Friday, March 25, 2005

#156 - Cooley Doesn't Get It

Steve Cooley might well be a terrific lawyer. I have no idea, personally, and don't much care since I no longer live in Los Angeles County. I remember his campaign for LA County District Attorney being somewhat aggressive as he attempted - successfully - to cast former LACDA Ira Reiner in a "soft on criminals" light. Beyond that, I have no idea as to his qualifications for the job.

This has nothing to do with those qualifications.

What Cooley has done is worthy of the most contemptible politician. This is classic "biting the hand that feeds you" material. After the highly publicized trial of actor Robert Blake ended in acquittal on all but one count (deadlocked 11 to 1 for acquittal on that count), Cooley made a public statement that the jurors in that case were "incredibly stupid."

My hero.

Now, for the record, District Attorneys generally don't go to trial unless they feel they have a case. Certainly, Cooley and his staff must have felt like they could not only make the case, but sell it to the jury as well. As trials go, it was remarkable for it's lack of behind-the-scenes drama. In fact, there wasn't a single case of juror misconduct and the judge made note of that fact in thanking both the jury and the alternates. By all accounts they were attentive, and their deliberations left no doubt that they were considering everything entered into evidence.

So, Mr. Cooley, tell us how this doesn't sound like sour grapes?

The foreman made an excellent point in one interview. He said that comments like Mr. Cooley's only serve to cool prospective jurors' interest in future trials, and it's going to get harder and harder to seat an objective jury. That's not a good thing when you consider the number of people today who go out of their way to avoid jury duty. All they need to know now is that any disagreement with the District Attorney's office will forever brand them as "incredibly stupid."

That, Mr. Cooley, is no way to define our constitutional system of justice. The system worked in this case, and it worked well. I don't necessarily believe Mr. Blake was any more innocent than you apparently do, but I also know that your office did not do the job they were paid to do. They did not prove beyond reasonable doubt that Blake pulled that trigger. Period.

Care to denigrate someone's intelligence, Mr. Cooley? Talk to the mirror.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

#155 - Careful Neutrality

There are reasons why I have not sounded off on the Terri Schiavo case to date. Primary among them is the simple fact that I'm not there and have no right to impose my judgement based on facts as they've been reported by others. I am not the woman's husband, nor her parent, and it is impossible for me to say how I might act were this my wife or one of my daughters. I can speculate, of course, but that's all it would amount to. Speculation.

The stories, images and sounds that have so captured everyone's attention these past months have been carefully crafted by those who have strong opinions on either side of the question. Yesterday I heard one expert talk about Terri's vegetative state and how she truly is not there. This morning I heard the story of one woman who was diagnosed with persistent vegetative state and recovered. We are meant to see every shred of hope held by the grieving parents, and every plea for dignity and quality of life made by the husband. We are also meant to see the parents as deluded souls who are desperate to save their daughter, and the husband as some sort of monster who wishes to snuff out this woman's life for purely selfish reasons.

Who among us, though, is truly qualified to make these judgements?

Not me. As I pass through life, even with a strong understanding of the eternal nature of man and God's plan for his mortal children, there are events for which there is no possible preparation. Not direct preparation, I should say. When I took my new wife by the hand and placed the ring on her finger, did I know for which trials I should prepare? Of course not. The things that may happen (and even many that have already happened) are not written down in a book somewhere that I can read. There are no telegrams that tell me that one of my children is about to require surgery, or that I might become incapacitated and unable to provide for my family sometime soon.

How, then, can I possibly adjudicate the actions and opinions of a family that has been thrust into that position?

I can't. Especially when you consider that, no matter what I may feel about the facts of this case today, I very probably would change my mind were I suddenly placed in that position myself. Were I the husband or father in this case, I would probably -- even irrationally -- hold onto every glimmer of hope, even if all medical evidence or opinion told me that no hope was possible. Even if my wife and I had talked about such things and agreed in advance not to prolong such suffering, I would probably have second thoughts.

I would have to consider not only the mortal consequences of my decisions, but all the eternal consequences as well. I would be in constant communication with my Bishop and other church leaders. I would be on my knees just as constantly. Even then, I have no idea whether I would have strength enough to either pull the plug, or hold on until the inevitable end. How can I possibly predict what I would do or how I would feel?

I understand and respect every opinion expressed by those who have such obviously strong feelings about this story. I, for one, will not be quick to judge anyone who sides either with the parents or the husband.

I merely pray that God will be merciful to all parties concerned: the husband, the parents, all those who support one or the other.

And, of course, Terri.

Monday, March 21, 2005

#154 - Of Codes and Wizards

I worry about people sometimes. I really do.

Two books (well, one book and one franchise, if you will) sit firmly atop my list of Books Most Overreacted To. It's quite an honor, to be sure, but the winners will not be notified anytime soon. I'm certain the authors are a little busy these days defending themselves against the scurrilous charges that put them on my list in the first place. Or, more probably, they're laughing themselves silly wondering what all the fuss is about.

Harry Potter (five published, one coming soon, and one to go) qualifies as the franchise. The primary reason I began reading the books, of course, was all the hullabaloo being raised by certain Christian groups claiming that Harry Potter was nothing less than a tool of the devil, encouraged devil worship, and would somehow convert millions of innocent children to the celebration of Wiccan. Or something. I tuned it out so long ago that the details have become a bit hazy in my memory.

What Harry Potter really is depends on one's point of view. Mine says it's a wonderful introduction into a world of fantasy that places it on par with my old childhood favorite Oz series by L. Frank Baum. Others may (and do) disagree to varying degrees, but to insist that these books are dangerous is silly. A knee-jerk reaction to a perfectly harmless story line.

Naturally, there will always be those who carry devotion to such stories to dangerous extremes. I feel confident that we may dismiss most of these as people who would be just as likely to believe everything they read in the National Enquirer.

The second book on my list is "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown. As usual, I waited for awhile to read it. When I did, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

WARNING TO THOSE WHO HAPPEN TO BE MRS. WOODY: Mild spoiler follows! (She hasn't read it, yet)

I will grant you that, from a doctrinal perspective, some of the points raised are troublesome. Those who believe that the Savior was never married, especially to Magdalene, are most passionate in their faith. I have no argument with those beliefs since I, myself, was raised with them. What I can't understand, however, is why a book that is clearly labelled a novel would be considered so dangerous to people of faith.

Of course, as a Latter-day Saint I've had to endure my share of literature that is - shall we say? - less than complimentary to my religion. I generally find such writing to be reprehensible and, in some cases, downright libelous. A lifetime of dealing with such writings has taught me to simply ignore them. The good ol' First Amendment says that I really can't prevent such nonsense, so I just won't rise to the bait.

Taken at a different level, how different is this book from just about 99% of all movies and TV shows written today that will either take the Lord's name in vain, mock those who believe in him, or teach us how much better it must be to worship sex and money?

The primary difference, in my mind, is the entertainment value.

As stories go, "The Da Vinci Code" really doesn't go out of its way to mock, blaspheme, or even resort to profanity. No more than any other novel I could think of these days, anyway. It's a good yarn with plenty of red herrings and plot twists to keep one guessing right up until the end. I can see where some sensitive souls might take umbrage with Brown's depictions of Catholic beliefs and practices. Still, were I as sensitive as some seem to be, I would never have gotten past Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes novel "A Study in Scarlet," where Mormons are grossly misrepresented both as to beliefs as well as hierarchy within the Priesthood. Scandalous! And yet, I love the stories. All of them. "A Study in Scarlet" merely makes me chuckle during the more sensational parts.

Even if, by some chance, the allegations made in "The Da Vinci Code" happen to be true, that wouldn't necessarily mean that the documents alluded to had any real historical value anyway. Forgery is, perhaps, the third oldest profession, and such hoaxes have been around from the time of Adam.

Fear not, believers. The end is nigh.

The end of this post, that is.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

#153 - On the Carl's Jr. Wagon

Every once in a great while, we find something that just hits us completely the wrong way. So much so, in fact, that we feel a need to lodge a protest. The problem is, I'm not a protester. I don't like confrontation and really despise the idea of getting in anyone's face. I barely have room enough for the face I was born with, let alone someone else's. Besides, I don't know where that thing's been...

Some few truly choice entities, however, can still raise my hackles. Quickly. Like the RNC, for example. Most of the time I can ignore them, just as they ignore me. Until they need money. Then they're all over me. "Mr. Woody," they say, "you know we really can't get the job done unless we have every ounce of your disposable income in order to tell everyone why they need to vote for whoever our candidate is this election as opposed to that scumbag pinko commie Diss-ocrat that gets all of his or her money directly from Hollywood. How much may we soak you for?"

Then there are people who advertise on TV.

For some reason, Madison Avenue (I assume it's still Madison Avenue... it's been a few years since I paid any attention!) has lately felt compelled to create ads that push the envelope of poor taste. In fact, the more offensive the punch line, the better for the ad execs and sponsors. Case in point tonight: Carl's Jr.

I've not been a fan of their advertising for quite some time now, beginning with those lovely, mouth-watering images of the glop dripping down onto some athlete's smelly gym shoes. Yummy! And hygienic! But now, they've violated every pregnant woman in America by shoving a camera up into previously private recesses (except for National Geographic, Nova, and a few score books on the subject) to hear the rantings of a neo-homeboy talking about "busting out" and "taking some of this with me" (as he grabs a handful of placenta). Yeah. I want a kid like that in my home. And, oh, by the way, guess I'd better go patronize Carl's Jr. so any future unborn generations won't hold things against me.

So, once again, Carl's Jr. (and they're by no means the only offenders in today's market) have seen fit to alienate my particular demographic (middle-aged men and women who happen to treasure thoughtful exchanges between parents and their offspring) and perpetuate the idea that the only attitude that sells today is the in-yo-face variety.

My heros.

Hence our boycott.

We do not ask - nor do we expect - anyone to join us. Ours will be a silent protest. We will simply refuse to eat Carl's Jr. food until the offensive advertising is eradicated. Which, I suspect, means that I have now gone cold turkey on Carl Karcher Enterprises.

So, gee, really sorry about ruining a booming economy for everyone. Really, I am. But a man's gotta make a stand.

I plan to make mine upwind from Carl's. The smell is starting to nauseate me.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

#152 - *sigh* Bill Doesn't Understand Us

Interesting topic over at INDC Journal. Bill's original post dealt with moderates in the GOP feeling a need to bolt if right-wingers (I be self-professed!) don't turn down the heat on a few of our talking points. He uses Roe v. Wade and gay marriage as his catalytic points, mentioning that if we keep harping about total bans on [choose your controversy], we just may drive moderates out of the party and into the arms of some other party.

As always, we on the right remind our esteemed moderate brethren that (for me anyway) it's not really about the party. The GOP may come or go with the tide for all I care. I've already documented my disdain for their inability to use whatever money they milk out of the party faithful every election cycle wisely. Certainly there are things that President Bush has implemented during his administration of which I am less than fond. I even feel that, though I don't believe Social Security was constitutionally appropriate when FDR ramrodded it through Congress, we shouldn't be trying now to "fix" it by monkeying with it the way Bush proposes. I guess that makes me atypical, but "typical" isn't what I strive for.

As a so-called "Christian conservative," it is my personal tenets which drive my political choices and not a need to see one party or the other "in power." Those tenets have far greater control over who I am and how I live than any government ever could. In fact, if the man (or woman) in the Oval Office is honorable and sticks to his/her constitutional limits, I could care less whether they be Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or worse.

Do I have my own social agenda? Certainly. Will I fight against those issues that Bill wishes I'd leave alone? You bet. Am I doing it to spite Bill and his fellow mods?

No, sir. I am not.

I despise Roe v. Wade not so much because it made abortion legal, but because it made abortion the thing to do when a mistake is made. Society suddenly, seemingly overnight, turned abortion from a whispered, emotionally and physically torturous procedure to a nearly casual afterthought - as if destroying a young life is no big deal. That's what I wish had never happened. As a Christian, I've been taught that all life is sacred, and that we take life only in defense of our safety, or to fulfill the requirements of justice where warranted. Most abortions satisfy neither parameter.

Gay marriage is, by all spiritual measures, denied by the heavens. Of course, politics long ago removed itself from spiritual boundaries by creating a wall between the state and God that the founders - especially Thomas Jefferson - never intended to impose. Jefferson himself would never have supported legalization of gay marriage in this country. But, more to the point for those of us on the right, it flies in the face of everything we have learned through centuries of study of God's laws. The eternal ones, not the woefully inadequate human ones imposed by legislators. That's why we oppose gay marriage.

Does that mean that I abandon the party if it suddenly supports these things? Not necessarily. As it usually happens in any election, it boils down to choosing the lesser among evils. Sad, but generally true. You can legalize abortion, gay marriage, insider trading, or any number of things. I will, of course, vote against them every time they come to a vote. But should society prevail and impose these things on me, I can still choose not to participate. This is the beauty of life in this country. I can not only not participate, but I can teach my future generations not to support them, either. Making a thing legal does not make it compulsory by any means. (Should compulsory language be introduced, I would, of course, immediately spearhead a recall of the idiots that introduced it!) So far, the First Amendment protects me in my desire to speak out (and teach) against these and other issues.

So, Bill, you have little to fear, at least from this particular right-winger. I won't flail against your opinions. We can agree to disagree.

On some things, anyway.