Friday, 18 August 2006

The Election of Judges

Once again in my state of Washington, important Supreme Court Judges are about to be chosen in a likely low-turnout primary. Once again right-wing "property rights" advocates are attempting a stealth campaign to get their frequently under-qualified ideologues who do not represent the majority of our electorate into these powerful positions.

I fear the same sort of thing is happening across the country, as studies show that in recent elections money is being pumped into these judicial campaigns at unprecedented levels. Personally I question the wisdom of popularly electing judges. I want qualified judges who have gone through a thoughtful review process, not pretty faces who are good at waging an election campaign. Further, the majority of the electorate simply isn't interested in doing the research necessary to make a truly informed decision.

My short-term message to Washington voters is to reelect incumbent justices Owens, Alexander, and Chambers, and incumbent appeals judge Becker. My longer term question is can we work toward changing our silly system of electing judges in which unqualified candidates such as Jeanette Burrage are even allowed to run, and special interest money is allowed to hijack our judicial process?

Nationwide, most states do elect justices, though in many of those the vote is a referendum on retaining an already appointed judge, thus largely avoiding the danger of unqualified ideologues bypassing a more professional review. Of course appointments can result in bad choices as well, so I'm not sure what system is best, only that the popular election system currently in place in Washington and nearly half the other states is badly flawed. Here is a snapshot of the system in place in each of the states back in 1995. I do not know how much it may have changed since then. Here is a more recent document (pdf) with somewhat different information about the courts in all the states.

Saturday, 12 August 2006

Bill Moyers: on Faith & Reason

Though I taped the whole series, I was delighted to find the complete transcripts on line just now, in easy to read & easy to print format:

1 - Salman Rushdie
2 - Mary Gordon and Colin McGinn
3 - Jeanette Winterson and Will Power
4 - Anne Provoost and David Grossman
5 - Richard Rodriguez and Sir John Houghton
6 - Margaret Atwood and Martin Amis
7 - Pema Chodron

Thank you Bill, for coming back to public television. America desperately needs your calm wisdom and openness. I couldn't blame you personally for leaving NOW after making it one of the finest investigative acts on television, but shortening the show to half and hour accentuated my disappointment. And I was aghast that an ideologue such as Kenneth Tomlinson could spend our tax dollars to try to "prove your liberal bias". You got it right when you fired back:
The more compelling our journalism, the angrier the radical right of the Republican Party gets. That's because the one thing they loathe more than liberals is the truth. And the quickest way to be damned by them as liberal is to tell the truth.

Hey, I know you won't do it, but I've long harbored the same wish that Molly Ivins recently expressed in an op-ed piece:
imagine, if seven or eight other Democratic candidates, all beautifully coiffed and triangulated and carefully coached to say nothing that will offend anyone, stand on stage with Bill Moyers in front of cameras for a national debate … what would happen? Bill Moyers would win, would walk away with it, just because he doesn’t triangulate or calculate or trim or try to straddle the issues. Bill Moyers doesn’t have to endorse a constitutional amendment against flag burning or whatever wedge issue du jour Republicans have come up with. He is not afraid of being called “unpatriotic.” And besides, he is a wise and a kind man who knows how to talk on TV.

I wonder how much mail Moyers has received since Ivins posted his P.O. Box at the end of her article. I think I should send some love his way. What a gentle soul.

Thursday, 10 August 2006

Knowledge is Best Defense against Terrorism

In the days and weeks following 9/11, what always struck me as missing in the response was a clear message to the terrorists that they had used up that method of operation. Not because of new security measures at airports, but because the method was now common knowledge. What happened on the Flight 93 was proof, that given knowledge our citizens can be relied upon to react as necessary. UK Terrorist Plot

Terrorists depend on secrecy in their planning. If one week before 9/11 the plans for hijacking planes with box cutters & running them into buildings had been announced, and such warnings given regularly at all airports, then I dare say 1) the terrorists wouldn't have even tried it & 2) if they had other passengers would have fought them before they were ever able to get to the cockpit. Not that there might not have been lives lost, but the plot would have been foiled.

Just how surreptitiously could a person or persons carry out this new threat of mixing ingredients on planes.
Chertoff said the terrorists planned to bring various bomb components in a benign state aboard the planes and combine them once the planes were aloft to create and detonate explosive devices. Sources tell CBS News correspondent Jim Stewart that these chemical bombs would have been set with timers to go off simultaneously.
Must the government step in to protect us from ourselves and prohibit everyone and their grandma from taking shampoo in their carry-ons? Ironically these restrictions probably won't last - but they will create terrible inconvenience for millions of passengers at the very time when they are probably least necessary: right after everyone knows of the plan and terrorists would be least likely to follow through with it.

It seems now is a good time to remind ourselves of JFK's "Ask not" quote.

Wednesday, 9 August 2006

Senators Tester & Lamont? Let's hope!

If I lived in Connecticut, I'd certainly have voted for Ned Lamont yesterday. Some people think that makes me radically left. That's just funny. There may be pieces of my world view which are radical by today's standards. Thinking that Ned Lamont will make a better Senator from Connecticut than Joe Lieberman sure ain't one of them. If Tester and Lamont both prevail in November, maybe we can boot the DLC - the so-called centrist; but in point of fact spineless - arm of the party out of its role of vetting who makes a good Democrat.

Don't let people label you as extreme for taking a sane stance. Progressives have become the moderates in America.