Friday, February 29, 2008

Austin Lounge Lizards

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Who you gonna call?

"It's 3 a.m. and your children are safely asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?"

I want the guy who's been up doing cocaine all night because he'll be awake and alert at 3 am. We don't want some woman waking up at 3 am and wondering where her husband is to answer that phone.

Update: Althouse thinks the ad's effective.

Labels: , ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Building a fence

I don't understand what's going on with this fence we're building along the Rio Grande.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Teenage drivers.

I can't relate to this. It seems that only about 30% or so of teenagers get their driver's license when they are 16 and first able to legally drive.

Althouse talks about it briefly.

I got my first car when I was 13. I got my first license suspension (for driving without a license) when I was 15. I lived in a small town in South Texas (Sinton, Texas) when I turned 16. Kids drove. By then I had a 1956 Chevy, a much hotter car than the first one, and cruising through town to Land's Drive Inn Hamburgers ala American Graffiti was a regular event.

The main problem kids have today is the cost. It's just gotten completely out of hand. If he shops around a kid can find a decent car for $1,000. But liability insurance will cost him more than that for the first year. Insurance for the family car goes through the roof if daddy carries liability and comprehensive and lets the 16 year old drive it. And back when I got a ticket for no license it was no big deal. The fine was less than a weekly paycheck at my part-time gas station job. Today that's a jailable offense.

It's a different world. I really can't relate to the world today's kids have to live in. I feel sorry for them.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Sober, but DWB

Maricopa County, Arizona is the home that Sheriff that always gets himself on TV proclaiming himself to be "America's Toughest Sheriff".

This is how Tough Guys run things in Arizona. He's a coward who bows to anybody with a little money and destroys innocent people who can't defend themselves.

Labels: , ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

An update on Ryan Frederick

The Agitator has an update of the guy in Virginia who's sitting in jail, the victim of really bad police work that had a tragic consequence.

Frederick was a garden hobbyist, who had converted part of his garage to a nursery. An informant told police (falsely) that Frederick had a marijuana grow operation in his garage. They didn't investigate past sending the informant in to burglarize Fredericks home for reasons which are unclear.

A few days after his home had been burglarized Frederick awoke to a home invasion. He fired at whoever was trying to break in his front door. One cop dead. One guy who'd been minding his own business until attacked in his home in jail on first degree murder charges.

The police version of the raid does not agree with Frederick's version. Neighbor's who witnessed the raid give a version which agrees with Frederick's version.

This is not a gang-ridden neighborhood. It's a working class neighborhood, the police chief lives a block away.

This is the kind of crap giving too much power to the government gets you.

Labels: ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

The Spoiler Candidate

Nader has decided to waste his time running for President again.

Some are calling him a spoiler candidate, one who won't accomplish anything but draining enough votes from the democratic candidate to tilt the outcome towards electing McMcain.

But with him in the race I think the spoiler candidate is Hillary.

Before he joined the race she had some chance of winning the election. Not much, but some. If she can beat Obama then she might be able to beat McCain. It's not a sure thing that she could, but she'd have a shot.

Not with Nader in the race. With Nader an option there's no chance in hell she could beat McCain in the general election.

If she manages to win the nomination she will not get at least some of the votes that would have gone to Obama. That's a sure thing. That's whether Nader is in the race or not. But enough democrats will refuse to vote for a republican that she might get enough of the Obama votes to carry the election. But if they can vote for Nader then it's very likely that enough of them would rather vote for him and let McCain win than they would see Hillary in the White House.

That's the way I feel about it. Richardson or Edwards were candidates I could support. Obama is one I could vote for. McCain is one that I don't think I could vote for, but I think he'd make a better President in some ways than Hillary.

The problem with the Hillary McCain matchup is that they're both evil, just in different ways. You can't really say one is the lessor evil. So, in that case, to hell with it, just vote for Nader as a protest vote. In an Obama McCain matchup you have Obama as both a protest vote and a vote for a guy who might actually make a good President.

Hillary should give it up. For the good of the country.

Labels: , , ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Construction sites

When I was a kid construction sites made wonderful playgrounds. Texas summers get hot and construction workers would typically work from really early in the morning until about 2pm on those very hot days. That left the sites open for exploration by us kids.

In Flordia that would be a felony these days. If we don't start making those felons early we might start cut into the long term profitability of prisons.

Labels: ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Friday, February 22, 2008

Obama and the 2nd Amendment

Obama thinks that the 2nd amendment protects an individual right to own guns. Charlton Heston should be proud.

Labels: ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

He blew his nose

Althouse writes about Obama blowing his nose and actually getting applause from the crowd and newspaper articles about it (and blog posts too, I guess).

I don't really have anything to say about it other than I got praise for blowing my nose once.

It was when I was a kid, probably about 8 or so. I think 8 is right, I think I was in the third grade. I was a narrator for the Christmas pageant at our family's church. I stood up in the pulpit giving a memorized script as other kids acted out virgin child birth in the background. They had a little wooden step ladder for me to stand on so my head would poke out above the pulpit.

I had a cold and runny nose. Before I went up to the pulpit my mother game me a fresh handkerchief. It had little roses on the corners. A woman's handkerchief. Very feminine. About half way through the presentation I needed to blow my nose. I couldn't pull out this woman's handkerchief in front of this crowd of people. I was a boy, not just a boy but a Texas boy. That clearly just wasn't going to work. But snot rolling down to my upper lip wasn't going to work either.

So I hit on the solution. During the birth contractions of play I figured no one would be watching me and I stepped down so that I was hidden by the pulpit and used my momma's handkerchief to blow my nose. I didn't realize how sensitive the mic was though.

Anyway, my grandmother had been in the crowd. This was a big deal since our church was Lutheran and my grandmother was a West Texas Methodist. For her to go to a Liberal Lutheran church was a pretty big deal.

After the event my grandmother told me how proud she was of me for being so grown up and going out of my way to hide the snot from the crowd by stepping out of sight when I blew my nose.

Until she said that it hadn't occured to me that it might be rude to blow my nose publically, I was just hiding the shame of having a woman's handkerchief.

Note: The spell check is broken on my blogspot and I wasn't sure about the spelling of handkerchief. I thought I knew how to spell it, but I wasn't sure about the ie or ei in chief. I never can get that stuff right. So I put the word in my word processor to check it and discovered that I not only didn't know how to spell the word, I guess I can't pronounce it either. I had thought it was hankerchief.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

They don't always stop trying to kill him

Three times the State of Texas convicted John Penry of a 1978 murder. Three times they got a death sentence. Three times the US Supreme Court overturned it, usually because of Penry's severe mental retardation. The one thing the State of Texas managed to do in their attempts to kill Penry was to get it clearly established that you can't execute someone who is sufficently mentally retarded that he'll save part of his last meal to finish after the execution. We can't do that anymore.
The long saga of convicted murderer Johnny Paul Penry, whose case helped push mental retardation into the national debate over capital punishment, ended Friday with a plea agreement to a life sentence.

Penry, one of Texas' best-known death row inmates, agreed to three life sentences and to a stipulation that he was not mentally retarded, in spite of what his lawyers have asserted for almost three decades. His death sentence had been overturned three times, most recently in 2005, because of problems in instructing the jury how to weigh the mitigating effect of his mental capacity.

Guilt was never an issue in his case. The 51-year-old admitted killing Pamela Moseley Carpenter in Livingston in October 1979. Penry forced his way into Carpenter's home, where he had delivered appliances weeks earlier, and stabbed her to death with a pair of scissors after sexually assaulting her. He had been out of prison only three months after serving two years of a five-year sentence for rape.

Penry, who will be transferred to a Texas Department of Criminal Justice diagnostic unit next week, had to apologize to Carpenter's family as part of the agreement.

"I have committed a bad act and I have caused them a lot of pain," Penry said from the witness stand in a courtroom at the Polk County Courthouse. "I didn't have no right to do what I did. I am very sorry to each one of you. I thank you all very much for what you have done for me."

Penry also agreed to forfeit credit for the time he has already served in exchange for the sentences, which District Judge Fred Edwards ordered to run consecutively. The capital murder laws in effect in 1979 required an inmate to serve 25 years in prison before parole would be considered.

In the plea bargain, however, Penry agreed to serve life without parole, which was an option added by the Texas Legislature in 2005.

"For the first time in 28 years, he's free of that threat of death," said John Wright, who has represented Penry since the beginning. "I've been wanting a life sentence in this case since 1979."

'Just and appropriate'
Polk County District Attorney Lee Hon explained that pursuing a death sentence for a fourth time was "impractical and unwise" even though he believes Penry deserves it.

Hon said there were several reasons to strike a deal. Getting a jury instruction on mitigating evidence that would survive the scrutiny of appeals courts was tricky, he said, because his case predates a state law that revised the procedure. Also, former DA Joe Price, who had been involved in Penry's three previous trials, died in 2003 and took much institutional knowledge of the case with him. And if a jury in the upcoming trial failed to give Penry a death sentence, he would have been eligible for parole consideration immediately.

"I will always remain convinced that the three prior jury sentences of death were just and appropriate given the nature of Penry's violent crime and criminal background," Hon said in a prepared statement.

Carpenter's family, which filled half the courtroom, had long been resolved to the possibility that Penry would not be executed. Although no jury found him to be retarded — a status which ultimately would have exempted him from the death penalty — appeals courts have struggled to reconcile his limited intellect with the particular sentencing scheme Texas employed at the time.

"I am very, very happy that it's over with," said Ellen May, Carpenter's niece, who for years has spoken for the family. "We got two things we wanted. He is going to stay in prison for life. One of the main reasons why we were pushing so hard for death is that we knew what a life sentence meant in Texas (in 1979). The second thing is that he admitted he is not retarded. Now we know that he was lying. He's committed the biggest fraud ever on the criminal justice system."

First convicted in 1980
Wright said the legal agreement stating Penry is not retarded was a small price to pay for no longer facing execution.

"Johnny stipulated that he wasn't retarded, but look what he got for it," Wright said. "I think a lot of people can understand that. It's galling for them to even ask for that, but we made the deal so we are not going to try to change it."

The ex post facto agreement to life without parole might not be legally enforceable, Hon and Wright acknowledged, but they said it's also not likely to be challenged.

"For a man who is 51 years old, how much difference can that really make?" Wright said. "You think after he serves three life terms that anybody is going to worry whether the (life without parole) was proper?"

Penry was first convicted in 1980. The death sentence was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1989, with the court holding that Texas' sentencing scheme was flawed because it did not allow juries to properly consider mitigating evidence — in this case, Penry's limited intellect.

Legislators revised the capital punishment statute in 1991, but Penry's resentencing trial had taken place the year before. Although the trial court judge attempted to fashion a jury charge in accordance with the Supreme Court's ruling, the high court found his effort deficient and again tossed the death sentence.

Legal journey
Penry was tried a third time in 2002. During that proceeding the Supreme Court came down with a ruling that barred states from executing the mentally retarded. The Atkins v. Virginia decision did not set forth a procedure for determining a defendant's mental status, leaving that to the states.

Rather than declare a mistrial and wait for legislative action, the trial judge proceeded and Penry was again sentenced to death despite an instruction to jurors to consider what other weight his mental capacity might carry even if they found him not retarded.

The jury sentenced him to die a third time, but the judge's instruction did not pass muster with the Texas Court of Criminal appeals, which in 2005 overturned the death sentence on a 5-4 vote and ordered yet another trial.

The third reversal was enough to convince both Penry's attorney and members of Carpenter's family that appellate courts were not inclined to agree with his execution and would find a reason to overturn any death sentence.

IQ said to be below 70
Death penalty opponents have made Penry something of a cause célèbre. They say he is mentally retarded and should have had his sentence commuted to life in 2002. His attorneys have argued since the beginning that Penry was mentally impaired. They contended that tests revealed an IQ below 70, well below the threshold of retardation, and that he meets other criteria as well.

Prosecutors say Penry is a remorseless killer who feigned limited intelligence to escape the death penalty.

Carpenter's relatives have called the repeated reversals "a travesty," classic instances of legal technicalities that have no real bearing on the decision of any of the juries that heard his case.

It's all about winning to these clowns. They decided that it's enough to just get it written down that he's not retarded to try to justify their efforts for the last 30 years to kill him.

But it looks like Texas will get to kill Jack Smith. Maybe that makes up for it.
The oldest condemned man in Texas lost an appeal Tuesday before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jack Harry Smith, who turned 70 two days before Christmas, has been on death row nearly 30 years for a fatal shooting during a $90 robbery of a Houston store. Only six of the 371 prisoners awaiting execution in the state have been on death row longer.

Justices, without comment Tuesday, refused to review his case. The decision means Smith is likely to get an execution date if the high court upholds the current lethal injection procedures now under Supreme Court review. A decision in that Kentucky case, which has left executions in Texas under a de facto hold, is expected before the court's current term ends early this summer.

Smith last year lost an appeal before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that challenged his 1978 conviction and death sentence. It was that ruling the Supreme Court was asked to review.

Among his claims was one that his trial lawyer failed to investigate robbery-assault and theft convictions Smith had in 1955, plus another robbery-assault conviction in 1959 that then earned Smith a life prison term. He also had a prison escape attempt in 1963.

According to his appeal, the failure to investigate what Smith contended were improper convictions in 1955 and 1963 prompted him to waive his right to testify at his 1978 capital murder trial. If he had testified, jurors would not have sentenced him to death, Smith's appeal contended.

The 5th Circuit disagreed, upholding a federal district judge's ruling in 2006 that also turned down his appeal.

Smith was paroled from his life sentence Jan. 8, 1977, after serving 17 years. One day short of a year later, on Jan. 7, 1978, Smith and an accomplice were arrested the same day Roy A. Deputter was gunned down while trying to stop a holdup at a Houston convenience store known as Corky's Corner.

The accomplice, Jerome Lee Hamilton, received a life sentence and testified against Smith, who received a death sentence. Smith, a former welder who completed only six years of school, arrived on death row Oct. 9, 1978. He's been there since.

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Smith in 1985, but little happened in the case after that. Unlike procedures now in place, no time deadlines forced appeals to move through the courts. Attorneys suggested the trial judge, who died in 1997, wasn't inclined to move the case forward.

The lawyer handling Smith's initial appeals died in 1999. The attorney now handling his appeals, Ken McLean, did not immediately return a call Tuesday from The Associated Press.

In an interview with the AP in 2001, Smith complained about the lack of progress in his case.

"I feel that the system is waiting for me to pass away of old age," said Smith, who has had health problems in prison, including cancer. "I'm angry at the justice system, at the courts for wasting taxpayers' money for giving me this hospitality."

He said he never was in the store where Deputter was killed.

A witness identified Smith as one of two gunmen — one armed with a shotgun and the other with a pistol.

Deputter, who lived behind the store and helped out the owner, walked in on the holdup, pulled his own gun and exchanged shots with the robbers. He was shot once in the heart and once in the head. Besides Hamilton, a cashier at the store also testified against Smith at his trial.

Hamilton was paroled in February 2004. Smith said he'd been offered a life sentence before his trial but refused to plead guilty to a crime he said he didn't do.

Labels: , ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Monday, February 18, 2008

Two reasons Americans are just dumb

The NYT has a review of another new book by some smart person who wrote a book about the lack of interest in knowledge of many Americans. It sounds like an interesting book, but I've read enough similar books in the past that I don't know that I'm going to read this one.

I have a couple of comments about the book in a minute, but first I'll point out that the reviewer is a pretentious twit who writes sentences such as
Then there is Lee Siegel’s Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob which inveighs against the Internet for encouraging solipsism, debased discourse and arrant commercialization.

Anybody that uses big words must be smart.

But the author of The Age of American Unreason doesn't seem to write that way, at least in the quotes in the interview she doesn't talk that way.

The book seems to lay the blame for Stupid Americans at the feet of religion and our educational systems.

I tend to agree but I think that religion isn't really a root cause. I think if we had a good educational system that the kind of ignorant religious fundementalsim that we have in America could not flourish.

Our educational system, both in K-12 and college programs, has taken the position that education equals certification and that everybody has the right to be certified. We've decided that it's morally wrong to deny someone a degree.

I think we reached that spot by putting too many mushy headed pretentious twits in charge of the system. They confused correlation with causation, probably because they were so busy learning big words that they never learned fundemental concepts. Of course, now educated people don't even have to learn big words, although it helps.

People with degrees, high school degrees, college degrees, graduate degrees, made more money than those without. So the solution our politicos and educational gurus came up with to solve our social and economic problems was to make sure everybody got a degree. But in order to accomplish that they had to structure it so that no one gets an education.

I've mentioned before that I quit school when I was 14. That was legal in 1963. It required parental permission at 14, but the school system didn't really see any reason to force a 14 year old who didn't want to go to school to go. Now we do. We have laws that require it. A 14 year old who doesn't go to school ends up in the juvenile system and parents that allow it end up charged with some kind of criminal neglect. Because every body needs a high school degree. We have to mandate it.

So our middle schools and high schools become baby sitting operations rather than educational institutions. We fill them up with kids who don't want to be there, who aren't going to learn if you hit them in the head with a 2x4.

I promise you that I wouldn't have learned a damn thing in school if I'd been required to attend instead of allowed to quit at 14. But I was not stupid, it only took me a few months inside the working world of 14 year olds to discover that school might not be such a bad idea after all - that an education might not be a bad idea after all.

One of the experiences that taught me the value of an education was a craps game I got invovled in with some cowboys at a Resort Ranch in Wimberley, Texas that I worked at. These cowboys, most of whom had a 6th grade or 8th grade education simply did not have the skills to figure out simple odds on a bet about dice. I'd always been interested in puzzles and simple mathematical games, even if I didn't pay attention in school, and it game me a huge edge in that craps game (there was no house, all bets were negotiated between the players). There's a tendency for people to want to make even money bets even when the odds are highly skewed.

So I did return to school and did finish high school and went to college and got a degree and went to graduate school and got graduate degrees. But I'm not sure any of that would have happened if they'd have tried to make me stay in school when I was 14.

Everybody suffers when you fill up the schools with people who don't want to learn.

I have more I want to say about out educational systems, about college admissions, and degree programs, and graduate programs, but this post has gotten long enough so I'll stop for now.

Labels: ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pick your relatives carefully

A guy in California is being held in a Federal lockup, without bail, on a charge of the crime of giving his brother some money. No bail.

Labels: ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

I plead the fifth

That's what a murder suspect said during a police interrogation in California. He said it shortly after he'd told them he didn't want to talk to them anymore.

He didn't ask for a lawyer. In fact, earlier he'd explicitly told them he didn't need a lawyer. Then they interregated him for two hours. Then he decided he was finished talking to them.

The Supreme Court has made it pretty clear that police have to stop interregations when a suspect says he wants a lawyer or when a suspect no longer wants to talk to them. The not wanting to talk part is protected by the fifth amendment.

It's an important amendment, not just for protecting the rights of the accused but also for protecting justice itself. Most crime suspects aren't really very bright. The typical police interregation is two on one. Two guys of average intelligence mentally pounding on one guy of below average intelligence. Suspects get confused. Sometimes very confused. They make false confessions. They really do. Texas, Illinois, Mississippi, and New York are some of the states that have had recent released from prison in the news after people who'd confessed had been proven to have given false confessions. It happens more often than we want to beleive.

If he doesn't want to talk, you stop asking questions. That's it, that's the rule, and it's actually a good rule that protects the very concept of justice.

But, of course, the law always has exceptions. In this case one exception is that interrogators can ask clarifying questions if a suspect makes an ambigious statement about not wanting to talk any longer.

Is "I plead the fifth" ambigious.

Apprantly it is to at least two Federal Appeals Court judges. Most of the court did not find the statement ambigious and the conviction based on the coerced conviction was rightly overturned. But two of them did.

What the hell is the matter with these people? Does law school do something that causes people's brains to just be fried?

See also and this.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Did they lie to Congress? We can't allow that.

At least that's what Congress is saying about baseball players. I was reminded of that when I ran across this old headline from a San Franciso Chronicle from last month (sometimes it takes me a while to look at my RSS feeds).
Congress Seeking Tejada Investigation

Congress asked the Justice Department to investigate whether former AL MVP Miguel Tejada lied to House committee staff when he was interviewed in 2005 in connection with the Rafael Palmeiro steroids case.

Of course the more recent headlines are about Roger Clemens, but it's all the same. Baseball. That's important. We have to get to the bottom of that.

If we let baseball players get away with cheating then it might disrupt the business of some of those off shore sports books, and that would be un-American. We need baseball players to be role models for our children because we have no other options. Who else can our children look up to as role models? Parents? Congressmen? I don't think so.

After all, it's the parents who voted for this batch of weasels we call Congress, so they can't be any smarter than a tree limb. When Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Rice, Powell lied to Congress we didn't have a Congressional investigation. They didn't want to know about it. Because they're a bunch of gutless, spineless, weasels who already knew they were being lied to but were afraid to do anything about it.

And, no it wasn't faulty intelligence. It was lies. Lies to Congress. To the UN. To the American people. Possibly even just lies to themselves.

We know, and knew then, that they were lieing becuase of specific lies from Runsfeld and Powell. Before the invasion of Iraq, they justified it by telling us not just that Iraw had weapons of mass destruction, not just that we knew that beyond any doubt, but that we knew the locations of the WMD's.

That had to have been alie. They did not know where they where. Because if they did know we would not have needed to invade. The lies they told us to justify the invasion, if true, did not justify the invasion, they justified an air strike or possible a targeted invasion with a small force. They lied. It's that simple.

But, let's play baseball.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Friday, February 15, 2008

Rounding up the usual talking heads after a school shooting

I was watching MSNBC this morning and of course the topic was the campus shooting at Northern Illinois yesterday. They have some retired FBI agent who wrote a book as their usual expert. They say he's a criminal profiler, but that's a really bogus occupation, kind of like cold-reading done by psychic performers.

The guy is just an idiot. He went off on some political rant saying how all the gun rights people would be coming out of the woodwork to argue that we need to allow private citizens with concealed weapons permits to carry guns on unversity campuses. But, according to Mr. Guy-Who-Wrote-A-Book we shouldn't listen to those people becuase it's just insanity to allow anyone who doesn't have a job in law enforcement to have a gun.

Sure, buddy.

We don't need more cops and cops don't need more weapons. We need fewer cops and we need more restraints on the cops we do have. We also need fewer restraints on citizens ability and right to protect themselves and others.

Paul Phillips has a good explanation why this is true, so I won't repeat it here.

Labels: , ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Keystone cops in Austin

I thought I'd blogged about this story when it happened last year, but I can't find the link.

An Austin parks police sergeant has been demoted and another has received verbal counseling for a chain of events that led to an officer shooting a man (Casey) during a sex sting in a North Austin park last year.

Parks police officials have said that Casey assaulted a sergeant during a sex sting operation at Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park and that police searched for him for 45 minutes before going to eat breakfast.

The officers had seen Casey drive his car into the park but didn't stake it out or have it towed before they left, police have said.

When they returned and saw him, police said, Casey tried to run over Rodriguez, who shot Casey in the arm.

Labels: ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

They'll be watching you in Austin

The Austin police want to put up surveillance cameras around the city. But, of course they've read 1984 and don't want to say that, so they say security camera.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo wants to install security cameras in pedestrian-heavy and crime-ridden areas of the city that would allow officers to monitor activity from afar and conduct "virtual patrols."

He said he plans to explore ways to pay for the project — possibly through federal grants — and work out logistics such as who would monitor the camera footage. Acevedo said one option could be to hire retired officers to watch the videos 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and call officers on the street if they see a crime in progress.

Labels: ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Let's outlaw sage

Salvia is a form of sage that's native to a small, isolated region of Mexico. It's been imported to the US over the last 60 years or so.

Here in Oklahoma a few nutcases want the plant banned. Wiki has some non-FoxNews facts about the plant.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Is Torture a Good Idea?

There are a lot of reason that torture is a bad idea, no matter what Scalia thinks. Here's one reason
Another point: Everyone forgets that the Iranian revolution of 1978-1979 was the revolution against torture. When the Shah criticized Khomayni as a blackrobed Islamic medieval throwback, Khomayni replied, look who is talking, the man who tortures. This was powerful rhetoric for recruiting people, then as it is now. People joined the revolutionary opposition because of the Shah’s brutality, and they remembered who installed him. If anyone wants to know why Iranians hated the US so, all they have to do is ask what America’s role was in promoting torture in Iran. Torture not only shaped the revolution, it was the factor that has deeply poisoned the relationship of Iran with the West. So why trust the West again? And the Iranian leadership doesn’t.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Clinton, Obama, and 60 minutes

I didn't watch 60 minutes this past Sunday but apparantly they had seperate interviews of Clinton and Obama. And apparantly 60 minutes has managed to turn itself into a boring softball game.

Labels: , ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs


This movie really disappointed me.

Basically it's just a guy being a jerk. Some people try to be tolerant of his behavior, some people not so tolerant. Then however they react he tries to make fun of them.

It just doesn't work. It may have made a funny 10 minute skit on some late night TV show. 90 minutes of it is just way too much. Maybe if I was 12 it would work better.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Animal Rights

The Denialism Blog has a post about a biological researcher getting her house fire bombed by some animal rights nutcases.

Of course that's a bad thing.

But Denialism makes some claims in that post that are just nonsense.
Let's be clear, biological science and medicine are dependent on animals and animal products. From basic research to implantation of heart valves, the success of medicine and medical research is dependent on the use of animals and biological materials. While one can disagree with the ethics of using animals for research, one can not deny, without being dishonest, the absolute requirement of animals for the advancement of biological science, and for current therapeutic modalities used every day in medicine. And I think we can all agree that setting fire to Edyth London's house has more than met the definition of domestic terrorism on the part of the animal rights extremists.

Well, yes, biological science has become dependent on animals. But it does not follow from that that the torture of animals by mad scientists is an absolute requirement for the advancement of biological science. Not even close.

In fact, the point of view that many of the animal rights nutcases have is that the torture of animals isn't even a requirement to maintain the current level of advancement -- you could substitute the torture of humans and probably actually speed up that advancement. (you could maintian controlled genetic strains with cloning).

Of course we don't want to do that, it wouldn't be ethical, but that's the point of the animal rights nutcases -- they think animals have souls, that the essence of life and self-awareness is such that it's never ethical to harm self-aware life.

Labels: ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Monday, February 11, 2008

Texas Chain Saw Massacre - The beginning.

I'm not sure why I put this in my Netflix queue. But I watched it the other day.

I almost didn't get past the first few minutes. It starts out with a lot of dirt and dust and blood dripping in the dirt without much else going on. But then it picked up a little bit and I got to see people chopped up with a chain saw for an hour or so,

I'm not sure it was what I expected, but it was what I should have expected.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

No difference between Hillary and Obama

I was in the car this afternoon, listening to Hannity.

He was talking about the Dems and kept saying that there's not a licks worth of difference between Clinton and Obama.

I guess to him there really isn't. They're democrats, they all look alike to Hannity.

But but when you have differences on topics like Iraq and the drug war and sexual harrassment of women in the workforce, I think most actual people can tell them apart.

Labels: ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Governance by miracle

I don't know what I'll do if the choice comes down to Clinton and Huckabee.
Huckabee has vigorously disputed party leader's assertion that McCain is unstoppable at this point, and he said this evening that he was running strong among conservatives and that the race was far from over. "I didn't major in math," Huckabee told a cheering crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference meeting in Washington, D.C. "I majored in miracles."

Move to France, I guess.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Dick Cheney gets one right

The supreme courts is hearing a gun rights case about a law in Washington DC banning ownership of handguns. The case seems to hinge on whether or not the Second Amendment is personal rights or state rights. Whether it's about the right for you to own a gun or whether it's the right of a state to field a State Guard.

Rationally, the idea that there's any question about that is complete nonsense. The whole point of the constitution was to limit the power of the federal government over the states. That part pretty much got changed with the civil war but the first Ten amendments was called the Bill of Rights becuase it was a list of 10 specific individual rights that the original writers to make sure didn't get overlooked within the main documents emphasis on limitation of federal rights over the states. It's about personal rights. All of it. The whole list. And the Second Amendment was number two on that list.

The US Justice Department filed a brief arguing that the DC law is bad and should be overturned, but that the personal rights of the second amendment is limited. But Dick Cheney, Dick "kill that bird in the cage" Cheney, signed a brief from various conservative senators (55 of them) arguing that personal rights are personal rights and that the Bill of Rights is about personal rights.

Good for him.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Dangerous people

The NRA thinks Marsha Stewart is way to dangerous to our physical safety to be allowed to have a gun in her house.

Guns are for honest people to shoot caged birds with, not for convicted felons to protect themselves in their own homes.

Labels: , ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Clinton and police misconduct

I'm becoming more and more convinced that a Hillary Clinton presidency would be very bad for America.

Criminal justice issues are core to the problems facing the country. It's about our image abroad, our personal freedoms, our international policies. The drug war and our incarceration policy and our use of the death penalty effect almost everything involving the federal government.

Hillary is an extreme hawk on criminal justice issues. She's over the top. Probably even worse than George Bush.

Grits for Breakfast has a comparison of Hillary and Obama.\

Willie Jeff is taking the official position that a guy who defends himself when his home is invaded by thugs in uniform is an unrepenant cop killer.

Labels: ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

By Thursday, the Solicitor General is expected to file a petition with the US Supreme Courtexplaining why the the United States should lock people up indefinitely on the sayso of some Afgan tribal chief without access to courts, a defense, or without making any kind of criminal charges. I assume the brief will refer directly to private conversations between Bush and God authorizing the behavior.

Labels: ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Donnie Darko

I don't know why I ordered this movie from NetFlix. I guess because of the name I somehow thought it was a parody of Donnie Brasco. It's not.

It's about some upper middle class kid who feels all alienated and has some problems with getting along with people and has schizophrenia. When I was 16 I was a Rolling Stones fan and thought Beatles fans were pussies so I probably would have identified with his angst. But I'm not 16 anymore and I got over it.

You'll like it if you're 16 and feel like an outcast. You'll identify with him. It's pretty dark though.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Reno 911 movie

I like Reno 911. I was disappointed by the movie.

The TV show is slapstick. Three stooges with badges. The characters are more than just exaggerated, they're cartoonish. The episodes have some kind of plot line but the plot is just a string to hang a series of jokes on. The point of the show is the jokes, not the story. The characters don't have any substance, they just drive the jokes. The show is funny. I like it.

The movie tried to use a plot line to drive the action and tried to make the Reno Sheriff's Department into kind of real people. That doesn't work for me.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Simpsons - The movie

I saw this on DVD the other day. As I expected, I really enjoyed it. Good movie.

There's really not a lot to say about it. It's a Simpsons movie. A 90 minute episode of The Simpsons. How can it not be good?

It was actually better than an episode of the TV show I think. One of the things I've noticed about the TV episodes is that often there's a disconnect between the first 1/3 of the show or so and the last 2/3. It's like the writer's started off in one direction then just abruptly change their mind about where the story is going to go. Sometimes that kind of bothers me in the TV show. In this movie the story actually seemed to me to flow better than it typically does in the show. I liked that.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

A girl has to make a living

Cops hire an informant to have sex with a prostitute at a massage parlor. The judge thought that was kind of outrageous behavior on the part of the cops and dismissed the prostitution charge against the owner of the massage parlor.

The DA thinks that the judge overstepped his bounds
District Attorney James B. Martin said he will appeal the decision to the state Superior Court.

''I think it's absurd to say that the conduct that police engaged in in this set of circumstances, with someone who was known to run brothels, is outrageous,'' Martin said. ''With all due respect to Judge Steinberg, I think he used his own moral compass to decide this case and not the law and the facts.''

At least somebody seems to have a moral compass. Maybe it would be a net benefit to society if the police and DA got one themselves.

Labels: ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Friday, February 08, 2008

Church brands

This is an article about a Tennesee church that changed it's affiliation from Episcopal to Angilican. The article points out that this is a form of branding as if it's something new in the church business.

The only thing new about it is the use of the term branding is new. It's always been part of the whole thing. When I was a kid we were Lutherans. Not just Lutherans but Missouri Synod Lutherans. That was our brand. Like Coke has Pepsi we had other guys who were American Synod Lutherans. There may have been some deep theological differece between the two, but the only important difference was that were Missouri Synod and they weren't. Us good. Them bad.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Cops behaving badly

A cop is charged with 10 counts of of official misconduct, tampering with or destruction of evidence and official oppression for threatening two different women with arrest if they didn't submit to sex with him is given 4 years probation.

No jail time.

If it was anybody but a cop it would be rape and he'd be going to prison.

I will never understand why these thugs get a pass. And 4 years probation for 2 rapes is getting a pass.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

What does respect mean?

A judge sentences someone to holding a sign that says you should respect police.

If advocating respect is a punishment then what does respect actually mean?

It seems to me that this is just a good way to foster disrespect. I don't tend to have a lot of respect for people who hold a gun to my head and demand that I respect them.

Labels: ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Clinton and Obama

I think a Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton ticket is a really, really bad idea.

I just think Hillary would be a very poor executive in either slot.

Labels: ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

War Crimes

We really just have a government of war criminals. There's just no other way to characterize it.

Basically our official position is that it's not torture if we can't think of anything else to do. This is just nuts, it's standard rhetoric to rationialize criminal behavior that you can hear from inmates in pretty much any prison in the world. "It's not my fault, I wouldn't have had to kill him if he'd have just given me the money like I told him to".

Labels: , ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs


My first choice for President was Bill Richardson. I thought he was simply the most qualified of the bunch, of either party. But, whatever it is that it takes to get the nomination, he didn't have it. My next choice was John Edwards. I like his populist politics. But then he fell by the wayside also.

What are we left with? Obama. That's it. I think Hillary is a control freak and that McCain is just an angry old man. Neither one of them is fit to be president. But I think Obama could do a good job in the White House.

Why? I don't know. I just like him. Althouse has some comments about Obama's likability.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Ryan Frederick

Ryan Frederick lives in Hampton Roads, a beach town in southern Virginia. Right now he's in the Hampton Roads jailhouse, a victim of the drug war and a handfull of nutcase cops.

If you don't follow Radly Balko at The Agitator regularly then you should. He's made a niche for himself in following police SWAT raids gone bad. And there's plenty of them to keep him busy. Recently he's been following the Case of Ryan Frederick, a guy who shot a cop breaking into his home. A cop that had a warrent based on unreliable and false information part of a team of thugs who just battered the guys door down in the middle of the night.

A summary of what happened is that Frederick was a nursery hobbyist and had converted his house into a grow house for some oriental plants. Some of the plants seem to have leaves similar in shape to the pot leaves. His nursery equipment included some of the same heat lamps and hydrophonic equipment one might use for a marijuana growing operation. Somebody saw the nursery. Probably from the street. Frederick certianly wasn't keeping it secret.

The somebody who happened to see it was a police informant who just happened to need some kind of favor from the local drug cops. So he told them about this major mariuana growing operation. The cops even sent him to break into the house on a scouting mission a week before the raid. It's not clear what that was about.

Frederick knew his home had been burglaized. So when some clown broke down his front door in the middle of the night he rationally thought it was a burglarer and fired his personally owned, perfectly legal handgun. A cop ended up dead. Frederick ended up in jail, charged with murder. He's also charged with a misdemeanor pot possision charge, it turns out Frederick did have a small amount of persoanl use pot in his home. Whether it was his or planted by the cops informant isn't clear. The cops aren't talking, they're way to busy trying to circle the wagons and railroad.

The PC position is that this is a tradedy for all concerned, both Frederick and the dead cop and his family. But, I don't feel very PC about this sort of thing. It's Police State bullshit, the police have no business breaking into peoples homes in the middle of the night. There's no need for that kind of behavior at all. It does not enhance safety, it creats dangerious, violent situations for no reason other than to give a few thugs in uniform a thrill.

And that's why I don't feel sorry for the dead cop and his family. He was nothing more than a professional thug. A guy who made his living breaking into peoples homes and destroying people's lives. The kind of people who are willing to be SWAT team members in the kind of police departments we have in this country are the kind of people who should never be police officers, who should not be given any kind of governmental sanctioned authority.

I have pretty strong feelings about this sort of police behavior and it's really time for us to wake up and look at what's happening in our country. It's not a pretty picture. Immigration and Muslims aren't the problem. The problem is right here at home and we need to fix it.

Labels: , , ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Inflation and purchasing power

Double Blind has a good post about inflation and it's relationship to purchasing power. It's written by a Canadian, so the references to dollars are about Canadian dollars.

But it's a topic American's need to be paying attention to. The American dollar is losing purchasing power at a very dangerous rate. You can thank government policies about lower taxes and higher spending for that and I don't see any indication that Clinton or McCain will do anything to change that direction in a meaningful way. Maybe Obama will save us. Maybe he won't.

Labels: , , ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs


As Contact points out, the culture war about gay marriage is really about whether or not marriage is a religious concept or a civil concept.
It has become very clear to me that there is a big problem that is manifesting itself in all different ways: marriage is increasingly a civil proposition in addition to a religious one. And guess what, this post is not even inspired by gay marriage.

As probably anyone who reads this knows, Jeff and I were married civilly, not religiously. In other words, our marriage is not sanctioned by any religious authority, only by the state of Florida (and fortunately for us, since we are straight, the other 49 states too).

When gay marriage first started becoming a hot topic, I immediately thought of Jeff and myself (though obviously we are not gay). What about our marriage? If the word marriage is only supposed to be used for religious unions, do Jeff and I have a civil union instead of a marriage? Are we not supposed to refer to ourselves as married but rather civily united? Is it OK because we are a man and a woman? And if it is OK because we are a man and a woman, how does this not amount to government discrimination against homosexuals?

Although, as she says, the whole thing's not really a gay issue, the question would probably never really be asked if it wasn't for the gay rights question.

A friend of mine owns some gay websites and asked me a while back to write something for them about gay marriage. Not becuase I really know anything about gay stuff specifically but becuase I write and do have some legal education (took a few courses) and am able to read simple court decisions. I never got around to doing anything but did start a marriage blog to use to collect some links and information

Labels: ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Mortgage crisis

I havn't commented on the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Years ago, when I worked in Information Systems for Northern Trust Bank, my contact with loan systems was commercial loans, not retail or mortgage loans. The term "sub-prime" was used often but it referred to a high quality loan, one where the borrower got serious rate discounts, below prime rate (such loans would have been packaged with balance requirements and with other transaction based type services). So when I started hearing about the sub-prime mortgage situation the whole thing just made no sense to me, the language didn't match the language I'd been familiar with when I worked in banking.

It sounds like weasely language to me. I'm always suspicious when language sounds like weasel words.

The press, and the government, seems to have set out to define the white hats and the black hats. The white hats are those poor home buyers who bought houses they couldn't afford with no down payment and the black hats are those mortgage brokers who sold them the loans and packaged them up for sale as mortgage back securities.

I don't think they got it quite right.

The mortgage brokers probably qualify as black hats. But so do the home buyers, the ones that are losing those homes they couldn't afford in the first place, the ones that people like Clinton think the rest of us should bail out. Those clowns were just lining up for a free lunch that was made out of tainted meat. The borrowers and the lenders both are black hats in this situations.

GoodWillHinton has recently pointed this out also.
Why is it always businesses that are greedy? Aren't businesses made up of people just like you and I? If we are honest with ourselves, aren't we often greedy too?

There is way too little introspection and way too much finger-pointing in this debacle to be of any use going forward.

The victim is the investor, the ones who bought those mortgage backed securities. But I'm not sure they're victims we need to feel pity for, they tend to have been big boys who are supposed to know something about the risk of mortgage default.

There's so much nonsense in this whole thing that I decided to start a small blog to just review the basics of home mortgage finance.

I paid cash for my current home, btw. I recently checked into getting a mortgage to raise some cash and the lender I talked to (Chase) was so weasely about the whole thing I decided to not bother.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

I'm an American

I was playing poker in Ponca City, OK last night and they had a bunch of TV's along the wall with various basketball games on. One of them was the Univerisity of Oklahoma v. University of Texas game.

I was struck by a difference in the uniforms.

Texas players had their orange shirts with TEXAS and the player's number blazoned across the front. The Oklahoma players had shirts with SOONERS and the player's number. But the Oklahoma uniform shirts had an addition. They had an American flag logo in the upper left corner of the shirt front.

What the hell is that all about?

Let's see if I have this right? These are guys who live in Oklahoma, they play basketball. And they have to make sure that we know they're Americans and that we don't mistake them for Cambodians or something?

This patriotism stuff has really just gotten out of hand. A country that wears it's nationalism on its shirtfront almost never has things work out real well.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Monday, February 04, 2008

What do they think of us?

If you want to get a picture of what the rest of the industrial world thinks of the United States read through the comments on this blog post.

Basically they think we're the Christian version of Islamic nutcases.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Saturday, February 02, 2008

gay marriage - Oregon

Oregon allows gay couples to register as a domestic partnership.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

The mind of a prosecutor

Sometimes I think you have to be brain damaged to work as a prosecutor.

Life at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center is a blog written by a prosector in Harris County, Texas (Houston). It really gives a lot of insight into how prosecutors tend to think.

In a recent post he whines about not being understood. Here's part of what he says
Yesterday, Quannel X and a pretty sizeable group of protestors were in
front of the CJC protesting. As I've pointed out, some of things they said were
valid. Some were not. But what was impossible to ignore was the fact that there
was a vast vast disconnection between the (mostly) African-American protestors
and the Criminal Justice System (specifically the HCDA's office). There were
many things that were said by the multiple speakers, where I couldn't help but
think "they just don't understand".

And then I realized that I may have just stumbled onto something. They
didn't understand.

They don't understand. Of course there's no possibility at all that he's the one that doesn't understand. After all, he's a prosecutor, he's smart and he understands.

This is the mindset of government employee who actually makes life and death decisions. It's a really good reason to not have a death penalty.

Labels: ,

Lifestyle and Political Blogs