Home Away From Home

July 6, 2012

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First brand new short story in a while – enjoy!

Damon Brinker sighed with relief as the bus bounced its way into the station. The driving slammed on the brakes and sent passengers flying into the seat in from of them. That’s par for the course, he thought. A fifteen hundred mile journey on a run-down bus with barely functional air conditioning and a driver with erratic skills and a surly attitude to boot.

Damon waited for the crush of people to exit the bus before stepping down to the street. He grabbed his bags and headed into the dimly lit terminal.

He got his first good news of the day when he saw a man holding up sign with his name on it. Damon quickened his pace, happy to be leaving the station.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, I’m Damon.” Damon said extending his hand.

“Not your fault.” the man said with a smile, grasping Damon’s hand. “The bus is never on time.”

Twenty minutes later the pickup truck pulled into a driveway. The house was well-maintained, but of a modest size. Beyond the house, Damon could make out the majestic peaks in the fading light. He smiled at the thought of two weeks of hiking in the mountains.

“Beautiful, aren’t they?” The voice came from a woman who had materialized while Damon had been gazing at the mountains. He noticed the pickup backing out of the driveway.

Tami showed him to his room, which had a window with a view of the mountains. Once again, Damon was captivated by the natural beauty. After a few minutes of mountain gazing, he sat down on the bed and pulled out his cell phone. No signal.

As he was unpacking, there was a knock on the door.

“I got a bath ready for you. Figured you’d want one after the bus ride.”

Yes, a bath was exactly what Damon wanted. The unpacking could wait. He knew that he was saving a lot of money by arranging for a host family via the internet, but the level of hospitality could be hit and miss. It looked like his roll of the dice had turned out well.

He opened the door and walked toward the bathroom. A towel and robe were laid out, and a Tami had drawn a warm bubble bath. He quickly shed his clothes and slid down into the tub. The warm, sudsy water washed away the dirty feeling of too much time on a crowded bus. By the time Damon stepped out of water, his skin was starting to get a bit wrinkled. He dried off, put on the robe, and cinched the belt.

When he re-entered his room, he saw his hostess lying on the bed, wearing nothing but a revealing nightie. For a moment, he thought that he had wandered into the wrong room by mistake.

And then he knew he hadn’t.

“Troy’s at his weekly poker tournament. He won’t be back for hours. We have plenty of time to play.”

Damon was tempted, but knew that this was a mistake. As he stood motionless, Tami slid out of the bed and approached him. She unfastened the robe and let it fall to the floor. She stood on her tip toes to give Damon a kiss, and the decision was made. This one night, Damon was choosing to ignore his moral compass.

 

Hours later, Tami kissed him one last time and disappeared down the hall. Thirty seconds later, Damon succumbed to pleasure-induced exhaustion and fell asleep.

 

The next morning, Damon, Tami, and Troy made small talk as Tami prepared breakfast. Troy chattered on about his luck at cards, unaware that he had been cuckolded. Damon and Tami shared secret glances, and Damon looked forward to next week, when Troy would once again leave the house for his weekly poker game.

Tami bent a bit lower than necessary as she set a cup of coffee in front of him. He enjoyed the viewed and wondered if Troy had other nighttime engagements. He smiled and took a gulp of coffee.

Damon suddenly felt hands closing around his throat as he struggled to breathe. He was being choked by Troy, who was perhaps not unaware of last night’s events. He glanced hopefully toward Tami and noticed that she had grabbed a pistol – but it was pointed right at him.

 

Troy threw a final shovelful of dirt over the grave and wiped his brow with a handkerchief. The new victim was arriving tonight. This was such an enjoyable game.
 

 

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Kosmo’s Briefs

February 10, 2012

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English: penulis = writer

Image via Wikipedia

Oh, joy.  Random odds and ends in today’s column 🙂

I’ve finished off  a free freelance jobs in the past couple of weeks.  I have a pretty decent backlog of articles and could keep pretty busy with the freelance work if my schedule allowed for it.  While The Soap Boxers makes a negligible amount of money, it’s nice to have freelance gigs where I get paid.  The cash is nice, but so is the underlying meaning – someone things my writing is good enough to pay me for it.

Johnny Goodman wrote an interesting article and submitted it to me.  You won’t be seeing it on The Soap Boxers, though.  I found a market for the article and brokered the sale for him.  It’s Johnny’s first professional sale, and he’s nearly as happy about it as I am.  I guess technically it makes me a literary agent.

The murder-suicide in Washington state saddened me greatly.  Unfortunately, we’ve had a couple of case of parents killing kids in Iowa City in the last few years.  As a parent, I find it extremely disturbing.  Personally, one of the strangest details about the whole incident is that he emailed family and friends about where his money was and how to get utilities shut off (I’m guessing the gas company is going to shut off gas supply to the raging inferno without being explicitly asked).  So he was able to think through all these insignificant details, but overlooked that whole “killing my kids is very bad” aspect?

Rick Santorum picked up wins in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado.  Mitt Romney finished second in Missouri and Colorado, but third in Minnesota (Ron Paul was second).  Gingrich wasn’t on the ballot in Missouri and failed to hit 15% in the other states.  At the moment, it looks like Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich will all stick around for a while.  Santorum and Gingrich would be better off if one of them dropped out, and it would allow the “anyone but Romney” faction to consolidate behind one candidate instead of fracturing the vote.  I suppose Ron Paul is also taking votes from someone.

Scouts from the Baltimore Orioles have been banned from attending games in South Korea after signing a 17 year old who hadn’t yet begun his senior year of high school.  While Major League Baseball allows teams to sign foreign players (those not subject to the draft) at age 16.  However, the governing body of Korean baseball does not allow players to interact with professional teams until their last year of school (applicable to both high school and college players).

The band Alabama is touring once again, sans longtime drummer Mark Herndon (there was a lawsuit over some royalties).  I’m hoping to see some new music from the guys very soon, but will definitely miss Mark’s drumming.  I’m a huge fan of the group, owning more than 30 of their albums (including some very hard to find stuff).  I’ve been reacquainting myself with a lot of their work lately, and can’t help but enjoy some of the forgotten songs from their albums – such as Pete’s Music City, Pony Express, and Clear Across America Tonight.  None are signature hits for the group, but these songs – and dozens of other – are very enjoyable to listen to.  Hard to believe that some of these songs are 25-30 years old.

The Pony Express has a special place in the history of this country.  Care to guess how long it was in operation?  10 years?  5 years?  Nah – a mere 18 months.

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McCourt Case

September 18, 2010

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For the second time in recent years, a divorce threatens to tear apart a team in the National League West.  In 2008, Padres owners John and Becky Moores filed for divorce, and a substantial share of the club was sold as a result.  Now it is the Dodgers caught in the crossfire of a divorce.

Frank and Jamie McCourt (no, not the Frank McCourt who wrote Angela’s Ashes) bought the Dodgers in 2004.  Before she was fired (by her husband) at the end of last season, Jamie McCourt, as CEO of the Dodgers, was the highest ranking female executive in baseball (granted, this is a bit easier to accomplish when you own the team).

With the Dodgers a non-factor in the competitive NL West, the focus of Los Angeles is on the marathon divorce trial.  The trial began on August 30th and will pick up again on Monday after a two week recess.  It is expected that legal fees will total $20 million by the time the case concludes.  This is not going to be an amicable settlement.  Both sides are accusing the other of wrongdoing.  Frank McCourt has accused his wife of cheating with her driver.  On the flip side, Jamie’s lawyer are accusing Frank of legal shenanigans with respect to a post-nuptial agreement the couple signed.  There are six copies of the agreement.  Three of them list the Dodgers as Frank’s separate property, the other three do not (in which case they would be joint property).  Forbes has recently pegged the value of the team at $700 million … so you can understand why the two sides are willing to pony up $20 million for the best lawyers money can buy.

Lots of interesting tidbits about the couple are spilling out.  Perhaps the fact that I found the most interesting is that they employed a hairstylist who worked on their hair five days a week – at a staggering cost of $150,000.  How vain must you be to spend that sort of money on your hair?  I spend $0 on haircuts per year.  Heck, I doubt that Warren Buffett spends $150,000 on haircuts annually.  Or $15,000.  Or $1500.  Probably more than I spend, though.

In other news:

The trial of Andrew Gallo began on Monday.  Gallo is charged in the death of Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and two others as the result of a fatal auto accident in April of 2009.  Gallo was drunk at the time of the accident (registering a .19 blood alcohol content two hours after the accident) and was driving 66 mph in a 35 mph zone.  Gallo had previously been convicted of DUI and had signed an agreement acknowledging that if he caused a fatal accident while under the influence, he would be charged with murder.  Because of this agreement, Gallo is being charged with 2nd degree murder.

The defense attorney in the case is accusing the DA of overcharging Gallo because Adenhart was a celebrity.  The DA countered by saying that 10 drunk driving cases have been prosecuted as murders since 2008.

Personally, I think it makes perfect sense to charge Gallo with murder.  He was clearly aware of the consequences of his actions, since he had previously been notified that this sort of accident would result in a murder charge against him.  He killed three people, was driving 30 mph above the speed limit, and had a blood alcohol level more than two times the legal limit (again, this was two hours after the accident – the level would have been even higher than the .19 at the time of the accident).  Celebrity victim or not, this is EXACTLY the sort of case that should trigger California’s “DUI as murder” statute.

In closing, I’ll turn this into a short public service announcement.  If you think you have a drinking problem, you’re probably right.  Seek help, either through a doctor or an organization such as Alcoholics Anonymous.  It’s not too late to get help.

Does Jaycee Dugard Deserve $20 Million?

July 14, 2010

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Note: this article was written in July of 2010. As such, if does not contain any information on Jaycee’s story after that point.

The state of California recently agree to pay Jaycee Dugard $20 million.  This raised some eyebrows in a state suffering from staggering budget deficit.

If you’re not familiar with Dugard, I’ll give you a short recap.  Dugard was abducted from a bus stop outside her home in 1991 – in sight of her stepfather and classmates.  The stepfather gave chase on a bike, but couldn’t keep up with the car.  For the next 18 years, Dugard lived with abductors Phillip and Nancy Garrido.  She worked in their print shop and even interacted with customers. 

In 2009, authorities became suspicious of Garrido and eventually determined that the young woman living with him was Dugard and the 12 and 15 year old girls were her daughters (fathered by Garrido).

Some people feel that Dugard deserves no compensation, suggesting that she had multiple opportunities to escape over the years.  After all, she was interacting with customers in Garrido’s business – not being locked in a dungeon.  When authorities finally closed in on Garrido, Dugard maintained that she was “Alyssa” and didn’t reveal her true identity during initial questioning.  These observers wonder if Dugard stayed because she wanted to stay.

There is, however, a perfectly rational explanation for this.  Stockholm Syndrome refers to a situation where a victim begins to have positive feelings toward the captor.  The victims sometimes perceive lack of abuse (or a temporary break from abuse) as kindness.  The victim forms a strong bond with the captor and perceives the captive in a positive manner.  Many experts feel that Stockholm Syndrome results from the powerless victim adopting an attachment to the most powerful adult in their environment – similar to the attachment a baby feels for its mother. This isn’t some sort of pyschobabble – the FBI suggests that 27% of kidnapping victims suffer from Stockholm Syndrome.

If Dugard was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, she would not have been capable of simply walking away.  Physically, the opportunity would have been there, but psychologically, she would not have been able to break free.

OK, at this point hopefully you see that Dugard probably wasn’t at fault for failing to escape.  But why give her $20 million?  Most kidnapping victims don’t get $20 million as a sympathy gift from the government.

Nor is this the case with Dugard.  The settlement was reached to resolved claims that the state failed to properly supervise Phillip Garrido, who was on parole.  Authorities had made several visits to the Garrido home, but failed to question the presence of Dugard.  What was Garrido on probation for?  Kidnapping and sexual abuse – crimes that probably should have heightened the awareness of authorities.

Is the settlement too much money?  It’s definitely a lot of money, but will be whittled down by attorney fees and possible taxes.  Still, what’s left should allow Dugard to invest conservatively and provide sufficient funds for her as she works to build a new life with her daughters and the rest of her family.  Hopefully she’ll be able to take the money and live a quiet life out of the spotlight of the media.

And in other crime news …

The voting for World’s Worst Mother is over … and the winner is Aimee Louise Sword.  The Michigan woman tracked down the son that she had given up for adoption and began a sexual relationship with him.  The son was 14 at the time.  On Monday, Sword was given a sentence of nine to thirty years in prison.  I’m not sure there are words to describe how sick and twisted this is.  No only did she have a sexual relationship with the son (which, by itself, is very twisted) but she essentially stalked him to do it.

Should Sex Offenders Be Locked Up Forever?

May 18, 2010

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On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 (with Thomas and Scalia dissenting) that the federal government has the power the keep some sex offenders behind bars indefinitely if officials determine that those prisoners may “prove to be sexually dangerous in the future.”  (Note: this affects only inmates in the federal system, not those in state prisons.  See United States vs. Comstock for more information).

I think that most people would agree that sex offenders do pose a threat to society and that they should be dealt with harshly by the justice system.  I agree with this, and the rest of this article should not be construed as condoning any of the actions of the offenders.  I most certainly do not condone their actions.

I do, however, have a problem with this Supreme Court ruling.  The primary building block of justice in this country is the jury trial.  The accused is entitled to a trial, and if convicted, is sentenced appropriately.  At the end of the sentence (or, more often, earlier), the prisoner rejoins society.

This SCOTUS ruling appears to subvert the decision made by the jury.  The ruling makes a complete mockery of the sentencing process.  Why should the jury waste their time determining an appropriate sentence when, in the end, it really won’t matter?

I understand the severity of sexual crimes, and also am familiar with research that suggests that it may not be possible to rehabilitate these criminals.  However, murder is also a severe crime, and we do set some murderers free after they serve their sentences.  This will continue to be standard operating procedure for all other crimes – criminals will be arrested, be convicted, serve their time, and then rejoin society.  Only sex offenders in federal prisons will be at risk of having their sentence extended indefinitely.

Are the current sentences handed down by juries too short?  If that’s the case, there is a better way to fix this.  Have congress and state legislatures impose more strict punishment for those crimes.  Then, from this date forward, impose those sentences upon those convicted of sex crimes.  However, I do not feel that it is appropriate to retroactively impose the law upon those whom have already been sentenced.

Am I defending sex offenders?  No, certainly not.  I am, however, defending justice.  It brings to mind a line from the movie Ghosts of Mississippi.  The defense attorney, defending the killer of civil rights leader Medger Evers, reminds the jury that “if the system doesn’t work for Byron De La Beckwith , it doesn’t work for anyone.”  If the system doesn’t work for sex offenders, does it really work at all?

I have discussed his ruling with several people, including a couple of hard-on-crime guys with backgrounds in law enforcement.  At this point, everyone seems to agree that the prisoners should be set free when their sentence is complete – while at the same time acknowledging the serious nature of the crimes and the high probability that the criminals will re-offend following their release.

I expect this Supreme Court ruling to remaining in place for many years.  The fact that it was a 7-2 decision means that change 1 or 2 members of the court will not swing the court to the other side.  The president’s Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, actually argued the case on behalf of the government in her role of Solicitor General.

It seems, then, that it would be left up to congress to pass a law that would neutralize the impact of this ruling.  I’m not holding my breath – supports of such a law would no doubt be painted as supporters of sex offenders by their opponents.  I doubt that any politician is willing to risk being slapped with that label.

Lessons I’ve Learned from Stupid Killers

March 20, 2010

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Since the birth of my son at the tail end of last year, I have been recording lots of episodes of TruTV’s Forensic Files and watching them during nighttime feedings.  In the past three months, I have watched literally dozens of episodes.  During this time, I’m learned lots of lessons from some of the killers who are, well, not so smart.

Note: we don’t condone any sort of criminal activities.

Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice …

Everyone knows that you shouldn’t mess with success.  If something works the first time, you should try it again, right?  Not always.

A recurring theme are men who kill their wives.  Sometimes, after a suspicious – but apparently accidental – death, an anonymous caller will notify the police that the man’s first wife died in similar circumstances.  If the women died in car accidents, you can make the argument that it’s simply coincidence.  Car accidents are fairly common.

If the women both drowned in the bath tub, this is a bit harder to explain away as a coincidence.  This isn’t a particularly common way to die, so the odds of it happening to two of your spouses is pretty unlikely.

Moral of the story: mix it up a little bit.  If you’re going to kill multiple spouses, you need to use different methods.  Or, of course, you could simply refrain from killing people.

Failure to observer a proper mourning period

Everyone has a different length of time for mourning.  Some people never get over the death of a spouse.  Others are able to move past the tragedy and eventually find love again.

But if you return from Vegas with a new wife a couple of weeks after your first wife died, police are probably going to take a second look at you as a suspect.

In one particularly notable case, the husband and his fiancée actually sent out wedding invitations (just to HER family and friends, apparently) BEFORE the first wife was dead.  I guess this is somewhat understandable, since people need to be able to save the date on their calendar.

Moral: Thirty days hath September, April, June, and minimum mourning periods.

Gotta give them credit

Every once in a while, the cops are able to determined that a killer purchased poison (or other items involved in the crime) by examining credit card receipts.  Apparently, the term “paper trail” means nothing to these people.

Moral: Cash is king!

Not what it’s cracked up to be

When examining broken windows at a crime scene, the cops check to see if the window was broken from the outside or the inside.  If the window was broken from the outside, most of the glass will fall inward.  If it is broken from the inside, most of the glass will fall on the outside.

Since the vast majority of criminals break into houses rather than out of them,  when there are indications that a window was broken from the inside, it typically means that the scene was staged.

Moral: Take a moment and actually step through the crime scene, starting at the point of entry.  If you’re going to kill someone, you needn’t be lazy with the details.

Casual Observations from Kosmo

December 12, 2009

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Tiger Woods
We haven’t talked about the Tiger Woods situation yet. Part of the reason for this is the fact that there really aren’t a lot of details yet. The picture that seems to be emerging is that there was some sort of argument about alleged affairs that Tiger may have had. There is additional speculation about whether Elin Woods smashed the car window s with a golf club in order to help him out, or smashed them prior to the accident, chasing him in a fit of rage.

On Tuesday, there was additional drama at Tiger’s house, as an ambulance transported a female to the hospital. After hours of speculation, it turned out that it was Tiger’s mother-in-law who was complaining of stomach pains. She was released on Tuesday afternoon.  This would appear to be completely unrelated to the earlier incident, but did serve to put Tiger back into the media spotlight again.

Tiger has always been very focused on the golf course – but will this be what causes him to lose focus and fail in his attempt to break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships (he currently stands at 14)? Tiger has always been a very private person. He has more money that he could probably spend in a lifetime – is it possible that he could walk away from the game in his prime? Stranger things have happened.

[Update: On Friday night, a day after I wrote this article, Tiger announced that he will take an “indefinite” leave of absence from golf.]

Sadistic People
A report of a recent crime in CNN really caught my attention. A woman thought that another woman was having an affair with her husband and was pregnant with his child. The woman forged a prescription for an abortion-inducing drug on a doctor’s stolen prescription pad, had a pharmacist fill the prescription, and then called the pregnant woman, pretending to be from the woman’s doctor’s office and telling her she needed to take this drug immediately.

The pregnant woman believed this, and took the drug. She had to be taken to the hospital, where here baby was born two months early (and is still in an intensive care unit).

That’s not the end of the story, though. After the baby was born, the other woman tried to poison the kid by attempted to sneak tainted breast milk into the hospital.

I have no idea if the woman’s suspicions of an affair were warranted. In any case, why punish an unborn child? That’s just twisted.

You can read the full story on CNN

The Salahi Saga

The attorney for Tareq and Michaele Salahi has responded to a congressional subpoena by saying that the couple does not intend to testify, but would instead invoke their 5th amendment rights.

Let’s review the 5th amendment:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

First of all, I’m not even certain the the 5th amendment applies.  Let’s read the clause regarding self-incrimination:

nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself

Of course, a congressional hearing is not a criminal case, so this would not apply.  I suppose that an argument could be made that this clause applies:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury

However, I don’t think that the Salahis’ behavior could qualify as an “infamous” crime.  More importantly, though, is that taking the 5th would completely contradict the assertion that the Salahis were invited to the state dinner.  If they truly did nothing wrong, then why would they fear self-incrimination?

I stumbled across Michaele Salahi’s Facebook page while writing this (on December 10) and was quite amused.  Not only does the page have photos from the state dinner (with a status that begins “I was honored to be invited to attend the First State Dinner hosted by President Obama & the First Lady …” but also has photos with other celebs, including Donny Osmond.  Oh, and there’s also contact information for Michaele, in case you want to book an appearance.  Hilarious.  [Note: it seems that content is being actively removed from the page – I’m not sure how much will still be there when you read this.]

When Seconds Count, The Police are Just Minutes Away

December 3, 2009

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Guns kill people. What an ignorant statement. Search the blogs and left news sites and you’ll find an endless number of morons spouting off that statement. Have we become a county of senseless sissies? I think not. There is just a small number of morons out there, but they are unfortunately a loud, obnoxious and never ending stream of gibberish.

I am a former police officer that served in Lincoln, NE a University city of roughly 250,000. I have spent the majority of my life handling and shooting weapons (handguns, rifles and shotguns). I am an NRA member, a concealed weapon carrier and fully support our rights under the 2nd Amendment.

I have spent a lot of time this week thinking about the four police officers in Lakewood, WA that lost their lives. They were taking a break when Maurice Clemmons walked into the coffee shop they were at and ambushed them. I have wondered how differently things would have played out if there had been a citizen in the coffee shop that was in possession of a weapon. Maurice’s ambush was concentrated on the officers which would have easily allowed someone in another part of the business to end the situation immediately. Had the person acted quickly enough, at least one of those police officers may have survived.

I spent a short time living in Illinois where the left wing crowd in Chicago has been able to block any legislation that would allow their citizens to carry concealed weapons. Wisconsin is the only other state in our Union that has not passed any CCW laws. I continue to ask myself why. Why would anyone want to prevent their citizens from legally carrying a weapon when statistics show that it reduces violent crime and saves lives? Do people really think that guns kill people? Do we only want the Maurice Clemmons out there carrying concealed? Remember, it isn’t the felons and criminals taking the time and spending the money to jump through the legal hoops needed to gain a CCW permit. It’s the law abiding citizens that have families to protect, the former law enforcement officers that can make a difference, military personnel and people that have grown up with guns. Why not have a trained and willing pocket of citizens that can help end violent encounters quickly?

Remember, when seconds count the police are just minutes away. I can lend a lot of credibility to that statement. When we filed reports on any incidents, we documented the time that calls came to dispatch, the time the call was given to us (the officer) and when we arrived on location. Folks, don’t be naive; it literally takes minutes to get police officers to your home or business. Here is the process: The call comes in to someone answering the 991 line. That person has to type in the details of the call, document the issue, the location, the caller’s name and prioritize the call. They then send that to a dispatcher that looks to see which officers are available. The dispatcher then calls the officers and they need time to respond. Do you really believe that the officer is just a minute away from your home or place of business? Think of congested traffic, people not noticing those flashing lights or hearing the siren. Think of poor weather conditions slowing traffic. What about when the officers are all on other calls and dispatch is urgently trying to get someone to clear their call? Worse yet, what if the dispatcher has to pull an officer from the other side of the city? These situations are reality.

It’s well documented that states passing CCW laws have reduced murder rates by 8.5%, rapes by 5%, aggravated assaults by 7% and robbery by 3%. Doesn’t that sound like an incentive to you? Don’t you want a safer place to live and work? It only takes a moment to think about the V-Tech shooting, Maurice Clemmons shooting, Fort Hood, etc. There are so many examples where an individual carrying could have ended a bad situation and saved lives. So ask yourself, why do the liberal politicians in our country hate guns so much? Why do they continually say that guns kill people? It isn’t guns that kill people, it’s bad people using guns (or knives, vehicles, etc) that kill people. Do they now want to ban butcher knives, vehicles, ice picks, axes, mallets and ropes for “killing people”?

All states should have CCW laws and reciprocity with other states. Gun Free Zones are just death traps and safe havens for criminals. Don’t you want a chance to survive? Remember that phrase, “When seconds count, the police are just minutes away.” The criminals are going to carry concealed regardless of the law.

Have a Merry Christmas!

Squeaky …

Country Music, Computer Scams, and Baseball

November 12, 2009

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The CMAs

Last night was the Country Music Association’s awards show (also know as The CMAs).  I’m not much of a fan of award shows in general, but I like country music, so it served as a good soundtrack for the evenings work (which, unfortunately, consisted of battling some annoying technical problems with the web site).

The star of the evening, to no great surprise, was Taylor Swift (see Cheri’s Nobel’s August article about Taylor here).  Taylor has been the talk of country music since bursting onto the scene as a sixteen year old in 2006.  Swift is now a veteran in the business and is rapidly approaching the advanced age of 20.  Last night was her coronation as the new queen of country music.  Not only did she nab trophies for female vocalist of the year, album of the year, and video of the year she also snatched Kenny Chesney’s crown and was named the entertainer of the year – the most prestigious honor the CMA bestows each year.  She became the youngest performer to win the award and was also the first female to win since Shania Twain a decade ago.

The show also featured a farewell performance by legendary duo Brooks and Dunn, who will hang up their guitars later this year.  Incredibly, it has been eighteen years since their debut album.  I’m really not sue what it says about me that See Jane Dance is my favorite B&D song.

Rock musicians were popping up all over the place during the show.  Darius Rucker (of Hootie and the Blowfish fame) nabbed the trophy for new artist of the year.  [Note to self – pick up a copy of Rucker’s album, Learn to Live.]  There was also a trio of duets featuring rock artists.  Kid Rock, who has also charted with country songs, performed with country newcomer Jamey Johnson.  Dave Matthews sang with Kenny Chesney, and Daughtry partnered up with Vince Gill.

Blue Hippo

Blue Hippo, which advertises computers “with no credit check”, is in trouble with the FTC.  The first time I saw a Blue Hippo commercial, my eyes popped out of my head when I calculated the amount of revenue they were raking in for each computer sold.  The Blue Hippo financing plan features a down payment and 52 weekly payments.  After 13 weeks, they send you the computer and you then continue to make the remaining 39  payments.  One problem is that for the amount you pay in those first 14 payments (down payment + 13 weekly payments) you could make a substantial dent in the cost of a new computer.

The second problem is that Blue Hippo is not actually delivering the computers as promised.  The FTC has filed complaints about Blue Hippo regarding its business practices in the past.  The FTC says that those business practices have continued, and today asked a federal court to  issue a contempt order against Blue Hippo.

It seemed to me that Blue Hippo could have scored sizable profits by simply delivering as promised.  Instead, they chose the cross swords with the FTC?  If there was ever a case of a company killing the goose that laid the golden egg, this would be it.

Baseball Free Agents

Baseball free agency is upon us!  While the rest of the world has been going about their business in the past week, I have been assembling a panel of baseball fans to weigh in and make prediction on where the top free agents will land.  Swing by on Saturday to check out the predictions.

Crime and Punishment: Weather Balloons and Quarterbacks Edition

October 19, 2009

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The Heene Hoax

On Thursday, much of the country was transfixed on a weather balloon floating across the Colorado sky.  A six year old boy had apparently climbed into a box that was attached to the balloon and untethered the balloon, allowing it to float at heights of up to 7000 feet.  Authorities were alerted, and news organizations quickly volunteered the services of their helicopters to track the balloon.  This was a Big Deal.  When the balloon landed, little Falcon Heene was nowhere to be found.  Everyone feared for the worst.

Then, amazingly, the boy was found, safe and sound.  It appears that he had been hiding in the attic.  The family began to make the rounds on TV until a slip-up by the boy made people wonder if this was in fact a hoax.  This family had been on Wife Swap – were they trying to get another fifteen minutes (or more) or fame?

On Sunday, authorities said that charges are expected to be filed.  It is expected that those charges will include a misdemeanor charge of filing a false police report as well as felony charges of conspiracy, contributing to the delinquency of a minor (by causing the kids to make false statements to the police), and attempting to influence a public servant (I’m not exactly sure what this refers to).

In addition, the Heenes may find themselves on the hook for the cost of the search.  I certainly hope so – it doesn’t seem fair to have the taxpayers foot the bill for their publicity stunt.

Big Ben Strikes Back

In July, Andrea McNulty sued Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, claiming that he had sexually assaulted her.  The lawsuit sought $440,000 in damages from Roethlisberger and $50,000 in damages from Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, where the woman worked (and where the incident was alleged to have occurred).

It is certainly possible that an athlete would rape a woman.  In fact, in a lot of cases, I would give the women the benefit on the doubt.  However, in this particular case, I didn’t feel that she was believable.  The fact that a co-worker filed an affidavit claiming the McNulty bragged to her about the incident was not the reason for  my opinion.  Obviously, it is possible to buy the testimony of witnesses.

The main reason why I don’t believe Ms. McNulty is because she never filed criminal charges.  Perhaps I’m missing a key element here – if you wanted to see the perpetrator punished, why wouldn’t you file a criminal complaint and have them put behind bars?  After all, you wouldn’t want this to happen to someone else, right?  I can understand someone not filing charges if they didn’t want the rape to become public knowledge – but McNulty then turned around and made it public knowledge by filing the civil suit.  These two pieces don’t seem to fit together.  Perhaps I’m missing some important information …

Something that was immediately noticed by many people was the fact that Roethlisberger, in his denials, never said that he didn’t know McNulty or that he didn’t have sex with her.  He only said that he didn’t force himself on her – which left open the possibility of consensual sex.

On Friday, the other shoe dropped.  Roethlisberger counter-sued McNulty for extortion, abuse of process, and defamation of character.  Big Ben’s version of the events (supported by the affidavit from McNulty’s co-worker) was that  McNulty seduced him, and that the sex was consensual.  I’ll report further developments in these two cases.

Perhaps there’s a lesson here.  Don’t have sex with strangers.

Note: I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea here.  I definitely believe that rape / sexual assault is a very serious crime and that the punishment should be severe.  I simply don’t believe that a rape occured in this case.

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