Thursday, November 20, 2003

I never post twice in a day. I actually do have a job. However today there is a headline "Bad Radar Propmts White House Evacuation." That made me think of Walter "Radar" O'Reilly on M*A*S*H* and picturing Donald Rumsfled and Radar interacting. That (inexplicably) made me wonder what ever became of Gary Burghoff. A quick google search yielded the page called "The Wildlife Art of Gary 'Radar' Burghoff." I won't describe it. I just advise you, in the strongest possible terms, to go look at it right now.
Warning! Today's blog is legal in nature, and not very funny at all. It is the sort of blog I usually don't read. However, it is a good forum for me to organize thoughts about something I find very interesting. Sorry. As a bone, I give you the following bon mot, "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."


Today the Denver Post ran a story about a criminal case in which the defense is seeking a clergy privilege for information received from a medicine man regarding the confession of an accused murderer. The article raises a few very interesting points, but let me remove some of the underbrush first. First, the case is in Federal court because the victim and accused are both registered members of a tribe in Colorado. Hence, no state jurisdiction. Second, yes, the accused sounds like a scumbag. The nature of evidence suppression cases is that we already know some really, really bad evidence about the accused, and they are trying to have it . . . suppressed. You can't read these cases and decide that the accused is too big a scumbag to get off if you want the deterrent to bad police behavior represented by the exclusion of ill-gotten evidence. Finally, a court has summarized the privilege as one that "protects communications to a member of the clergy, in his or her spiritual or professional capacity, by persons who seek spiritual counseling and who reasonably expect that their words will be kept in confidence."

I do not know if non-Catholic Christians have a sacrament like confession (or Penance and Reconciliation in the catechism). However, I think just the practical problem of not having the privilege for Catholics will make it evident why we have the privilege. For Catholics, Christ instituted the sacrament that we call confession (§ 1446), and it is a necessary to admit sins (§ 1455) to a priest (§ 1456). Without reconciliation, the keys of heaven are not available to us (§ 1444). In other words, for strictly adherent Catholics, it is an absolute moral necessity that they confess their sins, out loud, to a priest. Obviously, this can only happen in an atmosphere of trust, where the person confessing knows their confession will not be repeated. Thus, without the clerical exception, states ran the very unpalatable (especially where District Attorneys, Judges, and Sheriffs are elected) prospect of jailing priests for not breaking the confessional seal. Nobody wants to face re-election after that, so we have a privilege. There are probably less cynical reasons for that, but I think mine meets the Ockham's Razor test of ``pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate'', which translates as ``entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.''

Now the question arises as to whether the medicine man in this tribe acts in a role that makes it imperative, or even likely, that people would unburden their souls on him. If he doesn't, extending the privilege makes no sense, except in political correctness terms (i.e. all religions are equal, so treat all religious figures the same). An expert for the defense said in an affidavit, "it is common knowledge that traditional tribal peoples do not distinguish between legal, medical, psychological and/or emotional issues. A medicine man provides treatment in all these areas through traditional ceremony, counseling, advisement, prayer, blessings and sacrament. People who seek out the services of a medicine man expect confidentiality and confidentiality is a necessary component for complete disclosure." Leaving aside both that "common knowledge" is no basis for expert testimony, and the fact that it should be "do not distinguish among. . ." it appears that the clerical privilege is being chosen by the defense over the attorney/client privilege that attaches in legal situations, and the doctor/patient privilege that attaches to both physical and psychological medical care situations. This raises a big red flag for me, since it is not at all clear that a priest dispensing legal advice would receive the clerical privilege. Ditto a priest dispensing medical advice. Imagine, "Father, I have a shooting pain in my leg." "It might be a pinched nerve. Get a better chair and see if it gets better." Privileged? Only if you have no better argument for the court…

It is also interesting to note that the medicine man signed an affidavit which indicated that "Carlos Herrera confidentially told me about the murder of Brenda Chavez on Feb. 9, 2001, and these statements were related to me as a medicine man. I was unaware that I could assert a confidential privilege." Well, no kidding you were unaware. We figured that out when you told us what he said! The real question is, which capacity as medicine man did he seek you out in? If it was legal, he's going to jail, since you are not a lawyer. If it was medical, he is going to jail, since you are not a medical professional. If it was spiritual, we have to wait and see what the courts say.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003


Another of the stupid things in this world that entertains me is works that are integral to a culture in translation to a foreign language. For instance, I recently came across a fantastic translation of Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" in German. The chorus in German is:

Oooh baby, ich mag es roh
Ja baby, ich mag es roh
Oooh baby, ich mag es roh
Ja baby, ich mag es roh.

Similarly, today is the 140th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. While we are really not positive what he said (he had no finished version of the speech written, and obviously nobody was able to record it), we do have an accepted version. It is incredible. It really is a foundational speech in the history of America, and could be used as the complete explanation for the Civil War. It is a part of our culture. Hence, it is strange to see in other tongues. The part that EVERYONE knows is "four score and seven years ago." How does it feel in these other incarnations.

English: Four score and seven years ago…
German: Dreizehn Jahre noch und es wird ein Jahrhundert vergangen sein . . .
Dutch: Vier maal twintig en zeven jaar geleden . . .
Italian: Or sono diciassette lustri e un anno . . .

Doesn't really flow, does it? To see the Gettysburg Address in other languages, including Russian, Korean, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, and others, check out the link.


The Nation's Finest News Source (dba The Houston Chronicle) has been letting me down lately. They have really been full of what might be called "actual news." Happily, they found someone to talk about the silliest of things—the history of the golf tee.

It turns out that while hundreds of articles were patented around the world for teeing up a golf ball, the first "wooden peg" (at least by U.S. patent office definition) was registered in 1924 to Dr. William Lowell, a New Jersey dentist. It turns out that there have been no significant, material changes in tees since then! Thankfully, that didn't keep the Chronicle from devoting several paragraphs to describing tees.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003


One of the great American myths is that the "little guy" can make a difference. It is the myth that allows us to say that every vote counts, and the myth that allows poor people to oppose the inheritance tax. Still, there were two stories yesterday that really pointed out how little the little guy does count. Interestingly, both are from the Christian Science Monitor, which would be a fabulous weekly, and is a pretty good daily…

The first is an article about the effect of No Child Left Behind on schools in rural North Dakota. Rural North Dakota includes incredibly sparsely populated regions, as well as several Indian reservations. In other words, it is generally "disadvantaged," "underprivileged," and "underserved" in every way you can imagine. Nevertheless, the new Federal education standards that apply in densely packed New York, or affluent Simi Valley apply here as well. For instance, the law mandates that teachers must have a major in the subjects they teach. The state estimates that 27% of teachers in the STATE might not meet this requirement, and they cannot hire science teachers to save their lives. Also, who exactly majored in reading in college? Who will teach reading then? Finally, what kind of a moron can't teach a grade school class in a topic they didn't major in in college? Good grief, while North Dakota teachers make $26,000 per year at the high end, the Federal government is mandating that they have majored in a y subject they teach. So much for the realities of rural life and the little guy. Isn't this why we have state control over education in the first place?

The second article comes from France, where the French government treat Airbus like Third World dictators treat high rises and dams—as a symbol of their modernity and ability. Silly French. Anyway, the article specifically discusses the 150 mile route that parts for the new Airbus plane will need to travel to be assembled in Toulouse. The parts are made across the EU, but are too big to fly to the assembly area. Thus, the French are demolishing houses in small villages, chopping down trees, relocating curves and hills, and generally ignoring environmental laws to create a thoroughfare for the parts to be trucked to Toulouse. In the fine tradition of French democracy, the mayor of one used-and-abused village is quoted as saying, "it is not for a mayor like me to be against a project of national and international importance." And another village of little guys gets screwed so that the European governments can say that they compete with Boeing and the United States.


OK, if I am going to have a what I'm reading link, I guess it behooves me to say something about what I've read. I also think it would be interesting to get feedback from others reading the same books. In any case, I can at least link to a review I agree with.

The last book before Paris 1919 I read was Baudolino by Umberto Eco. The Washington Post review of the book is excellent. The beginning really is amazing, and through the middle and end, you really do wonder how many more pages before the book ends. I have read reviews that claim that the book is written in the medieval narrative style, and is therefore a genre triumph. That's fine, but it gets me nowhere when the book drags. I would recommend Name of the Rose for someone who wants to read Eco and not be overwhelmed.

Before Baudolino I read The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Since we are just discussed Eco, let me say that this book is like the preschool version of Eco's Foucault's Pendulum. They do not have the same thesis in religious terms, but they both weave together myth and history with secret and historic organizations (the Templars, etc.) to create modern conspiracies. Anyway, I can't really find any reviews I agree with, but this book is entertaining in the beginning and painfully obvious in the end. Worth the two days it takes to read it.

I am reading Paris 1919 right now, and I think it is fantastic. Even if you don't agree with all of the historical interpretation, it is still a great look at the Peace Conference, and presents the sometimes intractable issue the conference dealt with. I'll talk about this more fully later.

Monday, November 17, 2003


I love whacky conspiracy theories. I really do. The ability to take a number of coincidences and come up with a (semi) coherent theory of what *really* happened is in the best tradition of Sherlock Holmes. Thus, I am like a pig in poop right now.

First, this weekend (November 22) will be the fortieth anniversary of one of the great conspiracy-launchers of all time—John Kennedy's assassination in Dallas. This is a FANTASTIC page for exploring the various theories, as well as the little tidbits you won't get elsewhere, like the fact that the CIA head fired by JFK was on the Warren Commission! Maybe the CIA DID do it…

Second, with John Allen Mohammed's conviction for the D.C. sniper shootings (technically conspiracy, terrorism, and some other didn't-pull-the-trigger capital charges) at least one whacko has come out of the woodwork. On the Yahoo! message board associated with the conviction story, the following was posted by someone calling himself coalitionfordisclosure:

"And, in another bizarre twist (only one of many, I suspect we're going to see before this all plays out ...), remember that curious Cherokee tale that the snipers "demanded" Captain Moose quote from on National Television, only a few hours before they were "captured" ("The Rabbit Goes Duck Hunting," from "Myths of the Cherokee," by James Mooney)?

Moose said--

"You have indicated that you want us to do and say certain things. You've asked us to say, quote, We have caught the sniper like a duck in a noose, end quote. We understand that hearing us say this is important to you ..."

Well, it didn't make sense that night ... and it STILL doesn't make any sense -- unless, it was actually a Code ... telling the snipers "it's time to GIVE UP," to literally put their heads "in the noose!"

Which, of course, would explain the impossible: why the two most wanted men in America that night, after a three-week killing spree, were found peacefully sleeping in a brilliantly-lit roadside rest ... knowing (because it was ALL over the radio and TV) that every cop on the Eastern Seaboard was bearing down on a "blue Caprice, with New Jersey license plates."

Can anyone say "mind control?" Or "MK Ultra?""

Now, that is beautiful. It leaves out the obvious source of the mind control (Mohammed was in the United States Army), but I'm sure they will pick that up somewhere later in the thread. It also demands that we crawl inside the head of a crazy man and divine his thoughts. It is almost perfect in conspiracy terms. I love it.


Today I had Chinese food for lunch. It came with a fortune cookie. The fortune said, "there is a true and sincere friendship between you both."

Do I have multiple personality disorder and the fortune cookie is just too tactful to say so? What is this?


This weekend I finally got another haircut. I have written before about the Barber (September 13), but it always fun to go in there. This Saturday I arrived at 8:50. I said in September that 8:50 might get you number 10. Well, 8:45 got me number 13. That should have been a clue. Still, I had the paper, bought a coffee, and settled down for my usual gamble. I know I wouldn't skip 22 numbers like the guy in September did, but I figured to be out of there by 10:30.

The Shop was empty. There was a guy in the chair, and me. Four times. Four times, as the Barber started shaving sideburns and neck (the last step before you are done), a guy would walk in with a number lower than mine. Four times, I was ready to spring into the chair, and four times I got stoned. I ended up not skipping even a single number. I left at about noon. It was the rudest display of conscientious number returning I have ever seen.


I cannot avoid this confession. It is tied to my self perception too deeply to hide it. On Saturday I went to the Barber Shop, and got a Starbuck's while I waited. This is not too terrible a sin, since the Starbuck's is the next door over and the gas station is the only other place to get coffee over there.

L and I met at the always fabulous SuVan's for lunch. We then picked up our dry cleaning.

After lunch I went to get an oil change. While I waited, I ran over to the Oberweis Dairy on Fullerton (notice it is dead center in the middle of the Trixie map) for milk and two little ice creams.

I then went home. However, on the way, I stopped at a cheese shop and got a third of a pound of goat gouda and a third of a pound of iberico with a baguette so L and I could have a snack that afternoon.

Sunday morning I dropped L off for choir practice before 10:30 Mass and went to Julius Meinl where I got a mélange. I spent the next couple of hours with my Sunday New York Times and my mélange, until Mass.

I have become what I loath. I am a yuppie. My only hope is that at 32, I will be aged out of the category soon.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

OK, just a few short musings today…


The Christian Science Monitor ran an opinion piece from a Briton who is anti-monarchy. He makes standard republican (i.e. person favoring a republic) arguments, but does point out one interesting this. To wit, it is against the law in Great Britain, and punishable by life imprisonment to advocate abolishing the monarchy. It is also illegal to destroy an image of the queen. Oh. My. God. And we are allies with these people?

Meanwhile, the Japan Times has an article entitled "Experts Seeks Tougher Attitude on Parental-Murder Suicide." Now, I was compelled to read the article, just because I couldn't figure out how a society could be tougher on murder-suicides. It turns out that the term for murder-suicide in Japanese translates to "dying with someone who does not wish to." While technically correct, this seems to lose a little of the impact of "murder-suicide." By the way, we are allies with these people too.

The International Herald Tribune did a bit of journalistic navel gazing and reported on an article in Le Monde in which French officials discussed forming a "bund" or union with Germany. This would allow them to "fuse their militaries and diplomatic corps and to share France's seat at the United Nations Security Council." These French never quit. The Germans tried to do this in 1914, and again in 1940 and all the world heard was whining from France. NOW they like the idea?!? I say, nein, danke! P.S. they are both allies too.


The Boston Globe reports that Boston is windier, on average than Chicago. The average annual wind speed of 12.4 mph in Boston is the highest of any major city in the country. However, the Boston reporter believes that the Windy City name may have to do with blow-hard politicians, rather than actual wind. Now, for a reporter to brag about AVERAGE WIND SPEED and then call someone else a blowhard is really something. This from the city that calls itself the Hub (of the Universe). One cool thing in the article is a quote from a professor who works on wind power. He describes wind thus: "it's like ghosts passing you in the night."

Wednesday, November 12, 2003


It has been too long since I blogged. Too much going on I guess. As I have made all too clear, quirks of time and place are very, very interesting to me. Thus, I am going back into the archives to bring forth stories for the last three weeks that impact these spatial and temporal quirks.


My buddy F, who works in Xbtijohupo, ED (sorry, that is taking my own joke too far), provided a quality answer to my query from last month about the time in Indiana. He said something on the order of, "Indiana is in the eastern time zone, moron" and left me to stew in my own ignorance. Thankfully, upon further reflection, he did a little RESEARCH and came up with this page, which does its best to clarify an inherently ridiculous situation. The short answer is that Fort Wayne is screwed up.


The Washington Post had an interesting article on October 26 about how the United Nations ended up in Manhattan instead of Greenwich, Connecticut. It seems that the UN wanted to build a sprawling campus in semi-rural Connecticut for its compound. I envisioned something like the UN in Geneva. In any case, the location they were interested in was underpopulated, but made up for it in political and economic clout. These people included, " Time publisher Henry Luce, jazz leader Benny Goodman, financier John S. Rockefeller and Wall Street banker and future U.S. Sen. Prescott Bush, father to the former president and grandfather to the current one."

Apparently Alger Hiss (yes THAT Alger Hiss) promised the UN he could get them into Connecticut. What he didn't count on was (a) Prescott Bush leaking the selection to the media, (b) opponents "hiring two men to pretend they were Syrians. Each man donned a fez and walked through downtown Greenwich with surveyor tools, chattering away in pig Latin and spooking the shopkeepers," or (c) opponents starting rumors that camels would walk down the streets if the UN came. The funny thing is, L and I live four blocks east of the neighborhood described in (b) and (c) and people are actively moving towards the neighborhood…


The BBC carried a story about treason trials in Namibia for people accused of trying to liberate the Caprivi Strip from Namibia. The Caprivi Strip is a narrow strip of land that splits Angola from Botswana and appears to be an unnatural extension of Namibia. It also seems to be a VERY unlikely candidate for a sovereign state. Thus, this story had an element of the ridiculous to it. However, proving that good comes from where you find it, the story made me look to see why Caprivi was part of Namibia. The answer is here, but can be summed up as it is a strip that the British created to separate the Germans in German Southwest Africa (Namibia) from the Boers in Transvaal, that the British then traded for Zanzibar. Thus, it is an unnatural extension of Namibia, and is one of the most glaring examples of the senseless borders left in Africa by European colonialism.


It seems that we have come to regard Italian Fascism as a sort of benign, slightly silly phenomenon that the Germans, characteristically, took too far. However, an article in the International Herald Tribune on October 29 helps focus attention on the nasty side of the Italians in World War II. On a Croatian island (Rab), the Italians ran a concentration camp. It was mostly for Slovenes, and 10,000 children died in the elements there. In the context of World War II, this place was not that bad. Still, if the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled off was convincing humanity he didn't exist, then the best trick the Italians pulled off was coming out of World War II as victims.


The Prague Post carried a story on October 30 about a man who was fired from his position as chair of a Czech group of people imprisoned by the Nazis. He was fired because he sent a note to the leader of a German Sudenten group congratulating them on opening a Prague office and apologizing for not being at the opening.

The man he sent the letter to represents the nearly 3 million Germans who were stripped of their possessions and exiled from Czechoslovakia after World War II. This was done largely in response to both the Nazi atrocities committed against Czechoslovakia, and the Sudenten political action in the mid-1930s that did so much to undermine the trinational (German, Czech, Slovak) state that Czechoslovakia was trying to create.

Once again, when we learn history in terms of millions here, and hundreds of thousands there, we lose track of the small stories that add up to sixty year grudges in places like the German/Czech border. This is all the more true on this border, where the post-World War I peace conference gave the Sudeten Mountains to the Czechs not because any Czechs lived there, but because they were necessary for Czechoslovakia's defense. Pretty ironic.


On November 3, Panama celebrated 100 years of independence. This is a little ironic since arguably the Panamanians have only been independent since January 1, 1999, when they took over the canal. I mean, we deposed their dictator in 1989, and you don't really see that in independent countries, do you?


Finally, the Washington Post reported on November 10 that a coalition of "dissident priests, extreme nationalist newspapers and politicians, monarchists and an increasing number of regular Orthodox believers" wants Ivan the Terrible made a saint in the Russian Orthodox Church. This is the same group that got Nicholas II (!) canonized in the Orthodox Church. Cited reasons not to make Ivan a saint include:

• his seven marriages (the Orthodox Church allows no more than four)
• his alleged involvement in the murder of Metropolitan Filip, who denounced Ivan's terror and was eventually canonized for his sacrifice
• his reported childhood predilection for throwing animals off roofs or
• his grown-up practices such as ordering up tortures to duplicate biblical accounts of the sufferings of hell.

By the way, some of Ivan's supporters also believe that Rasputin and Stalin should be canonized. There is even a folk song that ends:

At this most perilous hour
The despoiled Christian
Will remember Lord's
anointed Czar Ivan
Who defended and saved our

Seems like we might be further from bridging the Great Schism than some people thought.