Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Damn, has it really been almost a year since my last post?

Yeah, I guess it has been.

So, what have I've been up to?

After leaving Spain, I went to a small French town near Issigeac to work in a bed and breakfast owned by a couple of Dutch guys.

I did ironing. Lots and lots of ironing. All the sheets and pillow cases. Other chores included mowing, pool cleaning, shower scrubbing, and painting. The food was fantastic, and the owners were generous with the wine. They had adopted the French tradition of serving wine with lunch, and we got buzzed most afternoons. I had a blast.

In November, I moved back to Maine, in my hometown. I hadn't seen my family in two years, or lived in Maine for twenty, so I decided to stay awhile, perhaps a year or two. Then I'll resume my traveling ways with a meandering cross-country trip.

After working a temporary job (with UPS, as a driver's helper during the Christmas rush) and a sporadic part-time gig (stripping and sealing floors at a hospital) I've found a decent, relatively well paying, part-time job. I won't mention or discuss it, as I want to keep it.

So, this blog. Do I dust it off and start it up again? If so, what direction do I take it in? If I start posting regularly again, what kind of posts should I write? What do you, dear reader, want to read? What will keep you coming back? How do you like the new look?

Let me know in the comments or use the contact form in the right hand column.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Risks of workaway, or boy, I had one hell of a week.

I afford traveling by working for hosts in exchange for room and board. I find the hosts on the workaway and wwoof websites. There are other, similar websites, but as they all charge a fee, I stick with the first two I've discovered.

I've had decent luck finding hosts so far. Aside from the crazy French lady that accused me of breaking my arm on purpose so I could have a vacation, my hosts have all been pretty decent. I've had a few minor complaints over the past year, like the farmer's wife who can't cook, but no serious problems. I've had great luck in the Riogordo area, spending most of my time with a British - er sorry, English family helping them get a couple of casitas ready for rental. They are good folk, and spent some time teaching me the Queen's English. Whatthefuckever.

But, there is always a risk that one could arrive at a gig and find it all a bit off.

My time with the English came to an end, and I had to move on. I had recently met a girl on some online dating site, so I narrowed my search to her vicinity, so I would have a chance to meet her. I got lucky and found a gig with a woman who struck me as a back-to-the-lander, hippie sort. Sounded good to me. I get along real well with aging hippies. We made a plan for me to arrive on Wednesday

Saturday, I boarded the 5:00 bus from Riogordo and headed up near Catalonia. Two buses and far too many hours later, I disembarked in the town of that girl I met, who had been nicknamed Sex Mad Girl, or SMG, by a friend of mine, and I headed towards her place. We had an amazing few days, and I'm not giving any details except to say she fucks like a champ. Yay.

Wednesday, I boarded yet another bus off to Santa Barbara (no, not California, Catalonia), home of the hippie lady. My first impression was that I was correct in my assumptions of her. Second impression was that she should stop scratching her bug bites so much. She looked like a junkie.

But, she was nice enough, though a bit of a flake. She gave me a tour of her finca, and I was both dismayed and hopeful. Dismayed because the over-grown, ramshackled, run- down place needed a huge amount of work, and the living quarters for workawayers was somewhat sub-par. My room was clean and large, but the windows had no screens, and this is a buggy land. The roof was uninsulated metal, and the place turned into an oven by midday. The bathroom had no running water, requiring a bucket to flush the toilet. Shower was inoperable. The kitchen and living area had their doors left open to let air in, along with the chickens. The floor was covered in chicken shit. The fridge, stove, counter-tops, sink, everything was dusty and filthy and in need of a massive cleaning effort.

I was hopeful because SMG lived less than fifty kilometers (I'm in Europe, I use the metric system now. Deal) south, and I could visit her now and then while working on this farm for perhaps many months. Many, many months. I started formulating a plan to be useful to this flaky hippie lady and have her want to keep me around.

After the tour, we sat and chatted for a few hours, and I realized that she is a lonely woman, lost in her over-grown finca, looking for something. I also realized that she liked her white wine. That's okay by me, I enjoy drinking myself.

We built a fire outside, and cooked dinner on it. She was shocked to hear that I haven't cooked on a campfire since my youth. Whilst eating burnt meat and undercooked potatoes, I realized why Americans go for those fancy gas grills. They are easier.

The next day was a bit of work, a tour of Santa Barbara, and another dinner cooked over an open fire. This time, the meat wasn't quite as charred. She was blitzed on her wine again, but that's okay. I enjoy drinking myself.

After dinner, I borrowed the hippie's internet stick, as she called it, a USB, 3G plugin thingy. She told me it was "limited, very slow." I took that to mean that the speeds were limited and slow because it's only 3G. turns out she meant it had a limit of one gig, or jeega as she called it, of download available. Anything over that, the connection speed would be throttled down. Something that we should have been clear on. Oops.

Cause SMG and I spent some time video chatting. The speed was fast enough for that, though a bit blurry. The next day, though, the hippie lady mentioned that I used up the whole jeega, and I was confused. She said she was taking her siesta. I went back to work.

Later, I had a question about the work, so I sought her out. She was very drunk, and still angry about the missing jeega. Eventually, I figured out the reason for her ire and attempted an apology. She told me she was pissed, not working, and staggered inside. I quit for the day.

Later, I realized that she would not be preparing dinner, and I raided the fridge, getting enough food for breakfast at the same time. I was in the midst of spreading peanut butter on bread when she stopped by to complain about my stealing food from her fridge, and I attempted to explain that feeding me was part of the workaway deal. She slurred something about her missing jeega and stomped off.

Next morning, Saturday, she was already drunk at nine, when I first saw her. She glared at me and wandered back into her house. I quit work by ten, something about not getting fed makes me lazy, and gave myself a sponge bath in the chicken shit covered workers kitchen. 

By afternoon, I was sitting in a cafe in Santa Barbara, drinking cafe con leche, chatting with SMG, and emailing potential hosts for work. I found a few maybe decent hosts, and sent off four emails. SMG was kind and offered me her place until I could find a new gig. I said that I would try to work things out with the hippie lady. I mean, two days drunk should be enough for a bender.

But, no she stretched it into three. I had just finished washing my hair in a bucket of cold water (damn that pony-tail) when she yelled at me through the window that she doesn't run a hotel and that she hates that I was there. I decided to leave.

Five hours later, I found myself back at SMG's, peaceful and content. I was lucky that I have a friend nearby that could take me in, but what of others? College kids traveling around who may be stuck, desperately searching for a new host, while a crazy, drunken hippie is yelling that they need to leave? Workaway is designed to help people travel on a budget. I have 70 euros in my pocket, so a hostel for even a night would have been a big expense for me. Workaway does allow the leaving of feedback on profiles, and I left one on the hippie's, for other travelers deserve to know that the lady is an unstable drunk. Such are the risks of workaway.

And, for what it's worth, Santa Barbara is an ugly ass town.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I am typing this with one hand. My left, dominant, arm is in a sling, recently broken after stepping into a ditch and falling. I was only slightly drunk. After dragging myself to my feet and hobbling off, I stopped at the first bar I came to and got very drunk. Despite my bloody face and hand, the bartender didn’t bat an eye when I dragged myself up to the bar and ordered a cubalibre. That’s what they call a rum and coke in Spain. They serve the rum in a tall skinny glass three quarters full (about three shots worth) and give a small bottle of Coke on the side. A 25cl (10oz) glass bottle. It cost €3. I like Spain

Have I mentioned that I’m living in Spain, now?

I had two, which was enough to get completely sloshed. I am a lightweight, which is good. It’s cost efficient. I fail to understand those who brag about the amount they can drink. Sure, they can drink me under the table, but I can get drunk quicker and cheaper. The downside of being a lightweight is that I at times fail to pace myself. I can get to the point of incoherence while my companions are still ordering rounds of shots.

I limped home, or what I am currently calling home. My left arm was immobile, my left thigh throbbing, my left hand and forehead skun and bleeding. I was a mess and in considerable pain, but the alcohol made it bearable. I got to the place I was staying and passed out. Two days later, I finally went to the hospital and they told me I had a hairline fracture. I think. The doc’s English, while a hell of a lot better than my Spanish, was poor. And, my translator sucked. They put me in a sling and said to come back in three weeks.

Caroll drove me to the hospital and acted (poorly) as my translator. She is my host. Our agreement was that I was to work for her for two weeks in exchange for room and board. After four days of starting several projects and finishing none (That’s how Caroll likes to work. It keeps her from getting bored.), Caroll proposed changing the days off schedule because she felt it was too windy to work. I, always eager to take a day off, agreed.

I left the house at 11:30, headed to a nearby village that Google Maps calls Lecrin, but Caroll insists is Talara. Regardless of the name, I found an ATM and got some cash. My plan was to wander, explore, and hit a bar or two.

I ended up hitting five bars in four villages. The tapas bars around here all offer the same deal. A smallish glass of beer (10 or 12 oz) and a tapa, or snack for about €1.50, maybe €1.80. The tapas are small portions, and vary. I was served a goodish sized portion of boiled, unpeeled shrimp, salad, grilled pork on bread, hard cheese and smoked ham, french fries, two omelets (I hate eggs), and too many olives to count (I hate olives).

Between bars, I explored. All of these villages are the pueblo blanco, or white villages, that Andalucia is famous for. The buildings are built of stone or concrete blocks for the newer ones, plastered in a type of cement and painted white. I have seen a few buildings not white, but only a few. The windows are small and usually shuttered during the day to keep out the heat. The streets are narrow and winding, often large enough for only one lane, sometimes too small for even a car. There seems to be a custom for deciding who has right of way when two vehicles meet, but I have yet to figure it out.

The terrain here is incredibly hilly, and roads meander and switchback endlessly. Often one must walk ten kilometers to travel three. Or, so it seems. The hills are sculpted into terraces, wide enough for a row of trees and a small path. Trees are almost always one of four varieties: orange, lemon, olive, and almond. Roadways and gutters are littered with fallen oranges, run over and rotting. I’ve been told that farmerss get paid ten cents a kilo for oranges, and I wonder if it’s even worth the effort of harvesting them. Those who are not farmers, but have a house in the countryside with orange trees do not think so. After taking what they use themselves, they leave the rest on the ground to rot.

After the first bar, I found a path that headed into the woods (woods being planted trees and brush) that ran along a concrete irrigation channel. The channel was about a foot wide and a foot deep. Every now and then there was a steel plate blocking a side path that could be moved to close the main channel. Hence, only one farm could be irrigated at a time. I wondered if, during dry spells, that caused any problems.

I followed the path, looking down at the tops of orange trees on my right, and a steep embankment of clay rising up on my left. Eventually, I came upon a gully with a stream along the bottom. The channel continued across the gully on a stone bridge and disappeared into the woods. There was a metal gate at my end of the bridge, and the water was being diverted over the side. I did notice a path leading down, but it met with the water cascading off, so I didn’t bother trying. I headed back the direction I came.

Back on the street, I discovered that the path continued on the other side, so I followed. Here, the path was concrete, sometimes along the channel, sometimes over it. The land was more gradually sloped, and the trees were behind walls of cement blocks. The path ended at an intersection with a bar on the corner. I stopped in for refueling. A wee lad was there, and we ended up playing soccer. Our abilities were about evenly matched.

A few pubs and two villages later, I found myself in Restabal, a village carved into the side of a steep hill. Here the streets were very steep, at times so steep that I worried about my balance. I wondered how the elderly and disabled got around. While exploring, I noticed the sun beginning to set and realized that I should head for home. It gets dark fast around here, and I had neglected to bring a flashlight.

Barely out of town, and still a half hour walk home, with the sky dark, I stepped into a ditch and fell. I landed on my stomach, dazed and in pain. Lying there, I looked around, trying to figure out what the fuck just happened. I saw my glasses lying in front of me, unbroken. I put them on, always a good first step. I saw my hat, so I put it on also. I’m not sure if that was a good second step, but I like my hat, and I don’t want to lose it. I took stock of where I hurt and realized that my left arm and left leg really hurt. Hurt enough so I was worried I might have done serious damage. I tried to stand and failed. I couldn’t move my left arm without great pain, so I tried using just my right to get standing. It was slow progress, but I used a wall nearby to help support my weight. Eventually I could stand. I attempted to walk and found that I could, though with an awful limp. I was glad to realize that my leg wasn’t broken.

I limped to the bar and enjoyed my cubalibre.

The next morning, I dragged myself out of bed with a good amount of difficulty and put on my glasses, always a good first step. They were blurry, and I discovered that the left lense was caked with dried blood. It was the first time I realized that I had scraped my forehead.

My arm and leg both hurt badly, but I figured that if I could walk, then my leg injury must have been a contusion. I further figured that since my leg and arm hurt equally, and my leg wasn’t broken, then my arm probably wasn’t either. I decided to give it a day and see how I felt.

The next day I asked Caroll to drive me to the hospital. In the waiting room, she asked if I subconsciously hurt myself on purpose so I could have a vacation. I resisted the impulse to smack her.

After the initial consultation and x-rays, we were back in the examining room with two doctors. Caroll and the docs were jabbering away in Spanish looking at the x-rays, with Caroll not bothering to translate a damned thing. Eventually, I asked if it was broken, and one doctor said I had a small break. They fitted me with a sling.

On the way home, Caroll said I was lucky to get a rest, and she worried how I would be able to get my work finished. I worried about the bill.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Paris (PAH-ree), Part Un

I suck at the actual travel part of traveling, which makes life as a traveler unnecessarily difficult. I tend to fail to properly plan ahead and end up stressing while dealing with my lack of preparedness during the travel. It's hard to enjoy the destination parts of travel, if the travel part is so screwed. Hence, my first impression of Paris was "Meh."

But, months after the fact, I can mock myself, and hopefully entertain my dozen or so regular readers in the process.

After close to four months living and working at the farm, I was beginning to think about moving on, but not actually doing anything about moving on, when a friend from college contacted me with a proposition. She was visiting New York for a couple of weeks, and wanted to know if I could take care of her four dogs and one cat at her place in France while she was gone.

I like dogs, so I said sure.

I left the farm on October 9th. The farmer's brother gave me a ride to the nearest train station and was kind enough to help me figure out the damn ticket machine, which takes credit cards and coins. No paper bills. Not one to carry around €9 of pocket change, I had to rely on the brother to use his credit card and pay him in cash. Mistake #1.

I took the train into Amsterdam Centraal, and walked to the ticket office for the bus line. I had decided to take an overnight bus trip because they were less than half the cost of a train ticket. Also, more than twice the travel time, but time is money, or money is time, or something.

But, alas, the ticket office was closed. Mistake #2. A sign in the window directed me to another ticket office back towards Centraal Station, so I walked back and found the office. Once there, I was informed that the office only sold sightseeing tickets and not travel tickets. For those, I would have to take the subway to the edge of town to the main ticket office. That's also where the buses depart. I should have taken the train there in the first place instead of Centraal Station. Mistake #3.

So, I walked as fast as I could (I don't run) back to Centraal to catch the subway. Of course, I didn't have enough change for the ticket machine, but I was able to beg a dime from a couple at the next machine. Mistake #4.

I found the subway okay and headed to the proper station, Amsterdam Amstel. Just like the beer. I'll be able to remember that in the future. I found the bus station and went to buy my ticket. It cost €10 more the price advertised online. The counter guy explained that overnight buses cost more. Mistake #5. I also noticed an advertising sign stating that if I bought my ticket at least 15 days in advance, I could have gotten it for only €9. Ouch. Mistake #6.

I wanted to use the restroom, but they charged €0.50, so I decided I'd just wait the hour and a half until the bus was supposed to leave. I figured that I could maybe use the one on the bus for free. But, of course, once the bus arrived, loaded up, and departed, I discovered that it didn't have a toilet. I'm not sure if that's a Europe thing, or just this company, but I was stuck wishing that I just paid the fifty cents at the station. Or pissing behind a dumpster. Mistake #7.

After a couple of hours, the bus pulled into a service station off the highway, and I was able to run in and use their restroom. They charged me €0.50. Charging for using a toilet is a very European thing. Every restroom in a train or bus station or gas station that I've tried to use charged €0.50. I guess it's a way of keeping out the riffraff. I'm not sure what keeps the riffraff from just using a gutter or the back of a dumpster.

The bus ride, while tedious, was uneventful. Eventually we arrived on the outskirts of Paris at about 5:30 AM, and I took the subway to Gare Saint-Lazare (Gare is French for station). My friend lives about an hour west of Paris, and our plan was for me to take the 12:20 train. That would give me some time to walk around some, have a croissant, and watch Paris wake up.

But, first, I wanted to get my train ticket. Though, when I got to Saint-Lazare, I discovered that I didn't have enough money for my ticket. I was about €2 short. I never bothered to ask my friend how much the ticket was. Mistake #8. And, it dawned on me that I never bothered to ask my friend for her phone number in case of an unexpected development, like not being able to afford a fucking train ticket. Mistake #9.

I decided to do what one always ought to do in seemingly hopeless situations. Go have a cigarette.

So I left the station and saw the streets of Paris for the first time. It was raining. I stood facing a plaza of cracked and crumbling asphalt. Beyond stood buildings caked with soot and grime. Litter filled the streets. Paris, a dull, dreary, filthy city. Meh.

So, I huddled against the wall under an eave and considered my options. I could just board the train without a ticket. Folks try such scams all the time without getting caught. But, I fear prison, especially in foreign countries. I don't want to be asked to leave. I thought that I could find a pawn shop and sell something I might have of value. But I hadn't much to sell, except maybe a used but still in good condition beard trimmer. I could start hitchhiking to the station where my friend was to pick me up, but I feared my luck wouldn't go well. I did have two American singles stuck in the back of my wallet for some reason, so I decided to wait until a bank opened and try to exchange them, and hope that I would get just enough.

The bank across the street opened in three hours, so I had time to kill. I thought about food. I found a bench in the station and read while occasionally thinking about croissants. I was at the bank when they opened, and they happily told me that they don't change money. They told me that there was a cash exchange place in the station. I found the place, and as I handed him my two singles, I wondered if I looked like the hapless, desperate sap that I felt I was. If so, the guy didn't mention it. As he was getting me a pile of coins, I noticed a lone twenty cent piece left by a previous costumer sitting in the metal tray. I took it along with my change. He didn't notice or care or maybe both.

I tallied it all up and found myself nineteen cents shy. If only I had pissed behind the fucking dumpster.

So, for the first time in my life, I went panhandling. The third guy I asked gave me twenty cents. It took only five minutes.

Leaving the ticket office, a panhandler asked me for spare change. I gave him my last cent. He didn't seem appreciative.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I don't give a fuck if it's racist. It's funny.

The Bloggess has a post worrying if something is racist, and she spends so much time detailing her worry, I almost stopped reading. I'm glad I finished, though; it was worth getting to the punchline.

She introduced Gizoogle, a website that kindly translates Google into ghettotrash lingo. After a bit of fun surfing about, I had it translate one of my recent posts. Fo' sho'.

I hook up a guy.

I have some leadz work wise, so I celebrated.

My fuckin expenses fo' tha day:
3.05 - Lunch
2.50 - Dinner
3.50 - Spliff
5.95 - Some homeless playa I met

Lunch was a pasta salad wit tomatoes n' mozzarella n' a piece of ciabata dat I picked up from a supamarket. Da salad was dirty yo, but small. Bread, yummy.

Dinna was French fries. I bought some yesterdizzle from some fry stand, n' they was pimped out, n' a fair bargain. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch. I wanted em again. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch. Fat fries dat is fried twice. That way, tha playa can cook em quickly n' serve em hot.
 I couldn't find tha place though. I tramped all up in tha RLD n' gotz thoroughly lost. My fuckin professionizzle pride is beginnin ta git hurt. I spent ten muthafuckin years as a cabbie, n' I pride mah dirty ass on mah sense of direction. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch. Walkin all up in Barcelona n' Messina, I could always knew where home was. In dis town, I be always lost. Every street looks tha same. Da canals follow some weird horseshoe pattern, wit tha streetz goin sort of parallel ta tha canals. Right back up in yo muthafuckin ass. Sort of. Every dizzle I have managed ta git straight-up n' straight-up lost a few times. Probably don't help dat I've been stoned whenever I git lost.

A homeless playa came up ta me. "You're lookin fo' some shit." I stopped, n' he went tha fuck into his spiel yo. Dude started givin mah crazy ass tha rough layout of tha area, spittin some lyrics ta mah crazy ass where tha phat hoes are, where tha trannies are, which dealaz ta avoid. Y'all KNOW dat shit, muthafucka! I interrupted his muthafuckin ass. "I be lookin fo' tha French fries."

Da playa laughed n' took mah crazy ass muthafuckin right there. "I've been bustin dis fo' twenty-eight months, n' yo ass is tha straight-up original gangsta playa ta ask bout tha fries." 
Our thugged-out asses gotz a rappin' yo. Dude straight from Boston, moved there when he was six yo. Dude gotz deported, n' was given a twelve year probation before he could return. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch. Three mo' months he holla'd, n' he could go back.

At tha fry place, he axed fo' a donation. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch. I gave his ass tha chizzle up in mah pocket. I offered his ass some fries yo. Dude holla'd he would prefer tha chedda. I gave his ass tha chizzle from mah fries yo. Dude gave mah crazy ass a brief tour. Thatz what tha fuck he do yo. Dude findz gangstas whoz ass look lost, n' helps em find what tha fuck they need. Y'all KNOW dat shit, muthafucka! Hoes, sticky-icky-ickys, whatever they need. Y'all KNOW dat shit, muthafucka! Dude knows tha dopest coffeeshops yo. Dude knows which hoes will cheat they hustas yo. Dude knows cabdrivers that'll let they passengers smoke yo. Dude gives tourz of tha underbelly.

I axed his ass if he knew of a coffeeshop on a houseboat dat I saw a picture of yo. Dude was stumped, n' embarrassed ta admit dat shit. I gave props ta his ass anyway yo. Dude gave mah crazy ass a phat conversation.

I went lookin fo' tha coffeeshop. I had done some research n' found tha name of tha canal it was chillin in. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch. It wasn't there. I went from one end ta tha other n' looked at every last muthafuckin houseboat yo, but no dice. Maybe it closed, maybe it moved, maybe it sunk. No wonder tha playa never heard of dat shit. 
 Guess what, muthafucka! So, I wandered around n' checked tha straight-up original gangsta three coffeeshops I came ta if they had wifi. Da third playa holla'd he had a computa wit internizzle, so I bought fo' realz. Afta tokin I checked up tha computa ta find dat it cost extra ta use. I was annoyed.

It is straight-up hard as fuck ta find a coffeeshop dat has free wifi. I haven't done it yet. I be beginnin ta suspec' dat they don't want stoned gangstas cloggin up tha coffeeshop all dizzle like a Starbucks up in NYC. But they could give our asses a time limit like tha Starbucks up in Barcelona. That works.

On leaving, I paused ta roll a blunt. Then I kicked it wit tha homeless playa again. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch yo. Dude spotted mah crazy ass first yo. Dude started on a freshly smoked up spiel yo. Dude needed just a buck fifty more, n' he could git a supply of some shiznit ta have up in case a tourist needed some shiznit yo ass know, nahmeean, biatch? I gave his ass tha chizzle from mah spliff yo. Dude gave mah crazy ass his thugged-out lil' phone number. Now I gotz a playa ta call if I need anythang. I can't imagine what tha fuck I might ever need from his ass yo, but itz always phat ta know a guy. 
 I axed his ass why he gotz deported. Y'all KNOW dat shit, muthafucka! "I capped a playa up in prison. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch yo. Dude raped a child. Y'all KNOW dat shit, muthafucka! If yo ass rape a child, yo ass git capped."


Saturday, November 3, 2012

AVfM Nullification Debate Part IV - Elam Quits

After I was two days late in my last response, Paul Elam quit in a huff, but not before he got in a parting shot. I confess that I was tardy in my response, and I have no excuse. Regardless, I suspect that his real reason for quitting was not my tardiness, but rather that I compared him to a Times Square nutter and hurt his feelings.

My error was accepting his challenge in the first place. It is rather pointless to debate one who so desperrately clings to their dogma that reasonable discourse is impossible.

Anywho, I figured that I really ought to get around to posting his final post.

Note to readers: At the outset of this debate there was to be three exchanges between myself and Johann the Cabbie. We agreed in advance that there was to be a 72 hour turnaround limit between responses. I insisted on the commitment to honoring the deadline in advance and explained to Johann that it was important to me that AVfM readers be able to depend on our timeliness.

On his first opportunity to respond, Johann failed to meet the deadline and made no effort to contact me about it. I posted a comment to his site pointing this out to which he responded, in part “I am in breach of our agreement. I offer no apologies our excuses, but I do offer a shamefully belated response.”

His response, if you can consider it that, is posted here below, along with my final rebuttal. This has allowed him equal time in the exchange. But this is where I terminate our “debate.” I can take Johann’s youthful arrogance, but his lack of integrity crosses the line. As he has clearly expressed that he has no regard for being trustworthy or credible, this exchange will conclude this debate with Johann the Cabbie, but I also take this as an opportunity to extend the invitation to anyone with an opposing view, and a commitment to their own word, to have this debate at a later time.

Given that this debate is coming to an abrupt and unscheduled end I will respond to what little substance was offered by Cabbie and move on to other points I would have made in future installments of this debate.

After we shave off all the name calling and other distractions, and take a look at the one point that Cabbie even attempts in this “rebuttal,” we find that he still fundamentally fails to understand the Constitutional and rational imperatives that undermine his position.

His one and only assertion here is that there is no justification for nullification without empirical proof of an “endemic problem” with the misapplication of rape shield laws. In fact, he is saying that without that evidence, the predisposition to nullify amounts to something equitable to chanting about End of Days on the street corner.

This, of course, is neither applicable nor logical. All we must do in the case of criminal trials is prove that the problem is prevalent enough that there is reasonable concern about tainting the presumption of innocence and the ability to ascertain guilt beyond reasonable doubt, broadly speaking. I think the arguments following do that with more than sufficiency.

To begin with, the trouble over rape shield statutes did not originate with me or with the MRM, generally speaking. There have been repeated concerns expressed about the impact of rape shield laws on due process and fair trials long predating anything I have published on the matter.
Columnist Cathy Young wrote an article at titled, Excluded Evidence, the Dark Side of Rape Shield Laws. In it, she writes the following about the courts excluding evidence of previous false rape accusations from trial:

Most of the time, however, the burden is on the defendant to show that the value of this evidence to his case outweighs its “prejudicial effect” on the complainant. In several states (including Alabama, Iowa, and Washington), courts have held that excluding evidence of an earlier false or dubious rape complaint by the accuser does not deny the accused a fair trial — even, perhaps, if the evidence is relevant to the question of his innocence.
As far back as 1976, David S. Rudstein wrote, in the William and Mary Law Review, Vol. 18, Issue 1:

…those statutes that absolutely prohibit a defendant from introducing evidence of a rape complainant’s bad reputation for chastity, opinion evidence of her bad character for chastity, and evidence of specific acts of sexual intercourse between the complainant and men other than the defendant on the issue of consent may unconstitutionally deprive the defendant of his rights to a fair trial and to confront the witnesses against him.

In Courting Disaster: Re-Evaluating Rape Shields in Light of People v. Bryant, Josh Maggard wrote:

Under the most stringent of the rape shield statutes, a defendant charged with murder has more protections and greater leeway with introducing evidence in his defense than a defendant charged with rape. More compellingly, a defendant who rapes and murders a victim enjoys a lesser standard of evidentiary exclusion for the murder than he does for the rape. This should give pause to even the most vocal of rape victims’ rights proponents: a legal structure which rewards a crime ending in death with more substantive and procedural protections must, by necessity, be flawed. As Susan Jacoby noted, “the most important change brought about by the women’s movement is abandonment of the antediluvian notion that rape is ‘a fate worse than death.’ Nothing is worse than death.
These and other legal and common opinions have not gone without some reaction in actual courts. As Clare Dyer reported in The Guardian in May, 2001, a British House of Lords ruling challenged rape shield laws there:

A law that bans juries in rape trials from hearing evidence that the accused had a previous sexual relationship with his accuser breaches his right to a fair trial, five law lords ruled yesterday in a landmark judgment.
“Good sense suggests that it may be relevant to an issue of consent whether the complainant and the accused were ongoing lovers or strangers,” said Lord Steyn.
“To exclude such material creates the risk of disembodying the case before the jury. It also increases the danger of miscarriages of justice.”
And it is that risk that speaks directly to the issue of nullification. These legal rulings, opinions and layman interpretations of rape shield laws also do not serve to provide Johann the Cabbie with the “endemic problem” neatly cited and referenced, so that he may quiet his personal derision and see merit in the nullification argument. Nor will the anecdotes of those concerns being realized sway an individual so predisposed to look only at the concerns of alleged female victims.

What they do provide, however, is sufficient information for reasonable citizens to look at rape shield statutes and determine they are an endemic threat to due process and presumed innocence, by their very existence. Rational thinkers can view this information and conclude there is a problem not addressed by the state that can be addressed through the wisdom and power of the juror, and that it can be done with complete moral certitude.

But here is the kicker, and it is a grand one. If, by some measure of miracle, rape shield laws were suddenly overturned and wiped clean of the statutes, there would still be just cause for nullification. This is a point we would have come to naturally had the Cabbie assisted us with taking this debate to its scheduled conclusion. His failure to contribute notwithstanding, we can get there anyway.

As it stands right now in many, rather most jurisdictions, the only evidence needed to convict a person of rape is the alleged victims word that it happened. We saw this in the case of Vladek Filler, before his conviction was overturned. It was overturned not on a lack of evidence, but on misconduct by prosecutor Mary Kellett. Had she not been caught misleading the jury, the conviction would have stood, because all the jury was required to hear was the complaint of Ligia Filler in order to convict. Given that Ligia Filler’s propensity to lie was withheld from the jury, it left Mr. Filler wide open to false conviction.

The same was true more recently, in July of this year, for Darrell Williams, an Oklahoma State basketball player, who was convicted of sexual battery and rape by instrumentation solely on the word of his accusers. The Sun Times article title, Conviction but no tangible evidence, tacitly conveyed the injustice, but it did not do the young man any good.

As it stands now, the standard of evidence required to convict a man of rape in a criminal court is utterly indistinguishable from the standard of evidence required to lynch a Black man for rape 50 years ago in Mississippi. It requires only the word of the alleged victim, and the willingness of others to commit violence on her behalf in retribution.

There is no shortage of accusations, and the state has set itself up as the instrument for that violence by proxy, as surly as if it were a legislated lynch mob.

That lack of standards, combined with the effect of rape shield laws to protect the credibility of the alleged victim from falling under direct scrutiny, is the combination of forces that form the perfect storm of unchecked injustice. This is addressed by Bruce Gross, Ph. D., JD, MBA in The Forensic Examiner, in his article False Rape Allegations: An Assault on Justice:

Although it may not be “politically correct” to question the veracity of a women’s complaint of rape, failing to consider the accuser may be intentionally lying effectively eradicates the presumption of innocence. This Constitutional right is especially significant when dealing with allegations of rape as in most jurisdictions, sex offenses are the only crimes that do not require corroborating evidence for conviction. Because there are often no witnesses and no physical evidence (especially if the victim delays in filing a report), the case may come down to the credibility of the accused versus the credibility of the accuser.
The realm of false allegations is intimately tied to the need for nullification, but I will pass on including it as a part of this particular argument.

The fact that sex offenses stand alone as the only crime for which corroborating evidence is not needed for conviction makes them, in my opinion, as a slam dunk for the legitimacy of nullification.
We have another word for “corroborating evidence.” We call it proof; the kind we like to have for convicting under the standard of reasonable doubt. As difficult as it is to be the victim of any crime, including rape, are we really going down the path of elevating the victims trauma to the point it supplants the need for evidence and due process in the course of obtaining a conviction?

Indeed we are. We are, in fact, very far down that road, even with the blessings of supposedly rational thinkers like Johann the Cabbie.

Were there another way to address this problem, I would enjoy entertaining it. The system is far too broken, too corrupt and too politicized for conventional redress. Extreme injustice calls for extreme retaliation. Luckily, nullification by jurors remains available as a legal, moral answer to the states failure to contain its power and to abide by the mandates of the Constitution.

Friday, October 5, 2012

AVfM Nullification Debate Part III

Times Square attracts the crazies. Nutters pick their spot of sidewalk and spend hours shouting and waving their arms, trying to convince any who pass by that their particular brand of crazy ain't so crazy. After awhile, one gets to recognize the regulars - the science of sin guy, the Black Israelites, even some dude playing a guitar whilst claiming to be naked, but really, he's wearing hat, boots, and tighty whities.

Reading Paul Elam's writing reminds me of those nutters. So much so that I wonder how he can get any typing done with all the arm waving and shouting. The man can type at length, but like the Times Square nutters, he produces no evidence to back up his assertions. And just like the nutters, his rants can get rather tedious.

Elam's main contention is that rape shield laws prevent the jury from hearing relevant evidence, so guilt beyond a reasonable doubt cannot possibly be ascertained. And lacking any evidence beyond mere anecdotes, he resorts to making one unfounded assertion after another.

His best attempt at providing some evidence or logic is quoting some federal evidence rules to show that rape shield laws have always been unnecessary. He fails to mention that rape shield laws are designed to instruct judges what is and what isn't relevant in rape trials.

Here, I'll give a list of his evidenceless assertions:
The entire nullification argument hinges completely on the idea that obvious guilt is unattainable under the current system, specifically where “rape shield laws,” are concerned.To ascertain guilt, relevant evidence must be weighed. If the accurate weighing of that evidence is not possible because relevant facts have been intentionally omitted, it amounts to nothing more than a magic show; smoke and mirrors from which no true picture can be gleaned. In that scenario, a fair trial is not possible. It is as easy to understand as it is logical.

There is no logical reason, in the face of the evidence, to lump all other criminal court proceedings in with rape trials. They are conducted differently, which is the point of this debate.

All Johann has done here is to momentarily pretend that the rape shield laws he was already minimizing now don’t exist at all.

One, the lack of reason (though unreasonable they are) in these politically motivated laws is not so much the issue as is their impact on due process. The moment we  systematically deny a defendant the right to include evidence casting legitimate concern on the veracity of an accuser, or on possible motive to fabricate, we have not only denied them a Constitutionally guaranteed fair trial, but we have also eviscerated any opportunity to hold credible the evidence required to conclude guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

...why is he [JtC] not advocating for rape shield laws, for the accused? I will tell you why. It is because he is affected by the same one dimensional, irrational and lopsided thinking that afflicts Matt Dillahunty, just to a slightly lesser degree. He has surrendered reason for rote protective instinct that has no place in our criminal justice system where life and liberty depend on thoughtful analysis and an unfettered pursuit of the facts.

He sees women as primarily victims, in need of special treatment, yet he offers not one shred of evidence of why that special treatment is necessary, effective, reasonable or consistent with Constitutional demands. And he does not even speculate what the real impact of those special rules might be on the people they most affect.
I'll ignore his arrogance of attempting to place thoughts in my mind and just worry about his complaints about rape shield laws.

Anecdotes are not evidence. In a country of over 300 million people, some will be screwed by society. Some innocents will suffer in the criminal injustice system. Every travesty is a tragedy, but Elam's listing of a few of those travesties is not evidence of an endemic problem. Elam needs to provide some actual data to prove that rape shield laws are a systemic, endemic problem.

Until then, I will continue to view him as one of the Times Square nutters.