Friday, February 24, 2006

Quiet Civil Disobedience When It Matters Most

When it comes to the death penalty, things are clear to me. The death penalty is immoral. It is man playing God, who in my admittedly-religious world view has both laid sole claim to the right to seek vengeance and is the ultimate determiner of when and how life shall end. Since we claim to be believers in God as a country, that should be the end of the matter.

But of course it's not. The constitutionality of the death penalty has been repeatedly upheld, even as constitutional evaluation of specific procedures associated with execution continues. Those evaluations include the one that the Supreme Court just agreed to take up on certiorari last month, granting the condemned man, Clarence Hill, a stay only at literally the last possible moment (Hill was already strapped to the death gurney when the stay was granted). But those cases at present do not deal with the 8th Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. They address far more limited matters. And, so, the practice of legal murder in the United States continues unabated.

It was therefore extraordinary, what happened on San Quentin's death row just this past Tuesday. On Tuesday, an inmate named Michael Morales -- not exactly California's most upstanding citizen when it comes to his temper, to be sure -- was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 12:01 AM. Yet he wasn't. It was then rescheduled to 7:30 PM that same night. Yet Michael Morales is still living and breathing, his death warrant having expired at 12:00 midnight on Wednesday. Why?

Because both of the anaesthesiologists who were to be on hand to supervise the administration of the "pre-death sleep" -- barbituates -- refused to participate at the last minute on ethical grounds.

In order to understand why this was so extraordinary, one needs to know that in April, 2005, the British medical journal Lancet published the results of a study done by the University of Miami Medical Center, which reviewed lethal injection pharmacology and concluded that prisoners who had been executed by lethal injection had received significantly less anaesthesia than patients who undergo surgery -- making it likely that they were in significant pain when they were given the drugs that actually killed them. Pain that exceeded that which was felt by other alternatives such as the gas chamber or electric chair (neither known for its sanguine nature, which is why most states have abandoned them).

In the Morales case, his habeas lawyers argued that as a result of these and other scientific findings, Morales' execution by lethal injection using the default combination of drugs might violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment because he would be in pain when the lethal drugs were administered. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel (one of my personal favorites, I admit; if you have to be in federal court, you can't pick too many judges who are better than him to hear your arguments) agreed, but gave San Quentin alternatives that would in his opinion cure the constitutional defect and permit the State to go forward with Morales' execution nonetheless.

San Quentin elected to go with Option B in Judge Fogel's opinion: having an anaesthesiologist onsite continuously to ensure that Morales was completely unconscious when he was administered the "death dose" by prison officials (most folks don't realize that doctors do not participate in that part of lethal injection, even though it's obvious why: doctors are oath-bound to try and save life, not take it.)

That's where the civil disobedience part comes in.

At 4:00 PM - just three and a half hours before Morales' execution, after he'd been fed his last meal, had his last visitor other than his lawyers, and Morales had done whatever it is that condemned inmates do to get right with whatever hereafter they perceive, both anaesthesiologists assigned to participate in Morales' execution (despite what was a lot of pressure in the preceding 15 hours since they'd first raised concerns) collectively found the certainty of their consciences and said: "Oh, HELL no."

And they are being backed in that decision by both the AMA and the CMA, who said that their ethics are clear, and that there is no reason for doctors to be involved in the lethal injection process at all in violation of their ethical duties. So far, the editorials are on their side. As the San Jose Mercury editorialized simply yesterday:

The nature of the death penalty obligates the state to put every aspect of the process under a microscope.

So, right now at least, score one for the Team. Judge Fogel is scheduled to hear Morales' constitutional arguments about lethal injection and the Eighth Amendment in May. In the meantime, it's a win for death penalty opponents. Execution might still be technically legal right now here in California. But it's a meaningless legality at the moment because we can't actually use it.

Thank God.

Of course, there will always be the bloody-jawed "experts" like the one quoted in the New York Times who argues the condemned *should* suffer pain when being executed, who are readily dismissed because

The state should not fight for the right to sink to the same level as murderers.

There will be the utterly vacuous, like some editorialists in Florida who equated execution of an inmate by lethal injection with euthanising a family pet. And, despite increasing numbers of victims' families realizing that the vengeance of the death penalty does nothing to heal their loss or bring back their loved one, there will always be psychologically troubled unhealed family and friends of victims, who in their unresolved grief simply cannot see the moral inconsistency in their advocacy for the death of the person who murdered their loved one:

"He's the monster that killed the beauty, and he needs to pay for a crime that was senseless," said Jacqueline Miles, a family friend. "We need to actually show the world that people can't get away with murdering people just because they get mad."

I agree with Ms. Miles: People *can't* get away with murdering people just because they get mad. Including the State, acting as proxy for people who are mad. People like Ms. Miles. But they don't have to get away with anything - that's what life in prison without the possibility of parole was made for. Long enduring, permanent, punishment for committing a horrific act against another human being.

As opposed to the death penalty, which was supposed to accomplish all sorts of things (reduction in crime being at the top of the list) yet has managed to fail spectacularly at every single one of them:

The grim reality of the death penalty is that it's hard to end the lives of healthy human beings without torturing them in some way. Even if the death penalty had been proven to be effective in stopping crime (it hasn't) or were fairly administered (it isn't), it is inescapably cruel, reprehensible to any just society.

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Vomit Moment: Lily White Folk Calling Black Folks Slavemasters

I never know whether to laugh or cry, anymore, when the unconsciously white supremacist colors of some folks come out. Clearly, folks not-Black increasingly feel no shame telling Black folks about themselves - even if what they say is 100% bullshit.

Like Ms. Mary Matalin, former "advisor" (read, political mouthpiece) to George W. Bush, who apparently feels that her in-depth knowledge of everything going on in the Black community gives her license to claim, basically, that Black leaders are slavemasters to their own people.

My initial mental response when I saw Ms. Matalin's remarks failed in eloquence. So, my own middle-aged blue-blood vocabulary failing, I was forced to resort to the venacular of the hood:

Bitch, PLEASE. (And yes, she is a bitch, and has been a bitch for a long time, so spare me the "ooh that's a sexist word" bullshit. I could use the pure term, Nigga Please, but I refuse to insult niggas that way, since no Black person is as stupid or as possessed with a death-wish as that right-wing heifer apparently is since she had no problem making the claim in public.)

Here's the exchange that Media Matters reports took place between the outright-fucking-insane Sean Hannity and the plainly-ignorant Ms. Matalin on Wednesday night's Hannity and Colmes show:

MATALIN: Well, when you're -- have no facts -- you know, there's no facts, there's no vision. Therefore, there's no hope, it's all hate, and it's all anger. So it's -- I'll say again, it's sad. Look, this -- we're at a time in our nation's history where we need all the best brains involved in the process, and one whole party has taken itself out of the game here.

SEAN HANNITY (co-host): Yeah.

MATALIN: And the reason that -- it's not their face. It's not their message. There's no policy, there's no facts. I mean, the attacks on the president yesterday completely missed the progress that's been made in the African-American community, which can be credited to President Bush. African-American homeownership at an all-time high --

HANNITY: Well --

MATALIN: -- the achievement gap between the white and black students at a high, closing, narrowing. I mean, you know, I think these civil rights leaders are nothing more than racists. And they're keeping constituency, they're keeping their neighborhoods and their African-American brothers enslaved, if you will, by continuing to let them think that they're -- or forced to think that they're victims, that the whole system is against them. Articulate it better, Sean; it's so sad to me.

Let's deconstruct how many self-serving lies are uttered by Ms. Matalin in just this itty bitty dialogue:

"there's no facts".

What the hell is she talking about? Assuming that she was referring to the eulogistic statements that presently have Republican panties in a bunch - the statements of the Reverend Joseph Lowery and President Jimmy Carter (since she didn't identify anyone specific) - there is nothing that they said that *wasn't* fact.

Reverend Lowery said that Mrs. King "carr[ied] her grief with dignity", "declared humanity's worth", "opposed discrimination based on race", "frowned on homophobia and gender bias" "deplored the terror inflicted by our smart bombs on missions." . He also said that there were "Millions without health insurance, poverty abound[s]" and "We know now that there were no weapons of mass destruction over there." Is there something about these statements that isn't true? Perhaps Mary Matalin can let us in on what, exactly, was false? Hell, even Ron Christie, cross-eyed Bush water-carrier extraordinaire on Fox News wasn't stupid enough to claim that Joseph Lowery was saying something improperly political, saying only that it somehow "overshadowed" Mrs. and Dr. King's legacy. (He knows he has to go home someday.)

How about President Carter? He said that "the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated as they became the targets of secret government wiretapping, other surveillance, and, as you know, harassment from the FBI.". Again, is there someting about this that *wasn't* true? I didn't think so.

Respectfully, Ms. Matalin and all the other Republican folks who can't hear straight and found something in this to be untrue need to clean the wax out of their ears.
"there's no hope".

Setting aside the heartfelt hope that most Black folks (and a good many other folks) carry around that God will somehow spare us from the remaining 2 years of the reign of Emperor George W. Bush, what in God's name is she talking about?

All many Black people have is hope, these days, since Lord knows increasingly we have little else. Our official unemployment rate is 8.9% last month but, due to the magic known as "lies, lies and damned statistics", that number is a measure of reality only if you (a) ignore the jerryrigged definition of "unemployed" (which excludes discouraged workers, part time workers, and a few others) and (b) fail to do some basic math using that little-talked about number in the unemployment situation reports called "Not in the Labor Force". If you do not choose to ignore, you will quickly confirm that the government admits at this point officially that 36.6% of working-age Black folks simply ain't -- a percentage is steadily going UP. and the urban unemployment rate for our men is 50%. Where working class wages have plummeted, such that folks who have jobs make on average 9,000 less per year than they did in 2000. The fact that Black folks are still out there trying to make it, that a number of places have not been burned to the ground and we saw no riots in the streets post-Katrina, in light of our people's continued high participation in church life, is about as much evidence of an overabundance of HOPE (some would say, irrational hope) as any rational person could find. If Ms. Matalin has some actual *fact* to contradict that (i.e. some study of all 39,000,000 of us saying "fuck, we give up", then let's talk. Otherwise, her rhetoric is both self-serving and beyond ignant (i.e. worse than ignorant)

"attacks on the President."
$50 to anyone who points to any statement attacking George W. Bush (or even mentioning him other than when he was introduced to speak) that occurred at Coretta Scott King's funeral.

Ahh, but you want to focus on the fact that a couple of people pointed out issues relating to Coretta Scott King's life, like spying and war, that just happen to be causing some controversy in the nation as a whole right now? Well, OK, as soon as you explain to me why that is an attack on George W. Bush - as opposed to criticism about policies that George W. Bush has advanced during his administration.

In plain non-ignorant English: a complaint about *partisan policies* that a president supports is not the same thing as "an attack on the President." It's not personal - indeed, if George Bush woke up tomorrow and decided to see the error of his policy ways and commit to trying to undo some of the incalculable damage he's done to the country during his tenure as President, I bet a whole lot of folks would be singing "Free at Last!" with no further grudge of any kind. Hell, I'd buy him a drink (non-alchy, of course, for him!) myself!

Folks really need to learn the difference between a statement of fact that might upset some partisans and an attack. Here is an example of the former: "The Administration's policies are resulting in more drop outs, more hungry people, more government spying, more homophobia and more stress on the nation's already shaky budget." Here is an example of the latter: "George Bush is a megalomaniacal ignoramus whose residency in White House is a shame on the nation and everyone who voted for him".

See the difference?

Unless this complaint means to say that you cannot separate a President from his policies? If so, given the ongoing failure of most of his policies, foreign and domestic, that would be a sorry statement indeed about George W. Bush.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Flipping Like a Flapjack

Or is that singing like a canary?

Ahh, Libby. Libby Libby Libby. Anyone with half a brain knew that your ratting out your master at the top of the White House Food Chain was only a matter of time after you got arrested. Let's be clear: you're dumb, trading away the social standing from what by all accounts was a highly lucrative (even if slightly immoral, given some of your clients and your role in the Project for a New American Century) legal career just to provide some temporary legal cover for The Man and his lackies. But even you're not completely stupid. Jail's fugly. Besides, you probably actually want to practice law again someday (even if the DC Bar, like most State Bars, has little sympathy when it comes to things like perjury and obstruction of justice -- both crimes of moral turpitude making you presumptively unfit to hold a license as an attorney) and as we all know, the first thing the Bar looks for when determining what to do with a disgraced attorney is how he tried to make up for his wrongs.

So the singing is, in the end, no surprise. But tell us, Scooter (or may I call you Libby?) - what was the proverbial last straw?

Was it the fact that someone got some 'splainin to do because of all those missing White House e-mails about Joe and Valerie Plame Wilson and that such an explanation was likely to sell poorly to your criminal jury, given that neither special prosecutors nor grand juries want to hear anything that even remotely sounds like the word spoliation?

Was it because with the release of new documents this week, it has now become inarguable that Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert operative (making disclosure of her employment at the CIA to persons with no security clearance, like Judith Miller, a crime?)

Was it Fitzgerald's decision to unseal part of the record relating to Judy Miller's grand jury subpoena, leading to the DC Circuit's reissuance of a less-redacted version of the appeals court decision that sent Ms. Miller to jail ? The one which discloses in broad daylight that Ari Fleischer came about as close to making you out as a liar as possible short of actually naming you one?

Or was it that the same less-redacted decision hinted of this truth that you now seem to want to use as a bargaining chip to save your own ass:

That Richard B. Cheney, Vice President of the United States himself both authorized and *encouraged* you to disclose the identity of a covert operative working to protect our country to persons not possessing the necessary security clearance?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Now Massa Is Telling Us How We Must Go Home

The hue and cry, and cry and hue, is louder than life over Reverend Joseph Lowery's eulogy yesterday for his friend, Mrs. Coretta Scott King.

I'll say that again so it's clear: his friend.

It seems to me that that's all anyone needs to know to STFU about anything Reverend Lowery said and whether it was, or was not, "appropriate" for a funeral. Reverend Lowery was not in attendance for political reasons. He was sending a personal friend, one who he no doubt came to know and love during their many years in the trenches, home.

And, since as her friend he knew her far better than the screaming meanies on the right (and the few even on the left) that dare to judge this morning what he had to say. Putting it back in context, because both the mainstream right and the left are selfishly focusing on the alleged "Bush diss" and not the entirety of what he said, indicating not only that their viewing of this funeral was NOT about who it was supposed to be about (the late Mother, Coretta Scott King) but that they cannot resist trying to parse out nuggets of our world for their use, rather than ours:

Thank you, Coretta. Didn't she carry her grief with dignity? Her growing influence with humility? She secured his seed, nurtured his nobility she declared humanity's worth, invented their vision, his and hers, for peace in all the Earth. She opposed discrimination based on race, she frowned on homophobia and gender bias, she rejected on its face. She summoned the nations to study war no more. She embraced the wonders of a human family from shoulder to shoulder. Excuse me, Maya.

She extended Martin's message against poverty, racism and war. She deplored the terror inflicted by our smart bombs on missions. We know now that there were no weapons of mass destruction over there. But Coretta knew, and we know there are weapons of misdirection right down here. Millions without health insurance, poverty abound. For war, billions more, but no more for the poor.

Well, Coretta had harsh critics. Some no one could please. But she paid them no mind. She kept speaking.

Since it's now back in context, can folks please now just shut up about this being anything other than what it was? A eulogistic statement about the woman -- his friend -- actually lying there in front of Reverend Lowery?

Perhaps not. Since, even when we are given the funerals of queens, what is or is not "appropriate" or "inappropriate" usually remains defined by Them, and not Us, and Us get judged accordingly.

Of course, what is, or is not, appropriate is a matter of culture. And, depending on what your culture is, you may, or may not, grok why what was said at Coretta Scott King's funeral was utterly appropriate for her funeral. Depends on how you are raised.

Case in point: I've been on the verge of the warpath just reading blogs where folks young enough to be her grandchildren are writing referring to her as "Coretta" with no honorific or title as if they personally knew her and had just had dinner with her right before she died. Most of Our mothers would have knocked some sense into our heads for us disrespecting our elders like that, talking to them as if we were their equals in wisdom and experience. These Other folks? They seem not to even been taught that it *is* disrespectful. Yet they claim to be judging someone else's words appropriate or inappropriate. What a joke.

In my culture, anyhow.

But all that's besides the point. It certainly is clear that despite the tens of thousands of beautiful, honoring words spoken at Coretta Scott King's funeral, all that is busy being memorialized, and thus becoming history, are those few words spoken by her friend that lent themselves to be twisted into a political football by folks on both sides of the political aisle. Whether we're talking about the Right, where the racist colors of Redstate's fan base were displayed out for everyone to see. Or talking about the Left, which while fully accurate in its defensive counterreports about Reagan's funeral, is utterly missing the point.

IMO, the *only* appropriate response to complaints about what was said by Reverend Lowery is this:

Complaining about what a friend says at a funeral deserves no attention of any kind unless you actually see the friends and family of the departed stand up and make a stink. So STFU. Thank you.

Today's editorial in that stalwart of my youth, the Blacker and Bolder than ever New York Amsterdam News, probably sums up the hue and cry and cry and hue as politely as can be done:

Rev. Lowery pulled the covers off when he said take your time, and he proceeded to admonish Bush in the most jocular and forgiving manner, which set the stage for forgiveness all around. This could have been a day of anger of weeping and of planning revenge, but all our leaders admonished us, don’t be that way. Don’t you dare mess up. Don’t you dare embarrass us. Don’t you make no noise except to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. . . .

There are those who are asking even now if the King funeral was a place for political statements. This question must be asked before that one is answered: Where else to ask a political question except when you are in a room with folks who have been presidents for the last forty years and will be presidents for the next twenty, thirty, forty or fifty years? Where else would it have been proper to ask a political question if not in the place where the politicians were? There was music and love and poetry and art sprinkled with every kind of political nuance one might suggest, even if one were sitting in the back of the room. . .

The homegoing service sent Mrs. Coretta Scott King home in the style reminiscent of the March on Washington and with a prayer for our people. May God forgive us all.

Finally, the ironic juxtaposition of all this nonsense over the Reverend Lowery's remarks and the burning of four more Baptist church burnings in Alabama -- bringing the total up to 9 in less than a week -- the day before Mother King's homegoing celebration cannot be overlooked. Of course, the official word is that racism is not behind these (even with a 100 year history of church burnings behind us suggesting otherwise) - based on the fact that 4 of the churches had primarily white congregations. Hmm. Well, they were all Baptist, and the two separate sets of burnings were across the state from each other. And I haven't heard of any news that would suggest to the sick and twisted that Baptists should be targeted (although the beyond sick and twisted Chris Matthews seems to think that gay liberals have time to commit such mayhem these days despite fighting for their very right to exist in the South). What's the odds that the arsonist carefully scoped out the congregations in advance to ensure s/he was practicing Equal Opportunity Baptist Arson?

More importantly, whatever the motive, doesn't this suggest that the South has bigger fish to fry than either celebrating or whinging about how a last minute or uninvited -- depending on whose story you believe -- funeral guest might have felt, even if he is the President?

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

American Social and Educational Theory 101

Today I want to share with you all my outrage at an American custom of which I was just made aware. This apparently has been going on for some significant years, at least since my eldest Step-Daughter was in school. Naturally I find this out after the bombshell has been dropped.

I refer, of course, to the travesty known to those who are aware of its existence as “Ski week”.

Yes you read it right but I’ll say it again just in case you read it too fast and it didn’t properly sink in.

Ski Week.

For those of you just coming to awareness of this event let me explain in simple terms what it is:

My Daughter gets a whole week off school. Not to celebrate the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence (which would still be excessive but much more reasonable), not to remember the fallen in any of the far too numerous global or local armed conflicts, not to contemplate the life of some famous statesman and most certainly not for some religious observance. No this particular event is simply to head to the slopes (or not if you don’t actually ski) and race down hill dodging trees and boulders.

Um…excuse me do you think we could maybe get some school stuff done in between holidays. When I were a lad (apologies to Monty Python) we actually went to school to learn. We had a system that actually cared about the amount of knowledge imparted to their charges, we had a system which actually attempted to make that difficult and onerous task as easy and simple as possible. We certainly did not go traipsing off in the middle of term for just some random week dedicated to skiing (or not).

What exactly is the school system in this poor benighted country trying to achieve? Is it actually about education at all? We need to stop taking time off in between pretending to learn and pretending to try to teach and actually get back to devoting our time and energy to achieving. If you aim for mediocrity and miss what exactly do you hit?

Does any other country in this world have such a ridiculous excuse for an entire week off? To that I cannot speak directly, all I can say is that any self respecting Australian who even thought for a moment that they might propose such a half assed, hare-brained scheme (my apologies to any of my readers from the genus Lepus out there) would immediately shoot themselves and save the rest of Australian Society the effort of removing their stain from the gene pool.

If I were a Socialist I might look at this and point it out crying in a voice louder than thunder “Look yet another example of an artificial institution created by the rich bourgeois as a device to keep the working class poor, stupid and uneducated”. Since, however, I am not, I will not say this. I’ll just say again, in outrage just as reverberating:

Ski week.

Lets skip forward in my magical time machine to a time where this entire country is populated by those whose promise and intelligence has been cut short, has been exterminated before bearing fruit. Lets look around us and see the vapid stares and empty smiles that populate the country. Lets imagine this vision of the future awaiting this country and shudder in horror. We need to stand aside and cry “No More” to those who would enslave our children and our children’s children to such a grey and colourless future. Ski week must be stopped, if it is not we begin the slide to just such a future as I have attempted to conjure for you with these words.

Imagine the leaders that this time may bring to us, a simpleton leading the country to the brink of destruction or maybe beyond. Imagine the President being totally incapable of leading in times of crisis, one totally unqualified to choose those to govern the country with him. Imagine a vapid smile, a man unable to pronounce words correctly and ignorant of that fact. He’d be blissful, cheerful and happy in his ignorance. Imagine what might befall us should we have such a clearly incapable leader…..

Oh wait….

Did we have ski week in Andover during 1964?

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Friday, February 03, 2006

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Blame 'Em

With my increasingly obsessive focus on national politics, I too often dismiss (and therefore don't write about) the news that is reported right here in my own Bay Area back yard.

Like today's banner article in the online edition of the San Jose Mercury News, warning us that hybrid automobiles are dangerous -- because they are TOO QUIET.

Yes, that's right. The very low noise put out by hybrid automobiles, which at least here in California are selling gangbusters due to their excellent ULEV ratings despite very disappointing gas mileage, is now being held up as a possible reason *not* to buy them. Apparently, if you are driving one you may become a mass murderer on the highway, whether because someone is blind or, more likely, because folks who don't bother to look crossing the street might step in your path. Or even because you are one of those bonehead drivers that got his license as a birthday present when you turned 16 and therefore doesn't feel obligated to look carefully in all directions before doing things like backing out of a parking space or your driveway, or California stopping through a red.

While I'm certainly sympathetic to the risks of a quiet car to the only two groups that have *any* excuse for not looking at the traffic around them - the sightless and the kindergarten set - you have to wonder what type of mindset would elevate this story front page news despite the quiet little disclaimer buried within it:

Traffic officials and police do not know of any cases in which pedestrians were harmed by the popular hybrids.

Hybrid vehicles have been under almost constant cultural attack since Toyota's Prius went nuclear in terms of sales here in California. They have been accused of being everything from a gas mileage pig-in-a-poke to road status symbols for the guilty well-off (i.e. supposedly those who, like myself, bought the 255HP Accord Hybrid sedan since we prefer our big asses and big families to be comfortable rather than squeezed into 1/2 a car like the Prius). None of that criticism, legitimate or otherwise, has slowed sales - they continue to sell like hotcakes, to the point where hefty dealer markups and waiting lists are common. So I guess now the heavy artillery of guilt is being tried.

If you buy a hybrid, you might kill somebody. (Heaven Forbid that we insist that people drive like they are already supposed to - *defensively*. It's the car that's the problem!).

Of course, coming up with solutions that both protect the defenseless/at risk yet do not discourage hybrid buying requires actually knowing the magnitude of the problems caused by these "quiet killers" known as hybrid vehicles (none of which are as yet known to have actually killed anyone.) Yet, even though the National Federation of the Blind asked NHTSA for a study three years ago to learn exactly that information, according to today's article no study has yet been done. So right now we don't know anything. Well, we don't know anything other than the fact that if we were actually a civilized country we'd already have mandatory audible pedestrian signals at crosswalks, dedicated marked pedestrian crossings and bike lanes on all roads, mall parking lot design that did not routinely put people at risk of their lives (been to Costco lately?) and other low-tech gadgetry designed to highlight the extra risks at places where pedestrian meets automobile.

(Admittedly, none of that helps the kindergarten set, but their risk factor comes from being innocent babies with parents who -- like the retards I saw yesterday allowing three babies, who might have had 12 years between them if you added them up, cross the road at an unsignaled exit ramp on Highway 101 all by themselves at least 50 feet ahead of their parents' snatch range -- don't teach their children about the serious risk to life and limb of carrying their butts off the sidewalk while they are in the cradle. The poor muffins get hit with even the loudest of vehicles.)

But I suspect we won't see these things, not even the study. Why? Because it is easier for American automakers profit margins to jump on the bandwagon of those with legitimate concerns and propagandize about hybrids rather than actually develop hybrids with safety features to protect both the blind and the not-paying-attention. It certainly is more profit-protecting than attempting to match the ULEV rating received by all hybrids, from the teensy weensy Toyota Prius to the Honda Accord Sedan to the big ass Toyota Highlander. American automakers are rapidly becoming dinosaurs in an industry America created because of innovative tunnelvision -- especially when it comes to environmentally friendly vehicles -- yet we are not seeing many articles about that (not even about Ford's layoff of the equivalent of a small American city last month after it decided to destroy rather than market a slew of highly promising electric cars).

But it's front page news here in the Bay Area that our decisions to buy an environmentally improved car might kill someone someday.

I wonder if the San Jose Mercury News, normally a 1/2 way decent paper, felt some pressure from the Ford dealerships at the Palo Alto, Sunnyvale or San Jose Auto Rows, some of the paper's biggest advertisers, to put that news on the front page?

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I Never Get Lucky

Rumor has it that getting rich in the law business is just as much knowing the right people and being in the right place at the right time as anything having to actually do with the quality practice of law.

Obviously, my luck sucks, because I was not Cindy Sheehan's attorney yesterday before she went to the State of the Union Address as an invited guest of Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey.

And I resent that. I resent that someone probably nowhere as deserving as me is going to get paid from what is a shooting-fish-in-a-barrel First Amendment case:

Cindy Sheehan being arrested in, and dragged out of, yesterday's State of the Union address merely because she was wearing a tee-shirt that said

"2245 Dead. How many more?"

While the fair and balanced media initially gave new meaning to the term "fact-based reporting" when initially, upon word of the arrest, they claimed that the reason was everything from "Capitol Police being warned that Cindy *might* cause a disturbance" (CNN) to "Cindy caused a disturbance" (C-Span) to "Cindy had/tried to unfurl an anti-war banner" (heard on CNN *and* Fox), according to both newspapers and Cindy's own account of what happened this was not a situation in which she said anything, or did anything. Except take off her coat. The moment that happened, a Capitol police person yelled "Protestor!" and Cindy Sheehan was hustled out of the public gallery. There is no report from newsmedia that she resisted, struggled, or made any scene.

Despite this, wingnuts both active and in disguise are running for cover this morning. Claiming that Cindy's Sheehan's ejection and arrest were not REALLY based on disapproval of the content of her t-shirt, citing that Representative C.W. Mike Young's wife was also ejected from SOTU last night because she was wearing a message t-shirt (her's said "Support Our Troops Defending our Freedom").

Except for one thing: The claim that Beverly Young was ejected is a lie, if you believe the Capitol Police.

Let's compare Beverly Young's experience to Cindy Sheehan's last night:

  • Beverly Young had her t-shirt on in plain sight. Cindy Sheehan's jacket was still partially on.

  • Beverly Young was not labeled "Protestor!" by a yelling cop merely for displaying her shirt. Cindy Sheehan was.

  • Beverly Young was treated with respect and permitted to get up and leave under her own power. Cindy Sheehan was not.

  • Beverly Young was not shoved up a flight of stairs. Cindy Sheehan was.

  • Capitol Police deny forcing Beverly Young to leave at all. Capitol Police admit -- proudly -- that Cindy Sheehan was forced out of the gallery and arrested.

  • Oh, there is one other difference:

  • Beverly Young is married to a Republican supporter of Bush's illegal war in Iraq.

  • Cindy Sheehan lost her son to Bush's illegal war in Iraq.

  • On the other hand, Beverly Young and Cindy Sheehan *do* have at least one thing in common:

    Both have tried to call attention to the human horrors that have flowed from Bush's illegal war.

    Yup, the wife of a formerly staunch Republican hawk who has been in the Congress since before God (aka Ronald Reagan) and who chairs the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee has been championing the cause of wounded and disabled soldiers from the Iraq war. Admitting now to personal misgivings about the war despite initial support, she has become a champion for complaining about red tape and bureacracy standing in the way of their care.

    With what appears to be the same personal passion that drove Cindy Sheehan to sit in a ditch in Crawford, Texas, during the days that ultimately crowned her the mother of the modern antiwar movement.

    Hmm. Maybe Beverly Young really *was* asked to leave SOTU yesterday after all.............

    Hell, if she was, I clearly am still not lucky. I don't represent her, either. Dangit.

    Now, I know that today far more brilliant legal minds than mine will be looking at how to legally justify yanking Cindy Sheehan out merely for wearing a non-obscene tee-shirt as political speech in a government building. That's what they get paid the big bucks for. I'm just a solo practitioner.

    But I'd be a wealthy solo practitioner if only I was Cindy Sheehan's lawyer this morning: (a) public building; (b) adult; (c) non-obscene political speech; (d) content-based government action; (e) no rule against clothing/t-shirts with messages; (f) no disruptive behavior; (g) another person similarly situated yet treated differently and (h) bruises.

    Damn why am I so unlucky????

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    Hey Chickenhawks!!!! Prince Harry is Calling you OUT

    Hey!!!! Hey You!!! Hey there, Jonah "I'm such a wuss I'm going to hide behind my babies even as I pimp the Iraq War to you "little people"" Goldberg:

    A prince, heir to a throne of a nation, has more balls than you do even on the golf course.

    Prince Harry is going to Iraq.

    To lead.

    Now, this young man has done a lot of growing up since his mother passed. He's been definitely worrisome to his Grandmother these last few years. Especially with that Nazi costume episode. But we do have to excuse away some things - after all, his mother who could have educated him about everything from being graceful to the need to call out the inhumanity of warfare is dead. His father....well, until his father finally married his One True Love, Harry's father was probably a bit distracted.

    Prince Harry is unquestioningly one of the most protected and physically secure young men on the face of the earth. If he was a Right-Wing American pillar of manhood he would no doubt be scurrying to hide behind education and baby deferments, bad skin; a pilonidal cyst or even just cushy and sporadic TANG duty to keep from serving in wartime. But here Harry is, *volunteering* for active Iraq duty on the grounds that as long as his countrymen are fighting and dying in Iraq (where they should not be in the first place, since it's an illegal war, but he's led a sheltered life so he may not know that) he has no call to avoid the same service merely because someday he might sit on the British throne:

    There's no way I'm going to put myself through Sandhurst and then sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country.

    We really need to get him to school the "there is no party we don't love" Bush they can fulfill their destiny as daughters of the Commander in Chief and avoid being placed on a Chickenhawk list in their later years, like their dad and his buddies.

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