Wednesday, November 21, 2007

On being correct, III

Zero tolerance or zero intelligence? You decide:
Students Suspended For Fake Drug Use In PSA

WAYNESBURG. PA - Two students at Waynesburg Central High School have been suspended for 10 days because of the way they depicted an activity they were trying to discourage. John DiBuono and his classmate made a public service announcement for a TV workshop. They used crushed Smarties candies. In the video, his friend pretended to snort cocaine. It was supposed to be a message against using drugs.

In a statement, the Jerome Bartley, superintendent of the Central Greene School District, said: "Although the individuals involved were not using illicit drugs, the district's policy prohibits look-a-like drugs, substances, liquids or devices."

It's listed in the student handbook, but DiBuono's father says the punishment doesn't fit. "I believe that the discipline is a bit excessive, and you know this was clearly an anti-drug statement," he said.

In addition to the suspension, DiBuono, a 4.0 student, said he was told to attend drug counseling. "The only words said in the entire public service announcement was, 'Don't do drugs,' and now I'm being sent to rehabilitation conference," he said. "I think it's a little ridiculous."

The superintendent says the students weren't assigned to do a public service announcement that day but instead, "took it upon themselves to produce a short video depicting drug use."

DiBuono says it was an ongoing project.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

One to watch, II

My earlier post about the potential Supreme Court case, District of Columbia v. Heller, expressed hope that the Court would hear it. Now it looks like my wish has been granted:
Supreme Court Will Hear D.C. Guns Case

Nov 20 03:23 PM US/Eastern
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will decide whether the District of Columbia can ban handguns, a case that could produce the most in-depth examination of the constitutional right to "keep and bear arms" in nearly 70 years.

The justices' decision to hear the case could make the divisive debate over guns an issue in the 2008 presidential and congressional elections.

The government of Washington, D.C., is asking the court to uphold its 31-year ban on handgun ownership in the face of a federal appeals court ruling that struck down the ban as incompatible with the Second Amendment. Tuesday's announcement was widely expected, especially after both the District and the man who challenged the handgun ban asked for the high court review.

The main issue before the justices is whether the Second Amendment of the Constitution protects an individual's right to own guns or instead merely sets forth the collective right of states to maintain militias. The former interpretation would permit fewer restrictions on gun ownership.

Gun-control advocates say the Second amendment was intended to insure that states could maintain militias, a response to 18th century fears of an all-powerful national government. Gun rights proponents contend the amendment gives individuals the right to keep guns for private uses, including self-defense.

Alan Gura, a lawyer for Washington residents who challenged the ban, said he was pleased that the justices were considering the case.

"We believe the Supreme Court will acknowledge that, while the use of guns can be regulated, a complete prohibition on all functional firearms is too extreme," Gura said. "It's time to end this unconstitutional disaster. It's time to restore a basic freedom to all Washington residents."

The only tricky point, the one that the Court will clarify, is whether the 2nd Amendment applies only to federal laws.

Our friends, the Saudis, II

As expected, the Saudi Arabian justice system has defended it's ruling of a few days ago that sentenced a 19-year-old rape victim to 200 lashes for riding in a car with an unrelated male:
Saudi defends verdict against gang-rape victim
Tue Nov 20, 2007

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia defended on Tuesday a court's decision to sentence a woman who was gang-raped to 200 lashes of the whip, after the United States described the verdict as "astonishing".

The 19-year-old Shi'ite woman from the town of Qatif in the Eastern Province and an unrelated male companion were abducted and raped by seven men in 2006.

Ruling according to Saudi Arabia's strict reading of Islamic law, a court had originally sentenced the woman to 90 lashes and the rapists to jail terms of between 10 months and five years. It blamed the woman for being alone with an unrelated man.

Last week the Supreme Judicial Council increased the sentence to 200 lashes and six months in prison and ordered the rapists to serve between two and nine years in jail.

In my original posting about this case I used the term "double jeopardy" to describe the startling legal tangle in which this young woman finds herself. Upon further consideration I've concluded that there is no word that I know of for this situation; i. e., the victim of a violent crime is charged and convicted of the crime of violating a tenet of Sharia law. Then, upon receiving an extremely harsh sentence (90 lashes), the court decided to up the dose to an inconceivable 200 lashes.

Double jeopardy doesn't fit because that merely covers the case of a defendant being found innocent of a crime and then being tried again for the exact same crime. This is indescribable. Jesus Christ himself only endured 39 lashes.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Think it can't happen here?

A British emigré to New Zealand is having trouble getting his wife to join him. No, she isn't reluctant to move to NZ. She's been disqualified from moving there because she's too fat:
Richie Trezise, 35, a rugby-playing Welshman, lost weight to gain entry to New Zealand after initially being rejected for being overweight and a potential burden on the health care system.

His wife, Rowan, 33, a photographer, has been battling for months to shed the pounds so they can be reunited and live Down Under but has so far been unable to overcome New Zealand’s weight regulations.

A drain on the national health care system. Does that sound familiar?:
Robyn Toomath, a spokesman for Fight the Obesity Epidemic and an endocrinologist, said she was opposed to obese people being stigmatised. "However, the immigration department’s focus is different," she said. "It cannot afford to import people into the country who are going to be a significant drain on our health resources.

So how did Mr. Trezise's doctor react?
Mr Trezise, a submarine cable specialist and a former soldier, said: "My doctor laughed at me. He said he’d never seen anything more ridiculous in his whole life. He said not every overweight person is unhealthy or unfit.

Can it happen here?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Our friends, the Saudis

Tough to find words to describe my reaction to this. I'm going to let the story speak for itself (emphasis mine):
Saudi punishes gang rape victim with 200 lashes

Nov 15 10:51 AM US/Eastern

A court in the ultra-conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia is punishing a female victim of gang rape with 200 lashes and six months in jail, a newspaper reported on Thursday.

The 19-year-old woman -- whose six armed attackers have been sentenced to jail terms -- was initially ordered to undergo 90 lashes for "being in the car of an unrelated male at the time of the rape," the Arab News reported.

But in a new verdict issued after Saudi Arabia's Higher Judicial Council ordered a retrial, the court in the eastern town of Al-Qatif more than doubled the number of lashes to 200.

A court source told the English-language Arab News that the judges had decided to punish the woman further for "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media."

Saudi Arabia enforces a strict Islamic doctrine known as Wahhabism and forbids unrelated men and women from associating with each other, bans women from driving and forces them to cover head-to-toe in public.

Last year, the court sentenced six Saudi men to between one and five years in jail for the rape as well as ordering lashes for the victim, a member of the minority Shiite community.

But the woman's lawyer Abdul Rahman al-Lahem appealed, arguing that the punishments were too lenient in a country where the offence can carry the death penalty.

In the new verdict issued on Wednesday, the Al-Qatif court also toughened the sentences against the six men to between two and nine years in prison.

The case has angered members of Saudi Arabia's Shiite community. The convicted men are Sunni Muslims, the dominant community in the oil-rich Gulf state.

Lahem, also a human rights activist, told AFP on Wednesday that the court had banned him from handling the rape case and withdrew his licence to practise law because he challenged the verdict.

He said he has also been summoned by the ministry of justice to appear before a disciplinary committee in December.

Lahem said the move might be due to his criticism of some judicial institutions, and "contradicts King Abdullah's quest to introduce reform, especially in the justice system."

King Abdullah last month approved a new body of laws regulating the judicial system in Saudi Arabia, which rules on the basis of sharia, or Islamic law.

You've heard of double jeopardy? It's a TV game show, right? Well, in this case it's something we've never had to deal with in this country because of the Fifth Amendment. Somehow I don't think "I claim the Fifth" would go over very well in Saudi Arabia. That poor girl is going to feel the weight of Sharia with every lash.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hurricanes in the U.S.? What hurricanes?

Well, here we are near the end of this year's hurricane season, and for the second year running the number of hurricanes to hit the United States was zero. This makes it annoyingly difficult for the global warming johnnies to support the notion that 2005 was only a taste of the horrible killer hurricanes we could expect from now on, now that man-made climate change is upon us.

Note that the number of hurricanes forecast for 2007 was between seven and ten. Five actually formed. This year's hurricane curve hugged the 1944-2005 average curve precisely.

What does this all mean other than the fact that it's very pleasant not to have to clean up after multiple Hurricane Katrina's? Not much. We'll continue to have hurricanes every year. Some of them will hit the United States, some won't. Some will be severe. Some won't.

But for global warming apologists to have suggested that 2005 was a watershed year for hurricanes was the silliest sort of hubris. I very fervently want them to know that.

What is December 16th? The Tea Party!

Does anyone else find this completely bizarre?

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, without doubt two of the most well-known actors in the world, have purchased one of the 300 islands (the one shaped like Ethiopia) for sale in Dubai, part of "The World" development. According to the news story:
The Hollywood couple intend to use the reclaimed piece of land to showcase environmental issues and encourage people to live a greener life, the Emirates Today newspaper said.

The bizarre thing to me is the idea that to make this "showcase" an island had to be built from scratch in the Persian Gulf as part of arguably the most expensive land development on the planet. This isn't like those prairie grass plots you see around here; every speck of the island Pitt and Jolie purchased was deposited there by machines and a lot of Indians: the white sand, the palm trees, the docks, the breakwaters, the millions of yards of dirt, etc.

And if this is a "showcase", I wonder how it will be shown to an eager world? Is this hyper-exclusive real estate development going to be a magnet for wealthy eco-tourists? Somehow I can't see a Disney-like water ride around the "showcase". Maybe an episode on "Lives of the Rich and Famous"? Or is there to be a special episode of "Extreme Makeover: Dubai Edition"?

Now, don't get me wrong. I have no quarrel with rich people deciding to buy their very own island. However, I am — "curious" isn't strong enough, but it'll have to do — curious about the motivations to create this environmental "showcase" in a place where no normal person will ever see it.

That is, as the Emirates Today article says:
The plots will be accessible only by boat and security teams will patrol constantly.

Not too conducive for anyone viewing the "showcase" but invited guests , I'd say.

Monday, November 12, 2007

One to watch: District of Columbia v. Heller

The final chapter in our country's long history of angst over the right to bear arms could be decided by the Supreme Court in a few months. The case involves a security guard in Washington, DC, who insists that he has the right to keep a handgun in his home, contrary to the DC law.

On Tuesday we might know whether the Court will take the case at all, that's the first step.

It's curious to me that something like the establishment to a right to abortion can be manufactured out of "penumbras" (i.e., thin air), but that a phrase right out of the Bill of Rights ("the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed") would lead to so many federal laws restricting that Constitutional right.

Here's the story about the case. And here's a very interesting article written about it.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Ron Paul Money Bomb

From the web site:
ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA—Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has raised over $3.1 million in the past 19 hours, making today’s the single largest fundraising effort of the 2008 election cycle. At 4:00 pm, the campaign’s $2.7 million broke the record for the largest online presidential primary fundraising effort in a single day, and by 6:30 pm, the campaign broke Mitt Romney’s $3.1 million record for single-day fundraising this year.

Thus far today, approximately 25,000 supporters have contributed to the so-called “money bomb.”

I made my contribution at around 10:15 pm Eastern time. The total for today so far is over $3.7 million. Take that you Republican party hacks!