Two observations from down under that may be unrelated but I’m not so sure

There seem to be to be at least two things that captivate Australians these days.

First, Australians are focused on whether Indonesia will execute two Australians for dealing in 10 kilos or so of heroin. Death by firing squad is the method of execution. If the firing squad doesn’t do the job, the captain of the squad dispatches the inmate with a pistol shot to the head. See here.

Death row ... Australian drug smugglers Andrew Chan (L) and Myuran Sukumaran (R) in a court holding cell during their trial in Denpasar in February 2006. Picture: AFP/Jewel Samad Source: AFP

Death row … Australian drug smugglers Andrew Chan (L) and Myuran Sukumaran (R) in a court holding cell during their trial in Denpasar in February 2006. Picture: AFP/Jewel Samad Source: AFP

The second compulsion relates to paper airplanes. This is true in the movies and otherwise. See here and here.



Second report from down under

We are in the south-eastern part of Australia at Lake Hume, about three hours north of Melbourne. Melbourne is at the “bottom” or south of the continent. The lake is large and provides irrigation water all the way to the sea.

The Murray–Darling basin is a large geographical area in the interior of southeastern Australia. Its name is derived from its two major rivers, the Murray River and the Darling River. The basin, which drains around one-seventh of the Australian land mass, is one of the most significant agricultural areas in Australia. It spans most of the states of New South Wales, Victoria, and the Australian Capital Territory, and parts of the states of Queensland (lower third) and South Australia (southeastern corner). The the Murray River is 1,570 miles long.

We are staying at a car/van camp with cabins. Very popular in Australia. Lots of things for the kids to do. While Joan and I prefer little chocolates on our pillows each evening, this place has been great for the young families. The new little girls are cute and easy-going. The parents are numb, but that’s what they get for having children of their own.

In no particular order, photos follows:

Milan, Petra and Fletcher celebrate the Chinese year of the goat in Australia.

Milan, Petra and Fletcher celebrate the Chinese year of the goat in Australia.


Keller, Lisa, Petra, Milan and Fletcher. Old guy on right is not an aboriginal.

Keller, Lisa, Petra, Milan and Fletcher. Old guy on right is not an aboriginal.

Big damn bird about ten feet from our cabin

Big damn bird about ten feet from our cabin

Sunset over Lake Hume

Sunset over Lake Hume


First report from down under

lake-hume-36452After two overnight but unplanned stays in Dallas and Sydney, finally made it to Lake Hume in NSW Australia. Remote. No cell connection. Internet connection spotty via Verizon.

Great place for the kids. Lot to do including petting Ostriches that walk the through the resort and into the wid. Cabins are fine, if a bit rustic.

New grand children–Zora and Indy– fill us with joy as we hold them for the first time. The family from Australia and the family from China are fun to watch. Marne and Pat in ABQ, NM cannot be here. Sigh. As grandparents, you take what you can get.

Odd thing: We have begun to like our children. They are funny, self-deprecating and well versed. I also remind myself that cheap wine gives false impressions.

That’s all now.

Oh, don’t forget: Some things are more important that others



Take that kangaroo

Qantas with no notice on-line or otherwise just cancelled our flight. The only way I found out is that the computer would not give me a boarding pass. Got a nice Aussie person on the phone who mumbled something about the crew needing to rest (after, I imagine, a night of drunken debauchery at the strip clubs in Dallas).  Best laid plans and all.

It is very early in the morning, but the good thing about gin is that everyone tells me that they can’t smell it on my breath even though they walk quickly away with horrified looks. Anyway, since Qantas is an inanimate object, the company’s high-handed behavior makes me want to smack the crap out of a kangaroo!

Oh, good.  There is a place where that actually happens:

Photo credit: Getty Image.  An kangaroo take a hard right that serves as a blow to the animal team claim of boxing dominance.  Team human is represented by man in a clown suit at the annual Animal Olympics in China.

Photo credit: Getty Image. A kangaroo take a hard right that serves as a blow to the animal team’s claim of boxing dominance. Team human is represented by man in a clown suit at the annual Animal/Human Olympics in China.


The rain falls on the just and unjust

RainMy trial in Omaha went fine. That is except for the fact that I got smacked in the face with the flu or something like it. Long story short, it was all I could do to drag myself to court and back to the hotel. After the trial was over Thursday afternoon, returned home and went straight to bed. Friday, early in the morning, I had my port flushed, drove to work and spent the day sending people to prison while stuffing tissue up my nose to stop the bleeding from the blood thinner that I will take until the oncologist says stop. Slept from Friday evening at 7:00 PM until Saturday at about the same time. Chicken with rice consumed and then back to bed. Totally spaced off Valentine’s Day. Nine hours later, I am now awake again.

Must prepare today for trip to Australia tomorrow. Have no idea where I will get the energy. Poor me. Taint fair.

In the back of my mind, Matthew 5:45 of the King James Version of the Bible clucks back at me. “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” The bible always brings me such comfort.


The Alabama Attorney General fails in his most important duty

Chief Justice Roy Moore of Alabama may be forgiven for his order to the probate judges of his state directing them to disregard the SSM order of an Alabama federal judge. I say this because a less decorous person might rightfully label him nuts. I am far more bothered by the behavior of Alabama’s Attorney General.

2According to the Washington Post, the Alabama Attorney General, Mr. Luther Strange, told his state’s probate judges that he cannot advise them what to do regarding the issuance of marriage licenses to same sex couples and suggested they seek help elsewhere. That was an abdication of his most essential duty–to insure that Alabama follows the rule of law.

That the Attorney General does not like the ruling of the federal judge or that the Alabama Attorney General must deal with Chief Justice Moore is no excuse. A federal judge has said that Alabama must allow SSM and that declaration in our federal system is binding. That’s it–game over, at least for now. It is not debatable.

The Alabama Attorney General should tell the people of Alabama, and especially the probate judges, that they have an obligation to follow the rule of law. After all, the rule of law only matters when you don’t like the results.


Potpourri and St. Jerome

In Omaha, at one of those “suites and things” hotels. Horrible burger last night. Gin was watered down too. Today, and for the next several days, I will be holding a non-jury trial in a contract dispute. My task: Make an ambiguous contract clear. At least this week, I don’t have to look forward to sentencing a kid with a criminal record starting at nine to a term of years that almost mirrors his age. Next Monday, leave for Australia but, before climbing aboard Qantas, have to wrestle with a motion in a child porn case that starts the first business day after my return from the land down under. As St. Jerome was fond of saying: fac et aliquid operis, ut semper te diabolus inveniat occupatum.


Alabama probate judges might wish to brush up on federal contempt of court powers

U.S. District Court Judge Callie V.S. “Ginny” Granade on Jan. 23 struck down Alabama’s laws banning same-sex marriage in a ruling in one same-sex couple’s lawsuit in Mobile. The judge ruled that probate judges around the state should begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples on Monday Feb. 9 if an appeals court did not issue a stay. No stay has been issued. Alabama probate judges who refuse to follow the order may well be subject to the power of the federal court to hold them in contempt. For a good article laying out the broad powers of a federal district judge to hold individuals in civil or criminal contempt, here is an extensive explanation of those powers.

Acting like a yokel and mouthing off about ludicrous theories of states’ rights is one thing. Defying a specific order of a federal court is quite another.


The injunction issued by the district court states:

Accordingly, the court hereby ORDERS that the Alabama Attorney General
is prohibited from enforcing the Alabama laws which prohibit same-sex marriage.
This injunction binds the defendant and all his officers, agents, servants and
employees, and others in active concert or participation with any of them, who
would seek to enforce the marriage laws of Alabama which prohibit same-sex

See here for full order. Also here for PDF. ORDER Strawser v. Strange (8)


One doc’s point of view

2 Book CoversYesterday, I wrote about the Canadian Supreme Court’s decision on physician assisted death. Dr. Bill Wright, the doc who has written two books featured in these pages on prison medicine, wrote me. He offered these thoughts and has allowed me to reprint them:

“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” ― Woody Allen

Since I’m not literate enough in legalese to interpret the Canadian Supreme Court’s decision, I’ll present the medical side.

Doctors are philosophically split on the issue of physician-assisted suicide, just as they are on issues like abortion. It’s fine to have these differences as long as they don’t interfere with the job we signed up for — taking care of patients.

I take care of end-of-life patients every day. I have patients who cling to life despite incredible incapacity and physical pain. Others with incurable illness may not be that physically disabled yet, but they see the handwriting on the wall and don’t want to experience what they see as a horrible end to their lives.

As their physician it’s not my responsibility to make the decision about ending life for them. It is my responsibility to be their advocate, helping them to understand what the nature of their disease is and the treatment options available. One of the options, I believe, is to throw in the towel.

That doesn’t mean that it’s the best option, but right now in Colorado it’s not an option at all.

The law says I have to stand by the bedside of my patient with an abdomen swollen to obscene proportions from end-stage liver disease and simply watch until he eventually vomits enough blood to exsanguinate. There’s something wrong here.

Assuming my patient says he’s tired of this existence and wants to end it, telling him that he has to stick it out until the grim reaper decides to amble by one day in the indefinite future is cruel in the extreme.

Some argue that hospice care keeps such a patient comfortable, but lying in that pool of desolation taking narcotics is not what most of us would see as comfortable. We wouldn’t allow one of our pets to endure such misery, and yet we deny the same surcease to our fellow humans.

Since Brittany Maynard’s death, more states, including Colorado, are pursuing “death with dignity” statutes. It can’t come too soon for me.

Bill Wright, M.D.

My thanks to Dr. Wright. We probably should listen closely to physicians who will see us through to the other end, whatever that might be.


Somewhere out there

Like whiskey, age has improved my appreciation for life. Indeed, my love of life has increased by an order of magnitude more now than when I was a younger man.

Even now, when I hear Somewhere Out There from the movie An American Tail, as our family did in that tiny Kearney, Nebraska theater shortly before the death of my first wife that horrible Christmas season in 1986, tears gush down my aging face. The emotions are still raw and real and, more importantly, precious.

My dog friends Elvis and Zoey from across the fence bring me utter happiness when I feed them the treats that Joan selects for them with such care. I cannot describe in words the love I feel for our grandchildren. The old woman I am wed to reminds me each day that the souls of human beings can, if luck is with you, be bound together. My work, and especially the people I work with, enrich my life beyond comprehension. Buttered popcorn never tasted so good as it does now.

I do not want to die. But, I will. And, when I do, I don’t want to suffer and I don’t want the people who care for me to suffer. Over the last three years Joan and I successfully dealt with our respective cancers. We were fortunate to survive, but we witnessed many others die painfully after being eaten alive by that horrible disease.

The idea that my life, or the life of any other person, is punctuated by pain rather than peace is an obscenity. With these thoughts in mind, I ask you to read and ponder the Canadian Supreme Court’s recent opinion on physician assisted death. See Carter v. Canada here (“We conclude that the prohibition on physician-assisted dying is void insofar as it deprives a competent adult of such assistance where (1) the person affected clearly consents to the termination of life; and (2) the person has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.”)*


*H/t Howard Bashman and How Appealing.


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