedly, Missouri). It doesn’t cover the time that J. Andrew Hirth, our Assistant State Attorney General, has put into the case, or any of the other members of the AG office staff. It also represents only about 6% of the likely cost, overall, for the lawsuit if it manages to survive the California Motion to Dismiss. If the case goes to trial, the cost will easily exceed $55,000 in legal fees.

This, just to defend a couple of larger egg producing companies in Missouri.

Doesn’t sound like a good use for tax payer money, does it? After all, wouldn’t we expect the companies to defend themselves, rather than take a ride on the tax payer dollar? In fact, this is one of the arguments California gives in the motion to dismiss: stripping aside the legalese, why on earth is Missouri suing another state on behalf of a tiny, miniscule group, when typically states only sue on behalf of a significant number of citizens?

Well, the reason why Koster and Missouri are seemingly fighting this lawsuit is because in Missouri, large agricultural concerns take precedence over the average citizen. In fact, if we look more closely at Mr. Koster’s recent actions, large agricultural concerns are the only interests that he seems to think are worth defending. Because not only did he file this lawsuit that benefits so few, he’s also campaigning across the state for Amendment 1, the so-called Right to Farm Constitutional amendment up for a vote on August 5th.

Right to farm? More like, right to undermine existing animal welfare laws, right to allow Chinese owned large animal operations (CAFOs) to disregard state water and air laws in order to minimize costs, and right to undermine this state’s initiative process by putting one industry, just one, outside the rule of law