Friday, April 29, 2005
Leave your ego at the door.
Law schools all over the country are populated with students who are smart, many of them smarter than you. I don't care if you graduated summa cum laude at your undergrad school--chances are there are 10 other people in your law school class who can go toe to toe with you in academics and may another 10 whose academic skills will leave you envious.
Generally, law school classes include a self-selected population of undergrad students who all graduated in the top third or quarter of their college classes, so just because you did doesn't mean you are the smartest person in the room. Because of the nature of law school classes, your law school classmates don't care about your academic credentials and here is a big tip--neither will your professors.
One last thing about egos. Don't be afraid or embarassed either. In law school, if no one cares that you graduated number 1 in your college class, they also don't care if you didn't. Stand up for yourself, make a strong argument and if you lose, stand up, dust yourself off and try again.
Be Ready to Work--hard
Law school is a grind--not rocket science. In many respects, law school is more about working hard and being willing to work hard than sheer brilliance. I have know students who, through sheer force of will and dedication to working, have done well, despite all expectations, including their own expectations.
Working to be prepared for class, doing the reading, taking notes, showing up for class. These are the successes to law school. Professors will respect the student to keeps trying, who comes for additional input or help. Most professors love talking to students (at least mine did) and welcome any chance to help a law student become a good lawyer.
In my time in law school, I have learned that the students who do well work hard. End of story.
Learn to Analyze Failures
In law school, at some point or another, a professor is going to tear you down and it will suck. In many repects, the first time it happens can mean the difference between success and failure in law school. For most of us, the first time the Socratic gauntlet knocks us cold, it can be a punishing experience because we are not used to such treatment. Until this point, we were used to being right. But law school is not about being right as much as it is about being critical. When you fail in the Socratic method, and you will, no matter what. The most important lesson is to discover what went wrong. An example.
In my Contracts class during my first year, we were talking about a case involving consideration. This was probably three weeks into my law school career. I was named in teh Socratic lottery and the questioning began. I made a rash statement about the nature of consideration and how it had to be tangible and of real value. Follow up questions soon painted me into a corner and I could see what was coming--I was trapped into a failing argument. The failure didn't come for about three more questions, but I saw it coming. My argument was based on not on real legal principles but on a mistake notion about the nature of consideration. What was the lesson--I learned that it doesn't matter to teh professor if you are right or wrong, but what matters is that you learn to think on your feet and try.
You see, law school is the place in the legal profession where you can make mistakes and the consequences are not life or career threatening. Law school is where you can be wrong and not get sued for malpractice. Teh second lesson I learned is that by being active in class, even if you are wrong, you still learn something. To this day, I have no trouble putting my hand in the air. I am not embarrased and each time I analyze what happened and what could be better. Such is the nature of law school.
Don't Try to Impress Others with Your Schedule
You never know who you are sitting next to in class. I once had a classmate lean over and tell me he was studying and going to class 12 hours a day. Because I thought he was a smart aleck who needed to be taken down a notch, I replied that I was thoroughly unimpressed. Noting that a classmate of ours had given birth a week earlier and was back in class, I said that was impressive. Any schmuck can work hard for 12 hours a day, it takes great ability to work 12 hours a day and take care of an infant.
I also told him that I was an evening division student and could care less what his schedule was when I was struggling with mine.
More to come.
So here is the question I asked of my friend (whom I love dearly and love to argue with dearly). Define for me "middle class?" After a little hesitation, she declared herself middle class. When I pointed out that the salary she and her husband pull down together (approaching $250,000 per year) put her solidly in the top 5% of all income based on 2003 Census Data, she paused. By the way, if that is middle class, sign me up. I could pay off my student loans, my house and my credit card bills.
So that is my question to all Democrats, "How do you define middle class?" I need specifics. I need an income range for a household. If the bottom limit is $30,000, what is the upper limit? I need details ladies and gentlemen, not rhetoric.
Alright, fine. I understand that the filibuster is a tool to protect minority rights in the Senate. Fine, but I agree with Linda Chavez, that if the minority party or the minority on any issue wants to filibuster, I want to see a filibuster on C-SPAN2. I want to see a Senator stand on the floor of hte Senate and filibuster--meaning that he/she has to keep talking, until either they drop or someone can invoke cloture.
If the Democrats want to filibuster judicial nominations, then filibuster. They would grind all work on the Senate floor to a halt. Nothing would get done.
However, Democrats will never want to do this for several reasons.
First, Senator Reid and his colleagues would be exposed for what they are, a bunch of whiny little children who are upset that they have not gotten their way or that they are in the minority. As whiny little children are prone to do, they have forgotten history, Chavez points out:
In 1975, senators once again modified their own rules, reducing to 60 senators the number needed to force a vote. At the time, it was mostly Democrats, who were in the majority, who favored limits on minority rights. As Sen. Edward Kennedy said at the time, "Again and again in recent years, the filibuster has been the shame of the Senate and the last resort of special interest groups. Too often, it has enabled a small minority of the Senate to prevent a strong majority from working its will and serving the public interest."
Sen. Kennedy, you can't have it both ways. If you are in teh minority you can't claim the high road because when you were the majority party, you sought to limit the filibuster.
Second, filibustering on something like judicial nominees today seems just a petty reaction to not having a Democrat in the White House. In 1990, Justice Antonin Scalia was confirmed by a Democratically controlled Senate by a vote of 98-0. Scalia is often the Democratic poster child for a judiciary run amok. Again, you can't have it both ways.
Third, truly filibustering, meaning talking a bill to death rather than threatening to talk a bill to death are vastly different things. If you have that strong a belief that something is inherently bad, then show us a little backbone and prove it. Don't hide behind an anonymous threat, rather show the public what you believe.
Fourth and finally, tying up the Senate floor on judicial nominees or anything supported by the White House or the majority runs the risk of being called obstructionist--which today is a term just this side of Communist. If the Democrats want to win control, they have to do better than just saying No.
Senator Frist should just get a rule change and make the filibuster a real filibuster.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Real fast, I would like to say that I loved law school. I thought it was a fantastic educational experience for me and it has certainly changed the way I look at problem solving, the law, politics and the interaction between people.
However, for every rosy experience there is always something that did not go so well. I have a great many beefs about law school, particularly related to the manner in which evening division students were treated by the administration (more on that in future posts).
Because I had a wife, daughter on the way, dog and a mortgage when I decided to go to law school, I pretty much had no choice but to go to evening division law school, or for those who look down their noeses as "evening people," I attended part time. When ever I say that I hear one of two responses. The first is "Oh, you are one of those" type tones that suggests that somehow my legal education is somehow inferior. The other is incredulity--"I don't know how you did it."
Here is my answer--I took the same course as any law student. I took contracts, property, torts, civil procedure, criminal procedure, constitutional law, professional responsibility, commercial transactions, corporations, agency and partnerships. In short my curriculum was no different than any other law student's course load, the difference is that I took my course over the course of four years rather than three.
The life of an evening division law student with a family is one very large exercise in time management. Now that I am graduating, I can tell you, I get more done in a shorter period of time than most people because I have to concentrate and squeeze the most out of my time. I have to prioritize, I have to schedule and I had to give things up. The hardest thing for me was losing family time and time with my friends. For example, there were many semesters when I would say goodnight to my daughter on Sunday and then not see her in a conscious state until Friday evening. There were times when I wouldn't see my wife awake for two or three days. There is no day division student who has to do that.
I got married six years ago, after I started law school, I saw the best man in my wedding a grand total of about 5 times in four years, and one of those times was his wedding. That is what you give up, time with friends.
I am not suggesting that I would change anything, but it is hard and it is not for everyone. But as with anything there are sacrifices and those sacrifices have to be worth it in the end.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
First, it is obvious that the child was completely out of control. For all those people out there who said the teachers should have done more to control the child, listen carefully to the sound when you hear someone off-camera saying not to touch the child. Florida does not allow teachers and administrators to touch kids other than to keep the child safe--so physical restraint is out.
Which leads me to my first suggestion--the schools need to be able to physically restrain a child. The lack of discipline in the classroom is related to the fact that teachers have no means of enforcing the discipline. Sure they can talk to kids, they can put kids in a corner, but they can't restrain a child for any reason other than to protect teh child's safety--to do otherwise invites a lawsuit. In this case, the lawsuit is already coming.
I also think that that idea of corporal punishment needs to come back. While I would prefer a disciplined classroom based on respect for the teacher and other students, a discipline classroom based a little on fear is not such a bad thing. It is in our nature to fear pain, that is how we learn not to put our hand in a fire, for example. Thus, if a student behaves because they fear the pain of corporal punishment, then I am fine with that.
Before getting to the legal stuff, I would like to point out that I think the police officers did exactly the right thing in one respect. One officer said some to the effect that the child had been warned that she would be handcuffed if she crossed the line again. You cannot threaten a child with consequences and not follow through. My daughter knows if she misbehaves repeatedly after being warned, then the consequence is she loses toys. If I don't carry through on the threat she learns quickly that the threat is meaningless and will continue to misbehave. I don't think the cops needed to put handcuffs on the child, but I will guarantee you this, the child will always associate those handcuffs with her bad behavior and if that serves as a deterrent, I am fine with that as well.
Onto the legal stuff. The police crossed a line and there should be a consequence, albeit a minor one. I would imagine that the parents are going to sue the police for several thousands of dollars in damages. However, if I were the police department, I would ask for a trial, admit liability and ask for the award of just $1.00 in damages. The parents of this child should not get a windfall because they cannot teach their child to respect authority. The police need to be better controlled and shouldn't have to resort to the threat of handcuffs for a 5 year old, but once made they carried it out which is fine with me. I realize that the position sounds a little wishy-washy, but that is the case. The officer should be reprimanded, but again in a light manner.
But here is the capper, if I were the attorney for the school system, I would be filing a suit against the parents for vandalism, battery and possibly assault. The theory of liability is based in part on the theory of liability that dog owners have when the dog bites someone. I am not suggesting treating the child like a dog, but the logic, I believe is sound.
Under tort law, if you own a dog that bites someone, the first bite is more or less free. However, the dog owner is considered to be on notice that their dog bites people. It is the owner's duty to train their dog not to bite humans, restrain the dog, or prevent contact between the dog and other people. If the dog bites someone again, the owner is liable. They had a duty to prevent the second biting and failure to do so is a tort for which the owner is liable, even though the dog did what was, in some respects natural.
There have been tort cases where children as young as six or seven and their parents have been held liable for the conduct of kids, for actions such as pulling a chair out from under someone as they sit down or hitting someone with a baseball bat. So there is precedent for holding young kids liable for their torts. (Thanks to Prof. Kelly at Catholic University for teaching me that).
But a better theory is the "dog owner theory." From reports I have heard, this is not the child's first outburst. Thus the parents have been put on notice that the child's behavior is in appropriate. Even five year olds can be taught some modicum of self-control. The parents have a duty to ensure their child does not hit other people or destroy other people's property. I have a three year old daughter who knows that hitting other people or breaking other people's things is not approriate behavior and will be punished with a nose to nose view of the wall followed by apologies to all involved. As a result, she knows when she has crossed the line. The child in Florida has had no such instruction despite the parent's knowledge that the child is prone to such behavior.
To prove a tort, a plaintiff must show a duty existed, the duty had been breached, a harm resulted and the breach of the duty cause the harm. I think it is pretty clear that the parents had a duty to teach the child to respect the authority of the teachers and principals at the child's school. The parents had notice that the child is prone to outbursts, including striking others. The parents, like the dog owner who bit someone, had a duty to teach their child to respect authority and not hit someone, restrain the child or keep the child out of such situation. Since the parents can't physically restrain the child while she is at school and probably can't keep her out of school. Thus instruction is their only option.
The breach seems pretty obvious, the child acted out, thus the parents failed in their duty to prevent such behavior. Like the dog owner, liability is imputed to the parents even if the actions of their child are, to some extent, the natural behavior of a child.
The failure of the parents to follow through with their duty is the cause of the harms. If the child had been taught to behave and respect authority, respect people in general and their belongings, then but for the child's behavior and the parents' delinquency in their duty, the harms to the teacher, the child's classmates and the assistant principle would not have occured.
So what are the harms, simple--the child disrupted the class and the class had to leave the room! That means those kids had their day disrupted. There was damage to the classroom and the principal's office that needed to be cleaned up (the vandalism). That means the teacher, the principal and probably the school's janitorial staff had to clean up after the child, meaning time and money spent cleaning when they could have been doing something else. While the child may not have been strong enough to actually harm the assistant principal, she did batter the woman. Battery is the unwanted touching of a person by another. Intent to harm is not required for a battery. Finally, as a policy matter, no teacher or school administrator should have to suffer the indignity of being struck by a student, no matter what the child's age.
As to damages, we probably aren't talking much, maybe a few hundred dollars of time and supplies to repair the vandalism. But the damages are not the point.
Tort lawsuit are used regularly to change behavior, often successfully. A few lawsuits by the schools against parents for failing to teach their children proper behavior will induce parents to teach their children not to hit people or destroy property.
For far too long, parents have abdicated their responsiblity for teaching responsible behavior to the schools. The schools have a role to play in proper social behavior, but for the most part, schools are their to educate children.
One final note, the extremity of the case is what makes news. If this had been a ten year old child, or 13 or 16, then we would not be having this discussion. But just because the child is five does not absolve her or her parents from responsibility. I sincerely hope the school sues the parents.
Friday, April 22, 2005
Of course, lest anyone forget, this lawsuit is about one thing--power.
Sure the NEA talks a game that NCLB is about unfunded mandates and all that hullabaloo, but really the NEA is angered that the single most import piece of educational legislation was passed despite their negative endorsement and that such liberal icons as Ted Kennedy voted for it. For an organziation who claims to be in favor of improving education, their actions don't really support such a statement.
NEA's lawsuit further supports my contention that the biggest criminal in public education today are teacher's unions. Please note, I am not saying teachers, but rather their unions. Most teachers work very hard to educate our kids, but are hampered on two fronts--the administration and the union.
Any movement that provides choice for parents is bad for the unions. Charter schools for example, although funded with public money, are exempt from union contracts. Even in a close shop state that requires all public school teachers to be part of the union, charter school teachers are exempt from that requirement.
I have nothing against unions if they do what they should, which is provide workplace protections for their members. The teacher's unions should not be involved in the formulation of educaiton policy. Teachers yes, unions no. When the NEA undertakes suits like this, without the full support of their membership (and I know for a fact that they probably don't have the support of a significant minority of their membership and I would be willing to bet good money that the NEA lacks support of even a majority of their members on this suit), they just show their inability to evolve with the times.
The facts of the matter are that education has always been a state and local function. In the middle part of the 1950's was the first serious suggestion that the federal government should get involved in education. For the most part, the NEA wants the federal government to be nothing more than an endless bank account. The federal government may only get what it pays for by insisting on standards and qualifications before doling out funds. If those conditions require the improvement of schools and different reporting than what had been happening, such is the nature of federal legislation.
never forget, reporting on test scores and student achievement had been occuring before NCLB, there is no reason for the federal government to have to pay for new reporting when old reporting can just be re-tooled.
Finally, the fact that this lawsuit will occupy a court's time for too long offends me as well.
NEA--shut up and get out of the education policy business--your are not invited nor welcome.
CNN.com - First national suit over education law - Apr 20, 2005
First noting that German Catholics make up a large and important voting bloc in the upper midwest, it is hoped that the Pope will encourage these voters to swing Republican.
GOP insiders are hoping that Benedict XVI will agree to spend at least a few hours on a door-to-door voter registration effort in socially conservative areas, especially in German-American areas of Iowa’s open 1st district, which is expected to be in play next year.
While this seems like a good plan, that is all it is likely to remain--a plan. Allow me to play advisor to the Pope. Getting into the trenches by walking door to door demeans the status of the pope. His Holiness should not be involved in partisan politics. He can perhaps make a plea that people register to vote and go out to vote, but since the Holy Father is not democratically elected (the Cardinals, in case anyone wanted to know are appointed by the Pope), it seems improper to deliver such a message. Pope Benedict should not demean himself or the world-wide Catholic Church by getting involved in Congressional elections or even the Presidential election. It simply is not his place.
But lest you think that Democrats are above board on using Pope Benedict for political purposes
Democrats, however, may also have opportunities to benefit from the background, ethnicity and theological views of the new pope.
Party strategists immediately blasted Benedict XVI’s views on abortion, gay marriage, stem-cell research and women in the priesthood. There is already talk of linking him to DeLay and the Rev. Jerry Falwell.
Democrats argue that moderates, women and people who don’t like the idea that the pope was a member of the Hitler Youth, whether involuntarily or not, might be just a bit turned off by Ratzinger.
But moderates, women and the anti-Nazi's might not like any other pope who might have been selected. The Church's position on abortion, gay marriage and women in the priesthood extend much further back than even John Paul II. While stem-cell research is pretty new, given the definition of life promulgated by the Church, their position is pretty consistent. In short, those groups looking for a Pope who may say its okay for abortion or gay marriage are apparently looking for a Pope in an alternate universe. Of all the issues mentioned above, only women in the priesthood holds much hope for happening in the near future. (Keep in mind that near future in Catholic terms might be 100 years.)
Finally, this little paragraph just strikes me as funny:
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton and former Congressman Father Robert Drinan also criticized Republicans for mixing religion and politics.
Preachers complaining about the mixture of politics and religion--yeah they are a good authority for that statement. (Kudos to Rothenberg for some sardonic humor).
Of course, Rothenberg whole column is a jab at those who would capitalize on Pope Benedict:
Not everything actually has an impact on the next election. And not every development needs be analyzed as if it were a Congressional election in Indiana. Politics is fine, but it is, after all, just politics.
Benedict XVI and His Impact on the MMVI Midterm Elections
The problem facing Congress is two-fold. First, they must pass regulations aimed an governing the method in which they run for office. Because of the very nature of our government, Congress is the only body who can do this. Thus, not only does a conflict of interest exists, but the conflict is inherently structural.
Second, Congress must walk a fine line between laws designed to closely regulate campaign finance and crossing hte line into unconstitutional infringements on free speech.
As money becomes more prevalent and important in politics, perhaps only Congressman Doolittle has a solution that will solve everything--anything goes but you have to disclose everything. So the regulatory test of campaign finance will be the red-faced test or the smell test. Can a canddiate accept such funds and pass the smell test or embarassment test before the public.
Of course, such a regulatory formulation means that the public will have to become more sophisticated about campaign finance--a scenario unlikely to happen.
Hearing Airs BCRA Criticism
Additionally, since the investigation by the FBI started in 2002, you can be sure that Democratic partisans will be crying foul, claiming that the only reason the investigation was started was to prevent Hilary's rise.
It will be interesting with the other shoe drops.
Clinton Case Mystery - April 21, 2005 - The New York Sun
In nearly every era, criticisms of the judiciary usually involve the charge of an activist bench, saying that the judges have exceeded their authority or are legislating from the Bench. To be sure, one can always find, no matter your political persuasion, a decision or two or ten that supports your point of view.
Justice O'Connor, who has been on the Supreme Court for 24 years or so, understands the cyclical nature. In the mid-1990's, when the Supreme Court was striking down laws passed by Congress under the rubric of the Commerce Clause, surely remembers charges from the left that the Supreme Court was legislating from the bench.
Thus, one party's activism is another party's laudable actions.
On a side note, Justice Breyer notes "Our job ... is to decide the case in front of us."
Additional coverage here and here.
3 Justices Respond Personally to Criticism of U.S. Judiciary
Brooks begins with a solid jumping off point, that a Supreme Court decision removed from democratic debate and decision the issue of abortion. By declaring it a right, limited and closely circumscribed as the right was, the Supreme Court ensured that the issue would be hotly debated for decades to come. But, in defense of the Court, they had to decide the case before them--that is their job.
When Blackmun wrote the Roe decision, it took the abortion issue out of the
legislatures and put it into the courts. If it had remained in the legislatures,
we would have seen a series of state-by-state compromises reflecting the views
of the centrist majority that's always existed on this issue. These legislative
compromises wouldn't have pleased everyone, but would have been regarded as
But Brooks premise that the Roe decision has caused the rancor in the Senate Judiciary Committee is, put plainly, just silly.
Each nomination battle is more vicious than the last as the methodologies of
personal destruction are perfected. You get a tit-for-tat escalation as each
side points to the other's outrages to justify its own methods....At first the
Senate Judiciary Committee was chiefly infected by this way of doing business,
but now the entire body - in fact, the entire capital - has caught the abortion
A few causes of the partisanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee are as follows:
1. The Committee has no natural constituencies like say the Finance Committee or the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Thus, with no natural constituencies that can provide the all import campaign funds, the Committee does not attract Senators prone to compromise.
2. Because of the nature of the work of the Judiciary Committee, the committee is likely to attract those interested in the law, with all their prejudices and biases about how law should be written, interpreted and enforced.
3. The Committee itself is an arena with gladiators forged from the extremes of their party. If you don't believe, look up the press surrounding the elevation of moderate Arlen Spector to the Chairmanship.
4. The Committee is seen chiefly as a place to score political points with your base rather than with the broader electorate. Even when Justice Scalia, a noted and unabashed judicial conservative, we was confirmed 98-0 by the Senate.
5. C-SPAN and 24 hour news--public statements are now truly public and immediate--end of story.
6. The polarization of America into Red and Blue states means that most Senators come from states that are ovewhelmingly dominated by one political persuasion, a factor evident from the membership of the Judiciary Committee.
To say that the Roe decision is a root cause of the partisanship to fail to understand the fundamental nature of the Judiciary Committee within the larger Senate and the larger nature of our country.
Roe's Birth, and Death
Thursday, April 21, 2005
But Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, R-La Mesa, complained that the bill was "rapid reaction to something that's barely even occurred yet" and that lawmakers ought to pay more attention to other problems, like protecting children from child predators.
"We ought to take a serious look at what our priorities are," he said.
Of course I have a rather serious question. Who is going to be responsible for
policing this? Who will enforce this law?
On a constitutional level, there could be an argument for the interference of
interstate commerce by California, assuming of course this asinine bill
actually beomces law.
AP State Wire News - State Senate votes to ban hunting via Internet -
Masthead, The: Bloggers: The light at the end of the newspaper's tunnel
Disclosure: I am a PAC management consultant for Vocus, Inc., which provides grassroots/PAC management software similar to the custom built systems mentioned in this article.
One of hte fundamental precepts of warfare, whether actual combat or political warfare, is that wars are not won in the air. In modern warfare, control of the skies with fighter aircraft and airborne radar can deny the enemy the ability to support ground forces, but that does not mean the enemy is defeated. No, in order to win, you have to have ground troops go in an occupy the enemy's fortress and land, otherwise, when you airplanes leave, you go back to square one.
In politics, the Democrats have long thought that victory meant spending a lot of money on television and radio ads. Such tactics have their place in the world, but you can't just rely on advertising to win modern election. What wins, and the only that that will win over time, is bodies on the ground getting people to the polls.
Terry McAuliffe had, furing his DNC Chairmanship, focused on what he called "Means, Methods, Message, Money and Mobilization." A catchy, alliterative slogan, but one in which he completely failed. The heart of McAuliff's effort lay in the money aspect, at which he was very good. But in the end, if you want to win, you have to get bodies on the ground. The GOP understood this quite sometime ago, perhaps learning the lesson best in 1992, when Bush 41 lost to Clinton.
Grassroots provides all five of McAuliffe's M's:
Means--I am no sure what McAullife meant by this, but to me means are the methods by which you implement strategy. You need to organize a rally--you have the means to do it with a broad group of volunteers and operatives who can make that happen.
Methods--a broad base of ground pounders gives any campaign organziation the ability to tap in to expertise and get things done, things that would ordinarily have to be paid for, like getting people on the ground in Ohio to mobilize voters. Locals are more impressive than imported carpet-baggers.
Message--to be sure the main organization must be responsible for formulating message, but who can disseminate it. In the modern world of instantaneous communication, viral messaging and blogs, ground troops give you and method of exponential distribution of messages--faster than any television ad.
Money--the more people you have on your roles committed to your campaign, the more resources you have for money. End of story.
Mobilization--on the big day, the number of ads you had on television and the number of gross ratings points means nothing if you can't get voters to vote for you. Mobilization is the only way.
Please Standby�The DNC Is Still Experiencing Technical Difficulties Personal Democracy Forum: "http://www.personaldemocracy.com/trackback/536"
One of the key developments of the late 60's and 70's was the development of conservative think tanks to research republican ideas, test them out, develop them and present them to canddiates as issues. The development of conservative think tanks did not take place overnight and in many ways it is still going on.
George Soros, the billionaire backer of Moveon.org and dozens of other liberal groups, told a bank of liberal minded investors that you can't expect a think tank system to develop ideas overnight.
George Soros told a carefully vetted gathering of 70 likeminded millionaires and
billionaires last weekend that they must be patient if they want to realize
long-term political and ideological yields from an expected massive investment
in “startup” progressive think tanks.
Perhaps Democrats, or at least their money men, are starting to realize that it not that Americans like the GOP ideas so much better (which they do since most americans, at least at their core are conservative or change adverse), but rather that the Democratic ideas are just bad ideas. Instead of touchy-feely platitudes about social justice, rights and fairness, the Democrats need to develop real proposals and real ideas.
Building a base of issues identified with Democrats takes time. But taking time has never been a strong suit of the Democrats. They want their successes to come now and when that immediate gratification does not occur, they go back to the drawing board, instead of analyzing what when wrong.
On a side note, I love this little gem at the end of the story:
Despite the general recognition that progressives are several years behind conservatives, liberal activists are confident that technology will help them close the gap. “Technology may allow us to do in a few years what it took the other side 40 years,” the DNC source said.
Not bloody likely, technology is no substitute for real ideas and real work. Plus the Democrats are not particularly good at employing technology to build a base. See previous post.
Soros says be patient
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Yet, viewing Pope Benedict in light of his immediate predecessors, his selection is not surprising. Despite cries from American Catholics that the Church is too conservative, even reactionary, (including my own thoughts), looking at the seleciton with as much neutrality as I can, I can see why this Pope was chosen.
As a nation, despite the relatively conservative nature of the United States, we have come to accept and acknowledge certain fundamental beliefs that run counter, to a certain extent, Catholic Doctrine. We see no issue in individual equality, thus we call for the admission of women into the priesthood. I always thought the reason the Church didn't move in this direction is a culture of misogeny. But now as I have aged, I think that the Church holds on to certain traditions not as a sexist stance, but rather as a tradition, the Church seeks to change slowly.
I don't believe the Church cannot accept the piety of a woman being equal to that of a man.
In a world of massive and rapid change, the Church has an amazing sense of its place in the world. Pope Benedict called Catholicism an adult faith. Adult are secure in their beliefs and their place in the world. This is not to say that adults don't change and evolve, merely that they do so slowly, only after being convinced that small changes can make a difference. I don't recall Vatican II as it occured when I was very young. But had I gone to Mass as a youth and the whole thing was in Latin, I would have not continued beyond parental mandate to attend Mass. But delivering Mass in native languages ensures accessibility of the Church. From histories I have read, it took decades to convince church leadership that the change was good.
I believe the Church will evolve in certain manners, but I think the world needs a stable, slow institution with knowledge of is place in the world, if only to serve as a sea anchor in the maelstrom of modern life.
It was only after listening to the band, probably best known for the song "The Boxer," did I find a remarkable musicianship that makes the band, if not a great band, at least one that is fun enough to be around for a good long time.
Certainly the Irish flavoring of both music and lyrics, appeals to a large segment. The vocals by Barry Privett certainly give the impression of a band born around Dublin and fermented by years of bars and small clubs. But the difference is in tone, the lyrics and their delivery are much more upbeat and feel good to hear.
The band employs great harmonies in backing vocals to Privett's lead vocals. In addition, guitarists Terry Clark and Carter Gravatt, along with bassist Jordan Medas, prove capable of working with complex guitar lines and weaving them into a sound that is layered but not a mishmash of notes trying to overpower each other. Like many Richmond-Charlotte bands, the rhythms produced by drummer Scott Milstead and Medas are complex, making the band's rhythm section an integral part of the band, not just a method for providing pacing for the bands guitarists and vocalist.
The band is great deal of fun to see live. To be blunt, I think this should be a disk in everyone's collection.
My favorite tracks:
"Shine" Carbon Leaf garnered at least a little notoriety with this follow up to "The Boxer" but in many respects this is a far better song. The harmonies in the vocals are much stronger and the lyrics are better.
"Follow the Lady" The guitar work on this selection is probably the best on the album. The lyrics and vocals are smoother, even slower, that the speedy acoustic guitar, but it provides a great counterpoint.
"May Mac" Carbon Leaf takes a great traditional Irish song and just hits a home run with it. The frenetic, even frantic, delivery makes the song fun. The alliterations in the lyrics must have made the recording of the song an exercise in tongue twisters. Finally, the backing vocals come in at just the right point to highlight the speed of the piece.
P.S. Carbon Leaf just released a new disk, but I have yet to get my hands on it. This CD is a great start for the band.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Certainly, the GOP has its share of problems, ones that need to be addressed. But being like the Democrats in 1993-1994 is not one of them. But let us take a look at some similarities and the differences.
First, there is the Big Issue. In 1993 and 1994 it was health care and the Clinton healthcare plan was in development. This year it is President Bush's plan to revamp social security. One could argue in 1993 that the crisis in health care was real or not. Certainly costs were skyrocketing then and it was a problem for many Americans. Today, even Democrats agree that Social Security as we know it now is in jeopardy, the argument today is about when it will fail, not if.
But the similarity on the big issue ends there. In 1993 the Democrats were trying to put together a plan. They had a big idea, but no specifics. By the time a plan was put together, the GOP and its allies had effectively killed it. With Social Security, the Bush Administration has a plan, with details, that is being debated. While the Bush plan is not doing well in the hinterlands, there is a plan--something Clinton never really had.
Another similarity is that there are questions about ethics. Certainly Tom DeLay is guilty of a little bad judgment in his continuing relationship with Jack Abramhoff--but at this stage bad judgment is all there is. I have called for DeLay to step down from his leadership post, but I am not suggesting he resign from Congress. Of course, from what I know, what DeLay did was not improper--it just seems that way. In 1993, the Democrats and more than a few GOP Congressmen, were facing a real scandal--the House Bank check kiting scandal. Members of Congress were floating checks from accounts that had no money--and getting away with it for years. Such a practice among normal Americans would have resulted in civil charges at least if not criminal charges.
But here is the difference between check kiting and the charges made by Democrats against DeLay. Check kiting is illegal--bad judgment is not. There were far more Democratic Congressmen abusing the House Bank's leniency than GOP (not that the GOP was without sin), but the GOP was able to make a proper issue of it, by including in the Contract with America a provision called the Congressional Accountibility Act, which said that Congress is not above the law. Right now the Democrats can attack DeLay, but not to viciously or else they too will be caught in the web because DeLay's "transgressions" are committed by Congressmen every day.
Another similarity--it looks like power has gone to the collective head of the party in power. For 40 years, the Democrats ruled the House and they thought themselves invincible. They operated with impunity and abused their majority status on a regular basis. Today, the GOP is doing the same, only the partisanship, on both sides, has gotten worse. The partisan wrangling over the composition and rules of the Ethics Committee is inexcusable. The choking off of oppostion rhetoric by the GOP rules--while mimicing the Democrats while they were in power--needs to stop if the GOP is to be able to claim the moral high ground.
True, the minority party, particularly in the House, only has the power of speech to make its case. The House is set up as a majoritarian institution. The party in power makes the rules and rules teh roost. So the minority party has to take other tactics to make its case, either through the media directly to the American people, by throwing bombs in the House (a la Newt Gingrich in the early 1990's) or by working with the majority party and appearing to abandon your party and principles.
But the difference beteween the Democrats in 2005 and the GOP in 1994 is profoundly more fundamental that issues. The key difference is that in 1993 and 1994, the GOP had alternatives--the Contract with America. Realizing, after decades of getting spanked at the polls for Congress, the need for alternative stances on issues or the presentation of new issues, the GOP set out to propose different policy ideas. While they hoped the initiatives would resonate with the population, they couldn't be sure. But the one thing the GOP was sure of was they could not longer be the anti-party. They could no longer respond to Democratic iniatives and say, "We oppose that." The GOP learned to say, "We oppose the Democratic proposal--here is how we would do it. This is our idea."
The Democrats are not doing that in 2005.
Here are some top issues of the day:
- Social Security reform--no coherent Democratic proposal on this issue.
- The Economy--no ideas here (but to be honest I am not sure anyone has an idea)
- National Defense--the only position is that we need one but no concrete ideas for doing it differently.
If the Democrats are going to win in 2006, they will need to show two things. First, they need to have concrete proposals that the voters can evaluate. Without an alternative agenda, opposing the only policy proposal gains no ground--only keeps you from losing ground. Second, Democrats will need to convince Americans that their ideas are better.
The second item is always present in elections. But right now, the only party with ideas is the GOP and as long as they control the arena of ideas, they will win, even if their ideas suck.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Quick note of background. For the most part, Hill staffer work at the pleasure of their member. The place is, to a large extent, a revolving door of activity since most staffers are not paid much, work rediculous hours and use the time as a jumping off point for a career. While many staffers are fired in a given year, they are often fired to conduct detrimental to their boss--do a google search on Jessica Cutler or Mel Martinez's counsel on teh Schiavo memo--most quit.
Back to this case, a former chief of staff to Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) has filed a discrimination suit against Johnson. Johnson's lawyers are arguing that the Constitution's "Speech and Debate Clause" provides immunity from suit in these kinds of cases.
The Speech and Debate clause prohibtis the questioning of members of Congress about the Speech or Debate in either hour or in any other place. Johnson is arguing that her firing of her staff is a action protected under the Clause.
Most staff actions that are related to the legislative business of the member are protected under the Speech and Debate clause or else the Member would not be able to do the job they were elected to perform. But the question in this case is whether personnel decisions, i.e. the hiring, firing, pay or disciplinary matters of Hill staff are legislative or administrative acts. If the act is legislative, it is protected by the speech and debate clause.
Personnel decisions have nothing to do with legislation--even remotely. True, staffers are hired to carry certain legislative functions, but the actual activity of hiring them is not. Congress should be accountable for its personnel decision if they are discriminatory and can be proven as such. While staffers may be fired for any reason (including convenience) without warning, it may be difficult to prove discrimination.
Johnson is on extremely shaky ground here and the suit against her should be permitted to go forward.
The problems stems from the entire fourth-grade faculty leaving the school--four teachers. The district's chief human resources officer could not remember anything like it in 30 years. Fine, admittedly the situation is probably unique, but here is why the four teachers left. Two teachers were not certified, one was promoted to another county job and the fourth, ... left for "personal reasons." Congrats to the teacher who got promotoed, but why on earth was 50% of a school's fourth grade teachers hired without certification? I know that schools struggle to find certified teachers and sometimes hired on a provisional basis until the teacher can get certification, but two in the same grade?
School systems routine cannot get certified teachers to fill positions. I am not sure why--perhaps someone out there can tell me--but I do know that the system cannot continue. Prince George's County has a lot of problems, but lack of smart talent is not one of them. The state's flagship university--The University of Maryland-College Park is in the county, complete with a spectacular school of education. There are literally hundreds or thousands of Ph.D' working at the NASA Goddard Space Center in the northern part of the county. The state's capitol in Annapolis is a short 30 minute drive away--in traffic.
No, rather I think the problem is emphasis. With so many students so low on the socio-economic ladder, the school system needs to emphasize work with those students. Partnerships with local businesses, government agencies and the University of Maryland can supply teaching talent--usually on a volunteer basis, so that work can be done to improve these student's lives and education. But to me, it seems unlikely that such an effort will occur.
When All the Fourth-Grade Teachers Quit (washingtonpost.com)
Last year, according to the report, over 500 teaching and other positions were cut. This year, the city is looking at almost 400--many reportedly to come from the same schools that got smacked around last year.
"The current formula does not include labor increases," [school board Vice President Carolyn] Graham said. "As a result of the inadequacy of [the formula], schools have had to make difficult decisions between cutting their core educational programs or cutting music, art and library programs."
A couple of thoughts here. First, who is the moron who created a formula that failed to account for step increases present in a union contract that has been in force for a while? Second, who is the moron who made teh same mistake twice in a row? These idiots, if they are not the same person, should be fired immediately. Of course there are a number of other reviewing moronic educrats who failed to catch the idiot's mistake TWICE.
Next, why are educational positions being cut? If a school board has to cut funds, one of the best places to do is in administration. You don't see school board members or other administrators giving up someone to answer their phones, take a pay freeze or any number of options to reduce costs and not have to cut teaching positions.
Next, why should a school have to chose between core education programs and arts/music/library programs? It seems to me that the priorities of hte school board and administration are skewed. To me the budgeting process should be as follows:
1. Make damn sure the buildings are useable. You can't teach a kid in a building that can't house them.
2. Make damn sure you have paid all of your teachers FIRST.
3. Ensure the kids are health and safe. This means fund your school lunch/breakfast programs and other safety programs.
4. Pay your local school support staff. These poeple are the day to day administrators.
5. Pay your non-school related support staff. These lower level people do most of hte work anyway.
6. Pay your senior school officials in full.
Cuts in pay should work in the opposite direction.
I refer to an earlier post about tying administrator's (read school board and superintendants) pay to the success of the school system's student. Then there is just the general insanity of throwing money at the education problem, but that is a different rant.
D.C. Schools Could Cut 395 Staff Positions (washingtonpost.com)
Last week's story in The New York Times breathlessly reported that DeLay had employed family members to work on his campaigns and for his political action committee. This story was so old it had whiskers. It was first reported in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call in 2003.
Other news outlets dutifully followed the Times and created the impression that DeLay had put family members on the public payroll. In fact, no taxpayer money was involved. Nor was it in any way illegal or unethical for DeLay's privately funded PAC to employ his wife and daughter. The Times reported that DeLay's PAC paid his wife and daughter $500,000. This is only $50,000 a year each for the past five years, a solidly middle-class income and certainly a lot less than the editors at The New York Times earn.
In case you needed some more fodder for the left-wing media machine Democratic attack dog.
The Washington Post recently published a page-one "expose" about the financing of a 1997 trip to Russia. The facts are that the National Center for Public Policy Research, a nonprofit association, issued a statement last month describing its sponsorship of and payment for this trip: "The National Center for Public Policy Research was careful to pay all the expenses associated with Congressman DeLay's trip. Reports to the contrary are incorrect." Every year, dozens of members of Congress and staff participate in such trips financed by nonprofit organizations. This is perfectly legal, normal and even routine.
In fact, despite being in the minority, over the past four years Democrats have taken 54 percent of such trips and Democrats were the top five private trip-takers (in terms of money spent). They were in order: Sen. John Breaux. Rep. Robert Wexler, Rep. Gene Green, Rep. Maurice Hinchey and Rep. Cal Dooley. And when it comes to taxpayer financed trips, Democrat Nancy Pelosi has spent six times more on foreign travel than Tom DeLay.
Hmmmm.... Could it be that while DeLay crossed a line of propriety, the line represents a double standard according to Democrats?
Washington Examiner: Opinion
Here is how the subject plays in the LA Times:
At least 39 members of Congress have engaged in the controversial practice of paying their spouses, children or other relatives out of campaign funds, or have hired companies in which a family member had a financial interest, records and interviews show.House campaign funds have paid more than $3 million to lawmakers' relatives over the last two election cycles, records show.
$3 million sounds like a lot of money right? Not in the realm of congressional campaigns. So lets take a look at some statistics.
39 members of Congress--assuming that this is just the House of representatives since they are the only congressional campaigns that must file online with the FEC--amounts to less that 10% of the entire body of 435. Not exactly a huge sample.
According to the FEC itself, candidates for the House of Representatives spent $551.7 million in the 2004 election cycle (a preliminary total among general election candidates only) and all congressional candidates spent $613 million in the 2002 cycle. So the last two election cycles have spent $1.16 billion dollars in 4 years, of which $3 million was paid to family. That equates to 0.25% of all spending--barely a drop in the bucket of spending.
Of course that is of all congressional campaign spending. The FEC conveniently provides statistics on winners only. Among winning House campaigns, congressmen spent $432.5 million in 2004 and $374.5 million in 2002 for a total of $807 million over four years. At that total, a $3 million combined expense is just o.37% of all spending.
Let's try and break it down further by averages. This is not so good at this level, but here we go. In the 2002 and 2004 cycles, congressional incumbents spent an averate of $1.85 million in two elections per candidate over the four years. That means those 39 candidates mentioned above spent a combined total of $72.15 million dollars over four years (assuming an average expenditure amount). Even $3 million dollars of that total, comes to just 4.1% of all spending.
The practice of hiring family to conduct campaign services is not new and unless it is made illegal will continue. Lawmakers may feel that family are the only people they can truly trust--people in campaign work are often obsessed with the aggrandizement of their own power that they fail to put their candidate first. To be sure, it looks like Tom DeLay paid a lot of money to his family and that could be excessive. It would not surprise me if the FEC has an investigation under way now. But the fact that family is used should not shock anyone.
The San Gabriel Valley Tribune described the situation in their lead paragraph:
Dozens of lawmakers have hired their spouses and children to work for their campaigns and political groups, paying them with contributions they've collected from special interests and other donors.
MILive.com called the practice Nepotism--which technically it is, but such a word is clearly loaded. In Bennington, Vermont, the press took on Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) who has paid his family in excess of $100,000 in the past several years. Here is what the Bennington Banner wrote:
The ethics of lawmakers paying their families jumped into the spotlight on Capitol Hill last week, following reports that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas had paid his wife and daughter more than $500,000 for campaign-related work.
Jim Barrett, chairman of the Vermont Republican Party, used Sanders' family payments to highlight what he said is Democratic "hypocrisy" for fiercely attacking DeLay. "It's the standard hypocrisy from the left," Barrett said. "When a Republican does it, it's inappropriate and front page news. But now it turns out, our own Bernie Sanders has been doing it for a long time."
He added: "If it's corruption when Tom DeLay does it, then it's corruption when Bernie Sanders does it."
Jon Copans, executive director of the state Democratic Party, declined to comment.
It seems funny to me that such a roar is being made. The FEC clearly has had the ability to restrict candidates from paying family, but has chosen not to. Congress has it within its power to prevent the practice--one that many lawmakers consider to not pass the smell test--but have failed to do so. Did DeLay cross the line--perhaps--but Congress and the FEC can fix it.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Having been around Washington for a while and understanding a little of the ethics rules in question, what DeLay did is not, technically, improper. Plus, I do believe the media has made more of the story than is really there, but with the Democrats poised to make ethics an issue on the national scene, it may be time for DeLay to quietly step down from his leadership post. I am not saying he should resign from Congress as his re-election is a matter for the voters of his district rather than the editors of the New York Times and the Washington Post. But as the Majority Leader he is going to be more of a lightening rod for accusations of corrpution or arrogance.
But the broader issue of ethics is important to think about. In 1994, one of the reasons for the Republican Victory is the arrogance and outright flaunting of rules by the Democrats. One scandal that struck home was the check kiting scandal for the House Bank. Of course it was not just the check kiting that brought the Democrats down, but rather it was a series of abuses, compounding over the course of 40 years that led to the downfall and the GOP took advantage.
The question will be whether both parties can recognize the vulnerability of the GOP. True, the Democrats have a not had a great history of seizing these opportunities and they face the uphill battle inherent in Congress. Americans don't always like Congress but they love their Congressman. On the other hand the GOP has a chance to recover and show that they haven't let power go to their head--by coming clean about DeLay and asking him to step down.
DeLay Seeks GOP Senators' Support (washingtonpost.com)
Now that we have a team, we are having to live through the amusing side story of naming rights to the field at the stadium. First, I am sick of naming fields. RFK stadium is named for Robert F. Kennedy, a fitting memorial. Why do we as a nation feel the need to to name our athletic fields after companies who spend millions on the "naming rights." I remember watching baseball on TV as a kid and seeing the Pittsburgh Pirates play at Three Rivers Stadium. The L.A. Dodgers played at, yep Dodger Stadium. At least, so far, George Steinbrenner has resisted renaming Yankee Stadium and Red Sox fans would probably destroy Boston before allowing Fenway Park's name to be changed.
I have nothing against advertising and sponsorships, but do we have to sell the names to stadiums? My beloved University of Maryland Terrapins basketball team no longer plays at Cole Field House, a depressing thought in and of itself, but now they play at Comcast arena--which is where may cable bill money went for so long.
It has gotten excessive. Now with the Washington Nationals, we have a new problem. It seems that no matter what happens in Washington, someone in Congress has to get a burr in their saddle about it. Now Senator John Warner (R-VA) has expressed dismay that the National Guard is considering buying the naming rights to the baseball field at RFK--which would be called the National Guard Field at RFK Stadium. The deal would cost the Guard $2 million a year. The head of the National Guard says that they shouldn't have to pay money for the naming rights, because they have paid the bill in blood.
Now I agree that the National Guard has done much for this country and is doing much now. I also know that the Guard is suffering from recruiting problems (problems related to the issue of guard units being deployed oversees for months, even over a year--but that is another rant). The Naitonal Guard has a recruiting and advertising budget and certainly $2 million a year is a relatively small portion of the recruitment and advertising budgter. I fail to see the harm in this relatively small expenditure.
"I was genuinely concerned about the precedent of the National Guard, a tax-supported entity, paying to put the name on a facility," [Lt. Gen.] Blum said. "I had a problem with that."
The Army sponsors NASCAR and rodeo events....
So the Army can support a sports team or venue, but the National Guard can't. It seems as though the Pentagon needs to come to some sort of policy.
One final note, what the $%^&* does Senator Warner have to do with this, you may ask. Officially, he is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee which oversees the Defense Department and the National Guard to a certain extent and he is exercising his oversight authority. In reality--he is just giving another example of Congress getting too involved in local affairs and he may run for re-election next year and needed his name in the papers.
Guard Discusses Altered RFK Deal (washingtonpost.com)
First of all, I am not happy with Bucknell for trashing my NCAA basketball bracket, but that is another matter.
In yet another example of the liberalization of academia, Brain Terminal points out some serious issues of student tuition being used to promote a particular political ideology. I have no issue with schools raising awareness of political matters, but the school has a duty to present opposing viewpoints--particularly colleges. The school's Women's Resource Center sponsors trips to allow students to attend political rallies--a good and noble cause, but you have to select the right cause apparently.
When some female students saw that the WRC was in the business of arranging trips to political protests, they asked for similar help setting up a trip to a rally with a different political philosophy. The students were turned down. Feminism is supposed to be about allowing women to make choices, but apparently there are some choices the WRC doesn't want women to make, such as how to think politically.
And if you think that Womens issues were the only politically correct propaganda, you would be wrong. The school's Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Awareness requested
used Valentine's Day to promote "National Freedom to Marry Week." The office handed out t-shirts and buttons and sent an e-mail to all students asking them "to show their support in a very visible way [...] regarding marriage rights."
In other words, the university was asking students to take a specific political stance in support of gay marriage. Clearly, the university stepped over the line of appropriate action; this wasn't a case of one professor or administrator speaking his or her opinion at a rally, this was an official arm of the university--staffed by paid university employees--asking students to support gay marriage "in a very visible way."
The outrage here is the use of the school's budget and paid staff, supported by students, parents and alumni, to promote a political belief. As a student I was forced to pay "activity fees" that were then used to support a number of student organizations, but not my fraternity because we had a closed admission process based on student grades, many of whom I disagreed with strenously. But at the least, those monies were going to student organizations.
Tuition dollars, whether from parents or students themselves, should be used ONLY for education or support activities. The Bucknell Women's Resource Center and OLGBT don't have that mission--they are promoting political viewpoints--not their job.
Now about the basketball team.....
Brain-Terminal.com � The Campus Political Establishment
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
As this article from CNN points out, there is a move afoot at Colgate University to crack down on the greek system by prohibiting private owned fraternity houses around campus. Essentially, the school is saying that students of the university must live in university housing.
There are a couple of issues I have with this:
First, a fraternity or fraternity chapter that is incorporate can own property--that is one of the rights of a corporation. The University is not the state and therefore cannot exercise the power of emminent domain. Even the the school was a public univesity, student housing policy is not grounds for emminent domain. By ordering fraternities and sororities to sell their houses to the school, the school is acting without justification.
Second, while it is true that a school does not have to recognize a student organization--their right--the school cannot force the surrender of private property by holding recognition over their heads.
Third, if the school is so worried about the activities of it students off campus, they should work more closely with the local law enforcement offices. Surely incidents involving hazing, alcohol and sexual abuse are crimes in New York and thus the purview of the police.
So here is a question, is the school going to prohibit any student from living in non-university housing. I remember going back to college after having served in the Navy and if the school told me, a 24 year person that my only option was to live in university owned housing, I would have taken my tuition money elsewhere.
Will students be able to live in private homes? What if a student is a local, say the son or daughter of a local businessman, can that student live at home to save money? Chances are yes. So what we have here is essentially university sponsored discrimination--"we don't like the way you live and where you live so you have to live where we tell you."
Just another freedom taken from univeristy students.
CNN.com - Colgate University buying Greek houses - Apr 12, 2005
It seems as though students have forgotten a statement by Jefferson that goes a little like this, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed by the blood of patriots." That may not be an exact quote, but it is pretty close. A few quick thoughts from the story. The story revolves around a career fair at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where a group of more than 200 protesters "stormed" a career fair due to the presence of military recruiters. For the uninitiated, any school that takes federal funds (which is just about every school thanks to federal grant programs) must allow military recruiters on campus. This is hte Solomon amendment.
The military recruiters, from the Marine Corps. made the wise decision to attend in civilian clothes rather than uniforms.
Two Marine Corps recruiters, dressed in street clothes, declined to comment.
Some students at the job fair defended them.
"It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, that has given us the freedom to demonstrate," said Adiofel Mark Mendoza, a sophomore from San Diego who came in his ROTC cadet uniform.
Two freshmen from Santa Monica put Marines stickers on their T-shirts to show their support.
"They are just providing an opportunity," said Patrick Casey, who grew up in a military family.
His friend Chris Swanson criticized the protesters.
"If they want free speech, they should let people speak to the recruiters," he said.
It seems that Mr. Swanson and his friends understand Jefferson's meaning.
I served in the military at the time of the Gulf War. In the weeks leading up to the war, my unit was forbidden from wearing our unit jackets, which were technically civilian but everyone owned one since our commanders allowed us to travel as a unit with the jacket over our jumpsuits. We were not permitted to leave the base alone for fear of attacks on our personnel--and we were stationed in Washington DC. My shipmates and I were actually called "baby killers" once, even though none of us had ever fired a shot in anger and I couldn't recall the last time I had seen a baby.
A few months later, I had a public relations assignment giving tours of the Pentagon to civilians when a woman asked me why I was such a war mongerer. Aside from the oddity of this anti-war civilian taking the tour of Pentagon, I replied in the answer we were told to give, which was that the military in America is under civilian control of hte political branches. If she had a beef with U.S. foriegn policy she should take it up with the President or Congress.
A little while later, a gentlemen came over to me and complimented me on my restraint, he would have told her what to do with herself. I replied that my job as a member of the military is to protect her right to say such things.
The difference between the recruiters and their campus supporters in this case and the protestors is that the military generally understands their place in the world and the role they play in keeping people like the protestors safe to complain.
What bothers me most about this story is the line:
The noisy sit-in ended after an hour of chaos and tension when military representatives vacated their posts. Student protesters hugged each other happily after administrators allowed them to hand out information on alternatives to military careers and agreed to a meeting to discuss future job fairs.
From reports, it appears as though the recruiters were among more than 60 employers. How many alternatives to military careers need be present to satisfy the protestors? In this meeting to discuss future job fairs, will military recruiter supporters like Mr. Swanson be present? (My answer is not likely).
Free speech is not a guaranteed right. Oh sure, the First Amendment protects that right, but it takes soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to guaratee that right. Which means we need leaders, which is why recruiters go to campuses to recruit future officers. Would the protestors be as vocal if the State Department or Department of Homeland Security had come calling? One wonders.
The only word that comes to mind to describe these children is dilletentes. Kids protected by the military, but failing to understand the role of the military in providing their security. As Jack Nicholson said in a Few Good Men,
I have neither the time or the inclination to argue with some who sleeps under the blanket of security I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide. I would rather you say thank you and move on your way, otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post.
Students protesting military recruiters disrupt UCSC job fair By JONDI GUMZ SENTINEL STAFF WRITER April 6, 2005
Monday, April 11, 2005
Oh, how I wish I were as elegant as Jonathan Rauch, but he makes a similar argument to a previous post on the Schiavo case. I had always argued that what ever the outcome was, at least the Courts had followed the law. No matter what you believe the outcome should have been, the fact that the due process rights were carried out seems beyond question.
I agree with Rauch when he says that Americans cherish the predictablity and stability of law above all else. No matter what happens, Americans inevitably fall back on teh concept of whether something is legal. Americans intuitively understand that questions of morality are subjective, framed by ones own belief system, religioin or upbringing, but no one doubts the law. We may not agree with the law, but at least the law provides a structure to our way of life.
The law is malleable, but not squishy. Like folding iron, it takes work when the iron is cold, it takes repeated hammering and effort. But if the iron is hot, when passions are highest or agreement is nearly unanimous, it is possible to fold the iron easily and the iron retains its heat for a while in order to correct mistakes.
The GOP dropped the ball on this one, badly. I am not still not convinced that Terri's Law was meant to score more political points with their base rather than the result of some considered desire to "protect life." Nevertheless, many conservatives, myself included, recognized that this case turned the concept of law and order (in a structural sense) on its head. The GOP wanted to achieve some end, but rather than accepting that the rules as they now stand did not permit them their victory, they fell back onto Democratic patterns, change the law.
There is a saying that lawyers have, "bad facts makes bad law." In this case, the GOP's efforts based on bad facts made for a bad law, and worse, a bad precedent for the party. The GOP can get back to an even keel by realizing that most Americans believe in the wisdom on judges, believe that on the whole, the courts do a good job--one that most of us could not do, and more importantly, Americans believe in the law.
Social Studies (04/08/2005)
This is not a bad thing at all, but rather the nature of our governmental system. As James Madison pointed out in Federalist No. 10, the point of all the factional squabbling and in-fighting to make policy, but the efforts of so many blunts the impact of one particular group, thus producing a more wisened approach to the law--again in theory.
I am reminded of a talk I gave to a group of very bright college students about the nature of lobbying. My job as a lobbyist to put all of my effort and energy into the case for my client--to pursue my client's goals. When asked about whether my efforts for proper for hte common good, my response was that a lobbyist is not paid to think about the common good, that is why we elect representatives. My goal is the good of my client.
having said that, there are problems with the current system of lobbying registration and disclsore under the Lobbying Disclosure Act. There have been many articles in recent days on a study the Center for Public Integrity showing that the lobbying industry has made some $13 billion dollars since 1998. The nubmer seems staggering but when one considers that nearly every organized interest (I destest the term special interest since by definition everyone's interest is special--at least to themselves) has done some lobbying. There are literally tens of thousands of registered lobbyists in Washington and probably millions of part-time lobbyists out there.
While the CPI study points to some serious flaws in the registration and reporting requiresment under the LDA, there are some serious flaws in the law as well. As this story points out,
It’s enough to confuse even a presidential candidate. Last year, Sen. John Kerry voluntarily released a list of all the lobbyists he had met with since 1989. At least 40 of the people Kerry listed as having lobbied him were individuals who didn’t register—and may not have been required to do so. Only those who spend at least one-fifth of their time lobbying for their organization are required to register.
That last sentence is accurate. Under the provisions of the LDA, people who spend less than 20% of their compensated time need register as a lobbyist. Thus, the heads of large lobbying organizations, such as the AARP, the NRA or any number of large and power organizations can spend 8 hours a week in a forty hour week, lobbying and not have to disclose any of it. Thus, a major segment of activity, that by part-time lobbyists such as CEOs who spend only a few precious hours a week influencing Congress goes unreported.
There are a couple of other major missing links. Volunteer lobbyists, such as employees who voluntarily write letters to their Congressmen on behalf of their company, likewise are not required to register, nor should they. But the organization that spends hundreds of thousands of dollars or more exhorting their employees to make those contacts should. But monies spent on grassroots organizing activities (a growing segment of the influence industry) are exempt from lobbying disclosure. The loopholes in the LDA are large enough to drive through an aircraft carrier.
One other major issue, reported in the news here points to the lack of a proper enforcement mechanism. The body responsible for regulating the lobbying of Congress is---Congress itself--surely a conflict of interest if there ever was one. LDA registrations and reports are submitted to the House and Senate--including LDAs for the lobbying of administrative agencies which is also legal. But the Senate and the House lack enough staff to even properly catalogue the reports let along enforce the provisions of the LDA. It has been suggested that the Federal Election Commission take over the enforcement of the LDA since, broadly, the FEC is concerned with preventing the improper influence of Congress by outside interests.
The government needs lobbyists to work efficiently. But the public needs more information on who the lobbyists are and how they operate. tougher disclsoure laws with some of the loopholes closed will go a long way to helping citizens understand the amount of money being spent on lobbying.
As a law student, amatuer historian, and a student of politics, I have to say that Barton and all those who think impeachment should be a tool for bringing judges back to the will of the people--hogwash!!!
The Judiciary is the one branch of government that absolutely, positively should not be subject to the will of the people. The judiciary is the one passive branch in our government. Judges can't go looking for cases, cases must come to the courts. People say "I will go to court" they don't say, "Wait till the court comes." This is not to say that Congress does not have a legitimate oversight role to ensure that the Judiciary does not act beyond its fiat, but in my experience, the courts are by nature an institution reluctant to take on a more expansive role. In fact, I would be willing to wager that most judges would be far happier with a lighter workload.
The concept of the "activist judge" interpreting laws contrary to the will of the legislature reflects not so much an expansive mindset of the courts wanting to act as an unelected legislature as much as a bellweather of ineffective legislation. A judge is, by their very nature, a very reactive person. Despite their personal beliefs, a judge must decide the case before them--thus they are reacting to the stimulus of a case and must produce a legally reasoned, fair result.
The courts do not get to write the law, but when the legislature fails in its duty to write laws that provide true guidance for enforcement or interpretation, the legislature cannot then criticize the courts for their attempts to read between the lines. In the legisaltive gauntlet, certain compromises are made, legislators and judges know this. But compromises are not the issue here, the issue is that legislators, fearing for their re-election are reluctant to take unpopular stands fearing voter backlash. The result--the legislators then decide to punt, leaving the interpretation of a vague law to the courts. The courts, then doing what they must, have to apply an interpretation to the law (since they have to have a winner in any case). The legislature then considers it politically expedient and useful to then blast "activist judges." If the legislature had done their job, the judges would then be bound by the law. But if there is wiggle room, a panel of reasonable judges could come to differing conclusions about the meaning of hte law--and they would all be right because the legislature lacks the spine, fortitude and forethought to consider the implications of a vaguely written law.
Thus, if Congress or a state legislature wants to point fingers for the cause of "activist judges" they best go stand before a mirror, take a long hard look and then point to the mirror. More respondible legislation is needed--not an ad hominem attack on judges.
Judicial Critic to Lead Frist Tour
Thursday, April 07, 2005
What impressed me then and even more so now in my older age is the level of social commentary present in their songs. Vivid featured songs about racism (Funny Vibe), slum lords (Open Letter to a Landlord), and the dichotomy between rich and poor (Which Way to Your America). Later albums continued with the theme of incorporate rich musical styles with social commentary in the lyrics. The combined talents of the musicians, as well as their varied musical backgrounds, made sure that each album was a mixture of musical styles. While music as social commentary was not new in Living Colour's early career, hard rock with commentary did not start with Rage Against the Machine, as some of my contemporaries think.
I was sad when Living Colour disbanded in 1995 after some very successful albums. Imagine my surprise when browsing through the racks at Border's I found a new disc by the foursome called Collideoscope. With this new disk, their first in like 10 years, the band continues to comment on the social situation around them and the disparity between rich and poor, white and black, the haves and have nots. Several of the songs take a long hard look at society and politics, both national and international. "Sacred Ground" takes on environmental issues, "Choices Mash Up" rampant consumerism, and "In Your Name" takes on militarism, all with different musical formulations.
The tragedy of 9/11 informs many of the pieces on the album and as a New York based band, Living Colour perhaps occupied a special reality in the incident. The powerful "A ? of When" talks about the government's pronouncements that another terrorist attack on the United States is inevitable and the fear it causes. As a vibrant counterpoint, the beautiful "Flying" (a song no doubt inspired by the photo of the man falling having jumped to his deaht) takes a massively personal view point of the day and how his dreams of meeting a woman ends up nowhere near what he expected.
Musically, Living Colour can rock with the best of them. Vernon Reid's crunching, gravelly guitar work melds well with Will Calhouns solid drum work and the funk of Doug Wimbish's eclectic bass lines. But stealing the show is the massive vocal versatility of Corey Glover. Glover handles the beatific smoothness of "Flying" and the powerful punch of "Song without Sin" with equal skill.
I can't let you go without a huge kudos on two great covers. Living Colour takes on the AC/DC metal rock anthem "Back in Black" with amazing dexterity and a courageous take (think about the lyrics), plus the fact that it is kind of cool that a black band is playing that song. Equally skillfully, the band covers The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" and with melodic charm.
So now for my favorite tracks:
"Song Without Sin" A great lead-off track. Powerful guitars, in your face vocals and stunning delivery sets the mood.
"Flying" A beautifully done, more mellow and melodic tune, Living Colour really shows their range on this peice.
"Sacred Ground" has some spectacular lyrics and this version is more cleaned up musically than the original release on their greatest hits colleciton Pride.
"Back in Black" simply superb. Glover's vocals make Brian Johnson seem like an amateur.
If you like your rock with a message and you like variety, go get Collideoscope.
Drop in on an average biology class and you will find the same slow, deadening march of memorization that I endured at 15. Why not enliven this with a student debate on contrasting theories? Why not have an intelligent design advocate stop by to be interrogated? Many students, like me, find it hard to understand evolutionary theory, and the scientific method itself, until they are illuminated by contrasting points of view.
Surely the presentation of contrasting points of view in education cannot be viewed as a bad thing, right. Wrong according to Mathews' readers. One comment cited by Mathews goes like this one presenting the fear of religious groups:
Anthony Joern, professor of biology at Kansas State University, asked about "that poor high school teacher who must deal with the religious parents of the students who were subjected to such a debate. What happens if you do present a fair debate and religion loses? What does the teacher do in Kansas when the parents clamor for revenge?"
The next quote capitalizes the fear of the religious right getting all bent out of shape about the teaching of evolution:
Elizabeth Lutwak said, "I would like to agree with your approach. I think many science teachers and their students could handle, and would benefit, from such a debate. Yet the ulterior motives of these groups scare me. They are already scaring a fair number of science teachers into not teaching evolution at all, making the material a mere reading assignment."
But lest you think Mathews mailbox was fully of people fearing religious zealots, Mathews includes this little gem:
"If I'm reading correctly then in order to make classrooms more 'fun' we should consider junk science or introduce false information. No we shouldn't. Would you encourage denying the Holocaust and giving that argument any credence just because it would get the students more involved? Just because you personally were bored by biology, I don't think we should 'jazz' it up to make it fun."
Just to break that down a little, I don't think Mathews would argue with fact. Fact, the Holocaust happened, I don't think that is in dispute. That is not to say that differing viewpoints of the events don't exist, from the discredited Nazi viewpoint, the the viewpoint of survivors, their relatives and others. Fully understanding events and theories requires examination of differing viewpoints.
Mathews ends his column with this question: Is there anyone out there trusting their high school students to handle these contradictions and using them to better explain how science works?
This particular columns deals with the feed back he got from readers. But Mathews column suggests to me a major dichotomy in parental attitudes about schools and an apparently deep belief that kids can't think for themselves.
First the parents. As followers of education trends will tell you there is more and more of a "baby-sitting" component to secondary education. Parents routinely abdicate their responsiblities for parenting to the schools. Instead of the school being a place of learning, questioning, and the accumulating of knowledge, the schools become a place to park their kids for the day.
But when it comes to teaching a different theory than one that fits their world-view, the rhetorical guns come out and blast away at teachers, schools and school boards for trying to "indoctrinate" their kids with a left wing or right-wing agenda. For the deeply religious teaching anything but creationism borders on heresy or actually is heresy. Hence the fear of teaching evolution (merely a theory of how we developed and by no means proven beyond a shadow of a doubt). The result is that teachers no longer teach evolution or Darwin for fear of the parental backlash.
Similarly, people who believe in evolution get all bent out of shape that something like ID or creationism is taught. There are those who claim that intelligent design is nothing more than creationism that allows for disparities in carbon dating. The truth is out there, but we can't find it.
These scenarios point to the lack of principled thought. Parents want the best of both worlds in that they want to be able to not actually be involved in their child's education but at the same time they want to dictate what is taught to their child. Either the parent is involved or not--you can't have it both ways. You can't view the schools as as an agent in loco parentis, expecting the child to be taught everything and then get upset when the schools actually do their job and try to teach kids.
But in reality what Mathews sought was not teaching one version of history over another, but rather presenting competing theories and letting the students hash them out, debate them like the critical thinking young adults they can be. The result, both sides want nothin' doin'. Neither side is willing to concede that perhaps the mere discussion might lead to improvements in thinking skills among their kids, they only want to make sure their kids aren't exposed to junk science or heretical thoughts.
While all the buzzing by parents fascianates and amuses, it obscures the more important point--parents don't want to run the risk of their children learning how to think critically about any information presented to them. One of the underlying subtexts of the emails Mathews received belies the apparent lack of faith of parents and schools that children cannot be presented with competing theories and decide for themselves or rather they fear that the kids might decide something contrary to the adult's world view. In a period of our history when education seems to lack enough depth and quality, heaven forbid we try to inject into the classroom some exercises for critical thought.
Kids are smart, no matter what parents and educators may say to the contrary. If you present them with competing theories like Evolution, Creation and Intelligent Design, you get an engaged class. If you challenge a child's (and by implication their parent's) beliefs, the effort is not aimed a undermining those beliefs, but rather to think critically about them. The point is to make the child think and perhaps even defend their beliefs, an activity certain to make the child a better student and a better person.
Is not the expansion of one's horizons the point of education?
Intelligent Design, Unintelligent Me (washingtonpost.com)