Sunday, May 31, 2009

Truth and empathy are universal and classless precepts

Dear KurlyReaders:

This week, I examine whether the quote by Supreme Court designee Judge Sonia Sotomayor extolling the wisdom of Hispanic women was actually “racist” and argue that she is basically just one of the “boys” if you consider her legal training and experience.
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Sonia is really just one of the boys

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
Judge Sonia Sotomayor

LAKE WORTH – Between my second and third year of law school, I worked as a law intern in the NYS Attorney General’s office in Buffalo. During that summer, I worked with two African-American law students and we developed a true friendship with one another, learning about each other and our life experiences.

As the summer continued, I began to understand a lingering resentment they nurtured growing up and living in poverty of New York City ghettos. I grew to understand about a cultural sensitivity to racial bigotry which touched their lives on a daily basis.

During the third year of law school, one of them asked me to come to a meeting of BALSA, the Black American Law Student Association to see if I wanted to join the organization.
When it was time for the meeting, I walked into the classroom where it was being held and encountered immediate, intense hostility from some of the law students there. “What are you doing here?” one asked. “You don’t belong here,” another student said to me.

An immediate debate broke out about me attending the meeting between my two friends and others who wanted me to leave. I never forgot the feeling I had of being the only “different” person in the room and feeling the resentment of some to my being there because of the color of my skin.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination for the Supreme Court by President Obama has resulted in the usual hypercritical recrimination associated with the selection of any candidate for the court. Some right wing pundits and politicians have seized on the quote above as evidence that Judge Sotomayor is a “reverse racist” and unfit to preside on the high court.
If anything, the analysis of her statement as racist is nothing more than converse political correctness. The quote in itself is not racist (if anything it is reverse-misogynistic), poorly worded, and just plain self-serving, egotistical crap.
When I read her statement, I understood better than others what she really meant to say based on my own particular law school experiences. However, at the same time, I truly doubted Sotomayor really had endured the true bigotry my friends in law school had really faced in their lives that would define her thinking in such terms.

Sotomayor is not at all the woman she describes in her remark. She has not struggled in her adult life against prejudice, but has instead greatly exploited being a minority woman in the age of affirmative action and political correctness.

Her “racist” statement is evidence of the persona she has developed to help rationalize her actual membership to America’s most elite legal society. She may talk the poverty talk, but her true life experience shows that she is actually no different than the white males she will be joining on the bench.

Judge Sotomayor’s life experience as a Latin woman may have shaped her initial nurturing, but it is important in terms of her appointment to the Supreme Court to separate her childhood upbringing from her professional career, particularly in terms of her interpretation of the rule of law.

Judge Sotomayor’s legal career was foremost shaped by her clinical legal training and professional experience, not her sex, upbringing, or ethnic background. A brilliant person, she was educated at Princeton and Yale Law School, where she was a member of an elite group of students on law review. Her legal experience as a prosecutor, a member of a boutique law firm, as a law professor at NYU and Columbia, and as a privileged Federal judge over a long period of time truly distances herself for the last 35 years from the common man and women in any terms of true empathy gained from life experience.

So, let’s stop pretending that Judge Sotomayor is truly a unique, historic candidate for the Supreme Court. Despite the Obama propaganda, the “richness of her experience” is no different than any other sitting white justice on the Supreme Court. Notwithstanding Sotomayor’s family and ethnic background, she in fact belongs to a very powerful elite club of American lawyers that don’t spend much time preparing Arroz Con Pollo for dinner for a large family.

Even if the facade of struggle being propagated by the Obama Administration is deceptive, it is a mistake to focus on her silly self-serving statement and the Marxist class struggle rhetoric in determining her fitness for the Supreme Court. Instead, let’s judge the Judge strictly on her legal talents and rulings alone and not worry about whether her unique personal ethnic or sexual compassion will make her fit or unfit to sit on the bench.
A debate about whether Judge Sotomayor is racist is an asinine, but caustic distraction that is designed in part to alienate the Republican Party further from American Hispanics and diminish the important process of picking a Supreme Court Justice on the sole merits of her legal decisions and her interpretation of the rule of law.
The true shame of this debate is that the bona fide trials and tribulations of people like my law school friends in Buffalo are being cynically exploited by the President to drive the appointment to the Supreme Court of an otherwise very qualified member of the elite American legal hierarchy.
This week's Kurlykomments Tweets on Twitter:
· Obama's Sat. night date a good thing for the country. They are allowed to have a good time together. Dating keeps marriage & minds healthy 9:02 AM May 30
· Recent news on Jon & Kate plus 8 exemplifies what is wrong with American morals-TV ratings & fame supercede children, family, and marriage 7:44 AM May 30th
· FLOCCI­NAUCINI­HILIPIL­IFICATION-a summation of the stimulus package & the attitude of Congress propping up corrupted lending institutions 1:49 PM May 29th
· Life expectancy for diabetic is 8-12 years less-should that be an issue when picking a SC Judge especially if age of candidate is important? 9:48 AM May 28th
· Republicans should remember many SC picks never follow adhere to earlier pol.leanings ala Earl Warren & may be surprised later w/Sotomayer 10:36 AM May 27th
· Free Aung San Suu Kyi 6:33 PM May 26th
· Colin Powell's perspecitve important & valid-new Rep.Party needs to respect & debate moderate views & stop infighting to get strong for 2010 12:46 PM May 26th
· Thank you to all American soldiers, past & present-fighting 233 yrs for the rgt.of free speech that allows me to post this tweet & my blog. 7:22 AM May 25th

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Planned obsolescence has become itself obsolete
"Obsolescence never meant the end of anything, it's just the beginning"
Marshall McLuhan

Lake Worth – I am very frustrated.

I am sitting here in an auto repair center, waiting for a mechanic to replace the right low beam headlight in my 2006 Mazda 3. It’s costing me $50.00 I don’t have right now.

Last night, I was pulled over by a Palm Beach County Deputy Sheriff and received a warning ticket from him for driving with a dead headlight. I have to get it fixed.

My car now has 100,000 miles on it. Every mechanic tells me that the car should run up to 300,000 miles easy if I perform the required maintenance. But the question is whether I will be able to afford the cost of parts and maintenance to run it another 100,000 or 200,000 miles.

This week, NASA succeeded in extending the life of the Hubble Telescope another 15 years by replacing parts and simultaneously incorporating new technology into the aging telescope.

The repair of the Hubble Telescope, which was launched in 1990, illustrates that America is still able to produce well-built machinery that lasts for years and that can be modernized with the latest technology to increase longevity and enhance its capability and results.

A fundamental underpinning of our economy is planned obsolescence. Most of our products are designed so that consumers must either replace expensive items after short product cycles or spend more money to fix them than they are worth over time.

As we continue our slide into a depression, it is obvious that this country needs to change the way we both produce and pay for goods and services. Right now, we are a nation of debtors. For the economy to be healthy again, we must learn to live within our means, which requires that we cut back our spending and avoid being in debt.

There has been a high expectation that the Obama Administration was going to make sweeping changes to fix fundamental weaknesses in an economy premised on consumer spending, but except for depleting the Treasury to prop up corrupt lending institutions, no major “changes” are being really discussed or implemented.

One significant change which can be implemented easily would be to take action to discourage planned obsolescence built into products made both here and imported from abroad, so that the average American consumer does not have to constantly be in hock to pay for them.
Obsolescence built into consumer goods drives consumer spending. It causes purchasers to carry a heavy debt load and maintain a reliance on leasing and credit cards to make the purchases.

For example, automobiles are costly and are designed only to last only a certain amount of miles. What’s worse, they utilize technological advances not to improve true durability, but to actually make them more expensive and complex to repair and maintain. Generally, the consumer is punished if he or she tries to fix up a car instead of buying a new one.

If Lockheed can design and manufacture a complex telescope with a lifespan of 15 years, and then with one major repair double the life and increase capacity of the complex instrument, why can’t manufacturers design and sell cars and other big ticket items that are reasonably priced and can fixed and upgraded to last a lifetime?

In addition, if we are so concerned with gas mileage, carbon footprints and otherwise saving the environment, wouldn’t it make sense to put forward a policy to manufacture goods that would last for decades and could be later modified to incorporate technological advances? Such a policy would reduce overall energy consumption, save landfill space, and reduce the depletion of minerals and resources.

Even our tax code wrongfully rewards planned obsolescence in calculating the depreciation of goods by granting less and less tax advantage to businesses as their assets get older. Businesses are encouraged to buy instead of fixing their assets to gain constant tax advantages.

Normally, I would be looking for a new car at this point. But like many Americans, my credit is shot and I can’t even think now about buying a new car. Thankfully, the Japanese are still designing and building their cars to last and hopefully I will be able to afford to get another three years and 100,000 miles out of my car until I can get back on my feet again.

Real changes need to be made to refocus our economic policies toward both mandating and providing tax incentives to encourage the sale and production of technological products that are affordable, durable, and upgradeable.

In 2009, planned obsolescence should become itself an obsolete economic standard. A headlight of a car should be built to shine as long as the Sun-or at least to last as long as the Hubble Telescope continues to send back images of our universe.
Check out recent articles:
Kurly's Belated Mother's Day Message
Recession” fries" mom and pop restaurants
Marxist interpretation of historical American History and Presidents
Celebrate Spring reading "Spring Tribute to Tommy"

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

“Recession” fries mom and pop restaurants

LAKE WORTH- Last week, one of my favorite hamburger joints closed its doors, another victim of the ongoing “recession.”

I really liked to take the family to Fuddruckers in Wellington. When I read about the restaurant’s demise, it saddened me. It was reasonably priced, there was a great variety of burgers, including veggie, ostrich, and buffalo burgers, and the place had a nice, family atmosphere. When we went there, it was always packed with diners.
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A fine part of “Americana” is being lost in this “recession” as thousands of “mom and pop” eateries and small franchises nationwide are being driven out of business by high food prices and decreased patronage. They can’t compete with large chains like McDonald’s or Denny’s which operate at much lower margins.

Drive up any main street or suburban thoroughfare in any town or city and you will see empty buildings that once hosted traditional family restaurants, burger joints, “diners, drive-ins, and dives.” It’s very sad.

What was very interesting to me was that a spokesman for Fuddruckers was quoted as saying that the restaurant “got tired of breaking even. They were working real hard to break even."

The restaurant was obviously in business to make money and return a profit on investment. But the statement sounded kind of stupid to me. Why would a restaurant, employing over 40 people, not want to stay in business if they were not losing money? In my mind, if they were staying afloat during very hard economic times, they were actually successful and had a great future. They were also keeping 40 workers gainfully employed.

But that does not matter in this day and age, there is no social or moral responsibility toward employees-business is business, period.
Or open until we close for good?

But there is a cost in this type of thinking to all of us. Forty employees losing their jobs, many of them college students, in fact will have a big impact not only on the individuals being put out of work, but to the viability and standard of living of the local community.

The only answer these days being touted by the Obama Administration for saving small businesses is to reestablish the flow of credit from large financial institution to them (and future tax cuts for small businesses, but they are dwarfed by other tax increases that will hit small businesses).

But cheaper credit is not the answer. The whole key to economic recovery to this sector is ending layoffs and closures by providing immediate tax incentives, not more credit, to allow for survival and incremental investment.
Temporary emergency tax breaks and incentives to endangered small businesses would lower margins and help business owners make ends meet.
Furthermore, if wholesale suppliers, landlords and utilities were given tax incentives to pass on in lower costs to endangered small businesses, many distressed businesses could survive these hard times.

Such measures could save thousands of small businesses across the country, including mom and pop restaurants, and be the true jumpstart to economic recovery. It’s not too late.

If the owners of Fuddruckers had been given temporary or emergency tax breaks and incentives after qualifying under parameters that would measure their future viability, they may have been able to achieve the little profit they needed to justify staying open.

Interestingly, a second news item appeared the next day that this Fuddruckers franchise was not paying its workers over $12,000 in wages due to them. All of a sudden too, the owners were now losing $2 million on their investment and were going to file bankruptcy.

So, not only are the workers losing their jobs, but they are getting stiffed out of their wages they had earned. Again, business is business, even if you steal from your workers.

Emergency tax incentives at all levels of government would also be a start toward promoting responsible business behavior in the future. It is long overdue. There is nothing wrong with rewarding a business owner with lower taxes if they make a commitment not only to building a business, but also toward ensuring their employee’s long term employability and well-being.

Also, a great “change” would be to make the repayment of worker’s wages not paid the first priority in any business bankruptcy. They earned the money and should be paid it.

If you get a stimulus check from the government, spend it at a local restaurant. Order a hamburger and fries, but get a glass of water instead of a soda. Then, give your server a bigger tip with the difference saved. It may be his or her last night of employment there.

That is, of course, if you are not heading to McDonald’s for the only available hamburger in town.
Read Kurly's Belated Mother's Day Message
Check out Kurly's kommentary on the recent Marxist interpretation of historical American History and Presidents
Celebrate Spring reading "Spring Tribute to Tommy"