Diagnosis: Mass murder fatigue

Too many thoughts are racing back and forth. I am not “depressed” though I do suffer from depression. One Veterans Affairs nurse practitioner — not a psychologist — wrote into my record a diagnosis of “narcissistic personality disorder.” No, I don’t have any of that today. That is, as far as I can tell.

No I think many in our land suffer from what is wrong with me. Perhaps it hasn’t been officially declared by the “Diagnostic And Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” That is the “bible” of psychiatry. If the disorder hasn’t been categorized and named here is a suggestion: “Mass Murder Fatigue.”

I am aware that might sound narcissistic. Perhaps it is even flippant-sounding. But I am more or less serious.

The theater shooting last night in Lafayette, La., about 125 miles east straight down Interstate 10 from where I sit, is troubling in many ways. Thankfully, the Lafayette — I was there on business last week — shooting is less complicated and not likely wrapped up into Jihadism as was the mass killing in Chattanooga, Tenn. It was only a week ago that four Marines and a Navy petty officer died from that mass shooting. This time the venue was a recruiting office and a Navy and Marines reserve center. Muhammad Abdulazeez was the shooter in that assault. Abdulazeez died after one of the slain Marines and the center’s commanding officer returned fire, according to today’s Navy Times.

It seems this shooting last night was apparently a typical instance of severe mental illness, whether psychotic or overly narcissistic or just a crackpot. Whatever you call it. Sadly, I don’t really seem to care.

Not even the glasses and wigs found in the Motel 8 room in which the mass shooter stayed interested me. Motels have such a bad rap by the way. I could write a book.

It isn’t that I don’t care though about those two young women, known as bright and lovely, who lost their lives while watching a movie. Nor am I callous toward those who were injured in the carnage. But I am not very intrigued by the Lafayette shooter, a man who supposedly graduated from law school but was a perpetual crank, according to lawmen.

I would sound like a very bad person to say I don’t care about these mass shootings. Those killings seem to click like dominoes one after another. So no, it isn’t I don’t care. Me, who was almost blown away with a shotgun as a toddler, not caring? No, I think I care too much.

I care that our society has become so murderous. I care that the only cure our politicians, fed by the NRA-Koch money machine, can come up with is meeting these mass killings with more guns.

“Oh my neighbor’s tree is hanging over our fence.”

“Buy a gun.”

“My toe hurts.’

“Get a gun”

“Ain’t this heat something?”

“Get a gun?”

No, it’s that I care too much that I am left adrift in a world where people with intense personal problems think they can cure their ills by shooting as many people as possible. Then, they either kill themselves or force police to shoot them. Some would say, why not skip the killing and shoot yourself first? That is ridiculous. It is ridiculous as all the killings week after week. We have mentally ill people who need more help than having some shrink handing out the anti-depressive du jour.

Fatigue, that’s what I got. I need to go out in the woods and listen to the wind through the pines to clear my head. I like shooting targets. I don’t think that would be very therapeutic.

This crap of murder and mayhem is wearing me down. I have fatigue. Our society needs to get a grip. And that grip is not at the butt of a gun.

Sandra Bland: Suicide or Homicide? Will people find the answer believable?

My friend Paul sent me a message from Tokyo today asking questions about the Texas traffic stop video of Sandra Bland, who was arrested and was later found dead in jail:

 “I want to know, as the driver does, what is she being arrested for? What has she done? What can the cop order her to do — and based on what?

“By Texas law, do you have to ‘step out of the car’?”

All good questions that Paul asks. And certainly there are answers though perhaps not nearly enough for some. Here are some supposed answers assembled by The New York Times. It seems as if some editor told a reporter on a short deadline to have pronto so many inches of print or whatever they measure news with these days. It’s okay. It’s not like plagiarizing a lead. Sorry, inside joke.

The answers in the article are enough for a start in that netherworld called justice where truth often finds itself the prisoner. When one sees the video more times than is good for one’s own mental stability and reads what was said in the video it would seem a tie ball game as to whom is the most surly. Texas State Trooper Brian Encina surely has the advantage though wearing a badge, Taser and firearm.

Having covered one of the early cases involving a police dash-cam video — this too involved a Texas state trooper — my belief is that audio plus video recordings don’t always equal instant truth.

In reality, the widely disseminated video of Sandra Bland’s arrest might stand moot if another video or a witness appears with some concrete evidence of how the prisoner died in custody. In the Perry Mason world this used to occur every day. But life isn’t Perry Mason and perhaps that is why I haven’t seen episodes of this show in three or four decades.

It’s sad to say that this isn’t the first story I have read or heard about in which a black person died under mysterious circumstances in an East Texas jail. I also have written stories about black people, men, who died under suspicious reasons in East Texas county jails.

My first such story was also my first freelance try. I worked on “spec,” meaning no money until the story is finished and approved by the editors, in this instance it was Texas Monthly during the late 1980s that disapproved. I chalked this up to my inexperience. Oh well, my expenses were reimbursed.

This story too was controversial. A black man from Louisiana was jailed and allegedly beaten to death with a “slap stick” by a cop because he was making too much noise. I investigated another claim — this was in an adjacent county to the aforementioned case —  in which a black man had supposedly committed suicide in jail, according to the official reports. As in the Bland case, the family in the case I investigated didn’t believe their loved one took his own life.

Is there a connection here? Is there a longstanding — the cases I investigated as a journalist were in the 1980s and 1990s — epidemic of black people being killed in East Texas jails that reaches into today?

Unfortunately and with a bit of irony, the answer is “yes,” “no” and “no answer” is found in black and white. Cultural differences from as far back as the Antebellum South to today permeate discussions, not to mention the unmentionable. The black perspective is often that white redneck cops are a danger to blacks in general. And, of course, “Brothers don’t kill themselves.” Clarence Page, the black, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Chicago Tribune, calls such thinking a myth.

It is difficult to find the truth. It is a task made harder with that noise which is the world spinning around and around. If the truth is that Sandra Bland was murdered it will not make anyone happy. The same can be said if it is proven that she did kill herself. But something short of proof seems an even more likely outcome.

And the burden of proof? Why it will likely be a heavy one indeed.

The truth about Trump

Trump gives out Lindsey Graham’s cell number. He belittled John McCain because the Arizona senator was captured by the enemy. He calls Mexicans who cross the border “murderers” and “rapists.” And he is leading polls in the field of what is now 16, so far, Republican candidates for the presidential nomination.

National television news is giving him airtime as if he would take this all the way to the Republican Convention next year in Cleveland.

I certainly don’t support the Republicans. I’ve said for years that I would love to see the party go the way of the Whigs. I thought they were going that direction during the last election. If this expansive list of candidates fails to make the Grand Old Party implode explode — blowing the Republican elephant to smithereens —  then bless their staying power.

As for Trump, he is an a**hole. That’s simple enough. Dump Trump. Dump Trump. Dump Trump. For he is an a**hole. Say it again? No, I don’t need that. Just remember, we don’t need a freak show.

What do vets say about Trump or McCain? There is more than one opinion.

Anyone who has ever read the newspaper or watched television should know Donald Trump — despite his ability to make millions — is generally a buffoon who loves hearing himself speak.

The attack on Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in which Trump questions the long-time senator’s heroism, seems to do nothing insofar as advancing the race for the Republican nomination for president. With the exception of raising the geographically-inspired debate on immigration, one must wonder what in the hell does McCain have to do with this presidential race?

This is not to say genuine questions might be raised in the discussion of McCain and his past. During the period of time, as well as after, in which McCain was imprisoned in Vietnam he broke the military’s Code of Conduct. That Code, introduced by President Eisenhower in 1955, acts as a guide of obligations and responsibilities of U.S. service members who are in “harm’s way:”

U.S. Military Code of Conduct

I

I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.

II
I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.

III
If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.

IV
If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.

V
When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.

VI
I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.

Those tenets are not military law but rather a code of ethics that would no doubt cause fellow troops to cast aspersions if an American service member strays too far from these six guidelines.

During the five and a half years McCain was a prisoner of war he would break this code due to reasons including physical torture. Though names were redacted, this paper McCain wrote during study at the National War College in Washington, D.C. in 1974 after repatriation. Some of the reasons for straying from the Code as well as praise for the same are spelled out in his paper.

Some World War II veterans held Vietnam vets in contempt. The reasons run from breaches of the Code of Conduct to one-year tours. Some of those resentments are still harbored by those surviving WWII vets. Likewise Vietnam vets sometime resent the government that sent them to war and seemingly forgot about them afterwards.

Perhaps “some” is not a grammatically-correct or an inaccurate measure of participants. But no doubt, the word serves as a true measure when it comes to veterans, of any era, and what feelings they may harbor.

Last week I wrote a local TV news reporter and complained about a story she did. The local reaction piece was on what veterans felt about arming recruiters and other “soft” military facilities in the wake of the Chattanooga shootings that resulted in four dead Marines and a dead Navy logistics specialist. The two veterans in the news piece were a retired sergeant major and retired captain who just happened to meet each morning for coffee. Being retired from the military and from  Southeast Texas, it was no big surprise to hear they believed the soft targets required hardening — with guns.

My complaint was there were two lifers who have met for years each morning for coffee. Does it seem that some veterans might disagree? Or the same for some civilians?

Perhaps the one redeeming quality of Trump and his McCain bashing is to show the American public that military veterans are not homogeneous. Most should already have that figured out, but not in this old world will the logical become the norm.

Marines killed in some type of attack in Tennessee. WTF?

UPDATE: As is usually the case, the first reports of incidents such at these are wrong. The wrong information I refer to here is that the shooter was an employee of the Chattanooga public works department. That was information I gathered from the Chattanooga Times Free Press which later correctly stated the suspect’s father was the soil scientist for the city. On the Aurora theater shooting, defendant James Holmes was found guilty of 24 counts of first-degree murder — two for each victim slain — as well as 134 counts of first-degree attempted murder, six counts of attempted second-degree murder and one count of explosives possession, according to The Denver Post.

————————————————

Another day, another handful of people dead from gunfire.

This time the locations are relatively “soft” military locations in Chattanooga, Tenn. First was a military recruiting center. Minutes later a Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center was attacked. Four Marines were killed at the reserve center. The shooter was also killed.

That area’s U.S. Attorney, Bill Killian, called the shooting “domestic terrorism” although he reportedly ran back on the statement saying the investigation would determine the type of attack.

A U.S. official says the gunman in the shootings in Tennessee has been identified as 24-year-old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, according to The Chattanooga Times Free Press earlier reporter the alleged gunman was a soil engineer with the city’s public works department.

Well, that is how it goes with such a situation. It might be domestic terrorism, it could be a “lone wolf” or it could be ISIL or other such terror attacks.

I was set to get down on the general proliferation of guns and how it turns up multiple bodies each day, one after another. Then something like this happens. We don’t know the motive. At this stage we don’t know about the victims. Such terror might make a good statement for the ease of gun use. Then the news comes also today that a verdict has been reached in the trial of alleged Aurora, Colo., theater shootings in which 12 people were killed and 70 wounded. James E. Holmes is awaiting the verdict as we speak.

Perhaps the NRA wants everyone armed. Perhaps they can use their billions to make it a law everyone is armed. It seems that is what the NRA wants. But it can turn on them, the NRA. It may take a 9/11 with guns. Or a Mumbai-type attack by the wannabes or couldabees or even the killer bees. I don’t want that to happen but … WTF is wrong with life?

Small news source keeps feds feet to the fire

The arrest of a terror suspect on Monday was not a large surprise to me, thanks to reporting of a small northwestern Massachusetts news site.

My longtime friend, Sally, e-mailed me a story from iberkshires.com last week that had reported on the search of a house in Adams, Mass. The town is near the state line with Vermont. The original reporting told of FBI agents along with other officers retrieving various items from a  house on July 4. The news site kept getting stonewalled by federal authorities until today when they announced charges against an ISIS, or ISIL, sympathizer.

Alexander Ciccolo, aka Ali Al Amriki, 23, was arrested on charges of a felon in possession of firearms. Ciccolo, whose father is a 27-year veteran of the Boston Police Department, was caught taking delivery of two Glock handguns, a Colt AR-15 and a SG-550. Both the Colt and SG, the latter manufactured by Swiss Arms, are .223-caliber rifles. Both are characterized as assault weapons although some gun-rights supporters often dispute such a description of similar weapons. Literature from a sister company, Sig Sauer, uses the assault rifle moniker for the SG-550. Found at Ciccolo’s residence as well was material that included a pressure cooker, which was of the sort used in the Boston terror bombings. The suspect was convicted of a DUI charge in February.

Ciccolo had been on the feds’ radar since last fall after what the FBI called an “anonymous” acquaintance indicated the suspect was “obsessed” with Islam. That source is reportedly Ciccolo’s father, the Boston police captain, according to the Associated Press.

A hat tip to iberkshires.com for their dogged reporting on this story. I kept waiting to hear about an arrest and, lo and behold!

The Reb flag is down. We’re back to Step 1 with a mass murder.

The Confederate Battle Flag was taken from its pole today on the grounds of the South Carolina capitol in Columbia, S.C. It should have left a long time ago. It is likely it should have not been there at all. I think that flag has no real use except in museums, history books and movies about the Civil War. To me the battle flag is akin to the Jolly Roger flag that once indicated piracy on ships in the 18th century.

Those symbols might have been fun for us redneck kids of the mid 20th century in East Texas — a place that has always been more Old South than cowboy country. But the CSA battle flag symbolizes an open-ended hostility toward the United States and the black folks whose lives were captured in Africa and sold to American folks who believed they needed slaves to make them rich or richer.

As someone who has given more than 10 years to the United States military and government, I have become appalled with those who have shallow dreams of another Texas secession. I speak of people like our former Gov. Good Hair. Yes, I know Rick Perry was an Air Force pilot who flew C-130s. Good for him. While I appreciate his service, it doesn’t necessarily mean he is a patriot or particularly blessed with useful gray matter. For heaven’s sake, he thought Texas had the right to secede. It doesn’t.

My feelings on the battle flag has evolved over the years. It wasn’t the flag of the confederacy.

Although I think removing the flag in South Carolina is a positive development it should make us think more about our other symbols. I see today that just after the battle flag was removed in South Carolina, the FBI director admitted that a screw up in the background checks for weapons allowed the alleged killer of nine in S.C. to buy a gun. This shooting that killed so many in the Carolina church led to the outrage over the Confederate flag.

And so, here we are back at the beginning. Where nine people died needlessly. I mean, are we just ignoring the fact that nine people were murdered in a church, hoping the problem will go away?

Will it end in Houston or Dallas or any other Texas city when the state of Texas allows licensed handgun owners to openly carry their pistols next year? Are will this be the Old West once more, with people putting notches on their belts? Jeez, it is time for our people in the US of A to WTFU (Wake The F*** Up!)

 

Siri, I think I love you! No, but here is a Web page on love

Writer’s steal. That is the sad truth, but it is the truth. If that was not the case you wouldn’t hear all those bad leads — ledes to the newspaper geeks.

The Houston Chronicle had a story yesterday that waxed eloquently on how Apple’s Virtual librarian can get a bit snarky. Ask a stupid, get a stupid answer.

Yesterday, I asked her, it, — damn it, it’s not a “she” it’s a person, it’s  a recording, it’s two, smack, two, smack — something or the other. I know that talking, rather, carrying on conversations with your virtual assistant sort of shows how bad my personal life has become. What the hay. Getting on with my story, as I am in years, I told Siri “Never mind.” She retorted: “Yes it does.”

Apple’s Siri is quite the phenomenon. Stories abound here and there about ridiculous or funny things to say to Siri. So here are a few I have decided to ask Siri while I am waiting for dinner.

1. On Cosby: “It’s nice of you to ask but it really doesn’t matter what I think.”

2. On singing like the Bangles: “You wouldn’t like it.”

3. Does she eat meat? “I wouldn’t speak that way to you.”

4. Does she like short questions: “I really have no opinion.”

5. How far it is from where we are sitting to Pluto. “Here is information on Pluto.”

“Siri not available.” A sign on my computer screen informs me.

WTF? Did she have to take a break. Were my questions of those of others giving her a breakdown. Does Siri pee? Does she have sex? Ewww. Even for someone almost 60 that kind of question weirds me out.

One wonders what it would take to truly give Siri a mental break? Well, I’m not going to try. Siri is like a woman who is from a foreign country working in the U.S. as a reference librarian. She has some hits and misses. She stumbles on language on occasion. But she’s mine. All mine!

And the millions of others. That Siri is quite a dame!

Zydeco and alligator attacks: July 4 in Cajun Texas

To paraphrase Bob Seger’s ode to youth and aging, “Night Moves,” “I woke this morning to the sound of thunder, my summer sheet I climbed back under, started humming a song from nineteen eighty-two, ain’t it funny how the time moves, when you don’t have a clock with Snooze, ain’t it funny how the time moves. With waking closing in.

Yet here it is the Fourth of July in Southeast Texas. Thunderstorms blowing in from late morning to early evening. All is hot and sticky in between.

I probably could have gone online to find which restaurants were open and which weren’t, same goes with grocery stories. But many’s the time you can count on Jason’s Deli. I am talking the original one built in the Gateway shopping center. The center’s parking lot, facing Eleventh Street was the scene of a Beaumont teen “hanging out” place in the 70s, of the kind that brings up Seger’s Night Move album. At least, that was the time period I remember hanging out there. Time really doesn’t matter because I was from up in the Pineywoods where they had to pipe light in.

Gateway went the way of many small city shopping centers when the local mall was opened in 1974. Now the mall is a beginning point for what is called a “shopping district.” Big boxes and Best Buys up the wazoo.-

The area around Gateway, kind of mid-city Beaumont, is once again picking up. A large minority population sprung up to the center’s south. A decent amount of medical developed has made a horseshoe of sorts around it. Baptist Hospital of Southeast Texas was across the street from Gateway, where years back a traffic circle sat confusing people coming to and from the big cross-highway College Street. It is technically still U.S. 90, but more so on the western edge of Beaumont where it provides a less traffic-infested route to northeast Houston than Interstate 10, which takes drivers into the original Central Business District in Big-H-Town. One does endure quite a few stoplights and speed limits on Highway 90. It isn’t a bad ride though.

Back in Beaumont, about a quarter-mile to the east of Gateway stands Memorial Hermann Baptist Hospital, the second largest in the city and the predecessor of the old Baptist Hospital.

Amidst the area between downtown and the West End of Beaumont, a few places sprouted up. A new Chick-Fil-A. Probably most welcome and something that likely will enliven the mid-City more is the new H-E-B grocery. The new store, which opened a few weeks ago, replaced a small H-E-B a few blocks down on South Eleventh and another small store in northern Beaumont. It is by no means the biggest type of H-E-B, as is in the West End Shopping District, but is about half that largest size. Still, it has practically all the area’s other largest stores have. Today, which is Independence Day, it had even more.

Upon entering the parking lot I could hear the sounds of a Zydeco band blasting away. The band was under a canopy with benches. Whole dinners and frozen drinks were for sale out there as well. I caught a few minutes of music before leaving:

YouTube Preview Image

That is Southeast Texas for you, otherwise known as “Cajun Texas.” If one didn’t need more of a reminder of where they are, the news broke last night that the first man to be killed by an alligator in Texas for more than 200 years took place early Friday morning. It happened about 20 miles away  in Adams Bayou in Orange County, to the east of Beaumont and between Beaumont and Louisiana.

The man reportedly was reminded the “family-friendly” place where he had been drinking had a sign outside expressly telling people an alligator was in the bayou and to stay out of the water. A justice of the peace told the media the man said “F*** the alligator,” then jumped in the water. The man’s arm was bitten off and he had deep wounds in the torso that probably killed the man rather quickly. It would kind of remind me of the old Jerry Reed song “Amos Moses,” however it was truly tragic despite how ill-advised the man’s last acts were.

That’s the way things are in Cajun Texas. I can’t say much else except I wish everyone a Happy Independence Day.

Oregon gets high as the 4th of July!

Planning on a trip to Oregon over the Fourth of July weekend? Then, you might just have a high, old time! And that is speaking literally, if not figuratively.

Oregon began the outcome of Measure 91 today, a law allowing recreational marijuana with what casual stoners might even say is relatively generous. It allows use of weed at home, you can grow four plants, possess eight ounces of pot at home and an ounce in public. There are some caveats, of course.

You can’t fire one up in public. You can’t sell it. You can give it away. You can’t drive under the influence. And a bunch of other weird little regulations that were given by lawmakers to special interest groups.

This bud's for you, Oregon. Creative Commons.

This bud’s for you, Oregon. Creative Commons.

Oregon becomes the fourth state to allow recreational pot. The other states are Washington, Colorado, Alaska. The District of Columbia also allows it. Marijuana is allowed with a prescription in some of the other states. Oregon has also had a medicinal marijuana. It is permissible for someone with a medicinal marijuana card to give away buds or seeds.

Oh and how about eating pot?

Oregon state officials are working out the details for shops that will allow edibles next year. But this new law let Oregonians possess a pound of “processed edibles.” These are items such as candies or cookies. A total of 72 ounces of marijuana-spiked drinks. Yeah! This bud is definitely for you.

When the “strength” of marijuana is discussed these days in the media — often this is talked about in the context of edibles —  there is a big emphasis that is mostly emphasized by the pot haters about how potent is weed these days.

The way this potency is laid out by the talking heads — oh wow man, I remember them, ‘you might find yourself living in a shotgun shack’ — is that this “new” marijuana is like the “New Coke.” Now I can’t argue with that because … well just because. But the “experts” I know, like Turkey Neck Jackson, thinks that is all a lot of baloney.

“Yeh main, I took this big chubabaloney an’ put in fire lil bit bobbyq sauz and coooook! Yes sir. Man that ol roll just tuck my ol’ brain ‘way,” Neck, he goes by Neck, said.

Actually, I think he might’ve been a little bit stoned, ya think? He was talking about barbecuing a whole chub, or roll, of bologna. I mean, that’s not odd here in East Texas, but you don’t want to just throw it on an open fire with no grill.

But I just don’t know about those people who are getting higher than they were in the old days. And that’s all I got to say about that.

Something likewise positive coming from this law are rules that will help guide a budding (sorry) industrial hemp industry.

A law passed several years ago allowed growing hemp in Oregon but the hemp industry did not take off because of the existing federal laws against it. An agency no less than the Kentucky Department of Agriculture points out that it is illegal to grow industrial hemp without a DEA license. Oregon’s ag department is taking application for hemp growing. The requirements limit the active ingredient of marijuana, THC, at 0.03 percent. That is an amount that probably wouldn’t give Bambi a buzz.

I can’t say this for sure. But I hear people say deer like to eat pot. Mice do too. Like I say, I’ve never been a deer or a mouse, so this is just speculation.