Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Whether you participate in the religous celebration, the secular celebration, or no celebration at all, this is still a season of goodwill and hope for all mankind.

Enjoy it...

Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 23, 2005

Supreme Court: It's a crime.

Just a tidbit for those who think President Bush is within his constitutional authority to approve wiretaps without court approval.

In 1972, in the Nixon Watergate case (where the administration asked for immunity from prosecution for Attorney General John Mitchell for wiretapping citizens without court approval), the Supreme Court stated:
"The danger that high federal officials will disregard constitutional rights in their zeal to protect the national security is sufficiently real to counsel against affording such officials an absolute immunity,"
The Court then ruled, unanimously, that it was unconstitutional for the government to conduct wiretaps without court approval despite the Nixon administration's argument that domestic anti-war groups and other radicals were a threat to national security.

It's illegal. It's unconstitutional. End of story.

And with an administration that openly states they believe it's their mission to restore the power that they believe the Presidency should have, and with continuing revelations of more aggressive lawbreaking than acknowledged to achieve this quest for power, it's time to start taking serious action against them.

They've proven to the world they can't be trusted - now they're proving it to us. We can no longer afford to turn a blind eye. Our future depends on it.

These criminal actions must be met with their due punishment under the law.


Bah Humbug

This just in from our friends in the UK.

Is it any wonder why kids are growing up with a messed up sense of reality these days?

The problem is not growing up *with* the competition and the scariness, the problem is a childhood devoid of these realities of life.

It's a society where young adults have never had to learn to cope with loss, fear or adversity - and thereby have never learned how to be gracious losers, or strong of character.

Guess what kiddies, we are not all the same. Not everyone is an athlete. Not everyone should go to college. Not everyone can be a doctor, or lawyer, or engineer or artist. Not everyone can be a winner and there are people who are better at things than you are. The world is a big place and it doesn't revolve around you.

Instead kids are now taught that it's all "about me". "I" have to get everything everyone else has. "I" have be the winner (because we're all winners). Skill and talent and hard work mean nothing because in the end we're all owed the same thing.

I, I, I...

What a great Christmas lesson to teach...


Monday, December 19, 2005

Yuletide greetings

Merry Christmas!

Oh, wait...

I mean Happy Holidays!

Or... ummm... well...

Yeah, yeah, yeah... the much discussed "War on Christmas" is still in full swing in America this year.

What a joke.

I thought we were Americans. Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. With acceptance and tolerance for all.

Instead we seem to be Land of the Greed, Home of the Naive. With whining and self-absorption for all.

Let me enlighten everyone, please... We have been saying Merry Christmas *AND* Happy Holidays for a hundred years. Where's the fire up everyone's derriere coming from now?

During my lifetime, the phrase Merry Christmas has had just as much secular meaning as religious - actually, probably more secular. Yes, there is the religious version where Merry Christmas is said between believers to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

But even more is the Merry Christmas that means joy, hope, giving and good will - celebrated with a Jolly Old Elf whose job is to put a twinkle of wonderment in a child's heart. That's as religious as chocolate bunny eggs. Christmas can be a universal term for all, if we'd just get over ourselves and our new inbred need to appear to the world as sniveling spoiled brats.

And what's with the Happy Holidays bashing? The word "Christmas" has always referred to one single day (and is afterall a widely celebrated holiday). Happy Holidays was always said, and meant, to mean the season surrounding the Christmas holiday. It's no more or less a religious statement than Christmas is. But it's also all-encompassing and can mean a generic wish of joy for any other religious holiday taking place during this season.

I don't believe Happy Holidays was ever meant to be completely secular. It covers a wide range of potential greetings - both secular and religious.

So get over it America... have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays!

And then go find some real world tragedy to whine about.


Saturday, December 17, 2005

Opening the door to impeachement

Haven't had a lot of time to write recently, but I feel compelled to have a brief venting today.

Today President Bush admitted to authorizing illegal wiretapping.

Yes, he admitted to criminal acts while in office.

Correct me here if I've missed something... but isn't that an impeachable offense? I mean, wasn't that the basis for Watergate? (Yes, that's a rhetorical question).

Where is our Democratic leadership?

Let's go... get rolling... this is the foot in the door to stop this Administration in its tracks! Let's get the impeachment process started.

I know that with the current makeup of Congress it won't go anywhere - but let's get serious, something has to be formally done by Congress to tell the world we know this is wrong.

We're not talking about sex in the oval office, here - we're talking about a flat out disregard for US law, an abuse of power, and a violation of the Constitution.
C'mon people, this is tragic and needs to be addressed to the full extent possible. If we let this slide, then we all, as Americans, have given up. And it's not the America I grew up in - where no one is above the law, and the words "We the People" were more than a quaint old ideology.

This is a dark day for the US, our government and the Presidency.

We live in a Democracy, not a monarchy. And it's time this administration found that out.

We cannot allow this crime to be acceptable. Our future as a nation of free citizens depends on it.


Monday, December 12, 2005

But... no clemency granted

And the final word is... Tookie Williams will be executed.

After being denied clemency this afternoon by Governor Schwarzenegger, Stanley Tookie Williams will be executed, after 24 years on death row, at 12:01 am on Tuesday.

After aiding the cause of helping dissuade young people from joining gangs or embracing violence, after using himself as an example of how horribly you can go wrong, after being nominated for the Nobel Prize in peace and literature over the years, Tookie Williams will be executed.

Again, there is no doubt that Tookie Williams was a bad dude in his day (may still be), that founding the Crips was a really bad idea, and that even indirectly by doing so Tookie was responsible for hundreds of deaths.

But it also took 26 years to reach this point where we, as a society, had to decide to finally take his life or admit that what we say we believe - that people do have the potential to change and be rehabilitated - is possible, and that if and when this happens, there is a higher law that says execution may no longer be the appropriate conclusion to this case.

And along the way, we held to the hypocritical position that to prove he was remorseful, and have a chance at clemency, he would have to admit to the specific crimes for which he has so long claimed innocence. Yeah, we saw how well that logic worked for Pete Rose and baseball...

Twenty six years ago, Tookie Williams most likely deserved to die. But we provided him an opportunity to live and change his life. Tookie Williams did not take that gift for granted. He made the most of it - to the betterment of society and our youth, not himself.

And now we have decided to ignore that rare change - and enforce a decision made 24 years ago without regard to these unique circumstances.

And I, as a true believer in capital punishment, still can't say I agree with our decision.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

Why Tookie should live

Yes, I believe in the death penalty.

There, I've said it - feel free to lob your anti-death penalty barbs my way. But I know of many cases where death is in my opinion the only appropriate and rational punishment.

The abduction, rape and murder of a child should be, I believe, punishable by death in every case. No extenuating circumstances. Hang 'em, shoot 'em, inject 'em - whatever. End of game.

In most cases of first degree (i.e. deliberate, pre-meditated, felonious) murder, I feel the same way.

And not many organizations ever seemed to love murder more than the Crips of LA. The gang we all know was founded by Stanley Tookie Williams over 25 years ago. Violent to the Nth degree, the Crips showed no mercy, and should be shown none either when prosecuted for the murders they committed.

No one is more aware of this than Tookie Williams, who has been on death row for 24 years for the murders of 4 people in 1979.

So... Tookie deserves to die for his crimes - and even he admits he's done enough bad things in his life to warrant his fate.

But something sets Tookie Williams apart (even more than his continued assertion that he was not responsible for "those" four deaths) from other convicted ex-gang member murderers: Tookie Williams is the poster child for the "Don't be like me" deterrence campaign.

In his 24 years behind bars, Tookie Williams has reformed himself, not just in words, but in deeds. His books and outspoken lectures to children and young adults about staying away from gangs and violence, punctuated hard by his personal fate behind bars forever, is the ultimate PR tool that any current law enforcement officer would love to put in the face of each street delinquent headed down the wrong path.

Let's face it, even compared to the crimes he was convicted for, Tookie Williams is more valuable to society today alive than he is dead. His execution at this point servers only one purpose - it satisfies the desire of revenge of victims still needing to feel that someone must die for the deaths of their relatives. And it makes good press for the "I'm hard as nails" prosecutors and D.A.s who believe everything is a cut and dried case.

But at this point in time that is neither justice nor is it to the betterment of society. Keeping Tookie alive on the other hand allows a necessary outreach to continue.

Killing Tookie Williams proves only that in America we care foremost about retribution (and rule of law, of course) - with no regard for the actual influence and effects of the action we are taking. Circumstantial issues are not of import.

But isn't that an odd irony here, because it was just this same circumstantial philosophy that convicted Tookie Williams - and is looking to execute him. Most of the evidence in his trial was circumstantial.

Apparently in our "society of life" circumstantial evidence can get you executed, but it can't redeem your life. Even if society is better off with you alive.

Don't get me wrong - I don't want Tookie Williams out of jail - he should be imprisoned for life. But execution seems belated and inappropriate now.

Tookie Williams's last chance is clemency from Governor Schwarzenegger. Let's see if the Terminator has learned a lesson about the value of being human - or if he believes in plodding along like a robot without a mind for humanity.

Regardless of the outcome, one thing is clear: Tookie Williams has shown that a horrible man can become a positive influence for good in the lives of young men struggling to find their way. And whether he lives past Tuesday or not, his legacy will be one that is remembered as ending on a positive path.


Friday, December 09, 2005

What a difference a year makes...

A recent Christmas card from friends we haven't seen since last Christmas has given me pause, and time to reflect a bit on how precious, and fleeting, time is.

The card was simple and festive, just as they always are, and started with a typical "This year has seen lots of change..." opening.

But what was shockingly different was the continuation of "... as Rob and I separated...."

Pardon me?

These are friends who, like us, were married for 12+ years and last year's card talked about what a wonderful year and exciting family life they were having.

Twelve months.

Sometimes it's hard to realize just how long a year is. While most of the time my plans are no further reaching than three months ahead, I still take for granted that most of what I know today will still be valid 12 short months from now.

Of course, I'm usually wrong.

Obviously this started me thinking about my own family and what traumatic events could ever split us up.

Let's be frank, my wife can do some things that drive me to complete and utter aggravation. And I know I do the same to her. And there are times when we have some arguments for the ages when I'm sure we both have fleeting thoughts of how easy life would be if the other person just vanished in a glorious puff of smoke - poof!

And let's not lie to each other - there are also those times I fantasize about Sandra Bullock or Heidi Klum too. C'mon, I'm human...

But for the life of me I can't imagine ever being able to live with anyone for more than a few weeks except my wife. And I can't imagine not having my kids, as rowdy as they are, underfoot every minute of the day. I can't imagine being part of another family - much less not being a part of mine.

And I'm sure this was true of our friends just one year ago.

How can a single year produce such a dramatic change?

It's hard to fathom, but 2005 has truly opened my eyes to doubting that anything will ever be the same 12 months later.

Look at everything that has changed in the past 12 months and you should agree. From the tsunami, to Katrina, to the Pakistan earthquake, to avian flu, to Plamegate, to Sandra Day O'Connor, to Harriet Meirs, to an administration out of control, to an absence of a Democratic Party, to the loss of American Ideals, to the allowing of torture as American policy...

Wow, what a difference a year makes.

Someday, maybe that will be a good a thing...


Thursday, December 08, 2005

A necessary tragedy

The recent shooting death of Rigoberto Alpizar at the Miami International Airport has created a lot of discussion around the office recently.

I work in an international office with people of many nationalities and cultures, and one thing's for certain: there is no universal consensus on the outcome of this incident.

Why? Primarily for the usual reason - we all have the benefit of hindsight, and a wealth of newly uncovered information.

First, let's look at the new revelations: he was sick, he was bipolar, he hadn't had his meds, his wife was yelling to authorities, he was really a very nice guy who was panicked, etc.

I have no doubts that all of this is true.

But at the same time I don't thing any of that means diddly. Why?

To understand that you have to understand the use of deadly force. Enforcers of the peace, in whatever title they carry, are instructed to pull their firearm only in cases of extreme threat where loss of life is a likely outcome. So once an officer has pulled their firearm, there is no "shoot to disarm". They have already made the decision that a death threat exists, and they shoot for one reason - to kill.

Like it or not, that's the truth of how we train law enforcement officers of all types.

But that's not a "bad" thing. That policy is what prevents law enforcement officers from brandishing weapons as a threat - and actually escalating a potentially diffusible situation. It protects more people than it harms - because a gun only comes into play at the very last possible moment. Or at least that's how it's supposed to work.

So, back to the topic of Rigoberto Alpizar. I've tried to put myself in various positions, and consider some hard questions:

What would I want done if I had been on the plane he was running from?
What would I want done if I had been in the terminal where he was running to?
What would I do if I were one of the two air-marshals demanding him to stop, and he refused?

My answer in all scenarios is the same: take him down.

Don't get me wrong, if there's anyone who regards loss of a single human life as a terribly sad tragedy, it's me.

But a man muttering about a bomb, rushing to get off a plane, snatching his duffle bag, refusing orders to stop (not ignoring them, but refusing them) and then stopping and reaching into the bag... well, in today's environment, I'm sorry but he must be taken down. There's too much at stake that outweighs the potential that he's just having a harmless fit. And he's definitely not someone who was calmly going about his own business.

And yes, his wife was yelling about him - but let's be brutally honest: many recent acts have been performed by individuals working in tandem. I simply cannot fault the marshals for not listening to her cries in that instant they had to make their fatal decision.

Sad... yes, very. But incorrect per the situation? No.

Sometimes, the right decision can still lead to a tragedy...


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

What's in a name?

You know I was just thinking this myself... and all I can say is... Yeah! Right! Ditto! I couldn't have said it better myself.

Read this great commentary on calling Christmas "Christmas" by our friends at The Hue and Cry.

And then go and enjoy your holiday season!