Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A plain blog about politics: Romney's Skills and the General Election

The level-headed Jonathan Bernstein calls this as a close general election, with Romney a "perfectly adequate" nominee. Sounds right to me. The gaffes are minor. Scandals zero. And the centrist voters will forget his pandering to the right as soon as the primary is over. Which is next Tuesday. From then on the race tightens. - GWC
A plain blog about politics: Romney's Skills and the General Election:
by Jonathan Bernstein
"Over at PostPartisan, I'm arguing today that Romney is underrated, and actually has important political skills. I don't think it's just luck that he's emerged as the almost-certain nominee.
Projecting that's what I expect.... "
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NJ Supreme Court: Padilla gets only prospective effect

New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Jaynee LaVecchia
Justice Jaynee LaVecchia
The New Jersey Supreme Court divided 5-2, holding in State v. Gaitan, that a defendant whose lawyer neglected to properly advise a client of the deportation consequences of a guilty plea is entitled to post conviction relief only if the malpractice occurred after the landmark ruling Padilla v. Kentucky,  (2010).  Imposing on defense counsel an affirmative duty to warn of immigration law consequences of a guilty, the U.S. Supreme Court broke new ground - a result not compelled by the 6th Amendment precedent of Strickland v. Washington,  466 U.S. 668 (1984).  Defendants whose counsel fell short of the Padilla standard before it was decided are not entitled to relief.
Associate Justice Barry Albin dissented, joined by Virginia Long, whose tenure ends today.  In 1996 Congress drastically increased the number of offenses which mandated deportation - even of aliens lawfully resident.  Gaitan's guilty plea was in 2005. Albin argues:
 with reference to the 1996 amendments the majority concludes that it is “particularly important now for criminal defense attorneys to be able to, at a minimum, secure accurate advice for their clients on whether a guilty plea to certain crimes will render them mandatorily removable.”  But then why was it not important in 2005, nine years after the effective date of the amendments, for a noncitizen to receive advice about the immigration consequences of a plea?
Albin therefore rejects the majority's ruling that Padilla created a new constitutional rule. Any "minimally adequate defense attorney has long known" to advise the client of the immigration consequences of conviction of a crime, he declared.
The 3rd Circuit has held in favor of retroactivity while the 7th and 10th  have ruled against it.  The issue therefore is headed to the United States Supreme Court.  In New Jersey the ruling permits courts to lift the stay on 257 post conviction relief cases.

In Arizona and Michigan primaries, Romney stays on course - The Plum Line - The Washington Post

Romney has really had this thing wrapped up for a while. Santorum has NO support among Republican office holders and professionals and Gingrich lights their hair on fire. So even if the Tea Party network keeps the primary fight's really dead men walking. - GWC
In Arizona and Michigan primaries, Romney stays on course - The Plum Line - The Washington Post: by Jonathan Bernstein
"The truth is that it doesn’t matter all that much at this point. Mostly, what’s at stake is whether the general election campaign starts a few weeks earlier or later. Republicans are nominating someone who will function, basically, as a generic Republican; Romney’s no master politician, but he doesn’t have any of the significant weaknesses of a Rick Santorum, not to mention the massive weaknesses of Newt Gingrich. And yet they’re going to nominate him only after pushing him on issue after issue to adopt a Tea Party platform. That’s good for conservatives if he wins, but on balance it will tend to make a November victory a bit harder for him. At any rate, enjoy these last few weeks of primary elections while they last, because we’re about to have a very, very long general election campaign."

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Strange But True: Rick Santorum Channels Steve Jobs - James Fallows - Politics - The Atlantic

James Fallows calls it: Rick Santorum has a stunning new TV ad. Speaking directly to his base. If he beats Romney today this will show you how he did it. And the bonus: the brilliant McIntosh 1984 Superbowl ad. clck thorugh and watch them both.
Strange But True: Rick Santorum Channels Steve Jobs - James Fallows - Politics - The Atlantic:

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Obama on saving the auto industry

President Obama shows how to inspire "the base" in a talk to UAW members.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Diving into the Wreck - BP & Kenneth Feinberg's Gulf Coast Gambit

Kenneth Feinberg
The imminent start of the first phase of the liability trial regarding the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill is an appropriate occasion to post this abstract and a link to the text of my new article. - GWC

Diving into the wreck: BP and Kenneth Feinberg’s Gulf Coast Gambit
17 Roger Williams University Law Review 137 (2012)

by George W. Conk
The 1990 Oil Pollution Act mandate - that a party “responsible” for an oil spill establish a “procedure” to  pay interim damages - has largely removed the courts from the process of determining scope of liability and turned it over to the private ordering of the claims bureau established by the responsible parties designated by the President under the OPA.

BP put its “procedure” in the hands of a lawyer of solomonic reputation - Kenneth Feinberg.  His broad settlement authority was designed to produce both prompt compensation for current losses (without prejudice to future claims) and early settlements of claims for  any future losses.  Through its  Gulf Coast Claims Facility  BP - making interim payments - has had a nearly free hand in determining the extent of its liability under the OPA. Though plaintiffs lawyers have moved to “supervise” the process through the MDL, neither a negotiated grid nor any court ruling has defined the scope of liability.

BP’s  private claims resolution process is almost entirely unregulated.  Only after months of jaw-boning by Gulf Coast Attorneys General and the U.S. Attorney General did BP  agree to be audited.  No regulations govern responsible parties who establish a “procedure”. The GCCF’s allocations are often impenetrable.  BP’s  GCCF can be described as the pseudo-fund model for mass tort claims resolution.  Though its name suggests an independent fund, the GCCF is in fact merely BP’s statutorily compelled mechanism for satisfying economic loss and clean-up claims.  In the absence of either regulatory guidance or court rulings on scope of liability the settlement parameters are indistinct to claimants.  Even BP is uneasy because Feinberg’s settlement offers under the OPA  go well  beyond the narrow parameters of maritime courts which in spill claims have historically denied compensation to all in the supply chain except fishermen and those who suffered property damage.

 The executive branch should examine the OPA’s regulatory gap.  No regulations govern the manner in which a solvent polluter meets its statutory clean-up and compensation responsibilities.  There is no liability guidance, no audit, no reporting, no monitoring of the company’s ability to meet its obligations, no review of its success in meeting its obligations.   If the executive branch does not take this up, Congress in its oversight capacity should do so.

Postscript:  my article does not discuss the August 26 ruling by Judge Barbier that touched on the scope of liability issue.  He ruled that liability under maritime law is limited to fishermen and those who suffered property damage or personal injury. However, he suggests that the scope of liability will be broader under the Oil Pollution Act.

The block quote below gives some of the flavor. - GWC
[The Court notes that OPA does not expressly require “proximate cause,” but rather only that the loss is “due to” or “resulting from” the oil spill. While the Court need not define the precise contours of OPA causation at this time, it is worth noting that during oral argument both counsel for BP and the P(laintiffs) S(teering) (Committee) conceded that OPA causation may lie somewhere between traditional “proximate cause” and simple “but for” causation. (citing CSX v. McBride, U.S. 2011)]

Is this why Mitt Romney’s stadium is empty? - The Washington Post

Is this why Mitt Romney’s stadium is empty? - The Washington Post:
by Ezra Klein
"What Romney is essentially proposing to do is finance a massive tax cut by cutting Medicaid, food stamps, housing subsidies and job training. In other words, the neediest Americans — and, to a lesser degree, federal workers — will be financing a massive tax cut.

I don’t know whether independent analysts will say the numbers add up to make the rest of Romney’s plan deficit neutral. My guess is they won’t. But even if they did, Romney’s priorities are clear: In order to cut taxes and raise defense spending, he’ll cut the programs that support the poorest Americans.

In 2000, George W. Bush ran for president saying “I don’t think they ought to be balancing their budget on the backs of the poor.” In 2012, amidst a much worse economy, Romney is running for president saying exactly the opposite.

Perhaps that’s why the stadium is empty."

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Where Is This Man When We Need Him? - George Vecsey

Where Is This Man When We Need Him? - George Vecsey:

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Stanley Fish on Tamanaha and Legal Education Today

The Bad News Law Schools -
by Stanley Fish
"Uneasiness about the state of legal education has been around for some time, but in the wake of the financial meltdown of 2008, uneasiness ripened into a conviction that something was terribly wrong as law school applications declined, thousands of lawyers lost their jobs, employers complained that law school graduates had not been trained to practice law, and law school graduates complained that they had been led into debt by false promises of employment and high salaries. And while all this was happening, law schools continued to raise tuition, take in more and more students, and construct elaborate new facilities.

That at least is the story told in a book to be published later this year, “Failing Law Schools,” by Brian Tamanaha. Tamanaha is a law professor, a former law school dean, a prolific legal theorist and, by his own account, a malefactor who in the past did some of the things he now criticizes. Having seen the light, he feels compelled to spread and document the bad news."

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Monday, February 20, 2012

So You Think You Want to Run for Office… | GOPlifer | a blog

Chris Ladd comments on the plight of the rationalist Republican thinking seriously of running for office for the first time - in today's Republican Party. He passes it up when he realizes that he has to pacify a group that is so OOT that rational dialog is not an option. How, Ladd asks, can reasonable candidates break the grip of the crazies? It is an important question.
The great judges of the civil rights era were Republicans. Has that tradition been irretrievably lost? I've been on the political left all my adult life: but I believe in the yin/yang. It is natural that some people emphasize the need for individual responsibility, others emphasize social responsibility. These characteristics underlie the liberal/conservative split. But the universe of discourse of the Republican Party has moved so far to the right that its viability as a national party is in serious doubt. - GWC
So You Think You Want to Run for Office… | GOPlifer | a blog: "The GOP activists want to know how Joe’s going to stop “Agenda 21” and prevent the replacement of the US Dollar with the Amero. They ask whether he has the courage to stop liberals from training our schoolchildren to be gay. They want to know whether he’s gullible enough to believe that the ‘document’ Obama released is actually his birth certificate.

Will he send troops to the border to halt the ongoing Mexican invasion of America? Will he stop the TSA from sexually molesting airline passengers? Is he prepared to fight Obama’s plans to take dictatorial powers? And so on. And so on. And so on."

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Bad Reaction | Commonweal magazine

Are the U.S. Catholic bishops determined to wage a partisan culture war? Why aren't they chastened by the massive exodus from the Catholic Church - 1/3 of adult Catholics, and a drastic decline in the respect in which it is held by youth? The Commonweal editors discus the issues. - GWC
Bad Reaction | Commonweal magazine: "Conservative Catholics complain that too many liberal Catholics instinctively greet every statement from the Vatican with suspicion, skepticism, or derision. It’s a fair point. The motives and judgment of those who appear unthinkingly hostile to all hierarchical authority should be questioned. Patient attention to the legitimate concerns of others and the presumption of goodwill on the part of those we disagree with are essential virtues.

Unfortunately, patience and the presumption of goodwill were not much in evidence in the response of the U.S. bishops and many conservative Catholics to President Barack Obama’s compromise on the question of mandated contraceptive coverage for employees of religious-affiliated institutions. Even before all the details of the president’s proposal were known, the bishops rejected it and then upped the ante by insisting that the only possible solution was to repeal the mandate altogether. In other words, the bishops are now demanding that no employer be required to offer free contraception coverage to its employees."

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Romney takes Maine by 117 votes

Registered Republican voters Elton Anderson, left, and Gary Willey, both of Milbridge, review presidential comparison materials before the Washington County Republican Super Caucus on Saturday.
Republican voters caucus in Machias, Washington County, Maine
Ron Paul took a 2-1 lead in the four late-caucusing Maine counties but still fell short of carrying the state by 117 votes.  The nod went to Mitt Romney - sometimes of Massachusetts which spun off Maine in 1820.  Transatlantic landings at Eastport, Washington County  - the easternmost in the U.S. - rivalled New York and exceeded Baltimore in the 1820's.  Today we marvel that there are still states like Iowa and Maine where people show up in person to declare their preference for a candidate at a gathering of town citizens.  Of course the result is often piling up votes for wild card candidates like Ron Paul who makes sense at the rate of a single-bullet Russian Roulette player with a six-shooter.

Friday, February 17, 2012

No relief in 2012 from high unemployment for African Americans and Latinos | Economic Policy Institute

We have a long way to go. - GWC
No relief in 2012 from high unemployment for African Americans and Latinos | Economic Policy Institute:

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Working all day for the IRS - NY Times

 by James E. Stewart
 " Mitt Romney is not alone. I thought Mr. Romney’s 13.9 percent federal tax rate would be hard to beat. But among the 400 Americans with the highest adjusted gross incomes in 2008, 30 of them paid less than 10 percent and another 101 paid less than 15 percent. And these people earned, on average, more than 10 times Mr. Romney’s $21.7 million — an average of $270.5 million each.
Relatively few taxpayers pay an enormous percentage of the total federal income tax, and most of them are people who work for a living and have adjusted gross incomes of $100,000 to $500,000, which is the sweet spot for tax revenue. They account for 20.2 percent of total returns but pay a whopping 44.9 percent of total tax. The average tax rate for this group ranges from 11.9 percent for those with less than $200,000 in adjusted gross income to 19.6 percent for those with $200,000 to $500,000. Above those income levels, the rate rises to close to 25 percent and then declines to 22.6 percent for taxpayers earning more than $10 million.
The budget that President Obama unveiled this week included some hot-button tax measures aimed at some of these inequities: capping deductions and raising taxes on people earning more than $1 million (the so-called Buffett Rule), scrapping the alternative minimum taxand raising the tax on dividend income and carried interest. The liberal Economic Policy Institute noted, “No budget is perfect,” but applauded the president’s stab at tax reform. “The need for the Buffett Rule,” it said, “is largely driven by the preferential tax treatment of investment income over work income.”

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"Uncertain" Prospects for Legal Industry, Say Citi/Hildebrandt As Law Firms Face Pressure on Profits - Law Blog - WSJ

"Uncertain" Prospects for Legal Industry, Say Citi/Hildebrandt As Law Firms Face Pressure on Profits - Law Blog - WSJ:
By Jennifer Smith
"If you’re a lawyer who likes to wallow in depressing news about the legal industry — this is your week!

“Unfortunately, the economic performance of the industry in 2011… was not able to redress the significant declines experienced in all key financial indicators during the first three years of the economic downturn.”

That’s just one heartening snippet from a 2012 client advisory out Wednesday from Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group and the Hildebrandt Institute, a division of Thomson Reuters."

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BP Deepwater Horizon Securities Suit, Though Narrowed, Survives Dismissal Motion : The D & O Diary

BP Deepwater Horizon Securities Suit, Though Narrowed, Survives Dismissal Motion : The D & O Diary:
by Kevin LaCroix
"In the wake of the disastrous April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, BP was hit with a wave of litigation from plaintiffs asserting claims of personal injury, wrongful death and property damage. The claimants also included BP shareholders raising allegations that they had been misled regarding BP safety efforts and processes. In a 129-page February 13, 2012 opinion (here), Southern District of Texas Judge Keith Ellison, while granting the defendants’ motion to dismiss certain of plaintiffs’ allegations, denied defendants’ motion to dismiss many of the allegations of BP investors who had purchased BP American Depositary Shares (ADS) on the New York Stock Exchange."

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Better Late Than Never | Commonweal magazine

E.J. Dionne, the ubiquitous representative of liberal Catholicism explains in his usual careful way why liberal Catholics objected to the original contraception exemption as too narrow. And why liberal Catholics remain attached to the Church: its prodigious work in service of others. - GWC
Better Late Than Never | Commonweal magazine:
by E.J. Dionne
"One other thing about culture wars: One side typically has absolutely no understanding of what the other is trying to say.
That is why the battle over whether religious institutions should be required to cover contraception under the new health-care law was so painful -- and why it was so hard to comprehend why President Barack Obama, who has been a critic of culture wars for so long, did not try to defuse this explosive question from the beginning.
It's also why he was right, finally, to reach a compromise that respected the legitimate concerns of each side. He should have done this at the outset, but far better late than never.
That so many liberal Catholics supported the church's core claim surprised both Catholic conservatives and more secular liberals. There are lessons here, and that includes lessons for Obama"......

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The Dilemmas of Jewish Power -

"Israel does not have a public relations problem; it has a policy problem. You can’t sell occupation in a postcolonial age.” That occupation, prolonged in perpetuity, would mean, as President Barack Obama has put it, that “the dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled.”" - Peter Beinart Peter Beinart

The Dilemmas of Jewish Power -
by Roger Cohen
LONDON — Peter Beinart’s “The Crisis of Zionism” is an important new book that rejects the manipulation of Jewish victimhood in the name of Israel’s domination of the Palestinians and asserts that the real issue for Jews today is not the challenge of weakness but the demands of power.
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Monday, February 13, 2012

Rhetoric vs. Reality on Entitlements

Gov. Romney, like his supporter Gov. Chris Christie, focuses much of his rhetoric on the politics of resentment: "we" are paying for "them".  Them usually means people who don't work but instead choose dependency.  This meme goes back a long way, but the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities has assembled facts that show how few facts there are in support of the Romney view.  Jared Bernstein explains the numbers in these charts.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

CHAUSA | Catholic Health Association is Very Pleased with Todays White House Resolution that Protects Religious Liberty and Conscience Rights

The Catholic Health Association of the United StatesCHAUSA | Catholic Health Association is Very Pleased with Todays White House Resolution that Protects Religious Liberty and Conscience Rights:
WASHINGTON, DC (February 10, 2012) — The following statement is being released by Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA):
The Catholic Health Association is very pleased with the White House announcement that a resolution has been reached that protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions. The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed.
We are pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished. The unity of Catholic organizations in addressing this concern was a sign of its importance.
This difference has at times been uncomfortable but it has helped our country sort through an issue that has been important throughout the history of our great democracy.
The Catholic Health Association remains committed to working with the Administration and others to fully implement the Affordable Care Act to extend comprehensive and quality health care to many who suffer today from the lack of it.
The Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA), founded in 1915, supports the Catholic health ministry's commitment to improve the health status of communities and create quality and compassionate health care that works for everyone. The Catholic health ministry is the nation's largest group of not-for-profit health systems and facilities that, along with their sponsoring organizations, employ more than 750,000 women and men who deliver services combining advanced technology with the Catholic caring tradition.
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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Maine Caucus Offers an Opportunity for Paul -

Oh, No!
Maine Caucus Offers an Opportunity for Paul -

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Bishops Planned Battle on Birth Control Coverage Rule -

Archbishop Timothy Dolan
So the Bishops were spoiling for a fight.  Why?  Because they really want the Democrats to lose?  Because they were frosted when the nuns helped put Obamacare over the top? Because they are loyal to the Pope?  I would have to say it is the last.  They are the Pope's men.  
Unfortunately there seems to be no room for unorthodoxy in the Catholic Church's hierarchy.  Those of us who were inspired by Vatican Council II in our youth got the wrong idea.  This organization has survived for 2000 years by orthodoxy not flexibility.  Of course change does come.  Mainly through reflection on tradition in light of the experience of the faithful.  Catholics are not biblical literalists.  They don't think that `God said it, I believe it and that settles it.'
Unfortunately the transmission belt from the practice of the faithful to the priesthood is very thinly developed.  That underlies this latest contraception flareup.  The bishops adhere to the papal teaching of Paul VI in Humae Vitae: no artificial birth control.  But the faithful have concluded that sexual and personal responsibility as partners and as parents is better served by use of contraceptives.  Guttmacher Institute surveys show that Catholics use artificial birth control as often as does the rest of the population.  
The real change that needs to be made is not in the Obama administration's health policy but in the Church's birth control policy. - GWC
Bishops Planned Battle on Birth Control Coverage Rule - "When after much internal debate the Obama administration finally announced its decision to require religiously affiliated hospitals and universities to cover birth control in their insurance plans, the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops were fully prepared for battle."

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Supreme Court Panel Recommends Allowing 'Virtual' Bona Fide Offices

Supreme Court Panel Recommends Allowing 'Virtual' Bona Fide Offices: "Lawyers may soon be allowed to practice in New Jersey using "virtual" law offices instead of having to keep up bricks-and-mortar locations.

A state Supreme Court committee is recommending an unprecedented loosening of the bona fide office rule. No longer would a physical plant be required, as long as the lawyer is reachable by clients, other lawyers and the courts for official business, including service of process."

An article of mine discussing the issues - "We're All Virtual Lawyers Now" appeared in the December 2011 issue of New Jersey Lawyer - the monthly magazine of the New Jersey State Bar Association

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Chrysler CMO on Snagging Clint Eastwood for Super Bowl | Special: Super Bowl - Advertising Age

"The world's gonna hear the roar of our engines.  The second half is about to begin."  That was Clint Eastwood's punchline in Halftime in America - Chrysler's two minute Superbowl TV ad.

A brilliant piece of retro rhetoric.

The biggest roar in America is for Superbowl touchdowns.

It was a straightforward statement of national pride.  But no one will persuade me that  the"second half - second term" parallel was not acutely felt.

Clint Eastwood and Chrysler believe in giving credit where credit is due.
Chrysler CMO on Snagging Clint Eastwood for Super Bowl | Special: Super Bowl - Advertising Age:

And this is the ad:

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Bad Decision | Commonweal magazine

The Obama administration's mandate to health insurers to provide contraception benefits at no cost to patients has brought us a controversy that seems an anachronism. The Catholic Church renounced artificial birth control fifty years ago. The hierarchy adheres to the Pope's teaching while the faithful largely ignore it. We now face a partisan controversy over forcing Catholic institutions as employers to do something the bishops oppose but their employees and measures members overwhelmingly support.
The editors of Commonweal, the Catholic newsmagazine, urge upon both the Obama administration and the bishops compromise and toned-down rhetoric. - GWC
Bad Decision | Commonweal magazine:
 "The Obama administration has rejected appeals to exempt religious-affiliated institutions, such as hospitals and universities, from the mandate issued by the Department of Health and Human Services requiring all health-insurance policies to include free coverage for contraceptives and other “preventive” services such as sterilization.
This was a serious mistake (see “An Illiberal Mandate,” December 20, 2011). The administration’s decision raises deep concerns about its understanding of the fundamental corporate and institutional nature of the Catholic Church and similar religious communities. The HHS decision comes perilously close to insisting that the government should determine what is or isn’t a religious organization or ministry. The reasoning behind restricting the exemption to institutions that primarily employ and serve coreligionists appears to be based on an essentially sectarian, and historically Protestant, understanding of “religion.” The Catholic Church, which understands its public presence to be vital to its identity and mission, should not be forced to abide by such restrictions."

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Brooks:" Romney's salient quality is his tenacious drive". -

David Brooks is not serious. He fawned over George W. Bush as a big idea guy.  Now he's got a new idol.  This is just for the record.  So that it will be easy to look back and point out instances of Brooks's relentless fatuousness. - GWC
The Wealth Issue -
"Mitt Romney is a rich man, but is Mitt Romney’s character formed by his wealth? Is Romney a spoiled, cosseted character? Has he been corrupted by ease and luxury?
The notion is preposterous. All his life, Romney has been a worker and a grinder. He earned two degrees at Harvard simultaneously (in law and business). He built a business. He’s persevered year after year, amid defeat after defeat, to build a political career.

Romney’s salient quality is not wealth. It is, for better and worse, his tenacious drive — the sort of relentlessness that we associate with striving immigrants, not rich scions."

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Karen Handel’s Resignation Letter From Komen | TPM News

Karen Handel, the Planned Parenthood executive most strongly identified with the breast cancer charity's decision to end its support of Planned Parenthood has resigned. The funding decision was reversed but Komen's policy toward Planned Parenthood remains uncertain. In her resignation letter the "pro-life" former Georgia gubernatorial candidate states that the Komen foundation had decided to pull away from Planned Parenthood before Handel came on the job. Handel - as candidate - had called for an end to state support of Planned Parenthood.
Karen Handel’s Resignation Letter From Komen | TPM News:

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Two Ads, Two Eras, Similar Message - Interactive Feature -

"Four More Years!"
Chrysler Corporation
Two Ads, Two Eras, Similar Message - Interactive Feature - "Two Ads, Two Eras, Similar Message
Half time in America - a two minute Chrysler Super Bowl ad has drawn comparisons to Morning in America - a famous political advertisement from Ronald Reagan’s campaign in 1984."  The Times reports on the controversy.  Check out the video.  It's great.

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

How Quinn Emmanuel Does it: Sugar-coated bills |

Quinn Emmanuel - the Silicon Valley powerhouse law firm which emphasizes litigation demonstrates some of their fee contracts. Alternative  billing by "America's largest business litigation firm".  - GWC
Sugar-coated bills | Features | The Lawyer:
Alternative fee examples
Three cases provided by Quinn Emanuel for The Lawyer’s annual top 50 firms by litigation revenue:
We represent a large insurance company as plaintiff in a very complex, contentious litigation where the potential damages could reach $150m or more.
The law in the area is unsettled.
We have estimated the cost of litigation through trial to be $12m to $15m. Our financial arrangement is as follows:
  • Quinn receives a flat fee of $750,000 for (a) the drafting of a complaint and (b) opposing a motion to dismiss.
  • Quinn receives a flat fee of $150,000 per month up to a cap of $4.25m.
  • Quinn absorbs all fees in excess of $5m.
  • Quinn receives 20 per cent of any recovery via settlement or verdict.
We represent a hedge fund as plaintiff in a very comSWa dispute over a [collateralised debt obligation]:
  • Quinn receives a flat fee of $20,000 per month through trial, regardless of the level of activity in the lawsuit.
  • Quinn receives 20 per cent of any recovery via settlement or verdict.
We represented a very large, high-tech company that was sued in the US for antitrust price-fixing:
  • Quinn files a motion to dismiss the antitrust complaint, reply brief and argument for client.
  • Quinn receives nothing if we lose the motion to dismiss.
  • Quinn receives a flat fee of $750,000 if we prevail on the motion to ­dismiss (which is what happened).
What Quinn Emanuel does
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan is a 500-lawyer firm, the largest in the US devoted solely to business litigation.

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Race, jury selection, and the death penalty - NY times

Race and Death Penalty Juries -
Editorial - February 5, 2012
"North Carolina courageously passed the Racial Justice Act in 2009, making it the first state in the country to give death row inmates a chance to have their sentences changed to life without parole based on proof that race played a significant role in determining punishment.
A state court is now hearing the first challenge to a death sentence under that law. Marcus Robinson, who has been on death row since 1994, must prove that state prosecutors discriminated against blacks in selecting juries, affecting the outcomes of cases, including his. His lawyers presented a notable study by researchers at Michigan State University showing this kind of bias."

Premier Stresses Unwavering Reform, Rural Democracy

China's Premier has traveled to Guangdong Province - site of the recent local uprising in the village of Wukan - to pledge the center's  commitment to fair rural development.  Local leaders are to be directly elected, affected people consulted and fair compensation paid when property is taken by local government action. - GWC

by Xinhua, February 5, 2012
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has pledged to unwaveringly push forward opening-up and reform in the face of current challenges and difficulties, while calling for protection of farmers' rights to vote to improve rural community administration.

At a time of global uncertainties, furthering reform is still the only key to solving all problems, said Wen while visiting Guangdong, a southern province that took the lead in China's opening-up and reform, from Friday to Saturday.
"Opening-up and reform should be implemented unswervingly, or there will only be a dead end," said Wen, citing former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, who made a famous speech during his inspection tour of south China 20 years ago.
Premier Stresses Unwavering Reform, Rural Democracy:

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GOP voters fall into line for Romney in Nevada

One of the frustrating things about politics is how long it takes to get the nuts out of the way.  The GOP has gotten it down to four, only one of whom is not nuts.  Here the surviving four (the ultimate nominee and the three pretenders) do what no one genuinely doubts: they pledge their  allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.  Personally I have long thought this practice a form of idolatry inconsistent with the Second Commandment. - GWC
Can Last Minute Appeals Sway Voters’ Minds?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sub-zero protest march in Moscow

Democratically elected governments can withstand mass protests (remember the demos in opposition to the 2003 Iraq war?).  But protests can also energize opposition and unnerve those who govern.  That appears to be the case in Russia where tens of thousands of Muscovites rallied against Vladimir Putin in sub-zero weather.  The Times reports.
p.s. - note good hats and gloves. - gwc

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Prayer in high places

It is rare that public prayer or talk of prayer is anything other than awkward, embarrassing, or infuriating.  When politicians start praying it really gets creepy - because it seems self-commendatory rather than genuinely grateful.  But Barack Obama has managed what I did not think possible: to give an address at the National Prayer Breakfast that is both inspiring and humble - while being serious about policy.  Below is the closing - but read the whole thing.
Mark read a letter from Billy Graham, and it took me back to one of the great honors of my life, which was visiting Reverend Graham at his mountaintop retreat in North Carolina, when I was on vacation with my family at a hotel not far away.
And I can still remember winding up the path up a mountain to his home. Ninety-one years old at the time, facing various health challenges, he welcomed me as he would welcome a family member or a close friend. This man who had prayed great prayers that inspired a nation, this man who seemed larger than life, greeted me and was as kind and as gentle as could be.
And we had a wonderful conversation. Before I left, Reverend Graham started praying for me, as he had prayed for so many Presidents before me. And when he finished praying, I felt the urge to pray for him. I didn’t really know what to say. What do you pray for when it comes to the man who has prayed for so many? But like that verse in Romans, the Holy Spirit interceded when I didn’t know quite what to say.
And so I prayed -- briefly, but I prayed from the heart. I don’t have the intellectual capacity or the lung capacity of some of my great preacher friends here that have prayed for a long time. (Laughter.) But I prayed. And we ended with an embrace and a warm goodbye.
And I thought about that moment all the way down the mountain, and I’ve thought about it in the many days since. Because I thought about my own spiritual journey –- growing up in a household that wasn’t particularly religious; going through my own period of doubt and confusion; finding Christ when I wasn’t even looking for him so many years ago; possessing so many shortcomings that have been overcome by the simple grace of God. And the fact that I would ever be on top of a mountain, saying a prayer for Billy Graham –- a man whose faith had changed the world and that had sustained him through triumphs and tragedies, and movements and milestones –- that simple fact humbled me to my core.
I have fallen on my knees with great regularity since that moment -- asking God for guidance not just in my personal life and my Christian walk, but in the life of this nation and in the values that hold us together and keep us strong. I know that He will guide us. He always has, and He always will. And I pray his richest blessings on each of you in the days ahead.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)

White House Pix 2011

Workers' Share of Nation's Income at Historic Low

DESCRIPTIONLet's be straight about this: it is class war.  And the capitalist class is winning.  Straitened workers and consumers who vote to blame those they think is costing them money should look up, not down.

The GOP’s Plan To Avoid Defense Cuts Without Raising Taxes | TPMDC

The short answer to why the GOP leaders don't care about the deficit is that cutting government is their only objective. Excellent post by TPM's Congressional correspondent Brian Beutler.  Read the whole thing.  - GWC
The GOP’s Plan To Avoid Defense Cuts Without Raising Taxes | TPMDC: "“Let’s not let a domestic issue such as tax increases interfere…with our nation’s security,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — the top Armed Services Committee Republican — told reporters at a Thursday Capitol briefing.

“We’re not going to use a millionaire tax to fix every problem around here,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) added. “We have a problem with that because we think it’s about jobs.”

Why are the jobs that would supposedly be lost as a result of a millionaires tax better than the ones that will be lost by phasing out federal jobs?"

'via Blog this'

ABA Moves Closer to Letting Nonlawyers Own Stake in Firms - Law Blog - WSJ

American Bar Association Moves Closer to Letting Nonlawyers Own Stake in Firms - Law Blog - WSJ:

Today the ABA Ethics 20/20 Commission held public hearings on non-lawyer ownership of law firms.  Vincent Doyle, New York State Bar President in written remarks delivered in Chicago testified that it is worth considering.
"The American Bar Association appears to be warming to the idea of allowing non-lawyers to hold a stake in law firms. A rule change is still a long way off, but the ABA recorded a baby step in December, 2011 when its ethics commission published a proposal for comment."

The proposal is a far cry from a new U.K. law that allows banks, supermarkets and the like to offer legal services to consumers. Let’s start with what it would not allow:

  • publicly traded law firms
  • passive, outside nonlawyer investment or ownership in law firms
  • law firms that offer both legal and non-legal services separately in a single entity
Under the proposal, lawyers would still have to maintain a controlling financial interest and voting rights in the firm, and nonlawyers couldn’t have their own clients or offer nonlegal services to clients. In other words, law firms with nonlawyer ownership would have to stick topracticing law.

Mitt Romney praises safety net he wants to shred.

by Matt Yglesias/Slate
"The fact that Mitt Romney isn't concerned with the fate of poor people is hardly shocking news, but his stated explanation for why he's indifferent to the most intense economic suffering in the country is interesting.
“I’m not concerned with the very poor. We have a safety net there,” Romney told CNN. “If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.”
There's a certain logic to that position. Except that if you read Romney's policy agenda what he appears to think about the social safety net for the poor is that it should be drastically curtailed. He proposes the following five points: Mitt Romney praises safety net he wants to shred.:"