Saturday, January 25, 2003

I just ran a few system checks and my security software says there have been a sh*tload of attempts to access my system from an ISP called RoadRunner ("rr.com").

I don't know who of you out there are from that particular server but you might want to check yourselves for viruses (virii?), Trojans, etc., because I've logged over 300,000 of them (they come about twice a minute from what I can see, but the time gaps range from just 8 seconds up to about 45 seconds between attempts) since I updated my software (about three weeks ago), and 2/3rds of them are coming from RoadRunner.

I appreciate everyone coming to see the rants, rages, and other stuff I share, and I enjoy hearing from all the people who have written (or might want to - hint, hint), but I'll drop this site like a hot rock if it means that I have to spend lots of money or time to defend my system from attacks I didn't ask for, and (IMHO) don't deserve, no matter what the VA thinks... LOL

You folks would not believe the day I've had... I dropped the wife off at her mother's house, and then her daughter and granddaughter showed up (making four generations of family members - Nana, Mrs. D, her youngest daughter and the granddaughter - it was pretty cool)

Anyhow I had been told that it would be okay for me to swing by and make a payment to the VA. I had spoken to the lady in the business office and had told her that I was going to be in town on Saturday. I asked if the cashier was going to be available to accept payments, and she said, "Yes."

So guess what happened? There was no one at the VA hospital working in either the cashier's cage or the business office. Of course. I wasn't even vaguely surprised. I decided to stop by a nearby used book store (that I found in the Yellow Pages - a must have for anyone in an unfamiliar town), bought an old Heinlein novel I hadn't read in a while, and was on my way back to Nana's house, and maybe stop by a McDonald's for a Big Mac meal along the way. After all, I had two hours I needed to kill while the ladies were at the baby shower. I'm on the freeway, and my car stops working.

It. Just. Dies.

I'm stuck on the freeway, with no way of knowing how in the hell I'm going to get any assistance. I saw a sign for a Denny's restaurant a few hundreds yards away, but I've got to cross two lanes of merging traffic, and then climb up the side of the hill separating the freeway from the city, and back down again to the Denny's (where I'm praying that a few payphones were in working order).

My knee was popping with every other step, and it's been throbbing ever since, but that's not the point. I vaguely remembered the return address on the invitation, and I persuaded the 411 operator to work with me to find the number (Thank you, Ma'am, wherever you are!), and I called the wife. She was at the baby shower, and pulled her daughter out to drive her (because I had our car, which was by now quietly rusting on the side of the freeway) and come get me.

They show up 30 minutes later, I limp out to the daughter's four-wheel drive pick-up (which is one of the few vehicles you have to climb up into), we get on the road, and we drive back to where the car is.

My wife, who had been demanding to know every detail, as though she could diagnose the trouble from my description of what happened, asks me (in the manner of women dating back to Eve's request, "Adam, just try a bite of this apple"), to try the car again and see if it will start. I really don't want to move, but I'm a sucker for her wheedling. I agree to get out and try it.

Of course, the car starts up right away. (Remember when I called her my good luck charm? I wasn't kidding.) They follow me down to the next exit, and we pull off into a grocery store mall's parking lot. The car doesn't even give me a burble.

They want to try and see if it will make it al the way back to Nana's house. We manage to stay off the freeway while we drive back. Again, not a burble. (I'm beginning to think I must have imagined the whole thing.)

To make a long story short (too late, huh?), they need to head back to the shower, and so I sit and wait for her to get back. And wait. And wait. (I'm beginning to wonder whether we were going to stay the night at Nana's.)

They show up at about 4:30, and of course, it's my fault that we might not make it home by sunset. I sigh, limp out to the car, and (again) it starts up. We jump in, and she starts giving me directions on how to get us home without using the freeway. I have thought about this as well, and decide that it would make more sense to stay on the freeways. (First, there is no 'stop-n-go' traffic; second, the freeways have much higher speed limits (making for a quicker trip); third, it's easier to describe a breakdowns location in terms of exit or mile marker, rather than an intersection that I might not have seen the signs for in a town I'm not familiar with; and finally, they have call boxes on California freeways about every mile (or less), making it easy to scream for help, even if it's the CHP)

Well, we take the freeway, make it home (about 5 minutes before it gets dark - my wife just has to be home before dark for some reason) with no problems and we are now waiting for the nice young man from Domino's to bring us our dinner. The car, however, smells like there's a leak near the fuel pump, so we're going to have to get it checked out on Monday. Wish us luck.

I'm going to go take a strong pill and rest. I am so sorry for not keeping up with the news cycles to day, but most of the Favored Links sites (to the left) probably have. Go pay them a frequent visit, and tell them where you heard of them...

Welcome to all of you and thanks for the notes of encouragement from the nice guys who wrote me earlier. I also want to suggest a new Blog site, The Angry Cyclist. It's worth a look, and another Blogger I would suggest visiting is Angus.

Keep checking back and thanks for stopping by... :-)
I just got my first fan mail, and I wanted to say, "Hi!" to D.C. (you know who you are!), but to also apologize for today.

I've got to drive to a town called San Bernardino (about 45 minutes away) so that my wife can go to a baby shower, so I'm not gonna be here to update very much today. Maybe I can go to the shooting range and practice a little bit. There's a shooting range there that has what can be euphemistically called a "Live Fire Simulator", which is what you see the police/SWAT team practice with - you know, a short scenario is played out on a screen, and you have to react as though you would do it in real life. Pretty cool, especially with some of the choices I've seen - 'Underground Garage', 'Parking Lot', 'Stranger Knocks on your Door', etc.

Not every one of the scenarios involves the action of shooting your weapon, so it's a good practice for the "shoot/don't shoot" discriminator. It's about $15 for a half hour, plus you have to buy and use their special ammo, so it's expensive. But it's more fun than shooting at paper targets... :-)

Anyhow, I've gotta go check the fluids in the car, because I may need to add oil & water. Check for the Tenth Amendment update around sunset Pacific Time. Remember, I'm picking the Buccaneers by a touchdown!
Well, I got another letter from the VA. Those who have followed my story (the story can be found in my Archives, here) know that I have a pretty good reason to be pissed at the Veteran's Administration. Well, I hadn't mentioned that the VA is basically divided into two separate sections: Medical and Benefits. The Medical side is also where the Benefits guys draw their evidence from in order to distribute their benefits (including VocRehab - and I'm going to wait until I win my case and am again outside the Federal Building. Then I'm gonna punch that jackass man in charge right in the mouth. Don't anyone tell him and ruin the surprise, okay?)

Anyhow, I got a final determination on a number of other issues regarding my various disabilities and the service connection rating of each. For anyone who is still in the military, I must urge you in the strongest possible terms to get every medical complaint logged into your military medical records. Every one of them. I cannot stress this enough!

The reasons for this are simple: When you get out of the military, the VA will go through your medical records gathered during the military for evidence of any medical complaint you evince when you first show up. If it isn't in your military medical records, they will deny any service connection. They might even deny it if there is a connection, most especially if there is only a single mention (which they will then - and forevermore - refer to as "transitory" or "acute and resolved"). Log it all!

I decided to tough out what I could, and have ended up paying for it ever since. I hurt my knee playing a game of basketball outside the barracks early in my "career". I was never really involved in sports in an organized way during school, but I played a little bit of everything without embarassing myself too badly. I walked everywhere I couldn't bum a ride, and kept in pretty good shape. During bootcamp, I ran the required mile and a half with no problems (despite the fact that the run times were regimented so as to keep us running in formation).

The first time I managed to really perform the run against the clock, I managed it in just over eight minutes. Not the best on the base, but certainly in the top ten. Then I blew out my knee, and those times got longer and longer, and several years later they had grown beyond the point where I still qualified in the mandatory run (I seem to remember being given 13m45s for the run, and still not making it. Nowadays I can barely walk to the mailbox and back without pain.)

I had just re-enlisted a year before, and I had tried the alternative (a 500-yard swim), but failed because my knee locked up, I got a cramp trying to compensate for the bad knee, and almost had to be rescued from the water for the first time since I got shoved into the YMCA pool. Almost. I was given a medical waiver, then another, and another.

I was visiting the sickbay so often they weren't even making notes in my medical records (I found out much later), and they would just issue me a few Motrin. I would come back a few days later when I had run out. Every few visits they would suggest a different ACE bandage, or a fancy new brace. (I've got half a dozen bandages and at least three braces from that era.) There was even one kind of "rigid" brace that was utterly worthless aboard ship, because I literally could not bend my right knee, which made it difficult to get up and down those steep ladders on board Navy Fighting Ships. It didn't last very long.

At some point during this period, I had suffered a bicycle accident that put me into the Hospital for 17 days with two skull fractures and a greenstick fracture of my collarbone. I was also promoted. (Yippee! More money!)

However, at about that same time, I was climbing a vertical ladder up the side of my ship (a Spruance Class Destroyer, if it matters), and my foot slipped. I grabbed with my left hand, and my right shoulder banged into the opposite side vertical support. Whatever happened at that point, something was injured inside my shoulder. I don't know what, but, then again, I'm not a doctor. I went down to sickbay, and I can only presume that the old bugaboo of "just give him a few Motrin" jumped up and bit me right square in the ass. My shoulder has been hurting ever since. (The recent letter describes it as "nerve impingement".)

I was popping Motrin like aspirin, and now I was literally burning a hole in my stomach lining. I remember the sudden burning pain and vomiting bright red. I had to quit taking Motrin, because it had given me a perforated ulcer. Trust me, it ain't something you want to have happen to you. Maybe your worst enemy...

I'm not even mentioning all the personal things going on in my life, because they're not in the purview of the VA (which is what this particular rant is all about, after all), but trust me when I say it was about as stressful as it could get, just about the time we left on what we thought would be just a routine deployment to the Persian Gulf. However, just about the time we hit Hawaii, Saddam crossed the border into Kuwait, and our shipboard lives had just gotten "cranked up a notch". More stress. More on the job responsibilities, because a Watch Supervisor in the CIC (Combat Information Center) is stressful enough in peacetime, but round-the-clock Condition Three operations are icing on the cake.

Long story short, we were in the Central Gulf for long months where Scud drills were being threatened at our airbases, and we were busy stopping outbound tankers, and basically being a Tomahawk carrier long-arm threat to Iraq. We had some interesting times that I'm not sure I can talk about, and a few sea stories that I have enjoyed retelling over and over. (You know the difference between a fairy tale and a sea story? The fairy tale begins, "Once Upon a Time..." and the sea story begins, "This is a no-shitter...".)

Long story short, I've been told that several of the problems I had when I got out of the military were inadequately documented, and, thus, not "service-related". So if you are reading this, and are in the military, get it documented, even if it's just a headache!!!

Anyhow, I am also applying for Social Security Disability, and have been told that I am not disabled enough to qualify. With all of the conditions that the VA has documented (but determined to be "Not Service-Connected"), I could present a good case for qualifying for governmental benefits in any case, but that's not why I started writing this. I'm writing this because I was reading the letter today when I had one of those flashes of insight that make me certain that I'm going to win this fight, too. It will just take time.

Look, let's just assume that the VA decision is written in stone, and nothing I can do will ever, ever change their minds. Fine, let's just start with the things they have accepted as service-connected: I blew out my right knee, damaging the Lateral Collateral Ligament (the one on the outside of the knee). The diagnosis was "hyperextension and partial tearing". The degenerative joint disease (DJD) in the right knee is determined to be 30% disabling. The damage to the LCL is an additional 10% disabling. The hearing loss and constant tinnitus are both 0% rated, so leave them out.

The wrist problems (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and DJD in both wrists) had been deferred for a while, but the letter today says they are declared to be 10% disabling for the right wrist, and 0% disabling for the left wrist. (Not because the right is so much worse than the left, but because I'm right-handed. If I were left-handed, the figures would probably be reversed.) So we have 30% + 10% + 10% = 50%, right? Wrong. We haven't yet explained what the VA uses as math.

The VA uses some weird "whole body" percentage math. They start with a whole body at 100%. They then deduct the largest disability percentage - 30% in this case, leaving 70%. Then they deduct the next largest - 10%. But they do not deduct 10 % of the whole body, because you're down to 70%. They only deduct 10% of 70, which is 7, leaving 63%. The next step deducts another 10%, which means that our new total is 63 - 6.3 = 56.7%, And on and on, as the case may be... They don't bother with deducting any service-connected disabilities that are rated as 0% disabling (which basically means that they are leaving open the option of increasing it if and when it becomes a problem - more reason why you should get everything documented.)

So after the three actual percentage deductions, we're down to 56.7%. That means that my disabilities (30% + 10% + 10%) add up to 43.3%, which is then rounded to the nearest 10% unit. Down in this case, so I am only 40% disabled, according to the VA.

The insight that makes this such good news is: That is a hard floor that Social Security will have to acknowledge. And all those other "non service-connected" (but still very real, medically verified and verifiable, with X-rays, EMGs, MRI's, etc.) conditions have to be added on to that ground floor rating... We shall see.

Maybe my logic is flawed, but doesn't there have to be some consistency? A "Full Faith And Credence" clause? If any of you have any suggestions, I'm fully open to them. Drop me a line...

Friday, January 24, 2003

I read about this story (over at the Emperor's) and I was honestly too stunned to come up with witty banter.

I still can't think of anything to say. But when you refer back to the story about the Scouts, it provides a horrifying potential. After all, when we're talking about a "New" version of the European Union, it makes me remember what happened to the old European Union.
I'm not a real big football fan, but I'd be willing to take the Bucs over the Raiders by at least a touchdown... I told my wife, and her boss says I'm crazy... Maybe I'm wrong, but what the hell, huh? It'll give me something to root for on Sunday, other than the cool commercials. And wouldn't it be funny if I was right?

Too bad I live where they're no sports book, just a few dozen Indians driving around in their new Mercedes back and forth to their new quarter-million dollar houses.

Thank God for Proposition Five, huh?

Update: I just ran across an amusing line from USS Clueless I think I'll toss in here... "The Taliban have won the toss and elected to receive". I guess you could put 'Iraq' in there, now that the Taliban is celebrating from the safety of some sealed-over cave. I sure hope they all managed to do their hajj* first...

* - mandatory journey to Mecca - required of all Muslims at some point during their life, but should be performed once a year if Muslim is physically and financially capable of it. One of the Five Pillars of Islam.
Oh, my God.

What happened when they were done? Did they shove a few into "pretend" ovens? Did a few have to dig their own graves? Did those kids playing Jews have all their valuables confiscated by the Scoutmaster and sent to a Swiss bank?

These are just the kids... What's gonna happen in twenty years? "Oh, I remember what Jews were like from Scouts... Let's go chase him."

And they call us uncivilized.
We don't have any WMD, but we'll use what we don't have on you if you attack. Yeah... that makes sense.

Uday - Saddam's son and heir apparent - has said: "It is better for them (the Americans) to keep themselves away from us," Uday was quoted as saying on Thursday night by al-Shabab (Youth) television which he owns.

"Because if they come, September 11 which they are crying over and see as a big thing will be a real picnic for them, God willing," Uday said, referring to suicide hijacker attacks in New York and Washington which killed about 3,000 people in 2001.

"They will be hurt and pay a price they will never imagine," he added, repeating similar comments in an editorial in Thursday's Babel daily, which Uday also owns.


I believe that Steven den Beste is right. Bombs will be falling by Groundhog's Day.
Found the "Marine Corps' Rules for Gun Fighting" on a link through American RealPolitik. Spend a moment to read them for yourself.

In other news, Iraq has said that their nuclear scientists are under no obligation to meet with inspectors and they have (further) prohibited U-2 overflights, despite the fact that those planes are under UN control. Those are specific and direct violations of UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which says, in part:

"5. Decides that Iraq shall provide UNMOVIC and the IAEA immediate, unimpeded, unconditional, and unrestricted access to any and all, including underground, areas, facilities, buildings, equipment, records, and means of transport which they wish to inspect, as well as immediate, unimpeded, unrestricted, and private access to all officials and other persons whom UNMOVIC or the IAEA wish to interview in the mode or location of UNMOVIC's or the IAEA's choice pursuant to any aspect of their mandates; further decides that UNMOVIC and the IAEA may at their discretion conduct interviews inside or outside of Iraq, may facilitate the travel of those interviewed and family members outside of Iraq, and that, at the sole discretion of UNMOVIC and the IAEA, such interviews may occur without the presence of observers from the Iraqi government; and instructs UNMOVIC and requests the IAEA to resume inspections no later than 45 days following adoption of this resolution and to update the Council 60 days thereafter;" (Emphasis mine)

Did you catch that part about "all officials and other persons"? Apparently Saddam missed it. About the aircraft, 1441 goes on to say: "UNMOVIC and the IAEA shall have the free and unrestricted use and landing of fixed- and rotary-winged aircraft, including manned and unmanned reconnaissance vehicles;" (Emphasis mine). If it's capable of powered, directed flight, it is either fixed-wing or rotary. Period. The UN could choose to use a B-52 bomber flying at 5,000 feet if it wanted to and Saddam couldn't say "Boo!"

Of course, just because the cheese-eating surrender monkeys French and the Fourth Reich Germans voted for 1441 the first time doesn't mean that they really wanted it to be enforced. No, we need to come back to them and beg for yet another "last chance". ("2. Decides, while acknowledging paragraph 1 above, to afford Iraq, by this resolution, a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations under relevant resolutions of the Council;" isn't enough of a warning? - Emphasis mine)

Then just stand back and wave the US flags when the tanks come rolling by (because it's such a pain to get the berets out of the treads), and in return we promise not to accidentally on purpose bomb your embassies in Baghdad.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Was Blog-surfing and admiring the adaptability of hyperlinks when I ran across a page that comes from our President's hometown of Midland, Texas. I scanned quickly down the page and found this pic. I almost lost another keyboard...
Remember when I bitched about the hypocritical Celebrities and their love of telling us all how SUV's are bad?

Ran across a page that describes how the Hollyweird Elites showed up to their latest self-congratulatory "Look At Me - No, Over Here" parades of pompousassity, also known as the Golden Globes.

The article says, in part, "At the Awards onlookers, security forces, event organizers and participants crushed near the blue "Coconut Grove" awning of the hotel to see celebrities ooze, ease, launch, spill or leap from heavy, gas-gulping, stretched limousines or sophisticated black SUV's onto the red carpet murmuring its invitation to the festivities.

Not one of the behemoth vehicles was seen to be an alternative-fuel vehicle."
(Emphasis mine.)

If we were to listen to them extolling how we should live our lives, why stop at what they say when they're speaking as themselves. Let's take them using all their words... Ed Asner, does that mean we should become President during a Martian exploration mission? Or Susan Sarandon (who has had two children out of wedlock with her "partner"), shouldn't we just follow your lead and become groupies for a band? Or, hey, Tim? Why shouldn't we believe that you aren't just a serial bomber?

Why should we accept that one is real and the other is not? You are all nothing more than experts at how to pretend.

Maybe you are pretending to care...

I just heard the intro to John Gibson's news program on FOXNews, and heard France and Germany described as the "Axis of Weasels".

Heh. I've gotta start using that phrase...
We know Iraq is lying. Here's why.
One of the most vocal opponents of the current Bush Administration's policies about disarming Iraq has to be Scott Ritter. He has been on news shows and morning programs, speaking as a former Marine and a former UNSCOM weapons inspector.

He appeared before the Iraqi parliament (all of whom have large rubber stamps that say, "Whatever our Glorious Leader wants") on September 8th, 2002 to proclaim that Iraq "is not a threat to its neighbors" (Boy, I'll bet Kuwait and Iran are breathing much easier) and that all the unaccounted-for weapons material "does not constitute a viable weapons capability."

He must have thrown his back out with the sudden turn-around of his statements. Read the whole story which is here. He resigned from UNSCOM in August 1998 because he was protesting the Clinton White House for "not being vigorous enough". The story goes on to quote Scott, "Iraq is not disarming," Mr. Ritter said on Aug. 27, 1998. Baghdad's failure to do so "means that Iraq will, in effect, win the Gulf War."

He is now claiming that just because Iraq kicked the inspectors out (leaving no way for any neutral authority to verify claims), has engaged in sanctions violations for years (meaning they are bringing in whatever they want, in direct violation of UN sanctions), maintained children's prisons (where children "from toddlers up to pre-adolescents" are kept because of what their parents believe), has openly fired on international aircraft maintaining and patrolling the "No-Fly" Zones, and has been supporting Palestinean terrorists openly (paying up to $25,000 for the families of homicide bombers who kill women and children) is "not a threat to his neighbors."

He claims that because we can't prove violations (despite the fact that we have, on numerous occasions), that means that Iraq doesn't have any weapons capability.

I can only repeat the logical point that 'You cannot prove a negative'. Another way I've heard it said: "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." Just because we haven't found anything simply means that Iraq is a big goddam country, and they've had four years to play hide-and-seek with objects that can be hidden in the trunk of a car, in a bunker, buried in the sand, in a basement of one of the mosques (and don't give me any crap about how the mosques wouldn't hide weaponry - the Taliban hid vast weapons stores in Afghani mosques, and it has already been shown how Iraq puts weapons labs in hospital basements and next to schools), or in one of Saddam's "palaces", including some that cover more than 100 buildings and others with underground storage facilities.

Don't tell me that just because a few dozen men who are searching an area larger than that of California, and have only been doing so for a few weeks (and they've already found omissions - material breach - and evasions on the part of Iraq), and that because they haven't found weapons (I guess those chemical-capable warheads don't count, nor do the 500+ mustard gas shells), that those weapons don't exist.

Scott Ritter claims that he will "kick the ass" of anyone who calls him a traitor. Fine. Bring it on, beeyatch. You're a traitor, Scott Ritter.

I don't care that you were once a Marine. I know a few Marines that would be happy to beat on you, to the tune of "From the Halls of Montezuma". I'd kick you from here to Baghdad, and wrap you in the flag you once defended. Not the American Flag, either...

Maybe Saddam will help you "wage peace" just before the bombs start dropping.

The Constitution says (Art. III, Sect. 3, para. 1): "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adherance to their enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort." Tell me, shithead Scott, exactly how is lying to protect another nation not "giving them Aid and Comfort"? Maybe Saddam found out about your little peccadilloes?
The Ninth Amendment is one that people don't often think about (just like the Tenth). Conduct a straw poll on your own. Go ahead. I'll wait... (whistling...) Oh, did I forget to tell you which question? Simple. Ask them which amendments give them which rights.

Most people will know "Freedom of Speech", "Freedom of the Press", and "Freedom of Religion" come from the First.
Just as many will know that the Second protects the "Right to Bear Arms."
Mention the Third (the quartering of soldiers during peace-time), and you'll probably get a blank stare and a rapid blink. (I've fooled a few lawyers with that one.)
The Fourth will get an answer from almost every lawyer and anyone who watches "Law & Order", because it involves illegal search and seizure.

Try it with the others. The higher the number of the Amendment, the lower the chance that the average guy on the street will remember what protections he is granted by it.

The Ninth says, "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

This is a broad and sweeping statement, and more "rights" have been given to the people by the invocation of this Amendment than any other. An equally broad and sweeping statement about what freedom truly is, as well. They wanted to make sure that every man, woman and child in the new nation had every right ever granted to any people, and needed to drive the point home by saying, in essence, "You're right, we may have forgotten something. We are human, after all. But just in case society changes, and more freedoms are needed, this Amendment will make sure that the Government cannot say it doesn't really exist just because we forgot it."

Think about that for a moment. Every time you hear some talking head say that the Constitution doesn't mention this right or that, you'll know better. Feel free to yell at the TV. Hey, it might actually make you feel better...

The Founders were incredibly wise for their times, understanding that society may change and technology may change, but they wanted their people to remain as free as they can keep themselves.

One side note: A thought struck me just before I went to bed last night. (No, it didn't hurt...) The anti-war protestors who were so busy marching in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, DC, et al. were carrying signs. Most of those signs were about the war, but the usual percentage were about other things. A few were carrying (and presumably endorsing) signs that said something to the effect of "Get Rid of Bush" or similar.

My point is: these people were carrying signs advocating the overthrow of the government. They would never have gotten away with that kind of protest in Baghdad or Pyongyang. Maybe that's why they were here, rather than in Baghdad (which government tortures political dissidents) or Pyongyang (ditto). But they went home to their suburban lives in their Toyotas and BMWs and never once worried about being arrested. Now that's freedom!

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

A joke I heard on South Park:

"Knock, knock."
"Who's there?"
"An interrupting cow."
"An interruptin...."
[Quickly interrupting]: "Moo"

Heh. I'm weird that way. Get over it.

Welcome to all my visitors... I'm starting to see some hits. (More than three dozen unique visitors just today!)
Maybe this is why the Germans are so skittish about us finding out what Iraq really has...

I think that France and Russia have different reasons for not wanting us to invade Iraq.

And nobody knows why China does what it does. It will be another generation before we figure out why they stiff-armed world opinion in Tianamen Square - laughingly referred to as "The Square of Heavenly Peace". Remember that guy who stood in front of the tanks? Rumor has it that his widow was billed for the cost of the bullet used to execute him.

Tom Clancy has one of his characters quip, "[The Chinese] version of Miranda is 'You can scream all you want. We don't mind'." Heh.
Let me get this straight...France and Germany are now celebrating their "glorious future" (completely forgetting about their "glorious past") as they work together to form "Partners in Leadership".

Germany is a Non-Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council, France is a Permanent Member, and they have both threatened to oppose any move for a second Resolution authorizing military action.

However, Paragraph 13 of Resolution 1441 says, quite clearly, "Recalls, in that context [of a report of further material breaches, which we've already got], that the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations;"

France and Germany have told the United States that they want a second UN Resolution before any action takes place. They said (through their NATO Representatives) that the US needs NATO approval for any attacks and that we must transfer our advanced technology to them, in exchange for support on any attacks involving EU military forces.

We said, "Fine. We're asking."

Guess which two nations have decided that NATO will not assist? Here's a hint... The vote was 15-4 in favor of the attack, but since NATO rules require unanimous approval, the four votes against (Belgium, Luxembourg, France, and Germany) stopped action completely.

Did they really think we were going to let them stop us?

Many thanks and kudos to Steven den Beste over at USS Clueless for this information and several pointers.
"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

That is the entire text of the Eighth Amendment. And of the entire group of Amendments to the Constitution (27 of them, at last count), this is the one that has (IMHO) been distorted the most.

The three phrases, taken separately, seem to be very reasonable responses to the depredations inflicted upon the poor Colonials by the British. Bails intended to bankrupt not only the accused, but his friends and acquaintances also; fines that would leave the victim defendant destitute, or sentenced to more jail time to work off his "debt to the Crown"; routine sentences of "public flogging" for minor offenses... These things served as one of the 'sticks', urging the colonists on towards the 'carrot' of Freedom.

One offshoot of this is the "Constitutional right" of convicted felons to have cable TV. Huh? Look, the whole idea behind locking felons away is based in the old concept of forcing the criminals into "Coventry", the threat of being outcast from the community until you had expunged the blot on your personal honor. It was the threat to put those felons into a small cell, with nothing to do but think about their crimes. They would realize that they had wronged the society which protected them, and would become "repentant".

A word which has fallen out of general use is a synonym of "repentant": "penitent". That word is the root of "Penitentiary", whose whole meaning is "a place where one goes to repent one's misdeeds". It is not a place where one goes to get comfortable beds, three square meals a day, and a few hours in the evening watching "The Sopranos". Hell, I don't even get HBO!

Yeah, I know... There are a few prisons out there where people have to fight for their right to smoke a cigarette in peace. Ask the felons whether they enjoy that kind of life, and it will be the rare con indeed who says that he enjoys that kind of life over the chance to sit on his own front porch, enjoying a beer, just because it's Tuesday. I'm talking about the idea that we send them to prison to "rehabilitate" them. You're not going to do it by making prison easier on them than the life they had when they came in.

Picture a young kid who decided that he knows more about life than some fat cat. He's living in a third-floor walk-up, no job, no chance to get a job, so he decides to take what he wants/needs from the local gas station (which is always good for a few bucks and a six-pack on a Friday night, right?).

Most criminals slip up in one way or another, but let's grant a bit of luck to our young entrepreneur. He goes a few more weeks without getting picked up by the police, so he can (using what little logic he possesses - after all, school was so hard) believe that he must have gotten away clean. He feels emboldened and decides to improve his luck once again. He sticks up a small Mom-n-Pop shop a few blocks away, and manages to frighten the poor kid behind the counter by waving around an old knife that he found in the park under a bush. (He has just graduated up to Armed Robbery.)

He manages to clear about $60-70 bucks, which is enough to take to the old guy who runs the pawn shop a few blocks away, to buy an old pistol he saw the other day. Man, if he just had a gun, they'd really give him what he wants, huh? So, he's now really armed. He decides to go to the convenience store owned by that old guy. After all, the old guy won't fight back, right? The other one didn't, and he was young...

One problem: This "old guy" is an Army veteran from Korea, and, since he got robbed a few years ago, he went out and bought a gun at the local gun shop, and "some young punk kid" is not going to take his money without a fight. He starts yelling and reaches for that protection: a .38 pistol under the counter. Our young hero panicks ("This isn't going well at all!"), maybe he runs, maybe he just raises his own gun and pulls the trigger. Maybe he hits the guy, maybe he justs shatters a bottle on a shelf behind him. He takes off running, without getting anything but a bag of Cheetos.

Either way, the cops are now paying attention. They have a witness from across the street, and maybe footage from a security camera. The "old guy" (who, miraculously, suffers neither serious injury nor chest pains from the excitement/fear) tells the cops everything he can remember. The cops luck out, and catch our entrepreneur a few blocks away. He surrenders without a shootout, and goes through the legal procedures of plea bargaining his "crime spree" down to "illegally discharging a firearm within city limits", which draws a 90-day sentence in jail.

But this jail is nothing like how awful those old cons down at the corner bar say. He's got a clean, comfortable bed, regular meals, medical care, and the chance to play a little basketball with a few of the guys (who aren't such a bad sort, and - surprise, surprise - they even have similar stories!). He even gets to catch a football game on Sunday afternoon! Hey, jail isn't so bad! Is it? Yeah, it kinda sucks that the guards can tell you what to do, and that bright orange jumpsuit is just a little too annoying, but so what?

He gets out after just 7 weeks because of "Time Served/Good Behavior". He is now back in his piss-poor neighborhood (except that his (third-floor walk-up) apartment has been rented to someone else while he was away, no one else will rent to a newly-released felon, and he's missing the wholesome food and free cable TV. He thinks he has two options: He can either commit another stick-up, or not. If he doesn't, nothing's gonna change. If he does, then two things are gonna happen: He's either gonna get away with it, or he's not. If he gets away with it, great. If not, he'll get caught, then two things are gonna happen: He's gonna get convicted (and that wasn't such a bad thing after all, was it?), or he's gonna have a good lawyer and get away with it. Really, what has he got to lose? Right? Right?!?

We now have a recidivist criminal on our hands, who has already shown us his willingness to use threats of force to commit a crime. In return, he has been shown (by an overworked DA and a judge who feels sorry for this poor young man) that his comfort and well-being will actually improve if he gets sent back to jail, so there is no deterrent effect.

All because the Eighth Amendment was intended to prevent the Judicial Branch from becoming too powerful. Look, I'm not suggesting that we revert to the days of public whippings, but let's take a look at some hard common sense. Robert Heinlein explains (in his book, "Starship Troopers", which has very little to do with the movie based on it, BTW), "I do not understand the objections to 'cruel and unusual' punishment. While a judge should be benevolent in purpose, his awards should cause the criminal to suffer, else there is no punishment - and pain is the basic mechanism built into us by millions of years of evolution which safeguards us by warning us when something threatens our survival."

We've already shown that there is a cause-and-effect scenario where some young kid decides to embark on a life of crime, and, despite getting caught, he is never truly punished. Sooner or later, he's going to either get killed by a lucky shopkeeper, or kill someone for a few dozen bucks, and then we've got a senseless death on our hands. All because we (as a society) didn't show our young anti-hero that violating the laws (of that same society) will bring a real form of punishment.

I strongly suggest that you find a copy of "Starship Troopers", and read chapter eight. It will make you take a second look at our current legal system, and wonder what went wrong.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

A friend of mine who has started reading this column (Hi, Q!) sent me an e-mail with a document enclosed, and he warned me that some people might be upset because some of the opinions within were not "PC". That is to say, they were not "politically correct".

While I believe that there is a requirement in our country that we give everybody the same opportunities, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, skin color, body shape, sexual orientation, religion, or general attitude, I am under no obligation to respect people, no matter what their particular beliefs might be. I have said it before and I'll say it again: "The right to have an opinion does not make that opinion right to have." Just ask The Flat-Earth Society.

That does not mean that I believe that I am better than any other person because of what I may or may not be that they are not (or are, as the case may be). I treat everyone I interact with with the same impersonal courtesy, unless and until they demand that I accept their particular beliefs may be, in which case, all bets are off.

Look, I do not care whether you may be shorter than I am, because I had no control over how tall I am, nor do I have any over how tall you may be. Neither of us got a vote in the matter. Nor do I care whether your skin may be darker than mine, because I can think of a few "African-Americans" who have lighter skin than I do. Now, I'll admit that he didn't start out that way, but I had no say in that, either...

The whole point is that none of us have no choice over anything like that, right? Just because I'm taller doesn't make me better, and conversely, just because someone may be shorter than I am, or have different skin color, or different tastes in music, doesn't make them better or worse than me.

But that's not good enough for many people nowadays... They demand that I not use language which might offend someone. They're not "short", they're "vertically challenged". They're not "stupid", they're "learning impaired". (I used this word, for reasons which I shall come back to in a moment.) They're not "pets", they're "non-human animal companions".

Wait...what? "Non-human animal companions"? So now I've got to be worried about any dogs or cats I may adopt in the future? That's where I gotta draw the line... We have now started to punish people for what they say. (Goodbye, First Amendment...) We are having people punished not for what they do, but also for what they're thinking while they do it. (Hello, Thought Crime...)

To quote Spider Robinson, "Euphemisms are for the differently-brained".

I spend a great deal more thought than I should trying to come up with the precise word, to present just the specific idea I'm trying for. So when I say that my mother is a short person (which she is...), I mean that she is a less than tall person, not that she is less than a tall person. The distinction may seem trivial, but it isn't. It is the fatal flaw involved with the push towards politically correct language.

The architects of Politically Correct Language have pushed their version of thoughtcrime onto society at large. The rulers of Political Correctness reach absurd levels when they refer to the betrayal of America by the spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg – executed in 1953 – as "non-traditional patriotism"!

I want to explain to my loyal readers that I will never worry about offending you. If I use a description, rest assured that I will do what is necessary to use the right word, and I will not be deliberately attempting to offend you. To be honest, I would not be able to tell anything personal about you (gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs, etc.), unless and until you choose to reveal those details about yourself.

Now, back to my friend Q (remember him? He started all of this...) and his statement of beliefs.

*************************************************

A TRUE AMERICAN

I like big cars, big boats, big motorcycles, big houses and big campfires. I believe the money I make belongs to my family and me and not some governmental stooge with a bad comb-over who wants to give it away to crack addicts for squirting out babies.

Guns don’t make you a killer. I think killing makes you a killer. You can kill someone with a baseball bat or a car, but no one is trying to ban you from driving to the ball game.

I believe they are called Boy Scouts for a reason. That is why there are no girls allowed. Girls belong in the Girl Scouts!

I think that if you feel homosexuality is wrong it is not a phobia, it is an opinion. I don’t think being a minority makes you a victim of anything except numbers. The only things I can think of that are truly discriminatory are things like the United Negro College Fund, Jet Magazine, Black Entertainment Television and Miss Black America. Try to have things like the United Caucasian College Fund, Cloud Magazine, White Entertainment Magazine or Miss White America and see what happens. Jesse Jackson will be knocking down your door.

I have the right “NOT” to be tolerant of others because they are different, weird or tick me off. When 70% of the people who get arrested are black in cities where 70% of the population is black, that is not racial profiling, it is the law of statistics.

I know what sex is and there are not varying degrees of it. If I received sex from one of my subordinates in my office, it wouldn’t be a private matter or my personal business. I would be “FIRED” immediately!

I believe that if you are selling me a milk shake, a pack of cigarettes, a newspaper or a hotel room, you must do it in English! As a matter of fact, if you want to be an American citizen you should have to speak English! My father and grandfather shouldn’t have to die in vain so you can leave the countries you were born in to come over here and disrespect ours!

I think the police should have every right to shoot your sorry ass if you threaten them after they tell you to stop. If you can’t understand the words “freeze” or “stop” in English, see the previous paragraph!

I feel much safer letting a machine with no political affiliation recount votes when needed. I know what the definition of lying is.

I don’t think that just because you were not born in this country, you are qualified for any special loan programs, government sponsored bank loans, or tax breaks, etc., so you can open a hotel, coffee shop, trinket store or any other business. We did not go to the aid of certain foreign countries and risk our lives in wars to defend their freedoms so that decades later they could come over here and tell us our constitution is a living document and open to their interpretations.

I don’t hate the rich. I don’t pity the poor. I know wrestling is fake, but so are movies and television and that doesn’t stop you from watching them.

I believe a self-righteous liberal with a “cause” is more dangerous than a Hell’s Angel with an attitude.

I think Bill Gates has every right to keep every penny that he made and continue to make more. If it ticks you off, go and invent the next operating system that’s better and put your name on the building. Ask your buddy that invented the Internet to help you.

It doesn’t take a whole village to raise a child right, but it does take a parent to stand up to the kid and smack his little ass when necessary and say “NO.”

I think tattoos and piercing are fine if you want them, but please don’t pretend that they are a political statement. And please stay home until that new lip ring heals. I don’t want to look at your ugly, infected mouth as you serve me fries.

I am sick of “Political Correctness” and all of the suck-ups who go along with it. I know a lot of black people and not one of them was born in Africa. So, how can they be called “African Americans”? Africa is a continent. I don’t go around saying I am a “European American” because my great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather was from Europe. I am proud to be from America and nowhere else.

If you don’t like my point of view, TOUGH SHIT!

************************************************

I guess no one can accuse me of being politically correct now... and that suits me just fine. I'd rather be understood.
We left off a few posts ago with the end of the Vietnam War, the troops called home, and a President resigning in disgrace. Not because he personally committed the break-in at the DNC headquarters in the Watergate Apartment Complex, but because he covered it up. Nixon screwed up, and he paid for it with his career and reputation.

Ford, as the new President, took the hit of being even remotely involved with the Nixon Administration, and when he issued a full pardon to Nixon, he paid for it by being defeated just two years later by a relatively unknown Southern governor. The U.S. had taken a major credibility hit over Vietnam and Watergate, and Russia took advantage of it by invading Afghanistan. Why would they have gone far out of their way to offend a people who held no common beliefs, and who had survived the mountains for hundreds of years, and had a religion to unite around. Simple answer? Oil. Once they had quelled the local government system (exiling the King and his family), they were just across an invisible line from Iran, which owned the entrance to the Persian Gulf.

The time line cane be found here, but we lost a great deal in the area - a prime listening post on the Soviet southern borders, several military bases, and a fantastic oil supplier. (My uncle was on the second-to-last plane out of Teheran, the day before the embassy fell.) It was a long, weary era, where every news program led off with the big number, showing the number of days that the hostages had been held by militant Muslim Fundamentalists, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Carter was President during a tortured time in American history that may have given a young man named Usama bin Laden the adea that America could be held at bay by Fundamentalist tactics. I don't know how old he was at the time, but it had to be a lesson to him that "America can be frightened and held at bay by threatening people."

Carter got desparate enough to try a Special Forces strike to free the hostages. On April 24, 1980, the United States attempted a rescue mission that failed. After three of eight helicopters were damaged in a sandstorm, the operation was aborted; eight persons were killed during the evacuation. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who had opposed the action, resigned after the mission's failure.

Carter paid for the failure by being beaten by a former actor, Ronald Reagan, nearly 10 to 1 (489 to 49 electoral votes).

Reagan managed to get America to realize that it was still okay to be an American. He managed to stand up to the "Evil Empire" and, in the shadow of the wall in Berlin, issued the demand, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" He gave America the spine to stand up straight again, and remember that we are the greatest nation on Earth. He will be remembered as one of the greatest Presidents in history, and rightfully so. The military stepped back, and decided to start practicing the old adage, first applied to the soldiers of ancient Rome: "Their battles are bloody drills, and their drills are bloodless battles."

It was that military that George H.W. Bush inherited, and we managed to go down and capture Manuel Noriega while freeing Panama from his government. We then had to deal with the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein's Iraqi army.

We could have easily taken Iraq on our own, and the inclusion of the United Nations into that conflict was helpful, but not essential. That fact drives many other nations slightly frantic, knowing that we could kick the living crap out of any three nations on the planet at the same time - and we don't even notice...

I happened to watch a special on the Discovery Channel about this program called 'The X-Prize', where the Foundation would pay a reward of $10 million dollars to the first team to use a re-usable spacecraft. The first team to carry a pilot and two passengers to 100 km (just over 62 miles) and safely back to the ground twice in a period of just two weeks wins the pot.

Get this, world! We are so far ahead of you in the technology race that we have people who are building spaceships as a hobby... Yet our own citizens are complaining that we need the permission of the United Nations in order to have the right to invade Iraq.

Several thing wrong with that... First, we had it spelled out, quite clearly, that any further material breaches of UN Resolutions would suffer "serious consequences". Second, if we should decide to do so, Bush already has Senate authorization to do so. Third, we've repeatedly asserted our right to pre-emptive strikes without further reference to the United Nations. We may not even bother telling them what we're planning.

One of the problems which is now plaguing the United Nations is that both France and Germany have stated their intentions to vote against additional resolutions permitting a military strike into Iraq. Steven den Beste offers a frightening possible explanation.

In other news, Karl Rove and the RNC are breaking out the champagne.
I had gotten involved in a discussion with an anti-war protestor who kept claiming that his voice of dissent was not treasonous or seditious. Much as I hate to admit it, he was right. I have gone to great lengths over the past few days to organize my personal interpretations of the Bill of Rights (we're up to the Eighth Amendment, but that's for later today), and I have been eagerly scouring the Internet for more information about what is going on in Iraq.

I may personally hold these protestors in great disdain, not only for their fuzzy thinking and absolute lack of logic or supporting facts that they use when comparing Bush's White House to Adolf Hitler and his staff, but mainly because they refuse to acknowledge reality.

A few moments search in any public library or on the Internet would be able to explain how our ongoing efforts to prevent a murderous madman from gaining access to the most destructive and lethal weapons known to man have absolutely nothing to do with a desire to crush all free thought and kill your opponents, whether they oppose your culture, religion, political beliefs, or even what you prefer to eat.

The United States has gotten involved with the world around us to a greater extent than any other nation, excepting possibly the UK Commonwealth. (There was a time when the claim that "The sun never sets on the British Empire" was the literal truth.)

Our nation got started because a few farmers and lawyers who had left their home nations for a taste of freedom got together and wondered why they were incapable of deciding their own affairs. They realized that their Monarch had gone slightly "around the bend" and was now treating his (formerly) loyal subjects like the proverbial red-headed step-child. Taxes were being passed for no apparent reason; the British military were strutting around like minor kings, secure in the knowledge that even if one of those "Colonials" were to stand up for himself and swear out a complaint, he was more likely to be given punishment so inconsequential it wasn't even worth worrying about; and British ships were raiding our merchant ships for fighting men, forcibly impressing them into the British Navy, and then giving orders that these men either fight (and kill) their own neighbors and kin, or be immediately put to death for treason and mutiny.

That is possibly the worst choice that can be forced on an individual: Either kill your friends, or I will kill you first and kill them anyway.

It was not to be tolerated. It was not tolerated. They gathered together the most influential citizens among the various colonies and declared themselves to be "In Congress Assembled". ('Congress' used to mean "a group of people gathered together to accomplish a common goal", rather than its current meaning of "a place where we put all of the most accomplished liars together in one place".)

They declared themselves to be a group of states, united in a common goal. The name became 'The United States of America', and it has remained since that day. War was fought between the British forces and the American rebels. Britain never had a chance to bring its full pressure to bear, because of other things going on in the world. King George III eventually decided that keeping these pain-in-the-ass rebels as a part of the British Empire just wasn't worth his time and effort. They could be dealt with later on, after all. Cornwallis had been captured (and surrendered, in late 1781. So in 1782, he decided to let them sink or swim...

We've fought around the world from the War of 1812 (which was the last time foreign troops were actually on American soil) through the War in Bosnia and Somalia.

We established wide-ranging and world-spanning policies that have affected other countries, unilaterally. Monroe promulgated his famous Doctrine European powers were no longer welcome in the Western Hemisphere. We've fought wars to defend that policy (the Spanish-American War in 1898). We got involved in World War I not because we thought it was our responsibility (it looked a great deal like the US Civil War from just two generations before), but because of the 1917 "Zimmerman telegram", which was an attempt by Germany to get Mexico to keep the United States out of the fight by starting another and keeping us bottled up with our southern border. In return, Mexico would get back all of the territory they had lost to us over the years ("New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona").

It was not to be tolerated. It was not tolerated. The man who was re-elected to "keep us out of the War" declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. Hundreds of thousands of young men who were barely old enough to shave picked up a Springfield Rifle, and headed for Europe. In "The War To End All Wars". More than 106,000 lost their lives, and almost twice again that number were injured. Britain and the United States began a special friendship, because we had proven to be the decisive influence in the battle. Germany surrendered on November 11, 1918, just 18 months after we joined the fight. Having pushed back the threat and forced the Germans to knuckle under, they packed up and went home.

American soldiers came home to a hero's welcome, and began having kids, in whom they instilled a love of country and a sense of duty. Those children grew up in the hardships of the Great Depression, and grew with a deep and abiding faith that they would survive the worst that life could throw at them. Oddly enough, the Great Depression was also reason for the next harsh lesson: Germany was going through one, too, and the unrest caused the complete change of government, and the need to blame someone, anyone, let the madness of Hitler cause the "scapegoating" of the evil J-E-W-S. The euphemistically phrased "Final Solution" shoved six million of the most persecuted people in History into death camps, never to re-emerge. The horrors and the terror have burned into the minds of these people, much like the registration tattoo they were forced to wear.

The United States knew a great deal about what was going on, and was supplying munitions and money at a prodigious rate, trying to stay neutral wile stll working to bolster the Allies against a war that had been raging for two years. It took the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor to make us realize that we had no choice. Our military was ranked 18th in the world, but only because Belgium (who had previously kept us in 19th place) had been conquered by the German Army.

It was not to be tolerated. It was not tolerated. We declared war on Japan on December 8th, 1941, and on Germany two days later. Once again, the millions of young men stepped up and volunteered to lay down their lives on behalf of people whose faces they would never see and whose place names they could barely pronounce. They went because it was the only choice left against an enemy who would have done anything he could to kill or imprison all enemies, and he defined an enemy as anybody who disagreed with him.

300,000 American men laid down their lives to help defeat that monster and his "Axis" (Germany, Italy, and Japan). They established the right for all people to decide their own courses in life. And they went home. Again.

We managed to airlift enough supplies into Berlin over a 15-month period to feed the whole city, in response to a Soviet-imposed blockade.

We sent over almost another 34 thousand boys that never came home again to a small country called Korea just because we wanted their people to be able to enjoy freedom. Compare the two nations today.
South Korea vs North Korea.
47.9 million vs 22 million population.
Freely-elected Republic vs Communist State.
$13,300 vs $1,000 per capita income.
A defense budget of $12.8 billion vs $1 billion supporting
a military force of 680,000 vs 1 million. (1.5% vs 4.5% of the population)

Those are just the numbers you can point to (source: 2002 World Almanac). There are also the inconsequentials that you can see without noticing, such as the choice between, say, a Snickers or a Milky Way. Ask for a chocolate bar in North Korea, you're likely to get a blank stare from the people that were peeling bark from the trees and moss from the rocks to make their evening soup. (Kim Jong Il has commanded the rice to grow and the storms to be more gentle, and people are starving to death. Except for the military, of course.

A few years after, we went to fight another incursion of Communism into a little country called Vietnam. The war we started with just a few thousand military advisers, trying to impart lessons from modern warfare into a nation with its own proud warrior tradition. The national government in the south had asked us to send a few troops as instructors. These instructors were under orders to not fire unless specifically targeted. Political requirements caused our elected leaders to surrender the ground they had sacrificed lives for just the day before. Students were beginning to feel their voice and started protesting the nightly images of body bags and the thousands of deaths, and the government didn't help with the political back-stabbing being spread all over the newspapers and television news programs.

I'm not here to rehash all the dozens of things that were wrong with that war, nor to defend the decisions that cost another 58,000 American lives. Those are things to regret in a very shameful part of our past. But nowhere else on the planet would air its dirty laundry as thoroughly as we have done here in America. People were protesting the government, and were being ignored by that very same until they started breaking the laws.

The Government bent to internal pressure, which said it was not to be tolerated. It was not tolerated. President Nixon, who was re-elected on a platform of getting us out of Vietnam, managed to follow through on that promise before resigning.

Again, it was the people who decided. Not some lone idiot despot whose every whim is to be followed, no matter the cost.

I'll pick this up again in a little while...

Monday, January 20, 2003

Well, we are now up to lucky number Seven.

The Seventh Amendment says: "In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of common law."

This was to allow disagreements between neighbors to be settled by some impartial people rather than under a single magistrate. The magistrate may have a reason for ruling the way he did (say, a secret bribe or for religious reasons), but voir dire lets you, working through your selected counsel, get to decide if anyone (including the judge, by the way) has a bias against your side (whether "your side" is just you wanting the right to paint your lawn purple and yellow, or a big tobacco company defending against a multi-billion dollar lawsuit).

The other part is a protection (similar to the Fifth Amendment's guarantee) that the facts that your attorney beat the first time don't come back and bite you again. (OJ Simpson got nailed by that civil verdict for three reasons: first, the burden of proof in a civil case is much lighter, because you're not threatening to restrict his freedom by tossing him in jail; second, you don't need a unanimous verdict (9 out of 12 will usually suffice); third, because facts could be accepted as true by the civil jury that were excluded at criminal trial.)

It also protects a successful plaintiff from having an appeals court decide that the facts you proved at the first trial are suddenly found "to be not true after all, thus you should have actually lost. Finding reversed, case dismissed with prejudice, and plaintiff is responsible for attorney's fees..."

This one has been argued rarely before the Supreme Court, primarily because it was always a basic tenet under English common law that you had the right to a jury to try and persuade that you were in the right, and your opponent was in the wrong. The rules have changed as far as the number of people in the jury, and the voting majority required in civil cases (3/4 of the votes, 9 of 12, are enough for civil cases). The Supreme Court also specified that, in civil cases, the judge was restricted to deciding the law, and the jury finds the facts, and, additionally, both sides could agree to waive the jury requirement (creating Small Claims Courts across the nation).

Wait until tomorrow when we hit the Eighth Amendment... I have some ideas about what "cruel and unusual punishment" might really mean... LOL
Holy Schneike! I've been outed!!

The helpful guys over at American RealPolitik had posted a link to a really good article called "One Nation, Slightly Divided". It was a good read.

But I had a better picture showing the county-by-county breakdown for the 2000 Presidential Campaign, so I sent it off. I had forgotten that I was advertising this very page at the bottom of the .sig file. So he mentions me both by name and 'nym...

Oh, well. I love their site anyway. Go see 'em, and tell 'em I said, "Hi!" :-)

In other news, the weather here sucked overnight. A spat of rain came through, doing nothing more than surprising all those people who left their car windows open, and making me feel like I'd been hammered with a large rubber mallet. But the VA says I'm not disabled... Yeah, riiiiight.

I can barely muster the normal anger at the antics of Hans Blix, who has apparently decided to (get this) let Iraq field its own set of Weapons Inspectors!!! The ABC News story can be found here, if you think I'm kidding.

Oh. My. God. And like Steven Den Beste says, "And what's scary is that a lot of people are going to take this seriously and talk about it as a genuine step of great importance." I can only shake my head.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Yahoo is now reporting that Iraq has revealed four more warheads similar to the 12 discovered last Thursday. In the words of White House spokesperson Scott Stanzel, this "should not be mistaken for genuine cooperation in an effort to disarm."

He said inspectors have said Iraq has failed to account for nearly 30,000 shells and "bringing forward four is hardly evidence of a good faith effort."

Stanzel then included the 12 shells found earlier when he said, "Four down, 29,984 to go."

In other news, James Hudnall has put together a "Pop Quiz for Protestors", and it would be well worth your time to take a peek.

I just ran across a site called The Democratic Underground (apropos of absolutely nothing whatsoever, but 'underground' both begins and ends with the same three letters. I'm weird that way. Get over it.), and I ran across a thread that is blatantly accusing Senator Bill Frist of staging the accident on a Florida Highway (where two people died, but four others were saved). Frist stops by and decides to assist the paramedics and EMTs at the scene. (Hey, he's a doctor, so he must have other motives, right?)

These asshats are starting with "how evil Frist must be because he either: a) LIHOP (Let It Happen On Purpose); b) somehow caused it to happen; c) the whole thing was staged; d) so what? He is a doctor anyhow, so that's what he was supposed to do; or, e) he saved four lives, BFD, but what about the 40 million who don't have health insurance?"

I won't post the link here (because I don't even want to be sending them traffic on accident), but it can be found at this URL:
http://www(dot)democraticunderground(dot)com(slash)duforum(slash)DCForumID60(slash)25925.html

I'm staggered...
I'm sitting in my living room, listening to "Joltin' Joe" Lieberman say he supports the University of Michigan's policy of giving minority students (specifically African-American, Hispanic, or Native American) 20 additional points, which is equivalent to bumping up their GPA a full grade (from a 3.0 to a 4.0). I'm still stunned that there are people who cannot see how this is racist.

A question I've seen asked on some other bloggers sites is "What if those 20 points were going to Whites and Asians, instead, or if African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans had 20 points deducted from their totals for being that particular race? Would that be considered racist?" If you said, "Yes", then explain how the reverse is not racist... Otherwise, you're just a hypocrite. (I'm looking at you, Jesse Jackson! Insert your own joke about family values here...)

Yes, our Ancestors screwed over the African-Americans for hundreds of years. (The fact that it was other warriors from neighboring tribes that captured them and sold them into slavery in the first place being conveniently forgotten.) Slavery stopped more than 130 years ago. The Civil Rights Act was passed more than 30 years ago. Everyone has equal opportunities, but when you skew things to make sure that Minorities succeed at the same rates, then you're being just as racist in reverse. I'll say it again: There is no such thing as 'Reverse Racism'. It's all racism!

Another error by Joe... He said that the Constitution says, "All Men are created equal". It says no such thing. (He doesn't know what the Constitution says, and this guy wants to be President?) It is the Declaration of Independence's second paragraph which says, "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, ..." etc. (The first paragraph starts, "When in the Course of Human Events...", in case you were wondering. Yes, I have a copy framed and hanging on my wall. LOL)

We will eventually get to the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, which are commonly known as "The Reconstruction Amendments", because they were basically shoved down the throats of the Southern States in the few years after they lost the "War of Secession".

Hope your weekend is as pleasant as it is here in Southern California (temps in the low 70's with mostly sunny skies).

I am now hearing the California State Assembly speaker (from the Dims) talk about "Revenue enhancement"... Isn't that a much kinder way to phrase it, rather than using the word "raising taxes"? He is also talking about effectively doubling the cost to re-license a vehicle (required every year). Someone on another blog site was griping about how his California state tax burden is closing in on his Federal tax burden. I'm scouting around for other places to live. Maybe Nevada, which has no state income tax. We shall see.