Sunday, December 25, 2005

Feliz Navidad

Feliz Navidad,
Feliz Navidad,
Feliz Navidad,
Prospero año y Felicidad

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Poetic Justice, Nacchio Style

The perfect Christmas gift (am I still allowed to say that if I'm not a card carrying rightie?) would be an indictment of Mr. Rove, and serious impeachment proceedings against King George II.

Absent that, I'll take the next best thing, the criminal indictments against Joseph Nacchio announced today. Mr. Nacchio represents the near-worst of the American chief executive, the evil incarnate.

I know, I worked with the guy while with his former employer. Not directly, but two degrees away (one vertical, one lateral). This is a guy who delighted in vanquishing foes, humiliating them, taking pleasure in their pain. Business can be a tough environment, but his was a world where the employee, customer and company needs were of no importance; only his glorification, victory, and personal success mattered. I stumbled into his sights a couple of times, only a chinese wall and my relative insignificance protected me.

It's a good year.......

Monday, December 19, 2005

Memories of a Barrow Winter

It was heartening to see this AP story on several news sites this morning, it brought back 15+ year old memories of my visits to Barrow, Alaska, in the summer and the winter. Those deep December days were especially memorable, when the sun never rose, and a heavy ice fog could keep airline service out for days. Nothing to do except keep active, keep warm, and eat at Fran's!
CNN Version

Saturday, December 17, 2005

"Saving" St. Nick

A number of years ago, when proposed anti-flag burning legislation was grabbing the news cycle TV fictional POTUS Jeb Bartlett asked his staff this question: Is there a sudden epidemic of flag burning incidents that I'm not aware of (or something to that effect)? His point was that the public, through a mob mentality, was getting whipped up into an emotional lather over a non-issue, a non-existent threat, distracting the legislature from more relevant an meaningful work. The issues change, but the intent and effect are always the same: divide the people over emotional ideological issues. Get them so worked up, so polarized that constructive discourse can never take place on that issue, and turn attention away from the real issues we face so politicians are not forced to deal with them and are not held accountable. Ed Schultz's Guns, God and Gays theory.

The latest trigger to be pulled is this business about "saving Christmas" or defending against the "war on Christmas". The psychology is always the same: Identify a clear enemy (more difficult in this case, we can't directly blame Osama or Saddam, so progressives as a group will have to do. We know they are all sodomizing atheists), clearly & simply identify how they are actively attacking you (anti-America, pro-Saddam, weak on national defense or crime, anti-religion), use incendiary language to describe it ("war on ___", "anti-war", "anti-family values"), and shout down any nuanced, balanced discussion on said topic. The battle lines have to be very clear; you are either 150% with us, or you are 150% against us. This cultural/sociological trend disturbs me on several levels.

First, I believe that the rightie talking heads who dominate cable TV opinion shows foment this anger and hate are intentionally trying to start this angry landslide, not to resolve any issue, educate, or cause constructive change. The Bill O'Reillys of the world don't believe half of what they espouse on the air, but (like Howard Stern knows the success of doing outrageous things) they know the more they can trigger anger and destructive emotion the better their ratings will get, the more money they're paid and the more books they'll sell. Of course the initial trigger is always some black and white code word or phrase, like "secular", "naysayers", "cowards", "weak-kneed", and the all purpose and popular "liberals".

Second, these folks make a few assumptions which they never bother to critically explore for validity. The first is that there really is a sinister and diabolical enemy out there actively working to erase Christmas from everyone's life. We love protagonists in fiction (Look at Scrooge and the Grinch) so we willingly believe they exist in every case in real life. The second is that anyone not actively bemoaning this war on Christmas is mortally offended by the words Merry Christmas. I don't know very many people who actually are offended. And this notion that this unseen demon is trying to take "Christ" out of "Christmas"? Ah, newsflash! This happened long ago. Christmas is THE single most commercialized holiday of the year. Even those who actively celebrate it as Christ's birthday do so only one or two days. The rest of the time its food, drink, parties, decorations, and of course shop, shop, shop. Don't like Target's "Happy Holidays" theme? Don't shop there. But don't turn their inclusiveness into exclusiveness or irresponsibly label it "Christmas Under Seige" for crying out loud.

Third, I'm unaware of any actual instance where an individual has been told they can't celebrate Christmas any way they want, put it in their cards, write it in letters 10 ft. tall across the front of their house, say it to everybody they pass on the street, celebrate it at the church of their choice. Like the gay marriage thing, this is about them wanting everyone else to think and act the way they do to validate their beliefs. Sure, there's the occasional story about a parent suing a school district over a nativity display. If its not your kid's school, why are you stressing over it? If it is, then let your voice be heard as well. But don't scream about a mountain where only a molehill exists. The term "Happy Holidays" has existed for at least the last 60 years, its nothing new. The season starts in November and ends January 2nd. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas are not mutually exclusive, they can coexist, even within the same person! I have always taken either greeting as a friendly and well meaning gesture that made me feel good, I was not aware until this year that I need to be offended by one or the other.

Fourth, it is yet one more occasion where we should be coming together and celebrating our similarities, our differences, our strengths, and trying to help with our weaknesses. Instead we are now attempting to do with the holiday season what we let the Fox folks do with other occasions: turn it into an opportunity for destructive, divisive polarization, groundless paranoia and conspiracy theories, and bitter name calling.

And that is the true, tragic war on Christmas.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Color Purple

Oh god, now we're going to see the purple finger pictures for the next 2 days, symbolizing yet another rhetorical "milestone" in Iraqi invasion success. And 30 days from now we'll be back to business as usual, daily bombings and death, waiting for the white house to tell us the next symbolic iconic event to anticipate.

W acknowledged today that "much of the intelligence" (read "all") leading to the invasion of Iraq was wrong, but he'd do it again given the same situation. He took "responsibility" (see previous post on this topic), meaning no accountability or redress.

God help the purple finger people.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Death of a Salesman

In about a month the name of Stanley "Tookie" Williams will not be recognized by the vast majority of Americans. Already, less than 24 hours after his murder, the news cycle has moved on to new tabloid headlines.

And the Jesse Jacksons and Sean Penns of the country have moved on to new spotlight opportunities, new Teri Schaivos and new New Orleans.

Governor Schwarzenegger has moved on from his denial of a clemency request by Mr. Williams to his own continuing headaches in his adopted state (as well as criticism of his suprise decision).

The Governor did absolutely the right thing.

(a well written opinion and decision -with the exception of the occasional silly footnote- though I doubt the governor wrote or understood most of it)

My reader knows I am vehemently opposed to state sponsored murder: the reasons are not important for this article.

As barbaric as capital punishment is, it is also the law of the land, as much as Roe v. Wade. We are the only modern western country that still embraces state-sponsored murder (ironically the countries we condemn as human rights violators and "axis of evil" club members are the biggest executors).

However, Mr. Williams was a cold blooded killer who exhausted the potential of the criminal justice systems appeals process as much or more than anyone before him (including before the "liberal" 9th Circuit), with no glimmer of luck. Just because he is a skilled leader and salesman who managed to champion a following among well meaning high profile people (and some opportunists like the Reverend Jackson) does not mean he should be given preferential treatment over others without those skills and resources. Capital punishment is supposedly the will of the people; it should be rejected in its entirety, not selectively sidestepped in boutique cases. Maybe Tookie should have taken a page from Gary Ridgeway's book, practical leverage rather than idealism.

The ultimate irony is that the last chance of clemency for Mr. Williams was squarely in the hands of a man whose only previously claim to fame was making tens of millions by entertaining audiences with glorified mass murder and gratuitous violence.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

"Pro-Life" Lost

One of the main arguments against the death penalty in the U.S. has been the fact that there is a sizable potential for error: more than 120 prisoners on death row have since been exonerated since the Supremes effectively cleared the way for states to resume the killing in 1972; some by days, a few by hours befor the scheduled execution (1,000 have been killed since the landmark ruling allowing the states to decide). Most of these corrections have been possible through the technological breakthrough of DNA comparative testing, a crime tool not even envisioned in the early 20th century, though others have been through other means. This is precisely the kind of mistake that led Republican Governor George Ryan of Illinois to place a moratorium on the death penalty in his state on January 31st, 2000.

The pro-death crowd (usually the pro-"life" crowd) cite these exonerations as evidence that the "system works", the executions were halted in time, and of course there is no evidence of anyone innocent ever having been put to death.

The problem with this argument is several fold. First, its not the "system" that has saved the condemned in most cases, its been law student class projects and other bleeding heart legal vigilantes who have dedicated time to investigate and prove these cases, taking place entirely outside of the system of capital checks and balances. Second, as some of these exonerations have taken place within days or even hours of execution it is a flip attitude at best to conclude that the system had plenty of play in these cases to correct itself.

But finally the last house of cards defending this barbaric practice has at last sadly been breached.

The Houston Chronicle tells us that the first credible story of an innocent being put to death has finally been documented.

Ruben Cantu was put to death in Texas (duh!) in 1993 for a murder committed in 1984. Trouble is that there was only one eye witness who would implicate Ruben only after 3 police interrogations over a 5 month period. There was no physical evidence linking Ruben to the crime, no murder weapon found; The only thing that killed him was a possibly coerced witness, nothing else between execution, Texas style, and him. This witness has since recanted, leaving no evidence to support a conviction, much less execution. But it is too late. The strongest reaction of the DA? Bring perjury charges against the witness! Listen to more on NPR.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Check out this signature of a well known L.A. lawyer who specializes in "suing for the stars" (in this case warning publications to keep "unauthorized" pics of Ms. Aniston's sunbathing breasts from their pages; for GQ eyes only!) It looks like Tinker Bell grabbed the pen mid-stroke and did her usual mischief! BTW, another "fascinating" paparazzo story and lawyerly threat; who the heck is paying for these photos and why? Its not like there's an Aniston boob drought out there right now....
MORE ON THAT...... (thanks

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Looks like Joe's in payoff mode again, for whatever evidence W has agin' 'im. Some very shallow statements about the proliferation of satellite TV dishes and cell phones (What??! No Mickey D's or Starbucks yet??! You call that success??!) as well as a transparently misleading comment about 2/3 of the country being under control after a recent trip to Iraq. Says the pres should be getting these "good news" stories out there. Well, he's trying! There's only so much newspaper space available to buy for positive "investigative journalism"!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Skating to Freedom in Canada

If you were shocked last summer when a Canadian woman was released after serving only 12 years for assisting her husband with the rape and killing of 3 teenage girls (including her younger sister!) prepare for a new shocker. A Quebec Superior Justice thursday lifted what appears to be the Canadian version of probation conditions (I am not familiar with Canadian penal procedures, but it seems similar). Upper right is the couple in happier pre-rape/murder times. The husband is serving life without possibility; the wife got the spousal abuse equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome clemency (despite the tapes suggesting the contrary). Her lawsuits have already started, book tour to follow. I hope our neighbors to the north don't pick up too many more bad habits from us.