A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Friday, June 29, 2007

Racism is Alive and Well

The vein in my head has to be throbbing right now. Cruising around some news sites, I found this little gem. It is about a woman in Georgia who is offended that people who have darker skin than her have the audacity to shop at her local Wal-mart. If that isn't bad enough, they also take the offense to a new level by outnumbering light-skinned shoppers. The nerve!
"That was the first time I looked around and said, 'Man, I didn't realize how many Mexicans there were here,' "

Cause it's common knowledge that all hispanics are from Mexico! *sigh* Head, meet desk.

"And they don't seem to feel any discomfort when they're, like, six inches from your face and talking to each other in their language, either."

How dare they speak their native language in her town?! And in front of her to boot! THE HORROR!!!

"I just felt very encroached upon. . . . It was like an instant feeling of 'I'm in the minority, and if we don't get control over this, pretty soon all of America will be outnumbered.' "

Oh poor baby. It must be ever so traumatizing not to be in the majority. I just cannot imagine anything worse than being outnumbered by people who are minding their own business.

Jeebus. Narrow-minded people like her make me want to break something. How can one be so willfully stupid?

Amarillo is nicer than Euless

I was just standing outside when the tornado sirens went off. Either that or we're facing a nuclear attack. Anyways, I looked at the clock and realized that Amarillo was nice enough to do it close to noon.

Euless had the nasty little habit of testing them in the early morning (between 9am and 10am). Being a person who sleeps in every chance I get, this was never a pleasant way to wake up. Throwing a pillow over my head didn't help either, as I lived a whopping block away from one of the sirens. Plus, I found it necessary to get my lazy butt to a window just to make sure I didn't need to be ducking and dodging.

Of course now that I say that, Amarillo will be sure to turn them on at 6am tomorrow just to mess with my Saturday. My luck can't possibly be this good.

Drug Testing in Schools

Drug testing in schools across the country is becoming more popular every year. I'm not a real big fan of this trend. Though I would never support drug use among athletes (the majority of students being tested), I'm just not convinced that drug testing does anything to curb the problem. I'm not the only one with reservations:

The belief that testing deters kids from using drugs or gives them a peer-worthy reason to say no has not been proved, some say. A 2003 study by the University of Michigan surveying 76,000 students found no difference in marijuana or other illicit drug use in schools with testing compared with those without programs.

Podobas, the San Clemente senior, says few students fear being caught. The tests don't pick up all drugs and are administered too infrequently to worry teens, he says. Others have learned to beat the system by sharing a clean urine sample when called to the bathrooms in groups.

It says in this article that about half of all high school seniors have done drugs before. I can see how people would be alarmed by that number, but I think that other things need to be considered as well. How many of these students only tried using once, before mving on to more interesting things? How many are in extracurricular activities, the only way they can be tested? What about the half of students that have never tried drugs? Is it worth it to express distrust in these kids even though they've done nothing to deserve it?

Apparently so:

His mother, Robyn, thinks her son steers clear of drugs and alcohol. But, she says, no parent can know for sure what a teenager is up to.

"If he doesn't like testing, I really don't care," she says. "I think it's a wonderful tool."


So basically there is nothing these kids can do to be trusted to stay clean other than to piss in a cup.

Nice.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

If You Have to Live With It, Your Opinion Doesn't Matter

The very people who will have to live next to the planned border fence are having a hard time getting the government to listen to them:
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff vowed in February that border residents would be consulted on how best to secure the border, local officials say. But they were still waiting for such meetings when Border Patrol officials showed area landowners a map of likely fence construction in Texas.

Then they learned of bid letters for a preliminary request for up to $250 million in contracts to construct the 19 miles of fence through Laredo – and $500 million more for extensive fencing in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

"It's one of the few issues around which virtually every group along the border is organized and united," Mr. Salinas said. "No one on the border likes the wall. But Washington isn't listening, and that's a real shame."

I can't say that I am surprised by the government not keeping their promises, but I understand the anger of these residents. They live on the border. Who better to consult on ways to "secure" the border than those who freakin' live on it?

Earlier this month, President Bush further angered border leaders by threatening to veto a security bill that linked funds for fence construction to community input.

Measures added by U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn would require Homeland Security to confer with local leaders before the money is spent.

But the president rejected such meetings as unnecessary, since "extensive outreach and coordination" had already been done.

Unfortunately this "extensive outreach and coordination" was not done with these border residents. It is pretty obvious that the government really doesn't care what the locals think.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Operation Screwed Elbow Update

I just talked to jobsanger and it looks like the hospital will be releasing him today. I want to thank all of his well wishers for showing him support. When I told him about the love he has been getting from his fellow bloggers, I think that put the first smile on his face since the operation.

Anyways, I have a few minutes to play around, so I'm going to share with you a few jobsanger-isms from yesterday that gave me a good laugh:

"Are you sure I can't just shake it off?" - in response to myself and two others coming to the agreement that a trip to the hospital was called for.

"I'm still not convinced that I need to be here." - in the ER, responding to my description of the baseball-sized lump on his elbow.

"But...it's the only vice I have left!" - response to the nurses who told him he needs to quit smoking.

"Not when y'all leave me alone." - answer to the nurse after she asked him if he was in any pain.

"As long as I don't have to have surgery, I'm happy" - twenty minutes before being told that he had to have surgery.

"Then you can stay." - after finding out that the nurse who just walked into the room had no plans to touch him.

My favorite came when I was walking out of his room a couple of hours before the operation. Right before I got to the door, I turned around and, without thinking, said, "Can I get you any...oh wait. They won't let you."

"Yeah, but when they do, I want some of whatever it is."

Thursday, June 21, 2007

jobsanger Just Got Out Of Surgery

...so blogging will be light in the next few days. He had a little mishap this morning that broke his elbow. Screws were required to fix it. So far, he is doing well. Like most of us, he hates being in the hospital with a fiery passion, but all things considered, he is taking it very well.

Please bear with us. As I said, blogging will be light, and don't be surprised if comments end up chilling in moderation longer than usual. Being his daughter, I plan to dote on him enough to get on his last good nerve, but as I know he loves this blog (and the blogging community), I will most definitely try to keep things moving along smoothly until he is well enough to take over again.

New Victims For Bush


As I was leaving San Antonio yesterday, I had a two hour wait in the airport for my flight to Dallas. While waiting, a group of about 10 young people of various ethnicities (7 boys and 3 girls) showed up to wait for the same flight. They looked to be about 18 years old.

They were in good spirits and were laughing, joking and doing some minor horseplaying. They weren't bothering anyone -- just enjoying each other. Personally, this old guy felt younger just watching them. I think many of the other passengers felt the same way. There were many smiles as they watched these young men and women.

Normally I would say they had their whole lives in front of them, but maybe not for these kids. They were brand new Army recruits heading to boot camp. I admired their willingness to sign-up to defend their country, but at the same time I feared for their future.

Bush's infamous surge is failing miserably in Iraq, and our brave soldiers are still dying there in a hopeless cause. The chances are that in a few months, these youngsters will be dumped by Bush into the middle of a civil war which they cannot win and which has nothing to do with defending their country.

There is a very real possibility that one or more of them could be dead by this time next year -- sacrificed for foreign oil and Bush's pride.

Haven't we already lost too many young men and women in Bush's disastrous invasion of Iraq? Bush will not end this war, so we must redouble our efforts to get the Democrats to do what they were elected to do -- end the war and bring our soldiers home.

They have been a disappointment so far, but they are still our only hope.

AA Pilot's Union Elects New Leadership


It looks like the troubles are starting for American Airlines. Their pilot's union just held a leadership election, and the entire slate of incumbents was easily defeated by a slate of candidates advocating a much more confrontational approach with the airline.

The new slate didn't just win -- they won by a landslide. The new slate basically doubled the votes given to the incumbents. And the voter turnout was large. At least 81.5% of the unions members voted, setting a new voter record.

The pilots are very unhappy that while they are working with substantial paycuts, the management of the airlines are dividing up millions in bonuses. They are not the only ones. We already know that the flight attendents are very upset over this, and a couple of weeks ago the ground workers signaled they are going to take a more confrontational approach with management.

Is it any surprise that rank-and-file workers are unhappy? They helped to save the company by agreeing to take substantial paycuts. They had a right to believe they would be rewarded for their sacrifice when the company got on a firmer footing. But they were stabbed in the back.

The company is now operating in the black, but all the rewards for that have gone to management. While the management got millions in bonuses, the workers got ignored. They are expected to go on working for the reduced wages.

I have a feeling that's not going to happen. The company is in store for some very rancorous negotiations in the upcoming contract discussions. This is only right. Management should not have been given a penny in bonuses until the reduced wages had been restored.

A company spokesman said, "A vote other than for the incumbency is essentially a vote to go backwards in the management labor relationship. The problem is management has not done a good signaling to labor that they don't want to go back down that path."

That's not true! Management's signal was loud and clear when they gave the management bonuses -- and it was confrontational.

If there is a strike in the future, and I expect there will be considering management's attitude, I know I will not be flying with any "scab" pilots. I urge my readers to make the same decision.

Changes Are Coming For Sex Offenders

I apologize for the light posting for the last few days. I was in San Antonio attending the Juvenile Sex Offender Management Conference. Since I don't have a laptop yet, the only posts I was able to do were those few I did ahead of time (which my daughter was kind enough to post for me each day). I'm back now, and I hope to be posting more often.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in San Antonio. What a great city! If you've never been, by all means go. San Antonio is growing by leaps and bounds these days, but it still has its own unique flavor. Also, let this Mavericks fan offer congratulations to the San Antonio Spurs for their fourth championship in the last nine years -- a marvelous accomplishment!

Now for the topic at hand. Many in the general public think that all sex offenders are required to register, and are listed on the public sex offender web sites. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The public web sites only contain those offenders that are required to register, usually those that could not afford to hire a high-dollar attorney to defend them. The sad fact is that many many sex offenders in our state are able to hire a good attorney, and then get their registration deferred or waived by a judge.

That means you will not find them on the public web site, and they are not required to check in regularly with the local police agency or sheriff's department. But that is fixing to change.

Last year, Congress passed and the president signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. This new law does many things like mandating a public web site of sex offenders in all states. It also provides grants to help establish these, and to do research.

But one of the main things it will do is take away the ability of judges to defer or waive registration. It creates a new three tier system of rating sex offenses, and demands the registration of all adult sex offenders. Here is how it defines the three tiers of sex offenses:

Tier I are those other than a tier II or tier III.

Tier II are those other than Tier I with an offense punishable by imprisonment for more than one year and comparable to or more severe than the following federal offenses involving a minor: sex trafficking; coercion and enticement; transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity; abusive sexual contact. Also includes any offense involving use of a minor in a sexual performance, solicitation of a minor to practice prostitution, or production or distribution of child pornography.

Tier III are sex offenses punishable by imprisonment for more than one year and comparable to or more severe than the following federal offenses: sexual abuse or aggravated sexual abuse; abusive sexual contact against a minor less than 13 years old; offense involving kidnapping of a minor (parent or guardian excepted); or any offense that occurs after one has been designated a tier II sex offender.

Those found guilty of Tier I offenses will be required to register for 15 years (although this could be reduced to 10 years if a clean record is maintained). They will be required to renew their registration every year with the local police or sheriff's department.

Those found guilty that fall into Tier II will be required to register for 25 years. They will be required to appear at the local policing agency to renew the registration every 6 months.

Tier III offenders will be required to register for life, and they must appear at their local policing agency every 3 months to renew their registration.

Offenders falling into all three tiers will not only have to register, but will have their picture and information posted on the public sex offender web site. Juveniles will also fall under this law, if they are at least 14 and the crime rises to the level of Aggravated Sexual Assault.

This new federal law is much more restrictive than current Texas law. Texas will have to change it's laws to come into compliance with the federal law by 2009. If they don't, they will lose a large chunk of the federal law enforcement dollars they receive. I doubt they'll want to lose the money, so look for these changes to be passed in the next legislative session.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Teacher Pay and Turnover Rates

Teachers at schools in the DFW area with more poor and minority students are getting the short end of the stick when it comes to pay:


Of the 10 largest school districts in Texas, Arlington has the widest salary disparity between teachers at schools with a high number of poor and minority students and teachers at schools with a low number of such students, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization reported.

An Arlington teacher working at a campus with fewer poor or minority students ispaid an average salary that is $2,700 to $4,700 more than a counterpart whoworks at a campus with many poor and minority students, according to Education Trust,which used 2005-06 statistics from the Texas Education Agency.
The numbers aren't much better in the Dallas and Fort Worth school districts. Knowing this, it shouldn't be too hard to figure out which schools have the higher turnover rates.

If you want to know how costly high teacher turnover rates can be:


In Tarrant County, Castleberry and Lake Worth have the two highest turnover rates at 35.7 percent and 30.6 percent, respectively, according to state data for the 2005-06 school year, the most recent available.

The NCTAF’s calculations estimate that Castleberry loses about $450,000 a year and Lake Worth loses about $387,500.

Since 1999, at least one in four teachers leaves the Castleberry school district every year, according to state data.

Castleberry superintendent Gary Jones has said his district, one of the poorest in the state, cannot afford to compete with others in the area to offer higher salaries.

The students in these schools depend on us to see to it that they have the best access possible to a decent education. We aren't doing that by throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars out the window in losing teachers to higher salaries.

I certainly don't blame teachers for going to where they will get better pay (I would do the same if I were in their shoes), but there has to be a way to diminish this problem without short-changing our students. How do we go about doing that?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Ten New Commandments

The pope has been nice enough to provide us with ten new commandments, only these were created to teach us how to be...um...decent human beings. Why does that sound familiar?

The Vatican on Tuesday issued a set of "Ten Commandments" for drivers, telling motorists not to kill, not to drink and drive, and to help fellow travelers in case of accidents.

An unusual document from the Vatican's office for migrants and itinerant people also warned that cars can be "an occasion of sin" -- particularly when they are used for dangerous passing or for prostitution.


Prostitution?! I love how that gets stuck with dangerous passing. Not cutting people off, not crossing several lanes of traffic at once, but prostitution. Something that, when it does take place in cars, does so when the car is parked.

Anyhoo, for those of you who need commandments to help you know how to act on the roadways, here you go:

1. You shall not kill.

2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.

3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.

4. Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents.

5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.

6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.

7. Support the families of accident victims.

8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.

9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.

10. Feel responsible toward others.
With any luck, people will do a better job following these commandments that they have with the original ones.

Open Letter To Rep. Lon Burnam


A certain state-wide magazine recently made the ridiculous assertion that you were among the worst state legislators. What nonsense! I just want you to know that I consider you to be the best legislator I have seen in Austin in many years.

I can count on you to vote your beliefs (and mine), even if you are the only one to do so. You have shown me many times that your beliefs are more important to you that going along with the majority.

When those who want peace need a voice, you are always willing to step forward.

When the poor and downtrodden need representation, you are always there.

When the rich and powerful abuse their power, you are there to call them on their unethical behavior.
When a constituent needs help, you are there.

When a bad bill needs to be stopped, you are not afraid to stop it even if it makes powerful people unhappy.

You also opposed the dictator Craddick, even before it was fashionable to do so.

I live in one of the reddest areas of Texas, which means that I really don't have any representation in Austin. I consider you to be my representative, even though I don't live in your district. I hope I can do so for many years to come.

I am proud to say that this blog supports you, Rep. Burnam. Thank you for your service.

Monday, June 18, 2007

We Aren't Climate Change-Proof

Reading this article in BBC today about how the drought in Australia is affecting farmers not only broke my bleeding heart, but also added fuel to my anger over those who deny or flat out ignore the reality that is climate change.

Me and my brother operate a dairy farm in northern Victoria, not far from the Murray river.

We made the heartbreaking decision to sell half of our herd. Its genealogy can be traced back to the first head of cattle that my father acquired when he started the farm 60 years ago.

The dam that serves the area, the Eildon dam, is at 4.5% capacity at the moment.

Even with the small amount of rain that has fallen recently, it's a case of too little too late. We are in too much debt to be able to buy water or feed.

Our farm is on 410 acres of land and we used to have 185 cows. This year we had only 150 and next year it will be 70.

During the 2002-03 drought, we were able to cut half of our cows by "renting" them to another farmer. He looked after them, but he also got the milk. We call it "cow parking".

We lost about A$1,000 (US$835) for each cow and ended up borrowing A$70,000 (US$58,460) from the bank.

This time round, we collected as much hay as we could, but in February we ran out.

We have probably lost A$150,000 (US$125,271) in revenue this year.

This drought has been the longest in recorded history for the nation. Like the U.S., the Australian leadership wasn't above denial.

Until a few months ago, Mr Howard and his ministers pooh-poohed the climate-change doomsayers. The Prime Minister refused to meet Al Gore when he visited Australia to promote his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. He was lukewarm about the landmark report by the British economist Sir Nicholas Stern, which warned that large swaths of Australia's farming land would become unproductive if global temperatures rose by an average of four degrees.

Faced with criticism from even conservative sections of the media, Mr Howard realised that he had misread the public mood - grave faux pas in an election year. Last month's report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted more frequent and intense bushfires, tropical cyclones, and catastrophic damage to the Great Barrier Reef. The report also said there would be up to 20 per cent more droughts by 2030. And it said the annual flow in the Murray-Darling basin was likely to fall by 10-25 per cent by 2050. The basin, the size of France and Spain combined, provides 85 per cent of the water used nationally for irrigation.

Farmers are currently being hit the hardest with the drought, but that won't last long. City and town dwellers are facing water restrictions. Not only that, but the lack of water in farming areas result in fewer crops. This means that food prices will very easily rise.

This isn't a problem restricted to Australia alone:

Many of the world's rivers, including the Colorado in America, China's Yellow river and the Tagus, which flows through Spain and Portugal, are suffering a similar plight. As the world warms up, hundreds of millions of people will face the same ecological crisis as the residents of the Murray-Darling basin. As water levels dwindle, rows about how supplies should be used are turning farmers against city-dwellers and pitching environmentalists against politicians. Australia has a strong economy, a well-funded bureaucracy and robust political institutions. If it is struggling to respond to this crisis, imagine how drought will tear apart other, less prepared parts of the world.

Climate change isn't something we need to worry about happening in the future. It is already happening. The time has come for us to acknowledge this and prepare for it. We will be the ones to suffer if the problem continues to be ignored.

Amanpour To Be Honored By Queen Elizabeth II


Buckingham Palace has announced that Christiane Amanpour will receive the prestigious honor of being named as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). The honor will be conferred on her during the official celebration of Queen Elizabeth II's birthday.


Amanpour is the Chief International Correspondent for CNN News. I can think of no correspondent who deserves this honor more.


She has long been the premiere war correspondent of our time. If the bullets are flying anywhere in the world, Amanpour will be there giving us the truth about what is happening. She doesn't feed us the government line like many other journalists do.


Thank you for your bravery and service Ms. Amanpour. I hope this is followed by many other awards. You have earned them.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Perry Right To Veto Blue Warrant Bill


Scott Henson, over at Grits for Breakfast is upset over the governor's veto of HB541, which would have allowed parolee's to bail out of jail when they're arrested on a blue warrant (parole revocation warrant).

I want to preface my remarks by saying that Grits for Breakfast is the best criminal justice blog in the state of Texas (and maybe the nation). I enjoy reading it every day, and 99% of the time I agree with it. Mr. Henson knows what he's talking about.

But I have to disagree about HB541. A blue warrant is an arrest warrant issued when a parolee has violated his parole and a revocation hearing is to be held to see whether the parolee will go back to prison or not. A blue warrant is not bailable -- the parolee will remain in jail until the hearing is held and the results are known. Then the parolee will either be released or sent back to prison.

Parole is not a right guaranteed by the Constitution. It is a privilege granted by the Parole Board, and that privilege can be revoked at any time for a violation. It's not like he was waiting to go to court to see if he's going to be convicted. For most crimes, those waiting to go to court should be granted bail (after all, they haven't been convicted of anything yet).

A parolee is someone who's already been convicted of a felony and sent to prison. The hearing is to see if he'll lose the privilege of parole and have to go back to prison. The chances are very good that a parolee sitting in jail on a blue warrant will be sent back to prison, and most parolees know this.

Because of this, there is a much greater risk of a parolee not showing up at his hearing, than that of a bailee not showing up for trial. Then you have a convicted felon running free and unsupervised, and highly likely to commit another crime to keep his freedom. That is why blue warrants are not bailable -- to protect the community at large.

Scott says parole officers abuse the blue warrant by jailing offenders they do not wish to revoke. I'm sure that may be true in some instances. But is this such a bad thing if it straightens out a parole violator? Do we really want parole violators to remain free?

There has to be a better solution to county jail overcrowding that turning parole violators loose. Maybe the state should pay the county for housing these prisoners. Maybe the state should build its own temporary detention facilities. After all, we are not talking about an extended period of time before the revocation decision is made.

One of a parole officer's duties is to protect the community. They cannot do that if parole violators are allowed to run free.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Wounded Soldiers Not Getting All Their Mail


Once again we find the Bush administration failing our soldiers. Bush continues to ask our troops to do the impossible -- to referee a bloody civil war where all sides hate us as much as they hate each other. But he doesn't seem to be willing to give them the tools they need (they're getting poorly-armored vehicles and second-rate body armor) or take care of them after they're seriously wounded.

Everyone has already heard about the horrid living conditions at Walter Reed Hospital that went unreported and ignored for far too long. Now we learn that wasn't the only problem at Walter Reed that was being ignored.

The Army has discovered over 4,500 packages and other pieces of mail that was undelivered in the hospital mail room. Some of this mail dates back to May of 2006 -- over a year ago! The Army has fired the mail contractor and ordered a team of soldiers and civilians to get this mail delivered.

The soldiers in Walter Reed have given us their best -- to the point of being seriously wounded. Many of them are maimed for life. It is the job of our government to see that they get the best care possible when they return.

If the government can't even do as simple a task as delivering their mail, I have to wonder what else they are failing to do for these brave soldiers. Once again the Bush administration shows its utter incompetence.

And don't even bother trying to tell me this wasn't Bush's fault. If he didn't know about it, he should have. He should have people designated to see that these soldiers get our government's best effort without excuses.

The legacy of the Bush administration is to enrich corporations like Halliburton, while 3,520 of our soldiers have died and thousands of the wounded get substandard care. Hell, they can't even deliver the mail!

It is time to act in defense of our soldiers. It is time to demand that Bush bring them home. Immediately!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Rethinking "Zero Tolerance"

I never really understood the idea behind "zero tolerance". The term standing alone sounds bad. Zero Tolerance. In a country that still struggles with racism, sexism, and classism, should we allow a word that can be so positive ("tolerance") be associated with such negativity?

No.

According to this article, there is finally a backlash against "zero tolerance".

Some parents have mixed feelings about zero-tolerance rules. Christine Duckworth, 50, is the mother of an 18-year-old daughter who just graduated Portsmouth High School in Rhode Island, which has a zero-tolerance policy.

Duckworth said she wanted her daughter safe at school, but she said rules must reflect that teenagers make mistakes."


I think there's pretty much always a gray area," she said. "You're dealing with individuals. How can you possibly apply one law to every single person and their circumstances?"

I think that is a good point. Universal punishments for crimes in thoery sounds fair. In practice that doesn't always prove to be the case. The article has several good examples:

Fifth-graders in California who adorned their mortarboards with tiny toy plastic soldiers this week to support troops in Iraq were forced to cut off their miniature weapons. A Utah boy was suspended for giving his cousin a cold pill prescribed to both students. In Rhode Island, a kindergartner was suspended for bringing a plastic knife to school so he could cut cookies.


It doesn't say what the punishments for these infractions were, but with rules in place that do not allow teachers to take the seriousness of the incidents into consideration, I can see how easy it would be for the punishments to be excessive. I don't believe that a kindergartner with a plastic knife should be penalized the same way that a teenager caught with a switchblade is.

The policy has proved to be a lousy deterrent not only to rule violations on school campuses, but also to the willingness of students to be honest with and seek help from their educators.


Reynolds also questioned what lessons zero-tolerance rules teach, citing reports that a 10-year-old girl was expelled from a Colorado academy after giving a teacher a small knife her mother placed in her lunchbox.
"What she learned from the school was, 'If something happens and you break a rule, for God's sake, don't tell anybody,'" Reynolds said. "Zero tolerance policies completely ignore the concept of intent, which is antithetical to the American philosophy of justice."
Expelled. Ten years old and expelled for being honest with a teacher about something her mother did. Disgusting.

Obviously, the whole notion of "zero tolerance" needs to be reexamined. It is nice to see that more people are finally starting to climb on board with this view. Better late than never.

Another Warning From Mother Nature


Mother Nature has been trying to tell us for many years that we're destroying our environment, but most people haven't been listening. This time the warning is coming from our common backyard birds.

The National Audubon Society has just released a report showing that at least 20 species of common backyard birds have lost more than 50% of their populations in the last 40 years. This involves birds that most of us grew up with such as bobwhites, whippoorills, meadowlarks, sparrows, chickadees, terns, grouse, grackles and hummingbirds.

For example, the meadowlark population has shrunk from 24 million in 1967 to 7 million today. Bobwhites have gone from 31 million to 5.5 million, and whippoorills have gone from 2.8 million to 1.2 million.

One of the main causes of this is the disappearance natural bird habitats. Small family farms are being bought out by corporate farms, resulting in the disappearance of hedgerows and shelterbelts. Land once reserved for conservation is being planted to provide corn for more ethanol. The suburbs are gobbling up more and more land. Global climactic change is destroying habitat.

The Audubon Society is recommending several changes for Congress to consider to slow this decline. They are:
1. Reduce global warming
2. Support wetlands
3. Fund ecosystem restoration
4. Ensure biofuels are eco-friendly
5. Improve conservation programs in next farm bill

I believe the birds make life a little less grim, and I'm not ready to see them disappear. But that's not all. Many other animals will be affected by the loss of these habitats -- including us.

Maybe it's time for us to start listening to Mother Nature's warnings.

Please Tell Me It's Not True !


I'm going to have to stop reading the Dallas Morning News if they're going to depress me with this kind of news. They are reporting that Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is still considering a run for the governor's office in 2010.

Hasn't she done a bad enough job in the U.S. Senate? Does she really have to come home and devote all her energies to screwing up our state? I was hoping we could catch a break after Perry's disastrous regime.

The ultra-right wing senator (and that's what she is) was meeting Wednesday at a meeting of Texas chapters of Associated Builders and Contractors, when they asked her what it would take to get her in the race for president (these guys are obviously not very bright).

She quickly replied, "Nothing" but then said, "I might come home to Texas and run for governor".

The bad part is that even though she's done a very poor job as a senator, she's still popular with a lot of Texas voters. There's a very real chance she could actually get elected. Just the thought of following 8 years of Perry with 4 years of Hutchison makes me ill.

Excuse me while I throw up.

Justice After 43 Years


In 1964, a vile crime was committed in southwest Mississippi. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) kidnapped two 19 year-old African-American men, Charles Moore and Henry Dee. They took them into the woods and brutally beat them. Then they stuffed them into the trunk of a car, drove them to Louisiana, attached weights to them and threw them alive into the Mississippi River to drown.

Moore and Dee were not activists or criminals. They were just two innocent youths trying to hitchhike to the next town. They were not kidnapped and murdered for anything they did. They were murdered by racists because of the color of their skin.

Klansman James Ford Steele was arrested in Mississippi in 1964 and charged with their murder. But the South was not ready to mete out justice to klansmen at that time, and the charges were dropped. Justice would have to wait another 43 years.

Last January, Steele was arrested again. Federal prosecutors had indicted the 71 year-old on two counts of kidnapping and one charge of conspiracy. Yesterday, a jury found Steele guilty of his heinous crimes. He will be sentenced to life in prison in August.

Some might wonder about the propriety of convicting a 71 year-old of a crime that happened 43 years ago. I am not one of those. I was a teenager myself during those bad years in the South, and I celebrate his conviction. He deserves to die in prison.

We must never forget or forgive the horrible racist crimes in our nation's past.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Has Bush Gone Completely Insane ?


The only thing I can figure is that Bush has gone completely insane. Why else would he be arming the Sunni insurgents?

It seems that recently the Sunni insurgents have had a falling out with al-Queda. So Bush has begun to give them arms to help them to fight al-Queda. Evidently he believes the old saying that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. He still hasn't realized that we have NO friends in Iraq.

These are the same Sunni insurgents that have been primarily responsible for the IEDs that have killed and maimed thousands of American troops. Just because they are arguing with and fighting al-Queda, doesn't mean they will stop trying to kill American soldiers!
It doesn't matter how much the Sunnis, Shiites and al-Queda hate each other. The fact remains that all three groups hate our troops as much as they hate each other. There is absolutely no doubt that these same weapons that we give them will be turned on our troops.

It was bad enough that the weapons we gave the Iraqi police and army were turned on our troops far too often. But to give arms directly to the insurgents boggles the mind. After all, there is a good reason they are called "insurgents".

This latest ridiculous action by Bush shows that he has no idea what he is doing in Iraq. We must cut off the war funding and force him to bring our soldiers home now, before he does something even crazier.

Bush has repeatedly proven he cannot be trusted with the power to wage war.

"Five Second Rule" Really Works !


Most of us have heard the old saying called the "five second rule", which states that if food dropped on the floor is picked up within 5 seconds then it is still edible. Personally, I always thought this was just a joke. It seemed obvious that food dropped on the floor would instantly be unsanitary.

But it looks like the rule may actually be true! Assistant biology professor Anne Bernhard of Connecticut College, and two of her students decided to test the "five second rule", and see if there was anything to it.

They chose a wet food (apple slices) and a dry food (Skittles candy). They dropped these foods on a well-trod cafeteria floor for varying times from 5 seconds to five minutes. They then put the dropped foods into petri dishes to see if any bacteria grew. They were surprised at the results.

It seems the wet foods remained germ free for at least 30 seconds, and the dry foods were germ-free for up to five minutes. Not only is the "five second rule" true, we could probably change it to a "thirty second rule".

We live and learn.

Katie Awards Were Also Rigged In 2004


For nearly 48 years, the Katie Awards ejoyed a prestigious reputation. When a news-person or organization received a Katie (pictured above), it was considered an honor and something to include on a resume. It gave you bragging rights among your peers in Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico and Louisiana.

But that was before Elizabeth Albanese, past president of the Dallas Press Club, became involved. A few weeks ago, the Dallas Press Club announced that Albanese had rigged the awards in 2005 and 2006. They said the awards had not been impartially judged, but instead Albanese just gave them to who she wanted, including several for herself.

Now the story gets even worse. The Dallas Press Club admitted Wednesday that the 2004 awards had also been rigged. They have been unable to find any evidence that impartial judges had determined the winners.

The awards were already critically wounded. This latest revelation may have put the final nail in the coffin. When asked if there will be awards in 2007, current club president Tom Stewart said, "My opinion is that would be highly unlikely."

Maybe the awards will be resurrected in the future. I hope so. But it will take many years to regain the prestige that Albanese destroyed.

Panhandle To Get Largest Wind Farm In Nation


A few days ago, we learned that a proposed wind farm to generate electricity in the Gulf of Mexico will not be built. The proposed builders said they had determined that the plan was just not economically viable. But just the opposite conclusion has been reached in the Texas Panhandle.

Oilman T. Boone Pickens and his Mesa Group have spent the last 9 months investigating the feasibility of a huge wind farm in the Panhandle. They believe the renewable energy wind farm is viable, and they're planning to build what would be the largest wind farm in the nation.

Yesterday, Mesa Group met with 250 landowners in Gray, Hemphill, Roberts and Wheeler counties to explain the proposal. Mesa is offering the landowners a $4500 payment for each wind turbine, plus 4-5% of the electricity's value as it is sold. Mesa claims these are among the most generous terms in the wind farm industry.

The group wants to put about 2000 turbines across nearly 200,000 acres of Panhandle land. These turbines would produce between 2000 and 4000 megawatts of electricity (the equivalent of 1-2 nuclear power plants the size of Comanche Peak).

Mesa says it will cost about $6 billion to build. This would include the cost of building transmission lines to connect it to the state's power grid. Most of the expense is the cost to build and maintain the system. The fuel to power the system (wind) is both free and renewable. Even better is that it produces no pollution or greenhouse gases.

I know there will probably be opponents to the plan, but I think it's a good idea. It will be a financial boon to the landowners and the Panhandle in general. It will supply a lot of the much-needed electricity Texas needs as its population continues to grow. And it will do it without polluting the clean air of West Texas.

Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Iraq, The Economy, Amnesty, CEOs & Gas Prices

Yesterday, a new Los Angeles Times / Bloomberg Poll was released covering a wide range of topics. The poll contacted 1183 adults by telephone from June 7 through June 10, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3%.

The poll shows that Bush is truly a lame-duck president, and is losing support for most of his policies across the board. Let's examine some of these policies.

IRAQ WAR

Bush has been adamant about not withdrawing any troops from Iraq until we "win" the war. He has been especially adamant about not setting any timetables for withdrawal, saying this would amount to surrender. The poll shows the American people do not agree with him. Here are the results when people were asked do you support or oppose setting timetables for withdrawal:

GROUP..........SUP..........OPP
All..................57%..........39%
Dem...............82%..........14%
Ind.................60%..........36%
Rep................24%..........73%
Men...............55%...........42%
Women..........59%..........36%

Around 57% of the American people support the setting of timelines for withdrawal of American troops. The only group opposed to this are Republicans, and a quarter of them favor timelines for withdrawal. Perhaps even more telling is the fact that a full 25% of Americans now support withdrawing the troops immediately.

ECONOMY

Bush has not hidden the fact that he thinks the way to a healthy economy is to give corporations everything they want, regardless of how this affects the common man. He has even let corporate lobbyists write many of his economic bills. Once again, the majority of Americans disapprove. Here are the results when they were asked do you approve or disapprove of the way Bush is handling the economy.

GROUP..........APP..........DIS
All..................38%..........58%
Dem...............14%...........83%
Ind.................28%..........66%
Rep................77%...........19%
Men...............43%...........54%
Women.........33%............61%
<40k.............32%............65%
>100K...........45%.............52%

The interesting part of this question is that both those making less than $40,000 and those making more than $100,000 show a majority opposed to Bush's policies. Corporate CEOs fare even worse in this poll. Americans across the board believe they make far too much, and a full 61% believe corporate CEOs are not ethical. Here are the figures when Americans were asked do you think CEOs make too much (TM) or right amount (RA).

GROUP..........TM..........RA
All..................81%.........14%
Dem...............88%........07%
Ind.................86%........09%
Rep................73%.........23%
Men...............80%.........16%
Women..........82%.........12%
<40k..............76%.........18%
>100K............80%.........20%

Even a whopping 73% of Republicans believe that corporate salaries for top executives are way out of line. The people would like to see these salaries reined in. Too bad there are no politicians with the will to get the job done.

AMNESTY FOR IMMIGRANTS

Listening to the screams of the right-wing hate-mongers, one might conclude there is a vast anti-immigrant backlash in this country, but this is just not true. It turns out that the right-wing claim that Americans are opposed to amnesty for illegal immigrants is simply a lie. Most Americans are better than that. Not a single group (even Republicans and conservatives) opposed an amnesty path to citizenship for illegal immigrants in this country. Here are the numbers.

GROUP..........SUP..........OPP
All..................63%..........23%
Lib.................69%..........14%
Mod...............65%..........24%
Con................58%..........27%
Dem...............66%..........19%
Ind.................66%..........20%
Rep................65%..........27%
Men...............64%..........26%
Women..........62%..........20%

GAS PRICES

The giant oil companies have been running a public relations campaign to convince Americans that they are being forced to raise gas prices to outrageous levels because of the market forces of supply and demand. I have been wondering if Americans are buying into that big lie. Turns out they don't believe it at all. The last question we'll examine is who do you blame for the high gas prices -- US oil companies (USO), Bush administration (BA), supply and demand of the market (S&D), foreign oil exporters (FOE) or environmental regulations (ER).

GROUP....USO....BA....S&D....FOE....ER
All............38%....21%...12%.....10%....05%
Dem.........33%....36%...07%....09%....00%
Ind...........45%....19%....12%....09%....03%
Rep..........39%....07%....19%....11%.....14%
Men.........39%....19%....17%....07%....06%
Women....37%....23%....07%....12%....05%

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bush Loses Another Court Decision


A few years ago, it looked like Bush was unstoppable in his drive to tear up the Constitution and deny rights even to American citizens. He eavesdropped with unconstitutional wiretaps and snooped into Americans lives, even to the point of checking what books they were reading.

Even worse, Bush claimed the right to declare any American an "enemy combatant", and imprison them indefinitely without charges or the right of habeas corpus. Now it looks like Americans are starting to win back their rights bit by bit.

Last August, a federal judge ruled that Bush's domestic spy program violated the Constitution. A couple of weeks ago, two military judges threw out charges against Gitmo detainees, saying Bush's new military tribunal law did not give them juristiction. Now a federal appeals court has struck down Bush's ability to deny habeas corpus to American residents.

Ali al-Marri was a legal resident of the United States when he was arrested in December of 2001. Since 2003, he has been held in solitary confinement in the Naval brig in Charleston, South Carolina. He has been accused of having connections with al-Queda and is being held without charges or the right to face his accusors in court.

On Monday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government must either charge al-Marri or release him from custody. The court said, "Put simply, the Constitution does not allow the President to order the military to seize civilians residing within the United States and then detain them indefinitely without criminal process, and this is so even if he calls them 'enemy combatants'."

Finally, our courts are starting to uphold the Constitution. It's a good sign that this court in Virginia is generally considered a "conservative" court. Of course, the government will appeal this decision, but hopefully even the Supreme Court will decide the Constitution is more important than Bush's pride.

Racism Rears It's Ugly Head In Georgia


Genarlow Wilson was an honor student as a senior in high school with a 3.2 grade point average. He was also an excellent athlete with several colleges offering him scholarships to play football at their school. The future looked very bright for that 17 year-old.

But that was before he and his buddies threw a New Year's party. At that party, fueled by alcohol and marijuana, several sex acts took place and were videotaped. A 15 year-old sophomore girl initiated sexual contact with Wilson, and willingly gave him oral sex.

Since that time, life has been a nightmare for Wilson. If he had engaged in consenting intercourse with the girl, it would have been a misdemeanor. But at the time, Georgia law defined the oral sex as a felony (probably due to southern homophobia). Wilson would up with a minimum 10 year prison sentence, even though the jury later said they had no idea his sentence would be that harsh.

The Georgia legislature later made this "crime" a misdemeanor, but neglected to make the new law retroactive.

After serving two years in prison, which any decent human would think was enough, it looked like Wilson's luck might be changing. On Monday, Superior Court Judge Thomas H. Wilson reduced the sentence to one year and said Wilson would not have to register as a sex offender.

The judge said in his ruling, "If any case fits into the definitive limits of a miscarriage of justice, surely this case does. The fact that Genarlow Wilson has spent two years in prison for what is now classified as a misdemeanor, and without assistance from this court will spend eight more years in prison, is a grave miscarriage of justice."

But instead of treading the decent path and letting Wilson out of prison, the prosecutor immediately appealed, insuring that Wilson would remain in prison. Wilson's attorney B. J. Bernstein said, "It is extremely, extremely disturbing that the Attorney General would take this action now." She said she did not know what message "he's trying to send".

I think the message he's trying to send is pretty obvious -- and it's a racist message. African-Americans simply can't expect the same brand of justice in Georgia as whites. Compare this case to the recent case in which a white school teacher had sexual relations with students (a real example of criminal sex abuse) and only received a 9 month sentence.

When this case was appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, they denied his release 4-3. Three African-American justices voted in his favor, and four white justices voted against him.

It looks to me like racism is still alive and well in Georgia.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Other Iraq Intelligence Scandal

The book has pretty much been closed on whether the administration's pre-war analysis of the threat posed by Iraq was grounded in reality. It was not. But I'm going to talk about something that slipped under the radar a bit, and which is unfortunately going to sound cold and cruel: the dollar cost.

For a brief trip down memory lane, see a 2003 article about what a (then-hypothetical) war would cost. The president wisely steered clear of giving any specific figure, taking the whatever-it-takes line.

But figures circulated anyway, and ranged from $50 billion to $200 billion -- the $200B being called "the upper end of a hypothetical" by OMB's Trent Duffy. Back then, the idea of spending $200B on this war would have seriously deflated support for it.

Well, we're well underway now, and could maybe revise the estimate. Spent: $279B, or 1.4 times the "upper end". This is about 5 times the cost of the first Gulf War.

That would be somewhat-embarrassing, if the project were presently completed. But boy do we have a problem: at this exorbitant cost the project is nowhere near completed, and for some rough figures on how-complete the project is I consulted this fact sheet, in particular the last section containing reconstruction targets.

For example, "prewar projection of Iraq’s post-war oil output" was 3 million barrels/day. Production is now 1.7 million b/day, or 56% of the target. Just a bit of algebra, and final projected cost would be: $498 billion

Electricity production is in a similar state, having reached 59% of the target over 4 years. Finally, please note that most of these metrics of progress have not yet climbed back to their pre-war levels.


Corporate CEO Pay Reaches Obscene Level


Pay for the Chief Executive Officers (CEO) of large corporations has always been huge. In the 70's and 80's, they became outrageous. But even that pales in comparison to the obscene pay being received by CEOs these days. According to an analysis done by the Associated Press (AP), over half of all corporate CEOs make more that $8.3 million a year.

During the 1990's, corporate CEO compensation rose about 800%. During the same time period, the median household income only rose 8.6% in this country. Currently the average corporate CEO makes 179 times as much as a rank-and-file worker.

Now most CEOs and corporate boards would like us to believe the the compensation is dictated by the market and by performance. Not true! J. Richard Finlay, of The Centre for Corporate and Public Governance, says CEO pay is not set by the market, but "determined by a small clique of like-minded directors, most of whom are themselves past and current CEOs with a vested interest in perpetuating a failed, but to them, remarkably generous system."

Even multi-billionaire Warren Buffet says that "too often, executive compensation in the U.S. is ridiculously out of line with performance."

And it's not just the CEOs that are receiving huge compensation. The average CEO makes about 2 1/2 times other executives. That means many of the other executives are also being paid millions of dollars.

Of course, all of this is happening during a time when the average worker is being forced to accept pay cuts, or see his job shipped overseas. The power of unions in America has been gutted in the last few years by the Republicans, leaving American workers defenseless.

We hear a lot of talk from politicians about helping American workers, but it is mostly just talk. When Republicans talk about helping American workers, they are talking about helping their corporate executive buddies make even more obscene salaries. Democrats are not much better. The best they can muster is to raise the paltry minimum wage to slightly more than $7 an hour.

It is time to elect some politicians who will do more than just mouth platitudes and toy around with the minimum wage. It is time to address the obscene corporate executive salaries more directly.

I suggest we pass a new law limiting CEO compensation to 30-40 times the wage of the lowest-paid worker in the company (regardless of what country that lowest-paid worker lives in). If that CEO wants to hire Asian workers making 15 cents an hour, then that is the wage his salary will be determined from.

This law would have a positive effect in two ways. It would stop the export of American jobs to exploit cheap wages, and it would tend to raise the wages of American workers (since that's the only way executive wages could be raised).

There are some who would claim this would have a negative effect on our economy. I don't believe that is true. Times have always been best in America when wealth was more evenly distributed, even for business. Business will thrive even more when the common man has more to spend and save.

Neocons would like us to believe that money trickles down, but that has never been true. In a capitalist society, money flows upward -- it never trickles down.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Bush Scapegoats Another General


Bush has fired another of his generals. This time it's Marine General Peter Pace, head of the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff (our nation's top military officer).

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said he will not re-appoint Pace to a second term as head of the Joint Chiefs. Instead, he will nominate Navy Admiral Mike Mullen to replace him. The Bush administration believed that re-appointing Pace would give rise to a contentious debate in Congress about the conduct of the war in Iraq.

This was a silly reason to replace Pace. Either he was doing a good job or he was not, but to replace him to avoid an argument with Congress is just wrong. It also won't work.

I don't think Congress will be fooled by this move. They know that Pace is not the one to be blamed for the failures in Iraq (or any of our other military leaders for that matter).

The Iraq war should never have happened, but since it's inception it has been grossly mishandled. But it wasn't the military that mishandled it -- it was Bush and Cheney. They totally misread the situation, they didn't send nearly enough troops to handle the situation, and they bungled the effort to rebuild Iraq.

Bush and Cheney must accept ALL of the blame for the blunder in Iraq. It is time they stopped firing and scapegoating our top military officers in an attempt to shift the blame. Both Congress and the American people know the administration is to blame.

Appointing a new head of the Joint Chiefs will do nothing to improve the disastrous Iraqi occupation. At this point, there is only one thing that will make the situation in Iraq better for America, and that is to bring our troops home -- immediately.

Governor Signs TYC Bill Into Law


It's finally happened. The TYC overhaul bill was signed by the governor on Friday, and went into effect immediately. This is a good change, and one that has been needed for years.

I am a TYC employee and have been for many years now. I assure you that most of the TYC employees are very happy to see many of the changes that will take place because of the new law.

One of the best changes is that 19 and 20 year olds will no longer be sent to the agency. The TYC program is geared toward helping minors. The 19 and 20 year olds are adults. They did not like being in the program and were seldom helped by the program. The only thing they usually did was to help the younger students become more accomplished and more dangerous criminals when they were released.

Another good change is to separate the younger and smaller students from those older and larger, and from those who are more violent. TYC used to do this in the 70's and 80's, and I never understood why they stopped it. This will help make the TYC environment safer for all of the students.

TYC will now have to lower the student-to-staff ratio to 1 staff JCO(Juvenile Correctional Officer) for every 12 students. In the past, TYC would tell you they had a 1 to 15 ratio, but it was not true. They counted many staff such as secretarys and administrators who did not directly supervise the students. The real ratio was about 1 to 20. The new ratio of 1 to 12 will only count those actually supervising students. This will make it safer for both the students and the staff.

The new law also creates a separate arm of the agancy, the Inspector General's Office, to investigate allegations of abuse and other crimes within the agency. It just makes sense that an investigator should be someone who is not a co-worker or friend of the person being accused. This should insure a more impartial investigation.

But, as with a lot of new laws, there are a couple of questionable parts to it. One is the exclusion of ALL misdemeanors as crimes for which a student can be sent to TYC. When many people think of misdemeanors, they think of relatively harmless crimes such as traffic tickets. They don't realize that some pretty serious crimes such as Assault With Injury and Possession Of A Firearm are currently misdemeanors in Texas law. Personally, I can think of few things more dangerous than a young criminal with a gun. This portion of the new law may actually make our communities a more dangerous place.

The new law also puts all employees on an "at will" employment basis. This means a supervisor no longer has to have "just cause" to terminate an employee. A supervisor can fire someone because he/she doesn't like their hair color (or some other equally ridiculous reason). Bad employees should be terminated, but it should be because they are not performing up to established standards -- not because some supervisor just doesn't like them.

Something that was discussed, but was left out of the law, was a significant raise. TYC employees are among the lowest-paid state employees in the nation, even though the job is both complex and dangerous. It would be much easier to attract competent staff and keep them, if salaries were raised to a more attractive level.

Overall, this was a good bill and contained many needed changes. Hopefully, the next legislature will tweak this new law and make it even better.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Wireless Energy On The Horizon


Wouldn't you love to get rid of all those wires currently delivering power to your many electrical devices? You may be able to in the near future.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have shown how it can be done. They have successfully transmitted energy without wires to light a light bulb about 7 meters away. When objects were placed between the sending and receiving stations, it had no effect on the power transfer.

They did it by using the well-known effect called "resonance". Two objects with the same resonance frequency will strongly exchange energy without having an effect on surrounding objects (that are on a different resonance frequency). WiTricity, as it is called, uses very low frequency electromagnetic waves.

Right now the sending and receiving stations (the coiled apparatus' in the above picture) are fairly large, and they can send the energy with only 40% efficiency. The next step is to reduce the size and improve the efficiency.

I can hardly wait to get rid of all the wires.

Collin County D.A. Releases Child Molesters


This story is pretty hard to believe. Last year, the Murphy Police Department arrested 23 child molesters in conjunction with NBC Dateline and a citizens group called Perverted Justice. The police had the internet records where these perverts arranged to meet for sex with Perverted Justice operatives they thought were underage children. They also had VIDEO TAPE of the perverts actually showing up at the house where they believed underage children lived.

Now in Texas, the internet transcripts alone are enough to convict the perverts. The tapes are just icing on the cake. With this kind of evidence, you'd think that these molesters would be going to prison for a while -- where they belong. But not in Collin County!

Collin County (Texas) prosecutors have dismissed the charges against all 23 child molesters. Prosecutors all over the country have had no trouble at all prosecuting these cases, but the Collin County DA's office says they didn't have enough evidence.

Are they really trying to tell us that internet transcripts, video tapes, and police and civilian witnesses aren't enough to put these perverts away?

First, the DA's office tried to say they didn't have juristiction because the computers or servers needed to be located in Collin County. But that argument doesn't fly. All of the internet conversations went through a server located in Collin County, giving them all the juristiction they need.

Then they tried to say that Perverted Justice wouldn't give them evidence or testify. Perverted Justice founder Xavier Von Erck says they were never asked for more evidence, and would have been happy to testify if asked. He said, "We've gone from questioning the competency of the Collin County Prosecutor's Office to questioning their sanity."

As most people know, child molesters are highly likely to re-offend. When any or all of these 23 commit a new crime against children, the blame will have to be shared by the Collin County District Attorney's Office.

Sounds like the good people of Collin County need to elect a new District Attorney. They need one that will put molesters in prison -- not release them.

The Double Standard Of American Justice

There are two kinds of justice in the United States. There is the soft justice for the rich and powerful, and the harsh justice for the rest of us.

A good example of this was shown to us a few days ago, when Scooter Libby was given 30 months in prison, and then allowed to go home while the judge decided whether to let him remain free while his appeals are being heard. No poor or working-class person would have been afforded this opportunity.

Today, we saw another example of this soft justice for the rich and famous. A California judge (What was he thinking?) had finally sent Paris Hilton to jail after she blew several opportunities at serving probation. But yesterday, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department stepped up and made sure she wouldn't really have to serve that sentence.

They released her from jail after serving less than 5 days of her sentence for "medical" reasons, and sent her to do the remaining time under house...uh, make that mansion arrest. It seems she's been crying uncontrollably and refusing to eat the jail food. Sounds more like a rich person throwing a tantrum than a medical problem.

You can bet a poor person would not be released on such flimsy medical grounds. Frankly, it's hard to talk about the fairness of our justice system while such inequities exist.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Is Bush Trying To Pick A Fight With Putin ?


I really don't understand what Bush is trying to do with his idea of putting a missle-defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. It's almost like he's trying to pick a fight with Putin and Russia.

Does it bother him that the Cold War is over? Is he trying to bring it back? I know he says the shield is to protect against Iranian missles, but Iran doesn't have a missle that can reach Europe and is unlikely to have one anytime soon. Besides, if it was really for protection against Iran, then wouldn't it make more sense to put it in southern Europe closer to Iran?

I don't blame the Russians for being upset. By placing the shield in northern Europe on Russia's border, it certainly looks like Bush is aiming his action at Russia. Russia doesn't trust us fully yet, just as we don't fully trust them. From their viewpoint, their only protection against an attack from the West is their ability to retaliate with missles of their own.

But a missle-defense shield could take away their ability to retaliate, and open them up to a first-strike from the West. It is easy to see why they would be nervous about Bush's proposal. After all, Bush has shown with his attack on Iraq that he is willing to declare war without a reason to do so.

With this proposal, it looks as though Bush is trying to engage in brinkmanship politics (like JFK during the missle crises in Cuba). That's scary, because Bush is not half as smart as JFK. He'll screw it up like he has with all his other endeavors, and wind up leaving the world a more dangerous place for everyone.

Can't we impeach this fool before he starts another cold (or hot) war?

Potter County Sheriff Blames Ex-Wife For Troubles


Potter County Sheriff Michael Shumate has broken his silence about the FBI investigation into his actions. But I'm not sure he's thrown any more light on the matter. According to the sheriff, his problems are all due to his ex-wife.

Shumate says he and his wife had a bitter divorce, and she promised to make trouble for him. He said she accused him of taking bribes and kickbacks from vendors who service the jail commissary (this is the first we've heard of what the charges might be).

That sounds a bit simplistic though. The FBI doesn't usually takes sides in divorce matters, or waste months investigating a public official when the only evidence is the word of an ex-wife. This investigation has gone on for months, and now the FBI has brought U.S. Attorneys into the matter. That sounds pretty serious.

Evidently Shumate's chief deputy thought it was serious also -- serious enough that he said he could not ethically continue as Shumate's employee. I don't think we've heard the last of this.