Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for February 2012

Donald Driver does “Dancing with the Stars”

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Folks, in case you haven’t heard yet, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver, 37, who holds a number of receiving records for the Packers, has decided to become a contestant on ABC’s hit TV show, “Dancing with the Stars.”  Driver will be teamed with Peta Murgatroyd, and has already said that the idea of getting spray tanned or wearing some of the outlandish outfits both men and women are expected to wear is going to take some getting used to.

Here’s a link to a story from Sports Illustrated about Driver going on DWTS that focuses on the oddity of athletes going on this show at all:

http://nfl.si.com/2012/02/28/donald-driver-joins-long-strange-legacy-of-athletes-on-dancing-with-the-stars/?section=si_latest

And the Los Angeles Times asks the question, “Can Donald Driver stay healthy?”  Here’s a relevant quote:

But injuries tend to run through “DWTS” seasons like linemen picking their way through an agility ladder. . . even experienced hoofers have been plagued with physical woes, including Jennifer Grey, who rose to fame in the film “Dirty Dancing.”

. . .

This should all be sobering stuff for Driver, who has played for the Packers since 1999 and — unlike fellow “DWTS” contestant Martina Navratilova, who retired from tennis years ago — is still very much in the game. At 37, he’s getting on in years for an NFL-er. And he has seen his share of workplace injuries in recent years. He sprained his ankle early during the 2011 Super Bowl and couldn’t return to the game, although the Packers won anyway.

What’s most surprising about the news that Driver will go on DWTS is that there were no hints in Wisconsin about this to the best of my knowledge; absolutely none.  Driver is a guy with a sunny personality and a very strong work ethic who’s done a great deal for charity in the past; if any of his personal charm translates to television, my guess is that he’ll do very well, providing he doesn’t sustain a serious injury.

I hate even writing the last, mind you, though it wasn’t me who brought up the “injury subject.”  But it’s the truth; even well-conditioned athletes like Driver have had troubles on this show because what they’re doing, dance-wise, is very different from what they do on the football field, on the basketball court, etc.  Dancing uses different muscles and that’s why someone who is in excellent shape can still end up injured (with the worst injury coming to Misty May Treanor several years ago, who tore her Achilles tendon; her partner was Maksim Chmerikovskiy).

Here’s to Driver for being willing to do something way out of his comfort zone.  And may he do well, be pain-free, and learn a new skill that he can share with his wife down the line during this season of DWTS.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 29, 2012 at 11:40 pm

Just Reviewed Sam Sommers’ “Situations Matter” at SBR

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Folks, if you haven’t read Sam Sommers’ SITUATIONS MATTER: Understanding how Context Transforms Your World yet, you should.  I don’t care if you’re a writer, an editor, a reader — you will learn a great deal from this book and it will help you understand more about how situations can change how people behave, why sometimes people behave badly in crowds, and much, much more.

This is one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life on any subject.  It is witty, interesting, written in an engaging style, and was one of the few nonfiction books of the past year that I not only enjoyed wholeheartedly, but read three times just because I could.  To think that Sam Sommers, a professor of psychology at Tufts University, could write this well the first-time out (as this is his first work of long-form nonfiction) is astonishing.

Please see tonight’s review, which is up now at Shiny Book Review for your edification; then, seriously, go grab this book:

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/sam-sommers-proves-that-situations-do-indeed-matter/

Enjoy!

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 26, 2012 at 12:01 am

Hallelujah! Brewers OF Ryan Braun Wins Appeal; Will Not be Suspended (UPDATED)

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Folks, I told you this would happen, and it did.

Today, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun won his appeal and will not be suspended 50 games for performance-enhancing drugs (read: steroids).  Apparently, he was able to prove a problem with the “chain of custody” (that is, how the urine sample was handled before it got to the lab); Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writer Tom Haudricourt said, in essence, that the Brewers breathed a big sigh of relief after hearing this.

Apparently MLB itself isn’t happy that Braun won his appeal, but that’s just too bad about them; the fact is, arbitrator Shyam Das agreed with the Major League Players Association and with Braun himself, and that’s what matters.  (Anything else is just a fig leaf for MLB, and should be discounted.)

Here’s a link to Haudricourt’s story:

http://m.jsonline.com/140213003.htm?ua=iphone&dc=smart

UPDATE FOLLOWS:

Ryan Braun has released a statement, which the Journal-Sentinel has at this link:

http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/sports/140218803.html

Here’s an excerpt from that statement:

I am very pleased and relieved by today’s decision.

It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation. We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side.

We provided complete cooperation throughout, despite the highly unusual circumstances.

I have been an open book, willing to share details from every aspect of my life as part of this investigation, because I have nothing to hide. I have passed over 25 drug tests in my career, including at least three in the past year.

Later in the statement, after Braun thanked the many people (including the Brewers organization) he felt he should, he said this:

This is not just about one person, but about all current and future players, and thankfully, today the process worked.

Despite the challenges of this adversarial process, I do appreciate the professionalism demonstrated by the Panel Chair and the Office of the Commissioner.

As I said before, I’ve always loved and had so much respect for the game of baseball.

Everything I’ve done in my career has been with that respect and appreciation in mind.

I look forward to finally being able to speak to the fans and the media on Friday and then returning the focus to baseball and working with my Brewers teammates on defending our National League Central title.

And friends and teammates of Braun have not been shy saying they’re very pleased to hear this, either.

Brewers closer John Axford, on Twitter, said this regarding Braun:

All I can say is that Braun has exemplary character is continuing to handle this in an unbelievable manner. #ThereBetterBeSomeApologies

And Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, who is a good friend of Ryan Braun’s, said this via Twitter:

MLB and cable sports tried to sully the reputation of an innocent man. Picked the wrong guy to mess with. Truth will set u free #exonerated

My own take, as you know, is that back in December, I said that I believed Braun would be found innocent or at minimum be vindicated and this suspension would not hold up.  Here’s a bit from that blog, written on December 10, 2011:

Braun has been an outstanding player from the time the Brewers brought him up.  He won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2007.  His lifetime numbers are comparable to his MVP numbers; over his last five seasons, he’s averaged 36 HRs and 118 RBIs a season, and has hit over .300 every year except 2008 (when he “only” hit .285); his lifetime batting average, over five complete seasons, is .312.

So I don’t really see where Braun could’ve been taking anything that was of an enhancing nature, especially if he’s never tested positive before (and indeed, he hasn’t).

Then on December 22, 2011, I pointed out that Braun knew the one minor leaguer, Brendan Katin, who’d successfully fought his appeal, and that maybe this meant something for him.  And Katin said that he didn’t believe Braun was dirty; he said he was “shocked” to hear of an impending suspension, as it didn’t really make any sense.  My conclusion was as follows:

In other words, Braun’s test could be a false positive of the sort Katin had happen to him; just because it hadn’t yet happened as far as anyone’s aware in the majors yet, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.  Tests are handled by humans, thus are inherently flawed, and it is possible that a completely innocent man could be caught in the cross-hairs, just like Katin was back in 2007.

My view remains that Braun is innocent until and unless he is proven guilty, not the reverse — and that I fully expect that Braun will be exonerated.  (emphasis added)

So as I said before, I fully believed Braun would be vindicated.  I was right, and I’m not afraid to tell you all “I told you so,” either.

Now, the Brewers, their fans, and Braun himself can breathe a sigh of relief; as for MLB, they should realize that tests can be messed up and not every player who tests positive initially is a dirty player.  Rather than being mad at arbitrator Shyam Das, they should be grateful that Das is an independent person and used his head for more than a hatrack.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 23, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Just reviewed the novelization of “The Settlers of Catan” at SBR

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Folks, if you’ve ever played the board game THE SETTLERS OF CATAN, you know that Catan is a semi-mythical island out in the middle of nowhere in Northern Europe that can only be reached by waiting for the worst storm you’ve ever seen and riding it out.

Anyway, Klaus Teuber, who invented the board game THE SETTLERS OF CATAN, asked novelist Rebecca Gable to turn the game into a historical novel.  She did so in 2003 in Germany; in 2011, Amazon Crossing picked up an English version that was originally translated by Lee Chadeayne, then was revised by Ingrid G. Lansford.  This is the novel that I just reviewed at Shiny Book Review; here is the link to the review:

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/the-settlers-of-catan-more-than-just-a-board-game/

A synopsis of my review is this: it’s a good book that illuminates the history of 850 AD including the religious outlook (the pagan beliefs based on the Nordic pantheon versus the newer religion, Christianity), the difficulties colonists had restarting their lives, and much more.  But be warned; some parts of the novel are extremely graphic and there is a male-on-male rape scene that I found particularly distasteful.  (I talked around this in my SBR review; I’m not doing so here.)

WI Redistricting: District Court says Maps Can be Redrawn, but Rs refuse; Trial to Resume Thursday

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Folks, this isn’t much of a surprise; the United States District Court (Eastern Division of Wisconsin) today rejected the Wisconsin Legislature’s argument that they cannot re-draw the maps based on a 1954 state Supreme Court decision.  The Legislature is dominated in both the Assembly and in the Senate by Republicans, so in essence it is the Wisconsin Republican Party that has refused as all along, as the Democratic Party and the few Independents in the state government at any level all seem to want to re-draw the maps.  The Court gave the Legislature (the Rs) 5.5 hours today to reconsider their viewpoint; the Rs, predictably, have refused to re-draw the maps.

The only reason this is significant is that now the Republican Party’s refusal is on the record.  Otherwise, nothing has changed from what I reported late last night; the Rs want the maps to stand, the Ds want the maps to be re-drawn, and the District Court seems mystified by the Rs recalcitrant behavior.

Here’s the link to today’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story:

http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/court-rules-lawmakers-can-make-changes-to-maps-bu49vtc-140013193.html

Here’s a relevant quote:

Because lawmakers and the groups suing them could not agree on a settlement, the case will go to trial at 8:30 a.m. Thursday on an accelerated schedule. The trial was expected to last three or four days, but the presiding judge said he wanted to complete testimony by Friday, even if it meant going into the evening.

On Tuesday, an attorney for the state, Dan Kelly, told the judges that lawmakers were open to making changes to the maps, but he argued that a 1954 state Supreme Court decision prevented lawmakers from making changes to the maps after they had approved them. The panel of three federal judges – which includes two judges appointed by Republican presidents – rejected that argument Wednesday, and told the attorneys to tell them that afternoon whether the Legislature would spend the coming weeks drawing new maps.

Republican leaders declined to do that, sending the case to trial.

The only real news here is that the Court will expect this trial to wrap up on Friday evening even if they have to stay quite late in order to get everything done.  This means the Court will not allow the Legislature to obfuscate or delay any longer; these maps must be fixed by April 15, 2012, or things are going to get even messier than they already are.

As I said before, the only thing certain in all this is that the Rs don’t want to do anything.  They seem willing to let this go to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) because they believe they will prevail there due to the 5-4 split between conservatives/Republicans and liberals/Democrats.  But this particular panel is made up of two conservatives/Republicans and one Democrat and they don’t agree with the Legislature; how can the Legislature be sure they’ll get more than two votes at the SCOTUS level?  (Methinks they can’t, especially if the Supreme Court justices dislike the way the Legislature has behaved toward other judges the way I think is likely.  It’s possible that SCOTUS may rule 9-0 against the Wisconsin Rs, even though they don’t seem to think that’s likely.)

Oh, one other tidbit in this article:

The case comes to trial just as Gov. Scott Walker nearly doubles the amount in taxpayer money that can be spent on outside attorneys assisting the Department of Justice. Documents released Wednesday show the cap on the contract with Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren is being raised from $500,000 to $925,000.

Those costs are in addition to the $400,000 that Republican lawmakers have committed to two law firms that helped them draw the maps.

So, did you get that?  Walker is going to allow the Rs to get more state money to defend these terrible maps.  Which is why his recall cannot come soon enough.

That’s it for today; trial will resume Thursday, and I’d expect we’ll get a decision on this matter by the middle of next week due to the time-sensitive nature of this problem.  Stay tuned.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 22, 2012 at 6:15 pm

WI Rs Refuse to Re-Draw Maps; Trial Resumes Tomorrow

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Here’s the latest regarding the trial going on in the United States District Court (Eastern Division of Wisconsin) — the Wisconsin Republicans, who control the Legislature, the Governor’s chair, and the state Supreme Court, have decided they “do not have the power” to re-draw the maps as the three-judge panel headed by Judge Stadtmueller asked them to do.

Here’s the link to the story at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/judicial-panel-says-gop-should-consider-new-election-maps-4v49cpj-139829743.html

Now, as to the merits of the Republican argument?  They are pointing to a 1954 Wisconsin state Supreme Court decision, which the Rs believe disallows any re-drawing of the district maps; the Rs say they would “like to” revisit the maps, but they just can’t.  The reason this is such a big deal is that every ten years, these maps must be re-drawn; because the Rs won all three branches of the state government, there was almost nothing the Democrats could do to stop them from doing anything they liked.   This is the main reason the Democrats sued.

Here’s a new quote from the updated story at the Journal-Sentinel:

The panel – which includes two judges appointed by Republican presidents and one appointed by a Democratic president – has repeatedly criticized Republican lawmakers in written orders for their secretive process for drawing the maps.

On Tuesday, presiding Judge J.P. Stadtmueller did the same shortly after hearing that attorneys for the legislators had released a new batch of emails Friday that they had not previously disclosed they had. The release of emails came a day after the court had ordered the lawmakers’ attorneys to make public a separate group of emails.

“The facts are the facts and what has occurred here is beyond the pale in terms of lack of transparency (and) secrecy,” Stadtmueller said. “Appearances are everything and Wisconsin has prided itself one generation after another on openness and fairness in doing the right thing. And to be frank we have seen everything but that in the way this case has proceeded.”

Now, the lack of transparency regarding e-mails may seem like a minor issue, but if you’ve followed along with my previous blogs upon the subject, you know it isn’t.  The Rs have been chastised four separate times to date over their lack of transparency; as Judge Stadtmueller said above, this isn’t the right thing to do.

Here’s the deal, folks.  What the Rs have done in Wisconsin reminds me of the old axiom that goes like this:  “Power corrupts.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  This is because they felt they could do anything they liked and no one would say anything to them over it.  Even after hundreds of thousands went out to protest all over the state of Wisconsin last year over the high-handed, dictatorial way Governor Scott Walker went about eliminating collective bargaining for most public-employee union members, the Rs didn’t change their ways.

Now, the Rs have been sued because of the way these maps have been drawn.  And they say they “lack the power” to change them even though they control all three branches of government.

I’m sorry.  I don’t buy this argument, and I am really disgusted that it’s taken this three-judge panel to get the Rs to admit they really should re-draw these maps (but they just can’t).

As I said before, I fully expect the three-judge panel to be excoriated by the Rs in coming days.  The Rs have a great deal of money and can put many ads on television; they’ll blame “activist judges,” no doubt, and hope that the people don’t realize that two of the three judges on the panel were appointed by Republican Presidents, including Judge Stadtmueller himself (appointed by Ronald Reagan).

What it seems to me the state GOP is hoping for is that the district court will rule against them; after that, they will appeal to the United States Supreme Court, and because there are five well-known conservative justices there, they figure they will get their way.  (Two of the five, in particular, would seem to be sympathetic right off the bat — Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia — but it’s possible even they might find the way the Wisconsin Rs have behaved objectionable.)

But there’s nothing saying that the five conservative justices on the Supreme Court must back the Wisconsin GOP, now, is there?  Because if all conservatives behaved the same way, wouldn’t you think this three-judge panel would’ve tossed this lawsuit summarily right off the bat, as two of the three judges on the panel are conservative-appointees?

It’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not these maps are going to hold up.  But my hunch is that they’ll be overturned, even if they do get appealed to the US Supreme Court; eventually, these maps will end up being re-drawn by the courts.  And providing these maps are indeed overturned, that will be a victory for the people of Wisconsin.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 21, 2012 at 11:29 pm

Surprise! Federal Judges Want Rs to Redraw WI District Maps

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Folks, even I didn’t see this one coming.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, at this link, reports that the three-judge panel from the United States District Court (Eastern District of Wisconsin) has asked the Wisconsin Legislature (thus in actuality, the Wisconsin Republican Party as all three branches of government in Wisconsin are currently controlled by the GOP) to “consider re-drawing” the district maps that are currently in dispute by taking into account the problems Latinos and the Democratic Party have with the maps and fixing the problems accordingly.

The Journal-Sentinel reports:

The court gave the Legislature until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to decide whether it wants to revisit the maps it approved last summer. If it does not, the trial challenging the maps will resume Wednesday. If lawmakers agree to take up the maps anew, the court would give them until mid-March to approve them.

Apparently the reason the judges want the Legislature to re-draw the maps (rather than go to trial) is because they honestly feel that the Legislature should draw the maps — just, perhaps, not these maps.  (Or in science-fictional terms, “These aren’t the maps you’re looking for.  Move along.”)

Here’s more from the article that discusses what presiding judge J.P. Stadtmueller thinks:

At the opening of trial, presiding Judge J.P. Stadtmueller said drawing district lines is the purview of lawmakers, and it would be best for them to put those lines into law. However, he said, the plaintiffs have raised significant issues, particularly on the treatment of Latino areas and in the way it moved hundreds of thousands of people into new districts. He said legislators should consider setting new maps with those concerns in mind.

Next is my favorite part of the article:

Stadtmueller and the others on the panel have repeatedly criticized Republican lawmakers for being overly secretive in how they drew the maps. Almost all lawmakers signed secrecy agreements about the maps and they tried repeatedly to prevent their aides from having to testify or produce documents. Those attempts were unsuccessful, and last month the panel ordered the Republicans’ attorneys to pay the other side $17,500 for filing frivolous motions.

Note that Stadtmueller said that the “one-day pause” should not be taken as an indication of how the three-judge panel will rule — but then again, does it really need to be, considering the fact that on four prior occasions, the three-judge panel has heavily chastised the Wisconsin Rs for backroom shenanigans and an absolute lack of transparency?

My take on this is simple: if the judges didn’t believe there were grounds to strike down these maps — and good grounds, at that — they wouldn’t have made this extraordinary offer to the Wisconsin Rs.  Because the offer basically says this: “Fix the maps on your own.  Or we’ll likely end up fixing them for you.”

The entirety of the Wisconsin Legislature, along with Governor Scott Walker (R), now have until 5:30 p.m. CST to make a decision as to whether or not they’re willing to re-visit these maps and attempt to re-draw them in a way that the court is likely to approve.

If I had to guess at what the Wisconsin Rs are going to do, though, my guess is this: they won’t re-draw the maps.  They’ll instead go back into court tomorrow, and try to impugn the three-judge panel on every media station that will allow them to do so within the state of Wisconsin (and probably on national cable such as Fox News, too, no doubt) because somehow, these three judges will be seen as “activist liberal judges” who just want to cause trouble for the Rs because the Rs are sweet, innocent, and completely in the right in every way, shape, or form.  The fact that two of these three judges were appointed by Republican Presidents, mind you, will go completely by the boards when it comes to the media, but I can assure you that the judges themselves know full well who appointed them, and why. 

This is why if I were a Republican, I’d be calling my legislators — and the Governor, too, no doubt — and urging them to take this deal before it’s too late.  Otherwise, the judges will not be pleased . . . and my best guess after that, considering all the chicanery that’s gone on over the past year-plus since Scott Walker and the R-dominated Legislature came to power, is that the GOP will end up getting its comeuppance in a way that party had never foreseen — otherwise known as, “By their fruits, ye shall know them.”

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 21, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Vinny Rottino Redux, AKA Rottino’s Persistence Pays Off

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More people should be like Vinny Rottino.

As most of you who follow this blog know, I’ve been keeping an eye on the Racine-born Rottino.  His quest to become a major league baseball player is compelling for many reasons, but the biggest and best reason to follow Rottino’s story is because he refuses to give up on himself. 

Rottino knows he has the talent to play in the major leagues, and because he knows that, he is willing to do whatever it takes to make it.

Racine Journal-Times sportswriter Peter Jackel wrote a very nice article about Rottino in yesterday’s edition; the headline read, “Irresistible force: Resilient Rottino Rewarded with Another Shot.”  (I really like that alliteration there; whoever wrote that headline did a great job.)  Take a look at that article here:

http://www.journaltimes.com/sports/resilient-rottino-rewarded-with-another-shot/article_75bb0fcc-5b8c-11e1-b0c5-0019bb2963f4.html

Jackel points out in his article that Rottino was the Milwaukee Brewers minor league player of the year in 2004 — his second year in the minors — and though he’s had some at-bats and a bit of playing time here and there with the Brewers, and last year with the then-Florida Marlins, Rottino has never had extended playing time with any major league team (as he’s also spent time in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ minor league system, too).

But the New York Mets wanted Rottino because of his tough-minded, hard-nosed attitude; this is why they signed him last November.  As Paul Depodesta, the Mets Vice President of Player Development, said in Jackel’s article,

“Vinny’s hard-nosed style of play absolutely played a role in our decision to sign him.  We know he’ll fit well with our manager, Terry Collins, who shares Vinny’s passion and intensity, and he’ll be appreciated by the fans in New York.”

This is a great deal more than is usually said about any guy who’s expected to be a career minor leaguer (or as the baseball types have it, a “four-A” player — someone who is really good in AAA, but isn’t quite good enough to play in the big leagues). 

Podesta also says in the article that one of the reasons the Mets signed Rottino is because he can play a number of positions, including at least two of three of the most-valued positions — catcher, center field, and shortstop.  Rottino was a shortstop in high school and college, so he knows that position well.  He plays all three OF positions, though he really doesn’t have the speed to be an everyday center fielder.  And he is a very good catcher — a dependable backup — which is a neat trick considering he didn’t even start learning the position until he was around 26 years old.

Rottino will be 32 in early April.  He knows he’s not a prospect anymore — Jackel even said so in his article — but he has a lot to give any organization that gives him a chance.  Rottino can hit left-handers rather better than his major league average (a sample-sized 36 ABs) indicates.  Rottino has “gap power” — meaning he’s not a home run hitter, but he’s a reliable threat for doubles and the occasional triple.  He’s a contact hitter who rarely makes stupid mistakes (and if he does make one, he immediately corrects it and doesn’t compound his error; I cannot imagine Rottino making the mistake Jerry Hairston, Jr., made in the Brewers NLCS on that double-error play, for example), he won’t run you out of innings, and he has deceptive speed — even at his somewhat advanced age for a ballplayer, he had 17 SBs last year, which led his triple-A team, the New Orleans Zephyrs.  (Not bad for a catcher, huh?)

Anyway, I know Rottino can play, so if he gets a shot, he’ll do well.

The rest of us need to learn from his example; keep trying, and don’t give up, no matter what you do.  All you can do is give yourself the best chance to make it in your field — in my case, that’s writing and editing, and I am somewhat older than most people who are hoping to make it in this business (let’s just say “older than Rottino” and be done with it, OK?) — and keep working on your “tool set” every day.  (For Rottino, he takes lots of batting and fielding practice.  For someone like me, that means something along the lines of, “Write something every day.”  And considering I’m a musician, too, the days I am able to circumvent my carpal tunnel syndrome and practice my saxophone count as advancing toward my goals, too.)

You see, like Rottino, all I can do is to “keep (myself) in the game.”  So if there is an opportunity, I’ll be practiced and versatile enough to seize that opportunity before it’s gone; I cannot make the opportunity, but I can definitely prepare myself to seize upon it whenever that opportunity finally presents itself.

Rottino himself said it best, though; when Jackel asked him what will happen if Rottino doesn’t make it in the bigs this time, Rottino said he’d keep trying (this was summed up by Jackel in the article).  Then he said this:

“I think God has got me on this path for some reason and I’ll find out why someday.”

I am so glad that I’m not the only one who wonders about this sort of meandering path (though it seems to me that Rottino’s path has been slightly less circuitous than my own). 

But I will not stop, folks; I plan to be like Vinny Rottino.  I know I have the talent, and I know I will persevere.  With perseverance and talent, I hope to seize upon any opportunity that comes to hand.  Because that’s literally the only way to win.

Good luck, Vinny — and may the wind be at your back. 

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 21, 2012 at 6:42 am

For the Fourth Time, US District Court Rules Against WI R-Controlled Legislature re: Redistricting Plans

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For the fourth time, the United States District Court (Eastern District of Wisconsin) has ruled against the Republican-dominated Wisconsin Legislature and its attorneys over the new district maps the Legislature drew last year.  These maps were drawn in secret, the public had only one day to comment publicly on them in Madison, and then they were passed by party-line vote in the Republican-dominated Legislature.  No Democratic legislators had any input into these maps because the Republicans completely shut them out.

Worse yet, the Republicans, nearly to a person, signed non-disclosure agreements with attorneys in order to try to cloak their legislative business under the “attorney-client” privilege that’s commonly given to legal defendants.

But this did not work.

So, for the fourth time, the US District Court (Eastern Dist. of WI) has said that all the deliberations of the Republicans via e-mail with and without their lawyers (that is, communication to and from their lawyers, and communication among themselves) do not qualify as something that can be protected via attorney-client privilege.  And the judges’ comments, once again, are scathing.

Here’s the link to yesterday’s story in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/federal-judges-slam-gop-lawmakers-over-redistricting-secrecy-0l47pqm-139467038.html

And here’s a link to the actual order by the three district judges, two of whom were appointed by Republican Presidents:

http://media.jsonline.com/documents/redist-021712.pdf

Here are a few words from the judges’ decision that explained why they have ruled against the Republicans (again):

The documents produced by the defendants consist predominantly of a series of email messages discussing the support of certain Hispanic community groups for redistricting legislation and also discussing the floor debates on a pending bill.

In the Court’s view, it is quite apparent that these email discussions involve advice on political strategy, as opposed to legal strategy, and, therefore, are not afforded attorney-client privilege protection.

But wait!  There’s more!

Without a doubt, the Legislature made a conscious choice to involve private lawyers in what gives every appearance of an attempt—albeit poorly disguised—to cloak the private machinations of Wisconsin’s Republican legislators in the shroud of attorney-client privilege. What could have—indeed should have—been accomplished publicly instead took place in private, in an all but shameful attempt to hide the redistricting process from public scrutiny.

OK, let’s have that last sentence again, shall we?  With emphasis this time (as added by yours truly):

What could have—indeed should have—been accomplished publicly instead took place in private, in an all but shameful attempt to hide the redistricting process from public scrutiny.

What bothers the judges here is also what’s bothered me from the start regarding the redistricting process.  Simply put: this should’ve been done in the full light of day, where Wisconsin voters would’ve had weeks to weigh in on what they thought of the districts (rather than only one day in Madison for people to hurry on up there and try to talk sense into the recalcitrant Rs).  The Democrats should’ve been consulted even if the Rs had still refused to listen.  And the actual redistricting itself should’ve been far less cumbersome than it’s turned out to be, which it would’ve been if the Rs had just done things openly rather than try to give themselves some sort of out via “attorney-client privilege.”

But let’s hear some more from the District judges, shall we?

In concluding that the documents at issue here are not privileged from disclosure, the Court does not mean to suggest that the attorney-client privilege is unavailable to government entities. It is simply not available in this instance because of the Legislature’s peculiar (and frankly unfortunate) decision in this case to so blur the lines between political, strategic, and legal advice as to make those lines practically disappear. In so doing, the movants—who, in fact, seem to act on behalf of only a portion of the Legislature despite their assertion that they act on behalf of the full Legislature (and, by extension, all of Wisconsin’s citizens)—have tried to hide the redistricting process from the very people whose rights are at stake in that process.

Amen!  (I couldn’t have said it better myself.)

The judges continue:

And those very people, Wisconsin’s citizens, have paid through their tax dollars for the efforts ostensibly taken on their behalf. The Court finds it highly doubtful that any lawyer’s client would delight in having the documents and communications  for which they have paid kept beyond their reach. Thus, in these particular circumstances, it would be inappropriate to shield from disclosure the communications provided to the Court for in camera review.

Now, did you note the language the judges used?  “The Court finds it highly doubtful . . . ” is quite pointed language from a judge (much less a three-judge panel).  But what about this next line?  “. . . the Legislature’s peculiar (and frankly unfortunate) decision in this case  to so blur the lines between political, strategic, and legal advice as to make those lines practically disappear” is practically acerbic, coming from a judge.  And this next line — my favorite in the whole five-page order — “What could have—indeed should have—been accomplished publicly instead took place in private, in an all but shameful attempt to hide the redistricting process from public scrutiny” makes the point that the judges have had quite enough of this, thank you, so let’s get on.

All of this is why it’s noteworthy that the judges’ ordered the R-dominated Legislature and its hand-picked lawyers release all e-mail communications.  Because, you see, the judges have obviously had enough — and for the fourth time, they’ve said so.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 18, 2012 at 12:27 am

Persistence: Keep it Going

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Folks, there are many things that I could talk about tonight, but rather than talk politics, sports, or the latest outrageous things going on in Wisconsin, I’d rather talk about something near and dear to my heart: the willingness to persist.

You see, no matter what you do in this life, if you believe in what you do, you must keep trying.  No matter how long it takes, refuse to give up on yourself; do a little bit every day that advances you toward whatever your goal may be, and down the line, not only will you reach your initial goal, you’ll probably reach goals that you’d previously believed insurmountable.

I’m a writer, an editor, a reviewer, a musician, and a composer.  (Many other things, too, but those will do for now.)  I decided long ago that I was going to do something every day that would help me advance toward my goals, and that’s helped me continue despite what would seem to be mighty long odds.

Ultimately, I’m just like anyone else, except for one thing: I am highly motivated, and I refuse to give up.  (Well, that’s two things, albeit two closely-related things.)

Today, what I did to advance me toward my goal(s) was to edit for several hours, then write this blog.  Tomorrow, I plan to write a review, then work on AN ELFY ABROAD and KEISHA’S VOW (both Elfyverse novels); if all goes well, there’s a collaborative project with another writer that I hope to work on as well.

Lazette Gifford, who runs the Forward Motion Writer’s Group (at http://fmwriters.com), has said that all you need to do is to write 100 words a day.  Most writers fiddle around on the Internet, or fiddle around doing something else rather than write; if you write just 100 words a day, at the end of the year, you will have 36,500 words written.  (This would be a novella if completed at the end of a year, or approximately one-third of a full-fledged novel if you’ve decided that your story needs more fleshing out to make sense.)

In my case, I tend to use the little bits of time I have to sketch things out on notepad (which counts, too) rather than open up a file on the computer.  But I do tend to get more than 700 words written in a week, too; most of the time, even in a bad week, I manage to get 4000 words written, or 16,000 average in a month.  If I’m very ill during a week and can’t write, I continue to sketch things out and write notes in prose-form, which also counts as actual work.  Then my next weekly total looks astronomical — something like 10,000 words in a week — as most of the work has already been done; now I just have to flesh things out with dialogue and descriptions and such.

At any rate, please don’t listen to anyone who says you “can’t write” or that your reviews don’t make sense or that your editing leaves a lot to be desired.  This is going to happen to us all (or something similar will); all we can do is persist, persist, persist.  And then persist some more.  Because persistence is the key; without it, you absolutely cannot win.

So keep on keepin’ on, folks.  And I’ll meet you on the flip side.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 17, 2012 at 9:00 pm

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