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How About Some Politics

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Here’s the thing… I stayed up too late last night. I went to to the Washington Wizards game and then I watched the election returns unfold on my iPad, on the way home. (I wasn’t driving. I promise.) And I am going to do something that I rarely do in the blog. Talk politics!

I think election returns are like watching a sporting event. In the end, you feel true victory or loss. And every election, the candidates always say that “this is the most important election”. Is that possible?

All I know is that Democrats feel pretty happy about New Jersey and Virginia. Republicans in Virginia…not so much. (It is uncertain based on recounts, but Democrats may have erased a 16 delegate Rebublican majority in the house of delegates. Unexpected!) I think New Jersey republicans had already braced themselves for the outcome. The true test of an independent is whether last night caused mixed emotions.

But here is a reminder on how politics works. The Trump tax bill is a good example. In that bill, there is a tax credit for “unborn children” that applies under the college saver tax break. Do you see what that does? The bill summary specifically recognizes “a child in utero”. Abortion advocates are being impacted by a tax bill.

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Why would that be part of a tax bill? Because including that can motivate the base to support the tax bill, just to support an anti-abortion piece of legislation. And that’s how politics works! Legislation and laws determined the real wins and losses.

As application to the elections yesterday, what does it mean? Well, I personally don’t think it means anything to the national stage except that those two states did exactly what they wanted to do. No national message is being sent, despite what is being reported.  Just my thought.

Virginia had already previously voted for Hilary in the national election. Why is the election of a democrat for governor (Northam) all that telling? I think it’s just a reminder that Virginia is going to do what it wants to do. And the pendulum will swing back republican again soon. And that’s politics!

In the end, It kind of makes me miss the simplicity of Forrest Gump. In the movie, Forrest tells people, “My name is Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump“. Wouldn’t life be simple if that’s how it really worked! I crave real!

 

And for pic o’ day, a reminder that no matter what happened in the elections, it’s no time to panic. Or maybe it is!

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President Chester A. Arthur

On this day, October 5, 1829, Chester Alan Arthur was born. Does that name ring a bell? Do you feel like you are playing Marco Polo with Marco Polo?

When I saw this day in history, I thought that I recognized the name. Then, I looked it up and saw that he became our 21st U.S. President, when he succeeded President James A. Garfield after his assassination. I think I remembered it from one of those tests I took in 4th grade. Or am I thinking of Douglas MacArthur?

I’m not trying to make the blog a history ride, but I think that there is some analogy to what is important in politics today… or what’s not important. I write that, because it seems that before every election, I constantly hear the statement, “this is the most important election ever”. And maybe right now it is. Just as the next one will be more important than this one.

But, I am fascinated by what was important when Arthur became President. Arthur worked on reforms such as the Rivers and Harbors Act. At that time, the act was specifically relating to whether Congress should appropriate $75,000 to improve navigation along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. It was pretty controversial. Now, that navigation doesn’t seem so controversial!

He also signed the Pendleton Civil Service Act into law, which provided competitive testing for jobs in the federal government, rather than just awarding jobs on the basis of a relationship with a politician or political party affiliation.

At the conclusion of his Presidency, Mark Twain evaluated him by writing, “It would be hard indeed to better President Arthur’s administration”. The New York World wrote, “No duty was neglected during his administration, and no adventurous project alarmed the nation”.

When I read about his Presidency, I was interested in what was important then. I also wondered whether we would ever have a President leave office where newspapers and public figures would actually compliment that president’s administration. Hard to imagine in these days of politics.

And speaking of comparisons, how about this pic o’ day?

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Excuses and Spins

In yesterday’s blog, I noted a defense lawyer’s creative defense for his client. It hardly even amounted to a creative excuse.

If you watched 60 Minutes on CBS the last two Sunday nights, you saw the Presidential candidates and their VP picks being interviewed. Both interviews provided reminders of how politicians have the ability to spin their stories with great excuses and ways of dodging responsibility. Who knew that filing bankruptcy or being criticized for email security breaches could be portrayed as something that is not important… or actually a positive lesson.

Which brings me to Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey.   Jack Handey, as seen in that attached website, is a real person. But, Al Franken played the character of Jack Handy on Saturday Night Live, who supposedly dispensed wisdom for everyday living. Except, that it was nonsense wisdom. And, it was back in the day when Al Franken was a comedian who wasn’t funny, instead of a Senator  who isn’t funny. (If you saw his speech at the Democratic National Convention) But I digress.

Some of Handey’s supposed wisdom was directed at why he drank wine… or shouldn’t have. And then the excuse. It reminds me of the defense lawyer’s nonsense of a defense… just sayin’

Sometimes when I reflect back on all the wine I drink I feel ashamed. Then I look into the glass and think about the workers in the vineyards and all of their hopes and dreams. If I didn’t drink this wine, they might be out of work and their dreams would be shattered. Then I say to myself, ‘It is better that I drink this wine and let their dreams come true than be selfish and worry about my liver.”

“See… there’s always a way to spin it”, says every politician.

And for pic o’ day, it’s all about the hug!

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Politics and Argument

On September 7, 1964 during the Presidential campaign between Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater,  Johnson’s campaign broadcast a controversial television advertisement that is now known as the Daisy Ad.

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It portrayed a little girl picking petals from a daisy while counting up to ten. During the count, a baritone voice off camera took over the countdown, culminating with a visual showing the explosion of a nuclear bomb. The ad only aired one time but impacted the election results.

The Johnson campaign was trying to convey  that electing Barry Goldwater as president also meant  the danger of a nuclear war. Goldwater’s campaign had been handing out a bumper sticker for supporters to put on their cars that said In your heart, you know he’s right.

After the Daisy Ad had aired on television, the Johnson campaign handed out a bumper sticker in response to the Goldwater sticker that said In your heart, you know he might” and “In your gut, you know he’s nuts.

Johnson won the presidency by a landslide with 61.05 percent of the vote.  At the time, this result was the widest popular margin of the 20th century.  In the actual count of the Electoral College , Johnson defeated Goldwater by margin of 486 to 52. In state count,  Johnson won 44 states, versus Goldwater’s six. The impact of the vote also gave Democrats the largest majorities in Congress since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s election in 1936. A Senate with a 68-32 Democrat majority and a house with a 295–140 Democratic margin.

Prior to that ad, the election was considered a close contest. After the TV ad, Goldwater was apparently viewed as dangerous and reckless. The voters convinced themselves.

Yesterday, I sat in an arbitration hearing and listened to the opposing counsel’s argument about our client’s injuries. At the conclusion, my closing included a reference to politics and how a Ted Cruz supporter would have a difficult time convincing a Hilary Clinton supporter to change their vote.

It’s hard to win an argument. I usually learn from arguing that I never learn anything from arguing. So I went in search of a quote on how to win an argument. I was reminded that A man convinced against his will… is of the same opinion still!. I just hope that the arbitrator came without opinion!!!!

And for pic o’ day, maybe sometimes its just more fun to fit in:

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Protecting Wrongdoers and Punitive Damages

     After a good weekend plus a Colts win, I usually stay away from negative. This time, I am getting something off my chest! 

     At the end of October, a group of distinguished lawyers, judges and law professors got together at the Homestead to discuss issues in the law. The group meeting is called the Boyd-Graves Conference.

     The background for the formation of this group is best said on it’s website:   “The Boyd-Graves Conference was created by the late Thomas V. Monahan, a former VBA president, who believed that civil practice in Virginia would be improved if lawyers with different types of practices, from all regions of the state, would meet and attempt to reach consensus about ways to improve the law.” It was formed in 1978 and has been very helpful in addressing question and needs of law and practice.

     This October meeting did make several significant recommendations. Then, the issue of Virginia’s laws regarding punitive damages immediately ran into a group obstacle.  

     Right now, Virginia has a state cap of punitive damages in the amount of $350,000. That means that if an entity, company or individual is found by a jury to have done or committed an act that is “willful and wanton”, which is worse than negligence. There are several legal terms for it, but basically it is willful and egregious conduct. It basically almost has to be intentional or just a disregard of doing what is right. I probably am not even describing the standard strict enough.

     Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant; deter such future conduct by that defendant as well as others in the future;  and in doing so, protect the citizens of the state where the punitive damages are part of a verdict.

         I know I am getting too much legal stuff… but here comes the meat of my blog.

     The cap of $350,000 was enacted in 1988. If adjusted for inflation, the cap would now be approximately $677,000 without any real increase. Still, Boyd-Graves rejected any proposal to eliminate the cap or even raise it to a mere increase of $500,000.

     When you hear the term a “business-friendly” state, you assume that it is helpful to attract businesses to Virginia. In fact, it probably does. However, I really wonder if anyone really finds out what the state caps on punitive damages are, before relocating to that state. If they do, I don’t think that is really the kind of business that we should want to open up here. Instead, I would think that they are mainly looking for tax incentives. 

     I could get stirred up more about this. A business that generates billions in revenue can create a product that they know will kill Virginia citizens. Then, they know that they are only going to be punished in an amount of 350K maximum. It can be something added to their projected balance sheet.

     In past lawsuits, there have been many memos uncovered that showed businesses considering the expense of injury versus profit. Profitability… that doesn’t mean protection for Virginia citizens. To me, I don’t think that a business should be able to weigh its conduct against what the margin of expense per violation or lawsuit in punitive might be. Punishment should really be punishment. For most big businesses, 350K has no meaningful message.  I just thought that this is topical, with an election on Tuesday.

     For pic o’ day, I am posting one of my Dad on a recent vacation. It makes me smile. (Sorry Dad!!!!!)

Truth or Consequences of the Elections

     A new fast food commercial shows a chicken, stomping and clucking, while the voice over announcer  asks us whether we can find the chicken nuggets on the chicken.  Then, on behalf of the commercial, he says “neither can we”.

     A young boy was asked to give the definition of the word “lie”. In response, he recited two Bible verses, put together, as his definition. He said, “a lie is an abomination unto the Lord, but a very present help in time of danger”.

     The elections will send some back to their offices and others that as replacements. All have made promises. I thought that an election blog should be short because that would be exactly opposite of all the political rhetoric. Following all the elections, we will now know what’s real or what is just something dreamed up as a nugget. How about someone keeping a promise for a change?

Nikki Haley’s Lawyer Campaign

     In 1978, a low budget movie titled “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”  hit the Big Screeen.  The concept was that tomotoes had decided to revolt against humanity. It was somewhat driven by the previous Alfred Hitchcock movie, “The Birds”, where angry birds attacked humans.

     In the movie about these killer tomatoes, the government keeps assuring everyone that there is no real threat. The President’s press secretary, meanwhile, assembles a team to go undercover and infiltrate these angry tomatoes. Unfortunately, the team’s cover is blown when one of them, while sitting around the campfire eating hamburgers, asks if someone would pass the ketchup.

     The movie ends with a giant carrot standing up out of the ground and announcing, “All right you guys, they’re gone now”. Of course, there were more captivating sequels with such enthralling titles as “Return of the Killer Tomatoes!”; “The Killer Tomatoes Strike Back!”; and “Killer Tomatoes Eat France!”

     With just a bit of time to go before Tuesday election day, we have now entered the political funny season. Campaigns pull out all stops and overspend to get last minute messages on the airways.  Sometimes you just aren’t sure what to fear. Is that a flock of Birds or a bushel of tomatoes that is headed this way?

     The NY Times just did a book review and discussed that the author has figured out what is the driving force behind the beliefs of our President. In short, he’s a philosopher who simply “has a love for America”.

     Sometimes, when you see certain statements made in politics, like the one in the previous paragraph, you just have to keep on driving; Nothing to see here. I have wanted to do that regarding the political campaigns of Democrat Vincent Sheehen and Republican Nikki Haley, for South Carolina Governor.

     I have not contributed to either campaign. However, I have watched as Haley has sidestepped attacks on being unfaithful to her husband and failing to pay taxes. Haley denies the charges of the two gentleman that make the  intimacy claims,  as being attacks by people who “simply want to get in the news“.   The two who allege the physical relationships, happen to  both be republicans, but they had worked for opponents during the Republican primary. Since, one of the “gentleman” has produced phone records of late night calling between  Haley’s number and his number.

     Haley has faced attacks on failing to personally pay taxes on family income and also repeatedly having tax issues at the family business, where she was the person responsible for the books and the filing. Reports indicate that she has repeatedly paid tax fines going all the way back to her returns in 2004. Her response to all that has been that she understands the difficulties of personal and business hardships. For that reason, she has assumd the role as the pro-business candidate.

     None of that did anything but make for interesting reading to me. I did keep my eyes on the voting poll surveys and it appeared that the people of SC were not bothered by any of these issues, as she held a lead. Her opponent is a lawyer, so it didn’t surprise me that she would attack him as a lawyer; I have seen that political playbook, repeatedly. 

     Then, I saw a story on a Haley ad.   It shows a picture of Sheheen and describes him as an Obama liberal and a trial lawyer. Then, the ad appears to have a picture of him,  with bullet holes in it. 

     Part of Haley’s campaign is to attack the legal profession and portray it as bad for business. As the Pro-Business candidate, one of the items where she is proposing great change,  involves the Worker’s Compensation Commission.

     Currently, the Governor of South Carolina has the authority to appoint those as Commissioners, to sit and hear all job injury claims. Not surprisingly, as each Governor comes in, Commissioners are replaced,  with those that more closely mirror the new administration philosphy. That is exactly what Governor Sanford had done and, there were Commissioners appointmented who have been very Pro-Business in their rulings. Ultimately, though, Commissioners are still required to follow the law,  which still recognizes benefits for getting injured on the job.

     For Haley, that’s not enough. She  states that she wants to get the laws changed regarding how permanent injury is determined. If the legislature goes along with that, then she will be able to change the law.

     More significant is her opinion on the appointment of Commissioners. Because on the job injuries are costing business, she believes that there needs to be something done about that. Her remedy: Only non-lawyer/business persons could be appointed to sit as a Worker’s Compensation Commissioner.  Having “accomplished and respected members of the business community” will assure that these benefits that are paid to injured workers, will no longer be so expensive and part of a “subjective judicial process”,  because business leaders would be viewing the claims with an eye for what is good for business.

      Sometimes Politics can be better than a good book. It can even take you for a better spin than “Dancing with the Stars”. On Tuesday, I guess South Carolina will determine what they want for the future. As to the injured worker, will they end up on an episode of Lost?  Or,  should all those lawyers supporting Sheheen, be viewed as large Red objects that are angry at humanity?

Mr Splashy Pants and Politics

     The Japanese Fisheries Agency had a plan to kill 50 Humpback whales. The environmental organization, Greenpeace, decided to raise awareness  about this planned killing by “placing a name with a face”. The idea, as part of its Great Whale Trail Expedition, was to name one of the whales. To do so would give the planned killings a great deal of attention; And in doing so, possibly stop the Japanese Agency’s plan.

     Greenpeace was hoping for a name that would indicate something about courage or to show that the Whale had great personality. The online community was invited to submit names and over 11K were submitted. Out of those, 30 were picked for an online poll by Greenpeace. Things were moving along as hoped.

     After the initial voting, the name  “Mr Splashy Pants” was the online winner. It wasn’t a name that Greenpeace wanted to embrace because they felt that it was making a joke out of their intent to save the whales. They even claimed that the name “was not beautiful enough”. Then, Greenpeace announced that there had been a glitch in the voting and that there would have to be a reconsideration of the vote, because there had been an IP address that  had improperly and repeatedly voted, by finding a way to circumvent the voting check, by disabling the cookie counter.

     This enraged the online community. In response to that, the online community rallied around the “Mr Splashy Pants” name, and he won by a nautical mile  by tallying over 78% of the votes. Telling the online community that it wasn’t a good chosen name only drove them to make sure of the end result, with extra effort. In fact, Greenpeace now has adopted this amazing campaign by even having Mr Splashy Pants mugs, T-shirts, and all kinds of other whale goodies.

     Next Tuesday is the much anticipated mid-term elections.  Federal and State elections will be held and there are many who believe that the Tea Party will influence these elections.

     Because of our Law Firm office in South Carolina, I receive repeated emails from both sides, indicating why one candidate or the other will be good or bad for the future of the State. The current leader in the polls, for the SC governors race, is a lady who has faced many personal attacks on her morality and her truthfulness. It appears that several of the attacks have some factual basis.

     Despite this campaign against her, her poll numbers show an increase in support and the Tea Party has adopted her as one of their own. I suspect that on Tuesday, she will be elected to  replacing Governor Sanford. 

      This is just one instance where telling a motivated group that you are picking the wrong one,  has only served to motivate. The principle of “you aren’t doing what we want” in the whale naming, seems to be the same kind of motivation that is being ignored by those currently in power. 

     There is more at stake than attention and a good campaign for mugs and T-shirts. Hopefully, those that are elected to office will be ready to govern. In South Carolina, the state has been a bit slowed, because the current Governor,  was determined to remain in office. In all states, there seems to be an anger that is motivating the voters. I suspect that most of us know the outcomes that will probably occur next Tuesday. Only those in denial don’t see the big whale that is headed their way.

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