Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Purging Stevens

As a good Democrat, I hope that Sen Stevens loses the senate election. As a citizen who worries about our rush to police state status, I am concerned about his treatment by the Bush Justice Dept.

To the Rapture Republicans that dominate the GOP, Stevens was an embarrassment -- not because of any corruption on his part, since the folks who lied us into war and stole billions in no-bid contracts for their friends are hardly capable of blushing over that. No, Stevens was one of the last Rockefeller Republicans -- pro-choice and moderate on social issues. Not a culture warrior. Heck, he probably doesn' even think the Earth is only 6000 years old! So, he was expendable (especially since they did not think the Dems could get a filibuster-proof majority when he was indicted.) The new Alaska GOP -- "reformers" like Sarah "Fire-My-Brother-In-Law" Palin -- need him to make way.

Actually, I agree with Stevens that this is an unjust prosecution. The Feds took a relatively trivial DISCLOSURE requirement and inflated it to a felony. Please spare me the sanctimonious "He lied to cover up the gifts" crap. If Stevens was being BRIBED, he should have been charged with receiving bribes and prosecuted accordingly. Instead, what we got was a not-very-subtle reminder to the Congress that Justice can indict even powerful members of Congress over what are trivial technical violations (NB any of you who might foolishly want to clean up the Justice Department after its KGB-style kow-towing to Bush & Rove.)

Putin would be proud.

Of course, Stevens has spent a career letting the "law & order" nuts undermine the Constitution, empowering the Feds to greater & greater criminal jurisdiction with less & less controls, and putting a bunch of semi-facists on the Supreme Court. In short, doing exactly what the Senate is designed to prevent. Now it has come back to bite him on the backside.

But I take no joy in a prosecution that was primarily a GOP culture purge and a means of intimidating Congress from its oversight role over Justice. Better a single senator who takes bribes to do what is wrong than a Congress that is too fearful to do right.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Presidential Legacy

As his legacy, FDR told the American people that we have nothing to fear but fear itself.

W's legacy? To leave Americans with nothing left but fear.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Judicial Retention

While almost everyone in the State of Missouri knows how they will vote in the "big" elections, many of us get thrown off our game when we get "down ballot". It's easy to know who you're voting for at the President and Governor level, but when you get down to some of the propositions and the judicial retention ballots, it's easy to find yourself resorting to guesswork.

This year, Jackson Countians will face a list of judges and a decision on whether or not to retain each of them. The judges are as follows:

Patricia Breckenridge

Michael W. Manners
John R. O'Malley
Ann Mesle
Peggy Stevens McGraw
Kelly Moorhouse (Judge Moorhouse died earlier this week, but her name will be on the ballot. I'll be casting my vote for retention as a tiny tribute to a fine woman and a great public servant.)
John M. Torrence
Robert M. Schieber
Brian C. Wimes

Robert Beaird
Vernon E. Scoville, III
Robert L. Trout

Unless you're a lawyer or a courthouse regular, you've probably never heard of most of these individuals. How should you vote?

Despite a wide variety in their backgrounds and experience levels, I encourage you strongly to vote in favor of each of these judges. The links on their names will direct you to the Missouri Bar's Judicial Evaluation of each of them, and they are an impressive lot. If you live in Missouri outside of Jackson County, you will have a different list of judges to vote for, and you can get those judicial evaluations, as well, at the Missouri Bar judicial evaluation website.

Even if you're going to simply take my advice and vote to retain each of the judges, I'd encourage you to take a few minutes and look at the evaluations. They will demonstrate to you just how well the Missouri Plan works.

The process is above traditional politics. By all rights under traditional politics, for example, I ought to be vigorously opposing Judge Breckenridge. She's a Republican - and she got her initial appointment from John Ashcroft, and her Supreme Court appointment from Matt Blunt. Those are the sort of credentials that ought to have a "yellow dog democrat" like me demanding to have her driven from office.

But she's a fine judge brought to us by a good process. People who know the law and the judges nominated her to be considered as one of three candidates for her position, based on her judicial temperament, legal ability and other factors aimed at picking great judges instead of great partisans. As a Missouri citizen, I sincerely do not care how Patricia Breckenridge the citizen votes when she casts her presidential ballot, but I care deeply that when she votes on cases in her job as Missouri Supreme Court judge, she does so on the facts and the law. As demonstrated by her outstanding scores in the evaluation process, a vast majority of Missouri lawyers, of all political persuasions, agree with me.

The same thing goes for all the other judges on this year's Jackson County ballot.

If you don't trust lawyers to evaluate the judges, though, I strongly encourage you to look at the juror evaluations. These are submitted by jurors (your peers) who have personally witnessed the judge in action. The scores are virtually unanimous that the judges listed have treated people equally and with dignity and were well prepared, etc.

I fully expect that each of the judges listed above will be retained by wide margins. Ironically, the opponents of the Missouri Plan will argue that those margins demonstrate that the voters aren't smart enough to be trusted to retain only the good ones. They are all good ones. The system is working. Go look at the thorough information available to you, and you can vote with complete confidence.

The Missouri Plan has given you an excellent set of judges. Retain them, and support politicians from either party who promise to retain the Missouri Plan.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Debate Winners!

How can both participants win a debate that is not a draw?

Gov. Palin was rapidly becoming a joke because of her lack of depth. Expectations were so low that finishing the debate without piddling on herself would be declared victory. But, this debate gave her the chance to play her strength: Delivering prewritten lines to a camera, reading blocks from the note cards on her podium. Manual telepromptors, as it were. Stuff you learn when studying telejournalism. She did not look potentially presidential, but she did not look nearly as ignorant as she does when tough follow-up questions -- like "Seriously, what do you read?" -- are allowed. After her term as governor, maybe she can get a job with FOX (although she may not actually be conservative enough for them).

Sen Biden obviously knows a great deal and fortunately did not share it all with us at once-- a good thing. But he clearly showed the advantage of knowing stuff -- at least to the reality-based community. (E.g. If you are going to fight global warming, it really would be handy to understand what is causing it.)

Padin helped herself. Biden helped the ticket.

Debate Time!

Thursday, October 2, 2008