Tuesday, November 29, 2011

This Newt is not getting better

Newt Gingrich is now running around the country proposing numerous points to his immigration plan. One of those points is that we should make deportation easier, simpler. In a simplistic tone, he says that if you're not a US citizen, you're not entitled to due process, so you should just be sent home without a hearing or due process. Just a plane ticket and possibly a swift kick in the rear.

Now, that sounds clear and easy enough, but can anyone spot the flaw in his logic? (Putting aside the claim that only US citizens are entitled to due process, a claim I vehemently disagree with.)

Without due process and a hearing, how do we know the person facing deportation isn't a US citizen?! As it stands now, hundreds of US citizens are wrongly deported every year. (according to CNN researchers in June 2010. I have seen similar numbers from other sources as well.) A google search yields story after story of how these people get railroaded right out of the country of their birth.

If you are accused of being an illegal immigrant, you are not provided an attorney. It can also be incredibly difficult for people who are in ICE detention to make contact with friends or family members who could either hire an attorney for you or track down your birth certificate to prove your citizenship. I would hate to think how many more mistakes would be made if what minimal protections exist now were stripped away.

So, sure Newt, we should deport all those illegals right away without due process. As long as you'll pay for the first class airfare to bring all the wrongly-deported US citizens back home.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

You're fired!

I am doing the happiest of happy dances right now. The Turner Gill era at Kansas is finally, mercifully, over. It was two years too many with that very nice, but utterly incompetent, guy at the helm. I am not a huge KU football fan. Having gone to high school in Manhattan, I'm more of a K-State football fan. High school is when I really got into football. That was during the time when the turnaround started. And several guys I went to school with were pretty big players for K-State.

But I still root for KU football. And, more importantly, I live and breathe KU basketball. In this recent and ongoing conference realignment frenzy, the constant fear around Lawrence is that since no conference really wants KU football, we could find ourselves on the outside of the power conference world, being relegated to something like the Mountain West Conference. But the idea of the single most storied program in all of college basketball being part of something less than a power conference is enough to induce strokes, heart attacks, etc. Great as it is, even Kansas basketball may not be able to retain its position if it's playing 11 pm games against Colorado State and Wyoming.

So it's been awful having to watch this coach, who is so clearly in over his head and incapable of coaching big-time college football, losing blowout after blowout, leading a team on a 10-game losing streak, and actually seeming to make them worse over the course of the season. This guy should never have been hired. Here's hoping we can now find a coach who isn't just a decent man, but knows a little something about football as well.

For the sake of KU basketball, this had to happen. HAD TO. Now, please KU football, get better! Get better fast!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rock Chalk

Officially, KU basketball season started last Friday with a lopsided victory over a very out-matched Towson. But in reality, it starts tonight. In Madison Square Garden. As the headliner in ESPN's 24 hour college basketball kick-off marathon and as the top card in the inaugural Champions Classic. First up is Duke against Michigan State. And then comes the game everyone wants to see. Kansas and Kentucky. Two of the nation's most storied programs.

So it is time for a post reminding the world which program is THE most storied. Which program is the granddaddy of all other college basketball programs. It is Kansas. Without the history behind the University of Kansas basketball program, we would not have college basketball as we know it.

The inventor of the game called our town home. Even in death. His grave is within a mile of my house. We play on the court named for him. Which is in a building on a street named for him. And he was our first ever coach.

But that was only the start of Kansas basketball tradition. Because James Naismith was only the second most historically significant coach in our history. The main guy, the first real coach as we know them now, was Forrest Allen. Better known as Phog.

You may think UNC has a legendary program with a legendary coach. Heck, they even named their arena after their coach, Dean Smith. But remember, folks, Dean was a Jayhawk first. He learned his trade at the knee of Phog Allen.

And Kentucky's legendary coach? The guy they named their gym after? Yep. He was a Jayhawk first, too.

All college basketball roads lead back to Lawrence, Kansas. The cradle of college basketball.

Man, I love basketball season!

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I was all set to come home this evening and blog about the outrage of the day. But then it basically resolved itself, so my rant has lost all its oomph. Suffice it to say that buying a degree online from a diploma mill university is not earning a degree. Listing such a degree on one's resume displays a staggering lack of judgment and integrity. And hiring someone who lists such a degree on a resume proves that the employer's process of vetting employment candidates is sorely lacking.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

I'm all over Christmas this year. I'm not usually so advanced. I'm often doing the bulk of my Christmas shopping after Decmber 15th. But not this year. I have already acquired my sister's main gift and let me assure you, it is the greatest gift ever. No other gift she has ever received or ever will receive can compete. I win Christmas. Forever. Not that it's a competition...

But let me tell you, I may have taken on too many knitting projects. Sweaters (plural), a scarf, hats, other things that will not be named here because people are reading. I have at least 6 projects decided on for sure and a 7th (big) one that I want to do as well. If I actually were to knit all the things I want to knit, I would a) be broke from buying all the yarn and 2) have no time to do anything but knit for the next 2 months.

We'll see how I do. At least I already have 2 Christmas projects fully completed. And my gift for my sister really is awesome.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hey, Herman Cain

If you're running for president and you have been accused of sexual harassment in the past, especially if that matter was resolved with a financial payout to your accuser(s), you really have to understand that this information is going to become public at some point during the campaign. You can't blame the media or a political rival for making this information public. It isn't their fault that this happened. Finding stuff like this about presidential candidates is exactly what the media should be doing.

If you really want people to consider voting for you to be the leader of the free world, you don't get to limit what we get to know about you and your past.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

This post is not about Rick Perry at all.

The New York Times this week ran an article about Rick Perry and his stances on criminal justice issues. The point of the article was to contrast his tough, even brash, talk and actions on the death penalty against his signing into law numerous criminal justice reforms pushed by the Innocence Project and others not associated with a "tough on crime" stance.

Of course, I read the article and wanted to focus on one nugget out of the article. One key case in Perry's governorship was the case of Kelsey Patterson. Patterson was convicted of two murders and sentenced to death. The circumstances surrounding the murders, though, indeed, the entire circumstances of Patterson's life, demonstrate that he suffers from profound mental illness. The man has a long history of delusions, psychotic behavior, nonsensical ramblings, etc. He was well known in Palestine, Texas, where he had previously been convicted of assault. But while he had lots of dealings with police and even with the court system, he never seemed to have benefited from any mental health treatment, even after being found incompetent to stand trial numerous times. It's a very familiar story to those of us in the criminal justice system where far too many of our cases involve people who should receive treatment, not punishment. Estimates of the number of mentally ill incarcerated range from 20-50%, depending on who you ask.

So Mr. Patterson was a violent, psychotic, delusional individual whose serious mental illness caused very real, permanent harm to his community. Obviously, he needed to be secured in a way that he could no longer cause that harm. When secured and properly medicated, he has been described as downright docile. But since we have no real mental health treatment readily available for men as profoundly ill as Patterson, he was treated as a criminal instead of as a sick man. And he was not just charged with murder so he could live out his life in a secure prison setting. No, he was charged with capital murder and the state pursued the death penalty against him.

Naturally, I have to assume his defense attorneys presented the history of his mental illness to the jury at his trial and did their best to persuade the jury that his illness was a major mitigating factor that should prevent them from returning a verdict of death. But here is my concern. My concern is that there are an awful lot of people who would hear a story like that of Patterson and think that the best course of action is execution. That a man that ill can't ever be fixed and we're all just better off removing him from society entirely. Or even worse, that his mental illness is "no excuse!" Or that he still knows right from wrong. I have encountered these viewpoints far more than I can believe. And the people most likely to express this view are also pretty likely to be death-qualified for a jury in a capital case.

I know I can relate a story like Mr. Patterson's to individuals who share my view and trust that their reaction will be to express sorrow about the state of mental health care in this country. They will perhaps marvel at how awful it must be to live with such an illness as his. They will certainly recognize that the man should not be incarcerated in prison and/or put to death, but treated in a secure medical facility.

But how do I talk to the others? How do I, as an advocate for a client, try to sway someone who thinks that someone who suffers a profound mental illness should be put down like a rabid dog? How do I get to a juror (or heaven help me, a judge) who thinks mental illness is no excuse and does not lessen someone's culpability for a crime? Because I know those people are out there and have the ability to affect my clients' very lives.
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