The death of Freddie Gray

Freddie Gray was a young black man from Baltimore Maryland, who died while in police custody.  He was arrested on April 12, 2015 and died a week later.

Beyond that, there are a lot of questions.

Why was he arrested?  We know Mr. Gray had a record, and was due in court on April 24.  Was there a warrant out for him on some other charge?  Officers allege that he was carrying a switchblade, but prosecutors said the knife he was carrying was legal.  Who’s right?

Another man in the van at the same time has told two stories.  First, he said that he could hear Gray banging himself around, and slamming himself against walls & the doors of the van.  He later seems to have changed that story.

Why wasn’t Mr. Gray belted in?  Was it police procedure to leave prisoners unrestrained?  And if so, why?  Seat belt laws have been on the books since as early as 1984, and by 2007, most states required their use (you can be pulled over in 25 states for failing to be belted; 24 states only add a violation if you’re pulled over for another offense).  If it was policy, then the officers were certainly negligent.  If it wasn’t policy, then it seems to be more a failure of the Department rather than the individual officers, although they certainly could have belted him in anyway.

Was there a delay between Gray’s injuries & the time he was taken to a hospital?  If so, why?  Was the police van driven in an unsafe manner which might have contributed to the injuries?

The officers involved have been charged with murder.  Is this an overreach?   Law professor John Banzhaf believes so.  Banzhaf is known as a ‘public interest’ lawyer, suing restaurant chains, tobacco companies and soft drink makers for the effects their products have on health, so he’s hardly someone that can be called ‘right wing’.  Alan Dershowitz also believes murder charges are excessive.

Should the State’s Attorney recuse herself?  Apparently, she has ties to the lawyer for Gray’s family.  It seems that she should, in order to avoid any appearance of impropriety,  stay out of this case.  Will she?  Early indications are that she won’t.

Mr. Gray’s death is a tragedy.  We need to get to the truth.  If the officers were negligent, they need to be charged & punished for negligence.  If they acted maliciously, they need to be charged and punished accordingly.  And if they are innocent of wrongdoing, they need to be exonerated.

Police need to be seen as trustworthy.  They’re the ‘thin blue line’ between the law abiding in this country, and the lawless.  They can’t be allowed to take the law into their own hands.  We need to be able to know that they’re acting in the best interest of the people of their city, county or state.

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A bright young man

I’ll let this young man speak for himself.

Mr. Pierson has a bright future.


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Shelter pets

Are you thinking about getting a dog or cat?  A rabbit or hamster?  A horse?  Please, do yourself, and one or more wonderful animals, a favor and check out your local animal shelter or rescue group.

Animal shelters & Humane Societies are often run by cities or counties, and will sometimes charge for their pets based on the animal’s age.  Since older pets are usually harder to find homes for, you can sometimes get a ‘senior’ for little or no cost.  Older pets are usually going to be more set in their ways & personality, and will normally be calmer in the long run than a puppy or kitten.  They’ll certainly appreciate having a home again.

With a rescue group, you’re more likely to be dealing with individuals working to save a specific breed, or to rescue animals most likely to be put down.  You might end up paying more, and there may be a screening process involving vet references & a home visit.

You can also do as we’ve done, and rescue stray, abandoned or feral (not socialized) animals from the streets.  This can be hard work since you might be dealing with cats or dogs who’ve been on their own for a long time or have been abused.  They might have had a home at one time, but lost the trust they had after their family dumped them, or people might have chased them away time after time.

It can take months, or even years, to build that trust up.  I worked with a feral cat I called ‘Little Mister’ for over 5 years before he trusted me to touch him for just a few seconds.

We’re feeding some strays now, and just caught one last week & have her caged in the garage.  She’s in quarantine right now because the initial test shows she has FIV (feline AIDS).  We’ll know for sure this week.  The progress this girl has made over the last month is incredible.  She wants to be loved on.  You put your hand in the cage with her, and she’ll rub on it & purr away.  Fortunately she’s already been fixed, as have the other 2 we’re feeding.

Health issues are something critical when you’re working to rescue these little ones.  FIV, FIP (feline infectious peritonitis) and FeLv (feline leukemia) are deadly to cats.  Before you bring a cat in your house with others, be sure you’ve had them tested.  FIV & FeLv positive cats can survive, but they need to be separate from other cats.  We’ve lost a few of our rescues to health issues.  Little Bear had intestinal parasites from drinking bad water (he was just a few months old), & Robin developed FIP after she was spayed.  Our sickest kitty was Nala, who has a condition called hemobartonella- her blood doesn’t produce iron like it should.  She required 2 transfusions in the first week we had her, and another one a few months later.  We’re very lucky this little girl survived, but she’s a healthy, beautiful cat now.

No matter where you get your next furry, or scaly, friend, remember- it’s for life.  Please don’t take a dog or cat or other pet in if you’re just going to dump them a few years later.  Don’t let them roam around outside.  Get them fixed (usually a requirement of shelter & rescue groups).  And if something happens that you have to give them up, do everything you can to find them another home.  Don’t just abandon them on the side of the road.  Remember the rescue groups.  Consider fostering if you can.  And if for some reason you can’t have pets yourself, think about supporting a rescue group or Humane Society/Shelter.  Cash, food, litter, old towels or newspapers, dog or cat toys & treats are often appreciated.  Call & ask what they can use!

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‘Bully Breed’ Dogs

‘Bully breed’ dogs are sometimes the subject of legislation which limits or even bans ownership of these dogs.  Pit Bulls, Rottweilers & Mastiffs are often targeted because of their allegedly aggressive nature.

I’ll admit my experience with Pit Bulls is limited.  We found a stray Pit, thin as a rail, running loose in August of 2013.  She had a piece of clothesline that’d been chewed through as a collar and lead.  We caught her & put her in the back yard, and were going to put up some ‘found’ signs around the neighborhood.  The next day though, one of our neighbors stopped by & asked how long we’d had her, and told us they’d planned on putting her up on Craigslist for $20.  Naturally we took her in.

I’ll admit, I was a little concerned at first about having this ‘vicious’ Pit Bull around.  They do have a reputation of being ready to rip your arm off at the drop of a hat, so I kept an eye on her.

But Houlie’s about as far from that stereotype as you can get.  She’s a goofy dog who rolls on her back, wiggling back & forth for belly rubs, and will plant her foot on your hand so she can lick you.

We took her to an obedience class last year.  Sure, at 9 she’s got some bad habits, and we’re too easy on correcting some things.  But the trainer was very happy with how well she did.  Houlie might be a bit dog-aggressive with some dogs, but she’s pretty easily distracted from real issues.  While we were in class one day, a family came by who had a little boy who was afraid of dogs.  The instructor had us distract Houlie, and then had the boy pet her.  She had him on ‘ignore’ while taking the attention from us.

We’ve had people come over, too.  Neighbors, a plumber, and others are fine as long as we’re there with her.  But I don’t doubt she’d have a different attitude if someone came in uninvited.  When we went out of town for dad’s funeral last year, we put her in a kennel instead of chancing anything with our pet sitter.

We did try to adopt her out to a co-worker.  She had a dog of her own, and there were some issues there.  Houlie didn’t hurt the other dog, but she did have him pinned, with her jaws around his throat.  The behavior specialist at the Humane Society said that she understood the concern, but also knew that it showed Houlie was restraining because the dog was never hurt.  Houlie’s been very good with the cats- the only time she’s snapped is when one of them’s swatted her first.

Any dog can be aggressive, and the more powerful breeds like Pit Bulls certainly can cause more damage than, say a chihuahua or a terrier.  But to outright ban a dog that can be so gentle, and which historically was a protector of the family, is silly.

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Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Speech

President Obama, not surprisingly, called for more government spending as part of his State of the Union speech.  He called for two years of ‘free’ community college for anyone who met certain basic requirements.  Specifically, the student must keep a 2.5 GPA, attend class at least half time, and make ‘steady progress’.  Fees would be paid for programs deemed ‘effective’ by the government based on graduation & employment rates.

My first concerns is what Uncle Sam would deem ‘effective’.  Are they going to pay for these ridiculous degrees in gender studies & ‘queer theory’?  Or would it be limited to things like nursing, pre-med, business, hard science, and technical fields like HVAC & electricians?

How is ‘steady progress’ defined?  Would someone who’s determined to be a career student by constantly changing degrees be eligible?  Will we once again have lower expectations of this so called ‘steady progress’ for certain favored groups of people?

My bigger worry though is cost.  Sure, education is a key to success in this world.  People whose education stops at High School are incredibly limited.  But history’s shown us that as government pays for things, they get more expensive, and no government programs have ever cost what we were told they would.

In 1965, Medicare was projected to cost about $12 billion by 1990.  The actual cost was over $110 billion.

In 1987, DSH (disproportionate share hospital) spending was projected to cost about $1 billion by 1992.  Actual spending was $17 billion.

Cost overruns are hardly limited to spending on health care, either.

Defense programs are hotbeds of examples.  The V-22 Osprey was projected to cost $23 million in 1990.  By 2001 that cost had soared to $90 million.  The F22 Raptor’s initial estimated cost was $89 million (1992), but by 2002 that had ballooned to nearly $250 million.  Many of us remember the infamous $90 hammers and $600 toilet seats, too.

Highway construction, research projects and government travel are just a few other areas where government spends far more than it needs to.

It’s easy to see this latest expansion of government spending (states will have to pitch in, too), will likely end up costing taxpayers not $60 billion, but at least $150 billion over 10 years.

Not only that, but with more federal involvement comes more federal control.  Uncle Sam mandates this, that & the other thing to get those federal dollars.  Community colleges will be required to implement courses spouting the latest PC nonsense, and hire someone to spout that nonsense.

And, too often, when people are handed a ‘free’ education, they’re not as likely to apply themselves to it.  They’ll often float through, doing the minimum possible, in order to stay on the government dole.

Does college cost too much?  Sure!  But let’s take a look at some of the areas that are driving the cost up.  Let’s look at the professors who teach one or two classes a semester while earning bloated salaries.  Let’s look at the administrators.  Let’s examine the endowments, & the ludicrous cost of textbooks.  How much is spent on remedial classes every year?

Sure, we can improve America’s education system.  We can help young men & women be better prepared for college, and can work to lower the cost of further education, whether it’s a college or a Vo-Tech school.  I don’t think throwing more taxpayer money at the problem is necessarily the answer.

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Vacation plans

We’ve been married 5 years now.  They’ve been good, for the most part.  A few rough spots of course- we are just human.  Finances have been the toughest, since I lost my job a few years ago.  My fault.  Not Bush’s, not Obama’s.  Mine.  And I’m stuck working at a call center for under $15/hour.

Because of that, we haven’t taken a real vacation in years.  Mom & dad let us use a time share one weekend, but that was before we got married.  They ended up having to sell their ownership because of their finances.

We spent a weekend with some college friends of mine two different years.  Once in KC at the Renaissance Faire, once in Branson, MO, at Silver Dollar City.

We’ll see her family and friends a few times a year.  And we flew to Texas after dad passed away.  I’m heading back here in a few weeks, but by myself since my wife’s taking classes for her MBA.

And we’ll take our anniversary and spend it at a nice hotel, just to get away from the furry horde.

Her dream vacation would be to go back to China.  I’d be interested in seeing China & Japan if we went that direction.  My own dream trip, though, would be Ireland- it’s villages, museums, ancient castles, music, and pubs.  And their floors.  Ireland, Scotland, England (safely away from the radically Islamized parts), Germany, Italy, Greece.  History.  The cradle of Western civilization.  The home of my ancestors.  And the part of the world that touches my soul.

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Family vacations as a kid

When I was growing up, we took some great vacations.

One year, we went to the US Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.  I remember dad carrying me to the car at about 4 in the morning for the 10+ hour drive.  We stayed with an old friend of dad’s, Doug, who was in the Air Force.  I remember spending the whole day at the museum, looking at the incredible collection of aircraft.  At the time, they had a huge experimental bomber, the XB-70 Valkyrie on display outside.  Today, that bomber sits in a hangar in the museum annex, a short bus ride away from the main museum.

Another year, around 1978 or so, we went to Disneyworld.  We drove to Florida, seeing some beautiful country, including some of the big stables in Kentucky.  Disneyworld was still using the ‘ticket’ system, with some rides taking higher ‘value’ tickets than others.  Lots of rides, characters, and fun.  Dad’s friend Dog had moved, and we stayed with them on this trip, too.

Estes Park, Colorado was on of our favorite vacation spots.  We’d stay at a little place that had cabins for rent- I think it’s part of the YMCA now.  ‘Our’ cabin was ‘Hoot Owl’.  We’d hike, feed birds & chipmunks and enjoy the beauty of God’s world.

But we mostly took canoe trips, once to Minnesota, the rest of the time to the Ozarks.  We canoed the Jack’s Fork once, the Niangua once, and the Current River several times.  We’d drive down & either hire someone to drive us upriver, or they’d drop the car off at the next landing and we’d canoe down to it.  We’d paddle along for a few hours, floating when we could or going through some little riffles & small rapids, stop for lunch, travel a few more hours, then pitch a tent on a gravel bar for the night.  We’d hear Whippoorwills and other birds, and see deer, fish & other critters.  Next morning, we’d paddle to where the car was & head for home.

Unfortunately, my better half isn’t in to camping, or anything outdoorsey really.  ‘Roughing it’ to her is a motel with no room service & the doors to the room on the outside.  Oh well.

Thanks for the memories, dad.

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