Rule of law

November 21, 2015 § 58 Comments

People like to make fun of lawyers, and there are some pretty good lawyer jokes out there, but the humor drops off pretty quickly when people have a serious problem and they want it solved without resorting to fisticuffs or bullets.

“I don’t believe in lawsuits,” is an introduction that every plaintiff lawyer has heard more times than he can count, immediately before, of course the client hires him to sue someone.

My daughter Cassady passed the California bar yesterday on her first try, which is more than I can say; it took me two whacks to get my bar card. There is no public record of how many times it took you to pass, so naturally every lawyer I’ve ever met says they “passed it on the first try” even though the statistics show that about 46% of the people who pass in any given year are repeaters. Lawyer joke: Bar results help attorneys get started lying early.

As a bike injury lawyer I’m immune to such humor unless it’s good, in which case I laugh at it. But as a “lawyer” lawyer, i.e. someone who sees his job as something more than a meatgrinder for insurance transactions, I can tell you that we’re entering a period of history when we need more courts, more judges, and a lot more lawyers.

I’ll point out that the alternative to living in a place that is governed by the rule of law is Russia, Uzbekistan, or Syria. And I’ll point out that most of the founding fathers of the USA were lawyers. But mostly I’ll point out this: Our country faces the single greatest political threat to its existence since the Civil War, a war that was fought, by the way, when one side fired its legal defense team and brought in the gun nuts.

This threat is Donald Trump. Many people believe that he has zero chance of winning. Others think that he has some good ideas. People who are paying attention are profoundly concerned, most especially the “moderate” wing of the GOP, which spent decades screeching in lockstep with the southern GOP about abortion, god, and gun rights, and is now amazed that most of their party can talk of nothing else.

To be brief: Everyone who believes in the rule of law needs to print this in bold black letters and place it on the fridge: DONALD TRUMP WON’T RULE OUT A NATIONAL REGISTRY OF PEOPLE BASED ON ETHNICITY AND/OR RELIGION.

First, let’s look at the policy. Trump, like a lot of Americans, thinks that Syrian refugees pose a security threat to this country.  Second, let’s look at the strategy, as delineated by Trump in an online interview with Yahoo News:

Yahoo News asked Trump whether his push for increased surveillance of American Muslims could include warrantless searches. He suggested he would consider a series of drastic measures.

“We’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule,” Trump said. “And certain things will be done that we never thought would happen in this country in terms of information and learning about the enemy. And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.”

Yahoo News asked Trump whether this level of tracking might require registering Muslims in a database or giving them a form of special identification that noted their religion. He wouldn’t rule it out.

“We’re going to have to — we’re going to have to look at a lot of things very closely,” Trump said when presented with the idea. “We’re going to have to look at the mosques. We’re going to have to look very, very carefully.” Trump has never shied away from saying what he described in this instance as the “frankly unthinkable.”

Balled up in these three paragraphs are the complete destruction of the rule of law. Highlight them if you need to:

  1. Consider warrantless searches for Muslims.
  2. Track Muslims in a database or give them ID cards that note their religion.
  3. Do the “frankly unthinkable.”

If this doesn’t scare the hell out of you, it should at least make you think, because an ID system that registers people by ethnicity and denotes their religion is exactly how Germany approached the “Jewish Problem” in the 1930’s. Leaving aside the fact that such policies would upend more than 200 years of constitutional law, the language of the U.S. Constitution itself, and the very essence of democracy … wait, let’s not leave that behind.

The Republican Party now has as its undisputed frontrunner a person who, if elected, will be required to take an oath to support a constitution that he has already promised to tear into pieces.

Unlike the claim made in NRA propaganda, the first thing dictators go after is never the guns. The first thing they go after are the laws, then the judges, then the lawyers. Only after the rule of law has been hung by the neck until dead can you go after everything else.

Got any more lawyer jokes?



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§ 58 Responses to Rule of law

  • Winemaker says:

    Hey Wanky! Some of us think Trump has some good points, but still think he has NO chance and is, overall, a fool!

    My favorite lawyer joke:
    Q. How can you tell when a lawyer is lying?
    A. His lips are moving.

    I won’t hold your lawyerism against you, but a better tactic for our society would be to make every lawyer be tattooed with an “L” and wear a big red “L” patch on the outside of their clothes.

  • dangerstu says:

    When you look into the history of what happened last century, the one question I have is, how did the people let it happen? Couldn’t you see what was going on?

    I guess fascism is back in fashion and it scares the s#it out of me.

    • fsethd says:

      People saw but said HE’LL NEVER WIN. PEOPLE AREN’T THAT STUPID. Then he won.

    • bejoneses says:

      To get an idea of how peaceful people could let somethinglike that happen (ie the mass killing of all those non-Nazi), read the book titled “Hitler’s Willing Executioners,” by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen. Long, difficult read (because of the description of atrocities), but the upshot is that the general population bought in to the propaganda and marketing emotionally. Sound eerily familiar?

      • fsethd says:

        People who think Trump can’t win are fooling themselves. He can’t win today but there is no telling what will happen as election day nears. If he’s the last guy standing in the Republican field and Hillary collapses on her hypocrisy and untrustworthiness, or if there’s a massive attack that “calls for ” a “strong response” (a la Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld), Trump could absolutely win.

  • Brent F says:

    Very well said!

  • Michael says:

    Love it when you go all political on us. Good stuff.

  • Brian in VA says:

    Wait, isn’t this the party that’s been saying our current POTUS has been ignoring the Constitution? And now they want to dismember it? Huh! Evidently, it’s only okay if WE do it in the way WE want; all for the good of the American people, of course. How can everyone be wrong! On every point?

    Congrats to your daughter, Seth. That’s an accomplishment to be proud of!

  • pvannuys says:

    Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Some clever Spaniard said that. Maybe one who lived through fascism….
    Trump taps our collective frustration at not being able to nuke our problems away. Life ain’t that simple.
    Only three things are possible:
    1.) reality will catch up to him,
    2.) it won’t, and he’ll be elected, in which case we’ll have 4 more years of gridlock as Congress refuses to destroy the Constitution,
    3.) the other Republicans will tap into his mojo but dial it back; maybe they’ll get in, maybe they won’t, too early to tell.

    The 4th scenario is pure fantasy: Americans will get smart and own up to their democratic obligations as free people. Pretty ridiculous, huh?

  • tb says:

    Wish this wasn’t about parties but about law and the constitution.

    Since half my family is made up of lawyers, all more prosperous than I, let me point out a few FRIGHTENING things that have actually happened vs what might happen:

    A law was passed by the our state’s constituents only to be turned over by activist judges – I think you mentioned something about laws and judges.

    A law was passed forcing the people to pay for a service, much of the population already paid for, and should they not pay for would result in a tax. Said tax was deceptively pitched as a RIGHT.

    There are more terrifying examples of our benevolent government lying to we the people and ignoring the will of we the people, but this is a good start because is it fresh.

    What are the terrifying results?

    More voter apathy as people realize their votes mean less and less.

    A service I could once afford is now unaffordable for me and millions of citizens… Oh and the providers themselves can’t afford it – United Healthcare (at least one cycling reference should be mandatory).

    This is happening right now… If you aren’t pissed off its because your side won. Your fear and anger now is only happening because the same trashing of laws “may” not be to your liking.

    We need GREAT lawyers and NOBLE judges…

    Here’s to another Davidson getting after it!

    • fsethd says:

      We’re talking about two different things. You’re talking about issues resolved according to law by lawyers and judges who reached a decision you disagree with. I’m talking about a person who is openly talking about obeying no law other than the ones he makes.

      People have been complaining about judges since Solomon … but Trump is the first front runner of a major party to suggest abolishing the First and Fourth amendments.

      Read his interview carefully. These are not thought out or legalistic proposals. They are threats to completely bypass the legislative and judicial branches of government to the detriment of religious and ethnic groups.

      • tb says:

        I didn’t say whether or not I agreed with the outcomes above I’m just stating the people’s voice is becoming meaningless because it gets run over.

        Trump is appealing to those same people who feel run over.

        Politically I am libertarian. For me, government should not be involved in either one of those issues.

  • worthy10 says:

    Salient opening statement counselor. America does not need another Unthinkable Ruler (see George Dub). I nominate Cassady Davidson in 2024! And I’m not even being snarky over here.

  • Jim says:

    Trumps been trying to ruin his chance of winning for weeks now by saying outrageous things. Problem is, people are liking what he has to say. Frankly, the country is getting used to the shredding of the Constitution because Obama has been doing a fair job of it too.

    We are screwed

    • fsethd says:

      Every administration does things that are claimed to be unconstitutional, and Obama has had many of his actions repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court. There’s a difference between doing things that the party out of power claims is unconstitutional and promising to do away with Fourth and First Amendment protections for entire classes of people.

      • Jim says:

        He’s been shot down by courts often only to ignore and go around them. Outaide forces will never take us down but those within our country will.

        The Left in our country is so inclusive and tolerant unless you disagree with them.

        • fsethd says:

          These are catch phrases. Please refer me to a specific issue and decision.

          Tolerance doesn’t mean agreeing with policies you think are wrong. And the GOP is fielding a frontrunner who openly espouses rescinding the Fourth and First Amendments for ethnic and religious groups.

          Moreover, the majority of congressional districts are gerrymandered. Less than 20% of those up for re-election this cycle are contested. Is that also Obama’s fault?

          And huge swaths of the electorate have been disenfranchised through voting requirements that target the poor and minorities. We can bank online but not vote?

          Like it or not, much of what happens in the USA is done by rule of law. Trump opposes that and promises to discard it.

          • Jim says:

            First off, I am no fan of Trump and I am embarrassed that he seems to be the best my “party” can come up with. However, he can’t be worse than Obama and he can’t be more untrustworthy than Hillary.

            We are all entitled to our beliefs. I come to this site for funny commentary on cycling not politics. If you make the occasional political commentary, that is fine with me but if you make it the norm, then I have will have to reexamine my subscription.

            • fsethd says:

              Well, I put the word “bike” in there, and there are a lot of things in life that are worth $2.99 to say, and many more that you have to say no matter what the cost. Whether you subscribe or don’t, I appreciate it when people read and comment, and if the price of speaking my mind on things that really matter to me is zero subscribers, then that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

  • devin says:

    Trump is just tapping the bigotry and fear that exists. Just like famous democratic lawyers and advocates of civil liberties FDR and Earl Warren did by interning US citizens of Japanese descent for 3 years during WWII.

    • fsethd says:

      This proves it’s not a party issue. Anyone who believes that the internment was wrong should be outraged by Trump’s threat to rescind the Fourth and First Amendments for certain religious and ethnic groups. This isn’t about which party is better. It’s about which party is fielding a candidate who claims that his word is the rule of law.

  • Tom Paterson says:

    I forget– when did it become legal to stop a private citizen who is driving a motor vehicle on a public ROW and seize their money without a trial?

    How about a reset at least back that far? You know, the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects?

    And if that happens (thanks, Obama no really!), what about when a President or other powers want to go to war for whatever reason– personal insult or threats, lobbying business interests, out-of-control “black ops” govt. agencies, whatever– and they’re supposed to go to Congress and do that “declare war” thing– by a vote, as I understand things– like even FDR had to do the day after Pearl Harbor? I have the quote around here somewhere, something about “asking Congress” to declare that a “state of war” would henceforth exist between the USA and Japan? That would really be great, can the war-powers style legislation and take us back to the Founding Fathers’ attempts to curtail the activities of despotic rulers being the law of the land.

    “It can happen here, it already has”.

    • fsethd says:

      When people talk about erosion of civil liberties they have a rogues’ gallery of elected and unelected villains who have willingly done the hatchetwork.

      Yet none has ever made such brazen pre-election claims in this country while leading an entire presidential field. If we’re bad off with stop-and-frisk-and-confiscate, the Muslim-Syrian-Trum-Hater Registry will make J. Edgar Hoover’s actions look innocuous.

      And some things really are worse than others.

  • Worldchamp says:

    I loved this week’s economist cartoon related to this. I posted it on FB. It’s easier to get people to be afraid then getting them out of their comfort zone to understand the unknown.

    • tb says:

      Now that is scary.

      I have ridden my bike through the Muslim slums of Paris. Trust me on this, it’s very intimidating.

  • Joe C says:

    The naivete of the people who think the Democrats are fundamentally different from the Republicans is quite refreshing. And I’m kind of surprised that Wanky is against registering Muslims, because based on the blogs I’ve read, I’m not entirely sure he would be against registering Christians. Or Texans. Although Muslims appear to be a protected group. I haven’t noticed tolerance swinging both ways.

    • fsethd says:

      It’s a common complaint that “there’s no difference” until you look at legislation, at judicial rulings, and at social policy. There is a difference, but maybe it’s not the difference we wish it were. That’s like saying if we’re going to have a bad law we might as well have a terrible one. If we’re going to have rulers we dislike we might as well have ones we hate. This is precisely the Trump danger: People who think “How much worse can he be?” haven’t taken his words at face value but instead brush them off as hyperbole.

      It’s interesting that Carson is dismissed as stupid, playing to the old trope about African American IQ’s, but Trump, who can’t even keep his story straight in a single sentence, is presented as a serious candidate.

      If Trump’s not a complete buffoon, this he’s promising to completely jettison the rule of law.

      More to the point, this is about how much credence we should ascribe to a leading candidate who promises that everything is on the table with regard to rescinding the Fourth and First Amendments for ethnic and religious groups.

  • Jonathan says:

    I knew I’ve heard Trumps racist and xenophobic rhetoric somewhere before…

  • Mark 'Fred profamateur' Holt says:

    I believe there is zero chance Trump will ever be President of this country. If somehow he managed to get the Republican nomination Clinton will slaughter him in a way that would make Johnson/Goldwater look like a dead heat. Trump is a blowhard demagogue (is that spelled right?) that would put his ‘brand’ on diseased blankets being sold to Indians. It won’t take lawyers to bring down Trump, he’ll manage just fine on his own. I’m ancient and a history buff and can’t remember a worse candidate from any party ever. He is totally unelectable.

  • Ty says:

    congratulations to you and your daughter and sometimes you should just read the blog and skip the comments.

  • scott says:

    Trump is and has been a giant troll. He is also the “ugly American” with a bullet. The more things change…

  • Naftali says:

    I’m Israeli and of course, have seen years and years of terror but I still firmly believe in the rule of law. Despite those years and years of terror in Israel that is still happening daily as we speak, Israel has the rule of law.

    Yet in the USA, during WW2, all Japanese were interned in camps. In Israel, despite the real threat from segments of the population, this never happened. In the USA, people were interned at Guantanamo with no real trial or charges, and others were sent to unknown prison camps in other countries like Syria where they were tortured daily.

    It’s interesting that Israel is demonized when they act to protect their citizens in a crazy crazy region, but when France has an attack, all bets are off and no one calls for proportionality. I worry that this will also happen in the US, should there be a successful terror attack. It’s easy to demonize tiny Israel when it’s not happening in your backyard.

    I fail to understand how anyone in the USA thinks Trump might be a good choice to run the country.

    • fsethd says:

      This is exactly what happens. Americans are easily frightened have no sense of proportionality. They also have a skewed perspective on threats and danger, part of which is founded in profound innumeracy. The risk of random shooting terrorism is infinitely greater than shootings by refugees. They also wear blinders; our worst terrorist act before 9/11 was perpetrated by Christian conservatives in Oklahoma City … a fundamentally Christian and Republican stronghold.

      The fact is that religion and politics are never drivers. Poverty, ignorance, and sickness always are. Politics and religion are strategic responses to poverty, no education, and no health care.

      • Jim says:

        Oklahoma City was not carried out by “Christian Conservatives”. They were radically anti government but not particularly religious. That’s not to say Christians haven’t been responsible for their share of terror over the centuries.

        • fsethd says:

          I disagree; see the following:

          Moreover, my point isn’t that terrorism is Christian or Muslim. It’s that the poorer, sicker, and less educated a population is, the more readily it turns to non-scientific explanations for its problems and their solutions.

          As terrible as Daesh is, their movement is only religious to the extent that it acts as a cover for the profound displacement and poverty caused by years of uninterrupted warfare. War ruins the healthcare, educational, and economic institutions that make peaceful civil life possible.

          Into the void comes religion, which, far from being extreme, is simply conservative–it seeks to remedy social upheaval with textual applications of the Big Book of Mumbo Jumbo.

      • Jim says:

        Sorry but if you read his statements, manifestos etc, he was anti government but never mentioned faith. Is a white, right wing extremist so everyone just assumes he was a bible thumper too.

  • Naftali says:

    Have to disagree here, we in the West look for rational reasons why people could get so depraved. First, it’s been proven that it’s not economic status that leads to terror.

    Bin Laden was from a very wealthy family, his deputy a Doctor. Also, many from the West have joined Daesh and they were not living lives of poverty or dealing with war. It’s a combination of perversion of religion and cultural practices. We have seen numerous stories of people who are Muslim saying that there were fed a constant diet from birth that Infidels are all non-Muslims and deserve to be subjugated or killed. Ayan Hirsi Ali writes about it, for example .

    Another good book on the subject is by Irshad Manji, The Trouble with Islam.

    If economic hardship was an issue, we would see far more African non-Muslim terror.

    • fsethd says:

      You’re focusing on economics. There are three issues at play, education, health care, and economics. Bin Laden’s Afghan army was composed of the poor and uneducated. Leaders of course have access to money, education, and healthcare, which is how they use ideology to steer those without it.

      A handful of crazies does not an army make. There must be a pool of warriors and those must, by definition, be the poor and uneducated–and healthcare must not be widely available for their families.

      A person’s belief in The Big Book of Mumbo Jumbo cannot compete with full bellies, educated minds, and medical care.

      A former good friend of mine once explained to me that the only solution to Israel’s ills was to kill all the Palestinian children. His ideas in Texas went nowhere, he was regarded as a nut, because the Jewish population there is (relatively) well off, educated, and healthy.

      Religion is what people use to keep our eyes off the ball of health care, education, and economic parity. Send 1,000,000 peacekeeping troops in the Middle East, flood it with money that is accounted for (not handed over in suitcases), build infrastructure, schools, hospitals, and commerce, and you will have “tolerance.”

  • Bruce says:

    The Jews were peaceful, in that so called “Jewish problem”. Syrian terrorists who claim they are Muslim are killing people. Big differnce, don’t ya think?

    • fsethd says:

      If someone claims a religion and kills people you don’t round up everyone claiming that religion. Religion doesn’t kill people. Poverty, no education, and no healthcare do.

      • Jim says:

        You blame it on poverty yet, Saudi Arabia is s a very wealthy nation and they fund terrorism.

        • fsethd says:

          They are far from educated, and few Saudis are terrorists. There is also much poverty and unrest there, all brutally suppressed.

          • Jim says:

            $53,000 income per capita. Not exactly 3rd world. I have many friends that have come from Armenia, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Iran and I have heard their stories and witnessed their success in the new world. I will take their experience over yours for everything outside of cycling. Heal fast!

  • Brendan Foran says:

    Good job writing about all this. I try to be more specific and keep writing myself into a corner of anger against the crappy educational system in this country. Made this way of course to keep bodies ready to throw at future wars to be fought for goals of greed and fear.

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