Wednesday, July 19, 2006

When to Ignore Public Support

According to reports today, a federal judge has overturned the Maryland law that "required Wal-Mart to spend 8 percent of its payroll in the state on medical benefits...or pay the difference in taxes."

From Dow Jones Market Watch:
In reversing the act, federal Judge J. Frederick Motz wrote that the law imposes "legally cognizable injury" upon the world's largest retailer because it would have required Wal-Mart to track and fund benefits for its Maryland employees in a different manner than its other U.S. employees, according to his opinion accompanying the ruling. Wal-Mart insures about 1 million people nationwide.

Motz also wrote that the law violated the "fundamental purpose" of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA, that permits multi-state employers to keep national health and welfare plans, provide uniform nationwide benefits and permit uniform national administration.
Groups opposing Wal-Mart were critical of the decision, of course. That's to be expected. What I object to here was a view conveyed by one of the comments in their reaction. A statement from the group "WakeUpWalMart" varyingly attributed to Paul Blank, campaign director, and to Chris Kofinis, spokesman, includes the comment, "The District Court's decision, unfortunately, ignores legal and public support for requiring large, profitable corporations to pay their fair share for health care."

Now, "legal support" could mean a few different things. Do they mean legal precedent from earlier court cases? Do they mean the Maryland law itself? Do they mean their own group's lawyers' opinions of the validity of that law? It's unclear.

"Public support," though, seems pretty plain. And whatever position any of us may take on the desirability of laws requiring corporations to pay for their employees' health care, the group's contention that it's "unfortunate" that the judge's decision ignored public opinion is perverse and disturbing. It isn't the judge's role to be influenced by what the public supports or opposes. It is simply to adhere to the law, as passed by state legislatures or Congress, derived from judicial precedent, or laid out in the Constitution itself, and to reconcile these as necessary.

A judge deciding cases based on perceived public support would be usurping the role of the legislative branch. The effect of that is to devalue the importance of the legislative branch and, consequently, to diminish the democratic process and ultimately the power of the public to play an effective role in lawmaking. That WakeUpWalMart thinks it unfortunate not to see this occuring indicates, whatever their views on health care, they don't think much of democracy.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

BSFUC: Back to square one?

Unfortunately, it looks as though I won't get to read the rest of the Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children any time soon after all. On the other hand, I wasn't expecting to at all before last spring. So perhaps I can sweep away the disappointment by simply dialing back my expectations a year or so on this.

On the bright side, I have gotten to meet the author (well, you know, over the web), which is pretty awesome.

Last year, I wrote on this blog of my excitement at the appearance of the scans of all the BSFUC issues and then my disappointment at their disappearance. This year, I wrote of my excitement at the prospect of publication of a BSFUC anthology, and now it's necessary to note my disappointment at the collapse postponement of that plan.

Since the delinquent beginning of my involvement last fall with Dave and Dan's message board, I've kept an eye on it pretty regularly. What I didn't watch, though, was another page on the BSFUC site called BSFUC Nation. Naturally, that's where the devious Dave dished on the deal's demise.
Unfortunately, the would-be publisher went bankrupt soon after coming into contact with us, and now the deal is off. Good to know that our reverse Midas touch is still intact!
I noticed this only after, Spring having come and gone, I e-mailed him and asked what the word was on the anthology, and he pointed out that the deal fell through a while ago and he'd already posted on it.

"Hmmmm?" I grunted, in my best confused Scooby-Doo voice, and remembered the BSFUC Nation page. The trouble is he updates that page pretty much quarterly. It's one of the same reasons people don't follow this blog. They can't have any reasonable expectation of finding new content from one day to the next. (Well, that and my navel-gazing bores them.)

The solution, of course, to keeping up to date without needing to check back to a site all the time is RSS. I didn't think BSFUC Nation had an RSS feed, though, but I can't even tell anymore, because all I know is now I'm subscribed to an update feed for it I made with RSSPECT, a service from Ryan North (of Dinosaur Comics!) that can create feeds for any site. So now I should stay up to speed on that, at least. You can tell I know what the important things are in life.

So, anyway, the point is despite my earlier announcement, there was no Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children anthology this spring, nor this summer, and while Dave remains confident it will happen, we are left without anything concrete. Just so we're clear on that. Stay tuned, and give him and Dan support that they might be able to use to entice publishers.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The only spot you can park in is any of them.

When's the only time this parking lot is for bank customers?

Only always. That's all.