Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egypt: worshipers among the tanks

If Hosni Mubarak falls - after 30 years of U.S. support for his adherence to Anwar Sadat's peace agreement with Israel - the iconic image may well be this one by Scott Nelson for the New York Times in Cairo.
prayer in Cairo's Tahrir Square, January 29, 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

China: Will Law Reforms Reduce Forced Home Demolitions? - China Real Time Report - WSJ

Berkeley law professor Stanley Lubman reports:
In October 2010, thugs hired by a demolition company to destroy a house forcefully entered it and brutally murdered the homeowner. The crime, one of a series of similar violent incidents in recent years, was widely reported and sparked popular outrage. Last week, the State Council published a regulation that would end the power of local governments to order demolition of urban residences and require disputed cases to be decided by courts (report in Chinese)....
Will Law Reforms Reduce Forced Home Demolitions? - China Real Time Report - WSJ

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jon Stewart Named to Ground Zero Board -

Jon Stewart, the satirical host of “The Daily Show” who used histelevision program to push for federal money for the health care of first responders at ground zero, was appointed on Thursday to the board of the foundation building the Sept. 11 museum and memorial.  Stewart, a Tribeca resident, has been a passionate advocate for those sickened by their work at the smoldering disaster site.
Jon Stewart Named to Ground Zero Board -

FactChecking the GOP Response |

FactChecking the GOP Response | "Ryan and Bachmann made two new false claims, and repeated other talking points, in their responses to the president's State of the Union address."
Plus the old falsifications.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Stanley Fish: Obama's Rhetoric - a voice of power that need not declare itself

Stanley Fish on the SOTU 
A state of the union speech whose power was constructed of small elements.
This is Obama’s version of American exceptionalism, which is for him not the proud, in-your-face doctrine announced by some political figures, but a quiet affirmation of resolution and an abiding faith in a future that can be won. Obama has managed to downsize a rhetoric that can often be bellicose and turn it into a statement that is almost, but not quite, modest. This is the voice of power that need not declare itself and is therefore all the more impressive.

Stanley Fish: Language of the Union
Published: January 26, 2011 New York Times

Sensible Economists' Letter on the Affordable Care Act - Grasping Reality with Eight Tentacles

Sensible Economists' Letter on the Affordable Care Act - Grasping Reality with Eight Tentacles

Yes, we can...Barack Obama's 2d SOTU

image: NY Times 

Barack Obama is a great conciliator. Today was an example of his high skill - of a tight rope walk between the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, as Marilyn put it this evening. Obama's speech was the most John Kennedy-like State of the Union speech any president since has given.

Of course the only real competitor is Bill Clinton. Obama struck Kennedy's just left of center note of optimism more closely than Clinton - because of the adversity of his and our circumstances. - gwc

Evoking the can-do spirit without jingoism

What we can do – what America does better than anyone – is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn't just change our lives. It's how we make a living.

Government underwrites innovation

Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation. But because it's not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout history our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need. That's what planted the seeds for the Internet. That's what helped make possible things like computer chips and GPS.

Candor about divided government

What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow.

I believe we can. I believe we must. That's what the people who sent us here expect of us. With their votes, they've determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all – for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.

Evoking the Kennedy New Frontier

The future is ours to win. But to get there, we can't just stand still. As Robert Kennedy told us, "The future is not a gift. It is an achievement."

Our sputnik moment

This is our generation's Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven't seen since the height of the Space Race...We'll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.

Calling youth to service
To every young person listening tonight who's contemplating their career choice: If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child – become a teacher. Your country needs you

Let’s educate all our children

One last point about education. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet live every day with the threat of deportation. 

New York to Rockland, Maine in 4 hours
Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying – without the pat-down.

For tolerance

And as extremists try to inspire acts of violence within our borders, we are responding with the strength of our communities, with respect for the rule of law, and with the conviction that American Muslims are a part of our American family.

Our troops come from every corner of this country – they are black, white, Latino, Asian and Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim. And, yes, we know that some of them are gay. Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love. And with that change, I call on all of our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation.

We won’t be bombing Iran this year

Because of a diplomatic effort to insist that Iran meet its obligations, the Iranian government now faces tougher and tighter sanctions than ever before.

Poking fun at government without attacking it

We live and do business in the information age, but the last major reorganization of the government happened in the age of black and white TV. There are twelve different agencies that deal with exports. There are at least five different entities that deal with housing policy. Then there's my favorite example: the Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in when they're in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

ThinkProgress » Steele Acknowledges The ‘Logic’ Of The Health Insurance Mandate

ThinkProgress » Steele Acknowledges The ‘Logic’ Of The Health Insurance Mandate

N.R.A. squelches studies of gun violence - N.Y. Times

Image: Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence

Published: January 25, 2011
Keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally disturbed should be a consensus objective.  How to do it requires study but researchers who study guns and violence say the influence of the National Rifle Association has all but choked off funds.

The east is red

At least Michelle Obama remembered that the east is red.

Economist's View: "The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too"

Rep. Paul Ryan (R - WI)

James K. Galbraith
As an anti-dote to Paul Ryan's rebuttal of the President's State of the Union Address (and the commentariat's echo chamber) here is an excellent review of James K. Galbraith's book The Predator State which demonstrates the fraudulent character of the Free Market label claimed by Ryan, et al. The reviewer, Randall Wray observes:
Wherever one finds a sector [of the economy] that still operates reasonably well, one finds remnants of New Deal institutions that support, guarantee, regulate, and leverage private activities, in spheres as diverse as higher education, housing, pensions, healthcare, the military-industrial complex (and the prison-industrial complex). Naturally, even these sectors are endangered as they represent potential riches (witness subprimes, a privatization mess that Wall Street would love to repeat with Social Security). Still, Jamie is hopeful. The ideology of free markets is bankrupt, but the US is not. The path is clear: re-regulation, planning, standards (including wage controls), and coming to grips with the nation’s global responsibilities.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Obams's job approval polls - 2010

The Loss of a Good Man -

Losing Sargent Shriver
- by Bob Herbert

What they would cut: the Spending Reduction Act of 2011

The Republican Study Committee's members are 2/3 of the Republican Members of Congress.  Here is their plan: the Spending Reduction Act of 2011.  Not defense, not Medicare (yet), not Social Security (yet) but just about everything else.  And legal services for the poor - entirely.

Health reform: individual mandate necessary

When the Romney health insurance plan in Massachusetts kicked in - when people who were eligible for subsidies were compelled to buy health insurance there was a huge increase in the number of insured health people. So what? That is what makes insurance possible. Healthy people must pay into the system. If you could sign up for insurance the day you got your cancer diagnosis few would buy insurance. You would buy it when you needed it - like `just in time' manufacturing planning.

That's why if you repeal the individual mandate the entire Affordable Care Act collapses.
More mandate-relevant evidence | The Incidental Economist

Thursday, January 20, 2011

50 years ago today - John F. Kennedy's inaugural address

I remember watching on a black and white television that cold day, my senior year in high school.  I remember the old Vermont poet Robert Frost, whom we knew from Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Cardinal Cushing's invocation, and the young, Irish Catholic President whose eloquence stunned us all.

Bono: What I Learned From Sargent Shriver -

What I Learned From Sargent Shriver -

Sargent Shriver - the spirit of '67

Sargent Shriver spoke at the Yale Daily News Banquet in April 1967.  His address captures the man and the optimistic spirit of the time.  He was a Catholic social liberal, the Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity and of the Peace Corps.

It is hard to believe that the President of the United States declared War on Poverty - as Lyndon Baines Johnson did in his Great Society program.  Today loud voices call for government to retreat to allow the fruits of self-interest to flower, to solve the problems of financing health care by free-market solutions - as did John Boehner yesterday in leading the unanimous vote of House Republicans to repeal the affordable care act.

During his tenure from 1966 to 1968 as director of the War on Poverty programs Shriver founded a myriad of social outreach programs including Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), the Community Action Program, Job Corps and Head Start.

In 1967 - the year I graduated from college and headed off to the Peace Corps a spirit of service was in the air - and Sargent Shriver was its cheer leader and institutional leader.  Instead of marveling at the brilliance of Yale law students training for mergers and acquisitions, he saw law students as idealists:

This summer, more than 800 law students will volunteer their time to bring justice to the poor. They will be using the law as a social invention, not as a social prevention. Nothing like this was happening 20 or 30 years ago. I was in law school--here at Yale — and I know. In those days, no one was tougher or more grasping than the average law student. He was a young man on the rise, eager to go up the ladder two rungs at a time. But today, something has changed — 800 of these students are going into the slums for the summer or will be travelling the circuit in rural areas. These young law students are renegades from Easy Street. They don’t care about how much money they make, but how much justice they can bring.

He asked is idealism a fad?  And answered the question `No'.  Today we see that youth are still ready to answer Yes, We Can.  Fordham Law students have proven that year in and year out at the Public Interest Resource Center, winner of the 2008 ABA pro bono award.  The disappointment that many feel today is that our leaders - from the President down - have asked too little of us, not too much.  Of course we know why.  The November election showed that the electorate was not ready to embrace subsidies for health insurance for those of moderate income.  And the poor have fallen off the electoral map.  Sad.

For an excellent biographical summary of Shriver's life, see this piece from the Yale Daily News.

For my reflections on Shriver and the spirit of those times, go HERE.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Virtual Law Offices - a brave new world

New Jersey - where I am licensed to practice - has a strict rule: you must maintain a "bona fide office" for the practice of law.  A place where you can be found, where files are kept, the phone answered.  R. 1:21-1(a).  Despite a recommendation by the State Bar Association's small firm practice committee that the rule be eliminated the rule remains in place.  Its vitality has been declared in Opinion 718 by the state Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics (on which I serve) and its Committee on Attorney Advertising.  Like the Court which it serves, the Committee was unable to embrace the idea of a lawyer who could be found only online, whose files might exist only in the "cloud".

Now comes the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Committee on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility.  In an advisory Ethics Opinion 2010-200 the Bar Committee (which does not have the force of law) embraces Virtual Law Offices as consistent with the Rules of Professional Responsibility.

I recognize that the world is changing, and that there are resources for management of the "virtual law practice" - a website authored by Stephanie Kimbro, who has been embraced as the first Xemplar Attorney by LexisNexis .  I bought my first laptop twenty years ago - and tossed out the yellow pads from the first day.   But I am left uneasy by this embrace.  It is a brave new world that has such people in it.  

The Pennsylvania committee declares that in its opinion:
• An attorney may maintain a virtual law office in Pennsylvania; 
• An attorney may maintain a virtual law office in which the attorney works from home, and associates work from their homes in various locations, including locations outside of Pennsylvania; 
• An attorney practicing in a virtual office is not required to list  a physical address in advertisements and on letterheads; 
• An attorney with a virtual office is not required to meet with clients at the address listed in any advertisements and/or in the geographic location where the attorney will perform  the services advertised, but must disclose to the client all of the information required under the Rules of Professional Conduct; 
• An attorney may use a post office address in advertisements and  letterheads, but may not state that services are performed at the address where the post office box is located; 
• A virtual law office must disclose information specifying where the services advertised  will be performed, but need not disclose the specific address where each attorney is located; 
• An attorney practicing in a virtual office may not state that his or her fees are lower than those of traditional brick and mortar law offices, but may state, if accurate, that the firm’s overhead may be lower than traditional brick and mortar offices, thereby possibly reducing the fees the firm charges clients;  
• There are no additional precautions necessary for an attorney practicing in a VLO to comply with his or her duty of confidentiality beyond those required of all attorneys; and, 
• An attorney practicing in a virtual office at which attorneys and clients do not generally  meet face to face must take appropriate safeguards to: (1) confirm the identity of clients  and others; and (2) address those circumstances in which a client may have diminished capacity

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sargent Shriver - Blessed is the peacemaker

Sargent Shriver with John Kennedy

R. Sargent Shriver (1915 - 2011) had just stepped down as the Director of the Peace Corps when in 1967 Margo and I headed off to India for two years on the coast just north of Bombay in a town - Bassein - where the Portuguese had built a massive fort, and the Jesuits a college 350 years earlier.  I saw myself as a lay, and secular missionary.  Inspiring  the Peace Corps leader was a Catholic social ethic of service to others.  Shriver and his wife Eunice Kennedy Shriver were exemplars of that.  More than anyone else Sargent Shriver was the spiritual leader of the 1960's of the Kennedy years.

Fort Bassein
It is little appreciated that the Kennedy commitment to Vietnam was the product of the same spirit as the Peace Corps.  In Vietnam John Kennedy saw his mission as protecting its people from tyranny.  That the people of Vietnam saw us as successors to the colonial French was the flaw in the plan.  But the spirit that led me to the Peace Corps was the same as that of those who volunteered for military service - like John Kerry, like my neighbor and fellow Crusader John J. Farley (Holy Cross '65) who returned missing a limb  (now a retired Judge of the Court of Veterans Appeals), and my Holy Cross classmates who did not return - Mike Cunnion, Bob Donovan, and Jack Martin, and my dear friend John who returned but lives with the presence of those who did not.

Sargent Shriver had the good fortune to lead the non-combat missions of the Kennedy years.  His list of accomplishments is stunning, as his biographer Scott Stossel has observed:

* His pivotal role in getting John F. Kennedy elected President in 1960;
* Leading JFK's "talent hunt," staffing the cabinet and the upper levels of the Administration;
* Founding and leading the Peace Corps;
* Launching Head Start, Legal Services for the Poor, VISTA, and many other programs critical to the War on Poverty;
* Presiding over the Paris Peace Talks on Vietnam;
* Helping his wife Eunice to found the Special Olympics;
* Cultivating a generation of public servants who will continue to exert a powerful influence on American history for years to come
I am proud to have cast a vote for Shriver as running mate of George McGovern in his 1972 campaign against Richard Nixon.

h/t for the link to Stossel: James Fallows

Monday, January 17, 2011

CDC - violent deaths in America

Centers for Disease Control
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
WISQARS Leading Causes of Death Report - 2007

Cause of Death
of Deaths
Percentage of All Deaths in Age Group
All Violence-Related Injury Deaths53,371100.0%
Suicide Firearm17,352 32.5%
Homicide Firearm12,632 23.7%
Suicide Suffocation8,161 15.3%
Suicide Poisoning6,358 11.9%
Homicide Cut/pierce1,981 3.7%
Homicide Unspecified1,846 3.5%
Suicide Fall731 1.4%
Homicide Suffocation637 1.2%
Suicide Cut/pierce619 1.2%
Homicide Other Spec., NECN586 1.1%
All Others2,468 4.6%

Raising gun control after Arizona | Amanda Marcotte | Comment is free |

Raising gun control after Arizona | Amanda Marcotte | Comment is free |
Like so much else about politics the debate is about articles of faith.  Those who fear government believe that guns protect us from becoming a garrison state, or from being, like Brazil, in the grip of a criminal class that directly challenges the police and jailers. 
Glock handgun NRA, gun control US

Martin Luther King - August 28, 1963

Loans for Lawsuits Remain Largely Unregulated -

Usury. It used to be a sin - before University of Chicago economists got hold of the American intelligentsia and persuaded legislators that the free market must really be free;and that any agreement reached without a loaded pistol to one's temple must be enforced.

BUT Stephen Gillers makes this point HERE at Legal Ethics Forum: desperate plaintiffs may settle low.  That gives a big profit to the defendant who takes advantage via low settlement of claims.  Another unregulated aspect of the market.  In my experience that was rare: often because as the plaintiff's lawyer we were motivated to "hold out", pressing the client not to "sell out" or because workers comp, return to work, Social Security, or the charity of family - enabled the injured person to survive while waiting for settlement.

The Times story by Gary Tramontina begins:
Larry Long, debilitated by a stroke while using the pain medicine Vioxx, was facing eviction from his Georgia home in 2008. He could not wait for the impending settlement of a class-action lawsuit against the drug’s maker, so he borrowed $9,150 from Oasis Legal Finance, pledging to repay the Illinois company from his winnings.
Carolyn and James Williams. Ms. Williams borrowed $5,000 in 2007 from USClaims while pursuing a disability suit. Her case is unresolved and her debt to USClaims stands at $18,976.
“It’s not for everyone, but it’s there when you need it,” said Harvey Hirschfeld of LawCash.
By the time Mr. Long received an initial settlement payment of $27,000, just 18 months later, he owed Oasis almost the entire sum: $23,588.
Loans for Lawsuits Remain Largely Unregulated -