The Impermanence of Man

Popeyes Chicken located in Gadsden, AL

I was reading away on the Comey hearing yesterday when a story from my WordPress feed made me stop in my tracks.  In the day to day hustle and bustle of living, we tend to forget how fragile or impermanent life truly is for all of us.  The story in question dealt with an Alabama inmate that was scheduled for execution yesterday.  Additional search revealed that the inmate was indeed executed last night, pronounced dead at 10:27 CST.

This isn’t an essay over whether the death penalty is right or wrong.  This is a reflection upon life itself, and I’ll explain.  Here’s how the story began on April 15, 1994.

GADSDEN, Ala. — Three employees of a fast-food restaurant were herded into a walk-in cooler and shot to death early Saturday, police said. A fourth worker, wounded and left for dead, crawled to a phone and called police.

Less than two hours later, police arrested two people and charged them with capital murder. One of the suspects had been fired Monday from the Popeye’s Famous Fried Chicken restaurant, police Capt. Jimmie Flanagan said.

Cuhuatemoc Peraita, 17, and Robert Bryant Melson, 22, were arrested in an auto that was stopped by police in nearby Rainbow City, Ala. Peraita reportedly had been fired for excessive absenteeism, police said.

Flanagan said robbery was the apparent motive. “Money was taken and recovered,” he said. He did not disclose the amount.

Officials said Peraita was being charged as an adult under a state law signed Thursday by Gov. Jim Folsom, which allows authorities to execute people as young as 16 if they are convicted of a capital offense.

The restaurant was supposed to close at 11:30 p.m. Friday. Authorities said they believe that the shootings occurred sometime after midnight.

Killed were Tamika Collins, 18, Nathaniel Baker, 17, and Darrell Collier, 23, the restaurant manager.

Police who arrived at the fast-food restaurant said they found the bodies of the three employees stacked on top of each other in the narrow, back-room cooler.

Bryant Archer, 17, crawled to a phone and called authorities about 12:30 a.m. He was taken to a hospital with multiple gunshot wounds in the chest and was listed in serious condition Saturday.

I don’t think I’ve posted anything about this here, as I don’t really talk much about this anyway.  The first job I ever worked was working for Popeyes in Rainbow City, AL.  The person that hired me was Darrell Collier.  From March of my junior year of high school in 1990 until the August that I started college in the fall of 1991, I worked there pretty much as a full-time employee.  We were a close-knit group among each other as well as with our sister locations, one of which was the Gadsden restaurant.  We had friendly competitions ranging from sales contests to an annual football game played on Thanksgiving Day that even included a trophy to the winning location.

Anyway, after I went off to college at Alabama State University, I’d sometimes come home and work on the weekends for extra cash and just to hang out with friends.  If I didn’t work, I’d still just pop in to see everyone and get caught up on news.  I would drive the two hours home and my first stop was usually Popeyes, where I would hang out until after closing was finished.  Then, we’d sit in the parking lot or go somewhere to get drinks or food.

April 15, 1994 started off like any other day for me.  It was awards day at ASU, and my mother drove down for the ceremony.  I don’t remember exactly what award I received, but the ceremony was over before noon, and my roommate and I were contemplating the drive home that afternoon.  I had told my mom that I was headed home before we parted company and she drove on to work.  My roommate and I loafed around for a while and eventually decided to wait and drive home early Saturday morning.  I can vividly recall making that decision because a thunderstorm popped up around that time, and that was part of the reason why I didn’t want to drive.  Anyway, the only two people who knew the change of plans were he and I unless he told someone himself.

Sometime early in the morning, I think around 2am, the phone started ringing.  Family and friends were calling to see where I was.  Once they found out I was in the room, they said okay and that was that.  I think it may have been the second or third call when my aunt was on the other end, I can’t remember for sure  Instead of just getting off the phone, she told me that there was a shooting at one of the restaurants at home, and she was checking to see if I had left Montgomery.  She worked at the nearby hospital and could see the flashing lights from all the emergency personnel from her building which was at least 1.5 miles away.

Her daughter worked at a KFC in the same area, and my aunt thought that the shooting happened at KFC.  Once she found out that it wasn’t KFC and was Popeyes, she was worried that I was there as I would have gone to Popeyes to hang out with Darrell.  At first, they had no idea of how many victims were there.  At that point, I understood why people were calling.  They thought that I was one of the victims.  See, not only did I know Darrell and hang out with him when I came home.  The shooter, Robert Melson, was a long-time friend and classmate of mine.

Robert and I went back to elementary school as far as knowing each other.  We played little league baseball on the same team, and attended school from first grade to graduating high school together.  We didn’t run in the same exact social circles, but the town isn’t so big that circles don’t overlap.

I know that, without a doubt, I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for that decision to not drive home that night.  I cried when I got the news as I couldn’t imagine what they went through in those moments that night.  I drove home for the funerals, but I didn’t have the strength to attend.  Just being home was all I could do.

When I came home for that summer, I switched from working in the Rainbow City location to the Gadsden restaurant.  I continued to work at that location until I left Popeyes for good after I graduated college in 1996.  It was surreal to enter the location and see where my friend had lost his life.  Even though they tried to repair everything, you could still see where the bullet holes were in the freezer.  I had recently met Tamika before the robbery, but I did not know her well.  I didn’t know the other two at all.  I still mourned their deaths as though they were family as we were all a tight-knit group.

After reading about Robert’s execution last night, I looked around me.  I have a nice home, a beautiful wife, three amazing kids, and so much more going on.  The political crap that’s going on in this country can take a break.  Sometimes, it is good to just sit back and realize how little time we really have in this world.  I feel like I’ve been living on borrowed time for more than 23 years now.  I don’t know what God has planned for me to accomplish, but I do know that I haven’t achieved that goal yet.  He has made sure that I’m still here, and that is something that I don’t take for granted.  Maybe that is something that more people should think about instead of worrying about who lied and who didn’t.  There’s always tomorrow to deal with the political crap.  Take a break and enjoy your life today.  You never know when it’s your last day to do so, so why wait?

#Covfefe

Because sometimes, posts just write themselves…

That’s cold.  That’s also funny.  🙂

Hehehehe…

The Urban Dictionary was quickly updated.  Folks don’t play around with humor.

Doggone it Joe!!!  You’ve really gone too far with the practical jokes now.

You too Bill???  C’mon man.

We are all covfefe now.  Thanks Obama…

Kudos George.  I’m sure the twins will get covfefe scholarships to cover their college educations.

Geez, now we’ve opened up a portal for wizards and stuff.  Destruction of the world in 3.. 2… 1…

Sorry Tiger, you have to use covfefe in moderation and under strict guidelines from your primary doctor.

Yes you do.  You’ve come close to breaking Twitter today.  Thanks for the laughs.

America needs an enema

That was one of many great lines delivered by Jack Nicholson in Batman.  At one point, I would have suggested that Washington DC was that town.  Now, I think this entire country is constipated.  Just look at the way people interact with each other.  Check the differences in how media is disseminated or viewed.  We are in a state of utter chaos, and much of it is of our own doing.

For starters, VOX ran a very interesting article on the difference in news coverage on the Trump/Russia issue between the right-wing media outlets and everyone else.

The past week of Trump scandals for people reading mainstream news outlets has gone something like this: President Trump fired the FBI director who was investigating his campaign’s connection with Russia — and then the next day, Trump shared classified information with Russian officials.

But on conservative news outlets, the narrative was very different. It was about an FBI director whose firing was long overdue, and a liberal media desperate to take down Trump.

You can find the entire article here, and it is well worth the read.  The gist of the article shows that we are living in two different realities.  People who only get their news from one source or from within their own safe zone are talking entirely different incidents with people in other news circles.  When you hear Trump supporters dismissing the news reports, it’s not a defensive measure in as much as they believe something totally different because of what their media is telling them.

Then, there’s the sheer flood of “leaked” information.  As a federal employee, I find it difficult to believe that my colleagues have suddenly found it impossible to do their jobs without potentially violating the law by discussing classified information or other things.  When administrations change, the appointed positions change.  The rank-and-file workers don’t.  I was hired in under GW Bush, and if I remain until retirement, there’s no idea of how many other presidents I’ll serve.  That said, the person sitting in the WH doesn’t change my work ethic one bit.  I still try to do my job to the best of my ability now as I did when I was first hired.

The amount of the leaks makes part of me think it’s intentionally done to sow discord.  Let’s face it, there is enough discord in America right now to circle the world about a dozen times.  People are literally at each other’s throats.  A right-wing white supremacist killed two people on a commuter train in Portland after hurling slurs at two passengers who were thought to be Muslim.  There’s all kinds of crap going on everywhere, and it seems like it will only get worse.  The pejoratives fly out of people’s mouths like breath on a cold winter morning.  We’ve found out that even the FBI had false information that was meant to disrupt the system.

This country needs to take a massive dump.  We need to purge all the bulls**t out of our system.  Some of us need to be reminded that, regardless of ideological beliefs, we are not enemies.  I cringe whenever I hear Americans referring to fellow Americans as enemies.  I don’t even refer to football rivals as enemies.  That word carries powerful and dangerous connotations.  Someone needs to find an equivalent to a giant bottle of Fleet, shove it up the figurative ass of America, and squeeze that mofo until it turns to powder.

We’re full of sh*t, both figuratively and literally.  We cannot continue as a country like this without doing damage to our society as well as relationships to our allies.  If we don’t unclog the system, something is bound to happen.  We’ve gone from being an example of democracy to looking like a disturbed red ant hill.

I don’t like it.  I don’t like it one bit.  I honestly hope that the investigators take thing seriously and act appropriately on their findings.  If nothing has occurred, then everyone should be able to see the information from the investigation to see where that conclusion was drawn.  Likewise, if there was any bad behavior between Americans and outsiders to influence the election, there should be no sparing of the powers of the judiciary to give America the justice we deserve.  That’s the only way we will begin to remove this sh*t from our system in order to recover to what we were before.

Dueling truths

I just happened to take two screen shots of the home page of the Daily Mail.  On their home page is two articles that are so diametrically opposite that one has to be an outright lie.  I’ll let you decide.

 

A few stories below, you find this article.

So, which is it?  Did we reduce the airbase to rubble?  If we did, how could Syria launch attacks from the same airfield in less than 24 hours?

I’ve not wanted to accuse the president of wagging the dog, but even that would be better than making our military look like an abject failure that’s incapable of carrying out a basic attack.

Every time I think we’ve hit rock bottom, we manage to roll over the edge and fall even further.   This is a damn disgrace and a complete disservice to the men and women who make up our military.  They deserve a straight answer about what the hell is really going on, and so does the rest of America.

The Baffled States of America

I try to be respectful towards the Office of the President.  The next four years will be an endurance test, one unlike any that I’ve ever embarked upon in my time alive.  Let me set the record straight first and foremost.  I have no personal animosity towards President Trump.  None at all.  That said, let’s get started.

First, he’s not a politician.  That’s why many voted for him.  That was the “appeal” that many Americans saw.  He wasn’t an insider in Washington, and he said all the right things in front of the right crowds*.  People seriously thought that he was listening to what they wanted and needed from the head of the Executive Branch of our government and have not been getting for decades.  He’s the one who will fix everything as he claimed that he would do, right?

Well, I can say that I have not been dazzled by his brilliance thus far, even though it’s only been a month.  Actually, not even a full month yet.  It hasn’t been a full four weeks at this point, and we already seem to be witnessing a 2mph train wreck happening during the evening rush hour.

We got warned about this long ago, but we didn’t heed the advice.  Dr. Seuss showed us how to avoid being taken for everything by a con man, a bullshit artist.  Trump is that, and then some.  Look at his history if you don’t want to take my word for it.  He has a record of stiffing businesses out of money on already agreed to contracts.  He’s avoided paying taxes for decades by assuming liability for an absurd amount of debt.  He reminds me of the guy on the street corner taking people for their money playing three card monte.  The problem is that he doesn’t know when to turn the bs off and has no idea of how to not bs people.  If there’s any one job in this country that should not be filled by a bs artist, it’s the job of being president.

We’ve been witness to this through the outright lies and doublespeak coming from people within the administration.  The apparently thin-skinned POTUS has attacked people personally or through spokespeople from everything from the size of the inauguration crowd to the portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live.  This has also been evident from the attacks on the media, the intelligence community, and pretty much everyone around the world except for Russia and Putin.  As things are beginning to show, we’re getting a good education on why he hasn’t attacked Russia or Putin.  The problem with the “breaking news” stuff about Gen. Flynn is that the only thing that’s new about the reporting is that we now have actual names of people with government positions who were communicating with Russia.

There were early reports about Paul Manafort and a server in Trump Towers that was communicating with a server in Russia.  There have also been rumors and such of other people involved with his campaign that had ties to Russia.  The Secretary of State is well-known to have strong business ties to Russia and Putin.  Individually, the rumors and innuendo don’t amount to anything that points to outright malfeasance.  At the same time, you can create an avalanche when you get enough things piled on top of each other.

At this point, there is permanent damage that has been done to the credibility of people in Washington.  It’s not like there was a vast amount of credibility to begin with, but I don’t recall any administration in my lifetime having a beginning like this.  It hasn’t been a full four weeks yet, and there’s enough stuff floating around to do about 8 years worth of Congressional investigations.  I don’t expect to see Republicans do anything at this point, as they’re likely going to try to wait things out.  It appears that Trump tried to wait things out on Flynn, and look at what it got him.

It’s not wise to try to pick a fight with the intelligence community that has taken an oath to protect the Constitution of the United States.  Especially when the intelligence community is full of people who take their oath seriously.  In case people forget, foreign enemies are not the only ones listed in that oath:

I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

5 U.S.C. §3331

Those who focus more on the leaks than the information leaked should stop long enough to consider that oath.  If the federal employee thinks the actions rise high enough to be considered as an enemy act, they have a responsibility to take actions to defend the Constitution.  I’m not saying that leaking information is always a good thing to do, but we do have some whistleblower protections for a reason.  It’s dumb to think that you could communicate with foreign adversaries and our intelligence community wouldn’t pick up on those communications.  I also saw that some of our allies also picked up communications on their own, and they have their own concerns about American leadership as a result.

If Hillary Clinton’s email investigation was so important that we had to have a press conference by the FBI about it, why wasn’t the American public told about the communications between Trump’s campaign and Russia?  Remember, Democrats left a classified briefing on Russian hacking and were furious with Director Comey.  Middle, rural America elected trump because he said that he would bring jobs back to their communities.  If they’re farmers, they will have enough manure over the next four years to keep fertilizing crops for generations.  If they’re not farmers, there’s always a need for someone to shovel the bs.  If the first four weeks are any indication, we’re in for record amounts of bs in short order.

Welcome to the Baffled States of America.  This is what some of  you voted for, and this is what we’re all going to get as a result.

*I think it’s entirely possible to say the right things to the right people.  That still doesn’t mean that you’re correct in what you’re saying, or that the people who believe you are also right.