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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Citizen DeLay Quotes
Farewell to Texas' 22nd

"While in Washington in that first decade of service, I was also privileged to be part of another triumph…finally providing Americans with a strong, competitive two party system at the national level."

Let us not forget that it was during the election of 2001 in Texas that he "jerry-mandered", by illegal means, the US congressional districts in "this great state of Texas". This maneuvering led to an off year redistricting (the normal redistricting took place just one year earlier) and the loss of at least five Democratic US congressional seats. In effect, Rep. Tom DeLay, soon to be late of Texas' 22nd, is personally responsible for the death of the two-party system in Washington, DC.

"Together, we put policies in place to renew America’s security, prosperity, and families."

Yeah... about that... no, you really didn't, Citizen DeLay. In fact, as you and your "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party followers took control over both houses of congress and the executive branch (in the likes of "G"lobal "W"arming Bush), oyu have steadily and consistently dismantled the fabric of society in America that made it a fair and prosperous place to grow a family. You took a huge surplus left to you by President Bill Clinton;s White House and gave it back to your wealthy contributors in the form of weighted tax braks and no-bid contracts. Families work longer and harder to keep thier heads above water thanks to your "policies" of "prosperity", and you have done so with the hubris of a monarch who truly has disdain for the "common folk".

"We reformed welfare, moving tens of millions of good Americans from poverty to work and opportunity."

Lower real wages, poor paying jobs and an increase of Americans who now live in poverty might be reform under your definition of the word, but in the world that most Americans live in, the word is destroyed. You have destroyed welfare, destroyed the middle class and destroyed all hope and opportunity. That is your legacy, Citizen DeLay.

"...we approved reforms in energy,"

Enron and the "G"reed that defines you and yours have left millions in this nation without heat in the winter or gasoline to get to work. The likes of "Kenny-Boy" Lay, another indicted, and presently being tried future-felon were your true constituents.

"As I reflect on these past two decades of public service, I have enjoyed every minute of it."

We are all sure of your enjoyment, Citizen DeLay. You had trips to Osaka and the Northern Mariana Islands, free lunches and dinners at your buddy Jack Abramoff's Bistro in DC, and a fancy trip to play golf at St. Andrews in Scotland, paid for by Abramoff and the Indian tribe he ripped off. Yes, Citizen DeLay, you had a good time, at our expense.

"It has also been an honor to work closely with one of Texas’ favorite sons, a president with great moral integrity and leadership, George W. Bush."

I certainly can't argue with you there, Citizen DeLay. Judging on the curve, GW's integrity level dwarfs yours. After all, in the world of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

"Between now and the date that I leave the House, however, I will continue to focus on and tend to several important legislative priorities for the 22nd District."

Translation: I got a lot of stealin' to do.

"I... intend to relocate to my Virginia property and reside closer to Washington,"
"The people of the 22nd district have been extremely loyal and true to me,"

Is that Thomas Jefferson turing over in his grave? So much for the "loyal 22nd".

"A Democrat Congress in 2007 would, without doubt or remorse, raise hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes, summarily cut and run from the war on terror, and immediately initiate an unconstitutional impeachment of President Bush."

Raising taxes on the rich to save this nation; getting out of Iraq in a timely and orderly fashion and an end-game strategy and an impeachment of the Bush administration... Sounds like a Democratic campaign ad to me. Thanks Citizen DeLay.

"I look forward with both joy and curiosity to the future God holds for me."

Is it just me, or does it make all of you ill when Citizen DeLay uses God's name as a personal advertisement?

"We still need to redesign government."

Haven't you "redesigned" enough already? We just can't aford any more of the "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party redecorating.

Citizen DeLay, in his former life as Representative DeLay has done more to rip apart the fabric of this nation than just about anyone other than GW Bush. He has used his position for his own financial and political advancement and has helped destroy the lives and the spirit of a great American people. Citizen DeLay had taken aim at the American middle class and has critically, if not mortally wounded it, while saying its for their own good.

Rep. Delay; Citizen DeLay; Inmate DeLay... It's just the next step.

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2006 Journal Register Newspapers, Inc.

"Bang! You're dead!"

We all played this game as children: pointing our fingers at our friends as if they were weapons and our friends would dutifully fall to the ground--"dead." Children are still playing this game. Only now the weapons are real–Glocks and Magnums, pistols and revolvers–and when the friend falls to the ground he or she usually actually is dead, or at the very least gravely wounded. Juveniles now exceed all other age groups in terms of being targets of violent crimes: 12 out of 100 will be the victim of a violent crime in the U.S. this year and most will be shot.

Teen violence has escalated dramatically in recent years nationally, but in Philadelphia it is worse than anywhere else. Almost a shooting a day of a person 18 or under has occurred thus far in 2006. Guns are the weapon of choice among adults and teens in Philadelphia and the results are, not surprisingly, devastating.

According to municipal records, there were 380 murders in Philadelphia in 2005, 50 more than in 2004. The Philadelphia Police Department stated that of the murders in 2005, 170 of the victims–a full 45 percent of those murdered-- were 25 years old or younger.

In March alone the crimes were devastating. Two boys, aged seven and nine, shot (still in critical condition) in a gun battle in Kensington, the shooters presumed to be teens. A Tastykake truck driver shot and robbed by two boys–one 15, one ten--remains in critical condition. A 15-year-old honor student murdered by his 15-year-old best friend, allegedly during a game in the Northeast, but the shooter was know to carry a gun to school. A 14 year old boy shot in the face while doing community service in his neighborhood, a 15 year old the shooter.

One reason for all these teen shootings, of course, remains the outrageous accessibility of guns in the state of Pennsylvania. Gun laws in Pennsylvania are the most lax in the nation. Anyone can buy a gun, anyone can sell a gun and so-called "straw purchases"–the buying of several guns by one individual and the illegal sales to others of those weapons–is rife in Philadelphia. A decade ago then-Mayor and now-Governor Ed Rendell proposed a limit on gun buyers of only one gun per month in an effort to curb the straw purchase problem. Rendell's proposal was laughed out of the majority Republican State House as ultra-liberal gun control.

In mid-March Philadelphia Mayor John Street sent a letter to Gov. Rendell requesting immediate help with the overwhelming gun problem in Philadelphia. Street cited some of the cities recent grim statistics, "The human cost of gun violence is devastating to the soul of the city and weakens the fabric of our region....Almost 80 percent of our 348 homicides in 2003 were committed with a gun. In a three-year period from January 2001 to February 2004, there were 4,859 gunshot victims killed or injured by gun violence, nearly ten percent involved juveniles."

Street continued, "Almost a year ago we had the tragic murder of Faheem Thomas-Childs [Childs was ten; the shooters, both under 25, were convicted two weeks ago of his murder], outside his [elementary] school. Unfortunately there have been more juvenile murders since, sometimes youth shooting youth."

Street added a few other disturbing statistics to give the state legislature pause: "There are approximately 28,000 active Carry Permits in the City of Philadelphia--compare that to the five boroughs of New York City where there are 16,000 permits. We were compelled to issue more gun permits in Philadelphia in one year--2003--than there are permits in the entire state of New Jersey."

Yet gun proponents in the state legislature, the majority from the rural mid-section of the state where hunting is a way of life and where Philadelphia's problems have always been a subject of rancor and disparagement, have already made clear that no gun laws will be changed in Pennsylvania under their NRA-sponsored watch.

Youth will continue to have ready access to guns at a period in their lives when their judgement is limited and their impulse-control nearly nil. Pennsylvania raised the age for learner's permits for teen drivers in recognition of these issues. Yet it will not intervene when it comes to guns.

The costs of all this violence cannot be overstated, nor the impact understated. Although some youth violence is gang-related and gangs have infiltrated all neighborhoods, not just the poor ones, the majority of violent crimes in the city are still directly related to poverty.

Violence and poverty are as inextricable from each other as are guns and Philadelphia. More than 25 percent of adult Philadelphians and more than 35 percent of children in the city live below the official poverty line, according to the most recent (August 2005) U.S. Census Bureau figures. Philadelphia is one of the nation's ten most poverty-stricken cities, the ninth-poorest big city in the U.S. Just under 43 percent of Philadelphia's population is African American, but more than 70 percent of the gun violence is black-on-black crime.

Poverty and broken homes further the violence. Nationally, more than 50 percent of youth in foster care eventually end up in adult prison for violent crimes, begging the question of what is wrong with the foster care system as well as why so many kids are forced into foster care by deadbeat fathers and addicted mothers. But kids in foster care aren't the only problem of youth violent crime as Columbine certainly proved. And the tolerance for youth crime has receded dramatically in recent years as more and more youth are being tried as adults nationally.

Nowhere is that trend more apparent than in Philadelphia where long-time District Attorney Lynn Abraham is known for being tough on crime regardless of who–or how old–the perpetrator is. Abraham shows no mercy when it comes to violent and egregious crimes. That hard line means most juvenile offenders end up tried as adults under her jurisdiction. Philadelphia sends more youth to adult prisons than any other city in the U.S. Last week alone two 12-year-olds were adjudicated as adults for murder, one a girl who set fire to her house after an argument with her father, then left with the family cat. Her police officer father burned alive.

The aggravated nature of juvenile crimes like the Tastykake robbery or the arson murder of the police officer has become a question of real concern to both law enforcement and child welfare advocates, particularly as juvenile crime is the most recidivist. More than 90 percent of youths who commit crimes will be rearrested and more than 50 percent of those will be rearrested for more violent crimes .

Meanwhile the costs of incarceration are staggering. Factoring in recidivism, according to national statistics, the cost of incarcerating just one youth over the course of his sentence is $1.7 million--money better spent keeping kids in school and teaching them skills so that robbery and drug dealing aren't their only options.

In Los Angeles County, a hotbed of juvenile crime due to gangs, the estimated cost of juvenile crime in annual medical costs was $720 million. Juvenile criminals don't just clog the courts, they clog the hospitals as well.

Various arguments are proffered as to the whys of juvenile crime, but there are irrefutable and salient facts: The increased availability of guns is primary. But social factors cannot be ignored. More families are living at or below poverty level incomes; the Tastykake robbery was allegedly because of the shooter's desire for designer clothes.

Children with a history of sexual abuse are frequent perpetrators of violent crime. There have already been allegations that the arson murder of the police officer was related to sexual abuse.

Another major factor that has been virtually ignored by both media and the criminal justice system itself is that a large percentage of youth currently incarcerated have suffered neurological damage due to prenatal exposure to alcohol and drugs. According to studies of children who suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) and birth addicted to cocaine (crack babies), there is a risk of more than 60 percent of these children being charged with or convicted of a crime. A decade ago nearly one in four children in inner-city Philadelphia hospitals was born with a crack addiction. Those children are now pre-pubescent and may be headed directly for trouble without serious intervention--intervention that may already be ten years too late.

There is no hesitation in Philadelphia when it comes to incarcerating youth offenders. But there seem precious few programs to intervene with at-risk youth before murder becomes their chosen field of endeavor.

Pennsylvania laws are so tough that Amnesty International has taken an interest in how youth are treated here. According to Amnesty International, Pennsylvania ranks sixth overall in the U.S. in population, but it ranks first for juveniles in prison for life, which in Pennsylvania means without parole: no possibility of ever leaving prison unless the sentence is commuted by the Governor.

The Juvenile Act of 1972 requires that any juvenile accused of murder in Pennsylvania be charged as an adult. A petition can be presented to the courts to have the perpetrator tried as a juvenile, as is being done in the case of the 12-year-old charged with the arson murder of her father, but few of these decertifications are approved. A majority of juvenile murderers are still tried as adults and when they are, adult sentences apply. Pennsylvania sentencing is among the most stringent in the nation where first-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence or possible death penalty (although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that death sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional).

Pennsylvania also permits prosecutors to charge accomplices as murderers. Thus a girl who helps her boyfriend in a robbery gone wrong by driving the getaway car or even just watching outside while the crime is committed is considered equally guilty of murder–and subject to the same penalties. Prison for life. Pennsylvania tops the nation in the number of young offenders condemned to life in prison without parole: a staggering 380, nearly all from Philadelphia. (See Amnesty International's report: *The Rest of Their Lives: Life Without Parole for Child Offenders in the United States.*)

According to the FBI, while murder rates are declining nationally, juvenile incarcerations for murder are on the rise. Close to 1,500 youth were arrested for homicide across the U.S. in the past five years, an increase of 37 percent between 1999 and 2004.

What can be done to staunch the flow of blood and lives among Philadelphia's youth? The homicide rate in Philadelphia is four times the national average–higher per capita than New York, Los Angeles and Chicago and higher numerically than Houston, the fourth largest city in the U.S., by more than 150 killings. While other big cities find their homicide rates declining, Philadelphia's is rising; Philadelphia has become a virtual murder capital. Juveniles contribute to this increase–arrests for violent crimes have increased a whopping 40 percent this year alone.

The shooter in the Tastykake robbery, Carlos Petty, is a prototypical juvenile offender. At 15 his rap sheet is, as they say on *Law& Order,* as long as your arm and he is rarely in school, racking up an amazing 96 absences since the beginning of the year (he was–prior to his arrest for murder–a ninth grader at West Philadelphia High School) and another 57 absences last year. The number of unexcused absences should have resulted in expulsion. Or his being sent as a chronic truant with violent tendencies to a more secured school environment. Intervention might have saved him from a life behind bars, which is where he is now headed, having been charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault. Should his victim–still hospitalized since the March 16th shooting–die, Petty can expect prison for life without parole. At 15.

Meanwhile, Petty's relatives were quick to give the standard response: "He's a good boy." But Petty and his 32-year-old mother who gave birth to him at 16 had been at West Philadelphia High School just a month before the March 16th shooting of Kyle Winkfield to discuss his chronic truancy. According to the school principal, Petty had signed a contract to attend school regularly.

He never returned to classes.

Parents are the first defense against juvenile crime. But single teenage mothers and deadbeat absent fathers, parents addicted to drugs and alcohol as well as poverty all add up to children raising themselves on the streets. How could Petty's mother, Cyrena Bowman, think her son was a "good boy" when he had missed 96 days of school? Where did she think he was when he was supposed to be in classes? How did she not know he had a large caliber revolver? Where did she think he acquired his designer clothes or the cars he stole the year before? And what is happening to Petty's siblings, still living with Bowman in their Kingsessing home? Does any social service agency intervene with other siblings when a juvenile is charged with murder?

And this mother is not alone in her ignorance of her son's criminal behavior. All across Philadelphia relatives of juveniles repeatedly arrested assert that their child is good, didn't do it (from murder to rape to assault to burglary), is just getting a bum rap.

On the latter score they are all correct: these juvenile offenders–some murderers, rapists and arsonists–are indeed getting a bum rap, but not at the hands of the police or D.A. Rather they receive this bum rap at the hands of a society that disenfrachises them from birth and never intercedes to keep them out of prison where now one in three African American males under 25 lives and one in seven Latino and white males under 25 reside.

We are raising a nation of thugs and murderers and Philadelphia leads the negative trend. We can ignore the obvious or we can do something to stop it. But no matter what we do, a primary step must be to get the guns off the street in Philadelphia. Perhaps the Republicans in Harrisburg don't care that children are being murdered–or becoming murderers–in Philadelphia. But *we*have to care. Because it's *our* children in the bloodbath. And the killing has to stop.

In response to "Unions" and "Do you remember your father being able to come home at a decent hour? How about family vacations? I even remember when our whole family sat down together on a regular weekday evening for dinner. Remember when mom didn't have to work?"
, Pat Thompson writes:

My dad had a 6th grade education. He worked for a large corporation, after he came back from WWII. He was a union man -- and made enough money for our family to live in a brand new home, buy a GM car every four years, take vacations, and my parents had a 17 year retirement with full medical benefits and a pension, which allowed them to stay in their home, and take cruises, and leave my brother an I some money from the employee savings/stock plan. He worked until 3 p.m., and dinner was on the table at 5 every day. My mom had a part time job working for the Catholic Church, which she loved, and she was done by 2:30 every day. They took long walks most every day, and had lots of time to spend with their grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. My father was a French Canadian immigrant from Canada, and got his citizenship after serving in WWII. Life is much harder for everyone today, unless you belong to the GWB have more club.

And Pat added in response to this: "So I say let's help GM and any other auto manufacturer in the US who employs union workers. After all, they need it and so do we.":

It's a hard decision to make. I know it is wrong, and is self interest to buy a Japanese car. My company leased me several Toyotas in a row, and I learned what "no maintenance" is like. I also drove Chevy's and Pontiacs from the time I was 17 until I was in my mid-40's and I knew very well the amount of major repairs I had to deal with.

Driving a Toyota means nothing but oil changes for 3-4 years, and not too many of them. I am bad with car maintenance, but these cars have never failed me. It would be very difficult to go back to GM. And my Toyota is built in Kentucky. With my husband's retirement looming, we need a basic, inexpensive car that we could depend on for a long time. We are considering a Prius. I know that is bad for GM, and for the country. Can anybody tell me about a good GM car that would be as efficient and reliable as a Toyota?

I bought a Chevy Cobalt with ABS, side-airbags and enough comfort for someone who travels about 35,000 miles per year. I recommend it. It averaged about 27 MPG combined NYC driving and Highway. -NG

In response to "Immigration from Mexico and Central America, documented or not is just the Indians coming back to claim what we stole from them." Pat Thompson writes:

Yes, surely most of the people of "Hispanic" origin in Mexico aren't the ones coming over the border -- it is the native "Indian" people, mixed with some Spanish blood, who are the poor immigrants. The "36 families" who run, and own Mexico, are descendants of the original Spanish Conquistadors who own the large estates and ranches. Does anyone remember Vicente Fox's tax change a few years ago -- rather than trying to tax the income of the very very rich, he decided to institute a 15% sales tax on FOOD, as well as everything else. So poor people suddenly had 15% less food, and every peso they made was spent, and therefore was taxed. Now that is a regressive tax plan. I had an interesting experience this year in New Mexico, a US state by the way, where many people of Hispanic heritage have lived since the early 1600's. They co-exist with the Pueblo Indians who are also in their original locations in Taos Pueblo, etc. A young man of Hispanic, Mexican heritage was telling us of his various family members who had come to the US -- to Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California. He said only one family had gone to Kentucky -- which was not part of the original Mexican land. They DO still consider it "theirs".

I response to "Finally, two items barely related: ABC's mid-season sit-com *Sons&Daughters* isn't the least bit political but it sure is hilarious. It's must-see", Pat Thompson writes:

Big Love on HBO, Sunday at 10 p.m., and repeated through the week is about a Polygamous Mormon family and larger group of polygamous people in Utah -- the reddest of the red states. What a glimpse into this male dominated society!

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-Noah Greenberg