Archive for August, 2012


Paul Ryan Speech Preview - Look Back at 2011 State of the Union Response

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

The choice of Paul Ryan as a running mate has given Mitt Romney a positive bump in swing states, increased his numbers in young voters and very importantly, fired up the conservative base.  For conservatives itching to hear Paul Ryan speak at the Republican National Convention, a look back at his response to President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union Address is worth a watch or read.

Ryan’s delivery has improved over the past year.  But I suspect some of these themes in his response speech will find their way into his convention speech.

Here are a few excerpts from his 2011 response:

These budget debates are not just about the programs of government; they’re also about the purpose of government.

So I’d like to share with you the principles that guide us. They are anchored in the wisdom of the founders; in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence; and in the words of the American Constitution.

They have to do with the importance of limited government; and with the blessing of self-government.

We believe government’s role is both vital and limited — to defend the nation from attack and provide for the common defense … to secure our borders … to protect innocent life … to uphold our laws and Constitutional rights … to ensure domestic tranquility and equal opportunity … and to help provide a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves.

We believe that the government has an important role to create the conditions that promote entrepreneurship, upward mobility, and individual responsibility.

We believe, as our founders did, that “the pursuit of happiness” depends upon individual liberty; and individual liberty requires limited government.

We believe the days of business as usual must come to an end. We hold to a couple of simple convictions: Endless borrowing is not a strategy; spending cuts have to come first.

Depending on bureaucracy to foster innovation, competitiveness, and wise consumer choices has never worked — and it won’t work now.

We need to chart a new course.

We believe a renewed commitment to limited government will unshackle our economy and create millions of new jobs and opportunities for all people, of every background, to succeed and prosper. Under this approach, the spirit of initiative — not political clout — determines who succeeds.

We need to reclaim our American system of limited government, low taxes, reasonable regulations, and sound money, which has blessed us with unprecedented prosperity. And it has done more to help the poor than any other economic system ever designed. That’s the real secret to job creation — not borrowing and spending more money in Washington.

Limited government and free enterprise have helped make America the greatest nation on earth.

These are not easy times, but America is an exceptional nation. In all the chapters of human history, there has never been anything quite like America. The American story has been cherished, advanced, and defended over the centuries.

And it now falls to this generation to pass on to our children a nation that is stronger, more vibrant, more decent, and better than the one we inherited.


Court’s punt on damages shifts attention to Northern District campaign

Friday, August 24th, 2012

The Mississippi Supreme Court’s decision to decline to answer the U.S. Fifth Circuit on whether Mississippi’s cap on non-economic damages is Constitutional postpones the inevitable: an eventual answer. Justice Mike Randolph wrote on behalf of the majority, “The constitutionality of a statute is not to be addressed ‘abstractly, speculatively, or in the manner of an academic discussion’ but rather in the context of its clear application.”

One day a case with clear application will be decided by the Mississippi Supreme Court. That day will come after this November’s elections in which three seats on the Court are being contested, a fourth - Justice Leslie King - has no opposition.

In the Southern District, Justice Randolph faces Gerald Talmadge Braddock. I wrote back in July:

Challenging Randolph is Gerald Talmadge Braddock, a Vicksburg native practicing law in Hattiesburg where his firm specializes in “serious personal injury, matrimonial law, and criminal defense.” Braddock lists his “area of expertise” as “DUI cases, Mass Tort Litigation with major pharmaceutical manufacturing companies, personal injury claims, criminal defense.” On his web site, Braddock notes he is the youngest lifetime member of the Mississippi Trial Lawyer Association (now called the Mississippi Association for Justice) where he says he serves on the Board of Governors.

Braddock recently opened a Gulf Coast office to focus on litigation regarding the Deep Horizon oil drill disaster. Last month he said on his Twitter account, “If somebody said ‘Free Money In Mississippi’, there would be a riot. Well, I’m saying it, ‘Free Money In Mississippi From the BP Oil Spill’”.

Randolph’s campaign is well funded, supported by all sides of the legal community, well organized and should be successful over Braddock who has struggled to gain financial support or build a grassroots network.

In the Central District, Chief Justice Bill Waller, Jr. faces State Representative Earle Banks. As I wrote last month, the nature of the district makes this race competitive, despite Waller’s fundraising and organization advantages. Banks consistently opposed tort reform in the legislature, there is no indication he would change his mind on the Court.

A victory by Braddock or Banks would create a seismic shift on the Court in favor of trial lawyers. But for those supporting Mississippi’s tort reform including the caps on non-economic damages, the greatest concern should be the open race in the Northern District.

Josiah Coleman, a defense attorney from Oxford, has been endorsed by the Mississippi Association of Realtors, the Mississippi Medical PAC, BIPEC and the Mississippi Manufactures Association. The Mississippi Republican Party endorsed Coleman and this week an e-mail from GOP National Committeeman Henry Barbour and former GOP Chairmen Brad White, Arnie Hedermann and retired Judge Jim Herring (a Fordice appointee formerly on the Court of Appeals) endorsed Coleman and blasted his opponent Flip Phillips:

But while business organizations are rallying around Josiah, his opponent – Flip Phillips – is attempting to conceal his liberal Democrat ties. The truth is Flip Phillips is the former President of the Mississippi Trial Lawyer’s Association and has contributed upwards of $15,000 to Ronnie Musgrove, Jim Hood, Chuck McRae and the Democrat National Committee. He also led the legal effort to overturn the tort reform that helped stop trial lawyers from making Mississippi a legal hellhole.

Phillips is not just a practicing trial lawyer, he is a philosophical advocate for the plaintiffs bar and his election to the Court would not just be a vote but a clever voice of persuasion to move the Court away from the established balance. From my column in June:

Coleman’s opponent is Richard T. “Flip” Phillips of Batesville, a former president of the Mississippi Trial Lawyers Association (now Mississippi Association for Justice). Early in the campaign, Phillips, a well regarded and successful attorney, was being presented to many in the business community as a candidate they could support. But his view of the civil justice system, as discussed in an article published in the Mississippi Law Journal in 2001 titled “Class Actions & Joinder in Mississippi” is exactly the opposite of what state business interests want in a judge.

Phillips wrote, “the fundamental purpose of civil litigation today is shifting from a strictly compensatory purpose to regulatory or punitive purposes.” At a symposium discussing the article, he argued Mississippi became “lawsuit central” in the country not because of the excessively high verdicts, but rather, because the rest of the country was not as enlightened as Mississippi. Rather than reform lawsuit abuse in Mississippi, he seemed to argue the rest of the country should become more like the Magnolia State. In another presentation Phillips argued the elected branches of government have failed to do their jobs and “regulation by litigation” could address policy issues involving tobacco, guns, insurance, health care and product liability.

Because the constitutionality of damage caps could come before the Court, Phillips and Coleman can’t address the issue in the campaign. However, in a 2009 case from DeSoto County, Phillips represented a plaintiff against a construction company who won a $30 million judgment: $13.7 million in noneconomic damages. Because of the damages cap, the trial judge reduced that portion of the verdict to $1 million, leaving $17.2 million for the plaintiff. Phillips appealed arguing the damage cap was unconstitutional and asked the Court to strike it down. The plaintiff and the construction company settled before the Court had an opportunity to decide the issue.

The Court’s decision yesterday not to answer on the constitutionality of Mississippi’s non-economic damage caps should focus attention on the race in the Northern District. While it is unknown how the Court will rule when the question finally and fully comes before it, the perspective of Phillips is clearly known as he has argued before the Court it is unconstitutional.


Rage Against the Ryan Machine

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

I enjoy Rage Against the Machine. Rage and I both love freedom. I see freedom in removing government barriers that prevent individual success and personal enjoyment of life. Rage sees freedom in calling for people to seize the means of production. I see America as the land of the free, which according to Rage lyrics make me their enemy. I enjoy the music and the passion, but we go down different ideological paths. I’m not alone. Rage has sold millions of records (what’s a record?) but not everyone buying “Rage Against the Machine” or “Evil Empire” or “The Battle of Los Angeles” or “Renegades” is actually a revolutionary liberation Marxist. A lot of their fans were middle class kids who bought the music in a shopping mall off the shelf next to R.E.M. and Roxette.

You can enjoy art without adhering to the philosophy of the artist. I can appreciate a painting by Claude Monet without denying the ability to know an object itself. I’ll buy a ticket to see Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, marvel at his stunts, yet I don’t plan to convert to Scientology.

For Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, apparently, if you don’t agree with an artist you don’t understand the artist. Apparently one of those non-Marxist kids like me who now has Rage on his I-Pod is Republican Vice Presidential pick Paul Ryan. Morello writes about his rage against Paul Ryan in Rolling Stone:

Paul Ryan’s love of Rage Against the Machine is amusing, because he is the embodiment of the machine that our music has been raging against for two decades. Charles Manson loved the Beatles but didn’t understand them. Governor Chris Christie loves Bruce Springsteen but doesn’t understand him. And Paul Ryan is clueless about his favorite band, Rage Against the Machine.

Ryan claims that he likes Rage’s sound, but not the lyrics. Well, I don’t care for Paul Ryan’s sound or his lyrics. He can like whatever bands he wants, but his guiding vision of shifting revenue more radically to the one percent is antithetical to the message of Rage.

But Rage’s music affects people in different ways. Some tune out what the band stands for and concentrate on the moshing and throwing elbows in the pit. For others, Rage has changed their minds and their lives. Many activists around the world, including organizers of the global occupy movement, were radicalized by Rage Against the Machine and work tirelessly for a more humane and just planet. Perhaps Paul Ryan was moshing when he should have been listening.

While reading Morello’s rant and lamenting it lacks the poetic passion of Rage lyrics, I was reminded of one of my favorite pieces from The Onion – “Where Are You Now, When We Need You Most, Rage Against The Machine?” from 2004. Morello’s harrangue is a case of life imitating art imitating art.

You lifted the nation’s youth up out of the mire and taught us to question, to act. Rage Against The Machine, come back. Bring us more slamming riffs and sonic wallop. Bring us more shredding and axing. Do that thing where you make your guitar sound like bagpipes.

Seriously, we need a healthy dose of your cuttin’, or Bush will win. It’s Vietnow, man, and just like you said before, America’s getting its news-trients from the likes of Benito Hannity and Adolf Limbaugh. We need a musical antidote to the poison. This nation needs another bomb track to ignite it! We are lost, Rage Against The Machine. Where have you gone? The voice of the voiceless is silent.

Surely Zack has ample material for new songs. This empire couldn’t be any more evil. What about Abu Ghraib? If ever anyone was sleeping in the fire, it was those prisoners. Zack, if you’re listening, if you’re reading this—we need you.

And where are you, Tom, Tim, and Brad? You bravely stood up for the dispossessed of the Third World, but in the current political climate, we are dispossessed in our own country. The erosion of our rights and liberties makes captives of us all. Do you no longer care? Did the machine defeat you?

I love the Onion. Maybe to Morello’s point, I don’t understand the Onion, but I do fully enjoy it. If you don’t like cuss words, don’t read the Onion, but if you don’t mind the occasional crude term, you might enjoy this letter “by” Paul Ryan to Democrats from the Onion last week: “Admit It, I Scare The Ever-Loving S*** Out of You, Don’t I?

It’s okay to admit it. You’re frightened to death of me. It might actually be healthy for you to face your fears now rather than later, when Mitt and I are leading by a few points in the polls and it looks like this thing might end badly for you. Face it: I’m not some catastrophe waiting to happen, like a Sarah Palin or a Dan Quayle. On the contrary, you have the exact opposite fear. I’m a solid, competent, some might say exceptional, politician.

Did you get nervous when you read that last sentence? Is it because you know in your heart of hearts that it’s 100 percent true? Is it because, even if you strongly disagree with my beliefs on Medicare, Social Security, women’s rights, and marriage equality, you know my talent as a speaker and my well-thought-out approach to these issues—no matter how radical and convoluted you find them—might just be enough to win over independent voters?

Do you get chills just thinking about how strong my appeal actually is?

I have another question for you: How scared are you that I can convince people I’m right? Because I’m good at it. No, I’m really good at it. You see, I know how to turn up the charm and charisma without putting people off. Then I back up what I’m saying with arguments that, when they come out of my mouth, sound completely accurate and well-reasoned. And I do it with such passion that people automatically recognize me as a man with deep convictions he will stand up for, no matter what.

In 2000, Rage Against the Machine supported Ralph Nader’s Green Party campaign for president against the “Republicrats” (George W. Bush and Al Gore). During the primary that year, Michael Moore took a traveling mosh pit through Iowa offering the endorsement of “The Awful Truth” to any candidate that jumped into the pit slamming to the sounds of Rage. Alan Keyes, the guy who six years later would be creamed in a U.S. Senate campaign by a state legislator named Barack Obama, did it. Moore went on to direct a video for Rage resulting in the lock down of the New York Stock Exchange. Those was all frivolous shenanigans, not exactly working “tirelessly for a more humane and just planet.” Perhaps Michael Moore was directing and moshing when he should have been listening.

In this presidential election, Republicans might paraphrase lyrics from Rage, “Paul Ryan is relentless. We need a movement with a quickness. You are the witness of change and to counteract, we gotta take the power back.”

Much of the country is ready for change from the Obama Administration.  That has folks like Morello raging against the Ryan machine.

Hat-tip to Red Alert Politics for “Tom Morello’s misguided rage” and hat-tip to @KarlRove for Tweeting that last bit from the Onion.


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