Friday, July 01, 2016


     Think you can't elevate yourself because you have to work a day job?

     Think you can't elevate yourself because you can't afford education?

     Think you can't advance because you have child care responsibilities?

     Think you are stifled because you live in a rural area without a lot of higher education available?

     Think you have had too many birthdays to embark on a career change/enhancement?

     Well, Bunky, none of that matters if you want it badly enough and are willing to pay the price.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I present you with the poster child for paying the price:  Judge Holly Henze.

Monday, June 20, 2016


When it comes to firearm injuries and death, there are varying and intense opinions among Americans. We hear a lot of argumentation about "mental health – gun show exception – deeper background checks – punishing straw purchasers and limiting magazine size."

Whenever there is a shocking mass shooting, one side suggests some gun restrictions any other side carefully explains how that would not have stopped this particular shooting.

Let's put all that aside for the moment and see if we can find something upon which nearly everyone can agree.

Right now it is against the law of the United States of America for the CDC or the NIH, while using any government funds, to study the public health implications of firearms.

In 2014 (Nothing magic about 2014, it's just the most recent year I can get what I find to be reasonably complete raw data) there were approximately 52,000 incidents involving a firearm in which someone was hurt or killed. Just about 13,000 of those resulted in deaths. As nearly as one can tell from the data, people of all ages were implicated, firearms of all stripes were implicated, suicides were included and, of course, accidental discharges were included.

Can we all agree that, if there were a new, foreign, virus abroad in the land killing 13,000 Americans and injuring another nearly 40,000, our public health professionals would be studying it?

So right now we have a Congress that is considering gun safety measures with no benefit of cross-tabulated data because Congress, itself, has outlawed our best public health statisticians from creating such data.

Wouldn't it be better, smarter and a sensible use of our resources to let our public health professionals tell us, just for example, what is the population base most likely to be involved in a gun homicide? What is the length of ownership of the weapon and gun homicide? How many gun homicides are committed with a weapon that was straw purchased?   how many gun homicides are committed with gun show purchased weapons? How many weapons used in deadly or great bodily harm attacks are actually purchased at gun shows using the dreaded "gun show exception…"? How many of those would the purchaser have qualified anyhow?  How many of the homicides are actually a lawful gun owner deploying his weapon to prevent a felony or other murder?

Does anybody actually think that by not studying how, when why and by whom fatal and catastrophic shots are fired that we might be able to better craft sensible, constitutional legislation and subordinate regulations that actually respond to the problem is a public health problem?  Do we really believe that we should make our decisions on the basis of  slogans, memes and chants?

I think it was Socrates, later co-opted by Einstein who said" a question well asked is half answered."

Because of our lack of penetrating study on this rather obvious public health issue, we are not only failing to ask the question well but maybe attempting to answer all the wrong questions.

We have good scientists, really big, really fast computers and an abundant sample size. Deep study is slowing the increase of cervical cancer, diabetes and especially macular degeneration. Statistical applications have forever changed the way wars are fought and baseball games are played. There is simply no valid argument against applying the same rigor to the study of firearm injuries that we do to determining whether we should trade for this relief pitcher or that second baseman.

Knowledge is power. Can we all agree that it can't hurt anything and might actually help if we study this problem like we study other public health problems? That takes one clean, decent vote from our Congress, takes no one's guns away and limits no one's existing rights

Surely we can all agree that the anti-intellectual approach to this has long since outlived its usefulness.  Mind you, I'm a gun guy and I see absolutely no problem letting real scientists deal with real truths and come up with real cross-tabs.

Saturday, June 11, 2016


For purposes of this discussion, let's agree that the sentence in the Stanford swimmer rape case was incorrect.  Hell, for purposes of this discussion, let's just call it an outrage.  OK, we have that covered.

I would like to argue that the effort to remove that judge from the bench for this one decision is, from a societal point of view, contrary to the interests of having an ordered society.

The petition effort has its basis in the belief that the judiciary is somehow supposed to be "responsive" to the desires of the electorate.  This is a misunderstanding of the the third branch's role.

Legislatures are sent to vote on public policy and they are sent by electors with the expectation that they will pursue the goals that caused the people to send them to seat of government.

The Executive, President or Governor, is supposed to see to the goals the people expressed when they elected him.  To a greater or lesser extent, the legislative branch and the Executive Branch are supposed to be "responsive".  If they don't do more or less exactly what we want, we know how to get rid of them.  They must respond to us.

We send (and every state does this differently) judges to the bench to be impartial and to apply the law to the facts without fear or favor.  Think about this:  It is impossible to be BOTH impartial and responsive at the same time.  In judges, we prize and seek judges who are skilled, of course, but, above all, are imbued with impartiality and integrity.  If society, or aspects of it, can recall or bully judges into deciding things "their" way, then we have no more independent judiciary.  Or, to put it another way, we have no effective third branch of government.

It is not difficult to imagine how badly a two-legged stool works.

Australia went through kind of similar social movement last decade.  Their then Chief Justice, Sir Gerard Brennan (no relation to Babs) had some interesting remarks and observations then, that apply nicely to our current situations.

" But the implications for our society are profound. Judicial independence does not exist to serve the judiciary; nor to serve the interests of the other two branches of government. It exists to serve and protect not the governors but the governed. But, you may ask, if that is so, why do we see so much ill-informed criticism of the judiciary? There are many answers to this question, but it cannot be doubted that one answer is this: there is a lack of awareness of the extent to which the peace and order of our society depend upon the maintenance of a strong and independent judiciary as the third arm of government...."

"The reason why judicial independence is of such public importance is that a free society exists only so long as it is governed by the rule of law - the rule which binds the governors and the governed, administered impartially and treating equally all those who seek its remedies or against whom its remedies are sought. However vaguely it may be perceived, however unarticulated may be the thought, there is an aspiration in the hearts of all men and women for the rule of law."

"  Judicial independence is the priceless possession of any country under the rule of law. The public are entitled to insist on its observance by the judges and on its protection by the Parliament and the Executive."

There is a price to be paid for judicial independence.  The absence of recall or ballot initiatives is one price.  This necessarily means the occasionally "clanger".  Many would argue that the Stanford sentence was one of those clangers.  The judge exercised his independence in a way that angered many people.  Many of those angry people would trade the concept of an independent judiciary for the "feel good" proposition that they can "get" a judge for one arguably poorly conceived decision.  As Chief Justice Brennan points out, that is a bad trade, giving up judicial independence to scratch a short time itch.

Ask yourself, "do I want to know I'm getting a truly impartial judge for my case, whatever it may be, when it comes before the court or do I want a judge who must necessarily cower before petition drives and ballot initiatives?"

On the federal side, why do you think the drafters created lifetime appointments for members of the judiciary.  THAT's how important they thought a tamper-proof judiciary was.

NOTE: nothing in this discussion is intended to discuss the details of the Stanford rape case.  I said my piece on that on facebook.  I welcome your comments on judicial independence here but let's not rehash the rape case because it is beside the point of this submission.

Monday, May 23, 2016


The tragic Freddie Gray case in Baltimore will go on and on.  It has already surpassed OJ in one area, race-based blather that has nothing to do with the merits of the case.  Somebody explain the standard of proof in criminal cases to these people! I'm all for racial grievances being aired but "red-lined" neighborhoods don't have a Hell of a lot to do with the evidence in any particular case.

Draymond Green didn't do anything that requires suspension.  It's obvious to me he was trying to jump again, while falling backwards.

SCOTUS has developed a strategy for dealing with just 8 members. As a body, they are sending clear signals to the Senate that "You're not gonna like what you see as long as we're set up like this."

Good News for local folks:  The applicants for Judge Vahle's spot are so good, the administration of justice can't lose.  Going to get a decent person and good legal mind, no matter who is selected.  But Judge Vahle's gonna be missed.

Jorge Soler is going to be a fine big league player but he is struggling now.  Next five or six games, makes sense to platoon Baez and LaStella at 3B and let Bryant play LF.

Been reading about how Google is going to swamp Apple in the application of Artificial Intelligence.  The tech writers make a lot of sense with this argument.  Yet Warren Buffett finally bought some Apple Stock.  Doctor, I get these terrible headaches.......

Saturday, May 07, 2016


Today I would like to discuss the community impact of the Lovelace case and issue a caution.

Under the "6° of Kevin Bacon" theory, no one has more ties to this case than I do. No need to list them here.

Naturally, as a veteran trial lawyer, I have opinions about what I know of the evidence, the performance and decisions of the attorneys for both sides in the last trial and even the verity of some of the comments of the discharged jurors. None of that matters. I keep those opinions to myself.  The only opinions that are going to matter are the collective conclusions of the jury that is impaneled when the next iteration of this case goes forward.

All of which gets me to the basic point. In all manner of public places and social media, local people, good people, solid, respectable people chose to take all kinds of positions as to the guilt or innocence of the defendant or even as whether the case should have been charged. There were even opinions about the ability or credibility of certain out-of-town experts and the performance of some of our local policeman. There were plenty of rumors about the motivation for the case going forward.

Folks, none of that is worth a pitcher of warm spit. 

Could we all agree on this much?: The process, brutal though it may be, is going to have to run itself out. It doesn't matter what we think of the merits of the case or the wisdom and using resources on these particular facts or what we think of the decedent's personality or what we think of the defendant's personality. It does not even matter how sympathetic and heartrending the impact is on the defendant's four children or the decedent's mother. The only thing that matters in the final analysis is the evidence that is admitted in the court case and the conclusions this next Jury will reach about that evidence.

So, how about this? Let's not fight with each other about this case. I have two friends who are also friends of one another. They are on opposite sides of the "guilt or innocence" question and their positions have strained their friendship. I know of other examples of the exact same thing. This is as unnecessary as it is sad. Our opinions don't matter. There is not going to be a public plebiscite on this, ever. There is going to be, at some point, an orderly the trial and a duly rendered jury verdict. Our opinions are without effect on that process.  This is true whether they comments are on web boards, letters to the editor or bar arguments.

Since our opinions are completely superfluous to the process, why should we let them disrupt our community, our friendships and our goodwill, one to another? For those who give support and comfort to Mrs. Lovelace, keep doing that. That does not require arguing with or debating anyone else. For those who believe that Cory's survivors deserve the vindication a conviction might deliver, comfort those survivors in your own way. That does not make you an enemy of Mrs. Lovelace or her supporters.

In short, I saw the first trial of this case tear at the fabric of our community. There was bitterness in the wake of that trial and there was disharmony in our town. There is no need for that. The process is the process. Illinois Law and the Constitution dictate that. You do not get a vote on this and neither do I and that is as it should be. 

I respectfully suggest we celebrate the inalienable right of an accused to be judged by a jury of his peers and avoid debate or argumentation on the merits, one with another. That debate gains us nothing and puts at risk a quality of life that we've all built together in our fine community. 

Under all circumstances, be good to one another.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


"Big" is bad.

"Small" is good.


When we are taught to all be good little capitalists, the purpose of the drill is to build our enterprise to dominating size, success and stated capital account. Those crafty enough, energetic enough and visionary enough to actually get there and become a huge success are rewarded with serial antitrust investigations penalties and injunctions. For the most part, their fault is having pursued the American dream too freaking successfully.

This has become so stylish that it is no longer confined to the United States of America. A basic legal search for EU antitrust and monopolization prosecutions will yield many more Microsoft contacts than for the United States Department of Justice. Old Billy might have started in a garage or in his mother's basement, or whatever the folklore is, but when he got to be a financial juggernaut, he was officially assigned to the Axis of Evil.

All of which circles me back to the current level of white noise about breaking up the "big banks."

If you haven't already done so, do yourself a favor and read "Too Big to Fail" and "The Big Short". (The big short film will not tell you what you need to know).

While it is very nuanced, the essential ingredient in one third of the world economy being vaporized over a period of about two months is not "greedy people taking out mortgages they could not afford…" That is a very nice, Puritan, blameworthy explanation for the economic downturn and it is also a little bit like blaming heroin addicts for the violent behavior of the Mexican drug cartels.

No, the essential ingredient for the collapse of the economy was the activity of brokerage firms (now, try to follow this) SELLING WORTHLESS DEBT IN THE SECURITIES MARKET AS A "FUTURE."

Please understand that this kind of market-making is not a banking function at all. It's a securities function, a brokerage function, if you will.

Until late 1980s traditional banking, that is "technically fractional reserve banking", such as making loans and  managing accounts, perhaps even overseeing trusts, was completely separate from brokerage, no matter the size of the bank. After the change in the law allowing the banking function and the brokerage function to occur, essentially under the same roof, bank size naturally grew. This is an obvious outcome because the bank was simply doing more tasks. As the demand for gambling propositions and hedging increased, the market-making function for new investment vehicles increased and, frankly, the maturing bank/brokerages became more aggressive.

But the important thing to understand is that the devil in all this was not SIZE. It was that the same people were creating markets for this junk who were deciding what junk to fund.

In short, simply breaking up the banks and making them smaller accomplishes nothing except inconvenience for the banks' hopefully successful and honorable customers. The mischief in "securities banking" is the blend of the function of marketer and financier of the market.

Literally from about 2006 to about 2008 major brokerages, linked to banks were able to cover up the weakness in all the deliciously named securities vehicles that were involved in what are generically called "credit default swaps." There were literally about 50 people in the United States who recognized that the debt market related to real estate was going to crash, taking real wealth with it, while the rest of us utterly lacked the sophistication to get in front of such a path.

Lives were ruined by ridiculously irresponsible brokerage practices and access to literally trillions of dollars to cover up those failures as the securities wheezed. None of that had anything to do with size. It had everything to do with the merger of two functions which are inherently separate, one from the other, and intended to be part of an often effective system of "checks and balances."

Trust me when I tell you that this is a grossly oversimplified version of the meltdown in 2008 but it is also essentially truthful.

When anybody tells you: "I intend to break up the big banks!," Please ask them the following two questions:

"What are you going to do next?"

"How will you divide their assets, divisions and departments?"

It is in those two questions that the rubber meets the road. A mere reduction in size is a silly, destructive and futile gesture

Sunday, February 14, 2016


Golf announcers must all have skipped basic physics.  "How much does this putt break, Joe?"  

"Maybe half a ball, right to left."

(Guy in tower) "Depends on the Speed"

Ya Think???

God Rest Justice Scalia.  I will not out them but he had some friends from here in Quincy whose names would surprise you.  He was known to sneak into town on occasion.

Interesting turn of events in the GOP Debate Last night.  Rubio throws out the challenge that Cruz doesn't speak Spanish.  Cruz offers up a few words of Sophomore Spanish.  The best Spanish speaker on the stage smartly and purposely remains silent.  Bush may be wheezing, but he's not stupid.

Illinois has a strong concentration of the most skilled child care/child welfare workers in the Nation.  For years they have been employed by system which defeats their undeniable skill and dedication.  Now, a year into Rauner, more or less, we have not only a screwed up system but a comprehensively underfunded, screwed up system.  Warning:  If you're going to be a child in Illinois, be a rich one with two doting parents.  Otherwise, you're pretty much screwed.

This Sam McGann advertising is interesting.  He is blasted as "Madigan's favorite Senator".  So, If I have this correct, it is OK for him to have lied about being, not only a veteran at all, but a COMBAT VETERAN, but it's disqualifying to be in favor with Mike Madigan (which is probably a crock anyhow).  My brain is clearly out of the mainstream.