Saturday, April 12, 2003

CONFESSIONS OF AN ANNOYED ADVOCATE OF THE PEOPLE

After twenty-one years doing this and that for My Country Tis of Thee, I decided to go to law school. I didn't want to do it initially; I was reluctant to hit school for another three years at fortysomething, plus I didn't want to incur large amounts of debt (this was before the current trend of borrow and spend led by the GOP). But my wife poured three glasses of wine (a Pinot Noir, in case anyone cares) into me and said I must go. So I applied, was accepted (I think I got in under affirmative action for veterans and old farts) and here I am.

I always had it in my mind that I would help people who needed help. You know, the downtrodden, the underrepresented, those whom society scorned, etc. My first appearance in court was on behalf of two gay men who were being driven out of their home in rural Nebraska by their landlord for being gay. We ultimately settled favorably for the plaintiffs, so I guess we won.

Since then I've done a wide variety of legal jobs: prosecutor, criminal defense, family law, workers compensation, personal injury, and even a few wills. All of these jobs are prime example of what an attorney is supposed to do: be an advocate for the client. We are a surrogate, a mouthpiece, the foil in court, the battleaxe of truth, the hammer of justice, the bell of freedom, the song about love between . . . sorry. And that's as it should be. That's what the word "attorney" means: someone who represents, or acts for, someone else.

Only one thing bothers me: Nowhere in law school or in my many conversations with the wise attorneys who have supported me in my career, did anyone tell me that once a client hires you, they immediately cease thinking. I don't think the roots of the word "attorney" derive from the idea of "thinking of everything for someone." And the idea of being a counselor (another part of our job) carries with it the idea that, if you come to me for advice, you're going to FOLLOW THAT ADVICE! I see far too many people who believe that, once the attorney is on the job, they can switch off their cerebrum and bump against objects at will without accepting the consequences of their actions.

We have a legal system that, when all parts work together, actually works pretty well. I get frustrated at juries but I wouldn't trade the system in for anything else. I get frustrated at prosecutors who are the tools of police; who don't do their jobs by telling the police "you don't have a case." I get frustrated at defense counsel who would rather play procedural games than address the merits of a case. I get frustrated at clients whose first question is "when do I get my ten million dollars?"

Where am I going with this? The only time that, realistically, there's a problem with the American system of justice is when any part of it stops doing its job. That means if a jury hands down a verdict without good, clear thought, it's either going to be an insult to a horribly injured victim or it's going to call down the wrath of the insurance companies about "runaway juries." That means if an attorney takes a case claiming that McDonalds fries made me fifty pounds overweight, it's going to draw ridicule on the legal fraternity. That means that if a judge sleeps through a murder trial, the judiciary loses credibility.

But most important, that means that clients need to have a sense of reality. The guy who was caught standing on a streetcorner with his pants full of crack, with dust leaking down the seams of his pants, can't come to me and say, "Here's fifty thousand dollars, get me off." It means if you have a hurt pinky finger in a car wreck, you're not going to get a million dollars. It means that if your company's plant manager treats his female employees as his personal harem, the company can't realistically expect the defense counsel to let them get away scot-free because the manager didn't give the CEO a written report of his activities.

If people would own up to their own actions, maybe I wouldn't be so frustrated. Maybe I should take that job renting out surfboards at the beach.

Friday, April 11, 2003

AVE IMPERIATOR?

Hesiod tips us off that a member of Congress -- a DEMOCRAT, no less -- has introduced a resolution to repeal the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution. That's the original term limits amendment.

In the words of Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles, "Are you crazy? They'll never go for it! But then again, they might!"

Still think I'm paranoid?

UPDATE

I checked on the record of Rep. Jose Serrano of New York City, the introducer of this bill. A New Yorker of Puerto Rican birth, he's a liberal's dream. Send him an email at JSERRANO@MAIL.HOUSE.GOV and ask him if maybe now is not the best time to submit this bill.
ANOTHER CHICKENHAWK SURFACES

It's beginning to look like the entire neo-conservative movement and its cheerleaders either never wore a uniform or, if they did, it was to play dressup for costume parties. We know, of course, that George Bush was AWOL for a year and a half from his cushy Air Guard unit in Texas -- the one that kept him out of Vietnam. We know that neither Cheney nor Wolfowitz served at all. We know that Rush Limbaugh missed serving in Vietnam because of a boil on his bum. (For a complete list of chickenhawks who didn't serve and the "reasons" they didn't serve, see The New Hamphsire Gazette's Chickenhawks Listing or AWOL Bush.) Now we find out that, according to a Times Union story, "pro-America rally" organizer Don Neddo lied about being a paratrooper in Korea.
Don Neddo, the force behind the region's biggest pro-U.S. troops rallies, will no longer organize the demonstrations after admitting Thursday that he fabricated his combat service.

Neddo, 70, never parachuted into Korean enemy lines with the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade during the Korean War and never suffered frostbite overseas, as he claimed in a Times Union story on March 29.
Here's the deal, from this raving liberal retired Air Force officer (1972 - 1995, with two years off for ROTC training and commissioning). If you didn't serve, you don't get to beat the war drums. If you didn't wear a uniform, you don't get to wave the flag to lead the battle. If you took advantage of your power, money, or "medical infirmity" to avoid the draft while thousands of others took their chances thirty years ago you don't get to tell our men and women to go and fight and die; nor do you get to tell me to "love it or leave it." I have more respect for someone who went to jail as a draft resister than I do for someone like Dubya who used his father's influence to get an appointment to the Texas Air Guard, then proceeded to be AWOL for a year and a half (which, by the way, under the UCMJ and for most low ranking schmucks is called "desertion" and punishable by court martial).

Just a thought.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

MARK D. HIATT: WRITE-IN CANDIDATE FOR AIRPORT AUTHORITY

I am supporting the write-in candidacy of Mark D. Hiatt for the Lincoln Airport Authority.

Mark is a licensed private pilot and long-time aviation writer. He was the aviation forum editor for the Microsoft Network for several years and continues to be an active member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Organization and the Experimental Aircraft Association. He's been around airplanes all his life: as he puts it, he's the classic Norman Rockwell kid who leaned his bike against the airport fence to watch the planes take off. As he got older, he washed airplanes in exchange for flying lessons. Ask him sometime about the effect of a 300 mph airplane on a grasshopper. He knows aviation from the ground up. As it were.

He's never actually run for the office, but every election, I've written his name in. This year I am urging others to do the same simply because there is no one, apart from Glenn Witte, who is not a 100% pure business toady running for Airport Authority.

The Airport Authority may seem like a small-time, unimportant board -- nobody cares about them. But they are the folks who work with airlines to get decent fares and schedules for flights out of Lincoln to the rest of the world. It may seem like not much of a problem to drive the extra hour to Omaha, but in these days of two hour security checks, that extra hour can make a big difference.

Write in Mark Hiatt for Airport Authority on May 6th. I'll bet he'd serve if elected.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

DONATIONS TO THE BARRICADES

I got tired of seeing people like Atrios, Daily Kos, and the girls at Mars or Bust living in the lap of luxury from the millions of dollars they get in donations for their blogs, whilst we on the barricades live on nothing but French fries ... er .. freedom fries thrown to us by the occasional passer by. So I am now announcing the Official Barricades Donation Program:

We on the Barricades will not accept cash donations. We will, however, accept donations in the following forms:

1) Chocolate chip brownies
2) Cognac
3) Zinfandel
4) Nude pictures of Anne Coulter
5) Sexual favors from persons of legal age

For information on where to deliver these things, contact the editor. Otherwise, if you really feel the need to donate something, contribute to your local food bank in our name.

Now if my boss fires me for blogging on duty, I may rethink this policy.
THE SKUNK STARTS TO BITE

So it begins. Here's what we can expect now that we've conquered Iraq:
The people of Hay al-Ansar, a district on the outskirts of Najaf, were glad to be rid of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party rule when the city was seized by US forces last week.


But they appear to be just as terrified, if not more so, of their new rulers - a little known Iraqi militia backed by the US special forces and headquartered in a compound nearby.

The Iraqi Coalition of National Unity (ICNU), which appeared in the city last week riding on US special forces vehicles, has taken to looting and terrorising the people with impunity, according to most residents.

"They steal and steal" said Abu Zeinab, a man living near the Medresa al Tayif school. . "They threaten us, saying 'we are with the Americans, you can do nothing to us.'"

. . .

The allegations against the ICNU threaten to undermine much of the goodwill built up by US forces among the people of Najaf, who still wave and cheer at US troops driving through the city. In an effort to curb the looting, which is rampant in Najaf, US forces have begun to patrol at night. They will not be undertaking specific police functions, according to their commanders, but "if we come upon looting, we will try to control the situation and disperse those doing the looting," said Lt Col Marcus De Oliveira, of the 101st Airborne Division.

The city's political rivalries appear to be affecting humanitarian assistance to the town. US special forces have objected to allowing certain local Shia religious leaders, with ties to Iran, to distribute food aid.
Multiply this by a city of several million, armed with all the weapons that have melted away along with the Iraqi army, the Republican Guard, and the Ba'ath "security forces." Multiply this by the number of cities in Iraq. Multiply this by the number of American engineers in Iraq to help get things going again. By the lack of a government structure. By the number of groups who will want part of the power structure.

No, this isn't over by a long shot.

(Courtesy of Financial Times via Hullabaloo)
SARCASM: OUR ONLY LEGITIMATE WEAPON?

The war is over. One side benefit is that we don't have to be nice to the President any more. That means we can start pointing out how much of a loser he and his policies really are.

I've given a lot of thought to how best we of good sense can combat the Bush regime. There's the vote, which I always encourage people to use. There's writing to our representatives, which I still think does a bit of good. But let's face it: when it comes to money and the media, the right has us outgunned five to one. At least. Maybe worse.

That's why we need sarcasm. Sarcasm is our force multiplier. Sarcasm killed Bill Clinton -- a president who, had it not been for a few cum stains, should have been a hero for his excellent management of the economy. We need loud, nasty, uncut, public sarcasm of George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney. When Bush talks about rebuilding Iraq, we make jokes about Halliburton and Cheney. When Rumsfeld talks about our mission in Iraq, we talk about pesticide. When Cheney talks about damage assessment, we ask for bomb damage assessment on the economy.

Tell them we don't believe them, and do it in the nastiest way possible. Support Bill Maher, John Stewart, and Dennis Miller. Irony is very much alive, and it's the thing we need most.

Sarcasm: the liberal's force multiplier.
STUCK WITH THE SKUNK

It looks like we've succeeded at picking up the skunk called Iraq. There is toppling of statues, dancing in the streets, and the looting has started in Baghdad. Saddam Hussein is dead, hiding in Russia, hiding in Tikrit, or somewhere else. Wherever he is, he's not running things. The people of Iraq really are now waving flags and kissing Marines. The networks are already running their "we won" videos. Parades are, no doubt, in the works.

They're also looting. They're starting to point out former Ba'ath officials for being "taken care of." The US doesn't want to patrol the streets for fear of "appearing as an occupying army." (NY Times) Those repressed now want their revenge. There's an old Polish proverb that says that once you've had a foot on your neck, you only know one thing to use as a footstool for your own foot.

Don't forget that the Kurds are still moving towards Kirkuk and threatening to take the city -- something the Turks have said they won't put up with. The Shi'ia haven't begun to talk yet; the Sunni are probably scared shitless (or, shi'iteless, as RW would say).

And as Steve Gilliard at the Daily Kos points out,
The US war against Saddam may soon be over, but that may only be the start of the Iraq war. There are millions of guns, rockets and mortars, billions of rounds of ammo, scattered across the country. No one knows who controls them or what they have planned. The Shia want control of their destiny, as do the Kurds, and the Sunnis may not be happy to lose power.
Now granted, the US has a long history of dealing with a lot of people with lots of guns. But that's in our country. I don't know if the NRA will be able to organize so well in Iraq.

Yep, we got a skunk by the tail. At some point, we have to set it down. Re-e-e-e-a-a-a-l carefully. Then, if we are smart, we will get the hell out as fast as we can.

I'm not convinced we're all that smart any more.
PERMANENT PATRIOT ACT: HELL NO!!

The Republicans want to celebrate the liberation of Iraq by making the Patriot Act -- the most severe curtailment of civil liberties in American history -- permanent. Currently the provisions of the act will expire in 2005. Orrin Hatch and his buddies want to make them permanent.

No. Absolutely not. Not only no, but hell no. No f*cking way. Forget it. Don't even think about it.

Chuck Hagel, if you mean any single thing you've said in the last six months, you'll come out immediately against this lunatic idea. Ben Nelson, if you weren't just grandstanding about turning down the invitation to join the GOP, you'll go on record immediately against any permanency to the Patriot Act.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

IT PAYS TO ADVERTISE -- SORT OF

The unofficial Lincoln Primary election results are in. For those of you who don't live here, the rules are this: Highest two vote getters move on to the general election next month. The election is allegedly nonpartisan. Right.

In the mayoral race, subject of a shock and awe campaign by the GOP, Republican Glenn Friendt, reaping a good harvest from his sowing of many advertising dollars, pulled slightly less than 52% of the vote, compared to Democrat Coleen Seng's slightly less than 48%. That's a heckuva jump, considering that a month ago he was down in both the Democratic and GOP insider polls. Of course both will move on to the finals next month. Personally, I have to think that this is a bit of a surprise for Rick Hoppe, Seng's campaign manager. A couple of months ago he was looking at a 25 percentage point lead. But that was before the "meet the candidate" ads hit the air for Friendt. Seng hasn't done nearly as much TV work.

In the Northeast City Council district, hotly contested between Patte Newman and former councilmembers Jerry Shoecraft and Curt Donaldson, Shoecraft got the boot. (heh heh heh). Newman pulled 42% of the vote; Donaldson, with next to no advertising money, managed almost 29%. This gives us an interesting race: Newman has the backing of her relative Steve Kiene and his not insubstantial financial contributions ($35,000 to date). Donaldson has little more than a pretty good reputation as a hard worker and a trustworthy representative. Newman is a raving liberal. Donaldson is a pragmatic progressive. Newman is a Democrat. Donaldson used to be one until he ran afoul of certain Democrats over the sale of Lincoln General Hospital a few years back (or so go the rumors). I don't imagine the GOP embraces Donaldson wholeheartedly; still, he could give Newman a run for her (and Steve Kiene's) money. Nevertheless, I look forward to having Patte on the city council. She shouldn't take it for granted, but her odds look pretty good.

The other city council candidate who accumulated a pretty hefty warchest was Jim Strand, who challenged Jonathan Cook in the Near South district. In a bit of a welcome surprise, however, Strand barely pulled 40% of the vote, while Cook garnered over 60%. Strand seems to be using the same advertising techniques as Friendt, but somehow they aren't working for him in the Near South. Personally, I think his problem is that the campaign literature depicting Strand as a stranger vying for a job as the "councilman for Alltel" is effective. Maybe Seng's people can take a page from that? Jon Carlson deserves a tip of the hat for his management of Jonathan's campaign -- don't give up yet.

The Near North district is a different problem. Annette McRoy, the incumbent, faces a challenge from Sanine Beck and tonight managed to gain only 53% of the vote to Beck's 46%. Ms. Beck is, among other things, a former vice-chairman of the Nebraska GOP and a fundamentalist activist. McRoy is one of the three consistently liberal members of the city council. I haven't seen a lot of advertising on Beck but if the GOP senses that McRoy is vulnerable (and it looks like she might be), expect them to divert money to Beck's campaign.

In Northwest Lincoln, incumbent developer Jon Camp led Democrat Kevin Johnson 53% to 47%. That's also a surprise, considering that Camp has a good amount of money, he's the incumbent, and Kevin Johnson is a newcomer. However, Camp also has a reputation for being divisive, argumentative, and a pain in the neck (he was considered a very good candidate for mayor till he backed out of the race for these very reasons). Kevin Johnson is a nice guy, reasonable, and very personable. If he's burning shoeleather going house to house, he may well make up the deficit and oust Jon Camp.

This "primary" is, in effect, a relatively accurate pre-election poll. It gives candidates a good idea of who is strong and who isn't. It also tells us who needs to get the vote out. Turnout for this election was predictably pathetic: 21%. The Democrats will almost certainly push to get the vote out, especially in Jonathan Cook and Annette McRoy's districts. This will have two benefits: first, it will increase each candidate's chances of winning, and second, those districts are traditionally Democratic and the more votes that come in from those areas, the more votes are likely to go to Coleen Seng.

But now is the time for the Democrats to spend those bucks for Coleen. And it's time to get her out to the city to meet people. It's time to make sure everybody knows that Lincoln is doing better than every other major city in this state, and that a good part of the reason is Coleen Seng. It's time to point out that with four Democrats on the city council and a Democrat in the mayor's office, this city is doing pretty darn well.

It's also time to question the accuracy of Friendt's advertising. It's time to ask him some very pointed questions. Like, if he has all these good ideas, why didn't he spring them on the city council over the last four years? Why has he been the councilman in absentia? Was he really a Marine? What connections does he have to businesses? What promises has he made to businesses who've contributed to him? Why won't he tell us anything about his plans to improve neighborhoods? If he's connected to the GOP, and the GOP is busy ruining the economy of the country and the state, isn't it logical to think that he will ruin the economy of Lincoln, too? Won't he be a puppet of the state GOP, following their orders instead of looking out for Lincoln and our people first?

But I don't want to go negative or anything.

UPDATE

Despite my voting for him consistently for the last ten years, Lincoln pilot and aviation writer Mark Hiatt has failed to be elected to the Airport Authority again. The city is again the loser. A write-in campaign is in order. More on Mr. Hiatt's qualifications to come.

"EVERYONE WAS FRIGHTENED OF DOUG. HE USED. . . SARCASM."

Just when I am ready to move to an island and let this pathetic people go to hell in their own way, I run across something like this.

No regime can survive being made to look ridiculous. This may be our strongest weapon, and maybe that's what we on the Barricades should take up instead of the sword of righteous anger. What do you think? Is Glen Friendt a good target for satire? God knows Bush is!

Monday, April 07, 2003

IF I TELL YOU, I'LL HAVE TO KILL YOU

Once upon a time I practiced in the area of veterans' law. This is a field in which one tries to do battle against well-entrenched bureaucrats whose sole purpose is to deny benefits to veterans who have injuries derived from their service, either combat or non-combat related. It can be very frustrating, because it's very slow, the Veterans Administration can be very intransigent, and time is on their side: many veterans are aging and dying and often it's a race against death.

I applaud every single person who served his or her nation in uniform, in any capacity. I don't care if you were the personal bodyguard for the President or you shoveled horseshit, you volunteered and for that I honor your service. Unfortunately, however, there seems to be a breed of veteran who thinks it necessary to make their service seem more glamorous than it was. These are the guys who tell you that they can't tell you what they did. They were in "special forces" -- and they want everyone to believe they are not allowed to say what they did in the military.

Bullshit. I was a spook in the military. That's not a secret: I was an intelligence officer and, before my commissioning, was an intelligence technician. I worked on the RC-135 and on ground communications projects. As an intelligence officer, I interviewed refugees.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

And that's my point. Anyone in special operations or any other clandestine service knows that you don't attract attention to yourself by saying "I can't tell you what I did." You have a cover story. The guy who slipped behind the lines in Vietnam and garroted North Vietnamese officers was listed officially as a company clerk. The pilot of the aircraft who flew over Russia tells people he flew cargo aircraft. Bob Kerrey, had he not come under fire in Haiphong harbor, may well have told everyone that he was on a gunboat in South Vietnam.

If you wore the uniform, that's good enough for me. Don't try to impress me by saying, "I can't tell you what I did in 'Nam." I'm impressed enough that you were there. I am not going to believe that you went by the code name "Agent Orange."
WHY DO WE EVEN BOTHER?

You will have noticed that I've been off duty for a few days. A goodly part of that is being overwhelmed again with work, theater (by the way, for a glimpse at the future of American journalism, read the review of Hamlet by the Daily Nebraskan, the University's daily "newspaper") and domestic life.

But a lot of it is having come to the realization that it doesn't do a damn bit of good to want to save the world -- the world doesn't want to be saved and, in the words of Robert Heinlein, resents any efforts to do so.

Case in point: last night I went to see Crosby, Stills & Nash. It's great to see guys who are on the cusp of sixty -- hell, some of them are sixty -- still rocking, and still trying to sing songs of peace and freedom, still trying to stop the war that always seems to be going on. We thought we won that battle thirty years ago, didn't we? Wrong.

One would have hoped that their singing would have inspired the audience, moved them to action as it did in the 60s and 70s. Nope. What moved the crowd was the discovery that during the intermission the concession stands ran out of beer. Suddenly the herd of mouthbreathers panicked. Dashing from window to window, with wide-eyed fear, they begged, they pleaded: "You must have another keg back there somewhere! they cried. They cursed, they accused the poor college kids behind the counters of being the children of unmarried parents, or being incestuous themselves. Meanwhile, on stage, CS&N were begging us to "Feed the People" and to "Find The Cost of Freedom" -- but the boobs wanted only beer.

No wonder Fox News is the leading "news" network: there's plenty of time to go look for beer. They don't require anyone to think. They do the thinking for you.

Why do we bother?