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

October 31, 2008

a handful of haiga and haiku halloween treats

Filed under: Haiga or Haibun,haijin-haikai news,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 9:18 am

.…… a little news, then the treats:

  • Realizing that a sign with a big orange pumpkin on it might actually attract children to a house, Maryland parole agents sent out a pumpkin-less version of the sign this week to sex offenders, merely saying “No Candy at this Residence”.   Strangely, SO’s apparently have the option to use the pumpkin sign.  Parole officials deny they were affected by a Saturday Night Live skit poking fun at their sign (with Seth Myers saying “They are also being required to take down the signs that read, ‘Knock if you can keep a special secret.’”).  See: “Halloween & the Law, Part Deux: Targeting Sexual Offenders“ (Wall Street Journal Law Blog, October 30, 2008); and “Maryland Sex Offenders Under Close Watch on Halloween”  wamu.org, Oct. 31, 2008, with audio)  [see our prior post for an image of the pumpkin sign and a discussion of this scary Halloween law]

half-moon Halloween –
a young face painted
like yin and yang

… by dagosan

  • David Brooks ably argues today in his New York Times column that any “stimulus package” include funds for improving our nation’s highway and bridges. “A National Mobility Project” (NYT, Oct. 31, 2008).  Such a Mobility Project will create jobs and make us a lot safer on the roads:

“In times like these, the best a sensible leader can do is to take the short-term panic and channel it into a program that is good on its own merits even if it does nothing to stimulate the economy over the next year. That’s why I’m hoping the next president takes the general resolve to spend gobs of money, and channels it into a National Mobility Project, a long-term investment in the country’s infrastructure.”

two pirates smooch
on the overpass –
the Pumpkin Patrol closes in

……… by dagosan

McCain mask at the door
no thank you
when we spread the wealth

… by dagosan

gets all the treats –
first Halloween

by dagosan (with help from Cyndi & Anny Miner, 1991)
(original in b&w at MagnaPoetsJF, Oct. 20, 2007)

starless night-
Mars and Milky Way
in the goblin’s bag

… by Yu Chang – Shiki Kukai (2nd Place, Oct. 1999)

the aroma
of roasting pumpkin seeds
jack-o-lantern’s grin

… by DeVar Dahl – Shiki Kukai (October 1999)

halloween party –
the shrink dances with a witch
and a cheerleader

Poem: David Giacalone
Photo by Cynthia Miner (1992)

……see the orig. haiga at MagnaPoetsJF (Oct. 28, 2007)

seeing ghosts …
grandma recalls
Hallowe’ens past

.. by Hilary Tann – Shiki Kukai (October 1999)


mistaken for a mime –
the vampire bites
his tongue

.. by dagosan (orig. at MagnaPoetsJF, Oct.26, 2007)
Photo by Cynthia Miner (1992)

. . .

No Costume No Treat”
goth kids
at my door

Photo: Mama G. (1955); Poem: David Giacalone

(orig. haiga in b&w, at MagnapoetsJF, Oct. 31, 2007)

halloween —
part of the moon
follows a bicycle home

… by Matt Morden – Morden Haiku

p.s. One last treat: We posted two new photos of Prof. Yabut’s new friend Wendy Savage, Esq., yesterday.

October 30, 2008

lawyer miscellany (and Miss Savage, too)

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,lawyer news or ethics,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 6:10 pm

Just a few lawyer quickies, before the main attraction below (two more photos of Wendy Savage, Esq. you won’t find in the Beautiful Lawyers Calendar):

  • He Said/She Sad: At first impression, the headline and article made me think an injustice had been done to the divorcing wife of Long Island matrimonial lawyer Alan K. Hirschhorn, and a fiduciary obligation breached: “Attorney Husband Who Misled Wife About [Separation Agreement] Change Gets Benefit of Original Agreement”  (New York Law Journal/Law.com, Oct. 30, 2008).  At his estranged wife’s request, the husband had struck through a cohabitation clause in their signed separation agreement, although he knew the modification would not be valid without a more formal procedure.  His wife had been unrepresented. Hirschhorn had in fact continued paying maintenance $1000 a week after her boyfriend moved into her condo, out of love and respect for their daughter.)

However, the 23-page opinion in A.K.H. v. B.H (N.Y. Supreme Court for Nassau County, Index #200306/07, October 28, 2008) convinced me that the Justice Jeffrey S. Brown ruled correctly — and that I should have remembered from my law practice to hear at least three sides of a domestic law controversy before coming to a conclusion. There are far too many facts and reasons to detail here.  Primarily, Judge Brown found the husband’s testimony on many key issues to be far more credible than the wife’s.  There was no basis for an equitable estoppell, because “The court finds that she did not suffer any damages and did not rely to her detriment due to the elimination of the cohabitation clause.”  And:

“The issue of whether the plaintiff breached a fiduciary duty is not before this Court because defendant failed to plead a counterclaim to dismiss the complaint on the basis of overreaching. . . . Her testimony reveals that she, in fact, wants a divorce but also wants continued maintenance.”

  • As Michael B. told us in a comment this afternoon, and according to the Associated Press, “Missouri’s sex offender/Halloween law is again enforceable”  Ky3.com, Oct. 30, 2008): “The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued a one-sentence stay on Thursday, sought by Gov. Matt Blunt and Nixon.”  This means that, despite the injunction issued on Oct. 28th by the Federal District Court against two vague provisions in the law, registered sex offenders must remain inside their homes from 5 to 10:30 p.m. Friday unless they need to work or have a medical emergency, and may not participate in Halloween activities. See our prior post in “more scary Halloween laws against sex offenders.”
  • In the recent Washington Post article “Rethinking Legal Fees for Lean Times” (October 20, 2008), we’re told that “The economic crisis is giving the prosecution a boost in the case of Fixed Fees v. Billable Hours.”  It’s great that clients are putting more pressure on lawyers to reduce fees and be more efficient.  I think it’s pretty clear, as we’ve been saying for years, that most clients want more certainty, but expect fixed fees to be lower than hourly fees, not — as the Value Pricing folks assert — premium fees that let the lawyers make more profits while making higher profits. As Susan Hackett, general counsel of the Association of Corporate Counsel notes, with the economic crisis, “There’s going to be a heck of a lot of directives for folks at the firms to lower their costs.”

As Carolyn Elefant has stressed often, “it’s not the pricing mechanisms that make legal fees unreasonable…it’s how we lawyers use them.”  Whatever the mechanism, clients deserve the benefits of competition and efficiency — and that includes price competition.  I like the reaction, in the WaPo article, of D.C. solo Joel P. Bennett, to the suggestion that hourly billing means “that outside firms are spending unnecessary amounts of time on their matters.”  Bennett says: “An honest lawyer works efficiently and does not charge clients for inefficient use of time.”

No, we can’t match the weblog traffic numbers of the most popular law professors (via Ambrogi at LegalBlogWatch). Glenn Reynolds at InstaPundit had almost 90 million visitors over the last twelve months, with 13 million visiting Hugh Hewitt, and 10 million stopping at the The Volokh Conspiracy.

But, our crafty old Prof. Yabut has discovered what brings more than enough eyes to f/k/a — images or discussion of the now famous Boston corporate-finance lawyer, Wendy Savage.  (for more see this post and the links therein)

.. .. Wendy from Myre Designs

Wendy at Newport, Summer 2008 . . ..

Many thanks to Wendy Savage for sharing these photos with the f/k/a Gang and the readers of f/k/a. (Hey, you are still coming here for the one-breath poetry and breathless punditry, aren’t you?)

afterwords (Oct. 31, 2008): Today, at The Docket, the news weblog of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, Julia Reischel writes “15 Minutes of Beautiful Lawyer fame,” where she states a truth that’s plain to see: “Wendy Savage, the in-house insurance lawyer who graces the cover of the calendar, is really the one responsible for turning the product into an Internet phenomenon.”  Julia also noticed that f/k/a has “unabashedly capitalized on the Wendy Savage craze.”

follow-up (Nov. 3, 2008): Capitalizing himself on the Wendy Savage phenomenon, Bob Ambrogi posted “Mild-Mannered Blawger Gets Savage” today at Legal Blog Watch. Like Julia at The Docket, Bob has noticed that f/k/a has taken a dreamy detour into Wendy World.

turning ’round
just missing a pretty woman…
willow tree

virtue beyond virtue
beauty beyond beauty…
just a poppy!

lovely —
the sky after a lark
has sung

in the leftover snow
both handprints

it’s so pretty!
so pretty!
the poison mushroom

… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

our haiga calendars for November 2008

Filed under: Haiga or Haibun — David Giacalone @ 10:07 am

This evening — October 30 — is Haunted Refrigerator Night (brought to you by WellCat).  That means, besides checking out that strange glob in my fridge, we need to tell you about our two haiga calendars for the month of November 2008 before the new month arrives.

October 30
the fridge bulb flickers
and dies

… by dagosan

As you probably already know, haiga are pictures (paintings, sketches, or photos) that include a subtly-linked haiku or similar poem. Last year, we created two free “haiga calendars” for 2008: the “artsy” Giacalone Bros. Haiga Calendar 2008 (with photos taken by my brother Arthur) and the nostalgic fka Haiga Memories Calendar 2008 (with most shots snapped in the 1950’s by Mama Giacalone).  The poetry is written by your Editor “dagosan”.  Here are thumbnails of the calendar pages for November, and the related poems:

……… November Haiga Calendars ………

on the novice trail –
climbers wave
from the peak


just another Thursday —
without you

.. by dagosan

Click on “more” to go below the fold, where you will find larger images and links to the original haiga used for the November calendars.

Our prior post from last December has descriptions and links to the full 12-month calendars, for printing or just viewing.


October 29, 2008

FTC smites debt negotiation firms (updated)

Filed under: lawyer news or ethics,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 6:18 pm

We posted a short blurb this morning about the recent WSJ article “Debt-Relief Firms Attract Complaints” (by Eleanor Laise, Oct. 14, 2008).  Such firms claim to “negotiate” with creditors in order to greatly reduce your overall debt.  The article underscores our own concerns about the services and fees of “debt settlement” or “debt negotiation” firms, some of which are run by lawyers.  See our comprehensive prior post “doubts over debt-negotiation fees” (July 21, 2008), which focused mainly on Net Debt and the affiliated Contego Law Firm. We dug a little further this afternoon, because a person who represents the industry left a comment yesterday saying that the Federal Trade Commission “endorses what we do.”  From my prior research, I doubted that claim.

update (Oct. 30, 2008): Overlawyered.com has been covering the sordid story of The Consumer Law Center, a Florida debt settlement firm run by lawyer Laura Hess and Hess Kennedy Chartered LLC. They have been under investigation by the Florida Attorney General and other state regulators, and by the Florida Bar.  On October 8, 2008, Laura Hess agreed to disbarment.  On Oct. 15, 2008, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum announced an Initiative to Clean Up Florida’s Debt-Relief Industry (see Sun-Sentinel article; ). And see, “Look Out for that Lifeline,” Business Week, March 6, 2008; and “Insider: Confessions of a Debt-Settlement Company Worker,” The Consumerist (March 2008)

update (May 9, 2009): See “ATTORNEY GENERAL CUOMO ANNOUNCES NATIONWIDE INVESTIGATION INTO DEBT SETTLEMENT INDUSTRY: Subpoenas Fourteen Debt Settlement Companies and One Law Firm in Connection with Probe” (Press Release, NYS AG, May 7, 2009);  and “Cuomo subpoenas debt settlement companies” (Newsday, by John Riley, May 7, 2009, which discusses the Allegro Law Firm); and Consumer Reports (March 2009), on high-fee debt settlement as a “financial trap”.

Here’s what I found out about the FTC and Debt Settlement:

In September 2006, the Federal Trade Commission got an injunction putting several debt negotiation firms out of business, and announced a continuing investigation. (FTC File No.: 052-3091) Its Sept. 21, 2006 Press Release, titled “FTC Stops Nationwide Debt Negotiation Scheme,” notes:

As requested by the Federal Trade Commission, a federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order against a nationwide operation that claimed it could reduce consumers’ debt by up to 60 percent, leading many people into financial ruin and bankruptcy. The FTC charged five companies, including Homeland Financial Services, National Support Services and Prosper Financial Solutions, and their principals with deceptive and unfair practices in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act.

“These defendants are charged with targeting consumers who were knee deep in debt and luring them with false promises,” said Lydia Parnes, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Consumers should be leery of anyone who says they can eliminate your unsecured debt, or that you can pay it off for pennies on the dollar. Debt negotiation can be very risky.”

A month ago, the Commission announced the completion of the investigation, saying Debt-Negotiation Defendants Agree to Settle FTC Charges in Nationwide Operation that Led Many Into Financial Ruin.” (Press Release, Sept. 25, 2008)  Click here for links to the Stipulated Orders and other important materials in FTC v. National Support Services, LLC, Dennis Connelly, et al.  (US Dist. Ct., CD Cal, Civil Action No.: SA CV 06-701 DOC (RNBx) ; FTC File No.: 052-3091).  The Orders prohibit the respondent debt negotiators from continuing many of their claims and practices.

The banned activities reflect the Commission’s attitude toward the way debt negotiators conduct their business — often amounting to deceptive, misleading or unfair conduct that harms consumers. The points made in the body of the Press Release are well worth repeating, and I will leave you with them here and beneath the fold:

  • The settlement bars them from falsely representing that enrolling in a debt-negotiation program is likely to enable consumers to pay off their credit-card or other unsecured debts for a substantially reduced amount;
  • that consumers’ creditors are likely to negotiate settlements under which they will accept substantially less than the amount owed;
  • that debt negotiators can negotiate better settlements with creditors than consumers can negotiate themselves; or
  • that debt negotiators have an established relationship with creditors that gives them an advantage in negotiating favorable settlements.


voting for halloween spirit

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 9:58 am

.. Presidential Pumpkin Patterns ..

— from Zombie Pumpkins. com (via Don Weeks at WGY radio) —

election day
in trash cans

… by dagosan

If your sensibilities are at all like mine, you passed your political-ad nausea threshold weeks ago, and need a barf bag next to the sofa or la-z-boy in your tv room, as we enter the last week of pre-election advertising. And, it hasn’t helped at all that our campaign to rid the pundit lexicon of the term “battleground state” has had no noticeable effect. I’ve been watching the public television network even more than usual to avoid the effluent electoral flow of mud and misleading claims, while relying on Obama Girl again for my political fix.

If all the angry ads leave you wanting to grab a knife and stab something, the f/k/a Gang suggests you sublimate those feelings and have some fun at ZombiePumpkins.com, where you’ll find a bounteous crop of ghoulish and topical patterns for carving surprisingly sophisticated jack-o-lanterns. The presidential pumpkin patterns shown above are among the selections. You have to join to download their amazing patterns, but you can do a lot of looking and reading for free, or get full access to 183 patterns for as little as $5, and a sampler of any two patterns for $2.

halloween mail
a bill arrives
from the plastic surgeon

devil’s night
father john’s profile fills
the confessional screen

autumn emptiness
i leave the pumpkin
just as it is

the government issues
a report on the war

……………………………………..ed markowski

At Court-o-rama, Anne Skove is in the Halloween spirit this week. Among other posts, check out her coverage of:

battery weakened
the low, slow laughter
of a demon

…. John Stevenson from Some of the Silence

Other quickie treats:

  • Raising issues similar to ours in the post “doubts over debt-negotiation fees“), the Wall Street Journal column “Debt-Relief Firms Attract Complaints” says there’s been a large increase in complaints about the so-called debt-negotiators, and “Regulators, consumer advocates and industry groups are taking a closer look at debt-settlement firms.” (by Eleanor Laise, Oct. 14, 2008)

At the WLJ site, you’ll find links to related podcasts, too: John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for Credit.com, talks with Eleanor Laise about the growth in debt settlement companies and whether they deliver on their promises.

pumpkin patch
this one is big enough
for my son

………….. Yu ChangUpstate Dim Sum (2005/I)

perched on
the sumo’s belly –
one large pumpkin

…. by dagosan – Nisqually Delta Review (summer/fall issue 2006)

halloween twilight
again this year my son waits
alone by the door

…… by Roberta Beary, The Unworn Necklace (2007)
1st place, Tokutomi Memorial Haiku Contest 2006

p.s. Many thanks to Lissa and James Giacalone, who introduced their old uncle to the joys of Hoops and Yoyo over the weekend.  We laughed and laughed over the free H&Y e-cards at Hallmark.com.  Check out their Halloween BOOgie.  For me, the scariest e-card was the morning they only had decaf coffee. (“What is the point of decaffeinated coffee!? it’s just brown water.”)

October 28, 2008

Wendy and Windy

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,lawyer news or ethics,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 5:44 am

.. Wendy & Windy . . . .. Today is a travel day, with the f/k/a Gang facing strong winds and trying to stay ahead of a rain and snow storm that will be arriving very soon along the road from Rochester to Schenectady, NY. Two posts have dominated activity at this weblog during our visit home:

  • Upset that f/k/a called him “whiny” and would not remove that word from our headline, and feeling that his positions were being distorted, lawyer Kurt Mausert spent much of the past few days assaulting the Editor (and even Scott Greenfield) instead of focusing on his campaign to become Family Court judge in Saratoga County, New York.  You can judge for yourself whether the mud he is slinging at us repaired his image or not. update (Nov. 5, 2008): As we report here, Mausert was defeated by Judge Hall, receiving about 42% of the vote. afterwords (January 23, 2009): On January 2, 2009, Kurt Mausert left a comment to this post, and he wants to make sure you see what he has to say.  You can click to go directly to his Jan. 2 comment.
  • On a more pleasant front, the allure of lovely lawyer Wendy Savage brought an extra 2000 visitors a day to this site over the weekend.  We hope all this attention will help sell the Beautiful Lawyers Calendar for the benefit of several public interest causes.  Thank you Wendy (who left us a Comment below, plus links to more of her fashion photos), Google, Above the Law, and the FootballGuys.com Forum for all the referrals.

afterwords (Oct. 31, 2008): At Mass Lawyers Weekly‘s weblog, The Docket, Julia Reischel writes “15 Minutes of Beautiful Lawyer fame,” where she states a truth that’s plain to see: “Wendy Savage, the in-house insurance lawyer who graces the cover of the calendar, is really the one responsible for turning the product into an Internet phenomenon.” (Nov. 3, 2008): And, Bob Ambrogi posted “Mild-Mannered Blawger Gets Savage” today at Legal Blog Watch.

.. A year ago today, we featured a post on Richard Susskind’s book “The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the nature of legal services,” (Oxford University Press, 2008), and his End of Lawyers series at the London Times Online. The issues are still important and worth considering. So far, Susskind has not taken our advice to start his own weblog:

An urgent (if somewhat selfish) request to Richard Susskind: Please start a weblog and bring your insights and commentary about the Future of Lawyers to us every day. For the f/k/a Gang, it gets tiring being just about the only voice speaking realistically and consistently about the evolving market-and-digital revolution. Your presence is much needed, Richard. Frankly, within the American Bar and its weblawg community, the members who most pride themselves on being future-oriented and “proactive” (and their consultants and coaches) all paint a happy-face future, where they’ll use tactics such as law firm branding, value billing, and price sensitivity (along with a large dollop of psycho babble) to achieve premium pricing and increased income, in the face of marketplace realities, and at the expense of their clients (while, miraculously, satisfying them more, and somehow working fewer hours, freed from the hourly-billing bogeyman).

Take another look at our list of “signs to look for that will help determine whether the American bar is choosing to act like a guild protecting its own interests first, or like a learned profession seeking to best serve the public interest in creating a truly accessible and affordable legal system.”

update (1 PM): As discussed more fully in our prior posting, U.S. District Judge Carol E. Jackson issued a temporary injunction yesterday blocking enforcement of the parts of the new Missouri Halloween law that restrict the movement and behavior of registered sex offenders, because they are too vague and confusing to sex offenders and to those who would have to enforce the law. However, Judge Jackson would not block the sections requiring sex offenders to leave their outdoor lighting off during evening hours and post a sign at their home stating “no candy or treats at this residence.”  See “Judge: Parts of law restricting sex offenders on Halloween will not be enforce” (Southeast Missourian, Oct. 28, 2008); “Rules limiting sex offenders on Halloween blocked” (Associated Press, Oct. 28, 2008); and “Judge Blocks Rules Limiting Sex Offenders on Halloween” (New York Times, Oct. 28, 2008)

Here are the poems we posted a year ago, by our Honored Guest Matt Morden:

halloween –
part of the moon
follows a bicycle home

harvest festival ProfPointer
small fingers trace
a saint’s name in slate

post inspection
a bean-counter shakes
my cool hand

thousands of starlings
flux together

………………… by matt mordenMorden Haiku

October 26, 2008

the Osama-Obama ballot: a lame spellchecker excuse

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 10:06 am

We’re still visiting our family of origin, but can’t go cold turkey all weekend without a little blogging. So . . .

. . . . . . . . You may recall that absentee ballots with the name “Barack Osama” (instead of “Barack Obama”) were sent out to 400 voters in Rensselaer County, NY, a couple weeks ago. [See the Albany Times Union (October 10, 2008) for an image of the infamous ballot.] The embarrassed Rensselaer County legislature asked for an investigation and explanation from their Board of Elections, and received a report last Monday. See “Blame the computer for Obama-Osama goof, officials say: Rensselaer County voting officials say inattention led to misprint of name” (Albany Times Union, Oct. 23, 2008); and “Was botched ballot a spellcheck slip-up?” (Troy Record, October 21, 2008). The Troy Record reports:

“This error may have been due to a spellcheck function on the operating system of the computers utilized by the Board of Elections,” said the letter signed by Commissioner Ed McDonough, a Democrat, and Commissioner Larry Bugbee, a Republican. “Due possibly in part to the number of different ballot styles along with the higher than normal number of new registrations and overall increased activity at the board, this error was not caught.

“While there is no explanation other than the fact that the error was made innocently and with no malice or forethought,” the letter addressed to Chairman of the Legislature Neil Kelleher reads. “While attracting a great deal of attention, the error was caused by a simple mistake that unfortunately was not caught.”
The board also made some internal changes, such as all proof reading of ballots will be by two employees, a Democrat and a Republican and all ballots will now be read by both commissioners.

Blaming spellcheck? Who would buy that lame excuse? Well, the editors at the Schenectady Gazette. In “How Obama became Osama, and other tales of computer horror” (Schenectady Gazette, October 25, 2008), they say:

“It’s a logical explanation, and something of a relief because it indicates that the misspelling was an honest mistake, not an intentional political dirty trick. Still, the episode should serve as a reminder for anyone who uses a computer — they’re not infallible, even with software designed to catch grammar or spelling mistakes.”

Yeah, but: Spell-checkers don’t force a change on the writer, they highlight possible errors and ask the writer to decide whether a change is needed. If the folks in Rensselaer County use spell-check software that forces a change on them or gives them no chance to review a change, they really need a new webmaster; if their employees cede so much power to Spellcheck when doing something as important as a presidential ballot, they need new management. The Gazette editors are right that:

“The point is that writers, or anyone who uses a computer, still has to proofread what they’ve written before pulling the trigger — whether it’s an absentee ballot, job application, term paper, whatever. Computers are fantastic machines, but they can’t think.”

[Ed. Note: We often “pull the trigger” around here without catching all the typos (as we did here today), but this is an unimportant little website whose Editor eventually sees and corrects most of the errors — and only occasionally blames his peridementia.]

The problem with lame excuses is that they make people (even non-lawyers and the non-curmudgeonly) more than a little suspicious, or make us wonder if those giving the excuse are capable of thoughtful analysis. Around this part of the world (as elsewhere), there is no doubt that civil servants are more than capable of making silly mistakes like the “Osama-Obama” mishap without even trying. They shouldn’t exacerbate the situation with such poor “explanations”.

Afterwords (Nov. 3, 2008): Oh, Brother.  I just discovered that there’s a whole line of anti-Obama merchandise with the inscription “Spell-Check Says Obama is Osama.”   Also, in “Microsoft tries to fix big glitch on Obama,” the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on June 12, 2008, that Microsoft’s Hotmail Spell-checker suggests “Osama” when you type in “Obama.”  Microsoft spokeswoman Melissa Lawson says it’s a mistake they planned to fix ASAP:

“For the convenience of our customers, Windows Live Hotmail spell checking functionality helps provide suggested alternatives for words not recognized by the Hotmail dictionary, including suggestions for other words or proper names similar in spelling to the unrecognized term,” she wrote in an e-mail.

As I often do when visiting Rochester, I’m going to leave you with a few poems by Rochester’s haiku guru Tom Painting, and his ten-year-old daughter Sarah Brachman Painter.

watching a bee
skim the flowers-
summer’s end

November 11th
cemetery flags
Old and tattered

……………… by Sarah Painting – Two Dragonflies

autumn light
I lower the window
cover my child’s feet
the foul ball lands
in an empty seat
summer’s end
Sarah Painting was also editor/illustrator/publisher of a chapbook last year to commemorate a Ginko [haiku-inspiring walk], in Rochester’s Mount Hope Cemetery. See our post “Mount Hope Haiku” (October 14, 2007) for more about the chapbook Mount Hope Haiku: September 16, 2007. Here are a couple poems from Mount Hope Haiku.
green copper letters
on the ex-slave’s grave —
some leaves already red
……. by dagosan – from Mount Hope Haiku (2007)

October 24, 2008

a few kukai winners as we hit the road

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 8:28 am

.. The multi-personality f/k/a Gang is heading “home” to Rochester for a few days, to see Mama G. and my siblings.  Posting and comment moderation may be slow or non-existent, and we hope someone will miss us a little.

The results of the 6th Annual Shiki Poets’ Choice Kukai (haiku contest) were announced last night by Robert Bauer.  You should be able to find all the winners in a day or so at the The Shiki Monthly Kukai website.  Here are three highly-rated poems by two of our Honored Guest Poets:

early spring
all night the pond ice
shifts its weight

…. by tom painting (2nd Place, 2008 6th Annual Shiki Poets’ Choice Kukai)

first firefly
the electrician shuts
his toolbox

a field
of faceless pumpkins…
Autumn begins

…. by ed markowski
“a field” – (3rd Place, 2008 6th Annual Shiki Poets’ Choice Kukai)
“first firefly” – (10th Place, 2008 6th Annual Shiki Poets’ Choice Kukai)

If you’re in the mood for poems with an autumn theme, check out our post from September 25th, which featured that month’s Shiki Kukai results.

p.s. Prof. Yabut got up quite early and is particularly grumpy this morning.  He wants me to ask our Shiki friends to reconsider the way they enumerate and describe contest results. Right now, e.g., if there are four poems tied for 3rd Place (all receiving the same number of points), the next poem is designated 4th Place by Shiki, when it is actually in 7th Place.  Similarly, if two poems are tied for 2nd place, they call the next poem 3rd Place, when it is really 3rd.  It’s sort of like grade-creep. [Lawyers are so picky, aren’t they?]

still blocking
my river view –
a few stubborn red leaves

tank full
and bladders empty —
soon, vice-versa

…….. by dagosan

October 23, 2008

susan savage gets something right: banning DWT

Filed under: Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 6:38 pm

.. We’ve probably spent more than enough time on Wendy Savage today. In contrast to all that good press, there’s another Ms. Savage who’s gotten nothing but bad reviews here at f/k/a the past couple of years (see here, and there): She’s Susan E. Savage, the Chair of the Schenectady County Legislature. But, it had to happen: Chairwoman Savage has proposed a local law that actually makes good sense. Indeed, we supported just such a law for the entire State about 5 weeks ago here at f/k/a.

To wit: If Susan Savage gets her way, “Texting while driving could soon be banned in Schenectady County” (CBS 6 News, October 23, 2008).

update (December 10, 2008): The County Legislature passed the law yesterday, by an 11 – 2 vote.  Only Republicans Joseph Suhrada and Jim Buhrmaster opposed it.  See “Law forbids texting while driving in Schenectady County: Violators could face fine of $150″ (Dec. 10, 2008). According to the Gazette: “Majority Leader Gary Hughes, D-Schenectady, said many state laws, like the helmet law and the cellphone law, began as local measures. ‘We are raising awareness of a particular issue, and until the state acts, we should,’ he said.”

This afternoon, Chairwoman Savage introduced a local law to ban what we call DWT — driving while texting. (Click here to read the full press release as a PDF file; also, “Schenectady County proposing texting ban while driving“, Albany Times Union, October 23, 2008 ) In her press release, Chairwoman Savage had some important things to say:

“This is an important public safety issue. Research has shown the dangers of driver distractions so it is important that we propose legislation that will prevent a deadly accident before it happens.

“I also hope this will raise awareness to this dangerous and deadly behavior. Before the New York State seatbelt law, most drivers knew it was a good idea to wear one, but only 17% of drivers were motivated to change their old habits. Now, 89% of drivers in New York State wear their seatbelts.”

Violators would incur a $150 fine. As the Times Union noted, “The issue took on prominence when five high school girls died in a fiery accident south of Rochester in 2007. Cell phone records showed someone was texting on the driver’s cell phone when the girls’ SUV passed a car and crashed into a tractor trailer.” And,

“By considering this legislation, Schenectady County says it would join Rochester’s Monroe County in proposing a ban. Westchester and Suffolk counties have already passed similar bans. Alaska, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Washington State have also passed state-wide bans.”

As we opined on September 18th, The Schenectady Gazette got it right on banning driving while texting in its editorial “Textbook case of a law that shouldn’t be necessary, but is” (September 15, 2008):

“And [the DWT law] should be enforced more rigorously than the oft-ignored handheld cellphone ban. Perhaps if police had done a better job with that one, motorists wouldn’t be so brazen about engaging in far-more-distracting text messaging.”

The f/k/a Gang hopes the ban on texting while driving passes — but would how to have a statewide ban soon. If we get really lucky, Susan Savage may realize that her arguments about driving distractions apply equally to DWP: driving while phoning. Unfortunately, the State has pre-empted local jurisdictions with ineffective, counterproductive and under-enforced laws that only ban hand-held cellphones, while permitting drivers to use the equally distracting hands-free version. It would be great, threfore, if Ms. Savage got other local leaders across the state to lobby the Legislature and Governor David Paterson to ban all forms of phoning while driving. If, as a busy politician and mother, she currently engages in that reckless behavior behind the wheel, publicly giving it up would make Susan Savage an excellent role model.

update (Oct. 24, 2008): A few of our neighbors at the Rotterdam [NY] internet forum are less than enthusiastic about the texting ban. My quick response:

  • “nannyism” is government making you do something that is good for you, it is not banning activity that is dangerous to other people and their property;
  • if this is a good law, it does not serve the public well to be fretting, as Republican legislator Joe Suhrada does in today’s Gazette, that Susan Savage is engaging in a distracting sideshow to avoid attention on the new “wallet-busting budget.” If our Legislators aren’t capable of reviewing a budget while spending a small amount of time on this issue (and maybe a few others), we need to elect more capable people. And, if politicians can’t time activity to make themselves look good, Joe Suhrada might have to go out of business.
  • as noted above, the hand-held cellphone law has not deterred the practice of DWP because it has not been adequately enforced (with the law flaunted everywhere openly); effective enforcement and high-profile publicity are needed to make this work; the fact that enforcement will raise money is a plus, not a reason to oppose the law;
  • those who argue “we can’t cure stupid” might just as well say “we can’t cure greed or anger” and oppose laws against fraud, robbery, murder, etc. The fact that so many of our younger citizens engage in this dangerous activity is a reason to act against it, not to give up and turn DWT into some kind of birthright.
  • It may be difficult to spot some of the texters, as Sheriff Harry Buffardi mentioned to the Gazette, but much of it is visible and records of usage are available from the service providers if a dispute arises.

.. let’s ban driving while texting! . .


. . . and all phoning while driving! . . .

wendy savage wendy savage

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,lawyer news or ethics,Procrastination Punditry — David Giacalone @ 11:49 am

. . . . Confession: The f/k/a Gang found and quickly read Brian Tracey’s essay “Eat that Frog: Stop Procrastination” this morning, but it didn’t work. Instead of getting down to finishing an important legal ethics essay, we’ve compiled this little fluff piece [which has become the most visited posting in the history of our weblog] for the throngs of Google searchers trying to find the irresistible “Wendy Savage”.

in the middle
of the distraction –
an interruption

…………………. by dagosan

According to f/k/a‘s statistics page, a lot of people across the nation have been looking for “Wendy Savage” over the past several weeks. Today, however, the number of referrals to this weblog from Google searches for Ms. Savage mushroomed (with more than a thousand visitors as of 4 PM, and at least 2500 by midnight), thanks to the Boston Globe article “Calendar is Exhibit A in case for beautiful lawyers” (Oct. 23, 2008). The article includes a photo gallery with 13 pictures from the Beautiful Lawyers Calendar. (And see “Big-Firm Lawyers Posed for Hottie Calendar, ABAJournal News, Oct. 23, 2008).

The Google searchers have been arriving at our site due to this post and that one about the Beautiful Lawyers Calendar, which contains photos of six men and six women who practice law in the Boston area. One of the calendar models is Wendy Savage, the very lovely in-house counsel for Liberty Mutual in Boston, who graduated from Boston University Law School in 2006. I’m fairly certain Counselor Savage is the person most querists are seeking when they put the name in their Google box. So, I’m going to give you a little more information about her, which I found in the Boston Edition of Exhibit A (“Beautiful Lawyers (Seriously),” October 7, 2008).

However, we’ve discovered there are a lot of other interesting women named Wendy Savage, and we’re going to tell you a bit about some of them, too.

using his nose
the dog searches
the violets

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

Wendy Savage, Esq: It’s just a gut feeling, but I’m betting this photo at the Globe website is what has so many people Googling some variation of /Wendy Savage lawyer/. [WCVB/BostonChannel.com had the photo on September 29, 2008, in a slide show.] The Boston Globe tells us that Wendy Savage will be featured in March 2008 on the Beautiful Lawyers Calendar. The blurb accompanying the photo says:

Wendy, a corporate counsel for Liberty Mutual, lists fashion photography and equestrian sports among her hobbies. One day, she hopes to work as a legal correspondent in the fashion or entertainment industries.

For those who need to know more about the Liberty Mutual lawyer, here’s information (probably culled from the Calendar) presented earlier this month at Exhibit A:


Job: In-house lawyer, Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., Boston

Age: 28

Personal status: “My fiancé proposed to me and took me to Paris as a surprise.”

Before she became a lawyer, Wendy Savage dreamed of a career in modeling. But when she was told that, at 5-foot-7, she was too short to make it big, she went to law school instead.

Today, the in-house lawyer at Liberty Mutual plans to develop a specialty in entertainment law.

While Savage has done some modeling on the side over the years, her calendar cover shot is her highest-profile work to date. “It’s a group of diverse lawyers where I don’t think the focus is on physical attractiveness, but rather the person as a whole,” Savage says of her decision to participate in the project.

Prof. Yabut wonders if the young attorney had any idea her participation in the beautiful lawyers calendar would bring so much attention — and whether it’s the kind of attention she anticipated. Maybe she’ll grant an interview soon so we can learn more about “the person as a whole.”

summer dawn —
the curve of your body
under the sheets

… by Lee Gurga

  • afterwords (Oct. 28, 2008):  Boston’s Wendy Savage, Esq., graciously thanked us today for our coverage of the Calendar, and (in response to our request) sent this link from the Zehra Hyder Summer 08 Collection, and another from the Myre 08 Spring/Summer Fashion Launch Party, with other fashion photos of herself.
  • Also (Oct. 30, 2008), you’ll find two more exclusive and intriguing photos of Wendy Savage if you scroll to the end of our post today.
  • aftershots (Nov. 17, 2008): As we report in “lots more Wendy Savage, Esq.“, the Beautiful Lawyers Calendar has posted a Wendy Gallery, with ten large pictures from her photo shoot.
  • afterthoughts (Oct. 31, 2008): At Mass Lawyers Weekly‘s weblog, The Docket, Julia Reischel writes “15 Minutes of Beautiful Lawyer fame,” where she states a truth that’s plain to see: “Wendy Savage, the in-house insurance lawyer who graces the cover of the calendar, is really the one responsible for turning the product into an Internet phenomenon.”

    — you can use this Tiny URL to share this posting: http://tinyurl.com/fkaWendySavage

Year-end Update (Dec. 30, 2008): See our post “a sparkingly Savage year,” which discusses the Boston Magazine article “Counsel Requests the Right to Appeal: Smokin’-hot lawyer Wendy Savage defends her buzzy turn as a pinup” (by Alyssa Giacobbe, January 2009), and the issue of professional women posing in sexy pictures.

. . . and now, more Wendy Savages:  

“Wendy Savage” is — we were reminded this morning thanks to Google — the character played by Laura Linney in the 2007 movie “The Savages.” This fictional Savage played a neurotic, aspiring playwright from Manhattan, dealing with the advanced senility of her father. Philip Seymour Hoffman played her brother. The role gained Linney her third Academy Award nomination.

his side of it.
her side of it.
winter silence

… by Lee Gurga

shaving him
dad says I would have loved
a son like you

…. by Ed Markowski

Another Wendy Savage is an actress ..

She plays Jennifer in the independent short film Computer Guy: the sitcom. Among her many stage roles was that of the Cyclist/Child in “The Wedding on the Eiffel Tower,” at San Diego’s Vantage Theatre. The Computer Guy cast page says:

Wendy Savage has been playing on the stage since she was a kid. After high school, she ventured out to the Big Apple to study acting at NYU. Several years later she found herself in the Pacific Northwest. She had the opportunity to be apart of two amazing collaborative original plays that showcased in the Seattle Fringe Festival. (“Famished” in 1995 and “Water Licked” in 1997). Before leaving Seattle, Wendy was a part of an independent film (“Slaves to the Underground”) that went on to be in The Women’s Film Festival in Seattle. Since moving to San Diego, Wendy’s favorite productions to date have been “The Marriage of Bette and Boo” (Emily), “The Wedding on the Eiffel Tower” (Cyclist/Child), and “Invisible Bob” (Mary) which recently debuted in the Fritz Blitz (2004). Wendy has been focusing on doing more film projects. “Computer Guy: A Sitcom” is her 4th independent short film. Painting is her second passion.

Christmas pageant—
the one who had to get married
plays virgin Mary

… by Lee Gurga

Wendy Savage: photographer: This Wendy is an adjunct faculty member in the Art Department of Meredith College, in Raleigh, NC. “Since 1984, Savage has been employed as a medical photographer and digital designer at NC State College of Veterinary Medicine.”

  • She has a Boston connection, having received her MFA from The Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University
  • Click for her photo studio website

morning twilight . . .
horse asleep in the pasture
covered with frost

bitter morning—
I move the injured puppy
into the sun

…. by Lee Gurga

Syracuse NY’s Wendy Savage is the New Patient Treatment Coordinator in the dental office of Dr. Mark A. Paciorek. At their Celebrating Smiles website, Wendy says:

“I am the New Patient Treatment Coordinator at Dr. Paciorek’s office. I have been working in the Orthodontic field for 21 years and I love it. I am married with four children and the whole family has had orthodontic treatment! My favorite part of my job is meeting our new patients and teaching them all about braces and how orthodontics can improve not only your smile, but your life.”

professional conference—
in the restroom all the dentists
washing their hands

…. by Lee Gurga, D.D.S. – most poems above from Fresh Scent: Selected Haiku of Lee Gurga (1998)

.. .. Physician Wendy Savage .. is the author of “Birth and Power: ‘A Savage Enquiry’ revisited” (Middlesex University Press, 2007). Her Middlesex, however, is located in the United Kingdom, not in the Massachusetts County that lies just northwest of Boston. According to the AHA Foundation:

“Born on April 12th, 1935 in Surrey, Wendy Savage is a distinguished gynaecologist and champion of women’s rights in childbirth and fertility.”

Indeed, she became a cause célèbre, in 1985, when she was suspended from her post at the London Hospital Medical College, accused of incompetence in the management of five obstetric cases. The allegations were not upheld, and Dr. Savage was reinstated in 1986; she retired in 2000. Her book “A Savage Enquiry: Who Controls Childbirth?” described that experience and is included in the 2007 sequel Birth and Power.

Well, that should be enough Wendy Savages to fulfill any Googler’s needs. I’ve got a frog or two to eat and more serious writing to work on today. Below the fold, you’ll find a few rules I still need to internalize from Brian Tracey’s “Eat that Frog: Stop Procrastination“.


October 22, 2008

big league battles: guns and baseballs

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,lawyer news or ethics — Tags: — David Giacalone @ 11:17 am

There are two good diversions available today for folks who would like to give the old Sicilian Chin-flick to either or both of the Presidential Campaigns: 1) The recent attacks from the political and judicial Right on the Supreme Court’s gun control decision in D.C. v. Heller — especially as it focuses on the “judicial activism” of Justice Antonin Scalia; and, for those who would rather avoid all political agita, 2) The opening of the World Series tonight in Tampa Bay, Florida.

October revival
all hands lift
to the foul ball

two outs in the ninth–
the reliever bangs the ball
against his cup

…………………………. by Jim Kacian
“October revival” – Piedmont Lit. Review (Circa 1992); Baseball Haiku (2007)

.. Justice Antonin Scalia.. (photo: Peter Smith/Boston Herald)

Who Are You Calling an Activist? Yesterday’s NYT article “Ruling on Guns Elicits Rebuke from the Right” (New York Times, October 21, 2008) has been getting a lot of attention.  In it, Adam Liptak says:

“Two prominent federal appeals court judges say that Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion in the case, District of Columbia v. Heller, is illegitimate, activist, poorly reasoned and fueled by politics rather than principle. The 5-to-4 decision in Heller struck down parts of a District of Columbia gun control law.”

As Prof. Steven Schwinn at Constitutional Law Prof Blog summarizes in “Heller critiqued from the Right“:

“Adam Liptak (NYT) reported today that Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III (4th Circuit) and Judge Richard Posner (7th Circuit) criticized D.C. v. Heller, last term’s gun-rights case, for its methodology.  Particularly, Judge Wilkinson wrote in a Virginia Law Review article, and Judge Posner wrote in The New Republic, that the Court’s methodology had some of the same problems as the Court’s methodology in Roe v. Wade.

“The articles aren’t new, and I suspect many of us have been using them and Heller to illustrate and discuss originalism in our classes.  (Heller, of course, is a wonderful case study, because both majority and dissent claim to adopt a form of originalism, but they come out very differently.)  But Liptak’s article, which clearly and concisely sets out the arguments and explores (even if only briefly) the politics of aligning Heller with Roe, gives us yet another way to share these issues with our students.”

.. At the often-thoughtful, mostly right-leaning Volokh Conspiracy, Prof. David Bernstein disagrees with Judge Wilkinson’s comparison of Roe and Heller, saying “this is a terrible analogy, and one that would get a poor grade from me if made on a constitutional law exam.”  And, although VC‘s Jonathan Adler is not convinced by Judge Wilkinson’s complaints against Heller, he is also not at all surprised, because “Judge Wilkinson has always been uncomfortable invalidating legislative acts on constitutional grounds.”

For more, see “Conservatives against Heller” at Reason.com (Oct. 21, 2008); “Another judge rips Scalia’s Heller opinion,” from Scott Greenfield” at Simple Justice (Oct. 22, 2008); and “Is Heller like Roe v. Wade,” at Feminist Law Profs.

The skeptics here at f/k/a have always felt that Activism is in the Gut of the Beholder (or, as Prof. Yabut put it a few years ago, “it all depends whose Fox is being whored.”) Back in 2004, Dahlia Lithwick got it right in a guest column in the New York Times, headlined “Activist, Schmactivist” (August 15, 2004):

We can disagree about outcomes, but we have, at least as a matter of political language, internalized the fiction that liberal judges “make” law, while conservative judges “interpret” it.

A modest proposal, then: Let’s invent a new term right here, today, for judges or judicial nominees on the right, who claim to be merely “interpreting” the Constitution, even when they are refusing to impose settled law; law they deem unsettled because it was invented by “liberal activist judges.” And while I am open to better suggestions, here’s a tentative offering: “Re-activist judges.”

That’s about all punditry we’re gonna make today (since we have to run out to see our primary medical provider), beyond noting that we’ve been less than impressed over the years with the antics of our paisan Anonin Scalia (see here and there).

.. Phillies vs. Rays: The (so-called) World Series starts tonight, with the Philadelphia Phillies visiting the Tampa Bay Rays. The f/k/a Gang is even more indifferent than usual about the outcome of this year’s Fall Classic.  Nonetheless, the World Series is a great excuse to remind you to check out the f/k/a Baseball Haiku page, our many excerpts from last year’s haiku classic volume Baseball Haiku (W.W. Norton Press, 2007), and our coverage of the Chautauqua Institution’s Baseball Haiku Roundtable this past June.

As we’ve said before, you don’t have to like baseball or haiku to like baseball haiku. Here are a few tiny seasonal poems to get you in the baseball spirit:

first red leaves
i swing late
on a change-up

two crows
settle on the foul pole…
100th loss

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

bases loaded
no one out…..
the pitcher
blows a bubble

. . . . . . . . . . . . by Ed Markowski

“bases loaded” – Haiku Sun (Issue X, Jan. 2004)

and see our collection from Ed: “American Sports . . . American Haiku” (June 2008; cover)

third strike
the designated hitter
blows on his hands

tied in the ninth
pitcher and batter
cross themselves

…………. by dagosan

p.s. Did you say you really do need your Presidential Politics Fix today?  Head over to the new ABAJournal (American Bar Association, November 2008), where the cover story tells you their best guesses at “The Lawyers Who May Run America” in either a McCain or an Obama Administration.

October 20, 2008

too many men are killing babies

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,Schenectady Synecdoche,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 11:06 am

..  . Baby Killers: in Troy, MO, and Troy, NY ..

On Tuesday, September 23, 2008, in the shrinking, economically-challenged City of Troy, New York, four-month-old Matthew Thomas died of serious head trauma due to injuries sustained when his 26-year-old, 500-pound father, Adrian Thomas, “threw him down hard” several times while arguing with his wife. (see CapitalNews9)

That same day, almost a thousand miles away in the thriving, rapidly growing little City of Troy, Missouri, 6-week-old Hannah Edwards sustained severe brain damage after being struck in the head and shaken by her mother’s boyfriend, Ronald I. Schupmann, 23, who was not her biological father. (See the St. Louis Post-Dispatch).

Hannah died on Friday, September 26, the same day that little Matthew Thomas was buried and his father (who was recently unemployed and depressed) was indicted for murder, in Troy, NY.

For quite a few months, I’ve been wanting to write about a terrible trend I’ve noticed here in the New York Capital Region the past few years: Although we are a relatively small Metro area, every month or so a grown man is in the news for killing a baby (usually his own or his girlfriend’s).  The men are most often in their early to mid- 20’s.   They shake, punch or throw the child — usually because the baby is crying inconsolably. Their victims are not even toddlers yet, and often just a few months old.

I’m finally writing this post, because the Schenectady Sunday Gazette featured the article “Shaken baby deaths persist: Problem is all too common” (by Jill Bryce, October 19, 2008) on the front page of the local news section.  From the article and additional research, I’ve learn that about 80% of the perpetrators of Shaken Baby Syndrome or Abusive Head Trauma to young children are male.  In addition:

“The abuser is usually the baby’s father or the mother’s boyfriend. Female perpetrators tend to be a caregiver other than the biological mother.”

When Googling /Troy murder infant father/ yesterday, to locate the recent case described above from the nearby city of Troy, NY (find more coverage of it here and here), I discovered the strange coincidence of baby Hannah’s death the same week as Matthew’s in the very-different city of Troy, Missouri.

According to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, SBS/AHT (shaken baby syndrome/abusive head trauma) is a term used to describe the constellation of signs and symptoms resulting from violent shaking or shaking and impacting of the head of an infant or small child.

  • Often, perpetrators shake an infant or child out of frustration or anger. This most often occurs when the baby won’t stop crying. Other triggering events include toilet training difficulties and feeding problems.
  • The Shaken Baby Coalition says: “In America last year, approximately 1,200 – 1,400 children were shaken for whom treatment was sought. Of these tiny victims, 25 -30% died as a result of their injuries. The rest will have lifelong complications.”
  • Perpetrator Profile: Average age of perpetrator 22 years; 75% male; 81% had no history of child abuse; 75% had no history of substance abuse; 50% were natural parents of the victims; 37% biological father; 21% boyfriends of the mother; 17% female child care providers; 12% mothers; 13% other
  • It’s estimated that “Twenty-five (25%) to fifty (50%) percent of Americans do not understand the danger of shaking a baby, nor do they realize the possible long-term consequences.”

We haven’t located more-recent statistics, but a 2003 North Carolina study estimated that about 300 babies died in this country from SBS or non-accidental head trauma in 2002. In 1997, the FBI reported that about 5 babies a week are killed in the USA.  In his 1998 “History of Infanticide,” Dr. Larry S. Milne presents some pretty dismal statistics about infanticide in the United States (emphasis added):

Statistically, the United States ranks high on the list of countries whose inhabitants kill their children. For infants under the age of one year, the American homicide rate is 11th in the world, while for ages one through four it is 1st and for ages five through fourteen it is fourth. From 1968 to 1975, infanticide of all ages accounted for almost 3.2% of all reported homicides in the United States.

The 1980’s followed similar trends. Whereby overall homicide rates were decreasing in the United States, the rate at which parents were killing their children was increasing.

(full poster)

The f/k/a Gang can’t offer much direct guidance on this topic.   In a decade representing children at Family Court, your Editor saw many young males (and some females) accused or capable of shaking or assaulting a baby.  Despite the fact that the incidence of SBS/AHT appears higher among the poor and less educated population, it can and does happen throughout our society, affecting every socio-economic and demographic group, across the nation.  We surely need much more vigilance on the part of family members, discretion as to who is left to care for a baby, and education for young parents and their paramours.  Dr. Rudy Nydegger, a clinical psychologist in Schenectady, told the Gazette that the perpetrator often has very little knowledge of how to care for a child.

“It’s terribly important to ensure that people in charge of a child know what to do” when a baby is crying inconsolably.  Caregivers need to ask for help.

Here are links to resources that interested and affected persons and organizations might use to help prevent, understand, and deal with the fatal (or serious, but less severe) effects of non-accidental assaults on “our” babies:

Parents, siblings and other relatives of SBS victims face a special kind of grief.  My heart goes out to them.  They can find some help and comfort from the National Center on SBS, and on the Family Support page of ShakenBaby.org.

In 19th Century Japan, Master Haiku poet Kobayashi Issa saw all four of his children die in the first two years of their lives.  His sorrow and loss, and his love for small children, can be seen in many of his poems.  Here is a sample:

this world
is a dewdrop world
yes… but…

why did the blooming
pink break?

heat shimmers–
missing a child
the parent’s face

meigetsu ya hiza [wo] makura no ko ga araba

harvest moon–
my lap would be a pillow
if my child were here

…….. Translator David G. Lanoue explained the context of this last poem:

“This haiku was written in Seventh Month, 1819. Its biographical context is important, because Issa’s daughter, Sato, born the previous year, died of smallpox in Sixth Month of 1819–just a few weeks before Issa composed this poem. As he sits looking at the harvest moon–one of the most joyful occasions in the calendar for a haiku poet–the happy occasion is marred by a palpable absense. If only Sato were here… This sad poem reminds us of how precious children are to us; how, without them, the wonders of the universe, even the resplendent moon, seem drab and ordinary.”

“Gimme that moon!”
cries the crying

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

apples picked
and the casket chosen —
lingering sunset

roses on the casket
at the lowering

… by Michael Dylan Welch
“roses on the casket” – frogpond (XXIX: 1, Winter 2006)

mourners and bare trees

……. by George Swede – The Heron’s Nest (June 2005)

October 18, 2008

just another (almost-Halloween, election season) autumn weekend

Filed under: Haiga or Haibun — David Giacalone @ 10:12 am

.. with a new haiga (orig.) .. ..

haunted hayride
the weekend dad
holds on tight

photo: Arthur Giacalone (2000)
poem: David Giacalone

uncle eats all
the trick-or-treat candy
October 18


.. and some new Haibun: To be ghastly frank, the old fuddy-duddies here at f/k/a prefer their haibun — short pieces of narrative prose with a subtly-linked poem — to have customary punctuation and initial caps (and, indeed, actual prose).  Nonetheless, substance is more important than style, and editors and authors wiser than we have selected some rather interesting haibun by a pair of our Honored Guest Poets for the latest issue of Frogpond (Volume 31:3, Fall 2008).  We’ve typed two of them up for you to enjoy on this mid-October weekend:

Food Fair
by w.f. owen

scraping something from my shoe this food varied as the people attending attired in creative colors and fabrics every ethnicity smells of concoctions intermingling wafting through the throng booths offering samples delivered with oversized plastic gloves hairnets never quite covering yet from the mimes to free magnets to cartoon characters to that guy on stilts with the constant smile everything fits.

puppet show she guides her husband into his seat

… by w.f. owenFrogpond (Volume 31:3, Fall 2008)

by Michael Dylan Welch

The line through security moves slowly, but eventually we empty our pockets and doff our light jackets, place our belongings in plastic containers, and step through the metal detectors.  The Parliament tour is busy, but now we’re inside, just under the Peace Tower, in a waiting area as the tour guide describes the fire that destroyed the original buildings.  Today, we’re among the endless rounds of tourists who will visit the Hall of Honour, the library that survived the fire thanks to two iron doors, and the opulent senate chamber, with carpet and upholstery all in red to symbolize royalty.  As we wait, a video screen repeats views of the rooms where we’ll be walking.

last tour of the day —
the guide’s shoelaces, and mine,

….. by Michael Dylan WelchFrogpond (Volume 31:3, Fall 2008)

.. And, don’t forget the haibun “Ghostly Figures,” by Ron Moss, which you can find in the Frogpond Sampler for Fall 2008.

Finally, what scares you these days (other than the stock market)?

  • How about a grown man with a law degree (Craig S. MacGlashan) stooping to putting this trash up on the otherwise-contentless Sacramento County Republican Party website (click to enlarge):

The offending images have been taken down from the site, but were captured by Cynthia Foster at The Shark weblog and the Sacramento Bee. (via Ambrogi at Legal Blog Watch)

  • And, speaking of bottom lines, some pampered barrister bottoms might be in for an unaccustomed rough time: It seems at least one large law firm is tightening its belt by buying economy toilet paper. See Above the Law (via Elefant at Legal Blog Watch). Oh my, sounds like rough justice.

October 16, 2008

Maryland Halloween Sign Targets Sex Offenders

Filed under: viewpoint — Tags: , — David Giacalone @ 5:06 pm

. . . for more, see our prior posts: “Halloween tricks: pols vs. sex offenders” (Oct. 30, 2005); “hauntingly familiar” (Oct. 24, 2007); “more scary Halloween laws against sex offenders” (Oct. 9, 2008).  And see, the informative weblog piece by David Hess, The New Urban Myth—The Danger of Registered Sex Offenders at Halloween (October 18, 2010).

…  Md. Sex Offender Halloween Sign

Last week, we told you again about the spread of laws across the nation restricting the conduct of Sex Offenders on Halloween.  One particularly odious and inane rule, from our perspective, is the requirement in states like Missouri and Maryland that sex offenders post a sign at their homes declaring there is no candy at the residence.  The ACLU is challenging Missouri’s law.  After seeing yesterday’s Washington Times, we hope a challenge will be waged in Maryland, too.

Last year, sex offenders in Maryland were given a simple sign to hang on their doors that read: “No Candy.”  That was bad enough, but things have escalated this year.

.. A New Scarlet Letter: The article “Pumpkin symbol marks sex offenders’ homes” (Washington Times, by Tom LoBianco, October 15, 2008), shows the sign that sex offenders must display at their homes in Maryland this Halloween (and we have it at the top of this post).  According to the Times, the bright orange pumpkin is the symbol sex offenders “are required to post on their doors with a warning, in capital letters, to trick-or-treaters: ‘No candy at this residence’.”   In addition to posting the sign, the offenders must stay at home, turn off outside lights and not answer the door.  Some states prohibit sex offenders from decorating the outside of their homes.  But, Maryland is mandating this colorful and “attractive” Halloween decoration.

update (October 31, 2008): Realizing that a sign with a big orange pumpkin on it might actually attract children to a house, Maryland parole agents sent out a pumpkin-less version of the sign this week to sex offenders, merely saying “No Candy at this Residence”.   Strangely, SO’s apparently have the option to use the pumpkin sign.  Parole officials deny they were affected by a Saturday Night Live skit poking fun at their sign (with Seth Myers saying “They are also being required to take down the signs that read, ‘Knock if you can keep a special secret.’”).  See: “Halloween & the Law, Part Deux: Targeting Sexual Offenders
(Wall Street Journal, October 30, 2008); and “Maryland Sex Offenders Under Close Watch on Halloween”  wamu.org, Oct. 31, 2008)

The signs were mailed out to Maryland sex offenders, with a letter dated October 1st, from the state’s Division of Parole and Probation.  In it, interim director Patrick McGee has this Orwellian message:

“Halloween provides a rare opportunity for you to demonstrate to your neighbors that you are making a sincere effort to change the direction of your life.”

As we’ve mentioned before, there is no record in the United States (nor in Canada) of any registered sex offender abusing a trick-or-treater on Halloween.  The infamous Fond du Lac Halloween Murderer case took place in 1973, when an unaccompanied 9-year-old girl was attacked by a man who had never been convicted of a prior sex crime. (see our posts “halloween tricks: pols vs. sex offenders” and “hauntingly familiar”).

The Washington Times articles also reports that:

  • “Sex offenders In Maryland who do not post the signs and stay home will be taken to court and charged with a violation of parole. However, the new state initiative is not a law.”
  • Wonda Adams, a supervisor at the Parole and Probation Division and coordinator of the Halloween watch program says, “Our goal is public safety, and in keeping with that we need to make sure that the individuals under our supervision are provided with the enhanced supervision that we’re committed to.”
  • In addition, “The state also this year is distributing pamphlets statewide to warn families and trick-or-treaters to stay away from homes with the pumpkin signs, Mrs. Adams said.”
  • One parole agent — who clearly needs a better understanding of the role of the Division and goals of parole —  “has called the new sign a ‘publicity stunt’ and said it should clearly state that a violent sex offender lives at the house.” update (October 17, 2008):  Last night, Jay Leno joked about the Maryland Halloween sign during his monologue, saying it should state “Sex Offender Lives Here.”  It got a laugh, but I’d like to think Jay would reconsider that position in his real life, if he gave the whole notion a bit of thought.

At the website of the Maryland Department of Public Safety’s Division of Parole and Probation, I could find no mention at all of the Halloween parole restrictions, nor of the pamphlet for families.  It is especially appalling that the Division has acted on its own — with no statutory mandate — to initiate a program that is likely to target sex offender homes, on Halloween and thereafter, for pranks, mischief, and possibly violence.  The rule will make it harder, not easier, for the sex offender to “change the direction” of his or her life, and rejoin society, and will surely make life tougher for any family members who live with the sex offender.

Rather than creating a new Scarlet Letter to focus negative attention on sex offenders trying to straighten out their lives, the good public servants in our parole departments and state legislatures should perhaps consider the Biblical story of the Mark of Cain.  As told in the Bible, Cain was the firstborn son of Adam and Eve, and had slain his brother Abel — a serious crime that deserved serious punishment.  However (per Wikipedia):

When Cain complained that the curse was too strong, and that anyone who found him would kill him, God responded, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over”, and God “set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him” (Gen. 4:15).

Never soft on crime, the Old Testament God would not diminish Cain’s punishment, but made it clear that revenge or vigilantism by others against Cain was not acceptable.  Here’s how Ray C. Stedman explained the mark that the Bible says God put on Cain:

“[T]he mark of Cain is not a mark of shame, as we usually interpret it. It is not a mark to brand him in the eyes of others as a terrible murderer, to be shunned and treated as a pariah. It is rather, a mark of grace, by which God is saying, ‘This man is still my property. Hands off!’ Thus the heart of God is always ready to show mercy.”

Let’s hope that a bit of mercy and restraint will replace the hypocrisy and hysteria that have fueled Halloween restrictions on sex offenders.  Maybe saner heads will reject the unwise, expensive and often counter-productive rules and laws — including residence restrictions — that have been promoted by politicians and civil servants who should know better.

p.s. If I still lived in Maryland (having resided in Bethesda for a few years prior to moving to Schenectady), I’d be tempted to make lots of copies of the Sex Offender No Candy sign, and to urge others who are not sex offenders to use them, too.

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