Saturday, April 26, 2008

Blog #33: Can You Say Hoax?

The frantic, whispered calls that triggered the removal of more than 400 children from a West Texas polygamist sect came from a phone linked to a Colorado Springs woman with a long history of making false abuse reports, according to a court document unsealed Wednesday. Two prepaid mobile phones that were used to make calls late last month to a domestic violence shelter in San Angelo had previously been used by Rozita Swinton in calls to abuse hot lines and authorities in Colorado and Washington, the affidavit said.

Swinton "is a known repeat victim who repeatedly reports sexual abuse with the Colorado Springs Police Department," the affidavit said. The records also revealed that the 33-year-old pleaded guilty in June 2007 to false reporting and was placed on probation for one year. She was charged last week with misdemeanor false reporting to authorities in Colorado Springs, and is being investigated by the Texas Rangers in connection with the calls that prompted the April 3 raid of the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado.

"We are still examining evidence that was seized from her residence and do not expect that investigation to be completed for a while," said Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Tela Mange. Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, said the fact the state launched the raid on what appears to have been a hoax tip without checking it out makes a "sham" out of constitutional protections against wrongful searches. "To me, this is either gross incompetence or this is a religious vendetta," Harrington said.
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What we have going on down here deep in the heart of West Texas is a case of human nature turned on its ear, running berserk, then reproducing its ghastly misshapen madness four hundred and sixty-some-odd times, in a court of law, under a system of supposed justice. And as it becomes more and more evident that the call from the supposed teenage girl complaining of being forced into marriage at puberty and being beaten was a complete fabrication (perpetrated a 33 year old black woman in Colorado named Rozita Swinton, who has a history of making such calls in a tiny voice), then the decision makers who rashly ordered this West Texas raid are (as our erstwhile president Herbert Walker Bush might have put it) in deep doodoo.

And being thereby threatened with exposure for being the rash and hysterical incompetents that they are, these initiators have been therefore pushing for the continued separation of these children from their parents in a vain attempt at justifying their original misguided decision. Such a magnificent stretch of credulity is indeed worthy of the state of mind one finds as typical under the leadership of the current misadministration in Washington. In a way it’s a shame that the current government is going to be so short lived, for whoever it was who ordered this travesty would have had a bright future in a George W. Bush administration.

God only knows what this folly is going to end up costing in money to those of us who are citizens of Texas; dna testing of all of those children and all of the parents connected with them surely ain’t gonna come cheap? And I haven’t read of a lineup of dna testing laboratories offering their services for free or even at a discounted rate. And of course the state has to pay for the feeding and upkeep of every one of those four hundred and whatever children that it has forcibly removed from their parents, as it must do for all cases of state ordered foster care. And this does not take into account the potential psychological damage this raid and the egregious separation of of those families will ultimately have on both the children and their natural parents. At last reports the judge is at least considering allowing nursing mothers remain near their children. Does “magnanimous” in relation to the judge sound a bit sarcastic?

Evidence. That’s the magic word that has been missing from the very beginning of this unmitigated boondoggle. How much evidence is needed for the state to enter a private residence and arrest its inhabitants? Is an anonymous voice on the telephone making outlandish, completely unsubstantiated charges really all it takes to send the police off on such an adventure? And on just whose authority were these particular police ordered into that complex? What judge and court of law sanctioned it? Would the initiators please come front and center and take proper credit? These are questions which I have not seen answers to yet. In fact I have not read of anyone even asking these most appropriate questions.

In spite of their protestations to the contrary the CPS and prosecutors are sallying forth in this travesty not with concerns for the well being of these children in their minds, for if their primary interest had been in their well being they would have followed the counsel of their own expert, Dr. Bruce Perry (who counseled children survivors of the Branch Davidian disaster in 1993) and who had warned the court that taking these very sheltered children away from the only life they had ever known and flinging them headlong into the outside world would very likely be highly destructive to them. So much for expert advice. The court in it’s omnipotence filed that suggestion in File 13. No, the bureaucratic monstrosities who orchestrated this farce obviously care only for the protection of their respective and (in our opinion) near worthless hindquarters.

I’m no fan of religious communes, but I am a true believer in the phrase “to each his own.” Hysteria is a fact of life in our human species. However, surely society can hold out for better safeguards than were used against the sect near San Angelo. Could it really be true that just the use of two spoken images, underaged pubescent girls being forced into marriage with older husbands, and then being beaten for disobedience, was all that was needed to instigate this invasion, normal requirements for proof and/or evidence seem to have been flushed down the toilet or left blowing in the wind? After the fact these so-called authorities have attempted to further justify their initial decision by citing the finding of pregnant underage girls there. But again that’s a statement lacking an iota of demonstrable proof. They offer only their word, for whatever that’s worth?

Of course the real 800 pound gorilla motivating this gross excrescence of the human spirit is out and out prejudice, a prejudice bordering on hatred. What else would cause whoever ordered this farce to fly into action on such an massive scale with only an anonymous telephone tip as motivation and without obtaining a scintilla of proof? Let’s face it, freedom is a limited commodity in our so-called “free” society. We don’t have an awful lot of it. Men aren’t allowed to have multiple wives, nor are they allowed to marry females under a certain age, an age which varies from state to state. I suppose when all is said and done the inhabitants of the Yearning for Zion Ranch were lucky to have lived under the radar screen for as long as they had. There is simply too much envy and hatred in our society for such a peace to last indefinitely. And the insanity of the outside world’s reaction once the facts became known demonstrated the true extent of the feelings running against them.

The state of Texas has inflicted a monstrous wrong on this obviously peace loving community. And the problem here is that there is no entity to oversee the rights of these people who have been so wronged. Our society has no ombudsman with which to challenge the instigators of this mockery of justice and force those responsible to properly account for their actions. For in this case the perpetrators (how law enforcement loves that word), I say, the perpetrators of this monstrosity are agents of the State of Texas and its so-called legal system. Ladies and Gentlemen, you have just witnessed the ultimate Catch 22, passed down from the military in a particularly virulent form. It is said that this offshoot group from the Mormon Church is well-heeled. If they sue for false arrest, and if there is enough justice left in the Texas legal system for them to get their just deserts, they will probably end up owning the state of Texas lock, stock and barrel. And that would be slim compensation for what they have been forced to endure.

In the meantime Little Eddy wishes every one of those children and their parents the very best of luck. They’ll sure as hell be needing every scrap of good luck they can get their hands on.
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When I was a kid a popular slogan was “what the world needs is a good five-cent cigar.” Well, countless cases of lung cancer deaths have long since inexorably proven that a good five-cent cigar is exactly what this nation does NOT need. Everyone I have known who continued smoking regularly has died long before his or her time. I was very lucky in that I smoked like a chimney for thirty years, then had the moral fortitude to quit once and for all. And evidently that has been good enough since I quit at age forty five and I’m still moseying along at age 82. How I escaped the curse I’ll never know. But I used some pretty unorthodox methods to try and nullify the damage that my thirty years of idiocy had aggravated.

For instance, I have bronchitis. Have had it most all of my life. But when I look back on it, I can see that it began when I was sixteen years old which was when I first began smoking. I had worked in movie theaters back then, and on days and times off I could get free admission to other theaters. And balconies in those theaters were closed during the daytime and so I could sit up there and freely smoke and eat popcorn (which was free.) Frequently the theater’s projectionist and I would sit outside the booth and we would talk together while we smoked.

During the years after quitting smoking I spent summers working at a children’s camp in Maine. And the only time I would light a cigarette in those days was on an occasional camping trip when a child would get a fresh water leech attached to his body. Leeches are cleverly outfitted wormlike creatures which nature has blessed with the ability to produce a natural anesthetic which insures that their host is completely unaware of their parasitic presence until it has become well entrenched. Then, if in panic the child or an adult should try ripping the creature off, which is the natural inclination, it takes off a definite layer of the child’s skin along with it.

The solution is to make the creature turn loose of its own accord, which may be done one of two ways. You can either cover the worm-like creature with salt, which prevents it from breathing through its skin. Or, you can apply heat with a match or a lighted cigarette. That was our preferred method, as back in those days we always had counselors who smoked. However, none of the counselors ever wanted to remove the creature, so he or she would come to me and hand me a cigarette, which they would proceed to light for me. I would apply the lighted end to the body of the leech, and sure enough it would turn loose poste haste. And thanks to the anesthetic it had left at the place of its attachment, the child would not feel a thing.

I suppose for medicinal purposes we should have applied some kind of antiseptic to prevent infection, but we never did, and no child so de-leeched ever seemed to suffer any consequences from his brief exposure. I would always take one final drag on the cigarette for old times sake before handing it back to the counselor. But the interesting thing was, after the leech had let go, I never failed to give the cigarette back to the person who had given it to me. It had been a painful separation, that summer and fall I had cold turkeyed my cigarette addiction. Nicotine was the most addictive substance I have ever had to deal with. More than once I had beaten on the walls of my apartment in Brooklyn, N.Y. in frustration. But once I had quit for good I never had the desire to return to smoking cigarettes or cigars.

Many years later, long after I had quit smoking, I read that one of smoking’s most common diseases, emphysema, was caused by heavier than air carbon dioxide being trapped in the bottom of the lungs, for as they aged the lungs were no longer able to expel the CO2 in our normal upright position. Using my usual offbeat ingenuity I bought myself a gravity exerciser and proceeded to hang upside down, while doing some breathing exercises to expel some of that CO2 from my lungs with the help of gravity. I did this over a period of several years, and although I have heard people who should know say that that what I did probably didn’t help my condition, I am pretty certain that it did. I have known a couple of people with emphysema, and I’m certain that I do not have have a severe case of it, which considering the amount of smoking I did over 30 years I would have every right to expect me to have.

Of course, although I quit smoking at age 45, I have to tell you that my dear mother smoked her two or more packs daily well into her 80’s and I have to admit that she showed no signs of ill effects from her addiction. She only quit about a year before she died, at which point she felt too unsteady to safely handle the cigarette, and was afraid she might set the house on fire if she continued. So much for my family's bout with nicotine addiction.
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Yoko Ono who oversees the John Lennon estate is suing the producers of a movie challenging the Darwinian theory of evolution, saying that they used Lennon’s song “Imagine” without her permission and that this use has led the blogosphere to accuse her of “selling out.” In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan, Ono accuses the producers of "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" of suggesting to viewers that those who guard John Lennon's legacy somehow authorized or sponsored the film. The producers of the film, which features Ben Stein challenging Darwinian theories that prevail in academic circles and suggesting that life could have emerged through intelligent design, said they used only "a very small portion of the song." Stein is an actor and a former game show host of little or no consequence.

Meantime from Austin — saying that a belief in creationism — the theory that God created the Earth in six literal days, as recounted in the Bible — falls outside the realm of science, the state's commissioner for higher education has recommended that a Dallas-based organization not be authorized to offer a master's degree in science education. A committee of the Higher Education Coordinating Board unanimously backed the recommendation by Commissioner Raymund Paredes on Wednesday. "Religious belief is not science," the commissioner said. "Science and religious belief are surely reconcilable, but they are not the same thing."

What is it that makes Creationist believers feel the need to legitimize their beliefs using the facade of legitimate science? Are they really all that insecure? The commissioner is right. Religion is not science, and science is not religion. And ne’er the twain shall meet.
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As both of you regular readers of this space know I am an unapologetic supporter of Apple computers and always delight in bringing you the best news that the denizens of Cupertino, California have to offer. There are several stories this week which I found of interest. Hoping you’ll feel the same, I quote from them here.

The NY Times’ John Markoff reports from San Francisco, that “signs of a consumer slowdown abound in the United States, but Apple customers appear not to have noticed. Buoyed by unusually strong Macintosh sales, the company grew notably faster than the rest of the computer market worldwide in the first three months of the year. Revenue increased 43 percent from the same period a year ago, the company reported. Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, characterized the quarter as the strongest in Apple’s history.

He attributed the growth to higher traffic in the company’s 181 stores in the United States. The company reported that it had 33.7 million visitors to its stores in the United States, up 57 percent from the same quarter a year ago. Mr. Jobs said that belied the gloom that was being expressed about the American economy. “We’re not economists, so we don’t have any more insight than everyone else, but there were sure a lot of people in our stores last quarter,” Mr. Jobs said in an interview.

Despite new products like the iPhone, variations of the iPod and the Apple TV set-top box, this was a Macintosh quarter. Apple shipped 2.3 million Mac computers in the quarter, 51 percent more than in the quarter a year ago. Revenue on those computers increased 54 percent.
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In another piece of news from Cupertino, Apple has quietly bought a chip designing company. - “Late Tuesday, in response to questions from, an Apple spokesman said Apple has agreed to buy a boutique microprocessor design company called PA Semi. The company, which is known for its design of sophisticated, low-power chips, could spell a new future for Apple's flagship iPhone, and possibly iPod products as well.

“The 150-person chip company, P.A. Semi, was founded in 2003 by Dan Dobberpuhl, who was a lead designer for the well-regarded Alpha and Strong ARM microprocessors developed by Digital Equipment in the 1990s.

"Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not comment on our purposes and plans," said Apple (nasdaq: AAPL - news - people ) spokesman Steve Dowling. He declined to comment on the value of the deal, which a person familiar with the deal suggested was done for $278 million in cash. Apple announced its quarterly earnings Wednesday.

And also according to Forbes, “Forget Steve Jobs. The time to get the scoop on Apple's next move is not when its charismatic founder is pitching the faithful on the computer and gadget maker's next product. It's when his minions – Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook and Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer – meet with Wall Street analysts every quarter to talk over the Cupertino, Calif., company's financial results.

"Will Apple introduce a next-generation iPhone in June? Is the company about to overhaul its lineup of hot-selling laptops? Is something even more exotic on the way? Pay attention, because Cook and Oppenheimer will almost surely drop some hints Wednesday.

“Of course, they'll almost surely drop some good news about Apple's latest quarter too. Strong demand for the iPhone and Apple's notebook and desktop computers will send Apple's earnings surging 26.3% in the quarter ending in March, according to analysts polled by Thomson. Net income is expected to rise to $972.8 million, or $1.07 per share, from $770 million, or 87 cents, in the corresponding period a year earlier.

“This quarter's star will be Apple's OS X Leopard operating system. The new software is powering sales of Apple laptop and desktop computers ahead, thanks in part to software giant Microsoft's (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ) troubles with Vista, the latest version of the ubiquitous Windows operating system. Apple's market share is growing too. The computer maker grabbed 6% of the U.S. personal computer market in the first quarter, according to IDC, up from 4.9% the year before.
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And Michelle Higgins reports in Saturday’s NY Times online about the way to go if you enjoy traveling light. Nude vacations.

“WHEN Larry Massa says he likes to travel light, he means it," she writes. "No need for a jacket and tie at dinner, a pristine set of tennis whites when he hits the court, or even a bathrobe to wear when heading from his hotel room to the pool or the spa.

“For when Mr. Massa, 74, a retired Navy commander and computer science engineer from Virginia Beach, and his wife, Darlene, go on vacation, they do it in the nude. “If you haven’t tried it, there’s no way I can tell you what a fun thing it is, what an added dimension to a vacation it can be,” said Mr. Massa, who has been taking “clothing-optional” vacations since 2001 and whose most recent trip was to an all-nude resort in Mexico. “I’ll never forget the day,” said Mr. Massa, recalling the couple’s first nudist vacation at a Caribbean resort. “The place was full. We went to the far end of the pool and Dar said, ‘I’m going to take my top off.’ I thought I’m not going to wear these stupid swim trunks in the pool. So I jumped in naked. She looked down at me and dropped her bottoms and we never looked back.”

“To many, the mention of a nudist resort conjures up images of isolated beach colonies with volleyball courts, hippie-style gatherings in a secluded campground or R.V. parks tucked away in the woods for vacationers who still talk reverently about the Summer of Love. And while those kinds of offerings still exist for Mr. Massa and his fellow naturalists, as they prefer to be called, the real boom in nude vacations is coming at the high end of the business, as upscale hotels and resorts, and even some luxury cruise lines, have begun to see the economic potential in the no-clothes crowd — particularly those who want to shed their clothes but not their pampered lifestyles.”

And thereby comes the rub, for instead of such an experience being economical, something we could all afford, it has ended up on the high end of the economic scale. It’s truly a case where the luxury of being able to vacation sans clothing has become a true luxury.
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And so we come to the end of another one. If you are the praying kind say one for those poor folks from West Texas split from their children through a massive overdose of state wide legal hysteria. And pray particularly for the children. In regards to the State of Texas the words “they know not what they do” never seemed more prophetic. And do come back again next week.

The Real Little Eddy


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