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Newt & Joe

Slate.com had an article about Melania Trump and how she “utilizes” (my word) sleeves. The article is titled Why Melania Trump Rarely Uses Sleeves As They Were Intended: A Few Theories.

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And when I think about it, I guess she does wear her coats often like this picture. In the article, they show many pictures of her in that coat-wearing-mode. And then they speculate on why she wears  “Shoulder-robing”.

They seem to recite what might be considered as… the democrat theory. Because maybe it’s her way of not having to hold hands with the President. Come on! Their additional theories are all over the board. It’s all about looking at thinking through the lens of perspective.

I think that if the writer is going to speculate about not wanting to hold hands with her husband, they should also include viewpoints from other political views.

For instance, maybe if you are a republican, you might speculate that she is very fashion-forward. As an independent, you might think she is simply cold. If you have no political view, you might speculate that she is Inspector Gadget. Yes…that’s it! Inspector Gadget!

Of course, it could be like looking at this person. At church or in McDonald’s? Although they clearly answer it for us with the caption:

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There are different ways of looking at things. That’s something Captain Obvious would say. But, I saw it occur at the Richmond Forum on Saturday night.(Info on the event here)

Joe Scarborough and Newt Gingrich and moderator Mara Liasson addressed the topic “Perspectives on the Party in Power”.

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Former Speaker Newt Gingrich brought a laugh to the crowd when he described how politicians used to be able to work together. He said that politicians from both parties would argue in the morning, negotiate in the afternoon, and drink together at night. And that’s how they got things done. Now, there is not as much communication.

I looked for an article to attach on the evenings events, but couldn’t find it. The reason I am blogging about it is because I thought that the topic was well handled from two different viewpoints.

Joe Scarborough is a former republican congressman, who is now an MSNBC host. He had a falling out with the President. Then, President Trump publicly attacked him by calling Scarborough “crazy“, and also calling his co-host/now fiancee Mika Brzezinski “dumb as a rock“. (Story Here) So there might be some personal motivation in his disagreement with the President.

Newt Gingrich is known as a supporter of President Trump. His wife was appointed by Trump as an Ambassador to the Vatican. (She was confirmed by a 70-23 vote in the Senate) And he is now a Fox News contributor.

Mara Liasson was also an interesting pick as the moderator because she is a political correspondent for National Public Radio (which republicans sometimes attack as too liberal) and she is also a contributor/panelist for Fox News. Thus, she gets attacked by both parties.

Scarborough has recently written a book titled “The Right Path“, which discusses where he believes the Republican Party has gone off the rails and how it can be restored to again be the Grand Old Party.

Speaker Gingrich has recently written a book titled “Understanding Trump“.  In the context of the book, he was able to ably defend President Trump. He views the President as a Disruptor that was needed. I looked Disruptor up for definition: to cause disorder or turmoil.  Gingrich believes that right now, that is exactly what this country needs.

I am not going to recite their differing perspectives (I went to the Wizards game last night and saw an exciting win, but now I need more coffee!), but I found myself persuaded by both of their viewpoints. Pretty impressive persuasion!

One of the last things that Newt (I just wanted to use his first name because it has always grabbed my attention. Plus, I do like Fig Newtons… just throwing that out there) mentioned that was not necessarily related to Trump. But, a good reminder on how to get things done politically.

You ought to know who you are, what you believe, and what you’re trying to accomplish. And then you got to find a way to get it done“. That sounds good for politics, but also good advice for every day living!

And for pic o’ day…things do work themselves out!

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Political Winds Plus Some Ramblings

This is a thinking blog starter for Friday… right? It is only understood by coffee drinkers!

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Let’s start with something that is hard to understand. And then something that is understandable.

Hard to understand? It’s a story from Wavy.com. This whole story is crazy to me. Especially the Cheetos.

The title of the article says it all.  Homeowner finds naked intruder in her tub, eating Cheetos. There is a lot wrong with that. Hard to understand! I guess you can look for the positive and be thankful that she did not steal their goldfish! Boom!

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And now to the understandable.

Earlier this week I had breakfast with a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. I had never personally met him, so I did some background research on bills that he had introduced in the last session, bills he had supported, and donors who had made contributions to election/reelection.

I found that Geico had been one of his contributors. They had given more significantly to some Republicans, but he was one of the few Democrats that had received a political contribution from the insurance company, even though it was only $250.

I asked him why he thought that Geico had contributed to his campaign. He advised that he sat on a subcommittee of three legislators that handled insurance legislation. All three of them had received political contributions from Geico.

And that’s how it works! Easy to understand. Does it make you want to say “Good Day”?

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And finally, have a great weekend!

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Politics…Or Just Ticks?

Yes…. it’s Monday, so let’s start casual

feelin cool

Instead of stressed!

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Does it feel crazy out there? Of course it does. Lots of grab for power. And right now federally, the Republicans are doing everything they can to hold on to the House and Senate with the upcoming mid-term elections.

Conversely, the Democrats feel that they will win the House and Senate majority. Probably part of Speaker Ryan’s reason for not seeking re-election. Probably a better chance in the House according to political analyst. But if they win the Senate, you will probably see them try to start impeachment proceedings for the President.

Meanwhile, we suffer while no one works together. The desire for power!

But, uncertainty is the only certainty in politics. There is a long way to go before November. With that background, I thought that a look-back in this day in history would serve as a contrast to the seeking of power of today.

On this day in 1789, George Washington left his home at Mount Vernon, Virginia, to travel to New York to be sworn in as President. According to the George Washington Papers, many had previously written him and visited him, hoping to get him to agree to be the first president.

In one letter that he wrote to Alexander Hamilton, he let Hamilton know his thoughts, “it is my great and sole desire to live and die, in peace and retirement on my own farm“.  In another letter to Hamilton, he wrote, “I call Heaven to witness, that this very act would be the greatest sacrifice of my personal feelings & wishes that ever I have been called upon to make”.

On April 6, 1788, the senators and representatives met in New York to count the electoral college votes. Washington received all 69 votes for president. Washington was not there. He was reached at Mount Vernon and told of the election results.

And now April 16, 1789, before leaving for New York to be sworn in as president, he spoke to a group of citizens in Alexandria to express his emotions about leaving. “At my age what possible advantages [could I gain] from public life?”

And for our pic o’ day

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When To Settle!

I missed blogging yesterday. So, let’s start with some food thought… move to the legal part of the blog (which you are probably thinking  is highly unusual) … and on to some “exercise”. A real plan!!!

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It takes two to tango is a phrase from a 1952 song that has become synonymous with cooperation. President Ronald Reagan used it when discussing Russian and American relations during a 1982 presidential press conference. I have heard it applied to the negotiations during lawsuits.

If one party does not want to settle, it makes it nearly impossible to resolve a case. When a client asks me early in the case whether I think their case will settle, I sometimes mention the Two to Tango analogy. However, the “want to settle” may get influenced, if the assigned judge in the case tells the parties that “you better get this settled“.

I have seen corporations like Walmart and Food Lion take the corporate approach that “you can file suit against us, but be prepared to go to court because we don’t settle cases“. Ultimately, their yearly financial data will tell them if that policy makes financial sense in handling lawsuits. And that can lead to a change in corporate policy.

There are some lawyers that will not take cases against corporations with a no settlement policy, They know that they will have to file suit. And that’s what these companies count on in coming up with that claim policy. On the flipside, not settling cases can lead to significant defense costs and large jury verdicts. That is the corporate balance to weigh.

Yesterday, USA Today had a story (here) titled Trump golf club settles suit from former members seeking refunds. President Trump has previously said that he does not like to settle lawsuits and prefers to fight them. But in this case, he has settled with former members at his golf course in Florida.

The original lawsuit had been brought by golfers who previously purchased memberships at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Course, before Trump bought it in 2012. The golfers sued, claiming that he failed to return their previously refundable deposits that ranged from $35,000 to $210,000, after the ownership change.

According to court documents, Trump National Golf Club agreed to pay nearly $5.44 million to the members who were part of a class action. After legal fees, each of the plaintiffs will end up with about 71% of the refunds they sought, according to the ruling.

When I saw this article, it reminded me of a case that I handled long ago against Food Lion. My client had received about $4000 in chiropractic care, as a result of a fall in one of their grocery stores. Because Food Lion’s strategy was to never pay (at that time), we went to trial in Norfolk Federal Court.

Magistrate William Prince (a former defense lawyer before he went on the federal bench) did not think much of my claim, and dismissed it at the end of the two day trial. He did not let the jury return a verdict after sitting for the entire case. As an energetic crazy young lawyer, I was truly ticked off with the dismissal of the case… and appealed to the 4th Circuit.

At the conclusion of the appellate argument, it was clear from the questions of the panel that the justices were going to rule for my client, and all indications seemed to point to a return of the case back to the trial level, solely on the issue of damages.

One of my great memories from of all my years of trial work includes this case. That’s because, on the way out of the appellate court room that day, the defense attorney turned to me and said, “This is one case that Food Lion should have settled long ago“.

Soon thereafter, I received a call from that lawyer that led to a very satisfying settlement for my client. We caused a change in corporate policy… at least for that day!

 

And finally, in the introduction I promised something about exercise. This counts… right?

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Close the App Loophole

There are some things worthy of being consumed. Fortunately, the Virginia legislature is still turning its attention to distracted driving. Because drivers do more than text.

The Virginia Lawyers Weekly blog just reminded me that in Virginia, it is still legal for drivers to view apps on their phones like Facebook or Twitter, while they are driving. But the Virginia legislature is paying attention.

Del. Christopher Collins, R-Winchester has introduced House Bill 181 to broaden the existing distracted driving law. It would make it a violation of the law for any use of a cell phone while driving. It would also remove a defense. Currently if a police officer wants to cite you for texting and driving, you could presumably just say that “No, I was just checking my Facebook“.

As Delegate Collins explained,  “This law goes after those individuals who are staring at their phone to the point that it diverts their attention from driving along the road“.

As noted in the blog, Janet Brooking, executive director of Drive Smart Virginia, has indicated that her organization supports the bill.  She explains, “If the bill doesn’t pass, people are going to continue to die,” She referenced that there had been an 11 percent increase in traffic fatalities in the past year in Virginia.

This bill is really about saving lives and changing behavior,” she said. “This is an issue that has to be addressed.

On its face you are probably thinking, “This sounds like a good idea”. Here’s the opposing side according to the blog,

Del. Jeffrey Bourne, D-Richmond, spoke in opposition to the bill on the House floor. He said that while he agreed with the bill in theory, he felt it was written ambiguously and could be used as a precedent for bad acting officers to pull over and harass people, particularly people of color.

My heart goes out to every family who has had to deal with a fatality because of a distracted driving accident,” Bourne said. “But equally important and valuable are those drivers who after a pre-textual stop had a fatal encounter with a bad actor who was charged and responsible for keeping our community safe.

He has introduced a different bill to stop distracting driving, that would make it so that police could only pull people with phones…if they are driving recklessly. I guess his reasoning is a “cause and effect bill“.

So there are two sides of the issue. I am glad that no one is trying to introduce No driving with a coffee cup in hand! Just sayin’!

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And for pic o’ day, all I can say is Hahahahahahahaha!

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Punishment Punishment??

I could write about Ed… with cherries on his head. What? There are just some things that are difficult to explain. For instance, in 2016, Americans spent a reported $5.3 million dollars buying U.S. flags… that were made in China. Things that make you go hmmmm!

This blog is about punishment legislation in Virginia. Legislator thinking is the confusing part. And I will present some thoughts, but I cannot promise that I can explain it. Of course, you have to remember what they say about the value of free… and that includes free blogging.

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So here we go. FIGHT THROUGH IT WITH ME!

The headline says, “SB 895 Punitive damages; raises cap from $350,000 to $500,000“. In Virginia, this legislative session had a Senate bill that was introduced to increase punitive damages from $350K to $600K. Then, it was amended to an increase to $500K instead.

It “sailed” through the Virginia Senate committee by a vote 24-15. The question is, “why would someone vote yes or no for an increase in punitive damages?”. Here’s how the voting of the senators was registered.

YEAS–Barker, Chafin, Chase, Dance, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Lewis, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Mason, McClellan, McPike, Obenshain, Petersen, Saslaw, Spruill, Stanley, Stuart, Surovell, Vogel, Wexton–24.

NAYS–Black, Carrico, Cosgrove, DeSteph, Dunnavant, Hanger, McDougle, Newman, Norment, Peake, Reeves, Ruff, Sturtevant, Suetterlein, Wagner–15

It it now headed to the Virginia House Courts of Justice Committee vote, before heading to the full floor. But again, why would someone be against punishment damages.

Just a couple of thoughts. The punitive damage amount has not been increased in Virginia in 30 years. Insurance is required to cover the punitive damage verdict, if such is awarded by a jury and there is enough insurance to cover it. Also, there is a very high legal standard to meet, to get punitive damages to a jury. Otherwise, a judge will strike it from the case.

So again… what makes a legislator vote against or for it.

I think that those against the punitive damage increase, view it as an issue that is related to being pro-business. If you vote against it you must be helping Virginia in bringing more new businesses to the Commonwealth. Also, you are keeping insurance rates down, because you are helping to keep verdicts down. Verdicts that insurance would otherwise have to pay. Does that sound like good logic?

I think you probably know where I am leaning, but I will say that I am all for bringing new businesses to Virginia; and I do want insurance rates to be lower. In the coming days, I will have some follow-up on the insurance rate issue. Believe me! I want lower rates!

Now here is what we know. When you are starting a business in Virginia or you are thinking about coming to Virginia to do business, you are not asking anyone, “Do you know how much I will have to pay in punitive damages?”. Why? Because no one believes that they will do such acts that are so egregious, that they will be responsible for punishment damages. No one asks “I wonder what will happen when I drive drunk the next 13 nights“.

Punishment damages also serve to protect Virginia citizens. We do not want companies coming to Virginia and intentionally hurting its citizens with their conduct or their products. Remember, it’s not about doing something that causes injury with a mistake or accident… it’s about causing harms with reckless disregard. The legal term includes “willful and wanton” which basically means a conscious or intentional act. That’s why a legislator should be protecting Virginia citizens.

I look at those legislators who have voted “no” and I think, “why don’t they care about their constituents?“. Do they also want to protect drunk drivers?

Now that probably seems a bit harsh. But, I am guessing they do not even realize why they are voting against an increase, for something that has been in effect for 30 years. These same legislators are probably not telling Dominion Power to roll back rates to 1980.

A business who does such bad intentional acts should not be able to get away with it, by simply being responsible for $350K. That is nothing to many businesses. Otherwise, and they can just factor bad behavior into their budget.

As to the insurance increase; if a policy is on an individual, they only have to cover the amount of coverage that is written. In Virginia, a minimum policy is $25K. If it is a business, then typically there are assets to cover a verdict. In the instance when there is coverage… they have already charged significant premiums to cover these insurance amounts. So there should be no increase.

Have I convinced you either way? Well, let’s just all hope that we do not deal with people or businesses that commit such acts that are even worthy of consideration for a punishment damage verdict. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see what the House thinks about this issue and whether the increase will ultimately become law.

On a different note for pic o’ day… this can be explained!

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Politics and the Puppies?

Where should we start? Because this blog is a little bit about dogs at the racetrack. And there may even be a little gambling mentioned. So where should we start? How about this as a starter? (Or maybe I just wanted to post this just because it’s Potamus)

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This really is a blog about politics and the puppies. Hence the title! Although, I just saw a highlight of Tom Brady with his hair strangely darkened, and I wish I could write about that. Just sayin’!

I will never forget the time that I went to watch the greyhounds race in Florida. I did not know what to expect. I just kept hearing that I needed to “go watch the puppies run”.

When I arrived, I noticed many retired grisly old men with their racing sheets. They had their cigars and drinks and were planning their bets.

I asked a table of men how they knew which dog they were betting. One said that, “I go down to the track to look at the dogs. If I see one of the trainers with a garden hose, filling the dog’s mouth with water, I know that is not a dog that is supposed to win that day”. 

In 2014, 17 greyhound dogs tested positively for cocaine. At least 383 racing dogs have at Florida racetracks since 2013.(Miami Herald)

According to the article, one farmer who told authorities that in 2002, Florida greyhound trainers were paying him $10 a head to “dispose” of aging, slow or gimpy dogs? The old farmer estimated killing between 2,000 and 3,000 greyhounds over the years, shooting them in the head with a .22-caliber rifle and then tossing their remains into a ditch.

You might be disturbed by this because you are a dog lover, but I write about this for an even greater theme.

You might wonder why there is still dog racing in Florida. It’s true, there is a large movement to do away with it. But the rationale is that it creates jobs. Yes… JOBS.

I have learned that there are a lot of societal ills that can be explained, if they create jobs. Pipelines through oceans and forests create jobs. Natural gas drilling creates jobs. Removal of regulations on businesses creates jobs.

At some point, legislators need to look at the big picture. Cleaning up an oil spill does create jobs, but is that really something that should cause pride?

And that’s my brief foray into politics.

And finally… My friend, Mike Thomas, posted this on Facebook and I had to put it in the blog!

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Noose in the Neighborhood

You don’t expect to come to a legal blog for some Uber humor. Right?

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And much like leaping into an Uber, let’s leap right in to our topic today. I thought I would get crazy and actually write about a case where the Virginia Supreme Court is going to rule. (Richmond.com)

The Supreme Court of Virginia is scheduled to hear arguments this week over whether a man broke the law, when he hung a black-faced dummy in his front yard. It is a question of free speech versus intimidation.

Why is this getting attention? As background, from 1877 to 1950, there were more than 4,000 lynchings of African-Americans in Southern states.  84 of those were in Virginia.

In 2015, Jack Eugene Turner was convicted of violating a state law that specifically prohibits hanging a noose to intimidate. He used a rope to hang an effigy of a black man from a tree in his front yard in 2015 in plain view of the street. A black stuffed dummy hanging from a rope! Is that free speech?

Not surprisingly, Turner is white. He was upset at his black neighbors.

On the circuit court level, Turner got six months in jail for violating the “noose statute”. He argues that his free speech rights were violated and that state law only bars displays of nooses on public land, not private property. His conviction was affirmed at the Appellate Courts. Now, his case heads to the Virginia Supreme Court.

The Virginia attorneys disagree, arguing that the noose was meant to intimidate, and did instill fear in his neighbors. His attorney disagrees.

While race relations are at the forefront of nearly every news cycle, courts should not stray from following the law as it is written, albeit at times unpopular or controversial. The law in this matter is clear,” wrote Turner’s lawyer, C. Holland Perdue III.

In asking the justices to hear the case, Perdue wrote in his appellate brief, “While I agree with the court of appeals and the trial court’s rationale that hanging a noose and a ‘dummy’ is reprehensible and offensive, both have erred on the side of public opinion and not the law. Poor and distasteful speech must be protected.

He went on to write,“Private property affords the owner exclusive and absolute rights to display any symbol or symbols regardless of how reprehensible or offensive we may find them and these symbols are protected speech“.

According to the article, Christopher P. Schandevel, an assistant attorney general, wrote to the supreme court justices that, “Turner hung a black-faced dummy in a noose from a tree in his front yard to intimidate his African-American neighbors, with whom he had been feuding.

The display had its intended effect — causing Turner’s neighbors to fear that Turner might harm them or their children,” Schandevel reported. “Expressive conduct is generally protected by the First Amendment, but expressive conduct that communicates a ‘true threat’ is not. Intimidation constitutes a ‘true threat’ when it is designed to place people in fear of death or bodily harm,” he wrote.

Originally, Turner was convicted of violating the 2009 Virginia law that bars the display of a noose on a highway or other public place “in a manner having a direct tendency to place another person in reasonable fear or apprehension of death or bodily injury.” The charge is a Class 6 felony. That is the conviction that he is appealing.

The briefs set forth the arguments well. All I can say is, can you imagine coming home to a neighbor who has that hanging in his yard?

And for pic o’ day, because we are currently hiring additional lawyers and staff, this seemed topical… and it made me laugh:

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Hammer Meets Nail!

How about a Christmas picture to get Our Blog week started?

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When I received that… I laughed!

Here’s what we know on a Monday. No one wants to hear how someone’s fantasy football team did over the weekend, and no one wants to hear about how much money someone made in bitcoin. Right?  (Yes, I know. That was just random)

We want useful!!! Something that effects us. Thus, I will be a bit random now to get to our ending point.

So let me mention my weight loss idea. On Friday I decided to punish myself for gaining a couple of pounds. I know it sounds crazy, but stick with me.

Recently, I ordered some custom shirts from a men’s shirt company that is located in India. I sent them my sizes. When the shirts arrived, they all felt tight. I was stuck. Send them back and spend almost as much in shipping as I spent on the shirts? Give them away? Or, torture myself. I went with the torture weight loss program of shirt tightness.

With a sport coat on, you probably wouldn’t notice. Me? I felt the tightness all day. One piece of lettuce felt like too much food. I knew I needed to lose at least 3 pounds! It’s the little things. Like not just digging into the Christmas cookies that show up at our office. Which brings me to some poetry for the blog to make us wicked smart!

One of my favorite poems is For The Want of a Nail.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

 I connect that thought to the court system. The 2017 statistics are not out yet but; in 2016, the Virginia Supreme Court issued opinions on 15 injury case appeals. This included death cases and malpractice verdicts.

In those 15 cases, the injured party only won twice. In the sports world, that is a 2-13 record. That is part of a continuing trend in Virginia. Over the last several years, the defense is winning at the appellate level of the Virginia Supreme Court by historic margins.

What do these statistics mean? Stay with me on my stream of consciousness.

Following Tuesday’s election, democrats were celebrating the victory of a an elected Democrat in Alabama. In Congress, it means that Republicans hold a slim 51-49 Senatorial advantage. It makes it difficult to push legislation through unless everyone votes along party lines. Similar to getting judges approved.

There is a similarity in Virginia. Selection of Virginia state court judges occurs through legislative election. Virginia is one of only two states that use this method in choosing judges. The other state is South Carolina.

It’s why  there are court challenges regarding this past November’s elections to determine whether Republicans or Democrats will control the Virginia House of Delegates. Right now, the difference stands at a Republican majority of 51-49, with a possibility of that still flipping.

That impacts laws. That impacts appointments. Which means… that could impact how a Supreme Court justice might apply laws during appeals. That’s not to say that any of the above opinions would have changed. But, in the federal system, it’s not unusual to see a ruling by a 5-4 decision.

Elections can impact judicial appointments. Appointments could potentially impact appellate decisions. It’s why every vote does count. It’s the little things.

And I decided to close with a pic o’ day that is not holiday related. But is is a blog tip…or something!

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Coffee, Voting, and Acceptance Monday

Whether your weekend was filled with snow or rain, I decided to with some coffee, that seems fitting for Monday:

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And now on to something that we can call content for the blog. It might sound handy to have a Sherpa  help you carry your shopping bags down mall stairs during this holiday season?  Well, speaking of Sherpas, the NY Times got my attention with an article titled, Why Sherpas from a remote village walked for hours to vote in Nepal’s elections. The story of appreciation and benefits of a democracy… and the excitement of voting.

Nepal’s Sherpas are known as skilled mountaineers who help climbers in their adventures up summits. For years, they have lived in difficult circumstances with few rights and benefits. In the past 28 years, they have had 26 changes of government.

This summer, local elections were for the first time in 20 years. For Nepalis, they celebrate these elections and have a great appreciation of democracy. According to the article there was a 65% voter turnout. That shows voter “want to”. For many villages, medical treatment is 6 hours away from the village and education is only basic. As Sonam Sherpa summarized, “You should demand basic things like telephones, drinking water, health care and good schools“. That sounds like some good political talk!

For our pic o’ day, this made me laugh. This just seems like acceptance… and understanding!

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