Aug 282015

This anonymous essay comes from a friend of a friend with whom I do volunteer work.  I do not know who she is.  However, I have heard many stories from people who believed in the criminal justice system in this country, until they or a member of their family learned first hand that their experience was the polar opposite of what they had believed.  This is one mother’s reaction to such an experience.

July 26, 2015

0828thematrix5What I want people to know is what I’ve learned over the past two years – how my life is upside down both philosophically and emotionally. Philosophically, because what I learned, believed about our justice system is just thrown under the bus. I am angry. Angry at people who are charged with our wonderful, ideal system and have perverted it and made us all accomplices in torture and harm. We were standing shoulder to shoulder with prison guards who abuse prisoners; DAs and police who lie, who give up honesty and integrity to convict.

We became part of the problem. Only we didn’t even realize there was a problem. They lie. They suck us in to be their accomplices. We asked no questions. We believed them. No. We believed the idea of a system. We believed they were the embodiment of truth. They kept us safe from people who would harm us, who were really terrible people.

But what do they do? “Lose” evidence, lie to protect themselves, serve as judge and jury to convict whom they have decided is guilty. Screw looking at evidence. How did they get to the place where they are in such a hallowed system of our country, protecting our country’s ideals, being the keeper for those ideals and now corrupting those ideals.

Am I naïve? Not now. Was I? Yes. But I’m in the company of the majority of our country. I listen over and over and OVER again to “I had no idea how this system works! I was shocked to learn how it really works.” Problem is – no one does know until it happens. No one believes until it does happen.

I’m angry that I was blindsided. Is it my fault? Should I have known better? WHY SHOULD I!?!! Where’s the disconnect here? That our system as taught to high-schoolers is just too much of a fairy tale? I should know better than to believe such a fairy tale could actually work? Are the people in the justice system just laughing at me for being so naive?

Or is the disconnect in how people have subverted the ideal? The people who have gotten used to having it their way? People who have decide they are smarter than tedious “truth and justice” and will improve a hopelessly naïve system?

Are we in The Matrix*? They have created this fake world that they’ve sold us on that every thing is right in our world, that they have the knowledge and expertise to keep it the ideal it is.

But behind their words and assurances that create the perfect illusion is a world of crumbling, moldy, derelict laws. A blighted world wildly out of control with more and more laws, penalties, and incarcerations for longer and longer times. A world destroyed with smoking embers, blown out, burned down buildings, haunted people. Out of sight behind the illusion they create with their paternalistic, mesmerizing lies! Do we choose to believe their lies because it’s just easier? No! I think we believe because we truly believe that they are the pillars of our justice system. We hear their excuses—which they call “reasons”—and that reinforces what we already instinctively believe.

But now pieces of their façade may be cracking. Can they hold it together and continue to make us believe their fake world? We know what is really behind their world of “safety, justice and truth”. We’ve seen and heard the destroyed lives, the money taken from society and spent to warehouse people and then return wasted people with wasted lives and difficult options. The LIES – The harm – The self-supporting arguments.

What will it take to bring down the phony façade of a tough on crime, retribution, vengeance model of justice and return us to where most people already think we are: convicting wrong-doers but with consideration of mitigating or extenuating circumstances, incarcerating only people who are a threat and then rehabilitating them so they can live as successful citizens. Giving people a chance to pay for their crime and then re-joining society. Being humans helping humans.

My passion. I want people to know what I’ve learned. I want to shock them awake to what our criminal justice system has become. No, ladies and gentlemen, it is not what you believe it is.

Unfortunately, most of you will never really find that out. No, it’s not fortunate that you will never have a loved one, or yourself, caught up in this horrible system. It’s not fortunate that you’ll never have an accusation made at you of something you never did. It’s not fortunate that you get to keep living oblivious to how our criminal justice system has lost its way in mandatory sentencing. Because unless you are unfortunate enough to have personal contact with this devastating system, you won’t try to do something about it.

(From Wikipedia: The Matrix movie depicts a dystopian [an imaginary community or society that is undesirable or frightening] future in which reality as perceived by most humans is actually a simulated reality called "the Matrix", created by sentient machines to subdue the human population,)

Personally, I find what she has to say both believable and compelling.

Aug 242015

I spoke with the prison’s head of Volunteer Services this morning and learned that the demand to pull my volunteer card dis not come from them.  It came from Security.  The problem is this.  Because of my COPD, I am more likely to suffer a medical emergency while climbing the stairs to the Activities floor than other people.  Were that to happen, they would have to call an ambulance and lock down the entire prison for my extraction.  Lockdowns are costly.  So there’s no way I could have gotten her to budge, as she was being overruled.  However, I did get one concession from her.  I will be able to enter the prison as a guest, not a volunteer (who can go to any venue), when my group’s events are boing held in the Visiting Room instead of the Activities Floor, as it is on the main level.  It’s still a huge loss.  I’ll be going from 2 to 3 times a month to 3 to 4 times a year and will have little opportunity for working on issues with them in depth.  But at least I got the most I could have gotten.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 3:07 (average 5:14).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From The New Yorker:

Short TakesA rally featuring a racist speaker Friday night in Mobile attracted a crowd of just twenty thousand people, widely considered a disappointing turnout for a racist event in Alabama.

According to racist event planners in the state, a crowd of twenty thousand would rank the event as one of the smaller racist rallies in Alabama this year.

Organizers of the rally were quick to defend the size of the turnout. “There is always a lot of competition for the racist audience in Alabama,” an aide to the speaker said. “There were other racists speaking at other venues in the state Friday night. Plus, a lot of racists now prefer to stay at home and stream racist content on the Internet. Given all the options available to racists, I think twenty thousand is a solid number.”

Andy knows that Hairball picked AL for his rally because AL Republicans passed a Latino-hate law even worse than the infamous "papers please" law in AZ.

From Daily Kos (classic 2/2012): It is now the common wisdom of millions of interested parties that ALEC does not work for the vast majority of citizens, that it is a vicious corporate lobby and that it is thee main force behind the deterioration of personal liberties and workers’ rights in the United States.

Arguing against ALEC’s influence over state legislation has become more difficult thanks to efforts such as ALEC Exposed which display how similar bills advancing in GOP-controlled states are and from whence they originate.  Now, Florida Rep. Rachel Burgin (R-56), a 29 year old former legislative aide and graduate of Moody Bible Institute, has made the task of indicting ALEC for undue influence in state politics that much easier by forgetting to remove ALEC’s mission statement from a bill (PDF) she suddenly "decided” to propose.  This bill calls on the federal government to reduce taxes for corporations (HM 685).

Burgin discovered her error, but not before Common Blog spotted it:

Let us not forget where the bills Republicans introduce and pass, especially at the state level, are written.

From NY Times: …Whatever the precise mix of causes, what’s important now is that policy makers take seriously the possibility, I’d say probability, that excess savings and persistent global weakness is the new normal.

My sense is that there’s a deep-seated unwillingness, even among sophisticated officials, to accept this reality. Partly this is about special interests: Wall Street doesn’t want to hear that an unstable world requires strong financial regulation, and politicians who want to kill the welfare state don’t want to hear that government spending and debt aren’t problems in the current environment.

But there’s also, I believe, a sort of emotional prejudice against the very notion of global glut. Politicians and technocrats alike want to view themselves as serious people making hard choices — choices like cutting popular programs and raising interest rates. They don’t like being told that we’re in a world where seemingly tough-minded policies will actually make things worse. But we are, and they will.

This is the conclusion of an excellent Paul Krugman editorial. Click through to see how he got there.



Aug 232015

First, I want to thank you all for your support regarding my volunteer work.  I have decided to take a low key approach.  First, getting certified as a volunteer, one gives them all the power.  Second, I could have avoided it by staying home.  Third, when the system has a problems with individuals, they tend to punish groups.  Any lawsuit from me would engender retaliation against my guys, even though the people running volunteer services would oppose such action.  That takes any disabled access complaint off the table.  I plan to contact the head of volunteer services, with support from my group,  and try to work out a compromise that keeps me in the saddle.  I’ll keep you posted.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 3:25 (average 8:58).  To do it click here.  How did you do?

Religious Ecstasy:


Watching the Broncos win with less than 2:00 to go in the 4th quarter was far less exciting, because I already knew what happened the night before.

Short Takes:

From Upworthy: Wendy’s and Publix are the two biggest companies that haven’t signed on for ‘Fair Food.’ What is it?


I plan to call my local Wendy’s, where I have an occasional burger. Republicans have their own plan. Deport the workers.

From The New Yorker: Amid the growing debate over building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, a new poll shows that voters who strongly favor building such a wall cannot successfully identify the border on a map.

Additionally, the more enthusiastic voters are about building a wall, the less likely they are to know where the border is actually situated, the poll finds.

Voters who could not correctly identify the U.S.-Mexico border provided no fewer than fifteen alternative locations for it. Nearly twenty per cent of respondents located it along the United States’ border with Canada.

Being told that they had incorrectly identified the U.S.-Mexico border did not in any way dampen voters’ enthusiasm for building a wall there, however.

To the contrary, voters believed that it would be easier to locate the border once it had a twenty-foot wall.

From Daily Kos: On Thursday, Texas conservative Steven Hotze launched his "Faith, Family, Freedom Tour" with the aim of influencing Huston’s [sic] upcoming municipal elections and, of course, trying to fight their civil rights ordinance, which will be decided at the ballot box in November.

The launch was nothing short of disturbing and disgusting.

From the Texas Observer:

On Thursday, he launched a multi-city tour of Texas, “The Faith Family Freedom Tour,” at a nearly half-empty event at a hotel ballroom in Houston. Sponsored by Christian conservative notables such as Cathie Adams and Jonathan Saenz, speakers included former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who explained why he thought the judiciary could be effectively overruled by the people, a radio host named Terry Lowry who told the crowd that “Satan and his demons are seducing the people of Houston,” and a reparative therapist who warned the audience that the science of making kids un-gay could someday be banned.

But it was Hotze who stole the show. He began his time on stage by showing his audience a video that warned of the audacious plans of the gay rights movement. “Just like there was a communist manifesto, there’s a homosexual manifesto,” Hotze said. “The hackles will stand up on the back of your neck when you see what they have planned.”

The Gay Manifesto is, of course, a satirical essay from 1987, not an actual LGBT conspiracy. If someone said the same thing about Jews, they would rightly be condemned as anti-semitic. So, this is, in and of itself, homophobic.

Click through for more Republican Supply-side pseudo-Christian TEAbuggery, but even though there is no video, you’d better have a barf bag handy.  He openly calls for violence



Aug 222015

Yesterday, at about 8:00 PM, I received a call from my volunteer group’s staff advisor.  Apparently someone noticed my distress on my last trip when the temperature was 100°+.  She told me that the prison volunteer board has decided to cancel my authorization to come into the prison, out of what they say is concern for my health.  What they mean is fear that they could be held liable should I suffer a heart attack or a stroke while there.  I’ll appeal it to the head of volunteer services, but since my guys have already been informed that I won’t be coming back, I’m pretty sure it’s a done deal.  I feel completely devastated, because so much of my reason for being is wrapped up in my work with my guys.  I’ve been up all night, too upset to sleep.  So I need to take a day or two off, while I try to wrap my head around this most unwelcome change. Hugs to you all.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 5:20 (average 6:24).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?



Aug 122015

Yesterday I went into the prison to do volunteer work.  I had had almost no sleep, because the night before was so sticky.  The temperature was in the high 90°s and very humid.  The room in the Activities section, where we met, has no A/C and no ventilation.  It is directly above the prison bakery.  I suffered.  My guys were wonderful and most appreciative, even though my participation was moistly passive.  On the way home, my friend stopped at a branch of my bank for me to withdraw money.  I was so exhausted that I put my credit card in the ATM, when I intended to use my debit card,  I didn’t understand why the PIN for the debit card didn’t work, and when I tried again, the ATM ate and shredded my credit card.  Then I realized what I had done and used my debit card to withdraw funds.  I felt like a total idiot! Without my credit card, I am virtually home bound.  It will take 8 – 10 business days to get it replaced, so I have to reschedule three medical appointments I had set for next week.  I’m completely exhausted.  However, I do have one piece of good news, one of my guys, who is now in his 30s and has been in prison since he was 17, has given me permission to share some of his writing with you.  I consider him a far more talented writer than I am, so you guys are in for a treat.  But today, I just need to recover.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 3:03 (average 4:49).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?



Aug 112015

I’m in a huge rush to get my articles written and posted in time to take a nap before going to prison to do volunteer work.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 2:24 (average 4:38).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From Daily Kos: Josten Bundy found himself before Judge Randall Rogers in an east Texas courtroom to face a misdemeanor charge stemming from a fight he got into with the ex-boyfriend of his girlfriend, Elizabeth Jaynes. With Elizabeth by his side, the judge asked Bundy if "she was worth it" and then put him on probation with bizarre stipulations:

“I said, well to be honest, sir, I was raised with four sisters and if any man was talking to a woman like that,” recalled Bundy,  “I’d probably do the same thing.”

Judge Rogers asked Bundy if he was married to Jaynes and then said, “You know, as a part of my probation, you’re going to have to marry her…within 30 days.”

That’s right. Judge Rogers forced the young couple to get married, which they did. Bundy was fearful the jail sentence would cost him his job and the couple had previously talked about getting married… the future. Judge Randall also forced Bundy to get counseling and write Bible verses.

Rogers should be defrocked and disbarred for 1st Amendment violations against Bundy and 8th Amendment violations against Janes.

From Alternet: Informed readers are well aware that US police have the dubious reputation of killing lots of civilians, compared to other countries. The War on Drugs provides much of the basis for this abomination…

…The Free Thought Project constantly reports on senseless, unjustified murders carried out by police, in the attempt to bring accountability to law enforcement run amok. Here are 10 of the most outrageous excuses police have used for killing unarmed people during the last year.

“He was walking with a purpose.” Officer Vanessa Miller killed Ryan Bollinger, 28, after witnessing him “dancing in the street” during a traffic stop. After a low-speed chase, Bollinger exited the vehicle and was “walking with a purpose” toward Miller, who then shot him from inside the car through the rolled-up window.

I’ve shared just one and ten examples of excuses made by police after they murdered innocent victims. Click through for the other nine.

From Democrats Unite: If I wrote that “Bernie Sanders admits to being a socialist,” nobody reading it would need an explanation of the word “admits.” “Socialist” is as dirty a word in US politics as “racist” or “bigot.” And for lots of voters, it’s probably even more of a deal-breaker. When a Republican really wants to insult President Obama, for example, he or she calls him a socialist.

The thing is — as the video below makes clear — America is already a socialist country, but just quietly, and only for the rich and for corporations. So the insult “socialist” only seems to really apply to things we ask the government to do for the rest of us.


In a word, Amen.



This is humor.  It is NOT s suggestion to do violence against Republicans.

Aug 102015

The good news is that I enjoyed the first glimmer of the Holy Ellipsoid Orb.  Viking fans should feel blessed.  The bad news is that a surprise heat wave has hit with temperatures in the 90°s for at least today and tomorrow.  Of course it has come just in time to coincide with  my voluntee3r day in prison.  While discretion might trump valor sufficiently for me to take the day off, my friend has her cancer surgery a week from tomorrow, so this is probably my last chance to work with my guys, until my three day volunteer trip late next month.  Discretion be dammed.  I’m going.  I’m also running late due to prep work for that, and  I got a late start too.  Thanks Lona.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 2:54 (average 5:46).  To do it click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From The New Yorker: Tempers flared in the aftermath of Thursday night’s Republican debate, as rival candidates accused the billionaire Donald Trump of failing to back up his misogynist slurs with concrete and workable anti-woman proposals.

Florida governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker led the charge, as both of them asserted that Trump’s sexist rhetoric paled in comparison with their own strong records of opposition to women’s rights.

Andy is spot on again. Any Republican who would win the Presidency would put all of Hairball’s misogyny into practice, and then some.

From NY Times: A day of peaceful protest commemorating the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, by a white police officer one year ago ended in gunfire late Sunday as multiple shots rang out on West Florissant Avenue, the commercial district hit by rioting last summer.

A St. Louis County police officer was involved in the shooting, which occurred at about 11:15 p.m., after coming under heavy gunfire, the department said in a post on Twitter. Another department post said, “At least 2 unmarked cars took shots.”

First, I condemn this attack on police officers in the strongest possible terms. That said, I’m not at all surprised that it happened.

From Think Progress: After Jake Tapper, host of CNN’s State of the Union, asked Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina about Netflix’s announcement that it will offer a year of unlimited paid family leave, the former Hewlett Packard CEO said she opposes any requirement that employers offer their workers paid leave.

“I don’t think it’s the role of government to dictate to the private sector how to manage their businesses, especially when it’s pretty clear that the private sector, like Netflix…is doing the right thing because they know it helps them attract the right talent,” she said. “I’m not saying I oppose paid maternity leave. What I’m saying is I oppose the federal government mandating paid maternity leave to every company out there. [emphasis added]

First, Netflix does not offer family leave to employees in it’s DVD division. Second, the family leave (up to 12 months) Netflix offers other employees is NOT paid. Having exposed Carly’s Republican lie, let me point out that she stands in the forefront of the Republican War on Women.