Warning: this post may not be suitable for the faint of heart or weak of stomach…

My best friend texted me from work the other day with a picture of what she discovered in the snack that she was attempting to enjoy on her break. She was eating Wonderful brand pistachios, and apparently what happened to her is NOT an isolated incident.

Continue reading “Nasty Surprise In A Nutshell”

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  Well, that didn’t take long.

Tyrone White, a convicted car burglar who was released early under Louisiana’s new free-the-criminals criminal justice overall, has been re-arrested.  White was out of jail only five days before he picked up a gun and robbed a construction worker in Kenner, Louisiana.  He is now back in jail.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry commented:

“Gov. (John Bel) Edwards’ staffer, (corrections secretary) James LeBlanc, indicated we needed to give the ‘reforms’ time to work,” said the release from Citizens for Louisiana Job Creators. “Perhaps we could suggest that anyone who has SIXTY FOUR counts of burglary NOT be set free when Governor Edwards and the Department of Corrections decides to let the next batch of 1,500+ criminals out of jail on Dec. 1.

“As we said last week, lock your doors and, as U.S. Senator (John) Kennedy has suggested, ‘You ought to own a handgun just in case.’ “

Wait, he said sixty-four counts of burglary?!

Tyrone White has a 40-page criminal history in Jefferson Parish alone.  Is he an outlier?  Is he an early-release candidate that slipped through the cracks and should never have been released?  Who knows.  Who knows how many more Tyrone Whites are walking around right now, free, due to this new legislation package?

In the spring, in order to address Louisiana’s high incarceration rate, the Edwards administration pushed a sweeping criminal justice reform package:

Most significantly, the package of bills aims to overhaul sentencing in the state criminal codes. The package will reduce mandatory minimums, trim sentences and give some inmates access to parole eligibility sooner. It creates a medical furlough program, which allows the sickest inmates to temporarily receive treatment off site, and be eligible for Medicaid, which saves the state on medical costs. The package overhauls drug sentencing, allowing lighter sentences based on weights, and streamlines the state’s many incongruous theft penalties. One bill in the package will limit how often juvenile offenders can receive life without parole sentences.

The measure also expands prison alternatives, like drug court, and expand safety nets for people getting out of jail and returning to their communities, by reducing their financial burdens and helping them have better access to jobs. Another bill will help improve the way victims are notified when offenders have parole hearings or are released.

In this first wave of early release, nearly 2,000 prisoners were set free.  Another wave comes in a couple of weeks.

It is not surprising that the law enforcement community is unhappy about many of these changes.  It means they have to deal with the Tyrone Whites again and again.  And some law enforcement officials are making it known that the numbers of criminals on early release are much higher than what is being officially reported.

The early release provision indicates that “non-violent offenders” are the only prisoners eligible for early release.  In all likelihood, the construction worker on the other end of Tyrone White’s gun last week would beg to differ.

There’s nothing wrong with criminal justice reform and truly low level offenders perhaps deserve a second look and a chance of early release.  But these candidates must be carefully screened and evaluated to ensure their chances of success and assimilation back into society.  What tools are we giving them to ensure they can find jobs and avoid recidivism?

Tyrone White won’t be the only one of the early released to return to jail.  But perhaps he will serve a cautionary purpose in ensuring that those who are released in the coming months are given a second look.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By John Ruberry

Manhunt: Unabomber, is an engrossing eight-episode Discovery Channel mini-series, which is also available on Netflix, that dramatizes the search for the man dubbed the Unabomber by the FBI, Ted Kaczynski.

Sam Worthington, best known for his starring role in Avatar, stars as James “Fitz” Fitzgerald, the FBI profiler and linguist who connects what became known as the Unabomber Manifesto to writings by serial bomber turned into the FBI by Kaczynski’s brother, James.

The Unabomber’s attack spree began with the explosion of a device that caused minor injuries in 1978 at Northwestern University and ended the fatal attack with a much more sophisticated bomb that killed a timber industry lobbyist in California in 1995. Two other people were murdered by Kaczynski’s bombs, several more were permanently maimed.

Shortly after the murder of he lobbyist, in what the still-unidentified Kaczynski later dismissed as a prank, he threatened to blow up a jet airliner. Ten months later Kaczynski was arrested in his primitive cabin Montana after a search warrant was issued that was based largely on the FBI’s linguistic analysis. Inside the cabin loads of incriminating evidence was discovered, including a bomb ready to be mailed.

FBI sketch of the Unabomber

Paul Bettany portrays the former mathematics professor in an appropriately enigmatic fashion. Is Kaczynski, who is serving six life sentences at the “Supermax” prison in Colorado, an evil man? Or is he a deeply troubled genius trying to find the elusive balance between creativity and madness, in a manner reminiscent of Vincent van Gogh’s struggles?

Manhunt explores Kaczynski’s youth in the blue collar southwest Chicago suburb of Evergreen Park. A social misfit, Kaczynski was double-promoted in elementary school but, as his Manhunt character says, “I was still the smartest one in my class.” Entering Harvard at 16, Kaczynski was mentally tortured in cruel experiments conducted by psychiatrist Henry Murray (Brian d’Arcy in the series). In this statue-razing era, I say if there is one of Murray standing somewhere, tear it down now.

Kaczynski gets into the head of Fitzgerald in his many jailhouse interviews with him. But there’s a problem here. This is a dramatization of the Unabom story–there were no meetings between the two. Here’s another: the linguistics professor with whom the married Fitz has a soft romance with in the series, was in real life a man.

Abandoned rail line north of Chicago

On the other hand, Kaczynski gets into the heads of viewers, or at least this one. My degree of separation with the Unabomber is three. A friend of mine who lives in Lombard, Illinois, where Kaczynski’s parents moved to around 1970, used to have coffee at the home of his parents. “A nice and sweet old couple,” she told me. They never mentioned anything about their sons to her. Just a couple of blocks from the Kaczynski’s modest frame house in Lombard is the Illinois Prairie Path, which was constructed in the late 1960s, it was the first trail in America created from an abandoned rail line. After the terrorist’s arrest and conviction, I mused while running on the Prairie Path that perhaps he was inspired by the pastoralization of the old Chicago, Aurora & Elgin Railway. Perhaps post-industrial society was that not far away, Kaczynski may have reasoned. He lived with his parents in Lombard for a while in the 1970s.

“The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race” is the opening sentence in the Unabomber Manifesto. A few paragraphs later he adds, “We therefore advocate a revolution against the industrial system.”

Bettany’s Unabomber is a bit too sympathetic of a portrayal for me. Missing are the cold-blooded journal entries recounting his bombings, including one described as “excellent.” In another recounting, Kaczynski expressed “no regret” that his last murder victim was not his intended target.

“People with advanced degrees aren’t as smart as they think they are,” Kaczynski mockingly wrote to one of his victims who was severely wounded by one of his bombs. “If you’d had any brains you would have realized that there are a lot of people out there who resent bitterly the way technonerds like you are changing the world and you wouldn’t have been dumb enough to open an unexpected package from an unknown source.”

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit and he is a native of Chicago’s southwest suburbs.

So it’s Veteran’s Day, a chance to have a Federal Holiday, get a free meal from local restaurant, and then go about my day. Sadly, that’s how I spend most Veteran’s Days. What I should be doing is talking to more people about what it means to be a Veteran, and try to dispel the myths that surround us. Most people are real weird about talking to me in uniform, almost like I’m some mythical unicorn demi-god creature that you should worship at a distance.

Trust me, I’m not.

I encourage everyone reading this to find a veteran and talk to them. Whether it’s the young kid in uniform in the airport or an older lady in a VA hospital, please, go and speak to your veterans. To give you a hand, here are the best questions I can think of for you to ask:

Continue reading “Please talk to your Veteran today”

The non-stop barrage of negative news and/or nasty fake news can really grind us all down sometimes, so I scoured the web and found a few things that I hope will help lighten the load and brighten everyone’s weekend.

Honor Flight Brings Veterans to D.C. to Visit Their War Memorials

Lea Gabrielle joined 150 veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War on an honor flight to Washington, D.C., to visit their war memorials.

Gabrielle, a Navy veteran, explained that nonprofit organization Stars and Stripes Honor Flight flies veterans from Milwaukee to the nation’s capital to honor them for their service.

When they arrived in D.C., they received a hero’s welcome, with dozens of well-wishers cheering for them and holding signs expressing thanks and gratitude.

“When we got back from Vietnam, there was no welcome. It was like nobody cared about us, to be honest,” one vet said. “It’s the welcome home we never got.”

Gabrielle said time spent at the World War II memorial brought awe, while the Vietnam memorial brought tears.

Brothers Roger, Conn and Grant Hagen, who all served in Vietnam, grew emotional as they looked at the 58,318 names of the fallen carved into the memorial wall.

When the vets got back on the plane to go home, they received a special surprise: letters of thanks from their loved ones.

Back in Milwaukee, they were greeted by family, friends and dozens of grateful Americans.

“For many, returning to their loved ones is that welcome home they’ve been waiting so long for,” Gabrielle said.

Toddler Who Saluted Fallen Officer For 2 Straight Hours Is Surprised With Pint-Size Squad Car

In early October 2017, 3-year-old Cohen Chastain honored a fallen officer from his hometown by standing up and saluting during her funeral procession — for two straight hours.

The tot’s actions moved not only his family but also the entire Floyd County Sheriff’s Office.

On October 24, 2017, the police officers wanted to thank Cohen for what he did and decided to make him an honorary police officer for the day. Like any officer, Cohen needed his very own squad car.

Everyone in the police department chipped in and bought Cohen his own pint-sized squad car as well as other goodies.

“Many of you might recall this amazing three-year-old. Cohen stood for more than two hours during the processional honoring our sister, Det. Kristen Hearne. We wanted to bless Cohen for his selfless act of support and love,” the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office wrote in a Facebook post.


MORE HERE

Autumn is beautiful for those who can see the wonderful colors of the leaves as they change on the trees, and now even colorblind people have a chance to enjoy it at a National Park in Tennessee. Via GoodNewsNetwork:

According to the National Park Service, the Great Smoky Mountain range in Tennesse is the most visited national park in America. When October and November roll around, the mountain ranges transform into a breathtaking collage of red, orange, and yellow colors.

For 13 million Americans who suffer from colorblindness, however, the scenery remains a bland shade of greenish-brown.

This is why the Tennessee Department of Tourism Development installed several special viewing devices for colorblind visitors across the park.

READ MORE & SEE VIDEO HERE

If you are color blind and can’t get to Tennessee, there is a company that makes special glasses that people can wear to help.

If you need boots and want to Buy American, Digg has an article about six American boot making companies, HERE.

Have a nice weekend, everyone.

Some say the world will end in a bang, and some say with a whimper. My world ended with a ringtone.

Looking back, the whole thing played out like a farce but was really a tragedy. It all started in late August when my beloved Shirley complained about a sore on the top of her right foot that she blamed on a bug bite. As the days passed, the pain was a minor but constant irritant that she hardly mentioned.

But by the Friday after Labor Day, Shirley was in misery and hobbled around the house with a limp. Despite my protests, she refused to see the doctor. She changed her mind on Sunday when she could barely walk without pain shooting up her leg.

The doctor on Monday diagnosed the problem as an infection, not an insect bite, and prescribed a round of heavy-duty antibiotics. Shirley took the meds religiously, but the pain kept getting worse. By the following Sunday, she couldn’t get off the couch where she had set up her base of operations.

She didn’t complain the next day when I told her – and her doctor – that I was taking her to the hospital. I had to call an ambulance because she couldn’t walk. After we arrived, the emergency room doctor immediately administered a painkiller and hooked her up to an IV antibiotic.

Progress was slow, but by the fourth day of treatment, nurses and doctors could touch her foot without her screaming. On the seventh day, she was actually able to walk to the bathroom. Her doctors started saying she could be sent to rehab in a couple of days to prepare for her return home.

The big day was Wednesday, Sept. 27, when Shirley was released to a nursing home a mere block from our home. She was bubbling when an ambulance brought her to the facility at 4 p.m. Feeling better than she had been in weeks, she said she could be home after six days of rehab, but she might need a wheelchair for a few days until she got her legs back. She was especially happy because she had been able to watch the season debut of NCIS – her all-time favorite TV show – the night before without interruptions by pesky nurses. As she had done at the hospital, she offered me half her dinner when it arrived, but I wasn’t hungry. She couldn’t stop smiling.

Thursday morning was bright and beautiful, and I called Shirley at 11. I didn’t worry when she didn’t pick up, figuring she was either napping or going through physical therapy. Four more calls at half-hour intervals had the same results.

Then, at 1:15, the phone rang.

“There’s been a change in Shirley’s status,” said the woman, who identified herself as the rest home’s director. “Can you come in as soon as possible?”

Four minutes later I walked through the door, was ushered into the director’s office and took a seat.

“Shirley has coded,” she said.

“I don’t know what that means,” I said.

“She is non-responsive,” she replied.

I put my face into hands and froze as she said a team of paramedics and nurses were working on her.

She handed me a box of Kleenex and left the room. While shuddering uncontrollably, I prayed harder than I ever had before. Twenty minutes later she returned and said, “I’m sorry.”

My world came to an end. Only three months earlier we had celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary and talked about what we would do on our 50th. The odyssey that had opened with a silly little sore on her foot had closed with what the medical examiner called a pulmonary embolism.

It was a bad dream, a very bad dream, and I couldn’t wake up.

I thought back to when we had met at my brother’s wedding in June 1975. I had been bumming around the country Kerouac-style for several months but came back to stand up in the wedding. Shirley, meanwhile, was a Cincinnati girl who had become close friends with Mary, my future sister-in-law, while studying together for a semester at the University of Edinburgh.

Between the wedding in the morning and the evening reception, the guests gathered at the eastside Detroit house of Mary’s parents. I and my buddy Mike sat quietly on lawn chairs while Mike’s mom and a strikingly attractive girl were chatting up a storm. It was lust at first sight. I couldn’t stop taking side-wise glances at the beauty with long auburn hair and a figure that could have graced a Playboy centerfold.

When the girl left to get a Coke from the house, I acted with boldness and bravado. “Mrs. Roberts,” I said, “would you please introduce me to the girl you’re talking to?”

I don’t think Mike ever really forgave his mom for introducing me and not him to Shirley Sizemore.

We danced on air all that night, which ended with Shirley departing for Cincinnati, a five-hour drive away. But she didn’t leave before we exchanged scraps of paper with our names and phone numbers scribbled on them.

For the next year we endured a long-distance romance, but it wasn’t too bad. We managed to see each other at least three weekends a month, and a bit more when we had time off work. Finally, our physical attraction developed into something deeper, as I grew to cherish her intelligence, humor and common sense. She took a gamble and moved to Michigan in the Bicentennial summer of 1976, living with my parents while I roomed with friends in a sprawling old Victorian.

On June 25, 1977, the two of us became one, and my life truly began. As with many marriages, our honeymoon turned into a shakedown cruise, and we went through some rough patches in the early years. But there were plenty of good times to smooth things over.

The 1981 birth of our daughter Denise was a joyful event with a dark lining. As we anticipated Denise’s arrival, Shirley fell seriously ill with an abscess that caused her temperature to soar to 104 degrees. Immediately after doctors operated on the abscess, the baby popped out – seven weeks early. Denise spent her first month inside an incubator until she was big enough to come home.

That turned out to be our first experience with Crohn’s disease, which plagued Shirley for the rest of her life.

No such drama accompanied the birth of Sandy, our second daughter. Shirley was feeling so comfortable that I had to force her to go to the hospital because of the timing of her contractions. Fortunately, the hospital was close by because Sandy arrived about 50 minutes later.

As time passed, our lives grew full and rich. Shirley served eight years as a Brownie and Girl Scout leader, was a volunteer at her church and spent several years as a substitute teacher. Meanwhile, I was plugging away at the newspaper, taking various jobs and working different shifts to provide for the family. Luckily, Shirley and I preferred frugality over extravagance, which is how we were able to put Denise and Sandy through college on my less-than munificent salary.

But Crohn’s disease clawed its way back into our lives in the 1990s, and Shirley’s life slowly grew smaller and smaller. The first thing to go was her substitute teaching and then her church activities. Still, she never lost her joy or love of life even after the prednisone she took to control her Crohn’s was destroying her body in other ways.

For the past 15 years, Shirley was virtually homebound as she became hesitant to spend more than 45 minutes in a car or visit any place that didn’t have conveniently accessible restrooms. At the same time, I gladly imposed limits on myself so I could be there for her. It was the least I could do for someone who had given me two great children and such a terrific life.

In the weeks since her passing, I’ve had to go around the house with blinders because too many things bring up too many memories. The silliest trinket can make me break down if it evokes images of Shirley’s glee or excitement.

Her idiosyncrasies live on, too. She kept two file cabinets for our important (and not-so-important) documents, and I searched through them for her insurance policies. When I couldn’t find them, I remembered she told me a year ago she had put them in a strongbox that she kept “in a safe place.” The place is so safe I still haven’t found it.

Only two days ago did I dare to delve into Shirley’s purse to see if anything in it needed my attention. There, inside her wallet, was the most important paper of all: the small scrap with my name and phone number I had given her on a warm June night on the east side of Detroit 42 years ago. I had no clue then how my life would begin … or end.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I haven’t poured through the proposed Republican tax plan but I did get far enough to see that teachers will be losing their $250 per year tax credit should it pass unscathed.

The tax bill proposed by Republican leaders yesterday scraps a benefit that many teachers have come to rely on: the $250 “educator expense deduction,” which can be used to recoup the cost of classroom materials.

K-12 teachers who spend money out-of-pocket on books, supplies, professional development courses, and computer equipment and software for their classrooms can claim the deduction each year, according to the IRS. Health and physical education teachers can also use it for athletic supplies. Counselors, principals, and aides who incurred such expenses can claim the deduction as well. In 2015, Congress extended the benefit indefinitely.

Teachers spend about $530 of their own money on classroom items, according to a 2016 nationally representative survey from Scholastic. In high-poverty schools, they spend about 40 percent more—an average of $672.

As a teacher this irritates me.

I spend much more than that each year on my students to ensure they have the most basic materials necessary for class.  I venture to say that I spend $250 along just on notebook paper and pencils.  Every year before school starts I go online to the misprint pencil place and order four boxes of misprinted pencils and then I go on Amazon and order large quantities of notebook paper.  If I’m lucky these will last until the end of the year.

On top of that I buy boxes of Kleenix, pens, crayons, markers, colored pencils, art paper, and spiral notebooks.

Schools furnish none of these things.

In the past I have even used my personal blog to campaign for classroom sets of books and supplies.

I am fortunate to work for a district that will reimburse $100 of the money I spend on supplies.  That is at least something.

When there are so many areas of waste and so many entitlement handouts these days, why pick on the teachers?  We’re already the lowest paid people on the food chain.

Very disheartening, Republicans, very disheartening.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

Nuclear power is a pretty dangerous thing. Even if you can’t see radiation, acute radiation poisoning can kill you very quickly. The nuclear Navy that I grew up in had a whole set of rules that safeguarded you from radiation poisoning and contamination. Not all of them made sense the first time you heard them, but over time you quickly realized that they worked and kept you safe.

This bears a striking similarity to the Catholic Catechism. The rules were built over a long period of learning in the Church, and they helped keep people from getting hurt. Simple things like saving sex for marriage and receiving the Sacraments regularly kept people’s physical and mental health safe.

But hey, we had to screw it up. Timed perfectly before Halloween, there were a variety of stories about how the incoming generation was ditching Christianity for paganism. Two particular pieces stuck out to me. The first was from Quartz:

Continue reading “Throwing out the rules”

Maybe he was bored. Presiding over the mass starvation of your country’s people isn’t a cakewalk, after all.

Venezuela’s Joe Stalin lookalike dictator has been criticized for becoming a fat bastard while the people in his country wait for hours in line to get bread, resort to picking through trash for anything edible, and die in the streets of hunger – but that won’t make Nicolás Maduro lose his appetite:

American Thinker has more about this:

Thursday, Maduro was in the midst of a long-winded national speech known in Venezuela as a “cadena.”  He paused, pulled a sandwich-like object out of his desk, and took a bite, chomped it down, and then continued his speech.  He was eating what looked like a Venezuelan arepa, a tasty cornmeal-based snack with probably some meat inside, although the Latin press accounts identified it as an empanada, a dish more commonly associated with Argentina and Chile.

It comes at a time when the Venezuelan daily minimum wage, just raised for the sixth time this year, won’t even cover the cost of an empanada, let alone an arepa, given that inflation is running at close to 3,000% and Maduro has just introduced the new 100,000 bolivar note.

Efecto Concuya, via Google Translate, reports:

For the sixth time in 2017, President Nicolás Maduro announced a new increase in the minimum wage that placed the daily salary at Bs. 5,916, but the number of products that can be purchased with that amount is increasingly reduced.

In a sale of breakfast and lunch located in the municipality of Libertador, a pie costs 5,500 bolivars and a filled arepa exceeds Bs. 12,000. There was Rodolfo Gutiérrez, who bought two empanadas and a malt for an amount of Bs. 15,500. That is, someone who only receives a minimum wage, nothing else could pay for a pie.

In a restaurant located in El Cafetal, municipality Baruta, it is impossible to even buy a pie, because it has a price of Bs. 7,500. A large coffee is also inaccessible since it is sold above 8,000 bolivars.

What it shows is the Venezuelan elites’ complete indifference to the suffering of Venezuela’s people.  They mark their superiority over the masses – not by flashing Rolexes anymore, but by eating in front of them.

And don’t think such a message didn’t get out.  Cadenas in Venezuela break into every TV set, every radio show, every program without warning, no matter what’s playing.  You don’t have the option to flip the channel, because the cadena is on every channel.

And cadenas can last for hours.  The logic was that the president’s announcements were so crucial, so important, and so necessary that every other broadcast could just be broken into, like the emergency broadcast system.

You got that? It wasn’t just a video version of the “hot mic”, people had no choice in watching it if they had a television on, and Maduro knew it.

Is this man stupid or just cruel?

Please pray for the people of Venezuela.

*******

MJ Stevenson, AKA Zilla, is best known on the web as Zilla at MareZilla.com. She lives in a woodland shack near a creek, in one of those rural parts of New York State that nobody knows or cares about, with her family and a large pack of guardian companion animals. 

Today was Scouting for Food, where the local scouts pass out plastic bags to be gathered the next week, hopefully filled with food donations to help feed the hungry. Instead of spending my morning catching up on the latest news on my phone, I spent most of the morning putting miles on the pavement with another dad and our two Scouts, putting bags on over 100 homes.

That time was fun. The 4G connection in our neighborhood is poor, so while I took some photos of the Scouts putting up bags, I spent the rest of the time engaged in conversation, some of which was quite comical:

Continue reading “Locality trumps online”