Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman Dies

I always think of Cool Hand Luke. I don't know if it was his best role, The Color of Money certainly wasn't, in my opinion. For me Luke was his defining character.

While reading the obituary of Paul Newman here, I noticed that he was a known Liberal. It made me wonder why actors usually seem to be Democrats. Then I thought of Charlton Heston. Then I came upon this fantastic video of Bob Hope, which explains everything.

What do you think? Why are so many Hollywood people activists for liberal causes? What did Bob Hope mean? Was Charlton Heston alone among his fellow actors in his political beliefs?

White Collar Criminal Gets Life in Prison

The L.A. Times reports on an investment swindler who preyed on retirees and was sentenced to life.

The convicted mastermind of an investment scam that bilked retirees out of nearly $190 million was sentenced Friday to spend the rest of his life in state prison.

Daniel Heath, 51, of Chula Vista was sentenced in Riverside County Superior Court to a term of 127 years and four months. According to Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Quesnel, who prosecuted the case, Heath would have to spend half that time in prison before being eligible for parole.

What Mr. Heath did was sell people on supposedly secure investment products for their savings. He probably used their fears and uncertainties about the economic climate of recent years as a weapon against them. It sounds like a lot of misdirected talent and hard work. Imagine what it took to build an entire organization with three offices dedicated to this.

It's hard not to agree with the sentencing judge about the fact that his actions caused a lot of pain.

Judge Ronald L. Taylor told Heath that the severity of the sentence was partly based on the misery that the scheme had caused.

"There is not a doubt it has ruined the lives of many, many people," Taylor said.

What I'm not in agreement with is the length of the sentence. If Judge Taylor gives a con-man, even a very prolific con-man, a sentence like this, what does he do with violent offenders? Is the fact that Heath took the life savings of multiple victims enough reason to put him in jail for the rest of his life?

I say white collar criminals should not be taking up space in prisons. Isn't the overcrowding sometimes the very reason violent repeat offenders are paroled or sentenced lightly? I say guys like Heath should be made to pay, but not with a prison sentence. Hefty fines, full restitution, community service, these are the sanctions appropriate to the crime of fraud.

What's your opinion?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Tony Alamo Arrested

In Flagstaff Arizona, Tony Alamo was arrested on charges related to a child porn investigation, according to CNN. We discussed him last week when his Utah compound was raided. Perhaps the arrest comes as a result of information gathered in the raid.

Alamo was charged under a federal statute with having knowingly transported a minor across state lines with the intent to engage in sexual activity...

I really don't see how evidence supporting that could have come from the raid. At this point, I don't feel very convinced that the government has a good case against him. Perhaps it'll turn out like the Warren Jeffs story, and more and more information will reveal Alamo to be a true predator, but so far, I don't see it.

I believe what's often lost in cases like this, is the founding principle that he's innocent until proven guilty. I don't understand how people are so quick to condemn someone at the first mention of child sex abuse, when we have so much evidence lately that the government oversteps its bounds whenever it wants to. The FBI and law enforcement people have been known to fabricate charges, exaggerate facts and railroad people. I'm waiting for more facts to be revealed.

At the site called Cranium Creek there isn't much more than copied and pasted sections of the CNN stories, but by the title of the post, "Another Preacher Gone Wrong," you can get the author's opinion. The commenter pulls no punches.

On the Maybe It's Just Me blog, there's a post with a witty title, "Someone did Lay Hands on Tony Alamo" There's the cryptic line, "Well, I guess God heard my cry."

What's your opinion? Is it too early to write old Tony off? Apparently, he's a big Catholic basher, describing himself as the "completed Jew." Some might want to credit him for that.

More About Fascism

I realize it's old news at this point, but after viewing this video, I thought it deserves another look. (thanks to Patrick) Amy Goodman talks about her arrest at the 2008 Republican National Convention. It's a frightening and ominous picture she draws.

The L.A. Times reports that the charges have been dropped.

Goodman was charged with obstruction of a legal process and interference with a peace officer after, she said, she inquired about the status of two of her colleagues, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, following their arrest. The pair, like most journalists arrested, were [sic] held on rioting charges.

St. Paul City Attorney John Choi, in a release issued last Friday, asserted that the arrests of the journalists were not improper. But the decision to not press ahead with prosecutions "reflects the values we have in St. Paul to protect and promote our 1st Amendment rights to freedom of the press," he said.

I think the City Attorney must have had one of those Bill O'Reilly smirks on his face when he said that. This episode makes me seriously concerned for the future of the US of A. Fortunately, there's a good chance of changing the direction we've been heading in for far too long.

What do you think about the direction of America? Can we become the land of the free and the home of the brave once again?

Mick Jagger Knew about it in 1974

Fingerprint File - The Rolling Stones
M. Jagger/K. Richards)

Fingerprint file, you get me down
You keep me running Know my way around.
Yes, you do, child Fingerprint file, you bring me down
Keep me running
You keep me on the ground
Know my moves
Way ahead of time Listening to me
On your satellite
Feeling followed
Feeling tagged
Crossing water
Trying to wipe my tracks
And there's some little jerk in the FBI
A keepin' papers on me six feet high
It gets me down, it gets me down, it gets me down
You better watch out
On your telephone
Wrong number
They know you ain't home
And there's some little jerk in the FBI
A keepin' papers on me six feet high
It gets me down, it gets me down, it gets me down
Who's the man on the corner; that corner over there I don't know.
Well, you better lay low.
Watch out
Keep on the look out
Electric eyes
Rats on the sell out
Who gonna testify
You know my habits
Way a head of time
Listening to me
On your satellite
And there's some little jerk in the FBI
A keepin' papers on me six feet high
It gets me down, it gets me down, it gets me down
It gets me down
Hello, baby, mm-hmm
Ah, yeah, you know we ain't, we ain't talkin' alone
Who's listening?
Well I don't really know
But you better tell the SIS to keep out of sight
'Cause I know they takin' pictures on the ultraviolet light
Yes, uh huh, yeah, but these days it's all secrecy; no privacy
Shoot first, that' s right... you know
Bye bye.
Right now somebody is listening to...... you
Keeping their eyes peeled...... on you
Mmm, mmm, what a price, what a price to pay
All right.
Good night, sleep tight

Thursday, September 25, 2008

McCain Suspends Campaign to Fight for Country

Senator John McCain announced that he would suspend his campaign in order to work from Washington on the bailout plan. He suggested that Obama do the same and that their anxiously-awaited debate scheduled for tomorrow be postponed.

CNN reports on the summons to the White House Thursday of the two candidates.

"Now is a time to come together -- Democrats and Republicans -- in a spirit of cooperation for the sake of the American people,"

Now if that isn't the biggest bunch of nonsense I've ever heard, I don't know what is. After taking a nosedive in the polls, suddenly the Republican candidate pulls this trick. To me it's a transparent but plausible lie, which after the trouncing Obama gives him in the general election, will come very handy to save face for himself and the party. You see, for them nothing is more important than furthering the enmity between liberal and conservative, between Democrat and Republican. It's exactly the opposite of what he said.

The liberaltruthsayer said this: "What a maverick."

Over at The Podium the title of the post says it all: "BULLSHIT, BULLSHIT, BULLSHIT!!!"

In order to maintain my long-standing tradition of Fair and Balanced Reporting, on the site entitled Libertas 01, we find the predictable conservative spin. Many of the commenters weren't fooled though.

I'm sticking with my original prediction.

What do you think?

Paul McCartney Brings Peace to the Middle East

CNN reports on the upcoming concert of Paul McCartney in Tel Aviv.

After posing for pictures with fans outside the fortress-like church, McCartney was asked to respond to criticism from some Palestinians that his visit to Israel supports its occupation of the West Bank.

He said his visit Wednesday to the West Bank showed he was not playing favorites.

"I'm here to highlight the situation and to say that what we need is peace in this region, a two-state solution," he said, referring to Israel and a Palestinian state.

What occurs to me is, first of all, who could complain about a wish for peace. Did the Palestinians who criticized McCartney not think he was sincere in wishing peace for the reason? Or did they not know he suggests a "two-state solution?" Isn't that the very thing that supports Palestine?

The Insider contains the basic story along with some good pictures of Paul.

What's your opinion?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Troy Davis Execution Stayed

CNN Reports that the Supreme Court decided to grant a stay of execution in the case of Troy Davis just two hours before it was scheduled to take place.

Troy Anthony Davis learned that his execution had been stayed when he saw it on television, he told CNN via telephone in his first interview after the stay was announced.

He said he was "thankful to God" for the news that came during an emergency session the U.S. Supreme Court convened.

It seems odd that the condemned man would have to learn this monumental news on television. But, at least it came.

Another thing I'm struck with is the attitude of the family of the victim. This always gets me, what's usually referred to as justice to me sounds like some bizarre bloodthirstiness.

"I am angry as can be. I'm disgusted. It should have been over by now," MacPhail's mother, Anneliese MacPhail, told CNN. "Nobody thinks about what the victims' family has gone through again and again.

"I was hoping it would be over today," she said.

With all due respect to the mother of the victim, I don't think it's true that nobody thinks about the victims' family. I do. Everyone I know does. It must seem that we don't due to the unimaginable grief, but we do. Another thing I don't think is true is that it'll be over with the execution. People often say this, but I'll bet it doesn't work like that. And in this case it's especially sad to hear such talk of vengeance. A number of witnesses recanted their testimony, no weapon was ever found. Just looking at the surface facts, it seems like there's some doubt. In capital cases don't we have to be extra scrupulous? What kind of mentality is this which demands blood atonement for a cop-killing even if they've convicted the wrong man?

The Witness L.A. site has a comprehensive article about the case.

This update from CNN highlights the bitterness of the the MacPhail family over the stay.

Chasinthenews has expressed my sentiments exactly. Although sincerely I feel for the victim's family, putting someone to death won't help especially if there's a chance it's the wrong guy.

The cfnews13 site has this fascinating quote from the 74-year-old mother.

"I don't think there will ever be closure. There's a hole in our heart that will never be healed," she said. "But we just want Mark to rest in peace. And we want to live now. We have just been existing all these years, waiting for the next shoe to drop.

"When it's over, justice has been done. That's the way we feel."

The Keating 5 Scandal

Over at the wonderfully informative blog called Hullabaloo, Digby wrote a post entitled They've Been Listening, which makes reference to a poll indicating that "By a 2-to-1 ratio, Americans blame Republicans over Democrats for the financial crisis that has swept across the country the past few weeks."

I find this extremely gratifying because all too often in this campaign things that I've concluded and surmised seem to go unnoticed. For example, the idea that Palin was qualified for the office of Vice President seemed to be accepted by many of the same people who berated Obama's qualifications. In spite of this apparent contradiction, the Republicans seemed to receive the breath of life from her candidature. Thank goodness that's subsiding now.

I became aware of the Keating 5 scandal some months ago via another site I like very much, Opinione. In the Digby piece, there's a concise explanation of McCain's role.

McCain's role in that scandal was very specific: he pressured regulators into going easy on his friend Charlie's savings and loan.

The Wikipedia article on the Keating 5 says this:

Senators John Glenn and John McCain were cleared of having acted improperly but were criticized for having exercised "poor judgment".

What's your opinion? Do you think "poor judgment" is a euphemism for "criminal behaviour but we're giving you a break this time?"

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Troy Davis to be Executed

Via the wonderful blog Season of the Bitch, I became aware of the execution of Troy Davis scheduled for tomorrow in Georgia.

The Amnesty International site has the chilling story of a man railroaded for the killing of a police officer.

Troy Davis was sentenced to death for the murder of Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail at a Burger King in Savannah, Georgia; a murder he maintains he did not commit. There was no physical evidence against him and the weapon used in the crime was never found. The case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony which contained inconsistencies even at the time of the trial. Since then, all but two of the state's non-police witnesses from the trial have recanted or contradicted their testimony.

Many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying or signing statements against Troy Davis.

Did you ever notice how killing a policeman is considered worse than killing any other human person? I find something wrong with that. It reminds me of the sense of inherent privilege and entitlement people sometimes arrogate to themselves. Americans do it travelling abroad. Rich people do it whenever they have to rub elbows with the regular people. Young white males do it all the time. It especially bothers me when policemen do it though. It really comes out when one of them gets killed and the others get talking, using the word they invented for exactly this purpose: cop-killer.

The problem is that cop-killer has become so loaded a term that in places like Georgia, the judges and jurors are often blinded to the fact that justice is being subverted, even justice according to their definition.

The killing must stop. Capital punishment is wrong, not because tomorrow in Georgia they may execute another innocent man, but because it fails to meet the Prime Criterion for killing: defense of self or others. The State has other ways of protecting us from damaged and violent men.

Another School Shooting - Kauhajoki Finland

For once we can discuss a school shooting that did not occur in the USA. Yahoo News reports on the incident that took place today in Kauhajoki, 180 miles northwest of Helsinki. Nine people are reported dead and an undetermined number wounded. The gunman shot and killed himself. (Big hat tip to Il Principe)

The shootings happened almost a year after another gunman killed eight people and himself at a school in southern Finland, an attack that triggered a fierce debate about gun laws in this Nordic nation with deep-rooted traditions of hunting in the sub-Arctic wilderness.

With 1.6 million firearms in private hands, Finland is an anomaly in Europe, lagging behind only the United States and Yemen in civilian gun ownership, studies show.

Last year's shooter was named Pekka-Eric Auvinen, described as a bullied 18-year-old outcast. He opened fire at his high school in southern Finland on Nov. 7th, killing six students, a school nurse and the principal before ending his own life with a gunshot to the head.

Proponents of gun ownership naturally are reluctant to accept that proliferation of guns and their availability seem to go hand in hand with gun violence. Media coverage probably precludes the possibility of confirming if Yemen suffers from the same ills as Finland and the US, but I'll bet they do.

After Auvinen's rampage, the government said it would raise the minimum age for buying guns from 15 to 18, but insisted there was no need for sweeping changes to Finland's gun laws.

No need for sweeping changes, heaven forbid.

Here's the CNN take on it.

What's your opinion? What do you make of the Youtube connection? What about the bullying factor?

Here's the CNN update.

Stonehenge or Lourdes

CNN reports on the latest scientific findings concerning the enigmatic and fascinating Stonehenge.

Professors Geoffrey Wainwright and Timothy Darvill argued their own explanation for the mysterious monument: Stonehenge, they said, was a kind of primeval Lourdes, drawing prehistoric pilgrims from around Europe.

It seems the stones used at the center of the monument, known as spotted dolomite, were believed to have curative properties. Burial sites nearby contained both bits of the stone along with the remains of handicapped and crippled people. These clues have led the archaeologists to conclude that the shrine was an ancient center of healing. That sounds good to me.

I liked very much what Unremitting Failure had to say about it, though.

Where would you rather go, to Lourdes or Stonehenge? I'd like to visit both.

Happy Birthday Bruce Springsteen

The music of Bruce Springsteen is practically the sound track of my life, at least the early years when his first two or three albums came out. I grew up in New Jersey, often marvelling at Springsteen's ability to capture what that was like in the early 70s.

This is one of my favorites, although I could easily say that about every cut on the Born to Run album too.

What's your favorite Bruce Springsteen song?

(Sorry about the ad which precedes the video - the Youtube ones don't allow embedding)

Monday, September 22, 2008

George Michael in the Toilet Again

It's been reported that George Michael was caught in a public toilet, detained by the police in London, and released with a warning about some minor drug possession. CNN carried the story this morning. Three blogs had the honor of appearing at the bottom of the story.

One of them, entitled Maybe It's Just Me, asks the obvious, "Why, why, why!"

Another one, Nothing Personal, asks, "Has he really been reduced to scoring on the streets like Tatum O'Neal?"

And the third, Brad Laidman, hits the nail on the head. "Stupid Coppers - Been there, Done that. George Michael’s public bathroom vice is not drugs!"

Having a monkey on your back is a fairly old expression used to describe an addiction. The Urban Dictionary covers it pretty well.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Eating Right for Health, Weight Loss or Moral Principles

The International Herald Tribune has an interesting article on nutraceuticals, broadly defined as ingredients that are derived from food, and added to other foods as fortifiers. The ever-increasing trend began in the 1990s with garlic pills and similar products which were taken as supplements.

Now Kraft, Dannon, General Mills and many other companies are adding nutraceuticals to existing foods: "fat-burning waffles" made from a newly developed corn flour, cheese that kills intestinal parasites, even ketchup that regulates digestion, are on the shelves or in the works. New technologies in food processing, and a landmark 1999 court decision giving the makers of supplements broad leeway to advertise their health benefits, have brought this new class of enhanced foods to supermarket shelves.

One problem is that along with this growing trend, there's an increasing awareness that some of these tricks just do not work. Studies have shown recently that some extracted supplements, long used for cardiovascular health such as vitamin E, beta-carotene and folate (all of which fall into the broad category of "antioxidants") surprised everyone by showing no benefits whatsoever. It seems clear that the body's way of benefiting from these substances is more complicated than we thought.

All of this is of particular interest to me since I'm a vegetarian. The reason for that is ethical. I object to the treatment of animals on the mass scale necessary to fill the supermarket shelves. I admit to eating some cheese and eggs, the production of which is guilty of the same abuses, but let's just say I'm not a fanatic about the whole thing, and I certainly don't question or criticize other people's eating habits.

My problem, I'm afraid, is achieving proper nutrition. Perhaps these super-foods are the answer.

What do you think?

Arkansas Evangelist's Compound Raided for Sex Abuse

CNN reports on the raid conducted in Fouke Arkansas. The compound near Texarkana, owned by Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, was invaded by 100 agents of the Arkansas State Police, who were met with no resistance.

"It's a hoax," Alamo said. "They're just trying to make our church look evil ... by saying I'm a pornographer. Saying that I rape little children. ... I love children. I don't abuse them. Never have. Never will."

It's clear the government doesn't like this guy. Whether they have enough reason is a good question. On the site Bible Belt Blogger, I found some background. It seems Rev. Alamo has had some brushes with the law, but the implications that he is involved in child abuse seem thinner than those of the infamous Warren Jeffs.

Alamo once was accused in California of directing the beating of a church member’s 11-year-old son. In 1994, he was sentenced to six years in prison on tax evasion charges filed in Memphis, tenn. The judge in the tax case ordered him held pending sentencing after prosecutors argued that the evangelist was a flight risk and a polygamist who preyed on married women and girls in his congregation. U.S. District Judge Jon McCalla said he was concerned over “the very great control Mr. Alamo has over a number of people.”

I wonder if the biggest concern isn't that last comment: “the very great control Mr. Alamo has over a number of people.”

What do you think?


CNN reports that six compound children have been removed.