Monday, December 31, 2007

Going out with a Bang

There isn't much to be optimistic about in 2008, politics-wise. Asking one to choose among the current batch of Candidates (particularly the front-runners) is akin to being asked what kind of grenade you want to lay down on - it's going to hurt like hell no matter what you say.

But the award this year for transparent politicking must go to Huckabee, who held a press conference to announce that he was taking the high road and not airing negative ads in Iowa, which is what Mitt Romney is doing to rebuild his lead in the state. That's all well and good, but then he takes it a step further. He apparently didn't think people would believe that a Baptist preacher could stoop to such levels when campaigning, because he then decided to show one of the negative ads the Huckabee campaign made to the throng of political reporters who were at the conference - to show what kind of stuff he wouldn't be doing.

What was he hoping to accomplish by airing this ad - in a room full of tape recorders and TV cameras recording? Am I just too much of a Cynic because I immediately jump to the conclusion that he was making an attempt to get his commercial on the air at newstime all across the state without buying ad time? Is it wrong that I think he's trying to have his cake and eat it, too? That he's trying to show how HE was being the good candidate while getting the negative ad out there at the same time?

I can't stand negative campaigning. But the duplicitous nature of this makes my stomach turn even more.

The End of the Year

How did you spend the last day of 2007?

We spent the day at the Zoo with Photog and Mrs. Photog and the rugrats. It was a nice way to close out 2007, which turned out to be a rather productive year. The Young'uns had a great time; running from exhibit to exhibit, nary a resting moment among them. The Photogs had a great time watching the rugrats running about - They like their parenting in small doses, and a few hours with our kids can fill people's needs for weeks. At any rate, we got to see the Lions, the Tigers, the Elephants, the Okapi, Meercats, Koalas, a 3-finned sea turtle, a Terrapin ("giraffe turtle"), and plenty of other critters. Afterwards, we went to Mission Burritos, a restaurant I'd never eaten at before. It was pretty good; a nice, filling burrito that I got to share with the Apple - who somehow is still awake after 4 hours Zooing and then driving around Houston for another.

The Princess is in bed - she was going to stay up, but she decided to break a lightbulb, so she gets to sleep in the New Year. Ironically, my punishment for the evening, for whatever I may have done, is that I DON'T get to sleep in the New Year, and rather, get to stay up late making sure the other two children don't electrocute themselves, each other, or the house.

It's been a busy year. I started out in New Orleans, helping those who couldn't help themselves. I graduated from Law School, got an internship at a local bank, got a new (used) car (and donated the Escort) went deep sea fishing, took and passed the Bar, drove halfway across the country and back, got a (temporary) job, saw the Princess get through Pre-K and start Kindergarten, saw The Boy get his 5th straight All A report card; got the Apple Potty Trained, and watched the spouse move jobs to a place where she appears to be less taken for granted.

It's not really a surprise that I would end the ratrace that was 2007 with a family trip to the zoo, I guess. It was a good year. I hope your 2007 was good, and may all of your 2008 be even better.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Top Ten Lists

I'm a bit of a proponent of Separation of Church and State, as some of you may have picked up. As such, I thought it excellent that Religion Clause Blogspot would post a top ten list of developments in Church-State and Exercise of Religion.

All very interesting.

If nobody knows it, is it History?

Almost certainly. And of course, I don't mean nobody; I mean very few people. I mean, show of hands - until this posting how many of you (a) - have heard of the Flushing Remonstrance on December 27, 1657 and (b) - know what it was? I didn't.

But it is undoubtedly a very important moment in the history of what is our Nation. The (really) abbreviated version reads as follows: the citizens of Flushing, New Amsterdam, when told to not allow Quakers into their community, wrote and signed a document effectively saying "screw that! They're people, too, even if they don't believe the way we do." And so the town let the Quakers in.

As I said, that is the very abbreviated version. A more thorough telling can be found here (on Americans United, where I first read about it). And they link to this NY Times Op-ed where they first read about it.

Osama Bin Laden speaks

He has released a tape that warns Sunnis in Iraq to not fight against Al-Qaeda. This might lend credence to the proffering that the Al Qaeda network is on the ropes in Iraq.

While I am pleased to hear that the Surge has helped to some extent (the Government still is not working together, so I can't say it's a success, but it is making positive steps), I think it's odd that the person who we declared as the chief terrorist when we started the War of Terror is now giving advice to those fighting in the war in Iraq that we started before we finished the first war. I think that this tape that was released shows remarkably clearly what will be the Bush legacy - our target using our detour to his advantage.

Friday, December 28, 2007

I miss San Angelo

Sometimes. While I don't want to live there again (it's really just a little too far removed from life) I do get to missing the quiet existence that is San Angelo.

I miss that the top stories in the news are not about murders, fires, or corruption, but more often, they are about restaurant closings (and Zentner's was a bit of an icon), or deflated Christmas Decorations attributed to vandals.

There's just something about quiet country-like living that appeals to me.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Busy Morning Part 2

It's been a busy week, and this is a busy morning. We've got the kids (mostly) ready for daycare, and then I have to take Grandma to the Airport before I find my way in to work. I also have an infected cyst on my neck (which I'm sure you all want to hear about) that makes eating and turning my head painful.

But if I make a doctor's appointment, then I have to miss work, and if I miss work, I don't get paid, and if I don't get paid... well, you get the idea.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas Eve!

From This Link

By Clement Clarke Moore

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Cruising for a Bruising

President Bush might be, what with his audacity - imagine making a statement in favor of those who celebrate Kwanzaa. How dare he acknowledge that there are those in this country who celebrate something other than Christmas or Chanukah? I guess he can afford to, what with there being no fear of losing the Religious Right vote; but still, a Republican accepting a celebration of something other than God? I'm amazed.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Yes, Virginia

I posted this last year, and the year before. But, if anyone still isn't convinced:

From this link.


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.

So nice

So on Friday, we decided to go out to dinner. We ate at James Coney Island, which is a Houston institution. I like the chili cheese coneys; the wife tolerates the hamburgers, and the kids get to have fun not eating whatever they decide they want to watch get cold on their plates.

Then, after dinner, we had to stop at JoAnn fabric, so that Gramma could get some sewing stuff (I can't get any more descriptive than that, as all sewing stuff if "sewing stuff" to me), and the kids could run around on the sidewalk getting themselves nice and tired. But we weren't quite ready to go home yet after that. So we decided to go shopping for furniture. We had more or less intended on just browsing, as we have done at so many other stores, and The Dump was a place that had tons of sofas. We searched through the store, and managed to find a sofa-loveseat combo that the wife and I both didn't dislike. It's actually very comfortable, with firm fabric, and a nice neutral color, not to mention it was about 40% off. So, at about 8:45 on Friday evening, while so many people are getting ready to go out and par-tay; the wife and I were finalizing the teflon protection on the new living room furniture that was to be delivered today - between 9 and 3. Of course, we expected the delivery to come at 3, so imagine our surprise when the phone rant at 10, saying they'd be here in about 30-45 minutes.

The furniture is still comfortable, a bit larger than we remembered in the store, and we have all had a really sitty morning.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Random Trivia

Fish have no salivary glands.

Interesting Concept, but no

Dallas has an Institute for Creation Research. They are, as the name implies, an entity dedicated to Creationism. They believe in it, and teach it. As such, they reject the concept of evolution.

Now, because they are a Creationist outfit, they are, of course, interested in getting Creationism into the schools. The spin is that this time, they are not pushing to get this in primary school, but rather, they wish to push this concept as a Master's Degree Program - complete with requiring students to "profess a faith in the literal translation of biblical Creation." Of course, what this really is is an attempt to legitimize the concept of teaching Creationism in schools, as state support would make it "real." Apparently, this is because the Creationist's grasp on their own faith is so tenuous that they cannot believe in it without the support of the Government. Or at least, it's because they need to foist their beliefs on everyone in this Country, and getting the support of the government in one manner is the first step up the Theocracy staircase. Whatever their agenda is, it's wrong.

Now, I have no problem with Creationism. I tend to believe it myself. But, not everybody does. And it's not scientific. It's faith-based. And when you are dealing with faith and religion, I think that is a personal matter that needs to be kept as far from Government intrusion as possible, so that people can reach whatever conclusion they want. And to adopt a Master's Program on Creation Science, while a clever idea, as a Master's degree carries somewhat more weight than an undergraduate degree, is still wrong.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wednesday is Haiku Day

Did CIA break
Judge's order with the tapes?
Did Bush say do so?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fit and Trim

The kids were fit to be tied last night, but it's not their fault. We put the tree up. Which meant that they had to try to curtail their glee while everything was being put together and the lights were hung. Actually, the kids couldn't curb their enthusiasm, as they managed to decorate the bottom foot of the tree while we tried to string the lights. Finally, we got it up and decorated, and the kids managed to get a few good pictures taken of themselves.

All things considered, it was a pretty good evening, with virtually no swearing.

We're pretty excited about Christmas.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

It may be Merry after all

After getting up at 3:05, driving in two cars to three different stores and waiting in line for five hours, we were number 13 in a line with a supply of 30 for the ONLY thing The Boy wanted this year. He's going to be happy; and that makes it worthwhile.

I felt bad for the 31st guy to show up.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I'm tired.

And I need to go to the store. And I need to see if I have to go to another store. And then I have to see if I can finish Christmas shopping.

Fortunately, Gramma made it in safe. She spent the day entertaining while I went to work and put in a couple hours of overtime. Then we went to look at furniture, because our sofa and chair have not just seen better days, but they look like poster children for mandatory furniture euthenasia.

Then we went to dinner, and had some decent Texas Barbecue. It wasn't the best I've ever had (Old Tyme Pit Bar-b-q holds that distinction), but it was all right. We ended the day by driving around passing houses with Christmas lights while the children ignored them and made louder and louder inane syllabic sounds to nobody until Dad lost his patience and made everyone go home and brush their teeth with the nasty toothpaste that isn't really as bad as the kids play at it being.

Now I need to go to the grocery store. We need cereal and sandwich fixins. And at some point I'm going to have to locate a place to sleep.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Congress Shall Make No Law

But there's nothing keeping them from nonbinding resolutions.
I have complained about nonbinding resolutions in the past, particularly in Missouri a year or two ago. This time, I'm not so much complaining about the resolution (though I am), but rather, like Lauren Smith at Americans United, I'm complaining about the actions of one Republican Congressman. You see, Representative Steve King (R-IA) sponsored a resolution recognizing "the importance of Christmas and the Christian Faith," describing Christmas as "a holiday of great significance to Americans."

While I tend to think that these resolutions are, well, stupid, I have a different reason to be annoyed at this one, as Ms. Smith points out on this article. I'm annoyed because while Rep. King saw fit to sponsor this resolution, he apparently determined it important to NOT VOTE on the nonbinding resolutions that recognized Ramadan as a "month of fasting and spiritual renewal," and on the resolution recognizing Diwali, the festival of lights, celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains, and described as of "great significance" to Indians and South Asian Americans.

Ms. Smith cites former justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and I will repost the quote here, because I think it is quite poignant, not just in this situation, but in a general approach to religion and government altogether: "Governmental endorsements of religion send a strong mesage that adherents are "favored members of the political community." Justice O'Connor also noted that nonbelievers of that religion are "outsiders, [or] not full members of the political community."

Someone might point out that Rep. King did not vote against the resolutions for Diwali and Ramadan, here just didn't vote. Well, that's great. But he did sponsor the resolution for Christianity. Put the actions together, and how does that not create the appearance of endorsement of religion? Another example, from a deposition I once read:
Q: Did you ever spend the night with that man in New York?
A: I refuse to answer that question.
Q: Did you ever spend the night with that man in Miami?
A: I refuse to answer that question.
Q: Did you ever spend the night with that man in Chicago?
A: No.

If you were a Muslim or a Hindu in Rep. King's district (and I recognize there might not be many in the greater Iowa area), would you feel that your interests were being considered by your Congressional Representative? Or would you feel oppressed under the tyranny of the majority? His actions in this situation were wrong in this situation.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

From Bad to Worse

As if it's bad enough to have cats that can see in the dark. Now, Koreans are making cats that you can see in the dark. How is this scientific progress? If this is how the world was supposed to evolve, the Intelligent Designer would have made his own glow in the dark cats.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

He killed himself a bar when he was only 3!

But his kin didn't do quite as well. Nope. Not Tre Merritt. He killed himself a bar when he was five. I still think that's rather impressive.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I know I'm offended.

There's a bit of a story in Texas because of the TEA's forcing the resignation of the science curriculum director over sending an e-mail mentioning the discussion by a proponent of intelligent design.

Apparently the state's education commissioner was obliged to defend the actions of the TEA. You see, he was concerned because what Chris Comer (the former science curriculum director) wrote could be construed to mean that evolution was the position the TEA was taking as an agency. He was also concerned, because, as he says in the Dallas Morning News "We teach evolution. It's part of our curriculum. But you can be in favor of a science without bashing people's faith, too."

I can see the grounds for concern. After all, when a person writes "FYI," it just screams bible basher. FYI being the only three letters she wrote on the e-mail that ended in her resignation. This is ridiculous.

Oh there's no place like home for the holidays

And there's nothing better than a HoneyBaked Ham. Really. The best ham out there.

I'm ready to get in the Christmas Spirit. But I'm having trouble. I know part of it is the non-wintry weather that visits Houston each year.

But, on the bright side, I get to write a big fat check to the state now for the right to be sued for malpractice.

And the kids have only screamed marginally a lot today.

And I cancelled my internets, because we got faster internets.

I want cookies. Or ice cream.

The children's school pictures are scanned. Someday we'll get pictures of the Apple.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Oversight

I have heard it said from dozens, perhaps scores of people - that because we have succeeded in getting some information from a couple of those who we have subjected to harsh interrogation (or torture, depending on who defines it), that justifies the continued practice.

I don't necessarily get that connection. First off - we are in a nation where you are supposed to be presumed innocent. And when we subject suspected ANYONES to harsh interrogation, let alone those who are not charged with anything, then that kills that presumption. But even more importantly, in my mind, is the idea that because it worked once, it is the method we should use.

I mean, really. We are fairly sure we know where Osama Bin Laden is. He's currently somewhere in the Middle East. Knowing this, it's entirely logical to assume that we can get rid of him by dropping nuclear weapons on the entirety of the Middle East. Even if he did survive the bombing, he would have thousands of square miles of radiation to try to get through to be able to do anything, and the Electromagnetic Pulse that the bombs would generate would probably wipe out most of any of the communications equipment he'd have available.

And, by bombing the middle east, we'd get rid of that pesky Iranian Nuclear weapons program that's threatening to start World War III by - oh, wait.

But the thing is - even though it would be effective, it's still wrong. And that is why we don't do it. And we should be better than this; better than even having to deny or defend it. We should not be doing it.

And we should have a president who's aware of what's going on, and of the oversight of what's going on.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Sage Advice

The letter reads in part as follows:
As Americans of faith, we also see a dangerous assault on the true meaning of this sacred day. But our outrage has little to do with a few examples of people saying ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas.’ We believe the real assault on Christmas is how a season of peace, forgiveness and goodwill has been sidelined by a focus on excessive consumerism.

The powerful message Christ brings to the world is ‘good news for the poor.’ Instead, Christmas is being reduced to a corporate-sponsored holiday that idolizes commerce and materialism. Shopping and gift giving are meaningful traditions that can express the season’s values, but perspective is lost when relentless advertising and maxed-out credit cards define the holiday. It’s time to reclaim the virtue of shared sacrifice for the common good.

To focus on how department stores greet customers at a time when American soldiers are dying in Iraq and 37 million of our neighbors live in poverty is a distraction from the profound moral challenges we face in confronting the real threats to human dignity in our world.

It was addressed to members of the Religious Right like Dr. James Dobson, who held his "don't shop at these stores because they dare to accept that there are other religions, beliefs, and holidays besides Christmas" speech on his radio show, according to Americans United (where I got the excerpts from the above speech).

I'm pleased that there are those who have not lost focus on what the holidays are supposed to mean. While I am not without fault when it comes to the holidays and remembering the reason for the season, I do take time to remember. And the last thing I think of when thinking of Christmas is "which stores have offended me by not endorsing my view on which is the correct religion?" I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who gets that.

Friday, December 07, 2007

It's December 7

Read. Remember.

An ounce of prevention

The Princess put on Sleeping Beauty this evening to watch. It's been a while since I've watched it, but I did watch some of it. Particularly the part where the witch came and put the curse on the Princess. I'm sure you remember - that the Princess would prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die on her 16th birthday (then commuted to a deep sleep by one of the good fairies). The King then made the command decision to protect the daughter by having every spinning wheel in the country destroyed.

Of course, on her 16th birthday, the princess finds herself in front of a spinning wheel, and, of course, pricks her finger.

I see this and I think - well, wouldn't there have been a better way to go about this? Such as teaching the princess how to use a spinning wheel, and then maybe telling her to avoid them on her birthday? That way, she is aware of what could happen, and, if she finds herself so situated, at least she is prepared to handle it.

In other news, teen birth rates are up.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Tie goes to the runner

The question is, who is the runner?

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday on the level of due process that should be afforded to the Guantanamo Bay detainees. Reportedly, this was one of the most memorable oral arguments in recent memory.

It looks like this is going to be another 5-4 decision, and by all accounts I've read, Kennedy looks to be the swing vote.

According to the article linked above, Justice Scalia seems to think that because there is not one case directly on point for granting habeas to foreigners being held by the U.S. on foreign soil, then the detainees should not be granted habeas. He could be right, but, as Seth Waxman, arguing for the detainees pointed out, that might not matter, as the Court ruled in Rasul v. Bush that Guantanamo Bay is essentially U.S. soil.


These detainees have been held for 6 years without the right to challenge their detention and without charges being brought.

Arguing for the state was Paul Clement, who noted that with the new review process, which can go as far as the U.S. Court of Appeals for DC, each detainee is entitled to a personal representative during a status review process. But Justice Souter pointed out that this representative is required to report anything negative about the individual back to the military - which does not encourage the individual to share, particularly on ambiguous items.

Waxman pointed to the insufficiency of this review process. He discussed a German named Kornaz who was freed from Guantanamo becaue 1. he had a lawyer (not guaranteed by the current appeals process), and 2. he was able to get information about the charges against him, which he was then able to prove was false.

I can't believe that the person had to dig to learn what charges were being levied against him while he was being held by our Government. How would he have raised even a reasonable doubt argument, let alone innocence, if he never even knew the charges against him? Is "necessity" such an obstacle that we have to let innocent men sit in a prison on an island thousands of miles from their home for an indefinite time - because we are at war with an idea? These men, even the innocent ones, are looking at an indefinite detention (basically a prison sentence without a release date) until we win the war on "terror," which cannot be won until there is no more terror, which is impossible to determine, because there is no way to adequately define terror or a terrorist. As I've heard said on more than one occasion, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." It's wrong, completely wrong, to hold individuals until the end of one person's (Bush), or nation's (the United States) interpretation of a word arrives.

But from a legal standpoint, which I think the detainees should win, I'm not sure Kennedy has been convinced.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A fair trial? Not on his life

Some of you might be familiar with one Salim Ahmed Hamdan. He was Osama bin Laden's driver. His was the case the Supreme Court ruled that the President cannot invoke the law of war without being bound by the law of war (The bitter with the sweet). He was charged with conspiracy to commit a crime that didn't exist.

He won the case and so he went back to Guantanamo Bay to await a new trial, or indeterminate detention. As it turned out he went in for a new trial. The defense lawyers, seeking to bring the best possible defense to cause reasonable doubt, wished to bring a couple high profile witnesses, high level Al Qaeda operatives who could testify that bin Laden's driver was not a hard core member of Al Qaeda and should not be subjected to the military tribunals that the prisoners of war are subjected to (and for those of you who cling to the false premise that these are not prisoners of war, I can't really help you other than to say that the President invoked the law of war, and then tried to find a loophole by announcing he declared war on an idea, which is wrong. These people are still bound by Common Article III of the Geneva Conventions, as are we).

Anyway, they were denied. Why were they denied? Security obstacles. What a great, vague term to use for denying someone their best possible defense. Now, the judge did say he would allow the defense the opportunity to call another witness - a Moroccan who was arrested with Hamdan. Because we all know that one witness is as good as another.

What have we become? Are we so desperate to vindicate our detention of these people without charge and indefinitely that we need to start denying them the best defenses available?

Wednesday is Haiku Day

Frost came yesterday
And the Boy's lost two jackets
And a sweatshirt too.

As always, I look forward to your responses.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Attend the Tale of Sweeney Todd

I plan on it. According to this review on Yahoo, though, it looks to be a little darker and less humorous than the stage version (which I REALLY would like to see). At any rate, it sounds like it's going to be a good show, though apparently there are doubts as to whether there will be much of an audience.

I'm going to be there as, I am guessing, will Heatherfeather (though I'm not sure).

Monday, December 03, 2007

Wow, I ache

It'd been about 2 1/2 months since I'd been to the gym. Boy, did I feel it.

I hurt more today than I did either of the previous two days, partly because I did lower body yesterday after cardio, which seems to pain me a little more. But, I needed it. What I need to do now is find a way to get in to the gym one or two times during the week as well.

On the good news side of things, I got a pay raise, effective next pay period. This is good, because it means more money. It's also good because that means it's more likely that they are looking to keep me around a little longer, which means I can go longer before looking for a new job.

Now I need to figure out what to get my wife for Christmas.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Watch out for a Government that tells you what to think

I was looking at Americans United today, reading the blog as I do a couple, three times a week. I found this article by Rob Boston rather interesting. It notes that an official in the Texas Education Administration (TEA), a director of science curriculum was fired. It's not so much that she was fired that is the issue. Rather it's the reason she was fired. She sent an e-mail. Not porn. Not profanity. Nothing critical of the President. Nothing critical of the education system in Texas.

No. What she did was far more heinous. She sent an FYI e-mail about a presentation by one of the co-authors of the book "Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design."

You see, this book is critical of the entire Intelligent Design movement. And we can't have science officials sending e-mails that might look like they don't endorse Intelligent Design here in the Great State. Or, as senior adviser on statewide initiatives for the TEA Lizzette Reynolds put it, "This is highly inappropriate. I believe this is an offense that calls for termination or, at the very least, reassignment of responsibilities."

Essentially, Ms. Reynolds had a big hand in Chris Comer's termination because someone offered an opportunity to view an opinion that did not match what she wanted.

I still stand by my assertion that I want religious education to come by my religion of choice, not from some government approved line feed. It troubles me that there are so many in this country that want the government to tell them what religious aspects they should believe. But it doesn't surprise me. And that's the shame of it all.

Meeting Santa

We are going to meet Santa today at the YMCA. He's going to be there between 12 and 3. Hopefully the line won't be too long, as the kids are excited to see the jolly old elf. I'm just looking forward to the opportunity to get another good workout in. I need to find a way to get back in the habit of going somewhat regularly. Maybe I'll go in on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.

In other news, we need a babysitter for Saturday night. Any takers?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Honeydo

I've been rather busy today. First off, I got up early. This isn't so much an accomplishment as a force of habit. I don't know that I could sleep in if I wanted to.

So we got to work. The wife took They Boy out for breakfast while I went to the gym for the first time in 2 months. I feel bad for not getting in, but the only time I can really schedule a trip is on the weekends, and since I started my job, those have been booked pretty solid. I know I'm making an excuse, but I think it's a legitimate one. Anyway, I found out I weigh essentially the same (about a 1/2 - 1 pound difference) than I did before my sabbatical, which really made me feel good, and I got a decent, though not great, workout, because though I haven't gained weight, I have lost cardio fitness.

Then I got home, and we had to take the wife's minivan in to get checked out. There have been some problems recently, and we've needed to get it in, and today was that day. So we loaded the kids in the minivan and the wife followed me in my car to get hers to the car guy. When she got stuck one red light behind me, I decided to stop at the hardware store and get a new dryer hose so that we could perhaps have clothes dry in less than 3 hours. I approached this with some trepidation, due to my last encounter with the demon dryer, but it had to be done. So I got the hose and pulled into the car shop just as the wife was calling me to figure out where I was, as she already dropped her car off (I only lost about 4 minutes, so it wasn't a long detour). Then we went to the grocer to buy some pizza rolls and coke (because while I'm trying to get in better shape, I'm not trying THAT hard), and went home where there were tasks to be accomplished.

So the wife immediately took a shower. I used this time to get all the kids occupied on random games while I sorted out what I needed to do. First up was the cat litter. I'm not certain, but I'd bet if I actually killed, skinned and sold the cats as "teriyaki" at a 3rd Ward seafood restaurant ("You buy, we fry!"), then 3 weeks later, I'd still find myself changing the litter box. Now, to be fair, I wouldn't kill or skin the cats, and I wouldn't sell them to a seafood restaurant unless I got a pretty good offer for them, but you get the idea. After changing the cat litter, I had to sweep the area so that I could move the dryer out to accomplish The Feat. I managed to change the dryer hose with a minimum of swearing (actually with nary a curse), and, being the multitasker I am, I managed to take out the pizza rolls, serve them, and place the new batch in the oven at the same time. Then I went upstairs and glued one of the broken crossbeams on the Apple's bed. As soon as I got this taken care of, the second batch of pizza rolls were done, so I put them on the plate for the kids to attack, and discovered that the Wife was getting out of the shower (this suggests that I finished quickly, not that she showers slowly).

After we picked up the wife's minivan, which we will have to take back in next Saturday, because they needed to order the part and we need both cars, we got home and I got to refill her tires, which have been running low on air for a couple months. They didn't need much air, but they did need air. Fortunately, the Apple decided to come out and help. Unfortunately, he decided to come out and help with no pants or underwear on. Fortunately, after I sent him back in, he did a giggling jig and ran off. Unfortunately, he didn't go right back in the house, instead he stood next to the patio gate and played until I checked on him and sent his giggling naked butt inside.

Now we're just biding time until dinner. I'm ready for bed.

Friday, November 30, 2007

William Shatner-Rocketman

You just have to watch this. Words can't describe it.

It's the end of the month

This has been a very busy month, and as quickly as it passed, it sure took a long time to get through.

Today, with less than five minutes to go before I clocked out for the weekend, one of the other lawyers in the office walked up with a 30 pound box of papers and asked me if I'd be willing to transcribe the page cuts for the firm. Who can say no to such an offer? There were four of us who stayed to work on the project, and we managed to finish and get out of the office in less than 2 hours (overtime, woohoo), so it wasn't a bad thing.

I still don't feel like a lawyer. Perhaps it's because I don't have my bar card yet, but somehow I think it is more than that. I don't know what I was expecting. It's not like I thought there'd be some magical transformation after I passed the bar, or graduated from law school, or got my degree, or any of those milestones, so I'm not sure that I was expecting to feel any differently. But, I guess I was hoping for something, other than a general desire to be earning more per hour.

The kids are doing all right. The wife is doing well. The cats are doing all right. The gramma is recovering, though the grandkids should give her a call this weekend; I'll see what I can finagle.
I've got my holiday malaise going full stride right now. It'll pass. But it sucks while it's here.

At least it was payday, and I had (nearly) an extra week's pay in it. So that helps, particularly for Christmas shopping. We're hoping to go this Christmas without resorting to Plastic Man; so extra dinero shall come in handy.

I want a house for Christmas, and a non-temporary job. Feel free to hook me up.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Random Trivia

On this day in 1995, President Clinton passed a law that ended the federally mandated 55 MPH speed limit.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

BDS is Real!

Most Americans have heard of BDS, or Bush Derangement Syndrome, by now. Often times, it's attributed to anyone who dares criticize anything the President has done or said in the past seven years.

But there is new evidence that BDS works the other way. The evidence? Karl Rove, who took an opportunity recently to rewrite history and blame Iraq on Congress. I first heard about this at Vim and Vinegar's blog, where she included the link to this video.

I recommend watching the video, but basically, what Rove says is that the administration was opposed to the AUMF in 2002 and that Congress pushed it through. Keith Olberman then points out that the website Whitehouse.gov has records showing the President urging Congress to go through with the AUMF and then congratulating Congress for doing it rapidly, and finally signing the AUMF.

This assertion also ignores the truth that President Bush did not need the AUMF to go to war with Iraq in the first place. The fact of the matter is the President had the authority (it appears) under the 1991 AUMF to invade (indeed, the 2002 AUMF makes reference to said Authorization as support for the new authorization), and the 2002 AUMF was there more to show Congressional support and help ensure the invasion was funded.

The sad part, in my opinion, is not that Karl Rove is trying to pass the buck, and playing fast and loose with history, but rather that I know there will be people out there who are so steadfast in their defense of this war and the President's actions that they will blindly cling to this assertion as reality no matter what the truth is.

Wednesday is Haiku Day

I'm in the spirit
Would that we could have some snow
But Houston banned it.

As always, I look forward to your contributions.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Romney Knows the Answer

The problem with the cost of medicine is a result of all those damn lawyers. So, how do we put a stop to their actions? Simple. We cap Medical Malpractice suits. That way, doctors can keep medical costs down by not having to pay such high malpractice premiums.

Of course, this was wildly popular at the medical school where Mitt Romney was speaking. And why not? He said all the magic words - Cap, Frivolous Lawsuit, Money.

Of course, what this doesn't address are a couple things. First off, the suits that result judgments against the doctor are not frivolous. When a doctor commits a harm (i.e. malpractice), then being subjected to civil penalties is certainly not frivolous. Second, capping medical malpractice claims potentially hurts the victims of the doctor's malpractice. The injured party may have limits on their recovery that don't match the expenses from the services he received or cost to repair what injury the doctor caused. Finally, the best way to cap medical expenses from medical malpractice claims is to get rid of the bad doctors. The fewer doctors who commit malpractice, the fewer claims. The fewer claims, the lower the premiums. It's pretty simple.

Yet it's so much easier to cast the blame elsewhere. It's not the doctor's fault for not doing their job right. It's the greedy lawyers attacking those who commit malpractice. They need to be taught a lesson. Unfortunately, the "they" Romney refers to is the wrong they.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Religious Freedom and Voter ID

In Indiana, Amish and Mennonites are entitled to get themselves ID cards without photos, because having their picture taken violates their religion. This has not presented a problem for the past several years. However, with Indiana's voter ID law, that might change. The suit is currently up at the Supreme Court, where among the injuries alleged is the violation of the Amish and Mennonite's religious freedoms protected under the First Amendment. As you will read on First Amendment Law Professor's Blog, what the law will require those who have IDs without pictures to do is to vote, then go in to the county election board and sign a sworn affidavit that they object to having their picture taken due to religious reasons. They must do this in order to have their vote counted, and they must do it every time they vote, which the members of the suit allege (and I agree) places an undue burden on them.

Perhaps if the law allowed them to sign the affidavit on the day they voted it might be different, but as it is, this is another good reason to dislike a bad law.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hot Juicy Burgers

I'm hungry. I want a juicy, hot, soak the wrapper hamburger with some deep fat fried french fries.

I'd really like to go to Bubba's, but it's more like a burger stand, and it's a little chilly to be eating outside.

Maybe we'll go to Ruby Tuesday. I'm not sure.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Friday, November 23, 2007

Who's surprised, really?

You Are Mashed Potatoes

Oridnary, comforting, and more than a little predictable
You're the glue that holds everyone together.

We Have Company

I've long supported the concept of separation of church and state. Many of my friends feel the same way. And, ultimately, many Americans feel the same way.

When you look at politics from the pulpit, you see that a majority (62%) of Americans don't want to be told who to vote for, or to have political speeches given from their religious leaders, which makes sense to me. Of course, I don't like the idea of anyone telling me who to vote for, so it would make sense to me to keep church separate from politics here to me.

Interestingly, in the article linked above, it shows that 29% of pollsters said they were less likely to vote for Giuliani now that Pat Robertson has endorsed him, as opposed to 6% who said they were more likely to. There were only 1000 people polled, so it may not have the highest rate of veracity. But still, that is something that Giuliani's camp might want to think about.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Random Trivia, Thanksgiving Style.

I first posted this on Thanksgiving in 2005.

Every year, Americans gather together with their families to celebrate the bounty of the year and to give thanks for all that we have on the Fourth Thursday in November with a huge Turkey and all the fixin's, a tradition that started in 1621 with the Pilgrims, Squanto, and the Wampanoag Indians, right? Well, not exactly. We'll look at some of the history of the holiday today.

First, it's true that there was a day of Thanksgiving in 1621, but, it doesn't look as though there was one in 1622. The harvest wasn't as good, there were many new settlers that needed housing and whatnot. The Pilgrims probably weren't in the best of moods for celebrating.

Second, The First Thanksgiving most likely wasn't in November. It was probably much closer to the harvest in September/October. Anyone who has spent any time in Massachussetts in November would tell you it's not exactly the best weather for celebrating.

Third, the Pilgrims didn't call themselves Pilgrims. They called themselves Saints.

Fourth, The letters and journals of the time indicate that Turkeys were not the big ticket item. The colonists came from England, where the lords greatly restricted hunting, and thus most people had never had venison before. In the states, where deer was plentiful, venison was very prominent at the first Thanksgiving.
- So where did Turkey come from? It appears as though it was a product of marketing in the late 1800s. Turkey was a much more profitable than other birds, so the lobbyists advertised immensely, showing pictures of a family gathering around a table with a big turkey in the middle. It caught on, and the picture printers (Think Currier and Ives) followed suit, with pictures of Pilgrims and a big Turkey.

So, if there was no second Thanksgiving, how the the 4th Thursday become the day? Well, Abraham Lincoln. In 1863, after the victory at Gettysburg, President Lincoln declared a national day of thanksgiving on the 4th Thursday of November. In 1864, after the victory at Antietam, they had another Day of Thanksgiving on the 4th Thursday. In 1865, President Lincoln was shot and killed. President Johnson decided to follow the Thanksgiving tradition set up by President Lincoln, and it became the holiday it is now.

Everything is fine and dandy right? Not quite. You see, in the 1930s one year, There were five Thursdays in November. Since Thanksgiving had traditionally been the last Thursday, (usually there are only 4), this posed a problem. The lobbyists for the big department stores wanted Turkey Day to be the 4th Thursday, because it gave people more time for Christmas shopping. Traditionalists felt that this undermined the historical significance (unaware as to the actual history of the holiday), and pushed for it to be on the Last Thursday. There was some fallout from that, with some states going on the 4th Thursday, and some going on the last. Colorado had a Thanksgiving Week, and another state had 2 thankgsivings. Thankfully, Congress intervened, and passed a law in 1941 signed by President Roosevelt that established Thanksgiving as the 4th Thursday in November. And The Lions have been playing ever since.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wednesday is Haiku Day

Turkey Day, Thursday
Man, those Lions. Frustrating.
But, I get Turkey!

As always, I look forward to your contributions.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Read This.

Click on this link. Poignant.

Warren Steed Jeffs Is Going to Jail

He has been convicted and sentenced to consecutive 5 year to life terms of Rape as an Accomplice.

Jeffs's attorney claims that this is a First Amendment issue. He claims that Jeffs was practicing his religion as he was conducting placement marriages. Apparently, Mr. Jeffs's religious beliefs including helping a 14 year old both get married and have sex against her will.

The problem with this is that he's still violating the law. The law itself is not a Constitutional violation because the law is not written to deny someone their right to practice religion, it's written as a blanket to protect minors from sex with those who could hold undue influence over them. It has a neutral application, and thus is not a First Amendment issue.

Still, it's unclear how long he will actually serve. It's going to be interesting to see what the final story is.

What Happened

Scott McClellan is writing a book with the title above. In it, he apparently blames a lot of people for the outing of Valerie Plame, including the President and Vice President.

This after the President reneged on his promise to fire anyone involved in the affair, and commuted the sentence of Scooter Libby, because it was "too harsh."

This is going to be interesting. The book is due out in April; so there's plenty of time for the spin to come out with it.

I'm not sure how far I'd trust Scott McClellan. After all, he was part of the team that dodged the story and he was the one who said Rove and Libby weren't involved...

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

The next stone thrown

In the battle of Intelligent Design. Again, it strikes me as odd that these people fighting can only seem to see two possibilities in the development of the world as we see it.

The Discovery Institute has made a statement that the NOVA program, Judgement Day, Intelligent Design on Trial, if shown in classrooms across the country, violates the First Amendment. To support their argument, they refer to the following exchange from the program:
"Q: Can you accept evolution and still believe in religion? A: Yes. The common view that evolution is inherently anti-religious is simply false."

Apparently, the Discovery institute believes that a statement that one can believe in "religion" while believing in evolution supports one religious viewpoint. I'm not quite sure I follow. The First Amendment, as I understand it, exists to keep one religious tenet from controlling the means of the country, such as keeping Buddhism from becoming the state religion, etc. I don't see how saying one can believe in evolution and still believe in religion as a whole violates that principle.

It's funny, but sad, that compromise on beliefs is so hard to reach. If you want your children to believe in Creationism, then teach them that at home, or at Sunday School. But if I don't want my kids to learn that, or your version of that, then respect that and leave that to be my personal decision. Keep it out of schools, and I think everyone is better off.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Short Week

We have a short week this week at work, what with Thanksgiving coming up and all (we aren't New Jersey state employees). We'll be getting off work at noon on Wednesday and then will be off until Monday. While I'm looking forward to the time off; when I'm not working, I'm not getting paid, and I could use money.

Today we had the second annual office Thanksgiving day feast. I originally intended to just go get a sandwich, because I wanted to save my turkey for the Day. But, I relented; it's tough to pass up a free lunch.

I like work. I like the people there. But I wish I had a full time gig. It would be nice to stay on there, but I would want a little more money to do so. I'm still looking for government work, just not in NJ; and I'm looking for a corporate position somewhere, where being a lawyer is a benefit, but not necessarily a requirement...

Anyway, that's about it for this evening. The Apple doesn't want to go to bed, so we're taking turns fighting his will. According to the Supernanny, he should have given up and stayed in bed by now, but we all know the Supernanny is full of crap. But I digress.

Goodnight, everyone.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Executive Irony

Would you disagree with the following statements?
When the Founders drafted the Constitution, they had a clear understanding of tyranny. They also had a clear idea about how to prevent it from ever taking root in America. Their solution was to separate the government's powers into three co-equal branches: the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. Each of these branches plays a vital role in our free society. Each serves as a check on the others. And to preserve our liberty, each must meet its responsibilities -- and resist the temptation to encroach on the powers the Constitution accords to others.
or,
The President's oath of office commits him to do his best to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." I take these words seriously. I believe these words mean what they say.... Others take a different view.... they forgot that our Constitution lives because we respect it enough to adhere to its words. Ours is the oldest written Constitution in the world. It is the foundation of America's experiment in self-government. And it will continue to live only so long as we continue to recognize its wisdom and division of authority.
Those are pretty good, no? I think they do a pretty good job of explaining the concept of separation of powers in this country. But I have a hard time taking it seriously when it's said by the current executive, who I think has done as much to disrespect this Separation as any President in recent memory (recess appointments as an end around to Congressional approval, while technically legal, is not exactly in keeping with respecting the Separation of Powers; nor is ordering Congress to grant federal courts the jurisdiction to readdress the judicial decision in the Teri Schiavo case because he disagreed with the courts' findings, and warrantless wiretapping, there are those of us who still think is a violation of the Fourth Amendment). I'm not alone in finding this somewhat incredible. Glenn Greenwald commented on this, as well as other statements offered by this administration, such as the President accusing Congress of "acting like a teenager with a new credit card" for their budget actions. Unless I remember incorrectly, President Bush has spent more than any other president since LBJ (indeed the link I provided above says the same). It's a bit like the pot calling the kettle black, don't you think, for this President to call Congress names with regard to budget? I understand the desire to get back to fiscal conservatism, but statements like these are just irresponsible.

Now back to work

In many states, it's taken as a given. You get Thanksgiving off and you get the day after Thanksgiving off. How else are you going to celebrate the busiest shopping day of the year; if you can't go to work?

Well, about 80,000 government employees in New Jersey are going to find out - or they're going to be using a personal/vacation day to not find out. The Governor of New Jersey, believing that it's more important for government employees to be at work, earning taxpayer dollars, has decreed (it's by declaration of Governor in New Jersey, not law) that there would be no more paid day off for the day after Thanksgiving.

I understand the importance of earning your pay. But, really, how productive are these people going to be? I just think this was a bad move.

Perhaps the Governor just wanted to ensure 80,000 people would vote against him?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

We've got crab legs!

I don't think I ate there more than about 3 times, but I do miss Sea Galley.

Football

I think I've preferred college football to pro football since I was about 10. That's when I moved to Illinois and the nearest pro team was the St. Louis Cardinals, with quarterback Neil Lomax. They weren't very good.

I like college football because I think it's more exciting. It's more fun. The players are more into it. The fans are really into it. The whole environment is phenomenal.

I am from Michigan originally. Therefore I chose the Wolverines as my team growing up. My wife is a Husky from UW, so I cheer for them, as well (even though she doesn't). The Huskies have been down for a while, but I believe in Ty Willingham, even if my patience is showing strains. The Wolverines, on the other hand, have had a most disappointing year, in what many are speculating will be Lloyd Carr's last. I like Carr; I think he is a good coach. But Ohio State seems to have his number, and the team doesn't seem to have the same kismet this year.

At any rate, while it's been fun to watch the mayhem in the polls, it's perhaps been less exciting for me because I don't really have a pony in the race. Still. This is better than what the pros have put up in a long time.

Down Day

Down as in we don't have any plans for the day. But also down because of the mood I'm in. I'm not sure why, but it seems to happen every holiday season.

Anyway, we have little planned for today. I think I'm going to have some pizza rolls, and I got my oil changed (only 2000 miles overdue) and the nail taken out of my tire (only been there 2 months that I know of).

Mom is doing better. She's healing well enough to practice her high dive skills from her bed. I think she might want to wait before resuming her training, but I don't know much about bypass surgery. Maybe this is the right time.

I let Jamie borrow one of my Bar books to help her study for her Texas Civ Pro finals. I hope it helps her. Perhaps I could find my yellow book, too.

The kids watched schoolhouse rock; the Apple played on the DS, and the wife got to sleep in for a few minutes today. All things considered, it has been a blah day. Nothing too exciting; nothing too maddening.


I'm tired.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Designed Intelligently

I'd mentioned that NOVA was going to be airing an episode on intelligent design last Tuesday. It was pretty good. The program didn't really make any secret on the outcome, or who they thought should prevail, but it was pretty well-made nonetheless.

One of the things that struck me as interesting was that the supply of ID books ("Of Pandas and People") that showed up by an anonymous donor, which was testified to under oath in depositions by a minister advocate of ID (who also wanted to get Creationism back in school) who claimed he had no knowledge of how they arrived, when in fact he wrote the check from his personal account. I'm not certain, but I would argue that would be bearing false witness, and I don't know that one could justify violating one of the Lord's Commandments in an attempt to do God's work.

Americans United did a summary of the program, which you can find here. And you can download the episode on NOVA's website. It's a good episode to watch - it covers most of the bases.

Sidenote - the judge in the case was a Bush appointee, recommended for the position by Santorum.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Off to the Races

And our high speed is up. It's stunning how much a difference it makes. You can see it; items coming up instantly; my smile existent.

It's like going from training wheels straight to Indy car. Only more interesting to me.

A moment of silence for the moment of silence, please

I recently posted on the Illinois Congress override of the Governor's veto of the state mandated moment of silence. I commented that I thought the law was Unconstitutional.

I knew I wasn't the only one who thought so; indeed one commenter agreed ("Amen!"). But a higher authority than I or my good friend Photog has weighed in as well. The new law has been enjoined, according to this post on Religion Clause Blogspot.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I think the law is vague, as does the judge. I think that mandating a moment for prayer (" silent prayer or reflection") is little more than saying "You all sit there so the Christians can remind you that they control this country," which is not the way this country was set up.

We'll see how this goes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wednesday is Haiku Day

I thought lawyering
Was a bit different; like I'd
Drive a nicer car.

Interesting, Very Interesting

When I first moved to Texas, back when our President was the First Clinton, I finally dropped AOL and went instead with DSL. I enjoyed the much higher download and upload speeds, and just really got more out of internetting. After I got married, though, we bought a house, which was not wired for DSL, and thus we reverted to dialup. Then we moved to Houston, where, based on limited income due to law school, we didn't have funds for high speed internets. That was tolerable, though, because we at least were able to connect at 50 kbps. Then, one day, for whatever reason, our dialup went kaput, and we instead were connecting at only 26.6 or less. This continued for 3 years.

On Sunday, my wife decided she wanted to switch again, and signed us up for DSL again. I'm anxious to start using the high speed connections, especially after crawling for the better part of five years, and crawling slowly for the last three.

Then, this evening, after I got home from work, I got online, and I noticed that we were connected at 50.6 kbps again. Now this is nowhere near the 700+ we'll be getting once our DSL starts, but it's much better than anything we've had since I started school. (At school our connection was wireless, so we did quite well there with the laptop, but at home was a different story.) I find it interesting, almost conspiracy theory worthy, that our dialup speed with our current provider inexplicably doubled the day before we are to start with our new provider...

Perhaps the real lesson here is that I need to get a life.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

After a brief pause, the investigation will continue

Last year, amid rumblings that the President's warrantless wiretapping program, the one where the NSA gets to eavesdrop on US persons inside the United States without having to first go through the tedium of following the Fourth Amendment's requirement of getting a warrant before conducting a search, violated the Constitution, the investigators for the Justice Department's OPR were denied security clearances, which according to then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, were denied by the President, not himself.

Apparently, whatever problem there was with the oversight of the Executive Branch has come to pass with the appointment of the new Attorney General Mukasey, as those investigators have received their clearances now.

It still remains to be seen whether or not the administration's program is Constitutional or not, but one could argue from a strict constructionist standpoint that the 4th amendment mandates warrants and the program bypasses the warrant requirement, and since the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land, it trumps the program, that the program is unconstitutional. However, everything in Washington is open to interpretation, and I would actually be surprised if this investigation turned up anything that would make the administration look bad, especially now that the NSA has had a year to go through everything it's doing to sanitize.

Sorry about the sidebar, but with the problems with credibility that this administration has saddled itself with, it's tough to give their policies a fair shake.

On Intelligent Design

Some time ago, I started posting a paper I wrote regarding Intelligent Design and public education. I stopped, because it was tedious, not just to write, but to read.

Tonight, however, NOVA will be airing an episode on Intelligent Design, which should be a fair bit more interesting than what I wrote for school. Anyone who has questions on what ID is may be well advised to check this story out.

This is also posted on the Religion Clause Blogspot, as well as First Amendment Law Professors Blog that I linked above.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like people have to start complaining

It's Veteran's Day. November 11, 2007. Five days ago, my children were finishing off their Halloween Candy. I was appalled that I have already seen commercials for Christmas on television. Yet, perhaps even more appalling is the fact that there are those on the Religious Right who feel obliged to use the first week of November to start shelling out their rhetoric of hate against companies that dare to understand that Christmas isn't the only holiday that is celebrated in December.

According to this article on Americans United, it's not just the usual spewing of ire against the phrase "Happy Holidays," apparently, they are also capitalizing on this, financially.

It's a good thing, too. Because those Christians are going to have to spend their Christmas money somewhere after boycotting all those department stores. Christianity arrives just in time, once again.

Hard Driving

We had an interesting weekend this weekend. As I mentioned yesterday, we went to San Antonio, where we got to see Sesame Street Live, which is, basically, a live action episode of Sesame Street. It wasn't bad; even The Boy enjoyed it. We then went out to dinner at Shoney's, where I had the all you can eat Seafood buffet. It actually wasn't that bad, either.

This morning, we went to the Cracker Barrel for breakfast. This wasn't as good as I'd hoped. I've never been to a Cracker Barrel before, but I'd heard good things. Instead, I got a bland biscuit, with some so-so gravy and my over-medium eggs were very runny. The Bacon was good, though, and there's certainly a lot in the country store.

After breakfast, we went to the Alamo, where we were treated to a presentation of the fight for the Alamo by one of the speakers. They have these every day, but we actually listened this time. I'd forgotten that this was Veteran's day; it was a nice thing to see on a day honoring those who fought and fight for our nation.

We then went to the Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum. Because we believe that our children should feel like they fit in among their surroundings from time to time. They all had fun.

Then it was time for a 4 hour drive home, which consisted of far less shrieking kids and angry dad than I'm used to.

Oh yeah, and we got homemade fudge at Buc-ee's. If you drive on I-10 between Houston and San Antonio, or down to Freeport, you must stop at Buc-ee's. It's a must-do.

Anyway, the wife is out getting dinner and fixin's, and I'm resting before I start working again. If things go well, I should be able to get a few more hours of overtime in this weekend.

The kids are watching A Christmas Story, and were playing outside for a bit, so they're in a good way right now.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Can you tell me how to get

We're on our way to San Antonio today. The wife got tickets to see Sesame Street Live, which means a four hour drive with children. I've been working on my parentisms, while trying to get the kids dressed. These guys can get ready for school in about an hour, but getting clothes on and brushing teeth on a Saturday morning apparently is an impossibility. The Apple has actually changed clothes 3 times (he's 3), and has been sighted running downstairs naked on some important secret mission known only to him - he runs down, naked, grabs some item stating he "needs" it, and runs back upstairs. It would be cute if we hadn't been trying to get everyone dressed to go.

Anyway, we planned on leaving at 9:30, and we're ready at 8:51, so apparently my ire has worked some.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Busy Busy Busy

So, it's been a week since bar results have come out. It seems my firm has been quite happy to have four newly licensed attorneys in the office, as the breadth of our assignments has really started to grow. Of course, a lot of this work has come at the end of the day, where we're asked to do something at home that "should take no more than an hour" but invariably takes at least 3.

Understand, I'm not really complaining, because we can use the extra money. But I would be a little more excited about doing this stuff if I knew it was going to lead to a full time position. As it is, I'm finding myself more tired, and with less time for the family. Given the choice, I would much rather have the time with the family, but as a baby lawyer, you don't get to make that decision. So, at least for the next little bit, work is going to have to win out more than I would prefer.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

More on Bar Passing

Here's the deal. We're told from the outset that in order to pass the bar, you need a score of 675 to pass. That's 675 out of 1000. Now, that might sound like a lot of wiggle room, because you have 325 points that you can miss. But those points add up quickly.

To give you a primer on how the scoring works, I'm going to refer you to this link. That way I don't have to pretend like I understand it all.

My score was a 717. In standard Air Force parlance, this means that I passed, with 42 points of overkill. My MBE scaled score (the multiple choice portion of the test) was a 148. If I remember correctly, this basically means that I could pass the Michigan bar, as well; provided I put in a good faith effort on the essays. But I digress - My 148 times 2 resulted in a score of 296 for the MBE portion of the exam. This means that I scored less than half of what I needed to pass the bar on this portion. I still needed an extra 379 points to get to 675. I ended up getting 421. That's not too shabby.

And now I get to work from home and at work. Woo hoo.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Aftermath of the July 2007 Texas Bar Exam

So, the results are in, and I passed. As did 91.12% of my fellow alums.

I'm at work on Thursday, as are 3 of the 4 of us who took the bar this year, trying my best to concentrate on the job at hand. This is hard, because in addition to fighting some sort of bug, I have all sorts of nerves on edge waiting for the bar results. My friend Dan, who's also waiting for results, is about as calm as can be at the desk behind me. I check for the results about 4 times between 8 and 3, so not too bad, I'm sure, compared to many others. After the last check, I figure the results just won't be out today.

five minutes later, my cell phone buzzes - I've got a text message from Photog telling me results are up, congratulations. Less than 3 seconds later one of the Associates comes running out of another Associate's office all excited - "they're up! Have you seen if you're there?!" I'm currently trying to get to the site to see, and the page hasn't updated on my screen. "Hit refresh." Oh yeah, that works. So I do that, and there's the list of several thousand Texans who passed the bar. I scroll down, and see Dan's name, and then Jen's name, and then mine. The Associate looks at me, "I knew you all passed before I came out." Which I thought was kind of neat. The buzz in the office was pretty electric; but I mostly felt relieved and tired, as opposed to excited.

Dan looked up - "oh, what's going on? I passed, what?" He then celebrated for a few seconds, and went back to work. I, on the other hand, tried my hardest to think of friends I knew from school, which suddenly became very difficult. I did see Photog on there, and Red Hot Mamma, and others. It was nice; though there were a few names I was surprised not to see on there, which took some of the shine off the trophy.

Anyway, that's how I felt after getting the bar results up - relieved and tired. That's what the bar does to you.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween is Haiku Day

Buzz Lightyear, doctor
Toxic, and Ariel got
Loads of loot... for me!

In other news, Gramma appears to have had a successful surgery, and is now recovering.

Haiku away, y'all!

Trick or Treat

Out begging for loot. Back soon with a report - haiku style

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Heads will roll

It always happens. You get pulled over while transporting 2 dozen embalmed cadaver heads while en route from Fort Worth to Little Rock, and you just can't find the documentation. Really, how is it that that always happens?

I'm sure this will be shocking to some

But the ACLU actually came out in support of Christian Students. You did not misread that. You see, there was recently a case heard in the 6th District Court - Morrison v. Board of Education of Boyd County (in KY). In the case, Christian high school students and their parents argued that the County's high school students' First amendment rights to free speech were "chilled" by the school, which had an anti-harassment/discrimination policy. Back in 2004 and 2005, the school had speech codes that prevented the students from sharing their position that it's a sin to have the gay. According to the Religion Clause Blogspot, the court agreed with the students and refused to dismiss on mootness or standing grounds stating that "an allegation of a past chill of First Amendment-protected activity is sufficient to confer standing to a plaintiff seeking retrospective relief, even when that relief comes in the form of nominal damages.... [T]o establish such a claim, a plaintiff must show that the defendant's actions of policy would deter a person of ordinary firmness from exercising his or her First Amendment liberties in the way the plaintiff alleges he or she would have, were it not for the defendant's conduct or policy."

Now I think that might be a difficult standard to meet, or alternatively, it might be overbroad - since you could say you "would have" done just about anything... but that's not the point.

The point is that the ACLU applauded the court's decision - here's a statement from Sharon McGowan, a staff attorney with the ACLU's national Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project: "The court understood what we've been saying all along - that you don't have to violate anyone's First Amendment rights to protect gay and lesbian students from being harassed at school. Respecting students' rights to express their religious views about gay people and keeping gay students safe aren't mutually exclusive, and schools can and should do both."

I think there's a misconception about the ACLU that has been spread throughout the country, and which I have heard on Christian networks and programs for years - that they seek to destroy this country. Why else do they support these causes, but when Christians aren't given a prayer vigil in the park at the same time as the Yoga class, they do nothing (Yes, I've heard this analogy)? But the ACLU is there to stand up for the civil liberties of those who don't have the resources to defend themselves; and to see that EVERYONE has the same opportunities that those with the power and influence have. This should help show that they are not anti-Christ; they are pro-First Amendment. And that's a good thing.

Monday, October 29, 2007

They don't get it. Really.

At Central Christian Church in Kansas, they absolutely believe that Christianity and America must be together. They don't get it. How badly don't they get it? This was the opening anthem at their Fourth of July Picnic this year:

"You place your hand on this Bible when you swear to tell the truth,
There's no separation; we're one nation under Him.
There are those among us who want to push Him out and erase
His name from everything this Country's about.
From the schoolhouse to the courthouse, they are silencing
His word. Now it's time for all believers to make our voices heard."

I'm not old. I'm working on middle aged, but I'm not old. Still, I've been around to vote in several elections and be denied votes under a Republican Congress and Democrat President while in the military (and have my vote not counted). I've lived near and put my feet in the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and 2 of the Great Lakes (3 if you count Lake St. Clair). In all my years, though, one thing I have yet to come across is anyone ANYONE who wants to take God out of America. I've seen people everywhere who want the Church and the State to be kept as far apart as possible, but that is not the same. Yet ignorant people all over the country don't get this. They think that by making America accessible to people of ALL faiths, you are somehow destroying what God created.

I go back to the peoples' lack of conviction behind their faith. I don't need the Government to endorse my religion to believe that it's right. And I accept that there are many ways for people to believe, and that just because it's different than mine, it's not necessarily wrong.

And that's part of why I have a hard time understanding how others can't.

It just doesn't phase anymore

I remember several years ago President Bush got bashed for cherry picking his press conferences and would only pick his pre-selected reporters who would ask him softball questions.

I think it's a sad commentary on how far down this administration has brought this nation that when FEMA hosts a press conference with FAKE reporters in the audience while real reporters are invited to listen in and not ask questions, it does not register very strongly on the shock meter.

Now, to defend the administration, the White House did condemn this fake news conference. Apparently they learned their lesson from their own staged Q&A with the soldiers in Iraq back in 2003. Still, these people serve at the pleasure of the president, right? You gotta take the good with the bad. So the White House doesn't get off scot-free here.

Republicans just don't understand Compromise

How else could you explain the President's utter refusal to approve the reworked S-Chip, after Congress addressed the issues he had problems with? It's ridiculous. I understand his concept of compromise is "I want it this way, you want it that way, let's agree to do it my way," but other than showing he's a pouting crybaby when he doesn't get his way, what does this prove? He can't play the fiscal conservative card, though that's what it appears he's trying to do. He's the biggest spender since LBJ. The guy took deficit spending to new highs - I mean, we had a 500 billion dollar budget surplus at the beginning of his administration, courtesy of the big spending Democrat, and now we're what? 9 trillion? Something insanely high...

But it goes beyond just the President. One Congressperson, on Congress's floor recently said of the revamped S-Chip, "You can take horse manure and roll it around in powdered sugar, but that doesn't make it a donut." How eloquent and professional, and exactly what I'm looking for in a representative. This woman should be ashamed of herself for displaying such "leadership." Of course, opposing a program that the majority of her Constituents want is not exactly the best way to win re-election (I'm basing this on conjecture - 70% of the country supports expanding this program, so it's a good bet that a majority of her district supports it, as well), but that's not important - loyalty to the party should trump all. That's the Bush legacy.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sickly

So I had my flu shot last Thursday, and apparently it worked. I've been fighting a fever, headache, burning face, and stomach ache for a couple days now, though yesterday evening was the worst. Today's not great; I've got the sweats, but I'm doing all right enough.

It's another busy day today. The wife needs her haircut still, we need a few more groceries, and we have to go to my wife's new job so she can see the commute she'll be taking. Additionally, We're going to be meeting Photog and his wife for lunch. It's been over six weeks since we've seen them, and it's time to meet up again. I'm not going to let a little fever keep us from enjoying a good meal together.

I do hope I'm feeling better tomorrow, though - I don't like working while sick, and can't afford to miss work.

The Apple is watching El Dorado right now - he loves this movie, especially the duel at the beginning. He's memorized the lines for it, which is pretty amazing for a three year old.

Time to check up on the kiddoes.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

In God We Trust

A California school board member recently proposed displaying this phrase in all the classrooms. His motive? Because "understanding the link between faith and country is necessary to understand the nature of the United States."

Apparently, in order to understand how the United States is a country where everyone is free to practice the religion they choose, we have to put a phrase invoking one religion's Deity up for all to see...

The board member did change his proposal to include the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence.

I can understand the importance of including those documents, and agree with that. The problem comes from the intent and motivation behind the proposal. It's yet another example of how a Fundamental Christian is seeking to foist his religion on everyone. And that's just wrong.

Five Weeks In

I've been working at my job for just over five weeks now. It's not a bad job, and I'd probably be willing to stay if they offered me a full time position, though mass tort wouldn't be my first choice of work. The people are good, and the environment is mostly relaxed, though, and that compensates for a lot. Since I'm a temporary employee doing Document Review, however, it's unlikely that any full time offers will be forthcoming. Hence the search for something in Education law, compliance, or contract analysis.

Today is going to be a busy day. I have to get myself and the Apple haircuts, get some groceries, get the wife out to find where she'll be working on Monday and get her hair cut, buy Halloween costumes for the kids, and buy a pumpkin. Additionally, I've taken out the trash, done the dishes, defrosted the refrigerator, fed the kids (which can be a chore), and will be changing the cat litter directly.

Would that I could ease into the weekends, but I wake up at 5:30 when the kids push me out of my bed so that they can cuddle with Mommy.

Oh well. It could be worse.

Friday, October 26, 2007

At a Certain Point...

It stops being a "I just don't get it" thing and turns into a "What in the world are they thinking?" thing.

In what should be considered a strange series of events, Senator Vitter (R) of Louisiana added "inserted [an] earmark into the Appropriations Committee's report on a bill allocating money for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. Apparently, he wanted to designate the funds for a Religious Right group called the Louisiana Family Forum "to develop a plan to promote better science education." Here's the link to the article on Americans United.

While we're at it, why don't we provide several million tax dollars to a scientific group in Washington to rewrite the Bible - since there really isn't an "American" bible. I think the Founders would have wanted that. We know how important the marriage between religion and the Government was to them, after all. And, since we're all Americans, why does it make sense to read so many different versions of the Bible? King James, Revised, Revised Standard, New Revised Standard, New International, the Torah, the Koran, Etc.... It just confuses everyone. If we have one standard American Bible that we can use to promote better science education, then everyone will be able to learn and then NO child will be left behind.

How does it promote better science education by giving money to a religiously affiliated organization - other than benefiting those students who already know Creationism by giving them a test they can pass? I don't want the Government telling my children what or how (or if) to believe. That's my job as a parent.

Fortunately, the outcry was loud enough that Senator Vitter relented, but, really. Why should he have had something from which to relent in the first place? What don't the Religious Right get?

Friday Morning

My Alma Mater's football team is undefeated so far this year. Now, if they can win a couple playoff games, they'll win their second state championship.

I had the conference with my daughter's teacher yesterday. She's stricter with discipline than the Princess's pre-k teacher. She's also very impressed with the Princess's academic progress. The Princess is the only child in her class to be recommended for the GT program. I got to see show the Princess is doing academically on the benchmarks - she's already well into First grade with a lot of the benchmarks. Her teacher said that she's going to be into chapter books before the end of the year - pretty good.

The Princess is very active - very. She apparently has trouble sitting still. But that hasn't been a problem, as long as she's been listening and not distracting the other students. The problems started a couple weeks ago, when she started getting really frustrated and angry. But we're working on that, from both sides, and she'll be fine.

Bar results should be out in 6-7 days. Not that I'm anxious, or anything. I actually hadn't thought much about it until about 2 days ago.

Wife's last day at her old job is today.

And that is it for now. I'll have more this afternoon, I'm sure.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

God and the School Board

There was recently a debate among the candidates for school board in Columbus, OH. The nine candidates were asked if they supported teaching Creationism. One of them said yes, because it created a "well rounded student." Another didn't believe in separation of church and state.

Why don't they advocate teaching Buddhist creationism, or Hindu creationism, as well as Biblical? Wouldn't that create an even MORE well rounded student?

Quick thoughts with random trivia

Lyndon Johnson once relieved himself on his Secret Service Agent's shoe, claiming it was his "prerogative."

In totally unrelated news, I will be going to school today to have a report card conference with the Princess's teacher. I briefly got to speak with her teacher on Monday, when we scheduled the conference, during which time the teacher explained to me that the Princess was the only child in her class nominated for the GT program (Gifted and Talented). "Academically, she's a firecracker." Unfortunately, she appears to be a firecracker in terms of behavior in class, too. It seems she has some trouble listening to the teacher, which came to a head on Tuesday, when I got called by the teacher to talk to the Princess about behaving in class. That's a rather embarrassing call to receive at work. But we had a long talk after school, and yesterday morning, and this morning, and she apologized to her teacher for her behavior, so she fixing her problems.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It's not just a Christian nation

"The number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, and the devotion of the People have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State." - James Madison

I see this as something that makes perfect sense. I don't want any one Church telling my government how it should be run to the exclusion of all others any more than I want the Government telling me how and to whom I should pray and worship. But I'm not a part of any consensus.

Instead, what we get are Governors declaring "Christian Heritage Week." Because all those Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, and Wiccan students all need to know how Christianity shaped America. And, as Governor Gregoire puts it: "our Goal is to bring the awareness to adults and students throughout Washington that our nation is irrefutably rooted in biblical principles."

Bull. This nation is not a theocracy. Nowhere in the Constitution does the word God or Christ appeaer. While Christianity certainly made its presence known in the time of the foundation, the country was founded as a secular nation - hence the First Amendment, and Jefferson's letter to the Baptists (which, despite the Falwell apologists, DID intend to interpret the First Amendment), and the quote by Madison above.

This was a stupid thing to do, completely unnecessary.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Whirlwind Weekend

I'm not sure the kids have stopped moving yet, and they're in bed. The in-laws came down to visit; they arrived on Friday and will be here through Tuesday. It's going to be interesting for me, working while they are here, instead of studying.

Friday, we had the traditional dinner at Fuddrucker's - something we do whenever family comes to visit. Yesterday, we took the family out to Dewberry Farm. This is a great outing for the family. There's a corn maze, a little "fort" for the kids to play on, corn cannons, a petting zoo, Hay rides, etc. all on a working farm. The Boy had a great time, though he promised he wouldn't. The grandparents liked it, as well, particularly the shredded beef sandwiches and chips. I'm still waiting to have the jarred apple cobbler - I will let you know how it tasted.

Today was a little less busy. We watched some football, and then we went to Bubba's Texas Burger Shack for some Buffalo burgers. Not Buffalo as in Spicy (though there was a little kick in there, not much), but Buffalo as in Bison. Leaner than Chicken or Turkey, with more protein and flavor than Beef. Can't be beat. It's particularly fun to watch The Boy eat his, because it's bigger than his mouth, and a little messy, so we see it all sliding down through the bottom of the bun. Fortunately, I had the foresight to insist he keep the wrapper on the burger, so we didn't have drippy shirt Boy in the car.

Then we got home for some quiet time - the grandparents and the wife were a little tired, and I was my usual grumpy self. The kids decided this was high time to start seeing how long they could continue to move while maintaining a net volume greater than Times Square on New Year's. This continued for a mere five hours, with a brief pause in the festivities for dinner, until we got them in bed, where they're "asleep" right now.

Tomorrow is Bulgoki night; another traditional meal when family comes, because I'm the only one in either family that knows how to make it.

I need to learn how to make Kimchi.