Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Texans Flip-Flop on Federal Aid

A few days ago, around the same time as the Boston Marathon bombings and manhunt for the suspects, a fertilizer plant exploded killing 35-40 people with 60 missing. I didn’t pay much attention to that incident as the media coverage of Boston was pretty much all that was being reported. However, once the second suspect was picked up, the events in Texas came to my attention.

The politicians representing Texas are seeking Federal aid for their disaster, because the situation is dire. The explosion all but leveled the town of West, Texas. As with any other disaster, I find myself sympathetic to their cause out of compassion for all the innocent victims. However, I also find myself ticked off. The same people, namely Senator Ted Cruz and Rep. Bill Flores, and others in this Republican state, who are asking for Federal money for their own state’s disaster, voted against the Sandy Aid package. It’s amazing to me how quickly some flip flop on issues when an issue hits home. It reminds me of the blog I did on Rob Portman, who changed his tune on gay marriage after his son came out to him as being gay. Or another blog mentioning Connecticut republican, James Winkler, who was outspokenly against government handouts until his home was devastated by Sandy, then he was willing to accept government aid “just this one time.” How nice of him? By the way, I read Texas has had 75 disasters since 2009 and has been asking for Federal ad for all of them. Sandy happened six months ago and people are still waiting to get help.

I don’t get it. Either you are for something or against it. You can’t take one position and fight to the death for it, and then change your mind when it doesn’t suit your own circumstances down the road. That’s why we are supposed to have compassion and empathy for others. We are supposed to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and imagine how it must feel to lose everything you own through no fault of your own. That’s why the government has programs in place for disaster relief. One minute you want to do away with these programs and let people figure out how to help themselves, the next minute you are requesting aid for yourself or your political constituents when the need arises there? Does this seem fair? How does one justify this flip-flopping to themselves to make it sound okay?  To me it sounds very hypocritical.

Unfortunately, we seem to be facing more and more natural disasters of one kind or another.  I don’t know exactly why weather patterns are changing and becoming more severe. It may have to do with more carbon dioxide and destroying the ozone layer and other man-made causes. What I do know from experience is each year we seem to be facing bigger and more damaging storms. New disasters are inevitable. People are gong to need help. If you are a lawmaker who plans to take advantage of Federal Aid for your state, then maybe you shouldn’t vote against aid for another state’s devastation?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Jodi Arias Trial Stress Me Out!

Why am I watching this trial day after day when it stresses me out? I have no idea. The woman is clearly guilty. She shot Travis, her ex-boyfriend, twice in the head and stabbed him 29 times, claiming self-defense. How she managed to get her hands on a gun and knife has yet to be ascertained. I’ve blogged the details of the case before, but now I want to talk about the witnesses that are driving me up a wall.

First, there were days of testimony from psychologist, Dr. Samuels, who gets paid $250 per hour. He spent untold hours with Jodi Arias, performing his “evaluation” in addition to numerous tests. His conclusion? She has post traumatic shock syndrome from killing Travis in self-defense. Now, he came up with all kinds of ways to use the information he obtained from his interviews and tests to make Jodi “fit” the criteria for post traumatic stress. He was even so careless (at $250 an hour) to leave a few criteria out of his report and then “fudge” them back in during his testimony on the witness stand. He called those “typos,” I call them careless omissions of material information. I wasn’t buying what he was selling. First of all even though the guy has years upon years of experience as a psychologist, his primary focus has been as a sex therapist. Jodi is not in need of a sex therapist. I still don’t understand why a sex therapist is testifying and evaluating Jodi Arias? Maybe I missed something? Maybe he was the only psychologist who would concoct an evaluation to help her defense? In any case, the post traumatic shock diagnosis is important because it is being used to explain the four to five house “blackout” period she had that began at the point she did all the stabbing. Apparently, the memory stops encoding information when you are going through a trauma…just more mumbo jumbo I am not buying in this case.

The second defense expert is Alyce Laviolette. She is another psychologist who is an expert in battered women. She is there to suggest that in her evaluation of Jodi, she feels Jodi is a battered woman subject to abuse by Travis. This testimony is to bolster her claim of self defense, which no one is buying. Her testimony went on for days. She interview Jodi for many, many hours, as did Samuels, far more than more people are interviewed for evaluations. What I found disturbing about her testimony is that she drew conclusions and claimed to know the operation of Jodi’s mind, and poor Travis’ mind, just from the written word from journals and texts and emails. She turned minor incidents into controlling behavior to make a case for Jodi. I could barely stand to listen to her drone on and on ad nauseam. Her testimony was purely subjective to me. You can tell the jurors weren’t happy either because they had tons of questions for both Alyce and Samuels, to clarify points and question their conclusions.

All the while, at least two to three weeks of testimony from these experts, Jodi sits in the courtroom drawing in her book, with a smug look on her face, She laughs and chats with her attorney. She hasn’t a care in the world besides selling her artwork online AND sending out tweets on Twitter via a third party, who opened up an account in her name, so she could make comments about the trial and prosecutor. The judge has a gag order on everyone in the case, including Jodi, because she is a witness and testified, but once again Jodi must consider herself above the law. The judge says it’s up to the sheriff’s office to monitor her tweets. Oh well. The defense rests.

Yesterday the prosecution brings on one expert witness, Dr. Janeen DeMarte, a psychologist. She is there to rebut the testimony of the defense witnesses. Already, from the start, she is far more interesting to listen to. Thank God. She talks about maintaining objectivity in performing evaluations and that it could be compromised when an evaluator spends an extraordinarily long time in the process, as did Alyce and Dr. Samuels. She says the typical time would be anywhere from an hour to four hours and maybe up to twelve, not the forty-four hours they say they spent talking to Jodi. She disagrees with the diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder, saying Jodi’s behavior doesn’t indicate she was suffering from that at all. Instead, Dr. DeMarte says she would diagnosis Jodi with Borderline Personality Disorder. She also testified that the story Jodi told her varied greatly from the one she told Dr. Samuels and had a lot less memory of the events, even though Dr. DeMarte interviewed her AFTER she was interviewed by Dr. Samuels. So her memory was decreasing over time, not increasing, as in normal cases of trauma. I just think Jodi was being more open with the experts trying to help her case and withholding information from the prosecution’s expert. What does that show? She is still lying, manipulating and calculating. However, the prosecution witness has access to the reports written by Alyce and Samuels to compare with her own. During cross examination, the defense tried to show that Dr. DeMarte is young and has little professional experience compared to their witnesses and tried to devalue her testimony with the jurors. However, Dr. DeMarte came across as very credible, articulate and did not hesitate to answer any questions directed at her, unlike Alyce and Samuels. I think the jurors appreciated her testimony and no questions were placed in the basket for her to clarify anything she said.

I’ll be interested to see what else Dr. DeMarte has to say today, after a good night’s sleep. I hope she has some snappy comebacks for that defense attorney, who happens to be very young herself. Does that make her an inexperienced attorney and less competent? I wish she would ask her that, just for the hell of it!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Marathon Bombings…

Who committed this act of “terrorism?” Why did they do it? What did they hope to accomplish? So many questions and too early for answers. We may never have the answers. We can only hope that whoever is responsible is apprehended and punished to the fullest extent of the law. But is that even enough?

Two bombs were placed on sidewalks, about 100 yards apart, where spectators were standing and watching the race. Three people were killed yesterday, including an 8 year old boy, who was there with his mother and sister (also injured), waiting for his father to finish the race. Over 140 people are now reported to be injured, some with minor injuries of cuts and scrapes, others with limbs amputated. Investigators are trying to find clues in the debris to point them to these “terrorists.” I call them terrorists because no other word fits. I call them terrorists because apart from the loss of life and injury they caused yesterday, they also left the people of Boston with fear and anxiety. Many will suffer post traumatic shock. It’s not over and it won’t be over, even when they find who is responsible. And I pray to God they do, because if they don’t, they are free to do it again in Boston or elsewhere.

And what makes this even more horrific than it already is, is that this marathon was dedicated to honor the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School and some of the victims relatives were in the VIP seats near where the bombs went off. Thankfully, none of them were hurt. The race is 26 miles long and each mile was dedicated to one of the 26 victims of Newtown, by a Connecticut group of runners. The 26 mile marker had the Newtown city seal surrounded by 26 stars. Now these poor people have another tragedy to add to the one they experienced just a few short months ago. What should have been something to help them heal, has just caused more pain.

As I watched the news, they spoke of how security measures had been taken in preparation for the race. Dogs were used to detect any explosive devices in the area. However, maybe the bombs were placed there during the race? They exploded about four hours into the race and the area was quite crowded. The FBI is going over all video footage for clues. In the meantime, security is being heightened in many big cities in the United States and around the world. No one is safe any more. Yet, we can’t live in fear and let terrorists win.

I’m not sure I know how to do that. Even when they catch these people, there will always be others plotting attacks. We don’t know where, we don’t know when. I would have never imagined that yesterday’s attack would have happened. I am still shocked when I hear of a college campus shooting. And, even though I saw the Twin Towers come down into a pile of dust and leave a gaping hole in our skyline, I still find the event surreal after all these years. It’s incomprehensible to me that human beings could have so little value for human life. I think there has to be a special place in hell for evil people like this. They don’t have a conscience, they can’t have a soul. There is no punishment on earth severe enough to bring justice for their victims and families. Where and when does the violence end? It just seems to get worse every day.

Monday, April 15, 2013

How's The Moving Going?

A little over nine months ago my husband took early retirement, my younger daughter graduated college and found a  job and my older daughter changed jobs to one in her field. This was the moment I had been waiting for to finally try to sell our home and move. We have lived here for 25 years and raised our girls in this home. It has been very good to us over the years, but now I want to make one last move to a less congested and quieter neighborhood. We tried selling and looking last summer, but got nowhere and decided to take some time over the holidays to regroup and start over again. This past January we placed the house on MLS and priced it to sell. Many people came to look at it and one finally made an offer that we accepted. Now what?

This week we are supposed to sign the contracts being prepared by our attorneys. I saw two houses I liked, but nothing came of it. We made on offer on the first one and were told they accepted someone else’s and we are “backups.” I don’t feel consoled by that at all. The next house I only saw online. It was in move in conditioned and suited to my taste. I contacted my realtor when he got back from his week’s vacation and told him I really want to see it. Two days later he said someone made an offer they accepted and they aren’t showing it any more. Great! The area I am looking in, which is not far from here, has about ten to twelve houses on the market. I check online every day for new listings. The prices ranges from over one million to in the mid 300’s. We are just looking at the ones mid-range, but you can see there are just a couple of homes in each price range at the moment.  Keep hoping more homes will come on to the market.

By the end of this week, the contract should be signed, we will be out seeing the homes that are still available. I hate to get discouraged too soon. I am still hoping to find a nice home where I want it, the way I want it. I am not in the mood to remodel a whole house and really hope I don’t have to.

So it’s a house hunting we will go! I’m glad it’s happening finally. The wheels are in motion and the weather is starting to cooperate. Wish me luck! Meanwhile, I need to go through every room and throw out what I don’t want and pack what we aren’t using. I can’t wait until the day we are all settled in a new home.

P.S. Since I haven’t posted this blog yet I will add to it. Saturday we went to see two homes priced higher that I wanted to go. One was being offered at $645,000 and the other at $749,000. The one for $645 looked gorgeous in the pictures, but had two major drawbacks, no garage and no basement. I had to consider how that would affect my ability to resell it years from now. However, when I went to see it, the pictures were much better than the reality. What appeared to be spacious and move in condition, was actually small and needed some work. Add that to the missing garage and basement and the house was way over priced. I was told that they refused an offer of $600,000, which I still feel is too high. Just for the hell of it, because there are so few houses in my area, we went to see a home priced at $749,000. You would expect it to be in pristine condition for that kind of money? I did. But as we waited outside for the realtor (who hadn’t seen the house yet), I couldn’t help but notice the bricks on the steps were lose and worn and the white handrails were quite rusty. I am already having a small fit. Who asks for ¾ of a million dollars for a home and the first thing you see is a mess? Around the corner from the house, one side of the street is dug up for replacement of water pipes. I know from experience, that when that kind of work is done, it not only takes a very long time, but rats come out of the open holes. I actually saw a rat near my park when they were doing work on those streets. Again, I was no happy. We waited there about 15 minutes. I don’t know what took my Realtor so long to get there, he says he couldn’t find parking. Maybe that’s because of the street work? The house is only one block away from a very busy boulevard, not my ideal location. Now we go into the house and are asked to take our shoes off…something about new carpet. I almost can’t tell you anything at all about the inside. The owner says it has five bedrooms, one in the basement, two on the first floor and two on the second floor. The yard was a mess, broken concrete and dead grass. Honestly, I hated it all. If he dropped the price to $600,000 I wouldn’t even make an offer. It’s disgusting how high the prices are and how little you get for that money. Unfortunately for me, this is the area I know and am comfortable in and most important, this is where my family lives. I have to hope something comes along soon that makes me happy.

If you have a minute, say a little prayer for me.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Four Year Old Kills Six Year Old…

I am sickened by this story, which happened a few days ago, in Toms Rover New Jersey. Two little boys were outside playing. They were playing a shooting game and the four year old had a loaded rifle that was maybe just laying around, where it shouldn’t have been, in his home. The next thing you know, the six year old was shot in the head, rushed to the hospital and died. Another senseless shooting. Another child dead. Where does it end?

I’m sure the parents of the six year old never expected to bury their young son because of a fatal shooting in their own backyard. It’s incomprehensible even to me, as I read and listen to news reports. How does a four year old get his hands on a loaded rifle? Obviously, his parents, the owners of the gun, didn’t bother to lock it up or take other safety measures, like not having it loaded or maybe have the safety latch locked?  Now a child is dead, but it’s not their child, it’s a neighbor’s child. Two families will now and forever pay the price for someone’s gross negligence and lack of responsibility. Who is to blame? And how will they be punished?

In my opinion, like in the case of Adam Lanza, I blame the gun owners. People want the right to own guns, they demand it, it’s in the Constitution. But some people, who make the choice to buy and own guns, do not take the proper precautions and then tragedies like this one and so many others, happen. And what consequences will the four year old’s parents face? Will it be a slap on the wrist for simply failing to lock up their weapons or a more serious consequence? A six year old child is dead because they failed to do the right thing, but at least their Constitutional rights are still in tact.

Tragedies like these are the reason why I believe that gun owners should be held accountable for the crimes and killings committed with their guns, especially in cases where they fail to follow safety rules. It’s not just a matter of critically screening those who purchases guns. Every aspect of gun ownership has to be looked at. We have to prevent those who can purchase guns from buying them for someone else who would not pass the screening. Every gun purchased should be registered and the owner responsible for it’s use. Why aren’t all gun owners made to take classes in gun safety? Why are they allowed to get a license without having to demonstrate that they have to skill and experience necessary to use that weapon. The military doesn’t just hand soldiers guns, they vigorously train them in how to use them. Maybe we should adopt some military training standards for civilians?

People keep comparing gun “accidents” to car accidents, I don’t agree. Drivers are tested before being granted a license. There are laws and rules they must know before hand. There must demonstrate that they can safely operate a motor vehicle. Cars are used much more frequently than guns. Car accidents are going to happen more often. But cars are not created for the purpose of killing or harming anyone. Car accidents are covered by insurance. Why don’t gun owners have to have insurance in the event a gun misfires?  However, I will agree that, when it comes to driving under the influence, I do believe penalties should be much stiffer for drivers, even when no one gets hurt. They are often repeat offenders and will do it again if they just get a slap on the wrist.

Another story was reported the same week of another four year old shooting and killing a deputy sheriff’s wife. The deputy was showing off his prize gun collection when the child picked one up and fired it, accidentally killing the woman . Again, the gun was loaded and accessible to a child, and this was in the home of a law enforcement official. You would think that he would have been more responsible, but no.

I think the responsible thing for those who demand their Constitutional right to bare arms be protected is to start demanding all gun owners follow all safety rules and regulations and strict punishments for those who fail to follow them. I think they should insist on thorough background checks. I think they should demand all guns be made with high quality safety locks. I think they should demand stricter gun control laws. I think they should do everything within their power to ensure that the lives of the rest of us, those of us who choose not to own guns, are protected and safe from irresponsible gun owners. How about that? Instead of fighting to keep military assault weapons legal, how about some of that energy goes towards policing us from negligent gun owners?

How many guns is one child’s life worth? It just takes one gun, with one bullet, in one irresponsible gun owner’s home, falling into the wrong hands and a six year old is dead. Something to think about?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mike Rice, Rutgers' Abusive Coach, Fired...

Rutgers University finally fired head basketball coach, Mike Rice, today after pressure from various sources, including Governor Chris Christie. Several instances of verbal and physical abuse, perpetrated by Coach Rice on different players, were video taped and went viral on the internet. The publicity generated from these videos forced Rutgers to take a firmer stand. The initial punishment was a mere three game suspension and $75,000 fine. The Athletic Director, Tim Pernetti, felt that Coach Rice could be “rehabilitated” and these acts were the exception, not the rule. Just great!

Now, aside from the fact that he kicked and also hit players in close range, with basketballs, while screaming at the top of his lungs, Coach Rice also seems to use anti-gay slur words such as, “You f**king fairy ... you're a f**king fa**ot.” The videos from practices held between 2010 and 2012 are very disturbing, but not enough for Rutgers to fire the coach back in December. Instead they chose to downplay the incidents and give the coach a slap on the wrist. However, the bad publicity from all the media attention from the videos being released yesterday has caused them to rethink their decision. I wonder why? The tuition at Rutgers, a state university, varies from approximately $13,000 to $38,000 per year depending on students status. There is a lot of competition out there and all colleges try hard to recruit and entice students to attend. As a parent, I wouldn’t want to pay that kind of money for my child to be abused in any manor. In fact, I don’t want to send my child to any school that condones an instructor or coach or any employee abusing it’s students. Add to that the fact that he used anti-gay slurs at a time when those in positions like his should set an example and promote tolerance and acceptance of others. You would think that, after cases like freshman Tyler Clementi, who attended Rutgers and committed suicide, someone would have conducted sensitivity training for all staff and students, not sweep incidents like these under the rug.

Pernetti, the person claiming responsibility for taking immediate action, dropped the ball by not firing Rice immediately. Now he is in trouble and trying to justify his decision, while the university has been placed in an embarrassing position. An investigation will probably ensue because the president of Rutgers claims he only saw the video yesterday, while Pernietti says the president saw it back in December. If that is the case, many people may be implicated in, what seems to me, to be a cover-up of Rice’s behavior.

So, as I am typing and expressing my anger over this story to my husband, in a very animated way, he nods, acknowledging he knows all about the story. Then he adds, that what he doesn’t understand is why they were so quick to keep Rice on staff because the team isn’t doing well and there is no evidence he is even a good coach. There went my theory that they didn’t want to lose a winning coach.

Now what? We have the Tyler Clementi tragedy, where a gay student was humiliated into committing suicide and a head basketball coach who recklessly abused students and used anti-gay slurs at his players, not knowing or caring if any of them are gay. It leads me to believe that maybe an anti-gay atmosphere, or at least intolerance, may be pervasive on the Rutgers campus. I don’t know why an investigation wouldn’t be done. All the parents should demand one.

P.S. As I listened to the news this morning, guess what I heard?  A very interesting development that backs up my thoughts on the matter. Thirteen professors at Rutgers are demanding that the president, Robert Barchi, step down from his position. They say he knew all about the abuse and anti-gay slurs and did nothing. They allege he promotes an atmosphere of intolerance and took too long to fire Rice. I think we are just scraping the icing off the cake with this story.