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Saved By the Bell

     Apparently, in medieval times, burying people before they were truly dead was a known problem. That’s why, a pre-burial system was developed and was known as “being saved by the bell“.

     At the time of burial, a string was tied to the “dead” person’s hand, and then the other end of the string was tied to a bell and then tied to a nearby tree branch.  On occasion, someone who was only unconscious who then revive, would obviously ring the bell in a panic; and their family would rush out and dig them up.  Truly…… “saved by the bell”.

     A recent political donation prosecution can fall under that kind of category. Two executives had been charged in an alleged scheme of recruiting political donors for Hilary Clinton’s 2006 and 2008 Senate campaigns.

     On February 16, 2011, a grand jury that was convened in an Alexandria courtroom, charged the executives with illegally soliciting campaign contributions and then reimbursing those donors for the money that they had given to the campaign. It was an illegal way around the campaign donation federal limits.

     In 2010, the US Supreme Court ruled in Citizen United  v.  FEC that corporations should be treated as individuals. Now, in the eyes of the law, corporations are entitled to equal political speech and are able to contribute politically, like an individual.

     As a result of that Court holding, the Judge in the potential criminal case against these two executives, dismissed the charges against them. In interpreting that Supreme Court case from last year, the Judge held that it created a loophole and that the charges were really now considered a corporation donation. 

     It didn’t matter that those donors were reimbursed by those two executives because, it could legally come from the corporation anyway. With that recent case, these executives were basically saved by that legal bell.   (US v. Danielczyk May 26, 2011)



TSA Mobile Security

An old Saturday Night Live skit used to tout a product called “Toast on a stick”. It was funny because it was so basic. A stick pushed through a piece of toast.

That came to mind when I read the “Mother Jones ” article on what the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) has requested, as part of its government 2012 budget request.

Currently, TSA advises that it conducts over 8,000 unannounced screenings each year. They report that they have 25 teams that conduct screens in conjunction with Customs and Border Patrol. They don’t just do their “pat downs” at airport security,

On one hand, TSA makes a good point it needs more funding to prevent incidents like the Madrid train bombings. Plus, if you’ve ridden on a train recently, you’ve probably noticed that the security does seem a bit relaxed. Maybe that’s why Hollywood has train bombings in many of their movies.

In short, I basically am postulating (I finally got to use that word!) the concept of safety, versus how far do we allow the government to do mobile searches?

It’s clear that TSA wants the ability and funding to walk up to people at train stations, ferries, subways and other public transportation and perform searches or “pat downs”. Is it worth granting this funding and power for safety, or is this going to far in the encroachement on personal liberties?

One final thought might be to consider what Ben Franklin might have said to my blog. “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

You still might be trying to figure out the “toast on a stick analogy” because I did get a little distracted. Well, I just kinda imagined all the TSA uniformed government workers running around, doing their mobile scans with their wands. Seems to me that this is taking a simple idea of safety too far. What else? Are they going to push a mobile bucket in my face, for my shoes and keys?

The DeLay Delay is Over

     After all this time, the DeLay Delay to a guilty verdict and sentence is over. I just saw that former House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, was sentenced to 3 years in jail, with 10 years probation. Before this conviction, DeLay’s greatest public humiliation had come when he had appeared on “Dancing with the Stars”  and had shaken his “hip replacement” hips. Plus, he really knows how to make a pair of jeans look bad on national TV. 

     Normally, this conviction of itself, would not warrant a blog mention.  However, I saw what the judge said after DeLay had addressed the Court with his speech, right before sentencing. It was DeLay’s assertion that all of the events that led up to the prosecution had been completely motivated by politics. It is now expected that the appeal process will drag on for some time, as he remains free on bond.

     The Judge’s response to the “”it’s all politics” should serve as a good reminder for all in the Judicial system.

Before there were Republicans and Democrats, there was America, and what America is about is the rule of law,” the judge said just before pronouncing the sentence.

Supreme Court Robe Room

     A few winters back, a friend asked me to meet with someone to discuss a business and possible investment. I showed up for breakfast and waited. Soon, I was face to face with the man “and his business opportunity”.

     His face was a tanning bed combination of burn/tan. He had a smile that would shock and awe any dental office, both in color and tooth arrangement.

     His suit didn’t have a natural fiber in it. As he reached to shake my hand, his gold-plated bracelet jangled. His appearance was not going to fool anyone, despite his amazing story of expected success.  (It reminded me of the person who was explaining his importance to me and told me he knew Mr Ups, and why that might help. Later, I realized he was talking about UPS. I’m serious.  That story could be a whole blog.)

     Mr Business Proposition told me, “I already have a few million committed to this project”,  I just need a little bit more so we don’t have any limitations”. Then, he went on to describe that I would double my investment money, in about a year. Of course,  in response to me questioning  as to why he just didn’t borrow from the bank, he responded that, “banks don’t understand this kind of business”.

     I suspect that his business did not get off the ground. I have given you the short version. When I saw his appearance, his story of investment only continued to crease my brow into more confusion.

     This “business introdution’ came to mind, as I was thinking about the 60 Minutes  (TV and print version here) story that was recently done on Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and the inner workings of the Court.

     He has just retired at age 90. While a Justice serves, he is not to do interviews about Court dealings and opinions. Because he was retiring, he let reporter Scott Pelley follow him around during the last session, and also tape places for the TV story that had never been seen before, on camera.

     On the surface, the Supreme Court looks pretty intimidating, I think. A story book view of the Court is that they read past caselaw and apply it. They sit in those black robes and reason among themselves, as they arrive at an opinion that is then published as the law of the land.

      However, if you watch the story, you might find initial appearances to be a bit deceiving. His discussion of the Court, including  a view of where the Justices put their robes on; as well as a look into what happens behind the scenes, was fascinating. I think that if you read or watch the 60 Minutes piece, it might give you a different insight into what you think of the Supreme  Court’s activities, beyond that solemn appearance.

     Justice Stevens also discusses three recent Court decisions that gave him problem in the result.  First, when the  Court decided the 2000 Presidential election. If you recall, the Court told Florida to stop the re-counting of the votes. The basis for the 5-4 decision was that the Court ruled that the count could not have been completed by the deadline. Justice Stevens dissented, with the belief that nothing should have been done by the Court, until the time for counting had expired. His view was that the Court was too proactive.

     Another decision he discussed was the Padilla appeal, where an American citizen was declared a terrorist by the President and imprisoned, without any trial. It is a precedent where those who are considered  a danger, can be imprisoned by order of the President, without Constitutional due process. Some feel that religious liberty will be attacked under this same reasoning, in the future.

     One other decision of note that was discussed in the story, involved the Court’s recent ruling in allowing Corporations to be recognized as individuals, for political contribution purposes. Never before has this been the law.  Congress could have enacted such a determination; Instead, the Court  created new law  without precedent regarding Corporations having rights as a person.

     If someone shakes your hand with crooked teeth and looks a bit homeless, you probably know that it’s not a good idea to hand over your money for investment. When a Justice of the Supreme Court  gave a rare glimpse into the robe room and the inner workings of the Court, it seemed a bit surprising to see some unexpected things in the judicial system.

Truth or Consequences of the Elections

     A new fast food commercial shows a chicken, stomping and clucking, while the voice over announcer  asks us whether we can find the chicken nuggets on the chicken.  Then, on behalf of the commercial, he says “neither can we”.

     A young boy was asked to give the definition of the word “lie”. In response, he recited two Bible verses, put together, as his definition. He said, “a lie is an abomination unto the Lord, but a very present help in time of danger”.

     The elections will send some back to their offices and others that as replacements. All have made promises. I thought that an election blog should be short because that would be exactly opposite of all the political rhetoric. Following all the elections, we will now know what’s real or what is just something dreamed up as a nugget. How about someone keeping a promise for a change?

The Letter Power

The cracking of the top of the banana set off the chain reaction. The sound of eight paws running down the stairs sounded like a national geographic special. The two dogs came running to the kitchen table and began to beg for a piece of banana. The dog owners explained to me that their dogs craved bananas like a steak, when they heard that peel.  I could see it but could I believe it?

I received a letter from the Governor-elect of Virginia, with a promise of what was going to be accomplished in the next four years. The letter said, "more jobs, less taxes and less litigation". More jobs and less taxes sound great. Of course, politicians usually say that and explain that the formula to cut taxes is to cut wasteful spending. The last part of the quote, "less litigation", caught my attention. Was that a buzz word for taking away the right to hold "at fault" parties accountable? What was I to believe about this letter?

Congressman Pete Sessions (R-TX) recently sent a fund raising letter that mentioned another member of the US House of Representatives. In trying to raise funds, he addressed the speech of Congressman Bruce Braley (D-IA), who had taken the House floor and asked that consideration be given to the $17 to $28 Billion that was being spent annually, to treat those injured by medical neglect.The medical professionals originally responsible had passed on the cost now, to the tax payer or insurance carrier.

  Congressman Sessions' letter attacked Braley by writing, "Pelosi even tapped Rep. Bruce Braley, a former trial lawyer who made a living from filing frivolous lawsuits, as the Democrat to voice opposition to tort reform".   I'm not sure how a lawyer could make a living by filing frivolous lawsuits anymore than a grocery store that stays in business by selling green meat.

In some of these fund raiser and political letters, I suppose it's almost like a crack of the banana that causes some to come running. Maybe certain statements really cause "big business to reach for their wallets to finance lobbying efforts. They hear the words tort reform or limiting lawsuits and it immediately gets them thinking that they have grabbed on to some steak.

When I was in high school, I remember a band that played in the gym, that was a collection of characters called "Jimmy and the Bananas, the band with 'a peel'". That still gives me a good laugh. Some of the political letters make me laugh too. Shouldn't everyone be laughing?  


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