The morning Bonnie went missing

My sister would have enjoyed hearing this story.

On Wednesday morning, for a couple of very long hours, I couldn’t find Bonnie. Well, you need to know that Bonnie died in October, and what I really mean is that I went to pick up her ashes in preparation for scattering them at sea in a couple of weeks and, to my surprise, they weren’t where I expected them to be.

Not lost, necessarily, but not where I expected them to be. I credit my brother-in-law, Peter, for that fine distinction.

I thought they were in a box that was among the last things moved to storage when we finally emptied Bonnie’s condominium last month in preparation for offering it for sale. There were probably a half dozen boxes in that last batch. Time was running out and things were a bit chaotic, but I thought I remembered carefully placing the urn with her ashes into a box along with some old family photo albums. And I remember moving those boxes in to our rented storage locker and stacking them up on one end of the almost-full space, along with the remaining boxes of unsorted memorabilia left from my parents’ passing and now, most recently, from my sister.

So on Wednesday morning, I unlocked the storage locker, located the stack of most recent boxes, and went looking for Bonnie. She was nowhere to be found. I pulled that stack of boxes away from the others and carefully examined the contents, one by one. No sign of the urn.

I had been confident that I knew just where to find it, but that confidence quickly faded. And I started getting nervous.

Despite my best efforts, in the back of my mind I began imagining that the designated box could have been mistakenly dropped off at the Kaimuki Goodwill along with other bags and boxes of giveaways. It didn’t rationally feel like a reasonable scenario, but the longer the search went on, the more that thought pressed into the back of my consciousness.

So then I thought that perhaps my initial recollection was mistaken, and that Bonnie was still back in our garage in Kahala among the last remnants still waiting to move to storage. So off I went back to Kahala for a look. Unfortunately, once there in the garage, it didn’t take more than five minutes or so to examine all of the possible places. No urn. No Bonnie.

Was there a fleeting memory of giving the urn away? I know I wouldn’t have done that, but…possible? Thinking about the possibility planted a tiny seed in my mind that perhaps….Don’t think it.

Tick, tock. The clock was ticking. What was I going to do if I couldn’t find her? My brain was now speeding, fueled by simple paranoia.

So it was back to the storage locker as I chanted a simple mantra. Calm, calm, calm. She’s got to be there because where else would she be? Back in to the building, punch in the computer code to reach the second floor, walk back several rows to our storage spot, unlock, lift the roll-up door. Stare at the wall of boxes. Visualize where it would have made sense to leave her urn when I brought in all of those final boxes.

This time I used a different search pattern. Instead of assuming the urn was among the last boxes that had been moved there, I looked at the boxes most easily accessed. And that did the trick. It might have been the second box I looked in, and there was the urn, with its contents, along with the original plastic box that came from the mortuary.

A rush of relief. A moment of wonder that I ever considered that she was actually lost. I won’t have to come up with an explanation for her family after all, and she’ll be returned to the waves on schedule.

I would have enjoyed telling her this story, emphasizing my foibles. And she would have enjoyed hearing it. So perhaps I’ll tell it anyway.

Yes, yet another Feline Friday!

Duke Yes, it’s Feline Friday! We returned from San Francisco on Tuesday, but luckily managed to get enough photos for a respectable Friday photo gallery.

This is Mr. Duke. He’s our 15-year old tabby point siamese who was diagnosed with feline diabetes in 2010. In a few months he’ll be finishing the seventh year with twice-daily insulin shots. He’s not in perfect health, but he’s living much better (and much longer) than we feared when we got his diagnosis.

One thing you notice right way is that the cloudiness of Duke’s eyes is now quite apparent. They look a lot like cataracts. We can’t tell how much his vision is impaired. So far, we haven’t noticed any difficulty in getting around the house or getting where he wants to go. So we’ll just cross our fingers and move on.

Oh, here was my favorite email of the past week or so, received from a friend in Portland.

Thursday night sitting at bar at M&S (that’s McCormick & Schmick on the Portland riverfront) I heard a young fellow sitting nearby using a little pidgin speaking to the bartender. I learned he had spent about 8 years in Hawaii and he offered that he still religiously follows Feline Friday.

Yes! So to all you Feline Friday fans out there, wherever you happen to be, here’s your link to yet another week of the cat energy from our fabulous four.

–> See all of today’s Friday Felines!

Throwback Thursday: Arizona 1973

Here’s another oldie.

It’s a photo taken when Meda and I were in Scottsdale, Arizona, for the annual meeting of the Pacific Sociological Association. It was the first week of May in 1973. And it was during what I think was the only short period when I didn’t have a beard.

Scottsdale, AZ 1973

We both remember this particular trip for several different reasons.

Meda remembers it very well because she was presenting results of her research done as a graduate student for the first time. It was, in retrospect, the research that launched her career.

An online search quickly turned up the conference program.

Meda was on a panel titled “Perspective on Sex Roles” chaired by Nona Glazer-Malbin, then at Portland State University. There were five papers being presented.

Here was Meda’s listing in the program:

Meda Chesney-Lind, Univ of Hawaii: Judicial Enforcement of the Female Sex Role: An Empirical Examination of Dispositions

Her paper was published later that year in the journal, Issues in Criminology.

It happened that Meda’s brother was going to school in Phoenix at the time, so we stayed with him briefly before moving to the conference hotel. Memorable because the waterbed sprung a leak, which creates a scene that does stick in your mind.

There’s still another reason I remember this trip. It was the first time we ever rented a car, and we found ourselves in the parking lot of this cactus garden unable to figure out how to get past the ignition lock and start the car. At home, we were still driving Meda’s ten-year old Dodge Dart, which had no such modern bells and whistles. I felt like a total nerd having to find a phone and call the rental company to ask why the key wouldn’t turn.

Ah, the trials of youth.

Putting the news in context

I’m taking the liberty of quoting at length from an essay by Justin Florence on the Lawfare blog
(“On the Importance of Limiting White House-DOJ Contacts: It’s Not Just About Obstruction”).

Florence lays out why maintaining the wall between the White House and investigations conducted by the the Department of Justice is so important. It is based on a longer memo by a lawyers’ group, United to Protect Democracy, which traced the history of this important principle (“White House Communications With the DOJ and FBI”).

It’s an important issue, and the broader context is important to be aware of and keep in mind as daily events are unfolding.

First, a quite specific reason is that criminal laws prohibit interference in specific investigations. There has been much discussion lately of the contours of the federal obstruction of justice statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1505, a felony offense prohibiting certain “communication[s]” that “influence[], obstruct[], or impede[] or endeavor[] to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law.” Contacts by the President or White House to the DOJ or FBI made with the intent to influence an investigation can not only give rise to criminal liability to the person who interferes, they can undermine the potential prosecution by allowing the defendant to raise claims of improper prosecution.

Second, restricting these contacts avoids the type of systemic corruption that is endemic in authoritarian governments. As Matt Yglesias described in a prescient essay earlier this year, when the political elite involve themselves in specific enforcement and regulatory actions, “Those who support the regime will receive favorable treatment from regulators, and those who oppose it will not.” As he notes, this type of interference can cut both ways. A call from a White House official to a federal prosecutor can ask that DOJ go easy on a friend of the administration who has worked for or donated to a campaign or who is a partner of the President’s business interests. Or, that same kind of call could suggest that it would be helpful to look into an enforcement action to brush back a journalist who has written a critical story of the President or a competitor to a business interest. As Yglesias writes, “This is how Vladimir Putin governs Russia, and how the Mubarak/Sisi regime rules Egypt.” It is not how America should function.

Third, limiting these contacts furthers several constitutional principles. The Constitution prohibits “bills of attainder,” and while that prohibition focuses on Congress, it stands for the more overarching point that specific people or groups should not be singled out for punishment. In addition, the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause demands that our government follow standardized procedures before denying people of their liberty or property. The Equal Protection Clause requires that all people be treated equally under the laws. And finally, Article II’s command that the President “take care that the laws be faithfully executed” suggests a good faith requirement on the executive power. Each of these constitutional principles, in its own way, calls for the fair and impartial exercise of the Executive’s law enforcement authority. A White House that uses its enforcement power for political purposes—targeting specific individuals, ignoring standard law enforcement procedures, or treating similarly situated people unequally—fails to live up to these constitutional principles.

And this leads to the fourth and most fundamental point. The basic notion of the rule of law, and public confidence in the rule of law, requires its even-handed application. The DOJ and White House memos on contacts reference this concern. The DOJ memo currently in place begins, “The rule of law depends upon the evenhanded administration of Justice,” and continues that “in order to promote the rule of law” it is establishing guidelines to govern all communications between representatives of the Department, on the one hand, and representatives of the White House and Congress, on the other.” As we wrote when we asked the DOJ Inspector General to investigate whether the White House was violating these policies with respect to a specific enforcement matter, “The American people depend on the Department to enforce our federal laws equally as to all parties, regardless of those parties’ size, influence, or political connections.”