Friday, January 30, 2009

Karen Dinsfriend

UPDATE 2/4/16: This article was originally written on 1/30/09 and it contains my own knowledge of a victim of a famous serial killer and how it affected me. It is written in respectful truth. Since then, people have periodically left comments that are relevant. Comments that are distasteful or irrelevant will, of course, be deleted. That being said, anonymous requests or comments from people to remove this post will be ignored as I don't know the source. And, frankly, if the attention that this article receives gets the attention of the authorities who may be able to move Long along to the gas chambers after 30+ years, then it is well worth it, isn't it? 

I recently got a request from a stranger to take this editorial down, saying the post was suddenly offensive to Karen's surviving family members. However, this post has been up for 7 years so I find this highly improbable. Some of them have supposedly already contributed to the comments (again, there is no way of knowing who really is contributing).  And how do we make the distinction? What if half of her existing family wants her personalized and the other half does not, for whatever reason?

Other crime sites detail Bobby Joe Long's crimes and they would scoff at anyone attempting to remove such information. Likewise, I will not be removing this post. Instead, I would encourage all energies to be directed to the Department of Corrections in an attempt to speed along Long's journey to the death chamber.

When I was young, my family and honorary aunt and uncle were involved in attempting to help rehabilitate women from prison. One of the women my aunt tried to help was Karen Dinsfriend. Although I rarely mention real names in my writing, there is a reason for this exception.

Karen Dinsfriend was a engaging but manipulative: A woman who had repeated run-ins with the law. She had a young daughter, Alexa, who was only 2 years old when my aunt met them. Karen was in prison for one of her usual problems: Prostitution.

Alexa had no home, and Karen didn't want her to go into the foster care system (or so I was told). She latched onto my aunt and uncle and begged my aunt to take in Alexa until Karen got out of prison. My aunt agreed.

Over the next couple of years, my aunt and uncle raised Alexa as their own daughter. They had good reason to: Karen had decided that Alexa was better off with a stable family, and Alexa cramped her style. Karen kept promising them that she would sign the adoption papers, but at the same time, she kept putting them off.

When the time came and Karen got out of prison, she showed up on their doorstep, demanding Alexa. No one fully understood the change of heart, but everyone knew that Karen was serious about this.

The system had declared that Karen was rehabilitated, and my aunt and uncle had to face a hard decision: Should they give the child back to a mother who was potentially reformed and could now be a good mother? Or should they spend the money to fight for custody?

My aunt and uncle debated this for a long time, but they eventually allowed Karen to leave with Alexa.

That was the last my aunt and uncle saw of Alexa, to the best of my knowledge. The last they heard, Alexa was living in a car with her mother (who was still turning tricks and doing drugs).

Until Karen disappeared one day.

Although we never found out exactly what happened to Alexa, we know that she went back into foster care. She should be in her mid-thirties by now.

But we do know what happened to Karen: She will go down in history as the victim of Bobby Joe Long, notorious serial killer.

"On October 14, 1984, a fifth body was discovered in northeastern Hillsborough County.

Her wrists were bound with a red bandana, and her legs and neck had been tied with a long thick shoelace. She had been beaten about the head and raped. Her yellow sweatshirt was pulled up to her neck, exposing a bruised and bloodied torso, with indicators that she had been dragged. She was wearing only the sweatshirt, although the rest of what appeared to be her clothing was scattered nearby.

The cause of death was strangulation.

Because she was a known prostitute and drug addict, the investigating team had recognized her, but she was officially identified by her fingerprints as Karen Beth Dinsfriend, 28. To link her with the other victims, both types of the red fibers had been found on her clothes. There were also brown Caucasian pubic hairs and semen that indicated A and H blood substances."

When Long was captured in November 1984, "He described the murder of Karen Dinsfriend, in which he had started to strangle her in one orange grove, but had heard dogs barking, so he put her in the trunk and moved her to another grove where he finished the job."

But Karen was one of many. Long's transcribed confession ran 45 pages long.

Bobby Joe Long is still in prison, despite having a death sentence. The wheels of justice grind slowly, but in Bobby Joe's case they stopped moving long ago.

Most of Bobby Joe Long's victims were unloved and disliked. They were the women that could be picked up cheaply, used, and discarded.

I still can see Karen, walking up the road toward me, her feet in flipflops and dusty from a long walk, wearing ragged denim shorts and a red bandana shirt tied at her midriff. She was deeply tanned, slender, with nervous, quick movements and a lit cigarette that she would draw deeply from, as if to savor every inch of it.

The last time I saw her, she was sporting a horrid afro-style perm (which was very trendy in the early 80s). By the time she was killed, her hair was in a simple flip shag. Her final picture makes her look so young and vulnerable: It doesn't show that inner steel or devil-may-care toughness which she wore like a badge.

None of us liked Karen very much, and she was rife with many problems, but she was a human being who did not deserve her fate.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Weather

It's a nice balmy 70+ degrees here in the Tampa Bay area. It looks as if this may be what we will be able to expect for Super Bowl this Sunday.

Today I have been puttering about outside, gardening. I'm on my way outdoors again to enjoy this weather. This is the enjoyable aspect of climate change. The drought, which has been going on for years, is another facet and one that is more worrisome.

I'm glad that we have the option of using reclaimed water here. I've put in a massive vegetable garden (with the help of my friend, Pov), and am making other alterations. Thankfully I can use the reclaimed water for this marvellous garden, but what would happen if I couldn't? We may have such a problem in the future that even reclaimed water will be regulated.

Because Florida's politicians and Big Business have been so terribly greedy, there's actually a glut of housing now. Some experts say that it will be about three years before there is a demand for any new housing.

This is good, as we're desperately overcrowded and stealing water from our northern neighbors, as it is.

Let's just hope that climate change can be slowed or reversed, before it's too late. In the meantime, I am happy for reclaimed water.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Barack Obama's First Week

First, let me recommend this article to you, written by Deroy Murdock, who examines the positives of Barack Obama from a conservative black man's viewpoint. This is well-written and it's what so many of us hope for.

Second, let's look at some of what Obama's done so far:

1. He rescinded the Mexico City Policy, which means that we will now allow aid to non-governmental organizations that encourage or perform abortions.

There are, of course, the usual moral objections that we stick-in-the-muds have about killing babies. However, most Democrats and Republicans will view this favorably for various reasons. The Democrats want to spare mothers the inconvenience of having a child, and many Republicans will find that this will save us a great deal of overseas welfare payments in the future. And they will reason that if everyone is busy matching us in killing off the next generation, we will have fewer worries about our own population's decline.

This was expected. My bet is that it is here to stay, and will never be genuinely opposed again. In fact, some groups may start to demand that we only give aid to overseas organizations that encourage abortion: After all, why should we be the only country experiencing self-imposed genocide?

This will also stop all those yucky commercials showing dying children overseas: They'll already be dead.

2. It looks as if Obama will return the States' right to impose their own restrictions on vehicles and vehicle emissions.

It's about time!

I live in Florida, which is surrounded on three sides by water. This means that smog is non-existant here, due to our wind patterns. But we certainly are happy to send it elsewhere. No one can drive with their windows opened, unless they're inhaling fumes to get high and, at the end of the trip, they are usually sporting a lovely diesel smell.

Of course environmental restrictions on vehicles and vehicle emissions will impact the poor, because it will create standards which will cost more money to achieve. However, I am very much in favor of this since it will help our struggling environment and save fuel, as it will cut back on vehicles on the road. We may see buses in increasing use, once again.

We will certainly see an end to all those dirt-encrusted cars packed full of an impossible amount of illegal immigrants and belching black clouds as they trundle down the road.

3. I'm sure there are other things that Obama has done in this first week which are much more significant than the color of the drapes or his choice of a lobbyist to be the next Secretary of Defense. Please feel free to contribute!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Nationalized Health Care

There are really two primary types of conservatives: The Neo-con, who is pro Big Business and therefore against anything which could impact it, and the Classic Conservative (CC), who is conservative in social issues and makes that his primary focus. (We'll talk about liberals and their beliefs another time).

During the most recent Bush administration, the typical CC has shown himself to be very gullible. All Bush had to do was say "I'm a Christian" and the average CC would fall in line. As we all know, Bush was a Neo-con.

There are those of us who are a strange mix of conservative and liberal, depending on the issues. We're called moderates. And as a moderate, there are times I applaud certain conservative talk show hosts, and there are times when I cringe.

So, despite impressions to the contrary, I still have hope that Barack Obama will be able to make some changes in areas that desperately need that change. These are areas which no Neo-con would touch, although a CC might. One of these areas is Nationalized Health Care (NHC).

I recently heard a talk show host rant on and on about how NHC would be the final nail in the coffin of democracy. He whined about how this was truly socialism, and then self-righteously pointed out that it would be spending even more money than we've already spent... and we're over 3 trillion dollars in debt.

Such blatant hypocrisy!

There is no doubt that we're in terrible debt, thanks to the Bush administration. But does this mean that we should continue to throw good money after bad in the war in Iraq? Because, let's be honest here for a minute, this is a question of whether we want to waste more money and lives in Iraq or if we'd rather put that money into our own country and our own people.

Here's what the NHC controversy is NOT: It is NOT a discussion about socialism.

If these Neo-cons were so hell-bent on destroying any vestiges of socialism in our country, they would have rescinded all taxation and stopped funds for road work, bridges, infrastructure, and parks.

The classic Neo-con answer to every problem is to privatize it. This is due to their mistaken assertion that Big Business will always step in and fill the breech. And yet, I have never had an insurance company call me up and say "You know what, Saur? We see that you're paying too much in premiums and you won't be able to afford this much longer. So, we've decided to help you out by slashing our prices in half!"

I've never had a doctor's office look at my bill and say "Hey! How'd THAT happen? Old Mrs. McGillicutty is only paying $15 per office visit. Now - she has Medicare and they do pay part of that, but we don't think you should be paying MORE than those Medicare rates! No sirree! Let's fix this right away!"

I've never had a pharmacist hand me my medications and say "Wow! $400! Let's see what we can do to help you reduce that cost! Here, let me have that."

Why has none of this ever happened? Because they all belong in the Big Business category and they are greedy.

It is human nature to be greedy. It is human nature to do what we want: Full speed ahead! Damn the torpedos!

And that is why the Federal Government needs to intervene. Because if it were left up to Big Business only, we would not have merely potholes in our roads - we would have no roads at all.

City water works would be a thing of the past. We would only be able to buy water at a premium, and most of us would have our own wells.

As for bridges: We'd learn to use ferries again.

There are times that we need the Federal Government. We cannot expect everyone to feel the charitable need to help their fellow man. In fact, history shows us that human nature is hardly what we want to depend on.

If welfare was completely privatized, how many citizens would donate money and food on a regular basis? We all know the answer: There would be many people left to starve in the streets.

And NHC is a similar concept.

It is currently not in Big Business' best interest to help out those of us who are either uninsured or struggling to keep our private (and crappy) insurance. Big Business succeeds by making a profit while doling out the fewest services and benefits that it can. Only the Federal Government can trump Big Business.

It is time to play the trump card.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Obameter

We have a good local newspaper called The St. Pete Times. Usually it's good: Not great. This is not entirely the fault of The St. Pete Times. There are many papers struggling to survive, and the Times has had to cut back a great deal on staff and output.

But recently they've started Politifact, which features the Obameter - a continual guide to promises kept and facts checked on statements made by both Obama and others in his government. It's a wonderful little gimmick and I now have the shorter of the two Obameters installed to the right on this page.

Of course this is one more example of the news being broken down in easy-to-digest pieces, and that's sometimes dangerous. It can encourage people to not take the time to thoroughly understand the issues on their own. However, we increasingly have less time to devote to the things which are important (such as politics) and I find that it's both fun and informative.

It will be interesting to see how accurate this is, as The St. Pete Times has shown a liberal bias in the past (and as most of you know, I prefer a more balanced, moderate view). But for now, the Obameter will reside to the right of my posts.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Honoring MLK

Two years ago, I wrote about Martin Luther King in Heroes With Blemishes. But last year I tackled something else which I will reprint here:

Why is it that schools and the post office are closed on Martin Luther King Day when they aren't on Washington and Lincoln's birthdays (as they once were)? Instead, we have combined their birthdays into one, calling it "Presidents Day". It's as if we've decided that these amazing men don't each deserve a holiday of their own.

If two great Presidents can be so disregarded, why are we making such a fuss over a man who was not even the leader of our nation? I'll grant you that he was 'a' leader, but hardly a leader as powerful as a U.S. President.

Before anyone cries 'racist' (as inevitably happens when a white person discusses a black issue) let me assure you that one of my very best friends is black. So please... table the label.

For the sake of argument, it could be said that although MLK was not as powerful as a President, he was certainly a major leader for black people in this country, and I would agree with that. But what about alternative icons such as Booker T. Washington who has no recorded instance of cheating on his wives (he was widowed twice) and also never plagiarized a single paragraph (unlike MLK)?

Is Booker T. Washington so far removed from our lowered standards that he seems like an almost fictional character?

What of George Washington Carver, who made contributions to not simply a small segment of society but to society as a whole, while serving as an upstanding role model? Is he also to be disregarded because he is simply 'old school' and our modern work ethic (or lack of it) cannot come close to his standards?

Sometimes it is easier to idolize people who are obviously flawed, in the subconscious belief that we are somewhat better in comparison. And when someone is only marginally better than we are, the goal seems more achievable. Yet shouldn't we hold up men and women who represent what we should be and not what we are? Shouldn't our heroes be men and women who have achieved accomplishments and lived honorably? I ask this of all the races.

Yet for many of us, our role models are Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Donald Trump, Tom Cruise, and the latest contestants in American Idol. Again, we like our heroes to be flawed so that we can feel that they are, in some way, equal to or even less than we are.

Top athletes don't do this. You never hear of the athlete who is successful because his role model was the person who received the bronze medal in the Olympics. No! We all aspire to win the gold!

So why do we focus on the bronze medal winners in the human race?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Little Orphan Annie (and The Goblins)

Last night my best friend, Pov, and I were over at my parents' home for dinner. His daughter, "Bugs", was with us, and we sat around the table after dinner talking about many things.

At some point, I brought up an old poem my mother used to tell us when we were very little because I wanted Bugs to hear it. It always caused shivers to run up and down my spine. The new generation is much more jaded than mine, so I didn't expect that it would have the same effect, but Mom is a wonderful story teller.

Mom had learned the poem from a series of books my grandmother had (which have been passed down to me) called "The Home University Bookshelf". When I was little, I read through most of them, although the section on childcare bored me and I didn't bother with that particular volume.

The first of the 10 volume set is devoted to literature, and it's always been my favorite. The poem Little Orphan Annie is in there, among many others. This is the poem which my mom recited last night. It's made much more impressive when she grabs you after each paragraph. When we were kids, it scared the heck out of us!

What is also interesting is this reminder of our history. Before 1941, child labor was still possible and quite common in many areas. Orphans, by definition, were entirely alone and would often be left to starve to death unless they were "lucky" enough to be taken in by a charity (which would exploit them) or a family (which would exploit them) or a business (which... well, you get the picture).

This poem is actually about a relatively "lucky" orphan: Little Orphan Annie. The poem later inspired Harold Gray to create his famous comic strip character by the same name. The first Little Orphan Annie comic strip was published thirty-nine years later, in 1924.

Little Orphan Annie's come to our house to stay,
And wash the cups and saucers up, and brush the crumbs away,
And shoo the chickens off the porch and dust the hearth and sweep,
And make the fire, and bake the bread, and earn her board and keep;
And all us other children, when the supper things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire and has the mostest fun
A-listenin' to the witch tales that Annie tells about,
And the Gobble-uns that gits you if you don't watch out!

Once they was a little boy who wouldn't say his prayers--
And when he went to bed at night, away upstairs,
His mammy heard him holler and his daddy heard him bawl,
And when they turned the kivvers down, he wasn't there at all!
And they seeked him in the rafter room, and cubby hole and press,
And seeked him up the chimney flue, and everywheres, I guess;
But all they ever found was just his pants and round about!
And the Gobble-uns'll git you if you don't watch out!

And one time a little girl would always laugh and grin,
And make fun of everyone, and all her blood and kin;
And once when they was company and old folks was there,
She mocked them and shocked them and said she didn't care!
And just as she kicked her heels, and turnt to run and hide,
They was two great big Black Things a-standin'by her side,
And they snatched her through the ceiling
'fore she knowed what she's about!
And the Gobble-uns'll git you if you don't watch out!

And little Orphan Annie says, when the blaze is blue,
And the lampwick sputters, and the wind goes woo-oo!
And you hear the crickets quit and the moon is gray,
And the lightning bugs in dew is all squenched away--
You better mind your parents, and your teachers fond and dear,
And cherish them that loves you, and dry the orphan's tear,
And help the poor and needy one that cluster all about,
Or the Gobble-uns'll git you if you don't watch out!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Jury Duty

I've managed to avoid being called for jury duty until a couple of years ago. That's when I went in and told them truthfully that the American Justice system is flawed, I believe everyone should be limited to one retrial, and that we aren't hard enough on our criminals.

I wasn't picked. No surprise.

A jury is supposedly comprised of your "peers". We might be able to appeal to a broader class of people if we offered to pay our jurors more than $40 a day (if it's Federal) or $15 a day for the first three days here, which is upped to $30 a day after that. As most employers won't pay you while you're on jury duty, any juror stands to decidedly lose unless he's out of work.

Of course if we pay jurors at a higher rate, the court system becomes even more expensive to the American taxpayer... As if we don't put out enough per convict. The average convict costs us at least $30,000 a year and that's only for his "three hots and a cot". Every time we fight a new appeal from him, the costs rise.

Yes, I'm sure that at least one of you has served as a juror before. Perhaps you were part of that rare percentage that really wanted to make a difference. Your chances are better at trying to change the world through politics: And that should tell you how slim your chances are.

The only thing that will truly reform our justice system are laws that will demand fewer retrials, lessened costs, better jury selection, and better standards.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Jeb Bush Doesn't Stand a Chance

George Bush Sr. just casually mentioned the other day that he'd like his other son, Jeb, to run for President sometime soon.

Haven't we had enough of the Bush family?

Jeb Bush is, no doubt, the very best of the Bushes. He successfully ran the State of Florida for eight years and he was definately one of our better Governors. In comparison, his weakling father could only last for four years in office, and George Bush Jr. (our current President) is leaving office as a lame duck President with amazingly low approval ratings and the reputation of being a President even worse than Jimmy Carter.

So, even if Jeb Bush had the star power of Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan, the others in his family have effectively ruined the Bush name forever.

And Jeb seems to know this. In the past, he has said that he wants no part of the office of President of the United States, even though insiders have said for years that Daddy Dearest really wanted Jeb to run in 1998/1999 instead of his low I.Q. brother, Jr.

Jeb is talented, smart, engaging, and marketable. He's married to a latina, speaks fluent Spanish, and has always reached out to the minorities. But, he's a Bush. And that's enough to sink his ship, forever.

Although Jeb was left alone by his father and brother when he ran the State of Florida, would they stay out of his way if he ever became the President? Could we be sure that the stupidity and arrogance that his younger brother exhibited would not be present somewhere in Jeb? And what of his unimpressive father, whom few respected? Will he taint Jeb with poor advice and machinations, as he has assuredly done with Jr.?

The only way Jeb could possibly run would be if he could distance himself firmly from the other incompetants in his family. And as recent photos show, that apparently won't happen.

So even if Obama completely screws up the next four years, Jeb Bush doesn't stand a chance.