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etc. - a little of this, a little of that - by Oliver Del Signore



Archive for February, 2012

 

It’s Leap-Day, ladies. Your once-in-every-four-years chance to propose.

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

It’s Leap Day, Ladies. And you know what that means. It’s your chance — a chance that comes but once in every four years — to get down on bended knee and propose marriage to your man.

Now, some of your suddenly nervous intendeds may express skepticism about this tradition so they can continue to avoid tying the noose…err, knot. They might even claim you’re making it all up. So I did a bit or research and found the following, which you are welcome to use.

From timeanddate.com:

According to an old Irish legend, or possibly history, St Bridget struck a deal with St Patrick to allow women to propose to men – and not just the other way around – every 4 years. This is believed to have been introduced to balance the traditional roles of men and women in a similar way to how Leap Day balances the calendar.

In some places, Leap Day has been known as “Bachelors’ Day” for the same reason. A man was expected to pay a penalty, such as a gown or money, if he refused a marriage proposal from a woman on Leap Day. In many European countries, especially in the upper classes of society, tradition dictates that any man who refuses a woman’s proposal on February 29 has to buy her 12 pairs of gloves. The intention is that the woman can wear the gloves to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring. During the middle ages there were laws governing this tradition.

Wikipedia has a section about it as does Snopes.

And if you are wondering how Leap Day proposals turn out, here is one example from last Sunday’s Boston Globe Magazine.

Proposing on February 29

At a recent dinner party, the hosts introduced their twentysomething nephew and his fiancee, newly engaged before Christmas. Immediately, we married ladies grilled the fiancee: “How’d you meet?” “Let’s see the ring!” “How’d he propose?”

“Let’s tell all of our stories!” another friend suggested, pointing to each of us, married anywhere from 10 to 20 years. My husband rolled his eyes. He knew what was coming.

“So, Kathy, how’d you and Joe meet?”

“She can’t tell it in less time than it takes to sing ‘Alice’s Restaurant,’ ” my husband quipped. Everyone laughed. Succinctness isn’t my strong suit. But after almost 16 years married, I’ve fine-tuned a retort to beat Arlo Guthrie’s famously long song.

“Yes, I can. At  . . .  a  . . .  BBQ,” I said. People laughed. Then the next question. “How’d he propose?” We shot each other a look. “He didn’t propose. I did!” I blurted out our story. How we were both “old” – I was 34, he was 43, neither ever married – when we met. And how, after dating and waiting 2½ years, I popped the question to him on leap day 1996. Leap day, February 29, according to an Irish myth from the Middle Ages, is the one day every four years that women are “allowed” to propose to men.

My plan, I told them, was to propose as I’d hoped he would to me – quietly, over dinner, at the restaurant where we had our first date. But writer friends suggested I grab a byline, too. So I wrote my proposal, weaving in a story about the history of leap day, and mailed it to the op-ed editor at the Boston Herald, who agreed to publish it.

That was when my stomach tightened. Would Joe, a private man, be OK with my popping the question in such a public way?

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Had I known about this tradition thirty-three years ago, I might have decided to wait a decade or so to give Martha a couple of chances to propose to me. But I didn’t and so far, it’s worked out well, though I fully expect she’ll one day come to her senses and  dump my sorry butt at the curb.

How about you folks?

Are there any women out there who proposed on Leap Day or any other day? Any men who were proposed to? If so, how did it turn out?

And are there any men or women who intend to propose on this Leap Day?

 

4-year-old’s crayon drawing gets father arrested and strip-searched

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Congratulations to this week’s Comment Contest winner — Derrek.

***

Thanks go to Derek B. for the tip on this one.

I’ve always thought our neighbors to the north were a little more level-headed than most of us here in America. I thought their police were still police and not the militarized law-enforcement robots you’ll find in most of of the home of the formerly free. But it appears I’ve been deluding myself. It appears the crazies are in power there, too.

What other conclusion can be drawn from the following story about a four-year-old girl’s crayon drawing of a gun that got her father arrested and strip-searched and her mother ordered to the police station while the police searched their home where they did find a gun — can you see it coming? — a toy gun. And all this without any warrant and without any probable cause of any crime. Read for yourself.

Possession of a dangerous crayon
Where’s the liberal media when a child’s hand drawing of a gun leads to strip searches?

When Jessie Sansone was picking up his kids from school last week in Kitchener, Ont., he was asked to go to the principal’s office.

There were three cops waiting there who arrested him, handcuffed him and took him down to the police station, where he was strip searched.

Then more cops went to his home where his wife, while caring for a 15-month-old baby, was told to go down to the police station, too. And then they searched his house. Without a warrant. Why? What did Sansone do?

Nothing. They didn’t find anything in the house when they searched it. They didn’t find anything on him when they searched him.

A warrantless arrest and strip search and search of his house. Why?

Because at school, his four-year-old daughter drew a picture of a gun and, when asked about it, told her teacher her daddy uses it to shoot bad guys and monsters. Seriously.

So her kindergarten teacher called Family and Children’s Services. Seriously.

And they called the cops. Seriously. And they arrested and searched him. Seriously.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

It boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

A kid draws a gun with a crayon and it becomes a “firearms-related incident” according to Waterloo Regional Police Inspector Kevin Thaler. I’d love to know if he said that with a straight face and if he did, how he managed to rise to the rank of Inspector. And since one would expect that the brightest bulbs in the pack would make Inspector, what does that say about the mental wattage of the cops who arrested the guy?

One wonders what they might have done had the child drawn a picture of a nuclear bomb and said her daddy uses it to blow up bad guys.

I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before this kind of insanity becomes a regular occurrence here in America as well as in Canada, now that we’ve put the lunatics in charge of the asylum.

Still, it’s good to know our American judges will uphold the right of members of the Religion of Peace to assault and batter at will anyone who offends them. Unless their daughter likes to draw pictures of toy guns, of course.

What do you make of this story?

Have you heard of anything like this here in America?

 

Have you committed adultery if you sleep with a robot?

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Have you committed adultery if you sleep with a robot? Are you guilty of murder if your robotic prosthesis arm malfunctions and kills someone? Could you work for a robot boss?

There was a time when such questions were considered only by writers of science fiction. But such ethical and practical questions are already being considered and will have to be answered in the coming decades as robotic technology advances, as the book being reviewed in the following piece from yesterday’s newspaper makes clear.

 Introducing Robot Ethics

Thirty years ago, few people envisioned just how completely computers would be integrated into our everyday lives; today, they’re everywhere. In Robot Ethics: The Ethical and Social Implications of Robotics, Patrick Lin (a science ethicist), Keith Abney (a philosopher of science) and George Bekey (a computer scientist) argue that the same is true about robots. Today, they are technological oddities; tomorrow, they’ll be ubiquitous and indispensable. That’s why, they write, we need “the emerging field of robot ethics.”

In their introduction to the book, which is a collection of essays in robot ethics from philosophers, lawyers, and scientists, Lin, Abney, and Bekey point out that people have been thinking about the ethics of robotics for millennia. Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics are only the most recent entry in a long tradition. “Homer,” the editors write, “described in his Iliad the intelligent robots or ‘golden servants’ created by Hephaestus, the ancient Greek god of technology… Leonardo da Vinci conceived of a mechanical knight that would be called a robot today.” But the need for a serious inquiry into robot ethics is now greater than ever before, because robots are now advanced enough to participate, on their own, in the ethical world:

[I]n August 2010, the U.S. military lost control of a helicopter drone during a test flight for more than thirty minutes and twenty-three miles, as it veered toward Washington, D.C., violating airspace restrictions meant to protect the White House…. In October 2007, a semiautonomous robotic cannon deployed by the South African Army malfunctioned, killing nine “friendly” soldiers and wounding fourteen others….

Already, robots are taking care of our elderly and children…. Some soldiers have emotionally bonded with the bomb-disposing PackBots that have saved their lives, sobbing when the robot meets its end.

Already, fascinating moral questions are emerging. If a robot malfunctions and harms someone, who is responsible — the robot’s owner, its manufacturer, or the robot itself? Under what circumstances can robots be put in positions of authority, with human beings required to obey them? Is it ethically wrong for robots to prey upon our emotional sensitivities — should they be required to remind us, explicitly or implicitly, that they are only machines? How safe do robots need to be before they’re deployed in society at large? Should cyborgs — human beings with robot parts — have a special legal status if their parts malfunction and hurt someone? If a police robot uses its sensors to perform a surveillance operation, does that constitute a search? (And can the robot decide if there is probable cause?)

Some of these questions are speculative; others are uncomfortably concrete. Take this example involving (what else?) robot sex, from an essay by David Levy:

Upmarket sex dolls were introduced to the Korean public at the Sexpo exposition in Seoul in August 2005, and were immediately seen as a possible antidote to Korea’s Special Law on Prostitution that had been placed on the statute books the previous year. Before long, hotels in Korea were hiring out “doll experience rooms” for around 25,000 won per hour ($25)…. This initiative quickly became so successful at plugging the gap created by the antiprostituion law that, before long, establishments were opening up that were dedicated solely to the use of sex dolls… These hotels assumed, quite reasonably, that there was no question of them running foul of the law, since their dolls were not human. But the Korean police were not so sure. The news website Chosun.com… reported, in October 2006, that the police in Gyeonggi Province were “looking into whether these businesses violate the law . . . Since the sex acts are occurring with a doll and not a human being, it is unclear whether the Special Law on Prostitution applies.”

It seems inevitable, Levy writes, that more advanced “sexbots” will push this issue even more to the fore, forcing lawmakers to figure out just which aspects of prostitution they want to outlaw.

Levy’s sexbot example is emblematic of a theme running through this collection of essays: The ethical problems posed by robots aren’t just about the robots. They’re also about old, familiar human behaviors which we must reconsider once robots are introduced. How will spouses feel, Levy asks, about the use of sexbots? Some will see it as adultery, others as a intrinsically meaningless. The answer, Levy argues, really has nothing to do with the robots themselves. “It will depend very much,” he writes, “on the sexual ethics of the relationship itself when robots do not enter the picture.”

There are some fascinating questions there, eh?

Let’s consider the questions I posed to open this post:

Have you committed adultery if you sleep with a robot?

To have sex with a doll seems to me to be little more than complicated masturbation. But what if one develops an emotional attachment to the robotic doll? That may sound weird, but folks have been known to become attached to their cars, trucks, clothes, photos — all manner of things, and none of them provide sexual gratification.

Are you guilty of murder if your robotic prosthesis arm malfunctions and kills someone?

I don’t see how it could rise to the level of murder, but what if the prosthesis required regular maintenance and one continuously neglected to perform it? In such a case, I could see a district attorney going for a charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Could you work for a robot boss?

I think some of us already do. Take certain delivery drivers. While they may have a human “boss,” their day’s work is dictated by a computer which determines which stops they will make and often, in which order.

I think the near future will bring some interesting and challenging developments in the field of robotics. We might well see robotic cops or soldiers. When you get sick, you might first have to be diagnosed by a robot doctor before you get to see a human one. And who knows, if the field advances far enough, we might one day even see the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court leading the way again by making it legal to marry your robotic lover.

What are your answers to the three questions?

Do you think this is all just foolish fantasy or can you foresee a time when these and the questions in the article will have to be faced?

 And can you think of others who are, directly or effectively, working for a robot boss?

 

What was your favorite movie last year? Here are some I liked a lot. (Part 2)

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Truth in Tunes will return next week. Today I have Part 2 of yesterday’s post.

Following, are the movies I rated 7 or above, meaning I thought they were well-worth the time spent watching them The one-line synopses are from imdb.com.

When you have finished perusing this list, please let me know which ones you saw and enjoyed.

~~~

JULY

Gnomeo And Juliet (2011) – 8 – [Amination] The neighboring gardens of Montague and Capulet are at war, but the gnomes, Gnomeo and Juliet, are in love.

Last Play At Shea (2010) – 7 – A documentary feature chronicling the history of two New York icons (Billy Joel and Shea Stadium) and the journey that brought them together for the last musical performance at Shea Stadium.

AUGUST

Rango (2011) – 8 – [Animated]] Rango is an ordinary chameleon who accidentally winds up in the town of Dirt, a lawless outpost in the Wild West in desperate need of a new sheriff.

The Adjustment Bureau (2011) – 8 – The affair between a politician and a ballerina is affected by mysterious forces keeping the lovers apart.

SEPTEMBER

Nothing 7 or above, but Cedar Rapids came close with a 6.5

OCTOBER

The Beaver (2011) – 7 – A troubled husband and executive adopts a beaver hand-puppet as his sole means of communicating.

Everything Must Go (2011) 7.5 – When an alcoholic relapses, causing him to lose his wife and his job, he holds a yard sale on his front lawn in an attempt to start over. A new neighbor might be the key to his return to form.

Hanna (2011) – 8 – A 16-year-old who was raised by her father to be the perfect assassin is dispatched on a mission across Europe, tracked by a ruthless intelligence agent and her operatives.

Source Code (2011) – 8 – An action thriller centered on a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train.

NOVEMBER

Paul (2011) – 7 – Two British comic-book geeks traveling across the U.S. encounter an alien outside Area 51.

Horrible Bosses (2011) – 7 – Three friends conspire to murder their awful bosses when they realize they are standing in the way of their happiness.

X-Men: First Class (2011) – 9 – In 1962, the United States government enlists the help of Mutants with superhuman abilities to stop a malicious dictator who is determined to start world war III.

Super 8 (2011) – 8.5 – During the summer of 1979, a group of friends witness a train crash and investigate subsequent unexplained events in their small town.

DECEMBER

Hugo (2011) – 8.5 – Set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton. (Note: I saw this in a theater in 3-D, which effects occasionally distracted me from the story. Without that distraction, I’d have rated it 9 or 9.5)

ET (1982) – 8 – A meek and alienated little boy finds a stranded extraterrestrial. He has to find the courage to defy the authorities to help the alien return to its home planet.

Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011) – 8.5 – A middle-aged husband’s life changes dramatically when his wife asks him for a divorce. He seeks to rediscover his manhood with the help of a new-found friend Jacob, learning to pick up girls at bars.

Friends With Benefits (2011) – 7.5 – While trying to avoid the clichés of Hollywood romantic comedies, Dylan and Jamie soon discover however that adding the act of sex to their friendship does lead to complications.

~~~

Were there any not listed that you thought rated 7 or better out of 10? If so, what were they?

 

What was your favorite movie last year? Here are some I liked a lot. (Part 1)

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

Tomorrow is Oscar night, when Hollywood dresses up and congratulates itself on jobs well done. Well done, a least, in their own eyes. But then really, who else matters to the glitterati except themselves?

Okay, that was kind of snarky, and probably not completely justified…or maybe it is.

In any event, some of you may recall that Claire Wolfe and I both enjoy movies and exchange reviews of the movies we’ve watched each month.

Following, are the movies I rated 7 or above, meaning I thought they were well-worth the time spent watching them The one-line synopses are from imdb.com.

When you have finished perusing this list, please let me know which ones of these you saw and enjoyed.

~~~

JANUARY

The Kids Are All Right (2010)- 7.5 – Two children conceived by artificial insemination bring their birth father into their family life, causing problems between their two moms.

Born Yesterday (1950) – 8 – A million dollar Tycoon hires a tutor to teach his lover proper etiquette. (Judy Holliday won a well-deserved Oscar for her amazing performance.)

Desk Set (1957) – 7 – Two extremely strong personalities clash over the computerization of a TV network’s research department.

Ramona And Beezus (2010) – 7 – [Children] Follows the misadventures of young grade schooler Ramona Quimby from Beverly Cleary’s popular children’s book series.

FEBRUARY

Easy A (2010) – 8.5 – A clean-cut high school student relies on the school’s rumor mill to advance her social and financial standing.

Salt (2010) – 7 – A CIA agent goes on the run after a defector accuses her of being a Russian spy.

Inception (2010) – 9 – In a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through dream invasion, a highly skilled thief is given a final chance at redemption which involves executing his toughest job to date: Inception.

Despicable Me (2010) – 7 – [Animated] When a criminal mastermind uses a trio of orphan girls as pawns for a grand scheme, he finds their love is profoundly changing him for the better.

Megamind (2010) – 8 – [Animated]] The super-villain Megamind finally defeats his nemesis, the superhero Metro Man. But without a hero, he loses all purpose and must find new meaning to his life.

MARCH

Interstate 60 (2002) – 9 – A confused young man (Marsden) takes a journey on a road that doesn’t exist on any map.

Nowhere Boy (2009) – 7 – A chronicle of John Lennon’s first years, focused mainly in his adolescence and his relationship with his stern aunt Mimi, who raised him, and his absentee mother Julia, who re-entered his life at a crucial moment in his young life.

Get Low (2009) – 7 – A movie spun out of equal parts folk tale, fable and real-life legend about the mysterious, 1930s Tennessee hermit who famously threw his own rollicking funeral party… while he was still alive.

Red (2010) – 8 – When his peaceful life is threatened by a high-tech assassin, former black-ops agent Frank Moses reassembles his old team in a last ditch effort to survive and uncover his assailants.

APRIL

Morning Glory (2010) – 7.5 – An upstart television producer accepts the challenge of reviving a struggling morning show program with warring co-hosts.

David Copperfield (2009) – 9 – Charles Dickens’ haunting semi-autobiographical tale of a boy who is sent away by his stepfather after his mother dies but manages to triumph over incredible adversities.

Pete’s Dragon (1977) – 7 – [Children] An orphan boy and his magical dragon come to town with his abusive adoptive parents in pursuit. (My daughter’s favorite movie when she was young.)

The Man Who Would Be King (1975) – 9 – Two British soldiers in India decide to resign from the Army and set themselves up as deities in Kafiristan–a land where no white man has set foot since Alexander.

The King’s Speech (2010) – 9.8 – The story of King George VI of Britain, his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch become worthy of it.

MAY

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010) – 7 – Master sorcerer Balthazar Blake recruits a seemingly everyday guy in his mission to defend New York City from his arch-nemesis, Maxim Horvath.

Black Swan (2010) – 9 – A ballet dancer wins the lead in “Swan Lake” and is perfect for the role of the delicate White Swan – Princess Odette – but slowly loses her mind as she becomes more and more like Odile, the Black Swan.  (Superb performances by Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis)

Winter’s Bone (2010) – 8 – An unflinching Ozark Mountain girl hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her drug-dealing father while trying to keep her family intact. (Outstanding performance by Jennifer Lawrence)

JUNE

Tangled (2010) – 8 – [Animated]] The magically long-haired Rapunzel has spent her entire life in a tower, but now that a runaway thief has stumbled upon her, she is about to discover the world for the first time, and who she really is.

True Grit (2010) – 7.5 – A tough U.S. Marshal helps a stubborn young woman track down her father’s murderer. (As good as the 1969 John Wayne original, but with this version, you don’t get The Duke).

~~~

Tomorrow, Part 2 with July – December.

 

 

Good news from New Hampshire as America drowns in debt

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Really busy day today, so I’ll spare you from my usual, long-winded maundering.

UPDATE: My Wednesday post was about the guy in New Hampshire who capture a burglar and was arrested because he fired his weapon into the dirt as a warning. Well,  today I have good news:

Charges Dropped Against Homeowner Who Fired Gun

FARMINGTON, N.H. — The county attorney’s office is dropping charges against a man who tracked down a burglary suspect and held him at gunpoint until police could arrive.

Dennis Fleming said he tracked down the man in his Farmington neighborhood and fired his gun into the ground to get the burglar to stop.

He held 27-year-old Joseph Hebert at gunpoint until police arrived and arrested him.

Hebert was charged with two counts of burglary and one count of possession of a controlled drug.

Fleming was originally charged with reckless conduct for firing the gun.

“I believe the charge would’ve been unjust to go forward, and frankly, could not have been proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Strafford County Attorney Thomas Velardi.

Velardi said police acted properly at the time Fleming was charged, but he said further investigating showed the charge should be dropped.

The attorney’s office said firing a “warning shot” around or near other people or homes can result in police involvement or a charge.

It’s nice to know that common sense still exists in The Granite State. Now, if only we could get some the that down there in The People’s Republic of Massachusetts, where the local DA would likely be mewling about how we have to make an example of the guy to stop others from trying to protect themselves and their neighbors.

***

Despite what the left and their lackeys in the media want you to believe, the economic situation in America is not getting better. How can it when we continue to drown ourselves in debt?

If a picture tells a thousand words, these graphics, which I found on the Powerline website and which were taken from government reports, must comprise one heck of a novella.

Don’t you have to wonder just how stupid — or nefarious — our President and Congress must be not to understand what this kind of debt will do to America?

Not exactly the change you hoped for, eh?

 

Do you have a problem with “No Problem”?

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

I can’t imagine anyone reading this has not, at some point, in some store or office, thanked someone and in response been told it was “no problem.” I get it all the time.

I try to be polite and good mannered all the time. Plus, having worked in retail and food service when I was young, I understand how difficult dealing with the public can sometimes be, so a sincere “thank you” is offered at every opportunity. I may even go overboard at times, so you will understand why the following column, which appeared in The Boston Globe, caught my eye.

To make sure there’s ‘no problem’ try ‘You’re Welcome’

During a visit with my father, I happened to catch the end of the television game show, “Wheel of Fortune.’’ On a couple of occasions, I’ve seen Pat Sajak, the emcee, bring up an etiquette issue. Thank you, Pat.

This time he let loose with an etiquette pet peeve that struck home. He asked, rhetorically, what the deal is with people who respond to a sincere “Thank you’’ by saying “No problem.’’

I couldn’t agree with him more. “Thank you’’ is an expression of appreciation one person offers another. To respond “No problem’’ is to shrug off this acknowledgment as really being undeserved.

 I think that whatever prompted the “Thank you’’ was more than nothing and deserves a more positive response than “No problem.’’

Too often we ignore or dismiss “Thank you.’’ Saying “No problem’’ is one of the most common ways it’s done. Nobody likes to be dismissed.

I’ve written about the importance of saying “Thank you’’ and writing thank-you notes in previous columns. As important as it is for one person to say “Thank you’’ to another, it is equally important for the person being thanked to acknowledge the thanks sincerely. And the friendliest, nicest, most sincere response is “You’re welcome.’’

By saying “You’re welcome,’’ a person shows she has heard the “Thank you’’ and appreciates the recognition given by the person saying it.

One of my own pet peeves in this arena is people who respond to a “Thank you’’ by saying “No, thank you’’ with the emphasis on “you.’’

Huh? What did I do to deserve your thanks? When I hear this response, I wonder if the person is trying to trump my thanks with theirs.

If you want to return the “Thank you,’’ there’s an easy way to do this. First acknowledge that you’ve heard it and appreciate it by saying “You’re welcome.’’ Then, having done that, you can say, “And thank you, too. I really appreciate . . . ’’

By first acknowledging the other person’s thanks, you are taking a moment to focus on what they have said and show that you appreciate their gesture. You are showing them a measure of respect. Then you can offer them your thanks as well, and it, too, becomes a sincere demonstration of your appreciation of them.

When I’m thanked by the checkout person at the grocery or or other store, I always say “you’re welcome.” Unfortunately, more often than not these days, a “thank you” is not forthcoming as the person hands me my change and receipt, so I issue a “thank you” of my own which is too often met with indifference or a “no problem.”

I sometimes wonder if this is just another face of the general coarsening of American society, or if it’s the result of parents who don’t bother to teach their children about manners and politeness or if the person who trained the employee is an example of The Peter Principle at work. Whatever the answer, business owners would do well to think about the message their most visible employees are imparting to customers.

Politeness demands that we let it go when our thanks are met with a “no problem” even though I always want to ask if doing their job courteously and well normally poses a problem for them but in my case, did not.

Oh well.

Is my experience a function of living in the Northeast, where high school and college kids fill most low-level positions at stores or is this kind of thing common where you live, too?

Do you have a problem with “no problem” or do you often say it when thanked? If so, why do you say it instead of “you’re welcome”?

And do you wonder, as I sometimes do, if all this will bottom out one day and a return to civility and politeness and good manners will begin?

 

 

 

 

NH man captures burglar at gunpoint and gets charged with a felony

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

For many years, now, I’ve lamented the conversion of local police officers into Law Enforcement Officers, aka LEOs. (Don’t you just love the acronym, how it makes them sound fierce.)

The police I remember as a youth behaved as police. They knew the difference between a crime and something stupid, between reckless endangerment and a warning. That’s not so anymore, at least not in this part of the country. Cops behave like robots — see crime, arrest and charge, regardless of circumstances. Take the case of Dennis Fleming. You might expect this to have happened in The People’s Republic of Massachusetts but you’d be wrong. LEO lunacy has spread to the Live Free or Die state of New Hampshire.

Farmington homeowner doesn’t regret firing gun: Though he might take different approach to stopping burglar in future

Farmington resident Dennis Fleming has been charged with Class B felony reckless conduct for firing his gun into the ground while apprehending a burglary suspect who is accused of breaking into his home and a neighbor's on Saturday.

FARMINGTON — While he may be facing a felony charge, Dennis Fleming said he does not regret firing his gun Saturday when he stopped and detained a burglar who had entered his home and at least one other on Ten Rod Road.

Still, the 61-year-old grandfather of 14 said he might go about stopping the burglar a little differently next time.

“I should have called police and I recommend that everyone does,” he said. “That aside, I’m glad I caught him.”

Fleming was arrested late Saturday night after turning himself into police and charged with felony reckless conduct, alleging he put others at risk of serious bodily injury when he discharged his firearm into the ground near 27-year-old Joseph Hebert in a residential area where people had gathered to watch the ordeal unfold.

Though shots were fired, no one was injured. Fleming was released on personal recognizance bail soon after his arrest.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

The good news here is that the County Attorney, Tom Velardi, is making noises that indicate the charge will ultimately be dropped, unless they decide to make Fleming plead guilty to some bogus lesser charge to keep the conviction rate up.

But why was Fleming arrested in the first place?

When the cops showed up and learned he fired his weapon into the ground, that should have been the end of it. Had he fired it near the burglar or into the air, then there was reason to claim “he put others at risk of serious bodily injury” and charge him with reckless endangerment. But he did not. He did the right thing, the smart thing, the brave thing, and could be facing up to seven years in prison if the charges are not dropped.

That is complete madness.

What do the cops think he should have done? Let the burglar walk away while he called them so they could show up an hour later and take a statement? Should he have waited for the burglar to charge at him so that he’d have to actually shoot, and possibly kill the guy?

Given the circumstances, what happened was the absolute best outcome and the Farmington police say he’s a felon? Well, I say he’s a hero and I’m happy to hear that most of his neighbors think so too.

What do you think?

Was Fleming reckless?

Is he a hero or a felon or something in-between?

And are you happy with LEOs patrolling your streets or, if you are old enough to remember them, would you rather have police officers in your town?

 

Is The American Dream naive…or dead?

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Congratulations to this week’s Comment Contest winner — Leslie!

***

I found this short item in the Sunday newspaper.

Is the American dream naive?

We tend to think of the United States as an exceptionally mobile society — a society in which your future isn’t limited by your parents’ socioeconomic status. Writing in The New Republic, Timothy Noah looks at the best data on economic mobility and finds that, in reality, America isn’t an especially mobile place, and hasn’t been for almost a century. In fact, a 2007 study showed that, today, “income heritability” is greater in the United States than in Denmark, Australia, Norway, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Germany, Spain, and France; newer studies have added “Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and Pakistan to the list of societies that are more mobile than the United States.”

If the United States isn’t really that mobile, then why do we make such a big deal about how mobile we are? The idea of the “American dream,” Noah points out, dates from the late 19th century, when agrarian society was giving way to industrialization, “wreaking maximum creative destruction.” It was, he writes, “an era when the loftiest rhetoric about the United States as the land of opportunity rang true.” Not so much nowadays. In fact, America hasn’t been particularly mobile among advanced countries since the early 20th century — something worth remembering next time you hear a politician wax poetic about the American dream.

Something else worth remembering is why The American Dream  economic mobility is so much more difficult to achieve in 2012 than it was in 1812 or 1912. There may be more than one reason, but chief among them, I believe, is government at every level.

As government, particularly the Federal government grew larger, citizens found themselves with far fewer opportunities to thrive and to raise their station in life. They were, and are, kept in their place by ever-increasing numbers and levels of burdensome rules and regulations.

There was a day when, if you wanted to open a business, you bought or rented a building, stocked your shelves or whatever, and opened the door. If that can still be done anywhere in the United States, I’m not aware of it. Instead, you must ask the permission of inspectors and councils and regulators and each permission requires applications and meetings and, of course, fees.

To open a restaurant today in the town where my son manages one, you’ll need to go before one or more city commissions to ask permission, which can be denied for whatever reason. Then you need to submit blueprints drawn to all the myriad codes, which likely involves hiring an architect. Then there are the permits to build followed by inspectors from building, plumbing, and electrical, the health department, and the fire department. Then you have to pay for the permits to sell food, to sell milk, to sell ice cream and so on. If you plan to serve liquor, add on another layer of meetings and permits and inspections and some hefty fees.

And if you beat the odds and are successful, and decide to open a second restaurant in the next town over, be prepared for a whole new set of rules, since each city and town gets to add their own to any federal and states laws and rules and regulations that may apply. Hmmm…looks like I forgot to mention the lawyer you’ll likely need.

It’s true that many still do manage to open businesses, but countless others are simply too busy working to pay their taxes while trying to feed their families to even think about investing the time and money necessary to open a business even if they had it.

What is it like where you live?

Is it easier or more difficult than described above?

Have you ever opened a business? If so, what was the process like?

And what advice would you offer those contemplating opening a business today?

 

Who loses in the foreclosure settlement?

Monday, February 20th, 2012

I really look forward to John E. Sununu’s frequent Op/Ed columns. He always seems to be able to cut through the bull and the spin to get to the truth, as he did again last week.

Who loses in foreclosure settlement?

WATCHING THE country’s biggest banks, 49 states, and the federal government stumble toward a $25 billion mortgage foreclosure settlement brings back memories: Just like the 1998 Big Tobacco deal, this is a complex agreement with lots of moving parts. And just like the tobacco settlement, it’s far more than a legal matter – it’s a grand spectacle built around money, politics, and lots of heated rhetoric.

The press releases for the foreclosure deal will be thick with words like “fairness’’ and “forgiveness,’’ but don’t think for a moment that it represents a resounding victory over the big, bad banks. Sure, there are losers in this settlement. They just weren’t at the negotiating table.

If you want to understand what’s really going on, look to Rome. What did the Romans know about mortgage-backed securities? Nothing. But they knew spectacle when they saw it, and left us a timeless tool to help us see through it. “Cui bono?’’ was the question posed by the consul Lucius Cassius. More simply: “Who benefits?’’

Click here to read the rest of the story.

I knew the answer to the question before reading the column, as I suspect many of you knew.

As always, in the upside-down nation America has become, it is the responsible who lose while the irresponsible benefit.

The housing crisis probably would have bottomed out two years ago had government simply done nothing and let the market adjust itself. Of course, that would have meant a lot of people and companies who made stupid financial decisions, from homeowners who bought more than they could afford to too-big-to-fail financial institutions, would have had to lose their properties or their companies or their jobs.

Instead, we find the responsible, hard-working middle class, and their children and grandchildren, footing the bill to keep everyone else afloat. But that is the way liberalism and socialism work.

Capitalism isn’t pretty. It involves risks and rewards. The rewards can be great but the risk includes failure. It seems too many of us now want to live in a nation where nobody fails, where nobody has to suffer the consequences of bad decisions, where slogans like ‘Hope and Change’ trump logic and reason.

How’s that been working out for you lately?

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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