Monday, June 22, 2015

Tree Huggers

Tree hugger may refer to: a slang, sometimes derogatory, term for environmentalists. There is a non-profit organization: Tree Huggers of America; an Alliance of Sensible Concerned Citizens, Advocates of Reason, Rational and Common Sense. Sensible, reason, rational and common sense are oxymorons. Fanatics of any cause are not sensible, rational or have common sense.
Several years ago I attended a public hearing to discuss changing the manatee speed zones on the Intracoastal Waterway in Broward County. Of the twelve speakers only two people (I was one) thought the speed zones didn’t need to be changed. I pointed out that over the past thirty years only several manatees were killed by boats and that was in Port Lauderdale by huge ships.
One of fanatic tree huggers jumped up and shouted “I guess it’s OK to abuse children as long as they are not killed?” I chose not to respond to this rational and sensible person. I sold my boat several years ago thinking I didn’t have to worry about the tree (manatee) huggers.
I moved to Venice and joined the Italian American Club. The club has two bocce courts in the back of the property. There are several tall pine trees next to the courts. One of the trees has a nest, which has been there for years. The nest is owned by a family of American Bald Eagles.
In 2007 the bald eagle was removed from the list of threatened and endangered species. Although they are delisted, bald eagles are still protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Lacey Act. Non-motorized recreation and human entry (including hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, canoeing) If you walk, bike, canoe, camp, fish, or hunt near an eagle nest during the breeding season and your activity will be visible or can be heard from the nest stay at least 330 feet from the nest. None of these activities near a nest would disturb the eagles if the activity cannot be seen or heard from the nest.  There is no mention of playing bocce ball near a nest.
We play bocce only on Mondays. When the eagles are nesting several people come every day to watch and photograph the eagles. Not only is our club private property, the bird watchers can disturb the eagles more than bocce.  The only incident that I’m aware of is the day I rolled the white pallino. The eagle thought an egg had fallen from the nest and she swooped down and picked up the pallino. After trying to hatch it for a day, the mommy eagle threw it out of the nest.
The last day we played, a group of eagle watchers showed up claiming they had a baby eagle that had fallen from the nest and they wanted to put it back. They were very nasty and suggested we move the bocce courts. We are next to the Venice airport and small jets use the airport. Apparently eagles don’t mind a jet flying over the nest. But rolling a bocce ball can cause premature egg hatching.
The eagle watchers chased off the crew that was installing new carpet on the courts. Then an armed FWC (Florida Wildlife Commission) officer showed up. I don’t know why they need guns. Maybe they have to deal with cattle wrestlers. Officer Andy introduced himself. He was very courteous and said they just wanted to put the baby eagle back. I said it’s OK with me; how will he get back into the nest? Andy said when they open the cage he will fly up to the nest. It took three people to carry the cage, take off the cover and open the door. The baby eagle hopped out of the cage and flew away, nowhere near the nest.
I mentioned to the eagle watcher that there was an eagle nest on top of a light post in front of Kohl’s Department store in Sarasota. I suggested Kohl’s should close during the nesting period. The lady looked like I was crazy. What’s crazy if the manpower and dollars spent on birds that are not endangered. The FWC budget for 2015 is $289  million as opposed to the Veterans Affairs budget of $114 million. On a national basis the US Fish & Wildlife Service has a budget of $2.8 billion.
I don’t run around shooting eagles, manatees or kick dogs. But, the money spent on these animals is mind boggling. I am thankful that the tree huggers were not around 65 million years ago; otherwise dinosaurs would still be walking around

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Miscarriage of justice

“The jury system is not perfect but it’s the best system in the world.” This statement, repeated several times after the Zimmerman verdict, may be the understatement of the year. One of the problems with our jury system is the requirement for the verdict to be unanimous. It wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the Zimmerman case, but can you imagine if decisions of the Supreme Court, Congress, voting for politicians or judging sporting events had to be unanimous? The USA would be paralyzed.

There is good reason for the type of cases that go to the Supreme Court versus Judge Judy. When issues are so complicated a jury of your peers will be ill equipped to understand and interpret all the facts.
I’m not a fan of Lisa Bloom. However, her analysis of why the prosecution failed was probably right on. They failed to drive home the most important issues. I had forgotten about Angela Corey until her press conference after the verdict. I remember when she took the case she appeared to be amused by the whole situation. During the post verdict press conference she still had the same stupid grin, like the whole case was just a joke.
I remember from the time I worked for a law firm that the judge’s instructions are all important. They can ignore the law and the facts. If you follow the instructions to the letter the verdict will be what the judge wants. I haven’t been called for jury duty and it’s unlikely I would ever be selected if I were honest with my answers; because I would use common sense and logic, which have no place in the rule of law.

The problem with this case may be just the way the laws are written. Initially the “stand your ground” law was talked about. Even after it was ruled not applicable, people were still talking about it. The common sense definition of stand your ground means you are in your home and someone attempts to assault you. There could be other places, but it should not apply to someone who is following or chasing someone. The same logic should apply to self defense. You can’t start a fight and claim self defense if you are losing.
Zimmerman’s attorneys ignored the fact that George had many options e.g. staying in his car. They also claimed that Trayvon threw the first punch. This was based on George’s version of the altercation. It was up to the prosecution to suggest that if Trayvon threw the first punch it was self defense as he was being followed by an adult stranger and George may have pushed him and called him a F..... N........
The defense attorneys should have been held in contempt for arguing with the judge after a ruling. After winning the case they were still whining about not getting evidence fast enough, as if that would have made any difference. O’Mara and West are now in good company with Bailey, Cochran and Dershowitz for getting a guilty person acquitted. Alan Dershowitz put his two cents in on the Zimmerman trial when it looked, for a moment, like a guilty person may actually be convicted.
According to Sherman’s law there were only a few facts which mattered – Zimmerman was on neighbor watch. The neighbor watch means to watch and report to the police. Although Zimmy may have a right to carry a gun, vigilantes carry guns, and neighbor watch people only need their eyes and a cell phone. The police told him not to follow and I’m assuming they were not sending a patrol car as they were used to his crank calls. Whatever Trayvon did was justified as he was doing nothing wrong and being harassed by a stranger. Both the defense and prosecution dwelled on irrelevant facts such as who was yelling on the 911 call, Trayvon’s friend didn’t think cracker was a racial term (it’s not), or who threw the first punch. 
Although I believe the jurors came to the wrong conclusion, I’ll give them the benefit of doubt and assume they made a conscious effort to interpret confusing laws. They were still however, free to use some common sense and do the right thing. Even in the military a soldier is not required to follow orders which are illegal or immoral.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Zimmerman v. Martin

Watching the Zimmerman trial is very frustrating. I haven’t been glued to the TV; but what I have seen seems to concentrate on irrelevant details. Speaking as a juror there all only a few facts which are relevant. Zimmerman was a self appointed neighbor watch person. Watch is the operative word. As the typical sign below suggests, the idea is to “watch” and report.

The only Neighborhood Vigilante sign I could find was in Mexico City.
Zimmerman was acting as a vigilante. A vigilante is judge, jury and executioner. As far as I know they are against the law in the USA. Even in Mexico there are cases where a vigilante stopped someone walking home from Taco Bell, got in his face and got the crap beat out of him. In no case in Mexico or the US did a vigilante ever plead self defense.

The media published pictures of Trayvon Martin when he was a few years younger. This was a mistake, because the average person assumes a cover-up. People are circulating a picture of an older guy with tattoos and people are falling for it. If the outcome was reversed, Martin would be the one to claim self defense. He was walking home, minding his own business, and a stranger approached him and started a fight.

In conclusion, Zimmerman is guilty of murder.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Right to bear Arms

As an historian and constitutional scholar I probably rank a notch above Michele Bachmann and Penn Jillette. You remember Michele professed our Founding Fathers fought to abolish slavery, and more recently Penn gave his interpretation of the 2nd Amendment in a pro-gun commercial.

The 2nd Amendment talks about a well-regulated Militia and right of the people to keep and bear arms in the same paragraph. I hope this whole debate doesn’t hinge on where the comma was placed. Penn believes the right to bear arms and a Militia are separate rights and issues.

Several things are not in dispute. Arms mean weapons. Weapons in 1791 consisted of swords, cannons, flintlock muskets and pistols, and rocks of course. The Palestinians still use rocks and I keep one at home. Cannons are still in use at football games and circuses. Colleges fire cannons after a touchdown. They do not use cannon balls. There have been no reports of anyone using cannon to rob a bank or a 7-Eleven.

The Militia, as I understand the term, was to aid in the defense of the U.S. not to protect us from our own government. The Militia Act of 1903, also known as the Dick Act, was initiated following the Spanish–American War of 1898, after the war demonstrated weaknesses in the militia, and in the entire U.S. military. The Militias of today who train in the backwoods of Kentucky, to protect us from the Federal Government or Sharia Law are known as Dick Heads.

With our Armed Forces, including the Reserves and the National Guard there is not much need for a well-regulated militia, unless you honestly believe the Commander-in-Chief has plans to disband the Congress and the Supreme Court and institute Sharia Law. We definitely don’t need an unregulated militia.

The Constitution as well as the Bible are amazing for the fact that so much of the concepts in both documents are apropos today. Times do change. When “thou shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” was written, Halle Berry didn’t live next door. The right to bear arms did not even imagine the weapons of today from automatic guns to nuclear bombs.

Most rational people agree there is no reason for any individual to own an automatic gun or a magazine that holds more than ten rounds. The only argument offered is that they have a 2nd Amendent right to own one. I have a right to buy lots of things, but I don’t buy anything I don’t need. This is why I don’t have a dog.
In conclusion we need reasonable restrictions on gun ownership, while still guaranteeing a person's right to own a gun. Background checks are needed but only can do so much if you’re stupid enough to give your gun to someone else or to not lock it up so a child can’t get at it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Man's Best Friend

Ever since I was a small boy, I wanted a dog. My parents wouldn’t get one for me as they reasoned that they would end up taking care of it. They were probably right.

I was an adult when I finally got Mr. Peabody, and it was by accident. I was walking down the street, and as I passed some trash cans, I heard some whimpering coming from one of the cans. I looked inside and there was the cutest little beagle puppy I had ever seen. It was love at first sight. Little Mr. Peabody was so happy to get out of the can, that he couldn’t stop licking my face. I quickly went to the local pet store and got some puppy chow and other puppy supplies.

After we returned home, Mr. Peabody made himself right at home. I soon realized that Mr. Peabody was no ordinary dog. Within days, he had toilet trained himself and was bringing in the morning newspaper.

It was the following New Year’s day when I realized how special Mr. Peabody was. I had been partying all night long, and I had forgotten to unplug the Christmas tree lights. By New Year’s Eve the tree was pretty dried out, as I had put it up right after Thanksgiving. The lights caught the tree on fire, and it was starting to spread to the drapes. I was sound asleep as the smoke started to enter the bedroom. Mr. Peabody started barking and jumping on the bed until I finally woke up. We got out the front door just as the fire department was arriving. I never found out who called 911. The 911 operator said it sounded as if someone was barking Morse Code. However, she’s sure she was mistaken. In any case, Mr. Peabody saved my life.

Several years later I decided to move into a condo as the house was getting to be too much to take care of. I looked at least twelve condos in the same area. They all allowed pets except one, which happened to be the one I liked. There was no way I was going anywhere without Mr. Peabody. After doing a little research, I found that I could call Mr. Peabody a service animal. A precedent had been set at this condo by another resident who claimed he was so depressed that he needed a dog. The State of Florida had almost stumbled over themselves in an attempt to be politically correct. With no regard for the other 999 residents who had moved to this condo because it didn’t allow pets, they had allowed the first of soon to be many “service animals.”

I can ignore the rights of the majority as well as the next guy, so my best friend and I moved in. My adjacent neighbors don’t mind Mr. Peabody as he only barks if there is a fire, someone breaking in, or if their TV is too loud.

I take Mr. Peabody everywhere. He really likes our boat. In no time at all, he got his sea legs. He has such a sense of direction that he has warned me on several occasions that the anchor was dragging. Mr. Peabody has given new meaning to “man’s best friend.”

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

An interview with God

Bob E: Why have you decided to do this interview now?

God: You asked. Most people that talk to me are just praying for strength or to win the lottery.

Bob E: There are lots of people who claim to communicate with you.

God: There are many people that pray to me and many that think that they here voices. Most of the people that hear voices are crazy. You can imagine how difficult it would be to answer all prayers. The average person can’t even keep up with their e-mails.

Bob E: Why are the greatest oil reserves in the Middle East?

God: I’ll have to admit that this was one of my mistakes. Then again I didn’t know the Arabs would turn out to be such assholes. To make matters worse, they don’t even believe in me. I guess I could redistribute the oil. But, fighting for it builds character.

Bob E: Why did my father die at such a young age?

God: Everyone thinks I have a master plan. This is not so. After creating the heavens and the earth in six days I rested. And a day was a lot longer back then. In fact I am still resting. What I did was create a random event machine. It’s sort of like a random number generator. Every day events are spit out which may affect you for better or worse. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “shit happens” or “your number is up.”

Bob E: The Jews say they are the “chosen people” Is this true, and if so what are they chosen for?

God: If that makes them feel good about themselves so be it. You are all God’s children.

Bob E: Who gets to go to heaven?

God: Well the jury is still out on you if that’s what you mean. A lot of people will be shocked when they enter the pearly gates and see who’s here. The Christians believe that if you believe and are baptized it’s automatic. This is not the case. All those people on death row that think they have found Jesus are going to be in for a big shock. Last week a young boy in the Amazon was killed by a school of piranhas. He was not baptized and had never heard of me. But, he’s up here with me now.

Bob E: Speaking of Jesus, is he really your son?

God: Well 33% of the world’s population believes that he is. Now that I think about that’s only slightly better than George Bush’s approval rating. Short of a paternity test, there is no way to prove it. Even though I invented DNA I don’t have any myself. I will say this: when you get to heaven you’ll find out.

Bob E: In the Bible there is reference to a lot of miracles. Why don’t we have any miracles today?

God: That depends on how you define miracle. People believe that if their child is run over by a truck and the doctors say there is no hope but he lives; it must be a miracle. This is not a miracle. If you mean turning water into wine or parting the Red Sea; these were real miracles. People today are too skeptical for miracles to work. In the 1800’s I sent a few angels to earth. They performed a few miracles and they were charged with witchcraft and burned at the stake.

Bob E: Thousands of years ago there were a lot of evil people on earth so you sent a big flood. Speaking of today; what did we do to deserve Britney Spears?

God: She is not punishment. I’m just having a little fun. I gave everyone a free will. Every so often I create a few people to see how stupid a person can act, e.g. Britney and Paris Hilton.

Bob E: Why did Moses wander around in the desert for 40 years?

God: First of all, it wasn’t really 40 years in today’s terms. But remember, Moses had no maps, or GPS. The compass wasn’t even invented until the 11th century. What’s more amazing is the number of people that followed a person around who didn’t know where he was going.

Bob E: The Jews have been praying for peace for 5,768 years. Are you ignoring them?

God: Not really. Remember, patience is a virtue. Also I have a different concept of time than you do. I don’t even own a watch.

God: Sorry Bob E. I have to run. Sarah Palin is saying her bedtime prayers and I don’t want to miss any of them. Even I enjoy a good laugh.