Thursday, July 31, 2008

Water, Water Everywhere

That's what we were dealing with for quite some time. Until we realized that there was a broken pipe under our driveway.

So, two days without water and $1000 out of pocket (the damage was not within the walls of the house, thus not covered by warranty), and we now have water again.

I will say that the plumber was a good guy - professional, courteous, nice. But it's not fun to shell out $1000 to repair something that you thought was fine a month ago.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wednesday is Haiku Day

Noises in the house
I want to say it's from ghosts
Does the house have gas?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Things You Would Like to See, But Never Could Have Thought of On Your Own

The sliding rocks of Racetrack Playa.

Ted Stevens Indicted

Senator Ted Stevens, a 40 year Senator from Alaska, has been indicted on seven counts following an FBI investigation on nondisclosure of funds and other charges.

He's innocent and will prove it, he says.

Of course, being a non-corrupt Republican, he's going to step down from office to do so, right? After all, that's what differentiates the Republicans from the Democrats - except of course that the Republicans are never guilty.

Perhaps now we'll find out that the "Bridge to Nowhere" ends up leading to a federal prison...

There's Wrong, and then there's Army Wrong

I've shared my Army recruiting story on this blog before. I know that recruiters will resort to interesting measures in an attempt to get their quotas - and yes, they have quotas.

Three years ago, the army had problems with recruiters threatening and intimidating potential recruits, such as suggesting missing an appointment would result in a warrant for violation of federal law. It looks like the Army has not yet learned its lesson, as the same recruiting station has been taped threatening Delayed Entry soldiers with jail for being AWOL if they change their mind (they are allowed to change their mind). This from KHOU news in Houston, through Yahoo!

Stories like these highlight the difficulty that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan pose to the military - recruiters are desperate to get their numbers up, to keep the flow going in; particularly when attrition could be an issue. What is unfortunate is that the complaints and disciplinary actions seem to be increasig when they shouldn't. These situations reflect poorly on the military, and that in itself can cause an increase in recruiting problems. What we need, though, is a decreased demand on our military capacity - fewer troops overseas; less strain on the infrastructure. Then people will be more willing to sign up.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Buck Stops Somewhere Down Below Here

I've made comment before to my affinity for Harry S Truman. I believe he was perhaps the greatest president of the past 100 years. One of the things I admire most about his time as President was that he said what he believed and stuck to his principles. He kept us involved in a police action that some may have thought was unnecessary, but which turned out to be key to the region - he responded to an attack and a plea for help; he didn't try to fabricate something to manufacture a legacy. That, of course, is how many view the war in Iraq.

But this post is not about fabricated wars. This post is about another example of how President Bush is dissimilar from Harry Truman. You see, Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that said "The Buck Stops Here." And he held true to that sentiment. Everything he did, he did because he thought it was best for the country, and Constitutional. He was, as much as one can be in polarized government, apolitical.

President Bush is not. Yes, he plays at imitating the Truman legacy, even having evoked the name in speeches during his tenure in office. But, the differences are there. For example, the DOJ recently has admitted that former aides broke the law in allowing the Bush administration politics determine who got hired. Now, I'm sure there's going to be spin coming out, and the apologists are going to start with the talking points, "But the Democrats did it, too," "the Justice Department serves at the pleasure of the President," etc. But the point is still there - that partisan politics has very little business in an oversight position. Justice department officials should be apolitical; and process by which they are hired NEEDS to be apolitical. Otherwise, justice's blindfold gets lifted, but for only one eye. And that's dangerous when there is an agenda.

How is this connected to Harry Truman? Simple - Harry Truman would accept responsibility for this happening - or more to the point - he wouldn't allow this to have happened in the first place. President Bush, however, is not going to take the heat for this, even though it was his attorney general who approved the policy. No - it was the aides that broke the law. It has to stop below the top dogs - lest there be some evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors; as we know where that could lead.

I just hope there isn't a precedent set for the next administration, or those following thereafter.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Attention, July, 2008 Texas Bar Examinees

Take tomorrow off.

You're not going to learn anything new and you're already mentally fried. Go watch a movie, or walk through the woods.

Or, study lightly, as I remember trying to take it off on the day before the bar.

You're going to be fine.

How much do I love my family?

I made bulgoki for dinner tonight.

You don't get any.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hot fun in the Summertime

The kids are out in the backyard playing in the sprinkler.

I don't need any more reason for buying a house in the suburbs.

Though they do need some practice not messing with the water level.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Just for Laughs

My LOL Name is Snuggles Franknstein.

I found the link from RedHotMamma's blog.

And I clearly need an evening activity - perhaps I should take up bowling again.

And, just for the record,

I do still hate CSI: Miami.

Yet, for the public good, I shall endeavor to recap the new episodes of the upcoming season. No promises, but I'll do my best to choke them down and regurgitate them in a snide manner.

Good Faith

In law, "Good Faith" is kind of a magic phrase. Someone who acts in good faith oftentimes is excused for what they do. Negotiations are presumed to be done in good faith. While there is no real concrete definition of good faith, one could consider it to mean with a pure heart or with absence of malice, honesty of purpose.

Now, considering that, one must then contemplate what the Justice Department meant when they said that interrogators had to believe in good faith that the harsh interrogation techniques they employed would not cause the detainees "prolonged mental harm."

Now, not being one who's been subject to torture, or "harsh interrogation methods," and having never been waterboarded, I can only speculate on what might constitute "prolonged mental harm." However, I do know that my son nearly drowned in the apartment pool where we lived in San Angelo and was terrified of the water for 4 years after that. If that were to happen accidentally (he jumped into the pool before I was ready for him to and had to pull him out) and cause a phobic reaction, then I would submit that knowing someone was intentionally subjecting me to the same sensation would cause a similar response. That being the case, I do not understand how anybody could consider doing this to another person as an act that would not lead to prolonged mental harm and believe that in good faith.

Perhaps the more consternating part of this is that even in light of the FOIA and with the information provided to the ACLU, the documents were still heavily redacted. We still don't have a complete picture. We already know that the person who wrote this, Jay Bybee was the one who informed former AG Alberto Gonzalez that torture was defined by causing a pain similar to that experienced by organ failure or death, which is concerning enough, but combined with his definition of "good faith" interrogation, is quite a disturbing concept, and not something we would expect our nation to try to justify.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Abra Cadabra!

Imagine you got stopped by the police on suspicion of DUI and are taken to the police station to undergo a breathalyzer exam. This could be a fairly embarrassing situation. You may wish you could just vanish. At least, that's what one guy in Omaha wished; so he decided to try a novel plan - White-out. Needless to say, he did not vanish.

Note to self - White-out does not correct all mistakes.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Monkey Butts

I listen to Calvin Murphy on the way home, mostly because I don't care for music on the radio and I like to have something to keep me company on the commute. Generally, I like Calvin as a basketball analyst - he knows the game well. However, his show often will traverse topics that are not necessarily sports related.

Today, Calvin made mention of the basketball players for team USA playing in China - I don't think I can say the quote verbatim due to memory, but the gist of the interchange went like this: someone made mention that the restaurants would not serve blacks or Mongolians, and Mr. Murphy stated if that's the case, then they should bring their monkey butts home. A caller took offense to this, which resulted in a several-minute conversation between the offended caller and Mr. Murphy. Essentially, what the caller was pointing out was that in the context, people could take offense to the phrase "monkey butts" in reference to the basketball players, relating the situation here to the Don Imus situation.

Calvin Murphy in his explanation noted that he's used the phrase monkey butts all the time with reference to people of every race and creed (this is important because with the exception of Jason Kidd, who is of African American descent, all players on Team USA are black) and that he meant nothing by it. Mr. Murphy explained that this was completely different from the Imus situation because there is no way to use the phrase "nappy headed ho" to refer to anyone other than black women (which is a specious argument as you can refer to anyone as nappy-headed theoretically, but his idea is on point). One of the assistant guys noted that Howard Cosell was fired after saying "the little monkey can run," even though he used the phrase little monkey to refer to his own children, not just the black Miami Dolphin Running Back.

I'm not weighing in on the use of the phrase - I'm not familiar with the term "monkey butts." I'm not saying what Mr. Murphy's intentions were with using the phrase - it could be completely benign as he explained. What concerns me - and this is what I see constantly from Mr. Murphy, is the indignant attitude he expressed in explaining it. There's a legitimate concern that this phrase could be misconstrued, particularly given the makeup of the team, and Calvin is aware of that, now. What he should have done is admitted that what he said could be taken in a negative manner and apologized for any misunderstanding after explaining his position. Instead, Calvin decided to attack the person who took offense to his statement, by stating that the caller should not have invoked Don Imus's situation as they were, in Calvin's mind, apples and oranges. Again, that could be the case, but the fact is that someone drew the line and he likely wasn't the only one and for the potential for inflammatory results, Calvin should have apologized. But he didn't.

I think ESPN Radio lost a listener between 5 and 6 because of Calvin's inability to recognize when an apology is warranted for a statement he made.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Last Week's News

The story of the weekend, for those who were living under rocks, was that the word inadvertently leaked out that Al Maliki, hailed by many Americans as President Bush's puppet leader of Iraq, actually stated he preferred Obama's exit strategy. This was followed hours later by a recanting.

Of course, it doesn't matter what people say right now. What matters is what happens in the future. Is it really feasible for us to leave Iraq in 16 months? Is there any way to guarantee right now that in 16 months' time everything will be secure enough for us to leave? Is there any way to guarantee that even if it were, Obama or McCain would actually do it? Would there be a re-entry plan, or would we just let the country fall apart if things didn't stay "positive?"

And then, perhaps more importantly, what aboubt the Iraqis? What about what they want? Shouldn't that matter, inasmuch as it's their nation? If they want us out, then, shouldn't we leave? I thought that was the point of our invading - that they would be free to make their own decisions, free from the yoke of Hussein's tyranny. Is it somehow less tyrannical if they are told they don't get what they want (if they want what is contrary to what the President of the US wants) simply because we are a Democracy? We made the bed, but it's up to them to decide when they want to lie in it - that's the essence of freedom.

But that doesn't matter to Americans, at least, not to the Press or the Candidates. What matters is "who's right?" or, more to the point, "who is selling better?" Because people won't remember a year and a half from now what the candidates said. Just like people don't remember McCain's walk through Baghdad last year, or the Keating Five, or Governor Bush's attacks against the Senator in 1999-2000.

For all the rhetoric by those who want to lead the greatest country in the free world, there seems to be little concern for what those to whom we are attempting to sell freedom want. And that's unfortunate.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Long Week

Last week was a long one.

One thing I'm not comfortable with is talking with people I don't know. I need to know you before I can be comfortable talking with you, particularly on the phone. Seriously. This is a true source of anxiety for me, and unfortunately, it's a big part of my job right now.

Last Monday, one of my friends from high school was in town, so we had lunch together. It was really a nice thing; I'd not seen this friend in about 14 years and it was really nice to catch up.

Then, to make the day even better, my best friend called me that evening to wish me a happy birthday (it wasn't my birthday, but why carp?). We chewed the fat a little, reminisced a bit, and just had a nice talk.

The rest of the week was very busy with phone calls from irate clients (see anxiety, above). My in-laws and father left last week, as well, so we had a little post-move separation anxiety mixed in with the work anxiety. Additionally, I think I'm starting to feel my version of buyer's remorse - which is anxiety that I won't be able to continue to afford my purchase.

Eventually, I'm going to try to find a 9-5er somewhere closer to the house. It's important to have a family member within 30 miles of the children for emergencies. That, and I don't know how much I really enjoy doing what I do. It's an important job, and being the low man on the totem pole, I get to do the less savory tasks, but I don't know how much longer I'll be able to take the alternating anxiety about the calls and the anxiety about near total lack of job security.

I cut the grass today. In the back yard. It took an hour, or so. Filled 3 1/2 trash bags with grass clippings. But the yard looks good, the lawn mower and edger work well.

The kids should be going to sleep right now. They're playing hide-and-seek upstairs. I'm letting them because to stop them would require my going upstairs, and I don't wanna.

Jamie - you're going to be fine on the bar. To this day Photog and I can both tell you that the breaking and entering into the dwelling house of another with the intent to commit a felony therein is Burglary. If you find yourself panicking, think about a rule of law that you know and start from there. You'll calm down and it will come to you.

Friday, July 18, 2008


So we had the family in last week. My pa, the Apple, and I went to the store to buy some steaks to cook on my new grill (birthday present from pa). The Apple went because he "knows" that whenever we go to the store together, he gets hot Cheetos. So we indulge him. We're walking down the chip aisle, trying to find the Cheetos, Apple and Pa walking together, myself about 30 feet ahead. I come up on the Cheeto section and grab a bag of the hot ones. I holler to my pa and toss them. He catches them and hands them to the Apple. The Apple, so excited holds them up and shouts "I found the hot Cheetos!"

Of course he did.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


We bought a futon for the game room, so that the kids could have a place to sit and watch movies and the family would have a nice place to sleep when they visit. It wasn't the greatest futon - it was microfiber, but it worked. At least, until the kids got ahold of it. We've had it for about 10 days, and it's broken. The kids, thinking they found the coolest game on the planet, would run and jump on the back of the futon/sofa and pull it onto the floor. They would then pick it up and do it again. This ultimately resulted in the wood frame cracking and tearing the Naugahyde cover.

I'm very frustrated. It wasn't the most glamorous piece of furniture, but it should have lasted more than a week.

Suburban Life

Technically, we moved from the city to the suburbs. We were within Houston City Limits, and now we're not. It's nice to be far enough away from the smog and pollution to not have it in our lungs constantly, though I'm sure a good bit of it makes its way up here.

We've started settling down in the new house. The inlaws and Pa left on Monday, and we're working our way into a routine. The kids are in a new daycare; I'm going to be starting the park and ride pretty soon, and all things will assume a normalcy.

I haven't been hit with that strong bout of buyer's remorse yet. Though I do feel a good deal of stress with being a new homeowner again. We've got a lot we've got to do with this place to keep it up as we're in a pretty nice Master Planned Community.

My birthday recently came and went. I basically did nothing different on my birthday - I went to work, answered angry phone calls, answered more angry phone calls, ate lunch and answered more angry phone calls, then went home; turned around and went out to buy dinner for the family, and then the Men (and the Boy) drove down to Freeport for some deep sea fishing. Fishing went well, though the Boy got seasick and Father in Law may have broken his coccyx.

I've not really had much time to just sit and relax yet. Someday.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

It Burns Us

We've moved. We are no longer in the apartment complex of broken dreams, and have upgraded to a home in a Master Planned Community.

We're pleased with the purchase - it has everything we need and then some. The kids love having their own rooms, though I think the Apple is having some separation anxiety (this is the first time he's had his own room since he was 1).

The Boy, myself, Father in Law and Pa all went fishing yesterday. It was a rough trip out, though we managed to get a decent haul out of it. The Boy hit the rail; he was the only one to get sick, though I think we all felt queasy for a bit. The Boy also managed to bring in the first catch. He was the first to drop his line and on the way down he snagged a sand shark - about 2-2 1/2 feet long. He also brought in the first Snapper of the day, though it was about an inch or two too short to keep. That said, he hauled in about 6-7 fish and even provided us with two keepers.

We were exhausted by the end of the trip, but fun was had by all. We can't wait until next year.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Ringing Endorsement

One thing that many companies do in order to increase sales of their product is hire a celebrity spokesperson. That person gets paid to endorse a product. Sometimes, it can be simple and overt, while others are much more subtle. However, normally, the endorser will say something definitive about the product.

I've been intrigued by Rosetta Stone software - I have heard it referred to as the best language training software available. But I was less than impressed with their celebrity endorsement by Michael Phelps.

Let me be clear. I have no issue with Rosetta Stone. Nor do I have any issue with Michael Phelps, or his decision to endorse Rosetta Stone. I have nothing negative to say about the product or the endorser. The message though, is what concerns me. I've heard the commercial a few times, Michael Phelps, discussing his trip to the Olympics, decides he wants to take up Chinese. He selects Rosetta Stone. "They say it's the fastest way to learn a new language."

Well, yeah, that's what the makers say. But, who does Michael refer to when he says "they?" It seems to me that he could be referring to anyone, but quite likely could just be the makers of Rosetta Stone. It does not sell the product as the best choice out there; rather it echoes what Rosetta Stone has been saying the whole time.

I think the message would have been more clear if Phelps gave it a stronger endorsement - "It's the best program available," or "I could not have been more pleased with my results." Instead, it comes across as him echoing the company tag line, which seems superfluous, to me.

Again, I am not criticizing either the company or the spokesman, rather, I'm criticizing this particular message. I intend to take up a third language someday, and when I do, I likely will choose Rosetta Stone; it just won't be because of this ad.

Friday, July 04, 2008


The House has a gaslog fireplace. This is great for me. I love fire, to the point that I think my parents considered me mildly pyromaniacal. Anyway, it's probably a good thing that the house has a gaslog fireplace as opposed to a traditional fireplace.

When I was in high school, we rented a house that had a traditional fireplace. Every so often, we'd have a fire. Sometimes, when it rained, we'd close the flue, to keep the rain out. One time, though, we decided to start a fire after a few months of not having touched the fireplace, forgetting that the flue had been closed (we didn't close it often, just once in a while). Fortunately, we were all home, my mom, my sister, my best friend, and myself. Unfortunately, our brains weren't.

We needed kindling to start the fire. Usually, this consisted of newspaper, though I think in this instance, we may have used an old Pizza box. We had a couple smaller pieces of wood to catch fire after that, which, in turn, would start the firelogs. Everything went according to plan, except, well, that darn flue was open. We first determined something was amiss when we noticed the flames got much higher than normal. The second clue was when they started burning outside the fireplace. This was when the group lightbulb went off, and we all realized the flue was shut. Now, the stooges spring into action.

First things first - Mom starts trying to beckon the Lord to intervene, standing there repeating "Oh my God." Sister, in the meantime, determines that what you need to do is call 911, which she does, "There's a fire in our fireplace!" I, on the other hand, take decisive action and run immediately to - the smoke detector. I know that we are aware there's a fire that needs to be controlled, and what we don't need is an annoying beep reminding us. Then, because I know how to extinguish fires, I determine what we need next. Water. So I run into the kitchen and grab a glass of water. This I dart into the living room with and throw onto the flames, which laugh at my offering. My friend, though, catches on to my brilliant plan, and follows suit, though, being the competitive type, outdoes me by bringing in a bowl of water. We continue to run back and forth like Abbot and Costello, ultimately bringing the inferno under control, eventually with the help of Mom, who has figured out that a steady stream of water might be somewhat more effective, and has brought in the hose.

We survived the threat of a burning doom, thanks to the quick thinking - well, perhaps in spite of the thinking of four very calm and collected individuals.

The Declaration of Independence

Source: Our Founders, linked from Indiana University School of Law

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Ruling through fear

The first sentence, from the Yahoo! article: "The White House said Thusday that dangerous detainees at Guantanamo Bay could end up walking Main Street U.S.A. as a result of last month's Supreme Court ruling about detainees' legal rights.

Then, to further drive in the point, lest we didn't get it clearly enough, White House Spokesperson Dana Perino states: "I'm sure that none of us want Khalid Sheikh Mohammed walking around our neighborhoods."

All of this is in reference to the Supreme Court ruling in Boumediene v. Bush, which did not release any detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Instead, what it did was allowed those detainees the rights of habeas corpus, a Constitutional guarantee, where they could challenge the legality of their detention before a court instead of an ISRT. But that's not what's important, at least, not to the White House. What's important is that we have something we can use to attack the "Activist Court," and prey upon the fears of Joe and Jane American, who may believe (and I'm sure there are already several blogs echoing this charge) that all the detainees there are terrorists who have tried to kill Americans or will absolutely do so the first chance they get.

Here's the thing, though. The detainees are challenging the sufficiency of their detention - they are in fact saying they are innocent. And they might be. And if they are innocent, then would anyone really have a problem with them walking down Main Street U.S.A.? And more to the point - if they are innocent, then at some point they would be freed anyway, presumably, and then would be free to roam across America. Unless, and this could be the case, the White House intended to hold them until they died and just never give them the opportunity to walk across America. But that's OK, because they get three squares a day, medical care, and get to read from the Qu'ran, so they should be happy.

What I find interesting is the timing of the article. The attack on our sense of security, what one might refer to as a "Rovian" tactic, comes right on the heels of the announcement that a former Karl Rove assistant will be taking charge of day-to-day operations of McCain's campaign.

You see, you can't attack a candidate as being soft on terror until you remind people that we're just a moment away from a "Mushroom Cloud." I'm not saying that the two incidents are connected; I'm just noting there's a very interesting timing in the press release and the appointment of a 2004 campaign staffer...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

About Joe Horn's Grand Jury

To put it simply, here's why Joe Horn's case did not get past the Grand Jury: It was not a trial the D.A.'s office could win.

It's really that simple, though to understand why takes some explanation.

The purpose of a grand jury is to determine whether or not sufficient evidence exists to try a case. How much evidence is needed? Not much - this is not a guilt/innocence hearing, it's a procedural hearing that determines whether or not the charge will go to trial. This means that the standard of proof is lower, much lower. In fact, the defendant is not authorized to present evidence in his or her defense at a grand jury hearing, though sometimes they are allowed to do so.

What happens is that the D.A.'s office presents the case to the grand jury in it's best light. The grand jury considers the information, and, under most circumstances, presents an indictment (this is because generally the D.A.'s office will not present before a grand jury unless there is enough to secure an indictment).

Sometimes, however, a grand jury is convened for a case that the D.A.'s office does not want to try. Why would they do that? Consider a situation where there is no real crime, but there is a lot of public outrage. Or, consider a situation where there may be a crime, but it's pretty clear that the person being charged did not commit the crime based on what the D.A.'s office receives in evidence but the People have already made up their minds in the Court of Public Opinion. In situations such as these, the D.A.'s office will bring the accused to the Grand Jury and present a case, not necessarily a strong case, not necessarily a weak case. Sometimes, they might allow the accused to present evidence or tell his or her side of the story. The grand jury hears the evidence, and determines what the D.A. already knew - that there is little to no chance of a conviction for violation of the law, and rejects the indictment.

This is almost certainly what happened in Horn's case. The D.A. saw the evidence, knew the odds of successfully getting a conviction, and determined the potential reward (conviction) was too hard to reach to justify the expense of a murder trial. It also knew the public outcry if it (the D.A.'s office) simply dropped the charges. Letting the Grand Jury refuse the indictment helps keep the "rabble" satisfied that they at least tried, and then the outrage can go to the process - injustice happened because the "system" is "broke."

SNL- Blizzard Man

This probably shouldn't be funny, but it is.