Sunday, November 26, 2006

I Guess I Am A Process Liberal, Too

Wow, that headline looks weird to me.

It's a good thing Sam Allis's opinions are printed on page two of the Sunday Globe. I usually can't make it much past that. But in this case, he's written a sturdy piece on the legislature's trashing of our constitutional right to have a vote on the gay marriage amendment. Not that it requires a spectacular feat, but his logic is spot on:

Process liberals get tagged in torrid single-issue causes whose advocates like Isaacson conclude that the end justifies the means. That the goal is so important, they can ignore due process, in this case the state constitution.

"It's not a matter of following the constitution," says John Reinstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. "It's following the constitution down the drain."

Great line, but, of course, once you start choosing which parts of the constitution to obey, you're practicing cafeteria constitutionalism, which invites cynicism.

Say for the sake of argument that the ballot initiative would embed in the constitution the right of gays to marry and that the Legislature dodged a vote on it. Isaacson and Reinstein would, in righteous dudgeon, demand that legislators honor their oath of office to obey the state constitution.

They would demand that a Constitutional Convention follow Article 48 of the document, whose clear intent calls for a vote on an initiative before it. (If there are 50 votes in favor, the proposal goes on the ballot in the next statewide election.) The irony is that Article 48 was added to the constitution in 1918 to provide citizens a means to thwart an obstructionist legislature.
There was nothing pretty about the 109-to-87 vote to skate on the gay marriage initiative, which drew a record 170,000 signatures. No profiles in courage either. The leaders of both houses took a powder instead of defending the craven recess vote.

Way to go Sam.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Intoxicating Property of Juniper Berries

What looked to be a humdrum day has turned interesting, thanks to the presence of a vigorous juniper tree in my back yard.

My home has its share of windows to the rear, revealing a rather stunning view of a tidal river. Frequenting the many trees between the house and the river are birds of many species -- chickadees, titmice, sparrows (house, song, white throated, chipping), robins, bluejays, goldfinches, woodpeckers, waxwings, flickers -- you get the picture. I tend to several feeders between the house and the river. On routine occasion, I hear a "thump" against the window, the telltale sign that one of the little ones has failed to notice the glass. Sometimes the birds are just stunned, sometimes they meet an untimely demise.

A short time ago, we installed two six-foot sliding glass doors that exit to the deck which overlooks the river. Next to the deck is a hardy juniper tree. In the fall, the juniper's buds transform to hard, dull blue-gray berries. When this occurs, there is a week-long feeding frenzy in which certain birds (robins, flickers, woodpeckers, titmice, chickadees and waxwings) gorge themselves on these berries. I had always assumed simply that there was some natural attraction of tase or preference for the berry from these birds in particular, as most of the others showed no interest in them.

But the presence of the new sliders suggested something quite different.

This morning, as a flock of cedar waxwings gorged themselves in a frenzy, I detected a loud **THUMP**, and discovered a dead waxwing on the deck. Ouch! I went back to my chores. Another **THUMP**, another dead waxwing. I went to the window to observe.

This was no ordinary pre-migration food-storing operation here. This was a full-fledged orgy. And these birds were not acting normal. They were crazed with intoxication. They were manic. Frenetic. Out of their tiny little minds, which was apparent by the slowly growing pile of little corpses on my deck.

Might these juniper berries contain some sort of intoxicant, similar, perhaps to those used in some forms of GIN?? Some research was done.

My source informs us that "there is a considerable demand on the Continent for an aqueous extract of the berries called Roob, or Rob of Juniper, and the distilled oil is in this case a by-product, the berries being first crushed and macerated with water and then distilled with water and the residue in the still evaporated to a soft consistence. Much of the oil met with in commerce is obtained as a by-product in the manufacture of gin and similar products....

...In Sweden a beer is made that is regarded as a healthy drink. In hot countries the tree yields by incision a gum or varnish."

For humans, the berries are chiefly used as a "diuretic, stomachic, and carminative in indigestion, flatulence, and diseases of the kidney and bladder." Well, in this case, I'd rather be a bird -- for it is plain that the berries are inducing a euphoric state in their tiny little brains.

They're still at it now -- but I have placed a windmill-like object on the deck to deter wayward galivanting.

(In the picture above, how many waxwings can you count?)

Here's the Yellow-shafted Flicker enjoying his buzz.

Only a few minutes later, another group of waxwings eager to get their share of the elixir.

Makes me appreciate my Sapphire all the more, yes?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Potpourri of Petulance

Several stories in the Boston Globe today cause me to reflect on the increasing petulance exhibited by the sanctimonious:

In Danvers, Massachusetts, the local YMCA's annual fundraiser included a "special guest," an impeccable impersonator of Tina Turner named Hollie Vest. By all accounts, she wowed the crowd, and many weren't entirely sure whether they were being honored with the presence of Tina herself. A good time was had by all. Well, almost all. At least one guest, Y board member Paul Sullivan, informed the Salem Evening News that he would be seeking a refund. "I wouldn't expect the Y to stoop to this type of behavior. I'm very surprised, and I'm disappointed."

But Ms. Vest saw things differently:

Vest said she was surprised and saddened to learn that anyone was upset with the YMCA of the North Shore, an organization that does so much to help children. Usually, she said, "common sense" kicks in before long and people realize that she's not the real thing.

Tina Turner, after all, is semi-retired and can fill stadiums, she said.

"Why would Tina Turner come to an event with 600 people? Doesn't she live in France? How could they afford this?" Vest said of the questions that typically run through people's minds. "It's kind of understood in those events that would not be the real Tina."

In 22 years working as an impersonator, Vest said, she had never heard of a single instance where people were upset because her real identity was not revealed.

Paging Paul Sullivan: please go to the Lost and Found to retrieve your perspective.

Meanwhile, on the campus of Boston University, undergraduate members of the school's College Republicans group announced their intention to promote a discussion about race-based scholarships and affirmative action by offering a $250 scholarship to white students. Provocative, to be sure. Here's how the dean of students saw it:

Kenneth Elmore, BU's dean of students, said in a statement that the scholarship goes against the university's goal of increasing diversity on campus. He agreed the issue of race-based programs is worthy of debate, but questioned the group's approach.

"It appears to me that they're trying to push a debate as it relates to affirmative action and American society," Elmore said. "I want students to know that I encourage debate and will help students foster creative debate around the university. I hope the College Republicans and other students will try to do the same."

Fair enough. But you'd think after the drubbing that the Republican Party in this state took last week, its current executive director might be a little more circumspect:

Brian Dodge, executive director of the Massachusetts Republican Party, said the state party did not endorse the scholarship. 'Their actions are misguided and offensive,' he said.

Reckless accusation from one who defended the Healey campaign's over-the-line attack on Deval Patrick's advocacy on behalf of Ben Laguer's case.

Finally, there is this gem involving the certain perpetually offendable members of the Massachusetts Bar Association:

She's a sensual brunette showing a flash of cleavage and lots of inner thigh. She's tugging at the necktie of a handsome executive, pulling him aggressively toward her. Eyes closed, mouth slightly open as they prepare to kiss, she's wearing a men's suit jacket and not much else.

It's a glossy, full-color advertising insert for a clothing company with this racy caption: "A custom-tailored suit is a natural aphrodisiac."

And it's triggered a blitz of indignant letters and calls to Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, where it recently appeared for three weeks in a row.

"Highly insulting," wrote one reader. "Puerile, tasteless, and offensive," wrote another. "Wrong on so many levels," added a third. Another was even more blunt: "Stop publishing this ad."

About two dozen readers have contacted the paper to complain that the insert, for a New York company called Jiwani, objectifies females and undermines gender equality. It is especially inappropriate, many of them said, for a publication that targets the legal industry, where women struggle mightily to achieve the same respect and status as men.

Folks. It's a freakin' FASHION AD. Last time I checked, you were in favor of the First Amendment. "Stop publishing this ad"??

Since when did pride become so fragile? Did I miss something? Are we all so focussed on making sure that it is OUR message that gets the attention that we feel the necessity to quarrel with everyone else's methods of doing the same?

Since when did the First Amendment become such a malleable principle that it is used in defense of only some (modestly) offensive speech? Am I a freak to believe that none of these expressions of speech are offensive? Provocative, yes. Controversial, absolutely. But offensive? I sure hope not.

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