El Dorado Not Quite the Paradise Envisioned?

Or perhaps the headline should read City of Gold not so Golden these days.

The massive religious compound just outside of El Dorado, Texas was raided earlier this week. The site belongs to a recently made infamous separatist group of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I might have more sympathy for these polygamists if they weren’t consciously warping the minds of female children, and then having sex with them.

Associated PressDocuments: Sect Married Girls at Puberty – Apr 11, 2008

Most annoying feature of this story? They housed the people they removed from this backwater in the best restored frontier fort in the region, Fort Concho in San Angelo, forever branding my former home town as associated in some fashion with weirdos who should more rightly be located around Waco rather than way out West.

Seriously, just put the child rapists into the regular prison population and let the prisoners deal with them. That should serve as sufficient warning to the rest of these types of perverts.

Distracted Driving

Another rant inspired by Jeff Ward and Our Little Show. I can’t find any information on this subject other than the news story on KLBJ AM’s website, but I’m betting that this issue is being discussed, along with the issue of red light cameras

[go here to voice your opposition to that issue. Red light cameras actually cause accidents because of their effect on traffic, and because the governments that install them also shorten yellow light times so as to make more money from the cameras. It’s all about cash flow]

both of which are favored by a number of Austin City council members (Congresscritters in training is what they really are) neither of which are good ideas. Don’t take my word for it, check out what AAA has to say about the dangers of driving distracted. Sure, I’ve nearly been run over by people on cell phones (more than once) I’ve also been nearly run over by people arguing with children, spilling coffee, doing their makeup, shaving, you name it.

When I have been run over (I think the total is about 6 wrecks now, none of which my insurance had to pay for) it’s always been by someone who was distracted by a passenger in the car. Maybe we should limit vehicle capacity to one person. That should cut down on the number of accidents.

But the thing that really chaps my hide is this driving need on the part of politicians to pass a new law that essentially duplicates parts of laws already on the books. If a policeman feels you are unreasonably distracted by your use of a cell phone, he can already pull you over and issue a ticket for reckless driving. So the new law does…?

Nothing but put more money into government coffers.

City Council contact info.

No Mugus Currently in Residence

Hardly a day goes by where I don’t get some variant on the Nigerian 419 scam. It amazes me that anyone would fall for these scams. All of them are written in very poor English, none of them correctly addressed to a single recipient, all of them clearly a scam to the skeptical eye.

But this was the subject of a 20/20 episode a few weeks ago. Thousands of people have been taken in by these stupid scams.

Years ago, back before e-mail was the medium of choice, they used to fax these scams to businesses. One of my former employers wanted to follow-up a fax that he received, offering to cut him in on a percentage of the millions if he just lent his bank accounts to the transfer of large sums of money from a country (Nigeria, of course) that was currently sitting on the funds. He probably would have done it if I hadn’t been loudly skeptical on the subject. I’d never heard of 419 scams then, I wish I could still say the same thing.

Clearly, the average American is far too gullible, or the scammers would have found another way to make a living; and the process will continue until Mugu Americans wise up.

O.J. Simpson: Confessed Killer

O.J. is coming out with a book and an interview in which he confesses… I mean, theorises what happened the night that he killed… Excuse me, the night that his ex-wife and her boyfriend were viciously, brutally murdered.

I’d like to echo the sentiment of Harvey Levin of TMZ.com that were expressed on the Olbermann show tonight:

I personally didn’t think I could detest him anymore than I did, and he’s actually raised the bar for me.

I consider it a point of pride that I watched not one minute of the infamous trial that began 15 years ago today. And, even though I haven’t watched the trial, I think I can say with reasonable certainty that he committed the murders, just based on the unavoidable exposure to the facts of the case that can be picked up even when you aren’t trying to follow the subject.

I remember O.J. Simpson playing football, watching with my father. I watched him in several films, and while he wasn’t a great actor, he wasn’t an embarrassment either. And then he killed two people, and arranged things (as can be done when you have enough money) so that he avoided conviction for the murders.

Let the record show that the courts are indeed color blind when there is enough green in your pocket.

As disgusted as I am with O.J. Simpson, I’m even more disgusted by the people who would actually pay him for a signature, or to appear publicly. How do you sleep at night, with the blood of his victims on your hands as well as his?


According to the publisher the book is a confession (published for her own personal reasons, stories here and here) no matter what the title says. It doesn’t make much difference to me, true crime is not my kind of thing; especially when written in the first person.

…and now the deal is off. So much for the publishers strength of conviction. It was a bit of a stretch on her part, to compare O.J.Simpsons effort to Hitler and Mein Kampf.

DRM: Who’s Rights are They?

The announcement from Universal last week brought up the subject of DRM, a sore spot for me and most of the people who listen to online music. But you would think that it had been smooth sailing for all these online years, if you believed the arguments that I’ve seen over the last week.

Napster and it’s overseas descendants aren’t and never were a problem, MP3.com wasn’t virtually hounded off the ‘net for daring to exercise fair use, DRM is a completely logical exercise of the rights holders over copyrighted material, which presents no problems to the end users who purchase the material.

…And if you believe that, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn that I want to sell you.

First off, let’s get a few definitions straight. The term piracy, as it is used in software circles these days, is a completely unworkable definition. Piracy involves profiting through theft, not copying files. While it can be argued that the end user ‘profits’ from copying files that he has not paid for, that sort of profiting is in a whole different league from the person who sells CDs and DVDs (and even the computer files themselves) that he’s made without license from the copyright holder. However, there is no distinction between the two in the eyes of Microsoft (and the other corporate software vendors) the RIAA and the MPAA; a completely ridiculous proposition on the face of it.

Then there is the term contract, in which the software industry claims their EULAs and online contracts are no different than a printed, signed and witnessed contract of a truly legal nature. However, if you trotted out the verbiage contained in the average EULA, I doubt you’d find many people willing to commit to the agreement, since the agreement invariably holds the software company innocent of any possible wrongdoing, while setting up a legal fence around the user so as to tightly constrain what uses the material can be put to.

Here is a piece of timely advice; never sign a contract that has been written by an attorney other than one in your employ without first having an attorney who is in your employ look it over. Contracts are always negotiable by both parties if they are to be considered valid. When you sign your name to a contract you agree to the terms, thereby waiving your right to negotiate terms in advance. A EULA does not allow for physical signatures and so consequently are not really contracts at all.

Additionally, any contract that you have to accept without negotiation is a contract that no one should hold themselves constrained by, since they had no say in what the exact contents of the contract would be.

Now when it comes to EULA’s I have to ask; Do you support the dishonest business practice of attempting to hold a customer to a contract that isn’t presented until after the transaction has taken place, or are you an honest businessman who presents the contract before any other business occurs? Anyone who thinks that it is commonplace and acceptable to withhold conditions of a sale until after the transaction has taken place is by definition a dishonest businessman. Honesty requires full disclosure before the sale. Restrictions that are revealed after the sale is finalized are not enforceable, as they are generally held to be outside of current law, and are a violation of the standard of full disclosure. In a nutshell, it is a dishonest and/or fraudulent business practice to withhold this type of information.

With the above as the generally understood standard of doing business, that contracts which I have not explicitly agreed to in writing are not binding, and that contracts that are not revealed until after the sale is finalized are not enforceable…

…Should I be faulted for holding the opinion that “All sales are final. The files are mine. Anything they have to say about my treatment of my files after that point is a claim. There is no agreement, other than cash for music files. There was no other legal contract presented.” and stripping the DRM from files that I had paid for and wished to listen to on a device of my choosing?

Apparently I am to be faulted. At least in the eyes of the people who plan on making money off of the legally clueless out there.

Fair use allows the user to make copies of copyrighted material for his own use. My own use requires that I strip the DRM from music files sold on most popular websites. If the websites attempted to enforce the contract terms, they would only alienate their customer base; ergo, it is nothing more than a paper tiger, never to be enforced except to remove individual user accounts.

…And if I can’t actually make the files usable, I don’t know why I would need an account in the first place.

The last definition that needs clarification: DRM, Digital Rights Management. The corporations that own the content have rights (which DRM manages) but you the user don’t. You have privileges that they can take away if they please. Welcome to the digital millennium.

My experience with the difficulty of using iTunes (and other DRM restricted services) has convinced me that DRM regimes are soon to be a thing of the past. It’s also convinced me that I will spend money on sites that don’t add DRM to the files. Sites like Sound Click for example. I don’t need to go to full out piracy sites (I find real pirates and their practices quite distasteful) I have no problem going down to the used CD store and getting the music I’m looking for at less than the dollar a song most sites are charging. I might download songs from Universal’s announced site, but only if I can remove the DRM.

Which brings us to the crux of the problem. The only way to make DRM enforceable is to appoint an ultimate Sys-Admin, a company that has the power to open back doors on all the computers currently in operation, and snoop through the files to make sure that no one is using files that they haven’t paid for. A job that Microsoft desperately wants to be given, as they quite eagerly pointed out when they announced the rollout of Longhorn (now Vista) two or three years ago. A big brother situation that I shudder to contemplate.

Otherwise DRM is an unworkable solution in the long term. As more content becomes available on the ‘net, more and more of it will appear shortly after it’s initial release with DRM, sans it’s protective wrapper, ready to be copied by anybody who doesn’t have an aversion to dealing with pirates.

Might as well just come up with a different solution now, save us all the hassle.

Milam County Dog Attack: Dog owner still awaiting trial

Going through the archive, I realised that the story about the dog attack had been moved on the Statesman site. I added it to my blog entry on the subject, as well as the story concerning charges being brought against the dog owner.

He’s still sitting around awaiting a trial, which has been rescheduled for January 16, 2007.

I’m beginning to wonder if he’ll ever face trial, myself. The gov’t in Milam county clearly doesn’t think that it’s important enough, or they have sympathy with the dog owner rather than the victim who was innocently minding her own business when she was attacked.


Reading back through the early blog articles I was stunned to realize I never followed up on this story. Sadly, the jury was unwilling to convict the dog owner. I found a legal opinion on the subject here which I will repost. There is more information at the link if you are interested.

Like the prosecutors in the Diane Whipple case, the district attorney here found the existing laws to be inadequate. There was and is no state law that specifically addresses canine-inflicted homicides (i.e., deaths of humans, caused by dogs). (For proposed changes to the dog bite law of Texas, see Texas on this web site.)

Texas law addresses a different situation, namely the consequences of having a dog that previously was adjudicated as being “dangerous.” Heath & Safety Code §822.041 provides that a court may declare a dog “dangerous” basically if it causes injury in an unprovoked attack. It is a Class C misdemeanor if the owner violates the provisions of the dangerous dog law or the dog causes serious injury in an unprovoked attack. It is a Class A misdemeanor if the dangerous dog causes a death of a person in an unprovoked attack. A $10,000 penalty may also be imposed on the owner whose dangerous dog causes serious injury or kills someone. Texas Heath & Safety Code §§822.044, 822.045. (See generally Dangerous and Vicious Dogs for discussion of the legal meaning of “dangerous” and the issues pertaining to legal “dangerousness.”)

If a dog has not been previously declared “dangerous,” however, there is a “loophole” in the law, in that there is no law that addresses the situation. Given the savageness of this killing, prosecutors attempted to apply the general law. To make the punishment fit the crime, the grand jury indicted Jose Hernandez for criminally negligent homicide. His trial took place in March 2007.

The conviction of this dog owner depended upon overcoming the bane of dog bite victims, namely the one-bite rule. Under this ancient British legal doctrine, the owner of any domestic animal is not held responsible for the first bite, the first mauling, or the first killing by each and every one of his animals. (See The One Bite Rule.) Texas is in a minority of states that continues to salute the flag of Great Britain when it comes to dog bite laws. (For lists of states that follow or have abrogated the one bite rule, see Legal Rights of Dog Bite Victims in the USA.)

Hernandez testified that he had no idea his animals were capable of such brutality. He admitted none of his animals had ever been seen by a veterinarian and hadn’t been vaccinated. Several other witnesses for the defense testified that Hernandez’ dogs were not aggressive and were not trained to be aggressive.

The jury found Hernandez not guilty.

I had never heard of the one bite rule before in my life. I’m actually horrified that this is law in this state. They did actually update the laws after the verdict in this case, but the laws remain woefully lax when it comes to holding dog owners responsible for the behavior of their animals.  

Jail Time for Taking Food From Trash

Ran across this story while surfing a local news radio site. Two guys who hopped a fence and dug through a grocery stores’ refuse bins have been charged with trespass and theft.

The DA wanted to charge them with felonies, but they plea bargained the charge down to a misdemeanor, even though they had to do 6 months of time behind bars (instead of the few days the DA offered for accepting the felony charge) for the lessor charge. I guess they knew that a felony conviction marks you as a criminal for life these days; and is frequently used to deny work, licenses, and any number of other things that government busybodies can think of to take away from those horrible criminals that clog the system.

I worked my way through high school and technical school at various grocery stores. Every night I worked it was my job to take the out of date food to the bins. When the food wasn’t damaged, but was just out of date, I frequently would set it aside for someone to pick up; that someone generally being me. As the eldest in a single parent family of five, I felt it was my job to help provide for the family. We never went hungry, in part because of the supplemental food that I diverted from being wasted in the city landfill.

My manager, on the other hand, took a pretty dim view of my theft of store goods. Never mind that they were going to throw it away, it was the principle of the thing. They said it was garbage, and it was going to be thrown away, not eaten by somebody who hadn’t paid for it. The few times he caught me setting food aside for later, he stayed behind to make sure I destroyed it before throwing it in the dumpster. If I refused, he would do it himself.

[this was the same idiot who locked me out of the store during a tornado because I was out in the parking lot when he decided to take shelter in the walk-in. He told me “I didn’t want anyone to be able to steal something while we were hiding. Stealing food in the middle of a tornado. Riiiiiight.]Are these guys criminals? Not to me. To me, they’re just a couple of hungry people who should have known better than to jump a fence. Now, to my manager on the other hand…

…I’m sure he would want those felons to pay for what they’ve done. I never knew that he had a sex change and became a DA in another state. There can’t be two people that stupid on the planet.

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

I’ve been having a bit of a tiff with a poster on a list of late. Yes dear reader, I know you are shocked by this. I’ve been arguing with a professed christian about the origin of the phrase Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child and the nature of the proper disciplining of children.

As for the first part, the phrase originates in a satirical poem concerning the Puritans by Samuel Butler. The poem, Hudibras goes like this:

If matrimony and hanging go
By dest’ny, why not whipping too?
What med’cine else can cure the fits
Of lovers when they lose their wits?
Love is a boy by poets stil’d;
Then spare the rod and spoil the child.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I doubt that the average fundamentalist would be comfortable repeating the phrase if they knew that it’s origin was in a poem that lampoon’s their ideological forebears. (editor’s note: a close reading of the poem results in the observation that the final word of the final verse has to be pronounced ‘chilled’ rather than ‘child’ in order for the rhyming to work properly. I wonder if that represents language drift over the centuries or poetic license by the poet?)

On the subject of corporal punishment, I’ll say this; I don’t do it. It never taught me anything as a child, other than to mask my behavior so as to avoid punishment, and to spend hours trying to figure out how to get back at those who punished me.

I was taken out in the hallway on a daily basis in first grade, and given ‘licks’ (application of the paddle to the posterior) because my teacher was convinced that it would make me work faster. According to my mother, what it got her was fired. I never noticed any motivational improvement, myself. I’m reasonably certain that it made me more of an introvert than I already was, and insured that I would never draw attention to myself during class time for the rest of my term of imprisonment in government school.

It probably has something to do with my complete unwillingness to conform to any imposed standard as well. But I digress.

The few times that I have ever attempted to use corporal punishment on my children, it has backfired, with one exception. Both of them, as toddlers, attempted to wander out of the yard and into the street near our home. A quick smack on the behind was all it took to keep them from ever trying that again. The unfamiliarity of the pain is the key. If I had smacked them every time some little transgression had occurred, they wouldn’t even have noticed when I was trying to warn them away from a life-threatening action. Every other time I’ve given in to the urge, I’ve regretted it. It just doesn’t work.

Rather than punish, the wife and I attempt to impress the consequences of the improper action upon the child (Faber and Mazlish have a bit to say on the subject) It’s not always easy, and it’s not always effective. But I’ve never regretted taking the time to try something other than lashing out at the offending child, which is more than I can say for the alternative.

Of course, I said something a little more inflammatory to my opponent. Something like this:

I’m glad they aren’t allowed to beat my children. I don’t beat my children, and I’m the only one who should be allowed to beat my children. I was the target of choice in school for bullies (students and teachers alike) for most of my school life. My children are in school because I want them to learn rather than be forced to dodge bullies on a daily or hourly basis. You have to earn respect, not beat the students into submission in order to get it.

…and it’s a knee slapper, the idea that beating children is something Jesus was in favor of. I pity your children. Hopefully they’ll find good recreational drugs to ease the pain of their existence.

In hindsight, I think I was too easy on him.

What’s wrong with this picture?

This story has been making the rounds lately.

Austin ISD wants to fire an Austin High School teacher over nude photos posted on the Internet. 

The AISD school board Monday unanimously decided to begin the termination process for Tamara Hoover, who teaches art. The board said Hoover violated the terms of her employment contract. 

Hoover has been on paid administrative leave since May 19 after school officials found out about the images. 

She defended her actions in a blog by saying that the pictures are not pornography but “artistic photography.” 

According Hoover’s attorney, she never told students about the photographs, nor are they on her own Web site. The district learned about these pictures through another teacher. 

“The teacher who was there said, ‘Whoops, something’s happened here that shouldn’t.’ She shut down the computer and went and told the principal about it,” said Jay Brim, attorney. “What she (Hoover) did is leave herself vulnerable to this kind of problem. She did not do anything that I believe was violative of any of the districts standards or rules.”

The process to fire Hoover will take months, but her attorney thinks they have a good case and her photographer says this is about art.

“The definition of pornography is material with no artistic or aesthetic value — created for the sole purpose of stimulating sexual arousal. That’s not my intent at all,” said Celesta Danger, photographer.

I was talking to “the daughter” about it earlier (she’s an aspiring artist herself) She couldn’t figure out what the fuss was all about. Personally, I don’ know either. If you check out the photos here you may be just as mystified.

Flickr is a photo sharing site. The woman who posts the photos isn’t the teacher, she’s the teacher’s lover. Try browsing the photos; I did. I can’t find one objectionable photo in the group, unless you find lesbianism objectionable.

So what this is about isn’t the photos per se, it’s the fact that there is a gay teacher teaching art at Austin High School.

Aside from which, this isn’t a question for the school board; or rather, it shouldn’t be. It should be a question for the parents whose children attend this teacher’s classes. Do you or don’t you want her to teach? In any other city in Texas the answer would probably be ‘NO’. Until today I would have sworn that Austin was different.


She was eventually convinced to resign. While the photos were racey, I really don’t think they rated firing over. Didn’t rate firing over in the light of the behavior we now condone from congressmen and presidents alike. A local austin newspaper did an interview with the photographer which is archived here

Charges in Fatal Dog Attack

When I wrote on this subject previously, this was the headline: Charges in fatal dog attack not likely, sheriff says Which was, as I said at the time, outrageous.

Apparently the Grand Jury in Milam County felt the same way:

The owner of six dogs that mauled a woman to death in November was indicted Thursday by a Milam County grand jury.
Jose Hernandez, 52, of Thorndale was arrested by Milam County authorities after being indicted for criminal negligent homicide as a result of the November 26, 2005, dog attack in which Lillian Lorraine Stiles was attacked and killed at her residence by dogs owned by Hernandez.
Authorities say the pit bull-Rottweiler mixed-breed dogs attacked and killed Lillian Stiles as she rode a lawn mower. Her husband, Jack, was inside the house watching a football game. He shot and killed one of the dogs. The other five were later euthanized.

Here’s hoping justice is done on the subject.


2017. Reading back through the early blog articles I was stunned to realize I never followed up on this story. Sadly, the jury was unwilling to convict the dog owner. I found a legal opinion on the subject here a portion of which follows. There is more information at the above link if you are interested.

Health & Safety Code §822.041 provides that a court may declare a dog “dangerous” basically if it causes injury in an unprovoked attack. It is a Class C misdemeanor if the owner violates the provisions of the dangerous dog law or the dog causes serious injury in an unprovoked attack. It is a Class A misdemeanor if the dangerous dog causes a death of a person in an unprovoked attack. A $10,000 penalty may also be imposed on the owner whose dangerous dog causes serious injury or kills someone. Texas Heath & Safety Code §§822.044, 822.045. (See generally Dangerous and Vicious Dogs for discussion of the legal meaning of “dangerous” and the issues pertaining to legal “dangerousness.”)

If a dog has not been previously declared “dangerous,” however, there is a “loophole” in the law, in that there is no law that addresses the situation. Given the savageness of this killing, prosecutors attempted to apply the general law. To make the punishment fit the crime, the grand jury indicted Jose Hernandez for criminally negligent homicide. His trial took place in March 2007.

The conviction of this dog owner depended upon overcoming the bane of dog bite victims, namely the one-bite rule. Under this ancient British legal doctrine, the owner of any domestic animal is not held responsible for the first bite, the first mauling, or the first killing by each and every one of his animals. (See The One Bite Rule.) Texas is in a minority of states that continues to salute the flag of Great Britain when it comes to dog bite laws. (For lists of states that follow or have abrogated the one bite rule, see Legal Rights of Dog Bite Victims in the USA.)

Hernandez testified that he had no idea his animals were capable of such brutality. He admitted none of his animals had ever been seen by a veterinarian and hadn’t been vaccinated. Several other witnesses for the defense testified that Hernandez’ dogs were not aggressive and were not trained to be aggressive.

The jury found Hernandez not guilty.

Kenneth M. Phillips, The Lillian Stiles case (Texas v. Hernandez)

I had never heard of the one bite rule before in my life. I’m actually horrified that this is defacto law in Texas. The legislature did update the laws after the verdict in this case, but the laws remain woefully lax when it comes to holding dog owners responsible for the behavior of their animals.