If They Campaign Like Politicians And Get Elected Like Politicians, Then They Can Be…

persky election poster
Aaron Persky running for election.

California, like many states, has a system of choosing some judges by elections.

For our state supreme court and courts of appeal, judges are nominated by the governor.  For our superior courts, when there’s a vacancy the judge is, again, nominated by the governor.  In some instances, first-timers will run for a superior court judgeship.  Either way, superior court judges face reelection if they want to keep their jobs.

From an early age we are taught – and told – that voting is the way to make our voices heard.  We vote for candidates who support our beliefs, and once elected, officials are answerable to voters.  Voters put people in office, and voters remove people from office.

But somehow, when we elect judges, those judges aren’t supposed to be answerable to us.  Somehow, judges aren’t supposed to care what we think of their actions, including the decisions they make in court.  Somehow, we can put them in office and remove them from office, but the judges are above caring about all that.

wake-up call croppedOnly, they aren’t.

We voters are just supposed to accept whatever decisions judges make, and smile, and nod.

Put up, and shut up.

Only, some voters didn’t.

Wake-up call.

Two years ago – well before the #MeToo movement – a group of people, mostly women, started a grass-roots effort to recall a judge.

recall persky_03The judge was Aaron Persky of the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara.

The recall movement began after a June 2016 decision made by Judge Persky in the People vs. Turner case.  Turner being Brock Turner, a 19-year-old freshman at Stanford University.

Turner was indicted on five charges: two for rape, two for felony sexual assault, and one for attempted rape of a 22-year-old woman.  Turner and the woman had met at a fraternity party, and both got drunk.  They ended up outside, where Turner’s assault on the unconscious woman was interrupted by two witnesses.

After reviewing the results of DNA tests, the two rape charges were dropped by prosecutors.  The jury unanimously convicted Turner of the three remaining charges of felony sexual assault, specifically:guilty

  • Assault with intent to rape an intoxicated woman.
  • Sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object.
  • Sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.

This conviction could have sent Turner to prison for 14 years.

He didn’t go to prison.

There were no “years” involved in his incarceration time.

Instead, Judge Persky sentenced Turner to six months in jail. persky prison severe impact

The judge said he thought Turner would “not be a danger to others” and expressed concern that “a prison sentence would have a severe impact” on him.

The judge did not mention the impact of the assault on the victim.

Prosecutors had asked for a six-year prison sentence.  But Persky sided with a recommendation from the county probation department, which said “when compared to other crimes of similar nature” the Turner case “may be considered less serious due to (his) level of intoxication.”

So because Turner was drunk, his assault on an unconscious woman was “less serious”?seriously_01 cropped

Seriously?

Perhaps the most horrifying statement came from Turner’s father who said his son’s life would “never be the one that he dreamed about… a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”

Three felony sexual assaults reduced to a mere “20 minutes of action”?

Brock Turner
Turner leaving jail after serving three months for three felonies.

In September 2016 Brock Turner was released from jail after serving three months.

One month for each felony conviction.

All this made a lot of people – mostly women – angry.

They formed the Recall Judge Aaron Persky Campaign.

Their efforts were successful, and Persky was recalled in June 2018, the first judge recalled in California in more than 80 years.

judge cropped
Persky campaigning against his anti-recall movement.

There was opposition to the recall, both before and after it happened.  Before the vote, LaDoris Cordell, a retired judge and a spokeswoman for Judge Persky, said the recall was an attack on judicial independence and it had “encouraged people to think of judges as no more than politicians.”

Well, if he campaigns like a politician, and gets elected like a politician, and joins his own anti-recall movement like a politician…

After the recall Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen said, “When judges believe that they will lose their careers for making unpopular but lawful decisions, they may lack the courage to stand up for the rights of minorities or others needing protection from powerful majorities or those with even understandably inflamed passions.”

When Rosen talks about “minorities” he’s referring to Turner, a man.  When he talks about “powerful majorities” he’s referring to women.

Men as a “minority”?  Women as a “powerful majority”?  That’s a change.

No wonder Mr.  Rosen is concerned.

Recall Committee
Professor Dauber and members of the recall committee.

Michele Dauber, a Stanford University professor and chair of the Recall Judge Aaron Persky Campaign said the recall “expresses clearly that sexual assault, sexual violence is serious and it has to be taken seriously by elected officials.  It’s a historical moment when women across all sectors of society are standing up saying, ‘Enough is enough.’”

Aftermath?

brock-turner-sex-offender
Brock Turner, registered sex offender, Ohio.

Brock Turner returned home to Ohio.  He’d also been sentenced to three years probation, and required to register as a sex offender.  Turner has requested that his conviction be overturned, that his lifetime requirement to register as a sex offender be canceled, and that he be given a new trial.

Persky’s sentence, and the backlash to it, prompted California lawmakers to change the law.  Within four months, they enacted mandatory minimum sentences in sexual assault cases, and closed a loophole in which penetrative sexual assault could be punished less harshly if the victim was too intoxicated to physically resist.

on call judge
How do you like working the night shift, soon-to-be-ex-judge Persky?

Persky, according to the San Jose Mercury News, “will continue to work as on-call night judge from 5pm until 8am through June.”  After that, “It was unclear what the judge’s next career move will be.”

My takeaway?

If you don’t agree with the law that allows judges to be recalled, then change the law.

Otherwise, judges will continue to campaign like politicians, get elected like politicians, and very likely, if they piss off enough people…

Get recalled like politicians.

who's next_02

Rant: Pet Peeve Approaching

Have you ever said, “That’s my pet peeve”?

I have, too.  I was going to start this blog by sharing one of my pet peeves, but then I got to wondering, “Why do we say ‘pet peeve’ anyway?”

pet peeve_01 croppedA bit of research suggested that the expression “pet peeve” goes back only about 100 years, which also makes me wonder – what did people call their peeves before then?

Anyway, “peeve” is both a verb and a noun.  As a verb, when you’re “peeved,” you’re annoyed or irritated by someone or something.  As a noun, “peeve” is the someone or something that’s causing your annoyance or irritation.

As for “pet”?  That means especially annoyed or irritated.

Everyone has pet peeves, whether they use that expression or not.  Fingernails on aHair-in-sink_01 chalk board.  Someone standing too close and crowding your space.  People showing up at your home without calling first.  Toilet seats left up.  Hair left in the sink.

And bad bosses, which is mostly redundant.

So, without further digression, here’s my pet peeve.

at dinner_03 croppedMy companion and I were meeting our friends, a husband and wife, for dinner at a restaurant.  We all were in regular contact, but this couple lives on the other side of the country and we hadn’t seen them for a number of years.

We had a lovely meal and lots of good conversation and laughs.  As we finished dinner (Warning:  Pet Peeve Approaching) the wife took a small case out of her purse.  She snapped it open, offered the contents to her husband and took one for herself.

The contents were toothpicks.

They both then did a very lengthy and very thorough teeth cleaning at our dinner table.

The conversation now sounded like this:

Wife:  So (pick, pick), have you (suck, pick, suck) talked to (pick, pick, pick) Roger lately?picking at teeth

Husband:  (pick, suck) We haven’t (pick, pick) heard from him since his (pick, suck, pick) divorce.

This clearly wasn’t aberrant behavior for them.  Somehow, since we’d last seen them, this had become their “normal” and they were completely at ease, talking and picking and sucking and…

ewwwwww-cropped

ewwwwww-thats-disgusting-cropped second.jpg

Eventually, the picking and sucking concluded, and thankfully, so did our evening.

My companion and I compared notes and he, too, was disgusted.

Which made me wonder, are we the only ones who feel this way?

woman flossing_01 croppedIt turns out – no.  Just a few days later there was a letter in Dear Abby on this very subject.  Great timing!

The writer was complaining that her in-laws “often use a toothpick while we are still seated at the dinner table…When they dine at my home, they leave their used toothpicks lying around…My mother-in-law is now starting to floss her teeth in public.”

That’s really disgusting!

Dear Abby agreed that “oral hygiene should be attended to away from the table,” and backed up her opinion with Emily Post’s in Post’s most recent book on etiquette.  “Toothpicks,” Emily added, “should be used in private.”  The same for flossing, of course.

Now, everyone knows that good dental hygiene is important – no, critical – tospinach good health.  And everyone hates food getting stuck in their teeth.

Especially spinach.  Spinach getting stuck in your teeth is a given.  Have spinach, will stick.

But oral hygiene, while critical, isn’t mean to be shared.

I do realize that in the Grand Scheme of Life, someone sharing their disgusting, annoying, unsanitary dental cleaning in public is not all that important.

But to reference Emily Post again,

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others.  If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.

And please – do not use that fork to pick your teeth.

it's disgusting cropped

 

 

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

amazonVoice-activated digital assistants – like Amazon’s Alexa and Echo, Google’s Assistant, and Apple’s Siri – have become so popular that in a few years, more than half of U.S. households will have them.

That’s more than 70 million households.

That’s a lot of people who should be very, very afraid.

Why?

In early May, a husband and wife were at home in Portland, OR.  A home in which every room was wired with Amazon Echo voice-controlled speakers, used to control their home’s heat, lights and security.

Woman-on-mobile-phone-call-distressed_01 reversedThey got a call from a business associate of the husband’s.  The caller was in Seattle, 176 miles away.

The business associate had received a recording of a conversation between the husband and wife.  The couple didn’t know they’d been recorded.  They didn’t know the recording had been sent somewhere.

Their trusty Echo had done this all on its own – recorded their private conversation, selected a recipient from their address book, and sent the recording.

Creepy?

Headline print screen.jpg

Oh, yeah.

The wife contacted Amazon, whose spokesperson offered this explanation:huh_01

Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like “Alexa.”  Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a “send message” request.  At which point, Alexa said out loud, “To whom?”  At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customer’s contact list.  Alexa then asked out loud, “[Contact Name], right?”  Alexa then interpreted background conversation as “right.”

Poor little Echo just got all confused and misunderstood what it was hearing.  And sent that private conversation not only to the contact in Seattle, but to Amazon as well.  If you have the Google or Siri systems, they also get copies of your conversations.

Because that’s how the systems work.

Did you know that?

The Amazon spokesperson went on to say, “As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely.”

Less likely means possiblePossible means this can happen to anyone who uses this technology.welcome-mat (1)

The article about the Portland couple was followed by a spate of articles on how to protect ourselves from the very technology that increasing numbers of us are welcoming into our homes:

“Protect Your Privacy With An Echo In the Room”
“After Amazon Echo Misfire, Ways To Protect Your Own Privacy”
“Smart Gadgets:  Ways To Minimize Privacy and Security Risks”

Are you listening, folks?

On second thought, you don’t have to listen.

Your devices are doing that for you.

Whether you want them to, or not.

be-afraid-be-very-afraid-_big_think cropped

How To Increase Your Stress And Lose Money At The Same Time

standing in line_01We Americans hate waste.

Or at least, we say we do.

We hate wasting time standing in line.

We hate wasting money dropping bombs on dictators who don’t pay attention.

We hate wasting emotions on people unworthy of our emotions.

Yeah, we hate waste all right.  And yet…

We don’t hesitate wasting…

Paid vacation days.

no vacation_01In a recent survey of 4,439 workers, in 2017 “More than half – 52% – didn’t take all the vacation time they earned, and almost a quarter of workers said they hadn’t taken a vacation in more than a year.

“In all, surveyed workers left a total of 705 million vacation days unused last year.”

Those 4,439 workers are a tiny fraction of 126 million full-time workers in the U.S.  Multiply all those workers by all their unused vacation days and…

Waste?

Oh, yeah.

This is in a country with paid time off already pitifully small compared to other countries.  According to WorldAtlas.com, we’re not even in the top 55.  Austria is at #4 burkinawith 38 days; the count for Panama is 32 days; and Burkina Faso, a country I’d never heard of and sure couldn’t point to on a map, gets 37 days of paid leave.

The U.S.:  15 days.

And we waste a lot of them.

Of course I wondered why, and the survey suggested that “Employees who were concerned that vacation would make them appear dispensable or less dedicated were less likely to use all their vacation time.”

So we want to appear less dispensable and more dedicated.  Fantasy time.

Fantasy:

Manager:  Jack, it’s been brought to my attention that you were entitled to two weeks paid vacation last year, but you used only three days.  To my mind that makes you less dispensable and more dedicated, so I’m promoting you to assistant manager, and bumping up your salary by $1,000 a year! good boos.jpg
Jack:  Wow, thanks!  And I’m taking even less vacation this year! jumping for joy.jpg

Reality:

Manager:  Jack, you’re fired.  You can pick up your last paycheck in Human Resources.  Oh – and all those vacation days you didn’t use last year?  You forfeited them by not using them so they won’t be part of your last paycheck. getting-fired_01
Jack:  Wait…what???  wait what

In case this isn’t bad enough, in a second survey of just 2,224 workers – again, such a small number compared to that 126 million – we learn that many who did use paid time off “were still in contact with the office…Twenty-nine percent were contacted by a co-worker, and one in four said their boss contacted them.”

So we actually take some of that precious time off – and we’re still at work.  Sadly, there’s even a new word for it:

workation_06 cropped.png

Fantasy: 

Manager:  Jack, I realize you’re on vacation and I hate interrupting you, but could you lead the team meeting tomorrow morning?  I’ve got a last-minute thing with one of my kids or I wouldn’t dream of doing this.  I’d be so grateful if you could step in for me. boss on phone smiling.jpg
Jack:  No problem!  Just send me your agenda and I’ll call in at 8:30am your time. on phone smiling.jpg

Reality:

Manager:  Jack, who the hell OK’d your taking vacation time?  Never mind – I’ve got an important golf game tomorrow morning so I want you to lead the team meeting at 8:30am.  I know that’s the middle of the night there, but too bad.  Otherwise, you’re fired. angrymanphone-580x358
Jack:  Wait…what???  wait what

Now, I’m a believer in donating money to worthy causes, but I can guaran-damn-tee you donation_01that most employers don’t fit that description.

But when you don’t use your paid vacation time, you’re giving hundreds of dollars back to your employer.

What are we?

Crazy, anxious, afraid, exhausted, insecure, stressed?

Yeah.

Guarantee_01 cropped

Coming June 20: Stop And Smell The…Er…Stamps?

On May 22 the United States Postal Service (USPS) made an important announcement that was second perhaps only to North Korea’s complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization:

Scratch-and-Sniff Stamps.

The first ever.

Stamps

Yes, that’s right.

Scratch-and-Sniff Frozen Treats Forever stamps.

This is a collection of 10 stamps that when scratched and sniffed, will emit an odor – excuse me, a scent, to use the USPS word – that will maybe smell like the picture on the stamps.  According to the USPS official announcement, the stamps feature:

…The work of Margaret Berg of Santa Monica, CA, depicting whimsical watercolor illustrations of frosty, colorful, icy pops on a stick…Today, Americans love cool, refreshing ice pops on a hot summer day.  The tasty, sweet confections come in a variety of shapes and flavors.

It’s unclear whether the stamps’ scents will come in a variety of flavors.

does anybody care croppedIt’s unclear whether anbody’s going to care.

But USPS no doubt thinks it’s a clever marketing ploy and we’ll keep buying the stamps until we’re sure we’ve scratched and sniffed all of them.

It’s also unclear as to why USPS is doing this, except to:

…add the sweet scent of summer to letters of love, friendship, party invitations and other mailings…

In other words, for the betterment of mankind, specifically, the ever-dwindling number of people who use snail mail.

But speaking of marketing, picture a bunch of USPS honchos sitting around a conference room table and saying…

Team Leader:  Team, I’ll cut to the chase.  You’ve all seen our fiscal report for 2017 that detailed our loss of $2.7 billion.  The Postal Service has now incurred cumulative netbusinesspeople sad losses of $63.6 billion from 2007 through June 2017.  In addition, we will most likely default on $6.9 billion in payments for future retiree health benefits for the fifth consecutive year.  We owe $33.9 billion in unfunded retiree health obligations from unpaid dues in 2012 through 2016.

Silence.  And then…

downward graphTeam Member #1:  Um…were all those “billion” with a “b”?

Team Leader:  Yes.  We’ve now operated at a financial loss for 11 straight years.  Going forward, what are we going to do about this?

Team Member #2:  Um…how about raising the rates?

Team Leader:  Now, that’s thinking outside the box.  But we just raised the rates on January 1 – now it’s 50 cents to mail a first-class letter.  So I don’t think our customers – the few that are left – will buy into another increase.

Team Member #3:  How about if we get more people to buy more stamps?

Team Leader:  OK, let’s run with that.  How do we do that?

Silence.  And then…stickers vintage

Team Member #4:  Well, I had an idea…it might sound crazy, but – does anybody remember scratch-and-sniff?

Silence.  And then…

Team Leader:  I vaguely remember that.  I’d assumed it referred to a rather nasty skin condition?

Team Member #4:  No!  Scratch-and-sniff was popular during the late 1970s to mid-1980s, and people would buy stickers that had pictures on them, scratch them, and that would produce a smell related to the picture.

Team Leader:  And why would people do this?

scratch peachTeam Member #4:  Well, it was mostly for kids, and teachers used the stickers as rewards.  So if you were a good student, the teacher would put a sticker on your homework assignment and you could scratch and sniff it!  Like, um…a peach or an apple!

Team Leader:  So as a reward, a kid could sniff a peach or an apple?

Team Member #4:  Um, yeah. kid smelling apple cropped

Team Leader:  Couldn’t they just sniff the real thing?

Silence.  And then…

Team Member #5:  I think I see where he’s going with this.  Scratch-and-sniff stamps, right?  We create scratch-and-sniff stamps, and customers will use them on their mail, and the recipients will get so excited when they scratch and sniff the stamps that they’ll go out and buy them, too?

Team Member #4:  Yes, exactly!

General murmuring in the room.  And then…

Team Leader:  So scratch-and-sniff was popular in the late 70s to mid-80s.  The fact of the matter is, half the population of the U.S. is under 40, so they won’t even remember this, or why anyone wanted to do it.  Are we all on the same page?

Team:  Um, yes.

crowd post officeTeam Leader:  Then let’s get our ducks in a row.  We’re considering a scratch-and-sniff stamp, with an odor – I mean, smell – yet to be determined.  We produce scratch-and-sniff stamps and the masses will go wild buying them and everyone will be scratching and sniffing?

Team:  Yes!!!

Team Leader:  And it won’t be due to a nasty skin condition?

Team:  No!!!

Silence.  And then…

Team Leader:  OK, team, this really has legs.  I want to see – and smell – a prototype first thing tomorrow morning.  I want to really crush the envelope on this.

Team Member #3:  Ah, I think you meant push the envelope?

Team Leader:  No, I meant crush.  This is the Post Office, after all.  I want a big, splashy first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony on that Facebook thing, I want Tweetter, and I want kids – lots of media coverage of kids scratching and sniffing and demanding their parents buy the new stamps.  So somebody come up with an odor.  I mean, smell. gym shoes Whatever.

Team Member #5:  I’ll find a smell that will be expensive to produce and kids will love!  Like popcorn!  Or chocolate!  Or dirty gym shoes!

Team Member #4:  I’ll find a company that remembers how to make expensive scratch-and-sniff!

painter croppedTeam Member #3:  I’ll find an expensive artist to create images!  Something whimsical!

Team Member #2:  I’ll find an expensive art designer!  No, I’ll find two expensive art designers!

Team Member #1:  And I’ll…I’ll…find something expensive, too!

Team Leader:  Team, I see a paradigm shift coming!  I envision multiple lines of scratch and sniff – today, ice pops; tomorrow, animals, vegetables, and um…did somebody say dirty gym shoes?  The Post Office is on its way to Profit City!

Profit City Print Screen

Book Review: Rodgers and Hammerstein: Getting To Know Them

Publication date:  April 2018

Review, short version:  Four roses out of four.

Review, long version:

You may have seen the 23andMe.com commercial with a woman in a series of vignettes:

  • Riding a motorcycle
  • Surfing
  • Taking selfies with friends
  • Driving an ATV

Commercial print screen

If you’ve seen the commercial you may have noticed its catchy theme song:King-poster

Getting to know you,
Getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you,
Getting to hope you like me.

I find this so interesting:  The juxtaposition of the oh-so-contemporary idea of 23andMe testing your DNA, and a song that’s almost 70 years old.

That’s right – almost 70 years.

The song, Getting to Know You, was first publicly heard in the Broadway hit show The King and I, with music and lyrics by the brilliant team of Rodgers (music) and book_01Hammerstein (lyrics).

That team is profiled in Todd Purdum’s book, Something Wonderful, and Purdum’s book is something wonderful, indeed.

Oscar Hammerstein II (born 1895) and Richard Rodgers (born 1902) became writing partners in 1942.  Prior to that, they’d both had successful careers in musical theater with other partners, including Hammerstein writing with Jerome Kern, and Rodgers partnering with Lorenz Hart.

But it was when Rodgers and Hammerstein teamed up that their greatest musical magic happened:

Oklahoma! Broadway – 1943 Movie – 1955
Carousel Broadway – 1945 Movie – 1956
South Pacific Broadway – 1949 Movie – 1958
The King and I Broadway – 1951 Movie – 1956
Cinderella Television – 1957 Broadway – 2013
The Sound of Music Broadway – 1959 Movie – 1965

In between these masterpieces, Purdum notes, there were failures, as well.  Sometimes creative people put their hearts and souls and selves into their work and still…it just doesn’t click with the audience.  Those efforts are labeled – by the naysayers, at least – as “failures.”  sound oThe inspiring part is that Rodgers and Hammerstein knew the lows as well as the highs, but even as their “failures” were closing on Broadway, they were at work on their next success.

Something Wonderful is a highly readable accounting of an amazing relationship during and after World War II, and their shows were very much a part of their time.  The partnership brought thousands of hours of pleasure and memories to millions of people on the stage, the movie screen, and on a new medium called “television.”

And yes, that was a long time ago.cinderella (1)

But don’t make the mistake of thinking Rodgers and Hammerstein’s creations are in any way passé.  In a reverse of the norm, the written-for-TV Cinderella broadcast in 1957, and opened on Broadway in 2013.

And as Purdum writes, “On a single spring evening in 2014, in the United States alone, there were 11 productions of Carousel, 17 of The King and I, 26 of South Pacific, 64 of Oklahoma!, and 106 of The Sound of Music.”

So do something wonderful for yourself:  Read the book.  Then check your community and larger theaters for Rodgers and Hammerstein shows.  Rent/download/stream the movies.

musical-notesDon’t be surprised if you find yourself humming along to some of the songs.  You’ve heard them – like in the 23andMe commercial.  Maybe you just didn’t know it until now.

And as for that commercial with their music and lyrics alive and well, almost 70 years later?

I suspect that Rodgers and Hammerstein would think that was…

Something wonderful.

rodgershammerstein_3358757b.jpg
Richard Rodgers (left) and Oscar Hammerstein.

Rant: This Will Offend Your Olfactories

She must stay thin and young-looking, while her male colleague can grow fat and bald in peace.  – Eliana Dockterman

From a PBS NewsHour, anchor Judy Woodruff and her guest, Mark Shields:

W and S smaller
Mark Shields Judy Woodruff
Highly respected political columnist Highly respected anchor, PBS NewsHour
Hair:  Gray Hair:  Blond
Chin:  Sagging, jowly Chin:  Taut, sculpted
Neck:  Thick, flabby Neck:  Taut, sculpted
Arms:  Not visible, suspect flabby Arms:  Slender, toned
Build:  Portly Build:  Slender

What’s wrong with this picture?

Here’s what’s wrong:

Two highly respected journalists, of comparable age, both with many years in the business.What-Stinks

But if Judy Woodruff had gray hair, jowls, and a portly build, she wouldn’t have an on-air job.

Even if she was 30 years younger, with gray hair, jowls, and a portly build she’d be banished to a back cube in the newsroom.  If she was able to have a job in journalism at all.

What if Judy was losing her hair?  Would she lose her job, too?  Have you ever seen a balding woman hosting a TV program?  Compare and contrast that with…

matt-lauer-.jpg mark bittman.jpg

Matt Lauer, Unemployed

Mark Bittman, PBS

Canadian Journalism Foundation-Sold-out CJF Awards celebrates bill o'reilly

Peter Mansbridge, CBC

Bill O’Reilly, Unemployed

Yeah, that stinks.

stinks_01