Saturday, January 10, 2015

Muslims Condemning Terror Have Power Of Invisibility, According to Media

(Fearmonger News Alert) -  Muslims denouncing terrorist attacks, such as the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, possess a superhuman power of invisibility, according to reports. 

"We keep asking where are the Muslims denouncing terror?" asked Sean Hannity. "Every objective sources says they are more than 90% of Muslims, or over a billion people, including the heads of every major Muslim organization in America and Europe - but we can't see them. They are invisible. Doesn't that terrify you?"

"Dalil Boubakeur, the head of the Great Mosque of Paris, condemned the Paris attack as an extremely grave barbaric action, an attack against democracy and the freedom of the press" said Bill O'Reilly, "But in doing so, he bent light rays around his body, so I couldn't see him. It's his own fault, really."
The Anti-Terrorist Muslim Invisibilty Cloak also affects sound, according to Monica Crowley.  "I hadn't heard any condemnation of the Paris attacks from Muslims," she said on Fox News' The Real Story. "When Muslims speak, they will start talking and then there is silence. Their mouths keep moving as if they are saying something, but I can't hear it. How do they do that?"

Fox is not the only news channel reporting this phenomenon. CNN reporter Don Lemmon recently asked Muslim-American human rights lawyer Arasalan Iftikhar if he supported ISIS. "Iftikhar started to reply," said Lemon, "And suddenly he disappeared. Poof! The very act of saying he opposed terrorism made him completely invisible to me."

The power of invisibility may not be limited to individuals. "Where are the Muslims denouncing Islamic State in Iraq?" asked ABC News' Laura Ingraham. "Someone told me Nabil al-Arabi, Chief of the Arab League, denounced its crimes against humanity and demanded its leaders be brought to justice. But when I look at a map, I see no 'Arab League'. If an entire group of nations is invisible to us, shouldn't we be endlessly afraid?"

Most alarmingly, this mysterious invisibility even extends to the internet. "I googled 'do Muslims condemn terrorism'" wrote the editor of The Drudge Report, "And although my screen filled up with links, I could not see a single one. What awesome power do Muslims have to render the vast majority of their population invisible?"

"Be afraid. Be very, very afraid!"

Randall Winn

Friday, January 09, 2015

A True Story Of Veterans Advocacy And Lawyering

"They said we made too much money."

Her husband had been an airman during World War Two. Afterwards they both had successful professional careers. They were accustomed to caring for others; they were community leaders who never needed public benefits themselves. But age had robbed him of the ability to speak or write; he required helped with every bodily function except shaking your hand; his grip was still extraordinarily strong and conveyed some of the dignity and power with which he had previously helped others.

Must they impoverish themselves and their families for help with the last part of his life?

"That doesn't seem right."

The staff at the VA Hospital were kind and helpful, but there were rules. They could give out application forms, but they could not fill them out. They must impartially administer the system, not advocate for getting you into it or for changing the rules.

"Our pensions go over the limit."

A volunteer from a Veteran Service Organization (VSO) had helped her with the eligibility form. VSOs are private entities (typically fraternal organizations such as Disabled American Veterans, the American Legion, or the VFW) that have a relationship with our government to provide services to veterans, such as filling out VA applications. It is usually a good idea to try a VSO first, since what they are good at, they can be very good at. However, as often happens in the military and veteran culture, if a situation is “outside my lane” the matter does not proceed.

In this case, the VSO staff had helped fill out the first page, which was all about income. Congress had set a limit for allowing entry into the system, and when the numbers were added up at the bottom the page, the sum of the pensions exceeded that limit. Everyone was sincerely quite sorry but nothing more could be done; here is your form back.

This was not callousness; it would be an error to think that the staff and volunteers don't care. Rather, in my observation this is a learned powerlessness in the face of the rules. When I first started volunteering I made that error, but eventually observed that it is generally painful to staff to have to deny or to delay. I see the usual reactions to chronic pain and believe it is part of my job to respect that pain (which of course can never be spoken of), while finding a way to solve each particular problem.

"Let's go through it in detail."

This was not the lawyering I had seen on TV. I was not battling opposing counsel before a jury; I was not pouring through West's Reporter; I was not even wearing a suit.

However, I was advocating. My client had a clear issue, the rules were well established, and it was only the facts as presented that were the problem.

I verified the facts with the staff that the client had contacted. Everyone agreed this was outrageous, but what could you do?

My next move should have been to do the paperwork de novo, and eventually I tried that. But because the situation seemed so excessive, and the guy was frankly dying, I escalated this case a little early. I met with the Veterans' Representative of the appropriate Congressman; he is often very helpful but in this case was stumped. I presented it to a couple of media types who had been quite useful with problems involving private parties taken advantage of a veteran (it is amazing how a reporter on the doorstep motivates a car dealer to do the right thing!); they were interested in the story but since the rules were set by Congress the client would be dead long before a media campaign would be effective.

Finally I did what I should have done first: I sat down with the couple and we filled out the forms from the start. They had already done this five or six times before; I could see that they were not hopeful but they were determined to get it done.

We went through the form in excrutiating detail and got roughly the same income numbers as everyone else, and collectively shook our head. Then we got to the bottom of Page 1, and I turned it over. It seems that this had not been done before. The income had been so high that there was no point.

But we kept on. Halfway down Page Two was Item Seven.

How much do you spend a month on medical expenses?”

The wife pondered. The assisted living facility was several thousand a month, and then there were medicines and doctor's visits. Easily five thousand, probably more.

Subtract Medical Expenses From Income”

I thought to myself “F**k Me!”

[My dear friends. If you work with veterans, you will have to get used to the work f**k. It does not mean what you learned in law school. It is a remarkably flexible word, and not really an obscenity. This of it as an emphatic “uhm” and you'll be o.k. Just don't use it yourself, you'll seem pretentious. That's why I never say it out loud.]

I looked at this dignified, hard-working couple and realized that they could have gotten into the system months ago if the people who had helped them fill out the form had just turned it over and filled out the f**king back side.

Once we did so and took it to Eligibility, the staff was obviously delighted to get them get them into the system. They immediately set up a battery of appointments for evaluations, check-ups and all that. The last year of this gentleman's life was spent getting the high-quality care that he had earned by his service.

Let me emphasize: the service this couple got once they were in the system was excellent.

Advocacy did not end with getting the veteran into the system; VAF's Direct Service Advocacy is wholistic. In this case, VAF volunteers often met the couple at the hospital entrance, pushed the wheelchair, sat in on conferences to help translate medical arcana to ordinary language and generally to navigate the network. Everyone has to set their own boundaries as to the level of service they provide, but it does not make any sense to help someone with their paperwork and then walk by them as they struggle in the parking lot.

As I read the above, I imagine my law school Ethics class crying “What of the ethical issues? What of the risk to your firm? What of malpractice insurance?”. I frequently tell my VAF clients: “Yes, I am a lawyer but no, I'm not your lawyer; I'm just reading the rules to you so you you can decide for yourself what you want to do. And I don't have any money so don't bother suing me.” This gets a laugh, and often the joke about the shark.

The thing about this population is that they are so used to getting scr3w3d over that they are very appreciative of any fool trying to help them out without getting paid for it. I can't imagine being sued, and were one to try, the reaction of their peers - oh my!

There are many places where lawyers can advocate for military and veteran members and families. Many of them are recognizably lawyering; I myself have handled a case before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims; this was straightforward lawyering of the sort I learned in law school, I enjoyed it very much, and my client won – what could be better? However I hope my little story suggests that there are also opportunities for ordinary volunteering where the skills and experiences you pick up in your law practice can be very helpful.

I suggest you start by joining an existing organization. For example, in addition to VAF, I'm a member of Disabled American Veterans' (Auxiliary). If you are not a veteran yourself, you can usually join the "Auxiliary" if you have a real interest in serving that population. Don't start off by playing the expert; spend most of your time listening, and you will soon have your pick of situations where your skills as a lawyer can get things done.

--- REW

Thursday, January 08, 2015

An Interview With A Detective

Wednesday I was interviewed by a detective investigating the road rage incident I witnessed late last year. She called me a couple of days ago and offered to meet me whereever, but since I was coming to Bellevue anyway I suggested this morning.
It was an interesting experience. There was the 2x3 grid of photos to pick someone out of; they seemed to be driver's license photos blown up a bit.  I could not honestly pick one out, which bothered me until I realized that I had not actually seen the guy's full face; he'd never looked in my direction so although I had the sensation of seeing him, I had actually seen only one half of his face, more or less.
Next I drew the positions of the cars on a little map. Then the detective turned on her recorder and asked me what I saw. It was a good experience, describing exactly what I saw and occasionally having to saw that I didn't see something - it is tempting always to know everything, but that's not the purpose of the interview and it was o.k. not to know.
After the interview was over and everything shut off, I was asked if I had any questions. I wondered if there was corroboration of the driver's story - I had not seen anyone striking anyone, but that's not to say it didn't happen; I wasn't there for the first part. The detective said that this was like a puzzle; she assembled various pieces to get the whole picture. I didn't have the first part of what happened, but I supplied the last part, especially the license plate - my reading the license plate to the 911 operator helped locate the vehicle quickly. There were other witnesses - some of whom I had seen - who saw the first part of the thing, and so the picture was assembled.
We discussed the fact that often witnesses aren't perfect, and I observed that that might be a good sign, that we are not accustomed to seeing a crime in front of us. If we were used to it, that would be a bad sign!

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Computer Donations Thanks to DAV Chapter 23 (West Seattle)

Chapter 23 (West Seattle) of Disabled American Veterans deserved a big thank-you! for donating four computers to the Community Living Center (CLC) at VA Puget Sound Health Care System late last year.
Computer Ready For Service
In the CLC Common Area!
The CLC is where you stay at the hospital for extended care, such as recovering from knee replacements or sometimes for hospice care. Staying connected with families that live in another part of the state, or maybe in another state, is hard. Email and the internet is one way to share photos and messages and generally stay in touch. However, the computer that was available to the patient had gotten old and didn't work well.
VAF contacted our friends at DAV 23, and they stepped up with a generous donation of two all-in-one computers, new from Costco. VA Facilities Management made sure these were installed on high-quality computer tables and secured with cables, so they will be in service for many years to come!
The other two computers were iPads for the use of bedridden patients. The staff explained to us that there are specialized utilities for iPads that help patients accomplish tasks, and these had proven their usefulness in other parts of the hospital. Security for iPads is accomplished by storing them in lockers with careful recordkeeping of checkouts. Unfortunately, these  are not in the budget. Presented with the need, once again, DAV23 stepped forward and veterans in the hospital are the beneficiaries.
Well Done!

Monday, January 05, 2015

Thorfire Monday

Today the first of my test batch of LED bulbs arrived: the awesomely named THORFIRE!

It's a bitty thing, with a standard screw-in base, drawing 3 watts and producing the equivalent (...the packaging says...) of a 30 watt bulb. The issue here is that there aren't a lot of places around my home that I used 30 watts of illumination. I settled on the laundry room, where detail work or reading fine print is never an issue.
Because that room's time of useful illumination is relatively short (loading and unloading the wash and drying) I might put it near the bottom of the priority list but for one factor: its light is the one most often left on accidentally overnight. I'm not going to name any names, but a certain housemate does not have the habit of turning off lights when leaving a room, and many's the time that light's been left on all night. Thus minimizing its energy use should have a greater impact that a simpler analysis would suggest.
As Installed, THORFIRE!
Looks less vulnerable to accidental
Breakage than Pigtail CFL
With such reasoning, I had previously installed a pigtail CFL in there. I replaced it with the THORFIRE! and flipped the switch. Honestly, the room seemed more-or-less as well illuminated as before.

I did not toss the CFL, bur installed it in the downstairs bathroom, replacing a 60 watt incandescent. Therefore the THORFIRE! effectively displaced a 60 watt bulb. In doing so, I noticed that the bathroom lamp glass was dusty, so I washed it and the result was noticably brighter (...there's an important principle here!) The bathroom light is on an absolute minimum of twice a day, for perhaps roughly an hour a day or 365 hours a year.
In this case, calculating the energy savings, and therefore the ROI, is complicated by the two different rooms with very different lighting habits, but since I intended to be here for decades, it should all pay off.
I have a bunch more LEDs coming over the next few days, as following my success with the first one last week prompted me to go on Amazon and order a bunch of them. I hope I can make some interesting comparisons.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Sunday Simplification

This morning Wendy and Marcia hosted the neighborhood for coffee and bagels. It was a delightful introduction to the year.
Kris did not attend, although she was invited. Instead, Ginger came by and they went out for breakfast, and probably a few drinks. This was pretty much symbolic, although I did not recognize it at the time. Kris is disconnecting from the neighborhood; drinking with her mother is more important.
We also assembled a welcome basket for our new neighbors, the couple who bought Brian's house. Blair and Dina put on finishing touches at their table - it turns out Blair used to make flower baskets! - and then walked it over.
The next project was finishing the 4freeCLE newsletter and getting it published. What with the holiday and all, a bit of a backlog of listings had built up, but I got it done. In the interim, the real estate agent Kris had contacted to value the house came by, checked out the interior, and discussed staging and other selling strategies with Kris. This of course was quite distressing to me, although I had been prepared, and afterwards we had a calm discussion. Kris indicated that she just wanted out of the whole transaction, not any money; she stated that she believed that there was no money in the house due to house values. I don't know what the market value may be, and certainly the roof and solar installation would be hard to value in conventional terms, but the entire unit is my retirement plan, and we're pretty clear that that can't be replaced by a sum of money. Kris suggested that if she could move out into her own place, perhaps I could rent the top floor. As has happened before, she suggested to me the plan I had suggested to her, so I don't really disagree with it. I would have preferred that the situation not get to this point, but since she wants out, that would be the simplest, more fair and more practical out for us both.
I feel relief that we may have a compromise that works for me, and am satisfied enough that it works for her.
There is the not-insignificant detail of locating appropriate renters or, in the alternative, augmenting my income at the risk of my public service projects, but I have a few months to work on this. For the first time in a long time, I have a clear road - not a simple road, but a clear one - and the only issue is to perform. This greatly simplifies every decision.
Putting the two events together: in our discussion, Kris said that she would just move to another neighborhood and make friends there. I felt sad at that; I love my neighborhood. I understand change is necessary, but if I had to move I would have some feelings about it. Perhaps she does; it's really impossible to tell what an alcoholic "really" feels or even if that has a meaning in the ordinary sense. When I asked what she wanted, she said she wanted to live in a house by herself, and then she started describing how that made sense; finally I interrupted her and said that the explanations and so forth were not needed; the question was answered. There is no needed to persuade me whether her desire is reasonable or not; it's not me who would need persuading. She definitely wants to be away from living with me and, on the evidence, anyone else, and that's that.
She had a pleasant walk with Jeff on New Year's Day down at Lincoln Park, a place we liked to walk - it really is walkable. I recommended Jeff and some of the other men to her, and she recoiled; she thought of them as friends and did not want to date anyone where she hung out and drank. I pointed out that what this meant is that she did not want to date anyone, which is fine, but she might be better off just admitting it. She's not ready for that, and it's her karma I suppose.

A New Year of Free #MCLE 4freeCLE: Free Continuing Legal Education! January 4, 2015

4freeCLE: Free Continuing Legal Education!
January 4, 2015
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