Archive for May, 2007

“Future Combat Systems” or “More of the Same”

Four years and umpty-bazillion dollars later and the U.S. Army’s “Future Combat Systems (FCS)” has delivered nothing but unproven concepts and billable hours for its prime contractor (Boeing).

An excellent and surprisingly succinct “Emperor Has No Clothes” article on the issues involved is here.  The article shows that nearly every principle on which FCS is based is flawed.  It also shows (yet again) the extreme folley of giving a contractor what amounts to a blank check.

Perhaps now we could get a little better review of these $100 billion weapons systems concepts before they are executed and not after they are up and running and burning $10 billion a year.  Or maybe, some better review after numerous government auditors and watchdog groups blew the whistle?  It now seems nearly impossible to stop or slow down this modern day Spruce Goose (at least Howard Hughes was spending some of his own money though).  Although the Army FCS program is actively “reorganizing” – that’s corporate speak for “doing nothing about the root causes of the problem.”

How much more money do we need to spend before we let the generals call a news conference, declare it a success, and scrap the program?


Evil Ex-Felons – Don’t Vote

To a fair amount of outcry (given the closely contested nature of this state in recent elections), Florida has recently made the decision to allow ex-Felons – i.e. those who have served their punishment – to regain their right to vote.

I guess I learned a lesson in civics by reading this story – I didn’t even know that-with the exception of federal firearms restrictions-ex-Felons permanently lost their citizenship (right to vote).  So I guess it is just (now) Florida and 8 other states that now allow some mechanism for re-enfranchisement of ex-Felons.

To me not allowing ex-Felons to vote seems a little counterproductive.  For this segment of the population probably knows far more – and at a much more intimate detail – about the workings and the machinery of government than any other group.  They certainly have more knowledge than your average high school civics student – well at least about the Executive and Judiciary Branches anyway.

And just maybe this is why the government is perpetually lowering the bar on what is serious enough to constitute a felony.  Shove a hall monitor (felony abuse of a public servant), neglect a pet (felony animal abuse), use an open-access wireless network (felony computer access) – and you too can be stricken from the voter roles and no longer be a “problem constituent” that can vote me out of office.

So who are these evil felons?  I’ve written about a few of late, but let me add a few others:

Nelson Mandela
Chuck Berry (multiple convictions)
Martha Steward
Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong Fame – at age 65 – ironically enough for “felony conspiring to distribute drug paraphernalia” – i.e. selling ordinary glass of the wrong shape)
Shaquada Cotton (16-year-old hall monitor shover)
Desre’e Watson (a 6-year-old kindergarten student)
…and every political revolutionary that ever existed – think George Washington

Sounds like these people should have the right to vote, have ’bout you Jeb?

Systematic Child Abuse, by Design

In what U.S. institution could a massive campaign of child rape take place and have it go unnoticed for many, many years?  The Texas Youth Commission (TYC) Juvenile Corrections System.  In fact, it probably still goes unnoticed.

Perhaps I was expecting more outrage, perhaps maybe expecting that someone would see that these truly are 2 of the most vulnerable and exploited groups, children and prisoners, and that someone would feel more of a sense of compasion and urgency.  Guess not – there is that Britney and K-Fed thing going on.

When national stories about Shaquanda Cotton first appeared last month, they did not even reveal the depths of depravity in this System – just the individual view of one participant.  Who knew that even this extreme case was actually a fairly mild example of the malevolence that this system was capable of?

But probably the most Orwellian aspect of which is this:

That even to be considered for release before their 21st birthday, these child inmates had to first admit their guilt and give up any right to appeal.  And yet noone saw this as an unreasonable and unconstitutional requirement?

Where was the independent review of these fundamental procedures that placed so much power to abuse in the hands of so few?  Certainly nowhere to be found in Texas – where the only good criminal is a dead criminal – regardless of age or innocence.

The Good and (Overwhelmingly) Bad News about Childhood Incarceration

Reading the recent news on the Indicted Texas Jailhouse Rapists/Prison Guards (dubbed “Perry’s Pedophiles” after the Texas Governor) found me checking on the status of Shaquanda Cotton to make sure she was not still in the custody of these patently corrupt thugs.

So the good news is that after years of complaints and flagrant abuse by the Texas Youth Commision (TYC), that the public was finally outraged enough to actually do something about these forgotten kids and thankfully Shaquanda is no longer under the dominion of these abusive rapists for her petty crimes.

The bad news is that more and more children at increasingly younger ages are running afoul of the law for even pettier misdeeds

And to be sure, schools are a bit tougher than when Sidney Poitier experienced his Blackboard Jungle.  Today’s schools can be tough places: difficult kids, even more difficult parents, violence, and mostly drugs and alcohol.  This blog from an ex-Paris resident examines an interesting, and more 3-dimensional perspective on the problems in Paris, TX.  It certainly served as a backdrop for the overreaction when it came time to punish Shaquanda. 

But Slate’s perspective on the story of an arrested kinder-gardener was wickedly perceptive and acid: “lets just hope this message get across to those brats in the neonatal wards.”  Which, if current trends continue, could be the next sweep conducted by the authorities looking for the next easy group of non-violent troublemakers to help fill prison space.

May 2007
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