Monday, April 30, 2012
(I realize most of you under 30 have never heard of the book. Believe it or not, there were interesting novels published before Harry Potter.)
It's a long, complicated tale, but I'll try to boil it down to its essence. The main character is a millionaire New York City bond trader named Sherman McCoy (later played by Tom Hanks in the execrable movie adaptation). Wealthy and privileged, McCoy is driving his Mercedes one night with his mistress when they get lost between Manhattan and JFK airport, and wind up in the Bronx. Trying to return to Manhattan, they find a freeway ramp blocked with debris. McCoy gets out to clear the debris, and two young black men approach. Fearing a robbery, McCoy and his mistress try to flee. Their car (which the mistress is now driving) inadvertently sideswipes one of the youth, who winds up in a coma. Panicked (and unsure if the car hit a person or object), McCoy returns to his Park Avenue penthouse and hides the car in his garage.
A "social activist" black minister, looking for publicity to distract from his own financial scandal, feeds the story of this mysterious hit-and-run to a seedy journalist, who inflates the story (the street thug is transformed into "an honor student") to try to rescue his own career. Toss in an ambitious prosecutor, a corrupt judge and a media firestorm, and soon the hapless McCoy (who, remember, wasn't even driving at the time) is dragged into court for vehicular homicide. Race riots threaten to overrun the city because of the image of this rich, privileged white man callously hitting a member of a minority and running away. McCoy, faced with protestors outside his building, can't understand why so many people hate him when they don't know him or the facts of the story. Trust me, it's a great read.
Sound at all familiar? I've been thinking about that book a lot as the Amy Senser case has unfolded. The Senser case should go to the jury Tuesday, and I expect (thought I certainly may be wrong) an acquittal on the main charges by Wednesday.
There are so many similarities between the book and the Senser story - they were both driving Mercedes! - but I've focused more on the protestors outside Sherman McCoy's apartment. They marched and carried signs and wanted McCoy's blood, all based on (inaccurate) media accounts and their own resentment and jealousy of someone who lived in a Park Avenue penthouse.
Today, thanks to the internet, those Park Avenue protestors are instead found in the comments section of the Star-Tribune and Pioneer Press web sites. If you stop reading at the end of the story and skip the comments, you're missing some real insight into the 21st century American psyche.
People - or at least, the people who write comments on media web sites - HATE people who are successful. Running through the comments is a constant stream of envy and jealousy and hatred towards Amy and Joe Senser. People "know" that Amy was drunk. They "know" that she was on her phone. They "know" that she has alcohol and drug problems. They "know" that she clearly saw the victim, they "know" that she and Joe were lying on the witness stand and "know" a whole host of things that, of course, they have no way of possibly knowing.
It's an ugly strain of hatred, directed at a family that the vast majority of the comment writers will never know, using "facts" that they can't possible know are true. It's based, as I said, on jealousy and envy and a resentment of anyone at a higher socio-economic level, and if you ever had any doubt that "Minnesota Nice" was a myth, reading these comments will set you straight.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Chen is a 40-year-old lawyer who earned the wrath of the Chinese communist government by exposing thousands of cases of forced sterilizations and forced abortions by the government. In addition to a 51-month imprisonment, he and members of his family have been severely beaten and tortured by government security forces, and he has lived under house arrest since September of 2010, confined to a stone farmhouse which the New York Times says was "ringed by surveillance cameras, floodlights and a rotating cordon of guards"
According to the Times, whose account you can read here, Chen escaped by climbing over a wall at night and eluding multiple lines of guards. “You know he’s blind, so the night to him is nothing,” another dissident said. “I think that’s a perfect metaphor.”
It is indeed a perfect metaphor. Chen is one of thousands of brave dissidents in places like China, Cuba, Iran and other places who risk life and limb by exercising free speech rights that we take for granted. His escape is said to be a "complication" for the upcoming visit to China by a delegation led by Hillary Clinton. Good. The Communists who run China need to be reminded that oppression "complicates" things, including the ability to be a respected member of the world community.
It is unclear if Chen will seek asylum, since he reportedly would like to remain in his homeland and operate free from government torture and coercion. How the Obama Administration reacts to this "complication" will tell us a lot about their commitment to human rights.
Friday, April 27, 2012
So we're on to the second round, and in this video she makes the call for the Rangers, Devils, Coyotes and Blues. We'll differ again, because I'm taking the Rangers, Flyers, Predators and Kings. Here's her video:
Thursday, April 26, 2012
To me, the most crucial piece of evidence so far is this: When Mrs. Senser got home that night, she parked her damaged SUV in the driveway, not in the garage.We know this because Joe Senser, who had to go pick up the girls at the concert, parked behind her in the driveway when he got home.
Imagine for a moment that you had accidentally hit a pedestrian with your vehicle, and you wanted to conceal that fact. Once you got home, wouldn't the very first thing you'd do be to put the vehicle in the garage and close the garage door? Why leave the vehicle out in the driveway, where the entire neighborhood could see it and turn you in when the media began reporting the hit-and-run?
That single piece of evidence almost HAS to lead you to believe that she had no idea she had struck a person, and as mentioned earlier, the entire prosecution case rests on her KNOWING that she had hit someone.
I mentioned in Sunday's blog that I couldn't see her being guilty of anything beyond misdemeanor careless driving, and on the trial's first day, the judge told the jury they could consider that charge. I still see that as the most likely outcome.
In other jurisprudence news, we have the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case from Florida. The case has taken on racial overtones, thanks to the hysteria of human-sacks-of-crap Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, along with the vigilante activities of the New Black Panthers (I thought the Obama Justice Department wanted to prosecute hate crimes...why haven't any of these guys been arrested). What we HAVEN'T seen in this case is very much actual informative reporting.
Until this week. A Reuters reporter named Chris Francescani went down to Florida and did some actual reporting, talking to neighbors, friends, relatives, etc, and wrote an excellent piece that you can read here.
Lots of interesting facts that a real reporter was able to learn by doing some legwork and asking questions, as opposed to just sticking a microphone in front of an idiot like Jesse Jackson.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
But then you look at the details of what Obama's proposing, and you realize just how few people it's designed to help, and you realize what a smoke-and-mirrors performance this is.
There are about 39 million Americans still paying student loans. How many will Obama's proposal help?
Well, of those 39 million, only 23 million borrowed their money from the federal government.
And of those 23 million, only 9.5 million borrowed the money through the Stafford loan program, which is the program affected by this legislation.
And most of those 9.5 million are either already in school, or have graduated, and the interest rate adjustment in Obama's plan only applies to new borrowers who are applying for loans THIS YEAR.
And those people don't begin paying back their loans until after they graduate.
And the interest rate adjustment will make a difference of about $7 a month in a graduate's payment.
That's right: This plan will help a handful of kids by lowering their payments $7, starting four years from now. Pretty impressive, eh?
So now the President runs around to college campuses to tell adoring crowds how much he's doing for them, when in fact the rate adjustment doesn't even affect those currently in college.
Obama's cheerleaders in the media have fallen breathlessly in line. As this story, written by the AP and published at CBS says, Obama "...planned a three-state tour this week to warn students of the potential financial catastrophe they will face if Congress fails to act."
Got that? It's a "financial catastrophe" if loan payments - that won't start for at least four years - are $7 per month higher than they would be under current law. And heck, all it costs is $6 billion a year, added to the already record-breaking deficits of the Obama administration. That's the real "financial catastrophe."
(That "tour," by the way, includes campuses in North Carolina, Colorado and Iowa. In what I'm sure is just an incredible coincidence, all three are considered "swing states" in this fall's election.)
Sunday, April 22, 2012
The summary is this: One night last August, Amy Senser - wife of former Viking tight end Joe Senser - was driving her SUV on I-94 between Minneapolis and St. Paul. Her daughter and some friends were at the Katy Perry concert in St. Paul, and Amy was supposed to pick them up. At one point she took the Riverside exit off of I-94, where she struck and killed a local Laotian chef named Anousone Phanthavong. He had run out of gas, obtained a couple gallons at a local station and was gassing up his car at the time he was killed.
Senser kept driving, made some phone calls - reportedly saying she was lost - and returned home without ever getting to St. Paul. The next day - as reports of the hit-and-run death circulated in the media - she and her husband contacted an attorney, who alerted the State Patrol that the vehicle they were searching for was in the Senser garage. The car was impounded, and later Amy was charged with vehicular homicide.
I have thought from the beginning that it would be very hard to convict her in the case, because the law requires that for a vehicular homicide charge to stick, the accused must KNOW that they hit someone and still failed to stop. I know the Riverside exit pretty well, and there were some extenuating circumstances that night. It was after 11 p.m., and there was road construction around the exit. Because of that construction, power had been cut off to the overhead street lights around the ramp.
Put yourself in the place of someone going up an exit they were not familiar with, late at night, with no street lights, through a construction zone with headlights being reflected off of guard rails and construction equipment. You're driving along - in a large 5,000-pound SUV - and you hear a thump. Did you hit a pothole? Did you hit a construction barrel? Was there some debris on the exit ramp? Did you run over an animal? If you believed any of those things, would your first instinct be to pull over in an unfamiliar inner-city neighborhood and check for damage? Particularly if you were a woman, traveling alone, a little before midnight? Probably not.
According to the narrative, Senser gave up on finding the concert, made sure the girls had another ride, went home, parked in her garage and went to sleep. The next day she and her husband heard the news reports, looked at their car, and started making the phone calls that have led us to this point.
Please understand that I'm NOT saying it all happened this way. All I'm saying is that it seems to me to be a pretty plausible explanation, and Senser's attorney doesn't even have the burden of proving it happened this way; It's the state's job to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she knew she had hit a person and failed to stop. It seems to me that if the defense team lays out a scenario similar to what I just described, it's pretty hard to prove otherwise, and reasonable doubt seems easily reachable.
The prosecution has been throwing a lot of things out in the media, alleging that Senser had been drinking, or was impaired by prescription drugs, but given the length of time between the accident and her arrest, those allegations seem impossible to prove. One likely scenario would seem to be that the prosecution realizes the weakness of its case, the Sensers want to avoid a trial and Amy pleads guilty to something like misdemeanor careless driving or some such. My gut feeling - and my guesses are just that, guesses, uninfluenced by any kind of legal education - is that if they try to convict her on a more serious charge, they will fail.
On to a different, but related, topic:
What I found interesting about the stories in today's Strib and PP was the way the reporters painted such totally different pictures of Amy Senser and the victim. David Hanners of the Pioneer Press described Senser's background this way:
"She spent seven years working with Park Spanish Immersion School in St. Louis Park and later started her own tutoring business.
She also got involved with Peruvian Partners, a faith-based group serving the poor in Peru, "bringing them spiritual, physical and economic hope," according to the group's website.
"Amy traveled to Peru as a volunteer with Peruvian Partners and was immediately touched by the great need," said Gina Stavros, who founded the organization with her husband, David. She said Senser has returned to the country "because it wasn't just about meeting physical need, but also because she had built relationships."
Those paragraphs seem to tell the story of a caring, dedicated woman who gave of herself to help others. Over at the Strib, Abby Simons spends a single paragraph on Senser's background, writing that:
"(Senser's attorney) Nelson described Senser as a stay-at-home mother who worked as an assistant funeral planner before leaving that job to pursue a professional license to handle insurance and funeral planning."
Quite a different picture, eh? The impression is that Hanners actually got out and did some, you know, reporting, while Simons made a perfunctory call to the defense attorney and let it go at that.
The Pioneer Press story also made mention of Phanthavong's somewhat checkered past, including his felony theft conviction, other scrapes with the law and his treatment for drug addiction. The prosecutors won a pre-trial motion to exclude any evidence regarding cocaine in Phanthavong's system at the time of the accident. The Strib couldn't find room to mention those things, describing the victim only as someone who "..arrived in the mid '80s as a teenager, and for years worked nearly every day at True Thai in Minneapolis' Seward Neighborhood. He was fiercely protective and loyal toward his family...a friend and father figure to his younger niece." The relevance, of course, is that someone with a history of drug use and drugs in his system may have inadvertently made some inexplicable move to put himself in harm's way.
The Star-Tribune always sees every issue - from state budgets to global warming to the Twins roster - through its own peculiar prism of race and class. Since last August, it's been pretty easy to watch the Strib's narrative of "Rich, privileged white woman callously mows down member of minority community" unfold, and Simons did a good job of toeing the company line, while the P-P's Hanners did a far better job of presenting a balanced account of the facts as we know them. The trial, of course, should tell us more about what really happened.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Now, less than eight months away from Election Day, my expectations have risen considerably as each week goes by and it becomes more and more obvious that the White House has nothing to run on.
Historically, of course, economic issues tend to dominate elections. Other issues are important, but at the end of the day, people view politics through their own personal economic prism. Ronald Reagan summed it up nicely in 1980 when he cut through all of the Jimmy Carter bull by simply asking Americans "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" The nation responded with an overwhelming repudiation of Carter and the Democrats.
The same question goes through the minds of every voter any time there is an incumbent president on the ballot, and after three-plus years of Obama we have:
- High unemployment, with record numbers of adults giving up on finding jobs
- Stagnant wages
- An exploding federal deficit, with corresponding exploding federal debt levels
- Lower housing prices, and continued foreclosures
- High gas prices, one of the most personal daily examples people have of a negative economic impact
But beyond the economy, what else has the Obama administration wrought? Well, they have a health care reform plan that a majority of Americans dislike, will bankrupt the country if implemented and that the Supreme Court will likely dismantle. And that is their "signature" achievement!
- They have aided and abetted rising gas prices by curtailing or blocking major drilling projects.
- They've fostered even more turmoil in the Middle East by weakening our commitment to Israel.
- They've alienated Catholics and other religious institutions by attacking religious freedom.
- They've wasted billions of dollars pursuing pie-in-the-sky "green energy" schemes that will never work.
And their answer to every issue involves two things: Higher taxes, and a more intrusive government.
Today Obama rolled out the same two solutions - more government and increased spending - to attack a problem that doesn't even exist: Oil "speculation." (See my takedown of the "speculation" issue here.)
It fits a pattern: Knowing that their stewardship of the past three years is too hideous to give them a chance at re-election, the Obama team is attempting to create a diversion every week. First it was the phantom "War on women," which blew up when a White House/DNC adviser insulted Ann Romney. Then it was the "Buffett rule," a gimmick that wouldn't raise enough money to cover TWO DAYS of government borrowing. Today it's "oil speculators."
They know - deep in their bones - that they are running headfirst into a freight train full of angry voters, and between now and November they will do or say anything in an attempt to distract the American public from their own putrid record.
Their problem is that no one outside of the MSNBC staff and Amy Klobuchar's office is buying it. Whether it's the Edsel, New Coke, Betamax, Ross Perot, the WNBA, Jesse Jackson or a Chevy Chase talk show, the American people know a pile of bulls**t when they see it, and the expiration date of the Obama-style "transformation of America" is now upon us.
White House adviser David Axelrod just bought a new home in Chicago - for $1.7 million, which I'm pretty sure makes him part of the "1%" that is allegedly oppressing the country - which tells me that he knows where he'll be living after next January 20.
I'm updating my forecast for November from "happy" to "ecstatic."
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Secondly, I've added a couple of buttons to the right that allow you to share posts that you find interesting or that you agree with. The lower one (in blue) allows you to repost one of my blog entries to your own Facebook page, while the top one lets you express approval/agreement with a post and share it on the new Google+ application (which I'm still trying to learn more about). Use as you see fit, and as always, thanks so much for checking out Tim Droogsma's blog. Every reader is appreciated!
Saturday, April 14, 2012
But this week I picked up a little tidbit I knew nothing about. Like most people who've studied the assassination, I had seen this picture of Lee Harvey Oswald's gravestone in Shannon Rose Hill cemetery in Ft. Worth, Texas. In fact, during one of my visits to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, I had thought about trying to find the cemetery and the plain, simple marker, but I ended up taking a tour of the Texas Rangers' new ballpark instead.
Having such a plain marker always seemed appropriate to me. There was not much about Oswald's life to celebrate, the family was somewhat impoverished and there would be plenty of curiosity seekers as it was, without having something more ornate to attract them. I had seen pictures of his burial - news reporters had to be recruited as pallbearers - with just a few family members standing by, and the marker seemed to fit the situation.
But this week I learned that this is NOT Oswald's original grave marker. There was, in fact, a more ornate one placed at his grave a short time after his burial. Pictured here, the marker has followed a bizarre route from Shannon Rose to a museum on the interstate between Chicago and Madison.
You can read the entire story here, but in a nutshell, it goes like this: On the 4th anniversary of JFK's death, some teenagers dug up the stone and made off with it. It was recovered, and police returned it to Oswald's mother, Marguerite. Afraid that vandals would try to take it again, she had it replaced with the plain, one-word stone we have come to know as Oswald's grave marker. She then hid the original marker in the crawl space of her house, where it remained for many years.
After Marguerite's death, a family by the name of Card bought her house, and some time later an electrician found the stone in the house. Sometime in the mid-'80s, the Cards asked a relative to take the stone for safekeeping, and when that relative died, it apparently made its way into the hands of a step-cousin of the Cards. That step-cousin apparently sold it to a fellow named Wayne Lensing, who operates an auto museum in Roscoe, Illinois, near the Wisconsin border. Lensing has all kinds of JFK-related memorabilia in his museum, including the uniform worn by the officer who arrested Oswald in the Texas theater. The web site for his museum is www.historicautoattractions.com.
The Card family alleges that the step-cousin had no right to sell the stone, and ownership will eventually be settled by the courts, I suppose. In the meantime, I was just excited to learn an additional piece of JFK history, and knowing that it's just a few hours away, I think I'll have to make a trip to Roscoe pretty soon.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
In the East, Anne's going with New York, Boston, Florida and Pittsburgh, while in the West she's picking L.A., St. Louis, Phoenix and Detroit.
We're going to differ a bit, because I'm picking New York, Boston, New Jersey and Pittsburgh in the East, while taking Vancouver, San Jose, Phoenix and Nashville in the West. We'll pick again in the second round, but if I had to pick one team right now to go all the way, I'd put my money on Pittsburgh.
Monday, April 9, 2012
What's been interesting to me about the debate is how it has changed my mind on the subject. If you had asked me a couple of years ago if Democrats engaged in organized, systematic election fraud, I would have said "no." Oh, sure, I would have said, Minnesota's same-day registration system is a little loose, but there's probably a little bit of game-playing on both sides, and probably all they do is cancel each other out.
But now, after watching Democrats absolutely wet themselves over Photo ID legislation in various states, I've come to this conclusion: They must have been cheating all these years, or they wouldn't be putting up such a fight.
Think about it. Why would the left put so much time, money and energy into fighting a common-sense reform that is supported by (according to virtually every poll) somewhere around 70-80% of Americans?
Voter suppression? That's a laughable objection, given the fact that photo ID is needed for so many everyday transactions in modern life. Anyone who wants a government-issued ID can get one with minimal effort and the notion that doing so presents an insurmountable barrier to voting is an argument that cannot be taken seriously.
After watching the left's hissy fits, the only conclusion I can come to is that they realize they are about to lose an illegal advantage they have enjoyed all of these years: The ability to fraudulently cast votes and steal elections.
Today comes word (read the entire story here) of the Indiana Democrat party officials who have been charged with conspiracy and forgery, involving a 2008 case in which they are accused of forging signatures - including using the rubber stamp of a member of the Board of Voter Registration - just to get Barack Obama's name on the ballot. If they are willing to go to these lengths just to get someone on the ballot, imagine what they'll do to win an election.
And again, as proof of how lax the current system is, watch this video of someone walking into a Washington, D.C. polling place and being given a primary ballot that rightly belonged to the Attorney General of the United States. Not only is he NOT asked for an I.D., but when he offers to present one, he's told it isn't needed. The video is here.
As I said, even in Minnesota - where no one seriously believes Al Franken legitimately won his U.S. Senate seat - I would not have suspected ongoing, long-term efforts by the Democrats were in place to steal elections. Now, they've convinced me of their guilt.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
We've been arguing in this space for several years now that the president just isn't nearly as bright as his worshipers give him credit for being. (There's a nice summary of the evidence here.) This week he proved once and for all what an intellectual lightweight he is when he attacked the Supreme Court.
Last week the Court heard arguments about the constitutionality of the health care law known as "Obamacare." While it's difficult to predict what the Court will do on any issue, most legal observers feel there is a strong likelihood that the core of Obamacare - a regulation known as the "individual mandate," which would require every American to purchase health insurance - will be struck down as unconstitutional.
This would be a disaster for the Obama administration, now facing an increasingly uphill re-election fight. They consider Obamacare their crowning achievement, and if the law is thrown out, what can they base their re-election campaign on? Higher gas prices? Bankrupt "green energy" companies? Unemployment? Home foreclosures?Record budget deficits? Trillions in additional federal debt?
They really, really need Obamacare to survive the court challenge, or they have nothing to show for three-plus years in office, so on Monday the President decided to take a shot at influencing the Supreme Court by saying:
This is stupidity on stilts. First, there is nothing "unprecedented" about the Supreme Court overturning a law passed by Congress. The Court's right to do that was established in 1803, in the famous Marbury v. Madison decision, a decision that pretty much every 7th-grade history student learns about. Since that time, the Court has overturned any number of laws on constitutional grounds.
Second, Obamacare was NOT passed by a "strong majority" in Congress (it passed by just seven votes in the House, 219-212) and it wouldn't matter if it had passed unanimously. If a law is unconstitutional, it's unconstitutional no matter how many people voted for it. One of the left's favorite Court decisions, Roe v. Wade, stuck down a law that was "passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected" legislature.
These are points that should be obvious to anyone with the slightest knowledge of the Constitution, yet they seemed to escape a man who taught Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago! Apparently at the U of C, just as in his current position, he was an unqualified diversity hire.
Tuesday the President seemed to realize how stupid he had sounded on Monday, and tried to back away from his comment by saying, "We have not seen a Court overturn a law that was passed by Congress on a economic issue, like health care, that I think most people would clearly consider commerce — a law like that has not been overturned at least since Lochner. Right? So we’re going back to the ’30s, pre-New Deal."
Strike two, Mr. Constitutional scholar. What he referred to as "Lochner" was a case known as Lochner v. New York, and it was not decided in the '30, it was decided in 1905. And since then, the court has decided countless cases that dealt with economic issues. Just one recent example came in 2010, when the court overturned portions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act dealing with financial regulation.
I'm certainly no constitutional scholar, I never attended law school and there are any number of people that will be happy to tell you I'm not the brightest bulb on the tree. But the fact that - armed only with some fuzzy memories from high school history class - I understand the function of the Supreme Court better than the President of the United States does should give you a pretty good hint that he's really, really in over his head in his current job.
UPDATE: The great fellows Powerline have done an even better takedown, complete with a headline I wish I'd thought of: Barack Obama, Constitutional Ignoramus. You can read it here.
Monday, April 2, 2012
Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, of course, raced in to again demonstrate that they are both cancers on society, promoting the peculiar notion that when a Hispanic guy and a black guy get into a fight, it's proof of white racism.
But the winner so far in the race to the bottom is NBC News, the same folks who a few years ago rigged up some explosives to "prove" that Chevy trucks were a fire hazard.
NBC got its hands on the tape of the 911 call Zimmerman made when he saw Martin wandering the neighborhood. Here's how NBC reported the call:
Zimmerman: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”
But here's how the conversation actually happened:
Zimmerman: "We’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood and there’s a real suspicious guy. It’s Retreat View Circle. The best address I can give you is 111 Retreat View Circle. This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about."
911 Dispatcher: “Okay. And this guy, is he white black or Hispanic?”
Zimmerman: “He looks black.”
NBC did a quick cut-and-splice to make it appear that Zimmerman was "racially profiling" Martin, when in fact his observation about Martin's race was in response to a question from the 911 dispatcher.
NBC has announced an "internal investigation" into the deception. I can save them some time by simply giving them the results of that investigation now:
"NBC News is not interested in objective journalism, it's interested in promoting liberal points of view, and so the truth is bent every day to help leftist causes. This particular example is bad, because we got caught, but it's really not much different than what we do every day."