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Thursday, September 26, 2013

How Not to Dress for Court

I am constantly amazed at how some people dress when they go to court. Defendants charged with drug offenses show up in baggy teeshirts with pictures of Bob Marley smoking a joint. Some look like they got dressed to stand on a street corner selling cocaine, in football jerseys and baggy shorts and sporting gold chains and gang tattoos. One morning a young woman wore a tight pink teeshirt with sequins spelling “Spoiled Rich Girl.” An older woman wore a tube top that barely contained her surgically enhanced breasts.

When you’re charged with any crime, it’s not a good idea to go to court dressed like a street walker or pimp or drug dealer. The judge in your case has the power to send you to prison or give you probation, and impressions matter. You should dress like you are applying for a job that you really want - clean pressed shirt and slacks for men, shined shoes or boots, same for women or skirt or dress. Here, then, are a few rules for how to dress and act when you go to court.

No shorts
No tube or tank tops
No flipflops
No teeshirts
No hats in courtroom
Cover tattoos
No gum
No tobacco or snuff
No flashy jewelry
Cell phones off
No grills
No guns or knives

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Grotesque Prosecutorial Misconduct by Federal Government in Danziger Bridge Case in New Orleans

Judge finds ‘grotesque’ prosecutorial misconduct in Danziger Bridge shootings case
Judge Kurt Engelhardt’s decision overturning the convictions of five New Orleans police officers for their roles in the Danziger Bridge shootings runs to 129 pages. Page by page, the decision addresses claims of prosecutorial misconduct, and it is as if, page by page, the judge’s anger and disbelief only grow.

He finds ample misconduct, and terms it “grotesque.” He uncovers other damning material, and professes “shock and dismay.” In the end, he closes with a distinct sense of foreboding: The worst may be yet to come.

“One can only wonder what other unanticipated revelations might be in store,” he writes.

Engelhardt’s central finding was that federal prosecutors, during the trial of the officers for the shooting of unarmed civilians days after Hurricane Katrina, had posted anonymous comments on the website of the local newspaper, the Times Picayune.

Here’s how Engelhardt characterized those comments: “inflammatory invectives,” “accusatory screeds,” “vitriolic condemnations,” all of them directed at “the defendants, their attorneys, their witnesses, their evidence.”
Read full story here.

Williamson County District Judge Ken Anderson Resigning as Part of Deal with State Bar; Did Western District Prosecutors Cover Up Torture and Murder in the Juarez House of Death?

District Judge Ken Anderson Resigned From The Bench
Ken Anderson was the Williamson County district attorney who sent an innocent man - Michael Morton - to prison for 25 years for a murder he didn't commit. Anderson hid evidence that would have exonerated Morton. Anderson went on to become a district court judge where he continued doing God's work sending people to prison for long, long terms, probably whether they deserved it or not. The Wilco Watchdog reports that Anderson has resigned, probably as part of a deal with the State Bar. "The State Bar alleges Anderson committed professional misconduct in the 1987 murder trial against Michael Morton because he deliberately withheld two key pieces of evidence that likely would have led to a not-guilty verdict. He is being prosecuted under what’s known as the Brady law, which requires prosecutors to deliver all evidence favorable to the defense." He is surrendering his law license.
It is almost unheard of for the Bar to go after a judge or a prosecutor, who have almost total immunity for anything short of murder. The article reports that Anderson will serve 10 days in county jail - he ought to do at least 10 years in the Big House.

Here's a story involving prosecutors in the Western District of Texas named in a civil rights case filed in federal court in New York that if true is about as bad as it can get:
Former ICE Informant Sues US Prosecutors, Federal Agents
Posted by Bill Conroy - September 18, 2013 at 6:33 pm
Litigation Claims US Officials Conspired To Silence The Informant And Cover-up Their Role In The House of Death Murders

A former US government informant who penetrated one of the most ruthless drug organizations in Mexico has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against a group of federal prosecutors and agents as well as several county sheriffs and detention-facility officials alleging they acted in a conspiracy to violate his civil rights.
The accuser, Guillermo Eduardo Ramirez Peyro, is a former Mexican federal cop who worked for a top lieutenant (Humberto Santillan Tabares) of the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes drug organization in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, in the early to mid-2000s.
As part of that work, Ramirez Peyro was responsible for overseeing the infamous House of Death, which was the site of multiple gruesome torture/murders. A dozen bodies were ultimately found buried in the backyard of the house, located at 3633 Calle Parsonieros in Juarez. Ramirez Peyro was charged with assuring the house was opened up whenever Santillan wanted a murder carried out, and he also was responsible for overseeing the burial of the bodies at the house.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in New York under seal in late July and seeks in excess of $125 million in damages from the defendants collectively.
Among those named in the lawsuit are former Western District of Texas US Attorney Johnny Sutton as well as Margaret Leachman, now Criminal Division chief in the Western District; Richard Durbin, now first Assistant US Attorney in the Western District; and Juanita Fielden, Assistant US Attorney in the Western District’s El Paso division.

For a story about a lawyer who paid the price for his honesty and courage, see:

Fraud and the City: Russia’s Manhattan Money Laundering
Pussy Riot goes to prison while a gang accused of murder and mugging in Mother Russia gets luxury apartments in lower Manhattan. One federal prosecutor is calling Putin out.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Abuse of Power: DEA Detroit Fiasco, Hitler and His Perverts, Gaddafi's Crimes

An argument can be made that between the War on Drugs and the War on Terror America is becoming police state. For a good example, see:
Nameless And Shameless: Masked DEA Agents Raid Innocent Women, Refuse To Reveal Their Identities

Tom DeLay conviction overturned by Texas court
By Ed O'Keefe, Published: September 19 at 2:35 pmE-mail the writer
A Texas appellate court has overturned the conviction of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) for allegedly scheming to influence Texas state elections with corporate money. A three-judge panel voted 2-1 to overturn the conviction, calling the evidence "legally insufficient," according to court papers released Thursday. The decision formally acquits DeLay of all charges, but it could still be appealed by the government. (Read the court's majority opinion and dissenting opinions.

I'm not a fan of Delay, but I thought from the get go that the prosecution was politically motivated.

Nazi Perverts
I'm listening to and reading William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, which he wrote shortly after World War II. Shirer lived in Germany when Hitler was coming to power, and after the war had access to thousands of pages of contemporary documents. The book is well written, insightful and horrifying. He makes an interesting point that the Nazis, who thought of themselves as supermen, the best of the best, were a bunch of perverts. This book would never get published today, with its politically incorrect language:
"But the brown-shirted S.A. never became much more than a motley bunch of brawlers. Many of its top leaders, beginning with its chief, Roehm, were notorious homosexual perverts. Lieutenant Edmund Heines, who led the Munich S.A., was not only a homosexual but a convicted murderer. These two and dozens of others quarreled and feuded as only men of unnatural sexual inclinations, with their peculiar jealousies, can." p. 120.

"No other party in Germany came near to to attracting so many shady characters. As we have seen, a conglomeration of pimps, murderers, homosexuals, alcoholics and blackmailers flocked to the party as if to a natural haven. Hitler did not care, as long as they were useful to him." p. 121-22.

Hitler himself had virtually no relationships with girls or women, except for a bizarre, masochistic affair with his much younger niece, who shot herself to get away from him.

Speaking of perverts, from the Daily Beast:

Gaddafi's Perverted Power Plays

He abducted young women as sex slaves and forced them to take drugs and watch porn. He raped his male guards, soldiers, and ministers. Annick Cojean talks about her new book on Gaddafi's cold-blooded sexual debauchery.

One Disturbing Reason For Our Exploding Prison Population (INFOGRAPHIC) - Private prisons with guaranties from the State to fill the beds

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

MDMI - Manifestly Dangerous Mentally Ill; Inmates Running the Asylum; Chapo Guzman in Chicago

This month's edition of the Texas Bar Journal has an excellent article by Judge Tom Rickhoff and Ellen Patterson titled "Dangerous Minds: addressing violence and serious mental illness from one judge's perspective," available here online. Bexar County Probate Court No. 2 Judge Tom Rickhoff suggests legislative reform to help identify those who are “manifestly dangerous mentally ill” (MDMI). The judge updated a paper written in 2006 with the rare focus on protect- ing the public, with current research by legal intern Ellen Patterson.
The timing of this article is eerie, coinciding with the mass murders in the Washington Naval Yard. The article closes with this prophetic statement: "Mental illness and violence will con- tinue its costly toll worldwide; however, embracing effective reforms will help eliminate the suffering and costs and address the needs of each individual."

33 arrested in months-long downtown Austin drug sting

Austin police have arrested 33 drug sellers and buyers in a narcotics sting targeting downtown. The sting ran from July 11 to Sept. 4 and resulted in the department issuing 40 warrants to 33 people, according to a news release from the Austin Police Department.
Among them, the 33 arrested have had 1,842 involvements with Austin police, according to the department. "These individuals regularly require police services, preventing officers from working on other community problems," the release said.

Bloomberg Business News has a good article about how Chapo Guzman's Sinaloa cartel has taken over drug trafficking in Chicago (Heroin Pushed on Chicago Fueling Gang Murders, by John Lippert).

A common thread in these articles is that thousands of people who cannot legally own a gun have them. The Navy Yard shooter even had a CHL license, notwithstanding the fact that he had been arrested for shooting out a neighbor's tires, and shot through the ceiling of his apartment into the one above him. Most of the Chicago gangsters have long rap sheets, but they have guns. Instead of taking away guns from law abiding ciizens, why don't the authorities round up the thugs with guns and lock them up for the max?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Was Nixon a Traitor?

The October issue of Vietnam, published by Weider History Group and available at books stores (including Hastings), makes a strong case that Nixon, in addition to being a thief, liar, and incipient fascist, was a traitor. The article is titled "The Unexploded Election-Eve Bombshell," written by Beverly Deepe Keever, and an excerpt from her new book Death Zones and Darling Spies: Seven Years of Vietnam War Reporting, published by the University of Nebraska Press.

It was 1968, and the U.S. had been fighting in Vietnam for going on five years. Lyndon Johnson's presidency was in ruins. LBJ wanted to end the war, and shocked the world when he announced in the same televised appearance that he was suspending bombing North Vietnam, and he would not run for re-election. Our diplomats began informal peace talks with the North Vietnamese.

Richard Nixon (who was a corporate lawyer) had a Chinese spy named Anna Chenault, a/k/a the Dragon Lady, tell South Vietnam's President Nguyen Thieu that if he held out until Nixon became president, he would get South Vietnam a much better deal. Thieu refused to talk to the North, and we had four more years of war, killing thousands of Vietnamese and Americas.

LBJ called Senator Everett Dixon, the highest ranking Republican in the Senate, and asked him to tell Nixon to stop. Their conversation was recorded, and they agreed that Nixon was committing treason. But Johnson decided not to go public because of the damage the revelation would do to the country. LBJ said "they're contacting a foreign power in the middle of a war," it was treason, and have blood on his hands. What is really sickening is that Nixon did it to make Johnson look bad.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Through a Glass Darkly - How the Media Sells the Public a Fantasy

The theme that runs through these pieces is that the media sells the public a distorted view of the world. Poor little Matthew Shepard was murdered by vicious, homophobic rednecks in Laramie, WY. On television, cops are always the good guys, and can take out a hit team armed with AK-47's and RPG's with only a .38 revolver, or maybe a Glock, which in t.v. land holds about 100 rounds. Homeland Security and TSA are there to protect us. And so on.

Matthew Shepard was the winsome young homosexual in Laramie, Wyoming who in October 1998 was tortured, killed, and left hanging grotesquely from a fence. He was discovered almost a day later and later died in the hospital from his horrific wounds.... Almost immediately Shepard became a secular saint, and his killing became a kind of gay Passion Play where he suffered and died for the cause of homosexuality against the growing homophobia and hatred of gay America....
But what really happened to Matthew Shepard? Thanks to a new book by an award winning gay journalist we now know that much of this narrative turns out to be false, little more than gay hagiography.
As gay journalist Aaron Hicklin, writing in The Advocate asks, “How do people sold on one version of history react to being told that the facts are slippery --- that thinking of Shepard’s murder as a hate crime does not mean it was a hate crime? And how does it color our understanding of such a crime if the perpetrator and victim not only knew each other but also had sex together, bought drugs from one another, and partied together?”
This startling revelation comes in The Book of Matt to be published next week by investigative journalist Stephen Jiminez, who over the course of years interviewed over 100 people including Shepard’s friends, friends of the killers, and the killers themselves.
He was beaten, tortured, and killed by one or both of the men now serving life sentences. But it turns out, according to Jiminez, that Shepard was a meth dealer himself and he was friends and sex partners with the man who led in his killing. Indeed, his killer may have killed him because Shepard allegedly came into possession of a large amount of methamphetamine and refused to give it up.
The book also shows that Shepard’s killer was on a five-day meth binge at the time of the killing.

The Cops Who Couldn't Shoot Straight
from the New York Post
Cops trying to subdue an emotionally disturbed man with a long rap sheet accidentally shot two female bystanders outside Port Authority Bus Terminal on Saturday night, source said.
One victim, 54, was struck in her leg — breaking two bones in her calf — as she stood leaning on her four-wheeled walker across from the terminal; a second woman, 35, was grazed in her buttocks.
Modal Trigger
One of the victim’s of Saturday’s shooting lies wounded on the sidewalk.
Twitter.com/ Kerri Ann Nesbeth
Two cops pulled off a total of three shots in the mistaken belief that the deranged man was armed after he reached into his pocket as they approached him, officials said.

Unarmed man, possibly looking for help after wreck, shot by police
CHARLOTTE, N.C. An unarmed man who may have been looking for help after a vehicle wreck was shot and killed by a police officer Saturday as he ran toward him, police said. The officer was later charged with voluntary manslaughter.

TSA Agent Arrested for Smuggling Illegal Aliens
A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent was arrested Friday for conspiring to smuggle illegal aliens into the country.According to a Justice Department press release, a group of Brazilian nationals were smuggled through the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Díaz-Torres allegedly allowed the Brazilians through a TSA security checkpoint without questioning them.

The group then flew to New York, Boston, and Philadelphia on commercial flights.

Ex-judge is headed for prison
BROWNSVILLE — A former state district judge was sentenced Wednesday to six years in prison for his role in a cash-for-favors scheme that implicated a dozen defendants and badly damaged the image of the justice system in South Texas.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen sentenced Abel Limas on a single count of racketeering and ordered him to pay restitution of more than $6,777,000.
Faced with up to 20 years in prison, Limas said he “saw the writing on the wall” and provided the FBI with dozens of interviews and became a key witness for prosecutors in four separate trials against attorneys Marc Rosenthal, Ray Marchan, Eduardo Lucio III and former Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos.

Mingo judge arrested on federal charge
Thornsbury tried to put romantic rival in jail, feds say
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury was arrested Thursday after federal authorities allege he targeted his ex-lover's husband and used his position on the bench to manipulate criminal charges against the man.

The indictment, returned Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Charleston, charges Thornsbury with conspiring to violate the constitutional rights of his former secretary's husband.

David Morgan Is Wrong, Terribly Wrong
Two Florida cops shot an innocent, unarmed man in his own driveway. And then their sheriff started talking.

wo weeks ago, two Florida deputies shot 15 rounds at a 60-year-old unarmed Florida man who was looking for his cigarettes in his mother’s car, parked in his own driveway. Two of those bullets hit him in his left leg, which was shattered. Roy Howard Middleton says he was compliant when the cops told him to turn around. He says that as he was turning around to face deputies with his hands raised, they opened fire.
A week later six Escambia County deputies climbed through the window of a private residence, without a warrant, dragging a sleeping couple out of their bed, shooting at their two dogs, one of which later died. The police were pursuing a suspect in an armed disturbance earlier in the evening on the couple's street, found an upside-down bucket next to a window of their home, knocked on the door, and when nobody answered, they just entered through the window.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Y.O. Ranch Owner Pleads Guilty to Sheep Rustling; Houston Ex-Cop Pleads to Money Laundering for Drug Dealers; False Confessions; Star Struck Prosecutor Causes Mistrial by Teens; Wind Energy Boondoggle Kills Bald Eagles

Y.O. Ranch owner pleads guilty
Walter Schreiner gets probation, no felony conviction for stealing sheep

The Kerrville Daily Times reports "One of the owners of a historic, 29,000-acre game ranch west of Kerrville has admitted to stealing 45 sheep from a Burnet County woman in June 2012. During a hearing Friday in Burnet, Walter Schreiner Jr. pleaded guilty before District Judge Dan Mills to theft of livestock by check.

Houston man gets 12 years for money laundering
Ex-cop indicted too

A Houston man will spend more than 12 years in federal prison for his role in a money laundering scheme linked to drug trafficking that also involved a former Houston police officer.

Willie Whitehurst, 45, was sentenced on Wednesday after pleading guilty earlier in the year to conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money-transmitting business.

In August 2012, a federal grand jury indicted Whitehurst and four others, including his uncle, former Houston police officer Anthony Foster, in the scheme.

False Confessions Dog Teens
In 2011, a 16-year-old confessed to being the getaway driver in a fatal shooting of a Los Angeles man, leading prosecutors to charge the teen and three others with murder.

But defense lawyers found convenience-store video showing the suspects were nearly four miles from the murder scene a minute before the man was shot. The lawyers argued that a detective had coerced the teen, who was drunk, into confessing to a crime he didn't commit. Prosecutors last December dropped the charges—and the possibility the four would spend life in prison.
Juveniles are more likely than adults to confess to crimes they didn't commit, a growing body of evidence suggests. Thirty-eight percent of exonerations for crimes allegedly committed by youth under 18 in the last quarter century involved false confessions, compared with 11% for adults, according to a new database of 1,155 individuals who were wrongly convicted and later cleared of all charges.

Study: Wind farms killed 67 eagles in 5 years

WASHINGTON (AP) - Wind energy facilities have killed at least 67 golden and bald eagles in the last five years, but the figure could be much higher, according to a new scientific study by government biologists.

The research represents one of the first tallies of eagle deaths attributed to the nation's growing wind energy industry, which has been a pillar of President Barack Obama's plans to reduce the pollution blamed for global warming. Wind power releases no air pollution.

But at a minimum, the scientists wrote, wind farms in 10 states have killed at least 85 eagles since 1997, with most deaths occurring between 2008 and 2012, as the industry was greatly expanding. Most deaths — 79 — were golden eagles that struck wind turbines. One of the eagles counted in the study was electrocuted by a power line.

The vice president of the American Bird Conservancy, Mike Parr, said the tally was "an alarming and concerning finding."

(UPI) A trial at which Tom Hanks was a juror collapsed after a "star-struck" prosecutor spoke to the Oscar-winning actor, breaching jury tampering rules, officials said Thursday.
"Forrest Gump" star Hanks was on the panel hearing a domestic violence case in Los Angeles when the female prosecutor approached him outside the courtroom to praise the fact that he was doing his jury duty.

She was not assigned to the case, but court rules impose a strict ban on lawyers talking to jurors at any time, to guard against the possibility of interfering with the jury.

"She made contact with Mr Hanks in the stairwell of the building. She came up to him and thanked him, and (said) how impressed everyone is that such a celebrity would still be here serving jury duty," Andrew Flier, the defense lawyer in the case, told TMZ.

American poverty just ain’t what it used to be. A new report from the Census Bureau found that 80.9% of households considered poverty stricken have cell phones along with their landline phones, and 58.2% have computers. 96.1% of those in “poverty” have televisions, and 83% have some sort of DVR.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

More Drug War Follies; Operation Lively Green - Border Patrol and Active Duty U.S. Military Working With Cartels

The American people really don't know how bad the "war on drugs" is going and how it has corrupted elements of law enforcement and even the military. I only know about a federal operation called Operation Lively Green because I read about it in an article by Brenda Norrell in Narcosphere, excerpted here:

Arizona Border: Mainstream media clueless 

This is the latest in a series of developments on the border in southeast Arizona that the national media has largely ignored. The most censored issue remains the fact that US Border Patrol agents are running drugs.
Sheriff and US Border Patrol agents murdered
Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever was killed in a mysterious car crash on the other end of the state, near Flagstaff, in September 2012. The first police to arrive at the scene gave conflicting reports of what had happened in the single vehicle crash.
Then, two weeks later, US Border Patrol agent Nicholas Ivie -- remembered for carrying a pregnant migrant woman to safety -- was shot and killed by fellow Border Patrol agents near Naco in Cochise County. 
The agents involved were assigned to the Brian A. Terry Border Patrol Station in Naco. Terry was killed near Naco by one of the US weapons that the US ATF allowed to "walk" into Mexico in its Operation  Fast and Furious. Terry's death led to wide exposure of the ATF scheme of allowing assault weapons to flow to drug cartels in Mexico. The gunwalking scheme began on the Texas border in 2005, according to US Justice Department documents.

FBI yanks agent from corruption sting case

An FBI agent in one of the bureau’s most celebrated corruption stings was tossed from the case after federal prosecutors learned that the agent and other investigators apparently tried to cover up misconduct by informers, including the sexual abuse of an unconscious prostitute in a Las Vegas hotel.
In official reports, FBI agents failed to disclose allegedly criminal acts and the destruction of evidence by informers, then withheld that information from federal prosecutors for more than a year, according to a military court document obtained by The Arizona Republic.
The incident occurred in the midst of Operation Lively Green, a four-year undercover sting that so far has led to the conviction of 69 military personnel, prison guards, law enforcement employees and other public servants who accepted bribes to help smuggle Mexican cocaine through Arizona.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Zetas Money Laundering Case in Austin

Two Arrested Attempting to Bribe Judge in Zetas Money Laundering Case
"Two men are facing charges of conspiracy to bribe a public official after authorities said they attempted to offer more than $1 million to the Austin federal judge presiding over the sentencings of nearly 20 people convicted in a multimillion-dollar money laundering operation led by the deadly Zetas cartel."
Federal agents busted the attempted bribers in a parking lot after the sentencing hearing. The Mexican cartels are not just in Mexico. They are here.

Car burglary victim sentenced for manslaughter
A San Antonio man who beat to death a drug addict four years ago after the addict tried to sell him his own stolen car stereo was sentenced Monday to 18 years in prison.

Ryan Christopher Salame, 29, was originally charged with murder in the March 2009 slaying of Martin Ruiz, 41, outside Salame's Alazán-Apache Courts apartment on the West Side. He took a plea in July for a reduced charge of manslaughter and a promise that prosecutors would ask for no more than 18 years.

The San Antonio Express needs to work on its headlines. Check this out:
Downtown standoff ends 'peacefully' after nine hours

A San Antonio police officer was in stable condition late Monday after being shot in the head by a man who then locked himself in a downtown motel room for nine hours before surrendering to police, officials said.

The officer, Aaron Terrazas, 34, an eight-year veteran of the department, was recovering in the intensive care unit at San Antonio Military Medical Center.
I hope the officer fully and quickly recovers.

Former Harris deputy constable charged with official oppression
A former Harris County deputy constable has been charged with official oppression in a 2011 incident where a man said he was held down and kicked, authorities said.
Don't take the victim's word for it. Watch the patrol car video. "A dash-cam video from one of the patrol cars at the scene shows Scherz being held to the ground. A constable identified as Drummond could be seen on the video kicking him several times in the rib. The stop, outside Scherz's home in the 17000 block of Ridge Top Drive, led to his entire family being arrested and jailed."
Harris County needs to be sued and nailed for a couple of million for this one.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Some Musings on Law and Math

I think a lot of young people drift into law school because they are not good at math and science, major in liberal arts or social sciences, don't know what they want to do, and are intimidated by the difficulty of finding a job. These are not good reasons to spend three more years in school and run up thousands of dollars in student debt.
I wanted to be a lawyer from the time I was about 15. I went into the career counselor at my high school in Natchez, MS and when he asked me what I wanted to do and I said be a lawyer, he looked at my transcript and shook his head and said, "You have to be sharp to be a lawyer." I was strong in English and history, but my math and science grades were really bad.
The highest level of math I took in high school was Algebra I, and I squeaked by with a C-. The teacher was Mrs. Bailey, and she had no patience. I still cringe remembering her calling on me and when I couldn't answer a question, breaking the chalk stick off on the board.
Home wasn't any better. My dad, who never went past high school, worked his way up with Schlumberger to become a field engineer. He interpreted the electronic logs that showed where the oil and gas deposits were, and also was a perforating engineer, running a "gun" down the well that blew holes through the casing into the formation. Screw that up and you can destroy a multimillion dollar well.
Like the scientists at NASA, he did all his calculations with a slide rule. All his knowledge was from OTJ training, schools the company sent him to, and hours and hours of self study.
So, he couldn't understand why his son couldn't get simple equations in first year algebra, and his attempts to tutor me were exercises in mutual frustration. This was years before anyone knew what ADD was, and I'm pretty sure I had a severe case.
Flash forward a few years. I got an M.A. in sociology from Louisiana State University, and was admitted to the Ph.D. program at the University of Texas. My plan was to be a college professor. I managed to squeak by in statistics with a C. My second semester there, my dad was diagnosed with late stage lung cancer, and less than six months later he died. He was only 45. I didn't handle it very well, and dropped out of the program.
He left me some money so I could finish school, and after a hiatus, I went back, but not to sociology. I got accepted into the law school at UT. I have no regrets about being a lawyer. Most of the time I enjoy it. I like the mental stimulation and variety and challenge, and I like to help people.
The psychologist Carl Jung wrote about our "shadow" side. When we're young and trying to find our way, we necessarily focus on our strengths, sometimes to the neglect of other aspects our our psyches. I was always good at English and writing, and thought I hated math. Law school plays to those strengths. I spent years reading philosophy books, especially of the Eastern variety, particularly Zen Buddhism. I finally concluded that for the most part, it's a bunch of nothing.
In the past five or so years, I've been trying to learn the math and science I avoided in school. The Teaching Company, started by a Harvard Law graduate, has a great collection of courses on dvd and audio. More recently, I've discovered Sal Khan, who started the Khan Academy, which has thousands of lectures on line - for free! He was on 60 Minutes last week, and the man is incredible.
One of the things I like about math is that there are rules and formulas, if you follow them you get the answer. As opposed to law, which also has a lot of rules, but there are so many exceptions, and you're not dealing with hard facts and numbers. Math is elegant; law is imprecise and often sloppy.