Tuesday, June 30, 2009
I'm normally a defense-sympathetic kinda girl, but this defense lawyer was not good. He kept interrupting the judge and didn't seem to get that if the judge had said Walters was a sophisticated criminal that arguing that she wasn't probably wasn't the best tactic and he should pick another one. (To say nothing of the fact that she had a conspiracy involving lots of people that ran for 18 years before she was caught. This isn't a waitress slipping $20 from the restaurant till every now and again, this was a pretty complex operation.)
Also, he didn't seem to get the fairly simple idea "Your client stole 50 million dollars from the government. So the government had 50 million dollars less. The government usually tries to use its money to run the city and help out people. So she probably really hurt people by her actions even though we can't know exactly who those people are." which seems fairly straightforward and obvious to me.
The whole thing was interesting becuase it was dickering over the actual sentencing, which could have been between 15 and 18 years, so the whole thing was an argument over three years.
Anyway, 17.5 it was.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Q: Why have there been so many SCOTUS decisions recently?
A: There haven't been all that many, but the ones that are coming down are the most famous. Important/weird cases tend to get decided at the end of the term because the SCOTUS takes extra time to argue them.
Q. Is it just me, or have the SCOTUS decisions recently been less crazytown than usual?
A. The Osborne decision notwithstanding, yes, the decisions have been pretty reasonable.
A: I credit the Sotomayor nomination. After all the crap conservatives gave Sotomayor for suggesting that a court might need diversity of background to make decisions that really took into account the perspectives of diverse parties, they couldn't go and prove her point by deciding that school officials making a 13-year-old get naked was really no big deal.
Q: What was up with Thomas' opinion in that case?
A: He mostly went off an old decision that said that a girl who was suspected of smoking in the bathroom could have her purse searched.
Q: So we should totally pop champagne about that case, right?
A: Eh. First off, without Sotomayor, my guess is it might have come out the other way. The transcript of the arguments really gives the impression that the Justices don't fucking get what the problem with making a thirteen year old strip because she might be carrying advil. Justice Kennedy was like "Is the nature of the drug irrelevant? What if it was meth to be consumed at noon?" and Souter thinks violating the student's privacy is less important that preventing accidental panty meth poisonings. (That's a paraphrase.)
Q: But the court ultimately overcame their fear of panty meth. So good, right?
A. Again, Eh. Ginsburg and Stevens were the only ones who thought the school district should be liable for the girl's emotional distress. The other ones said that making a 13 year old get naked so there could be a search for Advil was insufficiently obviously wrong for it to be actionable.
Q: Is it obviously wrong?
A. If Scalia and Ginsburg and Souter and Kennedy agree on something, it's usually pretty obvious. I would totally have voted with Ginsburg and Stevens.
Q: What about the case about the voting rights act?
A: This is an opinion that I haven't read, but my impression is that the court wanted to find for the municipality with making the smallest possible impact on the voting rights act.
Q. Why? I would think that the court would be overturn the voting rights act since doing so is the properly Crazytown decision to make?
A: Right, but again, overturning the voting rights act would make Sotomayor's confirmation a lot easier.
Q. I want some crazy. What does Justice Thomas think?
A: He thinks that striking down the Voting Rights act would be not a "sign of defeat" but an "acknowledgement of victory," the implication being that, ya know, Racism is over.
Q. Oooh. That's good crazy.
A. It's ok. I like Scalia's brand of crazy better. He's crazy in a your-Crazy-Uncle-Harry-who-makes-Thanksgiving-fun sort of way. Thomas is more like one of those ranting dudes in a bar who won't shut up about how the Bears are the best team ever in absence of any evidence that this is the case. More importantly to me, you normally can get why Scalia feels the way he does even when you disagree which is usually and Thomas is a much greater believer in cherrypicking the one case that's with him and ignoring everything else. And Scalia is snarky and loves to talk to the press enough that he sometimes has to recuse himself because he's already talked about the case before it's argued. He's loads of fun. I'm tempted to name a World of Warcraft character after him.
Q. Now what about the firemen?
A. The Ricci decision is another one I haven't read, though I've read a fair amount about it. One thing I'd like to know that I haven't seen is whether anybody has figured out WHY the African Americans flunked the test. Early standardized tests were specifically designed to keep New York Jews out of the Ivy League and had lots of questions like "Ballanchine:Ballet::Frank Gehrey:__________" that people from poorer backgrounds weren't supposed to be able to answer.
Q: How did that work out?
A: A New York Jew named Stanley Kaplan got very rich.
Q: So standardized tests can be racist?
A: Effectively, yes, but I don't know that this one was. I'd like to know if it was.
Q: Anyway, does Sotomayor's decision show she's outside the mainstream?
A: Not from what I've seen. She followed precedent, the SCOTUS just changed the law.
Q: Will the conservative pundits understand that distinction?
A: If they do, they won't let on.
Q: So what about the case about the Forensic Experts?
A: Crazy Uncle Scalia wrote an opinion that the reports of crime scene lab techs were functionally witnesses for the prosecution, and that the lab techs needed to be available for cross examination.
Q: What's the upshot?
A. Well, running a crime lab just got more expensive since techs will be spending a lot more time in court so the crime labs will need to hire more of them to get through the same number of cases. On the upside, people, with excellent reason, have become really skeptical of the work of forensics experts and this might actually restore their faith. And my undergraduate institution, which needs all the help in can get, has a forensic science program so the new lab tech jobs counts as a win for me personally there, too.
Q: What's weird about this case?
A: I think it by implication concedes that crime techs are not independent and are functionally working for the prosecution, something that has been fairly obvious to anyone who pays attention to this stuff for some time, but that is not typically formally admitted.
Q: Overall picture?
A: Obama should nominate Sotomayor near the end of every term. And anyone who loves law should read Souter's dissent is Osbourne, which includes a beautifully written, thoughtful, jurisprudential discussion that is not precisely on point, but still great.
In other news, Bernie Madoff will die in prison unless, he's ya know, a vampire or something. (If you make that idea into a hit television show, please pay off my student loans.)
And Micheal Jackson's parents want to add to their record of stellar parenting. Janet, from one "only reasonable member of the family" to another, please step in.
Also, when I was a kid, I campaigned and campaigned for a walkman. My parents assured me that it would make me antisocial. I pointed out that all the kids with lots of friends had them to no avail. Anyway, as a mildly misanthrophic adult, I get to read that a thirteen-year-old's impression of the device I so pined for.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Anyway, the Hallman/Morales campaign was a very civil campaign. Too civil, perhaps.
I was a member of the UUA election mailing list for several months and I developed the impression that everyone's attempts to be polite actually made for a far less accurate picture of things and one that might have slanted things toward Morales.
For example, it was made very, very clear that there was to be no questioning of the veracity of anything the candidates said. As Morales has a serious fondness for hyperbole and Hallman does not, this meant that he was free to make questionable assertions, knowing they would go unquestioned, and phrases like "a star-studded cast of religious educators" were, in my opinion, insufficiently made-fun-of**. For awhile, his supporters were actually calling him "the Prophet of the Possible" with no obvious discouragement from the Morales campaign. Let's hope he leaves that off his business cards. On the upside, if you reread "Pride and Prejudice," Mr. Collins is a lot funnier when you have Morales in mind.
Anyway, maybe it's polite to accept Morales' fondness for grandiose phrasing. But I do have worries about how it's going to sound when his purple prose is speaking for us all.
Even more worrisome to me was that because the candidates could not be criticized, rumors that Laurel Hallman was the principal architect of Pathways and did a terrible job of it were forced underground rather than being addressed up front.
Less than a month before the election, I received an e-mail, from someone with a UUpdates blog no less, that asserted at least half a dozen unsupportable accusations about Hallman's part in Pathways*** and about the overall sanity of the Pathways project. I put together an FAQ addressing all these concerns and put it on the list, but it was too little too late.
I fully believe that the person who wrote me the email believed what he said about Hallman. Maybe that's what he had been told. I wish he had accused her of these things on his blog or before the election list turned into one dull endorsement after another and the Hallman campaign pulled out as the campaign probably has more information that I was able to glean from UUA sources.
But hey, it was a civil campaign.
*Also, Miller was shocked and saddened to find that "identity politics" was an issue in the election where the black guy ran against the woman. I supported her, though halfheartedly, and am horrified to discover that the UUA elected, I think, the right person in Sinkford as his opponent was apparently Howard-Dean-level not ready for primetime. I wish Hallman had run then. Or Morales, though he would have had to start his campaign as he was graduating from Starr King. Also, I hate it when people talk about "identity politics" as if it is something new and excludes the idea of decades of upper-middle-class white men voting for each other.
**If you can read "a star-studded cast of religious educators" without thinking of this Onion article, you're a better person than I am. (Note to the CSO's mom: Gastonia gets a shoutout in that article)
***My favorite was the idea that Hallman was crazy to think that a large UU church could be built within 20 miles of another large UU church. When I pointed out that my church and UU church five miles down the road have a combined population of about 1,300 I wasn't surprised not to get a response.
(EDIT: Suzie pointed out that I named the wrong organization in one of my comments. She's right, I was wrong. Cecile Richards is still head of Planned Parenthood. If you follow that link, you get her analysis. She believes the election was decided by gender more than I do, but whst she has to say is interesting.
As a response to what she has to say, I will say that I think Morales was a better politician and that his dancing-around of the question about patriarchy was just the politiciany way he answers questions, not any real substantive comment on his feelings about feminism. For an example of what I'm talking about, note the question Robin keeps talking about where when asked about mistakes they had made, Laurel directly addresses Pathways and acknowledges that some of the mistakes were hers while Morales gives some blather about how difficult it is to schedule a church service because his church has SO MANY MEMBERS.)
Since the news that Obama plans to issue an executive order permitting terror suspects to be held without a trial date, or really much hope of one, happened to accidentally come out on a summer weekend, I wanted to make sure you saw it.
who still thinks he was a better choice than McCain, but hasn't forgotten what it was like to be a Hillary supporter early last year when Hillary was "just more of the same" while Obama was made of kittens and fairydust and was going to change politics forever and ever.
Ps. While I'm in a pissy mood anyway, here's Obama's current scorecard on campaign promises, and here's a guy arguing that the promises kept/promises broken record looks remarkably like Obama is only keeping the promises that give him more power and ignoring campaign promises like "posting bills on the internet for public comment," which admittedly seems like a much better idea if you are unfamiliar with, say, youtube commenters.
Anyway, compared to a Cheney-style power grab, it's really not that big of a deal, but still...
My favorite thing about the new article 2 provisions is that they would be much harder to memorize, and much less compelling when put on the wall as a creed. That's not a lot to recommend them.
(For what it's worth, in the original version the bit about freedom of belief is written in equally lovely language but Katy-the-Wise and I are the only ones I know who have memorized it, I think in both cases not purposefully but as an accident of repetition. She might be able to rattle off the actual seven principles, I couldn't.)
2. The UUA elected the person I didn't want them to. Color me shocked. I'll save the snark for another time, congratulations President-Elect Morales.
3. Someone else asked if there was a service project and the response they got was that the "service project" was giving money to Utah Pride (a cause I support) and a "public witness action" for immigrants rights (a cause I also support). Is it true that there's no service project of the "help some local poor people" variety? If not, why not? They've has such things at previous GAs.
4. As Kate Clinton making jokes in a town full of Mormons go, what was said was pretty mild, and FAR less nasty than some of the things Sandra Bernhard said when she was in DC last fall. I wish Ms. Clinton hadn't said it because, well, it was stupid. But any annoyed Mormons can nurse their hurt feelings with the comfort that they are likely still legally married, and Kate Clinton's right to be treated as such in California was taken away, which has to be quite the balm. I have to say that if any group of people, religious or otherwise, starts lobbying to take away any of my civil rights in any state, Ms. Clinton's words will sound like a Jane Austen character's compared to what I have to say about it.
It's very UU that so many UUs are so embarrassed that she, a non-UU said that at a UU gathering* and some UUs laughed, while the Mormons have given no sign of caring one way or another as far as I've heard, because, well, every religion has been saying snotty things about every other religion since the beginning of time and Mormons know this as well as everyone else does. God knows the Mormons I used to work with gave me occasional guff about UUism**, though I didn't give it back because they were the bosses.
5. For all my bitching, I wish I were there, but it wasn't in the cards this year.
*And fifty bucks said she was explicitly asked not to make fun of other religions and just decided to ignore that.
** "If there's no hell," I was once asked "why should people do good things? Why not just do evil since you might as well?"
And I thought 'Frankly, Lady, if you can't answer that for yourself, I'm not risking my job to enlighten you'
And that's one example of at least several.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Or just look at the part I'm quoting here:
I believe the only way to take back our freedom is to return to the constitutional principles our founding fathers promised in 1776. It’s upon those principles I announced my conservative alternative to President Obama’s liberal healthcare plan just yesterday.
I can’t do all this alone. That’s why I launched my Club 2010 team of Internet activists to help propel my re-election campaign. Just last week we received $5,000 from donors giving $17.76. I trust that conservative activists are willing to stand behind the ideas I’ve been pushing in Washington, so I’ve set a loft goal of raising $17,760 in $17.76 increments over the next five days.
Chalisseurs, what's the problem with this? (Aside from the proofreading error.)
Thursday, June 25, 2009
D. I'm blind to the obvious fun the people in the photos are having and WAY too *ahem* wedded to the concept of the WASPy traditional wedding.
who doesn't mind being snarky herself sometimes, but hates it when people feel they just have to suck all the joy out of everything.
In other news, if you just found this post on a search engine, you're visiting the Chaliceblog for the first time, and your name isn't Jenny Sanford, you should probably get a life.
who would sort of like to see a photo of Maria Belen Chapur, but actually doesn't care.
I responded that I had always chosen the part of the subway car with the fewest people in general. I didn't rub it in to my friend, but I was quietly pleased that whatever sway societal racism and sexism had on my character, the sway of my long-admitted misanthropy was still stronger.
This conversation came to mind this morning as theCSO mentioned, as I drove him to the subway, that in metro's two most recent accidents, the only people killed and most of the injured were in the first or last car so one could be significantly safer by sticking to the middle cars.
At which point I confessed my pleasure two days before at discovering that post-accident nobody was riding in the first or last cars and I could have them nearly to myself.
*At the time, I thought, though I didn't point out, that a majority of one's pre-college life, one's place in the subway car is not chosen by one, but by one's parents and their influence might have been the cause of this.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Finding the right "Dr. Seuss Metaphor" for our movement.
I'm asking again.
Now, in the past, I have criticized the UUA Washington Office for focusing on events in a foreign country that doesn't give a damn what they think while there was legislation that adversely effected UU World that they hadn't commented on that a small religion could actually have made a difference by speaking about since it wasn't particularly well-known or politicized legislation.
But it would be nice to hear their take on Iran, for well, obvious reasons.
And seriously? Dr. Seuss?
who notes that the Dr. Seuss post got more comments than anything else I've ever seen on the UUA Washington office blog get.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Comments, advice, etc, welcome. Joe-the-Math-guy, Jana-who-Creates and I are going to meet regularly on the telephone to discuss it regularly.
I would love to post law student/mom/mathematician insights on the book as a regular thing, but we will see if that happens.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
only expressly prohibited in the more contemporary areas, I've never
met a museum guard who especially liked it.
Anyway, this is Jean-Antoine Houdon's sculptural portrait of Ben
Franklin, made in France sometime after 1778. It's in plaster, a copy
of a bronze version that is no doubt in a museum with better resources.
I am immensely fond of this because it is Franklin as I imagine him,
looking like he's up to something. I mentioned this to
LinguistFriend, who pointed out that Franklin pretty much was up to
something his entire time in France.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Monday, June 08, 2009
If you have a few thousand extra dollars lying around you can buy me this and appeal to both features and earn my fondness forever.
I'm a better investment than General Motors, I totally swear!
So she probably hasn't heard that the founder of "Hookers for Jesus" has married a guy from a Christian Heavy metal band.
I would totally hang out with these people. I wonder if they will let me take them to dinner next time I'm in Vegas.
However, his son runs the company and his wife is the CFO as well as the director, treasurer, and secretary of the company's board.
I'm not one for boycotts in any formal sense.
But Monster Energy drink is a mighty tasty beverage.
Friday, June 05, 2009
date: Fri, Jun 5, 2009 at 6:44 PM
subject:Please pull your advertising from KRXQ in Sacramento
Because some things just aren't funny
DJs: Talk about transgender kids getting beaten up like it is funny, and I will write to your advertisers. It's just that simple.
who realizes that her email was vague, but judging by the newspaper article, the advertisers will know what I'm talking about anyway.
2. All people are hypocritical sometimes.
3. Therefore, people who delight in running around pointing out the hypocrises of others and condemning them are the biggest hypocrites of all, as their hypocrisy is doubled since they have both the normal human share of hypocrisy and this added tendency to condemn others for hypocrises when they themselves commit them.
4. Either that, or I'm the biggest hypocrite of all since I am condemning people for condemning people so my sins are triple.
5. Yes, my post about San Francisco counts under (3)
Ps. I don't think (4) is true, primarily because I see hypocrisy as an irritation, not a sign of particular moral defectiveness, as pretty much all of us can concieve behavior superior to our own and sing its praises and bemoan evil behaviors that we also have committed, and I don't think we necessarily owe our audience a moral audit when we do either. But it's still fun to mock Rush Limbaugh.
Anyway, I bring this up because this is exactly the sort of customer service experience I would expect to have. Also note that they don't seem to mind and are indeed happy to go along when a customer wishes to speak only in the third person.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Basically, he argued the side presented in the first few chapters of Cass Sunstein's Republic.com 2.0, that the internet is creating a world where, say, a rabid sports fan can read about nothing but sports and almost never be exposed to an idea not about sports. Or, more realistically, and I think more troublesome to Sunstein, a conservative can read all day and never be exposed to an idea that doesn't come from conservatives and that culturally we are losing our common spaces.
Sunstein is concerned about technology that lets us filter out ideas we don't agree with. I will admit that people's tendency to do this themselves bugs me. LinguistFriend's church has a sign up that says something like "Take what you like and leave the rest." I couldn't disagree more and think the ideas in church that bug you are the ones you need to wrestle with most. God knows the issue that bugs me the most, Politics in Church, has given me lots of time wondering about the church's place in political life and if I'm discouraging the next Martin Luther King. I still think I'm right, but I do think about that stuff.
But I think the internet does more good than bad in exposing us to new ideas and to those we disagree with. My professor mentioned that a white supremacist child could surf all day and read only the people they disagree with. Is that a theoretical possibility? Sure. But I would think that every time they googled for more, they would have to pick through the articles criticizing the very ideas they were reading about. If I wanted to raise my kid a white supremacist (I'm going to go ahead and emphasize that I do not, since there are a few people who read me who have real trouble with the subjunctive tense and toy situations) the last thing I would do is give them free access to the internet.
All that I said in class.
What I didn't do is quote Robertson Davies, who decades ago expressed what I'm getting at when he wrote:
“‘Children, don’t speak so coarsely,’ said Mr. Webster, who had a vague notion that some supervision should be exercised over his daughters’ speech, and that a line should be drawn, but never knew quite when to draw it. He had allowed his daughters to use his library without restraint, and nothing is more fatal to maidenly delicacy of speech than the run of a good library.”
Sunstein believes than when everybody was reading the Washington Post and listening to Walter Cronkite, we had a sort of intellectual "common space" that we are losing because of the abundance of people's media choices and their ability to chose people who disagree with them*.
This argument bothers me on some level and part of this discomfort is that I suspect these "common spaces" were mostly common to white middle class people. For an illustration, I've lived in small towns twice, once as a reporter for the town's only newspaper and once as a regular person, and I've seen how in small towns, there are people who exist and people who don't. As a reporter, I never noticed how though I was thrown into the thick of small town gossip and society and invited to parties and talked to on the street, other people were not. Until I was living in a different small town as just a regular person, isolated from all of that and expected to live in town and make friends and go to one of the correct churches and work on civic projects and have a good job for years on end before I really counted.
I suspect that it was society's "people that counted" who listened to Walter Cronkite and felt great commonality with everybody who did the same, they just don't realize that the people who didn't count felt differently because they didn't notice the people who didn't count. It's a big hint to me that I've never seen one of those "Wasn't it great when you knew your grocer?" columns written by anything other than an older white man.
Or, to put it more succinctly, to describe these "common spaces" Sunstein keeps using an example of a park where you invariably encountered a variety of people, situations and ideas. I wonder if black people were allowed to use the park.
But that's a little theoretical for a law school argument and I didn't make it. Ok, I might have if I had formulated the question about black people being allowed to use the park, but I'm afraid that was a bit of esprit de l'escalier on my part.
Ok, one final comment on the weirdness of Sunstein's argument about filtering technology allowing us to read about things that we want and nothing else: it assumes that people have only one interest or one set of people whom they view as "like them."
That's just crazy. In class, I pointed out that an African-American, lesbian, country music fan probably thinks of herself as all of those things and if she watches BET, reads Gay magazines and listens to the country station, she's being exposed to a very wide array of conflicting ideas. After all, African American and Gay sources rarely shy away from political comment and Country stations play Toby Keith and some of them still won't play the Dixie Chicks.
But my professor thought that example was a little bit of a straw man. So fine, let's look at me, only two characteristics of me. It's ten a.m. and I've already quoted Roberston Davies, and my pit bull mix woke me up this morning. I'm a Robertson Davies fan who owns a pit bull mix. You think that if I go hang out with Robertson Davies fans and pitbull fans, on the internet and otherwise, I'm not going to be exposed to different ideas and disagreements?
But even that is giving Sunstein's idea too much credit because pit bull owners and Robertson Davies fans aren't the only groups I belong to. I also like to read libertarians, though I don't always agree, and I like law and I like mystery novels and I'm married to an engineer and exposed to lots of geek culture and I'm a Unitarian and I have dinner once a week with my very liberal best friend. I'm white of mostly British descent with a bit of European mutt mixed in. I'm rather east coast, married into a southern family.
All of these interests and identities expose me to ideas, political ones and not, ones I agree with and ones I don't, and some that grow on me or fade with time.
And I think the complexities of my nature and interests are far more true to the way actual people are than Sunstein's model of people with only one interest, even only one political interest, and a laser focus on that.
*I should mention that I have great intellectual disgust for anyone who sees reading and listening only to liberals (or conservatives) who agree with them as a goal that they are actively striving to achieve. I just think there are fewer of these people than Sunstein does and think they are certainly not a majority, and that they have always existed.
I really don't think white supremacists, to use a favorite example of my professors, have ever read the Washington Post much and I doubt that most of them trusted Walter Cronkite. I think extremists have always shunned the "common spaces" or at least only talked and never listened when they were there.
I've lived this comic in several different areas of life. I think I know better now.
Well, probably not.
(Click on comic to read rest of comic. Sorry, my blog doesn't deal well with horizontal things.)