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Old 2008-04-25, 22:37   #1
ewmayer
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Default The Texas Mormon Sect

Is anyone else bothered by the apparently reckless disregard for due process that's been occurring in this case?

Consider the tendentious language in this NYTimes op-ed by Timothy Egan:
Faith of Our Fathers
Quote:
Watching the polygamists in West Texas come into the sunlight of the 21st century has been jarring, making you feel like a voyeur of some weird historical episode.

You see these 1870 Stepford wives with the braided buns and long dresses, these men with their low monotones and pious, seeming disregard for the law on child sex — and wonder: who opened the time capsule?
"Stepford Wives" - ooh, very nice. I'd hate to hear what Mr. Egan has to say about the Amish and Mennonites and their quaint habits.
Quote:
...when Texas authorities removed 437 children earlier this month from the compound of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints they did more than give Larry King something to talk about between anorexia stories of the stars. They gave us all a glimpse into what a religion was like before it took on the patina of time — with the statues, murals and polished narratives.

Religion has always been about faith and a certain degree of mythology. It’s pointless to argue whether the Red Sea actually parted, or if Jesus turned water into wine to keep a wedding party going, or if the freezing of the Mississippi River was one of the miracles that allowed early Mormons to flee persecution and build a theocracy in the desert.
More leading language there - if you're talking about "large property owned by someone you admire," it's "an estate" ... if it's owned by someone you're trying to vilify, it's automatically a "compound". "Theocracy" of course is intended to bring to mind Iran, the Taliban and other religious governments not very popular in the U.S.

Y'all can read the full article and draw your own conclusions, but let's examine the salient facts:

- Texas police received an anonymous phone call from an alleged 16-year-old female "victim of sexual abuse" at the hands of the above religious sect, as a result of which (and without any serious effort to verify the identity of the caller) they raided the property in a massive military-style operation and removed all 400-plus children into state custody.

- The phone call was apparently a fake.

- Despite lurid headlines and allegations of white-slavery, harem-keeping and what-have-you, so far there is little proof of any sexual abuse that occurred, much less abuse on any scale which justifies separation of hundreds of children from their parents. Yes, I find it odious for 30-year-plus men to have sex with 16 and 17-year-old girls, but note that the age of consent in Texas is 17, and is 16 in many states. Again, seems like a lot of the [alleged] stuff has much higher "Eww" factor than clear illegaility.

- The state of Texas is apparently busy finding foster homes for the kids, and there is discussion of making this arrangement permanent - again based on [so far] zero evidence of any of the children having been abused, or even an "environment in which abuse occurred." The worst thing I've heard so far is that the children - get this - "were made to obey their parents at all times." The horror! If that's not child abuse, what is? Oh yeah, they were even forced to spend hours at a time playing outside rather than watching video games. Really awful stuff, that.

Anyone who hangs around this forum knows that I'm not a huge fan of religion in any of its manifestations, but I find the apparent lack of due process here simply appalling. Yes, crimes *may* have occurred here, and if so, they should be prosecuted according to the applicable laws. But show us the *evidence* before you mete out punishment. What ever happened to the presumption of innocence?

Last fiddled with by ewmayer on 2008-04-25 at 23:58
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Old 2008-04-26, 01:23   #2
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I have been bothered about this. Also, I have also been wondering if they knew that the phone call was fraudulent before entering the compound. IANAL, but I think the Fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine would then apply to most things they found on the compound.
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Old 2008-04-26, 02:06   #3
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It's the Anna Nicole Smith case again - a big media shitstorm about what essentially boils down to a paternity case, in this instance, about 400 paternity cases.
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Old 2008-04-26, 02:10   #4
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I've had three concerns about this whole situation. My first concern, which goes without saying, has been concerning the children; both those who have been harmed by their parents and those who are being harmed by the Texas officials.

My third concern is that people will not understand that this group is an apostate sect, and in no way connected with my church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). [BTW, kudos to ewmayer for seeing through the NYT piece for what it is.]

My second concern has been about how the Texas officials have seemingly run roughshod over the law. It has bothered me so much I wrote a couple of satires. If you are not familiar with the case or some recent news items you may not get some of the references, but my wife and mother-in-law thought they were good so I'm posting them here.

Children Freed from Robot Zombie Mormon Cult

More than four hundred children were freed from an evil brainwashing cult this last week in Texas. Here are the facts.

It began with two untraced, untaped calls to an emergency hot-line, from an alleged victim of physical and sexual abuse, who gave the name of Sarah. “Sarah was just crying out for help!” said one of the hot-line workers, who has withheld her name under the fear of reprisal from the cult. “The call was heart-wrenching. This person had been beaten numerous times, hospitalized, forced to marry at a young age, and couldn't escape because she had children to care for. Hardly surprising for people living in a polygamous community!” Police now suspect that the phone calls were faked by a person in Colorado, and the accused “spiritual husband” has not been in Texas for more than thirty years. “But that is irrelevant,” states one local law-enforcement officer. “We went in with a legal warrant, which was clearly justified. We had to help this person whether she existed or not!”

God bless America, because those law enforcement officers, along with CPS personnel, did search the camp in order to help Sarah. What they found was appalling. “I was scared out of my mind!” asserted Francis Collins, a local CPS agent who rode into the compound atop an armored transport surrounded by law-enforcement agents with Uzies. “They lived in neat, orderly houses, with no TV's. NO TV's! And we didn't see a single gun. This is Texas! That's just wrong.” The reader doubtless understands Ms Collins shock. “What was more disconcerting were the furtive and scared looks as we rammed Uzies into their faces and demanded to desecrate their most sacred edifice and talk with their children.” Unfortunately, only two polygamists were arrested for asking to see a warrant for the search. What the cops found in the temple was even more damning.

“A bed,” pronounced Henry Gascol, who also was the discoverer of a single (possibly female) hair on one of the pillows. “Pagan, sexual beds designed to denigrate women while all the other followers watch.” One of the local polygamists claims the beds are used when people faint during services. Ms. Collins disagrees. “Of course the beds are evil...they found a hair! The polygamists' stories are complete bunk, no pun intended.”

“I don't know which was scarier,” Barbara Sanders, head of the CPS investigation quipped, “the fact that they had the same hair styles, the same high-pitched voices, or the same ugly modest dresses. All are clearly signs of brainwashing. They need to be deprogrammed by watching some TV to see how fashion is nowadays.” After the compound leaders rounded up some of the teenagers for questions, another disturbing pattern developed. “Some of these teenagers were pregnant!” gasped Mrs. Sanders. “Sure, I've seen lots of teenage pregnancies in my day, but these were zombie weird. I mean, one of the girls, probably seventeen years old, wanted to be pregnant and take care of her coming baby. And she claimed to be married of her own free will and have had sex with only one man. That's just not normal. She didn't even expect the grandparents of the coming baby to take on the burden.” Clearly, the entire compound was at risk.

These agents had to act, and act fast. Fortunately, a judge ordered that all the children be removed. Judge Roberts explained it this way: “We don't know who these kids parents are, or what they are teaching them, much less whether they've ever actually abused them. But we do know there is a possibility they could be teaching their children things which would be detrimental. We need these kids in the safekeeping of the state.” The reader might be surprised to learn that none of the children in the compound were on any drugs. “We'll change that. They kids need to be medically regulated,” asserts Mrs. Sanders. “At present, about two-thirds of our state sponsored children are receiving one or more psychotropic drugs, and we are working on improving that number.”

A psychologist for the prosecution, Dr. Frank Meyers, weights in with this evidence. “I've not spoken to a single parent, and none of the children have admitted as much to me because they have been brainwashed to keep quiet, but it is clear that these children are being taught horrible things, like `having children and caring for them is one's highest calling in life'.” The divorce rate among the polygamist group is almost at zero percent. “That is just a scary statistic,” declares Dr. Meyers. “Look, I'm on my third wife, and have had a couple of mistresses in my day. Teaching children that such things are wrong, and their way of life is right, is just distressing and frankly abusive. These kids need protecting from such insulation. We need to expose them to the real world.”

The children are being housed for the most part in a coliseum. Asked whether this was a good place for the kids, Dr. Meyers responds, “Of course it is! We've removed them from a possibly abusive situation. Sure, it is dirtier now, there are only two bathrooms for all four hundred children, and we are understaffed, but anyone in their right mind would agree that this course is safer than leaving them at home during the investigation, during which time their parents might further brainwash them.” Asked about the possibility of abuse after adoption Dr. Meyers calmly explains, “Yes, there is a strong chance that their adoptive parents will not know how to deal with these children and their upbringing, and even be abusers. But there is a 100% chance that if we leave these kids with the cult they will be brainwashed into thinking it is okay to marry a man with multiple wives.” Dr. Meyers' third wife adds, “That's just sick! The thought of having to share a husband! That's why Franky finally left his second wife to be with me.”

A court date was set to determine if the children should be returned to their families or kept in state custody. The result were not unexpected. The parents couldn't be let near their children. Some of the parents whined as follows: “I didn't even get to defend myself during the hearing.” “It was only yesterday that I was notified I could obtain free legal counsel.” Even some of the lawyers were beginning to fall for the brainwashing tactics. Two were heard to whisper, “My clients were not given due process.” Explaining the decision, Judge Roberts say, “It's easier to keep these parents away from their children if I don't give the reasons for my ruling. The more reasons I give, the more reasons lawyers will come up with to appeal the decision. But know it was done for the children.” The head of CPS agreed with the decision. Speaking from one of her four modest homes she says, “Now we can get to work on finding parents to adopt these children. The revenues we receive from the federal government and American taxes will help us expand our services and protect more children from this and other cults.”

We note that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says they are not tied to this cult in any way, shape, or form. Mrs. Sanders responds, “While that is perhaps technically correct, and it is true that the LDS have no polygamist members; make no mistake. There are hints that they also might be brainwashing their children."


The Modern Projects

Julie Stills, sitting on her front porch swing, smoking her third cigarette in the past ten minutes, swings calmly back and forth explaining the situation that has developed in the Fort Mason city projects in the past month. “Well sir, I came home last month to find that my daughter had brought home another man and he was yelling foul things at my grandkids, and had put on a dirty movie. I called the cops but they didn't come. `Insufficient cause` they said.” This situation is becoming all too common in the poorest parts of southern towns. Julie was a grandmother at 30. Her first daughter, Shaquinna, had become pregnant at 15 with Polyandra, and left her new daughter in Julie's care. There are now seven children Julie takes care of, in her spare time after work. “I don't know what to do,” Julie complains. “If the police won't help protect Poly and the rest of my grandkids, who will? How will the cycle end?” She looks sad and dejected.

The situation has only become worse since then. With limited resources in the state, politicians are at a loss on what to do. “We certainly couldn't remove the kids from their home. They need their mother, the alternative is unthinkable” asserts Representative Chanders. “As long as the kids are not being directly molested or abused, there is little we can do. You can't prosecute people for their parental skills or their choice of movies. Besides, the more kids in the home the more money Shaquinna can make, which will help her get on her feet.” Critics complain that it is this money which has created the situation in the first place. Professor Slim, an emeritus teacher at the University of Winsboro State, explains, “These young mothers don't look for jobs because the government doles out paychecks which would be discontinued if they make minimum wage. Financial considerations also contribute to the fact that they don't get married.”

A recent study shows that children raised in the projects have a good chance to have two children in their teenage years, by different men, and stay in the projects, repeating the cycle. Many young men, and recently some women, have joined gangs. “Sometimes I just wish the government could come in and take these children out of this environment. But parents do have rights,” sighs Rep. Chanders.

What does Julie do? She lights up another smoke, and swings in quiet contemplation, fearful for the future of her grandkids.

Last fiddled with by Zeta-Flux on 2008-04-26 at 02:11
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Old 2008-04-28, 14:00   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ewmayer View Post
Is anyone else bothered by the apparently reckless disregard for due process that's been occurring in this case?
I would suggest that you actually educate yourself about the laws that the Texas officials are busy following and enforcing.
Quote:
More leading language there - if you're talking about "large property owned by someone you admire," it's "an estate" ... if it's owned by someone you're trying to vilify, it's automatically a "compound".
In general usage an estate is generally, a large single property owned by an individual or small family unit; while a compound is either a large property owned by a collective, a corperate entinty, or extended family and generally has more than the normal level of security. This location fits in with the latter.

Quote:
- Texas police received an anonymous phone call from an alleged 16-year-old female "victim of sexual abuse" at the hands of the above religious sect, as a result of which (and without any serious effort to verify the identity of the caller) they raided the property in a massive military-style operation and removed all 400-plus children into state custody.
Texas law requires officials to investigate such reports. They are also required to protect the welfare of other children that are located in the same place. There are apparent signs of underage girls giving birth, which is a pointer toward such accusations being true. There are also reports being heard of other child endangerment (30 infants in a single room with no care-giver present). Warrant enforcement is often the most miltaristic looking aspect of law enforcement. When having to enter a location like that, a substanial force of people is needed and a plan is also needed. Those at the gate of the "compound", figured that it was best not to fight.
Quote:
- The phone call was apparently a fake.
That was only later found out. The call was not to police directly (IIRC). But, the law does protect the officials in such cases. The US Supreme Court recently ruled on a case that is along a similar vein.
Quote:
- Despite lurid headlines and allegations of white-slavery, harem-keeping and what-have-you, so far there is little proof of any sexual abuse that occurred, much less abuse on any scale which justifies separation of hundreds of children from their parents. Yes, I find it odious for 30-year-plus men to have sex with 16 and 17-year-old girls, but note that the age of consent in Texas is 17, and is 16 in many states. Again, seems like a lot of the [alleged] stuff has much higher "Eww" factor than clear illegaility.
There are reports of several girls as young as 15 in the facility that have in fact born children. That puts that act of conseption back toward the age of 14. In a bid to confirm if this is the truth DNA test are being done.

Quote:
- The state of Texas is apparently busy finding foster homes for the kids, and there is discussion of making this arrangement permanent - again based on [so far] zero evidence of any of the children having been abused, or even an "environment in which abuse occurred."
The judge in the case is trying to sort out the case. People from the ranch have been giving multiple/changing and false names to the police. Church doctrine states that children do not belong to the parents, rather the church and in specific "the prophet" (Warren Jeffs, who is, by the way, in jail for crimes in another state that are basically the same as what is alleged in this case.) By the laws of Texas, the judge can return a child to their parent, but not a commune. The DNA testing is to match children to their parents.

Former members of this cult (I use this word with all deliberation) report that, the members are effectively brainwashed. The have been prepared for a situation like this and are given a litany of lies to profess. They are not allowed by the church to speak the truth. (This does qualify as a type of abuse in some states.)
Quote:
Oh yeah, they were even forced to spend hours at a time playing outside rather than watching video games. Really awful stuff, that.
I don't think that anyone serious would state that that is abuse.
Quote:
Anyone who hangs around this forum knows that I'm not a huge fan of religion in any of its manifestations, but I find the apparent lack of due process here simply appalling. Yes, crimes *may* have occurred here, and if so, they should be prosecuted according to the applicable laws. But show us the *evidence* before you mete out punishment. What ever happened to the presumption of innocence?
Cases like this happen all the time. The scale of this is what is causing much sensationalism, as is the cult aspect, and the fact that this group has been having this going on since way back. This group is a cult. I would hope that you would not anymore use them to judge any other Christian sect, than you would use the Jihadist to judge all Muslims.
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Old 2008-04-28, 14:20   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncwilly View Post
I Former members of this cult (I use this word with all deliberation) report that, the members are effectively brainwashed. The have been prepared for a situation like this and are given a litany of lies to profess. They are not allowed by the church to speak the truth. (This does qualify as a type of abuse in some states.)
.

I thought that these people were devout religious believers?

Whatever happened to "thou shall not bear false witness"???

The whole thing sounds to me as a cult set up almost solely
for the purpose of allowing men to subjugate women into serving as
their sex slaves under the guise of religion.

BTW. How were these children being educated? If the cult claims
they were being home schooled, I believe that they are still required
to submit a plan to the state showing how the children will meet at
least some educational standards. I doubt these were being followed.
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Old 2008-04-28, 14:50   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R.D. Silverman View Post
BTW. How were these children being educated? If the cult claims
they were being home schooled, I believe that they are still required
to submit a plan to the state showing how the children will meet at
least some educational standards. I doubt these were being followed.
http://www.tea.state.tx.us/home.school/homeltr.html
You don't need to take any state-mandated tests or send in paperwork showing you schooled correctly.
My own homeschooling, in Texas, confirms this...AFAIK we never had to send in any plan to show educational standards.
Quote:
Originally Posted by R.D. Silverman View Post
The whole thing sounds to me as a cult set up almost solely
for the purpose of allowing men to subjugate women into serving as
their sex slaves under the guise of religion.
Agreed. You can't just set up something illegal and call it your religion...you have freedom of religion as long as what you do falls within the law.
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Old 2008-04-28, 16:05   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R.D. Silverman View Post
The whole thing sounds to me as a cult set up almost solely for the purpose of allowing men to subjugate women into serving as their sex slaves under the guise of religion.
There is a long tradition of that in many religions ... apparently if your bizarre misogynistic belief system is older than some vaguely defined cutoff falling between [Founding of Islam} and [Founding of Mormonism], though, it's OK.

So there seems to be some unwritten legal standard by which if your religion is "old" and "venerable" you can get away with a lot more heinous stuff [e.g. infant mutilation .... erm, I meant "circumcision, as in the holy covenant between Abraham and God"] than if you came up with it more recently - in particular after the advent of the printed and photographic media.

AFAIC all religions are equally bogus and most are filled with bizarre superstition - the thing I find perversely amusing in these sorts of stories is how people jump through hoops to justify the "traditional" bizarre superstitions and try to pretend that those are somehow less bizarrely superstitious than the beliefs espoused by e.g. Scientology or the Texas sect here.

Bob, does the Texas-sect-filling-its-kids'-heads-with-superstitious-religious-nonsense offend you more than [say] the-Catholic-church-filling-its-kids'-heads-with-superstitious-religious-nonsense? The heart of the legal/constitutional issue to me is this: should we favor "established" religions over "newfangled" ones merely based on their age?

To the religious believers here: my purpose is not to offend anyone - though that's virtually impossible in these types of discussions - but to get people to think anew about some of those "long-held" beliefs about religion and the law which rarely get seriously questioned by their holders simply because they are "long-held" and usually instilled form an early age. [Note: if the religion is old, this is called "religious teaching" ... if it's new, it's called "brainwashing."] Try to imagine the following hypothetical scenario: all the "mainstream" religions much as they are today, but because Abraham decided to eat peyote rather than smoke weed that fateful day, he had a different kind of vision and as a result circumcision never entered the Judeo/Christian/Moslem religious tradition. Then, sometime last century, a splinter faction of Jews moves to the western American desert after their leader, Rebbe Peyotowitz, has an alleged mystical vision in the bottom of a discarded beer bottle in which God allegedly tells him to move westward, away from all this wickedness, establish a new church out in the desert, and as part of the covenant between us, circumcise your infant sons, sans anesthetic, and allowing the cutman to suck away the blood from the wound using his mouth. Now this is excruciatingly painful for the infants, and not very hygienic, so a non-negligible fraction of said infants wind up with infections and die. Now imagine that hits the mainstream print media of the day - or of today, as in the case of the Texas sect. What do you think the reaction would be?

But in fact, this very practice is considered "normal" and "holy" in orthodox judaism, though the practitioners don't go out of their way to publicize it. Massive, massive double standard, at work here.

Last fiddled with by ewmayer on 2008-04-28 at 16:06
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Old 2008-04-28, 17:56   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ewmayer View Post
Bob, does the Texas-sect-filling-its-kids'-heads-with-superstitious-religious-nonsense offend you more than [say] the-Catholic-church-filling-its-kids'-heads-with-superstitious-religious-nonsense? The heart of the legal/constitutional issue to me is this: should we favor "established" religions over "newfangled" ones merely based on their age?

.
Not really, but I really don't know enough to give a definitive answer.
While both fill the heads of children with pious (and immoral IMO) gibberish,
at least the Catholic kids study things like government, history, math,
science, English, music, etc. etc. as part of their ordinary education. I
suspect that the Texas cult kept much of this from their kids in the tradition
of "keep em barefoot, ignorant, and pregnant". If true, then the Texas
cult would offend me more.

In a "If I could rule the world" scenario, I would make organized religion
a capital crime. Note carefully that I said "organized". If you want to
pray to G*d on your own, fine. But the moment more than one person
gets involved: poof. I believe organized religion has been the cause of
more evil than any other social institution in history. (with racism a close
second).

Religion should be eradicated.
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Old 2008-04-28, 18:04   #10
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Mini-Geek,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mini-Geek View Post
Agreed. You can't just set up something illegal and call it your religion...you have freedom of religion as long as what you do falls within the law.
And yet there are clearly laws which are meant to repress certain religions. Where is the cross-over in your view? If we are only free to practice religion when lawmakers don't make it illegal, then that is an empty freedom.

I think we'd both agree that religious practices which harm children do not fall under "freedom of religion." But how does government define "harm"? Is it harmful to teach children your religion? Is it harmful to teach them that marriage is a high calling? Is it harmful to teach them that polygamy is okay? Is it harmful to marry young girls (18?, 17?, 16?, 15?...)?

I'd recommend reading the San Angelo paper report on the custody hearings. http://www.gosanangelo.com/news/2008...-FLDS-CUSTODY/

BTW, I completely agree with RDSilverman's comments about "bearing false witness".

------------------

Uncwilly,

I'm fairly familiar with the details of this case and the relevant laws in Texas. Let me describe the constitutionality of the situation as I see it. Let us suppose that the law officers went into the compound in good faith. Let us suppose that they observed a number of young females who were pregnant. (The most common number I've heard is 5, most of whom were 17 years old.) Does that, in your mind, point to the likelihood of *every* family with children abusing their children, or putting them in immediate threat of such abuse? To me, it does not. Sure, Warren Jeffs is a creep, and there are likely other creeps in the compound. But not every father and mother on the compound is an abuser (nor would they allow their child to be abused by Jeffs). If these cops had stepped into the projects would they find it less or more likely to see teenage girls who are pregnant? Would there be an outcry if the Texas police rounded up entire communities of children from the projects due to those observations?

The prosecution in the case doesn't know who these kids' parents are, much less whether they are abusing their children (or have a large chance of abusing them in the near future). To take them away under such (lack of) evidence is wrong, IMO.

Last fiddled with by Zeta-Flux on 2008-04-28 at 18:10
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Old 2008-04-28, 18:08   #11
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ewmayer,

Quote:
AFAIC all religions are equally bogus and most are filled with bizarre superstition...
What makes them equally bogus? Have you examined them all?
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