THE 1981 FALL FACULTY Workshops of the University of Michigan's Institute of Continuing Legal Education are being held in Ann Arbor on six Saturday mornings from 9 to 11 and cover such subjects as commercial contract litigation and estate planning. The cost is $300, but all expenses connected with the workshop, including transportation and lodging, are of course tax deductible. The six Saturdays, incidentally, happen to coincide with Michigan's home football games with Notre Dame, Navy, Iowa, Northwestern, Illinois and Ohio State.
If you have been in doubt about the kind of people who are being helped by the administration's economic policies, consider an advertisement that recently appeared in a San Diego newspaper. There is a photograph of a man with a big smile pointing proudly at his new possession and saying: "Reagan's new tax law enabled me to buy my own airplane." The ad, for Western Sun Aviation, continues: "Thanks to the new tax law . . . I have my own plane . . . I paid for it, with tax dollars! . . . and I've virtually eliminated my taxes for 1981."
Not long ago, in the course of an interview with Hedley Donovan of Fortune, Ronald Reagan said that "business leaders are probably a better indicator than are people on Broadway -- Broadway, that's a Freudian slip, isn't it? -- on Wall Street."
Reagan is the first president since John Kennedy to have a decent sense of humor, and for that we should all be grateful. But I'm not sure we should be grateful for his background in show business. In fact, I think that background has a lot to do with his main weakness -- laziness.A president need not be the kind of workaholic that Jimmy Carter was, but he does need to do his homework well enough to be able to cross-examine his subordinates on the programs they advocate. This Reagan clearly failed to do in the case of the Pentagon budget.
Reagan has spent most of his life not having to do homework. For a movie actor, a hard day consists of learning a handful of lines, spending a few minutes before the camera and devoting the rest of the day to sitting around shooting the breeze with cast and crew while scenes are set, lights adjusted and cameras focused.
By failing to take advantage of his opportunity to cut the defense budget, Reagan missed his "China opening." Just as Nixon used his anticommunist credentials to get away with resuming relations with China, Reagan could have used his pro-defense reputation to give conservative credibility to sensible reduction of the Pentagon's budget.
Have you ever heard of Los Angeles' Century Freeway? If not, you should have, because it has cost federal and state taxpayers $325 million. A little high, you say, but still within reason for a full-fledged freeway. Well, the problem is that it doesn't exist yet -- not one foot of the highway has been built. The money has been spent on law suits, land acquisition, environmental impact studies and on such clear necessities as a project civil rights director, a housing advisory committee and a "corridor advocate." And if the freeway is completed it will cost about $2 billion. Of that sum, 92 percent will be paid by federal taxpayers. How much highway will they buy? Exactly 17.3 miles.
Of the many kinds of snobbery in America, surely the most enduring has been the one based on name. Since the early 19th century, success in such fields as the clergy, academic administration and the Foreign Service has often seemed to be largely if not entirely dependent on having a name like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Take the case of Winston Lord. When I first read a dozen or so years ago that someone of that name had joined Henry Kissinger's staff, I said, "Someday that young man will be president of the Council on Foreign Relations." And of course it has come to pass. For all I know, Lord may be the wisest and most charming of men, but it is my firm belief that, even if he had been the stupidest of slobs, his name alone would have proved irresistible to the foreign policy establishment.
Whenever I am tempted to join in the ridicule of Norman Mailer and the other literati who sponsored the accused killer Jack Abbott, I recall my first criminal case. My client's name was Chicago Red. He quickly convinced me that he was not guilty of the burglary with which he was charged. In fact, he got me so fired up that even though there was a bit of evidence against him, like several witnesses who had seen him commit the crime, I managed to convince the prosecuting attorney that I would put up such a fight that he would have to abandon all hope of going on his fall hunting trips. So the charge was dismissed. I called a friend in Pittsburgh, who promised to get Chicago Red a job. I contributed a bus ticket and an old Brooks Brothers suit I had always resented for the accurate indication it gave of the width of my shoulders.
The morning after Chicago Red's release, I picked up the local paper and was confronted by a headline, "Break-in at County Jail." It seems Chicago Red had cashed in his bus ticket and pawned his suit -- maybe he didn't like those narrow shoulders either -- and bought a shotgun. With it he attempted to break into the jail and free some of his friends. The venture was unsuccessful, but I regarded it as so admirably quixotic that I once again came to Red's defense. This time I argued that however unfortunate the episode might have been, it had not been anticipated by the state legislature and thus there was no such crime as breaking into a jail.
The next time I heard about Red, it was a news report from Texas.It seems that shortly after being sentenced to the state penitentiary there, he had confessed to a flock of crimes in West Virginia. I was puzzled because Red had heretofore not struck me as a man excessively burdened with guilt. Then a friend, more sophisticated about crime than I, explained that Texas was famed for having the toughest prison in the country and that prudent men, upon finding themselves within its walls, soon began to search their consciences for extraditable infractions committed in gentler jurisdictions.
Since Red never actually injured anyone, I never feared or disliked him. But there were a good many criminals I defended -- and I defended a lot because my success in his cases had given me a certain celebrity at the Kanawha County jail -- who scared the hell out of me. They were the cold-blooded criminals who either killed or injured or put in fear people who had done nothing to them. The more I got to know these cruel men, the more I knew they belonged in prison for a long time. Curiously enough, experience with other criminals, like non-violent first offenders and people who had committed hot-blooded crimes in the course of family fights, made me an advocate of probation or early release for almost everyone except the cold bloods. But for them, I think the protection of society demands lengthy imprisonment.
That's why I get so angry when I read articles that react only with ridicule to the administration's proposal to spend $2 billion on new prisons. Maybe $2 billion is too much, but we do need prisons that can house all the cold bloods and keep them from escaping. At the same time, since we want to keep them there a long time, the living conditions should not be inhuman. Clearly the prisons we have now are neither adequate nor decent. Part of the problem can be solved with probation for the nonviolent and early release for the hot bloods. But I suspect all of the problem won't be solved until we're willing to throw some money at it.