Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I'm not the easiest girl to appall. But I'm appalled.


Ps. I googled the lady who left that book review and discovered she is your basic troll who wanders around the internet posting nastiness wherever she can. For example, she really doesn't like Jews.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

During our many discussions of the Arizona immigration law

I mentioned that I was concerned that damn near anything could look like "reasonable suspicion" to justify the sort of police stops allowed under the law. My example at the time was that if a woman were dressed up and headed to her favorite nightclub, there might be "reasonable suspicion" that a sexily-dressed woman walking down the street late at night was a hooker and that would be enough to stop her under the law*.

I was totally underestimating the creativity of our nation's law enforcement professionals. Police in Philly have twice arrested this poor bastard for loitering--at a bus stop.

So, yeah, my faith that the words "Reasonable suspicion" have any meaning at all in Arizona is pretty lacking.


*Somehow I doubt there has been a spike in the deportation of sexy people since, but it seemed like a good example at the time.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

CC embraces a culture of death, or at least critical thinking

Remember how I mocked Keith Olbermann mercilessly when he ranted that the fake twitter feed in his name was the tool of a Republican conspiracy, and it turned out that the twitter feed was being written by his own network's publicists?

Yeah, that was funny.

Anyway, it is Glenn Beck's turn. My husband reads lots of web-produced comics written by big nerds. (The best of which, as far as I'm concerned, is XKCD.) A bunch of webcomic artists got together and wrote a book called Machine of Death about the personal societal impacts of a machine that can predict the method of an individual's death. And they publicized it on their comics, asking people to buy a copy on October 26, the release date, to see if they could get it to #1 on Amazon.

LOTS of people did.

However, October 26 was the release date of Glenn Beck's new book, and he was not happy to have been beaten by both "Machine of Death" AND Keith Richards' auobiography. He has turned this into a new rant topic, hinting at both a huge conspiracy and/or a sick society for his loss. Being beat out by a rock star I suspect he could have dealt with, but being beaten out by a dozen sci-fi-short-story-writing weirdoes was just too much for Mr. Beck's ego to take.

Now, Micheal Moore did essentially the same thing when "Canadian Bacon" flopped, with an even heavier dose of implied conspiracy, so I'm left with the conclusion that pundits are nuts and people should read the news for themselves and make their own decisions.

Which is, admittedly, what I thought in the first place.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Juan Williams II: No, really, appearance of impartiality matters to your editor.

The upcoming "Rally to Restore Sanity" in DC this weekend is kind of a big deal to a lot of my Washingtonian friends. I don't fundamentally believe in political protests. It will be the first political march I've attended since college for a purpose other than keeping somebody else out of trouble. We've got a dude driving up from North Carolina just to attend.

Anyway, even reporters want to go. But when you're a reporter, that's just not that simple

NPR has asked its employees not to attend unless they are covering it.

The Washington Post says its staffers can attend, but not actively participate.

And yes, the local alternative paper has a policy mocking the bigger news outlets'policies, because that's how they roll.

But seriously, this "don't do overly political stuff that will cheese your sources off if you want to get good information out of them" is not a new thing just invented to persecute Juan Williams.


Friday, October 22, 2010

The time CC pulled a Juan Williams

Lots of smart people I like having been writing about Juan Williams. If you don't know, he was an NPR reporter who was fired for admitting on national television that he is uncomfortable when he sees someone on an airplane in Muslim garb.*

Should he have been fired for expressing controversial views?

Personally, I'm asking the question this way: How are Williams' future interviews with Muslim sources likely to go? Even if they make nice with him and try to be understanding, hasn't Williams pretty much completely hosed his chances of having a Muslim source or someone else who thinks he's a racist trust him and open up to him in the future?

That is the crux of why reporters aren't supposed to do what Williams did.

Example from my own brief journalism career: One time, a county official was ranting (in a private conversation with me) about how the departing Clinton staffers had stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars in White House property during the Clinton/Bush transition. I said simply that I'd read that the GAO did an investigation and concluded that the damage and missing items were minimal, costing less than the GAO investigation itself.

This guy didn't argue with me then, but never took another one of my calls or gave me any more information and it seriously screwed with my ability to write stories having anything to do with his area of authority in his part of the county. (In a small town, one guy can easily be the hub of information on a given subject.) Eventually, my editor took that beat away from me and gave it to the new reporter. He would talk to the new reporter.

I still think what that guy did was completely insane. I was very young then and remain fairly blunt now, but I don't think I was in any way rude about what I'd said. I really don't think I even gave my own opinion, I simply pointed out in a private conversation that the GAO report disagreed with his assertions. And it cost me my beat and made me look very bad in front of my editor.

So yeah, that kinda stuff happens to reporters, and I can certainly see how what Juan Williams did would seriously hamper his ability to do his job. His comments on national TV hampered also showed that he is a dude with seriously poor judgment willing to do things that hamper his ability to do his job. Y'all know what the state of journalism is these days. Is it really so surprising that his actions go him canned?

Of course, now he works for Fox, where getting the other side of the story from a Muslim source likely won't be that big a part of his job.


*Of course, the 9-11 hijackers didn't wear Muslim garb, they dressed to fit in with other people on the plane. This was the first thing that made me wonder about Williams as a reporter.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Odd conversations

Co-worker: What's a word that means you can only deal with one thing at a time?

Me: Monomaniacal?

Co-worker: No, like, a normal person word.

Me: Focused?

Co-worker: Yeah, that's good.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Random housekeeping post

I've been decluttering the house recently and having trouble with the whole "defining clutter" aspect.

This blog post was helpful with that.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Links I liked

Desmond Ravenstone has about the most useful post I've seen on the It Gets Better line of thinking. I've had complicated feelings about that campaign in that I certainly agree that things get better. If life after high school doesn't get better for any given person something's very wrong. But it does seems like a pretty passive strategy, and Ravenstone encourages all of us to seek out some more active participation.

A young adult rights about the experience of being one of the few young adults in a church. I don't agree with everything he says. But I think he makes a lot of valid points.

who as a very young twentysomething in grad school, liked the "a few hundred aunts and uncles" feel of an older congregation, but this dynamic is surely not for everybody and it got, well, old.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Nora Ephron to head HuffPo's new divorce section

Read all about it.

I don't know if I'm more annoyed that someone who made her money raising unrealistic expectations about romance is now profiting off the inevitable result of unrealistic romantics getting married or that divorce is STILL this woman's schtick.

Either way, Nora Ephron sucks.


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Wonkette echoes CC's feelings on protests

"You know what’s not fun, ever? PROTESTS. There’s a reason people used to laugh at liberals, in the 1980s and 1990s: Because liberals did the protests, and protests are Earnest & Boring, unless they are Dramatic & Violent, or happened back when Protest People had dignity & self respect (Civil Rights & MLK Jr., Velvet Revolution, etc.) or at least had lots of super-fine hippie chicks and Black Panthers with enormous super-cool ‘fros. Now everybody’s ugly and dull. Sure, the Teabagger folks are also obese, racist and terribly old, so they have funnier protests. But when you go somewhere with a slogan on a sign, nobody wins." Source.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

One more on O'Keefe

I've been thinking about James O'Keefe and why it is that everybody looks so incriminating on his videos, yet nobody gets prosecuted when the situation is investigated.

It's because they go along.

We all do it. In the part of DC where my law school is, people coming up to you and yelling at you about their issue of choice is pretty much chronic. And do you argue? Of course not.

When a guy comes up to you and tells you how, say, the Army implanted a signaling device in his leg in Vietnam in 1978 and has been controlling his actions ever since,* you don't say "What motivation would the government have to do that?" You don't even say "We pulled out of Vietnam in 1975."

You just smile and nod, or furrow your eyebrows and nod in that specific case, act like you are interested in this person's drama and would help if you could because that's the quickest way to get someone like that to leave you alone.

Similarly, when I was a political fundraiser, I heard "I'm giving this to your candidate because his opponent wants to..." followed by some crazy rumor all the time. At that point, my job was not to evaluate the person's reasons for giving my candidate money, it was to take the money and smile and nod and validate their reasons for giving it.

So when James O'Keefe shows up dressed like a fratboy pimp wannabee says he wants advice on opening a prostitution ring that he has no apparent resources to open or well thought out plan for opening**, people (except for that one guy) don't think "oh, my gosh, this man is a threat to society" they think "how to I get this whackjob out of my office?" No ACORN staffer ever actually helped them at all. Some staffers actually gave them bad tax advice that would attract IRS attention. One staffer screwed around with them and claimed to have killed people herself.

Mostly, they smiled and nodded and went along.

And when O'Keefe called up Planned Parenthood and offered them a donation to be expressly used on aborting minority babies, the fundraising person thought "A donation's a donation" and took the money.

Nobody actually did anything wrong, but because smiling and nodding looks like agreement, they looked terrible on video and they all got fired.

I think one reason why this story bothered me, and keeps bothering me, as that I've dealt with this situation both as a fundraiser and as someone who is supposed to help the general public. I worked for a government agency at one point and I got all those calls all the time. I would patiently explain that if the Post Office was discriminating against them because they were Italian*** that they should call 888-EEO-USPS and speak with the Post Office's EEO officers, who were specifically tasked with dealing with that sort of complaint and could talk them through the process of filing a formal complaint that would get the Post Office's attention. I would say there was nothing anyone in my office could directly do to help them because USPS cases weren't in our jurisdiction. When they said, no, no, I had to help them because calling the EEO office never worked, I would ask if they had tried the Post Office's EEO office.

They would then ask to speak to my boss, who would listen to their complaints about how I was incompetent. He often then gave the call to the most shameless person in our office, the guy who liked to tell people they were describing the worst human rights violation he'd every heard and give them the number to the United Nations.

They loved that guy. My boss was, all things considered, very understanding about the fact that I kept trying to give them information that actually helped them, rather than being the sort of encouraging-but-unhelpful that they wanted to hear and that made them happy.

My weasel co-worker spent a lot less time on the phone. But if O'Keefe had ever called, he's the one who would have ended up on the video. Of course, I'm the one would would have taken the check from the crazy person as a fundraiser.

These days we really have to consider the O'Keefe factor, even in our churches. If a pregnant teenage girl comes to a UU minister and asks for help because her older boyfriend got her pregnant and she wants an abortion but feels like she can't tell her parents, we could be the next ones on the news accused of promoting child rape if we give her the help she's asking for. I honestly don't know if at this point I would advise people to smile and nod or to actually be helpful or what to do. In some jobs, just telling people what they want to hear is by far the best way to get through the day, but the person on the other end of the line could always be James O'Keefe.


* Actual claim made by guy on street to CC at one point.

** Oh, and most of the time he didn't even say that. In the transcript at the link, he is asking ACORN about the best way for his prostitute girlfriend to pay taxes. That's all, no prostitution ring even came up.

*** Not an exact claim I ever heard, but representative.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It's fun watching James O'Keefe fail

He should know by now that he's known for lying with video and on video. I'd like to think his shenanigans wouldn't have worked, but maybe a few of the people who believed the ACORN videos might have bought it.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Annnoying conversation I had recently.

"I hear you're having a sign-making party for John Stewart's "Rally to Restore Sanity," the lady at church whom I'd seen around but never met said.

"I'm thinking about it, but I'm trying to talk someone who lives closer in to having it." I said.

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if the church could sponsor a sign-making party or let people from out of town stay here for it?"

"Actually, I don't really think it would. I don't see this rally as problematic, but I'm worried that sign-making parties and lending the church to protesters would become a regular thing for liberal political rallies and I think that would be a bad trend for our church. I think we should leave the sign-making and such to individuals. But feel free to ask the minister about it. She might not agree with me." I said.

The woman hadn't been expecting to be disagreed with. It really took her aback.

"Oh, I'm sure people would understand that this is a different sort of rally."

"I perceive that this is a different sort of rally, but someone who is passionate about immigration who wants to hold an event for an immigration rally or some such would likely feel differently. It just seems like a bad precedent to set, but again, the minister might disagree. You should ask."


And it went on like that for while.


Arizona UUs and water

A few weeks ago, Chalicesseur TK wrote me a note suggesting that I write about these UUs who leave water in the desert for humanitarian reasons. They were recently tried for littering. As far as I can tell, they were guilty under the law as the law doesn't provide an exception for "humanitarian littering."

They got off on a technicality. I'm not going to cry about that.

While I'm sure that a legislator who is smarter than I am could craft an exception that lets one throw water bottle out one's window for humanitarian reasons, but would still cover littering, I don't see Arizona voters/legislators letting it become law.

I agree with the article that this is a bittersweet ending, at best.

One time, my brother got out of jail and Epilonious left a comment on this blog reading "Congratusorry."

That's about where I am. Congratusorry, Tuson UUs.


Who doesn't see this as the church involving itself in politics unreasonably, FWIW.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

...and we're back!

Sorry it has been an unofficial hiatus. I'm conflicted every time life gets busy because while leaving with no explanation seems rather rude, to me people who post something along the lines of "I'm cutting back on my blogging and feel the need to tell you so" every few weeks are worse. It always feels like people on BBses who would lose an argument, announce grandly that they were leaving and then be back to posting within days.

Of course, it is possible that I shouldn't worry so much about what people think of me, a criticism that has been made of me before. (The reverse criticism has, of course, also been made.)

Life goes on. TheCSO and LinguistFriend are well. Joe the Math guy is fine as far as I know, though we haven't talked in a bit. Cerulean and Forties Girl are having a kid, so I am planning my third baby shower. I owe you guys some seven postings on books I've read that I didn't expect to like. The annoying thing is, I've read the books. Expect a posting on Charlotte Bronte's "Villette" as soon as I can figure out how I felt about it.

Speaking of books, I hit what I like to think of as a "clutter event horizon" a few weeks ago and have been doing massive decluttering. If you live in my 'hood and would like some books, give me a topic and you can have any books on that topic I deem superfluous.

The new church year is starting and I'm back with my adorable and brilliant youth. I'm feeling optimistic about the direction of my church, even though I don't know what the direction of the church is yet exactly. I tend to be a fan of change within instutitions (except when they redecorate. I pretty much always hate that.)

Anyway, expect more postings.

Love and kisses,


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Awesome Science Cookies

I have happy memories of making Christmas cookies with my mom. As an adult, I've never done it. These inspire me to give it another shot.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Awesome Day

So today was Awesome Day, my self-created holiday for the contemplation and celebration of all that is awesome.

I've got a lot of friends who are pregnant or have just had a kid, so creation and new life has been a big focus of my thoughts this year. As ZombieKid and TheGnome get older, perhaps old enough to read this blog pretty soon, new kids show up in my life. I've never believed in having friends who were all my age. When I was younger, I felt like no one I was in high school or college with had been anywhere or done anything much and gravitated toward hanging out with adults or at least friends a few years older.

Now that I am, gulp, old enough to have a PhD (or a kid, for that matter,) I find kids and teenagers a break from my serious misanthropic self and that they find a useful change in perspective. OK, a six-year-old and I developed a rather intense mutual dislike a few months ago, but that one was justified, I swear. So, usually kids refresh me, but not always.

So, I guess the awesome thing I'm thinking about today is that life provides one a constant supply of new friends--some coming in the smallest of packages.


Happy Awesome Day.

This is a little twee, but I like it. More on Awesome day later.


Friday, August 13, 2010

This lovely person

shaved her head to raise money for research on children's cancer. As someone who would happily pay fifteen times what I just donated to cancer research to have hair as thick and lovely as she does, I feel strongly that this sacrifice should not be made in vain.

As of this writing, she's just under 1/4 of the way to her goal. Let's do our best to get her there.


CC answered the blogger survey...

or at least one very much like it, something like two years ago. Her responses are here.


Friday, July 30, 2010

What's the deal with being so proud of getting arrested?

I think part of my confusion is being from DC: you pretty much have to TRY to get arrested protesting in DC and most of the people who do it are seriously getting in the way of people who are just trying to get to work and live their lives. And yes, for all the symbolic value you may see in it, public buildings are places where people work and do business and you are making their lives non-symbolically-quite-concretely-in-fact more difficult even if you're just "sitting in."* From everthing I have seen, most of the time DC cops are very cool with protesters if for no better reason than they've seen so many of them and dealing with protesters is really routine.

Example: I personally witnessed this conversation at a "Free Tibet" rally I attended in DC like ten years ago-

Protester who has just crossed a police line: FREE TIBET!
Cop: Get back across the line.
Protester: FREE TIBET!
Cop: Get back across the line.
Protester: FREE TIBET!
Cop: Somebody's going to have to free your ass if you don't get back across the line.
(Protester returns to other side of police line)

Ok, I understand that cops aren't always that reasonable with protesters, but I still don't see what's so great about getting arrested. I sympathize greatly with the protesters-of-color after the Oscar Grant verdict who percieved that they were leading a peaceful, reasonable, legal protest until the skinny white anarchists showed up and made it look like the black people were rioting again. Certainly "stores destroyed in the wake of Oscar Grant verdict" news stories didn't make those distinctions.

I get that people get arrested protesting with differing levels of justification for it. What I don't get is why we're all so proud of ourselves about it. It seems meaningless at best.


*I probably won't get around to posting again anytime soon, so I will just note here that the "Let's 'sit in' at the U.S. Capitol and try to disrupt the work of the very people most likely to PASS legislation like ENDA, who need to work as fast as possible given how midterm elections are likely to go" concept makes no fucking sense to me either. You want to "sit in" at the Capitol? The Senate and House go into recess August 9. Do your symbolism then, when you will be less likely to be concretely getting in the way of what you are symbolically getting arrested to support.

Monday, July 05, 2010

A Book I didn't expect to like: Water for Elephants

On January 6, I announced that my New Year's resolution was to read some books I didn't think I would like and write about my reaction to them. I was trying for one a month and I've pretty much stuck to that as far as reading goes, I just haven't been writing about them. I gave a large list of categories of books I wouldn't normally read and asked for suggestions, though more are always welcome.

For those keeping track, Water for Elephants is a historical novel that fails the Bechdel test.

I have what I think are good reasons for not liking what I don't like. I don't expect every book to grant me an epiphany about how wrong I was to dislike its genre, though I won't be surprised if that happens once or twice. Mostly, I'm going to read with an open mind and see what I discover.


I don't know why I have a thing against historical novels written by a modern author, I just kinda do. At least partially, the issue is that I often have trouble identifying with the characters and find that historical novels spend way too much time describing the setting. I don't so much read to explore new worlds as to explore new people, so I tend to find books that spend a lot of time on the setting tiresome.

Water for Elephants really doesn't have that problem. The author does a wonderful job of surrounding you with a depression-ever circus without ever being too lavish in the details. You fill in the battered sequins and smell of horses yourself. The frame story is set in the present day. If anything more detail is used describing the main character's nursing home, but even that never seems excessive. Essentially, Water for Elephants is the story of a large animal vet who is now very old and in a nursing home, but had spent his youth traveling around with a circus during the great depression. The narrative shifts back and forth between the present day in the nursing home and the main character's time working on the circus.

This is a really well-written book. I liked it very much and have told lots of my friends about it. In doing so, I've discovered that it was a fashionable book club book from a few years ago and many people had already read it. I've never been a book club kinda girl and the "Angela's Ashes" sorts of things I perceive they read don't appeal to me. So in a sense, I've found one more reason I wouldn't expect to like Water for Elephants. I did, though.

I know someone who is on the Board of Directors of a local nursing home. This gentleman told me that the Chair of the Board of Directors found the nursing home sequences so powerful that he bought copies for the entire board and the senior management of the nursing home. IMHO, this is a great idea. In both stories, the main character is fighting to keep his dignity in a weird and hostile environment.

The plot is, at times, melodramatic, but I found that the setting and the general mood it evoked made it work. The circus and its employees tend to have a very "us against the world" sort of attitude and people who think that way tend to end up in melodramatic situations, IMHO. What it lacks in subtlety, it makes up for in the sheer pleasure of the well-drawn characters.

The Elephant was a wonderful character.* Though the main character does find love, the relationship between Vet and Elephant feels far more central to the book and far more vital.

who really did read that in February/March

*Animal lovers take note: This is, again, set in a circus during the great Depression. Some scenes are going to be squicky.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Sorry I've been AWOL for a couple of weeks. My summer has been busy, if fun.

Random thoughts-

-I applaud the "don't cancel the Arizona GA" plan. At the same time, I stay well away from UU events with "Justice" in the title, so I'm skipping that one. But I should be in Charlotte next year.

-I'm really bummed about the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's husband, who was a beloved and respected professor at my law school. At the same time, I'm perversely a little pleased that lots of the news coverage focuses on him as her husband, since this stuff usually goes the other way.


Criminal justice *headdesk* of the day. Not the editorial itself, but that it needed to be written.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Heh. I'm a simple creature and I love this stuff

You know those annoying radio commercials where the president of a indentity-theft-defense outfit gives out his social security number and challenges people to steal his identity?

His identity has been stolen 13+ times.

Criminal Justice *Headdesk* of the day. If you were worried that Ryan Frederick, who shot a police officer who was raiding his house in the middle of the night because an informant said there were marijuana plants growing in his greenhouse* might be freed, don't, Frederick's appeal was just denied.

*There was $25 worth of pot in the guy's house. The plants in the greenhouse were Japanese maples.

Wahoo! Mary Beth Buchanan soundly defeated

Longtime enemy of the Chaliceblog Mary Beth Buchanan was running for congress. Her campaign sucked and she lost.

Couldn't have happened to a nicer person. Ok, I wish it had happened to Martha Coakley.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Awesome post that everyone should read

At Elizabeth's Little Blog


After years of reading political stuff...

I'm still weirded out when columnists just straight up lie. Case in point: Maggie Gallagher's claims in the National Review online that the Human Rights Campaign "specifically cites her support for “marriage equality” in cases before the Supreme Court as a reason for voting for her."

Uhhh... Nope. The press release says no such thing.



The Washington Post's Hank Stuever thinks young people love Betty White because they have wacky grandparent complexes.

Of course she's also a brilliant commedianne with amazing comic timing.

No, that can't be it.



Criminal Justice *headdesk8 of the day. If you were worried about that cop who had a kid ring hid doorbell and run away, then chased the kid down, had a scuffle with the kid, then shot and killed him, don't. The deputy was cleared of all charges.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Adam & Eve mentions your unmentionables.

Apparently, sex toy retailer Adam & Eve will ship your purchase unmarked, but then starts sending you promotional mail. Admittedly the customer at the link had her items send to her work address, which means she's gutsier than I am, but still, given what they sell, they probably shouldn't be doing that.

Anyway, doesn't do the "sending you a bunch of catalogs" thing. Since I know that the Chaliceblog is primarily read by sexy people, I thought y'all should know.

Joe Arpaio week continues on "Criminal justice *headdesk* of the day."

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


Husband is out of town. I'm doing some contract work and working on papers.

You may recall from a previous "Criminal Justice *Headdesk* of the Day" that several months ago there was a federal drug raid in Missouri where a big SWAT team stormed a family home, killed the family dogs in front of a little kid and then charged the family with "child endangerment" because there was a small amount of pot in the house.

I'm sure I mentioned at the time that the most obvious danger to the pot was SWAT teams coming in with lots of firearms and shooting dogs. Anyway, there's video of that raid now, which is not to say I suggest you watch it.

Still, it's nothing you wouldn't see in any war movie. I guess that alone pretty much says it all.

Since I'm behind, we will call this yesterday's Sheriff Joe Arpaio themed "Criminal Justice *headdesk* of the day. It is actually one of the nastier things I've ever seen, and I was reading nasty police stories for years before I started this feature.

Monday, May 03, 2010

As a Dolly Parton fan, I must say


At the same time, I'm bitterly wondering if the reaction to a much whiter town having a massive flood and needing federal disaster relief will have fewer jerkass overtones. On the one hand, it would be nice to see some of the nastiness avoided. On the other, it will bum me out if it turns out that racial animus is a really big part of what caused e-mail forwards like this to go around. In some ways, I would almost rather I did see a few jerks if only for my own peice of mind on the subject.


Ok, this is breaking my brain.

funny animated gif

I've decided it is "Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Greatest Hits" week on Criminal Justice *headdesk* of the day. In today's installment, the sheriff's buddies subpoena a newspaper for all their notes about the sheriff--and any information the newspaper has about anyone who has visited the newspaper's website since 2004 and looked at articles critical of the sheriff, and anyone who has visited the newspaper at all in the past two and a half years.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Grr, Dan Savage

Well-known transphobic and general jerkass Dan Savage is also a pit bull hater and kind of stupid about it. On his blog, he asks...

""An Aurora man has been charged with battery after attacking his sister with a pit bull, according to Aurora police. Rey Jaquez, 50, of the 1000 block of East New York Street, was charged with two counts of domestic battery on Monday after he threw the pit bull at his sister and the dog bit her, police said.

A question for pit bull apologists: we hear you, we hear you. There are no bad dogs, only bad dog owners, and perhaps it's unfair to take a dim view of an entire breed when it's actually a particular breed of humans who are to blame for all those maladjusted, poorly socialized, violent pit bulls making the news. But how are we supposed to tell the difference? When a pit, perhaps unleashed, is trotting towards us, how are we supposed to determine that this particular pit has a good owner? Do we guess? Cross our fingers—while they're still attached—and hope for the best? Or, considering the potential consequences if we guess wrong, do we presume all pit bulls have bad owners for the exact same reasons we presume all guns are loaded?""

First of all, if a pitbull is being THROWN AT YOU per the article that sparked this question, it's probably safe to say that the dog will be scared and frustrated and angry when it falls to earth, any kind of dog would be. Savage ironically titles his article "it's not the dog, it's the owner" as if he doesn't think having an owner who throws dogs across the room would contribute at all to one of those dogs at some point biting somebody.

As for meeting a strange dog on the street, if the dog is standing rigid, barking at you, crouching and bearing her teeth, or growling and coming out you with her head near the ground, that dog is about to make trouble. In that instance, you should stand still, speak softly and always remain facing the dog. If you've done nothing to antagonize the dog, in theory you should be fine.

I should mention that meeting strange dogs on the street is not something you should try to do. For a dog to be roaming around leashless with no obvious owner is a bad sign. A much worse sign, actually, than a dog having been born a pit bull.

Criminal Justice *headdesk* of the day. Like a golden retriever can attack someone and never have to worry that her breed will be banned, cops can usually drive drunk and know that the other cops and paramedics will cover for them, even when they kill people.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I did warn y'all about President Morales doing stuff like this...

Remember way back when UUism was down by less than 100 people and Morales made a big, election-friendly fuss about how we were way down without actually mentioning that the drop was so small as to be statistically insignificant? And when somebody asked the candidates what mistakes they had made and Hallman candidly answered about problems with Pathways, while Morales said something politician-y about how hard it is to schedule a church service when his church had SO MANY MEMBERS?

I wrote then "I don't believe him. I don't want a marketer, I want a minister."

Recent stuff the UUA under Morales has been up to includes slashing the Commission on Appraisal's Budget, according to President Morales, "as a way of initiating a conversation about the committee." Cutting the UUA Washington office is supposed to improve advocacy for reasons no one can explain. Merging a couple of our social witness departments and giving them less money is supposed to improve things.

Of those three issues, the Commission on Appraisal bothers me the most. I think of it as UUism's R&D and I appreciate having a committee to look at potential issues within the UUA and make recommendations. It is supposed to be independent, which Morales paints as "lacking in accountability." Source.

He made a lot of pretty statements on the campaign trail about raising membership. I'm not holding him to those. I am asking when he's going to quit insulting everybody's intelligence with all this marketing blather and just talk to us like we're reasonable people.

who also thinks this is a really stupid time to be shifting duties from volunteers to paid staff in the name of "Policy Governance," but that's another post.

If the GA votes something in, can the UUA just get rid of it?

I've been trying to figure out how to write about this for a bit and properly phrase my dislike for what has gone on, but for whatever reason, the words aren't coming.

So I will try asking about it. My impression is that the facts of the situation are as follows:

1. A vote of GA created the "Office of Gay and Lesbian Concerns"

2. At some point the UUA added "bisexual" and "transsexual" to the name and altered the mission to include them. Well, theoretically.

3. Recently, the UUA "merged" the Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Concerns in with another advocacy group at significantly reduced funding.

As far as step two goes, I'm OK with that. But is the UUA allowed to do step three? I mean, if a GA vote created something, can the UUA just get rid of it.

Polity-wise, it just seems fishy.

who asked about the on the UUA mailing list a few weeks ago and nobody else was bothered, but has remained bothered herself.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Update on last week's *headdesk*

For the first time last week, I did a legal *headdesk* rather than a criminal justice one. Clearly I shouldn't do that because unlike the elegant simplicity of the standard "Cops raid the wrong house and kill somone's dogs, police chief says they did everything right" criminal justice *headdesk*, the Clay Greene lawsuit is getting complicated.

Basically the elderly gay man who claimed he was forcibly separated from his elderly lover is being accused of domestic violence by the county that did the separating. the trial is coming up in the case this summer and it should be an interesting elder law case no matter what. I still don't see what right the county had to take Greene's stuff, even if he was abusing his partner, which certianly hasn't been proved. It seems to be that the county treated them as married for the purpose of taking Greene's possessions along with his boyfriend's, then refused to treat them as married for the purposes of allowing hospital visits, etc.

We will see.


Comcast: Worst Company in America

After several years of coming in second Comcast has finally won the's "Worst Company in America" contest.

Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of folks.

Criminal justice *headdesk* of the day: Story about cops who just HATE being videotaped ends with the story of a police officer who committed suicide after a videotaped incident hit youtube. The officer left a note saying he was just trying to "protect his men." However in that incident he was "protecting" them from a naked guy trapped on a fire escape and "protected" them by having the naked guy tasered until he fell off the building.

Ok, special bonus *headdesk* about WHY the cops hate to be videotaped. Because when they lie in their police reports about what happend, or in this case make up the circumstances of the arrest completely, they get caught.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It is "blog on the Paycheck Fairness Act Day."

So I will celebrate by doing so. The Paycheck Fairness Act is a good thing. It would allow women who are discriminated against under the Equal Pay Act to get punitive damages. This is a good thing, IMHO, since it sometimes seems like punitive damages are the only thing that corporations will listen to. Further, it makes it illegal to fire somebody for discussing their salary.

It's a pretty modest expansion of the law, and in directions that I think are reasonable.

It has already passed in the house. If you'd like to bother your senator about it, here's a canned letter that looks pretty good, or you can just contact your senator directly, which is usually more effective.


Church reviews

I am still working on my paper and was googling for information on my local megachurch to see if I could figure out if it was doing commerce of $500,000 per year for Equal Pay Act purposes.

Anyway, I stumbled on to the fact that people are reviewing that church on Google. There are reviewers who sound like the usual crackpots, actual discussions of scripture being taken out of context, and, of course, people who are very happy there. That particular church is a pretty polarizing place in my community, so it doesn't surprise me that they would attract both positive and negative attention, but wow.


Followup question on discrimination law as applied to ministerial employment

(Again, this question is also on Facebook and I am reading answers and responding both places.)

Listed below are some religiously-related jobs. Who is a minister for the purposes of your views on yesterday's discrimination question?

Jobs within a church

Senior Minister

Associate Minister

Director of Communications


Church Custodian

Director of Music


Children's Ministry Director

Director of Religious Education

Church Secretary

Church office Manager

Nursery School attendent

Seminarian working as an intern

Religious Jobs Outside of Churches

Teacher at a Religious school

Principal of a religious school

Theology teacher at a religious school

Chaplain at a hospital or nursing home

Kosher Supervisor at a hospital or nursing home (required under Jewish law to be a rabbi)

(Again, there's no right answer, even less of one than with the first question as the courts are wildly inconsistent between circuits on some of the grayer areas)

Today's *headdesk* is a legal one rather than a criminal justice one, unless you consider what the state and nursing home did theft and/or false imprisonment.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Should a fired/not-hired minister be able to sue a church for discrimination?

Please answer this poll, preferably at length, in the comments.

A. No, because who would be a good minister is entirely the church's decision and the courts and/or the government should have no say in how churches are run. Freedom of religion means that churches have a certain amount of autonomy under the constitution and if the courts/government have a say in the selection of church leaders, then the autonomy can be unduly influenced.

B. In a limited sense. If a church has a normally illegal distinction as part of its doctrine/tradition, then that part should be exempted, but nothing else should. (E.g. A Catholic church can refuse to hire Alice as a priest because Catholic doctrine/tradition requires that priests be male. But they cannot refuse to hire Father Bob because he is old* since Catholic doctrine doesn't really have anything requiring priests to be young.)

C. Yes, the cause of anti-discrimination is a very important one and demanding that churches follow the same hiring rules as any other organization only makes sense and doesn't burden religion significantly, besides, giving church organizations freedom to discriminate is not part of freedom of religion.

D. One of the above, but for another reason.

I should emphasize that this is not a law quiz. The law does currently take one of the views above and I lean toward another one, but some very bright people have argued the third view. Anyway, I'm just trying to find out what some layfolk and ministers think about this issue.

today's criminal justice *headdesk* of the day is pretty mild, but still...

EDIT: Currently the law does recognize a ministerial exemption from all discrimination laws, and even the Equal Pay Act, so the courts take position A. A lot of churches use that to get away with some nasty things, so I am trying to figure out a just way to argue for position B. Position C is that of some legal scholars I have read.

*They can, of course, refuse to hire him for any number of other reasons.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I think this is my favorite paragraph I've ever written in a law school paper

As the above-cited examples indicate, the idea that knowing that an employment action will have a negative impact on a group of people sharing a trait and taking that action anyway equates a intent is not one the Supreme Court had expressed before this. This new definition of "intent" as applied to disparate impact could serve to revolutionize disparate impact law should it be widely held as part of the holding of Ricci. That said, this point was ignored entirely by the media in the wake of Ricci and has not appeared in any law review article or other secondary source currently available on Lexis-Nexis or Westlaw, so it does not appear to be the prevailing view of the upshot of Kennedy’s choice of wording.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Chalicechick's theory on Elena Kagan

Solicitor General Kagan gets a lot of grief for being too conservative for Obama to pick her. I don't think she necessarily is, it is just that she has been running for the job of "Supreme Court Justice" for a really long time. As a potential Supreme Court Justice, she's not talking about her opinions on anything.

Except now she's the Solicitor General, and she has to talk about that. The Obama administration has adopted the Bush/Cheney theory of executive power, and Kagan has been repeatedly asked to defend that and has done so. But my guess is that her actual views, if not those on executive power on other things, are probably a lot more liberal than she gets credit for.

who would love to see Leah Ward Sears, would be quite happy with Diane Wood, but doesn't think Kagan is a bad third choice.

Awesome, awesome passive-aggressive library signs

Love them all

who is having a stressful law day and likely isn't good for anything else.

Criminal justice *headdesk* of the day, the third one to feature Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Don't miss the first six words of the third paragraph.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Law thing I'm chewing on today...

Senator Leahy: Is there a constitutional right to privacy?

(Then)Judge Ginsburg: There is a constitutional right to privacy which consists I think of at least two distinguishable parts. One is the privacy expressed most vividly in the Fourth Amendment, that is, the government shall not break in to my home or office without a warrant based on probable cause; the government shall leave me alone.

The other is the notion of personal autonomy; the government shall not make my decisions for me; I shall make, as an individual, uninhibited, uncontrolled by my government, the decisions that affect my life's course. Yes, I think whether it has been lumped under the label, privacy is a constitutional right, and it has those two elements, the right to be let alone and the right to make basic decisions about one's life course.

-Justice Ginsburg's Confirmation hearings

I am with her on the first right. On the second right, I am conflicted. In the sense that "privacy" is used in an abortion law context to mean, essentially, the right to make your own decisions about your own private affairs, I'm with her. But were we to take "privacy" by what I see as its usual meaning, the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively, I think we can get there through the common law given that Griswold v. Connecticut* more or less set the stage for it, but I'm not sure the right is constitutional exactly.



* Holding that bans on birth control to married people were illegal because of a constitutional right to privacy.

Pulitzer Prizes

I frequently disagree with the stories that are chosen to win Pulitzer Prizes*, but I really can't argue with one recent selection.

I read Gene Weingarten's Fatal Distraction when it first came out and I found it heartbreaking then. I still do.

That link is very sad and might not be for you. But it is a brilliant bit of reporting.

Pulitzer-themed criminal justice *headdesk* of the day.

* My feminism and my fairly libertarian outlook are internally arguing over the prize going to Kathleen Parker. Will let you know who wins.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The last acceptable target

One line of argument that really bugs me is when people say that a group in question is the "last acceptable target" for jokes. Most recently, someone claimed that poor white people were the last acceptable targets. I provided some alternate targets, and those targets "weren't the same" for reasons relating to Jeff Foxworthy's success in the mid nineties* and unrelated to his obscurity since.

One wonders if, in an ideal world, one would even have acceptable targets. As far as targets relating to race and culture go, we ideally probably shouldn't. At the same time, I don't particularly have a problem with having some cultural standards, though at times that leads us to cut some pretty fine distinctions. (I was telling theCSO yesterday that I don't judge "Bombshell" McGee because she dresses skankily, I judge her because she ACTS skankily, and yes, I judge Jesse James for the same thing.)

Anyway, has made my day by compiling a list of acceptable targets of various varieties. Some of them might not be acceptable among your friends, but the site generally provides enough examples that I'm persuaded that people meeting that description are to some degree targeted. Also, there are plenty of groups (people with dwarfism come to mind) that my friends wouldn't tolerate snark about, but that I totally see are comically fetishized by the larger culture.

Acceptable Cultural Targets

Acceptable Ethnic Targets

Acceptable Hard Luck Targets

Acceptable Inevitable Targets

Acceptable Lifestyle Targets

Acceptable Hobby Targets

Acceptable Nationality Targets

Acceptable political targets

Acceptable Professional Targets

Acceptable Religious Targets

Acceptable Sexual Targets

I suspect that each of those lists contain at least one group I think my circle of friends would find it acceptable to make fun of and one group that I wouldn't. (E.g. I think I can safely say that for most of the people I hang out with, making jokes about Mexicans is not acceptable, making jokes about Canadians is. Similarly, making jokes about transsexuals is not ok, making jokes about furries is. Making fun of Mormons, not cool, making fun of scientologists, ok.) One could argue that part of the difference is that different sorts of jokes are made about Canadians and Mexicans, given that Canadians are usually mocked for their politeness in a way that half comes off as the joke-teller mocking America by implication. That distinction breaks down with the second example, though.

Anyway, no one group should ever consider itself the "last acceptable target."


*Any kid who grew up about when I did knows that about the time Jeff Foxworthy became famous for insulting poor whites, the least cool rich black guy of them all, Carlton Banks from Fresh Prince of Bel Air, was going off the air. Many people who were teenagers of the early 1990s can still rap the theme song. Some sociology student has quite the dissertation topic right there.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

By request, oddly enough: Chalicechick's opinion on McDonald v. City of Chicago

(If you've ever wondered how my law school writing differs from my blog, this post is a fair mix of the two. Ok, my capitalization is usually at least somewhat more consistent in my formal writing.)

McDonald v. City of Chicago background

(Oh, and "incorporation" means taking something that the constitution says the federal government can't do and making so the states can't do it either. At this point, just about every right in the bill or rights has been incorporated--except the right to bear arms.)

The general idea here is that the Privileges and Immunities clause of the 14th Amendment was intended to include all of the rights of being an American, and one of those rights per the bill of rights is the right to bear arms. I'm not an originalist by nature-- and Due Process incorporation is a method that is far more consistent with precedent given that the court has for decades used the Due Process clause to do what the Privileges and Immunities clause was probably designed to do. That said, the Due Process method doesn't actually make as much sense, so I tend to favor a privileges and immunities clause interpretation that will effectively incorporate the right to bear arms. I tend to think both methods allow for it.

Academics widely agree that the Slaughterhouse cases, which gutted the privileges and immunities clause in the first place, were poorly decided. Further, the vague nature of some of the Due Process clause's language actually makes it a pretty poor choice for handing out rights.* Putting aside my reticence about supplanting 100 years of jurisprudence with a single case, I want to note that reviving the privileges and immunities clause allows for applications of it that a liberal court might find quite palatable, such as the right to education or even the right to health care. If we're going to muck with precedent, there's no sense in not going at it whole hog, after all.

Though I tend to agree with the argument that the original intention of the right to bear arms was militias and thus some restrictions on gun ownership are appropriate, the idea that the states are allowed to experiment on, effectively, just one of the Bill of Rights while pretty much every other one has been incorporated at this point seems inappropriate to me no matter how many scary stories of gun violence are trotted out.** I would no more vote for restrictions on free speech to be a matter for the states.


*What is 'arbitrary' is often decided, well, arbitrarily, and the word “liberty” was twisted in two entirely different directions in Roe v. Wade.

**I would favor removing the right to bear arms from the constitution entirely before I would favor not extending an existing constitutional restriction to state law . I don't favor either at the moment.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Cognitive Dissonance of the Day

Imagine what you think Rush Limbaugh's house looks like.

Now look at the reality.

Your mind, it is blown, yes?


Sunday, April 04, 2010

Best McMansion Grafitti Evah

"I am Gigantor and I hate yards and trees"

Monday, March 29, 2010


Sorry I haven't been posting much. I've been working on some big papers for school. If you have any brilliant insights on how employers can resolve the apparent catch-22 in the Ricci vs. DeStefano case, please e-mail me. Other than that, I'm going to be busy for a bit, which usually means "arguing on the internet other places."

Here's something cool though, Sady Doyle wrote 13 Ways of Looking at Liz Lemon. I liked that, though I felt she left out the key context that most of the men on the show are no prizes either. Arguably Grizz and DotCom are the most sympathetic people on the show and they are men, though minor characters.

Anyway, back to the books, at least until something that really inspires me appears.

Criminal justice *Headdesk* of the day.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A couple of overdue thoughts on Citizens United

Awhile ago, LinguistFriend e-mailed me and asked me to write about the verdict in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. I'm not delighted, but I don't feel as passionate about the "Companies being treated as people" point as lots of people do, at least partially because I am interested in expanding the definition of "person" as much as possible before the sentient robots are invented.*

From a law nerd perspective, one of the interesting things about the decision is how quickly the McConnell decision was overturned. Yet another sign that Souter's love of precedent is very much gone.

As for the upshot of the decision, I am interested in what is going to come out of the fact that the corporations still have to respect donation limits, what they are allowed to do is pay for commercials themselves, presumably with "this ad paid for by Walmart' at the end. As frequent reader of Consumers Union's blog, The Consumerist, I am constantly reminded how much Americans hate some companies.

If I were a muckety muck in the Obama campaign, I would do everything I could to convince Comcast to support Obama's opponent.


*I look forward to the Singularity like a little kid looks forward to her birthday.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Christopher's awesome comments on the "Digital Natives 2" thread

Deserve your attention.

who doesn't usually direct people to comments in older threads, but I thought these were worth it.

Weddings: Snob or reverse snob?

Brides are notorious for being snobs about who had the fanciest wedding, but I find that in UU circles, I have conversations like:

CC: Hey, swing music! I had a swing band at my wedding!

UUBride1: Oh, that's pretty extravagant. I just had a DJ...

UUbride2: We didn't want to support the Wedding Industrial complex. So for our music, the groom just played his harmonica...

UUbride3: Groom? You had a Groom?

OK, it's not quite that bad.

But (and this might be because I had a wedding with a band) that I am far more likely to hear people brag about how cheap their wedding was in a "what a purist I am" sort of way than to brag on what a fancy wedding they had. I swear I've heard like five people tell the "what a fabulous and spiritual wedding I had for just a hundred bucks, I can't imagine why anyone would spend more" speech recently.

So is this a UU thing, or is having a traditional wedding way uncool in general these days?

who, truth be told, grew up in a family so screwed up that she just wanted to do one thing just like everyone else.

And also observes that even Jesus would rather drink wine than water at a wedding.

Oh, and criminal justice *headdesk* of the day.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Note the absence of Tigers in this video...


Question of the Day

A guy is about to be executed in my state and victim's mother has given interviews to seemingly every local news source. In the interview that is running on the radio, she says that:

1. She forgives him

2. She's bringing her whole family from Texas and Ohio to VA to watch him die, and is "looking forward to Powell being executed"

Are those fundamentally inconsistent statements? To my thinking they are.

who has no problem with not forgiving someone who murdered someone you love, but if you're going to talk to the press about how you forgive them, you should actually do it.

And who thinks it is only fair to point out that this particular killer is a total piece of scum.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Digital Natives II: Trying to answer really hard questions

Dancing Hippie asked me some excellent but difficult questions in the "Digital Natives" post about what a church that moved in a Digital Native direction might look like. Before I start, I want to emphasize that this is not "Chalicechick's Decree of What You Should Do Right This Minute," merely one potential vision for the future.

DH's questions are bolded and set off.

(((But what does a social media integrated congregation mean? What aspects of church life would work in social media?)))

Being a law nerd, the aspects I am most interested in are governance aspects. I've been in a church or two where information seemed to be kept closely guarded and everybody just sort of went along with whatever the board suggested since this meant that they were the only ones who reliably knew what was going on. IMHO, this model is unsustainable in a world where people are used to a more free exchange of information and it isn't a good example of our democratic principles in action.

I don't see why our enhanced abilities to communicate with one another can't take some of the power back away from boards and committees and put it in the hands of the congregation, for example. If anyone who logs in to the member portion of the website can read the information that is given to the board and can vote on things, I think you're going to find a congregation that is more engaged and even makes better decisions.

I attended a congregation for awhile where someone literally told me that new membership ideas were well and good, but Myrtle had been membership chair for X number of years and if she didn't like the new ideas, well, we couldn't go hurting Myrtle's feelings, now could we? (Name changed to protect Myrtle.) I think that's an extreme example, but I think it is really easy for congregations to slip in to patterns like this where new ideas have to get past gatekeepers. If the whole congregation is not just allowed to make suggestions to Myrtle individually and be turned down individually, but allowed to discuss suggestions in a message-board-type area, then when lots of people think something is a good idea, it is more likely to happen, especially if they are allowed to take a vote and make it happen.*

Most of us aren't at our best in lengthy congregational meetings where all communication is verbal. Why not have a week long "meeting" where debates can happen online in a message board format and everybody votes at the end? Or why have the "meeting" once a year at all? Why not address issues as they come up?

TheCSO pointed out that so much of this sounds like an online version of the "town meeting" format that our religious ancestors liked to use. I don't think the early congregationalists had "nominating committees." Are we sure we need them now? Conversely, I don't think anyone would disagree that there are a few areas that might be exceptions. We don't all need to know how much everybody pledges, for example and I have no problem with the church staff being the only ones who know that. HR issues involving staff seem like another good example.

I know a guy with a finance resume that would knock you over who was told he couldn't be nominated to his church's endowment committee because the committee had "too many white males." I will spare you the list of reasons why this is stupid and simply say that if instead of a committee, there were a message board where people could put up ideas and convince other people to vote for the best ones, then he could have participated and likely won people over. The good ideas should be allowed to win, IMHO.

But there are lots of ways that spreading information around can be helpful to the congregation even in places you wouldn't expect. One simple thing my church does already that I think is fabulous is to send out "Joys and Concerns" from the previous week as part of a mass email to the congregation each week. When I am in church and something is announced, unless I whip out my cell phone and note it right then, I'm likely to forget. If you put "Joys and Concerns" in my e-mail box, when I read it I can easily fire off e-mails and facebook messages of congratulation or offering help, send flowers and in other ways reach out to people in a way that can carry the interaction a long way past Sunday morning.

For another example, I know the minister of a very small church that expects her to be in charge of everything. Members of her congregation say all the time "Oh, if you need something, please call" but then she has to call and hear their excuse and then call someone else, etc, etc. My suggestion was that when someone says "call me if you need anything," she should say "can I add you to my e-mail list?"

That way, if she needs an extra sitter for the choir concert or if the secretary is sick and she needs someone to run off and fold the newsletter, she sends out one email to the "Help the minister" list, people who can help respond, and she's done.

Don't know if she has implemented that.

But I think it is a good example of how not every suggestion for using technology has to be a big radical change, though I certainly suggested some big radical changes above.

(((Would a new role for pastors be to follow the tweets of members to get feedback the way a marketing departments follow some tweets?)))

Honestly, I'd say that if your church has a staff membership person, then they should probably have twitter searches already set up so on the rare occasion that someone tweets about the church they at least see it. Wouldn't you want to know what people were saying? I doubt people tweet about churches much, but when they do, would be nice if someone at the church saw that and the way to do it is with automatic searches, not reading every member's twitter feed.

Also, I had a bit of theological snark about a skit my church choir did recently and if I'd had a place to mention it to just the folks from my church, it probably wouldn't have ended up on twitter since I usually don't like to put things on my twitter feed that most of my friends won't understand.

(((I grew up as the son of a pastor and the time I had with my dad was limited enough as it was with him off at meetings and weddings and funerals all the time. How much time would I have had with him if he had to follow fb and twitter all the time in addition to these other traditional roles. Would my current church have to hire a third pastor just to minister to the tweets?))

Katy-the-Wise still does "sermon talkback" at her church. If it works the same way it did at her old church, you have a few minutes to get a cup of coffee, then Katy and interested congregants meet back in the sanctuary for an informal discussion of the sermon. If you have questions about the sermon, if you disagree or if you entirely didn't get it, you can ask the minister and everybody can talk about your question.

Some ministers view this practice as "let's attack the minister time." Some church members (i.e. jerks) try to use it that way. It never really worked with Katy because whatever you were talking about, Katy-the-Wise had thought about it more than you had and could issue an analytical smackdown if one was deserved. I don't just call her that because it sounds cool.**

Her sermon talkbacks ran between half and hour and an hour and I can honestly say that they were more spiritually helpful than anything I have ever done in Unitarian Universalism. I learned SO MUCH and developed SO MUCH spiritually from those conversations. I think back on them all the time and would love to attend a church that still has them because I got so much out of them. Indeed, when someone asks me a hard question on the Chaliceblog, I think of Katy, throw my shoulders back, and start typing. (OK, sometimes I go think about it for awhile. But the throwing shoulders back and typing occurs soon enough.)

Since my impression is that a lot of ministers feel like they are being given the third degree when talkback is done verbally, why not have an online sermon discussion running for a couple of weeks after each sermon? People with varying reactions to the sermon can show up and talk about it and clear up one another's confusions and then the minister can comment as necessary.

Depending on whether the minister wanted to provide more explanation or mostly let people who were on the right track discuss it out amongst themselves, that would take some time, but if the minister had less committee work (see above suggestions) then he/she would have time for that. And I think most ministers would RATHER have theological discussions than do committee work. My goodness, I hope they would.

That said, there are a fair number of ministers already who post their sermons on blogs that allow comments. Though some sermons get responses, Ms. Kitty's in particular seem to get discussion, "online sermon talkbacks" haven't really caught on. But then, we haven't advertised them as such. I think the idea still has potential when introduced to the congregation as a whole.

(((How would any of this make young adults feel there is anything other than RE?)))

By bringing them into decision-making that engages them as adults, by connecting them to other people in the church through discussions of things theological and not that can lead them to find things they have in common with other members, and by making church something you check into for a few minutes once a or twice a day as you're on your laptop in bed or while you're bored at work as opposed to something you do on Sundays then forget about.

(((At our church we have small group ministries aka chalice circles, so I suppose you could have a virtual chalice circle, but that doesn't sound fulfilling to me in the same way as a small group meeting during the week.)))

I certainly don't think we should get rid of in-person interactions like this one. That said, I like online discussions because I often formulate my opinions better in writing and much prefer the "read someone's three paragraphs, think about what they said for awhile as I do something else, write three paragraphs in response" approach to a verbal discussion, at least as far as this sort of thing is concerned. Also, I'm a night law student with a really irregular schedule. I've never seen a small group that was meeting at a time when I was sure I could consistently make it.

Anyway, I think we should have room for both approaches.

Indeed, I think online stuff works best when it is enhancing offline social interaction rather than replacing it. I'd love to see more inter-church online discussions of regular life stuff that could bring people together and help them realize how much they have in common and how much they will have to talk about when they see each other on Sunday.

In a side note, there's an RE class at my church that meets EVERY SPRING that I have wanted to join for THREE YEARS but that has never met on a night that my crazy-scheduled self could make it. If they offered it online, I would sign up in a second. As it is, I likely won't be able to take it until 2012.

(((I'm certainly out of the age group that Wikipedia defines for the natives, but I've also been one of those pioneers who built the technology that the natives live with, so I don't feel like I'm out of the loop, but perhaps I am.))

I was born on third base. You hit the triple. That said, I find this vision of a minimally hierarchical church that is focused on discussion and collaboration invigorating and exciting and very consistent with the way a church run by people who value what we say we value should work and I wanna go. I don't think you're out of the loop, you seem like I smart person to me and if you read this and hate all these possibilities and/or don't think they would work, well I'm just a layperson with no religious training who gave it a shot and goodness knows which one of us is right.

Time may tell, I suppose.


*I'm writing this terrifyingly aware of how lots of UUs often think something is a good idea that Chalicechick considers a bad idea. But I can accept being outvoted. Being unilaterally vetoed by Myrtles is much rougher on me.

** Very early into my UUism career, Katy gave a sermon about the nature of vulgarity, how our notions of it have changed, what it means for us to have vulgar things and what it means to use vulgarity. At sermon talkback, Chalicechick raised her hand and when called on said "Course jocosity catches the crowd."

Katy finished "Shakespeare and I are often low-browed."

I regard that moment as the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

That always bothered me, too

XKCD's awesome take on those "Porn for Women" books full of pictures of dudes mopping*.

May be non work safe depending on your workplace but I think you're good.


*Took a minute to run through the list of housekeeping chores and find the one that sounded the least like a degenerate code word. Try it. It's fun!

Fiction blog gets an update

I needed to write a story that could be read in five minutes. I wrote one. I didn't get to use it for what I wanted. So I put it here.

It currently has no title.

who has written things in the last three years, this is just the first thing to seem right for the fiction blog in a long time.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Digital Immigrants vs. Digital Natives

I've got some stuff going on that has me thinking about this distinction. I really don't like talk about generational differences and find most things people say about them to be unreasonable generalizations. That said, at least right now I'm feeling like there is an enormous gulf between people who take as a matter of course that, say, Old Navy would allow customers to post negative reviews of Old Navy products on Old Navy's website and people whom I don't think could comprehend something like that or how it could possibly be a good idea for Old Navy since obviously anything that is in public should have its message carefully controlled and optimized.

This is more than a generation gap (and indeed, I know young digital immigrants and older digital natives), though it is at times tempting to think of it as institutions being afraid to do something that will speak to young people because they are so afraid of offending old people. That's an oversimplification of the issues, though. I think the Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives fundamentally view information and the sharing of it differently, perhaps to the point that they are speaking different languages when they talk to each other about that topic.

And I don't know what to do about it. That video about social media that everyone's passing around has a few facts I find a little questionable, but the overall message is, I think, pretty inarguable.

This is something every institution is facing, but I think the challenges as far as UUism is concerned are specifically interesting because the contrast seems especially dramatic with UUs given that we talk a lot about freedom. For example, board members often like to be conservative about things like information, yet Digital Natives tend to view information, and lots of it, as crucial to the functioning of the Democratic principles that UUism preaches.

Do you see this issue as one your church is facing? How are y'all dealing with it? How should we approach it as a denomination? Will ignoring it be one more thing that convinces people my age and younger that UUism (or protestantism or Catholicism or Judaism) has nothing for them except RE?

Or is this a totally false dichotomy and am I worried over nothing? I would actually really love it if you could convince me that I'm wrong and that the transition will be smooth and this stuff is no big deal. But I don't think I am wrong.

who, obviously, gets that there will be sampling bias given her audience.

EDIT: A smart person I know read this and mentioned (on Facebook *swoon*) that there is a third category, the "Digital Babushka," who fears technology and doesn't care to learn it no matter how useful they are told it can be. She was too kind to directly say that I was effectively lumping the Babushkas in with the immigrants and judging the immigrants on the Babushkas, but I do think I did that and am rethinking where *that* line should be drawn. Suffice to say, I get that there are a lot of people of the "digital immigrant" generation who really do adapt to technology well, indeed, some of them may comment on Old Navy when they get a sweater they don't like and I had a "google race" with one of them last night.*

At the same time, theCSO works with a major publisher of peer reviewed academic journals and he sees a huge gulf between those journal editors who insist on paper publication of the journal no matter what and those who saw that paper publication was expensive, online journals can update and correct efficiently and everybody reads academic journal articles pretty much exclusively online anyway and simply made the change. I hope we as a faith, and as a culture, can be wise enough to see when taking a new opportunity is the reasonable thing to do and just go with it. I think it is harder for Digital Immigrants to put aside something, be it a paper journal or a press release, that is no longer the best option than it is for a Digital Native. But though I side with the Digital Natives and am one, if barely, simply by nature of when I was born**, I don't see the change as 100 percent positive in all circumstances and I can certainly see that Digital Immigrants have a crap job in that they are expected to keep the Natives and the Babuskas happy, a task that may be impossible. That said, I do ultimately side with the Natives in that this revolution is going to happen whether we want it to or not though, and I'd rather the institutions that I like ride the wave than get swept under to placate the Babuskas.

Obviously, this post and my opinions on the matter are works in progress.

*Where two people are talking and realize neither of them know something, so they race to see who can find the information by Googling from their cell phone first. My friends are a nerdy bunch.

**I do think I was born on third base, I don't think I hit a triple.

Sunday afternoon fluff.

I heard someplace that Madonna is planning a movie about Wallis Simpson, the former Duchess of Windsor. I know that King Edward had abdicated the throne for her and my impression was the British royal family didn't like her, but other than that, I knew nothing.

So I decided to read up on her for a bit. Ok, even WIKIPEDIA's version of this woman's life is riveting.

I can't wait for this movie.

Oh, and in other news, I used to watch "So You Think You Can Dance" and they had an entire subgenre of contestants who were freakishly good at the robot. Here's one example:

I think he Can Dance - Watch more Funny Videos


Criminal justice *headdesk* of the day. And a second one

Saturday, March 13, 2010


It's either a good thing about living in (ok, near) a city or a bad thing about living in a city that one tends to forget that stuff like Schools deciding not to have proms rather than let lesbians attend actually happens some places.

The New Orleans hotel owner offering to throw the students a free prom is a nice touch.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

AMC theaters, Chalicechick salutes you

A Neo-Con interpretation of the Seven Principles, or, why they ain't a creed

On the Election-L list some genius wrote: I believe that theological/ethical argument within the Seven Principles paradigms does not leave much flexibility toward the political Right.
Perhaps Conservatism has some proud past where legitimate concerns were raised but in my view, American Conservatism today is simply an excuse for crying: Me! Me!
Forgive me, but I just can’t identify U U with me! me!

My response:

The seven principles are not a creed, so we cannot use them to measure what is compatible with UUism and what is not.

One of the reasons the seven principles are not a creed is because they would be a crappy one because they are so vague and wishywashy that you can interpret them to mean damn near anything.

To wit:

Doesn't the inherent worth and dignity of every person include fetuses?

Doesn't justice, equality and compassion in human relations include fairly trying criminals and then executing them if that's what is just, and compassionate to the victims of the murders, and equal given that their family member was killed? How about longer prison sentences for repeat offenders so that fewer people have to be robbed, raped, etc? Where's the justice and equality in taxing working people to pay for programs for people who don't work?

Doesn't acceptance of one another mean acceptance of conservatives in the way that you accept African Americans? Would you ever insult African Americans from the pulpit? Do you say to yourselves that African Americans don't share our values culturally so it shouldn't bother us if we chase them off?

Doesn't a free and responsible search for truth and meaning mean we should continue to teach the question of evolution? If our children can responsibly search for truth and meaning in other areas, why not give them the facts about the controversy for themselves?

Doesn't the right of democratic process mean that people should be able to keep gays out of powerful positions if that's what the majority wants? If the majority isn't comfortable with gay rights, shouldn't we not be forcing gay rights on the majority?

Wouldn't the goal of world commuity with peace, liberty and justice for all be most swiftly achieved by invading the most ruthless of the world's dictatorships and installing democracies? People are suffering while we sit around and negotiate with Castro, Kim Jong Il, the Taliban, etc. Shouldn't we be doing something to help?

Doesn't respect for the interdependent web of existence mean that conservatives have a place in the world, too, and indeed that they are an important part of the process?

Anyway don't argue with the individual conclusions, I don't believe most of those things myself, I was just making the point that a fairly extreme conservative could interpret the seven principles to their liking very, very easily. That's why we shouldn't use it for a creed. I don't want to speak for actual conservative UUs, but I will see if I can find one willing to write his/her own take on the seven principles. Suffice to say, I'm sure they could.


Sunday, March 07, 2010

Interim Ministers: The FAQ

I wrote this for my church's facebook discussion group, but I'd like to get lots of educated and thoughtful eyes on it before I wave it around as correct. Please critique and comment, though I'm not crediting my blog readers in the final version as I like to maintain the delusion that at least two or three people at my church don't know I'm Chalicechick. And I'm anonymizing my church for the two or three blog readers who don't know where I go to church.

Blogging's no fun if you take all the mystery out of it.

What is this?
It's a list of questions people may have about the interim process and the best answers I could find for those questions. I attended the “meet with somebody from the interim search committee” thing after church this week, so I started with questions that were asked there and just sort of followed them out logically.

Why are you qualified to write this?
Formally, I'm not, but I have listened to people's concerns and I talked to a UU minister or two about it. The minister buddy or buddies is/are in no way affiliated with this church and I'm not on the board or any search committee. I consider that independence from the process a qualification of sorts. Also, I'm an employment law nerd, though ministerial employment hasn't come up in any of my classes.

Where are you getting your information?
Some from the UUA website, some from other ministers, all heavily interpreted by me. Assume that answers about facts are formally researched and answers about reasons why we do things are educated conjecture. Some of my research comes from the UUA's handbook on transitional ministry, which is on the UUA website here:

Feel free to argue with me in the comments. If I'm wrong about something I will fix it and any errors are mine, not my friends'.

What's an interim minister and why do we need one?
When a minister leaves a church it is like an (ideally amicable) divorce or breakup. Many people who get divorced feel a sudden need to find someone new and get immediately married again. More to the point, their view of what a marriage is like, what roles a spouse plays in the marriage and the faults their spouse has that they want to avoid are all intertwined with who the ex-spouse was and what he/she was like.

An interim minister who will just be there for a year or two gives the congregation an experience with a different sort of minister and enforces a period of breathing space and self-examination. It will give us a chance to get a bit of perspective on what sort of permanent minister we want. After all, our current minister's style of ministry seems to work fine here, but his style is not the only style, so letting the church see someone with a different style might have us finding a style of ministry we like even more.

If we love the interim minister can we hire him/her?
It is against the UUA's rules to do that. Technically it is possible to flout those rules, but the UUA really frowns on it. If we did that, the minister we chose would have a lot of trouble finding another job after he/she left or church and frankly we would look like jerks who don't think the rules apply to us in the eyes of other churches.

Why does the UUA have rules against hiring an interim minister permanently?
Primarily because being an interim minister is not supposed to be a two-year job interview. For one thing, a lot of churches lose ministers in the first place because there's something wrong with them. My impression is that this isn't true in our case, but, for example, a church could be effectively run by an inner circle that lets no one else have any power and decides whether a minister goes or stays. A good interim minister could come in, shake things up and make the church's leadership more inclusive, take the heat for all those changes and then leave, allowing the new settled minister to proceed forward with a church that is better run without having to take the blame for being the one who shook things up.

Conversely, if the interim minister wants to BECOME the settled minister, making those changes, even if they are needed, is not in the job candidate's best interest. If the interim really wants the job, the interim will spend all their energy keeping the “inner circle” happy since that's the easiest way to get the job.

But I don't think the problems have to be as huge as domination by a few people for a good interim to be helpful and I think a good interim will give our church, which does run fine, a little tune up so it will run even more smoothly.

Wouldn't it make more sense to have a process more like tenure, where a minister would “try out” for two years then be “really” installed?
For a variety of reasons, including those above, that's not how the UUA rolls. Keep in mind that not all ministers leave under the happy circumstances or minister is leaving under. Ministers die, some churches fire ministers (which always leads to lots of drama), etc, etc, and soforth. Big groups of people are not necessarily more rational than individuals and shouldn't make a choice as important as a settled minister when they are still reeling from a shock.

Further, interim ministers move every few years by choice or they would have a different job. If we hire a regular settled minister, have him/her move to our area, have his/her spouse get a new job and his/her kids change schools, then we better have a damn good reason to, two years in say "Actually, we think we can do better, you're fired."

How long will we have an interim minister for?
Two years. Most churches do either one or two years. Since our current minister was there for so long, getting perspective will likely be a longer process, so our church's selection to take two years really makes more sense.

What if we still haven't found the right person after two years?
Then we get a different interim minister. I think that's what our RE minister did during her leave of abscence, serving in the church in the city where her grandchildren live for the third year while the church finalized their search. I hear really great things about the minister where she spent that year, so clearly it worked out for the best.

Do you think our well-known former minister could come back? How about the interim from the RE minister's leave of abscence? That really good intern we had?
Again, the UUA rules generally support getting in somebody new. Also, the interim and the intern have other jobs now and my guess is that he well-known former minister likes being retired or he would have another job because he's pretty well-loved in the denomination.

How do we chose an interim minister?
There's an interim minister committee that has already been selected. The UUA will look at the list of interim ministers, poll the interim ministers about who wants go where and provide the our interim minister committee with a list of three names. If the committee likes none of those people the UUA will provide more. They will be guided through the process and make their selection. Then the board votes. (This is a simplified version, a less simplified version is available on request.)

Are those our only options?
Nope, though they would be a logical choice. I heard today that the guy the church had between our minister and his predecessor wasn't an AIM and he was really good. That said, the UUA doesn't make up rules and processes just to be amusing. They have a pretty good idea what works long-term on a congregational and denomination-wide level and we should probably trust the process unless we have a really good reason not to.

Will the congregation get to see several of the interim minister candidates?
Nope. Just the person that the board hires.

Mostly to keep the process simple. I will confess that I have polity concerns about that one, though. As I mentioned above, the interim minister sometimes needs to kick butt and take names, and it isn't like the board would be inclined to chose the best person to do that. That said, my impression is that most individual members of our church pretty much trust the board and go along with whatever the board tells them, so it is likely that a congregational vote would be a rubber stamp. And my guess is the ministers who are best at fixing up dysfunctional churches are pretty good at sneaking past dysfunctional boards.

How does one get on the committee to pick the interim minister?
The board has already selected them. If they didn't select you, that ship has sailed.

How does one get on the committee to pick the settled minister?
After the interim is settled, there will likely be a special congregational meeting to vote on the search committee.

Get somebody to nominate you at the congregational meeting. There will be a slate of candidates put forth by a nominating committe there, but nominations from the floor are allowed under our bylaws. You can also nominate yourself beforehand, but the slate of candidates at the meeting will have been cut down anyway, so you might as well just nominate yourself at the meeting. Getting cut would be an embarassment after all.

What makes a good candidate for the search committee for a settled minister?

I'm going to let a passage from the UUA's Settlement Handbook field that one:

· Known and respected by others in the congregation
· More strongly committed to the congregation as a whole than to any subgroup
· Well informed about the demands and time requirements of search committee membership. Members should promise to attend every meeting, and to give about
250-400 hours over the coming year
· Balanced by sex, age, interests, and tenure of membership to reflect the diversity of the congregation. Major areas of church life such as religious education, social action, property management, finance, and music should be represented by participants, not partisans
· Balanced by attributes: organizational ability, broad theological awareness, computer
· Not paid members of the church staff
· Pledged to conduct a search that is fair and nondiscriminatory with respect to race, color, disability, sex, sexual orientation, age, and national origin
· Committed to maintain confidentiality and to seek consensus
· Capable of both self-assertion and compromise
· Not prone to extreme reactions to ministers. The previous ministers’ strongest
supporters or opponents are rarely the best choice
· Well suited to teamwork: a search committee is no place for Lone Rangers!

It is easier to field such a committee by actively recruiting volunteers than by passively accepting them. And of course, nothing will testify to a congregation’s commitment to diversity more clearly than a committee constituted of diverse souls themselves committed to increased congregational diversity. A seat on the committee is not the way to get a newcomer more involved, or to appease a chronic malcontent. Alternate and ex-officio membership are discouraged; each search committee member should participate fully. If one or two members must resign after the committee has begun it is usually best not to replace them. During the search, members should be released from other major duties in the congregation. One member(normally the chair) should be assigned as a board liaison, but should not be a board member.

Anyway, if that's you, you should nominate yourself.