The Good Thief, Exit Ted Stevens

There is a great Bob Dylan line from his song, “Sweetheart Like You.”   The line goes, “Steal a little, they throw you in jail.  Steal a lot they make you king.”

Ted Stevens was a king in his own right.   Alaskans adored him.   He was a major earmarker who saw to it that his home state received more than its share of government money.   According to the corruption charges for which he was convicted, he apparently made sure he had received his own morsel from appreciative constituents.   In the end, at 86 years of age, he was convicted of corruption.

He lost his last election to the Senate and was forced to yield the Senate floor for the last time.  He looked good,kspiffy and dignified.   He was a tough old bird. His fellow Senators spoke highly of him and gave him a standing ovation.   Few get standing ovations on the Senate floor.   Were they just being kind to this senior legislator, or were they applauding because they were relieved, if not happy, to see him go.

We shouldn’t find the ovation surprising, although a good many pundits were outraged over it.   They found it at best disingenuous.   I think it is actually quite ingenuous.   America tends to love its more notorious thieves and will turn them into mythic figures rather than cast them into ignominy.   I don’t know why we do that, exactly.   But we do.

From Bonnie and Clyde to Al Capone, our criminals are mythic figures.   We are amused by the corrupt insider traders of the eighties and deal well with presidential pardons and commutations of sentence in a good many cases.   A Scooter Libby can violate one of the prime codes of the intelligence community and out an active operative, but few demanded his head on a platter.   His feeble sentence was good enough, and when that was commuted, nobody really cared.

We will anger ourselves over the faceless Wall Street thieves of recent times, but for some reason we pay little heed to the mortgage scandals and the thieves who either alone or in rings, ran real estate scams well into the millions and billions.  Perhaps the more complicated the scheme the less we feel capable of paying attention.  We are not much for attention spans, after all.

We often laud the criminals of the earlier years, the Prohibition Era.   But we do tend to be harder on our ethnic criminals, our Hip Hop Era Gangsters and leaders of our drug cartels.   Killing over booze seemed more romantic than killing over drugs.   We are fascinated by the Italian Mafia and can watch “The Sopranos” for days.   As for the Russian mob, the Asian mobs, and the other mobs that permeate our society, we are decidedly less enthralled.   They’ll just have to wait their turn before getting their own television series.

If sex is involved in the crime, then we are titillated.   We are more concerned about Larry Craig, who solicited sex in a bathroom, than Ted Stevens who was convicted of screwing people out of money.   We spend years on the Jon Benet Ramsey story and a few minutes on the countless murders of children that occur every other week.   Jon Benet was pretty, a beauty queen, if you can even say such a thing.   The other kids are just kids.

So Senator Stevens gets his final adieu, his standing ovation, and even a pension.   He will be rewarded for her service and if his convictions are remembered at all, it is only because they will be chronicled in his book.  And possibly a movie.   As a thief, he was one of the good ones.   We deem him worthy of applause.

Leave Your Child in Nebraska–No Deposit, No Return

There are many laws, many rules, in fact, that seem almost like a good idea.   Without the, I suppose, the road to hell would never be paved with good intentions.   Case in point is the State of Nebraska and its “Safe Haven” law which was passe for all the right reasons.

What are those reasons?   The law enabled distraught, unstable and otherwise messed up mothers to dump their children at a fire station  or hospital, rather than abandon them, totally.   Clearly, the Nebraska Legislature had its hard in the right place when it passed this bill a couple of months ago.   What this means in general is rather than drop a kid in a dumpster or leave him on the street, an irresponsible parent can legally relieve himself of the bouncing baby.

The thing is, the same Legislature didn’t foresee the challenges in not putting an age limit on the kids left behind.  But since then people have been driving in from distant states to drop their kids on the doorsteps of Nebraska institutions.   Sometimes these kids are a little older than bouncing babies, like seventeen years old.   In fact nearly three dozen kids were dropped off.  None of them were infants.

One poor kid was left calling after its mother, “I’ll be good, I’ll be good.”   But the mother kept right on walking.   Amazing.   The allegedly lesser developed mammals don’t abandon their young.  But for some of us, this is obviously plausible.

Now I hear people are abandoning their pets due to difficult economic times.  I realize also we have all seen the vintage black and white movies where the distraught but guilt and depression ridden Mom  leaves her kid on the doorstep.   But for adult to leave their somewhat advanced children to the fate of the State is beyond the imagination of many.  In fact, it is pretty deplorable.

Maybe the so called problem kids are better off without these parents.  Maybe they will be allow to straighten out and lead productive lives whereas living with destructive Moms and Dads would result only in their own destruction.   With these things it is always difficult to say.

If this weren’t so sad, so pathetically deplorable it would almost be funny.   It is not funny.   But it is telling.  It tells about some of us and what our sense of responsibility and accountability is, even with raising our very own children.    In some ways, that is beyond words.

The Nebraska Legislature has seen the error of its decision.   It is amending the law to stipulate only newborns.  It is a wise choice.   Still, there are at least dozens of people out there who are seriously considering abandoning thei childen.  Some have already done so.   The rest were either ignorant of the law or merely too lazy to make the drive.

California Wildfires Are the Lesson We Never Learn

It is wildfire season in California.   The first typically come in early to middle autumn when the land is dry as a bone and the Santa Ana Winds blow hot air to fan the flames.   A spark here and the fire is started.  A few burning embers caught up in the winds, and the fire spreads to catastrophic proportions.    If not every year we are treated to this disaster, it is a good many years.

Later, when winter comes and the rains pour down, the burnt vegetation and barren landscape will never hold back the waters.  We will have mud slides.  More disaster.  Sliding mud, believe me, is a horrible menace.  Water running downhill can cause tremendous damage.  Think of mud as dense, heavy water, and you begin to see its capability.  I saw it one year roll through a house like a mucky wrecking ball.  Good thing my neighbors weren’t home that day.   Would have killed them, for sure.

So with the first we have the news crews.  We have the stories.  We have the macro stores, told from helicopters and from the fire lines, dealing with the overall intensity of the fires, where it is spreading, its percentage of containment, and the number of houses the first have destroyed.   We get to see the burning hillsides, the houses bursting in flames like Maison Flambe.   We see the fire fighters struggling bravely to contain and push back the surging conflagration.   Every year.

And every year we also get the micro stories.  The up close and personal stories.  We see men adn women sharing tears, sifting through the ruins of their houses, the charred remains of their personal possessions.  We see them looking for their pets, looking for what remains of family heirlooms and photos.  We hear them trying to console themselves by showing gratitude for the fact that they are still alive and all the lost were the material possessions.   We see these people go from a multi-million dollar house to a cot in a gymnasium shelter in twenty minutes time.  Fires move quickly in the mountain and canyon areas.

It is hard not to feel sorry for them.  You feel sympathetic, share at least a modicum of pain.  You put yourself in their shoes.   You wonder what it would be like.  And while I feel the sympathy and empathy for people who have been victimized by natural disasters, I also wonder what they were thinking when they decided to build their homes there.

I realize this is an age old question.  People wonder it about those who build their house to closely to a river that is prone to flood.   People wonder about trailer parks and domiciles built in the path of hurricanes and tornadoes.   Sometimes you can’t help it.  Sometimes the hurricane, fire, flood or tornado just takes a wrong turn and comes barreling down your boulevard.

But the fact remains many of these houses should never be built on hilltops, canyons and wooded areas where they are just inviting disaster to come for a visit.   We have seen this movie enough times to realize as beautiful as it is in these places, we just can’t afford to be building there.  It is stupid.  It is even more stupid when the same people build and then rebuild, after a previous disaster.

I know, you live there, you love the view,  it’s so romantic, the great whatever, but it seems like it is my tax dollars that are bailing you out.   It is me who has to smell or the charring that is exacerbated by the housing developments.  Days of foul smoke and smoky stench.  Yes, it would be there anyway, but it would never be the disaster it is if the houses weren’t part of the equation.  It would just be burning woods, canyons, the natural cycle where fires eliminate the surplus vegetation.

This is a lousy economy.  It doesn’t have to be made worse by stupid planning and development.  We do not have to build on every square inch of the natural landscape.  We don’t have to transpose the natural landscape with an ugly housing development that is destined to be destroyed by wildfires.  And in a time when neither federal government or state government has the money to maintain what mediocre civic services we already have, we really don’t need to be shelling out money via emergency funding so homeowners can indulge themselves in places they don’t belong.

I believe the first time there is a disaster, the government helps you out.  The second time, if you persist on living where you shouldn’t be building, you had better have adequate insurance or be prepared to be on your own when the disaster strikes.  Sure, the fire fighters will be noble and try to save you, your pets, and your house.   But if they can’t, then it is up to you to pick up the tab.    If you can’t pick up the tab, if insurance rates are so dear that you can’t afford homeowners’ insurance, then be prepared to suffer mightily.  Be prepared to suffer financially.  Be prepared to move elsewhere.   Instead of where you don’t belong.

CSI Is Just Another TV Show In Los Angeles

The public sure loves its true crime stories.  The public also loves television shows that approximate true crime, like CSI, which most know stands for Crime Scene Investigation.   The CBS Television Network programs CSI in a number of cities.   The cities range from New York, Las Vegas, Miami, but not Los Angeles.

The show is produced from Los Angeles, but any producer who chooses to approximate a true crime cop show, using LA as the background, better move the bar that much further from fact toward fiction.   The same my hold true for New York, Miami and the other cities where the show is located as well.   The intrepid cops who solve these difficult cases my in reality be confronting the hardships and obstacles found in the Los Angeles labs.

In Los Angeles, cases are severely backlogged, there is gross mismanagement and alleged lack of supervision  in the divisions responsible for both the fingerprint samples and the DNA.   There is a stuff shortage, a misplacement of specimens.   Court cases are backlogged and trials are often delayed.  There are inaccuracies and errors.  Critics claims the LA Police Department has no plan as to how to rectify this grievous series of foul ups.

The century old wonder of the fingerprint is somewhat of a fallacy.   The crime scene unit investigators are only able to recover fingerprints from any one of the 2,400 annual crimes scenes about 60% of the time.   And then when the files, or fingerprints, are misplaced, the adeptness and fortitude we admire on on CSI, the TV Show is lost in CSI, the reality.

As far as DNA is concerned, there are about seven thousand cases where the specimens are backlogged.   To be kind the Lab personnel is extremely understaffed.   The City lacks the money and he people to conduct what most would deem truly efficient investigations.   With forthcoming budget cuts, the rather dire conditions that have been reported in the Los Angeles Times among other places, may not be getting any better.

Well they did have a news conference.   A series of them, actually.   They did proclaim the backlog, the mishandling of evidence, the lack of oversight, etc.,  to be a serious problem.   I suppose that’s a start.  Most do agree there is a need to do something.   But so far, in the literal sense, it appears the lab technicians can barely get out of each others’ way.   Without losing the specimens.

I realize that it is tough to be a cop.  It is tough to be a police lab technician in a large city where despite all reverie that violent crime has gone down there is still plenty to go around.  Yes, it’s tough to be a cop and it is tough to be the lab technician.   But it’s a lot tougher to be a crime victim.

Crime victims expect justice.   They should get it.  Often they don’t.  Los Angeles has seen more than a few cases where hte obviously guilty were set free.  In some cases they were free to do it again.   But with crime victims there is a need to believe in some criminal and societal code.  A moral and ethical code where the powers that be will do their very best to bring the criminal to justice.

Increasingly, we see their very best is lacking.   Their very best isn’t even good.   So when you are a victim of rape and you are looking for justice, for some form of retribution that will at least in some small way alleviate the shock and terror you have experienced, along with injury to body and psyche, you expect to encounter the long arm of the law and not delays and excuses.

Which makes this all worse I fear is that with the economic downturn crime and unemployment are among the few things that will rise.   People get desperate and even the more restrained and less violent of criminals may be prompted to commit violent criminal acts.   The streets will be more dangerous, and the criminals will know by the time the labs get around to retrieving their DNA and fingerprint samples they could possibly die of old age.

After the collapse of our economy , for those of you who can’t experience one more shock and disillusionment,  keep your eyes on CSI.  It’s a better world on your flat screen TV.

Beware! Female Sex Addicts Are Lurking Among Us

There is a vintage Steven Sills song.  It is called “Love the One You’re With.”  That seemed like wise words in earlier days when not only the more responsible among us but even the young had less concerns.   Today there are many things to fear, from food additives to terrorists.   You can catch every kind of disease, including some we never heard of.   So it’s hard sometimes just to have sex with someone you like, yet alone love the one you’re with.

Nevertheless, sex addiction is on the rise.  Or so they say, whoever “they” are.  I always suspect the “they’s” in this case are the ones promoting a new fear and making money from it by exploiting the susceptible.  Hey, if you can sell drugs for “Restless Leg Syndrome,” you can hold therapy sessions to cure people from wanting too much sex.   I know people who it seems the notion of sex never seems to cross their minds anymore.  Either they have given up or gotten realistic.  Or don’t know the difference.   It’s hard to say.  But I digress.

Back to the rising tide of sex addiction.    Turns out women are sex addicts as well as men.  There’s a revelation for you.   Not quite the Rapture, but nevertheless I’ll give you time to absorb it.  Women chasing around in search of wanton, mindless sex.    Whew!  How could they?

What’s more, the number of  female sex addicts is rising.  Whether the figures are on the increase or more women want this sort of attention is hard to say.    Perhaps by surrendering yourself to therapy as the great wanton hussy, you can achieve recognition for being sexual.     Or you can meet some cute guys with the same ideas.  I don’t know   But, yes, according to a recent article in the London Times women can be prone to sex addiction right along with men.

According to the article, thirty percent of the people being treated for sex addiction are female.   Not exactly a fifty-fifty proposition but notable just the same.  One woman talks about her longest romantic relationship lasting all of three months.  Other women talk about the need for intimacy, to be accepted, to be perceived as attractive.   Some talk about the romance and fantasy, the thrill of the hunt.  You know, what we typically call men stuff.

A noted writer, Susan Cheever, just wrote a book about her own sex addiction.   The book is called,  Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction, for those who are interested.  Cheever’s father was iconic author John Cheever who it appears struggled with his own sexual behavior.   So then the question arises–is sexual addiction much like drug addiction or alcoholism?  Is it something that is passed down from one generation to another?

One must wonder if addictive personality is passed through the genes.   Sometimes it will manifest itself in the similar practices of one’s parents.   Sometimes the children will find a new channel and take their addictive personality down a new road of dependency.  Or they pair them up–alcoholism, drug and sex addiction– the Dependency Combo.  A Deli Special sandwich.    Hold the pickle.  This is all conjecture, but it seems to bear out in most cases.

Then there are the bald facts of life.  It is lonely out there.  Online dating sites seem not to produce much else than more online dating sites.   You can sell me all day with commercials about who you met and how you are soul mates with matching interests, but then why don’t we see more of you in these commercials?  The same two couples for awhile and then another two couples provide all the testimony our sense can bear.  All while you think to yourself, glad they met but that’s nowhere near my soul mate.  If that’s who you find on the dating site, then I’m saving my money in these tough economic times.

A woman has needs.  A man had needs.   A man can fulfill these needs, as Lenny Bruce once wrote, by screwing wet sand.   Anything that has intercourse with wet sand is not someone easily reasoned with.  They have an urge and they respond.  Esteem issues may enter into it.  But then again, that would give men more credit for their sexual consciousness than may ever be necessary.  Or realistic.

Women on the other hand think about it differently.   Most women.   But then there are women who are just horny as hell and just want hot sex, a shower and the time to move on down the line.   It is safe to say that they have dated.   They didn’t like what they found.   They were looking for romance and found eels in suits and jeans instead.   Or they found love and were bitterly disappointed.

Whatever their story, now they want to get their rocks off.   Perhaps it is vindication.  It may be affirmation of their good looks.   It may be a snatch at the gold ring of fantasy.   You read enough romance novels and you got to at least once try to put it into practice.   In any event, for one reason or another, there are women in this world who have decided they would rather have sex with anyone than sit and home eating ice cream and watching romantic movies that remind them of what  they are missing in life.

There are women out there who just don’t care.   They don’t want intimacy.  They want sex.  They want to get off not buy into someone else’s fantasy.   These are the type of women we love to disparage.   Some of us wish to disparage.  Others wonder where are they and what are they doing on this Saturday night?  Do you have their number?

I guess the main thing about addiction is not whether it is in control.  Addiction by its name means you are out of control.   The main thing about addiction is whether or not you are doing harm to others.   Are you busting any bubbles, wrecking families, whatever?   Then you may want to take a look at what you are doing.

Some will protest and claim the addicts are doing harm to themselves.  Yes they are.   They sure are.  Let’s face it addictive behavior hardly promotes a positive life force.   It is fair to say the spirit is wanting.   But then there are other things that may be worse.   Life in a vacuum comes to mind.  Life searching for the perfect mate to find anything but that.   Life wondering who you are and what you want.

So if you see a woman who is a confessed sex addict, she may be confessing not out of some twelve step surrender, but out of self-awareness.   Don’t try to intervene.  Don’t try to help her.  Just ask for her number.  It would probably do the both of you some good.