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I miss Milton Friedman

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 23, 2010 in Randomness

Back when I was a college dropout, I developed a really intense interest in economics — probably owing to the fact I was perpetually broke and working low-wage jobs :beatup:

I started reading some of the economics books that were out at the time (I’ll confess to even reading a Paul Krugman book or two) in addition to the classics like The Wealth of Nations. Then at some point I read Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt which, the title of the book notwithstanding, is a comprehensive, accessible, and mind-changing analysis of economics and government.

After reading Economics in One Lesson I found myself falling into what is known as the Chicago “school” of economics, and from there read a string of books from folks like Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Milton Friedman.1  Friedman in particular was fun to read because he had a similar intelligent-but-accessible style as Hazlitt. He even had a ten-part TV series on PBS talking about economics :surprised:

Anyhow, at some point while roaming around the web today I saw this video among the “related videos” links you get on YouTube. It reminded me of the Socratic method of law school a bit… but also reminded me that I miss Milton Friedman and economists who can engage their audiences.

Here’s the video:

Have a great evening y’all! :)

  1. Hayek and von Mises are actually considered part of the Austrian school, but I’m lumping them all together here because they have similar principles — don’t send me hate mail if you’re a Hayek or von Mises fan :P :)   []

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5 thoughts on this Shirley Sherrod foolishness

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 21, 2010 in Unsolicited Commentary

If you’re one of those folks lucky enough to not know who Shirley Sherrod is, stop reading this entry now and go to another website :) This easily ranks among the very dumbest fabricated political controversies I’ve seen in awhile — and I don’t want any of you complaining that I’ve wasted minutes of your life enticing you to read about it :P

For everyone else keeping up on the controversy, I just have five thoughts on it:

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1) Most people talking about this “controversy” are just regurgitating TV talking points
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I learned that earlier today when I made a comment via Twitter and got into a pair of lengthy back-and-forth discussions with one of my old roommates at N.C. State and one of my colleagues at NCCU Law. Apparently my opinion was sufficiently outrageous that several third-party observers of our conversations felt the need to argue with me via other channels… only to later concede they hadn’t actually seen anything beyond what was reported on CNN or MSNBC.

If you’re not familiar with the incident and disregarded my opening warning to skip the rest of this entry (last chance! turn back now!), it all began on Monday with this entry at BigGovernment.com, a website run by conservative activist Andrew Breitbart. It features commentary from Breitbart claiming the NAACP is hypocritical on race issues and is coupled with two clips of Ms. Sherrod speaking at the local NAACP’s Freedom Fund Banquet. In the clips Ms. Sherrod tells a tale of being approached by a white farmer in need of help to save his farm from foreclosure, and she “didn’t give him the full force of what [she] could do” because he was white. The moral of her story was her later realization that issues of race are often more accurately characterized as issues of class, or in Ms. Sherrod’s words “it’s about poor versus those who have”.

Within a day Sherrod was forced to resign by Secretary of Agriculture Tommy Vilsack and was denounced as a racist by NAACP President Ben Jealous1 — both clearly overreacting out of fear they would be seen as defending reverse racism. Then everyone reversed course a day later, claiming Ms. Sherrod’s remarks were taken out of context, and the NAACP leadership even having the guile to claim it was “snookered” by Fox News (which hadn’t run anything about the story until after Ms. Sherrod was fired by Vilsack and denounced by Jealous) before posting what the NAACP claims is the “full” video on its website. The airwaves are now replete with everyone hurling the “racist” label at everyone else.

The whole thing has been so absurdly outrageous, so predictable, so orchestrated, that you’d be forgiven for thinking you were watching a movie. It’d be a farcical comedy if it wasn’t our federal government and the leadership of one of the nation’s oldest advocacy groups taking part as primary actors…

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2) Shirley Sherrod shouldn’t have been fired…
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Every law student in the country is familiar with the twin concepts of Statutes of Limitation and Statutes of Repose.

For the non-law-inclined, in overly-simplified terms a Statute of Limitation sets a deadline for filing a lawsuit once you realize you have a claim; they’re designed to prevent a Plaintiff from “sleeping on his/her rights” to the unfair detriment of the Defendant, who may not be able to mount a defense if records have been disposed or other evidence is lost. In North Carolina, for instance, the statute of limitations for most offenses is three years with one-year extensions in certain circumstances (such as when you don’t discover the injury until after the SOL date has passed).

In equally over-simplified terms, a Statute of Repose is kind of like a SOL on steroids. After the deadline set in the Statute of Repose you can’t file a lawsuit at all under any circumstances, even if you didn’t know you had a claim. These are most common in product liability cases, where a SOR is commonly set based on the date the product was manufactured or the date it was initially purchased by a consumer.

Both the SOL and SOR are essentially decisions by society (through our legislators) that certain offenses are more or less significant than others. Again using NC as my example, most misdemeanors have an SOL of 2 years while violent misdemeanors and felonies have no SOL at all (you might have heard the line in Law & Order episodes or other crime dramas that “There’s no statute of limitations on murder” in most jurisdictions).

Even if we assume the very worst about Ms. Sherrod — that her videotaped admission of not providing the “full force of what [she] could do” was true and a result of her personal bias toward the man seeking her help — it was an admission about something that happened over 20+ years ago. There are numerous crimes that society has decided aren’t significant enough to be prosecuted after 20+ years, along with nearly every tort in nearly every state. Had Ms. Sherrod committed professional malpractice in any other profession, the Statute of Repose in North Carolina would have passed in the mid-90s.

Unless there was some kind of indication Ms. Sherrod was still engaging in this kind of discriminatory conduct, as opposed to simply relating a story of personal growth, this particular instance in the 1980s should have been left alone as a dead issue and her job security shouldn’t have even been questioned. Instead she was thrown under the bus by her government employer and vilified by the NAACP out of fear of the political fallout if it appeared they were supporting reverse racism.

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3) …but that hardly makes her a paragon of civic virtue
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In a predictable fashion that only politics can provide, once the “full” video was posted the ensuing political commentary became totally unhinged from reality. Commentators started insisting that not only were Ms. Sherrod’s remarks “taken out of context” but that she had actually done nothing wrong in the first place.

Both claims make no logical sense.

If you haven’t already done so, go back to those entries I listed in #1 above — read the entry on BigGovernment.com and its video snippets, then watch the “full” video on the NAACP website. If you just want to listen to the farm-related story in the “full” video, it’s from 16:23 to 21:26.

I’ll wait until you get back ;)

Even in Breitbart’s original entry (the one that has since been blasted by the White House and the NAACP alike as “selectively edited”) it’s clear to even a cursory observer that Ms. Sherrod’s story is one of personal growth. She was admittedly derelict in her job duties because of racial bias, but later learned “it’s about poor versus those who have” as opposed to race. That context is right there at the 1:44 mark in BigGovernment.com’s first clip, which is the same as 18:23 in the NAACP’s “full” video.

Where’s the lack of context?

The idea that her conduct was exemplary is also bizarre. Ms. Sherrod says very clearly and unambiguously that she “didn’t give him the full force of what I could do. I did enough.” That alone was bad enough, but she compounded her original failing by voluntarily picking out a white attorney for the farmer to use for filing bankruptcy since she figured “his own kind would take care of him.” It’s right there at 1:26 to 1:43 of the BigGovernment.com clip, which is the same as 18:06 to 18:21 of the NAACP’s “full” video.

It’s roughly akin to me (the farmer) drowning in a pool (the farmer’s debt), but because the lifeguard (Ms. Sherrod) is biased against fat (white) people and assumes I’ll float (escape foreclosure), he (she) decides to throw me a defective life preserver (Ms. Sherrod’s limited help) instead of diving in to rescue me (the “full force of what [Ms. Sherrod] could do”). Then when I’m still drowning he (she) throws a defective life jacket (the incompetent white bankruptcy attorney). Then when I’m a few seconds (hours) from death (foreclosure), he (she) calls over to another lifeguard (the black bankruptcy attorney) who dives in for the rescue.

Generally when a government actor has done something wrong, there is no tort liability for negligence against them when it’s an issue of nonfeasance, meaning the government actor simply has failed to take an action they were supposed to take. Tort liability for negligence typically does arise, though, when it’s an issue of misfeasance, meaning the government actor has taken some affirmative action but did so negligently and harmed the injured party as a result.

Based on Ms. Sherrod’s remarks, the farmer was smart enough to notice his white attorney (selected for him by Ms. Sherrod) was not doing his job and he would need someone else. But had the farmer not been that vigilant in monitoring what was going on and his farm been foreclosed, is there any question that he’d have an actionable claim for negligence against Ms. Sherrod?2

I’m sure Ms. Sherrod is a nice lady, and I take her at her word in the speech that she no longer has her former misguided views on race that led her to not fully help a white farmer and then pick out a deficient white attorney for him. She shouldn’t have been fired.

But that doesn’t mean she should be deified instead.

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4) The “full” tape isn’t even the full tape
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There’s not much to say here other than wondering what’s going on behind the scenes. The “full” tape posted by the NAACP pretty clearly is not the “full” tape. If you watch it closely you’ll notice an obvious cross-fade at the 21:00 mark where something was clearly cut out.

Why would you post something for public review and claim it’s something it isn’t?

A bigger question, for me at least: why has no one in the media noticed the missing snippet, instead breathlessly repeating that it’s the “full” tape?

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5) But none of it matters, because this entire controversy is stupid
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I’m convinced everyone commenting on this manufactured controversy has lost their minds.

To my fellow conservatives: do any of you really think pointing out racism in the NAACP would somehow mitigate racism (if found) within the Tea Party movement? Supposedly that was Andrew Breitbart’s motivation in posting his initial entry on Monday, but I vaguely recall something called the “two wrongs make a right” fallacy — which I also vaguely recall being mentioned by Jesus himself in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 5:38-42).

Following up on that question, do you think it’s wise to issue an open challenge to folks to “prove” racist elements in the Tea Party? In Wake County alone, I’ve seen Republicans claim a black sheriff was releasing detainees because of their race, and I’ve seen Democrats justify the liberal Nanny State by claiming blacks weren’t intelligent enough to take care of themselves. I’d venture to guess that you can find racists in any mass movement in the country. It seems kind of dumb to instigate that discussion — especially when, if someone were to be pointed out using racist language, they’d just be dismissed as not being a true representative of the movement.

And to my liberal colleagues: do any of you really think government personnel are justified if they “didn’t give [someone] the full force of what [they] could do” as a result of personal bias, as long as they learn from it after the fact? Government employees at the local, state, and federal levels who merely “did enough” to barely comply with the letter of the law were often rightfully denounced during the Civil Rights era, and yet now one is being exalted because she had an epiphany after the fact.

Following up on that question, do you think it’s OK for the government to abuse one of its employees by forcing them to resign over a decades-old controversy? Claim remarks were taken out of context all you like, the fact of the matter is a good chunk of the liberal establishment in this country threw Shirley Sherrod under the bus without any investigation or critical evaluation because they were worried about electoral repercussions. The people who supposedly believe in defending “the little man” instead smeared one for the sake of political expediency.

To the media: who told you electing Barack Obama was going to lead to some “post-racial” society where race was no longer a topic of controversy? I’ve read this in so many news stories it’s comical. Huge chunks of the country don’t pay enough attention to politics to even know who the President is, much less that he’s black, much less that his blackness is supposed to influence their opinions on race. Your collective obsession with the transformative power of Big Government blinds you to the fact the overwhelming majority of voters and taxpayers prefer being able to go about their daily business without government intrusion — and that as a result the government has a very limited ability to shape their beliefs. I’ve got a litany of problems with President Obama’s politics, but the fact he didn’t usher in an illusory “post-racial” society isn’t one of them.

And to everybody: what exactly have we gained from this manufactured controversy? Sure we’ve “gained” a bunch of people getting pissed off at a bunch of other people and vice versa. And we’ve “gained” a fresh lease on life for a lot of really worn out political analogies (e.g. that opposing the unchecked expansion of a clearly incompetent federal government is tantamount to racism). And we’ve “gained” a collective recognition of the obvious point that we still live in a society where race is a Big Deal™.

But beyond that, this entire pseudo-scandal has been a waste of everyone’s time… and only highlighted the abject foolishness that now passes for racial discussion.

***

That’s it from me —  I promise promise promise you this isn’t going to become a political blog, and I’ll have something law-related to write about soon :) Thanks for enduring the rant, and have a great night! :D

  1. As a former dues-paid member of the NAACP, I haven’t been impressed by President Jealous. His conduct with this incident confirms my disappointment in him and how he got (s)elected. []
  2. Assuming she was a normal government actor as opposed to a federal employee. I’m side-stepping discussion of the provision of the Federal Tort Claims Act exempting “discretionary function[s] or dut[ies]” from liability — the fact Congress hasn’t allowed a right of action where most states do is separate from whether Ms. Sherrod’s conduct was wrong IMO. []

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Reason #1,516,398 why the federal government is broke

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 20, 2010 in Fail

Even though I can’t seem to get mail from the NC DMV, one thing I’ve noticed over the past few days is a string of letters from the federal government about my student loans.

I got all of these today, and that’s on top of 4-5 I got last week.

8 separate letters... saying the same thing :crack:

Did they say anything interesting? Billing notices maybe? The semi-annual notices on how much interest has accrued, perhaps?

Of course not :beatup:

Each letter just noted that one particular student loan or another had been deferred since I’m still in school.  “But TDot,” you ask, “do you really have 12 different student loan accounts with the federal government?” No I don’t… most of the letters were duplicates of each other. In the stack in this photo, these are all deferment notices for just two accounts, with only the date stamps being different between them.

I wasn’t a fan of the Three Stooges1 deciding to nationalize the student loan industry, but I was willing to accept it because the corporate welfare model that was in place before nationalization wasn’t exactly working either.

But can anyone explain to me how, while the bank financing my pre-nationalization student loans can send me a consolidated statement listing all of my deferred accounts in a single letter, the federal government feels compelled to send me individualized letters in quadruplicate? :roll:

I’d switch to totally online statements, but given my less-than-stellar experiences with the federal government I prefer having physical documentation on file. Still, it can’t cost that much to upgrade a database compared to the cost of printing / folding / stuffing / mailing to millions of students receiving nationalized student loans millions upon millions of letters notifying them those loans have been deferred…

Sorry for the rant, just getting really irritated at government these past few days :mad:

Hope to have something law-related to write about soon :) Until then, have a great night! :D

  1. My shorthand reference for Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi. I haven’t decided yet which one is Larry, Curly, and Moe… []

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8

Dear NC DMV: #dobetter

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 18, 2010 in Fail

Having all-but-decided to go down the criminal prosecution path after I graduate from NCCU Law, you can imagine my surprise when I found out last week that I’ve apparently been a criminal myself for the past 4-5 months :eek:

First, three items of background:

(1) Back in undergrad at N.C. State I had a PO Box that I used for all of my mail, so nothing got lost while I changed residence halls over the last four years. Then in August when I moved to Durham I got a new license with my new address, and submitted a forwarding order to the postal service to forward my mail. The USPS has done so without incident since I moved.

(2) I have no criminal record at all, and my driving record is almost spotless. My last motor vehicle infraction was five years ago, when (during a 3am McDonald’s run while studying for a Calculus III exam) I ran a stop sign at a 3-way intersection that had been installed only moments before.1

(3) Back in February I had a 4-day lapse in my auto insurance coverage. The catalyst was innocuous enough — amid mailing off about a dozen things, I forgot to put a stamp on the envelope to the Farm Bureau :beatup:  The letter got returned to me, I realized what happened, then called the insurance office and had them do a payment via phone. With the premium paid my insurance was back in effect, but still had a lapse spanning that weekend through the morning following my phone call.

Like most states North Carolina requires drivers to maintain liability insurance in order to operate a motor vehicle. If insurance coverage lapses at any time, the insurance company is obligated to notify the Division of Motor Vehicles. I’ve since learned that the DMV then (purportedly) notifies the driver that a lapse was reported and the driver is required to pay a fine or have their registration revoked.

That notification is where things start to tick me off… because I got none :mad:

I had no clue there was even an issue with my vehicle registration until I went online to renew my tags before my mini-vacation to Virginia Beach. After clicking the submit button to renew, I got an error notice that renewal wasn’t possible. But the error had no mention of revoked plates: instead it said I couldn’t renew until my car was re-inspected, part of a law change last year where car inspections now take place the same month as registration renewals.

So I went and got the car inspected the day before I left, enjoyed myself on the break, and came back on Monday. I waited the week to make sure the mechanic had plenty of time to update whatever database the state uses to monitor inspections. Then the following Sunday — a week ago today — I went online to again try and renew my registration.

This time I got a second error notifying me that renewal was not possible, but this time the error noted it was not possible because my plates had been revoked… the very first indication I got that I’d basically been illegally driving around for 4 months on a revoked registration :crack:

It particularly frosted my Wheaties because I had just done a boatload of legal research on driving privileges for one of my final exam questions in my Race and the Law class a couple weeks ago. Although driving is a privilege and not a fundamental right, once something like a vehicle registration is conferred it creates a property interest that can’t be taken away without due process.  The due process standard is fairly low nationwide but always includes some level of notice prior to the revocation. And here I was being “notified” by an error generated by an automated registration renewal system, with no opportunity to contest the revocation before it happened. :roll:

The particular section of the law I had allegedly violated, N.C. Gen. Stat. §20-311, reads as follows:

(a) Action. – When the Division receives evidence, by a notice of termination of a motor vehicle liability policy or otherwise, that the owner of a motor vehicle registered or required to be registered in this State does not have financial responsibility for the operation of the vehicle, the Division shall send the owner a letter. The letter shall notify the owner of the evidence and inform the owner that the owner shall respond to the letter within 10 days of the date on the letter and explain how the owner has met the duty to have continuous financial responsibility for the vehicle. Based on the owner’s response, the Division shall take the appropriate action listed:
     (1) Division correction. – If the owner responds within the required time and the response establishes that the owner has not had a lapse in financial responsibility, the Division shall correct its records.
     (2) Penalty only. – If the owner responds within the required time and the response establishes all of the following, the Division shall assess the owner a penalty in the amount set in subsection (b) of this section:
          a. The owner had a lapse in financial responsibility, but the owner now has financial responsibility.
          b. The vehicle was not involved in an accident during the lapse in financial responsibility.
          c. The owner did not operate the vehicle during the lapse with knowledge that the owner had no financial responsibility for the vehicle.
     (3) Penalty and revocation. – If the owner responds within the required time and the response establishes any of the following, the Division shall assess the owner a penalty in the amount set in subsection (b) of this section and revoke the registration of the owner’s vehicle for the period set in subsection (c) of this section:
          a. The owner had a lapse in financial responsibility and still does not have financial responsibility.
          b. The owner now has financial responsibility even though the owner had a lapse, but the vehicle was involved in an accident during the lapse, the owner operated the vehicle during the lapse with knowledge that the owner had no financial responsibility for the vehicle, or both.
     (4) Revocation pending response. – If the owner does not respond within the required time, the Division shall revoke the registration of the owner’s vehicle for the period set in subsection (c) of this section. When the owner responds, the Division shall take the appropriate action listed in subdivisions (1) through (3) of this subsection as if the response had been timely.
(b) Penalty Amount.  [… table outlining penalty amounts …]
(c) Revocation Period. – The revocation period for a revocation based on a response that establishes that a vehicle owner does not have financial responsibility is indefinite and ends when the owner obtains financial responsibility or transfers the vehicle to an owner who has financial responsibility. The revocation period for a revocation based on a response that establishes the occurrence of an accident during a lapse in financial responsibility or the knowing operation of a vehicle without financial responsibility is 30 days. The revocation period for a revocation based on failure of a vehicle owner to respond is indefinite and ends when the owner responds.

Various emphases added by me.

With the statutory language in front of me, I called the DMV on Monday as soon as the office opened. The lady I spoke to told me the DMV had sent me notice. Five notices, in fact: she claimed the DMV mailed four separate letters, and a postcard to boot.

When I told her I hadn’t received any of them, she asked for my address which I provided. She then told me the DMV had been sending notices to my old PO Box in Raleigh, and that the confusion was my fault for not updating my mailing address.

The situation and her attitude made me want to reach through the phone and strangle someone. I figured my mailing address would have been updated when I got my new license back in August. But, even assuming the DMV didn’t use my new residence as my new mailing address and it was my fault for not updating them accordingly, that means the USPS would have had to not forward five separate mailings spanning over a month… even though they’ve successfully forwarded all of my other correspondence without a problem.

Even if I thought the USPS was the single most incompetent government enterprise to exist (I don’t), the idea that they selectively didn’t forward material from one particular correspondent on five separate occasions is just preposterous in its implausibility. The far more likely scenario, to my enfeebled mind at least, is that the NC DMV never actually sent the notices or has “Do Not Forward” printed across the front of the envelopes.

Anyhow, trying to contain my total disbelief and figure out how to get my registration renewed, I’m told by the bureaucrat that I’d have to contact my insurance company, have them send a Form FS-1 to the DMV notifying them I had active insurance (bear in mind I’ve been regularly paying my premiums since the 4-day lapse 5 months ago), then call back 2-3 days later to request a hearing on the revocation. I mention the statutory language to her, and she repeats that I need to have the Form FS-1 sent in and call back to demand an administrative hearing.

I contact my insurance agent and the Form FS-1 is faxed to the DMV less than an hour later. I call the DMV back the next morning en route to my Medicaid mediation, talk to a different bureaucrat who verifies the FS-1 has been received, and again mention the plain language of the N.C. General Statutes that my revocation should end and I be allowed to pay my civil penalty and move on with my life. The second bureaucrat asks if I’d like to demand a hearing (I do) and then tells me I’ll receive a notice in 2-3 weeks scheduling a hearing date 2-3 weeks after that. She then tells me that if I need to operate the motor vehicle I should go buy a temporary 30-day tag.

"Dear TDot: You were right. Oops. Sincerely, NCDMV"

Terrified something could happen and I get pulled over in an unlicensed vehicle, I go to the DMV in between the two Medicaid hearings and drop $63 on a 30-day tag as instructed. I then spend the rest of the week waiting for a letter telling me when my hearing will take place.

I got the letter on Saturday, which I took the liberty of scanning in for y’all to read if you’re interested.

Essentially the DMV agrees that the statutory language I pointed out to them was right, and in fact I don’t need a hearing at all. I just have to pay the civil penalty and move on with my life… the exact same thing I was trying to do on the phone with the apparently-less-than-competent DMV personnel. :mad:

Now I have no objection at all to being required to pay a civil penalty for the insurance lapse. We live in a society where people get penalized for their carelessness to teach them a lesson; I was careless in not putting a stamp on the envelope, I’m fine being penalized for it, and it won’t happen again.

But I’ve got serious reservations with:

  • Not getting an indication about the plate revocation the first time I attempted to renew my plates online, instead only being notified that I needed to get my car inspected. Solely because of the DMV’s negligently-coded website I drove in a vehicle with revoked plates across two separate states spanning five separate days; had I known the plates were revoked, 雅雅 and I could have just taken her car. It’s only by the grace of God that I didn’t get pulled over or in a car accident that would have had far broader repercussions.
  • My registration being revoked in the first place without any kind of notice at all whatsoever from the DMV. The notion that the USPS selectively failed to forward 4 separate letters and a postcard spanning several weeks — when they’ve forwarded all of my other bills and other correspondence without an issue — is simply too implausible to be believed.
  • The DMV arguing the lack of notice is my own fault for not updating them with my new mailing address… when they got my new mailing address on my new license I obtained in August. If a driver with a mostly-unblemished record hasn’t responded to numerous notices purportedly sent to a (older) mailing address, doesn’t it make sense to send at least one of the notices to the person’s (newer) address on their license?
  • Being told by two separate bureaucrats that I’d need to demand a hearing to review the revocation, despite the plain language of the statute I provided to them indicating no such hearing was needed.
  • Being given a series of hoops to jump through before I could even demand the hearing I didn’t need.
  • Having to spend $60+ on a 30-day temporary tag that I only had to buy because the NC DMV apparently doesn’t know the laws it operates under. Had I gotten a notification in the mail before the revocation, or a notice on the website when I attempted to renew my registration on July 1, or an acknowledgement that the revocation was temporary when I talked to a live bureaucrat on July 12, or even gotten the letter they sent on or before July 15, I would have had enough time to renew my registration without the wasted money and time spent buying the temporary tag.

Unfortunately the N.C. General Assembly has already adjourned for the year, because otherwise I’d be in downtown Raleigh raising hell that this level of pervasive, multi-faceted incompetence is allowed to take place in a government agency. This isn’t like a private marketplace where I can switch vendors if the one I’m using turns out to be incompetent — I have no choice but to register my vehicle with the NC DMV if I want to live and drive in North Carolina. So I expect better of a monopolistic enterprise funded by my tax dollars.

With service like this, it’s no wonder so many North Carolinians end up in court

Do better, N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles. Do better.

  1. The infraction was sufficiently comedic that the judge laughed when I appeared in court for the offense a few weeks later :beatup: []

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2

Shameless attention-whoring FTW

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jul 3, 2010 in Site Stats

You don’t have to be one of our long-time readers here at law:/dev/null to know that I like charts.

Facebook + attention-whoring = traffic spike!

And data.

And benchmarks. And tables. And trendlines.

And more charts just for good measure :beatup:

Grade distributions, tuition savings, site stats — I compulsively sprinkle data and tables throughout the blog. Besides, pictures spice up the text-only entries ;)

That also means I’ve started looking for more ways to spread the word in the hopes of attracting more eyeballs / readers / commenters :) There was political controversy in March, a new Twitter account in April… and a slight drop in May.

So to continue the outreach effort I borrowed a page from Huma over at TRPLS and created the Facebook page for law:/dev/null ;)

Apparently most of my Facebook friends never knew about this place, because after sending everyone invites the number of unique IP addresses we had visiting the site jumped by more than a third. Average pageviews per day climbed even more, at +37.7%.

Over a quarter-million pageviews!

And the really nifty thing for a guy who loves benchmarks? This past month we served up our quarter-millionth pageview! :D

I put together a chart (of course) that shows the cumulative number of pages viewed over time. For a blog visited mostly by spambots in its first few months, having real honest-to-goshness live bodies reading over 250,000+ pages is pretty doggone cool :spin:

Anyhow, enough on the statistics — I know the main reason y’all read these entries are for the search terms ;)

***

On the search query front, here are 20 of the 140+ unique search terms that brought folks here in June:

  • rick ingram sbp: I don’t know if this is the same person doing multiple searches or what, but this was our #2 most-frequent search result last month with a dozen queries (along with “rick ingram unc” and “rick ingram dth”). It’s a little peculiar since he’s only mentioned in one entry about his endorsement by the UNCCH Daily Tar Heel. Odd or obsessive? I’m not sure which… :crack:
  • when is 1l orientation for nccu school of law: Orientation for the night program starts on Monday, August 9th. The day program starts the next morning on August 10th. Double-check the start time the night before. Trust me.
  • cute bunny: nom nom nom :D
  • nccu law academic calendar 2010 2011: Can be found on TWEN at the Law School Registrar page. If you’re a pre-L, you’ll get your WestLaw registration info at Orientation. If you’re a 2L/3L/4LE, you should know to check there first before checking Google :P
  • when does nccu school of law give refunds from financial aid?: Around August 30th for the Fall, January 15th for the Spring, May 28th for Summer Session I, and July 9th for Summer Session II. Those dates change slightly based on the calendar and when financial aid actually hits your account with the University. Sometimes refunds happen early but don’t count on it.
  • ex con mother gets law degree: I’ve never been a fan of the adjective “ex con,” but yes I know one — she’s much cooler in person than you can tell from the news story ;)
  • nccu law grading: Sparked some controversy among the blawgs when I declared my support for NCCU Law’s strict-C model. It’s not all that great for getting a job, but I still think it contributes to making more competent attorneys compared to the alternatives :P
  • nc central law reputation: Depends on where you’re looking for a job. I’m not familiar with our national reputation (outside of HBCU’s), but within the state NCCU Law is known for producing highly-talented litigators. It’s one of the four key reasons why I made NCCU Law my first choice for law school — and I suspect it’s one of the reasons the NCCU Law 1L trial team excelled against dozens of teams from neighboring law schools ;)
  • what are acceptable 1l grades?: Whatever is high enough for you to get a job? ::shrug::
  • how long 25 page paper: 25 pages…
  • greg doucette myspace: MySpace? Eww :sick:
  • has anyone received an acceptance package from north carolina central state university school of law: NC Central State University School of Law? No. NC Central [notice there’s no extra word here] University School of Law? Yes. ;)
  • opening statement competitions: Are much harder than closing argument competitions :beatup:
  • received a rejection letter from nccu law stating to try again later: Assuming that language wasn’t part of the standard NCCU Law form letter, you probably should try applying sooner since we use rolling admissions like most law schools.
  • wanted one piece: Sounds like a challenge for the Reasonably Prudent Law Student :D
  • the pornstars in winston salem: I know the political hacks over at the Pope Center wanted UNCSA and its film school to be privatized, but I don’t think that’s what they had in mind…
  • it’s been a month and i still don’t have my law grades: You get no sympathy from me — welcome to the club :*
  • nccu law now tier two: Someone lied to you. The amount of $$$ the school would have to spend to climb to T2 would totally defeat the point of getting a T1 legal education at a T4 price ;)
  • dennis jansen birthday: Happens every year. When? You should probably ask him instead :P
  • nccu law section 103: Is the best section in the school, hands down. And if anyone tells you otherwise you tell them they can kick rocks. Then tell them TDot said they can kick rocks. Then send them to me so I can tell them in person they can kick rocks. B-)

I really get a kick out of the different search terms people use to get here each month… :spin:

***

And finally, here are the Top 5 most-viewed posts for the month of June 2010, with a heavy leaning toward grades and cash:

  1. On Spring ’10 final grades: Spring ’10 Final Grades (or, “A 2L. For srs.”) (06/08/10)
  2. On saving money: TDot’s Tips: More $$$-saving ideas (06/13/10)
  3. Also on saving money: TDot’s Tips: Tips for the pre-L’s on $$$ (05/29/10)
  4. On the legal effects of political cowardice: Unsolicited commentary on the legal clusterf*ck facing homosexuals (06/11/10)
  5. On my impatience: Where are my @#$%ing grades?? >:o (06/07/10)

Many thanks to all of you for supporting the blog, including the new folks who got here as a result of my shameless attention-whoring on Facebook :) I truly appreciate all of you! :*

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Past Site Stats entries:

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Unsolicited commentary on the legal clusterf*ck facing homosexuals

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 11, 2010 in Unsolicited Commentary

For the next few weeks I’ll be spending my Saturdays in 7-hour-long classes for our ADR Clinic at the N.C. Central University School of Law. Our topic for tomorrow’s class is the complexity involved in mediating disputes across a wide range of cultural differences.

I got a taste of those challenges back on my very first day dealing with real disputes, where we had an older white guy and a younger white guy (me) mediating a dispute between a middle-aged black lady and a middle-aged Indian lady. Needless to say all 4 of us had widely divergent cultural backgrounds ;)

In reading through the ~65ish pages we’re supposed to have digested by 9am tomorrow, one section details the unique challenges facing same-sex couples who find themselves in a dispute needing mediation — and a whole litany of complications mediators need to navigate.

And as I’m reading through this all I keep thinking is “What a clusterf*ck” :crack:

It’s not that I was oblivious to the legal issues facing homosexuals per se. I had already learned quite a bit just through general education and reading the news, enough to get me booted from the Wake County GOP (see 2004-05 in that entry). Then a couple years later I got a more-detailed briefing when a trio of us in N.C. State‘s Student Senate shepherded through a resolution supporting the creation of the University’s LGBT Center. And not surprisingly the topic has occasionally come up in conversations with my gay friends, particularly whenever something Prop 8-related is in the news.

But it’s a whole different wheel of cheese when you’re having an ideological discussion with college-aged peers — none of whom have even the slightest intention of potentially entertaining the thought of maybe considering possibly getting married any time soon — versus when you’re in a courthouse with a real dispute being resolved in a legal framework with so many holes it’d make a slice of Swiss envious.

Now I’ll concede I haven’t supported gay marriage myself, though in my case it’s due to a relatively small and personal issue of me not knowing how it would affect case law on family rights1 and not having an opportunity to have an informed discussion with someone who could give me some insight into it. Beyond that minor point I say go for it; clearly it’s not like we heterosexuals care about marriage vows all that much given our 50%+ divorce rate… :beatup:

But even if I woke up tomorrow as the most vociferous anti-gay marriage advocate on the planet, our current legal structure just makes no d*mn sense. Consider this example from the reading:

“The lack of uniformity across state lines also has worsened the legal complexities, as partners may marry in one location (i.e. Canada), register in California, and then end up in New York -– which may not recognize either of these “marriages.” Some states are even refusing to dissolve same-sex marriages or partnerships created elsewhere, seeing such adjudication as a form of legal recognition, and thus leaving many couples in a terrible state of legal limbo.”

Can anyone explain to me how that setup is good for the legal system? “We won’t recognize what you have, but we won’t say you don’t have it because that would be recognizing it.” :crack:

I realize Congress adopted DOMA out of political cowardice, because (let’s be honest with each other) that’s what Congressmen do in election years. But the mess it’s created vis-à-vis the Full Faith and Credit Clause alone is really mind-boggling in its application.

And that’s just on the issue of marital status!

Think of all the other almost-contractual issues that come up in any given relationship: child custody, adoption, purchasing real property, distribution of assets, pension proceeds, insurance policies, inheritance, the list goes on and on and on (and on). And at least based on this reading there seems to be exceedingly little legal framework in place at all for same-sex couples, and what little exists is essentially completely inconsistent across state lines.

I wish I had the time to go into this in a bit more detail, but unfortunately I’ve gotta get to bed so I can be up on time for class. I’d like to hear from you, dear readers, about your thoughts on the issue — not so much the impassioned human rights arguments (those are important too but this is a law-oriented blog :P ) but whether the legal structure we’ve currently got in this country is tenable in the long-run or if/how it should change. My personal $.02 is that something’s gotta give, and fairly soon.

But I’m just a 2L so what do I know ;)

Have a great night y’all! :D

  1. I learned the hard way when I was younger that the statutes and case law in several states heavily favor the mother in child custody cases. I’m not a fan of the favoritism, but assuming the laws on it don’t change how would that translate to same-sex couples? For example, where one lesbian partner donates an egg and the other partner carries the pregnancy via IVF? Or for same-sex males who use a surrogate, where one partner is the sperm donor and the other takes on the primary caregiver role of the child? []

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Unsolicited commentary on immigration

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 6, 2010 in Unsolicited Commentary

Good evening ladies and gentlemen :D

Sorry for yesterday’s absence, I was enjoying some festivities for Cinco de Mayo — or “Cinco de Drinko” as several of my colleagues have called it. Having already written one post while less-than-fully sober, I figured it would be best if I put the laptop down and ensured history did not repeat itself ;)

The holiday did provide an opportunity for political banter, though, as my Facebook mini-feed had more than a few friends with status comments along the lines of “How can you celebrate Cinco de Mayo and Arizona’s racist immigration law at the same time? Hypocrites!” and so on.

Now those of you who are long-time readers here at law:/dev/null know I’ve generally eschewed discussion of non-education political issues here on the blog, leaving the Unsolicited Commentary category with only 2 entries out of my 200ish posts so far. And that’s despite having a fairly successful career in student-run politics, first in the Student Senate at N.C. State and later revitalizing the statewide UNC Association of Student Governments.

The reason is pretty simple: being a student advocate is easy because (with very few exceptions) everyone wants the same 3 basic things — an accessible,1 affordable,2 and quality3 education. Most debates circle around how to achieve those 3 goals.

The “real” world political issues, on the other hand, seem to be a different beast entirely. There’s an entire industry of highly-paid politicians, pundits, and other pontificators whose sole job is to convince you that they want what you want, but also that what you want isn’t what that-guy-over-there ::points:: wants. Making progress on anything remotely significant is almost impossible because folks who make a living in the political industry rake in more $$ by controversy than by consensus.

The caustic predictability of “real” world politics has convinced me that I have a roughly 0.00% chance of successfully getting elected to anything that’s not on a college campus :beatup:

Bringing that tangent back into the main point of this post: the whole immigration issue is an example of both sides of the political class raking in the cash while allowing near-universally acknowledged challenges to go unaddressed. So given the complete dysfunction that seems to characterize the US Congress nowadays, Arizona took widely-publicized steps to address the issue last week. You can read this entry in the New York Times about the immigration law they enacted, or read the actual text of the bill here.

Depending on who you ask, the law is either a sensical move for basic law and order or a racist effort to rile up white folks in an election year. More tellingly, the debate masks the fact that no one seems interested in any serious dialogue — or creating any meaningful consensus — on anything related to immigration.

To my liberal friends: what would your solution have been? Arizona has a huge community of illegal immigrants, a portion of whom seem intent on living a life of crime (just like every other ethnic group). The federal government has taken -0- significant action to address crime resulting from trafficking in drugs and in humans, and the situation has gone unaddressed for so long that it’s now negatively impacting a number of border communities. An Arizona rancher was murdered back in March presumably by a foreign national — should it matter that the foreign national came from Mexico versus, say, Afghanistan or Iraq or Nigeria?

And why the opposition to securing the border? Shouldn’t any serious public safety effort by a country include monitoring who comes in or out of it? Why bother screening airline and ship passengers if we’re not going to do the same for the roadways?4

To my conservative friends: why the hostility to immigrants in the first place? Unless you’re Native American, your family immigrated to this country at some point too5 — and odds are good they were poor when they got here. Illegal immigrants are supposedly taking jobs and suppressing pay rates… but aren’t y’all the same people who support eliminating the minimum wage and who complain about other people feeling entitled to things? If illegal immigrants are supposedly a drain on our social welfare programs, isn’t that more of an indication that those programs are too easily available for everyone?

And if you believe like I do that the United States is the greatest country to ever grace God’s Earth, shouldn’t we be encouraging people to move here? Would you rather have the next Einstein or Sagan or Hawking pledging allegiance to the United States or to Mexico? And is it moral or ethical for us to condemn someone else simply because of the misfortune of where they happened to be born? Or worse, to condemn a child because their parents committed a crime?

I could go on, but you get the point — and this entry’s already getting a bit long anyway :beatup:

I’m a firm believer in American exceptionalism, and believe that exceptionalism is a result of the people who live here now building on the limited-government framework provided by the people who came before us. If you can make it across the border, I say welcome. Our immigration laws should be liberalized so that you can live and work out in the open just like everyone around you. And if you put me out of work in the process, it’s a sign I need to step up my game and improve my skills so I’m more competitive in the marketplace… or, if I refuse to improve, a sign that I need to accept that I’m not entitled to the wage I used to earn and should learn to make do with less.

But I’m also a firm believer that national security necessarily requires border security, anyone who commits a crime while a guest of this country should be punished far beyond mere deportation, and if the federal government refuses to take meaningful action then state laws like the one enacted in Arizona are the inevitable (and de facto acceptable) price paid for federal incompetence.

Like I said: a roughly 0.00% chance of successfully getting elected to anything that’s not on a college campus ;)

That’s enough ranting for one day. Have a great night everybody! :D

  1. My short-hand definition for “accessible”: being able to get in to at least 1 of the 16 public universities in North Carolina. []
  2. My short-hand definition for “affordable”: being able to financially stay in school from when you start until you finish. []
  3. My short-hand definition for “quality”: whether you’ve got something worth anything when you graduate. []
  4. And please don’t use “We don’t secure our border with Canada” as a justification — if I were a terrorist with Al Qaeda, flying into Canada and then crossing the northern border would have been one of my first tactics for sneaking into the United States. I’m not sure why it wasn’t something they exploited, but we dodged a bullet on that one. []
  5. Or were brought here, in the case of slaves and indentured servants. []

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Supremes uphold common sense

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 22, 2010 in Unsolicited Commentary

New 1L trend I never experienced before: having your Facebook mini-feed loaded with status updates from your peers griping about a Supreme Court decision :beatup:

I’m assuming by now all of you have heard about the Supreme Court’s decision yesterday in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, the free speech case involving a group wanting to run an anti-Hillary Clinton documentary on cable TV during the ’08 presidential primary.  If you’ve been on vacation or living under a rock or something similar, you can download a copy of the slip opinion at the Supreme Court’s website.

Despite the risk of being accused of lacking a social life, I’ll confess two things up front: (i) I’ve been reading Supreme Court opinions just for the fun of it since high school, and (ii) I spent most of yesterday and today reading through all 180ish pages of the Citizens United case instead of studying (although it’s really only like 80 pages of text since the Court uses pages margins that would get a law student a failing grade :crack: ).

I agreed with the Court’s decision, and thought the dissent was particularly unpersuasive — both points that are probably not surprising given my political leanings. The concurrence from Justice Scalia provided an appreciated historical context, and the concurrence from Justice Thomas provided an interesting perspective on disclosure (even though I’m not convinced of his viewpoint).

But what really blew my mind were the Facebook status updates.

“omg this is the end of democracy in America! MONEY IS NOT SPEECH!” was one of them, with the caps added for dramatic flair. “[N]ow corporations can give unlimited $$ to candidates while the common man is getting screwed” was another. And so on it went almost universally among my 1L colleagues at NCCU Law, UNCCH Law and Duke Law.

So in typical TDot fashion I updated my own status to declare my love for the Supremes and this decision in particular ;)

A flame war ensued. At one point my mother — who’s politically about as polar opposite to me as one can get — decided to join the debate, so I figured I needed to take the discussion here to the blog where she’s less likely to read it and blow up everyone’s mini-feed with her responses :beatup:

Some gratuitous thoughts on this particular case:

  1. McCain-Feingold was shamelessly unconstitutional from Day 1. Anyone who wasn’t alarmed by its prohibition against running ads 30/60 days before an election should surrender their voter registration card immediately. Every single incumbent who voted for it knew they were doing so to insulate themselves from outside criticism, not to “reform the system.” It plainly violated the First Amendment, which the Court was kind enough to lay bare for those who still didn’t know.
  2. Money is speech. This really shouldn’t even be debatable because it reeks of common sense, but freedom of expression doesn’t count for much if it’s limited to you standing on a soapbox at the street corner — a point recognized by well over a majority of the country. For an analysis provided by the Supreme Court on the issue, go read the various opinions in Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976).
  3. “Corporate” restrictions were arbitrary and predictably unconstitutional. Much consternation and gnashing of teeth has taken place by the left-wing denizens of the blogosphere because the Court upended limitations on corporations directly running their own “express advocacy” ads for/against a given candidate.  Yet media organizations like newspapers (themselves almost all incorporated) have always been excluded from these restrictions solely because of the fact the product they sell is labeled “the press” (e.g. separately protected by the First Amendment). This arbitrary distinction between one corporation type from another made little sense on its own, and even less so when it applied to incorporated associations like labor unions, the Sierra Club, etc — why should I have more rights as an individual than I would if I can successfully convince other individuals to agree with me?
  4. The decision’s practical impact will be negligible. Contributing money or buying ads for a political campaign is fundamentally an economic decision — the contributor/purchaser decides the value of potentially influencing the election is worth more than the cash contributed/paid. In other words, a corporation is going to give the exact same dollar amount, regardless of the mechanics, if it decides that’s the money it wants to invest in a race.  We saw this after McCain-Feingold was adopted with the sudden proliferation of 527s and their issue ads.  The Supreme Court’s decision isn’t going to suddenly open a flood of corporate spending, it’s just going to make the spending more direct instead of forcing it to be routed through fake groups set up solely for campaigning purposes. This fundamental reality was highlighted in this piece at Politico.
  5. Want less $$ in elections? Abolish contribution limits… Following the campaign-contribution-as-economic-choice point, the fact contribution limits are in place at all artificially increases the amount of money in campaigns. Think of it like a garden hose: as you’re watering your garden, the water (campaign $$) flows out in a straight path. But put your thumb (contribution limits) over the nozzle, and the water splashes in all directions. That’s functionally what happens with the current system — Joe Citizen decides he’s willing to part with $12,000 for a given race, but instead of giving all $12K to his candidate, he gives only $4K to the candidate, then $4K to a 527 supporting his candidate, and then $4K to his candidate’s party.  So now he’s got 3 agents in the political process instead of 1, and all 3 of whom will now be bidding for the same media space… artificially inflating demand, leading to higher prices, leading to the need to raise more money, and on in a spiral it goes.
  6. …or shrink the government. I know this will never happen, but the main reason so much money gets spent on political races is because the government has its hands in every cookie jar in the country. When new regulations would cost a given industry tens of millions of dollars, of course the players in that industry will spend a couple million apiece to avoid the regulations — it’s a huge economic incentive for them and their employees. Stop trying to regulate everything into nonexistence and suddenly you take away the incentive for amassing über-huge campaign war chests.

That’s my abridged rant on Citizens United v. FEC. My apologies to those of you who come to law:/dev/null for the normal chronicling of my 1L life instead of a political diatribe — hopefully you’ll still come back tomorrow :*

Have a good night folks!! :D

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Unsolicited commentary on Elections ’09

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Nov 8, 2009 in Unsolicited Commentary

Here at law:/dev/null I generally try to avoid writing about politics (at least the non-SG variety). The main reason is simple propriety — law school seems to treat all of us about the same, regardless if we’re conservative or liberal or something else altogether. But it’s also partly out of lingering bitterness toward my own past involvement as a political activist-turned-pariah, and the realization that I’m essentially a man without a party.

So earlier this week, during my usual perusal of the law-blog world, I ventured over to (In)Sanity Souffle’s remarks on the Maine referendum that overturned the legislature’s recognition of same-sex marriage. I thought about writing something on the topic, changed my mind, and went back to studying for my soon-to-be dismal performance in Contracts.

But then this morning I went through my usual Sunday ritual watching the political talk shows, and no one seemed to mention the main take-home point I took away from Elections 2009: none of the results were surprising. At all.

====================
Interlude: A Window into TDot’s Politics
====================

Let me break from the main entry briefly to give you the 10-second rundown on my political beliefs. The 3-second rundown was mentioned in my tales of IRS woe, and it’s a suitable jumping off point for the ever-so-slightly longer explanation.

I grew up hating politicians of all stripes (which is probably a good starting point for most children), a worldview I borrowed from my grandparents. For most of my childhood I was raised by Nan & Pops, who were/are as starkly different from my parents as a Mac is to a PC. Nan graduated from nursing school a few months before she met Pops, they got married soon thereafter and have been happily together ever since; she’s a housewife who raised 3 kids and now-5 grandkids, while Pops did two tours in the U.S. Navy before spending the rest of his career as an enlisted shipbuilder for the Coast Guard who has since retired. They highlight the generational divide that separates “The Greatest Generation” and their offspring from the Hippies and their offspring — being frugal, eschewing debt, striving for self-reliance, preferring quality time with family over quantity time with a television, etc.

Their politics innately made sense to me. They hate losing so much income to taxes, especially since they successfully raised a family of 5 on modest means; but they also dislike expansive welfare programs, since they were willing to sacrifice their own wants to ensure everyone had a roof over their head, clothes on their backs, and food on the table — and figure everyone else should do the same. They’re Roman Catholics who believe in God, Jesus and so on, and generally have a distaste for the raging atheists trying to stamp out any mention of anything even vaguely religious from public life; but they also support the separation of church and state because personal matters like religion “are none of your damn business” — and consequently not the government’s business either.  Despite their age, they have no problem at all with racial minorities, homosexuals, Jews/Muslims or other groups that older folk seem to dislike for whatever reason; Nan summed it up best when she said “God made all of us the way we are, who am I to question His judgment?”

And boy do they hate politicians. As far as my grandparents were concerned, every single one of them was crooked and out only to line their pockets with our tax dollars. I’m pretty sure both of them stopped voting entirely by the time I got to middle school because “nothing ever changes.” So I not only hated politicians too, but developed an acute interest in all things political.

I decided to actively get involved politically a few years later in high school, after attending a student-oriented luncheon on political theory hosted by then-Delegate Bob McDonnell (yes, the same guy who is now Governor-elect of Virginia). McDonnell exhorted us to try and change the things we didn’t like instead of merely accepting them as the status quo. So I started volunteering for political campaigns, helped to create a Republican club at my high school, and continued to stay involved when I moved to North Carolina to attend N.C. State University.

But that eclectic blend of “free people and free markets” conservatism that’s perfectly acceptable in the military- and business-hub of Virginia Beach VA got me into trouble in Raleigh NC. I eventually became the youngest elected Vice Chairman in the history of the Wake County GOP because I knew how to passionately and intelligently debate people about things like taxes and healthcare — and I got thrown out of that same Wake County GOP a mere 2 years later because I also knew how to passionately and intelligently debate people about things like separation of church and state and gay marriage.

Fast forward to today. My political views haven’t really changed, but I’ve contributed a grand total of $0.00 to the Republican Party at the local, state or national level since my banishment. I bailed on my days as a political activist to become a lobbyist and later a policy analyst for a state legislator. And now I generally don’t play in the partisan political arena at all, preferring instead to promote higher education issues through my role as President of the UNC Association of Student Governments (albeit as the first Republican to hold the Presidency in as long as anyone can remember).

I’m still generally anti-government, anti-tax, pro-gun, and pro-military. I used to oppose the death penalty, but after working for the court system (and seeing some of the exhibits in our evidence rooms) I came to the conclusion that some people just need to be executed. I’m not a fan of abortion but don’t care enough either way to do much about it. Having grown up with little material wealth, I don’t have much sympathy for the rich — but having also been homeless shortly after dropping out of N.C. State and enduring all kinds of hell to get where I am now, I don’t have much sympathy for those who stay poor. I believe in God/Jesus/etc, but stand by Nan’s old comment that religion is “none of your damn business.”  Who’s asleep in the bed next to me falls into that same NoYDB category, coincidentally one of several reasons I’m fine with gay marriage. I voted for GWB twice, and would happily do it again. I voted for Obama, but only because McCain was the more liberal of the two.1

I could go on about dozens of other topics, ranging from W’s foreign policy (love it) to net neutrality (hate it) and anything in between. But this section has probably already taken longer than 10 seconds, so I should probably move on ;)

====================
Elections 2009: Why the Surprise?
====================

So back to last week’s elections. The national media focused on 4 stories: Republicans winning the governorships in Virginia and New Jersey, a Democrat winning a Safe Republican seat in Congress in the 23rd NY Congressional District, and Maine voters overturning the legislature’s recognition of gay marriage.

==> Bob McDonnell wins in Virginia: this didn’t really surprise anyone, if only because the polls showed a landslide for weeks. Pundits were quick to blame his opponent for the loss, but remember this is the exact same guy who ran against McDonnell for Attorney General — and who lost that particular race by only a couple hundred votes instead of the out-and-out thrashing he got last week. The simple fact is McDonnell is not only a damn good candidate who was going to win this race regardless of who ran against him, but voters also tend to prefer nuts-and-bolts / bread-and-butter / law-and-order candidates in times of uncertainty. That’s exactly the campaign that McDonnell ran.

==> Chris Christie wins in New Jersey: this one seemed to shock people, though why I don’t know. See the previous entry about the type of candidates voters gravitate toward during uncertain times. Where McDonnell was an Attorney General, Christie was a U.S. Attorney with an impeccable record of jailing corrupt politicians (which, at least as far as NJ goes, seems to be the only kind they have). Christie also focused intensely on the poor economic conditions in the state, and naturally had the more believable argument with voters since his opponent was in office when those poor economic conditions came about. No matter how big the Democratic registration advantage may have been, everyone should have seen this victory coming.

==> Bill Owens wins in NY-23: again, another obvious result. First there’s the fact his main opponent Doug Hoffman was a 3rd party candidate — love or hate our 2-party system, with few exceptions 3rd party candidates simply don’t win elections. Period. Add on top of it the factional divide among the Republicans between the liberal GOP, the moderate GOP, and the conservative GOP. For all the post-election talk of “there’s no civil war in the party,” I can tell you from personal experience it’s total BS. My eviction from the WakeGOP centered exclusively on the fact I didn’t hate blacks or gays and refused to quote Bible verses in everyday conversation, and I’ve helped put quite a few Democrats into office as a result. NY-23 is just a continuation of that same phenomenon. Owens win was a foregone conclusion… as will be his loss next year if there’s only one GOP candidate.

==> Homophobes win in Maine: bringing things full circle to that piece over at (In)Sanity Souffle, I have no doubt the sadness and disappointment are real but I’m confounded by it just the same, at least insofar as they’re rooted in the result being unexpected. Let’s not forget it wasn’t terribly long ago that mixed-race marriages were illegal in my home state of Virginia. Had that been a legislative enactment instead of a judicial decision by the Supreme Court (see Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1) would a referendum overturning it fail today? I’d like to think so, but honestly I’m not sure. People tend to give pollsters answers that would be considered “politically correct” because they don’t want to be perceived as bigots. Once someone steps into a voting booth, though, they become quasi-anonymous and can state their opinion without anyone ever finding out. And anything non-“conventional” tends to get voted against. In general I don’t like the idea of a referendum process overturning legislative enactments — the politicians chosen on Election Day should be the referendum — but the minute that referendum was allowed, supporters of gay marriage surely must have known the people opposing them were going to carry the day. I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes another Supreme Court ruling similar to Loving for anything to permanently change.

=====

Anyhow, that’s my unsolicited synopsis on the 2009 elections — like or dislike the results, they shouldn’t have surprised anyone.

And in exchange for y’all indulging me, I promise I’ll refrain from any further political commentary for the near-term future ;)

Have a good night y’all! :D

  1. And frankly I have a hard time forgiving anyone who would trample the Constitution to protect their incumbency. I’ve despised McCain since learning about McCain-Feingold in 12th Grade civics class. []

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