Just another day in America. Right?

This has been one of those extraordinary days in America.

Two presidents — one white and former president and one black who is the president — spoke on the same page praising work of the five Dallas police officers killed in an ambush following a protest march on July 7.

A former Democratic party presidential candidate and the presumptive Democratic candidate embraced in a showing of party unity.

Hey there, take a look at my neck it's a lot like your's. That is if your neck looks anything like mine.  (It actually is my MRI neck picture) MRI image. Copyright 2016. Dick at EFD
Old man take a look at my neck it’s a lot like your’s. That is if your neck looks anything like mine. (It actually is my MRI neck picture) MRI image. Copyright 2016. Dick at EFD. Oh, and Fair Use paraphrasing Neil Young’s “Old Man” which is a hell of a good song.

The U.S. attorney general was grilled by Republicans who demanded to know why she didn’t refer charges against the presumptive Democratic candidate in a politically-charged scandal over e-mails.

One of eight Supreme Court justices said she could not imagine a presidency under the presumptive Republican candidate.

All of this took place today as I sat in the Parkinson’s Disease clinic at the Houston VA waiting to see my neurologist. Oh, I don’t have Parkinson’s, at least I don’t think so.

I began reading an interesting article on one major problem I do have, that is maintaining balance. The article was in “Neurology Now,” a title I previously didn’t know. But this magazine had an attractive cover layout that pictured the former California first lady, who also was once an NBC television news correspondent, and a member of the famous Camelot clan from which came a murdered, young U.S. president. That lady shouldn’t be former anything and proves she isn’t by speaking out on Alzheimer’s Disease.

The article, which I have yet to finish, suggests Tai Chi and other methods can help older folks to maintain balance. You, the reader reading this blog, may read this article  before I do. I have had concerns over the last couple of years, since my balance had gone awry, that I might get stopped by police and asked me to perform a field sobriety test. I don’t drink and drive, anymore at least. Buy my balance is way out of whack and that would be the first thing I would tell police. Well, I would tell them right after saying: “No,” I would not perform any tests.

Before I finished the article my neurologist, a very nice lady who came from India to help veterans, gave me about 10 shots of Botox. The Botox shots — I have received about four or five sets — have been in my head, neck and face to attempt helping the great pain I suffer from my cervical spine and the osteoarthritis that has savaged my neck over the years.

The shots today were in the back of my neck in a peripheral area of my spine.

My neck felt better, for the first time since I have received the shots, although after the drive back from Houston the neck is back to its painful ways. My lower back has, in the interim, become much more painful among standing and walking. That has been attributed to the diagnosis I was given of a rare disease called “Arachnoiditis.” And as I must always point out, the disorder has nothing to do with spiders.

I will be checking in my self-examination mirror to determine if the Botox has made the back of my neck appear any younger. In the meantime, my doctor said she will say what, if anything, she will do about my lower back.

This was what happened in my day, another day in America.

History keeps repeating itself in Jerusalem on the Brazos

You can put lipstick on a bear but it better be knocked out with animal tranquilizers. That is my piss poor attempt at using some old saying a different way. If you get my drift, you might know I am talking about a pig. But I used a bear as a better symbol since the bear is the mascot  for the largest Baptist school in the Universe. Yes, I speak of the Baylor Bears.

Two major stories came out of Waco — home of Baylor University — this week. One story was a good attempt by CNN’s Ed Lavendera to show that jack hasn’t happened with the Twin Peaks bikers shooting that happened a year ago this week. I say good attempt because when you have such a case involving so many people and so many lawyers, to say things can become complicated is way overstated. Some nine bikers were killed and  nearly two dozen were wounded. The case resulted in nearly 180 arrests, most for engaging in organized criminal conduct. The abnormally slow justice system was shown in the CNN piece to move slower than Interstate 35 on a Baylor game day.

The second major story from Waco is ongoing. It involves a criminal culture among the Baylor football team with several arrests and even more allegations of sexual assault, and perhaps a cover-up either within Baylor, (including the university’s president Good ol’ Ken Starr, who was the special prosecutor in the Clinton-Lewinski affair) or even maybe a cover-up by the Waco Police Department and Baylor, according to some media stories.

I suppose that if these two stories mean anything it is that bad juju is quite frequent down there in the place the 19th century columnist — and no Baylor fan — William Cowper Brann called “Jerusalem on the Brazos.”

Brann was such a disagreeable cuss that he wound up in a shootout with a local Baylor supporter over alleged sexual indiscretions involving housemaids from South America and the Baylor elite. Brann, who preferred to be called by the name of his paper, The Iconoclast, was shot in the chest. He turned around and fired multiple rounds at his assailant, who then fell dead in the door of a local cigar shop. Brann died the next day. As ancient history that it was, the shooting of Brann The Iconoclast, was quite a story way back when as the The Iconoclast, the paper had around 100,000 subscribers.

What happened just outside of Waco in 1993 in which David Koresh and his followers engaged in a gunfight with Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents at Mt. Carmel is more recent history, as was the fiery ending to that saga less than two months later. I know some of the individuals, both Davidians and other parties who were there both at the beginning and the end of the siege.

So now we get to more recent history. It was history that happened this century, but it is still history and likewise carries a lesson that should have been learned, although from the news coming out of Waco today shows that apparentl the lesson was forgotten.

I speak of the scandal involving the men’s basketball team in 2003 in which team member Patrick Dennehy had gone missing only to be later discovered dead. His fellow teammate Carlton Dotson was found guilty in his murder and sentenced to 35 years in prison. The missing player set off the scandal in which then-head Baylor basketball coach Dave Bliss portrayed Dennehy as a drug dealer to hide the fact that Bliss had paid Dennehy and another player under the table after limits had been reached on team scholarships.

I think this commentary I came across today by CBS Senior Sports Writer Jon Solomon puts the whole sordid basketball scandal in better perspective that I can. I happened to be working then in Waco, fortunately I had limited exposure to the story. If one looks back to these stories of the past — both ancient and the more recent one — one might find a common thread throughout was religion, in some form or the other. That’s not to say religion is bad but I would say religion and pride is poor  two-some. One might even say it is as terrible an ordeal as is putting lipstick on a fully-conscious bear.

A hell of a way for your city to make the news

BEAUMONT, Texas — The nation is watching Texas today as the state votes for its respective Democrat and Republican presidential candidate.

Unfortunately, the city in which I live has made the national news for something even more ugly than the GOP fight between Trump, Rubio and Cruz. Last night a white man driving a white Jeep reportedly unleashed some racial epithets before firing at the campaign office of a Democratic candidate for sheriff. That candidate happens to be an African-American woman, who is in a contest with a black male and a white man.

Jefferson Co. Texas sheriff candidate's hq shot at.
Jefferson Co. Texas sheriff candidate’s hq shot at.

Zena Stephens is former chief deputy sheriff of Jefferson County, and is currently police chief at the historically black Prairie View A & M University, some 40 miles northwest of Houston. Running against Stephens in the Democratic Primary is Rod Carroll, assistant chief deputy for the sheriff’s department, and the son-in-law of the late U.S. Rep. Jack Brooks.  Joe “QB” Stevenson is  the other African-American in the race. He is a former corrections officer and currently a chief deputy constable.

Neither Stephens nor her campaign workers were injured in the drive-by shooting.

A press release by Beaumont Police Officer Carol Riley said five people were in the Jeep although one person has reportedly confessed to the crime. Adam Carver, 19, of Vidor, Texas, was charged with deadly conduct.

The winner of the sheriff”s primary or a resulting run-off will face Republican challenger Ray Beck. He is a retired lieutenant with the Beaumont Police Department.

Someone familiar with this area near the Texas and Louisiana border would not be surprised that the alleged instigator in the crime comes from the city just across the Neches River from Beaumont. Vidor has had a lengthy history as a haven for the Ku Klux Klan. City officials in Vidor have for years tried to separate itself from its KKK-white trash past. But some things never change, or so it seems.

An interesting discussion: Are O.J.’s problems all in his head?

Last evening I had an interesting conversation over dinner with a pathologist whom I had never met before. One topic on which we discussed was a news item that we discovered we both had recently seen on television concerning. O.J. Simpson. “The Juice” as he was known is, of course, the ex-professional football running back, who was acquitted of murdering his wife and her friend in what was called “The Trial of the Century.” Simpson, also an actor and car rental pitchman, is serving a prison sentence in Nevada for armed robbery.

I ate dinner at a place called BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, a chain that started out as a pizza place in the Bay Area of California and has spread nationwide. This one is in Pearland, a suburb of Houston. Dinner was several blocks from my hotel in a nice little, walkable, shopping center. I was by myself and so I sat at a table for two,  which was joined by about three other tables for two. It was a subdued place despite the three large TV screens in the bar. It had equal, extensive menus for both food and drink, which as expected, offers many different labeled and crafted beers.

This fellow walked in and asked if anyone was sitting at the next table and we struck up a talk that lasted for more than half an hour. It turned out this guy is a pathologist. I think the profession has become widely known for the forensic pathologists you see on the CSI and NCIS television franchises. Actual pathologists are either specialized medical or osteopathic doctors. This gentleman said that while he had done autopsies in the past his time is spent nowadays at the Texas Medical Center, as he called it, taking “whatever body parts a doctor removes.” His specialization are the ones who examine the cell tissues and other items taken in biopsies and surgeries to determine if they are benign or malignant. Since I learned a little about medicine from the time I spent as an EMT and now that I feel as if I spend so much of my time going to doctors, it seemed he enjoyed talking to someone who appreciated the man’s job. He had no airs like people sometimes think doctors may have when, many times, the physician is trying to compartmentalize to determine what’s wrong with you.

I don’t know what we were talking about when the doctor mentioned the story about O.J. Simpson. I told him yes, I had heard it too and thought how the subject of O.J. Simpson seemed like a bad penny that wouldn’t go away. The most recent O.J. installment is that a renown neuropatholgist has perhaps staked his career on the possibility Simpson might be suffering from a disease known as “CTE,” which stands for chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Dr. Bennet Omalu first published research about CTE while he worked as a forensic pathologist in Allegheny County, Pa. The Nigerian-American physician found this disease in football players who had sustained multiple concussions. The disease can only be diagnosed for now on dead people, thus Omalu has made a pretty bold pronouncement.

The research on CTE touched off numerous lawsuits filed by families of NFL players and has led to a nationwide discussion on the dangers of concussions, from Pop Warner leagues to the pros.

Omalu said in an interview with ESPN that he would “bet my medical license” that Simpson has the disease. Different personality changes such as violence and poor impulse control are signs that one might have CTE as are other factors, according to Omalu. The former medical examiner has said he had not spoken with Simpson.

My “dinner companion” said that he was just as shocked as anyone else that the disease has led to as many lawsuits as it has. And he raised an eyebrow on Omalu’s contention concerning Simpson. I think we both concluded that most people realize, or should, that having a blow to the head isn’t a good thing. I suppose that for so long people thought that helmets and other protective gears worn by football players would keep players from more serious injuries. That may have led to a false sense of security. In reality, a number of factors are cited why that is so, Among the reasons is the fact that players are bigger and stronger than before. Weight training for football players isn’t just for college and pros anymore. It’s like the reverse of the saw, “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.” In reality, the bigger the are, the harder they hit.

I enjoyed my conversation with the doctor. It was an interesting way to spend a little time out of town, not to mention the pale lager and bison burger I consumed, “served with a side of tangy slaw tossed with Baja vinaigrette and topped with green onions,” according to the menu.

Story makes one wonder why we have law enforcement if they can’t protect us?

The Washington Post has a scary story today: “Sheriffs issue a call to arms: Take advantage of your legal right to carry a firearm.”

Sheriffs across the country who the Post quotes sound virtually impotent in their abilities to stop the spate of mass shootings whether by terrorists, or just plain loons. The article notes the call for civilian help from those law enforcement officials such as Sheriff Wayne Ivey of Brevard County, Fla.,

“If a terrorist attack or active-shooter scenario can happen in California, Texas, South Carolina or Paris, it can happen right here in our own backyard,” Ivey said in a Facebook video titled “Enough is Enough.” “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

That last phrase has become an updated cliche meant to appeal to those who have long adhered to the timeless NRA line: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

The problem with the line saying only good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns is that the argument is fundamentally flawed.

A so-called “good guy” with only a minimal amount of training needed to pass their state’s handgun license course may not know the necessary tactics to stop a shooter, especially a gunman who has had even more training such as that from the military, terrorist groups or even those with law enforcement education.

Then there is the “collateral damage” problem. Will a civilian be the only one who is armed to take out a shooter? What if four our five other licensed gun carriers in some crowded restaurant decide they should be the one to dispatch a hostile foe? It looks easy on TV for someone to shoot an armed man in the head who is holding someone hostage. But really, you don’t have much, if any, room for error. I see a tremendous opportunity for innocents, even other armed citizens, being harmed in an active-shooting situation.

Speaking of training, the law in Texas that allows those with current handgun licenses to openly carry their weapon in a belt or shoulder holster requires no extra training. Only those in new training courses will undergo a bit of added education for open carry.

“Training curriculum for new applicants will be updated to reflect the new training requirements related to the use of restraint holsters and methods to ensure the secure carrying of openly carried handguns.  The new curriculum will be required for all classes beginning January 1, 2016” according to an explanation by the Texas Department of Public Safety of new laws.

Well isn’t that great? Folks can go buy their new belt or shoulder holsters and start practicing “quick draw” techniques. I wonder how many folks will be showing up in their local emergency rooms with wounds from those playing “Deadeye Dick?”

I suppose it is either telling or maybe it is that I am just not noticing, but we are into the third week of the new open carry law in Texas and I’ve yet to see anyone who appears to be a civilian carrying around a handgun openly. If or when I decide to buy a handgun and go through licensing, I would likely not carry it in the open. I can’t see buying a handgun in the future, but I will never say never. I have nothing against handguns per se. I own a pump shotgun, if my friend will give it back to me one day. One reason for not buying a handgun is I would imagine my aim could be somewhat hindered by the benign tremors I have had in my hands now for several years. I think in most instances with the exception of close quarters outside of my home, a shotgun is just as good or better as a defensive weapon than is a handgun.

My problem these days aren’t with guns. The problem is that something needs to be done to stem the daily violence resulting in deaths from criminals, the mentally unstable and the occasional terrorist. One of the Democratic candidates for president last night, I think it was Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who said that any hunter worth his salt would not need an AK-47 to kill a deer. Or something to that effect. I don’t think we need more guns. I certainly believe we don’t need more deaths from guns. That is why the statements in the WaPo article so alarm me. It seems as if these sheriffs don’t believe they can protect their citizens unless those citizens are armed.

Such an abdication of responsibility makes me wonder: Just why in the hell do we have sheriffs and law officers in the first place if they can’t do their jobs? I think that is a fair question to ask of those who call for armed civilian help.