Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Michigan Supreme Court - You can't use race as a factor in Jury Selection

One would think that judges already know you can't discriminate in the jury pool based on race, but some don't seem to get the message:

The Detroit News: Michigan high court rules race can't be considered in jury picks
The Michigan Supreme Court said Monday that race cannot be a factor in jury selection as it overturned a multimillion-dollar lawsuit verdict and criticized a Wayne County judge.

Wayne Circuit Judge Michael Callahan refused to allow lawyers defending a Metro Airport shuttle bus operator to dismiss an African-American woman from a jury that set the amount the company should pay after it conceded liability for the 2003 death of a Macomb County woman.

The eight-member jury, which included three black women, awarded $14.9 million to the estate of Shirley Pellegrino and her husband, Anthony Pellegrino.

While lawyers were selecting the jury, Callahan vowed to seek "proportional representation on the juries that hear cases in this court" until he is "either removed from the bench by the disciplinary committee or ordered to have a new trial."
There's no basis in Michigan for a jury pool to be "proportional" and it is certainly not grounds for violating a party's rights and refusing a party's peremptory challenge to strike a juror.

Callahan refused to allow lawyers for Ampco Systems Parking to dismiss one of the black women using a peremptory challenge. Each side in a lawsuit is afforded numerous peremptory challenges to excuse jurors to obtain an unbiased set of fact finders.

Although Ampco's lawyers wanted to dismiss the woman because she was twice widowed and might still be grieving her mother's recent death, Callahan said he would not engage in "race baiting" even if it meant he might be in "hot water" with higher authorities. Speaking from the bench, Callahan, who is white, said he was the father of six black children.
And his children have what to do with this exacly? And indeed, how is it 'race baiting' to challenge one of three black jurors - its not like the defendant's attorney tried to remove all three.

Michigan's Supreme Court decided on a 5-2 vote Monday that "decisions to include and to exclude particular jurors must be undertaken without consideration of race." The ruling overturned an earlier Court of Appeals decision that backed Callahan's decision.
Nice to see the Supreme court get to the right result, but its sad that 2 justices dissented from a basic principle of fairness.

The court's majority made the unusual suggestion that a new judge should be assigned to oversee the second trial, and also implied Callahan's comments and actions rise to a level that could require review by the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission.

"A trial court is not free to disregard rules, orders and case law with which it disagrees or to become the law unto itself," Justice Stephen Markman wrote for court's majority.

"The trial court expressly acknowledged that it was attempting to engineer the composition of the jury to reflect the 'diverse racial composition' of the community. The trial court was not free to do this under the law and constitution and by doing so, violated the constitutional right of defendant to a jury that, with regard to race, had been 'indifferently chosen.' "
When judges do not follow the law, bad things happen, so it is good to see the Michigan Supreme Court rectify this error.

Detroit Institute of Art to sell flag from Custer's last stand

Apparently its not considered to be a worthy enough objet d'art for such a noble institution as the DIA. One would think it would be the highlight of a Michigan themed exhibition of history.

Custer flag to be sold by DIA

Now, 115 years later, the Detroit Institute of Arts has decided to sell Custer’s Last Flag at auction this fall at Sotheby’s in New York. The estimated price it is expected to fetch?

$2 million to $5 million.

So, why would Sotheby’s think that anyone would pay millions of dollars for a 19th-Century silk flag that, unlike Custer and his charges, survived the Battle of the Little Bighorn? And why would the DIA decide to sell it now after 115 years of stewardship?

Let’s start with the second question. In 1895, the museum was still something of a cabinet of curiosities, including mounted animal heads and model racing sloops. Despite the historical significance of the 27 1/2-by-33-inch flag, it’s no longer considered a work of art, and money from its sale could be put to better use buying something of true aesthetic value.
Wow, a true piece of American history is to be sold off because its not art? Why they don't transfer it to the Michigan Historical Museum or hang it preserved in the Michigan Capitol building's rotunda along with the many battle flags from Michigan Regiments is beyond stupid.

Of course, this is about the DIA selling a piece of Michigan and American history to get money for some more contemporary (and in my opinion far less meaningful) "art". It's a shame that they're doing it, but hopefully the flag ends up in the hands of someone who will care for it and give it the honor it deserves.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Public Education's Zero Tolerance Again Leads To An Absurd Result

A Rhode Island school bans a kid's hat for having toy soldiers with tiny guns on it, due to a zero-tolerance policy on weapons.

You really can't make this up:
The Detroit News: School's ban includes toy soldiers' weapons

Christan Morales said her 8-year-old son just wanted to honor American troops when he wore a hat to school decorated with an American flag and small plastic Army figures.

But the school banned the hat because it ran afoul of the district's zero-tolerance weapons policy. Why? The toy soldiers were carrying tiny guns.

Nice to see that rational thought has completely fled the public school system. Zero tolerance means no actual threat analysis needs to be done, nor is common sense required so you get riddiculous results like these. The only way those toy soldiers could be characterized as weapons is if the little tyke started shoving them down the teacher's throat in reaction to the utter vacuousness of her pronouncement.

Let's take a look at these offending "weapons":

Ooooh, scary.

One has to wonder if the kid upon being informed of the wrongfullness of his possession of such dangerous weapons told the teacher to sack up or just offered the teacher a diaper.

The poor kid has just realized that yes, at the tender age of eight years, the authority figures in his life are complete morons.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Suicide - You're Doing It Wrong

You know it's not your day when you fail at your attempt to commit suicide - You survive after shooting yourself in the head, and then on the way to get help, you get hit by a truck.

South Africa man shoots self in head, gets hit by truck
Jeffrey Wicks, a spokesman for a private emergency service, said Thursday that the man allegedly first fired a .22-caliber handgun to his head while seated in a car. The bullet passed through the man’s mouth and lodged in his skull.

Wicks said the man then tried to cross the road to seek help. He was then hit by a truck.
A new factoid contribution to the never-ending debate over the effectiveness of the .22 for self-defense or self-removal.

I wonder if he was really seeking help before he was hit by the truck or if he decided that after shooting himself he might as well try getting killed by walking in front of a truck. If so, that's two failures for the price of one.
He says the victim was treated at the scene Wednesday in the town of Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal province before he was transported to the hospital. Wicks says the man, who he did not name, is in critical but stable condition.
One imagines that this guy is built like a tank and has a very hard skull.

Hopefully he gets some counselling and resolves whatever issue he has before we find out if in his case three strikes means you're out or not.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Michigan Political Faux Pas of the Day - An Advertisement made in Chicago, MI

Current Democrat speaker of the House, and candidate for Governor Andy Dillon just released an advertisement touting his support for a "Hire Michigan First" law.

The company used to produce the ad? From Chicago.

Last time we checked, Chicago was not (thankfully) located within the territory of the State of Michigan. That the company from Chicago is owned by David Axelrod, one of Obama's key advisers probably doesn't help Mr. Dillon much either.

The Detroit News: Andy Dillon's 'hire Michigan first' gov ad is work of Chicago firm
Chris DeWitt, a Democratic political consultant, said asking why the Dillon campaign didn't hire a Michigan company to produce an ad about hiring state workers "is a very legitimate question."
Yep, the Dillon campaign certainly didn't think this decision through.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A proposal unworthy of Worthy

The Detroit News: Skip teacher conference -- and go to jail?
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy wants to make it illegal for parents to skip parent-teacher conferences.

It's a plan that's still in the works, and Worthy acknowledges it faces a tough sell. But she said she's so concerned about truancy and juvenile crime that she wants an ordinance that would force parents to attend at least one conference a year -- or face jail.

That's quite over-the-top and much too statist for my tastes, and given that the Detroit Public School system is in shambles, having the parents show up to a conference is not going to help matters much.

Now its true that parents should be involved in their kids education and should be engaged in making sure their child is learning. Facing jail time for missing a parent-teacher conference? Not so much.

Wayne County is lacking resources and jail space can't even handle the real criminals law enforcement catches, giving the vast majority of first offenders, and often multiple-time offenders, probation for everythingfrom possession with intent to deliver narcotics to assault with intent to commit murder. Adding parents neglecting to attend parent-teacher nights to this list won't help matters much.

Worthy should stick to what she does best, prosecuting criminals, and hopefully pushing for better results than probation on felonies rather than trying to put the nanny in nanny-state.

Camera takes an Epic Underwater Trip

From being lost off Aruba it turns up in the Florida Keys, over 1000 miles away: The Detroit news: The odyssey: Camera survives ocean trip to Fla.
Paul Shultz was walking along the pier of a Key West marina when he saw what looked like a rotting tomato pounding against the rocks.

The Coast Guard investigator waded ankle-deep into the water to fish out the ocean rubbish: a bright red Nikon camera, small enough to fit in the palm of his hand. Its waterproof plastic case was covered with six months' worth of crusty sea growth, but the camera itself was almost pristine when he found it May 16.

However, clues to tracking down its owner were few. So Shultz decided to test his investigative skills.
And he definetly has such skills in abundance - he tracked the camera to its owner and is shipping it back to Aruba.
"I have a smile on my face ... I can't stop laughing about it," Dick de Bruin said in a phone interview from Aruba. "It's really big news (on the island) and in Europe."

De Bruin, a sergeant in the Royal Dutch Navy, has been stationed with his family in Aruba for three years. The camera floated away from de Bruin while he and a dive team were salvaging an anchor from the USS Powell for a World War II memorial. The American ship protected Aruba, a major oil producer, from German forces during the war.

"There's a big connection between America and Aruba ... first with the anchor, and now the camera brings us together again," de Bruin said.
Very cool and kudos to Paul Schultz for tacking the camera back to its original owner and sending it to him, not to mention giving us one heck of a cool story and a new appreciation of ocean currents.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The May 22 Range Trip

With Lagniappe's Keeper popping into town to take care of some family business, we of course had to go to the range.  We took his nephew the Spud, and of course, his 1919 Browning:

LK had stopped by Camp Perry and picked up some of the British Kynoch-manufactured 30-06 on cloth belts. While it looks like it would be a pain to cut each round out to use the rounds for other purposes, in the Browning they functioned as intended.

He also brought his trusty FAL along:
The FAL is one nice accurate battle rifle, and the fridge felt its wrath from both LK and myself.

As Lagniappe's Keeper has already related, we found out that a dorm-type fridge provides no cover at 150 yards from shotgun slugs, 30-06 and even 5.56 and 9mm rounds zipping out from an UZI.

The Saiga shot very well, and handled slugs and shot with aplomb. I just need to buy another EOTech to keep one permanently mounted on the AR and the other on the Saiga.

I think LK is becoming enamored of the trusty and powerful Saiga-12.

In handgun practice, I brought my LEO-trade in Glock 22 that has a NY1 trigger and Bexar County Sheriff markings on it. The pistol shows some wear but shoots flawlessly and hits at 150 yards on the fridge were possible and achieved. I also got to try his HK P2000 .40 with the LEM trigger.

The HK fits the hand nicely, about as nice as the Glock, and the trigger starts off smooth and sweet, moving back with little creep, a shot is just about to come off almost as a surprise and - full stop. You hit an absolute wall and trigger pull increases beyond 14lbs or so it feels. Heck, it feels like you need a sledgehammer to get the trigger to move any farther back. My Glock 22 LEO-trade in with the NY1 trigger is light compared to that, and smooth with a consistent trigger movement throughout. Ah well, must be a let-down to go from a P7's excellent trigger to the P2000 lowest-cop-denominator trigger.

A great range trip indeed.

The May 16 2010 Kick-Off Dive

Now that the computer is pretty much restored, I can finally download the pics and recall the finest Great Lakes dive I've had so far.

May 16, the sun was out, and Lake Huron was unusually calm as we left Port Sanilac on Captain Gary Venet's boat, the Sylvia Anne.  All on board were DIR divers, all from the same dive group so both the weather and the company promised to make it a very nice dive indeed.

The Lake remained blissfully clam throughout the dives, and the water clarity was absolutely fantastic.   Most times, I can never take a picture due to all the particulate in the water.  This time the photos came out pretty nicely.

We dove the North Star and the Regina, two wrecks that I've already dove, but each dive lets you see some other part of these huge ships.

First we dove the North Star - In 96 feet of water, this wreck, sunk when it was rammed by her sister ship the Northern Queen, is broken with the bow detached from the rest of the vessel.

I hit a max depth of 89 feet as I didn't try to hug the bottom but instead took in the wreck from above and along the deck.

Here's Keith looking at one of the Boilers:

 Here's some more shots of the North Star:

Then after a surface interval we headed to the Regina.  The Regina sank in the Great Storm of 1913 and wasn't discovered until the late 80s.  One of the best wrecks to Dive in the Great Lakes in recreational limits at 80 feet, especially if you're penetration trained, which I'm not, but its in the works.

The most outstanding exterior feature of the Regina is her huge Prop:

That's me with the prop and rudder in the background.

The funnel, broken off and lying beside the ship is also impressive, big enough to swim through and still stained with soot from her last voyage, almost a hundred years ago:

We left the Regina in an organized fashion, with the lake so calm no one needed to hold the upline during the ascent.

Great dives, then all of us went to Reichy's place for an excellent cook out with buffalo and elk burgers and copious amount of beer - Molson Canadian in honor of the CSL Regina and Great Lakes Brewery's Edmund Fitzgerald Porter for the North Star.  A great way to end an excellent dive trip.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Chance for Common Sense to Prevail on Fireworks in Michigan

 And its a common sense proposal from a Democrat no less.

Typically the Michigan Dems are the Mommy-knows-best-party and the "People shouldn't be allowed to own things that might do them harm or others if irresponsibly used" party but now for once, we get a refreshingly smart proposal from Michigan State Representative Harold Haugh:
The Detroit News - Fireworks bill makes sense for Michigan
The fireworks industry is growing every year, and in these tough economic times, Michigan needs to capitalize on this multi-million dollar industry. That's why I sponsored a plan to allow the sale of consumer-grade fireworks, including firecrackers, bottle rockets, aerial spinners and Roman candles, in Michigan. My legislation would legalize and regulate fireworks deemed acceptable for consumer use by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission since 1976.

My plan will modernize our laws, which simply don't stop residents from driving to nearby states to spend their hard-earned money on fireworks that are illegal in Michigan. These surrounding states are profiting when our state's economy needs help the most. A recent story that ran in an Indiana newspaper included a statement from one Indiana retailer that said, "75 percent of [his] business comes from Michigan and the other 25 percent from Illinois, which also has strict fireworks laws."

This law while bad for Indiana fireworks dealers is certainly great for Michigan residents and stops them from being criminalized for participating in an all-American pastime - making things go boom on appropriately festive days like the 4th of July.

Of course, Rep Haugh is a Democrat so there has to be a government tax increase somewhere in his proposal, but taxes must when the Democrats drive -
my plan will also:

• Create the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act and create stiff penalties for those who violate it;

• Limit the sale, possession and use to adults 18 and older;

Implement a 5 percent fireworks safety fee on the retail sale of all fireworks; and

• Create the Fireworks Safety Fund, which will use the money generated by new fees to help the Bureau of Fire Services in its enforcement of the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act.
In this case I can live with the 5% tax in return for the opportunity to legally do what my former neighbors have been "illegally" doing since time immemorial when they set off multiple nice, big, visually aesthetic and auditorily pleasing fireworks including Roman Candles and other decent skyward fireworks they purchase now in Ohio instead of the Michigan legal ground-bound mini and useless fireworks and sparklers of boredom.

If The Democrats follow Rep Haugh on the road to sanity in fireworks legislation, who knows to what other heights of reasonableness and economic sense they may climb?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

And in other Border disputes.....

A Mexican teen learns not to throw rocks at US Border Patrol officers: Mexico anger high as US Border Patrol kills teen
U.S. authorities said Tuesday a Border Patrol agent was defending himself and colleagues when he fatally shot the 15-year-old as officers came under a barrage of big stones while trying to detain illegal immigrants on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande.

It was quite aptly stated by John at the Power Line blog -
President Obama has not yet asserted that "everybody...certainly people here in the United States, want to know the facts of this tragedy -- what led to it, how can we prevent it in the future." Americans would not take kindly to calls for such an investigation. One suspects that even the Obama administration would resist them at attacks on the defense of the United States or at the least as intrusions on the sovereignty of the United States, as indeed they would be.

Indeed, all those people getting on Israel for shooting Palistinian rock throwers with rubber bullets seem to be rather quiet about condemning the US for this death.

Rocks can kill and the Boarder Patrol officers were justified in using deadly force to meet deadly force. You mess with the big boys, you play by big boy rules son.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon said Tuesday that his government "will use all resources available to protect the rights of Mexican migrants."

Flipe, you may want to put those resources to good use and put up a nice big wall with your border with the US - no illegal immigration, no confrontation, no violence.

Oh, sorry you didn't mean it that way?

Of course Mexico's Preseidnet is parroting the standard Transi-leftist cant and claiming this is "disproportionate".

The government "reiterates its rejection to the disproportionate use of force on the part on U.S. authorities on the border with Mexico," the president added in a statement.

"Disproportionate" seems to now mean any situation wherein a western democracy defends itself from an attack or incursion, whether great or small.

No word yet on whether the Turks will send a "peace activist" flotilla to assist in the breaking of the blockade preventing Mexicans from entering the US.

Waiting for the UN, US to condemn Iran for invading Iraq

For invading Iraq - Civilian toll of Iranian raids in northern Iraq enrages Kurds
Outrage is growing in Iraq's northern Kurdish territories over renewed Iranian air and artillery strikes against Kurdish rebels in the remote Qandil Mountains, officials and residents said.

Last week, Iran even sent ground forces about a mile into Iraqi territory, a brief incursion that Kurdish officials said elicited not a word of protest from the Iran-friendly administration of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, who like Iran's rulers is a Shiite Muslim. Most Iraqi Kurds are Sunni Muslims.

"The breach of the Iranian troops on the borders of the Kurdistan region is a violation of the sovereignty of Iraq and international agreements,"

Sorry, the UN is too busy condemning Israel to take notice.

The US, even with Iraq having US troops in place and Iran contributing to the attacks against our troops - where's the harsh statements from Obama condemning such a violent attack against civilians of another sovereign country. Heck, where's the US air defenses and counterbattery fire?

Oh yes, Obama is too busy pontificating on the Israeli blockade of Gaza that is used to protect civilians from rocket fire and terrorists from Gaza.
Too bad for the Kurds that they haven't learned the secrets to gaining the world's sympathy:

1. Blow lots of stuff up and kill lots of civilians around the world.
2. Publicly demonstrate and proclaim that you hate Jews.
3. Have friends with lots of oil reserves.
4. Repeat 1, 2 and 3 while claiming you're a defenseless victim.

Obama to Balance the Budget on the Backs of the Middle Class?

Well, the laptop should arrive back today and hopefully I will have everything reinstalled and lots of photos and worthy entries will happen. For now we'll have to live with text blogging.

TaxProf Blog: Ax May Fall on Mortgage Interest Deduction
The popular tax break for mortgage interest, once considered untouchable, is falling under the scrutiny of policymakers and economic experts seeking ways to close huge deficits.

Although Congress last year rejected the White House’s proposed cut to the amount wealthier taxpayers can deduct for home mortgage interest payments, the administration included it again in its 2010 budget — saying it could save $208 billion over the next decade.

And now that sentiment has turned against all the federal red ink — and cost-cutting is in vogue — Democrats on President Barack Obama’s financial commission are considering the wisdom of permanent tax breaks such as the mortgage deduction and corporate deferral. Calling them “tax entitlements,” senior Democratic lawmakers have argued they should be on the table for reform just like traditional entitlement programs Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. ...

Great, take away one of the few remaining tax breaks middle class shlubs have left.

Notice the hubris where the administration says it could "save $208 billion over the next decade".

Interesting definition of saving.

In our Obamawelllian world of Hope 'n' Change, saving in reference to government now means increasing the tax bite on people, instead of cutting spending, and you know, actually saving and running a surplus.