Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Disparate Discussions

Hey, I told you I had a weakness for alliteration. The "discussions" is hopeful, toss out a few subjects maybe somebody will bite.

This Sunday's "official records" in the Standard-Times brought to mind a topic I have mentioned a few times. The people involved in the Randy Watkins murder were sentenced a few weeks back, just published this Sunday. Terms ran from two to ten years and none of those sentenced were experiencing their "first brush with the law". One was out on an aggregate quarter-million in felony bonds. Young Mr. Watkins' Mother was understandably upset, I believe her comment to the paper was "Nobody's going to wake Randy up in two years". I thought at the time this was on the low end of sentences for a homicide, especially as compared to non-violent drug convictions.

Didn't have to wait long for a case in point. June 18 one Mr. Garcia, with a few misdemeanor priors, was sentenced to 25 years for less than an ounce of meth. I don't intend to argue that meth is anything less than a serious problem, or that drug offenses in general are "victimless crimes". Any family with a member in prison or rehab for drugs, anyone whose house has been trashed by a desperate junkie seeking to finance the next buy (I qualify on both counts) can tell you there are "victims".

I will question whether these two cases represent a logical application of legal sanction. One crime had six people brutally kill a young man whose only "crime" seems to have been ill-advisedly responding to a macho challenge. The drug crime involved possession of and sale of less than $1,000 of proscribed drugs. Six murderers will do less aggregate time than the doper.

America has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, over half for non-violent drug offenses. The gulag days of the USSR, today's China, not the vilest dictatorship on the planet comes close to us in locking up the percentage of its population we do. Perhaps, after a Trillion dollars of "Drug War", compared to which the war in Iraq is a stunning success by any measure of results, perhaps we should consider focusing on treatment and diversion rather than incarceration.

Not taking a position on the Presidential race, BUT...Going by his own self-confession of youthful mistakes, would we be better off if Sen. Obama were still serving a 25 year term (had he been caught back in the day) or offering the voters the distinct alternative he is now?

Last week's Ramble, I closed by wondering when SAISD might get serious about selling its new bond. JWT did discover the bond, slightly amended. Click on the Long Range Facilities Plan, scroll down to page 252 (of 319), there it is. A wonder I hadn't tripped over it. If you missed today's KLST "Top of the Morning", I put the question on air, to my Trustee, Art Hernandez, when SAISD was going to get serious and put this bond front and center, try to sell it. He responded they were going to discuss just that next meeting. Since next meeting is another "pre-agenda" meeting, discuss it is all they will actually do until July at best. SAISD, "tick, tick, tick..".

A matter of modern manners: I know working folk are in rush-rush mode and many of us have to get up early. I further commend those who save fuel by car-pooling. Nonetheless, when you pull up at 5:00 AM to pick up your fellow, is it absolutely necessary to lean on the car horn? Perhaps your ride could waste two minutes standing on the porch, or you might call him just before you get there. Please don't tell me you don't have a cell phone, EVERYBODY has one now. Heck, the guy at the intersection with the "Will Drink Wine If You're Silly Enough to Give Me Money" sign has a trakfone now. He needs it to call his cab at the end of a long shift separating fools from their money. In the extremity, you could take half a minute, walk to his door and wake up his household instead of the whole neighborhood.

Modern manners, corporate section: A certain spectacle maker has taken to putting an ad on the Sunday comics in the S-T, a half-page perforated tear-away. Sunday is a very special day to me. I am not doing three things at once, I have the leisure, I like to open my morning in reverse, funnies first, real news next, then I'm in a good mood for shouting at and flinging nerf balls at the Sunday news shows on TV. More often than not, before I can read "Pearls Before Swine" (not the S-T poster of that by-line) I have to carefully remove your excresence. A minor nuisance in the scheme of things, and to be fair, I would have a miniscule economic impact on your trade, but, if I were to step on my eyeglasses while enjoying ice cream next door to you, I would travel and spend more money if necessary, with your competition who does not irritate me on Sunday mornings.

Stay tuned, I'll be back next time on Gas Wars.


  1. It is better to rehabilitate the druggies than to incarcerate them with long prison sentences. Putting first time drug offenders in prison with hard core criminals just creates more hard core criminals.

    Inmates should be forced to finish their high school education and learn a trade. When they get out they have something positive in their lives and are capable of making a positive contribution to society.


  2. Rehabilitation implies something needs to be fixed. What normally would be habilitated, now takes extra effort to be redone.

    So, ultimately the answer lies within prevention.

    Thats why programs that invest in children and parenting pay good dividends in the long run.

    Society always pays for its imperfections. Its certain, none of us are robots or live in a perfect world.

    So, I guess the focus is keeping soceital problems to an acceptable level.

    I support education and prevention. Whether we are dealing with personal health, marriage, domestic violence, substance abuse, financial management, etc..

    Then, for certain types of crime, especially first time offenders, rehabilitation should be more the focus. This would place more emphasis on social interaction, versus punishment.

    Finally, of course there will always be the need for punishment for certain crimes and to serve as a deterrent.

  3. Drug offenders who tend towards violence or create terror within their own families, pretty much are hard core criminals. They just haven't been picked up yet.

    Given enough time on the street, they will do something crazy.

    Unfortunately, many go back and forth into the system many times, until they pull off a crime heinous enough to put them away for a long time.

    Its probably true in most cases, there were many warning signs and complaints prior to something horrendous.

    Thankfully, there is a lot of information on the web for how to handle drug or domestic abuse situations. However, it only does good if the individual is educated and prepared to take action before its too late.

  4. Anon the last; You say perhaps more than you realize in your opening sentence. "drug offenders who..."

    The part of that thought important to the body civic is the "tend towards violence". As a resident and part-time barkeep, I care not a whit whether the violence is generated by drugs, ethanol diverted from our alternative fuels program, or the underlying reality that some people are just stone-cold, natural born jackasses (no insult to honest livestock intended).

    This is where I diverge from the "hate crimes" concept. Yep, there are things one reads about that make one wish we could hit nasty suspect "A" harder, but...

    A few years back, I was assaulted and robbed while tending bar. Wish he'd had a gun, that would have been "OK, Here's da money". Instead this amateur chokes, clubs and half kills me before absconding with maybe $400. I promise you, as we got to the end of that episode my concern for the ethnic/racial motivation of said thief would not have been discoverable by the Hubble Telescope. BTW, no, they never caught him, but SAPD spent a lot of time trying.

    Back to point at hand, criminal justice should address actions/harm/penalty and retribution. Get past that, and one is riding some politician's current read of "politically correct".

  5. I don't believe politically correct is near as important as what is honorable amongst men. There has always been a battle of whether good or evil will prevail. Many of those men from former generations built a lifetime upon the principle of being an honorable man. In this country, that doesn't mean class position or a life of privilege. It means more directly as both Benjamin Franklin or even MLK said at one time or another that a man's character is everything.

    So, how do you ingrain that within a society. Usually, its easier if you proceed from the majority of law abiding and honorable citizens who know the difference.

    As society, goes down the drain, and role models and the lost understanding of past generations continues, it will be harder to see past lessons learned.

    In fact, its possible modern day society might not even see any wisdom from past pioneers. Instead, we may consider them primitive, and not educated enough to really know how to run the US of A.

    This great delusion could overtake us all. We should all learn and build from history, but not utterly forsake it for a new ideology or one that was not built on blood, sweat, and spirit.

    There will come a day, when Americans will wake up and search within themselves for what they hold truly dear and sacred. Yet, I would venture to say, there are not many who hold anything sacred or dear, or even see the warning signs.

    Yet, I hope for all of us, noone will ever discard the importance of being honorable, or doing whats right.

  6. The natural man within himself is not capable of anything more than his own selfish ideas of murder, greed, self pererverance, and a multitude of undesirable characteristics. What makes a man try and achieve a higher path in life.

    Its my belief, that only within his own spirit, and from the message of our own creater, does man have any reason to seek a higher ground.

    God is someone that is good to know. What if our creator intended for us to live in peace and harmony. How would we go about that. Well there are certain rules, and most of them have to do with considering others interests more important than our own. It has to do with turning away from hatred and the dark side of our humanity and seeking more of the light.

    Have you ever rode a horse down a trail on a peaceful and sunny spring day. The grass is green and birds are chirping, yet within the animal is the fear and spooking, and rebellion which will not allow you to enjoy the ride.

    This is the way we are friends. We have much to be thankful for, we should be enjoying and appreciating our lives.

    Yet, somehow, an evil darkness creeps in and tries to steal our joy.

    We must gain enough wisdom to understand the difference, as we grow older and more mature.

    We must not fail to stand in the face of adversity and confront it when we know within our own selves it is wrong and will cause suffering.