The Santa Anna. The usual breeze comes off the water and brings morning fog and cool evenings. But the Santa Anna is the east wind that comes out of the
It's a Matter of Good Judgment
By Fred Owens
The new Chief Justice, John Roberts, impressed friend and foe alike
during the confirmation process. The Democrats, who were spoiling for
fight, could only muster routine objections to Roberts' nomination to
the Supreme Court.
President George Bush made an inspired choice. I don't suspect him of
trying to please everybody, but he did just that. Besides Roberts'
impressive education and judicial accomplishment, which were examined
and discussed by the media and the politicians, we also saw photos of
his attractive family.
Chief Justice Roberts has a wife and she calls him John. A wife knows
things about a man – what he's like when's feeling down and
discouraged – things we will never see. A marital partner has a way of
bringing you up short when you're drifting off course – you all know
what I'm talking about. And there's no escape, it's 24/7.
Roberts has small children to look after. They don't call him "Your
Honor," they call him Daddy. He may go to work and make decisions of
national importance, but his little children don't care about that.
They just want for him to read a bedtime story.
Marriage and a family constitutes a complete course in character
development. It helps a man or a woman to develop good judgment.
Conservatives rail against judges who legislate from the bench, but
they skip over the larger question – What is good judgment? And does
this particular candidate have good judgment?
That's not easy to define, but I will give you an example. I have two
grown children, well educated, strong in spirit, and making a good
living. They're smart kids. They may even be smarter than me, and good
for them if they are. But the only thing I have that they don't have
yet is better judgment. My better judgment comes from being thirty
years older and comes from all the work I did raising those two
children and comes from all the mistakes I made along the way.
You just get a sense of it after a while. When my kids were teenagers
– those were tough years for me – I encouraged them to think
independently. I encouraged them to ask challenging questions. I was
willing to discuss and debate any issue for as long as they wanted.
But I always made two things perfectly clear. One is that they didn't
have a vote. And two, they must talk with me in a respectful way.
Oh, we had lots of arguments, but I believed I had earned their
respect and I was determined to enforce that respect. This is where I
honed and improved my sense of judgment. What is the difference
between a challenging question, which is a good thing, and a
fifteen-year-old girl with a smart mouth? A parent had better learn
the difference because children will eat you alive if you let them.
Attitude. That's a good part of what judgment is and that is not
written down. Parents learn to recognize attitude, good and bad, and
in doing so, they improve their own attitude – they develop good
So a judge needs to have balance, a sense of fairness, a human heart
that cares about people coupled with strong detachment and
objectivity. A judge needs to be honest with himself about his own
weaknesses, because he surely has them. A good judge will make three
kinds of mistakes. One mistake is a simple miss-weighing of the
evidence, and this is more of a mental error. The second mistake is
prejudice, which is emotional in nature, where a judge gives in to his
own affection or animosity and rules accordingly. The third mistake is
pride and ego – this is when a judge legislates from the bench,
because he thinks he knows better than anybody else.
I said a good judge makes all three of these mistakes because he's
human, but he will try his darndest not to and struggle every day at
Let's consider President Bush's current nominee to the Supreme Court.
Harriet Miers is a close personal adviser to the President and a
corporate attorney. But has she married a man? Has she raised
children? Has she served as a judge? Has she written a book? Has she
fought in a war? Has she lived in a foreign land? Has she climbed a
mountain? Has she raised crops on a farm? Her resume comes up light in
my mind. I'm willing to listen, but so far I'm not impressed. Those
life experiences, which develop good judgment in a man or a woman,
don't seem to be there in her case.
LAST WEEK'S COLUMN
Prose and Cons,
Is it better in
By Fred Owens
Comparing Texas and
trouble, but I like to live dangerously. I'm out here in
visiting my sister. She lives near the beach so she gets lots of
company. It's an expensive neighborhood. They sold a two-bedroom
bungalow down the block for $1.2 million. Isn't that amazing? My
sister is a school teacher. She couldn't afford to live here except
she bought her house 28 years ago when prices were affordable.
It's a good life – the weather is always sunny, but never too hot. I
suppose that's why so many millions of people want to live here. If
you can get past the traffic and pollution and the high prices, then
you're welcome to it.
But that's not my topic. My topic is agriculture.
number one farm producer in the nation, equal to the combined value of
grapefruit. A Ruby Red is the summit of excellence and juicy good
oranges. It's true that a
cattle. That's what gave them their tough hides. In fact a
orange is like the character of the
outside and sweet on the inside. A
at, but the flavor is not as good.
states don't appreciate the
get a little selfish about watermelon. They eat the best and sell the
remainder out of state. The
an industrialized product and a volume business.
they invented the seedless watermelon. The seedless watermelon is an
abomination and threatens to bring ruin to our nation's heritage.
Watermelons are supposed to have seeds. And the rules of dining
etiquette are relaxed a bit when watermelon is served – you get
involved when you taste a good melon. There's the indoor style, which
is a bit neater, and the picnic style with no rules at all. Everybody
has their own method and debates often ensue.
A seedless watermelon? That's the kind of thing that gives
a reputation for being goofy. It's an improvement we can live without.
But it's their state. How about
sushi? I won't even touch that.
But California pulls out ahead in farm products when you consider
olives, avocadoes, artichokes, walnuts, pistachios, almonds, kiwis,
strawberries, figs, prunes, nectarines, raisins and a lot more.
can only answer, "but we have the best pecans." Yes,
They also make movies here. Most movies aren't very good, but one in a
hundred movies is something that will take your breath away and teach
you something about life. You can talk about the trash that comes out
you were a kid that you can never forget.
And what is a movie? It's nothing more than the ancient art of
storytelling set to modern technology. Tales of romance and adventure,
true stories and the imagination of dreams. A good story is a human
need almost as necessary as food. Think of Homer's poem, the Iliad,
written 3,000 years ago, about Achilles and the Trojan War – a story
so exciting that it has been told over and over again for many
starring Brad Pitt.
Or the story of Exodus when the Hebrew people left
the Promised Land. Exodus is a matter of belief for most Americans,
but the reason we love it is because the drama is so compelling –
Moses parting the
a good story.
That's what they do here in
Brad Pitt and Jennifer Lopez, but you don't know about tens of
thousands of people who work in the film and television industry –
building scenery, processing film, makeup, marketing and a hundred
other specialties -- people who aren't glamorous are famous or unusual
in any way. They just make a good living and they're a lot like
One more thing –
earthquakes and mudslides – take your pick.