Jay on Trayvon

As always, JaySmooth brings some important truth..

Quote of the Day: Lautenschlager

On last night’s stealthy closed-door Wisconsin Senate bill slam, former Wisconsin Attorney General Pat Lautenschlager said today:

Frankly I don’t know how either [the Dane County District Attorney’s Office or the Attorney General’s Office] would need a complaint to file an action in this. It’s clear that the conference committee’s meeting on its face violated Wisconsin’s open meetings law.

I sure hope she’s right.

UPDATE: I just learned that this comes on the eve of “Sunshine Week”. Good timing, Republicans! Stay classy.

Why I Like Reading Supreme Court Arguments

We live in a time of almost infinitely illogical incivility. Obnoxious boors get paid millions of dollars to demonize their political opponents on TV. Hostile women and men froth at the mouth with absurd invective during town hall meetings. Even people I know and respect seem to have great difficulty listening to other people and carefully considering their point of view. Sometimes it seems like we’ve become a nation of ill-tempered six-year-olds.

We need civil, rational discourse — and we need to conduct it with people who disagree. It’s easy for us to sit around and agree with each other, but if we are to evolve as a species, we must converse with ideological opponents and (without ignoring the differences), find the common ground and establish ways to move forward with our varied perspectives. We need to figure out what’s right and wrong and why.

This is why I like reading the discussions that go on at the US Supreme Court. People take turns. Everyone speaks in a calm, rational way, and everyone’s trying to get at the truth behind the events in question. There is a respectful back-and-forth during which fine points are scrutinized.

Even in a case about the hideously incivil and obnoxious group Westboro Baptist Church, the justices stay focused and work to analyze the important issues with precision. (Well, we have to assume Clarence Thomas is being focused, since he still refuses to ask questions.)

Obviously the US Supreme Court isn’t perfect. The Citizens United ruling was stupid and wrong and horrible. But at least the court examined the issues carefully and deliberated with reasoned, logical thought. I disagree with the conclusions drawn by the winning side, but even they are the result of rational discussion.

Sometimes I like to close my eyes and pretend like everyone is willing and able to have such calm, sensible conversations.


Just in case you didn’t realize I linked to the recent Colbert Report bit about Clarence Thomas up there.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Clarence Thomas’s Financial Disclosure Controversy
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Today I’m listening to: Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra! (Only $5 this month. Jebus help me, I’ve become a shill for Amazon.)

Law Prof: Public Unions are Scapegoats

NPR broke from its usual pattern of inane nonsense by running an interesting and worthwhile interview with University of Toledo law professor Joseph Slater. He makes it clear that Scott Walker’s proposal to abolish public-sector collective bargaining is all smoke and mirrors.

Study after study show that public sector workers are, if anything, paid less than private sector workers. There’s studies on that, specifically on Wisconsin workers. As to pensions which are also often cited as a problem for budgets, in the vast majority of jurisdictions, including Ohio or Wisconsin, most or all rules about pensions and pension benefits are not subject to collective bargaining. Instead, they’re set by statute.

Slater even refutes the idea that we should abolish collective bargaining in the name of local-government efficiency.

I think the collective wisdom of those studies is that there’s not a huge impact one way or another on efficiency if a set of workers are unionized.

This man is now my second-favorite person named Slater. (Sorry, #3!)

No Justice, No Peace

if you saw Michael Moore’s documentary Capitalism: A Love Story, you may recall the section about judges sentencing young people (usually for minor offenses) to detention in private facilities. The conditions in these places are often rough, and the youngsters are sometimes treated in cruel ways.

Well, a Pennsylvania judge named Judge Mark Ciavarella, Jr. was just found guilty of accepting kickbacks for sending juvenile offenders to these for-profit detention centers. This makes me sad for many reasons (probably because I work with young people, some of whom occasionally make stupid decisions).

But what really devastates me is the pain experienced by Sandy Fonzo. Her son, Edward Kenzakoski, killed himself after serving time in a private institution at the order of Mr. Ciavarella.

Watch the first three minutes of this new report. First you’ll see her confront Mr. Ciavarella outside the courtroom, and then she discusses Edward in the studio.

I hope he gets the maximum 157 years in prison, but I hope it’s in a public institution where his rights as a human are protected.