f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

April 30, 2008

the summer gas tax holiday: hot air from the panderpols

Filed under: lawyer news or ethics,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 5:15 pm

Pump-Pandering Politicians: It’s great to see that so many news sources and websites are putting a penetrating spotlight on the proposals by the presidential candidates, as well as other federal and state politicians (like Messrs. Bruno and Tedisco in New York), to remove the gas tax over the summer. A Newsday editorial summed it up: “A proposal for such tiny, temporary, iffy savings is a political gimmick, not meaningful relief.” (“No such thing as a free tank: No gas tax for the summer is a bad idea“, April 30, 2008). For more analysis, see:

  • Tax cut could push gas prices higher” (CNNMoney.com, April 29, 2008) “Despite claims from McCain and Clinton, temporary cut in gas taxes could lead to more demand and push prices higher – leaving taxpayers to cover shortfall.”
  • Candidates’ Plans Could Indirectly Raise Gas Prices: Senators Back Steps That Portend Higher Pump Costs,” Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2008
  • Dumb as We Wanna Be” by Thomas L. Friedman (New York Times, April 30, 2008), which opines, “It is great to see that we finally have some national unity on energy policy. Unfortunately, the unifying idea is so ridiculous, so unworthy of the people aspiring to lead our nation, it takes your breath away. . . This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country.”

See the video clip — “Who Can Lower Gas Prices? The Candidates’ Plans: The Gas Squeeze: Will lifting the gas tax provide some relief?” — from Good Morning America/ABCNews (April 30, 2008)

And, listen to analysis on the Gas Tax Holiday from the PBS NewsHour — RealAudioDownload (April 30, 2008), or read the transcript.

  • Democrats Divided Over Gas Tax Break” by John Broder, The New York Times (29 Apr 2008), which has a description of the presidential candidates’ current and prior positions on gas taxes, and points out (emphasis added):

“The highway trust fund that the gas tax finances provides money to states and local governments to pay for road and bridge construction, repair and maintenance. Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton propose to suspend the tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the peak driving season, which would lower tax receipts by roughly $9 billion and potentially cost 300,000 highway construction jobs, according to state highway officials.”

update (May 1, 2008): Today’s NYT editorial “The Gas-Guzzler Gambit” also uses the word pander and explains why “it is an expensive and environmentally unsound policy that would do nothing to help American drivers.”

The federal tax on gasoline is 18.4 cents per gallon, about 5% of the average price today. Savvy f/k/a readers probably didn’t have to read an article to wonder why we would expect the oil companies to automatically pass on the savings from a gas tax hiatus. In addition, if you’ve been reading about the plight of many independent gas stations, you might also expect the stations to try to pocket some of the tax savings for themselves. See, e.g., “Stations hope you fill up with more than gas: Fuel is loss leader for many; they make money in convenience stores,” (msnbc.com, April 1, 2008)

If you want to feel even worse about all this, and the related subject of reducing our nation’s gasoline consumption, read a little about the Price Elasticity of Demand for Gasoline; and see “Soaring Gas Prices Will Not Reduce Demand.”

Where do the Presidential Candidates Stand? We’re not naming names (due to our political-punditry hiatus), but see “Clinton Criticizes Obama Over Gas Tax Plan: Knocks Obama’s Opposition To Summer ‘Gas Tax Holiday,’ Which She And McCain Support” (CBSNews.com, April 28, 2008); “Obama Dismisses Gas Tax Holiday: Senator Says Gimmick Won’t Help Consumers, Designed To Get Rivals Through Election” (AP/CBSNews.com, April 29, 2008); and “McCain wants a gas tax ‘holiday.’ It’s a no-brainer, right?,” (The Oil Drum: Europe, April 15, 2008)

update (May 2, 2008): Yesterday, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Joe Andrew, a superdelegate, switched his presidential endorsement to Barack Obama. See “Longtime Clinton ally Joe Andrew defects to Barack Obama” (Los Angeles Times, May 2, 2008) At a news conference Thursday, Andrew said:

“Clinton’s support for a federal gas-tax holiday over the summer was symbolic of a poll-driven candidacy proposing something ‘politically expedient to give a quick pander to Hoosier voters,’ in contrast to what he called the ‘principled’ campaign Obama has run.”

We think the gas-tax-holiday issue can tell us a lot about our so-called leaders. Who is willing to tell us the truth? Who treats voters like adults? Who is worried about the long-run and not just the next election? It also tells us a lot about the voting public: Who will demand a simplistic “solution” even if it might in fact be counter-productive, just to get a few extra bucks in their pocket now.

– for other posts on issues related to gasoline consumption see: post-Earth Day spread: speed limits and efficient driving; Open Letter to Gas Whiners and Another Silly One-Day Gas Boycott

update (May 25, 2008):  Jim Tedisco, Republican leader in the NYS Assembly, continues to pander over the Memorial Day weekend, in the Op/Ed piece “To help achieve lower gas prices, make your voice heard” (Sunday Gazette, May 25, 2008).

follow-up (May 8, 2008): There’s an excellent editorial in today’s NYT, “The Tax Trickery Spreads(New York Times, May 8, 2008) Among points made:

  • “Unfortunately, their [Senators Clinton and McCain] demagoguery is growing into a real problem, setting off a chain reaction of “me too” proposals across the country to suspend state gasoline taxes, which tend to be much larger than the 18.4-cent-a-gallon federal levy. If the pandering spreads, it would go a long way in setting the nation’s energy strategy in precisely the wrong direction.”
  • “These ideas share a common purpose: appearing to be doing something to ease hard-pressed voters’ pain at the pump. Not only are they costly, but they will not do that. Suspending the federal tax would cost $9 billion. In New York, the suspension would blow a $500 million hole in state finances. Consumers in some states could benefit from lower state gas taxes because wholesalers could import gas from other states. Still, with refineries producing almost at full capacity, the tax break would prompt a jump in demand that would push up prices.”

If you’ve read and considered all of the above, you surely deserve a treat. Here are more poems from the newest issue of Acorn (No. 20, Spring 2008) — which, among its 100+ poems, contains contemporary haiku by a number of our f/k/a Honored Guest Poets:

nearby clouds
nearby mountains
the rescue helicopter hovers

… by Gary Hotham

a cat at a threshold I can’t see sniffs something I can’t smell

icy night
a saw-whet etches
the silence

………. by jim kacian

spring at last
letting the stallion out
into the pasture

….. by Randy M. Brooks

quick-running brook . . .
a stone from the bottom
lighter than imagined

……………… by paul m.

with coat buttons
autumn rain

……………. by Yu Chang

Lightning-cracked rain —
his palm rests against
the bottle’s black label

Dead-end road —
shadows of skinny cows
through old barbed wire

……… by Rebecca Lilly

All Souls
a third day
of candy

………….. by John Stevenson

April 29, 2008

50th anniversary of Law Day

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,lawyer news or ethics — David Giacalone @ 4:15 pm

. . . . . . . 1958 to 2008. . . May 1st is Law Day . .

We’ve pretty much said all we need say about Law Day in prior years — see, e.g., “Law Day, Not Lawyers Day” (2004); “towards a better Law Day” (2005); “lawdy, lawdy another Law Day” (2006); and “Law Day with Chief Judge Kaye” (2007). This year, I’d like to point out that this is the 50th Anniversary of Law Day, which was started with a proclamation by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958.

In other years, President George W. Bush issued Law Day proclamations a few days before May 1st. In 2005, he did not mention lawyers in his Law Day proclamation, in Law Day, U.S.A., 2006 he did. Although President Bush has recently recognized Malaria Awareness Day, and Older American Month, along with Loyalty Day (which is also on May 1st) and Education and Sharing Day, there is no Law Day proclamation up at the White House Proclamation Page, as of 4 PM Eastern Time today, April 29, 2008. Some wags might conclude that he likes loyalty and lot more than the rule of law. update (April 30 May 1, 2008, 8 AM): Still no Law Day Proclamation from the White House, but National Physical Fitness and Sports Month did get honored overnight.

Better Late (May 1, 2008, 9:30 AM):  The White House has finally issued its proclamation for Law Day 2008.  It starts: “The right of ordinary men and women to determine their own future, protected by the rule of law, lies at the heart of America’s founding principles.  As our country celebrates the 50th anniversary of Law Day, we renew our commitment to the ideals on which this great Nation was established and to a robust system of ordered liberty.”  And continues, “We pay tribute to the men and women in America’s legal community.”  President Bush also looks toward “a hopeful future as we work to secure the liberty that is the natural right of every man, woman, and child.”

Prof Yabut, having recently watched both Frontline’s “Sick Around the World” and Michael Moore’s Sicko,, and having just read Pres. Bush’s proclamations for Loyalty Day, Older American Month, Education and Sharing Day, Malaria Day, and National Volunteers Week, wonders yet again: How can all those other nations pay for everyone’s health-care and education (and assure month-long vacations to workers) when our rich and caring country fails to do so?

The 2008 Law Day theme at the American Bar Association is The Rule of Law: Foundation for Communities of Opportunity and Equity. The ABA’s Law Day materials explain

Why Is This Theme Important?

Advancing the rule of law helps achieve an
array of public benefits. We all have a stake in
the rule of law, and we all can do our part to
strengthen it.

The rule of law refers to a system of self-
government with a strong and accessible legal
process. It features a system based on fair,
publicized, broadly understood, and stable
laws, and diverse, competent, and independent
lawyers and judges. This foundation is essen-
tial to foster sustainable communities of
opportunity and equity.

Frankly, I’m not too sure what that means, but there are a lot of materials at the ABA Law Day 2008 website to help understand the topic and even teach it to others. If you want to see whether there are Law Day activities in your area, check out their Law Day Events Calendar.

LawDayBalloons If you like tacky, don’t forget the ABA Law Day Store. (scroll down our 2006 Law Day post for thoughts on the Law Day Store) update (April 30, 2008): Anne at Court-o-rama says: “Not to be outdone by Hallmark, the ABA has a Law Day Store selling Rule of Law yo-yos, mugs, backpacks, balloons, postcards (send one to a despot!), and carabiners: the keychains of the future!!!.”

If you long for the days when Law Day was still celebrated by the Bar as if it really were Lawyers Day, go to the Resources Page of The Billable Hour Company and check out their Legal Holidays and Events Calendar. The calendar is meant:

To help raise the morale of legal professionals by spreading information about all of the federal, state and local holidays that celebrate lawyers and legal professionals.

Since the rest of the world is “not quite ready for Love Lawyers Day,” lawyers may just have to be satisfied with loving themselves.

afterthought (7 PM): KipEsquire at a Stitch in Haste is not happy with Pres. Bush’s proclamation making May 1st a National Day of Prayer, saying “Bush again insults and marginalizes atheists” (hat tip to Ed at BlawgReview)

If you’ve read down this far and are saying to yourself, “hey, where’s the haiku?,” here are a few from the brand new edition of Acorn (a journal of contemporary haiku, that is edited by Carolyn Hall). We’ll share more from Acorn No. 20, Spring 2008, very soon.

a cold cup
from a cold cupboard —
morning moon

… by Peggy Lyles –

pale moon the thinning of days into winter

… by Billie Wilson

for now
first snow

…… by John Stevenson

century oak —
waiting it out
inside the drip line

country road
the Nam vet
revs his Harley

…….. by Tom Painting

p.s. Tom’s second poem reminded me of articles I’ve been seeing lately like this one: “older riders adding to motorcycle fatalities” and “rusty baby boomers on bikes.” Be careful out there, Boomers. Don’t forget the rules of law nor the laws of nature (and physics).

obama’s tort reform creds?

Filed under: lawyer news or ethics,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 10:31 am

As you probably know, Barack Obama appeared on Fox News Sunday on April 27, 2008 (to the apparent dismay of many liberal bloggers who support negotiating with our nation’s enemies, but are boycotting Fox in order to “delegitimize” it. Please, kids, grow up with all your litmus tests.). Click for a Transcript of Obama on FNS.

For the purpose of this post, what interested us was this exchange between moderator Chris Wallace and Sen. Obama:

WALLACE: Some of your detractors say that you are a paint by the numbers liberal and I’d like to explore this with you. . . . As a president, can you name a hot button issue where you would be willing to cross (ph) Democratic party line and say you know what, Republicans have a better idea here. . . .

OBAMA: . . . I would point out, though, for example, that when I voted for a tort reform measure that was fiercely opposed by the trial lawyers, I got attacked pretty hard from the left.

At Point of Law.com, guest-blogger Carter Wood responded to this brief remark with the posting “Obama Cites His Tort Reform Credentials” (April 27, 2008). Wood notes:

“He’s no doubt referring to his February 2005 vote for S. 5, the Class Action Fairness Act, which passed 76-26. Ted Frank analyzed Obama’s CAFA vote and tort reform record in this December 2006 post, concluding, ‘As a reform supporter, I’m far from convinced that this makes him someone willing to cross the plaintiffs’ bar.’ Senator Clinton voted no.”

In his earlier Point of Law piece, “Obama and liability reform” (Dec. 27, 2006), Ted Frank weighed in on whether Sen. Obama had any tort-reform creds, discussing his vote for what Frank calls “the eminently sensible Class Action Fairness Act.” After noting that “Obama may have annoyed the lunatic left with his vote for CAFA,” Ted says, among other things:

“Obama didn’t participate in the negotiations to get Democratic support, and he voted for every Democratic attempt to eviscerate the bill with amendments. . . Obama didn’t break with the Democrats on any seriously contested tort reform measures: he filibustered medical malpractice reform, and was one of the votes to kill the asbestos reform bill (which effectively failed by one vote) . . . Obama claimed to support medical malpractice reform in his Senate campaign (or, at least, made pro-reform swing voters think that he did), but, then, so did Kerry and Edwards in their 2004 presidential campaign.

“Obama co-sponsored the MEDiC bill with Hillary Clinton; it was a federally-funded variation of the so-called “Sorry Works” proposal . . . But it’s hardly the move of someone daring to flout the trial lawyers who dominate the Democratic Party these days.”

I don’t believe that Barack Obama has ever tried to portray himself as a full-blooded, knee-jerk Tort Reformer. As far as I’m concerned, neither being totally for nor totally against every tort-reform proposal makes good sense or good public policy. The issues raised are complicated and need to be looked at with regard to the legitimate rights of both injured plaintiffs and accused defendants — assuring that all litigants get justice and our justice system is efficient and fair. There is no simple fix that can assure that those truly injured by bad-actors are fully compensated and that defendants are treated fairly both when blame is assigned and when damages are measured.

From my perspective as a consumer advocate and citizen looking for an effective and fair justice system, it seems that: Rabid proponents of tort reform mostly want to pay injured plaintiffs as little as possible, while rabid opponents of tort reform — mainly the “trial” or personally injury bar — want to be able to extract as much money as possible from defendants while assuring the biggest fees possible for plaintiffs’ lawyers.

In this context, I’m pleased that Barack Obama has not totally embraced “tort reform,” and — as a Democrat who worries about interest groups strangling the party and skewing its positions and priorities — am even more pleased that the Senator is unwilling to simply rubber stamp the position of trial lawyers by serving as their mouthpiece, puppet or platitude-peddling political paladin, rather than looking at each issue or piece of legislation on its merits.

I continue to hope that Sen. Obama will produce a comprehensive statement about our litigation system and necessary reforms and restructuring (including the need for full access to the courts). By choosing not to embrace either Tort Reformers or Trial Lawyers, Barack Obama increases his creds as a refreshingly different kind of politician.

prof yabut Prof. Yabut says: This posting is a follow-up to one of the most-visited posts in our five-year history was: “Inquiry to Obama on Tort Reform” (Aug. 4, 2004), from which we hoped to find out the position of Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama on tort reform and related issues. We never received any response from the Obama Campaign. [Note: Our Editor is a lifelong Democrat and has recently noted his support for Sen. Obama.]

Reminder: The f/k/a Gang [the Editor and his alter egos] are not “tort reformers” — we do not advocate arbitrary or blanket limits on the size of personal injury awards. We have, however, written extensively on the topic of the standard contingency fee (charging virtually every personal injury client the same percentage fee regardless of how risky or easy the case might be), which we believe consistently extracts excessive fees from clients. See, e.g., our four-part essay on the ethics and economics of contingency fees.

SlicingThePie This position has drawn the ire of the so-called “trial lawyers,” “consumer protection lawyers” and “justice lawyers,” who seem to have much power over traditional Democratic politicians (especially those seeking campaign contributions). For example, the supposedly pro-consumer Clinton Administration opposed a bill that would have merely told consumers that they have the right to negotiate the level of a contingency fee. [aside (May 1, 2008): See my Comment #5 below about a reaction to the above mention of standard contingency fees.] Now, finally, let’s go to the point of this posting:

April 27, 2008

at least they’re upscale nudists

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 1:56 pm

Nakations? The New York Times tells us today that there’s a big trend of Americans heading to nudist resorts for their vacations — dubbed “nakations”. See “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Worries” (by Michelle Higgins, April 27, 2008). The article came just a couple days after I wrote to a friend that, “American obesity has taken a lot of the fun out of watching the change from winter to spring wardrobes.” So, I’ve got to confess that the general notion of Americans wearing no clothes is not a big draw (much less a turn-on) for me.

nude beach
a man and a woman
collect shells

nude beach
the jet ski instructress
tells me to “concentrate”

………….. . . . by ed markowski [“shells” from The Heron’s Nest.]

On the other hand, our cranky contrarian Prof. Yabut pointed to the NYT statement that:

“the real boom in nude vacations is coming at the high end of the business, as upscale hotels and resorts, and even some luxury cruise lines, have begun to see the economic potential in the no-clothes crowd — particularly those who want to shed their clothes but not their pampered lifestyles.”

keep your shirt on, buddy

As a lifelong (and long-lived) practitioner of lookism, Yabut added, “at least they’re upscale nudists.” That got me thinking about the widespread assumption that the rich are not as fat as the poor in America. I turned to Mr. Google for help, and went first to the Wikipedia entry on obesity, where a relevant section states:

Social determinants

“. . . In particular, a class co-factor consistently appears across many studies. Comparing net worth with BMI scores, a 2004 study found obese American subjects approximately half as wealthy as thin ones. When income differentials were factored out, the inequity persisted—thin subjects were inheriting more wealth than fat ones.

A higher rate of a lower level of education and tendencies to rely on cheaper fast foods is seen as a reason why these results are so dissimilar. Another study finds women who married into higher status are predictably thinner than women who married into lower status. [Ed. note: my empirical evidence definitely jibes with that last statement.]

“A 2007 study of more than 32,500 children . . . indicated that BMI change in friends, siblings or spouse predicted BMI change in subjects irrespective of geographical distance. The authors concluded from the results that acceptance of body mass plays an important role in changes in body size .”

family picnic
the new wife’s rump
bigger than mine

… by Roberta BearyThe Unworn Necklace (Snapshot Press 2007)

That sounded about right. See also: “Lower-income Neighborhoods Associated With Higher Obesity Rates” (Science Daily, Feb. 10, 2008) (“A new study appearing in the journal Nutrition Reviews reveals that characteristics of neighborhoods, including the area’s income level, the built environment [e.g., “barriers to physical activity”], and access to healthy food, contribute to the continuing obesity epidemic.”); “DIETING LINKED TO INCREASED WEALTH, STUDY FINDS” (Research News, July 2005) (“Overweight Americans who lose a lot of weight also tend to build more wealth as they drop the pounds, according to new research.”); and “Obesity Often Linked to Income” (npr, Aug. 18, 2004) (“Americans spend a good deal of money eating out, a habit tied to the nation’s obesity epidemic. Researchers say the less people can pay for food, the more calories they consume.”)

dia de los muertos —
the anorexic looks

……. dagosan

Nonetheless, the f/k/a Gang doesn’t [usually] just stop its research as soon as we find materials confirming our own assumptions. And, when we looked at a few additional Google results for the search “obesity [income OR wealth]”, we quickly saw that — like just about everything we talk about at this site — things are not as simple or clearcut as we first thought.

For example:

  • Obesity surges among affluent” (by Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY, May 2, 2005) According to this article, “Obesity a condition that for decades has been more prevalent in the poor, is skyrocketing among affluent Americans, a new study finds. Defined as 30 or more pounds over a healthy weight, obesity has increased nearly threefold over a 30-year period among Americans who earn more than $60,000 per year, according to researchers at the University of Iowa College of Public Health.” Since the 1970’s, obesity rates “went from 9.7% to 26.8% . Among those making less than $25,000, the increase was much smaller, from 22.5% to 32.5%.”

These are scary numbers, but they do no necessarily contradict the Rich Is Thinner notion, since — for most Americans — “rich” and “affluent” refer to people making a lot more then $60,000 per year. I’d like to see how the numbers break down for the “truly rich” who can afford to go upscale. But, what about:

  • Children’s Risk of obesity soars with family income” (Sept. 17, 2008) According to the Daily Mail, “Children with wealthy middle class parents are more likely to be overweight or obese than those from poor households, a study has revealed.” The article goes on to say that:



“The findings go against conventional wisdom that Britain’s poorest families have the worst diets – showing the risk of obesity actually soars with family income. . . . Researchers linked the problem to the rise of highly-paid working mothers – who are often forced to leave a nanny or nursery in charge of their child’s diet and physical exercise.

“High consumption of snack foods and sweetened drinks, long hours spent watching television and low rates of breastfeeding – shown to prevent obesity – were also said to be factors”.


As the article notes, this seems to be a warning to middle-class parents, “who often ‘assumed’ their children were living healthy lives.”

the naked child crawls–
the blooming

.. by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

It’s sad that the children of the well-off are also caught up in the Western world’s obesity epidemic. Thankfully, as today’s Times article points out: “No matter how popular and upscale nude resorts become, one social convention is unlikely to change: Nudity and family vacations don’t always mix.” Thus, nakationers can probably avoid having to look at the fat, naked kids of wealthy Americans and Brits. That’s definitely a relief.

Buddha’s birthday–
fat little sparrows
and their parents

a chubby girl
offered pickles…
soot sweeping

my child
in the barley field wind…
nicely plump

.. by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue


no thanks: nudist camp weight-loss center cartoon

roly-poly pigeons
growing fatter…
a long day

being so fat
he’s not a good jumper…

giving these skinny legs
new life…
a pheasant

.. by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

Does Richer Mean Thinner? We don’t get paid enough to have a definitive answer to the Are Rich Nudists Thinner question. Nevertheless, we note the section of today’s NYT article devoted to the notions of U. Berkeley psychology professor Dacher Keltner:

“Today, America’s increasing obsession with health and wellness may be contributing to the rise of clothing-optional vacations. “Americans have moralized healthy bodies,” said Dacher Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, who has studied moral emotion and judgment. He added that “a case could be made that people are traveling to these places to be pure for moral reasons — to achieve harmony in nature.” It’s really a form of self-expression, he added, that dates back to Walt Whitman and John Muir, as well as Thoreau, all of whom advocated being as true to yourself as possible. “The truest you can be is taking off those clothes,” he said.”

It seems to the f/k/a Gang that most of the folk who would agree with and abide by Prof. Keltner’s explanation are likely to be the educated American elite, who tend to be rich rather than poor (and from California rather than Indiana). Therefore, if we had to be dropped into the middle of a nudist resort — and not ones like the Times says “turn away single men” — we hope it’s one of the upscale nakation spots, perhaps the kind that caters to a lot of those “women who married into higher status” mentioned at Wikipedia.

a naked rider
on a naked horse

.. by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

the old couple’s legs femaleSymmaleSym
skinny and white as

empty cookie tin —
letting out last year’s
santa suit

……….. by dagosan

April 25, 2008

what’s john stevenson been up to?

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 11:56 am

Seen here yesterday. . . . [big]

cherry blossoms
another year
of haiku

……… by john stevenson – Upstate Dim Sum (Vol. 2007/II, Fall 2007)

Rumor has it that haiku poet-editor John Stevenson snuck into Schenectady at the end of the afternoon yesterday (April 24, 2008), for a quick look at the cherry blossoms on display at Congregation Gates of Heaven. [Click here and here to see why it was worth the drive from Albany.] I was on that very corner snapping photos around 3 PM yesterday, and I’m sorry to have missed John (and his friendly guide Prof. Yu Chang).

Earlier this month, John was in New York City, serving (again) as judge for the English-language section of a student haiku contest sponsored by the United Nations International School.

Christmas evening
the snow
doesn’t stick

……. by john stevenson – Upstate Dim Sum (Vol. 2007/II)

Now that he’s managing editor of The Heron’s Nest journal (see prior post), John’s award-winning haiku are no longer appearing at that venerable venue. So, I thought I’d post a few of his poems that are not found yet online, from the last issue of Upstate Dim Sum, as well as a trio from Shamrock Haiku Journal, which was launched in 2007 by the Irish Haiku Society. No matter what else he’s doing, or where he’s hanging his hat, you can be sure that John is hatching or crafting haiku.

the tide
arranging rocks and sand,
just as I would

smell of the earth turned up by a tractor

showing the new kid
which corner of the lot
is home plate

old pasture
the buzzing
in a hollow tree

lights on
in the schoolhouse
winter afternoon

warm breezes
seem responsible
for the way she walks

….. by John Stevenson – Upstate Dim Sum (Fall 2007)

poor singing voices
they have built a nest

a small kitchen
the toaster
warms one corner

ladies with parasols
walk to the next painting

…. by John Stevenson – Shamrock Haiku Journal (Vol. 1, 2007) shamrocksSN
“a small kitchen” – also. pub. Upstate Dim Sum (Fall 2007)

April 23, 2008

post-earth-day pledge: speed limits and efficient driving

Filed under: viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 4:42 pm

It’s Earth Day Plus One: Now it’s time to see whether we really want to make a difference — by changing our habits in a meaningful way, despite the inconvenience.

Earth Day –
recycled bottles
in a three-car garage

… by dagosan [April 24, 2005]

If politicians and the public were serious about achieving fuel economy — in order to save money and save Earth from greenhouse gases — they would start enforcing our speed limit laws and rollback the highway speed limit to 55 mph. [followup (July 4, 2008): see our post “speed limit politics“]

Fuel economy decreases rapidly above 60 mph, according to the FTC. And, as we reported on May 2, 2005, “driving at 10 miles an hour above the 65 miles-per-hour increases fuel consumption by 15 percent.” (See NYT, “Unmentioned Energy Fix: A 55 M.P.H. Speed Limit,” May 1, 2005)

supplemental update (April 24, 2008): Eartheasy.com‘s Fuel-Efficient Driving page tells us that “The keys to climate control are in your hands.” It states:

You can boost the overall fuel-efficiency of your car as much as 30% by simple vehicle maintenance and attention to your style of driving. Here are some tips on fuel-efficient driving that will not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, but could save you hundreds of dollars a year in fuel costs.

The Eartheasy piece succinctly summarizes this EPA fuel efficiency graph:

Drive steadily at posted speed limits. Increasing your highway cruising speed from 55mph (90km/h) to 75mph (120km/h) can raise fuel consumption as much as 20%. You can improve your gas mileage 10 – 15% by driving at 55mph rather than 65mph (104km/h). Note how quickly efficiency drops after 60 mph.

You can find more detailed and technical information at How Stuff Works.com. Its article “What speed should I drive to get maximum fuel efficiency?” states, for example, that:

  • “[F]or most cars, the ‘sweet spot’ on the speedometer is in the range of 40-60 mph. Cars with a higher road load will reach the sweet spot at a lower speed.”
  • “In general, smaller, lighter, more aerodynamic cars will get their best mileage at higher speeds. Bigger, heavier, less aerodynamic vehicles will get their best mileage at lower speeds.”
  • “If you drive your car in the ‘sweet spot’ you will get the best possible mileage for that car. If you go faster or slower, the mileage will get worse, but the closer you drive to the sweet spot the better mileage you will get.”


So, we have an easy but significant fuel economy solution — with one big problem: human nature. Politicians don’t have the guts to call for any real sacrifices and we plain folk — myself included — like driving fast and getting to our destinations quicker. Of course, I’ve learned that no matter how much the f/k/a Gang nags, we don’t change many minds or habits.

you!Me. The only person I can control is myself, and I pledge today to follow the speed limit on all highways and (as explained below) adopt habits that will enhance my driving efficiency. In addition, I’m going to actively campaign for both the enforcement of our speed limit laws and the return to 55 mph as the speed limit on our highways. Of course, you are welcome to join the pledge.

traffic patrol A 2005 survey by the Governors Highway Safety Association confirmed what we already knew: almost every state allows drivers to regularly and significantly exceed the speed limit before they are stopped — and “Nearly all respondents reported a public perception that there exists a cushion above a posted speed limit in which officers will not cite offenders. The range most often reported was 5-10 miles per hour above the posted limit. ” NewsMax.com, AP, “Survey: Most States Allow Speed Cushion,” June 13, 2005; Survey Executive Summary). One news report noted:

“Authorities patrolling U.S. highways tend to give motorists a cushion of up to 10 miles per hour above the speed limit before pulling them over, says a survey by a group of state traffic safety officials. The group found that 42 states allow drivers to regularly exceed the speed limit before they are stopped. [Editor’s Note: only 47 states responded to this survey; at least one of the non-responders — New York — clearly also has the speed cushion.]

“This cushion truly exists across the country and in some cases is more than 10 miles above posted limits,” said Jim Champagne, the GHSA’s chairman.

Law enforcement needs to be given the political will to enforce speed limits and the public must get the message that speeding will not be tolerated,” said Champagne . . .

. . . “Since 1994, 38 states have increased their speed limit, the report said. Congress in 1995 allowed states to raise limits above 55 mph in urban areas and 65 mph on rural roads.

“[And, yes, speed both costs and kills:] A study released in 1999 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimated an increase in deaths on interstates and freeways of about 15 percent in the 24 states that had raised their speed limit in late 1995 and 1996.”


earthSG In 2005, I opined: “I hate to be cynical, but I don’t think there’s any chance that the American public — or their courageous leaders — will go along with lowering speed limits to 55 mph in order to save billions of gallons of oil a year.” This is another time when I would love to see one of my predictions proven wrong.

An AP article in yesterday’s Schenectady Gazette, like similar ones over the past few years, told of consumer angst over high gasoline prices but failed to mention anything about non-commercial drivers reducing speed to reduce gas consumption. See AP/Gazette online, “Drivers, eyeing gas prices now averaging $3.50 a gallon nationwide, say they feel squeezed” (April 22, 2008)

The only exception are trucking companies: “The American Trucking Associations on Monday said it will host a ‘fuel strategies workshop’ in June to help fleet operators cope with soaring prices. ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said fuel has now surpassed labor as the trucking industry’s biggest cost, prompting some companies to install devices that prevent drivers from speeding.” [And see, “Truckers Back a National 65-mph Speed Limit,” US News & World Report, March 26, 2008]

Since far too few drivers are likely to regulate themselves and slow down without an incentive, the first step is obvious (and easy): Our Governors and law enforcement officials need to bite the bullet and declare that — oh-my-god! — we’re going to enforce the speed limit; and then they need to do it. Filling depleted state coffers with the speeding fines will just be an added bonus — and should cover the extra cost of diligent, deterrent, habit-shaping enforcement.

update (May 25, 2008): Rather than call for enforcement of speed limits, tough-on-crime politician Jim Tedisco, Republican leader in the NYS Assembly, continues to pander over the Memorial Day weekend, in the Op/Ed piece “To help achieve lower gas prices, make your voice heard” (Sunday Gazette, May 25, 2008).

Sadly, despite the use of alternative fuels and the purported switch to cars with better mileage, the Federal Trade Commission’s Oil-Gas webpage recently noted, “the Energy Information Administration forecasts that gasoline consumption will continue to increase through 2030.” (FTC Gasoline Column, March 7, 2008) However. there are things you and I can do individually today (and, hopefully, tomorrow) to reduce fuel consumption without buying a new car.

As the FTC consumer alert “Saving Money at the Gas Pump: A Bumper-to-Bumper Guide” (FTC Consumer Alert 2006) reminds us: “When it comes to stretching your gas budget, how you drive can be almost as important as how far you drive.

55 limit n So, please join me in my pledge to drive smart and increase my fuel efficiency. Here are some useful tips from the 2005 FTC Consumer Alert “Good, Better, Best: How to Improve Gas Mileage“:

On the Road: Drive More Efficiently

* Stay within posted speed limits. Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 miles per hour.
* Stop aggressive driving. You can improve your gas mileage up to five percent around town if you avoid “jackrabbit” starts and stops by anticipating traffic conditions and driving gently.
* Avoid unnecessary idling. It wastes fuel, costs you money, and pollutes the air. Turn off the engine if you anticipate a wait.
* Combine errands. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.
* Use overdrive gears and cruise control when appropriate. They improve the fuel economy of your car when you’re driving on a highway.
* Remove excess weight from the trunk. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk can reduce a typical car’s fuel economy by up to two percent.
* Avoid packing items on top of your car. A loaded roof rack or carrier creates wind resistance and can decrease fuel economy by five percent.

And, At the Garage: Maintain Your Car

* Keep your engine tuned. Tuning your engine according to your owner’s manual can increase gas mileage by an average of four percent. Increases vary depending on a car’s condition.
* Keep your tires properly inflated and aligned. It can increase gas mileage up to three percent.
* Change your oil. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you can improve your gas mileage by using the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil. Motor oil that says “Energy Conserving” on the performance symbol of the American Petroleum Institute contains friction-reducing additives that can improve fuel economy.
* Check and replace air filters regularly. Replacing clogged filters can increase gas mileage up to ten percent.


To help keep myself on track, I plan to report back regularly with frank assessments of my compliance with this very doable but also somewhat daunting checklist of good driver practices in the fuel-reduction game. My first big test may come on Mother’s Day, when I drive the 220 miles to see Mama G. I’m going have to get out the door a bit earlier to stay on schedule while abiding by the speed limit. I’m looking forward to seeing my gas-savings at the pump driving the New York Thruway at 65. Watching all those cell-phoning, tail-gating fools pass me along the way might just inspire a senryu or two.

gasNozzleG – for further related reading see our posts: “summer gas tax holiday: hot air from the panderpols” (April 30, 2008); Open Letter to Gas Whiners and Another Silly One-Day Gas Boycott

update: See the op-ed column “Government at all levels can — should — take steps to help with gas crunch,” (by Joe Slomka, Schenectady Sunday Gazette, April 27, 2008). Among other good points, Joe says:

“I’m as mad about high gas prices as the next guy, but what I’m really mad about is the fact that this is a problem we created for ourselves and are doing virtually nothing to solve. And solving it would involve so little sacrifice. . . . What I’m talking about, mostly, is motorists — especially the ones who drive those guzzlers — slowing down.”

good news (but no excuse to speed): “As Gas Costs Soar, Buyers Flock to Small Cars” (New York Times, May 2, 2008) “[T]here are some indications that the trend toward smaller vehicles will reduce the nation’s fuel use. In California, motorists bought 4 percent less gasoline in January than they did the year before, a drop of more than 58 million gallons, according to the Oil Price Information Service.”

more resources (May 3, 2008): For a lot of information and inspiration (and some great bumper stickers) zoom over to iDrive55.org – the Drive 55 Conservation Project.

And “carpool for a better tomorrow” with RideSearch.com.

Good news (May 8, 2008): Our local News Channel 13 in Albany, NY, had a segment yesterday called “Some drivers reduce speed to save gas” (wnyt.com, May 7, 2008), which points out that “Researchers say today’s cars are most fuel efficient at speeds between around 30 and 60 miles per hour. Mileage drops sharply at speeds above 65 as engines work harder.” The piece includes a poll asking whether you are slowing down due to high gas prices.

more good news (May 10, 2008): “Gas prices sends surge of riders to mass transit” (New York Times, May 10, 2008). “Some cities with long-established public transit systems, like New York and Boston, have seen increases in ridership of 5 percent or more so far this year. But the biggest surges — of 10 to 15 percent or more over last year — are occurring in many metropolitan areas in the South and West where the driving culture is strongest and bus and rail lines are more limited.”

update (May 16, 2008) Don’t forget the Sierra Club’s Memorial Day Pledge — “I can drive 55.” See our post.

p.s. What’s Your Carbon Footprint? A Carbon Footprint is a measure of the impact our activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases we produce. It is measured in units of carbon dioxide. Earth Day (or any day) is a good time to calculate your carbon footprint. At Carbon Footprint.com you can also calculate the (incredibly large amount of ) CO2 you’ll use by flying to a destination.

April 22, 2008

PSA honors haiku — Roberta Beary’s The Unworn Necklace

Filed under: haijin-haikai news — David Giacalone @ 10:44 am

The Poetry Society of America finally gave haiku a little respect last night, April 21, 2008. At its 98TH ANNUAL AWARDS CEREMONY, in The Grand Ballroom of The National Arts Club, in New York City, PSA officially announced the winners of its twelve annual awards.

We’re very pleased to tell you that one of the two Finalists for the William Carlos Williams Award — which was given to “Complete Minimal Poems” by Aram Saroyan — was The Unworn Necklace: Haiku and Senryu (Snapshot Press 2007) by “our” lawyer-poet friend Roberta Beary.

Renowned poet and poetry commentator Ron Silliman was the judge for this year’s William Carlos Williams Award [which is for a book of poetry by a single author, published by a small press, non-profit, or university press]. At his Silliman blog this morning, Ron explains why he chose The Unworn Necklace and the very different “Sorry, Tree” by Eileen Myles as finalists — “the term that the Poetry Society of America prefers for those books that also deserve some special attention.”

He had this to say about the relationship of haiku to the rest of the world of literary poetry:

“If slam poets & visual poets go around thinking that nobody takes their genres seriously as literature, haiku poetry has been off the map altogether – a genuinely popular literary art form that receives no attention whatsoever from what Charles Bernstein would call Official Verse Culture unless it is for a new translation of one of the classics, or work by a poet, such as Anselm Hollo, already widely known and respected for writing in other forms. The whole idea of all these contests – not unlike slam competitions – is to create its own alternative institutional universe.”

Silliman later notes: “This is a book I never would have picked up – probably never would have seen, although it’s already gone into a second printing – that made me completely grateful to the Poetry Society of America and the Williams Carlos Williams Award for putting it into my hands.” I’m grateful that Ron Silliman had the courage to bring haiku into the spotlight of this “alternative institutional universe” — an important first step that should mean a little more respectability and appreciation for the genre as it has evolved in the English-language haiku world.

Silliman then goes on with great insight describing Roberta’s The Unworn Necklace. I hope you’ll read his entire posting to see why he felt TUN was a book worthy of special attention. After noting that her

the roses shift
into shadow

“might tell you a lot about a poet like Beary” [e.g., she likes subtle formalities and specificity of detail] but, Silliman says:

sunglassesG “By itself, tho, it’s hardly distinct from any of the hundreds of well-written works in these books, not just my final 19 volumes or even the broader group of books I liked. The reality, tho, is that it’s atypical of The Unworn Necklace, which is really a 70-poem not-quite-narrative cycle that has the weight and emotional force of a novel. A sprawling & powerful novel. A novel specifically about a woman’s midlife relationships as her marriage goes south, her father dies, her daughter takes flight, a new relationship is tested.”

Silliman then gives a couple examples of more typical TUN poems:

his death notice . . .
the get-well card
still in my briefcase


mother’s day
a nurse unties
the restraints

and declares: “These poems are compact, but remarkably well placed in the construction of a larger whole. . . . [T]he aesthetic here of absolutely minimal strokes accumulating to create a far more powerful picture is really overwhelming.”

beary If Silliman and PSA have whet your Beary appetite, check out our f/k/a review of The Unworn Necklace, which includes and has links to many of the poems in TUN. And, find many more of Roberta’s poems by clicking the links on her f/k/a Archives Page.

Here’s his final tribute to the two William Carlos Williams Award Finalists:

“Absent Aram Saroyan’s Complete Minimal Poems, I knew I would have given the WCW Award to one of these two books. . . . The only thing these books share in common is their power, and it’s interesting to imagine what kind of statement either would have made had it been the volume selected. This is what I just hate about contests. Each of these volumes is a total winner.”

Bravo to Roberta Beary and congratulations to the haiku genre, which can perhaps now start to overcome its little poetic self-esteem problem.

The Unworn Necklace: Haiku and Senryu, by Roberta Beary
(Snapshot Press 2007)

p.s. Snapshot Press has been in the process of “comprehensively redesigning and updating” its website for several years. It’s homepage now promises that “The new site will be launched in May 2008.” I hope so. And, I hope the new site will do a much better job than the old one of spotlighting each of its publications — especially the individual collections by haiku poets such as Roberta Beary, Carolyn Hall and Paul Miller.

update (April 23, 2008): John Barlow, editor of Snapshot Press, deserves a lot of credit for the overall feel of The Unworn Necklace. He has written a lengthy piece about Roberta’s Finalist status, and you can read it at the North Carolina Haiku Society Blog. John concludes:

necklaceG “We feel this landmark achievement for the ‘haiku community’ underlines a belief that haiku has a considerable potential audience beyond this community, and that English-language haiku of the highest quality can break down barriers that both exist, and are perceived to exist, between ‘mainstream’ poetry and haiku. This will ultimately be to the benefit of all in the haiku community – haiku needs readers – but it will only be possible if we are collectively and individually supportive of such opportunities as they arise.”

afterthoughts (April 23, 2008): The PSA recognition for The Unworn Necklace is a wonderful development. I am a little worried, however, that the haiku community might conclude the way to be recognized by “mainstream poetry” critics and readers is to produce another “narrative cycle that has the weight and emotional force of a novel” — rather than collections of excellent haiku by an individual poet. The result, I fear, would be (in the hands of less talented poets or editors) — as Ed Markowski suggested to me yesterday — tediously long “haiku sequences” or a one-haijin “anthology” covering a particular theme. A collection of haiku and senryu can surely be much more than the sum of each poem, but I fear we are devaluing the individual poem and distorting the genre if we ask a collection to have a novel-like over-arching impact and theme in order to be serious literary poetry. What do you think?

prof yabut afterwords (April 24, 2008): My cranky alter ego Prof. Yabut wanted me to clarify why I think recognition by PSA is good for haiku. It is not because I think haiku needs validation by “mainstream” or even “cutting edge” poets or poetry’s High Priests to be a worthy literary genre. My own enjoyment and appreciation of haiku — as a reader and a writer of genuine haiku — is in no way dependent upon the attitude toward haiku of what Ron Silliman and Charles Bernstein call the “Official Verse Culture.” (In some ways, their ignoring the genre makes me feel even better about being part of the humble little haiku community.) For me, PSA recognition of Roberta Beary’s wonderful book of haiku and senryu is to be celebrated because it makes it much more likely that many poetry lovers who have previously shunned or ignored the genre (or confused it with the parody-ku that is all too abundant on the web and in the media) will be exposed to it and will be able to discover for themselves its joys and unique gifts. Some will love it. Some will hate it. Some will be indifferent and never pick up another haiku volume. But, they will at least have given haiku a chance, by seeing what a modern English-language master of the form can do with 17 syllables or less.

update (April 28, 2008): A week after the award announcement, I’ve heard from several sources (e.g., here) that The Unworn Necklace has seen a nice jump in sales at Amazon.com, as have other “serious” haiku books. At 3 PM today, the TUN page at Amazon.com says:

Popular in these categories: (What’s this?)

#1 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Poetry > Japanese & Haiku

This is, of course, one of the hoped-for results of recognition by the PSA. As we had also hoped with the publication a year ago of “Baseball Haiku,” more exposure and sales of genuine haiku (as contrasted with Cowboy-ku and Cat-ku, etc.) will make it possible for more good haiku to be seen and published.

April 21, 2008

Washington (Ave.) Cherry Blossoms – Schenectady, NY

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 6:16 pm

. . . Last week, the corner where I live had the blahs. Even with a blue sky, it seemed like a black-and-white, colorless world.

cloud-covered twilight
she resets the printer
to grayscale

…… by dagosan

Over the weekend, however, we got color.

All it took was the arrival of our cherry blossoms.


Like my former adopted hometown of Washington, D.C., humble little Washington Ave. in the Historic Stockade District of Schenectady, NY, has a few splendid days dominated by cherry blossoms.

the wiggle
of a bee’s behind—
cherry blossom

. . . . . . by Laryalee Fraser

As you can see, the Washington Avenue cherry-blossom trees are rather young, but they already make a big splash and promise much more as the years go by. Here are a couple photos I took this afternoon; you’ll find a few more below the fold.

Washington Ave. looking northward from Union St. (larger)

distant thunder
a few cherry blossoms
float to earth

just blossoming blossomBranch
we meet under
the cherry tree

. . . . by w.f. owen

This tree stands in front of the Schenectady County Historical Society at 32 Washington Ave.

cherry blossoms
the tug tug tug
of baby’s hand

morning mist blossomBranch
a bent back sweeps
yesterday’s blossoms

. . . . . by roberta beary

update (April 24, 2008): Many thanks to our venerable (well, old) and very popular local morning radio personality Don Weeks, for posting a few of these f/k/a photos at his 810WGY webpage. See “Cherry Blossoms in Schenectady”  810WGY.com, April 24, 2008)

– for information on cherry blossom festivals in Washington and Vancouver, and many more cherry blossom haiku, see our 2007 posting and our 2008 sequel.

click “more” to see more blossoms under the fold –


surf report: a doctor, a river, and an ex-barrister

Filed under: q.s. quickies,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 1:57 pm

(large) This photo of the Mohawk River was taken at the end of my block of Washington Ave. in Schenectady, NY, back in March. Unless we’re having a flood or ice floes are backing up, the Mohawk is rather placid around here, and virtually no one is likely to think “let’s surf!” However, less than 20 miles east of us at Waterford, NY (see the Google Map), anesthesiology resident Dr. Jef Field of the Albany Medical Center can often be found river-surfing in the churning waters of the Mohawk, near where it empties into the Hudson River. See, for example:

by Lori Van Buren /Albany Times Union

by Lori Van Buren /Albany Times Union

As explained in the Albany TU article “An unlikely spot to catch a wave: Doctor finds place to pursue favorite sport far from the ocean” (by Jimmy Vielkind, April 9, 2008; via John D. at Nobody Move!), Dr. Field — a 35-year-old Virginia Beach, Va., native who now lives in Bethlehem, NY — says “Rivers are kind of like my ocean in the mountains” and outdoor thrill-seeking is his “natural high.” (But, lucky man, he also gets that high from his work.)

Wearing a neoprene wet suit and using a turquoise “platypus” board that is custom-designed for river surfing, Field was photographed on a day when the Mohawk River was quite high (14 feet) and flowing at 20,300 cubic feet per second. Here’s how reporter Vielkind described the scene:

“He stood on a path between the old Champlain Canal and Goat Island, just north of a hydroelectric dam. Field surfs between a 30-foot cliff and a cement diverting wall on the Mohawk as it tumbles into the Hudson.

“He walked upstream, about 30 yards from the “standing wave” created by a cataract, and slid into the water. . . . He spun around and slid into the frothing wave, then swam upstream.

“Suddenly, he rose above the froth and, with knees bent, began gyrating while riding the wave, left and right, up and down. He flashed a two-fingered V.

“After about a minute, the wave got the best of him. He was swept about 30 yards downstream, where he stood up in a quieter stretch on the other side of the wall and slowly walked upstream.” [enlarged versions of the above photos can be accessed from the article]

Field doesn’t seem a bit worried about the dangers involved in surfing this section of the Mohawk. As for any long-term health risks, he notes that he’s not drinking this river, and insists that “Something else is gonna get me first.” [For more information, see the website of The World River Surfing Association]

in what’s left SeashellLaurieSmith
of our footprints–
some of the wave

. . . . . by Gary Hotham fromsnow on the water: RMA 1998; South by Southeast V:2

where the wave

. . . . . by jim kacian, from Chincoteague

Why Lawyers Should Surf, by Tim Kevan and Michelle Tempest

Dr. Field’s joy in surfing and talk of “natural highs” naturally reminded me of the book Why Lawyers Should Surf: Inspiration for Lawyers at Work and Play, by (ex)barrister Tim Kevan and psychiatrist Michelle Tempest (see Tim’s description, and our prior post). And, it made we wonder if their companion volume “Why Doctors Should Surf: Inspiration for Doctors at Work and Play” was finally available.

It also reminded me that I’ve been wanting to escape my Green-Eye Monster and tell you about Tim Kevan’s current status: His popular The Barrister Blog (see our praise for it) was originally captioned something like “law, politics, and surfing.” However, it’s now called The (ex)Barrister Blog and has the envy-invoking caption, “retired young and gone surfing.” In the weblog’s sidebar you’ll find this cryptic explanation:

WhyLawyersSurfN The (ex-)Barrister Blog is written by Tim Kevan who was a barrister for ten years before retiring to live by the sea, go surfing and write a novel for Bloomsbury Publishing.

I may be too old and worn out to take up river or ocean surfing. But, I’m still willing to accept a nice advance to write a novel or a memoir. Meanwhile, I’m not going to hold me breath waiting — especially since I want to shout out a very big congratulations to Tim, while hoping novel-writing will come as easy to him as all his many other adventures and professional ventures. Given Tim’s wit and insight, I’m looking forward to reading his first novel and telling f/k/a‘s readers about it.

the view west –
a splash of red
on every wave

. .. by matt morden Morden Haiku

on the beach
the tracks of two
lounge chairs

. . . . . by John Stevenson from Quiet Enough

p.s. If you’re into cyber-surfing, and want to painlessly learn about Virtual Law, I suggest heading over to Blawg Review #156, at Virtually Blind. Host Benjamin Duranske — whose new book Virtual Law: Navigating the Legal Landscape of Virtual Worlds (ABA, April 2008) was just released — structures his post as a set of questions and answers on virtual law. He covers “the basics, and will illustrate the answers with links to a number of legal blogs, covering both real-world and virtual world legal issues.”

April 19, 2008

have you ever been punched by a client?

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,lawyer news or ethics,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 8:57 am

boxer smf Schenectady attorney Brian Mercy evoked tears of joy earlier this week from a client who had been in jail since last August, but was released from a drug charge when the vehicle search was held to be warrantless and illegal. But, Brian wasn’t quite so lucky yesterday with another jail-house dwelling client. According to the print edition of today’s Schenectady Daily Gazette (“Man punches attorney during court appearance,” April 19, 2008, p. B2):

“A man facing a jail assault charge apparently didn’t like the plea offered to him Friday.

“Charles Ardley, 21 [street name “Murder”], who was being held at the Schenectady County jail since last fall, responded by punching his attorney in the face, officials said.

‘He got mouthy with the judge and reached over and punched me in the side of the head,’ said attorney Brian Mercy, who was not injured. ‘I saw it coming.’

. . . “Mercy, who is no longer representing Ardley, said his former client was expected to be charged with contempt and harassment.

“The offer was apparently withdrawn.”

Although I’ve on occasion been tempted to slap a client or two upside the head (a couple divorce mediation husbands come to mind), I’ve never been punched, slapped or even pushed by a client. I have had a couple scary parents of my Law Guardian clients make not-at-all subtle threats when they did not like my opinion as to who should get custody or more visitation, or whether foster care was necessary. [These guys usually had biceps larger than my head.]

What about you, Mr. or Ms. Lawyer? Have you ever been punched or assaulted by a client? Are criminal lawyers more at risk than matrimonial lawyers or estate planners? Let us know with a Comment or a blurb at your weblog.

update (2 PM EDT): Hat tip to Ed of BlawgReview for sending me a YouTube Link to “Lawyer Punched in Face in Court,” on which Dustin Wadsworth shows a clip of a public defender being punched by his robbery-suspect client in a court room in Georgetown, KY. (ABC2Newscast, Feb. 6, 2008). This lawyer (not identified) got walloped.

afterglow (April 21, 2008): Thanks to all the blawgers who have pointed to this posting from their weblogs, including Holden at What About Clients, Gideon at A Public Defender, Kevin at Real Lawyers Have Blogs, and David at Above the Law.

If this post interested you, you might want to take a look at “poorly framed in Schenectady,” where I ask whether a local public defender should have refused to present an obviously-bogus alibi (which included using a photo from a picture frame in pointing to an imaginary perpetrator). If you are the defensive-lawyer type, it might make you want to punch someone (i.e., me).

boxer gray . . . . . . boxer gray flip

with a black eye halo
around the moon

….. by George Swede from Almost Unseen

empty punchbowl
husband and wife
avoid the mistletoe

…… by dagosan

all fools day
my daughter gets in first
with a pinch and punch

…….. by Matt Morden – The Heron’s Nest (June 2001)

new year’s morning
like every other
we punch the clock

………………… ed markowski

the slap of a beaver tail
at twilight

. . . by Alice Frampton – The Heron’s Nest (Sept. 2005)

singing a song
and slapping his butt…
with a fan

from his hole
the snake pokes his head…
the cat slaps it

swat! swat!
the escaping fly buzzes
with laughter

… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue




tom clausen: out of sight

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 7:42 am

One thing I plan to do even more of here at f/k/a, is bringing you haiku by our Honored Guest poets that are not otherwise available online — poetry being published in “hard copy” journals, books and anthologies but not in cyberspace, as well as off-line contest winners. Therefore, I want to urge our guest-poet family to continue to send me their off-line work, so we can make it available to a broader audience by posting it at f/k/a.

For example, see what you’re been missing from haijin Tom Clausen by not subscribing to the bi-annual anthology of the Route 9 Haiku Group, Upstate Dim Sum. Here’s a dozen from Tom that appeared in the Fall 2007 issue of UDS.

a truck piled high
with hay

too faint
for my son to see
a little used trail

sun come out…
the walk home
with my shadow

full of dirt
a dump truck waits
for her to cross

summer –
seeing more
of her

flower garden
where she buries
the goldfish

pleasant forecast –
my wife announces
her plan

urologist’s office –
a framed photograph
of the falls

the place emptied …
a spring breeze
blows through

in the dark
seeing my flashlight batteries

a week before he died –
new glasses
for distance

late day sun –
at the edge of the party
everyone aglow

… by Tom Clausen, from Upstate Dim Sum (2007/II, Fall 2007 issue)

April 16, 2008

we all missed Be Kind to Lawyers Day on April 8

Filed under: lawyer news or ethics — David Giacalone @ 12:11 pm

noloShark Non-lawyer Steve Hughes has a weblog of his own and lots of experience in advertising and sales promotion in St. Louis. Yet, he apparently failed to let any members of the blawgisphere know about the launching of the very first National Be Kind to Lawyers Day, which was “celebrated” on April 8, 2008.

Of course, if Steve had Googled or Yahoo!’d “Lawyers Day,” he might have saved himself a lot of effort and felt a bit less ignored. The very first search result is our posting from last September, which suggested that the world is “not quite ready for Love Lawyers Day.” It echoed a theme that we had sounded two years prior, when we pointed to the lukewarm reception for the August 31st event called “Love Litigating Lawyers Day.”

I don’t know why N.B.K.L.D was such a flop (other than the universal dread and dislike of lawyers). Hughes, who has worked with lawyers “for several years in the presentation skills arena,” would seem to have been the right person to launch the Day. According to his weblog, Steve is “the Presentation Guy,” and his bio boasts of years in advertising and sales promotion with top firms. His Hit Your Stride organization — which has the slogan “helping clients create & deliver world-class presentations” — calls itself

“a high-impact communication resource for organizations who want to create, deliver and profit from world-class presentations.”

On March 31st, Hughes and Hit Your Stride put out an upbeat press release for Be Kind to Lawyers Day. The press release said:

Tuesday, April 8th is the first-ever National Be Kind To Lawyers Day and is designed to give an ounce or two of respect to the men and women who daily tip the scales of justice. “In most surveys lawyers rank as the least respected profession and that includes celebrity paparazzi and used car salesmen,” says National Be Kind To Lawyers Day creator Steve Hughes.

It goes on to explain that “The early April date was selected because it is ideally situated between April Fool’s Day and Tax Day April 15th.” Steve adds that “The best part of National Be Kind To Lawyers Day is that people can participate as much or as little as they choose.” Sadly, whether or not they knew it, the American public chose not to participate. As far as I can tell, the holiday went virtually unnoticed. Indeed, I have the feeing that very lawyers received one of the two free Be Nice To Lawyers Day greetings cards from 123greetings.com.

lawyer cellphone small flip You can click to read more about The N.B.K.T.L. Story, including suggestions — better late than never — on just how to particpate. [One of the better suggestions: “If you can’t abstain, tell your funniest lawyer joke but switch out the lawyer with your profession. (I bet it’s still funny.)” Your Editor bets it’s not quite as funny.] There’s even a page of allegedly “Cool Lawyer Facts.” I’d say most of them — like reminding us that Ozzie Nelson had a law degree — are just room temperature.

All in all, I can’t whip up enough enthusiasm for National Be Kind to Lawyers Day to even come up with a related haiku or senryu poem. Instead, I’ll leave you with the image of Lawyer Appreciation Day that Wiley first presented at Non Sequitur in 1993:

.. larger ..

please watch and discuss “Sick Around the World”

Filed under: viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 9:07 am

The pbs FRONTLINE show “Sick Around the World” contains facts, analysis, and a message that every thinking and responsible American needs to hear, see, consider, and act upon. In it, correspondent T.R. Reid examines the healthcare systems of five other advanced capitalist democracies — United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Taiwan and Switzerland — to see what ideas might help the U.S. reform its broken healthcare non-system. The show premiered last night but is available on demand to watch online (or, you can order a dvd for $24.95).

As Mike Hale said yesterday in his tv preview for the New York Times:

“… This fast-moving and entertaining hour starts from the premise that the American health care system … is a failure. And Mr. Reid makes the case (in about 10 minutes per country) that other capitalist democracies have not just cheaper more equally available health care, but also better care over all, with longer life expectancies and lower infant mortality rates. …”

Seeing nations comparable economically to our own, where the people and government take for granted that universal coverage and access to quality health care is a basic human right, where no one need ever fear going bankrupt because of a health care crisis, and where doctors do not demand to be rich in order to practice their profession, was enough to put real tears in my eyes (tears of hope and of shame for our nation). Of course, the show demonstrates ably that Universal Coverage does not have to mean Socialized Medicine: “Reid finds out it’s not all ‘socialized medicine’ in the rich capitalist democracies he visited. But he also finds out they don’t trust health care entirely to the free market — they all impose limits.”

Here are links to some of the materials available at the Frontline website for Sick Around the World:

home + introduction + watch online + five countries + interviews + analysis + join the discussion + q & a with t.r. reid + teacher’s guide + readings & links + dvd + transcript + press reaction

Check out the analysis of several health care experts, who tell us what lessons we can learn from the other nations. And, in 7 o 10 days, you’ll be able to print out a transcript of the show.

If you like Pope Benedict’s open-hearted, brother’s-keeper approach to social justice (see our prior post), or if you liked the message of Michael Moore’s film Sicko, but have been looking for a presentation that is sarcasm-and smirk-free to share with family and friends, Sick Around the World is the answer.

waiting undressed
for the new doctor –
cold feet

thin walls
the doctor gives someone else
bad news

… by dagosan

One final point: several of the experts interviewed were quite skeptical that our politicians will actually find a true solution to the American health care crisis. They noted that neither Obama nor Clinton is offering true reform and that universal coverage is unlikely to solve our nation’s health care crisis without greatly reducing the excessive cost of American medicine. We all need to make sure that the debate and movement toward universal health care is informed with the lessons that are there for us to learn from other economically-advanced democracies.

April 15, 2008

reprise: Benedict, Caritas and Conservative Catholics

Filed under: viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 7:43 pm

BenedictAmerica Two years ago this week, I wrote a piece about Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical “God Is Love,” noting that Conservative Catholics seemed to be ignoring his message of social justice and charity, while they claim to be the only true Catholics and take positions on immigration, minimum wage, universal health care, and many other social issues that are inconsistent with the teachings and spirit of the Church and Jesus Christ.  With Benedict’s arrival today in the USA for a get-acquainted visit, I’m going to reprint the entire posting here, and hope that Benedict continues his message of caritas and the need to live your faith when acting in the political realm.

update (April 5, 2012):  From my retiree rocking chair, I’ve been waiting to see when Conservative Catholics, such as Rick Santorum, will start supporting universal health care for all Americans.  Both the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Bishops (e.g., see here) have declared that health care is a fundamental human right.  Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed the Church’s position in November 2010, insisting that “Justice requires guaranteed universal access to health care.”  And, see Daily Kos (Feb. 18, 2012)

Catholic Conservatives Ignore Benedict on Political “Caritas”

(originally published April 19, 2006)

Pope Benedict XVI has apparently disappointed America’s “conservative” Catholics by not coming out swinging on their favorite issues. (Washington Post, “Pope’s 1st Year Lacks An Ideological Edge,” by Alan Cooperman; npr, “New Pope Surprises American Catholics,” by Greg Allen; April 19, 2006). Well, I’ve finally read Benedict’s first encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est“(”God Is Love”), dated Dec. 25, 2005, and I’m pretty sure America’s Catholic conservatives are disappointing their Pope.

BenedictAmerica Pope Benedict XVI cover of America (March 13, 2006)

Ever since learning late last year that the Papal Letter, Deus Caritas Est [”DCE”], discusses “caritas” or “charity,” and the relationship between justice and charity, I’ve been waiting for conservative Catholic webloggers to analyze DCE — hoping to see how Catholic teachings affect their stance on important public policy issues. I’m especially interested, because prominent law professors — including Steve Bainbridge, MoJ’s Rick Garnett, and Deans Thomas Menger (St. Thomas Law School) and Mark Sargent (Villanove Law) — have insisted that we need a revival of serious that is “unapologetically and actively committed to discerning and expressing distinctively Catholic approaches to law and lawyering.” (our prior post)

Call it an apostate’s natural suspicion, but the lack of discussion by conservative Catholics (and Catholic conservatives) — of DCE made me suspect that the Encyclical might have called for a bit too much caritas in the public sphere, or too high a level of commitment to charitable politcal activism by laypeople, for their liking.

What pushed me into actually finding and reading the DCE text, in fact, was Prof. Bainbridge’s discussion last week about the minimum wage, in response to was an article by Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly, dated April 11, 2006.) (our prior post) Steve’s thoughts were endorsed by Volokh Conspiracy’s Jim Lindgren. At Prof. B’s, VC, and WM, there were dozen of Comments, and the basic tone was so uncharitable and unloving — so miserly and spiteful — regarding the poor in America, that I decided it was time to see if Benedict XVI could help me figure out the issues. What the Pope had to say made my suspicions about a Catholic conservative cover-up appear quite justified.

Is Deus Caritas Est relevant to debates on issues such as minimum wage laws? I believe it absolutely is — for the Catholic faithful and for those who see in the core teachings of Jesus a universal ethics of human connection, interdependence, and responsibility. In summarizing Catholic teaching on caritas and justice, on the roles of both the Church hierarchy and the faithful, the Encyclical calls for an active, engaged commitment among the laity to improve the plight of the poor — not merely through Church institutions and personal acts of charity, but also by using political processes in the public forum. (Such a “distinctively Catholic approach to law and lawyering” is one that Your Editor would welcome at American law schools.)

Here’s what I discovered in Benedict XVI’s first encyclical letter, Deus Caritas Est: BenedictAmerica

The Letter first addresses at length the subject of God as love. Benedict eventually turns to the topic of “Jesus Christ – the incarnate love of God,” and explains that Jesus has “truly united” love of God and love of neighbor. Benedict explains [para. 16], for example, that through the parable of the Good Samaritan:

“The concept of “neighbour” is now universalized, yet it remains concrete. Despite being extended to all mankind, it is not reduced to a generic, abstract and undemanding expression of love, but calls for my own practical commitment here and now. The Church has the duty to interpret ever anew this relationship between near and far with regard to the actual daily life of her members.”

Benedict closes the section with this reminder:

“Lastly, we should especially mention the great parable of the Last Judgement (cf. Mt 25:31-46), in which love becomes the criterion for the definitive decision about a human life’s worth or lack thereof. Jesus identifies himself with those in need, with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison. “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). Love of God and love of neighbour have become one: in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God.”

JesusMoney jesus/moneychangers

Before you protest that this pious love-your-neighbor stuff belongs in the context of each Catholic’s personal life, please read on.

Part II of the Letter, titled “Caritas” begins by describing the centrality of charity to the essence of the Church. It then attempts to clarify the relationship between charity and justice. After dismissing the Marxist rejection of charity, Benedict nevertheless states [para. 26] (emphases added):

“It is true that the pursuit of justice must be a fundamental norm of the State and that the aim of a just social order is to guarantee to each person, according to the principle of subsidiarity, his share of the community’s goods. This has always been emphasized by Christian teaching on the State and by the Church’s social doctrine.

“Historically, the issue of the just ordering of the collectivity had taken a new dimension with the industrialization of society in the nineteenth century. The rise of modern industry caused the old social structures to collapse, while the growth of a class of salaried workers provoked radical changes in the fabric of society. The relationship between capital and labour now became the decisive issue—an issue which in that form was previously unknown. Capital and the means of production were now the new source of power which, concentrated in the hands of a few, led to the suppression of the rights of the working classes, against which they had to rebel.”

After “admitt[ing] that the Church’s leadership was slow to realize that the issue of the just structuring of society needed to be approached in a new way,” the Letter notes that the illusion of a Marxist panacea for injustice has vanished. However [para 27]:

“In today’s complex situation, not least because of the growth of a globalized economy, the Church’s social doctrine has become a set of fundamental guidelines offering approaches that are valid even beyond the confines of the Church: in the face of ongoing development these guidelines need to be addressed in the context of dialogue with all those seriously concerned for humanity and for the world in which we live.”

An editorial in Catholic Weekly, “A More Excellent Way” (Feb. 13, 2006), explains the Church’s role “with respect to justice”:

[note from your editor:] “Jesus Was a LiberalJesusLibS

“The letter also makes a familiar and necessary distinction between the charitable work of the church and that of partisan, ideological movements. It affirms that justice is primarily the work of the state.

With respect to justice, the church’s role is that of teacher and critic. It hands on its social doctrine, guides consciences and helps identify the goals of authentic justice in society. ‘The church is duty-bound to offer, through the purification of reason and through ethical formation, her own specific contributions towards understanding the requirements of justice and achieving them politically,” Pope Benedict writes.

While not replacing the state, ’she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice.’

A similar explanation can be found in Greg Sisk’s posting at Mirror of Justice. The curious mind has to be wondering, “Well, if the Church’s insitutional role in achieving justice — defined by Benedict as “guarantee[ing] to each person, according to the principle of subsidiarity, his share of the community’s goods” — is indirect, who and how will the just society be achieved?

Benedict tells us the Church wants “dialogue with all those seriously concerned for humanity and for the world in which we live.” Naturally, he also expects that it is individual Catholics who will be the most receptive, who will have the most highly-enlightened consciences, and will in the forefront in securing justice and social caritas.

scales rich poor How do I know? Not because any conservative weblogger has told me! I know because Benedict tells us explicitly in Deus Caritas Est:

“The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society, on the other hand, is proper to the lay faithful. As citizens of the State, they are called to take part in public life in a personal capacity. So they cannot relinquish their participation “in the many different economic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural areas, which are intended to promote organically and institutionally the common good.” [21] The mission of the lay faithful is therefore to configure social life correctly, respecting its legitimate autonomy and cooperating with other citizens according to their respective competences and fulfilling their own responsibility. [22] Even if the specific expressions of ecclesial charity can never be confused with the activity of the State, it still remains true that charity must animate the entire lives of the lay faithful and therefore also their political activity, lived as “social charity”.[23] (emphases added)

I dare you to find either the sentence “The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society, on the other hand, is proper to the lay faithful,” or the clause “charity must animate the entire lives of the lay faithful and therefore also their political activity, lived as ’social charity,’” in any of the political, economic, or religious commentary and punditry of the leading conservative Catholic webloggers. Indeed, you won’t find them on any obscure weblogs either (except for the Edmund Rice Justice Bulletin, which looks a little lefty to me).

JesusLibSN You can learn more about the Catholic notion of “social charity,” and “social justice” here. For example, the Catholic Catechism tells us that “The principle of solidarity, also articulated in terms of “friendship” or “social charity,” is a direct demand of human and Christian brotherhood.” Also, “Solidarity is manifested in the first place by the distribution of goods and remuneration for work.” And, “The equal dignity of human persons requires the effort to reduce excessive social and economic inequalities,” because economic “differences encourage and often oblige persons to practice generosity, kindness, and sharing of goods.”

JesusMoney Of course, any Catholic conservatives (or libertarians) who have read this far are already shaking their heads and thinking: (a) true justice can only come from the free market and its economic principles; (b) charity is a private matter and only the smallest government can be a just government; (c) the American form of government is as just as humankind will ever achieve, and doesn’t need more tinkering — especially of the welfare-state variety; or (d) no matter what you say, it’s immoral to take/tax money that I earn and redistribute it to poor people.

Pope Benedict anticipated such reactions. In DCE, Benedict therefore reminds the Faithful:

tiny check The just ordering of society and the State is a central responsibility of politics. As Augustine once said, a State which is not governed according to justice would be just a bunch of thieves. [para 28a]

tiny check Justice is both the aim and the intrinsic criterion of all politics. Politics is more than a mere mechanism for defining the rules of public life: its origin and its goal are found in justice, which by its very nature has to do with ethics… The problem [what justice is] is one of practical reason; but if reason is to be exercised properly, it must undergo constant purification, since it can never be completely free of the danger of a certain ethical blindness caused by the dazzling effect of power and special interests. [para 28a]


tiny check Love—caritas—will always prove necessary, even in the most just society. There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbour is indispensable.

tiny check The Church . . . has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper.

tiny check [The] Encyclical Ut Unum Sint emphasized that the building of a better world requires Christians to speak with a united voice in working to inculcate “respect for the rights and needs of everyone, especially the poor, the lowly and the defenceless.” [para. 30]

tiny check Christian charitable activity must be independent of parties and ideologies. It is not a means of changing the world ideologically, and it is not at the service of worldly stratagems, but it is a way of making present here and now the love which man always needs.

tiny check The modern age, particularly from the nineteenth century on, has been dominated by various versions of a philosophy of progress whose most radical form is Marxism. Part of Marxist strategy is the theory of impoverishment: in a situation of unjust power, it is claimed, anyone who engages in charitable initiatives is actually serving that unjust system, making it appear at least to some extent tolerable. . . . What we have here, though, is really an inhuman philosophy. People of the present are sacrificed to the moloch of the future—a future whose effective realization is at best doubtful.


Perhaps most tellingly, Benedict tells ideologues of the Left and the Right: “One does not make the world more human by refusing to act humanely here and now. We contribute to a better world only by personally doing good now, with full commitment and wherever we have the opportunity, independently of partisan strategies and programmes.” [para. 31b]

That’s strong stuff. It seems directly relevant to political issues ranging from the level of the minimum wage, and the creation of universal health care rights, to the treatment of illegal (but otherwise law-abiding) immigrants.


When it comes to issues of social justice — and social caritasit seems clear that Jesus was indeed a Liberal. Living past 30 didn’t change that, and I’m sure the past two millennia haven’t either. The Sermon on the Mount, with its Eight Beatitudes, deserves the full respect of stare decisis. Jesus didn’t have a means test when he distributed the loaves and fishes. When the multitudes were hungry, He fed them — he didn’t tell them to figure out for themselves how to fish, or how to swim.


Conservative Catholics like First Things’ Richard John Neuhaus may be disappointed to see Benedict XVI playing the role of pastor now, rather than “enforcer.” But, even old cynics like myself believe that The Job often dictates the role that an incumbent must play. No job calls for the love of pastor and shepherd — and conscience for the faithful — like the papacy. I just hope the faithful are listening to Deus Caritas Est and will choose to live up to its call for political action in the name of social justice and charity.


afterthought (April 20): When it comes to feeding (or clothing, sheltering, healing, educating) the poor, the working poor, or even His more-comfortable “neighbors,” Christ was no Cafeteria Catholic. Can we say the same for America’s Catholic conservatives? Are they disappointing Jesus and His current Vicar, Benedict XVI? Are they leaving the social-justice heavy lifting to the non-religious (like myself), who they so often claim can have no solid moral foundation, and to the Liberal Catholics, who they so often deride as not really being Catholic at all?


TaxWhinerTUCummingsS larger Albany Times Union/Barbara Cummings – see our most-recent discussion of tax whiners:
ghosts of tax days past (Scrooge was surely a tax-whiner)

tiny check From the early 19th Century, Japanese Master haijin Kobayashi Issa offers a few closing haiku:

they curse the first snow
like it’s a beggar…
rest stop


in vain
the baby bird begs…
a stepchild


Great Japan!
even a beggar’s house
has a summer banne


even birds
make their nests…
beggars under the bridge


autumn wind–
a beggar looking
sizes me up

they must have kids–
bridge beggars
calling fireflies

deutzia tree–
among gods and beggars
it blooms


a pretty kite soars
a beggar’s shack

Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue


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