Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Crystals and Oil

“Just because things are looking up doesn’t mean one shouldn’t look down to prevent stumbling over one’s own optimism.”

--Mycroft Cramden

Before introducing some characters already encountered in Fort Bragg, I should mention where the nameless authorities and bureaucratic machinery have left me as of this morning.

I tried in vain to communicate with Child Support Services on Friday about the levy on my account, which once again rendered us penniless. I have noted in the past that any government office which touts phone services until 4:30 P.M. fails to answer phones after 4 P.M. No doubt there is so much to do (in that last hour of paper clip mangling) that the public’s employees cannot afford the interruption. I should be grateful for their dedication. Nothing could have been done on Friday, anyway. And Monday is always overloaded with things that ought to have been done on Friday. And so it goes.

Luckily I had a hearing regarding child support today by phone, scheduled for 10 A.M., though at first contact I was told to call back at 10:15. At that time I was duly sworn in over the phone, asked to raise my right hand, but first questioned if I were alone in the room. Since I was not sworn in until after I told the court officer I was alone, I could have been prevaricating, as I had not yet been sworn when questioned as to whether I was alone or not.

If one’s sworn testimony is preceded by a question meant to authenticate privacy, and if one initially lied about it, wouldn’t that invalidate the oath that followed? As Xenon pointed out, in a race between a tortoise and a hare of say, ten feet, if the tortoise gets the first step and the hare the second, and every step thereafter must be half the distance of the previous, neither the hare nor the tortoise will win, as the goal will never be reached. Likewise one can never start a motion, as one begins from a stationary position, whereas once in motion, one can no longer be stationary. Therefore one can never begin to move, as one is already moving once motion is begun. Since the validity of my oath was preceded by an inquiry about circumstances that might render it inadmissible, my testimony can therefore never be considered truly admissible, as it depends upon an unsworn statement.

It follows that if one is questioned, “Do you swear to tell the whole truth?,” the future is implied, as in “Do you intend to tell the whole truth?” That question, however, occurs in the present where one is not yet under oath, so to answer “I do” only admits the truth for some future as yet undetermined. To amend the question, “Do you swear to tell the whole truth beginning now?” would not improve the situation since no is always becoming then, thus the questioner, to make the promise valid, would continually have to ask, “And now? And now?” Such questioning would make it impossible to testify in any case. And to ask, “Do you swear you are now telling the truth, and do you pledge yourself in every moment hereafter to tell the truth?” would be invalidated by the passage of time, as every “now” would require a new pledge.

I suppose this is why most lawyers choose political science or English as undergraduate majors rather than philosophy. When Supreme Court nominees are questioned about their “judicial philosophy,” this may be an oxymoron, particularly since nominees usually dodge the question by saying they must decide the merits of a case on a case-by-case basis. Returning to Xenon’s paradox, they could also never form an opinion because as it is being formed one is moving towards an opinion, and after an opinion is reached one is no longer without an opinion.

For those more factually oriented, here’s how the case went.

Child Support Services had no idea that the Franchise Tax Board’s Child Support Collection Services had put a levy on our bank account. When I explained I had only been obligated to pay $50/mo. in child support arrears since September 1, 2005, the CSS representative explained that the State could nevertheless, unbeknownst to the local CSS, file a levy against my account based on previous notice without having been informed of a new order. Thus despite the order of September 1st the State was nevertheless justified in claiming all the money we have to our names. Like the Kafkaesque machinery that put me in arrears in the first place, once this violation of a judge’s order was in motion it could not be stopped, and was justified ex-post facto.

And why was I in arrears in the first place? Because in November of 2002 a server claimed to have served me at a certain motel in Long Beach—though I never personally received the notice. Yet because I admitted that I had been at said motel, the court automatically accepted the server’s testimony (never mind that he gets over $80 a pop for each service, which undoubtedly would never influence his testimony).

Then there is the little matter of my ex- not including, in her original petition for increased child support, the fact that we had a standing agreement where I sent her four times the last order per mo., which she continued to accept—while, unbeknownst to me, petitioning the court for three times that amount, which was granted in my absence and without my knowledge or chance to object. Add to this the fact that the court accepted her information for said award, which failed to mention that I had three dependents as well as exceptional expenses during 2003 and 2004, which would have reduced her new claim considerably. Thus I was held accountable, with accumulated interest, for an egregious award of $1225/mo. for two years while she continued to cash my checks for the usual amount without complaint. By the time I found out about my altered legal circumstances the court informed me that it was “too late” to change the order.

Arrears? I’ve had a few.

Since this egregious order was set aside September 1st, 2005, I foolishly (though generously) continued to send money to my last dependent daughter, Sarah, in an amount of roughly $700/mo. for the six months—for which I received no credit towards my arrears.

Back to today: Orange County CSS informed me that with my ex‘s permission, he would only take $500 from my account and return $3000. Unfortunately, this could not be done immediately—though he had given the problem to his “special projects team.”

Meanwhile the bank would not talk to him directly about the situation, as that would be a breach of confidentiality. All they could do was fax a copy of the levy from CSS, of which he was not aware, back to him—but first they had to submit a request which to their fax department, which should respond within 24 hours.

I am to call CSS back in a week to see if there has been any progress. I expect more regress, but who am I to question the machinery of the State? And if Mr. Bush is listening, I cannot with certainty state, even if sworn, that his blog does not contain secret codes for Osama and Co., especially if every 26th letter corresponds to the nickname of a nephew twice removed, that when combined form an acronym (masquerading as a palindrome) with the plans to Fort Knox—even if we have changed from the gold standard to the oil standard long since.

How many barrels of crude are stored at Ft. Knox?

Thankfully the angelic manager of Shoreline Cottages, where we are staying, offered us $50 on Friday when we found ourselves pennieless. Subesequently my angelic sister, also a lawyer, gave us a short-term loan to keep us in food and shelter until either our money is returned or my next pension check arrives. I think I have better hope of receiving my check than the government correcting its computer-driven theft in a matter of weeks. A further inconvenience is that I must stop the electronic deposit of my checks before that money, too, is wrongly claimed in opposition to the judge’s last order.

I tried above to simplify the Byzantine. Admittedly I clouded my attempt with Xenon to help ameliorate the pangs inflicted by an impersonal institution, whose errors rise exponentially in accord with the size of the system (making the U.S. Government the most error-prone of all systems. We sue tobacco companies while paying for cancer chemotherapy subsidizing tobacco crops, for instance.)

As for me, it helps to write some of the details down in order to remember that “Catch-22” is not just a catch phrase. As Kathleen and I like to say, “Monkey, monkey, Kafka, Kafka, blah, blah, blah”—although our backs are too bad to skip rope to it.


I fell in mud up to my knees last night while walking Kenyon, no doubt karmic payback for the icky green Mexican shampoo I inflicted on him earlier, prescribed for his skin condition. I don’t hold the poor dog personally responsible, as he is just a representative pawn in the karmic system. Even so, it did take me four scrubs to get the smell of that awful shampoo out of my hands.

As to Fort Bragg, I have been given a lot of free advice from people here, which is the best kind since in not paying for it one does not feel obligated to necessarily make use of it.

The astrologer behind the counter at the Smoke Shop, sixtiesh and blonde with the fine lines and smoky voice of a smoker, assured me that since Mercury has gone into retrograde for three weeks there would be many inexplicable errors, especially financial ones. The retrograde happens three times a year and started a day before our money was frozen (despite the fact that I was careful never to reveal the number or location of my bank to CSS, which I changed after their last theft of September 2004). The astrology lady also told me not to start any new projects, only to finish up the old. As this blog is not a new project I hope for an exemption
(while many, no doubt, bored beyond measure, hope for its extinction).

Another man, whose accompanied by a large Malamut-Wolf mix and always wears high rubber boots and a yellow windbreaker, has tried to console me with a philosophy that revolves around “sovereignty,” advising me to expect such injustice since everyone knows the government is controlled by corporations. We must therefore expand our “personal sovereignty,” which will in time result in shared sovereignty for people in the know already banding together for this reason. For a living this man puts together tourist “guides,” whose short articles about restaurants, motels, and other concerns are only puff-pieces, advertisements for businesses. He assured me the businesses he represents are not “corporations,” just “Mom- and-Pop businesses.” I chose not to argue, although all businesses start out on that level, as when Rockefeller was fetching his own oil to sell as an industrial lubricant before the internal combustion engine was invented.

Another woman, a hefty fortiesh recent transplant from Wisconsin who was "sent here by God as a missionary" told me it was “all about a personal relationship with Jesus,” although “organized religion” confused her—-while she passed a joint outside a coffee house at which I performed. I suppose her sovereignty, being yielded only to a single entity, protected her from corporate churches, some of which might actually frown upon her smoking dope in public. Then this is Northern California.

All such advice seems normal to me, although Kathleen wondered whether crystals from Atlantis had been buried under Fort Bragg as many claim have been buried under San Miguel de Allende where our luck was no better. This made me smile but also seemed a legitimate inquiry, because as a California native, sometimes mental patient and psychiatrist, my capacity for treating the bizarre as commonplace seems to increase with every year. If my mind were any more open it would be a golf course for lunatics.

I hope the ravens that seem to follow me here are not spy drones controlled by Donald Rumsfeld. And come to think of it, I would rather have crystals under me than oil.

Sincerely, though not a sworn statement,

Dr. Chaffin


  1. I have to comment that I did not major in literature intending to become a lawyer. That only happened after the academic world seemed unwelcoming and a decent LSAT score promised me acceptance at Boalt or Stanford. That said, I still puzzle over the conundrums of the legal system. The "sovereign" men, though quite nutty, do raise questions about the source of the law's legitimacy. The American Indians might have had reason to challenge it too. Back to my "Bleak House" toilings.

  2. Ah, Bleak House.

    That helped me get through my legal troubles in the last two years, along with Kafka and sedatives. Child support, suspended pension, and kidnapped dog. Yet I survived and landed on my paws (for now).

    Glad your motive for literature was pure. I majored in it knowing I was bound for medical school, which gave me a great sense of freedom--freedom to piss off some professors and a lot of TAs, for instance. Hee hee.



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