Monday, February 28, 2005


Well, here we go again.

As I mentioned last week, my kids have been sick. Sure enough, Sunday I wake up with a huge-ass fever. Now I have:

Job applications due (deadline March 1st)
Labor law brief (due Tuesday night)
Law Review comment rewrite (due Thursday night)
Law Review cite check (due 3/9)

Not to mention my ordinary homework. Ugh.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Where's the Piano?

Like millions of Tori Amos fans everywhere, I am listening to her new release "The Beekeeper."

If you look at the Amazon reviews, the reviewers love it. I don't dislike it, but where's the piano? Tori's albums have previously featured at least a few songs where she really wails on the keys to show off her virtuosity. By contrast, you can only hear the piano used here as sort of a ... background instrument. A notable exception is "Toast," which is track number 19; the song is carried by the piano, Tori's voice, and a pleasantly twangy acoustic guitar.

Still, the album's theme and melodies are pleasantly fleshy. "Hoochie Woman" is great, but could use more cowbell. "Martha's Foolish Ginger" is a good, if winsome, listen, though it features a strangely martial drumbeat. Overall, the album is worth a listen. The Amazon page has clips available if you want to hear a bit of the songs.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Sperm Donor

Stephanie pointed me to this story:

CHICAGO (AP) - An appeals court said a man can press a claim for emotional distress after learning a former lover had used his sperm to have a baby. But he can't claim theft, the ruling said, because the sperm were hers to keep.

Phillips accuses Dr. Sharon Irons of a "calculated, profound personal betrayal" after their affair six years ago, saying she secretly kept semen after they had oral sex, then used it to get pregnant.

The judges backed the lower court decision to dismiss the fraud and theft claims, agreeing with Irons that she didn't steal the sperm.

"She asserts that when plaintiff 'delivered' his sperm, it was a gift - an absolute and irrevocable transfer of title to property from a donor to a donee," the decision said. "There was no agreement that the original deposit would be returned upon request."

Good stuff. But the money quote, pardon the expression:

"There's a 5-year-old child here," Mirabelli said. "Imagine how a child feels when your father says he feels emotionally damaged by your birth."

HAH! Imagine how this child will feel when he finds out how he was conceived! Talk about emotional damage...

Birthday dinner

We decided to do the traditional thing, and ask my daughter what she wanted for her birthday dinner. "Spaghetti?" we asked. "Pork chops? Sloppy joes?"

She decided we should have what we call "boiled dinner." Boiled dinner is something we do when we are in a hurry or don't really want to cook, and it is just what it sounds like: boiled potatoes, carrots, cabbage, and kielbasa. Frost really likes boiled cabbage, the little freak. She often chokes down the carrots, potatoes, and sausage so that she can have second and third helpings of boiled cabbage.

Her choice was vetoed, and we're having a casserole. Kids these days. Sheesh.

Old Man

Frost is 8 today. Happy birthday, sunshine.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

In the soul / the movements of temptation and refusal.

It's crunch time again for Mr. Matt, and I have been experiencing the disquieting feeling that there is literally nothing to which I am looking forward. For the last few days, nothing interests me; not my studies, not the future practice of law. It feels as if there is only the petty creep from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time. I'm sure I am just overtired and overstressed.

Here's a thought for you:

Hamlet said:

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.

and Yeats said:

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Is Hamlet right that conscience makes people cowardly and pensive? Is this why "the best lack all conviction?" There certainly seems to be a connection between the passionate intensity of the worst, and the feckless audacity of those who have no conscience.

Conscience stops us from doing bad things. I would hope that it also encourages us to do great things. However, I think conscience's most common manifestation is guilt, and guilt (Hamlet tells us) leads to indecision. Does anyone care to make the case for the virtue of conscience?

Nerd Test

If you find this hilarious, you are probably a nerd.

Like me.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why

Edna St. Vincent Millay's Sonnet XLIII:

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

(Happy Birthday, Edna)

AARP and Social Security

Let me go on record: this ad is shameful, and should be repudiated by all right-thinking people.

I am still mad at the AARP for folding on the Medicare reform bill last year. Nevertheless, there is no connection between the war in Iraq and AARP, nor between gay rights advocates and the AARP. This is a shameful, homophobic, gay-baiting, jingoistic appeal to the least common denominator.

Antony and the Johnsons follow-up

Yesterday, I posted about this extraordinary group, which bills itself as an "utterly genderqueer musical experience."

So I played the first song for my wife last night. She hated it. She's an 80's music lover, and hardly ever likes any of the new stuff I find. Razzing her about it later, I said, "You're missing a great opportunity to experience your first utterly genderqueer musical experience!"

To which I added, "Oh, never mind, I forgot Duran Duran." I'm going to be sore for some time.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Paralyzed in Light

I read an album review somewhere for Antony and the Johnsons' new album I'm a Bird Now. The web site advertises the band as an "utterly genderqueer musical sensation."

Let me tell you -- they have an incredible sound. I love the male voice, but I've never heard anyone start the lead track of an album with vibrato-filled male falsetto, as they do on "Hope There's Someone." It's bold, and, pardon the expression, quite beautiful.

The song expresses the desire not to die alone, and I confess that some of the song's power over me comes from the last six weeks, where I've been studying the ways in which one prepares for death. Does Trusts and Estates have this effect on many law students, or just me? (Of course, events in my own life have also caused me to take stock recently.)

I had never been one to worry about death, until I started hearing all the things I should do, with some urgency, before I die. It's not the legal crap that bothers me much. Suddenly, I worry that I will die and leave things unsaid. Important things. Things I'm afraid to say, or things that words just can't express anyway.

Then I ask myself, "what difference does it make if you die alone? Either way, you're dead." It seems like vanity to worry about how I would be remembered. It's not going to matter to me, after all.


Busiest homework night of the week. My elder daughter has pneumonia, my son has a serious cold, and my younger daughter has a diaper rash. Getting through is going to be a challenge.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


Justice Jackson, from the Youngstown Sheet & Tube case.*

"[N]o doctrine that the Court could promulgate would seem to me more sinister or alarming than that a President whose conduct of foreign affairs is so largely uncontrolled, and often even is unknown, can vastly enlarge his mastery over the internal affairs of the country by his own commitment of the Nation's armed forces to some foreign venture."

*In Youngstown, President Truman reacted to a prospective labor strike in the nation's steel mills by seizing control of the mills by executive order. At the time, U.S. troops were engaged in a UN police action in Korea.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Big is the new Small

Is repeatedly hitting your refresh button the new waiting for the phone to ring?

Just wondering.

Matt's Modified Rules of Thumb, #1

When in doubt, err on the side of too much coffee.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Health Care in America

Matt responded to my post about the Spectator article on Health Care comparisons between Britain and America here.

He notes that I

was responding to a specific article in the The Spectator, so perhaps he felt bound to strictly address its comparative analysis

Yes, I was diputing what the Spectator article was trying to assert, that America's health care is superior to England because of the model. My point was that it's not the model, it's the money! He continues,

It's curious that The Spectator chose Britain's system as a model

Not really. The Spectator is an English magazine, but I agree with Matt that the writer's desire to blame the model instead of the funding level indicates a free-market conservative perspective on health care.

For my part, I have written extensively about health care in the past, particularly on the virtues of a state system similar to Canada's.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Apples to Oranges

Dylan cites a report from the Spectator comparing English and American Health Care:

The answer is clear. If you are a woman with breast cancer in Britain, you have (or at least a few years ago you had, since all medical statistics are a few years old) a 46 per cent chance of dying from it. In America, your chances of dying are far lower — only 25 per cent. Britain has one of the worst survival rates in the advanced world and America has the best.

If you are a man and you are diagnosed as having cancer of the prostate in Britain, you are more likely to die of it than not. You have a 57 per cent chance of departing this life. But in America you are likely to live. Your chances of dying from the disease are only 19 per cent. Once again, Britain is at the bottom of the class and America at the top.

It goes on gleefully comparing cancer survival rates and concludes that American medicine is better managed than English:

But the curious thing is that the new, improved, simple state system of Britain does not work as well as the American muddle. You have a better chance of living to see another day in the American mishmash non-system with its sweet pills of charity, its dose of municipal care and large injection of rampant capitalist supply (even despite the blanket of over-regulation) than in the British system where the state does everything. It is not that America is good at running healthcare. It is just that British state-run healthcare is so amazingly, achingly, miserably and mortally incompetent.

It's not a fair comparison, though.

The British system ensures everyone while spending 7.6% of GDP (as of 2001). The U.S. system manages to spend 13.9% of GDP while leaving close to 50 million people uninsured. The per capita spending is even more stark: England spends about $1992 per capita, to the U.S. $4887. Yes, the average outcome for a U.S. cancer patient is much better, but we spend more than twice as much per capita and still leave 50 million people with charity coverage or no coverage at all. The Spectator talks up Medicaid, but doesn't mention the horror of trying to get an urban hospital to take charity cases, particularly at the end of financial reporting periods when budgets are squeezed.

The English system almost certainly has waste in the system, but it seems that the differential health outcomes are just as likely to be caused by rampant underfunding, which probably has the collateral effect of contracting supply of medical services.

Stats here. (pdf)

Post script: I don't mean to suggest that the original Spectator piece doesn't acknowledge these difficulties, but it certainly minimizes them.

"A landmark achievement in American health care."

New Donkey comments on Bush's threat to veto changes to the Medicare Rx drug bill fiasco here.

Meanwhile, as GOPers high-fived themselves for coming up with an approach to a hot-button issue that would stoke up health care industry donations while making seniors feel all warm and cuddly inside, the ink was barely dry before it became apparent old folks didn't much like it. Even the easy part--accepting a drug discount card--wasn't popular, even though millions of Medicare beneficiaries were signed up automatically. And as we get closer to the implementation of the full Rx drug program, with its steep premiums, skimpy coverage, and wildly complicated structure, it isn't likely to become the biggest senior sensation since Viagra (even if Viagra is, as reported, covered by the benefit).

He isn't kidding. My coworker at the Health Care advocacy organization last summer spent more than a week trying to database all the different discount cards that were available in the first days after the program commenced. She found it a nearly impossible task, with providers adding and dropping prescription coverage like mad. If I recall correctly, she eventually abandoned the effort to do it in any systematic way as just too complicated.

If a smart young 20-something woman can't figure out how to work the web site, how on earth is my grandma going to figure it out?

Moderating the voice

I have kids, and one of the most difficult things to teach them (due to noisy inlaws) is that that most of the time it is not appropriate to shout when talking at a reasonable volume is feasible. Good examples of this include dinner or when Winter is taking a nap.

To which I feel I should add: discussions of hotly-contested issues! See this article about the struggle to make Emergency Contraception available over the counter:

“Pro-Life Wisconsin believes that this campaign is reckless and absolutely counter-conscious [of health] for today’s young women,” Peggy Hamill, the organization’s state director, asserted.

She added if emergency contraception is produced over-the-counter, “we’ll see an increase in the already out-of-control STD epidemic.”

Instead of viewing emergency contraception as a beneficial tool for rape victims, Hamill identifies the drug as an actual facilitator of sexual assault.

Putting EC in every woman’s medicine cabinet will only be a green light for perpetrators of rape,” Hamill said.

I shudder to think what one must believe about men to think that many men are potential rapists who are deterred only by the fear of their victim getting pregnant. In Ms. Hamill's mind, we men secretly think to ourselves, "Wow, if I knew she had emergency contraception easily available, I would totally rape her!"

Saturday, February 12, 2005

"Love Poem" Linda Pastan

The Writer's Almanac offers its daily poem:

Love Poem

I want to write you
a love poem as headlong
as our creek
after thaw
when we stand
on its dangerous
banks and watch it carry
with it every twig
every dry leaf and branch
in its path
every scruple
when we see it
so swollen
with runoff
that even as we watch
we must grab
each other
and step back
we must grab each
other or
get our shoes
soaked we must
grab each other

Even better is to go to the Writer's Almanac and listen to Garrison Keillor read it. The musical introduction to the segment is very evocative for me, and so I catch it almost every day, either on the radio or on the web.

On a second hearing, I think that Garrison's reading is just a tad too ponderous for my taste. I think with a poem that features short, unrhymed lines, you almost have to flow through the line breaks when reading it, or it just sounds too disjointed. Bukowski and cummings are other good examples of this; you don't want to read them with a pronounced pause at each line break, or you'll never figure out what's happening. I prefer the sound of reading from thought to thought rather than line to line.

1,453 American Combat Deaths in Iraq

California Health Care Proposal

Also a bad idea:

• Require citizens and legal residents of California to purchase basic health insurance, maintaining at least a catastrophic policy with a maximum $5,000 deductible. Californians would be required to submit proof of coverage with their state tax returns.(emphasis added)

Putting the health care mandate on the consumer is pretty harsh. There would have to be some kind of enforcement mechanism, which means either fines or criminal sanctions. Is it really a good idea to punish someone who is too poor or incompetent to obtain health insurance? I'm a highly educated person, and I have a hard time buying an insurance policy. They're very complicated with different deductibles, services covered, policy limits, and premium levels.

However, increasing the knowledge and accountability of health care consumers is a good idea, since we could save quite a bit of money if people focused more on preventing illness and less on treating it. Threats of criminal prosecution or fines for individual failure to prove insurance would be less effective than an incentive program for savvy health care consumers.

Finally, and most seriously, the mandate will tend to force people into individual insurance policies. While the article makes some reference to "purchasing pools," such pools are usually subject to the adverse selection problem.

Would you take his case?

Via Fark, check this story out.

I'd want to do some more research, but it doesn't look good for the guy. Wrongful discharge in Wisconsin is very narrowly construed (only where against a clear public policy as expressed by statute or legal duty, IIRC). Of course, if he is unionized, this probably wouldn't be "for cause" unless the CBA lists drinking the competitor's beer as a capital offense.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Any Blog code experts?

Can one of you smarty pants tell me how to:

a) expand the text farther into the left margin, and
b) slightly decrease the line spacing?

I admit, this is not my area of expertise!

BUMP AND UPDATE: Change around here is incremental. You probably can't even tell the difference, right?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Montana & Contraceptive Equity

The Montana State Senate passed a bill mandating that insurance companies cover women's contraception. It still has to hurdle the state House, which will be tough. But some of the Republican justifications for opposing the bill are ridiculous:

During an earlier committee hearing, Blue Cross and Blue Shield estimated that mandating contraception coverage would cost each customer an extra $1.30 a month.

Sen. Duane Grimes, R-Clancy, said he worried that requiring too much of the insurance industry will drive up costs. He proposed the Legislature regulate less and allow the free market do most of the work.

Yes, requiring the insurance companies to address the health needs of women is a despicable government mandate. Like Title VII.

But this one takes the cake:

According to Sen. Jerry O'Neil, R-Columbia Falls, there are 39 bills this session that would place requirements on insurance companies. It is unfair that everyone must pay when only a few people benefit, he said.

"My 80-year-old constituents shouldn't have to pay for your kids' contraceptives," he said.

Someone doesn't understand how insurance works. I'm sure the kids feel that they shouldn't have to pay for the old people's arthritis or cholesterol or heart medication, all of which are substantially more expensive than $1.30 a month. If we all had to agree on which drugs to pay for in our insurance premiums, everyone would have to buy drugs out of pocket.

Bottom line: the young people pay higher premiums to finance care for more expensive elderly people, and if each paid their own way, the elderly would pay far more and the young far less.

Remember: Clinton's Impeachment was about the Lies, not the Sex

See Josh Marshall here.

Second, what the president said today almost certainly violates his oath of office in which he swears to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

That would be the Constitution which reads (Am.XIV, Section 4): "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned."

(original links preserved)

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Winter's Revenge

Roughhousing just now, my daughter somehow managed to kick me in the eye. It's all fun until someone loses an eye, kids.

Winter has an ability unique among my children: she finds ways to accidentally hurt me, not something easy to do for an 18 pound daughter of a 150+ pound man. On another occasion, she was jumping straight up, landing on her butt, and laughing. I was laughing too, until all 18 pounds landed on my junk.

I'm thinking of training her as a ninja assassin.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Shouting at Winter

My one-year old daughter just wanted to sit on my lap, to talk to me, and to play with me for a little while before she went to bed. It was around 9:00. It's Tuesday, which means I have been doing nothing but school for 13 hours. I just wanted her to go to sleep, so that I could do my 3+ hours of homework for early tomorrow morning and still get some sleep myself.

I yelled at her. I feel like a bad father.

You should only shout at a one year old if they are doing something dangerous. One year olds never do anything because they're naughty. They don't yet understand that whole good/bad thing. Winter just wanted her daddy to hold her, but I was too busy, and I made her cry.

I wanted to be the guy who protects her from guys that make her cry. Guess I screwed that up, at least for tonight.

Repeal the 22nd Amendment?

Mr. Poon, who is apparently often in need of sugar, points out this bill.


1st Session

H. J. RES. 9

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to repeal the twenty-second article of amendment, thereby removing the limitation on the number of terms an individual may serve as President.

Maybe Representative Serrano (D-NY) is hoping some enthusiastic Bush Republicans will hop on board the resolution. But come on, if the Democrats got 48% with John Kerry, think of what Bill Clinton would do to "Blue Tie" Bush.

UPDATE: A cursory google search shows that this is a long-debated issue.

Monday, February 07, 2005

If you wrote me off, I'd understand it...

Ben Folds has a new album in stores in April, and the first single ("Landed") is out now.

Ben Folds is one of a handful of musical artists that has meant a lot to me over the last ten years. Without Ben Folds, Counting Crows, Tori Amos, REM, The Cure, and Live, who the hell knows where I would be. Working in a dingy family restaurant kitchen, perhaps, fuming over missing that promotion that would put me in an office and out of a kitchen. Actually, that's one of the more pleasant possibilities.

Unlike certain other artists on that list, Ben has consistently succeeded in moving me over the years. Whatever modicum of success he enjoys, his music still has that tinkling neo-Elton John sound and the often wistful, occasionally winsome lyrics that never fail to punch me right in the gut.

I can't wait.

ADDENDUM: On my second reading, it seems odd that I would relish a punch in the gut, but there it is.

1448 American Deaths in Iraq

What the hell is wrong with me?

Just a general question. Having one of those kind of days.

In a completely unrelated observation, I'm a liberal Democrat, which apparently proves I hate America.

UPDATE: Seriously, what the hell is wrong with me?

Thursday, February 03, 2005

1440 Americans Dead in Iraq

...but don't forget, the real crisis is a funding shortfall in Social Security that is predicted to occur 40 years from now.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Favorite SOTU moment

Bush calls for the appointment of judges who "faithfully interpret the law" and don't "legislate from the bench."

NBC's camera cuts to Justice Breyer for a reaction shot. He's laughing.

Stranded: of Mountains and Molehills

I'm stranded on campus with no way home for a few hours, due to the logistical vagaries of purchasing a new van. I was unwise this morning and elected for a light backpack, so I don't have enough to read to tide me over for the next 2+ hours, so I think I will take the time to have a quiet lunch and do some writing just for me while I wait.

Otherwise, I could suck it up and go to a library to find something to read.

UPDATE: Apparently this didn't post the first time (Curse you, Blogger). Anyway, I am at home now, ensconced in CivPro II reading (personal jurisdiction, yippee!). I'm actually something of a civ pro nerd. I don't find it terribly hard and there is something pleasing to me about the way that the FRCP can be tactically manipulated in service of the client.

Meta-UPDATE: The last update is not really an update, since this is the first time this post appears.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005


I have posted in the past about certain missing persons who I feel have gotten short shrift from the media, owing to their not being pretty white girls.

I have been getting search engine hits like:

missing little girl from Milwaukee, Wisc., Alexis Patterson


where is my son amos mortier

Ouch. I can't imagine what it must be like to be in the shoes of Amos' mom or Alexis' parents. If one of my kids went missing, I would burn down the world to get him or her back, and I can imagine few torments worse than waiting for months (or even years) while resorting to searching for my child on yahoo or google.

Step two of the conservative agenda

Story via Kos.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush (news - web sites) will call for a near-freeze in the overall growth of government spending not connected to national defense to try to rein in record deficits, a senior administration official said on Tuesday.

Bush will make the proposal in Wednesday's State of the Union address, previewing the fiscal 2006 budget he will send to Congress next Monday.

Damn it, people! The government is out of money! We need to cut spending.

[cough hrm hrm pay no attention to the tax cut behind the curtain]

Langston Hughes, "Dreams"

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.


Today is Langston Hughes' birthday. If you don't know Hughes, my two favorites are "Theme for English B" and "Dream Deferred." The first is hopeful, the second bitter.

Iraqi Elections

It occurred to me last night as I was lying in bed that I had forgotten to write about the Iraqi elections. I still don't really have time at the moment to give it the attention it deserves, but let me just say that I am hopeful that this is a positive first step for the people in that country, but that I am cautious in my optimism. There's going to be a lot more strife before we can declare mission accomplished on stable democracy in that part of the world.