Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Danish Air Force and Santa

Two low flying F-16’s have caused the untimely death of Santa’s Reindeer Rudolf. The Danish Air Force, after verifying the details of the tragedy, offered about $5,000 in compensation.

An Air Force spokesman said, “We’re more than happy to pay if it means that children around the world will get their presents.”

And it’s only September. This is actually true. The Santa involved was a part-time Claus with two reindeer to pull his sled. Rudolf was peacefully grazing when the jets passed overhead last February and, I assume, gave the poor beastie a heart attack. The part-time Santa will use the $5,000 to buy a Rudolf replacement.

Good thing it was the Danish Air Force, we would have probably gone back and nuked the other reindeer.

Monday, September 26, 2005

HBO's Rome, Episode 5

Whoa, we're getting downright nasty aren't we!! Are there any heroes on this show or are they all villians? What the heck?

So, Caeser dumps Servilia because he can't afford the scandal nicely orchestrated by Atia. In the meanitme Niobi gains two slaves. One, the sole surviving member of Vorenus' loot from Gaul, a sickly boy, and the second the silent girl rescued by Pullo two episodes ago. I thought she was actually going to say something this time, but I was wrong.

Anyway, the fiasco with the slaves on top of the disaster at the feast leads Vorenus to take on the job of a bully boy, but he doesn't really have that sort of mean streak in him. Pretty much with his back up against the wall, Vorenus is forced to go with his hat in his hand back to Antony. Antony extracts his ounce of flesh, but the fact is he needs Vorenus, so he re-extends his offer to rejoin the 13th Legion as a member of the Evocati. Antony takes a little additional jab at Vorenus by reducing the offered signing bonus from 10,000 sesterce to 9,000 just so Voranus clearly understands who's in charge.

Now my girl Atia is something else. Not only does she orchestrate the Caeser and Servilia breakup by commisioning a series of vulgar graffiti about the affair, but she concludes that Octavian seduced Caeser during his epileptic seizure when they disappeared into the pantry and compliments him on it. Octavian disdainfully denies it but then lets the cat out of the bag that Caeser has a serious medical affliction to Atia and Octavia.

I don't think Octavian would have made that mistake. It's not consistent with his character so you KNOW this is going to develop into something.

But the big shocker was Octavian and Pullo. Atia, wanting to have Octavian learn the "masculine arts" hires Pullo as a trainer. To be honest, Octavian isn't much of a fighter but he does get the best line in this weeks show while training. When Pullo tells him a middling swordsman is better than knowing nothing about fighting he responds, "The graveyards are full of middling swordsman."

Pullo, recognizing his own limited intellectual talents, asks Octavian about his suspicions regarding Niobi and Evander. Octavian explains that suspicion isn't enough, he must have proof. I thought that was going to lead to Pullo snooping about but I overlooked Octavian’s directness. They go straight to “the source,” kidnap Evander and torture the truth out of him. Pullo then proceeds to eliminate him as a character in the show. The last we see of Evander he’s floating down the sewer turing the waters a bright red. Octavian warns Pullo never to tell Vorenus. We'll see how that works out. My bet is Pullo lets the cat out of the bag in the next episode.

The idea of Octavian’s brain combined with Pullo’s brawn is enough to make the gods weep. I wonder how Vorenus is going to fit into all of this? At the moment he’s in Antony’s camp. Vorenus clearly has no liking for Antony, but part of the conditions surrounding Vorenus’ reinstatement in the legion was that Antony expected loyalty. Vorenus may have too much of a sense of honor NOT to remain loyal to Antony regardless of whether or not it’s deserved.

On the historical front Caeser, after dumping Servilia and smacking her around a bit for good measure, finally heads south after Pompey but he’s already sailed for Greece. I don’t think Brutus is going to be too thrilled with his mother’s humiliation. Servilia was certainly pissed and after finding out Atia was behind the graffitti, put rather nasty sounding curses on both Caeser and Atia.

Just a little more about Vorenus. He was inducted as a Praefect of the Evocati. The Evocati were soldiers who had completed their term of service but then voluntarily re-enlisted. Making him a member of the Evocati eliminates any doubt regarding the legality of his original resignation. A Praefect is a sort of lieutenant to a higher ranking officer or magistrate. It’s certainly a step up from centurion and appears to indicate that Antony intends to use Vorenus as a sort of aide de camp.

The ritual that Vorenus undergoes in the Temple of Mars to become a member of the Evocati struck me as similar to the vigil held by Christian Knights in the chapel the night before they received their spurs as well as similar to other vigils held at other times for other initiations. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Giants at San Diego

Yeesh, I can't let them out of my sight for one minute! Got scrunched 45-23. Another 400+ yards given up by the defense, mostly on the ground this time including a 62 yard run by LaDainian Tomlinson. Yuck. Maybe my original evaluation of this defense was right!

On the plus side was Eli's 24-41 for 352 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. I think this kid is going to be one of the good ones.

No grades for a game I wasn't at, but with over 450 yards given up I think its safe to say the defense gets the razzberry for this fiasco. Of course it could have been worse; the game could have been at Giants stadium where I would have been sitting through it!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Girl Expelled Because Parents are Gay

The Los Angeles Times reported today that a 14-year-old girl was expelled from an Ontario California Christian school because her parents are lesbians.

The School Superintendent wrote to the girl's family saying "Your family does not meet the policies of admission," and that school policy requires that at least one parent not engage in practices "immoral or inconsistent with a positive Christian life style, such as cohabitating without marriage or in a homosexual relationship."

So since you don't like what the parents do YOU EXPELL THE KID! Allow me to quote Ezekiel 18:30 "Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD."

In other words, no longer shall the "iniquity of the fathers" be visited "upon the children unto the third and fourth generation" like the Lord threatened in Exodus 34 and Numbers 14. BUT I guess it's ok to visit the iniquity of the MOTHER upon the child huh?

And who's fault is it they're not married? WHO'S been fighting tooth and nail to prevent gay marriage you freaking hypocrites!

The fact that these "immoral" parents have been together for 22 YEARS and have two other children didn't seem to have any impact either did it? Sounds like a more stable home environment than most heterosexual marriages.

So much for "Christian Morality," an oxymoron if ever there was one. Still, to my mind, the kid is probably better off. Welcome to the real world kiddo and enjoy!

New Blog for Evolution and Intelligent Design

A new blog has been created specifically for posts relating to Evolusion, Creationism and Intelligent Design called the Knights of Darwin (see links). This topic is too important to bury it with the other stuff in this diary blog.

The intention is to make "The ACLU and Intelligent Design" the last post on this topic on this blog.

The ACLU and Intelligent Design

Well at least the ACLU is taking this seriously. The latest news letter is focused on the Dover School Board case.

"Once again, the ACLU will be defending religious freedom against those who want to force creationism into our public schools. The underlying conflict has been going on at least since the Scopes trial, a famous ACLU case from an earlier era."

God Bless the ACLU! Errr, no, wait a minute that doesn't sound right. Interesting how these news letters always assume the recipient is as ignorant as cold toast.

"...the creationists have a new ploy. It's called "intelligent design" -- an "alternative" to the scientific theory of evolution that religious extremists have cooked up as a way to sneak religious proselytizing into our public schools."

Gee, ya think? Glad they told me or else I might not have noticed.

"It is all too clear that powerful political forces are not just tinkering around the edges of our religious freedom -- they have set their sights on transforming our country from a constitutional democracy to a thinly veiled theocracy. They want to turn America into a country governed by their interpretation of the Bible, serviced by faith-based, taxpayer-funded institutions and guided by religious doctrine against which neither citizens nor judges should dare to speak up."

Yup, people are finally beginning to "GET IT." This is precisely what the Christian Right has on its agenda. Notice the phrase "their interpretation of the Bible." I hope the Roman Catholic, Eastern Othodox and Mainline Protestant folks in the country understand that this is the Fundamentalist Protestant interpretation which, trust me on this, no one else is going to care for, especially the Catholics. You'll be lucky if they let you "Papists continue to practice your religion of the anti-christ." Don't believe me on this one, just research "Dominionism" on the web.

Updated information, including information about the Dover Pennsylvania court case, can be found at the ACLU site

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Bible Textbook for Public Schools Planned

An interfaith nonprofit group called the Bible Literacy Project from Fairfax Virginia is releasing a new textbook aimed at teaching public high school students about the Bible while avoiding legal and religious disputes.

Five years and $2 million was spent developing "The Bible and Its Influence." The textbook apparently has the approval of a fairly wide range of legal, religious and literary experts. One advisor was quoted as saying "And it will short-circuit people who would take religion entirely out of the public school curriculum."

Which to my mind is the problem. I don't see anything wrong with teaching about the bible for literary purposes. Simply the fact that it is referenced so widely in Western Literature almost requires a knowledge of the scriptures. Unfortunately people don't spend $2 million dollars to produce a $50 textbook in order to educate America's Youth out of the goodness of their hearts. These books invariably turn into an attempt to endorse, if not a specific religion, then religion in general as something worthy of admiration and respect.

And who says it is worthy of admiration and respect? Not the persecuted pagans. Not the witches burned and hung during the middle ages. Not the victims of the Inquisition and not the Native Americans brow beaten into accepting a foreign religion and who had much of their cultural heritage destroyed by overly zealous missionaries. Tell me are they going to tell the stories of the attempted genocide commited against the native peoples of Canaan, Jephthah's sacrifice of his virgin daughter, the Rape of the Concubine and Lot's incest or just the "feel good" bible stories? Would you like me to render a guess? Shall we ask the gay community how much they appreciate the bible?

American High School students probably know as little about Shakespeare as they know about the bible, and maybe less. There are quite a few Shakespearian references in western literature too. You see a Shakespeare Literacy Project putting together a textbook? Alas poor Yorick, methinks something is rotten in the state of Virginia.

I'm also concerned about the even handedness of the historical presentation. For example, I see in the sample pages the standard hoopla about the Hebrew Exodus out of Egypt being a victory for freedom with chapter titles like "Out of Slavery" and "Exodus and Emancipation." I hope they also include the arguments from the bible in Genesis 9:24-27 used in the American South to justify first slavery and then segregation.

There is some speculation that the Exodus is in fact the expulsion of the Hyksos out of Egypt. The Exodus may therefore have been a retreat before a victorious Egyptian army rather than a flight to freedom. Does the book mention this historical perspective from the writings of the Egyptian historian Manetho or only the Hebrew version of events?

Has the bible been influential? Absolutely, but not all of its influence has been positive. As a matter of fact, one could make the argument, that on the whole, its impact upon humanity has been more negative than positive. You think the book considers the negative influences?

Ok, the fact is these are some of my concerns and not criticisms because, obviously, I haven't actually read the book. It may in fact be a perfectly fair handed, literary treatment of the bible. Yeah, right, and we still might find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq too. You'll excuse me if I refrain from placing a wager on this one.

I'm Depressed!

Duh, it happens to all of us from time to time. All the little niggling annoyances pile up until you wish you were a dog and could just clump your muzzle on your paws and then proceed to whine and whimper. That being the case, whine, whine, whimper.

BLAH! And not only that but BLAH! Like I said I got the down in the mouth blues at the moment. Too bad I don’t play a musical instrument. What has brought this on you ask? Nothing of particular importance, just a combination of life’s little “gotchas.” Some are long term, some are short term, some are my own fault and some aren’t my fault. BLAH again. Where did I put that bottle of scotch? Play it again Sam and I’ll sing along. Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home!

Let’s see, maybe I should indulge in the favorite American pastime. Who can I sue for making me depressed? There must be somebody I can blame this on? After all, NOBODY takes responsibility for themselves nowadays. Isn’t everything unfortunate that happens to you someone else’s fault?

Now I’m being cynical too. I’d go buy myself something but I can’t think of anything I want or need at the moment. BLAH!

Every once in a while stuff just catches up with you. As long as it doesn’t happen too often, and doesn’t last too long when it does, no big deal. Still I’m beginning to wonder if I don’t need a fundamental change somewhere; it’s getting harder and harder to drag my tail out of bed to face the world. I’m convinced I can’t win anymore, but it would be nice if I could work out something of a draw.

Maybe I should stop reading the news?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

You have to love the Irish

Yes sir, the folks from the Emerald Isle certainly have a way with words.
And they're darn good judges of character too! Ireland's Sky News says in all with the perfect caption.

Woman Sues "Extreme Makeover" Reality Show

I know I shouldn't touch this one. I really shouldn't, but I can't resist. My opinion of these "Reality Shows" is that television has hit absolute rock bottom with this garbage. These things make the Quiz Shows of the 1950's look like high intellect by comparison.

Anyway, according to the AP a Texas woman (Texas again!) is suing the ABC show "Extreme Makeover" for fraud because she was dropped from the show at the last minute and for the wrongful death of her sister, who commited suicide, allegedly because she was distraught over making disparaging remarks about her sister's appearance in an interview. Supposedly she was "encouraged" to make the remarks by the show.

This woman was told by doctors working for the show that she would need an "eye lift, ears pulled back, chin implant and breast implants" AND "dental surgery to break and reset her jaw for a successful 'makeover.'"

In addition, I suppose as part of the initial selection process, she was videotaped talking about the ridicule she suffered as a child and her marriage to an abusive husband (somebody married this lady!!!).

Apparently the surgery recovery time wouldn't fit into the TV schedule so at the last minute she was dropped from the show. According to the suit she was "devastated" and her lawyer claims that now she's too ashamed to go out in public.

A couple of random points.
  • Like I said, these shows are rock bottom especially the ones like this and "The Biggest Loser" that take advantage of someones appearance or weight.
  • The whole thing about making her talk about being ridiculed as a child (I assume because of her appearance), for the prurient interest of a viewing public with the average IQ of a retarded dung beetle, strikes as really, really, low. The folks that do that kind of thing need to look up to see a roach's knee.
  • Is this lady nuts? She was willing to undergo at least three surgeries? Ye cats and little kittens!
  • Why is she now ashamed to go out in public? She's no worse off than she was before is she?
  • The AP article also indicates that this lady's husband was also interviewed and encouraged to make uncomlimentary comments. Two observations. First, what kind of mental midget was this guy that ANYBODY could talk him into knocking his wife's looks? He have a death wish or what? Second, is this a different husband or the abusive one? If this was a second hubby, how bad could this lady look if two guys were willing to marry her? Of course, then again, we don't know what they look like do we?
  • I know this isn't a nice thing to say, but if ever a story needed a few pictures to go with it, this is the story.

I wonder when the advertisers are going to figure out that the idiots that watch these shows can't afford to buy any of their stuff anyway.

Now it's Rita

What again? New Orleans is still trying to dig out from Katrina and it looks like Rita, which has been upgraded to a category 4 hurricane, could hammer it again. A new evacuation order has been issued (What? We just got back!) and the Army Corp of Engineers are racing to bolster the levees. Rita could undo all the progress made so far.

Looks as if the most likely place to get hit is the Texas coast, but a very slight shift to the northeast and New Orleans will get hammered a second time.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Thumbs down on the Best Buy Geeks

Friday night, #2 daughter's laptop went belly up and started to freeze during boot. Geeks to the rescue! Just like in the commercial right? WRONG! Here's the story as presented in the e-mail I sent to Best Buy.

Thumbs down on your Geeks!

I have three problems with the way I was treated.

I brought a laptop into the Paramus Store in the Fashion Center on Route 17 for repair. It belonged to my daughter who needs it for her law school classes so things were fairly desperate. I was told that diagnostics would have to be run to determine the problem. I specifically asked how long it would take to make that determination because if more than a day or two was going to elapse, I would need to buy an inexpensive laptop for her to use as a backup. I was told that I would get a call either that day, Saturday 9/17/2005, or the following Monday 9/19/2005. That being the case I decided to hold off on the decision to buy a backup laptop.

I got no call
, so I called the store just after opening on Tuesday 9/20/2005. The first individual I spoke to said that she would need to get at the laptop in order to determine the status, but that they were locked up and she needed to get them unlocked. She asked if she could call me back. I said ok, but that I was on my way out (actually I needed to get to work) and please get back to me in a few minutes and she said ok.

Thirty-five minutes later, still no return call
so I called back on my cell phone. The individual I got this time took a few minutes and then told me that there was a week backlog. Huh, now I had clearly told the first person I had brought the machine in the previous Saturday, but, well people make mistakes.

I'll admit I was more than a little surprised and said something to the effect of "that's not what I was told" and
I got a reply of "Well you're being told now."

What the heck kind of way is that for someone to talk to a customer who has already been given some misinformation?

If I had known on the Saturday that it would take a week, I could have gotten a backup laptop for my daughter that day. Now I'm faced with looking for one after work on Tuesday instead. Not only will she have lost four days, but it's a lot less convenient shopping on Tuesday then on Saturday.

Maybe Circuit City has an appropriate unit, because I'm sure as hell not going to buy it at Best Buy.

What ever happened to simple curtesy and competence! And if you make a mistake, at least apologize. I think the problem is that with the big mega stores, a single customer is a total non-entity among millions. But hey guys, let me tell you, a customer here, a customer there, it adds up. I'll be curious to see if I get any response to my e-mail. I'm not holding my breath.

Giants and Saints

The displaced Saints were in town last night and I figured this was sort of a unique event so I decided to go. The game didn't sell out; there were blocks of empty seats in the upper deck, but I would say there were at least 65,000. A number of folks felt that it wasn't fair to move the game to Giants Stadium and, to be honest, they were right, it wasn't fair. The fiction of a Saints home opener, with "Saints" in one endzone, Saints banners on the walls, the Saints cheerleaders and the Saints in home uniforms, went out the window with the opening kick. It's not fair when what is supposed to be a home game forces you to face 65,000 foaming at the mouth hostile fans.

They did raise some $237,000 from the game which represented the total profit. The NJSEA presented a check at the start of the 4th quarter. Besides that, the Giant's players donated $141,000 and they passed a Red Cross "bucket" around in the stands and the Giants were to match what was collected. I don't know how much that netted but last week they collected $46,000 which the Giants matched to make it $92,000.

It was a more than typical Monday night crowd. Much younger and much drunker with a large proportion of non-regulars so things got a little rowdy in the stands from time to time. Like about every 5 minutes. The best quote came from a slightly tipsy guy off to my left during the "Saints" halftime, "Did you ever think you'd hear country music in Giant's stadium?"

Oh yeah, the Giants won 27-10.

Now for the grades.

Special Teams: Very Good
Granted they gave up a bonehead fumble near the end of the first half and allowed a healthy kick return near the end of the second, but they did recover the opening kick fumble which lead to a TD, Feely was 2 for 2, Feagles pinned the Saints a couple of times and generally the play was pretty solid over all. Either that or I'm so relieved they're not absolutely awful as they've been the last few years that I'm easily pleased.

Offense: Good
They didn't give up any turnovers, scored 27 points and generally played a solid game. Still they had a number of opportunities they couldn't cash in on and there were way too many penalties.

Defense: Good
I can't give anything higher to a squad that gives up over 400 yards in total offense, but they did manage to force a whole bunch of turnovers. This team showed a little of this in the pre-season too. Bend, bend, TURNOVER. Talk about living on the edge. This isn't going to work out with the better teams that don't make that many mistakes.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Flying Spaghetti Monsterism (FSMism) is rapidly making inroads on the religious front. Well, not really, but it is a pretty neat idea.

The "religion" is the result of a "revelation" to the Holy Prophet Bobby Anderson who has demanded from the Kansas School Board that equal time be allowed for the "scientific theory" of FSMism alongside evolution and Intelligent Design. The full text of the letter can be found on the Prophet's web site at

We have evidence that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. None of us, of course, were around to see it, but we have written accounts of it. We have several lengthy volumes explaining all details of His power. Also, you may be surprised to hear that there are over 10 million of us, and growing.

And, what's really kind of cool is the religious regalia of FSMism.

Furthermore, it is disrespectful to teach our beliefs without wearing His chosen outfit, which of course is full pirate regalia. I cannot stress the importance of this enough, and unfortunately cannot describe in detail why this must be done as I fear this letter is already becoming too long. The concise explanation is that He becomes angry if we don’t.

All that's being asked for is equal time for equal theories (*cough, cough*).

We will of course be able to train the teachers in this alternate theory. I am eagerly awaiting your response, and hope dearly that no legal action will need to be taken. I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world;

Oh my goodness, I think I'm feeling divine inspiration wash all over me! Yes, yes, YES! I see the light, I SEE THE LIGHT!

If you're wondering if FSMism is right for you, consider these points.


  • Flimsy moral standards (actually NONE that I've been able to detect).
  • Every friday is a relgious holiday. If your work/school objects to that, demand your religious beliefs are respected and threaten to call the ACLU.
  • The heaven is WAY better. They've got a Stripper Factory AND a Beer Volcano.

Even the scientific community has embraced FSMism. Some quotes.

"As a scientist, I'd like to say that the currently accepted scientific theory is evolution. But, some competing ideas have been proposed, such as ID and FSMism, and discussion to include one should include the other, as these ideas are equally valid."

"Letting the religious right teach ID in schools is like letting the Marines teach poetry in advanced combat training. As a scientist, I see the relevancy between the two sets to be equal. If Kansas is going to mess up like this, the least it can do is not be hypocritical and allow equal time for other alternative "theories" like FSMism, which is by far the tastier choice." Our spaghetti who art in the bowl, tasty be thy name, thy sauce be red, thy cheese be spread, oft for dinner, but at times for lunch, Amen. (*burp*)

HBO's Rome, Episode 4

Ok, ok, so I'm becoming addicted to this program. It's been a long time since I watched any TV show with any consistancy. As a matter of fact, except for movies and sports, I don't watch much TV at all. I certainly don't watch network TV and even the Sopranos didn't hook me, but I'm a sucker for historical costume epics like this one.

Lots of interesting developments. In the historical subplot, Caesar's epilepsy has been revealed at least to Octavian and Octavian immediately recognizes the ploy of extending the offer of a truce which the Senate could accept but Pompey could not. Nothing like driving a wedge between your enemies.

We met Calpurnia for the first time. Seems like they're going to present her as a total non-entity since Caeser shacks up with Servilia. No real surprise there. BUT, Atia seemed surprised and upset over the Caeser & Servilia match-up. You don't suppose she had designs on her uncle do you? Designs as a path to power. It's clear Atia loves only herself. On a different front Atia appears concerned with Octavian's "feminine" character. In other words he's not raping every slave girl in sight.

Marc Antony is coming a little more into focus as a real low life sort of guy. Vorenus' venture into the merchant business takes a bad turn with the breaking of a god's statue. Given Vorenus' superstitious nature, perhaps he'll take Antony up on his offer to rejoin the 13th Legion? Although Antony appeared a little ticked at Vorenus' initial refusal, but he doesn't strike me as the type to let a little thing like that stand in the way of what he needs.

As for Pullo, he shows up at Vorenus' place tossing gold around at the precise moment that Pompey's son Quintus is holding a knife to Vorenus' throat and asking where the temple gold is. Pullo and Vorenus make short work of Quintus and his boys and Vorenus convinces Pullo to turn the gold over to Caeser! Well maybe, but not without helping myself to a few souvenirs first.

So what's with this girl Pullo rescued from the wagon? She's been in two episodes now and has yet to say a word. I suspected she would develop into a love interest for Pullo. Is she a mute? Am I wrong?

How come Marc Antony gets all the good quotes? Samples this week include "Blood is blood" and "Foolish as a priest."

I also checked up on my recollection that in Caesar's Commentaries both Vorenus and Pullo were simple legionaires. I was wrong, they were both centurions. The story can be found in Book V, paragraph XLIV.

Let's face it, this is a glorified soap opera, but I'm willing to admit that I'm enjoying every minute of it.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Forget the Prayers, Grab a Shovel

As I sat in my dentist's chair feeling the novacaine wear off while he was still playing territory in my mouth, I had the opportunity to contemplate the Prayer Service at the National Cathedral for the victims of Katrina. It seems Dubyah declared this a Day of Prayer last night and the service was in keeping with this pronouncement.

I'm SO glad we have a seperation of church and state! Thomas Jefferson must be spinning in his grave. I just couldn't help wonder how many of those bowing their heads in the National Cathedral hadn't even bothered to pitch in any cash to help out.

Since praying BEFORE the storm hit didn't seem to accomplish a lot, I don't see what anyone expects to accomplish by praying now. Forget the prayers and either grab a shovel or your checkbook.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Woman Executed for Texas Family Slayings

Not much to say really. The state of Texas has declined to respond to appeals related to the confused gun evidence and the lack of adequate legal representation. Frances Newton was executed by lethal injection today, September 14, 2005.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Frances Newton, Only Three Days Left

As far as I know the execution of Frances Newton is still scheduled to occur on September 14th and the Texas Innocence Project still has motions before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the Governor of Texas and the Board of Pardons and Parole.

Also as far as I know the questions related to multiple guns and the incompetence of the original trial attorney are still unresolved. Any place else but Texas and I honestly think everything would be on hold until the issues were ironed out. I'm still convinced that there is more than enough doubt here to warrent additional investigation and clarification and clearly so does the University of Houston Law Center. Just what the hell is the problem here?

That being said, I have to admit that the more I learn about this case, the more I see why the Houston DA is convinced that this lady is guilty. Reportedly a retest of the ballistics verified that the gun originally identified as the murder weapon was in fact the weapon used. So much for the issue of the discredited Houston Crime Lab. This gun is the same one that the Houston police insist was the one that Newton admitted placing in the abandoned building. Assuming the ballistics conclusion is correct, the only real argument the defense has for innocence is that somehow the guns got mixed up and the wrong gun was tested. Is it possible that the crime lab was that incompetent?

Other than that, only arguments related to the non-disclosure of a second weapon and the incompetence of council are available. While these arguments place the fairness of Newton's trial in question, they don't really point toward a conclusion of innocence.

Nevertheless, I'd much rather see the executions of 1,000 guilty people stayed than allow the execution of a single innocent man or woman. I find it hard to believe that Governor Perry doesn't want a resolution to these questions which strike at the integrity of the justice system in Texas.

Of course, on the other hand, using "integrity," "justice" and "Texas" in the same sentence is something of a compound oxymoron isn't it?

Gay Marriage Wins one in Massachusetts

Support for an anti-gay marriage amendment targeted for the 2006 ballot appears to have dissolved within the Massachusetts legislature.

The amendment, a compromise that would ban same-sex marriage but approve civil unions, passed last year, just shortly after the State Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal, 105-92. It must pass a second vote to get on next year's ballot but it looks like that's not going to happen. In a recent phone survey 104 lawmakers indicated that they would vote against the proposal this time around while only 19 indicated support.

The turnaround is the result of several factors. On the negative side are the conservatives who favor a more extreme amendment that would ban same-sex marriage without legalizing civil unions. On the plus side are new legislators that promised not to vote for the amendment and, the most important group of all, those that have come to the realization that after a year of legal same-sex marriage, the world hasn't come to an end, God hasn't boiled Boston Harbor and the institution of heterosexual marriage hasn't collapsed.

Many lawmakers that voted for the amendment last year said that after more than a year of watching gay couples marry, they see no need to rescind the right. Maybe this idea of two votes a year apart makes a lot of sense.

As far as the conservatatives and their more radical amendment, the earliest that can get on the ballot would be 2008. I know the people of Massachusetts, they're fair minded folks and after four years of same-sex marriage they're not about to vote for an amendment to ban it. I doubt it will even ever get on the ballot.

HBO’s Rome, Episode 3

I’m beginning to wonder about this show. The broad historical plot appears to be moving along quite nicely and looks to be at least basically accurate; Caesar has crossed the Rubicon and entered Italy with a single legion and Pompey has executed a tactical withdrawal to the south of Rome. However unlike in the show, historically Pompey simply forgets the treasury and it’s not stolen out from under him. On the other hand I’m having some trouble buying into the believability of some of the subplots.
There are quite a few going on and it’s rapidly becoming a little tricky to keep track without a scorecard. There’s the Atia, Octavia, Octavian subplot which I think I’m enjoying the most and the one, so far, that I find the most believable. Having Octavian consistently demonstrate that he's smarter than everyone else I'm finding to be one of the more entertaining running dialogues, especially when everone just sort of stares at him when he starts analyzing things and the Atia character is a wonderfully evil lady MacBeth type. I wonder how many people watching this show don't realize who Octavian is, or at least who he will become. Then there’s the Brutus and Servilia subplot where Brutus is apparently metamorphasizing from a frivolous upper class dandy into a man of the republic. At least I think that’s what’s going on. Last, but not least, we have the Vorenus and his wife Niobi, the Vorenus and Pullo and the Pullo getting into trouble subplots. These are the ones that seem a bit far fetched.

As I understand the ancient Roman military a soldier’s first loyalty was to his Legion, his second was to his Commander and only then was loyalty to the republic or empire an issue. And this makes perfect sense. A legionnaire was in for 20 years. His mates in the Legion and his Commander were the ones that would decide whether he would live or die, not to mention how much loot he managed to accumulate. National loyalty was a bit too abstract. So why is Vorenus trying to resign from the 13th Legion? First of all I don’t think he legally can and second of all I doubt the thought would even enter into a Roman Centurion’s mind.

In the meantime Pullo is the only one curious enough to check out the wagon “liberated” from the treasury thieves and now has a wagon load of gold to play with and, I suspect, a love interest of his own. I guess this subplot was the reason for the non-historical episode of Pompey sending ONE SOLDIER to supervise the loading of the treasury gold. I can't wait to see where this one goes. Why is it I suspect that somehow Pullo isn't going to end up retiring to Syria as a millionaire.

The sex was toned down in this episode which was a good thing, but this was sort of a transition episode I think. We’ll see how things develop from here.

Opening Day 2005

Tickets $70 each, parking $10, Verizon Calendar free, opening day at Giants Stadium PRICELESS!

We had the Red Cross collecting money for victims of Katrina with the Giants matching the amount collected; we had Marine General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, as a honorary Giants Captain at the coin toss; we had members of the NYFD, NYPD, the NY/NJ Port Authority Police and relatives of the 9/11 victims stretching out a 40 yard flag; we had a four A-10 Warthog flyover with the crews stopping by later to say hi; we had the West Point Cadet Band AND we had the Giants pounding the Arizona Cardinals into dogmeat 42-19.

Whew, quite a day, now for the Grades.

Special Teams: Excellent
Anytime the Special Teams score two touchdowns the grade is easy. With both a kick-off return and a punt return for TDs for the first time since 1955, what other grade could one possibly give them?
Defense: Very Good
I’m beginning to wonder if my initial assessment of these guys was a little harsh. They’ve been playing quite well and certainly handled Kurt Warner and the Cardinals yesterday. They only gave up one touchdown (the other was off an interception return) and that was after the only lapse by the Special Teams allowing a kick-off return to mid field.
Offense: Good
Not too shabby actually except for the 2nd quarter. Who showed up to play that quarter guys? Manning appears to be coming along. Plaxico was more on than off and Barber, Jacobs and Ward looked darn good running the ball. The only sour note was that Amani Toomer didn’t catch a pass for the first time since 1998.

Next week the relocated game against New Orleans on Monday Night.

Friday, September 09, 2005

More Gun Confusion

It is now five days until Frances Newton is scheduled to be executed and the situation surrounding the murder weapon appears even murkier than I first thought.

An article by Jordan Smith in the Austin Chronicle gave a pretty thorough description of the situation. Basically the questions are how many guns were recovered, exactly which gun was tested and was it really a match?

Newton admits removing a Raven Arms .25 caliber gun from her husband’s apartment. She claims that she found the gun while looking around to insure that he was being honest about no longer using cocaine. This is that gun which Newton later put in a duffle bag, stashed in an abandoned house and then informed the police about where they could find it.

Ok, that’s one gun, and this is the gun which the DA claims was immediately tagged upon recovery, tested and found to match the bullets recovered from the victims. So what’s this about a second gun? Well, according to Newton and her father, a Harris County Sheriff's Sgt. said that police had actually recovered two guns. In court this same Sheriff’s Sgt. was a bit vague on this point, "I believe we talked about two pistols," he testified. "I know of one for sure, and there was mention of a second one that Ms. Newton had purchased earlier."

A second gun that Ms. Newton had purchased? How many guns did she need?

To further confuse the issue an ADA by the name of Roe Wilson, during a videotaped interview, appeared to confirm that there was a second gun "Police recovered a gun from the apartment that belonged to the husband, [It] had not been fired, it had not been involved in the offense. It was simply a gun [the husband] had there; so there is no second-gun theory."

However Wilson and her boss, DA Chuck Rosenthal, quickly retracted the admission and the ADA told the Houston Chronicle that she'd simply "misspoken."

Well lady that was one hell of a misspeak. Was there a second gun or do you make yourself look like an idiot regularly? I guess since you "misspoke" this couldn't have been the same gun the Sherrif's deputy talked about huh?

Then in August Houston law students managed to locate Harris County investigators that provided testimony that police may have recovered at least two identical .25-caliber Raven Arms pistols. In separate affidavits, two police investigators recall tracing firearms recovered in connection with the murders. One said that he was assigned a gun found in the abandoned house, which he traced to a purchase by Newton's boyfriend's cousin. He also discovered that the purchaser had also bought a "second, identical gun"; but he didn't follow up on the second gun, because "he felt there was no need to do so."

Another police report written by a Houston detective reported that he had traced yet another firearm recovered in connection with the case which he said also ended up with Newton's boyfriend.

So how many of these damn guns are there? Possibly a whole bunch and here’s why. The .25 caliber Raven Arms pistol is the quintessential “Saturday Night Special.” According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) the Raven Arms .25 caliber pistol has consistently been among the most frequently recovered and traced crime guns since 1991. There is no question that Newton’s hubby had been involved in both drug use and drug trafficking so it’s not surprising that .25 caliber Ravens are showing up.

But notice something interesting here, the mention of Newton’s boyfriend. It seems that both Francis and hubby were engaged in extra marital affairs. So just out of curiosity, how did a hand gun purchased by Newton’s boyfriend's cousin (according to the police investigator) end up hidden in hubby’s apartment (according to Newton)? I guess it’s POSSIBLE the two were acquainted but the smell of fish is getting stronger and stronger.

To be honest perhaps the apparent confusion and chaos here is simply the result of me having inaccurate or incomplete information. Perhaps someone else, like the DA, has a more complete picture and knows that there is no real question as to Newton’s guilt (*cough, cough*). Yeah, right, this is Texas we’re talking about. I’ll believe there’s no reason to question the situation right after someone convinces me that the invasion of Iraq was justified.

Restaurant Ghosts

If the premises are haunted, does that mean you can back out of your lease? That's the earth shattering question under debate in Orlando Florida.

According to the Associated Press:

The owners of a Japanese restaurant who claim their newly renovated building is haunted are being sued by their landlord for refusing to move in.

An offer to hold an exorcism was refused, according to the 2.6 million dollar lawsuit filed by the owners of the Church Street Station entertainment complex last month in Orange County Circuit Court.

Now here's what confuses me, if this is such a prime location, how come there aren't lots of folks lining up to rent the premises? Maybe there isn't a sucker born every minute.

The lawsuit also asks a judge to decide whether the building is haunted and, if so, whether the ghosts would interfere with the restaurant's business.

That's an easy one! It ain't haunted. Trust me on this. I would love to have seen the look on the judge's face when he first heard about this one.

The defendent's attorney says subcontractors gave several documented reports of having seen ghosts or apparitions in the restaurant at night. The attorney also says the defendent's religious beliefs require him to "avoid encountering or having any association with spirits or demons."

Oh well, that settles it then, EYE WITNESSES, wow. I can't even begin to imagine that someone could be DUMB enough to use this as a phoney excuse to get out of a lease. The only thing I can assume is that this guy really thinks the place is haunted and he's going to endanger his life or his soul by moving in.

How can the court do anything but enforce the lease? I wonder if I can claim that my office is haunted so I have to work from home? It's not the $3.19 a gallon gas, it's the ghosts.

One Side can be Wrong

Another excellent article by Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago this time co-authored with Richard Dawkins and published on September 1 in The Guardian. Some highlights.

Among the controversies that students of evolution commonly face, these are genuinely challenging and of great educational value: neutralism versus selectionism in molecular evolution; adaptationism; group selection; punctuated equilibrium; cladism; "evo-devo"; the "Cambrian Explosion"; mass extinctions; interspecies competition; sympatric speciation; sexual selection; the evolution of sex itself; evolutionary psychology; Darwinian medicine and so on.

Intelligent design is not an argument of the same character as these controversies. It is not a scientific argument at all, but a religious one. It might be worth discussing in a class on the history of ideas, in a philosophy class on popular logical fallacies, or in a comparative religion class on origin myths from around the world. But it no more belongs in a biology class than alchemy belongs in a chemistry class, phlogiston in a physics class or the stork theory in a sex education class. In those cases, the demand for equal time for "both theories" would be ludicrous. Similarly, in a class on 20th-century European history, who would demand equal time for the theory that the Holocaust never happened?

Why isn't creationism (or its incarnation as intelligent design) just another scientific controversy, as worthy of scientific debate as the dozen essay topics we listed above? Here's why.

If ID really were a scientific theory, positive evidence for it, gathered through research, would fill peer-reviewed scientific journals. This doesn't happen. It isn't that editors refuse to publish ID research. There simply isn't any ID research to publish.

The argument the ID advocates put, such as it is, is always of the same character. Never do they offer positive evidence in favour of intelligent design. All we ever get is a list of alleged deficiencies in evolution.

In all cases there is a hidden (actually they scarcely even bother to hide it) "default" assumption that if Theory A has some difficulty in explaining Phenomenon X, we must automatically prefer Theory B without even asking whether Theory B (creationism in this case) is any better at explaining it.

Get it? While demanding detailed evidence for evolution the ID folks ask us to accept ID with absolutely NO evidence other than a barely disguised equation that IGNORANCE = GOD. If science can’t explain it TODAY, then it must have been God. I shudder to think where mankind would be if everyone in the past had taken that view. Probably still living in mud huts and sacrificing virgins.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Gay Marriage Debate

Like I said, this one has me baffled, so I went looking around and found an excellent article in the LA Times by George Skelton documenting the debate in the California State Senate over the recent Gay Marriage Bill. Some highlights from the article.

…during a chat at the back of the Senate chamber with then-President Pro Tem Bill Lockyer.How do you feel about gay marriage? I asked."You know," he replied, "people have so many problems and life's so short, if letting gays 'marry' gives them some joy and happiness, why not? I say let them do it.

It made sense to me, but I wasn't ready to go there yet. Certainly, homosexual couples should be entitled to all the protections and privileges of heterosexuals — call it a "civil union" or "domestic partnership," a civil right or plain fairness. But calling it a "marriage" could devalue the institution in some minds, especially young people's, I thought.

Until the Senate debate.

Probably the speech that firmly clicked me into a "yeah, why not?" mode was by "Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto). He talked about marriage "reinforcing traditional values: accountability, monogamy, commitment, the rule of law … "We should be encouraging that as a society, he asserted.

Sen. Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) followed up: "Marriage is a phenomenal institution…. The glue of our society…. By extending it, we strengthen it, not threaten it…. "The threat to marriage today is poverty, discrimination, lack of healthcare … domestic abuse, child abuse."

As the compelling debate continued, I kept thinking about what Lockyer had said — and the people suffering in hurricane hell, the American soldiers being blown up, the gas price gougers. And I wondered why anybody should worry about what we call two people living together in a loving relationship.

There was a lot of talk about God.

My god doesn't fret about homosexuality, but clearly many people believe that theirs does.

My God doesn’t fret about homosexuality either and given all the problems in the world, I don’t understand why anyone would think theirs does.

Now, in the interest of fairness, some lowlights from the debate.

"I don't believe there's a member of this chamber who doesn't … know that [same-sex marriage] is not the right thing to do," said Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta). "I believe that knowledge comes from a higher power…. That higher power is also the higher power that created the institution of marriage."

Homosexuals have every right to enter into civil contracts, said Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks), "but can't you see that marriage is a fundamentally different institution? Marriage institutionally exists in nature by which we propagate our species and inculcate our young with values and standards….

Well, not really, there are lots of folks who, after their child bearing days are long over, marry for companionship. Should we ban all marriages between seniors because they won’t produce any children? And clearly NOT everyone in the chamber knew that Gay Marriage was wrong or does the distinguished gentlemen from Murrieta think these folks are lying when they say that it's a good thing?

As for the God angle, I’ll defer to Sen. Debra Bowen (D-Marina del Rey) who said "I don't think anyone should claim God as being on their side in this debate…. We are not here to discuss what churches, synagogues … believe about this."

Nice call Debra baby. The last time I looked the first amendment said something to the effect that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” so why are these people mumbling about their god?

As far as I can tell the "God doesn't like it" agrument, since it applies to the god of a specific religion, is a violation of the 1st amendment establishment clause and the "it ain't going to produce kids" argument is a violation of the 14th amendment equal protection clause. So, you guys got any other reasons why it should be illegal? Because let me tell you, I don't buy either of those two.

Schwarzenegger to Veto Gay Marriage Bill

Several defeats for gay marriage yesterday. First Governor Schwarzenegger (I have to admit I still snicker when I say or write that!) announced his intention to veto the Gay Marriage bill passed by the legislature. The governor said that he felt the bill was counter to the will of the people as demonstrated in an initiative five years ago that prevents California from recognizing Gay Marriages from other states. However he still feels that "gay couples are entitled to full protection under the law and should not be discriminated against based upon their relationship." Just as long as they can't get married huh Arnie?

Second, in Massachusetts, the state attorney general ruled a proposed ballot initiative that would ban same-sex marriages would be permitted under a section of the Massachusetts Constitution allowing voters to overturn court decisions. Conservative groups can now work on getting the initiative on the 2008 ballot.

I still don't understand what the problem is here. Seriously, is this strictly a "my morality" vs "your morality" issue? I can understand the opposition to abortion; I can understand favoring the death penalty; I can even sort of understand the issue with stem cell research, but active opposition to same-sex marriages has me totally baffled.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The View from South Africa

These are excerps from an article by George Monbiot in the Mail & Guardian of South Africa.

Evolution + life with no purpose

All is not lost in America. When George W Bush came out a couple of weeks ago in favour of teaching “intelligent design” -- the new manifestation of creationism -- the press gave him a tremendous kicking. The Christian Taliban have not yet won.

But, they are gaining on us. So far there have been legislative attempts in 13 states to have intelligent design added to the school curriculum. In Kansas, Texas and Philadelphia, it already has a foot in the door. In April a new “museum of Earth history” opened in Arkansas, which instructs visitors that “dinosaurs and humans did coexist”, and that juvenile dinosaurs, though God forgot to mention it, hitched a ride on Noah’s Ark.

Similar museums are being built in Texas and Kentucky.

The controversy fascinates me, partly because of its similarity to the dispute about climate change. Like the climate-change deniers, intelligent-design adherents cherry-pick the data that appears to support their case. They ask for evidence, then ignore it when it’s presented to them. They invoke a conspiracy to explain the scientific consensus and are unembarrassed by their own scientific illiteracy.

Why pick on Darwin?

It is surely because, as soon as you consider the implications, you must cease to believe that either Life or life are affected by purpose. As G Thomas Sharp, chairperson of the Creation Truth Foundation, admitted to the Chicago Tribune, “If we lose Genesis as a legitimate scientific and historical explanation for man, then we lose the validity of Christianity. Period.”

The full article can be found here.

I like the observation about being "...unembarrassed by their own scientific illiteracy," but they don't view it that way. Here's a quote from Bob Jones University Press which publishes "Christian Textbooks."

The battle for our students’ hearts and minds is ongoing, and textbooks filled with the errors of secularism, humanism, and materialism are—at best—dangerous. It’s important for Christians to understand that Christianity is reality, not a part of it. Therefore, any education which tries to explain reality apart from Christianity is ultimately false.

In other words secularism and humanism are BY DEFINITION false regardless of the evidence. The Bible is revealed truth and anything, including science, which may contradict the Bible must be rejected. What they fail to understand is that the conflict is not between the Bible and science, but rather between their interpretation of the Bible and science. The average fundamentalist Christian has elevated the dogma developed by men, through the interpretation of the scriptures, into divine infallibility. Worse, now they're trying to force feed this nonsense to the rest of us.

These people are dangerous. I used to think that they were just ignorant and silly, but I realize that I was wrong. These people are dangerous and incompatible with a modern world based upon tolerance, science and the concepts of the Enlightenment.

Same Sex Marriage in California

The nation’s largest state has become the first to pass legislation legalizing same sex marriage. Here’s hoping that Governor Schwarzenegger has the wisdom and the courage not to veto the bill.

Needless to say opponents are already claiming that the bill is counter to the will of the people and are trying to qualify initiatives for the 2006 election. Just to further confuse the issue, a state appellate court is considering an appeal to a lower court ruling which overturned the existing California laws banning same sex marriage.

Schwarzenegger has said in the past that this is an issue either for the electorate or the courts to decide. Hey, Arnie, in a Republic the legislature REPRESENTS the electorate. They don’t like what they do, they vote them out remember? So stop making excuses and sign the bill. With your miserable approval ratings, you’re not getting re-elected anyway.

Bill Maher’s Show Last Night

A veritable liberal feeding frenzy! While I enjoyed every minute of it, I’m uncertain that Bill and his guests brought much new to the table. Most of the assault was on the New Orleans fiasco but Iraq came in for its share of criticism as well.

The best quote was from CNN reporter Anderson Cooper.

"All these politicians all this week are saying, 'Well, you know what? This is not the time to point fingers; this is not the time to, you know, quibble about things.' Well, you know what? When is the time, because I'm happy to write it down in my engagement book. And make an appointment, because, to me, the time is now, when the world is watching." – Anderson Cooper

The best “New Rule” was that Dubyah and friends had to stop comparing Iraq to the American Revolution.

And finally, New Rule: Defenders of the war in Iraq must stop comparing it to the American Revolution. Yes. The only thing the Iraqi leadership has in common with our founding fathers is that neither of them used deodorant.

Now, the sight of Iraqis having a constitutional convention has put a lump in the throat of Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney, all of whom have compared the American patriots of 1776 to our soldiers in Iraq today, mostly because they're using the same equipment.

Let's just mention a few ways this analogy breaks down. One: the American Revolution was a home-grown rebellion fought with guerilla tactics against an occupying army of foreigners and mercenaries. Okay, that is exactly what's going on in Iraq. Oh, except for one thing: This time, WE'RE ENGLAND!

One last note, I took the poll on the HBO Bill Maher website which asked the question

Do you think the government could have been better prepared for the Gulf Coast disaster now unfolding? “

The results so far:

YES: 94%
NO: 3%

Ya think maybe Bill has an audience with something of a limited political outlook?

HBO’s Rome, Episode Two

Not terribly impressive. First of all the plot was ridiculous. Pullo catches some guy in a bar cheating at dice so he runs a knife through his throat. A whole bunch of folks jump Pullo for that, but not the dead guy’s partner, who just sort of stares at Pullo. Switch to later scene of 50 legionnaires escorting Marc Antony to the senate. Now Pompey’s thugs have been instructed NOT to harm Antony. So what happens? The dead gambler’s partner just happens to be in the area and decides to attack Pullo even though he’s with 50 armed types. Of course Pullo makes short work of the guy and then all hell breaks loose. I mean, it makes perfect sense to disobey orders because some stranger starts a ruckus and gets himself killed right? WRONG! The whole idea was just idiotic.

Second, let’s talk, again, about the amount of sex in the show. I’m not hung up on this but it is a little ridiculous. I counted five scenes of sexual intercourse, including what I assume was a rape scene between Marc Antony and a shepardess, plus a sound effects based instant replay by Octavia. Ok, I got the point that Vorenus’ wife done him wrong and the baby is really hers and not her daughters. At least that’s what I assume was the point of showing her nursing the baby at the end of the show, but did I really need a close-up of the lady’s right nipple?

This is another example of just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. If HBO is itching for cable censorship rules like the networks have, this is a good way to get them.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Frances Newton of Texas

Frances Newton, an African American female, is scheduled to be executed on September 14 in Texas. Newton was convicted of the 1987 murder of her husband, her 7 year old son and her 21 month old daughter. The motive was allegedly to collect on the $50,000 life insurance policies.

Now this is a pretty horrendous crime BUT there are a few problems. First of all, her original court appointed lawyer was lazy or incompetent or both and appears not to have lifted as much as a finger in putting together a case for her defense. This poor excuse for an attorney has since been banned from handling capital cases. Second of all there seems to be some irregularity in the evidence related to the murder weapon.

The alleged murder weapon is a 25 caliber pistol, which Newton ADMITS to have had with her on the day of the murder, and forensic tests have indicated that Newton's pistol was indeed the murder weapon. Now this would seem pretty conclusive except, 1) the forensic testing was done by the now discredited Houston Crime Lab, 2) Newton voluntarily turned over the gun, which if she was guilty has got to be one of the stupidest moves ever made and 3) there have been persistent rumors to the effect that a second gun was recovered by the police ( a second 25 caliber pistol?). The whole thing just smells more than a little fishy.

Newton's last execution day in December of 2004 was delayed for 120 days at the request of the Texas Board of Pardons, an act unheard of in Texas, in order to allow additional evidence testing. Unfortunately it turned out that the evidence had been carelessly stored and contaminated so additional tests were impossible.

I sent off my protest e-mail to everyone I could think off because this execution strikes me as an unusually bad idea. I seriously think time should be allocated so her current (hopefully more competent and reliable) council can investigate the existing evidentiary issues.

A Quiet Weekend

Another Labor Day weekend has come and gone. Things were pretty quiet, so just some random observations.
  1. Received word today that my friend in Mississippi and her family are ok, but still without any power. That was a good way to start the week.
  2. Moved #3 daughter back to school which turned out to be less painful than usual. Probably the result of $3+ per gallon gasoline keeping people off the road.
  3. It was announced by the NFL that the Sept. 18 Saints home opener against the Giants will be moved to Giants Stadium to be played as the first half of a Monday Night doubleheader at 7:30 EDT. No announcement has been made as to the ticket policy however which I, as a Giants ticket holder, have some interest in.
  4. Things finally seem to be getting a little under control in New Orleans. Dubyah says he isn't going to play the "blame game" whatever that means.
  5. I find it a little bizarre that Dubyah has, after the death of Chief Justice Rheinquist, switched John Roberts nomination to that of Chief Justice rather than Associate Justice. This strikes me as a little strange. Wouldn't it have made more sense to move a sitting justice into that position? While I'm not that nervous about Roberts replacing Rheinquist (it's the replacement for O'Conner that has me nervous), I'm not sure I want him as Chief Justice. Nor am I sure it's going to matter all that much.

Friday, September 02, 2005

More on the Pew Research Report

First rule, always go directly to the source if possible.

That being my philosophy, I went to the Pew Research Council and downloaded the survey about views on Creationsim versus Evolution. It has all kinds of interesting information including the relationship of education to views.

While overall 42% of those polled believed in Creationism while 48% said they accepted Evolution, when educational level is taken into account things break down like this.

Those with H.S. or less – Creationism 50%, Evolution 36%
Those with some college – Creationism 42%, Evolution 51%
Those with a College Degree – Creationism 27%, Evolution 66%

So it’s pretty clear that the more education you have, the less likely you are to hold creationist views.

The only region of the country where the majority held a Creationist view was the South (Why doesn’t this surprise me?).

South – Creationism 51%, Evolution 38%
Midwest – Creationism 42%, Evolution 45%
West – Creationism 36%, Evolution 57%
Northeast – Creationism 32%, Evolution 59%

I wonder where those 32% in the Northeast are because there sure aren't that many in my neck of the woods.

There is still a tremendous misconception about the opinion of scientists with fully 33% saying that no scientific consensus exists while 54% realize that there is significant consensus. One hopeful note is that 46% of those saying they believe in Creationism think there is no consensus among scientists, while 41% realize there is, but apparently don’t care! On second thought, maybe that’s NOT so hopeful.

Another rather interesting finding, although not terribly surprising, was related to what people considered the most important influence on their views on the Development of Life.

Those who believed in Creationism – Religion 60%, Education 9%, Don’t Know 31%
Those who believed in Evolution – Religion 26%, Education 47%, Don’t Know 27%

On a REALLY SCARY note fully 38% felt that the teaching of Creationism should REPLACE the teaching of Evolution!!! Although something doesn’t make a lot of sense here, how the hell (as reported in the survey) could 22% of the folks that accept Evolution think the teaching of Creationism should replace the teaching of Evolution?

In some encouraging notes, the number of people that think Dubyah mentions faith and prayer too much has doubled since July of 2003 from 14% to 28% while support for Faith Based Initiatives, while still pretty strong, has dropped from 75% in March of 2001 to 66%.

New Survey on Creationism vs. Evolution

In a recent Pew Research Center Poll 42% of Americans stated that they held strict creationist views while 48% said they believe that humans had evolved over time. Of the 48% that supported evolution 26% said that evolution was the result of natural selection while 18% felt that evolution had been guided by a supreme being. Fully 64% felt that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in school.

A spokesperson for the National Center for Science Education questioned whether the poll was an endorsement of the teaching of creationism as much as a endorsement of fairness in American culture. That's sort of the dumbest observation I've seen in a while. The NCSE spokesperson is confusing "what" and "why." What 64% of the polled support is the teaching of creationism alongside evolution; the tradition of fair play in American culture may be why they support it. Again we have an example of wishful thinking, "nah, this survey isn't as big a disaster as it appears, it really means something I can live with."

Well at least 48% of the country has accepted evolution. That's a step in the right direction. I wonder if there was a correlation with education in this survey? That would have been interesting to see I think.

Professional Sports Helps Out

While the federal government appears to be still tripping over its own two feet in getting aid to the hurricane stricken Gulf Coast and the governor of Louisiana and mayor of New Orleans seem incapable of doing anything but wringing their hands, Professional Sports and professional athletes have reacted and provided aid.

Both the National Football League and Major League Baseball have donated $1 million, the National Basketball Association has kicked in $2 million and the New York Yankees have added their own $1 million to help out. Since it's unlikely the New Orleans Saints will be playing a true home game anytime soon, the New Jersey Meadowlands and New York Giants, the planned opponents for the New Orleans Saints home opener on Sept. 18, have offered to host the game as a fund raiser at Giants Stadium. Last, but certainly not least, Warrick Dunn of the Atlanta Falcons has issued a challange to every NFL player (except members of the Saints) to donate $5,000 to the relief effort.

This is kind of good to hear.

It's not acceptable.

Dubyah has acknowledged that federal aid to the areas devestated by Katrina hasn't been particularly speedy nor effective. What took so long to figure this out?

I spent a fair amount of time last night watching MSNBC and CNN and things are worse than I thought. I also heard about a lot of other stuff that strikes me as "not acceptable." It seems that the extent of this disaster shouldn't be much of a surprise for those folks who should know better. Apparently it's been known for years that the levees couldn't withstand a category 4 or 5 storm, that some 100,000 of the poorest people probably would not, or would be unable to, evacuate even when told to do so and that there was insufficient transportation available even if every one did want to leave.

I have a question, why weren't adequate National Guard troops activated BEFORE the storm struck? Surely the governor should have known that the manpower was going to be needed. It seems to me that neither the mayor, the governor nor the president took any preparatory steps even after it became clear that the city was going to get hammered.

Now as for the reaction of some of the people in New Orleans, it's a disgrace. CNN reported last night that armed gangs were roaming the streets looting and raping, that rescue and supply vehicles have been fired upon and that many members of the New Orleans police force appear to have deserted. There is NO excuse for this type of behavior. This is at least as "not acceptable" as the lack of preparation and the sluggishness of the rescue efforts.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

In the Wake of Katrina

New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Coast got absolutely hammered by this storm. I've never seen anything quite like this. Just some random observations.
  • I sent my $100 contribution to the Red Cross. I figure every little bit helps.
  • We got an e-mail this morning from corporate headquarters that ITT Industries has contributed $250,000 to the Red Cross and is trying to work out where to ship product and personnel to help out. ITT provides the pumps used in New Orleans to remove storm water. Considering what I've seen, they're going to need lots more of them.
  • The e-mail also mentioned that of the 25 ITT folks down there, the company has only been able to contact a couple who report that things are as bad as they look and maybe worse.
  • I have a friend that lives on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi about a hour from New Orleans. I checked with people who tend to stay more in contact (I'm really bad at that and I haven't talked to her for a couple of weeks) and the news wasn't that good. The last anyone heard from her was Sunday and she was planning on staying in the area and riding out the storm.
  • What's with the idiots looting, starting fires and running around with guns? Thanks to these morons troops and police have been diverted from rescue efforts to police duties. There's even a rumor that shots have been fired at rescue helicopters.
  • #2 daughter, the law student, told me about a friend of a friend who was supposed to start Law School at Tulane but was notified that the start of the term had been delayed, perhaps indefinitely.
  • On the way to work this morning I noticed that the price of regular was at $3.05 at my favorite gas station although down the block it was still at $2.87. Think I'll either go buy a horse or find a job closer to home and buy a bicycle. I wonder if I could work out a way to telecommute?

I have no idea how they're going to clean this mess up. I'll guess we'll have to see how things work out.