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

November 27, 2008

the charitable curmudgeon

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 9:20 am

We’ve long asserted around here, along with 60 Minutes commentator Andy Rooney and grump-expert Jon Winokur, that:

Curmudgeons are idealists at heart.

Scott Greenfield is one of my favorite fellow curmdugeons.  He makes a good case this Thanksgiving morning at his Simple Justice weblog that it is more important than ever in this season of economic distress that those able to do so give generously to charities, but “Give Wisely.”  A little curmudgeonly skepticism is needed when we choose our charities this year.  That means:

  • “Given that charities may well die this year from lack of donations, it is critical that you know that your contributions are being put to the use that you intend, to help the cause the charity purports to represent.  This may require a little digging, perhaps spending a few minutes to check out CharityWatch.org, the website of the American Institute of Philanthropy, to see what percentage of donations actually make it to the cause.  However, many smaller or local charities are not included, so you may have to do the legwork yourself.”  And,
  • “The mission of a charity may well be important and worthwhile, but it has to be viewed in relation to the irreparable harm that will result should the charity fail to fulfill its mission.  This year, it means that people will die for lack of food, shelter, medical care, warm clothing and other necessities of survival.  Not to denigrate many other worthy purposes, but imminent death trumps a lot of good causes.”  Therefore,
  • No matter how important other causes may be, and they are important, this is a year for charitable triage.”

Please open your hearts and your checkbooks, but please do it with your eyes wide open — do it with the idealistic cunning of a skeptical curmudgeon.

We already said sentimental stuff wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving yesterday.  All there is to do today, then, is offer a few haiku appetizers as a prelude to your feast of gratitude with your loved ones.

Thanksgiving
without him
three-quarter moon

… w.f. owen – Haiku Notebook (Lulu Press, 2007)

laid off
she asks the mall santa to
bring dad a job

snow
the beggar’s
bare hands

.. by Ed Markowski

in the glow
of the red maple
autumn’s end

…… by Roberta Beary (1st Place tie [Kigo], Shiki Kukai, Nov. 2008)

wet snow
another year weighs
on the century oak

….. by tom painting  (3rd place [Kigo], Shiki Kukai, Nov. 2008)

home for Thanksgiving —
my old bed
in the guest room

mom makes
grandma’s holiday soup –
steam and tears

… by dagosan

First snow
the white mounds of coal
beside the closed station

.. by Rebecca Lilly –  from A New Resonance 2 (2001); Brussels Sprout 9:3

cutting the moon cake
just like my mother
Mid Autumn Festival

……………………. Yu Chang from Upstate Dim Sum

p.s. Looking for a little inspiration and nudge toward Thanksgiving gratitude?  See our post about Morrie Schwartz (of Tuesdays with Morrie fame), “self-pity: the opposite of Thanksgiving“.  I

On the other hand, if you need a curmudgeonly smile, check out and maybe even print out the amusing “Thanksgiving Guest Liability and Indemnification Agreement,” prepared by The Center for Consumer Freedom, who say “Don’t Let Lawyers Sue The Stuffing Out Of You This Thanksgiving” (Nov. 16, 2007; via Stephanie at Idealawg).

November 26, 2008

a little Thanksgiving conversation

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 12:01 am

The f/k/a Gang wishes a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday to all of our readers (regular, occasional, or inadvertent).   May your travels — across country or across town — be APAP (as pleasant as possible) and your feasting divine. Don’t forget to nurture an attitude of gratitude for all the good things in your life — and even for the trials that help make us better people.  And, guys, don’t forget to offer early and often to help with preparations and clean up.

men washing dishes – 
an early alarm ends
her Thanksgiving dream

Just in case conversation grinds to a halt around your dining table — and the Baby Boomer Raconteur in your family can’t remember the name of that movie he liked so much — here are a few topics that should liven things up and unloose a few tongues:

  • Should obese people who take up two airplane seats have to pay double the fare? This is a great question for Uncle Vito, between mouthfuls, while he’s reaching for that third helping of pumpkin pie.  As CBC reported last week, the Canadian “Top court backs free seat ruling for some disabled, obese travellers” (Nov. 20, 2008).  By rejecting an appeal by two airlines from a Canadian Transportation Agency ruling,

“The court’s decision means airlines must offer a “one person, one fare” policy . . . for people who are clinically obese and take up more than one seat.

Walter and Ted have been covering this topic for years at Overlawyered.com, and they can give you lots of tips for baiting the soft-hearted liberals in the family.  Meanwhile, you’ll find lots of tart, tasty zingers over at Simple Justice, where Scott Greenfield says “Obesity is Not a Crime, But Is It a Disability?” (Nov. 22, 2008).  Scott believes “this is a problem, both for the airline and the rest of us.” And he argues:

“No one suggests that obese people be prosecuted for being so fat, or spilling over into the next person’s airline seat.  

On the other hand, there is no rational basis to place the burden on society to make accommodations for the obese.  Are you prepared to be bumped from your flight because an obese person showed up at the airport with a ticket?”

In a similar vein, Prof. Ann Althouse offers more food for thought:

“If you get a free extra seat now, won’t people be clamoring to be considered one of the truly obese? Does some government agency certify that you are fat to the point of disability and thus entitled to accommodation?”

  • What the heck’s a Sex Offender? This one should wake up a few in-laws.  In an illuminating piece at his Once Fallen website, Derek Logue presents his stand-up routine called, “You Might Be a Sex-Offender, If. . . “, a compilation of real cases that have branded defendants as sex offenders for crimes that simply do not rise to that level.  Such as:
    • You might be a sex offender if… you ever paid for a prostitute in New York
    • You might be a sex offender if… you use a stolen credit card to hire a stripper in New York
    • You might be a sex offender if… You had sex with a teenager while you were a teen yourself

There are many more on Derek’s list.  The P.S.A.P. weblog aptly adds: “As a result of [a] deep and legitimate concern, however, our collection of sex offender laws have become draconian and self-defeating. They’ve become Draconian because they have been extended to cover “crimes”  that either should not be crimes in the first place or, even if they merit prohibition, the perps are by no means “sex offenders” (in any way outside of the ridiculously broad statutory definition).”

Before we brand them with a scarlet letter that restricts where they can live, hurts their job prospects and embarrasses them, P.S.A.P. rightly notes we need to stop and consider that:

“If we truly want the designation to have any shaming power, we must restrict its use to those offenses that are actually offensive.”

  • We’re Clueless on Civics (present company excluded, of course): G.W. U. law professor Jonathan Turley reported earlier this week that “Elected Officials Score Lower on Civics Tests Than Average Citizens (Who Score Lower than Basic Condiments)” (Nov. 23, 2008; and see the full report from AFP) via Simple Justice, which opines that we’re “Getting the Government We Deserve” ).  It’s a little dispiriting, but it presents all kinds of opportunities for one-ups-manship at the Thanksgiving table.  You can find the Civics Quiz here (from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute), and cherry pick the questions that stumped the most people, college graduates, and elected officials. How will your extended family do compared to:
    • the average American, who scored 49%
    • college-educated, who averaged 55%
    • elected officials, who averaged 44%

Prof. Turley notes that “Some 20 percent of elected officials believe that the electoral college as established to ‘supervise the first televised presidential debates’.”  But, offers a little solace: “our English cousins appear equally ill-informed on history.”

update (Dec. 1, 2008): Conversationalist Carl Strock of the Schenectady Gazette made “Flunking civics” his Thanksgiving column, and we’re grateful Carl snuck it into the free part of the Gazette‘s website.  Carl muses, “Today being Thanksgiving, let us give thanks that we live in a country as open as ours, where anyone can aspire to be president, whether he knows which branch of government the president belongs to or not.”

Below you will find a bunch of Thanksgiving senryu and haiku, which (along with the one near the top of this post) I wrote a year ago and would have forgotten about, if not for Mr. Google refreshing my recollection.

afterwords (Nov. 29, 2008):  Yes, these are a little late for Thanksgiving, but they should come handy throughout the Holiday Season left.

Thanksgiving rush –
not as late
as that flock of geese

wintry mix – 
a seatbelt protects each
Thanksgiving pie

bowed over
turkey and stuffing —
fewer, grayer heads

a third helping
of Thanksgiving politics
I bite my tongue

thanksgiving snow
gone too soon to make
that snow Buddha

… by dagosan –   from Magnapoets Japanese Form (November 20, 2007)

Finally, as we always say around here:  

November 23, 2008

more Frenchie, Duci, Morden and Rapp

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 7:29 pm

. . . spending a chilly Sunday with some old acquaintances . . .

Frenchie’s Family Sketches His Life:  A lot of people were touched and angered by the story of Wilford “Frenchie” Hamilton, the affable homeless artist who was beaten to death at age 61 by two or three juveniles on the streets of Pontiac, Michigan, back in August. See our prior post and links.  An interview with his sister-in-law Laura Hamilton provides more details to the story of Frenchie, in the article “Family: Man’s death ends haunting past” (The Oakland Press, November 10, 2008; click to see his self-portrait with an inset photo).  I’m glad to know more about the man — his closeness to two siblings, six-figure job in NYC, cancelled marriage, battle with alcoholism, love for painting and for a niece and nephew, and several family tragedies before his dreadful death.  (hat tip to Ed Markowski)

  • We shouldn’t need a reminder, but we sometimes do, that street-people are full-dimensional human beings.  Here’s another reminder: To start doing something about the increasing assault against the homeless, see the web page “Stop Hate-Motivated Violence Against Homeless People” from the Coalition.

christmas eve
homeless men crouch
at the back of the manger

………… by Ed Markowski

Frank Duci On His Feet Again: A lot of people have seen our post from October about the spoofing of Frank Duci’s will.  At the time, the 87-year-old former mayor of Schenectady was bed-ridden, suffering from lung cancer. His old journalistic antagonist, columnist Carl Strock visited Mayor Duci, and mischievously got him to sign a will on a shopping list that was very much like a real one Duci had witnessed on the deathbed of a friend, with Duci as the sole beneficiary. (see Strock’s account in “Duci’s will”)

.. Well, I was pleasantly surprised to see a feature story in the Albany Times Union, describing Frank Duci’s return this week to a regular little coffee-klatsch at Burger King with a few of his old pals from the neighborhood.  In “An Electric City original still burns brightly: Frank J. Duci may lack official standing, but he’ll always be a mayor” (Nov. 20, 2008), we’re reminded:

“It’s going to take more than a diagnosis of lung cancer and three months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments to silence the four-term populist mayor and 87-year-old gadfly, who refuses to let his passion for politics and the Electric City dim.”

. . click for a 1-minute VIDEO: Frank Duci reminisces ..

And, Frank Duci doesn’t just talk and walk, he’s still writing his legislators and newspaper editors on behalf of “hard-pressed taxpayers.”  In this morning’s Schenectady Sunday Gazette, you’ll find his Letter to the Editor, “Use Metroplex to offset local property taxes” (Nov. 23, 2008, scroll to 5th letter).  Frank writes:

“Please, local legislators, your bosses are local taxpayers; voters must not be put into a serious financial debt payback. Legislative action must be taken to prevent [our economic development agency] Metroplex from borrowing up to $75 million at the expense of local, hard-pressed taxpayers.”

We can only repeat what we said five weeks: “we can all only hope to ‘keep our faculties’ and our zest for the political fight as long as Frank Duci has.” Let’s hope — and bet — it will be a very long time before we get to run this senryu regarding Frank J. Duci:

his quiet funeral—
a man who did
most of the talking

……….. by barry george – frogpond XXVIII: 1

update (October 17, 2009): Yesterday was declared Frank Duci Day in Schenectady, and Frank Duci Plaza was dedicated around the Avenue A home of the now 88-year-old former mayor.  See “After a long road, ex-mayor gets a street” (Albany Times Union, October 16, 2009).

Rapp Raps Political Pundit Campaign Cliches: The f/k/a Gang is often on the same wave length as Albany entertainment and copyright lawyer (and adjunct professor) Paul C. Rapp. (E.g., his position against policing lawyer ads to preserve the dignity of the profession, and his attack on big-media’s Broadcast Flag ploy.)  We found ourselves nodding vigorously in agreement with another of his Metroland columns again this week, titled “Reclaim the Language” (Rapp On This, Nov. 20, 2008). Even though he forgot our favorite campaign bug-a-boo word (battleground), we agree with Paul’s hopeful demand that “a number of grammatical terms disappear from the lexicon of the pundit class,“because they lead to “unimaginative discourse, a swarmy and almost childish sameness to what is supposed to be enlightened, independent insight. Which it never is.”

The phrases Paul wants “to see banished henceforth and forever from our political commentary” are:

  • flip-flop, close the deal, thrown under the bus, blame game, maverick, and comeback kid

Check out his reasoning to see whether you agree, and whether he missed some cliches you’d like added to the list.

.. Matt Morden (and many more) in Wing Beats:  When I told you about the book “Wing Beats: British Birds in Haiku” last August, I’d only seen a selection of the poems and the cover photo.  Thanks to its co-editor/publisher John Barlow, I now have a copy and have browsed through the wonderful illustrations by Sean Gary, while skimming the poems. too.  I must say I am impressed with the beauty and gravitas of the publication.  It feels good in the hand and it is a treat for the eye.  The 320-page volume features 323 experiential haiku (most written by Barlow and his co-editor Matthew Paul, but joined by 30 other poets) and 131 species of British birds.

If you know a haiku lover, or a bird lover, consider making them a holiday gift of Wing Beats from Snapshot Press, 2008 (ISBN 978-1-903543-24-5; to order); the USA price is $40 (including P&P).

Seven of the poems are by haiku friend and Honored Guest Matt Morden.  Here are a few for your enjoyment:

mountain wind
the stillness of a lamb
gathering crows

winter solstice
the flock of starlings
takes a new shape

osprey talons
a twist of silver
catches the sun

… by Matt Morden – “Wing Beats: British Birds in Haiku” (Snapshot Press, 2008); from Stumbles in Clover (Snapshot Press, 2007)

November 21, 2008

spotlight on greedy lawyers

Filed under: lawyer news or ethics,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 11:07 am

“As recently as 1963, Everett Hughes wrote that the central feature of professionalism was a doctrine of credat emptor—”let the buyer trust”—rather than the commercial maxim of caveat emptor—”let the buyer beware.” Society counts on the law, and on lawyers as its servants, to spread such feelings of trust through the community. Instead, too often, we help weaken them.”

– from Living the Law, Chapt 1. of Sol Linowitz’s The Betrayed Profession (1994), reprinted here (DCBA Brief, June 1999)

Thank goodness for especially greedy lawyers in high-profile lawsuits.  Judges reviewing their bloated bills occasionally make it into the industry press and give us the opportunity to remind lawyers that we really do have a ban on unreasonable fees and expense charges — we can’t agree on them, charge then, or collect them.   We also get to remind clients that “buyer be wary” is still a good idea in the 21st Century, no matter how saintly their lawyers may claim to be.  Here are a few recent matters that deserve the spotlight:

Coughlin Stoia follows Coke’s Lead: You’d think a law firm whose most famous partner had recently been imprisoned for shady practices that obstructed justice, would keep a modest posture when asking for fees in a major class action suit — especially in a case that accused the defendant of artificially inflating numbers to increase share prices.  Instead, as class counsel in Carpenters Health & Welfare Fund v. The Coca-Cola Co., No. 1:00-cv-2838 (N.D. Ga.), the Coughlin Stoia law firm sought fees valued at 26.04 percent of the $137.5 million settlement with Coca-Cola over stockholder fraud  — about $35,805,000 — as well as more than $7 million in expenses and interest.   Their request led U.S. District Court Judge Willis B. Hunt to worry that the requested fees amount to “a windfall rather than just compensation for class counsel’s hard work and risk.” See “Class Lawyers Against Coke Get More Than $31.5 Million: Judge cuts request from nearly $43 million” (Law.com/Fulton County Daily Report, November 21, 2008); and see Law and More (Nov. 21, 2008)

Judge Hunt, as reported at Law.com, “ultimately reduced percentage fees requested by counsel for the shareholders from 26.04 percent to 21 percent. He also trimmed more than $4 million from the lawyers’ submitted expenses.”  Here are some of the cuts Judge Hunt decided he needed to make:

  • Class counsel claimed to have billed over 47,000 hours in the 8-year case, and their average hourly fee amounted to over $750 per hour.  Judge Hunt decided that such fees were “at the very high end of typical Atlanta rates” and needed to be reduced
  • Moreover, the law firm claimed that only 1,411.74 hours were billed by the 11 associates assigned to the case whose hourly rates were $350 or less. Like the rest of us, Judge Hunt found it surprising that “only six percent of the work performed in this matter was of the type that could be performed by lower-level associates.”
  • In disallowing more than $4 million in expenses claimed by Coughlin Stoia, Judge Hunt said that “Coughlin has not established that the amount claimed represent out-of-pocket expenses rather than what they would bill a client as an additional source of profit.”  For example, the judge disallowed about $94,000 claimed as an online legal research expens, saying, “the research service is a tool, much like a computer or a pen, and this Court considers the use of such a service part of a firm’s overhead.”
  • Judge Hunt also slashed claimed travel expenses.  In addition to outlandish requests for travel abroad, Couglin Stoia wanted to be paid an average of $1,365.95 per person per night for domestic travel. Although he did not begrudge the lawyers’ high-end accommodations, Judge Hunt concluded that the members of the class should not have to finance such a lifestyle.  He found that “a client could reasonably expect to pay $300 per night for his attorney’s food and lodging on domestic trips, and that is the level at which this Court will reimburse Coughlin for its travel.”

How About Working for Those Millions? A month ago, at oral argument on the appeal of in Lawrence v. Miller (see our prior post), the judges of the New York Court of Appeals signalled that they might not be quite as nonchalant as the appellate-level judges and the contingency fee bar over the $43 million dollars sought by the Graubard Miller law firm from an 80-year-old widow for about 4 months’ work.  According to a lengthy article in New York Law Journal, “N.Y. High Court Skeptical of $40 Million Payoff From Contingency Fee Deal” (Oct. 24, 2008; via Overlawyered.com):

“Members of the court appeared skeptical during an hour of oral arguments about the size of the fee and several questioned the propriety of Graubard Miller seeking to collect the entire amount.”

NYLJ notes, for example, that “Judge Robert S. Smith echoed several of his colleagues when he wondered whether a legitimate contingency agreement, ‘where it works out so favorably to the lawyer, where it is so much money for so little work,’ could be considered unconscionable.”

“You never anticipated anything like this,” he told [Graubard Miller’s lawyer Mark] Zauderer. “You anticipated a much smaller amount, much more work, much higher risk of recovery. This was a complete surprise. Are you still entitled to take 40 percent of a $100 million surprise?”

Similarly, an exasperated Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye repeatedly asked the firm’s lawyers to defend the fee — wondering what precisely the firm’s attorneys had done from January to May 2005 to justify the $40 million fee.  When Graubard’s counsel replied, “It had to do with skill and negotiating strategy and bluffing . . .  It had to do with a whole lot of factors,” and gave no further details, Chief Judge Kaye said:

“You’re not even giving us a clue. All you’re saying is ‘skill’ and ‘risk.’ “

Prof. Yabut says: “Oh my, do you really mean there’s supposed to be a relationship between the risk taken and/or the amount of work you actually perform and the fee you collect?  A lawyer can’t just say, “a contract’s a contract?”  Who knew?

the mountain moon
gives the blossom thief
light

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

Travel MultiTasking-MultiBilling: Finally, the refusal of a bankruptcy judge to pay a lawyer more than half the firm’s hourly fee for travel time (see In re Babcock & Wilson) inspired a discussion over at Legal Ethics Forum this past week on “Travel TIme and Billing.”  The comment section at the LEF post is not lunchtime reading for the sqeamish consumer advocate.  You’ll find lawyers justifying charging not just full hourly fees when traveling (which is commonplace), but double-dipping by charging the original client for travel time even if work is done for a different client, who is fully-billed for that time.  One lawyer doggedly wants to be paid both by the hour and by some “value” calculus, arguing that his work for the second client in no way diminished the value of his work for the first client (assuming, we suppose, that he was neither less prepared nor more-tired due to working for Client #2).  It caused me to chime in with this comment:

“The only reason we allow a lawyer to charge fees for travel time is because the client has caused us to be unavailable for other work. If you do work for another client during the travel, there is no justification for charging the first client for that lost opportunity time. Time spent for another client does not make your services more valuable for the first client.

“I hope the public doesn’t come here to see just how greedy lawyers are and how willing some ethics experts are to make excuses for them.”

On second thought, I do want the public to see this kind of lawyer over-reaching, so they will remember to be vigilant — and shop around for a better deal.

lunar eclipse
i fall for
the hidden ball trick

dusk
the cat spits up
a red feather

by ………… ed markowski

p.s. On a totally different topic (I think), check out the Belly Dance Superstars, who are appearing tomorrow night, Saturday November 22, 2008, in Albany, NY, at The Egg, Empire State Plaza, at 8 PM.  An article in today’s Schenectady Gazette tells us that they are touring to help gain respect for Arab culture (although all the dancers are Americans).  According to dancer Jamilla, “It’s a family show . . . It shows the body as naturally sensual, not sexual. It’s very entertaining.”  Seniors can save $4 off the $24 adult ticket.  Kids are only $12 each.

in winter wind
a churning, churning
in my belly

lying belly-up
yet still singing…
autumn cicada

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

November 18, 2008

lots more Wendy Savage, Esq. (and a Susan Friery correction)

Filed under: lawyer news or ethics,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 10:44 am

.. …… from the Beautiful Lawyers Calendar’s Wendy Gallery ..

..

The folks at the Boston Beautiful Lawyers Calendar know a good thing when they see one: their featured lawyer, Wendy Savage, of the corporation counsel office of Liberty Mutual.  So, they now offer a Wendy Gallery at their website, with 10 large photos from her photo shoot — five in a pinstriped suitcoat and five in that famous black dress. We hope all this good will from the promoters of the Beautiful Lawyers Calendar will bring you to purchase a calendar to help a number of good causes.

Prof. Yabut and the f/k/a Gang thought you might want to know that for us the best part of this whole Calendar-Wendy Phenomenon has been getting to correspond with Wendy.  Having been around quite a few beautiful and smart female lawyers over the past 30 years, I was not the least bit surprised to discover the thoughtful, multi-faceted woman behind the instant-celebrity persona.  None of the other beautiful lawyers in my life ever got so much public attention, but I’m pretty sure they also would have responded in the same level-headed, modest way as Wendy.

.. That’s all for now.  Who needs punditry or poetry, when you have Wendy, Esq.? . .

 . .  p.s. Our resident poet, dagosan, thinks that Susan A. Friery, M.D., Esq., is another very good reason to buy this calendar.

Dr. Susan Friery [a/k/a Susan Mowbray] Update (Feb. 8, 2013): Prof. Yabut, dagosan and I were impressed that Susan Friery had both a medical and law degree.   So, “we” were quite disappointed to find out rather belatedly today that she had been falsely claiming to have a medical degree from Columbia University (and saying she graduated in the top 1% of her class).  Clearly, missing this bit of gossip shows how much we’ve been out of the blawg loop these past four years.

 A notice that I saw today in the February 2013 edition of Washington Lawyer announced the reciprocal 2-year suspension of Friery’s license due to her false representations in Massachusetts. (D.C. decision) The Massachusetts decision to suspend her for two years is dated Jan. 3, 2012.  The extent and long duration (a quarter of a century) of her deception at the firm of Kreindler & Kreindler can be seen in the K&K press release announcing that “Dr. Friery” had been elected a partner.  The Massachusetts court found that K&K did not know of the misrepresentation until the time of her resignation from the firm and that clients were not harmed. (I was surprised that the court never used the name of the law firm in its decision.)  The Legal Profession Blog broke the news on Feb. 2, 2012, but followed its policy of not naming the disciplined attorney; Above the Law reported the suspension on Feb. 6, 2012, naming Ms. Friery and noting she had been chosen for the 2009 Beautiful Lawyers calendar. Staci at ATL credited Thomson Reuters News & Insight for the story.  That Feb. 3, 2012 article has a good summary of this sad tale.   Also, see The Leslie Brodie Report, which has the K&K bio of Dr. Susan Friery.

 As the Legal Profession Blog noted, rather than earning a medical degree, “She had four semesters toward a Ph.D. in pathology and had worked as a morgue technician.”   The former f/k/a gang hopes Ms. Friery is still flexible and that good-doggie Silo has remained loyal.

By the way, I was not impressed that avvo.com’s profile of Ms. Friery still says “We have not found any instances of professional misconduct for this lawyer.” In addition, neither Law.com, Lawdragon.com, Mediation.com, or Quick Click Attorney mentions the 13-month-old Massachusetts suspension.  The D.C. Bar already has her suspension noted in its D.C. lawyer index.

freezing rain
two Baby Boomers
steam-up the Volvo

……… by dagosan

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.

November 16, 2008

albany police pass out parking protection (with updates)

Filed under: q.s. quickies,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 10:30 am

.. “Better get me that scraper, Honey.” . .

[update: Reaction of Albany pols, plus editorials, at the end of this post.]

.. It’s not as helpful as a Monopoly Get Out of Jail Free Card.  And it might not be as powerful as Captain America’s Shield.  But, a little red and blue bull’s-eye sticker has been protecting Albany, NY, police officers and their friends and lovers from parking fines for at least 15 years. See “Free ride from tickets: ‘Bull’s-eye’ stickers from Albany police union give ‘pass’ on fines to hundreds” (Albany Times Union, by Brendan J. Lyons, Nov. 15, 2008); plus 810 WGY News.

As TU reporter Brendan J. Lyons explained in an article yesterday: 

“An untold number of ‘ghost’ parking tickets that carry no fines have been issued to the private vehicles of Albany police officers, their spouses, friends and civilians employed by the city under an informal practice that dates back years and involves a secret system of coded windshield stickers, the Times Union has learned.

“Several police officers and other people familiar with the matter said the system was developed more than 15 years ago as a way to provide free on-street parking to police officers attending court hearings in their personal vehicles. But over the years, they said, the practice has expanded and arguably been abused as many people who are not police officers, including bar owners and friends of officers, have been provided the secret, red and blue ‘bull’s-eye’ stickers that are affixed to a vehicle’s windshield just above the registration.”

Public servants giving themselves the equivalent of Park-Here-Free Cards may seem like a tiny little abuse, but it’s the kind of special treatment that helps turn citizens into cynics.  (You may recall that we wrote about parking abuse by officials around Schenectady’s City Hall back in March of this year.)  I’m especially bemused by the fact that the courageous heroes in the Albany police union were not available for comment, while Chief James W. Tuffey says he was unaware of the bull’s-eye stickers, despite the fact that they are (according to the TU) “visible on the windshields of dozens — if not hundreds — of cars around the city, including many vehicles parked at police headquarters.”  I’m reassured, naturally, that Tuffey says:

”If there’s something out there that’s been abused I’m going to deal with it.”

Of course, it ain’t just the cops taking advantage of Captain America’s Shield.  The Times Union tells us:

“Spot checks of vehicles parked on city streets near the Albany County courthouse, Family Court and City Hall showed that ”courtesy” parking tickets are routinely issued to private vehicles of people who work for the district attorney’s office and the sheriff’s department.”

You get the point.  But, do they? 

Wanna bet that quite a few friends of the Albany FOP were out scraping a little bull’s-eye sticker from their windshields yesterday?

Noon Update: With a little nudge from Scott Greenfield I searched a bit more and found a picture of the Albany police bulls-eye sticker at the TU Read & React weblog, where you’ll find over a hundred reader comments.  I’ve added part of the TU image, with the sticker above a Registration Tag, near the top of this post.

update (November 17, 2008): The Mayor of Albany, Jerry Jennings, and a number of political leaders have reacted very negatively to the story of the sticker and ghost tickets.  See “Mayor halts ‘ghost’ tickets” (Albany Times Union, Nov. 18, 2008); and “Jennings halts ‘no fine’ parking tickets in Albany” (Daily Gazette, Nov. 18, 2008).  An Albany Times Union editorial, “A fine mess, Albany” hits the important points with the right tone:

The chief has some explaining to do about a cozy arrangement that apparently dates back more than 15 years. So does Christian Mesley, president of the police officers union. So, in fact, does Mayor Jerry Jennings. . . .

The Issue:  Some Albany parking tickets are for real, and some aren’t.

The Stakes: Such discrepancies and inconsistencies undermine confidence in government itself.

update (Nov. 19, 2008): Today’s Schenectady Gazette editorial is suitably righteous and makes a very good point. See “Pretense of justice courtesy of Albany” (Nov. 19, 2008).  After asking why this “comes as so little shock,” it notes every city needs a system to allow certain of its employees to be able to park near public buildings efficiently, but:

“Typically, the system calls for the judicious use of special placards that bearers place in their car windows. They signal ‘hands off’ to the meter maid — and explain to any civilian who might wonder, why a blatant violation was overlooked.

“In Albany, however, cops were apparently given free rein to devise and manage their own system. . . .  Meter maids would still write tickets for illegally parked cars displaying these stickers, but they were dummies — no fine payment necessary. In other words, just a time-consuming exercise to fool the public into thinking justice was being done.”

afterwords (Nov. 21, 1008): This week’s Opinion column in the Capital Region’s alternative newspaper, Metroland, is “Demand Your Free Parking Sticker!” (Vol. 31 No. 47, Nov. 20-26, 2008).  It provides a form that says “I want a Bull’s-Eye Too!,” with space for your name and address, plus addresses for Christian P. Mesley, President, Albany’s Police Officer’s Union/Council 82, as well as Albany’s police chief and mayor.

(Nov. 23, 2008): A bit tardy, Fred LeBraun adds his few cents in a column today in the Sunday Times Union, titled “Scam hurts Albany police.”  With the reaction, “how dumb can you get?”, Fred says: “Eventually, this sort of elaborate conspiracy to defraud was bound to be exposed, and the result could only be a public relations nightmare for the cops and another knock on their credibility.”  And he adds:

“Most emphatically, what stinks has nothing to do with offering cops a few perks.. . . [W]hat galls, what irritates to the quick, is the covert nature of the system, the secrecy. The cops were trying to put one over on us, the public.”

just arrived —
their dog sniffs
our tires

steady rain
a pickle
in the parking lot

…… by Tom ClausenUpstate Dim Sum (2003/II)

November 14, 2008

a Friday quickie from a sleepy editor

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 1:44 pm

.. There’s been more action since we wrote about the Schenectady Daily Gazette cracking down on local internet forums that were infringing on its copyright (by posting entire articles and not even linking to the article). The Gazette says linking to them with a summary and short quote is fine, but lifting the whole article or editorial goes too far.  Yesterday, Pat Zollinger, Administrator of the local internet forum The Unadulterated Schenectady, received the official desist letter from the Gazette’s lawyer, Michael J. Grygiel of the Albany office of Hiscock & Barclay. Click to see the Letter.   You’ll find a Comment from Pat and my response below.

At Pat’s Schdy.Info and at the Rotterdam Internet forum, there is a lot of talk that this whole crackdown is political, and Schenectady’s Mayor Brian U. Stratton is behind it.  For the reasons given in my response below and my reply at the Rotterdam Forum, I disagree.  Of course, we don’t have all the facts and aren’t all that good at reading minds.

Request for Copyright Experts and other Opinionated Lawyers:  In another Comment submitted around 1 PM today, Pat Zolliner disagrees with my assessment that her repeatedly posting entire articles from the Gazette goes beyond Fair Use and is copyright infringement.  She says “And I dare to say, David, that even though you are positive that I am infringing on copyright, there will be other lawyers who would interpret it differently.”  I invite legal minds with an opinion on this matter to express it in the Comment Section of our prior post.

a long day–
the dog and the crow
quarreling

… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

For years, The Mainichi Daily News (an English-language Japanese newspaper) offered a selection of about a dozen haiku every month, some of which we’ve shared here.  Although that feature apparently ended last August, Mainichi now presents a Daily Haiku.

With Tinywords.com silent since last June (when it ended with a Roberta Beary classic), you might want to bookmark the Mainichi Daily Haiku page, for a small haiku surprise each morning.

Today’s Mainichi selection is by our friend Ed Markowski:

drought
the well digger wrings out
his t-shirt

…… ed markowski – Mainichi News Daily Haiku Nov. 14, 2008

Here’s Ed’s last poem chosen for Tinywords.com:

prairie sunset
the glow of the cattleman’s
branding iron

… ed markowski – Tinywords.com (May 9, 2008)

And, I just discovered today that Issa is now on Twitter.  You can get a classic poem from the Japanese Master Kobayashi Issa everyday on Twitter, translated by Haiku Guy David G. Lanoue.  Except that they all come out as one-liners, tiny poems are a fine match for Twitter’s tiny format.  Here’s today’s Issa on Twitter:

people scatter like ants… the lark sings

-Issa, 1814

November 13, 2008

apply for this!

Filed under: Haiga or Haibun,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 11:45 am

? . . . Finally, my having CFS seems like an advantage: It’s kept me from even thinking about seeking a job with the Obama Administration (like those surely opening at the Justice Department) — and, therefore, kept me from having to answer the questionnaire they’ve cooked up for high-level job applicants. The New York Times says today that those seeking cabinet and other high-ranking posts face what appears to be “the most extensive — some say invasive — application ever.”

In “For a Washington Job, Be Prepared to Tell All” (NYT, Nov. 13, 2008) we’re told:

“The questionnaire includes 63 requests for personal and professional records, some covering applicants’ spouses and grown children as well, that are forcing job-seekers to rummage from basements to attics, in shoe boxes, diaries and computer archives to document both their achievements and missteps.

” . . . They must include any e-mail that might embarrass the president-elect, along with any blog posts and links to their Facebook pages.”

..

Gee, have I ever said anything at my weblog or in an email that might embarrass myself or the President-elect?  Where would I start?  At least I never used any “aliases or ‘handles’ . . . to communicate on the Internet” (other than my f/k/a alter egos like Prof. Yabut and ethicalEsq) and never leave anonymous comments — or, would anonymity have come in handy about now?

How would Pres-e Obama feel about: My reaction to his staff’s politically-correct response to the New Yorker Cover; or my general aversion to the over-played sexism card, and to the Left’s neo-puritanism?  (Was I too tough a few years ago on Lani Guinier? Last year on Hillary Clinton?)  Can Barack take a little constructive criticism from a supporter who hopes he lives up to his own highest ideals? (E.g., my complaints over his dodge on speed limits and his on-going failure to mention the poor)  I think he can, but I’m not as confident about his transition team.

There are so many other questions, my remaining brain synapses are going on overload.  I mean:

cuckoo
what did you forget?
retracing steps

ISSA, translated by David G. Lanoue

Emails? Despite my writings and musing over Prof. Solove’s book The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet (2007), there are quite a few emails (mostly baring my soul about life’s travails), I’d love to take back. I don’t think they’d embarrass the new administration half as much as they’d embarrass me, but you never know how risk-adverse they’re gonna be.

empty bottle
a few words
I would like to take back

…… by John StevensonQuiet Enough (2004)

There’s a part of me that would love to get back to the work force (and to Washington, DC) in order to help Barack Obama bring about needed change in how our government works and how citizens and their government interact.  Having used my Harvard Law Degree in very different ways than Sen. Obama (from regulatory work for consumers and competition, to children’s advocacy, to divorce mediation), and having earned and lost quite a few extra gray hairs, while spending the last decade of “disability” living at the poverty level, I’d bring a rather unique perspective to service in his Administration. But, . . .

No matter how willing my spirit may be, my body is too weak to fill out the application, much less handle a job that surely would require 60+ hours a week dedication.  I’m not worried about conflicts of interest, nor about any nefarious past deeds.  But, after a lifetime speaking my mind, and five years doing it in public on this weblog, there might just be too many verbal skeletons for the new President to worry about.  And, biting my tongue for eight years would considerably weaken my communication skills.  It looks like I’m going to have to serve Barack Obama from the outside, and apply myself here at my home office.

afterwords ((Nov. 15, 2008): TaxProf Paul Caron says “There goes my job in the Obama Administration;” via Overlawyered)

digital age
aging digits
on the keyboard

……………………. by dagosan

November 11, 2008

brains and brainos

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 12:17 pm

Last May, I fretted that my friend, the lawyer-poet Roberta Beary, often sends me links to articles about unhappy and depressed lawyers (and sleep deficits, too). Such referrals often make me worry a bit about my image. Similarly, my weblog buddy Stephanie West Allen of Idealawg apparently thinks about me whenever she reads or writes about deteriorating Baby Boomer Brains, which she calls neuroboomeritis.  That association probably started when I wrote the post “peridementia and the aging knowledge worker” in June 2005. But, it could be based on the garbled messages she occasionally gets from me (at times when my friend Laurie Hyde Smith says I’m writing/typing in Martian, due to fatigue).

Or, Stephanie might have just been reading my foggy mind, when she emailed me yesterday about her latest posting on the subject — “Worrying about your brain sliding into cognitive decline?: Here are ways to sharpen your lawyer brain” (Idealawg, Nov. 10, 2008).  Did she know (or notice at this weblog), for instance, that lately I keep typing words totally different from the one I meant to write?  They’re not typos but Brainos. My fingers and brain produce misplaced, irrelevant words — usually starting with the same letter as the word I intended.  Because spell-check doesn’t catch them, and I’m a lousy proofreader, this is perilous behavior for someone who writes and posts in public.

Stephanie is far more optimistic than I that we can do much to delay Boomer Braino Syndrome, much less reverse the declining cognitive skills that come with the aging process.  She especially believes that physical and mental exercises can help. See, e.g., her post on “Improving your lawyer brain and mind” (October 18, 2008), and last January’s report on a new Brain Gym in San Franciso, called vibrantBrains™.  Luckily, at least one of my f/k/a Gang persona is optimistic enough to keep hoping for a cure.  So, we were pleased to learn from Stephanie’s October piece that new research suggests “exercise keeps brains from deteriorating,” with the researchers concluding:

“We can safely argue that an active lifestyle with moderate amounts of aerobic activity will likely improve cognitive and brain function, and reverse the neural decay frequently observed in older adults.”

Yesterday’s post at Idealawg continues that theme:

“So what keeps some brains younger than their chronology? Experts point to a prescription of neurobics. This concept includes life-long learning, trying new things, a healthy diet, social interactions, sleep and physical activity. ‘Exercise can actually increase neurogenesis and increase the size of the hippocampus,’ says Dr. [Vincent] Fortanasce, … . ‘Exercise also increases youth hormones. And novelty, doing new things, builds branches.'”

Let’s hope they’re right and Boomers get the message and act on it.  On the other hand, younger readers better not get too complacent.   This morning, I found the following blurb in Harvard Magazine‘s latest The College Pump column (“Oddments,” Nov-Dec. 2008):

Warnings: Affixed to the door of the office of professor of economics Andrei Shleifer on the second floor of Littauer Center is a news clipping headlined “Brain aging found to start at 40.” The piece reports on the work of Bruce Yankner, professor of pathology and neurology at Harvard Medical School, who is investigating how human brains change between ages 26 and 106. “If you are more than 40 years old,” it reads, “the news may not be good.”

By the way, whether you’re concerned or thrilled that “During the past few decades, a mounting body of evidence has shown that animals possess a number of cognitive traits once thought to be uniquely human,” you might find the article “What Makes the Human Mind?” (Harvard Magazine, Nov.-Dec. 2008) interesting.  It explores the work of professor of psychology, organismic and evolutionary biology, and biological anthropology Marc Hauser, who has written widely on human and animal cognition. Hauser has attempted to isolate the aspects of human thought that account for what he terms “humaniqueness.”  There’s some good discussion, with this summary of “the distinguishing characteristics of human thought” — four broad capacities animals do not appear to have:

“These include: the ability to combine and recombine different types of knowledge and information in order to gain new understanding; the ability to apply the solution for one problem to a new and different situation; the ability to create and easily understand symbolic representation of computation and sensory input; and the ability to detach modes of thought from raw sensory and perceptual input.”

“Across the board, Hauser says, there are signs that animal evolution passed along some capabilities ‘and then something dramatic happened, a huge leap that enabled humans to break away. Once symbolic representation happened, if the combinatorial capacity was there, things just took off. Precisely how and when this happened, we may never know’.”

Okay, enough punditry.  It’s time for some poetry. My friend John Stevenson turned 60 last month, but appears to have all his mental faculties intact — perhaps because of all that kayaking and hiking, plus acting, writing, etc., he does.  Here are a few haiku from the latest issue of Upstate Dim Sum (2008/II), which appear to speak of journeys and passages.

free of details
the full moon
from a train window

seated between us
the imaginary
middle passenger

Shoo Fly Pie
a place where I always stop
when I’m out this way

looking both ways
I find
the sun

I tighten the belt
to my son’s car
Father’s Day

[Frogpond, Volume 31:3 (Fall 2008)]

after the play
my grown son tells me
I was good

. . . by John StevensonUpstate Dim Sum (2008/II)

p.s. Dr. Fortanasce recommends “novelty, doing new things” to build new cognitive branches.  John’s been doing just that, writing “one-breath” poems that don’t even seem like haiku or senryu to some of us old fogeys.  Here are two for your consideration:

still committed to the truth
but so tired of
winter poems

dust devil on a dead planet

…. by John Stevenon
“still committed” – Frogpond Vol. 31:2; UDS 2008/II [Ed. Note: a rare double-tell-em]
“dust devil” – Roadrunner (Vol. 8:3)

November 8, 2008

Copyright, Cook & Cuomo (Warnings, Wendy & Wind)

Filed under: q.s. quickies,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 6:58 pm

.. three stories from around my town . .

Copyright and Community Message Boards: To be honest, I’m surprised it took them so long.  This week, our local newspaper, the Schenectady Gazette, sent demands to stop copyright infringement to two popular community message boards that have for years been posting several Gazette articles a day in their entirety (with attribution and a link to the Gazette homepage, but no direct link to the article). One internet community focuses primarily on Schenectady and the other on our major suburb Rotterdam, NY.  They both have lively discussion on public issues every day.

update (Nov. 14, 2008): Yesterday, Pat Zollinger, Administrator of the local internet forum The Unadulterated Schenectady, received the official desist letter from the Gazette‘s lawyer, Michael J. Grygiel of the Albany office of Hiscock & Barclay. Click to see the Letter.   You’ll find a Comment from Pat and my response below.

At Schdy.Info and at the Rotterdam Internet forum, there is a lot of talk that this whole crackdown is political, and Schenectady’s Mayor Brian U. Stratton is behind it.  For the reasons given in my response below and my reply at the Rotterdam Forum, I disagree.  Of course, we don’t have all the facts and aren’t all that good at reading minds.

At their Editors’ Notebook weblog, the Gazette Managing Editor Judy Patrick, posted an explanation titled “Link to us” on Thursday (Nov. 6, 2008).  It gives the hard-to-believe impression that Gazette editors were somehow never aware of the full-article postings at the message boards until reporter Justin Mason referred to one of them this week.   After praising the robust discussion at the internet fora, Patrick says:

“We at The Gazette like our articles to generate public discussion anywhere: in diners, on private message boards or here on our own Web site. But please remember that our stories are protected by copyright and posting them in their entirety without our permission violates that copyright.”

She correctly states that Fair Use rights do not cover such posting [to learn more see the useful set of Frequently Asked Questions about Copyright and Fair Use, from The Chilling Effects Clearinghouse; or see my 2006 post at SHLEP for more links and discussion, or my piece on Haiku and Fair Use].  The Gazette editor then suggests an alternative that this weblog and millions of others regularly practice:

“Posting our entire stories is not fair use of our copyrighted work. We don’t object when sites summarize one of our stories and then provide a direct link to the actual story on our Web site. That’s become a fairly standard way bloggers refer to published works. People who want to read the whole story are provided a quick and easy way to reach it. That sends readers to our Web site, which is important to us, but as well allows them to return to the original site.

. . By regularly posting a variety of Gazette articles in their entirety, the community sites probably do deprive the Gazette of some news-stand and at-home purchases, and certainly deter click-throughs to the Gazette website, which help attract advertisers.  Patrick is correct on the law, but whether this copyright crackdown is worth the bad will being created in the community is questionable.  She tries to explain:

“We are not a big corporation trying to stifle public comment; we are a small, family-owned newspaper trying to safeguard our intellectual property.”

I’m not sure how the two community message boards are going to react.  The Rotterdam site initially issued a cryptic statement about curtailing its activities.  But, today, it seems to be back to business as usual.  The rowdy regulars at both sites have been quite vocal in their contempt and anger for the Gazette. Some are suggesting that it is criticism of the Gazette by the site administrators that provoked the crackdown after years of the Gazette averting its corporate eyes to the copyright infringement issue.

In a surprise twist, Gazette reporter Justin Mason sent an email to the Rotterdam forum’s administrators, apologizing for the actions of his editors.  See “Justin Mason explains and apologizes” (Nov. 7, 2008).  He gave permission for the message to be posted at the site.  Among other things, Mason says:

“I just wanted to offer my apologies to [Administrator Jo-Ann Schrom] and the other users of the forum for my newspaper’s recent overreaction toward Rotterdamny.info reprinting Gazette articles.”

He opines that the suggested practice of summarizing with short quotes and a link to the Gazette website is “much more flawed than the format Rotterdamny.info used, seeing as though the Gazette still doesn’t publish more than a third of its print content online.”

He also declares: “Both myself and other reporters have discussed the site with them dozens of times before without them expressing any concern for copyright issues and whatnot.”

Mason is probably correct saying that “I have no power or influence over the editorial decision making process” and that cooler heads probably will not prevail. We shall have to wait to see how this public rebuke of his bosses and their “poor error in judgment” will affect Mason’s career at the Gazette.  How the two internet community sites will adjust is also up in the air.

We think the link-quote-summarize approach used successfully by so many weblogs should allow the valuable discussion at the community sites to continue.  However, the practice takes a lot more work for the administrators than merely copying an article in full, so it may limit the topics presented.  It may also mean that many of those joining in the discussion will not have all the facts available in the full article before they voice their reactions.  Forum members need to be reminded that clicking through to the Gazette article, and then returning to their forum, won’t really take more time than reading the full article at the community forum.

background fyi: (Sunday evening, Nov. 9, 2008):  Earlier today, I posted the following updates near the top of this posting; because the second update pretty much moots out the first one, I’ve moved them here, out of the way of the main story.  I’m keeping them as part of the record and because they help explain a few of the messages in our Comment section:

update (Nov. 9, 2008):  As you can see in our Comment section, I was quite surprised this morning to learn that the Gazette staff has removed a Comment that I left at the weblog post by their Managing Editor that is discussed immediately below.   If I get an explanation from the Gazette, I will let you know.  I’ve attempted to reconstruct my removed comment here. None of the other 52 comments that I have left at the Gazette website since February 2008 has been deleted by its staff. [You can use this Tiny URL to cite to this post: http://tinyurl.com/fkaGazetteCopyright ]

update (noon, Sunday Nov. 9, 2008): Gazette Online Editor Mark Robarge just left a comment saying “David, my mistake in removing your comment from our Web site. I hit the wrong checkbox this morning while monitoring comments. It has been restored to the site.” He left a similar comment at the Gazette’s Editors’ Notebook, where my first comment has indeed been restored.  Given the number of senior moments that go on around here, I’m going to give Mark the benefit of the doubt.

..  Wendy Cook Gets It Together:  Because she’s the daughter of Funny Cide horse-owner Jack Knowlton, Wendy Knowlton-Cook’s slide into drug abuse and its criminal consequences has gotten far more attention than the initial sordid facts might otherwise have warranted.  (See our earlier posting about her arrest and halting attempts at rehab.) Ms. Cook lost custody of her children, did eight months in jail, and has spent three months in rehab, after an arrest in October 2007 for performing sex acts and snorting cocaine with her then 2-month-old son and 5-year old daughter in the back seat of her car.  Today’s Schenectady Gazette brought news that she may have turned the corner and be heading for brighter days. According to the article “Mom gets kids after rehab: Woman accused of prostitution” (Nov. 8, 2008), Ms. Cook now shares joint custody of her children with her parents, and is officially on probation, while continuing in a substance abuse program, and with ongoing monitoring by Social Services.

Wendy has admitted to possessing cocaine, but not to the other charges, and yesterday told reporters:

“I made a commitment in this process.  I surrendered wholly to the creator. I have to come first. If I don’t take care of me, I can’t take care of my children. It’s just an everyday commitment to wellness.”

As a former Family Court Law Guardian (lawyer for the child), I’m rooting for Wendy and her kids, and hope that her strong family support and personal commitment will mean she has favorable odds of success.  Like Schenectady City Court Judge Christine Clark did at court yesterday, the f/k/a Gang says:

“I’m happy to see you doing much better.  I hope you keep it up.”

Cuomo’s Quixotic Code of Conduct:  We told you last July, in “Cuomo tilts at pols and windmills,” that New York’s Attorney General Andrew Cuomo had opened an investigation into possible improper dealings between two wind power companies and local government officials, and into possible anticompetitive behavior by the firms.  Last week, we learned that the two target firms have agreed to abide by a new Code of Conduct promulgated by the AG’s Office to make the process of siting wind-farms more open and fair.  See “Wind power companies, Cuomo reach agreement,” The Buffalo News, Oct. 30, 2008); and “Amid Talk of Hidden Deals, Wind Firms Agree to Code of Conduct” (New York Times, October 30, 2008).  According to the Buffalo News:

“The code bans wind companies from hiring local government officials or their relatives for one year after approval of a wind energy deal. It also bans companies from seeking, using or receiving ‘confidential information’ obtained by a locality about a pending project. Companies also will have to post on a web site the names of any municipal officials or their relatives with any financial stake in the firms.

“Wind easements and leases will have to be publicly filed with county clerks. Companies must conduct seminars to educate their workers about preventing conflicts of interests in dealings with local officials.”

The Code is, however, voluntary, and an article in yesterday’s Schenectady Gazette (not available online without a subscription) is headlined “Wind power code gets mixed response” (Nov. 7, 2008).  It’s one thing for two companies feeling the pressure of a high-profile investigation to “voluntarily agree” to abide by the Code, but quite another for the industry in general.  As Kevin Crosier, Supervisor of the Albany County Town of Berne told the Gazette:

  • “It’s a lukewarm response to a very serious problem that’s plaguing local government throughout New York State.” And,
  • “Basically what they’re doing is leaving small communities to fight this on their own.”

The article states that at least one citizens group (Schoharie Valley Watch) plans to lobby to make the Code mandatory.  Cuomo and legislators such as State Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, say we should wait to see how the voluntary rules work.   Despite the popularity of wind power these days, we think the public is much more in the mood for regulation of energy companies than it might have been only a year ago.  The process of siting wind farms should be just as clean as the energy they hope to produce.

You may recall that my brother, East Aurora attorney Arthur J. Giacalone (see his essay “Zoning Challenges: Overcoming Obstacles“)  Arthur J. Giacalone, frequently represents homeowners in Western New York against wind power companies. He recently told the Buffalo News — in the article “Like it or not, wind power is changing the landscape in WNY” (by Michael Beebe, October 26, 2008) — that the wind companies decide where they want to develop and then approach large landowners and town officials to seal the deal before most of the town knows a project has been proposed. The News continued:

“Giacalone has won some and lost some in the wind battle, but he said the wind companies and the towns have the upper hand. His lawsuits are aimed at conflicts of interest, zoning violations, and making sure the state’s environmental quality reviews are followed.

“ ‘It’s hard for me to see the positive side of any industry when I see the sordid side of it,’ Giacalone said.”

I’ll see if I can get Arthur to stop by and Comment on this topic at his brother’s humble little website. [update (Nov. 17, 2008): See John Horan’s Global Climate Law Blog]

p.s. Apologies to anyone who thought the word “Wendy” in our headline referred to the luminous Wendy Savage, Esq.  If you need your WS fix, try this post or that one.  If it’s haiku you seek, here are a few from Billie Wilson, the centerfold guest poet in the newest edition of Upstate Dim Sum:

last light
wicker baskets
of nectarines

anniversary —
small craft warnings
on the radio

to-do list done
the day softens
into dusk

wind chill
the priest lifts her arms
to bless the fleet

… by Billie Wilson – Guest Poet in Upstate Dim Sum (2008/II)

November 7, 2008

interracial babysitting upsets some folks in Austin, TX

Filed under: q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 7:58 pm

It’s more than a little ironic:

Two days after a black man with white grandparents was elected President of the United States, a white grandfather in Austin, TX, was strolling back home with his two-year-old black granddaughter from a nearby park.  The sight of the happy pair (just two blocks from his home) so worried one observer that 911 was called to report the suspicious event.  Eventually — on a day when seven schools were shut down and an intensive manhunt was being waged in the area, after an overnight shootout with police — three police cruisers were dispatched to interrogate the rather surprised and then quite angry grandfather.

You can read the first-person account by Scott Henson, the grandfather and “criminal justice activist” who writes the weblog Grits for Breakfast, in his posting yesterday titled “Is ‘Babysitting While White’ reasonable suspicion for police questioning?” (Nov. 6, 2008; via Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice)  I don’t want to get in the way of Scott’s eloquent and emotional telling of this tale, which you are urged to read in its entirety.  I’ll give you just two quotes from his piece:

  • “I’m incredulous that APD wasted three officers’ time to respond to such a spurious 911 call at a moment when there were actual, violent criminals running around town with assault weapons. Don’t these guys have supervisors? Prioritize, people!” And,
  • “Finally, the first officer answered my increasingly repetitious question, ‘Am I free to go?’ with a reluctant ‘Yes,’ at which point I turned heel with the toddler grasped firmly in my arms and walked briskly towards home, both of us a little rattled by the experience. ‘They scared me, Grandpa,’ Ty said, sobbing lightly as she nestled her head into the crook of my neck. ‘I know, sweetie,’ I told her, ‘they scared me, too.’ And by the time we reached home, she was asleep in my arms.”

The person who called 911 is surely the most to blame, but the police could have handled things much better.  I’d like to think it would have been over much sooner if Scott had quickly said he was the grandfather, but proving it on the spot would have been difficult.  There are scores of comments at Scott’s weblog, with an array of opinions on the story. [update (Nov. 10, 2008): Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice asks whether Scott Henson should have taken “the path of least resistance” to have shortened the confrontation with police and spared his granddaughter the painful experience, and — for a lot of good reasons — answers “no.”]

A final observation: This episode would have been disturbing but not surprising, if it had happened to little Barack Obama and his Gramps forty-two years ago.  In 2008, it should make us angry and sad — but, also hopeful that a few years with Pres. Obama leading our country will make such ridiculous incidents unthinkable anywhere in America. [You can share this post using this Tiny URL: http://tinyurl.com/fkaBWW .]

.. Barack Obama with his “Gramps” Stanley Dunham .. ..

p.s. I can’t think of a good haiku or senryu to go with this post.  My haijin friends are urged to help me out.

November 3, 2008

please vote (preferably for Obama)

Filed under: q.s. quickies,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 8:51 pm

.. The campaign has taken far too long and still has that weird electoral college wrinkle, which focuses too much attention on toss-up states, and could hand victory to the man with fewer votes (see, The World, “US election system unique,” Nov. 2, 2008)

— “battleground” has been uttered much too often —

.. ..

— and there were some ugly, distorted images —

But, please go out and vote tomorrow, for the candidate of your choice.

[preferably for Barack Obama] ..

Of course, if you’re really voting for John McCain because Obama is black, or because you truly believe he is a socialist or the Anti-Christ, feel free to stay home.  Whatever the outcome, remember we are one country and we need to face the future in good faith together.

p.s. The whole New Yorker cover flap (and the “winkies” we added for the parody-challenged) seems like it happened so long ago and seems rather unimportant now.  But, the ability to publish vibrant satire, even if some folks don’t get it or are offended, is crucial in a free society.

election day
dark skies turn
a bright shade of blue

…. by dagosan

Obama&GrandmaDunham afterwords (Nov. 4, 2008): Heartfelt condolences to Barack Obama and the entire family of Madelyn Payne Dunham, who died of cancer yesterday at age 86.  Losing a loving grandmother takes a large piece out of your heart and your life.  I wish she could have seen her grandson making history today.   At this important point in a very crucial election, her death is a reminder of what is really important in our lives.

after her death
composing roses
instead of words

ikebana
the space
where the lily was

winter solstice
I unravel my knitting
and begin again

.. by Pamela Miller Ness
“winter solstice” — from The Hands of Women (Lily Pond Press/Swamp Press, August 2007)
“after her death” – “ikebana” – from the sequence “where the lily was” (2003)

– Election Day, Foggy Morning, Riverside Park, Schenectady, NY; by DAG –

winter woods
seeing myself
in black and white

………………….. by yu chang – Upstate Dim Sum 2005/1

.. my polling place (follow the arrow), First Reformed Church, 8 No. Church St., in the Stockade Historic District, Schenectady, NY (photo taken Election Day, Nov. 5, 2008, by David Giacalone)

November 2, 2008

Day of the Dead lets us remember with a smile and a sigh

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 9:31 am

.. We’ve featured the Mexican feast of the Day of the Dead — Dia de Los Muertos — a few times here at f/k/a.  It is celebrated on November 2nd (in connection with remembrance November 1st of children who have died, on Dia de Los Angelitos).  The Day of the Dead commingles Roman Catholic devotion with Pre-Hispanic traditions and beliefs. As we said last year, quoting graphic artist Ladislao Loera (whose artwork graces this post):

“Pictures of the deceased are placed on Dia de los Muertos altars with their favorite food and drink. Candles to light their way home, and soap and water to freshen-up after their long trip back are also often placed on altars. Trinkets they were fond of, symbols they would understand, and gifts are left to communicate to them that they are always in the hearts of those they left behind, and that they are still part of the family even though they aren’t physically with us any longer.”

This approach to death seems far healthier than the fearful ways in which Euro-centric peoples relate to death and the afterlife. You can learn more about the feast at “Day of the Dead in Mexico,” which has pictures, recipes, poems and much more. Day of the Dead is, of course, celebrated in the southwestern USA and other places with large numbers of people of Mexican descent.  (See, e.g., articles in yesterday’s Dallas Morning News and Sacramento Bee.)

Day of the Dead –
grandma passes grandpa
the olive platter

…. by dagosan [Nov. 4, 2005]

..  The Day of the Dead means more to me this year, because my father Arthur P. Giacalone died in January at age 88.  (see my post “papa g’s night train“).  I missed him, when I visited my family home in Rochester last weekend.  The feast is a gentle reminder to remember his love and his continuing presence.  So, I’m going to do a few things to make my home — a place he never got to visit — welcome to Dad’s spirit.

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

……… david giacalone – Frogpond 31:2 (2008)

I just clicked on this link and listened to the Louie Prima-Sam Butera version of the song “Night Train.” It reminds me of the music he loved, his dancing skills, and sense of humor.

moonlit serenade
fireflies appear just beyond
the jitterbugs

…………………………………………. ed markowski

Sunday dinner will be pasta with tomato sauce (cooked a little softer than I like it, because Dad never appreciated al dente), red wine (chilled), plus the olives and bread that was a staple of his Sicilian-American up-bringing.  I wish Mama G. or Ed Markowski were here to bake Dad a pineapple upside-down cake, but he’ll surely enjoy a good Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream.

Later today, I’ll watch a John Wayne western (probably Rooster Cogburn), in memory of his favorite way to spend an evening, and some of the best moments we shared in his last two decades.

comparing aches
before the show –
senior organ recital

.. by dagosan

.. I hope Dias de los Muertos will bring your deceased loved ones closer, too.  My poet friends are urged to leave a haiku or two in the Comment section to celebrate their own loved ones.  I’ve come to appreciate the work “bittersweet” much more the past few years — with the sweet becoming more apparent.

photo albums
and dessert —
the chocolate bittersweet

sunset stroll –
searching snowbanks
for butterflies

………. by david giacalone
[in mem., Arthur P. Giacalone]

.. The second of Upstate Dim Sum‘s issues for 2008 arrived a couple days ago. It’s the hardcopy Biannual Anthology of Haiku and Senryu published by my haiku friends in Upstate New York’s Route 9 Haiku Group — Hilary Tann, John Stevenson, Tom Clausen and Yu Chang.  I especially like sharing UDS poems, because they are not otherwise available online.  Here are a few from UDS 2008/II by Hilary that seem to be in the spirit of the Day of the Dead:

evening walk
settling into the rhythm
of my father’s cane

airport lounge
looking for a hot spot
to tell you i love you

discarded shirt —
I save
the buttons

late in life
mother asks for blue sky
and a horizon line

summer wind
a dandelion clock
releases the hours

hospice visit
glimpses of her
in her other friends

late autumn
the flower arrangement
is mostly leaves

…. by Hilary TannUpstate Dim Sum (2008/II)

p.s.  Hey, Counselor, If we’ve got you thinking cross-cultural thoughts, you might want to head over to the new issue of The Complete Lawyer (Volume 4, no. 6), which is focusing on “Doing Business Internationally.”  For example,  John Friedhoff asks “What’s It Like to Do Business in Latin America.”  And, Fernando Rivadeneyra writes about “Mexico: Working With The “Manaña” Culture.”  There’s much more, covering other continents and general cross-cultural issues.

aftershots (Nov. 20, 2008): No, the cranky Schenectady Gazette columnist Carl Strock is not a father-figure for me.  But, he is often an inspiration for punditry here at f/k/a.  I never thought of Carl as a photographer, too, but he demonstrated his prowess with a Powershot on a recent trip to Mexico, which overlapped with the Dead of the Dead. You’ll find the Fire Department display for Dia de Los Muertos and a cutie with a calavera, and many more interesting photos, by starting at his weblog post from Nov. 18, 2008.  Carl, like myself, tries to avoid merely going for beautiful scenes, but sometimes he can’t help himself.

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

daddy
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.

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