Friday, September 11, 2009

Yes, Virginia, There Are Death Panels

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there are no Death Panels.

"Papa says, 'If you see it on Fox it's so.'

"Please tell me the truth; are there Death Panels?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there are Death Panels. They exist as certainly as corporate profits and bonuses exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest degree of medical uncertainty. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Death Panels. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no wondering if this treatment will be covered, no poetry, no romance should we not get to wonder if this claim will lead to recission of our coverage because we once burped. Twice.
And had acne. We should have no enjoyment, no thrill in the wonder of what presents are and aren't under the Christmas tree this year, what has CEO Santa and his Medical Review Panels brought. And what have they left in the corporate profit column.

Not believe in Death Panels! You might as well not shareholder dividends and claim reviewer bonuses!
You may tear apart the Republicans rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal obstructionism therein Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else so real and abiding as the health insurers'

Death Panels!
No Death Panels! Thank God! They live, and, if the Republicans get their way, they will live forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, they will continue to make glad the heart of Wall Street industry analysts and pile high the gifts under CEO Santa's tree Christmas morn. Probably in his little Aspen get-away cottage.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Speak Out!

As citizens, we can help the president by writing him, or emailing him

The White House Contact Us page is:

And you can find and contact your congressional Representatives and Senators here:

FWIW, I just sent this message to President Obama:

Dear Mr. President:

It is reported that you are willing to compromise on the "public option."

I urge you to insist on such a feature in any bill which you will sign.

Major compromises have already been made - dropping a single payer plan concept was a huge concession and a large disappointment to those of us who consider health care a right. (That position has been adopted by the major religious denominations. For example, my denomination,: "United Methodists Call for Health Care Reform "We believe Health Care is a basic human right." United Methodist Social Principle ¶162.V"

The people who elected you did so in large part because of your stand on health care.
We have stood up for you: it is time for you to stand up for yourself and for the people you represent.

The Republicans have made it clear they will not compromise, they will not engage in bi-partisanship, they will continue to insist that only they have the right to represent the values of and dictate the terms of America.

I believe this is your time of trial, Mr President. Continue to compromise to the unending obstructionism of the right, continue a course of appeasement, and I believe you will lose the opportunity to have any effectiveness as President. because you have been neither hot nor cold, but as lukewarm water you will be rejected by people of faith. (Revelation 3: 15 "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.")

Bow on this issue and you may as well start planning for your Presidential library because you will be a self-inflicted lame duck.

Will all the respect I can muster: please stand up for your principles and stand up for all Americans.

Respectfully yours,

Robert J. Walker

Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Dog - RIP

My daughters and I just put our Golden Retriever Libby down, She had mast cell cancer which was growing fast.

Turns out my Bible has some missing verses.

"The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
. . . .
18 The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."
. . . .
21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs [h] and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib [i] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said, "Yahoooo!

"Go fetch."

And the woman said, "No way I'm chasing a stupid tennis ball, Jack. You've gotta be kidding!"

And the man sure wouldn't.

So God created dogs, and saw they were good.

RIP, Libby

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Discussing the Role of Judges & Judging

The Bottom Line (Up here at the top....)

Judging is far too important to be considered a mere technical process - many areas of our legal system requires that judges exercise empathy as part of the process of judging.

As liberal, I often disagree with Republican views.

But I totally agree with their current view that the Sotomayor hearings give us an opportunity to discuss our legal system and the role of judges.

But, in advancing their ideas and views, the Republicans have inadvertently done themselves and our legal system, and our historic self-governance a significant injustice: the idea that judges are mere technicians who apply a straightforward set of written procedures in a limited arena of endeavor without any deep consideration.

The arena of the court and of judging is the wide open arena of human activities and interactions: endlessly complex and often subtle. And the rules (many of which have been, over the centuries through our present age, created by judges themselves - and many of which have been written by legislatures and administrative agencies) are far from complete or of certain application.

Judging is extremely important business: for the country, for the litigants in court, and for future personal and business decision making: "If I/we do such and such, what are the legal risks?"

We don't call the folks in the black robes technicians, we call them judges. We call on them to exercise thoughtful consideration of (i) the facts before them in context, (ii) the laws and details of those laws which might or might not apply to the given situation, and (iii) how their decisions, their legal judgments, will affect future activities of people in similar situations.

If judging were merely a matter of taking some fixed set of "blackletter" laws and finding those which apply, there would be no litigation: why spend the money if the outcome is certain?

No one is served by the view that judging is no more than calling balls and strikes within the limited confines of the narrowly proscribed universe of baseball.

Even in that narrow universe, however, one call that umpires sometimes have to make is when the hitter is struck by the pitch: "Was it intentional? What was the pitcher thinking?"

There are many legal situations where, as a matter of law, judges need to determine the intent of the parties: In the recently decided Ricci case, the applicable law called for the courts to determine if there was "discriminatory intent" In the words of Justice Kennedy, who wrote the opinion: "Title VII prohibits both intentional discrimination (known as “disparate treatment”) as well as, in some cases, practices that are not intended to discriminate but in fact have a disproportionately adverse effect on minorities (known as “disparate impact”)."

Judges also sometimes look to the intent of the legislature: "The rule petitioners offer would run counter to what we have recognized as Congress’s intent ...."Also in Ricci.

And almost all of our criminal laws require that the accused intent be established.

How does one determine intent? In part, one looks at the facts and draws logical conclusions. But in interpreting those facts, drawing those conclusions, one has to exercise one's empathy to look inside the actor's thoughts.

In search and seizure cases, as a matter of law, often the determination turns on the expectations of privacy people hold: in a student drug testing case, Pottawatomie County, V. Earls, 536 U.S. 822 (2002), Justice Thomas observed "We therefore conclude that the students affected by this Policy have a limited expectation of privacy..

How does a judge determine those expectations? How did Thomas and his concurring fellow justices determine the expectations of privacy of the affected students?

They looked at the facts. In an earlier case involving student athletes, the Court had found that athletes have a lower expectation of privacy as evidenced by locker room communal states of undress and showering. In Earls, Justice Thomas et al determined that non-athletes involved in extra-curricular activities also have a reduced expectation of privacy. How did those judges make that determination? Again, in part, but as a necessary part of the process, they had to exercise their powers of empathy.

The courts play an extremely important role in our society. By the very nature of what they do, roughly, 50% of the people who appear before them will conclude they did not receive justice, that they got screwed. Plain old human nature at work.

With that uphill battle of the courts and legal system to retain the respect of citizens, characterizations which diminish the role and the needed talents of judges are counterproductive and undermine a central and critical pillar of our democracy.

Throughout the centuries in our legal history, there have been periods where the "legal dance step" became all important: if a litigant did not get the steps exactly right, he didn't eve get a chance to plead his case. And justice was not served. Such periods have always been corrected because, after all, justice is the goal.

If our judges are restricted to calling balls and strikes, making sure the dance steps are properly performed, we could again enter a period of justice denied.

Justice and judgment require a range of skills and abilities, including exercising a degree of empathy - the ability to see inside another's head and heart to achieve justice.

Mischaracterizing the important qualities that judges need to exercise to do justice will end up denying justice at times.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"Right Thoughts, Right Thinking"

Palin: "I will go around the country on behalf of candidates who believe in the right things, regardless of their party label or affiliation," Palin said over lunch in her downtown office. "People are so tired of the partisan stuff.

I ask, isn't "the partisan stuff" founded on on the idea that there is just one set of "right things" to believe in, and that other ideas are necessarily wrong?

FWIW: Religious orthodoxy is defined as "Right Thoughts, Right Thinking"

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Lesson-A-Day (Thank you, Dewey Dunlop...)

The Bottom Line - - (Right Here Up Top)

English teachers must be in a fury. A real life Greek Tragedy unfolds in the center ring and the kids are off for the summer. Dang it!

Sarah Palin, the hero, brought down not by circumstance or accident, but by her own internal infernal machine.

When I was in school, it was tough to really get into reading those tragedies in English class. Let's face it, school assigned work is rarely undertaken with joy.

All that Shakespeare, all those Greek tragedies. Darned good thing I remembered a few things from the Cliff Notes for the final.

Tragedy isn't just something bad happening to someone. The "someone" has to be "big" (I think) and the bad stuff has to be 'self-inflicted' - often by hubris (a point on my SAT vocab section) or some other character flaw in Mr or Ms Big.

I've never known a beauty contest contestant. I speculate that some, at least, have a higher need for affirmation than most folks.

One, at least, seems to have a really thin skin.

Put that together with political career and a willingness to step into the klieg lights of a presidential campaign.

Voila - - - derived from tragōidiā (τραγῳδία), contracted from trag(o)-aoidiā, we have Sarah Palin's "goat song." [Thank you wikipedia....]

Perhaps she has some Greek origin advisors on her staff: Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides?

Who says you can't laugh at a good tragedy?

"Update" from the recent past:
"[My running times] prove[s] I have the endurance within me to at least gut it out and that is something. If you ever talk to my old coaches, they'd tell you, too. What I lacked in physical strength or skill I made up for in determination and endurance." [Emphasis added]


Palin is a Doo-doo Head!

The Bottom Line (Up Here At The Top)
Sarah Palin is a Doo-doo head
So sue me Sarah.

Let's see. Palin unexpectedly resigned her governorship. With no specific reasons given.

A lot of speculation followed.

Some of that speculation is negative! (Go figure....)

Palin's lawyer announces they're looking into going after bloggers "who re-publish the defamation, such as ..., that the Palins will not allow them to propagate defamatory material without answering to this in a court of law.”

I believe the "defamatory material" was a report that there are rumors that she is being investigated for some actions as mayor of Wasilla.

Is this really true: Palin is maybe being investigated?

Speaking of reality, my blog hasn't exactly blazed a bright white light across the American consciousness.


Palin is a Doo-doo head! And rumors are that maybe she's being investigated

Go ahead and sue me.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Hate Crimes Senate 909

I've been getting feverish communications from our friends on the right about the "Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.” The range of misinformation is staggering.

"The Bottom Line" [here up top....]"
The "Family Research Center" pushes the most common misunderstanding: the bill "establishes ,thought crimes.'"
Simply put, our criminal law has always required an "evil mind" ('mens rea') as one element of a criminal offense, and the nastier the thought, the higher the penalty - everyone has heard of "first degree" and second degree" murder, and the main distinction is the actors state of mind.
This Bill (Senate Bill 909 Simply adds another nasty state of mind as an element to establish that a crime has occurred.

What to do: The Family Research Center advocates "flooding the offices of three Committee Democrats whose votes could make all the difference--Arkansas's Blanche Lincoln, phone: 202-224-4843; Arkansas's Mark Pryor, phone: 202-224-2353; and Alaska's Mark Begich, phone: 202-224-3004."

Feel free to add your views to "the flood."
You can call, as above, or email at
Blanche Lincoln:
Mark Prior:
Mark Begich:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

"Pro-Life" Ad And Values

I've noticed "my" [Google's] ad server often puts up a "Pro-life" ad.

I am 'pro-life'* in my values and I am for a woman's right of choice.

As a Christian (free range variety**) I believe we should study the Bible (old and new Testaments) and learn from it***, including learning about the limitations on our knowledge of Godly matters.

And I believe we are firmly instructed that we do not and cannot know when a "human life" begins:

Ecclesiastes 11

5 As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed [a] in a mother's womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the Maker of all things.

Footnote a. Ecclesiastes 11:5 Or know how life (or the spirit) / enters the body being formed

I believe that declarations as to when a human life begins during gestation is, or at least edges up on, blasphemy.

* "Pro-life" as opposed to "pro-birth (after that? I've got other fish to fry....)" [Note: not all 'pro-lifers' are simply pro-birthers, but I perceive that many are]

** As a free range Christian, I not only believe that my God can't beat up your God, I suspect our Godsare at least frends, if not the same ....

***2 Timothy 3:15-17 (New International Version) 16All Scripture is God-breathed [also translated as "inspired by God" but not as "written by God"] and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Politically Ugly, Uglier, Ugliest ....

If you are going to pursue truth, you have to be prepared to change your mind!

Few, if any, folks will be the slightest bit interested in how I came to lead the divorce recovery group at my church for several years. The point is that I got to see and listen to a fair number of folks going through some ugly times.

Ugly pretty much goes with the territory: loss of the dream, loss of the love, the companionship. Loss of the positives.

“I was accepted. Everything I did was right and pleasing, I was handsome/beautiful. I was IT.

“But no more.”


Morning in America! The Great Communicator. Teflon President I. “Love us, and we’ll let keep ‘your’ money. Love us, and everything will be just perfect. Government is the problem, free enterprise is the perfect solution.

“You’ll see. We promise. For better or worse? We’re the best. Those guys are the worst. What? We lied to you? We did this? We did that? They didn’t work? But, but, we’re always right.

From ‘Morning in America’ trough 4 lost years, 8 years of bickering and baseless accusations (well... he did have sex with that woman, the epitome of marital distress...) And 8 more years of “Bring it on; you’re scary, world, so we need to start swinging ....And..., anyone who doesn’t agree with everything we say is an enemy....”

To: “How can you say that? You love me! You won’t leave. You can’t leave....

“Don’t take your love away from me....
Come on baby, let’s start anew
‘Cause breaking up is hard to do....

“I am the power!!!!!”

Dr. Kubler-Ross taught us there are 5 stages of grief when we suffer a significant loss:
  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance.

2008, people who vote told the Republican powers, the neo-conservatives, the espousal abusers, the cocky bastards: “It’s over.”

Denial .... Anger .... Bargaining .... In no fixed order and repeating patterns and out bursts.And overlaps: denial, anger - anger, denial .... A marriage gone bad.

Political Divorce: Ugly, Uglier, Ugliest ....

Friday, June 5, 2009

Violent Anti-abortion Protestors Are Terrorists

If you are going to pursue truth, you have to be prepared to change your mind!

An Open Letter I sent to the WAMU Diane Rehm Show broadcast on NPR

Re “National News Roundup” of Friday, June 5, 2009

Dear Ms Rehm et al:

I am writing to (1) suggest an alternative approach for coverage of the Dr. Tiller murder andof the otherr extremist actions of some in the abortion protest movement, and (2) express my disappointment, in the strongest terms available to civilized discourse, in Juan Williams’ comparison of those anti-abortion movement extreme elements to the civil rights workers of the 50's, and 60's and 70's.

First, I believe that “the media”should be calling the violent extremists in the anti-abortion movement (the extremists being, I believe a minute segment of that movement) what they are: domestic terrorists.

There have been thousands of attacks and threats of attacks on abortion doctors, clinics and employees, including at least 10 murders. (See, also,;

The intent to terrorize and intimidate abortion providers has been made explicit - for example, by some among those extremists advising abortion doctors that body armor that it won’t protect them because the assassins among them will be shooting for the doctors’ heads. (The very fact that doctors believe they need armor for protection against attack itself demonstrates the terrorism spread by those extremists.)

(An aside: That has been organization among those terrorists is established by the conviction a few years ago of Cheryl Sullenger of conspiracy to bomb an abortion clinic. Sullenger is now a “senior policy analyst” of the leading anti-abortion group, Operation Rescue. Perhaps she has been rehabilitated and is now a productive citizen. Perhaps an alcoholic in recovery can work as a alcohol product promoter in a bar ans stay sober. Perhaps not.)

There are domestic terrorists among the anti-abortion groups, and I believe the various media are at least irresponsible when they ignore that reality. (I don’t know if the principles of journalism ascribe to the concept that all that is needed for evil to triumph is to stand silent. If they don’t, I believe that concept should be considered.)

Second: I believe Juan Williams’ comments on Friday should shock the conscience of people of good will.

He compared the anti-abortion terrorists and their broadcasting cheerleaders to people in the civil rights movement, who were willing to go to jail for protesting the outrageous inequalities in our society and for the right to express their beliefs.

The civil rights workers and the heros among them were engaged in non-violent civil disobedience.

The anti-abortion terrorists are involved in killing, bombings and threats of serious physical harm and other forms of intimidation.

In short, the civil rights workers were non-violent, the extremists among the anti-abortion movemnt are violent.

Just as Bill O’Reilly should be regarded as morally culpable for celebrating a pre-mediated murder in a house of worship (not to mention his incitement of such domestic terrorism over the years, I believe Mr Williams should give serious consideration to the comparison he made on Friday’s show.

Although I often don’t agree with Mr. Williams positions, they are generally thoughtful and considered.

His comment on Friday was, I hope, the exact opposite of reasoned and considered, and I believe that he will be willing to reconsider them.

I believe those comments were, sorry to say, odious, and that Mr. Williams owes a retraction of them and an apology to the thousands of folks who peacefully battled to advance the reach of the civil rights in America, which rights have served as an ever-brightening beacon of aspiration and hope across the centuries.

BTW: if Mr Williams is looking for a comparison between the anti-abortion terrorists of today and the protests of the 60's and 70's, may I suggest the violent-prone “Weathermen,” “Symbionese Liberation Army” and the other splinter group violent outcasts from the ranks of those who have and who continue to promote change and a vision of moral behavior through peaceful means - including the non-violent civil rights protesters and the vast majority of peaceful anti-abortion protesters

Respectfully, and a strong fan of your show,

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Karl Rove and the Mystery of the Obvious

If you are going to pursue truth, you have to be prepared to change your mind!

Maybe Rove Is Starting to Get it:

He has declared: "Empathy" is the latest code word for liberal activism, ....”

Yes, imagine that!

Liberals like liberal activism, conservatives like conservative activism.

Go figure....

I’m always amazed when political folks portray the most obvious of truths as the re-appearance of Beazelbub. Maybe the sulphurous smoke is blinding them? (Actually, I’m not amazed at all - this is the very life breath of jingoism....)

“...for treating the Constitution as malleable clay to be kneaded and molded in whatever form justices want. It represents an expansive view of the judiciary in which courts create policy that couldn't pass the legislative branch or, if it did, would generate voter backlash.”

Yes there are laws that can’t get through a legislature. Some bad ones, some really good ones that get blocked, some that legislatures haven't even though about yet.

One would suspect that Mr. Rove is familiar with lobbyists and special interest groups and the huge growth in corporate money being spent to affect (and sometimes block) legislation.

Judges have made law and policy throughout our legal history: we are a common law system - in a common law system, judges make law. The “sudden” concern for this historic truth apparently reflects the fact that lately (the last 100 years or so) “activist judges” have, in delivering justice, found that the legislatures have failed to come up with justice on their own. Maybe because of lobbying? Special interests?

In the mid and late 1800s, activist judges created a slew of law about railroads, clearing away some old views about property rights and of torts that were blocking expansion of the railroads. The legislatures were slow to act and the law was very different from state to state.

Uniform law was needed and the judiciary provided it for the benefit of “big business and commerce.”

Kind of too bad in a way. It would have been interesting to see how commerce would have grown if we had stuck to rivers and canals.

Re judicial activism: see also my earlier blog entries for April.

And this recent one on empathy as being a required element of judging for some areas of law.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Judging, Empathy and the Law: Part II

If you are going to pursue truth, you have to be prepared to change your mind!

[Judging, Empthy and the Law: Part I]

In some areas of law, the law itself requires judges to exercise empathy

Judging is far more than application of set mechanical rules, twisting wrenches and tweaking fits.

Laws regulate human interactions: in serving us through making judgments, judges are in the thick of the human activity being regulated, applying an immense range of skills. We owe it to them to not inadvertently dismiss their work as no more than the application oft vice grips and hammers, and fine tuning with the torque wrench.

Some people, primarily conservatives, have challenged the idea that judges, such as Supreme Court judges, should have empathy; they argue that judges should just “interpret the law” (and that “empathy” is just a code word for “activist.”)

But, some areas of law not only allow judges to exercise their powers of empathy, they require judges to exercise their powers of empathy in making their decisions.

The required judicial power of empathy is illustrated in two ‘recent’ Supreme Court cases regarding school search and seizure programs, in opinions written by Justice Scalia, in Vernonia v. Action, 1995 (“Vernonia”), and Justice Thomas, in Pottawatomie Cty. V. Earls , 2002 (“Earls”). The cases involved the Fourth Amendment search and seizure provisions.

Such cases, involving prospective programs of searches and seizures, require three determinations:
(1) the degree of invasion of the subjects’ privacy,
(2) the degree of the state’s interest in the searches, and
(3) the degee of effectiveness of the class of searches under review.

The third can be determined by relevant studies; the second by studies and understanding of the state’s public policies and the state’s interest in regulating students’ private and public activities.

The first factor, however, judging the degree of invasion of privacy, requires the judges to exercise their powers of empathy.

In Vernonia, Justice Scalia wrote:

“School sports are not for the bashful. They require "suiting up" before each practice or event, and showering and changing afterwards. Public school locker rooms, the usual sites for these activities, are not notable for the privacy they afford.”

The court’s decision hinged completely on the judges’ degree of empathy for the affected students’ privacy feelings and expectations.

Similarly, In Earls, Justice Thomas (despite a need arising from the different facts in the case to minimize the expectation of privacy leg of the "decisional 3-legged stool") also used his own powers of empathy to declare:

“We therefore conclude that the students affected by this Policy have a limited expectation of privacy.”

Empathy: "the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another" ( is a necessary quality in those people entrusted to judge us in our day to day lives

Law and Judging

People often envision law and legal analysis as little more than finding the appropriate rule, sub-rule, or sub-sub rule exception to the sub-rule... or rule.

Lawyers call such a construct “black letter law.” And there are many legal questions involving black letter law: to referee student sports in State X, you must hold required certificate Y; when driving you must stop at red-lights (unless you are an emergency vehicle on a run and sounding your siren and pulsing your emergency lights, etc.)

But, especially for cases which end up before a judge, there is no clearly applicable black letter law: the facts are such that we need a neutral party to judge them. (The easy, black letter law cases usually don't end up in court: few want to pay high legal expenses where the outcome is certain and courts have various powers to avoid wastes of their time.)

When real controversies arise for the courts, determinations as (i) what the law is and (ii) how it should apply to a given fact situation require far more than simply knowing the potentially applicable rules, sub-rules, and sub-sub exceptions to the sub-rules.

Worthwhile determinations also require judges to understand and apply the underlying rationale for the rules, the precedents set by earlier cases, and the intent of the law makers (such as representatives when they legislate.

Because we are a common law legal system where, through precedent, the decisions made by one court can control or persuade later cases, legal determinations also require judges to anticipate how their decisions will affect future activities and decisions of the public at large.

Good judging requires far more that simply deciding which rule applies or knowing how to merely“interpret”a rule. Those are necessary and important qualities, but they are only the start. To suggest they are sufficient qualities for a judge is to inadvertently dismiss the many skills needed and used by that particularly valuable species of public servant.

Often, the law itself requires judges to exercise their power of empathy.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Judging, Empathy and the Law: Part I

If you are going to pursue truth, you have to be prepared to change your mind!

Judging Empathy And Law: Part II

A few weeks ago, President Obama mentioned “empathy” as one of several qualities he would look for in his judicial appointments.

Some critics have asserted that “empathy” is just a code word for “activist judges” (apparently assuming that the ‘activist’ judiciary which has created a great deal of the fundamental law of our nation throughout our history was somehow ‘unamerican’ or acting contrary to the funding principles of the nation.)

Accepting that “code word” characterization at face value, it should be noted that, in this era of our history, “activist judge” is itself a code word for “liberal judge.”

Conservatives have openly advocated a conservative judiciary and the appointment of conservative judges - a perfectly natural and appropriate expression of their views.

At best, it it disingenuous, however, to condemn liberals for advocating a liberal judiciary when one engages in exactly the same sort of political advocacy from a different viewpoint.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Just A Quickie on Carbon Dioxide

If you are going to pursue truth, you have to be prepared to change your mind!

I've just stepped in a huge waste of our money by our governments - local, state and probably federal. It looks like it adds up to about $11 billion every year.

See, we've just been taught by one of the political parties that carbon dioxide can't be a pollutant because we breath it out every day, every minute:

Rush Limbaugh: “we exhale C02. If it were a poison, if it were something -- we would -- wouldn't be part of the way we stay alive."

So why the heck are we spending $11 billion on treating our pee and poop?

Darned waste of our money, if you ask me.

Darned socialist waste of our money...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Little Language Quibble/Jab

If you are going to pursue truth, you have to be prepared to change your mind!

Just something that caught my fancy....

Iin a campaign to oppose to re-election of “dishonest left-wing extremist Harry Reid (D-NV).... [and] his non-stop assaults on America” a right wing site, “The Right-Wing Underground Resisting Socialism and Surrender” is soliciting funds.

Political fund-raising? As American as apple pie, of course. More power to ‘em

In pleading for funds, the site proclaims: “We're going up against the President of the United States and the Senate Majority Leader. So we have to do this right. We truly need to own the TV airwaves.” [Emphasis added.]

Should we tell them that, decades ago, in the Radio Act of 1927, “socialist” ownership of the airwaves was set as the law of the land, and that, in fact “We do truly own the TV airwaves?”

(Of course, I’m conflating their metaphor with the reality of our broadcasting history, but I’m always amused when advocates demonstrate a certain inability to understand the implications of the words they chose.)

(BTW: Conservatives like to argue from various obscure facts that there is no basis to claim the “public owns the air waves.” They overlook the most basic rule of the early radio and then broadcasting laws: that the government was leasing “air waves” to licensed broadcasters. Leasing something to someone requires ownership.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Green Jobs are Subprime Jobs?

If you are going to pursue truth, you have to be prepared to change your mind!

"Subprime" Green Jobs?

Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) , in his opening statement on the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), attacked green jobs as “subprime:

“There’s little doubt in my mind that this legislation will shut down businesses and eliminate blue and white collar jobs. While I know the majority has prided its plan on the creation of green jobs mr chairman I have listened to some of our counterparts in Europe discuss their experience with these green jobs....They may be described as “subprime” in comparison to solid traditional manufacturing jobs we’ve recently lost to other countries.” [Emphasis added.]

Wow, looks terrible! How about some facts?

Here’s a look at some of those “subprime” jobs:

There are 3 newish solar panel companies in my area. First Solar has been around the longest, Sunlight for a couple of years, and Willard & Kelsey Solar Group LLC has recently started up.

For a list of the “subprime jobs they offer, may I suggest

FirstSolar has 83 jobs open, most require a 4 year engineering degree.

How 'shaky' is FirstSolar? How likely is it those jobs will be lost?

“First Solar has demonstrated strong revenue growth over the past three years. Since 2004, it has more than doubled its revenue each successive year while turning a profit in 2008.

“In the first quarter of 2008, First Solar saw net sales of $196.9 million - up $130 million year-on-year but down $3.9 million from 4Q07. Gross margins were 53% - down 2.3% from 4Q07. The company's backlog is worth $6 billion.”

Xunlight has 13 positions open, mainly engineering but one requires a law degree and license.

Wksolargroup doesn’t list their openings on line, but word on the street is that they’re mainly looking for engineers and skilled machinists.

Pretty rotten jobs, eh?

Who was it who warned us about "nattering nabobs of negativity?"

[Thanks to The Wonk Room at ThinkProgress for calling attention to the comments by Rep. Gingrey]

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Swing And a Miss....

If you are going to pursue truth, you have to be prepared to change your mind!

I’m a regular reader ofthe blogs at and believe that site publishes much of value.

Today, however, the site said: "Karl Rove declared that House Speaker Nancy Pelsoi (D-CA) was 'an accomplice to ‘torture,’”

I believe that was a misleading characterization.

Rove was writing in the conditional sense and did not make the flat out statement attributed to him, creating the impression that he implicitly admitted torture was used:

"If Mrs. Pelosi considers the enhanced interrogation techniques to be torture, didn't she have a responsibility to complain at the time, introduce legislation to end the practices, or attempt to deny funding for the CIA's use of them? If she knew what was going on and did nothing, does that make her an accessory to a crime of torture...? [Emphasis added.]

Swing and a miss for ThinkProgress.

But they still have one heck of a high batting average

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Real Estate/Financial Meltdown - A Question

If you are going to pursue truth, you have to be prepared to change your mind!

I haven't seen anyone talk about the role that real estate agents played in the real estate/sub prime mess.

It is my understanding that most RE sales involve agents for the buyers - were the agents for the sub-prime borrowers acting in their principles' best interests? Advising them as to the financial propriety of those transactions?

If anyone has seen this discussed, I'd like to see a link/reference.

Monday, May 11, 2009

High School Drug Testing

My town is considering drug testing for students in sports and other "competitive" activities.

This study discusses such programs
and demonstrating that there are good reasons to "just say no" to such drug testing. (This is an ACLU related Study -- see the link below for a Cato Institute study)

Some key points from the study:

• Drug testing is not effective in deterring drug use among
young people;

• Drug testing is expensive, taking away scarce dollars
from other, more effective programs that keep young
people out of trouble with drugs;

• Drug testing can be legally risky, exposing schools to
potentially costly litigation;

• Drug testing may drive students away from extracurricular
activities, which are a proven means of helping
students stay out of trouble with drugs;

• Drug testing can undermine trust between students and
teachers, and between parents and children;

• Drug testing does not effectively identify students who
have serious problems with drugs; and

• Drug testing may lead to unintended consequences, such
as students using drugs (like alcohol) that are more
dangerous but less detectable by a drug test.

This study from the conservative Cato Institute has raised similar questions:

"In this paper, I explore the conditions under which the random drug testing of athletes will lead to the perverse outcome of increased student drug usage. As I will show below, the threat of this policy backfiring is not fanciful, but rather is quite real and should worry policymakers and others who are concerned with the high level of drug use among students. Civil liberties issues aside, the random drug testing of athletes may be a very risky policy innovation."

See also,
in Salon magazine:

Why drug tests flunk

"If the Supreme Court rules in favor of drug testing in public schools, will students come clean? Kids at schools in Indiana, where drug tests rule, say no way.

"Apr 22, 2002 | According to the students at rural Rushville Consolidated High School, there are a dozen ways to pass a drug test. "

[On Edit - 5-13]
I've done more digging and found some "pro testing" websites:

There is, of course, debate as to whether these programs "work" and whether there are potential negative consequences. I'm digging in.....

This site appears to be linked to another site: Which appears to be principally the work of Robert L. DuPont, M.D. -- bio at

The Student Drug Testing Coalition web site reports that “The Coalition is a project of the Drug-Free Projects Coalition, Inc.”

I have not been able to find any information on the internet as to the Drug-Free Projects Coalition, Inc.

The Cost of "Free"

If you are going to pursue truth, you have to be prepared to change your mind!

The Cost of “Free”

Rep. Pete Sessions, head of the House Republican committee tasked with electing more GOP members, has a unique theory as to why unemployment continues to rise: Obama wants to wipe out free enterprise.

Sessions told the Times that Obama's plan is to "diminish employment and diminish stock prices." By doing so, Obama "intended to inflict damage and hardship on the free enterprise system, if not to kill it" as part of a "divide and conquer" strategy to consolidate power.

(Remember, in the past, Sessions has argued that the Republican Party ought to emulate terrorists. The GOP, Sessions famously argued in February, ought to model its "insurgency" after the Taliban. "Insurgency, we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban," he said.)

“Free enterprise” really took off in the second part of the1800's, with the industrial revolution. It worked so well that giant monopolies formed, the antithesis of free enterprise as described by Adam Smith. (Few know or remember: Adam Smith did not think much of corporations .)

So we, the people, came up with anti-trust laws, taking a bite out of the “free”

And just as one group of people organized to leverage the return on their assets, through stock companies, another group of people organized to leverage the return on their assets, through trade and labor unions. (They had a pretty tough go of it though, given relative political power.)

Another bite out of the "free."

Free enterprise led us into the Great Depression. So we came up with business and finance laws, taking another bite out of the “free.”

As industry grew, to maximize their profits and return for shareholders, which is what they were supposed to do, free enterprise got rid of their wastes as cheaply as possible, leading to widespread pollution.

So we, the people, came up with environmental laws in the 70's, taking another bite out of the “free.”

Capitalism and enterprise with restrictions (“sort-of-free enterprise”) have generated much wealth and, in many ways, a much better world.

Our latest experiment with easing the rules by which business is governed, “sort-of-freer enterprise,” the financial and economic meltdown of the first decade of the 21st century should have again shown us that “really-free enterprise” leads to pretty high costs for "free."

One essential part of our governance is the structure of checks and balances. The need to restrict the freedom of the executive, of the judicial and of the legislative is understood by all and is seen as a response to human imperfections.

Free commerce, without checks and balances simply hasn't worked well over our history.

Cries for "free enterprise" are simply denial of this basic human truth.

Whistling Past The Graveyard Department:

Sunday, 5/10/09, on ABC's This Week, John McCain expressed his view that the problem for Republicans was not that Americans had rejected their right-wing policy ideas, but that they had not communicated those policy ideas well enough in the recent past.

Okay. If that's what you need to think...., I'm all for ya.....

Saturday, May 9, 2009

It's Gotta Be Tough

If you are going to pursue truth, you have to be prepared to change your mind!

I have been aware for awhile that it’s got to be tough to be a Republican these days.

The moderate Republicans have been eschewed and discarded by their more passionate “compatriots” to their right; the right wing shoved its ideology down the American throat only to have it (semi) promptly regurgitated -- in public.

Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has pinned the tail on the elephant: he says the GOP is at risk of becoming "irrelevant as the Whigs;” that the GOP would only further decline in influence should it "alienate social conservatives."

The social conservatives are, to a large extent, incapable of accepting other views and they are repelled by the idea of associating with others with mildly differing values.

Remember, to a large extent, these are the folks who think a retail store which doesn't include “Merry Christmas” in its winter season greeting is attacking, literally attacking Christianity.

Asking them to accept difference views is, in their minds, attacking them and thus alienating them.

In an interview with the California newspaper The Visalia Times-Delta, Huckabee "Throw the social conservatives the pro-life, pro-family people overboard and the Republican party will be as irrelevant as the Whigs."

As some have noted in another area of societal battle: “can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without them.”

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Importance of Being Spicy

If you are going to pursue truth, you have to be prepared to change your mind!

The Importance of Being Spicy

Referring to the left's reaction to the right wing fascination with Obama using an style of mustard based on a French recipe, another recent arrival in the blog world,William A. Jacobson, noted:

"Dijongate was a metaphor for the larger issue of media bias which helped Obama get elected...."

Which would be a wonderful observation if it made any sense. I was an English major, I know metaphor when I see metaphor, and Professor Jacobson, that tweren't no metaphor.

But, to give credit where it might possibly be due, apparently, he is a "the-media-is-liberalista" and found significance that one channel edited out the end of President Obama's sentence where he specified spicy or Dijon style mustard as yet another proof of the liberal bias of the media:
Published here

Not alone in his condiment-phobia among conservative commentators, he then felt it, ah, thrilling? that their concern with Obama's mustard choice was mentioned by several "nutroots:"

"Check out the links to the original post, and you will see that many of the high profile nutroots blogs have linked. If you check out the links and comments, you will see that the full foul-mouthed, abusive intellect of the nutroots has been brought to bear.

[Query: is referring to people with other views as "nutroots" an example of either foul-mouthed or abusive intellect? I'd say no-- rather, use of such a descriptor is evidence of a lack of intellect, as the word is commonly used. Or, as we used to say in Torts class: "res ipsa loquitur."]

"So I kept updating the story, with further links to Obama's choice of condiment, in part as a reaction to the reaction. Which has driven some people even crazier. Now the story has gone national, being picked up by the Washington Post blog.

"What gives here? Why the out-sized reaction? If this is a non-story, why is the left obsessed with it?

Published here

Perhaps some on the left are obsessed - there are "nutroots" on both sides of the aisle.

For me: I wouldn't say I'm obsessed with his blog.

I mention it for two reasons: First, maybe I can get a mention on his site and build my hits. Economic self-interest, you know.

And second, I am in favor not only of highlighting idiocy on the right, but in actively encouraging it and promoting its day in the sunshine. I hope you hit the evening news.

You go, boy, er, Professor - keep showing the world the thinking processes of today's right wing intellectuals. The conservative branch of the Republican Party is in search of new ideas*, and the president's mustard choice is just about the best you guys have come up with.

I suspect you couldn't do more for liberalism in the US if you tried.

*A wonderful, but apparently wholly unconscious admission that today's conservative ideology now has less vitality than Enron and Chrysler combined: by definition conservatives revere and want to reinstate the past.

The very fact that they are seeking "new ideas" demonstrates that their Holy Grail of life -the good old days - has come a cropper.

How we miss conservatives who had something to say. There are still some, but even they are drowned out by the prevailing loud voices in Lambaughstan.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

National Day of Prayer in the White House

If you're going to pursue truth, you have to be prepared to change your mind.....

National Day of Prayer

Should the National Day of Prayer be highlighted by a public White House event?

Not according to experts:

Matthew 6:5 "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Listening, Learning & Teaching

If you are going to pursue truth, you have to be prepared to change your mind!

Rush Limbaugh May, 2009: “We do not need a listening tour. We need a teaching tour. That is what the Republican Party , or slash, the conservative movement needs to focus on. Listening tour ain’t it.”

Membership in the Republican Party is dropping - down to 21% according to recent news reports.

Republicans lost electoral ground in 2006 and even more in 2008.

And Rush believes that “they” don’t have to listen, they have to teach.

OK. As a Democrat with primarily progressive beliefs, I hope Rush’s view prevails within the remaining faithful still residing in Limbaughstan.

I wish them the best of luck with that battle cry.

Because I believe the American people have been listening to the conservative teachings over the past decades and have learned that the extreme views of today's "conservatives" don’t work.

(I believe there are thoughtful, reasoned conservatives and " we" can and should give their views consideration, and that we can learn from those who are reasoned and thoughtful. If nothing else, to find common ground and areas where we can all compromise and "hang together.")

And, I believe that if you’re going to pursue truth, you have to be willing to change your mind.

That, to able to change your mind, you have to be willing to learn and listen

I.e. you have to understand that learning never stops.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Judicial Activism ('4 of 3')

If you are going to pursue truth, you have to be prepared to change your mind!

Our Activist Judiciary = Checks and Balances (Part 4 - See Parts 1-3 below)

In a NYTimes analysis in 2005, Professor Paul Gewirtz and Yale Law graduate Chad Golder gave an interesting set of facts on “judicial activism.”

They define judicial activism in terms of overruling Congressional acts on grounds of unconstitutionality: “Declaring an act of Congress unconstitutional is the boldest thing a judge can do. That's because Congress, as an elected legislative body representing the entire nation, makes decisions that can be presumed to possess a high degree of democratic legitimacy. In an 1867 decision, the Supreme Court itself described striking down Congressional legislation as an act ‘of great delicacy, and only to be performed where the repugnancy is clear.’”

So, who are the “activist” judges?

From 1994 to 2005, in cases challenging constitutionality, the each of the justices voted to rule a congressional act at this rate:

Thomas 65.63 %
Kennedy 64.06 %
Scalia 56.25 %
Rehnquist 46.88 %
O’Connor 46.77 %
Souter 42.19 %
Stevens 39.34 %
Ginsburg 39.06 %
Breyer 28.13 %

So, the “conservative justices are generally the “activist judges.”

So much for conservative attacks on “judicial activism.”

Following, an historic look at judicial activism from the perspective of “judges making law.”

(Some call this “legislating from the bench”, but that’s a simply a misuse of language in an attempt to backdoor a constitutional argument: that Congress has the sole right to legislate and so courts shouldn’t. Judge made law is simply the creation of common law - which has been at the core of our legal system since long before the adoption of the Constitution -- dating back to pre-colonial England.)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Judicial Activism (1 of 3)

If you are going to pursue truth, you have to be prepared to change your mind!

Our Activist Judiciary = Motherhood (Part 1 of 3)

As the Obama administration seeks to fill the many open spots in our Federal court system, we are almost certain to hear disdain and even hateful attacks on “activist judges.”

Ironically, those who claim to honor our “founding fathers” and their original intent are demonstrating complete disregard when they eschew “judge-made law.”

Throughout our legal history, both before and after the Revolution and the adoption of our Constitution, judges have been making law. That’s where our common law system omes from: judges making law. Few observers have seriously questioned that role of judges until the last 50 years or so.

That is what our common law legal system is: judges making law was far more common than legislative-made law until at least the 1870's and the growth of the Benthanite codification movement: a movement to organize and restate the existing, fully valid and recognized judge-made law into a central set of organized rules. The codification movement was , not an effort to replace judges as a source of law.

Under our common law system, in recent centuries judges sometimes (quite rarely, in fact) make law. Far more often they follow precedent - the prior cases with similar fact patterns decided either in higher courts within the particular system or influential high courts.

Judges are most likely to make law when we undergo significant changes in our society, such as resulted from the industrial revolution and the change from a rural, barter society to an industrial money-based society. Conditions change more quickly than legislatures can keep up with.

Our entire system of governance demands an effective system of checks and balances. Judicial activism is both a check and balance on the executive and on the legislative, and is subject to their counter-vailing powers.

Judicial Activism (2 of 3)

If you are going to pursue truth, you have to be prepared to change your mind!

Our Activist Judiciary = Hot Lunch For Orphans (Part 2 of 3)

Some background on what happens in courts:

Usually, in legal cases, (actions at law - not “law suits”) the big argument isn't over who did what to whom; the (or at least a major) issue is "do the facts of this case more closely resemble case A - which had one outcome; or case B, which had another -- what law, what precedent applies to this case?"

Each side is, in essence, saying: "Case A /Case B is the ruling precedent for this case because the facts are essentially the same so that Case A / Case B is the precedent can be applied. And the cases cited by the other side don't apply because the facts are different enough so that that case and the case can be distinguished."

Every now and again, however, either there is no existing precedent or the world has changed enough so that the existing precedent no longer leads to a fair result.

Example 1.

In England, during the growth of the industrial revolution, there was a growing need for currency.

Agrarian societies don't need much currency; people get by trading a pig for a bushel of wheat at the old village pump.

With industrialization, commerce became more complex, and it wasn't so easy to barter a case of mill-shaft lynch pins for a gross of microscope focusing rings.

The amount of currency in circulation was completely inadequate to serve the needs of commerce and to take the place of barter, and governments are usually pretty bad at recognizing and responding to change; especially in those days.

So merchants started creating their own "currency:" promissory notes, drafts, checks, and acceptances, aka "negotiable instruments."

There was little law or precedent for negotiable instruments, of course, and the legal effect of various events in the chain of possession of a negotiable instrument was uncertain.

In a series of cases in the late 1700s, an English court led by judge by name of Lord Mansfield pretty much singlehandedly created the law of negotiable instruments. (They were working with various treatises, such as on the "lex mercantile" -the law of merchants - and using merchants as advisors as to what would make sense, but the modern law of negotiable instruments pretty much rests on the law created by Lord Mansfield and his fellow judges.)

Judicial activism at it finest. And no one has ever complained about what he did or excoriated him as "an activist judge."

Example 2: As the automobile industry in the US was getting started, a basic rule of contracts was that you only had rights against a party if you were "in privity of contract” with that party, essentially meaning you only had rights against the party you had directly dealt with.

Mr McPherson bought himself a nice new Buick auto from a dealer: who in turn had bought the car from Buick. Buick, in turn had purchased the wheels from another company.

It had a defective wheel, crashed, and he was injured.

He tried to sue Buick for compensation for the injuries received because of the defective product.

Buick raised the then perfectly valid defense of "no privity of contract."

Despite the existing state of the law (itself created by judges) requiring “privity, the trial court and the appellate court held for plaintiff. Buick appealed to the highest court in NY, still asserting the defense of lack of privity.

An example of activist” judges making law, by hanging law already made by judges, where the legislature wouldn't or couldn't.

As an activist judge, Cardozo achieved justice AND enhanced the auto industry.

Judicial Activism (3 of 3)

If you are going to pursue truth, you have to be prepared to change your mind!

Our Activist Judiciary = Apple Pie (Part 3 of 3)

How often do judges make law? Are there any controls?

Judges are very hesitant to "make law."

Whenever a trial judge rules on a question of law, the decision can be appealed to a higher court. (In some systems/states there is one level of appeal, in others and in the federal system there are 2 levels of appeal.)

All legal appeals say essential the same thing: "The lower court screwed up: it got the law wrong." (The only thing which can be appealed are questions of law - not questions of fact.)

When a court is reversed, the reviewing court is publically announcing: “The court below blew it.”

For a judge to deliberately rule in a new way ("make law") he or she has to darned well convinced that the "new law" is based on sound enough and powerful enough and convincing enough reasons that the appeals court will also agree that the law has to change. No judge likes to be reversed by a higher court, so it takes a mighty strong case for a judge to stick out his/her neck and "make law."

Are the courts usurping the legislature's power?

No. When a court makes law which is upheld on appeal, the legislature can always pass a law reversing the courts, legislatively saying "From now on, the law shall be xyz in such cases.”

So, the system of checks and balances still exists when a judge "makes law."

The only exception to that is where the highest courts rule on constitutional issues.

A legislature can't over-rule a high court's constitutional rulings.

And there is a check an balance on that power, too. A court's constitutional ruling can be "reversed" by legislative action through the constitutional amendment process.

The recent Kelo property law eminent domain case from Connecticut is a good example of courts being “over-ruled” by legislatures.

Kelo was NOT a case of judicial activism, by the way, although many have erroneously called it that.

In Kelo case, the Spreme Court majority ruled that, in deciding the case, they should pay deference to legislative findings and actions, which is the exact opposite of "activist judges" thwarting the will of the legislatures.

There was legal precedent for the arguments advanced by both the plaintiff and the State of Connecticut. (It is extremely rare for a case to go so far when there are good arguments on both sides - few would want to spend the money if the other side has a slam dunk, and courts are overloaded and they will refuse to hear cases without merit on both sides.)

Anyone who calls Kelo a case of "judicial activism" is demonstrating, ah, an incomplete understanding of the case and the holding of the court.

I believe Kelo was wrong decided, myself - I think it was a classic case were the Court should have substituted its judgment for that of the parochial executive and legislative branches of local government. The majority apparently ignored the common fact that local politics is often swayed by commercial and power considerations and that justice is, at east at times, lost in the power struggles of local politics.

But I believe Kelo should be recognized as the very epitome of judicial restraint, and as the very opposite of judicial activism.

There are, of course, mant cases of judges making law: ad that is a good thing

Without “activist” judges, we would be “stuck” with legislative action to decide what the rules are by which we all interact: that is what law is.

Given the, ah, politics of politics, the idea of law bing left solely in the hands of legislatures should frighten people

Rather than some form of evil to be resisted, activist judges are actually good for our society. As there are checks and balances on their deeds - judicial activism is simply one part of the overall system of checks and balances which our “founding fathers and mothers” created for us.

Simply put: our system including judge-made law is not broken.

And, if it ain’t broke.... don’t fix it.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Obama's Task

A builder friend described Obama's task brilliantly:

"The guy has so much that needs doin'. Kind of like fixin' up an old place that was previously "remodelled" by an idgit."
MikeRooney The Breaktime forum.

Friday, April 17, 2009

How to Help Moderate Republicans

If You Want To Pursue The Truth, You Have To Be Prepared to Change Your Mind
* * * * * * * * * *

I believe the Republican Party has been under the control of fairly extreme right wingers, and has been so for 30+ years.

I truly believe that "united we stand, divided we fall."

Not that we all have to agree on everything.

But we have to respect those who support our democracy.

I'm looking for ideas as to how progressives can help the reasonable, moderate Republicans regain control of their party.

Comments below will be appreciated....

We The People Have Acted, Can Act, Will Act

I attended a "Tea Party" on Wednesday

I agreed with some of the things said at my local Tea Party, disagreed with more, and heard plenty of stuff that was simply wrong.

Yes, I believe in democracy. (A republic is one form of democracy, tea party friends - saying we're a republic and not a democracy is like saying Mickey Mantle wasn't a pro ball player becaus he was a New Your Yankee.)

As a liberal, I believe that the central genius of the Constitution was setting up a system of check and balances within the power centers of our nation: in an farm-based barter economy, that was the government.

With the rise of the industrial revolution and the emergence of corporations as a another power center, I believe there also need to be checks and balances on them.

As corporate monopolies took over toward the end of the 1800's, we, the people, through our duly elected representatives, created anti-trust laws to break the monopolies (aka "trusts" in those days.)

It turns out monopolies aren't the only corporate entity which is capable of having significant effects.

Next, we the people, through our duly elected representatives, and after bloody battles, empowered unions as a check and balance on one area of corporate power.

Corporate power and effects on our society continued to grow in many respects.

In the 1920's, the financial industry ran amuck and was a significant cause of the great depression.

So, we the people, through our duly elected representatives, significantly increased the powers of the Federal Reserve, and created other federal banking and finance agencies to balance the financial industry.

Through the 50's, 60's and 70's, our economy blossomed - so did aspects of corporate power and industrial waste dumped in our air and water.

So, we the people, through our duly elected representatives, created environmental protection laws and agencies to balance such corporate power and effects.

The fed government is the only contender for the position of providing checks and balances on corporate power.

In the 1980's, Reagoanomics and anti-government government gained power.

Regulations were ignored and repealed.

In the financial sector, unrestricted uncontrolled financial games has caused the worst financial set of problems since the 1920's and the Great Depression.

Will we, the people, understand that another round of checks and balances on corporate power and its effects on our society is needed?

Starting with regulatory controls on the financial sector AND breaking the unprecedented choke hold of corporate lobbying and power over the representatives of we, the people.

Do I believe that corporations can do good? That capitalism is good?

Yes and yes; when we understand and apply the central genius of our "founding fathers" and invoke checks and balances.