Patterico's Pontifications

11/8/2007

Al Qaeda wants to Hit US Where it Hurts: At the Mall

Filed under: Terrorism — DRJ @ 9:44 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The FBI has issued a warning of possible al Qaeda attacks on Chicago and Los Angeles area malls:

“The FBI confirmed it has issued an “intelligence information report” warning of possible Al Qaeda attacks on Los Angeles and Chicago shopping malls over the holiday season.

The warning states Al Qaeda has been planning the attack for the past two years with the intension to disrupt the U.S. economy, but it notes the latest threats fit a pattern that has emerged every holiday season since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.”

The threat is uncorroborated and uncertain:

“[T]he threat was obtained through a lengthy chain of acquisition, and was provided to the source by a sub-source who spoke in confidence. The veracity of the information is uncertain but the threat is being reported due to the nature of the information,” the FBI said in a statement.”

I seem to recall warnings like this before. In fact, I think it’s one of the reasons I initially tried online shopping.

— DRJ

When Religion Meets Science

Filed under: General — DRJ @ 9:28 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Like me, you probably studied world history in school and learned about the recurring conflicts between religion and science. For instance, many religions and religious leaders rejected scientific concepts such as the heliocentricity of Copernicus and Galileo and Darwin’s theory of evolution. Similarly, many modern scientists doubt(ed) that religious belief and prayer can miraculously cure illness.

These subjects came to mind when I read an article from today’s Salt Lake Tribune. The article reported a one-word change in the introduction to the Book of Mormon that was made in part because of advances in DNA research:

“The LDS Church has changed a single word in its introduction to the Book of Mormon, a change observers say has serious implications for commonly held LDS beliefs about the ancestry of American Indians.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe founder Joseph Smith unearthed a set of gold plates from a hill in upperstate New York in 1827 and translated the ancient text into English. The account, known as The Book of Mormon, tells the story of two Israelite civilizations living in the New World. One derived from a single family who fled from Jerusalem in 600 B.C. and eventually splintered into two groups, known as the Nephites and Lamanites.

The book’s current introduction, added by the late LDS apostle, Bruce R. McConkie in 1981, includes this statement: “After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.”

The new version, seen first in Doubleday’s revised edition, reads, “After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians.”

Historically, Mormonism taught that its patriarch, Lehi, was “the ancestor of all of the Indian and Mestizo tribes in North and South and Central America and in the islands of the sea.” However, DNA testing cast doubt on this claim since tests on more than 12,000 Indians suggest “that the continent’s early inhabitants came from Asia across the Bering Strait.”

Alternatively, many modern Mormons have adopted the “limited geography” theory that their ancestors lived separate from native Americans:

“Mormon researcher John M. Butler and DNA expert further argues that “careful examination and demographic analysis of the Book of Mormon record in terms of population growth and the number of people described implies that other groups were likely present in the promised land when Lehi’s family arrived, and these groups may have genetically mixed with the Nephites, Lamanites, and other groups. Events related in the Book of Mormon likely took place in a limited region, leaving plenty of room for other Native American peoples to have existed.”

The interplay between science and religion is both interesting and eternal.

— DRJ

Border-Crossing Deaths Continue to Drop

Filed under: Immigration — DRJ @ 4:54 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

There are more agents working to halt the flow of illegal immigrants across the Southern US border, there are fewer illegal crossings, and for the second straight year the number of border-crossing deaths are down:

“The number of illegal immigrants who died while crossing the southern U.S. border fell for the second straight year, officials said Wednesday.

Four hundred people perished while entering from Mexico in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, down 12 percent from the 453 deaths in the previous year. A record 494 deaths were reported in the fiscal year that ended in September 2005. U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Lloyd Easterling said that although the number is still too high, “We feel we have made significant progress this year.”

The Border Patrol attributed the lower numbers to tighter border enforcement that led to fewer illegal crossings and to 2,500 new agents in the field, who can spread out more to seek out immigrants crossing in remote and perilous terrain.”

Nevertheless, one critic claimed this is not good news:

“The Rev. Robin Hoover, founder of the Tucson-based group Humane Borders, said it is likely that other immigrants died whom Border Patrol agents have yet to find. “This is not good news for the Border Patrol, and the Border Patrol shouldn’t treat this as good news,” Hoover said.”

Overall, it sounds like border enforcement works.

— DRJ

A Criminal Use of the ‘Right of Publicity’

Filed under: Buffoons,Law — Justin Levine @ 3:24 pm

[post by Justin Levine]

In my eyes, robbing banks is a much more honest way to make a living than this.

Congress Loves to Spend Our Money

Filed under: Politics — DRJ @ 12:25 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Today Congress passed a $23B water resources bill, overriding President Bush’s earlier veto. It is the first time a Bush veto (admittedly a rare event) has been overridden by Congress.

I don’t know enough about this legislation to decide if this is a good or bad result but it’s a huge sum of money and that alone is a concern. However, this Washington Post article sums up for me the problem with Congress and its dedication to pork:

“President Bush suffered the first veto override of his seven-year-old presidency Thursday as the Senate enacted a $23 billion water resources bill despite his protest that it was filled with unnecessary projects.

The 79-14 vote included 34 Republicans who defied the president. Enactment was a foregone conclusion, but it still marked a milestone for a president who spent his first six years with a much friendlier Congress controlled by his Republican Party.

Now he confronts a more hostile, Democratic-controlled legislature, and Thursday’s vote showed that most of the Republicans will defy him on spending matters dear to their political careers.

The bill funds hundreds of Army Corps of Engineers projects, such as dams, sewage plants and beach restoration, that are important to local communities and their representatives. It also includes money for the hurricane-hit Gulf Coast and for Florida Everglades restoration efforts.”

Sometimes it’s hard to separate politicians’ and constituents’ interests but I think the Washington Post gets it right here. Even if these are important issues to constituents, this law was passed because it was “dear to their [politicians’] political careers.” Too many in Congress don’t see the difference.

— DRJ

“Atonement” Screening in L.A. Dec. 5 to Benefit a Great Cause

Filed under: General — Jack Dunphy @ 10:29 am

[Guest post by Jack Dunphy]

Patterico readers in Southern California are invited to a pre-release screening of Atonement, to be held December 5 at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Proceeds will benefit the Lollipop Theater Network, a nonprofit group that shows first-run movies to children undergoing care in hospitals all over the country. I’ve seen the good work Lollipop does here in Los Angeles as they bring a little joy to kids who sometimes have little else to smile about.

It’s not only a great cause, but early word on Atonement is that it’s a great movie and potential Oscar contender. Screenwriter Christopher Hampton and other special guests will be on hand to introduce the film. Tickets are $75, $65 of which is tax deductible. Contact Nina at Lollipop for tickets: (323)330-0334. And if you can’t attend, your donation will nonetheless be gratefully accepted.

TSA Insecurity

Filed under: Air Security — DRJ @ 10:17 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

Here’s another example of the breakdown between air security, national security, and illegal immigration:

“Nearly two dozen illegal immigrants were arrested Wednesday, accused of using fake security badges to work in critical areas of O’Hare International Airport, including the tarmac, authorities said.

The 23 illegal workers were employed by Ideal Staffing Solutions Inc., whose corporate secretary and office manager also were arrested after an eight-month investigation that involved federal, state and Chicago authorities. The company contracted work for carriers including United Airlines, KLM and Qantas, said Elissa A. Brown, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent.

“The investigation identifies a vulnerability that could compromise national security, while bringing criminal charges against individuals who built an illegal work force into their business practice,” Brown said.”

Over 100 arrest warrants were issued in the case, and there were arrests of 21 workers from Mexico and two from Guatemala. The report states they can be charged under state criminal laws and be deported. The investigation also showed some workers were using previously deactivated badges:

“The affidavits allege that Ideal Staffing told workers they needed to have identification, but that the documents did not have to be legitimate, and also accused the company of supplying some workers with deactivated badges issued in other names.

Brown, [U.S. Attorney Pat] Fitzgerald and other officials declined to answer questions about how workers could use deactivated badges to enter secure areas of the airport, saying that the investigation continued and that not all details could be revealed.”

I’m glad officials conducted these raids and are working to enforce security, but it’s troublesome that contractors can get this out-of-control. Instead of calling it the Transportation Security Administration, it sounds more like the Transportation No-Security Administration.

— DRJ

Texas Judge sued by Executed Inmate’s Wife

Filed under: Judiciary,Law — DRJ @ 8:34 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

Judge Sharon Keller is the Presiding Judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. She may forever be known as the “We Close at 5″ judge because of her role in last month’s death row appeal and execution of Texas inmate Michael Richards. Earlier posts on this topic are here and here.

As noted in the earlier posts, Michael Richards was the last person executed in the US since the US Supreme Court granted cert in Baze, a Kentucky case that concerns the use of lethal injections in executions. The Supreme Court granted cert in the morning and Richards was executed that evening, after his attorneys unsuccessfully tried to halt his execution citing Baze. It appears the Supreme Court refused to stay Richards’ execution because he did not file an appeal on that basis in the Texas courts.

Richards’ attorneys claimed they were unable to timely make the state court filing deadline because of computer problems and that the Texas court and Judge Keller refused to accept a late filing (after 5 PM). Judge Keller has consistently maintained she stated the court’s customary closing time and did not block the filing of Richards’ appeal.

Subsequently, the Austin American-Statesman reported that an ethics complaint was filed against Judge Keller “for refusing to accept an after-hours appeal from death row inmate Michael Richard.”

Yesterday, Michael Richards’ wife sued Judge Keller (and unknown other court/clerk officials) claiming their actions violated Richards’ rights:

“An executed man’s wife filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that a judge violated his rights by refusing to keep the state’s highest criminal court open late so his lawyers could file an appeal the day he was set to die.

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller refused to allow the court to stay open past 5 p.m. on Sept. 25 even though attorneys for Michael Richard had called and asked for extra time to file their appeal. “I would ask her why she just couldn’t wait a few more minutes. It wouldn’t have cost her anything to do this,” 43-year-old Marsha Richard said.
***
Keller is accused of violating an “open courts” provision of the Texas Constitution, causing Michael Richard’s wrongful death and violating his Fourth Amendment right to protection against unlawful searches and seizures.

The lawsuit is asking for an unspecified amount of punitive damages and seeks a court order to be issued directing Keller, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals’ clerk and other court personnel not to stop emergency death penalty appeals from being filed.
The 11th Amendment gives states immunity from federal lawsuits. But Kallinen said Keller is not immune to a lawsuit because her actions violated established statutory or constitutional rights.”

The plaintiff has a special concern for and a rare double connection with death penalty inmates:

“I hope nothing like this happens to anyone else,” said Marsha Richard, who married her husband five years ago after meeting him while she visited her brother, who was also on death row.”

I think judges have absolute immunity from prosecution in connection with official judicial acts but their immunity may be qualified as to administrative functions. I don’t know which area this action falls into but, either way, it will be a difficult lawsuit to sustain. IMO this matter should be resolved by the judicial commission, not the courts.

However, in a related positive development, the article notes that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals instituted Tuesday new procedures that permit “emergency e-mail appeals in death penalty cases.”

Update 11/10/2007: More on this story here.

— DRJ

It’s Official: Some Americans go Crazy over O.J.

Filed under: Crime — DRJ @ 12:47 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

Want proof? Read this report from a Miami Herald crime reporter who flew to Las Vegas yesterday to cover a hearing on O.J. Simpson’s criminal charges:

“Herald reporter and Crime Scene blogger Evan Benn is in transit to Las Vegas tonight to cover OJ Simpson’s upcoming hearing. A few hours ago, Evan boarded a Delta flight out of the Fort Lauderdale airport — only to find himself seated directly in front of OJ himself.

Talk about access.

Evan tells us that OJ seems to be in good spirits. The Juice is traveling with a guy and a girl, and requested the aisle seat. After settling in for the five-hour flight, Evan heard him sigh: “Another day in paradise.” Then, OJ asked for headphones to listen to the movie, The Evening.

It wasn’t long before OJ was besieged by fans and well-wishers. Evan sent this report from the runway:

“A 20-something blond just asked OJ for an autograph. Says she’s a big fan of Naked Gun. After she left, OJ speculated she was with the media. Now, an older man just asked him, ‘Do you remember the commercials you did? Running through the airport? I liked that. Good luck, buddy.’ OJ shook his hand across the aisle and said thanks.”

This proves to me (again) that the only bad publicity is no publicity.

— DRJ

John Kerry is Ready for the Swift Boat Vets

Filed under: Politics — DRJ @ 12:15 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

Three years after he lost the 2004 Presidential election, John Kerry is finally ready to take on the Swift Boat Vets:

John Kerry said Monday there might be a next time for his presidential aspirations, and if there is, the 63-year-old U.S. senator from Massachusetts says he’ll be ready for the political torpedoes that helped sink his 2004 White House bid.

Kerry, whose service as a U.S. Navy Swift boat skipper during the Vietnam War came under attack in his race against President Bush, said he has compiled a dossier on his war record critics that he wishes he had as the Democratic presidential nominee.

“We have put together a documented portfolio that frankly puts their lies in such a total light of absurdity and indecency, that should they ever rear their ugly heads again, we have every single ‘t’ crossed and ‘i’ dotted, and I welcome that in a sense,” Kerry said following a morning address to the South Shore Chamber fo [sic] Commerce. “It’s a shame we weren’t able to produce all that at the time.”

I’m curious what Kerry means by a “dossier on his war record critics.” Is this Kerry’s response to the specific charges made against him by the Swift Boat Vets or is it his counterattack on the character of those who made the charges? It sounds like Kerry plans to attack the messengers rather than the message.

Tim Blair compares President Bush’s and John Kerry’s reaction times:

“Three years. It’s taken John Kerry three whole years. And people made fun of Bush for a five-minute book reading on 9/11…”

At this rate, John Kerry should be ready to respond to Tim Blair in 2010.

— DRJ


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