Great American Conversations
                    With The Alumni of RHS
                  Issue 120 ~ January 24, 2001

Still Catching Up: The SANDBOX has recently been taking a
timeout to allow your moderator catch up on other
important business.  Even if inspired by events since
past, your thoughts and ideas are no less valuable, and in
some cases offer great historical perspective to all of us
to consider.


    Rolling Blackouts - Could It Happen Here?
    Sandra Genoway (Jeneaué) Spruksts (62)

    The Rule of Law versus The Rule of Lawyers
    Dick Epler (52)

    Florida Supreme Court says recount rules
    need to come from the Legislature
    Dick Epler (52)

Subj: Rolling Blackouts - Could It Happen Here?
Date Submitted: 12/25/2000
From:  Sandra Genoway (Jeneaué) Spruksts (62)
[Please note date this letter was written, and what has
happened since -mod].

Dear Bombers,

Well, for all of you *not* living in the Puget Sound
region, we have been informed by our local news networks
that our temperatures will be plummeting, starting
Saturday night, and that we could also have about one or
two inches of snow. SNOW -- the word that causes panic in
every Seattle-area driver's heart. Even a few inches of
wet, icy "snow" can reek havoc, causing many slippery
slopes impossible to drive or walk on.

If that wasn't bad enough! They are also telling us that,
first, Californians will be experiencing "rolling
blackouts" due to a lack of energy supply and that,
second, that these blackouts may extend up to the Puget
Sound region. I have heard that certain "elements" of
Californians were successful in blocking the building of
enough *nuclear power plants*, and much of anything else
that can efficiently produce large-scale electrical
supply, during the 1970's, 80's and 90's, due to
environmental "concerns." So, now that California has too
many people living in it for the amount of electrical
power it produces or that it receives from states
(including Washington's WPPSS No. 2 Power Plant electrical
supply on the BPA power grid), there will be "rolling
blackouts" (periods of times when specific areas will have
the power turned off so that other areas can have power
during "peak" times) and these blackouts will also be
extending to the Puget Sound Region.

We have recently been asked by the Governor to conserve
electrical use starting Saturday, December 10, since there
will be a power shortage to California AND Washington (not
Oregon ?) when the subzero/deep freeze temperatures hit.
Also, the cost of natural gas has already gone up and will
be going up even more along with electricity. And, they
want to remove the dams on the Snake and Columbia Rivers!!
Does that make anyone suspicious, as to what is *really*
going on? I don't think it is going to help the salmon
that much if the dams are removed. There are other
processes that have yet to be tried to help the fish. All
the time that my dad (who was a biologist) worked for GE
and Battelle at Hanford while I was growing up, I never
heard that the fish numbers were decreasing because of the
dams on the Columbia River. The ranchers and farmers in
the Columbia Basin and elsewhere in Eastern Washington
will surely lose much of the irrigation water and
electrical supply they need to grow their crops, if the
dams and irrigation systems are tampered with, and I have
heard and read that they are not too happy about that

While working at Hanford, I learned that projected future
electrical supply studies showed that more energy sources
needed to be developed, nationwide, and there were
predicted shortages, if these electrical needs were not
met. These projected needs were for predicted future
industrial and residential needs, based on an influx of
new population to Washington State, and elsewhere.

However, if there really are electrical shortages now, how
come we are just now, all of a sudden, experiencing the
blackouts? I do not recall this happening last year.
California does not have the extremes of winter
temperature ranges that Washington State has, and does not
require the same kind of electrical service. You would
think that blackouts in California would occur in the
summer during hot weather temperature peaks; not in the
winter. I guess the shortages during the winter months are
from the Northwesterners using more electricity and gas to
heat their homes and offices during cold weather
temperatures, and that puts the extra drain on the whole
BPA grid.

I know this argument has been raging for many years, about
sharing electrical and water supply with California from
our Columbia River and nuclear power plants, and I guess
some people have been afraid that this day was coming!

Sandra Genoway (Jeneaué) Spruksts (62)


Moderator's Note: The following two items from Dick Epler,
written earlier, give historical perspective to the recent
turbulent elective process in Florida.

Subj: The Rule of Law versus The Rule of Lawyers
From: Dick Epler (52)
Date Submitted: December 9, 2000

This last Friday, the Florida Supreme Court awarded Gore
383 additional votes (on top of what they previously
awarded on November 26th), reducing Bush's lead from 537
votes to 154 votes. The court then mandated an immediate
manual recount of any "undervotes" not already counted in
Florida, of which 9000 are from Miami-Dade County alone.
No one doubts this is an attempt by the Florida court to
give the election to Gore. Consider that this was all
ordered without knowing whether any of the manual recount
votes were legal (i.e., Constitutional) per the US Supreme
Court's decision. Indeed, in it's December 8th ruling, the
Florida Supreme Court didn't even mention the superior
court's set-aside ruling, which bumped the Bush lead back
up to the originally certified count of 900+ votes pending
a future ruling. Now, with the "safe harbor" date of
December 12th looming for the certification of electors,
the goal set by the Circuit Judge Lewis is to have the new
numbers to the Secretary of State by 2PM Sunday afternoon.
Presumably that provides a few hours for subsequent
judicial review by Bush (in the interests of fairness, you
know) before the electors have to be certified. The
endgame, of course, is to be ahead when the clock runs
out. However, you need to know, none of this has anything
to do with "the will of the people" or a desire to "count
every vote."

If the Democrats have their way, our President will be
determined by a relatively small collection of votes from
a fairly dysfunctional group. Here, I'm reminded of what
Einstein is reported to have said when asked his opinion
of democracy. He said: "Democracy can be a good thing, but
I'm not sure I agree with the notion that two idiots are
really better than one genius."

Perhaps it's poetic justice that in this election, Gore
might be elected by one of his own, i.e., someone
obviously technologically-challenged. Yet, I'd be
surprised if most of the Nation, Democrat and Republican
alike, aren't a little disturbed that our President could
be decided by the "undervote," i.e., where the voter's
preference was "none of the above." Worse, however, is the
implied notion that an "undervote" anywhere in the nation
will always favor a Democrat is also troubling, and I
wonder what Gore knows about these kinds of voters that I
don't. Has the Democratic Party really changed that much
in the last decade or so? Maybe, though I hope the
metamorphosis isn't totally complete.

Our founding fathers wanted a nation where the Rule of Law
prevails, rather than the Rule of Men, as was the case in
Europe in the eighteenth century. Their governing concept
was simple: A Constitution and a Bill of Rights would form
the basis for organizing a government that would preserve
certain inalienable rights for the citizens. All other law
would be subservient to this rather elegant Document. It
wasn't supposed to be perfect, but basically it worked as
intended for almost 200 years. Only recently have we begun
to deviate significantly from the Constitution. Detractors
want a "living Constitution" that can be conveniently
interpreted to fit a desired outcome. And so we have
gradually degenerated into a nation where the Rule of
Lawyers prevail rather than the Rule of Law.

It's a tradeoff. Law that is clear and unambiguous that
everyone can understand, like the Constitution and the Ten
Commandments, tends to make lots of powerful people
uncomfortable, but makes the administration of justice
relatively easy. Where the law is well known, people don't
need lawyers to settle differences. On the other hand, law
that is convoluted and confusing and hard to understand
works against those who are not members of the bar (an
inside club) while inviting selective justice. Over time,
we've gradually migrated to the latter position. Indeed,
it's gotten so bad that I doubt any of us can get through
a week without breaking numerous laws, assuming we're
involved in doing something useful. But we don't worry
because we think we're not important enough for the
authorities to prosecute. Until one day, in the middle of
the night, there's a knock on the door …

The world has been through this before. When Justinian,
the First, became Emperor, in AD 527, he found the law of
the Roman Empire in a state of great confusion, resulting
in a huge waste of human and natural resources.
Immediately after his accession, he appointed a commission
to deal with all the imperial law (called constitutions).
The 10 commissioners went through all the law, selecting
those that had practical value, cutting all the
unnecessary stuff, eliminating contradictions, and then
adapting all the provisions to the circumstances of
Justinian's time. The resulting Codex Constitutionum
(Justinian Law) was formally decreed two years later in
529, and ALL other law not included in this document was
repealed. In the interests of justice, I'm beginning to
think our Nation needs to do something like that now. But
if we don't feel the urgency, I suspect it's primarily
because we believe we can afford the resulting waste a
little longer. And yet, this election may provide some
motivation for a legislative review of our Election Law at
least in Florida. As you might guess, I have suggestions,
but I'll leave that for a later time.

Since Jim Vache (64) brought it up, it might be useful to
note the distinction between political and legal
questions. In a Republic like ours, political questions
are supposed to be resolved by that branch of Government
with the largest representation of the electorate, i.e.,
the House of Representatives. That's the branch of
government charged to make law to affect the citizenry.
The courts (whose members are appointees, not electees)
are prohibited from deciding political issues. Courts are
supposed to decide legal issues based on existing
statutes, case law, the presentation of fact (the record),
or generally some combination. In areas where statutes
conflict or new situations not previously covered arise,
judicial restraint is appropriate. That is, the court
simply decides it has no jurisdiction, implying that it
will be up to the legislature to correct.

When court activists attempt to justify the rulings of the
Florida Supreme Court to "make new election law," many
reference the landmark case of Marbury v. Madison (1803)
as establishing the doctrine of judicial review. Yes, that
Court declared a law passed by Congress as
unconstitutional, but in so doing, it also exercised
judicial restraint in refusing to usurp a power reserved
by the Constitution to the executive branch involving
political appointments (read the opinion to understand).
The Court simply said it had no jurisdiction (unlike the
Florida Supreme Court).

--Dick Epler (52)


Subj: Florida Supreme Court says recount rules need to
come from the Legislature
Date Submitted: 12/22/2000 
You may have missed this, as it wasn't widely reported,
however, today's Infobeat (Internet) news (12/22/00)
included this marvelous Associated Press item:
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Developing a standard for hand
recounts of ballots is a job for state lawmakers, the
Florida Supreme Court said Friday in response to the U.S.
Supreme Court decision that ended the marathon
presidential election. Development of a "specific, uniform
standard necessary to ensure equal application and to
secure the fundamental right to vote throughout the state
of Florida should be left to the body we believe best
equipped to study and address it, the Legislature," the
court said in the unsigned opinion. Two weeks ago, the
court had given that job to a circuit judge ordered to
oversee a hand recount of some 9,000 ballots from Miami-
Dade County and the so-called "undervote" - ballots with
choices that were not read by voting machines - from all
67 counties. But 10 days ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ended
the legal struggle between Al Gore and George W. Bush by
reversing Florida's court-ordered recount of presidential

Yes they got it right this time but it's not something
they didn't know before their December 8th ruling. The
State Court simply took a calculated gamble which failed
because of courage of the Federal Supreme Court, who
really didn't want to get involved (and shouldn't have had
to). Our Constitutional system still works, but just
barely. I sincerely hope Bush can rebuild it at all
Government levels.

--Dick Epler (52)
That concludes this issue of THE SANDBOX folks. Please
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Al Parker (53)
Shippenville, PA