Thursday, August 31, 2006

Dad kills man who molested his two year old daughter

A lawyer climbed through a neighbor's bedroom window and stabbed him to death after being told by a family member that the man had molested his 2-year-old daughter, authorities say.

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(I started to write more about this yesterday & had a problem crop up on the computer.) What strikes me in this story is the commentary, rather than the story itself. Feelings apparently run strongly that "this country is too soft on pedophiles" and vigilanteism is basically ok because the law just doesn't do the job.

What people forget is that in our free and democratic society, we do presume that people are innocent before convicting them based on the babble of a 2-year-old, translated by her mom to a dad who already thinks the neighbor is a pervert (see the story for details about previous complain of seeing too much of the neighbor's flesh). We also should presume innocence on the part of the dad. One could imagine any number of scenarios of how violence might have erupted between these two men, and who might have been worried about his own safety first. But there is no scenario that makes the dad a 'hero, ridding the world of a pervert." Every possible scenario makes him a hot-head, and most make him a likely killer.

I'm not a parent, but I can understand the parents who think they would like to take such a situation into their own hands.Unfortunately, I've also read too many books like "The Crucible," where people are convicted and killed or imprisoned by a mob mentality rather than evidence.

I know there are people out there who would like to see the death penalty for peoel who molest/torture/kill/maim children. And people who would like the see th death penalty for people who do that to women, men or anybody else. And as much as I do not wish to have my tax dollars fund their cable tv, air conditioning and good, nutritious food for a lifetime, I also don't want society to have the power to kill.

I have looked into the remorseless eyes of a serial killer, smelled his sweaty body as he stodd staring at me in a courtroom where I was covering his guilty plea. Because homicide detectives think it's very funny to haze young female reporters, I have seen murder scene photos that still give me nightmares. And yet, I still don't want society to have the power to kill. First, because it's all too easy to make mistakes in the name of 'closing a case" (think Jon Benet ramsey in the last few weeks). Second, and I've said this before somewhere, it's wrong to kill a helpless person, even if the only reason they're strapped to that gurney is that he's been found guilty by a jury of his peers.

In this case, the capital punishment was meted even before a jury had a chance to decide that circumstantial evidence pointed to guilt. It's a sad day for all involved. I have to say that I hope the killer -- whoever it may be -- spends a long time either in jail or in a suitable mental hospital.

Clutter kills. Clean your room.

Houston woman dies in a fire because there is so much clutter she can't get out & firefighters can't get in.

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I thought it was only fair to mention this story since earlier this week I had one that said messiness is not unlawful. So ok, it's legal, but mom was right: All that stuff *is* a fire hazard. Maybe I should go clean my garage.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Phone Thief? Not really

"My cell phone was stolen last Friday. I had it disconnected and arranged to get a replacement. It had been set up with the excellent service from ShoZu to automatically upload all pictures taken with the phone to Flickr. So today, completely surprisingly, I find pictures on my Flickr account of the family of the person who took the phone."

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This is a great story, and a fun one. Steal a phone; but get caught & abused in public because you use it. Fun enough that several other Diggers blogged it. Unfortunately, it's not true. Repeat after me: HOAX! Several commenters note that the photos are 'stock photos' from elsewhere on the Internet, uploaded to someone's Flickr account as a viral marketing ploy for this ShoZu service. Clever, but... BUSTED!

Question everything!!! You'll notice my comment in the Digg list, as questioning whether the photos are the thief, or just some poor schmuck that happened to buy a cheap phone. So I did question the story.... I just didn't question *deep* enough! Bad me!

Humans Anthropomorphize Everything

A newspaper columnist suggests that humans like to make other things seem more human. She begins with a story of her Mini Cooper, which makes her my automotive sister. I also pat my car on the hood (well, maybe on the 'bonnet' since it's a Mini) and tell her what a good girl she is. Because she is a 'she,' not an it. Like my dog is a 'she' and not an 'it.'

The columnist goes on to discuss some actual science about humans trying to anthropomorphize everything. (That's just a fancy word for "make everything seem more like me.") We give our cars human voices, make robots look like people (except my Roomba, which looks more like a fat Frisbee), talk to our dogs... Oh we are so self-centered, we humans.

In the end, it's apparently perfectly normal for us to talk to our cars. Thus, when I tell Sunny she is a good car, I'm not a kook. Unless she answers.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"Tough Love" reaction to borrowed car ends with dead teen

The short version: New Zealand teen 'borrows' mom's car. Mom & dad decide to teach him a lesson and press charges for theft. On the trip to Auckland Central Remand (jail), another prisoner strangles the teen.

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Back when I was a newspaper reporter for a living, I did a series of articles about tthe juvenile justice system. As part of my reporting, I spent a day just hanging around in the juvenile section of the Houston Police Department, watching, listening. One anecdote from that visit: an upper-middle-class-looking woman came in. Her son had been picked up for something, and they had called her to come for a chat. He was a problem child, she said, and she was at wit's end to get him back in control. Maybe, the cops said, a couple of nights in juvie would convince him that 'life on the inside' is not that much fun. Maybe, she said, crying.

On most of the comments on this story say that the parents are bad people. Apparently this teeen had no prior record, and Diggers think the parents were just plain mean and deserve the guilt that they will now carry forever. But I think we don't know enough to vilify anybody. Furthermore, the NZ Diggers note that their jail system isn't typically considered as violent a place as the American system (although this could be because your average NZ Digger has never spent much time in jail....)

It's a sad story, at the end of the day. I never followed up on the woman who left her son in HPD's hands. I'm wondering now: Did a few nights in jail change that kid's life, or simply harden him? I guess I'll never know.

Judge: Messy Mom Didn't Prompt Son's Suicide

Connecticut appeals court decides that although mom's home was not exactly pristine, her housekeeping (or lack thereof) did not criminally contribute to her son's suicide. Justice William Sullivan writes: "...being messy is not, in and of itself, unlawful..."

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I feel like I have been given judicial permission to leave piles of clothes all over the bedroom and dirty dishes in the sink. Yay judge!!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Quick Cop: "It's ok, I'm trained to drive fast"

A UK police officer who drove 159 mph on a motorway has been found guilty of dangerous driving and given an absolute discharge (no fine or jail). Cameras on board Pc Mark Milton's unmarked car clocked him driving at high speeds on the M54 in Shropshire.

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Go ahead, read it all. But here's the deal: The cop was in his personal car, driving like a maniac on the fun, twisty backroads, and alleges he was doing this to test the car's potential as a police car. He was well-trained for this sort of thing, he notes.

Although no one ever asked me to test a police car, I would be happy to do so if they need testers for that sort of thing. My credentials are 10 years of high-performance driving (e.g., road racing) and five or six as a high-performance driving instructor. Among the tracks where I instructed others on high-performance driving techniques was Summit Point, W.V., where certain covert US government agencies conduct super-specialized driver training for people who might have to evade oil slicks, machine gun fire, etc.

Anyway, I am fairly sure that because Pc Milton's excuse worked brilliantly over in the UK, it's likely to work very well for civilian me. Too bad there is no way in heck that I can pedal my Mini Cooper fast enough to get in such a lot of trouble.

What is Smukke-Speak?

I'm a translator. I read between lines and figure out what someone meant to say. I do this for a living, as a technical editor, translating what engineers say into actual English. The thing is, once you have started translating, you can't put up boundaries. Suddenly you realize everything needs a translation: Politicians, newsmakers, crooks, angels, doctors...

I'm a skeptic, too. I don't believe anything I can't touch. I don't believe someone charged with a crime is guilty. But I don't believe s/he's innocent either. Give me the facts, and then I can form an opinion. If you leave something out, I have doubts. Questions.... always questions.

I'm a goof. Nothing is too big for parody. Nothing too small for rhyme. Laughter and music are good for the soul. Nothing is so sacred that it cannot be sung or laughed.

I hope we can share some thoughts about the state of the world, the news of the day, and whatever else may need translation.