Archive for the ‘The Big Picture’ Category

Revive the Draft? Bite Your Tongue!

So what, then, is your argument? It seems to be that bringing compulsory service back would assure that the middle and upper classes have some skin in the game. You suggest we might not have had those endless wars we’ve had in the all-volunteer era, had the likes of you and me had to send their sons and daughters off to play in that lottery we call war. Well, again, remember Vietnam, Mr. Haberman. There were better-off folks who did not serve, like Donald Trump and (full disclosure) me. But though some deny it, the statistics bear out that the service and the dying did, if somewhat unevenly, involve all classes, and – do you remember this part? – the War still went on and on and on. Nobody could stop it, regardless of the class distribution amongst the warriors, and regardless of the fact that halfway through, the War lost popular support, especially among the better-off classes.

Summer Is Coming

What needs to be done is obvious in outline. It must be governmental and it must be large, and it must do many things that will fetter and direct the so-called free market (heretical to some though the notion may be that the survival of the species should ever trump economic freedom). The necessary actions may threaten certain rich people’s wealth and certain unwealthy people’s livelihoods. The tyranny of the consumer will need to be overthrown.

Relearning Detroit

When so many people choose to engage after hours drinking, gambling and prostitution, the laws forbidding them lose the perception of legitimacy, and police interference with just certain of the communities in which they occur is less law enforcement and more ritual dominance and stigmatization. And, as we’ve recently seen in Baltimore, in Ferguson, and in Baton Rouge, these rituals always eventually provoke counter-rituals of community outrage.

The Offensive Offensive

Even his biggest fans would probably agree that Donald Trump is the most incivil president in our history. We may find in future, that trash talking at the White House is like negative campaigning, impossible to abstain from once the other guy has made it possible.

Interesting Times

For a columnist who writes about policy matters, this is a challenging time. In principle, we live in a target-rich environment. Nonetheless, the situation is actually daunting for a scribe. Because of the interconnectedness of all of these issues, the big picture (which columns like this exist to discuss) quickly becomes too broad to talk about.

Utilitarianism Invades the Window Seat

How little money matters compared to philosophical principle! Who cares if you end up refunding the fares of all passengers (as United did), or if you have to pay fees to lawyers to participate in hearings in multiple state, federal and local venues (as United likely will), or face legal action by the person you caused to be dragged off the plane with a bloody face (as United is). Only by maintaining your monopoly of violence undefiled can you assure that proper philosophy prevails in your friendly skies.

“The Administrative State”: Nothing Less Than Our Civilization

We have enshrined these activities in programs that we shield from political interference, or establishing implementing regulations through a notice-and-comment process that makes them hard to undo. We set our courts to guard these activities through various enforcement mechanisms. And we empower government attorneys and regulators with various degrees of autonomy to prevent interference, including presidential interference, with their actions. To be sure, nothing can be set in immovable stone. Even the Constitution may be amended. But he administrative state is not supposed to be easily movable. It is, after all, our civilization we are protecting.

A Most Telling Consent Decree

At this writing, we don’t know whether the proposed consent decree between the City of Baltimore and the U.S. Department of Justice will ever be approved and go into force. But its 215 pages are worth a read. Sometimes it’s not so much what a document says as what it presupposes that is most telling.

Beyond Big Steel: A Search for Purpose

For a hellish week in October 1948, not breathing that air was not an option. An atmospheric inversion had trapped the emissions from the steel plant and the zinc works in this little pocket of the Monongahela valley, and people started to get sick and die, especially downhill from Mr. Uhriniak’s house. A contemporary map that plots nurse visits tells the story: higher up and further away was safer.

A Litigator Ponders the Election

The clog can be as simple as an explanation of behavior or motives that might be possible but just doesn’t seem likely. Sometimes it’s starker: an inconsistency that is never explained away, or, when the issue is sanctions against your client, an acknowledgment of wrongdoing that does not seem sincere enough. In the weeks leading up to the trial or hearing, you keep expecting that the client, properly though ethically prepared, will be able to explain the contradiction better, or will not only acknowledge an undeniable misdeed but do so in a way that demonstrates contrition, insight, and a determination to do better. If you were scripting it, you might find a way to knock that explanation or that contrite speech out of the park. But there are rules against actually putting words in your client’s mouth, and anyway, the clients who could best use being scripted this manner are always the least educable; even if you tried to train them, they would still tell the story their own inadequate way. And then judges and juries give you that expression.