Archive for the ‘The Big Picture’ Category

The Moving Finger Writes — And Moves On

The big legal and policy issues of our day increasingly rotate around a single man, and the coverage of that man and his activities one way or another implicating law and policy have drawn enormous amounts of very well-informed and thoughtful analysis from full-time participants in a 24/7 commentariat. This creates a different media environment from the one in which this column started. A columnist addressing the law and policy issues on a monthly basis, in a 1,000-word column that may not come out promptly even after it is submitted, is engaged in a competition for originality and depth and currency he is sure to lose.

Mogadishu Is Here

The government of the country where Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley “originally came from” is “a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world,” just as the President said. That country just happens to be us.

Steel Wheels and Tires in the North Country

That’s why today, when you make your way over the Cascades through Stevens Pass (named after the assistant to the Great Northern’s chief engineer), or when you spend the night at the Great Northern Hotel in Malta, Montana, or visit the airbase in Minot (named for a Great Northern general manager), or drive almost anywhere along Route 2 west of Duluth, you may be riding on tires, but your course was set by one railroad company’s steel wheels.

Rushmore and the Imperfections of Heroism

To let go of hero-worship, even the possibility of it, is a loss. But perhaps we can console ourselves that the lesson our best leaders teach is still worth learning: that while no one gets everything right, and neither individual or national greatness can ever be fully achieved, flawed but determined humans and countries can at least approximate it.

No Heroes, Just Circumstances in Wikileaks Struggles

I still maintain that when governments use official secrecy to evade accountability to their citizens, we need the services of leakers. But governmental coverups are one thing and (as I said eight years ago) legitimate governmental secrets another, and (as I now add) private secrets yet another. Yet at Wikileaks, they all nowadays seem to be processed in the same way.

“I Think Every Other Lawyer In Here Knows”

In most instances, both those raised in the Committee and those discussed among the commentariat, Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen seems to have avoided unambiguously unethical behavior.

Running with the Hare and Hunting with the Hounds

Were all our behavior and thoughts held up to a scrutiny similar to that being focused on Governor Northam, most of us would probably turn out to have spent some time with hares and some time with hounds in one hunt or another, at one time or another. Few of us are so internally consistent that our former behavior matched our ideals at the time, and even fewer whose former behavior perfectly matches our present ideals. What matters more is how injurious the inconsistency is, and also how current, because most of us grow wiser and kinder as experience and exposure to the world shape our views.

Shedding the Bubble

There has been much concern raised by a recent instance in which a curbside beggar was a stalking horse for a mugger who stabbed and killed a would-be donor. In the wake of that incident, more than one person I’ve chatted with has cited it as a reason never to make donations out the car window. To which my response is: It’s already established that you’re a risk-taker; you’re behind the wheel. Well, your odds of perishing in a traffic accident are 1 in 17,625.   Your odds of dying by assault with a sharp object are a paltry 1 in 138,834.

The Exemplary Ms. Margolin

There will always be some kind of sacrifice involved in any effort to wield our profession for the common good. If, like Bessie Margolin, one is persistent and lucky, that sacrifice may well pay off.

Every One of Them White

Most of us genuinely reject bigotry. The imagination’s fixation on worlds without nonwhites is mostly fueled by the pursuit of comfort, not by hatred. Our residential and educational practices betray unconscious and unacknowledged comfort zones. The Costco “holiday village” in which every merry-maker is white demonstrates exactly what makes many of us comfortable. We white people need to break ourselves of those mental comfort zones, though, because we are powerful, and our dreams greatly affect what happens in real life.