Monthly Archives: April 2007

A Couple of Supreme Court Items

Earlier today I read that the Supreme Court has decided to hear the case of Jose Medellin. (Background here, with other links)

Siding with the killer are the Mexican government, a group of international law experts and the pro-death penalty White House, which considers a Texas court’s decision in Medellin’s case an affront to the president’s sole authority to conduct foreign policy.

While I’m fairly certain there is no way that Medellin will have his sentence commuted to life, I am very curious about the executive powers aspect the White House is pushing.  It will affect other cases (50, I believe) involving Mexican nationals.  It could also affect how U.S. citizens abroad are treated.

 The second case, the court declined to hear. One of the plaintiffs is Hamdan, whose last trip to the Court resulted in some of the only legislation passed last year by the 109th Congress — the Military Commissions Act.  The other is a Canadian national, who at age 15 allegedly killed a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan.  Basically, these two will have to work their way through the newly set up tribunals in Gitmo, and then appeal.  As the article states, there is legislation in the works to amend the MCA to at least allow for habeas corpus claims.

The theme, as I see it, in both of the cases, is that we as a country really need to consider how we treat foreign nationals in our judicial system because we must be able to demand equal treatment for our citizens abroad.  Medellin has at least faced trial, but those professionals charged with complying with the rules possibly didn’t.  The other two, along with all of those held at Gitmo (Hicks pled out) have not had a hearing, much less a trial.  Yet they have been held for years.

Astros Win!

I don’t know if my mom planned it this way, but my birthday has always lent itself to a day at the ball park.  With my beloved Astros facing a seven game losing streak — they had a players only meeting before the game — I can tell you that the fact that they won on my birthday is true.  They always do that.  It’s just the way the world works. It’s my birthday, ‘stros win.  Even when I was in Riga and I heard the game on tape later, we won YaY!

Why go to a day spa for a massage . . .

when you can call up an escort service?

I’ve been following this story, basically because it comes up a lot at another blog I read (balloon-juice).  Here’s the short version:  There is a woman in Washington D.C., Deborah Jeane Palfrey, who up until recently ran an escort service called “Pamela Martin and Associates.”  The feds charged her with running a prostitution ring and they froze her bank account.  Needing money for her defense, she wanted to sell her client list, but the judge said no.  She gave the list to ABC.  (She’s going to be on 20/20 this week.)

The first resignation with excuses happened today.

Deputy Secretary of State Randall L. Tobias submitted his resignation Friday, one day after confirming to ABC News that he had been a customer of a Washington, D.C. escort service whose owner has been charged by federal prosecutors with running a prostitution operation. 

 Of course, he resigned for “personal reasons.”   At least he didn’t say it was to “spend more time with his family.”  And yes, he is married.  And yes, at this point he is pulling a Ted Haggard, saying that he only used the service to get massages, not sex.  From the above link:

On Thursday, Tobias told ABC News he had several times called the “Pamela Martin and Associates” escort service “to have gals come over to the condo to give me a massage.”   Tobias, who is married, said there had been “no sex,” and that recently he had been using another service “with Central Americans” to provide massages.

Are there really no day spas in D.C. or licensed massage therapists?  Really?  The mind boggles.

Here’s the kicker.  This guy used to be the chairman of the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly.  Then he was the White House guy in charge of AIDS relief.  He was a strong advocate of abstinence only programs.  No ABC* for kids in Africa!

What a prince.

*ABCis the successful strategy used in Uganda to slow the rate of HIV/AIDS infection.  It stands for abstinence, be faithful and use a condom.

Puppy Girls’ Super-Duper Excellent Adventure

Today was the first day of my vacation.  Our game plan for the morning was an excellent adventure to the dog wash, and then a visit to mom’s house.  The puppy girls had never been to one before, nor had they been to mom’s.  We woke up early and got everything together.  I cleaned up the truck, ran to the store to get pup shampoo, came back, put their harness collars on the puppy girls, and packed them into the truck.  Dora sat in the front with her seat-belt, and Tammy rode in the back.  (She wouldn’t jump in so I had to lift her — 50 lbs. -ugh.)   We got on the freeway easily, but there was a lot of traffic.   Once the traffic broke up and I got up to about 55 mph, the truck started to shake.  It’s happened before.  I knew it was one of the tires — the back driver’s side to be exact.  I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to make it to an exit.  As is always the case, when you really need to get over, there are at least three or four poky drivers in the right lane completely unwilling to let you over.  We made it to the exit, but of course, there was construction and the entrances to the parking lot were blocked off — oh, and everyone on the feeder was driving faster than anyone on the freeway . . .

Finally, I found an entrance and pulled into a parking spot.   As I had thought, it was the left rear tire.  The tread had split apart.  I found a phone and called AAA.  After that, I called my mom to see if she could look up a tire place nearby, since AAA charges after the first three miles of a tow.   [Why didn't I just change the tire?  Because I am lazy.  Really.  My rim on my spare is bent (has been for 10 years) and the spare loses air.  This vacation I will buy a new rim.  Really.]  While my mom was looking for her phone books, the tow truck came.  I hung up the phone and ran back to the truck.  Tammy had somehow squeezed herself through the window between the cab and the camper and was sitting behind the steering wheel.  The tow truck driver said there was a tire place right around the corner, and that he would follow me there just in case the tire gave out, and then honk when I was there. 

I had to fight back both Tammy and Dora when I opened the door.  I could barely shift gears with both of those stinky girls panting in my face.  Bad puppy girls.  We made it across the parking lot and managed a tricky left turn out onto the street.  Just a few hundred feet away, the tow truck driver honked and there was Galvan Tires.  YaY!  I bought a new tire and one very nice guy changed it while another guy patted the stinky girls through the window.  The tire store dog came over and let me pet him.  He was a black and white version of Tammy.

We went back to the parking lot, so I could call my mom back.  Worried about the part of town I was in, my mom had sent my sister out to the rescue when she discovered I had hung up.  I put Tammy back in the camper — again she wouldn’t jump — ugh again.  We were back on the road by 11:00.   Dora had fallen asleep by the time we found the dog wash — right where my sister had said it would be.  I was in the process of buying tokens when she pulled up to help.  YaY!  I hadn’t expected her, so it was a great surprise.

The dog wash is very cool.  It’s another one of those things I wish I had thought of.  It’s part of a self service car wash.  The dog part is a smallish spot with a cast iron latching gate.  There’s a ramp that leads up to a 4′x4′ stainless steel tub about 6″ deep.  Dora didn’t like the ramp, but I pushed her up it anyway and tired her leash to the eye hook in the wall.  The water was just the right temperature.  She had a soothing organic herbal flea shampoo, followed by a conditioner, rinse and blow dry.  She didn’t like the blow dry.  She shook herself off twice — soaking my sister and me in the process.  Tammy was up next.  She didn’t like the ramp either, and really didn’t like the water.  She got the same shampoo and conditioner, but rinsing her took a lot longer since her fur is so thick.  It was coming out in clumps.  At least Tammy waited until she was back out in the parking lot before she shook off.

We drove over to my mom’s house.  When Dora got out, my sister was sure that Dora could smell their rabbits.  Tammy was a little scared of my mom at first, but then she got caught up in the new place and happily let my mom pet her.  We took them for a little walk and then had lunch.  By the time we left, the puppy girls were pooped.  The slept until just a bit ago.  They’re back in the house now, resting peacefully.  They are both sweet smelling and their coats are very soft.

And that was just the first half of my first day of vacation ;)

More on Guns

Back when I first started writing this blog, there was a little dust-up about flu shots at voting locations.  The guy who wrote the article about it at the Chronicle, Matt Stiles, stated that bloggers had complained that the city should not let a nonprofit provide the flu shots.  (In that link, Rorschach is sticking his nose into Houston city politics, without a clue, per usual.)  I wrote to Matt, asking who the bloggers were.  One was my now blog friend, Jason.  The other was this guy.  He goes by Rorschach.  He lives in Katy, but politics are so boring out there that he feels compelled to stir up Houston politics.  Like Pavlov’s dog, he reacts to what happened in Virginia in a predictable, over the top, way.

In his post of 4/25, he links to this site, Students for Concealed Carry on Campus.  If you click through you can see that this is an impromptu site set up just to make some hay over a very tragic event.  Its color scheme is the obligatory red, white and blue, with plenty of graphics of guns — one with a mortarboard on it!  (Lots of exclamation points, too.)  Click on the “about” link to see a pic of the founder, Chris Brown, proud senior, majoring in political science (i.e. heading for the Republican welfare train) at the University of North Texas and baseball cap wearer.  He wears glasses, too, just like my creepy student from last session.

I’ll try to explain this as clearly as I can.  Let’s just say I am teaching a class and I know that there is a possibility that one or more of my students has a concealed handgun.  I teach my class and everything goes smoothly.  Great.  But one day someone — maybe it’s me, maybe another student — says something that sets one of the carrying students off.  It then becomes a question of who is the quicker draw, leading to a possible Mexican standoff.  If the ticked off student has a semi-automatic, then the whole class is doomed.  Happy scenario?

The same groups who want guns on campus whine and moan about having to be PC.  One way to insure that everything said on campus is ultra-PC is to allow guns there.  Is that what that crowd really wants?

I’ve had a prof chase me across campus after having a heated debate in a class.  I’ve had students threaten me.  I’ve had students literally get in my face and call me a liar.  I’ve had desperate students turn angry because they didn’t pass a class. 

Guns on campus is not the solution.  As I have said numerous times, just give me a damn lock on my classroom door.

Treason

This is getting tiresome. 

Tom DeLay today:

In an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review editorial board yesterday, former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) accused Senate Majoirty Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) of “getting very, very close to treason” by opposing the war in Iraq.

Thanks, Tom.  He even took the time to look up the definition.  I’m certain that the experience of cracking a book was as novel as writing his own book or blog.  Local radio host Chris Baker seems to have deleted his interview with Tom.

Then there’s Dick Cheney, who my mom thought “spoke well” at President Ford’s funeral.  My mom was an adult when Watergate happened.  She doesn’t know that Cheney was there then.  Hell, I “speak well” every freaking day.  Wait — this isn’t about me or my mom, but rather about Cheney:

CHENEY: “What’s most troubling about Senator Reid’s comments yesterday is his defeatism. Indeed, last week he said the war is already lost. And the timetable legislation that he is now pursuing would guarantee defeat.”

FACT: Americans think Cheney is wrong. From a 4/19 Fox News poll: “[D]o you think it is accurate to compare withdrawal with surrender?” Yes: 33 percent | No: 61 percent

And from the Republican front runner:

 “This war ends when they stop coming here to kill us!” Giuliani said. “Never ever again will this country ever be on defense waiting for (terrorists) to attack us if I have anything to say about it. And make no mistake, the Democrats want to put us back on defense!”

Giuliani said terrorists “hate us and not because of anything bad we have done; it has nothing to do with Israel and Palestine. They hate us for the freedoms we have and the freedoms we want to share with the world.” 

*sigh* 

Today, Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman’s brother testified in Congress.  I don’t understand why the administration thought they had to lie about them.  Things are unravelling for the administration.  I know that’s kind of a “duh” statement, but I’m sleepy, sorry.

Guns

I’ve never owned a gun.  I’ve never shot anything more than a BB gun, and that was when I was a girl.  My father had a gun.  It was something he had gotten when he was in the army.  I didn’t know where he kept it until after I had moved away from home.  My uncle used to be pretty big on hunting — mostly birds out in West Texas.  He made his own shells and carefully trained his dogs.  He loved those dogs and worked wonders with them.  When I visited them in the summers, most mornings we would have fried quail for breakfast — birds my uncle had shot and my aunt had shown my sister and me how to clean, being especially careful about getting the shot out.  Even though he’s in his 80s, people still come to my uncle for advice on training their bird dogs.

I was disappointed when the concealed gun law passed in Texas.  Ann Richards had vetoed it, but then George W. Bush was elected, and he quickly signed it into law.  Prior to that, I had experienced an attempted mugging.  It was way back in the early 1980′s.  I had had a flat tire just before Studemont goes under I-10.  I couldn’t change it because I had dropped my spare off to be patched.  As I started to walk up to the gas station at Studemont and White Oak, three people (all about my age then or younger) approached and asked if I needed help.  I explained what my plan was and they followed me to the station.  On the way back, as we all came out from under the overpass, one of the males stuck a gun in my back and demanded all of my money.  Unfortunately, I had just spent what little I had on the can of fix-a-flat I bought and told them so.  They didn’t believe me.  I argued with them — two in front, one in back — at times being sarcastic, asking if they wanted to take my goldfish which was in a bowl in the back seat of my car.  Out of the blue, a car drove up into the parking lot where I had managed to get my car, flat and all.  He walked up very friendly and casual and asked if we needed help.  I told him I was just trying to fix my flat since I didn’t have a spare.  The good samaritan explained that his wife had been behind him and that he had waved her on, so she expected him at home, but he could take me and my flat to a full service gas station up the feeder road to get it fixed.  The three with the gun seemed intimidated by him and slowly moved on with his encouragement.  After the samaritan and I had gotten my flat into his car, I asked him if his wife would be worried.  He explained that it was all a ruse — no wife.  He helped me get my flat fixed and then we went to an ice house on White Oak for a few beers.  He worked for HL&P — Houston’s old electric company — and we stayed friends for a while.

I’ve been robbed since then.  Once someone just walked into my house and stole my guitar — while I was there.  I ran out to the robber’s waiting car, yelling at him and his companions as they drove away.  In Riga, one of my fellow teachers, Ewan from Scotland, and I were beaten pretty badly one night on the street by a gang of high school boys.  They attacked us from behind, punched me in the face innumerable times, pinned me down on the ground and beat Ewan.  A man came and scared them away.  As we made our way to the tram stop, the same boys attacked us again.  I remember very little about that part except that I got kicked in the head several times.  We somehow got away.  Later at my school, some boys told me that they knew the boys who had done it and asked if I wanted them to pay the other boys back.  I told them no, but asked how they knew.  Turns out Ewan and I had given as good as we had gotten.

When I lived in Midtown in Houston, I got mugged one night on the doorstep of my apartment.  I lived two blocks from the Houston Community College Central Campus, but the campus police couldn’t help me.  I lost my keys while fighting them, and they charged up a couple of my credit cards before I called it in.  My lovely neighbor called the police and reported me.  It took a bit of time to clarify that I was the one who had been mugged.  The police just said that we were sitting ducks living in that neighborhood.

I’ve since moved to the near northside.  Things are better.  If someone is crazy enough to cross Dora’s territory — and that means even putting a hand over the fence — they’ll reget it.  Tammy is not so territorial, but she is loyal to us and very intimidating in person.  When we were moving to my friend’s place to wait out Hurricane Rita, I felt safe — despite the eerie strangeness of that day — because I had my girls, my bat, and my 12″ pipe with me.

And so after all of that here we are:  guns.  I don’t need a gun.  Dora and Tammy are loyal to ME and MINE.  Both would give their lives for me — Dora would even do so for this property.  My bat and pipe, while not loyal to me, are two things that I can both defend myself with and from.  If someone wrestles either from me, I know how to defend myself against them.  A gun, not so much.  I can talk.  I can persuade.  I can argue.  I can cajole.  But if I had a gun, and it got away from me, I wouldn’t be able to stop it.

I don’t want to go in front of a class knowing that someone in the room could have a gun.  Weapons of any kind are not allowed on campus.  It should stay that way.  One incident doesn’t mean that the rules should change in either direction.  For me, I’d like to be able to lock my classroom if it were necessary.  As it stands now, I can’t.  There’s not even a lock button on the knob.  At least having a key lock would be good.  Oh and, if I had a key.  Having armed students in the classroom, day in, day out . . . conservatives like Chris Baker constantly complain about the PC police . . . just imagine the situation a teacher would be in if her students were potentially armed.  Imagine that.

If that is what you want, you don’t want teachers to be able to do their jobs.  If you think the solution is more guns, please think again.  Right now, the ding-dong news reader Brian Williams is stating on the Letterman Show that the NASA shooting was a copycat killing and that there have been 16 others.  Dave babbled what what — but Brian Williams just got to go on and state his non-point.  The NASA killing, like the one today in Houston over an eviction, were not copycat killings.  They would have happened anyway.  The man at NASA bought the gun earlier and had planned it.  The man who was facing eviction today had a gun already.  There was a heroine here:

Thurm then continued toward the office. Ready said a witness called the complex office and warned Schoellmann that a man was headed that way with a gun. Schoellmann then ushered other employees out of the office.

“The early warning the manager made to coworkers likely saved their lives,” Ready said. 

Laura Schoellmann was the apartment manager.  She saved lives.  Brian Williams would surely dismiss her actions just to make his point.  We’ll never know.

If there is a copycat killer out there, s/he hasn’t acted yet.

Fewer handguns would work out well for everyone.  Lots of arguments have been made for this — mine is that our state and our country finally move into the 21st century.  Stop killing people. Period.

San Jacinto Day

In 18 minutes, the Texian Army defeated Santa Anna’s forces a few miles away from here.  When I was a girl, my family would go to the San Jacinto Battlefield for picnics.  We would take the elevator to the top of the monument, put a coin in the telescope thingy and look out over Texas.

It’s on a day like this that I can come close to understanding others’ patriotism.  For me, it’s always Texas.  I have always expressed appreciation that my dad had the sense to move our family out of West Texas, but my summers there, with my grandparents,  molded who I am.  I hoed cotton.  I moved irrigation pipe.  I picked black-eyed peas.

A man I admired greatly was also a product of that dry place that is West Texas.  He served his country voluntarily his entire professional life.  He raised a family and made sure that they were all safe for his entire life.  He didn’t take very well to me at first, but later, our views came together quite closely.  Books were the intersection — Palestine Peace not Aparthied and The Road.   I can only hope that I approach the end of my life the way he did.

I know it’s selfish, but now, there is no person older than me that I look up to.  There are some that I love — my friends — some I must care about — my family (some in there I truly love) – some I have to work with — my boss and co-workers, but no one to look up to.  The two who fill that category are dead.

Stumpy Misses His Dad

We miss you and love you Roberto.

Students

Today we had what we call “leveling.”  It’s the day at the end of the term when we decide who moves forward and who repeats.  It was also the day that my fellow teachers finally felt ok enough to say something about what happened at VT on Monday, if only in an oblique way.  I had thought about it, too.  We had one student, from South Korea, who — for the entire term — had rarely spoken, sat at the back of the classroom with a ball cap on, almost always looking down, virtually never interacting with his teachers or classmates. 

I’ve taught quite a number of South Koreans.  Many of them have invited me to their homes — GREAT FOOD! — two have actually invited me to their engagement cerimony.  I was very honored.  In particular, that experience showed me something about Koreans.  They are all about respect, especially for elders and teachers.  It the exact opposite of how my fellow Americans treat teachers for the most part, sadly even my own family.

People use stereotypes to help them make sense of a diverse world.  South Koreans are typically quiet.  That’s a stereotype.  Some even think that about themselves at times — they believe the stereotype is true.  I’ve found it not to be the case.  Just this last term I taught South Koreans whom I would never be able to classify into a neat category.

Today, my fellow teachers expressed their unease about that one South Korean student.  It’s understandable.  Some students are very open in their hostility.  I’ve dealt with them.  Some students are not.  We’ve been lucky.

 This reminds me of one student I taught for over a year — I wish I had had this little blog then — I’m sure he would be around here.  He is from Palestine.  In my beginning level writing class, he wrote a narrative about what he had to go through to get a visa to study in the U.S.  He had to go to Jerusalem, the place of his birth.  He didn’t go by the rules exactly and was forced to sit in the sun for a day.   While studying here, ICE followed him.  Except he wasn’t the person they thought he was.  He was arrested and ICE accused him of not attending classes.  He had perfect attendance for the entire year + he was in our program.  ICE hand-cuffed him.  ICE took him to jail.  Did he get angry?  No.  He called the school and we helped him.

 There’s crazy talk on my local PBS channel tonight — it’s just disheartening and distracting.