Saturday, August 26, 2006

Ironies of Ironies

Just yesterday I went to visit my friend who is working for Preston, Gates, and Ellis at their downtown Seattle office. After leaving him at the intersection of 3rd and Madison, I had to cross 3rd and Senica to get to my bus stop. I saw the bus roll up to the light I was waiting at and was forced to make a split second decision--obey the crosswalk sign and miss the bus, or do the opposite. As anyone who has spent five minutes with me downtown will tell you, I never cross against the light. It's just really not in my nature. But I was already running late and didn't want to miss the bus... so I waited until all the traffic had cleared, looked both ways, stepped out onto the street, and promptly received my first every jay-walking ticket.

Strike that... first ever ticket, period.

$46 that split second decision cost me. And to think of all the people in the world who made fun of me for waiting at the light. sigh.

In other news, while everyone is very excited that Pluto is no longer a planet, there is one group who is slipping through the cracks in this larger debate about the nature of our solar system. Can you guess who? That's right, the astrologists.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Political MAD

If there is one thing I took away from law school it is how horrible a tool the courts are for arriving at sustainable solutions to societal problems. I'm not saying there isn't a time and a place where the court's heavy hand is appropriate, most notably in situations where the relative power dynamic between the parties is lopsided (civil rights cases come to mind). What I'm saying is that between two parties of relative strength, better they compromise then kill eachother.

In our system the court is asked to narrow down a particular issue into a set of binary questions and then answer them, "yes" or "no." Because of doctrines of judicial restraint, courts try to reduce the set to as few questions as possible, which means that emerging out of nearly ever court case is a big winner and a total loser.

Enter onto the stage, the Washington State Democratic and Republican parties. For decades they operated within a state primary system called the blanket primary. Voters of the state were allowed to vote for whatever candidate they wanted in the primary, party affiliation be damned! There were the occasional claims of party cross over, where Democrates were said to vote for weaker Republican candidates to make it easier to win in the general, but no credible evidence ever emerged in support and several UW Professors spent their carriers demonstrating how the claims were nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

But then California adopted the Washington State system and suddenly the world came crashing down. Parties in California sued and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the system as an infringement on 1st Amendment rights of association. Well, California had been using a closed primary for years, so it's really not that big of a deal. But the court victory inspired the Washington State Democratic party... "hey," they said, "we could exert more control over our candidates if we did what California did." And so they sued the state and got our long herald blanket primary system thrown out.

Enter the Grange, an interesting non-profit organization originally designed to protect rural interests. These days their primary activity seems to be to back initiative drives. The Grange was apparently a big supporter of the blanket primary and disliked the idea of strong party control. They went to our State legislature and got a law passed which called for a "top-two" primary, where voters chose whoever they wanted and the top two vote getters (regardless of party affiliation) would go onto the general election. The law also contained provisions for a close primary should, I don't know, the governor veto the top-two provisions... which he did.

Not to be deterred, the Grange then launched an initiative to reinstate the top-two system. I-872 received nearly 60% of the vote but was quickly enjoined by the State political parties. The law never went into effect.

Let us pause for a moment and consider the situation. For decades the political parties have operated with the blanket primary without any demonstrable issues. As an added bonus, Washington state politics has never been dominated by partisan corruption, since you can actually get to the general election without the support of the party establishment. The Washington State legislature passed laws reinforcing partisan-independence and voters did the same. Clearly the State of Washington isn't interested in partisan politics corrupting a good thing. So why, why, are the parties pushing this thing? Can't they see what's around the corner?

Well, apparently not, because last year the got the law ruled unconstitutional by a district judge and just this week the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals concured. For those who remember the title of this post, consider that fateful decision to be the first nuclear weapon launch.

Now for the return salvo. The Grange is mulling over three options. The first two are to go back to the courts and try to win on rehearing or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The courts seem inclined to protect partisan interests over the state's interest, so that seems like a losing approach, which is why the third option is the most likely option. According to the Seattle Times the Grange will lobby the State Legislature this year to declare our primaries entirely non-partisan!

Under the old system the parties at least had an affiliation with the candidate, but with this approach the parties are simply irrelevant. Personally, I would support such a move. I preferred the old system, which was a good balance between the state's interest and the parties' interests. But, since the parties felt compelled to go to the courts and have a winner declared in the long stalemate, the state is left with no choice. You push someone against a wall and they will push back.

If they continue to push, I wouldn't be surprised if the legislature itself was declared non-partisan like the judiciary and most city councils. It's time for the parties to wise up... I don't know what kind of people are running those organizations, but this isn't the East Coast and we aren't interested in political bosses running things from smoke-filled rooms.

Why couldn't they just live with the compromise that had worked for so long?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Big Move

A new record in blog silence! One month, seven days. Exciting, I know. But it's time to figure out what I'm doing with this blog now that I'm all graduated. First, some housekeeping chores for any of you who actually read this blog for news about me.
  1. took the California Bar in late July (passage status unknown)
  2. participated in roommate's wedding as Best Man (speech went over well)
  3. found an apartment in Santa Cruz (it is both tiny and expensive)
  4. took the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (passage status also unknown)
  5. friends all had a big going away dinner on Saturday at Icon Grill (food was fantastic)
  6. throwing an event tomorrow to see folks one last time (evite title: Sean's Fleeing the Jurisdiction)
  7. in the process of preparing and releasing a version 3.3 of LegSim (codename: Hastert)
  8. packing and leaving for Santa Cruz on the 30th of this month (yes, eight days)
So, there you have it. Big news to be sure.

Now, let's have a quick chat about this blog. I've always enjoyed blogging... I've been doing it in some form or another since 1999. Way before the cool kids did it. It's mostly been on personal subject matter or various adventures like traveling to Washington D.C. Now that my crazy college day antics are over, I'm left with just a couple of possible topics.

  • I could post about personal matters, like rants about friends, family or significant others. But, I don't think that's very fair to those people and isn't a really healthy way to handle those sorts of issues. Best to talk to them directly.
  • I could post about professional matters, like what I'm doing at work. This is a fine idea if I was just sticking with LegSim, but since I'm 99% sure to get a job working for either a law firm (thus under confidentiality rules) or a technology company (thus under an NDA), I would be rather limited in my subject matter.
  • I could post about political matters, which has always been my mainstay topic. I like politics and I enjoy sharing my views. Trouble with blogs is that they record views for long term inspection... I've said some pretty crazy things in my reckless youth. Do I really want all of that up for critique in 30 years?
  • I could post about nonsense, which seems to comprise about 95% of blogs in the world and roughly 99% of the content on my friend's blogs. To be honest, I don't even known what I would talk about that is nonsensical... somehow the discover that Target underwear comes in a resealable bag doesn't strike me as ProBonoGeek subject material (if you are interested in such topics, drop me a line 'cause I have the blog for you).
So, there is my conundrum. If anyone is out there still reading this blog (and I doubt it) drop me a comment on what you think I should do. Is it time to give up the ghost and start journaling in private? Do I run the risk of political self-sabotage? Got an opinion, now is the time to speak.