Thursday, June 26, 2008

Opportunity Lost

In thinking about the decision on the 2nd Amendment today, I'm struck by something.

Essentially, all the court did was say "Individual=The People", and then go on to restate/regurgitate Presser 1886, in that total bans are not permissable.

What a golden opportunity blown by this court, both left and right. All they've done is say what is NOT allowed, again, rather than helping to define what is in the context of the meaning of the 2nd Amendment wording.

Those who want to whoop and holler, this decision is infantiley myopic, a stronger court would have laughed it out of the room.

5-4 Right Decision, wrong reasoning

Today, the Supreme Court finally ended decades worth of ambiguity about the application and meaning of the 2nd amendments clause ", the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged."


"Gun rights advocates now have a fully recognized individual right to bear arms. But gun control advocates now have a Supreme Court ruling that declares that this right, like other rights in the Constitution, is not absolute. So we finally get some clarity in an area of the law that was begging for it," writes CBS News chief legal analyst Andrew Cohen. "

Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority said the 2nd Amendment,(does not permit)"the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home."

While John Paul Stevens, writing the dissent said,"would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons"

I believe the right decision was made on several levels:

First, how can a people oppose an oppressive government if the only protection is a regular militia - it seems clear the founding fathers intended that 'the people' mean us, the individual citizens, to make-up and arm any such militia with weapons commonly available (to paraphrase Miller 1939).

Second, the decision did not attempt to incorporate the 2nd Amendment onto the states, which it should not have done, this isn't a due process or equal protection question (the kind that the 14th Amendment sought to address). Each state should, and still is allowed to, make up it's own rules, so long as disarming it's citizens in basic violation to the individual right to bear arms isn't done.

Third, it made clear this is a state's right - that Congress isn't a party to it.

However, the way the court got here is wrong.

First, it talks about a right to hunt - no such language exists anywhere in the Constitution, the fore-fathers may have embraced it, but they did not include it. Such language is an outgrowth of a lower court phrasing (and some of the text of the founding period) - none of which is anything other than activism of the first order.

Second, a more pure application of the way Scalia has framed things, would overturn any ban. Scalia justifies owning handguns, as a right not to be infringed, but doesn't explain (AT ALL) why only handguns, or long guns, why not machine guns? Such silence is deafening in pointing out the paucity of logic. It seems, yet again, the right-wing members, joined by Kennedy - have chosen to overturn a state's laws (or a home-rule District's in this case) - by looking for the answer they wanted first, rather than answering the question asked and which answer they needed to provide.

And lastly, as Justice Stevens rightly points out, those who seek to limit the federal government from usurping the rights of states, have seen a seminal blow to their stance. No incorporation exists, no justification for it exists, yet a state's laws (effectively) or at least the District's ability to legislate, has been unilaterally usurped by an activist bench without proper justification WITHIN the Constitution or even as an adaptation to modern usage. It's frankly a bit shameful, and of course, entirely consistent with the shallow-thinking Thomas and Scalia, and as we now know, Roberts and Alito. When I listened to their questions (Roberts and Alito) it was pretty clear which way they were going - their questions tilted a certain way, but they were the questions of one not interested in legal application, but of finding a way to enshrine a right that isn't present in the way they've done.

Ultimately, as some may know, I predicted based on listening to the testimony, that it was clear the state's powers to regulate would be preserved, but that the ban would fall. Those who advocate ALL laws limiting ownership were unconstitutional, or as I think they call it pure absolution, have once again discovered their predictions (as well as their absolutist idiocy) are/were flawed. This is the norm for such people (like Mitch Berg - who clearly knew an insufficient amount about the facts in question - and was thus loathe to guess an outcome until he heard Scalia was writing it - yet, even in that - his guess of absolute allowance, was wrong).
Yet of course, as we see at Scared of the Dark - the right-wing is embracing this as akin to the second coming, wrapping themselves in the trappings of warriors for freedoms (they don't understand), and as something THEY engineered. Hardly, this was engineered by stacking the court with legal midgets, who seek out legal mumbo-jumbo to enshrine not what the Constitution says, but what they want.

In the end, the right decision was made, you cannot have a secure nation, without a populace able to provide for it's own defense - but the mechanics engaged in to get there, were wrong - and of course, far short of the lunacy advocated by either the extreme left (total ban) or extreme right (total permissiveness). Wrapping oneself in a flag today is simply the hallmark of folks who take their defense of the Constitution at a myopic, single (misunderstood) point.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Oh Happy Day

Just think, in a bit more than four months, this election will be done - and we can look forward to two to three weeks without a political ad!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Unsurprising Injustices

If you were wondering why it actually matters who leads the country, and why, at least this time, it matters whom you vote for, let me suggest the following link:

The Department of Justice practiced discrimination, in open violation of governmental policy, and frankly the best interests of justice and the country. Less qaulified Republican applicants were given preferential treatment over highly-qualified applicants who even 'appeared' to show any liberal ties. Two high-ranking Republican appointees went on virtual witch-hunts to ferret out any 'leftist' tendencies.

It's bad enough that it happened, but in the one department dedicated to upholding the law, it's both alarming, and the height of conceit and irony.

While I don't expect McCain would ever allow such conduct, pretty clearly, he won't investigate what has gone on, either. The only way to prevent this type of craven abuse of government, is to put those responsible for these kinds of activities in the public eye, to expose their fraudulent conduct, and where possible, to put them in prison. If we don't, it will simply be repeated, by Democrat and Republican, alike.

Those Republicans out there who want to try to claim the moral high-ground, please try to defend this administration somehow, after this and so many other examples of fraud, deceit, and misconduct. When you do, understand that the world is watching, and laughing at the twists you'll undergo to justify the unjust.

Imus be serious

While other Democrats may wring their hands with Don Imus, I won't.

I don't believe Don Imus meant anything untoward, I think he learned his lesson last time, that off-color jokes are not funny, and he's a smart enough man to stay away from the subject. I suspect he really DID intend to highlight the arrest disparity which exists - his show has generally been more cerebral than Howard Stern or Bill O'Reilly. I heard the tape of what he said (it's been on nearly every radio station).

I may not always like what Imus says, and sometimes he's a jerk, but you'd have to think he had the memory of a snail, or was totally incapable of controlling what he says, to think he'd be dumb enough to say something so stupid again. Even his 'nappy-headed ho's' comment struck me as something not wilful, but rather a reflection of the latent sort of racism all too many of us white guys have lingering around - some due to experiential based fears, some not. But this comment came across as, "Well there you go", meaning, "well that just proves it" (that blacks are always in trouble) being said sarcastically.

So, Imus be serious and cut the guy some slack. We all take ourselves a bit too seriously sometimes - how many of us can say we don't make a joke here or there about another culture, religion, or race, not in an overtly offensive way, but with a slight tweak, the kind of tweak all good humor has to have? When we can no longer poke fun at ourselves, and at each other, we've crossed the line into a humorless society no longer worth trying to co-exist in. That's no excuse for overtly racist commentary or attitude - for which there is no excuse, but it's saying something like "Of course I can't jump, I'm white", shouldn't automatically set off alarm bells every time it happens to be 'on the air', rather than our locker-room buddy making the comment. How many of us could live by that standard? We have to learn to accept our cultural differences, and accept a little bit of ribbing too from those who don't understand- because there ARE in fact a few differnces between some cultures, and then maybe help them understand, in good humor, and taken with the good will intended.

Even so, in this case, I don't think it was Imus doing anything of the sort anyway. I don't like him, but I won't hang him unless I think he's guilty, and I don't.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Judicial Activism

Every time the right bemoans the state of affairs with the judiciary, two words, "Judicial Activism" pass their lips incessantly. It is the buzz-word(s) they have for any ruling they feel derails legislation and instead establishes some form of standard short of the original legislation, but without the full repeal of the original.

Notwithstanding that this kind of interpretation of what is permissible within a law, and what isn't, without full repeal, is exactly what the founding fathers intended, the ultimate irony is that when determining the number of votes where the court rolled back legislation in favor of a different, un-enacted standard, the hands down leader is Clarence Thomas, followed by the now-deceased William Rehnquist.

Last week, however, the true(r) colors of the right and right-wing appointees to the judiciary (on the Supreme Court), showed through loud and clear. All four of the conservative justices, Thomas, Scalia, Alito, and somewhat shockingly, Roberts, voted to allow the military and the administration to setup 'extra-legal' prisons, outside the review of any court, any where, in the interests of public safety. They held that the body of the Constitution shouldn't be enforced on US soil, as long as the soil wasn't actually physically resident on the US (similar to embassy soil). At no time in our nation's past has such 'location' been a determining factor in applicability of the Constitution.

Further, they held that habeaus corpus, the paramount and pre-eminent crown jewel of our Constitution, the one that established the basic principals in stark and unwavering terms, that the government, no matter what the circumstance, cannot inflict itself improperly upon the rights of the people - they held that such provision doesn't matter in times of crisis. The majority, to their credit, basically said what all of us out here in little, old common sense land felt, namely, "if we do not uphold the Constitution in crisis, then what good is it? What good is our word?" Moreover, the situation at GitMo is hardly a crisis. Antonin Scalia's caterwauling and fear-mongering (that this decision will lead to American deaths) does not justify flagrant violations of foundational ethics. EVERY decision of SCOTUS (virtually) has wide-ranging impacts, including the potential to lead to deaths, but it is the adherence to good ethical principal, not the abandonment of it, which reduces the likelihood of those deaths.

In this case, as the following link highlights:, I think the four conservative members knew full well what the legal community has known by and large for six years, but was waiting to act on until a definitive ruling was made. The ruling in the link identifies just how strongly the legal community as a whole, feels this injustice must cease NOW!

Scalia, Alito, Thomas and Roberts, I suspect, KNEW that their position had no legal foundation, that our conduct in GitMo was completely in opposition to the Constitution, completely in opposition to good legal thinking, completely in opposition to good conduct. The Constitution isn't a suicide pact, but actually providing proof of guilt, providing a reason to incarcerate someone, is the ethically PROPER thing to do. Incarcerating someone for six years, without evidence, based on the highly suspect word of an Afghani warlord who got paid $5000/head to say it, is the utterly WRONG thing to do, and those who would vote to continue such an abhorrent approach, are the TRUE activists. They voted for politics first, truth, integrity and upholding the Constitution got zero.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Sound Familiar?

Scott McClellan, speaking today before Congress on the CIA leak case said (from

"Rather than discuss the substance of the book, former and current Bush aides "sought to turn it into a game of 'gotcha,' misrepresenting what I wrote and seeking to discredit me though inaccurate personal attacks," McClellan told the House Judiciary Committee."

Pretty typical, it's what was done to Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neill, Roberto Sanchez, Erik Shinseki, and, as we see today, General Antonio Taguba, the man in charge of the investigation of Abu Ghraib.

It's also the method of rebuttal of our own local bloggers, Mitch Berg, Learned Foot, Swiftee, and Michael Bordkorb. They never bother to discuss substance, unless their is some tiny facet of minutae they can deflect the conversation off into - but instead attack the messenger.

Scott, best of luck, too bad you didn't say these things three years ago and more - but this is the MO of the neo-con right, loyalty first, last, always, even in the face of illegality and lies - do anything less, and they'll seek to destroy you by any means possible.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Appeasement Israeli Style

Today it was announced that Israel has reached agreement with Hamas on a cease-fire.

I have one reaction:

What do those insane Israelis think they are doing? How DARE they talk to Hamas. It's as if Neville Chamberlain possessed Ehud Ohlmert's body or something. I mean, talking IS appeasement, and finding a way to a cease-fire is only placating Hitler.

You'd think Israel, of all places, would never EVER talk to anyone, EVER. Appeasement is talking. Not killing people, not shooting first, is Appeasement. Perhaps Barack Obama needs to take a lesson on exactly what NOT to do, and never ever talk, never follow Israel's disgraceful example. I know, we can get John McCain to go and bomb Hamas, bomb bomb bomb.. that worked out SO well for Israel in 2005.

Frank(en) Dishonesty

As Flash notes - and responds to clearly and succinctly, Mitch Berg at Scared of The Dark is once again creating fictions to then have the opportunity to do the entirely easy, namely, tear down his own fantasy.

Berg asks whether there is anything to 'like' about Franken, and wants justification for votes FOR him, as opposed to say, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, in the upcoming US Senate election in Minnesota.

A couple of thoughts for the perpetually logic-challenged M.Berg:

1. Negative voting constitutes a HUGE percentage of votes in any election. Certainly it would be hard to argue that the Republicans don't engage in negative campaigning - often to an extremem - (e.g. the Bush campaign's actions against John McCain in South Carolina, or oh, gosh, say SWIFT BOATS) - so it is the height of arrogance and dishonesty to actually try to claim the Republicans either require a reason to vote for someone themselves, or have any justification asking someone else to justify their vote. I can vote against someone with a clear concience and without second thought if he/she is corrupt, for sale, out of touch, or just an extraordinarily poor choice, as I believe Mr. Coleman is.

2. There are plenty of positives with Franken specifically, but since when, once someone has been endorsed by the party, is it a requirement to love the candidate? In fact, Mr. Berg, not more than a couple weeks back, pointed out he doesn't exactly LOVE either Coleman or McCain. Franken, as an informed Democrat, makes it more likely filibusters won't be sustained, he obviously wouldn't vote for band-aides on a flood (e.g. lifting Offshore drilling bans), or utter political pomposity and economic boondoggle for the benefit of corporations (summer gas-tax break). No one is required to go any further than that, and Mr. Berg has no right to expect such justification.

It's as if he thinks he has some peternalistic lordship over our thoughts, over our justifications. As Flash rightly points out, people have left Scared Kitty in the Dark in droves because Berg's bragadoccio and arrogance has reached a point where discussion is no longer possible, and this is just another manifestation.

Mitch, when no one replies, it isn't because we don't have reasons to like Franken, it's because we don't feel compelled to stoop to justifying ourselves to someone who will not listen, doesn't actually care, doesn't know the facts, and worse, may twist our words into something unsaid and unthought, since that is your normal M.O. Flash gave you reasons on his blog, I'll give you two or three here.

1. Franken is extraordinarily well-informed, far more so than Coleman
2. Franken did not sign-off blindly on a war justified by requiring the other side to disprove negatives, and he's likely bright enough to know such claptrap is, in fact, claptrap
3. Franken supports reasonable solutions to difficult problems. He has not, in contrast, resorted to simplistic logic and sound bites as a way to back-hand any reasonable discussion, as opposed to say, YOU.
4. Franken's stance on global climate change is reasonable. He niether requires an all-out ban on green house gases, nor does he grasp at the tiniest of straws to justify doing nothing.

If you have the guts to criticize, get the guts to discuss the topic rationally. Your site, is no longer such a venue.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Having had a couple of days to reflect on my discussion with Senator X - I have a couple of quick impressions.

First - in the case of what percent of Iraqi's no longer want the US in Iraq. Senator X has interviewed people - but the witness before Congress lives there everyday, and was quite hesitant to provide an answer to the question of our popularity when asked. As well, polls indicated the numbers ARE what the witness reflected. Why would Senator X both not be aware of the numbers, and choose to not believe them?

Second, X didn't know the position widely reported in the press that the Administration is seeking a long-term presence deal with some pretty dubious authority granted to US troops, and didn't support that authority - or the conclusion of a treaty without Congressional approval. Now, either Senator X just isn't reading the news (since a story quoting Al Maliki said THAT SAME DAY - that Al Maliki felt the US demands violated his nation's sovereignty, or X isn't being told the truth, or X wasn't being honest when he said he thought the deal only protected the rights of US troops to defend themselves). I choose A (that he didn't know).

Senator X is, by comparison, a more centrist Republican, but that's not very center - he's maybe a 7 on a scale of 1 to 100 in political tilt (0 being Rush Limbaugh, 100 being Louis Farrakhan), and I'm glad that he feels any treaty must be approved by Congress and must maintain Iraqi sovereignty, but his stance seems to be consistent with all too many positions we hear from the right.

Ignore the testimony of experts, and ignore the widely reported reality of the conduct of this administration. In short, ignore facts which aren't convenient, and find your own (his interviews of Iraqis - for example). While I respect the Senator's decency in the discussion, it starkly illustrates the vast gap between how good policy decisions are made, and how the right has chosen to make the facts fit the policy. I could not for a moment consider supporting someone who would put their own 'findings' ahead of the widely reported and documented realities. Perhaps the issue in that case isn't the 'media', but instead the colorized, and slanted nature X's supporters use to 'seek' the truth. In short, you can find facts to support anything, and that tendency is what lead us into Iraq, and into a four year calamity, in the first place.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Kudos to a Republican - even if we don't agree

As I travel routinely to DC now, I’ve had two occasions to run into Sen. X. This past time, I took the opportunity to ask him a couple of questions. Unlike Brodkorb, I was civil, respectful, and I hope, fair.

(As I told the Senator it wasn't an interview - I won't break my word and ambush him, I'll protect his identity as a matter of respect) He is a Republican from a northern Midwestern State.

Text of discussion (as best I can recall):

I started, "Sen X, if you don’t mind, I’d like to ask you a question?"

(Sen. X looks a little dubious).. looks up. (It's understandable with all the ambush wackos running around)

I continued, "Sir, I’m not a reporter, I’m not recording anything, but, full disclosure, I am a Democrat, but I’d like to ask you a question if you don’t mind."

"Ok –go ahead."

I said, "Sir, as you probably know there were a couple of Iraqi members of Parliament in front of Congress this week. The first one attributed the success at beating AQI not to the surge, but to Gen. Patreaus’ change in tactics, the other said that perhaps as high as 70% of Iraqis, or more, want us to leave. If they vote for us to leave.."

“Then we should leave, in a heartbeat" he said.

"I'm glad to hear you say that," I replied.

" – but also, I don’t believe that 70% of the Iraqis want us to leave. I’ve been there and interviewed them, that’s not what I’ve seen or heard.”

Thinking to myself, well, they (the Iraqi dignitaries) were sent by the Al Maliki governemnt, so they seem credible- and you choose to not believe them why not?, but saying that would be confrontational, and disrepectful, so I decided to move on. I said, "Yet, many of the Shiites would seem to logically want us to leave because as the vastly dominant ethnic group, they see us as an impediment to taking full control."

“I don’t see that, I’ve talked to Al Maliki. The only Shiites who want us out is Al Sadr’s group, and he (Al Maliki) has them on the run.”

So, I go on, "Well, that at least is what the member said, and I’d assume he was considered credible by Al Maliki, since he was sent by Al Maliki to testify."

“I don’t believe that 70% of the Iraqi’s want us to leave.”

"Ok, and I understand you've talked with them, I haven't. Second, do you support our troops being present in Iraq where we have the right to act without permission of the Iraqi government, and where our troops are above prosecution."

He replied, "Well, the first part is what we do everywhere, you don’t want your troops subject to the laws of foreign governments.
Me, "Except I think our troops have been subject to those laws in Korea and Japan, for example in rape cases."

"Yes, but I suspect we agreed to turn them over (perhaps so I said) Well, I’d have to review the “Terms of foreign forces” agreements, but no one in Congress feels they should be subject to the laws of foreign governments. As to the second part, that’s only in defense of our troops."

I replied, "Understood, but one of the things being reported is that we want to determine what constitutes an attack upon Iraq and act unilaterally."

“I don’t believe that’s true, I believe it’s that we are only looking to define what’s an attack on us,” says Sen X.

"Well, it is what has been reported by a number of sources, but as you say, that may be wrong," I said.

Sen X says,
“I don’t believe any long-term security agreement should be reached without going before the US Congress, I’ve told the administration that, and that’s what the Iraqis believe. It’s for the next Admnistration to decide.”

"Yet, it’s being pretty widely reported that President Bush wants to conclude just such an agreement this year. That he wants to do so unilaterally, without Congress’ approval, " I respond.

“I’ve told them (presuming the administration) that we shouldn’t do that, and they’ve told me ‘we get it’, so I don’t think that’s going to happen,” says Sen X.

I said, "Senator, I appreciate your time – I certainly hope you didn’t find my comments confrontational, I am glad to hear that you don’t believe we can or should stay if the Iraqis don’t agree, and that the conduct of our forces in protecting Iraq must be limited to what the Iraqis approve."

“That’s what any long term presence of forces agreement MUST agree to – we have to be able to protect our own troops, but we cannot act inside another country without their permission.” he said.

I say, "I have a great deal of respect for Gen. Patreaus – I wish we had taken his advice wihle he was in Anbar, rather than waiting three years, it would have saved a lot of lives." (which , by the way, I DO have a lot of respect for Gen Patreaus - unlike the right-wing nutjobs who dismissed his approach for 4 years - people who know something about how to actually WIN a counter insurgency found Patreaus credible, and the conduct of the Administration deplorable, if not criminally negligent in it's contempt for the plight of Iraqis generally).

“I couldn’t agree more,” says Sen X - meaning, he couldn't agree more that he ALSO wished Gen. Patreaus' approach had been tried earlier, that people had listened to him while he was in Anbar.

"Thanks again," I said.

“Thanks for taking the interest, you're obviously informed,” he said. Which was nice to hear, even from someone I don't agree with.

(end of discussion)

Now, I took maybe 5 minutes, maybe less. I was congenial and respectful, as was he. I intruded briefly on his time, but I suspect that comes with the territory. I ask my ‘friends’ on the right if they’d have conducted themselves as decently, if they’d have asked questions as coherently, without seeking to focus on nonsense. The questions posed were pretty damned important, they did point out a fundamental difference between his views and I – namely, I don’t think that inside any nations borders, you get to act unilaterally, even to protect your own troops, except in very narrow terms. If you are being shot at, you get to return fire. If we took off after some people in Germany, who bombed one of our bases, not in hot pursuit, but just to ‘go get them’ , even if we were right, we’d be asked to leave the country permanently.

As well, Sen X simply didn't believe people who related, I believe honestly, their impressions, and what is borne out by internal polling, but that's his right. I can feel he is ignoring some real evidence. He also didn't believe the press reports which the administration hasn't chosen to refute or deny - again, his choice. Yet, I'm very glad to hear he will insist upon the admnistration getting Congressional approval for any long term presence in Iraq, and that he considers Iraqi soveriegnty to trump our personal desires to act within Iraq. Those are positions of understanding and even comprimise. They are sensible. They are also out of alignment with neo-con absolutists who think might makes right (it seems).

That said, clearly Sen. X differs vastly from the reported stance – and that’s important – it’s the reported stance of the Admnistration. I’m not trying to sew the seeds of discontent, but all those folks on the right who claim comments like “we can’t seek to act unilaterally” or “we can’t stay if they don’t want us to” – all of you who claim those are illogical questions or erroneous to worry about, when they’re being reported upon, and when the right has generally so very clearly said they will NOT show much regard for the will of the Iraqis – well, clearly Sen. X is in far greater agreement with the center – than he is with you, and sees those issues as pretty real, and pretty important – while you wrongly claim them to be not worth consideration.

One final comment, actual rational people find comments like “defeatist” to be highly objectionable, and they’d consider people who utter them lunatic fringe for using them. I suspect Senator X is included in the group that thinks such comments are asinine. Put another way, in a discussion among the three of Sen X, one of the ultra-right wackos, and I, I’m reasonably confident he’d find someone like Mitch Berg, should he comport himself as he does on his blog, to be an irrational flake, incapable of staying on point (at worst) or a shallow, ill-thought through extremist (at best). It's amazing what common ground can be found when you discuss things civily. Most people aren't evil, or ignorant. Some will lie to obtain power, some won't.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Trying to be better - the face of an 8 year-old

A few days ago, I volunteered to help at my daughter's end of school year 'party.' Since she's only 9, it really is an 'end of school year play-fest.'

The place I 'worked' was at the 'big inflatable jumper' thing we've probably all seen. A big, square, inflated pad with nets on the side and an air-filled roof, kept up by a couple of fans. My work was to count off the kids, keep track of time/shifts, and to occasionally push the whole thing back into place (it bounced around enough that it kept choking off the inflating tubes coming from the fans).

During my last shift, a class of 2nd graders came in which had 3-4 special needs kids. Three were mentally challenged/autistic, one was both mentally challenged, and lacked significant motor control. Her name was Amy.

The last shift in the jumper was theirs. In went the three other kids (Josh, Henry, and a name I've forgotten) and Amy. I encouraged the other kids to grab the nets and bounce, they were nervous, and to a degree, a little uncoordinated, so this helped them have some fun.

Amy....well, the para-professional, paid for by all of us, Deb I think her name was, well she picked up Amy and bounced with her, supporting her under her arms while doing so. Amy has just enough motor skill to (sort of) support her own weight.

Amy's smile was so large, so completely engrossed and joyful, it brought tears to my eyes. It was obvious this simple thing, we all take for granted, the ability to feel weightless, to float, to fly, was something she rarely got to experience. She was ecstatic from the moment it started, to the last moment she had in the jumper. I let them go a few minutes longer than planned for, just to allow her as much of this simple pleasure as I could. When Amy got out of the jumper (or rather was carried out), Deb said she "smiled all the time" as a brush-off to my expression of my gratitude for Deb's efforts, but Amy expressed just how much she wanted to stay by making her whole body rigid, and moaning at being taken outside and away from this experience. Perhaps Amy does smile all the time, but it was clear from what came after, that her time just 'bouncing' was glorious to her.

I gained a profound respect for Deb, and for any para-professionals who work with children like Amy, children who are terrific people, but with challenges most of us can't imagine. From dealing with tantrums because of the inability to speak (Amy cannot really speak), to carrying them bodily when required, to bringing them simple joys we all take for granted, Deb (and those like her) - remind me of the genuine human decency which we all desire to show, but too often forget to live.

That day, when I looked for a moment of goodness, for the face of God, I found it in an 8 year-old's joyous smile, and in the unqualified kindness of a 30-something, underpaid teacher. When we judge our lives, we will do so by measuring the kindness we've shown and contributions to bettering lives we've made. I doubt Deb will feel unfulfilled, she certainly is well-loved.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Ludicrous Historical Analogies

Many polemics (i.e. extremists) on the right like to point to Neville Chamberlain and his "Peace in our Time" attitude with Hitler's repeated territorial land grabs. Chamberlain naively believed Hitler didn't have further aspirations, or that by giving him what he wanted in Czechoslovakia, his demands would be 'appeased.' This is the genesis of the term appeasement in current political parlance. Of course, many on the right also fail to remember that it was Chamberlain who told Hitler point blank that any expansionist attempts on Poland would result in war. The danger point, and war, were realized because Hitler didn't think Chamberlain was serious. He was of course, and on Sept 3, 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany, after Germany had invaded Poland, igniting World War II.

This scenario is used by the ignorant to expound and draw similarities to any discussion with current totalitarians like Assad (of Syria) or Ahmadinejad (of Iran). Really, they pretty consistently use this line of argument regarding discussions with ANY leader they would rather take military action against. The problem is, this analogy is nonsense and basely simplistic.

First of course, Syria and Iran are military midgets, incapable of the kind of damage German would soon thereafter bring about. Britain and Germany were relative military peers, with Germany being the more powerful aggressor.

Second, none of the nations the extremists point to have been expansionist or militarily aggressive.

Third, and most importantly, no one has for a moment suggested allowing Iran or Syria to take lands as some sort of 'salve' to their territorial demands. Even if we expand the discussion into including all of the militant Sunni movement (which excludes Iran), there is NO talk about 'allowing' such militants any sort of compromise regarding their outrageous and totally unacceptable aim of instituting an Islamic theocracy anywhere and everywhere they have anything like a meaningful level of population.

Discussions with the leaders of nations which do not subscribe to this extremism isn't anything like 'appeasement', such comments are ignorant or worse, desiring to mislead and confuse the public into NOT allowing for talk, for the peaceful avoidance of conflict, by incorrectly conferring the aims of Wahabism upon Syria or Iran and/or saying either or both are interested in taking over the areas they border. While Iran can be said to be interested in dominating the politics of Iraq and to a lesser extent, Lebanon, how exactly is that different than Israel's desire to influence politics in Lebanon by arming the Lebanese Christian militias, or invading southern Lebanon in the 1980's? Should we have accused the Israelis of being 'Hitler-esque'? Clearly such accusations would have been profoundly insulting, not to mention wrong. Refusing to talk about the problems faced by the Palestinians with Iran, with Syria, with Saudi Arabia, in a larger context of the future of the region, is asininely foolish. Iran is the major Shiaa power-broker in the region. It's desires matter. It would be no less or more foolish than refusing to talk with Israel. Each country in the region has it's own aims, seeks to influence policy and politics in its neighbors, just like we do. In fact, probably the best thing, is for us to let those countries govern locally, i.e. as we so often say we believe in.

Finally, it would be inconceivably dishonest to suggest the United States would stand by while Iran or Syria took military action to take territory not rightfully theirs. Beyond that, no one for a moment intends to allow Iran to control Lebanon. Not us, not Israel, not Saudi Arabia. Any such attempt would and will be met with a forceful response.

The extremists go further, though, and suggest ANY discussion equates to Chamberlain's meeting with Hitler prior to the permission of "Lebensraum." It's infantile, it suggests that any diplomacy is equivalent to caving in, and worse, and far more dangerous, it suggests that diplomacy is an unacceptable course of action. It hasn't been, even for the neo-cons - who were more than happy to claim the victories achieved through discussion with Libya - but instead is being used to demean and debase the discussion to the point that 'sound bite' logic is the only logic they'll allow anyone else. In short, they are so much more interested in winning than progress, they'll turn truly important issues into idiocy, and risk military conflict simply for political gain.

The contrast to the time of Chamberlain probably could hardly be less accurate - the powers involved are manifestly different, the aims largely different, and the willingness to abide imperialist expansionist utterly different.

Yet, there is a point here that in fact IS seemingly more accurate - and it comes from Chamberlain. Chamberlain didn't exist in a vacuum, he was part of a continuum of thought regarding the injustices that came out of World War I. In fact, World War II really was caused by World War I, and the injustices inflicted upon the losers by the winners (at least in Europe). The far better analogy to today, is that of Versailles.

Chamberlain represented an attitude, a realization, that the excesses of Versailles led to privation in Germany, profound poverty that lead to the ascendancy of fascism. The feeling was that Germany's territorial desires met with the ideals of Woodrow Wilson - the concept that peoples of similar ethnic background should live together - ideals which had been ignored entirely at Versailles. Chamberlain acted in agreement with the idea that perhaps by allowing the German peoples of Austria and Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland (a primarily Germanic region) - to join with Germany, the German's would be satisfied. It was a foolish attempt to placate an extremist borne of prior historical injustice.

The truth is we face a similar crossroads as we faced at the end of World War I, not what we faced at the start of World War II. At the end of World War I, the world's then superpowers, the US, Britain, and France, dismantled the Ottoman Empire, and carved up the Middle East in our own images - or desires. Kuwait was formed by the Brits, in part to have access to oil, France took Iraq, the Brits Palestine, we became friendly with Saudi Arabia.

The consequences of that imperialism are still felt today. Iraq was a cobbled together nation with a Kurdish ethnic minority that wanted their own nation - to the anger and complete opposition of the Turks and Persians (Iranians). Kuwait was a care-out from an historical nation similar to Iraq, which the ethnic 'Iraqis' long claimed was unjust, until the invasion in 1991 showed just how strongly they felt.

Now we are the super-power, carving out permanent bases in Iraq, without the permission of, and really in defiance of, the people of Iraq. We do it to intimidate Syria and Iran. We refuse any demand, request, requirement of either nation, and instead cajole and threaten them over and over again. We stand idly by while Israel threatens to bomb Iran for what is now well documented is NOT a nuclear weapons program - but even if it were (and it's not) - is in fact Iran's legal right to pursue, no less than it was Israel's. We tell the Arab nations of the Middle East their citizens don't have the right of protection from military aggression which we SAY that, on behalf of Israel, is one of our main reasons for being in Iraq - to protect Israel from terrorism, and bring to heal those states which sponsor anti-Israeli terrorism. In short, we tell the Arabs they don't deserve the same rights or protections which Israel does.

Israel tells Syria that the Golan Heights, a parcel of land no longer all that strategically significant, and which Israel makes no legal claim to, will effectively NEVER be returned to Syria. It is the most important thing to Syria - families are torn apart like German families were with the Berlin wall - since 1972.

In short, we are operating from a position of dominance (us and Israel), and basically saying, because we are powerful, we can do whatever we like. We will be respectful with Arabs who agree with us, but refuse to even talk to those who disagree with us. In short, we are repeating the mistakes of Versailles. Rather than looking for a just outcome in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, we reflexively back ANY action - even foolish ones - Israel may take. We do little to nothing to request and require Israel to offer an economic future to the Palestinians - the one thing which will end the strife - in essence, we tell them it's perfectly fine to engage in the same kind of excess that economically ruined Germany. Are we truly surprised that the outcome is Palestinian extremism?

In the case of Iraq, unemployment exceeds 70% still, power is off 23 of 24 hours a day in Baghdad. The successes in tamping down violence have come at the expense of putting up 12 foot high cement barriers dividing neighborhoods, and loved ones, from each other, and having 14-15 hour curfews every day, sometimes 24 hour curfews. Police-state heavy-handedness has been what brought about the successes, as they usually DO - but when they end - then what? If they don't, do we think we can simply operate a totalitarian state for the foreseeable future - if we do, what then of our claims of democracy. More than that, if we insist on staying in Iraq, despite the overwhelming desire of Iraqis that we leave, have we not simply inflicted our will upon Iraq? What level of justice does this represent?

The upshot is simply this, if we do not act in a way which is fair, which is just, we invite the same calamity as followed World War I, we invite and provide justification for extremists, not the other way around, and just like Chamberlain was not a start, but an end, of the continuum of injustices leading to foolish attempts at cure, we will see a Middle East in 20 years or 50 years, awash in violence attempting to take an eye back for the eyes we take today. The land of Hammurabi will, once again, revert to the avenue of justice that leaves everyone maimed and blind.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Iraiq WMD, Fiscal Restraint, and the Tooth Fairy

Yesterday, two fairly important news stories hit the wires, not that you could tell from Scaifenet though.

The first was a Senate Intelligence Panel report that corroberated much of what Scott McClellan, David Kay, Gens Collin Powell, and Eric Shinseki told us. Namely, that George W. Bush, not just his administration, but the President (and the Vice President) were involved in deceiving the American people into war. They ignored nearly all of the best intelligence, insisted on seeing ALL intelligence (including things which were considered highly dubious), and then took those dubious snipets, those offered by liars (like 'Curveball' and Ahmed Chalabi) to concoct a case for war. War wasn't the 'last resort', it was the wished for first course of action.

There are those on the right who will say "It isn't news, it was a partisan panel" - and it WAS a partisan panel, but it was also an investigation the Republicans in Congress prevented for four years. If they wanted a 'Fair and Balanced' outcome, all they actually had to do was allow the investigation in 2004. They refused - almost certainly because the data that would have been presented in such a report - even if the findings were sculpted by the Republican majority (as they undoubtedly were by the Democratic majority here) - but the data would have been damned embarrasing. Rather than seek the truth, they sought to hide it. Shall we forevermore seek to dismiss any investigation by any person simply because they are from one party or another?

The second story yesterday was about the largest single jump in unemployment in 22 years, and as a percentage of the unemployment figure, undoubtedly longer than that. In the summer of 2000, we were in the middle of a Presidential campaign (between Gore and the man who currently still resides in the White House). The economy was humming, the annual deficit was instead a surplus, and the national debt had fallen for the first time in decades.

Now it is the summer of 2008, we are again in a Presidential race, this time between the FIRST Black man to ever be nominated, and a man who claims to be a maverick, but spent much of the past 4 years voting with the President.

This 'businessman' President has an economy in shambles, facing extroardinary threats of recession and run-away inflation (due to Oil and Food prices), has taken the national debt from $5.2 Trillion to $9.7, an astounding level of fiscal irresponsibility which of course has contributed to our $139/bbl price of oil.

The fact is, whatever your political stripe, it would be hard to claim the country is in any meaningful way, on really any meaningful subject, better off today than 8 years ago.

Even, for example, on social issues where the righties (wrongly) attempt to claim moral superiority, they've failed. Teen pregnancy, after two decades of decline, is on the rise, while safe-sex and condom use is down. So much for the myth of 'examples of integrity' leading to better conduct. Of course, Bush didn't evidence integrity, but to think for a moment that teens give a rip about the President's words or conduct when considering sexual activity, is probably as stupid as thinking you can 'shock and awe' a country into submission.

In no meaningful way has the Republican experiment (the neo-con experiment) been successful, except in creating an ultra-rich super class - created by diverting wealth and opportunity away from the average worker, and by fooling the people into agreeing to use the public treasury to pay private industry. In that, they've been enormously succesful, to believe anything else requires you to think that giving a tooth to a mythical being will result in pennies from heaven. Supply-sideism, which is all that has been pursued by the righties for 30 years - repackaged as 'Ownership society' or other baloney - has been an abject failure - the plight of the people has declined dramatically. Perhaps the next lie/line from the right will be that it's now time to look to Santa Claus?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Speaking of Naive'

Last night on Keith Olbermann, he played a clip of Bill O'Reilly getting schooled by Scott McClellan.

(YouTube video linked here: )

O'Reilly is asking McClellan about WMD and the justification for war.

McClellan responds that the nuclear details were questionable.

O'Reilly, "Uhhh, Let's stay on WMD."

McClellan, "Uhh, Bill, Nuclear weapons ARE WMD."

Bill," Uhhh..Uhhh, That's not what Powell talked about."

Yeah Bill, Powell only made 29 references to nuclear programs, weapons, and scientists during his speech to the U.N. Dick Cheney only said, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushrooom cloud."

Yes Bill, WMD include nuclear weapons, that's why it's called Weapons of MASS Destruction - not too many weapons cause more mass destruction than nuclear weapons, but maybe you (and the Prez) confused them with nukyalar weapons.

A Day to be Proud

Shame on me. Yesterday, if anything should have been posted, it should have been this.

I watched as a (either) a black man (or a mixed-race man depending upon how you look at it) accepted the nomination of one of the major parties in the United States to become the nation's President.

It was awesome, it was moving, it left me without words. It was a day which all Americans should be very proud of. I do not know of any European industrial power which has ever done the same (nominated a mixed race, minority citizen to be it's leader).

Then I watched as Barack Obama delivered one of the finest acceptance/victory speeches of our time - further validating the wisdom of people who see many fine things in this man, and confirming that we, as a people, have nothing wrong with us, that what is right with us, cannot overcome.

I'm proud to be an American - and choked back some tears at the basic pride and joy we all are justified feeling at what we accomplished yesterday as a people, and as a nation. Whether you want Barack Obama to be President or not, be proud of your country today - it nominated a Black man for President. 40 years ago, that would have been inconceivable.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Audacity of Naivete' - or How I learned to stop thinking and love sound bites

Presumptive Republican Presidential nominee John McCain, again lashed out at Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama while speaking in Kenner, LA on Tuesday.

McCain painted Obama as naive and inexperienced in his remarks, saying he endorsed many 'failed ideas', of which the focus seemed to be on 'big government' and that '(Obama) sees government as the solution to every problem.'

I am unclear on how McCain expects to win on these kinds of quips and positions. Perhaps his campaign staff really do think the American electorate is as dim as so many on the right so often claim.

But let's talk about McCain's points.

1. Naivete' - undoubtedly this refers to Obama's openness to the idea of talking to the heads of adversarial nations (especially Iran). Perhaps it's naive to do so, but then again, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter proved well enough that diplomacy is both possible, and a much better course toward progress than simple grand-standing and 'do nothing' posturing. If it is naive' to embrace the idea that conflict should be avoided, then undoubtedly most of the country is equally naive and supportive of exactly that kind of naivete'. Far better that, than starting yet another war.

2. Inexperienced - as compared to John, certainly. However, if experience means you sign-on to starting a war when the inspection process was nearly complete, that you rush into armed conflict with extraodinarily optimistic views, in short, with highly naive' expectations about the difficulties to be faced, then I'll take inexperienced caution over over-confident hubris any day. As well, since McCain then spent 4 years rubber-stamping inaction, lack of accountability, and contempt for any opinion that suggested a new course was needed, again, that kind of BAD experience is worse than no experience at all.

3. Failed Policies - I assume John means failed policies like those of the New Deal and the Great Society - oh, let's say Medicare, Social Security and unemployment insurance. If John feels those programs are 'failures', I suggest he make that comment directly, rather than beat around the bushes. If he's interested in unspecific soundbites instead - then we'll continue to have no progress. The New Deal was unquestionably successful, and unquestionably, along with WWII, proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Government is in fact fully capable of helping to direct and engineer the economy, especially as it relates to core, critical services. The poverty of the elderly fell by more than 2/3rds, and does anyone REALLY think the TPA or unemployment insurance are bad things?

Instead John seems to want to live in the semi-reality of inuendo, without being accountable for directly criticizing things which he knows full well would be political disaster to suggest or criticize. The right learned, through William F Buckley, that being quite so obvious about how extreme they are, is a rapid path to being labelled clowns, fringe element, and nuts. Since about 1980, they've used code speak for deragutory commentary or veiled condemnation to avoid looking like the out of touch group they too often are. The Great Society changes that brought us Medicare also helped to reduce the numbers of elderly who were devestated by medical costs late in life, and created a standard for approval that is widely regarded as a very helpful limit on 'quack' services.

Again, if those policies, which the right loves to complain about, are flawed, then John's grasp of what the average American supports, is no grasp at all. These policies have been highly successful, helped to create the strongest economy on the planet by helping to grow the middle class, and are pretty highly regarded.

Put another way, if someone told you that they were really interested in taking Social Security away from you - and that any honest discussion about Social Security refutes that 'you won't get any money' out of it - would you be glad to have it gone? Are any of us confident that the majority of Americans will plan for retirement, and then, if they don't, are we ready to watch them starve and suffer? Social Security was started to STOP exactly that - to provide some income for those who through poor planning or poor fortunes cannot provide for themselves alone. It has been highly successful in doing so.

4. Government as the solution - Well, there you go again. Perhaps John needs to remember it was his party that ran the deficit from 5.3 Trillion to 9.7 Trillion during Bush's terms in office. John signed onto every bill - and especially in the past four years, became a shill for the administration, endorsing nearly every policy. Republican 'small government' is a fiction - but then again, there simply is no way to run a highly complex, industrialized society of some 300 Million people in 2008, with the overall government of an agrarian nation with 13 states and 25 million people circa 1787. Government MUST increase in complexity to deal with the challenges of a complex world. Suggestions that such a government (the one of the US of 1787) could work, are, naive', to say the least.

I'm curious which branch of government Senator McCain suggests doing without. What cuts he thinks should be made. If he thinks having universal health care is bad, then explain what he'll change which will actually work, because the free market certainly hasn't succeeded in delivering quality care to the average person, and certainly NOT at a reasonable cost.

The point is, we are at a real crossroads - whether we engage in real discussion about those challenges, or just retread and retreat to the same old sound bites, is up to these candidates to decide. Experience didn't keep us out of war in Iraq, and it didn't do anything to fix the broken situation until 2006. Naivete' is thinking the world will tolerate armed aggression a second time - not thinking war is the last act of failed diplomacy. Failed policies include turning our national treasury over to corporations, and lining the pockets of the ultra-wealthy with the public's funds, while average wages fall. And Big Government includes National Healthcare, but it also includes a military budget FAR larger than the rest of the world combined, with a refusal to do anything but continue to throw money at a force ill-equiped to actually combat terrorism.

Practicing Law with or without a license can be embarasing (me included)

A friend of mine writes a blog at Shot in the Dark, he posted a comment by an attorney who said the "State was incorrect in it's interpertation of the Constitution" (at least that's what I remember of the quote). The comment was posted on another blog, by a prominent attorney.

I asked a question, :what area does the attorney practice in." After the 14-20 insulting replies (reasonably typical right-wing blog trash) - I attempted to clarify, my understanding is that having a law degree doesn't make you an expert in all areas of law - which my friend essentially tried to suggest by saying 'He's a lawyer, as opposed to say you.'

Further, I said that it was my impression that practicing outside your area of expertise was certainly putting you at risk for a malpractice complaint. I talked with some friends who are attorneys, who essentially endorsed the point. However, I also overstepped my knowledge, by saying 'commenting out of area is malpractice.' That wasn't true - and this is my retraction of it.

Instead, making a comment like the one the attorney made, is considered irresponsible unless he's done his homework on the underlying law. State's don't normally (according to three different lawyers I know, one of whom is exceptionally well regarded) enact policy based on a Constitutional sentence or section, but instead based on bills/regulations passed by the legislature. SJ - the attorney in this case, was trying to assert that the state was incorrectly applying policy - and referring to the Constitution in doing so. The two points really aren't linked - but it saved SJ from having to be specific it appears - it was, from this vantage point - a parlor trick. I don't know what constitutional provision he felt the state was incorrect in, but normally, the application of a law/regulation is the issue. If SJ isn't practicing in that area, and doesn't take the time to familiarize himself with the policy or regulation - then he's being irresponsible. He also appeared to have been insulting and dismissive of whatever review the attorney for the state who either helped craft the policy - and also those who crafted the legislation - determined, without chosing to engage in a debate about the laws involved. In short, he took the easy way out - IT APPEARS.

That said, he had no client, and ANYONE, attorney or otherwise, is entitled to comment - but, it doesn't make that comment of any value. However, unlike a layperson, lawyers have some responsibility to be careful about what they say. If someone misconstrues SJ's comments (here or anywhere) in such a way that they rely upon it, certainly if they did so with his knowledge and approval - SJ has some level of risk - according to my friends. Further, those same friends were pretty plain that they are very careful to say that thier comments aren't legal advice - when it isn't (if they post such comments on blogs) - and shouldn't be construed as such. I don't know if SJ said such, but given his normal course of conduct, it seems doubtful. Certainly Berg didn't post SJ's disclaimer.

The bottom line is the argument that 'bieng a lawyer' means you are competent to provide expert commentary on any legal point is absurd. You know more than a layman and are expected to then grasp that part of that knowledge includes the knowledge that you don't know a LOT. Law school is the school you go to to learn how to research and learn how to argue - not to learn all about the law, the US constitution, or general premises enshrined in each state's constitutions. You DO learn some law, but FAR from most of it. You are expected to advise a client of your lack of expertise, should they decide to engage you outside your area - and some courts, some states, in fact require a defendent to atest to foreknowledge that their attorney isn't practicing within his/her specialty - if they aren't - before proceding through trial on criminal matters, to avoid the case being overturned on the 'incompetent counsel' appeal. Malpractice is the matter of someone not following the standards of practice, and being sued. A lawyer can also, regardless of representing someone, be disciplined for unprofessional conduct, and one area that leads to such findings is practicing out of area without providing a warning of such fact.

Thus, the claim that 'he's a lawyer' is no defense at all -if the lawyer doesn't do his research, then his opinion is worth slightly more than a layperson's, but far less than it needs to be to be responsible discussion regarding the law.

In addition, and Learned Foot at Kool-Aid Report disagrees with this (and he's an attorney - so his opinion carries weight) a lawyer is held to a higher standard of knowledge - and a layperson less - meaning a layperson has some level of dispensation in legal procedings based on lack of knowledge of 'legal-eese' - wherease the lawyer is expected to know and understand the text. Foot doesn't agree, and as is his wont, provided a disparaging and insulting reply, rather than fully address the point.

So, SJ is expected to know he doesn't know everything, and criticizing another attorney (as SJ did de facto here) when you didn't do your research is arrogant and reflective of a lot of hubris. Now, maybe SJ did do his research - but addressing the Constitutional aspects, rather than the law/regulation, implies very strongly he didn't. More than that, he basically called out the state (and it's lawyers) for failure to comply - but rather than having the discussion focused on what statute wasn't complied with, he made a likely irrelevant reference to the Constitution. Perhaps when he wants to claim incompetency by the state, this highly competent attorney shouldn't engage in making what appears like disengenuious, probably irrelevant points and commentary.

His claim was rather nebulous and disregards the real work real lawyers who seem more informed than SJ on the law in the area, have done. It reflected a back of the hand swipe - and a seemingly unqualified one (unqualified in that he's not practicing in the area - as a lawyer he's 'qualified' to comment - but unless he's done his homework - he's not qualified when compared to other peers). The ultimate point was - he was doing what many on the right do frequently, pretending expertise - not just above a layman, but above other peers - when he really hadn't (apparently) addressed the subject expertly. Defending his lack of clarity with "but he's a lawyer" implied the lack of knowledge of the responders. In one breath, my friend (Mitch) was admonishing me for 'pretending to know the law' and in the next, he was telling everyone that a lawyer has no risk posting his opinion on-line. I am no lawyer - and I was both in part right, and in part wrong, which is pretty common when laypeople start arguing the law - but of course neither is Mitch, and suggesting for a moment that lawyers bear no risk when posting opinion on-line underscores just how much Mitch isn't a lawyer. The answer is according to the laywers, as always with the law is, 'it depends'. An opinion given as legal fact, in a public space, which says that Joe Blah murdered Jane Doe, will get you in LOTS of trouble if it's not yet been proven. An opinion that a judge is incompetent, that the courts are in error in their interpretation - again, poses some risk - maybe not malpractice - but risk regardless - and a claim by a layman that it doesn't exist - is worth precisely as much as was paid for it. An opinion given as representation to a client (paying or not) posted for that client and others to rely upon, which is manifestly wrong, rendered outside your area of practice, without such stipulation - equally is highly risky conduct. For those who might think otherwise, visit, read the various disclaimers. If someone wants to heckle another for 'not being a lawyer' while commenting on the law - and then commenting on the law, is blatant hypocrisy.

The ultimate point is, if you aren't a lawyer, you're better off not pretending to be one. A claim that a lawyer can say 'anything' is bogus, and saynig it's to be assumed to be worth more than a $.10 cup of joe - is equally absurd. But then again, so is saying it's malpractice, that's wrong, I was wrong - sorry SJ.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

See the face of God

My wife told me a story yesterday - one from her mother - a person who's stories I sometimes look at with a jaundiced eye, because they are often internet 'urban myth'. Often, to my personal embarrasment, the story was profound.

The story goes:

A man was in his house, a hurricane was coming. The rescue workers knocked on his door - and said, "Let's go, it's going to flood." He replied, "I'll go when The LORD comes and saves me."

A while later, the waters were rising, a man came by in his boat, saw the man in the house and said, "Let's go, you'll be washed away." He replied, "I'll go when The LORD comes and saves me."

Several hours later, the man was on his roof, a rescue helicopter swung low, lowered a rope, and the rescue worker said "Climb up the rope, you're going to drown if you stay." The man again replied, "I'll go when The LORD comes and saves me."

Shortly after that, the man drown. When he arrived in heaven, he asked The LORD, "I had faith, I believed you would save me, but you didn't, why not?" The LORD replied, "I sent you help three times, each time you turned away, each time you refused to be saved."

When we look at heaven as a destination, when we expect the great hand of God to fix what we will not, and will not take responsibility to do, we are refusing to see God in the face of the world around us.

Yesterday I was out with a friend having coffee and a piece of pie (or cheesecake in my case). When we were paying our bill, we heard a young man asking the cashier how much a pot of coffee was. She answered that they only sell coffee by the cup (unlimited refills, but one cup per person drinking). He went back outside to his friends.

As we were walking out, the same young man stopped my friend and asked him if we had any money, he and his friends (all late teens it appeared) were hungry, and it could be surmized since they asked about the price of a pot of coffee that they wanted to share the small amout of money they had to help each other - to share thier loaves and fishes as best they could, as meager as it may have been.

My question for any of you is, what would you have said to this young man and his friends?

I have the answer my friend gave:

My friend initially replied that he didn't have any cash, which, knowing my friend, was without question true. We took a couple more steps and my friend said, "Come with me" to the young man. He went inside, taking the man with him. He told the cashier to create a bill buying each person a meal and a drink (orange juice not a 'drink' :)) which he (my friend) then paid. He shook he man's hand, and the two girl's and the other two young men's hands too. He got a hug from one of the women, and the cashier told him she'd take care of the tip. The bill for 5 meals and 5 drinks was $50.55.

When we fail to trust in the genuine decency of our fellow man, and white-wash our responsibility to help with a cynical "but they'll just use it for (drugs/liquor)" or "where are their parents" - we openly pass judgement, not just on them, but on ourselves. We fail to put faith in humanity, and therefore in God who tells us to find him in our neighbors, we fail to have faith that MOST of the time, people mean well, and really DO need some help. These five kids were hungry, whether their parents could have fed them wasn't the question. Perhaps their parents were rough, callous, we can't know, and pretending to is to pretend to know their lives - which we don't.

One of the young women said to him, "That's the nicest thing I've ever seen someone do." I'm sure it warmed his heart. He didn't know them, didn't ask their names, and didn't give his. It was an anonymous gift to a stranger. He lived a moment of opportunity for them and for him. He followed through on the only thing any of us can do, which I believe is, as Matthew 25 teaches, "We can feed those in hunger" and thus feed ourselves.

As my friend said to the cashier, as we walked back out the door, "If money isn't to be used for helping people, what good is it?" He told me he considered himself fortunate to have the chance, and went home and slept well, I imagine - knowing him. I consider myself lucky to have friends who don't judge, but instead look to find the face of God in the people around us, every day.

I was reminded of the movie, "Pay it Forward." I have faith that sometime, someday, one of those young people will have a chance to help someone, thru some random act of kindness. To show someone else the world isn't always a cold and bleak place. Maybe that help will save someone from starving, and maybe, it only save the giver. It was an excellent story to tell my children.

What would you have said? What have you said? It's a question for yourself, reply if you like.