Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bad Choices

Here is an actual true account of a criminal case. This is all from transcripts and case files, so it is all public record; there are no attorney-client confidentiality issues, for anyone who is wondering.

A fellow, we'll call him "Defendant" for purposes of this post, walks into an all-night quickie-mart/gas station at around 2 a.m., picks up two gallons of water, proceeds to the front and places the bottles on the checkout counter, and has a conversation that goes something like this (I do not have the transcripts in front of me, so this is a paraphrase, but is reasonably accurate):

Defendant: "Gimme two gallons of gas, too."

Clerk (looking out the window): "But there's no car out there."

Defendant: "I'm gonna dump out the water and put it in here."

Clerk: "But I can't sell you gas in those containers. You have to buy an approved container. They're over there."

Defendant: "But they're expensive. I won't tell anyone. Just sell me the gas in these bottles."

Other Customer: "No really, you don't want to do that. If you get water in your gas tank, it can ruin your engine."

Defendant: "But I don't need it for my car, I just need it to burn."

So the clerk sold him the gas in the unapproved containers.

About 20 minutes later, the clerk heard sirens and saw fire trucks racing by, and could see smoke rising a short distance away. He called 911 and said he might have some information the police might be interested in. He provided a video of Defendant purchasing the bottles and filling them with gasoline.

Meanwhile, Defendant's ex-girlfriend had awakened and looked out her window to see Defendant pouring fluid from water bottles onto her front porch and into her car, then lighting it with a match. After escaping from her burning apartment, she also called 911 and identified Defendant as the person who had set the fire. He was arrested shortly thereafter and charged with arson.

Did Defendant plead guilty, show remorse and beg for mercy, thereby gaining a more lenient sentence? No, he did not. He insisted on going to trial. His defense at trial? What we call the "SODDI defense." (Pronounced like "soddy", rhymes with "soggy") -- stands for "Some Other Dude Did It."

Needless to say, the jury saw right through it and convicted him, and the judge gave him a nice long sentence. He appealed, and lost there as well. I'm sure this isn't a new insight for most of you, but the bottom line is, most criminals just aren't that bright....

Friday, September 26, 2008

More Choices

Barack Obama, or John McCain? "Hillary Clinton," some would say. Well, as I tell my kids, "that's not one of the choices."

If you had told me ahead of time, I would not have believed it could happen, but I have seen them interviewed on television, and have read that it is true, and so I am forced to believe it -- a small but substantial number of women who were disenchanted with the Democrats for selecting Barack Obama instead of Hillary Clinton, have now thrown their support to the Republican candidate, John McCain, apparently only because he picked Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate. This boggles my mind.

Don't get me wrong. I am all for women, of either political party, running for and holding any political office in this country. In fact, I would have loved to see Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate and Sarah Palin as the Republican one, just for the thrill of seeing two strong, smart, lively, and likable women on the national stage battling it out, with a healthy debate about the issues that are most important to us, for the most powerful office in the world. I am also not arguing that no rational woman could support John McCain and Sarah Palin. Clearly, many rational women agree with the Republican platform and therefore rationally support them.

And although there is ample irony in the choice of Palin -- for example, after all the Republican brouhaha about Obama's "lack of experience," Palin has very little actual relevant governing experience and virtually no knowledge of foreign affairs; and after all the Republican brouhaha about "family values" and their condemnation of teen pregnancy, Palin is the mother of an unwed pregnant teen with a boyfriend who "plans to marry her" (can you imagine the condescending remarks about "broken black families" and the "culture of poverty" if Obama's daughter were the one who was pregnant with a "baby daddy" who "is gonna" marry her someday?); there are other similarly ironic facts, but that is not the point, here -- the long list of ironies is not why I am questioning the choice of these former Clinton supporters.

No, what I am wondering is how you go from supporting a candidate who is for adopting some sort of national health care program, is pro-choice, is in favor of increasing marginal tax rates for the wealthiest Americans, is opposed to drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, has stated that the Iraq war was a bad idea and should be ended as quickly as is reasonably possible, and generally supports every other plank in the Democratic platform (in fact had a message nearly identical to Obama's), to supporting a candidate who is against nationalizing health care, is pro-life, is in favor of cutting taxes on wealthy Americans, is all for drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge and anywhere else we might find oil of some sort, has stated that we should "Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending [U.S. soldiers] out on a task that is from God," [see here for the source for the quote: http://news.aol.com/political-machine/2008/09/02/sarah-palin-iraq-war-gods-plan/], and generally supports every other plank in the Republican platform.

Do these women who have suddenly changed their allegiance because of Palin's nomination not know what McCain's and Palin's positions are on these issues? I find that hard to believe, if they were active enough in politics to have supported Clinton before she was even nominated.

Did they suddenly change their views so drastically and completely? I find that hard to believe, too, given how entrenched is the disagreement between pro-life and pro-choice; pro-war and anti-war; pro-drilling and anti-drilling; and so forth.

Does anyone have a way to explain to me how this could rationally happen? If not, I will be forced to conclude that these women truly were supporting Clinton only because she is a woman, and now have decided that they will support McCain only because McCain has a woman on the ticket and Obama does not. ("Issues be damned! We've got to elect someone with a uterus!")

In the words (word?) of Carolyn Hax (at washingtonpost.com), who provides a one-word answer for when you are rendered speechless by the sheer idiocy of something, "wow." That's all, just "wow."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


So many stories to tell, it's hard to decide what should be first. Kids are sort of a universal topic -- we all have either been one or had one or both -- so I'll start there.

I have tried hard to be a "good" mom. My husband laughs at me for reading so many parenting books and magazines. I guess I share a conviction with my brother that, if you want to do something well, all you have to do is learn enough about it, then dive right in. Reading is a great way to learn. So I read a lot.

One parenting technique recommended in the parenting magazines was to let your kid make a choice from a range of acceptable alternatives. That way, you avoid the battle over the unacceptable thing you know they'd choose if left to their own devices. So, you ask something like, "Would you like to wear this yellow shirt or this red shirt today, dear?" and the kid chooses one, thereby avoiding the otherwise inevitable battle over whether the kid could wear his favorite stained and torn spider man jammie top to school. I used this technique often. "Would you like to brush your teeth, or take a bath first?" "But mommy," they'd say, "I want to watch tv!" "Well, sweetheart, that wasn't one of the choices." "Oh, ok, then I'll take a bath first." And so it went.

Until one day my daughter (age 5 at the time) said to me, "Mommy, are we having brownies or cake for dessert?" "We're not having dessert tonight sweetie," I replied. "But mom," she said, "that wasn't one of the choices."

She got me with her legal "mumbo jumbo."


You've inspired me. Yes, you. All you bloggers out there with your crazy stories about living life as a [fill in the blank ... waiter, teacher, cab driver, legal secretary... ]. I, too, have some stories to tell -- about life as a wife, mom, daughter, lawyer, teacher, bus driver, clerk, restaurant worker... the list goes on -- I hope you'll enjoy them.