Thursday, January 31, 2008

Legal opinion search engine

Precydent is a new legal search engine.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I'm Jealous

I tend to be somewhat delusional and very seldom run across anyone who I actually think is smarter than me. But Ted Rall impresses me every time I read one of his columns. I'm jealous of his insight.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Somebody is responsible

A Harris County Prosecutor made a blog post today about a dead baby that was found on the side of the road. Nobody really knows what happened. But he seems to think he knows that
someone is (responsible)

Somebody will pay.
That's the way too many prosecutors think. They think of themselves as avenging angels sent by God.

He doesn't know what happened. It's possible (very remote, very unlikely, but possible) that the baby was picked up and dropped by a tornado. The prosecutor in question isn't aware of any tornado in the area, but that doesn't mean there wasn't one.

Also, this guy thinks that praying to God for the soul of the baby is some kind of rational behavior. If he really thinks that why does he not allow for the possibility that God did it?

Somebody is responsible, he says. What a nutcase.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Vet Burials

Feministing has a post whining about providing military honors at funerals for vets who committed crimes they don't approve of after their service. In particular they think that someone has been convicted of rape should not recieve military honors at their funeral even if their service had been honorable.

I can see such a position if the rape occuring during the military service, but I don't understand why they think someone who did something bad later should have his service besmirched retroactively.

How about someone convicted of a DWI? Should we ask MADD for permission about giving them military honors after their death? It's just grandstanding nonsense.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Law and Rhetoric

The Supreme Court issued an opinion today about a prison inmate who had a bunch of his stuff stolen from him by prison guards simply because he's a Muslim and they could do it with impunity. The ruling was that they were right, they could do it with impunity. Some statute about US customs was interpreted to mean that prison guards have immunity from any recourse against them or the government stemming from such thefts.

The whole thing is totally irrational, completely ignores any attempt to consider actual facts, and the opinion focuses more on commas than on actual meaning of language.

It's an example of the way the law works. The court just finds some rhetorical bullshit to lead them to the conclusion they want to reach. That's law. That's procedural justice. That's America.

In another example of the absurdity of legal thought in America, the DOJ submitted a brief to the Supreme Court on the current gun case being considered by the court where they argued that the Second Amendment defines an individual right but that the government must be able to ban hand gun ownership because if we don't allow that people will be allowed to run around on the streets with missile launchers. Or something like that. Just absurd.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs


I saw Cloverfield yesterday. Good movie. I recommend it.

It's a thriller, it's scary, it's engaging. It's a monster movie, but the monster doesn't drive the story, the monster drives the scary but the story is driven by feelings of love, friendship, and a sense of duty on the part of the characters. That's a refreshing change from the typical monster movie type thriller.

It has some absurd little plot details but the story is done so well that you barely notice the woman running down the streets of Manhattan in heels for half the movie or the woman impaled through the shoulder by a 3 foot long piece of rebar sticking out of the concrete who just minutes after being lifted (yanked?) off the rebar is running down the streets (at least she's not the one in heels).

I'm not normally a fan of thriller movies, but I liked this one. Go see it.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Monday, January 21, 2008

Billy Jeff

I heard part of Bill Clinton's speech at some MLK event today.

He talked about the day he heard MLK's I have a dream speech. Billy Jeff was 16, living in Hot Springs Arkansas. No one in his family had ever gone to college. He says he cried when he listened to that speech on the radio.


Bill's a couple of years older than me. I was 14 in 1963. And I didn't live in Hot Springs, I lived in Austin, Texas, which is quite a bit more liberal and cosmopolitan than Hot Springs (we even had Beatnik coffee houses in Austin and gays were allowed to actually walk down the sidewalk in daylight hours).

I promise you that no 16 year old Arkansas redneck in Hot Springs cried when he heard a black guy give a speech on the radio in 1963. Not even Billy Jeff Clinton.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Why I joined the Navy

In 1966 I began my senior year of high school. I hadn't expected to be doing that. In spring of '66 I finished the 10th grade in Killeen, Texas, after two years as a 9th grader. I had quit school in the 9th grade in Austin, Texas and after about 4-5 months of working full-time decided that going back to school sounded like more fun than working for a living. My family moved to Sinton, Texas and I went back to school as a 9th grader again.

In the summer of 1966 we moved to Baton Rouge, LA. When I showed up to register for school I discovered that my transcripts didn't show me as a previous dropout, it just showed all F's for that first time through the 9th grade. In Louisiana a year in school is a year in school, Bingo, I was a senior. I never was a high school junior.

Also the only senior course I took was PE. All the courses I took where junior courses. And I'm pretty sure I was the only senior who didn't have a study hall, I had to take a full load of courses in order to have enough credits to graduate (they had some standards). Because my course load was mostly junior courses most of my friends my senior year were juniors. That had an effect on my decisions about the draft, and for those of us who graduated from high school in 1967, thinking about the draft was an important part of our day. My friends being juniors impacted my thinking in that I didn't really have any close friends facing the same immediate threat and didn't explore my options as widely as I might have otherwise.

In particular I didn't explore the idea of getting a draft deferment by going to college. My parents hadn't gone to college and throughout school my teachers and counselors had very actively tried to discourage me from an education (I was kind of a trouble maker) so I just didn't think of college as a realistic option. That turned out to have been a huge mistake, but that's the way it was.

My first thought was a simple solution. I could join the Army Reserves. My daddy was a 1st Sgt in the local Army Reserve unit and was a full time civilian employee of the unit. There was a long waiting list to join the Reserve but my Daddy was the guy who maintained that list. How tough could that be. Hey, if George Bush's daddy could get him in the Texas Guard certainly my daddy could get me in the Reserves.

Well, since my daddy was a complete asshole that didn't work out as planned. He refused to help me get into the Reserves. I'll never forgive him for that, not ever. But, it was just the way it was and I was going to have to deal with it.

One of my close friends had a next door neighbor who was a couple years older than me and a hippie type. She was very up to date on the anti-war movement stuff. It was from her that I learned about the prospects of just going to Canada. That's what I decided to do. I did two things. I started working as much as I could, saving as much money as I could. And I bought a new car, a 1967 VW bug.

The car, of course, was to get me to Canada reliably, and the money was to live on until I could figure out how to get work in Canada. I expected to have about $1,000 in cash by the time I graduated from high school, which was substantial in 1967.

I didn't know anybody in Canada, didn't have any connections to anybody in Canada, but I just really didn't want to get drafted.

My mother came up with an alternative. She found a newspaper article that described a Navy Reserve program that involved 1 year of Active Reserve, 2 years of Active Duty, and 3 years of Inactive Reserve. They had film clips of Vietnam action on Huntley/Brinkley every night and I didn't recall any film clips of dead sailors, so I checked it out and signed up in November 1966. I was 17, a senior in high school.

They had a 12 day boot camp program for Navy Reservists that I went through during Christmas Vacation from high school. We had weekly drills, 3 hours every Wednesday evening.

The Navy requires correspondence course completion and a test for promotions. The major activity in the weekly drills was completion of the correspondence course requirements for promotion to E3. By the time my one year of drills was completed (which included the 2 week book camp and a 2 week summer cruise in San Francisco Bay) I was an E3 and had completed the correspondence course requirements for promotion to E4 (personnelman 3rd class)

This posted started out as a Why I didn't Stay in the Navy post, prompted by this. But it's getting longer than I intended, so I've changed the title and I'll finish it up later.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Professional feminists

Just an observation about the complete lack of analytical skills among professional feminists. A really great source for examples of this sort of thing is the Feministing blog.

A good example is a post about the subprime lending collapse.
For activists and organizers that work on issues of displacement, jobs and housing, it is not exactly news that the subprime lending situation has had a malign effect on working class women and women of color in low income communities. They are usually first in line to fall prey to predatory lenders and usually the most viable customers of such loans.

Let's see how the feminist nutcase mind works. Lenders loan money to borrowers who stiff them, don't repay the loans. But if the borrowers are women then the lenders, the ones who loaned the money and didn't get it back, are predators while the women, the ones who got the money and didn't repay it, are victims.


The victims of the subprime lending collapse are those of us who had nothing to do with it. The lenders took loan risks they shouldn't have taken and the borrowers took risks they shouldn't have taken, and when they got burned for taking those risks the government stepped in to rescue them using tax money from those of us who had the good sense to stay out of that market.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Faking it in the Navy

Back in the '60's the USS Maddox and the USS Turner Joy had some kind of incident in the Gulf of Tonkin that LBJ used to get congress to pass legislation that authorized the use of military force against North Vietnam. That was in 1964 and we all know what happened next.

The resolution was passed after McNamara gave testimony to Congress that essentially misrepresented what had happened in the Gulf of Tonkin.

At the time it would have been very simple to discover that McNamara was misrepresenting events. All you had to do was ask a sailor who was serving on the Maddox or the Turner Joy what had happened. They would have told you.

I know the answer they would have given because I actually asked sailors who'd been there at the time what happened. In 1966, in my senior year of high school, I worked at a fried chicken place in Baton Rouge LA managed by a guy who had been on the Turner Joy at the time. Later, in 1968, I served on a destroyer that had a gunner's mate who'd been on the Maddox at the time. They both gave the same answer about what had happened. They didn't know.

It was nighttime, things were confusing, it wasn't clear one way or another what had happened. As near as I can tell any sailor who'd been on either of those ships at the time would have told you that. Possibly the senior command would have told the same bullshit story of certainty that McNamara told, but that just means you can't trust senior military officers. You can trust sailors though. Very few sailors will make something up just to protect the bullshit of some officer or politician. Very few.

One of the things about scuttlebutt on a ship is that news travels. Fast. Throughout the ship. Security classifications don't matter. When I was on the USS Hull we were at sea between the Philippines and Vietnam when the USS Pueblo was attacked by North Korea. The message our ship received about that was top secret. It probably took 5 minutes for every sailor on the ship who was awake to know about it. Sailors just don't keep secrets from their shipmates.

Things haven't changed that much. If you wonder whether or not that Iran/US Navy conflict was staged/faked by the US Navy all you have to do is ask a sailor. Don't ask some talking head on ABC News. Ask a sailor who was there. They'll tell you.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Friday, January 11, 2008

Locking them up

I guess if we run out of space in the DC jail we can expand the jail at Gitmo.
Eighty-one people were arrested at the Supreme Court Friday in a protest calling for the shutdown of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Demonstrators wearing orange jump suits intended to simulate prison garb were arrested inside and outside the building in the early afternoon. "Shut it down," protesters chanted as others kneeled on the plaza in front of the court.

They were charged with violating an ordinance that prohibits demonstrations of any kind on court grounds. Those arrested inside the building also were charged under a provision that makes it a crime to give "a harangue or oration" in the Supreme Court building.

The maximum penalty is 60 days in jail, a fine or both.

The court is considering whether prisoners still detained at Guantanamo Bay have a right to challenge their confinement in U.S. courts.

Officials briefly closed the court building during the protest. It reopened around 2 p.m.

They were protesting across the country today. But there were no protest in Cushing, Ok.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Monday, January 07, 2008

FBI crime reports

The FBI released crime reports today.

The FBI crime reports are good examples of government support of complete nonsense. These reports aren't based on surveys in any sense of the word, they are compilations of crimes reported by various police agencies scattered around the country. Many areas have overlapping police jurisdictions. Some report known crimes to the FBI, some don't. They all use their own ways to define catogories of crimes, and if a crime has been reported to multiple jurisdictions then it's likely to be reported to the FBI multiple times.

These reports simply don't have much validity for use in any kind of rational crime analysis. There are survey techniques that could be used to adjust the raw reported numbers in ways that would make them useful, but the ability to do that is lost once the FBI aggregates the numbers. And the FBI isn't going to do that, that would be too hard.

I have no idea how the FBI actually got a reputation as a scientifically oriented police agency. These are people who actually employ lie detector "experts". That's like employing Gypsy fortune tellers.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Another reason to support anybody buy Hillary

I only realized this when I read a post from The Agitator, but Hillary is the only democratic candidate that didn't support the recent federal change in mandatory minimum sentences to make sentences for crack cocaine the same as those for powder cocaine (they had been much, much higher).

That pretty much makes her a drug warrior right in line with Bush/Cheney. We don't need more of that kind of crap. The drug war creates all kinds of problems for us and throughout the world. It's eroding our constitution, it's wrecked the economy of Mexico, which causes our immigration problems, it fills up our prisons to a point where we imprison more citizens than any other country in the world, and on and on.

We don't need Hillary Clinton.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Katrina and politics

Some reasoned thoughts on Katrina, American, Iowa, and politics.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Hannity is an idiot

I was listening to Sean Hannnity on the car radio this afternoon. It's hard to tell if he really believes the stuff he says since it's pretty much the job of a radio talk show host to misrepresent things. But he's either an idiot or he thinks everybody who listens to his show is an idiot. My bet is it's both.

He had a caller who said that most people in the world don't like us and don't respect us and that the reason for that was pretty easy to understand. (us being the United States).

Hannity said that it wasn't understandable at all because people ought to love us and respect us because we're nice people (and God is on our side).

Hannity's interpretation of what the caller was saying was that the caller thought that we deserved to be hated and disrecpted.

Of course the caller said nothing of the sort. The caller was talking about what is, not what should be. Hannity was talking about what should be, not what is.

The two viewpoints aren't really in conflict, but the world views they stem from are very much in conflict.

It's one thing to try to steer the world in the direction you think the world should go. It's something else entirely to pretend the world can't be what it actually is siimply becuase you think God intended something else.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

The American Political System

One of the best analysis of our system of government that I've ever seen.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Real military fighting the drug war

I guess that makes it a real war.

I was struck by this passage in a story about two sailors from the USS Fort McHenry found dead in Ghana
During a six-month mission, the Fort McHenry will train West African navies to fight drug smuggling and maritime security threats in a region which supplies nearly a fifth of U.S. oil imports.

We are fighting two different wars, one in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, we're preparing for a new one in Iran and it's starting to look like Pakistan might be opening up as a new front.

And we have so many military resources left over that we can use the US Navy to fight the drug war in some random African country?

What the hell is the matter with us?


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