06 March 2011



Another three weeks has gone by. This is a blog, not “Dear Diary,” and yet I find myself this evening writing about writing, at least a bit. I like to say something worthwhile or which will in the very least start a conversation, but I can only sneak in the back door tonight.

I remember when I first came to the bar I practiced in a small office building right beside the courthouse. Fairmont is a small town. I have no idea if it’s a typical small American town because I haven’t spent a whole lot of time in other small American towns. I may be the most poorly traveled lawyer you know. Then, as now, a good many people gathered around the courthouse apparently just loafing. (I spent two weeks one afternoon in the courthouse in Hazard, Kentucky, and it was so similar that it was positively spooky.) Our newspaper then, as now, did a lot of “human interest” stories and ran one on one of the more visible loafers. This was an old guy, kind of scrawny, with a long white beard. Whoever wrote the story was ready to paint him as both a derelict and a victim of industrial man’s inhumanity to man and all that sort of him thing. (I suspect that was a young reporter channeling Woodward and Bernstein, but I’m not certain about that.) As it turned out, the guy had an interesting story. He had always made his way in the world, and never made much money, but prided himself on having been a good friend to everyone. When he was asked about what he did these days, he replied that he was “an observer of the scene.” That turned out to be the headline writen for his picture on the front page, “Observer of the Scene. We need observers of the scene. Of course, they aren’t terribly productive. But, when you get right down to it, not a lot of people are all that useful in the material sense. There is an issue in Congress now about funding National Public Radio because it “should be self-sustaining.” In other words, it should be productive. Although how radio is actually going to be productive is beyond me. Dance, there is something that makes no sense to me. Why would we think of spending money on that? Well, who am I to say? It’s not productive in the material sense, but some people value it. And somebody has to be watching all of this, somebody has to be chronicling it. If the tree falls in the forest, we need somebody there to hear it.

Sometimes the best we can do is be an observer of the scene I suppose.

All Folly Down

Politics, I do so love politics. Owing to my beloved and respected “second father,” I have been doing graduate work in politics for going on 30 years. I’ve worked in several campaigns and written (or ghost written) lots of pamphlets and newspaper ads and radio ads and so forth. I love to run the “decision trees,” those multidimensional flowcharts where you find the various effects of various decisions and where, like chess, to be successful you need to be playing about six moves ahead.

This winter, I engaged in a pedal to the firewall political free-for-all and graduate study in practical politics. This occurred when I became one of nine people vying for appointment to the Circuit Court bench in Marion County. I have yet to write or talk much about this directly. Well, now my part of this is concluded even though the new judge has not yet been appointed. (I’m out of the running.) At the outset, let me say that the other eight people are all good lawyers and good friends. When you “fall short,” there is always that little tiny temptation in the back of your mind to bitch at the referee for making a bad call. Bullshit. Hello, Mr. Reality: Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes that ol’ bear gets you. It’s as simple as that.

But I have paid attention, and I do know a whole hell of a lot more about judicial selection than I did, and I’ve thought a great deal more about the qualities of our judiciary. I’ll right on the details of that at length later. Depending on what the West Virginia Legislature does with the proposed Intermediate Court of Appeals this session, I may have an article for publication on that anon. But I want to comment this evening on the relationship of the public with judicial selection.

Zero. Zilch. Nada. Judges are among the most powerful people in government. The Supreme Court of the United States has changed the landscape of political campaigns by now permitting corporations to make direct political contributions. It only took five justices who never saw a ballot box to do that. On the local level, the power of a judge is much more immediate. When we think of what a judge does, usually it is a criminal sentencing that comes to mind. And so you or your friend or the person who hurt you or the person you never met before are dependent upon the wise decision or random whim of a human being. We are wholly dependent upon the good sense and good faith of that person. Internally, the judicial branch of government has the weakest checks and balances of the three branches. And yet people either ignore their judges are or are directed in their opinions those having money driven agendas.

No, I don’t have some grand scheme to bring the Millennium to the courthouses. Know that those people are there and that you probably don’t have a clue who they are or how they got there.


I’m getting used to the idea that computers are inherently modular. Stuff breaks on them all the time, and if your system works for one week continuously, it’s a trick, and the computer gods are lolling you into a false sense of peace. My trusty laptop crapped out and a good friend rebuilt it. And then, owing to Mr. Gravity (I fell on it), the LCD screen went tango uniform, so now it is the guts of the home office computer with a monitor attached. It now lays beneath the Gadsden flag, where the snake gazes hopefully but with eternal disappointment that he will see a bit of wisdom flow from the fingers of this wretched scribe sooner or later.

Let’s see, and then the keyboard at No. 3 crapped out, and partner JC gave me one of those “clackety” kinds of keyboards, the ones you can hear across the room and hear someone typing on when you’re talking to them on the phone. Actually I kind of like that – it’s a little feedback that I’m actually working. Wow, it doesn’t take a whole lot to amuse me, does it?

Fred’s Ring Redux

Brother Albert price died a couple weeks ago. Bro. Price was a member of Hermon Lodge No. 6 in Clarksburg.

There’s probably been a couple of years since I’ve written about Fred’s ring. When my good friend Fred Griffith died, his widow gave me his Masonic ring. The intrinsic worth of its metal is negligible – it's made from stainless steel. Brother Price is the one who made Fred’s ring. As I understand it, he made a lot of them for the brethren around here by taking stainless steel tubing used in the aircraft industry, shaping it and stamping it with distinctive tooling.

Sometimes our works do live on, at least for a bit.


This week includes Ash Wednesday. It is the start of another Lenten journey. That is important to me.


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