Done Deal 

Chancellor Kenny Armstrong's ruling last Friday permitting the Shelby County Commission to proceed on the establishment of a second Juvenile Court judgeship was a no-brainer. Whatever one thought of the politics of the commission's near-party-line vote in the wake of last year's election or of the often needlessly confrontational tactics of the majority Democrats, it seemed obvious that the right to establish the

judgeship was accounted for explicitly by legislative act years ago.

Indeed, the General Assembly, as Armstrong correctly observed, had already created the additional court in embryo. It merely remained for the commission to exercise its discretion in completing the establishment of the court. It has now, somewhat belatedly, chosen to do so, and though Judge Curtis Person insists he will appeal, it is hard to see how the explicit language of the enabling legislation can be gotten around.

The commission almost let the opportunity pass to take a further decisive step at its regular monthly meeting, but Commissioner Steve Mulroy raised the issue of following up on Armstrong's ruling. And it fell to a Republican commissioner, David Lillard, to actually make the motion for the commission to set a date — Wednesday, May 30th — as a time to begin what will probably be a quick two-step process (interviews of candidates, followed by an interim appointment of a second judge). In 2008, it would seem, the new judgeship will come before the voters in the regular countywide election.

What we have here is a done deal, and the virtual absence of further impassioned debate, coupled with the near-unanimity of the vote for Lillard's motion, amounts to a demonstration that the commission has accepted a reality that we presume Person will ultimately have to accommodate himself to as well.

Telling It

The presidential-candidate debates have barely gotten under way, and already the pundits have taken it upon themselves to tell us who should presume to take part in them and who should not.

It was just barely tenable that they should have turned thumbs down on the entertaining if politically over-the-hill Democrat Mike Gravel, a former U.S. senator from Alaska who hasn't held office in a quarter-century. Eccentric he may be, but his proposal for a universal national heath-care plan based on vouchers was intriguing, and his warnings about the perils of nuclear poker-playing and his fellow Democrats' ostrich-like attitude toward the Iraq fiasco were on point. "These people scare me!" he said about his party's frontrunners. Us, too, Mike.

But the real travesty was the Beltway gang's decision to pile on against Republican congressman Ron Paul, who, whatever the oddities of his sincere and systematic libertarianism, has made the most intelligent and complete case against the Iraq venture of anybody anywhere this year, actually daring to point out that the 9/11 attacks were in significant measure "blowback," a response to our own blunderbuss military interventions in the Middle East.

Dissed by journalists Howard Kurtz and Gloria Borger, who demanded his exclusion from future debates, Paul made more sense in his two TV appearances than either of them has in their lifetimes.

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