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

June 30, 2008

California’s make-believe car phone safety law: banning only hand-held cellphones is a sham

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,lawyer news or ethics,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 10:47 am

monkey cellphone small Sometimes, it’s really hard to avoid cynicism over phony politicians, greedy special interest groups, and — let’s be frank — the spoiled, self-absorbed American public. Case in point: the so-called safety law that goes into effect in California tomorrow, July 1, 2008, relating to the use of cell phones while driving. See Cal. Vehicle Code, Division 11, Chapter 12, Article 1, Section 23123; Cal. DMV: Wireless Telephone Laws FAQs.

Summary of the new California Law: Unless you are using the phone to make an emergency call to the police, a doctor, or other emergency service provider, no hand-hand cell phone may be used by the driver of a vehicle after July 1, 2008, in California. Also, drivers under 18 (who apparently have much less political clout than their elders) are quite annoyed, as they may not use any cell phone while driving, except for emergencies.

Which leaves this old cynic asking:

What were these guys thinking (or trying to achieve or avoid), when they decided to permit the continued use of hands-free devices while driving? They had to know what study after study has demonstrated: hands-free car phoning is just as dangerous as the hand-held variety, because the problem is mainly one of distraction (and “inattention blindness“), and not the number of hands on the wheel. DWP — driving while phoning — leaves the driver as incapacitated as does DUI, with slower reaction times, longer stopping distances, and poorer judgment. Plus, allowing hands-free calls is very likely to increase the amount of DWP. See., e.g., “Industry Pushes Headsets In Cars, Agency Sees Danger Hands-Free Cellphones May Be No Safer Than Hand-Held” (The Wall Street Journal, July 19, 2004); “Hands-Free Cell Phone Use Takes a Hit”  Cars.com, June 9, 2005, orig. pub. in Detroit News); “Cell Phone Users Drive Like Old Folks” (Univ. of Utah Press Release, Feb. 1, 2005).

afterwords (July 1, 2008): Many thanks to Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice for pointing to this post and adding his customary incite-full insights. See “Driving with Cellphones — the Anti View” (July 1, 2008) In addition to rejecting slippery slope arguments, Scott declares: “I (like David) fail to see any necessity in using a cellphone while driving that justifies any increased risk to any other human being under any circumstances. Want to call? Pull over. It’s that simple.”

update (Jan. 14, 2009): See our post with the good news: “bravo: NSC wants to ban all phoning while driving.”

important update (July 21, 2009):  Many thanks to the New York Times for dedicating significant resources and space to the carphone safety problem and the failure of politicians and the public to heed the warnings. “Driven to Distraction: Drivers and Legislators Dismiss Cellphone risks” (July 20, 2009) ; “U.S. withheld data on risks of distracted driving” (July 21, 2009, page A1); plus, a never-released Draft NHTSA policy statement.

Also, see what NYT’s Ethicist Randy Cohen had to say about whether to comply when people ask you to call them while they are driving, in his column called “Distraction to the Driven” (Dec. 28, 2008), including:  “For a driver to deliberately increase his own peril is unwise; to endanger other people is unethical. You should not abet either.”  And, “That many states, including New York, bar drivers only from using hand-held phones is an act of breathtaking cynicism or dazzling ignorance. They might as well ban only gray cellphones but allow black ones.”

J. Craig Williams explained the situation pithily at his weblog earlier this month (May It Please the Court, “Driving While Talking: California’s Newest Crime,” June 11, 2008):

“No more driving with one hand on the wheel, one hand on the cell phone and your mind somewhere else.

“Well, you’ll still be able to have your mind somewhere else, just not with one hand on the cell phone.”

As I said in a Comment at Craig’s weblog: “It is disappointing to see that California has adopted the unprincipled compromise of allowing hands-free phoning (in order to make believe the politicians are serous about safety) . . . Indeed, allowing hands-free DWP merely makes it possible for irresponsible drivers to find something else to do with the extra hand.”

traffic patrol When you look at their law enforcement scheme, the seriousness of the California cell-phone driving laws is further in doubt: The fines are relatively small ($25 for the first offense and $50 for subsequent convictions); no points will be taken off your license; and the Highway Patrol has announced that they won’t be pulling people over for merely using hand-held cell phones, although the law permits them to do so. See “Drivers, retailers prepare for state law on cell phones” (Marin Independent-Journal, June 23, 2008). Experience in other States, such as New York — where scofflaws predominate — makes it clear that immediate, strict enforcement is essential, to have a significant chance of achieving a serious level of compliance. When it comes to DWP, a safety-conscious Governor needs to be a Terminator, not a feel-good Kindergarten Cop.

update (11 PM, June 30,2008): I just learned that Washington State also bans the use of hand-held cell phones while driving as of July 1st. Here’s a good quote from an AP article:

But traffic-safety advocates say the new laws will have little impact.

“Laws like Washington’s probably will have a big effect on making people feel good about passing a law but zero effect on highway safety,” said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Virginia-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

However, the new laws could have a big effect on businesses that sell headsets and related projects.

Admittedly, I’m a little obsessed by this topic (which teaches us so much about the state of the American psyche and its politics), and have been writing against DWP for a long time. It was, in fact, the topic of both my very first piece of paid internet punditry: a March 2000 “Advocate This!” column for the now-defunct Prairielaw.com, entitled “Shut Up and Drive“, and a major op/ed piece written for the Schenectady Sunday Gazette (“Car-phone ban is easy way out,” May 20, 2001), at the time when New York’s then-Governor George Pataki had proposed to ban hand-held car phones.

Because I am greatly disappointed that the trend-setting largest state in the Union is heading down the same sham-safety road as New York, New Jersey and D.C., and because neither of these gems is available currently online, I’m going to indulge my editor’s prerogative and quote major excerpts from each piece below the fold.

In the Prairielaw piece, I expressed the hope that politicians would reject the “easy compromise” of banning only hand-held phoning by drivers, which would let them avoid a larger confrontation with the telecommunications industry and with cell-phone-addicted voters. My argument then is still valid and been validated by many studies: Banning hand-held phones will do nothing to lessen the inherent distraction caused by a mobile telephone conversation. For example, I argued in 2000:

“Studies show no safety advantage using hands-free phones. Banning hand-held phones may in fact make the problem worse by encouraging more car phone calling. Judging from its many ads for hands-free devices, the car phone industry might actually favor a ban on hand-held devices, as it would force millions to buy new models to make billions of additional phone calls from their cars.”

Sorry to say, that prediction has come true in car and car-phone happy California. See, e.g., “Hands-free law boosts headset sales” (Marketplace Report, npr, June 23, 2008); “Top Brands Leverage Hands-Free Cell Phone Laws” (OnLineMediaDaily, June 23, 2008); “Merchants see hot sales for hands-free devices” (Marin Independent-Journal, June 23, 2008)

Actually, the problem is far worse than it seemed just a decade ago. Back then, cell-phoning was something that most drivers only did occasionally and quickly. Now, a large segment of the American driving public are chronic phoners, making long, serial phone calls. By 2005, Americans chalked up a billion minutes a day chatting while driving, and the numbers have surely climbed dramatically since then, as many drivers have grown to view DWP as natural and their birthright. The trend is further exacerbated by all of those auto manufacturers that are now intensely advertising hands-free devices pre-installed in their vehicles, and cell-phone service providers offering plans with virtually unlimited calling time.

And, note: “A recently completed study points to a separate potential danger: Even truly hands-free phones can be time-consuming to dial. It found that headset users with voice-activated dialing took an average of 37 seconds to dial their calls versus 20 seconds for those who picked up the phone and punched the buttons.” Also, “[T]he Swedish National Road Administration installed cameras in 40 cars and found that drivers wearing headsets drove faster than drivers holding their phones. Braking time slowed by as much 45% for cellphone users, with no improvement for those wearing headsets.” See Agency Sees Danger above.

It is the intensity of the distraction — you have to process interactive communication without visual clues — and the duration of the calls that make DWP far more dangerous than the strawman comparative activities often pointed to by car-phone advocates, such as eating a hamburger, switching the radio channel or CD track, or even putting on mascara. Of course, as I noted in 2000,

“The reality, however, is that politicians don’t need more data on car phoning, they need more backbone.”

In 2004, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s administrator Jeffrey Runge said “The thing that disturbs me is that we have states and local municipalities making rules that basically give hands-free phones a free pass as being safe. That’s not good policy.” In addition, my Gazette op/ed piece argued:

“Even more worrisome, passage of this legislation will almost certainly preclude additional car-phone bans for many years to come. I can already hear the lobbyists and their legislative mouthpieces decrying the unfairness of any additional ban, because of the good faith ‘investment’ of their customers and companies in the ‘legislatively-approved’ hands-free devices.

” . . . This is clearly an instance where having no law is better than having a bad law.”

updates (July 1, 2008): See/hear coverage from npr’s Morning Edition, “California Driving: Footloose and Hands-Free” (July 1, 2008), which does a surprisingly poor job of explaining what is different about DWP, and notes (as did the LA Times today) that “It’s unclear whether the law will be uniformly enforced across the state.” Meanwhile, the Washington Post‘s TechCrunch weblog suggests that “the real deterrent is public opinion” not the $20 fine, and concludes:

“There’s just one problem – some studies have shown that talking on hands-free devices are just as dangerous as talking on cell phones regularly.

“And of course one result of the new law will be that people who talk on their cell phones while driving now have to keep a lookout for the police, too, distracting them even more.”

Besides warning folks to “watch out for motorists fiddling with headsets,” an editorial headlined “Driving while phoning” [nice turn of phrase] in today’s Los Angeles Times makes a few points worth repeating:

“The cellphone restriction will prove worthy if accidents decline.

“It would be unfortunate if a majority of drivers responded by getting too comfortable with their new headsets and taking one more step toward turning their cars into mobile offices. As traffic worsens and people spend more time on the freeway, we look for ways to make the lost time productive. But driving while phoning or, more dangerously, while texting — oddly still perfectly legal for adult drivers — endangers lives and slows traffic even further.

“That leaves this safer solution . . . : Just turn off the phone until you turn off the engine. “

Want to know who’s to blame for California’s mostly-farcical hands-free cellphone safety law? The Mercury News says today that it’s Palo Alto’s Democratic State Senator Joe Simitian, a 55-year-old Boalt Hall law graduate, who has been pushing for it since 2001. At his legislative website, Simitian describes his professional background as “attorney, businessman and city planner.” (He has both a law degree and a masters in city planning from U. Cal. Berkeley.) Simitian clearly hopes to saves lives with his hands-free cell phone law, and I do not fault his motives. His site points to an article from MSNBC, “Hands-free phones are lifesavers, study says” (by Mike Stuckey, May 13, 2008) that describes a controversial study that predicts a savings of 300 lives a year in California from banning hand-held DWP. The study was by Jed Kolko, a fellow at the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California. The articles notes:

Most of those lives will be saved when the roads are wet or the weather is bad, said Kolko . . .

To a lesser effect, the laws reduce fatalities during rush hour, he said. “They don’t seem to have an effect on fatalities in good driving conditions.”

The f/k/a Gang was pleased to learn that Sen. Simitian has a new bill pending [SB 28] that would ban text messaging and e-mailing while driving. See “Legislation Outlaws Text Messaging While Driving” (KCBS.com, June 20, 2008). Of course, if he wants to get even more serious about saving lives and preventing accidents, we hope he will start working today on a total DWP ban in California.

phone old Please click on the “more” link below to continue reading excerpts from my prior attempts to explain why a hand-held-only ban is “phony safety legislation,” that is not only dangerous, but actually worse than no ban at all.

in the middle
of the distraction –
an interruption

…………………. by dagosan


June 29, 2008

Snapshot Press announces its 2008 Haiku Calendar Competition Winners

Filed under: haijin-haikai news — David Giacalone @ 10:12 pm

John Barlow of Snapshot Press has announced the winners in this year’s Haiku Calendar Competition. Each of the 12 winning poems will be featured in the 2009 Haiku Calendar from Snapshot. In addition, 40 other “runner-up” poems will be included in the calendar, which contains the work of 33 poets from around the world. The Haiku Calendar 2009 can be ordered online or by mail order.

  As usual, several of our Honored Guest poets were selected for this year’s calendar. f/k/a‘s Winners include: John Stevenson (January) and Carolyn Hall (February). Runner-up poems were penned by Roberta Beary, David Giacalone, Carolyn Hall (two more), and Peggy Willis Lyles.

The f/k/a Gangs tip our hats to all the winners, but especially to Ellen Compton, Jack Berry and Chad Lee Robinson, who will each have 4 poems in the 2009 calendar.

You can find three of the Winning poems here.

June 28, 2008

Chautauqua grand slam

Filed under: haijin-haikai news,Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 6:33 pm

. . Baseball Haiku at Chautauqua, June 26, 2008 . .

see the 49-minute Roundtable on video at FORA.tv

plus, the 13-minute Interview with Jim Roselle on WJTN1240 AM —

summer loneliness . . .
dropping the pop up
i toss to myself

… by Ed Markowski – Baseball Haiku (2007); pop up (tribe press, 2004)

biking to the field
under a cloudless sky
my glove on the handlebars

…. by Cor van den Heuvel – Baseball Haiku (2007) and Play Ball (Red Moon Press 1999)

at the produce stand
a kid with a baseball
plays catch with the awning

…. by Al Pizzarelli – from Baseball Haiku (2007); The Windswept Corner (2005)

More than 150 fans of baseball and haiku gathered at the Chautauqua Institution’s Hall of Philosophy, on Thursday afternoon, June 26, for a Roundtable on Baseball Haiku, as part of CI’s “Sport in America” week. Sponsored by Chautauqa’s Literary and Scientific Circle, the lecture was presented by Cor van den Heuvel, co-editor of Baseball Haiku (W.W. Norton Press, 2007), along with two major contributors to that volume, Al Pizzarelli and Ed Markowski. f/k/a‘s editor was lucky enough to be present for the event.

Cor started the presentation with a discussion of the relationship that both haiku and baseball have with nature and the present moment. That theme was also stressed by Al Pizzarelli in a front page article published that morning in The Daily Chautauquan.

baseballdiamond Cor, Ed and Al also had an entertaining live interview on Thursday morning, by the popular host Joe Roselle, for his daily radio talk show on WJTN News Talk 1240 (Jamestown, NY)

rainy night
a hole in the radio
where a ballgame should be

…. by Ed MarkowskiBaseball Haiku (2007); Games (2004)

After Cor’s introductory remarks for the Roundtable, Ed, Al and Cor read their haiku, and helped prove again that “Haiku and baseball were made for each other.”

Here are more of the baseball haiku and senryu presented by Cor, Ed, and Al at the CI Roundtable.

through the blue sky
the tape-wrapped baseball trails
a black streamer

conference on the mound
the pitcher looks down
at the ball in his hand

..… by Cor van den Heuvel, from Baseball Haiku (2007) and Play Ball (Red Moon Press 1999)

late innings
the shortstop backpedals
into fireflies

summer haze infielderG
i pick off
the invisible man on first

“red hots!”
for an instant i’m ten
father’s still alive

April rain
my grandson practices
his infield chatter

………………………. by ed markowskiBaseball Haiku (2007)

game over
all the empty seats
turn blue

at shortstop
between innings
sparrows dust-bathing

the score keeper
peeks out of the scoreboard
spring rain

.. by Al Pizzarelli – from Baseball Haiku (2007)
“score keeper” – The Windswept Corner (2005)
“at shortstop” – Past Time (1999)

One more reminder to check out Ed Markowski’s new free brochure, “American Sports . . . American Haiku” (June 2008; cover), which has two dozen sports haiku and senryu that were compiled to celebrate this week at Chautauqua.

Below the fold, you will also find several photographs from our two-day stay at the Chautauqua Institution. [See more photos here by Ed’s niece Sara Etten] Meeting Ed and Laurice Markowski and dining-schmoozing with them and Cor, and Al and Donna, made the long drive from Schenectady to Chautauqua, NY, much more than worthwhile. Many thanks to Cor van den Heuvel for brining Baseball Haiku to fruition and making our Chautauqua experience possible.


June 27, 2008

our July 2008 haiga calendars

Filed under: Haiga or Haibun,Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 1:35 am

As June wanes, it’s time to remind you that we’ve created two haiga calendar pages for July 2008 for your use and enjoyment. Below are sample-sized calendar pages for July from both of our free 2008 haiga calendars — the artsy Giacalone Bros. Haiga Calendar 2008 and the nostalgic fka Haiga Memories Calendar 2008. (See our prior post from last December for descriptions and links. Haiga are pictures combined with a subtly-linked haiku or similar poem).

Just click on the sample calendar pages below to go to a printable full-size version. A link is also provided to a larger version of each of the original haiga used for the calendars.

– from the 2008 Giacalone Haiga Calendar

[full-sized for printing]

catnap onshore –
a wake sinks
the dream flotilla


orig. pub. in color at HaigaOnline Vol. 8-1 (June 2007);
and in grayscale at Magnapoets JF (July 8, 2007)

And, from the 2008 f/k/a Haiga Memories Calendar

full-sized for printing –

tomato plants
on stakes —
not quite ripe

Photo: MAMA G (1952)

[original haiga, Magnapoets JF, May 6, 20077]

June 25, 2008

off to Chautauqua

Filed under: haijin-haikai news — David Giacalone @ 5:00 am

The f/k/a Gang is heading off to the Chautauqua Institution this morning — with all of my alter egos squeezing into our little Mazda for a 330-mile drive from Schenectady to the southwestern corner of New York State. As reported here on June 11th, the theme at Chautauqua this week is “Sport in America.”

dispute at second base
the catcher lets some dirt
run through his fingers

the batter checks
the placement of his feet
“Strike One!”

… by Cor van den Heuvel, from Baseball Haiku

Along with big-wig executives of sports leagues and tv networks, they’ve invited Cor van den Heuvel to present a Roundtable, on June 26th, spotlighting the Baseball Haiku book (W.W. Norton 2007), which he co-edited. Ed Markowski and Al Pizzarelli will join Cor on stage, presenting their haiku and senryu from the book. Ed has promised to include a few new poems. HaikuEsq will be in the audience and dagosan might add his two cents. Prof. Yabut hopes to be sharing an ice cream soda with a cheerleader by then and might miss the Roundtable.

law firm picnic
the ump consults
his Blackberry

…… by David Giacalone – Baseball Haiku (2007)

Don’t forget to check out Ed Markowski‘s new free brochure, “American Sports . . . American Haiku” (June 2008; cover), which has two dozen sports haiku and senryu that were compiled to celebrate this week at Chautauqua.

half moon
a long flyball crosses
the dark side

… by Ed Markowski

This trip will be my first significant opportunity to adhere to the f/k/a pledge to observe the speed limit on all highways. Thank goodness for Cruise Control and audio books. [update (July 4, 2008): As I noted in the post “speed limit politics:” With the help of the Cruise Control lever, I kept my promise to abide by the 65-mpg speed limit on the New York State Thruway last week, while traveling over 700 miles to and from the Chautauqua Institution. Yes, I was passed a lot. More important, I achieved my best fuel efficiency ever. In fact, for a 200-mile all-Thruway segment of the return trip, my 2000 Mazda Protege, which was rated by the government at 30 mpg for highway travel, averaged over 35 miles per gallon.

p.s. If you leave a Comment that needs to be “moderated,” I apologize in advance for any delays in getting it approved and posted while we’re away.

update (June 29, 2008): Read about the event in “Chautauqua grand slam” (June 29, 2008) .

June 23, 2008

who wants a whites-only White House?

Filed under: q.s. quickies,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 12:07 pm

Some of my more optimism-oriented friends seem at times to confuse their own good faith, open minds, and generosity of heart with the general condition of their fellow Americans. As a result, they thought I was being far too cynical after the Iowa presidential primaries. Like much of the media, they were thrilled to say that the Iowa results demonstrated that whites would vote for Barack Obama. My more-guarded reaction was something like:

“Iowa had a great outcome, but it tells us little about how whites will vote in states that traditionally have had more racial strife — especially those that have large numbers of Black residents or are suffering from economic distress.”

Sad to say, many subsequent primaries did appear to indicate that many whites (and perhaps many Hispanics, too) will find it very hard to vote for a Black man — especially if they can find any issue that allows them to rationalize their vote.

Frankly, I have at times worried that my own pessimism on this topic might be skewed by my childhood revulsion and embarrassment over the bigotry that was voiced and acted upon (can you say “white flight”?) all around the blue-collar neighborhoods where I grew up. I’ve also worried that my gloomy view about lingering American racism might be amplified by an elitist need to feel morally superior to others. Nonetheless, I’m fairly sure both of those impulses are reasonably under control.

Unless there have been words or actions demonstrating racism, I will give every human being the benefit of the doubt. I do, however, believe that some demographic groups include significantly more overt racists — those who act on it — than other groups do.

This is, of course, one of those topics upon which I would love to be proven wrong. However, two recent articles seem to suggest that there are indeed many Americans who might not vote for Barack Obama solely on the basis of his being African-American. See

  • Susan Estrich’s column of June 11, 2008, “The Other Forty Percent.” Estrich says if you ask the question the right way [“do you have family or friends who are racists?’], you learn that “17 percent of white voters say that their family, friends and co-workers would not vote for an African-American and 26 percent more just aren’t sure. Not sure if your best friends are racist? Nice. That totals up to more than 40 percent — more than four in 10.”
  • Yesterday’s Washington Post piece, “3 in 10 Americans Admit to Race Bias: Survey Shows Age, Too, May Affect Election Views” (June 22, 2008), which starts “As Sen. Barack Obama opens his campaign as the first African American on a major party presidential ticket, nearly half of all Americans say race relations in the country are in bad shape and three in 10 acknowledge feelings of racial prejudice, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.”

Estrich figures more than 40% of the population may refuse to vote for a black person, if four out of ten are willing to admit to a pollster that their friends and relatives are racist. She notes that this means Obama may “have to win the votes of every person or even 5 out of 6 of them who might consider voting for you. That’s too little room for disagreement. It’s why high negatives are such a problem.”

Estrich is, nonetheless, hopeful that:

“At the end of the day, for better and for worse, what most voters care about is themselves, their own lives and their families. Obama’s challenge is not to convince them to change their minds about race, or racism, but to put themselves first.”

I’m not convinced that the number of voters who want a Whites Only White House is 40% or more. [Many in the survey may have meant that some of those close to them are racists, not all.] But, I am sure that there are significant numbers who hold that view — enough to make Obama’s election an uphill fight in the actual voting booth, despite polls showing him even or ahead now. Those race haters — like many extremists and ideologues — will often vote against their personal financial interests on matters of principle (no matter how foul or misguided the principle may be).

ooh By the way: Unlike pollsters and pundits who cheerily say that it is always better to have more people active in politics, I would be very pleased if the bigots and haters would stay home on election day.

I’m sure my Optimist Friends will point me to the conclusions in the Post-ABC News poll, which found: “At the same time, there is an overwhelming public openness to the idea of electing an African American to the presidency. In a Post-ABC News poll last month, nearly nine in 10 whites said they would be comfortable with a black president. While fewer whites, about two-thirds, said they would be “entirely comfortable” with it . . . ” Even those numbers suggest that a black Barack Obama will have a harder time getting elected than a white Obama would.

I have no idea how to change the hearts and minds of racists. My hope is that enough whites will vote for Obama to put him in the White House. When that happens, and the sky doesn’t fall during the Obama Administration, perhaps the Whites Only bunch will start to come around. Until then, I say:

This is not the America in which I want to live:

  . . . . . . .

– Let’s hope that time will cure the disease of American racism, and that it is not so rampant that it will significantly affect the 2008 Presidential Election. —

George Carlin made me think, laugh, question

Filed under: q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 7:25 am

“Life is Worth Losing” from HBO.

George Carlin died of heart problems yesterday in Los Angeles. Just last week, he was named as the 11th recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. I’m sure Mark Twain felt honored by the choice. Yes, he was edgy, but I am grateful that George Carlin let me safely sit on the edge with him over the past few decades.

Carlin is infamous for his “7 filthy words” monologue. At his official website, you can find the routine, directly quoted from the Supreme Court Decision of FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION v. PACIFICA FOUNDATION, 438 U.S. 726, 98 S.Ct. 3026 (1978). You can find the Abstract of the opinion, at Oyez:

Facts of the Case

During a mid-afternoon weekly broadcast, a New York radio station aired George Carlin’s monologue, “Filthy Words.” Carlin spoke of the words that could not be said on the public airwaves. His list included shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits. The station warned listeners that the monologue included “sensitive language which might be regarded as offensive to some.” The FCC received a complaint from a man who stated that he had heard the broadcast while driving with his young son.


Does the First Amendment deny government any power to restrict the public broadcast of indecent language under any circumstances?


No. The Court held that limited civil sanctions could constitutionally be invoked against a radio broadcast of patently offensive words dealing with sex and execration. The words need not be obscene to warrant sanctions. Audience, medium, time of day, and method of transmission are relevant factors in determining whether to invoke sanctions. “[W]hen the Commission finds that a pig has entered the parlor, the exercise of its regulatory power does not depend on proof that the pig is obscene.”

As I wrote on inauguration night, January 21, 2005, I spent that evening listening to Carlin’s When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?, and noted:

CarlinPorkChops George Carlin has done it again with Pork Chops, and I even forgive him for usurping some of my favorite topics — e.g., euphemisms, politician-speak, and the Virgin Birth. I know this book has sold a lot of copies in hardback, but I have no doubt that listening to Carlin’s delivery on audio cassette or audio CD will enhance your experience. [I found that the least funny or insightful parts of Pork Chops center on merely being vulgar, but it was worth getting through those passages to hear the rest.]

Click here to listen to an mp3 version of the Ten Commandments section of When Will Jesus Bring the Porkchops (4 megs). He’s right, we don’t need ten!

Listening to Pork Chops, I had to smile when Carlin said “men are stupid and women are crazy, but women are crazy because men are stupid,” and, when he noted that”More people write poetry than read poetry.” Rather than write some poetry today, I’m going to listen again to When Will Jesus Bring the Porkchops?.

Noon Update: I’ve been enjoying an audio tape of Napalm & Silly Putty (2001;  audio YouTube version here). Just now, George said: “Have you noticed that a lot of politicians these days are asking for change? Just like homeless persons.”

diner dude gray

coffee shop . . .
the only empty seat
still warm

… by Randy Brooks, from School’s Out (Press Here, 1999)

still here
after he leaves the bus –
the stranger’s cologne

… by dagosan

June 22, 2008

more ostracism of sex offenders

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,lawyer news or ethics,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 9:08 pm

exitSign You may have noticed that f/k/a has been taking a breather this year from reporting on (and opposing) sex offender residency laws — after covering the topic in twenty posts from June through December 2007.  I hope we didn’t lull you into thinking that “panderpols” and fear-mongers haven’t been cooking up more bone-headed restrictions on where sex offenders can live, work and loiter. Neither common sense nor correct facts have stemmed the tide — and lawsuits have also proven to be an ineffective deterrence.

While we slacked off, Rev. Dave Hess, of The Parson. net (where you will find excellent analysis and all the facts about sex offender laws), has been vigilantly monitoring proposals and votes on new sex offender restrictions across New York State. Dave wrote to a number of Capital-Region opponents of sex offender residency bans this week, saying:

“Though the filing of the lawsuits have given some communities pause, others continue to adopt sex offender residency laws and loitering laws”

As examples, Rev. Hess points to:

  • An article from the Tonawanda News, dated June 4, 2008, which reports that the Niagara County legislature: “Established the Niagara County Pedophile-Free Child Safety Zone Act, which bars registered sex offenders from lingering within 1,000 feet of a school, park, child care facility or other public and private location frequented by children.” (First offenders can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, and repeat violators with a Class A misdemeanor.) An earlier article in the Buffalo News offered more details on the bill, which had been cut back to eliminate Level One offenders, due to concerns over lawsuits elsewhere. Legislator Paul B. Wojtaszek explained, “I want to be as reasonable as we can. This isn’t a feel-good law. We’re serious about protecting our children.” Nonetheless, Legislature Chairman William L. Ross is quoted saying: “Anything we can do to reinforce the public’s feeling of safety and security for their children is well worth pursuing.” (emphasis added)

– But see Sex Offenders: A Flawed Law (Gatehouse News)

  • And, news that the City of Middleton, New York, on the other side of the State in the Hudson Valley, now has a law that “bars sex offenders from moving into any home, getting a job or loitering within 750 feet of a child safety zone.” “City passes law to limit where sex offenders can go” (Times-Herald Record, June 10, 2008) The Safety Zones include schools, registered day care centers or preschools, parks or other places where kids congregate. Happily, the reasonable folks on the Middleton Common Council didn’t bar sex offenders from passing through the zones for legitimate work, school or medical reasons. I have no idea why Middleton decided to draw a 750-foot radius for its safety zones rather than the more prevalent 1000 feet. It does not, in my opinion, make the law 25% less silly.

Of course, experts tell us that sex offenders are less likely to re-offend when they have stable relationships and social connections in a community and steady jobs.  Nevertheless, our elected leaders keep passing ineffective and counter-productive laws that make it even more difficult for SOs to find home homes and jobs.

Dave Hess also spotlighted the tale of Level 3 Sex Offender Keith Shortsleeves, who is caught in a hellish limbo created by the intersection of SO residency restrictions in Hudson Falls and Washington County, NY, and “a little-known state law that requires hospital patients to show they have somewhere to go that meets their care needs before they can be discharged.” “Hospitals forced into holding pattern” (Glens Falls Post-Star, June 15, 2008) As the Post-Star explains:

“He is a Level 3 sex offender who can’t go back to his former apartment in Fort Edward because of handicapped accessibility issues, but can’t find an accessible apartment anywhere else because of laws that dictate where sex offenders can live.

“So since February, Shortsleeves has stayed in a variety of hospital rooms, most recently in a third-floor corner room overlooking the front parking lot, waiting for a solution to his housing woes.

Shortsleeves has relatives who have offered to give him a home, but they all live within the restricted zone. A lot of people have worked to find him a place to go, and the grateful-but-frustrated Shortsleeves has even put an ad in the newspaper. “I know they want to get rid of me because there are other people who need the room,” he said. “They’ve been really good to me and they’re trying to help me, but they just can’t find nothing.”

By the way, through Medicaid and Medicare, taxpayers have been footing the bill for Shortsleeves’ extended stay, with the hospital aborbing any uncompensated costs once coverage has ended.

Does Keith Shortsleeves pose a significant risk to reoffend? According to the article, “He weighs more than 300 pounds and is wheelchair-bound, with part of his left leg amputated, and part of his right foot amputated as well. He said he has asthma and heart problems.”

Shortsleeves says, “I’m not going to hurt anybody. I’m in a wheelchair for gosh sakes,” and I believe him.

Is there no one among the elected and appointed leaders of Washington County who can come up with a creative solution? I hope the Post-Star article has spurred them into action. Shortsleeves’ sex offender status should not deprive him of a little compassion and the application of political courage and common sense.

umbrella Prof. Yabut just asked I we could have a little change of pace on this stormy Sunday night. Not having any new haiku to offer right now, I just dug up a posting from two years ago, when we put the spotlight on twelve poems contributed to the June 2006 edition (Vol. VIII: 2) of The Heron’s Nest by some of our Honored Guest Poets. Go here for the full dozen. Here’s a sample:

New Year’s Day
the center of the chocolate
not what I expected

vast blue sky
we empty
her closets

………………….. by Carolyn Hall, The Heron’s Nest (VIII: 2, 2006)

clear night —
snow shifts
on the windowpane

choosing the sunniest spot
to fill my tank

………… by Hilary Tann, The Heron’s Nest (VIII: 2, 2006)

sweet-grass braids
we bury Grandmother
without her wig

…………. by Andrew Riutta, The Heron’s Nest (VIII: 2, 2006)

Bonus: here are another bunch from the Summer 2006 edition (vol. 4 no. 2) of Simply Haiku Journal:

Senryu – on Things

old water fountain
hitting me in the eye

it’s dogshit…
it’s dogshit

Barry George

his first haircut
a cowlick

Randy Brooks

tunnel of love
she props the stuffed frog
between us

Ed Markowski

cool forest lake
as I slip off my shorts the snort
of a bull moose

—— George Swede

in the shower
an economy-size bar of soap
lands on my toe

Tom Clausen

June 20, 2008

summer’s here — more mosquitos than fireflies

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 3:45 pm

It’s gonna be that kind of summer, I fear.
Of course, when you have no control over a situation, a grin often works better than a sigh. dagosan will be practicing his grin all night long, as we toast the summer solstice and the longest day of the year. Click for more mosquito haiku and summer solstice haiku.

Like pictures with your haiku? Soon today, you’ll find the Summer Solstice 2008 edition of HaigaOnline (Vol. 9-1) to ease yourself into the new season. It’s theme is the wind bell.

summer solstice
our window chime
perfectly still

….. by dagosan

Thankfully, lazybones dagosan had a few summer solstice poems already tucked away.

i read
while she weeds
summer begins

solstice party
the fireflies
are no- shows

solstice party mosquito2
the mosquito family
is the last to leave

shortest night –
the insomniac
waits for dawn

summer’s here!
we work up a sweat

haiga – originally at MagnaPoetsJF (May 24, 2007)
photo: Arthur Giacalone

………………………. by dagosan

mosquito smudge smoke–
soon the fireflies
leave too

only one
fans my ear…

one mosquito
whining all day…
my pillow

….. by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue
100 more mosquito haiku by Issa —

p.s. update 6 PM: Thanks to All Things Considered on npr, I just learned that June is National Bathroom Reading Month. See/hear “potty reading promoted” (by Margot Adler, June 20, 2008). Let’s face it, though, most books made to be read on the john are fairly tacky (or, yuk, the covers often are). However, if you’re looking for something with a bit more class for your Bathroom Library (and a lot of us Boomers have plenty of time for reading these days, while using that room), I want to suggest blawger J. Craig Williams‘ new book How to Get Sued. (Kaplan Publishing, June 2008).

Frankly, no matter what the newly-infamous Judge Alex Kozinski says in the Forward, this is not the kind of book I would ever read cover-to-cover. But, its entertaining “lighter side look” at how real life turns into real litigation — with blurbs about scores of odd (at least at first blush) lawsuits – – is clearly higher-brow and more educational than most next-to-the-toilet compilations.  Whether or not they wash their hands, your friends will come back to the party with plenty of questions and opinions about what’s wrong with our litigation system.  I bet Walter Olson has a copy in his half-bath powder room.

borrowed mystery –
the toilet-paper

…. by dagosan

June 19, 2008

this ol’ hillbilly would rather nap than fight

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 4:45 pm

On a day when I’ve been too sleepy to focus much on punditry, a belated Comment by “Blenko” on my posting about sexism and the presidential primary made me smile and sit up for a few minutes. See “trumping reality with the sexism card” (May 20, 2008) Blenko called me a “backwoods hillbilly” and a “Fool!” and my analysis “skewed and simple minded.”

Rhetorical Questions: Why is it that the name-callers so often hide behind pseudonyms? And, why do the angry ones so often use straw-man [straw-person] arguments in trying to make their points?

You may recall that I asked in my post whether sexism was the cause of Hillary Clinton’s failure to win the Democratic nomination (concluding, as did Blenko, that it was not), and speculated on “when, in general, it is appropriate to brand an action or result as sexism, and an individual — or vast sectors of our populace — sexist.” This wasn’t enough for [Ms?] Blenko, who acts as if I had denied the existence of sexism in America or the use of sexist or gender-oriented language aimed at Sen. Clinton by anyone during the campaign.

through the open door . . . doorFront
her smile doesn’t forgive
all my sins

. . . . by Randy Brooks – School’s Out (1999)

For the record: The closest I’ve ever come to living near a hill is the twenty years I lived within a few miles of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Am I nonetheless simple-mindedly skewed? Given my preference for snoozing today, I’ll let my original post, and my decades of working for gender equality, speak for themselves. Naturally, I’ll leave Blenko’s comment up, as it so eloquently represents an attitude that I believe dis-serves the cause of mutual respect and equality between the sexes.

Since I’m up and posting, I guess I’ll take the opportunity to point haiku fans to the gender-neutral but talent-biased Modern Haiku Journal website, which has recently posted sample poems and essays from its newest edition. (Volume 39.2, Summer 2008) It has two sample poems by f/k/a Honored Guests:

a white rose and chocolate kisses

. . . by Lee Gurga

happy hour
the bartender cashes
my unemployment check

…. by Ed Markowski

The new Modern Haiku announces the winners of the 2008 The Robert Spiess Memorial Award Haiku Competition. For this year’s contest, the haiku were to be written in the spirit of the following “Speculation” (Robert Spiess, A Year’s Speculations on Haiku, Modern Haiku Press, 1995):

A haiku is a profound testimony that a most humble object of nature when put into the simplest of aesthetic forms can become a revelation.

Of the 405 entries assessed by judges Lee Gurga and Peter Yovu, First Prize this year went to Natalia L. Rudychev, while Linda Jeannette Ward was awarded Second Prize. Go here to see their winning haiku. Our Guest and friend Peggy Willis Lyles picked up Third Prize, with this poem:

daffodils —
a laughing girl
with rain in her shoe

… by Peggy Willis Lyles – 2008 Spiess Award, Third Place

p.s. Perhaps Blenko has put me in a slightly crabby mood, but I find myself wondering aloud — given the admirable goal of using the “simplest of aesthetic forms” — if anyone can explain for me how the cruciform formatting that Lee Gurga has been using so much of lately (see, e.g., his “saint valentine’s day” poem above, and “first love” from the Spring 2008 edition of MH, each of which would have made a fine 3-line poem) adds to the readers experience or understanding of the poem. Maybe I’m just a “hillbilly fool,” but I find the centering and use of so many lines distracting and attention-grabbing, but no help in achieving a haiku revelation. (Yes, I guess these sentiments are a bit like my curmudgeonly fretting over one-liners.)

June 17, 2008

summer’s coming for real

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 8:03 am

With summer arriving officially later this week (preceded by violent thunderstorms and hail yesterday), I thought we’d let Dr. Bill Owen put us in the mood, with selections from his haiku notebook  Lulu.com, 2007; 58 pages; see our prior post). Having downloaded it (for a mere $3.95), Prof. Yabut and I are having fun playing with the Search function and finding little gems throughout Bill’s notebook.

w.f. owen’s haiku notebook . . .
. . . . the book and the weblog . . . .

summer solstice
floating on our backs
watching the clouds

summer solstice
stretching the tape measure
with grandfather

night fishing
a few bites
from mosquitoes

distant thunder
the neighbor’s dog
scratches the door

Indian summer
rust on our hands
from the swing


the slow creak
of the porch swing
late summer dusk

bumper crop
a watermelon
holds the door open

last rays of sun
sweet corn
between my teeth

……… by w.f. owen – from haiku notebook (2007)

* Footnote: you’ll find more summer solstice haiku and senryu here.

fireflies join
the solstice party

………… by dagosan (06-20-04)

June 14, 2008

Tim Russert dies far too soon

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 8:05 am

Many others have expressed their sadness over the death yesterday of NBC’s Tim Russert. I can’t match the eloquence, emotion or personal anecdotes offered by Tim’s many friends and colleagues. But, I must say that I will miss Tim Russert on Sunday mornings. His skill, preparation and persistence helped millions of Americans to be better informed about our nation’s politics — without shrillness or bias and with a straight-forward, common touch. See “Tim Russert, host of ‘Meet the Press,’ dies of a heart attack at age 58” (Buffalo News, June 13, 2008); “Tim Russert, 58, NBC’s Face of Politics, Dies” (New York Times, June 14, 2008); “Obituary: Journalist Revitalized Washington Talk Shows” (Washington Post, June 14, 2008); “An Appreciation of Tim Russert” (Charlie Rose, June 13, 2008, includes videos with Charlie interviewing Russert).

WaPo columnist David Broder says this morning, “What the television audience did not know was how generous Tim was in his personal relationships. Family came first, but he took the time for friendships, and he nourished them. That is why his death yesterday leaves such a large void in this community.” (“The Many Gifts of Tim Russert,” Washington Post, June 14, 2008) Like Tim, I am 58 years old. His premature death reminds me to live each day more fully — with passion and commitment to family, friends, and excellence. And, to keep my punditry “pointed but polite.” update (June 15, 2008): Tom Brokaw moderates a special edition of Meet the Press, Remembering Tim Russert.

the blooming cockscomb
standing up

one dies out
two die out…
lanterns for the dead

planting a pine too
for after I die…
evening cool

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


[Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, NY]



poem: David Giacalone
photo: Arthur Giacalone

– orig. pub. Simply Haiku, Modern Haiga, Autumn 2008 –

June 13, 2008

father’s day without dad

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 12:22 pm

Looking for Father’s Day Haiku (or senryu)? You’ll find a few below and more here.

putting on my socks –
that little grunt
dad always made

almost sunset
the weekend dad
drags a sled up the hill

………….… by dagosan
“putting on my socks” – Frogpond (XXVIII: 2, 2005); inside the mirror: The Red Moon Anthology 2005
“almost sunset” – Frogpond XXIX: 2 (2006)

This is the first Father’s Day since my dad died (see “papa g’s night train,” Jan. 16, 2008). Over the years, I’ve always felt a little sad for sons and daughters who couldn’t spend Father’s Day with their dads — especially, for my child “law guardian” clients with divorced or separated parents, or the ever-increasing numbers of my Baby Boomer friends, whose elderly dads were dying.  Until now, my own worse feeling for myself at Father’s Day has been a little guilt those years I merely sent a card and phoned, rather than driving a few hours to see Papa G.

This year, Father’s Day brings me the bittersweet pangs of having no living father. A few tears will probably fill my eyes now and then on Sunday. Nevertheless, as he would have wanted, I’m going to try to stress how lucky I was to have Arthur P. Giacalone alive until he was almost 89 years old. [Click for my favorite picture with dad (and my brother, on the right), from his 75th birthday in 1994.]

boot hill
one abandoned

[In mem., Arthur P. Giacalone, who always got us back to the top of the hill]

Papa G was a jitter-bugger. I’m going to let Louis Prima’s version of Night Train help “bring my daddy back to me.” Whether you are a child or a dad, may you have a Father’s Day that is more sweet than bitter.

funeral dirge –
we bury the one
who could carry a tune

……………………….. dagosan – pending – Frogpond (Spring 2008)

day of the obit
inside his wallet
me at eleven

…………… by Roberta Beary – Moonset 4:1 (2008)

afterwords (June 15, 2008): See Nicholas Dawidoff’s op/ed piece “The Man Who Wasn’t There” (New York Times, June 15, 2008)

Most of my friends who grew up happily with their dads think of Father’s Day as a contrived holiday. It’s the people with paternal shadows for whom the third Sunday in June takes hold. So it’s not surprising, I guess, that those who are missing out on culturally signified occasions — the loveless on Valentine’s Day; the lonely on Thanksgiving — are the ones who are most affected.

Nicholas Dawidoff is the author of “The Crowd Sounds Happy: A Story of Love, Madness and Baseball,” and edited “Baseball: A Literary Anthology” (2002). I hope he has discovered and enjoyed Baseball Haiku (2007), and our prior coverage — a great book for a father and son to share.

“red hots!”
for an instant i’m ten
father’s still alive

……… by ed markowski infielderF

p.s. Head over to Morden Haiku for the original color photo of this illustrated haiku:

father’s day
the year’s first potatoes
in his old hat

… by Matt Morden – Morden Haiku (June 14, 2008)

June 11, 2008

American Sports Haiku from Ed Markowski

Filed under: haijin-haikai news,Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 4:31 pm

American Sports . . . American Haiku

– two dozen haiku & senryu by Ed Markowski

Fourth of July
a refugee stands
in center field

The f/k/a Gang has a special treat today for haiku lovers who happen to be sports fans, and perhaps for sports fans who don’t know yet how much they will come to appreciate haiku. We’re unveiling a new (free) haiku collection by our Honored Guest Poet and friend Ed Markowski, titled “American Sports . . . American Haiku” (June 2008; cover). The two dozen sports haiku and senryu were compiled (and many specifically written) to celebrate the Chautauqua Institution’s “Sport in America” Week (June 21 – 28, 2008), and its June 26th Roundtable featuring last year’s much-praised book Baseball Haiku (Cor van den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura, eds., W.W. Norton, 2007).

You can click this link [or use this URL: http://tinyurl.com/49wybb] to see the 3- page web version of “American Sports . . . American Haiku.” At Chautauqua’s Sport in America Week, Ed will be handing out a tri-fold (two-sided) brochure version. Click tri-fold version to see the pre-folded brochure, or print one for yourself.

Ed contributed over twenty of the 200 “best haiku ever written about the sport” in Baseball Haiku. But, Ed plays — or once played — and fanatically watches quite a few other sports (especially Detroit’s pro teams), and often treats them with his poetic touch. We hope the American Sports haiku collection will demonstrate once and for all that Ed Markowski is not just a one-sport poet. Of course, frequent readers of this weblog (or the top haiku journals and anthologies) did not need convincing. [You can access hundreds of Ed’s haiku and senryu from his f/k/a Archive Page. He even inspired dagosan today.]

late summer
beyond the scarecrow
tackling dummies

city moon 
my basketball flattened
by a shard of glass

– Ed in NYC for a Baseball Haiku party (May 2007) –

autumn gale
tacklers left in the wake
of the halfback

deep winter
a young boy stickhandles
into a snow squall

cross-town rivals
the point guards compare

Ed is always quite pleased when his poetry gets some attention and accolades (as it did last week at “Basho’s Road“) — but he downplays the praise. This week, however, Ed has other priorities, and there was real excitement in his voice on the phone yesterday. You see, Papa Ed has been joyously awaiting the birth of his second grandchild, and Nicholas arrived yesterday morning, June 10, 2008, at 8:39 A.M., weighing in at almost 8 pounds, and stretching out to 25 inches. Congratulations to mother and father (Becky and Dan), and to the doting maternal grandparents, Laurice and Ed. (As soon as I have a photo of Ed and Nicholas, I’ll add it to this post.)

April rain
my grandson practices
his infield chatter

…… by Ed Markowski – American Sports . . . American Haiku (June 2008); Haiku Harvest (Spring 2006)

– Ed and Matthew, Grandson #1, April 2008 [larger]

update (June 12, 2008): Baby Nicholas on Day 2:

. . . this will have to do, until he gets a Tigers’ cap (larger)

Grampa’s Pride: Matthew & Nicholas in Becky’s Arms:



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