Archive for June, 2014

30
Jun
14

the end, for the time being

Empty Fuel Gage

I am taking a few days off, maybe a week or more. Until more contributions come in, the coffers are empty and I need a break.

As I mentioned a couple days ago, the cost of fuel to keep the generators running has been absolutely ruinous–this at a time that sunlight is greatest and we should be enjoying lower costs for electricity.

Through the generosity of one contributor, I have arranged for a gift that will get us current with our expenses, but it is unsure how quickly the gift will hit our accounts. Foreign contributions made through Paypal involve 3 or 4 days of “float.” US payments made through our fiscal agent, The Juvenile Law Society, involve a delay of a week or more, and the donor said it would take several more days than that to transfer the money. So either way, we have no option but to wait.

I am using this “vacation” to solve some technology issues which have recently been bedeviling me. Of course there is the issue of the electrical system, which I hope to have fixed by the time I return to regular publication of the Diary. But the ancient computer upon which I compose Wandervogel Diary is also in sore need of a tune-up, and I must plan for it to be in Alpine for a full day or more to be repaired. Also, a new back-up generator surges and then stops running after about 20 minutes; so this, too, must be brought into working order.

In the month of June we were able to do a number of good things, among others, to help Derek King raise sufficient funds for a security deposit on an apartment. So I feel good about that, as should you. Much more needs to be done, but it will have to wait for a week or two.

Life out here on the desert is difficult in the best of times. When two or three things go wrong all at once, hard choices must be made… and writing this blog is just too difficult to fold into the mix.

I hope you won’t be too disappointed. This situation is only temporary and I’ll be back on the air before you know it.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to The Doors performing “The End”

29
Jun
14

rocket man

tumblr_lmbyr8zZi51qe6otgo1_500

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Elton John performing “Rocket Man”

28
Jun
14

extractive

gas-prices

It seems to be a characteristic of our capitalist system that the people least able to pay the tariff of daily living are the ones saddled with additional bank charges, high interest rates, late fees, penalties, etc. The institutions levying these charges say that poor people are a greater risk than those who can more easily pay their bills, but my own feeling that banks and others charge these fees simply because they know they’ve got the poor over a barrel and charge confiscatory fees because they can get away with the practice.

It is ironic that institutions that assume no risks whatsoever in acquiring deposits that are in turn loaned out charge extra for “risk.” It is doubly ironic that a big portion for the 2008 financial crisis is attributable to the financial industry purposely extending such risky loans as so-called “liar’s loans” to people without the capacity to repay them, supported by inflated and fraudulent appraisals of property values, etc.

The banking crisis cost the economy eleven trillion dollars and ten million lost jobs; the only people who benefited from it were banking CEOs who were responsible for the greatest theft in history. According to former bank regulator William Black, these CEOs followed a recipe for what he terms “control fraud”:

1. Grow like crazy

2. By making and buying crappy loans at a premium yield

3. While employing extreme leverage, and

4. Providing only trivial reserves

Bank executives who follow this recipe, says Black, are mathematically guaranteed to have three things occur. First, their banks will post record profits. Second, the CEO will immediately be made incredibly wealthy by modern executive compensation practices. Third, farther down the road the bank will suffer catastrophic losses and will have to be bailed out by government or fail.

Despite unambiguous warnings years before the crisis, government did nothing to prevent the fraud. Despite clear evidence of financial crimes on a grand scale, the government has not held even one banking executive responsible. Instead, it stands by while the banks continue making their ill-gotten profits off on the little guy.

The same thing is being done by Big Oil, which is also an extractive industry. Gas prices in Terlingua have topped $4.05 per gallon, and the cost of gas in Alpine (65 miles away) is $3.60. I no longer drive, but this summer I have been buying a lot of fuel to run internal combustion generators while my solar electrical system is inoperable and awaiting repair.

Last December when I saw that my electrical plant was on the way out, I got a quote for a new system. However, it was $3,300 and I could not raise this level of funding for this purpose. Instead, another supplier quoted me $700 to repair my existing system, but it involved much more time. The old system finally gave out two months ago, and I was forced to turn to gas-powered generation in order to stay on the air. We have purchased new batteries and the system repair is only awaiting delivery of a new charge controller. But I am reaching the limits of my ability to purchase gasoline.

When I came out to West Texas, I destroyed my credit cards and swore to live within my means and without debt. I resolved to live more as a little guy. But being little means being taken advantage of by somebody big, if not a bank then an oil company or some other entity.

Choose your poison. The only hope is to minimize the damage. It’s capitalism.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Deep Purple performing “Bloodsucker”

27
Jun
14

resistant

States Cling to Life Sentences for Juvenile Offenders
Marcia Coyle, The National Law Journal
June 23, 2014

Less than half of the 28 states affected by a 2012 US Supreme Court decision banning mandatory sentences of life in prison without parole for juvenile murderers have reformed their laws.

And of the 13 states that have made legislative changes in response to Miller v. Alabama only four—Delaware, North Carolina, Washington and Wyoming—allow resentencing for their existing juvenile life-without-parole populations, according to a study by The Sentencing Project in Washington, which does sentencing policy research and reform advocacy.

EVAN MILLER—Sentenced to life without parole for a murder committed when he was 14, his case ended in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down harsh mandatory sentences for juveniles.

EVAN MILLER—Sentenced to life without parole for a murder committed when he was 14, his case ended in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down harsh mandatory sentences for juveniles.

Miller struck down the mandatory federal and state sentences for juveniles who committed homicides before they were 18. The 5-4 court, led by Justice Elena Kagan, held that that the sentence “prevents those meting out punishment from considering a juvenile’s ‘lessened culpability’ and greater ‘capacity for change,’ and runs afoul of our cases’ requirement of individualized sentencing for defendants facing the most serious penalties.”

Kagan wrote that she expected that “appropriate occasions for sentencing juveniles to this harshest possible penalty will be uncommon.” And, she added, “Although we do not foreclose a sentencer’s ability to make that judgment in homicide cases, we require it to take into account how children are different, and how those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing them to a lifetime in prison.”

The high court in Miller did not say whether its decision was retroactive and whether an estimated 2,100 juveniles already sentenced to life without parole could be resentenced. The justices have declined twice, without comment, in the present term to hear cases raising the retroactivity issue.

“We don’t know a whole lot of what is actually happening with those cases,” said Ashley Nellis, senior research analyst for the project. “They could get either a review of their sentence or they could go before the parole board immediately for review. We don’t know if there is any real consistency across the states.”

However, what those juveniles who were sentenced before Miller should get is “another day in court,” she said. “Obviously, their sentences have been ruled unconstitutional, and the whole thrust of the ruling was that they weren’t given individualized review. To just slap another sentence on them is repeating the same mistake.”

Some state courts have addressed the retroactivity question, according to the study. State supreme courts in Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska and Texas have ruled that Miller applies retroactively, while state high courts in Louisiana, Minnesota and Pennsylvania have ruled it does not. Cases on that question are pending in supreme courts in Alabama, Colorado, Florida and North Carolina.

The 13 states that have changed their laws in response to Miller imposed new minimum sentences on juvenile murderers that must be served before parole review. Those sentences range from 25 years in Delaware, North Carolina and Washington to 40 years in Nebraska and Texas.

An extremely long minimum sentence, the study says, could ignore the intent of the Supreme Court decision. “To sentence young people into their elderly years amounts to a determination that some offenders permanently lack the capacity to change, which violates the spirit, if not the letter, of both Supreme Court rulings,” it says.

Nellis said she and her colleagues were “overwhelmingly disappointed” by the pace of change in the states during the past two years. “The ruling was pretty straightforward, in our view, and the states seem to have come up with any number of ways to stall.”

She suggested that the large population of juveniles sentenced to life without parole might be behind the reluctance to act within some states.

At the time of the high court’s Miller ruling, more than 2,500 prisoners were serving life without parole for juvenile-committed homicides, the study reports, and two-thirds of those sentences occurred in just five states: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, California and Louisiana.

The 13 states that have made legislative changes since Miller are Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.

The 15 states that have not made legislative changes are Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Vermont and Virginia.

Twelve states and the District of Columbia ban life without parole for juvenile murderers. Those states are Alaska, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming.

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Marcia Coyle is the chief Washington correspondent for The National Law Journal, a national weekly newspaper that covers law and litigation. Marcia, a lawyer as well as a journalist, has covered the Supreme Court for 25 years. She is also a regular contributor of Supreme Court analysis to PBS’ The News Hour.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to The Zombies performing “Tell Her No”

 

26
Jun
14

my lai

The first time I heard about My Lai was in the spring of 1969, a year after the Tet Offensive which was the turning point of public support for the Vietnam War. I was working a patronage job for the US House of Representatives, and a friend of mine was an aide for one of 30 Congressman whose offices had been informed of the massacre by Ron Ridenhour, a helicopter gunner who had gathered first-hand information on the incident and sent letters to Congressional leaders. It was my friend who first told me about the incident.

We thought this was unbelievable. Americans didn’t do this sort of thing.

However, by this time I was totally disillusioned by the war. A coworker I had known, a tall good-looking boy named Charlie, had told me he was volunteering to serve in the Vietnam War, and I told him he was committing an act of suicide. Sure enough, we learned that a week after he had arrived in Vietnam he was dead. This had a great impact on me.

After an Army cover-up of the incident, it took a couple more years for the My Lai Massacre to be publicly aired by the Army; but as it finally had a chance to play out, the investigation and trials did nothing to change my mind about the immorality and senselessness of the war. They strengthened it. Predictably, we learned that Captain Ernest Medina was acquitted in a court martial and, after the dust of the trial had settled, Lieutenant William Calley, a principal player convicted in the atrocity, was released by President Nixon and never held to account for the part he’d played.

How typical. Zero accountability for soldiers, bankers and prosecutors.

Official Army photographer Ron Haeberle traveled with Charlie Company into My Lai on March 16, 1968. The Company was told that dozens of Viet Cong troops were passing through the area, retreating from battle after the Tet Offensive. Captain Ernest Medina had told his men that all Vietnamese remaining in My Lai after their arrival would be Viet Cong members or sympathizers.

Following the massacre, during which between 347 and 504 civilians were killed, the story remained largely out of the public eye until the media published Haeberle’s photographs in November 1969. These photographs would became key evidence in the Army’s five-month investigation led by General William R. Peers.

The following photos showcase a selection of Ron Haeberle’s images from the My Lai Massacre as they were used in the Peers investigation.

Even though this shameful event has been swept under the carpet by our government, it must never be forgotten.

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my lai 10.

my lai 7.

my lai 9.

my lai 5.

my lai 1.

my lai 6.

my lai 4.

my lai 8.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to the Kingston Trio performing “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”

25
Jun
14

heavy lifting

bxp22388h

Since the stroke especially, I have discovered that I can’t do everything myself. Additional requests have come in, some from readers and supporters, some from fellow advocates, asking me to become involved in additional cases. We are up to eleven now.

I am already working in excess of my capacity; how can I possibly take on more?

Recently a possible answer to this question was presented when one of my readers and supporters volunteered to reach out to a new kid. He wrote a letter to a boy, now charged as an adult and being held on $1 million bail for killing his father, asking the boy if he wants to receive our help. If he replies in the affirmative, I still don’t know how we will raise the resources necessary to help him. Yet, the help has always been there in the past and I have no reason to predict it won’t be there when we need it.

I am beginning to consider the possibility that no one expects me to personally do what needs to be done to support a large and growing community of parricides; I am merely the rallying point for a new demonstration of compassion.

Lone Heron tells me that I’m one of the few people she can talk to. I have made no claims or aspirations as such, but she classifies me as one of her most trusted “therapists.” David Childress and others have told me I am the first person since his trial to have offered basic kindness, to have expressed an interest in hearing his story. I do not consider myself an exceptional person; I simply withhold judgment and always offer a sympathetic ear. But it is very taxing work, and even moreso as I become older.

Maybe it is time for me to share the heavy lifting with others. We need skilled and compassionate correspondents. If you are interested in taking on a greater role, please let me know.

And of course, if you are interested in contributing financially to the mission, we can make good use of money, too.

If you would like to help, you might consider making a gift at this time.

donate hands

To make a contribution to the Redemption Project, please use the link at the top of this page or click here.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Lynrd Skynyrd performing “Lend a Helping Hand”

24
Jun
14

infinity

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cropped-infinity1

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infinity 3.

reflections 1.

inner infinity

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infinity.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Perry Como performing “Till The End Of Time”

23
Jun
14

end of the world

That's All Folks

The year is 2014 and, by Hollywood’s account, we should all be riding hoverboards and having robots tend to our every whim. Hell, we should have even destroyed ourselves by now. Such was the nature of the  futures, many of them dystopian, we’ve been sold over the past decades in the movies.

According to writer-director George Miller’s 1979 film Mad Max, there should have been a huge fuel shortage in Australia “a few years from now” (’82 or ’83?), with leather-clad bikers roaming the countryside with the police incapable of stopping them.

Yet another movie that claims to be set in the “near future,” the 1987 film RoboCop by Paul Verhoeven predicts that Detroit is in shambles, overtaken by crime and an evil corporation with plans to demolish the decrepit city center. Here fallen police heroes can be reconstructed into state-of-the-art, cybernetic crime stoppers that can store the entire police database in a chip in their brains. RoboCop‘s bold claims for the future will likely come to fruition, if ever, years after the time frame predicted.

According to George Orwell’s 1984, since made into a film by British director Michael Bradford, we should have entered an era of constant surveillance by Big Brother more than thirty years ago. Today’s NSA revelations seem long overdue.

According to the Terminator series’ timeline, Skynet was to have launched the ultimate war between man and machine in 1997, with the nuclear holocaust predicted in Terminator 3 happening in 2004.

Director Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi flick 2001 predicted colonization of the moon and travel to Jupiter long before now. And out-of-control robots! While 2001 didn’t feature a nefarious group of androids enslaving all mankind, it did show one super-computer Hal 9000 killing four astronauts.

Back to the Future Part II takes place in the very near 2015. Director Robert Zemeckis has set up a pretty accurate timeline of events (like wireless video gaming, tablet computers, etc.) leading up to that year. That said, hoverboards, instant pizza, and flying cars don’t look like they’ll be hitting the market anytime in the next six months.

Dystopia reigns in 2017-19. Adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel, The Road (2009) was the bleakest of bleak films. An unnamed Man and Boy roam a post-apocalyptic earth (cause of the devastation unknown), avoiding the last remnants of humanity who are scavenging for any remaining sustenance, including human flesh.

In Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s 1982 loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel, pollution and overpopulation have transformed cities such as Los Angeles into depressing megacities by 2019. Replicants–androids with superhuman strength yet visually indistinguishable from humans–are pursued by bounty hunters known as blade runners. Off-world colonies advertise a greater life via flying billboards. Animals are scarce and must be genetically engineered. And we have flying cars. Clearly, this vision of the future isn’t going to come true within five years.

The fact that so many catastrophes have been predicted before now, and their dates have come and gone, reminds me that the economy has been judged unsustainable by so many people (including my son). He and others are waiting for the “other shoe to drop” after the financial crisis which precipitated the recent Great Recession.

But will that shoe ever drop, or will the powers-that-be simply define away the massive, unrepayable debt that so many naysayers say dooms our future?

We humans have an apparently insatiable appetite for predictions about the future, but the experts to whom we turn for predictions (including Hollywood scriptwriters) often do an exceedingly poor job of forecasting. Psychologist Philip Tetlock’s 20-year study of expert predictions has suggested that experts are about as accurate in predicting the future as dart-throwing monkeys.

Wanting definite, unqualified answers about the future, we encourage scriptwriters and prognosticators to make bold, unconditional predictions that often turn out to be wrong; but we are quick to forgive and forget. We use predictions about the future for our entertainment.

There will always be Bible-thumpers who will use some obscure Bible passage to predict a possible future. Most Biblical prophesy seems to be based on passages in Luke, which predict a proliferation of war and strife (Luke 21:10) and all manner of natural disasters (Luke 21:11) as signs of the end times. The only problem is that such passages are an apt description of the period from 70-80 AD  in which this gospel was written (Roman civil wars and fighting against the Jewish uprising, Roman invasion of Scotland; eruption of Vesuvius and tsunamis in Italy; droughts in Germany and Italy; famine in Ireland and Italy; floods in England).

More specific proclamations of the beginning of the end times supposedly based on the Bible include William Miller’s prediction of the second coming of Christ and the end of the world by fire between between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844 (and subsequently, October 22nd of 1844 when the first predictions didn’t pan out). More recently, Harold Camping predicted the end of the world sometime between September 15-27th, 1994 (based on a reference in John 21:1-14) and then May 21, 2011. There have been any number of additional specific end-of-the-world predictions based on interpretations of the Bible, some by cultists, others from major religions-–and yet we’re still here.

Other schools of thought ascribe the end of the world to some sort of cosmic event, either a collision with the supposedly mysterious rogue planet Nibiru, a killer solar flare (or coronal mass ejection), or a disastrous celestial alignment. Most are familiar with historical occasions of Halley’s Comet being hailed as a harbinger of doom, starting at least as early as 989 AD and most recently in 1910, but there have been other predictions of the end of the world from celestial objects such as Comet Hyakutake (1996), Comet Hale-Bopp (1997), and Comet SOHO (1998), with only those members of the Heaven’s Gate cult having their world come to an end…of their own volition.

Finally, there are the end-of-the-world predictions tied to some specific date on a calendar, without necessarily taking into account that any calendar is a human invention. Whether driven by the end of one of the periods in the Mayan Long Count Calendar, the end of the millennium according to the Gregorian Calendar, or Y2K, any excuse will suffice. Yet we’re still here.

The only predictions that can be made with confidence is that the sun will rise tomorrow, the days will get shorter until the Winter Solstice (when they will get progressively longer), and that the Earth will experience seasons in an immutable sequence in which summer will follow spring and winter will follow autumn.

Everything else, all detail, is unknowable and unpredictable.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to the Reverend Edward Clayborn performing “This Time Another Year You May Be Gone”

22
Jun
14

could we be wrong?

british flag
One of the things which has astounded me since starting this blog is the tremendous amount of attention it attracts from other parts of the world. A part of this is anti-Americanism; America is that place in the world, it seems, that everybody loves to hate.
At the same time, there is an irresistible attraction that the ideals of America seem to have for others. Even though they know the American dream is a fraud, it seems the rest of the world wants it to be true.
So it is with youth justice.
One of my keenest supporters is an Englishman living in the US. He helps to keep me grounded in what is “normal” in the world beyond the boundaries of the US.
Here is his latest email to me. It has really gotten me to thinking:
“The latest youth custody report shows that there are 1,197 kids in custody in England and Wales.  That is out of a population of 58 million, of whom 4.5 million are 12-18.
“No juvenile is held in adult prison, and if their sentence extends only a short period beyond 18th birthday, they are retained in the juvenile system.
“That is 0.002% of the total national population.  Extrapolated to the USA, it would be 6,460 kids in custody nationwide.   The actual number in the USA (2011) is 61,000, excluding those charged as adults. (My emphasis.)
“The attached pdf gives immense detail on the system and statistics.  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/youth-justice-statistics
“British kids are not all angels with cute accents.  But they are not locked up as much.”

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Groove of the Day

21
Jun
14

the longest day

sunrise over earth

Today is the Summer Solstice, occurring at 5:51 am central time, or at 10:51 Universal Time. While we are observing the Summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere, people in the southern hemisphere are observing the Winter Solstice.

In the Gregorian calendar the solstice dates vary between June 20 and June 22, depending on the year. For example, it occurs on June 21 in 2014 and 2015 but on June 20 in 2016. A June 22 solstice will not occur until June 22, 2203. The last time there was a June 22 solstice was in 1971.

sunrise over cloudsA solstice occurs when the sun’s zenith is at its furthest point from the equator. During the June solstice it reaches its northernmost point and the Earth’s North Pole tilts directly towards the sun, at about 23.5 degrees. It is also known as the northern solstice because it occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere.

If the Earth’s rotation was at right angles to the plane of its orbit around the sun, there would be no solstice days and no seasons.

The June solstice day has the longest hours of daylight for those living north of the equator. Those living or traveling to the north of the Arctic Circle are able to see the “midnight sun”, where the sun remains visible throughout the night, while those living or traveling south of the Antarctic Circle will not see sun during this time of the year. For those living near the equator, the sun does not shift up and down in the sky as much compared with other geographical locations away from the equator during this time of the year. This means that the length of day does not vary as much.

sunrise over oceanThe June solstice marks the first day of the summer season in the northern hemisphere. The word solstice is from the Latin word “solstitium”, meaning “sun-stopping”, because the point at which the sun appears to rise and set stops and reverses direction after this day. On this day, the sun does not rise precisely in the east, but rises to the north of east and sets to the north of west allowing it to be in the sky for a longer period of time.

In the southern hemisphere, the June solstice is known as the shortest day of the year. It is when the sun has reached its furthest point from the equator and marks the first day of winter.

In ancient times, solstices and equinoxes were important in guiding people to develop and maintain calendars, as well as helping them to grow crops. It was important for many people, especially those who spent a considerable amount of time outdoors, to understand the seasons and weather, which played a key role in their lives. Over the centuries, the June solstice was a time when festivals, celebrations and other festivities were celebrated.

We have reached the halfway point of the year and have shorter days to look forward to until the shortest day, the Winter Solstice, and the process starts all over again.

halfway

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Benny Goodman and Helen Forrest performing “When the Sun Comes Out”