Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Coming Attractions

Just left Big Rick, who, in his less than kind way, told me the blog has been sucking lately.

He reminded me that I have not finished the 9/11 story. He's right. Soon.

An aside, why is that day universally known as 9/11 rather than September 11? I've always thought that the latter is more elegant. I assume the label is a media construction, though I may be wrong.

I always compare the poor labeling, in my mind to "December 7, 1941, a day that will live in infamy." Different eras, different sensibilities?

I always thought one of the few speeches that the current President has given that resonated was his initial reaction to that day. It hasn't held up like FDR's but it's as close as he will ever get.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Feds And Cats Fight, Less Than One Hundred Miles From Guantanamo

Since we have a minor controversy running in the comments about my current, as Ron puts it, a-muse, in Stupid Government Stuff, immediately below, here’s a link to an explanation of the Federal Animal Welfare Act at the USDA site:

Furballs: Now Federal Offense

I’ll leave interpretation and application to the the Key West cat imbroglio to you. I just hope the cats' lawyers (now there's specialization) do better than the people representing the detainees. After further thought, with the same results as in Guantanamo, the cats will be detained in Key West for years before any possibility of release.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Stupid Government Stuff

My muse may be back.

Stupid Government Stuff

Not much more to say.

New Contest

In May, I think, I held a contest to be my 5,000th visitor which was won by Keith, see Recommended Sidebar.

Fermi probably was the actual winner, but, I couldn't tell from my Sitemeter statistics. I told her I'd run another contest at 7,500.

Amazingly, that mark is approaching. Sitemeter shows I've had sixty-seven hundred, and some change, visitors. The average per day is 38, but ranges from 30 to 60. Thus, with current trends, it should take three weeks to hit the mark.

I'll give you updates on numbers in a week. In the meantime, here are the rules:

Number 7,500, if a comment is left, wins. If number 7,500 doesn't leave a comment, the next visitor leaving a comment is the winner. The reason for this rule is that unless there is a comment which has a time stamp on it, I can't always identify the visitor on Sitemeter.

Comments must pertain to the post on which they are left. The reason for this rule is that I'm not doing this to drive traffic. The contest is intended to be something fun for me and regular readers. So, "which number am I?" doesn't get it. Also, though I have a couple of regular "anons" they can't win without a real live name and link, for the simple reason that, I can't contact them. This rule doesn't apply if you leave your name in the body of the comment like Debo does and I know where to find you.

I guess that's lawyerly enough. Oh, the prize. $50 credit/gift/etc. at the webstore of your choice that takes major credit cards.

You Asked For It

I've been posting a bit less lately. A missing muse?

The comments to my last post, which talked about not writing, were mixed. Some said write only when you feel like it and others said write.

First, I don't labor over the writing that appears here. That shows in more often than wanted, when rereading what I've written, lack of polish. The sub-heading to the blog says "Comments, and on my pretentious days, essays, on what on a given day interests, amuses, annoys or outrages me." The problem has been a lack of interest, amusement, annoyance and outrage. The world is out there, it just isn't tickling me to react.

So, here's how I've spent this cloudy, fairly humid, Sunday morning:

Up at about eight and started water to make coffee. I use a french press and yesterday I bought some estate Colombian beans from a shop called Cool Beans in Marietta. About a month ago, I took the glass "dishwasher safe" beaker out of the dishwasher and noticed a hairline crack.

This morning the hairline crack gave birth to wholesale collapse of the carafe when I plunged the plunger. The counter and the floor needed some scrubbing anyway.

I couldn't decide whether to go somewhere for breakfast, which for me is really just coffee and maybe a bagel, or go to Target and get a new coffee press.

Target won out. But, Target didn't have any coffee presses.

More decisions. There's a new Walmart fairly near me. Why would I have thought that Walmart, even an urban location would carry coffee presses?

There was a Waffle House on the way home. It had coffee, not very good. But it had the necessary caffeine. I also ate my weekly allotment of fat and cholesterol and read part of the paper.

Back home, I finished the paper and the coffee in a to-go-cup.

Online, I found that Amazon.com has replacement carafes that after you add shipping costs are about as much as a new press.

Off to Bed Bath and Beyond which sold me a very nice new Bodum coffee press. Before starting to write this, I made a couple of cups and am sipping the first as I type.

Next up in my very exciting life, clothes in the washer and dishes (not the new carafe) in the dishwasher.

To close, I think I'll wait for the muse before my next post.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I'm Alive...

there just isn't anything happening that inspires me to write about it. Not writer's block. I have subject blues.

That being the case, I'm going to tackle further research on setting up my new website. Content is all written. I just have to wade through getting a template that doesn't look stupid, getting a host (though I think I have that close to done), getting a credit card merchant account and meshing all of them together.

Fermi, you know any bright young Tech IT student that's brilliant but works cheap?

Sunday, July 22, 2007


I just watched a documentary on PBS about facial expressions.

A vignette. A researcher tested a lot of people in various occupations as to their ability to detect people that were lying on a video. Across all groups, other than some Secret Service agents, the ability to detect a lie, was "a matter of chance." Fifty-fifty.

Then the researcher talked about the lying micro-clue: a twenty-fifth of a second of wrinkles on a liar's brow. They played a video of a person telling a lie, in slow motion, there were the wrinkles.

They then played that micro-second during former President Clinton's famous "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" press conference, back and forth as he told the lie. Wrinkle, wrinkle, wrinkle.

I suppose you could train your self to see this in real time. A worthwhile skill.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Half A Loaf

The New York Times reports that “[a] federal appeals court ordered the government yesterday to turn over virtually all its information on Guantanamo detainees who are challenging their detention, rejecting an effort by the Justice Department to limit disclosures and setting the stage for new legal battles over the government’s reasons for holding the men indefinitely.”

The Court though didn’t really order disclosure of “virtually all” government information. The government must turn over the information which is “reasonably available.”

“[D]etainees’ lawyers … said the ruling created the likelihood of fresh legal battles over what information in the government’s vast intelligence files was covered, and whether the government in fact produces all its information dealing with specific detainees.”

Seems to me that the Court has merely shifted the battleground, at least for the next year and a half that Alberto Gonzales is running the Justice Department. What do you think his staff will determine is “reasonably available?”

Friday, July 20, 2007

Scary Stuff


The URL takes you to a July 17 Executive Order. Check out Section 5. If the Feds think you are opposed to their efforts in Iraq they can seize what you got.

Normally in law there's a requirement that opposition, action, inaction, lead directly to harm for the opposition, action or inaction to be subject to, well, legal action. This executive order leaves out the causation element of the the crime.

Having written this, there isn't a Republican or Democrat running for President that I want to vote for. Is there no national figure that has a lick of sense? Why isn't a Senator or Representative, obviously aware of this order raising holy hell?

Finally, I was referred to the site by Kvatch at Blognonomous.com. He's in the Recommended sidebar. He isn't seeming as left-wing as I sometimes think him to be, these days.

Geese and Ganders

"--Torture or other acts of violence serious enough to be considered comparable to murder, torture, mutilation and cruel or inhuman treatment.

--Willful or outrageous acts of personal abuse done to humiliate or degrade someone in a way so serious that any reasonable person would ''deem the acts to be beyond the bounds of human decency, such as sexual or sexually indecent acts undertaken for the purpose of humiliation, forcing the individual to perform sexual acts or to pose sexually, threatening the individual with sexual mutilation.

--Acts intended to denigrate the religion, religious practices, or religious objects of an individual."

The above is from a New York Times online report today and is a list of what the President's most recent Executive Order prohibits the CIA from doing to those who come into its hands.

The White House spokesman declined to explain what the President considered to be torture.

This executive order's timing is interesting given the flak that Iran is getting for treatment of detainees in its Evin Prison. Notably absent from the protests to the Iranian government over the treatment is that of the United States. I skimmed five or six stories about the prison and treatment of prisoners (including U.S. citizens) and could find nary a word of reaction from a U.S. Government official.

This maybe because our government doesn't have the moral standing to condemn Iran for what the United States has done in Guantanamo.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Big Leather Couch

Mimi Writes

Late Bloomer Boomer

Second Effort

Damn that kind of worked in Blogger. It was fine in Word. Hyperlinks with one swipe, copy and paste. I’m supposed to put my blog URL after Second Effort, but that isn’t necessary as I’m not going to make anyone try to continue this blog chain letter. If you want to see the other blogs in the chain go to Second Effort, also found in the Recommended sidebar.

So here’s the deal. Curmudgeon of Second Effort did a post that required him to go to Wikipedia and find a holiday (Update: I just realized that while I wrote holiday, I just wrote about an event that wasn't a holiday, except maybe in the former USSR, below and I'm too lazy to change it) that occurred on, and two people who were born on his birthday and write something about the people and the holiday. Go read him. He’s a Windy City lawyer that writes pretty good. He “tagged” me to continue the theme.

I’m cheating for the first birthday. My birthday is October 4.

First Person”s Birthday.

Me. I was conceived in Alaska. My parents had landed there, after about a year long odyssey around the country, in a town along the coast called Seward. My Dad worked a fish processing plant. They learned that I was on the way and a doctor told them that I should best be born nearer to civilization.

That turned out to be near my father’s relatives in Ann Arbor, Michigan at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Upon their return to the home country, my Father got a job driving, here’s a blast from the past, a dry cleaning delivery truck. Other than my Father, I’ve never heard of anyone that has ever had this job. Milk yes; dry cleaning, no.

Anyway, back then they didn’t do Lamaze and breathing stuff. My Aunt took my Mother to the hospital because my Father and Uncle were working.

Turned out that I was a “blue baby.” In those days that was serious. Since I am writing this and you are reading this, it turned out OK. When my Father came to pick up me and Mom, the nuns presented him with a baptismal certificate, as I had been given the Last Rites of the Catholic Church, which apparently include the lesser included Rite of Baptism.

I grew up in a Lutheran family. Not just Lutheran, Missouri Synod, heavily German, Luther followers. The story gets murky here as I only got it from my Aunt who swore me to secrecy (all of the participants are gone to the great beyond, so I feel released from the vow.)

Short version. My Father pitched a fit, explaining that I was not a Catholic, I was a Lutheran. He wanted it reversed. I doubt he used the word annulled, but that would have been an acceptable result. Marriage is a Rite. If you can annul a marriage, you should be able to negate a baptism.

Anyway, the Nuns and the administrator who was summoned were unable to think of a reverse rite and we went to my first home with me being kind of a Catholic.

The next Sunday I became a Lutheran, baptized for the second time.

Event One.

OK here’s a throw in.
610 - Heraclius arrives by ship from Africa at Constantinople, overthrows Byzantine Emperor Phocas and becomes Emperor. That’s the first Wikipedia result for October 4. Just who knows that happened on that day? Have they adjusted for the change in calendar since then? And all that happened in just one day? Just asking.

1582 - Pope Gregory XIII implements the Gregorian Calendar. In Italy, Poland, Portugal, and Spain, October 4 of this year is followed directly by October 15. See, I told you. Pre-Gregory: Who knows which 10/4 Heraclius debarked on? Greg was the thirteenth Pope in the late sixteen hundreds? Lack of imagination.

OK, I’m accepting this one, and to give away my era, I was a little kid, but I remember this vaguely:

1957 - Launch of Sputnik I, the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth. As I recall, and I may well remember this from later in school or a random History Channel documentary, this caused great alarm in our part of the world. We were hard into the early parts of the Cold War. How could the backward Ruskies beat us in to space? When did we launch Telstar, which inspired an insipid song?

One birthday and one event down. Back to Wikipedia.

I’m not happy with my choices. Roy Blount, Jr. shares my birthday, born in 1941. I like his humor.

Second Person’s Birthday.

My choice is an excuse to write about someone else:
1943 - H. Rap Brown, American civil rights activist. Brown had an influence on our society; but, another radical black civil rights activist had an influence on me:

Eldridge Cleaver (
August 31, 1935May 1, 1998) was an author and a prominent American civil rights leader who began as a dominant member of the Black Panther Party.

His birthday is only thirty-four days before mine.

He did a lot of bad things. And then some more bad things. A good thing that he did was write a book called Soul on Ice while he was in prison, published in 1968. You need to forget that he confesses to rape, of black women, to practice for raping white women. Probably you should not forget that.

You can read it as an introspective view of black and white relations back then, and it will tell you some things. To my mind it is better read as a male’s confession of how he does not understand society, be society manifested in white people, women, institutions. He wrote the book with a lot of anger but his words are not just prose, there are passages that are poetry.

Now that I’ve written this, and not read the book in a couple of decades, I’m worried that my recollections are suspect. I’m going to go to Book Nook on North Druid Hills Road and buy it. Can’t cost more than a couple of bucks.

I probably should have put this higher in the post and the lighter stuff at the end. So, Curmudgeon, you going to tag me again?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ah, The Joys Of Immigration Politics

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported today that used car dealers and private “tag” services (a “tag” in Georgia is the license plate you put on your car and/or little sticker that goes on your license plate when you pay the registration fee and ad valorum tax for the vehicle) are reporting a huge drop in business due to a new law the Legislature passed this year that won’t let you register a vehicle unless you have a Georgia Drivers License.

That means you can’t move from another state to here and register until you get a local license. It also means you can’t register a car here if you are an illegal alien. There’s a loophole, you can apply for the registration by mail and not have to give proof of a drivers license. Most illegals don’t have mailing addresses.

You can buy insurance. You can have an international or foreign license and be driving (but not living) legally in Georgia. You just can’t register your car here unless you prove you’re a legal resident of Georgia so as to get a drivers license.

The new law’s sponsor said it wasn’t directed against illegals; that was an unintended consequence of the law, which he said was intended to promote “public safety.” Huh?

The AJC reporter, being employed by the cracker jack outfit she's with, didn't ask, or at least report, what the legislator considered to be the public safety benefits of the law.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Not totally true. But:

It has been raining, non-stop for a good half hour.

At a point in this minor deluge, I could hear the rain resonating down the fireplace chimney, a sure sign of copious water.

At about that time, DirecTv told me it was searching for signal on one of the receivers. That is serious waterage.

Fermi, has the bubble over the house broken?

A Sad Day

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and three other men were indicted by a federal grand jury today for a bunch of legal stuff involving interstate commerce. The charges boil down to them buying, training, fighting and killing pit bulls, while they were betting money on the fights.

I'm sure that Arthur Blank, owner of the Falcons isn't too happy about this given that Vick has, I think, 6 years left on a 10 year, $130 million dollar contract.

But that isn't what I want to write about.

Vick and his fellow defendants are charged, and the lawyer in me has to emphasis the word charged, with drowning, electrocuting, shooting, beating, and maybe a few other things, pit bulls that either didn't test well at fighting, or lost a fight. I didn't read the entire indictment. What I did read did not have Vick pulling the trigger himself but he is charged with being involved with some of the killings.

Again, he isn't guilty yet; but, I have a gut feeling that he will be found guilty. What do I think? He was a young, dumb kid. He is currently a mid twenties, dumb millionare. He was never taught what is right. That doesn't excuse him. It just makes me a little less angry at him for what I think he has done. He probably didn't have much of a chance, then he didn't give the dogs a chance.

I wouldn't be writing this if he didn't have enormous talent that led to enormous money and public scrutiny over his stupidity. He would have done what he did without the talent, money and scrutiny; and, that leaves us with the ultimate tragedy. He apparently has little regard for life. A sad day.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Mediocre Marriage

The New York Times reported today that IHOP is buying Applebee’s for $1.6 billion plus debt for a value of $2.1 billion. Normally the buyer’s shares drop a bit on the news of the acquisition, but IHOP shares rose 12%. Applebee’s shares rose 2%. I’m not sure why I set out all the financial stuff.

According to the article, IHOPs are mostly franchised and it plans to franchise all of the remaining 500 poorly performing Applebees company operated stores. Just what a potential buyer wants to hear, “give us a bunch of money to take over a dog of a restaurant and you too could have a location that serves lunch and dinner that is as pedestrian and boring as what we serve for breakfast and 3:00 a.m. sobering up sessions. As an extra incentive, we’ll give you the recipe for the stuff we serve in a Rooty Tooty plate.”

Now that I’m on to the new trend, can these betrothals be far behind? TGIF and either Krispy Kreme or Dunkin Donuts. Denny’s will court the losing donut chain. Boston Market could be a dark horse in the surge to merge bad food choices, available 24/7.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Only The Outline Of A Story

Mostly in these posts, I tell little stories.

I'll start with some prologue, do the middle with not much of a story, and end up, well, we'll see.

I'm getting a bit tired of all the rain here in town. We've had an inch or two in the last couple of days. Like I said, there isn't much of a story, hence the unrelated start. Here's why, I can't give you much detail, to protect the worthy.

Now and again, I mention the names of my friends in posts. You've heard of Big Rick, Big Tony, Bill. But you haven't heard enough that you could identify them without knowing a lot more about me and those around me.

I almost started in again at another point in the story that my mind started "writing." Can't do that.

I have another friend. Saw him or her yesterday, the day before and the day before. The first day before is part of the story. But I can't tell that to again protect.

My friend is a police officer. I saw him or her working on that night. Not as a police officer, strictly speaking. Moonlighting. For the, I think, third shift that week. He or she is moonlighting again as I type this.

He or she has been a cop for now three decades. He or she, to have a somewhat comfortable life, has to work outside of his or her profession about half of the week at a second job being a private cop.

There are lot of stories I could weave here. I'll leave it with, we don't treat the people that take care of us when bad things happen as well as we should.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Short Rant About Microsoft

I use Microsoft’s Update notification option. They tell me when there are updates and I decide if I want to install them. A month or so ago they wanted to download a program that would tell Microsoft if I was running unlicensed Microsoft software, also transmitting a bunch of information about my computer. I didn’t download it; but, since I didn’t, Microsoft won’t allow me to download any other patches or updates.

Today I got a forward of a .wav file. When I tried to open it with Media Player, Microsoft wouldn’t let me unless I allowed it to install the aforementioned spy program. I didn’t install it.

I’m not sure just why I’m so pissed off. I have Vista on my laptop and I assume it is reporting away all the info that I’m declining to give on my desktop. I have no unlicensed software on either computer. My friends rag on me because I decline gifts of burned CD compilations they offer. I’m a big believer in the right of all to protect their intellectual property, even when that “all” includes the Evil Empire.

But, it seems to me that Bill has gone a step too far by preventing me from using software I have licensed from him unless I let him download his new spy program. My ability to use and update legal software is now held hostage by Microsoft’s extortion of my agreement to allow its spying.

Being a lawyer, I so want to sue the (*&^%^%’s. Being a lawyer, I know some check off box I clicked to activate my software lets them do what they are doing, unless I spent years fighting them, which I’m not going to do.

Think I could get the Revs. Jackson and Sharpton interested in my plight? Everyone else caves in to them. Watch out Bill.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The President 1) Has Something To Hide; Or, 2) Has His Back Up

I'm actually a bit tired of the Congressional hearings into the firings of the U.S. Attorneys, whenever that was.

Today Sara Taylor, a 32 year old political director in the White House who reported to Karl Rove until she resigned last month to pursue "private opportunities," kind of testified but invoked "executive privilege" and refused to answer any questions about deliberation concerning the firings within the White House, at the direction of Fred Fielding, Counsel to the President.

Also today, Fielding wrote to the Senate and House and told them that Harriet Miers, probably the most unqualified nominee for appointment to become a Justice of the Supreme Court that I know of, former Counsel to the President (before Fielding and after Alberto Gonzalez, now the Attorney General) would not appear at all in response to a subpoena for Thursday, having invoked "absolute executive privilege." I haven't done any research but I didn't know there was a superlative to privilege. I always thought you had it or you didn't; but, I'm not a lawyer for the Executive Branch, and those people have access to concepts of law that us ordinary guys aren't privy to. (There is such a thing as conditional privilege in the law, but I don't think that has any application here.)

You may recall that the White House has offered to let Congress talk to Rove and Miers, in private, without a recording or transcript, and not under oath. The offer was rejected. I'm not going to go legalistic here; but, my conclusion is that high-ups in the White House acted illegally, in a very politically embarrassing way, and/or the President is just flat tired of dealing with the Democrats now running Congress and is going to play out the string until something diverts their attention, figuring he has nothing to lose in the short, and maybe, the long term.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

September 11, 2001, Part 2, The Sheraton Prison

It was a nice prison. As you walk in the check-in counter is to your right. On your left there is a big lobby that doubles as a late afternoon cocktail lounge. Towards the back is the Cafe. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. The room is two stories high with lots of windows and skylights. None faced East.

I went up to my room on the second floor. The interior wall fronted on the two story lobby area, facing South.

Being that I’m efficient under stress, I tried to call the office of the architect that I was deposing. Long story short. Cell phone service for Manhattan and that part of New Jersey went through an antenna on top of one of the towers. No service. I tried to call through the hotel phone. No long distance. Don’t know why; but, no calls beyond the local area would go through.

I watched CNN for a while in the room while I was pacing. It wasn’t a big room. It wasn’t big enough for my thoughts.

I walked down to the lobby and sat in the cocktail lounge. They had a couple of big screen TV’s. Not the flat screens we have now. The big ass, deep sets that were the height of technology then.

I watched some more CNN. There were four of five guys in suits sitting around the room. No one was talking to anyone else. No one was really quite watching the TV’s, but everyone was listening.

I went back to the room and tried to call my office. No dice.

I wandered the hallway. I couldn’t sit still. As you left the room and took a right, at the end of the hall there was a floor to ceiling window. It faced East, to Lower Manhattan. You couldn’t see the skyline, just plumes of smoke. I’d look at it and go back in the room. Go back to the window and back to the room.

I walked outside thinking that maybe I could see more. Just a fuller version of the plumes of smoke. I could see more on the TV screen, but I didn’t want to watch it.

The hotel was eerily normal. I went back down to the lobby now the cocktail lounge and ordered a beer. The bartender was a Jersey/Bronx kind of guy. Brusquely friendly.

Back to the room. Tried the cell phone and it worked. The first message was from Charlie, a friend with whom I now practice law. “Dave, don’t get on the plane! Call me.” A bit late but welcomed. Next message was from Charlie. “Why aren’t you answering? Watch the TV.” Charlie knew I was going to New York, but didn’t know what time. He was calling as I was leaving the airport.

I had a couple of other messages in the same vein. I dialed my office and the office manager answered. “Where are you?” She knew that I was going to New York that day but didn’t know what the schedule was. I explained the logistics and what was happening. Our managing partner had decided to send the staff home that morning. Some of the lawyers were still there with the manager.

We talked a bit and she gave me my messages. One was from “Susie” your bartender at the” unnamed establishment.” “Are you OK?” I wasn’t too thrilled that the firm’s office manager knew that I knew a bartender well enough that I would get a call asking about my well being.

About this time, the battery on the cell phone was close to dying and I hadn’t brought the charger. Since I was on a “day trip” I’d not brought my laptop. The hotel phone still was not working.

I went downstairs and arranged a trip to go get the most expensive charger in the world. Cabs at this point weren’t running. The hotel had a private service limo. To go to Radio Shack and get a charger, without the cost of the charger, was $40. Radio Shack was about two miles away. I didn’t tip the driver as well as I had tipped the cabbie earlier in the day.

By this point in the day, I was a bit less numb and started thinking about what I needed to do. It was obvious that the deposition wasn’t happening. (I reached the lawyer on the other side and the architect some time that week and everyone agreed that we would revisit scheduling at a later date.)

I was supposed to be in Louisville on Friday morning for a hearing in U.S. District Court. I tried to call the opposing lawyer, but the phones, land and cell were out again.

The TV was saying that the airlines were shut down until further notice. Had I been smarter I would have addressed the transportation issue a bit sooner. Since I had local phone service, I could try to get a reservation on Amtrak. They were perfectly willing to give me one. On Monday, September 17. I made the reservation. I then called every car rental company within greater NYC/Newark. There were no cars available. I didn’t call Greyhound.

Delta, my ride North, put me on the list for the first flight South, whenever that might turnout to be.

I’d done what I could for business and rides for the day. I ate a totally forgotten meal in the Cafe and fell asleep with the TV showing the same tape I’d seen all day on CNN.

Part 3, Other Orphans, coming soon to a computer near you.

Monday, July 09, 2007

September 11, 2001, Part 1

I’ve thought about writing this for several years, long before I started the blog.

I met a friend after work the other day (he was stuck for awhile in Toronto) and the subject came up. He said “don’t wait for an anniversary, write it.”

My point in writing this is not to make a point, other than a small one that I will relate to you later. My point is to put down, in writing, what I saw and a bit of what I felt.

On September 10, 2001, I had a flight from Atlanta to Newark at about 7:00 p.m. I went to the airport and found out there were equipment problems, whatever that meant; and, that they could put me on a flight at something like 10:30 p.m. or I could book a flight the next morning at about 6:30 a.m., arriving at Newark at 8:30 a.m. I chose the morning flight.

I had a deposition in Midtown Manhattan that started at about ten-thirty in the morning. Back then, I was going to the City a lot. I had learned that flying into Newark was better than JFK or LaGuardia. I could get on a shuttle at Newark and get into the City for not much money, and as NYC goes, pretty quickly.

We got on the ground right on time. I wasn’t quite sure where in Midtown I was going and decided to get a cab rather than take one of the shuttle buses. That will prove to be a small pivotal moment in this story.

I got in the cab and said “Lincoln Tunnel to Midtown” as I fumbled in my shoulder bag for the specific address. The cabbie pulled the flag and we pulled away. A small aside. when I went home the night before, I’d taken out most of what I’d packed because I was now going to be on a day trip. My scheduled return was on the 11th at about seven at night. I always get a late flight so I'm sure of getting home; but, I usually go standby earlier if I get done. Not that day. With me, in a shoulder bag, I had the file for the deposition, toiletries, a pair of gym shorts and a tee shirt that were always in the bag and that was it. I was wearing a white shirt, a tie and a suit. Black with faint white pin stripes, as I recall.

The radio was on either WNBC or WABC. I’ve since heard some of what I heard that morning on TV. I could look up the numbers of the highways we were on, but they aren’t significant. While on the last one before we took a right, East, to the highway that led to the tunnel, the newscasters were talking about reports that a small plane had hit one of the Twin Towers. Lots of back and forth. I remember one woman talking to the newscaster saying that she was a few blocks away and that it wasn’t a small plane. It was an airliner and it had slammed into the tower.

More back and forth on the radio as we inched our way to the tunnel. We inched and we inched. Just after we turned on to the highway to the tunnel, the radio announcer said that the Lincoln Tunnel and all of the bridges into the City were closed. As we heard this we were at a dead stop. The cabbie, an African, I’m sorry I don’t know his nationality, turned and said “what do you want to do?

At that point, I had not really processed what was happening. But, I tend to revert to coldness when things get difficult. By that I mean that I don't react to what's bad, I ignore that and decide what needs to be done in the moment. What I said to the cabbie was “we aren’t going in to the City, can you get off this and get back to the airport?”

He said there was an exit before the tunnel that would put us on a road that traveled South along the Hudson River and we could get back to the airport from there. I told him to go for it.

You have to understand that while reading this description you are not getting a true sense of time. We sat and we listened to the radio. As we listened we heard sketchy reports about Washington D.C., the Pentagon and what turned out not to beaccurate, the White House. I don’t remember much, if anything about Pennsylvania.

We inched some more. Then more, and finally, moved right on to the exit.

All the while, think about Fox News and CNN at their worst, or maybe their best. The newscasters were for the most part measured, fielding reporters and plain people calling in; but, as what was happening became clearer, their voices developed some stridency.

I’m not sure when in this cab odyssey the second tower was hit, I should have written this down some years ago, but by the time we got to the river road, heading South, it had been hit. As we turned on to the road, there to our left was Lower Manhattan. There was billowing, black smoke from both towers.

The cabbie pulled over and stopped by the side of the road. We sat and didn’t say anything. We watched what was happening a mile or so away and listened to the radio.

The radio didn’t tell me . The cabbie did. “NO! WHAT?” Slow motion. I say that now; but that isn’t what I saw or felt. I had no reference to understand what I was seeing. The cabbie had more perception than I did.

As I watched and listened to the cabbie, I remember seeing and hearing and thinking “what is he yelling about?” My eyes knew, but my mind wasn’t yet willing to think it.

The smoke was at the top of the tower. The tower didn’t seem to fall. It was more like the smoke “fell down,” covering more and more of the tower.

At a point that day, and in the days following, I heard which tower fell first. To this day I can’t remember which it is. I don’t know if I’m right, but I can tell you, indelibly in my mind the tower to the left, what would be the North Tower, was the one going down. I’m not going to research it. Remember, this is about what I saw and felt.

There were other cars stopped on the road. Some people were standing next to their cars looking across the river. I was numb. The cabbie was quietly, not crying, not sobbing, something a bit less.

After awhile the cabbie put the car in gear and we went in search of a hotel as by that point the radio had announced that Newark Airport was shut down.

We turned on to the airport “hotel row.” I told the cabbie to pull into the first hotel. I started to pay him and he said he’d wait and make sure I got a room. No luck. We did the same thing at the next four hotels along the street. I got lucky at the Sheraton and got a room for $200 a night. I love New York.

I walked out with a smile, which the cabbie returned. I pulled out money to pay him. The original fare to Midtown was a flat rate of about $40.00. At this point it was somewhere between eleven and noon. I can’t remember the exact amount I gave him, it was something like $120 or $140. He actually said that was too much. I reminded him we’d just spent the last three hours together and the amount was fair. He gave me his card and told me to call if I ever needed anything. He had a big smile as he drove over to the airport to see if he could get a fare from one of the couple of thousand stranded people.

In a few days, Part 2, Life at the Sheraton Prison.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Scooter Libby Update

As reported by AP, on Thursday, Scooter Libby paid the $250,000 fine imposed on him. The trial court judge said the law "does not appear to contemplate a situation in which a defendant may be placed under supervised release without first completing a term of incarceration." In layman's terms, no time served, no probation of time served. So, Libby having quickly out of pocket for the fine, may be done with his punishment, though he'll probably have to put the new yacht on lay-a-way.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Pizza, The Next Day

I was lazy yesterday. I played golf in the morning. I'm happy to announce that I had the best score I've ever achieved, and that was with two quad (four over par) holes.

One of them was interesting. I addressed the ball on the tee box. I swung. The ball pulled a little but looked like a good shot. Following the ball, on a lower trajectory, but on a line with the shot was the head of my three wood which I quickly learned had broken off from the shaft.

Good news. Ping has a life time guarantee. As I type, the separated parts are winging their way to Phoenix. A new shaft will be wedded to the old head, for free, including shipping, and all will be right in my golf world.

Oh yeah the pizza.

I lazed around in the late afternoon with the intention of going to the grocery store. I had stuff in the pantry and the freezer. There was stuff other than condiments in the refrigerator but it needed to be sent to the great garbage pile in the sky.

I couldn't bring my self to make the trip. I then thought of going on a fast food run. No dice. I settled on delivery pizza. Not too bad. First time in a long time.

So here's the point of the post. I have half left. Since it's been a long time, I've forgotten the best way to reheat. Google to the rescue. All the results say don't microwave it because it gives you a soggy crust. That I knew. What I wanted to know was the oven temp and time. I've settled on preheating at 400 and checking at five minutes. I'm torn between putting it on the cookie sheet bare to the element and the source that said I should cover it with foil.

If the results are interesting or funny, I'll let you know. Otherwise, if you have a foolproof way of reheating, let me know. But, by the next time I order delivery pizza, I'll probably forget.

"Corporations" And Free Speech - The Money Trap

The Supreme Court recently found a part of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance law to be unconstitutional for having violated the First Amendment.

I haven't read the law or all of the opinion. Both deal with hyper technical legal arguments about "corporate" political contributions. Some corporate contributions leading up to an election are now OK. Others remain illegal.

The problem to me results from our fixation with corporations; and, our basic misunderstanding of what a corporation is. It is a "legal fiction." Under most laws it is treated as a "person." The creation of corporations as "people" was the result of the need to provide a vehicle for capital investment while limiting the liability of the investors. Corporations at law were associated with money making.

Beginning in the last century, non-money making enterprises became "corporations;" but, their reasons for doing so were liability limitation and tax reduction. The money making reason is not involved.

We as Americans still see corporations in the light of their robber baron ancestors. We are distrustful of their motives, in many cases with good reason. We don't want them using their "ill gotten" gains to influence our elections.

But, we also believe in free speech and our right to gather together to promote or oppose public initiatives. The rub in modern society is that talking and gathering together cost money. Lots of money. The vehicles we use are "corporations." The N.R.A., N.A.R.A.L., Operation Rescue, the A.C.L.U.

These entities and their members don't have a profit motive. They have an influence motive. Why should we have laws that restrict their (more accurately, their members') ability to get out their message? To my mind, we shouldn't.

McCain-Feingold restricted a Wisconsin abortion rights group's ability to run ads opposing pro-choice and a Senator who was pro-choice in the sixty days leading up to the election for his Senate seat. The Supreme Court, using some really tortured reasoning, decided that the group should be able to run the ads. As fearful as I am of the Roberts Court, it got it right as to the result on this issue. It didn't go far enough.

Whether on constitutional, or common sense grounds, we should stop restricting speech by people or groups of people.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Power Talks, A Tale Of Two Criminals WITH UPDATED COVERAGE

UPDATE. July 4, Al Sharpton will be in Metro Atlanta tomorrow to get some face time contrasting the Libby commutation and the Genarlow Wilson incarceration discussed below. I just hate it when Al reads my blog, gets on a plane and gets the press coverage for what I said. Also makes me wonder if I'm right.

Scooter Libby isn’t going to prison. President Bush “commuted” his thirty month sentence saying it was excessive.

Genarlow Wilson is sitting in a prison cell in Georgia serving a ten-year sentence for having had oral sex with a girl, then fifteen, when he was seventeen. The gravamen of his crime? Though the sex was consensual, she being fifteen, she could not consent as a legal matter. His sentence is ten years, minimum. He’s a bit over two years into it.

These are not really two comparable cases. But in a way they are. The cases speak to politics and power.

Scooter Libby was, is and will be a water boy for the powerful in politics. He took one for the team of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. The lame duck President decided that a $250,000 fine and a felony conviction were sufficient punishment for Libby. Being a lawyer, he will lose his license to practice law. He will sign on with some think tank and earn more than he made as a government official. I’m betting that his signing bonus will exceed the fine.

I can’t really develop a big dislike for Scooter. He’s a loyal soldier that kept his mouth shut and now will be rewarded for serving the politically powerful.

Down here in Georgia, politics are just a bit different. Even if our Governor, Sonny Perdue (he used to be a Democrat, till he realized he had a shot at power if he turned Republican) worked the same loyalty game that the President does, Genarlow would still be in jail.

You see, Genarlow was not a loyal minion. He was a young, dumb, horny kid. After his conviction, the Georgia Legislature, a group of mostly white, right-wing religious, conservative old guys realized the law he was convicted under was totally stupid. They changed the law. Genarlow would today get something like a youthful offender sentence.

Trouble is, the new law isn’t retroactive. There’s a bunch of legal wrangling going on right now. The way to solve it is for our esteemed Governor to commute or pardon. Ain’t going to happen. Got that Southern race thing going. Oh, I forgot to tell you, Genarlow is a black kid. No political upside to letting the kid go with a two-year lesson about what happens when you let the testosterone get the better of you. Most importantly, Genarlow wasn’t carrying Sonny’s water when he went down. No political pay back is in order.

At least the President has a set of balls. Sonny? He thinks he has an outside chance of being the Republican nominee for VP next year. Genarlow who?

Has The Supreme Court Banned Self-serve Gas Pumps?

The Supreme Court last Thursday decided that manufacturers can dictate the price retailers will charge for their products:

Leegin Creative Leather Products, Inc. v. PSKS, Inc.

The Court gave several "pro-competitive" results of "resale price maintenance" agreements, formerly known as retail price fixing. I'm only going to write about one.

This is a direct quote that I read four or five times, "[m]inimum resale price maintenance can stimulate interbrand competition - the competition among manufacturers selling different brands of the same type of product - by reducing intrabrand competition - the competition among retailers selling the same brand."

Go ahead and read that a few times, I'll wait. They seem to be saying that if a manufacturer makes the retailer sell the widget for an agreed price, that has a very nice profit margin, the retailer will respond by investing "in tangible or intangible services or promotional efforts that aid the manufacturer's position as against rival manufacturers." This, the Court says, will give consumers more choices: low price and service brands, high price and service brands and brands that fall between.

OK. But don't we already have that? Nordstrom and Parisian. Macy's and all of its competitors that it bought out. Sears and J.C. Penney. Wal-Mart and Target. Well, yes. But the Court doesn't appear to want the Wal-Marts and Targets to succeed. They have decided that we as consumers aren't getting what we really want, better service. Yes, we all complain about bad service; but, when was the last time you pulled up to the full service pump at the gas station?

The Court: "If the consumer can…buy the product from a retailer that discounts because it has not spent capital providing services or developing a quality reputation, the high-service retailer will lose sales to the discounter, forcing it to cut back its services to a level lower than consumers would otherwise prefer. Minimum resale price maintenance alleviates the problem because it prevents the discounter from undercutting the service provider." (Emphasis added.)

I'm glad the Court has identified this "problem" and is mandating that I pay for "services" that the Court somehow knows I "would otherwise prefer" if there were no Walmarts, Targets, Costcos, internet discounters and so on.

There is some hope. The Court's decision didn't get rid of a law, it got rid of a rule the Court has been applying in anti-trust cases for just under a hundred years. Congress is free to pass a law barring retail price maintenance agreements. Maybe that would take its collective mind off of immigration and Iraq where it is singularly ineffective.

There's another hope. I have a feeling that the Wal-Marts, Targets and Costcos will tell manufacturers demanding price maintenance agreements to "shove it." If they do, the manufacturers probably have to fold and the opinion becomes a nullity. I also don't see car manufacturers trying to force agreements on their dealers. They don't have the clout in today's economy to do it. TV's, computers, cell phones? I think there is way too much competition and a consumer mindset that sees the products for the most part as fungible for Sony, Dell or Motorola to try it. Apple, on the other hand being a niche player with cachet? Don't know.