Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"If any have offended against thee?" Marcus Aurelius

Consider whence each thing is come, and of what it consists, and into what it changes, and what kind of a thing it will be when it has changed, and that it will sustain no harm. If any have offended against thee, consider first: What is my relation to men, and that we are made for one another; and in another respect, I was made to be set over them, as a ram over the flock or a bull over the herd. But examine the matter from first principles, from this: If all things are not mere atoms, it is nature which orders all things: if this is so, the inferior things exist for the sake of the superior, and these for the sake of one another.

Second, consider what kind of men they are at table, in bed, and so forth: and particularly, under what compulsions in respect of opinions they are; and as to their acts, consider with what pride they do what they do.

Third, that if men do rightly what they do, we ought not to be displeased; but if they do not right, it is plain that they do so involuntarily and in ignorance. For as every soul is unwillingly deprived of the truth, so also is it unwillingly deprived of the power of behaving to each man according to his deserts. Accordingly men are pained when they are called unjust, ungrateful, and greedy, and in a word wrong-doers to their neighbours.

Fourth, consider that thou also doest many things wrong, and that thou art a man like others; and even if thou dost abstain from certain faults, still thou hast the disposition to commit them, though either through cowardice, or concern about reputation, or some such mean motive, thou dost abstain from such faults.

Fifth, consider that thou dost not even understand whether men are doing wrong or not, for many things are done with a certain reference to circumstances. And in short, a man must learn a great deal to enable him to pass a correct judgement on another man's acts.

Sixth, consider when thou art much vexed or grieved, that man's life is only a moment, and after a short time we are all laid out dead.

Seventh, that it is not men's acts which disturb us, for those acts have their foundation in men's ruling principles, but it is our own opinions which disturb us. Take away these opinions then, and resolve to dismiss thy judgement about an act as if it were something grievous, and thy anger is gone. How then shall I take away these opinions? By reflecting that no wrongful act of another brings shame on thee: for unless that which is shameful is alone bad, thou also must of necessity do many things wrong, and become a robber and everything else.

Eighth, consider how much more pain is brought on us by the anger and vexation caused by such acts than by the acts themselves, at which we are angry and vexed.

Ninth, consider that a good disposition is invincible, if it be genuine, and not an affected smile and acting a part. For what will the most violent man do to thee, if thou continuest to be of a kind disposition towards him, and if, as opportunity offers, thou gently admonishest him and calmly correctest his errors at the very time when he is trying to do thee harm, saying, Not so, my child: we are constituted by nature for something else: I shall certainly not be injured, but thou art injuring thyself, my child.- And show him with gentle tact and by general principles that this is so, and that even bees do not do as he does, nor any animals which are formed by nature to be gregarious. And thou must do this neither with any double meaning nor in the way of reproach, but affectionately and without any rancour in thy soul; and not as if thou wert lecturing him, nor yet that any bystander may admire, but either when he is alone, and if others are present...

Remember these nine rules, as if thou hadst received them as a gift from the Muses, and begin at last to be a man while thou livest. But thou must equally avoid flattering men and being vexed at them, for both are unsocial and lead to harm. And let this truth be present to thee in the excitement of anger, that to be moved by passion is not manly, but that mildness and gentleness, as they are more agreeable to human nature, so also are they more manly; and he who possesses these qualities possesses strength, nerves and courage, and not the man who is subject to fits of passion and discontent. For in the same degree in which a man's mind is nearer to freedom from all passion, in the same degree also is it nearer to strength: and as the sense of pain is a characteristic of weakness, so also is anger. For he who yields to pain and he who yields to anger, both are wounded and both submit.

But if thou wilt, receive also a tenth present from the leader of the Muses (Apollo), and it is this- that to expect bad men not to do wrong is madness, for he who expects this desires an impossibility. But to allow men to behave so to others, and to expect them not to do thee any wrong, is irrational and tyrannical.

Marcus Arelius, Meditations, Book XI [Emphasis added.]

Monday, February 16, 2009

Dogs on a Lake

The topic of this site is a hard one. Men are being put in jail. Their lives are changing in ways not one of us who has not ever experienced what they are going through could begin to understand. Perhaps though, with some imagination and remembrance of hard times in our own lives, we might get an idea of what it must be like.

Some of us would like to avoid an existential understanding what these "others" are going through by saying they are guilty and they deserve punishment.

So be it, but let us face the truth. Not one of us is innocent. No, not one. If one would look closely he or she would see a truth -- not one of us is innocent. And, one way or another we deserve punishment.

So, why the picture of dogs on a frozen lake in Eastern Washington just below a place where people who are not like us are, in essence, incarcerated in a hospital -- Medical Lake, Washington? Why not?
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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Earwigging: Financing Judicial Campaigns

The financing of judicial campaigns is a form of earwigging. Political forces, whether they be individuals or groups, seek the election of judicial candidates who will decide cases in certain favorable ways to the individual or group. In our electoral process money is speech. Political forces therefore spend money to get certain people elected. These forces do not spend speech money out of the goodness of their hearts. They expect a certain form of "speech" from the people they get elected. The speech they expect is speech from the benches of our judicial system -- the super-legislatures of today's "democracies." It is just human nature.

Judicial campaign financing is a form of earwigging.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Judge Bobby DeLaughter and Earwigging

The government is going to have a tough row to hoe to convict Judge Bobby DeLaughter.

It is going to have to show that DeLaughter knew he was being bribed, knew that he was actually knowingly involved in the efforts of Richard Scruggs and his cast of characters (at the time well thought of by the community and the sub-community of lawyers) to influence him.

My guess is DeLaughter will show he was being "earwigged." Earwigging has a rich tradition in Mississippi. It is the only state that has specific rules devoted to trying to minimize earwigging. The Mississippi judicial conduct commission proceedings are replete with conduct involving ex parte contact between judges and litigants and others – earwigging.

The evidence at the DeLaughter trial will include all sorts of facts about the extent earwigging takes place in Mississippi. We will learn judicial cases are, in essence, political events whereby the judge treated like a composite of individuals making up a legislature. We will learn that lawyers and litigants and their friends have routinely contacted judges about cases and have done so in a host of imaginative ways. That is, that judges are routinely lobbied about the cases before them. We will learn that money does not have to change hands. We will learn that judges dearly like to be loved and thought well of by members of the community, members of the community they respect.

We may even learn what P. L. Blake was doing for his $50 million and what the hell Patterson was doing for his $80,000 per month.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Another Guilty Plea and Two More Years on His Sentence

Richard Scruggs pled guilty to more crimes yesterday in Aberdeen, Mississippi. He will serve 7 years but the time will be concurrent so his total prison time will be 7 years. Maybe he will qualif for some sort of parole. Maybe not. If he serves the full 7 years he will be out when he is about 69 years old.

The pictures of Mr. Scruggs yesterday seemed to show that prison had brought about great changes in him. He was thin. Gaunt even, a person who had obviously been going through dramatic changes. Yet, in a way, it seemed as though he was a man in process, a man who was evolving from something he was into something new. Looking close one could tell prison and the changes he was undergoing, the punishment he was experiencing, was having a positive effect.

Perhaps for the first time he was beginning to see something he had only seen from afar. Was it the look of defeat that I saw? Maybe, but only in a worldly sense. Instead, I think I saw a person for whom a light was beginning to shine and was going to light up his soul.

Law and lawyering in America today is a sad business. The success some think they experience is not real.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Personal Success In America

In America as elsewhere we like to think people who break the law and go to jail are not like us. We like to think we are different, we are better citizens, not prone to bad or illegal behavior. The judges whom we respect without question look kindly upon us. We write about those who have failed, who have gotten caught, have caused harm and think -- they are bad and I am good we silently say to ourselves. We say, "they are subject to reproach, but not me."

Plea Bargains

The news from Mississippi tells of another plea bargain in the offing between Richard Scruggs and the US Attorney. There will be more such bargains perhaps. The trouble with these plea bargains is that we do not get to know all of the facts surrounding the wrongdoing. There will be some sort of admission of guilt as to a particular crime by the person reaching the bargain, but there will not be an exposition of the facts, in any great degree, in and about the wrong doing.

One supposes that the wrongdoing in Mississippi between judges and lawyers is pervasive. To what extent we will never know.