Friday, July 20, 2007

We're Moving To WordPress

After careful consideration, Pam and I have set up camp at . It gives us the best platform possible for presenting information to you and gives you a much better platform for interacting with us.

This site will still be here--- A lot of good people have linked to us over the last fourteen months, and I won't have those links lead to a blank page. But our complete archives, including comments, have been copied onto the WordPress server. And the WordPress site is where you'll find all of our new content.

We hope that you'll join us over there, and if you subscribe to us in a reader, please update your bookmarks.

Thank you,
Rick and Pam

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Satanic Panic and the West Memphis 3

For the first time in the fourteen year history of the West Memphis Child Murders, there is actual physical evidence conclusively pointing to a suspect--- And as most people with functioning brain stems expected, it does not point to the West Memphis 3.

The DNA of Terry Hobbs, stepfather of murder victim Steven Branch, was found in the rope used to tie up one of the murder victims. You can read the forensic report here.

There was a time when I thought the West Memphis 3 did it. One of the suspects had allegedly made a full confession, and West Memphis Police Chief Gary Gitchell (Think Inspector Clouseau with a southern accent) never tired of regaling reporters with information that appeared to be the result of a small town rumor mill on crack than any true investigative work.

During the first trial, we found out just how questionable the confession was. Wannabe professional wrestler Jessie Misskelley, whose IQ tested at the lower end of comfortable room temperature, was questioned by police for three hours, only 46 minutes of which was recorded. In this “confession”, he told police that the murders took place in the afternoon before the three young victims were even missing (Something the police can be heard coaching him on even on the recording). He said that one of the boys was raped, which turned out not to be true. He insisted that the boys were all tied up with rope, when in fact, two were tied up with their own shoelaces.

If such a “confession” had been made in New York or Massachusetts, it would have been tossed immediately as having been worthless. But he confessed to something that piqued small town hysteria.

When asked why he, Damien Echols, and Jason Baldwin killed the three boys, he claimed to have been a member of a satanic cult for three months, and that the boys were killed as part of a ritual.

A quick Google search on churches in West Memphis showed 66 distinct results--- That’s quite a bit for a town of only 28,000 people. Church is part of the daily life in the town. When you cry “Satanism!” you get a response.

The defense team for the three defendants asked for a change in venue--- Certainly not an unreasonable request considering that Chief Gary Gitchell and his Mini-Me, Detective Bryn Ridge seemed to be in front of the cameras more often than Britney Spears’ hoo-ha.

But it ended up playing into the hands of the prosecution--- The trials were moved to perhaps one of the few places more heavily churched than West Memphis. Jonesboro, Arkansas has 206 churches and is so bound by biblical doctrine that alcohol cannot be legally sold in Craighead County.

The jurors spent months listening to stories about Satanism, including unintentionally comical testimony from occult killings “expert” Dale Griffis (Revealed under cross examination to be the customer of a mail order diploma mill) who, with a straight face, said that the defendants’ taste in music (Pink Floyd and Metallica) and their taste in literature (Stephen King and Anne Rice) was proof of their Satanism.

And the jury returned with the shocking, yet at the same time predictable verdict--- Guilty as charged.

The news broke two months ago that the case was being reexamined by, among others, noted forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, perhaps best known as the focus of HBO’s “Autopsy” documentary series.

Did Terry Hobbs do it? Perhaps. I do not know. I know that when John Mark Byers, the stepfather of another of the victims, heard erroneously that bite marks had been found, he had his teeth removed. I’m not aware of a strong connection between Byers and Hobbs, so I have no idea if they would have worked in concert or why they would have done it.

But at the very least, this is evidence that should be heard in court, and it’s high time that this case got a second look. The three fendants have lost fourteen years of their lives already. Damien Echols is known to have been raped and severely beaten in prison. Jason Baldwin was just moved from one facility to another as part of an investigation into abuse at the hands of prison staff. The case against them was so weak that my suspicion is that there were only 24 people on earth who couldn't find reasonable doubt--- Unfortunately, they were the jurors at the two trials. They deserve to have evidence that might exonerate them be heard. And all of us deserve the truth--- For if three men wrongfully convicted of this murder sit in jail, then the person or persons who did it walk freely among us.

Gee-Dubya and the Small Businessman

President Bush is revisiting NashVegas today, the scene of one of the all time legendary Bushisms--- The infamous “Fool Me Once” speech--- to focus on how he helps small businesses.

You know--- Like that tiny Mom and Pop operation Halliburton.

But he claims to do a lot for small businesses, so I decided to make a list of small businesses that do benefit from his policies.

See? We've gotta give credit where it's due.

Worst. Band. Ever. (WAY Off Topic)

Listen at your own risk. (Hat tip to Ubermilf)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Hey Fatass!

I know this sounds like a strange question, but it's certainly one that should come up the next time President Bush does one of his rare Q&A sessions in the Rose Garden.

"Mr. President, would you describe yourself as 'fat'?"

See, according to governmental standards, he is. Standing 5'11" and weighing in at 191 pounds, his BMI is 26, a full point above what the government deems "normal".

Now, I've certainly levelled many criticisms against him over the years, and I'm certain that many more are lurking around the corner. But fat? Not one of them.

He's in good company. Using the same scale, George Clooney is overweight. So are Michael Jordan, Johnny Depp, David Duchovny, Bruce Willis, Will Smith, Harrison Ford, Yao Ming, Brad Pitt, Vin Diesel... Need I go on?

And beyond overweight, we have the "obese" category. I don't smell what The Rock is cooking, but the government says it made him obese. So are Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Scwarzenegger and Mike Tyson.

I played around with my own height and weight to see what category I was in. I'm the same height and weight as Nicholas Cage--- Overweight. I could stand to lose a few more pounds, so I'm not arguing with my own classification too much. I decided to see what kind of weight I would have to get down to before the government deemed me "normal".

At 6'1", I would have to get down to 180 pounds. Sorry--- I've weighed 180 before. My ribs were sticking out. I had people asking if I was terminally ill.

It was not my first encounter with the BMI. Several years back, I was working for a national gym chain. As you might expect, during off-peak hours, we'd change clothes and catch a workout. As a result, I was in a shape that I haven't been able to dream about for years now. At the time of my insurance physical when I switched plans, I was 240 and had a bodyfat level that consistently tested in the ten percent range.

Sorry. Obese.

And that's when you cut through the bullshit and get to the real reason for such absurd standards--- Medical insurance companies get to charge more for coverage if they assess you as a risk.

You know, for being overweight.

The government sticks to this standard for one reason and one reason alone--- The insurance industry loves it. It allows them to charge a premium by assessing "extra risk" to the very least likely people to need their services.

We could make a list of the things about the health care industry that need to be reformed, and the list would be so expansive that we could bring the internet to a screeching halt. Most of those reforms would take a lot of time and a radical restructuring of the existing system.

Fixing this is easy. It's low hanging fruit. This is something we could fix next month if the political will can be mustered. And it's not terribly expensive, either.

I did about thirty seconds' worth of Googling. You know, painstaking research and all. You can get an AccuMeasure Fat Track Pro for about $75, about the same amount most hospitals charge for an aspirin. We kept three of them at the gym. While there's no way to certify 100% accuracy, it's certainly a more reliable indicator of fitness than an arbitrary set of numbers that doesn't take into account bone density or lean mass.

And just for fun, until the change is made... If you find yourself in the company of the president, as Nashvillians will this week, don't hesitate to point out the lunacy of this standard by shouting "Hey Fatass!"

One for the road--- Just showing you the government's idea of obesity.

*** Hat tip to Kat Coble at Music City Bloggers for this post, which led me to this page tracking which celebrities are fat.

Have You Seen This Man?

He was last seen wandering around the Hart Senate Building in Washington DC saying:

“Marriage is a core institution of societies throughout the world and throughout history. It's something that has provided permanence and stability for our very social structure.”


We still don't know where he's hiding, but at least we know why. He better be wearing one seriously heavy duty cup under that diaper.

“I’m a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary . . . If he does something like that, I’m walking away with one thing, and it’s not alimony, trust me.”

Wendy Vitter during the Monica Lewinsky scandal

Na Na Na Na, Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey Hey...

It was early May two years ago. I was getting ready to walk out the door to visit my sick father when my friend Brad Watkins called me on my cell phone.

"Have you been hearing something about a corruption scandal involving local Democrats?" he asked. "I'm hearing they got "John Ford for taking a bribe."

I pulled up the News Channel 3 website and said "Aw shit. They got Kathryn Bowers too."

Bowers, of course, was Chairwoman of the Shelby County Democratic Party at the time, so there was a special sting to her getting busted for corruption that we wouldn't have felt had it been a lesser known player.

She was the tiny firebrand of a woman I'd met over the course of the 2004 campaign season, the chain smoking, hard drinking woman with a kind word and an amusing story for everyone.

Over the next few weeks, Tennessee Waltz dominated the local media, and even gave the city more than a few kicks in the dangly bits by broadcasting our scandal, our shame on a national scale. Fox News, in particular, loved the story of corrupt Democrats gone out of control.

I missed much of that media coverage. Right after the scandal broke, my father took a turn for the worse and passed away on May 31, 2005. I remember June 2, 2005 well--- I wanted to get back in the swing of things immediately, so I drove straight from my father's funeral to the SCDP Executive Committee meeting during which Bowers tendered her resignation.

What does my father have to do with Tennessee Waltz, or Kathryn Bowers, or anything else? Absolutely nothing, directly. And everything all at the same time.

My father was still alive when this scandal broke. And I've had twenty-five months to get used to living without him.

The last two Waltz holdouts finally pled out over the last few days, with Bowers bringing up the rear. She said the other day that her conscience led her to change her plea.

Where was that conscience twenty-six months ago? It's not like the evidence against her was any weaker then than it is today.

My friend Chris wrote an extraordinary piece waxing sentimental about her. I can understand that. I disagree, but I can understand it.

I'm one of the people that was in the trenches in 2004. I spent much of that year swinging by SCDP Headquarters at 2100 Poplar first thing in the morning, working a full day, then going back for more on the way home.

She didn't sell herself out on the cheap. She sold ME out on the cheap. She sold out Vicki Lyons, David Upton, John Freeman, Meg Siegenthaler, Pam Saavedra, Joe Weinberg, John Marek, Jim Vandiveer, and dozens upon dozens of others on the cheap. She sold out, on the cheap, everyone who turned out to help her out when she decided to shift from the House to the Senate despite their campaign fatigue. She sold out Mike Kernell, Beverly Marrero, and every other honorable lawmaker whose office space she stunk up with her corruption.

John Ford, Roscoe Dixon, Ward Crutchfield, Chris Newton, both Michael Hookses, Calvin Williams, Charles Love, William Cotton, and yes, Kathryn Bowers. You all deserve a Political Darwin Award. Your departure from the Tennesseee political genepool has made it stronger.

The Road To One America...

...stopped in Memphis last night. Kibitzer, Autoegocrat, David Holt, Vibinc, Blogfather Cracker, Jon Carroll, and of course, the lovely Pam and I were all on hand.

In a departure from his usual stump speech, Edwards addressed the crowded house at the MIFA Thrift Store on Vance about the need to eliminate poverty once and for all.

Here, we walk in the steps of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and his work is not finished," he said, invoking the famous "Poor People's Campaign" in the poorest ZIP code in the city, an area with a median income of about $10,000 per year.

"We are still confronted with a huge moral issue in this country," he told the 500 on hand. "It is not okay in the richest nation on the planet to have 37 million people who work every single day that have to worry about feeding and clothing their children. We're better than that. America is better than that."

You can view photos from the event by clicking here.

***Special Mega-hat tip to Jackson Baker, who came to the rescue with his audio of the speech when my voice recorder failed on me last night.


Vibinc, who recorded last night's event on a high definition camcorder, has posted the YouTube video.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Draft This.

Notice I said “actually in the race” in that last post. That kind of brings me to another thing I absolutely loathe in American politics. It’s the “draft me” syndrome.

Several years ago, I was involved in a race in another state that went pretty well. A friend of mine was eager to set up a lunch between me and someone else who was considering a run for office.

I sat across from him and discussed message and strategy should he decide to get in the race. He interrupted me as I was getting wound up, and I’ll never forget what he said.

“What you say sounds all well and good, but you haven’t given me a reason to run yet.”

I stood up, tossed my cloth napkin onto the table, and walked out. And the reason for that is very simple. I can’t remember precisely what I said to him (And I won’t pretend that there was no profanity involved), but I’ll give it to you today as I would say it today, and I’ll tell this to LaSimba Gray and anyone else that wants to “draft” Mayor Wharton or any of the Astroturf guys masquerading as grass roots on the other side of the fence pretending that the “draft Fred” effort is genuine.

You simply do not have to draft a leader. You do not have to poke and prod them into action. A real leader has the testicular fortitude to stand up and tell you he wants to lead you. When he loses the race, you have to tell him to sit down and shut up.

I don’t say this to insult Mayor Wharton--- On the contrary, I have nothing but the utmost respect for the man, and I genuinely like him.

But just as I believe it’s wrong to come up with answers and try to come up with a question that fits them, it’s wrong to ask the voters to support a candidate that will not actually say he’s in the race.

Just level with the people, AC and Fred. If you want to run, say so. But please, in the name of God’s ass, give us a break from the Astroturf.

All Herenton, All the Time

A very good friend of mine just sent me the new Gadfly piece from The Memphis Flyer. As much as I like Gadfly and respect much of what he has written in the past, I read “Why the Mayor Will Lose” and had to scratch my head, wondering if Gadfly is new to the city.

First, there’s the obvious. He seems to read the public’s disenfranchisement with Mayor Herenton as some kind of sign that they’ll actually do something crazy like, you know, vote against him.

First, of all, it’s flawed logic that public displeasure with a candidate automatically translates to votes against him. We’ve made that assumption before. Remember November 2, 2004? People of my political persuasion call that “Dark Tuesday”, as it guaranteed us four more years of the leadership of a guy that couldn’t find nipples in a titty bar.

Memphians are always “tired of Mayor Willie Herenton, including his shenanigans and histrionics”. Yes, they’re tired of them now. They were also tired of them in 2003. And 1999. Oh, and don’t forget 1995.

He also refers to the recent “thumping” of Robert Spence in the Senate District 30 primary as evidence that the people want the mayor cut loose. Nice theory, but another false association.

First, Spence was walking into the lion’s den by even running in District 30. District 30 and white liberals were made for one another. I think that I and the rest of the liberal bloggers were perhaps giving Spence credit for having game that he didn’t actually have when we thought he would be a real contender in that race.

But perhaps more importantly--- This was not Spence’s first attempt at running for office. When the Herenton machine was still riding high, he ran against Wanda Halbert and spent well over $100,000--- Most of the candidates for US Congress last year would love to have had that kind of money to play with--- Yet he still only managed to eke out a third place finish, winding up Election Night with numbers only Lyndon LaRouche could love.

By the way--- You mention Herenton discounting the polls as if there’s something outrageous about that. The mayor discounted the polls for the same reason I discount those very polls. Partially because we’ve seen more than our fair share of unreliable polling (Just ask President John Kerry).

One of those polls was taken out by a Cordova firm that has polled for Ed Bryant in the past (They had him up, by the way--- How did that one turn out?), and at 500 likely voters, is far too small a field to get what I would consider reliable data. And the other was taken out by… The very guy that now stands accused of attempting to blackmail the mayor by paying a topless bar waitress to videotape herself having sex with him (As if that would even work--- Herenton would likely sell copies of it at fundraisers. We know Herenton likes to have sex with women. That is how babies are made, right?)

If I was him, I wouldn’t sweat those polls either.

Make no mistake. I have come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. I’m not particularly fond of Herenton. Unlike some of his critics, I can separate personal foibles from abilities as an executive, and I tend to overlook a lot of the personal garbage. I care about politics, not the “Melrose Place” that politics is often reduced to by people that don’t care enough to learn real issues.

He’s certainly not a political ideal either. For every brilliant thing he’s done, my friends have no trouble bringing up at least one thing that makes me say “Yeah, that was pretty bonehead of him.”

But at this point, no one that is actually in the race has given me or anyone but their own diehards a solid reason to vote for them other than “I’m not Willie”.

Yes, voters are fatigued with Herenton. They always have been. As much as I have read and enjoyed Gadfly in the past, this seems pretty off the mark.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Lady and the GOP Tramp

I think Ms. Edwards could have been more assertive, but she did well overall. Coulter's face towards the end: priceless.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Presidential Pop-litics

Think Gwendolyn Smith will put out one for Willie?

For You, Genital!

There’s a blogger out there I won’t name. For the sake of this post, I’ll call him “Jesuit Genital”.

Jesuit Genital is a funny guy. Not quite as funny as he thinks, but hey, what good liberal can’t hear about trying to recruit College Republicans to fight in a war they think is so glamorous and not chuckle a little bit?

But Genital proved recently that he should perhaps leave the intellectual heavy lifting to others.

It seems that last week, as he perused the web looking for something to whine about, he stumbled onto Nashville Is Talking.

For those not familiar with it, Nashville Is Talking is an aggregator/ blog hybrid. The sidebar represents feeds from most of the blogs in the state, and the body of the site is (Or was) the lovely Brittney Gilbert calling our attentions to articles she believed we should read for one reason or another.

And there was a post there that was offensive. It was not Brittney’s original content. It was vomited onto the internet by a tool calling himself Smantix. Brittney reposted it without a comment which, to morons unfamiliar with sites that try to represent both sides of the issue, might have looked something like an endorsement. It wouldn’t have been terribly difficult to actually look at the rest of the articles on the page and see what was actually going on.

Still, Genital felt no need to do such a thing. His stock in trade is whining. Nothing to complain about = Nothing to write about.

So he fired up his loyal gang of sycophants, and they rushed over to verbally harass Brittney.

Here’s a small taste of what she had to endure at their hands:

• “You are a liar.”
• “…you are so f*cking retarded…”
• “Just wanted to let you know. I’ve copied this post and forwarded it to your advertisers with a few comments. Perhaps you will receive a lesson of your own.”
• “I’m writing to the station director and every advertiser can find - mocking the tragic death of a young man is inexcusable. And in this particular case, viciously racist as well…Brittney should be fired.”
• “If Brittney truly aspires to be a “journalist”, she should consider employment at FOX or possibly try to get a job interning with Coulter, Limbaugh or O’Reilly. There she will learn how to get away with saying hateful things all by herself (instead of recycling someone else’s screed) and then deny their meaning and intent.”

Um… Assholes? Allow me to explain something to you.

I am a liberal blogger in Tennessee. For every one of us, there are three guys on the other side of the fence talking about how the war in Iraq was a swell idea, how liberals should be rounded up into camps, and how everyone should have a tripod-mounted .50 caliber machine gun in the yard to protect their garden flamingos with. Our governor is a Democrat, but he only wins because he’s more conservative than Schwarzenegger and Giuliani and the Republicans have, in the last two cycles, managed to run Republicans so bugshit crazy that even Republicans can’t get behind them.

But there was one place where we could go and be represented on a level playing field, and that was Nashville Is Talking. She made sure that liberal AND conservative ideologies were well represented. She promoted US.

Furthermore, had just one of you mouthbreathers actually bothered to read so much as a single piece she commented on, you would have learned something.

You attacked another liberal, you jackasses. Conservatives whined about her constantly. They, much like you lot of whining pusbags, managed to get the vapors just by looking at her words on the screen.

Congratulations. You have followed in the liberal tradition of eating your own.

Oh, by the way, assclowns--- Although she’s certainly nice, and I have nothing bad to say about her--- Brittney’s replacement doesn’t exactly hail from our side of the fence. And the site reflects that now.

In the future, before you start whining, I would recommend you crack open a twelve ounce can of STFU, drink it down, and actually have a look at what’s going on on the site before humiliating yourselves again.

Guinness-tastically yours,
The Freedonian

Thanks. Really. I Mean It.

It’s been a while since the last update here at Casa de Freedonian. I’ve had a few other writing projects going on. And as much as I love blogging, the time involved in reading the blogs of my brilliant friends, researching, and writing something of my own takes substantial time.

When I’m blogging at my peak, my other writing projects get a page written on them if I’m having a good day. When I’m not blogging, I turn in, on average, 6-8 pages per day. One day last week, I set a new personal best by writing a whopping thirteen pages in one day, a feat I’ll not likely be able to repeat soon.

For all those who have missed my daily musings, all who have waited patiently, and all who have come back to read again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I won’t promise that there will be no further interruptions. But I do promise that they will not be as long.

Thank you,

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Kevin Gallagher Fundraiser

Tennessee House District 89 candidate Kevin Gallagher held a fundraiser yesterday at Fresh Slice on Overton Park.

“It vastly exceeded expectations,” Gallagher said.

The event drew over 100 people. Shelby County Commissioner James Harvey was in attendance, as was former Shelby County Commissioner Linda Rendtorff. Former Shelby County Democratic Party Chairman Matt Kuhn attended, as did current Vice Chair Desi Franklin.

Much of the team that aided Gallagher in sending Steve Cohen to the US House of Representatives was in attendance as well, including Cohen Field Director/ impending Hillary Clinton Iowa team staffer Liz Rincon, former University of Memphis College Democrats President John Marek, several representatives of the current U of M College Democrats, and blogger Steve Steffens.

“I am heartened not only by the quantity but the quality of people that turned out,” Gallagher said.

Criminal Justice Part I: Don't Let the Truth Get In the Way.

This is the first article in a five part series examining justice as it is applied in the most serious cases our criminal court system is designed to handle--- Murder. Future articles will examine other convictions and look at improvements that can be made to improve the justice system.

Every time an innocent man is convicted, a guilty man goes free.

Twenty-one-year-old Debra Carter had been found beaten, raped, and suffocated in her garage apartment in Ada, Oklahoma on December 8, 1982.

After five years of police work that can only charitably be called slipshod, detectives caught a break in the case: A career criminal named Glen Gore told detectives that he had seen Ada resident Ron Williamson with Debra Carter at the night club she worked at on the night of the murder.

Williamson would never be mistaken for a choirboy. He had been arrested and acquitted twice on rape charges. He also had a long history of mental illness that dated back to his playing days for one of the New York Yankees’ farm teams.

Dennis Fritz was implicated simply because he was Williamson’s only friend. No witness put him anywhere near Carter on the night of the murder. Ironically, Fritz was a single parent because of the murder of his own wife several years earlier, a murder for which he was never a suspect.

Six years later, the two men had a difficult time establishing alibis. When the case was tried in 1988, DNA testing was rare and in its infancy. The police had blood and hair on the scene that they thought could theoretically have come from the two men, but nothing conclusive.

During interrogation, Ron Williamson mentioned having had a nightmare about spirits attacking him. Police insisted that this dream was a thinly veiled confession.

District Attorney William Peterson handled the case. Three jailhouse informants testified against Dennis Fritz in his April 1988 trial. Coupled with the hair and blood evidence and his friendship with Williamson sealed his fate. One juror held out during the sentencing phase to make it a life sentence instead of a death sentence.

Attorney General William Peterson presented as evidence Glen Gore's statement (Perhaps tellingly, he refused to testify at trial) that the victim had told him on the night of the murder that Ron Williamson had been bothering her. A jailhouse informant named Terri Holland told the jury that she had overheard Ron Williamson confessing to the murder in jail. She joined yet another jailhouse informant who miraculously heard Williamson confess to the crime less than 24 hours before police were going to have to release Williamson for lack of evidence. The jury returned a guilty verdict and sentenced Williamson to death.

In 1994, Williamson was five days away from his date with the needle when he was granted a stay of execution. The Innocent Man.

A year and a half after the murder of Debra Carter, there was yet another murder in Ada Oklahoma. If it sounds like I’m telling you the same story twice, I assure you, I’m not.

Twenty-four-year-old newlywed Denise Haraway had been abducted from the Ada convenience store where she was employed. The cash register had been emptied, and the victim’s car and purse were still on the scene.

Several months later, twenty-year-old Tommy Ward was questioned, as he resembled a man seen walking out of the store with Haraway. A jailhouse informant (Starting to see a pattern already? Just wait.) told police that he had overheard who had killed Haraway.

Ward initially denied any involvement in the murder. He was released and took a polygraph at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. When he was told he had failed, he explained that he thought the results might have been off because of a dream he had.

After eight hours of unrecorded interrogation, Ward confessed to the murder, implicating two others in the death. He told investigators that he had participated in the abduction, rape, and murder of Haraway with his best friend Karl Fontenot and another Ada resident, Odell Titsworth. He told them that Titsworth was the ringleader, and that the thre of them gang-raped her, murdered her with Titsworth’s knife, and dumped her body near Sandy Creek. He apparently didn’t know Titsworth very well, as he kept referring to him as “Titsdale” throughout the recorded part of the interrogation.

Karl Fontenot was arrested, and confessed after two hours of interrogation. His confession clashed with Ward’s on the order in which the three men raped her, as well as the number of stab wounds. In his confession, after murdering her with Titsworth’s knife, they took her to an abandoned house where Titsworth poured gasoline over her and burned the body.

Police picked up Titsworth for questioning, but decided that it was unlikely that he could have carried out the attack. He had broken his arm in a scuffle with police only days before the murder, a fact that neither Ward nor Fontenot apparently knew. He was never charged.

Police sifted the remains of the burned out house where Fontenot claimed the body of Denise Haraway had been destroyed. As they were examining the “crime scene”, the owner came out and told them that it was impossible for the suspects to have destroyed the body in that house--- He had burned down the house himself ten months before the murder.

But none of that really mattered to District Attorney William Peterson (See the pattern forming again?). He had another jailhouse informant whose testimony would cement the case---

Terri Holland. Look a little further back up the page, and you’ll see that this is not the first time she’s provided testimony in a murder case. She claimed to have overheard Karl Fontenot confessing, just as she had claimed to have overheard Ron Williamson. I’m not sure there’s a priest in America that has heard as many confessions as Ms. Holland has claimed to have heard.

Besides her testimony, District Attorney Peterson had to ask a jury to believe two confessions that contradicted one another in almost every way, and both indicated the involvement of a third man that the police department never saw fit to file charges against.

And believe it they did. For Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot received death sentences.

Four months after the sentences were handed down, a trapper found the skeletal remains of Denise Haraway in a field. Forensic examinations have revealed no signs of stabbing, but a bullet hole in her skull. No soft tissue remained, so no DNA has been harvested. Her body was found 30 miles away from any place mentioned in either “confession”.

Ward and Fontenot were retried. And on the basis of “confessions” which not only didn’t match each other terribly well, but bore no resemblance to the physical evidence in the case, they both received life sentences.

Mark Barrett, the defense attorney that helped clear Williamson and Fritz in 1999, has taken over the case and feels confident that he can not only clear his clients, but he feels confident that he can prove who actually committed the murder.

William Peterson still serves as District Attorney for the City of Ada.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Men of Virtue

It’s heartening to see NFL players turn out for a good cause--- You know, like defending Michael Vick for animal cruelty.

In a backpedal worthy of John McCain, Washington Redskins player Clinton Portis called dog fighting a “prevalent” part of life (In the words of Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. ”) before issuing another statement stating “I do not participate in dog fighting or condone dog fighting in any manner”.

His moronic teammate Chris Samuels added “Have you ever seen ‘Animal Planet’?” with a giggle.

The facts of the case are very simple. Michael Vick has a home in Virginia, one of the many states where dog fighting is illegal (If it’s legal in any state at all, I’m not aware of it). Over the course of raiding this home as part of a drug investigation (You know, because Vick is such a virtuous soul), police found dozens of dogs and equipment associated with dog fighting.

It’s animal cruelty, plain and simple. It does not matter, as Portis says, that the dogs are Vick’s property. The fact is that you are not allowed to do this to living creatures.

I’ve seen dog fighting video before. A company I used to work for had a sideline business copying uncopyrighted videos for people, and some assclown brought in a video a few minutes before we closed for the weekend.

I got back in on Monday, and we put the tape in to copy--- And we saw several men gathered around, placing bets as two pitbulls fought to the death.

We called the police. My coworker at the time raised and bred Akitas, and I love dogs enough that animal cruelty is something we take pretty severe offense at.

And even the dog fight itself is only the tip of the problem. A big dog on fight day has, as a general rule, been beaten mercilessly and fed countless smaller animals to try and stoke the bloodlust that would make domesticated animals act like vicious wild predators.

You train a dog for the fighting circuit by beating and starving it. Then you put smaller animals in the pen with it. A kitten. A smaller dog. The dog learns to associate killing another animal with survival. Then and only then do you have a fighting dog.

Michael Vick is a part of this.

So I think it’s only fair, if it’s proven that he takes part in this, that he be thrown in a pen with a bunch of larger predators. As an athlete, he may be able to take a few of them out--- But not all of them. And famous inmates always have a bullseye on their heads. If he was still alive, you could ask Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who routinely got his ass kicked behind bars.

I cannot advocate strongly enough the idea of Michael Vick learning a lesson about cruelty by being fed up to some larger predators.

Idol Chatter

We’re down to the finals on “American Idol” this week.

The big winner? Everyone who quit watching already.

It’s now down to a “human beat box” (And the judges have been proving all season just how desperately out of touch they are when they call this white kid “unique” for doing something the black kids in my junior high P.E. class circa 1984 used to do in the locker room) vs. a seventeen-year-old that sings with slightly less soul than C3-PO.

This show is based on a British show with a British formula for finding the next pop star, all while overlooking one crucial element:

British pop sucks.

I was watching a show on BBC America a couple of weeks ago that was going for a “hip” feel by using a British pop song. When I heard it, I reflexively reached for my cell phone--- The intro to the song sounded that much like a bad ring tone.

The show was supposed to be improved by the addition of a real house band--- Yet with few notable exceptions (Those being when they played the songs wrong, such as Haley Scarnato’s rendition of “Brass In Pocket” and Jordin Sparks’ version of “Living On A Prayer”, a song so simple that a guitar, if thrown off a cliff, can play it by itself as it bangs against the jagged rocks on the way down), it still sounds like a bad karaoke CD.

Call me a pop culture curmudgeon if you must. But one thing you notice as you grow older is that increasingly, “pop culture” is an oxymoron, and the real purpose of “American Idol” is to give us something to chatter about between football season and baseball season.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

"Living With MS" Blog Relaunched

Sometimes, good things happen and I don't notice them immediately.

Several months back, all of us on the Memphis scene were sad to note that a lady who had been great to all of us had quit blogging when Blinders Off felt that she was unable to continue her "Living With MS" blog. Those of us that have had to see Multiple Sclerosis in action certainly understood, though.

Well I'm glad to point out to anyone that has had their head up their own arse similarly to mine that she has indeed now relaunched as of two weeks ago today.

We're glad to have your voice back on the scene, Blinders!

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Gallagher Crime Plan

I didn't realize it, but Kevin Gallagher demonstrated yesterday why I love it when candidates blog, particularly local candidates. He unveiled the Gallagher Crime Plan, and I think it's a particularly interesting one.

I would recommend everyone go check it out.

UPDATE: My friend and brother Vibinc pointed out to me that the Gallagher Crime Plan is also available on Gallagher's official campaign site:


$21 per Week

I’ve been fortunate in my life. I’ve never had to go on food stamps. So I had no idea just how low the average weekly allowance in food stamps actually is until I saw this Liberadio piece via Volunteer Voters (This piece actually began its life as a comment at VV, but I got frustrated and put it here when the VV page refreshed, wiping out everything I'd written)

$21 per week. That shakes out to $3 per day, averaging a dollar per meal.

Now, I can already hear the voices from the right chiming in to tell me how wrong I am to want an increase. Read the rest of this before you do, though.

Keeping the limit at $21 forces the poor into miserable nutritional choices. I’m not saying that the poor will necessarily make better nutritional choices if they’re given more to work with--- But as it stands now, they are forced into the very worst of everything. Fat is cheap because it has very little nutritional value. I’m sure I could save at the grocery store if I quit buying the 90% lean ground beef at $2.99 per pound and went with the ridiculously fatty ground beef at $1.79 per pound. But buying the $1.79 per pound ground beef has side effects that I don’t want, the least of which is an expanding waistline. Limiting your weekly grocery shopping to $21 per week forces you into the fattier foods. It guarantees that your diet will consist almost entirely of fats and starchy foods such as potatoes.

We face an obesity epidemic in this nation. From 1976-80, our nation stood at 15% obesity. A similar survey taken in 2003-04 put the obesity rate at 32.9%, according to the CDC.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you the health risks associated with obesity. Type II diabetes, heart disease, hypertension leading to increased strokes, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, respiratory problems--- The list goes on.

The $21.7 billion in the year 2000 alone. That factors in health care, work absence, and school absence.

Simply put, keeping the allowance at $21 per week virtually guarantees that people are forced into the kind of nutritional choices that will make them more likely to drain our resources in the future.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Keith Olbermann Accepts the First Annual Ivins Award

And although he is sadly not on the video, the Memphis Flyer's publisher Ken Neill presented it to him.


UPDATE: Pesky Fly has Ken Neill's speech transcribed here.

Straight Outta Fordville.

So it's come to my attention that there are some upset voters in District 89.

Jeanne Richardson signs are popping up all over the district. The problem is that not everyone who now has a Richardson sign in the front yard is someone that actually requested one.

For anyone that's familiar with Memphis politics at all, you'll recognize the tactic. People involved with the Ford campaigns (And as I've pointed out before, there is definitely some overlap) have a tendency to do that. I've seen it firsthand myself--- I went to a Ford event, came out, and found his bumper sticker stuck to my car.

Congressman Steve Cohen, whose successful congressional campaign was managed by Richardson's opponent Kevin Gallagher, has made it clear that he supports Gallagher and will intervene in this race directly if there were any more shenanigans in this race.

Will this be what it takes? Are the unnamed people running the Richardson campaign reckless enough to want to trigger that?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

And I Didn't Even Know She Was Running For a Federal Office!

This is a mailer that was just sent out by the Jeanne Richardson campaign. If you're looking at the headline and having one of those Jon Stewart "Whuuuuuuuuu?" moments, I assure you--- You're not the only one.

For while I don't think you could find many Democrats that would disagree with the notion that Bush's War is Horrible (Perhaps Harold Ford Jr, but it depends what day of the week you ask him), you're left with one problem at the end of the day---

Tennessee's House of Representatives has about as much pull regarding Iraq as Paris Hilton would in a school for the gifted.

The second part of the mailer makes a decent, if somewhat convoluted case for using the state's budget surplus to help pick up the shortfall created by funding cuts Bush made to federal (Note that word) programs such as Head Start. And I certainly don't think that is an unreasonable thing to want.

But this mailer is insulting to the intelligence of District 89's voters. Jeanne Richardson is not running against George W. Bush, nor is she running for any office that has any influence on whether or not the war is funded. If she's elected, she'll wield just as much influence over the course of the war as she has today.

She's not running against George W. Bush. She's running against Kevin Gallagher, who opposes the war just as much as she does.

Of course, he's not trying to run a campaign against George W. Bush.