Friday Open Thread.

Last Friday saw the rather pressing need for a fresh Open Thread, and who am I not to provide? For explanations and rules, go here and here and here. For the Coatesian mothership, here.


  1. On the last Open Thread, Andy Hall sed:

    Thought I’d share this with the Golden Horde. A couple of weeks ago, at the height of the Shirley Sherrod controversy, someone posted a link to a USDA feedback form. Several of us used it to respond, and tonight I got a message back. Yes, it’s a form letter, no, it doesn’t change anything that happened, but it’s welcome nonetheless:

    Thank you for contacting me regarding the events that transpired on the week of July 19, 2010. I have received many letters and emails expressing a wide range of thoughts and opinions. Some questioned the circumstances under which Mrs. Shirley Sherrod was initially asked to resign, others expressed a desire for further accountability for myself and others at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and still others were simply frustrated with the perception that the change they voted for in 2008 was not evident over the course of these events.

    Admittedly, I reacted too quickly. As I stated in my news conference on Wednesday, July 21, 2010, I should have taken the time to gather all the facts before making what resulted in a hasty and incorrect decision. I also should have called Mrs. Sherrod to learn her version of the events that had transpired. As a result of my actions, a good woman was put through a very difficult event, and that is something I deeply regret.

    I apologized to Mrs. Sherrod that Wednesday and told her I was sorry for the pain this must have caused her and her family. Thankfully, she graciously accepted my apology. While I cannot change what happened, I can try to make something out of this incident. I have offered Mrs. Sherrod a unique opportunity to continue her service at USDA, and I am hopeful that she accepts. USDA needs Mrs. Sherrod and people like her to continue the fight to overcome a history of failures in the area of civil rights.

    I will continue to review the circumstances that brought us to this day and I am committed to learning from my mistake. I also remain deeply committed to ensuring progress in correcting USDA’s record on civil rights. In part, that commitment was what caused me to react with such haste when I read the incomplete text of Mrs. Sherrod’s speech. Since I began this job in January 2009, transforming the culture of USDA and resolving allegations of past discrimination quickly and fairly has been a top priority of mine. I am pleased that to date we have reviewed thousands of past complaints and begun to act to bring about justice for many individuals. However, we have much more work to do, and I will not stop until we are finished.

    Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me and share your thoughts.


    Thomas J. Vilsack

  2. dmf

     /  August 6, 2010

  3. A friend who has had many connections in the San Francisco legal community for many years told me yesterday that Vaughn Walker being closeted has been thrown around in SF for a long time. Now, this article from the Huffington Post today. I am completely fascinated by how this brings out the pure hatred that these groups have tried to (poorly) hide for political reasons:

    • carlosthedwarf

       /  August 6, 2010

      I was under the impression that he was openly gay, but felt that his private life had no bearing on this case.

    • Read a column (not a comment) last night on FrumForum by a writer who is gay and supports gay marriage, but went into the usual “judicial activist, legislating-from-the-bench” schtick. Routine stuff. But up at the beginning of the piece, he just threw in a line that the judge was gay and should have recusd himself. No discussion, no justification, just a statement, as if he were saying “water is wet.” It seemed very out of place, an afterthought, and I really wonder if he tacked it on at the last minute after hearing the hullabaloo from others on the right. Sure seemed like it.

    • If it wasn’t Walker’s sexual orientation, the Far Right noise machine would have complained about something else – “Oh, Walker’s a secret liberal” or “This is just proof that Walker is suffering onset Alzheimers.” The Far Right can never blame their faulty hate-fueled ideology: they can only blame everyone else who calls them on it.

  4. dmf

     /  August 6, 2010

    my father always said, “early to bed and
    early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy
    and wise.”

    it was lights out at 8 p.m. in our house
    and we were up at dawn to the smell of
    coffee, frying bacon and scrambled

    my father followed this general routine
    for a lifetime and died young, broke,
    and, I think, not too

    taking note, I rejected his advice and it
    became, for me, late to bed and late
    to rise.

    now, I’m not saying that I’ve conquered
    the world but I’ve avoided
    numberless early traffic jams, bypassed some
    common pitfalls
    and have met some strange, wonderful

    one of whom
    myself—someone my father

    “Throwing Away the Alarm Clock” by Charles Bukowski

  5. Dude, if you can’t buy toilet paper without pain, then allowances must be made. I think that goes without saying. And if it needs saying, it should be embroidered on a pillow and put in the front room for all to see.

    What great news about the teaching gig, and the inspiration it’s returned to you! And coffice hours. I love coffice hours! If I ever have reasons to hold office hours, they will be coffice hours.

    (Which reminds me: It’s 12:51 pm CST and I still haven’t had any coffee. I really should see to that! It’s been a long morning…).

  6. So, while my friend’s case got thrown out, I got a terrible judge and am now in a first-time offender’s program which involves three months of probation, checking in monthly with a probation officer and a $200 fine. I’m not allowed to leave the state of Ohio during that time and I’m only supposed to associate with “law abiding citizens.”

    The same judge that sentenced me gave another guy who dealt heroin in front of a school and operated a bar notorious for gang fights and general bad things only a slightly heavier penalty (he was connected with a city councilman).

    The probation process involves a lot of sitting in a waiting room while the bureaucratic process moves slowly, and then giving up a lot of personal information and the feeling of “oh man I’d better not screw up,” because it seems like anything could now get construed as a crime if I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Needless to say, this sucks, though I’m glad that if it had to be one of us it was him that got off free instead of me.

    I never knew that making art could cost me this much.

    • Holy crap that sucks. I’m so sorry! I was somehow convinced that your friend’s good luck would not only spill onto you, but wasn’t really luck at all but a reflection of how the system was going to work.

      Oy honey. What happens after the probation? What does this mean for your record?

      • If I stay clean for the next 90 days then it gets sealed which means it will mostly disappear I think…

        I’m not losing sleep over it, if anything I find it funny because I’ve always been such a goody-goody kid growing up (heck, I teach sunday school, and spent last year tutoring African refugee children).

        I’m also considering taking some criminal justice/law school classes at the school where I work because it’s free and I want to help others navigate this crazy system. It’s given me way more empathy and perspective, which is always a good thing.

    • dmf

       /  August 6, 2010

      so sorry to hear this our justice system is of course anything but just, pls don’t let it get you too down i know many good folks who have had such run-ins with the law and they are fine now.

  7. Sorn Jessen

     /  August 6, 2010

    So it’s been an interesting week. Spent 3 days and a small fortune making copies in Bozeman up at the university archives. Hope to have something posted on this continuing research soon.

    Anyway because it’s friday

    To his Coy Mistress

    Andrew Marvell

    Had we but world enough, and time,
    This coyness, lady, were no crime.
    We would sit down and think which way
    To walk, and pass our long love’s day;
    Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
    Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
    Of Humber would complain. I would
    Love you ten years before the Flood;
    And you should, if you please, refuse
    Till the conversion of the Jews.
    My vegetable love should grow
    Vaster than empires, and more slow.
    An hundred years should go to praise
    Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
    Two hundred to adore each breast,
    But thirty thousand to the rest;
    An age at least to every part,
    And the last age should show your heart.
    For, lady, you deserve this state,
    Nor would I love at lower rate.

    But at my back I always hear
    Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;
    And yonder all before us lie
    Deserts of vast eternity.
    Thy beauty shall no more be found,
    Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
    My echoing song; then worms shall try
    That long preserv’d virginity,
    And your quaint honour turn to dust,
    And into ashes all my lust.
    The grave’s a fine and private place,
    But none I think do there embrace.

    Now therefore, while the youthful hue
    Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
    And while thy willing soul transpires
    At every pore with instant fires,
    Now let us sport us while we may;
    And now, like am’rous birds of prey,
    Rather at once our time devour,
    Than languish in his slow-chapp’d power.
    Let us roll all our strength, and all
    Our sweetness, up into one ball;
    And tear our pleasures with rough strife
    Thorough the iron gates of life.
    Thus, though we cannot make our sun
    Stand still, yet we will make him run

  8. Went to see a psychiatrist employed by the Career Center to see about my depression. She gave me a psych exam and then chatted with me about my career choices… which was odd because it’s not the career choices that’s my problem, IT’S MY BLEEPING DEPRESSION.

    • Aw man, I’m so sorry. Depression is a fucking bitch. (There, I cursed, so you don’t have to!) It’s so hard to be creative when depressed, so depressing to not have the energy to be creative — on and on. I hope that your session with her was helpful on some levels, at least. Good luck with both nasty things, my friend.

      Also: I’ve been meaning to come on here and tell folks who are looking for work (HEY FOLKS WHO ARE LOOKING FOR WORK!) that I happened to recently get some great advice from a friend in HR about resume writing for another friend (my resume is apparently fine!) — if you’d like to see it, I’d be happy to email it to you. Shoot me a note at the address in the About page, and I’ll send it off. (Probably not before Saturday night, though, as it’s about to become Shabbat).

  9. I’m back. There’s something wrong with one’s life when you’re too busy to hit an OTAN or even read your normal blog roll. Will try not to let this happen again.

  10. It’s official.

    David Frum is now to the left of The New Republic.

    In other news, Fareed Zakaria refudiates the ADL. Here’s hoping to see more blowback from pro-Israel Jews.

  11. anibundel

     /  August 8, 2010

    Good Morning! Awake! It’s a new week! Perhaps the inability to get anything done last week will be lifted? The schedule looks promising: Monday–interview; Tuesday&Wednesday–trying to locate a patio table and two side tables that I don’t hate with the power of 1000 suns (and don’t completely clash with the unfortunately 80s hued (but surprisingly comfortable) bequeathed chairs; Thursday and Friday–honest to goodness work, in an actual office, for an real live paycheck. Bonus goal for Thursday/Friday: engineer BF into being a Responsible Uncle and go spend time with the rapidly growing family progeny.
    Overall goal: Cheerful positivity dammit!

  12. So, folks that are anti death-penalty, all the time, convince me why someone that births and smothers 8 children, or births and stuffs 4 in suitcases to die shouldn’t get the death penalty? I’m totally serious here.

    I’m not trying to be a downer here, nor make sense of the world (I understand that these people are not sane)… I’m just really angry. I wish my wife wouldn’t read me this stuff.

    • anibundel

       /  August 8, 2010

      …..because (in my opinion anyway) any mother that would do that to her spawn is obviously mentally ill. And killing someone for being mentally ill seems wrong.

    • You make it sound like capital punishment for heinous crimes is something to be assumed, and that the burden falls on opponents to prove otherwise. In reality, it is supporters who need to provide the arguments for their views, and then we can talk. The taking of a life by the state is a serious enough matter that it should not be a default position.

      What exactly do you think the death penalty accomplishes, as opposed to locking someone up and throwing away the key? It’s ridiculous that you should act like simply describing the horrific crimes ought to be sufficient to make your stance clear, as if anyone who does not share your conclusion must be lacking in fundamental human feeling.

      You may say this person “deserves” to die, but I simply do not believe it is the job of our justice system to make that judgment. For all I know she may deserve to be chopped up into little bits and thrown to the dogs, but that does not mean we must carry this out to satisfy our consciences.

      It is not my obligation to prove that someone shouldn’t get the death penalty; it is yours to prove that they should. Mere appeals to outrage will not do.

      • @ani:
        My take on society has always been something like “people submit to follow certain rules and guidelines for the betterment of all, failure to do so results in the protections granted by that bond of society being removed.” Dependent on the severity of the offense of course. Also note that this is a completely non-religious take on morality as a social compact (not saying that religions don’t provide useful sources of morality, just that I cannot and will not rely on them as the basis for laws, etc.)

        re: the insanity argument: I’m not sure that buys anything with me. If someone is a murderer, they are a murderer… I don’t buy insanity as a defense or a reason not to prosecute there. Either way, they aren’t doing anyone any good by staying around, and may in fact continue to do the opposite.


        re: I never said anyone “deserves” to die, especially when using quote marks please be careful what you are attributing to me. This may be quibbling semantics, but I don’t like the connotation or denotation of “deserves” in reference to the way I look at this.

        For me it’s no so much a deserving to die as a) forfeiting your agreed upon rights (a massive oversimplification of the bonds of society, but it works for me for the time being) b) protecting the rest of the social group without c) putting an undue burden on them (ie paying to keep you comfortable, fed, and alive in a facility somewhere) to provide for you something that you no longer have any claim on.

        I’m sorry, but trying to push the obligation back to me seems unhelpful as this is a somewhat hypothetical conversation I started with a question.

        Like, if I said “OK people, convince me that Radiohead is the best band ever!” and someone’s response was “Convince me that they are not!” – do you see where I’m going here? I’m not trying to say it’s your personal obligation to do anything there, as I’m not say, talking about the specific system of death penalties in the US or anything, but rather I was asking for opinions about the general concept, I guess. Apologies for my not being clear enough.

        “What do I think the death penalty accomplishes” : Removing something from the system that has already caused serious damage, and would most likely continue to do so if special funds were not set aside to restrain them.

        “You make it sound like capital punishment for heinous crimes is something to be assumed,” Yes, I did. Sorry, that was actually the set up, sorry if I didn’t make that clear.

        Here’s maybe a different way of phrasing it:

        What is a convincing argument against the death penalty for heinous crimes (in my case: murder, repeated rape & child molestation) *without* appealing to a religious source for moral truth?

      • @ Andy I will admit that I try my best to not listen too closely to stories like the ones you referenced. From other things you’ve written, at your own place I think, I’ve got the impression that you and I have a similar reaction: taking the information on, and holding it in our chests where it burns a horrible hole in our hearts. I just cannot deal.

        Having said that: I just don’t believe in the death penalty, period. Without reference to religion or anything else, really. I just think that adding one more death helps no one, solves nothing, and never deters anyone. All it does is serve our need for revenge, and add another body to the pile. I wouldn’t have given Hitler the death penalty. Even with the understanding that society now has to pay for hypothetical Hitler’s upkeep — I think society is better served by not being in the business of killing people, or, put differently: The social cost of killing hypothetical Hilter is higher than the financial cost.

        (Did I just Godwin my own blog? Shit. I think I did).

      • @Emily: You so did! But, it is your house :).

        This is the main place I usually disagree with fellow lefties, usually I don’t say much about it as it’s not a particularly popular opinion and folks aren’t always so accepting of dissenting opinions, and things can get pretty heated. But, sometimes … it just bubbles up. Hopefully I didn’t clutter up your place or bring in any kind of hostile atmosphere. I may have to do a long-winded blog about it at some point. When I want to alienate the few leftist readers I have and further confuse the rightist ones :).

      • @ Andy No, no, please don’t worry! I was really happy to see a serious conversation going on. Reasonable people can disagree reasonably — even if heatedly — and that’s what we’re all about here at In My Head! If you and I should ever find ourselves in the personal position of having to throw a switch or not, I imagine it would get ugly then. Otherwise, I think we’re good.

  13. dmf

     /  August 9, 2010

    • Ooh, I like this, and I’m not usually a fan of saxophone-driven anything. Thank you. I just got a rather surprising amount of work dropped on my desk just an hour ago for this week (the lot of a freelancer, feast or famine) and having heard this track, I feel like I just commuted in on the L Train…!

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