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

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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”