Monday, October 20, 2014

Ebola Is Here And The Keystone Kops Are In Charge; What Can Go Wrong?

Well, now that the dreaded ebola is here in the United States and we have Team Obama The Keystone Kops in charge, why not much can go wrong, right?
Except everything is going wrong and contributing to an atmosphere of fear, hyperbole and loathing throughout the United States.
To be clear, ebola in and of itself does not scare me as much as the federal government's "handling" of it at so many levels that does scare me.
First off, it is not like this latest incarnation of ebola was not going to go beyond the so-called Hot Zone. With the ease of air travel, passenger ship travel being more affordable than ever, and just the fact that it already was in three African nations (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone), it was just a matter of time before the viral, hemorrhagic disease was going to come to the United States.
And in no surprise, it came in the person of one Thomas Eric Duncan, a citizen of Liberia who came to the United States on an airplane from the Liberian capital, Monrovia, by Brussels, Belgium. Mr. Duncan went to Texas Health Presbyterian hospital on September 25 and was giving anti-biotic and sent on his way. Even though Mr. Duncan told anyone who would listen that he just came from Liberia. Mr. Duncan returned to THPH three days later and a more careful examination showed that he did indeed have the dreaded disease. And regrettably, he died on October 9, 2014.
So, here is a problem off the top.
It appears that THPH was not all that prepared for anyone coming in with the possibility of having ebola. It appears that Mr. Duncan went through the emergency room on the initial visit. Ever been to a hospital ER? Unless it is in a small town or non-urban area, they are usually packed to the gills and the staff, even doctors, rush through every thing that they do. And if they had no idea what to look for in a potential ebola patient, sending Mr. Duncan off with anti-biotics does not seem all that bad. At least he was examined.
So, the local Dallas hospital has had problems and are working on getting the protocols in place.
But what is wrong more than anything else is how the federal government has responded to this potential medical crisis.
Well, about as well as can be expected of a government that has no clue and playing on the fly.
Let's go back to when the current elbola outbreak occurred and it is even seen as longer than thought. It appears to have started last year. And the mortality rate in a staggering 71%. And over 9,200 have been recorded to having contracted the disease. Note I said recorded. Who knows how many cases are not recorded.
In other words, the potential of this disease spreading beyond the Hot Zone was pretty high.
Had the administration simply acknowledged this say six months ago, they could have quietly implemented such things as a ban on travel to and from the hot zone and screening those that have come to the United States by way of a third nation. And also to send doctors to the Hot Zone to try harder to contain the spread of ebola.
Now we are sending 3,000 United States soldiers to Western Africa to fight ebola. What will they do? Machine-gun their way out of ebola?!
No, they have decided to bob and weave. First, no chance that ebola will hit the United States. Wrong. That even if it does there are ways in place that it will not spread. Wrong. That a travel ban will do more harm than good. Wrong. Ask Nigeria. They have been able to all but eradicated ebola and a part of that is a travel ban to and from affected nations.
Ineptitude is the real story here. One way the administration could have done a better job is having someone who can explain everything in a coherent way. To be honest with the American people. To admit that yes, there is a possibility that ebola could, could become an airborne virus and then what can be done.
So, the Keystone Kops think a Democrat party operative, Ron Klain, can get everything together.
Too bad the dude can't even make the first two meetings of essentially the task force that Mr. Klain was named to lead.
The bottom line is that a disease that has a currently staggering 71% death rate was minimized when it was known to be a potential danger a year ago. And is keeps going on from worse to worse.
Is there anyone that can get us out of this mess?

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Say It Ain't So! 7th Heaven Dad A . . .Child Molesting Perv?!

If this is to be believed, then a confession that Stephen Collins made to a therapist and his estranged wife may be all she wrote for the pastor and patriarch of the Camden family in the television program 7th Heaven.
Mr. Collins made a name for himself on 7th Heaven as the always there for anyone in need Rev. Eric Camden, supported by his wife, Annie Camden, played by Catherine Hicks. They started off with four children but later in the series Mrs. Hicks' character had twin boys. One well known actress that has made it big is Jessica Biel.
In retrospect, the show dealt heavily with charged problems and a lot related to sex. It was more down the middle, but often led surprisingly toward a traditional view of sexual relationships. That one should wait until marriage and yet some of the characters clearly did not.
But the issue at hand is that Mr. Collins supposedly admitted to showing himself in the buff at least once. And according
The mere speculation of such acts prompted the UP Television channel, which has been showing reruns of the popular show to stop as of today.
Let me stop all right here.
The fact is that Mr. Collins is being investigated based in part on this recording. It appears that it is legal, although that may end up being for a court to decide. And that is the problem. A court will more than likely be the final arbitrator in this, as it should be. It is not fair for the UP network to punish a whole cast that did not know any of this may or may not have been going on. It is also assuming guilt and that is not what the American legal system should be doing, especially on a charge as serious as child molestation. Just because he said stuff on tape, a court has to determine much more than that to convict Mr. Collins. And that is how it should be.
Of course one could suggest that the horrible website TMZ got a hold of this and that the estranged wife, actress Faye Grant, set him up to admit things that may not have happened. That is why after police investigate, and so far the New York police department is doing so (Los Angeles is evaluating reopening a complaint.), and it is adjudicated in a court of law, we will know a lot more.
Divorces can be a very nasty business. And this one has been dragging on for a couple of years now. And suddenly, this revelation.
Now I don't want anyone to think I am defending Mr. Collins in the least. If he has is day in court and is convicted, put in in prison in the general population and wish him luck.
But why I think we should all sit back and let things play out is the infamous McMartin Preschool investigation and trial during most of the 1980s.
A long investigation and equally long trial proved that the adage "Children would not lie." about such things as being sexually abused is not entirely true. In fact most if not all the children that were interviewed, most being of preschool age, were being heavily suggested of events that never happened. Essentially, they were coached. As it turned out, none of those charged were convicted of any crime, period. Yet their lives, reputation and dignity were entirely ruined based on the wild accusations of a mentally ill alcoholic, Judy Johnson.
Of course this potential case is different in that Mr. Collins may have confessed and it does appear of his own free will.
But he has already been convicted in the court of public opinion.
In addition to the reruns of 7th Heaven being suspended, Mr. Collins was fired from his minor role in the upcoming movie Ted 2. And he resigned from a position on the Screen Actors Guild national board.
Because this involves children, it makes the potential to be so repulsive.
But this is why we have a legal system. So that people accused of such heinous crimes have their day in court.
I loved 7th Heaven as I watched it during it's original run. It was a wholesome show and actually had a minister and a religious angle. Something that seems to be banished to the depths of cableland. If even there.
Does it bother me that the family patriarch in the show is now a possible child molesting perv? Hell yes. Does that mean the show should be off the air? No. Remember, its a broadcast show and that it does deal with the frailties of the human condition. I, and I believe most people, can separate the acting from the actor. The messages are still the same.
But as I said, say it ain't so! How can the pastor dad on 7th Heaven be a possible . . . child molesting perv?

Monday, October 06, 2014

Are We Living In The End Times?

And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
Matthew: 24:6

I do not mean to be provocative, but with all that has been going on lately, I think it is a fair question to ask if we are entering the End Times that many Christians believe have to occur before the return of Jesus Christ.
I think that before I explain what I am trying to convey, it is important to have a brief as possible primer on the End Times.
Firstly, the End Times is not just a Christian idea of the 18th century American church. Almost every conceivable Christian sect and or denomination has a vision of the End Times. The Roman Catholic church believes in the End Times, although as we see here, many do not believe in a literal End Times scenario. However, there are many RCs that have a more Protestant view of the End Times as we see here. But to be honest, in much of the liturgical tradition, there is a lack of teaching and or fervor about the End Times. In the United States, non-liturgical Protestants are more likely to teach and believe in an End Time. But there is a lot of dispute about the exact nature of it and the whole 1,000 year reign of Jesus Christ. The bottom line is that for the most part, Christians of all stripes believe there will be an end of the world as we know it.
Judaism believes in a messianic age and the return of the Messiah. For the most part, Jews do not believe that Jesus Christ is that messiah. But the messiah will come back for his people.
Islam believes in an End Time scenario. But because there is the Sunni-Shit'e division in Islam, there are different variations that come to the same conclusion.
Even non-monotheistic religions have a belief in some kind of End Times.
The original link is a great place to have a basic understanding of what the End Times mean to different faiths.
There endeth the lesson.
Do I believe we are in the End Times as described by many non-liturgical Protestant Christians?
I introduce you to this salient passage in the Holy Gospel according to Matthew:

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
Matthew 24:36

So does that answer the question? Not in a yes or no way. So here is the context of this passage.

He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
Acts 1:7

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
2 Peter 3:10

Well, to fully give you an answer, please go back to the beginning of this post.
In a way, I do believe that we are closer to the End Times than at any time in history.
There are reasons why. For one, only in this era is the world so connected. At no other time in history have we the capacity to communicate the way we do now. We can watch a war in real time taking place in the Middle East as we watch the Islamic State go on the march. We can witness disasters in real time. That could be the fulfilment of biblical prophecy of the whole world being able to see the return of Christ.
It is not just the wars in the Middle East but all over the world. There are civil wars we hardly know about but are still going on. The Philippines comes to mind with the Roman Catholic majority fighting a radical Islamic faction in Mindanao. The continent of Africa, sadly, is almost nothing but wars, civil wars and terrorism. There is the war in The Ukraine between proxy Russians and the Ukrainian government over portions of the Eastern Ukraine. And where there is not war, there seems to be an uneasy tension ready to boil over from a lot of different sources. Even here in the United States, there is a lot of tension that could spark something. People are just anxious.
Christian persecution is definitely on the rise all over the world. Of course the Middle East is the hot bed of this. Yet again, this is happening all over the world and yes, right here in the United States. It is also one of the signs of the end. Of course different Christians come to different conclusions on their faith journey, but a sign of the hostility to Christianity is the assault on the Christmas and Easter seasons. Christmas is now known as Holiday. What holiday?! Every other one has a name so after eliminating those, I and many assume the holiday is Christmas. Christmas break is now winter break in schools. Christmas shows are now winter shows also in schools. One can not in any public setting it seems wish anyone a Merry Christmas. Because of faux-offense. Christmas songs about, well the birth of Christ is a no-no. And one can change the word Christmas with Easter and much of the same thing.
These are but a couple of examples of why I think that we could possibly be in the End Times. I could go on and on. We could have a great debate over Preterism or Dispensationalist or Pre-tribulation and Post-tribulation. But that is not the point of this post.
But the reason why I write this post is because we have to be very, very careful not to play God as one Harold Camping did a couple of years ago.
Mr. Camping believed that he knew when the end of the world was to occur and the date was October 21, 2011. But before that, Jesus Christ would come down and save the people he wanted in to be with him in heaven in the Rapture. That was to occur on May 21, 2011. What was to happen in between? Well the fire and brimstone many End Time preachers talk about. The plagues. The wars. All the evil would be loosed on the world and it would all end on October 21, 2011. 
Remember what I wrote above? Jesus himself said that no man would no the day, or hour. Yet Mr. Camping tried to play God. He did realize that he was mistaken, but there was a lot of damage that he did.  
Most End Time preachers are careful not to search for the date, time and all of that. But there is a temptation to do so. Just as dangerous as not discerning the Word of God in proper meaning and context.
For me, I do believe that we are in the throws of something major. Possibly the End Times. There are lots of signs. A lot of persecution. Wars and rumors of wars.
But as Jesus Christ himself said, do not be troubled.
I will say simply to be aware and to live a good life for yourself and especially your family and yes, your neighbor.

 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
  This is the first and great commandment.
  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Matthew, 22:35-40

Ebola Is Here In The United States

I have been warning that this would happen for the past month or so on Facebook.
That ebola would eventually come to the United States.
And surprise, surprise, surprise!
I have, half jokingly, said that I hope there is room on The Last Ship because of the irony of the timing of this latest outbreak.
And this latest outbreak is the worst since the disease was discovered in 1976 in West Africa.
When one reads the description of Ebola, there is a good reason I think that this is bigger than many want to realize.
This information from the World Health Organization does not sugar coat it. The fatality rate is on average 50%. However, there are variables as low as a 25% to 90% fatality rate. Thus, the average case of ebola gives a patient a 50-50 chance of survival.
Those are not great odds.
I expressed righteous concerns when Dr. Kent Brantly and his nurse, Nancy Writebol, came back to the United States after caring for ebola patients in Liberia. They ended up contracting the disease and are, thank God, alive to tell about it. My concern was not like Ann Coulter. It was based on what we do not know about ebola and the fact that this outbreak is now the worst in history.
What we do know is that there is no cure and any possible vaccine is in the clinical trial stage at best.
Yet we are being told by a lot of people not to worry. That people die everyday from the common cold and or flu(s). And that because the health care system is so much more advanced in the United States than that of Third-world Africa, there will be no outbreak here.
Sorry if I do not share such confidence when one Thomas Eric Duncan was able to come to the United States. And contracted ebola while in his home nation of Liberia. How many more Thomas Eric Duncans are there lurking out there?
And the same people telling us not to worry are suggesting we should not restrict travel to and from the ebola hot zone. That hot zone comprises Liberia, Sierra Leone, and to a lesser extent Guinea and Nigeria.
The absurd reasoning for not having travel restrictions all rest on one word.
Why even this dim bulb,  David Quammen, suggests because of the United States role in the development of the founding of Liberia, we can't have travel restrictions.
The problem is that we have two forces running dead into each other.
A highly contagious, deadly disease for which there is no cure up against the tidal wave known as political correctness.
Because of the racial sensitivities here, we have a problem that is not rational.
The disease hit this area of the world and did not check the "Is this a politically correct area to strike" box off as it began it's wrath. Many good people have tried to improve the medical needs of the people of nations such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria for eons. Corruption, lack of stable governments and constant warfare is the rule of the day in these nations. But the fact that this outbreak has become the largest, is it not better to contain it and try to seek at least a vaccine if not a turn around in those that have that possibility?
According to the PC police, I guess not.
Of course it make no sense but that is the way it is for now.
It is also why many of us just do not trust the government and how they will handle this situation in the long run.
Responsible treatment is needed here. And that is why this must be contained at the source. Otherwise, this will become commonplace around America.

Monday, September 15, 2014

More Of The Nanny State Gone Wild

O.K., I really, really don't think on the surface, this really constitutes child abuse in the true sense. Well, the Florida authorities charged Patricia Denault with child neglect, not child abuse per se. But just a little more investigating and I am sure that will be the end result.
Look, I'm 50 years old and back in my childhood, it was not all that unusual for parents to let their children try, usually, wine. I personally would not start my child at the top of the heap of spirits such as Cinnamon Fireball, but hey, if I did I would start more like at, well wine.
The real mistake, and the only reason I think that the authorities got involved in the first place is Mrs. Denault's lack of restraint and posting a photo of her letting not one, but two of her children taking a sip of the said Devil's urine on Facebook.
Of course a busy-body saw the said photo on Mrs. Denault's Facebook page and called the coppers.
So, your humble blogger did a little investigating, and this may be the photo's in question that set off the busy-body. To see the rest, one would have to ask Mrs. Denault to be her Facebook friend. I do not want to bother her but more or less defend her.
Here's something interesting. The ages of the children are never mentioned. Yet all one has to do is go over to Mrs. Denault's Facebook page and It appears that the Denault's have six children and the the oldest is 16 years old. It appears that the youngest is probably about three years old.
Now I am somewhat with Allahpundit over at HotAir and the age and amount and reason of consumption have to be taken into account.
The real crime, if there is one, is that Mrs. Denault thought it would be cool to put any photo of such things of Facebook.
Now, when I was young and stupid, I imbibed adult beverage. I remember sneaking homemade wine coolers at a nephew's birthday party. I was damn good at sneaking and drinking WAY TOOOO MANY and well, you know the rest of the story.
In high school, my best friends parents would let us consume adult beverage at their home. But we were hostages and could NOT leave until the next day no matter how much anyone consumed.
Was that a good thing to do?
Mrs. Denault said that she thought it was better that any of her children would consume any adult beverage at home in a controlled setting.
My friends parents knew the occasions that alcohol would be consumed and figured it was going to be done so do it somewhere safe. Sure, we were all under 21-the legal age even then in California. And it should be noted that this was when states determined their own minimum drinking age. But on our graduation night from high school, I'm glad we did not go out and get drunk and very possibly killed. In that case, my friends' parents were right.
So was Mrs. Denault trying to show her kids that maybe adult beverage is not all that good a thing? Or was she just maybe herself in an altered state of mind and figured, why the hell not?! HA! It's pretty funny seeing the kid's reaction. Especially to that Fireball.
Nothing indicates that Mrs. Denault has any history of child neglect and or child abuse. Nor is there any history that Mr. Denault, Patrick Denault, has any neglect or abuse on his record. This appears to be a first time happening. I'm not saying that Mrs. Denault should be hoisted up as mother of the year, but come on?  At worst, it showed a lapse of parental judgement. Maybe her real crime is trying to be too much of a friend to her children rather than a parent. It really is not a crime to be not the best parent. And maybe people could just mind their own business.
See, what might have been a good idea is if the person who ratted Mrs. Denault out tried to contact her and point out that it wasn't a good idea to post photos of that nature online, it may have avoided what could be a process that may end up with serious consequences.
Is it possible that children would be taken from the Denault family? Stranger things have happened once cases are put into the system. The ready willingness of the authorities to see abuse and neglect everywhere clouds logic and often times simple cases of parental lapses of judgement become cases of the century.
Another thought is that, as I suspect but do not have knowledge of, a Facebook friend called the coppers, was there some revenge being played out over some other issues? Think about that for a moment.
When people become front line soldiers of the excesses of the Nanny State and rat out others, it does lead to the Nanny State going wild and maybe do more harm than good.
Does letting kids have a sip of alcohol at home constitute child neglect? I do not think so but it is now up to the state of Florida to decide.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What Do We Really Know About The Islamic State?

OK, let me get this house cleaning out of the way before I proceed with the topic.
There are numerous definitions of what is currently referred to by the current conquerors as The Islamic State. So here are the two other more prominently used ones. First is the one preferred by the Dear Leader, President Obama, and the state department and that is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL. Then there is the one that much of the media uses and that is Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (which information on this is available at the link above) or ISIS.
For me, they refer to themselves as the Islamic State and that is what I will refer to them as. It is not meant to grant them legitimacy as much as to not get into any contest about names and the like.
The fundamental question of this post is germane and that is what do we know about the Islamic State?
Lets start with the numbers of men under arms for this wannabe nation.
Supposedly low estimates are about 10,000 to 15,000. In the link above it suggests that as many as 80,000 to 100,000 are under allegiance to the Islamic State.
Now look at the map below.
The red-colored areas are under control of the Islamic State. Most of the land is in Iraq, but the Islamic State began in Syria as a direct result of the civil war and divisions among the opponents of the Syrian dictator, Basaar al-Assad. Once they separated they supposedly had about 4,000 men under their black banner of death. What was once known as ISIS, then ISIL began an invasion of Iraq in June and the Iraqi army in the north fled like chickens with their heads cut off. Supposedly at the point of invasion, the forerunner to the Islamic State only had about 2,000 to 3,000 members.
Really?! An army that at the most only had 3,000 members chased an American-trained army away with little if any resistance? Very doubtful.
The fact that few people agree on the numbers of those under arms in the Islamic State is one of the reasons that we have no real clue in how to deal with these degenerates. One of the reasons that I find the higher figure to be more accurate is the willingness to throw men into battle so freely. Even if one counts religious fervor, there is no way a supposed rag-tag army could have seized so much land so quickly.
So, what is life like under the Islamic State?
Compared to Western life, it is clearly stifling and downright scary.
There is a five-part series on the news website Vice in which they have unprecedented access to life in the Islamic State. Here are links to all five episodes. I find this to be compelling that life in the Islamic State is wonderful if one is a Wahhabi-Sunni Islamic fanatic and male. Everyone else, eh not so much. Watch all five episodes and you will notice something mostly missing. Women. Women are treated not only like property but barely above how one would treat an animal. And male children are being very quickly indoctrinated into the bizarre world of Wahhabi-Sunni Islamic fanaticism.
One thing is very clear is that the Islamic State is a certifiable death cult. There is no doubt about it.
For instance, here are a couple of photos of what they do with captured Iraqi soldiers. This is not for the weak hearted.

 Yes, you are seeing correctly. Islamic State soldiers forcing captured Iraqi soldiers to lie face down in their graves as mostly masked executioners open fire and summarily murder them. No sir, these dudes are not real clued in on the Geneva Convention and the proper way to treat prisoners of war. Nah, why should they? They are infidels and they do not need to be treated as human beings. Animals are put down more humane than what these vermin do.
Pretty gross, wouldn't you say?
But no, my friends. The above is nothing.
Below is some of the Islamic State's real gruesome handiwork. Videotape beheading. I will not show any video but two photos will suffice.
Above is a sword and or a machete being placed on the throat of a victim.
And voila! Off with his head!
I will not show how far gone these degenerates are but these beheadings are not limited to men or soldiers of Iraq or Syria. Men, women and children have been beheaded. The most savageness usually is saved for Christians or other infidels such as the Yazidi. And for good measure, many heads are stuck on pikes or paraded around by children.
And leave it to these guys to bring back an oldie but a goo die.
Yes, these vermin are really low. But there is a somewhat decent side to these folks. Most of the crucifixions are done after people are killed. But every now and then, one just gets nailed to a cross and left to die.
As I said, these fanatics are a roving cult of death. And they are teaching a potential whole generation of youth the way of the sword.
So, life in the Islamic State is harsh and very primitive. The only things modern these cretins like are their guns, pickup trucks and video cameras to show the world their handiwork.
But its what we are not being told that should be worrisome.
To this writing, we still do not have a real number of the force that we, the United States, could be dealing with. It can be as low as 10,000 (doubtful) to as much as 100,000 (more probable). We do not really know all the weapons seized in their march through Iraq. If you watch part one of the Vice report from the Islamic State, they paraded at least a large missile, tanks and armored personnel carriers.
And here is something to make you sleep well tonight.
Islamic State forces seized the al-Taqba air base on August 24 and yes, they captured Syrian fighter planes. And today, they showed off their conquered prize: fighter planes.
Now we have been assured that the Islamic State forces are not all that big. That is proving false. We are being assured that they are spread thin and can't keep control of all they have. Again, this is false as they continue to, if nothing else, tighten their grip on what they do control and seem to be fighting hard to gain more land and people. And we are being assured that while they may have these fighter planes, they probably can't fly them. I don't think that is reassuring. Does anyone really think that they do not have at least some men in their ranks that have the capability to fly fighter planes? I am sure that among 10,000 to 100,000 men, at least one can fly a fighter plane. And if one can, surely more can as well.
Keep this in mind.
Tomorrow is the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City, Shanksville, Pennsylvania and Washington, D. C.
Does the Islamic State have a special surprise for the United States?
And back to the original question.
With all that we have been wrong about the Islamic State, what do we really know about the Islamic State?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Joys Of Jury Service

Last Tuesday, I completed my annual visit to Downtown Los Angeles and the county courthouse to serve my jury duty.
In Los Angeles county, the policy is one day and or one trial. In other words, one is on call for a week. If you call everyday and are not asked to go to the assigned court in your summons, you are done.
However, I did not dodge that bullet.
And I should make the admission that I am one of the few people that actually likes jury duty. I see it as a huge contribution to the American idea of citizenship. What amazes me is how much so many people will do and or say anything to get out of jury duty.
On Monday, August 18, I had to make my trek on the Gold Line light rail system. It is one of the few conveniences of local public mas transit. Its a short walk or bike ride from Union Station to the courthouse.
I arrived at the appointed time, went through the metal detector putting my backpack through and all my other stuff in a large plastic bowl. After going through that, I went to the 11th floor assembly room and went through the orientation that I have head and seen so many times that I could give it. After that, it was time to wait to see if I would be called as park of a larger panel to a courtroom. And before lunch, a nice short hour and a half, I was part of a group of 30 called to a courtroom.
After lunch we were told by the judge that the case we would hear would be about a residential first degree burglary and it would be a short trial. As it turned out, a short trial of six days. It took two full days to pick and seat a jury. Twelve jurors and two alternates, a standard for a criminal case.
So we were treated to the opening statements of the prosecutor and the defense attorneys. And to be clear, I thought that the openings left a lot to be desired.
The short version of the trial is that a 20-year old guy went to Hollywood with his brother to "pick up chicks" as was described in not so many words by both sides. The one brother supposedly hooked-up with a gal and went back to her apartment. That left the defendant all by his lonesome. After about five minutes, he did not think that his brother would come back for him and he began to wander. Wander all the way up the Hollywood Hills to a nice, large home that had a For Lease sign. After finding a way to break into the home, which was a sizable dumbbell, the defendant opened the door and went inside. He went to the kitchen and pulled out a lot of food and drink. But the one thing he did not count on was that the homeowner would be home. She was and called the police, who responded quickly. Quickly enough to prevent the defendant from doing anything more. He tried to escape but ended up leaning in a hiding position next to a tree.
But the defense had an amusing version of events. They did not argue that the defendant did not break into the home. But the reason they used is that the defendant was tired, hungry and was looking for a place to sleep. And that the Metro train subway stopped running after midnight, when the event occurred. And he had no way to get home because he did not have a cell phone. But he did have $9.60c in his pocket.
A note here for pick-up artists, aka PUAs.
If you expect to pick up chicks, you kind of really need more than $9.60c in your pocket. Really.
Mind you this is Hollywood. There are many fast food establishments. There are gas stations. There are even such archaic things as pay telephones. He could have called his parents that he lives with. He could have even done that as a collect call. He could have grabbed a bite at a fast food establishment or even a gas station. In other words, there were many other ways to get home to sleep that the defense was trying to convince us jurors of.
So in the trial we heard from three uniform police officers, a detective and the defendant himself. No one was especially memorable except the defendant. For he was unbelievably bad. He did himself no favor whatsoever. In fact, it was his testimony that cemented what I believed to be the outcome. Much of his testimony was contradictory and of him trying to sound smarter than he was.
After the testimony, we heard the closing statements. Twice from the prosecutor and once from the defense. And each time the prosecutor made her argument stronger. The defense attorney, a very able public defender, just stuck to the story.
We received the jury instructions and then proceeded to the jury deliberation room.
At some point, I had mentioned that on my last trial, I was the jury foreman. And someone remembered and they all asked if I would want to be foreman for this trial and I agreed.
The first thing that we did was take a vote. And it seemed ominous to me. Seven of us said guilty. Five said not guilty. So there were going to be deliberations. And there should have been. And FTR, we were a helluva lot more serious than the O. J. Simpson jury that took a whole four hours of deliberation. In fact it did take us about seven hours of deliberation. And between a couple of us, including my self, four of the original jurors that voted not guilty changed to guilty. But there was one woman, one woman that held the defendant's fate. And he should be damn thankful to her. The problem for that juror is one of the two elements the prosecutor had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. And the one that the woman juror was having problems with was intent. Because there was nothing stolen from the home, it made her not sure he intended to take any items from the said home. However, if he had even taken a bite of food and or a swig of wine, that would be enough to prove intent. But this juror just could not come around. Even after two different read backs and her  conceding some points that we agreed to, she still could not come around. There was nothing more we could talk about. We took one more vote and it was 10-2 for a guilty verdict. But in a criminal case, the jury must be unanimous for conviction. And we were not. And we would not be.
So I called the bailiff and we eventually went back to the courtroom and were questioned by the judge. After a couple of private consults with the attorneys, the judge declared a mistrial.
I have to admit, I was disappointed and just a wee bit bitter. I thoroughly believe that had the police not acted quickly, the defendant would have ate the food, have some drink and would have taken whatever he could fit in his pocket. But we all had to agree. And we could not.
A couple of things that made me realize it was not a total waste of time.
First, the defendant had been in jail since he was arrested in late March. How do we know? A couple of jurors made mention that while he was wearing a nice dress shirt, he had jail-issued pants and jail slippers. So he either was not given bail or the amount was more than his parents wanted to pay. Or they wanted to teach him a lesson.
Second, even though he probably will not be recharged and may already be out on the streets, he spent time in jail. More than likely, had we found him guilty, he probably would have been credited for time served. Because of state prison overcrowding, many cases like this a convicted burglar serves time in a county jail. And Los Angeles County jail is like a state prison with constant overcrowding.
My initial reaction of dismay and bitterness was wrong. It was wrong because the system did work.
The defendant had a speedy and fair trial. A jury of his peers, us, looked at all of the evidence seriously and studiously. We talked, talked and talked. And because, rightfully, in a criminal case the bar is that all jurors must agree to convict or not convict. If a juror can not agree as was the case in this trial, we had no choice. The judge realized we were serious and deliberative and declared a mistrial.
Throughout this post, I have referred to it as jury duty. Yet I realize that it is in fact jury service. We should not look at it as a duty but that we are serving our fellow citizens. Yes, it is about a week of our time that we could be working or doing whatever, but do we really want to not be a part of the process? Do we really want to not participate in a compact of what it means to be a citizen of the United States? I do not and if one really thinks about it, they would not want to give up that right. They would not want to have a bunch of so-called professional jurors that have been proposed many times in American history.
It is a joy of citizenship to be asked to participate in jury service, even when it does not turn out the way one thinks that it should.
Oh, but once, just once, I would like to be assigned to my local courthouse about four blocks from home!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Ann Coulter, You Ain't A Christian Theologian

Once again I find myself at odds with someone that I know, like and respect and that is Sweet Ann Coulter.
No, I am not being sarcastic when I refer to her as Sweet Ann.
But the latest column from Miss Coulter regarding the doctor and his nurse that contracted Ebola in Liberia in Africa and the decision to bring them back to the United States for treatment was not over the top. It was a total lack of knowledge and understanding of Christian mission and what that means.
Of course those on the left and or Christian modernists already despise Miss Coulter and their reaction is not worth mentioning here.
So I will give you two reactions from respected evangelicals. The two that I would like to share the comments of are former Bush administration official Pete Wehner and the current president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Albert Mohler. I choose these two because one, Mr. Wehner, has been involved in politics. The other, Dr. Mohler, has been involved in Christian theology. Both would seem to be allied with Miss Coulter in many ways. But this time, they, to be blunt, give her a new one.
First, the point of Miss Coulter's column seems to be that Dr. Kent Brantly and his nurse, Nancy Writebol were nothing but Christian narcissists that were asking for it. And that they would have been better off either trying to save souls in Hollywood or New York City. And to buck up her point, she even cites the Holy Bible, the Old Testament passage from Deuteronomy 15:11:

For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

Oh, she was good enough to also quote the Holy Gospel of Matthew 28:19:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

But I don't think she really cares about ALL the nations. Just the United States really. I mean, we need all of the saving. The rest of the world, eh not so much.
Dr. Brantly and Mrs. Writebol are Christian missionaries with Franklin Graham's Samaritan Purse. So, I guess according to Dr. Coulter, in reality, the Rev. Franklin Graham is a Christian narcissist for he believes in that quaint passage in Matthew. The Rev. Franklin Graham, and by extension his father, the Rev. Dr. Billy Graham, are not good, American Christians  because they also wanted to save the world for Christ.
Before I continue my own thoughts, let me share the response of Mr. Wehner. It is a classic because it calls Miss. Coulter out for being especially cruel to beat up Dr. Brantly and Mrs. Writebol when they are down. And she is. He rightfully mocks Miss. Coulter and her strange way that the two should really be sharing Christ. That she was suggesting, no telling the two that they should have focused on power broker types in Los Angeles/Hollywood or New York City. According to Ann:

If Dr. Brantly had practiced at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and turned one single Hollywood power-broker to Christ, he would have done more good for the entire world than anything he could accomplish in a century spent in Liberia.

Or this:

If he had provided health care for the uninsured editors, writers, videographers and pundits in Gotham and managed to open one set of eyes, he would have done more good than marinating himself in medieval diseases of the Third World.

Of course there is not one shred of knowable evidence that any of the above might have happened and thus it is total speculation on her part. Which is what is wrong. As Mr. Wehner pointed out, Miss Coulter is divining the heart and mind of Dr. Brantly and Mrs Writebol. Something that we can not nor should ever do. And Mr. Wehner and all other critics of the column point out that there are millions of committed Christians spreading the Gopsel of Christ right here in the United States of America. To places like Zavala county, another place Miss Coulter thought the good doc should have used his God-given talents instead of Africa and specifically Liberia. There is an outreach center right here in El Monte, California that my particular church has been, in my estimation, spreading the Gospel of helping thy neighbor. And yes, we have sent a missionary to Mongolia of all places to teach children and yes, spread the Gopsel of Christ.
So let's examine what Dr. Mohler had to say about Miss Coulter and her descent to Crazyland.
As Dr. Mohler pointed out, Miss Coulter said that the kind of missionary work Dr. Brantly and Mrs. Writebol did would get a lot of praise from people like New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof. Here is what Miss Coulter wrote:

Evangelize in Liberia, and the Times' Nicholas Kristof will be totally impressed.

It appears that he was. Yes, Mr. Kristoff did indeed heap praise on Dr. Brantly and Mrs. Writebol. To me in this case, so what? Where Dr. Mohler equates both Miss Coulter and Mr. Kristof is that both are off the mark. Dr. Mohler:

Kristof argues that we should be very appreciative of these two American missionary doctors and others from the western world who are fighting this contagion in Africa because if the disease is not stopped there, it will indeed come here. That is an argument that is certainly superior to the argument of Ann Coulter, but it is also an argument that is far short of the Christian worldview. These two American missionary doctors did not go merely as humanitarians. They did not just join some kind of merely humanitarian effort. They were sent by American Christian missionary organizations. Their concern was not just the bodily health of those they would serve through medicine, but the spiritual condition and indeed the spiritual fate of those they would meet as they went to West Africa.

I italicized the important point of Dr. Mohler. That the two are committed Christians that were sent to do what they did by Christian missionary groups. That they are caring not just for the immediate needs of the people but their spiritual needs as well. They are not just humanitarians as Mr. Kristof wants folks to believe.
Here is what I think about this.
One, if Miss Coulter had written about whether or not it was a good idea to bring two people back with a disease that has no cure and the merits on that, I think that would make a good potential column.
But Miss Coulter went for the jugular and assaulted the very nature of the work the doctor and nurse was doing. She was saying that the place that needs the most missionary work is their home nation, the United States. She misrepresents the very essence of the ministry of the church and the Great Commission that Jesus Christ laid out for all who follow him to do. Again that is to go to ALL the nations to spread the Gospel. Not just one nation and not just the United States.
The fact of it is that Ann Coulter, you ain't a Christian theologian.