Review: (Article) Middle Children Going Extinct

I read this article over the weekend and (being the youngest) sent it to my sister for her thoughts (as she is the middle child).  Both of us agreed although there are some interesting bits in it – what exactly was this author trying to convey?

He made a single throw-away comment about Millennials waiting to have kids, and I really wish he had shown the courage to delve into that.  But that wasn’t his point and I appreciate it. He also made a snarky comment about the “indulgence” of people he knows who have a third kid and what fiscal security they must feel to do this.

Ok, so (a) OMG his privilege and (b) again, not the courage to get political and discuss the fact that kids are PROHIBITIVELY expensive.

In case it isn’t clear – In 2011 OECD published this report on the change of fertility rates 1980-2009 (ish).  Now, to be clear in 2009 kids born in 1982 (early Millennials) were 27, so when they said “the average age at which women have their first child increased from 24
in 1970 to 28 in 2008” (pg 21), they aren’t really talking about Millennials.  Taking the 1982-1997 age range for Millennials, we’re looking at people that are now 36-21.  Ok, so we can finally all drink and most of us can rent a car.  But in 2011 even, many, many Millennials were still in high school and college. So this research might already be wrong.  I didn’t find anything that looked legit that was more recent in my quick Google search.

I don’t think the author of this article is wrong per say, but I feel like he didn’t want to dig into WHY people aren’t having more kids instead just bemoaning sadly this loss to his personality. Without digging into what is motivating this change in our society, he acts like people are just doing it on purpose.

In case you aren’t reading my subtext – I’m a bit offended by this.

I would love to have more than 1 kid, but I’m already past 30 and I did wait.  I waited for 2 big reasons.  The first is I had to find the right partner.  That one took awhile, but even after we met we were both working a fairly low-paying job.  We’ve fought and struggled to put ourselves into a place where we feel more secure.  We still don’t have children and I’m over that “magical” 30-age number that means I’m old to start a family.  I’m well past that 28-average age that was true in 2009.

SCOTUS: I just can’t

I had to drag myself though my first post on the cakes. I haven’t been able to get through any of the other opinions this month.  AAHHH!

I just can’t.  The rhetoric is so frustrating and the decisions are so wishy-washy.  I honestly am not sure I’m mad at Kennedy for retiring – he wants to make DECISONS, not pass a buck on technicalities.  Ok, I am mad at him because this is like the worst time EVER for him to try to retire.

I have historically loved reading opinions (even the ones I didn’t agree with) and arguing with some of my fellow nerds on whether we agree with the justices’ decisions or not… but right now? UGH. UGH.

So I am sorry and I am going to try again next week.  Maybe I’ll marathon reading as many as I can with a bottle of wine and see how far I can get.

SCOTUS: Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission

The cake they ended up with; Vanilla-Chai-Chocolate

So there are blogs and people touting this as “the worst decision ever” (alright, I’m paraphrasing).  But when I saw it was 7-2, I paused.  I expected 5-4 if it was purely party-lines.  It wasn’t.

And there were FOUR different opinions from the people who voted for it.

  1. Kennedy wrote the “official” opinion (Roberts, Breyer, Alito, Kagan & Gorsuch all joined in)
  2. Gorsuch and Alito filed a concurring (agreeing but wanting to put their own words to it) opinion
  3. Kagan and Breyer filed a concurring opinion
  4. Thomas filed his own opinion because he only kinda agrees (it’s only “partly concurring”) and Gorsuch joined this one too.
  5. Ginsberg and Sotomayor gave the dissenting opinion

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)

Ok, so I decided to “live blog?” my reading of the opinions.  By this I mean I read one of the opinions, copied out the 1-2 quotes I thought were notable and then wrote my thoughts on it.  But it’s long.  It’s LOOOOONG.  So this section is my summary.

I ended up falling into agreement with a bazillion other commentators that I think SCOTUS’s made this a punt. They folded rather than bid on the game.  They avoided making a real decision by holding up tiny imperfections in the arguments.  Overall, a disappointing SCOTUS decision.  I am disappointed in many of you(but not RBG, she wrote my favorite opinion of the lot).

If you apply this same scenario to anything else (a black couple or a disabled person) there would be next-to-no argument it was discrimination.  IF the asshat had said “I don’t make cakes for black weddings” we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all.  But because a few comments on the record were less-than-respectful of Phillip’s religion (and there is an issue there) SCOTUS wrote:

The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts

Long Read:

So can we start with the fact Gorsuch is on THREE of the 5 opinions (3 of 4 who voted together)?  I didn’t like the man because he accepted a nomination that was at best dirty politics and at worst downright unconstitutional.  But this? I am writing this bit before reading the actual opinions – but if the man is on three separate opinions… Anyway. Lemme go read now.


So Kennedy says there are 2 issues in his 18 page opinion: 1) the government’s authority to protect the rights of discriminated people (ie gays) and 2) free speech. Seriously, he says free speech before he ever mentions religion.  He talks about the cake as an expression of art which is interesting and I can’t entirely argue with.   That is what made me go look up what they ended up with -and I’m not sure how much “artistic expression” I’d give it.  It’s a pretty cake!  It sounds delicious.  But art?

His biggest beef really comes down to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and how they handled the case.  Apparently, the commissioners were dismissive of Phillips (the cake artist) and his “sincerely held religious beliefs” to the point where THEY might have been discriminating against HIM.

I mean, honestly, the quote from the official record which Kennedy quotes is pretty terrible and biased: “Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the holocaust, whether it be—I mean, we—we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to—to use their religion to hurt others.”

Ouch.  Yeah, I gotta say that maybe the commissioners in this one were wrong.  Kennedy says it at the end:

The outcome of cases like this in other circumstances must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.

So it turns out this was a messier case then it originally sounded and (not shockingly) not a lot of the commission’s bias was being well-touted in the more liberal media sites.  Even NPR was pretty heavily slanted towards Craig and Mullins.  Were they discriminated against, yeah, I think they were.  Did the government (Colorado Commission) handle it well? No. Not really. Ok, so Kennedy’s argument is pretty compelling.  Lemme read Kagan’s.

This one was short. 4 pages.

So one of the arguments Phillips made in the case (apparently) is that there was this other case where a dude named Jack had 3 different bakeries refuse to make him a cake because the words/design(s) he wanted were offensive to them (anti-same-sex marriage messages). So the commission let those bakers off the hook – they literally would not have made that cake for anyone ever.  But not Phillips.  His objection had to do with a protected class.

The different outcomes in the Jack cases and the Phillips case could thus have been
justified by a plain reading and neutral application of Colorado law—untainted by any bias against a religious belief.

I don’t know why she felt the need to say it again except she was waaaay more succinct (granted, she didn’t have to do any of the “facts of the case stuff” but still.

Ok. Deeeeep breath.  Gorsuch and Alito.

12 pages. Twelve.  Almost as long as the original damn opinion.

Ok, I just have to start off that he immediately brings up “Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Ore v. Smith” (the case of Native Americans being allowed to consume Peyote as part of their religion.  He does it as a “religion is protected too!” thing and it just… let’s just say it set the tone for me.  It didn’t help he felt some kind of …….$&#*! need to restate the “facts of the case” like he’s a special snowflake.

Gorsuch’s big argument was that the cake was for a same sex wedding.  I.E. he wouldn’t sell a cake to a heterosexual couple celebrating a same-sex marriage (I think?).  It got confusing in there for a minute.  He did finally get to a quote that I bedrudgingly have to agree with:

Popular religious views are easy enough to defend. It is in protecting unpopular religious beliefs that we prove this country’s commitment to serving as a refuge for religious  freedom. (pg 7)

I disagree strenuously however with his statement on the next page:

It is no answer, for example, to observe that Mr. Jack requested a cake with text on it while Mr. Craig and Mr. Mullins sought a cake celebrating their wedding without discussing its decoration, and then suggest this distinction makes all the difference. (pg 8)

And then he went on to make a Goldilocks reference (I need an angry emoji here)

We are told here, however, to apply a sort of Goldilocks rule: describing the cake by its ingredients is too general; understanding it as celebrating a same-sex wedding is too specific; but regarding it as a generic wedding cake is just right. (pg 9)

He tries to make the argument that because in Jack’s case the Commission let people refuse cakes whose content/decoration they found offensive (after having a conversation about what would be ON the cake) was somehow the same as telling a couple that their entire lives are evil (before even finding out if there was something on the cake).  Yeah.  Like peppers and peppers there.

Ugh. UGH.  Ok. Thomas.  Not one of my favorites so let’s hope I can keep my eyes from getting too crossed.

Thomas goes off on the “free speech” aspect. For 14 pages.  MORE than Gorsuch. And he doesn’t reiterate ANY of the facts of the case.  So his beef is with Phillip’s claim of “free speech” and “artistic voice.” Which by the by is very poorly recorded in both Commission testimony and court appeals (according to Thomas).  Thomas even admits this, but wants to get into it anyway!  Part of the reason I don’t like Thomas-opinions is he’s hard to read.  I feel like he likes “the sound of his own voice” and he rambles. He rambles on and on and repeats a sentiment. Like three times he feels the need to say it.


Ok, now to get to the dissent! RBG’s writing!


I love Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  I love this woman.  She argues that this process has gone through 4 previous court systems and to hold up the words of one or two specific “hostile” people doesn’t merit overturning the entire case.

She also points out that Craig & Mullins didn’t request any kind of special message – just a standard tiered cake; whereas Jack (the other case) actively sought customization that included judgmental language.  Well, she says it better:

Change Craig and Mullins’ sexual orientation (or sex), and Phillips would have provided the cake. Change Jack’s religion, and the bakers would have been no more willing to comply with his request. (pg 5 footnote 3)

She argues that cherry-picking the statements of individuals does not merit judging against Craig & Mullins’ claims that their protected class (sexual orientation) was discriminated against.  Jack was not discriminated against because he was Christian (or asking for Christian message/symbols).  Craig & Mullins WERE discriminated against because of their sexuality.

So, as I understand her case: If you apply this same concept to anything else (a black couple or a disabled person) there would be next-to-no argument it was discrimination.  IF the asshat had said “I don’t make cakes for black weddings” we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all.

For the reasons stated, sensible application of CADA to a refusal to sell any wedding cake to a gay couple should occasion affirmance of the Colorado Court of Appeals’ judgment. I would so rule.

Well, her pointing out that the court cherry-picked arguments is really damning.  REALLY.

Politics: Improvements or SHUT UP

I am so sick of reading political news right now.  I am so sick of the “my way or NO ONE GETS ANYTHING” tone of the rhetoric.  Why are “cooperation” and “compromise” nasty words?  In politics especially they are a requirement. When people don’t apply these we get half-assed solutions that get thrown out before they even have a chance to make any significant impact (bad OR good).  Lemme give an example.

Obamacare has problems.  A LOT of problems.  I said since day 0 of the discussion I couldn’t 100% support ANY passage which exempted Congress.  AFTER ACA passed I still grumbled about this point – I think Congressmen should have to buy their own insurance from the exchange from within THEIR district.  So little tiny district in Wyoming (or GA) has shitty options?  Guess who lives with shitty options?

THAT SAID, when the GOP kept trying to “repeal and replace” without ever actually building or talking about a replacement PLAN…. that was worse.  No.  I’m sorry you don’t like cabbage soup, but you don’t get to throw it out the window because it wasn’t the steak and french fries YOU wanted.  Cabbage soup is better than starvation and right now I am facing starvation. I will gratefully take the damn cabbage soup.  I’d love steak and french fries too, but since you apparently don’t have a cow and never planted potatoes… we have cabbage soup.  Shut up or go find a damn cow.

With the walk-out of the Paris accords and the walk-out of the Iran deal…. I am disgusted.  Beyond disgusted. I can’t find a word that conveys the depths of my disgust. There wasn’t a better option on the table.  There were imperfections and issues with them (well not so much Paris, what I know of that one was pretty good for the US all said and done).  BUT THEY ARE BETTER THAN STARVING.

We are now looking at a world where Iran and North Korea will have unstable governments with nuclear bombs.  Because “someone” didn’t get HIS damn burned steak and soggy french fries.  So our cabbage soup got thrown out the window.  And even worse is the voices of people standing by and watching, nodding and saying, “So smart! So Leader! Look how we will never settle for less than steak and french fries!”

No.  No.  No.

We can eat cabbage soup now and plant potatoes, they’ll take awhile to grow. We’ll probably have to find and trade with someone with a cow for our steak.  And that’s ok.  We can work with our neighbors. They aren’t Reavers from Firefly/Serenity and going to try to cannibalize us. I don’t know how to show people that working together gets us more than working against others.  Because as mad as I am at the politicians with that rhetoric, I am more angry at voters who keep them in their positions of power.


Politics: Too many Boswells?

So some background here (and eventually I’ll explain the picture!): As I was writing my thoughts on Scalzi, I went looking for Dickens quotes and found (God I love Gutenberg) letters!  In one of them (I was searching keywords but this letter made me pause for context) I found this AMAZING line:

I can imagine a succession of Boswells bringing about a tremendous state of falsehood in society, and playing the very devil with confidence and friendship.

-Letter to John Foster Devonshire TerraceSaturday, April 22nd, 1848


Do you know what a “Boswell” is?  It is a confidant who publishes your life.  The famous-ness of the phrase is probably retained from Sherlock Holmes calling Watson his “Boswell” because it was a term known in that age.  But Dickens wrote about it and wrote negatively.  Ok, again this was as I was thinking on Scalzi writing fiction as a commentary on my time… so I couldn’t help but have these two thoughts collide.

Dickens called the excessive use of biography as negative.  Competing biographies degrade trust in society.

There are over 7,000 books in that tower I have at the top of this post – and all of them are about Abe Lincoln. Oh, and in 2012, that was less than half the books that had been published regarding that president… Now granted, not every one of those books is a Boswell Biography (which is a style) BUT… BUT!

I have been mulling in my mind WHY.  This is probably the question that has founded more of my thinking than any other. And this quote (granted, you should read the full context) made me STOP.  Like full mental stop and connect two things (at least in my mind).

We have flooded the market with biographies and monographs on great people or perceived great people AND we have an issue in society where people pick and choose their “experts” based on… intuition?  There is an issue of trusting “experts” in society.  There is an issue of people cherry-picking data to confirm their own bias instead of seeking a truthful answer even if it proves them wrong.

I’m not saying competing biographies and new information can’t change the narrative we understand.  Just taking any information and then applying a lens of declassified information can drastically shift historical events.  But a lot of books are written by folks claiming to be “expert” in some way which compete with each other – and how do we know which ones to trust? And how do we determine who to give our confidence to?

Dickens was a smart man.  I think he might have been on to something.  I don’t want to silence (most) people, but… could this be exasperating some of the issues we have in our politics and social commentary?  This explosion in the past 30-50 years of “experts” without a way for the common person to vet them?

Not having a solution, I am mostly putting the question out there.  I will indubitably continue to mull on this one and look to other smart people to see if they say anything that sounds like a solution.  I don’t like the idea of “committees” who choose what we can read.  This removes any kind of certification board; academic panel; etc.  The closest is some kind of peer-review in terms of non-fiction books. And if it isn’t peer-reviewed, then we (society) can teach our children to read such books with deep suspicions.

I mean, I hope people know Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is fiction but at this point… I can’t help but wonder if there are folks that either think he’s a fictional character (despite the like 15,000 non-fiction/semi-fiction that predates vampire hunting) or there are people who think he really was hunting supernatural creatures.  I’m not sure which makes me grieve more.

Musing: Book of my Time

This is not a review of Collapsing Empire (John Scalzi) because it’s the first of either two or three books – and I am chomping at the bit to be able to get #2.  I am actually really glad I waited to read it until now – if I had read it when it first came out I would have been soooo cranky. Ok, by read I do mean “listen to Wil Wheaton read it” and thoroughly enjoy his performance.

I have been musing over this book since last week – I woke up Saturday morning at 6am and found my mind turning over bits of it.  It is is the first time in my life I’ve read a book and thought “damn, if/when they read this in 100 years, what will they say of us?”

Let me clarify here.  John Scalzi has never considered himself a paragon of literature.  He has said (I am paraphrasing here) a thousand times he writes books he hopes entertains people.  He isn’t writing to make social commentary (again, as I understand from his blog) and he isn’t writing to change minds.

I wonder if Charles Dickens would have said the same thing.

I have been told in my entire academic career that Dickens was writing on purpose to change minds.  But I don’t remember ever seeing a quote from him saying this was his goal. HELL – he called A Christmas Carol “his little christmas book” and he just wanted that to make some money to pay the bills!  THAT I remember. I don’t think he was trying to pen the great novel it turned into.

Did he have a social conscious?  God yes. Clearly.  Do I think he was trying to spark social revolution with his novels? No.  I think he was writing those to entertain. I ran searches for keywords (society, poor, etc.) and he didn’t talk about these things in his correspondence.  The closest I found was a letter where he came to Virginia (1842!) and wrote about slavery.  (seriously, go here and read his letter to W. C. Macready in 1842!)

Interestingly, Dickens & Scalzi have something else in common.  Scalzi has written very openly about the difficulties he experienced growing up.  Dickens’ father went to debtors prison and at 12 Dickens had to go to work at a factory to support his family.  They both had some truly lucky breaks during their teens (Scalzi went to a great school, Dickens got a white-collar job – at the time a truly amazing break for a boy from a lower-income family).

I can’t help but wonder if Collapsing Empire might be one of those books kids read in school in 100+ years and talk about how Scalzi wrote it as a commentary (he says he didn’t!) on early 21st century society.  Some of the issues it touches on (gender, sexuality, stratified societies, greed & power, language…. God I don’t want know how many times “fuck” is used) are things that are just so real to me these days.

Whether intentional or not, the book does (in my opinion) touch on some of the mental/social fights we are having today.  It might just be Scalzi working through it in his own mind or reflecting his own dreams of how society could be into text.

I can’t wait to see the whole thing play out. I will have to read them again.  Hell, I might even buy some copies in paper-form that I’ll write in/mark up and do I truly in-depth review of them!  I haven’t done that since college…. mmmmm that sounds mentally yummy.

SCOTUS: Searching Cars

There are two cases this year dealing with cars and the fourth amendment in front of the Supreme Court.  My little SCOTUS nerdy heart is a little excited.  Both of them will be argued today.

Byrd v. United States

So I can see the argument in this case (here is a professional write up if you want a longer version) where a woman (Reed) let her significant other (Byrd) drive her rental car.  Not only was he NOT on the rental, she wasn’t even in the car with him.  He got pulled over and the cops searched the car without a warrant (and without probable cause) arguing that because he wasn’t on the agreement – they don’t need a warrant.  They convicted him for the heroin in the trunk.

I can’t wait to (a) hear what the professional attorneys argue and then (b) how the court falls on this case.  I am also really glad I don’t have to rule on it!  There could be some interesting fall-out on “possession and control” being required (or not) for warrants.

So on the one hand Byrd wasn’t on the rental agreement – much like if I let my sister (or friend or whoever) borrow my car they aren’t on my registration.  Does that mean if I let my friend borrow my pickup truck (as every pickup truck constantly lends out their trucks!) and they hide a stash of heroin under the driver’s seat or in a cooler (can’t be seen) could the cops pull them over for a routine stop and then search (and impound) MY TRUCK because I let a friend borrow it?  And what about if someone steals my car – do they have fourth amendment rights because they “possess and control” my car at this moment?

On the other hand, rental companies make you sign an agreement saying ALL drivers must be “registered” and anyone not registered is…. illegally (?) driving the vehicle.  Technically, Reed (Bryd’s SO & mother of his children) signed an agreement saying other drivers are only permitted with “prior written consent” (and paying a daily fee). The government contends this prior contract dismisses Byrd’s fourth amendment rights.

And it gets complicated because there ARE rules about “even if someone is doing something illegal it doesn’t waive rights” (hence cops can’t JUST search your car when you ran that red light – they still have to have probable cause).  And can Byrd be held responsible for Reed breaking the contract between herself and car rental company? (there are rules about people who don’t know they are being used in crimes too).

I am looking forward to hearing the court rule on this one – HOW they phrase their ruling can shift this in a lot of directions.  They COULD strike the provisions (and extra fees) on car rental contracts.  They COULD argue that the contract creates a binding clause and means Byrd “stole” the car (I doubt they would – I might have been told “yeah, I totally paid for you too” and then… ugh!).  They COULD rule that  warrant/probable cause is still required when a contract has been broken OR when someone isn’t registered on a vehicle (so my husband could get my car searched ’cause he isn’t on the registration!)

Collins v. Virginia

This case also has to do with the fourth amendment and vehicles – with the addition of “private property.”  I’m not going to say I understand the previous rulings as well as I should to explain when/why vehicles can be searched with exemptions.  I do understand there are already rulings on exemptions to the warrant requirements (it’s called the “automobile exemption.” (professional write up here)

So in this case the cops were searching for a motorcyclist.  They narrowed down their search area using social media & a cop saw a motorcycle under a tarp-like cover next to a house. He went up and looked under the tarp-thing and found out the motorcycle was stolen. Should the cop have needed a warrant to lift the tarp?

Again, I want to hear how the justices rule on this – it isn’t black & white. On the most basic brush there is “cop came on private property” and “cop lifted the tarp” (not readily visible)  but there is also “is the land I own safe from warrantless search” and “my car parked on my driveway” (yes, even though in this case it’s “stolen car”).

Previous rulings have protected cars parked in/around the home lot (and searching on the land around a home).  But is does open quite the can of worms about when/how cops might be allowed to search vehicles.

So will the court expand the officers’ ability to search vehicles?  Will they uphold that private property is (for lack of a better word in my vocabulary here) sacred from this type of search and demand warrants?  I am curious to see how the court falls out on this issue and what they say about it.