Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Christmas Story: Good-Hearted Stranger Pays $983 Restitution to Prevent Felony Conviction

From Aimee Green
Colin Murphy
Colin M. Murphy, a civil attorney who handles business disputes, was sitting in a courtroom’s gallery waiting for his case to be called when he overheard a defense attorney and a prosecutor talking about a different case scheduled 15 minutes ahead of his. 
They were saying what a shame it was that a defendant was about to blow a plea deal that would give him an opportunity to be sentenced to a misdemeanor instead of a felony for his role in stealing a pickup truck. 
According to police reports, Castor Majuro Conley had bought a 1993 Nissan pickup truck from a thief, then sold it to someone else who sold it to a car-crushing yard for scrap. 
Caster Conley
Court records show that Conley, married with a 17-month-old child, had only one misdemeanor conviction on his record, a fourth-degree assault in 2011. 
Murphy wasn’t familiar with many of the details of Conley’s life or most recent case. But he knew the DA’s Office was willing to offer the man a break. He also knew that a felony conviction meant Conley could very well lose his job, any good future job prospects and rental housing.
And that’s when Murphy spoke up in Judge Stephen Bushong's courtroom and offered the loan. 
“All of us sometime in our lives have done something we would rather not have done,” Murphy told The Oregonian on Monday, explaining why he decided to act. “And the time will come when perhaps we are going to be held accountable. And I think at that point we would like to have somebody show us mercy.”
Mercy. The word becomes more meaningful as we age and make mistakes and bad choices.

It's pretty special to give almost $1,000 to help out a stranger. The Christmas story is about God giving His son to pay the debt each one of us owes for the lies, thefts, broken promises and selfish acts that are a part of not so good life choices. We all need forgiveness and new starts in life. Castor Conley (and I) are worth a lot more to God than $1,000, $10,000 or even $10 million. We are worth the life of His son.
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth, peace, goodwill toward men!"
(Luke 2:14)
Peace on earth and goodwill to men indeed!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Christmas Letter from Prison

Pastor Saeed Abedini
before being imprisoned
Pastor Saeed Abedini writes a moving, thoughtful letter about the first Christmas and its hardships and his own present sufferings in an Iranian prison.
Rajai Shahr Prison 2014
Merry Christmas!
These days are very cold here. My small space beside the window is without glass making most nights unbearable to sleep. The treatment by fellow prisoners is also quite cold and at times hostile. Some of my fellow prisoners don’t like me because I am a convert and a pastor. They look at me with shame as someone who has betrayed his former religion. The guards can’t even stand the paper cross that I have made and hung next to me as a sign of my faith and in anticipation of celebrating my Savior’s birth. They have threatened me and forced me to remove it. This is the first Christmas that I am completely without my family; all of my family is presently outside of the country. These conditions have made this upcoming Christmas season very hard, cold and shattering for me. It appears that I am alone with no one left beside me.
These cold and brittle conditions have made me wonder why God chose the hardest time of the year to become flesh and why He came to the earth in the weakest human condition (as a baby). Why did God choose the hardest place to be born in the cold weather? Why did God choose to be born in a manger in a stable, which is very cold, filthy and unsanitary with an unpleasant smell? Why did the birth have to be in such a way that it was not only hard physically, but also socially? It must have brought such shame for Mary and her fianc├ę that she was pregnant before marriage in the religious society of that time.
Dear sisters and brothers, the fact of the Gospel is that it is not only the story of Jesus, but it is the key of how we are to live and serve like Jesus. Today we like Him should come out of our safe comfort zone in order to proclaim the Word of Life and Salvation though faith in Jesus Christ and the penalty of sin that He paid on the cross and to proclaim His resurrection. We should be able to tolerate the cold, the difficulties and the shame in order to serve God. We should be able to enter into the pain of the cold dark world. Then we are able to give the fiery love of Christ to the cold wintery manger of those who are spiritually dead. It might be necessary to come out of the comfort of our lives and leave the loving embrace of our family to enter the manger of the lives of others, such as it has been for me for the third consecutive Christmas. It may be that we will be called fools and traitors and face many difficulties, but we should crucify our will and wishes even more until the world hears and tastes the true meaning of Christmas.
Christmas means that God came so that He would enter your hearts today and transform your lives and to replace your pain with indescribable joy.
Christmas is the manifestation of the radiant brightness of the Glory of God in the birth of a child named Emmanuel, which means God is with us.
Christmas is the day that the heat of the life-giving fire of God’s love shone in the dark cold wintry frozen hearts and burst forth in this deadly wicked world.
The same way that the heat from the earth’s core melts the hard stones in itself and produces lava, the fiery love of God, Jesus Christ, through the virgin Mary’s womb came to earth on Christmas to melt the hard heart of sin and wickedness of the world and removes them from our life. In the same process, the work of the Holy Spirit is a fiery rain of God’s Holiness and Mercy that flows into our body, soul and spirit and brings the light of Christ into us and through us making this dark, cold, wintry world into radiant burning brightness. He is turning our world into a world full of peace, joy, and love that is so different than the dark, cold, and wintry world that we used to live in. Hallelujah!
So this Christmas let the lava-like love of Christ enter into the depth of your heart and make you fiery, ready to pay any cost in order to bring the same lava love to the cold world around you, transforming them with the true message of Christmas.
Pastor Saeed Abedini
Soaking in the lava love of Christ

First Time in Over 20 Years Public Supports Gun Rights Over Gun Control

The Pew Research Center reports that a majority (52%) of Americans favor gun rights over gun control (46%).

This is the first time since 1993 that a Pew Research Center poll has shown more Americans in favor of gun rights.

Why the change? A whopping 57% of Americans now believe that gun ownership protects people from being victims of crime. Only 38% say that gun ownership puts people's safety at risk.

The biggest shift on the issue has come from blacks. Two years ago, after the Newtown school shootings, only 29% of blacks thought guns protected people from being victims of crime. Now, 54% of blacks think guns protect from crime--a 25% increase. However, a majority of blacks still view gun control (60%) as a priority over gun rights (34%). (see table below)

The dramatic change in black attitude on guns protecting victims was mirrored in a more moderate manner among every major Pew grouping except "liberal democrats".

Here is Pews's list of  "protect from being victims" view changes:

Total +9%
Men +8%
Women +11%

White +8%
Black +25%

Republican +17%
  conservative Rep +16%
Independent +9%
Democrat +2%
  conservative/moderate Dem +8%
  liberal Dem -3%

Gun control is still predominant for women, 18-49 year olds, blacks, Hispanics, college graduates, Democats, and urban dwellers.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ethanol Gas and Electric Powered Vehicles Worse for Environment than Gas Powered



Uh-oh. Oregon's ethanol mandate (ORS 646.913) and maybe a third of its electric car use cause worse environmental damage than conventional gas powered cars. So says a new study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Electricity produced by coal is worse for the environment than conventional gasoline. Turns out a third of Oregon's electricity is produced by coal.

Oregon Department of Energy graphic
Worse, turns out the ethanol mandate requiring 10% ethanol (E10) in all* gas sold in Oregon passed in 2007 (HB 2010, Section 18) actually harms the environment more than regular gas. This was bipartisan stupidity. In the Oregon House and Senate votes only 7 Oregon legislators voted against it. But, for the record, all 7 of those were Republicans:
Sens. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, Roger Beyer, R-Molalla, Larry George, R-Hillsboro
Reps. Linda Flores, R-Clackamas, Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, Susan Morgan, R-Myrtle Creek, Wayne Scott, R-Oregon City
Also, for the record, two better known Oregon Democrat figures voted for increased ethanol pollution. They are now U.S. Reps. Suzanne Bonamici and Kurt Schrader.

All Oregon Democrats and most Oregon Republicans just listen to whatever they are told especially by environmental groups. No careful investigation or waiting for the science, just do what feels good at the time. The people and the environment pay for that shallowness.
_____
*SB 1079, Section 4 passed in 2008 fixed a big problem by allowing vehicles which don't run well on E10 like aircraft, antique vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, racing vehicles, snowmobiles, tools, and watercraft exemption from the E10 requirement.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Free Digital Versions of U.S. Supreme Court Decisions (1991 to 2008)

You can get a free digital copy of the bound Supreme Court decisions from 1991 to 2008 at:

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/boundvolumes.aspx

Opinions from 1937 to 1975 (a text file in all caps--ugh!--but it's free) can be found here:

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/bulkdata/SCD


Oregon Democrats Vote to Shut the Government Down

Update: Jeff Mapes at the Oregonian finally got a story out on the Oregon Democrats' vote, but not a word about their votes being for a government shut down and completely contrary to their stated views a year ago.

 Tonight all of Oregon's Democratic U.S. Representatives voted "no" on H.R. 83 which was a vote to not fund the U.S. Government.
The House on Thursday approved a $1.1 trillion bill funding most of the government through September despite an outcry from Democrats and significant defections in both parties.
By a vote of 219-206, the House sent the bill to the Senate, where a similar debate may break out between liberal Democrats and the White House.
The vote split Democratic leaders, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) opposing the bill and criticizing the White House, but Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) backing it. Fifty-seven Democrats voted for the bill, while 139 opposed it.
The House also voted by unanimous consent on a two-day continuing resolution that would expire on Saturday. This is meant to keep the government funded and give the Senate cushion to consider the "cromnibus" package.
, , ,
Democrats objected to changes to the Wall Street reform bill that were included in the 1,600-page bill, and many were unswayed by a last-ditch White House lobbying push that included a visit to the conference by White House chief of staff Denis McDonough.
. . .
Conservative Republicans, meanwhile, opposed the bill for not doing more to curtail President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. While 162 Republicans voted for the bill, 67 rejected it.
For much of the afternoon and evening, the bill looked to be at death's door as a government shutdown loomed at midnight.
[emphasis added]
Oregon Democratic Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader all voted with Republican conservatives Reps. Michelle Bachmann (MN), Marsha Blackburn (TN) and Tom Cotton (AR) (soon to be Senator Cotton) to not fund the government starting tomorrow if certain changes were not made in the spending bill.

Strange how things can change for some people in the space of year. In 2014 all these seven U.S. Representatives think a partial government shutdown is the lesser of two evils.

In 2013 the Republicans thought the issues were worth a partial shutdown, but Oregon Democrats could only speak of the misery and suffering caused by partial government shutdown.

Bachmann - "How can I in good conscience not continue fighting to protect these families from Obamacare’s disastrous consequences?

"I was proud to vote for two separate bills that fully fund the entire government, except for Obamacare. And I’m glad we were able, at the very least, to agree that our men and women in the military should continue to receive their pay.

Blackburn - “Just as we have watched support for the President’s health care law crumble under a mass of broken promises, we are now seeing our government and it’s people suffer as a result of his failure to work with us. House Republicans remain committed to ending this government shutdown and fighting to protect the American people from Obamacare. It’s time for the Senate and President Obama to join us so we can find a workable solution that achieves fairness for all.”

Cotton - "I regret that Senate Democrats would rather keep their special Obamacare exemption than keep the government open.  Their decision will cause needless hardship for many Arkansans, including dedicated public servants."

Oregon's Democratic U.S. Representatives on the suffering caused by a partial government shutdown in 2013:

Blumenauer - "It is difficult to tell exactly what the effects will be, since the last shutdown ended in 1996, but we know that millions of families across the country will suffer."

Bonamici - “Today the House leadership forced a government shutdown in an attempt to block or delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I am deeply disappointed. It is a reckless path that will hurt our economy and cast a shadow of instability and uncertainty over the country."

DeFazio - “This government shutdown will deny countless essential government services to Americans, send hundreds of thousands of federal employees home without pay, and further erode the reputation of the U.S. government.”

Schrader - "I hope that this bill serves as a wake up call to my colleagues that it is inappropriate to shut down the federal government and threaten the livelihoods of millions of Americans for the sake of political posturing. There are bipartisan solutions to every problem. I suggest my colleagues join me in working to find them or put their paychecks on the line.”

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Reed College #1 in US in Increased Reported Sexual Assaults on Campus; Willamette University #10

Oregon colleges are leading the nation in something, but it's not a good race to the top. Reed College leads the nation in colleges with the largest increase in the rate of reported sexual assaults. Willamette University comes in at #10. From the Washington Post:


The two Oregon colleges' records are slightly better in actual rate of reported sexual assaults. Reed College drops to #3 and Willamette University to #15.


It turns out one problem at Reed has been its privacy policy.
"A June 2010 article by InvestigateWest in The Oregonian disclosed that three students who reported rape to the college were discouraged from calling police, instead routed to the Judicial Board and a process that required such strict confidentiality one student was unsure she could tell her mother about it. The students said the process had the effect of cutting them off from support after reporting rape at Reed, and all interviewed reported being dissatisfied with the outcome."
But a bigger problem in college sexual assault cases is the lack of consequences for the perpetrator.
"The article was produced in collaboration with a national investigation into campus assault by the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C., which found that students deemed “responsible” for sexual assault on campuses across the nation often faced little or no consequence for their acts, while their victims╩╝ lives were frequently left in turmoil. Often, victims left school while the alleged attackers graduated, the Center’s and InvestigateWest’sinvestigation (sic) found."
The Washington Post gives a little glimmer of hope to the two Oregon schools:
"It’s possible that Gallaudet, Grinnell, and Reed are the most sexually violent campuses in the nation, but it’s more plausible that these campuses have cultivated an environment where survivors feel more comfortable speaking out."

Saturday, December 06, 2014

The Deadly Impact of Too Many Laws

Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter has a good piece on the problem with too many laws--including hundreds of thousands of administrative laws. He writes in the context of Eric Garner's death from a police choke hold.
"The problem is actually broader. It's not just cigarette tax laws that can lead to the death of those the police seek to arrest. It's every law. Libertarians argue that we have far too many laws, and the Garner case offers evidence that they're right. . . . Better [law enforcement] training won't lead to perfection. But fewer laws would mean fewer opportunities for official violence to get out of hand.
. . .
"In addition to [3000 crimes in federal law], [in Overcriminalization legal scholar Douglas Husak] writes, an astonishing 300,000 or more federal regulations may be enforceable through criminal punishment in the discretion of an administrative agency. Nobody knows the number for sure."
It is astonishing that there were a slew of police officers trying to arrest a man selling loose cigarettes in New York City. Just as it was to see a BLM swat team on Cliven Bundy's Nevada ranch over a cattle grazing issue.

Carter sums up by saying he is not criticizing the cops who carry out the legislative will, but the unthinking legislators who add law upon law without thinking of the consequences.
"The criticism is of a political system that takes such bizarre delight in creating new crimes for the cops to enforce. It's unlikely that the New York legislature, in creating the crime of selling untaxed cigarettes, imagined that anyone would die for violating it. But a wise legislator would give the matter some thought before creating a crime. Officials who fail to take into account the obvious fact that the laws they're so eager to pass will be enforced at the point of a gun cannot fairly be described as public servants."
Willingness to pass myriads of laws on trivial offenses or give free rein to administrative agencies to make and enforce their own laws is not only destructive of civil and human rights, but of our system of a limited government with enumerated powers.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Samuel Johnson on the Vanity of Human Hopes

Samuel Johnson bust (in the National Portrait Gallery, London)
"No place affords a more striking conviction of the vanity of human hopes, than a publick library; for who can see the wall crowded on every side by mighty volumes, the works of laborious meditation, and accurate inquiry, now scarcely known but by the catalogue . . . ."*
(The Rambler, No. 106. SATURDAY, MARCH 23, 1751.)
Heh. Yes, public libraries are a monument to literary vanity which has ended in forgotten books and authors which predominate in the thousands of miles of public library shelving. (The Library of Congress has almost 130 million items on about 530 miles of shelves.)

I've been reading Samuel Johnson's essays in The Rambler. Some of the entries are interesting as sidelights (like Johnson's take on the proper scope and pitfalls of pastoral poetry). But, Johnson isn't famous for nothing. There's a surprising amount of wisdom vividly expressed. Like the quotation above.

Most of what he writes isn't surprising or new, for as Johnson says in Rambler, No. 2:
"What is new is opposed, because most are unwilling to be taught; and what is known is rejected, because it is not sufficiently considered that men more frequently require to be reminded than informed."
[emphasis added]
Johnson does a lot of great reminding. Which, when one comes to think of it, is what good blogging is about. Johnson published his Rambler opinion pieces twice a week.
________
*rest of the quotation: "and preserved only to increase the pomp of learning, without considering how many hours have been wasted in vain endeavours, how often imagination has anticipated the praises of futurity, how many statues have risen to the eye of vanity, how many ideal converts have elevated zeal, how often wit has exulted in the eternal infamy of his antagonists, and dogmatism has delighted in the gradual advances of his authority, the immutability of his decrees, and the perpetuity of his power?"