Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday indeed

Crazed shoppers at a Wal-Mart on Long Island trampled a worker to death as he tried to stop the unruly crowd from entering in a mob. Good lord. What the hell is the matter with people? Apparently a pregnant woman also got knocked to the floor. (Though there are conflicting reports, I believe the accurate report is that she is fine and still pregnant.) And when emergency responders tried to help the dying man, they were also pushed and shoved by the jackasses who cared more about saving a few dollars on a dvd player than the lives of their fellow humans.

Black Friday has never been more aptly named. And it needs to stop. Today should be the last day after Thanksgiving ever of ridiculous sales and early morning openings and lines of rabid crowds competing to get one of the 20 Wiis inside. I always thought it was an ugly display that brought out the worst of people's stinginess and greed, but this is so beyond that, there are no words. It's despicable, barbaric, heinous, atrocious, and cruel.

When the shopping on Black Friday stops being about spreading holiday cheer and buying nice gifts for people but instead becomes a mob scene, it's time to rethink Black Friday. How about stores go back to opening at their regular times, offering sales that will go on all weekend? People can show up at the store when they want, no one has to wait in lines, and maybe no one will wind up dead.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Poor Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving really gets the shaft. Tonight, the local news is airing a Christmas-tree lighting. Snowflake labels and snowmen are on everything. Technically, that's not Christmas-related, but everyone knows the natural objects associated with Thanksgiving are leaves and pumpkins. The pumpkin spice lattes are off the board in early November to make room for the ginger and eggnog lattes. (Side note: Starbuck's new gingersnap latte is NOT the same as the old gingerbread latte. And it is definitely not as good.) Those lattes are served in the Christmas red cups.

It's not fair. Thanksgiving rocks. It is easily my favorite holiday. It's got fall, football, pumpkin pie, and that greatest of all foods, dressing. More than that, I love what it stands for. Maybe it's a bit idealized to think of newcomers to this continent and native Americans dining together in thanks of their mutual survival, but it sure makes for a nice story. It's a holiday that fully includes all Americans, regardless of religion, ethnicity, or anything else that can be used as a divider. It's all about unity and giving thanks.

But every year the stores and the news and the t.v. shows rush right past turkey day and go straight for the bigger pay day of Christmas. I refuse to play along. I will not break out any Christmas decorations before this coming weekend. I will not do any Christmas shopping, either. I stick to the pumpkin spice lattes. (Ok, I cracked and have had one or two ginger lattes, but I felt guilty.) I will not bake any Christmas foods or listen to any Christmas music.

This is Thanksgiving season and I intend to honor it. At least until all the left-overs are gone.

Excellent news!

From the Miami Herald today:

A Miami-Dade circuit judge Tuesday declared Florida's 30-year-old ban on gay adoption unconstitutional, allowing a North Miami man to adopt two foster kids he has raised since 2004.

Here is the full story. My favorite quote is:

The attorney general's office had argued that gay men and lesbians are disproportionately more likely to suffer from mental illness or a substance abuse problem than straight people, rendering them less fit to parent -- especially children in foster care who already are under tremendous stress.

Well, that's just offensive. I know they don't have any credible medical research to back that up. Even if they do have some highly suspect research on their side, I know the majority of credible research refutes this claim. And even if it were true, it is not a justification for an all-out ban on gay adoptions. I would assume that the Florida Department of Children & Families already has a screening program in place to weed out potential foster and adoptive parents who have mental health issues.

The two young boys in this case, ages 4 and 8, have lived with Frank Gill and his partner for almost four years. Now I'm no math expert, but seems like that means the younger one doesn't know any other parents. According to the judge, it's uncontroverted that these two boys are thriving. What possible motivation could DCF have for wanting to remove these boys from a loving home in which they are thriving? What trauma would it do to the little one to take him away from the only home he's ever known? And what trauma would it do to the older boy, who sadly probably does remember something of his earlier life? How would that boy ever feel secure again if we take him away from the safe, loving home we put him in? It would just be cruel. Bravo to the judge for reaching the right decision. I do think it is not just the morally correct decision, but the legally correct decision. I don't think the state can even pass the rational basis test for this ban. There is no rational reason for the state to have a blanket prohibition against gays and lesbians adopting. Not liking "the gay lifestyle" (what the heck is "the gay lifestyle" anyway? Is there a "straight lifestyle?") is not a reason for denying all gays and lesbians in the state the chance to adopt.

This is only a district court ruling, so there will be appeals. Here's hoping this will be the case that will get up to the Florida Supreme Court so they can finally get rid of this terrible ban that certainly is not in the best interests of Florida children.

Things 13 year-olds should DEFINITELY be arrested for

Farting. Yep. A 13 year-old junior high student should absolutely be placed under arrest for passing gas and generally disrupting his classroom through non-violent means.

Here is the story of this kid who was charged with disruption of school function. This is what happens when we as a matter of course have "school resources officers" otherwise known as cops whose beats are public schools. We're reaching a point of turning any and every conflict or behavioral problem over to the cops. Here I wrote about a mentally ill client of mine who was referred to the cops by the very psychiatric ward who had taken responsibility for getting him through his violent, schizophrenic episode.

Calling the cops in a situation like this should be an absolute last resort. A child disrupting a classroom should be dealt with through discipline or be made to see a counselor or both. Parents should be called and made to be more involved in addressing the child's behavior. If parents can't or won't get involved, then maybe protective services should get involved. But arresting the kid and charging him with a crime just shouldn't factor into the equation. Not for behavior that didn't hurt anyone, didn't even threaten to hurt anyone. But because cops are always there at school nowadays, it's just become too easy to involve the school resource officer. Just let the cop deal with it.

Disciplining kids is hard work. Maintaining your cool as a kid does everything he can to push your buttons takes a lot of srength. But if you're a parent or a teacher or a school administrator, that's just part of your job. Part of running a school is teaching children acceptable behavior, respect for others (which would include not farting), and disciplining them when they mess up. Yes, public schools are underfunded and undestaffed and don't have time to deal with one or two trouble students. But tough. My office is underfunded and understaffed and we don't have time to deal with trouble clients, but I'd still get into ethical trouble if I just chose not to deal with one of my clients or decided not to pursue one of my cases. I just have to figure out how to make it all work. We aren't doing our kids any favors by telling them they're criminals for behaving like immature 13 year-old boys.

Monday, November 24, 2008

In which I temporarily turn in my Public Defender Badge to become a Crime Fighter

Yesterday afternoon, I was in my bathroom attending to my very-clogged bathtub. (Not relevant to the current post, but I did get the tub unclogged. Thoroughly unclogged. Made for a delightful shower this morning.) But I digress. I live on an alley with a detached garage. The window in the bathroom looks out on the garage and, because of the placement of windows, from that window, I can look out through the garage and to the alley beyond.

While I was futzing with my tub, I heard a car idling in the alley, right by my driveway. Why, I don't know, but I got curious so I looked out. I saw a man, unashamedly and in broad daylight, stealing my firewood! Back in June, a very large tree fell down on my driveway. In a stroke of good luck for me, it landed on a power line, so the power company came right out and hired tree-cutters to deal with it. They came out around midnight and had it all handled by 2 a.m. The nice tree-cutter folks cut the large tree up into logs just the right size for using in my patio fire bowl. We've used a couple of the logs, but it's a pretty big pile. Which this loser was methodically transferring from my property into his pick-up.

I ran through my house and out the back door. I'd like to tell you I had a really classic opening line that would make Dirty Harry proud, but the question that came automatically out of my mouth was, "What the fuck are you doing?" The guy just seemed surprised to receive any opposition to his thievery. He apologized, said he didn't know it belonged to anyone (how do you not realize that the stuff on someone else's property probably belongs to that someone else?), and said in his defense that he walks down that alley all the time and that wood's been there for over a year. Maybe I was just ticked, but I don't think his apology was very sincere. I think he felt pretty entitled to take that wood and was just more surprised to have been yelled at than truly sorry for anything.

I had some serious adrenaline going at this point. I was stopping a thief! I was confronting an interloper and defending my land! I'm pretty sure my nostril was flaring. There was probably a vein pulsing somewhere on my face. In what I can only hope was a stern, don't-mess-with-me-and-my-stuff tone, I informed him that it was most definitely my wood, that it had most definitely not been there for over a year, and that I most definitely intended to use MY wood at whatever leisurely pace I damn well chose.

Then, in my favorite part of the exchange, he asked, as if he was really wondering, "Do you want me to put it back?" Really? What part of my angry, curse-filled tirade made you think there was even a possibility that I would let you keep any of your ill-gotten gain? Because I'm gonna want to work on tightening up my tirades so that the next would-be thief who receives one doesn't get the impression that there is any room for negotiation.

He put it all back as I watched. As soon as he drove away, I started moving the pile to a spot between my house and garage, so it won't tempt any more cold slackers who want to warm themselves as cheaply as possible. I should have made him move the whole pile for me.

Ok, I know it's only firewood that cost me nothing. But it's the principle of the thing. This jerk trespassed on my land. Until just yesterday, I never really thought of myself as owning land. I bought a house, sure, but it didn't really hit me that I really am a land-owner, too. And I didn't tell this guy he could step one foot onto my land. He trespassed on my land with the express purpose of taking my stuff. What nerve. My car was right there, so he should have realized someone was probably home. How hard would it have been to knock on the door and ask the home-owner if s/he wanted him to haul that wood away? Not very. But he didn't want to ask for permission. He just saw something he wanted and decided to take it.

Until I made him stop. 'Cause, you know, I'm a badass crime fighter.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What is she trying to tell us?

I admit, I don't always know what my dog wants. In this picture, she seems quite intent on telling us something, but I'm not sure what.
Any ideas?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Well, this changes things.

The prosecutor in St. John's, Arizona has filed a motion to dismiss one of the murder charges against that 8 year-old boy. Interesting. Specifically, the boy will no longer be charged with murder in the death of his father (assuming the motion is granted, as they almost always are). Very interesting.

What does this mean? This suggests the state has radically rethought its theory of the homicides. But they're not just saying they have no confidence in the confession. Were that the case, they would dismiss both charges. I don't want to speculate too much, but I've got all sorts of ideas running around in my head right now. (Do they think roommate killed dad and then kid shot roommate?)

What I do know is we are getting a good lesson in why we all should not rush to judgment within hours of an investigation beginning. Whatever happened here surely traumatized this boy. If it turns out that the truth is something other than what those police officers decided early on, how much extra trauma has this poor child been put through? It seems like the authorities in Arizona just recklessly rushed ahead to the accusation stage without thought to the consequences. Police officers led this 8 year-old to confess to shooting two men, one of whom was his father. Police charged him with double murder and talked all tough about how this kid should be charged as an adult for committing premeditated, intentional murder. It's bad enough to do that kind of stuff to an adult who turns out to be innocent. But if you publicly accuse a child of double murder (including the murder of his parent), you better be damn sure that you're right. If you're not sure, maybe you ought to shut the hell up and do some more investigating.

I'm cursed

First, it was the computer with its blue screen of death. Ok, but that situation was resolved without costing me anything.

Then, I got a flat tire this week. It was not a fixable situation, so it required purchase of a new tire (well, 2, because I'm programmed to buy them in pairs). The tire situation also led to the discovery that my front brakes needed to be entirely replaced. Ok, that wound up not costing as much as I might have feared. It was only two tires and the front brakes.

Now, my bathtub is clogged. Completely. Totally. Drano did absolutely nothing for it. Damn my gorgeous, flowing locks! I'm guessing getting a plumber to come look at my pipes on a Saturday will not be cheap.

This hasn't been my best two weeks. What do you suppose will go wrong next?

More money for beer (or wine)!

I just filled my gas tank for under $20. Completely filled. In fact, I was so low on gas, I was a tad worried about making it to the gas station. And still, I stayed under $20. I've never been so happy after a gas station visit.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Real conversation that occurred in my county treasurer's office last week*:

Treasurer's Office Flunky #1: Hey, wouldn't it be fun if we could find a way to freak out like 2,000 homeowners all at the same time?

Treasurer's Office Flunky #2: Dude, that would be awesome! How about if we send them all tax bills that they don't really owe?

TOF #1: Excellent! And we'll say the payment is due Dec. 20th! That'll totally mess with their heads!

(Apparently, TOFs #1 and #2 were named Bill and Ted in a previous incarnation.)

As one of those homeowners, let me say, TOF #1 and TOF #2, you failed! I was not fooled. I did not freak out. I did not hyperventilate upon seeing a bill for $2,000. I did not picture being foreclosed out of my home and being sent to prison for tax evasion. I did not envision months of tear-inducing phone calls to your office, my mortgage company, and lawyers trying to correct the mistake.

Ok, at least I didn't have any of those reactions for long as the lovely local newspaper had an article about the erroneous tax bills, that were sent to 2,000 homeowners, on its website within about 20 minutes of my receipt of the tax bill. Those 2,000 homeowners, myself included, all have mortgages with the same bank and, like most homeowners, have their taxes paid automatically as a function of their mortgages.

So, ha, TOFs #1 and #2, I knew I didn't owe you any money! I knew you shouldn't have sent me a bill! And I'm not going to spend one more minute stewing about it. The article said I could just ignore the big, mean, nasty bill so that's what I'm going to do.

Well, maybe I'll just make one phone call to my mortgage company next week, just to be on the safe side.

*I have no actual proof that this conversation occurred, but I can't think of any other good reason for the country treasurer's office mistakenly sending out tax bills to 2,000 homeowners whose tax bills are supposed to be paid by their mortgage company.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What's the matter with Arizona?

So in the early part of Tuesday, the prosecutors who have charged the 8 year-old boy with murder released only 12 minutes of video of the young boy's police interrogation, none of which contained the alleged confession. But later in the day, the remainder of the video was released. By the prosecutor's office. And why? Because it's a matter of public record, according to Apache County Attorney Christopher Candelaria, so they were OBLIGATED to release it.

What? No, let me amend that. WTF??? The alleged videotaped confession of an 8 year-old charged with murder in an on-going investigation is a matter of public record? What have we been doing all these years messing with motions for discovery? We didn't need to mess with reciprocal discovery rules. We just needed to be filing open records requests! How could none of us have known that? Did the entire criminal defense bar miss the day in law school when they explained this public records stuff?

Oddly, Mr. Candelaria didn't elaborate on what he meant by his claim that evidence in an ongoing murder case involving a juvenile defendant was a matter of public record. Probably because it isn't. Obviously, it isn't. Will someone in Arizona please, PLEASE, report this to the disciplinary administrator so an investigation can be conducted into whether this guy has committed any ethical violations here? Or maybe even broken a law?

And as I was typing this, NBC showed a portion of the tape where the boy said he shot his father. So much for this child's right to be presumed innocent and his right to confidentiality of his juvenile case. I don't know what the people involved in this prosecution are thinking. I guess my earlier expressed hope that reason and order might be restored to this case was not granted.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Don't ask, don't tell? How about Don't Care!

Way back in July, I wrote here about what was potentially the opening move in the effort to kill the military's ridiculous "Don't ask, don't tell" policy. Well, today MSNBC reported reported:

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - More than 100 retired generals and admirals called Monday for repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays so they can serve openly, according to a statement obtained by The Associated Press. Link

President-Elect Obama has already indicated his support for an end to this policy. Based on the now 15 or so years of Don't ask, don't tell, we now know that nothing terrible will happen if we let gays and lesbians serve openly. And I've said it before, I'll say it again: the military shouldn't get a free pass on discrimination. No other federal employer would be allowed to refuse employment to people based on sexual orientation. It's offensive that the military has been allowed to get away with it as long as they have.

Right now, there are men and women serving in active war zones who can't freely display pictures of their beloveds and who can't talk openly about the true loves they had to leave behind to go serve where their country asked them to. That's shameful and we owe them all our sincerest apologies.

So let's say good-bye to don't ask, don't tell and invoke a new policy: Don't care who you love if you love your country enough to serve.
How does an Arizona television station have a 12-minute segment of the videotaped "interview" with that 8 year-old boy accused of murder? They say they got it from the prosecutor's office. What am I missing? It's allegedly a confession tape, so even if they didn't hand over the segment where the "confession" occurred, I still have a problem with them releasing any part of that interview. And there hasn't even been a preliminary hearing yet, so should the state really be releasing its evidence to the media?

But beyond that, it's a case in which an 8 year-old is charged with murder. Aren't juvenile cases in Arizona confidential? I don't do juvenile cases at all, so I don't really know exactly how that aspect usually works, but releasing video tapes to media outlets seems wrong to me.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I love all my rights equally. How about you?

Over lunch today, my co-workers and I spent some time talking about how tough it is for public defender agencies throughout the country. In state after state, agencies are so overloaded with cases, attorneys are starting to revolt, declaring they just can't possibly take any new cases. Believe me, I feel that pain, too. And we're probably facing more budget cuts. This conversation led to the inevitable question, "Why are state legislatures so unwilling to fund indigent defense services the way they should?"

Why, indeed? I'm sure to a lot of state legislators, the line item for the public defender system isn't an easy one to explain to constituents angry about government expenditures. It isn't politically palatable to pursue increasing funds for those wastes of lawyers who defend those scummy bad guys. I guess when you put it that way. But why does the general public want to put it that way?

People love the First Amendment. They love to defend the rights guaranteed by that amendment, especially speech. Folks sure do enjoy speaking their mind. An awful lot of people think the Second Amendment is the most important amendment. Don't even try to take away their guns! Folks got really upset when the Supreme Court issued a takings case that made it too easy for government to take private property under the Fifth Amendment.

So where's the love for the Sixth Amendment? By allowing public defender agencies to go underfunded, we're saying we don't much care about that amendment. We don't much care whether people charged with crimes really do have the assistance of counsel. Which means we don't much care whether people receive due process of law (Fifth Amendment), are protected against self-incrimination (5th), are protected against illegal searches and seizures (4th), get to confront their accusers (6th), or are protected against cruel and unusual punishments (8th). Because without an attorney who knows the rules and the law the state has to follow, you're not going to know when the state is overstepping its authority and you're not going to know what argument to make in response.

That's like half the Bill of Rights that we don't seem to care about. But the founders of our country cared about them. They thought these particular rights were so important, they had to be explicitly included in the Constitution. If they hadn't been written down, the Constitution may very well not have been ratified in many of the original states.

So I guess I just really don't understand why people are so loathe to foot the bill for public defenders. Why do we hate half our rights?

Define need

I think I can definitely declare my computer healed. It's been well over 24 hours with no blue screen. This is a good thing. Yep. A really good thing. I really didn't want to spend hundreds of dollars on a shiny new toy. Nope. I don't need to have the newest, fanciest gadget just to have it. I don't need to keep up with the Jones' with their ipods and their blackberries. (Ok, I may have those things, but because I really needed them. I swear.) I don't need a faster processor and a bigger hard drive. I don't need a built-in webcam.

But I want those things. I really, really want those things. And for a few glorious, frustrating days, I thought I would be able to justify getting those things. But then I had to go and fix my stupid, perfectly good old one. (One corrupted file was causing the whole problem. File disabled means computer works like a champ.) So no shiny, pretty, super thin, new laptop for me.

But while I was at Best Buy scoping out the laptops, I may have wandered over to the flat screen televisions. I didn't know how much cheaper those have become. One can buy a 32 inch flat screen for under $500. And it is basketball season now. Think how great it would be to watch the defending national champion Kansas Jayhawks play in high definition on a shiny new flat screen... (In case you're wondering, my high quality 27 inch television works just fine, as does the 19 inch flat screen in my bedroom.)

My name is S and I'm a shopaholic.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Have I conquered the blue screen of death?

I may actually have solved my computer problem. (Knock on wood) Since I thought of this remarkably simple solution, no blue screen of death. (Knock on wood) This is definitely the longest I have gone without seeing the dreaded blue screen of death in quite a while. (Knock on wood)

If this actually proves to be all it takes to make my computer functional again (knock on wood), I might feel pretty stupid for not having thought of it days ago.

So cross your fingers and toes, knock on wood, or do whatever else it is that you do for luck that my computer is once again a healthy beast. I really don't know how to live anymore without a fully-connected computer in front of me at all times so that whenever I need to look up an actor or find movie times or google something or check sports scores, I can do so immediately.

Of course, if I get Christmas money, I might still be tempted to go buy myself a new laptop as I now know I can get one for $700 or so.

The Case of the Washed-Up Feet

What's up with all the running-shoe-clad feet washing up on the shores of British Columbia? In the past 15 months, 6 severed feet in running shoes have shown up. (There was also a prank shoe that had an animal paw in it, which raises its own set of disturbing questions.) Two of the feet were apparently a match, so that means 5 people are involved. Why are they all wearing running shoes?

They say all of the feet appear to have separated from the bodies naturally, so through the process of decomposition. So it's not like some sick serial killer is cutting off the feet of his victims and then placing them on various beaches. But where are they coming from? Authorities are looking into whether these could be victims of a plane crash. A plane load of runners shouldn't be too hard to track down. But if these feet are washing up through no foul play, why are feet the only body parts that are turning up? If underwater plane crash victims are surfacing, shouldn't we expect to see the occasional hand or a head or maybe even a full body?

The Canadian authorities have tracked down all of the manufacturers of the shoes to pinpoint when and where the exact models were distributed and sold, but they still don't seem to have any leads on an explanation for this bizarre occurrence.

I find this story fascinating and I will continue to pay close attention until they solve this mystery.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Too Young to Want to Die?

Britain Debates a Child's Right to Choose Her Own Fate

By Kevin Sullivan
LONDON, Nov. 13 -- Hannah Jones needs a heart transplant. But after nine years of battling leukemia and heart disease, she has had enough of hospitals, operations, drugs and constant pain. So she has opted to skip the surgery and die at home in the company of her family.

When I first saw this story several days ago, my gut reaction was good for the powers that be in Britain for respecting this girl's wishes and bodily integrity. I can't possibly imagine what this young girl has gone through in her life. She has faced far more pain, suffering, illness, and uncertainty than I can appreciate. She has simply lived with a sense of her own mortality that no child should have and that few adults possess. I also know that even if she were to have the heart transplant, her prognosis still isn't great, with the likelihood of requiring a second transplant in 10 years. Given all of this, what right should any set of adults, no matter how well-intentioned, have to force such an intrusive procedure on her? I was glad that she was being allowed to make her own choice despite her age.

But then I wondered if that desire to have this 13 year-old be allowed to make her own choices, and have that choice be respected as we would respect the choice of any adult, was inconsistent with my views about trying teenagers, especially below 16, as adults. Where should we draw the line of when decisions made by teenagers should be respected as adult decisions and when we should treat their decisions as inherently suspect, without serious thought behind them? After all, part of the reasoning for treating juvenile defendants differently from adults is that teenagers do not have the decision-making capacity and impulse control that adults do. They generally don't have a fully-developed ability to think through long-term consequences. So when they make bad, even criminal, decisions as teenagers, we don't hold it against them the same way we do when adults make those bad decisions. So if we know that a 13 year-old hasn't developed the parts of the brain that govern decision-making, should we respect her decision on something as major as whether to turn down a life-saving procedure?

The ethical rules of my profession instruct us that whenever possible, we should treat juvenile clients with the same autonomy and respect we would adult clients. If I am appointed to represent a teenager, I should allow that teenager to make his or her own decision about what is in his or her best interest and zealously advocate for the outcome that kid desires. Guardians ad litem have more freedom to advocate against the stated wishes of a child, but that's not a role I'm well suited for. I'm a zealous advocate, not a guardian angel type. While I do try to help my clients think through their decisions with the best information I can give them, I've never been one to try to tell them what decision they should make because I can't possibly know what will be the decisions they can best live with. So in this sense, again I am inclined to let young Hannah make her own choice about what she can live with and what she can't take anymore of. If she feels she can't take any more hospitalization and drugs and pain, who am I to tell her otherwise.

But, like those juvenile defendants, she might not have the best decision-making skills. She might lack the ability to see the potential long-term benefits of going ahead with the transplant. Especially given her life-long medical struggles, maybe she can't envision the possibility of a relatively normal, even long-lasting, life that could follow a successful transplant. She hasn't lived through any of the medical advancements we adults have seen - the increasing life expectancy for cystic fibrosis patients, the vastly improved quality of life for those with Down Syndrome, and the radical shift from HIV being a death sentence to being a manageable condition with much greater odds of survival. As the adults with this broader perspective, would it be so wrong to overrule Hannah's decision and force her to accept the transplant? If we don't overrule her decision, she will die and will never be able to rethink her decision with the greater perspective that comes with adulthood.

In the end, I am sticking with my gut reaction that it would be wrong to force a heart transplant on an unwilling patient and that even a 13 year-old should be allowed some measure of dignity and respect for her bodily integrity. If she were younger, say 6, I would have no problem with disregarding her desire not to undergo a transplant. I'm not sure where I would draw that line. Perhaps there is no hard and fast bright line for me, but it would depend greatly on the maturity and poise of the individual child at issue. Therefore, I accept the decision of those adults who have met and talked with Hannah, trusting that they have discussed the possibilities with her and are satisfied with her thought process.

I think it is our job as adults (and yes, even though I'm a non-parent, I'm including myself here because, sorry Hillary haters, but it really does take a village) to help children learn to make their own decisions as they grow up. I have concluded that it is not inconsistent to allow children to make their own decisions in lots of areas and yet to shield them to some extent from the consequences of those decisions. I've often thought that the role of parents in the teenage years is to provide a relatively safe place for their kids to screw up. Like taking a live bomb out to the desert and letting it go off where it can't really do any damage. The difficulty in a case like Hannah's is that there is no way to shield her from the consequence of her decision. She won't get a second chance to change her mind years down the road. But if she feels she is ready to let go, I'm not sure it would do any good for adults to force her to hang on.

What say you, readers?

Friday, November 14, 2008


1) Soon after I posted about our uneasy truce, the blue screen of death returned. But, the computer is still behaving better. The blue screen of death coming after 20 or 30 minutes of computer functionality is certainly an improvement over not being able to get through the start-up without crashing. If only I could get the blue screen of death to go away completely.

2) As of Sunday, when Barack Obama's resignation from the Sunday goes into effect, there will not be a single black member of the Senate. I did not realize he was the only one. That seems shocking to me. Are there any minorities in the Senate? That seems too important a body and we have come too far on racial issues for us to return to a time when it was 100% white.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Karma's a bitch

From MSNBC today:

Skinhead in Obama plot wants charges dropped A white supremacist charged with plotting to kill President-elect Barack Obama wants his indictment dismissed, arguing the federal grand jury that charged him had too many black members. [21 out of 23 were black]

Yeah, it sucks doesn't it? Looking at a panel of people judging you and seeing only one or two who look like you? Feeling like you can't get a fair shake in a criminal court because of your skin color? Boy, I feel for ya. Nobody should have to walk into a courtroom and feel justice isn't available to him because he's different from the people running the show.

Tentative accord

We seem to have reached an uneasy truce. After many, many blue screens of death and not a small amount of swearing. No windows were broken, though. One dog may have been slightly scared.

I am hopeful. But I have often been accused of being overly-optimistic. So we'll see. I'm going to go pay my student loan right now.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

If I were a Mac, this wouldn't be happening to me, would it?

I do not like the blue screen of death. It makes me angry. Very angry.

I do not like Windows informing me it has recovered from a serious system failure when clearly it has not recovered. Not at all.

I do not like Windows sending me an error report, telling me what I need to do to prevent said system failure from occurring again when that report is clearly full of shit as the error will continue to occur over and over and over again until I want to hurl my stupid, stupid laptop out the nearest window. (I think a window would maximize the pleasing sound value - glass breaking and subsequent loud thud as it hits the ground.)

I do not like being faced with the prospect of having to pay who knows how much money to the stupid techs at Best Buy to fix my computer or having to pay even more money to buy a new computer. I really do not like being faced with the prospect of losing all my saved passwords. I will not know how to pay my student loan payment if my computer dies. I do not know my username or password. My handy-dandy browser remembers all of those things for me. (I am starting to realize what a bad idea that is.)

I guess I shouldn't have been worried that with the election going the way I wanted and the Bush presidency ending, I wouldn't have anything to be angry about.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Who's the Biggest Loser?

Ok, it might just be me because I love that show. Yes, I said love. It's pretty inspiring to watch total strangers reveal all their weaknesses on television and work their butts off to change their lives for the better. I love getting workout ideas from Bob and Jillian. I secretly dream of being yelled at by Jillian. I dream of how fabulous my butt would look after a month of being yelled at by her!

I also kind of enjoy the game-play. Throwing weigh-ins to fix the eliminations, that's pretty fun. This season, the queen of game-play has clearly been Vicky. She is up to something every episode, always giving secret little smirks to the camera. She's the evil puppet master and I hate her. (She's also on Bob's team and I tend to root for Jillian's. Nothing against Bob, I just prefer Jill.)

Well, tonight, Vicky the puppet master lost control and I just couldn't contain my glee! She assumed that with 3 black team members against 5 blue team members, as long as 1 black member fell below the yellow line (the two lowest weight-losers each week fall below the yellow line - one of those two get voted off by the rest of them), the blue team would have the numbers to vote off the black member. But Vicky miscalculated. 4 of the blue team members have a tight alliance: Vicky and her husband Brady and their best friends at the ranch, married couple Ed and Heba. But the fifth one is all alone. And she used to be black. So when blue Brady and black Michelle fell below the yellow line, while Vicky assumed Brady was safe, Amy had to think long and hard about what was really in Amy's best interest. Amy knew she was the weakest link on blue and that the rest of the blue team wouldn't hesitate to boot her in favor of one of those four. Amy also knew that if she voted with her two former black team members, the vote would be tied at 3 and Brady would lose the tie-breaker by virtue of having lost the least amount of weight that week.

I was practically yelling at the t.v., begging Amy to do the smart thing, totally shake that evil Vicky, and revive the strength of black by voting with her original team. And she did! Yay! She voted for Brady, which totally shocked the heck out of evil Vicky. And now evil Vicky will be gunning for revenge! But surely black will work to protect Amy now that she protected one of them. It makes me really, really happy. Far happier than I should be made by watching a reality show. I am aware of that, but I am not ashamed. I will hold my head high while admitting my increasing obsession with this show. If being so excited about an elimination on The Biggest Loser that I have to blog about it immediately makes me the biggest loser you know, well so be it. I embrace that loser-ish-ness.

You have the right to confront your accuser, as long as it's not too inconvenient.

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that I think ought to be a no-brainer. The issue is this: in a criminal prosecution, can the state present a certified lab report as evidence without bringing in the person who prepared that report to testify? I frankly don't understand why this is even a question.

The 6th Amendment protects the right of criminal defendants to confront their accusers. It's obvious that an eyewitness who will testify he saw you commit the crime is an accuser as is the police officer who found the baggie of white powder in your coat pocket. But what about the lab tech who tested that white powder and decided it was cocaine? Well, isn't the person who says the stuff you had is illegal just as much of an accuser as the person who says you had it? Like I said, it seems pretty obvious to me.

At the oral argument, the tack the state of Massachusetts took was that it would be an undue burden on the state to have to bring these witnesses to court in every case. Huh? It would be too inconvenient for the state to bother with each and every defendant's confrontation clause right? Those who observed the argument don't seem to think that a majority of the court will go for the state's argument, but I'm perturbed that the argument wasn't laughed out of court. The 6th Amendment does not contain a convenience exception.

The state suggested that there is no real benefit to be had to the defense in cross-examining these lab techs because the report is really nothing more than data spewed out from a machine. This argument is a troubling reminder of how infallible the state wants everyone to believe its scientific evidence is. But no scientific evidence is infallible. And none of it is simply data generated by a machine without any human input or interpretation. All scientific evidence IS potentially infected by human error. If defendants are denied the opportunity to cross-examine the actual people who performed the tests, they may never uncover whether human error could have corrupted the results.

Take for example a DNA analyst who doesn't use the proper procedure in cutting samples. When the evidence in a given case comes into the lab, there are usually several different cuttings, from clothing items, carpet, etc. There are also the known swabs taken from the defendant, the victim, or some other person relevant to the case. So this big pile of evidence comes to the lab and needs to be prepped for testing. There are necessary protocols to follow to make sure no DNA from item 1 gets mixed in with item 2. Defense attorneys need to be able to question the person who handled those samples to make sure the proper steps were followed. Say the lab analyst testified she used the same blade for all her cuttings and used only alcohol to clean the blade in between. Well, that's defense gold because alcohol doesn't kill DNA (the blade should be discarded or cleaned with bleach to prevent cross-contamination). If that lab analyst were allowed simply to submit a lab report without having to testify, the defense would never have been able to show the jury the problems with the DNA testing.

In any scientific testing, or generation of any type of report, there are legitimate avenues of cross-examination regarding whether the specific individual who handled the evidence or simply oversaw the machine that spewed out the data followed all of the proper protocols. More than that, though, most scientific evidence does involve at least some element of subjectivity or interpretation. In those situations, a defendant has to be able to question why the analyst interpreted the data the way s/he did. There are just basic credibility issues that can't be overlooked. Is this lab analyst trustworthy? A corner-cutter? A slacker? Or less knowledgeable about the testing procedure than s/he would have us believe?

The bottom line is it just can't be good enough for the state to present a lab report to convict my clients. Bring in the real, live person who conducted the test so we can find out whether this person really knows what the heck s/he is doing and whether this person's opinion is at all shakeable. I don't care that it's logistically difficult, or even expensive, for the state to have to transport witnesses around the state. Why on earth should that inconvenience to the state trump a defendant's right to confront the witnesses against him/her? Here in my state, I've never known the state to try to admit just the lab report into evidence without bringing in the analyst to testify. I really can't imagine that the criminal justice system in any state will collapse under the incredible burden of complying with the 6th Amendment.

I am confident that the Court will also conclude that a decision in favor of the defendant in this case won't unduly burden the 50 states. But I really wish the Supreme Court hadn't been quite so willing even to consider the state's argument.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Proud Mama

Maddie has learned to high five. When we hold a hand up and say, "High five," she will tap the hand with her paw. Clearly, she is a brilliant dog.
The Court has finally seized some measure of control over the circus surrounding the 8 year-old boy accused of double homicide. A gag order was issued today to stop the bleeding of information the public should never have heard. Juvenile matters are generally supposed to be kept confidential so the issuance of a gag order should come as no surprise. But it is rather appalling that the court had to take that step to stop the Keystone (err, St. Johns, Arizona) cops from saying more than they had already.

The gag order is too little too late as it's already been reported far and wide that the child "confessed." This would pose more of a problem in an adult case or in a case here in Kansas where the defendant would get a jury trial. If this case proceeds to a bench trial, we can more reasonably expect a judge to put news coverage of the case out of his/her mind. The defendant will still suffer damage from the police publicizing the fact that they got the kid to confess. Especially in the internet age, this kind of information, once public, doesn't die. Theoretically, this child is supposed to be able to get a clean slate and try to build a life without this hanging over his head. He is supposed to be able to keep the public from knowing all of the details of his juvenile history. But that went by the wayside in this case where police officers have been making the rounds of the national morning news shows. Hey, police, just because the press asks for an interview, doesn't mean you have to grant it. It's perfectly acceptable, and in this case preferable, to say, "This case involves a juvenile and therefore we are not able to discuss it."

In my state, ethics rules prohibit prosecutors from releasing to the public the existence of a confession. I believe that's a pretty standard ethical rule across the country. The rule has been interpreted to include the police. As in other realms of prosecution, the buck, ethically, stops with the prosecutor. All acts by the police and all information in police files are attributable to the attorney. The state can't do bad things and then hide behind the claim that the actual prosecuting attorney had no knowledge. In the case of confessions being mentioned to the public, though, I never see prosecutors taken to task for the release, which I find infuriating. If there are never any negative consequences for the release of this information, what incentive is there for police departments to stop giving press conferences? We need to start holding prosecutors and police accountable for these deliberate attempts to prejudice the public against suspects.

This case is a good example of why it's so damaging for police to reveal the mere fact that a confession exists. In this case, I can't imagine that this alleged confession will ever be admissible at trial. As I understand it, the police interrogated this boy without a parent or an attorney present. Depending on Arizona state law, that might be all that is necessary to make the statement inadmissible in court. Beyond the lack of a safe adult in the room during the interrogation, I can't imagine that the state can prove the kid's waiver of his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination was a knowing and voluntary waiver. I would really enjoy watching that hearing. Even though the confession itself is highly suspect to the point of being inadmissible in a court of law, its existence is widely known in the court of public opinion.

I've also read that the police in this town are hoping the kid can be charged as an adult. I hope that is a mistake, but with the way this police department has handled the case to this point, I would believe someone there thinks an adult prosecution of this 8 year-old is warranted. I have to believe that the prosecution wouldn't think trying this case in adult court is even an option. And I am fairly confident that no court in the country would buy the idea that an 8 year-old is competent to stand trial in an adult criminal court.

If the police really do have it right about who pulled the trigger here, I just hope that this case will be handled with much more caution, care, and reason than the police department has demonstrated. If this 8 year-old is in fact going to be prosecuted for murder, this is most definitely not just another murder case.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

I have complained on this blog before about charging young kids, 12 and 13, with murder and trying to remove them to adult court, but this one sounds too extreme even for the most hard-core tough on crime crowd.

Boy, 8, charged in double-homicide - on 11/8/08

An 8-year-old boy has been charged with murder in the shooting of his father and another man in a rural community in eastern Arizona, authorities said Friday.from the juvenile justice system, but today's story takes the cake.

First, I'm stunned to learn that in Arizona, kids as young as 8 can be charged with crimes. In most other states I am familiar with, anyone under 10 cannot be charged even in juvenile court. Instead, the case is treated like a child in need of care case. The idea is to identify the child as one who needs intervention, therapy, and/or removal from a bad home. No state would be prohibited by law from using the court system to address the needs of an 8 year-old who commits a bad act. The only question is which part of the court system.

I do not think criminal charges are ever appropriate for someone this young. Regardless of how bad the act, the brain of an 8 year-old simply is not sufficiently developed for the child to possess the necessary criminal intent. In fact, Arizona law holds as a general rule that a child lacks competency to be held accountable for murder, but exceptions can be made. As of this moment, the prosecution is hoping to prove such an exception should be made in this case.

Even if we think there are some sociopathic kids who have no ability to sympathize and thus will always be a threat to society, I am troubled by the idea that we would give up and accept that that is the kind of child we're dealing with here rather than throw everything we've got at fixing this kid. How anyone can look at an 8 year-old and see a cold-blooded murderer is beyond me. It's a kid. And I, for one, am not ok with throwing the kid away forever. Especially in this case, where there is no sign that this child has had any behavior problems in the past. It may be hard work to make this kid healthy, but it's our responsibility as the adults to try.

Another troubling aspect of this case is the police interrogation of the boy. How can our "increasingly professional" police forces (according to the US Supreme Court) make such a basic mistake as questioning an 8 year-old without a lawyer or an adult family-member in the room? That's such an obvious no-no. I find it disheartening to know that there are still detectives who think this is an acceptable way to conduct the investigation of a juvenile defendant. It isn't. As the defense attorney interviewed in the article points out, two men with guns accusing a small boy of two murders are probably pretty scary. Anything a child says in response can't be trusted.

When will we return to a more rational approach to children who do bad (even really bad) things?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Pipe Dream

I had a dream that my once-liberal sister was returning to the fold. Once upon a time, she was just as much of a liberal Democrat as the rest of us. I had a dream that we might be getting her back.

I had a dream that she had grown disillusioned with the Bush presidency and with the party that supported him. I had a dream that she had become so disgusted by the McCain campaign tactics that she would not have been able to vote for him. I had a dream that, at least for the next 4 (I'm hoping 8) years, my sister, my parents, and I would have been able to gather for holidays without one of us supporting such radically different politics from the rest of us. Think what nice meals we could have if my uber-politically-aware family could have a nice, happy conversation instead of the tense, sometimes tear-filled conversations that have prevailed (mainly because my father can't not share his contempt for Bush at every opportunity) for the last 8 years.

Sigh. I woke up tonight. She has become a one-issue voter. She voted for the pro-life guy against the baby killer. That's really all that matters to her anymore. Apparently she doesn't care about health care or education or intellectualism or our standing in the world. (If she legitimately thought McCain was better on any of these points, that would be fine, but she doesn't. She only cares about abortion.) And she has totally bought into the right-wing meme of completely biased, in the bag for Obama mass media though she can't actually tell me any concrete, specific examples of what she means by that. Sigh.

And so my family is stuck with 4 more years of tense, uncomfortable holiday meals. But I can hold out hope that it will only be 4. Because President Obama will be such a fantastic president that she will be persuaded to vote for him for his second term and we can once again be a happy, united family. Hey, a girl can dream.

Presidential Reflections

Lunch on Wednesday was a happy affair. We were all delighted with the election results as the man we had supported won this time around. For most of us, that hadn't been the case for many years. We certainly all also appreciated the enormity of the vote from an historical perspective. Even those Americans who supported McCain were surely touched by the significance of our nation, with its fractured racial history, electing an African-American man to the presidency.

At lunch, I talked some about how affected I had been by seeing African-American men on television trying to digest the reality of what had just happened. Seasoned political reporters seemed at a loss for words. Jesse Jackson had tears streaming down his face. These men had all achieved great things, educations and careers and a role in national forums, but they had never before seen a President-elect who looked like them. I can only imagine what an emotionally overwhelming moment that was.

My female colleague and friend was sitting across the table from me as I spoke. I looked at her and remarked, perhaps wistfully, that I couldn't help but wish it was us who could finally experience the feeling of seeing someone who looked like us ascend to the presidency. One of our lunchmates said, "Can't we just get past this idea of us and them?" It was not a confrontational tone, but there was a hint of exasperation or maybe annoyance. I didn't say anything at the time, but what I thought was, "Said like someone who's never had any trouble seeing himself in the President." Basically spoken like a white male.

White boys in this country have never had difficulty really picturing they could grow up to be president because they have always had examples of white men who did grow up to be president. Rural or urban, rich or poor. White boys have never needed much imagination to see themselves doing great things. Pictures through our history were full of white men ruling. But girls or African-American kids had to draw something new into the picture to put themselves in it. I don't think we should be faulted for having the occasional failure of imagination.

This country has a long and storied history of discriminating against racial minorities and of treating women like the weaker sex. Surely that's undeniable. We've made tremendous strides on both fronts, especially in the last 50 years. That is equally undeniable. As I wrote in an earlier post, I do believe that the women a generation younger than me have been raised to believe that a woman can, and someday soon will, be president. Yay! That's great. But you can't just expect minorities and women to wake up the morning after Barack Obama is elected president and say, "Ok, we're all better now. Our history is totally and completely behind us in all respects. No subconscious vestiges remain. It's all done."

Yes, we should all act on the assumption that anyone of any race or sex or sexual orientation can be elected to any office. Children should be raised to believe that and to strive, therefore, for whatever they can dream up. Believing it's possible is 90% of the battle. But the bottom line is this: seeing is believing.

So don't blame me for desperately wanting to see someone JUST LIKE ME make it to the top. You can't just expect me to take it as a given that this country is ready to elect a woman. The fact is we haven't. And you can't just expect me to take it on faith that sexism really had nothing to do with Hillary's loss in the primaries. I don't believe it was the only factor, but I absolutely believe it was a factor. And Sarah Palin was a joke, who only served to damage the perception that a woman could be a serious candidate on the issue that is the biggest problem for female politicians: foreign policy.

In the rational, reasonable parts of my mind, I do believe that we have reached a point in our nation's history where the right candidate can be elected president, regardless of race or sex (probably not religion or sexual orientation yet). But the ranks of "right" women or minorities are just a whole lot more limited. I can't even think who the next serious contender for president could be. (Don't dare say Sarah Palin to me.) So deep down, in my heart of hearts, I'm not convinced we're really all ready to put a woman in the highest office in the land.

And so I reserve the right to harbor a secret, little doubt that won't go away until I see it happen. And, oh, how badly do I want to see it happen!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Message to my parents

Remember the 2004 Democratic Convention? Remember the keynote speaker? He gave a stirring address, rejecting the politics of division. Urging us to remember that we are not blue states and red states, but the united states. He was young and inspiring and exciting. Remember how we were talking later that year about who might be the Democratic candidate in 2008? I said it would be that speaker. You looked at each other with that "isn't our idealistic daughter cute in her naivete" smile and told me in that "you're too young to REALLY understand politics" tone that it would be someone, anyone, else.

I should have reminded you that I was an accomplished criminal defense attorney, over the age of 30, and had put myself through law school. Oh, yeah, and I had a political science degree from an excellent institution of higher learning. I didn't say any of those things. I let you pat me on the head and pooh pooh my crazy theories. Maybe I even let your claims to superior understanding of all things presidential politics dissuade me from my pick.

Well, Mom and Dad, it's now November 5, 2008. And it gives me tremendous pleasure to utter those four magic words: I told you so!

Close Call!

From Fox News' Carl Cameron, the reporter who has been following the McCain campaign (please pick your jaws up off the floor - yes I watch Fox. Can't criticize if I don't ever watch.):

According to McCain staffers, Sarah Palin did not understand that Africa is a continent. She thought it was a country or a region or something.

Now it's time for me to pick MY jaw up off the floor. The person who John McCain wanted to be a heartbeat away from the presidency was so ignorant of the greater world beyond Alaska, she did not know basic geography. Man oh man did we all dodge a bullet!

She also didn't know what countries were involved in NAFTA. Otherwise known as the North American Free Trade Agreement. Not too many countries to choose from there...

UPDATED: Bill O'Reilly discussed this all a bit more on the O'Reilly Factor. (jaws up again, folks. Yes, I do sometimes watch The O'Reilly Factor. Can't counter the arguments if you don't know what they are.) Bill blew off the Africa thing and other failures by Palin to understand basic civic structure and assignment of responsibilities to branches and levels of government as "a knowledge problem" that was easily correctable. Bunk. Not knowing the particulars of an issue or piece of legislation would be a knowledge problem. But there are only 7 continents. Not knowing one of them points to an ignorance of the world that cannot be corrected during a 2 month presidential campaign. Not understanding the basics of federalism, the difference between municipal and state governments, or how the First Amendment operates renders one utterly and unarguably unfit for the highest (or second highest) office in the land. Please, Bill et al, stop making excuses for ignorance. Note I'm not calling Palin stupid, but these snippets we're hearing from the McCain camp definitely demonstrate an ignorance (a different thing from stupidity) that is simply unacceptable from a vice presidential candidate. Fortunately for us all, she was not on the winning ticket.


Ha! You fools really fell for it! You elected the America-hating, Muslim terrorist, Arab Anti-Christ, tax-raising socialist! So here's what's going to happen now.

First, Christmas is cancelled, obviously. Stores will have 48 hours to remove all displays and holiday-themed items.

Second, Korans will be issued to all American homes. Start studying as soon as you receive yours. There will be a test. Please don't ask what happens to those who fail. Failure is not an option.

Third, you will soon receive information about the new ownership arrangement of your personal property: homes, cars, boats, etc. You can all remain living where you have been living until further notice.

Fourth, Monday will be flag-burning day. Every American will be required to burn one American flag each Monday until they are all gone.

Fifth, we're still working on the name change. We're leaning towards the Socialist States of America. But there's a strong minority for United Socialist States of America. Don't bother letting us know which you prefer because you don't get a vote.

Further instructions will be issued on a need to know basis.


Are there really people out there who thought this was what would happen if we elected Barack Obama to the presidency? I'm not going to bother talking any of them down. I will just laugh delightedly and let them see on their own that the world really won't end. We survived 8 years of Bush; you folks can survive 4 (8???) years of this much smarter, more thoughtful guy!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Winning is so much better than losing!

I'd forgotten how good it feels to be on the winning side of one of these things. For the first time in many years, I don't have to stew. I don't have to fret about lawsuits or chads or anything. And I don't have to wonder about what the hell is wrong with my beloved country.

Instead, I can just drink champagne and go to sleep. And I can sleep well knowing that all is right with the world. Or at least, it's on its way back to being right.

Who's psyched about democracy?

I am! What a great feeling. My wait in line was just long enough to chat with the woman behind me, whose first voting experience was also 1992. The fall air was crisp but not cool. And no one knew that underneath my innocent-looking KU fleece vest, I am wearing my Vote Obama shirt. It was all in all a delightful morning for democracy.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit this: I cried a bit while filling out my ballot. I'm a big ball of gooey cheese for the big, historical moments.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

One Day More

I'm a bit of a musical junkie. I love 'em. The classic ones, like "Oklahoma!", "The Sound of Music", or "The Music Man." I also love the new wave of Broadway musicals. The soundtracks of "Rent", "Miss Saigon", "Evita", and the greatest cold war musical of them all, "Chess" (music by the men of ABBA!) can all be found on my ipod.

My favorite of them all, though, has to be "Les Miserables." What can I say, I'm a sucker for revolutionaries.

The first act sets up all the drama for the upcoming student rebellion. It ends the night before the conflict will begin. The entire cast ponders how their own fates will change as the events of the next day unfold. Jean Valjean will have to face the consequences of his escape from justice, our new young lovers will be separated while sad, lonely Eponine will still be alone, our student leader dreams of revolution, and Javert dreams of the law triumphing. The song is "One Day More."

This song will be in my head all day tomorrow. One more day until this endless presidential campaign is over! One more day until the votes are counted and the winner declared (we all hope)! One more day until we can all put this behind us and move on, I hope just a little more united than we've been these past few years.

One Day More!

Bad (sports) weekend

From a sports perspective, this weekend was pretty freakin' bad. True, the Kansas Jayhawks won their football game, but they did it at the expense of my increasingly-hapless Kansas State Wildcats. So hardly an outcome I was delighted by.

Then last night, the KC Wizards hosted the Columbus Crew in game 1 of their MLS playoff series. The Wizards took a one goal lead early in the second half on a fabulous header. But then with about 20 minutes to go, the dreaded red card came out, sending one of our players to the showers early. They did their best to protect their precious lead, but as so often happens when one team is down a man, eventually the Crew simply wore us down and scored the equalizer in stoppage time. With time slipping away and everyone waiting for the ref to blow the whistle at any moment, a Crew player fouled a Wizard _just_ outside the box. The crowd was begging for a penalty kick, but we had to settle for a tantalizingly-close free kick. After much build-up in the crowd, the free kick bounced right off the wall and ricocheted harmlessly towards midfield. The whistle blew with the game tied. The crowd was utterly deflated. Instead of going to game 2 of the 2 game series with a one-goal lead, we go in tied having to win to advance.

Then today the damn Chiefs got out to a 3 touchdown lead and still found a way to lose. It doesn't help that once again the refs helped out with a bad decision on a pass interference call. No hall of fame receiver has ever gotten more undeserved penalties called on him than Tony Gonzalez. Aren't the future hall of famers supposed to have the calls go their way? Not Tony, who routinely gets called for offensive pass interference just for breathing on his defender. Seriously refs, you don't get to call a penalty on Tony just because he's that much bigger than his defender. But you did and so we had to punt and let the Bucs have way too much time left in which to tie the game, which they did. And then they won the stupid coin toss so they won the stupid game.

On weekends like this, it's hard to remember what exactly it is that I like about sports. Because I REALLY don't like losing.

What's the rush?

So many people from all over the country are voting early this year, either sending in absentee ballots even though they will be at home and able-bodied on election day or heading to early voting locations. I have to say I don't get the appeal. I know I'm not exactly the most traditional person around, but on this, I'm old school. I'll be getting up early on Tuesday and walking to my polling location (less than a block from my house). I will wait in line as long as I have to, though I have a hard time imagining I will really have to wait too long. My last presidential election in this town, I only had to wait 20 minutes or so. Even if I have to wait 4 hours, it'll be worth it. I can't think of a better use of my time than waiting with my fellow citizens for my turn to have my say.

I cast an absentee ballot one time: 1992 when I was a college student living in Minnesota. At least I think I did. (P, if I voted in MN let me know. I might be confusing my primary vote with my general election vote.) But at the time, I was a sophomore in college and definitely still thought of myself as a Kansan so it made sense that I would want to vote in congressional elections of the state I still felt like a part of.

In every other case, I have gone to the polls on election day. There's just something about the vibe. Seeing all the other folks exercising their right. Feeling the power of democracy in action. I love it and I wouldn't miss it for anything.

I know that I have a job that will allow me to miss way more than 2 hours to vote, where others might not. And it surely is much less convenient to go to the polls for those who have small children. But for me, as long as I am physically able, I will always make it a top priority to head to the polls on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November. Filling out a ballot in the comfort of your own home and mailing it in days ahead of time may be satisfying to some and others may like going on a Saturday or some other off day to get their vote in and done with. But I think nothing beats getting my ballot on election day, going into that little booth and pulling the curtains shut behind me, and then personally putting my ballot in the ballot box.

Of course, in the end, it really doesn't matter whether you vote early, absentee, or on election day just so long as you vote.
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