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TexasTowelie

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Gender: Male
Hometown: Texas
Home country: United States
Current location: Red Hell Texas
Member since: Sun Aug 14, 2011, 03:57 AM
Number of posts: 66,198

About Me

Middle-aged white guy who believes in justice and equality for all. Math and computer analyst with additional 21st century jack-of-all-trades skills. I'm a stud, not a dud!

Journal Archives

Texas Execution #506 Is Personal To Me

By Carol Morgan

“Putting down” a human being in the same manner as an animal is abhorrent to me. The death penalty seems pointless. It doesn’t deter crime. It doesn’t rehabilitate the offender. It doesn’t bring back the dead. It doesn’t bring closure to either family.

So, what, exactly, is its purpose?

It’s no more than a public spectacle like the entertainment in ancient Rome; a relic of a barbaric past. One person kills another and then we kill the offender to show that killing is wrong. Where’s the lesson? An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. It’s quite remarkable that America is the only industrialized nation in the world that still employs the death penalty.

The point of my writing this is not to protest the death penalty, but to ask questions: What is it that makes a young man go wrong? What could have been done to prevent this? Are we any closer to preventing these mistakes than we were one hundred years ago? Does anyone care?

Michael Yowell was the 506th execution in Texas, a state that supposedly recognizes the sanctity of life.

I knew him. My memories are of an impulsive and restless 13 year old in my seventh grade class from thirty years ago. One-on-one, Michael was easy to talk to; a sweet boy with an impish smile who bonded easily in private; so different from the brash and off-putting exterior he employed as protection. In a classroom situation, he was very different. He jockeyed for attention and tormented other students. I was forced to place him alone at a table near my desk to keep him on-task and out of trouble. Some days he drifted in and out sleep and other days he hovered over his books and papers, nervously hyper-vigilant, as if he was afraid of those around him. The faculty made various attempts at intervention, but they were summarily dismissed by his parents. They claimed we were unfair; singling him out and picking on him. We gave up. He moved on to high school and I never thought about him again until 1999.

Even though it takes a village to raise a child, purists will claim his fate was the result of his own personal choices. The uncomfortable truth is that it’s somewhere in between; we all bear some responsibility when this happens. From his parents in denial to his drug-using friends who irresponsibly enabled him, then onto teachers, psychiatrists, and over-worked probation and parole officers who gave up too easily, followed by pro-bono lawyers merely going through the motions of their professions; prosecutors and judges using another’s misfortune to score political points or earn a brief mention in a law journal.

He’s not the only former student of mine who lost his way in life. Addictions, crimes, imprisonments, executions. Some took their own life; others died in pointless violence because of a poor choice of friends. I’m the unfortunate curator of story after story that stacks endlessly upon a mountain of other stories. All of us unknowingly greased their facile falls through the cracks. Of course, it’s true that they failed themselves, but in our frustration, we contributed to their failure.

The years that span 12-18 are dangerous years. They are a narrow precarious bridge to adulthood where a boy or girl can tumble over the edge at any time.

In past years, at the beginning of every school year, I buried myself in the school vault to pore over the permanent records of the 150-plus students in my classes. I familiarized myself with their personal situations along with their academic strengths and weaknesses. I did so to prepare for the challenges that awaited me over the next 180 days. The brown envelopes were a time capsule; a fascinating mini-biography of each student’s life.

There were pictures of my students as kindergarteners and third graders with gap-toothed smiles; a haircut and clothing that reflected the trends of the time. Their educational careers began hopefully with comments such as “eager to learn” or “sweet boy”, but the comments quickly evolved to less-flattering adjectives like lazy, stubborn, or hostile. Those comments distressed me. No nine-year-old should be saddled with those labels so prematurely. They easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

At one time, all of these sweet innocent children were someone’s joy and hope for the future. What happened? What changed? Life, in all of its bizarre twists and turns, intervened; divorce, disease, family addictions, a job loss, a breadwinner’s disability or the bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. All of it was the conductor’s switch that derailed their life to an alternate track. Usually, drugs and alcohol followed; an anesthetic to deaden the pain of their troubles and sense of worthlessness.

Poverty and working class homes were more likely to contribute to the dark road, but the wealthy homes of busily-distracted doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs weren’t immune. The “difficult” children of divorced parents bounced from house-to-house and many times a much-younger stepmother hosted keg parties every weekend, effectively pushing other vulnerable teens off into danger. The only difference between the wealthy and poor was the banishment of their offspring to expensive schools like Hockaday or St. Mark’s, instead of Texas’ prisons. The wealthy can easily purchase interventions for their children that working class parents cannot.

Of course, there were always success stories; proof that a combination of attention from caring adults and the student’s inherent resiliency could result in miracles. Sometimes love never failed, but sometimes it wasn’t enough. Maybe no one could have saved them or perhaps everyone could have saved them; that riddle remains unanswered.

I only know that those youthful fresh faces of the past haunt my dreams to this very day. I realize it’s a misplaced and undeserved guilt, but I wanted so desperately to save them ALL and I failed.

Educators and parents spend a lot of time and effort in constructing lives. Psychologists, criminologists, and interventionists spend time reconstructing broken and damaged lives, but few of us think of deconstructing a failed life to analyze it and prevent its cruel repetition in another. We simply count the ones that crash and burn as a cautionary tale.

We added one more this evening.

Senseless.

RIP, Michael Yowell. May you find the peace in your next life that eluded you in this one.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Carol Morgan is a career counselor, writer, speaker, former Democratic candidate for the Texas House and the award-winning author of Of Tapestry, Time and Tears, a historical fiction about the 1947 Partition of India. Follow her on Twitter @CounselorCarol1, by email at elizabethcmorgan@sbcglobal.net, on Facebook: CarolMorgan1 and her writer’s blog at www.carolmorgan.org

http://lubbockonline.com/interact/blog-post/carol-morgan/2013-10-09/texas-execution-506-personal-me

Cross-posted in Texas Group.

Federal judge denies Erxleben bail

A federal judge has denied bail for former football player Russell Erxleben who has been incarcerated since January for what prosecutors say was a series of foreign trading schemes that bilked dozens of investors.

In an opinion filed Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel backed an earlier decision of a magistrate judge, saying there were no conditions he could impose under a supervised release that would keep Erxleben from trying to influence witnesses or from posing a financial danger.

The judge said he took into consideration evidence from Erxleben’s first detention hearing in May and new information presented at another one last month. Among the key testimony, Yeakel wrote, was that of Lance Henne, a former Bastrop County inmate, who in the second detention hearing testified that Erxleben had attempted to hire him to intimidate a key witness.

In both court proceedings, prosecutors have portrayed the former pro football player as a savvy manipulator who would pose a threat to the public if released. But Erxleben’s lawyers casted doubt on the credibility of the allegations and contended that house arrest was a viable alternative.

More at http://www.statesman.com/news/news/crime-law/federal-judge-denies-erxleben-bail/nbKLT/ .

Cross-posted in Football Group.
Posted by TexasTowelie | Wed Oct 9, 2013, 04:54 PM (2 replies)

Federal judge denies Erxleben bail

A federal judge has denied bail for former football player Russell Erxleben who has been incarcerated since January for what prosecutors say was a series of foreign trading schemes that bilked dozens of investors.

In an opinion filed Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel backed an earlier decision of a magistrate judge, saying there were no conditions he could impose under a supervised release that would keep Erxleben from trying to influence witnesses or from posing a financial danger.

The judge said he took into consideration evidence from Erxleben’s first detention hearing in May and new information presented at another one last month. Among the key testimony, Yeakel wrote, was that of Lance Henne, a former Bastrop County inmate, who in the second detention hearing testified that Erxleben had attempted to hire him to intimidate a key witness.

In both court proceedings, prosecutors have portrayed the former pro football player as a savvy manipulator who would pose a threat to the public if released. But Erxleben’s lawyers casted doubt on the credibility of the allegations and contended that house arrest was a viable alternative.

More at http://www.statesman.com/news/news/crime-law/federal-judge-denies-erxleben-bail/nbKLT/ .

Cross-posted in Texas Group.
Posted by TexasTowelie | Wed Oct 9, 2013, 04:54 PM (0 replies)

David Dewhurst Has Dinner With Owner Of Racist Blog

Top Texas Republicans continue to court Robbie Cooper, the owner and writer of a racist blog called Urban Grounds. As BOR reported last week, Cooper writes deeply racist posts in which he calls black people "animals" and the N-word.

On Monday, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst went to dinner in Austin with Cooper and a "small group" of other conservatives. Cooper, who says he survives "almost entirely on hate & caffeine And sometimes whiskey," appeared thrilled with the dinner:

"Lt. Gov. Dewhurst was very generous with his time - he sat and listened and answered questions from our small group for a couple of hours...I asked Dewhurst what work is still left to be done for him in his current job - what would he like to accomplish that he hasn't already done in 10 years. He talked about our economic and financial successes here in Texas (for which he doesn't get nearly enough credit, and Governor Perry perhaps gets too much credit), and said that there is still a lot of work to be done just to maintain that economic prosperity; we can't rest on our laurels or past accomplishments," Cooper wrote.

Disturbingly, Dewhurst is joined by both Greg Abbott and Rick Perry in courting Cooper's favor. In January, Abbott gave Cooper a 20-minute exclusive interview, and has thanked him for his support on Twitter. Rick Perry took Cooper and a small number of other conservatives shooting a couple of years ago.

More at http://www.burntorangereport.com/diary/14198/david-dewhurst-had-dinner-with-owner-of-racist-blog .
Posted by TexasTowelie | Wed Oct 9, 2013, 02:04 PM (1 replies)

Texas' Lt. Governor Hopefuls Need You To Know: No College for Illegal Immigrants

It tends to get overwhelmed by the reek of humiliating ineptitude that still wafts from Rick Perry's disastrous 2012 presidential campaign, but there was a moment when he took a principled stand and defended a position that was wildly at odds with the Tea Partiers he was trying so desperately to court.

It came on the issue of offering in-state tuition to young people who came to the country illegally. Here's how he explained it during a CNN/Tea Party debate in September 2011:

The bottom line is it doesn't make any difference what the sound of your last name is. That is the American way. No matter how you got into that state, from the standpoint of your parents brought you there or what have you. And that's what we've done in the state of Texas. And I'm proud that we are having those individuals be contributing members of our society rather than telling them, you go be on the government dole.


True, that position happens to line up nicely with the long-term interests of the Republican Party in Texas, and he pandered to the far right on almost every other issue, but it was admirable nonetheless.

The candidates to become Texas' next lieutenant governor do not share Perry's compassion for so-called DREAMers. The first to make this clear was state Senator Dan Patrick, who released an ad on Monday claiming to be the only one who didn't support in-state tuition for illegal immigrants:



More at http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2013/10/texas_lt_governor_hopefuls_now.php .
Posted by TexasTowelie | Wed Oct 9, 2013, 12:53 PM (1 replies)

To boldly go where no man (or woman) has gone before--all glass public restrooms!



All-glass restrooms in Texas town up for national award


A set of two $27,000 restrooms in the Sulphur Springs, Texas, courthouse square are up for the prestigious honor of America’s Best Restroom in a contest created by Cintas, the business supply company.

Any public restroom in the country is eligible for nomination. Last year, the restroom at the New Braunfels Buc-ee’s was inducted into the America’s Best Restroom Hall Of Fame. Nominations can be sent through an online form on the contest site. A selection committee bases their nominations on eligibility, style, and how well the nominees take to being considered for the award.

What makes the restrooms in Sulphur Springs, located in the northeast corner of the state, so special is that they are all glass and constructed with one-way mirrors. Those using the facilities can see out, but no one can see inside while you are doing your business.

Sulphur Springs city manager Marc Maxwell says that using the restrooms — which opened last fall — does take some getting used to.

More, including photos, at http://blog.chron.com/thetexican/2013/10/all-glass-restrooms-in-texas-town-up-for-national-award/?cmpid=hpts#16670-17 .
Posted by TexasTowelie | Wed Oct 9, 2013, 12:37 PM (9 replies)

Facing Wendy Davis, Republican Greg Abbott says he’s the candidate of women

With Wendy Davis officially in the race for governor, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott is wasting no time on the campaign trail talking about reasons women should support him. Davis burst on the political scene with a filibuster against an abortion-restriction bill. Democrats say there’s a Republican war against women. They cite GOP policies on education, health care, abortion and equal pay. Davis’ filibuster brought thousands of supporters, many of them women, to the Capitol where a rowdy group of abortion-rights advocates shut down the Texas Senate. GOP frontrunner Abbott opposes abortion and has said he is against all exceptions but to save the life of the woman, although he has hedged more recently on answering a question about exceptions. He also opposes expansion of Medicaid and health care under Obamacare, which would benefit many poor women with children. On Tuesday, he told supporters in El Paso that he’s the candidate Texas women should support in the governor’s race next year.

“Women are going to be a powerful voice in this election,” Abbott said. “I’m proud to say there is nobody in the state of Texas who has done more to fight to help women than I have in the past decade.” The El Paso Times reports that Abbott pointed to his work as attorney general in fighting domestic violence, human trafficking and collecting $27 billion in child support.

Democrats haven’t elected a governor in Texas since Ann Richards in 1990. A key to her victory was the backing of women. Richards got 61 percent of women in that race, including 21 percent of Republican women who crossed party lines. To win, Davis would have to attract not only the Democratic base but also many moderate, Republican-leaning suburban women – something no Democrat has done in big numbers since Richards. A poll last week by the Texas Lyceum has Abbot and Davis in a statistical tie among women voters. Also running for the GOP nomination is former state GOP chairman Tom Pauken.

Hispanics will also be an important voting group. Democrats are counting on a growing Hispanic population to end Republican political dominance in the state. The GOP holds every statewide office and controls the Legislature. Hispanics vote disproportionately for Democrats and Davis hopes increased Hispanic turnout will boost her prospects. Abbott sought to play up his ties to Mexican-Americans during his campaign stop in El Paso. He noted his wife, Cecilia, is Mexican-American. “If I’m elected governor, my wife will be the first Latina first lady in the history of the state of Texas,” Abbott said. “My wife’s grandparents came from Monterey, Mexico, to San Antonio, Texas, in search of greater opportunity for their children.”

Source: http://trailblazersblog.dallasnews.com/2013/10/with-wendy-davis-in-the-race-republican-greg-abbott-makes-a-pitch-to-women.html/
Posted by TexasTowelie | Wed Oct 9, 2013, 12:19 PM (7 replies)

U.S. Supreme Court Has Snubbed Luminant's Petition to Toss EPA Pollution Limits

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear an appeal from Dallas-based Luminant seeking to topple Clean Air Act limits on emissions increases resulting from planned startups and shutdowns of its power plants. The state's largest generator of electricity sought an exemption for these operations from fines levied by the EPA.

"We are disappointed with the decision not to grant certiorari, but respect the Court's decision," a company spokesman wrote in an emailed statement to Unfair Park.

The dead end of this appellate road follows a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that was at least a partial victory for a company already deeply in debt. Power plants are like cars. When you start them up, they don't burn fuel quite as efficiently as they do when the motor is purring. These periods of high emissions are called upsets. And this fight is about when generators get to claim limited protection from civil penalties if they experience one. The EPA found that there was no reason Luminant should be exempted during the planned shutdowns and startups that cause these upsets. That's why it wouldn't greenlight Texas clean-air plan. The exemptions, the agency argued, gave Luminant and other generators carte blanche to flout pollution limits and invoke a "affirmative defense" against penalties.

It added that planned upsets could be scheduled for periods when the plant would be offline anyway. The appeals court agreed, but angered environmentalists when its ruling allowed Luminant to claim protection from fines during unforeseeable shutdowns or malfunctions.

More at http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2013/10/us_supreme_court_snubs_luminan.php .
Posted by TexasTowelie | Tue Oct 8, 2013, 11:37 PM (0 replies)

Pharmacy Owner Having Second Thoughts About Being Texas' Only Supplier of Execution Drug

Death row inmate Michael Yowell's last-minute, Hail Mary lawsuit, based on the claim that the state was going to experiment on him with untested execution drugs, failed to sway U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes. In an order handed down Saturday, she dismissed that as "a guess piled on an assumption" and ruled that the custom-mixed dose of pentobarbital would be just as ruthlessly lethal as the stuff pharmaceutical companies had stopped supplying for executions.

And, just so we're clear, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has plenty of the drug. It ordered enough pentobarbital from a Texas compounding pharmacy "to carry out all currently scheduled executions" in the words of TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark.

Clark didn't name the pharmacy, but the Associated Press did. The wire service reported that the state had ordered eight 2.5-gram vials of pentobarbital from The Woodlands Compounding Pharmacy outside of Houston.

Pharmacy owner Dr. Jasper Lovoi, who quickly realized why drug makers are so hesitant to supply execution drugs, was livid.

"I)t was my belief that this information would be kept on the 'down low,'" he wrote, "and that it was unlikely that it would be discovered that my pharmacy provided these drugs." Despite repeated assurances of secrecy from the state, "I find myself in the middle of a firestorm I was not advised of and did not bargain for."


More at http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2013/10/pharmacy_owner_having_second_t.php .
Posted by TexasTowelie | Tue Oct 8, 2013, 11:34 PM (2 replies)

Author, commentator announces GOP candidacy for governor


Lisa Fritsch

There is another woman in the race for governor, a black tea party conservative and seventh-generation Texan who said she was “called” to bring a fresh face and voice to the 2014 gubernatorial race.

Lisa Fritsch, a writer and commentator on KLBJ-AM radio for nearly a decade, announced her candidacy for the Republican nomination for governor Tuesday before an exuberant crowd of supporters at Mighty Fine Burgers, Fries and Shakes in North Austin.

The rest of the story is behind the paywall at http://www.statesman.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/author-commentator-announces-gop-candidacy-for-gov/nbJj4/ . A separate story about Lisa Fritsch is at http://www.statesman.com/weblogs/first-reading/2013/oct/08/lisa-fritsch-called-run-governor/ . The comments are interesting.
Posted by TexasTowelie | Tue Oct 8, 2013, 11:27 PM (0 replies)
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