Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The President Speaks

I watched the president's press conference yesterday. I must say the whole of it made me about as angry as I would have expected it to. His main thrust was that everything that's wrong today is the fault of Congress. He asserted in various ways that he's been unable to get several handy dandy bills through for about the last eighteen months or so. Now, by my math that means that he couldn't even get his own republican congress to help him out from November of 2006 to January of 2007, but I don't think he and I do math the same way.

Watching him, I was struck by how small his thinking is. Alternative energy is only nu-cu-lar and ethanol. Drilling in ANWR will solve our dependency on foreign oil and so on. Had John Kerry been elected we'd be nearly three and a half years into our "Apollo Program" for alternative fuel sources. One would hope these would be more than just those choices that benefit Monsanto, ADM and Cargill as well as GE and ConEd.

So in the midst of all his blather, I didn't pay much attention to the one sentence that became the news shows' soundbite. The President of the United States of America said to us "I firmly believe that, you know, if there was a magic wand to wave, I'd be waving it, of course.I've repeatedly submitted proposals to help address these problems, yet time after time Congress chose to block them."

Here's the funny thing. He has been president for over seven years. He could have done something. But let's recall that what was done in 2005 was to give massive tax breaks to the oil companies and other energy firms. We stopped charging royalties to oil companies who take crude from public land. Essentially, we are allowing oil companies to take from the commons for free. And each quarter these companies are setting record profits.

And, what did George W. Bush say in 2005 when he wanted to pass that wonderful energy bill that would bring down the price of gas, which then had soared to a shocking $2.28 a gallon? He said:

"I wish I could simply wave a magic wand and lower gas prices tomorrow," Bush told the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "But we must act now to address the fundamental problem. Our supply of energy is not growing fast enough to meet the demands of our growing economy."

Three years ago he could have waved that magic wand to improve our mass transit infrastructure (my city is trying to add light rail-a forward looking idea that cons hate), could have extended tax credits to buyers of hybrids rather than Hummers, could have encouraged our auto companies to improve fleet efficiency. Rather, the news this morning in Wisconsin is that GM is laying off 750 people at the Janesville SUV plant. Yeah, who could have seen that coming?

And now, McCain and Clinton and others say that we should have a tax holiday for the summer to reduce the price of our gas by eighteen cents a gallon. Think about that: we give the raw product away, we've given billions in tax incentives to the oil companies and now as an answer, some would like us to forgo our own revenue - money that goes to US citizens for roads and infrastructure improvements, because oil companies are overcharging us? Insane.

Is now a good time to remind everyone that had we kept Jimmy Carter's CAFE standards in place we wouldn't need foreign oil?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Onion Radio News: Giant Asshole in the Blogosphere

They thought that it might be dense pocket of smaller dickwads but it was a giant singular sonuvabitch.

You may listen to the full story here. Though best very quietly if you are at work


We went for a hike in the country yesterday. I came home with three ticks. The problem is that I didn't find them until 1:45, 2:15 and 3:30. AM. Then I stayed awake for a very long time with the itchy creepy crawlies.

Fortunately, Lotta (7yo) had given me a pebble that she found interesting which was on the base of my lamp. I used it to crush those little bastards and line them up in a row like frontier rattlesnakes on my nightstand. Now they rest in peace in a baggie I can give my doctor when the lyme disease sets in.

Oh, and I'm tired as hell.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Friday, April 25, 2008

Gone Fishin

Okay, I haven't. But it sounds so much better than kids' yoga, treadmill, grocery store, garage sale, laundry. Doesn't it?

One week to opening day of the trout season, though. Ben "A River Runs Through Him" Wundrun will be missing most Saturday mornings for a while.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Who Is Today's Saint?

Did anyone ever see the Sting movie "Brimstone and Treacle"? One of the characters in the movie is an atheist who writes church hymns. (He also enjoys 'communion' with his secretary, if you know what I mean. wink. wink.)

At the risk of being that guy (sans secretary) today I post a WITS post right after a crazy catholic stuff post because today's saint is a famous one.

Cue sweeping music:

Today's saint is St. George, the dragon guy!

According to my Saint-A-Day Guide, George lived in the late third century. he is the Patron of Boy Scouts, cavalry, England, equestrians, farmers, horses, Portugal; he is invoked against herpes*, leprosy and syphilis*.

Saint-A-Day says:

George was a Palestinian soldier who suffered martyrdom in the persecutions of Diocletian. His cult flourished in England during the crusades-perhaps the Crusaders imported it from the Middle East. King Edward III declared George England's Patron, and Henry V invoked his aid before the Battle of Agincourt. The story of George and the dragon-a parable of Good versus Evil--has several variations. In the classic version he is a young knight who rescues a maiden princess from a flying reptile with bad breath. he pierces the creature with his lance, leads it through town using the princess's garter as a leash, and thereby converts thousands of pagans to Christianity. In the East, George is a demigod who endures a series of tortures, such as running in red-hot iron shoes. In the Wests he is a Cappadocian prince whose bravery wins even the Empress Alexandra to the Faith. There is even an ignoble George. In his "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" Gibbon depicts George as a black marketeer dealing in bacon. "Riding Saint George"--that is sexual intercourse with the woman on top--was long considered a certain way of begetting a bishop.

If St. George were alive today he wouldn't be a saint, he'd be Justice from American Gladiator.

*I would love to know how that invocation works. I think maybe a condom would be a little safer choice.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Six Thing Meme

Mathman has tagged me with the six thing meme.
Let's see:

1. (Inspired by Mathman's answers) My first car was a 1974 Ford Maverick. Her name was Marge. Road trips were Margical Mystery Tours. Marge's only other owner was a nun, there was a gummy patch on the dash where the dashboard Jesus once reigned. Marge was green and the seat upholstery was green and black stripes. (I wonder if kids today realize that there used to be rather stunning upholstery in cars?)

2. Ima Wundrun, the 4yo weighed 9 lbs 6 oz. at birth. She was ten days overdue and I had to be induced. I spent 1/2 hour in hard labor and the epidural was so great that the nurse told me I had to stop laughing at the doctor's jokes or the baby would come out too fast. When she heard this story, a woman that I worked with remarked "I didn't know your hootchie was so big".

3. Ben and I have been together for eight and a half years. We've moved five times. We have been in the same place for five years. I can't believe how much crap we've accumulated since our last move. With luck, we will never have to move again because I hate moving.

4. My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Herman, sent me and David G. to first grade to learn how to read. When our reading class was over she would have us sit on her enormous lap and read whatever we had learned that day. Our kindergarten classroom was nearly 100 years old at the time. It had once been a one room schoolhouse, and when you laid on your cot for nap time you got to stare up at the tin ceiling and those old glass lights. Today, my old school is a bar/restaurant. I've been to weddings in the gym.

5. When I die I want my ashes scattered somewhere that I have never been. That way, whoever spreads the ashes gets to go on a trip! Currently, I'm thinking Africa.

6. I have man hands. My high school econ teacher once exclaimed 'yee gods, you have big hands'. Making lemonade out of lemons, I was a pretty good soccer goalie in high school. My patented save was to run out to the approaching opponent and grab the ball from right in front of her feet. I'd do this by putting my head where she'd kick it if she went for the ball. Most girls were afraid to kick me in the head. Save! Then there was the girl that took her team to state. She probably thought a goalie that would put her head by a striker's feet was an idiot and she kicked me in the head. I managed the save but since my vision was going in and out in black circles and I was swaying, my coach stood on the sideline and hollered 'Don't Move!'. You are only allowed four steps after a save to get rid of the ball, and if those steps are the stumbles you make right before you pass out, so what?

I'm not tagging anybody because I'm a jerk like that. But thanks for the opportunity to go gabbing about myself, mathman!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Today's Syllogism

Crochet is easy. You can be drunk and crochet. Therefore all those who crochet are drunks.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Shame on Ben Stein

All cultures have their creation myths - the ancient Egyptians believed that the god Atum, deity of the solar disk and the sun itself, masturbated himself, exploding a life-giving burst of energy that seeded the dark unformed void with countless galazies. In the land of the pyramids there was no impropriety in the concept that 'self abuse' created the universe, although millennia later Victorian archaeologists wer predictably shocked to the core by the ancient Egyptians' melding of sex and divinity.

In the first act of creation, Aten was perceived as an androgynous figure, the hand that made the world being the female aspect, while his phallus represented the equal and opposite male principle. As the eminent American scholar Professor Karl Luckert writes: 'The entire system can be visualized as a flow of creative vitality, emanating outward from the godhead, thinning out as it flows further from the source.'

However, this apparently primitive - if somewhat explicit - tale actually encompasses a highly sophisticated understanding of the cosmology...It literally describes the 'Big Bang', in which all matter explodes from a point of singularity and then expands and unfolds, becoming more complex as fundamental forces come into being and interact, finally reaching the level of elemental matter.
-From Lynn Picknett's Secret History of Lucifer.

Ben Stein has a new movie coming out. Seeing the trailer I thought that maybe the movie was a gentle castigation of his comrades on the right who persist in their victim fantasies and pout about how schools don't teach their religion. Well, flip that on its head.

Stein's movie 'Expelled' is a screed against science, though the people who work in science related industries, laboratories and classrooms are not labeled 'scientists' by Stein. They are 'Darwinists'. I guess that's probably all you need to know to ascertain that there won't be much even-handed discussion of the current debate between science (particularly any science related to evolution) versus intelligent design.

Though the movie's not out yet, its producers have invited people like Richard Dawkins and the editorial board of Scientific American to preview it. According to John Rennie at Scientific American
No one could have been more surprised than I when the producers called, unbidden, offering Scientific American's editors a private screening. Given that our magazine's positions on evolution and intelligent design (ID) creationism reflect those of the scientific mainstream (that is, evolution: good science; ID: not science), you have to wonder why they would bother. It's not as though anything in Expelled would have been likely to change our views. And they can't have been looking for a critique of the science in the movie, because there isn't much to speak of.

Rather, it seems a safe bet that the producers hope a whipping from us would be useful for publicity: further proof that any mention of ID outrages the close-minded establishment. (Picture Ben Stein as Jack Nicholson, shouting, "You can't handle the truth!") Knowing this, we could simply ignore the movie—which might also suit their purposes, come to think of it.

A quick look at the Expelled website shows Rennie has pegged their motivation. Headlines show a particular taunting of Dawkins, not even worth looking into. You can guess what's there.

Wouldn't you think that a movie that is all about how Intelligent Design isn't being given its props as a science might try to spend a little time trying to establish its own scientific underpinnings? You and I might. I don't understand why Stein doesn't. It's as if he has a stake in the dumbing down of America.

Alonzo Fyfe, who writes the blog "The Atheist Ethicist" begins his open letter of critique to Stein of the movie (which he acknowledges not to have seen) this way:

I want to begin by pointing that your legacy, as a result of your work on this particular project, will be the suffering and early death of countless people who otherwise could have been saved or benefited from advances in science.

No punches pulled there.

Fyfe offers up such a simple rebuttal to the nonsense that intelligent design has to be accepted as science in our schools and colleges:
I am going to have to say something about the nature of science to demonstrate this point. Science is involved in explaining and predicting real-world events. This includes real-world events that cause real-world death and suffering. The better we are at understanding the real world, the better we will be at avoiding the death and suffering that nature would otherwise inflict on us.

Science does this by comparing theories. Theory A predicts that under conditions C, that R will result. Theory B predicts that under conditions C, S will result. Scientists then set up or observe conditions C, and see if they detect R or S. If they detect R, they go with theory A. If they detect S, they go with Theory B. [snip]

Now, please, try for me to put the concept of intelligent design into the description that I wrote above about how to compare scientific theories. Come up with a condition C, and a result R1 or R2, that will tell us whether or not to accept Theory A or Theory B, where Theory B is intelligent design.

You will fail.

No scientist has yet been able to present a “Theory B” that includes a God variable that produces more accurate results under Conditions C than any comparable theory that lacks a God variable.

If it seems that Fyfe is over-the-top in saying that Stein's Expelled will lead to human suffering consider that one of Stein's claims in the movie is that 'Darwinism' led to the Holocaust!

The movie claims to show several Americans who have been persecuted for trying to bring about an open and honest debate between intelligent design and evolution. The problem is that in each case major parts of the victims case are left out.

Rennie describes the situation of one such victim:

Expelled then trots out some of the people whom it claims have been persecuted by the Darwinist establishment. First among them is Richard Sternberg*, former editor of the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, who published an article on ID by Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute. Sternberg tells Stein that he subsequently lost his editorship, his old position at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History and his original office. Looking a bit smug in his self-martyrdom, Sternberg also reports that a colleague compared him with an "intellectual terrorist."

What most viewers of Expelled may not realize—because the film doesn't even hint at it—is that Sternberg's case is not quite what it sounds. Biologists criticized Sternberg's choice to publish the paper not only because it supported ID but also because Sternberg approved it by himself rather than sending it out for independent expert review. He didn't lose his editorship; he published the paper in what was already scheduled to be his last issue as editor. He didn't lose his job at the Smithsonian; his appointment there as an unpaid research associate had a limited term, and when it was over he was given a new one. His office move was scheduled before the paper ever appeared.

Michael Schermer who is the publisher of Skeptic and who is interviewed for the movie says that the film opens with Stein giving a lecture to a group of enthusiastic Pepperdine students who adoringly approve of his anti-evolutionary jeremiad. Problem: those students presented on the film are extras. The film production company paid for the use of the auditorium and filled it with paid shills. A provost at the university estimates that there may have been three or four actual students in attendance.

Shermer's article describes what it was like to be interviewed for this movie. I don't need to go into it. You can guess that it involved being duped. I would encourage you to read it.

Back to our jack-off theory of the origin of the cosmos: If Stein is really interested in promoting the idea that God created the universe maybe we should press him to explain why, with thousands and thousands of creation theories to choose from, we can't accept the early Egyptians as true science. It melds much more closely with actual scientific theory than the story that goes 'And God said...'.

Just wondering.

P.S. for a beautiful take on the cosmos by my favorite mathmetician head over to mattyboy's ponderance of the galaxies

UPDATE: PZ Meyers at Pharyngula has asked that bloggers post a link to the site that is devoted to debunking the movie so that it moves up in technorati and google authoritay. Here is that link . Click away like you're Atum creating the universe, my friends!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Short Video from Greenwald - Condi & Torture

The link is

There is a petition there and I know this is the second petition that I've posted this week regarding this subject. But you know the rightie fundies have used this tool to very good effect. I think we should use it to take our country back.


Conversations with the 4 yo

It seems that it is a good idea to give the 4 yo her own little space here on the blog. She's quite a bit more popular than my ranties. Apparently though, mothers are required to shriek "It's Still Not a Mommy Blog" whenever we talk about our kids.


First, you might as well know her name. It's Jemima. Ima for short.

Ima asks at lunch yesterday: momma, what's the name of that man you're married to?

Me: Um, Daddy?

no! the man you were married to before daddy? Chocko Knotts?

Me: Oh. Him. Chuck L. Knutz.

giggles. that's right. chuckle nuts!

Is Anyone Else Getting Tired of Eric Case?

Just wondering.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Fer Chrissake's I Hope He Doesn't Call Us "Bitter"

This sounds vaguely like something I heard last Friday:

During his visit to the United Nations a few days later, the Pope will address "the false notion that might makes right," according to a Vatican representative.

Some experts also predict the Pope would criticize the "culture of fear" in the United States. The Rev. David Hollenbach, director of Boston College's Center for Human Rights, said recently that this culture is seen as integral to the US involvement in Iraq.

"Fear can lead to angry responses," Hollenbach said, according to the Connecticut Post. "I think the pope's message is going to be 'Don't be afraid.' I think the overcoming of fear can take away the impulse for war."

This came from an article at Raw Story about how the Pope will be skipping dinner with the Bushes. One might begin to wonder if the new "in" trend in dining is to be able to say you turned down an invitation to the White House. Because the Pope's not the first: Last April the King of Saudi Arabia said no thanks.

Things the 4 YO says

I may need to give the 4 yo her own featured spot here on the blog.

Seated at the computer, my back to the world, 4 yo came up from the basement and said

momma, you gotta help me with the bodies.

Dear Lord, please let her mean the Barbie bodies and not those other ones in the basement.

Your Very Own Torture Memo

It was a Freedom of Information Act request from the ACLU that showed that Bush was in on the torture from the get go. He has admitted as much himself.

In case you are not a card-carrying member of the ACLU (what?), here is the call to action from the ACLU (It's one of those messages I'm supposed to cut 'n' paste into an e-mail):

Subject: Bush's top-down torture policies

On Friday night, in a national television interview on ABC News, President Bush directly admitted that the White House was deeply involved in decisions about the CIA’s use of torture.

Recent reports indicate that members of the Bush administration including Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell and George Tenet met regularly and approved the CIA’s use of “combined” “enhanced” interrogation techniques -- tactics that amount to torture.

I just demanded that my members of Congress support strenuous efforts, including the appointment of an independent prosecutor, to hold President Bush, Vice-President Cheney and other high-ranking officials accountable for their role in crafting torture policy.

I thought you would like to know about this and would also want to do something about it. To take action, just follow the link below.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Calling Bullshit on Bitter

By now you've heard:

"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them," Obama said. "And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not."

"And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

And though he's responded and though this has been a theme of Barack's: the divisive anger bitterness and fear that the republicans spoon out like fake potatoes in the school lunch line; Hillary has gone to full pearl clutching mode over Barack Obama's 'elitism'.

Bullshit, Ms. Wellesley College. Can she get more republican than she has over the last few weeks? How are you going to run against John McCain by becoming John McCain? Rumors are that she's already calling Bill a 'cunt'. Okay, I made that up just to keep my cuss meter rating high. But really.

Here's your response to Obama's statement:

For the last eight years we've been given a steady diet of fear, fear, fear. And when people are afraid they grab for the things that make them feel safe. For some that is religion, for some that is guns. I say get rid of the fear, keep the religion and yes, keep the guns. But this country divided against itself, divided against those who look different or worship different cannot stand.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I think I'm being followed

And it's kind of creeping me out.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Do You Feel Sorry For Your Fish?

'cuz I kinda do.

I Can't Tell the Snark from the Real Anymore

I was reading the Rude Pundit yesterday when I came across this quote that I thought only the Rude would have the balls to make up:

"This time Gen. Petraeus returns to Washington having led one of the most remarkably successful military operations in American history."

But have you seen who really said it? Lindsay Graham and Joe Lieberman. Honest to pete they really did. And then the Wall Street Journal published it with a straight face.

So, I guess suck it Jimmy Doolittle, or for that matter anyone who survived the Normandy Invasion.

I'm off to google the word "hyperbole".

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

John McCain, Family Values Republican,
Coos Bon Mots in Wife's Ear
(which, strangely, is on the back of her head)

Raw Story says that when he wants to make his wife feel special, he speaks to her in their own secret language. To outsiders it sounds like this:

"At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt."
Well, okay to Cindy it sounded like that too.

Which is, I think, how McCain went from being pretty good looking to the child-scaring codger that he is today.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

If I Were a Stain

If I were a stain, I think I'd be a mustard stain.

To get rid of me, first you'd scrape me with a dull knife. (You may substitute "loofah" for knife here.*)

Then you'd sponge me with cool water.

Then you'd gently rub me with a mild detergent. (Pick one that smells expensive)

Rinse me with cool water.

Then give me a ShoutTM out.

Then a nice wash and air dry.

Thank you.

If you were a stain, what would you be?

*You weren't going for the falafel joke were you? WERE YOU?.

Monday, April 7, 2008

John Asscroft Can't Say "Obama"

John Asscroft former AG (the one who didn't love torture as much those who came after him, and who saved his special ire for titties on statues - remember?) "accidently" called Barack Obama "Osama". Then he said we all make little slips like that.

We sure do, Asscroft.

BTW, whoever he was speaking to soundly booed him for being such an...ass.

You can watch it. Warning: this video contains scenes of John Asscroft. Who's better off forgotten.

In case you want to check out Senator oBama's floor statement on the Patriot Act Reauthorization bill you can look at it here. Lest you forget that oBama wasn't in the Senate when the first Patriot Act was pASSed.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Into the fray.

Upfront: I support Barack Obama.

Also: I'm not calling for Hillary to step down right now.

However, I understand that Hillary has said she will take her campaign all the way to the August convention. That, Mrs. Clinton, is a sure way to a republican presidential win in November.

Here's why: In 2004, John Kerry didn't set up his campaign office in Wisconsin until sometime in late July, early August. And Wisconsin was (and still is) a swing state. Wisconsin stayed blue by the very narrowest of margins due to the hard work of outside groups like MoveOn. I can allow that we could hit the ground running here in June if the superdelegates vote immediately after the last primaries are held on June 3, but we cannot get the apparatus in place for a presidential campaign that begins at the end of August.

I worked on three campaigns in 2004: Feingold's, Kerry's and the GOTV effort of MoveOn. (I kept the three distinctly separate-according to campaign law btw). Russ Feingold has a great machine. MoveOn used an intensive precinct-centered get out the vote effort that was highly organized and highly effective. Campaigning for Kerry was like being given a few brochures and told to walk around some neighborhoods handing them out.

We democrats know how to get our people elected. But first we need to get organized. And the time to get organized is now. And, Hillary, we need a nominee and a campaign much earlier than August to do it. Howard Dean's 50 state strategy is a good one. It worked in 2006 and is working this year (Dennis Hastert's seat comes to mind). And we need the coat-tail victories to keep the congress. There's so much more at stake here than Hillary's personal aspirations.

But statements like these don't lead me to believe that Hillary Clinton has the best interests of anyone but Hillary Clinton in mind. I'm sorry about that.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

And now for this important message

4yo got sent to her room for punching her sister in the stomach. She is passing her incarceration by singing "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow" at the top of her lungs.

Much better than rattling the tin cup on the iron bars.

It's a Sad Day for Wisconsin Politics, (and for your state, too)

Yesterday was election day here in Wisconsin.

The biggest contest of the day was for our state Supreme Court. In theory, supreme court justices are supposed to be non-partisan and they do not run as democrat or republican. However, in Wisconsin as is happening in other states with electable SC justices, big business is buying the court. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Club for Growth along with the NRA and others threw several million dollars behind a candidate who can best be described as a guy who makes Clarence Thomas seem like a beacon of legal scholarship. In other words, the guy is dumb.

Last week Michael Gableman (conservative) and Louis Butler (moderate incumbent) had a debate. Gableman's every utterance sounded like it was scripted by Rush Limbaugh. He continued to characterize Butler as a 'judicial activist' and a 'liberal ideologue with a political agenda' though Butler made it clear that it was his job to apply the law regardless of his own personal opinion, while at the same time Gableman kept saying that his conservative worldview definately helps him to decide cases.


Further, Gableman ran a 'Willie Horton' style campaign and blatantly distorted facts in cases decided by Butler. One would believe, from Gableman's campaign, that our state Supreme Court presides over nothing but criminal cases. The truth is far distant.

What the Wisonsin Manufacturers and Commerce and all other right wing support for Gableman knew is that they need their guy in there to shield big business from tort cases. In other words, suck it little guy.

While it is sad for us, I understand that this is another front in the republican war on America. Big business is dismantling consumer rights throughout the country by buying seats on state supreme courts. And because we all see only what is in front of us, we don't really notice what's going on elsewhere.

John Grisham has a new novel out called The Appeal. I read in Monday's paper that it eerily parallels our own state race. And as it turns out, in Grisham's novel the good guy loses too. From a customer review at Amazon:

It is obvious that John Grisham is up to more than spinning a fine yarn in this, his most recent legal novel. A former practicing trial lawyer in Mississippi, the setting for most of the story, as well as a member of the state legislature, Grisham is apparently, and quite rightly, concerned about a recent phenomenon relative to state supreme courts. As the novel illustrates, this is the increasing tactic of large business and ideological groups sweeping into various states and unloading large resources in elections for state supreme court justices--still not an uncommon way in which they are selected. Some states have adopted the so-called "Missouri system" where an expert panel recommends a slate of names to the governor, who must nominate one of the names, the individual serves a short term, and then stands for retention on a non-partisan basis. A simple majority of yes votes suffices to keep the judge in office for a full term.

But in Mississippi, and a number of other states, anyone can run in a competitive election for a seat on the state court. I expect this is particularly a hot issue in Mississippi, since it is the headquarters for gigantic tort recoveries in individual and class action suits returned by sympathetic juries. Grisham's previous novel, "King of Torts," was full of insights on this phenomenon. In the novel, business and ideological groups dissatisfied with the state court's decisions combine to run a candidate they pick and believe will be sympathetic to their viewpoints in rendering decisions. The target is a female Justice, by no means super liberal or extreme by any measure--but that is before the millions of dollars invested in campaign propaganda distort her record. The novel is designed to exhibit several of the major problems with this system: the potential for extraneous "hot button" issues to be injected into the campaign; the disparity in funds between judges and interest/business groups seeking to dislodge them; will judges render decisions based upon what they feel voters will like?; could judges who receive financial support from groups ignore that fact when rendering decisions that impact upon them?; will this tactic emasculate the tort law system that has "cleaned up a lot of bad products and protected a lot of people"?

It sounds like a good book. I just don't think I have the stomach for it right now.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Go West to Hollywood,
YoungMiddle-Aged Man Wundrun

I won the freaking contest!!! I am going to Hollywood to enjoy the new restaurant by Gordon Ramsay! (His new season of Hell's Kitchen premieres tonight on Fox - no, I wasn't required to say that but it only seems fair). I don't know any of the details yet, but we get airfare, hotel stay and a $250 tab at Ramsay's restaurant.

Yayayayayayayayayayayayay. And whoo-hoo.

Don't ask, I'm taking Ben.

I will send postcards, if you send me your address!

(I wonder if any shops on Rodeo sell items Made in the USA?...)