Thursday, April 24, 2008

April 20, 2008

Dear Sis~
As you've surely heard, the US Supreme Court recently handed down its decision in the Baze case, re the constitutionality of the lethal injection procedures and protocols utilized by the various states. The decision was actually more nuanced than the media reports implied, and it was a plurality opinion, not a majority, which has certain legal implications. Still, it definitely allows the states to resume executions which most will likely do, especially Texas and Virginia (here in Virginia we have 3 guys lined up ready to go). Mildly interesting is that Justice Stevens, in the Baze decision, stated that capital punishment in its entirety should be junked. Historically, every 7-10 years one of the Justices will throw in the towel and declare that he no longer believes in the death penalty, but he invariably takes this position just after retirement, or as he's going out the door. At his age, Stevens has one foot out the door already. Just once, I'd like one of these Justices take a strong anti-death penalty stance at a time when it counts. Anyway, reading this Baze decision is disconcerting and depressing when you realize that what are supposed to be the nation's finest legal minds are arguing over the best way to kill people ...
I don't recall if I told you that one of my short stories (an older one which I submitted on a whim) won third place in the 2008 PEN American Prison Writing Contest. I have not written any new fiction in several years, having gotten burned out and discouraged, combined with being especially busy with legal work. But I intend to get back to writing again this year; I've still got some good work left inside of me...
Well, the news is coming on so I'll sign off for now. Give the doggies a hug for me!
Love, Bill

Saturday, April 12, 2008

April 9, 2008

Dear Sis~
I just finished reading a very moving true story in my May issue of Esquire magazine. The story, The Things That Carried Him, by Chris Jones, details the death and burial of Army Staff Sergeant Joe Montgomery, killed in Iraq last year. It's a powerfully written piece, sad and poignant, impossible to read without crying, and a graphic reminder of why I hate war (and the Iraqi war in particular) and the spineless, deceitful politicians who so blithely and cynically throw away the lives of our soldiers. Here are two laws which, if passed, would put an end to unnecessary wars in this country: (1) a requirement that any war must be accompanied by an immediate $1.00 per gallon gasoline tax increase in order to pay the costs of war (to better make the average citizen share in the sacrifice) and (2) that the adult children of every politician voting for war must serve on the battlefield. I know that's a fantasy, but in an ideal world that's how it would be...
I'm in the middle of a bunch of legal work, a particular project for which it's difficult for me to generate much enthusiasm, but I must give it the old college try so I'm going to close this up and get back to work. I'll see ya soon in the visiting park!
Love, Bill

Thursday, April 03, 2008

March 30, 2008

Dear Sis~
I read an interesting essay in the March 31st issue of The New Yorker regarding the general decline and demise of the newspaper industry, whose old-school business model cannot compete with the Internet, combined with CraigsList (which offers free classified advertising, while paid classified advertising is the bread-and-butter economic foundation of the conventional newspaper business model). It's a little more complicated than simple economics, but the severe decline is indisputable and possibly irreversible. It's sad to see the old-fashioned ink-and-paper newspapers go the way of the dinosaur, but it's a lesson in economic evolution: those who cannot change and adapt will perish. Mostly the essay is focused on the Internet, and the rise of blogging. But getting back to physical newspapers like say, The Miami Herald, it occurs to me that one way to keep such a newspaper alive (with fully staffed editorial and investigative departments, unlike the skeleton staffs the papers are now resorting to, like cannibalizing their young) would be to transform it into a non-profit public trust. Once the pure profit motive disappears the paper would be free to concentrate on delivering the best quality news possible. I believe there is a Florida newspaper that already does something like that, maybe it's The St. Petersburg Times, if memory serves me correct. That may be the wave of the future. But, only those cities blessed with some wealthy patron(s) will then have newspapers. It would take a serious knot of cash to buy the paper, then place enough money into an investment trust which would then generate enough income to pay the considerable annual overhead of running the paper. That kind of money could come from a single wealthy person, or maybe a small consortium, which then begs the question of bias by the donor, whether the newspaper will be reasonably objective or just be a tool to promote his particular views. Can you imagine the only newspaper in a major city, say The Chicago Tribune, owned and operated by Rush Limbaugh? Another possibility would be to appeal to the general public, sell millions of "shares" to civic-minded citizens, much the same way the Green Bay Packers team is owned not by your typical wealthy NFL owner, but instead is owned by the citizens of Green Bay, Wisconsin (a business model unique in the NFL). Of course, I cannot simply go online...I instead relish my evening ritual of receiving my daily USA Today at mail call and devouring every article and story. It will be a very sad day when the last major city paper-and-ink newspaper is published...
Ok, enough rambling from me!
Light and Love, Bill