Texas to Install Cell Phone Call Capture Technology in Two Prisons

The Associated Press recently reported that the possession of illicit cell phones by prisoners at Texas’ Stiles and McConnell units has become such a problem that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is installing a technology that intercepts cell phone calls and blocks calls made from unauthorized numbers.

According to an FCC document describing the technology,

Legal: Inmate call capture systems are legal when properly authorized by the FCC.

Targeted: Inmate call capture does not jam signals but rather acts like a cellular base station that picks up calls made within the prison and passes along only authorized calls. If a cell phone number is on an approved list, the call will be instantaneously handed off to the cellular phone company and handled normally. If the call is not on this list, meaning it is illegally placed by or to an inmate; the call will not be completed and can receive an intercept message stating that the call is not authorized.

Effective: Because such systems are based on well-proven cellular base station technology, inmate call capture has little potential for causing interference to public safety radio communications. Inmate call capture technologies also offer investigative tools for corrections officials to pursue other enforcement action when properly authorized.

According to the AP story, Texas has been experimenting with the call capture technology and plans to go live in the two prison units in April.

The irony of the situation is that a large percentage of cell phones smuggled to inmates are done so by prison employees. In Texas, for example, 17 former corrections officers were charged with racketeering for smuggling cell phones into prison for inmates.

The problem is so bad that Texas has installed metal detectors that employees are required to pass through when reporting to work in order to cut down on the number of smuggled cell phones and other contraband.

WTF Indeed, Glenn

Surfing the web a few weeks ago, I ran across this bizarre entry on Glenn Reynolds’ Instapundit blog. Now, personally, I would have thought that Reynolds would be opposed entirely to naming buildings after terrorists, but apparently not so much:

HMM: University of Texas regents take KKK organizer’s name off dorm. Does that mean that all those buildings named after Robert Byrd in West Virginia will have to change?

UPDATE: Reader Mike Ferrante writes: “Seems like we’re getting like the old Stalinist Russia where we erase the people who have become unfashionable. WTF.”

Now personally, I’m not a fan of Robert Byrd and, yes, his name should come off all those public buildings. By his own admission, Byrd’s infatuation with the KKK was short lived and he apologized for his involvement in it repeatedly, but it also seems clear that Byrd was most upset about what the KKK association did to his political career more than any actual intolerance he perpetuated (as late as 1997 he warned aspiring politicians not to get involved with the Klan because of the albatross it would place around their careers!)

But Byrd’s sins are relegated to the awful, bigoted things he wrote in letters and said in public forums. William Stewart Simkins, the lawyer who had the University of Texas dormitory named after him, was an out-and-out terrorist. As Dr. Tom Russell, who wrote a paper on UT’s history, notes,

After the Civil War ended, William Stewart Simkins dishonored himself by becoming a criminal and terrorist. In late 1860s Florida, Simkins and his brother Eldred were Klan leaders. A masked, armed nightrider who admitted terrorizing freed slaves, William Stewart Simkins proudly spoke of beating a “darkey” with a barrel stave. He robbed a train of rifles intended for the state militia, and the Klan used these guns to terrorize African Americans. Simkins threatened an African-American legislator and kept blacks from the polls. In just one of the Florida counties under his command, Klansmen murdered 25 freed slaves during a three-year period.

It is obscene for Mike Ferrante and Reynolds to suggest that renaming a building to register disapproval for a terrorist is making us like “the old Stalinist Russia” and to bizarrely suggest that Simkins’ acts of violence and terror have merely become “unfashionable.”

WTF indeed.

Why PETA Stopped Its “Holocaust On Your Plate” Campaign

In April, Brownsville, Texas, KFC manager John Olivo greeted three protester from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals by turning on his sprinklers as the three approached his restaurant.

Olivo told the Brownsville Herald,

They [the protesters] already hit me in McAllen. I was already waiting for them here in Brownsville.

The PETA protesters also faced one especially active counter-protester, David Ingersoll, who had his children passing out anti-PETA pamphlets, and high school students yelling insults from the windows of their bus.

PETA’s Chris Link told The Brownsville Herald,

It hasn’t been quite like this in other parts of the state. It’s a rarity that we get this.

The odd thing is that, of course, PETA has compared the slaughter of chickens to the Holocaust, but what is its current proposal for improving chicken welfare — gassing chickens to death in large chambers.

According to the Brownsville Herald,

“We’re out of here today to raise awareness about the chickens,” said link, a Baltimore native. “All we want them (slaughter houses) to do is gas the chickens instead of killing them.” [Apparently Link is a bit confused about a lot of things].

PETA suggests a “controlled-atmosphere” killing, using gases such as nitrogen and argon to kill the chickens.

The gas chambers would ensure a painless death for the birds, PETA reported in its web site. Slaughter houses currently use an electrical stun method or cut off the birds’ heads.

So that’s why the group backed off its Holocaust claims. It’d be a bit difficult to wander the country claiming meat eating is just like the Holocaust while simultaneously arguing in favor of gas chambers for chickens.

Finally, Link told one of the most bald-faced lies I’ve seen even for a PETA member. Link actually told the Brownsville Herald that,

Almost all (PETA’s) money goes directly to fund animals. Every dime goes directly to helping animals whether it’s through demonstrations (or) to raise awareness.

Uh, Chris, have you read PETA’s tax returns lately?

Source:

PETA gets rude welcome in Brownsville. Gilberto Salinas, The Brownsville Herald, April 14, 2005.

Hunting Over the Internet? I Say Go for It

Apparently the next big outrage after “canned” hunting are proposals to allow hunting over the Internet.

One John Underwood gained his 15 minutes of fame by claiming he was going to allow point-and-click hunting on his Texas ranch. Interested parties would pay a fee, log on, and presumably begin firing away remotely.

Frankly, the whole thing sounds like a bit of a hoax, but many people were outraged nonetheless. Lets assume it wasn’t a hoax — what is the big deal?

Assuming all Texas wildlife laws as far as permits, etc., are being followed how is it any more objectionable to log in to a website to kill an animal than it is to log on to a site like Fairbury Steaks and have parts of an animal carcass delivered to you overnight?

Its fascinating that most people seem to have no problem with either a) people taking guns and heading off into the woods and killing animals or, alternately, raising animals on farms to be slaughtered, or b) people buying carefully packaged animal flesh in pleasantly decorated supermarkets, but if you somehow start to blend the two, by combining hunting with the amenities and convenience of supermarkets, suddenly people cry to the heavens about the unjustness of it all.

And there’s inconsistency there as well. If its so horrible to hunt an animal in a confined space or do it remotely over the Internet, why aren’t most people regularly horrified at being able to simply select a lobster at a store or restaurant? Shouldn’t they demand that shoppers and diners give the lobster a “sporting” chance?

Source:

Point click and shoot. Lynda Gledhill, San Francisco Chronicle, March 10, 2005.

In Defense of Animals Can’t Count to Two

In January, In Defense of Animals released a list of what it called the “10 Worst Zoos for Elephants.” Among those zoos listed was the Cameron Park Zoo, in Texas. IDA complained that,

Even though companionship is essential to elephants’ psychological health, this Texas zoo displays and keeps a single elephant.

In fact, the Cameron Park Zoo has had two African elephants since its elephant exhibit opened in 1993, except for a brief period in 1996 after an aging elephant died.

IDA says it got the information from the American Zoo and Aquarium Association’s database of zoo animals, but didn’t bother to call the zoos it listed as the “10 Worst” to verify that information. IDA’s Catherine Doyle told the Waco Herald-Tribune,

It wasn’t meant to be a scientific study. It was an opinion piece. . . . The most important thing is that the public be educated about issues with elephants in zoos. These animals are suffering in zoos and dying in zoos because of captivity-induced conditions.

Certainly one should never expect to receive anything scientific from IDA, just as you shouldn’t expect anything historic from the t-shirt they sell with a bogus quote from Abraham Lincoln.

Its the activism that counts — screw the accuracy.

Source:

Animal rights group wrongly harangues Cameron Park Zoo. J.B. Smith, Waco Herald-Tribune, January 11, 2005.

Animal Rights Groups Try to Stop Beef Bet

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry and Texas Governor Rick Perry have been making friendly wagers over the outcome of the annual OU-Texas football game for the past few years. This year, however, Henry’s plan to bet a side of beef was met with complaints from animal rights activists who suggested that the governors should bet vegetarian fare rather than beef.

Vegetarians of Oklahoma and the Vegetarian Network of Austin, Texas, issued a joint statement asking the governors “to modify the annual wager between them regarding the outcome of OU-Texas football game so that the losing side of the wager provide to the victors a meal of State-grown organic produce and grains.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals could not resist getting in on the publicity, of course, and Bruce Friedrich told the Oklahoman, “Betting a side of beef is the wrong move in every way.”

Oklahoma ended up beating Texas 12-0, so Perry will be sending along a side of beef to Oklahoma for the second year in a row.

Sources:

Governors bet beef on OU-Texas game. Associated Press, October 6, 2004.

Governor to bet beef despite protests. Associated Press, October 6, 2004.

Governors urged not to bet beef. The Oklahoman, October 6, 2004.

Red River groundout. Sports Illustrated, October 9, 2004.