Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mark Twain on Patriotism

What is patriotism? To me, it's utilizing the freedom to think for yourself and to comment on matters involving your government without fear of reprisal from government employees. Mark Twain seems to agree:

I said that no party held the privilege of dictating to me how I should vote. That if party loyalty was a form of patriotism, I was no patriot, and that I didn’t think I was much of a patriot anyway, for oftener than otherwise what the general body of Americans regarded as the patriotic course was not in accordance with my views; that if there was any valuable difference between being an American and a monarchist it lay in the theory that the American could decide for himself what is patriotic and what isn’t; whereas the king could dictate the monarchist’s patriotism for him–-a decision which was final and must be accepted by the victim; that in my belief I was the only person in the sixty millions–-with Congress and the Administration back of the sixty million–-who was privileged to construct my patriotism for me.

They said “Suppose the country is entering upon a war–-where do you stand then? Do you arrogate yourself the privilege of going your own way in the matter, in the face of the nation?"

“Yes,” I said, “that is my position. If I thought it an unrighteous war I would say so. If I were invited to shoulder a musket in that cause and march under that flag, I would decline. I would not voluntarily march under this country’s flag, nor any other, when it was my private judgment that the country was in the wrong. If the country obliged me to shoulder the musket I could not help myself, but I would never volunteer. To volunteer would be the act of a traitor to myself, and consequently traitor to my country. If I refused to volunteer, I should be called a traitor, I am well aware of that–-but that would not make me at traitor. The unanimous vote of the sixty millions could not make me at traitor. I should still be a patriot, and, in my opinion, the only one in the whole country.

Stirring words. [As seen in Harper's Magazine, April 11, 2011, pp. 35, "Democracy 101," quoting from The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1.]

Bonus: below is Mark Twain's response to a letter regarding a library's removal of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn from the children's section:

"I am greatly troubled by what you say. I wrote Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn for adults exclusively, and it always distresses me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them.  The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean; I know this by my own experience, and to this day I cherish an unappeasable bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean sweet breath again this side of the grave."

More here. (November 21, 1905, letter to Asa Don Dickinson)

Bonus II (added September 2016): "If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein." -- Justice Robert H. Jackson, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 642 (1943).  

Monday, March 21, 2011

President Eisenhower on American Pride

President Eisenhower, speech, November 23, 1953:

Why are we proud? We are proud, first of all, because from the beginning of this Nation, a man can walk upright, no matter who he is, or who she is. He can walk upright and meet his friend--or his enemy; and he does not fear that because that enemy may be in a position of great power that he can be suddenly thrown in jail to rot there without charges and with no recourse to justice. We have the habeas corpus act, and we respect it...

It was: meet anyone face to face with whom you disagree. You could not sneak up on him from behind, or do any damage to him, without suffering the penalty of an outraged citizenry. If you met him face to face and took the same risks he did, you could get away with almost anything, as long as the bullet was in the front...In this country, if someone dislikes you, or accuses you, he must come up in front. He cannot hide behind the shadow. He cannot assassinate you or your character from behind, without suffering the penalties an outraged citizenry will impose.

Ladies and gentlemen, the things that make us proud to be Americans are of the soul and of the spirit. They are not the jewels we wear, or the furs we buy, the houses we live in, the standard of living, even, that we have. All these things are wonderful to the esthetic and to the physical senses.

But let us never forget that the deep things that are American are the soul and the spirit.

Full speech here.  Bonus:  

Saturday, March 19, 2011

CA Chief Justice George on our Justice System

Chief Justice George, as quoted in California Litigation, Vol. 20, No 1 (Kenneth Babcock, 2007):

The availability of affordable legal assistance even for the middle class is often an illusion, and access to legal assistance for those at the bottom of the economic ladder too frequently is viewed as a luxury totally out of reach. As a result, individuals facing crises that may affect everything from their ability to earn a livelihood to their right to care for their children find themselves required to navigate a legal system that largely is designed for and by specialists in the field--lawyers and judges--or even worse, to stand outside the system, ignorant of or intimidated by the first steps they need to take to avail themselves of its services.

In my humble opinion, more laws do not generally help poor people, because poor people need more money, and more rights do not always or necessarily translate into more money.

[Note on June 22, 2012: to keep things fresh on the home page, I've manually changed the date of this blog post.] 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Judge Wilkinson on America

One of the best articles ever written on any subject is by J. Harvie Wilkinson III, "Toward One America: a Vision in Law." (The Green Bag Almanac and Reader, published 2009; see also 83 NYU Law Review 323)

A 4th Circuit judge laments America's growing divisiveness and presents seven solutions. I'm not going to go into all seven recommendations, but here are some of my favorite parts of the article:

On perspective:

We judges are as a class bereft of acquaintance with the variegated and pluralistic country that we serve.

On the much maligned overreach of the commerce clause:

The silent commerce clause is an indispensable ingredient of national unity.

On community:

Let's restore a constitutional respect for community. It is futile to expect a healthy nation in the absence of a healthy community. Community instills within us the sense that we live for something larger and more meaningful than just ourselves...Communities are built around shared purposes and values, one of which is surely a respect and appreciation for individual rights. But there must likewise be the sense that individuals contribute to, as well as take from, this larger whole of which we as single persons are but parts.
To enshrine a sanctity of self in our founding charter without textual or historical warrant may be just as pernicious as the attempt to enshrine the discrimination against those whose personal choices may for good and legitimate reason fail to conform to the majority's own. On many of the great questions of the day, our Constitution is consciously agnostic. Its enumeration of rights is significant, but finite. Its grant of powers to representative government is formidable, but it does not prescribe what substantive ends the exercise of those powers must embody. To bend our Constitution in the direction of autonomy or collectivity is detrimental to our national health.

On polarization:

The search for One America requires less polarization, but not necessarily less partisanship. The two must be distinguished... Partisanship is more of a mixed bag. It can easily proceed too far, but it can also promote vigorous debate and frame electoral choices.

If you get a chance, do look up the full article. Required reading for every American.

Abraham Lincoln on Honest Lawyers

"Let no young man choosing the law for a calling for a moment yield to the vague popular belief that lawyers are necessarily dishonest. Resolve to be honest in all events; and if, in your own judgment, you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer. Choose some other occupation." -- Abraham Lincoln

Bonus: from Edward Murrow: "He was one of those civilized individuals who did not insist upon agreement with his political principles as a pre-condition for conversation or friendship."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Robert Frost's Epitaph

Found an old book of Robert Frost poems: "And if an epitaph be my story, I'd have a short one ready for my own: I had a lover's quarrel with the world."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Poem in San Jose

The poem below--one of the most beautiful I've ever read--is inscribed in a piece of art in downtown San Jose. If you are ever in downtown San Jose and want to see the poem, go to the Fairmont Hotel on South First Street. It is inscribed on a medium-sized, industrial-looking tableau between the Fairmont Hotel and Bijan's Bakery.

Could be

I only sang because the lonely road was long;

and now the road and I are gone

but not the song.

I only spoke the verse to pay for borrowed time:

and now the clock and I are broken

but not the rhyme.


the self not being fundamental,


breathes only on the incidental.

—Ernesto Galarza, 1905-1984

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Will Government Pensions Need Bailouts?

According to PLI's news capsules,

State pensions are recovering as the stock market improves, but they still have a long road to financial health, says a recent report. State pension systems had a funding ratio of about 69% for fiscal 2010, an increase from the previous year's ratio of 65%, reports Wilshire Associates. Still, that's not near 2007's estimated average funding ratio of 95%. "The trajectory is up, albeit it's up off a pretty low base," said Steven Foresti, managing director at Wilshire. (From WSJ, March 7, 2011, by Jeannette Neumann)

Here's what really interesting: "Over the next decade, Wilshire projects public pension plans will have a median annual return on their assets of 6.5%." If major pension/hedge funds are predicting just 6.5%, it will be interesting to see the average return for non-institutional investors. Remember: to the extent these government pension funds fail to fully fund themselves, the taxpayer is on the hook for all payouts.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Yahoo's Shareholder Meeting (2012)

[Editor's note: this post was originally published on July 12, 2012.]

Yahoo’s shareholder meeting was bland.  No slides, no video, no new trinkets—just the basic CEO pep talk plus business jargon.  Apparently, Yahoo’s new catchphrase is “technology-powered media company,” which is short for, “Please stop asking us if we’re a tech company or a media company.”  At this point, the only job with more turnover than Yahoo’s CEO might be your local fast food joint, but interim CEO Ross Levinsohn seems nice enough, so that’s a plus.  Of course, he spewed the same pablum as every other CEO from Yahoo, but what do you expect?  It must be difficult getting respect from the troops when the company won’t remove the "interim" label before the annual meeting.  Still, it’s not about the CEO or whether Yahoo wants to become a media or tech company—it’s about execution.  As another person wrote, “[I]t’s increasingly hard to see what Yahoo uniquely offers to its audience.”  Combine a failure to execute with a failure to produce unique content or services, and you have a recipe for extinction. 

Levinsohn’s short speech highlighted Yahoo’s many partners, including NBC, ABC, and Spotify.  I may have misheard him, but Levinsohn said that more than half of the videos viewed online came from Yahoo, which prompted a surprised look from one employee.  Yahoo believes its election and Olympics coverage will attract traffic.  Levinsohn also mentioned the consumer several times, stating, “Consumers want interesting and informative online experiences,” and “It [all] has to start with the consumer experience.”  In other words, he said nothing new or unique.  Of course a public company that seeks consumers and viewers has to satisfy them.  Which is why Yahoo’s conduct over the last five years has been so comically tragic: Yahoo bungled its transition to a new email format (also botching its calendar feature); entered and promptly left the social media space via Yahoo Pulse; couldn’t provide a consistent selection of online media content, ceding that audience to Hulu and YouTube; couldn’t properly manage copyright infringement claims to prevent viewers from clicking on unplayable videos; and made the term “quality assurance” MIA.  In addition, Yahoo’s videos lack captions, whereas both YouTube and Hulu have some form of online captioning.  It could be worse—just two years ago, Yahoo’s homepage seemed to resemble the National Enquirer or TMZ, prompting some viewers to wonder whether Yahoo’s latest strategy relied on Kim Kardashian, Octomom, Justin Bieber, and hordes of lobotomized or low-IQ viewers.  Thankfully, Yahoo has reversed its descent into becoming the world’s largest online tabloid.  However, it now seems to be aiming for the “World’s Largest Linkfest of Content Already Seen by Everyone under 40 on YouTube and Facebook,” but as I said, things could be worse.   

Today, the CEO focused on Yahoo’s various partnerships with other media companies as well as its access to “700 million viewers,” but Yahoo doesn’t seem to understand that a) it doesn’t matter how many viewers you have if none of them are particularly loyal; and b) relying on content and partnerships from other companies with their own websites isn't a viable long-term strategy.  As I told the CEO during the meeting, “Think about it.”  If Company A--which has a vested interest in promoting its own websites and content--decides to partner with Company B, which is a mere portal for Company A’s content, what will happen?  Company A won’t license its best content to Company B and will use its leverage as a content provider to take as many users from Company B as possible and make them loyal to their own website(s).  It’s as if CNBC decided to partner with Bloomberg by linking to Bloomberg articles, thinking, “Well, if I got Bloomberg, Fox Business and a bunch of other business content, then people are sure to come here instead of going to those websites instead.” But of course, CNBC focuses on creating its own unique content and attracting its own viewers.  To the extent CNBC thinks Bloomberg, Fox Business, or the Motley Fool has an interesting idea, they do a story themselves instead of just linking or deferring to their competitors’ websites or channels.  In essence, Yahoo’s business strategy seems to be “As many eyeballs as possible, regardless of user time spent on the page or the quality of content displayed” (see Kardashian/Octomom reference above).  It’s a sad state to be in for a company that was once a top Silicon Valley innovator  (Speaking of which, am I the only one who remembers Yahoo’s funny commercials for its personal ad service?)  

Yahoo’s latest mis-step?  Hackers from “d33ds” disclosed about 400,000 user passwords, including many from Yahoo.  I downloaded the file to see if my emails were hacked, too.  They weren’t.  It looks like almost all the passwords taken are from deactivated accounts, so Yahoo got lucky this time.  And it wasn’t just Yahoo emails on the list—I saw hotmail and even gmail accounts apparently compromised. Besides, few of the exposed passwords had any capitalized letters, which violates Online User Security 101.  The hackers are definitely cheeky, though—they ended their email/password list with the following quote: “Growth begins when we begin to accept our own weakness.” -- Jean Vanier 

The Q&A session was short.  One shareholder asked about Yahoo’s role: was it a TV station, TV studio, or ad agency?  The CEO said Yahoo wanted to create a good overall consumer experience.  A CalPERS representative said the state’s pension fund supported the Board but not the way Yahoo was awarding compensation to its executives.  Another shareholder rightfully criticized former Yahoo CEO Terry Semel’s compensation of $ 600 million, which seems grossly high given Yahoo’s current stock price.  

Some final notes: Julia Boorstin from CNBC was there.  I didn’t like her, but her cameraman was nice.  Cory Johnson from Bloomberg was also there and looked like his usual professional self (did you know he founded the hip hop basketball magazine SLAM?).  I prefer Bloomberg, which has a more serious outlook than CNBC.  Maybe the “eyeballs at any cost” strategy works on TV, which is more visual and less interactive.  It might explain the mismanagement of Yahoo all these years by big-media executives. Boorstin asked me about the interim CEO issue (yawn) and the Facebook/Yahoo deal.  According to TechCrunch, the deal occurred “without money changing hands,” so I responded to her question with another question she should have been asking: “How much money is involved?”  She didn't seem to catch my point.  So much for television media as an enlightening Fourth Estate.  

Disclosure: I own shares of Yahoo, but my positions may change at any time.  My hunch is that a private equity fund will buy Yahoo at some point or the company will increase shareholder value by splitting up or selling off its various parts.  

Keith Ellison and Common Sense

"The best defense against extremist ideologies is social inclusion and civic engagement." Shameful that some people smeared Mohammed Salman Hamdani and recanted only when confronted with his dead, heroic body. More from Rep. Keith Ellison here: Ellison's transcript of prepared remarks for March 10, 2011 Congressional hearings.

Every generation has its Joseph McCarthy, and it appears ours will be Rep. Peter King. Kudos to Rep. Ellison for his common sense.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ralph Ellison on Finding Himself

The journey of self-realization is long, windy, but worthy:

"All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. I was naïve. I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have been born with: that I am nobody but myself." -- Ralph Ellison

Friday, March 11, 2011

Czesław Miłosz

From Czesław Miłosz's "Hymn": "The most beautiful bodies are like transparent glass."

I don't know why, but that line from his poem strikes me as indelibly beautiful.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

NBA 2012 Finals: OKC v. Miami

[Note: this post was written and published on June 27, 2012. It has been backdated.]

I saw the best players of my generation destroyed, yelling fans hysterical, dragging themselves through the wooden streets at night looking for an angry fix...

This was supposed to be the year. You know, the year K.D. excised the demons of the Lakers, kissed his mother’s cheek, and stood tall as the NBA’s golden child holding the golden trophy. Instead, the Big Three--Shane “Charges and Treys” Battier, Mario “Wannabe Thug” Chalmers, and the corpse of Mike Miller--took down K.D.’s dream. Making matters worse, Chalmers actually tried to incite K.D. into getting a technical, which wasn’t as bad as Bynum’s clothes-lining of Barea, but still stunningly audacious--and not in a good way.

I hate Miami. Not because they colluded. (Bill Simmons explained it best: “Isn't loyalty a two-way street? When a team does what's best for itself, we call it smart. When a player does the same, we call him selfish. We never think about what a double standard it is.”) Not because Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley seem to have a Bush/Cheney thing going on. Not because the words “Eddy Curry” and “champion” can now be put in the same sentence without immediate peals of laughter. No, I hate the Heat because they don’t play basketball.

Basketball used to be beautiful.  All the players constantly moved, each team seemed capable of running the fast break, players passed the ball, and all of them--down to the bench players--were expected to hit the open jumper.  I'm not yet 35 years old, but I remember when players made more jump shots and swung the ball around several times to give someone a clean look.  And like most fans, I remember first seeing Jeff Hornacek and thinking, "Is that an accountant?" only to eat my words after seeing him play.  Some basketball fans may even remember when centers were expected to be good shooters and decent passers. (Woe to the fan who doesn't know the name Sabonis or Smits.)

Yes, the NBA has become more athletic, placing a premium on innate physical gifts, but Shawn Kemp's dunks didn't mean the end of the jump shot or actual strategy.  Of course, some athleticism and sleight of hand are always present when seeing world-class competitors, but the Heat seem to rely on it completely. Whether it’s Dwyane Wade’s extra-second dribble (which, like Chris Paul’s dribble, should be called for a carry), LeBron’s usual, “I’m gonna put my head down, run into the paint, throw something up, and then scream if I don’t get a foul call,” or Bosh’s continuation of the ritual of kicking Toronto basketball fans in the groin, the Heat can’t do what every decent youth basketball coach tries to instill in his team: shoot free throws consistently (though to be fair, LeBron improved his FTA in the last few games); use the pick and roll when you want a jump shot; set screens while standing straight up; keep moving even though you don’t have the ball; pass the ball to your open teammates; and take the open shot. And yet, somehow, the Heat have managed to win while ignoring fundamental basketball rules.

It wasn’t always this way. I used to love seeing Rony Seikaly and Glen Rice play, and ‘Zo seemed like a cool guy, notwithstanding his feud with Larry Johnson. But that’s back when games were decided by the players and not the wide discretion of the referees. So when LeBron charges into the paint and extends his elbow into Ibaka’s body to push away Ibaka’s inconveniently located hand, apparently that’s no longer considered a foul. Except when it is. When Westbrook does his usual DC Comics Flash impersonation and goes one against four, getting hit in the body all over, if just one person blocks his shot, apparently that’s not a foul. Except when it is. In a world where jump and hook shots have seemingly disappeared, how does an NBA referee keep up when calling contact on a drive would result in 50+ FTA per game? Correctly called, NBA games would be gruelingly slow, and LeBron alone would probably get 15+ FTAs a game as well as another 15+ offensive fouls--you know, if refs actually allowed star players to foul out more. It’s different when Blake Griffin uses his body--he’s actually elevating above other players, often from a stand-still position, and using his position to create an open dunk. I have no problem with that, because Blake doesn’t usually use his non-shooting arm to clear a path to the basket, and an opponent can try to counter by boxing him out. (By the way, would it kill modern NBA centers to study up on Kareem and Olajuwon? Did anyone think that an NBA Finals with Perkins, Ibaka, Collison, Joel Anthony, Turiaf, and Haslem in the middle had the potential to make basketball fans worldwide completely jaded?)

The problem with the 2012 Finals was calling fouls inconsistently. I still remember Harden getting called for all kinds of cheap fouls when he was just trying to maintain position against the larger LeBron. And it went both ways, too. Who can forget the insane foul call against Wade when an OKC player dove for a loose ball and fell on top of Wade? Apparently, getting squished by another player while prostrate qualifies as a foul against the player lying face down on the floor (though you have to admit, Wade deserves all the bad karma he can get with the ticky-tack foul calls he’s received over the years, especially against Dallas.) And what about the charges that weren’t called against Westbrook when he barged into Battier for the umpteenth time? Listen, I get that it goes both ways, and home court advantage isn’t just a myth. But in this series, OKC had no real bench outside of Harden, and the refs’ inconsistent calls, especially the bogus foul calls against Durant, may have given the series to Miami. Call enough ticky-tack or just plain incorrect fouls against Durant and Westbrook, and the team’s ability to score (and therefore win) disappears. Don’t ask me why Scott Brooks decided to bench both Westbrook and Durant for a prolonged period in one game, but when you don’t know how the refs are going to call the game, as a coach, you have to try to protect your players for the 4th quarter. What that really means is that coaches have to decide whether to play a game of chicken with the refs--do they keep their star players in the game after they pick up their third foul, daring the refs to foul them out of the game (hello, Paul Westhead and Bo Kimble)? Or do they avoid a situation where a player soon picks up a fourth foul and “Help Wanted” signs begin flashing before the coaches’ eyes?

I know we can’t have a perfect or perfectly called game, but would it be too much to ask that an NBA series gets decided on the best basketball players--the ones comfortable taking and making open jumpers, the ones who set proper screens, the ones follow their shot for the rebound (c’mon, Durant), the ones who don’t start trouble or flop, (yes, I’m looking at you, Mario Chalmers), and the ones who don’t carry the ball?  Must we be subjected to seeing football players masquerade as basketball players?  OKC lost this year because they were less physical and because the refs seemed to let Miami get away with more aggression.  In short, the team that relied less on basketball fundamentals and more on brute force won.  Maybe I don't know as much as David Stern about running a professional NBA league, but I do know this: there's got to be a better way.

© Matthew Rafat

Ken Does It Again

Over at Popehat, Ken has delivered yet another awe-inspiring post: A Day in the Life of a Defense Lawyer. Enjoy.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kevin Poulsen on Credit Card Companies

This month's Metro quotes Kevin Poulsen, who discusses the most pressing credit card issue of our time:

"The financial institutions made a decision that the cost of fraud is acceptable. They decided against replacing the magnetic strip with a chip and a PIN because it would be too expensive."

If you go to Europe, most credit cards have the superior chip-based technology. If you're an American, you ought to be upset--your American credit card companies are treating Europeans better than you.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Social Network: Battle of the Sexes, Modern Version

Dating is so difficult. A man usually thinks about exactly how he will be able to support a family. He realizes big city society favors two income couples and wonders whether a woman will continue to work after she has children and/or if he will be able to provide as the sole breadwinner. Women tend to believe the aforementioned issues will resolve themselves.

Bonus I: Jack Gilbert, from "Tear It Down": "We find out the heart only by dismantling what the heart knows...By insisting on love we spoil it, get beyond affection and wade mouth-deep into love...We must unlearn the constellations to see the stars."

Bonus II, Random Stats Edition: according to National Geographic (March 2011),

1) Worldwide, 33% are Christian; 21% Muslim; and 13% Hindu; and

2) Worldwide, nationality-wise, 19% are Chinese; 17% are Indian; and 4% American.

My friend commented that the religious numbers would change significantly if we accounted for just practicing members. That's actually an interesting question--at what point is it irrational to call yourself a member of a religious group if your beliefs differ significantly from the majority's? And who decides the norm or the majority? If you're a Muslim in Indonesia, you will have a much different norm than a Muslim in Saudi Arabia. Same thing if you're an Orthodox Jew or a Reform Jew, or an Evangelical Southern Christian vs. an Italian Catholic. Perhaps that's the beauty of religion--it brings people together who would otherwise have no reason to mix or mingle.

Monday, March 7, 2011

President Eisenhower on Unions

Some people are quoting President Eisenhower to express their support of public sector unions. As I've said over and over again, there are major differences between public and private sector unions. To compare them together as a unified, single entity is foolish, and quoting President Eisenhower in support of public sector unions is beyond foolish. Why? It wasn't until John F. Kennedy was president that government workers were allowed to organize--which is after President Eisenhower's presidency.

In any case, here are some interesting excerpts from President Eisenhower's 1955 speech to the AFL/CIO:

The second principle of this American labor philosophy is this: the economic interest of employer and employee is a mutual prosperity. Their economic future is inseparable... The American worker strives for betterment not by destroying his employer and his employer's business, but by understanding his employer's problems of competition, prices, markets. And the American employer can never forget that, since mass production assumes a mass market, good wages and progressive employment practices for his employee are good business...

The Class Struggle Doctrine of Marx was the invention of a lonely refugee scribbling in a dark recess of the British Museum. He abhorred and detested the middle class...[L]abor relations will be managed best when worked out in honest negotiation between employers and unions, without Government's unwarranted interference.

More from President Eisenhower's December 5, 1955 speech here.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Motto of an American

I am against unchecked, concentrated power in all forms and permutations. In other words, I am an American who understands the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

Friday, March 4, 2011

California's Finances, a Retrospective

Below is a snippet from an old November 2009 LAO report--but boy, does it have amazing data. Here is one particularly juicy excerpt:

In General, the Legislature Retains Power Over the Budget. Some observers of the California budget process have asserted that—due to voter–approved propositions, federal law, and court decisions—the state’s budget is unmanageable and basically impossible to balance. In reality, however, the Legislature remains in control of the vast majority of state spending. This is particularly true over the longer term when there is enough time to allow major decisions by the Legislature to be fully implemented. Even in the shorter term, the Legislature generally holds a considerable degree of freedom to adjust state spending. Such decisions are often more restricted by the lack of political consensus as opposed to any structural budgetary constraint.

More here. Voters must realize that almost everything they read from CNN, Fox, or any major media outlet contains some element of bias. In contrast, all states have finance departments that will provide you with the (mostly) unvarnished truth. In California, we have the LAO. For the feds, we have the CBO. Turn off your television, and go forth and read.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Emerson on Trade

Ralph Waldo Emerson, from his 1844 lecture, "The Young American":

Trade was the strong man that broke it [feudalism] down, and raised a new and unknown power in its place. It is a new agent in the world, and one of great function; it is a very intellectual force. This displaces physical strength, and installs computation, combination, information, science, in its room. It calls out all force of a certain kind that slumbered in the former dynasties...

Trade goes to make the governments insignificant, and to bring every kind of faculty of every individual that can in any manner serve any person, _on sale_. Instead of a huge Army and Navy, and Executive Departments, it converts Government into an Intelligence-Office, where every man may find what he wishes to buy, and expose what he has to sell, not only produce and manufactures, but art, skill, and intellectual and moral values. This is the good and this the evil of trade, that it would put everything into market, talent, beauty, virtue, and man himself...

The `opposition' papers, so called, are on the same side. They attack the great capitalist, but with the aim to make a capitalist of the poor man. The opposition is against those who have money, from those who wish to have money.

Isn't it fascinating to see the great transcendentalist speak so eloquently about trade?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Rumi, the Romantic Alchemist: Copper over Gold

Rumi: There's courage involved if you want to become truth. There is a broken / open place in a lover...What's the use of old and frozen thought? I want / a howling hurt. This is not a treasury where gold is stored; this is for copper. / We alchemists look for talent that can heat up and change. Lukewarm / won't do. Halfhearted holding back, well-enough getting by? Not here.

Fiscally Responsible? Follow These Resolutions

An oldie from 2010, but still a goodie:

Don’t vote for any ballot measure that creates an unfunded obligation on the state budget or “locks in” more of the budget.

Constitutional provisions that limit the use of certain tax revenues or impose spending requirements on the budget without providing the resources to fulfill those obligations exacerbate California’s fiscal problems. These provisions range from dedication of sales taxes collected on gasoline to transportation to the “Three Strikes” law establishing minimum sentencing requirements.

Why don't we teach these civics concepts to kids in high school? More here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Law Quote of the Day

Dean Roscoe Pound: "The law must be stable and yet cannot stand still."