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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

On Our Justice System

Years ago I became keenly interested in the death penalty cases and the abuses and oversights used to get our poorest citizens executed. We live in a society that does not value all it's citizens, nor does it treat it's citizens equally in the judicial system.

Recently I began reading The Innocent Man by John Grisham and this book has again sparked my interest in the inequities present in our justice system. This book points out blatant abuses, abuses that have destroyed one man in particular.

Before reading this book I didn't realize that the indigent really don't get fair trials. I knew that they sometimes got less than star representation, but I didn't realize how far the inequality went.

I learned in this book that indigent defendants are only allowed what defense the judge allows, not the same level of representation the state has in pursuing the prosecution of the accused. The state can have paid witnesses and experts, the defense can only have such things, if the court allows for it, which generally has a great deal to do with the economy in the area. So, in other words, the prosecution can bring on big legal experts on a very specialized science subject, but the defense very often is not allowed to use the state's money to find an expert of their own to help defend against the claims of the state.

All these things I find very disturbing and am going to research further.

I'm flabbergasted at the lackadaisical attitude so many court appointed defense attorneys face their clients needs with. I'm blown away that in capital murder cases, some of these defendants are not given access to the money nor the people necessary to defend themselves. That's not just not right, it's unAmerican.

Justice isn't served when people accused of crimes are not given the means to defend themselves.

The new Grisham book has inspired me to do some research on the subject and I found a few organizations dedicated to the rights of the accused. And in the face of our current "victim's rights" agenda regarding our justice system, I say...Thank the stars these organizations exist. Organizations such as The Innocence Project
The Fair Trial Initiative
and American Bar Association's Policies and Guidelines on Indigent Defense

and their August 2005 on needed reforms.

This is just one of the many issues I hope to explore in this blog. Feel free to inspire me with some suggestions or comments.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Turkey Day

Turkey is my least favorite of holiday meals. There are numerous points that I find tedious and pointless in it's preparation. I will try to explain my dislike of this holiday tradition here.

Growing up we always had 5 bajillion people at our house for Thanksgiving and of those 5 bajillion people at our house 3 or 4 of them did any preparation, clearing or cleanup of that celebration. I, was always one of the unlucky ones to drudge through the day.

I'd be up early, excited, as children often are during the holiday season. Anticipating mostly, my uncle Jim and his contribution to the party, which was always booze and junk food! We rarely got junk food at our house and this was a treat, treat, treat. We loved Uncle Jim.

That anticipation and sense of excitement would soon die as my mother put me to work (during the Macy's Parade) on the "relish" tray. YUCK. Slicing pickles, opening cans of ripe olives, smashing up the cranberry sauce. Blah! Then when my uncle showed up with the pate' and caviar and exotic I had to plate and make that attractive.

Then on to the cheese tray, another of my duties. Cutting and arranging various cheeses, pepperonis and an assortment of crackers on trays for everyone else to wolf down in five minutes only to be refilled again by me. And again when my uncle showed with the expensive and exotic (at least to my family, at that time) cheeses and crackers I would have to add and arrange those in the display.

All this time smelling a wonderful HUGE turkey roasting in the oven with it's sausage and sage dressing. It smelled so wonderful!

That is until I didn't notice the smell anymore cuz I was busing helping my mom make the rest of the dinner, setting the table and bringing everything into the dining room.

Then, while I had 4 able-bodied brothers in an incredibly socially enlightened house, who do you suppose did the cleaning up and dishes? The females.

Oh yes, lots to be thankful on Thanksgiving. Shit, I'd love it if I had someone completely cook my dinner, supply me with appetizers, set the table for me, serve the food and clean up.

Unfortunately, that isn't how it worked in my house growing up.

Thanksgiving SUCKS!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Jell-o Pastel Cookies

I made these earlier this week. Very easy. I made cranberry cookies with cherry jell-o sprinkled on top. The recipe made quite a few and they were very tasty

Jell-o Pastel Cookies

3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
2 pkg. any flavor gelatin, divided
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix flour and baking powder; set aside. Beat butter in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until creamy. Gradually add sugar and 1 pkg. of the dry gelatin, beating until light and fluffy.

Add egg and vanilla; mix well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating until well blended after each addition. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Place cookies 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten with bottom of clean glass.

Sprinkle lightly with remaining pkg. of dry gelatin. Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove from baking sheets to wire racks. Cool completely. Store in covered container at room temperature. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

That Special Yearning

Ever have the nagging feeling that you have something in your life that you are supposed to do or be?

I've always had that feeling, then I found that I am supposed to be an owner of a diner, cafe or catering truck. Now, that dream is still a few years off, but I know it is to be. The thrill I get when I see an old fashioned cafe or diner, the way I feel when I eat somewhere and think "I can do better than that".

I just yesterday watched a show on Foodtv about great Diners in the U.S. and that old feeling came flooding back. The "I can do that" and "I know I'd be great at that" feeling. The feeling that motivates me.

I often wonder if fellow life travelers have those same feelings? Those feelings of just knowing that you are "supposed" to do something special?

I know how nagging that feeling was for me, and how much it made me crazy until I figured out what it is I was supposed to be and until I started taking steps to get me to that place.

Now that I've identified that thing I'm supposed to be, it's not quite so bad having those feelings, especially knowing that I am working toward that goal.

Food to me, is not just nourishment, it's love, it's not enough to satisfy, I have to inspire the senses.

Now, I'm not a fancy-schmancy cook, I'm not all about presentation, though I am pretty good at that too, I am about the flavor and the comfort. The velvet smoothness of a good cheese sauce, the texture of the perfect meatloaf, the warm feeling of an exception chili or soup. The just the right ratio of mash to potatoes. That's what cooking is to me.