Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Now and Then

The number of trick-or-treaters this year was down significantly in our neighborhood. Just a few years ago we planned for about 200 kids, but this year there were only about 50 to 70. That’s fine with me, because we now have leftover candy.

When I was thinking about this post, I tried to remember the Halloween’s of my youth – mainly in the 1950s. None of my costumes stick out in my memory and I can’t remember any store-bought ones. There are no pictures of any of us in our costumes in the family photo albums, so it apparently wasn’t a major holiday. Older siblings and cousins were put in charge of the younger kids.

There were a number of us who dressed as hobos; this mainly consisted of old clothes, pants held up with rope, and a bundle made from an old piece of cloth. Our faces were smeared with something black to represent beards. I understand that this costume is no longer politically correct as it might be perceived as making fun of the poor and/or homeless.

Then there were cowgirls and cowboys. This involved wearing Stetsons, handkerchiefs, vests, and our cap guns. Now that I think about it, there may have been cowboy or Indian costumes that could be purchased, but I don’t think I knew anyone who bought a costume. Nowadays Westerns are no longer popular and cap guns are forbidden, so I didn’t see any Roy Rogers or Dale Evans.

The only other costume that I remember was the one where you dressed up like an adult. Boys would wear shirts and ties, hats, and jackets and carry an attaché case, just like on Mad Men. Girls wore dresses, and hats and actual makeup. Now that the grownups and the kids all dress the same it wouldn’t even be recognized as a costume.

The only memories I have involve being out after dark, shuffling the fall leaves (which are cleaned up these days even as they land on the ground), and traveling in groups of friends. We would arrive on a front porch and then altogether call out in a singsong “Any-thing-for-Hall-o-ween?” or chant a chorus of “Trick or Treat.”

And the candy collected was special as we didn’t have candy every day. In fact I can remember that even soda was a special treat. My mother saved pennies for weeks and would throw a few pennies into each bag. There were also the kids collecting for UNICEF carrying a little box that resembled the school cafeteria milk containers.

Not that many years ago the local morning kindergartners used to stroll by in the early afternoon, but now their parents are still at work as are the neighbors who give out the candy. And I’m not sure the kids still have half-days in kindergarten as even pre-school has gotten more serious. Maybe our neighborhood has just gotten older. The first kids at our house arrived about 5:30 p.m.

Now they just ring the doorbell and stick out a container. Or they take the candy in their hands and then give it to the adults who accompany them to check it over before it goes in with the rest of the stash and remind them to say “thank you.”

Sigh. Happy Halloween.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sarah and the Supremes

As today is the first Monday in October, it seems like a good time to consider Sarah Palin’s recent Katie Couric interview where she was asked about Supreme Court decisions, specifically, the one’s with which she might disagree

As Palin received a lot of flack for only being able to remember one case, the Roe decision, I tested myself by taking a piece of scrap paper and jotting down any other cases that I could remember.

Involving the rights of persons under arrest, I recalled Miranda v. Ohio [1961 – the Miranda rights that need to be read to certain arrested persons], the Gideon decision [1963 – poor defendants deserve a lawyer], and Mapp v. Ohio [1961 – search warrants and the admissibility of illegally obtained evidence].

From my school days several decades ago I still remembered the Dred Scott decision, which was always on exams [1857 – Dred Scott v. Sandford – black persons are not citizens under the Constitution].

Then there were the related decisions Plessy v. Ferguson [1896 – separate but equal is okay] and Brown V. the Board of Education that overturned Plessy [1954 – separate but equal is not okay].

Regarding education, there was the Bakke case [1978 – UC v. Bakke – affirmative action – some special admissions policies unconstitutional].

Now, these were the ones I immediately remembered, but after reflection others came to mind, even if not completely.

Here’s one that Palin should be aware of, BOE Island Trees School District v. Pico [1982 – regarding book banning, ”…schools may not control their libraries in a manner that results in a narrow partisan view of certain matters of opinion…”]. Then there is Wallace v. Jaffree [1985 – moment of silence not constitutional in Alabama law as it was to endorse religion and return prayer to public schools]. She may want to review Lee v. Weisman [1992 – prayers as part of a school program not allowed].

I won’t go on, but I will suggest she take a Constitutional Law course. She really needs it – even as governor. And some legal studies may help her in that pesky Troopergate investigation.

In the interests of full disclosure, I did look up the years of most of the decisions and I was required to take a fair number of law courses in college and worked in the legal field.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Wiz's Castle

Apparently a miracle worker has arrived in town. A real wizard. For the sake of brevity, lets just call him “the Wiz."

The Wiz recently made a presentation explaining various miracles he wants to perform in conjunction with a massive castle he would like to make appear. The audience at this meeting included the Department for Assessing Magical Proposals (DAMP) that oversees proposed castle construction in this area, various professionals and politicians, a large contingent of local citizens, and a bunch of people who have exactly no stake whatsoever in whether these miracles occur or not, but apparently are friends of the Wiz.

Now, what exactly are these miracles?

Let’s start with the Low Income Persons (LIP) obligation that the DAMP’s jurisdiction would incur as a result of the Wiz’s activities. Although the initial LIP service was about 214 units and the Wiz had offered to build 264 units [out of the goodness of his heart], and although the even stronger NJ State Wizards had recently waved their wand and increased these numbers…Well, the Wiz is going to get a waiver so that he only has to make 45 LIP units appear. It wasn’t clear how the Wiz was going to accomplish this enchantment, but apparently it is such a hard spell that the town would have to help him with this magic.

Another miracle that the Wiz is going to perform involves various aspects of water – wastewater, stormwater, floodwater, and drinking water.

Starting with wastewater, the Wiz is going to get yet another division of the aforementioned very powerful State Wizards to let the castle have sewers without delay even though it took the apparently weak local magicians 28 years to get their sewers to appear. It isn’t exactly clear what spell is going to make his castle’s wastewater disappear, but it better not involve a really big moat and a lot of pump trucks.

Stormwater and floodwater can be handled as one in this particular area, as rain and floods go hand-in-hand. Apparently the Wiz feels he has stronger magic and better spells than Mother Nature, the NJ DEP wizards, and the Federal Wizards. It appears that the Wiz had his local friendly ghost (who currently haunts the fields where the Wiz wants to put his castle) send in some information to the DEP wizard to assist with his magic spell.

The Wiz apparently felt that Mother Nature had provided sufficient potable water for everyone to share; therefore no magic would be needed to protect existing local wells.

Traffic spells appear to be a specialty of the Wiz. Despite their castle having up to 2,200 residents, at least 1,400 employees, delivery trucks, garbage trucks, and visitors, it is enchanted and will produce no extra traffic problems in the area. Oh, yeah, and don’t forget the extra vehicles from their 214…or 264…or 45 LIP service units…which also won’t have any effect on traffic.

There is also some money magic involved, apparently related to the ability of the castle residents to be in two places at once. The residents of this enchanted project will all stay on site because it is gated and they perceive it to be safer than the surrounding areas - except for the LIPs who will be located in the apparently risky area outside the gates. The Wiz will provide the residents every form of business they will need to live – food, drink, medical care and medicine, beauty salons, pools and gyms, and all manner of activities. But, and here is the magic, these same residents will also appear outside the castle walls, spreading their largess in the nearby village which is selling the same products that the Wiz is already providing inside the walls so that the residents never have to leave…oh, never mind.

Since magic needs no explanation, just understand that the Wiz’s new castle will have no effect on local schools, roads, emergency services, hospitals, or any form of infrastructure. The local mortals who will live within a few hundred feet of the moat have nothing to worry about.

Additionally, the Wiz is going to give the local town millions in taxes every year without costing the town a dime. Just like magic.

Regarding the Department Assessing Magical Proposals (DAMP): they do not always approve castles. Although they only handle applications where the magic would happen within their own jurisdiction, they do consider the negative affect on neighboring DAMP areas.

“It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” – Chiffon Margarine advertisements (1971-1979)