Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sad Injustice

I begin this post with an admission that I am tired and somewhat depressed. Some of this can be attributed to my fatigue from trying to get the court to process my lawyer’s letter of representation, some due to worry about my wife’s job situation, some of it due to worries about my dogs’ health, my taxes, my medical treatments, my school work, my car and house and yard and all the other flotsam of life. I have not slept well, the dreams lately are not cheerful. But more, I have come to learn that I am not the man I wanted to be by now. In some ways that is not my fault, as none of us gets to control the world in which we live, yet as I consider the dreams and ideals of my youth, I see how far short of the mark my efforts have landed. And nowhere is that measure more bitter than in my pursuit of Justice.

A long time ago, I reasoned that there were seven chief virtues, upon which every good thing depended. It started with Honor, a sense of the Right Thing and a determination to do it. Yet, Honor is not possible except through Peace, which is not non-violence necessarily, but all things being as they ought to be. That makes Peace less worthy than Freedom, and all of these are less important than Justice. The other three virtues are not of earth but of Heaven, being Faith, Hope, and Charity. These indeed are precious things, but may be discussed better at another time. Because for all their worth, Faith Hope and Charity all exist to establish and maintain the four mortal virtues, and chief among these is Justice.

I worry that most people have given up on Justice; it seems too unreal, too much to hope for. We are trampled by a government which all too often prefers the expedient to the right, and that has nothing to do with which party has the majority. We have rights as employees and citizens, but it is all to hard to exercise them sometimes. I have found that while discrimination by age or gender or race is illegal, it continues unabated in many places. I have found that politicians regularly lie to get elected, and forget their promises as soon as they have taken office. I have found that the police cannot and generally will not try to prevent crime, and after the fact do little more than take reports, yet heavy priority is given to collecting fines for trivial offenses. I have found that more and more people will deride and mock those who protect our country from its enemies, and the overwhelming majority of the entertainment and news industry does its utmost to tear down long-established moral values and pursue radicalism.

But for all I complain, my own case does not show me as a clean man. I have too often walked past homeless people to and from my office, and if I give a couple bucks I imagine I have done some noble thing. I have noted the grievances of afflicted people without stopping to consider whether I can be of help, and what I can do. Too often I go on with my life and never even see where I am needed. To be sure, I have a sense of duty, but usually it considers my wife and daughter, my dogs and a few people I call family and friends. A poor life and scope of honor, that.

It’s not that I don’t want and try to do the right thing, but it is wearing to stop and check the map and see how far I am from the goal. Just something I have to think about from time to time.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Lawyer Factor

Well, he did it after all. John McCain has my full and unqualified support for President of the United States, even with his weaselly treatment of conservatives, all because of one word: LAWYER.

Back in February, I got a speeding ticket, and because I did not agree with the ticket, I retained a lawyer to fight it. So began a course in how the courts and lawyers behave. Over the weeks between getting the ticket, hiring the lawyer and my court date, I asked my lawyer several times about what needed to be done, His staff assured me repeatedly that all I needed to do, was wait. Monday was my court date, a date where – according to my lawyer – I did not need to appear, since he would be there as my representative. The court agreed there, saying that either I or my lawyer needed to be there, but not both.

So I was more than a little unhappy to be contacted by the court Tuesday and told that I was now cited for “failure to appear”. When a court representative uses the phrase “warrant for your arrest”, it really grabs your attention and ratchets up the blood pressure. I called my lawyer’s office right away, and the staff assured me that the lawyer had been there, and that the court was wrong. So I called the court back and they reasserted their claim that no one had shown up.

I did not sleep very much last night, and this morning took time off from work to try to see what was going on. It took some digging and talks with several people who seem to be adamantly opposed to voluntarily helping a fellow human being, but what happened was this – the lawyer prepared a Letter of Representation, and he delivered it to the court last Friday. Short version of the story, the court has not yet processed that letter and so was unaware of its filing when Monday rolled around. Since the letter was date-and-time-stamped, I should be OK. Of course, until it’s entered into the system and the warrant rescinded, I still have to wonder what I would say if I should get stopped by a police officer in the next couple days. Not that I plan to do anything to get pulled over for, but since the one who stopped in February was not at all interested in conversation, I don’t trust my luck. What I am dealing with is that always charming combination of slow-moving bureaucracy and lawyers whose ‘Job One’ is getting paid. Yes, there are good lawyers out there and I hope mine is one of them, but as a group I can’t help but think that Lawyers are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

It then occurred to me to consider lawyers as politicians. Frankly, that combination seems to me likely to produce the worst of both worlds, especially when we are talking about the Presidency. Just consider these lists of recent Presidents:

Lawyer Presidents
Bill Clinton
Gerald Ford
Richard Nixon
Lyndon Johnson
Harry Truman

Non-Lawyer Presidents
George W. Bush
G.H.W. Bush
Ronald Reagan
Jimmy Carter
John Kennedy
Dwight Eisenhower

There are outliers in each group, but I’d say it looks like the non-lawyers did a better job as President than the lawyers did.

Apply that to the field, and what do we see?

Candidate and Work Experience Prior to Political Office

Barack Obama: Harvard Law School, civil rights and local political action work.
Hillary Clinton: Yale Law School, partner Rose Law firm, liberal activist work.
John McCain: U.S. Naval Academy, naval aviator

Apply what that tells us to how each of these candidates would likely address the responsibilities of the President, and the choice becomes crystal clear.

If you love America, support John McCain for President.

Monday, March 24, 2008

No One and Done

The news shows were predictable this Easter Sunday. Unable to find any newsmakers to interview, the press returned to norm and interviewed talking heads like themselves. On “Meet the Press”, Tim Russert probed the minds and opinions of Eugene Robinson, Peggy Noonan, Jon Meacham, and Chuck Todd on Iraq and the election. Over on “Face the Nation”, Bob Schieffer found some lightweight politicos, interviewing Lindsey Graham and Jack Reed, but he filled in the rest of his time with the political stylings of Ana Marie Cox, Doyle McManus, and Roger Simon. Not Hall of Fame material, but I guess holiday weekends can be tough to work.

Anyway, one thing which came up a lot of all the shows, was the continuing response to Senator Barack Obama’s long and deep association with race-hate monger Jeremiah Wright. I was particularly amused by the apologists who claimed that Wright’s rants were fine if you heard the whole thing or took them in context. Lying about the causes of HIV and 9/11, and repeatedly calling out “God Damn America” is really hard to put in any context which would justify the visceral racism and hate of such speech, but life as a flunky is not a proud one. The other thing I found interesting, were the set of assumptions made about Obama’s speech last week, the one he hoped would settle the matter. Panelists on the weekend shows had a lot of praise for Obama, for ‘starting a much-needed dialogue on race’. Yeah, right. As if a politician with an agenda is what we need for leadership on that issue. Look, I don’t agree with Hillary Clinton on much of anything, but I will give her props for not trying to start a “dialogue” on gender role in America; she understands better than Obama just how fake she would look if she tried to play that game. And John McCain has never once played his generation against the younger Clinton and Obama, despite the fact that seniors are a fast-growing demographic, and McCain could claim some ground by playing the Grey Card.

The next assumption to heckle, is this notion that there has not been discussion on race. There has, actually has been for a generation or more, but the problem is that a lot of folks just don’t listen to anything which might oppose what they want to hear. I’m old school on that point, I figure if you want to talk to someone, find them and start talking. If they answer, you just might have a conversation and get somewhere from it. What I mean is, the real change always comes at the individual level, real people sorting things out. The only “leadership” in this issue comes from people who motivate folks to talk, to seek out resolution, and who then get out of the way, which pretty much rules out politicians ever being part of the solution.

But another thing I noticed, is this idea that one speech or answer should be enough to settle the matter. Senator Obama is seriously in error, if he thinks that more than two decades of close association with Jeremiah Wright can be explained away in one speech or press conference. In this assumption, Obama displays a weakness which all three of the major candidates exhibit.

Barack Obama is no paladin, no moral leader qualified to announce our course in righting old wrongs and addressing grievances. Neither is Hillary Clinton, nor John McCain. That does not make these people unqualified to run, but it does mean that each of them has to face up to the problems in their resume. Obama, like it or not, has a racism problem to address, and he’d better get started on addressing it in depth. Clinton has her actions as First Lady to explain (not hide), and pretending to have done more than she did is already coming back to haunt her. John McCain’s dislike of conservatives continues to put his fall campaign in serious doubt, as McCain has chosen to depend on support from groups more likely to consider supporting the Democratic nominee. McCain very much appears to have made the same mistake as John Kerry in 2004 and Bob Dole in 1996, believing that early success in-party would insure similar results in the general campaign. As a result, the effort to mobilize the GOP has stalled, McCain continues to ignore the most significant demographic for a Republican candidate in any of the last eight Presidential elections, and critical problems in McCain’s record as a Senator remain unaddressed, which create the potential for major problems when the Democratic nominee brings them up.

This past weekend, the NCAA Basketball Tournament saw a number of upsets. In several cases, it came down to who was able to play for the whole game, to make great plays not just once or twice but as often as necessary. To play tired but without mistakes, to show heart when it cost the most. The three remaining candidates for President are, no doubt, tired of all the travel, all the interviews and conferences and debates which must seem endless and never satisfied. But the candidate who will win in November will be the one who understands that one answer or comment or gesture will not even be close to being enough, that it will take hard work each and every day, with complete answers and detailed discussion of all the issues, that earns the winner the privilege of being harassed and second-guessed for the next four-to-eight years in office.