Saturday, August 23, 2008

Joseph Edward Duncan III

My heart goes out the the victims and the surviving family members. The picture of Dylan Groene and the description of what was done to him is enough to make the staunchest anti-death penalty person think twice. As one of them, I wish to express my deepest condolences to all those affected by this terrible crime. In commenting on the merits of the death penalty for Mr. Duncan, I intend no disrespect to anyone involved, also to those not directly involved who are passionate about this issue.

CNN reports the story today because the Idaho federal jury in Boise found Joseph Edward Duncan III eligible for the death penalty. His crimes are as bad or worse than other cases we've discussed recently, here and here. Nevertheless, my position remains unchanged. I cannot condone capital punishment, period. It is state sanctioned murder, completely premeditated and exactly what is proscribed in every set of laws from the Ten Commandments of Moses to the Magna Carta to the United States Constitution. The USA in the 21st century should not need to resort to barbaric practices like this to protect its citizens.

So why are we still doing it then? I believe the answer can be seen in this.

The slain boy's father, Steven Groene, and other family supporters embraced after the verdict but seemed to keep their emotions in check.

It's revenge, payback, whatever you want to call it, but I don't believe it's about justice. These "emotions" they held in check are completely understandable to me, at least as understandable as is possible for an outsider who, than God, has never had to face anything like this. I can understand the desire for revenge; I could even imagine committing murder myself in that situation. But what I can't accept is the government doing it and dressing it up as something justified and wholesome and legal.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Tennessee School Shooting

Boston covers the story of another fatal shooting, this time in a small school in Knoxville Tennessee. Chief Deputy Bill Roehl reported that the teenage suspect was taken into custody minutes after the incident.

"This wasn’t a shooting that was a random act," Roehl said. "It was an individual directing his aggression toward another individual, not the school or the students inside the school."

I guess that's an important distinction. A personal one-on-one murder on school property is certainly preferable to a shooting spree aimed vaguely at the school itself or the student body.

Yahoo News also reports on this tragic killing. Knox County School System Superintendent Bill McIntyre must have attempted to alleviate the tension with this incredible statement.

"I want to assure parents and others in this community that despite this tragic ... and isolated incident that our schools are safe," the superintendent of the 52,000-student system said. Those not attending would get an excused absence.

At this point the names of the juvenile actors have not been released, nor have many details of the case. Where did the gun come from, for example? Are teenagers in Tennessee in the habit of going around with guns? What was the problem between these two schoolmates? And my favorite question of all, is this shooting simply an isolated incident as the Superintendent said, or is it another example of the too frequent situations that arise from our insistence that the availability of guns is good and should not be curtailed.

Please tell me what you think.

Barack Obama's Running Mate

The anticipation surrounding the choice of running mate has been incredible. The latest headline on CNN today is just that: more anticipation.

Most of this week's buzz has been around Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine.

If Obama decided to shock everybody and name Hillary Clinton, he'd recoup many, many votes which would otherwise be lost. Supposedly, millions of hard-core Hillary supporters won't vote for Obama unless she's on the ticket.

Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia would bring his important state along for the Obama ride to the White House.

Kaine also said he thinks that if Obama can take Virginia -- which hasn't voted for a Democratic president in 44 years -- then the senator from Illinois would win the White House.

I wondered if in addition to the understandable indecision associated with a choice like this, there isn't some theatrics involved. These last days it seems like this has been dragged out purposely, as if there were some benefit to prolonging the agony. Maybe the high-powered advisors behind the scenes have been masterfully manipulating the entire campaign in order to maximize voter interest. That wouldn't be such a bad thing.

What do you think?


CNN's Political Ticker Blog is really trying to increase the suspense.

Still no names, but man is it getting hot in this kitchen.


It's Biden.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Newark - Another Fatal Shooting

CNN reports on the latest fatal shooting which happened in Newark NJ. 15-year-old Bukhari Washington was shot through the head while sleeping when his downstairs neighbor accidentally fired the semiautomatic rifle he'd bought for protection.

It is a discouraging turn of events for Mayor Cory A. Booker, who has staked his administration on reducing violent crime and creating programs to help at-risk youth.

"Obviously it is frustrating when guns injure or kill people, but when a young person is hurt, it is a deeper blow," Booker said this week. "We are making strides, but at times your success is punctuated by incidents like this that show how much more work there is to be done."

Our friend and frequent commenter Weer'd Beard, who has a wonderful blog by the way, has objected several times to this kind of talk, an idea with which I completely agree. Guns only injure or kill people when one of the people pulls the TRIGGER. I believe this point has been made to me in an attempt to ensure that I don't demonize the guns as evil objects, responsible for the violence. Other commenters, namely Nomen Nescio and Bob S., have made the same point. I get it, truly.

The mayor's point, though, is very clear. They're striving to bring down the criminal activity in Newark, with some good results and this case marks a tragic setback. There have been others.

Washington's death called to mind the slaying earlier in the summer of 18-year-old Sujeiti Ocasio, who was fatally shot hours after graduating from high school, allegedly by another teenage girl with whom she'd had a dispute.

And this one.

The city's most notorious slayings happened a year ago. Assailants shot three college-bound students execution-style behind a deserted middle school after an attempted robbery. A fourth person was also shot in the head but survived.

In Newark it's the proverbial two steps forward and one step back.

Still, the proliferation of illegal guns often seems insurmountable. Last Friday, police raided a public housing complex and seized a small cache of weapons from an abandoned apartment.

The haul included two semiautomatic assault rifles of the type allegedly used by Perry, plus dozens of rounds of ammunition, a 12-gauge shotgun, a .357-caliber revolver and a 9mm handgun, along with a bulletproof vest.

In recent discussions, here and here, we've mainly talked about legal guns. One concern of mine is that some of them end up in the hands of criminals, reducing the overall numbers might help that. I haven't made much headway with my eloquent and convincing commenters. Not yet, anyway.

Here, on the other hand, we're talking about illegal guns. The accidental perpetrator of this crime, although he had no prior convictions, was illegally in possession of the weapon. I believe all the other references to gun ownership in this story are of the criminal variety.

What's to be done? Lock up those bums; throw away the key? I don't think that's working very well in Texas. And not only in Texas where it's not working. When it comes to inner city black or Hispanic offenders, that's throw-away-the-key mentality prevails in many places. It's not working.

I'm not proposing answers. I'm leaving the question out there: what's to be done?

Medal Count

Unrelated to the photo on the left, a good friend of mine pointed out that Great Britain is holding a solid third place with only a tiny fraction of the population of the US and China. I guess that's why they ran the world for so long. Didn't they also own Jamaica at one point?

The New York Times has the story.

Jethro Tull - Ian Anderson - Hymn 43 - Slipstream

I dedicate this song to all my atheist and agnostic friends, to my friends who like guns and to all the "unsung western heroes" out there.

"Hymn 43"

Oh father high in heaven -- smile down upon your son
who's busy with his money games -- his women and his gun.
Oh Jesus save me!
And the unsung Western hero killed an Indian or three
and made his name in Hollywood
to set the white man free.
Oh Jesus save me!
If Jesus saves -- well, He'd better save Himself
from the gory glory seekers who use His name in death.
Oh Jesus save me!
I saw him in the city and on the mountains of the moon --
His cross was rather bloody --
He could hardly roll His stone.
Oh Jesus save me!

This one I dedicate to anyone who's been down and out and found a way to "paddle right out of the mess."


Well the lush separation unfolds you
--and the products of wealth
push you along on the bow wave
of the spiritless undying selves.
And you press on God's waiter your last dime
--as he hands you the bill.
And you spin in the slipstream
--timeless -- unreasoning
--paddle right out of the mess.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Warren Jeffs, Polygamist and Sex Offender

Warren Jeffs is back in the news. Jeffs is the former Prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). Last month he was convicted of child sex abuse for arranging marriages between underage girls and older men. His own child bride has been put in foster care.

A 14-year-old girl allegedly married to jailed polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs with her parents' blessing at age 12 was ordered back into foster care Tuesday by a Texas judge.

I posted about this before here and here.

I'm still somewhat ambivalent about this case. On the one hand, government intervention in the lives of citizens concerns me. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt whenever possible. These folks claim to be living their lives according to their understanding of what's right and wrong. Their religious and cultural beliefs allow for arranged marriages with very young girls, not unlike many societies throughout history.

On the other hand, we're living in the 21st century. Treating adolescent girls as nothing more than breeding machines and assigning them to middle-aged men as rewards, which I'm guessing is the way it works, is shabby behaviour to say the least. I think the tendency to be lustful, which many men deal with, would run riot in a society like that. Perhaps this has always been the case throughout history in any culture where these attitudes prevailed. Today there are laws against polygamy and having relations with underage girls.


Top story today is there are more indictments coming.

Guns and More Guns

CNN reports on this, another fatal shooting in South Carolina. I realize it's not fair or very scientific to extrapolate an entire theory from one incident, unless that one incident is fairly indicative of the society at large. That's the question. Is this an anomaly? Or is this a fairly typical scene of what happens when the "good guys" are armed.

A South Carolina man shot an unarmed teenager to death after a scuffle at a weekend party thrown by his children and then shot two teens involved in a retaliatory shooting at his home, authorities said Tuesday.

You see, we're not talking about criminals here; these people are not crack dealers or mafia hit men. At least they weren't criminals until this tragedy occurred. These guys are just your normal South Carolina residents, an ever increasing number of whom go around armed.

Here's a wonderful video of the Pennsylvania granny who pulled a gun on a burglar in her home and held him till the police arrived. I love the way she made the crook dial 911 himself. Bob S. commented on another post about this case, which in my opinion is a perfect example of how gun ownership should be managed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bitch Ph.D. vs. Bill Donohue

Today I read a tremendously entertaining post over at the great blog Bitch Ph.D. It seems Bill Donohue has called for her removal as one of the official Democratic National Convention bloggers. Why? Well, here it is in his own words (link to the Catholic League post here):

“On the home page of Bitch Ph.D. there is a picture of two children: one of them is shown flashing his middle finger. Today’s lead post, which was written August 17, is called ‘Jesus Christ.’ It begins with, ‘I’m a really crappy Catholic who hasn’t been to mass in ages because most parishes around here ‘will’ insist on being aggressively anti-abortion….’

He has more complaints, but to me it sounds like a bunch of whining and intolerance. What could be more ridiculous than complaining about someone not liking balloon Jesus toys? But, the call for removal of certain bloggers from covering the DNC sounds awfully close to censorship to me. Trying to rally the troops, the fundamentalist Catholic troops in this case, to remove or boycott or censor, to me violates one of the foundation principals of America.

Glen Greenwald's interview of Donohue over at brought out one interesting thing. He rejects McCain. Maybe he's not all bad after all.

Among the many groups which McCain's new associate has targeted for hateful bigotry are Catholics. As a result, The Catholic League today issued a statement -- entitled "McCain Embraces Bigot" -- which pointed out that Hagee:

has waged an unrelenting war against the Catholic Church. For example, he likes calling it "The Great Whore," an "apostate church," the "anti-Christ," and a "false cult system."
The Catholic League demanded that McCain repudiate Hagee and his endorsement, just as Barack Obama did earlier this week with Louis Farrakhan (despite the fact that Obama, unlike McCain with Hagee, never sought out or accepted Farrakhan's endorsement).

Britney's Legal Bill

It's all over the news today that Britney Spears was hit with a tremendous legal bill for the custody battle with her ex-husband Kevin Federline.

The largest bill comes from attorney Stacy D. Phillips, who says in court filings that she is owed nearly $407,000 for four months of work. Phillips claims she has written off another $125,000 in fees.

Doesn't anyone else find that exorbitant? Did Ms. Phillips work full time on Britney's case for four months? I doubt it. No wonder lawyers have a bad reputation. Over at Terry Aley's News Links there's a good point.

Prestige and free advertising that goes with representing a major high-profile client? Priceless. They should be paying HER for billable time.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Fascinating and Multitalented Tom Waits

Tom Waits is an intriguing performer. I'm a big fan not only of his singing but also of his acting. His sandpaper voice and distinctive appearance make him quite the unforgettable character. Wikipedia has a good bio, including this bit about his attitude towards mainstream advertising:

Waits has steadfastly refused to allow the use of his songs in commercials and has joked about other artists who do. ("If Michael Jackson wants to work for Pepsi, why doesn't he just get himself a suit and an office in their headquarters and be done with it?") He has filed several lawsuits against advertisers who used his material without permission. He has been quoted as saying, "Apparently, the highest compliment our culture grants artists nowadays is to be in an ad—ideally, naked and purring on the hood of a new car," he said in a statement, referring to the Mercury Cougar. "I have adamantly and repeatedly refused this dubious honor."

Here he is paying homage to those gun-totin' chicks we love so much, followed by a few other favorites.

The Lucrative Future of Michael Phelps

CNN reports on the endorsement contracts that lie ahead for Michael Phelps.

His performance in Beijing, where he won a record eight gold medals, puts him in line to earn much more.

"He may be at $30, $40, $50 million a year in endorsements after all this is said and done," said David Harrow of the National Sports Lawyers Association.

Among the 2005 / 2006 top sports earners, Tiger Woods tops the list. It seems a good bet that Michael will be right up there next year.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

McCain is an ABBA Fan

It seems candidate John McCain was asked to list his favorite songs. Dancing Queen by ABBA was number one. On the Lawyers, Guns and Money blog, there's a very humorous connection with the Australian poll that declared McCain's favorite song The Gayest Song of All Time.

Over at the wonderful blog of Bob Cesca, there's a video in which the Senator explains his taste in music. I thought he came off fairly well. I agree it was weird that he brought up his war record in connection with his not having much musical taste or interest, but overall I thought he was pretty smooth. It reminded me of Levon.

Lightning Bolt and Lightning Phelps

CNN reports on the historic eighth gold medal for Michael Phelps.

Phelps won some races by ridiculously large margins, others with the closest of finishes -- most memorably, his seventh gold by one-hundredth of a second over Serbia's Milorad Cavic in the 100 fly.

What fantastic Olympic action!

For many of us, an even more exciting and awe-inspiring performance was that of the Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. The lead he took and ease with which he won the race, setting a new world record along the way, was just phenomenal. The New York Times has the story.

Top 10 Medal Winners

COUNTRY Gold Medal Silver Medal Bronze Medal TOTAL
United States flag iconUnited States 17 18 22 57
China flag iconChina 28 13 9 50
Australia flag iconAustralia 8 10 11 29
France flag iconFrance 3 9 10 22
Russia flag iconRussia 5 8 8 21
South Korea flag iconSouth Korea 7 9 4 20
Germany flag iconGermany 9 5 5 19
Britain flag iconBritain 8 3 7 18
Japan flag iconJapan 7 5 6 18
Italy flag iconItaly 6 5 5 16