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.

Friday, October 19, 2007

I apologize for the lack of attention

It's been a very stressful period of time in the Binjo Ditch. So, while I read you all regularly (at least every other day), I just haven't been able to comment.

I still love you all; and I promise to be back soon.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Yesterday Evening

We got home from work/school/daycare, and while we were waiting for the wife to bring home the milk that I needed to finish dinner, I decided to let the Boy and the Princess go outside and play in the courtyard. They were out there playing for a bit; I trust them to not go farther than I say.

After about 10 minutes, I hear some screaming. The Princess is crying, very loudly. I look through the windows and see that she has tripped in the drain in the courtyard and twisted her ankle pretty badly. I also see that the Boy is standing there next to her, just watching. I quickly slip my shoes on and go out to help her up and check her foot to make sure it's not broken, because it looked like she fell pretty awkwardly. As I find she's all right, I turn to the Boy and start going at him.

"Why didn't you help her? She was hurt and you just stood there like a jackanape!"

The Boy looked at me, and replied, "How can I be a brother, and assist her, too?"

Say it out loud.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Wednesday is Haiku Day

Waxed my car last month
What a difference! Now if I
Can wash it again...

As always, I look forward to your submissions.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Something So Old, It's New Again

I made a deposit into our Mutual Fund for the first time in some 6 years. It felt good. The fund was so dry; it was like rain in San Angelo.

I hope to do that more regularly.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Screw Loose

I have lost a screw that holds the lens in for my glasses. The good news is that I still have the lens for my right eye; the bad news is that I'm Left Eye Dominant.

The wife is on a mercy mission right now to try to find an eyeglass repair kit somewhere, so that I can repair my glasses. I really owe her.

State Sponsored Torture? Who knows?

Not us. Because the defendant in the suit, the United States, appealed for and received a dismissal before any discovery was completed. The grounds? State Secrets. The charge? Torture of a German national who was arrested as a case of mistaken identity and detained and allegedly tortured over a period of FIVE MONTHS!

But don't listen to my gripes. Head over to Photog's blog and check out what he has to say.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Trade = Good

I don't like President Bush.

And I REALLY don't like agreeing with him.

But when I think he's right, I think he's right. And when it comes to free trade, the President is right. Protectionism will cost us jobs. I think one of the fundamental problems with Free Trade agreements is that most people don't really understand what they are about. NAFTA did not result in job loss to India. NAFTA resulted in the removing of tariffs among Canada, Mexico and the U.S. Removing tariffs opens up new countries for our industry to sell in. More sales equals more jobs. True, there have been some losses of jobs, particularly in the low end, and this is what alarms so many. But the losses were not are pronounced as feared (usually, they aren't), and the economy has actually grown significantly in the years since President Clinton first signed NAFTA. Opening plants in Mexico and Canada have shown those nations that we value them, also increasing sales in those countries.

Killing free trade agreements without understanding the complex nature of such agreements is dangerous. It hinders the ability to sell our products elsewhere. The purpose of tariffs is to eliminate foreign competition, but it also eliminates us from competing in foreign markets. This is counterproductive to the goals of the GATT and the WTO, and damaging to our economy and jobs - if there's a smaller market, there's a smaller demand, and when there's a smaller demand, that results in a smaller workforce and lower salaries, which is what Congress is trying to keep from having.

The President is right.

Please don't make me say that again.

Transparency

The Governor knew it. He vetoed it. The People probably know it. The Congresspeople almost certainly knew it. Yet they went ahead and overrode the Governor's veto, and passed an Illinois state law mandating a moment for silent prayer or reflection. This despite the fact that Illinois already had a law on the books allowing teachers to provide a moment for reflection at the teacher's discretion.

Proponents of the law argue that the purpose of the law is to allow the students to reflect on the coming school day. Tommyrot. How many students do any of you know of that will take a moment to reflect on an upcoming school day? How many students even KNOW what reflection is? My third grader doesn't, and he's no academic slouch. How many students know what prayer is? My third grader does. How many students understand the concept of having a moment at the beginning of the day to pray?

The problem, really, is that you can throw makeup on a pig's face, but it's still a pig. You can call horsecrap hayflowers, but it doesn't change what it is or where it came from. This law is exactly what the Governor feared it was - an attempt to foist prayer back into schools.

Even if I didn't think this was a violation of the First Amendment (which I do), I would still have an issue at where to draw the line with state-mandated religious or pseudo-religious legislation. I wonder how many proponents of this law would feel about a law that required students to take a moment each day and recite the rosary, or passages from the Talmud, or a Confucianist tenet, or "I solemnly recognize that God does not exist"? When it's completely unclear where to draw the line, then what is wrong with keeping the wall intact? I don't want the Government telling me, or particularly my children, when and where to pray, or what to say. And this law is a first step in that direction.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Search Continues

I have no idea how long I'll be working at my job - one of the perils of Contract work.

I don't mind Document Review - Actually, I rather like it (those who know me might not be surprised to hear that). Now, if I could just get someone to pay me a bit more to do it - and perhaps with some benefits.

So I've gone back to job searching. I've more or less decided that it's time to leave Houston (though I haven't told my wife this - she'll be surprised to hear it). It's not that I don't like the city, well, ok, I don't, but that's not it. It's time to move on. I get itchy after a few years and this is around the time.

I've started applying for jobs in Indiana and Washington, though I'm open to moving anywhere that will hire someone for compliance work with minimal compliance experience - or contract analysis, even education law work (which interests me greatly). I guess not anywhere - My wife has put the kibosh on the plains, though I might be able to get her to Iowa... and she won't move to the Northeast. So New Hampshire is out, much to my chagrin.

Anyway - keep looking for jobs and let me know what you see. The better the opportunity, the more likely we'll be out there.

Animals Teaching Animals

Some plants and animals have poisons in or on them (nightshade berries, poison dart frogs, etc.). The concept is that these poisons protect the plants and animals from being eaten because it will kill the animal that eats it. Apparently this works, since you don't see many dead monkeys with poison dart frogs in their mouths.

But what I want to know is, how did the predators learn which plants and animals not to eat? When a fox sees another dead fox, does it say to itself "wow, he must have eaten some berries! I'm going to steer clear of those." And do they have classes on what plants are good to eat, and which aren't?

It would seem that the poison would act as a deterrent to the individual predator that ate the plant or animal, not the entire species, and in that event, the end result would be no discernible decrease in predator activities against the poisonous species.

Do animals learn from the mistakes of other animals? Or were they programmed against eating such prey by an Intelligent Designer? And if so, when why didn't the Intelligent Designer just program the predators to not eat such prey in the first place, and negate the need for the poison?

It's Friday.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Who needs the Fourth Amendment?

Back a few months ago, the Democrat-controlled Congress wanted a vacation, so they decided to give President Bush what he wanted. Because there's no better way to keep someone in check better than giving him exactly what he wants. I know it works for my children. Congress did, however, put a time limit on the bill, the Protect America Act, which allowed the Executive Branch to eavesdrop on American People's conversations without first securing a warrant, thus bypassing the judicial oversight demanded by the Fourth Amendment for searches of the American People.

Pretending for just a moment that such a law is, in fact, Constitutional (and this should take a lot of imagination, but this President has been creative with his Constitutional interpretations in the past), let's say it's a good thing the Legislative branch put a time limit on the law, if for no other reason than to gauge its implementation.

Well, President Bush, who apparently was saving all his ink from 2001-2006 by vetoing nothing, now needs to use that ink. And the Decider decided that the new bill presented by the Democratic-majority Congress, the Congress with whom he agreed to work with, because he's a uniter, not a divider, needed the threat of veto, because it does not grant immunity to those telecommunications companies that assisted the Executive in eavesdropping on American People.

This is an interesting concept. The President, who swore to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States, apparently believes that the best way to do so is grant clemency to those parties who help him violate the Constitution of the United States. And he has just enough sycophants in Congress to help ensure that the bill does not get overridden, and the Democrats in Congress, weak as they are, will knuckle under yet again. Because it's better to sacrifice not just the liberties of their Constituents, but the Constitution itself than to be labeled "soft on terror."

Wednesday is Haiku Day

Graemme Frost spoke for S-Chip
So the Right will discredit
This twelve year old boy.

Shameful. Attacking the messenger instead of the message.
Apparently, it's OK to use a child when he speaks in favor of your political party, but not when he speaks in opposition, even if the opposition is 70% of the country.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

New Additions

I'm updating my blog again. I've found a couple new blogs that I've been visiting more regularly. One of them, The Liberal Journal, is a blog I found while visiting my friend the Gun Toting Liberal. He's got some good stuff on there; stop by and check it out.

The other site I'm adding to my sidebar is not a blog, but rather the homepage for Americans United For Separation of Church and State. This is the site for the organization that has dedicated itself to one of the most noble causes in America (see if you can figure out what that is). It's an outstanding repository for Establishment and Free Exercise clause issues.

In other news, I've been enjoying work, though I would like something with a little greater sense of stability. It's nice to be able to contribute to the family fortune for a bit. Perhaps I just have to find (or start) a law firm that dabbles in topics that I'm a bit more interested in...

Monday, October 08, 2007

Maybe part of the problem is...

That this month starts my fifth year in Houston. There have been only two periods in my life where I've lived in the same place for longer than three years; both up in Washington when I was a child.

I keep trying to convince myself that I want to settle down, but I think there's a transient nature I picked up growing up that gets me wanting to move. Maybe I'm feeling like it's time again.

The irony is that I do have some anxiety when I move. Go figure.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

More on Courts in Georgia

I posted a couple days ago, complaining about the 10 Commandments Display put up in a courthouse in Georgia with the intent of influencing juries. I disagree with the Church (in that case a Baptist church) making such an overt attempt to violate the First Amendment.

What I did not complain about, though, was people praying in the courthouse to try to influence the outcome. I did not complain about people bringing in crosses, or rosaries, or Stars of David, or other items of religious nature. This is because an individual's choice to practice their religion does not end by merely entering a Government building. And I'm sure the people of Georgia believe the same way, and would lose it if they were prohibited from doing so, or outright banned from the Courthouse.

Well, maybe if it was them, individually, or (perhaps) another Christian. But at least one judge in Georgia apparently believed it was all right to ban someone for allegedly practicing Voodoo in their court. Back in 2003, you see, a Georgie Judge in Macon county barred Catherine Tarver from his court because he believed she was practicing voodoo to influence the outcome of her son's murder trial. Ms. Tarver claimed she didn't even know what voodoo was, but an employee at the courthouse claimed to have seen Ms. Tarver breaking eggs and spreading chicken feathers and "voodoo powder" on the date of her son's pretrial hearing.

Now, I don't particularly believe in voodoo, and it's unclear whether Ms. Tarver believed in it. But what I do believe in is the right to practice one's religion free from government intervention. If the judge had said something to the effect of "we can't have chicken bits (apparently chicken blood and bones had been found in the past) in the courthouse from a sanitary perspective," or "we need to keep this outside," then I don't think there'd be much to worry about. But, by banning the woman on the grounds that she was trying to use her religion to influence the trial, he acted to suppress the First Amendment rights, violating the Lemon Test.

The problem becomes more egregious, because four years later, another court in Georgia, after a law enabling such to occur, places a religious display in the courthouse with the specifically declared intent of influencing trial outcomes. But, it's all right to do so in the name of Christianity, just not anything else.

S. S. Kresge

It's been a tough millenium for K-Mart. First, their control of the bargain basement market vanished to Target and Wal-Mart. Then they had to get bailed out by Department Store has-been juggernaut Sears.

I guess when you're in the crapper, it makes sense to be sued over toilet paper. But it's still funny.

Malaise

I'm just not feeling it. I'm grumpy, tired, short-tempered, and in just a generally pissy mood. I couldn't tell you what, but there is definitely something bugging me lately.

I'm sure part of it is that I have absolutely no job security right now, and the prospects just haven't been presenting themselves.

I hate my apartment complex.

I hate having to clean cat crap from the landing every day.

I hate spending an hour cooking dinner to have three children not eat it.

I hate being exhausted constantly.

I hate not having the money to do things I want to do, and many things we need to do (e.g. oil changes).

And I HATE LIVING IN THE DAMN CITY!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Do Baptists Just Not Get It?

I recognize that that is a blanket statement, but if people can take statements made by Hillary and say that "the left believes x," then I think I can do as as well.

The First Amendment's kibosh on mixing government and religion has two purposes - to keep the church (whichever church) from having too much influence over the Government and to keep the Government from having too much influence over the church. Despite my father in law's announcement that "that could never happen," that is exactly why Christianity as a whole advocated for the Wall of Separation in the 1930s - 60s.

Baptists in Georgia, however, seem to believe that the First Amendment is a hindrance. How else could one explain their insistence on putting a display including the Ten Commandments up in a Georgia Courthouse?

I can hear eyes rolling right now, "But Steve, just because the Baptist Church bought a display to put in a Courthouse does not mean that they intend to coerce the Judicial System!" Perhaps if that was all that happened, there might be an argument there. But, despite Antonin Scalia's belief that you should only look to the law and not the Congressional notes explaining Congress's intent, when one looks at what the Baptist Church has said, the conclusion is almost inescapable. Excerpts from the article linked above:

According to the Christian Index (the state Baptist newspaper), County Commissioner Eldrin Bell recited Romans 12:1-2 and said the government needs to “be in the mind-transforming business.” Jurors, he said, will see the display and have their minds filled with truth.
The Rev. Dean Haun, pastor of the First Baptist Church, explained that the display was “strategically placed in the hallway to the jury assembly room where jurors are selected. “Surely,” he continued, “this display of our values and ethical principles will influence all future jurors.”
Just read that last line - This display will influence all future jurors. Wow. That flies directly in the face of Separation of Church and State, when one denomination undertakes to demonstrate to members of ALL FAITHS AND RELIGIONS that they need to toe the line and play Baptist.

That's all kinds of wrong.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Some Headlines Should Never Have Had To Have Be Written

Such as this: Bush Defends U.S. Interrogation Methods.

But it gets worse. This is not the first time the President has had to defend our interrogation methods. I remember distinctly some time ago the administration vehemently denying that we torture. Of course, when it turned out that what he authorized was illegal, he then blamed Congress, saying it was unclear what was and was not allowable, and what did the word "inhumane" mean? Of course, I could be wrong, but didn't he say that? That he didn't know what torture was, but whatever it was, he didn't do it?

Back to the article linked above. It turns out that the President is again saying he doesn't torture. Well, let me be more clear - of course he doesn't torture, he's the president. He doesn't torture anything but the English Language. But members of the executive branch do participate in "harsh interrogation" as reported by a set of contradictory memos reported on by the New York Times. He then stated that those he has doing these interrogations "stick to U.S. law and international obligations." See? We have nothing to worry about. Just trust him. He's got loads of credibility. We don't need to have proof, by doing things like subjecting himself to Congressional Oversight (such as requested by Senator Levin). Besides, we shouldn't question his techniques, because, as the President pointed out it's necessary. "And by the way, we have gotten information from these high level detainees that have helped protect you." There you have it. This is the Bush Administration in one glib sentence - The Ends Justify the Means.

What a great precedent to hand down to future Executives.

No wonder American pride in America is nearing a 1970s low. Where have the leaders gone? Will we ever have another good one?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

New link

On the sidebar you will notice a link to a new blog - the First Amendment Law Professors Blog. This blog is an excellent source of First Amendment issues, and one that anyone interested in the First Amendment should check out.

I know and respect Kathleen Bergin, one of the authors, and look forward to reading her and her coauthor's submissions.

Perhaps it wasn't an activist decision...

I have said constantly that I thought the President's Domestic Surveillance Program was illegal. I thought it violated the Constitution, and I disagreed with its implementation. I know I was not the only one to think that, but I didn't realize that there were members of the President's staff who thought so as well. Jack Goldsmith, the former head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel told the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday that there were certain aspects of the Terrorist Surveillance Program "that I could not find the legal support for." I first read about this at Jonathan Turley's blog - Turley is a professor of law at George Washington University.

This is stunning, in part because it suggests that the President was so intent on putting his thumbprint on America that he was willing to disregard the Constitution in the name of "security." This is serious, and if the President insisted on implementing a program that was illegal, then that should account to an impeachable offense - Congress needs to look into this.

But I'm skeptical that they will.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Where the First Amendment doesn't matter

There are certain things I would like to see in this country, certain decisions I'd like to see the Court reach. I really wish that I had the opportunity to go talk to the Court, and some members of Congress, so that I could tell them how they should rule.

Unfortunately, I'm not Catholic, so I don't get that opportunity. Apparently, every year there is what is known as a "red mass." This is an annual event where the Catholic Archdiocese meet in DC to tell the Court how it should rule on issues important to the Catholic Church (such as limiting the Separation of Church and State).

This year, according to the above linked Americans United article, Archbishop Timothy Dolan told the justices in attendance (there were six), "It is a cherished part of our American heritage, then, to rejoice in a mutually enriching alliance between religion, morality, and democracy." Now, for those uninitiated to American History, the bulk of the Colonies' citizenry at the time of the Revolution were Protestant, not Catholic - which was viewed as a religion with some skepticism as recently as when Kennedy was running for President. So, it's unclear what alliance between religion and democracy was envisioned, but from the sounds of it, one would probably draw the conclusion of Christianity (conveniently forgetting the aforementioned distrust), and as such, necessarily the exclusion of Buddhism, Hinduism (Scalia would particularly hate this one, since America is based on The God of Monotheism, according to him), Islam, or any other non-Christian belief...

While I, like the poster at Americans United, have no problem with anybody attending any religious ceremony or participate in any religion they choose, I do have a problem when any religion uses the premise of a sermon to try to influence the Court.

Research Shows

That my grandmother and my great aunt were more likely not conscientious people. Apparently a recent study has demonstrated that people who lead a "good clean life" are less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.

Perhaps it's because they have less they want to forget...?