Saturday, July 09, 2005

Hurricane Dennis - Here We Go Again

Seems like we went through this just a few months ago. Oh, wait! We did! It's deja vu all over again.

For those who may not know, I live in Bradenton, which is on Florida's west coast. Bradenton is smack between Tampa/St Pete and Sarasota. Looks like we're gonna take a miss again (Thank you, dear Lord!) unless Dennis takes a sudden and swift right. Not that I want anyone else to suffer, but I have to admit to being glad that it's not us in Dennis' sights.

I had planned to do some live blogging today, but there really wasn't much to live blog about. We were talking yesterday morning at work about Dennis being over Cuba. I noticed about noon that it got rather dark and I thought about Dennis and decided that he couldn't possibly be effecting out weather yet. Well, I was wrong about that. I saw the news last night and realized that was exactly what the problem was. That is one big storm!

Last night, we had some thunder and lightning. My dog about jumped out of his skin when one boom went off. Hey, when you're a chihuahua, every loud noise can be scarey! Today, we've had some wind and rain, not really much of either, I've been surprised. I expect we'll have more tonight and tomorrow since the storm will be that much closer.

Yesterday, Governor Jeb! declared a state of emergency and Collier and Walton counties ordered evacuations. Collier and Walton counties remembered last year and began ordering evacuations.

Dennis has just been upgraded to a Cat 3 storm. Please, if you live in the Florida Panhandle, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana take care and stay safe.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

We shall prevail and they shall not.

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Those words were spoken today by PM Tony Blair. A group claiming to be affliated with Al-Queda claimed responsibility for the terror bombings in London today.

Four bombs exploded during morning rush hour. Innocent people going to work murdered by people committing these crimes in the name of Allah. And they are a "peace" loving people. Sure, tell that to the families of the victims.

London experienced a terror attack today, the likes of which hasn't been seen since the London blitz of World War II. They did what they wanted to do - kill infidels. They forgot one thing: they may have taken lives, but they also managed to make the Brits mad. About as mad as the US was in the aftermath of 9/11.

My condolences and deepest sympathies go to the victims and their families, and all of Britian.

Monday, July 04, 2005

President Bush's July Fourth proclamation:

Since July 4, 1776, Americans have experienced freedom's power to overcome tyranny, inspire hope in times of trial, and turn the creative gifts of men and women to the pursuits of peace. Across generations, our nation has defended and advanced liberty.

The words of our Founding Fathers first guided a country of 4 million souls, yet they put large events in motion. When the Liberty Bell sounded at the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence, one who witnessed the birth of freedom in our country said, "It rang as if it meant something." In our time it means something still. America continues to proclaim liberty throughout the world, and we remain a country full of hope and promise where opportunity thrives, where all stand equal before the law, and where our freedoms are celebrated.

Americans live in freedom because of the enduring power of our ideals. In the midst of World War II, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt reminded our troops that our nation believes in the "right to liberty under God - for all peoples and races and groups and nations, everywhere in the world." Today, a new generation of Americans continues to defend our nation and spread freedom. On this Fourth of July, we honor the brave men and women of our military, and their families, and we express our gratitude for their courage, dedication to duty, and love of country.

Laura and I send our best wishes to all Americans on Independence Day. May God bless you, and may God continue to bless America.

via Associated Press
Proud to be an American
Lee Greenwood

If tomorrow all the things were gone,
I’d worked for all my life.
And I had to start again,
With just my children and my wife.

I’d thank my lucky stars,
To be livin’ here today.
‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom,
And they can’t take that away.

And I’m proud to be an American,
Where at least I know I’m free.
And I won't forget the men who died,
Who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
Next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

From the lakes of Minnesota,
To the hills of Tennessee.
Across the plains of Texas,
From sea to shining sea.

From Detroit down to Houston,
And New York to L.A.
Well, there's pride in every American heart,
And its time we stand and say.

That I’m proud to be an American,
Where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
Who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
Next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

And I’m proud to be and American,
Where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
Who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
Next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.
Independence Day

"Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."

Inscription on the Liberty Bell

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Eminent Domain

Amendment V

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." (bold added)

"Washington, D.C.— Today, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a blow to home and small business owners throughout the country by allowing the government to use eminent domain to take homes so that businesses can make more money off that land and possibly pay more taxes as a result."

I can’t tell you how angry I still am over the Supreme Court decision expanding the eminent domain laws. It’s been, what? almost two weeks since that horrendous decision came out and I’m just now able to write about it.

How can the Supremes possibly think that taking private property so that businesses can use it to make money is what the Founding Fathers intended? Oh, and the business may pay more taxes than the original homeowner did. That explains why local government would be behind it.

I can accept taking private property for schools, firehouses, parks, and roadways. But, to allow businesses to obtain the property in order to create more tax dollars is wrong. The Constitution states for public use, not for business. Public use means that you and I can use the property in some manner. We can walk or drive on it like a park or highway; or the property is used for our benefit such as a fire station or school.

If the property is used for a private business, we may not be able to enter unless we have “business” with the company. If a housing development goes up, we can’t go on that property without trespassing. It’s not public use.

Just compensation? What is just to local government may not be just to the property owner who’s going to lose their home. Maybe generations of their family lived on that land. Maybe a couple has lived in a home for many years; and raised their family there. You can’t define just compensation for a lifetime of living. Sure, local government would like businesses or higher priced homes to tax but is it right?

Don’t forget, businesses don’t pay taxes. Business costs, such as taxes, are passed on to customers, so taking land and giving it to a business doesn’t bring in taxes from the business, they just collect the tax from their customers and pass it on to the government.

The Founding Fathers must be spinning like dervishes in their graves
Shasta Groene, Alive!

I was so happy so hear that this eight-year old was found alive. The last six weeks of her life have been tragic, to say the least. She may have seen her mother, brother, and her mother’s boyfriend bludgeoned to death. She may have seen the death of her other brother.

Early Saturday morning, she was taken to a Denny’s in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, only two miles from her home. The man with her removed a flyer with her picture on it when they entered the restaurant. That didn’t keep the wait staff and a customer form recognizing her however. The waitress kept them busy while the customer called police. I won’t call the waitress or the customer heroes, but I’m sure Shasta and her father do. I hesitate to call them heroes only because what they did took very little effort on their part. They did what they knew to be right and faced no repercussion for doing so. That being said, what I call them doesn’t matter. They are good people who deserve to feel very good about themselves for what they did. They deserve the accolades they get. And I hope they get the reward that has been offered.

Unfortunately, Shasta’s brother Dylan is still missing. While being interviewed, Shasta referred to her brother as “being in heaven” but authorities were unsure whether she meant Dylan or her older brother Slate, who was murdered along with their mother. Shasta spent last night in the hospital with her father watching over her. I’m sure it will be sometime before he is able to let her out of his sight.

At this time, no details have been released whether Joseph Duncan, the man arrested for kidnapping Shasta, is responsible for the deaths of Shasta’s mother, brother, and the mother’s boyfriend. He’s a fugitive from Wisconsin wanted for fleeing a charge of molesting a young boy. He stole a car in Wisconsin, license plates in Missouri, and has been living in Fargo North Dakota for some time. He served time for molesting another young boy years earlier. He’s what would be known in Florida as a sexual predator. Apparently, he’s asked for an attorney and hasn’t made a statement.

Even if he had nothing to do with the murders, and he didn’t kidnap or harm Shasta in any way, he’s guilty of interfering with parental custody. He had Shasta and didn’t turn her over to her father or to the authorities who have been looking for her for the past six weeks. Knowing his criminal past, I doubt that he had the best of intentions.

We’ll have to wait to see what happened to Shasta over the last six weeks. I sincerely hope he didn’t touch her in any way. I sincerely hope Dylan will be found safe and sound. And, if it’s found that Joseph Duncan killed her family or harmed either child, I sincerely hope that Idaho has a death penalty.
Sexual Offenders: A Problem that Must Be Dealt With…Now

There are people who believe that once a convict has served his time, he should be able to re-enter society without impunity. Once a person has served their time, they’ve “paid their debt to society” and should be able to go on with their lives. I believe that most people agree, at least in principle with that concept.

When the former convict is a sexual offender, the rules must change. I know, there are people who believe that sexual offenders/predators can be rehabilitated. They are wrong. Flat out wrong. Sexual offenders/predators do not change. It doesn’t happen. They might be able, with therapy, to control their proclivities, but they do not change. It’s not an arguable point; so don’t waste your time or mine trying to change my mind.

Let’s discuss for a moment the difference between a sexual offender and a sexual predator. For the purposes of this essay, we will assume the offender/predator is male. In Florida, it’s mostly the number of times a male has committed sexual crimes, and/or the circumstances surrounding the incident that determine whether a person is a sexual offender or predator.

As a sexual offender we can have a nineteen-year old male who has consensual sex with his seventeen-year old girlfriend. He can be charged, and convicted of statutory rape and be forever labeled a sexual offender. In my opinion, this might be morally wrong, but it shouldn’t be a criminal act. If however, that same nineteen-year old male kidnaps and rapes his seventeen-year old girlfriend the facts change. He is now a criminal and should be charged, and if convicted, have to register as a sexual offender for the rest of his life. We can also have a male who prefers little boys or girls, or teenage boys or girls, or adult men or women. This male may have many victims, but few convictions. The status of this male may change as the number of victims becomes known, and the number of his convictions rise.

A sexual predator is one who actively looks for another person whom he can control and force to have sex with him. Consent is not involved. Violence may or may not be part of his MO. Sexual predators aren’t necessarily pedophiles. The age and sex of their victims is a personal preference. They may have many victims, or a few. The difference in being a sexual offender or predator is subtle, but as I said, it's the number and circumstances around the criminal act(s) that determine the status.

When a sexual offender/predator leaves jail or prison in Florida, they are required to register with the local sheriff’s office as a sexual offender or predator. They are told to report to the probation officer within a certain amount of time. The problem is that the offender/predator may forget to register, either honestly or deliberately. Authorities can’t track the offender/predator once they leave custody unless you have a person who does the “right thing” by registering, and notifying authorities when they change address. They are home when the PO does a house check, they report to their PO, and do what the PO tells them to do. This offender/predator is a rarity.

What can be done to track these criminals? Well, I think they should be registered before they leave jail for one. The information can be sent to the sheriff’s office where they intend to live and have to report in within a specific time frame – hours, not days.

It might be a little expensive, but how about setting up a special division of probation officers who work only with sexual offenders and predators? How about having the PO meet them in jail to fit them with a GPS device that will be worn while they are on probation. Then, if they don’t check in at the sheriff’s office when they should, they can be tracked. Their probation time can be extended if they change addresses without permission, don’t comply with rules, fail to make appointments, or attend classes or whatever the PO tells them to do. Or, of course, they can be recommitted because they failed to complete their probation.

This is not a solution by any means. The suggestions I made at least reduce the possibility of the offender/predator disappearing into the mist only to be found when they are being hunted as a possible suspect. GPS devices would allow tracking from the time the criminal leaves jail until they leave probationary status. If the criminal doesn’t report a change of address it would be discovered long before a body is found.

Most probation offices are unable to keep track of the “ordinary” criminal. Let them deal with the “ordinary” criminal and let the new section deal with sexual offenders and predators. When a body is found, it’s too late. It is unacceptable. We must act before we have more victims.