Wednesday, April 30, 2008

CC also would have thrown Rev. Wright under the bus

A response to PB

Honestly, I don’t know what else Obama could have done.

I believe Wright speaks a great deal of truth, but unfortunately for all concerned, he also speaks about what a great guy Louis Farrakhan is and how the Marines are similar to the Romans who killed Jesus and how the the US government invented AIDS to kill African-Americans.

More to the point, the Rev. Wright was probably speaking the truth when he said that Obama may or may not agree with what Wright was saying, but that Obama had to say what he had to say to get elected, but it was pretty much political attempted homicide, so I guess that would make Obama’s actions self-defense.*

When it was just clips taken out of context, then that was no big deal. I’d say that had about blown over. However, when Wright repeated his comments in front of the National Press Club then there wasn’t much Obama could do about it, other than say, in effect, “hey, this guy is wrong and I disagree with what he is saying and the hateful directions he is taking the discourse in, and by the way, speculating that I’m just saying what I need to say to get elected was way uncool. I would think my spiritual mentor would have more respect for my integrity.”

It really makes me wonder if Rev. Wright was trying to sabotage Obama. Mind you, I have no idea why he would do this, but damn, I’d say that Wright saying:

Politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls, Huffington, whoever’s doing the polls. Preachers say what they say because they’re pastors. They have a different person to whom they’re accountable.

is hard to interpret any other way.

If I were a minister and I thought that a former congregant was answering to the polls rather than God, I sure wouldn't say so in front of the National Press Club.

Would you?


*Note also that Rev. Wright could have said that people of faith can disagree when asked why Obama disagreed with him, instead of throwing Obama under the bus by confirming Rev. Wright’s detractor’s worst fears.

Monday, April 21, 2008

By request, some more info on my new car.

The Smart is the ultimate “Hey, middle-aged-geeky-man, come talk to me!” car. CC has appreciation for geeky men of all ages, so she could be in a worse state. Even under torture I could not tell you the gas mileage of any other car I’ve ever had, but I’ve been asked so often about the Smart that “the EPA says 38, but people have been reporting up to 50.” is a reflex.

The only place most people have seen a smart is Europe. So I’m asked “Did you have that shipped over from Italy” on a fairly regular basis.

I’ve never had a car that people so regularly waved at, honked at, smiled at, etc. Have low self-esteem while driving a Smart is impossible as you are constantly getting random validation from seventeen different directions.

It’s not you, it’s the car.

The dealership experience was a breeze. Our salesguy mentioned a few more options, but we'd ordered the car in advance, so most of that had already been taken care of. The credit union had never heard of the car, but once they'd verified its existence, financing was no problem.

More generic information on the Smart is available here.

I'll probably post another picture or two here, but most of them will go in a Facebook album as I really doubt the average Chalicesseur cares that much.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Lest someone confuse my prior post with making fun of Catholicism...

Let's be clear. My prior post was making fun of the New York Times.

THIS is making fun of Catholicism.


CC made a few mistakes in her reporter days, but never one like this one from the New York Times.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Yale says art student's project is a fake

As I predicted, the abortion art project was a hoax and the media reaction WAS the real art project.

"Ms. Shvarts is engaged in performance art," a Yale spokeswoman, Helaine Klasky, said. "She stated to three senior Yale University officials today, including two deans, that she did not impregnate herself and that she did not induce any miscarriages. The entire project is an art piece, a creative fiction designed to draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman’s body."

I'm sure many news stories are out on this by now. Here's Yale's statement on this.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

He may look scary, but he's a nice guy.

He was at tonight's basketball game between GULC professors and
members of Congress.

$323,000 plus raised for Washington Legal Clinic for the homeless. I
heart my school.

As of this writing the Hoya Lawyas are leading the Hills Angels 22-21,
but whatever happens, we won.

I find legal research and writing classes a pain

at the same time, if I ever write something like this it will all have been worth it.

I think you should read the whole thing where he takes their claims apart piece-by-piece but here's an excerpt from the end:

Let me be clear about this: there are only two ways for you to get anything out of me. You will either need to (1) convince me that I have infringed, or (2) obtain a final judgment to that effect from a court of competent jurisdiction. It may be that my inability to see the pragmatic value of settling frivolous claims is a deep character flaw, and I am sure a few of the insurance carriers for whom I have done work have seen it that way; but it is how I have done business for the last quarter-century and you are not going to change my mind. If you sue me, the case will go to judgment, and I will hold the court's attention upon the merits of your claims—or, to speak more precisely, the absence of merit from your claims—from start to finish. Not only am I unintimidated by litigation; I sometimes rather miss it.

Hot! Hot! Hot!

I find it striking how people who are writing letters of complaint usually can't do it this well. Lots of people try to make the other party feel bad, make moral judgements and exaggerate their issue with crazy comparisions and/or obvious advertising fluff treated literally. You'll note how this gentleman doesn't say "When you accuse me of violating your patent, it's like a human rights violation in Darfur" or "Your company motto is 'Excellence in Cables,' but you have failed to be excellent in the following fifty ways:". He keeps it focused on the issue at hand and strictly practical about the matter.

And I suspect he will get exactly the result he wants with no additional fuss.


who has found the "only madmen write letters in excess of three pages" rule to be accurate, usually, but is delighted to consider this an exception to the rule.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Public Service Message from the Chaliceblog

A Gawker Blog I like did a story the other day about whether or not you should tell your sex partners if you have herpes. The lady who wrote the story cheerfully explained that she has herpes and didn't tell her last boyfriend until they were breaking up.

Lots of people in the comments are commending her for her honesty (her honesty in talking about how dishonest she was with her boyfriend, I assume) and taking others to task for being so "judgmental."

The survey attached has the following choices:

Do You Tell People About Your STDs?
When boning a new person, do you let them know about the STDs you have/had, even if dormant?
* Yes, always! I'm perfect!
* Yeah, sometimes, if I remember when I'm that drunk.
* Well, only if I think it could develop into a real relationship.
* No, never! I'm trying to get fucked here!

At one point last night, only 20 percent of those surveyed were in the "always tell" category. We're up to 44 percent. And I'm sure the "I'm perfect" doesn't help.

But still.

Even the STIs that are no big deal when treated BECOME A BIG DEAL when a person doesn't know he/she has them. I'm not sure on what planet putting your future partners and their future partners at risk of infertility and worse is acceptable just because you're embarassed or you've decided that it is "dormant."

Not my planet.

If you don't know someone well enough to feel comfortable telling him/her about your STIs, you should probably assume that person feels the same way about you. Plenty of STIs can find ways around condems.

Please people, be moral and be safe.


Sunday, April 13, 2008


After my former wife and I were married, she was surprised to find out that I talked in my sleep in Russian, a language which in some respects I know much better than my native English. (The fact that she found that out only after we married is of course an indicator of how long ago that was.) I owed this speaking ability mainly to two women who supplemented my college classroom language instruction by teaching me how to actually speak the language.

I connected with one of them, Shulamith Schneider, through our family physician and friend Dr. Irving Berlin. She was one of his aunts, a native of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, and the daughter of a learned rabbi who was himself a distinguished scholar of languages and of religious and classical texts. His name can be found in major Jewish reference books, with the fact that he was killed by the Nazis in 1941. It was partly this personal background that inclined her to help me with my spoken Russian when I was at home in southeast Virginia, where she had made a life and a career as a pharmacist after leaving Lithuania. To many of the poor people who bought from her, she was known as “the little doctor”. She was indeed short, and in that time and place, I do not doubt that she was the closest thing to a medical contact that many of them had.

When I was at home in Hampton during my college years, she and I would sit out on the back porch of her modest home on occasional evenings, listening to the mosquitoes and reading through and discussing classical Russian poetry and prose. In return, I was able to expand her library of Russian books somewhat, the closest to any payment that she would accept. Her Russian, although dated, was excellent, so good that in high school she had acted as a tutor in Russian to the daughter of a Russian general, a young woman who like many prerevolutionary nobles had been brought up with French as her primary language, but with a change of times needed to improve her Russian. It is a fundamental aspect of Judaism to emphasize the role of the individual in community, and in America, Ms. Schneider had made a place for herself by her professional skills and the way in which she used them. As the little doctor, she won the acceptance and trust of an impoverished clientele. But with such a clientele, violence is rarely distant; her brother Moses, who had come to America with her, was at one point the object of an attack so violent that I can still remember the lines of knife scars on his face. After he died, and I married so that I came to Virginia less often, I would still visit her, but eventually she told my wife and me in her now subdued Russian: “It is good that you are visiting me now. The next time you come, you will not find me alive.”

The other Russian woman from whom I learned to speak Russian was a member of the university language staff, who ran regular conversation lessons with material supplied by the Slavic Department. Her own education, although not academic, was also excellent, but it was the education of a Russian noblewoman, which she was, the Countess Nina Georg’evna Murav’yova. When I came to know her well, I learned that she shared an apartment half way between Harvard and MIT with an elderly Russian economic geographer, Taras Vasil’evich Butoff. A series of graduate students in Slavic languages sublet rooms in the apartment, one of whom I was during the summer after I graduated from college, before I married.

Nina Georg’evna had a sharp mind and an acerbic tongue, but she had difficulty in adapting to life in America. Her English was limited, and in her large bedroom she slept under a beautiful overhanging canopy, one of her remnants of former wealth. Like many Russians of an older generation, she knew much classical Russian poetry by heart. But the world in which she lived was foreign to her. To learn to drive an automobile was an unimaginable achievement to her. As a noble, she had been brought up to be above the crowd, not to learn to serve them as did Ms. Schneider. But other people made possible her occasional indispensable interactions with the official world, like the young Boston attorney who joined our conversation classes informally and fought off various Massachusetts authorities for her gratis when it was necessary. When, having read through and tired of all the Russian and French literature that appealed to her, she decided that she needed to read “Moby Dick”, it was up to me to find and buy for her a Russian translation of it, which eventually I was able to do. Still, even within the large upper floor of the apartment house on Hancock St. where she had her residence, much of the time she lived basically in isolation. When she had the stroke that killed her, she lay undiscovered for some time in her bedroom before her apartment mates finally broke into her bedroom when she did not respond to calls and knocks.

On rereading these sketches, I grow terrified that as I grow older, I approximate to Nina Georg’evna’s inability (suicidal in the long run) to adapt to changes in my place and world.. But I see the same effect even more strongly in the area of religion. I see the same pattern of inability or refusal to adapt in various ongoing conflicts in religion, with the resulting damage magnified by efforts to capitalize on them for political and career purposes. Those who adapt to a changing world are therefore deemed guilty of heresy; those who refuse to adapt are the virtuous orthodox, who perhaps have never suspected that the fate of the dodo might be relevant to theology. To add a note, when friends and family cleared out Nina Georg’evna’s effects, they found the Russian translation of “Moby Dick” that I had given her, and they had no idea what to make of it, it was so uncharacteristic of her to branch into a new area of thought. Actually, she had read it and was impressed, I can say from personal knowledge. Perhaps there is always a glimmer of the possibility of opening up to new ways of thought, but the present and prospective damage from such ongoing disputes is overwhelming.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bleg: Fun places for a girls' weekend?

Due to a confluence of sci-fi and gaming related events, Jana-who-creates and I will be husbandless and childless for memorial day weeked.

We want to do something fun, preferably with a high awesomeness-to-cost ratio. Vegas's awesomeness is high, but the cost in time and money was a little too high for a weekend. Camping is cheap, but not very awesome, especially when I'm around, because I bitch A LOT.

We know there are lots of places where we could stay in a B and B and bum around an artsy little town. That's kinda the default.

Any other ideas?

Within driving distance of DC is a big plus, obviously.

who is lobbying for this, but wants some more options.

Admit it

You'd like to attend this.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Things about the Obama campaign that make me nervous.

1. By March 11, 2004 John Kerry had enough delegates to have the Democratic nomination in the bag. Post Super Tuesday 2000, Al Gore had over 2500 delegates. At this point, Obama’s lead over Hillary is about a third of the lead that Kerry March 2004 has over Obama’s April 2008 delegate count and a fifth of the lead Gore’s 2000 delegate count has over him, and that’s not even counting a month’s worth of primary’s totals for April for Kerry and Gore.*

Yet still I keep hearing that Hillary should resign because Obama is beating the pants off her and he’s clearly the people’s choice. (I even said so myself, though not in those terms, before I looked at the numbers. I’m going to change my position to “somebody should probably resign if only to save both candidates money, but I’m not calling for either candidate to do so.”)

2. The way we pick Democratic delegates does not reflect the way delegates will work in the fall election. Awesome that the five Democrats in Idaho picked Obama, but general-election-wise, so what? Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania generally are the ones who decide elections. Clinton polls better in all of them.

3. When Democratic officials made bad decisions in 2000 that ended up disenfranchising voters, people cared. Even looking at this purely pragmatically, y’all don’t think the folks in Florida are going to remember which candidate wanted their votes to count? If Obama wins the nomination, I’m sure the McCain camp will be happy to remind them how Obama favored mail-in voting in Congress, but rejected it when a state he was going to lose might be able to use it.

Yes, the Democratic officials in Florida and Michigan were the ones who screwed up. Much like it was Democrat screwups all around in Florida 2000. But I still think that Democrats in those two vital states are going to stay home if the guy who wanted their votes not to count is the Democratic nominee.

4. I just don’t like candidates who use emotion over reason as much as Obama does and I hate the way his supporters are talking about him and about Clinton. I’m tired of hearing criticisms of Obama being framed as “attacks on hope.” The man is not hope incarnate. He’s a politician. When the popular vote is with him and the delegate count isn’t, he says he really won. When the delegate count is with him and the popular vote isn’t, he also says he won. Duh, all politicians do that. I don’t hold the fact that he’s a politician against him. He hides it better than Clinton does, but when you get down to it, the tactics are a lot the same.

I’m tired of hearing Hillary’s offer to have Obama as a vice-president be called racist or at least demeaning, while Obama offering Gore (delegate count, March 2000: 2514) a job (not even the Vice Presidency) is a sign of Obama’s general awesomeness. WtF?

5. His most passionate supporters are so damn scary. You know how you can mention that the sky is blue and Robin Edgar can find a way to turn that into a negative thing about Unitarian Universalism or his church? Obama supporters are a little like that with Hillary Clinton. (E.g. Clinton just released her tax returns. It’s fascinating to watch people complain that the fact that she and Bill make a lot of money from speaking fees and/or complaint that they gave 10 percent of their income to charities and spin that as somehow less virtuous than the three percent Obama gave away. Huh?) Listening to Obama supporters feels like watching Fox News.

Also, it creeps me out how many Obama supporters say that if Clinton does win, they won’t vote for her.

How did “Dean or Green” work out in 2004? Not very well.

Anyway, I’m planning to vote for the guy come November if he wins the nomination. I don’t mind politicians. But I’m still nervous.

Ducking and covering.

* That is all very awkwardly phrased. The simple version is “Kerry and Gore had their nominations more than sewn up a full month before now. If Obama is the people’s choice, why aren’t more people voting for him?”

Monday, April 07, 2008


"What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous . . . it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God. Get out of that seat . . . You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon."

This reminder that theists getting shit from atheists happens sometimes in UU churches, but it's usually the reverse is brought to you by Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago), who is
bitching out Rob Sherman for daring to testify that the government giving $1 million to a church was not Constitutional.


Ps. Another tidbit on this subject.


I generally am not a believer in making fun of the dead, especially the recently dead. I can understand doing something cruel, I can understand doing something pointless, but to make fun of the recently dead is an intersection of cruelty and pointlessness that is repugnant.

That said, I totally get the temptation to make "cold, dead fingers" jokes given what a point Mr. Heston made of his own death.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Hilarious thread on another blog

NSFW unless your workplace is cool.


If my name were "E. Barrett Prettyman," I would change it before somebody went and named a courthouse after me.

and other thoughts I had while observing courtrooms in DC for a morning.

(When class assignments aren't graded, I see no reason why I can't write them like blog posts.)

Landlord-tenant court seemed to be all about everyone wanting to go home as soon as possible. Judge Fern Leibowitz presided over a courtroom that looked like an office. The clerks in the front of the room had pictures and little toys on their desks. The environment was informal and the hearings went very fast. The bailiff ignored ringing cell phones and people were in and out of the room constantly. Almost everyone wanted a continuance.

One case, Argyle Properties vs. Ethan Gomez, was representative. The renter’s legal aid attorney announced that the claimant had fallen behind on his bills because he had gotten sick. The landlord said he’d never heard that before the hearing. The renter’s attorney wanted to set up a supervised payment plan for an amount less than the rent because he said a recent increase had been illegal. Again, the landlord’s attorney said it was news to him. Judge Leibowitz told Gomez’s attorney to bring some sort of proof of the sickness and everyone agreed to discuss the matter again in two weeks. It amazed me how routine it all seemed. Lots of tenants represented themselves, some with knowledge of the system that suggested they were experienced lease-breakers.

I had not caught Judge Leibowitz’s name and was waiting in line at the clerk’s office to ask when Mr. Arniss, the attorney for Argyle, got in line behind me. When I introduced myself and told him why I was there, he was happy to give me his opinions on the proceedings. He called Washington DC the most “tenant-friendly” district in America and outlined several of Argyle Properties’ recent cases, asking me with each description if I thought the outcome was fair. He didn’t take “Well, I haven’t heard both sides” for an answer.

The Courtrooms at the DC District Court were more reminiscent of church. They were quiet and respectful. Probably the most interesting hearing I attended all day was a detention hearing in front of a Magistrate. The US. vs. Mendoza involved a convicted drug dealer who ran from the police for what my suburban self would say was no apparent reason. Officer Sidney Catlett of the DC police testified that he had seen the defendant running away, holding something at his waistband. Catlett had predicted where the defendant was running and taken a shortcut while two other officers followed the Defendant. Before Officer Catlett caught up with him, the defendant had stopped. When the officer came up to the defendant, there was a gun lying on the ground and the two other police officers on the scene said the defendant had thrown the gun down. But the only officer at the hearing was Officer Catlett. The defense attorney, whose name I didn’t catch, did a very impressive job of muddying the issue and making it clear that the witness had not actually seen the defendant throw down the gun.

I did think it was strange that there were a few points that went unaddressed:

1. Both prosecution and defense spent a lot of time asking the officer questions about exactly where he ran. It was admittedly confusing at the time as the streets were irregular, but in writing this paper I looked the defendant’s two block run to the address in question up in Google maps, which showed the odd layout of streets and made it very clear what had happened. I wondered why nobody bothered to bring a map, preferably one blown up to poster size.

2. There was a lot of time spent on what the officer saw, but neither the prosecution nor defense asked him if he had HEARD a metal gun being thrown onto a concrete sidewalk on an empty street in the middle of the night. Whether the answer was “yes” or “no,” one would think it would have helped somebody.

3. Nobody brought up the issue of fingerprints on the gun one way or another.

4. Nobody even speculated why the officer who’d seen the least was the one sent to testify. Given where the defense was going with how little he saw, I would think they would have at least mentioned that he was a strange choice of witnesses given that his testimony was mostly hearsay.

After some negative testimony from the defendant’s parole officer about the defendant’s harassment of an ex-girlfriend, the magistrate ruled that the defendant should remain in jail until his next court date, saying sardonically that the defendant’s supervised release had been “eventful.” The magistrate was quite sarcastic to both sides. I wondered if he was showing off for the law students in the back.

After the verdict, a depressed-looking woman in blue jeans waved goodbye to the defendant. I wondered if she was the old girlfriend or a new one. Either way, she was very understanding, all things considered. As we filed out of the room, I caught Officer Catlett and asked him why he was the witness if the other officers were closer. He said he didn’t know.

The detention hearing had taken under an hour, so I watched the first argument in In Re Fannie Mae Securities litigation, about whether Fannie Mae should be forced to turn over 4,000 documents to a plaintiff that was, I believe, the state of Ohio. They had turned the documents over to a regulatory agency voluntarily and the argument was over whether this voluntary submission of the documents to the agency meant that the documents were not privileged. At least, that’s how I understood it. This argument had been going on since well before the first motion to compel was sent in April 2007.

As I did my observation right before this paper was due, several of my fellow students were working on it the same day. Half a dozen had attended the detention hearing and come upstairs to the securities case. After about 45 minutes of listening to Attorney Melanie Corbin argue for the plaintiff about discovery rules, I figured I had seen enough. I had to get back to work, and the securities hearing looked like it would go on for hours. When Ms. Corbin sat down and one of her co-counselors stood up, I slipped out of the room.

One of my classmates left the same time I did. As we waited for the elevator, I said “Didn’t it blow your mind how the detention hearing only had one prosecutor and one defense attorney and this one motion has a dozen people in expensive suits on each side?”

“Why not?” My classmate asked, totally without irony, “The motion in the securities case is important.”