Friday, December 31, 2010

Question Authority: The Yale Obedience Experiments



In an elaborate 1962 experiment replicated worldwide, the Yale University social psychologist Dr. Stanley Milgram proved that most people will obey authority if prompted face to face.

When the "learner" was placed in a remote location, such as at the end of a phone connection, the percentage of those willing to inflict what they had reason to believe was painful punishment on a human test subject diminished to a large degree.

The experiment was conducted in a scenario where the "learner" was in another room but the "teacher" was made aware of the "actor-learner's" discomfort by poundings on the wall.

No further shocks were actually delivered - the "teacher" was not aware that the "learner" in the study was actually an actor who was intended, by the requirements of the experiment, to use his talents to indicate increasing levels of discomfort as the "teacher" administered increasingly severe electric shocks in response to the mistakes made by the "learner".

The experimenter was present in the same room as the "teacher" and whenever "teachers" asked whether increased shocks should be given he or she was verbally encouraged by the experimenter to continue.

These encouragements were, in fact, pre-scripted by the research team and followed this pattern:-

Prod 1: Please continue or Please go on.
Prod 2: The experiment requires that you continue.
Prod 3: It is absolutely essential that you continue.
Prod 4: You have no other choice, you must go on.

These Prods were to be deployed successively by the researchers - a higher number Prod could only be used if a lower number one had proved unsuccessful.
Each experimental session was terminated whenever Prod 4 failed to induce the "teacher" to continue administering electric shocks. In this scenario 65% of the "teachers" obeyed orders to punish the learner to the very end of the 450-volt scale! No subject stopped before reaching 300 volts!

At times, the worried "teachers" questioned the experimenter, asking who was responsible for any harmful effects resulting from shocking the learner at such a high level. Upon receiving the answer that the experimenter assumed full responsibility, teachers seemed to accept the response and continue shocking, even though some were obviously extremely uncomfortable in doing so.

In an article entitled "The Perils of Obedience" (1974) Stanley Milgram wrote:-
"Before the experiments, I sought predictions about the outcome from various kinds of people -- psychiatrists, college sophomores, middle-class adults, graduate students and faculty in the behavioral sciences. With remarkable similarity, they predicted that virtually all the subjects would refuse to obey the experimenter. The psychiatrist, specifically, predicted that most subjects would not go beyond 150 volts, when the victim makes his first explicit demand to be freed. They expected that only 4 percent would reach 300 volts, and that only a pathological fringe of about one in a thousand would administer the highest shock on the board".

The Obedience to Authority experiment was continued by Milgram over a number of other scenarios such as where the "learner" could indicate discomfort by way of voice feedback - at "150 volts", the "actor-learner" requested that the experiment end, and was consistently told by the experimenter that - "The experiment requires that you continue. Please go on." or similar words. In this scenarion the percentage of subjects who were prepared to administer the maximum 450 volts dropped slightly to 62.5%

Where the experiment was conducted in a nondescript office building rather than within the walls of a prestigiously ornate hall on Yale's old campus the percentage of subjects who were prepared to administer the maximum voltage dropped to 47.5%.

Where the "teacher" had to physically place the "learner's" hand on a "shock plate" in order to give him shocks above 150 volts the percentage of subjects who were prepared to administer the maximum voltage dropped to 30.0% and where the "experimenter" was at end of a phone line rather than being in the same room the percentage of subjects who were prepared to administer 450 volts dropped to 20.5% and where the "teacher" could himself nominate the shock level the percentage of subjects who were prepared to continue to the end of the scale dropped to 2.5%

Milgram summed up his findings in relation to the main experiment in "The Perils of Obedience" (1974):-

"The legal and philosophic aspects of obedience are of enormous import, but they say very little about how most people behave in concrete situations. I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects' strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects' ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation."

The experiment has been repeated by other psychologists around the world with similar results. Variations have been performed to test for variables in the experimental setup. For example, subjects are much more likely to be obedient when the experimenter is physically present than when the instructions are given over telephone.

Dr. Milgram's study was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

No Last Minute Pardon For Cop Killer “Billy The Kid”

Santa Fe - Gov. Bill Richardson declined to pardon legendary outlaw Billy The Kid.

Though he may have been promised a pardon in return for testimony for killings he witnessed during the Lincoln County wars, the Governor and his staff said the official record does not show General Lew Wallace, territorial governor during the protracted wars between private armies, made any such promise.

The proposed pardon covered the 1878 killing of Lincoln County Sheriff William Brady. Billy the Kid was shot to death by Sheriff Pat Garrett in 1881, a few months after escaping from jail where he was awaiting hanging in Brady's death.

He killed two deputies while escaping. The pardon petition did not cover those deaths, but Richardson said he had to consider them in his decision.

Garrett's grandson, J.P. Garrett of Albuquerque, sent an e-mail to The Associated Press: "Yea!!! No pardon! Looks like it will be a great new year!!!!"

According to legend, Billy the Kid killed 21 people, one for each year of his life. The New Mexico Tourism Department puts the total closer to nine.

Richardson, the former U.N. ambassador and Democratic presidential candidate, waited until the last minute to announce his decision. His term ends at midnight Friday.

The historical record on the pardon is unclear, and Richardson staff members told him in August there are no written documents "pertaining in any way" to a pardon in the papers of the territorial governor, Lew Wallace, who served in office from 1878 to 1881.

Wallace's great-grandson, William Wallace of Westport, Conn., said Richardson "followed the correct, rational track in forgoing a pardon for a convicted murderer."

Richardson said he decided against a pardon "because of a lack of conclusiveness and the historical ambiguity as to why Gov. Wallace reneged on his promise."

You Better Come On In My Kitchen. It's Gonna Be Rainin' Outdoors


Robert Johnson recorded 16 songs at the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio in 1936. He died at the age of 27 under mysterious circumstances. Other musicians in the Greenwood, Mississippi area at the time of his death said they believed he had been poisoned with strychnine placed in an open bottle of whiskey by a jealous man. Over the course of 3 days, Mr. Johnson suffered agonizing pain before he passed.

His work as a singer-songwriter has inspired many rockers, including Mr. Eric Clapton, who has immortalized Mr. Johnson's "Crossroads."

If Robert Johnson wasn't from Texas, well, he got here as quick as he could, as they say in Ostentatious, capital of The People's Republic of Travis County.

So long, 2010; you put on a hell of a show and followed all the rules you find in the average knife fight. It's been real.

- The Legendary

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Forget Me Not


Heavy snow from a furious pregnant sky falls over the big city for two days and two nights. The wind throws a thick white blanket over everything from vain wide-open avenues, proud ethnic neighborhoods, and mean poor streets with ratty alleys to deserted park benches.

On the third day, everything suddenly changes; an icy Canadian wind blows away the soft purple clouds. The desperate January sun, hardly reaching the rooftops of the gleaming high rises, makes people squint.

On the widest avenue, in the heart of the city, the new biting and tugging wind scares away women wearing animal pelts and high heels, and stern-looking men in their wingtips and perfectly fitting dark blue coats. They are all soon whisked away by warm yellow taxicabs and luxurious black limousines.

Later, immigrant cleaning ladies in their colorful heavy scarves and shivering shop clerks in black uniforms disappear into steaming and coughing city busses. They leave the bus stops, desolate in the fading evening light.

Only the homeless and insane, with empty hands in the pockets of their second-hand coats, walk aimlessly, bending their exhausted bodies toward the killing winds.

In Uptown a quiet man with forget-me-not-blue eyes can't find shelter for the night. With the last coins in his pocket, he buys a cup of coffee in an empty shop next to the subway station. The hot liquid warms him for a while and gives him strength to walk north until he finds a spot in the park. A piece of cardboard gives him a bed to rest his head and aching body.

A sudden heat wave rinses over him while stars above him seem to come closer. He is surprised by this unexpected change in weather. He takes off his wet socks and sandals and continues to look at the starry sky above him and the big city. Maybe life will get better, he thinks. Then he sighs and falls asleep for the last time.

Heavy snow falls over the big city
from a wide-open pregnant, purple sky,
soon covering the vain avenues,
mean streets,
ratty allies
and deserted park benches,

Next day the wind shifts
and the sun,
hardly above roofs of high rises,
blinds tired eyes.
Icy tugging wind scares away animal pelt wearing women
and stern-looking men in their wingtips,
all whisked away by yellow taxi cabs.

Finally also immigrant cleaning ladies
and shivering shop clerks
disappear into steaming city busses.
Only the homeless and insane,
with their empty hands,
walk aimlessly towards the killing winds.

That night a quiet man
with forget-me-not-blue eyes,
wearing wet socks and sandals,
lays his head down on a piece of cardboard
in Uptown’s virgin snow.

When a wave of heat rolls over him,
like a sudden change in weather,
he takes off his heavy coat and sandals
before he falls asleep
for the last time.

- Marja Hagborg

King Biscuit Boy To The Rescue!

County's Commission: Phone System - Location, Location, Location

Loss of lifestyle choices and the resulting issues abound when it comes to losing freedom of choice through incarceration.

Let's say you're a federal prisoner, an inmate of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons who hails from anywhere in 50 states and territories. You fetch up at Waco, housed at the Jack Harwell Detention Center, operated and staffed by CEC (Civigenics), Inc., owned and financed by McLennan County.

Someone is looking for you. McLennan County, Texas, and the corporate officers of the CEC corporation of New Jersey.

The deal is this.

Let's say you're a county official looking to enhance a dwindling revenue stream now that investment income has tanked and the taxpayer dollar is worth much, much less.

Hey, it's a custodial and ministerial duty of the county government, most particularly the Sheriff, to provide custodial detention services for inmates awaiting trial or transfer to corrections facilities. Is there revenue to he bad in a transaction of that type?

Basic real estate principles apply, no matter what type of structure you build, or what your intended use. Location cubed is the answer to all questions, such as location, location, location.

That big word, if, is the preface to all inquiries; when is the first word in all the answers.

What else is new?

Try living this way and see how you like it. You don't get to pick out the color of your phone, nor do you have any privacy when you talk on the one they charge you nearly $5 for the first minute and anywhere from .28 to .89 to use, whether you're calling collect or have paid for the call on a pre-paid card.

All the phone calls are recorded and collected. The recordings are archived for 90 days, longer if they become part of a criminal or civil investigation.

Video visiting kiosks and pre-paid calling cards, jail non-contact visiting areas equipped and amortized through commissions on inmate phone calls, and commissary funds placed on an inmate's “books” through electronic means, from all of which transactions McLennan County collects a commission.

Wrong.

County Commissioners are chafing at the non-performance of this part of the scheme to finance and build the new 816-bed Jack Harwell Detention Center, located next door to the County Jail on Highway 6.

The expectation is that the “commission advance” arranged through a contract with the Reston, Virginia, communications company, GTL, in payments of $30,500 for 48 months and a 49th payment of $16,000.
ExecutiveSummary1
Total cost: $1,480,000, “to be provided as a Commission advance to be recouped from commissions payable to the County,” according to an executive summary of the contract. The revenue is generated from a 57% commission that escalates at the rate of a quarter percent each year and peaks out at 58%.
Minutes6-23
“The desire initially was to fund the Video Visitation System out of revenues from the new facility, however, given the amount of $ advanced, and the delays involved in generating revenues from the new facility posed by completion and opening of the facility and it becoming populated, GTL would not agree to new-facility-specific recoupment,” according to the summary obtained in a Texas Open Records information request.

Where pre-paid calling cards are used, “they must be issued only by GTL, and GTL shall take all steps necessary to assure that all calling card revenues are included in the calculation of the County's commission.”

Who sells the cards? A vendor. “There is no down-side in that telephone revenues are not commissary revenues. GTL will merely pay a handling charge to the commissary vendor to sell the cards, which does not come out of the County's commission.

How much are phone calls?

Pre-paid card calls or collect, they start at $4.10 for the first minute, plus .26 per minute to $4.84 for the first minute and .89 per minute for “interstate, interlata” calls. Such a deal.

What does the county get?

At the Main Jail on Highway 6, 95 inmate telephones, 1 TDD unit for the hearing impaired, 90 days of storage of call recordings, 1 computer workstation, a printer, and the services of a site administrator/technician on call.

There are 27 inmate phones at the downtown Courthouse Annex Jail, provided with similar services and similar arrangements, 90 inmate phones at the new CEC Jail, and 14 inmate phones at the Juvenile Detention Center. There are video visitation terminals for friends a and family, monitored and recorded, of course, and attorney-client video terminals for privileged communications that are not recorded.

According to County Purchasing Director Ken Bass, none of the arrangements were made as in a normal public bidding process. “There was no issuance of an RFQ (request for qualifications) and/or RFP (request for proposal). The GTL License Agreement is a service agreement and did not involve the expense of County Funds.”
PIAResponse
It's difficult to see it that way, since the land upon which the video visitation center was acquired at taxpayer expense. Though the original bond agreement called for the construction company and CEC to build a non-contact visitation area, the plans called for more property upon which to build it.
ExecutiveSummary2
It is taxpayer money in that the revenue was calculated in the budget and when the increased revenue did not materialize due to delays in finishing the project and a lack of prisoners, the payments still had to be made.

The budget, on which the tax rate was set, included the revenue projection from this contract. If the revenue is not realized, taxpayers make up the difference.
It was not supposed to be that way, under the terms of the agreement and the issuance of Class AA municipal revenue bonds for the Public Facility Corporation.

The bond issue did not require voter approval.

Buy Bonds!

- The Legendary

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

McLennan Commissioners Court Settles For Two Bits On The Dollar

Until private jail operator CEC, Inc., finds some more prisoners, McLennan County will settle for two bits on the dollar for a private contractor to not operate its downtown jail.

By extending for another six months an agreement to let the New Jersey-based corporation shift federal prisoners to the new Jack Harwell Detention Center on Highway 6, the County Commissioners Court accepted 25 percent of a $40,000 per month fee they had waved six months ago.

If that's not complicated enough, add to the equation the simple fact that it's a compromise within a compromise, something Commissioners Lester Gibson and Kelly Snell worked with County Attorney Herb Bristow to arrange with the private corporation.

Though the corporation insisted it doesn't have the money to pay anything, Mr. Gibson pushed for and got the $10,000 fee for the non-use of the downtown jail it emptied of prisoners in order to have enough revenue to meet bond debt service payments on the new 816-bed jail on Highway 6.

The resulting $60,000 raised during the 6-month period may be used to meet McLennan County's other expenses, he explained. “What people have to understand is so goes that jail, so goes the county,” said Mr. Gibson.

CEC Senior Vice President Peter Ageropulos told the Court last week that he wanted them to waive all fees for the coming six-month period. He also said that his company is on the short list for housing prisoners of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons at a rate of $45 per day.

What if that doesn't work out? Mr. Snell wanted to know.

Mr. Ageropulos waved a sheaf of legal papers at the Court, saying, “I have a contract.”

Governor Elect of Hawaii To Release Obama Birth Record

Honolulu - A Democrat, Governor-Elect Neil Abercrombie knew President Barack Obama's parents when Mr. Obama was a child.

He is deeply troubled by efforts to prove President Obama was born somewhere other than Honolulu and is therefore not a natural born citizen, eligible to serve as President.

Mr. Abercrombie plans to ask the state's attorney general to find ways to release more information about his birth, which occurred on August 4, 1961.

State privacy laws prohibit release of a certified birth certificate to anyone who has no tangible interest.

A spokeswoman for the Governor, Donalyn Dela Cruz said, “He had a friendship with Mr. Obama's parents, and so there is a personal issue at hand. Is it going to be done immediately? No, the first thing on our list is the economy.”

The State Director of Health has verified Mr. Obama's birth at Kapiolani Hospital in Honolulu and has seen published reports of his birth that appeared in newspapers at the time, according to state officials.

Mr. Obama released a certificate of live birth in 2008.

It does not list the hospital where he was born or the name of the doctor who assisted Mrs. Obama's labor. This does not satisfy “birthers,” who claim there is a conspiracy to conceal the President was actually born in Kenya, or perhaps elsewhere in the world.

According to health service spokeswoman Janice Okubo, "It's just a few people, and some of their requests are the same. The requests fluctuate from month to month."

Cathy Takase, acting director for the state Office of Information Practices.usually responds to appeals for Obama's birth records by telling those who make requests that the information they're seeking is contained in records protected by statute.

Mr. Abercrombie, who is 72, moved to Hawaii in 1959, the year the islands became a state.

"What bothers me is that some people who should know better are trying to use this for political reasons," Abercrombie told the Los Angeles Times last week. "Maybe I'm the only one in the country that could look you right in the eye right now and tell you, 'I was here when that baby was born.'"

Certificates of live birth are standardized throughout the United States, stored on computers in vaults that are fire-protected by Halon extinguisher systems, and are printed on 3-D Xerox-proof acid free paper as needed. The changes from an older-fashioned handwritten system from individual counties, cities and hospitals were prompted by a growing need to authenticate citizenship status in a faulty system.

Many people were able to obtain multiple birth certificates by searching death certificates of infants who died crib deaths, applying for their birth certificates, and obtaining driver's licenses, passports and other forms of identification.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Depression–Era Drug Store A Spot For Soup, Salad, Sandwich

Clifton – Part of a Main Street renaissance, Somethin's Brewing has quickly turned into a downtown destination for lunch and gourmet coffee.

Owner Deborah Crockett, longtime operator of Videos Tonite, refurbished the natural stone building, which was constructed early in the previous century, and began serving customers on November 2.

The lunchroom is open from 11 a.m. To 2 p.m. and features deliveries in town while serving coffee, tea and smoothies from 7 a.m. To 5 p.m.

The long-time owner of Videos Tonite, Mrs. Crockett and Manager Stevie Alvarez may be reached at 254-675-7798 for advance reservations or orders.

Visitors are encouraged to write their names and other graffiti on chalkboards on the walls.

Many generations of Cliftonians have had their hair cut in the barber shop next door, met for coffee and sodas following exhibitions at the Cliftex Theater, and bought newspapers and magazines in the Town Pharmacy, which was operated by Mr. and Mrs. W.A. Wegner from 1933 to 1988.

Home made soups include Southwestern potato, chicken enchilada and cheese broccoli. Cappucino, espresso and regular drip grind coffees in dozens of flavors are featured, as well as smoothies and Italian ices.

Waco Among 25 Least Expensive Cities In America


By Jeff Day

A recent complilation of data from ACCRA Cost of Living Index, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Energy revealed the most and least expensive cities to live in America. The study was limited to cities with populations above 50,000.

The index is based on 100 being average. For example, an index of 150 would mean that cost of living would be 50% more than the national average. New York's index is 184.

The index does not gauge the quality of life, only its relative expense.

The top 25 least expensive cities are listed below with the Cost of Living Index in parentheses.

1. HARLINGEN, TX (81.86)
2. PHARR, TX (82.03)
3. FT. SMITH, AR (83.13)
4. EDINBURG, TX (83.23)
5. MISSION, TX (83.24)
6. BROWNSVILLE, TX (83.98)
7. LAWTON, OK (84.51)
8. ABILENE, TX (84.57)
9. DOTHAN, AL (84.61)
10. WACO, TX (84.65)
11. MCALLEN, TX (84.82)
12. LAREDO, TX (84.92)
13. PUEBLO, CO (85.12)
14. JONESBORO, AR (85.92)
15. EL PASO, TX (86.35)
16. MEMPHIS, TN (86.52)
17. ODESSA, TX (86.66)
18. CLARKSVILLE, TN (86.66)
19. JOHNSON CITY, TN (86.73)
20. TERRE HAUTE, IN (86.73)
21. WICHITA FALLS, TX (86.81)
22. MACON, GA (87)
23. BROKEN ARROW, OK (87.04)
24. WATERLOO, IA (87.18)
25. MIDWEST CITY, OK (87.18)

Jeff Day is an expert in community data aggregation and interpretation. He is currently employed with Homefacts.com.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Tea Party Candidate Abandons Legal Challenge To Write-In Votes

Juneau - Alaska will be represented by incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski when the new Congress convenes.

Republican Senatorial nominee Joe Miller announced he will not challenge the certification of Senator Lisa Murkowski to be sworn in next week.

The Tea Party endorsed Mr. Miller, who defeated the incumbent Senator Murkowski in the state's primary. Senator Murkowski went on to defeat Mr. Miller in a write-in campaign.

Mr. Miller has challenged the handling of the absentee ballots and the way they were counted. It's the subject of a protracted legal dispute in U.S. District Court.

The announcement, which he made late on Sunday evening, indicates that Mr. Miller will not file motions to prevent Judge Ralph Beistline from lifting the stay on the certification of the victorious Sen. Murkowski.

Said Mr. Miller, “This decision will allow Alaskans to focus on bringing fairness and transparency to our elections process without distraction of the certification issue.”

Judge Beistline has gone on record saying that he thinks Alaska needs Senatorial representation when Congress convenes next Wednesday, January 5.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Life On The Installment Plan - Failure To Communicate?


You don't want to admire them chains, John-Boy. They ain't medals. You get
them put on for makin' mistakes...And if you make a really bad mistake,
then you got to deal with the Man...and he is one rough old boy.
- Cool Hand Luke

Caught between a rock and a hard place, McLennan County Commissioners Court faces a tough decision on Tuesday.

A contract amendment to an arrangement with CEC (Civigenics),Inc., to operate the downtown Courthouse Annex Jail is set to expire on Friday.

The arrangement calls for the New Jersey-based corporation to house federal prisoners in the 326-bed facility at a rate of $45 per day, but the Court called the deal off in June in favor of transferring the population to the Jack Harwell Detention Center on Highway 6. It's a publicly financed and privately operated jail that holds 816 prisoners. County Commissioners arranged financing through an issue of revenue bonds which did not require voter approval.

Under the terms of the amendment, the corporation may waive some $30,000 per month in user fees for the empty jail. It's making it hard on a cash-strapped county government that is obligated to make debt service payments on a sinking fund of $49.9 million in revenue bond obligations used to construct the new privately operated jail. The court did not count on having to do without something like $70,000 per month in anticipated revenue from this source. The previous contract amendment has already waived a projected additional $40,000 per month in revenue – a total of $70,000.

It's all straightforward enough until you stop to consider that the downtown jail deal is a keystone of other arrangements, the details of which are murky and in most cases utterly opaque, seemingly by design.

Repeated Texas Open Records Act requests for information have led to dead ends when it comes to learning from exactly where funds are disbursed – or paid.

There is a constant level of tension between people who are seeking the facts and the custodians of the record.

For instance, in seeking details of how officials satisfy the debt payments, County Auditor Steve Moore, who is slated to retire on January 31, explained that the accounting scheme has been described by bond attorney Herb Bristow as a “waterfall” in which a contingency fund – Fund 196 – is filled with funds fresh from U.S. Bank & Trust, the bond trustee. As trustee, the bank receives all payments from CEC, makes disbursements to the bond holders, then sends the money to McLennan County, which pays its obligations, then parcels what's left over to the contractor.

As the contingency fund overflows, the water trickles down to subordinate accounts, much like the hydrology of a mountain stream cascading off of multiple cliffs in some exotic setting.

It appears the stream has run dry.

So far, CEC is in arrears for invoices payable in October from its various clients such as the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, some Texas counties and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for almost a half million dollars, according to corporate officials. But that won't satisfy a revenue requirement of $3.7 million in interest owed on the bonds.

Under the bond agreement, the county is obligated to come up with the money from any source available, including taxpayer funds – or default on the bond issue and run the risk of ruining its tax-free municipal bond rating.
Then there is the matter of the Sheriff's supplemental payment of up to $1,000 per month from the downtown jail contract – a stipend which is payable subject to and contingent upon receipt of money from the contract – which has been suspended up until Friday. The problem is that it's impossible to determine if any such payments have been made, and from what source.

Said County Auditor Steve Moore after a particularly ugly scene with one of his assistants, a woman who vehemently demanded payment in cash for copies of records without first allowing inspection, as prescribed by law.

Mr. Moore apologized, saying, “My staff sometimes reacts like pit bulls.”

It's a cultural thing. The system thrives on secretive arrangements and transactions which take place in the dark. For more than a century and a half, outsiders are considered in the dark. Anyone who tells a stranger to the system anything about the county's workings is to be blackballed for life.

It does get on people's nerves.

“How many tape recorders do you fellows have going?” Mr. Moore asked The Legendary and associate R.S. Gates.

When told there were electronic recording devices in operation, Mr. Moore gave us a quizzical look and The Legendary proposed we should go off the record.

I returned the next day seeking details of the transaction and if and when it has been paid, or will be – and how. Mr. Moore acting through an intermediary of a very frustrated receptionist, said I would have to file a new Open Records Act information request, something subject to a new interpretation from a Texas Attorney General who has already proclaimed such arrangements illegal under the state's Government Code. Quite simply, a salaried constitutional officer such as a Sheriff is prohibited from taking supplemental salary payments based on contracts with outsiders performing ministerial or custodial duties on behalf of the state, federal or any other government.

Finally, I told her, “Well, ma'am, I don't wish to argue, but, you know, we have filed numerous requests and the key information is not forthcoming.”

The Legendary has no intentions of ever returning there for more of the same treatment.

What would be the point of that?

Let someone else make the inquiries. I have no intention of ever returning to the building.

If the citizens of this community choose to live under those conditions, let them.

Sorry to bother you about all that.

In an interesting aside, two key players in the CEC/Jack Harwell Detention Center deal are retiring. Mr. Moore, the County Auditor mentioned to The Legendary that the strain of maintaining a professional attitude has reached a point of diminishing returns. He is gladly looking forward to retirement.

Mr. Mike Wilson, CEC's Warden retired last week after many decades working in the corrections field for Texas Department of Corrections - he ran the Ellis Unit Death Row facility - and as warden of Mississippi's sprawling delta cotton plantation penitentiary, Parchman Farm. "I've got a date with a bulldozer," he said, smiling. Mr. Wilson is taking up land and site preparation and clearing as a second career.

Asked what made him decide to put in his papers and retire from the corrections field, he said, "It's the violence. Things have changed today and prisons are just a microcosm of what society is doing on the outside. It's the violence.

He smiled ruefully. Following those remarks, he asked to have his conversation with The Legendary placed off the record.

- The Legendary

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sitting Room


Sitting Room

Every winter morning
just after ten she emerges
from the chamber and makes
straightaway for the rocker
in the sitting room with the
bay window that once held
brightly colored cushions.

Children were hushed to sleep
just there by the back and forth
of a mother’s toe, bruises were healed,
scraped elbows kissed well and tears
wiped away with smooth hands
but now she sits.

To watch the snow fall through some
blue tears of her own, to wrinkle the
brow over one eye in search of the
now missing flakes, to count the titmice
though they won’t stay still in the
flurry of aggravated cardinals huffing
like indignant clerics.

There’s an afghan or three laid out
for the errant draft, slippers so worn
down that they have no date and a
small fire that doubtlessly Emily laid
before breakfast with more dry sticks
from the back porch.

Its no view but a sort of bright life seen
best from a rocker with two blind eyes,
two keen ears and the sweet silent sound
of sitting.

Wendell M. Tomlin, Jr.

Mr. Tomlin lives in the south. He is a graduate of Duke University and an excellent wordsmith of verse and descriptive non-fiction.

- The Legendary

Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus! Oh, my, but didn't He ramble, y'all?


Rabbi, teach us to pray.

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen.

Friday, December 24, 2010

As I Walked Out In The Streets Of Laredo, As I Walked Out...


Photos are from the Laredo Public Library

Hard Line Christian Conservative Signals Pot Penalty Changes

Christian Broadcasting Network founder, a former presidential candidate, hails from Navy town - Virginia Beach

Richmond - Pastor Pat Robertson broadcast an admonishment to authorities about the harshness of penalties for possession of marijuana.

Punitive policies directed at those who have been convicted of marijuana offenses, he said, are costly to the nation.

First criminalized in the mid-30's by federal law, the substance was classified a Schedule 1 narcotic under the terms of the federal Controlled Substances Act during the Nixon Administration.

That classification is reserved for the most dangerous and debilitating narcotics in the pharmacopeia of illicit drugs, substances such as morphine, heroin and all opium derivatives; amphetamines and methamphetamines; cocaine; barbituartes, and other sedatives.

The 80-year-old fundamentalist broadcaster, whose headquarters are located in the tidewater community of Virginia Beach, Virginia, said that the lingering effects of criminal penalties damage young people to an exaggerated degree.

A spokesman for the 700 Club ministry later told newsmen that the Reverend Mr. Robertson was not advocating legalization of marijuana, but calling for faith-based treatment for offenders so convicted.

Mr. Robertson made no follow-up statement of his own.

The economic impact on a life lived under the status of a person who has been convicted of an offense involving a Schedule 1 narcotic is profound, to say the least.

Many occupations are closed to one so convicted, security clearances are difficult if not impossible to obtain, and most landlord associations refuse to rent housing to convicted offenders.

Pre-employment and post-accident testing for the drug became a major growth industry during the Reagan years when the Commander-in-Chief first ordered a zero defect work place for active duty personnel of the Armed Forces and for civilian workers who are employed under Department of Defense contracts.

The President was the first military person to submit to the new warrantless search procedure. He gave a urine specimen in his private bathroom adjacent to the Oval Office.

The policy later extended by law to all transporation and other industrial occupations with the passage of public laws to that effect.

Warrantless search and seizure of body fluids such as blood and urine and of tissue such as hair follicles was upheld by federal appeals courts as a reasonable cause, in spite of the Fourth Amendment guarantee that no warrant of search shall be issued without first a magistrate reviewing an affidavit of probable cause.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

That Will Be The Way To Get Along...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Open Records Request: Sheriff Receives Money He's Not Entitled To Receive From Amended Contract He Can't Supervise


According to information obtained in a Texas Open Records Act request, McLennan County Sheriff Larry Lynch is heading into a new fiscal year on the budget to receive supplemental fees from a contract that could not be executed without his consent.

That contract includes a provision for supplementing the salary of the sheriff, but the supplement is contingent on prisoners being housed at the downtown jail and receipt of fees from the lease of that facility. It was revealed in Commissioners’ Court last Tuesday that CEC is $240,000 in arrears, so the money was not received. This is a contingency of the sheriff receiving the supplement.

CEC (Civigenics), Inc., the private jail contractor to which the Commissioners Court has leased its downtown jail and Jack Harwell Detention Center, is on the hook for a total of $12,000 in two separate accounts earmarked for the Sheriff – each for $6,000

They are: $6,000 in Fund 1 department 245600, account 411250, Page 105 of the preliminary budget FY 2011; and $6,000 in Fund 1 Department 255710, account 411250, Page 111 of the preliminary budget FY 2011. These accounts concern the “care and feeding of prisoners.”

This is in defiance of state law and an Attorney General's Opinion solicited by a legislative committee chairman.

Yvonne Davis, chairman of the Urban Affairs Committee of the Texas House of Representatives asked the attorney general for an opinion on the matter of how Sheriffs are to be paid.

Attorney General Greg Abbot answered this way in GA 0706,”...county sheriffs must be compensated on a salary basis. A sheriff, paid on a salary basis, "receives the salary instead of all fees, commissions, and other compensation the officer would otherwise be authorized to keep." Tex. Loc. Gov't Code Ann. § 154.002 (Vernon 2008) ...

“Accordingly, we conclude that neither the Texas Constitution, nor Texas statutes authorize a county sheriff to accept from a private organization an administrative fee such as you have described.”

Does acceptance of an administrative fee constitute a financial interest?

“Because of our conclusion that there is no authority for a sheriff to accept the fee described, we need not address this question.”

Is it a violation of criminal law to do so?

Mr. Abbott said that is a matter best left up to a judge. Take it to court in criminal litigation, he answered. That is how you get the answer to that question.

According to a contract amendment made in June of this year, federal prisoners at the downtown Courthouse Annex Jail were transferred to the Jack Harwell Detention Center on Highway 6 because of a lack of revenue stream to help defray the sinking fund of the debt service on the $49.9 million project, an 816-bed jail.

Therefore, under the terms of the contract, no funds may be paid to the Sheriff unless lease payments are derived from the contractor, CEC (Civigenics), Inc., “subject to and contingent upon” receipt of lease payments.

Quite simply, the Commissioners Court waived payment of the lease fees by amending the contract on June 14. They meet on this coming Tuesday to make a decision whether to extend the amendment, or to resume the contractual obligation to board federal prisoners in the 326-bed downtown jail.

There are no prisoners lodged at the downtown jail upon which to collect supplemental salary fees for their boarding.

According to the Fiscal Year 2011 budget:

"Sheriff's Supplemental Salary - Contract Jail Administration. In addition to the Sheriff's budgeted salary of $92,881 per year, he is entitled to an amount up to $1,000 per month for detention monitoring subject to, and contingent upon actual receipt of monitoring reimbursement under the Facility Lease, Opeation & Management Agreement regarding the housing of Federal Prisoners at the Downtown Jail Facility."


To enlarge this spread sheet, click on the image

It's Official! America Is 10% Stronger In The Year 2010


Every song is a prayer; every building is a temple. Walk this way, Liberty. We miss you when you're not at home, fair lady.

Official numbers released at about 4 p.m. on Dec. 21, the first day of the Winter Solstice:

The 2010 U.S. Census says there are 308.7 million people living here, and the counts include everyone, not just citizens or legal immigrants.

This reflects a population gain of almost 10%, the lowest since the Great Depression.

All Hail!

“We have it in our power to begin the world over again” - Thomas Paine, "Common Sense," January 10, 1776


...We the people are finally figuring it out. We will have to help ourselves! - "Donna," protesting an appeal for donations by Tenth Amendment Center founder Michael Boldin

On January 10, The Tenth Amendment Center is advocating a "money bomb" to raise funds in support of a strict adherence to constitutional principles in the United States of America.

One day later, the Congress will convene, as will the legislatures tasked with redistricting the Congress of the United States of America.

Texas will gain 4 new Representative seats.

No doubt, these will be the times that will try men's souls. The sunshine soldiers and the summer patriots will enter the time of the Ram as we transit the heavens toward the path of the Crab. By the time the course of the ram hath half yronne, We The People shall know the truth of how things will be done during this new Congress.

The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will have become winter soldiers, in spite of their proclivities for fair weather.

God save the United States of America!

No unconstitutional law. No excuses.

This means no unreasonable search and seizures.

In the case of pre-employment urinalyses, there must be a conviction, final and adjudicated, for the use of Schedule 1 narcotics. To board aircraft, find a way to make the process of search a reasonable experience. Otherwise, deny the privilege of air transportation.

Open public records shall be considered a part of the First Amendment. Information is power. Witholding information is power cubed, an addition of new dimensions of suspense and control not envisioned by any reasonable man.

Adjudication to 12-step recovery programs must have alternatives. One's faith and practice before the Almighty is a personal matter in this fair nation. Do not tamper or trifle with the people's right freely to exercise their worship - in ways of their own choosing and not those of the State.

Discontinue the practice of requiring a person to apply for "treatment" or "counseling" or "voluntary attendance" at all such programs prior to a final adjudication of guilt in all criminal lawsuits for which an accused offender may be eligible for deferment or suspension of sentence in favor of probation.

Discontinue the practice of coercing defendants to testify against themselves in "meetings" involving "spiritual principles."

Discontinue the practice of housing inmates accused of crimes in one state in jails operated for profit in another state because jail standards promulgated by state statutes do not extend across state lines. To continue this evil practice is to deny the all-powerful commerce clause of the Contitution of the United States of America.

Allow We The People to defend ourselves against violent aggression by any means necessary. It is our right; it is our duty before God to do so. Hear us when we speak.

To deny We The People these unalienable and natural rights is to deny the provisions of the First and Fifth Amendments to due process of law, as prescribed in the Constitution of the United States of America and in its 14th Amendment.

Send a token donation to the Tenth Amendment Center. We need to know how many people actually believe that the principles of Mssrs. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison may be a practical alternative to a runaway and power-mad government suffering upon We The People a long chain of abuses.

Do it, sir.

The tyme is now.

Let us pray!

O, hear us when we pray to Thee for those in peril on the sea.

I am sincere.

"Millions for defense; not one penny for tribute." - President Thomas Jefferson

- The Legendary (a well-known tar touched by the brush)

ALL HAIL!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Court Leaves $240K In Jail Fees Uncollected - Defers Decision

McLennan County defers decision on mass of fees owed for use of empty downtown jail


Waco - Eyeball to eyeball with a CEC (Civigenics) corporate officer, McLennan County Commissioners blinked - and left $240,000 in uncollected license fees owed for use of the Courthouse Annex jail uncollected today.

The money is owed for the empty jail's use under a contract the corporation re-negotiated and amended in order to take the prisoners housed there in the 326-bed jail next door to the courthouse and transfer them to the new 816-bed facility on Highway 6.

The Court took that tack in order to satisfy the debt service fee for the first year of operation by priming the pump and moving prisoners from a separately contracted facility to the new jail.

They deferred a decision on how to handle future collections after listening to a presentation by Peter Argeropulos, Marlborugh, Massachusetts-based Sr. Vice President of the New Jersey contractor for which they built the 816-bed Jack Harwell Detention Center at a finance cost of $49.9 million in revenue bonds issued without voter approval. Such financing schemes are used for economic development under state law.

So far, Mr. Argeropulos explained, the project has yet to break even, or to generate any revenue because clients of the private service have yet to make payments for prisoners boarded since the facility opened in June.

“We are awaiting $480,000 in receivables on invoices from October,” he told the Court. He assured Commissioners they will be paid within 45 to 60 days. “We are in arrears for October.”

The way the revenue bond financing scheme is structured, he explained, all money collected is first paid to the bond trustee, U.S. Bank and Trust Co., which then satisfies debt service payments to bond holders, and pays lease payments to the County before disbursing any profits to the contractor.

Mr. Ageropulos recommended extending the amendment which allows the compensation to the County for removing the prisoners and placing them in the new Jack Harwell Detention Center for another 6-month period, which will end in April. Payments amount to $40,000 per month.

Many alternative prospects are awaiting approval from other authorities, he explained. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons is awaiting approval to use the Jack Harwell privately operated jail for housing federal prisoners at a fixed rate up to 90 percent of its occupancy, a contractual obligation that requires paying staff a minimum of $14.90 per hour. “We are in the competititve price range for that RFP (request for proposal),” he told the Court.

It's a different story competing for Harris County inmates, he explained, because Louisiana private contractors offer the same service for $23 to $32 per day. The competitive difference is because the state has no commission on jail standards, he said. Though Texas inmates are housed in Louisiana, “Standards do not extend across state lines.”

The contract rate of $45 per day in McLennan County is a fixed cost of doing business, he explained.

A similar interlocal agreement is in place with Dallas County, but in that case, the Sheriff has a cap of 7,500 prisoners which may not be exceeded. That means unless Dallas has in excess of that many to house, there are no Dallas prisoners to board at $45 per day.

California inmates are difficult to obtain because of various requirements, but doing business with that state is a strong possibility because the courts have ordered California corrections officials to limit the number of inmates at 45,000 due to overcrowded conditions. On appeal by the state, the California Supreme Court upheld the decision.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials are under “considerable pressure” to reduce the number of prisoners housed in its system.

“It's an unusual situation,” he concluded. “The situation is not what we'd like it to be at this time; we do have some prospects in mind.”

Commissioner Lester Gibson called for compromise, a notion which Joe Mashek slapped down immediately, saying, “I've already compromised.”

He proposed holding the payments for the next 6 months in abeyance and let the payments accumulate. Would Mr. Ageropulos accept that solution?

The answer was no. He added that “We're going to continue to stand committed.” He is looking for a more palatable solution to present to the board of the corporation.

“But you owe us money now,” said Commissioenr Joe Mashek. “You owe us $240,000.

Mr. Gibson tried again, saying “You have to compromise.”

“We've already compromised,” said Mr. Mashek. He wouldn't budge.

“We have a compromise of a compromise, but we also have a dilemma,” Mr. Gibson said.

“It's costing us almost a half million dollars to do that. That's what he's asking us to do,” Mr. Mashek chimed in. “I already did that. It was $60,000 per month. We brought it down to $40,000.

Commissioner Kelly Snell tried his hand. “I want to see from your office what you plan to do if this doesn't work.”

At that point, Mr. Ageropulos waved the contract, saying “Well, we have a contract...We will revert to the original contract.”

Ostensibly, that would involve moving prisoners back to the downtown jail and boarding them there at $45 per day, including a $2 per head license fee.

Bond attorney Herb Bristow, asked for an opinion, recommended the choice of either a 6 month amendment to extend the present arrangement, or outright abatement, or an automatic reinstatement in 90 days if conditions don't ease.

The motion to put the decision off for a week passed unanimously.

I want to tell you just how much I love you, down in the sea of love

Total Lunar Eclipse Marks First Day Of Winter Solstice

Next time a total eclipse will occur on the first day of winter solstice will occur in 2094.

The Blood Moon appeared at about 3 a.m. local time and lasted for nearly an hour. The Earth's satellite appeared red because a large part of the Sun's light filters around the edge of the Earth's shadow and illuminates the surface of the Moon in a twilight which appears red in color because of the dust and haze in the Earth's atmosphere.

You worry about your job...You may think you're safe, but...



In a continuing exclusive interview with The Legendary, McLennan County Sheriff's Officers Association President Ken Witt continued to describe the revenue bond financing scheme that led to construction of the Jack Harwell Detention Center as disingenuous in its nature.

Deputy Witt's accusations range from collusion between County officials and corporate officers to outright bribery and misapplication of funds.

He recalled that a Vice President of CEC (Civigenics), Inc., told fibs in his sales pitch of the revenue bond financing deal that was passed in a 3-2 vote of the Commissioners Court without voter approval of a $49.9 million bond issue.

“He told us that CEC would build us a jail at absolute no cost and the County would make money off it...That's just not the case,” said Deputy Pitt...

“You worry about your job...You may think you're safe... but what they're telling you and what you're getting are two different things.”

So far, the scheme has failed to break even, with more than half the 816-bed capacity of the privately operated jail standing empty and the entire 326-bed Courthouse Annex County Jail unoccupied. No overflow prisoners from Dallas and Houston have materialized, though interlocal government agreements are in place to allow them to be housed at a rate of $45 per day per inmate.

All the staff positions at the new jail are filled with privately employed individuals employed by the corporation.

“If they privatize the rest of the officers over at the jail, they might cut their salaries,” he predicted.

Monday, December 20, 2010

BUY BONDS! - Liberty In Chains - McLennan Court Faces Decision On Sweetheart Deal Tomorrow



Conversation with an outlaw cop shines revealing light on jail deal...

“The Indenture.” - The County is required under the Lease to pay to the Trustee Rental Payments which are sufficient, in both time and amount, to pay, when due, the principal of, premium, if any, and interest on the Series 2009 Bonds. The County’s obligation to pay the Rental Payments and other additional amounts required pursuant to the Lease, including Operation and Maintenance Costs, is payable solely from the County Project Revenues and other available money appropriated annually for such purpose by the Commissioners Court of the County for such purpose. If the County fails to appropriate available money which, together with County Project Revenues, is sufficient for the payment of all such amounts in any fiscal year of the County, the Lease will terminate and the Issuer may take possession of the Project. - Revenue bond agreement for Jack Harwell Detention Center - $49.9 million in “AA” bonds sold tax-free to investors wealthy enough to afford to buy them in $5,000 increments

Waco – Ken Witt is an outlaw. A peace and corrections officer for the past 25 years, he got his first “real” job as a cop setting up the police department at Carl's Corner.

“I worked for minimum wage,” he remembers, speaking in a rueful tone.

He rode herd on Willie's Fourth of July Picnic one year, arresting about 80 drunks whom he placed in a temporary jail to cool them off before releasing them to go back to the party.

Today, he is the President of the McLennan County Sheriff's Officers Association, an interest group that is battling privatization of law enforcement and pushing for civil service status for the men and women who wear the badge of the County Sheriff's Department. In some ways, he feels as if he and his brother and sister officers have been placed outside the protection of the law - outlawed, so to speak.

Deputy Witt is frustrated – outraged, to say the least – by a system he sees as spinning madly out of control by building a $50 million jail originally planned as a 1,000-bed facility and later trimmed to its 816-man capacity, something that he sees as simply unnecessary.

The Texas Commission on Jail Standards, he points out, former county sheriff Adan Muñoz commanding, estimated originally that with the normally expected rise in population, local jail capacity would expand at the rate of about 30 to 50 prisoners per year in terms of jail capacity per year, amounting to a need for one additional wing to be added onto the existing County Jail on Highway 6 – 300 beds.

Somewhere, things went out of whack, he says; the train went off the tracks, to say the least.

In fact, he speaks in terms of extreme prejudice when he talks about the Jack Harwell Detention Center that has been built to be operated by CEC (Civigenics), Inc., a private New Jersey-based corporation.

“I need to prove this is a crime,” he states bluntly, gesturing to a bedroom in his apartment that is crammed with file cabinets, briefcases and stacks of documents piled almost waist high, paperwork that relates the history of the development of a sweetheart deal that he says has gone out of control.

“This is a white collar crime.”

The net net of the deal?

Deputy Sheriff's officers find themselves working short-staffed in 12-hour shifts these days. Employees of the private corporation work for half their wages and the economics of the deal are depressing in other ways, as well.

What about the effect on law and order?

“You know every time they bring someone in that back door, those clerks research them to see if they're eligible for a PR (personal recognizance) bond.”

The jail is a revolving door in which the same alleged offenders are apprehended, then released time and again for multiple offenses – always for zero dollars in bond fees, he says.

“Is that my job?” He grimaces. “When I became a cop, you were one of the good guys.” He shrugs, crosses his arms, frowns.

Deputy Witt's prediction going into Tuesday's make or break decision on whether to extend the moratorium on CEC's payments for use of the now-defunct and empty 326-bed downtown County Annex Jail at the courthouse?

The Commissioners Court will either extend the sweetheart deal, or they will resume asking Civigenics to make their payments of an estimated $30,000 to $40,000 per month. Either way, the private corporation can bail out – as they have in other locations such as the Johnson County Law Enforcement Center at Cleburne and a private penitentiary developed by an economic development corporation at Harding, Montana – among others.

“There is a difference between white collar crime and other crime...The citizens are the victims, but they don't feel like they're the victims.”


The end result is this. After 25 years of paying the sinking fund debt service - this year's payments amount to $3.7 million - McLennan County will have the opportunity to make a final payment of more than $7 million to make the final purchase on a 25-year-old building.

From an audio clip made at a recent Commissioners Court meeting.

County Commissioner Joe Mashek to Auditor Steve Moore:

"How much have we received from Harris County?"

Mr. Moore:

"They owe use $324,000"

Mr. Mashek:

"How much have we received?"

Mr. Moore:

"Nothing."

County Judge Jim Lewis:

"I'll make a call."

Conversation ends.

Judge Lewis is the former County Jail Administrator.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Adios, Cap'n Beefheart - 1/15/41 - 12/17/10 - You were a good old boy. We will miss you at the radar station.


Don Van Vliet was an American musician and visual artist best known by the stage name Captain Beefheart. His musical work was conducted with a rotating ensemble of musicians he called The Magic Band, active between 1965 and 1982. He recorded 12 studio albums. Noted for his powerful singing voice with its wide range, Van Vliet also played the harmonica, saxophone and numerous other wind instruments. His music blended rock, blues and psychedelia with free jazz, avant-garde and contemporary experimental composition. An iconoclastic mix of complex instrumentation, atonal melodies, and often humorously surreal lyrics, it was crafted through dictatorial control over his musicians and creative vision.

During his teen years in Lancaster, California, Van Vliet acquired an eclectic musical taste and formed "a mutually useful but volatile" friendship with Frank Zappa.

Van Vliet has been described as "one of modern music's true innovators" with "a singular body of work virtually unrivalled in its daring and fluid creativity." Although he achieved little commercial or mainstream critical success, he sustained a cult following as a "highly significant" and "incalculable" influence. Van Vliet died after many years of suffering from multiple sclerosis.

Budget Shows Big Increase For Judge - 10% - Reduction In Responsibilities - Cost Plus: 30% Of Budget Added On

Where else can you have your job responsibilities reduced and get a raise?

Part Of The Legendary Series by R.S. Gates

A review of the Fiscal Year 2011 budget is not a pleasant task. Three pages are about the extent a person can stand. I heard rumors for a while that the budget of the County Judge was increased by $50,000.00. I did not attribute much to the statement for two reasons. It was a 10% increase and I just really didn’t want to wade off into the spreadsheets.

Two events enticed me to take the plunge and the discovery was very interesting. I was first reminded a significant portion of the Judges responsibilities were transferred to the Budget officer and second, I was encouraged to review the budget for the budget office. It was simple enough to verify the claim. $452,330.00 was budgeted for FY 2010 and $502,660.00 budgeted for FY 2011. The adopted budget for fiscal year 2011 does indeed show an increase in the budget of $50,000.330. Still not very interesting in itself.

The really interesting part is the Judge was relieved of a significant responsibility with the appointment of a budget officer mid-year. This is the first budget to be constructed to include funding for that office. Normally it is very difficult to put a price on duties transferred from one department to another. With the inclusion of the budget office in the budget, it is pretty simple.

The FY 2011 budget includes $160,550.00. This figure is about 32% of the budget for the office of the County Judge. Looking at the numbers, from a fiscal perspective, the responsibilities of the County Judge were reduced by ~30% and for this he received a 10% increase. This is a whole new spin on Governmental Accounting.

There has been much discussion that the voters made a mistake in November by removing a long tenured incumbent. Perhaps the voters' greatest error was returning an incumbent of long tenure.

And the floggings will continue until morale improves.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Jail Finance: Documentation 'To Be Recorded At A Later Date'



Waco – Figures obtained from public information requests and on-line budget records reveal that finance of the Jack Harwell Detention Center is in budget shortfalls by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

McLennan County Commissioners Court will be forced to make a decision next Tuesday morning whether to extend a closure of the 326-bed downtown jail and a waiver of a $2 per day licensing fee which is costing the taxpayers as much as $30,000 per month.

On May 14, the Court in a special meeting made a decision to close the jail when numbers of prisoners necessary to make operation of the 816-bed Highway 6 jail operated by private contractor CEC (Civigenics), Inc., of New Jersey a profitable operation with a downtown jail population of 283 prisoners - less than half the planned capacity, according to Mike Wilson, warden of the Jack Harwell Detention Facility.

At that time, Commissioner Kelly Snell asked, “What do we do if this doesn't work out?”

That day is here.

Mr. Wilson replied, Commissioners will have to “...make the best decision you can with what's there at the time...I guess the short answer is it creates a lot of problems if there are no prisoners there...”

CEC representatives assured the Court that if there was an inadequate number of prisoners to ensure a positive cash flow, “...we'll have to draw on the reserves.”

Appointed money managers for the county have so far been unable to reach agreement on the true classification of those reserve funds.

Newly-appointed Budget Director Adam Harry is on record saying that the fund entitled Public Finance Corporation Fund 196, or Jail Lease Fund, is a “contingency fee” from which was drawn money needed to satisfy a shortfall of $200,000 to pay the debt service of $3.7 million for the 2010 interest carry on a $49.9 million bond issue to build the privately operated jail.

Public Finance Corporation was formed by McLennan County attorney Herb Bristow to comply with statutory requirements governing public finance of public facilities which built to be operated by private corporations.

County Auditor Steve Moore said, “I do not understand exactly what is being requested,” when queried in a Open Records Act request for public information. “Fund 196 is not a PFC fund. It is a McLennan County fund and it had no financial activity until June, 2010. It performs one function. It receives money from third party senders of inmates and remits those collections, and only those collections, to the PFC as rent on the sublease.”

According to fiscal year 2011 budget projections published on-line, “All appropriations in Fund 196 are subject to and limited by the proceeds from rents received from entities who have sent inmates to the Jack Harwell Detention Center for incarceration, including those rents paid by McLennan County for its own inmates incarcerated in the Jack Harwell Detention Center.

The McLennan County budget for fiscal year 2011 calls for an allocation of $10,079,475 in both projected income from inmate housing and payments in the same amount to retire the debt, according to adopted budget published published on-line.

This piece is based on the investigations and reporting of R.S. Gates.

Friday, December 17, 2010

In the news: A Virile Chevy Truck And A Coach Accused Of Inappropriate Relations With A Young Female Student

By R.S. Gates

Here are two attention-grabbing news stories involving teachers and students and alleged hanky panky.

Jo Ann Stephens was a teacher in Mineola and stands charged with having an inappropriate relationship with a 15 year-old student, according to a KYTX.

The most fascinating detail is that police “extracted” semen from a Chevy truck driven by the victim. Up until the bail-out, I have been partial to Chevy trucks. I never imagined automotive technology could have reached this advanced point. In all fairness, Stephens’ victim was 15; there is no indication in what year the truck was manufactured.

The second report details how Coach Chris Taylor is accused of having an inappropriate relationship with an 18 year-old student.

According to a KXXV, Taylor and the girl initially denied the relationship, but the arrest affidavit indicates Taylor later admitted having inappropriate relations.

Coach Taylor’s bond - $6,000; Ms. Stephens’ bond - $25,000


Thursday, December 16, 2010

'He had that look in his eye... he'd made up his mind he wanted to kill me.' - School Supt. Who Faced Down A Florida Gunman



Sometimes, the only thing you can do is stand by and watch what happens - while it happens – and wait for a break in the action.

The man in this video, Clay Duke, 56, of Panama City, Florida, decided to shoot members of the local school board because his wife had been fired from her job as a teacher and her unemployment benefits had been terminated.

No one has said why she was fired or why authorities terminated her unemployment benefits. Personnel matters are confidential, privileged information that is shielded from public record and discussion by officials.

Florida open meetings law, called the “Government In The Sunshine Act,” provides for executive session discussion of all such matters.

Mr. and Mrs. Duke had separated. Experts had diagnosed Mr. Duke as a mentally ill, bipolar-disordered personality.

Mr. Duke spray-painted the letter “V” on a wall with red paint and circled it. Then he told the people attending the school board meeting to leave the room.

“V” stands for vendetta in a series of movies set in the United Kingdom about the exploits of a freedom fighter who uses terroristic techniques against his enemies.

School Superintendent Bill Husfelt asked Mr. Duke to allow the board members to leave. He repeatedly told Mr. Duke he was sure he had signed the paperwork terminating his wife's employment, but was unaware of exactly who she was or what she did at the school district. He appears to have no recollection of the woman being fired or even who she may have been.

“What did she do?” He asked the question repeatedly and received no answer.

Board member Ginger Littleton attacked Mr. Duke with her purse. She had the idea she might be able to wrest the handgun, a 9 mm semi-automatic, away from him. She was unsuccessful. The huge man who walked with a waddle due to the excess weight he was carrying, flung her to the ground as if she was a rag doll.

Said Mrs. Littleton, when interviewed by television newsmen afterward, “Their shield was a 3-ring binder and their lethal weapon was a ball point pen.”

Mr. Husfelt said, “We didn't have anything...He had that look in his eyes...He'd made up his mind he wanted to kill me.”

The school safety officer, a retired police detective named Mike Jones, is heard on the tape to ask Mr. Duke, “Is that a real gun?”

He waited until the armed man was facing his direction, away from the board members, then shot him a number of times, wounding him. Mr. Duke then took his own life with a single gunshot directed at himself.

On his Facebook page, he left a message concerning his ideas about Vendetta, the ways of rich Republicans and Democrats, and being born in the United States of America.

One hates to say that no one was injured other than Mr. Duke. Mike Jones has been interviewed extensively by television reporters. He weeps openly and with no affect of guile when he tells of shooting Mr. Duke in the back. What will his children and his wife think of him doing such a thing, he wonders aloud. Then he weeps.

He told a network anchor that he volunteered to work on his day off because of a sudden change in weather. Who would have done the job had he stayed at home, as scheduled, the tv talking head asked.

"No one," Mr. Jones said. Then, of course, he wept again.

Perhaps Mr. Duke forced him to do that.

Perhaps.

Cartel Drug War Death Toll Double 2008 – up 40% Over 2009


Speed – rot your veins, rot your brains, cucaracha! - Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention

Violent deaths in Mexico's drug cartel wars jumped 40 percent over 2009, topping 11,000 in 2010 - more than double the 2008 death toll of 5,207.

What's the difference? What has caused the rate of soldiers killing soldiers in the private armies of the drug world – and the collateral damage they cause to other lives - to skyrocket?

The Sinaloa and Juarez gangs are fighting it out for control of the choice smuggling routes through El Paso del Norte at Ciudad Juarez; on the Gulf Coast, in Tamaulipas State's natural border crossings at Matamoros and Reynosa, Roma and Zapata, former enforcers for the Gulf cartel known as Los Zetas, special forces defectors so-called for the fact that their commanders have traditionally used the HF radio “Z” channel for tactical communications, are killing and beheading anyone who gets in their way.

But what drives the deal, fuels the violence, makes it worth the struggle to kill or be killed?

Speed.

Glass. Crank. Ice. Crystal. You got it, and it's right out there on America's Main Street, I-35, where it snakes smack dab through the middle of your town.

Methamphetamines are the new drug of choice for down-and-out Americans who can't afford the lazy effects of marijuana, the stupefying action of opiates, or the high price tag that comes with cocaine and its low-rent, smokable form, crack.

You can smoke speed, shoot it in your veins, or snort it.

The result?

A feeling of euphoria consumes the mind and body, the heart races, adrenaline pumps through the system and neural synapses snap, crackle and pop with pleasure center neurochemicals such as dopamine and serotonin.

Think Hitler doing a speech at Nuremberg, his arms waving wildly, his mustard gas-ravaged voice screaming over the short waves while tens of thousands of newly clad and jackbooted soldiers who were starving vagrants only a few months previously cheer at the top of their lungs, shouting their hailings to the high heaven of Valhalla, praying for death in some glorious, yet pointless battle with – what?

Yeah, der fuehrer had a little problem with crystal. His doctah used to tell him it was vitamin therapy, a little chicken soup for the dictatorial world shaker so long suppressed by the Jewish bankers and other money changers at the temple gates.

Pretty hateful image, huh?

Ah, well, you know, show biz. As my old friend, a cockney survivor of the London Blitz, used to say, “The German blokes went for Hitler in a very big way, didn't they? Kind of speaks volumes about their preferences, gov-nah. Wink's as good as a nod, old man. I think you take my meaning.”

If that's a little too harsh a picture for you, just think back to the cartoonist R. Crumb's classic character stomping through the barrio scenes of “Zap Comix,” published by The Company & Sons, Inc., a cartoon balloon filled with nothing but exclamation points suspended over his head and no one with whom he could really rap.

It's called chemical warfare, and it is very, very effective, very deadly and very expensive to the society surrounding its ill effects, containing its neural mayhem, absorbing its malignancy.

We're talking heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, dementia, brain lesions, loss of teeth, hair, flesh, a lowered resistance to staph infection, low birth weight and brain damage in infants – you name it, you got it.

Who needs it?

People think they do when they're working two jobs and looking for a third part-timer, a little something to get the family through December - and beyond.

But it doesn't last long. Soon the drug takes hold and destroys every shred of human decency that ever accrued, leaving a shell of a person who will do anything for his next bump, even if it's bunk stuff. Just the ritual of fixing, smoking or snorting is a part of the sick little thrill.

The key to “cooking” the stuff is a short cut precursor chemical called epinephrine – or pseudoepinephrine – an ingredient of cold medication that brings the chemical changes together. The rest of the stuff – items like muriatic acid, lithium from batteries, red phosphorous from match heads, anhydrous ammonia from the gin or grain silo – you can get anywhere in central Texas.
Big box stores like Wal-Mart, drug chains and other retail outlets have an “eye in the sky” system manned by security officers and narcotics agents, cash registers that scan and record purchases, and video surveillance of parking lots to keep track of what they drove and which way they went when they made the getaway.

Wrong.

People are going to jail left and right trying to do business in that tired old same same kind of way.

Gone are the days when a crowd of motorcycle enthusiasts could persuade a friendly shirt tail marginal rancher to locate a trailer on his back 40, put in a propane tank and get a long gone daddy willing to take the risk to fire up the lab and run off some batches of this stuff.

You can make $1,500 worth with $50 to $100 worth of supplies. But there is no way to compete with the cartels, and that's all washed up. What's the secret of their success?

The answer is simple enough.

The cartels are able to buy, import in bulk, and use this cold tablet stuff to make crank. They get it in shipping containers at Veracruz and on the west coast at such facilities as Punta Colonet at Ensenada.

Then they set up a lab in a jungle or a mountainous desert and guard it with AK-47's, home made alarms and vicious pit bulls.

The way to get it across the border is simple enough. You put it in one of thousands of semi-trailers and shipping containers that cross the border every day in the NAFTA trade.

Since they started growing grass in the national forests, the cartels use marijuana as an easily detectable, very smelly loss leader a dope dog can sniff out with ease, a decoy load to confuse and occupy the ICE agents and Border Patrol while the much more lucrative load slips through under shipping seal, its transit bond posted and the import duty satisfied by a reputable customs broker.

Authorities continue to seek a 26-year-old Laredo man named Jose Juan Gonzalez, Jr.

He and two companions blundered badly on December 2 when they allowed the semi-truck in which they were traveling to run out of fuel at the 331 mile marker on I-35, right in front of the Flying J truck stop in Waco.
A K-9 unit detected close to a half-ton of grass in the trailer, an amount which, at the street price of $40 per ounce, will bring almost a half million dollars.

DPS Trooper Estes stopped to assist and was unable to apprehend Mr. Gonzalez when he fled on foot. The two other men, both of Laredo, are being held on $50,000 on the charge of possession of marijuana over 500 pounds and under 2000. They are Efren Narro, 26, and Thomas Rodriguez, 42.

Mr. Gonzalez was reportedly busted the week before in possession of $28,000 he couldn't explain and in Laredo, where officers investigated a warehouse he controls and found a reason to detain him.

When you're hot, you're hot. But, then, some like it like that. Hot. Yeah.

Bon appetit, ami!

Texas Cowboy Blues, Pure Blue And Flickering Like A Flame

Marty Robbins' grandfather was a Texan who told the kid stories of the old west when he was growing up in Phoenix. In World War Two, he was an assault coxswain in the Solomon Islands, then came home to host a local television show where he once featured Little Jimmy Dickens. The star got him a record deal and the rest is history in a white sport coat with a pink carnation.

Dig the way this cat could bend a note blue and bring it back from the edge of bathos, pure and simple.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

BP, Transocean Face Fines Up To $21.1 Billion In Federal Suit

New Orleans – The Justice Department filed suit against British Petroleum and rig owner Transocean Deepwater Drilling to recover massive damages from the largest oil spill in history.

Under the provisions of the Clean Water Act, the oil company, the rig owner and minority owners such as Anadarko Petroleum, MOEX Offshore 2007, Triton Asset Leasing GMBH and Transocean's insurer QBE Underwriting Ltd./Lloyd's Syndicate 1036 could face penalties of up to $1,100 per barrel - $4,300 per barrel if the government is able to prove gross negligence or willful misconduct.

The defendants could wind up paying anywhere from $5.4 billion to $21.1 billion in fines for spilling an estimated 206 million gallons after “Deepwater Horizon” blew out and exploded on April 20 of this year, killing 11 workers.

BP has disputed the government's estimate of the amount of petroleum spilled into the environment.

In its defense, BP said the filing of the lawsuit is in no way proof of its culpability and that of the multiple defendants named in the federal complaint, British Petroleum is the only one that has offered to pay for cleanup and damages.

Transocean disputed the allegations and insisted it should not be held liable. In a prepared statement, company officials said “No drilling contractor has ever been held liable for discharges from a well under the Oil Pollutioin Act of 1990. The responsibility for hydrocarbons discharged from a well lies solely with its owner and operator.”

The U.S. District Judge to whom the case has been assigned has already consolidated hundreds of plaintiffs claiming damages to property in a single lawsuit against the defendants.

Costs to petroleum producers and consumers are predicted to skyrocket in the future as a result of a moratorium on deepwater drilling following the disaster and delays in processing shallow water permits which are not subject to the moratorium.

The Paris-based International Energy Agency forecast that development of new oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico will be delayed by 12 to 18 months – much longer than originally estimated. The agency had earlier estimated projects will be delayed by 6 to 12 months.

Petroleum production in the year 2015 will be thereby diminished by as much as 300,000 barrels a day, according to the forecast.