Friday, November 19, 2010

The Ghailani trial did not "deliver justice"

The testimony of Hussein Abebe, the terrorist who sold Ghailani the dynamite used in the  bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania, was suppressed; in a military commission, where this guy should have been tried, it wouldn't have been.  

And now for something completely different...

In support of civil trials for Gitmo prisoners

Morris Davis, a former Air Force colonel, who was the chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, from 2005 to 2007, has written this sane and perfect commentary on the recent verdict in the Ahmed Ghailani case. I echo his conclusion:
President Obama is in a no-win situation when it comes to trying detainees — any forum he chooses will set off critics on one side of the debate or the other. I hope he pauses to reflect on what he said at the National Archives in May 2009: “Some have derided our federal courts as incapable of handling the trials of terrorists. They are wrong. Our courts and our juries, our citizens, are tough enough to convict terrorists.”

The Ghailani trial delivered justice. It did so safely and securely, while upholding the values that have defined America. Now Mr. Obama should stand up to the fear-mongers who want to take us back to the wrong side of history.

Update 11/19/10: In his commentary, Col. Davis describes why it's an error to assume that a military tribunal would have allowed testimony of the witness whose testimony was thrown out in the civilian criminal trial. Read it.

It's 2010. Do you know who owns your house?

Fab.  Dan Edstrom, a man who for his profession does securitization audits and who teaches seminars on the topic, created a ridiculously complicated chart that diagrams the ownership of his own mortgage.

In recent foreclosure proceedings, we've seen that ownership of mortgages has been hard to discern and prove.  But I wonder what it means for clearing title to all our houses.

Target, the hero dog, is mistakenly euthanized; other dogs euthanized on purpose

According to the American Humane Society, 56% of dogs that enter an animal shelter are euthanized.

Target was a stray dog in Afghanistan who thwarted a terrorist attack by ferociously barking at a would-be suicide bomber, preventing the bomber from entering a building before detonating his bomb, thereby saving lives.  An American service member bonded with Target and brought her home to be his pet.  She got loose from his house and ended up in an animal shelter in Pinal County in Arizona.  Due to an error, Target was euthanized.  (NYTimes story about Target is here.)

It's horrifying, of course, to imagine a beloved pet being euthanized accidentally.  But I'm sorry, too, for the dog who was supposed to have been euthanized, the one whose death would not have made headlines.

During giving season, think about helping the ASPCA or your local shelters or rescue organizations so that they can save lives.  If allowed to live long enough to be found and adopted, more dogs can have happier endings.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Antonia, Willa Cather

My Antonia was a book club pick.  (We'd read One of Ours by Cather a couple years ago and liked it.)  I'm betting that my dad never read this; otherwise it definitely would have made his reading list.

My Antonia tells the story of immigrants who settled and farmed the Plains. It is narrated by Jim Burden and begins when Jim moves to his grandparents' Nebraska farm when his parents die.  Jim meets and befriends Antonia Shimerda whose family, Bohemian immigrants, lives on a farm nearby.  I love the details of farm life.  My own great great grandparents were immigrant farmers on the Minnesota and North Dakota Plains, so I imagine that this describes their lives to some degree.

In the middle section of the novel, Jim and his grandparents move to Black Hawk, a nearby city, while teen-aged Antonia and other teen immigrant girls are hired by city families to help as housekeepers and nannies to earn money to help pay off family debt and send younger siblings to school.  Cather has a romantic view of the immigrant girls and contrasts them with the city girls. (I'll quote a big section behind the cut, for your sampling pleasure. Copyright has expired and the whole book is available free online.)

My Antonia follows Jim and Antonia into their middle-aged years. Antonia remains an object of Jim's great admiration throughout. Because he narrates, we only see her as Jim sees her; we never get inside her head. She's an iconic character in American lit. She's spirited, hard-working, resilient and good-natured and Cather offers her as a worthy tribute to immigrants who settled the Plains.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Took a rifle class yesterday...basically a baby steps program for beginners. Learned a lot and the instructor made me feel very comfortable both with his personality and emphasis on safety.

Got to shoot a Remington 700 rifle (essentially a tricked out sniper rifle in .308) and there were no mishaps. Not sure what CNBC has on that rifle...worked fine for me.

Also an M-4 (the dreaded black or "assault rifle" but really a carbine) in 5.56 mm and a little lever-action (cowboy gun) in .22.

Last gun to shoot was something called a Steyr AUG. That was fun but got my worst groups with that one because I shot it off-hand (standing with no supports) as opposed to seated, kneeling or prone. Looks a little like the Star Gate gun (Fabrique Nationale, I think) because of its "bull pup" configuration.

I need more toys.