Tuesday, June 2, 2009

On Raiding the Inarticulate

So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years—
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l'entre deux guerres
Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it.  And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion.  And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate—but there is no competition—
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious.  But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying.  The rest is not our business.
T.S. Eliot
The Four Quartets—East Coker

The beginning of June marks the start of GOVERNINGWorks’s third month. The retirement of Associate Justice David Souter and the nomination of Federal Circuit Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor as Justice Souter’s replacement are among the noteworthy events to have occurred since GOVERNINGWorks began publication.

In addition to having to endure the divided and divisive political maneuvering it would seem we now must expect with a Supreme Court nomination, the politics of biography attends Judge Sotomayor. Her personal story is impressive. Her intermittent comments on the role elements of her biography play in her decision-making have added fuel to questions already arising about President Barack H. Obama’s use of “empathy” as a factor in his choice and the relationship of a nominee’s biography, jurisprudence and suitability to serve on the Supreme Court.

Biography is important. It is not destiny.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Justice: Are You Experienced?

The Supreme Court at Dawn
Washington, DC (28 April 2015)
© Fabrizio di Piazza 

Ansel Adams had a life-long love affair with Yosemite National Park. A gifted photographer, Adams had a sharp eye, a clear aesthetic and a technical prowess. He sought the right angle, recognized the right time to take the shot and used the right tools to achieve a signature clarity. Large format cameras, prolonged exposure times, endless tinkering with the development process in search of the right print. Among the many photographs Adams took in Yosemite, “Yosemite Valley, Thunderstorm” stands out. Taken from the western edge of Inspiration Point, this is a masterpiece of American photography, its crystalline depiction of El Capitan and the Half Dome—the almost eager trees below and a threatening sky above—capturing nature in what looks like its eternal state of unsullied order.

In a speech at the University of Arizona Rogers College of Law on 4 February 2009, John G. Roberts, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, paid tribute to his predecessor, William H. Rehnquist. In his tribute, the Chief Justice remarked that when Justice Rehnquist joined the Court in 1972 (he was elevated to Chief Justice in 1986) a minority of justices had judicial experience. On the current Court, Chief Justice Roberts noted, all of the justices have experience as appellate court judges. As a result, he said, “analysis and argument shifted to more solid grounds of legal arguments.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Information, Participation & Understanding

Thomas Paine
Political discourse has always been a rough-and-tumble business in the US. These days, our airwaves are flooded and fueled with a combustible mix of bombast, vitriol, and media navel-gazing, mea culpae and confusion about how to make a dollar. Unstable positioning is not without interest and import, especially in times of crisis and upheaval.

Recently—weeping—Glenn Beck decried the media that “surrounds us.” Heart-felt? Seemed to be. Ironic? I can’t help but think so. Accurate? Maybe. Awash in information and opinion—or, as the sublime John Oliver of “The Daily Show” would have it, “swathed in a blanket of impenetrable jargon"—seems more accurate to me.

More importantly, none of this is an invitation to participate in democracy. Shouting canned arguments at one another, re-tooling jargon, tearily deprecating “media” and lamenting bloggers (“the aggregators,” as Walter Isaacson growled recently) and politicians as destroyers of sacrosanct models of business and civic virtue is a diversion. These lamentations serve simultaneously as the most prevalent confirmation we are at sea and an encouragement to those lucky enough to be in a life raft to stay put and defend it against those in the water.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Where to Start

“Every day you get older; now that’s a law.”

Butch Cassidy

Welcome to GOVERNINGWorks.

GOVERNINGWorks is a Commonplace Book—a personal and personalized rummaging in law, history, politics and opinion to understand self-government and encourage civic participation. GOVERNINGWorks will share how I understand—or don’t—timely events and their relation to the larger question of how government enacts the ideals on which it is founded.

I plan to post an article each Tuesday, with occasional posts in between. In addition to a weekly article, the GOVERNINGWorks site offers links to important and interesting resources that are available on the Internet. Whenever possible, GOVERNINGWorks connects to information that is free of charge and copyright restriction. Readers also may follow GOVERNINGWorks on Twitter.

This is a magpie’s survey: Current events are the shiny baubles. In this case, the magpie happens to have some (some!) capacity to type, an advanced degree in religious history and a Juris Doctor, and an interest in how government and ideas work. I hope sharing my interests and opinions and offering links to information I find useful will contribute to civic participation.

Political understanding is an essential part of citizenship and an inspiration to participate in a democracy. At its best, democracy depends on and reflects the participation of an active and informed citizenry in an open and responsive governing process.

I invite readers to enjoy and consider, hoping that readers feel informed and inspired to participate. And, I invite interested readers to submit relevant comments, references and suggestions.

For more, please visit the About page and the Archive and Category index on the Home page and at the end of each post.

Thank you and, again, Welcome.

Fabrizio di Piazza