Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Here's an article which was forwarded to me by my friend Lee, a former Marine officer in the JAG Corps who used to work under Lt. Col Colbey Volkey out at Camp Pendleton. Lee says that Volkey is a really good guy and a great Marine (a claim which the article seems to support). Anyway, after years of service in the Marine Corps and in the JAG Corps in particular, Volkey is leaving the Marine Corps because of what he sees as essentially corruption within the military justice system. It sounds like Volkey has had problems with commanding officers trying to influence the outcome of judicial proceedings (through everything from influencing juries to stacking prosecution teams to selectively filing charges in the first place), and that he believes that he has seen soldiers being railroaded (or something that sounds awfully close to it) in cases of alleged misconduct in Iraq when it looks like a proper defense of the soldiers in those situations might call into question the orders that the soldiers were operating under. Apparently higher ranking officers aren't too happy about cases or legal defenses (especially effective ones) which might call into question the command decisions of these higher ranking officers and/or policymaking individuals (It may be unfair to punish soldiers when they were trying to execute ambiguous orders to the best of their ability in an extremely difficult situation that they shouldn't have been placed into in the first place. When bad things happen as a result of soldiers carrying out their orders, who's to blame?).
Anyway, the article merits a look. I'm pretty sure that Colbey isn't exactly a bleeding heart liberal, but it sounds to me like he's tired of seeing footsoldiers sacrificed for the protection of commanders who are making bad decisions. Then again, the first bad command decision was probably getting our troops involved in an occupation and guerrilla war against indigent insurgents in the first place (big surprise- I'm looking at you, George). He's also tired of seeing soldiers come back from serving overseas who have developed significant mental health problems (typically as a result of post traumatic stress disorder) who are then treated as discipline problems by the military rather than getting the help that they deserve, and he's worked within the military justice system at Guantanamo Bay and come away from the experience describing the system as "horrific" and "a sham".
Interesting perspective from a guy who has put in a lot of years serving his country. Maybe we owe our troops a little more help than they're getting. We definitely owe them a justice system which staunchly upholds the constitution that they're fighting to defend.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Other from that, yesterday was pretty uneventful.
So now the Justice Department's investigation into potential misconduct by Blackwater USA (the "private security firm" which provides protection for many State Department and other U.S. officials) may have been compromised by the fact that State Department officials apparently promised immunity to some Blackwater guards during the course of their investigation. This is made troubling by the fact that the FBI and the Justice Department now claim that the State Department had no right to offer immunity to these people, and that the promise of immunity for their testimony may now make it difficult to prosecute some individuals who have been the subject of Justice Department inquiry.
Is anyone really surprised that this Blackwater investigation is going to fall apart? The idea of using mercenary contractors and other private contractors in Iraq has been a program which this administration has seemingly enthusiastically endorsed from the get-go (I'm not saying this has anything to do with the fact that Cheney was CEO of Halliburton from '95 to 2000, but... oh hell- yes I am). I never really doubted that Blackwater would escape any kind of meaningful investigation or punitive measures in this case (i.e., the investigation into possible wrongful shootings of at least 17 Iraqi civilians by Blackwater personnel)- I was just wondering how the investigation would get derailed this time. (How's Alberto Gonzales doing these days, anyway? Working on that tan?) Anyway, at least people are watching Blackwater (and these contractors, in general, I guess) more closely now. Sadly, that may be the best that we can hope for, given the fact that these contractors never seem to have had any hard and fast rules in the first place, and that our own government can't even seem to agree upon how best to investigate and prosecute a case that involves military contractors. Uggh. Let's at least hope, at a minimum, that they come up with some new rules and procedures to oversee the operation of these security firms.
I feel a little weird today. A lot of people in my office are sick, so maybe I'm trying to fight something off. Or maybe I just feel weird.
Anyway, I hope you guys are doing okay.
Gotta be proud of my Tigers! There's not a lot of respect for Division 3 football, but these guys are playing their hearts out (without scholarships) and they're willing to take the kind of chances you just don't see in Division 1 ball very often. Go, Tigers!!!
Monday, October 29, 2007
"I'm very happy with FEMA's response so far. This is a FEMA and a federal government that's leaning forward, not waiting to react. And you have to be pretty pleased to see that."
This quote by FEMA Deputy Administrator Harvey Johnson in response to a question posed by a co-worker.
What is our current administration doing to rectify this situation in which goverment employees are broadcasting fake press conferences? Well, John "Pat" Philbin, the Director of Public Affairs who was responsible for the fake press conference is being given a promotion- he's becoming the Director of Public Affairs for the Director of National Intelligence.
Great. It's good to know that this administration, who've been oh-so-forthcoming on sharing intelligence with the American people in the first place (the Valerie Plame case excluded), is now putting someone who's best known for his ability to stage fake press conferences in charge of public relations for the Director of National Intelligence. Yee haw.
Still thinking of the Thweatt family as John undergoes that stem cell transplant and chemotherapy down in Houston.
Friday, October 26, 2007
What else..? I'm thinking a lot about the Thweatt family these days as their youngest member, John, prepares to undergo a stem cell transplant and some major chemotherapy down in Houston. I've known Lee, John's dad, since junior high and Sarah, John's mom, since college. I met Jacob and Henry, John's older brothers, when they showed up on the scene sometime later. John is fighting neuroblastoma (which is rare and mostly just effects kids), and the chemotherapy is expected to make him pretty sick and produce some pretty nasty and uncomfortable side effects. Still, this treatment is apparently just about John's best and only hope for a cure, so he's soldiering on, and the Thweatt family with him. They're a great family, and apparently some of their neighbors, having heard that John would be in the hospital for Halloween, hosted a kind of early Halloween this week, giving John a chance to do some early trick or treating and giving the other kids in the neighborhood an early chance to show off their costumes and share them with John.
Here's a picture of John dressed as Yoda for Halloween (one more reason the Thweatt kids are so near and dear to my heart is their fanatical love of all things Star Wars). I think Yoda was a great choice for a Halloween costume for John because Yoda is another little guy who's small stature belies his strength.
Anyway, if any of you Adventurers know the Thweatts, be sure to include them in your thoughts and prayers this week as John begins this new and critically important phase of his treatment. If you don't know the Thweatts, trust me when I say that they're really good people, and send them some your best thoughts and prayers, anyway.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
The UN's GEO-4 report was released this week, and it paints a pretty dire picture of the impact that human activity is having upon our planet on a number of levels. Of course, environmentalists and the UN have issued many warning about global environmental damage in the past (most persistently and notably in the area of global warming), but this report involves an accumulation of data from hundreds of researchers in different fields, with the data and conclusion having been reviewed and analyzed by thousands of additional experts. Further, the GEO-4 report deals with a broad spectrum of environmental issues rather than just focusing on global warming. It covers topics including forestry, fresh water supplies, fisheries, biodiversity, agriculture, desert spread, pollution, and a host of other topics related to the interaction between humans and our environment, and it studies the ways that these various subjects impact each other. On the whole, the report finds that most areas of the Earth's natural enviroment are on the decline, and that great work is required if people are to have hope of continuing to sustain our natural resources on this planet for future generations.
I know that this report is going to be dismissed as alarmist left wing rhetoric by a lot of people, but I really do feel that we're at a crucial juncture in this planet's history. I mean, it's gotten to the point where I read some of this stuff, and I'm a teensie bit relieved that I don't have kids of my own, just because I just don't have a good feeling about what future generations are going to have to deal with on this planet. The climate is out of wack, the seas are overfished, animal species continue to die off at an alarming rate, we're facing fuel shortages, we've got overpopulation that will continue to create food and water shortages, and our technology continues to rocket forward much faster than we are developing the ability to humanely and conscientiously deal with it. (And these enviromental concerns don't even include my worries about the fact that I think the world is becoming destabilized politically as technological advances continue to allow greater and greater amounts of military might to be wielded by smaller and more fractious political groups. I think that technology will ultimately make small groups, maybe a handful of people, as powerful in a military sense as entire nations had previously been. I found all of this information about how to make small scale bombs and weapons out of household items on the internet in about 20 seconds. Imagine what a motivated person or group could do if they were willing to do a little homework).
Then again, people have been predicting the end of the world since the beginning of time, right? Right? Still, when it's all the scientists getting together to say that the sky is falling, that's a little more worrisome somehow.
By the way, Jennifer Kraber is a lovely human being. She just told me so herself. Now she's begging me not to put this on my blog. Now she says I'm unfair. Unjust.
Well, I gotta go. Sorry about the gloom and doom.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
There was an article this week in Newsweek about Pakistan, arguing that Pakistan may now be the country that poses the biggest threat to U.S. security in the world, surpassing the threats posed by Iran or North Korea. I think the basic thrust of the argument is that there are regions of Pakistan which aren't really under government control, and we know that elemnets of Al Qaeda and the Taliban are hiding within Pakistan and using it as a base of operations. There are fundamentalist Muslim groups within Pakistan which support these groups, sympathize with them, and lend them aid. Even more troubling is the fact that Pakistan is a well known nuclear power, already in possession of nuclear weapons, and that they have never provided any kind of detailed public accounting regarding exactly how many nuclear weapons they have or how much nuclear material they're in possession of. Given the fact that it's not always clear exactly who the jihadist sympathizers are in Pakistan (the population at large doesn't seem to support the Muslim hardliners, but there are many within the country who do), the possibility seems to exist that radiocative material or entire nuclear weapons could find their way into the hands of Al Qaeda or the Taliban. And, of course, that would be very, very bad. (There have already been reports that a rogue group of Pakistani nuclear scientists met with Osama Bin Laden after 9/11- a story which continues to raise concerns amongst U.S. intelligence officials).
Anyway, given the fact that Islamic hardliners attacked Benazir Bhutto last week, killing at least 134 people in the process, it seems like now is a particularly good time to keep an eye on Pakistan. With a popular Bhutto pushing for democratic reforms and vowing to combat terrorists, and with President Musharraf's popularity sort of on the decline, it seems that Islamic jihadists may feel threatened and step up their struggle to maintain control over portions of Pakistan as a sort of stronghold for operations. Iran may be developing a nuclear program, but Pakistan already clearly has one, and given the instability of the country, that's a scary thing for the U.S..
I'm not sure why I felt the need to blog about Pakistan, except that I had never really thought it about it as much of a threat before, given the fact that we consider ourselves allies with the Pakistani government. Of course, it doesn't matter so much if we're friends with Pakistan's government if that government ends up getting overthrown or if Islamic sympathizers within that government are likely to provide our enemies with the makings for nuclear weapons. I still have high hopes that Benazir Bhutto may help bring some stability to Pakistan, though.
Well, that's it for now. Hope you guys are doing alright.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
I don't have much time to write today. I'm in a blogging lull, I guess, but these things happen.
Hope you guys are doing alright out there.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Friday, October 19, 2007
Here's the bulk of Lee's email:
"Here's a partisan plug from me for support of Proposition 15, which would infuse $3 billion over the next ten years into cancer research and prevention by creating the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. The amendment has bipartisan sponsorship in the Texas House and Senate, and Governor Perry is supporting the measure, as well. The President of MD Anderson supports the initiative. Privately, the measure has support from the American Cancer Society, The Susan G. Komen Foundation, and the Lance Armstrong Foundation. For reasons that defy understanding, here in Houston, the Harris County GOP announced this week that they oppose the measure. As you make your own decision on election day, consider these findings from the Texas Cancer Council: CANCER FACTS• There are more than 100 distinct types of cancer• More than 77,000 Texans develop cancer each year• More than 35,000 Texans die each year of cancer• Cancer is the #2 killer of Texans, accounting for one of every four deaths• Cancer is the leading cause of death for Texas women ages 35-74• Cancer is the second-leading cause of death for Texas men ages 45-74 A report titled The Cost of Cancer in Texas: A Report to the Texas Comprehensive Cancer Control Coalition on the Economic Impact of Cancer by The Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Health Care Information Council found that the total estimated direct medical costs due to cancer in 1998 were $4.9 billion, and indirect costs from lost productivity were $9.1 billion – for a total of about $14.0 billion attributable to cancer in Texas that year. That means that since 1998, Texas has lost somewhere around $140 billion in lost productivity from cancer. More importantly, since 1998, we've lost fellow Texans, family and friends equivalent to that of the entire population of Lubbock. That can change. Truly, it can. Proposition 15 provides for the establishment of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas and authorizes the issuance of general obligation bonds for the purpose of scientific research of all forms of human cancer. This measure makes sense economically, socially, and morally. Yes, it will be expensive. What will be far more expensive, in terms of both dollars and lives, is doing nothing, or even, less than we can. Should we spend $3 billion over the course of the next decade to try and save $140 billion and prevent the loss of another 350,000 lives? How can we not? This matters. With all of the force of character you can summon, vote. VOTE. Make sure your friends and family vote, as well. Support Proposition 15 on election day."
Early voting starts October 22nd and runs through November 6th. Get out there and vote for Prop 15, Adventurers!
Last night I watched TV and read a book and messed around on the computer a whole bunch.
And former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto seems determined to remain in Pakistan and to try to return to power through fair and democratic elections following a suicide bombing attack which apparently tried to target her in Karachi, Pakistan on Thursday. The attack killed 136 people who were attending a welcoming celebration for Bhutto (hundreds more injured), and officials are stating that the attack bore signature elements of known Islamic militants from Pakistan's southern provinces, where Taliban and Al Qaeda elements are still known to be active.
I gotta say that I like Banzir Bhutto. She's an extremely well spoken, intelligent, articulate woman who seems to be determined to see democracy prevail in Pakistan, and even more courageously, she insists upon a secular government with participation by members of any and all religions, despite the fact that Muslim militants within her country would much rather see her dead than have a non-Muslim government installed. (To my understanding, Musharraf, the current leader of the Pakistan's military-led government, has walked a tightrope for years, alternately pacifying the Muslims while condemning extremism and terrorism and operating what is, ostensibly, a secular, military government). I'm aware that Bhutto and her husband have been accused of corruption in the past (including kickbacks for military contracts), but it seems unlikely that these allegations have merit. Instead, they seem to represent further political attacks against Bhutto (her husband, Asif Zardari, spent eight years in prison on such charges, and claims to have been the subject of politically motivated torture during his time in custody). Bhutto herself claims that the corruption charges are politically motivated and false, based on a few fabricated documents, lies, and misrepresentation. A report by the Auditor General of Pakistan has supported Bhutto's claims, providing evidence suggesting that Bhutto was removed from power in 1990 as the result of a witch hunt ordered by then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan (who paid investigators millions of rupees to file corruption cases against Bhutto and her husband in 1990-92).
So the lady has subsequently been in exile for a significant amount of time, she seems to have had any possible sins forgiven by the current government of Pakistan (Musharraf seems interested in some sort of power sharing agreement where he and Bhutto might contemporaneously hold office), she seems to be fairly popular with the Pakistani people (at least 1.5 million people filled the streets of Karachi to welcome her home), and she seems to be willing to risk her life to bring Pakistan a more stable, democratic, secular government. In a part of the world where extremists seem to get their way just by bullying political leaders and the public with horrific acts of violence, Bhutto has exhibited a good deal of courage by sticking to her principles and insisting upon a course of action for Pakistan that she sees as best serving the interests of its people.
Anyway, I like her. I wish more of our politicians exhibited even a bit of that kind of courage and conviction. I wish people would quit trying to blow her up.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Anyway, sorry about the weak posting, but sometimes life trumps blogging. Hope all's well.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Last night I went over to Ryan and Jamie's place. We hung out and watched part of Little People, Big World (which I totally don't get- it's a show about a family with some little people in it. It's supposed to show how they're basically the same as everyone else, I guess, but I don't get it- I'm totally sold on the fact that they're just like us, which basically just leaves you with a sort of voyeuristic show where you're just watching the daily life of this white, middle class, American family). We also watched part of Independent Lens, which is a great documentary series on PBS, but last night they were talking about crossword puzzles (people who make them, tournament champions, etc.). It's a subject that just didn't hold my interest since I don't really like crossword puzzles very much in the first place, so I bailed out about halfway through.
And there's an article in the N.Y.T. today about the fact that the Republican candidates for 2008 seem to be arguing not about whether or not global climate change is occurring, but instead disagree about how the problem should be addressed and what actions might be appropriate as a remedy. While their schemes for combatting the problem differ, the fact that they are offering solutions at all seems to indicate an informal consensus regarding the fact that not only is climate change occurring, but that human action can and does have a substantial impact upon the earth's climate. Senator McCain has gone so far as to indicate that he would like to see the U.S. sign onto the Kyoto Protocol (albeit, only after India and China have also signed on), and just about all of the candidates have said that they would like to see improvements in initiatives for alternative fuels and the expansion of nuclear energy as a power source. Anyway, I just thought it was interesting to hear that these candidates seem much more willing to address the issue of global warming than our current administration seems to have been.
And Steven Colbert has announced his candidacy for president. The man's pretty funny, but I wonder what he's going to do when he moves to the front of the polls.
And George Lucas is talking about producing a Star Wars TV show? I guess that a Star Wars TV series could potentially be really good, but given the way that the last three Star Wars movies turned out, I'm guessing that it ends up being pretty weak.
The weakening of the U.S. housing market combined with record prices for oil kind of tends to indicate some potentially difficult times ahead for the U.S. economy. I just don't want the bottom to fall out from under the economy just in time for the Democrats to take office. I think that the Democrats are pretty good at building up the economy (or at least Bill Clinton did a pretty good job of it), but it could be a long, slow process, and it will be hampered if they're wrongfully blamed for causing the nation's economic woes in the first place. Anyway, it would be just like Bush and Co. to wreck the place and then hand it over to the Dems for the cleanup.
Well, that's it for now. Hope everyone has a good Wednesday.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I'm transitioning to a new position within my office where I work on cases in which the defendants have mental health issues that need to be addressed as they proceed through the court system (it involves coordinating with special mental health defense attorneys, mental health counsellors from the jail, psychiatrists, and, of course, the judges). It's something new and different from what I've been doing for the last eight years or so, and I find it pretty interesting. It's Kim Bloom's old job, but she's moving on up to the D.A.'s office, so I'm scrambling to absorb her knowledge before she disappears in a couple of weeks. I think she's kind of gradually accumulated a lot of knowledge regarding her position since she started it, and maybe she doesn't quite realize how much she knows (and, conversely, how little I know) about the finer workings of the mental health program within the overall Travis County justice system. So I'm learning all I can, but she may still get the occasional phone call from me even after she's over at her new job (I know how to find you, Kim).
Well, not a lot to report today. It's kind of a dreary, overcast day hear in Austin, but we can't seem to buy a drop of rain. You guys have a good day.
Monday, October 15, 2007
You've got to be kidding me.
Saturday I got up and took Cassidy down to Gus Fruh for some exercise. I really didn't plan on getting in the water, this being October and all, but the sun and the wind were warm and Cassidy was looking for a swimming partner, so I got in for a bit. The water level has gone down a bit, but it was still more than adequate for cooling off.
I downloaded Radiohead's new album, In Rainbows. I really like it. It strikes a great balance between holding onto Radiohead's unique sound, while probably actually being a little more accessible than their last coupel of albums (it sounds funny to say their new album is more accessible than their last couple of hugely popular records, but repetitive listening has kind of made Radiohead's large audience forget how strange Kid A and Hail to the Thief sounded upon a first listen- even though they were great records). Anyway, I really like In Rainbows. Some of it sounds more straight ahead rock/pop, but it maintains great use of sound layering, computers combined flawlessly with acoustic and electric instruments, and, of course, Thom Yorke's haunting voice. Good stuff.
Saturday night I went to Cherry Creek and had catfish with Ryan and Jamie. Ryan and I watched some pretty awful version of Beowulf on the Sci Fi channel after dinner.
Sunday I got up and had breakfast with the kids, and then went on an unsuccessful clothes/shoes shopping expedition with Ryan. These big and tall stores are really geared more toward fat dudes than tall dudes, and I'm having a hard time finding a suit. We cruised around and ran errands, and I even stopped by a car dealership to look at cars (no, I'm not getting a new one immediately, but it's fun to look).
Last night we had a Mono Ensemble practice that everyone made it to, and it felt really good to be belting out some tunes with the band. It had been several weeks since we last played, and sometimes when we take a break I forget how therapeutic it is to make loud rock and roll with friends. We sounded pretty good considering we're getting back into playing songs we haven't done much since the beginning of last summer (the skate party put us in 80's music mode for awhile).
Not much else to report. Three UT students were found within Airmen's Cave and led to safety after an 11 hour retrieval operation. I guess that the three students were amateur spelunkers and just got lost in the cave. I saw a television interview with them after their rescue, and I was a little annoyed at how unapologetic and completely unhumbled these three students were after getting themselves lost. It took like a dozen people or more over 11 hours to get these numbskulls out, and the only thing they could talk about was how eager they were to go back into another cave. I guess I just wanted to hear them admit that they got in over their heads, and they should have probably brought an expert with them, but the kids seemed way more interested in assuring everybody that they knew what they were doing- an attitude which seemed patently false seeing as how they got lost and required rescue. I don't know, it just seems irresponsible to me to go crawling into a cave without a guide if you don't know where you're going or what you're doing, and then have to rely on the kindness (and tax dollars) of strangers to bail you out. Man, reading that, I realize that I sound like a grumpy old man. Oh well- those kids still kind of annoyed me.
Hope you guys are having a good day.
Friday, October 12, 2007
I spent a good portion of my evening last night trying to work on some songs that I've been trying to write. I go through long periods when I don't pick up my guitar much at all outside of band practice, and then sometimes I go through periods when I spend quite a bit of time playing music at night. I record occasional tunes that I come up with on my cheap little tape player, and I scribble down lyrics on leftover legal pads, and most of it never sees the light of day (I tend to mostly chicken out when it comes to actually sharing my stuff with other people, although I recorded a few songs to CD a while back and we took to playing them with the band). Still, I enjoy the process, and I hang onto some of my songs and play them over and over (I have some that are from way back in high school that I play on occasion because I just like the tunes). I have a hard time writing songs, and I tend to rework them a lot of times before I'm even marginally comfortable with them. I've always been amazed and impressed by Eric (our bandleader with the Mono E). He seems to have a much more natural ability to just kind of channel some sort of creative energy, seemingly effortlessly producing lyrics and melodies (he very well might say that the process really isn't all that effortless, but he makes it seem like it comes easily to him, and he's both fairly prolific and produces really good stuff). Anyway, expressing himself through music seems to come more naturally to Eric than it does to me (or to probably 99% of the people out there). I feel like I'm sweating a lot more to produce a small fraction of the material with my end results often being of questionable quality. Oh well. I still enjoy it.
Al Gore was awarded a Nobel Prize today for his work on curbing greenhouse gas emissions and fighting global warming. I know that this award is going to make a lot of American conservatives groan (they'll undoubtedly see it as yet another example of those European liberals trying to place ambitious American industrialism under siege), but I think that this award just goes to show how seriously the rest of the world is taking the problem of global warming while Americans sit back and debate whether the problem even exists (or whether human action has had anything to do with causing global warming and whether it's worth our time to try to take action that might reduce its effects). You gotta love America. We'll probably still be arguing about whether or not we should do something about global warming once Manhatten is flooded under a foot or two of water.
Gotta run. Hope you guys are having a good Friday.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Anyway, prosecuting has its ups and downs and good days and bad days (like any other job, especially in the legal world), but overall I like my job and take satisfaction in it. Happy anniversary to me.
The Democrats continue to remain soft in opposing the war. They say they're going to focus their efforts on battles that they can win, but, frankly, I don't think that leaves them a whole lot to work on. They might as well continue to take a moral stand against the war, and at least keep their constituents happy. Here's a pretty good op ed piece by Harold Meyerson from The Washington Post which kind of sums up some of the frustrations that Democratic voters are feeling regarding the leadership of their party. I know I've said myself that the U.S. needs to have some kind of peacekeeping force in place in the region around Iraq (in order to prevent widespread ethnic cleansing or genocide from taking place once we leave), but I still want to get the vast majority of our troops out of there (I think we should have some kind of small, quick response force in place which is intended to assist the Iraqi government when called upon, but I don't think we should continue to have anything near the size of an occupying army within the country).
And Europe is marking its first anti-death penalty day. Capital punishment is banned in all 27 of the European Union member nations. In 2006 more than 3800 people were executed in 55 countries, according to the EU. I guess maybe that whole Holocaust thing has made the Europeans a little twitchy about giving governments the power to execute people, including their own citizens. Incidentally, I'm not a big fan of the death penalty, either.
Well, that's about it for the moment. You guys keep on keeping on.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
I'm really glad that my surname doesn't have an Arabic ring to it.
I went home and sprayed the oak tree in my front yard with some fungicide (nothing like yard maintenance at 10:00 at night, but it was the first chance that I had to get to it). I also watched Rosemary's Baby because I didn't think I'd seen it before, but about halfway through it, I realized that I had. It was still sort of scary. Sort of. It kind of ultimately fell into the category of movie where the protagonist just isn't smart enough to be really able to help herself (although the audience is able to come up with a number of things that she could have done to address her situation more effectively), so she ends up just seeming sort of pathetic and hopeless. That Rosemary shoulda just gone out and bought herself a handgun (or hopped a train for Texas).
And for those of you out there who think that I just blindly support the Democrats on whatever position they take, here's another example of an area where I'm annoyed with them. The Democrats seem poised to roll over and contiue to extend expanded wiretapping powers to the NSA for eavesdropping on calls that American citizens engage in with individuals in foreign countries (the Protect America Act). I'm annoyed because this act removes the need for a warrant from the foreign intelligence court, thereby taking the normal judicial oversight required for a wiretapping warrant completely out of the process in these cases. I think the proper solution would be to streamline the process so that applications for warrants can be reviewed more quickly and efficiently by a judge (the role of the judge being to make sure that intrusion upon the 4th Amendment rights of American citizens is warranted before eavesdropping takes place). In criminal court certain judges are often on call so that their review of warrants can take place upon short notice, day or night. I'm not sure why we can't work a similar program in this situation rather than just handing over unfettered authority to what may potentially be overly zealous intelligence agencies (the intelligence agencies may do pretty good work, but they're only worried about catching bad guys and don't worry a whole lot about civil liberties or the privacy concerns of the average citizen). Anyway, the Democratic leadership needs to worry less about looking soft during the war on terror, and they need to be working harder to find solutions that safeguard the privacy rights of their constituents while still allowing us to pursue the bad guys.
OK. End of sermon.
I gotta run. Hope you guys are having a good day.
Monday, October 08, 2007
Sunday afternoon I went and ran some errands with Ryan, and then last night we went and had Chinese food for dinner. During the day at some point Ryan and Jamie decorated their house for Halloween, turning it into a spooky wonderland (see photo). We watched an episode of The Bionic Woman last night, but I wasn't all that impressed with it. Katie Sackhoff's tentatively villainous character seems much more interesting than Lucy Hale's lead protagonist, and the show, on the whole, just doesn't seem to be developing in a very interesting direction (it seems like they're just kind of going in a terrorist of the week type direction with a Gilmore Girls type relationship developing between the bionic woman and her younger sister). I think the main problem is that Lucy Hale just doesn't feel like she's bringing a lot to this role. Her version of The Bionic woman feels more like a supporting character for Smallville than the lead role in a show meant for grown ups. She just kind of lacks intensity or charisma or something. Can't put my finger on it. Alright. I've now spent too much time on Bionic Woman. By the way, we also watched a little bit of the Packers game. It was the first one I've watched this season, so, of course, it was their first loss. I freakin' knew that would happen. Oh well. I'm going back to ignoring pro football for the rest of the season.
Anyway, pretty good weekend. Went by much too quickly.
Hope you guys had a good one. Talk to you later.
Friday, October 05, 2007
I had dinner with Mandy last night, and she's off to Boston today to visit Camille. I also briefly attended a happy hour after work, held for our co-worker, Kristi, who may hold the record for the prosecutor with the shortest term of employment with our office before jumping ship (or at least for someone who still merited a happy hour upon leaving). She's going over to the defense side to work with Sumpter and Gonzales, so we'll still be seeing plenty of her. Good luck, Kristi.
For some reason I also played some Playstation for awhile last night. Those of you in the know will be happy to hear that Sam Fisher continues to be fairly successful as he infiltrates a known terrorist group in pursuit of some stolen red mercury. He's been kind of shaken up by the death of his daughter, but he seems to be holding it together. (Those of you who aren't in the know really shouldn't care what I'm talking about. Honestly.)
By the way, here's a pretty good Washington Post op-ed piece by Eugene Robinson about Bush's veto of the SCHIP expansion, if anyone's still interested. And here's an article from New 8's web page about the fact that ER rooms have become overcrowded, and that a very significant part of this overcrowding stems from the fact that uninsured individuals are seeking treatments in ERs rather than in regular doctor's offices or clinics because hospital ERs are obligated not to turn uninsured patients away (and hospital officials state that the veto of the SCHIP program is going to contribute to this problem even more).
Well, the weather seems beautiful outside, we're on the cusp of the weekend (TX-OU weekend, no less), and hopefully The Admiral will be safely returning from about 3 consecutive weeks of world wide business travel today. At the risk of jinxing myself, things are going okay. ;)
Oh, yeah! I almost forgot! Many happy returns to friend and fellow persecutor John Lastovica, as he celebrates what must be his 75th birthday today! Happy birthday, John. Hope they let you take the afternoon off.
Hope you guys are doing alright, too. I'll rap at ya later.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Anyway, I wasn't best friends with Cynthia, but I'm very sorry to see her go. I'm going to miss her sense of humor, her common sense approach to lawyering, her brutal honesty, and our talks about our respective dogs. It sounds like a cliche, but she really was one of a kind.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
I gotta run, but it gets me mad.
I just can't come up with much to write about today. This afternoon we're supposed to have a sort of memorial service for Cynthia Bell. Her death is still bothering me because the circumstances surrounding it were just so sad.
Oh well. Maybe I'll write more later.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
I guess there's some bad stuff coming out about the operations of Blackwater USA in Iraq. I don't fully understand the relationship and the chain of command between the U.S. military (or our government in general) and these private security contractors, but it certainly seems like they're kind of running amok over there with very little oversight or supervision (which is kind of scary when you have what basically amounts to a bunch of heavily armed, independent, paramilitary type employees running around, feeling like they can shoot at the locals with relative impunity). I don't know. The whole idea of these private security firms (who are, in truth, mercenaries) kind of troubles me, but I can't put my finger on exactly why. It's not as though are regular military troops are always well behaved and disciplined. There's just something about giving private firms, operating for profit rather than under the direct command of the military, the power of life and death over civilian populations in another country which makes me uneasy. Maybe I'm worried about the fact that it might be more efficient (and therefore ultimately more profitable) to just kill a bunch of people than it might be to do things the hard way and risk losing American lives in order to minimize the risk to Iraqi civilians (these situations seem especially likely when you're mixing insurgents in with an indigenous population). I think that if we're going to be using these kinds of firms, they need to be monitored extremely closely with embedded members of our own military or something of the like. I don't know.
And there was a sort of interesting article on CNN today about cheating in videogames. My first reaction when coming across the article was, "Who cares if people cheat at videogames?", but as the article points out, in the modern world of multiplayer online game play, nowadays there's a lot of money tied up in these things. Players (especially online players) spend money to access different portions of their games, to improve their characters, to upgrade weapons and vehicles, and so on and so forth. There may even be cash prizes involved for the best players of some games. So it seems pretty unfair when a player can hack into a game or implement some alterations to the program which allow a player to gain powers that other players don't have or which allows the player to advance through the game by illegal means (well, maybe not illegal, but you know what I mean). Video game designers are now having to expend some pretty serious time and resources trying to build safeguards into games to prevent players from cheating and taking unfair advantage over other players. I guess cheating is part of human nature, but to me it seems pretty nutty to spend money on a videogame and then deprive yourself of the experience of playing the game (at least as it was meant to be played) just because you've gotten caught up in being too competitive about it. Strange story, but a sign of the times, to be sure.
And last, but not least, Rush Limbaugh has taken to attacking soldiers who have returned from the Iraq War, but who are critical of the governement's handling of that war. Although he later tried to claim that his comment was referring only to one specific soldier, Jesse MacBeth, a vocal war critic who falsely claimed to have served in Iraq, Limbaugh's comments on the air never specifically referred to any such person. Anyway, the Democrats are probably trying to score some points on this one without really worrying too much about what Limbaugh meant to say, it still makes me chuckle any time I can see that blowhard struggling to get his foot out of his mouth (plus, I haven't heard the tapes of the show, but I've heard that Limbaugh specifically mentions MacBeth later, as an afterthought, indicating that he was not referring to him at the time that he made the comment about the "phony soldiers"). Ahhhhh... Limbaugh. What an idiot.
Well, that's about it for today. Peace.
Monday, October 01, 2007
Not too much else to report. Ryan and Jamie are back in town, and Mel and Lucy are gone. It'll be lonelier, but a wee bit more peaceful without them.
My mom is back from her trip to Upper Michigan. Dad is still somewhere in the far east (I'm not sure- China? Maybe India?). He should be back on Friday, I think.
Anyhoo, back to work. I like my job, fine, but it's not as fun as going to the beach or going swimming with the dogs.