Archive for November 2006

B’Ham Bd. Of Ed. Settles Landmark Case

November 30, 2006

I meant to put this up yesterday:

Lawyers for teacher Roderick Jackson and the Birmingham Board of Education settled Tuesday night a 5-year-old gender-discrimination lawsuit that went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005, lawyers for both sides said.

The school board approved the settlement after emerging from a 10-minute closed session at the end of a board meeting.

Speaking for the board, attorney Kenneth Thomas said Jackson will receive $50,000. His lawyers will receive $340,000. . . .

Jackson, then an Ensley High teacher and coach, filed suit against the school board in 2001, contending he lost his job as head coach of the girls’ basketball team after he complained that the team was being treated unfairly when compared with the boys team.

The school, of course, argued that it fired Jackson not because he complained about gender discrimination, but because he was a sorry employee. That’s what the jury would have decided if this had gone to trial. If it found that he was fired for being a bum, then the school would have won. If it found that he was fired for complaining about the discrimination, then he would have won. We’ll never know what actually happened, though, because the Board decided there was too great a risk of losing big at trial to proceed and therefore decided to settle.

That kind of lawsuit happens every day. What made this one interesting – and what got it to Scotus – was whether Jackson could even bring a lawsuit under the relevant federal law. In the normal case, the person who sues for gender discrimination is the person directly discriminated against. The typical plaintiff is someone like the members of the girls’ team in this case. Jackson, though, was not the direct victim of gender discrimination. Rather, he complained about it occurring to someone else.

The Board argued that the law did not allow suits for retaliation against whistle blowers. Scotus, in a remarkably short opinion, said, yeah it does.

Here’s the statute (28 U.S.C. 1681(a):

“[n]o person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

The Court explained that the retaliation was “on the basis of sex” because Jackson had complained that the girl’s team received less resources than the boy’s team. And it was “discrimination” because Jackson was treated differently than other similarly situated individuals. In short:

retaliation is discrimination “on the basis of sex” because it is an intentional response to the nature of the complaint: an allegation of sex discrimination. We conclude that when a funding recipient retaliates against a person because he complains of sex discrimination, this constitutes intentional “discrimination” “on the basis of sex,” in violation of Title IX.

You may not like the statute at issue, but I think this result is the proper reading of the statute. The Court pointed out that if the statute protected people from being discriminated against on the basis of “their sex” then the result would have to be different. But it doesn’t say that. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. That was exactly what Jackson alleged in this case, and Scotus was correct to let the lawsuit proceed.

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R.I.P. WRAX

November 29, 2006

The station as it exists now sucks, so this is no surprise:

Birmingham radio listeners can expect a major lineup change today.

Alternative rock station The X at 100.5 (WRAX-FM), once one of the most popular stations in town, will go off the air this afternoon to make room for sports talk station WJOX, which already airs on the AM 690 frequency.

The story goes on to say:

During its heyday as 107.7 The X, the 100,000-watt WRAX was one of top stations in Birmingham and the highest-rated alternative rock station in the country.

But ratings gradually started to slide over the past few years, and last spring, the station changed frequencies from 107.7 to the less powerful 100.5 signal.

The story does not explain, or even attempt to explain, why the ratings gradually started to slide. The reason is simple: The X quit playing new music and decided to be like every other station on the air by only playing the same stupid songs that some corporate know-nothing told them surveys indicated people who advertisers love wanted to hear.  Here’s the real deal:

Much of the credit for the station’s early success goes to Program Director Dave Rossi. While many PDs around the country were content to follow the examples of other radio stations, Rossi listened to hundreds of bands each month in an attempt to break new artists on the station. Late in WRAX’s first year, DJ Scott Register began a Sunday morning specialty show called “Reg’s Coffeehouse,” which introduced lesser-known bands to Birmingham listeners. Rossi incorporated into the station’s daily playlist some of the bands that garnered a positive reaction on Register’s program.

What followed was a long list of bands whose songs became hits in Birmingham before becoming popular elsewhere, including Matchbox 20, Train, and, more recently, John Mayer. Labels and radio stations around the country took notice, as did local concert promoters, who brought many of these bands to town.

That was five years ago. Changes in management, philosophy, and personnel have taken a toll on the station. During the summer of 2005, new Program Director Ken Wall issued an infamous memorandum that echoed current station owner Citadel Broadcasting’s mantra: “We are not in the business of breaking new music.” Around the same time, management decided to move the signal from 107.7 to 100.5. This weaker, directional signal drastically affected the station’s reach. Wall also tinkered with the format, deciding that Birmingham audiences would enjoy hearing Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Metallica during their morning drive.

Like I said, the station as it now exists sucks, so I probably would not care that they are going bye-bye except that this means no more Reg’s Coffeehouse. Every Sunday morning for the last several years, we’ve gotten up and gone to the early Mass and then come home to eat breakfast, drink coffee, and relax to the sounds of that wonderful show. He’s what radio ought to be. New songs, new artists, and live interviews with the musicians, who would often play a few tunes during the interview. You never knew when you’d hear something that would grab you, that you’d have to run out and buy the next day. His slogan is “Helping build your music library one song at a time.” My music library and my Sunday mornings are both going to suffer.

Your Morning Entertainment

November 29, 2006

I took a quiz this morning that told me my accent is “Inland North.” Hmm, I don’t think so. Not so sure I agree with this one, either:

You paid attention during 100% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don’t get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

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How To Go Insane

November 28, 2006

Play the game. And if you already are, you just lost.

Troy King, Roy Johnson And Scrushelman

November 28, 2006

Remember when Scrushelman was convicted of bribery, he had this to say:

“If I’m really guilty of this, then every other person in public office better look out. I mean, everybody’s raising money and putting people on boards and commissions,” Siegelman said.

The reason for this statement is that while bribery requires a quid pro quo, that does not mean there must be evidence of an explicit agreement. The jury is free to infer from the party’s actions that one thing was given in return for the other.

Meanwhile, politics could easily be defined as the exchange of favors. No-one donates money without expecting something in return. And no-one asks for it without at least hinting that good will follow. So, in theory, just about any politician or donor could at any time be indicted for bribery.

In the Scrushelman case, 1) Scrushy made a campaign donation to Siegelman, and 2) Siegelman appointed Scrushy to a powerful state regulatory board.  The jury concluded from these facts, as it is allowed to do, that Siegelman made the appointment in exchange for the donation, and Scrushy made the donation in exchange for the appointment. Hence, bribery convictions.

Now consider yesterday’s news about Troy King and Roy Johnson:

 Alabama Attorney General Troy King asked Roy Johnson late last year to hire a friend’s mother while King’s office was investigating the state’s two-year college system and Johnson, its chancellor.

Bribery? Remember, the jury is allowed to infer the corrupt intent. In this situation you have King leading an investigation into Johnson’s actions as chancellor and then asking Johnson for a personal favor. Imagine how a mouse would feel when the cat under whose paws he lies asks the mouse for a favor, and you will get some sense of Johnson’s position.  I think a jury could infer that either King used the prosecution as a carott, promising to slack off if Johnson hired the friend, or else he used it as a stick, threatening to increase the intensity unless Johnson hired the friend.

Now I’m not saying that is what happened. I think King is an idiot, and this situation is more evidence in support of that conclusion, but I don’t think he is corrupt. He probably just did not realize how incredibly improper his request was. Still, the facts are there, and I do think an overzealous prosecutor – someone like Troy King – could seek an indictment.

Obligatory Mike Shula Post

November 27, 2006

Due to hungry babies, our household heard about the firing via a “breaking news report” at two o’clock this morning.

So my first reaction was to wonder how in the world this could have “broke” at such a ridiculous hour. The answer:

In keeping with recent celebrity trends, Mal Moore informed Coach Shula of his termination by text message Sunday night.

Just as pop culture icon K-Fed received a disturbing message while at dinner with homies, Shula also got some unnerving financial news of his own, while dining out.

The crack team of investigative journalists at keepmikeshula.com have uncovered the message Shula received from Mal Moore which read simply

“CMS, IMS but am firin U. IMHO, U R A good coach, but its not workn out. TTFN- Mal :-(”

Coach Shula was allegedly out at dinner when he received the news. Upon returning home, he found a for sale sign already placed in his yard and his belongings had been packed by the team.

Then I thought that this was not a surprise. I always figured Shula as a band-aid type of coach. He was never anyone’s dream hire, just someone to stop the bleeding until the program could function properly again.

Finally, I – like everyone else – am wondering who will be the BIG HIRE. Joe Kines will finish the season. For some entertaining guesses about the permanent replacement, read the al.com forums. They’re throwing around names like Steve Spurrier and George O’Leary. More serious speculators have mentioned Cal coach Jeff Tedford, among others. Whoever it is, it better be someone good. The clouds have dissipated since Shula’s hiring and Alabama is still one of the flagship programs in college football, so there is really no excuse for hiring less than the best.  

All in all I think Bama fans ought to look at this like a good car wreck. I mean, imagine you own a 2003 Toyota Corrola. You bought it right after college. Its a good car, reliable, inexpensive, but now you have a good job and want something new. Then on your way to work, you get t-boned. No-one is injured, but the car is totalled. You mourn for just a bit, then take the insurance and head to the Caddy dealership. That’s what Alabama is doing now.

I’m Back

November 27, 2006

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Hope you did too. I’ll begin posting normally sometime today.