Filed under:It's My Life — posted by Anwyn on November 25, 2007 @ 8:26 am

Sorry for lying when I said I’d blog over the week. I was too busy puttering around the beach, but not anything particularly blogable other than our visit to Fort Sumter. Also sorry for lying when I said I’d never been to SC before. I saw Nickel Creek play in Greenville a lot of years ago, but I’d never been to the coast. Myrtle Beach is nice. I was expecting a touristy beach town, and it is, but our rental house was comfortable and it was a new experience for me to be able to walk out the back door and onto the ocean. It was nice and warm up until the day after Thanksgiving, when it suddenly began to feel like Chicago in December. After a very, very long day of traveling and coming home to a 55-degree house, it’s good to be home.


Filed under:Blogging,It's My Life,Television — posted by Anwyn on November 15, 2007 @ 10:01 pm

I have a lot of stuff to blog, but I leave tomorrow for the beach–and not one of the cold, rainy, windy ones that Oregon offers, either. I’ve never been to South Carolina before, so I’m really looking forward to it.

Well, of course the beach house has wireless. I’ll still blog, just not in the next couple days or so while we’re traveling.

Meanwhile, turns out that while I still don’t enjoy any Hugh Laurie humor I’ve ever seen except House, Sense and Sensibility, and Friends, is there any limit to the man’s talent? Apparently on top of everything else, he can also play the guitar.


Filed under:Bumper Stickers — posted by Anwyn on November 14, 2007 @ 2:34 pm

To the person driving in Beaverton yesterday with the bumper sticker that said, “It has become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity”–Do you drive that obviously aged Subaru because you believe that? Or do you believe that because you drive an obviously aged Subaru?

By the Way, TV Edition

Filed under:Television — posted by Anwyn @ 12:40 pm

And in order to practice what I preach about spoilers, if you haven’t watched last night’s House and plan to, read no farther. (more…)

Dancing with the Stars, Week 8, Spoiler Edition

Filed under:Television — posted by Anwyn @ 12:17 pm

I haven’t actually watched any Dancing this week, what with all the Important Posting and linky goodness therefrom and some real-life stuff to take care of. But that doesn’t stop me from knowing who lost, as some news stories see fit to put it right in the headline that Cameron was the one to go, even though they didn’t think it was important enough that the universally acknowledged front-runner got kicked to put that in any headlines I saw a couple weeks ago.

Ah well. I’ll get caught up tonight. Adios, Cameron, you were sexy and entertaining.

Update: Dancing QuickNotes!

Jennie & Derek, jive: Sorry, Jennie, they judges were right. Needs more snap, more precision, and fewer errors and wobbles.

Cameron & Edyta, Viennese waltz: Right on. I have to say that was the best Viennese waltz of any couple yet, and what a shame it did not earn him a spot for next week. Those three-steps are not easy, and he hit every single one.

Marie & Jonathan, rhumba: I’m a little out with the judges here, I thought it was a very good rhumba for her age and aplomb–and, her little jokes about “That’s not gonna happen” just made it that much better when she did bring enough passion into it to show on her face. Poor Donny looks like he’s aged three years in the last week.

Helio & Julianne, paso; Mel & Maks, tango: Good.

Round 2

Jennie & Derek, foxtrot: Muuuuch better than the jive.

Cameron & Edyta, cha-cha-cha: I thought it was better than the judges did. Oh well.

Marie & Jonathan, jive: Well, for a change, I agreed with all three judges: Not enough jive step (Bruno & Carrie Ann) but still way fun and cute (Len). And obviously enough to keep her going with the audience. Next week’ll be ugly, though: It’s got to be either Marie or Jennie going home.

Helio & Julianne, quickstep: Wow. Did he just drop her, though? Apparently part of the script … wow.

Mel and Maks, mambo: Even more wow. Carrie Ann, only a nine? Come on.

Best Word Rearrangement of the Day Yesterday

Filed under:Language Barrier — posted by Anwyn @ 12:08 pm

SeeDub, all grumpled and jealous.

“Grumpled,” instead of the aural thud of the word “grumpy,” sounds less angry and more amenable to being smoothed over, like its parent word “rumpled.” Paging Babies SeeDub, #1 and #2, Daddy needs some kisses!

I Can Haz Veronica Mars?

Filed under:Cool,Sad,Television — posted by Anwyn on November 13, 2007 @ 11:02 am

Well, no, I can’t, not really. Late, lamented show of mine, whither your tightly paced plots and even tighter dialogue? Your stars lost to Heroes and Moonlight and Private Practice, your writer and creator lost to … Big Shots, at least for a couple episodes, which almost makes me want to watch … almost.

But I can have this: Twelve minutes or so of what would have been the S4 pilot, with Veronica working at the FBI–school’s out, and not just for the summer. I guess this was the last-ditch effort to shake up the format enough to appeal to the execs. Alas, alas that it did not succeed. I’m not so sure about it in the long term, myself–skipped right over the rest of her college years to join what would almost certainly have been a shaky representation of the Bureau in the realism department? I don’t know. But this is right up to usual VM standards. Sigh.

Where did this come from? Who let him/her put it on the web? I don’t suppose it can do any harm, but neither do I suppose we’ll get a Mars movie out of it. Still, as ten minutes of nostalgia … it works for me.


Whew. That Was Fun.

Filed under:Blogging,Cool — posted by Anwyn @ 10:46 am

We now return this blog to its regularly scheduled TV and whatever-else-I-feel-like-blogging beat. But it sure was fun getting links from Hot Air headlines, Patterico (with the excellent point that if Thompson’s successes aren’t worth reporting because they were fairly typical, why should his failures, also fairly typical, be different?), a grumpy but lovable See-Dubya, Ace’s headlines, and … Fred Thompson’s campaign.


Fred Prosecuted My Poor, Downtrodden Co-Liquorists!

Filed under:It's My Life,Need a Good Editor?,Politics — posted by Anwyn on November 12, 2007 @ 12:08 am

Update: Welcome, Hot Air and Patterico readers! The hard numbers are about halfway down the post, in bold. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to look around. You may be interested in how judges do things in Oregon, how Hillary’s planted questions and other missteps are not good news for the GOP, how the U.S. Air Force really might need to hold bake sales to buy fighter jets (with comments from two fighter pilots), how editors’ worldview skews their job performance, or what the outreach representative of the local mosque had to say when he spoke at my church. Thanks for stopping by.

Or, In Which I Build an Illicit Still in Patterico’s Back Yard.

Okay, so they weren’t really my co-liquorists, but I do have moonshiners in my family tree. My grandfather helped make the stuff and my great-uncle ran it all over the county in cars that Junior Johnson had tricked out for the purpose. Yes, that Junior Johnson–my grandparents were raised in Wilkes County, North Carolina. Everything you’ve heard about NASCAR’s origins in moonshining … is true.

Anyway, so Fred Thompson seems to have made his prosecutorial bones whoopin’ up on them good ol’ boys, never meanin’ no harm, over in Tennessee.

Seriously, there must be something available in Fred’s past worse than the fact that the judge in these cases thought they were “a waste of time” (because who’s more qualified than the judge, really, to say which laws are important and which aren’t) and that the same judge didn’t think Thompson and the other members of the U.S. Attorney’s office “knew what they were doing.”

Of course, a judge’s pronouncement of “utterly incompetent” on the conduct of a prosecutor carries weight, but there’s one major item of interest the Times article leaves out: Of the 88 cases Thompson prosecuted in three years, of which 27 were about moonshine (“more than any other crime,” the Times tells us without providing a numeric breakdown of the other 61–any other kinds of crime break the 20-case mark?), how many did he win? That would seem to be a relevant number in an article quoting more than one person who suggests Fred was a lightweight.

Apparently this information is not terribly easy to come by, due to the lack of computerized records from that era. I called the U.S. Attorney’s office in Nashville, and the man there was very gentlemanly but I could tell he was trying not to laugh at me for wanting a win-loss record from over 35 years ago, even if the guy is running for president. Then I called the Federal District Court. The lady there cited the lack of computerized records but directed me to the National Archives for the region, which are housed near Atlanta. That’s where I bottomed out. They have the records, but it would involve either a significant amount of money for them to copy the case files and send them–all 88 cases, I suppose–or else a flight to Atlanta and a hotel stay while I riffle through the records and copy down the judgements myself.

Then I called the campaign. They were extremely helpful, but even they don’t have this information on a scorecard in their pockets. They sent me a news article written at the time of Fred’s resignation from the U.S. Attorney’s office that states he won 14 out of 15 bank robbery cases (27 moonshine cases vs. 15 bank robberies, if you’re counting) but doesn’t get more detailed than that. At this point I doubt even Fred himself could reel off his stats from the top of his head if asked.

But Joe Mathews of the L.A. Times does have the numbers at his fingertips, after two weeks of digging 35-year-old files out of their boxes in Georgia for his article. And to my surprise and gratitude, he was willing to share them.

He broke them down by numbers of defendants, so there are more than 88 defendants because there were multiple defendants in various individual cases. In total, 88 cases covered 115 defendants, 34 of whom were moonshiners, 21 of whom were counterfeiters, and 17 of whom were bank robbers. The remainder (43) were various other crimes.

Out of 115, nine never stood in Thompson’s district either because they were never captured, were found dead, or were transferred to a different federal district. So we’ll subtract those nine. That leaves 106.

Out of 106, 12 found the charges against them dropped, 66 defendants pleaded guilty or no contest without going to trial, and 28 went to trial. Of the 28 who went to trial, 22 were found guilty, leaving six who were not convicted.

These numbers suggest that Thompson was a completely solid, if not shining, prosecutor. Of course, you could also draw that conclusion by the very fact of his having served as a prosecutor for three years–incompetence is not encouraged at that level by continued employment, one would suppose and hope. Of the 12 cases thrown out, at least two were the direct result of an error of Thompson’s. Joe Mathews:

After charging a man with stealing checks from the mail, Thompson saw the case dismissed because the wrong date appeared in the indictment. Another indictment, against a group of counterfeiters, was thrown out when Gray ruled that Thompson had failed to allege a crime.

Even though one could assume by Thompson’s three years of employment at this level that he was doing a satisfactory job as far as his boss was concerned, having these numbers would help to balance the the remarks of the clearly adversarial judge. At the very least, I would have thought a more thorough numbers breakdown would have made a better return on Mathews’s two weeks of poking through the Archives, and I remarked as much to him. So why not include them? Mathews answered that as well in an email:

I don’t want to get into why we choose not to include things and include others. Those decisions are not always the reporter’s. But a few things to think about. As you know, prosecutorial numbers don’t tell you much in a world in which almost all federal prosecutors, good and bad, win convictions in nearly all their cases (in part because of the way the legal system works, and in part because most people are guilty). Prosecutors are also only one factor in outcomes–the investigating agents, the quality of defense attorneys, the standards of judges and the quality of juries are all big factors. The quality of justice is always going to be debated. What I tried to do–based on interviews and the transcripts and records of his actual words and actions in court — is paint an accurate picture of Thompson in the courtroom as prosecutor, with portraits of the judge and defendants that were the focus of his work then. I think I did that very fairly, and very well.

So he’s suggesting that even bad prosecutors win their cases most of the time. Patterico, See-Dub, and Mike Lief are all more qualified to give an opinion of that conclusion than I am, but it seems to me that the likelier cause of a preponderance of winning numbers is that more bad prosecutors are relieved either before they make it to the federal level or after a scant time in office that makes it clear they are not qualified.

Reporters have easier access to many facts because they are paid to spend their time doing things like what I could not–digging through files for two weeks in Atlanta to get the numbers and details of Thompson’s cases. In a long, long list of clearly egregious journalistic abuses of this greater access in order to decide what facts are and are not appropriate for public newspaper consumption, this hardly qualifies. But as a minor example of how journalists are much fonder of delivering conclusions than of providing facts, it is annoying. And far too often these agenda-driven conclusions damn public officials with faint praise in the absence of hard evidence to suggest wrongdoing or incompetence.

I’ve corresponded with Joe Mathews. He was quite willing to show me the figures it took him two weeks to compile–me, Jane Blog, for no other reason than that I asked him about the article. So it might be doubly puzzling that he would not put them in the article, editorial control aside. His explanation provides the reasons why he felt simple numbers were not as good an indicator of how good a prosecutor Thompson was as the remarks of the people in and around those old cases. I would argue instead that while they certainly are important to the “human” portrait Mathews did convey well, they are far and away not the whole picture, and that by omitting these simple facts that would allow readers greater material with which to draw their own conclusions, he attempts to substitute the judgment of the people he quoted, three out of six of whom were cool or downright damning on Thompson, with the other three commenting more on his demeanor than on his competence, for the readers’ own.

This is only human nature. It’s far more fun to draw conclusions than it is to present facts. But it’s just another example of how ingrained it is in the journalistic establishment to claim the latter when in fact they happily do the former all the time.

It is the reason the CEO of the AP himself is now having to call upon his colleagues to abandon this outdated attitude and recognize that just like the reporters themselves, most people prefer to draw their own conclusions, or at least to read authors with a track record of coming to conclusions the readers agree with–because they can follow the reasoning right there in the piece, not because the author has chosen to quote selectively while leaving out data.

Even if we assume all 12 of Thompson’s dismissed cases were dismissed on his error, that still leaves a disproportion of 88 guilty/no contest to 18 dismissed/not guilty. I don’t dismiss (hah!) out of hand Mathews’s argument that the legal system is built such that a majority of people indicted actually are guilty. But to me that’s a feature rather than a bug, and it also points to the competence of some of the other people Mathews discussed–investigators and police. Fact of guilt is not always proof of guilt, which is why we have prosecutors to begin with. Why should the fact that the system so frequently works as it should take away from a record of competency and good work prosecuting the cases that Tennessee afforded–and really, why should anybody be surprised that moonshining was far and away the highest proportion of federal crime in Tennessee in 1969? Those good ol’ boys, after all, will be boys. And it seems Tennessee is even loopier in handling them than Oregon is in handling “medical” marijuana.

Thanks to the Funkypundit and to my friend and sometime editor Jon S. for assistance with this post.

Flag and National Anthem Code? Ask a Lawyer

Filed under:Politics — posted by Anwyn on November 11, 2007 @ 10:41 pm

Honestly? I thought the code didn’t specify hand over heart for the Anthem, only for the Pledge, and that it was just a tradition of extra courtesy. Obama and I were both wrong, says Mike Lief.

Read It

Filed under:Blogging,Bumper Stickers,History,It's My Life — posted by Anwyn @ 5:34 pm

I’m not great with the Days of Sentiment and Memory posts–Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and like that. I don’t like to get too mushy on the blog, lest the lawyers start realizing I’m actually a girl. Guess the picture’s pretty much let that cat out of the bag, but I still am not great with the sentimental posts.

Veterans Day is important to me, but not spent in solemn observance. And Oregon has rather imperceptibly reduced my standards. I was happy enough when at my very PC and peace-oriented Oregon church, the only mention of Veterans Day was when our pastor said he was thankful for veterans’ service and sad that it was necessary–but that it was necessary. I frankly didn’t expect even that much.

My grandfather, now passed away, did a tour in France. My father spent all of my childhood and more flying tankers for the U.S. Air Force and teaching others to do the same. A cousin flew Tomcats for the navy and another cousin is now stationed in Afghanistan, crew chief for the (alas, grounded) F-15s whose absence is being supplemented by … the French. And if you want to talk wayback history, my great-great-grandfather (I think that’s the appropriate number of “greats”) was one of four brothers who joined the Union army–and the only one who returned. I honor their service and am grateful for their safety.

Now go read this at Sippican Cottage. His father was a ball gunner on a B-24 in the Pacific during WWII, that fact alone enough to make me shudder a little. Forty missions in a ball turret! Those were tough guys, and we all owe them a debt of gratitude no less today than sixty years ago–more, because we have a shorter time to show it.

I saw a bumper sticker today (yes, here in Oregon) that said Support Our Troops–Support Victory. Never saw it before. I’m glad I saw it today.

Circumventing Gun Law Without a Law, Because a Law Would Be Against the Law

Filed under:Church of Liberalism,Language Barrier,Not Cool,Politics,Priorities,Wacky Oregon — posted by Anwyn on November 10, 2007 @ 2:00 pm

Confused yet?

A Jackson County Circuit judge ruled Friday that the Medford School District can forbid a teacher from carrying a concealed handgun on school grounds.

English teacher Shirley Katz, 44, argued state law allows her to carry a concealed handgun for protection.

[Judge] Arnold said the issue before him was whether a school district can prohibit employees from carrying weapons by writing an employee policy. State law does not allow local governments to write laws restricting guns, but because the district had not enacted a law, Arnold ruled the district prevailed.

The reasoning here seems to be that Oregon state law does not expressly guarantee the right to concealed carry by preventing local jurisdictions from passing laws against concealed carry. My question for the judge is what other possible purpose could such a law have, other than to prevent local jurisdictions from infringing upon a right guaranteed by the state?

This is a rock and a hard place for the school district, and as a former teacher and a mother, I’m not unsympathetic to that. On the one hand, would I prefer teachers to have guns in case bad guys with guns show up and open fire on students? Yes. On the other hand, the body of public school teachers is not immune to poisonous, insane, and criminal people within their ranks. Teachers are brought up with noticeable frequency on sexual abuse charges regarding their students, for example. All it would take is one instance of a gun-carrying teacher turning out to be a psychopath who opens fire, and the particular school that had hired that person would be completely finished. (Although I frankly doubt that schools, especially in this state, are given to placing any importance at all on the former scenario of armed teachers helping to prevent school shootings.)

But it should not be a difficult issue for the state law. Either make an exception for school districts under the law, or enforce the law–that the right to carry arms shall not be infringed. Here’s what the law actually says:

166.173 Authority of city or county to regulate possession of loaded firearms in public places. (1) A city or county may adopt ordinances to regulate, restrict or prohibit the possession of loaded firearms in public places as defined in ORS 161.015.

(2) Ordinances adopted under subsection (1) of this section do not apply to or affect:

(a) A law enforcement officer in the performance of official duty.

(b) A member of the military in the performance of official duty.

(c) A person licensed to carry a concealed handgun.

(d) A person authorized to possess a loaded firearm while in or on a public building or court facility under ORS 166.370. [1995 s.s. c.1 §4; 1999 c.782 §8]

A city or county may not adopt ordinances to infringe upon the rights of a person licensed to carry a concealed handgun. A school district is not a legislative body, but it is a governmental one, as has been tested numerous times in free speech cases. In addition, the law also says:

166.170 State preemption. (1) Except as expressly authorized by state statute, the authority to regulate in any matter whatsoever the sale, acquisition, transfer, ownership, possession, storage, transportation or use of firearms or any element relating to firearms and components thereof, including ammunition, is vested solely in the Legislative Assembly.

(2) Except as expressly authorized by state statute, no county, city or other municipal corporation or district may enact civil or criminal ordinances, including but not limited to zoning ordinances, to regulate, restrict or prohibit the sale, acquisition, transfer, ownership, possession, storage, transportation or use of firearms or any element relating to firearms and components thereof, including ammunition. Ordinances that are contrary to this subsection are void. [1995 s.s. c.1 §1]

Oregon school districts are called, well, districts. If they are going to issue directives that have the force of law on their campuses, then they are making law in effect and most assuredly usurping the power of the state legislature. In addition, their directive does not apply to parents or visitors–why? Because they know they could never make it stick on people over whom they don’t have direct employment power. The net effect is, give up your concealed carry right or find another job. And as I say, I’m not unsympathetic to this position–all things being equal, “around your young children” is not where you want guns as a matter of routine. But all things aren’t equal when it comes to school shootings. The teacher in this case wants the gun for her personal safety and not as a test case for teachers prepared to fight back against potential shooters, but the implications of the precedent will presumably be the same. I hope this is overturned on appeal.

Update: Survey of the two school resource officers at Citizens’ Academy says: Teachers carrying would deter would-be shooters.

Hangin’ It Up

Filed under:Television — posted by Anwyn on November 9, 2007 @ 10:18 pm

I saw Kristen Bell shoot a little lightning from her fingerips. That’s all I was good for. I’m done with Heroes. It’s just such a bad show in almost every possible way and definitive proof that decent, good, and even terrific cast cannot save putrid writing–in plot, dialogue, and even concept, putrid.

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace