Been There, Done That

commentary on many different thoughts

Month: January, 2015


scan0003We survived first competition of the season.  Respectably.  Not gloriously.  When you consider that there were 38 couples in our scholarship (they ran elimination rounds before the quarter-final), the fact that we got recall votes at all was pretty impressive.  We were dancing American Smooth (which is not my strong suit anyway).

Individual dances had semi-finals.  We made finals in waltz (impressive for me, since I’ve always had trouble with the musicality of that dance in Smooth).  Narrowly missed the cuts in tango and foxtrot.

Anyway, teacher reasonably pleased with my progress.  And our motto is “when teacher is happy, is everyone happy!”

Teacher deserves a medal for putting up with me.

Je Suis Charlie

In case this phrase hasn’t had much air time in the last couple of days, just to refresh.

Freedom of expression is one of the fundamental rights of humanity.  To quote Voltaire (as quoted by Daniel Webster):

“I disagree with what you say, sir, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

There is a marked difference between the right to say something, and the good manners (or good taste) to keep one’s mouth shut.  There is a difference between being able to publish really nasty satirical drawings and the good manners to refrain from doing so. The periodical Charlie Hebdo was small-circulation and specialized in stretching the bounds of good manners and good taste to the breaking point and beyond.  That was their right and privilege.  Anyone whom their pieces offended had the right not to purchase the periodical.

Before last week, almost no-one outside the fringe element in France had ever heard of Charlie Hebdo. Charlie Hebdo has now quintupled its circulation and rivals some of the more mainstream periodicals.

My sympathy and sorrow are for the victims of this senseless act.

What in the name of ….?

Another juicy tidbit:

A mother is being charged with murder of 3 of her 5 kids in a house fire and is furious because the judge is refusing to let her see the two children left alive.  According to the media (I have not seen court papers), the mother left kids ranging from 2 to 9 years old alone in the house while she was out.  Neighbors are quoted as saying that the house had no electricity or running water, that the kids often came around to the neighbors begging for food, and that the kids were burning leaves in a pan to keep warm.  The mother was variously described as hanging out with friends in restaurants, trying to better herself by “taking classes to prepare herself for a job in income-tax preparation” (quoting the mother of the defendant) and missing her kids.

According to police, the woman told them that she was working handing out flyers for a tax-prep service (at 11 o’clock pm, yeah right) when the house went up in flames.

The mother of the defendant “contends that her daughter struggled financially with little child support from any of the three men who fathered the children“.

This is where you lose me.  Yes, it’s horrible that the children died.  The surviving ones do not need to be around someone like that.  Agree with the judge.

Duke U’s Belfry

This morning’s paper carries a short piece noting that Duke University has backed down under pressure.  The issue?  Use of the campus chapel’s bell tower for the daily Muslim call to prayer.  Billy Graham’s son is on record as saying “It’s wrong [to use the bell tower for the “adnah” (I believe that’s how it’s spelt)] because it’s a different god. Using the bell tower, that signifies worship of Jesus Christ.  Using it as a minaret is wrong.” (quoted in the Charlotte Observer)

According to the article, the call was to be at reasonable volume and short.  Additionally, the chapel is used not only for Christian services, but also hosts services for Buddhist, Hindu and other beliefs.

Duke is by reputation one of the pre-eminent academic institutions in the South.  (Yes, U of Kentucky will beat them again in basketball, but otherwise the laurels go to Duke).  As an academic heavyweight, why on earth does the establishment cater to the lunatic fringe of the right wing?

Anyone who knows anything about this whole issue is welcome to comment!


Speaking of “entrapment” (see yesterday’s post in passing):  in law school, we learned that entrapment happens when the individual is set up into a situation where he or she has no options.  One example was planting drugs on an individual.  When an individual has multiple options for action or inaction, even though the set-up is alluring, this is not entrapment.

Case in point:  Marion Barry back in the 80s.  Marion Barry was a demagogue mayor of DC, playing his politics in the Tammany Hall/Chicago style.  He was arrested, convicted and jailed for possession and distribution of cocaine, and claimed that he was entrapped by the Feds.  Not so.  He was lured into a hotel room by a “professional” woman and offered drugs.  The “professional” was working with the agency in exchange for a deal on her own issues.  She wore a wire and the room had surveillance tapes.  Barry (supposedly “happily married” at the time – his own words) accepted the offer of a tryst and accepted the drugs – all caught on tape.

Barry claimed entrapment.  Not so.  No one forced him to take the woman up on her offer of a tryst.  No one forced drugs into his hands (or dragged the money out of his pockets).  This is a sting, not entrapment.  Yes, it can get shady, but if done properly is quite admissible.

My point being: in yesterday’s post I mentioned a father who claimed that his son was set up by an FBI informant.  If the kid hadn’t been already doing the acts which upset the FBI, and continued to do those acts after he met the informant, (like buying assault rifles and much ammunition) there would have been no reason to arrest him.


There has been much coverage in the media recently about the young man who was arrested in Ohio after he bought two assault rifles and 600 rounds of ammunition.  We will not go into the quasi-religious or any other motivation.  What I noted in the article in today’s paper was the comments made by the individual’s father during an interview.

This ties into complaints that several of my friends who are teachers have made recently: parents in denial over the behavior of a child.   My teacher friends say that the parents refuse to acknowledge that their kid might be at fault.  No, never, not my darling.  It has to be the fault of the teacher;  or the principal; or the school system.  Never, ever could their darling be culpable (not doing homework, failing a test, skipping school).  Long, long ago in the dark ages when I was in school, if a teacher called home to complain about a child’s behavior, the kid not only got in trouble at school, but there was worse waiting at home.  Nowadays, the parent will sympathize with the poor mistreated and misunderstood kid against the nasty teacher.

Anyway, the point being:  the article this morning quoted the father as saying the arrested individual “was a ‘mommy’s boy’ taken in by a ‘snitch’ who was trying to help himself.” Give me a break.  At no point did anyone force the kid to buy assault rifles.  At no point did anyone force him to post threatening info on social media.  The FBI informant who turned in the kid may have been trying to make a deal for himself, but no-one “entrapped” the kid into anything.  Says something about the parent.

New Recommendation

If you haven’t seen this one or it’s been a while, check out Neil Simon’s “Murder By Death”.  It was on Turner Classic Movies the other night and I’m still giggling.  Made around 1976 (give or take a year) and all-star cast.  They include Peter Sellers, Maggie Smith (stunning), Peter Falk, Alec Guinness (yes, Obi-Wan himself), a bunch of others that I can’t remember, Nancy Walker in one of her best ever, and Truman Capote in person.

Spoof to end spoofs, and pokes fun at everybody.  And the plot twist at the end has to be seen to be believed.  If you’re up for light (very light) but good (very good) entertainment, this is the film. And it’s available on Netflix.

May I Recommend?

If you have never seen “Twelve Angry Men” with Henry Fonda and a brilliant supporting cast, by all means do.  It’s available on Netflix and well worth it.

Single setting, in the jury room of a court.  It’s a murder trial and it’s a downright fascinating character study, and Fonda is outstanding.   Lee J. Cobb, Jack Klugman and Ed Begley  do remarkable jobs.

Highly recommended.

Missing the Point

There’s currently a huge brouhaha here in Atlanta on the subject of the firing of the fire chief by our mayor.

Asides:  our mayor is a demagogue in the style of Marion Barry (as a former DC resident I remember Barry with loathing).  The fire chief had and has his own set of problems.

Anyway, the kerfuffle is about the mayor firing the fire chief over the publication of a book.  The book is entitled “Who Told You that You Were Naked”.

The press is making hay over the “religious liberties” issue – the book comes down heavily against same-sex anything, as well as any form of “unrighteous behavior” (as defined by the author).  The religious right here in Georgia is claiming that the mayor fired the fire chief in violation of his (the chief’s) right of free speech.  (Curiously a propos to the current REAL free speech crisis).

The press is misleading the public, and the public is completely missing the point:  the fire chief was not fired because he published the book;  he was fired (1) because he published the book without permission;  and (2) that he required his subordinates to purchase and read the book.  This is not a religious-liberties issue;  this is a question of judgment, and anyone stupid enough in this day and age to promote (and mandate) a self-published work in the workplace has questionable judgment and should not be in charge of a major public service.  For the first time in his term of office, I actually agree with an action the mayor is taking.


And a parting shot of a charming island tradition