Drooling on the Pillow

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Big Drop 

I was on a grand jury four or five years ago that re-indicted a guy who had been sitting in a jail cell for many years for the murder of a cop. Some judge cut him loose and the Hudson County prosecutors wanted him back inside.

Okay. Much of the evidence against him was hinky as it was provided by the testimony of a number of witnesses without a merit badge between them. Not nice guys. Career dirtbags.

But. There were two or three pieces of physical evidence that, to me, at least, made it a very easy vote. I voted to indict and a majority, but not a big majority, voted with me.

He was acquitted in the trial and the media treated it as a triumph of justice. Now I didn't follow the trial closely, I don't know what the jury was presented with and I don't know that, had I been on that jury, I wouldn't have voted to acquit as well.

I just know that I saw a lot of evidence that didn't make it into the trial, but even some of the stuff I know did make it was enough for me to be as sure today as I was back then that this guy was guilty.

These thoughts were prompted by this post at The Dax Files. Dax is uncomfortable with the Scott Peterson trial. Peterson was convicted and sentenced to death on the basis of circumstantial evidence and, whether or not he's guilty, Dax is not convinced that the state proved it's case.

Even though I managed to avoid almost all of the case on TV, I did read some about it and I agree. There was not one iota of physical evidence linking Peterson to the crime. No forensic evidence, no tape recordings, no co-conspirators, no nothing. He was convicted before the trial began of being a dick. Of that, he was manifestly guilty. He made many fishy moves and did his best to portray himself as man who would like to kill his wife. The circumstantial evidence tied him to events surrounding the crime, but not the crime itself.

No way should he have been convicted.

I'm a person who believes in capital punishment. I believe in the justice of it and in the way it helps to constitute a society's sense of itself.

In order to protect capital punishment, however, I think several reforms are in order. I don't think anyone should be sentenced to death purely on circumstantial evidence and absolutely never solely on the basis of eyewitness identification.

Also as there are already two phases of a capital trial (guilt and punishment), why can't there be two standards of evidence? Beyond a reasonable doubt may serve to put a man in jail for life, but for killing him, perhaps something just short of metaphysical certainty is needed. Society needs to have the ability to pass the supreme judgment on its most hideous malefactors; anything that protects that right should be employed.

The Peterson trial didn't help. I'm sure he's probably guilty. But I'm with Dax. I don't think they proved it.

Rather's Revenge? 

Spring Break Shark Attack?

Was CBS taken over by Troma Entertainment while I wasn't watching?

And would someone with a stronger stomach than mine please report back on this?

UPDATE: Well, this post captures it as well as any I've seen. And yes, I saw about half an hour of it.

Doom and Gloom 

Here's a headline you didn't want to see:

Despite Property Tax Furor, Little is Likely to be Done

That's on David Kocieniewski's On Politics column in the Sunday Times New Jersey section (no link yet). If you're looking for a little Palm Sunday uplift, steer clear.

He takes note of all the stirrings on the issue from the rebate roll-back to the constitutional convention to the charges and counter-charges on the campaign trail and then explains why it's likely to add up to a big, fat zero.

Sales tax hike: retail revolution.

Income tax hike: Jim Florio

Spending cuts: involves pulling too many thumbs out of the pie.

Local government consolidation: local and county bosses will love that one.

His most hopeful scenario is complete meltdown, forcing fundamental change. He doesn't even mention the possibility of relief from the constitutional convention.

Nobody said it would be easy, but somebody tell me it's not impossible.

My Hero 

Posted by Hello

I'm still thinking about Mr. Snitch's baseball essay and the hideous hearings in Washington.

It was 1956 or 1957 when my father took me to my first major league game at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. I had a couple of years of Little League under my belt, and I thought I was going to be pretty good. I had a good skill set for a ball player and up to that point was the best kid on every team I played on. I had one weakness and I was vaguely aware of it, but so far it hadn't hurt me.

Forbes Field was an old barn and when I saw it had been around for almost 60 years. The dimensions were: left field, 365, center 457, right field 300. 457 feet is an awful deep center field and they used to park the batting cage out there. No one ever hit a ball out of the park over the batting cage. And in 60 years nobody ever pitched a no hitter there.

I don't remember much from that game -- only one moment stood out. I think the other team was the Cubs, but I'm not sure about that. They had a guy on second. The batter hit a line drive that hit the base of the wall in right. The right fielder gathered the ball a few feet from the wall and threw a beebee, a laser (which didn't exist at the time), a screaming bullet on the fly that landed on the third base edge of home plate and got the runner from second. From an entire football field away.

I was electrified. I remember that moment like it was this morning. Maybe it was because it was my first brush with proportion, with the finality of limits. My weakness was my arm. It was average at best and as thrilling as Clemente's peg was I knew that was something I could never do. I wasn't going to be a major leaguer and, believe it or not, that came as a shock to me. I think I can honestly say, though, that I was less disappointed than thrilled. And from that moment on, Roberto Clemente was my hero.

Every team I was ever on I fought to have the number 21. Every game of backyard wiffle ball I copied the stance, the swing, the frantic dash around the bases. I admired his pride, his prickliness, his dignity. We moved from Pittsburgh to New Jersey on October 14, 1960, the day after the Pirates beat the Yankees in the World Series on Mazeroski's home run.

You probably know that Clemente died on New Years Eve, 1972 in an airplane crash while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He bought the supplies, he rented the plane, he went with it to make sure it got where it was supposed to go.

The next few days I got calls from people all over the country, people I hadn't spoken to in ten years, because they knew how I felt about him.

Gracie plays in the Roberto Clemente league now and I always ask for number 21, but it's an Hispanic league in our town and somebody always gets it first.

You know, all I'm really asking of the bozos in Washington is for one of these millionaires to say "I took the juice and I'm sorry." They don't have to be heros.

So Dock Me 

Yesterday was the first day in a long time I took off from blogging. Busy day, sole care of Grace, soccer, little league, etc.

I ought to do that more often.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Label May Cause Head to Explode 

John Stossel's column in the New York Sun this morning deals with the absurd proliferation of warning labels.

You know the cardboard shades you put in the windshield when you park your car? They now say "Remove shade from windshield" before driving.

Power drill: "Not intended for use as a dental drill."

Hair blower: "Do not use while asleep."

Bullet: "Harmful if swallowed."

Toilet brush: "Do not use for personal hygiene."

There's even an organization that tracks these things, the Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch.

The best was a company that had been making fishing lures for almost a century. Some lawsuits in California forced them to label their lures "Harmful if swallowed" at a cost of $10,000. The hooks? No, it was because they contained lead.

What About the Dumpster Terrorists? 

Barista has a story about Essex County Jail officers complaining that they lack body armor despite $500,000 in grants to provide it.

The subject came up at last night's county freeholder
meeting, although sources high in the jail workers' unions
say the vest problems are just the tip of the iceberg of
problems there.

"The gangs basically run our jail right now," the officer
said. "An ambulance is called to our facility once a day."
I wonder how many body armors a garbage truck could buy.

UPDATE: The Power of the Barista

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The iTraveller 

Highlights from the trip to work:

1000 Dollar Car on Bottle Rocket's album The Brooklyn Side. A jumped up bar band with a couple minor hits. Until I bought a new Gallant a couple years ago, though, this song neatly encapsulates my relationship with cars.

Au Fond du Temple Saint from Bizet's Les Pecheurs de Perles. For my money the greatest male duet in all of opera.

UPDATE: These tunes are taking 45 seconds or so to load. What's a better way?

It's Hard, But It Can Be Done 

I'm in a linking and Trackback frame of mind today.

TigerHawk marks the opening of the Iraqi parliment with a parallel event in American history from his own back yard.

Placing and keeping the events in Iraq in perspective is vital to maintaining our national will to succeed in the Bush Project.

Life, Liberty and Bags O' Cash 

The Prop at Coffeegrounds has noted that "delegates to the state Constitutional Convention that will look at reforming property taxes will be able to accept contributions."

Before anyone gets too excited, let's remember this is a New Jersey Constitutional Convention.

Jascha Heifetz and Jack Benny Played the Violin 

Mary at Exit Zero examines the "value neutral" approach to news reporting, otherwise known as Reuterizing. When you take two sides whose claims are not equal and treat them as equal, you are, of course weighting the inferior side. A more proper term would be "value blind".

Inside Baseball 

I would like to direct anyone who still carries a torch for the dearly departed game of baseball over to Mr. Snitch! whose spring training essay is a marvel of insight and plain speaking.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Hitchens vs. The Times 

Writing over at Slate, Christopher Hitchens discusses the WMD in Iraq issue, the latest revelations of Dr. Sami al-Araji and the Times' treatment of the story.

The Times article states:

after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, "looters systematically
dismantled and removed tons of machinery from Saddam
Hussein's most important weapons installations, including
some with high-precision equipment capable of making parts
for nuclear arms."

Although the word "looters", used by the reporters, James Glanz and William J. Broad, was supplied by Dr. al-Araji, the deputy minister of industry, what he is describing is far more systematic, organized and detailed than what could be organized by mobs or even any insurgent organizations extant at the time.
The kinds of machinery at the various sites included
equipment that could be used to make missile parts,
chemical weapons or centrifuges essential for enriching
uranium for atom bombs.
You know, that WMD stuff that didn't exist. The stuff that Chimpy lied about to get us to bleed for oil.

I've noted before that all of the chemical and biological agents ever alleged to be in the possession of Saddam would fit into a large swimming pool. It would be the work of an afternoon for a platoon to bury the stuff. Kill the platoon and it's gone for good. Until you want it.

It's legitimate to debate whether it was possible for the coalition forces to control and supervise all these hundreds of sites in the weeks after the fall of Baghdad and to criticize the war planning on that basis. Hitchens makes the point plainly. I don't know. I'm not a military expert. It's no longer legitimate to debate whether WMD existed, however. The machinery and assembly points did not exist on the come. They were there to make what everybody knew was there.

Where did the stuff go? There could be no shorter odds than Syria, of course, but other scenarios are possible.

Read the Hitchens piece. As always, it's well worth your time.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Where Do They Get Young Men Like This? 

From TigerHawk, via Major K:

A moving tribute to the troops and the mission. As IowaHawk says, make sure your sound is on.

Until Then

Have a Sani-Taco On Me 

Chris Onstad, the man responsible for holding the Achewood universe together, took on additional responsibilities this morning. A new daughter. That's a little disturbing if you're familiar with his comic strip, but we wish him, his wife and his little one all the best. Just keep Nice Pete away from her.

They're So Much More Cooperative That Way 

Via Mark Styne:
. . . Robert McNamara, the Kennedy-Johnson defense
secretary . . . popped up last week with a particularly
fatuous observation even by his standards: The AP
reported, "McNamara added that the threat of terrorists
using a nuclear device could be reduced if the United
States in particular tried to understand terrorists'
anger and motivations."

I'm with Mekong Bob. We kill them all, then try to understand their anger and motivations, and I bet you the threat will be greatly reduced.

I'm sure that's what he meant.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Never Again 

Posted by Hello

This pretty much sums up Grace's party today at Jeepers in Jersey Gardens mall. That place reminds me a little of those stress tests they put the astronauts through in The Right Stuff. Noise, color, lights, crowds, chaos. The only thing I think I missed today were the electrodes. I thank all the correspondents who chastised me for putting myself through this. Next year it's cake and ice cream at home.

She had a great time, though.
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