W.H.O. decides in favor of science over dogma

September 30, 2006

From Accuracy in Media, the World Health Organization has approved of using the DDT pesticide to control malaria-bearing mosquitoes, particularly in Africa where the problem is worst.

Michael Crichton has been on a campaign about this for at least a few years. It turns out the hysteria over DDT back in the 1960s was just that. It was not based on scientific evidence. Like other chemical substances the safety or danger of using it may depend on how people are exposed to it. The article says that experiments were done in the 1950s where people ate DDT and showed no ill health effects. I haven’t done a detailed study of it, but inhaling it might be a different matter. As was revealed when the movie “Erin Brockovich” came out, Chromium 6 only causes certain health problems, and only when it is inhaled. When it is ingested (eaten or drunk), or exposed to the skin it causes no ill effects. This is because the negative effects are caused by the chemical’s interaction with certain tissues, not all tissues, in the body.

In any case, it is good to see something that can help be used in a region that has been ravaged by malaria.

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City officials doing pot

September 28, 2006

Sigh. I don’t like writing this. Polk has been my favorite City Council member, but what he did Monday was irresponsible. He was stopped by police for driving under the influence of marijuana, and for possession of the same. He was driving slowly down a two-way street, weaving, and straddling lanes. His car smelled of marijuana, and the police found two packages of it on him. He claimed he wasn’t smoking it, but had had a glass of wine a half-hour earlier. Gee, you know, if you mix two depressants together (alcohol and marijuana), the effect is magnified. Polk could’ve had one “hit” of pot, but mix the alcohol with it, and he would’ve acted like he had four. Perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit. I can’t quantify how much the effect would be magnified. I just know from what we learned in health class in high school many years ago.

According to the Daily Camera article (which I link to), after the arresting officer detected the presence of pot and noticed that his proof of insurance had expired more than a month ago, Polk told the officer he was not going to cooperate with him any more. Shame on you, Polk! You should know better.

After being arrested and booked, Polk was released. I guess because they figured it would be too embarrassing for him, given that he’s a public figure in this town. I suppose they didn’t think he was a flight risk either.

Polk has some major owning up to do. He needs to publicly apologize to the City Council, the city, and to the police officer who arrested him, who was just doing his job. The least we should expect of our city officials is that they follow the law. The Council is also going to decide if Polk will lose his seat. I wouldn’t blame them if they decided to take that away from him. I might be willing to forgive him if he acknowledged that what he did was inexcusable, and would do everything he could so that this would not happen again–meaning get off of pot. He should enter himself in a drug rehab program.

Having said this, we need to admit that we’re sending mixed signals in this town. Rob Smoke, the Chair of the Boulder Human Relations Commission, a city office, has posted on his private web site that he gets “stoned,” and says “I’m a city official.” This is also irresponsible. Is it really necessary to come out and say “I’m a city official” and that he gets “stoned”? Just saying “I’m stoned” without owning up to being a “city official” would be one thing. People would have to put two and two together. He could say that without the connotations of a city official saying it. It could even be taken as a joke. With the way he’s saying it one could interpret this as encouraging illegal behavior, and like I said, the least we should expect of our city officials is that they follow the law. And I’ll add that they should encourage others to follow the law, especially when using their title. Otherwise what is their office good for? They’re making decisions, yes, but part of their job is implementing city laws and policies. This involves exercising some authority. Some people in town are uncomfortable with this concept, and Smoke is probably one of them.

How can their authority be respected if they’re sending mixed messages about the city’s own policies and laws? This “works” for some people, since they don’t like some laws and policies anyway. The problem is there will be times when citizens will run up against laws and policies they don’t like, but city officials will be in a position of enforcing them anyway. The net effect of that enforcement is lessened when different people are sending different signals about what laws and policies they’re willing to follow and which they’re less enamored with, and are more likely to turn the other way when they see them being violated.

Smoke (what a name, eh?) has noticed he’s been getting some heat for his public behavior, and called Suzy Ageton a “meerkat.” Wow, talk about immature. I wonder how she likes being called that.

Boulder gets the city officials it deserves.

To my knowledge, Smoke has not been caught using or possessing marijuana, so he’s not in the same situation as Polk. However, I think that Smoke should be reprimanded/removed from his position for in effect encouraging illegal behavior.

There is this attitude in Boulder that just because someone becomes a public official, that other aspects of their life should not have to change at all. If they smoked pot before taking office, well they should be able to do it afterwards. If they advocated overthrowing the government before taking office, they should be allowed to do that afterwards as well, with no risk to their position (think Ward Churchill). Other examples could be, if they made a habit of parking illegally or speeding before taking office, they should be allowed to do the same afterwards. By that argument, if they held under-age drinking parties before, they should be able to do that afterwards. I could go on. Not to say that everyone here shares this opinion, but this attitude is prevalent among public officials, and it has plenty of supporters. To these folks the law and concept of government are flexible if they themselves deem it so. It is latent autocracy, since people like this respect no law they did not write themselves.


A day of tragedy in Bailey

September 27, 2006

I heard about this late today. Very sad. People say it brings up memories of the massacre at Columbine, but fortunately the loss of life was less. A gunman, aged 30 to 50 years old, came into a classroom at Platte Canyon High School, forced some of the boys in the class to leave, and kept 6 hostages. A SWAT team showed up, negotiated the release of 4 of the hostages, but then negotiations broke down. The SWAT team moved in, and the gunman fatally shot one of the remaining hostages, a 16-year-old girl, and then committed suicide by shooting himself. Those were the only deaths.

Amidst the tremendous sadness there’s a mystery. Police still don’t know who the gunman was or why he did this. Nobody knows this at this point, but it seems like the gunman had no relationship to the community.

To say this is such a waste sounds cliche, but that’s the way it feels.

My condolensces to the family of the girl who was shot (whose name has been withheld). Once the innocence is lost, it’s very difficult to regain trust. I’m sure parents in the community are wondering what to do next, at this hour.

Bailey is a small town up in the foothills, and is not that far from Columbine High School. There’s no apparent connection between the two incidents, except for their proximity.


Boulder DA Mary Lacy is incompetent

September 8, 2006

I was out of town when I heard the news that John Karr was found to not have been JonBenet’s killer. According to the local news, this was determined by DNA test, and he wasn’t a match. According to Dr. Henry Lee, a prominent forensic investigator who has done some work on this case, there is not enough DNA evidence to prove a match with a suspect, but there is enough to exclude potential suspects. This is what happened with Karr. From what I hear, he’s been sent off to California to face child porn charges. I heard before my trip that he has already been tried in CA, in absentia, and convicted. So it sounds like this is a mere formality.

I heard before my trip that some women came forward, talking about what John Karr had written in their high school yearbooks way back when. One of them had a note from him where he used the initials “S.B.T.C.”, just like the ransom note was signed. All I can say now though is this must be a fairly common “phrase”, so to speak. I have no idea what it means though. Surely there’s someone who does.

I listened to Caplis and Silverman a local Denver talk radio show on 630 AM KHOW today. They’ve been pursuing public records related to this investigation. What they’ve found so far is discouraging. It sounds like rank incompetence on the part of Boulder DA Mary Lacy. Caplis and Silverman obtained the transcript of the interview Boulder DA investigators had with John Karr in Thailand. They asked him about how he came up with the figure of $118,000 in the ransom note. He said he knew he couldn’t get $1 million, so he settled on $100,000. Then he remembered that the age of consent is 18, so he added $18,000 onto it. Caplis and Silverman saw this as a red flag. As someone who had married a 13-year-old woman, and had a sexual obsession about little girls, he had to know what the age of consent was for marriage, sex, and that sort of thing, and it’s not 18.

The real red flag for me out of it, was the investigators asked Karr where he was December 25, 1996. He didn’t say Boulder, CO. He said he was in Hamilton, Alabama, and that his family would be able to confirm this. Then he added, “But I could’ve taken a Learjet.” Uh huh…(sigh). He said this before he was brought to the U.S. If nothing else cut to the heart of his credibility, this should’ve been it. Granted, getting the DNA test from him there as well would’ve been nice (they tried 3 times, but he refused), just to be absolutely sure. But his story was just a shambles. What really was there to go on? Mary Lacy brought him to the U.S. anyway. They got the DNA test done, and surprise, surprise, he wasn’t the guy. I think a more experienced DA would’ve just left him in Thailand for others to deal with.

According to the Daily Camera, California was not going to extradite him themselves for a misdemeanor child porn charge. I don’t know why they wouldn’t. And why would child porn be a misdemeanor charge anyway? Isn’t that minimizing the crime?

Karr’s extradition hearing in CA was odd. The judge told Karr he had a series of charges against him, including kidnapping and murder. Kidnapping is a legal term in Colorado that goes beyond the typical definition. According to Craig Silverman, kidnapping means moving someone from one location to another that puts them in potential danger. JonBenet was moved from her bedroom to the basement, where the murder occurred. That fit the definition. What was odd about this, is when the press asked the Boulder DA’s office whether Karr had been charged with anything they said no. So why did the CA judge say there were charges against Karr? I don’t know. The media reported this, but then just dropped it without explanation.

So now the DA and the Boulder police have egg on their face big time. Mary Lacy did not handle the investigation well. I mean, what was the point of the initial press conference back in August? I listened to Caplis & Silverman when they first talked about this. To hear them tell it, it sounded like it was just a publicity stunt by the DA’s office. In 20/20 hindsight I agree. If it was a publicity stunt, I wonder why. DA Mary Lacy is term limited, so she can’t run for her job again. She could run for a different office though. She made the announcement about arresting Karr, congratulated the police for doing such “great” work on this. Someone else working on the immigration logistics came forward, thanked Lacy and everyone else. Then court employees applauded them all. They could’ve accomplished the same thing by having a big bash down at the Boulderado, a local posh hotel, congratulating themselves all they wanted, but without the press.

The natural thing that occurs at a press conference is the press gets to ask questions. Lacy even invited them to do so. They asked questions about the case (duh!). Knowing her professional obligation to not discuss the case before trial, she refused to answer them. What’s the point? This all came before Karr’s first press conference in Thailand. I don’t see a thing that Lacy gains out of this. It leaves me wondering, “What was she thinking??” Greta van Susteren, who came on Caplis & Silverman after the press conference said it was “an embarrassment”. I can’t help but agree. She’s an embarrassment to Boulder, but then that’s just my opinion. Boulder officials have done things in the past that I find almost as embarrassing, but the populace here by and large either tolerates it or actively encourages it.

One of the other aspects that prompted the hasty arrest, was “public safety”–in Thailand. No joke. The DA’s office used “public safety” as a reason to arrest him before investigating further. Apparently they were receiving information that he was about to do something criminal with a child over there. Maybe it’s just me, but I think most DAs would’ve said, “That’s Thailand’s problem.” Since he had skipped bail in CA on the child porn charges, Karr was considered a flight risk. So I can see some rationale there. But given what the investigators heard in their interview with him, I don’t see how this all adds up. Yes, if he had done something malicious with a child there, that would be a tragedy, but it’s not our responsibility to protect children in Thailand. If anything the federal government here could help with that, if Thailand requested it. Boulder is a town of 92,000 people. We don’t have the resources for this. We have enough budget problems as it is.

Could the DA have handled this differently? YES. She should’ve paid attention to what John Karr was saying, gotten the corroborating evidence from his ex-wife on his whereabouts in 1996, and then dropped the case. The way she did it is no way to run an investigation.

Mary Lacy’s history of mismanagement

I don’t know the Boulder DA, but my sense of her, based on this case, and other cases she has handled, is she is driven by her emotions. She is not mature enough for this job. When she was first running for Boulder DA, stories were circulating that as a prosecutor working in the DA’s office she had a history of letting pedophiles off easy. It wasn’t because she was sympathetic towards the pedophiles, but rather she had too much sympathy for the victim. Sometimes in child molestation cases, in order to have a solid case, the child has to become a witness. This is tough. Even adult rape victims will tell you this. The good that can come of it though, is that a sexual predator can be put in jail, where he won’t harm anyone. Granted, he’ll get out at some point, but at least for a time, he won’t be prowling around for other victims. Where I think she went wrong is she didn’t do a proper cost/benefit analysis. Instead what she sometimes did was plea bargain with the defense. Instead of child molestation, the defendant would plead guilty to reckless endangerment of a child. This way, the child would not have to take the stand and testify. The net effect of this though is the pedophile would get probation, not jail. And before long he would be back out on the streets again. Is this justice? Is this protecting society? I don’t see that it is.

Even with this history, Boulder voters elected her to office. There were more complaints about her in her first term. A local attorney ran against her in the last election as a write-in candidate, due to these complaints, and she still won.

There have been complaints against DA Lacy as well with regard to the C.U. football scandal. A couple years ago she came out publicly stating that some C.U. football players had raped some young women, and that the C.U. athletic department had a history of promoting this behavior. It was a big scandal that made nationwide headlines. What happened? The head coach for the C.U. football team resigned. Some others in his department soon followed. The president of the university resigned, it seems mainly due to her lack of a good sense of PR, and perhaps also due to mismanagement of the university’s handling of the scandal. No charges were brought against anyone. The women who she had lined up to go to court with eventually decided not to pursue charges. When all was lost Lacy came out publicly, saying she had no cases to bring, but she stated pretty clearly that she believed the football players she was going to charge were guilty anyway. Hm. So much for the presumption of innocence. What did she accomplish? She just sowed destruction for no good reason.

As time goes on, it’s becoming less and less likely the JonBenet case will ever be solved. There’s so little forensic evidence to begin with. The only suggestion I have, for what little it’s worth, is that the DA’s office have a forensic psychologist take a look at the ransom note. It seems to me this might produce some leads. I have the feeling it would at least narrow the field of suspects down to a group of people.

The DNA evidence

Incidentally, I learned more about why the DNA crime scene evidence was not revealed sooner. The case of the JonBenet murder was brought before a federal district judge around 2002/2003. The DNA evidence that was collected in 1996 was reanalyzed using a more sophisticated process. Everyone in the Ramsey family was excluded from the DNA by the test, even JonBenet. The judge declared at the end of proceedings that he/she (don’t know the name) believed that based on the evidence an intruder committed the murder. We just don’t know who it was yet.

I think this whole thing with Karr also points to something that is embarassing about Boulder at times. This is a high status town. People who live here are generally rich (they have to be to afford it) and well educated. The elite here like to think that we’re a sophisticated town, that we’re conscious of different cultures and world-wise. That’s why Lacy made a point of thanking the Thai police in her press conference. Ah yes, we’re all one big “global village”. Okay! Group hug! Maybe they were all congratulating themselves on building a successful cooperative relationship with a foreign police force. We are an isolated, provincial place, so I suppose pulling this off seems like a major achievement. I just wonder if other law enforcement agencies in other parts of the country, like the NYPD, are snickering at us right now. What we forget is how we isolate ourselves from the rest of the country, and that we’re really lacking when it comes to “street smarts”.

Don’t get me wrong. In some ways I’d buy the idea that we are a sophisticated town, but in other ways–let’s face it–we’re just a bunch of hicks. I don’t fault Boulder for this, except for its pretentiousness. We ought to be honest about who we really are. Not doing so gets us in situations like this.

We’re a small town, not a major metropolitan area. We have a low rate of violent crime. We do have rapes here from time to time, and our prosecutors and police are experienced at apprehending and trying them. Murder is rare here, and I have yet to hear of a murder case that’s actually been solved (though with the exception of the JonBenet case I haven’t paid too much attention). In other words, if you had to pick a spot, you wouldn’t want to get murdered in Boulder.