Thursday, June 28, 2007


Does this scare anyone else as much as it does me?

NBC Sting Shakes Up Texas Town

Posted: 2007-06-28 18:37:41
Filed Under: Crime News, TV, Law, Nation
MURPHY, Texas (June 28) - A sting in which police teamed up with "Dateline NBC" to catch online pedophiles was supposed to send a flinty-eyed, Texas-style warning about this Dallas suburb: Don't mess with Murphy.

Instead, it has turned into a fiasco
One of the 25 men caught in the sting, a prosecutor from a neighboring county committed suicide when police came to arrest him. The Murphy city manager who approved the operation lost his job in the ensuing furor.

And the district attorney is refusing to prosecute any of the men, saying many of the cases were tainted by the involvement of amateurs.

"Certainly these people should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, but the fact that this was all done for television cameras raises some questions," said Mayor Bret Baldwin.

It is the first time in nine "Dateline NBC: To Catch a Predator" stings across the country in the past year and a half that prosecutors did not pursue charges.

"Dateline" has made prime-time entertainment out of contacting would-be child molesters over the Internet, luring them to a meeting place, and videotaping their humiliating confrontations with reporter Chris Hansen.

"Dateline" works with an activist group called Perverted Justice, which supplies adults who troll Internet chat rooms, posing as underage boys and girls, and try to collect incriminating sex talk.

City manager Craig Sherwood approved such an operation in this well-to-do community of 11,000 after being approached by "Dateline" and Perverted Justice, but he never informed the mayor or the City Council. He said secrecy was necessary for the sting to be effective.

Over four days in November, 24 men were arrested at a two-story home in one of Murphy's newer neighborhoods after allegedly arranging to meet boys or girls there.

Some other suspects contacted Perverted Justice decoys online but never showed up at the house. Among them was Louis Conradt Jr., an assistant prosecutor from neighboring Kauffman County, who allegedly engaged in a sexually explicit online chat with an adult posing as a 13-year-old boy.

As police knocked at his door and a "Dateline" camera crew waited in the street, Conradt shot himself.

His sister, Patricia Conradt, told the City Council that police acted as "a judge, jury and executioner that was encouraged by an out-of-control reality show."

Then, last month, Collin County District Attorney John Roach dropped all charges. He said that in 16 of the cases, he had no jurisdiction, since neither the suspects nor the decoys were in the county during the online chats.

As for the rest of the cases, he said neither police nor NBC could guarantee the chat logs were authentic and complete.

"The fact that somebody besides police officers were involved is what makes this case bad," said Roach, who was informed of the sting in advance but did not participate. "If professionals had been running the show, they would have done a much better job rather than being at the beck and call of outsiders."

As details of the suicide emerged, Murphy's mayor, City Council and most of its residents learned for the first time that potential molesters were being luring to their city. Many were furious.

"They can chase predators all they want, but they shouldn't do it in a populated area with children, two blocks from an elementary school," said Lisa Watson, 33, who lives down the road from the sting house and has three children and another on the way.

Bryan Whorton, who lives with his wife and baby across the street from the house, said his neighborhood was put in danger. Cars sped up and down the street and police sprinted from hiding spots, guns drawn, to arrest suspects, he said. One suspect dropped a bag of crack, Whorton said.

"This is a family community. It didn't look kosher at all," he said.

Two weeks ago, the City Council voted to buy out the city manager's contract for $255,000.

NBC's Hansen said Murphy is the only place the show has encountered such resistance.

"I don't want to get involved in the DA's business or the police business," he said. "I can tell you in the other locations, these issues did not come up."

Eric Nichols, a Texas deputy attorney general, said that when law enforcement authorities pull an Internet sex sting, officers posing as decoys follow strict rules. Detailed chat logs are kept to ensure that "sex talk" is initiated by the potential predator. That way, a defendant cannot claim entrapment.

Eric Chase, a defense attorney specializing in sex crimes, said stings are the job of police, not TV crews. "Police should not be abdicating a very important function to either private organizations or entertainment organizations," he said.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. All active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.
The story doesn't say what kind of conviction rate that the earlier stings netted. But, frankly something like this scares the hell out of me. A private advocacy group links up with the entertainment industry to out people "probable" pedophiles on network television. What the #$%$$#%!!!!! Ok. they probably are guilty. Probably, not are, and with a tainted chain of evidence an ethical prosecutor can't go to court and get a conviction that will stand up on appeal.
And what happens down the road if folks who believe in alternate religious expression or radical politics get the same treatment. I try to follow up most comments on my journals. What happens if the followers of a modern day Cotton Mather decide to try to out the neo pagans and the wiccans. Far fetched? Maybe. Check out Sinclair Lewis's "It Can't Happen Here."
I'm afraid these guys would show executions if they could get away with it. Or at the very least water boarding.

Monday, June 25, 2007



I have a co worker who is heavily involved with the local Relay for Life cancer fundraiser and the events that go with it. If I sound a little distracted over the next couple of weeks or so it’s because every free minute (when I’m not baking, sleeping, cat comforting, doing my laundry, etc, etc, etc.) I’m planning on knitting as fast as my ten little fingers can manage. Thank heaven for big needles and chunky yarn. The goal is two prayer shawls for the auction at the fund raiser dinner.

Trying to come up with a description of the how and why of these shawls got me to thinking about some of the half baked ideas still popular among some of our elected hired help and the freaky deekies on Fox and talk radio. Still popular in spite of the unlearned lessons from Iraq, Afghanistan, and the so called war on terror. Especially the idea that each of us is autonomous. Individuals can stand alone. Our country can stand alone. We should stand alone. Our country should stand alone. We can do it on our own with no help or support from anyone else.

Obviously too many of these individuals have never knitted, crocheted, baked, sewed, canned or tried to raise a garden. In fact, I suspect that most of us are insulated from the “how” of something is created in a way that used to be true of only the very rich who could afford to pay someone else to do these things, preferably out of sight and out of mind.

When I knit a shawl the first stitch is just as important as the last. In fact I couldn’t get anywhere without it. And if you don’t cast off and tie off the last stitches properly the whole thing will unravel. Every stitch depends on every other stitch. If I drop a stitch along the way it affects every row below it and throws off the pattern of every row after it.

Ever had bread, especially white bread, where the salt was forgotten? It’s awfully bland, isn’t it? And you can’t add if after the bread is baked and expect it to be successful. And don’t even think about forgetting the yeast in the recipe. You can follow every other step in the recipe and all you’ll have in the end is a brick. And the yeast has to go in at the start, you can’t get good results with certain types of bread without it anymore than you can leave out the flour or water.

I’ve miscounted the amount of sugar in a jam recipe and ended up with very good strawberry syrup. Useful, but not what I planned on. And you can’t sew a shirt, leave out part of the pieces and expect to get anything that looks like a shirt. Each piece depends on the others and they really need to go together in order.

How successful will a garden be if you try to plant the seeds before the ground is prepared? Can you harvest a crop before the seeds are planted? Some crops even work together. Before farmers knew what fertilizer was, they knew to rotate their crops. Grains one year, legumes like beans the second year, and allowing the cows or sheep to graze in the field the third year. Maybe they didn’t know why it worked, but it did.

Maybe part of the problem is that too many of us don’t make or grow something, anything, from beginning to end anymore. We pay someone else to do the work, raise the crop, create the garment, and all we see is the final, completed product. In the end too many of us have no more idea of the steps that were followed than a fish knows about astronomy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Remember when television dared to poke a stick in the eye of the powers that be? In spite of network attempts at censorship. Remember what helped get the Smothers Brothers cancelled? Now? It's enough to make you very, very angry.

Of course this was before the fragmentation of the communications industry that allows some of us to float through without ever hearing something we disagree with or God/dess forbid encourages us to use our brains for something besides keeping our skulls from collapsing. Who needs a censor when the protests can't be heard above the din of the empty headed competition.

Waist Deep In The Big Muddy

by Pete Seeger 1963, planned for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967 but CBS objected to the blacklisted Seeger making obvious references to the"big fool" in the White House, finally sung by Seeger on the Comedy Hour in 1968 as the finale in a medley of anti-war songs

It was back in nineteen forty-two,
I was a member of a good platoon.
We were on maneuvers in-a Loozianna,
One night by the light of the moon.
The captain told us to ford a river,
That's how it all begun.
We were -- knee deep in the Big Muddy,
But the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, "Sir, are you sure,
This is the best way back to the base?"
"Sergeant, go on! I forded this river
'Bout a mile above this place.
It'll be a little soggy but just keep slogging.
We'll soon be on dry ground."
We were -- waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, "Sir, with all this equipment
No man will be able to swim."
"Sergeant, don't be a Nervous Nellie,"
The Captain said to him.
"All we need is a little determination;
Men, follow me, I'll lead on."
We were -- neck deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool said to push on.

All at once, the moon clouded over,
We heard a gurgling cry.
A few seconds later, the captain's helmet
Was all that floated by.
The Sergeant said, "Turn around men!
I'm in charge from now on."
And we just made it out of the Big Muddy
With the captain dead and gone.

We stripped and dived and found his body
Stuck in the old quicksand.
I guess he didn't know that the water was deeper
Than the place he'd once before been.
Another stream had joined the Big Muddy
'Bout a half mile from where we'd gone.
We were lucky to escape from the Big Muddy
When the big fool said to push on.

Well, I'm not going to point any moral;
I'll leave that for yourself
Maybe you're still walking, you're still talking
You'd like to keep your health.
But every time I read the papers
That old feeling comes on;
We're -- waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.

Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
Waist deep! Neck deep! Soon even a
Tall man'll be over his head, we're
Waist deep in the Big Muddy!
And the big fool says to push on!

Words and music by Pete Seeger (1967)
TRO (c) 1967 Melody Trails, Inc. New York, NY

Tuesday, June 19, 2007



Lisa over at been chronicling her attempts to hire a reasonably competent crew for her cafĂ©. There isn’t a lot to choose from in a small town. But, heck how can you expect a responsible work ethic from the young people when you can’t find it so many older adults including the elected hired help.

The man Garrison Keillor calls the Current Occupant wouldn’t have his New England/Texas hybrid ass behind the Oval Office desk if his last name wasn’t Bush. Heck, if his name wasn’t Bush, I’m betting the party hierarchy wouldn’t have touched him with a ten foot pole. His beleaguered and barely competent attorney general wouldn’t have the job if he wasn’t an ol’ buddy of the shrub. And Rumsfeld with his famous “you go to war with the army you have.” That may be true if you’re attacked and have no choice. In that case you hang on as best you can, choose your battles and build the army you need. This administration CHOSE to invade Iraq with “the army we had” and the best set of rose colored glasses our tax money could buy. On the way to Baghdad and the “rose petal” welcome they trashed the reputations of anyone who dared to disagree with them.

Story after story is coming out the offices charged with rebuilding Iraq of loyalty to Bush and the Republican Party being placed far ahead of any kind of competence. The mess in the Attorney general’s office is rooted in placing loyalty above ability. Bush appointees have edited reports by government scientists to make sure they toe the party line. Even though the people doing the editing have little or no expertise with the material they’re rewriting. It’s like hiring an experienced auto mechanic and telling him/her their next job is baking a seven layer wedding cake. Ain’t gonna happen, girlfriend.

Anyone else cut back on their meat and fish intake because of contamination by bacteria or pollution only to wince over the stories of contaminated vegetables or drinking water. I guess the advice for eating and drinking in third world countries holds true here, too. Boil the water, wash the fruit and veggies, and make sure the meat is well done.

How many of us have purchased something that looked good in the store and got it home to find it falling apart when we use it or wash it. How many talking heads have we seen on the news explaining the latest meat, vehicle, or drug recall with “we’re doing it but we aren’t taking responsibility for the problem.”

I suspect that I’m not the only one looking at the current crop of presidential hopefuls and going “is that all there is?” Actually the emotion is closer to “IS THAT ALL THERE IS!!!!!!” Arrrrrrrrrrrrgh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

One of my favorite films is Apollo 13. For a lot of reasons if only to hear “tell me this isn’t a government program” when the flight director finds out that the CO2 scrubbers in the command module and the LEM are not, repeat, not interchangeable. There is an attitude of we can do this. Of taking what could be a disaster and doing what you can with it. Fueled with courage, optimism, training, large amounts of coffee and a lot of cigarettes. And you can make a square peg fit in a round hole, if you have enough pieces to work with.

There’s a wonderful scene that starts with a large box of stuff being dumped on a table followed with “we gotta make this fit in the hole meant for this, using nothing but that (indicating the pile of equipment on the table), ……….ok, let’s build a filter.”

Of course this is a story about NASA in the early seventies. Remember the stories of the space craft that crashed on Mars because somebody forgot to check whether the ship board computer was measuring distances in meters rather than miles. :-P While the computer on the ground was programmed in the opposite system. Big difference between a kilometer and a mile. Big crash, red faces all around and no real explanation for who was responsible for checking the details. Probably the same guys who didn’t make sure scrubber components were interchangeable.

Failure is still not much of an option.

Saturday, June 9, 2007


“Peace of some sort was overdue; for some years artists had trouble getting about at all, what with Spartans marching on Thebes, then Thebans marching on Sparta. Everyone was for Thebes in the early days. But since all her victories, the old neighborly jealousy had waked up in Athens; and we had an alliance with Sparta now. I suppose this was expedient, but it disgusted me; it is things like this that make a man like me leave politics to the demagogues. The one good thing was that those dour-faced bullies needing to ask our help proved they were down to third roles for good and would never play lead again. They had been thought invincible, only because they were in war training from the cradle to the grave; but the Great War went on so long that other Greeks too got this professional experience, though against their will. By the end of it a good many had borne arms since they were boys, and barely knew another calling. So, like actors short of work, they went on tour. There were still nearly as many wars going on as drama festivals, and all of them needed extras.”


From Mary Renault’s The Mask of Apollo. The main character is an actor looking back on his career. A career that started near the end of nearly two generations of civil wars in ancient Greece that ended what we call the Golden Age.


I chuckled when I read it the first time and it’s so well written. And then I thought about it and started making some comparisons, and then I wasn’t laughing.