It's not about Abortion

But the abortion issue plays so well.

Had a yellow dog reply to me the other day "I hope Roe is overturned before 2008!" In response to my entry on the impending Democratic Victory at the polls.

The elections that will be impacted are the 2006 elections (2008's will probably also go against the Reps, but that's still 2 years off) The complete lack of focus on the part of the sitting government is what is going to cost the Republican's plenty, not the reversal of Roe. On the subject of what is important to Americans right now, Roe and Abortion isn't even on the map. Nor do I think it will be reversed or even severely impacted.

Oh, they could change the "on demand" status, and the Religious Reich would crow to the heavens about the "victory" they'd achieved. But science and precedent aren't behind a reversal of the current ruling. I don't see how the SCOTUS can see it's way to a 'reversal'. Which means that Abortion stays legal and will be privately funded (in fewer places) and that the more logical chemical approaches to 'family planning' will take the front seat.

The issue should die there. Why? I made this argument a long time ago, you can't have a murder if you don't have a body. There is no body with a morning after pill (the method of choice these days) or one of the other early use chemicals. So attempting to inflict the morality of "life at conception" through the use of law is just another downward spiral. Just brings on the major societal change that much sooner.

The fact is that what people do find important isn't being addressed. The war, the lackluster economy, etc. The fact that, even with half the income of America at the gov'ts disposal, it still takes years to get a city rebuilt. (N'Orleans)

There is some serious dissatisfaction out there, and I don't see the Republicans addressing it. Come to think of it, I don't see mainstream Democrats addressing it either.

Da Vinci Court & Opus Dei

Noticed on news today that the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail are looking for a slice of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code pie.

Maybe they should have written a fiction novel instead of trying for the non-fiction label themselves. They would have needed more of a plot, though.



Read this defense of the antagonists faith from the novel, Opus Dei the other day. I gotta tell you, he doesn't convince me that the behavior makes sense, or that I would want to sign up for that kind of self abuse. What he does convince me of is why the church is so desperate to retain membership that they would do some of the things that they've been accused of doing of late.

"You want me to inflict pain on myself so that I can experience some spiritual growth? Uh, no thanks, dude."

I would suspect that, if you believed that inflicting pain on yourself lead to your long term benefit, you might come to believe that inflicting pain on others might be to their long term benefit. Sounds pretty sick to me.



Looking forward to watching the movie. Don't know if I can quite picture Tom Hanks in the lead role, but the clips I saw on the news story seemed pretty interesting.

Boston Legal, Jury Nullification, Euthanasia

Speaking of Boston Legal (I was) the episode "Live Big" (that aired on the 21st) features Alan Shore once again on the horns of an ethical dilemma. His client granted his Alzheimer's afflicted wife's request to have her life terminated.

I love watching James Spader's characterization of Alan Shore. He's so wonderfully dry. The contrasting relationship with bombastic 'Denny Crane' (William Shatner) makes an excellent sounding board (and vice versa) for discussion points within the episode.

Denny Crane: That's how dad went. Morphine drip.
Alan Shore: How did you get the doctor to do it?
Denny Crane: "Denny Crane". It was the real thing then.

Spader's 'Shore' is clearly uncomfortable with the whole subject, but he believes that his client should not be labeled a criminal, and bases his closing argument on that very basic fact.

The A.D.A.'s argument amounts to: he broke the law, he's a criminal, and we can't afford to start down the slippery slope of allowing assisted suicide, what happens when people start getting rid of the old, sick people they just don't want around anymore.

Shore's argument goes like this:
The dirty little secret is; we went down that slope, years ago. Officially we say we're against assisted suicide; but it goes on, all the time. 70% of all deaths in hospitals are due to decisions to let patients die. Whether it's morphine drips or respirators, hydration tubes. With all due respect to the Terry Schiavo fanfare, patients are assisted with death, all across the country, all the time.

As for regulating motive, here's a thought, investigate it. if we suspect foul play have the police ask questions, if it smells funny, prosecute.

But here, there is no suggestion that Mr. Myerson's motive was anything other than to satisfy his wifes wishes and spare her the extreme indignity of the rotting of her brain. Can you imagine? Would you want to live like that?

I had a dog for 12 years. His name was Allen. That was his name when I got him. He had cancer in the end. That, in conjunction with severe hip dysplasia, and he was in unbearable pain. My vet recommended, and I agreed, to euthanize him. It was 'humane' which we as society endeavor to be, for animals.

My client's act was a humane one. It was a sorrowful one. Mrs. Myerson's nurse testified as to the profound love that Ryan Myerson had for his wife. Sometimes the ultimate act of love and kindness...

If you think this man is a criminal send him to jail. If you don't, don't.
His client is, of course, acquitted. A classic case of jury nullification, a legitimate finding by the jury that the law was wrongly applied in this instance.

Another example of why I love the show evolves afterwards. Once again in a conversation between Denny and Alan, the nature of "who's life is it anyway" is explored. An excellent conclusion to the episode, and what I've come to expect from the show.

Looking forward to tonight's episode.

LOST in time...

The significance of Hurley's comment "...or what time?"

The music that Sayid picks up on the short wave radio is Glen Miller playing 'Moonlight Serenade'. Glen Miller who was mysteriously lost over the Pacific in WWII.

Something else to ponder. Are they LOST in time as well?

When are Taxes not Theft?

Heard on the radio today that Austin is going to give 3 million dollars as an incentive to HP so that they'll graciously relocate here. Oh, I know, they aren't actually 'giving' anything. They're offering incentives (rebates on taxes) and I'm sure you and I won't even notice that HP (the multi-national corporation) isn't paying the same property taxes that us working stiffs are.

Why should we care when we as living, existing entities with limited time in this world are stolen from on a daily basis while a corporation with no real existence and no limit on their lifespan (profitable or not) gets a free pass for 10 years (about a quarter of the average persons working life) and has potentially centuries to make however many millions it is destined to make.

So, to get to the point, when are Taxes not Theft?

When the tax is levied on an legal entity that has no physical being to maintain. When the tax is levied on creatures of law that have no existence outside of law; if the cost of maintaining it's existence is the maintenance of gov't and law, can any cost be considered 'unreasonable'? Can any cost short of self destruction be considered theft, since the alternative is for them to cease to exist?

Taxes levied on creatures of the state cannot be ruled theft. Corporations and other creatures of law, government sheltered businesses of any kind, should carry the burden of gov't since they owe their very existence to government in the first place, and would have no ability to continue in existence without it.

In my opinion, this is the answer to the age old question of how to fund government. Let those who profit from it, those who would have no existence with out it, pay for it. Starting with corporations like HP.

Might *doesn't* Make Right

Got into one of those discussions this weekend (I don't know how I manage to do this so often) someone insisting that the use, or threat of use of force, is required routinely to provide a 'safe and secure' society.

When I offered the counter observation that it was hardly the case, and that most poeple would rather do anything to avoid a fight, it was scoffed at; never mind that day after day, time after time, events transpire to prove that people will tend to avoid confrontation if they can.

(one might even argue that it would be a better world if only more people felt there were things worth fighting for, but don't get me started)

That there are people who only respect force is a given, in my book. That is one of the core reasons that some form of government will always be necessary. Self government only works if you are intelligent enough to modify your own behavior when your desires drive you to take what isn't yours or in some way transgress the 'normal' code of conduct that is currently enforced as law. That there isn't daily killings on the highway for transgressions of driving ettiquette is all the proof that I need that most people are capable of self government.

If Might made Right, then anything achieved by force would be acceptable to the sensibilities of people in general. Logically, if the use of force "made right", then I'm not sure what business anyone has objecting to anything that is done to him. Obviously it's 'right' if it can be done, given that force is the only measurement of 'right' (being what the word 'makes' means) if you accept the statement as true. That people object, and that some people will respond with force (also known as self defense; a concept near and dear to my heart) proves that Might Doesn't make Right. Not even 'Right now'.

Lucky for the rest of us. I guess I'll have to add a few more names to the book, though. The record of people that I will need to apply force to if I ever want anything out of them...

Precious Metals on the Rise?

I'm not going to pretend to be an authority on the subject (there are enough pretenders of that sort already on the web) but if some of the recent news is any indication, I think it's safe to say that gold and silver will continue to rise:

Item number 4 in this month's Liberty Dollar News:
"Cheuvreux, the equity brokerage house of Credit Agricole, the huge French bank, distributed a 56-page report that completely endorses in detail the findings of the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee that the price of gold has been surreptitiously suppressed by Western central banks and that those banks do not have the gold they claim to have. "

"The report, written by Cheuvreux's mining sector analyst in London, Paul Mylchreest, is titled "Remonetization of Gold: Start Hoarding." It repeatedly cites GATA by name and foresees an "unprecedented" rise in the gold price, possibly accompanied by a spike to as much as 2,000 USD."

Me personally? I won't hold my breath on gold going as high as $2000 an ounce. But the news of central banks not having as much gold as they claimed should ensure that the price of gold will continue to rise.

I don't have any 'authoritative sources' to cite for silver's continued rise, but there is enough rumor and scuttlebutt on the web (if you go looking) to make the case look pretty good.

Then there is this:
By any calculation silver is not worth 9.00 per ounce.

Its true value is in the range of 79.50 to 700,000.00 per ounce depending on what relative formula you use.

Based on rarity of production (at mine in 2004) and using the price of 530.00 for gold then silver should be 79.50/oz. Based on the idea that silver is the only material ordained as money, and it is the only thing that backs, or owns, every piece of worthless paper in the world that passes for money, securities, bonds, etc., then silvers true value is in the range of $700,000.00 plus per ounce. There are a hundred other formulaes by which you may want to value silver in U.S. Dollars.

Whatever the economy is doing, silver will continue to increase in value relative to anything that it is measured against. Notwithstanding market manipulation which will ultimately fail.
(credit to Moriyah for writing the above)

I'd like to repeat the important bit there. Every dollar in circulation is supposed to be backed by approx. 3/4 of an ounce of silver. That puts the price per ounce of silver in existence at $700,000.00 plus. A staggering number. One that leads me to believe that silver isn't going to be dropping in price anytime soon...

Boston Legal 'Abortion' episode

This furor over abortion (again) reminds me of last weeks Boston Legal (the ep. "Smile") and the rape victim suing the Catholic hospital because they failed to provide her with the 'morning after' pill when she requested it.

Specifically I am reminded of the exchange between the characters of Shirley Schmidt and Denise Bauer when, at the end of the episode it is revealed...

...Well, don't read any farther if you want to be surprised when watching the episode.

Here are the lines from the transcript:

Denise Bauer: So?
Shirley Schmidt: I just spoke with her mother. She'’s having an abortion. While it's still legal.
Denise Bauer: Girl who said she would never even consider it. She hands Shirley a bottle of beer.
Shirley Schmidt: Well. What's the alternative? Having custody battles with your rapist? Sorry. That was really tasteless.
Denise Bauer: It'’s all tasteless. The more science comes up with alternatives to the misery of abortion the louder the opposition.
Shirley Schmidt: Course it'’s about power. It's always been about power. They drink. Shirley motions with her bottle. These guys have any friends?
Denise Bauer: Not for long.
So the do-gooder at the Catholic hospital in fact contributed to someone having an abortion, all because of the scientifically indefensible belief that life begins at conception.

Misery does love company, I guess.

Democratic Victory

Every conservative that I know makes a point of saying they are a "fiscal conservative". They are, nearly to a man, worried most about the size and cost of government, and want to see it get smaller. Ask any American on the street prior to 9-11 what was most important for the government to focus on, and they would probably respond with some variation on "re-instituting fiscal responsibility".

Over the last 8 years, Bush and the Republican gov't he leads have passed one (miniscule) tax cut, while jacking up the budget and the deficit to record levels.

At the pace that 'progress' is being made in the Middle East, Mr. Bush will leave office with the U.S. still mired in Iraq, with the neighboring nations posturing militarily in an attempt to make us blink, putting us in the most volatile foreign policy situation since FDR died in the White House, leaving Truman to finish WWII.

...And Republicans across the nation are consumed with what? Passing Anti-abortion measures so that they can try to coerce the SCOTUS to overturn Roe V. Wade.

This despite the fact that the average American, while perhaps not being favorable on abortion themselves, still favors a woman's right to choose the procedure. I don't know which political page they are working from, but this spells 'Democratic Victory' in the next election, in the book I'm reading from. I'm batting a thousand so far.

Which reminds me, I'm sticking to my previous assessment on the subject. The only thing I'm curious about is how the new members of SCOTUS will justify striking down the most recent ill-conceived fascist notions concerning abortion law. As if this hasn't happened before.

So, in the end, the only thing Bush will have achieved in 8 years: handing Democrats control of the government for the first time since Reagan took office. Way to go, George.

Recommending Firefox

I knew I was recommending it for a reason.

It's just nice to have it backed up with statistics. Here's a quote:
"Internet Explorer users are 21 times as likely to pick up spyware than Firefox users"
I've been using Firefox for several years now, and installing it on systems that my boss (yeah, you, sweetheart) assigns me to fix, as well as recommending it to anyone who asks. All based on my own impression of it's security, and nothing else.

...Until now.

Linux Distro Chooser Quiz

Reading back issues of Linux Pipeline tonight, came across a link for the "Linux Distro Chooser Quiz". It suggested I use Suse; which is kind of funny, since I'm only looking at other distros because I'm tired of fixing the missing pieces in Suse.

I want to be able to play DVD's on a linux system without having to stand on my head tracking down different parts of a software program. I just want to install a DVD player that actually plays DVDs; and I haven't found one that I don't have to assemble each time I upgrade the OS software. Suse comes with DVD disabled, as well as a lot of other bits and pieces missing and broken.

...and if I find it frustrating, as a confirmed software geek (if not a bonafide programmer) I can only imagine what the average user thinks.

Liable for Compulsive Gambling?

A Pathologist is suing a drug manufacturer, and the casinos that he lost his 14 million dollar Fortune to, because the drug that he was given causes compulsive gambling. I think that not only the drug manufacturer, but the casinos could loose that lawsuit, despite the objections about "where is the justice in this" that I've heard.

The lawsuit has nothing to do with justice, and everything to do with philosophy. In the dominant philosophy in the US right now (Kantian Altruism) it is accepted that "we are our brothers keeper" which means that the casinos have the responsibility to tell someone who is hurting himself by loosing too much "you've had enough now brother, time to stop". It doesn't matter that this introduces a whole new mess of problems for the gambling industry. Just like the can o' worms that bars now face (and that McDonald's et al narrowly dodged by adding 'healthy' items to their menus) in having to be "brother's keeper", the casinos have a responsibility to do likewise.

The only way this can be corrected is to change the dominant philosophy in the world today; a daunting task.

As a Capitalist/Objectivist, I'm not going to bother trying to defend the argument that the casinos should be liable; I'm just stating for the record, that based on Altruist values and reasoning, they are.

Not Public School, Government School

If the schools were public, then the public (at large) would control them. This is clearly not the case with the schools we have now. They are government funded, with government mandated curriculum. They are run by quasi-governmental entities elected in the same fashion as government itself.

They are government schools.

As for what to do about it (at least here in Texas) see my earlier rant.

Texas school funding

This has been an issue for so long in Texas, it's reached epic proportions. If it wasn't so damned expensive, it might even be funny. I hear today that someone (who's betting against it being the TEA funding this? Anyone?) ran a poll and 'discovered' that a majority of people would be willing to spend more in taxes if it went to schools.

As if "for the children" hasn't been the mantra that they've asked us to shed blood for time and again in the past.

Once again, my name is firmly in the 'nay' category. Not just no, but, Hell No.

The government schools are twice as expensive to run as comparable private schools. Giving them more money will not improve the schools, because the increasing number of dollars that we've given them (that's doubled and trebled over time) has not made the government schools function any better.

There is no way to earmark funds for a specific purpose, as should be painfully clear to anyone who remembers that the lottery money, the cigarette settlement money, virtually every new tax scheme proposed in the last 20 years has been "earmarked for education", only to get dumped into the general fund.

School attendance is mandatory. This makes the government schools into something closer to prisons than they are to places where children learn. The curriculum is set at the state and/or federal level. This turns the schools into an 'indoctrination center', where the correct view of this or that event or behavior is sure to be the only one given. The buildings themselves are old and run down from years of neglect by administrators more interested in buying themselves nice lives than they are in seeing facilities modernized, or made less 'oppressive'.

This leaves the teachers holding the bag, the thankless prison guard who isn't even trusted with a gun to defend himself with, and is locked in with the inmates on a daily basis. No wonder they want more money.

Here's a solution you won't get from the powers that be. Remove the taxing authority from all the school districts. Fire every school district employee who isn't actively teaching a class. Draft legislation creating vouchers equal to the current outlay per student, payable to each teacher that will be entrusted with the job to teach our children. Give them the authority to hire and fire administration that they choose to employ at their discretion, and out of their pockets.

Give parents the choice to either accept the vouchers, and have their children be tested at the end of the education process; or to do without the vouchers and the testing.

...And then see if the children end up learning more, or less. I'm betting on more.

Beyond the Da Vinci Code

I read the Da Vinci Code; I thought it was a good bit of fiction, a gripping who-done-it with a clever twist at the end, as good as any of the mystery writers that I've enjoyed over the years, with just that bit of 'what if' that stirs the mental soup even when you've finished reading it.

I'd like to stress the word fiction again, just for those jumpy christian types who keep thinking that it is possible to disprove something that is published as fiction.

Seriously, three hours, and counting, of material on the "History Channel" (which gets confounded sometimes as to whether it's actually supposed to be the PTL or the militarism channel) attempting to prove that a work of fiction is in fact, fiction.

"Yeah, it's says it right on the spine of the book, thanks for caring, though."

Not that they didn't have some interesting sources during the course of the three hours. Sources that lent more credence to the thought that the story was a bit more than fiction, than to the blatant attempt to discredit the book as, once again, fiction.

So, just for grins, here are the sources:

Dr. Deirdre Good - General Theological Seminary
Dr. Karen Ralls - The Templars and the Grail
Richard Leigh - Holy Blood, Holy Grail
Timothy Freke - The Jesus Mysteries
Margaret Starbird - The Woman with the Alabaster Jar

A heartfelt encouragement of 'good reading' I give to you all. May you find it as intriguing as I found the History channel programs frustrating, with the exception of the insights from the sources listed above.

People should question their most firmly held beliefs. Every day. If your beliefs cannot withstand your own questioning, then are they really your beliefs?

"Mcmansions" or just a sign of the changing times...

Only in Austin would they spit on revitalizing downtown residential districts, and call the resultant housing 'McMansions'. Everywhere else this epithet is used (and rightly, in my opinion) it is applied to the overly large, over priced, housing that springs up in the suburbs. As an architect with a family to feed, I can share the blame for a good portion of that type of housing. Most of the families who moved into houses that I helped get built were quite thankful to have them. To each his own, I live in the central city because I like the convenience of being near downtown.

Based on the complaints of disgruntled neighbors, the Austin city council took action last week and suspended all pending permits for construction in established neighborhoods, subject to review and possible further restriction by ordinance. (how is this not Ex Post Facto, is what I'd like to know, but let's not get off on a tangent here) Anyone who thinks this isn't about the same 'no-growth' issues that Austin has always been preoccupied with needs to take a crash course in the history of Austin politics.

All you have to do is see which side the usual suspects line up on. The Austin American Statesman is foursquare against the ban, as can be seen from the multiple Op-Ed columns and letters on the subject. Too bad they don't consistently side with those interested in preserving property rights. This time the property rights (and values) argument is what is being offered by the builders, so that's the tack that is going to be taken by those who follow the chamber of commerce side of the argument.

On the other end of the spectrum is the champion of no-growth, the Austin Chronicle. At least they are consistent in lamenting the halcyon days of Austin in the 70's, back when the city was a town, and it was empty when UT wasn't in session. I wish these people would wake up and smell the coffee.

That Austin has been gone for so long, it was only a memory when I moved here in the late 80's. The no-growthers got what they wanted way back then, except they found out they didn't want it when they saw what it was. Property values crashed, jobs went away, projects were left rotting and half completed. They got it again when they passed SOS and successfully killed development in areas outside the city.

This problem is also of their own making. The traffic congestion which is a result of blocking most of the new freeway work that had been proposed 20 years ago, makes living in the suburbs an almost intolerable commute if you work downtown now. Many people who do so would (like me) like to live close enough to avoid a long commute. This (along with other factors) produces higher demand for housing in central Austin. The resultant rise in land prices (also an offshoot of the FACT that Austin isn't a sleepy little town anymore; but a full fledged city of more than 500,000) has lead land owners to capitalize on property investments.

Now, horror of horrors, "the growth is happening right next door to me!", not out in the suburbs. "Gotta call my councilman, and put a stop to this." That's how it always starts, and it never turns out like they planned it.

If you don't own the property in question, you don't have any right to dictate to the current owner what gets built on it. That won't stop most people from trying, but what usually ends up happening is the development happens anyway, it just ends up costing more. This is what comes from relying on zoning and city officials to do a job that could more reliably be done with restrictive covenants and/or architectural planners who have a clue about what makes sense land use wise.

But then the chamber of commerce types wouldn't be able to ram through the developments they want when the tables are reversed...

A Lemmings Tale

When I get to puzzling over the quandary of how to convince people that political change is necessary, I am reminded of a computer game I used to play. "Lemmings" was it's name.

These cute little green headed characters would drop out of an entry point, and wander in a specific direction (Oddly enough, to the right. What is the significance of that?) until they met with certain doom. The players job was to save as many as possible from the doom they were marching towards, by converting the walkers to various other functions. In some of the later stages of the game, there just was no way to save all of them. In one specific instance, there is a cliff in front of a relentless stream of Lemmings, and you don't have any way to stop them. You can stop enough of them to win the scenario, but only if you play it right. You, of course, would rather save them all, but it can't be done. They walk over the cliff in spite of your best efforts.

That is where we are now, late in the game. Libertarians pointed out years ago that a 9-11 like attack was coming. It's happened now.

The freedom ploy engaged in by the smugglers John Hancock & Samuel Adams was diverted. The  empire that Lincoln was forced to create re-claiming the South for the Union reached it's summit in the 50's and now drops down into historical irrelevance again. FDR's schemes are coming to their crisis points and must be reformed or scrapped. There is no evading the cliff in front of us, unless we take action. 'We' have to convince enough people who can think for themselves that there is a problem, and that there is a workable solution. 'Enough' is a fluid number, based on what solution is used as a target. The rest will have to walk on over the cliff, in spite of us.

We all choose our own destiny, even if our choice is not to choose.

Charges in Fatal Dog Attack

When I wrote on this subject previously, this was the headline: "Charges in fatal dog attack not likely, sheriff says" Which was, as I said at the time, outrageous.

Apparently the Grand Jury in Milam County felt the same way:
The owner of six dogs that mauled a woman to death in November was indicted Thursday by a Milam County grand jury.
Jose Hernandez, 52, of Thorndale was arrested by Milam County authorities after being indicted for criminal negligent homicide as a result of the November 26, 2005, dog attack in which Lillian Lorraine Stiles was attacked and killed at her residence by dogs owned by Hernandez.
Authorities say the pit bull-Rottweiler mixed-breed dogs attacked and killed Lillian Stiles as she rode a lawn mower. Her husband, Jack, was inside the house watching a football game. He shot and killed one of the dogs. The other five were later euthanized.
Here's hoping justice is done on the subject.



Reading back through the early blog articles I was stunned to realize I never followed up on this story. Sadly, the jury was unwilling to convict the dog owner. I found a legal opinion on the subject here which I will repost. There is more information at the link if you are interested.
Like the prosecutors in the Diane Whipple case, the district attorney here found the existing laws to be inadequate. There was and is no state law that specifically addresses canine-inflicted homicides (i.e., deaths of humans, caused by dogs). (For proposed changes to the dog bite law of Texas, see Texas on this web site.)
Texas law addresses a different situation, namely the consequences of having a dog that previously was adjudicated as being "dangerous." Heath & Safety Code §822.041 provides that a court may declare a dog "dangerous" basically if it causes injury in an unprovoked attack. It is a Class C misdemeanor if the owner violates the provisions of the dangerous dog law or the dog causes serious injury in an unprovoked attack. It is a Class A misdemeanor if the dangerous dog causes a death of a person in an unprovoked attack. A $10,000 penalty may also be imposed on the owner whose dangerous dog causes serious injury or kills someone. Texas Heath & Safety Code §§822.044, 822.045. (See generally Dangerous and Vicious Dogs for discussion of the legal meaning of "dangerous" and the issues pertaining to legal "dangerousness.")
If a dog has not been previously declared "dangerous," however, there is a "loophole" in the law, in that there is no law that addresses the situation. Given the savageness of this killing, prosecutors attempted to apply the general law. To make the punishment fit the crime, the grand jury indicted Jose Hernandez for criminally negligent homicide. His trial took place in March 2007.
The conviction of this dog owner depended upon overcoming the bane of dog bite victims, namely the one-bite rule. Under this ancient British legal doctrine, the owner of any domestic animal is not held responsible for the first bite, the first mauling, or the first killing by each and every one of his animals. (See The One Bite Rule.) Texas is in a minority of states that continues to salute the flag of Great Britain when it comes to dog bite laws. (For lists of states that follow or have abrogated the one bite rule, see Legal Rights of Dog Bite Victims in the USA.)
Hernandez testified that he had no idea his animals were capable of such brutality. He admitted none of his animals had ever been seen by a veterinarian and hadn't been vaccinated. Several other witnesses for the defense testified that Hernandez' dogs were not aggressive and were not trained to be aggressive.
The jury found Hernandez not guilty.
I had never heard of the one bite rule before in my life. I'm actually horrified that this is law in this state. They did actually update the laws after the verdict in this case, but the laws remain woefully lax when it comes to holding dog owners responsible for the behavior of their animals.  

Commander Cochran

Kelso's column in the Statesman today reveals a side of Leslie that we never knew before.

That he owns clothing other than a bikini and a tiara, for one thing. He was arrested in Utumwa, Iowa (MASH fans will recognize that name) for public intoxication...

...while wearing a Star Trek uniform.
"It's cold up here, so I put my Star Trek outfit over my normal clothes," Leslie said, explaining his choice of traveling attire when I talked to him Wednesday on his cell phone. "By the way, I've got commander rate, so you can call me Commander Cochran."
I was captain of a local Star Trek club, years ago. We were always concerned about loosing old membership and getting 'fresh blood' into the club. I recruited a few people over the years, some of whom have gone on to make several people ask, "why did you bring him here?"

For the record, I'd like it known that I could have done worse. Maybe.

"Accidents Happen"

That was the reported response by Harry Whittington today when questioned over the VP shooting him last weekend in Texas.

On another note, I was listening to Rush Limbaugh (whom I have lovingly referred to as a "Modern age Joseph Goebbels" for about as long as he's been on the air) defending Cheney against the conspiracy theorists that are calling the show and spinning their theories concerning the accident yesterday. He kept referring to them as 'idiots'.

Sorry there Joey, but from where I'm sitting there is plenty of idiocy to go around. Granted it was an accident, but only an idiot fires blind in the direction that your hunting partners are in. Only an idiot pulls the trigger when there is a guy wearing safety orange visible in your sight.

The local authorities have been using this incident, and the airtime concerning guns, to lament on the number of people who go hunting and don't take gun safety courses. Maybe Mr. Cheney should look into them. Of course, I took the class; although the curriculum was a little different when I took it. It's called dad smacking me on the head when I did something stupid while carrying a loaded weapon. I don't think I'd volunteer to instruct the VP though. He's liable to mistake me for a bird as well...

Jon Stewart: "Yes, as you've just heard, a near-tragedy over the weekend in south Texas. Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot a man during a quail hunt at a political supporter's ranch. Making 78-year-old Harry Whittington the first person shot by a sitting VP since Alexander Hamilton.
"Hamilton, of course, shot in a duel with Aaron Burr over issues of honor, integrity and political maneuvering. Whittington? Mistaken for a bird.

Andreas Katsulas 1946-2006

Andreas Katsulas and his characterization of G'kar was, in the end, the most memorable part of Babylon 5 for me. His portrayal of the ambassador for the newly liberated Narn was exactly what was needed to give the series 'an edge'. Despicable, but at the same time likeable, the character matured with the show into the image of a visionary leader of his people, once again oppressed by their old masters.

His story arc was about the only one that came to a satisfying conclusion.

I'll never forget the convention in Tulsa where he posed for this picture. (Yes, those are puppets, made by a friend of mine) He made the convention worth attending, all by himself.

This pretty much puts an end to the possibilities of a resurrection of B5. Without the characters of G'kar and Dr. Franklin (played by Richard Biggs who passed away in 2004) A story based on the original characters would be quite hard to tell.

I have found the voice over that Andreas did as G'kar at the end of the Episode "Z'ha'dum" to be quite moving at times. It goes like this:

"It was the end of the Earth year 2260. The War had come to a pause, suddenly and unexpectedly. All around it was as if the Universe were holding its breath, waiting. All of life can be broken down into moments of transition, and moments of revelation. This had the feeling of both.

G'Quan wrote: 'There is a darkness greater than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. The War we fight is not against powers and principalities, it is against chaos and despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender.'

The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future, or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain..."

He will be missed.

Great tribute to G'Kar here: http://www.zteamproductions.com/b5stuff/Andreas.html

LOST Hieroglyphs

Quick, I need a translator!














Crazy episode tonight. Sayid is getting a bit intense.

LOST - What's in a name?

OK. I have to admit this up front. I had not been following this show until O.S. Card threw down the gauntlet last year concerning the worthlessness of Trek (Enterprise was worthless. It also wasn't Trek. Well maybe Ber-Trek) and the praiseworthiness of 'Lost' (and 'Smallville'. Don't care what he says about that. His original comments can be found here) I accepted the challenge and took up watching 'Lost' just to see what the buzz was about.

Anyway... Trek bashing (by one of the better SF authors that I've read to date) aside, I've gotten hooked on Lost. It's a pretty good show (still don't know if I'd call it SciFi) the episodes are character and plot driven, and they are cut in such a way as to keep you interested in the show, even if you haven't seen the beginning of the series. I started watching about 4 episodes before the season one finale, and kept right on watching as the repeats started airing. I found myself going "Oh, that explains the scene in the finale where..." and have to shut up, because no one else in the house was watching the finale when it aired previously and I didn't want to give it away...

I've stumbled across more sites for this show than any other show I've watched. Example?

http://www.driveshaftband.com/
http://oceanic-airlines.com/home.htm
http://www.thehansofoundation.org/dharma.html
http://thedharmainitiative.org/

...and that's an old list.

The obsession with names that the fans have (as illustrated here, and several other places) has been earned. Taking into account the meaning of the name "Desmond" (where did he go, anyway?) the symbology behind the Dharma logo, the Bagua (anyone else notice the black/white "swan" looks remarkably like a yin-yang?) and the meaning of the name "Dharma". How about "Jack" and "John", the two leaders who have the same first name, but couldn't be more different.? Aaron, Claire's child? Mr. Ecko? It seems that the writers are choosing names just to pique our interest. It's not surprising, and has been done in SF series for years. But it still leads you to wonder...

...Which takes you to questioning where this is all going. Reading through the ideas presented at this link (WARNING, SPOILERS) might give you an idea.

But then maybe he, as well as the writers, don't know where this is going. I'm still watching.

Random Holiday Generator

Better check under your pillow today. The Birthday tooth bunny that carries sand and brings gifts might have left some candy under your pillow...

...or maybe I'm mixing up my holidays...

Oh! and this one is for the teenager who announced "I hate Valentine's day!" this morning:

Standard American Mutt

Every time I take a survey, I get pissed off. Why? Because in every survey, the bean counters in charge of it want to nail down exactly what group I'm a part of, so that they can massage their numbers to get the answers they want. Amongst the male or female, married or single, how much money do I make type questions, they inevitably ask "what is your race?"

Hell if I know, I've never done a genealogy on my family history. The subject is about as interesting as watching paint dry. My skin's white, sure enough. But that doesn't necessarily mean anything. Ancestry determines what type of blood runs in your veins; and only working with the surnames of my grandparents, I can claim German, French and English blood. Who knows what else has been thrown in there over the last couple of hundred years? In my estimation that makes me a Standard American Mutt.

'Race' is an illusion anyway. The behavior attributed to 'race' is nothing more than ethnic culture; the absorbed societal norms which influence the thinking of an individual, and culture changes from generation to generation (and the people who wish to preserve their ethnicity are fighting an losing battle on a constantly shifting slope) The genetic differences between the 'races' are no greater than the genetic differences between individuals of the same race. So what does it mean to claim membership in a particular race? Bragging rights?

Beats me. I'm proud to proclaim myself a 'mutt'. Now if I can just get the people printing forms and writing surveys to include Standard American Mutt as one of the choices...

Lincoln's birthday? Not for me.

Since the day that our son was born, the daughter (also known as the teenager) has been jealous of the attention that his birthday gets. Costumes and free candy on your birthday, how do you beat that?

15 years ago today, I became a parent, and started marking that official anno parenti time. Truthfully, I've been raising children since I was a child myself. They weren't my kids, but sometimes you get handed a job that you didn't ask for. As the eldest in a single parent household, you spend a lot of time herding the younger ones. You can always look forward to mom getting home at some point later in the day, and then you can quit pretending you know what you are doing and get back to being a child yourself.

Once you are mom (or dad) things get a little more complex. The early experience helped, though. I knew how to change diapers. How to feed a baby, hold a baby, a thousand different things. But at 2 in the morning, when it's your turn to rock the baby, you find that you miss the days when mom would come home and take over. Well, not really. But just for a minute there...

...And they grow so fast, too. 15 years? It couldn't have been that long. But then, she's a good bit taller than she was when I first saw her. Then, I could hold her in the crook of one arm, a little over 6 pounds, light as a feather. I'm still taller than her now, but I don't think that will last much longer. I can remember taking her to the Montessori School for the first time. Her learning to read, and then talking me into reading books that she liked (I'm hooked on Harry Potter and it's her fault) getting me hooked on anime (especially Hayao Miyazaki) Discovering she has quite a talent for art in her own right. Trying to encourage her to explore her talent, without pressuring her to 'do something' with it. Dropping her off at the High School for the first time; wondering out loud if I "should walk her in..." The disgusted "DAD!" that I got in return was the first clue that she was growing up much faster than I was really ready for.

I think they'll have to sedate me for the next birthday. I don't think I'll be ready for 16, dating, driving.

After the boy was born, we took to telling her that "well, your birthday is Lincoln's birthday too..." That didn't work. She could go here and see a full list of the famous people who were also born on this date. I doubt that would be good enough either. Maybe, if she's half the artist I think she can be, she'll end up on that list as well.

She's already on an exclusive list of one in my book. That's a good enough reason to celebrate the day all by itself, without needing costumes and candy. Wouldn't you agree?

Happy Birthday, dearest one.

Fiat Money

I was not surprised to hear that Ben S. Bernanke advanced to head of the Federal Reserve Board, with little fanfare earlier this week. Dubbed the "Prince of Paper" because of his suggestion that the the US could simply print it's way out of economic troubles (a frightening idea to anybody who understands money) I expect that he will continue in the footsteps of those who have lead the Fed before him. This might come as a surprise to most people out there, but this won't be good for the country.

With the national debt now over 8 trillion dollars, 4 trillion of it being held in private hands (which means we pay interest on that portion of the debt) The question really becomes "why are we paying others to carry debt that we owe ourselves?"

I was listening to a local talk show host, Patrick Timpone, recently; and heard excellent idea from the guest. Didn't catch who he was (don't think I heard his name) but his argument amounted to "...if we are going to endorse the fiat money system as 'the way' to do money in the modern age, then we need to make sure that the citizens of the US are the ones who profit from the use of our money, not the banks and individuals who 'own' the debt." The treasury should take back the ability to 'print money' (this will actually require a constitutional amendment, for those who remember we have one) and simply print the money it needs itself. Any subsequent 'benefit' to the debt's existence would accrue to the Americans to whom the debt is owed.

Maybe the way to make money more 'elastic' (without engaging in inflationary money printing ventures like "The Prince" will embark on) is to adopt a system like the Ripple or Cyclos monetary systems, allowing us to privately monetize ourselves what we currently have to go to the banks for.

Something to think about, but I'd still prefer to have the silver in my hand, rather than any IOU; even if that IOU is backed by "the full faith and credit"...

Coming to an apartment near you...

I'd like to get this guy to do my house; except that I'm broke already myself. That seems to be the problem with trekkies; so many toys, so little income.


...Unless you're one of those trek inspired rocket scientists, that is.

Downward Spiral Continues

Mentioned Steve Kubby the other day; I also blogged about the Downward Spiral that the system seems to be caught in.

Well, Steve isn't getting any better, he's getting worse. A quick scan of articles on the subject should make that quite obvious. The people responsible for holding him in prison are getting cold feet, made him sign a waiver of liability in case he should die in their prison. I imagine that they want us all to think that locking a man up and keeping him from taking what he believes will save his life, which will most likely cause his death, shouldn't be held against the prison system. Like prison guards anywhere, they should understand that 'just doing their jobs' isn't a good enough excuse.

Which brings me to Cory Maye. Cory Maye did what that friend of mine had a nightmare of doing. The nightmare continues for him. I don't see why this man should sit on death row for something that any of us should not be afraid to do; shoot unidentified intruders who break into our houses in the middle of the night. It's a point in the favor of the policemen involved that Cory Maye isn't dead; most of the people who resist the police in these types of situations end up with several bullets in them.

If those backing 'total law enforcement' don't like that Cory Maye can shoot a policeman and not be killed in return; I suggest that in the future, the police avoid being mistaken for petty criminals involved in smash and grab burglaries, not prosecute the average citizen for defending himself.

Armchair Quarterbacks

There has been a running joke in the family since 'the Wife' and I got together, that our televisions are broken, they won't tune a channel that has a sporting event on it. Neither of us has any real interest in sports.

My father watched every football game that was broadcast, back when I was a kid. There was also only one TV set in the house (dating myself, I'm sure) so if I wanted to watch TV, I had to watch what dad was watching. And it was generally sports. I never had any interest in the game, but after several years of being 'forced' to watch football, I got a pretty good grasp of what was going on. I can carry on a conversation with those who have a sports affliction similar to my father's, so most people don't realize that I can't stand watching sports on TV (in fact can't stand most sports 'at all') and would rather be doing anything else.

As an aside, 'the Wife' used to get into role-playing games in college. One of them was a "fantasy football" type game, played with teams and their current stats. She always enjoyed picking the Seattle Seahawks as her team, because they had the best stats. She generally won the game because the major drawback for the Seahawks, the tendency to choke in a clinch, didn't affect the gameplay.

For as long as we've made the joke concerning broken television sets, we've commented that "if the Seahawks ever got in the Superbowl, we'd have to watch it".

I'm watching a football game this Sunday. I blame 'the Wife' for this.

Writing without Reason?

I generally have two or three books I'm working on reading at any given time. Currently my non-fiction book of choice is Stephen Hick's "Explaining Postmodernism". So far it's been an excellent read for anyone wanting to understand some of the broad philosophical trends of the last few centuries. Currently I'm working through chapter 4 - "The Climate of Collectivism". I'm marveling over the impact that someone like Rousseau seems to have had over philosophy in recent history.

Whatever else he may have said aside, anyone who writes theses about reason being the root of mankind's unhappiness, and that we must abandon it in order to be happy, really ought to look to his own house first. As someone who has written volumes over the years, I think I can honestly say that one cannot write a sentence without applying reason, much less an entire treatise on any given subject.

I'll give him one thing, mankind would have been much happier if he had followed his own advice. 

A Downward Spiral

A friend of mine tried to make a call to me the other day. Seems he was picked up on an old warrant issued on a citation that he had thought had been dismissed. I didn't actually get to talk to him because Correctional Billing Services refused to allow him to speak to anyone on the phone unless they were willing to pay 50 dollars in advance for the 'privilege' while he was being detained at Travis County.

With no other visitation options, they are, there is no other word for it, extorting money from friends and family members of anyone unfortunate enough to get arrested in Travis County. They stole personal information from us under false pretense (asked for address and billing information and then claimed to "not have a contract" with our phone provider. Strangely, they didn't have a contract with one of the largest mobile phone providers in the country either) and then demanded 50 dollars in advance to be allowed to talk to this friend of ours who has clearly had a hard enough time today.

They then proceeded to tie up our phone line for several minutes after we declined to pay them their usurious fee. The supervisor that we demanded to speak to (none of them would give names) called back after we hung up and proceed to lay the phone down in order to tie up the line on purpose.

[Bad as Travis County is, Williamson County is magnitudes worse, so don't get me wrong here. I'd sure like to see the contracts for this company pulled. I'd rather see them inhabiting the same cells they currently provide service to, and see how well they like it. But I'll settle for simply putting them out of business]

It's been 4 years (and more) of purgatory for this friend of mine, all because he was caught speeding and then agreed to a search of his vehicle by the officer that pulled him over (which I would never agree to, myself) who then found something to arrest him for inside the vehicle. This time they stopped him for a broken headlight, and when they ran his license number came up with the warrant that failed to get dismissed due to some petty little clerk's vengeful attitude. And off to jail he goes again.

Some would say "well that's what you get, should have kept his nose clean"; but to me it's the opposite lesson that should be taken from this. Always assume that you are guilty, and that you will end up in jail. With all the new laws on the books, there's bound to be something that you can go to jail for if they decide they want you. Learn to 'bah' convincingly like a sheep, for as long as it profits you; but don't bother worrying about whether your nose is clean. They'll dirty it for you if it's deemed necessary. Just keep the number of a good lawyer handy, you'll probably need it.

At lunch the other day, another friend of mine related a story concerning how he was nearly shot for being a drug dealer, just because he had the same name as someone who was fingered by a felon looking to lower his jail time. It was only due to a panicked call to 911 because there were strangers in his yard, that the warrentless invasion of his property was avoided. The vision flashed before his eyes, so he said. His house on the 6 o'clock news, and how they would describe him as one of those 'kooky gun nuts' that dared to resist police who were just 'doing their jobs'.

The downward spiral is in the system, not in the morals of today's population.