Sunday, December 31, 2006


The End of Monument Avenue

The final statue of Civil War generals, etc., on Monument Avenue in Richmond is the easternmost equestrian statue of James Ewell Brown Stuart. Jeb Stuart was a Major General at age 29 and the leader, for most of the war, of the superb Confederate cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia. Many of the things he carried are now in the Museum of the Confederacy a short distance away, including his embroidered gloves and ostrich plumed hat, his 9 shot plus center shotgun round LeMat revolver and a very strange breech-loading carbine.

True to statue convention, his horse has one foot up to signify his mortal wound in battle (Yellow Tavern), and he's facing north, as are all the statues of those who died during the war. One of the things we did on our usually drunken underground tour of Richmond in the 60s was to get the new guy to get out of the car, cross the road and try to pull out one of the swords from the scabbard on the fence around the statue. Some guys actually tried to pull for a few seconds.


John Edwards Embraces Global Warming

It is amazing to me that anyone takes one time Senator from North Carolina John Edwards seriously as a seeker of the Democrat nomination for presidential candidate in 2008. He seems to me not so much a fool as one in serious need of priority reorganization. Mark Steyn is less kind, writing:

On the other hand, one should never underestimate the seductiveness of complacency. If you happened to catch John Edwards, the hair-today-gone-tomorrow pretty boy of the 2004 campaign, re-emerging in the artfully positioned debris of New Orleans last week, it was hard not to be impressed: An empty suit had somehow managed to get emptier. He's running for president on five big priorities: ''guaranteeing health care,'' ''leading the fight against global warming,'' ''strengthening our middle class and ending the shame of poverty,'' and by then my fingers were too comatose to write down the fifth theme but, if memory serves, it was guaranteeing to lead the fight to strengthen ending the shame of platitudinous campaign rhetoric.

I told you you didn't want to get on the wrong side of Steyn.

Here is the 5 part platform of the former loser of a Democrat Vice President candidate in 2004:

Changing our country means:
- Providing moral leadership in the world -- starting with Iraq, where we should begin drawing down troops, not escalating the war.
- Strengthening our middle class and ending the shame of poverty.
- Guaranteeing health care for every single American.
- Leading the fight against global warming.
- Getting America and the world to break our addiction to oil.

Global warming? You're kidding me, right?

After a relatively mild Fall in parts, Winter has come to much of the United States with a vengeance. Just like it's supposed to. In an earlier post, I noted that man-made carbon dioxide is such a tiny part of the atmosphere that to think we humans could change the weather patterns for the much worse is hubris on stilts and steroids. Yet the Democrats and the others of this year's Chicken Little prediction's moving force want to treat carbon dioxide like Zyklon B and seriously hurt business here in America as a sacrifice to the unseen Weather God to stave off future only imagined changes. They are just like the Mayan (and Aztec) priests in the15th Century cutting the hearts out of the citizens of those civilizations in an effort to stave off a drought or plague.

Indeed, the droughts in southwest America and in Mesoamerica at that time were almost certainly the result of the end of the Medieval Warm Period (formerly known as the Little Optimum) which was a naturally occurring warming of the Earth and which helped some areas (like Greenland) and hurt others (like the Four Corners). None of the believers in man made Global Warming (the Warmies) seems willing to discuss or actually to believe in the Medieval Warm Period, as its very existence refutes the idea that temperatures are rising now (if they are) solely because of man made CO2 and it reveals the out and out scientific fraud of a one to one correlation between CO2 and warming over the past 100,000 years--taken as fact by the Warmies, the new Mayan Priests, when it is pure fiction.


Glancing at the Carwreck

I admit that I looked at the cellphone video of the execution by hanging of Saddam Hussein which is up everywhere on the web (easy to get at Drudge). The certainly used a thick enough rope and a long drop (which is key to effective, rapid death). I wonder at the side placed noose, but it seems to have done the job.

I have no idea what effect, if any, this will have on the situation in Iraq we all despair about, but I like to see justice done and I feel it was done here, although really to do justice here you would have to be able to magically revive Saddam and hang him at least 400,000 more times, one for each of his murder victims which we know about.


This Day in American History

On this day in 1862, the Union ironclad ship "Monitor" sinks in a storm off Cape Hatteras, NC. It had been the in-the-nick-of-time counterpoint to the Confederate ironclad "Virginia" (built on the former USS "Merrimack"), which had just given the U. S. Navy its worst day ever (until Pearl Harbor), when the two ironclad ships battled to a draw. Where the "Virginia" kept the old ship of the line cannons along the side and depended on aligning the ship to shoot, the lasting innovation of the "Monitor" was the armored turret which allowed the ship to shoot in any direction no matter where it was headed in the water. The turret with cannons lasted as a naval mainstay for at least 80 years, until airplanes made that former innovation pretty much obsolete.


Thought of the Day

I have an existential map; it has 'you are here' written all over it.

Steven Wright

Friday, December 29, 2006


I Know the Secret of Ethiopia's Success in Somalia

In about a week, elements of the Ethiopian Army have driven to and taken Mogadishu (the capitol of Somalia) and driven out the Taliban-like Somalia Islamic Courts Council (SICC) with little trouble and negligible casualties on the Ethiopian side. Lots of Westerners who recall the difficulty we had cleaning out the gang-like, war lord led tribes there, in the infamous 'Black Hawk Down' fight, wonder why Ethiopian fighters make it look so easy. I happen to know why, because I read a lot of military history.

The Ethiopians are superb warriors. Ethiopia is one of the countries that should be on the "Never Invade These" list given to the new president just after inauguration. The British and the Egyptians had the devil of a time with them last century. Despite huge differences in technologies, they kicked Italian ass in the mid 1890s and again in the mid 30s (although they lost that last one). They had the very best service record of any country in the UN effort in Korea in the early 50s. They fought a tough civil war for years after Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed in 1974. The Ethiopians fought a war and lost to Eritria in the late 1990s after that former part of Ethiopia (and apparently just as tough in war) seceded and succeeded. They also had another one sided fight against Somalia as late as 1997. They have a big army and they're just good.


This Day in American History

On this day in 1812, starting at about 2 in the afternoon, the USS Constitution takes on HMS Java in a three hour battle 30 miles off the coast of Brazil. Commodore William Bainbridge, who was in command of "Old Ironsides," is wounded twice, and the ship's steering wheel is shot away; still he maneuvers masterfully and fights tenaciously until, finally, the Java has no masts left standing and her captain lays dying. The Brits suffer 130 casualties to the 40 Americans killed or wounded. The Java was so devastated it was not worth towing back to port for salvage and so was burned at sea. However, Bainbridge first has her wheel removed to replace the one shot away on the Consitution. This was the Constitution's toughest fight.

There is an excellent account of the battle in the Patrick O'Brien 'Aubrey-Maturin' novel The Fortunes of War.


Thought of the Day

Courage, above all things, is the first quality of a warrior.

Carl von Clausewitz

Thursday, December 28, 2006


The North Carolina Bar Strikes Back

In Colorado, attorney discipline is handled by the judiciary branch--the Supreme Court's disciplinary counsel. However, in most states, it is the bar association that polices its brothers and sisters and brings ethics complaints against bad lawyers and, in this case, seriously out of control Durham prosecutors. Usually, it's kept pretty secret until the results are in--either a deal or a guilty finding. I guess they do things differently in North Carolina.

In the first of what I predict will be at least three complaints, the North Carolina State Bar has brought an ethics complaint against Durham DA Mike Nifong. You can read the complaint at the Smoking Gun blog. It's 17 pages long. It's all about statements, either inflammatory or purposefully misleading (both unethical activities almost everywhere) Nifong made to the press last Spring. I think this will be the least of his problems--he will almost certainly face complaints for failure to turn over exculpatory DNA evidence and lying to the judge about his failure to turn over exculpatory DNA evidence, which are, in my opinion, much more substantial and serious complaints. He may face a complaint for allegedly directing the police to change the way photo line ups were usually run and put no fillers in a line up of nothing but the white Duke lacrosse players, which last line up contained many photos already shown the 'exotic' dancer (at least two of the photos in the earlier ones were of the currently accused) and in which earlier photo arrays she had failed to pick anyone as her attacker. I won't absolutely predict that last action will result in an ethics complaint, though.

If the truth be known, DAs are constantly violating, here and there, the general gag order they have in the ethics rules which prohibit them from lying, purposefully stirring up the populace against the accused, commenting on their personal feeling about, for example, the truth of the charges, the reliability of a witness, or the guilt of the accused. I'm pretty sure they're not supposed to talk about the accused's refusal to talk to police or co-operate with the investigation either. The complaint has about 50 statements which the Note Kay-o-lina Bah says Nifong said and which violated the rules. It is a bad sign for Nifong that they are coming after him for the statements. If he gets a hefty censure or sanction for these, he's toast from the ones that are coming.

Powerline reported that the Complaint concerned the "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation" in connection with the exculpatory DNA evidence that [Nifong] apparently tried to conceal." It did not. But one will in the near future.


This Day in American History

On this day in 1950, Chinese troops cross the 38th Parallel, into South Korea, driving us (and our UN allies) completely from North Korea, undoing all the devastating effect on North Korean troops our brilliant and gutsy end run at Inchon south and west of Seoul had caused just three months earlier. The Korean War would see-saw a bit more in 1951 and then develop into trench warfare along generally the original border. Few people remember that the war never ended. I wonder if China would supply troops if North Korea attacked south again and we again kicked their butts. Hope we don't have to find out.


Thought of the Day

One forgives to the degree that one loves.

Francois de la Rouchefoucald

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Echoes of Apartheid

Israel has announced that it will build new buildings for Jews to live in inside the compound of an already established settlement on the West Bank of the Jordan River in what was 60 years ago part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan until King Hussein foolishly attacked Israel and lost the territory in the war he and other Arab leaders started. And we are foolishly condemning them for it--it's not consistent with their duty to make peace with a people who have sworn to destroy them. I have to admit that I'm confused about that turn of events.

Former President Carter has called what's going on in the West Bank semi-no-man's-land as apartheid, and I had rejected that out of hand. He meant that the Jews treat the Palestinians like the Boers treated the blacks (or 'blecks' to use the vernacular that Pesci made so funny in Lethal Weapon 2). But if it's the Palestinians acting like the ruling whites saying, no Jews can live in this part of the world, just as the Boers said no blacks could live in their all white cities, maybe Carter has a point after all.

OK, to recap, the Palestinians have said that no Jews can live on the land Israel conquered fair and square from Jordan and then gave back for a local Arab homeland, and we're down with that blatant racism?


Rare Sports Post

I was actually at the miracle Bengals game last Sunday and had a great time, but I was not fooled for a minute, even after the 99 yard drive, that the Broncos are a playoff worthy team. My friend Tony says that when the Bengal receiver scored what should have been the tying touchdown, he mocked us with a phony Mile-Hi salute to the stands. Do not p-o the football gods, he says. The Bengals proceeded to muff the point after snap and the game was pretty much history. Oh, we had to get a lucky (oh no, not again) penalty to negate a Bengal successful onside kickoff. If I really had to make the choice, I'd take lucky over good any day and it looks like Shanahan did too.

The Nougats snagged Alan Iverson from Philadelphia (and believe me that does not begin to start to think about repaying Philadelphia for taking Forsberg from us). I asked guys who actually watch the NBA if Denver's coach is renowned for taming troubled players and making them great. They all just laughed. Iverson's been playing pretty well though, I hear.

Finally, I watched the relatively healthy and rested Avalanche lose to a seriously injury depleted and just played last night Dallas Stars, 5-4. Remember when I wrote that the Avs were ready to surge into the new year and peak at just the right time. Never mind. Goalie of the future Jose Theodore had to be pulled in the third. Man, was that loss a bitter little pill to swallow.


Solving the Mystery of the Rashomon Gate

The IFC puts on essential movies back to back on Tuesdays, sponsored by the middling wine from Australia, Yellowtail. Last night they had a trifecta of Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon, Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game (in the top 3 French movies ever) and Wild Strawberries (perhaps not Ingmar Bergman's best, but the one I like best because the main character reminds me of my maternal grandfather, who was a country doctor).

However, let's stick with Rashomon, which has become an icon not only of movies but of popular culture because of its four part retelling of a story, each from a different perspective and each version quite different from the other. Generally after first viewing, you are thinking which of the four versions was the 'correct' one. I urge you not to think along those lines, because after about my 5th viewing I think I have come up with a reality test for the competing versions, with which you can piece together a viable composit. Some say key on the woman's dagger, a beautiful Aikuchi Tanto. But I say concentrate on the man's Japanese sword, the Katana. Here's why.

There is a real time, actual happening part of the movie, the part in the rain under the eves of the partially wrecked gate, when the priest and woodcutter muse on the testimony they heard at the prison, and retell it to the wet newcomer, the unconvincingly laughing man. I also think the woodcutter's initial testimony and the priest's, of course, are reliable. The rest is very suspect. OK, cutting to the chase, follow what happens to the Japanese sword (not Mifune's 'Korean' sword). If the version of the story doesn't have it going off, in its case, with Mifune after the rape murder, then there could be something wrong with that version.

Of course, Mifune has it on his back when he drinks from the stream and then doesn't have it when he's captured because stomach distress from the stream has felled him. Did he also drink up the proceeds of the sold sword between the time he drank from the stream and the time he falls from his horse in dire straits? That's what he said he did. Is he believable on that?

The priest is very strong on the medium's version of the story, asking why would a dead man lie? but I would remind you that there are no true spirit mediums and no way to contact the dead. They're gone--silence only follows from the dead--so there is no version from the husband.

Final question--what is the weird smile on the face of the woodcutter as he leaves with the baby? I don't want to even think about what that means.


This Day in History

On this day in 1979, Soviet troops invade Afghánistán and overthrow President Hafizullah Amin. Our rock of a President, Jimmy Carter, does nothing except boycott the Moscow Olympics in 1980--man, did he play rough. The Soviets stay for nearly 8 years and suffer a worse defeat that we did in Viet Nam because soon after their withdrawal, their empire collapses and is carted off to the dungheap of history along with any rational notion that a rigid, Government controlled socialism can work. Oh, and radical Islam grew in strength and confidence. They think they brought the CCCP down. They helped.


Thought of the Day

If there were no God, there would be no atheists.

Gilbert K. Chesterton

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Insomnia Theater--Putting the Tit Back in Titania

I watched the old BBC/Royal Shakespeare Company version of A Midsummer's Night Dream from 1968 the other night at three AM and it was pretty good (but not as good as I remembered it). They only showed it on TV here in America, once. Alas, all of the lovely young ladies in it have grown very old and grey. I always recalled the extremely beautiful Diana Rigg as Helena because she looked nearly the same for many years and she did this after about 50 episodes as Emma Peel in The Avengers. Helen Mirren as Hermia, however, is almost unrecognizable in her extreme youth (she was 23); but the biggest shock watching it nearly 39 years later is who plays the Fairy Queen, Titania, and is painted green but is quite naked the entire time. Oh, there's some well placed ivy leaves here and there but the nakedness is unmistakable. Why it's Dame Judi Dench--almost a dish and certainly an architectural wonderment, if you know what I mean.

Ian Holm is the best Puck I've seen, and the two Athenian youths, Lysander and Demetrius are played well (if not a little flat) by David Warner and Michael Jayston. Oberon and Bottom are superb, as well.

I was not getting the miniskirts, though. They might have thought that through better. As flawed as it is in production values, nothing since has touched it for shear quality of acting--the Brits make it seem effortless. Realy quite a good show.


Paul Campos Can't Keep It Up For The Entire Column

Although he makes sense for most of the op-ed local Law Professor and Tuesday newspaper columnist, Paul Campos, wrote today, it all unravels at the end. Behold the good:

Like most people who went to college in the 1980s or 1990s, I was exposed to significant amounts of what came to be known as "politically correct" nonsense, in the form of shamelessly dishonest affirmative action policies, loathsome hate-speech codes, and various forms of left-wing ideology masquerading as scholarship.

And, like a lot of other people who possessed any contrarian impulses or a thimbleful of common sense, I was revolted by this stuff. When I joined a university faculty a few years later, my feelings were if anything intensified. There were days when I felt that if I heard one more sanctimonious speech about "diversity" or the unholy trinity of racism-sexism-homophobia I would go on a tri-state shooting spree...

Good stuff, except for wanting to shoot people with guns, and there's more:

Intellectually, I was impressed by various conservative critiques of the failings of post-New Deal liberalism, especially in regard to the legal system. It seemed obvious to me that something like the imposition of a nationally uniform system of very liberal abortion laws through lawsuits was an example of judges imposing their political preferences on everybody else, while fooling themselves into believing that they were merely doing what the Constitution required.

Indeed, I still can't read the Supreme Court's plurality opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which Justices Kennedy, O'Connor and Souter call upon the American people to stop arguing about abortion because the court has "resolved" the issue, without feeling somewhat nauseated.

Whoa Nelly, this guy is coming around to good sense and a conservative view.

Then it all goes horribly wrong. First Campos complains that he, with all these apparently secretly held views, is pegged by conservatives as just another liberal professor. I've read the professor for two years straight now and when he is not stridently liberal in his published opinions, he is an apolitical yawn. There is no way one could fail to peg him as just another liberal professor from what he has written. He's complaining that we've taken him at his word. What a little baby.

Here's his close, where he proves yet again he is just another liberal professor, with my comments thereon interspersed in purple:

For many years, conservative critics made the valid point that academia had too many people in it who were willing to accuse anyone who opposed affirmative action or hate-speech codes of "racism." Excellent point, thanks for noticing how the charge or racism is used by the left to stop debate, not further it.

Unfortunately, post-Clinton Republican political dominance and post-9/11 anxieties about foreigners OK, I'm getting a little nervous here, taking rational steps to protect this country from attack by Jihadists is going to be lumped with irrational hate of a race of people? have combined with a generation's worth of often-warranted disgust about irresponsible charges of racism to create an atmosphere Whoa Whoa Whoa--a reaction to false charges of racism by lefties is causing actual racism in right wingers--this is stupid pop psychology, at best, more likely pure nonsense in which actual racism is making a very public comeback. Where? Like the rise in anti-Semitic attacks in lefty dominated France and Belgium? Does he have a scintilla of factual support for that bold but very questionable statement? See below that he doesn't.

Consider the comments of Virginia Rep. Virgil Goode, part of whose extended family I have know for 40 years who in a letter to his constituents one constituent last week called for "strict immigration policies" in order to keep Muslims from being elected to public office. I don't call that a fair restatement of the Goode letter (read it for yourself) Goode was reacting to the election of a Muslim, Keith Ellison, to Congress. More precisely Rep. Goode was reacting to a constituent's letter reacting negatively to Ellison's wanting to swear his oath of office on the Quran rather than on the Bible Ellison was born in Detroit, but to read Goode's letter is to realize that people like Goode find it difficult to imagine that Muslims can actually be loyal Americans. Campos is going too far here--we are at war with Muslim extremists; of course that creates a rational suspicion which is wholly unrelated to anti-Semitism (not racism--how did we get to anti-Semitism as an example of open racism?) This is just another false charge by a lefty of racism to shut up and/or punish a conservative with whom the accuser (here Campos) disagrees. Is there any quote from the letter other than "strict immigration policies"? No, there isn't, because there are no quotes from the letter which support the racism charge.

Goode is being lambasted (though not by any prominent Republicans) Yeah, he's being called a racist by lefties--that's the status quo ante of the past 30 years not because his letter was "politically incorrect," but because it was bigoted. How? Where? Too many people can no longer tell the difference. Yeah, specifically Paul Campos.


Welcome Back, Your Dreams Were Your Ticket Out

After a 9 month disappearance, the supposed reincarnation of Buddha: "Sixteen-year-old Ram Bahadur Bamjon was spotted on Sunday by villagers in the remote and dense forests near Piluwa village in Bara district, 150 km (95 miles) east of Kathmandu." We posted disparagingly of this guy about the time of his disappearance and earlier. I have nothing better to say about him at this time.


This Day in American History

On this day in 1968, Led Zeppelin has its concert debut in Boston as the opening act for Vanilla Fudge. Talk about an upsidedown billing.


Thought of the Day

Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions -- it only guarantees equality of opportunity.

Irving Kristol

Monday, December 25, 2006


This Day in Ancient History

On this day, around 3 BC, by convention, Our Savior is born in Bethlehem where Joseph and Mary had traveled as part of a ridiculous Roman tax scheme. Actually the date and some of the details of the birth are a case of the early Christian Church beating rival religions by absorbing them, as many of the details are decidedly Mithraic. Still, the essential message is a good one--even a non believer would have to admit that having God become human with the plan to suffer and die to take away the follower's sins so we can, after our body's death, live forever with the supreme being and creator of the universe, that's a pretty sweet deal. Merry Christmas and God bless us, everyone.


Thought of the Day

Unto us a Child is born.

George F. Handel (quoting Isaiah 9:6) (thanks 'jim')

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Antipenultimate Post on the Duke Non-Rape Debacle

Tom Maguire at Just One Minute blog, who was all over the Plame non-scandal (indeed he got into details too arcane even for me) has a bold prediction about what DA Nifong will do with the almost certainly bogus, ever shrinking charges against the 3 Duke lacrosse players. He says:

Having read through the NY Times account of their interview with DA Mike Nifong, I Boldly Predict that Mr. Nifong is planning to drop the remaining charges against the Duke Three at the Feb 5 hearing, or before.

Funny I get absolutely the opposite prediction. Maguire points to this part of the NYT report for his optimism that justice will prevail soon: a three-hour interview on Thursday, Mr. Nifong said he would not hesitate to drop all the charges if the accuser expressed doubt about the identity of the men she has accused when she sees all three defendants at a pretrial hearing set for February

"If she came in and said she could not identify her assailants, then we don't have a case," Mr. Nifong said. On the other hand, he continued, "If she says, yes, it's them, or one or two of them, I have an obligation to put that to a jury."

Let me explain the source of my cynicism. The accuser has failed to identify anyone in a convincing way (she said, for example, one guy was definitely there who definitely wasn't, failed to pick any of the current accused who were in the first photo line up, and said one of her attackers had a moustache when he never did). However, when she got the can't-pick-wrong third photo line up, she had tears in her eyes when she picked (apparently at random) the three now charged and said she was sure or pretty sure all three of them raped her (now she doesn't recall if she was actually, well, raped-- is this girl a dream witness for the prosecution or what?)

If she now drops one or two of them, she has again changed her story (and I've lost count of the number of substantial changes in her story). What Nifong seems to be incapable of is using his required discretion (a new oxymoron) to judge the credibility of now his only witness. For example, if a woman says three white guys kidnapped and raped her and then says later, no it was just two white guys, the third person was a space alien with green skin, you don't go forward with the case against the two men, you drop the whole case. It's not exactly rocket science. An unbelievable witness cannot get you a conviction and the case must be dropped. Immediately.

Maguire has more about how much trouble Nifong is in for what looks an awful lot like lying to a judge about the DNA results he apparently conspired to keep from the defense. It's never good to lie to a judge. Money quotes there.

On Thursday, Mr. Nifong acknowledged knowing about those [DNA] test results before any players were indicted last spring. He also acknowledged that the results were relevant and "potentially exculpatory," and he said he should have given the results to the defense before May 18, the day he signed a filing that said "the state is not aware of any additional material or information which may be exculpatory in nature."


As Mr. Meehan and Mr. Nifong now agree, the two discussed all of DNA Security's main findings, including those that were omitted from the final report, during two meetings in April.

Defense lawyers point to court hearings in which they repeatedly pressed Mr. Nifong to reveal all the evidence he discussed with Mr. Meehan during those two meetings.
According to transcripts of those hearings, Mr. Nifong repeatedly told Judge Smith that there was no evidence discussed during those meetings other than the test results reflected in the DNA Security summary report.

On June 22, when questioned by Brad Bannon--the discovery expert on the defense team-- Mr. Nifong denied that Mr. Meehan and he had talked about anything else he had to disclose to the defense.

"The report itself they have," Mr. Nifong told Judge Smith.

At a hearing on Sept. 22, Judge Smith asked: "So you represent there are no other statements from Dr. Meehan?"

"No other statements," Mr. Nifong said. "No other statements made to me."

Defense lawyers also point to a court filing Mr. Nifong signed on May 18, when he gave the defense some 1,200 pages of evidence records, including DNA Security's 10-page report. "The state is not aware of any additional material or information which may be exculpatory in nature with respect to the defendant"...

I truly believe Nifong has destroyed himself and damaged his office (and DAs everywhere) by sticking with this case when a competent prosecutor would have punted long ago. His apparent ethical violations may well strip away the immunity DAs should and do enjoy. Maguire closes with something I do agree with:

Nifong is going down - the question is, how far?


This Day in American History

On this day in 1865, several Confederate veterans form the Ku Klux Klan in Pulaski, TN. Soon the white supremacist, anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, nativist group includes lots of southerners including the great General Nathan Bedford Forrest. The name derives from the Greek word for circle (kuklos) which was the name of the sort of Confederate CIA. Grant destroyed the original Klan beginning in 1871, with vigorous enforcement of the Civil Rights of 1971. Unfortunately, it rises again in 1915 and not just in the South. We historical savvy types in Denver remember when the Klan ran the place in the 1920s; by 1924 the Klan had an estimated 6 million members, but I am happy to report that the Klan now has maybe 2,000 members, no political power or money, is social and political death even to associate with it for a second and is the last refuge of the racist nut jobs that exist in tiny numbers in every society.

It was shown as a heroic force for good in the 1915 D. W. Griffith movie The Birth of a Nation, which nearly ruins the otherwise first great epic movie. I like to point out that its members have been, if not exclusively Democrat, overwhelmingly Democrat. The soon to be President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Robert Byrd (D-WV) was a leader in the Klan in his youth. Yet black Americans vote overwhelmingly for Democrats and think the party specifically organized for the abolition of slavery, the GOP, are the racists. Some mysteries absolutely defy explanation.


Thought of the Day

The scary thing is not that there are Demons and Monsters; the scary thing is that there are no Demons and Monsters, except us.

Roger Fraley

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Good News From Basra, Iraq

The Brit troops in Basra are taking on corrupt Iraqi police units which have become death squads. Some, I guess, would see this as bad news--more evidence of the chaos overtaking Iraq, even in the Shia dominated south. Clear eyed people, however, with even a little bit of historical knowledge, will realize that having to take on a problem is not the end of the world. People tackle and solve problems created by other people all the time; and the Brits killing or arresting Iraqi murders in their section, who are helping spiral the country towards a Lebanon-like civil war, is a good thing.

God speed.


This Day in Hollywood History

On this day in 1930, Bette Davis arrives in Hollywood to start making movies under her contract with Universal Studios. The studio gofer told to meet her at the train station can't find her. When he is asked to explain how he could have failed to meet her, he says, "There was no one remotely resembling an actress coming off of that train." Ouch.


Thought of the Day

This world is a comedy for those who think and a tragedy for those who feel.

Horace Walpole

Friday, December 22, 2006


Cracks in the Facade of the Duke Lacrosse Never Was Rape Case

Sad laughingstock DA Mike Nifong today dropped only the rape charges against the 3 Duke Lacrosse players, but not the kidnapping and sexual assault charges. It is either the beginning of the end of one of the worst false rape claims ever to get charged, or it is a cynical effort of DA Nifong to redouble his support for the remaining, almost certainly false charges by slimming down the case to make the exonerating DNA analysis irrelevant and thus not part of the trial. I can't tell which yet.

Here's what I do know. Ever since the accuser's fellow 'exotic dancer' declined to support any of the rape, kidnapping or sexual assault accusations, and the DNA analysis absolutely ruled out any of the 3 having had intimate, penetrating contact with the accuser, the only evidence to support any charges against the Duke 3 was the testimony of the accuser. Unfortunately for DA Nifong, the accuser has given substantially different versions of the alleged events that night, which different versions now number in double digits; with one more version revealed today as she has changed her story yet again.

Now, DAs have extra ethical duties concomitant to the power of the office. You don't just get to cover your eyes and become agnostic about your only witness's credibility. Nor do you get to pick the version of events you think will be easiest to sell to a jury. If there are even two substantially different versions, you have to make a good faith evaluation of what effect changing the story even once will have on the credibility of the only witness. If you come to the conclusion that the credibility is seriously damaged, then it is probable that you can not obtain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt and you must dismiss all the charges. This is not discretionary--this is an ethical requirement. See DR 7-103 of the ABA Code of Professional Responsibility. North Carolina may have different ethical rules for lawyers and DAs but I assure you they will be similar to this one

Given the ever changing stories told by the accuser here, I can't see how any reasonable prosecutor could conclude other than that her credibility is not just damaged but in absolute tatters. Given that Nifong apparently ordered the investigating police to conduct a second photo line-up, which had only team players in it but did not contain any fillers--so the accuser would necessarily pick a Duke lacrosse player if she picked anyone at all, and given that he did not promptly turn over the exonerating DNA analysis and may well have conspired to keep it from the defense counsel (also a violation of DR 7-103), I am incapable of calling him a reasonable prosecutor. Indeed I am open not only to an ethics investigation of Nifong, but also a Justice Department investigation to see if criminal charges should be brought against the DA for conspiring to violate the civil rights of the 3 Defendants. I hope Durham county (where Nifong's judicial district is), and Mike Nifong personally, get million dollar judgments against them in the Section 1986 civil suits to follow --and I'm usually a big fan of prosecutorial immunity. The man has disgraced himself and his office and has caused good citizens to doubt the honesty and integrity of North Carolina's criminal justice system. And there is little he can do to fix things.

Dropping all the charges against the Duke 3 immediately is now the only ethical choice he has. Maybe he'll surprise us.


Developing a Movie Star Crush

I've watched recently on TV the latest Harry Potter movie (Goblet of Fire), Topsy Turvy for about the 5th time, Dr. Who versus a cheesy, absorbing alien and, last night on Nova, E=mc² about, of course, Einstein and some of those who came before and after in physics and chemistry (although they were apparently picked at random as far as I can tell--major influences left out). The glue that binds these four films together is Shirley Henderson, a 41 year old Scot actress whom I am really beginning to like.

She has this incredible voice, you see, which I just find so sexy and although I only remember her doing an English accent, I bet she actually has a Scotish accent which I just love. And she can sing too. She was terribly misused in two of the Harry Potter movies where she's Moaning Myrtle and over the top awful. She has been lately the doomed, dowdy, mousy girlfriend/abandoned wife on Who and on Nova. So the performance that is knocking me out is in Topsy Turvy, which shows the genesis of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado and in which Henderson plays Leonora Braham who plays the 13 year old Yum-Yum and pulls it off because she looks so young, is 5 foot nothing tall, and is girlish slight of build. Other highlights in her good but less than steller career are Trainspotting, 24 Hour Party People, Tristam Shandy and I hear Wonderland is good but I've never seen it. You can now, alas, see the wear of age on her face so that she can no longer play 13 year olds. I still like her. A lot.


Timberlake Shoots and Scores

Dick In A Box

This is the edited version but I've seen the one where they actually say "dick" each time and it's no funnier. Although hilarious, this is proof positive that American pop music completely sucks, and is only decent when it makes fun of itself.


More Bad About Carter

Laer at Cheat Seeking Missiles has a good post that links to a muckraking (but in a good way) op-ed by Rachel Ehrenfeld in today's Washington Times. I'm not eager to link a bank to an ethnic group (Arabs) merely because an Arab man founded the bank, but this is just the sort of thing we lawyer types are allowed, indeed required, to do to impeach a witness on the stand, that is, discuss who is paying them. I absolutely love Laer's last line--funny because it's true.

Carter's response? I'm not sure, but it could be something along the lines of "Rachel Ehrenfeld? That sounds like a Jew name."

I hope Dershowitz gets a chance to take Carter apart in a debate. The Nobel Peace Prize has never looked cheaper or more tarnished than when hanging around Carter's neck, except perhaps around Arafat's.


The Last Shoe Drops

It turns out all eight of the Marines who were being investigated about the Haditha massacre last year were charged yesterday--but what they were charged with is interesting. Four officers were charged not with murder but dereliction and varying forms of military fraud.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, 42, of Rangely, Colo., was charged with failing to accurately report and thoroughly investigate a possible violation and dereliction of duty. He could face dismissal and up to two years in prison.


Besides Chessani, officers charged in connection with how the incident was investigated or reported included 1st Lt. Andrew A. Grayson, 25; Capt. Lucas McConnell, 31, of Napa, Calif., and Capt. Randy W. Stone, 34, a military attorney.

It is disturbing that the Marines initially pretended that some of the civilians killed were victims of the IED which started the whole ball rolling. If it was by the book, then why lie about it?

As partially reported yesterday here: Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, 26, was charged with the unpremeditated murder of 12 people, and the murder of six others by ordering Marines about to enter a house to "shoot first and ask questions later," according to court papers released by his attorney, Neal Puckett. He faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted.


Wuterich was also charged with making a false official statement and soliciting another sergeant to make false official statements.

Sgt. Sanick P. Dela Cruz, 24, of Chicago, was accused of the unpremeditated murders of five people and making a false official statement with intent to deceive.

Lance Cpl. Justin Sharratt, 22, of Canonsburg, Pa., was accused of the unpremeditated murder of three Iraqis. Lance Cpl. Stephen B. Tatum, 25, of Edmund, Okla., was charged with the unpremeditated murders of two Iraqis, negligent homicide of four Iraqi civilians and a charge of assault upon two Iraqis.

I'm a little troubled by the concept of negligent homicide during a fire fight but we'll see how that turns out. At least the Corp admitted that the IED explosion was followed by shots being fired at the Marines. (The Marine Corps said again Thursday that insurgents fired guns after the blast). This does not appear to be a case, as the rapidly becoming irrelevant Jack Murtha stated, of Marines just shooting everyone nearby in retaliation for the IED; there was a fire fight going on, the details of which we need to know more about, before we can begin to judge whether the Marines are guilty of murder, et al.


This Day in American History

On this day in 1775, the Continental navy became operational when Esek Hopkins was appointed the naval commander-in-chief, and the other officers of the navy were commissioned. The entire American naval force then was seven ships--the Providence (12 guns), Wasp (8 guns), Hornet (10 guns), Alfred (24 guns), Andrew Doria (14 guns), Cabot (14 guns), and Columbus (24 guns). Our big, fast 44 gun super-frigates like the Constitution, United States and the somewhat ill-fated President were decades away. From small acorns great oaks grow.


Thought of the Day

Above all I am not concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.

Wilfred Owen

Thursday, December 21, 2006


The Penultimate Shoe Drops

Three of eight marines were charged with murder (of some sort) vis a vis the killing of 24 civilians in Haditha, Iraq late last year. The squad leader, Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, got the bulk of the charges (including 12 counts of murder with "intent to kill or cause great bodily harm"). One other marine got one count of murder--"involving unpremeditated killings of three males in a house" which I guess is like Colorado's second degree murder; and the last of the three isn't talking.

There are five others who are under investigation so they could face murder charges as well. I continue to hope these guys are innocent and had a tough fight where lots of civilians, alas, were killed. Of the three other cases, I've given up on the rapists who then killed the girl and her family and burned the bodies. Execute them soon. I need more information on the other two, but my memory is one case is not looking good for the American soldiers involved.


I Actually Agree With a NYT Editorial

The New York Times comes out strongly against the manifest injustice in the unbelievable case of Genarlow Wilson, who is doing time in a Georgia state prison because, when he was 17, he had "consensual oral sex" with a 15 year old girl (but he did it on videotape--the moron). It's not clear whether he was going down on her or getting a BJ (as if that matters). Here is the clear truth as I and the NYT see it:

When high school students engage in consensual sexual activity, that is not the same as an adult molesting a teenager or a teenager molesting a child.

The Georgia state legislators had ironically created a misdemeanor exception for intercourse between kids that age and have since changed this rather Draconian law, but Genarlow, having done two years, is in prison for the next 8 years at least. Any sort of consensual sex with a 15 year old (I think) when the partner is no more than 4 years older here in Colorado is no crime at all. Doesn't Georgia have a juvenile justice system? Sheesh!

This especially hits home because all through High School, I was going down on girls as young as 15 (and I started when I was 14). I was never in love with BJs (I considered it time and effort, etc., taken away from intercourse) and my sexual practices are about the same now, so I guess that makes me a good boyfriend. Hard to believe I could have been looking at prison time in Virginia had I been caught in flagrante delicto. Sorry if this was too much information.

I too hope they let the boy out soon.


Selling Ronald Reagan Republican Ideals Out

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that President Bush (W) is getting ready to support a tax increase on the rich. Oh my God, what a mistake! Jim Pinkerton, fellow Stanford alum, thinks this will destroy "what little remains of his Presidency." I couldn't agree more. Pinko Pinkerton (I call him that as he is to the left of me politically, although still a solid conservative) likens it to the father Bush's reneging on his "read my lips" no new taxes pledge and thinks the Democrats will get what they want without real blame if our current President allows it. I prefer to be in denial.

I'm OK with paying the rent of the country, each person's fair share of the necessary expenses it takes to run the federal (and state and then local) government. Taking more than that from any single citizen is bad. If we took the same percentage from each citizen (so that the deserving poor paid less than their fair share but the same percentage as the rich, who would of course pay more because they make more) that would be nearly acceptable. But to charge the real go getters, who studied hard, worked hard, and took reasonable chances that paid off, a higher percentage of their income, that is government theft, that is a crime in my lexicon. The only justifications for taxing the successful at a higher rate I hear are variations on the theme of "because we can--they have more to send in to the IRS." Say it ain't so, George.


This Day in the History of Natural History

On this day in 1988, Dutch-born but naturalized English ethologist Nikolaas "Niko" Tinbergen dies at age 81. Tinbergen was a zoologist who studied the behavior of animals in their natural habitats, who shared with Konrad Lorenz and Karl von Frisch the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1973 for the three's discoveries concerning "organization and elicitation of individual and social behavior patterns." That means they watched animals alone and while reacting to other animals.

He was best known for his long-term field observations of the social patterns, courtship, mating and feeding behavior of seagulls. He was an early half-hearted adherent to sociobiology and was particularly interested in animal aggression. He interpreted the results of his elegant field experiments to explain, for example, that human violence is rooted in an animal instinct for survival. Though gulls were his first and encompassing interest, he also studied sand wasps and stickleback fish (the latter were where his theories on aggression came from).

He was the primary discoverer of super optimal releasers of animal behavior, the most famous of which was the red spot all gulls have near the tip of their bills. Their chicks peck at the red spot and are rewarded for hitting it with regurgitated fish. Where a gull chick would hit the red spot on a perfect replica of an adult gull head, let's say, 100 times an hour, the same gull chick would peck at a red knitting needle, with two thin white stripes for contrast, 150 times per hour. The exaggerated essence of the bill was a super optimal releaser for gull chick peck/begging behavior.

The only one of those I can think of for human behavior is refined sugar. 250 years ago each American consumed barely 5 pounds of sugar per year and few people were obese. Now we consume at least 135 pounds of sugar each year and obesity is a huge problem.


Thought of the Day

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

Albert Einstein

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


U2 to Cover Rolling Stones Tune

God rocker and African philanthropist Bono Vox (who, as a kid named Paul Hewson, obviously was not listening in Latin class) went to the leaders on the same side of the political aisle as he, Harry Reid and Grandma Nancy Pelosi, et al., to get a promise from the Democrats that the billion set aside last year by the Republicans in Congress for fighting AIDS and malaria in Africa would not be the victim of budget cuts or freezes. He came away empty-handed.

So on their next album, I predict, U2 will do an incredibly lame cover of You Can't Always Get What You Want. Listen.


Snow Day

I went today to work in a light snowstorm but by noon, it was time to come home. It's like a blizzard out there now. No one was in their office; the courts were packing it in. The telephone was not exactly ringing off the hook. The trip back was no fun. I'm driving my daughter's Saab 900. There was no evidence anywhere that any road in Denver had been visited by a snowplow, but I kept going. I even stopped for chicken and gas.

So I'm snug at home with hot chocolate and biscotti hoping I'll be able to fly out to Florida tomorrow late afternoon. We'll see. I guess I could finish the ISG report but it has already dropped off the radar so I guess I'll just read around and then maybe take a nap. Snow days are not so bad, even for us old guys.

UPDATE: OK, enough already. Two feet is enough, thank you very much.


This Day in Late 12th Century History

On this day in 1192, King of England Richard the Lionheart, returning from the 'tie' Third Crusade, is captured in Vienna and held by Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI for an enormous ransom, which is paid 15 months later. This is an important plot twist for the Robin Hood story


Thought of the Day

When the state assumes the role of parent, it makes children of all of us.

John Stossel

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


A Painless Execution

With the Republican stalwart governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, putting a moratorium on executions by lethal injection because one murderer held on for over half an hour, and some federal judge in California (but not the Ninth Circuit this time) putting a halt on lethal injections unless they can be absolutely painless, I have been trying to think about absolutely painless methods of execution. It's tough; it's a short list. I mean if you can't execute a murderer because the very first shot of pain killer to block the pain of further injections might sting a little bit, the options are pretty limited.

Here they are:

That's all I can think of. This is not as easy as it sounds. Having the government put someone to death is itself pretty cruel and we hope it's unusual. I mean you wouldn't call execution a friendly act.


This Day in Mid 19th Century History

On this day in 1843, Charles Dickens' A Christman Carol was probably first published in England. And God bless us, everyone.


Thought of the Day

I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them.

Ian Fleming

Monday, December 18, 2006


Bankrupt in More Ways Than One

Brian Maloney at The Radio Equilizer reports today that not only are the original rats jumping ship since unlistened to Air America declared bankruptcy in October (Al Franken is preparing for his run for US Senator from Minnesota--good freakin' luck, Al), but the whole shebang is desperate for a sucker buyer and may have found one, although the name is not revealed. Rob at Say Anything sums up the existential problem:

What the abject failure of Air America proves, though, is that conservatives are right about the state of the media in this country. There is zero demand in America for liberal talk radio because liberals have no need of an alternative media. America already has NPR, not to mention pretty much every major media outlet all of which lean to the left. Rush Limbaugh, who may as well be mainstream now, and Fox News became popular because they fed a demand for media with a right wing slant. Air America has failed because it tried to feed an appetite for liberal media that has already been well sated by the New York Times, CNN, NBC, CBS, etc.

It was pretty obvious to me from the git go.


This Day in American History

On this day in 1944, the destroyers Hull, Spence and Monaghan sink in a typhoon off the Philippines. My dad was in that storm, on the destroyer Buchanan and will tell the stories about surviving that (but he never mentions combat--at least not in any detail). The destroyers then had a beam of about 35 feet and were like pencils in the water. Each of the sunk destroyers rolled all the way over in the heavy seas. There are survivors, but they are few and far between.


Thought of the Day

Diversa ab illis virtute valemus.

We are strong because our skill differs from theirs.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Steyn on Christmas Buzzkillers

Although the 'Assault on Christmas' is generally a Fox News network shtick, Mark Steyn does an admirable job on the same subject. Money quotes:

Now it's true there are Jews who don't dig Christmas. There was some story out of Seattle the other day about a rabbi who objected to the "holiday trees" at the airport and threatened a lawsuit unless they also put up an eight-foot menorah. So the airport goes, "Oh, dear, you're threatening a lawsuit? OK, we'll take down the trees." And in an instant the trees were history. Not "history" in the sense of a time-honored tradition legitimized by its very antiquity. But "history" in the sense of the contemporary American formulation of something you toss in the landfill in the interests of "diversity."

So then the rabbi and his lawyer are reeling under a barrage of negative publicity and suddenly it's their chestnuts being roasted on the open fire. "Whoa," they say. "Why are we the bad guys? We love Christmas trees. What made you think we had anything against Christmas trees? Just cuz we threatened to launch a gazillion-dollar lawsuit? What could be more American than that?" In Newsweek, Rabbi Marc Gellman managed to miss the point and deplored the "cowardly response" of the airport. But what "cowardly response"? Instead of going to court and almost certainly losing, they raised the stakes, put the plaintiffs on the defensive and forced them to call off the dogs. The "holiday trees" are now back.

Everyone who knows Rabbi Bogomilsky says he's an affable fellow, he doesn't want to Scrooge up anybody's Christmas, he's an all-around swell guy. No doubt. But in the week when the president of Iran hosts an international (and well-attended) Holocaust Denial Convention (which simultaneously denies the last Holocaust while gleefully anticipating the next one), this rabbi thinks it's in the interests of the Jewish people to take legal action against "holiday" decorations at Seattle Airport? Sorry, it's not the airport but the plaintiff who's out of his tree. An ability to prioritize is an indispensable quality of adulthood, and a sense of proportion is a crucial ingredient of a mature society.

This isn't about religion. Jesus is doing just fine in the United States. Forty years of ACLU efforts to eliminate God from the public square have led to a resurgent, evangelical and politicized American Christianity unique in the Western world. What the rabbi in Seattle and the cops in Riverside are doing is colluding in an assault on something more basic: They're denying the possibility of any common culture. America is not a stamp collection with one of each. It's an overwhelmingly Christian country with freedom of religion for those who aren't. But it's quite an expansion of "freedom of religion" to argue that "those who aren't" are entitled to forbid any public expression of America's Christian inheritance except as part of an all-U-can-eat interfaith salad bar. In their initial reaction, Seattle Airport got it right: To be forced to have one of everything is, ultimately, the same as having nothing. So you might as well cut to the chase.

I think I could survive a diatribe against me by Ann Coulter, but I'd hate any of my silliness to come to the attention of the Canadian-American with the British accent.


This Day in American History

On this day in 1944, representatives of the US Army announce the end of excluding Japanese-Americans from the West Coast and Japanese-Americans begin to be released from detention camps in many of the western states. If you've read some of the intercepts of Japanese codes to operatives here in the states, the deportation of Japanese-Americans seems a sad necessity to prevent sabotage rather than, as kids are taught today, a shameful, racist, unnecessary way to grab their property up and down the West Coast. I'm glad we made some reparations to the survivors in the 80s as well.


Thought of the Day

I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.

Frank Lloyd Wright

Saturday, December 16, 2006


This Day in American History

On this day in 1944, beginning at 5:30 am, three German Armies attack American lines in the Ardennes, near the German border with Belgium and break through creating the bulge in the line for which the month long battle is popularly named. The Germans had kept radio silence during their preparation for the attack which cut off our access to the Enigma code (which we had cracked) so our intelligence was totally clueless (sound familiar?) . Eisenhower's best countermove is to place the 101st at Bastogne and the 82nd at St. Vith. These paratrooper divisions hold up Sepp Dietrich's near fanatical and well equipped 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler and the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, and von Manteufel's 5th Panzer-Armee long enough to destroy the critical timing of the plan.

For the Americans, it is a monumental defeat with 81,000 casualties (19,000 dead, 24,000 captured and the rest wounded). However, the Germans get only half as far as they needed, end up with 84,000 casualties--15,000 dead, 23,000 captured--and have nothing left by the end of January, 1945 to stop our steady advance or the Russians from the East. A very risky gamble by Hitler who needed four things to go just right and only got two and a half.


Thought of the Day

Always mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy if possible.

Thomas Jonathan Jackson

Friday, December 15, 2006


If Only Life Were Like the Movies

Part of the technical sophistication that made The Godfather such a great film was the movement from oldish looking coloring in the film to more modern coloring by the end and movement from the simple block montage in real time at the beginning to a much more sophisticated, indeed dazzling interwoven editing of the 'whacking' of the leaders of the other four families, interspersed with Michael's first christening as a godfather, at the end of the movie.

That last change added an impact to the film too. You couldn't really figure out what these different wise guys were doing (particularly the 'cop' and the guy going up endless flights of stairs with roses in a box) and then it became clear in a crescendo of violence. Very nice.

And the Corleone family was safe with a new, strong, steady leader, just when it appeared that they would be beaten down by Don Barzini and the other families.

Would that President Bush could engineer a surprise set of interconnected actions that 'whack' our more visible enemies and brush back the Jihadis from the plate, metaphorically speaking, for a while. He should do it about this time in 2007, roughly a year before he leaves office. If only life were like the movies.


Box Office Report

For the last week, Apocalypto has made $20 million, half its budget, so maybe Mel is not so stupid after all; the second place film, uber chick flick The Holiday made $17 million, one fifth its budget (that's not so good); Happy Feet, which I'm not going to see--no more cartoons or movies based on comic books--was third but has made in four weeks 40% over its budget; Number four Blood Diamond only made 1/8th of its bloated $100 million budget, so it's in trouble, and I'm not going to see it, despite Jennifer Connelly; and, the decent new James Bond flick, Casino Royale has almost made back its budget ( the size of many nations' yearly GDP) in four weeks and should clean up world wide. Bond is indeed back.


Failure to Turn Over Exculpatory Evidence

The headline is a very bad statement regarding any prosecutor. But it certainly appears to apply to Durham, N.C. district attorney Mike Nifong regarding lab results of DNA recovered from the nether regions (and I do mean the plural) of the Duke Lacrosse accusser, who is pregnant but apparently has not, as was reported, delivered her new baby. Here's the straight skinny from the better Durham area paper about the recent hearing in the district court:

Brian Meehan, director of DNA Security of Burlington, said his lab found DNA from unidentified men in the underwear, pubic hair and rectum of the woman who said she was gang-raped at a lacrosse party in March. Nurses at Duke Hospital collected the samples a few hours after the alleged assault. Meehan said the DNA did not come from Reade Seligmann, David Evans, or Collin Finnerty, who have been charged with rape and sexual assault in the case.

Meehan struggled to say why he didn’t include the favorable evidence in a report dated May 12, almost a month after Seligmann and Finnerty had been indicted. He cited concerns about the privacy of the lacrosse players, his discussions at several meetings with Nifong, and the fact that he didn’t know whose DNA it was.

Under questioning by Jim Cooney, a defense attorney for Seligmann, Meehan admitted that his report violated his laboratory’s standards by not reporting results of all tests.

Did Nifong and his investigators know the results of all the DNA tests? Cooney asked.

“I believe so,” Meehan said.

“Did they know the test results excluded Reade Seligmann?” Cooney asked.

“I believe so,” Meehan said.

Was the failure to report these results the intentional decision of you and the district attorney? Cooney asked.

“Yes,” Meehan replied.

Good examination by Mr. Cooney, but as I recently opined, the defense attorneys know now, so Nifong's defense is 'no harm--no foul.' I can't see this getting this all but certainly bogus case dismissed.

UPDATE: The 'money' motion for dismissal is the motion to suppress the tainted 'can't-pick-wrong' photo line up Nifong made the police investigators use to get someone to prosecute. If the ID by the accuser is suppressed, because her ID procedure was so unfair as to violate due process and the taint cannot be removed now, then the case is over because there is no other evidence besides the victim's protean allegations.

Thursday's 43-page motion recounts the day-by-day progress of the investigation and police efforts to get a reliable identification from the accuser, an escort service worker who said she was raped by three men at a March lacrosse team party.

"Putting to one side the substantial evidence that no sexual assault ever occurred at 610 N. Buchanan, there is quite simply no evidence that any of the accuser's identifications or descriptions of her alleged attackers are in any way reliable," the motion says. "Rather the State is left with an incoherent mass of contradiction and error, one which not only raises the issue of a 'substantial likelihood of misidentification,' but which establishes that the accuser has in fact misidentified the Defendants."

UPDATE II: Betsy Newmark, a North Carolina teacher with a great blog, catches a detail I missed; apparently Nifong told the judge he had no idea there was exculpatory evidence at the lab, then the lab man testified that Nifong did know and he and Nifong conspired not to turn over the exculpatory evidence. It's never good to lie to the judge.

She asks: Don't they disbar attorneys who lie to judges?

And opines: I think it's disbarrment time for Mike Nifong. If this were a movie or a novel, no one would believe that a district attorney could be both so dishonest and so incompetent.


These are the Best of Times

After having seen Apocalypto, which was set just under 500 years ago, and then taken a second CT scan today in a big doughnut shaped machine, I have to marvel at the progress the human race has made here in the New World in the last half century. I used to play the mind game of, if I could travel in time (which I do not believe is possible), where would I go? I wouldn't leave. There is no better period of time to be in than right now.

OK, OK, maybe a couple of years in the Bloomsbury area of London between 1901 and 1915, but only if I could scrape together 1000 5 Pound notes with the appropriate dates on them. But I'd want to carry back some penicillin.


This Day in History

On this day in 1961, Adolf Eichmann was convicted of crimes against humanity in Israel. He was the aide to Reinhard Heydrich, an SS Senior Group Leader who chaired and steered the Wannsee Conference into making the final solution of the Jewish question death on an industrial scale. When Heydrich was assassinated by Czech nationals trained in England, Eichmann vowed to carry out the wishes of Heydrich as a "matter of honor" and he did carry them out to the tune of 6 million Jews murdered and burned. Hanging was too good for the man, but that's what they did on June 1, 1962.


Thought of the Day

The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.

G. K. Chesterton

Thursday, December 14, 2006


This Day in Exploring History

On this day in 1911, Norwegian Roald Amundsen becomes first person to reach the South Pole, that is, he and his four companions. Amundsen's team used 52 dogs to pull 4 sleds and they ate the dogs (and fed them to the surviving dogs) in big groups on the way to the pole. Robert Falcon Scott and his four companions, trudging along on cross country skis pulling one big sled, get to the pole 35 days later and all die on the way back to the coast from exhaustion. Amundsen disappeared in a sea plane crash while trying to rescue downed Italian airshipmen in the Arctic on June 18, 1928.


Thought of the Day

Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words.

Dorothy Parker

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


What Could be the Best Video of the 80s

Peter Gabriel - Sledgehammer

The last murder trial I had (and plain old lost) was a beating to death of a houseguest with a great big autobody tool that looked like a sledge hammer. The PD originally on the case used to sing this whenever we left the courtroom during the long run up to the disastrous trial. My second chair said we narrowed it down to two people in the entire world--the accused and our only witness. Despite this somewhat sour memory and a lot of overplaying, I still love this song.


Duke Lacrosse Debacle Update

Here's another interesting twist in the Duke lacrosse 'probably-never-happened' Rape Case:

DNA testing conducted by a private lab in the Duke lacrosse rape case found genetic material from several males in the accuser's body and her underwear _ but none from any team member, including the three charged with rape, according to a defense motion filed Wednesday.

[That's not news, apparently the accuser was having a lot of sex, but none with any of the accused].

The motion, signed by attorneys for defendants Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans, complained that the information was not disclosed in a report on the testing prosecutors provided earlier this year to the defense.

That's the twist--prosecutorial misconduct (or, more precisely, more prosecutorial misconduct after the 'can't-pick-wrong lineups). You can't keep back test results which tend to exonerate the accused. Huge No-No and only scummy prosecutors do it. If it's discovered after the case has gone to the jury, it generally results in a dismissal of the charges. Tougher to call where it is discovered in plenty of time before the trial.

On a similar plane, La Shawn Barber reports that Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC) has asked the Justice Department to investigate the civil rights violations of the three accused by Democrat DA Mike Nifong. The always on top of this story Mr. K C Johnson explores helpful federal statutes somewhat unnecessarily.


Our Prayers for Senator Tim Johnson

Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), who narrowly defeated John Thune in 2002 before Thune took out the Senate Minority Leader Tom Dashle in 2004, has suffered a stroke, which some call a severe one, and is in the hospital. Although he's on the wrong side of political aisle, he's not a bad guy at all and our sympathy to his family and hopes for his complete recovery go out to them all.
The political upshot is that if he is unable to return to the Senate, the Republican Governor in South Dakota can name his successor and will undoubtably name a fellow Republican which will switch expected control of the Senate in January back to the Republicans, although only because VP Dick Cheney can vote to break any tie.

UPDATE: Now some of the news services are reporting that Senator Johnson only had stroke like symptoms (so not a real stroke). I hope that's true.

I have to admit I'm getting a little of hospitals and doctors myself, although I really like my South African doctor, Mervyn Lifschitz.

UPDATE: Now Fox News is reporting that Johnson had neither a stroke nor a heart attack. Whew!


Ward Churchill Apologizes for his Viet Nam Service

Speaking at the New School in Manhattan, whose president is Democrat war hero and former Senator from Nebraska Bob Kerrey, disgraced, faux Indian, University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill bit the hand that fed him by calling Kerrey a "mass murder and serial killer to boot." Class act always. The New York Post went on to report: Mr. Churchill also served in Vietnam, an act for which he said he has spent the rest of his life apologizing.

What is he apologizing for, failing to insert the film strip the right way up? Although Churchill had bragged about his stirring faux exploits in Viet Nam, he was never in combat. Denver's own "Gunny" Bob Newman (on KOA radio) last year tracked down Churchill's military records. Key paragraphs:

Using his own sources and calling upon the investigative skills of FOX News Channel’s Rita Cosby, Mr. Newman was able to verify that Professor Churchill, despite his public claim (in a 1987 Denver Post interview) of having been a paratrooper (Airborne qualified) who conducted long-range reconnaissance patrols (LRRPs; extremely dangerous missions conducted by some of the most elite soldiers in the US Army) hunting North Vietnamese in Vietnam during and after the Tet Offensive of 1968, and despite his claim that he was a point man in an infantry combat unit, was in fact trained only as a jeep driver and projectionist (he was trained to operate film-strip machines and movie projectors), according to official documentation from the National Personnel Records Center, the US repository for military records.

Denver attorneys Dan Caplis and Craig Silverman, both colleagues of Mr. Newman at Clear Channel Colorado, then acquired Professor Churchill’s original resume that resulted in his being hired by the University of Colorado. That resume matched exactly the resume Gunny Bob had acquired from his confidential source. On that resume, Professor Churchill cited no combat experience whatsoever, no Airborne training, no infantry training or experience and no winning of the Combat Infantry Badge. Instead, it said his experience in Vietnam consisted of his duties as a “Public Information Specialist,” as which he “wrote and edited the battalion newsletter and wrote news releases.”

Why is this guy still a CU professor?


Even Actions in Self Defense are Horrible

I had a very vivid dream where I shot a guy advancing on me, carrying the bottom half of a pool cue, in the chest 6 times. The gun I had was a Colt frontier scout in .22 (not a real man-stopper of a cartridge) so the guy was still coming but bleeding as the gun emptied. He kept telling me he was going to beat me to death. Then he fell and bled out. Very, very disturbing.

I think I went to bed thinking of self defense vis a vis Israel. Ahmedinejad has told the Israelis yet again that he is going to wipe their country out. The Israelis are completely justified now in taking out any military instillation in Iran, like nuclear weapon component fabrication sites. We should help them. Soon.


This Day in American History

On this day in 1862, the famous battle of Fredericksburg takes place as the North, with 112,000 men but under the less than fully able leadership of Ambrose Burnside, first fails to exploit a gap in Confederate lines south of Marye's Heights in Fredericksburg, VA, due largely to the quick response of troops under Jackson. The Yankee troops form up and charge across cleared, flat fields west of the Rappahannock River against Southern troops (72,000 in number) in sunken roads and behind stone walls where the land goes up from the bottom lands. They do it 16 times. Terrible casualties for the North result with no breakthrough. Another humiliating defeat for the Army of the Potomac.

(misspelling of Marye's Heights corrected thanks to Doug Sundseth).


Thought of the Day

Adversity is the first path to truth.

George Gordon, Lord Byron

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


My 2 Cents on Sad, Old Jimmy Carter

After D's magnum opus on how bad Carter has become since he was the worst President in the 20th Century, I didn't dare follow that, but I can't keep it in. Here are two things I have noticed about Carter's terrible book and worse book tour via other, smarter guys, right thinking Rich Lowery and lefty, but not always looney, Michael Kinsley.

Lowery gems:

The book marks Carter's further disgraceful descent from ineffectual president and international do-gooder to apologist for the worst Arab tendencies. "It is imperative," Carter writes, "that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Roadmap for Peace are accepted by Israel." In the meantime, presumably, the slaughter of Jews can continue.


Incredibly, given his media presence, Carter thinks that he is being silenced by shadowy forces. He makes this bizarre claim: "My most troubling experience has been the rejection of my offers to speak, for free, about the book on university campuses with high Jewish enrollment." Does Carter keep track of which schools have lots of Jews? And who does he think is keeping him from speaking at them?

Just as creepy is a passage in the book about Christians in Galilee who "complained to us that their holy sites and culture were not being respected by Israeli authorities -- the same complaint heard by Jesus and his disciples almost 2,000 years earlier." As New Yorker writer Jeffrey Goldberg notes, "There are, of course, no references to 'Israeli authorities' in the Christian Bible. Only a man who sees Israel as a lineal descendent of the Pharisees could write such a sentence."

Kinsley's main point:

But in other ways, the implied comparison is backward. To start with, no one has yet thought to accuse Israel of creating a phony country in finally acquiescing to the creation of a Palestinian state. Palestine is no Bantustan. Or if it is, it is the creation of Arabs, not Jews. Furthermore, Israel has always had Arab citizens. They are a bit on display, like black conservatives at a Republican convention. No doubt they suffer discrimination. Nevertheless, they are citizens with the right to vote and so on.

There used to be Jews living in Arab nations, but they also fled, in 1948 and subsequent years -- in numbers roughly equivalent to the Arabs who fled Israel. Now there are virtually no Jews in Arab countries -- even in a moderate Arab country such as Jordan. How many Jews do you think there will be in the new state of Palestine when its flag flies over a sovereign nation?

And the most tragic difference: Apartheid ended peacefully. This is largely thanks to Nelson Mandela, who turned out to be miraculously forgiving. If Israel is white South Africa and the Palestinians are supposed to be the blacks, where is their Mandela?


This Day in American History

On this day in 1937, on the eve of the rape of Nanking, Japanese aircraft strafe and sink the flat bottomed U.S. gunboat Panay and its three oil tenders on the Yangtze River in China, killing two sailors and the captain of one of the oil tenders. Japan later apologized and eventually paid $2.2 million in reparations, but we never really believed they didn't know it was a flotilla of American ships.

That's the Panay above, not the butchest of warships, by my way of thinking.


Thought of the Day

Honor does not have to be defended.

Robert J. Sawyer

Monday, December 11, 2006


An 80s Standard Dedicated to Kofi Annan

Goodbye To You - Scandal

Not the best of the 80s, but a solid song, whose lyrics fit with the (Thank God) imminent departure of Secretary General of the League of United Nations, Kofi Annan. It is difficult for me to convey the subterranean level of contempt I hold this man in and indeed the entire institution he represents. The unknown number slaughtered and maimed with machetes and AKMs in Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Congo (former Zaire) and the Sudan (both south and northwest) are but a few of the many genocides which occurred, just in Africa, during this man's unable leadership; and Kofi is African. Nor will I mention the corruption which was rampant in the organization he ran and on a very grand scale.

He goes out trashing the United States. What a non-Mensch!


Reckless Bravery in Iran

Mamood Ahmadinejad, the figure-head leader of Iran (who denies the Holocaust happened but believes in the hidden Imam and the imminent destruction of the World) got heckled at the start of the anti-Holocaust conference in Teheran.

Students from a Teheran university cut off Ahmadinejad as he addressed the conference, shouting slurs like "corrupt," "liar," and "death to the dictator."The interruptions came in response to the intensified surveillance at the universities since Ahmadinejad came to power.The Iranian president responded by accusing the hecklers of being "American."

God spare the students.


This Day in History

On this day in 1936, King Edward VIII abdicates the throne of England (and the rest of the extensive Empire) to marry a not that attractive divorcee Mrs. Wallis Simpson; and his brother, the Duke of York, becomes King George VI. Better known as the Duke of Windsor to us, he was more adept at dressing well than keen political insight (a little too cozy with the NAZIs for my tastes). He is rumored to have had an unhappy marriage. I still admire him for inventing a new way to tie a tie, the Windsor knot. How many ways could there possibly be?


Thought of the Day

Truth is sacred and if you tell the truth too often nobody will believe it.

G.K. Chesterton

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Steyn Weighs in on the ISG Report

Mark Steyn is perhaps too ready to hurl insulting epithets, but he sees the flaws in the ISG report very, very clearly. My favorite part:

Oh, but lest you think there are no minimum admission criteria to James Baker's "Support Group," relax, it's a very restricted membership: Arabs, Persians, Chinese commies, French obstructionists, Russian assassination squads. But no Jews. Even though Israel is the only country to be required to make specific concessions -- return the Golan Heights, etc. Indeed, insofar as this document has any novelty value, it's in the Frankenstein-meets-the-Wolfman sense of a boffo convergence of hit franchises: a Vietnam bug-out, but with the Jews as the designated fall guys. Wow. That's what Hollywood would call "high concept."

My two cents is never give up the Golan, never, never, never, never. First to prevent Syria from a topographical advantage in any future war and second to honor the nearly superhuman courage and skill of the IDF soldiers (and there weren't very many of them) who stormed the heights and took it from the Syrians on June 9-10, 1967. You might as well ask us to give back Ohio to the Chippewa and Kickapoo Indians.


This Day in History

On this day in 1941, the British battleship Prince of Wales, which had survived battle with the Bismarck (when its flotilla mate, battle cruiser Hood was blow in two) is attacked by Japanese Nell and Betty bombers and sunk in 2 hours and 5 minutes off Singapore, signaling the end of the role of the battleship as the prime naval ship to ship attack method. The ship was hit by 11 of the 49 torpedoes launched at it.

In the photo above, the Prince of Wales is left front and the Repulse, smoking, and also sunk in the attack, is behind.


Thought of the Day

Government cannot make us equal; it can only recognize, respect, and protect us as equal before the law.

Clarence Thomas

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Friday Movie Review ( late)

Went alone to see Apocalypto at the appropriate theater here in Denver, the Mayan, on Broadway, and thought it was pretty darn good. It owes a little to a very fine 60s movie that had, for a time, a profound effect on my life, Cornel Wilde's The Naked Prey. I have nothing but respect for a director who will use the original language (or as close as possible) of the time and place he depicts, so that 99% of the world needs subtitles just to understand a single word said. That takes guts and, if anything the director Mel Gibson has those. There is a vivid sense of realism in the film and a near overload of detail, but I disagree about some of the details. There will soon be released a pretty bullsh-- Viking/Skraeling movie called Pathfinder and its German director said a few months ago that everything we think we know about the Vikings is wrong--they were much more cruel and violently depraved than they have been portrayed so far.

It is my opinion that the Mayans were less cruel but more violently depraved than is shown in the movie. Let me be more specific. I don't believe the bad guys would have used the captives as target practice for various long range weapons, bow and arrow, atlatl aided light spear, staff-sling. I also don't believe they would just let the bodies of the sacrificed rot in big piles. It was much worse than that.

The Asian cavemen who entered North America at Alaska and spread rapidly down to Tierra del Fuego, approximately 10,000 years ago (after the ice fields had melted again in the north and the short faced bear went extinct) killed nearly every animal that could have been domesticated, especially in Mesoamerica. Two exceptions were the turkey and the dog. The dog, which is a carnivore, is a competitor, neither a proper prey nor herd animal. And we all know how quickly one gets tired of turkey. So the only meat really available, that didn't have to be hunted, was what used to be called long pig in Melanesia, that is, humans. There is no doubt that the Aztecs practiced a government run program of cannibalism during their empire and little doubt (to me) that in the very late part of the post classical period, the Mayans did too. Here is tepid support for my belief from two articles. There was a drought going on too; people starving to death often go cannibal to avoid it.

The main bad guy is named Zero Wolf; think about that for a few seconds. No really, you need to think about that name more. I'll get back to it. Almost all the actors are unknown or little known and most of them are just terrific. The hero of the piece, Jaguar Paw, could have won an Oscar if Mel hadn't driven drunk earlier this year. He really is that good. OK back to the main bad guy's name--zero is a mathematical concept, a space keeper in number writing that neither the Romans nor Greeks at the heights of their civilizations came up with. It was probably an Indian concept which reached the West through Arabia and was attributed to the Arab messengers. The Chinese claim to have invented it too, but I digress. If the guy really is named Zero, that means that, before there was any contact between the West and the Mayans, which was in 1517 for the Yucatan area, the Mayans came up with the concept of zero independently. Mind-blowing.

Were there wolves in the jungle? Tougher to call but probably (there were wolves in the Indian rain forest--who do you think raised Mowgli?). The actor, Raoul Trujillo, who plays this interestingly named character has been in a lot of movies and was memorable in the harrowing Black Robe a few years back and more recently in the little seen The New World. Mel's not in this one either. There are white guys in the movie though--for about 10 seconds.

Some people seem to doubt the heart cutting out part. They seem to think obsidian is not sharper than steel or that the ribs are too tough to reach through (you cut below the ribs and up through the diaphragm--or at least we do that with elk and deer we shoot--it's easy to get the heart out). I personally think it would be difficult to yank one out, but completely believe that it would still be beating if you could.

The film is beautiful and has an exhausting but measured pace that keeps you on the edge of your seat once the bad stuff starts happening. As the captives leave the rain forest and enter the civilization, the place gets a lot uglier. A rain forest without trees is pretty much a damp nothing. They are felling the trees to cook the limestone rocks they surface mine to make the quicklime coating for the buildings. You have to deforest in order for the civilization to fall, or so I'm told, but I always thought the forest was cleared for corn and beans, etc. Who knew about the quicklime?

The Mayans in the film have piercings everywhere, and tattoos and ritual scars and stones attached to their bodies, their faces and ears and teeth. The whole of the Mayan upper crust has a few pounds of jade pebbles affixed somehow to their faces, and more hairstyles than most heterosexuals could ever imagine. It really is disconcerting, indeed the whole journey to the city is as disorienting as some science fiction films, which in a way it resembles.

Some people have compared this film to Mad Max II, known here as The Road Warrior, but it resembles that little beauty of a film (a through the looking glass synthesis of the Iliad and the Aeneid's parts about Troy) not in the slightest. Well, maybe the lone hero 'running' and the bad guys chasing but the Cornel Wilde film is the perfect model for that.

This is one of the few modern movies where the Spanish conquistadors are a force for good, indeed their very presence is life saving. That might be the jack-Catholic in Mel Gibson, making it clear to us that the region before the arrival of at least semi enlightened European Christians was more like hell than paradise. There doesn't appear to be much of a theme other than that (although I'm thinking about the story the one armed guy tells and about the prophesy of the diseased girl (smallpox? that would put it after 1517 then) who foretells what will happen to the mean guys so clearly). But who needs a theme? It is a rough movie, not for the feint of heart and a rousing good action flick that takes us to a place none of us has ever seen, no matter how often we have visited the Yucatan. Not quite a masterpiece but a very good try.

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