f/k/a . . . the archives

September 30, 2008

arnold curbs the lapdog driving ban

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,Procrastination Punditry — David Giacalone @ 10:50 am

.. Paris and Jessica can keep doing it in their cars ..

A sensible law that would have banned driving with a pet in your lap was vetoed a few days ago by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has previously supported bans on texting while driving and driving with a cellphone in your hand.  (AP report, Sept. 28, 2008; and npr’s Morning Edition, Sept. 29, 2008)   As f/k/a has campaigned for laws prohibiting DWP and DWT, we perked up our ears and decided to sniff out the story behind Arnold’s veto. (And, as we’re also putting off writing a much more complicated and serious piece, this posting grew into a major production.)

A primary source for this post is the article “Schwarzenegger vetoes bill forbidding drivers to hold pets” (Sept. 28, 2008), in the Sunday Sacramento Bee, which has the most thorough discussion we’ve been able to locate on the context and pros and cons of the Bill, AB 2233.  The ban included a base fine of $35, which could have risen to $150 with state and county fees.  According to the London Telegraph,

“The driving-with-animals bill was backed by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Los Angeles but ridiculed as the ‘Paris Hilton bill’ by critics who described it as unwarranted interference by government.”

The law in question has been derisively called the “Paris Hilton bill,” because many celebrities are among the folk who are so attached to their pets and so self-absorbed, they’re willing to endanger the animal and others on the road in order to keep them snuggled in their laps while maneuvering large, fast-moving objects down our highways.   Predictably, according to the Bee, “Talk show host Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives ridiculed the lap-dog measure as excessive government” and a deprivation of some important liberty.  Nonetheless, Gov. Schwarzenegger has given no indication that he opposed the law on its merits.  Instead, the veto — among dozens more this signing period — was part of his current policy to sign only “highest priority” laws so long as the California Legislature fails to pass a much-delayed budget.

Disclaimer: The f/k/a Gang has not examined the 114 bills Arnold did sign on Saturday, to compare their urgency and importance to AB 2233 and the 94 other bills he vetoed.

lightning flash–
only the dog’s face
is innocent

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

traffic jam
the nodding dog
springs to life

.. by Matt Morden – Morden Haiku (October 5, 2005)

Granted, this bill would not have been my own highest legislative priority this year, but it is not frivolous, and once the work has been done to get it to the Governor’s desk, it should have been signed.   (If we only did the most important things in life, an awful lot of worthwhile efforts would never be made.) The bill’s author, Assemblyman Bill Maze, who appears to be a conservative Republican from Visalia, has sponsored a lot of legislation.  He proposed AB 2233 after seeing a Tulare County woman driving with three dogs on her lap.

Maze argues: “You’ve got a live animal that has a mind of its own . . . It can get tangled in the steering wheel or pinned between your knees. It can create a real hazard for yourself and everyone else.”

And, the Bee reports:

  • “A traffic collision at 40 mph can hurtle a 25-pound dog through a vehicle with the force of a 1,000-pound object, according to a legislative analysis of the bill.”
  • “California Highway Patrol statistics show that four people were killed and 346 others injured in collisions from 2001 to 2007 due to driver inattention caused by an animal. No breakdown exists of how many were in their owner’s lap.” And,
  • “Nationwide Mutual Insurance found in a 2006 survey that 8 percent of drivers had held a pet while behind the wheel.”
  • “State law currently allows drivers to be cited if their vision is obstructed or a distraction causes them to violate a rule of the road – but not simply for holding an animal. . . . Pets must be secured in the back of a pickup but can roam freely inside a vehicle.”

Opponents say the bill amounts to excessive nannyism, and that such matters need to be left to the common sense judgment of the individual.  Of course, that’s the problem in the America of the 21st Centry:  Far too many people either have absolutely no common sense or choose to ignore it and follow their personal whim, regardless of the risk created for injury to others.

pickup truck
an old retriever
laps the wind

… by Tom Painting -  The Heron’s Nest 5.5 (May 2003)

.. According to the Bee, critics of the lapdog driving ban also insist that “Quieting a whining or scared pet on your lap, while driving, can be safer than to be distracted by an animal’s barking, fidgeting or misbehavior in a back seat.”  Of course, that proves too much — we wouldn’t buy this argument if it were a child or significant other who was misbehaving.  More to the point, it suggests a very good reason why a pet that is likely to be fidgety or upset while in a car should either be left at home or safely secured in a seat.

In an AutoBlog posting called “Governator vetos ban on lap-dogs while driving” (Sept. 29, 2008), Jonathan Ramsey observed yesterday:

“While we understand the spirit of the veto — California does have much bigger issues to deal with than lapdogs — we do sometimes wonder why a 40-pound kid has to be in a child seat, but a 40-pound, unpredictable animal can take a nap between you and the steering wheel.”

Heather at The Food Bowl weblog went into more detail, when the bill first got publicity last Spring, in her post “No More Doggies Out the Window” (May 13, 2008):

.. ….”To be honest I think this is a good move. Keeping your pet restrained either in a carrier or pet-specific seat harness while in a moving vehicle not only keeps them safe but you as well.

“Restraining your pet helps you concentrate, and what happens if you’re in an accident? Your pet could be injured from the impact (and so could you with a now-flying canine in the car!) or if it manages to get out of the car it could run away. Do you really need Fluffy on your lap for that ten minute drive?”

Similarly, when the legislation was proposed, a post at Pet Industry Insight, a weblog of the American Pet Products Association, explained:

“The issue of concern is that lapdogs are distracting and could put motorists at risk. A live animal can scamper between the driver and the steering wheel or underneath the brake pedal causing major driving implications. Not only are unrestrained pets a threat to the driver, but they too, face danger if not buckled in. Pets see the same risk a child (or any passenger for that matter) would if an accident occurred, which is why if Maze’s bill passes, drivers caught with their Chihuahuas or Poodles unrestrained will pay a penalty.”

Pet Industry Insight (which, naturally, promotes pet-related products) then asks: “So how should drivers keep their pets in place if they can’t be on their laps or in the passenger seat?” [for the answer, and much more, including some haiku and senryu, go below the fold]

(more…)

September 29, 2008

don’t miss our October 2008 haiga calendars

Filed under: Haiga or Haibun,Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 11:14 am

.. click for printable calendar pages ..

Haiga are pictures (paintings, sketches, or photos) that incorporate a subtly-linked haiku or similar poem. It’s not too late to enjoy f/k/a‘s free “haiga calendars” — the “artsy” Giacalone Bros. Haiga Calendar 2008 (with photos taken by my brother Arthur) and the nostalgic fka Haiga Memories Calendar 2008 (with shots snapped in the 1950’s by Mama Giacalone).  The poetry is written by your Editor, “dagosan”.  Click on “more” to go below the fold, where you will find larger images, the text of October’s poems, and links to the original haiga used for the October calendars.

(more…)

September 28, 2008

is Palin pullin’ a Felson?

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 8:14 pm

. . “Fast Eddie” Felson and “Slow Sarah” Palin . .

Two of the big stories on the Sunday morning tv news shows — the much-lamented death of Paul Newman and the much-savaged interview of Sarah Palin — blurred for me today. Talk of Newman’s career brought to mind his famous character “Fast Eddie” Felson from the 1961 movie “The Hustler,” and the encore “The Color of Money” (1986). And, all the commentary on Palin’s faltering performance in her one-on-one with Katie Kouric reminded me that the Great Pre-Debate Low Expectations Game is in full swing.

Hustlers are willing to lose a bit to lower expectations and lull their opponents into overconfidence.  Sarah Palin probably plays a pretty good game of pool, and she just might be pullin’ a Felson in anticipation of her really big-stakes match next Thursday, in St. Louis, at the Vice Presidential Debate with Sen. Joe Biden.  She’ll be heading to the podium next Friday with expectations lower than a snake’s belly, and heading toward the level of a gopher’s behind.  If Gov. Palin convinces the nation she can either walk or chew-gum, she will be hailed as passing muster and vastly out-performing the predictions of pundits across the political spectrum.

Beating the odds and expectations seems to be what the debates are all about in the media.  Sarah Palin will surely surpass all expectations — perhaps rising to the heady heights of mediocrity.  Joe Biden’s my candidate, and I sure hope he isn’t underestimating his Republican opponent.  If Joe’s feeling cocky, he probably should watch the YouTube videos of the First Game and the Final Game between Fast Eddie and Minnesota Fats.

The TinyURL for this post is http://tinyurl.com/PalinFelson . For more, see the Daily Kos posting, “watch out for the Palin expectations trap” Sept. 28, 2008; and find a video of the entire 2006 Alaska Gubernatorial Debate at The New Argument.

[Speaking of Debates, don't miss our finger-puppet "presidential debate redux," which asks a lot of questions Barack forgot.]

update (October 3, 2008): Darn right. She didn’t run the table, but the oft-winking Gov. Palin exceeded all those low expectations and stays in contention for the big prize. (See New York Times, “The Vice-Presidential Debate“) As David Brooks said today, in “The Palin Rebound,” “By the end of the debate, most Republicans were not crouching behind the couch, but standing on it. The race has not been transformed, but few could have expected as vibrant and tactically clever a performance as the one Sarah Palin turned in Thursday night.”

grown wild
the spot where I buried
the last of my pets

flickering buzz
of the pool hall sign
summer night

……………………… by John StevensonThe Heron’s Nest (December 2007)

p.s. Paul Newman has long been my favorite actor from my parents’ generation — even before I could relate to his character in Nobody’s Fool.  The f/k/a Gang is going to eschew further posting this evening and curl up on the futon with a tape of his 1982 movie “The Verdict,” which is near the top of every “best films about lawyers” list I’ve ever seen (e.g., our prior post).  You will indeed be missed, Mr. Newman.

what is it about sunsets?

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 8:11 am

. . they’re free and frequent . .

. . and fleeting . .

.. . . they make us look again at everyday sights .. ..

Hermits and honeymooners ooh and aah. New Agers and Hockey Moms love them. Cranky Curmudgeons, too.  Even when prices are high and politicians low.

Yes, I’m grateful our species got a gene that almost always enjoys another sunset.  Perhaps, that gene evolved and was naturally selected back when life was rather brutal and short, because those of our early ancestors who looked forward to sunsets had more motivation to survive for another day, were more fun to be around, and tended to attract mates.

Naturally, I’m also thankful that such wonders appear so often at the end of my block — and that digital technology lets me view and then share them with virtually no fuss or expense.

(above photos taken September 25, 2008, photos below were taken September. 27, 2008S, Schenectady Stockade, Riverside Park, by d.a.giacalone; click to enlarge)

- for many more sunset pictures from Schenectady, see my photoblog suns along the Mohawk -

Two centuries ago, half a world away from my Schenectady sunset, an itinerant Japanese poet loved his sunsets, too.  These should tide us over until 7 PM tonight.

sunset–
the town is buzzing
with dragonflies

the mountain sunset
within my grasp…
spring butterfly

the woodpecker too
engulfed in sunset…
autumn colors

waiting and waiting
for sunset…
the willow tree

at my feet 
sunset’s rays, autumn
mountain

not shrinking back
from the sunset…
wildflowers

a plowman facing
sunset…
Mount Tsukuba

sunset–
a ruckus of cherry blossoms
a ruckus of trout

sunset–
an assembly of kites
in the sky over the town

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

Below the Fold: sunset through the eyes of a dozen contemporary haijin, a/k/a f/k/a‘s Honored Guest Poets:

(more…)

September 27, 2008

presidential debate redux: a puppet postscript

Filed under: q.s. quickies — Tags: , , , — David Giacalone @ 11:00 pm

A post-debate haunting … 

When I pulled the O’mama puppet off my finger Friday night and headed for bed, I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep well.  The First Finger Puppet Presidential Debate — between Blue candidate O’mama and Red candidate McCurse (see our prior post) — ended with too many things unsaid by my candidate O’mama.  So many missed opportunities to put the grouchy old-guy puppet on the spot by asking questions that needed to be asked — and not just to keep that whiny moderator happy.

As I tossed and replayed the debate in my sleepy head, a dreamlike O’mama Puppet came into focus on the tip of my finger and then reappeared at my MacBook screen.  I knew what had to be done, although I’m no political strategist or analyst, and rarely play one at my weblog: I had to spend a few minutes composing those unasked questions — writing them down, now, so they’d be ready for the second debate in October.

McCurse’s taunts spurred me on.  .. ..

  • McCurse: You’d accept defeat in Eyeraq, O’mama.  Our nation must have victory. You are naive and irresponsible, and would rather lose a war than an election.

. O’Mama:  Just what do you mean by “victory” McCurse?  The Amerifan people deserve to know.  Do you mean the end of all sectarian and insurgent violence?  Sects and ethnic groups that are disarmed and cooperating?  Fair elections and a stable democracy?  A compliant “puppet” government with Amerifan military bases entrenched?  The end of Eyeran’s influence and activity in Eyeraq?  Secure oil resources for Amerifa?

How long will it take to achieve your so-called victory?  How many dollars and lives?  Can your vision of victory ever be achieved without a large, continuing Amerifan military presence in Eyeraq?  And hasn’t the Prime Minister of Eyeraq endorsed the concept of a timetable for removing American troops?

  • McCurse:  Our splurge worked and you won’t admit it, even though you said it succeeded beyond your wildest dreams.  You’re stubborn and naive and are willing to come home from Eyeraq in defeat.

O’mama:  Sure, McCurse, one aspect of the splurge worked.  Sending lots more of our brave sons and daughters helped reduce violence.  But, wasn’t most of the success achieved and achievable by deploying the troops already there more effectively?

What about all the other goals of the splurge?  How much closer to sustainable political stability and maturity are the government of Eyeraq and the opposing factions?

More important, how long will the successes survive post-splurge?  You and the generals call the gains fragile. If they’re temporary, did we just postpone the turmoil, wasting years and lives and dollars, and permitting the Eyeraqis to lean on us rather than solve their own problems?

Would the nation and the world be more secure from terrorism if the splurge troops and resources had been used in Arfghanistan?  Are the successes worth the continued animosity of so much of the world?

  • McCurse: We’re winning in Eyeraq, but you would have let us leave in defeat and disgrace, and will forfeit victory by pulling out too soon.

.. O’mama: Our own generals refuse to say we’re winning in Eyeraq. What do you mean by winning, McCurse?  Is “winning” like the victory you and your Party’s President said we “won” in Arfghanistan a couple years ago?

  • McCurse:  I don’t care what that moderator says, you ask too many questions, O’mama.

O’Mama: Fine. One question: What do you mean by victory in Eyeraq?

Disclaimer: Any resemblance to any actual debate, living presidential candidates (e.g., Barack Obama, John McCain), or countries (i.e., America, Iraq, Iran) is purely coincidental and unintended.

post debate -
my index finger
twitches

… by dagosan

afterwords (September 28, 2008): In a parallel universe, during this morning’s edition of Meet the Press, Tom Brokaw had this discussion with Steve Schmidt, Sen. John McCain’s chief campaign strategist:

MR. BROKAW: All right.  . . . Let’s go back to this business about winning in Iraq, if we can. In fact, a number of people on the Republican have–side have said that we’re winning. But in an interview with the BBC, General David Petraeus said he did not know that he would ever use the word victory about Iraq. “This is not the sort of struggle where you take a hill, plant a flag and go home to a victory parade. … it’s not” a “war with a simple slogan.” So isn’t it misleading in many ways for Senator McCain to say we are winning and we’ll come home when we have declared victory?

MR. SCHMIDT: Well, absolutely not. Here is what victory means in Iraq. It means an Iraqi government that is able to protect its borders, and it means an Iraqi government that is able to protect its people, then moves forward on its path to democracy.

Meanwhile, on today’s The Chris Matthews Show, BBC’s Katty Kay said her international correspondents tell her that many Iraqis would have a very hard time recognizing the Iraq described by McCain in his version of surge success (click for the video).

…  thanks to Fold US Candidates … 

September 26, 2008

hold your own presidential debate — the finger puppet solution

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Giacalone @ 7:15 am

In thirteen ten eight hours, the First Presidential Debate may or may not be held at Ole Miss.  Whether both candidates will be on stage tonight for this high-stakes event is still uncertain

3 PM update: The Associated Press has reported that John McCain is going to attend the debate this evening.   Nonetheless, the f/k/a Gang advises that you keep your options open, and continue reading this posting, which might just come in handy again before the election.

Rather than leave your Friday night plans unsettled, we suggest

Plan B: Hold your own Presidential Debate — and give the candidate of your choice the finger — with these lifelike Finger Puppets from Fold US Candidate (in pdf. format for print-out; via Don Weeks and Cory Doctorow):

.. Obama & McCain on hand for the debates  ..

candidate
debate  –
my middle finger twitches

… by dagosan

update (Sept. 26, 2008): Thanks to a reminder from Anne Skove from Court-o-rama that sock-puppets could also work rather well for staging the debate, Prof. Yabut remembered that an appropriately-clenched fist could also be used to quickly create a hand-puppet like those made by Señor Wences, our old favorite from the Ed Sullivan Show (poster and bio here).  Since it’s John McCain who is threatening not to show up tonight, it’s fun to recall that Wences’ most famous fist-puppet was named Johnny.

afterwords (September 27, 2008): See our follow-up “presidential debate redux: a puppet postscript.”

As expected, a few of our haijin friends are on hand for the debate party:

this summer night—
she lets the firefly glow
through the cage of her fingers

no place
to hide my hands
the rain begins

raspberries in season– 
all day I’ve needed
my hands

in both hands–
the water she carries
from the ocean

…. by Gary Hotham from breathmarks: haiku to read in the dark

clouding sky
my finger
on the bear track

………by Michael Dylan Welch – Shiki Haikusphere 10th Anniversary Anthology (2007)

on my finger
the firefly
puts out its light

………….. by Roberta Beary – Shiki Internet Kukai

writing with a finger
in the clear blue sky…
“autumn dusk”

lion puppet at the gate–
from his mouth
plum blossoms

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


harvest festival 
small fingers trace
a saint’s name in slate

puppet show ~
an accordianist’s music
shows in his face

summer’s end
a gap-toothed kid
shows me the finger

blackberry picking ~
a pricked finger runs
into the stain

………………… by matt mordenMorden Haiku

sculpting cloud peaks
from shampoo suds –
crooked fingers

hard-to-peel
tangerine –
her citrus-scented fingers

… by David Giacalone
“sculpting cloud peaks” – Clouds Peak #1 (July 2006)
hard-to-peel” -  XXIX: 2 (2006)

snow shoveled on top of snow –
she breathes slowly
on her fingers

. . . by Gary Hotham – “Footprints & Fingerprints” (Lilliput Review,  1999)

September 25, 2008

a few autumn kigo and haiku

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 4:10 pm

Kigo are “season words” (from the Japanese 季語, kingyo) — words or phrases that are generally associated with a particular season. In traditional Japanese haiku and linked poetry, kigo are used to give a verse its seasonal reference. (See the Wikipedia explanation for more.)  A long dispute was waged in the Japanese and English-language haiku communities as to whether a poem can even be a haiku without a kigo. (Not that it matters much, but the f/k/a Gang thinks it’s sufficient to have a reference to “Nature” in order to create a haiku.)

For examples of kigo, check out “The five hundred essential Japanese season words,” Selected by Kenkichi Yamamoto and translated by William Higginson and Kris Young Kondo.

As we wrote a couple months ago, HaikuWorld hosts The Shiki Monthly Kukai — a peer reviewed poetry contest open to everyone (full details here).  Each month, in the kigo portion of the contest, the moderators choose a kigo that participants must use in their submitted haiku.  For the September 2008 kigo, the Shiki folks decided to choose the word “autumn” itself, rather than a particular word associated with autumn, as their kigo.

Below are the poems submitted by four of our Honored Guests Poets for the September 2008 Shiki Kukai. (The full results can be found here now, and here next month and thereafter.)

a field
of faceless pumpkins…
Autumn begins

… by Ed Markowski (3rd place tie) …

leaves raked
a boy jumps
into autumn

…. by Roberta Beary

a granddaughter
leads her through the corn maze
autumn deepens

…. by tom painting

Dad’s wedding ring
begins to loosen . . .
autumn rain

…. by Alice Frampton .. ..

Below, are haiku and senryu using season words that we usually associate with autumn — scarecrow, pumpkin, and apple.

withering wind…
the scarecrow’s jacket
fits

harvest moon
we move the scarecrow
to the front porch

… by Ed Markowski

burning rubbish–
a scarecrow too
goes up in smoke

wind-bent in moonlight
the scarecrow leans
on a cane

the village dog
suddenly disapproves…
the scarecrow

… by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

– click for a crop of than 50 scarecrow haiku by Master Issa

itchy back
the scarecrow
lends a hand

….. by dagosan

seeding time
the farmer dresses the same
as the scarecrow

… by Jim Kacian – from The Scare Crow (Red Moon Press 1999)

.. The book The Scare Crow: A Collection of Haiku & Senryu (Leroy Kanterman, Ed., Hiroake Sato, translator, Red Moon Press, 1999) has dozens of haiku featuring the scarecrow, along with an essay “The Scarecrow and Our Haiku” by John Stevenson.

autumn sun–
the lawyer carries home
a pumpkin

… by Barry George

dry leaves scattered
over roadside pumpkins
the first hard frost

…. by Matt Morden (Shiki Kukai, third place, Nov. 1997)

perched on
the sumo’s belly –
one large pumpkin

………. by dagosanNisqually Delta Review (summer/fall issue 2006)

morning drizzle
the shifting shape
of the apple sack

… by paul m – frogpond XXIX: 2 (2006)

during discussion
on the meaning of life . . . the crunch
of a student’s apple

. . .  by George Swede from Almost Unseen

no rain for days —
a half-eaten apple taken away
from the fruit flies

… by Gary Hotham – The Heron’s Nest (Sept. 2006)

September 24, 2008

DWP needs its own Doris Aiken

Filed under: Schenectady Synecdoche,viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 10:34 am

.. .. ban DWI and DWP, too . . ..

In 1978, Doris Aitken launched RID (Remove Intoxicated Drivers), the first anti-DWI national organization in the U.S., right here in Schenectady, New York.  Since then, Aitken and RID — using all volunteers in the field and no professional fundraisers — have been instrumental in passing dozens of laws relating to drunken driving. See “RID marks 30 years of efforts to combat drunken driving” (Sunday Gazette, Sept. 21, 2008), and the RID milestones page.

The deaths of Scotia residents Karen and Timothy Morris, 17 and 19 (the only Morris children), caused by an intoxicated 22 year old on Dec. 4, 1977, spurred Doris Aitken into action.  For three decades, she has relentlessly confronted lawyers, courts, politicians, the media and the alcohol industry in her struggle to reform DWI laws.

This Pit Bull wears lipstick. ..  Doris Aitken is over 80 years old, but she is still tenacious and surely still wears lipstick.  She called her 2002 memoir, “My Life as a Pit Bull” (several chapters are available here).

As a Schenectady Daily Gazette editorial said yesterday, “Aiken shows that citizen activism works” (Sept. 23, 2008):

“Thirty years ago, drunken driving was seen as a joke. Today it is seen as the serious, life-and-death matter that it is, by most drivers as well as the legal system. No one person or group deserves all the credit for this societal change in attitude, but Schenectady’s Doris Aiken and her RID-USA, the oldest national anti-DWI group, deserve a lot, especially in New York state.”

Through education, consternation and legislation, RID and similar organizations, such as MADD, have helped change the attitude and behavior of millions of Americans, saving lives and preventing accidents.   As Robert Carney, the Schenectady County District Attorney, told Doris at the RID 30th anniversary event:

“People are making smarter choices, and the highways are safer thanks to you.”

After three decades of ardent advocacy, and Doris Aitken is still passionate and committed. [Last December, the octogenarian started the RID Weblog, where she recently argued "College Presidents wrong on drinking age".]  Along with so many others here in Schenectady and across the nation, I tip my hat to Doris Aiken and send her my gratitude and admiration.  Today, moreover, I fervently hope that we can somewhere find a focused, articulate and effective advocate like Aiken for an impaired-driving crusade against the similar scourge of Driving While Phoning.

. .. In 1997, The New England Journal of Medicine reported on a study by Toronto researchers, which found that the risk of having an accident is four times greater if the driver is using a cell phone — the same risk as driving at the legal drinking limit. Additional studies have confirmed that finding, with one also equating the reduced reaction times of those engaged in DWP to that of drivers over 70 years of age.  Of course, far more people, from every demographic group, drive impaired due to phoning while driving than have ever driven under the influence of alcohol.  They do it consistently, 24/7, not just in the evening, after parties, or during holidays.  They do it shamelessly, with kids and loved ones in their cars. And, where the phony and ineffective handheld-phone-bans exist, they blatantly engage in DWP in front of law enforcement officers. (see our prior post for more information)

Criminal defense lawyer and Simple Justice blawger Scott Greenfield might believe that some DWI laws go too far, but he is well aware of the importance of the anti-DWI movement and of the analogy to DWP.  In the post “the other drunk driver,”  he wrote last year: “The same people who will rail with inflammatory rhetoric at the evils of driving drunk will happily cruise in their SUV while talking non-stop on a cellphone.”  And, Scott explained back in February:

“First, there is no longer any question that cellphone use while driving is as bad as, if not worse, than drunk driving.  It is not merely benign conduct, but conduct that has the potential to kill.  Worse yet, it lacks the moral stigma of drunk driving, so that ordinary law-abiding people wouldn’t think twice about chatting away on the cellphone while behind the wheel.  It doesn’t make you a bad person.

“For some, the point can be quickly driven home on a policy basis by noting that there is no conversation that someone needs to have so desperately that is worth the life of my child.  Until recently, society survived without cellphones.  We were not on the verge of crumbling for lack of an opportunity to chat with a friend, or even a client.  Are cellphones convenient?  Absolutely.  Are they worth taking a life?  No.”

The f/k/a Gang keeps harping about the dangers of DWP, and the hypocrisy of politicians who pass laws making hands-free DWP legal.  See, the comprehensive post “California’s make-believe phone safety law” (June 30, 2008).  But, we have neither the focus nor the energy to make it our crusade.  DWP needs its own Doris Aiken.

In the blink of an eye, our nation went from having no cellphones to having a population that can’t live or drive without them.  Judging by their behavior, a majority of Americans sees no problem at all in turning their vehicles into giant, speeding desks and sofas — used for endless streams of distracting business and social “communication”.  And, worse, even when they admit the obvious added risk caused by DWP, they dismiss it as secondary to some presumed right to phone, and they give in to the irresponsible impulse to chat with whomever they choose, whenever they choose.

It’s almost too late.  We need a Doris Aiken to educate and embarrass the public and our so-called leaders about the folly of DWP.  We need to change hearts and minds, and create an anti-DWP stigma, the way RID and MADD did with drunk driving. It’s almost too late, but I bet Doris Aiken could do it.

.. .. ban DWI and DWP .. ..

p.s. You can pass on this post using the tiny URL: http://tinyurl.com/RID-DWP .

September 23, 2008

automatic doors make terrible bulletin boards [with sequel added July 2010]

Filed under: Procrastination Punditry,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 4:19 pm

..  Granted, the handy rule of thumb you see in our headline is not an earth-shattering piece of wisdom.  It hasn’t been passed down for generations in my family either. But, it came to me rather quickly a few days ago, when I tried to read the notice found at the head of this paragraph.  For the past week or so, that piece of paper has been prominently posted on both entry doors of the Central Library building of our Schenectady County Public Library. Despite several attempts at reading the notice, all I can say for sure at this point is that workmen participating in an Asbestos Abatement Program will be at the 99 Clinton St. Central Library to remove some asbestos sometime soon. Although the information is surely contained in the posted message, I still don’t know which contractor is handling the task nor when the removal will take place, or if the building will be shut down during the operation.

– northern entrance Central Library —

You see, the Notice moves to the left as soon as one approaches it.  That’s because it’s attached to an automatic door that slides open when you get near it, and then slides back rather quickly once you pass through.  Yes, I tried scooting over to peruse the Notice in that moment when the door stops after fully opening, but it begins sliding back to close as soon as one steps out of the entryway.

Sure, I could probably wait for a long line of entering Library patrons to pass through the doorway, or get someone to stand on the sensor pad a few moments, to let me to read the Notice while the door is fully open — or even come back when the Library is closed and the door is locked — but, that’s a lot of work and sort of beside the point for any self-respecting curmudgeon.

I’m going to assume that whoever posted the Notice on those two automatic doors did it when they were locked — otherwise, there should have been an epiphany leading to the discovery of my Terrible Bulletin Board Maxim.  If the doors were turned on and doing their sliding thing, I’d love to have seen the Affixation Moment, and the look on the Affixer’s face.

.. Southern Entrance SCPL Central Library ..

As you can see, there were quite a few stationary spots near the entrance, where one might have affixed an Important Notice.  Prof. Yabut, our legal issue-spotter, wonders whether an obligation to post a notice could be properly satisfied, when it’s been placed on an automatic door.  If the entire f/k/a Gang had not missed its afternoon nap, we might have tried some quick research to see whether the issue has been adjudicated.  However, even when we’re in procrastination mode, we try to have better things to do with our time and limited energy.  Enterprising law students, associates who have already met their September billable hours quota, or really bored law professors and webloggers out there, are nonetheless encouraged to pursue the legal point and let us know the results of your research or brain-storming. [follow-up: Two years later, I did the research and the results can be found in the update below dated July 3, 2010.]

.. In case you ever have to post a Notice or are contesting whether notice has been properly made, we repeat:  Be it Swinging, Sliding, Telescopic or Bifolding, an automatic door makes a terrible bulletin board.

afterwords (8PM): Thanks to Jo-Ann Schrom for posting this posting at her Rotterdam NY Info site.  As the regulars at the Rotterdam online community regularly have enjoyable and interesting perspectives, I’ll be clicking the link to see what they think of those sliding doors.

- deja vu -

follow-up frustration (July 3, 2010):  After the handful of haiku below you will find “a moving message from the Schenectady County [NY] Public Library“, with the second chapter in this aggravating tale.

May morning
the door opens
before I knock

. . . . by John Stevenson – from Some of the Silence

birdsong
opening the sliding door
in her red pajamas

doorFrontF . . . . by paul m. – A New Resonance 2 & Frogpond XXII:1

through the open door . . .
her smile doesn’t forgive
all my sins

. . . . by Randy Brooks – School’s Out (1999)

Part II (July 3, 2010)

(more…)

September 22, 2008

goosed into fall and the election season

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu — David Giacalone @ 8:45 am

Autumn arrives this morning.  If you’re looking for haiku and senryu about the coming of fall and its equinox, see our 2006 autumnal equinox haiku page, and our farewell to summer posted yesterday.  Of course, fall brings the election season in America and, for some reason, I’ve got fish, geese, games, and insects, too, on my mind as the campaign heats up and our chilly autumn settles in to stay awhile.

the fish
unaware of the bucket…
a cool evening

autumn’s first geese
come first
to the poor town

autumn’s first geese
crapping on people
fly on

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

autumn morning
two veterans
shoulder their brooms

autumn equinox
both hands hold up
his first fish

night fishing
a few bites
from mosquitoes

autumn heat
the swelling
of a fresh tattoo

a trace of dust
on the window screen
autumn butterfly

Indian summer
a fish slips through
the gill net

autumn sunset
papa resting
his eyes

All Soul’s Day
the fish I released
washes up

autumn evening  her pills  lined up by size

.. …by w.f. owenhaiku notebook (Lulu.com, 2007)

sparrows sift through
the shopping carts
autumn dusk

… by John Stevenson
- Modern Haiku; Hon. Mention, 2006 Snapshot Haiku Calendar Con

fall twilight–
my brother going out
long

… by Barry George – from A New Resonance 2

autumn equinox
a red dragonfly
tilts its wings

… by  Yu Chang - Upstate Dim Sum (2001/I)

first autumn wind
not feeling the knife
slice my finger

…………… by Jim Kacian – Simply Haiku; lz Kamna

autumn equinox
making a new arrangement
out of the old

……… by  Pamela Miller NessThe Heron’s Nest (Dec. 2003)

fall’s first sunset –
driving due west
squinting

…………… dagosan

September 21, 2008

lawyers eliminating witnesses: oh, Cisco!

Filed under: lawyer news or ethics,Procrastination Punditry — David Giacalone @ 7:34 pm

. . . . . . Robert Simels & A. W. Parker . . . . .

The New York Times recently noted that “The federal complaint against Robert Simels, a well-known New York criminal defense lawyer, reads like a script from an HBO crime drama.”  “Defense Lawyer Charged With Witness Tampering” (Sept. 11, 2008).  That’s because

“Mr. Simels, who has represented some of New York’s most notorious gangsters and rappers and an assortment of athletes and celebrities, was arrested on Wednesday and charged in what officials said was a plot to “neutralize” witnesses who were willing to testify against one of his clients [Shaheed Khan, an accused drug kingpin with reputed ties to the Guyanese government].”

– Read more about the indictment of Bob Simels at the WSJ Law Blog, and Simple Justice, which links to this affidavit in support of the arrest warrant.

It may seem like an HBO crime episode, but while I was watching my favorite $5 dvd this afternoon, I discovered that the Simels tale also “reads like a script” from the classic 1950′s network tv western The Cisco Kid.  Trying to avoid any serious punditry today, I put a disc from “The Best of the Cisco Kid” in my dvd player.  The first episode I played, out of the 35 on the 3-disc set, was “Confession for Money,” from the show’s first season.  Unless I was in Mama G’s lap, at 13 months old, when she watched its original broadcast on January 2, 1951, it was my first time seeing “Confession for Money.”

The story opens with the fictional lawyer A. W. Parker (played by I. [Isaac, "Ike"] Stanford Jolley) visiting his jailed client Tom Tracey.  We quickly learn that the Cisco Kid and his sidekick Pancho Gonzales were witnesses to Tracey killing a popular banker and were due in town that morning to identify Tracy for the Sheriff.

Here’s an outline of the Cisco Kid‘s lawyer-gone-bad tale:

  • Lawyer Parker suggests to Tracey that they break him out of the jail and then split the $75,000 take from the bank robbery
  • Tracey says they don’t have time, with Cisco arriving soon, and that they instead need to kill the witnesses before they identify him.  Parker quickly accedes to his client’s idea, and sends two bad guys with rifles to ambush and kill Cisco and Pancho.
  • When the bad guys flub the ambush, Lawyer Parker is mighty irked.
  • Parker then draws up a false confession for a young man who is desperate to get $5000 for an operation for his sick mother (one more skewed decision due to the lack of universal health care coverage).  Parker tells the kid they’ll spring him from jail before trial. The Sheriff lets Tracey go and jails the kid, once he sees the confession.
  • To make sure the youthful confessor doesn’t change his mind, Tracey has his gang whip up a lynch mob, but Cisco and Pancho sneak him out of the jail.
  • Parker joins the lynching posse that chases Cisco and the misguided youth, and they end up in the usual shootout behind really big rocks.
  • The Sheriff arrives and tells the mob to put down their guns.  Parker jumps on his horse and heads back to get his papers and split town.  Cisco follows and catches Parker in the getaway cabin, but Tracey arrives and Parker takes away Cisco’s gun, handing it to his client. And, then . . . (see below for the exciting conclusion).

If the ugly allegations against the well-known NYC criminal defense lawyer Bob Simels turn out to be true, life as he has known it will change drastically. Scott at Simple Justice tells us:

“Though a bit on the arrogant side (and who isn’t in this business) and not exactly a warm and fuzzy guy, he’s smart and well-respected.”

Sixty-one-year-old Bob Simels appears to be the sort of Baby Boomer who would have grown up watching The Cisco Kid. Had Simels recalled the “Confession for Money” episode, he might have just said “no” to the whole idea of turning outlaw with his clients.  You see:

Lawyer A. W. Parker had planned to split the loot and split the territory with killer Tom Tracey.  But, before Cisco could subdue the two of them, Tracey holds up his money satchel and tells his  lawyer, “I was gonna take you with me, Parker, but I just couldn’t find room for you in my bag.” He then shoots Parker dead.  Of course, Cisco wins the ensuing fistfight with Tracey and brings him back to town to face trial on two counts of murder.

– By the way, there was a real-life 19th Century New York lawyer who went by the name A. W. Parker.  Thanks to the Google digitalization project, I found him representing the appellant in the case of Benner v. Atlantic Dredging Co. (NY Ct. of Appeals, 1892).  The real Lawyer Parker apparently did negligence defense work.  He helped his client reverse a judgment against it for damage that occured to a house that was near a site where the dredging firm was blasting rocks in a harbor for the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Simels Law Firm website is no longer accessible.  According to Propaganda Press, however, the Welcome Page at the Robert Simels firm contains this perhaps ironic paragraph (emphasis added):

“I have handled many high-profile cases, with an outstanding success rate across a broad range of issues. The key to our many acquittals in criminal cases and multimillion dollar verdicts for our clients is preparation and complete participation by our clients which result in highly effective and compelling cases in the courtroom.”

You can find much more about Robert Simels and his career, in this Sept. 11 article from his hometown newspaper, the Lewisboro Ledger.  As you surely know by now, the f/k/a Gang doesn’t go for cheap, obvious jokes.  But, we’re really surprised that other, less classy weblogs, haven’t pointed out the town where he resides –  Waccabuc, which is a hamlet in Lewisboro, Westchester County, New York.  Fortunately, neither Cisco and Pancho, nor most lawyers I’ve known, would whack a witness for a buck, or a laugh.

p.s. I think even our toughest critics will agree that this lengthy, time-consuming detour into Witness Elimination Lore was a highly successful piece of Procrastination Punditry.  It certainly has left us with no energy nor inclination to write any serious commentary this evening.  In honor of the many hours I will surely devote to watching the Cisco and Pancho in days to come, I inaugurated a new posting category today called “Procrastination Punditry.”  We’ll be using it whenever there is virtually no excuse for a post other than our avoiding doing something more pressing and important.

high noon
the boys refill
their water pistols

……………………… by Tom Painting – July Selection, Snapshot Press 2005 Haiku Calendar

morning shadows—
the gunslingers wait
for high noon

…….. by David Giacalone, Legal Studies Forum (Vol. XXXII, No. 1. 2008). Click for the original haiga (photo with poem) at HaigaOnline, Issue 7-2 (Autumn-Winter 2006), photo by Arthur Giacalone, JD.

summer ’08 exits with class

Filed under: haijin-haikai news,Haiku or Senryu,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 8:38 am

. . Yesterday’s weather here in Upstate New York was beyond picture perfect — pleasing all of our senses — and beyond my ability to capture adequately in words.  Hoping to savor every moment of the gorgeous day, the f/k/a Gang spent the last Saturday evening of Summer 2008 sitting on a brand new bench on the banks of the Mohawk River here in Schenectady’s Stockade neighborhood.   My haijin friends couldn’t join me in Riverside Park last night, for the summer’s penultimate sunset, but here are a few of their poems of the season, with images I snapped on September 20, 2008 between 7 and 8 P.M. (click on the images to enlarge).

end of summer–
mountain wildflower
pressed in her diary

…………… by Randy Brooks from School’s Out

cut grass
i sweep away
summer’s end
… by Roberta Beary – The Heron’s Nest (Sept. 2005)

summer’s end
riding a borrowed bicycle
past the graveyard

…….…… paul m – finding the way: haiku and field notes (2002)

. .  . .

summer’s end
waves disappear
beneath the pier

…. by paul m.Crinkled Sunshine, HSA Members’ Anthology (2000)

the home team
math’matically eliminated…
autumn equinox

…… by ed markowski

end of summer
the rain arrives
without thunder

end of summer
the warmth
of a borrowed shirt

……………. . by John StevensonUpstate Dim Sum (2003/I)

summer’s last sunset –
baked apple
for dessert

… by dagosan

every mannequin
wearing green flannel…
autumn equinox

…. by ed markowski

. . . .

a wasp nest
out of reach of the hose
autumn begins

. . . by paul m. – The Heron’s Nest (VIII: 3, Sept. 2006)

autumn equinox –
awaking to
summer’s last cricket

… by dagosanNisqually Delta Review

autumn begins–
lying down, looking at
snowy mountains

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

…. by Matt Morden – Morden Haiku (Sept. 19, 2008)

the slow creak
of the porch swing
late summer dusk

at dusk   summer ends  on the pier

… by w.f. owen –(haiku notebookLulu.com, 2007)

A year ago today, we had the honor to reproduce and present here at f/k/a the entire contents of the haiku and tanka chapbook “the hands of women” by Pamela Miller Ness. The loving commemoration of the “needlewomen” in Pamela’s life is a lovely reminder of the changes and constants in the cycles and seasons of our lives.  Here are three of the ten poems you will find in the hands of women:

hurricane over
the click click click
of knitting needles

the wee hours 
weaving loose ends
into my knitting

vigil
she knits a scarf
the color of sky

… by Pamela Miller NessThe Hands of Women
(Lily Pond Press/Swamp Press, August 2007)

Finally, Marcel Marceau’s death as autumn arrived last year inspired this poem by dagosan:

autumn equinox
not even the mime
can balance the egg

……………. by dagosan [In mem., Marcel Marceau, Sept. 23, 2007]

September 19, 2008

new chief and same old politics in Schenectady

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 6:28 pm

New Police Chief in Schenectady:   Yesterday, fifty-six years after his father Arthur Chaires became Schenectady’s first black police officer, Mark R. Chaires was sworn in as the City’s first African-American police chief.  See “Son of police pioneer makes history of his own” (Albany Times Union, Sept. 18, 2008); “Chaires begins job as Schenectady police chief” (Schenectady Daily Gazette, September 19, 2008); “Schenectady names Chaires first African-American police chief” (FoxNews23, Sept. 18, 2008).

A Schenectady native, Chief Chaires is 52 years old and has worked his way up the ranks in his 19 years in SPD.  He is taking over the helm of a Department that employs 165 officers, and has more than its share of controversy, scandal and morale problems.  (See, e.g., our post on Sept. 6th, and recent coverage of SPD’s dismal arrest statistics as compared to both national averages and our comparable neighbor, Troy, NY.)  Growing up with the example of a father who “never missed a day of work during his 27-year career” and who surely experienced — from the public and within the department — the racial prejudice that is rampant in blue-collar Upstate cities, Chief Chaires brings important personal and professional experience to the job.  That experience includes eight years in the Air Force.

Those who know him speak often of his integrity, and I’m impressed with the new Chief’s thoughtful remarks yesterday — focusing more on the need to get to work to achieve on-the-job excellence within the Department (improving “customer service”) and to earn the public’s trust, than on the historical importance of his appointment.  I’m also pleased to know that he had oversight of the SPD internal affairs office, which chose to refer the 2007 excessive force complaints of Donald Randolph (see our prior post) to the district attorney, rather than keeping the investigation in-house.

Chief Mark Chaires deserves the support of rank and file officers, of our poliical leaders and of the public as he tries to restore the performance and reputation of his Department, and to prove that Schenectady does indeed “have the makings of an outstanding police department.”  As a Gazette editorial noted today, the Chief’s job is a bit symbolic, since the City created the post of Public Safety Commissioner last year, and Chaires therefore reports to Commissioner Wayne Bennett (who is in the background in the photo at the head of this posting).  But, the position comes with plenty of responsibility and calls for skillful balancing among all the interests that need to work together to create the kind of Police Department that allows good cops to flourish and the public to trust and respect our police force.

The Gazette is correct that, with a population that is 15% black, Chaires’s promotion “is a significant step for a city, and a department, that has had relatively few minority employees and almost no minority managers.” “Editorial: Good choice for symbolic appointment” (Daily Gazette, September 19, 2008).  If Chief Chaires can gain the trust of Schenectady’s black community, we may indeed find arrest rates climbing and claims of excessive force and institutional neglect greatly reduced.

A final thought on the Schenectady Police Department: Recent online Comments at the Gazette website regarding editorials and articles about SPD show that far too many Schenectadians (especially police officers and their families, I presume) equate support for our police with silence over their flaws and failings and those of the Department. (see here and there, for example) I hope Chief Chaires can help demonstrate that honesty about past and ongoing problems, and the need for procedural and supervisory improvements, can help to rally support — internally, within City government, among the public — to find and implement solutions.  We all want our good cops to thrive within an effective and respected police department.

the dragnet of nightingales
closes in…
police station

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

.. Silly Donkey Club (Schenectady Chapter):  We’ve never been shy here at f/k/a about noting our disappointment with the Schenectady County Democratic Committee (e.g., here and there).  Today’s newspaper brought one more reason for registered Democrats in Schenectady County to blush with embarrassment over the crassness and political ineptness of our so-called party leaders. The Gazette article “Fair campaign group seeks more pledges” (Sept. 19, 2008) describes efforts by the group Fair Campaign Practices for the Capital Region, Inc to get county parties chairs across the Region — and not merely individual candidates — to sign the group’s Fair Campaign Pledge.  FCP is sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady Counties and the Interfaith Alliance of New York State, Capital Region.

Seven years ago, FCP established procedures to accept candidates’ charges of unfair campaign practices within the Capital District, hold hearings and issue decisions regarding the charges, and their efforts have been welcomed by the voting public.

See their “tips for Candidates” and list of “2008 Pledge Signers” , as well as their Candidate Manual (.PDF), and Decisions from prior years.

This sounds rather non-controversial, and the Gazette article tells us that party chairs around the region have signed the FCP pledge — except for Brian Quail, chair of the Schenectady County Democratic Committee. According to the Gazette:

. . QUAIL OPTS OUT

At least one party leader said he will not sign the pledge. “There are several reasons why I won’t sign it,” said Brian Quail, chairman of the Schenectady County Democratic Committee.

“You should not sign a piece of paper to promise to do good and decent things when you should always be doing good and decent things,” he said.

The second reason, he said, is that Fair Campaign Practices for the Capital Region lacks credibility. “They use totally subjective standards and they apply their standards to other people’s conduct,” Quail said. “They don’t matter. Who matters are the voters.”

I’m sorry, Chairman Quail, but voters really do want to know what an objective source like FCP has to say about the claims and accusations made in campaign materials, and about the charges hurled by political candidates and their election managers and parties.  The voters need to hear from balanced sources.  Your failure to sign the pledge makes us all wonder just what you have to hide and what FCP decisions you are hoping to avoid.

Here’s what Fair Campaign Practices says about its structure and procedures:

“A pool of 32 respected individuals from the four county region is selected to hear complaints. These community representatives serve on Hearing Panels that determine the validity of complaints. In order to ensure a balanced, fair process for all sides, the local chairs of all the recognized political parties, or their designees, automatically become ex officio members of the FCP Hearing Panel and attend hearings.

“After a hearing is held and a decision is made by the hearing panel, the decision is made known to the candidates involved and to the media so that the media can inform the voting public.”

I’m really tired of the leaders of the Schenectady County Democratic Party acting as if the rest of us are morons who will simply take them at their word and nod agreement to their nonsense.  Quail, Savage, et al. continue to make the Party look bad with their high-handed, irrational positions and policies.  They keep presenting a very big target for anyone wanting to pin the tail on the Democratic Donkey.

update (September 20, 2008): Today’s Gazette editorial is titled “Party Chairmen should embrace fair campaigns.” Here are excerpts worth repeating:

  • “But the process is elaborate, it seems meticulously fair, and, slowly but surely, it has been gaining acceptance with candidates and voters. Now the League wants the region’s political party chairs to join in — a logical step, since chairmen often set the tone for campaigns and are behind much of the advertising.”
  • “Unfortunately, as a story in Friday’s Gazette indicated, only a few have done so thus far, and one — Schenectady County Democratic Chairman Brian Quail — even denounced the idea as unnecessary and lacking credibility. His scorn for the system might have something to do with the fact that his party was flagged for violating fair campaign practices during the last election cycle.”
  • “. . . [T]he more candidates and committee chairs who sign onto the concept of fair campaigns, the more likely they’ll adhere to the principles. That can’t help but make for fairer campaigns, a better-informed electorate and better government.”

playing dead
on the horse’s tail
a meadow horsefly

catching the kite’s tail
with his mouth…
gargoyle

even the old cow
has a fly-whisking
tail

at the tail end
of the cloudburst crowing…
rooftop rooster

sporting with
the big cat’s tail…
a little butterfly

chasing the kite’s tail
’round and ’round…
puppy

its tail points
to the rising moon…
pheasant

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

Sun-scorched slope–
an old donkey rubs his rump
against a mud-crusted post

Approaching storm…
a black colt in the meadow
snorts against the wind

late fall–
my echo calling
the dog

……………………… by Rebecca LillyShadwell Hills (Birch Prees Press, 2002); “afternoon warmth” & “late fall” – The Heron’s Nest V:2

September 18, 2008

laws we need because people are way too – um – human

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,Schenectady Synecdoche — David Giacalone @ 5:36 pm

If you still believe that capitalist markets regulate themselves and that political ads are always fair and truthful, or that government is always the problem and never the solution, you might not agree with the f/k/a Gang today.  Seems to us, after more than a few decades of reflection, that sometimes (indeed, far too often) we need to legislate common sense and basic consideration for the safety and comfort of others.  To wit:

thumbthing in the way she moves — banning texting while driving:  Down south from us, the Westchester County legislature did a smart thing last week.  It passed a law banning Texting While Driving. See “Legislators Vote to Ban Texting While Driving(New York Times, Sept. 16, 2008); “Board Approves Ban On Texting While Driving” (Westchester.com, Sept. 10, 2008).  It’s a very good trend, and I hope New York State will join Alaska, Minnesota, New Jersey and Washington and impose a state-wide ban soon.

Usually, Prof. Yabut would pipe up about now and say something like: Oh sure, the pols can screw up the courage to ban a dangerous activity performed almost exclusively by those under 30 years old, but they’re too cowardly or hypocritical to pass meaningful bans on the far-more prevalent phoning while driving. [see, e.g., our prior post "California's phony car-phone safety law"].  He has a point, of course, but today I’d rather focus on the positive.

The editorial page of the Schenectady Gazette got the tone and analysis right a couple days ago in a piece titled “Editorial: Textbook case of a law that shouldn’t be necessary, but is” (September 15, 2008):

. . ” It is unquestionably a commentary on how high our society has risen technologically — and how far we’ve fallen in terms of common sense and consideration of others — that laws banning text-messaging on a cellphone while driving a car are becoming more and more commonplace.

“Indeed, such laws seem necessary because no matter how obviously dangerous — how stupid! — it may be to take one’s eyes off the road to focus on a miniature computer screen while operating a ton-plus vehicle; then to take one’s hands off the wheel to key in a response, motorists persist in doing so. And when they do, they not only endanger their lives and the lives of anyone traveling with them, but anyone who might be sharing the road with them.”

The Gazette‘s Editor was also spot on with the conclusion: “And [the TWD law] should be enforced more rigorously than the oft-ignored handheld cellphone ban. Perhaps if police had done a better job with that one, motorists wouldn’t be so brazen about engaging in far-more-distracting text messaging.”  ‘Nuff said.

writing with a finger
in the clear blue sky…
“autumn dusk”

the cats are courting
bumping
heads

going nuts in hailstones
crashing down…
a fox

the old hand
swats a fly
already gone

now I watch
with careful attention…
autumn dusk

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

..  pet peeves – leash law scofflaws:  … An article two days ago in the Gazette reminded me of another of my pet peeves: People who are too self-important (or too sensitive to the feelings of their canine companions) to comply with leash laws in our parks and streets.  In “Town tightens leash laws: Dogs can run loose in only two designated parks” (Daily Gazette, September 16, 2008), we learn that the Town of Clifton Park, NY, passed a combination leash and dog-park-permit law “after months of discussions between board members, dog owners wanting the option to walk their pets off- and on-leash, and people wishing to use town land without being approached by dogs.”   In fact,

“In return for designating Kinns Road Park as an official leash-free zone, the board is tightening laws in all other parts of town, mandating dogs remain on leash at all times in neighborhood parks, playgrounds and other public places. While the former town law required that dogs remain ‘under the immediate supervision and control’ of their owners, the new law goes further, stating that dogs must be ‘under direct leash control’.”

One Clifton Park dog owner supports the new law, but correctly noted that she wants the leash law enforced, so that the money she pays for a permit to use the dog park doesn’t just become another tax with little real benefits.    Real enforcement — and, better yet, real compliance — is indeed an important aspect of a leash law.  We have one here in Schenectady, but I regularly see scofflaws at the small Riverside Park at the end of my block, along the Mohawk River.

Far too many dog-walkers act as if Schenectady merely requires their pets to be “under their immediate supervision and control” in public — and they very often fail to keep them under control.  Over and over, dogs off their leashes scare the elderly and the very young in Riverside Park, and terrorize other dogs and their owners, too.   When asked why they are merely carrying an unattached leash, the scofflaws are uniformly gruff and defensive, or simply indifferent and self-righteous.   I found this nifty quote from the California Court of Appeals at the Dog Law website:

Whatever may be said about the affection which mankind has for a faithful companion, modern city conditions no longer permit dogs to run at large.”

Dog Law is presented by Nolo, Justia, and Little Sheeba the Hug Pug, with lots of materials put together by Nolo’s Mary Randolph, the author of the book “Every Dog’s Legal Guide: A Must-Have Book for Your Owner.” The website has information on many relevant topics, from Leash and Pooper Scooper Laws, to dangerous and barking dogs, traveling with dogs, and much more.  On the topic of Leash Laws, it tell us:

“Long gone from most of America are the days when you could answer a longing whine from your dog by opening the back door and letting it roam the neighborhood at will. . .

” ‘Leash laws’ generally require dogs to be on a leash and under control whenever they’re off their owners’ property, unless a specific area is designated for unleashed dogs. Some laws apply only at night (when dogs may form packs and do the most damage to livestock) or allow an owner to have a dog unleashed if it is under “reasonable control.” Even dog owners who let their dogs off a leash only because they’re confident they have complete control over them are probably in violation of a leash law.

“The intensity of enforcement, however, varies from city to city and neighborhood to neighborhood. In many places, an owner is unlikely to be cited if the dog really is under voice control and not bothering anyone, even if in technical violation of a leash law. But in some cities, police enforce leash laws strictly, especially if they have received complaints about unleashed dogs in a certain area. . . .”

.. .. Around here, we like to say: “Behind every annoying dog or child there’s an annoying adult.”  And, since it’s dinner time, it’s about time to say: ‘Nuff said.  So, let’s let dog-lover Issa take us home.

peach blossoms–
riding a dog
the naughty boy

suddenly
the dog stops barking…
lotus blossoms!

under dewy umbrella-hat
nodding off…
the dog barks!

the backstreet
is the dog’s toilet
first snowfall

all stretched out 
the dog naps
in the lilies

runaway kite!
the dog also eyes it
restlessly

playing with
the rambunctious dog…
little butterfly

the dog comes out
and calls them too…
fireflies

the dog chewing
the shuttlecock
comes running along

an east wind blows–
the dog lays his chin
on the bank

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

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