MWMWM
A direct blog built by a few friends to share ideas, gather the sense of the times, and record links to documents, articles, and resources. In a polarized nation, we have to seek moderation, common ground, and communication; we hope we can find ways to help us "go purple" and fix the rift in 06.
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ACTIVISM
mjj :
Torts and Citizen Protection
I was talking with my son recently; he made the mistake of saying "we have a problem with lawsuits in this country" while I was driving.

When I drive, I'm in control of the vehicle, and that spills over into the conversation. "Careful what you say," I said, and then proceeded to move into rant mode, discoursing on the problem of judicial reform.

A couple of decades ago, Reagan Republicans had a mantra of "deregulation." The principle was that regulation was sand in the gears of the machine of American commerce; that regulations were onorous, that "government regulations" were synonymous with "red tape" and were always preceded by the adjective "burdensome."

"That's a matter for the private sector, not government, to handle," they said, as they noted that flight-attendant lawsuits were driving airlines to restrict smoking on flights; that consumer lawsuits were driving kid's pajama manufacturers to preclude flammable fabrics; that patient lawsuits were driving hospitals to safer practices.

They got enough people to buy into that "burdensome government regulations" theme that they could justify eviscerating them -- thereby removing a key citizen protections.

The government can be, through its regulatory and legal system, the best (if not the only) protection a citizen has from the predatory practices of the powerful. Without regulation, the "societal commons" -- air quality, water quality, soil quality, airwave use, product safety, health care, etc. -- is driven by the profit motive, rather than a motive of public good. The profit motive can lead to abuse.

Without regulation, large fees can be charged those poor folks without bank accounts, just for cashing a paycheck. Enron-scale manipulations can go unrecognized, costing citizens dramatically. Pollution can go unchecked, since no one's minding the store. Long-term quality of life can be sacrificed in the interests of short-term profit.

And now, after they've hamstrung governmental regulations (via the justification that lawsuits will prevent the most egregious faults, and that we don't want "faceless bureaucrats" making policy and regulations), they now want to eviscerate the last protection a citizen has: the ability to sue a company, a corporation, or a powerful entity in a way that hurts economically.

Without expensive penalties for misbehavior, what motivation do multi-billion-dollar corporations have to protect individuals, much less environments, or the future?

Without expensive penalties for stupidity, what motivation does, for example, McDonald's (also here) have to change its behavior, since there's plenty of economic reasons to produce coffee at 185 degrees (instead of the industry norm of 135-145)?

Without expensive remedies for stupidity, what motivation does a coal company have to do real bioremediation? Only government regulation? If that's gone, then what?

The dittohead line that "lawsuits are out of control" may be a simplistic, dangerously reflexive response, based on bad information. In reality, judges and juries generally respond with sanity, and within reasonable limits. However, if "tort reform" is pushed forward, we may lose the best defense a citizen has -- the ability to sue, if a large and powerful entity rides roughshod in the the pursuit of profit.

After that long rant, my son was clear. "Papa, this is probably the fourth time in as many years that you've made that point. I meant that *people* are too quick to look to *legal* remedies when other remedies may be available..."

Ah. That's true too. :-/


mjj : This is the sort of thing we should see more of--smart innovations.
IBM Launches Global Computing Grid To Support Research Nov. 16, 2004
Information Week
As part of a broader effort to spur collaborative research in key industries, IBM on Tuesday launched a project through which home PC users can "donate" computer power to help researchers solve problems ranging from the spread of AIDS to earthquake forecasting.

As envisioned, researchers using the World Community Grid, as IBM is calling the project, would be able to tap into PCs worldwide through software that can link millions of individual computers to form a giant, virtual supercomputer. At the other end of the network, philanthropically minded home PC users can attach their machines to the grid through a secure sign-in process at World Community Grid. IBM is launching the project in partnership with United Devices Inc.

IBM CEO Sam Palmisano unveiled the initiative at a customer event in New York City. Going forward, most business and scientific innovation will occur in collaborative environments supported by technology such as the World Community Grid, Palmisano said. Innovation, he added, "is no longer the domain of the individual inventor."
mjj : This is what we tell the world. Quotable quotes galore, straight from the government's own mouth. These need to be injected into mainstream discourse.
Principles of Democracy
US State Department publications
Majority rule is a means for organizing government and deciding public issues; it is not another road to oppression. Just as no self-appointed group has the right to oppress others, so no majority, even in a democracy, should take away the basic rights and freedoms of a minority group or individual.
mjj : On second thought, I spoke a little too soon.... Specter needs moderate support...
Moderate Senator Fights for Top Judiciary Post
Nov 8, 2004 — WASHINGTON (Reuters)
Arlen Specter pledged on Monday not to oppose Supreme Court nominees just because they are anti-abortion as the moderate Republican fought to keep alive his bid to head the Senate panel that oversees judicial nominations.
mjj : Good old Molly. Bless her.
Don't Mourn, Organize
by Molly Ivins, November 5, 2004 by the Boulder Daily Camera
The Bush administration is going to be wired around the neck of the American people for four more years, long enough for the stench to sicken everybody. It should cure the country of electing Republicans.

And at least Democrats won't have to clean up after him until it is real clear to everyone who made the mess.
mjj : Makes you want to sign up to march. It's true--change comes from the people, not the politicians.
Vote or die? Not exactly. Activism, not one election, changes the world
Sean Gonsalves, Cape Cod Times, Nov 03, 2004
One thing I've learned from studying history: No politician is ever on the cutting edge of change. Politicians will only go so far. So if their perceived constituents don't create the moral and political climate for certain policies or positions, guess what? They ain't ever gonna see the light of day.

Think about it. Name one meaningfully momentous change in American history that was brought on behalf of the people because a president or his administration pioneered it.

The 40-hour work week? Paid vacations? Overtime pay? We can thank those who shed blood, sweat and tears in the labor movement for creating the social pressures that established those work rules we have come to take for granted.
mjj : Michael hits it, in a few spots.
17 Reasons Not to Slit Your Wrists...
by Michael Moore, Friday, November 5th, 2004
Dear Friends,

Ok, it sucks. Really sucks. But before you go and cash it all in, let's, in the words of Monty Python, “always look on the bright side of life!” There IS some good news from Tuesday's election.

Here are 17 reasons not to slit your wrists:

1. It is against the law for George W. Bush to run for president again.

2. Bush's victory was the NARROWEST win for a sitting president since Woodrow Wilson in 1916.

3. The only age group in which the majority voted for Kerry was young adults (Kerry: 54%, Bush: 44%), proving once again that your parents are always wrong and you should never listen to them.

4. In spite of Bush's win, the majority of Americans still think the country is headed in the wrong direction (56%), think the war wasn't worth fighting (51%), and don’t approve of the job George W. Bush is doing (52%). (Note to foreigners: Don't try to figure this one out. It's an American thing, like Pop Tarts.)

5. The Republicans will not have a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate. If the Democrats do their job, Bush won't be able to pack the Supreme Court with right-wing ideologues. Did I say "if the Democrats do their job?" Um, maybe better to scratch this one.

6. Michigan voted for Kerry! So did the entire Northeast, the birthplace of our democracy. So did 6 of the 8 Great Lakes States. And the whole West Coast! Plus Hawaii. Ok, that's a start. We've got most of the fresh water, all of Broadway, and Mt. St. Helens. We can dehydrate them or bury them in lava. And no more show tunes!

7. Once again we are reminded that the buckeye is a nut, and not just any old nut -- a poisonous nut. A great nation was felled by a poisonous nut. May Ohio State pay dearly this Saturday when it faces Michigan.

8. 88% of Bush's support came from white voters. In 50 years, America will no longer have a white majority. Hey, 50 years isn't such a long time! If you're ten years old and reading this, your golden years will be truly golden and you will be well cared for in your old age.

9. Gays, thanks to the ballot measures passed on Tuesday, cannot get married in 11 new states. Thank God. Just think of all those wedding gifts we won't have to buy now.

10. Five more African Americans were elected as members of Congress, including the return of Cynthia McKinney of Georgia. It's always good to have more blacks in there fighting for us and doing the job our candidates can't.

11. The CEO of Coors was defeated for Senate in Colorado. Drink up!

12. Admit it: We like the Bush twins and we don't want them to go away.

13. At the state legislative level, Democrats picked up a net of at least 3 chambers in Tuesday's elections. Of the 98 partisan-controlled state legislative chambers (house/assembly and senate), Democrats went into the 2004 elections in control of 44 chambers, Republicans controlled 53 chambers, and 1 chamber was tied. After Tuesday, Democrats now control 47 chambers, Republicans control 49 chambers, 1 chamber is tied and 1 chamber (Montana House) is still undecided.

14. Bush is now a lame duck president. He will have no greater moment than the one he's having this week. It's all downhill for him from here on out -- and, more significantly, he's just not going to want to do all the hard work that will be expected of him. It'll be like everyone's last month in 12th grade -- you've already made it, so it's party time! Perhaps he'll treat the next four years like a permanent Friday, spending even more time at the ranch or in Kennebunkport. And why shouldn't he? He's already proved his point, avenged his father and kicked our ass.

15. Should Bush decide to show up to work and take this country down a very dark road, it is also just as likely that either of the following two scenarios will happen: a) Now that he doesn't ever need to pander to the Christian conservatives again to get elected, someone may whisper in his ear that he should spend these last four years building "a legacy" so that history will render a kinder verdict on him and thus he will not push for too aggressive a right-wing agenda; or b) He will become so cocky and arrogant -- and thus, reckless -- that he will commit a blunder of such major proportions that even his own party will have to remove him from office.

16. There are nearly 300 million Americans -- 200 million of them of voting age. We only lost by three and a half million! That's not a landslide -- it means we're almost there. Imagine losing by 20 million. If you had 58 yards to go before you reached the goal line and then you barreled down 55 of those yards, would you stop on the three yard line, pick up the ball and go home crying -- especially when you get to start the next down on the three yard line? Of course not! Buck up! Have hope! More sports analogies are coming!!!

17. Finally and most importantly, over 55 million Americans voted for the candidate dubbed "The #1 Liberal in the Senate." That's more than the total number of voters who voted for either Reagan, Bush I, Clinton or Gore. Again, more people voted for Kerry than Reagan. If the media are looking for a trend it should be this -- that so many Americans were, for the first time since Kennedy, willing to vote for an out-and-out liberal. The country has always been filled with evangelicals -- that is not news. What IS news is that so many people have shifted toward a Massachusetts liberal. In fact, that's BIG news. Which means, don't expect the mainstream media, the ones who brought you the Iraq War, to ever report the real truth about November 2, 2004. In fact, it's better that they don't. We'll need the element of surprise in 2008.

Feeling better? I hope so. As my friend Mort wrote me yesterday, "My Romanian grandfather used to say to me, 'Remember, Morton, this is such a wonderful country -- it doesn't even need a president!'"

But it needs us. Rest up, I'll write you again tomorrow.

Yours,

Michael Moore
MMFlint@aol.com
www.michaelmoore.com