Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dream Big

Ernest Pullen, a 57-year old Missouri man, won $1 million in a lottery in June and this month he won $2 million in a second lottery. Needless to say, the odds of winning either are astronomical, about 1 in 2.28 million, while the chances of winning both cannot even be calculated because they are independent games, so let's just say that Mr. Pullen is very, very lucky.

He quit his job after the first win but claims that he will continue to purchase lottery tickets. I am always amused by people who win millions and proclaim that it won't change them in any way and that they will continue to work as garbage collectors until they are old enough for Social Security.

Mr. Pullen, who took the cash payment instead of the annuity for both wins, received $700,000 for the first and about $1.3 million for the second, before taxes. Maybe he could win a third lottery to pay the taxes on the other two wins. He plans to use the money to fix up his new lakeside house. That's a lot of fixing, but it's good to have a project. He's probably not a golfer.

I am intrigued by the fact that six years ago, he dreamed of winning a lot of money, but didn't feel that the dream was "complete" after winning the first lottery. It probably is now, but what would I know? I have never won more than $2 in a lottery and gave up buying tickets long ago because I got tired of never winning. I guess most of us are just meant to earn our own money and I'm ok with the concept because lotteries are capricious and I'm a control freak. But I am delighted to see someone beat the odds, and hope Pullen enjoys his new wealth and does good things with it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Mindless Conformity Can Be a Religion, too.

A 14-year-old girl has been suspended twice from school in North Carolina for her nose piercing, which she claims violates her First Amendment right to exercise her religion. Ariana Iacono and her mother, Nikki, belong to the Church of Body Modification, a small group with a clergy, a statement of beliefs and a formal process for accepting new members. The school states that she is in violation of its dress code.

The American Civil Liberties Union believes that she has the right to wear her nose ring and has contacted school officials with concerns about her religious rights. The school's policy does allow exemptions to the dress code on religious grounds. Ariana's mother asserts that school officials are judging what constitutes a "real" religion. "We pretty much flat-out asked them, what guidelines are you following? What do you need to establish a sincere religious belief?," she said. "We were told that if we were Hindu, or she were Muslim, it would be different."

Richard Ivey, the Iaconos' minister, says,"They're basically saying, because they don't agree and because they choose not to respect our beliefs, that it can't be a sincerely held religious belief." He describes the church as a non-theistic faith that draws people who see tattoos, piercings and other physical alterations as ways of experiencing the divine. "We don't worship the god of body modification or anything like that," he said. "Our spirituality comes from what we choose to do ourselves. Through body modification, we can change how we feel about ourselves and how we feel about the world." The two-year old church claims 3,500 members nationwide.

Sally Gordon, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who focuses on Constitutional law and religious issues, says schools have the right to issue rules on dress as long as there's a good reason and no specific religion is targeted. "One of the remarkable things about religious freedom is that people have all kinds of beliefs that look to others as bizarre but make internal sense to them," Gordon said. "We really can only claim to be a country that respects religious liberty if we respect the variety of beliefs that exist in the country — both new and old."

The ACLU, like the Iaconos and their minister, hope the issue can be resolved without going to court. Meanwhile, Nikki and Ariana pick up schoolwork for her to do at home while her peers sit in class. "I hope they're going to stop suspending me and clear some of these absences from my record," Ariana said. "I want to get into a good college."

You would think that with all the really important issues going on in the world, a teenager's jewelry would be small cause for concern. The fact that it is goes beyond petty control issues and sounds the death knell for individuality in our society. And that to me is the real tragedy.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Never Again

Remembering American heroes and innocent lives lost -
September 11, 2001.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Still Stupid After All These Years

The photo accompanying this post gives new meaning to the word "mug" shot, which should probably be changed to "mugging" or perhaps, "simpering" shot. Las Vegas police claim that Paris Hilton was released within three hours of her arrest on suspicion of cocaine possession to avoid disruption of jail house operations.

Several people, including a woman who regularly posts bonds for hookers detained for nonviolent soliciting, are outraged that the hotel heiress received special treatment. It is, indeed, shocking that the legal justice system could be so crass, so unjust. So predictable. Hilton is scheduled to appear in court on the felony charge in October. Last month, she was briefly arrested in South Africa for smoking pot during a World Cup match but the charge was dismissed. Apparently her family's influence works in any currency.

In the incident on August 27th, Ms. Hilton and her boyfriend, Cy Waits, were stopped by police because their Escalade was emitting a trail of pot smoke and Waits was driving erratically, for which he was charged with DUI. She opened her purse in front of a police lieutenant and a bag of cocaine fell out. She claims that neither the purse nor the cocaine was hers, and that she was merely looking for a chapstick. The purse must have belonged to one of her girlfriends, who was not identified. (The World Cup weed wasn't hers either. I'm not sure if ownership of the boyfriend has been determined.)

If stupidity were a crime, I doubt she would ever get out.