31 January 2009

Judge Posner: Why yes, we are, indeed, in a depression

Judge Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit says we're in a depression:
I suspect that we have entered a depression. There is no widely agreed definition of the word, but I would define it as a steep reduction in output that causes or threatens to cause deflation and creates widespread public anxiety and a sense of crisis.
And who am I to disagree?

Later in the article, the author quotes what he says he thinks is the "best definition" of a depression: "when the unemployment rate breaches 12%, or stays above 10% for three years."

Unemployment rates, though, don't take into account underemployment. With my degree, skills, and family obligations, I probably won't let myself be unemployed for too long after I've taken the bar exam. The question will be whether I'll be working as a lawyer -- or as a copyeditor, or barista, or dogwalker.

Judicial Watch answers my standing question! I'm so excited!

In December, I asked
If Article 1, Section 6, of the Constitution [the emoluments clause] disallows Senator Clinton from serving as Secretary of State, then who has standing to sue?
Well, Judicial Watch, an organization whose website the other day included the prominent headlines "Illegal Immigrant Gangs Commit Most U.S. Crime" and "Porn Part Of Job At U.S. Agency," has given me an answer! They found a State Department employee who, they argue, kinda, somehow is suffering an injury now that Ms. Clinton is Secretary of State. The argument appears to go as follows: this employee swore an oath to defend the Constitution; Ms. Clinton's service as Secretary of State violates the Constitution; therefore, the employee would be violating his oath to work for her. Furthermore, it "materially and fundamentally changes the terms of [his] employment" and "constructively discharges him" from his job, which he has a property interest in keeping.

It's a 5th Amendment (procedural due process) argument. Cue Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth.

Dude is seeking an injunction preventing Ms. Clinton from serving as Secretary of State, a declaration that she is constitutionally ineligible, and a couple of other things.

Dig the complaint yourself (PDF).

30 January 2009

Tent City in Camden

Matt Katz, who recently referred to a minimal-services emergency homeless shelter in Camden, N.J., as a "slumber party," has filed a more respectful report about Camden's Tent City, located behind an interstate highway exit ramp:
In each tent, amid piles of donated blankets and cans of ethanol used for heat, there is a tale of heartbreak.

There's John Palumbo, 53, a Mount Laurel native with bipolar disorder who was asked, "How do you stay warm in winter?"

"You don't," he replied simply.

Before he got to Tent City, he spent his nights at the Walter Rand Transportation Center, standing up.

Friday jukebox: Seeger, Rodriguez-Seeger, Springsteen

This one's been making the blog rounds, so you may have seen it by now:

29 January 2009

Petition for cert. in Bilski

The "inventors" have petitioned for a a grant of cert. in Bilski, the case where the Federal Circuit struck down almost all business method patents. Basically, as far as that court is concerned, really State Street Bank is the only valid business method patent at this point. The "inventors" disagree and want their patent back, so they've asked the Supreme Court to hear their case.

SCOTSblog provides a summary of the facts without too much legalese or patent-law shorthand. Groklaw has made available a PDF of the Federal Circuit's decision.

As I noted when the Federal Circuit decision came down, in the past several years it's been fun to watch not whether the Supreme Court will reverse the Federal Circuit's patent rulings, but how. But even if the Supreme Court decides to hear the case, we won't find out for another year or so, according to SCOTUSblog. There's no room on the docket or time to hear arguments this Term.

28 January 2009

Men I've dated, part n of a series

A former lover invited me to brunch at a local tavern on New Year's Day. We ended up being a small enough party that we all just hung at the bar: myself, him, and 3 friends of his from the local dance and film scene. While we were there, other acquaintances happened by, because the tavern had been a favorite haunt of his when he lived in Philadelphia.

He's since moved to New York and is often in California. He's often in California not for film industry reasons, though he's a national award-winning film editor, but because the love of his life moved back to northern California last year after getting out of academia. They can't live together, but they can't quit being in each other's lives.

But that's not the point of this post. The point is, after we'd been at the tavern a few minutes, I noticed that the barback was someone I'd had the distinct pleasure of taking home from my local one time a couple of years ago. (A pleasure, that is, until after he'd left and I had to change the sheets, air out the mattress, and leave open the door to my bedroom for a good four hours to get rid of the cigarette reek that he'd left behind.) I asked him to re-fill my coffee and wished him a happy new year.

Later on during the meal, I saw another man walk in whom I'd dated very briefly last spring. He was with some other people, one of whom looked like a date, so I didn't interrupt their meal to say hi. He was a little young for me, anyway; we couldn't keep a meaningful conversation going for long.

Philly really is a small town. This is why you should be excellent to the people you sleep with, even if you don't click and can't see each other more than once or twice.

My former lover gave me a lift home a little while after the love of his life showed up and the party dispersed. She said I should sit in the front seat because I don't get to see him as much as she does.

Profoundness: on Philadelphia as a small town

Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods. It's a major American city -- a major world city -- but at heart and in practice, it's a small town. When you suspect you should be discreet about something, it's actually your Spidey sense telling you that you should probably just not do it in the first place.

One voice in politics that has gone undeservedly unheard

The new blog round-up includes bloghairovich.blogspot.com, written by "the most famous hair in American politics, the hair of Rod Blagojevich, the current governor of Illinois."

27 January 2009

Understanding parking in Center City

Parking your car in Center City Philadelphia: Mithras explains it all for you.

Driberally tonight

Drinking Liberally, Center City Philadelphia chapter, meets tonight at the Triumph Brewery, 117 Chestnut Street in Old City. There are food and drink specials; dig the tent cards on the bar.

Tonight's topic: Prof. Calabresi has addressed the oath "controversy," and we are happy to be assured that President Obama is, indeed, constitutionally the president.

So tonight, we raise a glass to Prof. Calabresi. Bottoms up!

26 January 2009

War resister Lillian Willoughby, 93

Lillian Willoughby passed away on the 15th. I didn't know about it until I saw the notice in the Inky today.

She was a member of the group I was in when I got arrested protesting the Iraq war in 2003. I paid my fine -- but she refused to, so she spent a week in jail the next year.

This is a loss for Philadelphia.

Murder in the neighborhood

My neighborhood got dangerous in the wee hours Saturday morning.

Monday art house: t-shirt edition

If this were for real, and I had money, I would pay good money for one of these shirts:

Via Phawker.

24 January 2009

Philadelphia Inquirer: a night in a homeless shelter is a "slumber party"

Camden, New Jersey, is right across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. So like Philadelphia, Camden gets some really cold nights during the winter, nights that are treacherously cold for homeless people. And like Philadelphia, in Camden these super-cold nights are called "code blue" nights, when the city actively seeks to get homeless people into shelters rather than let them decide on their own.

Most nights there are more people needing shelter in Camden than there are beds. On code blue nights, the county opens up the lobby to the Aletha Wright Administration Building as a warming center. (The program was started by a woman whose "great-uncle froze to death on a bench in Philadelphia.") Here's how it works on a typical code-blue night:
After bureaucrats leave for the day, dozens of people with nowhere else to stay unwrap blankets and sleeping bags. They play cards, talk about football, eat chips, and fall asleep in the hoods of their coats.

[. . .]

To protect the homeless, and to prevent the warming center from being overrun by those who don't need it, county officials have not publicized the program.

But it is run with efficiency.

Disinfectant is sprayed when necessary, and paper cups are left out for the water fountain. The bathroom is open, available for hand-washing and tooth-brushing but not showering. The lights are kept on all night.

Some keep their heads under jackets, sleeping bags or blankets, and couples spoon as if they were alone in a bedroom at home. In one corner, a woman spreads out snacks - chips, candy and soda - for anyone who's hungry.

[Camden County Freeholder Carmen] Rodriguez said the homeless in the lobby "police themselves," and there have been no major incidents.

On a visit last week, one woman began cursing and complaining about a man. One of two guards walked over, gave the man a warning -- "You have two strikes," she said -- and the situation was defused.

[. . .]

A group smoking cigarettes outside the lobby said that if the warming center weren't there, they would be freezing to death. Several said they were angry with the government because the lobby is their only refuge.

[. . .]

There are services for the homeless in Camden County, including five homeless shelters, all in the city, for a total of about 220 beds. But according to a survey done last January by the nonprofit Corporation for Supportive Housing, there are 541 homeless adults and 181 children in the county, and advocates believe the number now is far beyond that.
Dig the second paragraph of the article, though:
By night, [the building is] part slumber party and part refuge, a last chance for dozens of homeless people who could otherwise freeze to death.
Heaven forbid the homeless in Camden play some cards before huddling down into their clothes for a few hours' sleep (they're made to leave by 6:00 a.m.). This warming center isn't even a full-service shelter: the patrons can't get a shower; there are no actual beds; and it's available only on the most dangerously cold nights of the winter. But to Inky writer Matt Katz, it's a "slumber party" -- presumably because of the sleeping bags, card-playing, and snack foods.

Just like the slumber parties I went to when I was 10! We would all go to Missy's house, lay out our sleeping bags in the den, give each other manicures during Saturday Night Live, and then pass out after shooting the heroin we'd scored that day by selling shoplifted boxes of candy. It was all very Trainspotting. And the paper cups set out by the water fountain in the Camden warming center? Just like the Dixie cup dispenser in Missy's bathroom! I always wanted my mom to get Dixie cups like that for our bathroom.

A few weeks ago, Peter Mucha, another Inky reporter, was trying to talk to homeless people who deliberately stayed away from code-blue shelters in Philadelphia. One person he talked to said she preferred to be outside, because "If I go inside, I'm gonna itch a lot." She says she's albino, though she's plainly not; she does concede, though, "I'm mentally ill, but not as much as I was before." Another homeless person wouldn't speak to the reporter. Maybe that's why the headline for the article is Cold night for homeless who defy Code Blue.

Defy? Isn't it more reasonable to explain that they don't go to a shelter because the shelters are full? Because they can't tolerate the conditions? That they didn't hear about the code? That they're too high or mentally ill to make a rational decision about the situation? But whatever the reason, reporter Mucha doesn't appear to have asked why:
Tanya Singletary, 53, said she wouldn't return to the shelter where she used to stay.

"I'm not going," she said. [. . .] Singletary and [James] Davis, who were both missing front teeth, had been staying at this spot for two months, and had known each other about two years, Davis said.

"I need me a home," she said. "I never had one."

During the day, "we just walk around," he said. They get money panhandling.
Then the article turns to another homeless person, apparently without the reporter's having asked why Singletary won't go back to a place that met her needs for a while. We're left to infer that she's a defiant leech upon society, or maybe that the slumber parties at Philadelphia shelters aren't as fun as the ones in Camden.

23 January 2009

Friday jukebox: Cocoa Tea

This song's been around for a little while, but I only just stumbled over it a few days ago:

22 January 2009

Happy anniversary, Roe v. Wade

News item: Asshole marks 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade by deliberately smashing his SUV into a Planned Parenthood clinic multiple times.

Governor Palin of Alaska would say that the driver is not a domestic terrorist.

"Divine providence" no defense to bank fraud

When his bank mistakenly gave him almost a quarter million dollars, a man in Pennsylvania decided that he was welcome to keep the funds because the mistake was "divine providence." Now he and his estranged wife face criminal charges of theft and conspiracy.

In their defense, they gave tens of thousands of dollars to charities:
The trouble started when a $1,772.50 deposit to the Pratts' FNB Bank account showed up as $177,250 last summer. Police say that instead of telling the bank, they withdrew the money, quit their jobs and moved to Florida.

Randy Pratt tells the Bloomsburg Press Enterprise he did attempt to ask the bank what happened, but was ignored. He said he considered the money "a gift from God."

He says the couple gave away thousands of dollars, including $25,000 to a Florida church shelter for the homeless.
The county judge has apparently rejected this explanation (after all, you can't make god appear in court) and refused to lower his bail.

21 January 2009

Job interview today

Job interview today for a very low-paying legal internship.

How low-paying? It's a pay cut from what I earned as a legal secretary 3 years ago.

Worse, it's a pay cut from what I earned as a non-profit's administrative assistant 7 years ago.

Western wind when wilt though blow
the small rain down can rain
Christ if my love were in my arms
and I in my bed again

Men I've dated, part n of a series

A former lover of mine was so intrigued by me that he wrote a screenplay about me a few years ago.

It was a feature-length rom-com along the lines of Chasing Amy, only the character he based on me wasn't gay, and my love interest wasn't a comic book artist. The movie was never produced. He was realistically talking to people who could talk to people who could have produced it, and Rosario Dawson would have played me. As it was, he held a reading in somebody's livingroom with some local actors. One of the actors didn't show, so I had to read my own part, even though I'm not an actor by any stretch of the imagination -- and I ended up having to begin my début performance by simulating an orgasm in front of half a dozen near-strangers (and my former lover).

Some aspects of the film showed up in a short film he made a year or so later: a couple of the jokes, thoughts about non-monogamy, a character's name. But as far as I can tell, the feature film is still on blocks.

That said, it's nice to remember that I was his muse for the short time that we dated. He's with the love of his life now. We all run into each other a few times a year in the local arts community. I assume he's told her that we slept together a few times. But to avoid drama I never bring it up, in case he hasn't told her; and if he has, there's no respectful, polite reason for me to bring it up anyway.

20 January 2009

Please quit posting the speech

Dear bloggers,

Please quit copy-'n'-pasting President Obama's inaugural address into your blog. You are filling my feed reader with pages upon pages of material that I already watched on TV and that I could easily find on my own if I really wanted to read again.

Very truly yours,


Driberally today: inauguration party

Philadelphia's Center City chapter of Drinking Liberally isn't meeting tonight, because we're all going to the Plough and the Stars, a venue that we cruelly spurned recently in favor of another tavern, but which has offered to host a hell of an inauguration party instead:

RSVP required. No cover! Free beer while supplies last. But you must RSVP.

Sponsors roll call: Philadelphia City Paper, The Plough and the Stars, Drinking Liberally, Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks, Philadelphia Young Democrats, American Constitution Society, two.one.five magazine, Philly for Change, EducationVotersPA.org, Samuel Adams.

18 January 2009

Driberally today

The Field House being an inappropriate venue for elitist liberals to meet to watch a football game, it has been decided that the game will be watched and beer will be drunk at the Triumph Brewery this afternoon. This is the usual venue for Drinking Liberally Center City Philadelphia, so you should know how to get there. It has been pointed out to me that there is a space behind the upstairs bar with a projection TV and its accompanying screen. Dig the beer bottle, poised temptingly toward your lips:

Obnoxiously compulsively early people like myself will arrive at 2:30; kick-off is at 3:00.

unexpected extra work required for bar exam application

Recently I was working on my bar exam application. Because I answered certain of the questions a certain way, I've been alerted that I have a few more tasks to add to my to-do list before the paperwork deadline. Specifically, I have to fetch my official criminal history records and my driving records from 3 separate states.

Since I was 16 and got my first driver's license, I've had exactly 2 tickets, neither of them a moving violation. (For those keeping score at home, I was 16 roughly 20 years ago.) In my entire lifetime, I've been arrested only once, for trespassing.

There are a lot of reasons not to start law school as a second career, after already having a life. This is definitely one of them.

As for the Board of Bar Examiners, I'm not sure that they should even trust the information that I'll dig up. Now, I'm a truthful person and I'll be requesting this information in good faith, as completely as I can. But I haven't lived in one of the states I have to contact since mid-1994. I certainly don't have the number from that driver's license. What a risk of false negatives! The Board should have a staff doing the research for them rather than rely on this self-reporting. (Christ knows the fees you have to pay for the privilege of sitting for the bar exam are high enough.)

Maybe they flag applications that look a little fishy and double-check only the spurious ones, then if they find something the applicant didn't disclose, then the problem is the applicant's. In other words, I guess I'd better hope that I give these states better search terms than the Board staffers would.

And in other words -- damn, I got my first driver's license 20 years ago?

17 January 2009

How non-traditional students beat the tests

Some days ago I attended a sales pitch for one of the numerous beat-the-test programs. This program focuses on beating the Multistate Bar Exam. But that's not important. The important part was that I approached the instructor-salesman afterward and thanked him for the tips. As a non-traditional student, I explained, I'm not too practiced in beat-the-test schemes, because back when I took the SAT they weren't nearly such a big deal. When I took the LSAT, I got a book and worked through some of the problems, then used that and some techniques I vaguely remember from very briefly teaching the Princeton Review when I was in college.

Anyway, the instructor-salesman assured me that his program is especially good for older students. He stumbled a little over the term older student, so I helpfully said, "Non-traditional student." Then he just went and said "older student" again. Twice.

16 January 2009

Fear of a black unitary executive

This is rich. The Cato Institute and Dick Armey are fussing that the bailout is unconstitutional because it delegates too much power to the Executive.

Again, how's that Unitary Executive theory working out for you guys now? Depends on who the focus is, I guess. Let's see, awesome for Reagan, less than panic-inducing for Clinton, and perfectly acceptable for Bush, even when the issue is wholly unrelated to terrorism. So never mind that Bush was the one who signed the bailout into law; now that it's Obama who has to administer it, Republicans want to take the job out of his hands.

Paging Prof. Calabresi.

Profoundness: on break-ups and bathroom cleaning

Cleaning around the tub and sink drains with bleach and a toothbrush the other day would have been much, much more satisfying if I hadn't already thrown out his toothbrush last trash day.

15 January 2009

Perceived reliable vs. actually reliable vs. minor and major brands

Consumers Union now owns the Consumerist blog, so now I'm taking everything I read there with a grain of "they're trying to sell me the magazine" salt. Which is not to say that I don't read the darn magazine cover-to-cover every time I visit my dad and find it lying out there on the coffee table. And which also not to say that I don't find a lot of the articles interesting. For instance, they recently published an article about the disconnect between people's perceptions of automobile quality and actual reliability data of various auto brands.

The top 4 brands that people thought were the most reliable were Toyota, Honda, Ford, and Cadillac. The top 4 brands that actually are the most reliable are Scion, Acura, Honda, and Toyota.

Now waitaminit. Scion is Toyota, and Acura is Honda. So shouldn't the "actually most reliable" list be Toyota, then Honda, then Infinity, then Subaru (number 5 on the "actually" list was Lexus, which is Toyota)?

Dad's been telling me for years that Consumer Reports hates American-made products.

14 January 2009

Campbell children taken from home

Well, now here's an interesting development. The family who named their kids after the biggest celebrities in the Third Reich have lost their children to their state child protection agency.

(I'm sure you saw the story from December: These freaks complained to the media because their local supermarket, which offers custom-decorated birthday cakes, refused to decorate a cake using the son's name. Wal-Mart, ever classy, was happy to sell them one, though.)

Of course the aspect of the story most pertinent to this blog is that the state agency is glomarizing the incident:
The Division of Youth and Family Services would not confirm or deny the report.

A spokeswoman said the division doesn't comment on specific families.

How bad are the drivers in your state?

Architect-turned-long-haul-trucker leighton has been everywhere, man, and probably thinks you're a lousy driver:
I drive in all of the lower 48 States, usually with a 53ft trailer and sometimes in a band tour vehicle yanking a trailer. Traffic generally has to pay more attention to a long vehicle, so I get to observe, up close, the good, bad and Hitlarity of every one of you. This is an assessment based on 10+ years of doing this type of driving.
How does your state rate? The survey includes a map of the U.S. highlighting the most annoying and potentially fatal regions to drive in.

13 January 2009

Driberally tonight

Drinking Liberally Tonight at Triumph Brewing, 117 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, 6:00 to 9:00. Food and drink specials; ask Mithras for details, because I can never keep them straight.

Tonight's topic: Richard Perle, like the little "Not Me" ghost in the Family Circus comic, and despite PNAC's own letter to the contrary, is saying that he had absolutely no influence on the Bush Administration's decision to invade Iraq. So tell me, what have you categorically not been doing for the past eight years?

12 January 2009

5 true things and 1 lie

I have been asked to post 5 true things and 1 lie. The trick is that Dear Reader has to spot the lie:

  • One of my summer jobs in high school was as a shampoo girl at a hair salon. (Do they even call them shampoo girls any more?)

  • I've been to Cuba.

  • I write right-handed, but I bat, play golf, and use a computer mouse left-handed.

  • I've never joined a union.

  • I've been arrested by federal marshals, but I pled down to a misdemeanor so I don't have a federal criminal record.

  • In my early teens, I had an eating disorder. It took me years to be able to eat my "trigger foods," Doritos and Oreos, again, and I still can't eat them in any great quantity.
  • 11 January 2009

    Driberally today

    A special Drinking Liberally today! Word on the street is that we're meeting at high noon at the Field House, the sports bar that replaced the sadly departed Independence Brew Pub. I used to have a growler from there. Anyway, it's at 1150 Filbert Street in Philly, behind the Reading Terminal Market, where there used to be a sign that looked like this image, which is hotlinked, so it may go away at any time:

    Today's topic: What's it called when you learn something (like people's names) in a particular context (say, a particular bar on Tuesday evenings), and when you encounter the same thing in a different context (say, a different bar on a Sunday afternoon), you can't remember what it is you learned?

    Oh, and not to fear: the Eagles game will on the TVs, since it's a sports bar.

    09 January 2009

    Will the last person leaving Seattle . . . ?

    In the early 1970s, there was a Boeing bust in Seattle (think end of the Apollo space program, end of the Vietnam experiment, demise of the American SST, and the yet-to-be-returned stupendous investment in the 747). Huge economic downturn, even before the recession of the 1980s. Someone posted billboards northbound along Alaska Way asking, "Will the last person leaving Seattle, please turn out the lights?"

    Seattle was still mean streets for much of the 1980s, before Microsoft took off. In the 1990s, when I lived there, disaffected suburban kids who couldn't afford to fake homelessness in the Bay Area would come to Seattle instead. Most of them would eventually go back home, or enroll in art school, or make a killing in the dot-com economy on the mere ability to pronounce the word Internet. They weren't like the homeless kids Seattle saw in the '80s, documented in the film Streetwise:
    Rat and Jack come upon a familiar dumpster and start digging in.

    Rat and Jack (in unison): It's the Chinese Dumpster!

    Rat (Voice over): When you get regular dumpsters, we call 'em regs, you go there every night. You check all these dumpsters all these different places. And you can tell because they're regs what's been there since last week and what was put in there that night. 'Cause a lot of people say, "Shit, that shit could be a week old and you can't even tell," but you can because it's your reg, your regular dumpster.

    Rat samples some fried chicken.

    Rat: I think I hit the jackpot.
    The kids who weren't making enough as prostitutes worked petty scams:
    Patrice: There it is. (He opens the bottom of a pack of cigarettes.) "Blotter acid." You get two "hits" out of every pack, man. Five dollars a hit. It sells like pancakes. me and Junior made a hundred bucks selling nothing but bunk at a concert. Then we went and bought some good cocaine and psshhook. (Laughing.)

    James goes to a blood bank.

    Rat (Voice over): You gotta be over eighteen to sell blood, so most of the kids on the street can't sell it, so they can't make money that way. But, if you get a fake ID and you look eighteen, then you can go there and sell blood.
    Then the 1990s happened. While my household didn't make a million billion dollars, we did buy our first home just before the real estate market boom, and then we bought our next home with cash. Current Seattle real estate prices are a legend in their own time, which is especially surprising considering how flimsy the construction can be, compared to what I've always been familiar with in the harsher climate of the mid-Atlantic.

    But my point, and I did have one when I started this post, is that Boeing is in serious trouble again. At the end of the business day on Friday, Boeing announced that it's starting 2009 by cutting 4500 jobs in the passenger jet division, which is in greater Seattle. Happy New Year!

    The machinists (who won't be the ones laid off) struck for about 2 months this past fall. So airplane purchasers went with Airbus. And fewer people are flying, so airlines aren't buying so many planes to begin with, and the 787 has been delayed further than it already was, and and and.

    When Boeing's in trouble, so is the rest of western Washington, from Everett through Seattle down to Renton. (They build Chinook helicopters here in Philly, but it's not a comparably major contributor to the local economy.) Looks as though one of the Seattle dailies is going to quit printing soon, too.

    Maybe -- if Seattle is heading into another major downturn -- it won't be as bad as it was in the '70s and '80s. But it does seem as though when there's economic stress, Seattle feels it worse than some other regions of the country. It's not as resilient. Happily for some, housing costs will probably go down. My concern is that, if that does happen and homes are suddenly affordable to buy, it will mean that Seattle will have taken heck of an economic hit.

    08 January 2009

    Pro-choice round-up: blogs and news items

  • unexpectingbaby chronicled her abortion experience for about a month at myabortionblog. From the first entry:
  • I stopped at a Starbucks with my friend for a quick cup of something warm. It was freezing outside and cider sounded like the perfect thing. Just plain, warm cider. I added a bit of cinnamon and drank it down quickly while chatting with her about nothing in particular. It was delicious for about three minutes…and then the queasiness began.
    Later on, she explains thoughtfully why, as a Christian, she does not feel guilty about her choice:
    Some day I will be ready to have children, and I can’t wait to be a mom. I know that time isn’t now, and this was the right choice for me.
  • abortionblogger writes from a different side of the debate: she's "a proud atheist" who blogged her abortion in order to help women learn about the practical reality of the experience in a climate where few women who have had one ever discuss it in any real depth. Her blog includes a list of helpful links for women seeking more information about abortion procedures and providers. She appears to have a scientific background (she calls herself "a bit of a biology nerd"). Early on in her blog, she explains why abortion is the right decision for her right now:
  • I sometimes literally crave to be a parent, and I wish I were in a position financially, emotionally etc where I could just have the baby and be joyful about it. I think I would be a pretty good mom. And someday I probably will be.
    abortionblogger discovered her pregnancy early and had a medical abortion. A few anti-choice readers posted inflammatory remarks (I think the young people call them "concern trolls") about the risks of taking RU-486 in the case of ectopic pregnancy and the obviously unscrupulous doctor who was only interested in abortionblogger's money. So the author promptly found an NIH study debunking their claims, and she quit approving the repetitive comments, concluding, "Science, my friends, is a wonderful way to sort out the facts. Yay science!"

  • Speaking of the procedure and speaking of science, abortion does not cause depression. A review of almost 2 dozen studies following the experiences of some 150,000 women found that there are "no significant differences in long-term mental health between women who choose to abort a pregnancy and others." In other words, post-abortion syndrome doesn't exist. Recall that the Supreme Court upheld the federal law banning late-term D&X procedures on that ground. Will someone take judicial notice, please?

  • Do you need abortion pills? If you live in a country that restricts abortion (and who doesn't, really?), then Women on Web can hook you up with an online consultation for a prescription, just like those online pharmacies that can get you Viagra. They appear to be based out of the Netherlands. Their FAQ includes questions about legality, international package delivery and receipt, and the procedure.

  • In the news: Latina women in New York, specifically Dominican women, are taking Cytotec to induce abortions at home. (Cytotec is misoprostol, which is 1 of the 2 components of RU-486.) It appears to be a practice they've brought with them from the Dominican Republic. I found an article from 2003 explaining that pharmacies there may "sell as much Cytotec as aspirin or cold remedies."

    Misoprostol works almost as effectively on its own as it does in combination with the other drugs in a medical abortion, because it does the heavy work, so to speak. It's the drug that actually causes softening of the cervix and uterine contractions. (The other drugs work to chemically interfere with pregnancy development, with other effects.) That is, you probably won't successfully terminate a pregnancy if you take only the other drugs; but you're very likely to successfully terminate a pregnancy if you take the right dose of misoprostol early enough. Think of it this way: misoprostol is plain, unflavored oral rehydration solution (like Pedialyte), and RU-486 is Gatorade. Both products would do the job to rehydrate you. But if you separate the food dye and B vitamins and other add-ons from the simple oral rehydration solution component of Gatorade, and then consume only the add-ons, you won't rehydrate yourself.

  • Elsewhere in the news: "The family of a 14-year-old Afghan rape victim face prosecution after her foetus was removed without anaesthetic." She was 5 months pregnant; her family "eventually" got her to a hospital in Bamiyan, which, not coincidentally I'd have to say, is where they blew up the Buddhas in 2001 because the monumental carvings were against Islam.

  • But what is not against Islam? Female genital mutilation among our allies, the Kurds. The Washington Post article includes a photo gallery euphemistically titled "Sheelan's Circumcision: A seven-year-old girl is taken by her mother to be circumcised in Kurdish Iraq, where more than 60 percent of women have undergone the traditional and controversial procedure." You should look at those pictures. They aren't graphic, as the warning explains; you don't see blood. But you do see several girls under the age of 10 who are terrified, enduring excruciating pain, and clutching their vulvas afterward, and who have to be carried home by proud mothers -- after having been promised that they were being taken to a surprise party.
    There was no celebration. Instead, a local woman quickly locked a rusty red door behind Sheelan, who looked bewildered when her mother ordered the girl to remove her underpants. Sheelan began to whimper, then tremble, while the women pushed apart her legs and a midwife raised a stainless-steel razor blade in the air. "I do this in the name of Allah!" she intoned.

    As the midwife sliced off part of Sheelan's genitals, the girl let out a high-pitched wail heard throughout the neighborhood. As she carried the sobbing child back home, Sheelan's mother smiled with pride.
    Huh? "Smiled with pride"? Dig photo 7 in the gallery. Mom can't even watch. As Sheelan lets out a cry that can only come from someone having her vulva sliced up with no painkillers, mom has shut her eyes tight and turned her head away.

    Look at the pictures.

    The Post refers to Sheelan's experience as "circumcision" and morally relativizes her unanaesthetized, back-alley cutting as "a painful ancient ritual," the assholes. I wonder what words the Post would use to refer to the D.I.Y. at-home C-section on the teenaged Afghan rape victim?

    In an older article I found, a woman who performs genital cutting on Kurdish girls explains:
    "I cut about a quarter [of the vulva] off with a razor," she says, in an apparent reference to the so-called Sunna circumcision, a mutilation that some clerics have attributed to a tradition taught by the Prophet Mohamed that involves removing the prepuce. Sometimes the clitoris is left intact, but sometimes part of or all of it is removed.
    Hey, yo, Post -- if somebody sliced off a quarter of the external genitalia of a 7-year-old boy, in a less-than-surgical setting like this one, you wouldn't call it circumcision.
  • 07 January 2009

    Profoundness: on free speech

    Photocopiers are the best thing to happen to the First Amendment since, uh, the First Amendment.

    06 January 2009

    Profoundness: on the spectacularly bad end of a long-term relationship

    His Netflix queue is full of stuff that I picked out and that he's probably not the least interested in. Twitch City and some other Canadian TV that I've missed since our local cable service doesn't include a CBC station. L'Anné dernière à Marienbad and some other art-house must-sees that haven't come around in repertory lately.

    It's like a subtly sweet revenge.

    Driberally tonight

    Drinking Liberally tonight, 6:00 to about 9:00 at Triumph Brewery, 117 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. I have every confidence that you can google it yourself to find out where it is and how to get there, whether by car or boat or (god forbid) public transit.

    I have a prior commitment, so I may be late. Please don't hesitate to start the party without me.

    Tonight's topic: today is Epiphany. Three Kings' Day. The last of the 12 days of Christmas. So you aren't allowed to attend until you take all the dang Christmas decorations down. Lights out, tree to the curb, Advent calendar in the recycling bin, giant inflated Frosty the Snowman to the basement, get rid of it all. Let's finish up any wassail left over from Twelfth Night and get on with 2009, shall we?

    05 January 2009

    Monday art house: a picture of a bridge

    This is a photo of the Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol, UK. It's a 6-month time-lapse image taken with a pinhole camera.

    Several years ago I caught a program of short films made with pinhole cameras: no lenses, hand-cranked film, black-and-white photography, then most of them optically printed so that each exposure lasted longer than 1/24 sec. I can't recall the artists' names, though. I also can't recall if I saw it at Bumbershoot, the Grand Illusion, or the International House. Since Google and Wikipedia are doing me no good in helping me find any of these filmmakers, I suspect it must have been sometime in the '90s out in Seattle.

    01 January 2009

    Stepping into the new year

    I PWN3D the white elephant gift exchange with the gang on New Year's Eve.

    What I gave: a glass candy dish shaped like a turkey.

    What I brought home: a 4-pack of Maudite.

    Nice balancing act at the beginning of the year: on the one hand, a relationship of over 3 years is painfully coming to an end. I have no job prospects to deal with my mortgage-sized law school debt, not to mention that the bar exam looms like a hulking cliché in 6 short months. But on the other hand, I gave away really the epitome of a white elephant gift (a somewhat tacky tchotchke that belongs in a grandmother's parlor) in exchange for some of Québec's best.

    Unpleasantness both ahead and behind me, but an auspicious beginning to the year. Best wishes for a happy, prosperous New Year to you and yours.

    New Year's Day jukebox: "Trouble"

    Commercial work by a film editor friend of mine.