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Coalition of the Chillin
THIS IS MY VIRTUAL LIVING ROOM. COME ON IN AND SAY HELLO. THE BAR IS OVER IN THE CORNER -- HELP YOURSELF, BUT MIND YOUR MANNERS.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
The Coalition, which includes some really heavy-duty people, has a Manifesto and everything, including tee shirts, and only a day after its establishment, the liberals are in a dither, mounting a counter-coalition!!
The Manifesto reads thus:
Whereas we, the Coalition of the Chillin', think a lot of people are having a cow over this filibuster deal, we submit the following to our fellow Republicans, and Americans of other political stripes:
it's sometimes better to settle things in a bipartisan manner;
we're getting up and down votes on three very controversial appointees, and that's three more than we had before this deal;
the Republicans may want the filibuster preserved somewhere down the line;
the media and the Democrats would have clubbed us to death if we went nuclear, and we don't want a repeat of the '98 midterms; and most importantly,
Frodo and Bilbo both could have killed Gollum, but didn't, and he ended up destroying the One Ring, proving for all eternity that restraint can be a very good thing, indeed.
(I thought that was a nice chillin' color -- ice blue)
We also have this cool logo:
The Deaf Accountant
The kingpin asks the accountant, "Where is the 10 million bucks you embezzled from me?" The attorney, using sign language, asks the accountant where the 10 million dollars is hidden.
The accountant signs back: "I don't know what you are talking about." The attorney tells the kingpin, "He says he doesn't know what you're talking about."
The kingpin pulls out a 9 mm pistol, puts it to the accountant's temple, and says: "Ask him again!"
The attorney signs to the underling:"He'll kill you for sure if you don't tell him!"The accountant signs back: "The money is in a brown briefcase, buried behind the shed in my cousin Enzio's backyard in Queens!"
The kingpin asks the attorney: "What'd he say?"
The attorney replies,"He says you don't have the guts to pull the trigger."
The Art of the Retort
#5: A flight attendant was stationed at the departure gate to check tickets. As a man approached, she extended her hand for the ticket and he opened his trench coat and flashed her. Without missing a beat....she said, "Sir, I need to see your ticket not your stub."
#4: A lady was picking through the frozen turkeys at the grocery store, but she couldn't find one big enough for her family. She asked a stock boy, "Do these turkeys get any bigger?" The stock boy replied,"No ma'am, they're dead."
#3: The cop stops a kid for speeding, walks to the driver's window and says, "I've been waiting for you all day." The kid replies,"Yeah, well I got here as fast as I could." When the cop finally stopped laughing, he sent the kid on his way without a ticket.
#2: A truck driver fails to heed a sign that reads, "Low Bridge Ahead." Before he knows it, the bridge is right ahead of him and he gets stuck under the bridge. A police officer arrives on the scene and says to the truck driver, "Got stuck, huh?" The truck driver says, "No, I was delivering this bridge and ran out of gas."
#1 SMART ASS ANSWER OF THE YEAR 2004:A college teacher reminds her class of tomorrow's final exam. "Now class, I won't tolerate any excuses for you not being here tomorrow. I might consider a nuclear attack or a serious personal injury or illness, or a death in your immediate family, but that's it, no other excuses whatsoever!" A guy in the back of the room raised his hand and asked, "What would you say if tomorrow I said I was suffering from complete and utter sexual exhaustion?" The entire class is reduced to laughter and snickering. When silence is restored, the teacher shakes her head and says,"Well, I guess you'd have to write the exam with your other hand."
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
No Squish Here
I turned her off because, while ranting (like all the other right-wing talking heads) at the Gang of Seven Republican (insert favorite epithet here) for their participation in forging a filibuster compromise, she called them "Squishes."
Although the term does not appear to have found its way into the nascent encyclopedias of political jargon quite yet (perhaps I shall attempt to craft a definition for Wikipedia), the word is used, typically, by the unswerving conservative to describe a Republican whose ideology is suspect. Thus, such a Republican gets "squishy" when reluctant to toe the conservative party line. His ideology is soft. He is susceptible to wavering. He is unreliable. Or, as we are seeing these past few days, he is a RINO (Republican in name only), ironically one of the least "squishy" beasts alive.
Hence, in 1997 following the first two years of the conservative "revolution," the Heritage Foundation lamented the presence of a number of Republican moderate "squishes."
To one who regards himself as a conservative, "squish" is a most uncomplimentary epithet. For instance, a young student of Indiana University Law School and member of the Indiana Federation of College Republicans protested such vilification thusly:
"Those who know me can imagine how surprised I was to read HR and discover that I was being lumped into a catagory of "squishy" Republicans along with the other members of the IFCR leadership. As a supporter of the conservative/YAF takeover of the IU CR's in the early 90s, a former staffer with John Hostettler, and one who received death threats and constant vilification in the Indiana Daily Student for opposing the public funding of the Gay, Lesbian Culture Center at IU, I found this amusing." Well hear hear!! The nerve of HR.
At the other end of the power spectrum, even George W. Bush has been branded by some bloggers as a "conservative squish." And Dan Kennedy, writing for that bastion of conservatism, the Boston Pheonix, described George H.W. Bush as "a well-known squish — a conservative whose moderate tendencies made him ever suspect in the eyes of the hard right."(emphasis supplied). Finally, to prove that not even the most tried and true right-winger is immune from the tar and feathers, the Federal Observer pasted Trent Lott with the label!
So then, as one who advocated from the outset that compromise was preferable to the "nuclear option" -- and mind you, at a time when Senator Frist had the cards to do so firmly in his grasp -- I blanched at the implication of Princess Laura that I was a "squish" if I was in favor of conciliation over confrontation, compromise over combat.
So today I have turned to political scholars and historians, intellectuals and pundits, to seek the genuine definition of conservatism, so that I could measure myself against it.
In my search, I came upon an essay by Russell Kirk, one of the foremost conservative intellectuals of the century, whose 1953 book The Conservative Mind “gave American conservatives an identity and a genealogy and catalyzed the postwar movement,” according to **gasp** The New York Times. His essay, Ten Conservative Principles, adapted from his book, The Politics of Prudence (1993), sets forth a concise catalogue of fundamental principles which, he posits, are the foundation of the conservative:
First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order.
Second, the conservative adheres to custom, convention, and continuity.
Third, conservatives believe in what may be called the principle of prescription.
Fourth, conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence.
Fifth, conservatives pay attention to the principle of variety.
Sixth, conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectability.
Seventh, conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked.
Eighth, conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism.
Ninth, the conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions.
Tenth, the thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society.
Well I'll climb on Mr. Kirk's words any day, and leave it to Laura to dissemble them as she is wont to do. Judged against Russell Kirk's principles, I venture to say that --why -- Laura Ingraham is a SQUISH herself!!
Also in the course of my research this morning, Google pointed me to Professor Bainbridge, who is one of those very smart people on my blogroll who I don't read as often as I should. It turns out that he feels the same way I do, and even had referenced Mr. Kirk's essay in his recent post in which, with great humor and restraint, he defended himself from the onslaught of those righties who were calling him names much less dainty than "squish."
The prof does it quite well, so to conserve time (and be a tad lazy), here is his citation to Kirk and following comment:
"'Conservatives are champions of custom, convention, and continuity because they prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t know. ... Burke’s reminder of the necessity for prudent change is in the mind of the conservative. But necessary change, conservatives argue, ought to he gradual and discriminatory, never unfixing old interests at once.
... In politics we do well to abide by precedent and precept and even prejudice, for the great mysterious incorporation of the human race has acquired a prescriptive wisdom far greater than any man’s petty private rationality.
... Any public measure ought to be judged by its probable long-run consequences, not merely by temporary advantage or popularity. Liberals and radicals, the conservative says, are imprudent: for they dash at their objectives without giving much heed to the risk of new abuses worse than the evils they hope to sweep away. As John Randolph of Roanoke put it, Providence moves slowly, but the devil always hurries. '
"The filibuster is a profoundly conservative tool. It slows change by allowing a resolute minority to delay - to stand athwart history shouting stop. It ensures that change is driven not "merely by temporary advantage or popularity" but by a substantial majority. Is it any wonder that it has usually been liberals who want to change or abolish the filibuster rule?"
So, my conservative friends, how do you measure up against Mr. Kirk's principles? Are you a really a conservative?
Or are you a squish?
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
On "Framing the Issue"
I was satisfied to leave it at that, since the point was reasonably clear, and quite uncontroversial, I thought. But I received a comment to that post -- I think the comment and my response to it deserve a more open exposure, so here it is:
Right. The Commonwealth should take money from us taxpayers and give it to sectarian religious schools. Good point. And I definitely see how the current neutral funding situation is pretty much exactly analogous to Native Laws from the 1670's.
Brilliant, brilliant analysis. "
Now, I am as prone to sarcasm as anyone, but sarcasm and arrogance together are, well, unattractive -- I try to avoid using one with the other, it's impolite. But sarcasm, arrogance and IGNORANCE, well that is a deadly combination.
I am compelled to deconstruct "worldcitizen's" comment:
First of all, my brief comment was not analysis, merely an observation. The observation was limited to the fact that the Anti-aid Amendment was enacted by a political party notorious for its religious bigotry, for the singular purpose of thwarting the education of Catholics in their own schools (having been subject to gross bigotry in the protestant-run public schools -- see below). I thought it was equally as worthy of repeal as the Native American Ban.
Moreover, I did not advocate that the Commonwealth "take money from us taxpayers and give it to sectarian schools." That is a conclusion that worldcitizen believes (apparently) would result from a repeal of the Anti-aid Amendment. It has always been the primary manner of "framing the issue" that the opponents of repeal have offered (teachers unions foremost among them -- those bastions of taxpayer protection), and it is a red herring.
So let's put it right out in the open: The repeal of the amendment will not result, per force, in one dime of public money going to sectarian schools. It will permit the legislature to discuss and consider educational choice programs that are otherwise consistent with the First Amendment's separation of church and state, and those programs include vouchers for the children of Massachusetts taxpayers to use any way they can(which is not what I call "taking money from taxpayers and giving it to sectarian schools").
Oh the horrors that would ensue from letting our elected representatives consider such measures!
But more on that in a moment. Since worldcitizen finds my brief comment to have constituted an analogy between "the current neutral funding situation" and Native Laws from the 1670's, I shall offer for him (as it was plain enough to me in the original comment) the analogy that is perfectly apt.
Here are the similarities as I see them:
- Native American tribes living in Massachusetts in the 1670's were shunned and excluded by the colonists. So too were immigrant Catholics shunned and excluded by the protestants in power in the 1800's.
- Colonists passed a legal measure that banned Native Americans from enjoying the same privilege as colonists -- to be free to be present in the City of Boston. The Know Nothings passed a measure in the mid-1800's that banned Catholics (okay, let's just say "the Irish") from enjoying the same privilege (not right, privilege) as protestants were enjoying for decades-- to have their educational system funded (in any part) with public money. This privilege they sought not because they necessarily wanted to educated their children independently from the rest of Boston, but because ther bigotry, hatred and violence visited upon the children in the public schools was too much for them to endure.
Here are the dissimilarities:
- The vestige of colonial law being repealed has had no effect on Native Americans for hundreds of years. Its presence "on the books" is an accident of history -- a forgotten afterthought. Its repeal is entirely "symbolic." There are no Native American Indians being barred from entering the City of Boston.
- The Anti-aid Amendment continues to have effect significantly beyond the reasonable limitations of the First Amendment (see below). And the Amendment threatens to leave a group of children outside-looking-in as school-choice initiatives gain in popularity and support. Its repeal, while removing a symbol of the ugly bigotry of a past century, is both symbolic and real. Children whose parents seek better educations for their children are being denied alternatives -- and the legislature has not the power to consider them.
Perhaps worldcitizen pounces on my theme because he is a member of the educational establishment and is engrossed in Wirzburger v. Galvin, (Boyette v. Galvin, 311 F. Supp. 2d 237 (D. Mass. 2004), appeal docketed, sub nom. Wirzburger v. Galvin, No. 04-1625 (1st Cir., April 29, 2004), the current litigation now under advisement at the First Circuit Court of Appeals in which proponents of vouchers have challenged both the anti-aid amendment and a later-enacted amendment which rendered this putrid provision immune from the citizen petition process. If successful, their case will weaken the anti-aid amendment's impregnable shield against the institution of school vouchers, and hence in worldview's world view, result in the immediate and unalterable ruination of public education as we know it.
But that's up to the legislature to consider and decide, isn't it? Isn't that what legislatures are for? Or do we simply continue to immunize them from being sucked into the debate on such a thorny issue, and allow this vestige of dark cruelty and hatred to inform our statewide educational policy for eternity? How cowardly and wrong.
For those readers who have not been exposed to the events of the times in which the anti-aid amendment was adopted, here is a brief overview, courtesy of Richard Fossey , J.D., Ed.D. and Robert LeBlanc, Ed.D., authors of "Vouchers for Sectarian Schools after Zelman: Will the First Circuit Expose Anti-Catholic Bigotry in the Massachusetts Constitution?" (link here) (quotation marks and footnotes omitted). If you care to scan, I have highlighted the particularly offensive parts.
The Massachusetts anti-aid provision, which was adopted by state voters in 1855, had first been approved by the Massachusetts legislature when it was overwhelmingly dominated by the anti-Catholic Know Nothing Party. According to John R. Mulkern, a professor at Babson College and author of The Know-Nothing Party of Massachusetts: The Rise and Fall of a People’s Movement, Massachusetts state government in the mid-1850s was blatantly anti-Catholic. The Know-Nothing Party of the 1850s "had its roots in the anti-Catholic, anti-foreign Native American movement of the 1840s." The party derived its name from the fact that "its members were sworn to deny knowing anything about its existence," and the party reflected a broad-based hostility toward the Irish that existed in Massachusetts at that time.
In 1854, Mulkern explained, the Know-Nothing Party of Massachusetts swept into power in a landslide election. "Every constitutional state officer, the entire congressional delegation, all forty state senators, and all but 3 of the 379 representatives [of the state legislature] bore the Know-Nothing stamp." In addition, a Know-Nothing candidate won the Massachusetts governor’s office with a 63 percent majority of the vote, carrying all but twenty of the state’s more than 300 towns.
Citing from his book, Mulkern described the anti-Catholic activities of this outrageously bigoted political party. Working together, the Governor and legislature passed legislation mandating "a daily reading of the King James Bible in the public schools (which was offensive to Catholics)," dismissing Irish state workers, banning the teaching of foreign languages in the public schools, and limiting public office to native-born citizens. In addition, the legislature approved a proposed constitutional amendment to bar Roman Catholics from holding public office.
In 1854, the Know-Nothing dominated legislature overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment prohibiting the use of any public money for the benefit of any religious school. The provision was submitted to Massachusetts voters, who passed it by a comfortable margin in 1855. This provision became Article XVIII of the Massachusetts Constitution; and, according to Mulkern, "was based on nativist and anti-Catholic bias and intended to preserve native-born Protestant dominance."
According to Dr. Charles Glenn, a professor at Boston University and author of The Myth of the Common School, anti-Catholic sentiment was a major factor in the development of the common schools in Massachusetts in the mid-1850s. A major goal of these schools, as Glen discussed more fully in his book, was to assimilate Catholic school children into American Protestant culture. In fact, the Boston School Committee made this goal explicit in an 1850 document that stressed the assimilation agenda of the Protestant-dominated school authorities:
"We must open the doors of our school houses and invite and compel them to come in. There is no other hope for them or for us . . . In our Schools they receive moral and religious teaching, powerful enough if possible to keep them in the right path amid the moral darkness which is their daily and domestic walk . . . . unless we can redeem this population in their childhood by moral means, we must control them by force, or support them as paupers at a maturer period of life."
Thus, the Boston School Committee made daily Bible reading a mandatory part of the school day in 1851; and the Know-Nothing-dominated state legislature adopted a law to that effect in 1855. Catholics found this practice offensive, since school authorities used the King James Bible for these daily exercises and not the Catholic approved Douay Bible.
An incident referred to as the "Eliot School Rebellion" illustrates the Protestant dominance of public education in Boston during the 1850s. On March 1859, a teacher at Boston’s Eliot School ordered Thomas Whall, a Catholic school boy, to read the Ten Commandments from the King James Bible. Whall refused, having been admonished by his father not to do so. An assistant to the school principal then stepped into the classroom and informed the class, "Here’s a boy that refuses to repeat the Ten Commandments, and I will whip him till he yields if it takes the whole forenoon." The administrator then beat Whall severely with a rattan stick for half an hour.
At the conclusion of this beating, the Eliot School principal ordered all boys not willing to read from the King James version of the Bible to leave the school, and about 100 Catholic schoolboys were discharged. The following day, three hundred Catholic school boys were discharged from school for the same offense. This then was the environment in which the voters of Massachusetts adopted a constitutional amendment barring any public aid to sectarian schools. ....
There you have it, in a nutshell. I ask you, is this a legacy we should defend?
Of course not. And lest anyone in Massachusetts be concerned that the public coffers are going to be left wide open to the Sisters of Saint McGillicuddy, let us bear in mind that the Massachusetts legislature is 90% Democrats, and the public employee unions are a very powerful lobby-- it took a considerable period of time for charter schools to get a foothold here, and the results have been mostly positive. I think it is a fair conclusion that the expansion of charter schools with the blessing of the legislative leaders is due in large measure to the will of the constituencies involved -- the parents of children who demand alternatives to what hasn't been working, many of them from poorer communities or minority neighborhoods. Who cares what the faith of the people involved is. As long as kids are getting improved access to improved education, and no sectarian teaching is going on, isn't that more important than preserving the public education establishment by means --in part-- of the Know Nothing Amendments?
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Sound too outrageous to be true? Yes it does. It isn’t true.
Neither is this one:
"MARINDELL, CA—Ten-year old Steven Jaffe thought that he'd found the perfect Christmas present for his best friend Matthew Padilla: a Godzilla "Disco Forever" action figure. But just days before he'd planned to surprise Steven with the $500 toy, officials at his Northern California elementary school circulated a list of banned holiday booty.
To Steven's surprise, his Godzilla action figure made the list, as did any toy, film, or image of the monster reptile. The reason: Godzilla contains the word 'God,' and He has no place in the classroom say Marindell educators."
There is no municipality in California named “Marindell.” While there are several Bryant Elementary Schools listed in Google, none are located in “Marindell, CA.” (one is located within the San Francisco Unified School District, which raised my suspicions momentarily).There is no Marcia Neiman-Jarvis. The second report mentions that the “god” incident was discussed on Hannity & Colmes program “Take Back America.” It wasn’t (although a not-so-similar incident at a real school was).
It’s all the fiction of The Swift Report, a website without description, identification or address. I have emailed “Cole Walters,” the “educational correspondent who purportedly wrote the stories. I have received no response from him.
The clues to the articles' falsity are by no means subtle. Three year olds don't go to kindergarten, and typically can't spell anything -- even "dog." The notion that a school would notify "local authorities" under such circumstances is Orwellian. A ten year old doesn't buy a $500 toy for his friend (okay, maybe in Marindell, CA, he does).
We live in a world where, increasingly, truth is sometimes stranger than fiction; and the internet is a facile tool for those who, for whatever motivation, design to blur the line beyond distinction. In the “God” piece, Walters even includes a link to a pdf of the purported memorandum from Principal Neiman-Jarvis to teachers – complete with coffee mug stain.
Does “Mr. Walters” write to parody? Is his satire just that dry? Is he a member of the Christian Right, trying to shock his audience to recognize the natural result of unrestrained political correctness? Or is he a leftie, trying to plant phoney stories to embarrass righties who naively repeat what they (not so discerningly) read?
Or is he just an artist of the writing craft, presenting fiction in a form of fact, a sort of verbal Tromp l'oeil, for the purpose of challenging us to examine our own perceptions of reality?
Go to the Swift Report, check it out, and tell me what you think.
UPDATE: Well HAVEN'T I BEEN THE FOOL! After posting this piece and running out to some afternoon appointments, I began to realize I hadn't looked at the rest of the Swift Report site. When I returne home, I looked at the Swift site's other articles, and discovered their OBVIOUS (and hilarious) PARODY of the Dirty Texas Cheerleading story.
Then I received this COMMENT from Adam at Universal Hub:
"You need to renew your Globe subscription :-).Alex Beam wrote about the Swift Report
Fair point! But for the record, May 12th was my 21st wedding anniversary. On all wedding anniversaries, I suspend reading of all daily newspapers.
BRAVO, Ms. Berkshire!
Saturday, May 21, 2005
Over one hundred years later, when the Massachusetts Constitution was adopted in 1780, that ancient colonial law (and who knows how many others) was rendered moot, and became one of those obscure relics of history that is noted only by PhD's and history buffs.
Or so one might have thought. It turns out that the obscure and irrelevant colonial law has been a bone of contention for quite some time, and nearly ten years after a group of Northeastern tribes first began lobbying for its repeal, the Massachusetts Great and General Court finally got around to obliging them.
What got them off the snide after all that time?
The possibility that Unity: Journalists of Color Inc., an organization of minority journalists, might exclude Boston as a possible site for their annual convention.
From the Boston Globe:
"What brought the law recent attention was the possibility that Unity might exclude Boston from its list of finalists for a future convention. Unity represents African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic, and Native American journalists.
"Patty Talahongva, a Unity board member and a member of the Native American Journalists Association, said she could not consider recommending Boston for a Unity convention unless the law is repealed.
"'I can't even consider Boston if there's a law on the books that bans my membership from being there,' she said. 'Yes, it's archaic. Yes, it's ridiculous. But why does this law still exist?'
"Joanne Dunn, executive director of the North American Indian Center of Boston, said of the Legislature's action: 'It's a good day. It's very symbolic. It can bring some closure to a dark part of history that is unfortunately part of Boston.'"
Yes, it is ridiculous. It is symbolic. It is about the "perception" of Boston, not its reality. There is no "law on the books" that bans her membership from being in Boston. The suggestion itself is preposterous.
There are enough real, current incidents for advocates of inclusion to focus on -- but pressing for the repeal of an ancient, irrelevant colonial law just diverts attention from real issues and conveys the impression that "symbolism" and "perception" are more important than real progress.
But now that the legislature has seen fit (after 9 years) to repeal this vestige of perceived prejudice, perhaps they can (finally) take up an honest discussion of repealing the "anti-aid" amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution, enacted by the Know Nothing Party in the mid-1800's as a vicious attack on Catholics that thwarted their efforts to get the same treatment in education funding as the protestant-run schools were enjoying at the time.
The lasting result of this prejudice is that, under the Massachusetts "anti-aid" amendment, faith-based private schools cannot even accept a donation of used, discarded text books from public entities, a prohibition that falls disproportionately on Catholic parochial schools. And in attempt after attempt after attempt, a Constitutional amendment to right this wrong has been opposed by public employee unions and the public education establishment.
Now that is a symbolism, and a reality, that is an outrage.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Pervis the Cheapskate
First year they was wed, Pervis took Martha the county fair, down Scarborough. That was the year Ephron Barrows had brought his bi-plane over, offering rides for $5 each, so's to raise some money for the DAR.
Martha had always wanted to ride in a plane, and particular wanted Ephron to do one of them barrel rolls. She commenced to naggin' Pervis awful.
Now Pervis had his hand in his pocket with a death grip on his money, and Ephron wuhn’t thrilled with the idea of Pervis and his wife riding up there. He knew Pervis would be running his mouth about how ‘spensive the silly ride was. So Ephron got an idea, and he said to Pervis:
“Puh-vis, tell you wut. I’ll take the payah of you up, and if you keep yer pie hole shut for the whole roid, I won’t chahge you a doym. But one peep out of you, and you pay the full freight, ten dollahs.”
Pervis was sold, and Martha couldn’t wait to climb into that plane. So into the plane they climbed, Ephron up front, Martha in the middle and Pervis at the rear. And up they went.
Well Ephron gave them a good ‘un, saving the best for last, performing an impressive series of barrel rolls, durin the last of which, Martha’s belt slipped and out she went.
Ephron finished the flight and didn’t see till he landed that they’d lost Martha.
“Puh-vis, fuh Gawd’s sake, why didn’t you speak up!!!!!!!”
“Well Ephron, nuthin much we coulda done once we lost huh, and ten dollahs is ten dollahs!”
I have developed, over the course of many years, a sometimes-endearing impulse to tell stories that reflect the New England dry wit, charm and humor. Some might describe them as Yankee tales; I prefer the term "Down-east hew-muh." It all stahtid when my father exposed my brothers and I to the very first "Bert & I" record, probably as long ago as the 1960's (around the same time he introduced us to the recordings of Bill Cosby and Bob Newhart). For the uninitiated, "Bert & I" represents a collection of Down-east Maine tales told by Marshall Dodge and Robert Bryan with their imitable Down-east drawls and dry yankee wit.
As time went on, my father assembled his own repertoire of stories, borrowing from the folklore of the times, based around his own character, whom he dubbed "Pervis Webbah." My oldest brother and I soon got into the practice as well, each of us developing our own escapades for the ineffable Pervis.
Of course, these stories are best told orally, so as to convey not only the dialect, but the timing and inflection that are the essences of storytelling. But I am wondering if they can be related in print, with the careful employment of spelling to convey the dialect.
So I am going to try it out. Please feel free to provide me with your frank critiques of this effort, as it unfolds. I will attempt a first post in the coming days.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
What bothered me about the case was that a man would sue his lover for something that happened during an act of such intimacy -- unless she did not object. As Volokh points out, the injury would likely be one that she would be insured for, under the personal liability endorsement of either a standard homeowner's or tenant's policy. It would not be fraudulent, necessarily, as the injury is (most certainy) real.
Volokh makes the excellent point that "the prospect of litigation involving experts on how reasonable people have sex , debates about how sexually expert we should expect the reasonable person to be, attempts to reconstruct exactly who moved how and why, and jury verdicts about how the Reasonable Sexual Partner would have had Reasonable Sex boggle the mind." I agree entirely.
But the case raises another sore spot with me, and that is the absence of the affirmative defense of "assumption of risk." In the former common law, a person who engaged in an activity that a reasonable person should have know would be potentially dangerous, assumed the risk of injury, and thereby completely absolves the negligent party (but not necessarily the reckless or intentional party) of liability. Thus, a hockey player could not sue his opponent for hitting him in the mouth with a puck (an actual case).
This affirmative defense fell by the wayside in most jurisdictions as liability insurance became available and the concept of comparative negligence took hold. With comparative negligence, the fact finder would be responsible for apportioning the relative degree of fault between the parties, and the party liable (50%+)would pay only his share. If the fact finder found the plaintiff more than 50% at fault, he could not recover. This works fine in most instances, except where multiple parties are involved, in which case you could have a situation where one defendant could be adjudged 10% negligent and another defendant 41% negligent, and the plaintiff 49% negligent -- yet the plaintiff would recover against both defendants. If the majority defendant were judgment proof, the 49% negligent plaintiff could recover 51% of his damages from the 15% defendant --how's that fair?.
While the application of multiple-party comparative negligence to the issue of sex is intriguing, I shall resist.
I mean only to point out that the Moe v. Doe case is another fitting example of where assumption of risk could have been rather neatly applied -- if one accepts that, in this day and age where couples are freely enabled to engaged in their own gymnastic interludes, sexual activity can be deemed inherently dangerous?
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
The (purported) basis for the unfortunate gentleman's lawsuit is that his partner was negligent in the (ahem) manner that she engaged in their activity, and her negligence resulted in injury to him. For a cause of action in negligence to lie, she has to owe him a "duty of care," violate that duty of care; and the violation of the duty has to result in reasonably forseeable injury to the plaintiff.
So the dilemma faced by the Appeals Court is whether, and how, to apply ordinary standards of negligence to consensual sexual activity between adults.
Here is how Judge Trainor addressed the issue:
The Supreme Judicial Court has held that, while reasonable care is the duty owed in most circumstances, there are exceptions to this general principle, although "only strong arguments of public policy should justify a judicially created immunity for tortfeasors and bar to recovery for injured victims." Lewis v. Lewis, 370 Mass. 619, 629 (1976). Pursuant to this rationale, Massachusetts has recognized a limited number of circumstances in which, while all other legal requirements of negligence are satisfied, the imposition of a duty has been determined to be inappropriate or unworkable. See, e.g., Schofield v. Merrill, 386 Mass. 244, 245 (1982) (affirming traditional rule that landowner owes adult trespasser no duty of reasonable care); Gauvin v. Clark, 404 Mass. at 454 (recklessness, not negligence, is the standard upon which liability for injuries is determined between athletic participants); Wallace v. Wilson, supra (parent not responsible for injuries incurred by guest at underage drinking party, even though parent was aware of drinking); Cremins v. Clancy, supra at 292-293 (social host who has not provided liquor owes no duty of reasonable care to protect travelers on the highway from an intoxicated guest); Remy v. MacDonald, supra at 677 (expectant mother has no duty of care to refrain from negligently injuring her unborn fetus).We must determine whether the application of a standard of reasonable care to private consensual sexual conduct is appropriate or even workable. Questions of fact that would arise from these circumstances must be susceptible to consideration by a fact finder without prejudice and in a spirit of impartiality. ...
Addressing a like issue in a different context, the Supreme Judicial Court recognized that "in light of our own awareness that community values on the subject of permissible sexual conduct no longer are as monolithic" as prior precedent had suggested, it could no longer apply the statutory prohibition of G.L. c. 272, § 35, against "unnatural and lascivious" acts to private, consensual adult sexual conduct. Commonwealth v. Balthazar, 366 Mass. 298, 302 (1974). There are no comprehensive legal rules to regulate consensual sexual behavior, and there are no commonly accepted customs or values that determine parameters for the intensely private and widely diverse forms of such behavior. [FN5] In the absence of a consensus of community values or customs defining normal consensual sexual conduct, a jury or judge cannot be expected to revolve a claim that certain consensual sexual conduct is undertaken without reasonable care. Compare Remy v. MacDonald, 440 Mass. at 678 ("No set of clear existing social values and customs exist, and no settled social policy can be identified, to justify the maintenance of the present lawsuit"); Conley v. Romeri, 60 Mass.App.Ct. 799, 801-803 (2004) (claims of negligent infliction of emotional distress and fraud unavailable because there was no legally defined duty or recognized standard of conduct between parties in a dating relationship). We conclude, therefore, that there was no legal duty of reasonable care owed by the defendant to the plaintiff during their consensual sexual conduct. ...
While it is inappropriate and unworkable to hold consenting adults to a standard of reasonable care in the conduct of private consensual sexual behavior, we conclude that it is appropriate that they be held to a standard that requires them not to engage in wanton or reckless conduct toward each other during such consensual sexual conduct. "The words 'wanton' and 'reckless' are ... not merely rhetorical or vituperative expressions used instead of negligent or grossly negligent. They express a difference in the degree of risk and in the voluntary taking of risk so marked, as compared with negligence, as to amount substantially and in the eyes of the law to a difference in kind." Commonwealth v. Welansky, 316 Mass. 383, 399 (1944). See Cohen v. Davies, 305 Mass. 152, 156 (1940) (indifference to consequences distinguishes wanton or reckless behavior from negligence). Since "[t]he essence of wanton or reckless conduct is intentional conduct ... which ... involves a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm will result to another," Commonwealth v. Welansky, supra, citing Restatement of Torts § 500 (1934), we believe that a fact finder is capable of recognizing such extreme conduct, impartially and without prejudice, even in the context of consensual sexual behavior.
So then, in a nutshell, because "there are no comprehensive legal rules to regulate consensual sexual behavior, and there are no commonly accepted customs or values that determine parameters for the intensely private and widely diverse forms of such behavior," the Court applies the same standard of conduct required during athletic events to that required by participants in consensual sex.
At the very least, this gives one opportunity to pause and reflect on the dangers of judicial activism.
Quite apart from this, I must confess that it is the bringing of such a lawsuit all the way to the Appellate level that makes me hesitant to divulge my profession.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to put a bag over my head.
"Hey Mister Wilson!!"
Other than him, more B&W's, Parulas, Myrtles and Redstarts.
Monday, May 16, 2005
The Bay-breasted Warbler has some exotic colors to it -- the pictures I have located don't seem to do it justice, really. The chestnut color is elegant and rich, and the transition from the chestnut to the black at the head is quite sharp. There were only a few, male and female. In past years they arrived alongside the Chestnut-sided Warbler, but not this year. I expect to see the latter any day now.
Friday, May 13, 2005
Jim Morin, Cartoonist Extraordinaire
Jim's politics are not shared by any of the other familt members, but we love him anyway, and are (obviously) exceedingly proud of him. Soon I expect that we'll be seeing some of his extraordinary oil paintings in Miami-area galleries. He's also a mean finger-picking acoustical guitarist.
I will not be able to post new photos during the weekend, but it will be raining anyway, and looking up into the trees with binoculars in the rain doesn't work. So we'll have to see what I can produce on Monday.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
A Benefit of Smoking
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
I went outside at 5:45 and circled my property for several hours, pausing only for coffee and a few breaks for my neck (try holding binoculars up to your eyes for an extended period). So here's what we have coming below: The Parula (for real this time), the Black & White, the Black-throated Green, the Black-throated Blue, the Magnolia and the Nashville. Bear in mind that these birds are all sharing the same groups of trees, flitting from branch to branch, picking the bugs and/or seeds off of the newly-sprouting leaves of the deciduous trees. This morning, many of them were eating silently, so even if I could not hear anything, if I trained my eyes on the crown of a tree, I could see the movement, and only when I found the bird and trained the glasses could I tell what it was.
Click on the link for the calls.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Last week I posted about the arrival of the Northern Parula. I reported it because Sunday, while I was watching the PGA play golf from Louisiana, I heard the Parula outside my den. I heard it repeatedly throughout the afternoon.
Well, er....I heard no more Parulas during the entire week (and nothing of any other warbler, either).
This causes me to believe that the Parula I heard was from the TELEVISION, on the golf course in Louisiana. I checked the Parula migratory paths, and sure enough, they pass through there on their way up the Mississippi to Minnesota and Canada. Also, even if this bird had arrived early, he would not have been so completely alone, and others would have followed within a day or so.
I checked my logs, and out of the past seven years, the first arrivals have been May 8th or later in four of them. So I expect to have my friends arrive this week, and will be posting pictures and info as they appear.
Heh heh. How embarrassing is that!?
With Pat's discharge and return to his strange world, Chris has shut down the blog. But as I did back in March, I exhort you to go visit Chris and see if I am right. (Nota bene: Since blog posts are in reverse chronological order, I suggest you go to archives and read the posts in order of their appearance.)
Chris invites us over to read other humor works of his at Utter Wonder. I'm going there now.
Jim's first foray into punditry on THP is a piece called "The Biggest Story of Our Lives," and it is Exhibit A to why sports announcers shouldn't stray too far from their field of play.
Here is Jim Lampley's demonstration of punditry:
Because the Vegas bookmakers had Kerry as a 2-1 favorite on election day and are "extremely scientific in their assessments," the Bush people had committed "the biggest crime in the history of the nation" (really, he said that!) when the ten swing states where exit polling showed Kerry ahead turned into Bush victories.
"NEVER have exit polls varied by beyond-error margins in a single state, not since 1948 when this kind of polling began. In this past election it happened in ten states, all of them swing states, all of them in Bush's favor. Coincidence? Of course not.
"Karl Rove isn't capable of conceiving and executing such a grandiose crime? Wake up. They did it. The silence of traditional media on this subject is enough to establish their newfound bankruptcy. The revolution will have to start here. I challenge every other thinker at the Huffington Post: is there any greater imperative than to reverse this crime and reestablish democracy in America? Why the mass silence? Let's go to work with the circumstantial evidence, begin to narrow from the outside in, and find some witnesses who will turn. That's how they cracked Watergate. This is bigger, and I never dreamed I would say that in my baby boomer lifetime."
Jim's ridculous rant is not worth my time to check his claim on the historical accuracy of exit polls. Why, his claim of masive fraud is as far-flung as referring to himself as a "thinker" (in itself a rank insult to some of the other writers on the blog).
I met Jim at a Brown-Harvard football game in 1976, when he was a college football announcer. His memorable words to me at that time were, "you guys got any decent beer?"
Now he is described in an HBO puff piece as a "sports announcer, movie producer and restauranteur."
Well, he does have some pretty good credits as a sports announcer, I'll give him that. As far as his restaurants, he supposedly owns two in Utah called Lakota Restaurants. The one in Park City (rated #41 in that metropolis) was billed as "the only fully interactive restaurant and bar in Park City," but it doesn't even have a website, and its phone number answers to a different business. The other in Salt Lake City has a number that has been disconnected.
As for his "movie producer" credentials, his production company, Crystal Spring Productions, also has no website, and as far as I can determine, its list of credits is confined to a failed effort to create a competitor to the fabulously mediocre reality show "The Contender" and "Welcome to Hollywood," about which very little has been said.
So, Jim, my smarmy friend, I for one hope that you reconsider your career as a political analyst (and reckless defamer) and confine your "thinking" to the boxing ring -- where at least you'll have a fighting chance to out-think your subjects.
UPDATE: For an hilariously scathing report on THP's maiden voyage, read this.
Monday, May 09, 2005
Longing for Statesmen
On one day in particular, Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D, NY), in his first year in the Senate, held the floor in a debate over the Panama Canal Treaty. I don’t recall with whom he was debating, but I do recall it being the finest demonstration of public oratory I had ever seen. When he finished, the Senators present, and the entire gallery, delivered an ovation.
That debate was also notable in my memory because it was just that -- A statesmanlike debate. Members listened, speakers yielded the floor for questions from members, and the questions were answered, directly, with intellectual honesty. And while there were no doubt exceptions, I had the sense that the same general demeanor of professional courtesy and collegiality extend off the Senate floor and into every back room on Capitol Hill. I was reassured of this by Bill Hildenbrand, who was then Secretary to the Minority (and my father’s secretary’s boyfriend), and obviously in a position to know.
Leaving that chamber, that day, I had the first thought that I wanted to be in politics.
As I entered law school in fall of 1978, Ed Brooke was fighting for his political life against Congressman Paul Tsongas. Brooke was in the middle of a nasty divorce in which his wife and daughter were engaged in a concerted public campaign to ruin him with allegations of financial improprieties and adultery. Throughout the entire campaign, Tsongas never once uttered a word about Brooke’s personal travails. (Say what you want about the man’s politics, but Tsongas’ conduct during that campaign was irreproachable.)
Eight years later, in 1985, I began my first of six years in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Now, the Massachusetts Legislature can never be compared with the august body of the U. S. Congress (or anything with the word “august” attached to it). There were plenty of members who had only one talent in life, getting re-elected. And there were a (very) few members who were just rotten human beings.
But for the most part, there was collegiality, mutual respect, fair play (if mixed with occasional gamesmanship), and some very good floor debate.
There was also, unfortunately, chicanery. With the democrats holding an enormous numerical advantage, all the republicans had was “the microphone,” so that when one of the many egregious pieces of legislation was being pushed through, we could spend hours on the floor, making sure that the press across Massachusetts (and the dozen people statewide who were watching it on Channel 44) could not help but know what was happening (even if they did nothing about it). To keep us from having the floor, democrat members would yield to one another, but not to us, squelching any debate, and then force a vote, and snicker at us with their smug self-congratulations.
It seems to have been some time during my legislative tenure, 1985-1991, that national politics began in earnest to lose its sense (or even pretense) of decorum.
It was during that time that Newt Gingrich entered the Republican leadership and spearheaded the ethics attack that drove Jim Wright from the Speaker’s office in 1989. [When the Republicans took over after the 1994 races, Gingrich ascended to Speaker in 1987.] In 1988, George H. W. Bush defeated our own Mike Dukakis in a nasty presidential campaign in which Lee Atwater single-handedly remade the definition of political hardball. [During that campaign, George Bush and Lee Atwater came to Boston for a fundraising event. I spoke with Atwater for a few minutes. I was in the middle of a tough re-election campaign against a very unpleasant young man. Atwater told me to “kick him in the balls and don’t let him get up until November 5th.”]
Keeping a promise to myself, I left the legislature (and any political office ever again) in January of 1991. I became an interested spectator to the ensuing, increasingly bitter and acrimonious national political discourse.
Now I am not saying that Newt Gingrich and Lee Atwater “started it,” but the bottom line is, once one side takes the gloves off, it’s hard for either side to put them back on.
And I think that has to be done.
I do not find one person in ten that is not sick to death of the fever pitched, finger-pointing, eye-poking food fight that is the United States Congress (and politics generally from coast to coast). More often than not, public debate lacks any hint of intellectual honesty. It lacks the merest common civility. It lacks the faintest memory of statesmanship. It’s all about “staying on message,” scoring points, bringing the enemy down, exercising raw political power for the achievement of (increasingly) partisan gains. It’s about absolutes, with no compromise.
The present deadlock over judicial appointments is just the latest example. It is reported today that Senator Frist has taken the position that he will make no deal that does not include all of President Bush’s judicial nominees being approved.
That’s not a deal, it’s an ultimatum.
Now I’m faintly encouraged that one of Frist’s leadership colleagues would publicly advocate for compromise and the recognition of minority rights in the Senate. Yesterday morning on ABC’s This Week, Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel:
"But you can't give up a minority rights tool in the interest of the country, like the filibuster...
"We would, I think, debase our system and fail our country if we don't do this...
"The United States Senate is a minority rights institution unique in the world, and I don't think either side wants to give that up. Now, the other part of this, which I also believe strongly, is that presidents deserve votes on their nominees."
But he noted that Republicans prevented votes on many of President Clinton's choices for the federal bench.
"The Republicans' hands aren't clean on this either. What we did with Bill Clinton's nominees about 62 of them we just didn't give them votes in committee or we didn't bring them up."
How refreshing, such candor, and on national television, too.
I long for the return of the day when comments like Senator Hagel’s are not regarded as heresy because they are “off the reservation;” when a legislator’s circumspect analysis of an issue is met with appreciation and intellectual respect, not partisan approbation or cynicism.
When I listened in 1978 to Senator Moynihan, one of the greatest liberals of his time, I knew that his politics were not mine. But I deeply admired his skill, his intellect, and his devotion to our Country. With the exercise of a deeper perspective on all of our parts, perhaps this would not be such a rare occasion, and Congress could begin again to resemble a great deliberative body where the rights of the majority and the minority are respected and observed.
Friday, May 06, 2005
"Bebchuk and his fellow whiners say they are all for an arts center -- just not in their backyard. Said Bebchuk at a hearing three years ago: 'I come to express my position with some difficulty because I do think it's a great project for Cambridge. And if it were to be on Garfield Street maybe I would be here today speaking like some of the other people who wrote letters of support.' Garfield is one street over from Bebchuk's neat gray-and-white Sacramento Street home, which Harvard was kind enough to sell him a few years back."
Some difficulty is right.
Further proof that even smart people can be perfect idiots.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
A Priceless Reward, an Urban Myth
UPDATE: OOPS. Snopes corrects:
As Clark himself explained, he didn't rescue the dog, and his encounter with her was pure happenstance:
"We didn't do anything (special) to save Cinnamon. When we have a house fire, we have to do a primary search. There could be people home and inside. Our first major concern is life safety. That house was full of smoke and we couldn't see it very well. All I saw was a dog run out, and one was (already) in the backyard. I think Cinnamon got out the door herself. The dog approached me. As soon as I knelt down and took my mask off, Patrick was coming around the corner of the house and took the picture. "
Even though I am a lawyer, I have more often than not questioned the propriety of class-action law suits in which members of the "victim" plaintiff class may receive pennies (literally) while the plaintiff-class attorneys receive millions for themselves. As one who did a fair amount of investing during the 1980's and 1990's, I have received my share of "Notice of Class Action" announcements, explaining that if I met certain characteristics of the "class," I could register as a class member at no out-of-pocket cost to me. For pure amusement, in one instance only (one in which I had actually lost a considerable sum of money), I entered the class and several years later, I received a check for $34.17 (for my $3,000 loss), while the class attorneys collected some $17.5 million.
Well apparently the plaintiff class lawyers in Texas are running low on victims.
As reported a long while ago at Overlawyered:
"Houston attorney David George has filed intended class-action lawsuits on behalf of local resident Paul Brian Meekey against three strip clubs, claiming the clubs violated Texas law by adding a $5 credit card surcharge to the $20 price of a lap dance. The suit demands a refund of all such charges paid over the past four years, plus attorney's fees. According to attorney George, state law flatly forbids merchants from imposing surcharges on credit card transactions, even, presumably, in cases where those transactions are costly for merchants to provide because of a high later dispute rate. "Another lawyer tried filing similar cases in 1999 but abandoned them, in part out of fear that clients would only be angry when they received notice at home about refunds."
After a lower court dismissed the lawsuit on procedural grounds, we learn (via The Slithery D) that the Texas Court of Appeals has ruled that the suit may proceed, and now the enterprising plaintiff class lawyers have some nettlesome work ahead of them:
"That could mean notifying a lot of other men who used credit cards to pay for lap dances in recent years.
"And that might not go over very well in some households.
"'They are going to want the (strip) clubs' credit card companies to give them the names of all the different people who have charged dances there,' said Albert Van Huff, attorney for several of the clubs."
A few questions come to mind:
- Who is foolish (or drunk) enough to pay for a lap dance with a credit card?
- How many lap dances does it take to make this law suit is "worth the trouble?"
- Which lawyers are behind this -- class action attorneys or divorce lawyers (or both, wink wink)?
- How many "gentlemen" are lining up right now for a shot at Houston Attorney David George?