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The Wisdom of Bastiat Print E-mail
by Wes Riddle    Wed, Dec 14, 2011, 11:45 AM

Frederic Bastiat was Ronald Reagan’s favorite philosopher.  Bastiat was born 200 years ago in France to a merchant father.  Bastiat was orphaned, however, at age nine and brought up by his grandfather and his aunt.  At seventeen, Bastiat went to work in his uncle’s accounting business and spent six years there.  Then he inherited his grandfather’s farm and became a farmer.  From the farm, Bastiat became active in local politics and started to write pamphlets on political and economic topics.  Indeed, the last six years of his life witnessed his pouring forth, a most remarkable series of writings—right up to his untimely death from lung infection on Christmas Eve, 1850 at the age of forty-nine.  Today Bastiat is regarded as a first-rate political theorist and economist.  His peculiar gift of argument was his method of exaggeration, which he used to expose inherent fallacies in the logic of socialists and economic protectionists. 

For instance, if a proposed new railroad from Paris to Madrid should have a break at Bordeaux, in order to force passengers to stop and shop and thus benefit that city, then why not break the railroad at a dozen or so other cities?  Indeed, have the railroad consist of nothing but gaps—a negative railroad if you will!  Wouldn’t that help everyone along the route by the same logic?  His supreme jest was the petition of the candlemakers.  In it, he asks the Chamber of Deputies to pass a law requiring the closing of all openings by which the light of the sun can enter homes and businesses.  That way, you increase the need for artificial light—France consumes more oil and other industry-related products; ergo, thousands of ships will now engage in whaling.  In short order, France will have a great fleet to uphold its honor and to gratify its patriotic longings!  In Latin this kind of argument is called reductio ad absurdum, and I think Bastiat would have a field day today.  He’d have less competition too, since there are so few talented politicians to engage with him in mental joust. 

Alas, you’d think a country of over three hundred and seven millions could do a little better than the hundreds of mediocre representatives and senators we have!  Elected officials, as well as the electorate, would do well to become familiar with the profound wisdom in Bastiat’s writings.  Bastiat speaks clearly to our day (‘he that hath an ear, let him hear’), and I quote:

 

On Freedom and Harmony

 

              Society is composed of men, and every man is a free agent.  Since man is free,

he can choose; since he can choose, he can err; since he can err, he can suffer. 

I go further: He must err and he must suffer; for his starting point is ignorance,

and in his ignorance he sees before him an infinite number of unknown roads,

all of which save one lead to error.

 

This explains man’s necessarily painful evolution....  Two very different

masters teach him [his lessons]: experience and foresight.  Experience teaches

efficaciously but brutally.It instructs us in all the effects of an act by making us

feel them, and we cannot fail to learn eventually, from having been burned               ourselves, that fire burns.  I should prefer, in so far as possible, to replace this

rude teacher with one more gentle: foresight.

 

  

On the Market Economy

 

            By virtue of exchange, one man’s prosperity is beneficial to all others.

              Capital has from the beginning of time worked to free men from the

yoke of ignorance, want, and tyranny.  To frighten away capital is to rivet

a triple chain around the arms of the human race.

 

Property, the right to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor, the right to work, to

develop, to exercise one’s faculties, according to one’s own understanding,

without the state intervening otherwise than by its protective action—this

is what is meant by liberty.

 

On Law and Justice

 

            It is not because men have passed laws that personality, liberty, and

property exist.  On the contrary, it is because personality, liberty, and

property already exist that men make laws.

 

Law is the organization of the natural right to legitimate self-defense; it is the

substitution of collective force for individual forces, to act in the sphere in

which they have the right to act, to do what they have the right to do; to

guarantee security of person, liberty, and property rights, to cause justice to

reign over all.

 

On State Intervention

 

            The state tends to expand in proportion to its means of existence and to live

beyond its means, and these are, in the last analysis, nothing but the substance

of the people.  Woe to the people that cannot limit the sphere of action of the

state!  Freedom, private enterprise, wealth, happiness, independence, personal

dignity, all vanish.

 

The State is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the

expense of everyone else.

____________________

Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford.  Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he serves as State Director of the Republican Freedom Coalition (RFC).  His newly released book, Horse Sense for the New Millennium is available on-line at www.WesRiddle.net and from fine bookstores everywhere.  Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .  

 

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The True Costs of Keynes Print E-mail
by Martin Hutchinson    Wed, Dec 7, 2011, 09:45 AM

Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong each killed tens of millions of people, and John Maynard Keynes was a pacifist who never fired a shot in anger. However economically, when the billions come to be totted up, it may well be the case that Keynes was the most destructive of the four. He cannot entirely be blamed for mistakes in monetary policy, which he never understood, and even his “stimulus” ideas owed much to those who came before him – for example Arthur Pigou – and after him – for example Joan Robinson. Yet the other value destroyers had their henchmen too, in Heinrich Himmler, Lavrenti Beria and Jiang Qing. Overall, when henchmen are added in, Keynes runs the other value destroyers close, and may in the future surpass them as his value-destructions continue. Truly, persuasive but misguided economic theories can be much more damaging than they appear.

This is not to claim that big government per se is value-destructive (it is, but that’s a separate issue.) The right size of government is a matter for legitimate debate and successful societies such as Sweden and Singapore can be built with very different sizes of government. Personally I would rather live in Singapore than Sweden, and I would expect Singapore to exhibit markedly faster long-term economic growth than Sweden, but both societies run their finances in a responsible manner and are models of governmental integrity.

Since both Sweden and Singapore currently have modest budget surpluses and have kept control of their currencies and avoided excessive monetary stimulus, they are in the modern debased sense of the term non-Keynesian, even if the managers of Sweden’s economy might well describe themselves as Keynesians for the sake of harmony at international gatherings.

The Keynesian fallacy is in essence one of getting something for nothing. By Keynesian fiscal stimulus, normally involving spending more money though occasionally through tax cuts, providing they avoid the annoyingly savings-prone rich, we are supposed to produce additional economic output whenever there is an “output gap” from full employment, i.e., in all conditions save those of a raging boom, when resources are scarce. Keynes himself recommended such stimulus only at the bottom of deep recessions, and suggested that it should be balanced by running budget surpluses in times of boom. Needless to say his disciples have neglected the disciplines he recommended.

Similarly, the analogous monetary policy (which Keynes personally did not advocate, since he believed that interest rates had no effect on output) pushes down interest rates and indulges in ever more lavish bouts of monetary “stimulus” in the belief that by doing so the economy can be persuaded to expand more rapidly. It’s fair to claim that monetary stimulus does not derive directly from Keynes (though it is not new – it was a policy advocated by Keynesians in the 1960s Johnson administration, for example.)  However fiscal stimulus is a direct product of Keynes’ 1936 “General Theory” and both forms of stimulus derive from Keynes’ overall approach of flouting economic orthodoxy and using ingenious paradox to propound unorthodox policies. Keynes was the origin of the “stimulus” approach; its central idea that by manipulating monetary or fiscal policy we can get a bigger government than we pay for is his. It is thus fair to blame the costs of that approach on him.

Those costs are considerable.  In the 1930s Herbert Hoover’s reckless expansion of government spending, including loans to cronies through the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, caused further slowdown in the economy, which was exacerbated by his dreadful early 1932 increase in the top marginal rate of tax from 25% to 63%. Then, as I discussed a few weeks ago,  Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal deficit spending, combined with his reckless “set the gold price in my pajamas” monetary policy prolonged the Great Depression far longer than would naturally have occurred, delaying full recovery from 1934-35 to 1939-40.

In the recent unpleasantness, fiscal stimulus worldwide initially appeared merely ineffective. By diverting resources from the productive private sector to unproductive public sector boondoggles it reduced long-term output. In the U.S. case, the Obama stimulus converted a vigorous recovery into an anemic one; only in the third quarter of 2011, after the effects of stimulus had begun to wear off, did output begin to accelerate and unemployment trend down (in this case we should celebrate public sector job losses and declines in public sector output, since they free up resources for healthy private sector growth!).

However with the euro crisis it has become clear that fiscal stimulus, if excessive, has an exponentially adverse effect. By increasing deficits to unsustainable levels, it precipitates bond market fears about the state’s credit risk. Naturally, that strangles credit availability to almost all entities domiciled in the country concerned. Thus while a mild fiscal stimulus in a country that before recession was running a surplus might be mildly beneficial (because the differential between private sector savings rates and the 100% stimulus spending rate outweighed the inefficiency effect of diverting resources to the public sector) a large fiscal stimulus, or one incurred in a country like Greece or the 2009 U.S. that was already dangerously in deficit, will cause economic damage rising to many times the value of the stimulus itself, persisting for years or even decades to come.

Monetary stimulus is similarly damaging. As Walter Bagehot remarked over a century ago, the correct response to financial crisis is to lend on top quality security at very high interest rates. This was notably not done in 2008; instead the injection of liquidity to favored companies was accompanied by pushing interest rates far below inflation. Repeating the monetary stimulus in 2010 and again in 2011, when in the United States at least the financial crisis was over, was inexcusable.

Monetary stimulus causes structural damage to the economy in the following ways:

·                     Normally, as was the case in 1965-79 it causes accelerating inflation. Since 1995, this has not been the case, because the West has benefited from an enormous deflationary force from the Internet and modern telecommunications, which has enabled massive outsourcing of goods and services to locations with much cheaper wage rates. That effect is now ending, while in some countries, notably Britain, the monetary stimulus has been increased to Weimar Republic-like proportions of 40% of public spending. We can expect the inflationary effect to strike with massively multiplied force compared with the gentle zephyr of 1965-79 when it finally arrives.

·                     As discussed in this column a few months back, by making capital artificially cheap, monetary stimulus encourages employers to substitute capital for labor to an artificial extent, thus raising the equilibrium level of unemployment. In current circumstances, this substitution takes the form of outsourcing production to emerging markets, thus depressing U.S. and European labor markets further.

·                     By allowing banks to make artificial profits from “gapping” -- borrowing short-term and investing in fixed rate long term bonds and mortgages -- it suppresses lending to small business, thus further increasing unemployment. It must be noted that the true level of U.S. unemployment is far higher than the officially admitted 8.6%, as many workers have become discouraged and left the workforce.

·                     Ultra-low interest rates suppress savings (which receive negative real returns on their money), thereby de-capitalizing the economy.

·                     Finally if, as happened in 2008, monetary stimulus is directed only at favored banks and finance houses, it destroys the integrity of the market. Beneficiary banks have been shown by the recent Fed audit to have benefited to the tune of $13 billion by profits made on emergency Fed loans. Had that money been lent at appropriate penalty rates, this profit would have been captured for taxpayers. It was in essence a gigantic subsidy to Wall Street bonus recipients by the corrupt Federal Reserve. Needless to say, damaging cronyism has thereby been encouraged.

As recent events have overwhelmingly demonstrated, both fiscal and monetary stimulus are highly addictive, since they appear to provide something for nothing and the cost of reversing them appears unpleasant to the Keynesians who control the levers of policy. As to their cost, the current Congressional Budget Office projections suggest that there is currently a 5% output gap below full employment, and that the output gap will disappear only in 2016. The cost of current Keynesian policies over 2009-16 can thus be conservatively estimated at about 15% of GDP, or $2.2 trillion in today’s dollars. To that we can add very roughly 50% of one year’s 1929 GDP, for the output lost through Keynesian policies in 1932-40, or another $500 billion, for a very conservative total of $2.7 trillion all-told in the United States alone.

That may not sound sufficient to counterbalance the tyrants’ depredations, but consider: 1930s Germany, 1940s Russia and 1950s China were all much poorer countries than the modern United States. Very roughly, Germany’s 1936 GDP and the Soviet Union’s 1940 GDP were both about $500 billion modern dollars, while China’s 1955 GDP was about $1,500 billion. Thus Hitler and Stalin could have destroyed their entire output for more than 5 years, and Mao for almost two years, before doing as much economic damage as Maynard Keynes has wreaked in one country.

It’s a rough calculation, but illuminating – and while Hitler, Stalin and Mao are long gone, Keynes’ depredations continue.

Originally appeared in The Bear's Lair.

Martin Hutchinson is the author of "Great Conservatives" (Academica Press, 2005)—details can be found on the Web site www.greatconservatives.com–and co-author with Professor Kevin Dowd of “Alchemists of Loss” (Wiley – 2010). Both now available on Amazon.com, “Great Conservatives” only in a Kindle edition, “Alchemists of Loss” in both Kindle and print editions.

 

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Apples and Oranges Print E-mail
by James Reza    Mon, Nov 28, 2011, 08:56 AM

The expression of comparing apples and oranges occurs when two items or groups of items are compared that cannot be validly compared.  One glaring example is the difference in the media trying to compare the actions of the Tea Party Activists and the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) groups.

Some months ago I attended a Tea Party rally in downtown Fort Worth.  While there I listened to several speakers talk about our government’s inability to control it’s spending and warned those in attendance that if our government elected reps didn’t stop their bad spending habits or brought under control, we can easily become like Greece, which is now bankrupt due to their government spending more while at the same time taking less in tax revenues due to the lack of jobs.  Which is exactly what is occurring in our country as I write this piece. As I observed the Tea Party crowd, I couldn’t help but notice that the group consisted of blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and Anglos.  The Tea Party goers conducted themselves in an orderly manner, rented several portable toilets, and the signs most attendees held were not vulgar, racists, or demeaning to others who didn’t side with their views.  Though there were policemen present, none of the Tea Party crowd intimidated them or hurled verbal insults at them.  The Tea Party speakers also spoke eloquently in expressing their views without any curse or insulting words utter over their microphones. After the crowd dispersed, I couldn’t help but notice that most of the attendees picked up their own litter and disposed of it in the plentiful trash cans found in and around downtown Fort Worth.

Folks, I’m sure many of you have noticed how the mainstream media has tried to paint the Tea Party protesters as racist, bigots, hell raisers and Lord knows what else.  Truth of the matter is, that the media by in large is in lock step with the Democrat Party and their liberal agenda.  Thus, they hate anyone or any group that wants to shrink the size of government and their socialist programs.

From what I’ve gathered in observing the Occupy Wall Street crowd is a movement of a supposedly financially disenfranchised people who don’t have a clue of what the heck they are complaining about, or, they are totally misinformed in blaming Wall Street and businesses in general for whatever bad situation they find themselves in.  If these OWS protesters are out of work, don’t have money, can’t find a job, etc. they are desperately looking for someone or something to blame for their own self inflicted misery.  And as they vent their frustrations they are leaving a negative view of their actions with a majority of Americans.  Sure, one has the right to assemble and protest their anger at government, or whatever, but these folks have in many cities overstepped their boundaries.  For instance, in Baltimore, at a OWS gathering several rape victims were urged not to report their attackers to the police, but rather to a “security committee” who will investigate the incident and provide counseling to the perpetrator. In a Cleveland OWS gathering, a 19-year-old student was ordered to share a tent with a man who then sexually assaulted her.  The assault was not reported to law enforcement until two days later when the girl related the incident to a professor.  In a Seattle OWS rally, a participant was arrested for exposing himself to young children at least five times.  In one instance, he approached a pair of 13-year-olds playing at a public park and “performed a lewd act.”  In many cities where these OWS groups are gathering and protesting some city officials are beginning to retaliate by police force to control their criminal activities and to stop the harassment of everyday workers who happen to walk by their camps.  This information I’ve posted of the wrong doings of these OWS buffoons, I obtained from police reports from several different cities where these OWS groups have assembled to protest.  Make note that the mainstream media did not post any of these awful criminal behavior committed by these lawless OWS groups.  But, had the Tea Party groups conducted themselves in the same disorderly manner the OWS behaved, you can bet that the media would have blasted it nightly in their news reports.

After viewing how the OWS protesters have demonstrated, I for the love of me cannot understand who in their right mind would support their actions.  However, President Obama has fully endorsed their actions. He stated, “These protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial systems works.”  Folks, here is a President who defended his administration’s approval of a $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra, a now defunct solar company and termed it a “successful” investment.  Then you have his close friend, ex-New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine-D who’s company, MF Global, now bankrupt, has hundred of millions of dollars in customer money that has gone missing.  And President Obama has the audacity to lambaste Wall Street investors?

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also weigh in the OWS protesters.  She stated, “God bless them for their spontaneity.  It’s young, it’s spontaneous, it’s focused and it’s going to be effective.  The message of the American people is that no longer will the recklessness of some on Wall Street cause massive joblessness on Main Street.”

My friends, these littering, store looters, raping, murdering, defecating, urinating, in the public OWS protesters have in my humble opinion vented their misguided anger towards those Americans who are successful, hardworking, smart investors, and businessmen.  They’d make a more valid and more common sense protest if they would round up all of their village idiots and haul them to the White House where our country’s financial and unemployment problems have originated!

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Follow Jefferson and Reagan Print E-mail
by Wes Riddle    Mon, Nov 28, 2011, 08:54 AM

There are a lot of people who talk about Jefferson and Jefferson’s philosophy, who don’t have the slightest idea about his vision.  His vision of an extended agrarian Republic, comprised mostly of independent yeomen, seems as close and familiar today as the nearest galaxy.  Something similar might be said concerning Ronald Reagan, and I suppose it is inevitable that great men and presidents will be misinterpreted or rendered in politically convenient ways.  I have personally heard Ronald Reagan on many occasions extol the virtues, as well as the constitutional imperative, of States rights.  Yet the most aggressive nationalist and big government advocates now use Ronald Reagan as their patron saint—to endorse big government spending and imperial design!  As if the context of Cold War and stagflation and political opposition were identical today.  Of course they are not, and it takes some horse sense (in this case, understanding intent and sharing his vision) to enable us to move forward on what Reagan began—or indeed, on what Jefferson accomplished in very different historical context. 

Simply stated, Ronald Reagan started to roll back the welfare state and to reassert the sovereignty of States in their proper constitutional orbit.  He challenged a century of modern liberalism—from Reconstruction to Progressivism to World Wars, topped off by the New Deal and Great Society.  Reagan’s message resonated with the people, because he clearly articulated the vision he—and we—shared with the Founders.  His understanding of original intent led him to seek a paring back of the federal government and the restoration of real federalism—the vertical balance of power based on countervailing responsibility in the Constitution, between the States and the Federal Government. 

In his draft of the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, Thomas Jefferson declared, “Free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence; it is jealousy, and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power.”  According to professor of law and history David N. Mayer, Jefferson ’s strong conviction was that the Constitution had “fixed the limits” of political power.  In Jefferson ’s view, cumulative accretion of power to the levels wielded by the federal government today was not allowed, at least not without radical amendment of the Constitution.  The essence of Jefferson ’s theory can be found in his remark, that “In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”  In his day, Jefferson depended on the strong reaction of an informed voting public, to roll back excesses in areas of foreign policy and economy that ultra-Federalists had steered through all three branches of government.  Today the dirty little secret, known to pollsters and political hacks, is that there’s hardly an informed voting public around that isn’t lethargic.  Even if we argue that apathy is less since the economic conditions worsened after 2008, few Americans are knowledgeable about political issues or even about their own government institutions.  Skillful politicians and powerful media interests use polls to play upon the public and to lay the groundwork for so-called direct democracy—“mobocracy,” according to Matthew Robinson in his book about media’s political impact. 

What’s happening now is the exact opposite of deliberative democracy.  The “eternal vigilance” of the people has come up lacking.  Laziness perhaps has enabled our process to become corrupted.  So much so, that according to Richard Reeb, Jr., a political science and philosophy professor in California, we have essentially bypassed “limited government, separation of powers, federalism, and [the] economic and religious diversity that made popular government possible for the first time in human history.”  Jefferson moved power back to the States, and he also successfully acquired land that outran (for a time) the consolidation of power and centralizing tendency in Washington .  Reagan strove for something akin to Jefferson, albeit without a Louisiana Purchase .  Reagan gave us the opportunity to take back our rightful Constitutional portion of power, by ending the Cold War and by empowering us economically through tax cuts and decreased regulation.  Although he changed political assumptions and gave us a fighting chance, we are not winning in the wake of Reagan the way republicans won in the wake of Jefferson .  Today there is a black hole in the American political universe, and Washington threatens to crush us.  Tyranny, however well intentioned, must end.  States must begin to insist upon their Constitutional prerogative, if we should ever hope to restore the Union .  We are no less patriotic or American for saying this, no less committed to the people’s freedom and the Founder’s vision, nor “rebels” for saying we shall ‘pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor’ to achieve this end.

 ____________________

Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford .  Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he serves as State Director of the Republican Freedom Coalition (RFC).  This article is from his newly released book, Horse Sense for the New Millennium available on-line at www.WesRiddle.net and from fine bookstores everywhere.  Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .  

 

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A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Courthouse (Part III) Print E-mail
by John Browning    Mon, Nov 28, 2011, 08:52 AM

Just in case my previous two columns weren’t enough evidence to demonstrate that yes, pretty much anything can and does happen in the justice system, here’s a fresh set of “exhibits.”

 

Exhibit A – Penmanship Counts

 

I’ve written before about the critical errors made by would-be bank robbers—stopping for a nearby lunch instead of making their getaway, wearing a painfully obvious and ineffective disguise, and even showing up just after the bank had closed.  Apparently, penmanship counts, too, just like teachers used to tell us.  Tomas J. Love walked into the WSFS bank in New Castle, Delaware in October 2011 and handed one of the bank tellers a demand note scrawled on a deposit slip.  But the teller was unable to decipher Love’s handwriting, and handed the note back to the would-be holdup artist and told him to rewrite it.  Humiliated and empty-handed, Love fled the bank on foot only to be apprehended by New Castle police and charged with attempted robbery.  You know, he could have avoided this by just watching the same thing happen in the Woody Allen movie “Take the Money and Run.”

 

Exhibit B – Just Text “No” to Drugs

 

According to police in Marion, North Carolina, 35 year-old Amy Leigh Brown really got her wires crossed on October 6, 2011.  The woman allegedly texted someone by mistake in an attempt to illegally sell the prescription drug Xanax—that someone being Deputy P.V. Alkire of the McDowell County Sheriff’s Office.  Although Alkire didn’t recognize the phone number, he knew a potential drug bust when he saw one, so he responded and set up a meeting to buy from Ms. Brown.  She arrived at the appointed spot, but when the police approached, Brown deleted all of her texts and denied texting the deputy.  So Alkire called the phone number from which the texts had originated, and Brown’s phone rang.  Oops!  Brown was taken into custody, and 25 pills were found in her possession.  Oddly enough, Brown lives on a street called Scooby Doo Drive; maybe she should just stick to Scooby snacks.

 

Exhibit C – Is Listening to Rush Limbaugh Cruel & Unusual Punishment?

 

On October 3, 2011, Bridget Boyd filed a civil rights lawsuit against Harris County and Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Goad in federal court in Houston.  According to her lawsuit, Boyd was experiencing car trouble during her morning commute and decided to drive on the shoulder of the freeway.  Deputy Goad arrived and ticketed her for driving on the shoulder.  When Boyd protested the ticket, Goad allegedly arrested her.  Boyd claims that she suffered an “increased heart rate,” as well as emotional distress and mental anguish.  The cause?  Boyd (who is African-American) says she “was placed in the back of the police car and forced to listen to Rush Limbaugh make derogatory racial remarks about black people through Deputy Goad’s radio on her way to jail.”  Good luck with that, Bridget—I don’t recall anything in the Constitution about a right to NPR.

 

Exhibit D – Bravo for Life’s Little Ironies

 

The plaintiffs in the Wisconsin class action lawsuit against Taylorville Chiropractic Clinic and its director probably thought they had scored an important legal victory recently when they convinced St. Clair County Circuit Judge Lloyd Cueto to certify the class and notify potential class members of the lawsuit.  The Plaintiffs filed in 2009, claiming that the defendants had violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending unsolicited fax advertisements.  But they might have done a double take when they saw the method Judge Cueto specified for sending out notices to other prospective members of the class action suit—fax, of course.

 

Exhibit E – Keep Your Clothes On, Lady Godiva

 

Holly Van Voast, a photographer who disrobes in public to challenge the stigma against nudity, has stripped everywhere from Times Square to Grand Central Terminal.  Her Lady Godiva act at Grand Central earned the New Yorker a date in court.  When she tried to describe her actions to Judge Rita Mella, Van Voast did what comes naturally: she removed her coat, revealing that she had nothing on above the waist.  Judge Mella was not amused, and told the defendant she would be punished for contempt if she didn’t apologize.  Although Van Voast apologized for exposing herself, Franklin Schwartz—her 89 year-old court-appointed lawyer—said he’d never seen anything like it in his 62 years of law practice.  Be careful, Ms. Van Voast; when they give you a lawyer that old, you don’t want to give the poor guy a heart attack.

 

Exhibit F – From the Department of “Well, Duh”

 

Maybe Franklin Schwartz should stick to representing people closer to his age, like Ms. Elsie Pawlow of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada.  Ms. Pawlow sued Kraft Canada, the parent company of Cadbury Adams, the makers of Stride chewing gum, for $100,000.  According to Pawlow, she deserves the money because the gum (marketed as “ridiculously long-lasting”) stuck to her dentures and she suffered depression for all of 10 minutes.  Seriously, grandma?  The obvious and predictable happens, and you want $100,000 for it?  Try the Canadian lottery instead.

 

Exhibit G – Wigs No More

 

Centuries of tradition in Irish courts are about to come to an end.  Judges in the Emerald Isle will no longer wear wigs.  Acknowledging the costs of the tradition (the horsehair wigs cost the government $3,000 each), not to mention the discomfort, Ireland’s Superior Courts Rules Committee officially decided to discontinue the practice, which has been in place since the 17th Century.  Anybody want to buy a wig?

 

Exhibit H – Maybe They Saw “Deliverance” Once Too Often

 

One of my law professors once told me, “When the law is on your side, pound the law.  When the facts are on your side, pound the facts.  When neither are on your side, pound the table.”  And if there’s no table, insult the other side’s ancestry and accuse them of being inbred.  At least that seems to have been the thinking by lawyers at Washington, D.C.’s Crowell & Moring.  The law firm, which represents major players in the mining industry like Massey Energy, prepared a memo in response to an academic study that discussed possible links between the controversial process of mountaintop coal mining and birth defects in the Appalachians.  The Crowell & Moring memo criticized the study, saying it “failed to account for consanquinity (sic), one of the most prominent sources of birth defects.”

 

First of all, if you are a bunch of ostensibly high-powered Washington lawyers who want to insult an entire region’s inhabitants by accusing them of inbreeding (a.k.a. consanguinity), you should learn to spell.  Second, you should get your facts straight—consanguinity is no more prevalent in Appalachia than it is in other parts of the country, according to experts.

 

The memo ignited a firestorm of controversy and protests against the law firm, the controversial “client alert” memo was withdrawn, and Crowell & Moring issued a formal apology.  But that wasn’t enough for Jason Huber, a law professor from Charlotte, West Virginia who filed an ethics complaint against four Crowell & Moring attorneys with Washington’s Office of Bar Counsel.  The complaint accuses the lawyers of running “afoul of their ethical and moral obligations as attorneys in soliciting business from the mining industry” by making “material misrepresentations about the Appalachian people.”

 

I’m not sure about their ethics, but those lawyers certainly aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer.

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