The Heroes of the Reno Air Race Crash


It goes without saying that the men and women who work as fire personnel, police and first responders are the unsung heroes of any disaster.  This was most especially true last week in Reno, NV.  The Galloping Ghost, a WWII-era P-51 Mustang fighter plane, crashed into the VIP section Friday sending shrapnel flying in all directions.  The debris field covered between 2 and 3 acres of tarmac.  Fortunately, the jet fuel didn’t explode.  However, there were many hurt and some were hurt fatally.

What I remember most of the accident, as I watching it live right after the crash, is how the people of this area pulled together.  Approximately 100 people in the stands who were trained medical professionals, immediately left their seats and went to the injured and dying.  The people who didn’t have medical attention rushed to help the professionals carry litters, hold bandages and whatever else was asked of them.

Within minutes, there were 700 emergency responders coming onto the scene.  Some of those responders had been the first to arrive at the Carson City IHOP Shooting just a week prior to this tragedy.  Civilians began breaking down the VIP boxes to be used as tourniquets with larger pieces covering up body parts.

As helicopters began to arrive, two civilian pilots noticed a vintage Vietnam era helicopter on display.  They realized that it could fly so they put the tires on it and began flying the critical to area hospitals.  The doctors and nurses who came from the stands, rode in the ambulances and in the helicopters to the hospital so they could continue working.  Medical personnel from all around the area who immediately heard of the disaster, left their days off and went to their respective hospitals to go to work.  Even those who had already left worked for the day, came charging back.

The crowds, who you would expect to be hysterical and running, were very much calm and orderly.  Everyone was doing the very best they could to help each other.  For those who were injured but ambulatory, the stranger that was sitting next to them before the crash became the friend who helped them walk to help.

“This happened so fast, there was just a sense of shock. But people were very calm. You know, they didn’t know me. They came, held my hand, told me I was going to be all right,” Noah Joraanstad, a 25-year-old commercial airline pilot from Anchorage, Alaska, told The Associated Press from his hospital bed at Northern Nevada Medical Center in Sparks. “They walked into a scene where people were amputated, whatever, and just carnage everywhere, and they decided to help. To me, those were the real heroes.”

Because we live in a tourist area with many large events every year, our people here train and train and train for disasters.  They run drills, they work mock situations and then do corrective errors when they are done.   Because we are Northern Nevadans we have a strong sense of community and neighbors.  People don’t get into your business here because that’s the Western way, but if you need help, we will move mountains to get you and your family what you need.

It is unfortunate that today we lost the 11th victim of this tragedy.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends.  But, if it wasn’t for the unselfish gestures of those involved, it would have been much, much greater.

Resources:

http://www.mynews4.com/news/local/story/11th-Victim-Galloping-Ghost-Tragedy/2sAL43wv5Uy3KmuEYfi3CA.cspx

http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2011/09/19/business-us-air-show-crash_8688144.html

The Most Ridiculous Item EVER


Linda Harvey is the founder of Mission America.  In an outlandish and stunning comment, she announced that Gay and Lesbian people DON’T exist.  I have heard some ludicrous statements made over the years but this one wins hands down.  I guess if they don’t exist, then they don’t have to pay taxes.  The debate rages on whether people are born gay or born straight.  I believe that people are born gay.  No one would choose to be the mockery of the majority, nor would they chose to have violence perpetrated upon them for living their lives.

Ms. Harvey goes on to say,

 “There’s one big fact that’s not backed up. There is no proof that there’s ever anything like a gay, lesbian or bisexual or transgendered child, or teen or human. One of the other things you’re gonna see as I mentioned is a big campaign GLSEN’s gonna roll out this year calling for ‘respect,’ respect! Not just for people, but for homosexual lifestyle. The PR campaign to hold up gay as a good thing: the lifestyle, not the person, because there are no such humans.”

The GLSEN program that she is speaking of is the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.  It has to do with athletic activities that kids are involved in, so that they are in a challenging supporting environment.

Clearly Ms. Harvey is daft and out in the weeds somewhere.  Frankly, in my honest opinion, the gay and lesbian issue is the country is way out of proportion.  If you don’t want a homosexual marriage, then I suggest you don’t marry a homosexual.  The government of this country has no business legislating morality.  It does a deplorable job of it.  The role of government is to keep us safe, provide national security and to foster growth through businesses.  It is not the role of government, which has the separation of church and state, to dictate to us who can and cannot marry or even exist.  Marriage, by the governments own assertion is a contract between two people of legal age.  That’s the end of the story.  If you belong to a church that is not in line with gay marriage, then don’t allow gays to marry there.  Understand that a gay marriage does not in any way shape or form threaten a straight marriage.  People will say, “what about the children of these gays?”   Well, here’s the revelation, all the gays I know come from straight parents.

In my honest opinion, the conservatives have pandered to the christian right long enough.  They can dictate in their services and Sunday schools what, in THEIR opinion, constitutes moral behaviour.  They can demand their congregation to live THEIR lives according to the tenants of whatever denomination they subscribe to.   But, I’m not interested in my government telling ME who I can or can’t marry when it’s a legal contract.  If you don’t believe it’s just a legal contract, get a divorce and it will be made abundantly clear.

There are no special rights here, that’s another pabulum fed argument the Christian right is espousing.  We are talking about freedom, the basic tenant of our existence.  Freedom also means that you get to mind your own business.  I have always said.. that if something does not affect you directly, then leave it alone.

Thank you Ms. Harvey for the great laugh.  I can’t wait to tell Ellen Degeneres, Mary Cheney and Ted Haggard that they don’t have to pay taxes anymore.

RESOURCES:
http://www.ranker.com/list/top-10-anti-gay-activists-caught-being-gay/joanne

http://www.addictinginfo.org/2011/09/18/anti-gay-christian-right-wing-activist-says-theres-no-proof-lgbt-people-exist/

The U.N. Farce


I am not what you would call a big supporter of the United Nations being in the United States.   In the first place, it gives our enemies the chance to come into our country and saber-rattle, like Ahmadinejad.  Or in the case of Qaddafi, he prattled on in some sort of stream of consciousness that made no sense whatsoever.  It was a waste of time.  Additionally, we then let Ahmadinejad deliver a speech at Columbia University which was more anti-western, anti-Zion nonsense.

Giving further credence to the argument of removal of the United Nations from the States is the upcoming plea by Palestinian Organizer Mahmoud Abbas for Palestinian Statehood.   Once again, we have a violent, anti-western, anti-Zion leader in the States.  The Palestinians are very good at making a case for being victims.  They go out of their way to show Israel as the aggressor.  But, we really need to look at some facts to find the real truth.

In a recent newspaper article by the Huffington Post, Abbas had the gall to say, “We will never return to an intifada (uprising). We will never return to violence,” Abbas said. “All our people will do is demonstrate peacefully inside the (Palestinian) cities.”  I guess he means that AFTER he speaks to the United Nations peace will descend upon that area because in fact:

  • August 18, 2011 — A series of attacks targeted civilians and soldiers in southern Israel, killing eight people and wounding at least 31. Terrorists from Gaza infiltrated Israel via the border with Egypt, fired on a civilian buses and vehicles, detonated explosives when soldiers arrived on the scene of the attack, and then launched mortar shells at soldiers along the Israeli-Egyptian border.
  • Palestinians terrorists fired 17 rockets and several mortars at Israel.
  • August 20 – - As Hamas announced it would renew attacks on Israelis, Palestinians fired 64 rockets at Israel.
  • August 26 – -At about 3 pm, Palestinians fired a Grad rocket at Ashkelon, despite a ceasefire announced by Palestinian Islamic Jihad the previous day. Shortly after 10 pm, two Qassam rockets were fired at the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council. No injuries were reported in either incident. The leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for two attacks on Ashkelon.
  • August 28, 2011 — Eight people were wounded when a Palestinian man from Nablus attacked a Tel Aviv nightclub. The terrorist hijacked a taxi in Jaffa and rammed into an Israel Border Police checkpoint that had been set up to protect the event of over 2,000 people. He then jumped out of the taxi, shouted “Allahu Akhbar” and began stabbing bystanders and police.

Furthermore, these are not the end of attacks, they continued just about everyday for the rest of the month and into September.  If this is what Abbas considers peaceful demonstration, I would hate to see what a “return to violence” would look like.  It’s also very key to remember that the United States uses YOUR tax dollars to give the Palestinians $500 Million dollars in economic assistance.  Personally, I think we are funding their bombs and aid should be cut off immediately.  If Saudi Arabia is so concerned about their plight, they should be funding them.  They certainly have the money to do so in style as does Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Make no mistake about it, Israel is the only democracy in the region.  Israel is also our only friend and ally in the region.  So, let’s take a look at some very important statistics regarding Israel:

  • While Jews are not permitted to live in many Arab countries, Arabs are granted full citizenship and have the right to vote in Israel. Arabs are also free to become members of the Israeli parliament (the Knesset). In fact, several Arabs have been democratically elected to the Knesset and have been serving there for years. Arabs living in Israel have more rights and are freer than most Arabs living in Arab countries.
  • Despite claims that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank are the obstacle to peace, Jews lived there for centuries before being massacred or driven out by invading Arab armies in 1948-49. And contrary to common mis-perceptions, Israeli settlements—which constitute less than two percent of the territories—almost never displace Palestinians.
  • The area of the West Bank includes some of the most important sites in Jewish history, among them Hebron, Bethlehem, and Jericho. East Jerusalem, often cited as an “Arab city” or “occupied territory,” is the site of Judaism’s holiest monument. While under Arab rule (1948-67), this area was entirely closed to Jews. Since Israel took control, it has been open to people of all faiths.
  • Israel is the only country in the region that permits citizens of all faiths to worship freely and openly. Twenty percent of Israeli citizens are not Jewish.

The only successful path to Palestinian Statehood is to negotiate with Israel.  To be sure, as long as bombs are falling on Israel she is not interested in discussing border lines nor negotiating peace.  You wouldn’t reward an impertinent child by giving in to its bad behaviour, so why would there be an expectation that Israel should give in when their lives are involved.  If the Palestinians truly wish to discuss Statehood and lasting peace, then they would be better served by acting peaceful and putting an end to the violence that is truly what is holding them back.

For more information on this topic, please see:

http://www.adl.org/israel/israel_attacks.asp

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Palestinian_rocket_attacks_on_Israel,_2011

http://www.jewishworldreview.com/0502/mideast_facts.asp

 

Please Stop Spending Our Money


On top of this pesky Solyndra situation (turning into a scandal) we are now finding out just how much of our money has been flushed down the drain on risky businesses.  This huge push for green jobs has created a pickle of a problem for the Obama administration.  The rush to make something happen quickly has taken our tax dollars, straight from our paychecks, and put them into businesses that are all belly up now.  We know Solyndra has cost us $550 Million dollars and put 1,100 employees out of work.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there are at least 4 more now that have received funds and declared bankruptcy.  Let’s see what else we have lost.

  • Evergreen Solar Inc., received $5.3 million through a state grant to open a $450 million facility in 2007.  It employed 800 people.  The company couldn’t compete with China and has moved its operations to China.
  • SpectraWatt,  received a $500,000 grant from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory as part of the stimulus package.   The company filed for bankruptcy last month also blaming China.
  • Mountain Plaza, Inc., received $424,000 in stimulus to install a truck stop electrification system which allowed idling truckers to plug-in instead of keeping their “exhaust-belching, environment polluting diesel engines running.  Interesting, the company did declare bankruptcy in 2003.  However, it had to refile bankruptcy in June 2010.
  • Olsen’s Crop Service and Olsen’s Mills Acquisition Co., were given $10 million in funding.  Oddly enough, the $10 million was awarded AFTER the company had defaulted on a bank loan of $60 million.

Despite assurances by Jay Carney today, that due diligence is being followed with these companies, the results we are seeing is saying the exact opposite.  I have spent the majority of my life in business and I’m sickened by what I am seeing.  This is the worst case scenario of throwing good money after bad.  This is the danger of electing to high office an individual who has never held a job in the private sector.  They have the book smarts to be sure, but lack the experience to see how a business really operates.  And to hold the office of the President is a really bad time to learn business experience by flying by the seat of your pants.  It’s also a horrible time to put into practice the different theories you learned about in Economics 400 at your college.

As if all that wasn’t frustrating enough, to come to the American people and tell them you want another $447 Billion dollars to pump into stimulus takes some real gall.  Past is prelude dear taxpayer and this administration has conclusively shown that they know NOTHING about business nor do they know what is or what is not a good investment.  So, why in the world would we trust them with another HUGE sum of money.  Look at your paychecks, see the taxes they are taking out, and re-read about those businesses they invested in.  Imagine if YOU had that money in your pocket what you could do with it.  I strongly feel you would not throw it away on some business that can’t even compete in this country or in a business that has already declared bankruptcy once.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/09/15/despite-stimulus-funding-solyndra-and-4-other-companies-have-hit-rock-bottom/#ixzz1Y6VJLJ86

Solyndra- The Whistleblower


As with any great scandal, there is always somebody somewhere who knows the truth and is just waiting for the right moment to confess what they know.  This appears to be the case with the building  Solyndra Situation.  It’s not quite a scandal yet, so we’ll call it a situation.

The anonymous whistle-blower, chose The Mark Levin show http://www.marklevinshow.com as her confessional.  I just so happened to be in my car at the time and caught her telephone call.  Interestingly, after she gave her truth, the next day the FBI raided Solyndra.  This is a direct quote from her phone call:

“While we were out there, while we were building it – cause it is a half a billion dollar plant – everyone already knew that China had developed a more inexpensive way to manufacture these solar panels. Everyone knew that the plant wouldn’t work. But they still did it. They still built it.”

Levin asked her if the Obama Administration knew that it was not feasible and she said, “Oh absolutely, I was not high on the totem pole at all and even someone like me knew that and we were just breaking ground.”  This tells me that it was fraud from the very beginning.  She elaborated that the facility was state of the art and they were installing brand new equipment up to the week they closed.  No one was given a warning of the closing and suddenly 1,100 people were laid off and their health care canceled immediately.

I decided it was time to dig a little deeper and follow the money.  Turns out that the employees of Solyndra donated quite a bit of their cash to the Obama Campaign.  Additionally, Ben Bierman, the Executive Vice President of Engineering was one of the larger contributors.  As we follow the money some more it’s come to light that billionaire George Kaiser, a large contributor to Obama’s campaign, was also the largest backer of Solyndra.   Kaiser gave Obama somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 for the 2008 campaign.  Kaiser has also been a frequent visitor to the White House logging some 16 visits before the $535 Million was awarded.  In his defense, Kaiser said they didn’t talk about Solyndra.  Really?!

As this situation is gaining traction and momentum, the White House decided it was time to field some questions.  So, they sent out White House Press Secretary Jay Carney to answer the questions.  Someone should have better prepped him.  Carney held steadfast to the talking point that the White House didn’t rush the review of loan guarantees and he also said that we have all misunderstood those pesky emails we talked about yesterday because they were about “scheduling decisions.”

“What the emails make clear is there was urgency to make a decision on a scheduling matter,” Carney told a group of reporters on Air Force One. “It is a big proposition to move the president or to put on an event and that sort of thing, so people were simply looking for answers about whether or not people could move forward. … It had nothing to — and there is no evidence to the contrary — nothing to do with anything besides the need to get an answer to make a scheduling decision.”

Thanks to NBC, we already know those emails were much more damaging.  One email from an OMB staffer said,”We have ended up with a situation of having to do rushed approvals on a couple of occasions (and we are worried about Solyndra at the end of the week).  We would prefer to have sufficient time to do our due diligence reviews and have the approval set the date for the announcement rather than the other way around.”

At the hearings today, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, placed blame for the Solyndra Situation on the shoulders of the Obama administration.“The Obama administration has repeatedly touted its green energy plan as the savior of our faltering economy,” Stearns said in an opening statement. He added, “Only after the Obama administration took control and the stimulus passed was the Solyndra deal pushed through.”

Yesterday, I told you all that I was sick and tired of this deflection of blame always to the Bush administration.  Well, in the committee meeting today it came out that the Energy Department  under the Bush administration was using the proper protocol and was working on the due diligence process and had not recommended the loan guarantee until 2009 AFTER the due diligence was completed.  Additionally media outlets are now reporting that the Energy Department’s credit committee rejected the loan guarantee outright so that it could be reviewed and approved by Obama’s administration.

As things are unfolding, it’s becoming much more likely that we have a scandal on our hands.  And telling the American people that this is somehow Bush’s fault won’t cut it this time.  Clearly, whatever happened with Solyndra lies at the feet of Obama and the White House.  As for Jay Carney’s little circus show today I only have one thing to say-  Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

For More Information:

http://biggovernment.com/jhoft/2011/09/04/obama-bundler-george-kaiser-made-multiple-visits-to-white-house-in-months-prior-to-535-million-loan-guarantee-to-solyndra/

http://www.therightscoop.com/solyndra-employee-everyone-knew-the-plant-wouldnt-work/

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904491704576572872256772948.html

http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2011/09/solar-company-solyndra-rising-star.html?utm_source=CRP+Mail+List&utm_campaign=15780ed808-Newsletter_9_15_119_14_2011&utm_medium=email

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/14/solyndra-white-house-loan-guarantees_n_962712.html

Nose Jobs out of his Apartment


So over coffee one day, you and your friend get started talking and you mention that her nose looks great.  She is thrilled with the results and can’t wait to tell you about Dr. X.  As you inquire a bit more you find out that this doctor is performing plastic surgery out of his apartment along with vasectomies and breast augmentation.  In other words, there is something for everyone!

This is just the newest problem to come to light regarding illegal immigration.  Most often, the doctor is licensed in Mexico or South America but is unable to get his/her license in the states.  Conversely, illegals who want or need surgery will seek out these services so that their immigration status doesn’t get revealed.  The Nevada State Health Doctor, Dr. Tracey Green is warning of these underground services, “This is happening more than we’d like to know,” Green said.  “We’ve seen three to five incidents in the last seven months across the state. Our No. 1 concern is that you have the right to ask if someone is a licensed doctor, and if the procedure is performed in a home or facility that is not a medical facility, you are in great risk and should not receive services.”

Indeed, our neighbour to the south, Las Vegas is watching the trial of a woman who died after receiving an injection of gel to enhance her buttocks.  The “office” for the procedure was in the back of a tile store.  2 people have been charged with 2nd-degree murder and practicing medicine without a license.

The doctor who was working out of his apartment here in the Sparks area charged full price for his services and demanded the payment in cash.  The fake doctor “talks to everyone he runs into” to solicit his services, Green said.“They can be workers or people who live next-door,” she said. “Wherever he goes he offers some kind of service.”

For me, the idea of having surgery anywhere other than in a hospital with a full staff of medical professionals seems just a bit crazy to me.  I can’t imagine anyone thinking that is a good idea.  However, it must be very profitable because people are sure dying to get in on the deal.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2011/apr/10/2-nabbed-mccarran-accused-womans-death-after-botch/

http://www.ktvn.com/story/15445594/man-suspected-of-practicing-medicine-without-license

 http://www.rgj.com/article/20110831/NEWS01/110831048/1002

Solyndra- It’s only YOUR money


For those of us who still have jobs, I suspect you look at your paycheck and cannot help but notice the amounts taken out in taxes.  You have absolutely no choice in the matter nor do you have any say in where your dollars are going to go.  You cannot send a little note to the IRS and say something like “To Whom it May Concern, I would like $100 to go towards the senior up the street with the infirmity and the rest put in Washington High School.”  It would be nice but impossible.  The only thing that changes how much money gets taken from you and where it goes is found in your voting booth.  That’s where you effect change.

So, let’s take a look at one of those places that took our hard-earned dollars and squandered it away.  The company was called Solyndra and the amount they squandered or lost is $535 Million dollars!!!  That’s HUGE!!!  To make it even more sickening, they lost our money in 1 year.  One year and they blew through the whole lot declaring bankruptcy the first of this month.  To me, that would be like giving your 15-year-old kid $100,000 in cash and turning your back.  There would be nothing left in a year.  There might not be any left at the end of the week.

Solyndra was a large solar energy business that employed over 1,100 people.  Back in 2006 they applied to the Department of Energy under the Bush administration for funding.  But, it wasn’t until 2009 that the Obama administration saw an opportunity to tout green jobs and employment opportunities.  Obama had been very vocal in his speeches about the need for green jobs and America’s need to break the dependence on fossil fuels.  It seemed like a win-win.  But, like my mother always told me, if something looks to good to be true, it probably isn’t.

But, politicians love a good photo shoot.  Especially if it touts the agenda they love.  I don’t begrudge them that.  I’m just mad about my lost tax dollars.  The Department of Energy fought for the Solyndra loan and said that it was a model for building up the “green energy” industry and that it would create jobs.  They were so overjoyed with the prospects of this that they wanted to have Obama personally announce it.  And what could make that better?  Send Obama himself to the manufacturing plant in California.

What we know now however, is that the DOE jumped the gun a bit.  The Government Accounting Office (GAO) had not even finished vetting the company.  We also now have emails that were being sent by Obama administrative officials complaining about the impending deadline they were facing as well as worrying about the flags the Office of Management and Budget had put on the deal.  As we begin to dig more we find out that the auditors said the Energy Department had “treated applicants inconsistently, favoring some and disadvantaging others.”

The GAO has taken the DOE to task, stating that before DOE makes a conditional commitment to guarantee a loan, its “procedures call for engineering, financial, legal, and marketing reviews of proposed projects as part of the due diligence process for identifying and mitigating risk.”  Franklin Russo, an analyst with GAO, went on to say “There’s a consequence if you don’t follow a rigorous process that’s transparent.” “It makes the agency more susceptible to outside pressures, potentially.”  Russo, went on to say, “If you don’t have really strong processes in place, and if you’re under pressure to get a lot of these dollars allocated, you can make unproductive decisions and ones that ultimately put taxpayers’ dollars at risk,”

At this current time, the Obama White House is taking a blame Bush stance.  They are saying that the grant request came in under Bush’s administration and that the DOE under Bush was in the process of green lighting the money.  I am so sick and tired of hearing that everything that goes wrong with this administration is somehow Bush’s fault.  Let me be clear, President Bush and I had our differences in a big way.  He made me mad too with some of his policies and ideas.  However, with that being said, evidence is really stacking up that this is Obama’s screw up.  He needs to own it.

Let’s look at the evidence.  Obama announced the Solyndra loan guarantee two months into his administration and the DOE boasted and crowed at its speed.  Secretary Chu is quoted in the press release as saying, “today’s announcement significantly outpaces that aggressive timeline.”  The press release went on to say, “Secretary Chu credited the Department’s loan team for their work accelerating the process to offer this conditional commitment in less than two months, demonstrating the power of teamwork and the speed at which the Department can operate when barriers to success are removed.”  Okay then, so who was pushing this deal?  It clearly wasn’t Bush.

The FBI is now looking into criminal activity and they have raided the facility.  I should hope so!  That’s a big theft of our money!!  Congressional hearings have also begun to investigate who knew what and when.  I will keep you all abreast of the information.

As a final note, let us not forget that Obama has just asked for another $500 Billion.  Really?!

For more information:
http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/solyndra-blame-bush-obama-officials/story?id=14513389

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/09/15/MNAL1L4G4G.DTL

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/money_co/2011/09/solyndra-house-committee-grills-officials-over-failed-loans.html

http://bottomline.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/09/14/7759207-white-house-ignored-red-flags-in-loan-to-failed-solar-company

http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/obama-administration-solyndra/story?id=13640783

The West Memphis Three: WM3


This is not a timely blog.  It’s about 3 weeks late from all the final wrap up.  However, I was a big follower of this case and I’ve wanted to write about it.  So, if you are not terribly interested, I will get back to the current stuff next time.

Imagine for a moment that you are a teenage boy.  You and your best friend are sitting around watching some TV and shooting the breeze when out of the darkness, the police kick in the door.  The arrest you and your friend telling you that you are facing capital murder charges in the deaths of three young children.  That was how Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin began their ordeal.

At the Sheriff’s office they found out another teenage boy had also been arrested.  A very frightened Jesse Misskelley Jr. (16 years old) was already in custody and being interrogated with out his parents.  By this time, Misskelley had been interrogated for hours.  Interestingly, the Detective had not taped the first few hours of the interrogation but only the last 45 minutes.  Evidence at the trial would show that Detective Bryn Ridge had coerced the confession out of the frightened and mentally challenged boy.

The night before the arrests, 3 young boys all 8 years old, were found dead in a ditch.  Stevie Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers had been stripped naked, hogtied with their own shoelaces and one boy, Christopher, had been genitally mutilated.  There was no blood found at the scene despite the coroner ruling blood loss on Christopher and drowning on Stevie and Michael.  As far as evidence found at the scene, there was precious little.  This occurred in 1993, so forensics and DNA were not as advanced as it is today.

In a strange twist, the manager of a drive-thru restaurant, Mr. Bojangles, called the police and informed them of a disheveled black man was locked in the ladies room.  The man was confused, dazed and covered in blood and mud.  The restaurant was about a mile from the crime scene and this took place the night of the murders.  The responding Officer, Regina Meeks, came to the drive-thru window 45 minutes after the call was made.  The individual had already left the facility.  She saw no need to enter the ladies room to collect blood samples.  It wasn’t until the next day, after the story broke that the manager thought maybe that stranger had something to do with the murders.  In order to get the police to take him seriously he had to call them twice.  Det. Ridge took blood samples and hair samples.  Unfortunately, he lost the blood samples so they were never analyzed.  At the crime scene however, a hair belonging to a black male was found.

Back at interrogation, Jesse Misskelley was tired, confused and wanted to go home.  In his mind, if he just cooperated they would leave him alone and he could leave.  Sensing his broken will and realizing that he had a low IQ (70) Det. Ridge began to feed information to Misskelley.  So, Misskelley began to elaborate on a story that was completely inconsistent with the known facts of the case.  For example, Misskelley stated they used rope to tie up the boys, when it was their own shoelaces.  He elaborated that Echols had hit Stevie a number of times in the head while the autopsy didn’t support that fact.  He also suggested that the boys had been sexually assaulted and that was ruled out during autopsy.   But, at the end of the day, it didn’t change the fact that the three boys were facing capital murder.

Because Misskelley was the one who “confessed” to the crimes, the prosecution decided to try him separately.  His trial began and his attorneys brought in all kinds of expert witnesses to show that the “confession” he gave was literally fed to him.  They established that Misskelley had been interviewed for hours before the tape recorder was turned on for his confession.  The defense dismantled his statement and had forensic psychologists come in to explain how Misskelley had been led.  In spite of the fact that there was no evidence of Misskelley’s involvement in the boys murder and in spite of the fact that the confession had clearly been coerced, Jesse Misskelley was found guilty of one count of 1st -degree murder and 2 counts of 2nd-degree murder.  He was given life plus 40 years in prison.

Damien Echols and James Baldwin were going to be tried together.  The prosecution knew that there was no evidence of these boys being involved so he was counting on getting Jesse Misskelley to testify at their hearings.  Misskelley was offered the sweetest deal on the planet: 10 years.  He would be out in 8 minus the time he had already served in custody.  All he had to do was get on the stand and tell his confession and all would be golden.  Jesse Misskelley said NO.  He told his attorneys and the prosecution that the three of them did not do this crime and there was no way he would get on the stand and lie.  He clearly understood the consequences of his actions meaning he would be in prison until he died.  But the principle was more important to him.

The trial of Echols and Baldwin began with the media salivating for any morsel they could find.  Rumour, innuendo and disinformation ran rampant over the community.  The prevailing theme was that Damien Echols was a Satan worshipper and James Baldwin his minion. The police did everything they could to egg that on.  They leaked to the press that the genitals of Christopher Byers were found in Echols bedroom.  That never happened.  The prosecution pointed to Echols love of heavy metal music as more evidence of Satanic worship.  His interest in spirituality and in the occult further gave the prosecution something to exploit.  Baldwin was just painted with the same brush and marginalized by the prosecution.

As for the defense, the attorney for Echols dubbed it Satanic Panic.  He brought forth a team of experts to dispell everything the prosecution used.  Most importantly, he shot holes in the prosecution’s arguments and introduced a wealth of probable doubt.  But, it was to no avail.  Satanic Panic was clearly set in and on March 19, 1994 Damien Echols was sentenced to death for the murders of the three boys.  James Baldwin received life in prison.

Now, before the trial started, the movie channel HBO had heard of charges against the boys.  They gave the green light to a documentary of the murder, the boys and the trial.  HBO called the documentary “Paradise Lost.”  It was a brilliant piece of work and showed the unvarnished truth of what happened in that small Arkansas town.

The popularity of the documentary began to fuel a fire that blazed through the music community of California.  The Dixie Chicks, Natalie Maines, Henry Rollins and Metallica began fund-raising for the boy’s appeals.  The clamoring was becoming deafening.  Each case went to appeals, but given that the SAME judge presided over the appeals trials, they were all dispensed the same way.

Days turned into months, months turned into years and young teens gave way to men.  But, not before they each were subjected to untold indignities.  They were brutally beaten, raped and tortured along the way.   Even Damien Echols was not safe on Death Row, he experienced the same treatment.  But the boys were never forgotten.  Free the West Memphis 3 organizations sprang up to shine a light upon the injustices done to these boys.

Fast forward to 2007 when DNA testing became a definitive standard for crime scenes and the truth became much clearer.  No DNA evidence pointed to any of the boys.  There was a hair tied into the knot binding one of the boys that was did not belong to any of the 3.  Additionally, there was DNA evidence linking Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of Stevie Branch, to the crime scene.  Further, the supposed knife marks on the bodies and the genital mutilation were identified to be animal predation.  Despite all these new revelations, the Circuit Court of appeals once again the request of a retrial.  The next appeal went to the Arkansas Supreme Court.  In July 2008, it was revealed that Kent Arnold, the jury foreman on the Echols/Baldwin trial, discussed the case with an attorney prior to the beginning of deliberations and advocated for the guilt of the West Memphis Three.  That admission is enough to create a reversal.

In November of 2010, the Arkansas Supreme Court admonished that the lower court must examine the claims of misconduct and review the newly discovered DNA evidence to see if it would exonerate the 3.

The Judge who had previously been the Judge for trials and appeals was finally gone.  However, in August of this year the men once again found themselves jammed into a corner.  The new trial was set for December off 2011.  However, even though trial had been set it didn’t mean that Damien Echols could not be executed before that time.  And in fact, there were rumblings that his execution was coming up very fast and he would not be alive come December 2011.  The prosecution, realizing that they would most likely lose at the December trial, decided to give the men a deal.  It’s called an Alford Plea.  In a nutshell, it says that you are guilty of the crime committed but we are releasing you with time served.  The men were still allowed to maintain their innocence.

James Baldwin was not happy with the Alford Plea.  He wanted to take the fight to Supreme Court and push for justice.  But the deal had to be accepted by each man.  If any one of them did not sign off on the plea, the deal was off.  When James Baldwin had time to think about it, he realized that if he didn’t agree that Echols may not live to see the day.  So, he made the sacrifice of his own desires to save Damien Echols.  Jesse Misskelley, Damien Echols and James Baldwin served 18 years and 78 days behind bars.  They walked out of prison on August 19, 2011 finally free men.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Further Reading:
http://www.amazon.com/Devils-Knot-Story-Memphis-Three/dp/0743417593

http://www.amazon.com/Almost-Home-Life-Story-Vol/dp/0595357016/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1316066210&sr=1-1

http://www.wm3.org/

http://www.hbo.com/documentaries/paradise-lost-the-child-murders-at-robin-hood-hills/index.html

http://www.hbo.com/documentaries/paradise-lost-2-revelations/index.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/08/19/national/main20094671.shtml

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/20/us/20arkansas.html?pagewanted=all

Cherokee Nation


The Cherokee Nation is at major odds with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).  At issue is the expulsion of 2,800 African-Americans from the Cherokee rolls.  Joe Crittenden, the tribe’s acting principal chief,  said in a statement responding to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, “The Cherokee Nation will not be governed by the BIA.”

The reaction follows a letter the tribe received on Monday from BIA Assistant Secretary Larry Echo Hawk, who warned that the results of the September 24 Cherokee election for principal chief will not be recognized by the U.S. government if the ousted members, known to some as “Cherokee Freedmen,” are not allowed to vote.

Members of the Cherokee Nation owned slaves who worked on their plantations in the South.  In 1830, the Cherokee were forced to move to Oklahoma and many took their slaves with them.  Those slaves went on to become the Cherokee Freedmen.  When the Civil War broke out the Cherokee fought on the side of the South.

In 1866, after the war, the Cherokee signed a treaty that gave guaranteed citizenship for freed slaves.

Last month the Cherokee Supreme Court voted that the members had the right to change their constitution with regard to citizenship as they saw fit.  So, when the Cherokee Freedmen were unable to prove that they are Cherokee blood relation, they lost their citizenship.  As a citizen you are allowed to vote in tribal elections and to also receive benefits.

The BIA is going in with strong-arm tactics.  They want the Cherokee to keep the conclusion of the 1866 Treaty alive.  So, to that end, the U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development is withholding $33 million from the Cherokee.  The Washington Attorneys in a federal lawsuit are asking a judge to restore voting rights for the ousted Cherokee Freedmen in time for the September 24 tribal election for Principal Chief.

Now, in doing some research for this particular case, I came upon a very important ruling from 1981:

A 1981 case, Montana v U.S., clarified that tribal nations possess inherent power over their internal affairs, and civil authority over non-members within tribal lands to the extent necessary to protect health, welfare, economic interests or political integrity of the tribal nation.

If the Cherokee Nation has the inherent power over their internal affairs, then the lawsuit filed by the un-named Congressmen has no validity and it is wrong to withhold the $33 million.

I also found this little gem:

  In the 1970s Native American self-determination replaced Indian termination policy as the official United States policy towards Native Americans.[14]Self-determination promoted the ability of tribes to self-govern and make decisions concerning their people.

This is a fascinating case that is building at an astronomical rate.  The African-Americans believe that the Cherokee owe them reparations for the years of unpaid labor and that they need to hold stead-fast to the Treaty.  The Cherokee believe that they have paid enough and to continue to pay the descendants of the Freedmen does not change the fact that some of their members owned slaves.  They believe they have apologized enough and it’s time for the guilt payments to come to an end.  Now, the U.S. Government who has staunchly resisted the idea of reparations, is forcing a sovereign group to pay them through sanctions of withholding funding.  There is an election coming up in the Cherokee Nation and I wonder what, if anything, that has to do with it all.  It will be interesting to see how this issue ends.

For more information please see:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44516027/ns/us_news-life/#.TnCthk_VRSc

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tribal_sovereignty_in_the_United_States

http://tahlequahdailypress.com/local/x601186671/Feds-issue-warning-to-Cherokees

http://atlantapost.com/2011/09/14/cherokees-refuses-u-s-demand-to-reinstate-black-freedmen/

Crime Really Doesn’t Pay or Really Dumb Criminals


You are at your home in California and have managed to be smart enough to amass a large quantity of Cocaine.  You are also smart enough to realize that your ROI (Return on Investment) will be much better back east.  Using mapquest or some other clever search site, you map out your route.  You even go so far as to rent a car to keep everything hidden.  All this planning, conniving, and hustling comes down to this crucial moment,  the discussion of who all is going and who is going to drive.

In a flash, all your brains abandon you and it seems like a really good idea to drive the route yourself, forgetting that your driver’s license is revoked.  You also seemed to have forgotten that your companion/girlfriend is not good in a pinch.

This is the story of how a routine traffic stop in Colorado turned into a major cocaine bust.  As the story goes, Mark Bailey and Lisa Calderon, packed the trunk of a rental car with 220 pounds of Cocaine worth over $10 Million.  They left California for the more lucrative market of Iowa traveling a very familiar stretch of highway known to Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) as a drug-smuggling corridor (Interstate 25).

Outside of Pueblo, Colorado, Bailey made an illegal lane change in front of an off-duty LEO.  The off-duty called a patrol car and Bailey was pulled over.  It was at that time, that the LEO realized that Bailey’s license had been revoked.  When questioned about his direction of travel, Bailey informed the LEO that he owns a body shop in California and was on his way to Iowa to look at a classic ’55 Chevy.

It was around that time that the LEO noticed that the trunk of the rental car was sagging a bit low.   When you combine that with the fact that the other passenger Calderon, was acting nervous and the picture begins to look a little suspicious.  The LEO took aside Calderon and asked about the direction of travel and was informed that they were heading to Iowa to visit Bailey’s brother.  Since nothing was adding up correctly, the LEO had enough probable cause to search the vehicle.

A K-9 officer was summoned to the location with Raleigh, the drug sniffing dog.  Raleigh made quick work of the scene and alerted on the back-end of the car.  When the truck was opened, the Officers found 4 black duffel bags stuffed full of bricks of Cocaine.

Both Bailey and Calderon were immediately arrested.  Bailey also faces additional charges of driving without a valid license and failure to show proof of insurance.

Once again, the devil is in the details.

My sincerest congratulations to the Police Officers who caught the biggest bust in Pueblo’s history.  These men and women put their lives on the line every single day protecting us citizens from the likes of these people.  Their job is often long, hard and thankless.  They deal with the criminal element so we don’t have to!   My heartfelt thanks to all the men and women serving as LEOs.

For More Information on this Bust:

http://news.yahoo.com/routine-colorado-traffic-stop-turns-10-million-cocaine-054323707.html

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