RSS Feed

Dear John (T Mobile’s Break Up Letter to your Ex)

Dear John (T Mobile’s Break Up Letter to your Ex)

While not advocating T Mobile because let’s face it: They substitute one set of charges – $30.00 per month “data” useage for another – phone + “jump” plan – $35.00 per month – this is still a heck of a lot of fun and super cute. 

Advertisements

My New Year’s Reading List

New Years is my favorite Holiday hands down.   After the excesses of the holidays – turkey, hams, cookies, pies, and all the decorations – it feels so good to whittle down to my minimalist tendencies.   While others hit the after-holiday sales, for me it’s open season on the home front. Left over cookies, out!   Santa decorations, down!   I leave up winter decorations, because I love winter so much.  That New Years pretty much opens ski & winter sports season just makes it even better, because despite being a desert dweller I do love snow.  One of my favorite things is the smell of snow descending from our snow-capped mountains.  Nevada after all means “snowy.”

And I’m also a list person.  I love love love lists.  So while everyone else is driving to Vegas – where I fortunately already live and work – I’m making list & New Years plans.  Update the five year plan.    Move some things from the front burner to the back burner, and vice versa.  Mark the new calendar with upcoming fun stuff (basketball season, McKenna’s high school graduation).  A bit like the sorcerer’s apprentice, I direct my household to complete the “List of Unfinished Projects.”  Sadly, some of those are reading projects and I only have a few days to finish.  But here is my list of upcoming reads and re-reads as New Years Resolution for this year:

1. Typee – Heman Melville is the man, Hemmingway without the ridiculous ego, a man born at least fifty years before his true time.  This is the one I need to read this year: the mostly true tale of sailing Polynesia, abandoning ship, meeting cannibals, etc.    At the time it was written, it was considered too fantastic to be real. Not so.  But  His novels take me forever, because I have to sink into the language and swim there for awhile. But having had Moby Dick grace my nightstand, how could I miss this tale of sailing Polynesia?

2. Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak.  I resolve to re-read Dr. Zhivago, and try to “get” it this time around.  I resolve to not wonder why the movie is longer than the book, but to try to understand it.  I resolve not to judge Pasternak for writing Lara as a tragic heroine.  I resolve to read this with someone who gets it.  I don’t know who that is yet.

3. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold – John Le Carre’s first spy novel is also his most famous.  You can rightly blame this on Homeland, but it popped up on some reading suggestion lists and apparently represents the moral failures of the people doing the jobs.  So I think I can get somewhere with this one – having a CIA father, I’m usually not so impressed as other people.  I’m excited.

4. Wuthering Heights – I resolve to force some unsuspecting English Lit person to read Wuthering Heights so I have someone to about it with.  This leads to something else: I resolve to force some regular literature reading on some friends. 

This is my important list.  What it’s important to me to read, take the time to understand, and take myself some place new as a person.  What’s on your reading list this year?

Battle Tales: Homeland and Domestic Violence

As you all know, I love Homeland.  One of the reasons I love it is because I’m intrigued by Brody’s Stockholm syndrome.  Imaging my surprise when I was perusing the Nevada Supreme Court’s resource manual on Domestic Violence, and found this language, comparing prisoners of war with victims of domestic violence:

Psychologist Alfred D. Biderman studied prisoners of war and the brainwashing tactics
used by the Nazis in World War II and the Chinese in the Korean conflict.5 Biderman
depicted in his Chart of Coercion, which was published by Amnesty International in 1973,
the behavior of the captor in conditioning the prisoner. When with others, the captor
exerts a rigid control over his behavior; however, when with the victim, he uses selectively
abusive behavior which demonstrates “an established set of control skills” intended to
produce the completely compliant and dependent victim. The coercive techniques used
on P.O.W.s included: sleep deprivation, torture, bondage, rape and other threats and
violent actions of all types.
Domestic violence reveals many of the same techniques as the captor’s coercion of the
prisoner. A particular problem in domestic violence, as with highly trained combat solders,
is that many battered women are actually strong individuals who will not give in. The
stereotype that battered women are weak, pathetic, and easily manipulated is not borne
out by the evidence. The FBI reports that a woman is beaten every ten seconds, but a
better way to understand the actual dynamics of domestic violence is to realize that a
woman resists battery every ten seconds.

The article then proceeded to the Stockholm Syndrome:

The Stockholm Syndrome
Battering has been likened to the Stockholm Syndrome, the phenomenon of bonding with
one’s captor. In their study of “hostage” relationships, Dee L.R. Graham and Edna
Rawlings found parallels between persons in hostage situations and those in battering
relationships.8 Graham and Rawlings studied several groups and determined that bonding
occurred in many “hostage” groups, including: prostitutes, cult members, concentration

camp prisoners, incest victims, emotionally and physically abused children, and battered
women. Graham and Rawlings concluded from analyzing the background of the domestic
violence victim that it was similar to the background of the flight attendant on a plane that
is hijacked. ..
Graham and Rawlings believe that the following process takes place in an abusive or
hostage situation: “An abuser traumatizes a victim, who cannot escape, by threatening her
physical and psychological survival. As a result of being traumatized, the victim needs
nurturing and protection. Being isolated from others, the victim must turn to the abuser for
this needed nurturing and protection, if she turns to anyone.” When the abuser shows
kindness, hope is created and the victim feels optimistic, denies her rage, and bonds to this
positive aspect of the abuser. The victim takes on the perspective and perceptions of the
abuser. “Because there is so much at stake, namely her survival, the victim is hyper vigilant
to the abuser’s needs, feelings and perspectives. Her own needs must take second place
to the abuser’s.” If the victim’s needs and feelings were to surface, the terror would
overwhelm her. Therefore, she sees the abuser as the “good” person and police or others
who would help her as the “bad” people. This helps to explain why it can be so difficult
to get a battered spouse to aid the police or the prosecution.

In Homeland, Carrie runs around saying “Twenty years ago I missed something.  I can’t miss it again.”  I had these words echoing in my head the other day.  I missed it, the police missed it, the DA missed it.   This thought kept nagging me on this, nagging me again and again because I was prosecuting a restraining order for mom and her kid. Because if she leaves you, take her kid away, right?  Even if you’re not on the birth certificate.  We had an arrest for that one, arrested with bullets in his pocket.  I knew would be dropped by the D.A. because it’s just some ammo in the pocket, right?  It was dropped. Absolutely useless.  And in Nevada custody cases, your proof needs to be “clear and convincing” or else it goes joint legal joint physical.  That means the perp can put a gun to the head, a knife to the throat, and as long as it’s done in secret and doesn’t leave a mark, the police won’t interfere and the perp can still take the kids.  I’m trying to be gender neutral here because I have cases where the man was the victim.  Shoved right down the stairs, breaking bones.

But for the purposes of my narrative, trust me, this guy was a bad guy.   But it’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove.  And in custody cases involving domestic violence, you have to overcome the presumption that your client pushed the nuclear war button.  So the proof needs to be independent of the client, and her panic that the ammo clip she found in her car was a death threat.  I’m not giving all the facts here, but we had enough “facts” to be suggestive and creepy, but not probative. Probative means tending to prove or disprove.  Like finding your brake lines sliced, knowing it’s your estranged spouse who’d rather pick up insurance proceeds than foot the bill for a divorce, but not having a way to prove the spouse did it.  These things really do happen and I’m a paid hand, paid to handle it.

This guy had a twenty year old charge for trying to shoot somebody.  It was brought as a felony assault charge, then pled to a misdemeanor discharging a firearm where a person might be charge.  (Right, Vegas prosecutors.  If you read this,  I’m talking to you.)   Anybody who knows anything about the rules of evidence knows that ten years is the max to bring it into evidence.  But man, it kept creeping me out.

We had narrative, suggestions and threats, but not proof.

So, I kept digging, digging.  Buried deep in twenty-year old Court minutes, I found this: the victim was pregnant with the perp’s child.  Bingo – attempted murder of a spouse with a gun.

Homeland is exciting.  Real life is boring.  In Nevada, we have an operating equation for the federal fireams ban, which runs like this:

Domestic Violence  Conviction (DOMBAT colloquially)= Lifelong ban on firearms and ammo per federal law.

No DOMBAT = Carry as many guns and ammo as you can carry, including McDonald’s Playland.  Gets pretty rough in there, right?

I ended up perusing the Gun Control Act.  Mostly ATF stuff that made me yawn.  Finally, I found it: A qualifying misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. ..any crime against an intimate partner involving the use of force or a firearm for the lifelong ban to apply, with conditions set forth that were met in this case (representation, plea, etc.)  And, conversely, just because it’s not called a dombat doesn’t mean that the federal firearms ban automatically applies.  But it’s lifelong.  So when this guy was arrested with the bullets in his pocket trying to take the kid from the babysitters (I was just trying to see my kid), everybody missed a federal offense because of some lazy prosecutors.  I suspect they didn’t want mandatory prosecution, which is what domestic violence charges require.

I missed it.  The local DA missed it.  The police missed it.  But when I walked in front of the Judge, the Judge didn’t miss it.  Because the conviction established that he was subject to a lifelong ban on firearms, we got the conviction into evidence.  We also got his MO,  common plans, and established motive.  We established that the Defendant used coded “messages” to my client as death threats.  We were even able to get him dispossessed of his weapons.

It’s just a start, and they aren’t safe yet.  There’s far more work to be done.  But the important thing that was able to be breached was the “boys will be boys” approach to guns in Nevada and the literal interpretation of the Gun Control Act that was never meant to be applied that way.  My client perceived these as coded threats, in the special language of abuser and victim, like prisoners of war.  A spoon is just a spoon, unless you know it’s been used in terrible ways.  Prosecuting these cases requires a gestalt flip.  By getting the Court to understand her fear through objective evidence, we were able to get our applicant judicial protection.  I’m not a psychologist, but I hope I did something right in there.

The Great Gatsby – A Lawyer’s Swan Song

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” – The GG.

 

Pensive on the Stars Tonight

Pensive on the Stars Tonight

Sonnet XIV

Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck,

And yet methinks I have astronomy;

But not to tell of good or evil luck,

Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality;

Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,

Pointing to each his thunder, rain, and wind,

Or say with princes if it shall go well

By oft predict that I in heaven find.

But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,

And, constant stars, in them I read such art

As truth and beauty shall together thrive

If from thyself to store thou wouldst convert:  

Or else of thee this I prognosticate,  

Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date. –

William Shakespeare

See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16367#sthash.QGqdzaJN.dpuf

Thus Be It Ever –

Thus Be It Ever -

I absolutely love this book.

The title is lifted from the full verse of the Star Spangled Banner – the poem, not the song, but is also an allusion to an alternative phrasing of Sic Semper Tyrranis, “thus be it ever to tyrrants.” Set forth fully as Sic semper evello mortem Tyrannis (a little grade school Latin).

Consider this excerpt from Letters from a Draftee to His Father, when his father asks what can be done for soldiers:

“I don’t want free cigarettes, or a carte blanche to heroic suicide. I want a real Democracy to return to…Too many men have died for an ideal that never was. I don’t want to join their ranks. I haven’t had a chance to think this all out and I’ve expressed it poorly, but you know what I mean.” – Roger, 1942.

Some of these essays / stories are remarkable for their perspective of total war. A vast sense of numbness, of people disappearing one by one until there are none, permeates some of the literature of this book. They address war narratives of which our generation is wholly unaware: British children evacuated from London to the United States under attack by U-Boats, Questions on the Freedom of Speech in war, and so much more.

It in fact contains some of the most unique reading experiences I have ever found, in the tradition of For Esme with Love and Squalor. Compiled during World War II, essayists : Stephen Vincent Benet – Poem “Litany for Dictatorships” Elspeth Huxley – The Only Woman in the Lifeboat Fourteen Points by Woodrow Wilson and the Four Freedoms by FDR, Langston Hughes, Fortune Magazine Articles. There is more literary gold and poetry in this little unknown book. A must for anyone interested in History, Political Philosophy and Wartime Literature needs this book.

Yale University Divinity School Library

Yale University Divinity School Library

The Frank and Bertha Ohlinger Papers from China and Korea

My great-great grandparents: Parents of Gus