Thursday, May 28, 2009
"RNC" no longer stands for "Republican National Committee." Now it means "Rush, Newt & Cheney." Alternatively, it means "Rush, Newt & Coulter."
I'm taking deep breaths now--deep, cleansing breaths.
[Never mind that the USSC doesn't bother to hear appeals on decisions that the majority thinks were right the first time. They aren't required to hear all appeals, and so they only select ones that the initial review leads them to believe need to be reconsidered. Statistics like this one are hugely misleading--how many of "her" decisions were appealed? How many did the Supreme Court even see?]
Because any decision which is reversed by the US Supreme Court is self-evidently a "bad decision?" So when the US Supreme Court reverses one of it's previous decisions, what does that mean?
Judge Sotomayor is an Appeals Court judge, which means that she sits on a panel with at least two other judges at all times. "Her" decisions are either majority decisions, which means that at least one other judge agreed with her, or they are dissenting opinions, in which she articulates where she differs from the decision. Dissenting opinions have to be read very carefully, because they are not self-contained. They often start with accepting some parts of the majority opinion, but then explain how the judge feels a different decision should have been made.
Sometimes dissenting opinions even agree with the outcome, but argue for a different route to the result--which is important because ALL parts of the majority opinion become precedent and become rules to be followed in the next case. Some dissenting opinions simply caution against the language of the majority opinion as being too broad, while not taking any issue with the result.
Ricci v. DeStefano is NOT proof of "reverse discrimination" by Sonia Sotomayor. It is a way for people to insist on White Male Privilege without actually saying so. The city of New Haven gave an examination to its firefighters for promotion. Half of the test was written, half was oral. When the results came back, NO black firefighters passed, 19 whites and 1 Hispanic did. The city threw out the results of the test, as required by federal law, because it was de facto a racially discriminatory test as proved by the results. All 20 of the firefighters who passed sued.
The district court judge who heard the case issued a 48 page ruling explaining her reasoning. In it, she concluded that there was no discrimination against the 20, because the city had not promoted anyone before throwing out the test. Sotomayor was on a THREE judge panel that simply affirmed the lower court decision without comment. Jose Cabranes wrote a dissent. The Court of Appeals accepted a petition by the parties to re=hear the case. The Court voted 7-6 not to rehear and reconsider the case.
So, Sonia Sotomayor is NOT the judge who reached the initial decision.
Sonia Sotomayor is NOT the only judge who voted to affirm the lower court.
Sonia Sotomayor MIGHT EVEN have voted to rehear the case.
I ask you this:
What gives any of these 20 firefighters an expectation that HE would have been promoted anyway? What if the city had promoted only the Hispanic?
What actually happened in New Haven? This test was given back in 2003--in the six years since, I would bet that the city revised its test and there have been promotions since then.
There is no "reverse discrimination" here--the city decided to throw out the results of a test that the city thought was self-evidently discriminatory. The district court and the Court of Appeals (NOT just Judge Sotomayor) agreed that the city was allowed to make that decision.
Now if the city had kept the results and promoted only white guys, and the black firefighters had sued, and everybody agreed that the test itself was racially neutral, and the court had ordered the promted white guys to be demoted--then you might have a case for "reverse discrimination." Maybe.
I just think we have to be VERY CAREFUL when discussing "reverse discrimination." The whole POINT of having a judiciary is so the majority doesn't run roughshod over over the minority. White males set up a system that codified black slavery and women unable to hold property or vote. Slicing into traditional white male privilege is NOT NECESSARILY a bad thing.
The Republican Party (and not incidentally, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, as well as others) have set themselves the task of being the Opposing Party. And as they see it, their job is to oppose anything beign done by the President and the Democratic Party. Which is fine, as long as we understand that is what is going on.
This is not nuanced. If you are going to be The Opposing Party, you do NOT compromise, you do NOT admit that--on balance--something is a good idea, or a good choice. Your job is to dig up and promote whatever grounds you can find to oppose.
This kefuffle over the Ricci "decision" is not a balanced consideration of whether or not the process is sound, or that Sotomayor's role was appropriate. It is OPPOSITION, pure and simple. It is up to US, as the public, to take these opposing viewpoints and synthesize a conclusion from them.
It is an IMPORTANT job. Don't abdicate your responsibility.
It makes me so angry, that someone who has spent her lifetime overcoming obstacles of povery, gender, ethinicity and plain old everyday life is being so crudely attacked. The principle seems to be: "If we throw enough mud, some of it will stick."
The anger is not good for me. I mean, really, what good does it do for me to get upset about Rush Limbaugh's ill considered bile? Why should I care what Fox News says? I long ago dismissed this class of "journalism" as a desperate need to fill hours and hours of air-time. Saying anything is more important than what is actually said in that world. If you can say it loudly, with a tone of alarm, you can even fool people into thinking what you are saying is important.
But it still gets through my defenses. And I find myself trying to explain why the Rushes and Newts and Coulters are wrong, which just sends me down the rabbit holes they have constructed. It's not pretty.
And, really, does anybody listen when I take them on? Honestly, no. Even if I had a national platform and millions of people listening, I don't think I could change the minds that have already been made up.
So I am doing this for myself. Because this is how I can live with the clamor of what is going on. I have come to decide that the conservative mouthpieces and blowhards have set themselves the task of being The Opposing Party. Their job is not to consider, to weigh, to evaluate and pursue nuanced solutions. Their job is to oppose.
So, when the president nominates anybody, the job of The Opposing Party is to find any grounds on which to oppose that person. This time around, it's Sonia Sotomayor, but it doesn't matter who it is. The problem isn't that she is the wrong choice, it's that she is a choice. And The Opposing Party has to point out what is wrong with it.
This is an easy place to be, in some ways. Much easier to sit back and veto than to offer suggestions, right? Haven't we all been in a situation like this one?
"Where shall we go to dinner, honey?"
"How about that hip new Mexican place?"
"I don't really feel like Mexican."
"There's a great new dim sum restaurant."
"Um, no. Not really up for that."
"We could get pizza and beer and see a movie"
"Eh. Just doesn't call me."
"Then you pick something!"
"Oh, no, I don't really care where we go."
And then when the couple finally goes somewhere, the veto-er can say "that wasn't very good, was it?"
Nice place to be. Asshole.
There is a solution, though--at least one that is currently working for me. If I consider that the job of The Opposing Party is just to oppose, then it is up to me to do the synthesizing. It's very Hegelian: the president offers a thesis, The Opposing Party offers antithesis, and I forge the synthesis.
President Obama offers Judge Sonia Sotomayor as a nominee. The Opposing Party calls her a "reverse racist" and claims she is unqualified. I accept that The Opposing Party will never never never never change its position. So then I consider whether I accept TOP's position, or not. In this case, it seems to me that TOP has grabbed at something that has no solidity, so I can reject that claim--and then I don't have to get upset at the stupidity of TOP repeating their claims, even in the face of new evidence, because TOP is supposed to not change.
We'll see how long this works for me.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Cpt. Sweetie and I went to last night's Bruce Springsteen concert at Xcel. Last time we saw him in concert was *mumblety-mumble* years ago, and we hadn't done any reading up on what to expect from this performance. So we were taking bets on what album his opening number would be from, whether or not Max Weinberg would make it, and who replaced the much missed Danny Federici.
Our tickets were general admission, and we meant to be the kind of GA ticket holders who were cool and concert savvy, and not to look like a couple of dorks with kids who were out for the evening recapturing our lost youth. Or not to look like embarrassing old farts.
Face it--for a guy hitting 60 on his next birthday, Bruuuuuuce! was awesome--currently he has to be the hardest working guy in rock, hollering and cajoling and making the crowd work for enough noise to satisfy him. And there's no way I want to be shown up by some guy that much older than I am.
To tell the truth, a concert is a different experience as an adult than it was a teen-ager; for one thing, the image turns out to be less important. When the audience is primarily a bunch of people who have to go back to the office in the morning, you get a very different vibe than when it's a bunch of kids who are going to sleep through home room anyway.
But rock 'n' roll is eternal, right? And to truly be a rock'n'roller, there are certain expectations of behavior--expectations that were not met for the most part. So, for future antropologists, I offer a listing of the elements of the evening, along with a break-down of how it should have been, how it was for most of the people at the concert, and how Cpt. Sweetie and I did it. You will notice, of course, that while Cpt. Sweetie and I were not necessarily conforming to the rocker stereotype, we were nevertheless much cooler than most.
Arriving at the concert:
Rock & Roll Way: By motorcycle.
Most Popular Way: By minivan or SUV, suitable for carpooling the hockey team and equipment.
Actual Way: In hybrid, parking 3 blocks away and saving $22 in parking fees.
Rock & Roll Way: Enthusiastically but still cool.
Most Popular Way: Stiffly.
Actual Way: Totally cool and much younger than our years.
In Front of the Stage:
Rock & Roll Way: Like Courtney Cox in Dancing in the Dark video.
Most Popular Way: Pulling out camera phones.
Actual Way: About 40 feet back and standing on tip-toe to see over the crowd.
Up Close & Personal:
Bruce pulled up a chair in front of a cute blonde woman at the front of the stage and sang "I'm On Fire" to her--perhaps one of the sexiest songs he's ever written. Her response is categorized below.
Rock & Roll Way: Gaze soulfully into his eyes and make him forget about Patti back at home with the kids. (This is what I would have done, and Patti Scialfa is just lucky I was too far back. I'm just saying.)
Most Popular Way: Gasp and giggle and be embarrassed.
Actual Way: Look away to pull up camera phone and take picture.
Bruce interacting with the girls in the front row:
Rock & Roll Way: Looking at them in a way that promises everything
Most Popular Way: Putting his hand out for them to touch.
Actual Way: Getting down in front and getting the 11 year olds in the front to sing along with songs they didn't know. Hmmm--must be a sign of age.
Roaming Around On Stage:
Rock & Roll Way: Energeticly, endlessly, hyperactively
Most Popular Way (E Street Band): Stiffly. (So would you, if you'd had both hips replaced like Clarence Clemens)
Actual Way (Springsteen): Endlesslessly, enthusiastically, sweatily.
Best Looking Guy On Stage:
Rock & Roll Way: Lead singer.
Most Popular Way: Lead singer and/or guitarist (occasionally this is the same person), or otherwise promoted to the front of the stage.
Actual Way: Drummer's 18 year old son, on drums for first hour of show. Yes, Max, we still love you, but it's okay if you send Jay in your place--we'll keep him.
Next morning hangover/headache:
Rock & Roll Way: Liberally pulling from hip flask during concert, and totally overdoing it at the afterparty.
Most Popular Way: Lack of strong coffee at venue to counteract the Bud Light.
Actual Way: ???
I woke up with a headache that was so bad that it made my ears ring. What did I drink at the show? Nothing. What did I drink after the show? Caffeine-free Diet Coke. And I KNOW there is no such thing as a Diet Coke hangover. Could it have been a change in atmospheric pressure? Was the ringing in my ears the cause and not the symptom--could the concert have actually been too loud?
Nah. Couldn't have been that. At no time did the music actually cause my heart beat to stutter, so it couldn't have been THAT loud.
Excellent review and photos from the concert are here.
So this guy was kind of a stocky guy, who could have been anywhere in his 20s or 30s. He was redheaded, and he had longish sideburns, and a conservative close cropped haircut. Except for the mohawk.
I couldn't see much of his face, however, because he was wearing mirrored aviator glasses. You know the look from the 1970s, right?
So, if he was wearing an Afro and dashiki, he'd have looked like a period reproduction or something. Or, if he'd been all in black, with chains and a dog collar and ripped fabrics and safety pins, you'd have said "totally punk rock."
What is it when the mohawk sportin', Top Gun shades wearin' dude has on madras Bermuda shorts?
Pastel madras Bermuda shorts.
I'm thinking "a car wreck." What do you think?
Monday, May 11, 2009
Sursels has the kind of personality that lends itself to friends creating nicknames for her. Tonks is such a loving older sister, and also so verbal, that when we started counting off how many nicknames Sursels has (and we forgot to add "Sursels") we were quickly approaching 20.
We came up with about 4 for Tonks.
Me? If you exclude the titles "Mom" and "Mama," I have one. Cate.
To which Tonks reached across the table and patted my hand. "We love you. You just don't have a nickname."
It was the way she said it, coupled with that sympathizing hand pat: "We love you." It just hit me as sweet, and sad, and funny all at once.
THAT is a Mother's Day present to cherish. After all, Tonks is 15, and a public declaration of her affection is not something I expect by any means.
Saturday, May 09, 2009
So today is our Splash Day, the date the boat is scheduled to be moved out of the boatyard and into the water.
This is a very good thing, of course, and yesterday was a perfect day for boating--bright blue sky, temps in the mid 70s, the kind of day you would swear God was dropping in and arranging perfect weather for the visit.
Today, it's supposed to rain. The sun comes and goes, and rain spits then passes off, so I'm driving around town, turning my headlights on and off, switching between my glasses and sunglasses. Temps are bobbing up and down like a yo-yo, and it's a still a perfect day to be on the boat. Because everyday is a good day to be on the boat.
Lady Cliff, still attached to the truck, soaking in the water.
When I arrive at the boatyard about 11:20, the Lady Cliff is at the base of a cement ramp, soaking in the river. This is an incredibly important and frustrating part of owning a wooden boat, because over the long winter, the planks of the boat dry out and contract. So, the boat has to be put into the water partway, and the bilge pumps run as the wood takes up water and swells to close all the gaps.
Pumping out the water below the floor of the aft cabin
It was a longer winter this winter than the last couple of years, and L.C. was in the shop getting more done than in past years, so the swelling process is taking longer than usual. Cpt. Sweetie is understandably reluctant to leave his Precious while she's still taking on water, so his day has been carved into half-hour chunks as he rearranges his work meetings, or does them by phone.
Run off from the pump. This is very tasty if you are a dog.
Of course, Cabin Boy Bermondsey came with me to check out what was going on, and to see if we could babysit the boat while Cpt. Sweetie went to work.
Cabin Boy Bermondsey reporting that the engine room is dry!
It turns out that both the Cabin Boy and I are equally useless, because there are questions about amperage, and galvanic circuits, and the current question is whether to replace a bilge pump and rewire it or not. Voltimeters seem to be involved. Auxiliary pumps are being moved around to stay ahead of the incoming water.
Of course, once the conversation includes a question of "galvanics" my mind is off and thinking about "Possession," by A.S. Byatt, in which her fictional Victorian poet describes sexual attraction as "the kick galvanic." So I'm no help at all, but I am somewhat entertaining.
Both Cpt. Sweetie and the restorer who did the work on the boat over the winter are currently crawling about the engines, tracing wires beneath the flooring of the saloon. I have contributed by fetching lunch and returning Cabin Boy Bermondsey back home, so we can all stop worrying he is going to fall off the boat.
I can swim, you know. Plus, if you just put the life jacket on me, no one would have to worry.
Friday, May 08, 2009
The greatest band that never was--Spinal Tap--is releasing their (second?) album June 16, but why wait? You can hear the title track "Back From the Dead" here.
Taking a page from U2's playbook, you can get the album, or you can buy the deluxe version with a 1 hour DVD and a pop up diorama with 12" action figures of the Derek Smalls (bass), Nigel Tufnel (guitar, tongue), and David St. Hubbins (lead vocals, guitar). And why wouldn't you?
(Unsubstantiated rumors indicate that a fourth action figure was planned but abandoned when the prototype spontaneously combusted.)
"When people hear this, they'll think, 'This sounds like a band that probably found it's way to the stage most of the time,' unlike the illusion that's created by that film," [Derek] Smalls said. "You'll say, 'Hold on, this doesn't sound like a band that lost its way every night. So it's worth it, just for that."
Tour plans include a World Tour, which will take place on June 30, 2009 at Wembley Stadium. No other dates will be added.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
Star Trek's vision of the future, as guided by creator Gene Roddenberry, was also a relic of its time, the age of NASA and the Cold War and Kruschev pounding his shoe on a podium at the United States. The show's faith in diplomacy and technology as tools for not just global but universal peace might seem touchingly dated in our post-9/11 age of stateless jihad, loose nukes, and omnipresent danger. Yet in a weird way, Star Trek's cheerfully square naiveté makes it the perfect film for our first summer of (slimly) renewed hope. It's a blockbuster for the Obama age, when smarts and idealism are cool again. In fact, can't you picture our president—levelheaded, biracial, implacably smart—on the bridge in a blue shirt and pointy ears?
OH YEAH. That just explains so much!
Turns out that this is far from the first time these two "fascinating" men have been compared. Huh. Seems like--once again--I am late to this party.
On the positive side, that means there are a fair number of essays and pictures that demonstrate my geeky Spock-love onto our President. It's all good.
Monday, May 04, 2009
What Daddy's little girl wants Daddy's little girl gets.
So when Missy Quinn insisted on a big white wedding with her boyfriend, her father said Yes. It didn't matter that she was only 16 and the groom 17.
Daddy also said Yes to a £16,000 wedding dress (which looked suspiciously like a crop top and skirt) and Yes to 150 guests at the reception. Then there were the cars, the hotels, the tiara and the £500 bouquet.
Missy Quinn, 16, in her £16,000 wedding dress, has enjoyed a £100,000 white wedding paid for by her father who lives in a caravan
In the end, making Missy's wedding dreams come true cost her father - who lives in a caravan and surfaces driveways for a living - a whopping £100,000.
But as his princess, who hasn't been in a classroom since she was nine and wants to be a glamour model, posed for photographs, her father Simon, 35, declared it was worth every penny. 'I'm very proud of her today,' he said.
Missy was just happy to be the undisputed centre of attention.
Her dress, studded with Swarovski crystals, and with a 10ft wide train, was so heavy that it took ten guests to help her struggle out of the Rolls-Royce Phantom that brought her to the church.Enlarge
Missy with groom Thomas Moghon, 17, her mother Theresa and father Simon
'It was huge. I wanted to outdo everyone else's wedding dress,' she said.
'It was extremely heavy and just standing in the church was really difficult. But despite all that, I felt just like Cinderella.'
The bill was around five times the cost of the average British wedding.
Missy said: 'It cost a fortune, but I've always wanted a big wedding and my dad has been saving for ages to pay for it.' She met Thomas at Alton Towers theme park when she was 13.Enlarge
They continued to date despite her traveller family leaving their caravan park in Stoke-on-Trent every summer to tour the UK while Thomas lived with his parents in Wolverhampton.
Missy said: 'I just knew he was The One from the beginning. He's perfect.'
Her mother Theresa, 33, who married Missy's father at 16, said: 'I was surprised they wanted to get married so young in this day and age. But we could see they were madly in love.'
The couple married six days after Missy turned 16 at St Mary's Catholic Church in Congleton-Cheshire. After the ceremony-guests in feathers and crystals enjoyed champagne and an all-day buffet at the reception. Girls as young as nine showed off bikini tops, high heels and make-up.
Guest Victoria Docherty, 23, who wore a £700 hotpants and bra outfit, said: 'This isn't unusual - it's just what we do at weddings. It's all very extravagant. Everything is paid for by the bride's daddy.'Missy and Thomas honeymooned in Turkey before moving into their own £18,000 caravan - a wedding gift from her parents.
This additional information is from Closer Magazine's online site:
What can one say? These come to the top of my mind:
For the five months leading up to the wedding, while other teenagers around the UK were revising for their GCSEs, Missy was busy preparing for her big day – she’s been home-tutored since she was nine and will not sit any exams this year.
But the youngster already knows what she wants to do for a career. “I want to spend my days applying make-up and styling my hair. I want to get into glamour modelling. I don’t know if Thomas will like it, but that’s his problem,” she says.
Missy and Thomas honeymooned in Turkey and are now settling into married life in a new £18,000 caravan – a wedding present from the bride’s parents. “I think there will be times I’ll miss my parents, but they’re in the same caravan park so I can always visit, says Missy.
“Thomas might expect me to cook and clean, but I’m not going to. He can look after me as far as I’m concerned!”
Well, the dad actually SAVED money, since he combined her Sweet Sixteen with a wedding, so he only had to do this once.
Oh, good. You know the look would totally have been ruined if she hadn't worn the veil.
Man! For that kind of money, he could have set His Little Princess up with her own pole dancing establishment--he's already got all the costumes. And the employees.
Do you think the groom's mother had any idea what her little boy was getting himself into?
Forget Swine Flue. What we have here is a potentially fatal outbreak of More Money Than Taste Or Sense. Can we get these people quarantined before the contagion spreads?
Oh. Too late. It's already infected the youngsters.
(Do you suppose the girl on the right was trying to steal the attention away from the bride by wearing her own white dress and garter to the wedding? If so, she seriously underestimated the Tacky Factor of the bride's dress!)
OMG--the bride's garter is as big as her skirt! Does she have the right pieces on the right places? How can you tell?
What do you expect from a girl whose parents did the same thing when they were the same age?
Wow. Is she in for a shock--her husband is NEVER going to be able to live up to her the standards set by her Daddy.
And you thought the bridesmaid dresses you had to wear were tacky!
I'll bet you ten dollars that all those bridesmaids actually DO wear those dresses again.
At today's exchange rate, that wedding works out to cost over $150,000. Daddy must be a REALLY GOOD driveway resurfacer.
Girlfriend is only 16? She looks like she's been working nights for a lot longer than that.
Well, if you're GOING to live in a caravan (read--mobile home/trailer), you might as well spend all that money on a wedding--what else do you need the money for?
Too bad you have to sit through this totally boring part in the church. Fortunately, there are balloons. And not just on the bride and her mother! Ba-dum-dum! Talk about your "hope chests!" Thank you, thank you, you're a great audience, I'm here all week, come back and bring your friends!
Friday, May 01, 2009
A new era has begun. Tonks has her learner's permit. After enduring 30 hours of the most boring driver education imaginable, with a teacher with a stutter--she has passed her knowledge test and gotten a permit to drive.
Of course, we HAD to go up to a parking lot and let her sit behind the wheel and get a feel for what a car really feels like. There were lots of tips in her classroom training about brake, and how to respond to various situations, and Tonks' consistent comment was "This would be a lot more helpful if I knew ANYTHING ABOUT DRIVING A CAR."
Today, she got to try it out. We went up to a parking lot that was about 2/3 empty, and since this was the Prius, all she had to do was take her foot off the brake and it started to move forward. At the incredible speed of 3 miles per hour, which was really fast enough to start, since she had no idea how hard to push the brake. The first couple of times were windshield bangers, except of course we had seatbelts on, but after a few times, she got better.
We did a bunch of turns and it's amazing how much you forget about how to drive until you need to teach someone else. She couldn't seem to get the car straightened out as fast as I thought it should go, and it was only after about 10 minutes that I realized that she was "hand over hand"-ing it, rather than just letting the wheel go and letting the car straighten itself out.
Tonight, we went over to Lake Harriet, where Capt. Sweetie rode with her in the van, letting her drive around the lake. He reports that she's a very good driver, and is only making "baby mistakes." So, we're well on the way to having a third driver in the house.
Of course, the real question is HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? I swear she was just in preschool, and we were researching kindergartens just the other day. How can she possibly be fifteen already? God knows I'm not fifteen years older than I was when she was born, so how can she be?
Perhaps the Swiss hadron collider has made holes in the space-time continuum, and things like this are happening because time has ceased to be uniform or linear. That explains it. And the fact that I don't look any older has nothing to do with Botox--right?