Germany and Brazil: litigation without depositions

One thing that I have learned from being an expert witness in the U.S. court system is that there are seldom any surprises at trial. Everyone who will testify has already been deposed for 7 hours (Federal rules).

I have recently done some work on a U.S. case in which a bunch of folks in Brazil were involved. I asked the lawyers “Are you going down to Brazil to take depositions?” They responded with “We would be arrested. It is illegal to take a deposition in Brazil.” The legal system down there runs on documents, apparently. If human witnesses are going to add anything, they testify at trial and lawyers have to think on their feet for cross-examination.

It turns out that Germany is organized along similar lines (1985 article that explains the system there), though I don’t think they go so far as to imprison folks who agree to hang out and depose one another, e.g., for a U.S. case.

If we want to see Perry Mason-style drama, maybe we need to visit a courtroom in Brazil!

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Kenya then and now

One interaction from Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland (fortunately my mom has escaped):

Brenda the nurse: “I’m from Kenya.”

Mom: “I was there in 1988.”

Brenda: “It was a lot nicer then.”

Me: “How come?”

Brenda: “Because of population growth.”

Separately, my mother went through a period of delirium and the nurses would go through their standard list of questions: What’s your name? When were you born? What year is it? Who is the President?

Having lived through the golden years of U.S. economic expansion, my mom can’t see any limits to tax revenue or government capability and thus is a 100 percent loyal Democrat. Even when only 2 percent of her brain was functioning and got her birthyear wrong, for example, she would answer that last question with “Donald Trump and I don’t like him.”

(Except at FBOs (fueling points for small planes), the trips to D.C. were mostly about encounters with immigrants. The Burger King/Mobil that is walking distance from Business Aircraft Center at Danbury (KDXR) was 100-percent staffed with Spanish speakers. Every Uber driver in the Maryland/DC area was an immigrant. The physicians who cared for my mother were immigrants, one from India and one from Colombia (second residency in the U.S., though). Roughly 85 percent of the nurses and techs were immigrants. The only health care job that seems to be dominated by native-born Americans is social worker.)

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Divorce industry cashes in on the transgender age

“Mom Dresses Six-Year-Old Son As Girl, Threatens Dad With Losing His Son For Disagreeing: A Texas custody case splits a 6-year-old child’s gender identity in two.” (Federalist):

In their divorce proceedings, the mother has charged the father with child abuse for not affirming James as transgender, has sought restraining orders against him, and is seeking to terminate his parental rights. She is also seeking to require him to pay for the child’s visits to a transgender-affirming therapist and transgender medical alterations, which may include hormonal sterilization starting at age eight.

(Sidenote: In a jurisdiction that offers no-fault or “unilateral” divorce (see this chapter on Texas family law), there is nothing mutual about a divorce lawsuit. One parent sues the other. So “their divorce proceedings” is misleading.)

In addition to the lawyers, the psychology industry is getting revenue:

When his mother, a pediatrician, took James for counseling, she chose a gender transition therapist who diagnosed him with gender dysphoria, a mental conflict between physical sex and perceived gender. James’ precious young life hinges purely on the diagnosis of gender dysphoria by a therapist who wraps herself in rainbow colors,

In the world’s most litigious and expensive venue for custody litigation (compare to Germany, for example), transgenderism adds a new twist. In addition to arguing over where children spend their time and how much cash children will yield for a plaintiff parent, now everyone in the industry can get paid to argue about whether an 8-year-old gets gender reassignment hormones and surgery.

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Proud of a pansexual child

“My 15-Year-Old Daughter Told Me She’s Pansexual and Dating a Transgender Boy. I’m Struggling.” (nytimes):

She came out to us as pansexual when she was 11. I was concerned about her labeling herself at such a young age and being bullied. She met a transgender child in summer camp, then a few others, and helped them through some tough times. I was proud of her for her compassion and did not restrict her friendships, though she wasn’t allowed to sleep over at anyone’s house.

This reminds me of The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook:

Today I made a Black Forest cake out of five pounds of cherries and a live beaver, challenging the very definition of the word “cake.” I was very pleased. Malraux said he admired it greatly, but could not stay for dessert.

The virtuous Steve Almond, a name that seems to be associated with images of a white-appearing cisgender male, and whom Wikipedia says “lives in Arlington, Massachusetts with his wife and three children”:

it sounds like your underlying anxiety is that your daughter has a sexual identity and desires that aren’t heteronormative. It’s hard enough to move through a world fraught with bigotry as a young Latino woman. It becomes that much harder when you identify as pansexual and have a transgender partner.

Unless he himself is bigoted, how does the white cisgender man know what is difficult or easy for a “young Latino woman”?

Mr. Almond says the important questions to ask are not about sexuality, but rather “Is she happy? Is she doing well in school? Is she kind to those around her?” But why is doing well in school plainly more important than what kind of sex the daughter is having and with whom? Suppose that a high school Student A gets 1600 on the SATs and straight As and has (safe) sex with a different partner every night, in a full assortment of genders and sexual preferences. Student B gets 1000 on the SATs and has a B average and has no sex partners. The parents of Student B should be envious that the parents of Student A have a superior offspring?

The other writer responding to the mom is Cheryl Strayed, who is a “feminist” and has been married to two different men (“Brian” and “Marco”). Ms. Strayed does not seem to have any experience changing her gender, having sex with other women, etc., yet speak confidently about transgender and pansexual issues:

I encourage you to examine the ways that negative assumptions you’ve made about L.G.B.T.Q. people have needlessly stoked your fears. … Why do you put her current romantic interest in a special category because he’s trans? Because our transphobic society has told most of us that trans people are in a special category, that’s why. But they aren’t. They’re just people.

If trans people are “just people”, why hasn’t Ms. Strayed even once chosen one as a partner for long enough to write about?

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Inequality in virtual worlds?

A friend’s daughter said that people have to pay in order to have a good experience in today’s virtual (game) worlds. “It’s just like the real world in that respect,” she added. As this half-Chinese gal is currently polishing up her resume for college applications and refused my suggestion to “pull an Elizabeth Warren,” I worked her observation into a backup suggestion: start a non-profit organization devoted to reducing inequality in the virtual world(s). There are already a lot of non-profits attacking the challenge of inequality in the physical world (by paying their own executives above-market and above-median salaries?). She could carve out a niche by taking care of those who are disadvantaged in the virtual/online world.

Readers: What do you think? If people are spending more and more time online, shouldn’t we be just as concerned about inequality there as in the physical world? Or it isn’t worth worrying about because once we make everyone equal financially in the real world that will automatically take care of inequality in the virtual world?

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People with older smartphones unlikely to get dates

Buried in “Do Americans marry for love or money? Finally, an answer” (MarketWatch):

those who have older models of either smartphone are 56% less likely to get a date, according to a recent survey of more than 5,500 singletons aged 18 and over by dating site

It seems unlikely that the researchers adjusted for age, income, height, weight, etc., but it would be fascinating if the effect were robust after these adjustments!

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High school girl looks at LGBTQ in an incorrect manner

A friend’s daughter attends a suburban Boston high school in which political thinking is strictly orthodox. She threw a wrench into the works the other day, however, by wondering out loud to teachers who were using the term “LGBTQ” for the 500th time this semester: “If you call someone bisexual, doesn’t that imply that there are only two genders?”

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Grad school versus prison, quantified

From “Philip’s Guide to Grad School”:

Congratulations. You’re a grad student now at a prestigious research university. One of our colleagues was just like you once, an eager beaver starting his first semester in MIT EECS. Unlike you (I hope), Mr. John Beaver (not his real name) had pled guilty to a federal drug possession charge. During IAP he went home to appear before a judge and was sentenced to 1 year in prison (joining 2 million other Americans; we have the highest incarceration rate of any industrialized nation). He served his time and came back to MIT. In his final year of graduate school he was complaining about how much he hated his life, hated being poor, hated his thesis, hated his advisor, and hated MIT. His officemate, trying to cheer him up, noted “Well, John, at least it is better than being in prison, eh?”

John Beaver the grad student leaned back and reflected for a moment. Slowly he responded “… actually when I was in prison I had a lot more optimism and zest for life than I do now.

That was an anecdote. What about some data? 

“Graduate School Can Have Terrible Effects on People’s Mental Health:
Ph.D. candidates suffer from anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation at astonishingly high rates.”
(Atlantic) delivers.

A new study by a team of Harvard-affiliated researchers highlights one of the consequences of these realities: Graduate students are disproportionately likely to struggle with mental-health issues. The researchers surveyed roughly 500 economics Ph.D. candidates at eight elite universities, and found that 18 percent of them experienced moderate or severe symptoms of depression and anxiety. That’s more than three times the national average, according to the study. Roughly one in 10 students in the Harvard survey also reported having suicidal thoughts on at least several days within the prior two weeks.

… the payoff for all that stress may be wanting: A 2014 report found that nearly 40 percent of the doctoral students surveyed hadn’t secured a job at the time of graduation. What’s more, roughly 13 percent of Ph.D. recipients graduate with more than $70,000 in education-related debt, though in the humanities the percentage is about twice that. And for those who do secure an academic post, census data suggest that close to a third of part-time university faculty—many of whom are graduate students—live near or below the poverty line.

Drag this article out the next time someone brags about having been smart enough to get into a Ph.D. program!

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The Millionaires for Obama swap puzzles

From our town mailing list…

We just finished a 1000 piece puzzle and would like to trade it for another puzzle. You have one you are ready to give away?

Our puzzle is: Nevertheless She Persisted. A collage of sketches of women in history with some quotes.

The puzzle is great for folks with various skill and interest levels.
I worked on the easy colorful parts, and the more determined members of the family tackled the quite challenging background spaces.

Let me know if you?ve got a puzzle to trade…


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Pachinko novel: victimhood beyond the U.S.

It’s National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, which, as it turns out is not devoted to reminding Americans regarding the importance of careful interpretation of radar data (see “The Man Who Tried to Stop Pearl Harbor”).

In keeping with the Japanese theme, today I will write about a popular-in-America novel: Pachinko. The book answers the question “What happens in a victimhood culture when it runs out of victims to feel sorry for?” with “We find victims within other societies.”

The book concerns the suffering of Koreans living in Japan during and after World War II. Let’s look at some samples…

For my Facebook friends of mediocre means who criticize Donald Trump for partying with various females:

You want to see a very bad man? Make an ordinary man successful beyond his imagination. Let’s see how good he is when he can do whatever he wants.”

The action starts with a 16-year-old who gets pregnant after having sex with a high-income married guy. There were no child support guidelines back in 1930s Korea:

“I am carrying your child.” He opened his eyes and paused. “Are you certain?” “Yes, I think so.” “Well.” He smiled. She smiled in return, feeling proud of what they had done together. “Sunja—” “Oppa?” She studied his serious face. “I have a wife and three children. In Osaka.” Sunja opened her mouth, then closed it. She could not imagine him being with someone else. “I will take good care of you, but I cannot marry you. My marriage is already registered in Japan. There are work implications,” he said, frowning. “I will do whatever I can to make sure we are together. I had been planning on finding a good house for you.”

Single motherhood was not a respectable lifestyle:

If he did not marry her, she was a common slut who would be disgraced forever. The child would be another no-name bastard. Her mother’s boardinghouse would be contaminated by her shame. There was a baby inside her belly, and this child would not have a real father like the one she’d had.

“It’s a difficult thing to be an unmarried woman, but to bear a child without a husband— The neighbors will never approve. And what will happen to this baby who has no name? He cannot be registered under our family name.”

A sickly Christian minister agrees to marry her and patch up the situation. They move to Osaka and that’s where a multi-generational cycle of ethnic minority victimhood begins.

They got off at Ikaino, the ghetto where the Koreans lived. When they reached Yoseb’s home, it looked vastly different from the nice houses she’d passed by on the trolley ride from the station. The animal stench was stronger than the smell of food cooking or even the odors of the outhouses. Sunja wanted to cover her nose and mouth, but kept from doing so. Ikaino was a misbegotten village of sorts, comprised of mismatched, shabby houses. The shacks were uniform in their poorly built manner and flimsy materials. Here and there, a stoop had been washed or a pair of windows polished, but the majority of the facades were in disrepair. Matted newspapers and tar paper covered the windows from inside, and wooden shims were used to seal up the cracks.

Rents are actually kind of low compared to modern-day Manhattan:

“It can’t be that expensive to live here,” Isak said. He had planned on renting a house for Sunja, himself, and the baby. “Tenants pay more than half their earnings on rent. The food prices are much higher than back home.”

Times were tough on both sides of the Sea of Japan after World War II:

“Every day, for every one boat that heads out to Korea filled with idiots wanting to go home, two boats filled with refugees come back because there’s nothing to eat there. The guys who come straight from Korea are even more desperate than you. They’ll work for week-old bread. Women will whore after two days of hunger, or one if they have children to feed. You’re living for a dream of a home that no longer exists.”

There was nothing great about being part of the Korean community within Osaka, so it made sense to move to LA:

A girl normally hard to win over, Yumi admired her teacher, whom all the students called Pastor John. To her, John represented a Korean being from a better world where Koreans weren’t whores, drunks, or thieves. Yumi’s mother, a prostitute and alcoholic, had slept with men for money or drinks, and her father, a pimp and a violent drunk, had been imprisoned often for his criminality. Yumi felt that her three elder half sisters were as sexually indiscriminate and common as barn animals. Her younger brother had died as a child, and soon after, at fourteen years old, Yumi ran away from home with her younger sister and somehow supported them with small jobs in textile factories until the younger sister died.

To her, being Korean was just another horrible encumbrance, much like being poor or having a shameful family you could not cast off. Why would she ever live there? But she could not imagine clinging to Japan, which was like a beloved stepmother who refused to love you, so Yumi dreamed of Los Angeles.

The Pachinko parlor is always fun, though…

It was fair to say that almost everyone at the parlor wanted to make some extra money by gambling. However, the players also came to escape the eerily quiet streets where few said hello, to keep away from the loveless homes where wives slept with children instead of husbands, and to avoid the overheated rush-hour train cars where it was okay to push but not okay to talk to strangers.

The reason that a book about Koreans in Japan is titled “Pachinko” is that ethnic Koreans supposedly dominated this industry.

Divorce and custody laws were not reliably favorable to the mom in 1970s Japan:

The spring before her thirty-sixth birthday, when she was still married and living in Hokkaido, Etsuko had seduced another one of her high school boyfriends. She had been having a series of affairs for almost three years with various men from her adolescence. What amazed her was how difficult it was the first time but how effortless it was to have all the others that followed. Married men wanted invitations from married women. It was no trouble to phone a man she had slept with twenty years ago and invite him to her house for lunch when her children were at school.

[the cuckolded husband] threw her out, and she made her way to her sister’s house. Later, the lawyer said it would be pointless for her to try to get custody of the children since she had no job and no skills. He coughed in what seemed like politeness or discomfort and said it would also be pointless because of what she had done. Etsuko nodded and decided to give up her children, thinking that she would not trouble them anymore.

Children of divorce were not expected to thrive:

This was how life had turned out. Her oldest, Tatsuo, was twenty-five years old, and it was taking him eight years to graduate from a fourth-rate college. Her second son, Tari, a withdrawn nineteen-year-old, had failed his college entrance exams and was working as a ticket collector at a movie theater. She had no right to expect her children to hold the aspirations of other middle-class people—to graduate from Tokyo University, to get a desk job at the Industrial Bank of Japan, to marry into a nice family. She had made them into village outcasts, and there was no way for them to be acceptable anymore.

The divorcée daughter graduates from teenage prostitute to adult prostitute, but the pachinko executive’s son remains in love with her. He goes off to college the U.S. Many of the complex plot points are resolved when a character commits suicide out of shame, e.g., learning that his real father is a gangster.

In the Acknowledgments, the author explains some of her process:

Sadly, there is a long and troubled history of legal and social discrimination against the Koreans in Japan and those who have partial ethnic Korean backgrounds. There are some who never disclose their Korean heritage, although their ethnic identity may be traced to their identification papers and government records.

Then in 2007, my husband got a job offer in Tokyo, and we moved there in August. On the ground, I had the chance to interview dozens of Koreans in Japan and learned that I’d gotten the story wrong. The Korean Japanese may have been historical victims, but when I met them in person, none of them were as simple as that. I was so humbled by the breadth and complexity of the people I met in Japan that I put aside my old draft and started to write the book again in 2008, and I continued to write it and revise it until its publication.

If you’re curious about Asia, the book is interesting. For me, though, the most interesting part of the book is how Americans have embraced it.

More: Read Pachinko.

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