Saturday, September 20th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 21 Comments

The following story is, at exactly the same time, one of the saddest and one of the most encouraging that you will ever read:

Even while imprisoned for a rape he didn’t commit, Tim Cole never stopped acting like a big brother.

“He would send us letters, telling us what classes to take, telling us to look out for a subscription to Money magazine he was sending us,” brother Cory Session remembers.

Cole was a student at Texas Tech when he was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for the 1985 rape of 20-year-old Michele Mallin.

Cole was eventually cleared of the rape charge.  Ten years too late.

In 2009, DNA would exonerate Cole, but not until a decade after he died in prison, at age 39, from heart complications related to his asthma.

But Tim Cole was never embittered.  Far from it.

Behind bars, Cole refused to lose faith, telling his sister Karen Kennard — the only African-American enrolled at Texas Tech’s law school at the time — not to give up pursuing her law degree.

“I still believe in the justice system, even if the justice system doesn’t believe in me,” he once wrote in a letter.

Kennard finished her degree and went on to become the city attorney for Austin, Texas.

His brotherly attitude extended beyond his kin as well. His family wouldn’t learn about it until later, but Cole used the money he earned from his GI Bill to make thousands of dollars in charitable donations from behind bars.

“He knew he couldn’t help himself, but he could help other people,” Session said.

Cole always maintained his innocence, even after he was offered parole in exchange for admitting to the rape. He never confessed, and in 2007, Texas inmate Jerry Johnson — who didn’t realize Cole had died eight years before — wrote to Cole, confessing the rape and offering to submit to DNA testing to clear Cole’s name.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is true repentance.

To those who loved him, Texas can never right the false conviction, but the Lubbock City Council wants to make sure Cole and his case are not forgotten. The city unveiled a statue of the Fort Worth native across the street from the Texas Tech campus on Wednesday afternoon and dedicated the area where the bronze likeness will stand as the Tim Cole Memorial Park.

“The government has enormous power to take one’s life or liberty,” Klein said. “When we make a mistake we should admit to it. We should make amends where we can.”

The bronze statue, standing at least 13 feet tall, depicts Cole’s torso facing the area where the crime occurred. Cole’s gaze will be fixed on the vicinity of Texas Tech’s law school, where future prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges will be reminded that humans are fallible and that fact must remain at the top of their minds as they pursue their law careers, Klein said.


Thursday, September 18th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 29 Comments

The Episcopal Organization’s Wet Toilet Paper Brigade House of Squishops is meeting this week.  Where?  Taiwan.

Here, specifically.  Seems like a nice enough hotel.  The rooms run roughly one-fitty to two-fitty a night.  Let’s hope that the squishops come up with a strong statement about what “we” need to do to combat climate change.  Otherwise, flying the Episcopal squishops halfway around the world just for a little face time seems kind of hypocritical.

But that’s just me.


Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 60 Comments

A continuing series

Thank you for your interest in writing for the National Catholic Reporter.  Although we welcome your submissions at any time, we hope that these occasional posts help you to become exactly the sort of writer NCR is looking for.  The following piece by Robert McClory illustrates two key abilities every great NCR writer needs to learn how to perform well.  The first of these is how to:

Play dumber than a bag of hammers - Commenting on a recent column by Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago in which George said this:

Now, George says, “society has brought social and legislative approval to all types of sexual relationships that used to be considered ‘sinful.’ Since the biblical vision of what it means to be human tells us that not every friendship or love can be expressed in sexual relations, the church’s teaching on these issues is now evidence of intolerance for what the civil law upholds and even imposes. What was once a request to live and let live has now become a demand for approval. The ‘ruling class,’ those who shape public opinion in politics, in education, in communications, in entertainment, is using the civil law to impose its own form of morality on everyone.”

McClory responds:

I don’t understand what George is saying. If many states pass, for example, approval of gay marriage, aren’t Catholics free to oppose it in keeping with official church teaching, just as they are free to oppose the sale of contraceptives in drug stores? If the government requires insurance policies to cover the purchase of contraceptives, are not Catholics free to object, as George has done for months? But I don’t see how any of this amounts to a “ruling class” imposing “its own form of morality on everyone.”

The simple fact of that matter is that, unless he is too stupid to be allowed outside without supervision, McClory knows perfectly well what George means.  But McClory has to pretend that he doesn’t; otherwise, he must explain why being governmentally coerced into committing a sin is fine as long as you’re free to feel bad about it as well as why being governmentally coerced into sin isn’t “imposing morality.”

The second ability any good NCR writer needs to know particularly well is how to:

Duck the questionCardinal George continues.

“It means that those who choose to live by the Catholic faith,” [George] says, “will not be welcomed as political candidates to national office, will not sit on editorial boards of major newspapers, will not be at home on most university faculties, will not have successful careers as actors and entertainers. Nor will their children, who will also be suspect. Since all public institutions, no matter who owns or operates them, will be agents of the government and conform their activities to the demands of the official religion, the practice of medicine and law will become more difficult for faithful Catholics. It already means in some States that those who run businesses must conform their activities to the official religion or be fined, as Christians and Jews are fined for their religion in countries governed by Sharia law.”

One assumes that McClory knows that George’s last sentence has already happened several times since several private businesses have been driven into bankruptcy by the legal assaults of homosexuals.  One also assumes that McClory remembers the Chick-Fil-A controversy of a while back in which the homosexual community as well as several prominent politicians publicly execrated Chick-Fil-A and wished for its destruction simply because its CEO opposed the concept of homosexual “marriage.”

Assuming that McClory knows all this, how does he respond?  Like any great National Catholic Reporter writer would.

I hope some of George’s clearer-thinking colleagues would gather around their partner and urge him to consider a more positive, optimistic future for Catholicism. Is not the Holy Spirit still among us?


Monday, September 15th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 27 Comments

Patricia Miller is still spitting nails about Hobby Lobby:

[Missouri] Republican State legislator Paul Wieland filed suit requesting that he and his wife be allowed to opt out of the requirement under his coverage in the state health plan because it “violates their religious beliefs as Catholics and parents of three daughters,” says Fake NCR. Wieland’s lawyer argues that if a closely held corporation like Hobby Lobby is allowed to opt out of the mandate, so too should individuals with objections to contraception. “If the corporations don’t have to do this for their employees, certainly Mom and Dad don’t have to do it for their daughters,” said Timothy Belz of the Thomas More Society.

Content edited slightly.

Finally, an unvarnished pro-patriarchy argument in all its glory.

Is that so?

The Becket Fund (the other conservative public interest law firm named after a martyred Thomas who was dispatched by a King Henry after an epic church-state battle) picked its plaintiffs with canny eye for obscuring the true nature of the suits: a hard-working entrepreneurial Christian couple who merely objected to the provision of “abortifacient” emergency contraceptives in the case of the Green family in the Hobby Lobby suit and the the humble, habited, self-sacrificing nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor

Remember Miller’s description of the Little Sisters of the Poor.  Because as far as Patty is concerned, freedom of religion had and has nothing to do with any of these lawsuits.

in their eponymously named case. No so with More and Wieland: He man. He pay bills. He say.

Patricia Miller, attempting humor and falling on her ass, if you need her.  But that’s just an assumption on my part since Patty implies here that if any woman comes to a conclusion that differs from her’s in any degree, that woman only holds that opinion because the PatriarchyTM forced her to.

These groups simply don’t want any woman who works for them to get contraception through any kind of scheme linked to their insurance—even if they have nothing to do with it—because it undercuts their moral authority as men to regulate the reproductive behavior of women under their purview.

Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  Okay.  The Little SISTERS of the Poor, who Patty just got done describing as “humble, habited, self-sacrificing nuns” have apparently become the Little Brothers of the Poor or the Little Sisters Who Had Sex Change Operations of the Poor. 

It’s either that or Patty thinks that a group of nuns has somehow been turned into a tool of the Patriarchy.TM  I knew you Catholics were good but I never knew that you were that good.  It’s right about here where Patty goes completely off the rails.

Maybe it’s most helpful here to take the long view when trying to understand the stubborn insistence of the Catholic Church that any woman in its sphere—Catholic or not—falls under its authority. According to social anthropologist Jack Goody in his book The Development of Marriage and Family, the church’s insistence on policing the sexual morality of everyone in the society around it goes back to the earliest days of Christianity. From its founding as a sect within Judaism until well into the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church imposed it rules regarding sex and marriage on society in order to weaken pagan practices and to capture inheritances (that would have otherwise gone to family members) in order to strengthen the church. “By insinuating itself into the very fabric of domestic life, of heirship and marriage, the Church gained great control over the grass roots of society itself,” he argues.

Uh…what??  From its founding as a sect within Judaism…the Catholic Church imposed its rules regarding sex and marriage on society?”  The problem I have there, Patty, is that, “from its founding as a sect within Judaism,” the “Catholic Church” (the Christian Church, actually) was in no position to impose anything at all on society until the 300′s AD when Constantine was converted.



Sunday, September 14th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 29 Comments

In a few days, the Scots are going to vote on a referendum on whether or not they wish to secede from Great Britain.  James Delingpole doesn’t think that secession is going to happen but hopes that he’s wrong.  Here are a few of his reasons why:

3. Scotland’s economy is the bastard love child of a Ponzi scheme and Venezuela under Hugo Chavez. Till now, the Scots have been cushioned from this by dint of the fact that their socialistic economy – and the vast welfare zone otherwise known as Glasgow – has been propped up by English taxpayers. It’s about time we stopped treating the Scots like children and told them the truth: Father Christmas doesn’t exist.

4. Scots First Minister Alex Salmond has vowed that by 2020, 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity will be “renewable.” It will be good to see him test this plan to destruction, especially on those many days when the wind isn’t blowing. And also on those many other days when the wind is blowing so hard that wind farm operators are paid government subsidies to turn off their bat-chomping, golden-eagle-slicing eco crucifixes. Presumably, if Scotland is independent, those subsidies will no longer provided by the English taxpayer.

5. It’s over, anyway. Better a clean break now than any more of this humiliation and grovelling. In the last few days, we’ve seen the Westminster class – led by an unusually abject Cameron – doing the equivalent of a desperate husband promising his wife the earth, if only she’ll call off the divorce. “I’ll do all the dishes AND I’ll hang up all the laundry AND I’ll pay for an extra couple of days cleaning AND you can have a new kitchen AND you have my full blessing if ever you want to sleep with George Clooney and/or/any other film stars of your choice AND I’ll never leave the toilet seat up AND I’ll give up golf….” Speak for yourself, Dave. The rest of us have had quite enough of the whiney bitch and her endless unreasonable demands.

6. We’ll be like Texas and California. England (Texas) will have the satisfaction of watching the economy of Scotland (California) tanking under the weight of its massive welfare burden and its green energy commitments. Whenever some Labour or Lib Dem loon in the new English parliament proposes a socialistic measure, he will be howled down by the cry of: “And be more like Scotland? Over my dead body…”

9. Alex Salmond is a serial liar. Some of the lies he has told on the election trail – such as his boasts about the vast oil and gas reserves which will keep the Scots economy afloat or his claim that the NHS (devolved to Scotland since 1999) could be privatised if Scotland votes “No” – deserve to explode in his face. But this will only happen if Scotland votes “yes.”

UPDATE: P. J. O’Rourke on Scottish independence.  Language warning.


Sunday, September 14th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 14 Comments

If Nanner McBotox is any indication, Democratic internals for this fall must be cratering:

That last sentence Pelosi appeared to be half-joking about, but she was dead serious about Democrats needing to win in November. She explained, “It would be very important for the Democrats to retain control of the Senate. Civilization as we know it today would be in jeopardy if Republicans win the Senate.”


Saturday, September 13th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 36 Comments

As always, play the Anglican Drinking Game responsibly.  Here’s a taste:

The first stage in tackling the “entrenched divisions” over sexuality within the Church is set to take place next week, when the College of Bishops engages in shared conversations.

The “huge polarity”, cited by one bishop professing a lack of optimism about the outcome, was vividly illustrated this week, as groups at variance over scriptural interpretation vied for influence.

The bishops will meet on Monday and Tuesday next week, working in small groups with facilitators, to pilot a process that will then be carried out in 12 regional groups. They will use resource materials, including “substantial theological material commissioned from scholars with differing viewpoints”, that may then be refined before being published.

The conversations were the chief recommendation of the report produced by the working group on human sexuality last year, which referred to “entrenched divisions”. Warning that these had become an “increasing scandal to many” and a “massive missiological challenge”, it recommended a two-year listening process. The conversations should explore, among other things, “the extent to which different disciplines on sexual conduct should be required of bishops, clergy, and laity”.

If you’re still conscious, the very last sentence will probably put you under.

Some are looking for a ‘two integrities’ approach – personally, I can’t see the Church holding together on that kind of basis.

Like some guy who watches a freight train smash into his automobile and thinks, “Gosh, my car’s going to be in the body shop for at least a month.”


Friday, September 12th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

This happened today.


Friday, September 12th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 25 Comments

Over on SDA, Lance has posted an item which caught my attention:

GROUND STOP PERIOD: 11/0315Z – 11/0430Z

This is “legit”; it can be found on the FAA website:

So, all UPS flights were ordered to be grounded for some period of time.

Because of “Airline computer issues.”

On September 11th.

And there’s not a word to be found about it on ANY MSM news outlet. A Google search for ‘UPS flights grounded’ yielded a few hits on blogs, but nothing from Newspapers, Television, etc.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist (IMHO, the USA did land on the moon, Oswald was the lone gunman, the responsibility for 9/11 does rest upon Osama Bin Laden and Islamic Jihad) but it sure seems strange to me that no one in the news business is picking up on this. Even if all they did was note it as a fluke, an innocent occurrence that happening on 9/11 by coincidence, it’s still a news story. The press has given endless coverage to all sorts of less important things (“Pregnant Kate Cancels appearance”), so why is this story still relegated to the underside of a file cabinet? (in a locked basement, with no stairs…………..)

Bill (not IB)


Thursday, September 11th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 14 Comments

Prominent atheist Sam Harris has a recommendation:

Uber-atheist Sam Harris is getting all spiritual.

You mean he’s…no, not so much

In his new book, “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion,” the usually outspoken critic of religion describes how spirituality can and must be divorced from religion if the human mind is to reach its full potential.

Okay, I’m game.  What does that mean?

“Our world is dangerously riven by religious doctrines that all educated people should condemn,” he writes in the book, but adds: “There is more to understanding the human condition than science and secular culture generally admit.”

Agreed.  What do we do about it?

The prescription, Harris holds, is Buddhist-based mindfulness meditation. A Stanford-trained neuroscientist, Harris is a long-time practitioner of Buddhist meditation. He said everyone can, through meditation, achieve a “shift in perspective” by moving beyond a sense of self to reach an enlightening sense of connectedness — a spirituality.

But not…you know…that kind of spirituality.

But, he warns, conflating mindfulness meditation or spirituality with anything supernatural — from the forgiving love of a Christian God to the cosmology of Buddhism — is a path to nowhere.

Sam?  The term you’re looking for here is “reinventing the wheel.”  The Episcopalians have been divorcing “spirituality” from “religion” for at least five or six decades now.


Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 36 Comments

It never ceases to amaze me how you ladies keep up with all the stuff that’s supposed to piss you off.  Don’t shoot the messenger or anything but Amanda Marcotte has found you a new reason for resentment.  Cooking your family a nice dinner:

The home-cooked meal has long been romanticized, from ’50s-era sitcoms to the work of star food writer Michael Pollan, who once wrote, “far from oppressing them, the work of cooking approached in the proper spirit offered a kind of fulfillment and deserved an intelligent woman’s attention.” In recent years, the home-cooked meal has increasingly been offered up as the solution to our country’s burgeoning nutrition-related health problems of heart disease and diabetes.

There’s a problem with all that, of course.  Seems that…DUM, DUM, DUM, DUM, DUMMMMMMMMMM…A StudyTM Has Been Done.

But while home-cooked meals are typically healthier than restaurant food, sociologists Sarah Bowen, Sinikka Elliott, and Joslyn Brenton from North Carolina State University argue that the stress that cooking puts on people, particularly women, may not be worth the trade-off.

What did they find out?

The researchers interviewed 150 mothers from all walks of life and spent 250 hours observing 12 families in-depth, and they found “that time pressures, tradeoffs to save money, and the burden of pleasing others make it difficult for mothers to enact the idealized vision of home-cooked meals advocated by foodies and public health officials.”

Michelle Obama.  You have a call on the white courtesy phone.  No, the white phone.

The mothers they interviewed had largely internalized the social message that “home-cooked meals have become the hallmark of good mothering, stable families, and the ideal of the healthy, productive citizen,” but found that as much as they wanted to achieve that ideal, they didn’t have the time or money to get there. Low-income mothers often have erratic work schedules, making it impossible to have set meal times. Even for middle-class working mothers who are able to be home by 6 p.m., trying to cook a meal while children are demanding attention and other chores need doing becomes overwhelming.

Sigh.  Mandy?  My mom worked all through my childhood.  One of my earliest memories was of her working part-time at a fabric store at what was basically the first shopping mall in the St. Louis area.

But she always served us great meals.  And whenever my father or my siblings jokingly suggested that this or that dish was below par, I always got terribly defensive with them about it.  Big Food is also a problem.

Low-income women often don’t have the money for fresh produce and, in many cases, can’t afford to pay for even a basic kitchen setup.


Even when people have their own homes, lack of money means their kitchens are small, pests are hard to keep at bay, and they can’t afford “basic kitchen tools like sharp knives, cutting boards, pots and pans.”

Mandy?  I live in an apartment on a fixed and very low income.  I just bought myself a santoku knife and a cleaver from the local supermarket’s bargain rack a while ago (all metal, $3.99 each) and I buy fresh produce all the time.  So if “people have their own homes,” I have a REAL tough time believing that “they can’t afford ‘basic kitchen tools like sharp knives, cutting boards, pots and pans.’”

Apples and oranges, Chris, says Mandy.  Fortunately for your mom, she didn’t have to deal with the Worst Generation.

The women interviewed faced not just children but grown adults who are whiny, picky, and ungrateful for their efforts. “We rarely observed a meal in which at least one family member didn’t complain about the food they were served,” the researchers write. Mothers who could afford to do so often wanted to try new recipes and diverse ingredients, but they knew that it would cause their families to reject the meals. “Instead, they continued to make what was tried and true, even if they didn’t like the food themselves.” The saddest part is that picky husbands and boyfriends were just as much, if not more, of a problem than fussy children.

That part rings true.  So what should be done?  Damned if Mandy knows.  Order in pizza or Chinese every single night, maybe?

The researchers quote food writer Mark Bittman, who says that the goal should be “to get people to see cooking as a joy rather than a burden.” But while cooking “is at times joyful,” they argue, the main reason that people see cooking mostly as a burden is because it is a burden. It’s expensive and time-consuming and often done for a bunch of ingrates who would rather just be eating fast food anyway. If we want women—or gosh, men, too—to see cooking as fun, then these obstacles need to be fixed first. And whatever burden is left needs to be shared.

Sorry I had to share that with you gals but I guess it’s better to know than to not to know, am I right?


Monday, September 8th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 27 Comments

When somebody at least half your age has a stroke:

Our beloved Mandy Nagy, also known as Liberty Chick, had a stroke yesterday and brain surgery to relieve the pressure today.

I am in touch with Mandy’s mom, who approved me letting people know via Legal Insurrection. Before surgery, Mandy also was able to nod approval with a small smile, her mom tells me.

Have to tell you, every time I read a story like this, my Calvinist inclinations get stronger and stronger.  Because I cannot begin to comprehend the reason why I’m still breathing.

When I was a kid, the city of Webster Groves used to periodically spray for mosquitos.  These trucks would drive up and down city streets spraying clouds of whatever.   Which we kids loved because whatever they were spraying smelled incredible.  So all us kids along Drayton Court would run around in these clouds of insecticide.

The house I grew up in on East Rose Avenue sat at the bottom of two hills, one large and the other smaller.  A really heavy rain meant that the sewers would quickly be overwhelmed and that the water would collect right in front of my house and I would go out and play in it.  Never mind the disease factor; one lightning strike and you wouldn’t be reading this because I would never have written it.

My favorite snack when I was a kid was barbecue-flavored potato chips.  When I had the money, I could and regularly did put away whole bags of the things and this was back when “regular” bags were a whole lot larger than they are now.

I got seriously into running after that (completed a ten-miler once) but eventually dropped it.  Injuries and such.  What regular exercise I get these days consists of walking to one of the two markets or the pharmacy close to my apartment.

So no, I don’t get why Mandy Nagy had a stroke.  Or why I’m still here to learn about it.


Sunday, September 7th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 14 Comments

No need to worry how long the retirement money will hold out:

The elusive ‘God particle’ discovered by scientists in 2012 has the potential to destroy the universe, Professor Stephen Hawking has warned.

At very high energy levels, the Higgs boson could cause space and time to suddenly collapse – and ‘we wouldn’t see it coming’, the former Cambridge professor of mathematics says.

The God particle, which gives shape and size to everything that exists, could cause a ‘catastrophic vacuum delay’ if scientists were to put it under extreme stress.

It’d suck to be us, I guess.


Saturday, September 6th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 41 Comments

Radley Balko on the extortion racket that I call home:

On March 20 in the St. Louis County town of Florissant, someone made an illegal U-turn in front of Nicole Bolden. The 32-year-old black single mother hit her brakes but couldn’t avoid a collision. Bolden wasn’t at fault for the accident and wanted to continue on her way. The other motorist insisted on calling the police, as per the law. When the officer showed up, Bolden filled with dread.

“He was really nice and polite at first,” Bolden says. “But once he ran my name, he got real mean with me. He told me I was going to jail. I had my 3-year-old and my one-and-a-half-year-old with me. I asked him about my kids. He said I had better find someone to come and get them, because he was taking me in.” The Florissant officer arrested and cuffed Bolden in front of her children. Her kids remained with another officer until Bolden’s mother and sister could come pick them up.

Ms. Bolden didn’t know it but her nightmare was just starting.

Bolden posted a couple hundred dollars bond and was released at around midnight. She was next taken to Hazelwood and held at the jail there until she could post a second bond. That was another couple hundred dollars. She wasn’t released from her cell there until around 5 p.m. the next day. Exhausted, stressed, and still worried about what her kids had seen, she was finally taken to the St. Charles County jail for the outstanding warrant in Foristell. Why the county jail? Because the tiny town of 500 isn’t large enough to have its own holding cell, even though it does have a mayor, a board of aldermen, a municipal court and a seven-member police department. It’s probably best known locally for the speed trap its police set along I-70.

By the time Bolden got to St. Charles County, it had been well over 36 hours since the accident. “I hadn’t slept,” she says. “I was still in my same clothes. I was starting to lose my mind.” That’s when she says a police officer told her that if she couldn’t post bond, they’d keep her in jail until May. “I just freaked out,” she says. “I said, ‘What about my babies? Who is going to take care of my babies?’” She says the officer just shrugged.

The Foristell warrant stemmed from a speeding ticket in 2011. As mentioned before, Bolden didn’t show up in court because she didn’t have the money to pay it and feared they’d put her jail. It’s a common and unfortunate misconception among St. Louis County residents, especially those who don’t have an attorney to tell them otherwise. A town can’t put you in jail for lacking the money to pay a fine. But you can be jailed not appearing in court to tell the judge you can’t pay — and fined again for not showing up. After twice failing to appear for the Foristell ticket, Bolden showed up, was able to get the warrant removed and set up a payment plan with the court. But she says that a few months later, she was a couple days late with her payment. She says she called to notify the clerk, who told her not to worry. Instead, the town hit her with another warrant — the same warrant for which she was jailed in March.

Stories like Bolden’s abound across the St. Louis area. And despite the efforts of the ArchCity Defenders and legal aid clinics like those at Saint Louis University and Washington University, the vast majority of the people swept up into the St. Louis County municipal court system don’t have attorneys to inform them of their rights or to negotiate with judges and prosecutors.

Why do things like this happen here?  Mostly, it stems from the unique political situation of St. Louis County.

There are 90 municipalities in St. Louis County, and more in the surrounding counties. All but a few have their own police force, mayor, city manager and town council, and 81 have their own municipal court. To put that into perspective, consider Jackson County, Mo., which surrounds Kansas City. It is geographically larger than St. Louis County and has about two-thirds the population. Yet Jackson County has just 19 municipalities, and just 15 municipal courts — less than a quarter of the municipalities and courts in St. Louis County.

How did that happen?  Basically, because it used to be the easiest thing in the world to start your own town in St. Louis County.  All you had to do was to go around to the people of your proposed town, get at least 50% of them to sign a petition saying that you’d like to be a town, present that petition to the St. Louis County Council and it was a done deal.  At one point, there were well over a hundred of them.

I’m not sure that Balko’s assertion that most County municipalities have their own police forces is true any longer.  The smaller towns, which were always scarcely more than glorified subdivisions, as well as a few larger and older towns, either never had their own police to begin with or have phased out their forces in favor of contracting with St. Louis County for regular police patrols.

But Balko is exactly right about one thing.  For too many St. Louis County municipalities, traffic and other violations basically constitute the town industry.

Some of the towns in St. Louis County can derive 40 percent or more of their annual revenue from the petty fines and fees collected by their municipal courts. A majority of these fines are for traffic offenses, but they can also include fines for fare-hopping on MetroLink (St. Louis’s light rail system), loud music and other noise ordinance violations, zoning violations for uncut grass or unkempt property, violations of occupancy permit restrictions, trespassing, wearing “saggy pants,” business license violations and vague infractions such as “disturbing the peace” or “affray” that give police officers a great deal of discretion to look for other violations. In a white paper released last month, the ArchCity Defenders found a large group of people outside the courthouse in Bel-Ridge who had been fined for not subscribing to the town’s only approved garbage collection service. They hadn’t been fined for having trash on their property, only for not paying for the only legal method the town had designated for disposing of trash.

This is not a racial thing.

The town of Berkeley, for example, has unusually high black political participation. For about a century, there was a historically black enclave in northwest St. Louis County called Kinloch. In the 1980s, most of Kinloch was erased due to an expansion of the St. Louis airport. Much of Kinloch’s population wound up in nearby Berkeley, infusing the town with black residents who had been in the area for generations, and had well-established traditions of political participation and self government. Currently, Berkeley has an all-black city council, a black mayor, a black city manager, and majority-black police force.

If any town could overcome the legacy of structural racism that drew the map of St. Louis County, then, it would be Berkeley. And yet this town of 9,000 people still issued 10,452 traffic citations last year, and another 1,271 non-traffic ordinance violations. The town’s municipal court raised over $1 million in fines and fees, or about $111 per resident. The town issued 5,504 arrest warrants last year, and has another 13,436 arrest warrants outstanding. Those are modest numbers for St. Louis County, but they’re high for just about anywhere else.

So what’s to be done?  Nothing that will actually happen.

“There are too many towns,” says Vatterott. There are too many towns, and not enough taxpayers to sustain them. How to fix that problem is another matter. There has long been a movement in St. Louis to merge the county with the city. That movement has picked up steam recent years as advocacy groups like Better Together have pushed proposals to merge a number of public services. But real change would require a good portion of these towns to merge with other towns, or to dissolve themselves entirely. That would require the town councils or boards of aldermen to vote themselves out of a job.

If you live around here long enough, you tend to joke about situations like this.  There’s this town a little bit southeast of here called Grantwood Village.  Back when it still had its own police force (consisting of one officer), you knew to drive the speed limit if you were anywhere around the place because Grantwood Village was locally-celebrated for writing you up if you give them even a little bit of a chance.

While I don’t claim to have anything near the horrible experience of Ms. Bolden,  I have had similar treatment.  My truck had expired tags so I was ticketed three times (once by a town called Glendale, while driving the truck, and twice by Webster Groves, while it was parked on private property).

Since it would have cost me at least $500 to bring the damned thing up to code (and that was only the stuff I knew about), I paid off all three tickets.  It was a strain and I had to sell off a little more of my inheritance from my father but I eventually got it done.  And I have since gotten got rid of the truck entirely.


Friday, September 5th, 2014 | Uncategorized | 17 Comments

Want a winning issue for both this November and two years from now?  Advocate defunding or even completely eliminating America’s single greatest criminal conspiracy:

The IRS says it has lost emails from five more workers who are part of congressional investigations into the treatment of conservative groups that applied for tax exempt status.

The tax agency said in June that it could not locate an untold number of emails to and from Lois Lerner, who headed the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt status. The revelation set off a new round of investigations and congressional hearings.

On Friday, the IRS said it has also lost emails from five other employees related to the probe, including two agents who worked in a Cincinnati office processing applications for tax-exempt status.

The agency blamed computer crashes for the lost emails. In a statement, the IRS said it found no evidence that anyone deliberately destroyed evidence.

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