July Ramblings

* A Pew Foundation research study released this summer analyzed the cases of all 79,704 federal criminal defendants for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2018. 90% pled guilty, 8% had their cases dismissed, and 2% went to trial. Of the 2% who went to trial, 99.6% were convicted. That means that 320 out of 79,704, or 0.4% were acquitted. I'm not sure how anyone could think such a conviction rate is not rigged.

* According to Virginia Wolf, "The past is beautiful because one never realizes an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don't have complete emotions about the present, only the past." That may be true, but according to C. S. Lewis, "We're not what has happened to us, but what we chose to be." Both those sentiments are captured in the fascinating and best selling memoir Educated by Tara Westover, who was born into a survivalist family in the isolated mountains of Idaho. She spent summers stewing herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer. In the winter, she salvaged metal in her father's junk yard. Against the wishes of her parents, she taught herself enough math, grammar, and science to take the ACT. Then she went on to study psychology, politics, philosophy and history, earning degrees from Brigham Young, then Harvard and on to Cambridge.

* And speaking of Educated, I was recently informed that Freddy, my service dog in training for Canine Companions For Independence will be headed on to graduate school in February, 2020. That's almost 4 months earlier than expected. He is truly among the gifted and talented.

* It would be hard to find a more insidious threat to effective governance in Washington, DC than gerrymandering. OK, maybe term limits, but that's another rant. Gerrymandering is the practice where highly partisan state legislatures in states like Texas, Maryland, and North Carolina draw congressional district maps to ensure partisan results. It allows extreme left or right-wing candidates to easily win districts at the expense of contested races. As bad as this is, The Supreme Court recently, in a 5-4 decision in Rusko v. Common Cause, said it wasn't their job to fix it. With Chief Justice Roberts writing the majority opinion, the court held that districting decisions are constitutionally the responsibility of elected representatives. Now I just wish the elected representatives would fix it. My fear is that they won't because they either don't care or don't realize that extreme partisanship divides us; it makes us weak and vulnerable. It makes us believe ridiculous claims about the other side made by Russian trolls on social media.