Friday, August 26, 2005

Judge reprimanded for making snide comments from bench Judge reprimanded for making snide comments from bench

Okay, my wife sent me to this story about a judge being corrected for making snide, hurtful remarks to people in his courtroom. Every now and then you gotta bring 'em back down to earth. A short read - but good!

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Venezuela Curtails Missionaries Due to Robertson's Mouth

Reuters AlertNet - Venezuela curbs missionaries after Robertson spat

After TV evangelist Pat Robertson called for the Venezuelan president's assassination, that country has suspended visas and permits for visiting missionaries while they revamp the requirements to enter their country. Carlos Gonzales, chief of the Justice Ministry's religious affairs unit, said the suspension should only be about 3 or 4 weeks.

Free speech is what the U.S. is about, but remember, there are always consequences. Robertson first denied saying what he said, explaining that he was taken out of context. He has finally apologized for calling for the assassination of Chavez, but his words still have a ripple effect. Like we believe he is really sorry! I have an autographed picture of Jesus I will sell you if you believe that!

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Texas Gun Law Amended: Texans can now travel in cars with a Concealed Handgun, No Permit Needed | News for Houston, Texas | State News

The Texas legislature finally amended the Texas Criminal Code by defining what "travel" means. It has been legal in Texas to travel with a concealed handgun in your car as long as you were traveling. The problem was that the legislature forgot to define exactly what they meant by that word - the courts determined that travel for the criminal code purpose meant crossing county lines. This legislature defined travel to mean going somewhere in a private vehicle. What this means is that the average Texan can have a concealed handgun in their car whenever they are in a car that is going even down to the corner store as long as they are not committing a criminal act and meet certain other criteria like age (21), and they are not a felon. The other plus for gun owners is that there is a presumption that carrying the concealed handgun in a car is legal and lawful - the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the gun owner was intentionally trying to commit a crime before the presumption is rebutted. This means that the cops and the courts must assume you had the gun concealed in the car legally, and the burden is on them to disprove that if they arrest you for having the gun. It is a good day for the Second Amendment. The law takes effect September 1, 2005. Here is the basic text:

relating to the applicability of the offense of unlawful carrying of weapons to certain persons and to the consequence of certain presumptions in the prosecution of a criminal offense.
SECTION 1. Section 46.15, Penal Code, is amended by adding Subsection (i) to read as follows:
(i) For purposes of Subsection (b) (3) , a person is presumed to be traveling if the person is:
(1) in a private motor vehicle;
(2) not otherwise engaged in criminal activity, other than a Class C misdemeanor that is a violation of a law or ordinance regulating traffic;
(3) not otherwise prohibited by law from possessing a firearm;
(4) not a member of a criminal street gang, as defined by Section 71.01; and
(5) not carrying a handgun in plain view.
SECTION 2. Section 2.05, Penal Code, is amended to read as follows:
Sec. 2.05. PRESUMPTION. (a) Except as provided by Subsection (b) , when [When] this code or another penal law establishes a presumption with respect to any fact, it has the following consequences:
(1) if there is sufficient evidence of the facts that give rise to the presumption, the issue of the existence of the presumed fact must be submitted to the jury, unless the court is satisfied that the evidence as a whole clearly precludes a finding beyond a reasonable doubt of the presumed fact; and
(2) if the existence of the presumed fact is submitted to the jury, the court shall charge the jury, in terms of the presumption and the specific element to which it applies, as follows:
(A) that the facts giving rise to the presumption must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt;
(B) that if such facts are proven beyond a reasonable doubt the jury may find that the element of the offense sought to be presumed exists, but it is not bound to so find;
(C) that even though the jury may find the existence of such element, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt each of the other elements of the offense charged; and
(D) if the jury has a reasonable doubt as to the existence of a fact or facts giving rise to the presumption, the presumption fails and the jury shall not consider the presumption for any purpose.
(b) When this code or another penal law establishes a presumption in favor of the defendant with respect to any fact, it has the following consequences:
(1) if there is sufficient evidence of the facts that give rise to the presumption, the issue of the existence of the presumed fact must be submitted to the jury unless the court is satisfied that the evidence as a whole clearly precludes a finding beyond a reasonable doubt of the presumed fact; and
(2) if the existence of the presumed fact is submitted to the jury, the court shall charge the jury, in terms of the presumption, that:
(A) the presumption applies unless the state proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the facts giving rise to the presumption do not exist;
(B) if the state fails to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the facts giving rise to the presumption do not exist, the jury must find that the presumed fact exists;
(C) even though the jury may find that the presumed fact does not exist, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt each of the elements of the offense charged; and
(D) if the jury has a reasonable doubt as to whether the presumed fact exists, the presumption applies and the jury must consider the presumed fact to exist.
SECTION 3. The changes in law made by this Act apply only to an offense committed on or after the effective date of this Act. An offense committed before the effective date of this Act is covered by the law in effect at the time the offense was committed, and the former law is continued in effect for that purpose. For purposes of this section, an offense was committed before the effective date of this Act if any element of the offense was committed before that date.
SECTION 4. This Act takes effect September 1, 2005.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

UPDATE: Texas Marine To Receive In-state Tuition Rate - Meets Qualifications After Review

KGBT 4 - TV Harlingen, TX: Ex-Marine gets Texas tuition rates

After a number of stories in the media - thanks to blogs - Carl Basham, the marine vet who was denied in-state tuition by Austin Community College, can now pay the lower tutition rate. Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson found that Basham had designated Texas as his permanent address more than a year ago, and had met other criteria that qualified the highly-decorated marine for waivers. Turns out the problem was that Basham had enlisted in Louisiana. Where you enlist is considered to be your permant home state by the military.

Way to go, bloggers! You took the ball and ran with it - and got Carl his in-state tuition.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Bush Administration Gives in to Islam in Iraq - Deadline More Important Than Secular Constitution

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | US relents on Islamic law to reach Iraq dealThe United States has given in to opposing Islam as the primary source of law in the New Iraq. Conservative leaders have been holding the deadline as hostage in order to make sure Islam and the Koran becomes primary law in Iraq. What this means is the Bush Administration plays fast and loose with its promises to have a true democracy in Iraq. The losers - The U.S., women's rights, and any religion not Koran based. This means Bush will have no reason to stay in Iraq - he has been looking for an exit strategy from this modern Vietnam - and he has a built-in scapegoat on which to lay blame; the Iraqi people. He will say "can I help it if the free people of Iraq elected Islamic leaders that want a theocracy-based democracy? We freed them; the rest is up to them."

This will be Bush's legacy - he continues to tie Iraq and Saddam in with 9/11 and has changed his reasons for invading Iraq. He will go down in the history books as mismanaging a war of face, and one he could never win. Winners -Islam, a slam dunk.

I am not happy about the whole tragic "war" I don't like preemptive wars based on flimsy, manipulated intelligence, and where Americans lose their lives fighting for a losing proposition in a place we weren't asked into in the first place - Sounds a lot like Vietnam, and I said so in 2003.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Bizarre News: Michael Jackson FIned $10,000 by a New Orleans Court, Failure to Appear - Louisiana Politics and News

In the lighter side of the news, the so-called King of Pop was fined $10,000 for not appearing in court to answer charges of child molestation and kidnapping last month. The accuser said he repressed the molestation for 19 years and only remembered being molested by Jackson in 1984 after he saw the recent California Jackson trial news.

Most legal analysts say this case is without merit, but who knows - he should at least show up for court. Jackson's lawyer said the court papers were delivered to Jackson the same day as his aquittal and the papers got lost.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Cowardly Governor? N.C. Governor Denies Pardon To Man He Prosecuted

Convicted N.C. Man Won't Be Pardoned

North Carolina governor Mike Easley has denied a pardon for a man he prosecuted when he was the district attorney of Brunswick County. The wrongfully convicted man, Sylvester Smith, was also a prosecuter when he was convicted of felony rape and two counts of felony sexual offense (N.C. law wording). Smith won a new trial based on the recanted testimony of the victims, ages 5 and 6, who stated that their grandmother, now deceasd, told them to accuse Smith rather than the cousin who actually committed the crimes. The cousin was too young to be prosecuted at the time of the offenses and is currently serving a life sentence for murder.

The governor's decision is final with no appeal. Smith said "I don't think he (Easley) is man enough to say he made a mistake." Smith's attorney said he would file a new petition with the next governor in 2009.

For more detailed information, go to these two articles: From WRAL in Raleighand WECT - Smith Thanks to Nathan Denny for the extra links.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Texas Marine Vet Denied Resident Tuition Status For Serving in Iraq

KWTX | Texas Marine Told To Pay Out-Of-State Tuition

A Texas Marine who was highly decorated for service in Iraq was told by school officals at Austin Community College that he no longer qualified for in-state tuition because he had served two tours of duty in Iraq. Carl Basham, a Beeville, Texas native, said he was shocked. Out-of-state tuition at public colleges costs about $2600.00 per semester; in-state tuition is about $500.00 per semester.

I am a veteran and I have read the residency requirements needed to maintain residency while serving in the military. First, a person must have entered the military as a Texas resident. and must maintain listing Texas as the primary residence throughout active duty. It used to be that a person must have been discharged to his/her home state (Texas) to qualify. Now, there are certain steps one must take besides stating to the military that he is a Texas resident. Here is some of these requirements:

A. Establishment of a domicile in Texas requires twelve consecutive months physical presence in the state. The military member must simultaneously file a copy of the DD2058 used to change state of legal residence to Texas and additional appropriate documentation to change his or her military records to reflect Texas as the state of legal residency.

If 4 of the listed items below items have been completed at least 12 consecutive months immediately prior to the date of enrollment and continue to be in effect, the member has established a domicile in Texas unless he or she continues to vote and register his or her will in the same state other than Texas:

1. Purchasing a residence and claiming it as a homestead.

2. Registering to vote and voting in local elections.

3. Registering automobiles in Texas and paying personal property taxes there in.

4. Maintaining a Texas Driver's License.

5. Maintaining checking accounts, saving accounts, or safe deposit boxes in Texas.

6. Having wills or other legal documents that indicate a residence of Texas.

7. Having membership in professional organizations or other state organizations.

8. Establishing a business in Texas.

That was taken from an FAQ at Tarleton State University.

Another source is at The University of Texas, which states in part taken from the Texas Education Code Section 54.058:

Military Personnel and Veterans and Commissioned Officers of the Public Health Service

Statute: Sec. 54.058

Military personnel are classified as provided by this section.

A person who is an officer, enlisted person, selectee, or draftee of the Army, Army Reserve, Army National Guard, Air National Guard, Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Navy, Navy Reserve, Marine Corps, Marine Corps Reserve, Coast Guard, or Coast Guard Reserve of the United States, who is assigned to duty in Texas, and the spouse and children of such an officer, enlisted person, selectee, or draftee, are entitled to register in a state institution of higher education by paying the tuition fee and other fees or charges required of Texas residents, without regard to the length of time the officer, enlisted person, selectee, or draftee has been assigned to duty or resided in the state. However, out-of-state Army National Guard or Air National Guard members attending training with Texas Army or Air National Guard units under National Guard Bureau regulations may not be exempted from nonresident tuition by virtue of that training status nor may out-of-state Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard Reserves training with units in Texas under similar regulations be exempted from nonresident tuition by virtue of that training status. It is the intent of the legislature that only those members of the Army or Air National Guard or other reserve forces mentioned above be exempted from the nonresident tuition fee and other fees and charges only when they become members of Texas units of the military organizations mentioned above.

As long as they reside continuously in Texas, the spouse and children of a member of the Armed Forces of the United States who has been assigned to duty elsewhere immediately following assignment to duty in Texas are entitled to pay the tuition fees and other fees or charges provided for Texas residents.

A spouse or dependent child of a member of the Armed Forces of the United States, who is not assigned to duty in Texas but who has previously resided in Texas for a twelve-month period, is entitled to pay the tuition fees and other fees and charges provided for Texas residents for a term or semester at a state institution of higher education if the member:

at least one year preceding the first day of the term or semester executed a document that is in effect on the first day of the term or semester and that:

indicates the member's permanent residence address is in Texas; and

designates Texas as the member's place of legal residence for income tax purposes;

has been registered to vote in Texas for the entire year preceding the first day of the term or semester; and

satisfies at least one of the following requirements:

for the entire year preceding the first day of the term or semester has owned real property in Texas and in that time has not been delinquent in the payment of any taxes on the property;

has had an automobile registered in Texas for the entire year preceding the first day of the term or semester; or

at least one year preceding the first day of the term or semester executed a will that has not been revoked or superseded indicating that the member is a resident of Texas and deposited the will with the county clerk of the county of the member's residence under Section 71, Texas Probate Code.

A Texas institution of higher education may charge to the United States government the nonresident tuition fee for a veteran enrolled under the provisions of a federal law or regulation authorizing educational or training benefits for veterans.

The spouse and children of a member of the Armed Forces of the United States who dies or is killed are entitled to pay the resident tuition fee if the spouse and children become residents of Texas within sixty days of the date of death.

If a member of the Armed Forces of the United States is stationed outside Texas and the spouse and children of the member establish residence in Texas by residing in Texas and by filing with the Texas institution of higher education at which they plan to register a letter of intent to establish residence in Texas, the institution of higher education shall permit the spouse and children to pay the tuition, fees, and other charges provided for Texas residents without regard to length of time that they have resided within the state.

A former member of the Armed Services of the United States or the former member's spouse or dependent child is entitled to pay the tuition fees and other fees or charges provided for Texas residents for any term or semester at a state institution of higher education that begins before the first anniversary of the member's separation from the Armed Forces if the former member:

has retired or been honorably discharged from the Armed Services; and

has complied with the requirements of subsection (d).

Legal residence--general rule. Persons in military service and commissioned Public Health Service officers are presumed to maintain during their entire period of active service the same domicile that was in effect at the time of entering the service. Persons stationed in a state by the military or Public Health Service are presumed not to establish a domicile in that state because their presence is not voluntary but under military or Public Health Service orders.

Change of domicile while in the service. It is possible for members of the military service or Public Health Service to abandon the domicile of original entry into the service and to select another, but to show establishment of a new domicile during the term of active service there must be clear and unequivocal proof of such intent, including evidence of abandonment of domicile of original entry, evidence of establishment of domicile in Texas, and proof that Texas has remained the individual's domicile when stationed outside of Texas after having established Texas as his or her domicile.

Abandonment of domicile of original entry is evidenced by the establishment of a domicile in Texas. Establishment of a domicile in Texas requires twelve consecutive months assignment to the state, during which the military member must simultaneously file the appropriate documentation to change his or her military records to reflect Texas as the state of legal residence. Other actions may be considered in determining whether a domicile has been established in Texas. If four of the following actions have been taken by the military member at least twelve months immediately prior to the date of enrollment and continue to be in effect, the member has established a domicile in Texas:

purchasing a residence and claiming it as a homestead,
registering to vote and voting in local elections,
registering automobiles in Texas and paying personal property taxes thereon,
maintaining a Texas driver's license,
maintaining checking accounts, savings accounts, safe deposit boxes in Texas,
having wills or other legal documents that indicate residence in Texas,
having membership in professional organizations or other state organizations, and/or
establishing a business in Texas.
To prove that Texas has remained as his or her domicile when stationed outside of Texas, an individual must provide evidence that he or she was a Texas resident upon entry into the service and that Texas continues to be his or her state of record with the military. If he or she has established a domicile in Texas while in the service, in accordance with Texas Education Code section 54.508(d), the member must currently meet at least three of the following criteria to qualify to pay the resident tuition rate at a public institution of higher education:

owning a residence in Texas and claiming it as a homestead,
registering to vote and voting in Texas elections,
registering automobiles in Texas and paying personal property taxes thereon,
maintaining checking accounts, savings accounts, safe deposit boxes in Texas,
maintaining a Texas driver's license, and/or
having wills or other legal documents that indicate residence in Texas.
Eligibility for waiver of nonresident tuition. Subsection (b) provides that military personnel assigned to duty within the state of Texas, their spouses, and their dependent children will be entitled to pay the same tuition as a resident of Texas regardless of the length of their physical presence in the state. To be entitled to pay the resident tuition fees, such military personnel must submit at the time of each registration a statement from their commanding officers or personnel officers certifying that they are then assigned to duty in Texas and that same will be in effect at the time of such registration in an institution of higher education. The same provision also applies to commissioned Public Health Service officers and their dependents. This subsection also provides that nonresident members of an out-of-state National Guard unit who are temporarily training with a Texas National Guard unit will not be entitled to pay the resident tuition.

It looks as if this Texan qualifies and the Admissions personnel may have made a mistake.

Read the story and see if you think he qualifies based on the information in the story. The only way I see he would not qualify would be if he failed to register Texas as his domicile while in the miltary. Let's see what happens.

UPDATE: Man called Louisiana his home while on duty in military

According to an anonymous commenter, the marine registered Louisana as his home while overseas in Iraq. THis would mean he does not qualify- His best bet is to establish Texas residency by being a fulltime resident for 12 months. The waiver statute only applies to current military and national guard. Hope he ca nwork it out, or perhaps someone will step in. He's not asking for much.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

American Bar Association Gives a "Well Qualified" To SCOTUS Nominee - Roberts gets well qualified rating from American Bar AssociationThe 15 member panel of the ABA gave supreme court nominee John Roberts a "well qualified" rating today. Roberts has been rated four times now by the ABA - ranking either qualified or well qualified. The only other rating the panel gives out is unqualified. I still say, other than some members of the republican party who worry thast he is not conservative enough, John Roberts will be a shoo-in.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Man Arrested After Mowing Down Makeshift Memorial Crosses - Crawford protest moves nearer to Bush - Aug 16, 2005

Ed note: The link above will take you to the story - it is an addendum to the main story - scroll down to the end.

A man was arrested for dragging a pipe attached to chains from the back of his truck and mowing down a makeshift memorial to American soldiers killed in Iraq. The memorial is part of the protest by Cindy Sheehan near the Crawford, Texas ranch where President Bush is vacationing. From all I can piece together, it appears that the crosses were in the bar ditch (the drainage ditch on the side of the road). The man was arrested on felony criminal mischief charges because the value of the crosses were estimated at more than $1500.00.

Okay, we need a reality check here. The bar ditch is either state property, county property or a public easement. As such, nobody can claim damage to makeshift memorials that are erected in the bar ditch. In fact, the erection of crosses, signs or other private interests not authorized are considered debris, and if the memorials are sturdy enough, they could pose a serious hazard to vehicles if for some reason the driver needed to go into the bar ditch to avoid an accident. As I drive across Texas, I see all types of makeshift memorials in the ditches - most of these crosses are placed where someone has died as a result of an accident. I have even seen memorials made of steel pipes concereted into the ground. Imagine the damage that could do to an automobile who was avoiding a head-on collision!

I don't see how the cops can charge this man with a felony over the value of something that should not be there in the first place. The why of the placement should not matter - its the state's bar ditch - not the protesters - and once placed there anyone can remove them. He removed them with a vengence - but the most he should be charged with is reckless or unsafe driving. Deliberately driving in a ditch is unsafe and reckless.

This opinion is not a comment on the Sheehan protest; it is a comment only on the merits of placing makeshift memorials on our roadsides. We have cemetaries for memorial to private individuals- place your crosses there - not on the public roads. If we marked every place that people died, soon we would not be able to move for all the crosses, Star of Davids, Crescents, etc. Give us a break and place your memorials on private land.

Yes, it is Rant day - deal with it ;)

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Monday, August 15, 2005

Houston Police Chief Bans Visible tattoos, Says Cover or Remove Through Surgery New rule bans HPD officers from displaying tattoos

His policer officers must present a professional appearance while on duty, so says Houston Police chief harold Hurtt. His total ban on visible tats includes the banning of cover-up bandages and sweatbands. The officers are required to remove any tats that cannot be covered by an official uniform. If the ban means wearing long sleeves in Houston's oppressive summer heat, then that is just tough. The ban does not include undercover officers actually working.

This is another ridiculous administrative rule that is more for the sake of a head honcho's sense of propriety than professionalism. Chief Hurtt is unlikely to have any support for this ban by officers. Some sport tattoos as a badge of honor from serving in the Armed Forces, some have loved ones names emblazoned on their arms, hands or knuckles. Is this another lame attempt to control the speech of officers? Tattoos are well within the First Amendment guarantees of free speech, and to pass a blanket ban on these officers, some who were hired by the department with tattoos - some have added them for undercover work, is a blow to civil rights and should be fought in the courts. I shall research the cases as soon as I have time and will post an update. I thought we had come farther than this petty "look like I want you to look" attitude - it's 2005, folks! Let's judge an officer on his work - that is what a professional does. Action, Action, action - not looks, Chief!

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Christian Rally Short on Substance, Long on Bull - Delay Attacks High Court

Chicago Tribune | Rally targets `arrogant' judiciary

An arrogant group of hardcore zealots met on Sunday to attack the U.S.court system and the justices they see as "arrogant". Tom Delay, well-known for his high standard of ethics(this is tongue in cheek, folks), calls for congress to curb the Judiciary with its awesome power. Yeah, right! Like we need this idiot telling the court and Americans that we need to throw out the separation of powers doctrine in order to have a more conservative (he means that to read more "his view"), Christian court that lets Congress and the president, if they are controlled by hardcore conservative christian zealots like himself, do anything without question.

To sum up the poorly thought out rhetoric of the "pat-yourself-on-the-back prayer meeting/rally, these folks claim the court makes law by deciding if a law passed by congress violates the Constitution.

Marbury v. Madison decided this issue a long, long, time ago. Tom Delay and his dunderheaded co-conspirators were not yelling "activist judges" when the court essentially handed the national election of 2000 over to George Bush. They pick and choose which court decisions they like; for the ones they don't like, these people call for the justices heads on a platter.

If one accepts the rule of law based on the Constitution, one does not pick and choose which laws are valid according to whimsy and the color of your state (red/blue). The rule of law is the rule of law is the rule of law. It is the height of arrogance for Tom Delay and the Deadly Dull to assume they know what is best for this country. It operated quite well for 224 years without their interpretation of the law; it will operate quite well without them in the future. Congress has some power to change the judiciary - what Delay and his friends are asking for is a revamping of the constitution itself. I say shove the idiot out of office, give the idiot his gold watch, and let him live on the very generous pension congressmen have voted themselves. Yeah, I said it - It's the MONEY and the POWER, not the principal for these folks. They are catering to the religious right with these tactics because they believe in "whatever it takes" to win. I find Delay out of order and out of tune with constitutional law and individual freedoms. I declare him null and void and way too arrogant for American values - vote his ass out of his gerrymandered district.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Sunday, August 14, 2005

First Signs of Relaxing Airport Searches and seizures - TSA Proposes Changes

Airport Security Relaxing Some RulesAlmost 4 years of tight restrictions in Airport security have led the Transportation Security Administration to the conclusion that some restrictions are no longer needed. Passengers carrying small razors and small knives on flights have posed no significant threat, and searching and seizing these items have cuased delays in the screening process.

PREDICTION: Since this hint of changing the regs comes from the TSA, I expect the Bush Administration to either halt this downgrade outright or, at least, voice vigorous protests that the changes are not warranted as it would show a weakness on the part of the resolve of this administration and the American people. I have always thought these total bans on lighters, pocket knives and razors have been misplaced zeal and an unconstitutional infringement on our liberties. In a free society, one should have the ability to freely travel anywhere in the Union. The mere fact that one must show I.D. to even buy a ticket on a plane is a threat to that freedom - much less the searches that a potential passenger must agree to and endure to board a plane. Hindsight in trying to curb hijackings is placebo effect at best - I believe it was sufficient to add security doors to cockpits and retrain pilots on how to handle hijackings. We did not need to forgo liberties and civil rights just because the Bush Administration calls something a war - we will always have fringe elements who hate the U.S., some rightly, some because they hate anything not them. Giving in to terrorists can be seen when you change your entire way of life to accomodate their tactics beyond reason. Precautions are okay, but clamping down on civil rights and individual freedoms for the sake of an unsure security and safety is too much. Besides, the terrorists will change tactics once true and true tactic fails to work anymore. The next attack, if or when it comes, will be using unexpected resources at an unsuspected place. We have soft targets galore, and, judging by the mass hysteria of the doomsayers, even a small incident at a children's petting zoo would cause massive crackdowns and severe overeaction by both the government and civilians. It is time to step back, re-evaluate our tru goals, and quit underestimating these terrorists. We need rational thinking instead of kneejerk reactions that become law. Bad law like the Patriot Act.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Lawmaker Argues Social Security is a Moral Obligation, Cutting Benefits Would Be Betrayal - Democrats: 'Moral obligation' to preserve Social Security - Aug 13, 2005

Rep. John Salazar, in the weekly democratic radio address talks about the moral obligation the government has toward its citizens who paid in to the Social Security Administration expecting certain benefits. Salazar claims it be a breach and a betrayal of the citizens for the Bush Administration to try and cut benefits by as much as 40% when that is not what the workers were guaranteed. Read the story at the link above.

It seems to me that the government decided long ago - 1934 - that there was to be a retirement fund for individuals, and it implemented SSI. I consider SS etirement benefits to be a social contract. We, as worker bees, are forced to pay into it for our entire working life and it is not proper for the government to try to weasel out of the contract. The government need to learn how to properly invest the bulk of the SS money. If Bush is so confident in the stock market, why isn't he changing the rules to allow Social Security administrators to invest for growth a portion of "our" money in the market. Wouldn't that be the same as letting individuals have the pseudo-right to make investing decisions in a portion of their individual SS money?

Try that for a while and see if it works. It's better than making poor seniors even poorer or making people close to retirement have to work far longer - they keep moving the bar. I find the bar keeps getting further away the closer I get. My dad paid into the National retirement system and never saw a dime - he died one month shy of his eligibility. To move the bar on me by even two years could mean that the money I was forced to "invest" in America would be money that went only to someone else because of my genetic heritage. I have been working since age 13 - I am a little tired, frankly. Most companies i worked for did not offer retirement benefits and the companies nowadays are reluctant to offer these benefits. We need to make Social Security a growth fund that makes more than it pays out. The Stock Market (within limits) could be a way. Let Bush put our money where his mouth is. I wonder how big business would feel about a player the size of Social Security entering the big game of stock trading. Think it would upset a few people? Heh - I bet it would.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Food For Thought: Is There a National Morality?

Eric's Grumbles Before The Grave: Are There Different Kinds of Morality?

Eric pointed me to an interesting philosophical debate going on in some blogs - individual morality v. national morality. One side argues that a national morality exists and it is the result of majority rules. The decisions the majority makes decides the morality of the nation.

This seems to be way off base as far as logic goes. The individuals who did not vote for a decision or public policy would then be inconsequential in the nation's moralness. This is ridiculous. A nation's morality could only be determined by the total morality of its citizen members - thus, you cannot have a national morality, only individual morality. What the majority chooses to do does not make a nation moral or immoral; it merely reflects a decision by the majority to do or not do something.

Check out the rest of my comments and the rest of the debate over at Eric's at the link above and below in this post. Add you comments pro or con, please.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Delay on Fox: Gotta lova Guy who Distracts by Use of Children

News Hounds: Tom DeLay, A Loveable Guy Who Cares. He Really, Really Cares.Found this tidbit from the News Hounds. It is quite humorous and biting. Check it out. A good read.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Marc Cohn, Singer/Songwriter Shot in Head by Would-be Carjacker - 'Walking in Memphis' singer shot in head, survives - Aug 9, 2005 Marc Cohn, singer and writer of the song, "Walking in Memphis", was shot in the head during an attempted carjacking by a fleeing felon in Denver Sunday. The singer was shot just above the temple and the bullet lodged in in sjull. Doctors removed the bullet and patch him up. According to police, the fleeing felon tried to carjack the van Cohn and his band member were in, but the driver swerved away from the would-be jacker who shot through the windshield hitting Cohn. Another article states the felon was caught today.

Great song, sad situation. Heal up, Marc.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

No Sex Offenders Allowed in Florida Storm Shelters - A Bit Harsh? - Sex offenders�banned from�Florida storm shelters - Aug 6, 2005

Harsh! Sex offenders in Florida would not be allowed to shelter from storms with regular folk. Instead, they would have to find shelter in prisons during the storms. Read the article.

I know it's not popular, but I think an erosion of freedom occurs when an entire group of people have a label hung on them by the legal system for the rest of their life - especially after they served out their sentences. This Florida act is unjust - keeping folks from seeking shelter during a storm is cruel and unusual punishment and violates the the Eighth Amendment. Just think how stupid this policy is: A man who exposes his penis in public cannot be in the same shelter with "normal" people, but a convicted murderer who served his time is allowed - a stupid idea and a slippery slope. What's next? Tax cheats kept from ATM machines? A one-time shoplifter not allowed in any store? It just gets more ridiculous from here.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Delay Update: Judge Refuses to Drop Criminal Charges Against Delay Associates - Judge keeps charges against DeLay associates

Today, a judge refused to dismiss the charges against two of U.S. Rep. (Texas - R) Tom Delay's associates. Read the article for the update.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Google Overeacts When Its CEO Googled by CNet - Blackballs Media Outlet

Google says Cnet went too far in googling

Google, the search engine company whose name has become a verb, said CNet, the online media source for tech news, went too far when it published results of googling CEO Eric Schmidt. According to CNet, they googled the CEO of the search company and claimed that since the information on Schmidt's net worth and other personal information was found on public channels throught the search, it was public information. Google took exception to this and said it would not speak to CNet or its reporters until August, 2006 - a one year ban.

Talk about overreaction - what else can Google do to CNet? Can it block CNet reporters from using Google for searches? I doubt it. Can it sue CNet? I doubt it. Perhaps the search engine company needs to get over it. People who are connected these days are going to google people to find out any info they can - your daughter's new boyfriend, that company offering the job of lifetime to you, the suspicious man down the street who might be a sex offender. The sword cuts both ways, Google, Inc. Welcome to the internet

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Pirro Starts Campaign On Wrong Foot - Claimed Supporters Who Aren't Surprised guests on Pirro's campaign siteMan, politics is a rough dog. Listing people, using photos and quotes of people who are not supporters, and even some who cannot support a political candidate is either wrong at the worst or sloppy at the best. One of the nonprofit organizations listed cannot by law support any individual candidate or they risk losing their nonprofit status. The quote of praise from an executive at the Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill was removed at the Center's request. The exec had not even worked at the center in more than two years. One of the other "guests" on the pirro site was Ed Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, who was shown smiling in a photo on the site. He not only does not support Pirro, he is a strong supporter of Ed Cox. Ed Cox is another republican running against Pirro.

Way to start off! Let's elect someone who will do anything to get elected. Sheesh. At least apologize, fire the staffer(s) at fault (called scapegoating), and get on with real issues and actual supporters. Talk about a nooby goof!

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Peter Jennings Signs Off - Dead from Lung Cancer

ABC anchor Peter Jennings dies | WORLD | NEWS |

Peter Jennings, the last iconic anchor of network news, died Sunday from his bout with lung cancer. He served as the premier news anchor for ABC News for more than two decades.

A class act and a hard one to follow. Goodnight, Peter.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

War in Iraq: "What is this noble cause?" - A Soldier's Mom Seeks Answers From President in Texas - Soldier's mom digs in near Bush ranch - Aug 7, 2005

A mother of a soldier killed while serving in Iraq says she is willing to camp out in the sweltering Texas heat until the president agrees to see her in person. She is angry that the president is still other soldiers to die for "a noble cause". She wants him to explain which noble cause he is talking about. She and a group of protesters from the Gold Star families for Peace have been kept from approaching the president's Crawford, Texas, ranch - the "Western White House". The president did send out two aides to speak to Cindy Sheehan. She said they were respectful, but she said their explaination wasn't good enough and that the ydid not believe the explanation themselves.

You know support for your war is going down when grieving mothers camp out on your doorstep during your vacation. What's a mother to do? What's a president to do?

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

From the Silly Side: Yet Another Rant Against Lawyers, ACLU. Come, on - Get Real!

Ravings of John C. A. Bambenek: The Moral Responsibilities of Lawyers

Someone is always spouting off about lawyers and the ACLU. They accuse lawyers of having a moral obligation higher than the constitution - that they owe society something like not defending clients who "clearly did it", and the lawyer knows he did it. Sheesh! First things first. Everyone is entitled to a defense - that is what the constitution stands for. Sometimes, all a lawyer can do is mitigate the consequences of a client's actions. Perhaps showing why a client should not serve a long sentence (can you say Martha Stewart?) is all a lawyer can do, but that does not mean the lawyer is immoral or amoral.

This rant talks about the ACLU and why it is a sleazy organization to challenge the authority of the NYPD's ability to do random searches on buses and subways. It goes on to talk about how the ACLU goes to small school districts to harass them by filing suit for some reason or other and forces the school to give in because the school can't afford to fight them. That is just so much Bullshit. The ACLU, whether you like it or not, tries to take cases that challenge a law. They don't want to win at the lower court level and they don't like to settle. They want to take the case up the ladder to the highest court in order to get a ruling that comes down in their favor. The only time a school district folds up on a point is when their lawyers tell them they don't have a legal leg to stand on. Don't you think there are enough right wing organizations with plenty of money who would finance a small school distirct in a fight with the bullying ACLU if they thought it was a good case? You know I'm right about this.

Here is the comment I left on the blog the rant was on, just in case he chooses not to post my comment:

I think equating protection of civil rights with enabling terrorists is missing the point about our constitutional guarantees.

When a lawyer defends someone who DID IT, as you say, and gets the defendant off on a technicality, he is doing his job. The law is a by-the-book type of thing. The government must meet its burden of proof for any criminal charge - it is one of those contitutional guarantees. As it should be. Perhaps the government should do a better job when going after a criminal - the police should gather better evidence, perhaps? Remember when the government was able to just lock people up because it said the defendant broke the law - no lawyer was allowed to prove otherwise. That was one of those little annoying things that caused us to fight for independence from King George and England. And the basis of the bill of rights tends to reflect that very thing - core values based on personal freedoms and guarantees. It limits what the government can do.

Technicalities are what the law is about, and a lawyer getting a client off that you think is clearly guilty is part of those guarantees. It does not mean the man is innocent - merely that he is not guilty under law. Not a hard concept to understand. What about that man who "clearly did it" who just served 18 years for rape, yet DNA evidence just proved he did not commit the rape - you think he thinks the "clearly did it" from someone would hold up in his eyes?

As far as ethical responsibilities of a lawyer when defending a client, we have an ethical duty imposed BY LAW to defend to the utmost a client regardless of what he/she is charged with. Our licenses can be taken away for failing to do just that. I do agree that not all lawyers are ethical, but most I work with seem to be dedicated to that proposition.

And as for just lining the pockets - you surely jest! Just paying off my student loans is tough - country lawyers don't make that much - I also defend pro bono clients (no money), and I take court assignments that pay next to nothing - just so poor defendants can have their rights protected. A lot of lawyers do this or the entire legal system would grind to a halt.

General statements about an entire class of people tend to be wrong. Some lawyers are unethical; some line their pockets. That does not make all lawyers unethical or rich. Give it a rest with the general mudslinging statements. State facts and specifics.

Now back to my post: I get so tired of misinformation and generalities - Let's call it all off! All lawyers suck - All leftists suck; so do rightists. There! Nahneenananana!

Liberties are fragile - people need to fight against abuses - lawyers tend to do that fighting. What do you do that's so all-fired important? Bitch on your blog? I thought so. Actually, You are important, too - writing on a blog is every bit as important as lawyering or fighting the enemy or protesting in march. Being involved is what counts. Even if I don't agree with you -(SMILES). Not all battles are fought on the battlefield - some are fought in the courts, and on blogs.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Voting Rights Act of 1965 Due to Expire - Will Congress Renew it? - Marchers convene to preserve Voting Rights Act

The landmark legislation to curb discrimination at the voting booths passed in 1965 is due to expire in 2007. Along with making sure discrimination would end at polling places, the act also gave the federal government the right to control rules and regulations on how we vote. Uniform times and places for voting were implemented, as well as ways to identify a voter and how to contest a voter's right.

there are few things I think the federal government ought to be involved in, such as interstate travel, commerce, defense, and treaties with foreign nations. This is one of these situations where we must have uniform rules and structures in order to keep local strongarm politics from playing key roles in national elections. If we operate on the principle of One Person, One Vote, then the only logical conclusion is that each vote should be counted under the same rules and condition across the nation. This goes for any elected post from U.S. Representative to President. Without these key clauses in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, local politicians will surely go back to their old ways of fixing elections to make damned sure that their man/woman gets elected.

Voting is one place where we need uniformity in when, where, who, and how the votes are cast. My 25 cents.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Cool Science: ESA's Mars Express Takes Photos of Water ice in crater at Martian north pole

ESA - Mars Express - Water ice in crater at Martian north pole

Absolutely cool photos of water ice in the bottom of a crater on Mars. Worth the look!. Way to go ESA - NASA, are you paying attention?

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Pay Attention, Car Drivers: Mike the Trucker Tells How to Get Along With Big Rigs

Cold Fury � Mike's Rules Of The Road

Found this today. Mike, evidently a long-time trucker, has decided to post his top ten rules of the road. I knew these from being raised by a family who took pride in everyone knowing how to drive large trucks. I also knew these from having driven taxicabs for years before I became a lawyer. He has some good advice on how to drive in the vicinity of big rigs, and he includes the reasons for some of the rules and laws.

Give it a long read, but beware if you are easily shocked by what is considered by some to be foul language. I thought it added panache to the blog post. Read it anyway. Way to go, Mike!

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

The New Marketing Tool: Make it Up! Sony to Pay $1.25 Million for Creating fictional Film Critic to Promote its Films

Sony settles suit over fake critic |

Imagine that! A film company making up a fake film critic to promote its films to moviegoers! If you purchased a ticket for "Hollow Man," "Vertical Limit," "A Knight's Tale" and "The Animal", you might be entitled to as much as Five whole dollars. Of course, the attorney fees were $500,000.00 - that is way class action suits work. If the any of the settlement money ($750,00.00) is left after payout, the remainder goes to a charity. Which charity? I don't know. Most likely a charity for fictional film critics retirement home.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Definition Time: What is a zen anarchist? A definition of it can be found here.


I joined (even though I am generally against joinery) a loose blog organization and was questioned on what, exactly is zen anarchy? This link will take you to a good page about zen anarchy. According to the author, King Mob, the zen anarchist is a scholar/warrior that once lived in feudal Japan. It encapsulates the idea that one must strive to be whole in mind, body and spirit, MSB, (that indefinable quality) through the following:

Martial Arts: That which strengthens MSB.
Art: That which has no purpose save joy.
Crafts: That which brings joy through purpose (usefulness).
Games: That which challenges the mind.
Language: That which lets you reach and learn about others.
Philosophy/History: That which brings knowledge.

Give it a read, and you might be surprised. I enjoyed it.

I did recognize some of the concepts and I finally remembered where I had seen them: here at The Zenarchist's Cookbook"

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Poor Martha News: Martha Stewart, Homemaking Diva, Yoga Mom, Parole Violator

Martha Stewart's home confinement extended |

It wasn't enough for Martha that she can add "felon" to her list of titles, she had to add "parole violator" to the list. Evidently, the one-woman conglomerate rode around her huge estate on a four-wheeler, and then dropped in on a local yoga class with her daughter. Reporters caught it all on tape and the judge is pissed. Stewart agreed to a three week extension of her monitored house arrest stint.

Martha "the rules don't apply to rich divas" Stewart - Model Citizen.

The really bad news is: I just found out her new show is going to be on one of the two TV stations I can receive at my house - which means I'll be inundated with Martha promos every time I watch that channel. They even do promos on the news. I would say "heaven spare me" if I wasn't such a devout zen anarchist.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Girl, 11, Will Not Face Felony Charges For Rock-throwing Incident, Common Sense Prevails

CBS News | Rock-Assault Girl Spared From Jail | August 3, 2005�17:00:19Call me Liberal. An eleven year old girl was having it out with some of the kids on her block. All the kids were throwing water balloons and small rocks. She retaliated by throwing a rock which hit another kid. The rock caused some damage that had to be attended to at the hospital. The result? Stiches and a war story for the injured boy; Arrested and jailed for five days for the girl. The big, bad mayor and police chief of Fresno, California, tried to make a big deal out this episode by having the ELEVEN year old charged with Felony assault with a deadly weapon. Today, an agreement was reached (after much protesting was done) in which the charges would be dropped and the girl agreed to sit down with the injured boy and a mediator to work things out.

Sheesh! Law and order types are sooooo irritating! She was attacked by a vicious water balloon weilding boy - what's a girl to do? Come on, folks! Putting small kids in jail and arresting them for felonies is a waste of resources and just plain idiotic. A children's squabble is not the time to be "tough Love" grownups by throwing the kids in jail or juvenile hall. You told her she was facing four years of incarceration, and you only let her out of juve hall by forcing her to wear a monitor bracelet and consenting to house arrest. Even the adult Assault defendants I represent are not treated that way here in Texas - they are out in a few hours to a couple of days. And they usually get probation and a fine for a first offense.Idiots in Fresno.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Delay to Speak at Justice Sunday II, Promoting God-based Supreme Court - DeLay to appear at next 'Justice Sunday' rally

Tom Delay, our self-appointed speaker for all things God-fearing, has decided to speak at the "Justice Sunday II" rally to promote changing what he considers an anti-god U.S. Supreme Court.

Silly little rabbit! He is smart enough to understand the concept of separation of church and state, yet he still wants a totally Christian nation. He is one scary dude.

I hope those rich folk in his district finally decide that he is bad for Texas, bad for the U.S. and elect to unelect him next year. For what it is worth: Bill Frist, the senate majority leader, was not invited to this rally because he changed his stance on stem-cell research. And he only changed his stance because he wants to run for president. Can you say flip-flop? I knew you could!

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Cool Science: An Eye is Forever, But your Liver is Only a Baby - Scientist FInds Ways to Show age of Cells

Your Body Is Younger Than You Think - New York Times

This is a great article about aging and your cells. For instance, your inner lens of the eye is formed in the womb,, gradually losing all its DNA, and becomes fixed forever, but your liver regenerates every 300 to 500 days. Most of the body, including bones, is gradually replaced over days and years. Read it! It's a good, cool science piece.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Intelligent Design Concept Pushed by Bush - Should be Taught in Schools, Prez says / World / US - Bush wants alternatives to Darwinism taught in school

Bush pulled no punches when he suggested today that creationism and Intelligent Design concepts should be taught in public schools. The prez is sounding more and more like a fundamentalist preacher for hardline religious conservatives rather than representing the rest of the mainstream American views. He and his administration have been eroding the separation of church and state ever since he took office. He wants his religious views taught in school, and his god allowed to be worships andendorsed in schools and government buildings, yet he would be appalled if the Koran was taught. The way I see it is the First Amendment is all about allowing Americans the freedom to believe and worship waht and how they will, without endorsement by the government in power, and without alienating those who do not believe the majority religion. What about the kid who is in science class who is a buddhist - does he/she get a chance to back out of science class? I think not. And, when the teacher asks her what she thinks about nonscientific concepts of creationism and intelligent design, will she feel totally different trying to explain the concepts promoted by her philosophy? Or take the agnostic or atheist. Will they feel like total outsiders having to be tested on religious concepts that have no science in them at all? That is the problem with teaching nonscientific, religious based concepts in schools. You can't get into details without violating the First Amendment. Give us a break, Mr. President, and remember that you represent ALL the people, not just the fundamentalist Christians. Get off this agenda and leave religion to families and churches - not the public schools.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Silly Russian Opinion: Confusion Over Non-government interference of Freedom of Press

RIA Novosti - Opinion & analysis - Opinion: Deciphering between freedom of the press and freedom of the terrorists

Here is an interesting opinion piece that was published by Russian News and Information Agency - Novosti. In it, the author claims that it is hard to imagine that the White House would allow even an interview by Osama Bin laden to be aired on U.S. Television. This piece says that Bush must not be serious about joining Russia in fighting Terrorism if he allowed the networks to run the Chechen interview. What our Russian writer does not understand is that it is not a matter of the White House allowing the interview; It is that they are prohibited by the U.S. Constitution from trying to stop someone from publishing anything they want. A good read even if it a little confusing to the Russians.

Link: Click here to go to the News Story

Want To Know How Your Texas School Rated? The List is Out

2005 Accountability: List by District: click here to find out

This year's TEA school ratings has been posted, and the the numbers are down. Some school districts which had been used to having exemplary ratings were shocked to find their rating at merely acceptable, and more schools than ever were found to be unacceptable. Click on the above link to see how your school district and school rated this year.

I still find this method of accountability - using the TAKS Test to rate both teachers and schools - unacceptable. The "No Child Left Behind" Act seems to put the test first instead of putting the child first. Schools teach to the test instead of teaching students how to learn. Teachers seem to be harried now, when it used to be they were just underpaid. We managed to get the paperwork down only to fill the void with tests, tests, and more tests. Students and teachers start school earlier and stay later. Some school districts in Texas are beginning classes as early as August 8th, and these same districts are ending the school year in June. Students are getting up earlier in order to get to school, staying later because of added pressures to meet the TAKS goals, and they take home more and more homework. No free time, very little arts and music may end up costing the U.S. a generation of self-motivated, engaging children. The system needs revamping, and the states need to say "No" to the No Child Left Behind Act. The only way the Federal government manages to enforce this act is by making acceptance of it a requirement if the states want to receive federal monies. I say we can do without the federal government in this instance. What happened to less government intrusion? Sheesh!

Putin Says "Nyet" To Democracy and ABC, Bars Reporters From Working in Russia

Reuters AlertNet - Russia bars U.S. ABC TV over Basayev interview

Good old Russian Democracy at work! In a further tightening of an iron fist, Moscow has clamped down on the press harder and harder, but never against foreign news reporters. Now, Moscow has barred ABC News reporters from working in Russia as soon as their visas expire. In the meantime, the ABC reporters are banned from talking with any Russian officals. This all came about as a result of ABC broadcasting an interview with Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev.

A democracy without a free press is like baking a cake without flour: it can't be done. A dictatotorship in the building is what it looks like Vlad Putin is pushing. A little at a time is his motto.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Criminal Act: City Employee Drowns Dogs at Sewer Plant - No Charges Filed, Still On the Job

WOAI: San Antonio News - Dogs Drowned by City Employee

A city supervisor in Jourdanton, Texas, decided to save the city some money by drowning stray dogs and cats at the local sewer plant instead of euthanizing them. A young man who was doing community service at the plant was a witness when he saw the man dropping cages withs animals into the sewer plant, leaving them to drown. The city's manager said it only happened once and the supervisor would required to attend classes with Animal Control.

Giving Texas a black eye by having the most stupid city supervisor isn't bad enough; no, they have to compound it by not firing the employee, but they did not charge him with a crime! It is against Texas law to dispose of impounded animals by other than the approved methods. These methods are Carbon Monoxide and sodium pentobarbital injections, and the euthanasia must occur in an animal shelter. I don't think drowning in a sewer plant qualifies - the question I have is: who told him they had a problem with too many strays being impounded? An animal control officer (dogcatcher)? Obviously the city has animal control officers if they require the supe to attend classes with them. What was he doing handling the animals in the first place? I smell a cover-up. It cannot be an isolated incident. I think they just got caught doing it on July 11th - and the city approved. Could be they are not firing and charging the guy criminally because they told him to do it and nknew it was going on?

These and other questions should answered before we sweep this story from our headlines.

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