Sunday, October 16, 2011

Last Call

This is one of the times I wish I didn't read the news.  In the same day, I read two articles that come together to paint a horrifying future for the mentally ill.  First, we have this article about mentally handicapped adults who were restrained in a space so small they couldn't stand up straight.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Three people have been charged following the discovery of four malnourished mentally disabled adults chained to a boiler in a locked northeast Philadelphia basement room that was too small for an adult to stand up straight and also reeked of waste from the buckets they used to relieve themselves, police said Sunday.

Officers were investigating a report of squatters in a building Saturday when they found three men and a woman in a 15-by-15-foot room behind a steel door that was chained shut. The subbasement room they were in called to mind a Cold War-era bomb shelter and contained a makeshift bed, mattress and sheets, said Officer Tanya Little, a police spokeswoman.

Now, the good news is they plan to throw the book at these guys, and aren't the least bit apologetic about their disgust.  False imprisonment, kidnapping, aggravated assault and criminal conspiracy are certain, and federal charges may follow.  Given the nature of their disabilities, the victims aren't able to supply a lot of details.  Exploiting those so defenseless really pisses me off.  I hope they stack the hell out of the charges, and when these soulless people finally meet their punishment I'll be blogging it here for everyone to celebrate.

My local paper ran a pretty good piece about the homeless and mentally ill in my neck of the woods.  It's happening everywhere of course, and leads to situations like the one above.  The mentally ill are often put in jail and mixed in with dangerous criminals.  It costs far less to house them in jail than the hospital environment that keeps them safe and protected.  Without their expensive meds, they are wild cards who find themselves wherever impulse brings them.  They are locked up and supervised by people who are not trained in how to care for them.  There is an endless cycle that often includes substance abuse, nonstop exposure to criminals and surviving the elements when programs go broke, housing dries up and follow-up care is nonexistent.

Winter is coming, and because there are some wooded areas near us homeless camps crop up.  Every year people freeze to death and the occasional in-camp murder reminds us that there are people behind the trees.  They live off the grid and nobody reports them missing when they fall prey, because they were missing in the first place.

We're about to have to make hard choices as a country.  We are going to have to absorb a lot back onto ourselves that had been funded in times of prosperity.  We cannot forget these people when we prioritize.  They have few to speak on their behalf, and they are made up of the vulnerable and the impaired.  They deserve our care and our best efforts, and we all have opportunities to do better for them.  When you see your opportunity, please don't pass it up.

There's An Alligator Guarding That Joint & Other Criminal Goodness

A routine drug bust turned out to be not-so-routine after officers discovered the criminal had a five-foot-long alligator (named Snowflake for the win) guarding the door.  The funny thing is, knowing it is just a $200 fine, I wonder if you'll see more of these crop up.  Talk about effective!

CARY, Ill. • Authorities executing a search warrant at a suburban Chicago home last week found a marijuana growing operation, processed drugs — and a 5-foot-long alligator.

The McHenry County sheriff's office says 26-year-old Nicholas Cosmano faces multiple drug charges after the search of his Cary home.

He was also fined $200 for violating the county's animal control ordinance for keeping Snowflake the alligator as a pet.

Not to be outdone, we also have a father who stabbed his son multiple times over... wait for it... a can of lima beans. Yeah.

Police said a St. Petersburg father stabbed his son several times Friday morning, possibly over a can of lima beans and other personal items.

Donald Wynn, 54, is facing charges of attempted murder in the first degree.

Police said they received a call about a stabbing at 10 a.m. in the 1800 block of 17th St. S. When they arrived, they found Donald Gilley, 26, suffering from multiple stab wounds to his abdomen and chest.

Gilley, who celebrated his birthday last week, was transported to the hospital as a trauma alert and underwent emergency surgery to save his life. Gilley remains in critical condition.

And now for my favorite:

In a scary confrontation filmed by a diner, a cashier at a McDonald’s in Manhattan can be seen beating two female customers with a metal rod after the duo jumped the counter during a dispute early yesterday morning.

As seen in the above video, Rayon McIntosh, 31, repeatedly struck the women while they were on the ground behind the counter at the McDonald’s, which is across from the famed West 4th Street basketball courts in Greenwich Village.

According to a felony criminal complaint filed against McIntosh, one woman suffered a “fractured skull requiring surgery” and a broken bone in her arm during the assault. The second woman suffered “substantial pain and a laceration,” the complaint notes.

But they jumped the counter. While I'm against violence, I gotta say that if two women jumped the counter and attacked me, it would look like the zombie apocalypse when I finished with them. That isn't assault, that's self-defense in my book. I'm not saying you should have a weapons stash at McDonald's, but after reading this I'd sure have something handy to protect myself.  People are nuts and if you screw with their fries you're just asking for it.

Enjoy your criminal stupidity.  And yes, it's totally okay to pat yourself on the back for not being these guys.

Sign Of The Times

The dedication ceremony today for the Dr. King Memorial in Washington DC was both a moving tribute to our history and completely relevant for today's headlines, given the ongoing struggle worldwide for civil rights and freedom as President Obama stood in testimony of the advancements America has made, and reminded us of the long journey still ahead.

"Nearly 50 years after the March on Washington, our work -- Dr. King's work -- is not yet complete," President Barack Obama said at the dedication ceremony.

The nation faces many challenges, he said, including an ailing economy, substandard education, war and tragedy.

Progress, he said, can often be a slow and painful process. During the civil rights movement, "progress was purchased through enduring the smack of billy clubs and the blast of fire hoses. It was bought with days in jail cells and nights of bomb threats." Every victory was met with setbacks and defeat, Obama said. Today's America can draw strength from that struggle, from King's belief that we are one people and from his refusal to give up, the president said.

"Let us not be trapped by what is," Obama said. "We can't be discouraged by what is. We've got to keep pushing for what ought to be."

He noted that King "will stand for all time, among monuments to those who fathered this nation and those who defended it. A black preacher, no official rank or title, somehow gave voice to our deepest dreams and our most lasting ideas."

"I know we will overcome," the president said. "I know there are better days ahead. I know this because of the man towering over us."

And almost 50 years after Dr. King marched on Washington, people are once again in the streets wondering where we went wrong, and how far we've strayed from his ideals.  America is a better place, but even with the nation's first African-American president, we have a brutally long journey ahead of us.

It puts the events of the last five years or so into sharp perspective, doesn't it?

Excuse Me, There's Still Something In My Eye

Random acts of kindness don't get much more random than this. A little girl lost her teddy bear, which she cuddles in lieu of her father (who is fighting overseas) and through a chain of remarkable events it is actually returned.

Two days ago, the family was driving back to Sedro-Woolley along I-90. Justice got sick and alongside the road, in the chaos, the bear got left behind.

When the family got home, Justice's mother realized "Daddy Bear" was nowhere to be found. Christa Wadsworth tells us, "We searched the bedrooms, we called the friend we were staying with. We cried and cried."

The next day Justice's grandma posted about the lost bear on Facebook. The Washington Department of Transportation then put out a tweet saying a bear had been lost near Elk Heights along I-90. Two workers decided to go looking.

The two men actually found the bear, and drove after hours on a work night to surprise the little girl with  the stuffed animal. The family was of course incredibly grateful, and I'm sure they had to have been surprised at the sweetness of two strangers. That is good stuff.

Military Gays Come Out - And Nothing Happens

Surprise, everybody!  It seems we are mature enough to handle same-sex couples in our midst and not burst into flames or catch the gay.  Who knew?

Now that DADT is gone, soldiers are able to come out to their peers, and the most heartening and unexpected news is that nobody has reacted with more than a shrug.  In other words, it isn't anywhere near the distraction or problem that we were told.  Perhaps this will be a first step towards recognizing same-sex partners for benefits.  That's years down the road (barring some sort of political miracle) but a first step is still a step.

"Out of the 4,500 members we have, we haven't had any person come to us about one single problem, which is huge, because right before repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell,' we had tons of problems," like investigations and other issues relayed to the Pentagon, said Air Force 1st Lt. Josh Seefried, the group's co-founder. "But right now, after Sept. 20, there is nothing to relay because everything has been 100 percent positive."

Despite my optimism, surely bad news will eventually follow. Certainly, not all gay soldiers and officers have come out but I am so glad to hear those who have were treated with dignity and respect.

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter Part 79

Foreclosuregate is still a major economic problem, folks.  There are millions and millions of foreclosed homes stuck on bank balance sheets, and the value of those homes continues to fall weekly. The banks are running out of ways to hide them under the rug and it's now catching up with them.

The housing market's ballooning shadow inventory — buoyed by a yearlong foreclosure slowdown — stands as the most menacing obstacle to the recovery of the residential real estate market.

Clustered mostly in hard-hit cities and states, there are more than 4.5 million homes either owned by lenders or headed for foreclosure. In Miami, for example, there are about 200,000 shadow homes, dwarfing the 30,000 properties that are listed on the active market. Even as prices in Miami have shown signs of stability this year, an impending wave of foreclosures threatens to keep real estate values deflated.

"A lot of people don't understand how much inventory is set to come on line in the next 18 to 24 months," said Jack McCabe, the CEO of McCabe Research & Consulting in Deerfield Beach, Fla. "When you compare what the Realtors show as inventory to what's out there, you realize we have a long way to go."

A McClatchy analysis of four years of foreclosure data and thousands of property records found record-high levels of shadow inventory in several housing markets across the nation.

This problem is national, folks.  The housing depression is the single largest reason why our economy is going to be stalled for years and years.  Housing prices will continue to fall, folks.  More Americans will lose their homes, and until this problem is addressed, the economy is not going to improve.

The GOP certainly won't lift a finger to do anything about it.  But will the Democrats?
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