Police Seek To Compound Tragedy with Arrests

Boy, 4, lived in filth — and died:

When Ethan Patrick Williams fell off his bicycle in July, no one would have called the cuts and scrapes on his legs serious injuries. Four weeks later the boy, 4, died from an infection. Police say the boy had been living in filthy conditions, and they believe that squalor might have played a role in his death.

Because the police think that the squalor might have played a role, they did the only sensible thing: broke up a grieving family:

Ethan’s mother, Emily A. Altom, 25, and his stepfather, Michael D. Altom, 25, were charged Tuesday with voluntary manslaughter and three counts of endangering the welfare of a child. They were released Wednesday from the Perry County Jail on $15,000 bonds.

But let’s get to the squalor:

In a sworn affidavit, Cpl. Jason D. Kelley of the Perry County Sheriff’s Department described the Altoms’ trailer as unfit for any human dwelling. He described walls and carpeting as soiled and stained and said the floor and kitchen counters were piled high with clothes, broken toys, empty beer cans and rotting food.

He said there “was not enough sleeping space for three children, and no crib for the youngest child.” Kelley said the entire trailer reeked of “a foul offensive odor.”

Friends, that sounds like the Noggle household to a critical eye. As for no sleeping space for the children, am I to assume they never slept then?

I always get a little queasy with stories about child abuse and neglect, particularly as they play out in the papers and in the affadavits. I realize that I Don’t Have Children and Therefore I Cannot Understand (the Sheehanist religion), but building laws to defend the Children which depend upon arbitrary interpretations and impressions of public officials whose livelihoods depend upon prosecution seems like a couple of skips into tyranny. But of course, I don’t have children, so I look at this like a rational man and not a parent.

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Great Moments in Keynesian Economic Theory

Five accused of stealing Missouri tax credits:

Five people were indicted this morning on federal fraud and money-laundering charges for what prosecutors called a $10 million scheme to steal state tax credits.

This could have been avoided if the state only adhered to a policy of taxing businesses equitably, regardless of how the state thinks the businesses benefit either the state or the state’s whims.

But that would deprive the state of its twofer: giveaways to its favorites and the ability to get tough on the crime its giveaways encourage.

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We Got Plans

N. Korea Accuses U.S. of Plotting Attack:

In a second day of bluster after its disarmament accord, North Korea accused the United States on Wednesday of planning a nuclear attack and warned it could retaliate.

Let’s make it clear, rest of the world: We have plans to nuke everyone, from North Korea to China to France to Great Britain to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. Are we clear on that? Because we understand the nature of man and their collective nature, we are ready to destroy anyone who could attack us, no matter how probable our nuclear plans are to be used.

Because planning is easy, and being unprepared is bad.

So don’t think you’re special, North Korea, even though you’re highest on our list of probable recipients of an unwelcome transfer of nuclear technology. We have plans for every contingency, I hope.

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Hard Not To Be Excited About This Team

Man, the St. Louis Blues are going all out to win back fans after the lockout:

  • The owners ensure fan loyalty and media coverage by announcing they want to dump the team.
  • The management ensures fan return after the lockout season by letting popular, productive, but expensive players leave through free agency or through trade. The team suffers, the fans suffer, but the books look slightly better for anyone interested in the team, which will look much worse on the ice and in the standings as a result.
  • One of the highly-paid star players doesn’t care enough to get into playing shape before reporting to training camp, showing the fans how much he cares about playing his best hockey.
  • The team suspends the player, which means….nothing, really, except he won’t participate in training camp.
  • The player files a union grievance for his suspension which, as I understand it, resulted not in a loss of money but merely in a loss of face.
  • The captain and and assistant captain of the team openly, publicly, and insubordinately question team coaches and management in their decision to suspend the star player.

Someone said hockey was back this year. This ain’t hockey; this is cheap melodrama, some sort of working man against The Man mythbuilding where the oppressed working man and his allies are all millionaires, and The Man is putting one of their own down for not keeping in shape to do his freaking job. The passions are all misplaced, and we the fans know it.

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Book Report: Superstitious by R.L. Stine (1995)

Trust me, I am doing you a favor:


If you had any inclination to read the book, I hope I’ve spoiled it for you.

I bought this book for $2.50 at the Y book fair a month or so back because I’ve read more horror in the last few years (see also my reviews of King and Koontz). I knew R.L. Stine’s name as a young adult horror writer and thought he’d be worth a try in adult fiction. Blech, was I wrong.

What’s wrong with the book?

  • Stupid, ill-drawn, underused characters, many of whom are included for no reason. Why does the book spend so much time on the small town cop in over his head? No freaking reason.
  • Sex scenes that are graphic, but pointless, and are also ill-drawn. Matter of fact, Sara eats an orange, Sara has the best sex in the world with Liam. How do you know? The third person, limited omniscient narrator tells you so!
  • Sing-song narrative voice.
  • Pointless details. Whole chapters that could have been and should have been cut because
  • Repetition. It’s
      Chip’s hand.
      Chip’s hand.
      Chip’s hand.

    If you don’t get the point from this startling stylistic device at the end of the chapter in which the hand being Chip’s hand is revealed, on the first page of the next chapter, we get those same three sentences:

      Chip’s hand.
      Chip’s hand.
      Chip’s hand.

    To spice it up, a couple paragraphs later, it’s

      Chip’s hand, Chip’s hand, Chip’s hand.

    We get the freaking point.

  • Meaningless cliffhangers that–surprise!–turn out not to be what accompanies the crashing mental chord imagined by Stine as he ended each chapter. The man, falling from gunshot wounds? Playing a joke. The hot-breathed beast with red eyes that leaps out of the darkness? A golden retriever whose owner insists he’s never done that before, nor will it again, because it only exists as the segue between one overblown, mostly meaningless chapter and the next.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate this book. I merely feel contempt for it. I read several passages to my beautiful wife as I was reading it, and the threats she made frightened me much more than anything within this book. As a matter of fact, the book is only tolerable because it’s so bad and because it didn’t take that long to read once I actually forced myself to sit down and read more of it.

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Who’s Afraid of Kelo Backlash?

In an era where citizen everywhere are complaining, post-Kelo, about eminent domain, it’s heartening to see a few noble governments remain unafraid to seize private land to redistribute it as they see fit. Kudos, Manchester, Missouri, Mayor Larry Miles:

However, Manchester Mayor Larry Miles said, “We’re not going to have anyone holding up the project because he doesn’t want to sell.” He noted, “We have 35 residents who have agreed to sell and we would like to move forward.”Butler, he said, is standing in the way of progress and change.

The mayor said Pace Properties might have to use eminent domain to obtain all properties it needs that front on Manchester Road, except for the Eagle Bank site.

Pace Properties seeks to build a $131.5 million shopping center on the northeast corner of Manchester and Highway 141. It is asking for $29.5 million in tax-increment financing from Manchester and about $17 million from a transportation development district. The center would have 476,719 square feet of commercial space.

It takes a really strong leader to cede the powers of government, and lots of tax money, to private land developers when citizens are standing up for their private property rights.

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Return to Dalton Heights

James Bond writer ‘reinvents’ spy:

James Bond is to be given a new image as a younger character with no gadgets, a writer on the next film has told trade paper the Hollywood Reporter.

Paul Haggis, who is working on the script for Casino Royale, said: “It’s going to be good.

“We’re trying to reinvent Bond. He’s 28 – no Q, no gadgets.”

Just like the time they made the movie James Bond into a modern 80s man. Or so I’ve heard; I’ve never actually seen a Dalton James Bond movie, but it took a return to the old form and to Pierce Brosnan to keep the franchise going for another decade or so.

This writer and the studios are willing to sacrifice the traditional Bond fan for a young, edgy audience that might not be there anyway. Like other entertainment businesses, such as sports teams, who might underestimate the traditional appeal of a franchise and the effects of altering/moving it.

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Book Review: The World of Raymond Chandler edited by Miriam Gross (1978)

I paid $4.95 for this book at Downtown Books in Milwaukee one weekend when I accumulated a number of biographical pieces about Raymond Chandler. (See also my report on Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe earlier this year.)

Perhaps this book could better be called The England of Raymond Chandler; twenty years after his death, it collects a few essays but a number of interviews and memories from people who met him in England in the year or so before he died. Perhaps I only think that because the book’s longest piece, “His Own Long Goodbye” by Natasha Spender, chronicles in excruciating detail the shape he was in in London in the late 1950s and how the writer of the piece and her friends helped him survive England. All right, it’s probably accurate in its detail of his failing health, his end-of-life melancholy and suicidal tendencies, but it’s not what I wanted to dwell on about Chandler.

Some of the essays do discuss Marlowe and the evolution of Chandler’s writing and his storied past, so it’s worth it if you’re a big fan of the man, but to the casual reader who likes hard-boiled mysteries, it’s a bust.

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Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful

The beauty products from the skin of executed Chinese prisoners:

A Chinese cosmetics company is using skin harvested from the corpses of executed convicts to develop beauty products for sale in Europe, an investigation by the Guardian has discovered.

Agents for the firm have told would-be customers it is developing collagen for lip and wrinkle treatments from skin taken from prisoners after they have been shot. The agents say some of the company’s products have been exported to the UK, and that the use of skin from condemned convicts is “traditional” and nothing to “make such a big fuss about”.

Come on, fill in your own tag lines. Soylent Morning Rose Blush….is people!

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Book Report: TV Superstars ’83 by Ronald W. Lackmann (1983)

Yes, I am a grown man, but I read this Weekly Reader book some two decades after its expiration date and about two decades after I should have stopped reading Weekly Reader books–heck, I am sure by 1983 I was out of Weekly Reader books and was probably already into Agatha Christie or thereabouts, but I justify my reading on the following:

  1. It’s short and counts as a whole book.
  2. It’s chock full of trivia about things everyone else has forgotten.
  3. The rest of the damn world feels perfectly comfortable reading a series of books published by Scholastic, so why shouldn’t I read something by Weekly Reader?

The book’s what you’d expect: a piece of fluff-and-puff written by early eighties PR flacks, talking about all of their clients’ beginnings. Performers who played nice characters were exactly like the characters they played; performers who played the villians were nothing like the characters they played. Everyone got starts in summer stock, doing the same plays for different community theaters until their big breaks. However, only one lists a rather racy film in her repetoire. Perhaps her publicist also included The Bitch, but the author couldn’t print the bad word.

Most of the superstars of 1983 television have faded to ephemera, many of their television shows unremembered. Peter Barton, featured on the cover, was in The Powers of Matthew Star. Byron Cherry was Coy Duke in that one forgotten season when Tom Wopat and John Schneider walked off of the set of The Dukes of Hazard. Most of the shows from 1983 producing this crop of superstars lasted one or two seasons. Hopefully, the superstars had good financial planners, or else some of them are panhandling in California even now.

Who could have foreseen, deep in Reagan’s first term, that the superstars who would have “careers” would include Scott Baio, Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito, and Tony Danza?

Regardless, I found the book slightly interesting and will retain some of its trivia for use in future North Side Mind Flayers matches. Also, the book held some geneology secrets for me, as some rumor has it that I am related distantly, through a series of failed marriages, to Phillip and Nancy McKeon–both of whom were superstars in 1983 and perhaps even the spring of 1984.

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New Heights in Senatorial Inquisition Rhetoric

Herb “The Helmet” Kohl stands upon the shoulders of giants during the Roberts confirmation hearings when he echoes philosopher William Martin Joel during a harangue.

Semator Kohl:

Justice, after all, may be blind, but it should not be deaf.

Billy Joel, from the video for “Keeping the Faith” ca 1983-1984:

Your honor, they say justice is blind, but I sure hope it ain’t deaf.

(Quote first seen on Ann Althouse.)

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The Devil You Know

Oh, sure, some tech snobs liken Bill Gates and Microsoft to The Devil and the AntiChrist, but face it, you pasty-legged, Macintosh-huffing zone dweebie, when Steve Jobs introduces the iPodPeople, a music player with the ability to download music, photos, OnStar service, debit card, and other software protected by GUID and DRM which you can implant directly into your freaking head, you’ll line up around the block for the outpatient surgery.

And feel good that you’re helping overturn the Microsoft hegemony.

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Book Report: American Diplomacy 1900-1950 by George F. Kennan (1960)

I read this book, its ninth printing from 1960, starting in February. I got bogged down around the time where Mr. Kennan began discussing what to do about the Soviet Union since I know how it turned out, but I buckled down and finished it last week.

The book starts with a brief recap of some of America’s oversights and missteps in foreign policy in the first half of the twentieth century, including the Spanish American War, missteps in China and the Orient (which is what they called Asia until 1960 or so), World War I, and World War II. It also proffers some plans for how to deal with the Soviet Union, including a brief history of Russian communism and its relationship to the native population.

Wow, it’s an intelligent book written by someone with a slightly different point of view, but I never felt like throwing the book. Perhaps I’ve spent too much time in the contemporary slums of political thought, but at no point did Kennan offend me with his politics. He explains his logic and frames his arguments on historical fact and his interpretation of him. One suspects one could have a discussion about the policies of containment versus confrontation without raising one’s voice–or maybe one could, if one remembered how gentlemen did it.

However, as a lifelong diplomat (and future ambassador to the Soviet Union), Kennan’s approach sees diplomacy as the end-all, be-all of international relations. As such, he would prefer that military force only be used at the behest of the diplomats and only as a sort of mailed-gauntlet slap at an international cocktail party. Undoubtedly, he would fit into the sort of philosophy that perplexes Mark Helprin:

If you must go to war, do not do so hesitantly, with half a heart.

Instead, the stiffening of sinews and making like tigers might offend Kennan’s sensibilities or protocols of restraint, but that’s the nature of war. It is a last resort, it is very bad, and it must be prosecuted to its end.

Kennan argues passionately for engagement and containment with the Soviet Union, which ultimately worked to end communism. However, one must ask upon reviewing Kennan’s lessons from this book, originally a series of lectures, can we apply these lessons and these techniques to current rivals or enemies–China and non-stated organizations formed around radical Islam and other aggrieved groups. I would hesitate in trying, for the Soviet Union was a Western power, based in Western thought and philosophy, which we can easily understand. Modern and future opponents are not.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, I bought the book for a quarter at some yard sale or estate sale in the midterm past (probably after 2000). Occasionally I do try to elevate myself through reading, and this book helped.

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