Perry Indictment Not Thought Through

So let me see if I understand this correctly: if the Republican governor of Texas, Rick Perry, had just waved through the $7.5 million taxpayer funding for the public integrity unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s office, an office led by a convicted drunk driver with an astronomical .24% alcohol level, then Perry would not now be facing “abuse of power” felony charges.  Had Gov. Perry just put down his veto pen, and sent the money to this particular Democrat District Attorney, he would not be facing almost 100 years in state prison.  Do you see how ridiculous that sounds?

And have you seen the video of the prosecutor in question?  It would be funny if it weren’t a lead prosecutor of a very important Texas county, Travis County.  The video, which has been making the rounds on the Internet, shows District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg at different times claiming that she was not drunk, which was obviously not true, kicking her jail cell door, calling the case against her stupid, and topping it off with a kind of “do you know who I am?” routine.  That didn’t work for former United States Senator Larry Craig when he was busted for lewd sexual conduct in a men’s restroom, so why should it work for Lehmberg?  Ms. Lehmberg can even be heard mumbling “this is the end of my political career,” making at least some sense in her extreme drunken state.

But she was wrong there, too!  A local court later decided that Lehmberg was just fine to stay where she was as Travis County District Attorney, prosecuting other drunk drivers and even available to prosecute other public officials as part of the office’s public integrity unit.  From that point on, any prosecution, especially any “public integrity” prosecution, led by Ms. Lehmberg was suspect.

Here’s why: if anyone is arrested for drunk driving and is prosecuted by DA Lehmberg, a fair question to be asked would be “maybe she is being so hard on that defendant and his drunk driving because she wants to show that she has extra regret for being caught doing the same thing.”  Or “maybe she is going easy on that drunk driver because she wants to show that what she did was really no big deal.”  Or if she prosecutes a public official for some misdeed in office, “maybe she is being so harsh or lenient (take your pick) to compare that case favorably with her own case or to show that she really regrets what she did.”

See how that works?  No one is perfect, but anyone prosecuting other people for crimes or public officials for their misdeeds at least needs to be above such questions and have nothing in their background that prompts a discussion like this.  And “public integrity” prosecutions are supposed to be a serious discussion of an accused public official and whether they broke the law, not some scorecard to be compared with the prosecutor’s own personal past.

In context, Gov. Perry’s funding veto makes perfect sense.  In fact, Gov. Perry would have been irresponsible had he not vetoed the funding for Lehmberg’s office.

Let her manage $7.5 million or be indicted

“Oh, but this charge is being led by a special prosecutor, with no direct connection to the Travis County District Attorney,” the defenders of this prosecution might say.  But it is no secret that these charges were first suggested by Texans For Public Justice, a liberal Texas activist group that specifically targets Republican office-holders.  And according to the Dallas Morning News, the special prosecutor in this case, Michael McCrum, was almost appointed to be the local U.S. Attorney by President Obama.  The Travis County District Attorney’s office also has a habit of criminally prosecuting prominent Republicans: first, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, then Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and now Republican Governor Rick Perry.

Recently, the members of the grand jury that signed onto the indictment have shown their partisan colors as well.  Five members of the grand jury were shown to have been consistent Democrat voters while one member was even found out to be a Texas Democratic Party delegate while the Perry proceedings were going on.

If this prosecution ever goes to trial, it will be impossible for the trial jurors not to notice that this case is being prosecuted by a DA’s office that was denied funding by the defendant, Gov. Perry.

Even some Democrats agree that this indictment is a bad idea.  Former Obama adviser and prominent Democrat David Axelrod tweeted “unless he was demonstrably trying to scrap the ethics unit for other than his stated reason, Perry’s indictment seems pretty sketchy.”  Liberal columnist Jonathan Chait, of New York Magazine, calls the Perry indictment “unbelievably ridiculous.”

This prosecution is so bad that instead of defending it, some Democrats have invented new theories of the case.  As was reported in the blog Powerline, a Democratic party official sent out an e-mail arguing that Perry’s funding veto was in part because the Travis County DA was investigating a group with close ties to Gov. Perry.  However, a report in the newspaper Austin American-Statesman, points out that the friends of Perry in the group in question were cleared long ago.  So this argument is a total red herring.

In the end, this has a big possibility of backfiring on Democrats.  If there is a verdict of “not guilty,” it is conceivable that a similar “abuse of office” charge could be brought against the special prosecutor, which would be funny, but Gov. Perry could use the acquittal in his presidential campaign, just like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will use his recall victory in his presidential campaign.  Republican voters like candidates who fight, and a few battle scars on a candidate are appealing.

If, on the other hand, the jury somehow convicts Gov. Perry, the conviction will eventually be thrown out on appeal, as was the conviction against Republican Thomas DeLay a few years ago.  Not only that, but Republican prosecutors in other Texas counties will begin to catch on that if Texas someday has a Democratic governor, similar criminal charges could be brought against that governor.  Only a few years ago, Texas actually did have a Democrat governor, Ann Richards, and she issued a few vetoes.

It could also work out that being prosecuted for something will become a kind of rite of passage for either side: Republican governors will be criminally prosecuted by the Travis County District Attorney, while Democrat governors will be criminally prosecuted by district attorneys in any of the various Republican counties in Texas — maybe in succession!

No, this indictment against Gov. Perry was definitely not thought through.  As they say in Texas, this case is “a dog that won’t hunt.”



This column was originally published in Caffeinated Thoughts



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An Idea For A New Murder Mystery Series: PC Detective

Murder mystery shows just aren’t what they used to be.  Long gone are the days when you have a murder committed, and it is solved by a mildly-disheveled Columbo, or the eccentric French detective Poirot in Agatha Christie’s Poirot.

Poirot is Belgian, not French

Poirot is Belgian, not French

Oh that’s right, Poirot is Belgian, not French.  Sorry.  But you get the point: nowadays murder mysteries are all over the place with their detectives.  In Monk, the detective is obsessive compulsive.  Psyche has a con man as a detective, and he claims to be psychic when he is merely very observant.  Then there is CSI, in which is a murder is solved mostly by using physics and chemistry.  Bones has a detective who has Asperger Syndrome.  Sometimes Doc Martin solves mysteries in his medical practice – and he is a doctor who hates the sight of blood!

Such a growing field of sleuths deserves yet another entrant.  And here is my idea: the politically correct detective.  The idea is that political correctness, or “diversity,” or “inclusion,” or whatever you want to call it, would guide the thinking of the detective to such an extent that major turns in the plot of the show would hinge on the detective’s idea of what is right, inclusive, encouraging of diversity, whatever.

“Ridiculous,” you say?  “It will never fly!”  Have you read the news lately?  Political correctness has injected itself into many otherwise normal national conversations.  Recently, an MSNBC commentator suggested that the US should not support Israel over Hamas terrorists because a poll showed that minorities and people of color are less supportive of Israel.  And just last week, some developers of an iPhone app called “Sketchfactor” are being called racist because their app guides users out of bad neighborhoods, which might also be minority neighborhoods.  I could go on.

Political correctness is out there, and it distorts the thinking of a lot of people in many different situations.  So, in the words of Teresa Heinz Kerry, our almost-First Lady from 2004, take your thoughts of this idea being ridiculous, and “shove it!”

My PC Detective show would open with a garden variety murder.  The details really don’t matter.  Our protagonist would be a university sociology professor who is hired as a consultant by the local police to solve the crime.

A police liaison would approach the professor at the end of one of his class lectures, and the policeman would hear the final comment or two from the professor to the students.  The professor would be heard echoing some worn-out liberal platitudes (“…so this demonstrates how Tea Party members are a bunch of racists,” or “… so the findings of this latest study show conclusively that Republicans as a whole have smaller skull-size and therefore lower IQ’s”).  Then the professor dismisses the class and reminds the students to read the next week’s homework assignment.  Then the police officer meets with the professor and updates him on the facts of the murder.

Throughout the various twists and turns of the investigation, the detective/professor would find clues and either conclude that the murderer was a white male heterosexual Christian, or if any other possibilities exist, the detective would caution himself and the police against “profiling.”

At some point a lower-level police officer – maybe an intern — would stumble across some definitive clue that clearly identifies the murderer, at which point the murderer instantly confesses and specifies a motive (that also happens a lot in popular murder mysteries).  Then the professor/detective would claim full credit and begin writing an article on the case (showing the importance of publication for academia).

There would be an epilogue, just like in some of the shows of the 1950’s and 60’s, in which the professor/detective talks directly to the audience.  If the murderer is a NON-white male heterosexual Christian, the professor/detective blames racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. in society for the murder.  If, on the other hand, the murderer IS a white male heterosexual Christian, then the professor blames the murder on the inherent hateful tendencies of this group of people.  Obviously the epilogue would be tongue-in-cheek.

Although the ideas for this murder mystery series may be limited, here are some other ingredients to prolong the series:

Other protected groups: environmentalists, Prius or Volt drivers, vegetarians, vegans, union members, guilty white people, college professors, teachers, illegal immigrants, abortion providers, gay marriage supporters, and Elizabeth Warren supporters.

Other non-protected groups: Republicans, Walmart shoppers, cigarette smokers, oil company employees, stay-at-home moms, physicians, rich people, people who work on Wall Street, gun-owners, football fans, NASCAR fans, global warming skeptics, SUV drivers, abortion protesters, opponents of gay marriage, Rush Limbaugh listeners, and Sarah Palin supporters.  Let’s face it, all of these people are barely human anyway, so portraying them as vicious killers would not be a stretch.

There are several readers of my work who have written screenplays or who have had some success in show business.  Feel free to use this idea, royalty-free.  I could use a “shout out” from the writer every once in a while, but I would probably live if I get ignored.  I’m pretty sure this idea will sell in Hollywood.  So go for it!


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Persecuted Movie Review: Thanksgiving Turkey Comes Early

Back when my wife and I would often go to movies with other couples, I would tell a joke that “if I were a movie producer, what I would do is read Variety and keep track of the next blockbuster movie being made. Then I would make a similar movie, with a similar name, but extremely low budget. That way, when the blockbuster movie comes out and the ticket-buyers circle the block for it, maybe some of them will settle for my movie instead of waiting in line for the blockbuster. Or maybe some people will just get confused and go to my movie instead of the blockbuster. Either way, this plan is a sure-fire moneymaker!”

Jurassic Plaza, Insomniac In Spokane and Supraman were some names suggested. This joke usually got a few cynical laughs.

I have since retired that joke, but you would think that with the other Christian or religious-themed movies out there, this might have been what motivated the promoters of the movie Persecuted. After all, religious movies Noah, Son Of God, and Heaven Is For Real, have just recently appeared in the theaters, so one could easily confuse the movie Persecuted with being in the same genre as the others. But no.

And that is a shame, because there is so much actual Christian persecution going on in the world. Like the Christians being killed in Nigeria, Egypt and Iraq, Meriam Ibrahim and her children held in Sudan, Pastor Saeed Abedini imprisoned in Iran, and many, many others.

Or even the softer forms of Christian persecution going on everyday in the United States. For example, the Christian-run businesses like wedding cake-bakers or photographers who now must participate in gay weddings or shut down. Or the Mozilla CEO who was fired because he had supported a ballot measure, California’s Proposition 8, which passed with a majority of California voters in 2008.

Unfortunately, the movie Persecuted is a cheesy political thriller that involves a television evangelist pastor who opposes some legislation and gets framed for murder by the corrupt senator promoting the legislation. After faked photos turn up that show the drugged pastor and the girl later found murdered, the pastor goes on the run and becomes a fugitive. To clear his name, you know.

But the “persecution” for which the movie gets its name is not the widespread persecution of Christians. It refers to the persecution of an individual who happens to be Christian. Christianity is only tangentially related. The movie might have been more appropriately named “Frame-Up,” except it wouldn’t sell movie tickets to Christians like me, who want to see a movie addressing the issue of Christian persecution, and didn’t fully research the movie before putting our money down.

So the title “Persecuted” is misleading.

The movie is not even a good political frame-up movie. Loose threads abound. At one point the pastor’s wife was shown having a glass of champagne with her husband’s replacement pastor. The two of them make comments that give the impression that they were both in on the plot to frame her husband. But yet the wife looked stressed and guilty, and when her fugitive husband called her on the phone, she fills him in on the evidence against him, and advised him to lay low.

Here is an image from the movie Persecuted, showing the pastor, who is on the run from the law.  Notice the gun he is aiming at someone (!), and the rosary beads he carried, both of which drove me crazy in this movie.

Here is an image from the movie Persecuted, showing the pastor, who is on the run from the law. Notice the gun he is aiming at someone (!), and the rosary beads he carried, both of which drove me crazy in this movie.

And how did the fugitive pastor make a phone call to his wife without his cell phone being traced?

And why did the pastor, while on the run, begin carrying rosary beads? Someone should pull the movie director aside and explain to him that an evangelical pastor, like the protagonist here, would not carry rosary beads. Unless he converted to Catholicism while on the run.

And the fugitive pastor became less of a pastor and more like any other run of the mill fugitive when he carried a gun into his meetings with various players in the scheme. I’m pretty sure it is written in a pastor rule-book somewhere that you lose your moral authority as a pastor being framed when you bring a pistol to talk with someone.

And at another point in the movie the fugitive pastor calls a sympathetic priest “Dad.” Excuse me? Not “Father,” but “Dad.” “Dad” is a pretty loaded nickname to call a priest. It requires some explanation.

What about the involvement of Jesus or Scripture in this film? A couple of Bible verses, like John 14:6, were recited, but not explained or made relevant. Almost window-dressing.

And while he was on the run, the fugitive pastor prayed to God, but nothing changed as a result of the prayer. The plot didn’t change and the pastor didn’t change any of his strategy. The pastor didn’t even feel any more at peace.

What I would like to know is this: how did this movie get such a cast of respectable actors? Not Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt, mind you, but Persecuted include some experienced actors like James Remar, Dean Stockwell, and former senator Fred Thompson. I am sure each of them have had lousy scripts suggested to them before, so they probably know the difference between a good movie and a bad one.

I have a theory, and here goes: the script that got these actors on board was far from what survived the editing process. The final product may have taken four hours, but there were no loose ends and everything made sense. Who knows, maybe the fugitive pastor did convert to Catholicism while on the run, got confirmed and was handed some rosary beads. That’s possible.

And then the film’s editor went to work and shortened the movie to two hours.

And speaking of the production process, at times the sound effects in Persecuted were just too loud. It gave the movie the feeling of a Spaghetti Western from the 1970’s. I almost expected a long list of Italians in the closing credits.

In the end, Persecuted is a flop of a movie — a real turkey — either as a movie of Christian persecution or as a political thriller. Save your money and wait for the movies Exodus or Mary, which come out later this year. Or with any luck the Kendrick brothers will come out with another movie soon.


This column was originally published in Caffeinated Thoughts

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Recycling An Internet Urban Myth

Every once in a while, something comes to my attention on the Internet, and I think, “this is ridiculous.  Do people really believe this?”  Some stories are just too contrived — way too made-up to be taken seriously.  And the final outcome of the story presented is just too self-contained and, well, just neat.  Events in real life just don’t end up like that.

But sometimes a tale gets forwarded to me by e-mail or I see it on social media and the story is just so over-the-top contrived that I can’t help but to make a few changes and pass it along and see what happens.

That is what happened with the “rudeness on an airplane” story.  The story I got had to do with a racist white woman who felt put upon when her assigned seat on an airplane was next to an African-American.  I made a few changes to this, like changing the victim to an unidentified handicapped person, added to the whininess a little, and then enhanced the “comeuppance” part of it when the complaining woman has to sit next to an obese passenger, and – voila! – an Internet urban myth is born!  Then I added a random photo of an airplane stewardess that I stole from the Internet, and I have now seen this modified story of “rudeness on an airplane” come back across my own computer screen, with some minor changes, two times since I made my changes and sent it out!  This is really fun!

Below is my version of the “rudeness on an airplane” story that I sent out.  Feel free to pass it on, and include an expression of outrage and hearty approval of the karmic justice on display here.  According to the website Snopes, variations of this story have been making the rounds in e-mail and on the Internet since 1998.  Let’s breathe some more life into it!

Rudeness On An Airplane 

A 50-something year old woman arrived at her seat on a crowded flight and immediately didn’t want the seat.  The seat was next to a handicapped man.  Disgusted, the woman immediately summoned the flight attendant and demanded a new seat.

The woman said “I cannot sit here next to this, uh, person,” gesturing to the handicapped guy.

The flight attendant said, “let me see if I can find another seat.”  After checking, the flight attendant returned and stated, “ma’am, there are no more seats in economy, but I will check with the captain and see if there is something in first class.”

Stewardess tries to placate an obnoxious passenger

Stewardess tries to placate an obnoxious passenger

About 10 minutes went by and the flight attendant returned and stated “the captain has confirmed that there are no more seats in economy, but there is one in first class.  It is our company policy to never move a person from economy to first class, but being that it would be some sort of scandal to force a person to sit next to an UNPLEASANT person, the captain agreed to make the switch to first class.”

Before the woman could say anything, the pilot arrived and gestured to the handicapped man and said, “sir, if you would so kindly retrieve your personal items, we would like to move you to the comfort of first class, as we don’t want you to sit next to an unpleasant person.”  Scattered applause could be heard among the other passengers nearby.

“Well, I never…” growled the lady.  “At least I get a vacant seat next to me.  These middle seats can get pretty cramped.”

“Excuse me Mr. Pilot,” said a nearby fellow passenger, looking like he weighed about 550 pounds.  “If you don’t mind, I would like to move to the seat next to that lady.”

The pilot gestured to the open seat, “sure – be my guest.”

“But…” whimpered the lady.  The heavy guy settled in to the seat next to the lady, the love handles from his right side settling onto the arm-rest between the two seats and spilling over into her lap.

“Oh gross,” said the lady, her face turning red.

This was too much for the surrounding crowd, which leapt to its feet with a thundering applause.  The pilot had a big grin as he turned to go back to the cockpit.

If you are against discrimination against the handicapped, share this.


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Football Player Shoots Off Mouth, Unites Previously-Ambivalent Fans Behind Opposing Team

There I was, minding my own business, watching the after-game show on TV after the Seattle Seahawks had just narrowly defeated my team, the San Francisco 49’ers, in the playoffs.  Now I had to decide which team to root for in the Super Bowl, the Seattle Seahawks or the Denver Broncos.

There were pros and cons to each team.  I have close family living near both Denver and Seattle.  On political matters, Colorado voters had recently recalled some of their legislators who had passed some gun control laws, and this made me like Colorado.  But Washington state is one of the few states without a state income tax.  I like that.

Regarding the mascots of the two teams, the “Bronco” is the same mascot as my law school, so this doesn’t sit well with me, but the “Seahawk” is a fictional creature.  No such thing exists in nature.  Maybe I am a stickler for details, but I have a hard time rooting for a team with a totally fictional mascot.  True, I once advocated voting for a fictional person, George Bailey, for president, but this is important.  Which Super Bowl team to root for is a very important issue for the average American guy.

The mascots, the cities, the players, the local political issues; all were important considerations, but no single issue had yet made up my mind as to which team to root for.  Then I saw the following interview between Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews and Richard Sherman, a pass defender for the Seattle Seahawks:

Andrews: Alright, Richard, let me ask you the final play, take me through it.

Sherman: Well I’m the best corner in the game!  When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you’re gonna get!  Don’t you ever talk about me!

Andrews: Who was talking about you?

Sherman: Crabtree.  Don’t you open your mouth about the best, or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick!  L.O.B.!

Andrews: Alright before … and … Joe, back over to you!

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman shoots his mouth off

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman shoots his mouth off

Richard Sherman sounded like a total thug; a graceless winner!  What an incredible jerk!  True, football is an aggressive, physical game, but when a player is interviewed, especially after a close win like this, they are supposed to thank their teammates and show a little sportsmanship.  For a moment there Sherman even looked like he was a danger to anyone nearby, especially the unfortunate reporter who quickly ended the interview.

What is it with celebrities nowadays?  Why is there so little class and respectability among those famous sports players and entertainers?  It’s pretty frustrating.

Even more frustrating is the way some people are defending Sherman’s thuggish rant.

One commentator said, “Sherman was in the zone, give him a break.”

But the game was already over.  If that was Sherman’s mindset, he needs to learn to shut it off after the game is over, so that he can act like a normal person and not a thug.

Then there was this: “Sherman graduated from Stanford, you know.”

Like I care!  Stanford, like any other university is perfectly capable of graduating jerks.

Kids nowadays look up to sports figures like Richard Sherman.  Any time a sport figure or celebrity accomplishes anything immediately tangible, like a football game, they gain the admiration of countless American kids.  It would be nice if a celebrity in the spotlight would realize this and act accordingly.

Instead we are treated with television spectacles of Sherman’s rant, or basketball star Dennis Rodman yucking it up with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, or formerly-wholesome Mylie Cyrus sexually-dancing, or “twerking” with other singers on a stage.  I could go on.

Of course there have been exceptions.  Not every American celebrity is a jerk.   Steve Garvey, Cal Ripken, Jr., Tim Tebow, and Joe DiMaggio are some names that come to mind.

I once met a celebrity with class.  A few years ago, through a series of family connections and events, I found myself having lunch with country-western singer Brad Paisley.  Just a few handlers, friends, Brad Paisley and me.  Paisley’s career had just begun, but you could already tell that he had class.

I relayed to him that I had recently seen a movie about the rock group R.E.M., and the lead singer refused a fan’s request for an autograph.  The R.E.M. singer just couldn’t be bothered.

Paisley couldn’t believe it.  “Ah reckon ah will always give an autograph to anyone who asks f’r it,” he said.  He might not have used the word ‘reckon,’ but he did have a country accent.  Paisley also said that signing autographs was important.

But the point is that despite his success, Paisley showed respect for someone besides himself.  Maybe not DiMaggio-esque, but good enough.  We fans don’t expect perfection, just some respect for the fans and a semblance of humility.

And we fans certainly don’t like it when what should be a pretty routine interview turns into a thuggish proclamation of superiority over some rival, a threat of “shutting your mouth real quick,” and a reporter who feels unsafe standing nearby.

Yes, for this Super Bowl I am now officially a Broncos fan.  And I am sure there are many formerly-ambivalent fans, just like me, now rooting for the Broncos.

And I hope that the Broncos score the winning touchdown by a pass that is caught in spite of Richard Sherman’s pass defense!  That would be nice.



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