Riba Rambles:
Musings of a Mental Magpie

About the author: Elisabeth in early 2007, photo by Todd Belf
Elisabeth "Lis" Riba is an infovore with an MLS. This is her place to share whatever's on her mind, on topics both personal and political. [more]
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Friday, December 19, 2003
To all Jews:
Posted by Lis Riba at 1:55 PM
Off the Mark, Dec 19 2003

Any way you spell it, have a good one.

Parsing the Nader survey
Posted by Lis Riba at 12:21 PM

After seeing some of the comments to my earlier post on the Nader survey, I went back and folks are right -- those are confusingly worded. In fact, rereading it in the daylight, I think I may have misvoted on question 2.

So, for your convenience and without further ado:

Riba Rambles' Guide to the Nader 2004 Exploratory Questionnaire
  1. Would you support a Ralph Nader candidacy for President regardless of who the Democrats or Republicans nominate?
    • Yes == I will support Ralph Nader's candidacy and I don't care who the Democrat candidate is.
    • No == I won't support Nader.
  2. Is there any declared candidate for President that if they were to win the nomination would make you unlikely to support a Ralph Nader candidacy?
    • Yes == I will support Nader unless the Democrats nominate <provide name>.
    • No == I will support Nader, and I don't care who the Democrats nominate.
      (Same as a Yes answer to Question 1)
    • Important Note:The only way to say you will not vote for Nader is to select Yes and put "Anybody/everybody" in the field labelled Other.
  3. Have you ever, or would you vote for a third party or independent candidate?
    • Yes == I have voted independent/3rd party or would do so in the future.
    • No == I have not now, nor never will vote independent/3rd party.
  4. May the Nader 2004 Presidential Exploratory Committee Contact you?
    • Yes == I accept that the Nader Committee will probably spam me.
    • No == I accept that angry Nader supporters will probably spam me. [That's a joke!]
  5. Please feel free to express your opinion further in the box below
    Essay question

Question 2 is deviously clever, isn't it? They really need a third option -- "I will not support Nader" -- but of course, they aren't offering that...

At any rate, I hope this helps other concerned ABBA fans.

Make every vote count -- and count every vote!
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:40 AM

As part of my last post I meant to mention Bush in 30 Seconds -- a contest to harness the "power of the web" to devise the best anti-Bush ad, which will be aired the week Bush gives his State of the Union address. Log onto the site (it's part of MoveOn.org) and you can view a random sampling and cast your own votes. There are some pretty fun ones out there.

Okay, I'm a firm believer in rehabilitating criminals and hiring former felons. Once they've served their time, they deserve a second chance, as long as reasonable precautions are taken. Back to the should-be scandal with Diebold voting machines. I don't mind the fact that they hired convicted felons to work on the project. But what were they thinking when the programmer who wrote the vote-counting code "served time in a Washington state correctional facility for stealing money and tampering with computer files in a scheme that 'involved a high degree of sophistication and planning'"!? Dear Gd! [via Eschaton ]

Meanwhile, California election officials recently revealed yet another case of Diebold installing uncertified software installed on voting machines. Diebold is also in hot water for a recently-leaked memo in which they recommended charging out the yin-yang if any states legislate paper receipts after the sale.

The previous two weeks, Robert X. Cringely wrote two articles (1 & 2) on the Diebold voting machines, in which he makes an excellent point:

[The big problem is] the people running the elections aren't actually running them.  Vendors are doing that.  Election officials don't know how their equipment works and won't know if it works wrong.

What's happening with Diebold is, in part, a case of the usual KM fallacy -- that throwing technology at a problem will resolve it. That's almost never the case. Voting and counting ballots are easy and can be done with even the most primitive of tools. Cringely points out "the area where technology might be useful but isn't being used much, as far as I can tell, is voter validation." Meanwhile, in attempts to correct the UI design flaws from the 2000 election, we seem to be digging ourselves in a deeper and deeper hole, breaking things that worked and not fixing what was actually broken.

Poll position
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:40 AM

Although I forwarded it around to several people I know, I really didn't post about the AFA's online gay marriage poll. [Take it; view current results] largely because my friend Griff seemed to have it well in hand.

However, here's another online poll which could have real consequences. [Not that I'm saying the AFA was trivial; my opinion of its significance here.] The Nader 2004 Presidential Exploratory Committee is asking under what conditions would you support Nader running for president in 2004. Considering his effect upon the 2000 election (among other things, campaigning in tight battleground states where his votes actually did make a difference between Bush & Gore; more at Electrolite), I ask you to please tell Ralph how you feel. I don't think we need any automated vote scripts to influence the tally; I'm hoping enough concerned voters from around the nation will get the message through. [Via Talking Points Memo]

As far as the 2004 election is concerned, I'm a firm supporter of ABBA: Anyone But Bush Again.

Back in September, I shared Chris Anderson's pledge to "not to become enablers of any campaign designed to divide us in our struggle to remove Bush from power"

Well, Democrats.com (which is not the DNC) is offering a similar Unity Pledge to reject divisive campaigning, support the eventual Democratic nominee (whoever it may be), and defeat Bush in 2004. [Via Interesting Times]

Thursday, December 18, 2003
News flash! Govt can't arbitrarily declare citizens seized on US soil as enemy combatants!
Posted by Lis Riba at 12:32 PM

My father just IM'd me with the news.

Quoting CNN:

In a setback to the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policies, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday that the president does not have the power to detain an American citizen seized on U.S. soil as an enemy combatant.

In a 65-page decision, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 that the U.S. government must release Jose Padilla from military custody within 30 days.

This is big. This is good And I'm sure I'll have more to say on this later, but right now I wanted to get the word out.

Have a great day!

Added a few minutes later, Howard Bashman links to the full text of the opinions, and an analysis by En Banc.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Posted by Lis Riba at 2:15 PM

A few of you know that I've got a chance to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It has the potential to be really really good for me, but I'm feeling incredibly torn by the possible costs (physical and financial) and frankly, quite a bit scared by what it may entail. [Those who have no clue what I'm talking about, please bear with me. There are some confidentiality restrictions on what I can say, so I've only spoken with a few trusted advisors.]

Well, I just checked my Free Will Astrology horoscope for the week:

You think you know what chocolate is all about? You don't. The tastes you find in M&M's and Hershey's Kisses comprise a tiny percentage of chocolate's total flavor spectrum. A few vanguard connoisseurs are beginning to awaken to the glorious diversity. New York now boasts several gourmet boutiques that offer the kind of variety characteristic of wine and coffee specialty stores. If I could get you a holiday gift, Cancerian, it would be a sampling of these exotic chocolates. Maybe if you realized what you've been missing in this one area, you'd also get more aggressive about pursuing a wider array of other fine pleasures in 2004. And that would be in alignment with the astrological omens.

I'm currently on a personal path which has a lot of unpleasant nuisance effects with the promise of a greater reward down the road. Right now, that payoff remains abstract, with only reassurances from others that it will all be worth it. The primary reason I think I should participate in this is because I think the knowledge I will gain will help me put the inconveniences in perspective and better achieve my final goal (or decide whether the goal is worth it).

And that seems to be the message I'm getting from this horoscope. In fact, I'm pretty sure the exact phrase "realize what I've been missing" has crossed my lips regarding this matter.

Rob Brezsny really scares me sometimes...

You don't say. No really, you shouldn't have...
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:50 AM

I thought by now that everybody has heard the Chevy Nova urban legend -- a popular (though false) cautionary tale of the hazards of poorly considered product names in international markets. In fact, Snopes lists many urban legends on brand name mistranslations.

Guess nobody at Mazda heard any of them.

No, I'm not going to translate "la puta" from the Spanish, but it's not terribly nice. Certainly not something respectable people would be seen driving in public.

This could be one to watch... [via Spike and held until the blogger.com was up again...]

Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Short takes:
Posted by Lis Riba at 5:10 PM
  • Thanks to Chuck, who commented on my Howard Dean & Israel essay for pointing out the Anti-Defamation League's statement on the chain letter. In brief:
    "This e-mail, which relates to comments made by Dean in early September, is malicious, misleading and factually inaccurate. "
    I wish that could put the final nail in the coffin, but it seems to be springing up hydra-like all over the place. Anyway, my heartfelt appreciation to everybody who's been commenting on that post; I probably should update my main page with some of the things you've found.
  • Uggabugga found a powerful essay by Jim Hoagland. Titled "Dissing Government," it reviews a new academic book from Princeton which demonstrates:
    "The relentless and prolonged assault by politicians and the public on the competence and motives of their government bureaucracies is slowly but surely undermining democracy in the Americas and Europe."
  • CalPundit points out how many of Bush's big political triumphs don't take effect fully until well after he's out of office. The tax cut, education, and Medicare bills... all push the real changes off until later. Drum points out:
    "Compare this to, say, Clinton's proposed health plan, or his welfare reform, which were designed to take effect almost immediately, or a program like AmeriCorps, which started up within months of the enabling legislation."
  • I'm blanking on whose blog had the link I followed, but Emma's got one of the best predictive statements on Saddam's capture. Very wise, and this way of looking at the story can be applied to other issues as well.
  • Finally, although the typos are annoying, the Are you a time waster? quiz really sums things up as far as online quizzes are concerned.

PS: I've been trying to trace back the source of the Timoney rumor, and think I see how it evolved, but that can wait until later.

Hot tamale, no Timoney!
Posted by Lis Riba at 2:55 PM

I just received an email reply from the 2004 Democratic National Convention:

John Timoney is NOT on contract to either the Host Committee, the City of Boston or the Boston Police Department.

We have received this email several times. Please forward my response to whoever started this rumor.

Thank you,


Talk about a fast response. Blogs get results. 8)

More seriously, I'll be updating my earlier post shortly with the corrected information. So hold off on sending any emails.

[I'd still like to track down how this story started, because I see a lot of news articles mentioning this fact. But that's for later. Damage control first.]

Trapped in shadow
Posted by Lis Riba at 2:40 PM

On a much lighter note, Sunday's NYTimes Book Review had an article on Peter Pan.

Considering that the upcoming big budget live action film is really the only must-see movie on my list for this year, (Sorry, LOTR fans, but the first two did little for me), and I recently read the original text for the first time, I naturally gravitated straight to the Judith Miller piece. And I did not regret it.

A few fascinating details from the article:

  • Captain Hook was an afterthought. <snip> Barrie, already rich from a string of hit plays and books, knew his yarn needed a bad guy, but he thought he already had one: Peter himself.
  • Barrie's original intent [was] to have the actress who played Mrs. Darling, Wendy's mother, also play Hook. He was persuaded by the actor portraying Mr. Darling, Gerald du Maurier -- uncle to the five Llewelyn Davies boys and father to Daphne -- to make Hook and Wendy's father the double role.
  • And then there is the unfathomable, inimitable Hook, to whom Barrie gave his own first name

Somehow, I'm reminded of a Neil Gaiman interview, in which he says:

I'm never quite sure what's important and I'm not sure that authors are meant to know what's important. And I'm not sure that anybody gets to make the call on the whole importance thing until a long time afterwards.

1930. Probably the most prominent English essayist was A.A. Milne. The editor of Punch, famed for his comedic essays and a man with several plays running in the West End concurrently. A man who had bestselling books with titles like The Daily Round and hilarious collections of essays and sketches. One of the funniest writers of his generation and an accomplished playwright. I did an Amazon search several months ago just out of interest to see just what of his was actually in print. And it listed 700 books: all of which, as I went down page after page, were variant editions of the two Winnie the Pooh books and the two books of comic verse for children that he wrote. And that's all that we have left of A.A. Milne and he's in better shape than most of his contemporaries whose names we do not remember at all. I can't point to the other guy who was the biggest playwright in the 1930s because we don't know who that was and if I said his name, you'd be blank. The fact is, those two books of children's stories and two volumes of children's verse are what posterity, rightly or wrongly, has deemed the important thing to remember about what A.A. Milne did.

Actually, that's not true: there's one other thing we remember him for. His attempt to revive something forgotten which, again, worked brilliantly. To the point now where we didn't even know that it ever was forgotten. He wrote Toad of Toad Hall as a stage play, because he loved [it] and was furious that it had been forgotten --The Wind in the Willows [which was written by Kenneth Grahame]. And Kenneth Grahame's book came out and was a huge dud. Kenneth Grahame's other two books --Dream Days and The Golden Age -- now completely forgotten. Portraits of sort of being a child in early Edwardian, early Victorian days -- were seized on and loved by the Edwardians as these beautiful, sentimental portraits of childhood. These were Grahame's bestselling books. And the Wind in the Willows was a dud: it was completely forgotten to the point where A.A. Milne wound up writing an essay in the 1920s saying: Let me tell you about one of the best books in the world and you have never heard of it. It was called the Wind in the Willows and [A.A. Milne] went on and did Toad of Toad Hall, the theatrical adaptation, which then revived the book to the point where it's now considered one of the great children's classics. And if I'm burbling on about this stuff, I'm also burbling to point out that if Milne had not been a huge fan of this one book, there is no particular reason to think that The Wind in the Willows would have gone on to become the classic that it is.

It's quite possible that in 100 years time, people will say: You know that guy who wrote the book The Day I Swapped My Dad for 2 Goldfish? He did all this other stuff too? And people will say: No.

That's a long-winded way of saying that I want to find and read more of J.M. Barrie's work. I hope the upcoming films help revive his reputation.

Ban him from Boston!
Posted by Lis Riba at 1:45 PM

Update at 3:00 PM: I just received word from the executive director of the convention that Timoney is NOT involved with the Democratic National Convention. Read this post for details.

Following up to my previous post on the "police riot" last month in Miami, I've done some further reading on John Timoney, the man in charge. All of it reinforces the impression given by the Salon article.

In a Philadelphia Weekly article, one activist characterizes him by saying "Timoney's strategy during the RNC was to arrest as many people as possible, look good in front of the TV cameras, and deal with the Constitution later." And that perception certainly holds up under further Googling.

A website dedicated to the defense of a protestor still awaiting trial for actions in the 2000 RNC convention, has been compiling information on Timoney, as Philadelphia police chief and in his subsequent career in security. A few of the things I've found, there and elsewhere:

  • According to Amnesty International's June 1996 report on the NYPD, which used official police statistics, in 1994, the first year that Timoney was second in command at the NYPD, the city saw "a 34% increase in civilians shot dead." In the same year, there was also a "53.3% increase in civilians shot dead in police custody" as well as "an increase in the number of civilians injured from officers' firearms discharge during the same period." Amnesty also reports that the New York City Civilian Review Board "reported that it received 4,920 new complaints in 1994, an increase of 37.43 percent over the previous year" (Amnesty International, Police Brutality in the New York City Police Department).
  • When Timoney was the First Deputy to New York City's Police Commissioner, civilian complaints about police abuse rose by 50 percent in communities of color.
  • Complaints of police misconduct have reached record levels in Timoney's Philadelphia: according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, reports to the city's Police Advisory Commission for the fiscal year 2000 were "the most the commission had had received in a single year."
  • From an old Boston Phoenix article:
    Timoney, the police commissioner, is reluctant to discuss the state-police infiltration and his department's actions. "I'm sure we're going to get sued on that," he says. He acknowledges that 10 young officers who were dressed like protesters attended demonstrations, but insists that Philadelphia police did not infiltrate activist groups. Although his department worked closely with federal and state authorities in the months leading up to the GOP convention, Timoney maintains that he didn't know about the infiltration at the Haverford Avenue warehouse until August 1. In a Philadelphia Inquirer article, however, Pennsylvania State Police spokesperson Jack Lewis said that local police were told in advance about the state's infiltration plans.
  • From the same source, page 2:
    Police tactics were so aggressive that even Philadelphia residents who had nothing to do with the protests were targeted. Seven people working as medics, for instance, were stopped and detained for hours on August 2. Police forced them to dump or drink the "suspicious liquids" they were carrying -- which turned out to be water, milk, and mineral oil. The medics filed the first civil lawsuit related to the GOP convention protests back in September.
  • Statement by the president of the Miami ACLU:
    [I]n the name of maintaining order, Chief Timoney suspended the constitutional rights of law-abiding people.
    The police's own documents show that police officers tracked the educational and religious activities of local churches and even made written notes of clergy who took a position against the FTAA. These tactics are not the hallmark of our democracy. Rather, they are dark examples of a "police state."
    Reports from police officers themselves make clear that officers were trained to stop, search and arrest first and ask questions later. Downtown business owners have reported that in case after case, they saw police stop people who were simply walking down the street, push them against the wall, search them and upon finding nothing, let them go. This is not only unconstitutional, it is also un-American.

And this is the man running security at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

My parents' alma mater, UW Madison, was a hotbed of political protests during the Vietnam War. Though nothing bad happened (to them), I remember my dad once mentioning a clash that occurred as classes were letting out. The 2004 Convention is being held at the FleetCenter -- just above North Station, a major transportation hub for rail and subway commuters (near the intersection of Routes 1, 93 and Storrow Drive for you drivers). I know a lot of people who travel through that station regularly, and the thought of any of them being bystanders swept up in Timoney's roundups fills me with dread.

We're still over 220 days away. Maybe we still have time. Here's the contact information for the Convention.

And here's the email I'm sending:

I've recently read that Miami police chief John Timoney is handling security for the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

The more I've read about his tactics, both last month in Miami and four years ago in Philadelphia, the more appalled I've become. He seems to employ an excessively brutal strategy that borders on the unconstitutional, rounding up innocents in massive dragnets and violating their civil liberties.

His presence will anger many of the party's traditional supporters and his actions will bring bad publicity upon the city and party. And frankly, his reputation terrifies me.

I beg of you, PLEASE. Find somebody else to run security.

Thank you very much.

Update at 3:00 PM: I just received word from the executive director of the convention that Timoney is NOT involved with the Democratic National Convention. Read this post for details.

The right of the people peaceably to assemble
Posted by Lis Riba at 12:21 PM

Speaking of knowing and protectiong our constitutional rights, Salon.com has a must-read article about how Miami police brutally (and probably unconstitutionally) cracked down on protestors at last month's Free Trade of the Americas summit.

You really have to read it to believe it. I was reading Salon's dispatches during the week of the summit (day one, day two, day three, day four, and day five) and was appalled by descriptions of the heavy-handed tactics by the police. But today's article provides a far more comprehensive overview of the situation. And it's prety bad. For example:

[Al Crespo, a 61-year-old Miami photojournalist who specializes in covering demonstrations] says that, in covering over 100 protests over the last six years, he's never seen a police reaction as ferocious and disproportionate as what he saw in Miami.
  Once the police were set off, though, it's hard to justify what they did based on protester provocation. Several hundred policemen, armed with the latest crowd-control weaponry, were arrayed against a sparse lot of scraggly kids on the broad boulevard. Instead of batons, the police carried wooden sticks the length of baseball bats, and as they marched forward, they swung them at whoever couldn't get out of the way in time. Video taken at the scene shows a boy in shorts being knocked down, and when his friends try to pick him up, they're beaten back with the wooden sticks.
  At one point, a young man kneels down a few feet in front of the phalanx, his hands in prayer position. Five or six police charge him with their shields, then shoot rubber bullets at him as he runs away.
  That, says Crespo, is what was most unusual: the police firing on people as they retreated.
  Before Miami, one of the more violent protests Crespo had seen was at the 2000 Democratic convention in Los Angeles. "What happened in Los Angeles, which had not happened in any other city up until then, is that the police came out, took a position and just opened up fire. It looked like reenactment of a Civil War battle," he says.
  "In Miami they did that, but then they proceeded to march down the street and chase these people, chase them for blocks," he said. "These were people trying to get away, and they kept marching and shooting."
  Witnesses say that all protesters were targeted, not just those that were causing trouble.
  When the violence started and the air grew thick with tear gas, Stewart Acuff, the AFL-CIO's organizing director, organized a line of union peacekeepers to take everyone who wanted to avoid a confrontation with police up a hill toward the amphitheater where the march had begun.
  "We had hundreds of people we were trying to move up near the amphitheater. There were seniors, unions members, young people, environmentalists. Every one of them made a conscious decision not to be in the stuff happening in the street." But the police followed them. "The cops came up the hill, tear-gassed us and shot people with rubber bullets. They pepper-sprayed a senior citizen in his 70s who was sitting in a chair completely away from any kind of problem, without provocation."
  It was, says Acuff, "a police riot."

Before you think this doesn't affect you, that you're not one of those crazy WTO demonstrators, be aware that the representatives from the FBI, Homeland Security, police, and other law enformcement officials nationwide were on-hand to observe Miami's techniques and learn from them. Miami Mayor Manny Diaz called the cops' performance "a model for homeland security."

One line that particularly disturbed me:

John Timoney, the Miami police chief known for calling demonstrators "punks" and "knuckleheads," is handling security for the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Timoney is already infamous among activists for his handling of the 2000 Republican convention in Philadelphia, where protesters complained of indiscriminate arrests and police violence.

Who put him in charge, and how do we get him replaced? Now, before we have a repeat of Chicago 1968?

Update at 3:00 PM: I just received word from the executive director of the convention that Timoney is NOT involved with the Democratic National Convention. Read this post for details.

Cool idea!
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:35 AM

An article in today's Christian Science Monitor describes the Liberty Bill Act -- a bill that would modify the back of the one dollar bill -- removing the current masonic symbol and Great Seal with a condensed version of the U.S. Constitution. I like it.

The project began with a high school correction: middle school civics class and has been submitted to Congress every term since 1998, but hasn't gone very far despite little outright opposition.

Aside from the benefits of educating Americans of their basic rights as they're waiting in line to pay or collecting their change,

[C]itizens around the globe would be exposed to the concepts of democracy and liberty, [civics teacher Randy Wright, who conceived the idea,] says. The dollar bill is one of the most circulated pieces of paper in the world, he says, noting that two-thirds of the $7 billion in existence circulate outside the US.
The dollar bill often is welcome even in countries whose governments are oppressive, or aren't allied with America.
"More countries would be quietly, peacefully, and slowly exposed to democracy," he says. "Over the long run, that may help us avoid a war."

Follow this link to the official site for the Liberty Bill, including loads of information. [It is a civics class project, after all.] Here's the current design under consideration:

Liberty Bill (proposed); Click to enlarge
For comparison sake, if you don't have a single handy, here's the current back of the $1 bill, from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. And here's the U.S. Treasury FAQ on the symbols it displays.

I'll confess to some concern that interest groups might disagree with the summaries (maybe multiple backs each with a third of the amendments in more detail?). But better to have some inkling and then be able to read more than to have no clue whatsoever.

I really like this idea. It doesn't knock anybody off the bills, merely mutes the current symbology. And the dollar bill is overdue for a change anyway. What do you think? [Via AppellateBlog]

Monday, December 15, 2003
A stage where every man must play a part, but not (this time) Sir Ian
Posted by Lis Riba at 5:05 PM

From an interview with Ian McKellan on AICN:

And now you get to play Antonio in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE?
Alas, I don’t!
No! It’s not going to happen?
It’s happening, but not with me because they delayed and delayed, and, now, that conflicts with me going to do DANCE OF DEATH.
It would’ve given you the opportunity to do Antonio opposite Al Pacino as Shylock.
Well, I’ve got very few ambitions, and one is to play Antonio, Shakespeare’s major openly gay character. “In sooth, I know not why I am so sad,” the play opens. Well, everybody knows why he’s sad; his boyfriend’s just told him he’s going to get married. That’s what that’s all about, but you don’t see it played like that. And, *at last*, I was going to get to play it on film. And my loss is Jeremy Irons’s gain.

I agree with the interviewer that "while Irons will no doubt make a fine Antonio, someone *must* give McKellen his chance to play Shakespeare’s melancholy sugar daddy" (although I thought that title was reserved for Southampton).

I'll confess, I never thought of Antonio in that way, but then I haven't really read Merchant since college, and that was a rush job for meta-Shakespeare so I could get onto the other interpretations...

Though I already knew about this, McKellen notes:

By the way, there’s another (MERCHANT OF VENICE production). Patrick Stewart wants to make a film set in the Venetian Hotel in Los Vegas. He said to me, “You don’t want to go wear doublets and hose for Mike Radford; you can come and wear Armani for me in Las Vegas!”

Yaay! More big budget big-screen Bard! Now if only Branagh could get back on track with his plans for Macbeth and As You Like It...

The interviewer also mentioned McKellen's 1970 production of Marlowe's Edward II, another video I'd love to see sometime...

Quote of the Day
Posted by Lis Riba at 3:25 PM

I heartily second Jeanne D'Arc in naming this statement Quote of the Day:

"The capture of Saddam provides an opportunity that either will continue the cycle of revenge or begin the rule of law." -- Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch

I know which one I'm rooting for. Too bad not everyone can share such civilized sentiments. Amazingly enough, kudos to Rumsfeld, for taking the principled stand in this exchange. [via BT!]

Iowa's gay divorcees and other wedding belles
Posted by Lis Riba at 2:50 PM

Just remembered one other news story I meant to blog over the weekend.

While this may not seem as earth-shattering as the SJC's marriage ruling, [a] judge in Sioux City, Iowa, has granted a divorce to two women legally united in Vermont.

This is big, and cuts to the heart of the whole Defense of Marriage [sic] movement.

Quoting from the story (since Globe articles have such short expiries):

In Iowa's Woodbury County District Court, Jeffrey A. Neary's decision to grant the lesbian couple a divorce was quickly criticized as judicial activism. But Neary, a recently appointed judge, said he wasn't trying to expand rights for same-sex couples.

"At least in my way of seeing it, I'm not changing state law here," he said in an interview. "I'm not recognizing marriages. I'm recognizing that Vermont has recognized this [union]."

Neary said he drew on legal principles of fairness when he allowed the divorce of two women, who had both agreed to the settlement before him and did not have any children.

But when the divorce became public, Neary was attacked by some state politicians. Iowa is one of 37 states that have adopted the Defense of Marriage Act, which restricts marriage to the union of one man and one woman.

"The judge was wrong," said state Senator Neal Schuerer, a Republican. "If judges want to flout the law like this, I can guarantee you we will move to recall them."

Neary said his decision has not yet been challenged in court.
Neary said he signed the divorce agreement last month without realizing the couple who wished to break up were both women. It was "order hour" at Woodbury County District Court in Sioux City, when lawyers line up to ask judges to sign routine orders.

As Neary started to hand the papers back to Dennis Ringgenberg, the lawyer for one of the women, he looked at the names on the petition.

"I said, 'Dennis, these are two women,'" Neary recalled. "He explained to me they were legally united in Vermont. They lived in Sioux City. They decided to go their separate ways and wanted to do it legally."

But Neary said even after he realized what he had done, he decided to allow the divorce to stand. The courts will probably continue to see couples who want to dissolve their civil unions, he said, and the cases may be more complex because the partners cannot agree or have children.

"We can't ignore it from a legal perspective," he said. "We have to figure out how to deal with it. If people have disputes, and they otherwise live here, then they should have access to the judicial system."
Nancy Van Tine, head of the domestic relations department at the Boston law firm Burns & Levinson, suggested that Neary's decision would do what divorce law was intended to do: benefit the separating couple.

"One of the things that divorce does under those circumstances is it kind of gives closure and clarity," she said.

Neary's order was not the first time a judge has granted a dissolution of a civil union from Vermont. In Texas earlier this year, a judge agreed to grant a divorce to a couple who wanted to end a Vermont civil union.

But when the state attorney general intervened, the judge reversed his decision. In Connecticut, courts faced a similar problem, and a case filed by a Connecticut man to legally end his civil union was thrown out. After the state's highest court agreed to hear the case, the man died, and the issue became moot.

In other news, today's Globe reports that popular lesbian travel agency Olivia is planning a lesbian mass marriage and honeymoon cruise for next July. It's scheduled to set sail 48 days after the law goes into effect, but it's Boston to Canada, so women can get married in either locale, and close enough to Vermont for those who prefer a civil union.

Quoting the official site:


With the recent Massachusetts Supreme Court's landmark ruling, we'll start our voyage with a romantic celebration of love and commitment in Boston, then cruise to Provincetown where we'll celebrate the 4th of July with a special performance by k.d. lang!

Our vacation stretchers include marriage and civil union packages before or after our cruise. What a perfectly romantic way to start or finish your vacation!

Yesterday's Globe Magazine included an essay reminiscent of this post I wrote last month. The author suggests:

Gay weddings will easily outshine the classiest of heterosexual nuptials. From the outfits to the flower arrangements to the wedding-day hair that looks as if it's been shellacked to the scalp, everyone knows it's the gay men who make the magic happen. We've been planning these affairs for others for years. Finally, we can plan our own, and you can bet your sweet dowry that they're going to be absolutely fabulous.

Aside from looking forward linguistically to saying "husband" rather than the other alternatives, the author notes:

I also welcome the opportunity to marry for the economic advantages it will provide, and I'm not referring to health insurance or tax benefits. I'm talking wedding booty. Every spring, I schlep through Crate and Barrel, filling the wedding registries of friends and relatives. I've shelled out hundreds for hurricane lamps and chip-and-dip platters; it's time for some instant karma. I've even heard straight friends confess that they invite gays and lesbians to their wedding because they give good gifts. It's time the gay friends got their slice of the quiche.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers have contacted the SJC to ask whether civil unions legislation would be acceptable under the terms of the ruling, though many legal experts believe the ruling leaves no such loophole. At any rate, isn't it refreshing that civil unions are considered the conservative fallback position?

What's up pussycat?
Posted by Lis Riba at 1:00 PM

Good if exhausting weekend. Friday night, dined on the best latkes I've had in ages over at Mystery House. Spent much of Saturday catching up on sleep, both from the night before and in anticipation of giving Ian a ride home from his late shift.

And thank you so much, Gingi for introducing me to the delight of the Super 88 Asian supermarkets. I already made two trips (the second to show Ian) and will definitely be going back. They make me almost wish I still lived in Allston. So many foods that look delicious, odd, or both, including the infamously named sports drink "Pocari Sweat", the mysterious "Men's Pocky" (which Ian offered to buy, but as a woman, I wasn't sure if I'd be allowed to eat them; I didn't see a comparable women's version). I couldn't figure whether the cans of red-bean-and-coconut in the drink aisle were beverages, desserts or savory side dishes. And the teeny dried fish looked more like cat-treats than snackfood. I bought several things that I've enjoyed, including some magnificent jasmine tea that is rapidly becoming my drink of choice. [Buying my own stash may hurt the neighborhood pho place, since this is one of their attractions, IMO.] However, I will have to learn to read the ingredient labels more carefully. The taro pudding looked delicious, but upon opening them I discovered the ingredients were basically several varieties of sweetener and "artificial yam." Oh well. Better luck next time, I guess...

As far as the big news story this weekend, given the extent Saddam's ugly face is being plastered all over the weblogs and papers, I'm just glad that I don't watch TV. Ew. I really don't want to see him, any more than I like seeing images of Michael Jackson's surgically-altered mug. Bleah.

And a few other random tidbits that caught my attention over the weekend:

  • Though it's probably too late for this holiday season, Spike has found some majorly cool wrapping paper. [Warning, adult content!] The t-shirts on the site are pretty fun, too.
  • And Adam Gaffin's photoessay of reserved snow parking made me laugh out loud.
  • I'm almost tempted not to post about this, because I know how much it will upset some readers, but over at differentstrings, thorswitch found the following exchange in an official online chat the White House held with James Towey, Director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives:
    Colby, from Centralia MO writes:
    Do you feel that Pagan faith based groups should be given the same considerations as any other group that seeks aid?

    Jim Towey
    I haven't run into a pagan faith-based group yet, much less a pagan group that cares for the poor! Once you make it clear to any applicant that public money must go to public purposes and can't be used to promote ideology, the fringe groups lose interest. Helping the poor is tough work and only those with loving hearts seem drawn to it.
    Grrr... I believe he's getting his ass handed to him on a plate by angry pagans with evidence to the contrary.
  • The previous story on differentstrings also deserves mention. Now, I don't expect every president to write personal letters to every soldier injured or killed in combat. But when the president's supporters defend Bush's absence from military funerals by saying that he's writing letters instead (so his security arrangements won't disrupt the family), the least one could expect was a little better than a form letter.

Finally, I just feel a need to chide myself roundly:

Bad brain!

We have already acknowledged that this story will have a bittersweet ending. Just because we're finally working out the rest of the details towards that conclusion does not give you permission to skip ahead to a sequel that will give them a happily ever after.

This was to have been my initial post this morning. Fortunately, trying to work on advancing the current story between phone calls today seems to have muted that particular voice in my head and gotten me back on track. But I still feel the need to thwap myself with a mental rolled-up-newspaper for the annoyance factor.
Finish this story first before working on a sequel! Argh!

Bye for now!



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