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Just a quickie for now, for the reason below. ^_^

I'm very pleased to announce that, at long last, the first red panda and rabbit clips are finally available. ^_^ The four red panda clips are simply illustrative, whilst the latter clip is a little montage of footage of a small group of wild rabbits I happened upon, appropriately enough, at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. I'm afraid there's a lot of shakiness in the latter, as I was on a fairly high zoom at the time - but, it's still highly enjoyable to see lapines running free. (Literally!) I hope I'll be able to say the same of red pandas in the next few years..

Feel free to link away, if you like - I don't have a button graphic at the moment, lacking l337 P-5h0p 5|<1llz, but I'll try to come up with one eventually. The site layout's very, very simple, and its coding may cause either nausea or bouts of nostalgia in huskyteer.. but it hopefully does the job without causing bleeding eyeballs.

It appears the Supreme Court recently ruled that federal judges aren't required to follow mandatory sentencing "guidelines".

I know I've mentioned it before, but it's really quite a nifty body of work: the Powerpuff Girls, manga style, a few years later on. (So, Dexter and Samurai Jack don't appear in the original.. so what? ^_^) Quite professional in appearance, fully colored, and around 100 pages complete so far. Worth a look, even if just for a glimpse at a more realistic appearance of the characters. There's also a brief Flash trailer (638K) available, which doesn't seem to fall into canon, but it's worth watching regardless of relevance. (The artwork style reminds me of Pilot's, for what it's worth)

"Canada minister in pizza scandal" - the sort of headline you just don't see too often. The actual story summary was regrettably quite un-salacious: "Canada's immigration minister resigns, denying allegations she offered help an immigrant avoid deportation in exchange for pizza and garlic bread." But, terribly Canadian. ^_^
'Mandatory sentencing' is a long, slow pissing match that's been going on here between the legislature and the judiciary since about 1980 or so. It's going to continue for many more years. What it comes down to is that while the legislature has the power to define crimes and the punishments for them, judges have the power to interpret those definitions. Legislators feel that this renders their powers meaningless if someone else is allowed to decide what their legislation means. Judges, of course, see it quite differently.

I pretty much have to agree with Ginsberg. It's unconstitutional to force judges to follow written guidelines, since the Constitution gives them the power of interpreting the law. At the same time, it's unconstitutional of a judge to deliberately ignore the clear intent of a law, or to deliberately misinterpret it.

If both sides were approaching the situation with goodwill, then they'd pretend that the guidelines are just a clarifying document, and the judiciary would follow them not from compulsion, but because they made congress' intent clear. That won't happen. Both sides are trying to grab more control than the Constitution allows them, primarily to stop the other side from doing the same.
And, of course, ultimately neither solution is guaranteed to result in a fair sentence - complete discretion can (and does) result in wildly disparate lengths of incarceration or other penalties for similar offenses, whilst mandatory sentencing clamps the problem to the other end of the scale.

At the end of it, yes, I'd say the decision should lie with the judges, and with their knowledge and understanding of the specific case in question. That's part of their very duty, after all. Obviously, this SCOTUS decision won't end the matter, but at least there's another point of clarification added.

(Is Rehnquist still with us? Seemed to be in a pretty poor way, last October..)

Rehnquist was reliably spotted in the Capitol building last week. I'm expecting he'll put in an appearance for the inauguration too. Everyone keeps expecting him to die, but then again, everyone's been expecting the Pope to die for the last five years or so...