Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Death Penalty

In 2006, fifty three death row inmates had their sentences carried out in fifteen states. All but one received a lethal injection. One prisoner in Virginia was electrocuted.

It sounds barbaric enough that so many people were executed in this country last year, but making it worse twenty four of the executions took place in the State of Texas.

As of June 21, 2007 there have been twenty five executions in seven states. Again, Texas leads the charge bringing home seventeen of them. Today there are presently 429 inmates on Death Row in Texas.

Prosecutors may lead the charge and bang the drum that the death penalty is a deterrent, but this is simply untrue. Science has shown that most people who are able to commit the heinous crime of murder are actually missing something in their brain that does not relate an incident with a consequence. Nor are they able to feel empathy. If the death penalty were able to deter offenders there would be no one on death row.

On average over the last 15 years states without the death penalty had 29.38% fewer murders than states with the death penalty. It almost seems like the death penalty invites and encourages people to kill.

Another reason often cited by supporters of the death penalty is that the death penalty is less costly than life imprisonment. However, this is far from the truth. According to Spangenberg and Walsh in the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, "The death penalty is not now, nor has it ever been, a more economical alternative to life imprisonment." In fact, a study conducted by the New York State Defenders Association showed that the cost of a capital trial alone was double the cost of life imprisonment. The January 5, 1997, Miami Herald estimated that the true cost of each execution is approximately $3.2 million, or roughly six times the cost of a life-imprisonment sentence.

Is justice or revenge the force behind this barbaric practice? It seems that a cycle is created when government promotes death, be it in the form execution of inmates or be it the people we send our soldiers off to kill in war. We accept taking life as a national norm. But what happens to the people we teach to kill? How do we un-train them once the conflict is over? Our tax dollars pay for every war and every lethal injection. We are fueling the fire. Movies and games treat death so lightly that audiences have become immune to the disgusting reality removing empathy from yet another generation.

How safe are we in a society where cold blooded behavior is not only a way of life, but endorsed on many levels by the government. How safe are we in a society when every citizen can be wrongly convicted with faulty evidence by over aggressive prosecutors and have their life taken away from them by the government? It happens all the time.

In the past 30 years, 123 inmates were found to be innocent and released from death row. DNA evidence is shouldering the burden of proof to the dismay of aggressive prosecutors that use economics as a reason for sloppy evidence analysis. The burden of proof is falling on the defense rather than the prosecution.

After a ten year national moratorium on executions between 1967 and 1977; there have only been two executions in Oregon: September 6, 1996, Douglas Franklin Wright and on May 16, 1997, Harry Charles Moore.

Here is a list of states that do not have the death penalty: Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.

Much of the information in this article may be found at

Monday, June 25, 2007

Extra! Extra! Read All About It: Does your daily let your down?

Thanks so much Daily Astorian for bringing us a complete, unbiased picture of the problems between the DA and the county commissioners. NOT! It is frustrating and the reason why I canceled my subscription years ago and read online the pages I can get to. Your bias is a sad representation of the level journalism can sink to when given the opportunity to be the main source of written media in a small community. You have betrayed the trust of your community over and over again!

This was sent to us recently from someone who typed it into the comment box of the Daily Astorian. It is doubtful that it will appear on their pages, in print or online, any time soon. A chronic problem in small communities which has one newspaper is that the paper has no fear of losing its revenue, it is the only advertising source. The only need it has is of maintaining a base of readers. Subscribers are a potential magnet for potential advertisers, but many times a paper without significant subscriptions will obfuscate and write, “reaching a readership of 60,000 people in the such-and-such corner” meaning that the area has a combined population of that many people in three or four counties who may or may not purchase the paper over the counter or out of a paper box. Misleading potential advertisers is small potatoes compared to the harm of damaging businesses, reputations and people’s lives.

The tragedy at the Astoria Aquatics Center is another example of the poor reporting and editing of the Daily Astorian. Tom Freel, a newscaster and commentator with KAST radio station, writes on his blog Coast Watch, "When did you guys decide to report rumor as news?" He decries the reporter’s shoddy work at taking merely one account of the witnesses to the tragedy to portray as the full truth. The Daily Astorian reporter wrote: "She blew her whistle and jumped into the pool," Hartman said. She said it was only then that other lifeguards ran out of the pool office. Once Kim was out of the water, Hartman said she watched two female lifeguards begin performing CPR. She said they should have continued until paramedics arrived, but instead, "They stopped and went in back and started to cry." Freel commented: Lifeguards stopped CPR (because she was apparently revived at that point, you don't send dead people to the hospital). Actually paramedics do as would all businesses that had someone seemingly just expire on premise. No one except a doctor is qualified to pronounce someone dead, even if they have been dead for days. But Freel was not reporting, he was commenting on his blog, sponsored by KAST (tackle responsibility of radio to its community at a future date).

When a small community has one traditional daily, news source, its accountability should be held to the highest standards. Akin to doctors, school teachers and law enforcement it holds in its hands the life blood of the people it is supposed to provide information to. It is a vital component of setting a climate in a community. That climate can be one of unbiased fairness, mutual trust, open and frank consultation on all levels and in all matters, child centered, outward looking, upward oriented, neighbor-to-neighbor friendly, future based. Or the climate set can be one of prejudice, dogged predetermined outcomes, materialistic gain, sensationalism, selfish motivational advancement.

Does art imitate life or does life imitate art? When people read headlines falsely proclaiming “The community comes out to support DA” do they bury their own doubts, reaching for a bottle of their drug of choice to help them forget or do they reach for their keyboards and turn to a website to find that they are not alone a whole battalion of people know as they do that there is more truth out there then the Daily Astorian, or any small community paper, has the courage to print? More and more people don't bother reading the paper version and turn to the electronic page to find the opposing viewpoint, the frank consultation, the good, and often wonderful side, of their communities.

While it is sad and disappointing that our own local daily has such shoddy reporting and editing, it is because of this disappointment that new and wonderful writers have emerged. More people are feeling free to ask more questions, more people in public offices are being held accountable for their actions, more people are reaching out to become involved and more neighbors are becoming friends. Even in the smallest communities the computer age is drawing people closer while adding a whole new opportunity of becoming involved. All dailies should beware as their day draws to an end.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Water, Water Everywhere and Not A Drop To Drink

Though our sky, rivers and our beings are full of water most of the year it is easy to be lulled into believing that our water supply is an infinite resource. Most of the United States is projected to have adequate water supplies until at least 2025, but if the sciences collide this prediction may diminish drastically in the next 18 years.

Over 70% of our Earth's surface is covered by water. Although water is seemingly abundant, the real issue is the amount of fresh water available.

• 97.5% of all water on Earth is salt water, leaving only 2.5% as fresh water.
• Nearly 70% of that fresh water is frozen in the icecaps of Antarctica and Greenland; most of the remainder is present as soil moisture, or lies in deep underground aquifers as groundwater not accessible to human use.
• < 1% of the world's fresh water (~0.007% of all water on earth) is accessible for direct human uses. This is the water found in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and those underground sources that are shallow enough to be tapped at an affordable cost. Only this amount is regularly renewed by rain and snowfall, and is therefore available on a sustainable basis.

Water in Clatsop County is a commodity that is not taken for granted by those who are on a well that has brown water, a well that dries up in August, or those who want to build a new home where water meters are no longer available due to a lack of infrastructure to support more customers.

Local water boards are under constant pressure to not only supply water to all its customers, but this water needs to be clean and safe and adhere to federal guidelines. They also need to regulate the acidity of the water so as not to dissolve lead from the joints in plumbing that were assembled before silver solder was mandated.

The water boards also need to see exactly how much water they have and how much they can reasonable take from their source. They also have to responsibly add to their infrastructure when allowable.

Water sources must be pristine and protected. Astoria is studying running an electric generator with its water output. Other water districts should be encouraged to do this as well.

Citizens should take an active part in their local water works. They should see where their water comes from so they will understand that water is a finite resource, and realize that a climate change could bring about major restrictions in its use. We should consider conservation methods every day. Rarely is the word “drought” ever mentioned here in Dried Salmon County. Though if one happens we will all feel the effects; not just those who rely on water for business, such as fish processors, car washes and nurseries.

Monday, June 11, 2007


As an observer of what is written on our forum and on other local outlets for free speech, I find it interesting how each outlet has a like-minded audience with the editorial position of the particular outlets foundation.

The participation in these forums is most interesting for several reasons. It seems that there is a core of writers who will post their opinions on all forums while others will stick to one or two of them exclusively that share their mind-set.

Though it’s not a forum in the traditional sense, the North Coast Oregon blog seems to lead the pack when it comes to objectivity and respectful replies from those who comment there. This is not to say that opinions don’t get heated, they do, but cooler heads seem to prevail.

KAST posters are for the most part, in lock step with their mind-set with the philosophy of the radio station with some disagreeing opinions from the outsiders. It appears nothing is removed from this forum because of content even if in opposition with the base.

Clatsop County Matters and Astoria-Rust blogs and forums have both historically opposed LNG and have often held views counter to those often expressed by the current District Attorney. Their forum writers seem to inject a sense of humor into the often heavy topics. These two forums also do not censor content.

Finally, the Astoria Citizen's Journal forum has a hand full of like-minded contributors with few opposing points ever making it to the surface. Accusations have been made that the administrator deletes posts and topics not to his liking, and that isn’t an unheard-of practice in most forms of journalism.

An editorial is a hold-harmless rule in journalism. The news that is reported should be unbiased, however the news media is allowed to let their hair down when they call what they write an editorial opinion.

Recently, Paul Mitchell, General Manager of the New Northwest Broadcasters aired an editorial on his radio stations. This editorial was aired several times a day with out an explanation of the rebuttal process for opposing viewpoints. I don’t believe that there is a rebuttal process in place even today. If they were to allow rebuttal it should be an in kind rebuttal. Airing an opinion for everyone to hear several times a day and providing the only opportunity to call into a call-in talk show a half hour every morning or to post a reply on a write-in forum isn’t a proper rebuttal.

The Daily Astorian on the surface provides a space for rebuttal, but raise your hand if you’ve ever had one of your Letters to the Editor passed over and never printed. I find it odd that in the last few weeks how many letters were published in support of the District Attorney and how few were printed in opposition. When one reads the local forums it seems that a very small minority shares support for the District Attorney. Does the Daily Astorian ignore letters contrary to their editorial philosophies?

Blogs and blog forums have a small fraction of the audience that radio stations or newspapers have. However their earnest attempt at democratic free speech needs to be acknowledges and appreciated. They are the best kept secret in information and opinion dissemination where the people can actually be involved and ask questions. They may even be able to find answers.