Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: January 2011

I had planned to write a different blog today, and perhapse I still shall, but I first have some business with which to deal.

Last March, Tea-Party maven and would-be 2012 Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin urged,  “Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: ‘Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!’ ”

At that time, the former Alaska governor’s Facebook page featured a list of Senators and Congressmembers “targeted” for their vote in favour of President Barack Obama’s Healthcare Reform legislation and a map on which “targeted” districts were marked with crosshairs.

At that time,  Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona–the man who had chosen her as his running-mate in the 2008 Presidential election–defended Ms. Palin’s choice of words and imagery, dismissing such talk of reloading and targeted districts as garden-variety political rhetoric.

Many of us in the United States condemned such talk, remembering much darker, more violent times in our nation’s history.

Three months later, during a fierce political fight between Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid and Sharron Angle, the Tea-Party candidate attempting to replace him in Washington, a recording surfaced of a radio interview Ms. Angle had granted in January.

On the recording, Ms. Angle–who was already under fire for some rather extreme opinions–opined that the public would restrain an “out-of-control” Congress through “Second Amendment options”.

This is the USC Amendment to which Ms. Angled referred:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Yeah…she was saying–implying, if you want to use a better word–that people would simply shoot congressmembers. The hell with democracy! The hell with civilisation and crap like that!

Right-wing water-carriers and pundits immediately defended the rhetoric as just that…rhetoric.

How disingenuous. How cowardly. Your girls issued threats and you should have reprimanded them, but then that would hav ebeen too honourable.

This morning, the lies and disingenuity were finally brushed aside, leaving the United States and the rest of the world to see exactly where such rhetoric leads.

This morning, Democratic Arizona Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords was holding what is known as a “meet-and-greet” with her local staff and constituents at a supermarket, when a would-be assassin shot her in the head at point-blank range–one to two metres–along with seventeen other people. Six of them died.

Representative Giffords, the wife of a current astronaut, had fought a long, hard battle against a Tea-Party candidate, but managed to win last November’s election.

Among those who died in today’s shooting were a U.S. District Judge and a nine-year old girl who was attending because she had just been elected to her school’s student council and had an interest in government. (This sentence updated to reflect changing information.)

Representative Giffords is undergoing surgery to repair the “through-and-through” wound to her brain which a former Surgeon General described as “devastating”. (also updated)

The suspect in the shootings is a 22-year old white male. Tea-Party members tend to be white, with the majority being male.

It would appear that he listened to his elders and heeded their advice, putting his political enemies in the crosshairs, executing a second-amendment solution and–possibly–reloading to finish the job.

The suspected shooter is young enough to be my son, and that explains so much. It really does.

Recruiters for militias, insurgent groups and even the U.S. military love people between the ages of seventeen and twenty-five. They’re young, energetic, idealistic and so, so plentiful. They also tend to be ignorant of others’ past mistakes, enabling them to be repeated.

Those of us who were around in the 1960s or whose parents talked freely about that era are not so ignorant.

The only era in U.S. history more violent than the 1960s was the 1860s, when we were engaged in a civil war which left almost a million Americans dead.

The 1960s were an era when power flowed from bomb-blasts and gun-muzzles as often as it did from ballots.
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while driving through Dallas, Texas, in what many believe was a well-organised coup d’etat. Earlier that year, three civil-rights workers were murdered and buried in an earthen dam in Mississippi, not because they had killed someone, but for registering black people to vote.

At roughly the same time, a church which served as an icon of Birmingham, Alabama’s black community was bombed, resulting in the deaths of four little girls and in the months which followed, “Bull” Connor employed water-cannon, police-dogs and club-wielding officers to supress a march by blacks protesting racial inequality and suppressed voting rights. In summer of 1964, Rochester, New York and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania erupted in race-riots.

In February 1965, Malcom-X was assassinated in Brooklyn, New York as he spoke to supporters, renouncing the racially-charged message of the Nation of Islam. In August of that year, The Watts neighbourhood of Los Angeles, California. It was the first of many cities, including Detroit,  Newark, Chicago, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Washington D.C. and Baltimore to erupt in gunfire, flames and widespread destruction during the next three years.

1968 was a particularly bad year, in that it saw the April 4 assassination of Martin Luther King, which triggered widespread rioting in Chicago and many other cities, swiftly followed by the June 5 assassination of Democratic Presidential candidate, Robert Francis Kennedy and the August Democratic National Convention in Chicago, which was marred by widespread protests and the authoritarian tactics of that city’s officials.

That is the matchbook version of 1960’s violence. It’s like describing water as “a wet liquid”. The 1960s were a horrible decade which seemed to last fiftene years, tore apart families and cities and was just shy of a civil war. In fact, it changed the nation in many ways normally associated with civil wars and revolutions. The United States in 1970 was nothing like the United States in 1960, much of which had to do with violence and a precipitous decline in civility.

In short, it was a cluster-f**k…one which we needn’t and mustn’t repeat.

My point in all of this is that the assassination–or near-assassination–of a member of the U.S. Congress is an unacceptable retreat into a violent past, and whether or not the young man who did this ever listened to Sarah Palin and Sharon Angle, their message is now inextricably bound to the Tea-Party, much as lynchings are bound to the Ku Klux Klan.

Voices of reason must rise to drown out the shrill voices of fear and hate. We must reclaim the civility and order which once made this nation an example for the world to follow.

Advertisements

As the first African-American President of the United States, it’s sadly ironic that Barack Obama, in his capacity as Commander-In-Chief of the nation’s armed-forces, presided over a lynching today.

Yet, that’s exactly what happened.

I don’t mean that a group of drunken, ignorant and possibly inbred people threw a rope over a lamp-standard and pulled someone up by his or her neck, but the net effect for the person at the other end of the electronic rope is the same.

It is ironic that as Americans, many of us love to spend time on such sites a YouTube, M90, NothingToxic and a plethora of other electronic ‘p-traps’—look up the term, if you don’t know it…it’s the plumbing-related definition—but when confronted with something by the media with something at which we would normally laugh, we scowl and goose-step into political-correctness.

As a hip-hop artist one said, here’s the situation:

In the middle of the previous decade, Captain Owen Honors, the then “XO” or executive-officer of the USS Enterprise produced a series of instructive, editorial and just plain-damn-funny videos for an on-board broadcast series called “XO Theatre”.

(For those who are unfamiliar with Enterprise or other nuclear-powered aircraft-carriers, the roughly 300-metre long vessels each have their own TV stations to entertain and inform the roughly 5,000 to 6,000 people aboard. Enterprise has always had one, even when my father was aboard in the late sixties.)

These videos addressed a number of subjects, including flight-deck safety, same-sex showering, drinking, masturbation, use of the word f*ck and the necessity to keep the heads—toilets—clean.

At the beginning of each video, Captain Honors plainly stated that they weren’t for everyone and invited those who were easily offended to skip them. He further stated that the Captain and Admiral—Enterprise is a flag-vessel—were not aware of each video’s content.

(I’ll pause at this time to state that this was—and is—absolute bullshit. When my father was on Enterprise, the Captain knew everything that occurred aboard, especially when it was broadcast on televisions throughout the ship, including the bridge, wardroom and Captain’s stateroom. Further, the Admiral knew what happened on Enterprise, because at that time, it was the flag-ship of the U.S. Navy. Seriously!)

Anyway, here’s where—at the risk of being blunt—we move from bullshit to chickenshit.

The video series ended without incident in 2006 or so, when Captain Honors was posted to another assignment and nothing was even said when Captain Honors returned to Enterprise in early 2010 as the latest person in charge of her bridge.

For roughly five years, the videos were a non-issue. Those who weren’t aboard Enterprise during the series’ run weren’t even aware of their existence.

Then, a few months back, the local newspaper in Norfolk, Virginia and a TV station in adjacent Hampton Roads, Virginia came into possession of several of the videos.

They asked the U.S. Navy and DOD about the videos, and were basically told it was a non-issue, due to the amount of time which had elapsed, the lack of complains from Enterprise crewmembers and the longstanding practice of Navy personnel to let off steam while in combat-zones.

Naturally, as media outlets in the age of political correctness and forever in search of ratings or readership—I spent almost six years in this world—both felt it their sworn duty to trumpet the matter to the world, to verily shout it from the rooftops and whip it into a story.

Naturally, as politicians and government-appointees in the age of political correctness and ever frightened of offending a soul who isn’t male and Caucasian, a lynch-mob of talking-heads, secretaries and undersecretaries, members of congress, military analysts and anyone able to find his or her way in front of a camera screamed for Captain Honors’ head and possibly testicles.

That’s when a funny thing happened. The crewmembers about Enterprise during the period in question, including women, overwhelmingly rallied to his defence. If you doubt this, “friend” Enterprise’s Facebook page and read the wall-posts.

Of course, this being the era of political correctness, it made no difference. Chester Nimitz and “Bull” Halsey could have vouched for Captain Honors, and he would have still been the bottom guy in the scrum. He was relieved of his command, earlier today.

Before you accuse me of being insensitive, please allow me to explain something.

This isn’t an aberration. You all just got a glimpse of the real U.S. Navy and, let me assure you it’s no different from the other military branches.

This is what people do when they’re in a combat-zone, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

This is what people do when they’re on a cruise that’s nine months long, with a damn good chance of getting extended another three to six months. My father was once away for eighteen consecutive months.

Not only is this nothing new for the Navy, but it’s nothing new for Enterprise.

The photos in this blog illustrate a “crossing ceremony” aboard Enterprise in late Summer 1969.

Such ceremonies were held whenever a ship crossed the equator, in order to initiate those had not previously done so.

The sailors each received a summons to the court of King Neptune—the guy with the trident and a wig fashioned from a cotton-rag mop head—where they would each have to approach the “baby” on their knees and use only their mouths to pluck a cherry from the baby’s bellybutton.

My father and his friends decided to skip shaving the previous day, so they could move their faces back and forth, giving the baby’s belly whisker-burn.

Also aboard Enterprise, were “dopey-books” made from blank log-books. My father has one somewhere, but damned if I can find it and I wish I could. I grew up reading the contents of that book, from which I learned my best profanities as well as how to string them into a triple-curse, and admiring its beautifully-drawn, often x-rated cartoons. I assure you, Captain Honors would never have read a “dopey-book” on TV…not, unless he wanted to tempt the Navy to reinstate keel-hauling.

Nonetheless, these things…the ceremonies…the “dopey-books”…even the “XO Theatre” video series are morale boosters.

They’re the things which relieve the tension when you’re ready to kill someone, decide to miss ship’s movement (also known as being UA, which stands for Unauthorised Absence), drink some of the contraband alcohol hidden in the ventilation ducts or do something equally stupid.

These are the things which build and main the esprit de corps, but about which you do not ever write home to mother, because mother won’t understand unless she was in the military as a young adult.

As politically incorrect as these things are, if you attack them you inevitably attack the morale of the crew. That…a loss of morale, more threatens the military effectiveness of a ship than the repeal of don’t ask don’t tell, a visit by Gloria Allred and a six-hour karaoke of Elton John songs, because those three only involve homophobia, while everything else mentioned involves the ability to of military personnel to laugh at themselves, enjoy satirical comments about the chain of command and just relax a little.

Captain Honors was well-regarded and quite possibly loved by the men and women who served under him, and that, not his comedic tastes should be the determining factor when deciding who commands a floating city powered by nuclear reactors and armed with everything including nuclear weapons.

Leave politics to the politicians and the military to those who know it, live it and, if need be, die for it.

Those of you who’ve known me for very long are aware that there are five, possibly ten subjects in life about which I am hopelessly conflicted, seeing both sides of those issues and concluding that some are necessary evils, yet condemning others.

The retention of the death sentence in our state, federal and military criminal justice systems is one of those issues.

I have, in fact, debated both sides of this issue with my friends on many occasions.

Despite the possibility of procedural errors, compromised evidence and the career ambitions of prosecutorial and law-enforcement personnel, aren’t there still crimes which can only be punished by forcing the criminal to forfeit his or her life?

Answering that question is more difficult than it initially seems. If you’ve already answered it by the time you finish reading this sentence, please hold your opinion in abeyance until the end of this blog, take ten minutes to really think about it and, if you have a lover, fiancée or spouse, discuss it with them…after he or she reads the blog.

I will now state the facts of a current case, followed by some brief comments by both sides.

Afterward, I want you to decide whether the person accused, if found guilty, be executed.

I will tell you my conclusion, but only after receiving at least ten replies on this blog, twitter, facebook or myspace. I will count all replies toward this total.

The facts:

On the afternoon of 24 December, 2010, 12 year-old Jonathan Foster disappeared from his home, where he had been staying while his mother was out.

By sheer chance, his mother, Angela Davis, had called the house to check on him, only to have a gruff-voiced person answer her phone, turn to a person in the room—presumably Jonathan—and ask if his mother’s name was Angela.

The person hung up the phone, and when a very concerned Ms. Davis arrived at her home, it was empty.

Authorities were promptly alerted, appeals for Jonathan’s safety and return were made via the local media and a search ensued.

Unknown to everyone, save two people, Jonathan was apparently immobilised with a stun-gun and his hands bound with twine before he was taken to another location, where he was killed in a manner which Houston police have declined to reveal, for reasons they also will not reveal.

Immediately after his death, his body was mostly incinerated with an oxyacetylene cutting-torch and then dumped in a ditch on east Hardy.

Unbeknownst to the person who dumped Jonathan’s body at approximately six p.m. on Christmas Eve, the building across the street had a state-of-the-art digital surveillance system.

The following Tuesday, a passerby discovered the charred remnants of Jonathan’s body and the owner of the business turned over the entire hard-drive containing the video, which was clear enough that the person and vehicle were easily recognisable.

Within hours, police arrived at the home of 44 year-old Mona Nelson, a female welder with a criminal history dating back to 1984, which included immigrant smuggling, armed robbery and making a terroristic threat.

While talking with Ms. Nelson, officers obtained permission to enter her apartment and search it and promptly lost their breath when they did.

In the words of one homicide detective, they stumbled upon a wealth of evidence, including a stun-gun, a spool of twine matching that used to bind Jonathan’s hands, an oxyacetylene cutting-torch and a charred patch in the carpeting which almost everyone agrees is where his body was largely incinerated.

Jonathan’s body was conclusively identified the next day, through the use of dental records.

Her side:

Ms. Nelson admits dumping the body, but denies killing Jonathan.

She told one television reporter that she was drunk on vodka, when one of Jonathan’s relatives stopped her outside his Oak Street home and offered her twenty dollars to dump a plastic container. She claims that she did just that, randomly choosing the ditch along Hardy because she was “driving drunk and listening to music” and had no idea what was in the container.

Ms. Nelson, a mother and grandmother, claims that she loves children and would never harm a child.

Harris County’s side:

Jonathan’s body was never in a container. The charred remnant was left in a grassy ditch, where it shed some its carbon onto the foliage.

The digital video clearly shows the driver of the pick-up—identified by several people as Mona Nelson—removing the body from the back of a pick-up, sans container, and placing it upon the ground.

Arson dogs detected no traces of accelerant, meaning that it was incinerated with a gas-flame, rather than a flammable liquid or solid fuel.

Detectives believe Ms. Nelson waited until the right time to take Jonathan, and one has even called her a cold, soulless murderer.

Although that last bit is not concrete fact, I do believe it provides an important insight into the case and the mental devastation it has dealt the investigators tasked with handling it.

You may read much more and watch several videos on different aspects of the case at http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/local&id=7874478

I realise that I’ve not written anything on any of my blogs since…it must be four months, and I’ll stipulate to profuse apologies, so that I may begin today’s blog-entry with the following (important) primer on the United States Constitution and the United States Code:

USC Amendment XIII

(Ratified December 6, 1865)

1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

USC Amendment XIV

(Ratified July 9, 1868)

Section 1

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 5

The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

USC Amendment XV

(Ratified February 3, 1870)

Section 1

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Section 2

The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. § 1973–1973aa-6)

(Effective 6 August, 1965)

I’ve listed the specific section of the United States Code where this Federal legislation, an Act of Congress may be found, both to emphasise that it is, in fact, not a Constitutionally guaranteed right as an Amendment, and to provide a set of coordinates where its text may be examined on many law websites.

(F.Y.I.: USC stands for United States Constitution, whereas U.S.C. is the abbreviation for United States Code.)

Civil Rights Act of 1964

(Effective 2 July, 1964)

I’m certain that we’ve all (99+%) seen the black-and-white films of unarmed protesters facing attack-dogs, water-cannon and baton-wielding police in “Bull” Connor’s Birmingham, Alabama. Those “American-Apartheid” tactics, along with the terrorist deaths of four black girls in the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church and the murders of three workers engaged in registering Mississippi blacks to vote are why the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed both houses of Congress.

The Act’s power principally derives from three sources:

1—The power to regulate interstate commerce, pursuant to USC, Article One, Section 8.

The Congress shall have power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the

common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the

United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

2—USC Amendment XIV, Sections 1 and 5 (Listed at the beginning of this blog.)

3—USC Amendment XV, Section 2 (Listed at the beginning of this blog.)

Going back to slightly before the Constitution, I would also like to enlighten you on the United States of America’s turbulent childhood.

It was actually born on 19 April, 1775, not 4 July, 1776, and it was a Confederation. (You didn’t think the Southerners pulled that term out of their butts, did you?)

In fact, the original blueprint of the U.S.A., the Articles of Confederation, was completed in June, 1776 and sent to the states for ratification.

Under the Articles, the Congress of the Confederation—not the United States Congress—had the power to negotiate diplomatic treaties and raise an army, but not the power to levy taxes or encroach upon the sovereignty of the individual states, including the regulation of commerce, foreign and domestic.

The result was that as 1787 arrived, the United States was actually disunited to the extent that its currency was worthless, its military starved of funds, a rebellion had almost succeeded in toppling the Massachusetts government, there was no uniform system of weights and measures—including time, so that it might be fifteen minutes later in the next town and a pound three ounces lighter.

The U.S.A. was rapidly dying, so at the suggestion of James Madison and others, a convention was held in Annapolis, Maryland, where delegates from each state were given the authority to meet in Philadelphia and rewrite the Articles of Confederation.

A funny thing happened. When the delegates arrived, they decided to go rogue and create a completely new document. They were determined that this document would invest upon Congress the powers of taxation, regulation of commerce and the ability to enact Federal laws, irrespective of a particular state’s objection.

Recognising the propensity of politicians to stall and argue, upon the delegates’ entry, the doors were chained shut and boards nailed over the windows—a fact which may be noted when touring Independence Hall—so that everyone sweltered in the May heat.

Despite heated and intricate arguments, the constitutional delegates cranked that damn thing out in record time!

In doing so, the world’s first true Federal Republic had been created. Prior to this, nations either had strong central governments—empires, kingdoms and national assemblies—or were collections of sovereign states, known as confederations.

The U.S. Constitution entered into force after being ratified by eleven of the then-thirteen states, the others soon following, the U.S. Congress took over from the Congress of the Confederation and an entirely new head of state, the President took office upon election, presiding over a union.

Okay, boys and girls…Now, I’ll explain the abbreviated U.S. Government class:

There are presently—and regrettably—on the political landscape a group of halfwits, quarterwits and proudly ignorant people, whose colloquial name is the Tea Party.

The “Tea-Baggers” as they are also known—although I prefer term synonymous with an article of hygiene equipment—became pissed, irate, livid and altogether apoplectic when last-years health-care legislation was enacted, using the same Article One raison pour l’autorité as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

If there’s anything card-carrying Republicans and Tea-Baggers hate more than what they see as overarching Federal legislation, it’s spending. The “tea” in the Tea Party stands for “Taxed Enough Already.”

Here’s where the march of the ignorant and intellectually-impaired kicks-off:

An idiot had the bright idea of introducing a proposed amendment allowing any or all of the states to repeal—actually, to disregard—any Federal legislation which doesn’t come close to leaving its politicians in writhing orgasm.

More idiots championed the proposed amendment, even as six of the states passed “sovereignty acts,” of which all were thinly-disguised proposals to secede from the U.S.A. Of the four gubernatorial candidates in the 2010 Republican primary, only Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison didn’t mention secession. Rick Perry, only two days away from a term which will make him Texas’ longest-serving governor, mentioned it twice during the campaign.

Twice.

Here’s where we are:

The number of idiots has snowballed, giving the “repeal amendment” a damn good chance of exiting Congress, rather than dying on the floor.

When it was pointed out that this would effectively repeal Amendment XIV and gut Amendment XV, the response was profound indifference.

When it was pointed out that the proposed piece of constitutional scatology would effectively send us back to the Articles of Confederation, the response was—to quote the late Douglas Adams—“the look of a man trying to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius while watching his house burn.”

Few, if any, had a damn clue what was being said, so the matter was handed over to such capable people as Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck.

For the love of God! Will someone with an I.Q. higher than my cat’s please step in front of a camera, speak clearly into a microphone and explain, using small words and short sentences, why we cannot do this! Please explain why the proffered “fruit-punch” of sovereignty is actually cyanide-laced Kool-Aid!

Will some responsible adults please storm the room, take control and threaten to cane the children if they don’t go outside to play and leave the task of governing to the grown-ups?

%d bloggers like this: