Friday, September 29, 2006


So the elections are six weeks away and looking at the push being made by the pachyderms I think reports of their demise are premature. I'm hoping we can capture the house, but I don't know now.

Here's how the Dems can capture the house: repeat everywhere they go "do you feel safer now than you did two years ago? If so vote republican." They can't loose if they do that one simple thing.


I caught Bill Oreily the other night yelling at the skelleton that was James Carville about how Fox News is not conservative. Oh, Bill, give me a break! Bill said "look at our guests, right down the line we have an even balance between conservatives and liberals." Bill: it doesn't matter if the moderator is biased and the "debate" is framed to give the conservative an advantage. And you know it.

The New York Times this week ran a great series on New York's town and village courts, where elected, part time judges often have nothing more than a high school education, know little about the law, and run their courts like fiefdoms. Often they don't know the law and on occasion they ignore it because they just don't like it. The point of the Times series is that the system is outdated and unjust. In this the Times, often accused of caring only about national and international affairs, is performing one of the most importnat functions of the newspaper: to act as "the watchdog of liberty," to shine light into the dark places and to direct the public eye toward abuses of power and toward poor governance. It's a good series and it makes good points.

But I got news for the Times: the people don't care. As the Times points out, various agencies and governors have been trying to reform the justice courts for years with no success, and reasons most often cited are the right of the people to elect their judges, the connections the justices have to the community, and the common mistrust of lawyers.

I say it's more than that: lots of people want this kind of medieval justice. People understand, sometimes instinctively, that the law is not about right and wrong. The law is a set of rules designed to maintain order, but it is not always right and it is not always just. It is a game, and people who are good at the game can win even if their cause is wrong or their client guilty. Nothing wrong with that: inherent in our system-any system-of laws is the acknowledgement that justice can never be perfect so you've got to have rules. But the people don't like that. They want what the justices give them--not law but "common sense justice," where if you know somebody's bad you lock them up regardless of the evidence, or if you know somebody's a good person you give them another chance regardless of guilt. Yes, this makes the law capricious and gives friends of the judge advantage over people he or she doesn't like, and makes the judge's whims more important than the law, but people upstate would rather have it that way, and the Times is sure to be seen yet again as a bunch of big-city elites coming in to tell real folk how they should live their lives.

Many people would rather have a king than a court, a government of men not of laws. They wouldn't admit it because they're Americans, but they nonetheless harbor a mistrust of the State government and often a hatred of the Federal government, where lobyists and lawyers are the only ones who have a voice, and legislatures run rough-shod over the rights of everyday people. In the oft-quoted line from Henry VI the pesants say "first thing we do is kill all the lawyers." Never mind that Shakespeare wasn't advocating this, and that it comes from the mouth of a villain (in every sense of the word). It is a battle cry for rural communites all over America (and in some parts of the cities as well).

I'm reminded of Sean Conery in The Man who would be King saying "I've discovered how good it feels to sit in judgement over which peasant get's a cow," or Paul Newman in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (law west of the Pecos), tearing pages out of his lawbooks saying "I don't like that law," and dispensing justice with a gun and a bear as he saw fit. These are the courts that many Americans want, not ones that let movie-star murders get away with it, or release pedophiles because they weren't read their rights, or spend more time protecting the criminals and the rich (who in most poor people's minds are the same thing) than protecting the people.

A lot of people would prefer a warrior king with a benevolent heart to a system of law.

But, in theory anyway, that's why we have a democracy.

And it's also why I'm in the SCA.


Just out on the wires: Jeff Cooper died today. My liberal bretheren won't know who this is. My mom will, as will J.P. Jeff Cooper invented modern combat shooting. He was a columnist for Guns and Ammo for many years and the greatest proponent in the world for the Colt 1911A1 .45 auto pistol. And he was a good writer too. He will be missed.


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