Aside from that, Mr. Ashcroft, how was the play?


“Americans have been spared the violence and savagery of terrorist attack on our soil since September 11, 2001.”

— John Ashcroft, November 9, 2004.

Well, he’s certainly a glass-half-full kind of guy, isn’t he? Who knew?

To Julie Newmar: Thanks For Everything, Jim Belushi


What else is there to say? Except to say it in Danish, of course:

An Immodest Proposal


Half the country believes in salvation through force. The other half believes in cowering under the bedsheets. Or so the pundits say.

Actually, it’s more complicated. There are definitely a left and a right wing in this country, but there’s also a center that was pretty dissatisfied with both candidates. Now I’m definitely on the left, but I think the center deserves its due. And frankly, voters looking for Anyone But Bush would have welcomed a centrist. Some of those voters held their noses and voted for Kerry, but others did the same and voted for Bush. How could they have broken this logjam?

We need three parties in this country. It’s as simple as that. Not the Nader party or the Greens, but a center party that can attract enough votes to hold the center against the extremes and become the second choice of enough people to win office a large part of the time.

Step One: Abolish the electoral college and institute direct popular vote with an instant runoff.

Step Two: Have the Democratic Party break up and split its organization and financial resources between two new parties: one centrist and one left of center.

No, it won’t result in Republican supremacy. The centrist party will get off to a running start and draw centrist voters and dollars from the Republicans. Left Democrats will be able to sharpen their ideological message without having to coddle the centrists — just as the Republicans did after ousting the Rockefeller wing in 1964.

The centrists will almost certainly win elections if instant runoff prevails, because they’ll be everyone’s second choice. That won’t spell defeat for the left — what spells defeat is the present system that forces the left to shut up every four years while the Democratic standard bearer utters platitudes about issues that cry out for more.

The right wing will win elections in Mississippi and Idaho, and the left wing will win elections in New York and California, providing enough of a base to goad the center with ideas that might eventually break through to a majority. With three parties in Congress, the process of building coalitions will become more transparent and involve the voters a hell of a lot more than is the case now.


The Rosemary’s Baby Presidency


I know W. has been called “President Neo,” but really the current administration is shaping up like a remake of “Rosemary’s Baby.” If you haven’t figured it out, here’s the cheat sheet:

The role played by John Cassavetes is now being played by George Bush. Sidney Blackmer’s and Ruth Gordon’s roles now go to Karl Rove and Karen Hughes. The Ralph Bellamy part goes, naturally, to Dick Cheney, while the Maurice Evans role goes to Richard Clarke and the Patsy Kelly role to Ann Coulter. And the part of Rosemary will be played by the American People.

Memo to: David E. Kelley


First there was Ally McBeal. Then there was Boston Public. Now there’s Boston Legal. What exactly does David E. Kelley have against the City of Boston?

Kelley’s lawyers and teachers have never borne any relationship to reality in this particular town. That’s not entirely for the better; sometimes the wacky characters he creates would be better for the real Boston than the staid, gray personalities that inhabit it.

But overall, they create an impression of a city completely obsessed with idiocy. The newest show makes Ally McBeal look like the memoirs of Oliver Wendell Holmes. The male lawyers are all fatheads, the women either willowy or bosomy or both, if that’s possible. They have no conception of ethics or the art of advocacy, and seem blissfully ignorant of the law they are paid to practice. The only decent thing in the pilot was the homage, if that’s what it was, to the pilot of LA Law: opening with a senior partner carted off to the hospital.

The Most Amazing Unreported Story of 2004


Aside from the war, most of the big issues of importance to Americans have either been ignored or watered down by the Democratic candidates, other than Kucinich and Braun.

But the issue that should be of overriding importance to every American, or at least every Democrat, has been completely ignored (in fairness, I heard Braun mention it once before she dropped out of the race). That issue is the perversly undemocratic Electoral College system that permitted Clarence Thomas to elect Bush president all by himself.

Ever since I’ve been aware of politics — and that goes back to 1960, folks — the election season was not complete without a map in the newspaper or on TV showing how *chuckle* it would be mathematically possible for some disgustingly small fraction of the American people to elect a president, simply by winning big in most of the small states and a few big ones. Yet American citizens have never been angered by this to the point of actually pushing for change — EVEN WHEN IT ACTUALLY OCCURRED in 2000.

It’s not just that states’ electoral votes are skewed toward the smaller, more conservative states — it’s the insane winner-take-all system used in most states to award all the electoral votes to whoever gets a majority in that state.

Yes, it’s true that the latter feature used to benefit Democrats by permitting them to roll up elections by winning New York, California, and the industrial midwest. I still don’t like it.

Face it, Americans are more mobile than ever. Telecommuting and the internet have increasingly made a person’s actual place of residence ever more irrelevant. But every four years, unless you live in a ‘swing state,’ no one really cares what you think.

The only way to make every person’s vote count is to count every person’s vote equally with every other’s. And that means a general election in which all individual votes are counted nationwide, without the intervention of ‘electors.’

We seriously need to think about direct election of the president by nationwide vote. Are there any members of Congress willing to start?

November 3 Update: 8 months after I wrote the above, the NYTimes agrees. Isn’t it time to start working on this NOW?

Did Saddam’s capture make us safer?


I’m not entirely sold on Howard Dean. We just don’t know enough about him yet. Take away his opposition to the Iraq war, and you may have a gun-toting, Bible-spouting wild card who desperately needs to loosen his necktie. Maybe yes, maybe no.

But I don’t see how anyone can quarrel with his statement that the capture of Saddam Hussein hasn’t made the US any safer. He didn’t say it lacked any beneficial aspect whatsoever — just that it hasn’t made us safer. When Joe Lieberman was asked by Chris Matthews how it made us safer, he had to mumble some circular nonsense about stability in the region. No one has refuted Dean’s statement — they’ve just called him a traitor, in essence, for saying it. But I don’t see how the party out of power can go wrong by telling the truth.

Capturing Saddam would have added to US security if it had occurred in March 2003 while he was still in power, assuming he had the capacity at that time to launch an attack on the US. But it didn’t (and he didn’t). It occurred while he was reduced to hiding in a hole with his hoard of cash and some rodents. I don’t see how someone can be called a threat to US security when his present ability even to bathe is severely hampered. It may be gilding the lily to point out that no WMDs were found in that hole.

The “insurgents” fighting a guerilla war against US forces were loyal to Saddam at one time. Only the lunatics among them would retain that loyalty now. Their only rational short-term goal is to avoid capture and trial for crimes against humanity; perhaps if they succeed in that, they might eventually drive the US forces out and fight to retake power. Even if they were able to defeat the US-installed government, they would never restore Saddam to power. Why should they? He bungled things, destroyed the country and cost his supporters many lives. Moreover, anyone loyal to Saddam must have something of Arturo Ui in him and, having gained power, would hardly feel a reason to share it with Saddam. Once you’re out, you’re out.

Saddam’s capture must have gratified the Iraqi people. If he is put on trial, it will aid the quest for human rights around the world (perhaps to the distress of the US). But it did not make the world safer for Americans — in fact, days later the terror threat level went up.

In the long run, the way to increase our security is to increase world security — by working through the UN, by keeping our promises, and acting out of something other than imperial self-interest.

Random epigrams for our time


Donald Trump is the Hugh Hefner of real estate

Fun with Anagrams:

(S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom) = Saving Women

About me …


I’m a 54-year-old lawyer, a 1973 graduate of HLS, and a sole practitioner in the Brighton section of Boston.  I grew up in Brooklyn, and have lived and practiced in San Francisco and Stamford, Connecticut.  I’ve worked in Legal Services for the poor and a municipal law office, and have managed a local rent control bureaucracy.  Along the way, I’ve worked on anti-Vietnam War and gay rights litigation and the Daniel Ellsberg case.  My one-person, one-room law practice is now focused, if that’s the word, on real estate transactions and litigation, landlord-tenant law, estate planning and probate, but the lack of hierarchy provides the constant joy (occasional terror) of being able to (having to) take on whatever interests me (comes through the door) at any given time.  It does make me feel like Abe Lincoln on occasion, although in my neighborhood the hourly fees haven’t changed much since Abe’s time.

Although I was an early adopter of computer technology in the law office, I’m not plugged into an institutional network, so I’m trying to keep current with older equipment (a PC at work and a constantly crashing pre-USB Mac at home) and a dial-up connection.

Oh — the catchline is an adaptation of the title of Paul Krassner‘s 1993 memoir, Confessions of an Unconfined, Raving Nut.  Krassner was (with Abbie Hoffman) one of the original Yippies and, as what might be described as the mutant love child of I.F. Stone and Timothy Leary, published The Realist, an underground magazine that recklessly combined counterculture news, paranoid conspiracy theory, and political satire into a unique and surprisingly influential force in the 1960s and ’70s.  I’ve always admired his steadfast determination to publish what (on some level at least) was the truth, despite the many personal setbacks which his efforts unleashed.

This site is intended for my professional and political self-expression.  Let me know what you think.

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