Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Um...isn't this a little bit bass ackwards?

Quote from our fearless leader's right hand man (Rummy) in response to question regarding exit from Iraq:

"I believe the answer is clear," he said. "Quitting is not an exit strategy. It would be a formula for putting the American people at still greater risk and an invitation for more terrorist violence."

Um...hello? Didn't we INVITE terrorist violence from Iraq by invading them in the first place?? It would sure as hell piss me off if I were them. Particularly when it was that guy...what's his name now....geez..it's on the tip of my tongue....it's just been so long since I heard anything about him. Oh yeah...that's right, Osama Bin Laden - that Saudi Arabian dude - who unleashed the 9/11 attacks on the USA.

Gotta love that revisionist history stuff :)

Monday, November 28, 2005

1,000 and Counting

A recent news report reminding us that we're almost at the milestone of 1,000 people who have been executed in the US since the 10 year moratorium ended with Gary Gilmore's "Let's do it" as he faced a Utah firing squad in 1977. My immediate thought was...that's almost 30 years and it's ONLY 1,000? When you consider that death sentences seem to get handed down like candy, it just seems like a pretty small figure, doesn't it?

I am still inclined to be opposed to the death penalty, which will probably come as something of a surprise to those of you who've seen how much I loathe and detest the criminal element. My big problem with it, I guess is that it's kind of like bad parenting. For a deterrent to work, it has to be enforced, doesn't it? Is anything worse than seeing the parents who are constantly telling Junior that if he doesn't stop his behavior, xyz will happen. And then constantly telling him over and over without ever producing xyz. The child catches on pretty quickly that xyz isn't a real deterrent at all.

I think of the death penalty in much the same way. If you're going to have it, you should enforce it. People shouldn't have the chance to die of old age on death row before their sentence - issued two or three decades earlier - is carried out. If you're so convinced that you have the right guy in prison for the crime, then why give them more than say a year or two to exhaust the appeals process before carrying out the punishment? By the time these people are executed, nobody remembers what they were put away for in the first place anyway, so what kind of deterrent is that?

And yes, it does bother me that innocent people have been executed. Posthumous pardons are all well and good but they don't do much for the wrongly-accused, do they? England's famous Dr. Crippen, who saw young, borderline retarded Timothy Evans hanged for Crippen's own crimes springs to mind.

But don't get me wrong. I think if you're going to abolish the death penalty, then life should mean life. There shouldn't be the stupid option of life equalling 30 years - out in 15 with good behavior. If you commit a crime like murder in the first, you shouldn't ever get to breathe free air again. And I'll go you one further. People doing LWOP should be doing their time in a penitentiary. And I'm not talking about the new age prisons with all the creature comforts. I'm talking penitentiary in its 19th century definition. A place where you went to repent your crimes and live in nasty conditions, sometimes at hard labor, for the rest of your life.

Look - if these people are never going to see the light of day again, why do we have to spend time and money and resources making sure that they get treated as well as possible under the circumstances? Save that for people doing minor sentences, who have a chance at being rehabilitated. I don't want people convicted of heinous crimes having access to cable tv and social programs designed to make them better people. Sod 'em. They abdicated their rights to live like a human being when they took the life of a human being.

Yeah, I know, that's not a popular way of thinking, and many criminals faced with a small dark stone cell 24/7 might prefer the death penalty. Oh well...too bad. I believe in public birchings too :) You can bend so far over in an attempt to protect the civil rights of a defendant that you leave yourself open to the possiblity of forced sodomy. It's about time that the victim started to be the one who had the rights.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Mythbusting the Budget

It seems as if everywhere I look lately I'm seeing rationalizations for cutting taxes. As a regular person who has to manage their financial dealings ensuring that what I'm spending is less than what I'm bringing in, I thought it was time to take a little closer look at some of the myths around the present taxation strategies, with a little help from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Myth #1: The deficit is the result of excessive spending on domestic programs.

In fact, recent domestic spending increases come in a distant fourth as a cause of the current deficit, well behind tax cuts, spending increases for defense, homeland security, and operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the economic downturn.
If we focus just on the causes over which Congress and the President have control — that is, if we look at all spending increases and tax cuts enacted since the start of 2001 and see how much they are costing the government this year — we find that tax cuts amount for nearly half (48 percent) of those costs. Increased spending for defense, homeland security, and international affairs (including Iraq and Afghanistan) account for another 37 percent. Increased spending on all domestic programs combined accounts for just 14 percent.

Myth #2: Taxes are higher than they used to be.

In fact, taxes are at their lowest levels in decades when measured as a share of the economy, the standard way that analysts and institutions such as the Congressional Budget Office and the Office of Management and Budget examine such trends over time.
This year, total federal revenues are a smaller share of the economy than in any year since 1959, a time when Medicare, Medicaid, most federal aid to education, most child care and environmental programs, and anti-poverty programs such as food stamps did not exist. Federal individual income tax revenues are a smaller share of the economy than in any year since 1943.

Myth #3: Tax cuts spur so much economic growth that they ultimately pay for themselves.

In fact, no reputable economist — liberal or conservative — has ever shown that the economy expands so much as a result of tax cuts that it produces the same level of revenue as it would produce without the tax cuts.

The President’s own Council of Economic Advisers explicitly acknowledged in their Economic Report of the President last year that tax cuts are unlikely to pay for themselves.

The history of the past two decades bears this out. If we compare the 1980s (when taxes were cut) to the 1990s (when taxes were raised), we find that the economy grew just as quickly during the 1990s as during the 1980s, and income-tax revenue grew nearly three times as quickly in the 1990s as in the 1980s.

Moreover, a major recent study by Brookings Institution scholars William Gale and Peter Orszag concludes that the tax cuts are likely to reduce economic growth over the long term if they are extended. This is because the large, persistent deficits that are forecast if the tax cuts are extended would reduce long-term investment by forcing the government to borrow large sums of capital that otherwise would go toward private investment.

Myth #4: The President's 2006 budget would reduce deficit over the next several years.

In light of the current fiscal situation, the Administration says it plans to get serious about deficit reduction. The President’s fiscal year 2006 budget proposes cuts across a range of domestic programs in a purported effort to cut the deficit in half by 2009.

While the deficit is projected to decline as a share of the economy over the next few years, this is in spite of the policies in the Administration’s budget, not because of them.

Despite proposing cuts to scores of important programs, the Administration's budget would expand the deficit over the next five years, mostly because those proposed cuts are more than outweighed by proposed tax cuts and increases in defense and homeland security spending. As shown by the Administration’s own figures, deficits over the next five years will total $1.364 trillion if no policy changes are made but $1.393 trillion if the Administration’s proposals are enacted.
Moreover, the deficit is projected to rise significantly in years after the five-year period the budget covers, when (among other things) the cost of the Administration’s tax cuts would mushroom from $39 billion in 2010 to $287 billion in 2015 if they are extended.

Someone hand those boys a pocket calculator and enrol them in an economics class before the country goes completely down the toilet.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

It's all in the gender.

Note to teachers with a sexual penchant for young children: If you're a male, don't even think about it. If you're a female - and particularly if you're movie star gorgeous, it's not such a bad thing.

Yet another flagrant case of gender discrimination has raised its head in the shape of Florida vs. Lafave, which resolved itself today with a plea agreement. Ms. Debra Lafave, extremely cute, young, blonde hair, big baby blues, pled guilty to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery on a 14-year old boy. (To you and I who aren't au fait with legalese, that's lawyer speak for child rape when committed by a pretty woman).

She was charged with having sex with one of her students on numerous occasions, and a trial had been set for December. Her lawyer had previously stated back in July that his client wasn't going to agree to a plea negotiation involving any jail time, since it would be scandalous to send someone as attractive as Ms. Lafave to prison, where it would be like throwing a piece of meat to the lions and she could be seriously harmed.

Aww....my heart bleeds.

Today she pled guilty to the L&Ls, and received a slap on her pretty little wrist in the shape of 2 years of community confinement, followed by seven years of probation. Community confinement is kinda sorta like house arrest without the nasty ankle bracelet and...well...confinement aspect. She'll have a curfew from 10pm to 6am, and she'll be able to leave the house to go to work, to go shopping, and well, pretty much anywhere else she wants to go as long as it's not around children.

So pretty much nothing that's going to impact her life too severely then? That's good. Especially being as how she's supposed to be engaged to a divorced guy with a couple of kids of his own.

So here is the latest scoop on prisons. Apparently they're now only for ugly people, and pretty people shouldn't have to break a nail or miss a bikini wax while being forced to hang around with other criminals who aren't as physically perfect as they are themselves.

Glad we got that straightened out then.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Do We Want To Touch Him?

Um...answer....not with the proverbial six foot pole. Gary Glitter, that nasty little glam wannabe from the '70s, whose hits included 'Rock and roll parts 1 &2' - the second part of which is still routinely played at every football stadium on the planet, and 'Do You Want To Touch Me', is in serious legal trouble again.

I'll tell you that I always thought Gary Glitter was a bit on the slimy side, even back when he was dressed in his shiny gold suits and camping it up on Top of The Pops. And no, doesn't have anything to do with the glam. I thought Marc Bolan and David Bowie were gods in human form when I was a teenager :) Gary Glitter was just....slimy. Not something you could particularly put your finger on, but I knew that I didn't like him for some reason which went much deeper than his music.

I'd almost forgotten about him until he resurfaced in the news in the late '90s, having been found guilty of 54 counts of possession of kiddie porn. He went to prison for a couple of months and then slipped out of the UK. Hopefully to live the rest of his life under a rock somewhere.

But no. Here he is again, and in some very, very serious shit this time. He apparently should have read the punishment statutes for the various countries he had the option of residing in, as he might well have found that not all countries take fiddling with kiddies as lightly as we do in the west.

He decided to settle in Vietnam, and rented a house by the seaside to which he invited lots of little small girls to play. He went missing from there last week after local newspapers started looking into what he was doing, sparking a manhunt for a depraved 61 year old with bouffant wig and really bad taste in clothes. He was finally found on Saturday, attempting to board a flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok (which is apparently where he thought he was - less stringent child sex laws and all).

He was arrested on charges of child molestation, which may be upgraded to child rape as the investigation continues. The Vietnamese consider sex with anyone under the age of consent to be automatically child rape, no matter how willing the child in question.

Child rape also carries the sentence of death by firing squad.

Do they want to touch him? You betcha.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Another Katrina Tale

Most of the time, as I've remarked in previous postings, my job as a transcriptionist leans between mostly tedious, and extremely boring. I can't begin to get excited by quarterly financial reports from companies I've never heard of, and committee meetings at stockbroker firms are wonderful insomia cures. But once in a while something comes along that really touches me.

It happened again this week in the person of an audio file from a Spike Lee documentary, which is in progress as we speak. The portion I was working on dealt with a couple from New Orleans who were displaced by the hurricane.

They spoke of how living in New Orleans you get used to the idea of hurricanes. That they're just something you learn to live with, much like earthquakes for us up here in the Northwest. And how this one was different. How the pictures they saw on TV of that huge hurricane with its gigantic swirling winds and its eye focused right at New Orleans made them feel uneasy. They were talking about moving out even before the mayor issued the evacuation order on Sunday.

So they did what they were asked to do. They got in their car, the mom and dad and their five children, along with everything they could think of that was important for a couple of days away from home. Because that was all they figured they were going to need. Just to get far enough away from New Orleans to miss the hurricane, and then be back home within a day or so. They were accompanied on the trip out of town by the wife's sister and brother-in-law, and their two children, and by the family matriarch.

They saw people around them uneasily tuning into the weather forecasts. Those that could, packed up their belongings and joined the exodus out of town. Those unlucky enough to be without a way to leave hoped that it wouldn't be as bad as people were saying.

The traffic out of New Orleans was bumper to bumper, and it took them four hours to cross the bridge which usually took them six minutes. But eventually they were far enough out to pick up speed, and they drove until they were exhausted, landing up in Memphis, TN where they checked into a $89 a day motel and sat back to watch their city on CNN.

They saw the hurricane, and then they heard that the levees had broken and the water was rising. No worries, they thought, they'll just pump out the water, like they always do.

Only they didn't.

Now this family were here in Memphis, with the small amount of money they'd been able to scrounge together before they left, and they couldn't afford to remain in the motel. So they went to a shopping mall and stood there with a sign explaining they had run away from Katrina, had no money and nowhere to stay. A woman told them about a shelter, which they went to, 5 adults and 7 children, living with a bunch of other families. No way to live. So the two families each put up $325 out of their rapidly dwindling finances, and rented a two-bedroomed apartment for all 12 people to live in, because it was better than being in the shelter. Finer feelings about Katrina survivors be damned, the apartment manager still made them sign a six-month lease on the apartment before they could move in.

As soon as possible, the mother made the call to FEMA, who sent a check for $2,000. It was received at the end of September, and they had trouble cashing it as they'd spelled the lady's name wrong. $2,000 to feed and clothe and pay rent for two adults and five children.

And since then? Nothing. They try calling the FEMA number, and when they get through after hours and hours, they receive a recorded message. They've tried to get work. They're looking for work. They need to work. But nobody wants to hire them.

And most of all, they want to go home.

They had tried to hard to raise themselves up. They had bought a little house, and they had been working on restoring it from the uninhabitable condition it was in when they purchased it. They'd worked so hard. For five years, every spare penny they had went into restoring this house. They had finally put in the cabinets and the carpets and everything was just about ready to move in.

They went down to see their little house a couple of weeks after the hurricane hit. The water mark was five feet up the wall. There was no need for a key to the front door, as there was no longer a front door. All the cabinets were hanging off the walls. The new carpets were ruined. The whole place stank. It was worse than it was five years before when they took it over. And the cruelest joke of all? They had tried to get insurance on their little house. But the insurance companies told them that as long as they were working on it, they couldn't qualify for insurance. The only insurance they could get would be extortionately expensive, and, well, if they'd had that kind of money, it wouldn't have taken them five years to renovate it, now would it?

So now they're lost in a town they have no roots in, jobless, penniless, and everything that they have is gone.

And the world has moved on.

The rest of us, with our MTV attention spans have moved on to the next big thing. Forgetting that these are real people who have lost everything through no fault of their own. And forgetting that it's not a movie of the week and it wasn't resolved at the end of the two hours.

It makes me feel very grateful for the things I have, and complain a little less about the things I don't have.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Slightly longer memory than Katrina...but not much.

Pop quiz: When the Government promises you something you can:
1. Take it to the bank.
2. Take it to the bank, cash it and run like hell before they change their minds.
3. Assume that their word on anything is as good as their intelligence about WMDs in Iraq.

The answer would be either of the last two options.

Following the 9/11 attacks on New York City, the President and the rest of his chums up on the hill pledged $20 billion to rebuild the city. Apparently they neglected to mention that this money was only good provided that the city cashed the check and spent it within five years.

In the latest installment of the Comedy of Errors which our fearless leader's gang have turned the government of the country into, the House and Senate voted to take back $125 million in aid. Money which the city had earmarked for the present and future medical treatment of those heroic individuals who toiled for weeks in the kind of toxins Saddam only WISHED he'd had a chance to launch at somebody.

Apparently the reasoning behind this retraction of largesse is simple. It hasn't been used yet.

The Senate did try half-heartedly to let the city keep the money, but the House doesn't agree and so the latest edition of the huge labor and health spending bill which is passing through the corridors of power as we speak will reverse the flow of the funds back into the near-empty coffers of the government. Probably in order to finance some other little throwaway stopgap measure for the Katrina survivors.

Now think for a minute how many millions of dollars are going uncollected in taxes in the coming year thanks to our fearless leader's love of sprinkling tax cuts merrily on the very rich of this country.

And then think of the firemen and others in NYC who are going to be left with chronic lung problems - to say nothing of ongoing mental issues dating back to that period in US history that our fearless leader loves to parade in front of us as his reason for spending billions of dollars we don't have in order to fund a war against people who weren't at war with us to obfuscate the fact that it was less about the war on terror and more about the war on who controls the oil fields.

It stinks so bad I wonder how those Congressmen can stand themselves.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Homegrown Case of Judicial Stupidity

Okay, this one hits close to home, since Port Orchard Washington is only a couple of fingertips away on my map.

Less than 12 hours after being freed on bail following an arrest on a domestic complaint a man killed his estranged girlfriend, and wounded her father before committing suicide. Twice during last week, the girl in question had appealed for help in avoiding her ex, Shane Case, a likely lad whose past felony convictions included yummy things like harrassment and second-degree assault. Finally on Friday, he followed her to a bar where he set off a quarrel severe enough to warrant the bartender calling the police.

Case was arrested for intimidation, and at an arraignment Saturday morning a judge ordered Case to have no contact with his ex-girlfriend, and set bail at $75,000, an amount which Case promptly posted that afternoon.

The police, who seemed to have been genuinely concerned that something serious might happen, took pains to warn the ex-girlfriend that Case had posted bail, and even went as far to follow him to the bar where he'd left his car to ensure that he drove off towards home and not towards his ex's house.

Apparently he merely waited until the police had left and then turned around and went to his ex's father's house where he shot her to death, grievously wounded her father and then killed himself.

Who's to blame here? The cops did all that they could do within the limits of their authority. The ex was warned and took refuge with her father. Maybe the fault lies with a judge who sets a bail within the means of the suspect, and tells him he mustn't contact the girl. Was there ANYTHING in this guy's past history that would have made any judge suspect that Case would abide by this restriction?

Why aren't there better safeguards out there for bruised and battered and scared women who come forward against their tormenters only to find them back out on the streets and even more pissed off than they were before they were arrested? How many cases do there have to be of women who get tired of being treated like punching bags deciding to make a break and move on and are killed by their victimizers? Can we say O.J?

I hope that the nameless person who laid out the bail money suffers. Greatly.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Park and Ride or Quake and Smush?

Dost mine eyes deceive me?

Now we know that Californians have this reputation for being ever so slightly kooky, as well as married to their cars, but the most recent plan to come out of the offices of the Los Angeles and surrounding suburb planners is a little bit odd, even for them.

Apparently the counties around Los Angeles are having major traffic problems, with crippling congestion between Orange and Riverside Counties, which are separated by the 25-mile long Santa Ana mountains. Nearly 400,000 people commute into Orange County daily from four surrounding counties and nearly all of them drive.

Highway 91 is the only major road connecting Riverside County- the one with affordable homes - to Orange County - which has most of the jobs. It carries 268,000 cars a day, which is 50,000 more than it was designed to carry, and officials believe that by 2030 it will be carrying half a million cars daily.

Clearly there's a major problem here, and planners in Orange and Riverside counties have spent 18 months and $15 million in federal funds puzzling over a solution. Now I think you could have put a bunch of eight-year olds in charge for a couple of hours and paid them in Happy Meals and arrived at the same solution.

There's a mountain range in the way? Well....build a tunnel...duh!

Um...small issue here. The area they're talking about creating this tunnel happens to sit right next to a major quake fault. This is southern California, ferchrissakes, people. So yeah, let's construct a four or six lane underground tunnel which stretches 15 miles through the mountains and then....uh.....well, keep our fingers crossed I guess.

Let's examine this. They can't build double decker highways because they're considered too dangerous since the pancaking of two of them during recent earthquakes, but they can tunnel into solid rock and send half a million people through it daily?

How about a really truly radical idea? How about getting people OUT of their freaking cars and into shuttle buses? Cheaper than driving a car, less wear and tear on roadways since they carry as many people as would fit into 30 different vehicles. And then make it extremely painful on the wallet for people who choose to drive their car instead of parking and riding a shuttle bus. Geez...people whine about the length of a commute, but would rather sit in a car than ride on a shuttle??

One guy in particular grabbed my attention. Howard Gottesman, 44, a property manager in Orange County who lives just over the border in Riverside County, is quite willing to spend 1 1/2 hours in a car to drive a total of six miles. SIX FREAKING MILES, PEOPLE!! He whines: "I call it the longest six miles in the world. It's wear and tear on the car and it's wear and tear on me," said Gottesman. "They need to do something, whether it's double-decking the freeway or tunneling under the mountains. We need relief."

Anyone remember the Scarecrow song from 'The Wizard of Oz'? ".....if I only had a brain...."

Friday, November 11, 2005

I'll Never Look At An Ad For Medication The Same Way Again

And neither will you if you click to this site for the brand new drug Panexa. My advice would be to not try and consume anything which could conceivably ruin your monitor, keyboard or laptop if expelled forcibly from your mouth.

http://www.panexa.com/

It's such a delight to know that warped people still exist in this world! :)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Poem of the Week

Actually isn't a poem at all. It's a song by gloriously gothy singer/songwriter, Voltaire. You've got to love a guy who cuts through the bullshit about religion and people who try to strangle us with it :)

GOD THINKS - VOLTAIRE
God thinks all blacks are obsolete farm equipment
God thinks the Jews killed his son and must be punished
God thinks the white man is Satan
God, they know what God thinks.
God thinks we should all convert to Judaism
God thinks we must all be Christian
And God thinks we should all embrace Islam
God thinks the only true religion is Hinduism
And I, I know what God thinks
God thinks you're a waste of flesh
God prefers an atheist
God, God,
God thinks all people like you are hateful
God thinks all people like you are an embarrassment to creation
Self-righteous, judgmental, first to throw a stone
And you're using his name for your own protection.
God thinks the sun revolves around the earth
God thinks there was something very wrong with Capernicus
God thinks abortion is murder and
God thinks everything that science gave us is wrong
God thinks women deserve it
God thinks AIDS is a form of punishment
I hate people who blame the devil for their own shortcomings
And I hate people who thank God when things go right
And I, I know what God thinks
God thinks you're an idiot
God prefers a heretic
God, God
God thinks all people like you are hateful
God thinks all people like you are an embarrassment to creation
Self-righteous, judgmental, first to throw a stone
And using his name for your own agenda
God is a liberal, God is a Democrat
God wants you to vote Republican
Never trust a man who puts his words in the mouth of God
And says it's absolute truth
It's lies and it smells like death
It's all in a day's work
Taking money from the poor
Why do you think that God would need your dirty money
If he wants to start a holy war?
Self righteous, judgmental, first to throw the stone
And you're using his name for your own protection
God thinks puppies need to die
And God thinks babies need to drown
'Cause God is neither good nor bad
God is you and me
God is everything

Monday, November 07, 2005

It would be laughable....

...if it weren't so pathetic.

The owners of a Wichita Kansas group home for the mentally ill were convicted Monday of enslaving their residents, forcing them to work naked and perform sex acts, and illegally billing their families and the federal government for therapy. Arlan Kaufman, 69 and his wife Linda, 62 were convicted of 30 federal charges, including health care fraud, Medicare fraud, forced labor and holding clients in involuntary servitude.

Federal prosecutors contended the Kaufmans controlled the lives of the mentally ill residents, including forcing them to work on their farm and deciding who could wear clothes.
The couple was accused of forcing residents to masturbate, fondle each other and shave each other's genitals _ activities Arlan Kaufman videotaped.

The Kaufmans claimed that nude therapy sessions and other treatment methods had therapeutic value for schizophrenic patients, and that having residents act out problem behavior helped them avoid repeating it. Arlan Kaufman insisted at trial that the residents' behavior was voluntary.

Prosecutors called it abuse and said it spanned more than 20 years while the couple billed Medicare more than $216,000. The Kaufmans incorporated their unlicensed treatment center in 1980 and ran it until their arrests in October 2004.

That's the pathetic part. The humorous part is the lengths a defense attorney will go to these days to prove their client not guilty. According to Arlan Kaufman's lawyer in a speech to jurors, "It was therapy. No one was harmed. They were helped." Oh...oh...and Linda Kaufman's lawyer told the jury that prosecutors had no solid evidence against her. Why, in one of the videotaped sessions, she was reading a newspaper and didn't even look at the nude resident.

Oh that's all right then.

Luckily the jury didn't buy these defenses any more than I do, and found them guilty as charged. Am I alone in thinking that some defense attorneys credit jury panels with little or no intelligence whatsoever? No one was harmed? That smacks of the bleating of kiddie pornographers and the people who subscribe to it. And no, sitting reading a newspaper while this crap goes on right in front of you does not expunge your guilt in the process. It just shows how jaded you are by the whole thing after 24 years of making interesting home movies.

Hopefully the judges in Kansas are a little more on the ball than the ones in Florida (see story below) and throw the book at these nasty little people who abused these poor folks who were not in any position to do anything about it.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Worth Of A Child's Life

Just another little update to inform you that the American system of justice is slipping even further down the road towards certifiably insane.

How much is a child's life worth? And I'll double that...how much are the lives of two children worth? How about if they're brothers, aged 13 and 3 respectively, who were doing nothing more heinous than walking home from their local community center?

I'll tell you how much the court system in Tampa, Florida figures it out to be, shall I? Oh..and make sure you're sitting down.

2 years of house arrest.

Apparently on April 1st of 2004, four siblings were walking home from the community center close by their home. Three young boys, ages 13, 3 and 2, and their 8 year old sister. A woman, driving 10 miles over the speed limit on her way home from the elementary school close by the community center struck the children with her car. The 13-year old and the 3-year old were killed instantly - the 3-year old being dragged under her car for about 150 feet - and the 8-year old and the 2-year old were injured.

Now that, god help us all, would be awful enough. But then the driver of the car, Jennifer Porter, sped away from the scene of the accident to her parents' house where she remained for FIVE FREAKING DAYS before coming forward. And even when she DID come forward, she made a claim that a white van had hit the children and knocked them into her car. The authorities blew that claim out of the water, and placed the blame squarely on her shoulders.

She says she didn't stop because she was too scared.

The noise you hear is my heart bleeding for her.

She could have faced a 15-year jail term if convicted at trial, and was previously offered a plea deal that would have sent her to prison for three years, but her attorney said that she decided to plead guilty and hope that the judge would impose a lighter sentence.

LIGHT?? Ferchrissakes, this sentence is so freaking light it needs strings to anchor it to the pavement!! Circuit Court Judge Emmett Lamar Battles (aka Judge Left My Brain In My Other Suit) said he weighed Porter's clean record and the 'extreme trauma' she endured during the crime in sentencing her to 'community custody', which he described as 'a stricter form of probation - essentially house arrest', along with three years of probation, 500 hours of community service benefitting children, and psychiatric treatment. For the trauma - you know.

Excuse me a second....I think I need to vomit.

Extreme trauma? EXTREME FREAKING TRAUMA??!! What kind of trauma did she suffer exactly? The kind suffered by the 8 and 2 year old babies who watched their brothers turned into roadkill as they themselves were injured? Or maybe the kind suffered by the mother who now has only half of her original number of children? I mean hell, her trauma was so extreme that she went to work as normal the following day and taught children to dance.

I've never been very big on the whole race card issue. But one has to wonder how much the race of the parties involved factored into the eventual judgment. Had Porter been a black man who hit four little white children and fled the scene of the accident, how many of us believe he'd be walking the streets or breathing free air again for another 15 years? But the eight little empty shoes left in the roadway on that April night belonged to four little black children, and Missy Porter is just about as white as you can get, complete with high-priced attorney, retained by her parents before they finally got around to letting the police know where they could find the Toyota Echo with the broken windshield and damaged hood and blood and flesh still attached.

And why do we even have laws against tampering with evidence when Porter's father can take a can of Lysol and a roll of paper towels and clean blood and brains from the windshield and receive no sanctions for it? Why do we have obstruction laws when the parents told Porter not to call the police but just to hide the car and carry on as if nothing had happened, and the prosecutors turn a blind eye? And why do we have vehicular manslaughter laws if you can speed down a road, injure two children, kill two more and receive house arrest for leaving the scene of an accident?

Sometimes I think America has stepped so far out of the realms of taking any kind of personal responsibility that it turns aggressors into victims. She received a light sentence because of her clean record - despite having 8 points out of the possible 12 necessary to get your license stripped from you, for things like doing 65 in a 45 mile an hour zone - and for her extreme trauma during the event. Um...isn't that a bit like killing your parents and throwing yourself on the mercy of the court because you're an orphan? Didn't she CAUSE her own extreme trauma by HITTING THE KIDS WITH HER CAR??!!

The world is too much with me sometimes.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Brownie, Brownie, Brownie.....

Wagging finger at you. Didn't your mommy ever tell you never to leave a paper trail? Or are you as mystified by internet technology as you are by disaster planning and response, and didn't realize that nothing in cyberspace is ever really gone for good??

I'm referring of course to our favorite "in over my head and don't have a freaking clue" guy, Michael Brown, the erstwhile head of FEMA, and his latest round of humiliations re: emails he was writing during the time he should have been planning how to get a crapload of people out of New Orleans.

Email exchanges like this one between Brownie and Cindy Taylor, his deputy director of public affairs at 7:10 am local time on August 29th:

Taylor: "My eyes must certainly be deceiving me. You look fabulous _ and I'm not talking the makeup,"

Brownie: "I got it at Nordstroms. Are you proud of me? Can I quit now? Can I go home?"

An hour later he added: "If you'll look at my lovely FEMA attire, you'll really vomit. I am a fashion god."

*Chortle Snarf....Chortle....Stop it...stop it....can't...breathe....*

Now bearing in mind that FEMA officials were already in New Orleans at this point, and reporting back that the situation down there in the real world was getting a tad...well....critical. Good to know his mind was in the right place.

Oh and hey...now we know that our fearless leader wasn't actually complimenting Brown in a job well done in regards to his work in Louisiana when he uttered the infamous remark, "Brownie, you're doing a hell of a job." He was, in fact, referring to his sartorial sensibilities, as evidenced by the following warning pre-Bush visit in an email from Brown's aide, Sharon Worthy, reminding him to pay heed to his image on TV.

"In this crises and on TV you just need to look more hardworking ... ROLL UP THE SLEEVES!" Worthy wrote, noting that even President Bush "rolled his sleeves to just below the elbow."

Glad to straighten that one out for you. No really...no thanks necessary. But honestly. These idiots are IN CHARGE OF STUFF! If this doesn't scare you, you're probably either brain-dead or a rabid right-wing Republican. Oh wait...same thing.

Puppy Dog Tales

Okay, someone tell me why, because I just don't get it. Why don't all states have stricter 'dangerous dog' laws? Why are people still allowed to keep not just one of these so-called 'dangerous dogs' but PACKS of the bloody things?

Another child got mauled yesterday. He came home and his front door was locked, so he went around to the back yard...and that's all she wrote. He was greeted by 3...count 'em 3 pitbulls, who packed up against him and put him in the hospital with grievous wounds. Luckily he was 10 years old, and not 4 or 5. He'll probably survive, with scars that won't disappear. Authorities aren't sure at present who owns the dogs. Hell, they could even belong to the family for all I know, as I've heard way too many cases of the family pack turning on one of the children. And why? Why on earth would anyone want a PACK of these dominant and difficult to train dogs?

Yeah, like I can talk, right? Me of the 5 dogs? And let me tell you something. If you were to walk up my driveway, the dogs would go completely apeshit. They'd bark at you, snarl at you, hurl themselves against the fence.

But there's the thing. The issue of the fence. My dogs are enclosed not in the front yard, but in the back, behind a six-foot chainlink fence and a gate which is not only latched, but tied closed.
And hey, if you were dumb enough to mistake their warnings for affectionate greetings, open the gate and enter the backyard, you would run the very real possibility of getting bitten.

But here's the thing. A bite from a pekingese would be annoying, but not life-threatening. And even if all three of the older ones packed up against you - which is doubtful, but possible, if you can't fend off a cocker spaniel and two dogs which are a foot off the ground, frankly you're a bit of a pussy then, aren't you?

Pit bulls and others like them are an entirely different kind of dog. No one who's seen film of these dogs latching onto something and being pulled off the ground, and still refusing to let go would argue that they have the potential to kill.

And I'm so tired of hearing that there are no bad dogs...only bad owners. Yeah, but how is it that bad owners never seem to pick chihuahuas or yorkies? They go for these macho muscle dogs with the capability to tear a human being limb from limb. I'm sure they're probably compensating for something, but still...

And I'm also sure that there are some absolutely great dogs of this ilk out there, who are blessed with wonderful owners who take the time and trouble to train them, microchip them, and most importantly recognize how territorial they are. They monitor them when people come to the house and they don't let them run loose in the neighborhood.

Does anyone remember the Diane Whipple case out of San Francisco? The lady who was torn apart by the two massive Presa Canario dogs who lived on her floor, when she was doing nothing more offensive than trying to get from the elevator into her own apartment. Who can honestly say this scenario wasn't an accident waiting to happen? Two huge dogs with heads the size of the steering wheel of your car. Two dogs who were of a breed which is the personification of dominance and territorial.

And let's examine the idea of territory. A dog's territory is where he lives. In the case of my dogs, that would be the house and the backyard, or the car if they happen to be with us on a trip. Don't try sticking your fingers through my car window to pet one of them if you don't want to get them nipped at. Let me bring them out of the car first. Out into a place which they don't feel responsible for. They're much more likely to be amenable to your attention out there.
In the case of the San Francisco Presas, they went out for walks in the neighborhood daily. They used the elevator, and walked in the hallway. So they figured the entire apartment complex was their territory. Diane Whipple was on their territory when they attacked her. She wasn't family. She wasn't part of their human 'pack' and therefore was a threat to them. So she died.

And worse yet, the owners who bought these pit bull puppies who were cute and small and manageable, and found out that they grow, and they're bigger now and they knock things over and chew things and get into mischief when their owners aren't around. So these owners turn them out of the house when they leave for work.

What happens then? What do these dogs perceive as their territory? Right. Their territory becomes the area they live in. The outdoors. They may roam and patrol an area which stretches for several blocks. And guess what? These people who own them may be telling the gospel truth when they say that the dogs are sweethearts and wouldn't hurt a fly and have never bitten anyone. Of course not. Because their human family are part of their pack. Unfortunately the little kid who lives down the street is not.

So what's the answer? Beats me. You can't wave a magic wand and turn all pit bull owners into responsible people. Maybe there should be an ordinance preventing people from owning multiples of these breeds - and yes, I'm just using pit bulls as an example. I do know that Rottweilers and Chow Chows and others can be every bit as vicious and unpredictable. And maybe if you want to own one of these potentially dangerous dogs, you should have to get a special license, and get them microchipped so that in the event of a mauling, you can be held responsible for the actions of your dog. And yeah...I do think that people who own one of these dogs - or multiples of these dogs - and allow them to run loose and cause harm to a person or someone else's pet should be punished severely. The judge in the Whipple case was well on the right track. Owning dogs you know have the capacity to hurt someone and not exercising proper control and dominion over them at ALL times isn't just negligence. It's manslaughter waiting to happen, and should be punished accordingly.

*Bows to the crowd and steps down from her soapbox*