An hour writing about randomness passes by.

Whatever the phase of the moon may be never really concerns me. Perhaps at a younger age I might have had my suspicions of the chaos that allegedly surrounded the full presentation of that heavely body.

Almost everywhere I have lived were those who believed as I once did that they would be in for the crazy of craziness when that big old moon shined forth. Among the most stident of believers were firefighters, cops and other emergency workers. As a fireman in the 70s and 80s of last century one might have seen an over abundance of calls, including seemingly non-ending burners, or being summoned by the police to remove a naked man from a tree. Just to name a couple of examples.

Some fire or police officers would go so far as to schedule a day of leave if the calendar showed a full moon rising.

More than 30 years later I have accepted chaos as a routine pain in the ass of the universe. S**t happens. As that randomness occurs does it seem we are all fair game for nature piling on upon our misery.

Some of my examples:

My laptop began screwing up late last week. With the help from a HP technician we tried the factory reset but it was to no avail. This has happened to me once before on the same machine. It appears the companywill ship a different laptop or that is what I was led to understand. We shall see. I am fortuante that my warranty was extended during the last round of laptop disruptions.

Yesterday, I took my business vehicle in for body work. The Chevy Cruze had sustained a parking lot dent. One has to look closely to notice it. Stll, it will make the dealership $1,660 and some cents. I am sure glad I don’t have to pay for that.

But wait: Yesterday in traffic my 1998 Tacoma pickup died and would not restart. It has been running poorly for some time. More often than not,  I did not have the money for what I feared a repair job might cost. It turns out that it will cost more than I had imagined. The wrecker ride was $65 and the mechanic quote just a short time ago was a whopping $1,090. Ouch!

What perhaps turns this run of misfortune on its head is, for once, I can afford a hit like that. The money comes from a pool that I hoped will help with retirement but to do anything I need to do, I suppose my “motor-vation” is required.

I took a hit. And I doubt the moon had any part in the bad luck streak. I am not sure I believe in so-called “silver linings” Such inconvenient times though seem to somehow work out. Or else, they don’t.


Concerned vets or Koch Brother chicanery?

The GOP Debate on Fox News is on until I can find something more entertaining.

In the meantime, I came across an interesting fact. It seems a Koch Brothers-funded front group called Concerned Veterans for Americans (CVA) is making various anti-working proposals that will attack veterans health care.

While they wave the flag and make everything a misleading headline, some of the CVA’s proposals are just unsubstantiated bullshit. Take this for example:

 “With 88 percent of veterans saying that it is ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ important to increase health care choices for veterans, it’s time for the VA to stop pretending there is no demand for increasing options, even if veterans choose to seek care outside the VA. Veterans deserve the freedom to choose a provider who suits their needs, not one dictated by a government bureaucrat and a set of rigid guidelines,” says one of CVA ‘s propaganda releases.

There are percentages that may or may not be true or may or may not be taken out of context. I’ve not had time to check it. That really belies the remainder of the statement. I also don’t know how many veterans receive outside health care. However, I’ve had a “Veterans Choice” card for quite some time. This card allows me to see private providers who are too far from a local VA facility as well as seeing providers for specialized care that the VA cannot provide. I’ve had a sleep study to determine why my CPAP machine no longer helps control my sleep apnea as it should. This was with a local private provider. The study led to another VA study last month because the findings from the two studies turned out to not give information that a memory card in machine displayed. I came home from the VA hospital yesterday with a new CPAP. I also have an appointment with local physical therapists to see if they can give me PT or whether it will help. This is because driving to Houston, about 150 miles round-trip, three times a week is not an option for me.

Yes, these are just a couple of examples for this year. Before that time I only saw a local hospital ER that I had to fight with because the VA was too slow in paying the bills. These two visits were after a VA nurse on the Houston “Telecare” line told me I needed to go to my closest hospital.

I have been pissed off at the VA a number of times. I raised a little hell during my visit yesterday. But the VA is the only systems that specialize in veterans either by directly treating them or having local providers do so. The VA is much improved than when I started using the system’s health care more than 20 years ago. They’re not perfect. But neither is the private medical system by itself.

To paraphrase the old joke, you know when the Koch Brothers are lying whenever they (or their minions) move their lips (or send out press releases.)

Clean air coming. Hopefully it will not be too late.

No doubt an excess of conservative weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth in the next few days will mark the aftermath of the Obama administration’s new clean air program.

The Clean Power Plan sets a target of reducing U.S. carbon production by 32 percent — about 870 tons — over the next 15 years. Power plants are the largest contributor of climate change in the country, producing about 1/3 of all carbon emissions. No limits had been set on carbon pollution until today.

The United States is leading by example today, showing the world that climate action is an incredible economic opportunity to build a stronger foundation for growth,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “The valuable feedback we received means the final Clean Power Plan is more ambitious yet more achievable, so states can customize plans to achieve their goals in ways that make sense for their communities, businesses and utilities.”

Have you never seen Dallas ... ? Flying out of D-FW we had to get on up a ways in the air to see the city (below, right.) Photo by EFD
Have you never seen Dallas … ? Flying out of D-FW we had to get on up a ways in the air to see the city (below, center.) Photo by EFD

The plan lets states pick two distinct ways to reduce carbon production. One way would allow specific plants to develop performance rates. States may also pick programs allowing varied measures including incentives based on renewable energy or  through improvement of energy efficiency.

A “cap-and-trade” plan in which companies could bid on pollution is encouraged by the Obama plan but will not be mandated.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — coincidentally booked today for felony security fraud in Collin County, Texas — has said he intended to sue the federal government over the plan. Other Republicans such as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has pouted about the clean air initiative saying it will drive electric bills sky high and will threaten the power grid reliability. Such claims have been refuted by Obama. The president has said the plan will save the average American family in fuel costs $85 by 2030.

Additionally, Obama said the electrical program has both benefits to the U.S. economy and to human health. The administration pointed out that some 3,600 premature deaths and 1,700 non-fatal heart attacks can be prevented in the country by 2030.

The administration has not backed off on climate change predictions even though conservatives have managed to change some American minds as to whether such changes even exist.

I took the photo in this post on Friday upon flying home via Dallas from Albuquerque. The Dallas area was well masked with smog, haze, ozone whatever one chooses to call it. Hot summer days like the one pictured can influence the hazy air through a number of avenues. Pollution can come from cars blowing smoke down the freeways or waiting in drive-throughs for a taco, lawn mowers and from other sources including power plants.

One only can get up in higher altitudes to see where the visible pollution haze ends. Oh, the regional jet on which I flew was also doing its part to pollute. Still, one has to go a little bit out of this world to see what is dirty in between the pure blue skies and terra firma.

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.