Lonesome Tree in Sandhills

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fourth Amendment Revisited

We learned more than we ever wanted to know about a Harvard professor and the Cambridge police... due to an off-the-cuff answer to an off-topic question at the President's press conference.

Emotions across the nation escalated in response - due to the power of TV/Radio media to manipulate people by either twisting or ignoring what few facts were known. However, NO mention of Fourth Amendment rights by an educated media shows a level of ignorance that is shameful given their First Amendment privileges. As a result, people focused on race or police relations in public venues or on Gates' behavior based on arrest photos and police reports.

Yet Sgt. Crowley's police report is evidence he failed to give Prof. Gates his own ID card - a violation of Mass. General Law, Chapter 41: Section 98D. Identification cards. ("Each city or town shall issue to every full time police officer employed by it an identification card bearing his photograph and the municipal seal. Such card shall be carried on the officer’s person, and shall be exhibited upon lawful request for purposes of identification.")

Crowley's report omitted that Gates handed over his MA license (w/that address) along with his Harvard ID, nor that it took place in the kitchen. His report mentions acoustics in the kitchen & having Gates' Harvard ID in hand while calling the Harvard Police.

According to a statement by Gates' attorney, Charles Ogletree, at that point Crowley upset Gates who again demanded his name and badge info. Crowley's report stated another officer had appeared behind him and he stated - as he turned to leave - that he had already given Gates his information.  Crowley was aware the officer would presume he had provided his ID to Gates and had not heard what he said to Prof. Gates - but only Gates' reaction.

A close and objective scrutiny of Sgt. Crowley's report indicates he used baiting tactics to get an angry reaction and entrapment tactics to manipulate Gates to step outside where he could be arrested. Clearly the charge of "disorderly conduct" - was a further violation of not only Massachusetts law, but federal law as well.

Today we know Sgt. Crowley's official report wrongly attributed to the 911 caller that the men she saw were black. The audiotape of the caller is clear: "one may be Hispanic, but I didn't see the other one." Consider that if she saw the limo driver at the door and waited on the sidewalk, she had to have seen the driver - dressed in a black suit - leave in his limo/taxi. She was not questioned in this regard and key information was simply added or omitted by the officer to support an unlawful arrest. 

UPDATELucie Walen's first public statement on July 29, 2009), clearly contradicts the official police report.  911 tapes back her statements that she did not know if the men were breaking - repeatedly stating they may live there and having a hard time with a key.  When Sgt. Crowley arrived she said only that she had made the 911 call & he told her to stay right there.  At no time did she mention race.

A country of laws? One would not think so given such appalling ignorance of our country's legal foundations by the media. Those who are making everything into political war scare me far more BECAUSE they are agitating for anarchy.  Our Founding Fathers and Mothers must be rolling over in their graves at such disregard for our Fourth Amendment rights by those given First Amendment priviledges.

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Armageddon in Retrospect" by Kurt Vonnegut - WWII Hero

I wager few people know Kurt Vonnegut as a World War II hero who was captured in what is known as the Battle of the Bulge.  He was Private First Class of the 106th Infantry Division, then age 21.

He was well known as a science fiction writer with a wicked sense of humor and author of Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), but few outside the literary world knew about his Army experience in World War II. He passed away 2 years ago at the age of 84 due to brain injuries from a fall. Last summer a collection of his letters and unpublished writings on war and peace was published as "Armageddon in Retrospect" by his son, Mark.

Like many war survivors, Kurt Vonnegut suffered from those painful memories for 64 years, but he used his humor and knack for the absurd to survive. However, he also wrote: "The reason for my being sick at heart then and now has to do with an incident that received cursory treatment in the American newspapers. In February 1945, Dresden, Germany, was destroyed, and with it over 100,000 human beings. I was there. Not many know how tough America got."

On December 19, 1944, 6 months after his mother committed suicide while he was home on leave, PFC Kurt Vonnegut along with the remnants of his division were captured when 7 German Panzer Divisions cut them to ribbons in what is now known as The Battle of the Bulge through Luxemborg and Belgium near Bastogne. The German Offensive through the Ardennes Forest during a blizzard was a feat considered highly unlikely by Allied Commanders.  The 106th Infantry Division was posted there while the rest of the Allied armies were pulled out to positions at the flanks.  PFC Vonnegut wrote, in his first letter home after the war, "Seven Fanatical Panzer Divisions hit us and cut us off from the rest of Hodges' First Army. The other American Divisions on our flanks managed to pull out: We were obliged to stay and fight. Bayonets aren't much good against tanks: Our ammunition, food and medical supplies gave out and our casualties out-numbered those who could still fight..."

The captured men in Vonnegut's division who survived the 60 mile march in freezing conditions were loaded in cattle cars and taken by unmarked train, bombed and strafed by the Brits, to a POW camp south of Berlin where they were stripped and deloused. On January 10, 1945, PFC Vonnegut and 150 other privates were shipped to Dresden to work.

The men, imprisoned underground in Slaughterhouse #5, survived saturated firebombing of Dresden in February, then were forced to dig out tens of thousands of bodies - mostly women, children, old and disabled men in hospitals - from beneath all the rubble. Author Vonnegut described the aftermath as "utter destruction" and "carnage unfathomable" - a central theme in 7 of his books., but PFC Vonnegut did not go into those details in a letter to his parents in late May of 1945 (reprinted with permission by Newsweek July 7/14, 2008).

Details of Vonnegut's eyewitness account that inspired Slaughterhouse-Five, left unpublished by him, were discovered after his death by his son and published collectively as Armageddon in Retrospect (reprinted in part by The Sunday Times of London on June 1, 2008). His writings in Armageddon include a typically funny story about 3 Army privates fantasizing about the perfect first meal upon returning home from war as well as a not-so-funny story about whether our children can be shielded from temptations of violence.

Kurt Vonnegut had majored in chemistry at Cornell University and when he enlisted, the Army sent him to Carnegie's Institute of Technology and U. of Tennessee to study mechanical engineering.  His studies were cut short when the decision was made to invade Europe on a massive scale with 600,000 men.  After the war, he enrolled as an anthropology major at the U. of Chicago where Cat's Cradle was finally accepted as a thesis.  He was invited to teach at the U. of Iowa Writers' Workshop where he began the painful process of recalling memories of World War II that culminated in Slaughterhouse.

Kurt Vonnegut would not likely think of himself as a hero, nor do any of the men who were at the front going through hell on earth in a world-wide war of such magnitude.  Nevertheless... please join me and millions online around the world in remembering and honoring these men as TRUE HEROES!  Turn off and tune into a huge deafening MEMORIAL OF SILENCE on July 20th.  And if you happen to know one, taken them to lunch this week... or send a card... just to say "Thank You!" for your service to our country.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Change vs Restoration

Another political email is making its way around the Internet calling for "A restoration that would take us back in time to a place where things ran better, smoother and life was more enjoyable." It went on to claim we used to have lower tax structures, enjoy more freedoms, affordable food and gas... along with other like assertions. Anyone who thinks we had it better "back then" is either clueless or very forgetful.

I for one do not want to go backwards to the time when. . .
- violent rioters were burning businesses owned by hard-working black people (1920's & 1960's)
- peaceful protesters were being beaten for exercising their 1st Amendment rights (1920's thru 1960's)
- beef & other food processors operated in unsanitary conditions (1900's through 1950's)
- black-market beef was sold for outrageous prices in the cities (1930's)
- electricity was available only in cities & only for those who could afford it (pre-1940-50's)
- natural gas was not piped in to heat homes all across the country (pre- 1940-50's)
- child labor was the norm in urban & rural areas - unless wealthy (pre-1920's)
- cars didn't have seat belts or safety seats to protect our children & ourselves in cars (pre-1970)
- telephones were available, if at all, only in the cities & then limited to 3 minutes (pre-1950's)
- 50-70% tax rates for middle incomes still paying for World II & reconstruction (1950-1980's)
- 10-12% inflation rates that sucked the value out of the US Dollar (1970's through 1980's)

Our beloved United States continues to enjoy almost full employment (over 90%) and full freedom of speech on our airwaves and in our streets. Our highways are well maintained and commerce continues across state lines unabated. Our stores are absolutely chock full of relatively CHEAP food, clothing, and other goods.

So far adjoining states have not declared war on their neighbors over water. Our country is still intact and not been wracked by violent war since the Civil War. There are only a handful of countries that have it better than we do.

Can we be just a little thankful... for a change?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Judge Sotomayor: Judged "Well Qualified" by American Bar

While Judge Sonia Sotomayor, a federal judge for 17 years, heads into hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee to be considered for the U. S. Supreme Court, her burden has been made lighter by the rating given her by the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary.  Judge Sotomayor received a unanimous "well qualified" rating - the highest rating given by the Committee's 15 members, who judged Sonia Sotomayor to be of exceptional ability to be a Supreme Court Justice!

The ABA Federal Judiciary Committee gave its highest rating based upon Judge Sotomayor's integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament for the Supreme Court.  All but one of the current Supreme Court Justices have received "well qualified" ratings - only 3 ratings are given: "well qualified" - "qualified" - "unqualified" (Clarence Thomas was rated "qualified").

Thankfully, the ABA's Standing Committee does not take into account a nominee’s philosophy, political affiliation or ideology. While the ABA's criteria of integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament are the basis for the Standing Committee’s evaluation of all federal court nominees, the ABA Committee’s investigations of Supreme Court nominees are particularly rigorous and the peer-review process is structured to achieve impartial evaluations. The significance, range and complexity of the issues considered by the Supreme Court demand that nominees appointed to the Court be of exceptional ability. 

The ABA, founded in 1878, has provided evaluations of judicial nominees since 1953. The Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary consists of 15 members - 2 from the Ninth Circuit, 1 from each of the other 12 federal judicial circuits and 1 member-at-large - appointed for staggered 3-year terms by the President of the ABA based on their reputations for professional competence, integrity and devotion to public service. Each member of the Standing Committee spends roughly 1,000 hours per year on a voluntary basis to provide this vital public service.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Kids Health: Fun & Fitness 4 All

The daughter of a long-time friend (nurse & hospital administrator) shares her mother's passion about fitness. Both women firmly believe that healthy eating and exercise is just a fun part of life, but Sara jacked up her passion quite a few notches higher than her mom.

Sarah Vance, a Fitness Instructor for 15 years in Denver and MOM to 2 kids, moved to the San Diego area with her husband where she incorporated her passion for fitness into a new endeavor: Yoga Fun & Fitness Fun 4 All.

You see, this country has a medical "train wreck" coming down the tracks because kids eat & drink more sugar and empty calories, and are more sedentary than 20 years ago. Lack of exercise and nutrient deficiencies have doubled the number of kids with weight problems, leading to an increasing number of Juvenile Type II Diabetes, which leads to heart disease and even loss of toes & feet as adults. Well... you get the picture... now get scared! Sara was well aware of what the future held for these kids and decided to take action!

Sara is teaching kids the importance of health & wellness through twice-weekly classes in area elementary schools and through Fitness Fun 4 All. Kids learn about healthy nutrition, exercise and mind-body connection - all while having fun through yoga, fitness games and food games called “Slow, Go and Whoa” - A Kids Guide to Eating Right.

Sara makes it fun for the kids to learn that wellness is about balance - making good food choices and being active MOST of the time. Check out how she does it in the NBC video in the sidebar.

If you would like to join Sara in FUN FITNESS, move away from the computer, lay the book down, close the door if at work, and start the next video... the Gummibär Nuki Nuki Song will get you MOVING!!

Nonsense News on Steroids

Nonsense News already gorged on the Spritzer & Blagoyavich scandals, then went on to Sanford, Michael and now Palin. With eager fingers on keyboards, they let 'er rip - with glee!  If only all of them - politicians and news media alike - could just say, "NO!" to their demons... poor souls.

In the meantime, I received a safety recall for my 11-year-old Oldsmobile from General Motors.  I've become so cynical that I naturally assumed it was GM's newest marketing technique to get rid of inventory.  With 110,000 miles on the odometer, I expected a pitch to trade it in for a new Buick (they don't make my beloved Olds Intrigue anymore).  Checking recall information with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - a useful government resource - it was legit after all!  Frayed spark plug wires & leaking oil gaskets was a match made in hell... a potential disaster waiting to happen just as I was preparing to drive across 9 states the end of May.  GM's local dealership took care of it right away - no charge - on a car they no longer even make.

I took it back to my old trusted mechanic who opened his own business, Road Runner Auto Sales & Service, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa last September.  I had him replace the leaking gaskets, plenum and intake valve, and the water pump, steering wheel pump, hoses and brake pads, too - all at a very reasonable cost.  He vouched for the Intrigue's 3.8L V6 engine, saying it was now good to go another 100,000 miles.  My fuel efficiency effort consists of driving only when absolutely necessary, which averages about 5-6000 miles/year.  Hummm.... my Intrigue (really love that car!) should last just long enough for the industry to finally get its act together to produce new batteries and electric cars at a reasonable price.  Check out GM's Re-Invention Plan - they're answering questions in a live chat on July 13 at 1:30pm.

I might have made a totally different decision had I been able to wait until July 23rd - when the final rule is issued for the new Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) that President Obama signed into law on June 24th.  CARS is part of the stimulus package designed to help people trade in less fuel efficient cars for new, more fuel efficient cars.  Click here for more details: Frequently Asked Questions - or call the CARS Hotline: 866-CAR-7891.

Meanwhile, driving along on Interstates 20, 24, 55, 57, 70, 75, 80 & 85 - over 3 weeks - I couldn't help but notice the tremendous numbers of cars and 18-wheel trucks - coming and going - on the highways.  Family vacations despite a surge in gas prices from $2 to $2.50 and loaded shipping containers?  It sure looked like our economic engine was in "good to go" mode, too.

It is past time to focus on the "half-full" - instead of "half-empty" - cup because 91% of American citizens are gainfully employed.  Do what Warren Buffet does - turn off Nonsense News, get out of the house, take a little drive & look around!  We may be spending less... meaning buying less unnecessary "stuff" to stuff in our homes... but as a nation, we are saving more.  In the long run, that's a good thing.