Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Homeowner Kills Intruder

Homeowner Kills Intruder. Not much of a headline, is it? A regular dog bites man story, justice served cold, on the spot.
Loudoun County officials have identified the teenager who was killed after entering his neighbor’s home early Sunday morning as 16-year-old Caleb Gordley, a junior at Park View High School.

Caleb, who had been drinking with friends that night, got into his neighbor’s home in the 45900 block of Pullman Court through a back window, officials said.

Caleb’s home was two houses away. Family members say Caleb mistakenly entered the wrong home thinking it was his.

The homeowner, who authorities have not identified, heard his house alarm activate at about 2:30 a.m., officials said. When he went to investigate, he saw Caleb on his stairwell and shot him, officials said. Loudoun teen fatally shot by homeowner identified
Everybody knows we need guns on hand so homeowners can defend themselves. I doubt there will be any charges filed, after all there was an intruder in the guy's house; he has the right to defend himself, his family, his property. You might say it's lucky there was a gun handy, or who knows what might have happened?

We don't need to dwell on what a good kid this was, his accomplishments, the way people admired him, the hopeful life that stretched out before him into the future, the grieving parents, the friends who will always regret dropping him at the wrong place, the homeowner who has killed a child.

This is the way it's supposed to happen. A gun-owner defends his home. No problem. We are blessed to live in a country where we have the freedom to do these things.

The teenager had been drinking, and his friends drove him to his home in Sterling at about 2:30 a.m. Sunday, law enforcement officials said. But instead of walking into his house on the quiet cul-de-sac, they said, the teen entered a similar-looking red brick home in the same block.

Inside, the startled homeowner confronted the teen, authorities said, before shooting and killing him. The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office described the shooting as a homeowner killing an unknown intruder, although officials released few details about the shooting.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"Today, I weep for my country"

The speech given by Sen. Robert Byrd on the Senate floor on March 19, 2003, just prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
March 19, 2003 -- - Byrd: I believe in this beautiful country. I have studied its roots and gloried in the wisdom of its magnificent Constitution. I have marveled at the wisdom of its founders and framers. Generation after generation of Americans has understood the lofty ideals that underlie our great Republic. I have been inspired by the story of their sacrifice and their strength.

But, today I weep for my country. I have watched the events of recent months with a heavy, heavy heart. No more is the image of America one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. The image of America has changed. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned.

Instead of reasoning with those with whom we disagree, we demand obedience or threaten recrimination. Instead of isolating Saddam Hussein, we seem to have isolated ourselves. We proclaim a new doctrine of preemption which is understood by few and feared by many. We say that the United States has the right to turn its firepower on any corner of the globe which might be suspect in the war on terrorism. We assert that right without the sanction of any international body. As a result, the world has become a much more dangerous place.

We flaunt our superpower status with arrogance. We treat U.N. Security Council members like ingrates who offend our princely dignity by lifting their heads from the carpet. Valuable alliances are split. After war has ended, the United States will have to rebuild much more than the country of Iraq. We will have to rebuild America's image around the globe.
The case this Administration tries to make to justify its fixation with war is tainted by charges of falsified documents and circumstantial evidence. We cannot convince the world of the necessity of this war for one simple reason. This is a war of choice.

There is no credible information to connect Saddam Hussein to 9/11. The twin towers fell because a world-wide terrorist group, al-Qaida, with cells in over 60 nations, struck at our wealth and our influence by turning our own planes into missiles, one of which would likely have slammed into the dome of this beautiful Capitol except for the brave sacrifice of the passengers on board.

The brutality seen on September 11th and in other terrorist attacks we have witnessed around the globe are the violent and desperate efforts by extremists to stop the daily encroachment of western values upon their cultures. That is what we fight. It is a force not confined to borders. It is a shadowy entity with many faces, many names, and many addresses.

But, this Administration has directed all of the anger, fear, and grief which emerged from the ashes of the twin towers and the twisted metal of the Pentagon towards a tangible villain, one we can see and hate and attack. And villain he is. But, he is the wrong villain. And this is the wrong war. If we attack Saddam Hussein, we will probably drive him from power. But, the zeal of our friends to assist our global war on terrorism may have already taken flight.

The general unease surrounding this war is not just due to "orange alert." There is a pervasive sense of rush and risk and too many questions unanswered. How long will we be in Iraq? What will be the cost? What is the ultimate mission? How great is the danger at home? A pall has fallen over the Senate Chamber. We avoid our solemn duty to debate the one topic on the minds of all Americans, even while scores of thousands of our sons and daughters faithfully do their duty in Iraq.

What is happening to this country? When did we become a nation which ignores and berates our friends? When did we decide to risk undermining international order by adopting a radical and doctrinaire approach to using our awesome military might? How can we abandon diplomatic efforts when the turmoil in the world cries out for diplomacy?

Why can this President not seem to see that America's true power lies not in its will to intimidate, but in its ability to inspire?

War appears inevitable. But, I continue to hope that the cloud will lift. Perhaps Saddam will yet turn tail and run. Perhaps reason will somehow still prevail. I along with millions of Americans will pray for the safety of our troops, for the innocent civilians in Iraq, and for the security of our homeland. May God continue to bless the United States of America in the troubled days ahead, and may we somehow recapture the vision which for the present eludes us.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

We will Be Greeted As Liberators

This week marks the tenth anniversary of the United States' devastating war against the Iraqi people.

Today, March 16th, is the ten year anniversary of Dick Cheney's interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press, where, while explaining why the US is going to attack Iraq, Cheney used this colorful description of how it will turn out:
Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. And the president’s made it very clear that our purpose there is, if we are forced to do this, will in fact be to stand up a government that’s representative of the Iraqi people, hopefully democratic due respect for human rights, and it, obviously, involves a major commitment by the United States, but we think it’s a commitment worth making. And we don’t have the option anymore of simply laying back and hoping that events in Iraq will not constitute a threat to the U.S. Clearly, 12 years after the Gulf War, we’re back in a situation where he does constitute a threat. Interview with Vice-President Dick Cheney, NBC, "Meet the Press," Transcript for March 16, 2003
The video of this historic interview cannot be found through any search of YouTube or Google that I can think of. If you find it, please put the link in the comments, or email it to me, and I will be happy to update this post. There is one 30-second piece that quotes the line about being liberators, with background music, I'm not looking for that. I want to watch Cheney make his case.

It is strange and frightening if the keepers of our online media are systematically purging content that makes certain people look bad. This is not nearly as important, but recently Unsuck DC Metro -- one of the coolest sites in the area, by the way -- caught the Washington Post changing the news after a few weeks to cover up Metro's incompetence. They re-wrote their stories so that future searches will not find some important information that makes certain powerful people look like idiots.

On this ten-year anniversary of the worst prediction in modern history, America should be watching the video of Cheney's fear-mongering, and re-watching it. We should be showing it to our kids. Ten years ago our country attacked and and began destroying a country that posed no threat to us; we decimated them for nine years and nobody knows why. Is that the kind of country you want to live in? If not, then we need to learn from our mistakes, and one way we can do that is by reviewing what happened and making sure it doesn't happen again.

I can't believe that nobody has that video example online, maybe it will turn up, but it is very hard to find.

We need to remember Chris Matthews' almost sexual excitement when Bush strode across the deck of the airport carrier in his flight suit (again, see if you can find that one), the steely growl of Cheney as he listed dozens of fictional threats to US security, the propagandistic/cheerleading reporting of the leading newspapers and TV news anchors, the hubris of Congressmen renaming their French fries "freedom fries"-- one thing after another. We have the Internet now, those things should not get away from us.

Our generation needs to be able to recall the epidemic of fear and insane sense of retaliation against some distant strangers who had not had anything to do with what had happened to us. This was only ten years ago, it is not like the War of 1812 here, it was the President preceding the current one. Time is pruning history, and not in a way that inculcates wisdom.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Gender Identity Bill Fails in MD State Senate Committee

Once again our courageous leaders in Annapolis have failed to enact a bill to prevent gender-identity discrimination. SB 449, the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013, died in the state Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee yesterday.

The Washington Blade:
The 6-5 vote in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee came slightly more than two weeks after it held a hearing on Senate Bill 449 — the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013 — that state Sens. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) and Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County) introduced.

Raskin along with state Sens. Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery County,) Lisa Gladden (D-Baltimore City,) Jennie Forehand (D-Montgomery County) and Robert Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) voted for SB 449. Senators Norman Stone (D-Baltimore County,) C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County,) Nancy Jacobs (R-Cecil and Harford Counties,) James Brochin (D-Baltimore County,) Christopher Shank (R-Washington County) and Joseph Getty (R-Baltimore and Carroll Counties) opposed it.

“Despite months of hard work by our broad coalition of supporters, key committee members were unwilling to advance the promise of equality under the law to the transgender community,” Madaleno said in an e-mail he sent to his constituents after the vote. “A majority of committee members were unwilling to pass a bill that prohibited discrimination by restaurants, theaters, hotels, shopping centers and other places of public accommodations. Their lack of understanding and empathy for their fellow Marylanders is appalling.” Md. Senate committee kills transgender rights bill
You might remember that last year a similar bill failed to reach a vote when Democrat Thomas “Mike” Miller, the Maryland Senate president, said he only had time for "one gay bill."
Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, also expressed outrage.

“Bigotry won the day, and I say that because the sponsor bent over backward to assuage the concerns of his Democratic colleagues,” she told the Washington Blade. “None of it was good enough, nor did they then offer any solution themselves other than to strip out public accommodations protections entirely.”

“It is terribly disappointing the committee failed to stand up for fairness and protect transgender Marylanders,” Equality Maryland Executive Director Carrie Evans added.

Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, and other SB 449 opponents testified against the measure during the Feb. 26 committee hearing.

“This bill will force the state and private actors — employers, landlords and others who provide public services — to officially and legally affirm the very delusion that puts these suffering individuals at odds with reality,” Sprigg said. “Not only will it not makes their lives better, but it will prevent them from getting the very help they do need to make their lives better.”
I'm sure Peter Sprigg is very concerned about making the lives of transgender people better.

Disappointing that three Democrats joined Republicans in opposing this bill. It is a strange pattern to see in this bluest of blue states, but this is nothing new.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Clinton Opposes DOMA

It is a strange twist of history that the Defense of Marriage Act was created during Bill Clinton's term of office as President and was signed into law by him. The law is nothing but the codification of discrimination against gay people, saying that the federal government will not recognize their marriages. Today the former President has a landmark editorial in the Washington Post.
In 1996, I signed the Defense of Marriage Act. Although that was only 17 years ago, it was a very different time. In no state in the union was same-sex marriage recognized, much less available as a legal right, but some were moving in that direction. Washington, as a result, was swirling with all manner of possible responses, some quite draconian. As a bipartisan group of former senators stated in their March 1 amicus brief to the Supreme Court, many supporters of the bill known as DOMA believed that its passage “would defuse a movement to enact a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which would have ended the debate for a generation or more.” It was under these circumstances that DOMA came to my desk, opposed by only 81 of the 535 members of Congress.

On March 27, DOMA will come before the Supreme Court, and the justices must decide whether it is consistent with the principles of a nation that honors freedom, equality and justice above all, and is therefore constitutional. As the president who signed the act into law, I have come to believe that DOMA is contrary to those principles and, in fact, incompatible with our Constitution.

Because Section 3 of the act defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, same-sex couples who are legally married in nine states and the District of Columbia are denied the benefits of more than a thousand federal statutes and programs available to other married couples. Among other things, these couples cannot file their taxes jointly, take unpaid leave to care for a sick or injured spouse or receive equal family health and pension benefits as federal civilian employees. Yet they pay taxes, contribute to their communities and, like all couples, aspire to live in committed, loving relationships, recognized and respected by our laws.

When I signed the bill, I included a statement with the admonition that “enactment of this legislation should not, despite the fierce and at times divisive rhetoric surrounding it, be understood to provide an excuse for discrimination.” Reading those words today, I know now that, even worse than providing an excuse for discrimination, the law is itself discriminatory. It should be overturned.

We are still a young country, and many of our landmark civil rights decisions are fresh enough that the voices of their champions still echo, even as the world that preceded them becomes less and less familiar. We have yet to celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment, but a society that denied women the vote would seem to us now not unusual or old-fashioned but alien. I believe that in 2013 DOMA and opposition to marriage equality are vestiges of just such an unfamiliar society.

Americans have been at this sort of a crossroads often enough to recognize the right path. We understand that, while our laws may at times lag behind our best natures, in the end they catch up to our core values. One hundred fifty years ago, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln concluded a message to Congress by posing the very question we face today: “It is not ‘Can any of us imagine better?’ but ‘Can we all do better?’?”

The answer is of course and always yes. In that spirit, I join with the Obama administration, the petitioner Edith Windsor, and the many other dedicated men and women who have engaged in this struggle for decades in urging the Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act. It’s time to overturn DOMA
We like to believe that right and wrong are engraved in some permanent crystalline edifice, preserved, immutable, in a special place in the world of Platonic ideals, but in reality right and wrong are human judgments made under particular circumstances. At best we can hope that our understanding of the criteria for judging phenomena is improving with time, evolving toward a fairer, kinder, more objective perspective. There are constant social pressures to return to a darker age, and they must be resisted. Clinton has seen his Don't Ask Don't Tell policy defamed and thrown out, and now he is leading the charge against another prejudicial piece of legislation that has his signature at the bottom. Hopefully the Supreme Court will consider carefully, considering the context of American history, in 1996 and in 2013.

Monday, March 04, 2013

al Qaeda Opposes Marriage Equality

I had not realized that al Qaeda produces an English-language online magazine, but apparently they do.

Mother Jones has been checking it out.
In the latest issue of Inspire, the Al Qaeda-produced English-language magazine that teaches readers how to cause traffic accidents, torch parked cars, and "make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom," the terrorist group goes after President Barack Obama for "evolving" on marriage equality. In an infographic titled "The Nation Standing on 'No Values," the magazine also goes after "gay congressman" Barney Frank, who is no longer a congressman. It also cites statistics showing American Catholics are less likely to attend Mass and are increasingly supportive of same-sex marriage. Al Qaeda Hits Obama for Supporting Marriage Equality

Al Qaeda is a strict "traditional marriage" outfit.

The image calls Frank a "symbol of the American dream," which appears meant to be insulting. Let us all tremble at the thought of the infinite masses who never thought about being a terrorist before they stopped to consider Obama shifting his position on same-sex marriage.
Barney Frank, the symbol of the American Dream. Huh... <strokes_chin_thoughtfully> I hate to agree with them but I think they got that part right.