Sunday, July 16, 2006

A Christian Lawyer: ACLJ or ACLU?

As a Christian and as a future lawyer, I have spent some time thinking about what it means to be a Christian lawyer.  I have some relatives and some other people I know who tell me that the only place a Christian has in the Bar is in the ACLJ.  But what about the ACLU?

I don't have much to say but this, just a bunch of jumbled thoughts.  Isaiah 1:17 says "Learn to do good; seek justice.  Reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow."  In other words: everybody needs help, so help those who don't have anybody to help them; that is seeking justice and doing good.  Furthermore, Deuteronomy 32:35-36 says "Vengeance is [God's], and retribution . . . the Lord will vindicate His people."  Maybe it isn't the place of humans to decree justice.  Maybe we ought to defend those who are attacked by their fellow humans, regardless of the reason.

The more I struggle with this, the less clear the answer becomes.

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The watchdog group Texans for Public Justice (TPJ) released a report recently in which they graded Texas's state representatives and senators on their compliance with Chapter 254 of the Texas Election Code.  This chapter requires the reporting of big donors' occupations and employers.  "Big donors" are identified as those who donate greater than $500 in the aggregate during a single reporting period.  TPJ graded the legislators as follows:
     - adequate disclosure of both occupation and employer = full credit
     - adequate disclosure of either occupation or employer but not both = half credit
     - inadequate disclosure of both occupation and employer = no credit.

The importance of disclosure requirements for campaign finance lies in the economics of politics.  Money is always traded for something of value, at least of value to the person trading the money.  Usually, this occurs in the context of a purchase (e.g., food, cars, lands, etc.).  Occasionally, as with the wealthy, someone trades money for influence or recognition (e.g., donating to build a library).  In the context of campaign finance, what is the trader receiving in return for his/her donation?  The fear is that the donor is buying influence.  Since not everybody can donate to campaigns, an unfair advantage is given to those with enough money that they can donate to campaigns.  Thence comes 2003's HB 1606.

For those of you who are wondering how your legislators did, check this report out.  Waco's legislators did as follows:
     - Kip Averitt (Sen.) - B - 83.0 on value of donations and 77.8 on number of donations.
     - Jim Dunnam (H.R. 57th) - C - 77.8 on value and 76.1 on number.
     - Charles "Doc" Anderson (H.R. 56th) - F - 31.8 on value and 28.8 on number.
Let me tell you what this means.  Doc Anderson received $85,948 in statutorily defined big donations in 66 parts.  Of these donations, the Good Doc adequately disclosed the occupation and employer of only 28.8 percent of these donors, who gave 31.8 percent of the funds.  In straight numbers, 19 of his donors are virtually unknown except by name.  Here's a copy of his most recent report.  You can find Kip Averitt's here and Jim Dunnam's here.

When you hold public office and especially in your role as a public office holder, your privacy is significantly reduced.  It's time for the Lege to stop paying lip service to public accountability and accomplish real public accountability.  Kip and Jim--you have done well, but you can do better.  Doc--this is unacceptable; let us know who's giving you money so we can know about what (might) influence you while in Austin.

Democracy only works when we have real choices, and real choices are based on real information.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

I'm Comin Out

Why can't we all just get along?

To me, one of the most sickening things about politics is the team competition nature of it.  It's always Team A vs. Team B.  Screw what's good for America; what's good for me and my team?

Check out this story about the 2006 congressional race between incumbent Chet Edwards, a Democrat in Republican territory, and Van Taylor, some punk businessman from Dallas.  To give you a bit of a summary, Mr. Taylor is looking for ways to connect Mr. Edwards to a vicious campaign ad hoping to inspire Democrats who oppose the Iraq war.  Mr. Edwards, however, is well-known for his support of veterans.  Mr. Taylor's attempt to connect Mr. Edwards to the ad is nothing more than team-based strategy.

Consider: Chet Edwards has done a lot of good for Central Texas: He's fought to save Waco's VA hospital; he's thoughtfully represented Central Texas since 1991.  (Seriously: check out his record.)  In our society, there is no more trustworthy politician than the one who acts thoughtfully.  You can't trust them to do what they say they'll do because life's just too complicated for that.  I say--get a representative you like and stick with him or her, at least until s/he starts acting unthoughtfully and instead with the team mentality.  In our society, so overloaded with information, we can't make decisions based on what's best anymore, just on whether we're satisfied with what we have and whether we need something better.

Central Texas and the 17th District ought to be satisfied with Mr. Edwards's representation.  Van Taylor doesn't deserve a chance just because he happens to be Republican and happened to have moved to a Republican-dominated district.

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Speak the Truth

Please read this post over on CommonTrend, where the author talks about how most bloggers have nothing worthwhile to say.  He disses those who quote/refer to/link other blogs.  I'm going to follow its instructions and begin blogging less often.  Please don't hate me.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Open Up the Floodgates

I think you guys should check this out.  Finally, somebody has figured out that public policy should follow public reality.  Well, I guess that a lot of people have been trying to follow statistics, but how real is that?

For those of you who won't follow the link, the Wall Street Journal has suggested that increasing the number of U.S. visas will do more for improving the quality of life for both Mexico and the United States.  Wow.  What a concept.

I think we should put more bridges on the Rio Grande and up the number of visas to like 250,000,000.  There's no way that many people could slip in.  And if so, who cares?  At least then, we could stomp the Chinese army.

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Good Will Hunting

So I'm watching Good Will Hunting, and Sean (Robin Williams) and Will (Matt Damon) are having a counseling session when the following interchange takes place:

Will - Do you ever wonder what your life would be like if you, uh, if you never met your wife?
Sean - Like wonder if I might be better off without her?
Will - No no no.  I'm not saying like--better off--I didn't mean it like--
Sean - It's alright.  It's an important question.  Because you'll have bad times, but it'll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren't paying attention to.

Although Robin Williams is usually known better for his comedy, but I think his dramatic parts are his best movies.  If you haven't seen Good Will Hunting, go rent it right now.

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Superman? Really?

Your results:<BR><B>You are <FONT SIZE=6>Superman</FONT></B>
</TR><TR><TD>Green Lantern</TD>
</TR><TR><TD>The Flash</TD>
</TR><TR><TD>Wonder Woman</TD>
</TR><TR><TD>Iron Man</TD>
<TD>You are mild-mannered, good, <BR>strong and you love to help others.<BR>
<IMG SRC=""></TD>
</TR></TABLE><A HREF="">
Click here to take the "Which Superhero am I?" quiz...</A><BR>

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