Friday, September 25, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The most common example of puffery besides sales is in resumes and job applications. There was an attorney who left our firm and, applying for other jobs, billed himself as experienced in ERISA transactions. Technically true, but the experience consisted of getting COBRA notices after being canned.
Among resumes and job applications, the worst subset has to be political biographies. These magnify every kid with a lemonade stand into a "job-creating small business owner" and anyone who flips off a light switch into a "green energy activist."
With the 2010 election season beginning to form like a high pressure system over the Rockies, we're going to hear a lot of biographical puffery from candidates.
Gretchen Whitmer? No exception.
Whitmer, the attorney general wannabe, describes her background in part as follows:
Prior to her election to the Michigan House of Representatives, Whitmer was a corporate litigator specializing in administrative and regulatory law with the firm Dickinson Wright in Lansing, Michigan. She practiced administrative law before the Ingham County Circuit Court and the Michigan Public Service Commission.
Sounds pretty good, right? When you look at the facts, not so much.
Whitmer was licensed in November of 1998. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2000. So, she practiced law for about two years, although much of that time she was campaigning for the House seat.
Whitmer was employed as a lawyer by Dickinson Wright, a large, well-respected, politically heady firm with an office in Lansing. During her first two years out of law school, however, Whitmer was undoubtedly squirreled away in an office somewhere, drafting discovery responses or writing motions and briefs for the attorney who actually went to court and argued. Of course, to figure out how many cases Whitmer appeared on for her clients is a difficult task, since trial court dockets are not searchable by attorney. But we can search a surrogate database -- the Court of Appeals.
A busy attorney ends up in the Court of Appeals, either trying to get a ruling overturned, or trying to keep a judgment intact. The Court of Appeals' records are searchable by attorney, and a search for Whitmer's involvement results in zero -- as in ZEE-ROH -- cases. For contrast purposes, your humble Wizard has had 42 cases in the Court of Appeals, more than most, but far fewer than some. For someone running for attorney general, 42 is a respectable number, but zero is a joke.
Michigan law describes the duties of the attorney general. Primarily:
The attorney general shall prosecute and defend all actions in the supreme court, in which the state shall be interested, or a party; he may, in his discretion, designate one of the assistant attorneys general to be known as the solicitor general, who, under his direction, shall have charge of such causes in the supreme court and shall perform such other duties as may be assigned to him; and the attorney general shall also, when requested by the governor, or either branch of the legislature, and may, when in his own judgment the interests of the state require it, intervene in and appear for the people of this state in any other court or tribunal, in any cause or matter, civil or criminal, in which the people of this state may be a party or interested.
Clearly, these are significant and important responsibilities. Am I alone in thinking that maybe, just maybe, it's a good idea to have an attorney general who knows where the courthouse is and has actually tried a case or argued one in the Court of Appeals?
When you're selling a car or trying to impress that special someone, puffery is an old and time-honored strategy. Isn't it about time, though, that we demanded more from our elected officials?
Friday, September 11, 2009
May we never forget our loss or the murderers who inflicted it.
It's interesting now to go back at look at reactions to the 9/11 attacks. For instance, try this one, from September 19, 2001:
We must also engage, however, in the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness. The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.
So the author is saying we should empathize with the 9/11 murderers and try to understand them, to relate to their childhoods or their lack of career advancement potential. They didn't want to kill Americans, they were just poor, or ignorant, or felt they were helpless, or were in despair.
Can you imagine someone making this argument on behalf of gangbangers who kill a child in a drive-by? How about KKK members who burn crosses or kill minorities? Maybe we shouldn't use military force against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, instead sending Dr. Phil and teams of therapists to raise their self-esteem?
You know what makes the quotation above even worse? Its author is now the President of the United States.
The quotation is from a September 19, 2001 article The One (then The Future One) wrote for the Hyde Park Herald, a local Chicago newspaper. (Hat tip to Red State and to The Incomparable Michelle Malkin for the article).
Compare The One's views with Tony Blair's:
So what do we do? Don't overreact some say. We aren't. We haven't lashed out. No missiles on the first night just for effect. Don't kill innocent people. We are not the ones who waged war on the innocent. We seek the guilty. Look for a diplomatic solution. There is no diplomacy with Bin Laden or the Taliban regime. State an ultimatum and get their response. We stated the ultimatum; they haven't responded. Understand the causes of terror. Yes, we should try, but let there be no moral ambiguity about this: nothing could ever justify the events of 11 September, and it is to turn justice on its head to pretend it could. The action we take will be proportionate; targeted; we will do all we humanly can to avoid civilian casualties.
But understand what we are dealing with. Listen to the calls of those passengers on the planes. Think of the children on them, told they were going to die. Think of the cruelty beyond our comprehension as amongst the screams and the anguish of the innocent, those hijackers drove at full throttle planes laden with fuel into buildings where tens of thousands worked. They have no moral inhibition on the slaughter of the innocent. If they could have murdered not 7,000 but 70,000 does anyone doubt they would have done so and rejoiced in it? There is no compromise possible with such people, no meeting of minds, no point of understanding with such terror. Just a choice: defeat it or be defeated by it. And defeat it we must. Any action taken will be against the terrorist network of Bin Laden.
The election of a president with so little understanding of the world, so little appreciation for the lives lost on 9/11, and so much desire to understand and therapize America's enemies is simply part of the enduring tragedy of 9/11.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Last night, Americans were treated to a televised version of the carbolic smoke ball when The One took to the airwaves and delivered his "plan" for health care reform. Now that the tsunami of media gushing has subsided somewhat, let's take a look at some of The One's claims.
The One started off by saying "nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have." He immediately followed this by saying:
As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick. And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies - because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse.
So, there will be no cap on benefits, government-imposed co-pay limits, and insurance companies will be required to cover a government-imposed list of procedures at no extra charge. Can you say "premium increase"? Co-pays and benefits are adjusted as a means of negotiating lower premiums. The government is going to prohibit these negotiations, and the costs will be passed on to the consumer. Thanks a lot.
Here are two more:
There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false - the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally. And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up - under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.
If our new government-run health care system will not cover illegal aliens, why does The One try to sell it using a figure -- "47 million without health care" -- that includes nearly 10 million illegal aliens? And why did the House kill an amendment that would that would have explicitly banned health care for illegal aliens? On the same day, the House killed an amendment that would have expressly prohibited abortion funding through government health care. If Congress won't expressly prohibit abortion funding and benefits for illegal aliens, how can we trust the repeated assurances that these things won't happen?
That was a rhetorical question. Of course we can't trust them.
Hey, here's a good one:
Right now, too much of the hard-earned savings and tax dollars we spend on health care doesn't make us healthier.
Let's apply this rationale to the Department of Energy and the Department of Education. They have produced neither energy nor education. Let's get rid of these two departments and use that money to pay down the deficit. When The One does that, we can talk about a government takeover of health care.
Which brings us to another hilarious line:
My health care proposal has also been attacked by some who oppose reform as a "government takeover" of the entire health care system.
The One denies this by saying . . . well, actually, he never denies this. Read the speech. He never once disclaims that his intent is a government takeover. Instead, he offers an extended misdirection, which includes this startling admission:
[C]onsumers do better when there is choice and competition.
Huh? Was he kidding? I say, let's take him at his word here and, while our elected representatives in Washington are trying to divine the perfect health care system, let's do three -- that's 3 -- simple things in the interim to increase "choice and competition."
First, allow health care companies to compete across state lines. Second, make health care premiums tax deductible for individuals as well as employers. Third, allow consumers and small businesses to group together to buy health care coverage.
That's it for now -- a one page bill, maybe two pages. Talk about unleashing competition and making health insurance affordable for more people!
Meanwhile, Congress can spend the next four years arguing over whose state gets the building housing the health care "exchange" The One has envisioned.
Look, there are a lot of other problems with The One's health care ruse. How will he pay for it? Even the Los Angeles Times couldn't choke down his ludicrous explanation ("we'll cut out waste and fraud!"):
[T]he president's comments about the savings available in Medicare were disingenuous, as was his assertion that a new tax on insurers would lead them to "provide greater value for the money" instead of simply passing the cost on to policyholders. Obama will have to come up with a more complete approach to paying for reform as the legislation moves forward. He claimed the plan as his own with this speech, but he left some of the hardest questions unanswered.Wisely, The One has postponed the public option and his insurance "exchanges" for four years, until after the next presidential election. No sense making this an issue, is there?
The Carbolic Smoke Ball Company disappeared a long time ago, like the smoke they touted as a cure. One gets the sense that, despite the energy (and desperation?) fueling The One's extraordinary address to Congress, we are being fed a carbolic smoke ball, touted as a cure, but ultimately a fraud and a ruse.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Here's the background -- when children have legal rights to pursue in court (if injured in an accident, for example), they sue through a device known as a "next friend." A next friend is a person who acts on behalf of someone who lacks the legal capacity to act on his or her own behalf. When a child brings a lawsuit, typically a parent or close relative will act as next friend. In many courts, the term "guardian ad litem" (meaning guardian for the litigation) is used.
Personal protection orders are authorized by Michigan law when a court determines there is reasonable cause to believe that the person to be restrained (the "respondent") may commit or threaten to commit an act of violence against the person seeking the order (the "petitioner").
PPOs are available to restrain a spouse, a former spouse, an individual with whom the petitioner has a child in common, a person with whom the petitioner has had a dating relationship, or an individual residing in the same household as the petitioner.
If a child needs a PPO, then the child -- who lacks the legal capacity to sue -- needs an adult to serve as his or her "next friend." Makes sense, right?
Cue Gretchen Whitmer.
On August 18, in the midst of a recession and an impending budget crisis, Whitmer zeroed in on a problem apparently more pressing -- all those 12-year-olds who want personal protection orders -- and introduced SB 734, which would amend the law to say:
If the petitioner for a personal protection order . . . is a minor 12 years of age or older, the petitioner may proceed under this section without a next friend.
So, your 12-year-old can go to court for a personal protection order without you -- or any other adult -- knowing anything about it. Is there any reason for this?
You might say, " Hey, Wiz -- what about a case where a 12-year-old is being abused by a parent? Shouldn't the child be able to go to court without the abusive parent being notified?"
There are a couple of problems with that argument. First, PPOs are ordinarily forbidden where the putative respondent is the petitioner's parent. Second, if the parent cannot be the next friend, there are other adults -- relatives, neighbors, teachers, social workers -- who can be. Third, there are other, more effective alternatives for children in that situation, and fourth, the parent will be notified in the event the PPO is issued, effectively mooting any advantage to a lack of notice.
Ah, but you come back with, "Look, Wiz, isn't the child better off if he or she at least has the option of a PPO?" Maybe, but maybe not. What happens when the child, upset that he can't go to a party, swings by the courthouse to falsely accuse his mother of abuse and to ask for a PPO? Do you think his parents might be just a tad upset when they find out what he tried to do?
"Tsk, tsk," you say. "Most children don't know where the courthouse is, let alone have the wherewithal to get there or to ask for a PPO." Exactly. So why propose to let them do it?
Parents are responsible for their children's protection. If the parents cause harm, they are liable. But these problems are few and far between, and they cannot be remedied by PPOs.
Permitting children to act without their parents' knowledge and participation erodes the family. We would never think of letting children have surgery without parental consent (unless, of course, it's abortion, which the left reveres above all). Why would we consider letting children start lawsuits without their parents' knowledge or approval, or at least the knowledge and participation of an adult?
There is an ongoing legislative effort in this country to circumvent parents and the family, to empower children to a degree for which they are unprepared, and in the process to further degrade the institution of the family. The Great Society programs have destroyed the poor family in America, a development directly related to poverty, crime, and unemployment.
Perhaps this PPO legislation will have no effect at all on the family. Given Whitmer's track record, it will never even see a Senate vote. But we need to stand firm wherever the family is challenged, starting right here at home.
Friday, September 4, 2009
God bless you, Ernie, and Lulu, your wife of 68 years. Your faith in God and baseball is inspiring. Here's hoping we meet again.
Baseball is the President tossing out the first ball of the season and a scrubby schoolboy playing catch with his dad on a Mississippi farm. A tall, thin old man waving a scorecard from the corner of his dugout. That's baseball. And so is the big, fat guy with a bulbous nose running home one of his 714 home runs.
There's a man in Mobile who remembers that Honus Wagner hit a triple in Pittsburgh forty-six years ago. That's baseball. So is the scout reporting that a sixteen year old pitcher in Cheyenne is a coming Walter Johnson. Baseball is a spirited race of man against man, reflex against reflex. A game of inches. Every skill is measured. Every heroic, every failing is seen and cheered, or booed. And then becomes a statistic.
In baseball democracy shines its clearest. The only race that matters is the race to the bag. The creed is the rulebook. Color merely something to distinguish one team's uniform from another.
Baseball is a rookie. His experience no bigger than the lump in his throat as he begins fulfillment of his dream. It's a veteran too, a tired old man of thirty-five hoping that those aching muscles can pull him through another sweltering August and September. Nicknames are baseball, names like Zeke and Pie and Kiki and Home Run and Cracker and Dizzy and Dazzy.
Baseball is the cool, clear eyes of Rogers Hornsby. The flashing spikes of Ty Cobb, an over aged pixie named Rabbit Maranville.
Baseball just a came as simple as a ball and bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. A sport, a business and sometimes almost even a religion.
Why the fairy tale of Willie Mays making a brilliant World's Series catch. And then dashing off to play stick ball in the street with his teenage pals. That's baseball. So is the husky voice of a doomed Lou Gehrig saying, "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.”
Baseball is cigar smoke, hot roasted peanuts, The Sporting News, ladies day, "Down in Front", Take Me Out to the Ball Game, and the Star Spangled Banner.
Baseball is a tongue tied kid from Georgia growing up to be an announcer and praising the Lord for showing him the way to Cooperstown. This is a game for America. Still a game for America, this baseball!
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it galls me when I read that the U.S. is giving hundreds of millions of dollars to UNESCO, which advocates teaching 5- to 8-year olds about masturbation!
UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. In 1984, President Reagan cut off U.S. funding for UNESCO. The State Department said, “UNESCO has extraneously politicized virtually every subject it deals with. It has exhibited hostility toward a free society, especially a free market and a free press, and it has demonstrated unrestrained budgetary expansion."
The ban on funding remained in place until 2004, when it was restored by W. (See, not a partisan post!). Even Clinton refused to fund these nuts.
Since 2002, however, the U.S. has thrown $536 million down the UNESCO hole, and The One wants to send them another $78 million.
So what's wrong with education, science, and culture? Depends on your definition and its application. In UNESCO's case, everything is wrong. In June of this year, UNESCO published a report recommending that sex education begin at five (that's 5) years old. From CNS News:
The report, called International Guidelines on Sexual Education, was released in June in conjunction with the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), an organization which works for universal access to “reproductive health care.”
In its rationale for creating the guidelines, the UNESCO report said it is “essential to recognize the need and entitlement of all young people to sexuality education.” An appendix backed that claim by pointing to a 2008 report from the International Planned Parenthood Federation that argued governments “are obligated to guarantee sexual rights,” and that “sexuality education is an integral component to human rights.” The guidelines are designed, according to the report, to be “age-appropriate” and break down the suggested curriculum into four age groups: 5- to 8-year-olds, 9- to 12-year-olds, 12- to 15-year-olds and 15- to 18-year-olds.
For those aged 5 to 8, some key concepts to be discussed are:
-- “Touching and rubbing one’s genitals is called masturbation” and that “girls and boys have private body parts that can feel pleasurable when touched by oneself.”
-- That “people receive messages about sex, gender, and sexuality from their cultures and religions.”
-- That “all people regardless of their health status, religion, origin, race or sexual status can raise a child and give it the love it deserves.”
-- “Gender inequality,” “examples of gender stereotypes,” and “gender-based violence.”
-- Description of fertilization, conception, pregnancy, and delivery.
Sharp-eyed readers will note not only the integral role of Planned Parenthood, but also the reference to a child as "it."
To take just one aspect of the guidelines, what does it mean to say that all people, "regardless of their health status . . . can raise a child and give [him or her] the love [he or she] deserves"? (Hey, wait -- is the use of him, her, he, and she "gender stereotyping?") To what "health status" is UNESCO referring?
And why are we supporting an organization that recommends 5-year olds be taught about masturbation, and "sexual status?" It might be nice if we occasionally threw in some reading, writing, and arithmetic before we jumped into sex toys and cross-dressing.
We're Americans. We want to be loved. Do we have to be so stupid about it?
Consider the following:
* The "public option" so beloved by The One and his minions was supposedly intended to create competition with private insurers, but now Mark Penn has written that "The subsidized 'public option' was always meant as a transition to single payer, not merely as an aid to competition with private insurers."
* Penn also states that "Americans want universal care as they define it — the unlimited right to have all the health care they need and access to the latest technologies to live longer and extend the lives of their loved ones." Sure, and I'd like a scratch handicap, an invisibility cloak, and the ability to time travel, but those aren't going to happen either.
* The junior senator from the Enchanted Mitten, Debbie Stabenow, said in a recent interview that "The reality is that we need to act when you're talking about 62 percent of the bankruptcies in this country coming because of a health care crisis." This is a flat-out lie. The Fraser Institute did an extensive study of this precise issue, and specifically compared the U.S. to Canada, the left's third favorite paradise (behind France and Cuba). Here are two of their findings:
The most recent data (2006 and 2007) shows that personal bankruptcy rates are actually higher in Canada (.30% for both years) than in the United States (.20% and .27%).
Research indicates that medical spending was only one of several contributing factors in 17 percent of US bankruptcies,and that medical debts accounted for only 12 to 13 percent of the total debts among American bankruptcy filers who cited medical debt as one of their reasons for bankruptcy.
* As part of her ongoing series, TMAC authored part 2 of "Liberal Lies About National Health Care." Read and learn.
I can't remember who said it first, but I have always believed that while everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, no one has a right to be wrong on the facts. Mark Penn surely slipped up when he disclosed the true purpose of the public option (for which he certainly will be taken to the liberal equivalent of the woodshed, perhaps some re-education camp), but at least he told the truth that it is just a path to a single-payer, national health care system. Like all such systems, this will destroy private medicine and innovation, producing long waits for vital medical services and rationing, particularly for the elderly and persons otherwise afflicted and therefore undeserving of special care.
Truth and justice -- more of both, please.
Beyond that sort of rudimentary message distribution, widespread conspiracies are hard to implement, and one should take such accusations very skeptically. It is far more likely that persons pursue similar agendas, not because they are engaged in a conspiracy, but because they share a particular ideology or worldview.
This is the alarming condition -- the number and variety of initiatives spawned, not by conspiracy, but by a common disregard for constitutional liberties and an infatuation with government power.
Cue Gretchen Whitmer.
Last week, I wrote about Whitmer's SB 668, in which she seeks to force crisis pregnancy organizations to distribute abortion information in violation of their rights to free speech and freedom of religion.
SB 668 could be an isolated meandering into the wilderness, but there are numerous other examples of assaults on free speech that suggest Whitmer is part of a greater problem. For example:
-- Sen Jay Rockefeller's staff has been working for months on a bill giving The One the power to seize private sector computer networks during a "cybersecurity emergency" that would be declared by, of course, The One Himself. (Remember that scene in Episode III where Emperor Palpatine "reluctantly" accepts the
emergency powers bestowed on him by his puppet senators and pledges to relingquish them once the emergency is over? Life imitates art.)
-- The Coalition for Urban Renewal and Education and the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons have sued the White House, alleging violations of their First Amendment and privacy rights. Remember the website set up by The One to allow people to report if they believed their fellow citizens were spreading misinformation about the health care bill? Well, what do you think happened with the complaints the White House received? Apparently, right back to The One's friends, who began their campaign of intimidation. As Kathryn Serkes, AAPS' Director of Policy and Public Affairs, put it, "My hate mail started shortly after the White House issued the 'fishy' request. We were quite visible and vocal before then, so it doesn't seem like a coincidence. Who did they share their data with? With whom might they share it?"
-- Democrats and the SEIU pack "town hall meetings" to keep dissenting voices from being heard, school officials in Florida are prosecuted because they had the nerve to say grace before a luncheon meeting, and on and on.
These events are not themselves connected, but the people behind them are -- connected by a philosophy that treats constitutional rights as obstacles to be overcome or ignored, rather than sacred endowments to be treasured and protected.
Gretchen Whitmer, who wants to be attorney general, is part of this anti-constitution mob. She, like the rest, will pay lip service to the constitution, but ultimately she will side with political expedience and opportunism.