SocraticGadfly: 8/7/05 - 8/14/05

August 13, 2005

The Homeland Security Act loses one in court, thank doorknobs

U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyerhas said job title and description overhauls in the act violate collective bargaining.

Finally, labor wins one in court. And as a similar Pentagon plan is also in court, it should be derailed, too.

But, let’s not be quite so presumative. Preznit W. may try to trot out some arbitrary executive authority argument to simply impose these changes by fiat.

Not all restaurant coupons or gift certificates are created equal

I found that out the hard way Aug. 12 at Fred's Steakhouse in my part of suburban Dallas.

Our newspaper group celebrates staff birthdays every month, and on the editorial side, we have a story of the month contest. The winner usually gets a small check and a gift certificate to some area restaurant.

Well, I won the August honors and my certificate was to the aforementioned Fred's.

The certificate was for enough that if I ordered a lower-priced entree (I'm single and not escorting anybody around right now) it would fully cover two dinners. So, I ordered something more basic -- a smothered chopped steak.

When I got my bill, I presented the gift certificate.

And was surprised when, unlike any other area restaurant for which I've received a gift certificate, I didn't get it back afterward.

I asked, and only then was explictly told what was not printed anywhere on the certificate: We don't treat them that way; it's a one-shot deal.

Well, hell, tell me that in advance and I'll order an 18-ounce ribeye, with dessert, and be a glutton. But don't pull that out ex post facto.

Sidebar: Not in a legal sense or anything, but is this another way of not thinking about the interests of unattached single people?

Saying hello to the grizzlies

I’m going hiking 11 days in grizzly country later this month, from Grand Teton up to Banff.

I saw a story in National Geographic Adventure about a three-day mountaineering class at Devil's Tower, with the third day being the climb of Devil's Tower itself.

I won't be able to squeeze it in, but I'll keep it filed away for next year; wouldn't even have considered that in my younger days.

How liberal or conservative is your city?

Live in a major metropolitan area or suburb? Want to see how liberal or conservative it is considered to be, based on voting patterns?

Click here. (And note the other link that shows how being black and being liberal are more closely tracking each other.

Garland, the inspiration for Mike Judge's Arlen in King of the Hill, is No. 29. In all, five Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs are on the top 50. Fort Worth itself is No. 75.

The shocker, to me, is that Austin, at No. 144, is more conservative than Dallas at No. 206. Dallas is not that conservative, that's not what shocks me. Although I know that West Austin is stinking rich conservative, I didn't think that outweighed the rest of the city. But I guess it does.

August 12, 2005

Like making sausage — with roadkill

If you really want to see how FUBAR Congress is, and from the special vantage point of Independent Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders, then this Rolling Stone article is a must-read.

Warning: Have a strong stomach.

The oil shortage is starting to hit the fan

Impending fuel shortage? Wrong. Try looming or actually present fuel shortage, at least if you’re flying into or out of an airport in the Southwest.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lost luggage, bad weather and now ... no fuel?

While fliers haven’t yet had to add that problem to the list of headaches associated with air travel, it may not be far away. Airports in Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada recently came within a few days — and at times within hours — of running out of jet fuel.”

Folks, the problems are already starting to pop up. Wanna get stranded at the airport Labor Day weekend?

Didn’t think so. But now is the time for people to start realizing that this is serious. The oil shit is starting to hit the fan, and all of us must ask ourselves what we are doing, and what more could we be doing, to conserve, conserve, conserve?

August 11, 2005

Two reasons not to vote for Eddie Bernice Johnson in 2006

1. She has yet to join the Get Us Our of Iraq Congressional Caucus, formed more than a month ago. (I have both called and e-mailed her office about this.)

2. She opposes repealing the Wright Amendment, which would give Dallas two competitive full-service airports.

So, if EBJ has a Democratic primary opponent who has a chance, I'll vote for that person. (If there is no legitimate opponent, I won't vote so I can sign Kinky Friedman's gubernatorial petition.)

Otherwise, I'll vote a Green candidate in the general election, write my name in or not vote.

Any Green candidates, and anti-war ones, to run in south suburban Dallas?

Update, later in the day
Johnson is all too willing to play ball with Republicans when it comes to bringing home the bacon. During progress on the big new transportation bill, she repeatedly touted her background as the ranking Texan on the House Transportation Committee. But, if that transportation involves Southwest Airlines, apparently they are SOL.

In fact, after some discussion with an acquaintance of mine, the previous editor of my newspaper, my analysis of EBJ is that she is one of the black Congressional Democrats moderate enough to feel "safe" to Republicans, and indeed, to boost up by giving her an easy seat during redistricting while making it tougher for moderate white Democrats, all in the name of promoting GOP-branded "diversity."

August 07, 2005

How many botched death penalty cases make for a broken system?

More than 20 or 30, according to Kent Scheidegger.

Scheidegger is legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a pro-death penalty group. He made comments along that line after Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens criticized the death penalty system in the United States, especially on the number of death-row inmates exonerated in the past few years by DNA testing.

But, that doesn’t mean the system is broken, according to the hard-line Scheidegger:
”I wouldn’t say that 20 or 30 cases out of 8,000 constitutes a broken system.”

(According to the anti-capital punishment Death Penalty Information Center, more than three dozen death row inmates have been exonerated since 2000.)

Wonderful. So just how many wrongly-convicted death-penaltied inmates would make for a broken system? Shouldn’t we be asking that of SCOTUS nominee John Roberts?

After all, if (to riff on Monty Python) every egg-impregnated sperm is sacred, what about adult human beings?