Sunday, September 24, 2006

Hitting Faux Cons Icons With a Calculator

A lot of people I respect describe themselves as "fiscal conservatives". By that they mean that they work hard for their money. They don't like to pay more than their fair share in taxes. And they think that government is wasteful. Before Ralph Nader got involved in politics, fiscal conservatives thought he was one of them. They were right. The big news is that most liberals share the same values as these self-described "fiscal conservatives". In the Reagan era, the American populist wrath was turned upon entitlement programs and welfare mothers.

For decades now, the war on welfare mothers has provided cover for corporate CEOs and those in the top 1% to dodge taxes, amass unthinkable fortunes, rip off their shareholders, and laugh at the rest of us. HMO's and health care are a national, systemic shame and single-payer health care is not even on the political agenda. Corporations went from paying 50% of the cost of government post WWII to 7% today. Who is getting the free ride?

Author Nomi Prins has just come out with a new book "Jacked: How 'Conservatives' Are Picking Your Pocket" (whether you voted for them or not). She travelled America and examined the wallets of average citizens. A former Managing Director at Goldman Sachs, she took out her calculator and showed how soi disant "conservatives" have used our money to enrich themselves, pocket our nation's resources and rip off the average person. Does Ann Coulter know how to use a calculator? In a political version of Celebrity Death Match, my money is on Prins over Coulter 10 to 1 odds. Is Jacked potent enough to scare Rush Limbaugh straight? Send Jacked to your friend who thinks he is "conservative". The numbers don't lie, and chances are your friend with the true conservative principles that we should all respect and honor - like conservation and hating waste -- is not really part of that club, which consists of people who can't face fiscal -- and other reality. Liberal is the new conservative. Go figure. God will not be angered if you learn how to use a calculator, Ms. Coulter.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Benedictine Marketing

While surfing around on a topic, I came across Eric Goldman's Technology & Marketing Law Blog. I'm not sure that the content fits the blog title, but I'm not sure that Small Firm Life's content does, either. Anyway, Eric's got a lot of interesting and intelligent posts, particularly in the copyright area. Highly recommended and very current, an excellent post on the Google Print controversy. He had a great link to the Copyright Website, a spot where Benedict O'Mahoney has collected examples of the works that were allegedly infringing and the originals from copyright cases. Smart and well-presented.

I thought it was very odd that the Google ad on Eric's blog had a link to, a site that predicts the current Pope is the last one the world is going to see. The crazy thing is that these Google ads are supposed to relate to the topic of your blog so that the advertiser gets views by persons interested. I've noticed ads on my blog for everything from personal injury lawyers to public service announcements.

Google should have a "no armaggedonist ad" filter. None of us really wants to disseminate hate speech, pornography or lunatic rantings, and I clicked on the link to figure out what it was through Eric's blog. Yuck!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Privatizing Air Traffic Controllers

Last week I was participating in a CLE presentation in a federal courthouse in Central Islip New York. The topic was cease and desist letters in intellectual property cases and related issues of declaratory judgment actions, personal, general and specific jurisdiction and related professional responsibility issues. The CLE was sponsored and organized by the new Eastern District of New York Chapter of the Federal Bar Association.

I met a woman there who said that her husband is an air traffic controller. She said that the Bush Administration is privatizing air traffic controllers who will now be paid $8.50 per hour. Workers will be stripped of retirement benefits.

My law office, which was located at the corner of Broadway and Chambers Street was displaced by the attacks of 9/11. One of my close friends was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland. One day on the beaches of Long Island, I saw a commercial airliner explode.

I find it hard to understand how replacing qualified, quality labor with workers willing to accept $8.50 per hour will make us safer. Will these workers be based in Pakistan? The Connecticut Congressional delegation's take is here. The "Reason Foundation" kooks who cooked up this nonsense are found here. Richard Posner and his Chicago School fanatics would argue that a few crashes would increase the market's appetite for good air traffic controllers and increase consumer demand for an investment in quality. Richard Posner and his Chicago School fanatics are sociopaths. If and when even one person is injured due to an unqualified air traffic controller, the Bush Administration officials responsible should be tried for reckless endangerment homicide. Endangering our national security by selling off key defense strategic assets to the highest bidder is a collossally stupid idea.

They'll be auctioning off the Constitution next and charging user fees to benefit from its protections.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Occam's Razor in the Law

Occam's Razor is a tool of scientific and philosophic inquiry. Simply stated, it posits that the simplest theory is the best, or that the simplest explanation is the most likely to be true. Leonardo Da Vinci's riff on this theory was the aphorism: "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication"

Clicking on the above link will take you to a terrific Wikipedia page on Razor theory. I ran across an interesting reference to it reading David Liss's "A Spectacle of Corruption" - a paperback historical fiction set in seventeenth century London that I found in an airport bookstore. The book is a great page-turner and I couldn't put it down.

For years, I've been subjected to the Razor by editors, judges and juries. My tendency to present complicated facts, suggest multiple alternative theories and to consider mixed motives has at times frustrated them all. When chopping away at an unwieldy brief, my Razor has left a few bleeding victims, too.

If I'm allowed to add another riff to Razor theory: "Where the truth is complicated, you must simplify it to be credible." The Wikipedia has references to the use of the Razor in science, statistics, religion, medicine and biology (among others), but none in law. Politics is missing, too. The Razor does help to explain why the natural human tendency is to distrust and dislike the complexity of democracy and constitutions and to be drawn to the simplicity of authoritarian systems. When sloganeers wielding the Razor make it to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Constitution and democracy suffer. "The Constitution is not a suicide pact" is the rallying cry for authoritarians wishing to eliminate the complexities and inefficiences of such democratic concepts as "due process of law".

The frightening thing is that these ideologues believe that stripping Americans of basic democratic freedoms will make the world safe for democracy.

Next time you're facing the Razor and getting cut to ribbons, pick up a simple piece of the puzzle. Fit it in, move to the next piece. After three convincing pieces, your audience will trust that the fourth piece will fit.