Monday, May 31, 2010

Humor: Arizona and Mexicans. Now Minnesota and Canadians.

Arizona is in the news recently. You can't have missed it. They want to stop people on the street, at least those who look like undocumented workers, and ask them for their papers. But Arizona isn't the only state who has an immigration problem. We feel your pain Minnesota!

An Illegal Immigration Bill We Can All Love (Huffington Post:Comedy)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Nun demoted for approving life-saving abortion

A nun in Phoenix, AZ was demoted and excommunicated for her role in a decision to perform an abortion. The abortion was necessary, according to the hospital ethics committed, of which the nun was a member, because the patient would have died. The patient had pulmonary hypertension which would have been fatal because of the pregnancy.

According to this article, 'the pregnancy carried a nearly certain risk of death for the mother'. Hospital nun rebuked for allowing abortion in Phoenix (USA Today)

More on the story: Phoenix nun and her abortion decision (Arizona Daily Star)

But it is clear the Bishop didn't care about the woman's life. Seems it could have been a 'certain risk' instead of a 'nearly certain risk' and it would still have been sin to perform the abortion.

So the Bishop is saying, in effect, 'it is better to have two people dead, than to have one living because an abortion was performed'. What a crock! The obvious solution is NOT go to go a Catholic hospital for any medical conditions that could be terminal. Or maybe not to go to one at all, just in case things become 'complicated'.

The decision was made with the full cooperation and understanding of the mother. And as long as she is in her 'right mind', that's all that is needed. The Catholic Church be damned!

An opinion via NPR: Sister Margaret McBride: Don't Confess (NPR)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Man acquitted of killing officer who died 41 years after shooting...

Not all court cases are more than passing interest to the average person. But this one seems to set a new precident. A man shot and wounded a 23 year old officer in 1966. 41 years later the officer dies and the man is tried for his murder. Is there a direct connection? The Medical Examiner thinks so.

Jury acquits man of murder in 1966 police shooting (

It seems a far stretch to say that the injuries the officer suffered caused his death. And the defence went to great lengths to show that the officer had been in three car accidents and two wheelchair accidents. I don't have access to the evidence, but it seems like 41 years is too long to connect these dots. But how long is too long? Is 20 years too long? How about 5 years?

Here is another case that has similarities. But there is no information on accidents during the 36-years between the shooting and the death. Bucks case bears similarities to Barnes trial (Courier Times)

Should these men be on trial? What do you think?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Compulsory collection of DNA for all arrests...

Congress is passing a bill that will give funding to any state that agrees to collect DNA evidence for everyone arrested for a crime. That's arrested, not convicted. It takes place for serious crimes: murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, and kidnapping. But it also includes burglary, attempted burglary, and assault.

Congress Coaxes States to Collect DNA (

California already has a law like this on the books.
New York is considering such a bill.

In fact, 21 states now take DNA upon arrest.

The ACLU has released figures showing that in 2007, out of 332,000 felony arrests, 101,000 of them, or 30%, were never convicted.

This law is just wrong. It's one thing to take DNA from a convicted felon and quite another to take it from an innocent person. One of the foundations of our Democracy is 'innocent until proven guilty.' This law ignores this basic fact. The Supreme Court has not taken up this law yet, but when it does, I feel confident it will strike it down.

It doesn't matter the severity of the crime, or who witnessed it, or even if the person admits their culpability. Their DNA should ONLY be taken if they are convicted of the crime. Not before.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Would you pay more for better medical care?

Most people have medical insurance, pay a premium, usually a co-pay and don't worry about the actual cost of the office visits and procedures.

But what if you could get better care? Would you pay for the visit from your own pocket?

Here is a story of one doctor who was fed up with insurance companies and all of their associated baggage. All transactions are in cash and his patients are quite pleased with the services they receive.

Cash for Doctors (The Weekly Standard)

Would you forgo your medical insurance, pay cash on the spot, for better medical care?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Should juveniles ever be given 'life without parole'?

In a recent decision, the U.S. Supreme Court said that juveniles, convicted of committing heinous crimes, cannot be given 'life without the possibility of parole'. Everyone knows that youths are less likely to make 'adult decisions' because they lack the experience and ability to assess risk, among other factors. While adults are also likely to make 'bone-headed mistakes', youths are more likely, but not because they 'know better'.

The Supreme Court says that youths must be given a 'meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.' But serving their time behind bars, will they be able to mature in anything that resembles 'normal'? And how will 'maturity' and 'rehabilitation' be measured?

Here's a full article on the decision. Supreme Court moves in right direction (The Christian Science Monitor)

And an article on why 'kids' should not be 'thrown away'. Kids Incarcerated -- Forever? (Huffington Post)

What do you think? Should youths be put behind bars forever for being a lookout during a murder? What about if they did the premeditated murder? Is there a chance they could mature and be rehabilitated? Or are they 'just as lost' as adults who do the same crime?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Violence in sports? Say it ain't so!

Current opinion: none

By nature, some sports are violent. No way around it. Boxing is the first example that comes to mind. It isn't any accident that someone gets hurt. Two people get into a ring to hit each other and the only protection they bring with them is boxing gloves and mouth guards. So for violence in sports, I'm talking about sports that don't HAVE to be violent. Sports are about competition, not violence. American Football fans may appreciate a hard tackle, but they don't really want to see one of the two players stay down on the field, injured, and have to be carted off to the doctor.

Yes, injuries, and even death, occur in all major sports. This post is not about the accidents that happen. Baseball players get hit by balls or broken bats. Ice Hockey players get hit by a high-stick. This post is about violence that doesn't have to happen in sports; when a Baseball player charges the mound and a fight breaks out; or a Basketball player punches another player for perceived rough play.

On one end of the spectrum is Baseball. With one exception (discussed in a moment), Baseball is a no-contact sport. Pitchers throw the ball, batters hit the ball, and fielders catch the ball. No players purposely try to hurt another player. If a runner to second base gets out of the basepath and tries to 'take out' the fielder, they are called out because Baseball doesn't want to injure players. The one exception in Baseball is at home plate. When a runner rounds third base, the catcher, with ball in glove, physically tries to prevent the runner from touching home plate and scoring a run. This is one part of Baseball that I could do without. Baseball is a no-contact sport and should eliminate the potential collision at home plate. The catcher can try to tag the runner out, but can't prevent the runner from trying to touch home plate.

Further up the scale is Soccer/Futbol. Players do get injured in this sport, but it comes from players colliding when jumping in the air to 'head the ball' or when someone hits the opposing players' foot without touching the ball. Players get penalized for infractions. A foul is called and the 'injured team' gets to kick the ball from the spot of the foul. If the infraction is too rough, the player can get a yellow card as a warning. If they make an egregious foul, they can be given a red card and sent off the field, not playing the rest of that game OR the next game. Yellow and red cards are recorded, but these are 'bad stats'. A statistic to be avoided.

In Basketball, the usual roughness is when one player 'charges' another and is called for, appropriately enough, 'charging'. A foul can be called when one player tries to shoot at the basket, and an opposing player hits their hand or arm. As with Soccer/Futbol, the Basketball Association doesn't want players hurt, and has penalties that reflect this.

American Football is a rough sport. No doubt about it. But 'violence' is not tolerated. Players wear lots of protection and, while they can physically tackle a player who has the ball, are penalized if they tackle too soon, or display 'unnecessary roughness'. Even the quarterbacks, who can be quite vulnerable when they are passing the ball, their arms up in the air, are protected by the 'in the grasp' rule. If the defender has the quarterback 'in the grasp' the play is over and the defender must release the quarterback.

As for Ice Hockey, it's the one major sport where violence is encouraged and the league keeps one stat regarding it. When a defensive player tries to get the puck away from the offensive player, if they are any where near 'the boards', the wall surrounding the ice rink, they slam or 'hit' the player into the boards. If the offensive player had the puck when this happened, it MIGHT be understandable. But the offensive player could have passed the puck seconds ago. If the defensive player still has the opportunity to hit the offensive player, they will do so, using as much force as they can to slam them into the wall. In American Football, you can tackle the player with the ball. If someone does not have the ball, no tackle. Otherwise, you are penalized. No such idea exists in Ice Hockey. And the Hockey league records slamming other players into 'the boards' as a 'hit'. Does this cause injuries? This Wikipedia article says Ice Hockey players have a 'high risk of injury'. Ice Hockey: Injury

So, of the five major sports in America, Baseball, Soccer/Futbol, Basketball, American Football, and Ice Hockey, Hockey is the only one that encourages 'hits' and keeps track of them. I've been told this is 'part of the game'; has been around for a long time. For me, Ice Hockey is fun to watch. Players are highly skilled and there is great excitement when a team passes well, shoots, and scores. But slamming someone 'into the boards' and the well-known 'hockey fights' should be banned altogether. None of the other major sports have websites devoted to fights. Ice Hockey is the only one. You won't find or

New opinion: (changed) There is too much violence in Ice Hockey

UPDATE: A friend pointed me to this site (which doesn't look like it is being updated)  Baseball Fights

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Should Social Security only be paid out to 'those in need'?

I came across this post written by a self-deprecating Senior. article

People who pay into the system expect to get money out when they retire (or become disabled, etc). Is this money 'rightfully theirs'? Yes it is. And just because 'the system is broken' doesn't mean we just suddenly stop giving people their money back as promised. This isn't a tax which is taken by the government for the betterment of everyone. Using tax monies, the government builds roads, and defends the country, and regulates interstate commerce. This is money 'set aside' for retirees. It was put into the system (although not voluntarily) with the idea that they get it back when they reach a certain age, usually at retirement.

If we were a socialist society, we could, indeed, take monies from the 'well-off individuals' and give it to the 'less-fortunate'.

But this is a democracy. A place where people can reap what they sow. If you work hard, you can do well. Not guaranteed, but it works for most people. Individuals are free to donate money or their time to others to help them. But they are not required to do so.

Here is an article with the Pro and Con sides: US News SS Means article

And for those interested, here is a full history of Social Security: SSN History

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Making a Miranda exception?

The Obama administration wants to make an exeption to the 1966 Miranda ruling, by allowing law enforcement to question a suspect without informing them of their rights.

“We’re now dealing with international terrorists,” Eric H. Holder Jr. said, “and I think that we have to think about perhaps modifying the rules that interrogators have and somehow coming up with something that is flexible and is more consistent with the threat that we now face.”

This comes from the recent arrest of Faisal Shahzad, the suspect in the Times Square bomb case.

New York Times article: Holder Backs a Miranda Limit for Terror Suspects

There is ongoing legal wrangling that non-American terrorists are 'enemy combatants' and, as such, do not have to be accorded all of the legal protections that Americans have. Mr Shahzad is a naturalized American Citizen. Does this mean he doesn't have the same rights as an American born in America? The Obama administration is setting a dangerous precident.

New York Times opinion says 'compromise would be counterproductive': You Have the Right to Remain Constitutional

John McCain says 'delay': McCain: Faisal Shahzad Should Not Have Been Mirandized

What do you think? Read Miranda to everyone? Only to Americans? Only to American-born American's?

UPDATE: Miranda warning rights trimmed bit by bit by high court (Christian Science Monitor)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Does 3D add to the movie experience?

Current opinion: 3D doesn't add much to my movie watching experience

I am a fairly frequent movie watcher; both at home and at the theatre. My tastes run the gamut of drama, romantic comedy, adventure, science fiction, documentary, biography, thrillers, animation, and more. My movie-watching experience has improved over the years with higher quality video and audio. Eventually I expect to be watching movies as holograms where the actors and the action are 'in the room' where I can experience the scene by walking in and around the actors and the action.

In the meantime, we are now getting movies in 3D. And I, for one, am underwhelmed.

Like many millions of people, I saw Avatar in 3D. The second time I saw it was in standard format. Did I experience a difference? Not enough to make me recommend the 3D version to any one. I enjoyed the movie just as much while watching the standard version.

So would watching a 3D movie ever 'do it' for me? My 3D experience is limited. Only half of the 3D movies I have seen have been in the theatre. And that seems to be the difference so far.

In the theatre:
  • Monsters vs Aliens
  • Avatar
  • Up

None of these movies benefited from 3D (with one brief exception). They were simply the same movie, with a little more visual depth; but not enough to make a difference. The exception was at the very beginning of Monsters vs Aliens. The opening space shot had everyone (everyone!) in the theatre oohing and aahing. The rest of the film had a few '3D coming-at-you shots' but not enough to keep me from thinking that I would have enjoyed the movie about as well in 2D.

At DisneyWorld in Florida:
  • Honey I Shrunk the Audience
  • Muppet-vision 3D
  • Captain Eo
These movies were made for 3D and really add to the experience. You get a better feel for 'being there'. The is also the fact that the audience experiences physical changes (theatre shaking, spritzes of water to simulate a dog sneezing on you, etc). So it's not truly just the 3D that is different.

At California Academy of Sciences:
  • Bugs!
It was very cool to see bugs, up close and personal, via 3D which added to the experience. I probably would have enjoyed the 2D version (I haven't seen it), but seeing the bugs in 3D gave a more 'immediate' experience. I felt like I could reach out and actually touch them.

So, based on this small sample size, it looks like short-subject experiences trump feature-length films.  Unless I hear an overriding reason to see a specific film in the theatre, I don't plan on seeing any other films in 3D.

But what about sports? Could watching Futbol or Basketball in 3D make you feel like you are sitting right in the stadium? I'll reserve judgement on that. I might not get to watch the 2010 World Cup in 3D (, but maybe I will get to watch some game in the near future and decide if I want to purchase a 3D monitor.

Wikipedia has a long article on 3D Film, the techniques and history, as well as a short paragraph labled 'Criticism' which succintly describes 2D versus 3D.

"Most of the cues required to provide humans with relative depth information are already present in traditional 2D films. For example, closer objects occlude further ones, distant objects are desaturated and hazy relative to near ones, and the brain subconsciously "knows" the distance of many objects when the height is known (e.g. a human figure subtending only a small amount of the screen is more likely to be 2 m tall and far away than 10 cm tall and close)."

There are plenty of people, on both sides of the issue, talking about 3D. Here are a few of them...

And a nice round-up of Pro/Con directors...
Either way, it won't stop studios from making 3D movies 'while the griddle is hot'...
Or even magazines...
Check out the 3D offerings for 2010...

New opinion: (unchanged) 3D doesn't add enough to my movie watching experience