Notes and Asides – 6/27/2011

Posted by By at 28 June, at 17 : 14 PM Print

Well, summer break is over and I have returned from my travels wiser – and no more refreshed (trips with kids are rarely relaxing).  Accordingly, the return of notes and asides opens with my (favorite) piece of that newly acquired wisdom.  I will admit that it is not my own, but will also assert that borrowed wisdom is better than none at all.

Maybe if we subjected appropriators to the source of the term we could control the problem. I learned a fantastic fact at a place called the Jenney Grist Mill in Plymouth, MA.  The oldest operating mill site in the country, the mill boasts an energetic curator who tells a vivid tale about how industrial America began on the very spot you are standing and how that industry led to great wealth.

That wealth was occasionally “appropriated” illegally from the miller, which is why he has a pillory in front of his mill.  The pillory is a device that holds a thief’s head and hands exposed for 12 hours while the townsfolk do, well, whatever they like to the guilty party – and shamed townsman.  The punishment was so painful and humiliating that theft from the miller – the richest man in town – hardly ever happened by the same hand twice.

On the rare occasions when there was a repeat offender, the perpetrator was placed back in the pillory, only this time the thief’s ears were nailed the to boards.  After twelve hours of abuse, the man’s head was yanked out of the pillory with the nails still in.  The ears of the man were scarred horribly and forever identified him as a thief that all should shun – the supreme mark of shame.

Now here’s the best part:  the scars, fittingly enough, were called “earmarks.”

That’s right:  from the very founding of English colonies on this continent the presence of earmarks identified the bearer as guilty of theft.

It makes the current use of the word seem, well, dead on accurate.  And it reminds me why I love history.

Well, if Soros says so…Couldn’t help but notice that Pennsylvania for Modern Courts was one of the many recipients of George Soros cash seeking to end judicial elections and replace the process with a committee that would engage in so called “merit selection.”

I am of several minds on this issue, but found the idea that this would “remove politics” from the process hilarious.  When the selection is in the hands of an unelected committee of lawyers the common sense may have been removed, but the politics are amplified.  After all, the composition of that panel would become one of the most important questions to every one of us.

Think of the implications:  how would they be chosen?  Appointed by the governor and approved by the senate?  Would they appoint every level, including District Justices?  What about conflicts – could any lawyer on that panel every practice in front of the judges she helped appoint?  I could do this all day, so let’s not act as though you can ever take the politics out of the judiciary. We can’t on any level, and never have.

And all things being equal, if George Soros wants something I am going to need to be extra convinced – after all, this is the same guy who hired burglars to canvass neighborhoods for voter registration…in an attempt to make heroin legal…

Just once I want to be in Gettysburg the morning of July 1…For the last 8 years anyone interested in the budget was held essentially hostage by a process that allegedly MUST be completed by July 1 – but has not been done by said date in a decade.  This year is going be the year we get it done on time – right?

Many think so – even PCN (beware shameless self plug), which booked yours truly for Thursday night in anticipation that a final vote will happen before eleven.  Most of me concurs.  Still…

I keep hearing a voice in my head that said “the governor campaigned on a balanced budget – not an on time budget.”  And while the spend number appears set, that same Governor also campaigned on no shale tax – something that Grover has said the Senate’s fee proposal is (it is, and it should be enacted anyway).

Is it possible that the deal could be sandbagged because the Governor refuses to sign a shale deal?  The Senate is certainly not afraid of a missed deadline – this leadership team has yet to hit one and they have seen no ill effects – so if they REALLY want a shale tax they can certainly play a little chicken with the Governor.

Like I said, I suspect that all will go to oil and we will see white smoke from the Capital this Thursday.  But part of me will always have a “believe it when I see it” attitude toward such artificial deadlines.

Res Ipsa Loquitur. Every soul fool enough to enter law school and survive the first week knows this term, a Latin phrase that essentially acknowledges some things speak for themselves – their nature and cause are obvious.

For example – hypothetically – if you eat a ton of gummi bears and swiss cake rolls washed down with coke while studying for the bar exam and you gain weight, we do not need to call in an expert to testify that such a diet will lead to an expanding girth.  It becomes a legally acceptable presumption that must be proven otherwise.

The same is true in the public mind as far as the EPA announcement of three contaminated wells near a Chesapeake well blowout – there may be no evidence that it was caused by the spill (yet), but the fact remains that in the minds of many, the spill + new contamination = res ipsa loquitur.

Chesapeake may end up showing the contamination originated elsewhere.  But the fact is they cannot simply say so and their evidence better make the virgin mother blush – otherwise, frankly, they might as well not even bother.  Some things just speak for themselves to a willing public – even if incorrectly.

That’s it for this week.  If you feel the need to catch my random thoughts throughout the week, you can always follow me on twitter @scottpaterno.  I make no promise that they will interest you – only that they interest me enough to have to tell dozens of people…

Photo by Tom Owad


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Scott Paterno is an accomplished policy analyst and political consultant based in Hershey, PA. Mr. Paterno, never one to sit still, has practiced law, run for a house seat, and worked as lobbyist in Harrisburg and Washington. Paterno is Vice Chairman of the Sustainable Energy Fund and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Political Science. He is happily married with three children. - Email scottp

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