Worries from the Right About McCain’s Economic Plan

August 31, 2008

According to the iconic conservative  magazine The Economist, which might otherwise favor McCain, his economic policies are dreadful.

‘People on middle incomes would see little benefit [from his tax cut proposals]. Independent analysts agree that Mr McCain’s plans would increase an already huge deficit.’

Image Control

August 30, 2008

The Democrats trying to clear the streets of the homeless for their convention got a fair amount of ink.  The Republicans are using their corporate influence to deny billboard space to photography by Suzanne Opton, whose pictures have appeared on billboards in Syracuse and this week in Denver.

While this is going on, Hurricane Gusav has been raised to category 4 and is scheduled to hit New Orleans on Monday, the first day of the Republican convention.  No doubt the impact will be felt in Minnesota.  Compare McCain’s readiness to delay the convention with the Bush administration’s response to identical news three years ago.

On second thought, the two responses do bear quite a bit of similarity.  McCain calls the coming storm a “near tragedy,” apparently anticipating nearly the worst.  He says that he is praying for himself, as this “near tragedy” could spoil his party.

We though know that he is made of stronger stuff.  He did not let the New Orleans disaster spoil his birthday party three years ago, why should he let this spoil and even more important party?  If Bush brings cake again for his speech on Monday it will be just like old times.

Three years ago we read that Pat Robertson and his ilk thought that Katrina was God’s vengeance on New Orleans.  I wonder what he thinks God is saying this time?

“The Bounce” is a Sign of Transient Impression, not Support

August 30, 2008

Gallup polls report that, after the Democratic convention and the Republican announcement of McCain’s v.p. choice, there has been and 8% bounce in Obama’s popularity among voters.  This is fun to speculate about but it is an unimportant matter, as 67% of the time the biggest “bounces” lead to defeat, according to Gallup.

Alaska Scratches its Head: “Really?”

August 30, 2008

Here’s a discussion of the selection of Palin in the Anchorage Daily News with interviews from both sides of the aisle. Here’s commentary from Fairbanks’ Daily News-Miner, which celebrates the recognition and harshly questions McCain’s judgment.

Here’s a funny blog by an Alaskan.

I’m looking for Alaskan praise of Palin as a vice presidential candidate. Can anyone point me to it?  There doesn’t seem to be much on this exhaustive compilation.

The best analysis I’ve seen of this pick is at Politico.

Wife’s Liability for Husband’s Sex Crimes

August 30, 2008

Should a wife be liable to a child for sexual abuse suffered at the hands of the husband? The Washington Court of Appeals just handed down a fascinating case which discusses a spouse’s liability under Washington law for the tortious conduct of the other spouse. The rule is that the wife’s separate property is immune but community property is vulnerable if the wrongful conduct

“either (1) results or is intended to result in a benefit to the community or (2) is committed in the prosecution of the business of the community.”

In this case the fact that the boy did lawn work for the couple before the assaults was critical to finding community liability. The standard is awfully vague, which makes liability something that can often be argued.

But what if the community was in no way involved? The husband just went off on his own and sexually abused someone (or committed some other tort) far from home? The victim could go after the husband’s separate property but typically there is none. Most couples own community property without much separate property. Is the victim left empty handed? The rule is Washington is that, if there is no separate property, then the victim can get half the community property.

What if the wife files for divorce and enters into a property agreement that gives her the property? This will not work unless the division between the husband and wife is deemed fair.

This is certainly a messy area of law but I agree with the notion, particularly with respect to sexual predators, that there is some duty on the part of the wife, or non-offending spouse, to share some of the financial responsibility, rather than depriving the victim entirely.

This is a very tough call as both the non-offending spouse and the victim are innocent in a very important sense and both suffer mightily in the situation. All things being equal my scales tip a little more toward the victim.

Sarah Palin

August 29, 2008

This is an interesting choice for vice president.  The few Clinton defectors for McCain I’ve seen briefly interviewed (I have never actually met one) say that they cannot vote for Obama because of his lack of experience.  This harkens back to a Clinton speech in which she said that McCain would be better able to serve as  commander in chief than Obama.

McCain selects a woman who is two years out of Wasilla, serving as its mayor, and who is younger than Obama.  This suggests to me that he believes that he can forge a majority with Bush’s Republican far right wing base and women who would have voted for Hillary and just want a woman (other than as First Lady) in the White House, regardless of her policies.

Geraldine Ferraro’s presence on the ticket with Mondale did not bring independents into the fold, nor did it keep Democrats from voting for Reagan.  McCain is hoping that a woman on his ticket will attract that same group (although the Reagan Democrats tended to be male but then again Ms. Palin’s bathing beauty background might appeal to this group).  It seems like a lunge at the Clinton supporters who said they would not vote for Obama.

What is interesting is that this undercuts the rationale for switching parties presented by this group.  If experience is really the critical factor in their vote (which seems preposterous to me), then why would you want Wasilla’s mayor of two years ago “one heart beat away” from the nuclear button.

This choice puts McCain’s age to the forefront as an election issue, something that McCain wants to downplay.  How can the oldest first term candidate in the history of our country running with a 44 year old governor of two years, question the qualifications of the Democratic ticket to govern?  While Obama was pursuing public interest work in New York and Chicago before law school, Ms. Palin was being crowned Miss Wasilla and later runner up Miss Alaska.

This suggests to me that McCain does not believe that the election will be determined by policy decisions or substance so much as impressions and psychological associations.  I hope that I’m wrong, but it does not in my mind augur well for the kind of principled, high minded campaign that Obama called for.

At least some Alaskans are amused by this choice.  Remarkably the Internet videos of our v.p. candidate in beauty contests have been disabled.  This could turn out to be like McGovern’s selection of Eagleton in terms of blowing up in the face of the candidate.  I sincerely hope though that both sides show restraint in the coming months and that the campaign is one of ideas.

The Speech

August 29, 2008

Who are the best American orators? Reagan and Bill Clinton are politicians whose success was based in large part on oratorical style. The civil rights movement owed a great deal to Martin Luther King Jr.’s ability to inspire audiences. Kennedy is remembered for lofty and inspiring speeches. From the previous century we have the icons Patrick Henry, Webster and Lincoln, among others.

Obama is second to no one I’ve heard, as an orator. In the campaign Hillary Clinton downplayed this, as will McCain. Nonetheless, Obama is an historical figure who is profoundly gifted as a speaker. In terms of inspirational content, his speech last night was not far from the “I Have a Dream” speech 45 years earlier and not far from Kennedy’s exhortations to give America your best.

If you have a chance you must attend an Obama speech but in any case watch them on t.v. In years to come you will want to be able to say that you saw this.

Here you can see the speech.

De Facto Parents

August 29, 2008

Benjamin v. Reich , just decided by the Washington Court of
Appeals, discusses the rights of an adult who has  raised a child not related to him or her and not adopted. In 2005 the Washington State Supreme Court adopted a common law rule that a person caring for a child as if he or she were the child’s parent can assume the role of a parent in the child’s life and, if so, the adult’s parental rights will be protected.

Before 2005, and in states that have not adopted this doctrine, both the child and the surrogate parent were out of luck if a biological parent wanted something else for the child.  The old law seemed to treat the biological parent’s rights almost as property rights and gave no consideration to the welfare of the child where someone else was functionally the parent. The new law seems to be much more protective of the child.

This is an illustration of how the common law adapts to changing societal circumstances.  The facts of  this case are far from unique: the child abandoned by the father and the mother living with a man who rears the child as if it were his own.  Calamity befalls the mother and without the de facto parent doctrine, the man who has reared the child, and with whom the child has a primary relationship, has no right to see the child or have a voice in its care.  There are many variants from this fact pattern, and the Court’s recognition of a child’s parental relations with reponsible people who are not biological parents goes a long way to stabilizing the life of a child of unfortunate domestic circumstanes.

Washington Supreme Court Strikes Blow for Telephone Customers

August 28, 2008

Today the Washington State Supreme Court unanimously held in a thirty page opinion that Michael McKee could sue AT&T.

Mr. McKee received this green flag from the court a number years after he filed his suit. He is suing for false utility charges on the bill and for illegal, usurious late charges. He made his claim a class action on behalf of others in Washington.

This of course is what class action suits were intended to do, make a company responsible to everyone it wrongs when it gouges a small amount of money form a huge number of people. Otherwise there is no effective way to get them to stop.

The reason I linked to this case is because there is so much publicity against class actions and consumer law suits. I thought it would be useful for you to see how misleading the publicity blitz is. The cards are heavily stacked against the consumer.

I believe the Washington Supreme Court deserves a lot of credit for this unanimous decision protecting the rights of Washington consumers.

When Mr. McKee signed his contract with AT&T his entered into a Byzantine world of conditions, stipulations, and waivers of rights which literally stripped him of his right to sue and left him without any of the rights we think that we have when we enter into commerce.

Our Court found many of these provisions unconscionable and unenforceable in affirming the basic right to sue.

Yesterday I talked about a medical malpractice claim that had been in the Courts for nine years without having gone to trial. While it is unclear from the Court’s opinion, this case appears to have been in court for four years, each of which was spent litigating pretrial procedures. The case could easily go on for years to come.

Read if you will the opinion and see what Mr. McKee has had to go through to just get his right to a trial confirmed.

Is there no interest in politics?

August 28, 2008

I wonder how much interest there is in politics. My impression is that there are not very many people following events closely. In conversations I sometimes notice that there is not much in the way of fact or analysis behind a political opinion. People in general are very busy and at least many do not have time to invest in politics.  The networks do not seem to believe there is much interest, as coverage of the conventions is limited.

But being too busy does not account for all of it. Last night I raced out of my office to watch the convention. It did not seem to be on the televisions of the bars in the Pioneer Square area but the people at the New Orleans were happy to put it on.

It turned out to be quite an evening with Beau Biden speaking about his father (this was surprisingly moving), Joe Biden giving a spirited talk. Bill Clinton gave a rousing speech which should quell any doubt about his commitment to his party’s ticket. Kerry gave a great speech. I kept wondering as Kerry spoke “Where was this four years ago?”

I could not help but notice as the restaurant and bar filled that no one else had the slightest interest in the convention. There was not a glance at the tube and when I circulated around, no one was even talking about politics.

This apparent disinterest certainly distinguishes Americans from people in other countries. Our voter turn out is not only the lowest but my impression is that our level of interest is probably even comparatively speaking lower than citizens of other countries.

Last year for example I was in Borneo where a tribesman tried to engage me in a talk about Bush. We could not communicate effectively enough for a discussion but he got across to me that he favored the approach of fighting people rather than talking to them. This I admit did dampen my enthusiasm for a conversation with him.

But I think that for democracy to work, the voters must be informed. I am not sure that we as a group are currently at the required level of understanding for our democracy to function best. It seems that the information age has failed us in this respect.