High-Five Help for Haiti;
Unsuited for Jury Service
This week’s column is gonna be a bit of a wild winter ride through assorted news strata, i.e. a bit off the angling subject but still well within the realm of the average fisherperson/outdoorser.
HIGH-FIVE FOR HAITI EFFORT: A high-five goes out to my fellow Americans. We’re kicking ass in our effort to help – and save – the Haitians.
I know that’s a weird way to put it but we are, far and away, the most competitive country in the world – willing to compete with any stinkin’ earthquake or tsunami that messes around with good folks, like the Haitians. It’s not that we take on a disaster as if it’s a game, we simply think of such things as a way to show our truth mettle.
And that “good folks” thing is abundantly clear when you see the Haitian people digging out and digging in, as they, themselves, fight adversity -- often in ways I’ve never seen before. Many God-fearing Haitians are actually thanking the heavens above for the quake, as a way for them to rebuild as better people. I don’t know if I’d be so holy when all hell breaks loose.
And, screw you, Pat Robertson -- you self-righteous freak. In case you missed it, Pestilence Pat told his “700 Club” cult members that Haiti has been “cursed by one thing after another” after its people, at some unknown point in the past, must have, “swore a pact with the devil.” He said this on TV, right as the Haiti death count hit 100,000. Talk about pouring salt in wounds. Nice example-setting, Pat.
If anyone knows about pacts with the devil, it’s gotta be Robertson – as he dons the finest suits, lives in luxury and takes in enough God-money to buy only the finest everything. Seems this man of the televangelist cloth has forgotten the Beatitudes, namely, “Blessed are the poor in sprit …”, “Blessed are they that mourn …”, Blessed are the meek …” Those “Sermon on the Mount” salvation-worthy burdens all but define the Haitians. To Pat, better re-read Luke 6:37: " Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you.” Somebody should shake some sense back into that man.
Back to Haiti, I’m among the many wanting the USA to rebuild Haiti. Hell, we’re spending billions and billions to rebuild Iraq, which will turn around and terrorize us the first chance that rebuilt nation gets. I have this rock-solid feeling that Haiti would be forever grateful for every thing we do for them -- not that such gratefulness is mandatory for the help we will give them. I think it’ll just come naturally from those people, true neighbors that they are.
I’d like to pass on this very important quote -- and website -- to those wanting to continue offering money to help Haiti. Daniel Borochoff, President and Founder, American Institute of Philanthropy, http://www.charitywatch.org/
, made this comment during a NPR “Talk of the Nation” interview.
“At the American Institute of Philanthropy's website, we've identified about 25 nonprofit groups that are top-rated; that may actually give 75 percent or more of their budget to programs, (they) don't spend more than $25 to raise $100 … and have experience in the region. … You've got to be careful. I mean, there's other famous groups like Feed the Children and World Emergency Relief that are raising money for Haiti that get an F.”
JURY SERVICE BLUES: It was one of the finest and sunniest days this winter and I was stuck sitting in the Ocean County Jury Service waiting room with maybe 75 other hapless folks.
Don’t go getting a chuckle that I couldn’t find a way out of jury duty. The truth is I’ve long been adroitly weaseling out of this required public obligation -- required to the point you get fined $500 for not showing up when first summoned, followed by arrest for any more missed summonsings. Finally, you’re deported to a country where the last thing the leaders want is the annoyance and inconvenience of juries and/or justice. Point taken.
Face it, when it comes to jury service, it gets to the point where it’s just not worth trying to finagle another boss’s letter professing how indispensable you are, or, fudging a doctor’s note alerting that Mr. Mann’s “lower anterior altoids” are once again “curiously inflamed.” Your what are inflamed!?
So, seeing it’s winter, I bit the bullet and checked in with the cleaner side of the judicial system. It began by filling out a questionnaire making absolutely sure I shouldn’t be sitting in the defendant chair instead of on a jury.
“Have you committed a crime in the past 90 days?”
“Uh, you gotta calendar?”
As most of you jury slackers might know, being summonsed for jury service does not mean you’ll be on a jury, not by a long shot. Even the normalest everyday folks are more often than not turned down for actual duty. That’s the result of crafty lawyers in hideously tailored suits trying to sniff out only the most vulnerable non-thinking people imaginable -- that way, when they do their well-staged and choreographed court presentations, the easily-mesmerized jurors will be spellbound by their pizzazz; facts be damned.
Oddly, my first hour of jury service began standing on the lawn outside the county courthouse, Toms River. No sooner had I gotten inside the courthouse building than these hideous fire alarms went off. The frickin’ alarms sounded like a bunch of trolls being skewered alive for a cookout.
Everyone in the entire building began rapidly exiting the building – in an orderly fashion. My fashion was actually quite orderly since I had ironed my nicest camo gear to wear up there.
As the exiting masses packed the doorways, things got backed up. Just in case there really was a fire, I discreetly shoved my way ahead of the many senior citizens – who had lived plenty long enough, as indicated by the fact they actually had time for trials and such.
Once standing outside in the mild sun, I bemoaned the gorgeous day I’d soon be missing. I was close to bailing out when I rethought the part about the $500 fine. I then factored in the juicy 5 spot I might be getting. Yes, they pay 5 whole bucks for the first days of jurying. I opted to honorably stay the judicial course. Besides, this was the big city -- and there were some high buildings nearby with tinted windows, easily capable of holding savvy marksmen trained to discourage jury-duty escapees. “Looks like we got a bolter running down Hooper Avenue. Permission to fire.”
I simply stood out there all by myself, while a couple hundred people in large groups mulled about nearby. They were gabbing merrily, as if they knew each other inside out and did this s*** everyday. In the meantime, the stupid alarms kept screaming and screaming, for maybe 45 minutes.
Getting really bored, I walked toward some actual jurors, trying to strike up conversations with them. I knew full-well they weren’t allowed, by law, to whisper so much as a peep to anybody. Whatever. “Hey, what’s your trial about, dude?” It was like having the plague, the way they all but covered their mouths and scurried away from me. It was fun -- until some sheriff guy came over and told me to knock it off.
At long last, the squealing skewered trolls gave up the ghost and we got escorted back into the building. Turns out the fire alarms had been set off by some awful-smelling tar roofing work they were doing on a new nearby annex. I’m proud to say I made that detective-ly observation. I passed it on to a firefighter in command, who told others -- and took full credit for my sleuthfullness. I had envisioned a lifelong excusal from jury duty for my spontaneous detective work.
Inside the courthouse, we were all cattled into this large chair-ful room that looked and felt exactly like a doctor’s office but with no doctors, just a bunch of sitting around and waiting. The doctor won’t see you now.
Not sure what I was supposed to do in there, I leaned over and asked the guy next to me what he was in for. I think he was a juror, too, since he got up and walked away.
Lookin around, I quickly realized there was a load of dutiful Yiddish folks in the house. Like me, they were probably hungrily eyeing those 5 bucks for doing squat. I knew they were Jewish because they all had on those cut off baseball caps. I really respect the way they save good money by simply cutting away at their caps as the edges fray. Since all the cut-down caps were black, I guessed they were Pittsburgh Pirates fans like me -- though, to be honest, most of those guys didn’t look like they were that into sports.
I then focused in on this totally cool Jewish guy with a cut-off cap atop gobs of hair and sporting a massive white beard with these wild black-haired sideburns, so long they hung down to his shoulder, looking like they’d start to rise up and sway if you started playing a snake-charming flute. No doubt he was, like, an old hippy Jew. He was wearing these John Lennon-ish glasses and reading some weathered book, real intent-like. I was pretty sure it was some piece of obscure literature written by Allen Ginsberg or Timothy Leary. When he finally looked up, I haled him from across the room in a loud whisper, "Yo, wuz up, dude?" He just smiled real friendly like and returned to his reading his hippy book. This guy was too cool to ignore. “Pssst. Pssst. Hey, man, any tattoos?" He smiled again and shook his head no. The next time I looked over, he was rocking back and forth real freaky like. He was all but reading out loud, his lips moving all over the place. My guess was he must have hit a really good section of the book. The Sixties were definitely kind to him. What a great juror he’d make. “Your honor, our verdict is right-on and really righteous.”
As much as I’d like to be on a jury with my new hippy Jew buddy, absolutely no lawyer would want me. The very last thing either the prosecution or the defense wants – and I mean the very worst choice for a jurist – is a journalist. And the worst of that ilk is an editor. Personally, I’m totally sure I could be very objective and nonjudgmental, providing they lock up every creep that’s being accused -- and even individuals that remind me of creeps I’ve known in the past.
Expectedly, I was not chosen as a juror during my entire time in the courthouse. I did get to see a real live judge, who personally excused me – and about 50 other people -- from a criminal trial he expected would go three weeks. Hey, I’m a patriot and all but can you imagine me trying to stay focused for three straight weeks? Hell, you’d have better luck keeping a jury of ferrets focused. By midway through the first day, I’d ask the bailiff for a glass of water and a straw -- so I could blow water at the defendant for committing a crime that forced me to sit in one place for that long.
HIGH-VOLTAGE RECESSION CURE: In these hard recessional times, I can fully relate to folks ferreting out alternative forms of income. However, this past weekend I saw an enterprising fellow going both illegal and idiotic in one felled swoop.
I was off-road driving a rowdy stretch of dirt road just off Rte. 539. I call that area The Wires. Appropriately enough, there are these huge and fully fierce high-tension wires strung on wooden utility poles twice the height of the surrounding woods. Even from the ground, you can hear the wires humming to themselves, carrying enough juice to make lightning nervous when around it.
So, I’m bouncing along under the wires, heading to a prime old-bottle digging area, when way up ahead I see what appears to be some guy actually trying to scale the side of one of these sky-high utility poles. He was using what was likely a 25-foot extension ladder, leaned against the pole. He had the ladder fully and unadvisedly extended as far as the sucker would go without parting ways with itself.
I stopped and took out my binoculars. I could then see that not only was the ladder bowing under the pressure of the climber’s weight but was also wobbling, as a rigid-framed ladder will do when leaning against a round utility pole.
“Who the hell,” I’m thinking out loud, immediately ruling out an electric company worker, since even with that ladder stretched to the max, this guy was so far from the wires he’d have to have maybe a dozen other linemen on his shoulder to reach the lines. Seeing a balancing act like that would have me swearing off energy drinks forever.
As I watched in growing disbelief, this persona sans sense began ripping off pieces of pole. I kid you not. The pieces were falling down like splintery rain – whatever the hell that is.
Now, generally speaking, it takes nothing short of a grizzly bear to hand-rip chunks of wood off a solid core-wood pole. And even a bear would think twice about shredding the very pole that was holding him up. I’ll re-mention that there was enough live electric above to light up a goodly part of the coastline -- which, in fact, these lines were doing.
As I looked on, I saw the man almost terminally unbalance himself as he pulled out a hatchet. “You can’t be serious,” I offered. Was I witnessing urban terrorism or what?
As Iwas trying for the life of me to figure out what this menace was up to, he glanced over, saw my truck and all but panicked. He fairly adroitly hustled down the ladder and vanished out of sight behind some shrubberies.
I got back in my truck and headed slowly to the pole where he had been. Needing to bull rush a couple puddles to get there, the crazed climber had plenty of time to bolt down a nearby overgrown ghost road. I could still see him moving as if training for a new Olympics run: The one-mile extension ladder dash.
Having been taught it’s best to avoid a crazy person bearing both a long ladder and a hatchet, I decided against pursuing the utility pole tormenter. Instead, I commenced to checking out his dirty work.
Turns out he was not ripping chunks of wood off the pole, per se. He was instead breaking off the one-inch wooden half tube molding that covered the huge pole’s copper grounding wire. That made it all clear as copper.
This metal-brained rip-off was attempting to steal the thick copper wire that ran up the pole and onto what looked like an outrigger. What I had was a scrap metal picker gone mental.
Did he know: The copper grounding wire, while having no charge itself, runs all the way up to the killer current-carrying wires. If that copper crook were to pull on that wire from down below, he could easily bust it loose from the pole and all the way up to that to that outrigger thingy. Zap, sizzle and good-bye. All for a couple bucks a pound? The hidden perils of a recessions, eh?
New release: NOAA Takes Steps to Improve Fisheries Law Enforcement
NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco has directed the agency’s enforcement and legal
offices to take steps to promote greater transparency in law enforcement, ensure fairness in penalties, and improve lines of communication with commercial and recreational fishermen.
The action comes in response to a Commerce Department Inspector General (NOAA is
an agency of the Commerce Department) nationwide review issued today that outlines several recommendations to improve NOAA’s enforcement operations. Dr. Lubchenco requested the review in June 2009 after hearing concerns about NOAA enforcement from some members of the fishing community and Congress.
“Rebuilding our fisheries and sustaining the jobs and coastal communities that depend
on them is a goal we share with the fishing public,” said Dr. Lubchenco. “As fishermen know, having an enforcement program that is transparent and perceived as fair and accountable is central to sustainable fishery management. This nationwide review shows that we can do a better job in this regard. We will take steps to improve the system and to reinforce confidence in the system—in the interest of the fisheries resource and all who are dependent upon itsviability.”
One of the recommendations of the IG report is for NOAA to develop more uniform
policies and procedures where appropriate. To that end, Dr. Lubchenco has asked NOAA’s new general counsel, Lois Schiffer, to lead a high level review of existing policies and procedures, and recommend ways to increase coordination and consistency, transparency, accountability, and fairness nationwide in agency law enforcement efforts. Schiffer starts at NOAA on Feb. 1.
Dr. Lubchenco also announced that NOAA will convene a national summit on
enforcement policies and practices in order to hear from constituents and experts in the field. The summit will include representatives from the commercial fishing industry, the recreational fishing community, environmental groups, academic institutions, and outside experts from law enforcement, as well as significant participation by NOAA’s Office for Law Enforcement and the Office of the General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation.
“I intend to take proactive steps to implement the recommendations that emerge from
the summit,” Dr. Lubchenco said, “and I am confident that we will develop innovative and responsive approaches that will improve NOAA’s enforcement capabilities while fostering a better immediate and long-term working relationship with our constituents.”
Dr. Lubchenco also praised the professionalism and integrity of NOAA's law
enforcement agents and attorneys during the Inspector General's review. "Their input and
candor allowed the Inspector General to gain a good understanding of our law enforcement efforts," she said.
The IG noted that NOAA’s General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation has already
started making improvements to policies and procedures that will lead to increased coordination and consistency in law enforcement efforts, calling them a "good start to building transparency."
These steps include:
• Revising procedural regulations and the penalty schedule
• Developing an internal operations and procedural manual
• Establishing a new case tracking database that links enforcement and legal case
• Increasing communications with the Fishery Management Councils, especially in the
• Providing explanatory notes to case files
• Tracking priorities
• Providing public access to information on charges brought and cases concluded
The IG report is available online at http://www.oig.doc.gov/oig/
The more than 200 agents and attorneys in NOAA’s Office for Law Enforcement and the
Office of the General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation are responsible for carrying out more than 35 statutes, including the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the Endangered Species Act. Their jurisdiction covers more than three million square miles of open ocean, more than 85,000 miles of U.S. coastline, the national’s 13 national marine sanctuaries and its marine national monuments. As part of their mission to protect our nation’s marine resources by ensuring compliance with fisheries laws and regulations, they help to protect fish stocks and marine mammals, as well as the livelihoods of law-abiding commercial and recreational fishermen.
NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of
the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine
resources. Visit us at http://www.noaa.gov
and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/noaa.lubchenco