Saturday, September 26, 2009

Exclusive Interview with The Prince of Darkness


The Engineer and I were floored when our editors announced to us that they had been contacted by Satan for the purpose of granting us an interview with him. Beyond our hardy throng of fans (all four of them) Old Scratch himself had been perusing our blog without us knowing it. Our editors said they understood if we declined to allow the Archfiend to use our forum as a means of spreading evil, but faithful to our mission to 'shine light into darkness' we were unanimous in our resolution to meet face-to-face with the Biblical figure and report on it.

The following day we were whisked off to an undisclosed location in a charted Leer jet with its cabin windows shut. Three hours later we were ushered into a limousine, blind-folded. An hour later, when our blind-folds were removed, we found our selves seated in leather salon chairs joined by an elderly gentleman wearing a dark suit and a red tie. Beyond where we sat it was too dark to make out the dimensions of the room we were in.

"Ah, gentlemen. I trust that the journey was comfortable. Thank you for coming. I'm kind of busy, so let's get straight down to business, shall we? I trust that you have some questions prepared for me."

"Yes sir," I piped up. "As a matter of formality, how should we address you? Lucifer, Beelzebub, Lord of Vermin, Auld Ane?"

"No, no," he said waving his hand and chuckling. "Bob."

"Bob?" The Engineer and I asked, visibly puzzled.

"Yes, Bob. I like the way it sounds. It's short for Beast of Babylon."

"Good enough," I said. "Well, um, Bob--Are you a Yankees fan?"

"Most definitely."

"Coke or Pepsi?" asked The Engineer.

"Pepsi," Bob responded.

"What are your favorite television programs?" I asked.

"Oh, Project Runway, Dancing with the Stars--Tom Delay is great, don't you think? I've already fixed it so that he'll win--and, let's see, Martha Stewart, South Park, and well, just about everything on Fox News. Glen Beck is simply poignant."

"So, I take it that you are a Republican," asked The Engineer.

"Hell no. I'm a right-wing, born-again Christian." He paused to see what affect that zinger had on us. Frankly, we were dumb-struck.

"A Christian?" I asked.

"No, not really--but I am pretending to be one. I know it sounds cynical, but in this day and time, it's where I fit in best--deep in the bowels of the far right, Christian movement. It has always been my purpose to obfuscate, conceal, dissemble, stagnate and confuse, while halting progress and fostering fear. Evolution is God's shtick, not mine. My goal is to keep things just the way they are, and if I'm lucky, drag them backwards. Devolution is my prime directive.

"It was in the eighties when I noticed these characters like Pat Robertson ,Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and Oral Roberts, and thought, 'Hell, I need to get into that business.' It was the perfect plan. Get the 'speak' right, hit all the hot buttons, and the true believers--poor gullible sots--will line up to give you what little money they have, and do and believe just about anything you tell them. You want to know where you are?"

We nodded.

Bob snapped his fingers and the lights came on. "Holy shit!" exclaimed The Engineer.

"What the fuck," I announced. We were sitting in the middle of a large stage, below a mammoth cross, situated in the sanctuary/arena of a mega-church. Bob laughed maniacally.

"That's right, I'm the right reverend pastor of this her little church," Bob said with a perfect southern-preacher accent. Reverting back to his normal manner of speaking he said, "Mark my words: Under the cloak of Godliness I will bring as many into this fold as possible, preach hate, division, and fear. I will inculcate the notion that there is a 'real' America, and an 'unreal' America. I'll teach my flock that the road to heaven is paved with abstinence-only sex education, home-schooling their children so that they will never learn science, art or to properly employ reason and logic. It will be their mandate to hate homosexuals, intellectuals and Democrats and everyone else that doesn't think exactly the way I tell them to.

"I will take their minds, twist them, and plunge them in unimaginable darkness whilst they believe they are on the path of righteousness and redemption from their sins. They will feel like their way of life--the only way--is under siege by the non-believers and that a time will come very soon that Armageddon calls upon them to rise up and wage war and destruction against all sinners, and take this nation back, and replace The Constitution of the United States of America with Biblical Law, and have every living soul that does not repent and accept Jesus Christ as its savior put to death by stoning. It will be beautiful--the way my followers imagine that the fifties were. And then we'll wait for the rapture, which will not happen, of course, and I'll disappear leaving them rudderless in a sea of confusion.

"After having dragged humanity back to the dark ages, my minions and I will throw a party, get drunk, have some wild sex and take it easy for a while--relax and recharge the battery, so to speak. What do you think? Sounds good, huh? "

"Why are you sharing this with us?" asked The Engineer.

"Well, it's no fun if you can't take some credit for an evil plan, is it? Anyhow, no one will believe this interview happened."

"True enough," I said. "Well, this has been enlightening. We need to get going--I have to get the yard mowed today. It is out of control."

"Yip, I've got to get home to feed my koi. It's been three days. They must be ravenous."

"Wait, wait," pleaded Bob. "Stay awhile. Can I get you something to drink--a Pepsi?"

"No, no," I said standing up. "You're too kind."

"Very well, then. Thank you for coming," he said shaking our hands. "Sarah," he yelled. A woman came out of the wings of the stage. "Please escort these gentlemen to the limousine."

"You betcha, Bob."


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Universe of Wing-Nuts or the art of politics absurdum.


Ignoring punctuation, spacing, and capitalization, a monkey typing letters uniformly at random has a chance of one in 26 of correctly typing the first letter of Hamlet. It has a chance of one in 676 (26 × 26) of typing the first two letters. Because the probability shrinks exponentially at 20 letters it already has only a chance of one in 2620 = 19,928,148,895,209,409,152,340,197,376 (almost 2 × 10^28). In the case of the entire text of Hamlet, the probabilities are so vanishingly small they can barely be conceived in human terms. The text of Hamlet contains approximately 130,000 letters. Thus there is a probability of one in 3.4 × 10^183,946 to get the text right at the first trial. The average number of letters that needs to be typed until the text appears is also 3.4 × 10^183,946 or including punctuation, 4.4 × 10^360,783.

Even if the observable universe were filled with monkeys typing for all time, their total probability to produce a single instance of Hamlet would still be less than one in 10^183,800. That is 10 with 183,800 zeros! In other words, it is impossible!

What does this mean to this particular blog entry, except for instant glazing of ones eyes or an intense math headache? My point is that the number of Tea-Baggers present at some of the protest marches- whether these numbers are artificially inflated or not- is really not a relevant issue. No matter how many of them there are, or how many of them they claim there are, they still contribute just as much constructive dialog to the political discourse as a universe of monkeys banging out Shakespeare. So why are they in the political picture at all? Why is a large portion of the health care reform centered on refuting these crazy rumors and outright lies? As soon as the momentum of one rumor gets dispelled, another one pops up to take its place.

Well, in spite of the up front, easy targets of the tea-baggers with their misspelled signs and toothless smiles, the true power brokers of the Washington inner beltway are shrewd, very intelligent, and quite capable of putting together a sophisticated strategy for keeping the status quo. There are very large sums of money at stake based on the outcome of this reform and it has been beaten off several times in the past.

Don’t think that is a possibility? Let me give an example -

The tobacco industry sells a product that has been known to be deadly poison, killing hundreds of thousands of people a year. The death toll is way beyond what is produced by the illicit drugs sold in this country. The country has been involved in a “Drug War” for decades while a greater poison is sold over the counter at grocery stores. The toxicity of cigarettes has been known for 60 years based on early studies and internal memos discovered and published by the very same tobacco companies. So why has it been so long to get any thing done about it? A substantial reason is that the Tobacco Industry has employed some of the best strategists and political lobbyists in the nation. Think about it. Your product is a deadly poison, a killer, yet year after year you have been able to dodge, squirm, compromise, and subvert the laws to stop selling it. A faulty kid toy causes 2 deaths and the product is pulled off the shelves immediately with the toy company facing dire consequences. But tobacco, after 60 years, only has to put warnings on the side packaging. Paying the states for health and education money is just passed on by making the price of the product so high. What is the difference? Lobbyists and a well conceived strategy.

Getting back to the health care reforms, in my opinion, and I may be crazy in my thinking, is that the Tea-baggers, the Town-hall bezerkers, etc could just be a manipulated strategy to divert the public's attention from the real “behind the scenes” strategy of stifling the real reform in the health bill, adding so many amendments and resolutions while any organized grassroots protests against removing specific items such as the Public Option can be lumped together with the “Crazy Protesters” that the public is getting weary of. All it would take is a very small percentage of media wingnuts to lead in the disinformation, repeating it day after day to implement this idea.

This prevents any legitimate protests from reaching strength enough to force the politicians that are straddling the fence to make a decision for change. Sort of a divide, delay and conquer strategy of discourse.

Then a health care bill could be passed that is so watered down and full of concessions that the general public could be in worse shape than before the whole thing started. This administration would catch the full blunt force of the public's repercussions for this fiasco. The whole Republican campaign strategy for the next election could be based on the "failure" of Obama's health bill. A failure that the Republicans created themselves behind the scenes.

Nahhh, probably just getting paranoid and curmudgeon-like in my old age. Well at least I am not mowing the lawn in shorts, black socks, and sandals.......yet.

P.S.
The solution for the statistics of the infinite monkey problem as described in the first paragraph is not by me and has been used in several texts before although I do not know the originator. I apologize for that to whomever in advance. It probably was written by that sadist math professor I had in my Junior year.

Continuation of Felis Catus Canonicus Officium, a Short Story by the Lawyer


Driving over the ornate stone bridge spanning a moat, I pulled up to the gate and entered the code M. had given me to gain access to the housing addition he lived in, jam-packed with monotonous McMansions. Having found his house, I got out of my car, and with a pet carrier in hand, I rang his doorbell. He had explained to me that when he left my office that morning, to the best of his knowledge and without his noticing it, Missy must have taken refuge in the back seat of his BMW 740 when he opened it to put his brief case and jacket there. I was skeptical, churning in my mind how on earth he was planning to use my cat to further a legal advantage against my client.

The door swung open and I was greeted by M., wearing a plain white t-shirt, boxer shorts and sandals. His hair was disheveled giving him the appearance of maniacal intellectual that had just blown his last cerebral gasket.

“Hey Cal, man, come on in.” Nobody calls me Cal, but M. decided that was my nickname.

“Where’s my cat, M.?”

Call me Brad, please. It’s fine. It’s locked up in the garage. I put out some water for it, and some left over chicken.”

“‘It’ is a ‘she.’ Show me to the garage and I will be on my way.”

“Sure,” he said as I followed him into a great room the size of a gymnasium. M. let himself fall into a leather couch. “Hold on,” he said. “I need to sit down for a second. Have a seat, Cal,” he said pointing to a cushy leather chair on the other side of the coffee table from him. I sat, growing impatient. He opened and pulled out a prescription bottle of medicine from a drawer on his side of the table. He dropped a pill in his hand, tossed the it in the air and caught it in his mouth, and swallowed without the aid of liquid in a way that seemed practiced. “You want one?” he asked holding the bottle to me.

“No thanks, goddamnit Brad. I want my cat.”

Before I could lunge across the coffee table a him, whack him across the head with the cat carrier, grab him by his little pencil neck and choke the life out him, a woman entered from an arched doorway at the other end of the great room. “Ah, my lovely wife,” said Brad making a big production of her appearance by holding out his hand in her direction. His lovely wife shot us both a mocking smile.

She had a body that had been grandly augmented at the chest, and nipped, suctioned and tucked at the other parts, replete with bee-stung lips—the sort of harpy that possessed a cheapness about her that was compelling. Standing at the bar to the right of the gaping fireplace, that was too clean to have ever burned a yuletide log in, she dramatically dropped two ice cubes in a glass and filled it with vodka.

“She hates my guts,” M. said to me while looking at her.

“It’s true. I do,” she said, raising the glass to her botoxed lips in a fashion that could not have been more seductively executed. They both looked at each other in chilly silence. She elevated to the balls of her feet, twirled to the direction of the door from whence she came, and with drink in hand, fluttered out of view. I looked at M. puzzled.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure I hate her, too. I haven’t completely made my mind up. She’s a great fuck, though.”

“I could see that,” I opined.

“Oh shit…,” said M., Taking his head in his hands while having a little break down. I was afraid he would burst into tears at any moment. “We sent our only daughter off to boarding school a year ago. This is no environment for a child to grow up in. Isn’t that sad? Mom and dad are too fucked up to raise their own daughter.” He looked around the room grimacing and fighting back a nervous breakdown.

“I’m sorry about all of that,” I said, wondering if he might deserve a greater portion of suffering than the average citizen.

“You want your cat?” M. stood and walked to the kitchen and I followed after him with the pet carrier, as anxious to be gone as I imagined Missy was. Through a door tucked away in the corner of the kitchen, we stepped into the garage that was as big as most people’s houses, and cleaner, too.

“You know where I got off on the wrong track?” M. asked.

“No. Where?” I asked not knowing what can of worms I was inviting to be opened.

“Going to law school. I should never have done it. If you had it all over to do again, would you?” I confessed that no, I would not have. I scarce knew an attorney that would. “Remember the first day at one-L orientation,” M. continued, “when the dean of the law school steps up to the podium, maybe wearing a fucking bow tie, and says something like: ‘It is an honor to welcome you to the first day of your legal career.’ And then waxes poetic about what a wonderfully rich and prestigious profession law is, and the glories of being a part of a two-thousand, five-hundred year old tradition, and how our families should be staggered with pride, blah, blah, blah. One thing you know for sure, a guy who has a big hard-on for the legal profession has never practiced a minute of law, down in the trenches, or else he’s just plain weird and easily amused.”

I nodded in agreement while scanning the garage for Missy. Convinced I was going to have to wait it out until she showed herself, I set down the pet carrier and took a seat on it and listened to the droning sermon that M. was winding up to deliver.

“This is what the dean should have said if he weren’t concerned with meeting the college’s budget with our student loan disbursements: ‘It’s an honor to stand before you and apprise you of some uncomfortable truths. A full fifty percent of you should not be here. Fifty percent of you should stand up right now, walk out of here, and never look back. Find something different to do, for Christ’s sake, or for the rest of your lives you will look back on this day, dragged down by regret, your stomach in knots, that you did not heed my words. You are the people who chose law school for no particular reason. Or you chose this path because,’ he would say trying not to laugh, ‘because you thought you can change the world. Ha! You will be bored stiff with the law by your second year.’”

I sensed and heard movement in the corner of the garage behind M.’s car.

“‘Up to thirty percent of you, if you do not get up and leave right this minute, will end up nuts. You will suffer at rates higher than the average for all professions, from depression, alcohol and substance abuse, marital strife, and social alienation. You will be what is called the walking wounded. This business is not for you. If you fall into this category that I just described—if you have a creative bone in your body—stand up and run, don’t walk.’

“‘As for the fifty percent of you that should be here, you are hard-wired for this endeavor. You enjoy the game, and are highly motivated by extrinsic rewards—accolades, winning cases, and of course, you are most beholden to money. You’ll like the long hours, as long as there is a whiff of victory in your nostrils. You are weird, but I like you, and so does the law.’”

I reached under the car, stretching as far as I could, and grabbed Missy by the collar. She began to struggle. I could tell that she was in her ‘outside feral mode’ where every living creature was a threat. Missy struggled as I dragged her out. Pulling her up to me to, her claws dug in through my shirt and scratched deep in my chest, neck and shoulders. M. watched with astonishment as I wrestled her—a bloody death match between man and beast—into the pet carrier.

“I regretfully agree with all that you said,” I commented to M. “How do you know all that—the statistics?” I asked, my white, pinpoint button-down, tattered and stained with blood.

“I researched and wrote an article on lawyer dissatisfaction to submit for publication in the bar journal. I showed it to a junior partner at our firm. He told me if I wanted to keep my job I had better shred it, delete it from my hard drive, and never mention it again. So, I did.”

M. pressed the button causing the garage door to roll open. He walked with me to my car in the driveway. “You know what sucks?” he asked.

I could think of a few things. “No, what?” I asked.

“I am scheduled to be called into the senior partner’s office, this Friday. All of the partners will be present. I am going to be made a partner. I will smile, and appear satisfied. Everyone will give me a pat on the back and congratulate me. I will say, ‘Thank you. I have been waiting for this for a long time. This is great. I appreciate it.’ Drinks will be rolled out. We will give cheers, clinking our glasses together. I will take a gulp and smile.

“What no one will know,” M. continued, “is that I will feel like dying right there on the spot, hopelessly depressed and despondent. No one will know that they just made a man partner who is dying inside. Goddamnit!” M. burst out into tears, and clutched me in his arms, hugging me with all his might. “I guess I could liquidate it all, get divorced, lose everything in alimony,” he sobbed. “But what would I do? The only thing I know how to do is practice law,” he pleaded with his tear streaked face pressed against my chest.

Feeling a little awkward, I patted him consolingly with one hand, while Missy frenetically bounced, pounded, twisted, howled and hissed in the carrier held by my other.

“I’m sorry,” M. said regaining his composure. “I’m really sorry, Cal.”

“It’s all right. My heart goes out to you,” I said.

“No, no. Your cat did not magically end up in my car. When I left your office this morning, I was getting into my car, and she walked up to me. I have no idea why I did it. It was just a thoughtless impulse. I picked her up and threw her into the back seat.” He released me from his grip. “Thanks for listening to me.”

“Sure, no problem,” I said, while noticing his neighbor across the street, who had just gotten out of her car with her child, no doubt wondering to her self what the meaning of two grown men hugging was—one with a ripped, blood stained, tear and snot streaked white button down, holding a box that shook from which unimaginable wailing was coming, and the other in his underwear, eyes swollen from crying, and wiping his nose with the back of his arm. She rushed herself and her child into their home.

I placed Missy in the back seat of my car. The garage door began to shut with M. disappearing behind it, receding to the door to his kitchen. “Brad! Brad!” I shouted. The door stopped and then began to open again. M. walked out of the garage and to my car.

“Yeah, buddy, what’s up?”

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Fire away.”

“What is it with all of those long, pregnant pauses on the phone?”
M. laughed. “Minutes are made of seconds, and hours are made of minutes. There is no such thing as an hour that isn’t a billable hour.”

Jeff and I stood in the elevator that was whisking us up to the forty-third floor to the plush offices of Whierling, Dervish, Mayhem, Spitwhittle, Goodard & Bonkem, or something like that. “Man, you should have brought that cat of yours with you in your brief bag,” said Jeff. “That yesterday—pure entertainment.” We stepped out into the lobby and greeted by a receptionist that, judging by her looks, must have turned down the opportunity to be a Playboy Playmate.

We were shown into an oak paneled conference room, bigger than M.’s great room, lined with oil paintings of disgruntled and fiercely serious looking old white men. The court reporter sat with her fingers poised over the stenotype, at the ready to pound out an inspiring composition. Wilkes sat glaring at us in his usual old fuddy-duddy manner, his arms crossed, while M. poured over the volumes of paper in front of him.

“Hey Brad. How’s it going?” I asked, taking a seat.

“Mr. Pickleton,” he said, pushing a file-stamped copy of his motion for sanctions against me, my firm and Missy across the table to me.

Again I found myself repressing the urge to do bodily harm to M. I considered grabbing him by the tie, synching it up tight, and choking the life out of him, but decided I didn’t need the law suit.

“You little son-of-a—,” I stopped myself. Then I made the mistake of looking at Wilkes. “What are you smirking at you smug, old bastard?” The court reporter captured it all and reduced it to the written word.

After the deposition I went back to my office, did some research and prepared a response to M.’s Motion for Sanctions. It was getting late and the office was empty except for me and Missy who sat directly under the lamp on my desk, basking. I lit a cigar and wondered to myself: ‘What could I do if I were to give all this up? How would I pay for the crushing amount of student loans I owe?’

I came up blank.

Instead I turned to my favorite fantasy.

The waves rolled in and out, whooshing, pushing and pulling. Sitting under the umbrella with me were two luscious, big-butted mulatas, teasing me with their fingers, speaking with thick Jamacan accents. And the waves went whoosh...whoosh...whoosh….

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Breaking News: The Lawyer does not Hate Republicans


Every great story, the theme of which is good versus evil, always has as its resolution the idea of restoring balance. This may be a little simplistic, but evil is imbalance. .

Our forefathers, the authors of the most eloquent and elegant legal document ever drafted, The Constitution of the United States of America, did a real bang-up job of inscribing the mostly perfect recipe for sustaining balance between the competing interests that present themselves everywhere humanity has pitched a tent and called it a town. Those interests are individual rights versus the common good. No wonder Democracy is messy--that is not an easy tight-rope to trot across.

Republicans have by and large championed the rights of the individual against that of the many, and thank God for it. Democrats have made it their mission to ensure that the few are not irresponsibly making hay for themselves to the detriment of the many. Republicans put on the brakes; Democrats punch the accelerator. It's yin and yang, pure and simple. You can't have one without the other. One side gets its way more often than the other for a cycle, and then the other side gets its turn. Hopefully, this is a spiral model rising towards progress, not just a closed loop. I'm an optimist, and I believe that it is an open-ended ascent to increasing perfection.

Where does the wing-nut right figure in all of this--no where. They aren't really Republicans, and they certainly are not Democrats. They're bat-shit, frothing-at-the-mouth, gut-thinking, viscerally-inclined peanut brains, and are too childish to know it. Woe should they ever truly take hold of the reins of power. If they ever do, with any sort of substantial majority, scratch all that shit I said about being an optimist in the preceding paragraph. That would be when this lawyer moves to Canada and starts wearing a nifty, white wig in court.

It isn't fair for me to say that I hate all wing-nuts. I actually love a few--the ones I am related to. The rest--screw 'em. But damn they are interesting to watch in action.

The truth, I suffer from a voyeuristic fetish. I love to watch the far right in action, stomping around, pouting, shouting, throwing temper tantrums, holding up signs that say inane horse crap like, "Keep the Government out of my Social Security," half the words typically misspelled. That's classic, like watching a toilet full of crap blown to smithereens with a pound of dynamite. It's ridiculous, crude and sophomoric, but you have to watch.

May the force be with you.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Short Story by The Lawyer: Felis Catus Canonicus Officium (The Law Office Cat)


I would like to tell you that what follows really happened. The problem is, if it did really happen, and the subjects involved were real people, breathing, walking and scratching among us, I could very well get sued for defamation. For that reason, what follows did not really happen.
My client and I stood, separated by the countertop and Miss Demeanor, our one-eyed, tortoiseshell cat, who was busy engulfing a bowl of Friskies. For short, we called her Missy. While petting Missy, I explained to Jeff the particular mission of the deposition that we were taking of Wilkes, his ex-father-in-law, that afternoon.
Jeff, having made and lost a few fortunes over his forty-year tenure as a venture capitalist, had hired us to sue his ex-father-in-law. Wilkes, an irascible, and wildly egotistical millionaire, never for a brief moment of his life doubted his superiority over other living creatures, human and not. Years earlier Wilkes had hit a homerun in the stock market betting on a little company called International Business Machines and had more money than God. He made Jeff a loan, when Jeff was still married to Wilkes’s daughter. The loan was for the purpose of funding Jeff’s business brokering insurance policies to oil and gas ventures. To secure the hefty sum, Jeff granted Wilkes a lien on all of his earthly possessions, including his suburban mansion that he miraculously was able to keep after a brutal four year long divorce proceeding, in which our firm had represented Jeff. Jeff, by his calculations, had paid the loan off. Wilkes, by his calculations, had not received the total amount to pay off the loan, and refused to release the liens on everything, “down to his underwear,” as he worded it in mediation a few months earlier.

The real issue was that these two men hated each other’s guts for a variety of reasons. They both were inflicted with the notion that no one gets away with screwing with them, and anyone who dared to do so was going to get squashed and sued out of existence. What neither of them was willing, or able, to realize was that they were in the process of suing each other out of financial existence, and the only winners at the end of the day, with the final order filed with the court clerk and appeals exhausted, were the lawyers.

No such prospect would deter either from their quest to ruin the other—a hubris that seemed particularly engrained in people that make their fortunes buying and selling air, and backing politicians that talk God out of one side of their mouths, and tax cuts for the wealthy out the other.

“You’re a cat person?” Jeff asked me, raising a coffee mug to his mouth, starring at me suspiciously. Jeff had always made it clear that he doubted my manhood, and I knew where he was going with his question.

“I like cats and dogs.” That stopped him in his thoughts. The idea that something was not either/or was a baffling. “You see, Jeff, I prefer cats. They are calm and relaxed, and mostly take care of themselves. I don’t have much need for loud, stinky, ill-tempered, ignorant creatures around me. I have children to fill that void.”

“I have two German Shepherds.”

“That’s great,” I responded, lifting my mug to my lips, starring at him suspiciously.

“So what do you think our chances are of winning this?” The case was at that point, a few months young, green and barely able to walk. He had, by that time, asked me that question half a dozen times. It is the question that every client asks their lawyer. And all lawyers, except young and na├»ve ones that have not been around long enough to have had the gut-wrenching experience of losing big, notwithstanding all the facts and law seemed to stand in favor of their case, have no idea how to answer it.

“Oh, I’d say you have about a sixty-eight, point three percent chance of prevailing.” Another raising of coffee mugs and a suspicious stare was exchanged by both of us to the other. Jeff had finally caught that he had received the same answer to the same question about seven times and finally figured out I was screwing with his head.

We walked into the conference room that used to be a porch a half a century before. Wilkes glared at us with his arms crossed, confident, smelling victory in the air. His lawyer, M. Bradford Jeffries, of the two-hundred lawyer firm called something like, Wheirling, Dervish, Mayhem, Spitwhittle, Goodard & Bonkem, looked up at me from the reams of paper before him. “Mr. Pickleton,” he said in salutation to me, not revealing a hint of human depth. “Nice office,” he said smirking.

“Sorry that you have be slumming around in our humble office, M.,” I said.

M., as I had started referring to him, was a deep-carpet, tall-building, silk-stocking, over-worked, big-firm associate that seemed to take too much pleasure in his professional endeavors. I recognized him from his mug shot that appeared, periodically, in the Bar Journal at the end of lengthy, footnote drenched articles with titles like, “The Tenth Circuit and the Doctrine of Forum Non Conveniens,” or, “Res Ipsa Loquitor in Light of Casey v. Jiffy-Mart.”

Every phone conversation that M. and I had had to that point was tedious and unproductive. The most recent phone conversation, the day before, was like all the others.

“Any chance we might be able to work towards a settlement on this, M.?” I asked. A long pause ensued. If I had asked, “You are not potty-trained yet, are you M.?” or, “Who do you think is going to win the national championship this year, M?” the result would be the same—a long irritating-as-fuck pause. At the time, I had no idea what these eternally long pauses were supposed to signify, if anything. I believed that lawyers that wielded this silent rhetorical devise were silently conveying the point that it killed them deep inside to have to suffer a fool like the one they were giving the “pause” to.

I timed him once. “What is your client hoping to achieve out of all of this? You and I know this whole thing is really about hurt feelings and revenge.”

M. embarked upon an unnerving pause that lasted for twenty-three seconds. It felt like an eternity trapped in a pitch-black void of unperceived dimensions. I could not endure another second of silence, and broke it. “It’s your turn M. This is the part where you get to say something—anything. Go.”

M. sighed, and paused some more, about five seconds. “Mr. Pickleton, your client can bring this matter to an end by paying what he owes my client and my attorney fees. You do know this is an attorney fee case?”

I decided this would be a good time to give him a rich, silent dose of his own medicine. I gave him the “pause” right back in his ear hole. In contested civil matters, lawyers are fond of reminding their adversaries, as a subtle intimidation tactic, that, “this is an attorney fee case, you know.”

There is the British Rule and the American Rule regarding attorney fees. The British Rule is much more efficient. Every case is an attorney fee case. The American Rule says that all parties are responsible for their own attorney fees. To that rule there are fifty-thousand exceptions, the end result being more like the British Rule, but taking a tremendous amount of words to articulate it.

After twenty-five seconds (a record) I responded, “Really?” The fifteen second pause that proceeded was broken by asking, “Are you still there M.?”

“Yes.”

“I’m going to hang up now and go to lunch.”

Five more irretrievable seconds passed in utter silence. “Very well, Mr. Pickleton.”

“Bye-bye, M.” I hung up.

On the occasion of taking Wilkes’ deposition was the first time I had met M. in the flesh. “M.,” I said, extending my hand. He did not stand up, and offered a limp, unenthusiastic hand shake. At that point, I wished that I could say that M. was a man of profound depth—a genuine, three-dimensional character with a rich, and sometimes conflicting, inner life of love, passion and remorse; if there was only something interesting about him. It would have set my mind at ease if I could have reported that in addition to having graduated at the top of his class in law school, he kept a cardboard box of Barbie dolls in his bedroom closet that he liked to do gross things with, or that he had an unbridled passion for collecting Nazi memorabilia, but I could not. To me, he was nothing more than a smart slab of meat, with no other mission in life but to make partner at his firm, and be the best damned lawyer to have ever been born from a mother’s womb.

Although this was not a court appearance, and tie and jacket were optional, his stiff collar was buttoned and synched tight by a regimental tie. Even though it was July and hot as hell outside, he donned a dark suit and showed no intentions of removing his jacket. His coif was in perfect order.

“Are we ready?” I asked surveying everyone present.

M. muttered, “Yes,” without looking up from his file and legal pad.

“Reserve objections?” I asked. Everyone agreed, so there would be no need to object to any questions that would be asked by me of Wilkes.

I nodded to the court reporter, her fingers poised above the keys of the stenotype with a look of intent seriousness that only another court reporter, a concert pianist, or a defecating cat is capable of replicating.

I was barely able to announce, “we are on the record,” before Wilkes bolted backwards in his chair, his eyes fluttering, mouth contorting like the gills of an amphibian out of water, and jolted forward spraying a thunderous sneeze. His eyes went red, and watered profusely.

“Excuse me,” blubbered Wilkes, and poured a glass of water from the pitcher that had been placed on the table in advance of the deposition. Before he could take another drink, he was seized with another round of sneezing. Everyone ducked for cover under the conference table, except for the dutiful court reporter, squinted eyes, riding out the storm, and poised to capture any testimony that might be forthcoming.

“Are you okay?” asked M. in a rare exhibition of being concerned with another’s well-being.

“Yes, yes,”—cough—“I’m fine,” said Wilkes grabbing blindly for tissues that I pushed down the table towards him.

Appearing to have recovered, I continued. “Would you please state your name for the record, sir?”

“You know who I am,” said the stubborn bastard.

“Yes,” I said. “I know who you are, but that thing that lady,” I said pointing to the court reporter, “has no idea who you are. State your name—all of it.”

Wilkes looked at M. M. nodded to Wilkes. “Fredrick Kilpatrick Wilkes the Third,” he responded frowning at me with his arms crossed.

“Are you the same Fredrick Kilpatrick Wilkes the Third named as a defendant in this matter?” He contorted. At first I thought it was out of disgust that I would be so bold as to ask another obvious question for the record, until I realized he was winding up to let blast another spasmodic convulsion of snot and sneezing.

“Oh God!” he exclaimed, grabbing desperately for another hand full of tissues.

No sooner had I spotted her lurking about under the table than I realized what the cause of Wilkes’ distress was. He was allergic to Missy. I tried to reach out with my leg as far as possible to kick Missy in the hopes of giving her some pointed encouragement to get out of the room, but couldn’t connect. I scooted down in my chair as far as possible without being obvious about it, and gave one more forceful swing of the foot. Instead of catching cat fur, I missed my mark. As my foot connected squarely with Wilkes’ left shin, Missy bounded onto Wilkes lap and onto the table in front of him.

“Aaaaaaaaaaah!” Wilkes screeched, part in pain from having his shin kicked hard, and part from recognition that before him was a genus and species of mammal that he was deathly allergic to. “What the fuck!” he yelled and sneezed.

“What do you say we go off the record?” I asked the court reporter and M., who by this point was looking lost and bewildered.

Wilkes demanded, “Get that thing away from me,” as he desperately pushed himself away from the conference table, as the sneezing fits escalated in intensity and frequency.

M. rose from his seat and pounded the conference table with his clenched fist. “Absolutely unacceptable Mr. Pickleton. You knew my client is allergic to cats, didn’t you?”

“What?” I asked perplexed as to why M. would think I had any knowledge of Wilkes’ physiological predisposition to cats. “Are you insinuating that I purposefully arranged to have our cat here to torture your client?”

“I couldn’t have said it better myself.”

“You’re crazy.”

Wilkes gasped, “I have got to get out of here.” He stumbled, his arms out to help feel his way, for the back door that led from the conference room to the parking lot behind the house.

“I guess we should reconvene?” I asked M.

"That would be wise, Mr. Pickleton. Tomorrow, same time, AT MY OFFICE.”

“Good enough,” I said. Wheezing, Wilkes fell out the backdoor not bothering to close it behind him. M. gathered up his tomes of documents, placed it in his brief case, and followed behind his client.

M. paused, half in and half out of the back door. “Mr. Pickleton,” he said in away that made skin crawl. “Be advised that I intend to prepare a rule eleven motion for sanctions against you, personally, for intentionally compromising the health of my client, and for seeking to delay and hinder the proceedings in this matter, thereby.” With that parting salvo, he shut the door firmly behind him, causing the windows to reverberate and shutter, along with my guts.

My client, the court reporter and I sat looking at each other in wonderment. Again, as in too many cases before, I found myself in the nerve racking situation of being targeted by opposing counsel, seeking to wrench from me the few hard earned dollars that I did not have to spare. Being a lawyer and getting sued is an occupational hazard, after all.

Jeff broke the silence by bursting out in laughter. He stood, still guffawing like an idiot, and slapped me on the back. “You are one hell of a lawyer,” he said. “How did you know that old bastard is allergic to cats?”

“I didn’t, dammit.”

"Woo, you’re good. Ha! I like your style.”


My butt firmly planted in my executive chair behind my desk, I spent the rest of the afternoon sifting through piles of papers and files on my desk, vacillating from anger to boredom to deflation, in an effort to keep up with the pressing needs of my other clients. At five o’clock I rubbed my eyes, bleary and exhausted from scouring over a plethora of minutia. I blinked and scanned my office with the sudden realization that I had not seen Missy that whole afternoon.

There should have been at least one scampering of cat paws down the hallway to my office, followed by an acrobatic spectacle of a blur of fur spring boarding from my client chair to the top of a book shelf that occupied a corner. There should have been the long nap in the other client chair the daily beginning of which you could set your watch to.

I rang my secretary, who was trying to leave for the day, and whose voice registered irritation at being stopped. I asked if she had seen Missy that afternoon. The answer was, she had not. I checked every room, in all of the closets, and in the crawl space in the basement.

After an hour of rummaging through the shrubbery outside the office, and walking around the block, crying out, “Here Kitty-kitty-kitty,” and feeling foolish, I seated myself in a chair I pulled out of the conference room and put in the middle of the parking lot out back. I would sit up straight with hope at the slightest hint of movement and sound, only to find myself duped by the wind, squirrels and pigeons. I was growing tired, scared, and pissed.

The sun was setting, and I was about to give up. But how could I? Our office was close to the river. Raccoons and foxes would be out soon, and Missy might end up being another animal’s meal that night. I couldn’t forgive myself if everyone showed up the next morning to find nothing but Missy’s furry carcass, gall bladder, back bone, and name tag scattered about the parking lot, or her corpse smeared and smudged in the street, the remains being fed upon by crows.

I was awakened from my remorse by the sound of the phone ringing inside, coming from my secretary’s office. Half hopeful that someone had found Missy and called the number on the tag, I ran inside struggling to pick up the phone before it passed to voicemail. Picking it up, I panted, “Law office.”

“Hey, Calvin?”

“Yes, this is him. Who is this?”

“It’s me, Brad—Brad Jeffries. I got your cat.”


To be continued...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

WWLD (What Would The Lawyer Do)


It is official. We here at The Lawyer and The Engineer are more popular than Jesus, or so tell us our throng of followers (all three of them). I must refute the comparison now. Though The Engineer has been known to walk on water by means of some contraption he invented that makes his feet appear as if they are festering from some rare biological mishap, and though I am known for martyring myself on a daily basis, flailing and thrashing about in self pity, neither of us resembles the Avatar of Nazarene.

But, if I could be Jesus for a day, what would I do? I wouldn't bother appearing in physical-matter reality. That would be too risky, as I learned a valuable lesson the last go-around. However much you think I enjoyed being hammered to a piece of wood, and poked with spears by a bunch of Italian thugs, and left to bleed to death, the experience was disturbing, painful and generally not worth repeating.

What I would do is go about making apparitional appearances, rousing up the most outwardly pious and devout of our conservative leaders from their slumbers and scare the living bejeesus out of them, and otherwise, give them a good, stern talking to. First and foremost, I would seek to impress upon them that they are way off the mark in thinking they lead their own lives in any way that resembles what I was talking about a couple of millenia ago. Though there is two-thousand years between us, I was way ahead of their time.

Unlike them, I was a liberal. I stood for compassion and inclusion, and the turning inwards of consciousness upon itself wherein the Kingdom resides. I was firmly against locked-down, small-minded, meideval, ethnocentric prescriptions that constrict a person's God-given right to be free in their thoughts and actions as long as no harm to another results.

Bearing down with force, I would let them have it about what I really meant when I talked about love. "It was Love (with a capital L) I was talking about--big universal Love that is large enough to extend to all, not just a few neandrothals that make up your little fart-brained tribe. Got it! Don't make me hurt you, by God.

"Now, take this piece of paper, and I want you to write one-thousand times, 'God is Love, Love is Compassion, and all people are God's children, even Democrats.' Quit screwing around and get to scribbling. I'll be back in the morning to check your homework. If it is one short of a thousand, woe be thee, my child."


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

malo malle mali quam mala equi


I remember a particularly funny episode of the David Chappelle show in which Negrodameus was predicting that we would find chemical weapons in Iraq. How did he know? Because we had the receipts.

A disturbing fact is that the US Arms business is booming. Right now the United States dominates with a very large percent of sales agreements of the Worlds Arms Exportation business. We have been at the top of our game for 8 years in a row now. We sale guns to totalitarian Arab countries. We sale guns to countries that the State Dept. warns tourists not to travel to. We sale guns to both sides of countries at war. We sale guns to drug lords in different countries. We sell guns to the police that are fighting drug lords in their countries. We sale guns to countries that arrest the women for showing their face in public. I guess it is ironic that we sale arms to countries that beat the crap out of women for showing their arms.

So the next time there is a big controversy about the President talking to the kids about responsibility, maybe other countries could be excused about not caring while their kids are being taught the proper way to prevent their machine gun from jamming or how to properly walk past a landmine field. Perhaps the point could be for the country to stop with this petty bullshit non-issues and start actually leading the world with that moral compass that we have talked about. Remember that??

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Brainwashed Students Continue Rioting


After President Obama’s speech to the nation’s school children today, students from pre-k to twelfth grade took to the streets, overturning cars, setting fires, breaking windows and looting stores. Chants of, “Boo-USA!” and, “Capitalism is poo-poo!" were heard being shouted by the young protestors.


When asked by a reporter why she had participated in the riots, little Cindy McPherson, a kindergarten student at a Dallas, Texas elementary school, shouted, “Heil, Obama!” and disappeared into a violent crowd of student protesters from her school. An hour later, little Cindy was spotted setting fire to the American flag.


“I knew this would happen,” said Bill Jeffers, the father of a Bentonville, Arkansas student. “Godd*#m it!” he said. “I told his mother not to let him watch that Obama talk indoctrination to our kid.” When asked what his wife said in response to his demand he said, “Oh she ain’t my wife. We’re divorced. She just said she wouldn’t talk about anything with me until I paid the child support I owe. Bitch.”


The National Guard has been called into to quell the rioting by most of the state’s governors as of this afternoon, according to The Pentagon. It is not clear when the rioting will lose steam. Some officials expect it to go late into the night.


Sheriff Billings, the sheriff of Hilldale County, Missouri, expressed concern when asked about the rioting. “We’re doing all we can for the moment. We’re out in riot gear, armed with rubber bullets and tear gas,” he said. “If this don’t ease up, I’ve heard the Governor’s folks talk about putting the National Guard on notice for F-15 air strikes.”


While Sheriff Billings, a 6’5” man of about 300 pounds, was talking to this reporter, a young boy’s war cry could be heard coming from outside. Sheriff Billings jumped in his seat, and stayed distracted. “I think we’re okay here for the moment.”

Saturday, September 5, 2009

So now its NOT going to be about the interpretative dance?

Engineer:
Well as always, I am the last to know. Just as I was finishing up on my dance interpretation feature explaining the science of magnetism, suddenly it is about health care. Just as well.....

I actually should be ashamed at introducing such a serious subject with such a cheap intro, but I am at the point that if I don't laugh, I think that I will scream. The shear stupidity that is swirling around this topic is numbing.
I overheard a conversation while standing in line to purchase an item at the local big box store that gives a perfect example. This overheard conversation was apparently started by a couple making comments after seeing the headlines on the front page of the newspapers that were for sale beside us. This front page headline had President Obama, who in their very loud opinion, was going to give his hypnotic mind controlling Socialist Indoctrination speech to our poor schoolchildren. Luckily our local official discovered this devious plan and was going to intercept. They went on to discuss his destruction of the country by putting his other secret agenda of Health Care into place. Later in this conversation, in between the cashier calling for a price check, one of these talking heads mentioned how if it wasn't for the Indian Hospital, her sister would be dead right now. The other listened with solemn concern.

Instantly the righteous bile of indignation rose to my throat like bubbles in a Dinty Moore Stew. I thought, you stupid f%&$, don't you realize that Indian Care IS GOVERNMENT HEALTH CARE! But then I realized that this is the case before the public right now. The powers that be are waging a war of ignorance, shifting the focus of reform into fighting stupid rumors like killing grandma and shout matches at the public debates. The IBM sales people had a term for it when they were selling the big mainframe computers. The term is FUD, or Fear Uncertainty and Doubt. With this they could instill the emotions to always maintain the status quo. There is a deliberate campaign to exploit the fears of a group that lives on paranoia and fear. This is the same group that has a percentage who does not believe the President is a U.S. CITIZEN.

The funny thing is that if you talked to them as a group, 80 percent could tell you a horror story of some medical experience that they or some of their relatives have experienced. The lawyer made a interesting point in that most of his cases concerning bankruptcy involve a catastrophic medical event. There isn't a family in the country that couldn't be destroyed financially by a medical disaster. Even if you have insurance, you could reach the cap of the policy or be turned down by some "previous condition" like acne or a hemorrhoid.

The profits of companies that may be effected by this bill are so immense, that incredible amounts of money is being spent to lobby- not just in the hallowed halls of the government, but also to wage Madison Avenue campaigns to sway the minds of the general population. To go against this for a complete Heath Care reform, in my humble opinion, is too large of an offensive. But I have a master plan that is just devious enough to work. Not that it really matters what I think about public policy, but this is my blog so here it is.

You may have heard of the old joke about the 2 hunters that are suddenly confronted by a bear. One of the hunters starts to run and the other hunter yells out, "What are you doing- you cannot outrun a bear!" The running hunter says, "I don't need to run faster than the bear, I just need to run faster than you!" Well this is the plan. You make a deal with the AMA, Pharma, etc that within reason, they can have what they already have now. But they would have to give total support to and lobby towards reforming the Health Insurance Industry, with the Government Insurance Public Option made into law. The Insurance Industry profiteering would be the sacrifice that they would make to save themselves. Hmmmm just might work. Thoughts?

On the Health Care Debate: Why Insurance Companies Suck



Originally, I wanted to write about the evolution of criticism of interpretative dance this morning, and how it could be approached from magical, mythical, modern and postmodern representational models; and then to determine which model is the most effectual in that endeavor, or whether the four models need to be integrated. After four cups of water, three cups of coffee, two Aleve Liquid Gels, and the eventual dampening of a hangover, it occurred to me that I should turn, with laser beam focus, my attention and thoughts to a current and pressing issue: the health care debate.

As a lawyer who has represented creditors in bankruptcy proceedings, my experience is that the principal reason debtors file to re-organize or discharge their debts is not to screw the people to whom they owe money. Rather it is because they suddenly and unexpectedly got hammered with medical bills at a moment when they were uninsured or, more typically, under-insured.

Though it doesn't rise to the level of tragedy, my family and I had an issue once with these amoral guardians of our physical well-being and continued health. I took a job at an institute of higher learning, believing that I had finally found a way out of the queasy roller-coaster ride of private practice. Caught in the middle of a power shift, over which I had no control, funds that paid my salary were withdrawn.

Before taking the job, my family and I were covered by a company whose name rhymes with Mlew Bross and Flew Spield. It was reasonably priced, and covered us well. The institute of higher learning offered an excellent plan through the same insurance company. We dropped the private coverage and enrolled in that provided by my new employer. After leaving employment, and going back into private practice, we sought to pick up our old coverage. Mlew Bross and Flew Spield raised our monthly premium by $200, and exempted us from coverage EVERYTHING we had ever used it for before, rendering the proposed coverage useless except as a safety net for something catastrophic. Bastards.

Luckily my wife and children are on the rolls of an Indian tribe, and they were eligible for health care that costs close to nothing, and it was high quality and quick--perhaps an example of what care under a public option might look like. Being one-hundred percent honky, I was not eligible for Indian Health Care. For more than half a year, I took my chances and went uninsured.

Eventually my wife gained a position at an organization that offered coverage through a company whose name rhymes with Ploamutiny Flare. Each time we have had the occasion to use it, we receive correspondence from Ploamutiny Flare denying the claim. We call them asking why the claim is being denied and every time we go to the doctor we are faced with the prospect of owing in excess of $200. The answer: "We're just making sure that you do not have primary coverage in place before us." Our response: "No, you are it, just like last week."

Health insurance companies are in the business of denying coverage. For every dollar denied, a dollar is profited. Claims adjusters at health insurance companies receive bonuses based on how many claims they can successfully deny. They are solely in business to profit. Out of those profits, the health insurance industry spends millions upon millions of dollars scaring people into believing bat-shit crazy stuff like the Democrats can't wait to kill your dear old granny in cold blood. Millions of dollars in denied claims are poured into executing a campaign of fear and lies, hoping to defeat logic and compassion. Sadly, sometimes that works. http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/07102009/watch2.html

The issue boils down to trusting the health insurance companies to do what's right, or give a non-profit organization (the government) the option to compete. Based on what I have seen and experienced, I think we need the public option. Profit shouldn't trump public health.

-The Lawyer

Friday, September 4, 2009

Introduction of the Lawyer



The Lawyer Viewpoint:

My professional life is remarkably uninteresting. There are no smoking guns or “Perry Mason” moments where the witness cracks, bursts into tears and spills the truth, turning the tide towards victory and acquittal. I am a creditor’s lawyer.


Sometimes my wrists, eyes and back start to hurt after preparing the fourth foreclosure complaint in one day. Frequently I suffer from the acute pain, which results from paper cuts. Often I am visited by a specter worse than death. It makes its presence known by a sudden drop in temperature, a subtle darkening, that occasions a knotting of the intestines. And there it is at my office door, looking like a depressed Mel Blanc, dark course rings under its eyes; an evil minion of the underworld—Boredom.


As an INFP I am rarely afforded the opportunity to put my favorite capacity to use as a lawyer, which is to throw all the details to the devil, relax and float down stream, and just write what comes to mind. Facts are important, but not as important as a good thought, with universal implications, put into a well-crafted sentence, by God. Here, at least, I can give it a go, and let the right hemisphere of my brain hum and glow, and be free and involved at once. Ahhhhh. There’s nothing boring about that the way I see it. After all, stodgy facts and a mulish insistence on accuracy and precision are for geeky engineers to ham out, which is easy for them, having long ago strangled and drowned their inner child with things like the law of entropy.


What makes my heart beat, and fills my lungs with wind, is the study of the evolving mind and discerning how it meets the challenge of formulating values. Those values are no where more apparent in expression than in the arena of the political. Why does one person scream with fear and outrage over the slightest possibility that a thing might show a trace of being “liberal,” or worse, “socialist”? On the other hand, why would it be so damned important to another person that the rights of a raccoon be elevated to that of a human’s?


Minds and their values come, most commonly, in the following shapes: Rednecks, of which Oklahoma is disproportionately plagued, whose answer to life’s most perplexing questions is to pulverize and cuss into submission anything perceived as a threat; Defenders of the Faith, who cherish the tried and true ways of old, for whom change is synonymous with the devil; The Go-getters, for whom any impediment to the obtaining of material well-being is the ultimate evil; and The Tree-huggers, who shun the thought that we might not all be equal to the challenges of life, and for whom a good ol’ handshake should never take the place of a warm, lingering hug.


One might be tempted to nominate The Tree-huggers as the “liberals” of the human milieu I described, but not so. The word “liberal” has many definitions (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/liberal) and is the indispensable sibling of “conservative.” When faced with challenges against which the old way of doing things are ineffectual, it’s time to open the mind to the possibility of a new way, which anyone is capable of doing, if they aren’t scared mindless at the prospect. A liberal attitude, whose exploration is the uncharted, is executed with courage and daring, without which humankind could never be expected to evolve, but would suffocate in the over-homogenization of entropy. If you believe in God, evolution is God’s prime directive.


Be you a Redneck, a Defender of the Faith, a Go-getter, or a Tree-hugger, or even a musty smelling engineer, any act that is a new approach to a persistent problem is a liberal act. When the tested way of doing things is the best approach, that is a conservative act. But being repeatedly met with disappointment, while insisting on doing things the same way again and again, with the same results, that’s freaking nuts and degenerate.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Is torture morally reprehensible or a necessary evil?


Engineer viewpoint: Torture has been part of mankind's uglier side since the beginning of time. Brought to a mass scale during the Inquisitions and early Christian expansions, it has been honed to a extensive science in modern times. It had a brief resurgence during the Cold War when both sides were developing psychological and chemical methods of interrogation and torture. Torture was used during the Vietnam and Central American undeclared wars mainly for Pysch-Ops not information gathering. It continues today throughout the world with Amnesty International monitoring and exposing countries that engage in torture and also gives aid to victims of torture.

Torture has come around in the news because of American policies developed by the Bush administration in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Most of the torture examples given during the Bush administration are of the variety developed centuries before. The stress positions, confinement with rats, extremely small cell boxes, various water torture techniques were actually used frequently during early British monarchs. Interestingly enough, they had "Legal Warrants" that legitimized in their mind the use of torture. Sort of like those issued legal memos that said waterboarding was okay. Later in the 16th century, torture was no longer recognized as a valid tool for preserving the status quo with the last monarch issued torture warrant issued in 1642. Even back then, they realized that during the process of torture, the tortured will say and confess to anything and everything to stop the pain. So why, after 400 years, did the Bush administration suddenly decide that it will work this time?

We executed for war crimes Japanese officers for waterboarding prisoners after World War II. Why is it so different now? Doesn't this seem like the worst kind of hypocrisy to the world stage of opinion that we suddenly say that it is legal? Even the FBI, which really has interrogation to a fine science, wash their hands of the CIA dirty tricks. Let me tell you of the two organizations and if I was a prisoner that had a secret to keep, the CIA would give me the most fear of physical harm but of being able to extract a secret, the FBI has no equal when it comes to extracting information without the use of torture.

To answer the question, torture in my opinion is not only morally reprehensible but it just does not produce results that other techniques couldn't get just as well. This was a dark day of US history that will continue to resonate for decades!

Lawyer viewpoint: Isn't it torture enough that Dick Cheney is persistently front-center in the national dialogue defending this crap that most even-keeled people recognize as being torture? There is the Geneva Convention and the Constitution of the United States that together stand for the proposition that civilized cultures are against anything that looks, smells and sounds like torture.

What intrigues me is seeking to understand and contextualize the sort of person that would readily agree with the statement, "If Dick Cheney says it is all cupcakes and sunshine, then I am all for stringing a guy up, and sending a car battery worth of voltage surging through his body via the testicles."

The problem with approaching the harvest of information through physical coercion is that it is widely believed to be unreliable. It also encourages the supporters and allies of those we torture to do the same, and worse, to our own.

What might I be willing to say under the coercion of torture?

I was bounded, naked, to a forensic examiner's table for more hours than I could say, without food or water. My tongue was dry and had the consistency of kitty litter. My eyes felt like powdery ping-pong balls. I had been promised the worst by those who had previously handled me, but I was never in my wildest imagination prepared for what I saw, and the horror I felt, when next the cell door creaked open wide on its damp rusty hinges. There stood, the torch lights casting shadows dancing across his pale face, Dick Cheney. I gasped, stammered, blubbered, squirmed and pleaded. He sneered, perspiration glistening on his upper lip. He came to my side from where I was able to see that he was dressed in black-leather boots that laced all the way up to just below his knees, black-latex shorty-shorts, and around his neck, a studded dog collar. In a raspy voice he said, "Hur, I think, ah-hum, you should consider, err, what you say next, uh-hum, very carefully." With a cocked smile he raised the business end of the positive and negative jumper cables, copper, black and red. Bringing the copper ends together, sparks spit and jumped. I screamed. Cheney said, "Just, err, tell me son, ah-hum, what you know." I do: "It was the engineer--he did it. You can't trust those bastards," I cried.