Friday, August 31, 2007

I agree with Bush

It's not often that I think President Bush made a good move, but I think his statements and proposal today regarding the mortgage crisis (how long until someone dubs it "mortgagegate?") were necessary and right.

President Bush proposed a plan to assist those homebuyers who were enticed into buying homes at variable rates by mortgage companies that were more interested in selling a house than helping a family achieve the American Dream. You remember these companies - the folks trying to sell you on variable rates because "the rate could go down and if you're in a fixed-rate mortgage, you'll lose money," when the rate was at 6%. The rate COULD have gone down, yes, but it could also have gone up a whole lot more (i.e. up to 14%), and of course, they went up (go figure). Then there were the mortgages that started low, then popped up after a few years (introductory rate ended).

President Bush suggested that the Government should assist these people, so they don't lose their houses. He also said that this bailout should not be used to help speculators, or those who knowingly got into mortgages they couldn't afford. This latter one creates a bit of a loophole/wiggle room, because legally, "knowingly" doesn't mean you actually know; rather, it means that you SHOULD HAVE known, which could make it more difficult for struggling families to get the help they really need.

Some Democrats think the program is too late; others think it's too little. I think it's a good first step, and we should applaud the President for taking an important move toward helping American victims.

Hockeytown, 98

I'm watching the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 2 (Redwings v. Capitals). I have it on tape; my father taped it while I was in Korea. We had quite a few Redwing fans in my flight, so it was a nice series to have.

My wife thinks it's funny that I would watch the same hockey game over and over again, but I don't see anything wrong with it (especially when it's one of the great games of all time). I figure it's no different than watching reruns of Fame (which I was subjected to these past two weeks) or any stuffy British show on Masterpiece Theatre (every Sunday).

At least it's more entertaining, and the acting is usually better.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Miscarriage of Justice

A recent study shows that non-smoking women who grew up in households where their parents smoked were 80% more likely to suffer a miscarriage during pregnancy.

The study did not say whether or not those parents of women who suffered miscarriages were being prosecuted for involuntary manslaughter for contributing to the death of fetuses.

Sometimes it's funnny just because you get it.

It's lunchtime, as we just got back from the gym. So as I'm fixing a bologna and cheese sandwich on a sesame seed bun for the Apple, I offer him some Veggie Tales Fruit Snacks that I got at HEB.

Then I got the contradiction. And I laughed.

Random Trivia

The most yolks ever found in one chicken egg was 9.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wednesday is Haiku Day

If you rearrange
The letters in New York Times
You get "Monkeys Write."

Just thought y'all might enjoy that.

Honoring Those Who Served

There are at least three distinct differences between President Bush and Sgt. Patrick Stewart (deceased). First, Patrick Stewart actually went overseas and fought in a war. Second, Patrick Stewart was killed in action, and third, Patrick Stewart was a Wiccan.

It's the last part of that situation that President Bush apparently has issue with, as did the Veteran's Administration. You see, the VA apparently did not want to put the inverted pentagram on Stewart's headstone in the VA cemetary in Reno, because they did not consider Wicca to be a "real" religion. President Bush has spoken out against Wicca in the past. That's ok. President Bush is entitled to his thoughts on the Wiccan religion. But when he acts on that prejudice, that's where I have a problem:
On Tuesday, following an address to the American Legion's national convention in Reno, [President] Bush met with norhtern Nevada family members of soldiers who have perished in combat. Roberta Stewart, whose husband, Sgt. Patrick Stewart was killed in combat in Afghanistan, was not invited, even though other relatives of Sgt. Stewart were.
The article notes that Sgt. Stewart's parents and brother were invited to meet with the President, but not his widow. As if to rub salt in the wound, the President did invite the widow of a fellow servicemember who perished in the same Chinook Helicopter as Sgt. Stewart.

All I can say is shame on the President. It was bad enough when the VA attempted to deny this veteran's religious choice the same respect it does others, but when the leader of the nation acts as though a woman who stood up for the rights of ALL servicemen and women on her soldier husband's behalf is somehow deserving of a one-finger salute, then that shows a fundamental flaw in how he approaches religion and religious freedom. This was wrong, and President Bush owes her a very public and very personal apology.

Rank Has It's Privileges

We first were taught that in Basic Training. What it means is that you get certain bits of preferential treatment the farther you are promoted. The most glaring example of this that I saw in the Air Force was when I had to abdicate my chair so the XO (A Major) wouldn't have to stand.

But there are more beneficial applications of the RHIP concept. Let's say, for example, that you are the commander of a group of reservists, enlisted people and NCOs. Under your leadership, these soldiers participate in various human rights and Geneva Convention violations. Their pictures are posted all over the internet, and you did nothing to stop it, curtail it, or even know about it. Or even worse, you knew about it, and implicitly authorized it, or you deliberately turned a blind eye to it.

The enlisted soldiers and NCOs who were involved? They get prison sentences (Remember Lynndie England? She got three years in jail) up to 10 years. You, the Commander, the person who is overall responsible for the actions of your soldiers? You get a reprimand. Not for what your soldiers did - they've already been scapegoated. No, you get a reprimand because you discussed the investigation after a General told you not to. You will forfeit a month's pay ($7400 - more than I made my first 9 months in the military), and get to consider retiring next year.

Lieutenant Colonel Jordan was understandably relieved that he is finished with this ordeal, "When I first saw photographs of the horrible abuses at Abu Ghraib, I was shocked and I was saddened. After today, I hope the wounds of Abu Ghraib can start to heal." Other people who are not able to start healing? Those subjected to the dehumanizing treatment, Former PFC England, former Cpl Charles Graner, and former Staff Sergeant Ivan L. Frederick.

For the record - every other officer implicated in the action received administrative reprimands. LtC. Jordan was the only one who went to trial. Let's not forget that Lynndie England was not even allowed to plead guilty, yet she is sitting in jail. Enlisted members are doubly screwed in situations like this - they are supposed to not obey unlawful orders, yet they are precluded from questioning the orders they are given. Rank Certainly has its privileges. And the Army is full of crap when it comes to accountability.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

There Will Always Be Prayer in Schools

The first time I heard that, or something similar to that, was in a Mad Magazine from the 1970s (it was my uncle's). More recently, I heard Constitutional Law guru Erwin Chemerinsky say it in a discussion on the Intent of the Founders with regard to the First Amendment's proscription on establishment of religion. It comes to mind whenever I think of schools and religious discourse.

For those of you who don't know (and I hide it pretty well, so you might not be aware), I believe in separating religion from public education as much as possible. I think that religious instruction is a personal/family issue, and that it has its place, and it is not the role of the public education system to teach my children which deity is correct, or how to worship Him, Her, It, or Them.

In essence, this is why I disagree with Texas new Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act. I think any law that requires schools to give time for students to proselytize to the rest of the student body, captive due to attendance requirements, lends itself to coercion and endorsement of religion by the state. Consider the school with one Buddhist family. Their children ask to speak their views on their religion before a football game. If they are even granted the time (which is unlikely in many instances), they would be the subject of some serious hazing by the students and their parents in many parts of Texas. Also consider the parent's reaction when a Wicca starts generating interest in her choice of religion amongst the Southern Baptist crowd, or the Satanist takes the microphone at a pep rally. All those who lobbied for the right to put God back in school are going to be hurting for a reason to deny Satan a chair as well. Not to mention Vishnu, Zoroaster, Buddha, Confucius, Baal, The Great Spirit, or whomever else might ask for a seat.

I'm not the only one who dislikes this law. The Houston Chronicle recently ran an article on the issue - click here. From the article:
Rather than protecting students from religious discrimination, the law's true accomplishment will be the creation of state-sanctioned forums for students who wish to pray and proselytize to captive audiences. ... Students could cite their religious convictions to condemn gay and lesbian students. They could promote their faith as the only true religion. They could pray fo rthe conversion of specific students. They could even promote atheism, Satanism, or paganism. ... Spring Branch [independent school district] trustee Theresa Kosmoski worries that school districts will face expensive litigation no matter how they implement the law...

The problem with using the government to fight your religious fight is that you end up violating the ideals you wish to favor, or worse, you end up violating the ideas upon which this country was founded.

You Can Call Me Steve, J.D.

Well, it's only been 3 months since I graduated, but I finally picked up my Diploma from school. Somehow, I expected it to be inked in gold and stenciled on the hide of a California Condor - does it always take this long to get your diploma?

Anyway, I have it, and I'm not going to give it back, so I'm happy for now.

I'm also sore. I took the Apple to the Y today, so he could get some good play time in (he has some separation anxiety issues with his siblings in school), and so I could keep up with my exercise. I dropped the first 12 pounds pretty easily, but now I've been hovering between 12 and 15 for about 2 weeks. I'd like to get down at least 15 more before I taper off, but any little bit is a good thing.

That and job hunting, my big deals for right now outside my family.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Bible as a Weapon

I grew up learning to love my neighbor, and to turn the other cheek; that God is Love, and various other Biblical truths. While I have read the Bible, I confess I didn't remember Psalm 109. For those of you who share my ignorance, Psalm 109 is where the Bible teaches about imprecatory prayer, or prayer for the misfortune of God's enemies.

Why was I reminded about imprecatory prayer? Because a Southern Baptist Preacher has declared it time to resort to imprecatory prayer against the Americans United For Separation of Church and State. And what has this group done to invoke the wrath of God (at least, in Reverend Drake's mind)? They asked the IRS to probe the tax-exempt status of Drake's congregation. You see, generally, churches are tax-exempt, which carries with it the burden of not being able to campaign for political candidates. It turns out that Rev. Drake issued a statement endorsing Mike Huckabee as a presidential candidate.

From the article:
Drake told his supporters that he attempted to talk to Americans United for the Separation of Church and State about the issue. He cited a verse from the Gospel of Matthew that says "if your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you." Drake said his efforts were rebuffed.
Drake did not say, according to the article, what sin was actually committed by the group. From what I can gather from the LA Times Article linked above, though, the sin committed was asking a government agency to look into potential improper (illegal?) actions by a person/organization. In other words, urging one entity to obey the law and check into another entity's possible illegal activity is a sin against God. Well, maybe not against God, but against Reverend Drake, apparently. You see, the imprecatory prayer is to be used against God's enemies, but that doesn't necessarily mean that someone who has pissed off a Baptist preacher from Buena Park is God's enemy, just that preacher's (also from the article).

It's a shame when religious leaders use religion to attack, instead of trying to persuade. It's even more shameful when religious leaders invoke their Deity to counterattack inquiries into that leader's potential improper action.

Gonzales Gone?

Alberto Gonzales reportedly is going to resign as Attorney General.

This is good for America, in part because it's unlikely, no matter how hard President Bush tries, that his replacement will be anything less than an improvement.

While it's still unclear that Alberto Gonzales did anything illegal (in part because of the frantic blocking methods put in place by the administration), it is clear that he was causing more harm than good by continuing in the position. The smart money is that he partook of a popular Bush Administration tactic of waiting until the story got cold enough to deny the Democrats a "victory" by his resignation, despite the fact that it was more or less a foregone conclusion.

President Bush, if he was truly interested in serving the best interests of the American people, should have first insisted that Gonzales resign when the issue first came to fruition, and second, should ensure that Gonzales was, or is, available for any investigations on the record. If Gonzo has indeed done nothing wrong, then there would be no harm in so doing (much like the justification for the right to wiretap my records). But, like most politicians, President Bush and company are less interested in serving the best interests of America, and appear to be more interested in promoting his political party, and hindering the other.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Election, 2008

It bothers me, really, that the candidates started popping their heads out of the ground last November, campaigning for an election next year in November. But, that's the state of American politics anymore (is it really "too late" for Fred Thompson to enter?).

The problem with this election is that, really, there doesn't appear to be a decent favorite among any of the "favorites." It looks to be a retread of 2004, where we had the choice between a poor executive who acts before he thinks and a person who appeared more interested in his hair than in running a country. So far, it looks like a choice between a self-promoter who doesn't really answer much about herself, other than to say she can take it, and a self-promoter who appears to be stronger on paper than in real life. Following behind, we have a Republican flip-flopper and an inexperienced Democrat, and a bunch of others.

My question is, if the election were tomorrow, and you got to choose among everyone who is still in the race, who would you vote for? And more importantly, who do you think I should vote for (this is a "convince me" topic, not a "I want to do what you say" topic - argue your candidate's position)?

If I were to pull a lever or hang a chad today, I would dye my thumb purple for Bill Richardson. He's tough on border security, his state's economic growth has exceeded the country's during his time as governor, he's a progressive - the closest thing to a true moderate among the R and D candidates. I have supported his position more regularly and agreed with his statements more often than any of the others, and I think he would be the person best suited for the role of President. If nothing else, he didn't try to snow his congressional district by telling them he intended on being their senator and then immediately announce his candidacy for president as soon as possible (to give people the opportunity to forget) after the election.

Barring that, I would support a Ron Paul, who is more libertarian than any of the R and D candidates.

What do you think?

Church Mice?

One of the benefits of being the youngest family at church (indeed, the only family with school age children or younger) is that you have an entire congregation of grandparents, who just love that children are present at their service. This means that the children get away with things that otherwise would cause whispering among the masses. This means when the Apple sits during Children's Sermon and waves to the congregation, 30 grandparents smile, chuckle, and wave back. It means when the Princess dances down the pew to shake hands during the call to worship, people exclaim she's adorable and shake her hand with a large grin.

This doesn't necessarily make me feel any less embarrassed by their behavior, but at least the children are welcomed by the rest of the congregation.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Shrewd Shrew

Say what you want about Hillary, she certainly knows how to keep her name in the papers. This time, it's not making a fuss about a fashion article in the Washington Post, though. No, this time it's making a calculated statement to ensure that several people make comments and point fingers. The comment? That a terrorist attack will help a republican candidate more than a Democrat.

This is a very smart move on her part, because it puts her position out there, gets her name back on the headline, and lends itself to other discussions. There will be those who will criticize what she said, assailing her for using the threat of terror to score political points. There will be the "but the Republicans have said that, too" crowd, and then there will be those who will debate the veracity of her assertion.

My hunch, though, is that she was not attempting to point out she is the best candidate to deal with an unexpected terrorist attack (which is basically what she said), but rather she was trying to make sure that people kept talking about her. This is the stuff that keeps her in the lead for the Democratic nod for President, and she seems to have a good shot at getting that nomination.

She is a polarizing figure, perhaps more polarizing than President Bush. She plays at being a moderate, when she's actually closer to the fringe, and I sort of think she's the candidate the Republicans want to face next November, because they think she will be the easiest to play "better us than her" with. Should that come to pass, then we'll see another election like 2004, where we had bad and worse to choose from.

This century has proven to be the strongest argument in favor of a viable third party in our country's history. Now if only all the real moderates and independents in this country could just find a way to work together...

Friday, August 24, 2007

School Days

We went to meet The Boy and the Princess's teachers last night. The school, in its infinite wisdom, thought it would be a good idea to have an assembly beforehand. So, some 800 people crammed into a room with a sign posting max occupancy at about 620. Since there weren't enough chairs, about 500 people were left standing, trying to listen to the new principal and her spanish translator over the din. This half hour assembly then released all the children and families to mob around the school trying to find classrooms while looking at the 3 bulletin boards next to the cafeteria that had the classroom assignments for the students. We also got to buy all the school supplies for the year (113 dollars for two kids, not including school uniforms. So much for free public education) and lug those around while trying to keep track of which three kids belong to us.

The daughter was excited to see her classroom. Her teacher is young (younger than I), and has a baby of her own. She seems to have the right personality for teaching kindergarten, and seemed friendly enough. The Princess even has a friend from pre-k in her class, so she's got a head start in the friend department - not that she needs any help in that vein.

The Boy will have three teachers this year, plus teachers for art and music. His second grade teacher was "promoted" this year, so she will be teaching third grade science, and then he has a math teacher and a language arts/social studies teacher. I actually kind of like the idea of teacher "specialties," even at this young age. I think the teachers should be able to be a bit more effective.

All in all, the kids seem to be a bit excited about school, including the Apple, who was practicing being the hall monitor, I think (or he was in training for the indoor track and field world championships). I think this year should shape up to be a good one, especially since I won't be a student along with them.

Now if only I had a job (three rejections this week, but at least they got back to me). Anyone need a landman or an assistant general counsel for a school district?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Random Trivia

A pound of feathers weighs more than a pound of gold. Really

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Clutching at Straws - Another Historical Rewrite

I watched part of the President's speech today, but I was not really surprised by what I heard.

The President's foreign policy for the past six years has been one of "if I repeat it enough, it will become true." This policy has been applied to his attempts to label his legacy, as well. President Bush invoked Korea and the difficulties Truman faced in 1950, noting that history has been kind to the ex-haberdasher, implying that he is the Truman of the 21st Century.

This is a nice idea, but it's intentionally incomplete. President Truman is remembered fondly in relation to Korea because history proved his claims accurate. North Korea invaded the South with the approval of China and the Soviet Union (indeed there were Soviet pilots in the air over Korea during the war). The U.S. intervened with the approval of the United Nations. The attack was part of a larger plan to spread Communism.

History has not been so kind to the President's rationales for invading Iraq. First off, we were the aggressors in Iraq; we were not defending an attacked state. There were no WMDs being produced, and none found of the vintage claimed. The Saddam-Al Qaeda link was refuted. There were no plans to invade the United States. The Iraqi people did not view us as liberators (at least, not in the long run), and the country was not ready for democracy. In short, the similarities are skin-deep.

The President also made comments referring to the need to fight the terrorists in Iraq, lest we fight them here. This is a rather disingenuous statement, in my opinion. As noted in the preceding paragraph, the ISG and CIA found no link between 9-11 and Saddam Hussein and no terror threat from Iraq, at least, not until we liberated the country and provided what terrorists we now face there. The President also (during the part I watched), while referring to the terrorists, made no mention of the insurgents or the Iraqi military who have been fighting us - just a coincidence, I'm sure. I recognize that it would be ludicrous to think that our President would actually come out and say "I'm responsible for a complete mess in Iraq, but unless we stick to it, it's going to be even worse. I need your help to try to fix what I've broken," but that's exactly what he needs to do. Trying to paint a picture that glosses over his errors in judgment (such as not listening to his Generals, such as Shinseki who stated the need for 5-600,000 troops to secure victory in Iraq) only shows his contempt for the sensibilities of the American People, including the families of the soldiers fighting the insurgency he created.

Like I said, I didn't see the whole speech, so maybe he did throw in a mea culpa, but I somehow doubt it. Instead, he wants to pretend he is what he isn't - a Great Leader, a man with the statement "The buck stops here" on his desk, Harry S Truman. Instead, history is more likely to view him as a different Democrat from the 20th Century - Lyndon Johnson.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness

In a novel approach to prosecution, the D.C. Court of Appeals has ruled that witnesses have the right to review their grand jury testimony in ongoing investigations. Not surprisingly, the government is opposed to this. They claim that by so allowing, it gives witnesses a chance to derail investigations.

The concept behind the ruling, though, is a little more simple than that. It gives the witnesses a chance to see what they said and to limit perjury. Additionally, it will encourage witnesses to be more willing to testify, as they will not be burdened by the spectre of a prosecutor who will use the threat of perjury to intimidate said witness. In the interest of justice, this decision is a particularly good one, and I hope the court refuses the state's request to review this en banc (the D.C. Circuit, from what I remember, is generally government-friendly and hard on "crime"), as this seems to me to be the best choice in a system where the defendant more often than not is presumed guilty.

What's a little promotion among friends?

I read, sometimes. In the past three years, I haven't read for pleasure a whole lot, but I have gotten a few books in (currently Scorched Earth, in the past To Kill a Mockingbird, Sherlock Holmes, The Art of War, Democracy in America, The Five people You Meet in Heaven, etc.). In law school, you just have too much other reading to do to worry about getting in leisure reading. A friend of mine, however, managed to get through a book in law school - as in, he got his book published. According to one reader of this blog, the book is a page-turner - you can't put it down.

Being that he's a friend (we studied Civ Pro and Corporations together, among other classes), and being he is a good writer, I want to recommend The Ghosts of Varner Creek, by Michael Lee Weems. It's good fiction, well written, by a good guy. Can't beat that.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hearts and Minds

Every day we hear new reports from some officer, general or otherwise, some politician, some DoD or Executive Branch spokesperson who speaks as though he or she has some great insight as to the situation in Iraq. That's all fine and good, but as many (including me) have said before, these people aren't the ones on the ground in Iraq. To get a better picture of what the soldiers in the field think and see, it doesn't help to have DoD PR release statements and PR interviews that are selected and screened. The best way to do it is to hear soldiers speak candidly, as these Specialists and Sergeants did recently. (Hat Tip, Vim and Vinegar)

It's easy to see how people will be able to point to things and say "these are just democrat talking points," except, the information is gleaned firsthand, from the field, from those who speak with and see the situation in Iraq. The quote people with whom they've spoken ("we need security, not free food"). They see history being repeated (a la 1920), not being rewritten. In other words, these are people who know the story and who share their opinions (and at risk to their careers, for putting it on an op-ed with their names on it), and that is what the people need to hear.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

And, we're back!

It was a nice trip. I prefer the midwest to the stifling heat of the Gulf Coast. And it was a nice drive through rural Arkansas we took today. We decided to take a little detour on our drive home and do something site-seeingly. The great thing about Arkansas is that they have all the things a real state has, plus something rather unique in the United States. We took the kids to dig for diamonds at the Crater of Diamonds State Park. It was only about an hour and change off course, and we only stayed a couple hours, but long enough to annoy Surly Old Guy, who threatened to have the Apple removed from the park for touching his dirt (I'd like to say there's more to this story, but really, that's about it. The Apple touched the dirt in SOG's bucket, which he was going to pan for diamonds, which he wasn't going to find in there - it literally was the dirt the Apple grabbed). We found a bunch of Agate, a couple quartzes, small quartzes, like tiny, and a few something else, but nothing worth keeping, really. It was fun, though, and something the kids will remember for a while, and which I'll never forget. But I don't think I'll go back. It was a neat one-time thing, and I don't really have the patience to pan for the hours those serious folks do.

Then it was back on the road. As beautiful as Texas is (there, I said it, can I never say it again?), it's a freaking pain to drive on highway 59 at night. There's no lights, there's few towns, there's a ton of trees on either side, so you get lulled into a highway hypnosis state, and the State, in its infinite "wisdom," decided to pave the road with coarse gravel, which has a nice loud effect to go along with the constant vibration for 120 miles that had my hands numb by the end.

And, now we're back in Houston, where we get to start worrying about whether or not Hurricane Dean is going to run up on us. I will fill my car's gas tank tomorrow on the way home from the Y, I think, just in case.

Now, it's time for the sack.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Believe it or not, I'm walking on air

We are about halfway home. We've reached Little Rock, Arkansas, the greatest city in the greatest state named Arkansas.

The Princess and the Apple are currently running around the hotel room being super-heroes ("I'm super-power! I'm up in the clouds!").

The Boy is playing the DS, which he'll get to enjoy for about five more minutes before he turns it off for the night.

We had a great trip to the heartland, and while it will be nice to get back to the Great State, I think I'm more made for the middle America than I am for the South. I felt a bit more comfortable up there. That, and it was nice to have family nearby. The cousins were great fun, and it was really nice to see the brother and sister in law. I think next time, we'll try to be a little faster about a return trip. Five years ages people a lot...

I'll write more tomorrow, I'm sure. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 16, 2007


In three days, it will have been three months since we graduated. Diplomas have yet to be received. I appear to be the only person who thinks about this, which leads me to believe I shouldn't worry about it, but three months seems quite a long time.

Classic films

I've mentioned before how there are some songs that shouldn't be remade. I feel the same way about movies. Nobody would seriously consider remaking Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind, Glory, or The Sands of Iwo Jima. And I thought most people had learned their lesson with the remake of Psycho. However, leave it to those wishing to reap a profit without thinking of something new. The report is out that Warner Brothers will be remaking Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee's best film.

I'm pretty sure if people could reimagine Whistler's Mother, they would, if they thought someone would buy it. But that doesn't make it right.


I'm a day late on this post, but it's because I'm on vacation.

Apparently, the Bush Administration is planning on labeling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a Terrorist Unit. This would allow Washington to target the unit's financial resources and business units.

This is a sneaky move, but one that Congress granted the President with the vaguely worded USA PATRIOT Act. Fortunately, if you're the President, there is no way to define what is a "terrorist," leaving the administration the wiggle room to define it as they see fit ("I don't know what a terrorist is, but I know it when I see it").

This is not surprising from anyone who sees this administration as one that seeks to spread democracy around the world, akin to Trotsky's view on spreading Communism. The problem, as we've seen with Iraq, is that we cannot foist a system of government on a nation that is not ready for it. It's no different than the drug addict going through rehab - it won't work until the person is ready to change. All this act will do is create a little more hostility against the United States in a region of the world where we need as little added hostility as possible.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Wednesday is Haiku Day

The Princess saw a
Cow giving birth and said "The
Cow pooped a baby."

It was a special moment.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Peaceful, Easy Feeling

It's been a nice few days in the Midwest, a quieter, more deliberately paced environment. I've enjoyed the days we've been here so far. On Sunday, I made Bulgoki for the family (The cousins and Aunt and Uncle came over); it was quite a hit from what I could tell. Yesterday was more of a turndown day, just kind of sitting around doing nothing. And today, we took the kids out to Amish Country, Arcola, IL - the Broom Corn capital of the world. There's an Amish museum there, where the kids got to see all things Amish. We also drove out to Sullivan, where we picked up some good old Amish cheese and some blackberry butter, which the kids are looking forward to spreading on their bread in the morning. We finished the day by eating dinner at Chicago's pizza. I'm not a big fan of most things Chicago, but they certainly do know how to do a pizza right. We ordered two larges for the family of 7, and left with a full pie left between the two.

Tomorrow might be another slow day. I think we're going to get some cracked corn and go feed the ducks, then take the kids out to the park to run around and get good an worn out. Several hours of driving today killed any aspirations of taking a day trip to see the Arch in St. Louis.

Still haven't made it to Steak and Shake, but it's definitely on the agenda.

Now it's time for some sleep. Talk to y'all later.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Crossroads of America

Well, after two days of driving, one lost Buddy, a stop in Bill Clinton's birth town, some Arby's, and more Coca-colas than I've consumed in two weeks, we are at the in-laws. It's been a long trip, and the last four hours have been more or less unwind time. I'm too tired to sleep right now, hence the blogging. I must say, it's nice to be out of Texas for a bit - everyone needs to recharge from time to time.

We're going to spend the week with the grandparents, maybe see a couple sites, and then get back home, back to job hunting, and back to weather hotter'n a two-bit hooker at a Baptist BBQ.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

No Child Left Behind*

One of the problems with being an unpopular president, is that anytime anything connected to the executive branch looks hinky, you take the blame. Much like the popular president who gets to take credit for the good things coming out of executive branch agencies.

The current issue lies with the President's threats to veto the State Child's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Coincidentally, shortly after his threat to veto, four regional directors of the Department of Health and Human Services (where I once had to show my military ID in order to use the restroom) issued copycat letters spreading apparent misinformation about the program (link is from the Huffington Post). The letters misstate the effect of the law and spout similar concerns expressed by President Bush. The idea seems to be to frighten people into criticizing this bill that would provide health insurance for children who can't otherwise afford it.

I prefer to operate under the ounce of prevention concept, that providing insurance for children will result in better treatment for those children, which will make for healthier adults who will be able to work more, have fewer ailments, contribute more to the economy, and ultimately save money. That's not a big price to pay, IMO, for the potential future payoff.

God and the Military

The First Amendment states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In the military, there are chaplains of different faiths that provide services for the military members. This is viewed as necessary to avoid the unjust denial of religion to active duty members, while avoiding the compelled attendance issue that could be seen as coercion to a particular religious tenet (that, and the military offers chaplains of any number of faiths; I've seen Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and even Muslim services).

The military also has a policy of not allowing its active duty members to appear in uniform at rallies, speeches, or anything else that could give the impression of military/government endorsement of said issue. One of the most recent examples of this occurred earlier this year, when the Marines threatened to downgrade a Marine on the IRR's honorable discharge for appearing at an anti-war rally in a stripped down uniform.

Imagine, then, what the military would do when faced with the issue of seven military members appearing in uniform in a Christian fundraising video. Faced with the very clear aspect of seven military officers, including four generals, in uniform, in video, to raise funds for the Christian Embassy, clearly endorsing one form of religion over all others, apparently oblivious to the First Amendment and the Military's restrictions, the military opted to, and I quote, "consider appropriate administrative action." Amazing. Scapegoating a Private, swift justice. Cover up a potential fragging, rush to the scene. Violate the First Amendment and Epperson's "Wall of separation," then we'll "consider appropriate administrative action."

Laughable. Perhaps most damning is the statement of one of the officers, who felt he had done nothing wrong. Apparently, he figured since the Christian Embassy has worked with the Pentagon before, working with them was "a sanctioned or endorsed activity." Apparently, he is unaware that as a government agent, he is not supposed to endorse one religion to the detriment of others. But what does he know? He's just an officer in the military. They aren't expected to think, or anything.

Let's be clear about something. There is nothing wrong with these people being Christians. There's nothing wrong with them supporting their religion. I have no issue with them helping this organization. The issue occurred because they appeared in uniform, and the lack of action to correct this endorsement/First Amendment violation is what is wrong.


Sometimes, there is nothing more tasty than a nice glass of really cold water.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Wednesday is Haiku Day

President Bush passed
His physical. When will he
Report to Iraq?
(For the record, I had similar gripes about Bill Clinton requiring Anthrax vaccinations of all military members, but not getting any himself)

As always, I look forward to your suggestions.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Your First Step to Get God Back in Your Public School

According to this LA Times Article, this is what graces the front page of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools.

The debate has been going on for a while as to whether or not courses on the Bible should be allowed in public schools. Many people view any attempt at getting a Biblical studies program in school as a state endorsement of Christianity in violation of the First Amendment. Others view it as a necessary step to provide Biblical education to flesh out a student's education. Still others view it as their duty to ensure that our nation doesn't get swept from this planet by the rule of godless heathens (the ACLU), who will stop at anything to kill religion in every way, shape, or form.

I don't have an issue with a comparative religions class in public schools, and think that philosophically, it is a good idea. I also don't have an issue with a biblical history class, with some caveats, such as a requirement that it remain secular, that it be a true elective (i.e. nobody will feel compelled to enroll), and that it not promote any one denomination's view on Christianity. I think, given the extreme difficulty over the years in trying to come up with a program like that, system wherein the Bible is not taught in public schools, leaving the religious decisions up to the parents, is the best policy.

However, I recognize many view any attempt to keep public schools a venue for ALL Americans to learn without feeling unduly coerced to participate in a religious mantra of which they do not adhere as an assault on Christianity, and by extension, an assault on that individual. I think this is narrow minded and faulty logic, and I think the subterfuge involved by Fundamentalist Christians runs afoul of what they claim to believe.

One friend of mine stated it best, and though I can't remember quite how he said it, it went something like this (I'm going to write this as best I can). Fundamentalist Christians have gone to a point where they have denied not only their intent, but have out and out lied, and diminished what they claim to believe because of this cause. They want the Bible and God brought back in public schools so everyone can receive their Christian education, but in doing so, embrace theories that detract from the omnipotence of God and the righteousness of their beliefs. They claim that courses such as Intelligent Design allow for "something, not necessarily God" that puts everything together. But that's not what they believe. Yet, for their desires, they will pitch it as anything just to potentially sell it. They abandon their beliefs for a short term gain, and that's wrong.

I know he can restate it better than I did, so if you come on here, go ahead and restate what I'm trying to say. It was very good, and something many people probably haven't considered. Certainly not the folks in Odessa, who sent an e-mail celebrating when they got the Bible course in school: "take that, you dang heathens!"

Check out the article, good writing.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Will work for food

Well, we only have 13 more weeks until we find out whether or not we passed the 2007 bar exam.
But, since I consolidated my loans, my grace period is gone, which means we get to start paying back now. This is painful enough, but when I still don't have a job, it makes it that much more difficult. We are looking at the budget, and things are going to be a little tighter than normal now.

The catch-22, of course, is that in order for me to get a job, I have to be able to go to interviews and go to work. In order to go to interviews and go to work, I need to be able to pay for daycare, which we can't afford because I don't have a job.

Still, I'm sending out resumes. I put out about a dozen last week, and will probably put out another 12 this week. The Career Center at school is not worth going to. Last time I went in there, I was told "with your grades, you need to find someone who will pay you and stay there." I was not happy. I'm still not happy; I'm stressed, tired, upset, and frustrated. And rather mad at our career resources center.

Friday, August 03, 2007

News Flash!

According to the latest research, programs that teach abstinence only do not decrease the HIV infection rate, or the rate of unprotected sex, or even change the initiation of sexual activity.

Now, I sort of thought that this was something to file under the "duh" category, myself. But apparently there are those who believe that "just say no" works. Apparently, these people think that by telling a teenager to not do something, that teenager is going to not do it. What sharp people these are. These people also operate under a presumption that the whole world is just like their little corner of it, and that nobody has it any worse off than them, except for the poor choices those others have made, such as to be born in rural Thailand or Uganda. You see, they should know to say "no" to unprotected sex, because we teach them to say no.

I'm all for teaching your kids to wait. But you have to plan for contingencies. You teach children to swim so that they don't get hurt playing near water. You teach children about venomous snakes so they know which critters to avoid. You don't just say "stay away from snakes." An ounce of prevention, and all that.

I'm going to go file this back in the "duh" category.

One State, Under God, Buddha, Allah, Vishnu, et al.

What is it about fundamental Christians that they are so weak in their faith that they feel it necessary to try to work religion into every aspect of everybody's life? Is their grasp in their faith so tenuous that, like an alcoholic or a smoker, they need to encourage others to share in their acts?

Texas has a law now that requires students who attend public schools to recite the Texas Pledge (first off, how many states even HAVE their own Pledge of Allegiance: 4 besides Texas) with 4 extra words: One State, Under God. Apparently, this is to remind our students that our state is one state, under God. I don't understand the need for this, other than to pander to the religious base. But, while this may be considered a Lemon Test violation of the First Amendment (Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 1971), it is what follows next in the Houston Chronicle article linked above that looks more clearly to violate the First Amendment.

According to the article, the students are not *required* to recite those four extra words. Rather, students who object to saying the pledge or making the reference to God can bring a written note from home excusing them from participating. In other words, what this law does is compel the invocation of God by all students in Texas, be they Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, Zoroastrian, or whatever. And in order to not participate, what they must do is bring attention to themselves by presenting a written waiver from home. This is nothing short of state sponsored coercion of a religion more on all students in Texas, compelling them to stay in line and follow the status quo, lest the students be alienated for thinking differently. For those who are unaware, State Sponsored Coercion of religion in public schools is also unconstitutional under the Coercion Test (from Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577, 1992).

If one disputes the intent of the law, one need just listen to the statement of State Representative Debbie Riddle, who claims it had always bothered hoer that God was omitted in the state's pledge: "Personally, I felt like the Texas pledge had a big old hole in it, and it occurred to me, 'You know what? We need to fix that. Our pledge is perfectly OK like it is with the exception of acknowledging that just as we are one nation under God, we are one state under God as well." Read differently, what Ms. Riddle says, essentially, is, "I am a Christian, and I want everyone here to follow what I hold dear and do what I want to do." This is not representative of the concept of a representative democracy, and it surely does nothing to look out for the minority from the oppression of majority.

This law was unnecessary. The phrase was unnecessary, and the compelling nature of the phrase does little more than lead toward situations not unlike Sante Fe ISD v. Doe, which resulted in a very real witch hunt for the (use your own expletive here) who objected to the recitation of a prayer at school events. While those individuals may very well have lynched the heathen who disagreed with their God, it's unlikely that objections to the new phrase in the Pledge would do so. Instead, I think we'll see a "kinder, gentler" form of hatred manifesting itself against these children who dare to believe differently.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


I get to be a stay at home dad this week and next week. We don't have the money to put the kids in daycare, and I'm not employed, and after a summer of seeing the kids for about an hour a day, it's a welcome change. We've been pretty active the past few days; we go to the park in the morning, then while the Apple is taking his nap, I do a little housework, which has been piling up over the summer.

It looks like we're going to be able to take a vacation this summer. It'll be nice to get out of Texas for a week. The wife hasn't had a break in 3 years, so she is definitely overdue. The Boy and the Princess have not been out of state since 2002, and the Apple's never been out of Texas, so it'll be a nice change for them. We're going to drive (yes, road trip with kids. I'm already getting my dadisms ready) up to Indiana to visit the grandparents. it's only about 950 miles, so it shouldn't be too bad. Being dad, I am comfortable with driving past landmarks without stopping ("look kids, there's the St. Louis Arch, and the Ozarks, and the Mounds!), so I should be able to get there in about a day and a half, accounting for stops for the kids and wife, who, despite my pleas to the contrary, insists on having a bladder. Anyway, it's going to be nice to take the kids on a trip, and eat at Steak and Shake once again.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Wednesday is Haiku Day

"Impeach Bush!" some shout.
But, is incompetence an
Impeachable crime?

As always, I look forward to your contributions