Self-Defense: An Outlet for Violence and Murder?

DDIs it a delusion or a lie? A mistaken identity under stress and unreliable circumstances, or a catch-all fix, a safety outlet for violence and murder? The “I-thought-I-saw” defense?

Is ordering a pizza and not calling the police after shooting at a parked and then moving car filled with black male teenagers, striking one of them three times inside the car fleeing in self-defense, a reckless disregard and depraved indifference to human life—the legal text book definition of manslaughter? Or is it the vivid derangement of a mind and soulless heart that knows its own privilege to murder will be protected on a chain of unfounded, unsupported claims (I was in fear; I heard threats; I saw a gun; I fired to kill)?

That privilege tied to the new code, the “I-thought-I-saw” defense, was upheld with the same dispatch as the pizza was ordered. In Florida prosecutor Angela Corey’s office, justice is served as a custom order to defendants who have one thing in common: inflict death by shooting upon black male youth and acquittals and hung juries will result, letting defendants walk away from a justice blind to its own faults. Black life—and sympathy for its death—finds no justice in mercy.

Each killing enters a subterranean chamber of horrors. Each act of murder flogs moral courage and truth until they are unrecognizable. Then courage and truth are released to wander, broken and voiceless, though communities where they are eyewitnesses to their demolition as virtues, smashed over and over by a pall of evil that appears normal, that feints to want what we want—love, security, protection, joy, an inner peace, an outward happiness, the unspeakable treasures of a life. Yet that evil turns to strike with its stake, to destroy virtue and abandon love, and fill every empty heart with fear and hate, the passions of evil.

Killing and death are evil’s rewards. This subterranean chamber knows nothing of self-defense—as an act born of love, whose grief is forgiven by our mercy.

Instead, we have hate and make-believe.

The cry of the earth in pain has never been so great. Massacres reign after church in Northern Nigeria, killing hundreds. Conflict violence abounds throughout Africa, raping thousands. The brutality of bombs across the globe kills innocents by tens. For a century now, the great genocides against humanity have become political metaphors for attack politicians who blame the victims and dead. With impunity.

Military assaults against women rise steadily, in and out of the service, also by athletes from high school to professionals, by members of Congress who enable death and sexual violence by their silence and their words, by a politics whose ideology is more important than the statesmanship of an old fashioned, stand-up morality. The Republicans have no Abraham Lincolns. No Everett Dirksens. Continue reading Self-Defense: An Outlet for Violence and Murder?

The Price of Injustice

What’s the price of injustice? What’s its costs to the human soul?

There is a lot of buzz in the world, from the Zimmerman trial’s 100-city rallies this weekend to Brazil’s millions-month-long protests of transportation costs and inadequate health care; from Edward Snowden’s search for asylum to the military’s intervention in Egypt to the ongoing insurgent fighting in the Sudan and the New York city council debate over Stop-and-Frisk that has made 4 million warrantless personal searches in a decade. In these times of massive scale events, little real change seems to be breaking through.

Why are we stuck? Not just politically, on budgets, rights, jobs, debt, the recovery, the environment, safety nets, and districts across the country drawn like fiefs, controlled by political overlords. Why are we stuck, inside our heads and hearts, in views and reasons that seem to accept or impose the intolerable? How did our spirits come to be divided?

Why are so many campaigns being conducted against basic freedoms, when we take a wide-angle view?

The main reason is wealth, its illusion, displacement and disenchantment—the way it historically fuses a reactionary penchant for violence into a society rather than the lazy idleness that the political bokors claim. A bokor is a leader of the zombies, one who can summon them at will—the mindless whom Marx once called the lumpen. Fanon called them “the Damned of the World,” (translated into English, “The Wretched of the Earth”).

As it does to the earth and the environment, wealth causes in society a violent dislocation and instability—we have seen the results of conquistadors and the Latin drug cartels; we have forgotten the lessons of the African slave trade, whose generation of wealth disrupted Africa and fueled the industrial revolution. America’s plantation slavery saved Sweden from bankruptcy by increasing the demand for its iron ore for hoe culture.

Real divisions created by the enormous tide of wealth—which the Koch brothers celebrated recently in ads reminding us, in America, we are still the 1% globally—the ad offered as a penitential source of pride—while utterly missing how much more grotesque that makes the contrast between “our” 1 %, their 1 %, and the rest of the world!

Real divisions of violence and conflict reside in culture; a maze of meanings, conversations and choices; the collective will and individual expressions that dial in who we are outside legislation, policy and Wall Street greed.

In politics, this culture divide is spoken of in images framed as stereotypes; straw figures offered as shrills and shells in debates over the balance sheet and safety nets. Politics cites issues and ignores real elements of the divide or exploits them. It clouds culture’s massive fissures and commonalities, and culture’s usefulness as a tactical guide. Continue reading The Price of Injustice

Take Five (Stool for Scandal edition)

ONE: Living for the City

My erstwhile hometown North Miami was supposed to elect a new mayor on May 14, but no winner has yet emerged, ballots are still being recounted, and the air is thick with innuendo and accusations of skullduggery. So far, nothing unusual for a Florida election, but this particular election has expanded the frontiers of weirdness in other ways.

Candidate Anna Pierre, who likes to refer to herself as a princess and who once had a hit song in her native Haiti, claimed that someone placed voodoo artifacts – “candles, food and dolls with pins stuck in them” – outside the door of her campaign headquarters on Easter Sunday. She also filed a complaint with police over the alleged theft of 50 campaign signs, and claimed that she had received phone calls telling her to abandon her candidacy.

The malevolence arrayed against her could only be countered with some sort of godsend, and she got one in the form of what she called “a spiritual endorsement” from none other than Jesus Christ. In spite of that, she finished dead last in the field of seven candidates. While she didn’t publicly express disappointment that Christ’s backing had failed to secure her a win, Pierre had plenty to say about other topics on her Facebook page:

The results are in. The administration screwed me big time…. They claimed I only have 56 votes – YOU CAN BELIEVE THEM IF YOU WANT

I do, as it happens, but I confess to admiring Pierre’s deep commitment to the truth, which actually prompted her to revise her post midway through:

To this, I’ ll make a correction – since I voted for myself also – I will say that I AM GIVEN ONLY 55 VOTES FROM ALL THE BALLOTS THAT WERE CAST FOR ME.

So is she bitter about her defeat? It’s actually a little hard to tell, but the caps do hint at some degree of discomfiture:

NOT ONLY I AM COVERED UNDER THE BLOOD OF JESUS…I AM SWIMMING IN IT. MY JESUS HAS CONTROL OVER MY LIFE & THE TITLE OF MAYOR DOESN’T DEFINE WHO I AM AS A PERSON. NORTH MIAMI CHOSE “LUCIEFER” OVER JESUS.

Pierre generously left her dozens of supporters with one potential consolation, at least:

Keep my campaign flier as a souvenir. It might worth a lot one day.

Well, maybe. If a grilled cheese sandwich with a fuzzy image of the Virgin Mary on it can fetch $28,000 on eBay, I suppose anything’s possible. Despite Pierre’s difficulties, she’s had it easier than at least one of her rivals, who got punched in the mouth:

Officers arrested Blaise Felix, 58 [May 7] at the campaign headquarters of candidate Jean Marcellus, after an attack that left the candidate with a bruised lip.

“We were just talking, he just attacked me and threw the punch and you can see the damage,” said Marcellus, pointing to his swollen lip…

[Campaign worker Louis] Ricardo also said Felix lunged for a knife that was laying on a snack table, but was tackled by other campaign workers.

Candidates Kevin Burns and Lucie Tondreau came in first and second, respectively, and will advance to a June 4 runoff, but first, a recount is underway at the behest of third-place finisher Joseph Smith, who, like Marcellus, believes that votes have gone missing. Marcellus contends that 746 absentee ballots have vanished, although election officials claim there was a simple clerical error and that no votes have disappeared.

Assuming the recount finds nothing nefarious, will the runoff result in a clear winner? It’s Florida, of course, so nothing is guaranteed, but if neither James Baker nor David Boies is spotted in the vicinity over the next few weeks, I’ll take it as a good sign.

TWO: Boy Wonder

Next time around, North Miami might want to consider emulating Dorset, Minnesota, which chooses its mayor by drawing a name from a hat. The current mayor, Robert “Bobbie” Tufts, seems to have a firm though surprisingly small hand on the municipal tiller. Tufts is four years old, but don’t for a second underestimate him:

“He’s amazing. He’s just completely amazing,” said Kathy Schmidt, whose family has lived in the area for four generations. “He’s right in your face and well-spoken. You can’t imagine what a ball of fire he is.”

Tufts’ one-year term is up in August, when the 22 citizens of Dorset will meet again to draw another name. What’s next for Hizzoner? Fishing, dancing and singing, probably. It’s a pity he can’t be persuaded to relocate to South Florida, but he probably wants to finish kindergarten first.

THREE: Dark Horse’s Ass?

Republicans face a difficult choice for the 2016 presidential election: go with a lackluster but known commodity (Tim Pawlenty, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee) or nominate a callow, intemperate know-nothing who will spend most of the campaign trying to keep his or her feet out of his or her mouth (Rand Paul, Kathy McMorris Rodgers, Bobby Jindal). Personally, I think their dream candidate is already waiting noisily in the wings. He’s a Southerner, he’ll be a young-but-not-too-young 48 in ’16, he’s as dumb as a jar of paint thinner, and his views on a wide variety of issues are shaped by a caustic combination of appalling bigotry, misinformation, arrogance, rudeness, spite, and a complete inability to show remorse. Like I said, a dream GOP presidential candidate. His name is Stacey Campfield.

The state Senator from Tennessee has “graced” this column several times in the past, first for getting banned from Nashville’s Bistro at the Bijou because its owner, Martha Boggs, found his blatant homophobia objectionable. She described Campfield as “an embarrassment to the state” and noted:  “He’s really gone from being stupid to dangerous.” More recently, I commented on Campfield’s outrageous scheme to slash TANF benefits to families whose kids perform unsatisfactorily in school, a saga that ended (for now) with Campfield putting a hold on his bill shortly after being bested in a battle of wits with an eight-year-old girl.

Campfield’s newest political performance art happening was inspired by the University of Tennessee’s first annual Sex Week. He was scandalized – scandalized! – by reports of louche and lascivious activities at the event, including: “A lesbian bondage expert and a campus-wide condom scavenger hunt…”

Why, even the names of some of the events seemed calculated to drive uptight conservatives sprinting for the fainting couch:

“Getting Laid,” “Sex Positivity; Queer as a Verb,” “Bow Chicka Bow Woah,” “How to Talk to Your Parents About Sex,” “Loud and Queer,” and “How Many Licks Does It Take…” – a workshop about oral sex.

But even Campfield realizes he can’t just clamber up on a soapbox and scream about how icky sex is, so when university president Joe DiPietro appeared at a Senate subcommittee hearing last Thursday, Campfield resorted to the dependable tactic of using “fiscal responsibility” as a fig leaf for his mutated version of Victorian social conservatism, maintaining:

… the issue is “forcing students to pay for speech they find objectionable.” He cited as an example a “transgender cross-dressing show” during the April week of events.

“If someone wants to dress up like a duck, God bless them. But I shouldn’t have to pay for it.”

Campfield also took the opportunity to pout about a list of guest speakers at the university over a three-year period, a roster he claimed consisted mostly of “a whole lot of ‘left.’”

In other Campfield news this week, a 2008 Democratic candidate for the state House had a libel suit against Campfield thrown out, but has filed notice of appeal:

Campfield… blogged before the 2008 election that he had heard candidate Roger Byrge had multiple drug arrests, and that the mug shots were “gold.” It was later determined the arrest record belonged to Byrge’s son.

The suit was tossed by a – surprise! – Republican judge on the grounds that Campfield didn’t know that what he posted was false. Appeal or not, Campfield blithely continues to use his blog to offend, insult and demean, as he did with an April 21 post entitled “Here comes Feinstein again,” which consisted of a cutaway graphic of an “assault pressure cooker” with sarcastic captions describing its component parts; the bottom handle is a “tactical pistol grip,” the top handle a “folding stock,” and the body of the cooker itself is described as “evil, black.”

Campfield followed up this laugh riot with an appearance on CNN’s Piers Morgan Live, where he commented:

“We’re talking about an inanimate object that does nothing by itself,” said Campfield comparing a firearm to a pressure cooker. “It does absolutely nothing by itself just like a pressure cooker does absolutely nothing by itself.”

“The joke was really about the left and how they push for gun control on inanimate objects just like pushing for spoon control for obesity, it doesn’t do anything.”

If you think that’s a knee-slapper, just wait until Campfield’s acceptance speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Continue reading Take Five (Stool for Scandal edition)

How Come Big News Is Seldom About Big Ideas?

Have you noticed how we now log our tragedies by their dates?

We have killed more of our own citizens with guns than have died in all the wars the US fought since the Revolution (212,000+).

Robbing Peter to pay Paul, it’s March, time to take advantage of the wind energy from the GOP check-kiting plan to use empty Treasury coffers to pay government debt in lieu of their first choice of default.

When is the time ninety percent of Americans agreed on anything? Astounding, across the hills and vales of the majestic plains below the purple mountains, ninety percent of America agrees on purchasers of guns being reviewed by background checks. 

Old Westerns had heroic characters famed for the use of guns, who often worked indirectly on-screen to prevent the ownership and use of guns for self-defense or to settle disputes, due to the lessons learned from their own personal, on-screen (or back story) experience (fictionally!). As famed gun users in a violent era, no Western movie hero argued on-screen for increasing the ownership of guns. Those who assembled armies of guns were labeled bad guys. Of course, the NRA would now call good guys trying to limit guns a fantasy. The NRA position is now the one endorsed by Hollywood’s worst outlaws. (I call their view a curse. And at least thirteen senators want America to become the OK Corral.)

Maybe the two or three members of Congress from Florida who are calling the shots for a full congressional investigation of Jay-Z and Beyoncé visiting a children’s dance troupe, an arts school, and an elderly, well known Cuban singer, and Jay-Z being photographed with a Cuban cigar and the two eating in privately-owned restaurants while visiting Havana will come in time to see such a call as a demand for government to grossly intrude in the lives of citizens (a position the Congress members profess to abhor!), and more importantly, a spurious, non-productive use of government resources, a waste of money for political frivolity that represents the excesses that give government a bad name (and negate the fervent claim of fiscal fidelity put forth by these same Congress members who are suddenly eager to practice a violation of their core campaign, party, and personal principles!).

The couple had the proper license for cultural exchanges that meet US guidelines for travel to Cuba. To call the famous couple’s trip “tourism” is another example of the petty insignificance associated with outsized, politically faked outrage (their indignation targeted at wealthy minority celebrities who didn’t stay up late in South Beach clubs). The Cuban people themselves seem to disagree with the American Congress members; they cheered wildly, smiled, clapped, and were excited everywhere the couple went. (Was this a state demonstration ordered by Raul Castro?)

The Congress members manufactured a non-issue to stoke anger and resentment. Do you believe there is a patriotic cause to be served by closing cultural contacts with Cuba—and leaving open the pipeline to Mitt Romney’s Grand Cayman accounts?

In fact, what has the boycott of Cuba proven other than we can boycott Cuba? Did it improve the lives of Cubans? Bring them closer to full liberty? Topple the regime? End human rights violations? Or comfort an old anger?

Both Virginia and Florida have new state educational standards that differ for children based on their ethnicity and race. In Florida, the tax dollars of a black parent buy fifty percent of the standard that the tax dollars of a white parent do. When vouchers are created, vouchers for black parents will buy fifty percent less education than those of whites—but both meet state-approved standards. Suddenly, black children will be successful in charter schools—achieving an official, approved state standard fifty percent lower than the one set for whites.

Who thinks of these things?

How come big news is never any longer about big ideas?

GOP Senator Mitch McConnell, the Minority Leader of the Senate, brought up a big name this week, a seminal event in America’s history, Watergate. In his description of the leak of a strategic meeting for his re-election, he conveniently compared it to the famous Watergate break-in (done by operatives working for a Republican Presidential campaign effort!) and re-wrote the history of political taping: he suggested the tapes were obtained by bugs placed in his office!

He ignored the rich irony that the content of the tapes brought the presidency of Richard Nixon down. Nixon’s tapes revealed and documented acts illegal and unethical. McConnell’s tapes called for focusing on an opponent’s mental health issues. McConnell’s own mental health and morals should be questioned and come under inspection. He lies. He is delusional (by any standard). He utterly lacks standards of social behavior. He violates community ethics. He is unable to accept responsibility. He is devoid of honesty or fair play. Will the same personal flaws that once got Richard Nixon impeached get Mitch McConnell reelected?

In the House, McConnell has a kindred spirit in Paul Ryan. In submitting his budget plan for marking, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) detailed the rules Paul Ryan and his staff specified “by which revenues and spending would evolve.”

Ryan told the CBO to assume his Medicare plan would hold costs to half a percent above GDP growth. He required the CBO to assume spending on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program would grow at the rate of inflation. He told the CBO to assume that federal spending, outside of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, will fall to 3.75 percent of GDP in 2050. He chairs the committee that oversees our national budget!

The President apologized to California’s Attorney General for saying she was America’s “best looking” state Attorney General. In a country whose largest media event, the Super Bowl, included Jay-Z’s wife in full breakdown mode, and after a CBS memo for the Oscars, the Onion’s Oscar night misstep that many called “free speech,” thousands of scatological posts about the President’s own sexuality (one asking the First Lady how it feels to be “a beard”) and scathing comments about the First Lady’s body image, none which rise to the level of a comment using the phrase “good looking,” why all the noise?

The point here (and for the whole piece!) is to point out that when an event or phrase is singled out and profiled, it is generally tied to a deeper cultural meaning that the media ignores, one hidden by the obvious and transparent political claims being made. And these deeper meanings must be reviewed and weighed not as tit and tat or good and bad or double evils or final reasons (or tennis returns! Go Serena!), but for the weight they add to or take away from the collective progress, peace, and love, and how they mark our path. 

The diet of Republican politics has a lot of fat and greasy palms and bad choices for America’s health. But the GOP has staked a claim on obscuring facts and proclaiming the end of the world.

Fact: No President in history has been as emotionally public and transparent as Barack Obama. (Try to imagine any GOP President or nominee saying to a crowd, “I love you back.”) His hugs of Michelle I sometimes feel should be private, so intimate do they appear. (I have written here of eagles locking talons!) But to my memory, his words should have been public; beauty is a gift and an aesthetic that we can appreciate, and should not be tied to the idea that its acknowledgement belittles others or crosses a conventional line of correctness—but more, in the complex of my own memory, I have waited for this day, because I am a Southerner and I remember the hoped-to-be pardoned Scottsboro Boys and I remember Emmett Till. Continue reading How Come Big News Is Seldom About Big Ideas?

Take Five (Careful What You Wish For edition)

ONE: The Cain Scrutiny

A funny thing keeps happening on the way to the Republican nomination. Each successive frontrunner swoons in popularity as soon as the blogosphere, joined a little belatedly by the establishment media, subject him or her to more than superficial attention.

Herman Cain, the current favorite according to some polls, is now receiving that sort of scrutiny. His acolytes would have America embrace him as refreshing, unscripted, real, genuine – you know, pretty much everything Republican candidates never are – yet the longer he stands in the spotlight the more apparent it becomes that he’s a flibbertigibbet, politically naïve and uninformed on the issues, with a weakness for some of the worst ideas his party has ever proposed, which is to say some really, really, really bad ideas.

A very partial rundown follows of some of the most bare-assed preposterous things Herman Cain has said just in the past couple of weeks. My apologies in advance.

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain argued that racism is not a professional barrier for African-Americans on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday.

His answer came in response to a question in which host Candy Crowley suggested that Cain, who grew up poor and black, had been the benefit of some luck and was superimposing his success on his entire race.

“Luck is where preparation meets opportunity,” Cain responded. “I don’t believe racism in this country holds anybody back in a big way.”

Very inspirational, Mr. Cain. A lot of minority kids will be giddy to hear that the substandard educational “preparation” they’re receiving will actually equip them well for the dizzying amount of “opportunity” awaiting them in a world where (with “luck”) they’ll get to be governed by Republicans.

And unless he’s the one playing it, Cain decries what he calls the “race card” vehemently. Here’s Cain on October 3:

Speaking outside Trump Tower today, Herman Cain dismissed the idea that he was trying to paint Rick Perry as a racist by having called Perry “insensitive” yesterday when asked about the “[N-word]head” rock on property Perry had leased.

“All I said was the mere fact that that word was there was ‘insensitive.’” Cain responded. “That’s not playing the race card. I am not attacking Gov. Perry. Some people in the media want to attack him. I’m done with that issue!”

“I really don’t care about that word,” Cain added. “They painted over it. End of story! I accept Gov. Perry’s response on that.”

Actually, what Cain had described as “insensitive” was quite clear from his original statement of the day before, which the candidate had apparently forgotten:

“My reaction is, that’s just very insensitive,” Cain told Fox. “[There] isn’t a more vile, negative word than the N-word, and for him to leave it there as long as he did, before I hear that they finally painted over it, is just plain insensitive to a lot of black people in this country.”

Wow! Cain’s even quicker on a turnaround than George Bush the Lesser, who said in December of 2001:

We’re going to get [bin Laden]. Dead or alive, it doesn’t matter to me.

But by the following March was saying this:

Well, as I say, we haven’t heard much from him… again, I don’t know where he is. I – I’ll repeat what I said.  I truly am not that concerned about him.

But Herman Cain knows when to hold ‘em, and far be it from me to tell him when to fold ‘em:

Back in July, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain told Fox News that the “race card is now a joke, because a lot of American people have figured it out.” It’s a sentiment he’s repeated frequently, arguing that Democrats cry racism to paper over President Obama’s faults.

Yet Cain frequently invokes race on the campaign trail, far more often than Obama did during his first campaign for the White House.

Cain seems downright obsessed with cards of all sorts:

He contended that those protesting against banks were merely jealous of wealthy Americans, or those with financially lucrative jobs, and lambasted them for playing the “victim card.”

“Part of it is jealousy,” he said. “I stand by that. And here’s why I don’t have a lot of patience with that. My parents, they never played the victim card. My parents never said, ‘We hope that the rich people lose something so we can get something.’ No, my dad’s idea was, ‘I want to work hard enough so I can buy a Cadillac – not take somebody else’s.’

There’ll be time enough for counting when the dealing’s done, as it were. Cain has also been busy building bridges to the gay community:

“How can you say that being gay is a choice?” the question came in from Twitter on [Lawrence] O’Donnell’s show. “Did you choose to be straight?”

Cain had just come off a bruising discussion with O’Donnell about whether he sat out of the civil rights movement while in college. So Cain’s answer was brusque.

“There will always be a difference of opinion,” he said. “Like I told Joy Behar, she has her opinion, I have my opinion. It’s a difference of opinion. Next question, please.”

On the brighter side, at least Cain didn’t accuse the questioner of playing the gay card, though I’ll bet he wanted to.

It wasn’t all straw-man politics this week, however. Cain got to talk about serious “policy” proposals, like his so-called “9-9-9 Plan”:

… which would slash taxes on the wealthy, drive up deficits to the worst point since World War II, and force low-income Americans to pay a massive nine times their current tax rate. In an interview this morning with CNN’s Candy Crowley, Cain even said food and clothing would not be exempt from the 9 percent national sales tax he would put in place if elected president. Indeed, he said it would be “fair” for a poor person to pay as much in sales taxes as Crowley does…

Presently, the bottom quintile of earners pays about 2 percent of their income in federal taxes. Under Cain’s plan, their taxes would increase all the way up to 18 percent.

Taxing poor people’s food is considered so beyond the pale that even the Tea Party group FreedomWorks assumed that the final version of Cain’s tax plan would exempt food from the sales tax.”

Michele Bachmann, another former frontrunner desperately seeking to rekindle some sparks under her campaign, smote the “9-9-9 Plan” in Tuesday night’s GOP debate:

I would have to say the 9-9-9 plan isn’t a jobs plan, it is a tax plan…  And one thing I would say is, when you take the 9-9-9 plan and you turn it upside down, I think the devil’s in the details.

Get thee behind her, Herman Cain! Continue reading Take Five (Careful What You Wish For edition)

Take Five (We're Having a Heatwave, a Tropical Heatwave edition)

ONE: Time for Georgia and Alabama to consider a border fence?

Maybe it’s just the weather, but a few Florida-centric crime stories from last week suggest that some people’s synapses are really beginning to short-circuit a tetch.

That may not be much of a revelation, given the state’s reputation, but even by Florida’s usual standards, last week was a suspiciously weird one.

Consider this odd incident in Utah, involving a Floridian, nudity, and a gun:

Joseph Dennis Alfieri, 50, was cited by the U.S. Forest Service on Sunday with being publicly nude and causing public inconvenience, annoyance and alarm, both misdemeanors. According to information filed Monday in U.S. District Court, a woman camping near the Cobble Rest Campground tracked down forest rangers to report a man walking in a dispersed camping area naked while armed with a pistol.

The woman told rangers the man wore only a holster for his pistol, according to court documents. He reportedly walked around the camping area “at all hours of the night” shouting at the river, the witness said.

Just what that darned river did to piss him off will likely not be known until a court can sort this out, but it appears that Alfieri has a developing habit of behaving badly when way out west:

Federal court records show Alfieri’s address is listed as North Miami, Fla., but property records show he has previous Utah addresses in St. George, Park City and Salt Lake City. Utah state court records show Alfieri pleaded guilty to a DUI-related charge in 1996.

Months ago, I urged Rick Scott to consider imposing a temporary moratorium on out-of-state travel until Floridians can all learn to comport ourselves in a law-abiding fashion. Sure, such a travel ban would violate both state and federal statutes, but it would still be a smart move. That being the case, we can rest assured Governor Scott won’t entertain the idea, so residents of the other 49 had better brace themselves for more buck-naked Floridian pistoleros. At least concealed carry won’t further complicate things, or so we must hope.

Another Floridian, Cherilyn Lopez, decided to keep it local, and she made it a family affair to boot:

A woman who brought in a 3-year-old boy with her when she robbed a bank today told deputies that she has a prescription drug addiction and was going to use the money to buy narcotic pills, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said…

Deputies learned that Lopez originally drove to the bank and parked, leaving the boy in the minivan, the sheriff’s office said.

She entered the bank, but the boy got out of his car seat on his own and headed to the bank. He put his face against the glass and a bank manager noticed him. The bank manager approached Lopez and asked whether the boy was with her, the sheriff’s office said.

Lopez walked outside and grabbed the boy. They walked in and she robbed the bank, the sheriff’s office said.

Huge kudos to the bank manager for ensuring the child’s safety, and here’s to Lopez getting the help she needs. Or, as a baseline, at least considering a sitter next time…

Finally, the sole witness to a burglary in Ocala appears to have reaped a quick reward… from the perp(s):

One of the homeowners told a sheriff’s deputy that he and his wife had left their residence, located in the 3100 block of Southeast 22nd Avenue, around 1 p.m. They returned about 5 p.m. and discovered the break-in.

Removed from the residence was $13,000 worth of jewelry and $400 in cash. Officials noted it appeared the thief/thieves had removed rotisserie chicken from the refrigerator and fed it to the dog.

The homeowner told the Star-Banner that he had purchased the chicken the night before from Publix, and it was found on the living room floor when he discovered the burglary. Continue reading Take Five (We’re Having a Heatwave, a Tropical Heatwave edition)

Take Five (Rapture-Almost-Ready edition)

ONE: 21 is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.

Back in 1942, the University of California at Berkeley awarded a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering to Harold Egbert Camping. That wouldn’t be unusual, except that Camping seems to have no mathematical aptitude whatsoever. And/or he’s just a liar.

Camping, a self-taught Bible instructor, runs Family Radio International, which broadcasts on 66 stations, but he’s become much more famous for recurrent predictions about Armageddon. Most recently, he claimed May 21 was the drop-dead date. It was not:

The day after his prediction that the world would end on May 21, 2011 failed to materialize, Harold Camping told the San Francisco Chronicle he was “flabbergasted.”

Which is sort of an odd reaction, since he’s had egg on his face before:

Camping had previously predicted the Rapture would occur back in 1994. When it didn’t, he explained that an error in his mathematical computations from clues in the Bible were to blame, and he later revised his forecast.

This go-round, however, Camping was sure he had it sussed, and when it became clear that he didn’t, he embarked on a brief spiritual retreat:

Camping… said he felt so terrible when his doomsday message did not come true that he left home and took refuge in a motel with his wife.

Sufficiently cheered by a couple of days at the motel, he returned to the spotlight to announce that the correct, can’t-miss, this-time-for-sure date is October 21. He also managed to spin his May 21 prediction thus:

Through chatting with a friend over what he acknowledged was a very difficult weekend, it dawned on him that instead of the biblical Rapture in which the faithful would be swept up to the heavens, May 21 had instead been a “spiritual” Judgment Day, which places the entire world under Christ’s judgment, he said.

Ah, well, that must be it.

Camping’s problem with numbers was demonstrated once again when the topic shifted to money:

Camping offered no clues about Family Radio’s finances Monday, saying he could not estimate how much had been spent on getting out his prediction nor how much money the nonprofit had taken in as a result. In 2009, the nonprofit reported in IRS filings that it received $18.3 million in donations, and had assets of more than $104 million, including $34 million in stocks or other publicly traded securities.

But of course this isn’t about money. It’s about faith:

The globe will be completely destroyed in five months, he said, when the apocalypse comes.

“We’ve always said May 21 was the day, but we didn’t understand altogether the spiritual meaning,” he said. “The fact is there is only one kind of people who will ascend into heaven … if God has saved them they’re going to be caught up.”

I have no proof, but I suspect the motel already has a room reserved for two for October 22. Continue reading Take Five (Rapture-Almost-Ready edition)