Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Update: New Cat

For all those who want to know, Emma (AKA Chainsaw) is doing fine. She and the dog are learning to play together, which is nice. Generally speaking, Emma will play with anything that moves and can be brought withing swatting distance.

Some time ago, Main Lady acquired a set of designer pillows for the couch. The pillows are square, not very well padded and are heavily embroidered, making them unsuitable for resting your head on, but they do have interesting tassels on the corners. A single thread from one of these tassels was pulled free, so I seized it and started playing with Emma.

Emma - Look at This!
Got it!
It's slippery but it won't get away.
Mine! 
Gimme!
Gotcha...
Mine! Mine, I say!

I had to bring the game to a conclusion or risk being more than fashionably late for lunch, so I substituted Rachmaninoff's tail for the thread.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Rant: Insurance Industry

Main Lady and Mopsy are headed East to visit Cottontail and Que Bee One for a day or so. They left this morning amid a flurry of packing which was expedited by the organizational skills of a kindergarten class amped up on Jolt Power Cola and turned loose at a Disney petting zoo. The dog and I stayed out of the way.

I have been assigned as caretaker of the house and content, which consists of Excellent Rachmaninoff the dog and Emma the half-grown fierce jungle cat. I'm also to care for Centenarian, which means taking her to lunch sometime or another with the caveat that I am not to drive Centenarian's car under any circumstances. Well, given that I never intended driving it, I think this is an odd comment. I idly asked if the car was broken down or something.

"No, it's fine. I just don't have any insurance on it." Main Lady told me.

"Okay, I'll bite." I said, extracting my fingers from Emma's mouth. "Why don't you have insurance?"

"Because of that damned insurance company!" Main Lady looks like she'd like to string someone up by their thumbs in the village square and horsewhip them at high noon.

"I called those stupid people and asked if I could cancel Mother's insurance and put Mother's car on my insurance because she doesn't drive it anymore. I told them I was the only one driving it, and it seemed stupid to pay for both Mother and I when Mother doesn't drive."

"And?" I prompted.

"And the stupid woman told me I couldn't, so I said alright and that was the end of it. Well, I got my car insurance invoice the other day and it has a picture of a car on it, and I remembered that I haven't seen an envelop like that over at Mother's house, so I called the insurance company to see why they hadn't sent Mother an invoice." Main Lady paused for breath. "They told me that the car wasn't insured."

"Holy shit." I let that sink in for a minute. Main Lady drives Centenarian's car about half the time, and unlike most of us Centenarian has a few bucks in the bank. Visions of a civil suit pass before my eyes. "How long have you been driving without insurance?"

"Three years." Main Lady replied.

I digested this for a minute. Now, given that Centenarian really is self-sufficient, lives alone and gets along pretty well, I can see how this might happen. Centenarian writes her own checks, her only real problem being that she doesn't balance the checking account very well. However all that may be, it seems to me that the insurance company would have sent her a notice about her auto insurance being canceled. Both Centenarian and Main Lady have been dealing with the same insurance company for fifteen years or more, so it isn't like the staff doesn't know her. Is it?

There are certain industries in the United States that it is impossible to over-regulate. While the insurance industry is not at the top of the list, it is certainly in the top five.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Worthy Read

HistoryMike is, in real life, a professor of history, complete with PhD and classroom of students. Here are a few hilarious items HistoryMike learned from his students - Facts I Learned From Grading College World History Exams Today.

I can't believe that HistoryMike didn't make this stuff up, but he claims truth is stranger and a whole lot funnier than fiction.

Rant: Justice Moron

In a recent rant by Beat and Release entitled Ah, The Idiocy of Liberals Never Ends, the author somewhat rhetorically wonders about USSC justice Stephen Breyer How does a moron like this even get a license to practice law, much less be appointed to the Supreme Court? Beat knows that I can't resist a rhetorical question.

Officer Beat's objection to Breyer was prompted by an article from Fox News, Breyer: Founding Fathers Would Have Allowed Restrictions on Guns which promotes Moonbat anti-freedom ideology. In the article, Breyer is quoted as saying,
"The difficult job in open cases where there is no clear answer is to take those values in this document, which all Americans hold, which do not change, and to apply them to a world that is ever changing," Breyer said. "It's not a matter of policy. It is a matter of what those framers intended."
Fox then promotes their own anti-freedom agenda,
He [Breyer] suggested that those values and intentions mean that the Second Amendment allows for restrictions on the individual, including an all-out ban on handguns in the nation's capital.
Which Fox bolsters with another direct quote from Breyer,
"We're acting as judges. If we're going to decide everything on the basis of history -- by the way, what is the scope of the right to keep and bear arms? Machine guns? Torpedoes? Handguns?" he asked. "Are you a sportsman? Do you like to shoot pistols at targets? Well, get on the subway and go to Maryland. There is no problem, I don't think, for anyone who really wants to have a gun."
To which I say: Bullshit, Bullshit, and more Bullshit. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

To gain some understanding of just how a Fascist despot like Stephen Gerald Breyer could arrive at a seat on the United States Supreme Court, read his biography here, here and here. In short, Breyer went to law school and passed the bar exam, then was sworn in. In Ohio I think, although I'm not sure, that a person can serve an apprenticeship rather than going to law school and after a certain amount of time, take the Ohio bar exam. A little self-study along with way would be a good idea.

Breyer is a notable specialist in administrative law, which deals with government regulation, and which, by sheer coincidence, the United States has several tons of. His educational background includes time at Harvard, which gives him a pedigree. On June 17, 1972, when Frank Wills called the police and kicked off the Watergate scandal, Breyer became an assistant special prosecutor on the Watergate Special Prosecution Force. When Slick Dick Nixon packed his bags and turned in his two week notice as a result of that special prosecution force, you can bet Moonbat central put the names of the participants on the Moonbat short list. Breyer was in and out of courtrooms his entire professional life, and finally in 1994 Slick Willie nominated Breyer for the United States Supreme Court. During Breyer's confirmation, only nine US Senators had the good sense to vote against him. They are: Burns, Coats, Coverdell, Helms, Lott, Lugar, Murkowski, Nickles, Smith. Four Senators didn't vote at all, and the rest voted him onto the bench - check the vote here. We are now stuck with Breyer until he either dies, retires or is impeached. For the sense of irony, I wish for the latter.

I think it is likely that Breyer has never had to suffer much by way of deprivation. His parents are described as middle class Jewish people. One sibling is a Federal judge. Breyer married a member of the English aristocracy. Most of his life could be described as privileged, which likely gives him a sense of 'them and us'. We know better than they how their world should be run, as evidenced by our place in life. I do not offer these facts as criticisms of Breyer, only as facts and theories about his environment. For instance, I doubt that Breyer ever had to hurry down to the neighborhood market before dark so as to avoid crime, or ever had to sit in a dark apartment with his shotgun across his lap while listening to his neighbors talk about murdering him. Breyer has detached himself from all this.

Among other things, the United States Supreme Court (USSC) is charged with protecting the rights of the people. They are supposed to do this by applying the Bill of Rights to cases they agree to hear. Given that the Bill of Rights was written in plain English by a group of men who were learned and were doing their best to express both the letter of the law as well as the spirit of the law concisely, the Bill of Rights is not difficult to understand. Take the Second Amendment, for instance.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
That means that if I want a machine-gun, I can go out and buy one from whom ever is selling them. Moreover, I can carry it as it pleases me to do so. My good friend Cody, the Poor but Honest Gun Trader of South Dakota would like a canon. A big one. Well, for my money if Cody wants a canon he can have one. I truly do not care who owns what kind of ordinance, and the spirit of the Second Amendment supports this outlook. Breyer does not.

Breyer believes that the legislators in the Federal government know best, and that it is his (Breyer's) job to support them enthusiastically and without reservation. Breyer says this is difficult. It isn't. All Breyer has to do is vote with the government each time, which he tends to do, and which is exactly the opposite of what he is duty bound to do. Breyer isn't bothered by this, but I am.

Breyer is supposed to protect us, and not only fails to do so but proclaims that it is his job to fail to do so, which is why I referred to him as a Fascist despot at the beginning of this rant.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Worthy Read

Beat and Release runs a police blog where some of his hair raising exploits are revealed after being redacted for public consumption. The man writes well and he tends not to pass any moral judgment as a part of the story - you get to figure out the good and bad for yourself - but one thing is very clear: Officer Beat hates dirty cops. So, when Officer Beat uncovered an illegal speed trap in Ridgeland, SC he did a short investigation and wrote about it... five times. I encourage everyone to go and read all five of his essays on this flagrant disregard for the law by the police and the local government.

In Direct Contravention of the Law
Illegal Photo Radar in South Carolina
Illegalities in South Carolina Again
Photo Radar Update
Illegalities in South Carolina - Yet Again (most recent)

Even if you don't live in SC this might be a good time to write or email this information to the State government.

My congratulations to Officer Beat & Release for an excellent job.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Rant: Things and People I Boycott

Stephanie M. Lorée over at Scribbler to Scribe posted a short essay, Rule 3:Don't Be a Dick, which is all about writers who behave badly. In particular Stephanie castigates James Frey for being a dick, which I can understand because, well, Frey lied about a bunch of stuff. Go and read about the whole fiasco yourself if you like - I won't rehash it here.

Stephanie goes on to say, "But behaving unethically will always come back to haunt you. You might make millions, become a bestseller, but along the way to stardom you've picked up so much hate that it will inevitably catch up". To which I say, So what? If my income goes from zero to five or six million a year and I become famous, but I have a whole host of people that I've pissed off along the way, I still have a ton of money and a well known face. My choices are clear: I can either live in obscure poverty and not have a bunch of people I don't know, don't want to know and wouldn't like if I did know wake up every morning and hope to read my obituary in the morning paper. Alternately I can be a famous (infamous? notorious?) millionaire and be forced to contend with the same group of people (who I don't know... ) who now despise me and hope I succumb to cancer of the family jewels.

Tough choice.

Stephanie also states that "The vast majority of the writer community is filled with wonderful, generous, helpful people."  I never found it so. The vast majority of authors are unpublished or very rarely published, and in my experience these people tend to be egotistical, neurotic substance abusers with delusions of grandeur combined with a desperate need to have their fragile egos shored up by the neophyte groupies and like-minded peers who hang around with them. One group builds supports while the others wait for the quicksand of literary criticism and constant rejection slips to take effect.

At the end of her essay, Stephanie asks "Have you boycotted books/movies because of their creator's behavior?" I have, and here are a few:

Michael Bellesiles who lied in his book Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture. He's trying to make a comeback here.

Michael Moore I watched Roger and Me and was left wondering just how Moore justified his stance about General Motors. Moore achieved popularity and a large fortune through lying about various political hot topics in his pseudo documentaries. I have no use for him.

Rosie O'Donnell who takes time away from stuffing her face long enough to bray about gun control in front of everyone who'll listen. I note that O'Donnell's bodyguards are all armed.

Jane Fonda who should have been arrested, tried for treason and summarily executed.

60 Minutes I used to watch 60 Minutes on a regular basis, then the producers began stretching the truth a little, then a little more, and finally had a segment about the 50 caliber Barrett rifle which they lied about. I stopped watching after that.

Mel Gibson is another anti-freedom zealot I can easily do without. I believe in the freedom of choice which Gibson and his mindless followers would happily deny everyone.

Oprah Winfrey falls into the same category as Gibson, only with a bigger mouth.

Catholic Church first because they are oppressive, secondly because of the rampant sexual abuse that has been hidden for years by the catholic church, and finally for personal reasons. I don't like the catholic church and will cheerfully boycott it and its associates whenever I get the chance.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New Cat

It was a dark and stormy night...

- Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)

...and the rain made the night fit for neither man nor beast. Flopsy and Mopsy were in town to celebrate Thanksgiving, and Mopsy accompanied Main Lady and Excellent Rachmaninoff on the final canine constitutional of the evening. As the group passed a dark home partially obscured by dense, unkempt foliage Main Lady was unexpectedly set upon by a small, wet and bedraggled animal that was hiding under some adjacent evergreens. The diminutive feline crossed the intervening space between evergreens and sidewalk in a trice and leaped into Main Lady's arms.

Emma
Main Lady promptly returned home with her new cat, leaving Mopsy to complete the evening stroll by herself. Three days later the little fur ball was rid of parasites and up to date on such vaccinations as the veterinarian suggested to be appropriate. The cat is estimated to be four months old, has a few battle scars on her face and belly, and is missing her right eye. Otherwise she is healthy and well-behaved. Emma and Rachmaninoff are learning to play together, which is nice.

Main Lady is thrilled to have a new cat, especially one that likes to sit in her lap (this one is a friendly lap sitter and attention hog), but she was worried that some little girl had lost her cat and was looking for Emma. Let's see now - fleas, ear mites, intestinal parasites, battle scars and one eye missing. No, I don't think so. I think this kitten was dropped off by one or both adults who decided that they'd had enough of looking after the children's kitten. Still, the required searches were performed and when nothing was found, Main Lady happily named the little cat Emma.

I wanted to call her chainsaw, but was vetoed.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rant: Our System of (In) Justice, Part 2

I suppose we could look at the death penalty as an logical extension of prison. To reiterate, the purpose of prison is to:
  • Serve as a deterrent to the general populace
  • Serve as a personal deterrent to individuals already in prison who might otherwise commit future crimes
  • Punish the guilty (retribution or vengeance for the crime victim)
  • Rehabilitate the criminal
  • Protect the rest of the population (all of whom are without doubt angelic law abiding citizens) from the criminals
The death penalty does not serve as an effective deterrent to crime that is punishable by death. If it did, we wouldn't have a murder rate in the United States, and we do. In fact, the U.S. has a high murder rate. The death penalty does deter the commission of future crimes with one hundred percent effectiveness, and it serves as a stiff punishment (or vengeance, as the case may be. I note that certain Muslim countries – anything ending in 'stan' – allow the victim to serve as executioner in a public execution.). There isn't much rehabilitation that goes on with a death sentence, but that's to be expected. I don't really think the idea of rehabilitation of the criminal enters into the thinking of death penalty advocates, but I don't fault them for this. The death penalty has one unarguable success in that it protects the rest of society from the criminal in question. As a deterrent, the death penalty is a failure and I suspect I know the reason for this.

The effectiveness of a punishment does not rely on severity. The effectiveness relies on surety and immediacy. Consider the infamous red light camera for a minute. The way the red light camera system is supposed to work is pretty simple. If you run a red light a photo of your car (and license plate) is taken and a few weeks later you (the owner of the car) receive a bill for some significant amount of money from your local government. To avoid having to pay this, don't run the light. You'd think this would eliminate the problem of people running the red light, but it doesn't eliminate it entirely. People still run the light, and they do so because this behavior produces an immediate reward – they don't have to wait in traffic. I note that the punishment is not immediate, but it is sure and as a result the number of people running the red light in question is drastically reduced. Now then, in the case of violent crime punishable by death, the punishment is a very long way from being immediate. A prisoner can sit on death row for well over ten years before finally being executed. It isn't sure, either. Criminals who commit premeditated violent crime never believe that they'll be caught much less put to death. I wouldn't believe that the thought of punishment enters into the minds of spontaneous perpetrators either.

As I stated at the start of this little exertion in literary excellence, I support the death penalty. I subscribe to the idea that there are people in this world who do not deserve to live their life to a stately conclusion somewhere in their August years. In order to get the death deserving SOB from the county lock up to the firing squad in a relatively short time with an accurate guilty verdict will require a change in our legal system, and I'm fully aware that this is an understatement.

If the alleged perpetrator is found guilty at court and sentenced to death, rather than going through the usual appeal and stalling for time process that everyone endures today, just take the SOB out back and shoot him. Okay, frustration got the better of me there.

What is needed is a special panel of five judges whose job it is to:

  1. Ascertain that there is absolutely no possibility for an erroneous verdict.
  2. Make certain that the condemned is fit for execution. Executing minors, mentally ill people or the mentally retarded is not allowed.

If our five judges cannot unanimously declare that these conditions cannot be met, the sentence is changed from death by execution to life in prison without parole.

Should the panel of five change the sentence to life in prison, the various appeals in our cumbersome system can slowly fall into place as usual, and in 30 years or so the criminal will know for sure whether or not he'll spend the rest of his life in the poky. Alternately, if the condemned is still scheduled to become a useful part of the local landfill, the entire appeal process gets put on a fast track, meaning that other cases and supposedly oh-so-important business of the court can take a back seat until the fate of this prisoner is resolved. The goal here is to eliminate the lingering stay on death row as well as providing some sense of immediacy.

While I, personally, and in my own infinite wisdom believe this system would work better than the one we have, I don't believe for a second that any of these changes will ever come to pass or that, if the system were changed, violent crime would be reduced, which is supposedly one of the primary goals of criminal punishment. To reduce crime the system must provide immediate consequences every time the crime is committed.

Ask Officer Friendly how many criminals he has actually caught red-handed (excluding drunks) and the answer will most often be none. This is due to a phenomenon commonly referred to as the halo effect. The potential criminal sees Officer Friendly and adjusts his or her behavior so as to avoid arrest and subsequent detention by the State – immediately and absolutely. Ask Officer Friendly how much crime he has prevented, and the real answer is that he doesn't know, but we hope quite a bit. Were I to guess, I'd suspect that the officers presence has prevented a lot of crime, but no one will ever know for sure. The problem with this is obvious: the police can't be everywhere at once.

The real resolution here is to arm the citizens and encourage self-defense, but for reasons that have never been clear to me the mere thought of most people carrying a pistol causes widespread panic. An armed population does provide an effective deterrent to crime, as evidenced by crime statistics in any State that has permitted the carrying of a concealed weapon where such activity had previously been prohibited. Likewise the act of self-defense has often been criticized by law enforcement officers as “taking the law into your own hands”, although just what is wrong with that idea escapes me. I would suppose that I'm out of step with main stream society.

Returning to the two fictional women I created in Part 1 who are from opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum as well as antipodal positions in the aesthetic gamut, until the justice system is able to treat them as equals in all respects, the death penalty is off the table. No more death penalty cases for the prosecutor. Moreover, I see both of these incidents as clear cut cases of self-defense (I know, it's easy for me because I made the whole thing up – it's my fiction, and I'm sticking to it) and I also believe that the amount of force used is an appropriate response to the attack. The police may not see it that way, but until they do the battered victims are pretty much hosed.

Although the playing field will never be completely level nor will the people in the justice system ever be completely, perfectly impartial (they are all people, and perfection eludes us) the law enforcement and justice system will have to improve, drastically and significantly, before the death penalty can be used as a punishment. When the death penalty is used, make certain that the reasoning for using it is clear to everyone concerned: We have here a person who is extremely dangerous to society and who we feel is beyond redemption. Take the SOB out and shoot him.
Epilogue

In the case of my “attractive white female dressed like a Sunday school teacher” victim, who we'll call Sarah Spider, our local homicide detective discovered that Sarah had completed three courses in self-defense shooting and practiced regularly with her revolver at a local range, that she had taken out an extra life insurance policy of one million dollars on her late husband (SOB One) and that she bought the Glaser safety slugs one week before the shooting. The jury found her not guilty because they just didn't believe someone who looked like her could murder her own husband.

In the case of my “poor twenty something minority with coarse features dressed in ragged sweats and sporting a few tattoos and piercings” victim, who we'll call Millie Margarita, our local homicide detective discovered that her husband (SOB Two) had a violent temper and a drinking problem. SOB Two bragged that he would get rid of Millie some day soon and marry his chick on the side. Meantime, Millie served him as his once a week ATM and general punching bag. The prosecutor and Millie's court appointed attorney convinced Millie that a plea bargain for first degree manslaughter was a good deal. Millie is doing 10 to 20 in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pearl Harbor Day

On December 7, 1941 at approximately 8:00 AM the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in O'ahu, Hawaii, which was a territory of the United States. The attack came without warning. The next day the United States declared war on Japan.

My father was in his senior year in college when the US declared war. Dad enlisted in the Coast Guard and spent 18 months on isolated duty in the Aleutian Islands watching for the enemy to invade. My mother was in her senior year in high school and worked her way through college during the war, observing the rationing and hard work that went on while the US changed from a domestic peace economy into a war based economy. Everyone did their share to support the war effort.

Dad's basic training took place in St. Augustine, FL during July and August. He and several hundred other young men stayed at the Ponce de León Hotel, about six to a room. A few years back I took a guided tour of St. Augustine and the tour guide elaborated on the Ponce, speaking in superlatives about what a luxurious hotel it was. I got tired of listening and commented that my father had stayed at the place for several weeks and didn't like it a bit. Dad said that the conditions were pure misery and room service was very unreliable. My observations were greeted by a long silence as the woman was trying to decide just how to deal with this outspoken miscreant. I bailed her out by reminding her of WWII, which she was quick to verify.

I write this today to remind anyone who cares to read it about the truth of Japan. The Japanese attacked the United States without warning or provocation - up until this attack the US had been carefully neutral, militarily speaking. Some historians will dispute this, as the US was supplying the Allies at the expense of the Axis which they argue was provocation enough.

Japan wanted to invade the US so as to control Western oil supplies, shipping and ship building facilities in San Francisco. One thing that gave Japan second thoughts about an invasion was the Second Amendment. Japan believed that all US citizens were armed and would fight, which was partly true. Certainly many were armed, and those that were armed would willingly fight. Anyone not armed could buy a rifle, pistol or shotgun along with ammunition down at the local hardware store. There was no registration involved with firearms and very little gun control back then.

On August 6, 1945 the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and demanded that Japan surrender. When those demands fell on deaf ears, on August 9 the United States dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki. This time the Emperor paid attention. Japan signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on September 6, 1945.

World War II was four years of misery, finally brought to a successful conclusion for the Allies. This war was not an easy victory, nor was it a particularly spectacular victory. Winning was a near thing for the Allies. I think that the people of the United States are tending to forget WWII and what happened, and what could have happened. I don't believe for a minute that Japan has ever forgotten, or will ever forget.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rant: Our System of (In) Justice, Part 1

I read Jeff Gamso over at Gamso - For The Defense on a regular basis. The honorable Mr. Gamso doesn't lead the parade against capital punishment, but his float is large, well-constructed and occupies a prominent position. Jeff's latest essays are Stevens Is Wrong Even When He's Right and Capital Updates, We Got Updates, in which Jeff points to the freight train sized hole in United States Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens professional opinions about the death penalty. Jeff supports his arguments with a dry, lengthy article by David Von Drehle from TimeStevens' Case Against the Death Penalty: Shirking the Blame. If you care to read the comments on Jeff's site you'll note that he's opposed by someone calling himself Atticus (presumably after the famous fictional lawyer in To Kill a Mockingbird). I think I should remind Jeff that unless he knows Atticus personally, he has no idea if Atticus is a precocious twelve year old taking a break from watching Internet porn or a highly respected law professor from Harvard. I suspect that Atticus is a local attorney, I suspect he knows Jeff Gamso and I also suspect that Jeff would recognize Atticus were Jeff to see him in court. Those are my suspicions and I'm sticking to them.

Laboriously getting around to the point of this contribution to the overall intellectual value of the Internet, I will restate that I support the death penalty. I oppose the prevalent methods of execution, and I also oppose the labyrinthine path constructed by our judicial system that is supposed to lead from the first application of handcuffs to the recording of the condemned prisoner's last words and subsequent extermination while protecting everyone's constitutional rights and providing fair and impartial judges and jurors. Truly a nice ideal and a lofty goal, but so far achievement of this goal has eluded all the people involved in the process.

If you end up being judged by twelve rather than being carried by six, you're looking at a long walk. If you're poor, the odds in favor of you walking out of Judge Bean's courtroom just in time to be the guest of honor at your own neck tie party have gone down a few points. If you're a minority, the odds drop again. If you are physically unattractive (or uglier than the back end of a bus), your attorney should advise you to get your affairs in order. If you can't afford an attorney, and most of us can't, some poor (and I mean damned dirt poor) attorney will draw the short straw and take your case. How do you feel about being the very first murder trial of a young man who has recently passed the State bar exam? Possibly worse than I feel this morning, and seeing as how it's only Friday that ain't good. The bottom line here is that if you want to walk out of Judge Bean's courtroom at the end of the trial thumbing your nose at the prosecutor, you'll be an attractive white female dressed like a Sunday school teacher. You'll have a jury comprised of twelve emotional and not terribly bright middle aged men and women. The cost of your legal defense, which will include private investigators and other experts who will testify at your trial, will be paid for by an anonymous benefactor who is throwing six figures left of the decimal in US Greenbacks at your attorney, who is known in some circles as Racehorse Haynes. Later on it will turn out that your benefactor is actually a minister of the local Baptist church and a past winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, but the jury will be told to disregard that statement. Since most of us don't get this kind of treatment, it's likely we're headed for the neck tie party, and that is the second thing that's wrong with our legal system. There is no level playing field.

The first thing that's wrong is the same as the second thing; there is no level playing field. For instance, if you're a twenty something female whose abusive husband comes in drunk at three in the morning and starts using you for a punching bag, and you decide you've had enough and so ventilate the no good SOB, the problems you have in your future might make the past look pretty good. Consider the scenario carefully: Someone will have heard five shots from the family pistol (S&W Md. 686, 4 inch barrel using red hot .357 Magnum Glaser Safety Slugs) and called the police. When the police arrive they will understandably be a little edgy, one or more calls specifying a loud, drunken argument with the sounds of furniture being broken and terminating in five thunderous crashes best described by one helpful caller as  “...it sounds like somebody's got a fuckin' howitzer in there!” The police will eventually find that the only other inhabitant of the house is a hysterical, battered female sporting a nasty mouse under her left eye, a bloody nose, multiple bruises on her arms and a set of broken ribs. The erstwhile SOB is lying on the kitchen floor and finished leaking some time ago. Here's where the playing field comes into play. If the alleged perpetrator is a white, attractive, upper middle class twenty something dressed in her translucent electric blue negligee and robe, she's going to be treated a lot differently than if she is a poor twenty something minority with coarse features dressed in ragged sweats and sporting a few tattoos and piercings, in addition to having an identical set of injuries. In the first case a sympathetic police officer might ask if the deceased is her husband, and if so, did he try to kill her. All the alleged perpetrator has to do is keep tearfully nodding her head. She'll be taken to the hospital where she can call her doctor and her attorney. From that point on, the show is winding down and it is very likely this woman will never be charged with anything, much less spend any time in jail. Even if she does go to jail, she has the financial resources to make bail and so will be out and back in her comfortable home in short order. In the second case, the alleged perpetrator will be arrested. The first question is not 'What happened?'; it is 'Did you shoot him?'. When the alleged perpetrator tearfully nods and a verbal affirmative is obtained, the criminal is taken to the station and booked. Her injuries will not warrant a visit to the hospital. She doesn't have a doctor or lawyer to call, but our system provides each and every criminal with a lawyer at taxpayer expense. The real problem with this disparity is not obvious. The real problem is that average, everyday law abiding people believe that these two scenarios are opposite extremes of the criminal justice system, and they are not. The second is far and away more common than the first. The reason is obvious; the poor outnumber the wealthy. Violent crime is higher in poor neighborhoods, and police know this. Police also know that crime victims are not always without their own criminal behavior, and self-defense cases are rarely as cut and dried as they appear to be. Again, in poor neighborhoods this is believed to be true, but in upper middle class neighborhoods? Not so much.

The third problem with our system is concerns the prosecutor. The prosecutor is going to examine these cases closely, not to see if these are legitimate cases of self-defense, but to see if the prosecutor can get a conviction, preferably involving a nice plea bargain. The prosecutor is not seeking justice. The prosecutor gets paid to put criminals in jail. It's numbers the prosecutor wants; not justice. In one case the prosecutor has an attractive, wealthy white female with a very spotty criminal record that does not include drug charges, weapons violations or felonies. There is motivation in the form of a very large life insurance policy, but this looks like a loser and the prosecutor knows it. The second case is a minority with a string of misdemeanors and maybe a felony. Both have a gun specification, which is nice. The prosecutor sees prison in this one's future.

Both these cases could be summed up in a single, easy to understand sentence: He was beating her so she dinged him. In my mind, this is self-defense, pure and simple. The prosecutor may not be so pure and simple minded. The prosecutor is likely to believe that if the prosecutor can put another person in jail, it isn't self-defense. It's something else, namely another conviction for the prosecutor who doesn't want to be thought of as being soft on crime. Conversely, being long on persecution is a good thing. If you're a prosecutor, that is.

Back in the bad old days an overly enthusiastic prosecutor could be brought up short by the antics of a grand jury. In theory, the grand jury evaluates the evidence presented by the prosecutor and indicts a presumed criminal based on that evidence, which is supposed to include any conflicting evidence. The grand jury also listens to witnesses answer questions posed by the prosecutor. About half the States have axed the grand jury procedure, likely due to cost and the possibility of meddling by grand jurors with the justice system. Remember that the idea here is to allow the jury or the judge to decide the actual guilt or innocence of the alleged perpetrator. These days the grand jury, if one exists, does nothing more than put a rubber stamp of approval to the prosecutor's case. This is another problem with our justice system, but never mind. We're supposed to trust that the police would not have arrested the accused unless he or she was guilty, and the prosecutor wouldn't file charges unless the prosecutor had a strong case, meaning that the accused is actually guilty and the rest of us are just wasting our time. The system is not supposed to work this way, but the even the United States Supreme Court has ruled on this and agrees that a grand jury really isn't necessary. I expect that Ohio will be dispensing with the grand jury provision sometime soon.

If the grand jury is a rubber stamp of approval, the trial jury isn't much better. Jurors are supposed to be a group of the defendant's peers. Next time a poor black woman is on trial for anything, take a hard look at the jury and count the number of poor black women out of the twelve jurors. I'll bet you can't find three, let alone twelve. The jurors who are about to decide someone's guilt based on the arguments of a seasoned orator are supposed to be selected randomly from a group of the defendant's peers, and they are not. Many of them will have absolutely nothing in common with the defendant, which would be a little more acceptable if the jurors were temperate, decisive, impartial, intelligent and well-educated. Again, most jurors are not these things, but they're supposed to be. Certainly none of the jurors has a degree in law or has passed the bar. Is this a problem with our beloved justice system? Damn right it is. I'm a fat, middle aged white man with conservative views on personal responsibility, gun ownership and castle doctrine. If I'm being railroaded by the Lucas County prosecutor because I defended myself from a violent criminal who is now fertilizer, I do not want my innocence debated by twelve black female jurors, all of whom have one or more angelic little boys in the system. I want twelve fat middle aged white men, all of whom have a CCW permit and a membership with Gun Owners of America.

Any questions about the success or failure of the jury trial system can be answered by The Innocence Project, which has over 260 exonerations to date (2010). Do you have any idea how bad things have to get before an organization like this one will form? Try filing an appeal on your own and see.

The appeal process is deliberately obstructive and does nothing to redress any procedural flaws in the system. Rather, it is designed to redress the rarest of the rare, the sui generis miscarriage of justice. Detractors of  The Innocence Project scream derisively that 'The prisons are full of innocent people – just ask them!' Not full, no. Half full, maybe.

My rationale here is based on sheer numbers. In 2008 there were 2.3 million people in jail. If we assembled all those prisoners into a penal colony, it would be more populous than Houston, Texas – the fourth largest city in the United States. I just do not believe we have that many people who deserve to be in prison.

The supposed purpose of incarceration in prison is to:
  • Serve as a deterrent to the general populace
  • Serve as a personal deterrent to individuals already in prison who might otherwise commit future crimes
  • Punish the guilty (retribution or vengeance for the crime victim)
  • Rehabilitate the criminal
  • Protect the rest of the population (all of whom are without doubt angelic law abiding citizens) from the criminals
So far, incarceration is not what I'd call an overwhelming success. The threat of going to prison probably deters the an otherwise law abiding citizen from doing something foolish, such as growing a cash crop in the basement and using the proceeds to pay for Junior's college, but that is about as far as I think it goes. I offer the number of people in prison as evidence that the threat of going to prison isn't an effective deterrent. As for a personal deterrent, check the rate of recidivism (about 60%) then try selling me a bridge I don't own. The rehabilitation angle isn't working too well either. That leaves punishment which works real well, and if you don't believe me go and get locked up for a day or two. U.S. prisons are real hell holes, which makes me wonder about the recidivism rate again. Why return to a dangerous, repulsive environment? The protection aspect is effective  – the criminal can't commit crimes against the rest of the population if he's in prison.

End of Part 1

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Friday

Main Lady and her little darlings Flopsy and Mopsy went out shopping on Black Friday. Cottontail would have joined them had she been in town, but she and Que Bee One are off somewhere doing something else, possibly supporting a protest against turkey hunters. With any luck they'll each get a butt full of number nine shot by way of retribution from a disgruntled turkey hunter, although neither one would be dissuaded. Big Mike and I went shooting, followed by drinking and a fashionable mid-afternoon lunch at the Maumee Bay Brewing Company. This is the way civilized men should spend Black Friday.

We drove out to the Bullet Stop and found it was closed. The new store hours are 6:00 pm until 9:00 pm. Somewhat discouraged we were about to leave when the owner showed up with both dogs and let us in. We were her only customers, she explained, and she'd been in the house to keep warm.

Indeed. For those of you who don't know, the Bullet Stop is a house trailer parked next to a barn. The range is an enclosed structure built inside the barn, so it has double insulation and never sees the light of day. Given the temperature outside was about thirty degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature inside was about 20. You could see your breath at the range, something that Big Mike thought hilariously funny. I failed to see his humor and didn't comment. I forced myself to ignore the cold and somehow coaxed my numb fingers into stuffing bullets into the clip for my gat. Well, at least we had the place to ourselves, everyone else being wise enough to stay home and watch TV or something.

Buckmark and Target

Big Mike started out with his Browning Buckmark and did well with it, which is not unusual. I've shot the Buckmark before, and I think it has a slightly better trigger pull than my Ruger. The Ruger tends to balance a little better for me, and I've always thought about getting some work done on the trigger. But then, if it works, why fix it?

Ruger Mark II

I 'warmed up' with my Ruger .22 and didn't do badly. One thing about the range at the Bullet Stop is that it isn't just cold; it's cold and dark. My eyesight is not what it once was, so all things being equal I'm not too unhappy with these results at 25 feet.

Ruger Mark II

To compensate for the lack of light I put a nice, big international orange sticky in the middle of my target to see how much I would improve. Not so much, as it turned out.


I ran a few clips of .45 through my Springfield 1911 Mil. Spec. Again, I didn't do badly. This target was typical of my performance today and was perforated at 30 feet or so, with the shots fired at a little less than one second each. That's about as fast as I can shoot and actually hit anything.

When we first started shooting Big Mike casually mentioned that he had some left over .357 ammo that he was going to run through his Smith and Wesson. I think he may have said this after I put my ear protection on. I wear both ear plugs and muffs as I would like to preserve what little hearing I have left, and shooting indoors without ear protection is a good way to damage your ears.

While I was busy trying to keep all my shots inside the international orange sticky, Big Mike sneaked over to the equipment table just as quiet as a little mousy and switched guns, trading his Browning Buckmark for his S&W 686. Then, just as I was trying to control my labored breathing and squeeze off another shot, the entire world exploded.

To give myself credit, I did not jerk the trigger three or four times in a kind of knee jerk reaction to the shock wave, nor did my heart stop. When I regained my composure, I put my pistol down and went next door to see just what the hell Mike was shooting. "Three fifty seven." Mike replied to my query. "Kinda has some spunk to it, doesn't it?"

Remington .357

S&W 686 with Empties

.357 Results

I shot the .357 once, and once was enough. Whatever Remington was putting in those bullets was hot, and the recoil was enough to drive me back to my own lane and my .45. Big Mike was undeterred, but even with his chow hooks he would break off frequently to allow his wrists to recover. I was impressed that Mike kept everything on target. What usually happens is that a shooter will draw a careful bead on the target and torch off a round with some snort to it, and the first shot will be right in the ten right. Subsequent shots are all over the place, as the shooter has developed a permanent flinch and jerks each time the gun goes off. Not so with Big Mike, who destroyed the center of his target in fine style.

After that the real fun started. A few years ago Big Mike stumbled across a Beretta Cx 4 Storm in .45 and decided to buy it. The seller told Mike he couldn't keep the carbine in stock, and I can see why. The carbine is dead easy to operate, the controls are placed very nicely and it's set up so it can be easily changed for left handed shooters. The sights are ghost ring (rear) and post which work a whole lot better than I ever imagined.

Beretta Cx4 in .45

My Efforts

Here are my efforts with the carbine at 50 feet. This is from a standing position, about one shot per second. I'm impressed with the gun; if I can produce results like this, a serious shooter should do much better.



Mike's Results
Big Mike shot the carbine from a standing position at 50 feet, about one shot per second without a rest. Clearly, this is much better than government work would require.


Blitzen Ale at Maumee Bay

We finished up at Maumee Bay. I had the Blitzen ale, which I recommend to anyone who enjoys an ale that is not too bitter or strong tasting. The Blitzen has a nice mellow, somewhat fruity flavor that goes very well with lunch.

The three empties you see fell out of my coat when I took it off. I rescued them from the floor and Mike and I wondered if the owners would call the SWAT team. Anthony the bartender remained unruffled, but our reaction is a sad commentary about the world we live in. When I lived in South Dakota the sporting goods store was in the basement of the DakotaMart supermarket. I bought a shotgun while I was there and carried my new shotgun, uncased, up the stairs and through a busy supermarket, out the door and across the parking lot to my car where I stowed it carefully in the trunk. Not one person so much as raised an eyebrow.

Thanksgiving

Our Thanksgiving holiday was excellent, if a bit tiring. Mom is not as young and vigorous as she once was, so a large portion of the work fell to her favorite son who is privileged to be able to do it. This involves moving the furniture into a new configuration so as to accommodate the extended dining room table and chairs. Then the fine china has to be retrieved from its hiding place, along with the silver, tablecloth and various serving dishes. The table must be set properly, with the salad fork to the left of the dinner fork. The cooking involves putting the turkey into a smoker with mesquite chips and cooking it for four hours, a process that we've been using for years and which never fails to produce an excellent turkey. The smoker has a large pan of water just over the firebox which keeps all the meat moist.

I think that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There is limited shopping to worry about and, generally speaking, a maximum amount of pleasant socializing. In past years when more of our family were on this side of the lawn, Uncle Sardonicus would get a snoot full and lose his temper arguing politics with the rest of the crew. Auntie Annie would be horrified at his behavior and would give him hell when they would get back home. Sadly those days have gone by the wayside. For one thing, Auntie Annie finally had enough of Uncle Sardonicus's drinking habits and told him that if he didn't straighten up he'd find himself dog housed permanently. For another, Sardonicus has since developed a health condition that prohibits drinking anything more than one beer every six months or so. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

The one thing that I do not enjoy about Thanksgiving is the K.P. duty. Traditionally this job always fell to the women, although Auntie Annie always had to prod 88 to get her to pitch in and help. Then one year the women made an executive decision to clean up the kitchen between the meal and the serving of desert, which resulted in the men waiting around for an hour for a piece of pie. This didn't sit well with the men, and the Whiskey Man said as much to Mom. My dear Auntie Annie didn't have sense enough to be intimidated by the Whiskey Man, and so retorted that if the men could do any better they were welcome to try. Never one to back away from an electric fence and a pissing contest, Shotgun Bob put both feet into the leg hold trap and was joined by California Dave and Big Mike. So it was decided that the men would serve desert and provide clean up services.

All I can say is that at the time this decision was made, I was under the influence and had the good sense to stay quiet. Big Mike will likely argue that I was too loaded to speak, but he doesn't know what he's talking about since he was busy egging Shotgun Bob on while all this was happening. I won't bore the readers with an extended description of that first effort except to say that half the men involved had restaurant experience, and I don't mean managerial. Having little experience in a commercial kitchen, I was appointed as head waiter, which on the surface seemed like a good idea. In fact I had consumed three of the Whiskey Man's martinis (generous doubles of hundred proof - the Old Man knew how to pour a drink) and couldn't pour the coffee without spilling it. Then 88 squirted whipped cream all over my shirt. Never minding all that, Big Mike appointed himself head of the Kitchen Police and as a result of his hard work and organizational skills the desert was served in a timely fashion and the kitchen was actually cleaner and neater than when the cooking started. That's saying something, as Mom is very particular about her kitchen.

Usually Big Mike gets stuck washing the dishes. This year I determined that Mike would not get stuck with this somewhat onerous task, and since Shotgun Bob and The Girl elected to have Thanksgiving with Herself's family at trailer court North, I would do the dishes. This required some preparation on my part, meaning that I stayed out of the booze and took care not to over-eat. I also took a pain pill between dinner and desert as my lower back was bothering me from the morning preparations and from being on my feet most of the day, and I knew that bending over the sink would aggravate it.

The thing is, Mom likes to serve the dinner on fine china. I suggested paper plates and my suggestion was rejected out of hand. Since putting the china into the dish washer will ruin it, that means that everything must be washed by hand. This includes most of the cookware as well, as the dish washer can only accommodate  six of the 57 pieces used to prepare the meal. Grab the sponge and start washing, Jack. Big Mike and his mom, Chatelaine, dried dishes and put things away, for which I thank them. The washing procedure seemed to go on forever, and about half way through I realize that if the pain pill I took is working, it is not working well enough to counteract the nasty little demon with the ice pick. I resolve not to give up, and so in defiance of my notion that I've actually died and gone to Hades, there to wash dishes forever, the job eventually gets finished.

The women spend the time playing some sort of game in the living room which involves scrabble words, hearts and flowers. Mom enjoys herself, which makes the effort worthwhile. Did I mention that Shotgun Bob and The Girl were absent? No matter. They'll be here for the Christmas holiday, and then the two of them can be assigned to KP. Of course Mom has decided that since we'll be having a larger crowd on Christmas, perhaps it would be best to use paper plates instead of the good china.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Why All the Fuss?

Over at Jess Miss Placed Le Chef blogs about the trials and tribulations of being an overweight mother whose comfort zone is directly related to her husband's largess (An Assumption of Dumplings and Expensive Pork Products). Tonight the disgruntled walrus must prepare dinner and doesn't feel she's up to it (for whatever reason). Le Chef surfs the Internet until she finds what she believes to be a suitable recipe provided by Better Homes and Gardens, a publication I have little experience with. You can check out the recipe here if you like. I did, and I can say with assurance that you could not pay me enough money to cook this bizarre concoction let alone serve it to anyone – friends, family or not. Dispensing with all that for the moment, Le Chef has a large gap in her logic. Fixing an odd and somewhat complex dinner for the tribe. Why all the bother?

If you're feeding kids, you are essentially slopping the hogs - except the hogs are as picky and persnickety about the stuff on the table as a Persian cat with an attitude that needs adjusting. The real solution is to buy a few cans of the kid's favorite slop and serve it up in front of the TV. They'll be quiet and content for a while, at least until the sibling rivalry starts. This is to be expected and rather than waste time on enforcement of a noise level regulation, you should take advantage of the distraction and use it as a part of your current behavioral modification program.

It is a fallacy that children are inherently good. Men, being men, know this as truth about male children. Certain men have a blind spot where female children are concerned, but fortunately women do not. If you are going to have civilized children in your home and attached to you in public, you must train them yourself. Observe that meal time provides you with a nice opportunity to work on any behavioral modifications you're concentrating on just now. Rewards in the form of food, TV and  the entertainment siblings and peers invariably find by observing a fellow sibling being disciplined are all easily available. Remember that positive reinforcement is much more effective than punishment for some infraction. For instance, if little Susie loses her temper because the world doesn't conform to her expectations and begins shrieking like a cheap smoke alarm, remove a potion of her Spaghetti Os because of her failure to use an indoor voice, not because she screams loudly enough to cause her mother to lose a filling in the lower bicuspid. Similarly, if little Jimmy places a rat trap where his younger siblings will be certain to get their toes caught in it, deprive Jimmy of TV by moving child and food to another area of the home – a detached garage works well, providing flammable liquids are secured against mischief.

The Old Man's preferences in dinner may not be far removed from the children's favorite slop. Given that Le Chef is married to this poor hump she should know all this, but it never fails to amaze me how many women do not realize that their husbands will be perfectly content with a dinner of pizza, beer and mindless sex for desert. You can always substitute hot wings for pizza, and remember that the sex does not need romance attached to it, either before or after.

So if Le Chef doesn't feel like cooking, that's fine, but why bother with some kind of elaborate camouflage job involving pork tenderloin, frozen pirogi and reduced vinegar? Slop the hogs and give the Old Man the kind of tenderloin he's been asking for.

Rant: TSA

Like everyone else who isn't living in complete isolation, I've been following the tyrannical antics of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and wondering just how it's all going to come to an end. I'm betting that the beatings will continue until morale improves. Not to make too light of a serious infraction of our Constitutional rights, but I see precious little being done to redress outrages such as:

Michigan Man Left Covered in Own Urine following TSA Pat-Down From the article:
Thomas Sawyer, a retired Michigan teacher and cancer survivor on his way to Florida, says he was left humiliated and covered in his own urine following a pat-down by Transportation Security Association (TSA) officers earlier this month at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
Some of the worst cases of abuse can be found at the Detroit Metro airport, although there are a few sterling exceptions to the run of the mill TSA goon squad. The reason for this is easy to see once you have to pass through DTW a few times. When the TSA opened for business in Detroit they hired minimum wage workers, many of whom are so ignorant it's pathetic. This leads to an abuse of authority on the part of the TSA.

George v. TSA The moral of this story is: Don't carry anything written in a foreign language. It's likely that George will win this case, but the source of the problem (ignorant and abusive TSA agents) will remain unimpeded and intact until the case is settled, and will very likely not be required to alter their behavior even if George wins the case.

TSA Pulls Aside Humorist Dave Barry for "Blurred Groin" Unable to get a good view of Dave Barry's wedding tackle, the TSA perverts pull him out of line and shake him down.

Back in 2004 Senator Ted Kennedy ended up on the TSA black list (Sen. Kennedy Flagged by No-Fly List) and was stopped five times for questioning by the TSA. Kennedy is a United States senator of August years in office and was an easily recognizable public figure. It took Kennedy three weeks to have his name removed from the no-fly list. The real crime was that Sen. Kennedy failed to either get the no-fly list abolished, or modify the no-fly procedure so as to protect the average citizen who chooses to fly but who does not have the clout of an August United States Senator. Why not? Literally, it wasn't important to him.

One major problem with governmental abuse of authority is that there is no one to complain to. No one that will do any good, anyway. Consider the TSA pervert who decides that your 13 year old daughter needs to be searched. Just what are you going to do about that? Allow it and deal with the trauma later on? Who can you complain to? Here are a few links to follow:

Where to Protest Airport Full Body Scans, Pat Downs, TSA Abuse

Lend Your Voice on Security Screening

Think Your Rights Have Been Violated While Traveling? Tell Us Your Story.

Flyers Rights

Governmental abuse and violation of citizens Constitutional rights is nothing new in the United States. I think that one the most egregious violations in recent history occurred in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina devastated the area and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered the police to confiscate all the firearms in the city. The police didn't need much ordering - they were only too happy to oblige. See the article NRA: The Untold Story of Gun Confiscation After Katrina. I believe that when the federal government learned about this abuse, they allowed it to continue to gauge the resistance. After all, if the New Orleans police were able to confiscate guns in the city without a huge protest, maybe such an idea would work on a larger scale. A State, say, or a large city like Chicago or New York.

I note that there wasn't a huge outcry from commercial media or the ACLU about the gun seizure in New Orleans. I also note that the guns were seized without a warrant of any kind and without issuance of a receipt by the police. Furthermore, many or most of the firearms have never been returned to their rightful owners. I guess the government won this one.

The federal government knew that this new scanning technology was coming. They knew what it did, they understood all about the invasive body search that is now being used, and they approved it. The Anointed One said that it's a necessary inconvenience (Obama: TSA’s Nude Screening a Necessary Inconvenience). I'm betting the first lady and the first and second daughters don't get shaken down before they get on a plane. In fact, I'll bet they never get shaken down. I'm also betting that this new abuse is being used, in part, as a test run to see what the general public will tolerate. So far it looks like the public will tolerate a lot. Still, State Department fascist Hillery Clinton has joined forces with The Anointed One in asking the TSA to turn it down a notch or two (Obama, Clinton ask TSA to make body screening less invasive). Which is a real joke when you consider that when The Anointed One says jump John Pistole screams "How high?" on his way up.

If fascist Clinton and The Anointed One actually cared about the rights of the people they are supposed to represent, this process would have been rejected out of hand. The truth is, they don't care. Neither do the other moral reprobates in the government who are failing to speak out against this kind of abuse every single day. In fact, any elected official who isn't railing against this crap every day does not deserve to be in office. The lot of them should turn in their resignation and immigrate to Venezuela where they can go to work for Hugo Chavez. They'll be more at home there.

Here's one man with the right idea. Colorado Springs, Colorado city councilman Sean Page has had enough and is willing to replace the TSA (Councilman wants to replace TSA in Colorado Springs), for which I congratulate him. Good job, Mr. Page. Keep up the good work.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cost of a Criminal Trial

Notable attorney Jeff Gamso wrote an essay about Anthony Sowell's trial, which has cost the county government $185,000 so far and is going to cost more. A lot more. As usual Jeff makes some good points and provides a few links. His efforts inspired me to write a response which I posted in the comments section (and which caused an error, but which posted anyway) and which I'll expand here. You can read Jeff's essay at this link: $185,000 and Counting and it's worth reading. Go and read it, then come back. I'll wait.

The trouble is that we the people are not consulted on cases like this. Consider both ends of the death penalty opinion spectrum. On one end sit Bubba, Sissy and Joe, none of whom can imagine spending $185 grand on anything, much less a trial for a whacked out serial killer. Their opinion consists of two thoughts:

"$185 grand?! Hell no I wouldn't spend it! Just take that crazy sumbitch out back and shoot him. Cost you fifty cents. Shit, I'd do it in a heartbeat. I know guys who'd actually pay five dollars to do it."

All of which is very likely the Sunday School truth. When you try to explain to this crowd why the death penalty can't work that way, the only progress you'll make is to create frustration with your seeming ineptitude to grasp the simplest of facts, whereupon you'll get the second part of their opinion.

"Just 'splain to me why we can't (caint?) take the crazy summbitch out back and shoot him. You know damn good and well it's 'cause of those bleedin' heart gun grabbin' commie fagot lib-rals!"

Just how the gun grabbing (with a gee, Bubba) etcetera Liberals are stopping such a sensible plan is never made clear, but it will remain an incontrovertible fact. The argument will then take you back to part one, taking the accused out back and shooting him. The thing is that in a case like this their idiotic argument begins to sound reasonable, especially when you consider the cost of an execution for someone who is much more than very likely a deranged serial killer.

At the other end of the bell curve are the overly zealous opponents of the death penalty, Blake, Henry, Winston and Elizabeth, each and every one of whom live or have lived in a home valued at more than $185,000, and what is more can easily imagine spending $185,000 on several items. As individuals they would certainly spend in excess of $185,000 in legal fees for their own defense or defense of their family, and likely would contribute heavily to someone else's defense fund, such as Jack Sparagowski and the convicted murderer Father Gerald Robinson See here, here and here.

Their arguments are generally based on all life being sacred, which is easy for them to believe because their lives are easy. They argue that the death penalty amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, which it does given the way that our justice system carries it out. However, as Bubba will point out, if you shoot someone in the back of the head he won't even know what hit him (or words to that effect). Finally there is the inherent wrongness of 'an eye for an eye', and all the world ending up blind if we go in that direction. The trouble is that phrase actually means that if someone steals $100 from my dear old mother I'm not allowed to burn their house down, kill their family and then go out there in the middle of the night and piss on the ashes!!

Sorry, I got carried away for a minute.

But spend $185,000 on the trial of a killer like Anthony Sowell? Not so much. They aren't willing to spend $185 grand on the trial either. They consider it a waste of money that could otherwise be spent on public works, such as teaching people to read or protecting endangered species, or confiscating Bubba's gun collection. Alright, I'm being unfair here. I don't believe they want the entire collection - just the functional firearms.

The one thing that these two groups can agree on is that it's just plain nuts to spend this much money on a trial that seems pretty open and shut to me. How much guiltier can this man be? Come on!

So establish some dollar amount as the maximum, say $5000 or so. If the projected expenditures exceed this amount, the death penalty gets taken off the table and replaced with life in prison without possibility of parole. On the other hand if the murdering 'sumbitch' is so completely, obviously guilty that the expenditures for the trial stay under the limit, then the death penalty can remain on the table. If this sounds a little too sensible to work, put it in front of the voting public and see what shakes out. I'll bet you'd be surprised.

Here are two links to the case:

Cleveland's nightmare on Imperial Avenue: One year later

Cost of suspected serial killer Anthony Sowell's defense surpasses $185,000 mark

I support the death penalty, and the case of Anthony Sowell is a good example of why we should have the death penalty. At the same time, the only method I believe to be humane is the firing squad, which is rarely used these days. More importantly, I oppose the procedure that the government uses to put criminals on death row.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Notable Holidays

Take Note!

This coming Friday (November 19, 2010) is National Ammo Day. This was started several years ago by the outspoken, trenchant blogger and entrepreneur Kim du Toit, who also penned and published such gems as  The Pussification Of The Western Male, republished here since Kim's website went the way of the passenger pigeon and the dodo bird. The idea is that everyone purchase 100 rounds of ammo, ideally putting one billion rounds of ammunition into the hands of law abiding citizens in the United States while simultaneously giving anti-freedom moonbats a bad case of indigestion. I'm all for it and I'll be buying my 100 rounds on Friday. Click here and here for more details.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010 is National Opt-Out Day. This is a protest of the government's Draconian security measures to "protect" everyone who travels by airplane. I'm talking about the electronic strip searches here. The idea is to decline to be passed through the electronic strip search system and request an invasive pat-down instead. Decline the offer of a private office - make the TSA goons shake you down in public, and be sure to keep an eye on your personal possessions while you're being groped. Personally, I refuse to fly anywhere that will subject me to this kind of police state treatment. I'll walk first.

Here are a few links to sites about National Opt-Out Day:
National Opt-Out Day, which includes links to news reports at the bottom of the page
Today in Travel, by Carl Unger.
Ask the Pilot, by Patrick Smith. This is one of the better articles I've read about airport security and terrorism.

If you don't like the invasive security measures that our government is using, write your Congress critter.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My Life: Emergency Rescue

Last post (here) we left Mad Jack trying to mind his own business and surround a few calories along with two fingers of Johnny Walker Black, then the phone rang.

It's Main Lady and she has some type of emergency.

"Jack, there's a bunny in my mom's front yard." Main Lady sounds a little upset, which clues me in to lay off the smart remarks - like, for instance, "How old is she?".

"Well... " I fumble around for something intelligent.

"I've never seen a bunny like this one. It's all silky brown with white markings on it." Main Lady explains.

"Okay, it's someone's pet rabbit." I search around for a way out and can't come up with anything.

If you haven't tipped to my predicament, let me enlighten you. The critter in question is in Centenarian's front yard and has been discovered by Main Lady, therefore it is now Main Lady's responsibility. Now, even without seeing the rabbit, I can tell that it's someone's pet rabbit and that it isn't going to survive outside. It doesn't have the skill set, for one thing. The temperature is against it as we're hitting the 20s during the night and the rabbit will likely freeze to death. Then there are the neighborhood felines, all of whom might find a little hossenfeffer to be a welcome addition to their otherwise bland diet. The grand finale to all this will happen the next day when Main Lady will go looking for the cute little bunny rabbit and find the raw materials for a pair of winter gloves. And then, since it was yours truly (that would be me, Mad Jack) who advised her not to worry about the bunny, and said that the owners would likely find it or the bunny would just hop along home - well, I will envy the dog his dog house is all I can say.

"Will you come over here and help me?" Main Lady asks. I note that Main Lady knows better than to ask if I'd like to help her. She asks if I would help her. Be willing, that is. What can I say? I put my car under me and head over to the Centenarian's house. Here is what I find:

Bunny Rabbit
I don't know what breed it is, but the rabbit in question was huddled in the flower garden in Centenarian's front yard, munching on the tiny white flowers. It didn't respond to activity around it in typical rabbit fashion (run like hell away from anything), although I did not try petting it or picking it up.

"What do we do with it?" asked Main Lady. "We can't just leave it out here."

'How the hell would I know and why the hell not?' I thought. Just why is this rabbit my problem? I consider things for a moment. While it is possible that the rabbit somehow escaped its hutch, it's much more likely that some parent got sick and tired of taking care of the rabbit and took it to an inhabited wooded area and dropped it off, figuring some schmuck will take it in. I discard the much more likely scenario in favor of the 'escaped pet rabbit' possibility.

"It is certainly someone's pet rabbit, and it's escaped. It's looking for it's rabbit cage." Whatever the hell a rabbit cage looks like, I fail to add. I look at Main Lady, who is buying all this.

"Do you suppose we can find the owners?" Main Lady asks me.

"I'm sure of it." I say. "The bunny can't have traveled very far. It probably came from one of the neighbor's back yards."

We pile in my car and head around the block where Main Lady considers our options. The house immediately opposite Centenarian's home is occupied by a 30 something weasel who works nights, sleeps days and used to do yard work for Centenarian and Main Lady. He ended up stealing Main Lady's new leaf blower and we haven't seen him since, and that was five or six years ago. To the right of weasel lives a family of dwarfs.  No, I'm not kidding. No, I haven't been drinking. Left of weasel is a home with several jack o' lanterns out front, two vehicles in the driveway with one being a minivan, and a basketball hoop. The garage door is up.

"Pay dirt." I say, parking in the street. We walk up and I ring the bell.

A dog sounds the call to general quarters and is joined by a second, less enthusiastic dog. The barking goes on for quite a while, then a muffled male voice commands silence and the barking stops. No one comes to the door.

"Gee, do you suppose no one is home?" Main Lady asks.

"What, with two cars in the driveway and the door open? Yes, they're home." I reply, thinking to myself 'No you don't pal. I know you're in there and you know you're in there. Now come out and see who's driving your dogs nuts.' I ring the bell again, feeling a little peeved. The dogs start up again and the barking goes on for a minute or so, then suddenly stops.

Main Lady spots the man first. He's coming out of the garage and right away I tense up a little. The man is average size, lighter than I am by several pounds, but the thing that makes me wonder what's going on is the way he acts. He acts hinky. I don't know how to describe it otherwise. His expression is wrong and he moves too quietly or something. Main Lady starts talking.

"We found someone's pet rabbit over by my mom's place, and we wondered if it belonged here. Do you have a pet rabbit?"

The guy hesitates for too long a time. "Maybe... " he finally says. "I think the girls have one."

Maybe? What kind of answer is that? We go back and forth in this vein for a while before he finally admits that the two girls have a pet rabbit that gets out sometimes, but that he doesn't want anything to do with it.

"I washed my hands of the rabbit. We have two dogs and three cats, and I think that's enough." He finishes.

"Well, can you go ask the girls if their rabbit got away?" I ask him.

He accedes, then eases back inside. Main Lady looks at me and whispers "I think it's a good thing you came with me." I just nod. I'm watching the house.

As odd as the man might be, the two girls that come squirting out the door are as normal as ever. Yes, they have a bunny rabbit and he escapes sometimes. We point to Centenarian's house on the other side of the fence and they agree to meet us there. We drive back, and find the bunny right where we left him. I go to the back yard and collect the girls, who in turn collect the bunny who's name is Rico.

Rico, I think. How about that.

Rico the Rabbit and Owner
Anyway, the kids were delighted to get him back, and the rabbit seemed happy enough. As for me, I'm thrilled to be done with the whole thing.

Hossenfeffer, I say.

My Life: Good News and Bad News

The good news is that Migraine One left town without saying goodbye and is now safely back in Granola Land. I know this because she called me and tried to have a conversation which I cut short because Main Lady was serving me dinner. Migraine One was miffed at coming in second place to dinner and a movie - C'est la vie, as the French would say.

Today I attacked the leaves in Main Lady's front yard. Main Lady's home is surrounded by oak trees which is very nice three seasons out of four. This year we have a bumper crop of acorns and leaves. So it's out with the leaf blower and into the front yard while Main Lady is out doing something with Centenarian. Things do not go along as smoothly as planned. For one thing both rakes are broken, and these are the two I bought a few years ago. They were the real nice wide kind, light and easy to work with. The handles came off on both, and I do not have the time, materials and temperament to fix them. That leaves me with a metal broom rake with most of the metal tines gone. I suppose it's better than nothing.

I started with the rake, but after an hour I gave in and finally braved the cluttered hell of the tool shed to retrieve the leaf blower - a fancy one with all kinds of attachments. I untangled the extension cord, set everything up and started moving leaves. Then - nothing.

DRT
My first clue that something was wrong was the delicate odor of burned insulation, which I chose to ignore. Next was the wisp of smoke coming out of the motor. Probably a little dust on the rotor or something, I thought. Then the damned thing quit and would not be revived. It was dead right there (DRT).

Half Raked Yard
The sane thing to do at this point would have involved a leisurely lunch, whiskey and a nap afterward. I entertained that thought while looking at the yard. Why does a partially cleared yard look worse than one that hasn't been cleared at all? I tried calling Main Lady on her cell to explain the demise of her leaf blower and advise her on my buying a new one, but she wouldn't answer. She does this on purpose. Plus, if I go out and buy a leaf blower she is just as likely to want the thing as not want it, it being the wrong color or being poorly rated by Consumer Reports. I shrugged off my neurotic thoughts and stowed everything in the garage, although I was tempted to leave the now-defunct leaf blower outside where someone would steal it. So it's jump in the car and drive off to Wally World.

Leaves Need Raking
Say what you want about American jobs leaving for China and Walmart ruining the economy, and I do not give a tinker's damn. Thirty minutes and 45 dead presidents later I had a nice new leaf blower with the same features as the old one and I was back working on the front lawn, and the only complication I had was an old lady who tried to hold me up on my way out, asking for my receipt. I told her it was in my pocket and kept walking. I wasn't offended; she was just doing her job, trying to earn a few bucks and if I hadn't been carrying the leaf blower I'd have stopped and showed her my receipt. I mean, we're all in this together, and if this lady can turn a few extra bucks at Wally World, who am I to give her a hard time?

New Leaf Blower
I attacked the leaves again and made about two hours of progress before being interrupted again, this time by the dog sounding a call to general quarters. A (maybe) teen age boy had ridden up on his bicycle and ignored me in favor of the front door bell, which activated the dog. I shut off the leaf blower to see what was up.

It turned out that the young entrepreneur was looking for Mrs. Main Lady, he being Main Lady's regular lawn service boy, and he wanted to see if Main Lady wanted her lawn mowed. I advised him in the affirmative, but suggested that the leaves needed immediate attention. He told me he'd be back with a rake. I decided not to hold my breath on this one and continued working.

Lawn Boy Evidence
 About a half hour later the boy is back, this time with overnight supplies and a rake. Yippee, I think, time for a little R&R. I wanted to retire to the TV room, but nothing will satisfy Excellent Rachmaninoff except for a dog walk. Naturally the dog wants to eat the lawn boy, but I dissuaded him. After the dog walk, I retired to the TV room with a sandwich and two fingers of Johnnie Walker Black Label... and the doorbell rings, activating the dog. I send the dog to his place and order a sit-stay. It's the lawn boy.

"Is it okay if I come back later? My tarp has a hole in it and I have to get another tarp."

"No problem, kid." I say with the jolly good humor of someone who has a solution. "We've got a tarp in the shed you can use."

"You want me to use the tarp in the shed?" Clearly, there is some incredulity here but I don't know why.

"Sure thing. I'll get it out for you." I'm helpful if nothing else. I get the big blue plastic tarp from the shed and hand it over to Main Lady's lawn boy, who seems strangely reluctant. Then I come back and release the dog, telling him what a great dog he is and giving him a dog cookie. I'm not quite halfway through my Johnnie Walker when the doorbell rings, activating the dog. I send the dog to his place and order a sit-stay. It's the lawn boy. Again.

"Does Mrs. Main Lady want the leaves raked down to the curb?"

I reassure him that Mrs. Main Lady will be ecstatically happy to have the leaves raked down to the curb and piled on top of the leaves that are already at the curb, waiting for the city leaf pick up to come and collect them. Thus reassured, the lawn boy returns to the hell of manual labor whilst Mad Jack tries to attain Nirvana through enjoyment of nutrients and first class booze, but not before releasing the dog and reassuring the dog the he is, in fact, the smartest dog in the entire city and bolstering the praise with a dog cookie.

I sip my Johnnie Walker, reflecting on the ingenuity of mankind. Truly the perfection of such a thoroughly refreshing elixir is conclusive evidence of civilization as we should know it, and if people would only spend a little more time drinking and listening, there would be less bickering among politicians... the doorbell rings, activating the dog. I send the dog to his place and order a sit-stay. Who do you suppose this could be? It's the lawn boy. Again.

"Um, I was wondering - can I come back and finish tomorrow?" He wants to know. Why is he even asking me this? Am I his keeper or something?

"What time tomorrow?" This is an old management trick. If you don't know what to say, ask questions. The kid responds with an elaborate shrug.

"Okay, morning or afternoon?" I'm persistent.

"Afternoon!" This is a definite answer, and the implication is: not morning. Anything but morning.

"Okay... what time tomorrow afternoon?" Again with the shrug.

"One o'clock?" I expect the kid to say something on the order of four o'clock, but I'm surprised when he agrees to one.

"Good enough. See you at one." I start to close the door, but the kid isn't done yet.

"Do you want me to put the tarp back in the shed?" He asks, deadpan.

"Yes, thanks. I'd like that." I say, deadpanning right back although I think it's a waste of time. The kid strikes me as not being the sharpest knife in the drawer. But then, he's out raking leaves and earning a few bucks, so that's a real plus in his favor. Shows he has character or something. We'll see if he ever shows up again, one o'clock or not.

I release the dog and reinforce his training with praise and a dog cookie, which is important. If you don't tell the dog when he does something right, he'll stop doing it and substitute a different behavior. Knowing the dog's proclivities, I can almost guarantee I will not be happy with the substitution.

So naturally when I get settled in again the phone rings. It's Main Lady and she has some type of emergency.

"Jack, there's a bunny in my mom's front yard."

Who was that said there's no rest for the wicked?