Saturday, January 18, 2003

Sorry about the delay...

The Sixth Amendment is our Founding Fathers' attempt to make sure that the government cannot just "disappear" people, the way the Guatemalan Mano Blanco was alleged to do on a regular basis, and the way the British Officers would snatch Colonial protestors and keep them under lock and key until they got damned good and ready to hold a trial, usually with witnesses who weren't identified and with his family and friends given no clue that the trial was going to be held (or even where, for that matter), so very little chance for the defendant (some poor schmuck who may have griped about high taxes after a few too many mugs of ale) to get away. It was also a "guilty until proven innocent" sort of situation.

The Sixth Amendment reads: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsary process for obtaining witnesses in his favor; and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence."

Can you imagine how differently our legal system would have turned out had these rights not been enumerated the way they were?

The 1963 case of Miranda v. Arizona (decided by the US Supreme Court in 1966) has established that each suspect must be read his most obvious Constitutional rights: "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to be speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense."

This is not to say that you cannot be arrested without the Miranda warning, just that they have to tell you of these rights before they can legally ask any questions. It also doesn't cover simple identifying information, such as name, address, Social Security number, etc. However, a case of a man who was giving information to the police without benefit of Miranda is expected to go before the Nine Brethren later this year, which might rule in such a way as to limit the usage of Miranda where the information being given isn't being used at trial against the one giving the information.

We shall see what becomes of this, since the U.S. Justice Department has already filed an amicus curia ("friend of the court") brief, explaining the official Bush Administration's position on this case. Not telling the Supremes how to rule, mind you, just how the President and his legal staff would prefer the law to be interpreted...

Non Sequitur aside (or maybe it does "sequite"?), I wonder how long Chief Justice Rehnquist will wait before deciding to retire. He was appointed as an Associate Justice in 1971 by President Nixon, and when (then-)Chief Justice Burger retired in 1986, he was promoted to Chief Justice by President Reagan. I'm sure he was hanging on until Clinton was out of office, but now that the Republicans have the White House, the Senate, and the House, he'll probably retire fairly soon. After all, he is 79 years old, and he's been on the Court for 32 years now...
I see the traditional left wing, tree-huggers, and homeless whack-jobs who should have been throwing themselves off tall buildings to improve the gene pool are out in force. They were joined by the drum-beating anti-war chanters who are trying to get the crown worked up and angry enough to get national attention.

News stations are reporting it as straight news, despite how strange they might seem to the average man-on-the-street. Or maybe that's exactly why the reporters are treating them that way: Nothing they can say will make these guys seem any weirder.

I wonder who's paying the bills for the protestors. Not the ones who honestly believe their opinions (and their rights to hold those opinions are respected, no matter how odd those opinions may actually be...), but the ones who travel from city to city, protesting against loggers here, against abortion there, against eating meat the next, and against the World Bank and Imperialism the next place after that.

FoxNEWS commentator Bill O'Reilly pointed out on his FOX show, "The O'Reilly Factor", that many of these people were supported by a group called "Answer". Or that's what I thought he said, since I wasn't paying very close attention. (I was cooking supper at the time. Yes, I cook. Fairly well, too.)

I found this link which pointed out my error. It's actually ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism). Sounds pretty innocuous (and a group that the Dims can join without seeming too anti-American - just ask Susan Sarandon, Richard Gere and Ed Asner), but the column points out exactly who is running ANSWER: the Workers World Party, a small political sect that years ago split from the Socialist Workers Party.

The columnist goes on to say: "(In a similar reds-take-control situation, the “Not in My Name” campaign — which pushes an anti-war statement signed by scores of prominent and celebrity lefties, including Jane Fonda, Martin Luther King III, Marisa Tomei, Kurt Vonnegut and Oliver Stone — has been directed, in part, by C. Clark Kissinger, a longtime Maoist activist and member of the Revolutionary Communist Party.)"

Trust me, it gets worse... Go and check out this column for yourselves. You'll want to punch the next protestor you meet right in the nose.
Just ran across a pretty cool little web page, that shows you a dramatic view of how the powers of ten can be measured.

I know it may sound kinda strange, but it's still a pretty cool thing to see. Just wanted to share it with any of you who may actually be reading this page. As I learn more about how this site is put together, I'm going to be sharing the websites (and URLs) of some of the more interesting stuff I find on the Web.

We left off with the really long Fifth Amendment, so I'll put together the commentary on the Sixth Amendment a little later on today. Thanks for stopping by. :-)

Friday, January 17, 2003

I now have a few minutes to explain a little about my fight with the Veteran's Administration. Just a brief synopsis, since it took seven-and-a-half years to get to this point.

I got out of the Navy in May 1995. I moved back to the mid-size town I was living in when I joined the Navy. I was told when I got out (which I didn't have a whole lot of choice in, but that's technically not the VA's fault) that I had 90 days in which to register with the VA and get seen by a dentist to cover my dental eligibility (which basically means that any dental problems left over from my military days would be taken care of, at which point I would be cut loose). Late June rolls around, I now have an apartment (return address), so I called the closest VA Hospital, which was about 35-40 miles away, set an appointment (for mid-October - 5 months after I got out), and asked to be transferred to the Dental receptionist. I spoke with her and repeatedly stressed that I could come in and fill out whatever paperwork was needed, and be seen. I had an entire day I could spend, but she assured me that my 90-day deadline was covered by having called in. I was willing to believe her, because I had not yet experienced the bullshit-for-brains dimwits capable VA staff with the ability to extemporize lies on the spur of the moment their selfless dedication to making the veteran's lives easier.

I showed up in mid-October, several hours ahead of my appointed medical visit (to give myself time to visit the Dental Clinic). When I explained my story, I was told outright that "no one [there] would have said something like that, so you must be lying. Anyhow, your 90-days limit has expired, so you're not eligible for Dental work."

'Stunned' is a good word for it. Oh, but we were juuuust gettin' warmed up...

A few months later, I move from that mid-size town to a much larger town in Southern California. I start using a different VA Hospital (mostly because the first one I was using is now 1,000 miles away), and get assigned to ... not a Physician, not a Physician's Assistant, but I get a Nurse-Practitioner. I don't mind, but since it's the only module with a NP, I kinda wonder. (I can't spell out too many precise details about this particular dipshit with a degree caregiver, because I don't want to get sued for telling the truth ruining someone's reputation...)

Long story short, I got transferred to another module and I now have a real doctor. But the VA is refusing to clear that BS out of my records, regardless of the damage it does to my benefits (provable damage having been done, but irretrievably so...)

Anyhow, it takes just under two years after my discharge to get my rating level decision. I am then eligible for applying for Vocational Rehabilitation. VocRehab is a fantastic program that will allow veterans to get up to 48 months of additional job training at any Vocational School or University, provided certain requirements are met: 1) the veteran must have at least a 20% disability rating (except under rare circumstances); 2) they must have a clear employment disability (such as an MOS that doesn't translate into civilian job types - I was a Harpoon Anti-ship Missile Engagement Planner (NEC-0334), and there's not much call for that in the civilian world); and, 3) they must show that they would benefit from additional training. I feel certain I can argue qualification on all three counts, and there's some other stuff involved, but that's basically it.

I apply, go through the 2-weeks of evaluation tests, consistently scoring on the far-right-hand end of the bell curves, and am told it would be around 4-6 weeks before I hear anything. No problem.

So I wait. And wait. And wait some more. 8 weeks goes past. I haven't heard anything. From anybody. I start making phone calls and leaving lots of messages. I just want to know why the answer is delayed. Still no problem, but I'm not getting anywhere, and I'm getting there really sloooowwly.

After a few more weeks of getting nowhere, I happen to be downtown in the middle of the business day, and I'm still stymied by the stone wall and the phone tag with the VA. I just happen to spot my local Congressman's local offices. I walk inside on a whim, nothing more than that. I spoke to a nice young man in a fancy business suit with a fancy business card and I filled him in on the story while I was filling out a release. I just wanted someone's help in getting the VA to respond. That was on a Monday.

Wednesday comes, I'm sitting at home, playing with my dog, and the phone rings. It's the jackass man in charge of the local VocRehab district offices, out of Los Angeles. He says (and this is a fairly accurate quote - I won't forget what he said for reasons which will become clear after you read it), "I just wanted to give you a call and let you know that your application for VocRehab is being turned down. You'll be getting a letter in a few days with fuller explanation, and, oh, by the way, thanks for the Congressional Inquiry." {Click}

Remember that word "stunned"? Trust me, it gets better. Or worse, depending on the point of view...

I get the letter on Saturday, explaining that additional training for me wouldn't be worth the effort/money because I'm not "feasible"... Huh? "Not feasible"?

Hang on, this is where it gets fun. I file an appeal immediately. I wait a few weeks and I start calling the VocRehab office to find out what the time line is, and how long I should wait before it was going to be considered delayed... blah, blah, bureaucratic inertia-cakes... My wife calls me an optimist...

Anyhow, my wife was at home from work early one day, and she suggests I try again so she can be a witness if it's needed. I call the VocRehab office, and I'm startled when I manage to get someone to answer the phones. Surprise, surprise, (I always knew my wife was my good-luck charm) it's the jackass man in charge. I frantically gesture for my wife to pick up the extension. She does, and I ask him who I should talk to about my appeal. He says, "I've already decided that. Your appeal is being denied."

I couldn't believe that, because even I know how bureaucracies work. If a decision is being appealed, it goes to the next higher level, which means that it would go to either a third party or this guy's supervisor (hey, if you're not the big cheese, you've got one, too - somewhere). I explain this to him, and he says, "Oh, my boss will sign off on it. I'll decide, and she signs her name to it."

I hung up and asked my wife if she heard that. She actually says, "I thought you were exaggerating about how much trouble they were giving you...Can he really get away with that?"

We shall see. I have appealed the review's decision. They have offered to settle by suggesting that I should get a job as an "Inventory Clerk". We said, "Fuck off and die Thanks, but no. We'll continue the appeal."

My case is now at the level of the Board of Veteran's Appeals, my appeals adviser thinks we're going to win (once we get there), because I have documentation to prove everything but that first phone call from the jackass (which he conveniently denies saying, by the way), and they have now "misplaced" my file...

More developments to come...

A quick question: Since when did Martin Luther King's birthday become a shill for selling stuff? I was kind of listening with one ear to the TV a while ago, and heard a local car dealership (I won't mention which one, even though they deserve to be embarrassed) and heard the announcer say, "This weekend, bring the kids and come on down to our MLK Markdown!" It took me a few seconds to realize what 'MLK' meant in that context...

I can just picture it now... "I have a dream... of a brand new four-door sedan!"

I know I've said it before, but... "Sheesh!"
Still learning about all the idiotic important things that our overbearing thoughtful and deliberative Department of Screwing Former Members of the Military Veteran's Affairs are doing with our Danegeld tax money...

More on this when I get the time. Right now I've got to go kiss some ass file more paperwork so that I can be denied again properly processed...
An interesting comparison, courtesy of Cybernews.

I'm not sure how long the link will stay up, and I can't post the picture here, so get it while it's hot. :-)

"Hello? Is this thing on? [tap, tap, tap]"
I can only presume that this is a parody, but it is still funny...

As for the line "Martyrs by the millions... heading for Jupiter", I can only say that I can think of no better use for them.

I'm still laughing.
Proof that Michael "Stupid Fat Man" Moore has been talking out of his ass. He makes stuff up, and calls it a "documentary". He stages false-to-fact demonstrations and calls it reality. He insults minimum-wage people while bitching about making "only" $750 per night, but claims to be defending the "little guy". He accuses the white passengers on the 9/11 flights of cowardice (like Todd Beamer, I guess), and claims that if there had been black people on the airplanes, they would have stood up and taken care of the hijackers. What a jerk.

Another place I suggest you check out is MooreWatch.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

I found the T-shirt that Sheryl Crow is scheduled to wear to next year's AMA...

Hey, don't blame me. She's the one who said that "The best way to solve problems is to not have enemies."
I caught these statistics from Rush while surfing the 'Net.

Since 1994, the Texas Republican Party has elected a total of 5 minority candidates to important statewide offices. [And what else happened in Texas in 1994? hmm?]

But the Texas Democratic party (those fine upstanding supporters of the minority) has elected exactly . . . (wait for it) . . . 4 minority candidates since . . . (still waiting?) . . . 1872.

Well, I guess there's a good excuse for Saddam, after all.

I gotta warn you, though... Don't drink any beverages while reading it, or you will lose a keyboard...LOL
An update to the Anti-SUV crowd who drive SUVs... A good article (explaining the contradictions) can be found here.

Rachel went on to relay that she had read an article about Blythe Danner (Gwyneth's mother). "She went on and on about SUVs and The Ooiiilll and how shameful it was that people just 'had' to have these gas-guzzlin' monstrosities.

Upon questioning at the very end of the interview, however, Danner admitted that she herself had an SUV. Wanna know why? Because it was the only way she could get up the driveway to her Hollywood Hills mansion in the rain. She giggled, according to the interviewer."

I'm just stunned. But not in the least surprised. These idjits wouldn't be "stars" if they didn't have their luxury cars, limos, private jets, and mega-mansions. But it's okay just to be seen "caring". Why don't any of them offer their multi-million dollar movie salaries to a homeless shelter?

And don't even get me started on Rosie "Nobody should be allowed to carry a gun, except my bodyguards" O'Donnell...
More from the vacuum-headed people who think the world should "do as I say, not as I do". Arianna Huffing-paint (tm Rachel) and her Detroit Project have managed to portray people who drive SUVs are not only obscene in their use of oil (thus, they support terrorism), they are also just plain jerks. But only some of them.

This jackass thinks that it's an established fact that "given the horrible visibility from SUVs, their drivers have a rather unfortunate habit of running over their own children in the driveway". Yeah, there were only twenty killed today, and it's a measure of the power of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (VRWC) that no one else is hearing about these tragedies. They also claim that "[the SUV] is the most abusive, oil-dependent, terrorist-supporting death beast on the road today (as Arianna's Detroit Project ad campaign so delightfully points out) but also that SUVs are owned, by and large (but not, of course, exclusively), by complete jackasses."

I find it amusing that he offers exemptions, because there are (of course) perfectly acceptable people who drive them as well. People like Barbra Streisand (who drives to her personal appearances in an RV that gets 6-8 mpg - less than half of that SUVs are accused of getting - because she doesn't want to use public toilets), Gwyneth Paltrow (who rode to one of those anti-SUV rallies - wait for it - in her SUV), Chevy Chase (who owns an SUV, but is "kinda thinking about selling it" - never mind what kharmic burden the one buying it from him will assume), Norman Lear (who built that 21-car garage onto his property, and wanted to add a full-size tennis court on top), et al., not to mention Arianna herself, who was quoted as saying that she doesn't fly in her own personal jet, she "uses the one that belongs to a friend". I guess that use of oil (where one trip from LA to NYC uses more fuel than several year's worth of standard commuting) is okay, so long as we don't use it in SUVs.

One question for the Detroit Project: Where did Arianna get her money from? Wasn't it a divorce settlement from her oil tycoon ex-husband?

They claim that "for every life saved, five others will be taken [by SUVs]". And (again, just taking their word for it) "research has proved that a tank like the two-ton Chevy Tahoe kills 122 people for every 1 million models on the road; by comparison, the Honda Accord kills only 21 per 1 million such vehicles." Really? Man, I gotta stay off the roads with all these rampaging SUVs. I hope that we can round them up and tame them long enough to put a driver behind the wheel. Maybe then they wouldn't kill all these hapless people...

Another question... What about my old Nissan? If it only kills in the 40-50 people/million range, is it still acceptable to own? How many more Accords are on the road than Tahoes? How did all the hundreds of other models on the road rate? What about all those sports cars? How many motorcycle deaths per million? How many bicycle deaths? How many flight related deaths per million aircraft?

And finally: Does the gas used to fill those BMWs and Toyotas (and personal aircraft) come from oil wells marked "Profits not to be used for supporting terrorists"?

Sheesh...
An update: Iraq is claiming that these (empty) warheads were bought back in the 80's, so "they have expired". Huh? I wasn't aware that artillery shells came in biodegradable versions...

And some Iraqi apologists (over at Fark.com) are now claiming that we should ignore these violations because "they're just empty warheads, and they don't have anything in them."

The best reply came a few comments later: "To those who say there's no reason to worry about empty warheads:

What if you found an empty crack-pipe in your kid's room?

Golly, nothing to worry about there! It's empty!"

I couldn't have said it better myself...
I just turned on the TV and discovered that reports are coming out that UN weapon's inspectors have just found as many as twelve chemical weapons warheads at a Iraqi weapons bunker. One of the warheads was loaded with an unknown chemical agent (requiring further testing to determine exactly which chemical agent is used), and another had traces of anthrax on it.

So much for "no proof", huh? Saddam had better stay out of sight, because we are gonna come for his ass. We now have proof of a material breach of UNSC resolutions. What are the Iraqi apologists going to say now?

In other news, France surrenders.
Emperor Misha has pointed out that a fellow blogger has been fired for running his web log site. The story can be found here. He appears to be a British resident, so First Amendment protections wouldn't apply. I dearly hope that the word will get out, because when people are punished for expressing an opinion, it is nothing more than censorship. The next steps are punishing people for holding those (unexpressed) beliefs (such as a specific religious or political point of view).

The British subjects cannot even fight back, because all guns have been declared illegal, so of course only the criminals have guns - the full story can be read here and I especially love the quote from this story, "There are people out there who are using illegal firearms." (You mean telling them that the guns are illegal didn't stop the criminals from using them?)

But when you can be arrested for merely owning a gun (assuming the poilce can find them), there is no way to prevent the erosion of your rights, such as being dismissed from your job for stating an opinion.... Way to go, Britain!

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

I just saw President Bush's press statement about the University of Michigan's Law School case that is going before the Supreme Court soon. You might remember that this is the school that rates its students on a 150-point scale, where students that are African-American, Native American or Hispanic are given 20 points just for applying, but a perfect 1600 score on the SAT is only worth 12 points.

An African-American minister was arguing that of course we should give preferences to minority students, because they are under-represented in the law profession.

My first question is: Why are we even asking what race the applicants are in the first place? Shouldn't more relevant questions be: What kind of grades did the applicant get in college? What did they score on the LSAT? What kind of essay did they write? Do they express themselves effectively? Do they have a basic understanding of logic and evidentiary presentation? What kind of educational background do they have? Would they be likely to succeed when exposed to the rigors of Law School? Would they benefit from receiving such an education and degree? Their race (and gender) have exactly ZERO to do with answering any of these questions.

Racial equality means that everyone gets the same chance regardless of ethnicity, not that we should overcompensate for something that happened 150 years ago (or even 40). There is no such thing as "reverse racism". It's ALL racism!

But the Dims are now calling the President racist for wanting to give everyone an equal chance to succeed.
I've never read any of this author's books (I've been busy enjoying and re-reading my favorite authors), but I think I'll start. I suggest if you've never heard of Orson Scott Card, that you start by reading this.

'Nuff said. I'm going to the library now...
In our "It's the police, stupid!" department: We found a story about an argument between a couple following a baby shower. Perhaps the argument got a little too loud, but there was no violence offered by either of the two doing the verbal sparring.

No violence, that is, until the police showed up. Two men were walking from the site of the baby shower, escorting the man involved, helping him "cool off", when a police officer showed up. He stopped the trio, and demanded to know what they were doing. He was told that they were helping the man calm down, and commisserating, as men are wont to do. The officer was apparently dissatisfied with this answer, but when the man asked if they were being arrested, the cop had no choice but to admit, "No."

The three started to walk around him, but he stepped back in front of them, brandishing a canister of pepper spray, and saying, "I've got this." Seeing as it was after sunset (and, thus, somewhat dark), they asked him what he was holding. I would have asked the same thing, since it was possible that he had pulled his weapon on them. He responded, not by answering the question, but by pepper-spraying one of the three. The officer claimed that the young man "lunged" at him, but the three young men, and two other witnesses a short distance away, say nothing of the kind happened.

The other two witnesses saw the unprovoked attack, and went to the assistance of the fallen man. The officer called for backup, claiming that it was the beginning of a "riot." In the minutes following the unprovoked attack on an unarmed civilian, several other residents of the area (seeing the stopped police car, and at least two people on the ground) went to see what was happening. (A few had called the cops, causing multiple reports, and an estimated doubling of the actual numbers involved.) Many of those coming to see what was happening were just leaving the same baby shower the three men had been leaving. Many of these people (including mothers carrying their babies and some kids riding bicycles) were just understandably curious, but the police panicked.

In response to the call claiming the beginnings of a "riot", at least 20 police cars mobilized a few blocks away. The cop on the scene claimed that one of the residents, Rahiem Brown (who was involved in the original argument at the shower), was "exhorting the crowd to attack", pointing out that the police were outnumbered, and using profanities.

The police commissioner said afterwards that there had been "no formal complaints ... I don't have any information that would lead me to believe they [police] did not act properly." (You mean besides assaulting a young man who was doing nothing more threatening than breathing?) There were five arrests and numerous injuries, including to a young boy and a pregnant mother. None of the people arrested were police officers, though. The official guv'mint cover-up has begun...

"He wuz growlin' at me..."

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

I'm just mildly stunned. The left, including many African-Americans, have taken to insulting Colin Powell, a man born of Jamaican immigrant parents, who (barely) graduated from High School, worked his way through the City College of New York (earning a Bachelor's degree in geology), and then joined the Army as a Second Lieutenant. He served in Vietnam (and was wounded in action), and served with distinction, earning a Soldier's Medal during his second tour for saving the lives of several soldiers by pulling them from a burning helicopter.

He earned an MBA from George Washington University in 1971, and graduated from the War College in 1976, becoming Commander of the Second Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division. In 1983, he served as military adviser to Caspar Weinberger, President Reagan's Secretary of Defense. In 1986, at Reagan's personal request, he became Frank Carlucci's deputy on the National Security Council, only to take over Carlucci's post as National Security Advisor a year later.

In 1989, when George Bush took over the White House, Colin Powell was promoted to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the senior-most military post in the nation, becoming the youngest man to hold that post, and the first African-American. He was a key advisor to President G.H.W. Bush, and the architect of the Panama invasion to remove Noriega, as well as Desert Shield and Desert Storm in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, managing to defeat Iraq's military (then believed to be among the five largest in the world), with less than 300 American battle casualties, eventually earning a Congressional Gold Medal. He retired from the military in 1993, after more than 30 years of honorable service.

He went into private life, founding America's Promise, the Alliance for Youth, with estimates of over 10 million children helped by 1999. He was asked to serve as Secretary of State by George W. Bush, and was sworn in in that role on January 21, 2001, again, becoming the first African-American to hold that post.

But that's not enough for the left. They have stated outright that Colin Powell is nothing more than a house slave for "Dubya", with the intent of crushing the "uppity" Third World nations.

Let me get this straight... Bush appoints the first African-American to the position of Secretary of State, the first (African-American) woman to the position of National Security Adviser, and they're nothing more than "Sambo" and "Quimbo" to the Dims.

He meets with a collection of religious leaders, one-third of which is African-American, (three times the national average, according to the Census Bureau statistics), and that's just to deflect attention away from his "hidden racist tendencies".

I have two questions: First, what are they on, and second, do they have any more? Maybe if I were smoking it, too, I could see what color the sky is on whatever planet they come from.
We've done the first four Amendments, and so far we've managed to offend exactly no one. That either means that no one is reading these, or you all agree with my interpretations. I'm willing to believe the former, but what the heck... On to the Fifth!

A lot of people believe the Fifth Amendment primarily explains that people don't have to testify against themselves. But that's not exactly the case. It actually says quite a bit more than that...

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

Let's take this one section at a time: "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury...". This simply means that an extra step is required for a major crime (basically anything reaching the level of 'felony' rather than 'misdemeanor') where sufficient evidence to show that the State believes that a particular crime was committed by a particular person. The State is under no obligation to present all of the available evidence, but just enough to show that a reasonable belief can be reached. For instance, if the State believes that Joe has committed a bank robbery, because it has multiple eye witnesses, fingerprint evidence and a videotape from the security cameras where he stops and looks directly at the camera, and the police found him a few minutes afterwards with the marked cash stuffed into his closet at home. They can get away with just showing the videotape, and perhaps the testimony of the policeman who arrested him. The defense is allowed to be present, but (under most occasions) is not allowed to cross-examine any witnesses (even though the defendant can choose to testify, in the hopes that he can induce the Grand Jury to indict on lesser charges, or refuse to indict altogether). The reason for this is primarily because the defendant is under no jeopardy. Since the Grand Jury can only specify the charges, they cannot actually incarcerate the defendant, thus no jeopardy exists. Because of the tremendous advantage offered to the prosecution in this situation, a truism (often repeated on cop TV shows) around courthouses is that "a prosecutor could indict a ham sandwich".

The next part (which no one seems to remember, unless it's pointed out to them) explains how service members during time of war are subject to a totally different set of rules. The Uniform Code of Military Justice spells out the rules under which the military lives from day to day, specifying for which things the military member can be prosecuted. Having once been subject to that particular Code, I also feel justified in pointing out that nothing in any of the Articles prohibit prosecution under civilian laws for the same offense. An example pointing out this inequity: A service member driving an official van struck and killed a civilian. Evidence showed that the service member was drunk at the time of the accident. A court-martial was held, found the member guilty as charged and specified a period of incarceration (I seem to remember a 10-year sentence), a large monetary fine, and a Dishonorable Discharge (the worst kind). Once he was discharged, he was immediately arrested by the local police, indicted, tried (which included evidence of the military conviction) and convicted of voluntary manslaughter. New (civilian) sentence: 12 years in prison, and large monetary fine. {Sigh}

The third section ("...nor shall any person be be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb...") is usually summed up by the phrase "Double Jeopardy". Once you have been put in jeopardy (of life or limb) for committing a crime (or set of related crimes), you cannot be put in such jeopardy for the same crimes again. That basically means that the State had better get it right the first time, using all the evidence they can dig up, because they don't get a second bite at the apple (as the saying goes).

The fourth section ("... nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself...") is what people usually refer to when they say they're "taking the Fifth". You don't have to defend yourself, because the bias in criminal cases is supposed to be "innocent until proven guilty". But a consequence is that once you start testifying on the stand, you have given up the protection afforded by this Amendment, and you cannot afterwards refuse to answer certain questions, just because you suddenly realized that you were about to spill the beans.

The fifth part ("... nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law...") is proof that the Framers contemplated the death penalty. Once the due process of law has been followed, a criminal can be deprived of his life, but legislative contemplation has limited its usage to the most severe of crimes, only after many legal hurdles have been cleared, and many appeals at all different levels have been exhausted.

The final part ("...nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.") is often called "eminent domain". It allows the government to appropriate privately owned lands, but only after paying a fair-market price, proving in court that the land is necessary to the needs of the community as a whole, and proving that no other lands would serve the same need. It also permits the sale of land to include a small portion of that land for access for public utilities, especially if the land is intended to be sub-divided for residential use.

Whew...
We had left off with the Third, so we'll do the Fourth Amendment. It's fairly self-evident, so we'll state it (in its entirety) first:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

This is the one that shows that American citizens can't just be snatched off the streets or out of their homes by Government agents. The whole concept stems from the statements in the Declaration of Independence about "Officers to harass our People", and involved random searches of the populace. This is a good thing, guaranteeing that the police can't just haul you in or take your property because they don't like the color of your eyes, or the fact that you're a member of the ACLU.

It is just another example of the idea behind our Federal Government. One that nobody really understands until they're exposed to it, and protected by it. It's called "checks and balances", so that no one of the three branches of the Government grows overly ambitious or overly powerful. You see, the police belong NOT to the Judicial Branch, but the Executive Branch. No matter what level of government (city, county, state, or Federal), law enforcement is part of the Executive Branch. The officers must go to a judge, and swear under oath that they have a reasonable belief that evidence of a crime is to be found in a specific location. They must be reasonably specific about the evidence, but the possibility that they may be looking for a pistol doesn't mean they aren't allowed to seize a shotgun. However, if evidence of a crime is discovered in the process of a search for something else (such as a stash of cocaine while looking for a weapon), many times they will apply for an additional warrant, just to cover their legal bases.

Lots of times a warrant will be overturned if it later turns out that the police manufactured the reasonable ("Probable") cause for wanting one in the first place, or if the police believed that they did have probable cause, but a judge later disagrees, the evidence discovered can be thrown out, plus any evidence that can be shown to have resulted from the police finding this "poisonous fruit".

It all boils down to the fact that the Government must obey its own rules while still protecting the rights of its citizens. That is why I can believe that anyone who has had all these safeguards protecting him, but gets convicted anyhow, is truly guilty. That is the basis of our legal system, and the belief that "better the guilty go free than the innocent get punished".
A brief note before we continue with the explanations (using plain English) of the Amendments. I dearly wish that the various entertainers (actors/actresses, singers, athletes, etc.) would please remember that they are paid to entertain, not to pontificate. Everytime they open their pieholes about politics, international relations, national defense, economics, whatever, they only reveal the abyssmal depths of their stupidity. But I shudder at the number of sycophants they have managed to mislead. I won't name names, as they are either self-evident (Martin Sheen, Barbra Streisand, Sheryl Crow, Alec Baldwin, Woody Harrelson, and Norman Lear are the first half-dozen that pop to mind, but there are many others) or you have no idea what I mean.
Yesterday, a 17-year-old boy's rape conviction was upheld by the California Supreme Court's 6-1 vote. It's not that he held a gun or knife on her while she was struggling. He didn't have her Mom and Dad tied up in the other room with compatriots ready to do them harm if she didn't relent.

The story (which can be found here) was that he and his girlfriend were engaged in consensual intercourse, and in the middle of the act, she said "I should be going now" and "I need to go home."

He took an extra 60-90 seconds to realize that she was apparently wanting to leave in the middle of their union, so he stopped and withdrew (a stunning act of self-control for a 17-year-old boy, by the way). However, the Court ruled that the time delay was enough to uphold a rape conviction. She did NOT say "Stop" or "No" or "Quit that" or anything to that effect, and a teenaged boy would (understandably) be a bit confused. They were in bed, consent had been given, they were in the middle of the act, she hadn't struggled or fought or even said, "No", but just "I need to go home".

One of the Justices noted that the boy might have had a "reasonable and honest belief" that the girl didn't waive consent, but that wasn't enough to cause her to vote in favor of overturning. Let's rephrase that. This judge, who admitted that the girl hadn't been clear in withdrawing consent, nevertheless decided that the 17-year-old boy was a rapist, simply because he didn't stop quickly enough.

No wonder the rest of the country thinks all Californians are goofy. With whackos like Martin ("We've got to fight for peace!") Sheen and Barbra Streisand (who is against the Iranian dictator, Saddam Hussein) setting the political tone, Gov. Gray Davis increasing state spending despite a fall in tax receipts (resulting in a $32 billion deficit this year, more than the other 49 states combined), Gwyneth Paltrow riding to the "If you own an SUV, you're supporting terrorists!" rally in her SUV, Norman Lear claiming the same thing (despite the fact that he added a 21-car garage onto his mansion - I guess it's filled with nothing but bicycles and skateboards), and the courts ruling that it's illegal to Pledge Allegiance to the Flag and that it's rape if you can't read your partner's mind, I am beginning to agree.

I wonder what the weather is like in New Zealand?

Monday, January 13, 2003

I just read an old news report on BBC that chilled my blood. Not that the Frog said what he did, but that he had the balls to refuse to apologize for it. And, of course, the French Foreign Ministry flatly refused to recall him, dismissing charges of Anti-Semitism as "malevolent insinuations".

So calling Israel a "shitty little country" is not considered Anti-Semitic, not to mention utterly undiplomatic? I have no doubt that there are other reasons they didn't apologize. Next time, let them learn to speak German. Or Arabic, as the case may be.

One of the other bloggers has pointed out an interesting fact: The Christians and Jews only wanted to be left alone, so they got persecuted and massacred. The Islamofascists want to blow stuff up and rule the world, so they should be coddled and pacified.

I think we should send them all to Allah, and let Him sort 'em out.
Just so we can get it out of the way, the Third Amendment reads as follows: "No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war but in a manner to be prescribed by law."

This was a protest against what the Declaration of Independence describes as some of the complaints against the British troops: "He has ... sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their Substance; He has kept among us, in times of Peace, Standing Armies, without consent of our Legislators; He has affected to render the Military independent of, and Superior to the Civil Power; ... For quartering Large Bodies of Troops among us...."

It was just a basic thing, but it was a way to ensure that people had a defensible place to start, if they ever needed to begin a new revolt. After all, it doesn't do any good to protest against the armed forces if a few of them have keys to your front door.

It also leads directly into the Fourth Amendment, but that's another subject.
The Second Amendment is probably the one that has sparked more arguments and debates than any other in the Bill of Rights.

It says, in its entirety: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

I've seen arguments that say that the first phrase (about a well regulated militia) is separate from the second part, much like the First's phrases about freedom of speech and to petition the Government are separate from the freedom of religion phrase. However, in my copy of the U.S. Constitution, those phrases in the First Amendment are separated by semicolons, not commas. A semicolon denotes a mental break, as opposed to just a comma, which is used to organize a train of thought or separate items in a list.

The separate phrases in the First Amendment are enumerations of specific things the Government is not allowed to do ("The Government cannot legislate religious belief of any kind. It is also forbidden to tell people they're not allowed to talk about what they want, even in print. They can also get together and protest, and, further, they can ask for the government to fix itself.") Those things are distinct items, and merit a semicolon.

But the Second starts off by saying that it realizes that the common man is part of a well regulated militia, because this was written in the era when everyone had seen how important it was to be able to defend the colonies against invasion. They had fought the British, the Canadians, and the Native Americans who were trying to take back the lands that they had lived on for generations beyond counting. The Natives didn't bother sending declarations of war, they just attacked, burning and pillaging. One of the items specifically mentioned in the Declaration of Independence reports that "[King George III] has excited ... Insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, ...."

When farms were separated by long distances (3-5 miles was not unusual), every man was expected to be able to defend his own farm, household, and family. How could this happen? Simple - by owning a few rifles. He would be firing one while his wife and kids would be re-loading the others. However, another of the reasons that we had revolted is that we had discovered that British troops were on their way to destroy whatever weapons they found. The only reason that they would have wanted to destroy these weapons is because if everybody had weapons, then the long-distance tyranny would stand no chance, and King George III knew this. A Boston silversmith heard of this plan and made a mad dash to warn the residents of Concord, MA that "the British are coming, the British are coming!" (His name was Paul Revere, in case you had forgotten.)

Having finally won this right, the Framers recognized that the new government had just as much possibility of becoming a tyranny itself, because there was no greater power than the ability to tell your fellow man how to live. By inserting this right into the Constitution, the Framers knew that if ever the Federal Government became onerously oppressive, the common man stood no chance unless they had the ability to stand up for their rights by fighting back, using whatever means were necessary. By forming their own "militia", and defending their rights at the point of a gun.

They also recognized that if criminals (they did have them back then) were ignoring the laws about not taking the property of others that they would not shrink from having a power advantage by ignoring any laws about illegal guns, as well. "In for a penny, in for a pound", after all, but if the criminals knew that the average man could have weapons, too, then they had to ask themselves whether the potential gain of robbing someone was worth the risk of dying. The cartoon I mentioned a few posts ago (this one) is a good example... Which house would you want to rob? Nobody ever said that criminals were dumb.

And if we didn't have the ability to back up the threats of war (oh, like, say, France?), do you think anyone would believe that we were a superpower? Would Who's-Sane be bending over backwards trying to look like he's giving in if he didn't think we had no power to do what we're threatening?

The Founding Fathers gave us the power to determine and defend our own destinies by guaranteeing that everyman had the right to defend what was his. To the death, if necessary.

That being said, I also think that weapons developments have outstripped the abilities of the average man to respond. If all we had were single-shot rifles, I wouldn't worry. But there are 16-year-olds who can get access to Uzis that don't require any planning or aiming. Just squeeze the trigger and 20-30 bullets get sprayed in the general direction of your target, each one of which is capable of taking a life. If all that they were shooting at were other gang members, I wouldn't mourn, because the gang-bangers knew the risks when they joined, even if they couldn't fully comprehend them. But when innocents are being slain because some jackass has been offended by a spray-painted set of initials on a wall, then I'm all for bringing back torture. I don't doubt that a few grieving mothers would agree.

100 years from now, when Star Trek-type phasers have been developed and these little twerps are vaporizing each other, I would expect that somebody is going to argue that we should go back to the kinder, simpler days of the AK-47.
This page is a link to a CNN story about Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia claiming that judges in lower courts have gone too far in demanding the separation between church and state. I'm not sure exactly where to come down on this issue, because the sides haven't firmed up their positions yet, so I'm going to explain what I think that section of the First Amendment means to anyone who was around when it was written.

Briefly, the Framers of the Consitution had remembered their history books, where a King of England had wanted to get a divorce without actually having to kill his wife, but the Pope had refused to give it to him. So the King had thrown the Catholic Church out of England altogether, and had kept the trappings and ritual (because it would have been too much trouble to think up his own, I guess), but the Head of the Church of England was the Monarch. Most of the immigrants from England had come from there because they wanted the chance to worship God in their own ways.

I've conducted a straw poll about the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, and it turns out that most people seem to think that the Bill of Rights is there to grant certain rights to the people. This is exactly backwards. The Bill of Rights is there and phrased in such a way as to spell out exactly what the Government is forbidden to do.

The actual Amendment says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

This says that Congress is forbidden to tell you where to worship, or to tell you not to worship. It does not mean that Congress cannot have a prayer said (in whatever format it chooses), or that it cannot refer to God on its money, or in the Pledge of Allegiance, or whatever. There are now these ACLU whackos who seem to think that any mention of God in the schools or courthouses or city halls or other public venues is somehow forcing people to participate in that religion. Nothing could be further from the truth. The whole point is that you can worship God, or Allah, or Yahweh, or Buddha, or Confucius, or Satan, or a space ship orbiting a comet, or Gaia, or whatever. The choice is entirely yours, not the Government's.

Think of it this way: if you walk into Disneyland, you have many choices. You can visit Tomorrowland, or Frontierland, or whatever. You can even spend your whole day on Main Street. The whole point is that there is no one forcing you to go anywhere. The choice is entirely yours. You don't even have to go in the front gate. The whole idea behind the absolute separation of church and state would be as if the Government were ordered to not even build roads to the parking lot, and its employees, agencies and staff were forbidden to mention the fact that Disneyland even existed.

The whole world knows about Disneyland. But not everybody decides to go.

We'll get to the other Nine Amendments in due course. :-)

Sunday, January 12, 2003

Just a quick note to let you guys know I'm trying to add an extra e-mail address onto my personal DSL account, so you folks can send me comments, compliments (which will receive a nice 'Thank you' in reply), or complaints (i'm sure there will be a few out there who find my rants annoying). If it's constructive criticism, I may respond. If it's just idiotarians (tm Emperor Misha) spouting off, they will be cheerfully (or gleefully, as the case may be) shredded (I believe that "Fisked" is the correct terminology). I would also appreciate any URL links to interesting or amusing pages.

Once I get that new e-mail address turned on, I'll have it posted in the column to the left. I look forward to making this a two-way page, even though I would otherwise have no way to know whether anyone is actually reading this stuff.

One sad thing: I note with deep sorrow the passing of 70's song-meister Maurice Gibb, of the musical group, The Bee-Gees. The world is a poorer place for his passing. :-(
I just found a link to a site with the dash-cam video of that dumbass-in-uniform who killed a friendly little bulldog of the family who was busy getting handcuffed for the vicious felony of forgetting that the father had left his wallet on the car's roof.

It can be found here.

I'm still stunned that the officer would claim that the dog (which can clearly be seen wagging its tail) was "advancing in a threatening manner". The dog (which was a bulldog, NOT a pit bull, despite what the officer claims) was a beloved family pet, and despite the pleas by the family (which can also be heard on the video, if you listen carefully) for the officers to close the car doors so that the dogs won't get out, they refused to do so, and so the dog hopped out of the open door and trotted towards the humans he had lived with, whereupon the officer frantically backed away and blew the poor offending bulldog's head off. In full view of the kids. Who had also been handcuffed for being vicious criminals.

The whole story can be found in several other places on the net, but briefly: The father had decided to take his family on a short vacation. It was New Year's Day, 2003, and Dad pulls into a gas station to fill up. He's probably tired from driving, and from hearing the kids do what kids do on long drives. Whatever the reason, his mind wanders and he leaves his wallet (filled with about $400 of vacation money) on the car's roof.

A little farther down the road, the wallet falls off and money is scattered all over the road. At this point, it's nothing more serious than a potential commercial for American Express Traveler's Checks. But some "helpful citizen" sees money scattering and automatically assumes that there must have been a robbery, because the criminals (a man, a woman, two kids, and a couple of dogs - obviously the infamous "Family Gang") are so thrilled about their exploits that they would just toss away some of the cash. She calls the Tennessee Highway Patrol, reports that the car (who she claims is doing 110mph/160kph, even though I doubt that the family car has ever seen the high side of 80mph) has passed her, apparently spewing cash in all directions, and she manages to give a description. The THP finds the car, sees the "Family Gang", and instead of quietly pulling the car to the side, like most cops would do,and then calling for backup, demanded immediate back-up from the local constabulary. Two other local PD cars show up, at which point they pull the car over. Instead of approaching the vehicle, they order the father to toss the keys, and get out while they cover him. He is ordered to his knees, and handcuffed.

I've seen a few reports of this that claim that they have retrieved the wallet by this time, but instead of checking the driver's license inside, or running the plates, they order the wife (addressing her not as "Ma'am", but as "Passenger") to do the same thing. They are both asking the officers to close the car doors so that their dogs won't get out. I can only presume that their concern is that the dogs don't get out and run into traffic (which is whizzing by at 60-70 mph just a few yards away). The thought of Poochie getting blasted by one of the dumbasses-in-uniform had probably never entered their minds.

Instead the dog, having been left alone in the car-with-open-doors, hopped out and, with tail wagging, approaches the (presumably friendly) humans. The officer immediately assumes that this dog (who looks like it weighs about 10-15 pounds) is a vicious guard dog, and scrambles backward while blowing the dog away.

I have also heard that the family (who was released a short time later, after they actually looked at the driver's license, and ran the license plates, and searched the car) has retained an attorney. I hope they take the town (and this officer) for everything they've got, and the brass cannon in the park, too. The town has issued a report that says that their officers did the right thing and "followed procedure in every respect." I await further developments with interest.