Sunday, December 31, 2006

It's a Jungle Out There

The little boy has a favorite show. Every day since Christmas, he has dug through the DVD collection we have, grabbing a random Monk disc and presenting it to me, repeating "Monk, Monk, Monk."

He loves the theme song - we assume it's because the song is performed by Randy Newman, who sang a lot of the Pixar Songs (You've got a friend in me, et al.). He actually sings along, which is rather cute, and today, when I put on Season Four, Disc Two, he actually hummed the Universal theme that plays at the beginning of the disc.

I like Monk - it's not too graphic, and the writing is clever. I think it combines crime/mystery with humor/comedy quite well, and I think Tony Shalhoub is one of the best actors on Television. Michael Richards was originally envisioned for the role, but he turned it down - I can't imagine a more fortuitous decision for a show. Richards would have been too physical, I think, to make the show work properly; Tony is much more subtle with his issues, and I think that plays out perfectly. If you don't watch this show, I recommend starting. It's worth it.

New Additions

Here at the Binjo Ditch, we occasionally find new blogs that we find interesting, and as such, we decide to add them to our blogroll. This week, we've added two and a half. Small Town Girl, aka Lisa, of Lisa's Trucking Adventures also has a new blog - Lisa for President. She's running for President, as the title suggests, and that merits checking her site out. Additionally, David Schantz has a blog called A Republic, if You Can Keep It. Stop by; he has some good posts to check out.

As for myself, I will be heading out of town tomorrow, going to the Crescent City, where I hope to enjoy their rolls (get it?). I will be volunteering with other students from my and other law schools to help the residents and workers of New Orleans with the legal issues that follow natural disasters. I look forward to this, but am anxious, as well, as it will be legal work of a manner I've not done before. However, I will be helping many who need help, and I will be helping myself, by filling out my pro bono honors hours and getting myself some more valuable experience. As such, blogging will probably be scant over the next week, if at all. I look forward to giving everyone the rundown when we get back.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Who was I?

A Skivvy-9er, once.

IAS9YAS

The funniest joke ever told

I actually told this joke about 14 months ago, but figured it was time for a repeat appearance. I hope you all enjoy it as much as you did last time!

So, if you have a dog that loves to go for rides in your automobile and gets really, really excited about it, but whenever you start driving, it gets really nervous, and those nerves manifest themselves with extremely potent gas, so potent, in fact, that you believe your dog is making a mess in the back seat, but when you look back there, there's nothing there... would you say you have a Carpet Shampooer?
(A pet in the car that emits sham poo)

This is funny.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Maturity

One of the reasons people yearn to come to America is that this is the land of opportunity, of equals, where people can live more or less as they choose, and believe what they want to believe. One thing we pride ourselves on is our ability to respectfully disagree with those who have a different opinion than our own.

One prime example of this is right here in Houston's western neighbor Katy, where the Katy Islamic Association has decided to build a mosque for the city's islamic citizens. Their new neighbor on Baker street, who is not of the Muslim faith have responded to this is the most dignified manner one could conceive of responding with - he has decided to hold pig races next door on Friday (from the local ABC affiliate here in Houston). You see, Friday is the Muslim holy day, and pigs are unclean animals - that muslims don't eat.

Now, he has a reason - he said that the Muslims, a week after they bought the property, told him that he might want to move away. Sure. Others have brought up more concrete issues, such as drainage concerns and increased traffic, but that's something that happens with growth. Gun to my head, I'd say that all the griping is nothing less than Texan anti-muslim NIMBYism.

Consider this - Kosher Jews don't eat pork... what would the public have said had this man done this in response to a proposed synagogue? I seem to recall seventh day adventists don't eat pork, either. What would be the reaction to an individual holding said races in response to a proposed Christian (Seventh Day Adventist) church? What makes it somehow more acceptable to this man to decide to protest the mosque in this manner? How does this reflect on our nation's announcement that we are not against Islam, but rather the jihadists? Whether he likes the church being there or not, there are appropriate methods for voicing your opposition. Holding Pig races on Friday just makes you look like an ass, and reflects poorly on your country.

Update

The Detroit Free Press had this article up on its website today, where the landowner conceded that the Muslims "probably aren't after his land." From the Article: "It's not mean-spirited -- 'It's just Texas-spirited.'"

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Human Trafficking

Over at the Gun Toting Liberal, GTL has linked to smalltowngirl, who has decided to throw her hat into the presidential ring, and to whom I will add to my sidebar here shortly. In this post, the comment thread moved towards illegal immigration, which led me to an idea, which I commented on there, and will post on here.

We have immigration here in the United States, but we limit annually the number of immigrants we allow in. Additionally, there are thousands of individuals who cross the border illegally because to live here illegally is the only choice aside from dying in poverty where they were.

These are the same immigrants who we hear are necessary to do the jobs that keep the prices down so that we can afford the stuff we buy because american citizens won't work for the wages that illegal immigrants will work for.

The current immigration policy favors bringing in the best and brightest that other nations have to offer, for various reasons.

Here's my idea: reprioritize the immigration policy - use the system to bring in those who have a survivalistic need to immigrate to escape the hell in which they were born - the tired poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free, if you will. Encourage education for those who are already here, and cultivate the minds of Americans to achieve greater potential instead of buying the minds from others. And kill No Child Left Behind, which has left hundreds of thousands of children behind in the last five years.

This program has benefits - first off, it would encourage education, which is important for a functioning society. Second, it alleviates some of the illegal immigration strain, in a couple ways. It allows legal access to some who were going to cross anyway, and it provides some hope to others who would have crossed illegally that they have a chance to get across in a lawful manner. It would help to keep costs down, because we would be importing working class as opposed to management types. Finally, we would have a means of keeping track of a greater number of border crossers.

It's not that I dislike the idea of a giant fence to keep them mexicans out - well, actually I hate that idea. I think it's stupid and ineffective. I think that this solution would demonstrate trust in our education system by our government and provide the hope for liberty that helped make this country the greatest in the world.

Funny Joke

What do you call a bear with no teeth?

A gummy bear

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Wednesday is Haiku Day

The kids are in the
Bathroom, sending each other
flashlight messages.

As always, I look forward to your submissions!

Consider this an empty envelope I mailed out

because no news is good news.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Saturday, December 23, 2006

As if we needed better proof

From here; originally printed in the New York Sun, 1897.

Dear Editor - I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so. Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?


Virginia O'Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity of devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your live its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be not childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to have men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to chatch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Clause, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men taht ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Simple Pleasures

Our children aren't really hurting for toys - they aren't swimming in them, but they have enough to keep them occupied. The Boy recently had a birthday, so he even has new toys that the posse can play with. So this morning, do I see them playing basketball, legos, or any of the other toys they have? No. My children want to play with one strip of tape each. Scotch tape.

I'm telling you, there's a market out there for "kid tape," charge three times as much, and let them have at it.

These are the same kids who love playing with correction tape, whiting out line after line of nothing.

Were that I was so easily entertained.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

If you gotta go...

Every now and then, the government proposes legislation that just makes sense. For example, Texas is currently considering legislation that would make it the third state in the union to require stores to force stores to provide access to employee-only restrooms for anyone with a pressing medical need. This would include sufferers of Crohn's disease and Colitis, among other things. I hope Texas passes this legislation.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Another Rant

The semester has ended. It ended last Tuesday (the 12th). The new semester starts January 16, I believe. This means that there's about a month between classes; time to relax, work, wait (and wait and wait and wait) for the professors to get their grades in to the registrar's who will then take forever to post them (anyone who's been to my school can attest to the agony of waiting forever, such as Red Hot Mamma).

There is a problem with this semester, though. Apparently, furthering the school's goal of driving me completely insane before I graduate, it sent me an e-mail telling me I had to pay off the balance of my tuition for next semester, or I would be dropped from my registered classes. As nice as it was for them to send me an e-mail reminder during winter break, they seemed to think that this catch-all would work wonders. I don't check my school e-mail every day; I usually only check it a couple times a week, and I checked my e-mail yesterday morning, at which time I had no new messages.

Fortunately, RHM got back from Beaumont yesterday, though, and checked her e-mail and commented on her blog that our Payment Systems professor put comments from his grading of our finals (which he turned in to the registrar, but aren't posted as of right now) out. So I went on my e-mail today to check it. I saw two new messages. It turns out that yesterday afternoon, the school sent out an e-mail to me telling me of my tuition amount due. I got it at 3:50 yesterday. The message told me that I had to make my payment (only $250) by today at 5:30 or I would be dropped from my classes and have to re-register in January, at which time I would have to pay a $40 per class late registration fee. This is because I am ineligible to elect the deferred payment option that I took each of the past five semesters (long story, but suffice it to say I'm ticked).

Anyway, since I went to school yesterday and was there at 2:30 buying a textbook for spring semester (International Environmental law - it's as big as the title is long; freaking huge text), I was understandably annoyed that the e-mail I got. I don't like driving and meandering about downtown with three kids. I especially don't like driving to school two days in a row during the winter break. But I also don't want to have to pay an extra $200 bucks to register for classes I've already registered for.

Here's the crazy logic - I take deferred payment because I'm poor. I'm a law student; law school ain't cheap, especially with having to plunk down a grand a month in daycare expenses. Yet, the school tells me that 1: I can't take deferred payment because I was late before (because I had no money, see above), 2: If I don't pay by today they will drop me from class, and 3: if I get dropped from class because I don't pay (due to the lack of money), I will have to pay them more money to take the classes I signed up to take that I otherwise would have been able to take had they let me do what I have done every other semester I've been in school, which, as you've seen above, I don't have.

Add to that the $250 we're spending to get the wife's car fixed, and Christmas just got a whole lot more Dollar General-ly.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

'Tis the season to go Bowling

The college football Bowl season gets underway tonight. I'm unimpressed, in part because tonight's matchup involves TCU and Northern Illinois; teams I really am not concerned with. Other matchups this bowl season include such powerhouse combos of Rice v. Troy (it's a college in Alabama, with a fight song and cheerleaders and everything!), South Florida v. East Carolina (the battle for the best directional college in the Southeast!), Middle Tennessee v. Central Michigan (see above; though I confess I'm rooting for the Chippewas of Central Michigan, as I have cousins who matriculated there), and Ohio (not Ohio State, mind you) v. Southern Mississippi.

Talk about some ammo for the scuttlebutt there!

In addition to these oustanding matchups, among the 32 bowl games are several matching teams that finished 6-6 against each other. Woohoo!

Here's my problem with the bowl system - and for once it's not the B(ull)CS. There are about 120 college football teams in Division I. There are 32 bowl games, which means that 64 teams will be playing in bowl games this year. Over half the teams will be playing a bowl game. This is absolutely ludicrous. Bowl games once were a reward for teams that played well, a payoff for superb performance. Now it's become a celebration of mediocrity. There are teams playing in bowl games this year that will finish below .500 for the season. We continually tell our kids that we want them to try their best, and that best efforts will be rewarded, yet we then celebrate mediocrity, through venues like bowl games and grammy awards, just so that we can make a quick buck.

This has got to stop.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Remember, Scopes LOST his trial level case

Imagine, if you will, you are a young man, a student in a public high school. Your teacher starts preaching in class. Again. Your father is a lawyer, so you have an idea that he's not supposed to do that; what with concepts such as Separation of Church and State, and Supreme Court decisions and the like. This time, you've brought a tape recorder to school, so you have proof that the teacher is preaching. You record him explaining how a Muslim girl would go to Hell, and saying things such as "If you reject his gift of salvation, then you know where you belong... He did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sins on his own body, suffered your pains for you, and he's saying 'Please accept me, believe.' If you reject that, you belong in hell." You record several weeks of this, at which time you turn the tapes in to the proper authorities. (From the NY Times)

As a result of this, you are attacked verbally, you receive at least one death threat, and you see the majority of the community line up on the teacher's side. You get to hear detractors argue that you were "baiting" your teacher, and that the school district will take "corrective action," against the teacher, but won't explain what that action is.

Look, I don't care what a teacher's faith is. I don't care how strong their faith is. What I do know is that in a public education forum, you teach to students of many faiths, not just yours. As a result of that, you must be very careful about what discussions you lead in class.

I don't buy the "student baited me" argument, either. First off, there must have been a reason if he were to bait you - that you started making a comment that he would then follow up - it's a little too hard for me to understand why a student would arbitrarily start baiting a teacher to try to get him in trouble for violating the church-state boundaries. Second, if there was, indeed baiting, then you are a poor schoolteacher. You need to have better control of your class than to let them guide where the discussions will go.

I also think it's more likely that a teacher with an agenda would use a cornered audience to press forward his message than a student and his father would concoct a plan to discredit the teacher by drawing him into religious conversations specifically with the plan of challenging him and attempting to set up a lawsuit that might make the Supreme Court (as one person suggested).

There is nothing wrong with faith. But the faith of a person in a supervisory/master position needs to be contained from the subordinate/servant. Just ask yourself who you would think would be more likely to get a poor grade - the Muslim girl who's going to hell, or the good Christian who is saved because his faith matches that of his teacher. If the teacher can't keep the discussion out of the classroom, then how could he be reasonably expected to keep it out of his mind when grading papers? What this teacher allegedly did is wrong not just on the proselytizing level, though that's where this will get the bulk of the attention.

UPDATE:

Alex over at The Gun Toting Liberal has another excellent post, on point with this teacher and the community's apparent insanity right HERE. Go check it out.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Another product of No Child Left Behind

We went to a Christmas festival program last night; it was a lot of fun - kids got to play in snow (in Houston, that's a rarity), see Santa Claus, and ride on ponies. There were other activities, but the lines were 30 minutes long for all of them. Thanks Aaron for tipping us off about it.

Anyway, we stopped at a McRestaurant drive-thru to get some dinner on our way over there. I'll replay the conversation between myself and the drive thru guy in part:

"Hi, can I take your order?"
"Yeah, I'd like three chicken nugget happy meals with apple juice..."
"OK, I have a chicken nugget happy meal with an apple juice. What would you like to drink with that?"

I'm so glad the president made sure that reading a math were of the utmost importance, heaven forbid our folks learn useless crap like comprehension. Of course, to be fair, he may just be an idiot and no amount of schooling, president's version or no, could help him.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Random Trivia

Jello was invented by someone trying to make a smoother laxative.

Scalia - raise judge salaries

Justice Scalia said yesterday that the government will be unable to attract the best-qualified lawyers for judgeships if it does not increase judge salaries.

I think he has a certain point there. A lot of lawyers go into the business to make their fortunes, and that doesn't happen on a judge's salary. However, not all lawyers go into law for the same purpose, so there is a bit of a crap shoot, though I think he's probably right with the best and brightest.

There are things I really like about Justice Scalia. As a general rule, I like his Originalist approach to interpreting the Constitution and agree with him that if the People dislike a course of action, they have a responsibility to educate and inform themselves and vote accordingly. However, I think his approach is shortsighted on a couple grounds. First off, he believes in the four corners approach to legislative interpretation - that a person should look only at what was written in the law or on the Constitution or in the code, and nothing else, to determine what the legislation or founders intended. The logic is that if legislation intended something to be in the law, they are intelligent people, and they could have so put it in there. This is flawed logic, though. Primarily, if there's a question as to what the framers of a law might have intended, then it makes sense to look at the legislative notes that accompany the bill as it makes its way through to law, as they often explain what the thought process of the legislation was. Next, an originalist, strict constructionist approach would lead to some ridiculously narrow interpretations of the law - for example, the Constitution is written in an exclusively male perspective, which means that the founders intended only for men to hold office. If they had intended women to hold office, then they easily could have put female pronouns in addition to the male pronouns. For those who retch at the idea of Hilary getting elected to the office of the President, that might not be a bad concept, but it's not in keeping with modern society (and for what it's worth the Civil Rights Act would be unconsitutional from this perspective because the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the land; it would take an amendment to allow women to hold office from this interpretation). As another example, an American would be entitled to accept an emolument from a Queen, but not a King. The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to assistance of counsel, but does not expressly provide that an individual is entitled to represent himself, which would seem to indicate that the Founders did not intend for individuals to self-represent.

Another reason I disagree with Justice Scalia is because I think he ignores the facts of the current America. We are a country where the government relies on the relative ignorance of the voting public, telling us what we stand for, and what we are against, instead of the public informing themselves and telling the government what we want, and any unpopular acts require time to be overturned, if they are overturned at all (which they usually aren't). The people need to be protected from the overreaching of Congress and the demands of the executive - and that duty runs to the Courts. It is the job of the Courts to ensure that the rights of the People are not overborne by the invasion of the People's liberties by the government by requiring the govenrment to rule according to the concepts laid out by the Constitution - to ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense and secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. If you want to call that judicial activism, then I guess I'm an activist, but I believe that political inefficiency as a governing tool is wrong when it comes to the rights of Americans.

But then again, I'm a bit of a dreamer.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I don't know that I'm actually surprised

I am off this week, after having finished finals last Friday, and going to New Orleans to help Katrina victims with Hurricane Relief Network, I took this week to keep the kids home from daycare - I get the whole day with the Little Boy, and the Daughter and The Boy get the afternoon with me after being at school for the day. Today, after I got the daughter from her school, I had to go get The Boy. In doing so, I had to drive up Campbell street, which has a single-story, small apartment complex. In front of the building was a hooker. At least, I thought she was a hooker, and then when she beckoned me to pull over, I figured my instincts were pretty correct. I did not stop.

There are a few things about this encounter that are odd, besides the fact that I was propositioned by a hooker. First off, this took place at 2:15 - not a time I would equate to prime hooking hours (but then, I've never been a hooker, so I don't know when the best hours are). Second, I was not on a main street. Campbell is an arterial, and one that is less travelled on than others nearby. But perhaps the most interesting part of this anecdote is that she beckoned me over while I had the daughter and the little boy in the back seat. Either she's really desparate for money, or she thinks I'm more interested in a few minutes of anonymous noughty things than I am in being a responsible parent.

What's scary is that there is probably a reason that she thought a man with children in the car would be willing to stop for "a good time." And while I'm not the type to stop at a hooker, and especially not the type to do so while my kids sit in the car waiting, there are plenty of fathers and husbands out there who would. ugh.

The Boy

This morning The Boy asked me if he could use one of his dollar coins that he got from the tooth fairy at school today to buy something. I asked him what he wanted to buy, and he said gatorade or hot cheetos, he hadn't decided yet. I told him that it was his money, so he could do as he wanted, but perhaps he'd rather use his quarters or other change instead of his dollar coins, because there aren't many of them (Susan B Anthony - he's got 3 I think) around.

He looked at me in his knowing way, nodded and said, "I know I don't have many, but the tooth fairy has a lot, and when I lose more teeth, she'll bring me some more."

Hard to argue with logic like that.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A little more on the Koran

One of my favorite blogs lately has been the Gun Toting Liberal. There aren't many sites where people of differing perspectives can disagree and at the end of the day still shake hands and go have a drink together. They've added a new coblogger recently, and one of his offerings yesterday was a well-written piece on the Koran, Prager, and Ellison. It's worth reading not just for the post, which is very good, but also for the comments. The folks at GTL are fortunate to have a solid group of commenters who write excellent, well thought-out posts themselves.

A likely story

North Korea could be persuaded to disarm with strong incentives to help reverse its economic crisis, according to South Korea's nuclear envoy.

No they can't. North Korea is run by possibly the most evil person on the planet. He would rather watch 10% of his population die (which he has) than give up the reins of power that he wields. He would rather see people eat grass, and tree bark, and leaves than give an inch with regard to his dictatorship. He would rather grow poppies for opium and tobacco for counterfeit cigarettes on the less than 30% of arable land in his country than try to do crazy things like get his people fed.

This is a man who has convinced his countrymen that not only are they superior to the rest of the world (which is shut off from them to make direct comparison rather difficult), but that in any war between the DPRK and the US, they will win with 1950-1970s technology and Juche (self reliance).

Of all the enemies that we have in the world, the one that I would be most concerned about acquiring a nuclear weapon is North Korea - because of all the nations in the world, I think their leader is the one most likely to use one, and their people have a fanatical love for their omnipotent dear leader that rivals the love of the pharaohs, and believe what they hear from him and his state controlled news service (for anyone who bitches about the MSM's slant, I encourage you to look up KCNA some day).

Unfortunately, we are not currently in a situation where we can effectively handle the situation. We are stuck in a babysitting action in Iraq, trying to keep brothers and sisters from beating the hell out of each other, and we are still in Afghanistan, from what I understand. Which leaves us somewhat shorthanded to deal with other nations that might get nasty ideas in their heads. We alienated much of the rest of the world with our stubbornness in invading Iraq, our "listen to us or you're nothing but worthless cowards, we don't need you anyway - we can handle it ourselves it'll be so easy" approach to diplomacy sort of backfired on us there. And we effectively shut off much of our chances at open-ended negotiation with the Chonger when we referred to his country as part of the "Axis of evil," which told him exactly what we thought about him - so what motivation does he have to work with us?

For the record, I don't think diplomacy would work in the DPRK, either - the "Sunshine Policy" and the Clinton administration pretty much just propped up a one-legged dictatorship that needed a crutch.

For all the talk of a regime change - we chose the wrong one for the wrong reasons. Iraq was not a multinational threat at the time - North Korea was and is. Additionally, it would have been MUCH easier to rebuild North Korea's infrastructure, because South Korea is right there, and it works pretty well, and it is not just willing to help rebuild the land of their brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers, but they are anxious to do so. It's this anxiousness to help that the North preys on so effectively, and why diplomacy can never work, because they don't have anything to lose by lying.

They've not been trustworthy for too long - don't give them the benefit of the doubt now.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Leadership

I don't care for Dennis Erickson. I've long thought of him as a person more interested in advancing his interests as opposed to actually trying to help those he coaches. You see, Dennis Erickson started out coaching Idaho University back in the '80s. Then he left for Wyoming, which was a conference school. Then he bolted for Washington State - a Pac-10 team, so it's a better place for him to be - to coach them for a few years until Miami University came calling. Since Miami was THE school to coach at in the 80s/early 90s, he jumped - who could turn down such prestige? He stayed at Miami until 94, when he bolted for the NFL, which, of course, is more prestigious than college, and after failing as an NFL coach, he skulked back to college, where he's really better suited to coach, at Oregon State, until San Francisco hired him (a move I KNEW was going to be bad - he's a college coach, not an NFL coach). He got fired from San Francisco, licked his wounds, and took a position at Idaho again - for one year. Then Arizona State called - bigger prestige - makes him look better, so he jumped.

His statement upon taking the ASU job? "It's exciting for me to have an opportunity to come to Arizona State and compete for the BCS championship, to compete for the Pac-10."

Of course, this statement implies that he didn't think he could compete for the BCS championship with Idaho (granted, it would have been far more difficult, but it still was possible), and he quite obviously has made no statement that he's committed to anyone but himself. He left a job that he had signed a 5 year contract for, and he's leaving after 1. What I don't understand is why anyone would be willing to spend money on someone that disinterested in setting an example of leadership with the folks he's supposed to be leading.

Quite frankly, I don't wish him well. He's not the example of leadership we need.

Happy Birthday, Derek Koch.

No religious test

What exactly is a religious test, in terms of a condition for holding office? To hear some say it, requiring a belief in God is not a religious test, because it does require an individual to differentiate among the Christian religions, which is what the Framers MUST have had in mind, because this was a Christian country at its foundation. To others, it means that anything that would place as a condition of holding public office anything that would tend to favor one religious mantra over any other (e.g. using a Bible for swearing in instead of the Koran) would be violative of the Constition.

I tend to subscribe to the latter version. It seems that there was a real fear of having a state religion, and that fear stemmed from the Anglican church, which was THE religion in England, or the Catholic church, which was THE religion of previous generations of England. THE religion meant that it was able to quash any other religious movements that crossed the shore or mutated from the original. There is little difference, from what I can see, between forbidding one branch of christianity from exercising governmental control over the other branches and forbidding one religious philosophy from exercising governmental control over all other philosophies.

We may have been founded by Christians, but we were founded on the premise that ALL men are created equal, and that means regardless of their religious beliefs, and to force someone to swear on something they don't believe in, in the name of "tradition" smacks of Plessy v. Ferguson 163 U.S. 537 (1896).

A new friend

If you look on my sidebar, you will notice Achim Shiksa. He showed up sometime last night. He seems like a good little hedghog, so I decided to let him stick around for a little bit. He seems to be ticklish, if you click on him, he jumps. And he loves eating strawberries.

Thanks to "I'll explain this when you're older" for the link.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Christmas Preparations

For all those who are interested in getting to know the family a little better, the wife put up pictures of The Boy, the little boy, and the daughter on her blog here.

The word of the year

In the 1980s, President Reagan quoted a 1930's democrat, saying something to the effect of "what we were looking for was a sort of modified communism." His staff said they were unable to confirm the quote, which basically means he made it up.

That's what the word of the year means - it's something that someone states, professing it to be true while being unable to verify it's accuracy. As Stephen Colbert, the coiner of the term described it, "truthiness" is truth that comes from the gut, not books."

The word is pretty useful when describing so much of what the current administration has done. When the president says he believes that Iraq is a breeding grounds for terrorists and that is why he authorized the invasion of the coutnry, even though his arguments and those of the pundits said "they have nuculer (sic) weapons," while reports indicate that the terror breeding has come after the liberation - that's truthiness, and while the word may have been invented within the last 15 months, and while it may be humorous, it is apt.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

One to go

I took my last final last night (Texas pretrial Procedure). Presuming I passed all the finals (that may be presuming a bit much, but I'll take that chance right now), I have fifteen more hours (i.e. five classes) left before I graduate in May. Then it's all bar study until July, when I get to spend a week of poorly disguised hazing for the right to practice law in the state of Texas.

I'm anxious to be done, but apprehensive at the same time. It's going to be an interesting time. Here's hoping I find the job that most interests me, and that I can find some time to do something special with the family in the midst of all of this.

Wish me luck!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Article II, Section 4

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

"In what was likely her final legislative act in Congress, [Representative] Cynthia McKinney introduced a bill Friday to Impeach President Bush."

I don't think I've been too cryptic with regards to my general dislike of President Bush and my criticism of his tenure as President. That said, considering what we currently know about the current administration, and the manner in which the president has run the country, the invasion (wait, I mean "liberation") of Iraq and the war on terror, etc., I fail to see where the president has done anything that qualifies as an Impeachable offense.

Primary argument going on right now that I see - the president has performed his job as president incompetently. That may be true - I somewhat see his handling of the various wars he's involved us in as incompetent. But, incompetence is not a High Crime or Misdemeanor.

Let's say he "lied" to get us in Iraq. Well, first off, we have no direct proof. His allegations in 2002 and 2003 suggest that we wanted to invade Iraq because they were not providing access to the weapons inspectors as they were required to, that they continued to maintain WMDs either in fact or in capacity to produce, and that Iraq supports terrorist organizations. Absent any evidence to the contrary, we need to presume that he made those allegations in good faith based on current intelligence as provided by the various intelligence agencies available to him. In other words, at this time it would be impossible to prove that he "lied," even if he's guilty in the OJ sense to many people.

I'm sure there are other theories out there, but frankly, I'm tired and don't want to think about them.

While I disagree with any measures at this time to impeach the President, on grounds that I think impeachment should be a last resort solution to actual crime, not a method of exacting revenge on the opposing party and there is currently nothing indicating president Bush has acted in a manner that qualifies as "high Crimes and Misdemeanors," I do believe that there should be factual inquiries into the past six years of "Advance directly to Go" governance, to determine what was and was not known and/or divulged. But this needs to be by a neutral party, NOT an opposing party and MOST CERTAINLY not by the party being investigated, lest we reach foregone conclusions.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I'm bummed

I failed the MPRE, and it wasn't even close.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Will of the masses

In a way, I feel sorry for President Bush. Not because he screwed up. Not because he was doing the best he knew how (if this is the best he knew how, then something's seriously wrong with us for electing him). Not because Iraq is on the verge of all out civil war. Not because the media has been critical of what has happened. Not because he's wasted so much good will and credibility to pursue what increasingly looks like a personal agenda in Iraq. And not because he claimed to be a uniter yet instead takes jabs at the democrats in Congress and runs around the legislative branch to do what he wants in spite of their lack of approval.

I feel sorry for him because now he's in a spot where he can't make any move without being pounced on. Before the Baker report came out people were speculating on what Bush would do or how he'd react to it (including myself). Same for so many other things. He's got a reputation (well deserved or not) for being stubborn and pigheaded. The problem with this is, by our actions we've put him in a position where he just can't win. He's no longer the leader of America; he's the guy who gets fingers pointed at. With the Baker report - what the hell is he going to do? If he chooses a different course of action than what it suggested, then he's stubborn. If he follows it, then daddy saved him. If he partially incorporates it, then he can't listen to those who present a "sound" assessment of the situation.

I don't object to being critical of the president - I think that's part of our job as Americans, to see what decisions he's made and announce whether we approve or disapprove so he (or she) can see how we want him or her to proceed in the future. However, I think we need to give the president that CHANCE to make the decision before we criticize him. In short - back off a little.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Rough day

Finals seem to bring out the worst luck. Today things started out all right, except that our heater still wasn't working and it was below freezing out. This would have been fine if we could have all spent the day in bed not moving, but, alas, "necessities" such as "school," "work," "food," "children," and "restroom" hadn't intervened.

That notwithstanding, we managed to get all the kids out and to school on time, with only a minimum fighting from the little boy. Then I get the kids to school and get home to take my shower. Well, the shower might not have been the best idea. Apparently, our apartments have decided that hot water is a luxury item reserved for those who have heat. Anyway one very quick shower later, I'm dressed and ready for school. I get to school, grab some of the trash I need to take out, write a check for parking, grab my computer, reach over to lock the back door, get out of the car, head down the elevator, pay parking, cross the street, get upstairs to the International Law Society office, reach for my ke- My KEYS! I don't have them! Crap! You'll notice nowhere above did I mention I took my keys out of the ignition. That's because I didn't take my keys out. I'm sure there are some of you wondering how I didn't notice my keys were in the car, what with the annoying buzz the car gives off when you do something that stupid. Well, the Ford Escort's buzzer system, like so many others, buzzes whenever you do something stupid, unfortunately, the Ford Escort seems to believe that actually OWNING a Ford Escort is something stupid, so my car actually buzzes constantly, and I never know what it's buzzing at me about, so I just ignore it. But I digress. Of course, the school doesn't have a slim jim (why would they?), nor does the security they employ. Ditto the parking garage. So I head over with my friend Carl to try to open a 95 Escort with a coat hanger (of course, this would work better if I know HOW to open a 95 Escort with a coat hanger), which turned out not to work, at least, not for me.

Now, it should be mentioned that I had my Criminal Procedure final tonight. Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment issues with a few other items thrown in for good measure. It's also a four hour class, which means it carries slightly more weight than the other classes I take, so having to take any time away from studying isn't my favorite idea. As it turns out, I only lose about an hour, between all the time I wasted trying to pick my own lock and then the 10-15 minutes I spent with the locksmith after he arrived. The good news is I got the door opened. The bad news is that I spent the equivalent of the resale value of my particular automobile to get the door opened ($69). Anyway, all's well that ends well.

So then I take my final, and after having to take two breaks because I'm busy singing "Punk Rock Girl" while trying to read questions, I decide I'm not going to get any more answers right (or that I'm too tired to try to see which ones I obviously missed) and decide that a C- is OK.

So I head out of school and turn on my phone to get a message from my wife, who tells me to come straight home. I call her to find out what's wrong. It turns out I'm not the only one with key issues today. She got to daycare this evening to get the kids, and while she was inside picking them up, the key to her car (and no other keys) decided to make a break for it and ran away. She still doesn't know where it is, and she had to get to Kinko's tonight for a presentation tomorrow that she has to put together for work and had to run out as soon as I got home. I get home, the little boy is not in bed (he got up), so we participated in the Supernanny plan of putting him right back in bed without saying anything because that only encourages him to get back up. This is a foolproof plan according to the producers of the Supernanny, and they constantly show how by putting the child back in bed the third time results in a sleeping child and stress-free parents. Yeah. I'm calling the sip of whiskey on that one. The little boy went to bed at 8. It's now 9:35 and he's gotten up at least 8 times (9 times, I just had to put him back in bed again). The only way those kids on that show didn't get up is if they were snockered.

Anyway, now I need to study Pretrial Procedure, which is somewhat more stressful than CrimPro, but is only 3 hours instead of 4. Can't wait!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Road Rage

I'm going to take a break from studying for a minute and put on my rant hat.

As I was driving home this evening, I got on the freeway on the ramp which enters I-10 on a bridge and thus has a short acceleration zone that ends in the concrete barrier - in other words, I have to switch lanes rather quickly. Usually, this is no problem, because drivers understand the concept of forced merging and short acceleration lanes and will make space. Today, though, as I was accelerating, there were 3 cars in the lane into which I was trying to merge, while the lane to their immediate left was wide open. Most drivers see this situation and do the courteous thing (i.e. merge over to let the other driver get on the freeway without crashing and/or dying). Did these guys? Well, the last guy did after I had to slam on the brakes to keep from running out of room, and he only moved over enough to get by me. Those guys are assholes.

I then drive home on I-10. Westbound on I-10 leads toward the 610 loop. For whatever reason, the loop has 3 lanes of the five lane freeway that exit only onto it, while the other two lanes continue westbound on I-10. This has been like this for as long as I've lived in Houston, and though there's construction going on in that area (just beyond the 610 interchange), there's plenty of time to get over. Here's the deal: If you know that you have to get into one lane and you have an opportunity to do so, but you see that traffic has slowed down, so you decide to continue past all the people who know how to wait their turn so that you can cut them off and zip in at the front of the line, then you are an asshole. If you decide that you can't be bothered with waiting for someone to LET you in and therefore force your way in between two cars, then you are a major asshole. And if you are driving a Ford Mustang with TX licence plates 709-PCL, then if I ever see you walking from your car and I'm driving in my Escort - the one you cut off, forcing me to slam on MY brakes and nearly get rear-ended - then I will not brake on your transit across the street. You ignorant asshair, a shitpot. It's people like you that contribute to the gridlock that makes us good people who understand rules have to wait an extra 18 minutes. I hope you develop an itchy rash in a spot that you are unable to scratch in a polite manner.

Ambivalent Amnesia

I've been studying for Criminal Procedure for the better part of the last 3 days (except for a few hours yesterday where I studied for TX Pretrial procedure). I don't know that I'm getting any smarter, but I am getting to a point where I don't know that I actually remember what I'm studying.

Names are swirling through my brain right now - Terry, Belton, Miranda, Edwards, Massiah, Batson, Aguilar-Spinelli, and so on. They no longer hold any particular significance in my head, other than I know that they refer to Criminal Procedure, and their names are now associated with various tests for admissibility of evidence...

And I find that I don't particularly care that I can't remember what they all pertain to with specificity. Finals are not my favorite time of the year - I'm ready to be done. I'll accept a C if you don't make me take the test (you benefit because you have one less test to grade!)

I still have Pretrial and Marital Property to go through - that's what I'm mostly ticked about - I'm already apathetic and I'm not even halfway done!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

On the Constitution

Dennis Prager made some headlines this week with his insistence that it would be somehow wrong for newly elected representative Keith Ellison to perform his swearing-in on the Quran (Koran?) instead of the Bible. As support of his position, he makes reference to tradition, and writes, "Insofar as a member of Congress is taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress." This natuarally led to debate on several sights, and (I presume) talk shows with folks getting rather upset on either side of the fence, because there's only ever 2 ways to look at something.

Read another way, Prager's statement above says "If your religious beliefs preclude you from swearing in on a Bible, then you shouldn't be allowed to be a Congressman," or, "as a test of fealty to the United States, you must swear yourself in on the Bible."

Since my head is swimming from CrimPro and Pretrial studying, I'm going to waste a few minutes on this "issue."

First things first - Prager is upset about a CEREMONIAL swearing in, not an actual swearing in. According to the Clerk of the House, NO BOOK is used during the official swearing in of Congresspersons. The ceremonial swearing in is more of a photo-op; it's used for publicity purposes. Prager's concern, according to his explanation, and put concisely by myself here, was that the ceremony must respect tradition. This fails to take into consideration that, in the past, the ceremonial swearing in has used the Bible, the Constitution, and NOTHING. So, traditionally, the Bible has not been used exclusively.

Secondly, and more importantly, Prager's concern for "tradition" is unconstitutional. He and those who agree with him would put as a condition precedent to holding office a test of swearing in on the Bible, even if one's religion prohibited it. The last sentence of Article VI of the Constitution: [N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office of public Trust under the United States. (emphasis mine)
In other words, it would appear that those who clamor for the blind adherance to "tradition" would put that concern over and above the written word of the Constitution. This must be a real conundrum for the religious right that so blindly adhered to the President's insistence on a strict constructionist viewpoint. Now the only real approach is to say that Prager's analysis is not a "test," it's a tradition, and not tied to religion, because it would "apply to everyone, regardless of their religious beliefs" (not a real quote, this is my finger quotes around this statement).

Well, if nothing else, Dennis Prager did what he was supposed to do - he got people to talk about what he wrote. It certainly gave me something to write about while taking a study break and not thinking of the snail I ate last night.

Holiday Dinner

Kirsten's office had their office dinner last night - we went to Amerigo's in the Woodlands.

Our very good friend Red Hot Mamma was gracious enough to urchin-sit for us - for which we are very thankful and will now provide with a 5 dollar gift certificate to Spec's... Seriously, thanks RHM!

Amerigo's was good. Italian food that's rather overpriced for the portions (what do you expect from a dress-nice restaurant?), but very good. We had plenty of appetizers, including escargot, which I never thought I'd try given my aversion to anything it looks like I blew into a tissue. But as far as gastropods go, it wasn't as bad as I'd thought - not too chewy, not too foul. And now that I tried it, I can go the rest of my life without trying it again.

For dinner, I had the Snapper Amerigo's, which was Snapper with crabmeat, leeks, scallions and tomatoes in a reduction of chardonnay and served with wild rice. Excellent - I highly recommend it. Kirsten had a Salmon dish that came with berries - also very good.

All in all it was a good evening. Kirsten had fun, and I don't think I embarrassed her too much with my lack of couth. It's nice to get our annual night's break from the kids.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Finals Conversations

When studying for finals in Law School, rational thought patterns tend to cease to exist. The other day, while taking a break from studying Payment Systems, I spent some time talking with RHM and a couple of our friends. The conversation came around to our school's Public Interest Law Society's volunteer trip to New Orleans as a part of the Hurricane Relief Network. Three of us of the four at the table were selected to go, the other did not want to go. I commented that I was somewhat excited because it was my first trip there, and I had never before been to Louisiana. My friend then said "What? So you've never been to New Orleans?" We laughed, because apparently she thought it would have been possible for me to get to New Orleans without going into Louisiana (it was the comment we laughed at, not her). A couple minutes later, a different person said - "So you've never even crossed the state line?"

Finals are tough on us all.

Holder In Due Course

We took our Payment Systems final last night. While I didn't ace it, I wasn't surprised by it either, so I knew what to answer, if not necessarily *how* to answer.

One of the major themes in Payment Systems was the theory of a Holder in Due Course (HDC). An HDC is a person (or bank, corporation, etc.) who takes a negotiable instrument (such as a check) for transfer in exchange for some sort of value (e.g. money) and who takes it free of any defenses on the instrument itself that could be asserted by the maker of the instrument.

Here's how I did the analysis:

First - Identify the Parties.
Who made the instrument? On what bank is it payable? To whom is it payable initially? To whom is it payable now?

Second - Is the holder of the instrument a Person Entitled to Enforce the Instrument?
A "Person Entitled to Enforce" is 1. A holder, 2. Of an instrument in bearer or Order form, if it is the person identified in the order.

Third - What is the liability? How is the aggrieved party liable?
A party can either be Primarily liable or Secondarily liable. One is Primarily Liable if he is either the Maker of the Instrument or an Acceptor (i.e. the bank that certifies the check). One is secondarily liable as either an indorser, a drawer, or as an Accommodation party.

Fourth - Are there any defenses?
What type of defenses are available to the party who is liable? There are personal defenses - fraud in the inducement, regular duress, lack of consideration, breach of warranty, and many other defenses. Additionally, there are what are known as Real defenses - these are issues that are so heinous that as a matter of public policy, we think that it is more important to protect the person harmed than the instrument itself. Real defenses include Fraud in the Factum, Infancy, Duress (serious duress), Illegality (that would render a contract VOID, not voidable), and incapacity. Additionally there are "article 3 defenses" - which fall under Article 3 of the UCC.

Fifth - is the holder of the instrument a Holder in Due Course?
To be a Holder in Due Course one must be:
1. A Holder
2. Of a Negotiable Instrument
An instrument (e.g. a check or a promissory note) is negotiable if it is:
A. An unconditional
B. Promise or Order
C. To pay a fixed amount of money
D. To Bearer or Person idetntified in the order
E. On demand or at a definite time
F. With no additional conditions attached.
3. With no irregularities on the face of the instrument (e.g. numbers crossed out and written over)
4. Taken for value
5. In good faith
Good faith requires: Honesty in fact and in keeping with reasonable commercial standards of fair dealing.
6. With no notice:
A. that it is overdue
B. of any defenses
C. Any claims in recoupment
D. That it is unauthorized

If all of the above, then the party qualifies as an HDC. As such, it would take free of all personal and article 3 defenses, but would take subject to any real defenses that could be asserted.
If All of the above are not met (for example you know it's got defenses), and you take the instrument, you are not a Holder in Due Course, but you may be entitled to HDC status under the Shelter Principle, where you knew of the deficiency, but did not benefit or take part in it.

The End.