Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I hate when people do this.

Sigh.  Repeating a claim over and over does not make it true. Obama did not waive the work requirement for welfare.

Edited to add:  And then there is the new anti-Obama movie, 2016: Obama's America.  It grossed $6.2 million last weekend. This is maybe more a "let's take very thin evidence and create sandcastles with it" rather than out and out lies, but it is still frustrating.  A lot of people will see that movie, but few of them will see's fact check of it.

Monday, August 27, 2012

It is the first day of that days-long infomercial (but with less real content) that is the Republican National Convention.  I have acquainted myself with enough of their platform to shake in my boots for my country -- especially its young women and its elderly -- and really am not interested in much more. I was not in the least sad they had to adjourn early because of Isaac; I just hope the Gulf Coast weathers the storm okay.

My favorite political essay today comes from the blog of Tim Wise: If It Walks Like a Duck and Talks Like a Duck: Racism, Bigotry and the Death of Respectable Conservatism.  My favorite quote from said essay came in its only footnote:"According to spring, 2012 survey, roughly two-thirds of Republicans say they believe Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., and with many others saying they aren’t sure either way, only about 1 in 5 accept the truth of Obama’s citizenship. Which is to say that only about 1 in 5 Republicans can claim the mantle of being even remotely rational and informed human beings."

Today's term of the day...

... from Matthew O'Brien of The Atlantic, quoting from David Roberts at Grist:  we are living in a "post-fact world."

Yes, exactly.  And I am a naif who happens to be very, very bothered by that.  It's not that there have  not been lies in politics before, it's simply that they are so much more prevalent the past few years.  It is though, as people such as O'Brien have observed, repeating something loud enough and often enough will make it true.

And over it all lies the pall of crude tribalism, in which concern for the nation as a whole evaporates in the face of dog-whistles and a determined "bipartisanship"  -- which is merely one party holding firm and objecting to anything, no matter how "moderate," (really center-right, usually) the other wants to do, and the other unwilling or unable to counter or call them out on it.

It is ridiculous to expect honor from our politicians. I know this. But given that they hold so much power over policies which will determine so much of our lives, isn't it understandable to wistfully long for it?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The combination of my sons playing in the other room, and my occasional reviewing of the iconic 1996 version of Pride and Predjudice has given me an idea: Jane Austen D & D.  "Roll 18, receive offer of marriage from craven, officious clergyman" ... "Roll 28, fall in love with first cousin..."

Friday, August 24, 2012

I said the other day that I was not posting political commentary at the moment.  I have felt the need to articulate why, even to myself, until today I ran across this item by Erin Gloria Ryan over at Jezebel: "Rape Fatigue and You: When There's No Anger Left. " (Warning: strong language.)  Why restate what she had most movingly written? She hit the nail on the head.

Or, more accurately, she hit one of the nails on the head.  The war on women's reproductive rights (so much more an accurate phrase than "war on women") is only the most visible and most abhorrent piece of the problem.  My own position on issues of rape and contraception I have written about here before.  There is so much more to be concerned about.

There are arguments about the ACA, there is whether the stimulus worked, there is the outrageous influence that the most wealthy among us exercise (did you know that the Walton Family alone owns more of the country's wealth than the bottom 40% of households combined?). Misrepresentations, half-truths and flat out lies -- not to mention simple nastiness -- have permeated the public discourse like so much pollution through the civic water table.

There is too much to care about, too much to get outraged over.  I have hit this before, during the Bush Administration, but I recovered. Now, I fear, I may simply be too far gone.

I open links that friends on Facebook post, and then add them to my Safari reading list unread.  One friend takes particular umbrage to people like me: he has announced he will keep posting political things and that anyone who doesn't read and share them should just unfriend him now.  He would be ashamed to be the friend of anyone "too apathetic" to continue to fight all the time against what is going on in this country.  (It's a pity, really: he's one of the few friends who use Facebook as I imagine it was intended for: to post short updates about what's going on in his life.)

It's not apathy, truly it's not. It's a distressing mix of exhaustion and  fear.  I need to feel secure, and that the future holds good things  in it, and right  now  neither of those are true. In all probability this marks me as immature-- adults deal with things like insecurity better than this.

But then again, adults used to be able to engage in civil public discourse, too.  Honesty and integrity mattered. There was a feeling that you could disagree with someone, but at the end of the day, still respect each other.  That is rapidly eroding, as is the sense that while people could be wrong, they could still be so with with honor, so to speak.

I have birthers and climate-change deniers in my family.  I love them, but no longer respect them -- nor do they respect me either, I suspect.  But in the end we have to live with each other.

It's getting harder all the time to do that.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Schadenfreude postponed

Under normal circumstances,  I might be snickering about the possibility of Tropical Storm (expected to strengthen into Hurricane) Isaac hitting Tampa the first day of the Republican Convention.  So, fundamentalists, what would God be punishing the GOP for? Failing to give a damn about the poor and helpless among us, maybe?

Except I can't.  First of all, a hurricane is a natural disaster you do not wish on anyone.  People's houses can be destroyed, people may even die. Secondly, it's been a long time since Tampa has had a direct hit from a hurricane.  They get sideswiped every so often -- last time in 2004, causing winds of 67 m.p.h. in the city -- but very rarely head on.  Thirdly, being intimately familiar with the area (I grew up in St. Petersburg), I can say pretty confidently that evacuating the Pinellas peninsula -- especially the low-lying beach areas -- would be an absolute nightmare.

But my real reason is that Mom still lives there.  She's 85, and lives a mile from Tampa Bay -- I do not want to have her have to deal with evacuating, or worse.

So I'll just keep my snarky thoughts to myself this time.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Tad cranky, are we?

One case where a judge speaking her mind is really amusing: "Judge says Apple is 'smoking crack' after seeing rebuttal witness list."

Given the circumstances mentioned in the article, it might not have been such an unwarranted question. For the record, the attorney for Apple responded that he was not, in fact, smoking crack.

My favorite quote was that Judge Lucy Koh viewed herself as "pathologically optimistic" that the two sides could reach a deal.

Basic biology, fail.

Oddly enough for someone who is so emotionally invested in politics, I am trying to avoid writing about election topics.  Neither my psyche nor my blood pressure can stand a lot of that these days.  The combination of negative campaigning (not necessarily inaccurate) and simple virulence has made me draw back from a topic I am normally deeply engaged in. (There will be a post at some point about the slew of voter eligibility laws, I promise.)

This story cried out for attention, however: Republican Todd Akin of Missouri, currently running against Senator Claire McCaskill, said in a television interview that women who are survivors of "legitimate" rape have biological defenses which prevent them from getting pregnant.* This is, of course, complete horse manure: the female body cannot discriminate between forced and unforced sex.  Of course Akin doesn't really care about that, either: he thinks that in any case abortion and the morning-after bill should be banned, even in cases of rape.

It is one thing -- despicable, but rational -- to argue that rape should not provide an exception to anti-abortion laws.  But to argue that women do not get pregnant as a result of rape -- which has been clearly disproved by science** even if it were not patently ridiculous on its surface -- is an attempt to put a pseudo-scientific sheen on what is nothing more than an attempt to control women's reproductive lives.

This man cannot understand basic human biology; how does he understand  complex legislation?  For some inexplicable reason (but then, I find the election of any Tea-Partier to public office to be completely incomprehensible) he was elected to the House of Representatives.  Now, if poll numbers hold true, he is poised to be sent to the Senate.

If that indeed happens, my opinion of the good people of Missouri will plummet through the floor.

*This is reminiscent of last year's  attempted "forcible rape" amendment to the House Health Care Bill and guess what? Akin was a co-sponsor on that one, too.
**The stats are kind of horrifying: five percent of rapes resulted in pregnancy -- some 32,000 per year -- with 32% of pregnant victims not discovering that they were pregnant until the second trimester.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What does it say about me...

....That under "L" on the books on my phone, the two books are Lady Chatterly's Lover and Little Women?*

*I also have Black Beauty and Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. I have sort of catholic tastes.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

As almost always, there's more there than meets the eye.

Law students find different aspects of law school attractive.  For some it is the camaraderie of other intelligent people.  For some it is the strenuous intellectual challenge.

For me, it was the stories.  Each case you read in school, in addition to whatever legal principles are at stake,  involves a microcosm of humanity engaged in, well, being human.  And generally speaking, many of the best legal stories end up in the law school books.

 A case that the Supreme Court scheduled for oral argument the first day of next term is just the sort of story I love.

 On the surface, it is a maritime law case.  I was originally immediately smitten by the original case name, City of Riviera Beach v. That certain unnamed, gray, two story vessel approximately 57 feet in length, now known as Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach. Since it is a maritime case, the city sued the houseboat itself for dockage and other fees. (I find the concept of suing an inanimate object -- something which happens more frequently than most people imagine, I suspect -- to be bizarre, even though I understand why it is used.)  The question before the Court is whether the houseboat was legally a vessel (and yes, the past tense is correct here), which would have brought it under federal maritime regulations rather than property which would have made it subject to state landlord-tenant law. (The city has already sued under the latter, and lost.)

It's an important question: there are classes of structures (floating casinos and houseboats just to name two) which are moored to the land and float on the water but which are in no way designed to provide transportation.  There is a split among circuits about whether such structures are vessels. There are a variety of interests filing amicus briefs on either side.

 The case is about determining when a floating structure is a vessel; the story is about corruption and greed and potential retribution on one side and possible passionate grandstanding on the other.

Fane Lozman possessed a houseboat -- relatively sturdy, too, since it survived Hurricane Wilma -- and a fighting spirit. Fane opted to live in Riviera Beach, which The Huffington Post categorizes as one of the poorest coastal communities in South Florida.  Lozman was opposed to an extensive waterfront development plan that had been passed in a secret meeting just before Governor Charlie Crist signed a bill outlawing use of eminent domain for private redevelopment (see my rant about Kelo v. New London)  -- and sued to stop it.  Lozman was successful in his crusade, managing to get the plan killed. Not only that, four councilmen ended up being indicted as a result of his activities. 

The city didn't take this lightly.  It tried to evict him, arguing among other things that his ten-pound dachshund was a public menace.  Lozman successfully sued the city, claiming that the efforts to get rid of him were retribution; he reputedly ended up settling with for $200,000.  

But the city wasn't done. They then demanded that he register his houseboat as a vessel, and assessed him $3,000 in dockage fees. When he did not pay up (Lozman claims the city refused to cash his checks), the city sued him -- the houseboat, actually -- under maritime law, and won. Lozman lost at both the District and Circuit Court level.

 It is what they city did next that takes my breath away.  The District Court judge ordered the ... property ... to be sold.  Remember, the case was still winding its way through the courts.  The city did so, and purchased the property. And destroyed it.  With, admittedly, the blessing of both the District Court and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals

 All of which means that even if Fane Lozman wins this case, his home is lost forever.  I can see no way that this is not retribution for Lozman pursuing this case to the Supreme Court.  If nothing else, the city has acted in a manner guaranteed to serve notice to other would-be do-gooders that they are not people to be trifled with.

The fact that the houseboat was destroyed was simply mentioned in a single sentence in the petitioner's brief, as if it were of no consequence.  The Court, quite understandably, has responded by requiring the parties to file briefs explaining why the case should not simply be dismissed as moot: good question, as the houseboat was destroyed before the case ever went to the Circuit Court.

This entire episode has an "only in Florida" feel to it, somehow, but I know that's not true. Greed -- and the lure of unscrupulous development -- can be found wherever there is an unprotected shoreline.

And wherever people are people.


...what's going on for you?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I struggle all the time with my role in the world.  Who am I? What am I doing? Does my life have a rhyme or a reason?

At the Waikoloa Resort on the big island of Hawaii, you can sign up (at $45/hour) to swim with dolphins.  As a promotion for this attraction, the rooms in the hotel come with plush stuffed dolphins on the bed.  You can take them home for the pretty reasonable price of fifteen dollars, so I did.  They really are very cute.  And looking at mine yesterday, I realized...

I may have found my porpoise in life.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I struggle with my kids getting older.  Partly it is a sense of my own aging, and my changing and uncertain role both in their lives and in the world at large.  It can be hard coming to terms with the fact that they need me less and less, and that I have less and less control over their lives.

But however I feel about it, at least I am not as possessive and controlling over my children as the woman in this story: Woman devastated by her son's tattoo. The son in this case was twenty-one, certainly old enough to decide what he wanted to do with his  body.  Do I think a tattoo is a good idea? Depends upon where you get it.  Would I be upset if one of my kids got a tattoo? No, although I might be less than thrilled if one of them got a nose or tongue piercing.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why someone would be so shallow as to allow a tattoo to destroy one of the most precious relationships in life. And believe me, telling someone that they're not the same person simply because they have a tattoo is, in addition to being supremely disrespectful, guaranteed to damage that bond.

Our children grow up.  They become themselves, not necessarily who we want or expect them to be.  In fact, that's part of the fun: often times who they become is so much more interesting than our expectations.  In any case, all we can do is be there for them, and offer them love and support and guidance appropriate to an adult.

After all, our whole job as parents is to raise our sons and daughters to adulthood, not to an extended childhood.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Healthcare Darwinists.

I have a medical condition that, regardless of how well I have been taking care of myself,  has the possibility of me ending up in the hospital. It is lifelong and, if not properly treated, potentially fatal.

Being in the hospital can be frustrating. There is the quality of the food, the lack of privacy, and the 7 a.m. lab work which can leave the inside of my arms looking bruised and bloodied.

As unpleasant as hospitalization is, my family is thankful that it is an option for me.  Even though there are copays and deductibles, insurance covers most of the cost. (At least, most of the negotiated cost: the difference between what the hospital bills the insurance company and what the insurance company pays the hospital is absolutely staggering.)

I'm lucky.  I recognize that.  There are very many who are not so fortunate.

Every time I read complaints about Medicare or the Affordable Care Act, I think of others with conditions such as mine. What does it mean, when people without insurance are faced with the fact that there are others who would rather they were dead than shell out a little more in taxes? Why should the life of my fellow sufferers mean less than mine?

The people who complain "My family's all healthy, why should we have insurance?" I dismiss as idiots. Yes, you're healthy. Congratulations, but there is no guarantee that you will stay that way: my life-altering condition was not diagnosed until I was 41. And cancer, diabetes, and car accidents can strike people of any age.

It's the people with insurance who say, "We pay for our own insurance, why should we pay for anyone else's?" that infuriate me.  Do they really not get that they are placing a value -- a relatively low one, at that -- on human lives?

Or maybe they just don't care.  Maybe this is simply a particularly nasty variant of Social Darwinism, with survival of the fittest being defined as survival of those lucky enough to have a job with benefits.  Or maybe it's fear; so many people live so close to the edge these days that paying for anything else seems unaffordable.  I don't think so, though: I am sure most of the conservative public figures screaming about "Obamacare" are very well-heeled indeed.  Their less-well-off followers don't seem to understand that they may be one lost job (all too common in this economy) and one treatable but expensive diagnosis away from utter ruin.

Considerations about healthcare can color a host of unrelated decisions.  For poor people, it can be as simple -- and difficult -- as the choice between medications and food.  People sometimes get married for health insurance coverage; people who otherwise might not sometimes stay married for health insurance coverage.  I know people in both camps. And although I personally know no one like this, I am positive that there must be women and men out there who stay in abusive relationships for health insurance coverage. 

All because of a problem for which every other developed nation has found a solution.  Do people simply have no compassion?

I can understand complaints about how the programs are run.  I have them myself: I think the United States would be better served by moving to a single-payer universal care system (which the ACA does not begin to establish), for both financial and humanitarian reasons.  That's not going to happen: for-profit insurance companies (and they are so very profitable) are going away no time soon.  But, kludgy as it is, the ACA is better than nothing.  Surely only partisan politics of the most virulent sort can object to a program whose repeal would increase the deficit by $230 billion.

It is certainly true that no one gets out of this world alive.  I find it both appalling and disheartening that so many of my fellow Americans seem to be perfectly okay with people leaving it sooner than is necessary.

A few Olympic notes...

I have not been following the Olympics with my usual fervor.  Still....

I was disconcerted that, during the opening ceremonies (which were way too long -- or at least NBC's  broadcast of them, which was of course bloated with probably an hour of commercials), the musical segment included "Eclipse," the last track from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.  I would think that, given all of the richness of British rock and roll to choose from, Danny Boyle would have steered clear of something from an album about a man having a complete mental breakdown, but then that's just me, I guess.

If the women's beach volleyball provides ogling opportunities, so does the men's diving.  There's a certain rough gender equity at work there.

They have sponsorships for everything: there was a kerfluffle when an Australian tweeted a picture of a bucket of condoms at the Olympic Village.  The problem was not that the condoms were there at all, but that they were the wrong brand.  Personally, I think Durex must have been behind this -- I mean, how many people knew there was an official Olympic condom supplier before this broke?  My favorite factoid from that story was that in Beijing in 2008 the condoms were imprinted with the Olympic motto: "Faster, Higher, Stronger." Oh, my.

And finally, on a more sombre note, it appears that when it comes to women athletes and the perception of the public, it is not enough to be fit enough to be an Olympic athlete, you also have to be thin. It boggles my mind that anyone could ever question the fitness of an Olympic weightlifter, soccer player, or heptathlete. (Do people not have any idea of what those sports entail, especially at the Olympic level?)   And Leisel Jones: she is a gold-medal winning Olympic swimmer for Australia, one of the world's powerhouse swimming programs.  You don't think she beat out a host of hungry competition to make it to the London Games?  And a newspaper questioned her fitness? Outrageous.  This irrational scrutiny is not only wrong but dangerous: we are warning young girls away from activities that enrich and prolong their lives.  It's sad.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Remember how I said that I would vote Republican if I had any thought that Romney would be anything but a disaster in the making?

Scratch that.

There's no way I want Paul Ryan the proverbial heartbeat away from the Presidency.*

*I'm not that keen on Joe Biden being in that position, either, but there is a world of difference between "not keen on" and "no freaking way."

Quote of the Day

" [J]ournalism largely consists of saying "Lord Jones Dead" to people who never knew that Lord Jones was alive." G. K. Chesterton, "The Purple Wig."

I am working my way through G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown stories, and every so often he tosses out a gem like this, on top of his marvelous storytelling and ingenious plots.

Edited to add: Sigh. I should have known it was too good to last.  The casual and quite nasty racism of a couple of Chesterton's stories in The Wisdom of Father Brown has quite put me off his otherwise evocative prose.

Friday, August 10, 2012

My Stuart Smalley moment... I think.

I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.*

*At least I hope they do.  At least some.  And I've been told I'm a better than average writer, and a decent conversationalist.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Facts can be inconvenient, sometimes.

You know, all this insistence on the truth can sometimes get in the way of what I want to say.

I was going to write a post about how responding to the Aurora and Wisconsin mass shootings with calls for gun control was understandable, but somewhat misguided.  That we needed to be talking about gun control all the time, because of the large number of people (31,000 in 2009) who die every year from gunshots, and few of them die at the hands of high-profile mass murderers.  Over half of those people are suicides.

I was going to say we needed gun control to make it harder for people to impulsively buy guns to kill themselves.  There are real studies that show that if you can make suicide harder, you have fewer suicides. There is also a study indicating that gun ownership results in an increased risk of suicide. So it stands to reason that longer waiting periods and other restrictions mean fewer suicides.

But I can't write that.  Having looked at Google, it turns out that the studies on the effect of gun control laws on suicide rates are either inconclusive or show no decrease in suicides (except in one study, in individuals over 55).

There may be many reasons for this: it may be the studies were flawed.  It may be that people who used guns to kill themselves already had guns in their possession which they had legally obtained during times when they were not suicidal. It may -- most probably -- mean that I have insufficient Google-fu to find the best studies.

I still think there are reasonable gun controls that need to be in place in every state: minimum waiting periods for a purchases, including at gun shows; background checks; laws mandating that people have their guns secured in their houses.  A requirement to have guns unaccessible to children seems to me a no-brainer: a CAP (Child Access Prevention) Law, such as is in place in eighteen states, might well have saved an Indiana man who was shot to death by his toddler. (Indiana does not have a CAP law.)

My hunch is that gun controls will save lives.  I still think that if one decides on an impulse to commit suicide, having to wait for ten days before you an buy a gun increases the likelihood that someone else will intervene in the meantime.

But I can't show that.  So I can't write that.

Damn facts, getting in the way of emotions.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012


The one broken election promise of the Obama Administration that has angered me the most is the (non)closing of Guantanamo.   And today, the Administration unveiled plans to restrict access of detainees* to their counsel.  Note, according to the story, "there are 168 detainees in the military prison there, most of whom are not facing prosecution for any crime." [Emphasis mine.]

Color me infuriated.  I hate being lied to.  I would vote Republican if there was any chance at all that Romney would be better for the country than Obama would, rather than the disaster in the making he seems to be. And there is no chance whatsoever that Romney would be any more reasonable and just on the issue of Guantanamo -- almost certainly  far less so.

*Why call them "detainees," as though their situation was a transient one? They are prisoners, no more no less.  Maybe it's so we can delude ourselves about the inherent injustice of what we have done to them.

Happy Birthday, kid.

The Red-headed Menace turns sixteen today.

It's scary and bittersweet for me, and I suspect for him, as well.  He is becoming an adult before my eyes, filled with gravitas and determination.  He always did have a serious side, seeming older than his chronological age.  In some ways he is simply catching up to himself.  At the same time, he is still the funniest of my children (albeit not when he is trying to be).

For dinner tonight he asked to be surprised, to be taken to a restaurant serving a cuisine he has never had.  This is completely in character. Not for him the safe and familiar.  

He is motivated by interest, not by outside rewards. He takes track even though he is by his own admission bad at it.  He runs because he loves it, not because he wins accolades.  He writes for much the same reason.   Yet of the three of my children he is the most likely to stress out about his grades.

I wish I could adequately convey what an awesome human being he is becoming.  I am looking forward to the next few years with bated breath to see how he turns out.

Here's looking at you kid.  My world has been a much richer and more interesting place because you are in it. 

Saturday, August 04, 2012


[Feel free to skip this post.  This was part of a guided imagery I did yesterday.  I am recording it for reference.]

I am walking along the water's edge.  The sea laps at the soles of my feet, so cold and sharp, drawing the wet sand out from under me when it recedes. I walk up onto the dry shore, feeling the prickly warm sand scratching my toes. I sit down feeling the ground shift and settle around me.

The sea is forever in motion, restless, always changing, always the same.  The waves come in, the waves go out, the waves come in again. The setting sun catches the foam on the crests, turning them warm, pink, golden.  I can smell the salt in the air.  The thin cries of the avocets and the sandpipers rise into the deepening azure sky.

There is a box on the shore, a gift for me.  The wrapping on the box is rough, shiny and blue, and changes shade as the light moves across it.  Thin woven strands of cornflower and violet and cerulean are glinting one against the next.  It is bound by a red velvet ribbon.

I open the box.  It is filled with shiny blue and silver paper that catches the dying daylight.  I shift the paper, looking for whatever is inside, only to find...

Nothing.  The box is empty. Yet... not empty.

What does the box mean? What is the gift?

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

I went to see "Cavalia" tonight.  Gorgeous men*, stunning women, horses -- what's not to like? My inner 12-year-old, who's miffed that she won't be able to see the Olympic dressage** and showjumping,  was in heaven, and my outer 51-year-old wasn't unhappy either.

*I am by no means a fan of long hair on men, but in the case of some of Cavalia's acrobats and equestrians, I'll make an exception.
**I am convinced that normal human adults find watching dressage as exciting as watching paint dry, but then again, I like watching curling, too.