Saturday, June 9, 2007

An Email Exchange Regarding the Evils of Excess That Somehow Segues to Paris Hilton/Workman's Comp and Jail

My friend sent me the following observation:

> > We had a very interesting experience in Napa Valley prior to arriving up here (in Bend Oregon for the summer-they are retired and very smart). We attended the wedding of my college roommate's daughter. They live in Darien, CT - but the groom's family is from Piedmont (very posh neighborhood in the bay area) and both the bride and groom work in LA. This is the young woman who manages the private art collection for a movie mogul. (he called her an hour before the wedding to tell her to negotiate a sale before her wedding!)
> > Anyway, this was the most unreal wedding experience I've ever seen... A multiple day/event occasion. The reception was at the Culinary Institute of America (which is in the old Christian Brothers winery/castle) - cocktails on the patio at dusk overlooking Napa Valley - dinner in the cask room....candlelit, rose petals on the floor, flowers EVERYWHERE - an orchestra and singing waiters (like opera singers) - not to mention a gourmet meal.......The wedding and reception was relatively small maybe 100. But then on Sat night they had a black tie dinner /dance in another castle..for 250! (we missed this event...)
The attendees all seemed to be very wealthy (we felt like the country cousins although we were treated very well))....anyway, they all seemed to think this was just normal. (did I mention the grooms sister was married to a movie producer? His last movie was Charlottes Web) This crowd just seemed clueless about anything but themselves! ( I am being a bit hard...the bride's parents really do not live like fact they live very modestly even though he has been very successful) And we did meet some really interesting people - like the young man who grew up on a farm in South Africa, would spend days with the Zulus in their villages...And now is an American citizen and SO proud of there were exceptions.
> > This whole thing left me feeling badly about the excess....makes north Scottsdale look dull by comparison! What a horrible waste of resources! Think of all the incredible things that someone could do with all that money and energy! Really - what is the point!

This was my reply:
> > The wedding story is amazing. I contrast it with my brother-in-law Lloyd who is getting married in July (second time for both). He was feeling guilty about the expense of the invitations, thinking it would have been more reasonable to donate the money to charity. He is having a very lovely affair at the rose park and a reception at a romantic sounding local bar/restaurant Portland.
I told him that he deserved to have a lovely celebration of this important moment and that the invitations are a symbol of that and besides, it provides a job and a living for the invitation makers which is a good thing too.

My point is that there is no shame in living a nice life. But isn't it interesting where we each would draw our own line between nice and excess? We live in challenging on....

Paris Hilton went home! For a day! It should be noted that the decision was made by the sheriff, contrary to the court's ruling. This is not an unusual situation. People are turned away from our jail all the time. This past spring there was a huge fiasco when the jail entry requirements were changed to require that each potential prisoner jump through hoops proving medical fitness. If they did not have the right papers to self surrender, home they were sent (and back to court for another ticket to get in). This is tantamount to changing a judge's order, something I just don't think is contemplated by our constitution.

Then how, you may ask, do the sheriffs get away with it? Their justification is fear of liability; they are simply trying to avoid a lawsuit by ruling out potential medical claims in advance. The sheriff gets sued all the time for mistreating prisoners and sometimes loses. Now, I am not defending that by any stretch, but when it rises to the level of excluding sentenced prisoners from the jail, I think we may wish to take another look.

The other day I was researching a workman's compensation claim for an on the job accident that resulted in death. Arizona has a very comprehensive workman's compensation program and it basically says that unless the death was intended by the employer the estate cannot recover from the employer beyond the amount provided for in the worker's compensation law. They can go after a third party, but try getting the information to do it!(Presumably life insurance policies and other resources would supplement this). It seemed to me that the trade off: reduced litigation for a certainty of payout/return, might not make sense in every case but that is what we have. This is a major shield for the employer.

Why then, do we not use a similar standard at the jail? It seems to me that this places prisoners in the position of having far more access to the tort system than upstanding, hard working employees. Does this make sense? So, why not employ the same standard in the jails that we do in the workplace? There is always the ballot box to keep the sheriff in check; do we really need the tort system on top of that?

Friday, June 1, 2007

Simple Summer Pasta Recipe

Inspired by the AZ Republic Food Section story on simple pasta dishes that ran 5/30/07 and by the veggies in my fridge, I threw this together last night. It was easy and delicious.

1/2 pound of fresh sweet pea pods string removed
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1 leek, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 medium sized yellow crook neck squash, halved and sliced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp each chopped fresh basil and oregano or 1/2 tsp dried
1 cup chopped arugula
1 pound capellini or thin spaghetti
1 ounce Emmanthaler or Parmesan cheese freshly (and finely) grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring water to boil for pasta and throw in pea pods for about 3 minutes. Meanwhile in about 1 T of olive oil saute onions and garlic for about 1 minutes. Add squash and cook stirring often until the squash begins to soften. Add tomatoes, with juices, herbs and arugula. Salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cook while the pasta is cooking, which you should add to the water and peas now as it only takes about 2 minutes.
Drain the pasta/peas and place in a large bowl. Top with sauteed vegetables and toss to combine, adding about 1/2 cup of the pasta water to moisten as needed.
Serve topped with cheese.

Makes a ton.