Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Murderers Who Are Released to Murder Again

Last November Californians narrowly defeated (52-48 percent) a proposition that would have abolished the state’s death penalty. Riverside County, like most inland regions, voted more decisively (62-38) against the measure.

Dennis Fink Stanworth is one reason folks who aren’t entertainers with personal bodyguards or wealthy liberals living in gated coastal communities tend to favor the death sentence for first degree and especially “special circumstances” murders.

The seventy-year-old Stanworth recently confessed to killing his own mother in Vallejo. In 1966 a much younger Stanworth raped and killed two girls, ages 14 and 15. For these crimes he was sentenced to death. Three years later the State Supreme Court set aside that sentence despite the defendant’s insistence that he deserved to be executed.

A second jury invoked the death penalty for Stanworth in 1974, only to have their judgment again overridden by the state’s highest court. This time those black-robed demigods ruled that California’s death penalty constituted “cruel and unusual punishment” and reduced Stanworth’s sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

In 1990 this double murderer with four other rapes on his rap sheet was released on parole. Three years later parole oversight ended, and he was only required to register as a sex offender.

At the recent arraignment for his mother’s murder Stanworth exclaimed, “It’s the third time. I plead guilty to everything.” Stanworth isn’t the only murderer sentenced to death that’s been released from prison and murdered again, but he is the most recent—as far as we know.

Opponents of the death penalty often raise the possibility that an innocent person might be executed—totally ignoring the killed-by-released-murderers side of the equation.

Proposition 34 supporters (who outspent opponents by a 20 to 1 ratio) also argued that death penalty cases are much more expensive than non-capital cases. They failed to note, of course, that capital trials and appeals are costly precisely because of legal redundancies that are multiplied by the same folks who cite money as a reason to abolish executions.

Currently the existence of a “life in prison without the possibility of parole” punishment makes it unlikely that today’s double-murderers will be released from prison. But the constant agitation for penal leniency by reformers for whom victims quickly become bloodless abstractions should give pause to anyone who thinks California’s no-parole prison sentences (like Stanworth’s two death sentences) are written in stone.

The myopic mindset of the most ardent bleeding hearts is reflected in the astounding sentence given to Norway’s recent murderer of 77 human beings—twenty-one years. That’s 100 days for each life snuffed out by Anders Breivik.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Is California Being Run by Eco-fascists?

One might think a book called “Eco-fascists” would emanate from a conservative think tank. Elizabeth Nickson, however, is a committed environmentalist and mainstream journalist who was mugged by what she now calls “the tyranny of the environmental movement.”

This “mugging” occurred when she attempted to subdivide her twenty-eight acres on British Columbia’s Salt Spring Island and was met with a green fury that was only matched by an authoritarian bureaucratic structure that squelched any resistance to environmental dogma.

Californians would be well advised to peruse this work that provides several Golden State examples of the devastation wrought by government agencies and green groups working largely under cover of the Endangered Species Act.

Nickson cites the Klamath River Basin in California as “a case study in how the movement destroys a region in order to turn it first to wilderness, then, seemingly inadvertently, to desert.”

Thanks to unnecessary spotted owl forest shutdowns, only two of that area’s twenty-two sawmills now function, and unemployment stands at 25 percent. Moreover, vast amounts of wood that could be harvested is left on the forest floor to fuel an environmentally catastrophic fire.

Due to such ideology-driven policies, California, which has the second-largest forest in the country, now imports 80 percent of its wood.

Environmentalists are also pressing for removal of the four low-cost energy-producing dams on the Klamath River, the largest dam removal in history—all for the sake of a species, the coho salmon, that never thrived in the chemical-rich riverbeds of the upper Klamath.

The Klamath’s green disaster has a counterpart in Del Norte County. There the creation and expansion of Redwood National Park resulted in dramatic losses of forestry and service-related jobs. By 1998 that county’s poverty rate was almost 23 percent.

The tourism that was supposed to compensate for all those lost family-wage jobs never materialized and is even discouraged by “wilderness” policies proffered by the California Coastal Commission. In the words of one county supervisor, “The park expansion turned us into a welfare county.”

The anti-rural devastation Nickson describes in Northern California is also evident in the dramatic reduction of San Joachin-Sacramento River water sent to Central Valley farmers. The dubious ecological rationale? A three-inch sub-species called the Delta Smelt.

Even San Diegans living in areas with puddles designated “vernal pools” can wake up and discover environmental activists and government bureaucrats confiscating their property rights in the name of a tiny fairy shrimp.

The final irony, as Nickson argues persuasively, is that “ecosystem” science is deeply flawed and often destructive of the nature it supposedly preserves--all at the worldwide cost of millions of human lives and trillions of life-enhancing dollars.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Tax Breaks for Hollywood Hypocrites

Hollywood has long been a goldmine for big-government Democrats who inveigh against wealthy folks who aren’t paying “their fair share” in taxes.

Thus, it seems fitting that the first annual “Al Gore Height of Hypocrisy Award” should go to those Tinseltowners who last year received a two-year extension of California’s Film and Television Tax Credit program. (Gore, by the way, recently sold his Current TV cable channel for a bundle to a news outfit funded by the oil-rich Emir of Qatar.)

The aforementioned Sacramento stocking stuffer provides 100 million dollars in tax credits to lucky California productions randomly selected from the hundreds of applications submitted to the California Film Commission. The lottery continues until all the year’s goodies have been allocated.

This giveaway provides a 20 percent tax credit for feature films with production budgets between one and seventy-five million dollars. Made-for-television and mini-series productions with budgets of at least $500,000 also qualify—as do new television series licensed for original distribution on basic cable.

According to a study by the self-interested Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, this modest program (by government’s lax standards) generated more than $3.8 billion dollars in economic activity in California and “supported” more than 20,000 jobs during its first two years of operation.

A more somber portrait was offered by the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. It concluded that the policy “appears to result in a net decline in state revenues”—an odd outcome for a program that, if the law’s L.A.-based authors are to be believed, would end the state’s economic woes if only it were dramatically increased.

This special deal for TV and film productions is needed, it should be noted, because folks in that industry have been fleeing California to sites where tax burdens are less onerous and various tax breaks are available.

According to one estimate, “the number of studio-backed feature films shot in California dropped from 66 percent in 2003 to less than 40 percent last year.” Other reports spotlight a dramatic decline in TV productions. Tax incentives offered by various states and Canada were cited as a major reason for the drop.

Riverside County Supervisors Jeff Stone and John Benoit are hoping to cash in on this exodus by offering Hollywood hypocrites financial incentives that are closer to home.

Here’s a thought: If tax incentives work for Hollywood liberals, why not employ the general principle throughout the economy and abolish special perks for political cronies—like the estimated $430 million slice of filmmaker pork that was stuffed into the recent fiscal cliff deal in Washington D.C?

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Will Politicians Prescribe Therapy?

The Ninth Circuit Court recently provided an example of the aphorism that even a broken clock is right twice a day. In this case those black-robed demigods issued a post-Christmas injunction against implementing a bill (SB 1172) that prohibits state-licensed therapists from counseling minors to eliminate unwanted same-sex attractions.

That first-in-the-nation bill, signed last September by Governor Brown, was scheduled to go into effect on January 1. Now our pathologically narcissistic Sacramento politicians must secure an OK from the nation’s most eccentric federal court.

Apparently even those hyper-liberal jurists were swayed by arguments about freedom of choice and privacy that were made by groups opposing the bill. Among those groups is the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. NARTH’s website summarizes various objections against this legislation that places interest-group-obsessed politicians between minor patients and their licensed therapists.

The law, spawned by Torrance State Senator Ted Lieu, dictates to parents, minor children and their licensed therapists that they must not seek “to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex”—an amazingly broad prohibition that calls in question even counseling designed to curb sexual impulses.

The list of horribles that supposedly accompany such therapies are typically paired in the legislation’s self-justification by weasel-words like “can” or “may” and concern possibilities that apply to any serious therapy. Moreover, the law’s vague recitation of negative outcomes applies in spades to the popular antidepressant prozac.

Even the American Psychological Association (a group long dominated by ideologues) only “advises” parents and youngsters “to avoid” therapies that “portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder.” The APA also notes, with uncharacteristic modesty, that the “scientific value” of such therapy “is questionable.”

By contrast, Sacramento’s know-it-alls, whose ignorance of climate science and psychology only matches their exaggerated self-esteem, cast aside all doubt by outlawing a practice that the premier professional association only discourages.

Also ignored by these legislative super-egos is the dangerous precedent set by government’s intrusion into matters related to parental authority and mental health—or the likelihood that parents will seek out less qualified, less sympathetic counselors to achieve goals that the capital’s pretend-shrinks have made it impossible to pursue within a professional context.

That the bogus but once-revered notion of self-esteem is scattered generously throughout SB 1172 gives anyone familiar with trends in pop-psychology a sense of how intellectually shallow this legislation actually is.

SB 1172 is championed, I should add, by the same folks who insist with contorted red faces that government mustn’t interfere with maternal decisions that relate to the life or death of a healthy nine-month fetus.