Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Coming Down the Mountain!

Coming Down the Mountain!, originally uploaded by mightymerk.

Ski Time Folks!

I will resume posting the first week in February.

My best to you and yours.

Posted by mightymerk, 8:44 PM | link | (3) comments |

Monday, January 16, 2006

Vermont Rape Case and the Safety of Americans - The issue that is never a cause.

Bill O'Reilly takes a lot of abuse. He is "arrogant", he is a "bully", he is a "conservative". The usual charges.
Hundreds if not thousands of blogs and main stream media outlets had a field day with the David Letterman'debate' with O'Reilly during a recent airing of his show.
I have even had my own beefs with O'Reilly from time to time (read here).

The field day that regular folks like you as well as other 'concerned' citizens have with every failing and falling of the rich and powerful is somewhat understandable. The fixation some have is downright disturbing. We all like to see the proverbial "train reck" but we also have to balance out our personal interest with the topics and stories that truly impact our lives.

While many of us are still chuckling over the Letterman/O'Reilly 'debate', Bill has been busy discussing another more important story. The story revolves around the sentencing of a 34 year old man to a 60 day prison term for the alleged rape of a 6 year old girl for 4 years. Yes 4 years!

The 'thinking' behind Judge Edward Cashman's sentence is that the quicker Mark Hulett can get 'through' the system, the quicker he can go through 'rehabilitation'.

A quote from the judge (source):

My heart goes out to this family. And I would hate to be in the situation this family is in, but there's other families out there. And there's other people who could be victimized. And I'm trying to take the long view.

Heartwarming to the last, judge.

I know that Vermont, the land of maple syrup and the moose, is a liberal state but this borders on absolute insanity. All the considerations are being made for the criminal(who admitted to the crime) but is justice even being served to the little girl? Does this punishment (not to be confused with the rehabilitation part) really fit the crime?

Because this lacks all the traditional intreague of the usual "George Bush Good, Rest of World Bad", "Democrats Bad, Republicans Good" or even the "Rich Liberal Media Guy Badmouths Rich Conservative Media Guy" story lines this may pass a lot of us by, and that is unfortunate.

Bill has been careful not to make this a political debate either calling both Democrats and Republican leaders in Vermont to the floor by openly criticizing the likes of Republican Governor Jim Douglas:

As for Governor Jim Douglas, a Republican, he's dodging our calls. He's MIA. So we now must send the governor a message as well.

The new poll question is, "If Judge Cashman is not removed from the criminal court, will you boycott Vermont?" [I'll say it again] If Judge Cashman is not removed from the criminal court, will you, the American public, boycott Vermont? Yes or no?

...and Democrat House Speaker Gaye Symington:

Well, Ms. Symington, let me be clear. That's bull. You, madam, are clueless. It is the job of the legislature to make laws and see that they are upheld. Cashman's actions are a direct violation of the little girl's constitutional protection that the punishment fit the crime.

Cashman's incompetent. And the Vermont legislature has the power to remove him. Clear?

In my opinion we should give credit where credit is due. Bill has at least taken some time to give some air time to a very disturbing story that might otherwise might not have been noticed. I hope you take some time to review it.

And unless you are convinced this is part of the 60% crap that Letterman was talking about, take some action too. Writge the Vermon governor here.

We all have our causes but how often is yours about something as important as this?

Update: Appropriately so, many are asking where organizations like the National Organization for Women (NOW) and other Civil Rights Groups stand on this issue.
Posted by mightymerk, 5:19 PM | link | (2) comments |

Friday, January 06, 2006

Smoking Bans - A good or bad thing? (from a non-smoker)

Smoking Ban in New Jersey, originally uploaded by mightymerk.

The big story in New Jersey, at least for the time being, is the proposed ban on smoking in public bars and restaurants. On Monday, Junuary 9th the New Jersey Assembly Committee will take a vote whether to pass the "Smoke Free Air Act". If the smoking ban is approved Acting Governor Codey is expected to sign it into law.

My first introduction to such a ban was when New York passed such a law. It was pretty strange to go from bar to bar, and restaurant to restaurant without seeing at least a few people puffing away. At the same time it was refreshing to come home and not smell. All in all one part strange, one part neat.

My next experience was in Dublin, Ireland. They have a law very similar to that of New York, but the main difference being that the outdoor smokers could also bring their pint with them outside to drink. One part strange, one part neat, one part downright cool. Interesting enough one of the bars in Dublin (the famed Temple Bar i think) came up with an interesting way to 'beat' the system. They cut a large sqare hole in their roof at the center of the floor. Many patrons would stand in the center smoking blowing the smoke straight up.

In the past few years smoking bans (proposed and otherwise) have become more and more common. New Jersey is set to become the 17 State to enact some form of smoking ban. All indications are that this will be approved, though no timeline of actual enforcement has been discuseed (at least that I could find at the time of this blog entry).

As someone who has never smoked a cigarette in their life I should be pleased, right? Well, it is not that simple.

The selfish part of me is ecstatic. I can now go anywhere at anytime and not have to endure the second hand smoke, the accidental brushing up against someone's lit cigarette and the stinky aftermath of spending a night at the local pub. Furthermore I can no take my kids to my favorite pub without having to expose them to all of the above. Both my parents smoked when I grew up. Though I make no claims of any medical harm inflicted on me, I can tell you that now that I have a smoke-free household of my own it is very refreshing.

I also breathe (pun intented) a sigh of relief for those I know that work in settings (bars, restaurants etc.)where heavy smoking is common place but do not smoke themselves, and/or are bothered by the second hand smoke.

Unfortunately my brain/head/concious doesn't accept things (even those that immediately benefit me) too easily.

Things about the smoking ban that bother me:

* The very fact that people's behavior, within the confines of a public and completely voluntary setting, is being further regulated.

* Why is the government telling a bar owner, who took all the investment risks and pays all of the taxes, what can or can not take place with regards to a legal substance being used by persons of age?

* Why is the government allowed to regulate the behavior of a patron, consuming a legal substance in a voluntary environment (read a pub and not something like school or work)?

* If smoking is being regulated what is next? Are our individual choices and personal freedoms being further reduced? Haven't we seen something like this before? In the past there were another set of folks that went after tobacco use pretty hard core.

Perhaps I am going a little far with the examples I used above about this. Still it is worth asking just how quickly could develop and be taken further. For example, in West Orange ,New Jersey, they are already thinking about banning smoking while driving.

In the wake of successes with local smoking bans, Mayor and Assemblyman McKeon attempted to raise awareness for distracted driving and introduced an Assembly bill that would make smoking while driving a secondary offense.

So what does all of this mean? I am not sure.

It is hard for me to believe that smoking is a healthy habit. Something that is able to remain stuck in the fabric of your clothes, or your car for days can not be all that great for your lungs. Then again people are allowed to do all kinds of destructive things to themselves such as drinking, eating poorly, having poor hygiene etc.

Of course smoking is a voluntary thing, but what about second hand smoke? Then again if the state and the health committee's are so concerned about this why allow Casino's to continue to have smoking and put the burden all on the local mom & pop? Why not ban smoking entirely?

While reading several articles and watching the TV news I was encouraged by several figures. Only about 19% of adults in New Jersey smoke. That trend is way down. I only look back to when I grew up and remember my parents, all of their family and all of their friends smoking all day and night long. Almost no exceptions. Currently I only have one close friend who smokes and my office of 100+ people only has one smoker in the bunch. Pretty amazing really.
It was also nice to see that a full 67 percent of New Jersey restaurants are already smoke-free. Showing that business owners, through the pressure of the market are quite able and willing to make the changes on their own.

I have no doubt that the bill will pass and I will be able to enjoy my food and beer in smoke-free environments everywhere. And for me, the selfish me, that is a very good thing. I just hope that there will never be a day when they come for my bacon cheeseburger.

Posted by mightymerk, 7:38 AM | link | (0) comments |