Friday, September 30, 2005

More on Judicial Activism

According to this e-mail newsletter from the ABA Journal, more than half of all Americans in a recent poll sees a "judicial activism crisis."

I quote: "A majority of the survey respondents agreed with statements that 'judicial activism' has reached the crisis stage, and that judges who ignore voters' values should be impeached. Nearly half agreed witha congressman who said judges are 'arrogant, out-of-control and unaccountable.'"

As far as the voters' values is concerned: 28 percent strongly agreed and 28 percent somewhat agreed with a state governor statement that court opinions should be in line with voters' values, and judges who repeatedly ignore those values should be impeached.

As we all know, the judges are the reason this country has gone to hell. They constantly use international opinion to support their positions, they make up rights, they clearly ignore the written word of the law and the Consitution, and they constantly declare Unconstitutional the laws that Congress passes. We need to get rid of these people who don't rule the way we want them to.

Or, perhaps there's a reason why we have judges. Perhaps the judge's job ISN'T to rule according to the values of the voters, but rather to rule according to the rule of law. Isn't there a reason why we appoint judges as opposed to having public trials? Isn't Congress required to spell out clearly what they intend the laws to mean? When Congress is unclear on something, such as what an "exchange" is for income tax purposes, should the judge stop the trial, wait for Congress to convene and hope that they clarify the situation? Could it possibly be that judges, while imperfect, and while accepting some bad eggs, do a pretty good job at what they do? Is "judicial activism" anything more than a smoke screen designed to throw us off the trail of Congressional accountability?

I commented specifically on the point that judges should rule according to voters' values. Does this mean that as the values of the community change, the rulings must also change, whether the law has or not? Does the judge need to go and poll the public to find out what they are supposed to say? Or do they need to rule according to the Constitution, which supposedly is the foundation of our society, current value system notwithstanding? In that vein, I agree with what Professor Charles G. Geyh says: "[The idea that judges should] somehow follow the voters' views really reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what judges are supposed to do. They should only be criticized when they ignore the law and start infusing their own values into the law regardless of the law."

But then, we are in the era of the coffeehouse genius, the YODA (Young, Opinionated, Directionless Artiste), who knows the problems with everything and how to solve it all, but lacking the actual motivation to actually get up and do anything. And thus they get their opinions by what they hear on the news and in the papers, and on the net. Perhaps the statistics in these polls fall along Disraeli's definition of lies...

More random trivia

I seem to have gotten in the habit of Haiku Wednesdays and Random Trivia Thursdays, which is fine in my book, but today, I have a useless piece of trivia that I've not been able to get out of my head, so I will share the burden with all of you.

If you can trick a chicken into believing there are 28 hours in a day, they will lay larger, stronger eggs. No word on how you trick a chicken, but I can't believe it would be that hard. They don't strike me as the smartest creatures, I mean, you can hypnotize one by drawing a line in the sand...

Thursday, September 29, 2005

I think I'm going to plotz

Thanks to the efforts of one Marty Markowitz, when denizens of New York's Brooklyn Borough cross the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan, they will see a sign over their head that reads, "Leaving Brooklyn, Oy Vey!" This sign is but one of several that drivers see on the bridge and in other locations around Brooklyn. Some say such things as "Not just a borough, an experience," "You name it... we got it," and "Believe the hype."

I don't know why this was in the news, other than the fact that the proposal was approved this year while it was disapproved in January of 2004. Still, it's neat that a borough would go to the trouble to say "sorry to see you go."

Random Trivia

Henry Ford once saw a sugar crystal under a microscope and panicked when he saw all the sharp edges on the crystal. He swore off sugar that day and never had it again for fear of tearing apart his stomach.

The Netherlands set to expand Euthenasia Guidelines

One day after President Bush requests that the Court look at Oregon's Death With Dignity Law, we learn that the Dutch have plans set out to expand their Euthenasia guidelines. These expansions would allow for the euthenization of terminally ill newborns with their parents' permission. Proponents point to the added bonus of helping figure out how the country would deal with those who are unable to speak for themselves, such as the mentally ill and those in comas.

I can't comment on this topic, so I leave it to you to read the article and weigh in on your reaction to it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Court to hear Oregon Suicide Law case

In 1997, Oregon passed a Death with Dignity law that allowed terminally ill patients to take medication that would end their lives. Last year, 208 Oregonians took advantage of that ability, roughly .1% of the total number of deaths in Oregon.
Now President Bush's administration is challenging Oregon's law under the premise that it is an improper use of medication and thus violates federal food and drug laws.

The article lists arguments from supporters and opponents of the law. Proponents point to the fact that the few people who do use it are highly educated, intelligent strong people who know what they are doing. They point out that the law allows people to elect to do so in a terminally ill position while not requiring it of anyone.

Opponents point out that undermines the traditional doctor's role as a healer, as the medicine kills you. They assert that it teaches elderly and sick people that their lives aren't worth protecting and that suicide isn't worth preventing.
I haven't done the research into the FDA regulations, nor am I likely to. I have too much on my plate with school and family to do so. My guess is that there's going to be some line in the FDA regs that says something to the effect of "medication must be used for some healing or treating purpose," and that the argument is that killing a person isn't treating them. Although, if you turn your brain around right, you could suggest that killing a terminally ill patient relieves them of their pain, which is what morphine drips and various other medications for terminally ill patients do. But I digress.

I sort of hope this turns on a 10th Amendment issue. This item is one that is not enumerated in the Constitution, and there are no federal laws pursuant to its prohibition. As such, it stands to reason that it should be relegated to the states. Isn't that the RvW argument?

Study Break

Right now I have my Evidence book on the table. The current chapter deals with exceptions to hearsay that require unavailability of the witness. The Federal Rule that covers this is 804.

The exciting part comes from Williamson v. United States here on Page 204:
To decide whether Harris' congession is made admissible by Rule 804(b)(3), we must first determine what the Rule means by "statement," which Federal Rule of Evidence 801(a)(1) defines as "an oral or written assertion."

Scintillating, isn't it? It's still better than the Tax Code that defines "Income" as any income from any source. i.e. Income means income.

On a completely unrelated note, I think I'll head to Jack in the Box for dinner tonight.

Humorous Anecdote

You know it's humorous, because I said so in the Title Box. That's the great thing about the title box.

At any rate, my mother in law was in town for the hurricane, which was good, because it gave us another person with whom the kids could share their attention while cooped up, and I genuinely like my mother in law. She left yesterday, and has been fighting a little bit of a cold the last couple of days. She needed to blow her nose yesterday morning, and took a piece of Alabama Kleenex with which to do so. The Boy saw her take it from the bathroom and said in a very Grown-Up manner, "Grandma, we don't save toilet paper in this house."
He's now ready to face the world.

The worst headline I've ever read

Bull Semen Improved China Ties

Wednesday is Haiku Day

I'm back to the grind
After hurricane Rita
Feet don't fail me now.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Pure excitement

Whether a gain or loss is subject to special treatment, as "capital" as opposed to "ordinary," usually is dependent upon (1) whether it arises in a transaction involving a "capital asset," (2) whether the capital asset has been the subject of a "sale or exchange," and (3) how long the taxpayer has "held" the asset. Failure of a transaction to involve a capital asset or a sale or exchange results in ordinary income or an ordinary deduction. However, one should be aler for statutory provisions that may artificially accord capital gain or loss treatment to some transactions which do not actually involve the sale or exchange of a capital asset.1.

1. Fundamentals of Federal Income Taxation, Chapter 21A. Capital Gains and Losses. Freeland, Lathrope, Lind, and Stephens. Page 676

Pfc England is guilty

Guilty. Make no mistake about that. That anyone would debate that strikes me as absurd. What she did was wrong, and she deserves whatever sentence she receives.

Pfc England was convicted by a jury of military officers, as is authorized by the UCMJ. At her request and upon approval by the court, she can have a mixed jury of officers and Senior enlisted members. We often hear of a right to a jury by our peers (it doesn't mention peers in the seventh amendment), yet she was convicted by a jury of superior officers. Superior and peer don't seem to go together well. How could she receive an unbiased trial by a jury of her peers when she is subject to all of them and required under penalty of the UCMJ to obey all lawful orders they give?

Lawful orders, that seems to be a bit of a problem in the case, as well. She was convicted because she tortured the prisoners at Abu Ghraib. The story goes that she was following orders, though the prosecution claimed she "humiliated prisoners because she enjoyed it and had a sick sense of humor." Now, I've been out of the Air Force for a couple years now, but from what I remember, lower enlisted members didn't participate in unilateral action. Everything they did was pursuant to some order. In other words, it's unlikely that she would have taken to torturing and humiliating the prisoners out of sheer perverse pleasure, though that's what the military would have us believe. She was acting under orders from her NCO, who received instruction from his Company officer who received his or her orders from a field grade officer, etc. It's possible, and probably likely that the field grade officer (often a rather educated individual) would be vague enough in his or her instructions as to absolve him or herself of any culpability ("When I said prepare them, I didn't mean take pictures of you pointing at their genitalia.") That doesn't make it right. And an uneducated lower enlisted person such as Pfc England, who is trained from the day she gets off the truck at boot camp to not question any orders from anyone of a superior rank, is unequipped to question whether what she's doing is right or wrong, and is in a position where she's unable to refuse to follow the orders.

So let's look at the argument that she was convicted by a jury of her peers. I submitted above that she was incapable of declining any orders she may have received based on her education and training. The military regularly refers to NCOs and officers as superior ranks. Let's add one more piece to the puzzle and say that if she was convicted by a jury of her peers, and one of the charges for which she was convicted was conspiracy, which by definition requires more than one person to commit, then why are there no highly publicized trials of any company or field grade officers? Why aren't any of them up for sentencing? Is it because they are more equal than Pfc England? Are two legs better (borrowing from Animal Farm by way of RedHotMamma)? Do we really believe that it's an equal punishment for an officer to "have his (her) career ruined?" If it's not, then one must concede that she was unfairly convicted and would need a new trial, OR the good ol boy network of the military needs to overhaul and find a few more fish to fry. Since I firmly believe that what she did was wrong and she does have ultimate control over her actions regardless of pressure from other forces (including article 15 punishment for refusing to follow orders), I would hope that the latter would happer vice the former.

And if you don't think this is an episode of scapegoating, ask yourself what would have happened to Pfc England had these pictures not made it onto the evening news.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Now for the Essay Portion of the Exam

Today's essay question is easy. Please read the instructions quietly while I read them aloud: Congress has convened, and under direction of President Schwarzenegger, they are required to repeal one of the Bill of Rights. Your Congressman has sent out a letter to his or her voters with a request to provide him insight as to which of the first ten Amendments should be repealed. You are to assume that one will be repealed whether you want it or not, and you need to present a brief explanation as to why that one over any of the others.

Have a Coke and a Smile

One thing you may or may not know about me is that I'm a bit of a Coca-cola fan. I drink it zealously, well, maybe not like a zealot; I don't think they had Coke back then.

I don't just drink with Coca-cola; I cook with it. Some of my favorite recipes are barbecued pork, Coq au Coke, crab bisque with Sprite, and Bulgoki with Coke. It's quite a good mixer. Some day I hope to try salted peanuts mixed in with Coke.

I have the Coca-cola Cookbook (Classic Cooking with Coca-cola), and on page 187 it lists a miscellaneous use for Coke. Apparently, you can use Coca-cola to clean up your windshield. If you are driving in the rain and have a bunch of road film build-up, you can splash some Coke on the windshield and let the wipers spread it around. This is slightly different than using it to clean your engine, which I've never tried, though I did use it once to clean battery acid off the battery. It didn't work as well as I'd hoped. It was also a waste of a good Coca-cola. Another experiment was putting a nail in a Coke. I left a nail in a coke for 3 days and it didn't dissolve. Nope. It just became sticky, and wasted another perfectly good Coke. Stupid people, trying to badmouth Coca-cola. For shame.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sunday Morning

I don't have a whole lot to say this morning. The hurricane passed by us and we survived almost entirely unscathed. A tree branch put a door ding size dent in the door of my Escort, and I honestly wouldn't have known about that had we not seen the branch on it. Our neighborhood did quite well, and things are slowly returning to normalcy.

There's still a 1970's line for gas at the few stations that have fuel, and WalMart is still closed, but we do have a couple grocery stores open for business, so we can get the essentials, as we need.

In other news, one of the stations out here finally quit doing 24 hour hurricane coverage yesterday evening, and we got a chance to notice that life exists outside the Houston area.
I'm going to gripe for a minute here. Why is it necessary to air hurricane coverage continuously? Are periodic updates any less effective? How mcuh does it help anyone to have a field reporter standing on the beach in Galveston to report every 30 minutes that yes, there is water here, and yes, there is wind? And then the folks behind the desk make some really unnecessary comments: "It's a good thing we're up here," "I hope that bridge doesn't go out and leave you stranded on the island," etc. I understand the severity of the hurricane, and I appreciate the importance of getting the information out, but I don't think continuous coverage of people trying to fill time with hurricane-related information is the best approach. Perhaps it'd be better to keep it to periodic updates, or even do a 30 minutes on, 30 minutes off type thing. I have a hunch that one network did it so that they could capitalize on the comprehensiveness of their coverage, and then the other networks followed suit so they wouldn't be the ones left out. Those poor reporters, having to be chipper all day while freaking inside at the thought of their being stuck in a downtown building during what could have been much worse than we actually got.

I don't remember what it was like when Mt. St. Helens erupted, but I can imagine it was somewhat similar.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Interesting Read

And for all you people who aren't calculus types, don't worry. This isn't real math; someone did the work for you. I encourage y'all to read the link here, though.

Friday Afternoon

Most everyone in the English speaking world knows about limericks, and many people know about haiku, but another entertaining poem, though much less well known, is the clerihew.

According to the above link, the rules for writing a clerihew are:
1. They are four lines long.
2. The first and second lines rhyme with each other, and the third and fourth lines rhyme with each other.
3. The first line names a person, and the second line ends with something that rhymes with the name of the person.
4. A clerihew should be funny.

It lists a couple examples, one of which I'll supply here:
Their music hurts my ears
I much prefer Britney Spears.

Let it be known that I personally don't like Britney Spears, either, but I suppose she is slightly superior to N'Sync, maybe...

Anyway, let me try my hand at one of these things on the eve of Rita's visit

Rafael Palmeiro,
useless as a Fiero
Took steroids for his hemorrhoids
They grew into asteroids.

(I'm under hurricane stress, you come up with a better one)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hurricane Rita

I've received more than a few inquiries and well wishes in the past few days with the hurricane a-coming, so I figured I'd give a general state of the union update.

First. There is a hurricane coming. Her name is Rita, and she's an angry nymph.
Second. We are not leaving Houston, for reasons I'll illustrate directly.
The wife had been out of town for training, and was unable to get back immediately. Her boss insisted she get back, however, so that she could be with her family. This meant that we had to wait for her to get back last night before we made any attempt to leave. We couldn't exactly fly up there, what with the debt we've incurred from law school and the fact that the cheapest rates we could find were to Minneapolis at 660/person. So, by the time she arrived, the traffic was backed up far enough that people had been in line for hours without moving too far. I heard a caller on the radio this morning who had been on the road since 2:30 yesterday afternoon and had travelled 48 miles by 8:30 this morning. Every highway and back road out of town is backed up farther than we can imagine.
So, we looked at our options. The storm's trajectory has moved, and they now expect the hurricane to land to our Northeast, which would mean that the worst winds and rains and swells would be on the opposite side of us - apparently the strongest part of the storm is the Northeast side. We're in a part of Houston that is relatively high. We're not on a flood plain, and when Alicia and Allison came through, our neighborhood did all right. The weather folks anticipate winds in our area to be between 75-85 mph, so we're still in a bind, but it's not anywhere near as daunting as it looked last night. We've taped up the windows, there are no trees in our complex, so debris will be minimized. We've moved the irreplaceable belongings up to the second floor or the landing so that if we do flood, they won't be lost. We have enough provisions (dry food, water, Coca-cola, diapers, wipes, bathroom necessities, flashlites, candles, etc) to keep us covered long enough to get through, and will be fine.
We've spoken with the Boy to let him know what to expect (the other two are still a bit young to really understand). He knows what he's supposed to do.

Over half the area is not evacuating; we're not alone here. With over 4 million people in the greater Houston area and a mandatory evacuation of 1.3 million, there's a certain sense in staying behind to let those that need to get to safety get there.

I'm not going to pretend we're looking forward to this. Don't plan on hourly hurricane updates from my laptop, or anything like that. As prepared as we've gotten ourselves, bear in mind that there are tens of thousands in Houston and the outlying area who aren't able to prepare as well as we could. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers throughout this ordeal, and put in a kind word for the people of Beaumont, who look to take the brunt of the storm at this time. We'll be fine, and we'll be here to help out those that need it when the storm is over.

Random Trivia

Back in the days before state and federal highways, roads were basically maintained on their own. Private stretches of roads would be closed off to people. They could, however, travel on these private roads, if they paid a certain fee. These days we recognize that fee as a toll. How did the Powers That Be ensure people paid the toll? They would take a large log, called a pike, and place it at a point in the road. The only way to get your carriage past the pike was to pay the toll, at which case the attendent would rotate the pike on its axis (usually a post it was attached to, think of a gate). From this practice of turning the log we get the term turnpike.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Wednesday is Haiku Day

I've never had spats
but I've been spat upon so,
I'll call it a wash

Look forward to your contributions.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Another one waiting to happen

I lived in Washington State on May 18, 1980. I remember getting home from kindergarted and telling my mom about how Mount St. Helens interrupted. (I don't remember saying interrupted, but I believe her word.) I lived through numerous smallish earthquakes; I think the largest I've been in was maybe around a 6, and that's probably a high estimate. I remember a tornado that landed nearby our housing in Illinois; several tornado warnings my first trip to San Angelo, another tornado hitting somewhat near our apartment during my second trip to San Angelo, and the excitement that brought. When I lived in Maryland, we got hit with a pretty good sized nor'easter. I don't know if it qualified as a blizzard, but the venerable Fox5 news out there made it sound like one. I got to experience the Yellow Rain in Korea - a wind draft carries a bunch of the Gobi Desert that is so desparate to get out of China it agrees to land on Korea, even North Korea, and covers everything with a yellow dusting of Gobi Sand. And as I mentioned above, I lived in San Angelo, so I know what hell is like, only with a Chili's.

As far as I can tell, for major natural disasters, I have to experience a Tsunami, a flood, and a hurricane to fill my natural disaster bingo card. I would count an avalanche, but that seems to be too dependent on living on a mountain high enough to have one, and I refuse to live in Colorado (no offense to all my faithful Colorado readers; I can't stand your hockey team). I've been through a lot of local flooding in my life, but I've never been involved in a batten-down-the-hatches type flood that involves massive amounts of sandbags. It looks like my hurricane spot will be checked in the next few days, though, as Rita, apparently on a mission from President Bush to get rid of the evacuess (refugees) who got out of Louisiana safe and sound and broke, bears down on this lovely city, or a short distance south of same.

I don't know if this is just the luck of the draw, or if I'm just really bad at picking places to live. All I know is that the weather doesn't seem to agree with me anywhere. Perhaps I need to find out who my enemies are and move next to them and see if my weather charm can wipe them out.

I must say I'm a little concerned about this one. I've never dealt with anything as large scale as a hurricane; and except for the San Angelo parts of my experience, I've never been the point person. However, we have our evacuation plans in place; we know where we're going, and we know what we need to bring with us. We have faith that we'll be taken care of and everything will work out all right.

But if President Bush reads this, I have one request: I'm leaving my car here. Can you see to it that your hurricane destroys it so I can get a new one with the insurance money? Thanks.

Why the Skepticism

People question the war in Iraq. They don't like the idea of our going to war unprovoked. They thought it might have detracted from the war on Terror. They wanted proof that there were WMDs. They don't believe in the rationale that we attacked to evoke a regime change for the stability in the region.

Other people support the war. They like the positives that came out of it. They believe that the world is safer now that a dictator has been removed, and don't understand why opponents don't see it.

The President certainly announced prior to the war that Iraq had to sever its ties to terrorism and did comment on the peace of the region, but in more than one address, the primary rationale for the war was the insistance of WMDs in the country.

Here are a couple links that I've found detailing what was said before and during the war that causes such confusion and divides the country. I leave it to you to determine the probative value and prejudicial effect.

Click here, here, here, and here.

Good Help is Hard to Find

Just ask this woman. Jealous of her boyfriend's other object of affection - his wife - a woman contacted a private detective in Tokyo (they're Japanese) and paid him 1 million yen in cash to kill the other woman.

Being a very scrupulous man of high moral character and understanding the importance in society of dating an unmarried man, the private detective accepted the job. He suggested he could accomplish the task by "chasing the [woman] on his motorcycle and spraying her with a biological agent in a tunnel."

Bear in mind the adage, "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." The hitman did not, in fact chase the woman and spray her with a biological agent. He failed at the job for which he was hired. So the woman who contracted with the hitman did the sensible thing. She called the police and told. The police took this very important matter very seriously and arrested the woman and the hitman. They then located the target and insured she was safe and sound.

Monday, September 19, 2005

I'd completely forgotten

That today is Talk Like a Pirate Day! Thanks to Heatherfeather for reminding me!

To honor Talk Like a Pirate Day, I want to first point out the importance of pirates in relation to Global Warming, as evidenced in the teachings of the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Next, I will share some of my favorite Pirate-themed jokes (these could possibly be considered a little corny)

What's a Pirate's favorite school subject? Arrrrr-t
What's a Pirate's Favorite movie? St-arrrrrr W-arrrrrs
A Pirate's favorite garnish is P-arrrrrrrr-sley
His favorite duet? The C-arrrrr-penters.
His favorite Beatle? Paul McC-arrrrrrrrr-tney
What's a Pirate's favorite Comic strip? M-arrrrrrrr-maduke. Though some prefer G-arrrrrrr-field.
What's a Pirate's favorite snack? M-arrrrrrr-shmallows
Their favorite Whisky? Cutty S-arrrrrrrrrr-k
Their favorite actress? Emmy winner Patricia Arrrrrrr-quette.
Their favorite Actor? Arrrrrrrrr-senio Hall.

There are more to be had, send in your favorites!

Perhaps we should try this here

A Green Party politician stated that he intends to keep his word and run naked through the streets as a result of his opponent's victory in a recent New Zealand election. The local Newmarket Business Association will help Mr. Keith Locke (the legislator) by announcing his impending trip down Broadway.

I think this is a fine thing, and I'm glad that Mr. Locke intends to honor his vow. I also think that this is an excellent manner of losing an election. I would like to see this country enact legislation that would require the loser of Congressional/Presidential elections to run naked down the main street of the Capitol of their state, or, in the case of the President, from the Capitol building to the White House.

Perhaps the threat of airing their wieners and boobs would result in fewer candidates who actually are wieners and boobs.

Lip Service

Just when you thought they were taking it away, North Korea pulls the carrot just a little bit closer once again. The carrot? A pledge to halt its Nuclear program. We know they're telling the truth because they promised. And North Korea has been so forthright in the past.

As part of the deal, the US and the ROK reaffirmed their declarations that they have no nuclear weapons on the peninsula, and all parties respected the DPRK's sovereign right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy. They agreed to work on a proposal for a light water reactor in the future - when it's more appropriate.

the ROK reaffirmed its proposal to provide the DPRK with 2 million kilowatts of electric power to the DPRK.

You have to give the Chonger some credit. He knows how to keep getting things for free. Not only that, but he knows how to profit off of getting things for free. Here, he basically has five nations subsidizing his country, supplying the food, the gas, the electricity - leaving him free to grow heroin, opium, and tobacco (for counterfeit cigarettes) on the 30% of his country that constitutes arable land.

We criticized President Clinton for making concessions with the Chonger and his dad. We can't trust the North Koreans to hold their promises. We know that they don't do what they say. Yet here we are again, getting a promise from the DPRK which is little more than lip service to keep the good times coming in.

If any country/region needed a regime change, this is it.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


One of the most rewarding things about kids is they are not bound by the confines of grammar and language rules. They are able to modify the English language to suit their comprehension and motivation.

This is why my son used to want to eat at Red Monster, ride the merry merry go around, eat oatmilk, and call me Sleeve. It's also why my daughter loves to eat coincoin (popcorn), sareyo (cereal), and watch winnapoo (Winnie the Pooh) and arrado (the road to El Dorado)

I can't wait to hear what the youngest teaches us.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

I love a parade

In 1836, a band of Texans fought for and received their independence from the Mexican government. They got all of Texas, and got to run it for a few years before they realized it was better if they left it to the Pros of the United States.

This morning, in Houston, there was a parade downtown to celebrate the Mexican Independence Day. In Houston. Texas. Which isn't Mexico.

I understand the importance of heritage to people. I come from a healthy mix of nationalities, and my kids encompanss even more. I just don't understand having an indepence day parade for a nation that 1. you aren't, and 2. you fought a war to get away from. I don't think many Ukrainians celebrate the October Revolution, though I might be wrong.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Constitution Day

Starting this year, every school in the country that receives federal financial aid must teach the Constitution on September 17 - the day the Constitution was officially adopted back in 1787.

Because this year, the 17th falls on a Saturday, schools are free to choose between Friday or Monday. And though the provision mandates that schools teach the Constitution, it does not express how they must teach it, which leaves a lot to the imagination. The article I linked to above mentions Wittenberg University in Ohio, which will offer free pizza for a year to the winner of a Constitution essay contest. A Music instructor at Weslayan in Connecticut has put the Bill of Rights to music for the orchestra to perform.

Now, here comes a sticky situation. Typically, educational decisions have been left up to the individual states, thanks to the 10th Amendment. Vanderbilt University plans to approach Constitution Day with a debate on the Constitutionality of the law mandating Constitution Day, whether it violates the First Amendment's right to free speech. The Law School's Dean, Edward Rubin was quoted in the article, "I'm surprised that the Congress and the president would choose to honor the Constitution by violating it."

According to the article, federal employees also are to receive Constitutional training.

I now leave it to you to decide whether this is a good law, a bad law, or a bad law with good intentions.

On the Defensive

Picture this scenario. You are a homeowner. You spend a good portion of your paycheck on your mortgage, utilities, phone, trash, and of course, homeowner's insurance. As in most neighborhoods, you have neighbors and acquaintances. One of your acquaintances and you get involved in some sort of money transaction where one of you may or may not owe the other. He weighs three times as much as you, and has attacked and injured you in the past. He gets agitated over the dispute and comes to your home to confront you about it. The situation escalates, and in order to protect yourself and your family, you shoot the man. You don't intend to kill him; you don't ever want to be responsible for someone else's death. You only want to hurt him, to keep you and yours safe. Unfortunately the 12 gauge you use is remarkably accurate, and your acquaintance dies.

You are arrested, as you should be. At your criminal trial, you either hire a lawyer, or you have the Court appoint one for you. You do what makes sense; you hire your own attorney. You have your day in court, and the jury acquits you. You did nothing wrong; you protected your family from an intruder. We don't like that you took a life, but you swear you didn't intend to, and we believe you.

Now that you've won your freedom at extensive cost to you, you are sued for wrongful death by the estate of the man whose life you took, a civil suit. Your insurance company wants a declaration that they are not required to provide you counsel. You feel that since you did not intentionally kill the man, the killing was accidental. According to the plain language of the policy you have, the company must defend or indemnify you against accidental occurrances.

The Insurance company sees it differently. They deem the act of shooting to be an intentional act. The killing was not intentional, but the shooting was, and of course, according to the language you just pointed to, an intentional act is not covered, so they owe you nothing.

What do you think should happen? Write your answer, then check here to see what the 3rd District of the Appellate Division of New York says. Or cheat, and see what they said and determine whether or not you agree.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Random trivia

In Florida, in days of yore, people often fried fish outdoors in large pans. The frying and whatnot would attract groups of dogs, who are known for begging. They would show up and start barking and yelping and whining, so the people would take cornmeal cakes, deep fry them, and throw them to the dogs to get them to be quiet. Hence the term Hush Puppies.

As far as the shoes go, the rumour is that the original shoes were very comfortable and one could wear them all day without suffering any pain; so the shoes would "hush" the "puppies" - bearing in mind the euphemism of dogs for feet.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

For what it's worth

Mohandas Ghandi once said:
"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

Perhaps the Massachussetts legislature's rejection of a gay marriage ban is an example of this...

In high school

My friends and I would try to find things to do that didn't require much money, as many high school kids are wont to do. One of the pasttimes we discovered involved an overpass. We would take bricks, tie them with twine, and dangle them over the overpass in front of passing cars. We'd hold it there until the car got right up to it, and then we'd pull it back (so we wouldn't cause any real damage.) Since twine can sometimes get hard to hold, especially when you're outside in hot weather, we would wrap the twine around our wrists to keep a better hold on it.

One day, while we were playing our game of modified chicken, my friend put his brick down in front of a Semi truck. Well, the semi was going a bit faster than my friend realized, and with the extra height, he was unable to pull the brick up fast enough. It ended up hitting a cross bar on the top of the cab and wrapping itself around. The driver, having slammed on the brakes because of the brick floating in front of his face, was unable to stop quickly enough. The torque from the jerk of the twine on my friend's wrist pulled his whole arm right out of the socket. He freaked out and needed emergency care, we didn't know what to do, because we'd never heard or seen anything like that before, and the driver was beside himself watching a severed arm flapping in front of his truck.

The paramedics arrived and took our friend to the hospital, and we stayed with the driver to talk to the police who arrived around the same time. We told the officer of our game, and were ready to face the consequences of our actions. Imagine our surprise when the officer turned and arrested the truck driver.

When asked why the officer was arresting the driver, the officer replied: "Armed robbery."

(This is not a true story)

Wednesday is Haiku Day!

Red Monster's my son's
Favorite seafood restaurant
Thanks to the "monsters"

(he loves Red Lobster, but called it Red Monster for 3 years. The name has stuck)
Audience Participation is encouraged

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

And people thought my joke was bad

A man in Youngstown Ohio was cited for harrassment after he called the police and asked them to notify his sister that their mother had died. The troops did so, then found out that the mother was, in fact, not dead.

I can't imagine what would drive someone to such an extreme. The worse part, in my opinion, is that this guy was 35 years old. At least if he was in his early 20s, he could have claimed youthful ignorance and slightly mitigated his transgression. But, 35?! You must be full-bore idiot to think that's funny at 35.

Monday, September 12, 2005

I always thought this was common knowledge

But apparently I was wrong. It turns out, Robert Novak at Purdue University in Indiana (I think that's IUPUI) and other researchers have found that listening to headphones can worsen hearing loss. The researchers have been documenting a growing trend of noise-induced hearing loss, such as tinnitus, and found that it happens a lot with people who use headphones continuously.

I assure you, having worked jobs that require you to wear headphones up to 12 hours a day, that constant noise input takes its toll. My aural capacity is actually higher now, which means I can hear different pitches quite well, but my accuracy has gone to pot, which means I hear a muddled garble of whatever anyone says to me.

Lesson for all you parents out there: Tell your kids to keep the headphones off when possible.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Survey says

In the wake of a disaster, it makes more sense to work to fix things than to run around trying oral damage control. You'd think people would realize that before saying things like this.

h/t: The moderate voice

Saturday, September 10, 2005

I am an American...

...fighting in the forces that guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.

That is the first article in the military Code Of Conduct, the code by which military members are expected to conduct themselves while serving.

I've heard talk here and there that there should be/might be a draft due to recruiting shortfalls, and various pros and cons surrounding it. I know a lot of people who think mandatory military service would be a good thing, and I know a lot of people don't like the idea of what appears to be indentured servitude.

I do think that military service would be a benefit to a lot of people, and would not object to mandatory military service (a draft). However, I do see a few points that trouble me.
1. Americans are free. We live in a free country, and citizenship is guaranteed if we're born here. Anything that infringes on that freedom frightens me. If we put a caveat that you're not a true American citizen until you've served, then you're putting a condition on freedom, which doesn't appear to me to be true freedom.
2. Military service will help an irresponsible portion of the country grow up. I've heard such things as "the military will curb alcohol abuse" and "people learn to be accountable for their actions." Let me debunk a little here based on my experience. I had a friend who enlisted in the military at 19. While we were in tech school, this person drank so much and so often that on more than one occasion he was unable to successfully climb into bed after a night out and just slept on the floor. I had another friend who got so drunk on the night before her upgrade exam that she forgot where she lived (and she never left her barracks building). I knew a man who bounced so many checks that he was confined to base and given a 50 dollar a month allowance to buy uniform necessities/haircuts, etc. Military service will NOT keep a person from abusing alcohol and will NOT teach a person how to not be a criminal. The punishments in the military are often quite severe, but it's still up to an individual in terms of finances/personal accountability. As for drinking, there are rows of bars outside many military installations, and most military bases have more than one place on base to get alcohol. Almost all military functions serve some sort of alcohol (ask about our grog bowl!).
Now, teaching responsibility, helping them grow up. I don't like this argument at all. I can't buy any argument advocating mandatory military service because the kids need to grow up. I'm not willing to shell out my tax dollars for a federally funded finishing school. If schools and parents are expected to be held accountable for raising their children, then why have a failsafe in mandatory military service? And why pay them to grow up?
As an aside to this: If this teaches responsibility and maturity, then why do as many as 1/4 of female enlistees not finish their first enlistment because they received a voluntary discharge due to pregnancy (especially when another 1/3 or more are unmarried at the time?)
3. Military service will make people proud to be Americans. Perhaps. But pride is an internal thing. I currently live in Texas, and there are quite a few very proud Texans, and I doubt most of them served in the Texas National Guard. It came from somewhere else. I think service can stroke the fire, but I don't think it can make pride appear.
4. Need. Do we have a need for a draft? We're not acting in response to a direct threat against the U.S. like we did during WW1 or 2, and we don't have the imminent threat of destruction of our way of life like we had from the Communists. The Taliban doesn't have an invasion plan as far as I know (if someone else has more info, clue me in), and we invaded Iraq; we didn't react to their attack on us. The timing doesn't seem right there...
5. Logistics. How many kids will graduate from high school this year? 2 million? 3 million? How do we fund the pay/housing/food/medical/dental/training/moving for an extra 2 million plus military members per year? Just for two years of service, that equates to 4 million at least that have to be accounted for, on top of however many we currently have. The current base pay for an e1 is $1235.10/month. That equates to $14,821.20 per year for one E1. Multiplied for 4 million Airmen, you get $59,284,800,000 just on Base Pay that gets charged to the taxpayer.

Now that I've layed out my problems with compulsory service, let me reiterate that I actually do favor mandatory military service.
I think that first and foremost, freedom isn't free. And I do think that service brings a closer tie between the individual and the nation. For a comparison, look at a college. There are graduates who support the football team to crazy extremes, and a lot of people who latently support their school. If that's the case, then it would stand to reason that putting your life on the line for your country would bring a closer tie between you and your country, though it might take a while before that tie is realized. I think that friendships that get made in the military can be stronger and deeper than ones made anywhere else, because you share something more significant that a room, you share a situation, a being, a "thing" that I can't quite describe. However, I think that if we impose mandatory military service, we have to not excuse anyone, illiterates, dropouts, obese, gay, and the flaming gay. Everyone would have to be given the opportunity to earn their citizenship.

What do you think?

Friday, September 09, 2005


It's not my epiphany, but it's a good one, nonetheless.

The blogosphere is one giant game of Calvinball. You make up the rules as you go along, and you never use the same rule twice.

As the good folks at Randon Fate said: Nobody's allowed to question the masks.

Medical Billing

Imagine. You have this pain. You don't know what it is. You go to the hospital, and there, the doctor tells you he has to run some tests. You go through a CAT scan, get an MRI, EKG, EEG, They shoot you with radiation to check your bloodflow. You would expect a steep bill for that, and rightly so. Those tests cost a lot of money. The equipment, the personnel, the facility, the time there, makes sense.

Now. Imagine you go to the hospital and the doctor clips your toenail to do some tests. Would you be happy if they charged you $1,133? Why would someone spend time at a hospital for foot work be billed $1200 for their visit and rationally believe that $1138 of it was "facilities fees?"

Billing is outrageous, and this is just ridiculous.

If Golf can count...

A high school in Canberra, New South Wales has approved Surfing as a recreation course in it's curriculum starting next year.

The purpose is to keep the kids from dropping out of school to go surfing. The idea is, that if they can take a class in this, then they will stay connected with the school and the education and thus the detriment to their education from surfing won't affect their ability to get employed after school.

Of course, there are detractors. The Federal Education Minister claims that this will make a mockery of traditional education.

I don't know much about the educational system in Australia. What I do know is that when I was in high school, I knew kids who got P.E. credits for Golfing. I figure surfing requires far more physical fitness than hitting a little ball with a little stick and taking a car to where it landed, or even walking there...

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Tales from the Astrodome

Two of our professors have been volunteering at the Astrodome since the first evacuees (refugees?) arrived. They provide these reports from the evacuees (refugees).

For those who don't click on the links, let me give you the brief synopsis: People who were trapped in their houses after the hurricane passed in the poor black areas of New Orleans were stuck in water anywhere from one inch to one foot deep. They heard emergency/law enforcement officials with megaphones and bullhorns telling the people that they were going to open the floodgates and that up to 20 feet of water was to be dumped on the residents. Within 5-10 minutes, the water level began to quickly rise and got up to between 10 and 20 feet. These people report that they had no time to evacuate, and that many people drowned because they had no --- I guess you'd say choice.

Before I continue, I will say that these are reports, and they appear to be reports from unconfirmed sources, albeit people who claim to have been there. Our Professors' blog emphatically requests that research goes into these stories to decipher how much of it is true.

Now, let me speculate.
1. These stories are true. There were several people who related these tales to the professors. These people were in New Orleans when it happened, and the professors heard it straight from their mouths. The professors actively work at the Astrodome helping these people.
2. These stories are partly true. There are too many sources to discount it. The people don't stand to gain from lying, but their memories are fuzzy due to everything that has happened so suddenly.
3. These stories are false. They are fabricated by people who are frustrated and confused from the excitement over the last few days. Nobody else is around to discount the stories, so they trust they'll be accepted at face value.

If the stories are not true, then the debate ends there. They lied. No more discussion, and shame on them for trying to make a bad situation sound even worse.
However, if the stories are even partly true, it begs the question: What could possibly be so valuable/important that it required the immediate flooding of an area filled with people? What was so important that these people didn't even get the chance to get away before the water came? Was it property? Whose property?
Why did they have to let the water in? Was it to prevent a larger break? If so, shouldn't they have made some sort of effort to get these people out of the area? They must have known they were there, because the officials came by with megaphones to warn them.

Now for a semi-sequitur:
I've seen finger pointing from both ends of the line with regards to who is at fault for what happened, and I still don't know who it is. The best I can gather is that every mistake that any official could have made was made, and a calamity turned into a tragedy (unless calamity is greater than tragedy, in which case reverse it).
I've heard:
That white people suffered more than black people, and vice versa.
That the Mayor should have ordered an evacuation sooner and should have made sure that the super poor got out.
That the Governor refused to accept federal help and refused to turn the National Guard over to the Federal Agencies.
That the Federal Agencies were supposed to take over complete control within 72 hours of the Disaster announcement and they didn't/couldn't
That food, water, and oil were all waiting at the front of the line for the go ahead to get in and help those that needed them, but FEMA refused to authorize/said they weren't needed
That violence, rapes, shootings, looting, and pillaging took place as a direct result of the lawlessness after the storm. I've also heard that these are normal daily occurrences in New Orleans, and it should surprise nobody that a crime-ridden town would still have crime after a natural disaster.
That FEMA screwed up royally under the Clinton Administration with Hurricane Floyd, and so we shouldn't be blaming the Republican Government OR that President Bush and the folks at FEMA should have learned from their previous mistakes and been better prepared.
That the government could have rescued the poor people but chose not to
That had the poor been more self-reliant, they wouldn't be poor and thus wouldn't have been stuck
I've read conservative blogs that call for Brownie's firing.
I've read liberal blogs that call for temperance in the wake of what happened, to trust the President and his staff.

This is the list that I just came up with off the top of my head; I'm sure there's a lot more going on.

I Can't remember who it was who once said that the adversary system of American law was such that one side would embellish their version of what happened and then the other side would embellish their version of what happened, and the truth would be somewhere in between, why can't we all just tell the truth? The author is less important than the message, that maybe it's more important to figure out what happened than it is to make your story bigger than theirs. Perhaps this is the time for people to just tell the truth.
Or better yet, perhaps we should wait until all those who are trapped and hurt and dead are taken care of before we continue the blame game.

Random Trivia

in the 1300s, people would nail a small metal plate and a knocker on a door so that people could announce their arrival at your house. Over time, the whole thing came to be known as a nail, or a doornail. Eventually, the nail would wear out from use and time, and would come to be considered "dead," or out of life.

If there's no life, then there is death, and if someone loses their life, they have become as "dead as a doornail."

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

No Good Deed

According to this article, two Navy Pilots received counseling for using their helicopters to rescue people trapped in New Orleans. After they dropped off the supplies that constituted their mission, the pilots used their H-3 helicopters to pick up 110 people stranded in the city.

"They were not reprimanded, they were counseled," points out civilian Public Affairs Officer Patrick Nichols. (Counseling is less severe than reprimand in the military, but is still corrective action.)

The problem wasn't that these pilots, one of whom was temporarily assigned to kennel duty, rescued the people. Rather, the problem was that they did not follow orders. Their Commander praised their actions, but then "reminded them their orders were to run water and other supplies" to three places in Mississippi.

One of the pilots did receive permission to return and continue saving people after he stopped to refuel.

What I get from this is that the pilots have to make sure that these stranded people must get supplies until they are able to be properly rescued. I love how bureaucracy works!

Wednesday - Haiku Day

I drive to the school
In my used Ford Escort
I am a Gambler!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Keep the non-religion out of schools!

I was watching the religion network yesterday (I was flipping channels and stopped brielfy) when I heard this minister speaking about atheism. He said that two Court cases in 1977 (Thuriot v. Silver and Mal v. Yogi) established atheism as a religion. He then queried "how can it be a religion if it doesn't believe in God?" Apparently, this pastor doesn't consider Buddhism or Confucianism to be religions, either, unless Buddha and Confucius were both Gods, but I'm pretty sure they were men.

He then went on this really neat soliloquy, where he stated that Atheism is the religious practice of practicing non-religion. He used this statement, as confusing as it is, show how the Christian religion has been oppressed in America:

Therefore the religion of atheism is religion of practicing NO Religious practice. It is religiously practicing NON religion. Furthermore, people now may give contribution to Satanig Groups and get the same tax deductions as people who give contributions to christian churches. But, consider when we do hear of separation of church and state? Have you seen anyone go into a school on Halloween and say: Wait, get those witches down off the wall? Separation of church and state, I demand separation? Witchcraft is a legal organized religion. Or have you seen anyone go into public schools and say: Now wait, I don't see any prayer here. I don't see any bible reading here. There's no religious practice here. That means its a religion of atheism. I demand separation of church and state. Get the religion of Atheism out. No, we don't hear that. When do we hear of separation of church and state? Anytime there's an attempt to involve Christian principles. Separation of church and state is the BIG CLUB hold out to beat back the Christians.
He then talks about how the three percent (I'm guessing he means all the non-Christians in America) are taking away the rights of Christians and how we as a nation have lost focus on the Founders' intents.

I'm with him 100%. Those godless people who don't believe like we do need to be shut up. We've got the numbers; we have the right President. We even have the religious Congress, thanks to that Republican majority. Let's get them to hold back the Non-Christian mafia that's been holding all of us hostage! But wait. I practice one Protestant branch of Christianity; my best friend another. He's clearly wrong, because he doesn't believe like I do (he has WINE for communion, and strong drinks will rob your strength as surely as it would have Samson). So, we'll have to get rid of the Christians who believe differently than us, too. And Catholics have to go. They believe that anyone who isn't a member of the Catholic church is a sinner and condemned to hell, but we KNOW that's not true, because Jesus said "whosoever believes in me shall not perish." Anyone who would lie and blaspheme in the Name of God must be doing anti-American work. They're gone. And the Orthodox. They're Russian. You know who else was Russian? THE COMMUNISTS!!! Karl Marx was merely trying reverse psychology when he wrote of the opiate of the masses. After all, he was old, and we all know that the youth will do the opposite of what the old folks say. He also worked for the NY Times, so you know he's not worth much, anyway.

You know what? Maybe these people who don't believe the way I do should be able to receive an education free from my religious slant... Perhaps it is OK for them to not be Christian. Perhaps not having religion in school ISN'T practicing atheism, after all, they aren't practicing non-religion, they're just not practicing religion...

BTW, I did a Lexis search for the cases I mentioned above and didn't find anything... If anyone else can verify that they're actual cases, let me know. Until I hear otherwise, I won't believe that they are actual precedent.

Monday, September 05, 2005


Every guy in the country knows that they can change the course of any sporting event if they concentrate hard enough and care enough about their team. Go on, ask a guy (by the way, if you are a male and you are not a sports fan, then you are not a guy), he'll tell you. This is why TCU beat Oklahoma on Saturday. It wasn't due to a rebuilding Oklahoma team, or a particularly motivated, underrated TCU team. It was due, pure and simple, to the fact that there are more guys in Texas than there are in Oklahoma, and they cared more and concentrated harder for TCU.

Based on this, and the fact that I'm a Michigan fan stuck in Texas (1 lousy foot shorter, and we win the Rose Bowl), I offer the following predictions for sports this year:
The Detroit Tigers won't have a .500 season. I want them to, and I hope they do, but the realist in me says that there's not enough hope/care in the world to help these guys over the hump. We fans can still name the starting 9 plus the top 3 pitchers and the fireman from the '84 team. We want to see another winner. (Trammell, Whitaker, Lemon, Herndon, Johnson, Gibson, Parrish, Bergman, with Evans as the DH and Morris, Petry, and Wilcox as the top 3 starters Berengeur, and Rozema rounding it out with Willie Hernandez saving them.)
The Red Wings will make the Playoffs, but they won't get past the second round. Age and salary cap have caught up with them. I love watching the guys in red, and I'm glad Hockeytown has had Stevie Yzerman for so long, but they don't have enough in their tank, and not enough goalkeeping.
The Lions will win the NFC North, and make it to the NFC Title Game where they will upset the favored Philadelphia Eagles to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, being the first team to host the Super Bowl at their home stadium. Right. We're prepared for another year of Lions disappointments.
Pistons win the NBA championships and Darko Milicic makes the All-Star team!

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Go Detroit!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Back in Maryland

When I was stationed in Maryland, my friends and I used to make a lot of trips up to Baltimore, or we'd drive through on our way to Philadelphia, NY, etc. Now, the Freeway we took up to Baltimore crossed the Chesapeake. However, the route we took (most convenient) took us through a tunnel, as opposed to over a bridge.

Now, in Downtown Baltimore, the place for college kids and 20 somethings to hang out is known as Fell's Point. Being 20-something at the time, my friends and I liked to make trips up there. We'd take one car to save on the toll/gas and not get lost (more beer money). So, we'd go up, and of course we'd have to cross the Chesapeake to get there. The strangest thing was that, whenever we would enter the tunnel, my friend would start convulsing, foaming at the mouth, just having what looked to be epileptic fits. After the fourth or fifth time, we finally convinced him to go in to the clinic at Kimbrough (the clinic at Fort Meade) to find out what was wrong.

My friend told the doctor his symptoms and the circumstances around it, and the doctor looked him over and said "This is simple. You have Car Pool - Tunnel syndrome."

We took the bridge from then on.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Bad drivers

I've been fortunate in my life, in that I've had the opportunity to live in many different parts of the country, and visit many more. One of the things I've noticed is that, whichever major metropolitan area I live near, those people believe they have the worst drivers in the country. For most of these people, of course, they're merely speculating, because they've not experienced continued driving in different areas. This leads me to wonder, what city really IS the worst for driving?
Now, we have to come up with some ground rules, so that we can figure this out scientifically - I don't believe in bad driving by intelligent design, sorry.
First, let's consider time in traffic. This is a rather important one, as that's when most people get to stew about bad traffic/driving. Next, one must consider the complexity of the highway system (or, conversely, the oversimplification). For example, in West Texas, on the way to San Angelo, when you drive up Highway 83, you come to a point where the sign says (I swear I'm not making this up) that you are driving on HWY 83 North AND South at the same time. Of course, there's only one road in West Texas, and it goes from San Antonio to the gates of well, you know. All right, after complexity, we have to consider courtesy of fellow drivers. Do they wave? Do they signal? Do they flip you off with both hands while changing lanes and talking on the cell phone drinking coffee?

I think that should be sufficient for now. I'll open up the debate by saying that the worst city I've ever driven in is probably Dallas. There are so many highways/freeways that converge and diverge in such a small area, the trip into town one time took me 2 hours. One morning I drove through town on my way to West Texas and it took me 4 hours to get through the city. That's bad, people. I didn't even take a wrong turn, for once, which is odd for me, because there are so many roads that take you the wrong way. I don't like Dallas.

However as for the worst of each, I'd have to say this:
San Francisco has the rudest/dumbest drivers. I saw a man cut across 4 lanes of traffic (we were on a one way street) to make a right turn without signalling, and then the street he turned onto went one way, the OTHER way. That's only the worst of the many chilling stories I remember from driving in that city.

Most confusing traffic - I'd have to say Washington DC. I never drove in that city without getting lost, and I lived outside there for two years. Confusing stuff.
Most time-consuming traffic - Seattle. There are 2 freeways. You either get where you're going, or you have to leave town, turn around, wait a couple hours, and try again. Heaven forbid you miss your exit twice. Stupid city planners, putting the city too close to the Puget Sound.

For the record, the Major Cities from which I drew my comparison include, but aren't limited to: Boston, Baltimore, DC, Philadelphia, Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle.

I look forward to hearing your replies!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses...

It was appropriate in the 19th Century, and the opening seems appropriate right now.

The response to the hurricane has been rather astounding. Colleges and elementary schools have opened their doors, shelters have opened all around the country. People ask where they can donate. The place to start looking might be here. This is humanity at its best.

But I would like to talk about New Orleans for a minute, the violence and the looting that goes on in the wake of the hurricane. These are not your middle-class or affluent people. These are the poorest of the poor - the ones who COULDN'T leave, the ones who were forced to hold on and hope. They were also prisoners, released from jail but not relocated. Homeless, wandering around aimlessly, often without the medication they require. New Orleans is rife with them, and it should not surprise anyone that when order collapses as so often does after a natural disaster, this demographic doesn't react in the most positive way.

However, it does surprise people. Newscasters, bloggers, politicians, cousins, friends, passers-by are all shocked and outraged by what they see. "How can something so tragic bring out the worst in so many?" they ask. I can't answer that. I've not been stuck in a city that is under water before. I've not had to spend three days hiding and hoping that someone will come to rescue me. I've not been without food, water, toilets, beds, and clean clothes for any appreciable amount of time. I've never watched news crews motoring by on boats talking about how much they wish they could help these "poor people," while shoving a camera at them and turning down the next street. I would hope that if I were confronted with a similar situation, I would act with a little more composure, but I can't say that I certainly would, and I doubt anyone else could honestly say so, either.

Let's get something straight. This is not George Bush's fault. It's not Congress' fault, it's not the fault of the Governor of Louisiana, or the Mayor of New Orleans. Nature happened. We as a people did not have the time or the resources to move so many people in such a short amount of time. It makes me ill to hear people use the tragedy and the aftermath for political gain. What would you have the President do? Get a hose and siphon the water out by himself? Sure statements like "We'll be stronger as a nation for seeing our way through this" sounds trite, but it is not something people should attack (New York Times). There is difficulty getting military to the area. Guess what? We're at war. We can't call the Iraqis and Taliban and ask them for a time out while we go mop up. Our resources are stretched thin, we need to do what we can with what we have. If you are so critical about the size of the military, then enlist. They are taking applications. If you are unwilling to support the military, then find another way to help. Look at the link above.

This is a trying time for so many; and for a lot of people, the amount of damage done has yet to sink in. This is not the time to criticize, despite any inclination to do so. This is the time to help. We've got the rest of our lives to criticize people from our desks and easy chairs; there are thousands right now who won't if we don't help.