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Excuses!

An estimated 50 percent of potential jurors want out, for the usual selfish reasons. There is good news: "If there's a reasonable statement expressing hardship or conflict, 99 percent of the time you'll be excused," says Dr. Robert Gordon, head of the Wilmington Institute of Trial and Settlement Sciences, a pioneering jury-consulting outfit in Dallas. But you've got to play it right, and that means figuring out who you're going up against. In civil cases, jury selection is often conducted by attorneys with no judge present, and the rules are looser. In criminal cases, a hard-ass judge does the pickin'.

Don't try to sway the judge by telling him you have nonrefundable ski tickets, he won't excuse you. Doctors, lawyers, and teachers no longer get automatic exemptions, so save your breath, Mr. Big. (Interestingly, 'I'm an incarcerated felon' still works.) Sporting a green mohawk and a 'Fuck the World' T-shirt is the worst strategy, you'll piss off the judge. "If the judge concludes you're bullshitting," warns Gordon, "he will punish you." When bookbinder Dennison Lee claimed his beliefs made it impossible for him to judge people, he was sentenced to two weeks of duty.

Ailments from crabs to cancer will work, but you'll need proof. (No, not dropping your pants, a note from a doc.) If you're unemployed and have rent to pay and a child to support, you stand a good chance of walking. Ditch the machismo and describe being mugged as a shattering experience. If your brother's a cop, tell the judge you're obviously biased. "Saying 'I don't like big corporations' isn't going to work," says Gordon. Try a real reason, like: I've worked for three huge corporations, and I've been fired from each one. Take a three-day vacation from sleep, shaving, and deodorant; keep slapping imaginary bugs off your head; and tote a copy of Maxim around, you'll be home free.

The feebleness or banality of an excuse should never be a deterrent to its use. Always put the blame on something that can't defend itself. Children, pets, inanimate objects, and relatives living in foreign countries make perfect scapegoats. Whine convincingly. Certain ailments work better than others as excuses. No doctor or machine in the world can prove that you don't have that headache. Try to remember that nature allotted each of us only two grandmothers to attend funerals for.

Bogus work excuses are on the rise. America is a nation of workaholics, it is considered a virtue to neglect spouse and children to spend extra time at the office. Europeans have longer vacations and shorter work weeks. The average paid vacation in Europe is now six weeks a year. By contrast, Americans, on average, receive only two weeks. When hard-working Americans go on vacation, they often take their work with them, toting cell phones, Blackberries and laptops so they can keep "in touch with the office." I'm not a great believer in the "Protestant work ethic" -- the results of a recent survey brought joy to my slacker heart.

This year, 43 percent of American workers called in sick when there was nothing wrong with them, up from 35 percent that did so last year, a survey of 2,450 employees from CareerBuilder.com showed. Some of the more imaginative excuses ranged from "I was too drunk to drive to work" to "I forgot I was getting married today." I am in rebellion against the "workaholic mentality" that permeates our society. There is more to life than bumbling your way through a maze of cubicles to a corner office. Calling in sick, when you are not sick, is an inalienable right, like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

One time I called in sick, falsely claiming I had a stomach ache, so I could attend a baseball game. The next day when I returned to work with a nice tan, I had to explain it away as a side effect from taking too much Pepto Bismol. I urge my fellow Americans, to call in sick, and go to a ball game, museum, or take a hike in the woods. Your cubicle, computer and career will still be there, when you get back -- just don't get too cute with your excuse.

The IRS has "no excuses" for the latest twist in the saga of its missing emails. "Whether it's incompetence or deliberate obstruction, the IRS has no excuses for having handled this so poorly," said Bruce Webster, partner at Provo, Utah-based IT consulting and expert witness firm Ironwood Experts. House investigators said Tuesday that a hard drive belonging to Lois Lerner, the former agency official at the center of the department's targeting scandal, was just "scratched," not irreparably damaged. The IRS had described the hard drive's data as "unrecoverable."

The hard drive, which was recycled, contained roughly two years of missing emails seen as relevant to the investigation into the scandal. Data, however, can be easily retrieved from scratched drives, according to Webster. "This happens all the time," he told FoxNews.com. "There are little storefront companies in just about every major city that can do this and there are forensic companies that can restore files and even do higher end recovery of data."

Webster explained that, even when a drive's file directory is damaged or destroyed, information still can be recovered from the magnetic disk where data is stored, known as a drive platter. Hard drives can become scratched when a read-write head that is meant to operate just above the platter touches down on the magnetic disk. Webster, who has served as a consulting and IT expert in more than 80 civil lawsuits, told FoxNews that this can be caused by a physical jolt, or, in some case, a mechanical failure.

Last month the IRS explained that Lerner's computer crashed in mid-2011, with the data stored on the computer's hard drive deemed "unrecoverable." Officials sought to piece together as many of Lerner's emails as possible, which included searching for emails across the organization where she appeared either as author or recipient. As a result, the IRS was able to identify approximately 24,000 Lerner-related emails between January 1, 2009, and April 2011.

In a court filing on July 18, the agency again stated that the data on the hard drive was unrecoverable. "It is unbelievable that we cannot get a simple, straight answer from the IRS about this hard drive," said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, in a statement released on Tuesday.  "The Committee was told no data was recoverable and the physical drive was recycled and potentially shredded.  To now learn that the hard drive was only scratched, yet the IRS refused to utilize outside experts to recover the data, raises more questions about potential criminal wrongdoing at the IRS."

Robert Paul Reyes. Bogus Work Excuses On The Rise. American Chronicle. October 5, 2005.
How to Beat Jury Duty. Maxim [Print + Kindle] . June 1998.


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