Monday, November 19, 2007

The Catch-All Amendment

A while back (it takes an idea a while to make it here), as I was dealing with some statute or other, it occurred to me how often statutes listing factors for trial courts to consider end the list with some sort of catch-all. Such a provision typically authorizes the judge to consider "all other relevant factors" or something of the sort. Viewed in this context, the Ninth Amendment seems somewhat less troubling and impractical. If statutes can have catch-all provisions, why not the Bill of Rights? In each case, it's left to members of the judiciary to fill in the blanks.


I just read a post on Pajamas Media about how to deal with potentially nasty political discussions at family gatherings (e.g. Thanksgiving dinner). It reminded me of last summer's trip to Los Angeles, where much of my generally-liberal extended family resides.

Some time before, one of my daughters came up with the idea of a "CHILL" sign, to be produced and displayed when a political or other discussion became heated. During the summer visit, we spent some time at a cousin's house, gathered around a long table. At one end, I got into a spirited but friendly debate with an uncle about Iraq. One daughter, at the other end of the table, feared that things were getting out of hand, and made a CHILL sign from a napkin. The other daughter, closer to the action, could see that all was civil. She responded with her own napkin stating "They're just discussing". We then put the two signs together to read "Chill -- they're just discussing".... I rather like the idea of having both signs available, and deploying either or both as needed.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

some thoughts on abortion and technological advances

I sometimes think up imaginary conversations while driving, and today's concerned abortion. I imagined someone asking me how I felt about abortion. The initial answer: "Queasy...." However, I went on, I basically thought that up to some point in the pregnancy, it should be the mother's (if that's the right word) decision. Trying to figure out just where that point was, I ended up with an answer dependent on technology we don't have yet: once we have artificial wombs capable of nurturing a fetus until it's full-term, it should probably not be the woman's option to kill it rather than off-loading it.

Althought that raises lots of sticky questions: who pays for the out-of-mother gestation? Can a woman still abort if the state won't pay? And what parental rights, if any, does a woman retain who was ready to kill her fetus? May she veto a social service agency's decision as to where to place the baby? A factor further confusing things: once it's possible to end pregnancy early without harming the fetus, many women will want to do so, without any present intention of avoiding the maternal role post-partum. At that point, it will often be impossible to determine who was ready to abort, and who decided later that she wanted to give her baby up for adoption. I don't know whether parents who give up babies for adoption have any leverage, at present, as to what happens to the baby.

That's as far as I can follow this tangle for the moment.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The genocide resolution: more than one way to skin a president

I haven't seen any discussion of what seems to me a likely motive for the Democrats' persistence in pushing the genocide resolution.

The Democrats have been unable to muster the political will-muscle combination to force a withdrawal from Iraq. However, passing this resolution is likely to do serious, possibly fatal, harm to the Iraq military mission. Turkey may well withdraw various key permissions. Our position might finally become as untenable as the Democrats keep pretending it already is. Gee, I wonder who'd be happy about that (aside from AQ in Iraq, Iran, etc.)?

This way, they can undercut "Bush's war" while acting self-righteous about something supposedly unrelated.

UPDATE: At least one commentator has now made this point -- Thomas Sowell.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The deterioration continues

In other news, my arthritic toes aren't giving too much trouble, but I now have tennis elbow. I believe I acquired this from utterly sedentary activity -- too much image processing in too short of time. (I photographed a wedding on 7-07-07, and had to edit 1000+ images and post the better ones before leaving town on 7-25.)

I'm oddly un-resentful of this sort of sign of aging. I'm less complaisant about the cosmetic changes. It has something to do with having decided, at 50+, to finally start paying attention to dress and grooming. I'd like not to have my nose rubbed in the fact that I got started just a lee-tle late.

Miscellanea, including a rant and Harry Potter questions

Someone actually looked at my blog recently, which inspires me to stop proscrastinating and post. Actually, I can blog and procrastinate simultaneously, as I have literally a pile of work to do (exhibits to review).

As I was contemplating writing this, it occurred to me that someone should cobble together and market a gizmo allowing one to dictate and transmit draft blog posts while driving. Hands-free, please.

I've promised a rant and some Harry Potter questions -- I feel more like the latter, so it'll come first.

SPOILER ALERT! These questions may imply plot points in the seventh HP book!
Hope that's enough >'s....

I've finished the last book, reread the second, am rereading the first, and am VERY glad that Rowling is likely to write an encyclopedia. I am not ready to un-immerse myself.

Rowling has done interviews and at least one long chat in which she's answered various questions the book didn't answer. I was pleased that she answered one of mine: what's the Hufflepuff common room like?... However, I have a few left:

--Why does Dumbledore repeatedly show and declare SO much trust in Hagrid? He's completely goodhearted, of course, but his judgment is very unreliable. (Examples aren't limited to his persistent tendency to underestimate the dangers posed by various magical creatures. When Harry encounters Draco Malfoy in a shop -- I forget in what part of which book -- Hagrid is wrongly confident that Draco wouldn't cause trouble in such a public place.)

--Why (other than for literary reasons) does Dumbledore usually refer to "Voldemort" rather than "Tom Riddle"? Wouldn't it be useful for V's origins to be more widely known? And doesn't Dumbledore believe in calling things by their real names?

--How did Dumbledore defeat Grindelwald? The usual way to defeat an owner of the Elder Wand is by underhanded stealth (e.g. murdering the owner in his sleep). One hopes that wasn't Dumbledore's approach, and I believe there are references to a climactic duel -- but how would he defeat someone wielding the Elder Wand in a duel?

--This may be a plot hole: Voldemort thought he was the only one to know about the Room of Requirement. Therefore, when he hid the tiara there, there can't have been any other hidden possessions in the room. But when Harry hid his (Snape's old) Potions book in that room in Book Five, there were generations' worth of hidden possessions there. Voldemort can't have specified a hiding place no one else could discover, because Harry saw the tiara there, without knowing what it was. Did all the other hidden items accumulate after Voldemort's time? Seems unlikely, given the quantity and the age of Hogwarts.

Please add more questions in Comments!

... OK, the rant. You've heard (read) this song before -- here's another verse.

It appears that we now have a growing societal problem with Vitamin D deficiency, attributable to people following all the advice to avoid exposure to sunlight. (Here's a link, and another, to a couple of the articles on the subject.) I find this nicely symbolic of the effects of our societal obsession with safety. As in this instance, it is often simplistic, short-sighted, focusing on one or two trees and ignoring even the possibility of a forest.

The sun has historically been a symbol of life. We've been telling people to hide from it. It fits. We've trained the younger generations to spend all their time poised to recognize and protect themselves from one supposed hazard after another. That attitude is fundamentally inconsistent with a spirit of exploration and innovation -- and even with enjoying the everyday incidents and pleasures of life. A pervasive and constant fear of death ends up, in effect, as fear of life.

OK, who's next on the soapbox? Be sure it isn't too high, and that it's been inspected for its weight-bearing properties....

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

an open letter to Fred Thompson

Dear Senator Thompson:

[Query: is that the proper form of address for an ex-Sen?]

I am one of those who have been hoping you would seek the Republican presidential nomination. I have read a fair number of your columns. I was excited by how often I agreed with them, and thrilled at the prospect that someone as articulate and straightforward as you appeared to be might have a real chance at the Presidency.

I sent a modest contribution, and here are some excerpts from the email I got in return.

"Now we’re moving forward together. . . . [I]f I do take on this challenge, we’re not going to do things the same old way. . . . We’re going to plow some new ground and make a real difference for our nation. . . . I believe there is a real sense across our country that we’re tired of the same old petty politics. Our fellow Americans want to see some real change."

This is the same type and style of politician-speak that I would have expected to see in a message from the campaign of Mark Warner, or Barack Obama, or who knows how many politicians past and present. It is stale. It is boring. It is fungible. It belies the very idea of "real change".

Please, Senator -- don't subside into this sort of sludge before you've fairly begun.

Sincerely, Karen A. Wyle, would-be actual supporter of a Presidential candidate

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The defeated inflating the victory -- campaign finance decision

OK, I'll post about a legal topic for a change -- though not in a particularly lawyerlike manner.

I've been looking at articles and posts about the USSC's latest 5-4 decision on campaign finance regulation. A couple of articles or posts (I don't remember which) are making this out to be a great victory for opponents of such regulation. Count me as an opponent -- I think political speech like "Vote for Joe and against Jack" is exactly the kind of political speech that the First Amendment is intended to protect to the fullest possible extent. And as an opponent of regulating political speech, I don't think the Roberts opinion, at least, is a great victory -- it's just a lot better than a defeat. It improves the status quo ante; it includes some good language that could have been used to greater effect; and it provides a wink-wink-nudge-nudge loophole of adequate size. Call me a grouch, but I consider it demeaning to have to phrase a political ad in a particular way to get it past censors.

UPDATE: I should read the opinions before commenting further, but here I go anyhow: SCOTUSBlog paraphrases Roberts as saying that "[th]e case did not provide an occasion to revisit [the 2003 ruling that upheld the constitutionality of the federal law restricting such radio and TV ads close to elections]." IMHO, cases provide such "occasions" when the Justices want them to. As did three of the Justices in the majority.

to waterproof or not to waterproof (mascara)

Setting the scene: most of my life, I have thrown on any old schlumpy clothes and worn no makeup. I have had a few form-fitting tops here and there, and even a very few dresses (well, I remember one, actually -- I wore it to high school graduation under my robe). Somehow, some months ago, watching What Not to Wear and hanging around my younger daughter added up to a critical mass, and I started an amateur makeover project. My folks got wind of it and added funding -- and I've been having a blast clothes-shopping for the first time in my life. I've gotten a number of nice comments (and some bemused expressions) on my new look, though I am still finding my way with a fair amount of fumbling. I'm particularly tentative where makeup is concerned.

As a makeup newbie, I have decisions to make. One is whether to use waterproof mascara. Pro waterproof mascara: I cry over country songs in the car. Con waterproof mascara: I may end up with indelible interesting and unintended designs around my eyes and elsewhere . . . .

While it can't solve all my petty makeup problems, I love reading this makeup blog.

BloomingtonGirl, are you sorry yet that you urged me to post more often? :-)

Too Short the Fireflies (cue sappy music)

I think the amazing firefly season may be over. When I walked the dog last night, I saw hardly any. Reminds me of when I first saw daffodils, visiting England in the spring of 1976. I didn't realize how briefly they'd be around -- I thought I had all the time I could want to savor them. This time I knew it wouldn't last too long, but really didn't know when it would end. I was hoping for another few weeks at least. At least I hauled the girls out to see them once.


I haven't been a particular fan of many musicians or bands, though I've had various non-exclusive favorites over the years. But I am pretty near jump-and-squeal territory where DAUGHTRY is concerned. (I understand that all-caps designates the band, as opposed to its raison d'etre, Chris Daughtry. He's the primary reason I love their sound, but he picked a great band.)

I was rooting for Chris D. to win American Idol, but cooled off when he got too full of himself. I wish I could somehow test my guess that he was voted out because he bragged about how female fans wanted to know what type of underwear he wore. Now there's a way to turn off quite a few of your female fans and most of your male fans . . . .

Younger Daughter and I went to see the American Idol finalists perform at the 2006 Indiana State Fair. We were at the very top of the bleachers, which had the sole benefit of letting us stand up without blocking anyone's view. When Chris Daughtry performed -- and he is one hell of a performer -- it was the closest I've had to a rock-concert experience. (I had about the tamest youth of any late baby boomer you'll meet.) We stood up and hollered, and I waved my cellphone! (blush)

So I have five of his songs on my ipod, and I crank 'em up when they come on. I hate to think what he'd think of an over-50 fan doing the fan thing at his concert. But what the heck.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


The fireflies are still spectacular -- far more so than any summer I remember. Walking up our street is like walking uninvited into fairyland, hoping for welcome. Fireflies all through the trees, high and low; fireflies floating by in the air; fireflies on the path....

UPDATE: Younger Daughter loves fireflies, but doesn't much like walking after dark. Still, I thought that this she had to see. I coaxed her outside and held onto her while she braved the dark street. She was impressed even by the first few scattered fireflies we saw, and utterly awestruck by the full display in the trees. She cried because it was so beautiful, and because it might be the only time she would see the like....

We went and got Older Daughter, who doesn't voluntarily venture outside that much by night or day. She was also highly impressed. I believe she summed up her reaction with "Holy crap!!!"

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


There is something going on with fireflies and trees lately. When I walk the dog after dark, it's not a matter of waiting for the occasional firefly sighting. There are fireflies all through the trees, flashing in beautifully random patterns, like Christmas lights escaped into the wild. They seem as likely to be signalling to the stars as to the glowworms in the grass below. Watching as I walk, I can't tell from simple observation whether any of the stars are flashing back.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Soylent Green is -- a good movie

We belong to Blockbuster Online, and even occasionally watch the movies. Usually I have to unearth the current selection from under a pile of notes and grocery coupons, but I haven't yet actually lost one. Elder Daughter requested Soylent Green, and I put it in the queue, vaguely expecting it to be clumsily made, over-the-top if not cartoonish. I don't know why, except that I had occasionally heard people hamming up the movie's final line (can't tell ya -- it's a spoiler).

Turns out it's quite a good movie. Charleton Heston stars in what is NOT a one-note performance. There are a number of nice cinematic touches. I choked up twice, which is not unprecedented, but doesn't happen all that often. (Listening to country music, that's different. I tend to be sappy about that.) I also appreciated little bits of consistency -- after our hero gets the unheard-of chance to take a shower occasionally, he looks much less grubby for the duration.

Younger Daughter had heard the last-line spoiler several times, but still didn't put things together, so she got to experience the movie's intended big surprise. It was great fun to watch her mouth drop and her eyes go extra-wide.

UPDATE/P.S.: The movie's assumptions about the future -- population explosion, massive environmental degradation by early 21st century -- are very wrong indeed. Husband (Hoosier Gadfly) often has difficulty enjoying movies with whose political assumptions he intensely disagrees, but he managed to enjoy this one.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Pledge of Allegiance, revised (meme?)

While driving my daughter to school this morning, I did a quick rewrite of the Pledge of Allegiance:

I pledge allegiance to the republic
of which this flag is a symbol,
united by common principles,
dedicated to providing liberty and justice for all.

Other rewrites welcome....

Sunday, May 13, 2007

This, I like

Saw a billboard (I think -- could have been a poster, it was a couple of days ago) putting a nice twist on some classic American language. If I recall this much correctly, it was advertising the Marine Corp.

"Life, Liberty -- and the Pursuit of Those Who Endanger Either"

Right on, as my brother would have said (about other things).

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

dog-walking haiku

Last night, I came up with this -- well, something close to it -- while walking the dog:

Because of the dog
I walk outside every night.
Moonlight -- a dog's gift.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

That message ain't private

So Nancy Pelosi is pleased to have sent a strong message to Iraq. I guess nobody else would be so rude as to listen. Good thing, since otherwise, our enemies in Iraq and in the region would be hearing something like: "Hang in there! Just keep things messy for a while longer, and the Americans will bug out, leaving you to shoot innocents in the head or blow them to bloody scraps with far less hindrance. May the best future tyrannical enemy of America win!"

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

How loud can dogs...

...fart? I was just wondering. Our mutt can certainly release a stink bomb, but she doesn't make much noise. Whereas I have startled her a bit on occasion. Do we have an unusually discreet dog? If this is a basic species difference, what is the evolutionary basis for it?

I have a partial draft of a more literary post, but I'm too sleepy for anything that requires real thought.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A less unhelpful way to oppose the surge

I assume any readers I have are aware that Congress has been debating nonbinding resolutions opposing the troop surge in Iraq. ("Resolution" is an odd term for a way of expressing a lack of resolution. But I digress.) I take a dim view of this exercise. For largely domestic political reasons, the Congressfolk are strongly reinforcing the view, so prevalent before 9/11 and partly contributing to it, that the U.S. is a paper tiger.

However, there is a way that Congress and commentators could express skepticism about, and outright oppose, the "surge" without doing such damage. They could simply point out that Iraq is only one front in the larger war against resurgent Islamism, and demand that we move on to other targets. Point out that the situation in Iraq is threatening to us mainly insofar as it empowers or undermines other countries in the region, and argue for a focus on those countries instead. "On to Iran!" "On to Syria!" No paper tigerdom there.

Unrelated note: I gather this will be my last opportunity to post before attempting the switch to New Blogger. If I never post again, please assume it's due to technical inability rather than the also-plausible mental lethargy.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


I grew up liberal in the 60's, which meant I grew up antiwar. The war was Vietnam. I marched with my parents in the streets of San Francisco, an event I remember as exhilarating rather than solemn. All my life, I've believed without questioning -- in that learned-it-in-church way -- that everything about our involvement in Vietnam was 100% wrong.

As we on the home front keep fighting about the Iraq war, it's been quite disconcerting to find myself wondering whether my views on Vietnam have been oversimplified, or worse. I doubt I'll come around to thinking it was an appropriate war to fight with draftees. But if we'd had an all-volunteer military. . . well, I won't list all the questions I'm finally asking, because they're pretty easy to guess.

One thing I don't know is whether the horrors of post-war Cambodia followed more from the war itself (that is, the American phase of a longer war), or from our manner of disengaging, or both equally, or neither.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Movie day

We recently signed up for Blockbuster Online, similar to Netflix. I think we'll be watching more movies as a family now. On Sunday we watched Art School Confidential, which my artist daughter (age 15) wanted to see. Younger Daughter still wanted to see a movie in a theater, so later the same day, the two of us went to We Are Marshall.

Neither is Art for the Ages, and each is predictable in its own way. I preferred We Are Marshall. Though it's based on real events, there are still stock characters -- but most of them are well acted and some well written. The movie tries to do justice to, and quite obviously believes in, such qualities as courage, determination, perseverance, and generosity. Art School Confidential wouldn't dream of messing with such stuff. There is nothing whatever redeeming about either the school, or the artist's life to which its pupils aspire. It's sophomorically cynical. Emotionally and philosophically, it's a one-note song.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Cloning isn't Enough

My husband of the ever-active intellect (aka Hoosier Gadfly) pointed out something that was obvious once he came up with it -- but I've never heard it discussed before. If you want to make an exact genetic replica of someone, start with the same biochemical building blocks that that person started with, it isn't enough just to clone 'em. You need identical mitochondrial DNA. He suggested inserting the regular (I forget what to call it) DNA in an egg from the person's mother's female line.

That could make it more difficult to clone people who've been gone a while, even if their DNA is somehow preserved. I guess one has to plan ahead and preserve an appropriate egg as well. . . .

stories, books, songs that helped shape me/you/anyone

Here's a meme, if anyone wants it: What stories, books, or songs had such an influence on you that they helped form who you are?

One story that made such a difference for me: well, I can't remember the title or author. Great. I'll update if I figure out either. The story was science fiction. The main character was a man who was mildly obsessed with the notion of being able to live in one's ideal world. He'd seen an ad claiming that such a process existed. He kept thinking about checking it out -- but the wife would give him a chore, or the boy had a ball game, or -- and so on.

The story ends when he wakes up -- from that life -- and is asked if his time in his ideal world was satisfactory. He answers that it was, very -- and asks to be notified if it becomes possible to make the transfer permanent. Then he hands over his payment -- a salami and some wire, I think -- and goes out to pick his way through the post-apocalyptic rubblescape to his bit of shelter, hoping to get there before dark.

The idea that ordinary life is good enough to be someone's dreamt-of ideal has never left me. I was quite tickled when a fairly recent country song -- "Another Day in Paradise" -- took up the same theme. (If an annoying pop-up ad with audio pops up, my apologies -- it did once,but not the second time I tried the link.)