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Back off, MSNBC—get a life!

Back off, MSNBC!

This morning and most of yesterday I have been watching and listening to only a couple of cable channels, namely Fox News and MSNBC, two channels that are at opposite ends of the political spectrum—well, no, not at opposite ends—one of the channels is at or near the center of the political spectrum, but regardless of their positions on the spectrum they are diametrically opposed and as the result of my fixation I cannot eat, although I am ravenously hungry.

I cannot eat because I know that if I do, I will instantly regurgitate the contents of my stomach, just as the talking heads on MSNBC and most of their guests are regurgitating every comment ever made by every conservative political figure in this country that in any way can be twisted to factor into, and in some way—any way—be blamed for the massacre that took place in Tuscon, Arizona Saturday.

I’ve been watching people of many different races and backgrounds and nationalities and listening to their spoken words and reading their written thoughts for almost eight decades, and in all that time combined I have never been subjected to such an avalanche of unadulterated drivel.

A case in point: Sarah Palin’s use of phrases and images such as in our sights and targets, although acknowledged by MSNBC staff and guests as only symbols, and symbols are perceived differently by different people, the idiotic comment inevitably follows that, Well, yes, that’s true, but perceptions become reality.

No, perceptions do not become reality. No matter what any person perceives and no matter how they perceive that something, any act that person commits, whether legal or illegal comes from that person, not from that perception. The idea that perception becomes reality is nothing more than a crutch used by the intellectually crippled—read MSNBC—to navigate from a thorough lack of knowledge to false knowledge, thoroughly satisfied that they have reached the truth.

Balderdash, I say—balderdash! There is another term that says it better, a term consisting of two words. The first word begins with a B and the second with an S, usually followed with an exclamation point. Although I have descended into using the term in prior verbal and written exercises, I will abstain from using it here because it might detract from the purity of this discussion.

If it were true that perception becomes reality, every political cartoonist in every nation on earth would be hanged and flayed by the opposing forces, just as MSNBC is doing now for political conservatives, particularly Tea Party persons.

As the world now exists, cartoonists that satirize Islamic prophets and other Muslim figures are subject to be flayed alive and then hanged, an issue that is promoted by publishers withdrawing cartoonists’ works and apologizing for such actions, and politicians cautioning their constituents to refrain from such satirizing, whether spoken or written.

Here’s a sample of MSNBC’s rhetoric—not equal to that of Keith or Ed, two of the most virulent hosts on that channel, but a fair example. This paragraph was extracted today from NBC’s First Read web site entitled First thoughts: A new chance for civility?

The spotlight on Palin: Of course, this all brings us to Sarah Palin. What took place on Saturday in Arizona could end up haunting her, if she decides to run for higher office. More than any other public actor, Palin—the 2008 GOP VP nominee—has embodied today’s combative political rhetoric (“Don’t retreat, instead reload), and her “target” list to defeat Democratic members who voted for the health-care bill (including Giffords) has received a considerable amount of attention since Saturday. As Politico’s Martin writes, “Whether she defends, explains or even responds at all to the intense criticism of her brand of confrontational politics could well determine her trajectory on the national scene—and it’s likely to reveal the scope of her ambitions as well.”

I marked the words that support my reason for making this posting. Palin’s words are retreat, reload and target. Note the words used by Politico’s Martin: trajectory and scope, both related to firearms and bless Martin’s liberal soul, he is probably blissfully unaware of that. The word combative also appears in the paragraph and since it was not attributed to Palin I also marked that in bold letters.

Palin is a firearms advocate and a hunter, and as such these terms are perfectly normal, logical and descriptive words for her to use.

Come on, MSNBC—lighten up! You don’t really believe the vitriol, the poison, the garbage that spews from the mouths of people with such names as Keith and Ed and Chris and Rachael and Lawrence, and they don’t even believe it themselves. At heart, deep down deep in their inner being—their souls, so to speak—they are decent law-abiding, family loving, American flag waving, Constitution abiding people, and are simply following the directions of the bosses in their ivory towers, those edifices supported on stacks of American greenbacks. I’m willing to wager that all the people mentioned are susceptible to being proselytized by Fox News.

How about that, Mr. Murdoch? We learned from Bill Clinton that tying a fifty-dollar bill to the rear bumper of a pickup truck and dragging it through a trailer park will guarantee a date for the evening—or at least for a short time, so to speak. Why not tie a bundle of C-notes to the rear bumper of your Rolls-Royce and drag it through the halls at MSNBC to see who follows the trail to Fox News?

How about it, Rupert? Your have some good people, but you can always use a few more—Juan Williams is a good example of that.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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Posted by on January 10, 2011 in Obama administration, politics

 

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Let’s put the blind to work . . .

Listen up, Homeland Security!

Listen up, Janet Napolitano!

Listen up, Barack Obama!

I have a suggestion that will provide work opportunities for a group of our citizens that is in far too many instances overlooked for employment, and in too many instances are limited to stringing beads for costume jewelry or similar work. There is a niche in our federal government that can utilize the blind. Our nation’s Department of Homeland Security can provide well-paying jobs and economic security for such people, jobs that will produce immediate results by helping protect the traveling public from harm.

I propose hiring those in our society that are blind—not just legally blind, able to distinguish form and function but completely blind, or perhaps able only to distinguish light from darkness. Such persons can contribute significantly to the security of the United States of America.

First, as is necessary in public speaking, let me establish my right to speak. I am a retired U. S. Customs inspector, having worked on the Texas-Mexico border for twelve years as an inspector trainee, journeyman and first-level and second-level supervisor, at Customs’ Headquarters in Washington DC as a Program Officer and Program Manager, at Customs’ Regional Headquarters in Houston TX, and finally as Chief Inspector at one of our nation’s top-20 international airports. During my 26-year career with Customs I conducted and supervised and observed countless personal searches. I therefore feel that I am qualified to speak on that subject—nay, not simply qualified—I am eminently qualified—I am in fact damn well qualified, so to speak.

Under current procedures used for pat-down personal searches at our airports no searcher, whether male or female, will ever find anything by wearing plastic gloves and using the backs of their hands in an effort to detect something that may compromise the safety of an aircraft and its occupants. I realize that the searches have been modified to include using the fronts of their hands, but you may be assured that most will not do that except when the search is being observed by a supervisor—in all the searches I conducted and witnessed in my years on the border, not once did I see the searcher use the crotch-crunch technique mandated by Customs’ Headquarters. As for my own searches I tried it once, didn’t like it and didn’t do it again—at least I’m honest about it—most inspectors aren’t!

That mandate is a hard one to follow, so to speak, for any self-respecting male officer searching another male. Female searchers can detect the presence of bras and breasts on females (depending on dimensions, of course)  and male searchers can detect testicles and penises on males (again depending on dimensions), and not much of anything else. Any squeeze of a woman’s breasts by a female searcher will generate a complaint, and any squeeze of a man’s private part or parts by a male will do the same.

I doubt seriously that a sighted searcher, blindfolded and wearing plastic gloves and using the back of the hands can even distinguish whether the suspect is male or female (again depending on dimensions of certain body parts). The person being patted down may be a man posing as a woman or vice versa, a ruse that is used frequently in Middle Eastern countries by would-be suicide bombers.

You don’t believe it? Please consider Braille, the contact alphabet of raised dots representing letters and numbers that enables the blind to read texts and operate elevators. Take any blind person, male or female and ask that person to don plastic gloves and then read a sentence printed in Braille using the back of the hands. Better yet, have them use the back of the gloved hands to read Braille numbers on an elevator. Unless the elevator is in a two-story building with no basement, they are likely to stop at the wrong floor. Use the same experiment on a sighted but blindfolded person and that person will wind up on the wrong floor also.

Get the picture?

If blind people can read text and numbers with their fingers, then they can conduct pat-down searches effectively if allowed to use their fingers. Their touch is so sensitive that even wearing the required plastic gloves they will detect any anomaly. Hell, they may even find an unevenly shaped mole and by calling it to the suspect’s attention they may even save a life!

Think about it—the sex of the person being searched and the sex of the searcher should not be a factor. The blind searcher could be searching his own wife or her own husband, and it is unlikely that they would know it. And it should make no difference to the person being searched, because the blind person, regardless of what the search may reveal, could never identify that person.

That’s it—that’s my suggestion. I could ramble on indefinitely on the ramifications and possibilities  should my suggestion be adopted but that should not be necessary. The proof will be in the pudding—my suggestion to use blind people to conduct pat-down searches at airports will produce positive results, reduce complaints from the traveling public, protect our pilots, flight attendants and passengers from harm by keeping aircraft airborne and safe from actions of would-be terrorists. The benefits are many and obvious, and more discussion should be unnecessary.

Just as an aside, I seek no remuneration should my suggestion be adopted. A simple Nobel Peace Prize will do, and it should be considered. Our system will work so well that other nations will follow by utilizing their blind people to conduct pat-downs. In that event I will of course donate the monetary award to my favorite charity. Other than the Nobel Peace Prize I would consider the award of a Congressional Gold Medal, to be presented by our president, but the presentation would have to be at my home rather than the White House—I’ve been there and was not impressed, and I have no desire to return.

Of course the Nobel Peace Prize or the Congressional Gold Medal could be, and probably would be, handed over to UPS for delivery by the driver to my home just as the plaque, the one given in recognition of my 48 years of dedicated federal service that included 22 years of military service during which I helped our nation lose two wars (Korea and Viet Nam). The plaque was delivered soon after I retired—the driver placed it, gently of course, on my porch, rang the doorbell and hotfooted it back to his truck—such adulation! Such personal recognition! I teared up!

That’s my suggestion and that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

 

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A Rabbit with an attitude . . .

A Rabbit with an attitude . . .

While employed as a supervisory Customs inspector at the international bridge in Brownsville, Texas I worked numerous 4-12 evening shifts. When a spot was available, I parked in front of the Customhouse along an aluminum guard rail placed between outgoing traffic and the secondary inspection area.

On one memorable evening an inspector came to my office and told me that my car had been involved in an accident. It seemed that a tourist in an RV, a heavily loaded pickup truck with a slide-in camper, was somewhat unhappy with his inspection and was in a hurry to leave the area.

When the angry driver backed up to turn around in the inspection area, his rear bumper hit my rear bumper on the right corner at a 45-degree angle and jammed the left front bumper of my car against the guard rail. The conjunction of the two bumpers and their shapes, and the conjunction of the front bumper and the guard rail and their shapes, changed my car’s appearance forever. Nope, I never had the damage repaired.

The simultaneous contact of my car’s rear with the truck and its nose with the guard rail left my 1978 Volkswagen, a Panama Brown diesel Rabbit, in deplorable condition—visually, that is—the accident affected its appearance but not its performance.

The rear bumper was turned sharply up at its right corner, and the front bumper was turned sharply up at its left corner. Viewed from the front the little car resembled a snarling dog, the corner of its mouth turned up in a warning to something or someone, either animal or human. Viewed from the rear it looked like a dog with its right hind leg lifted, its foot high in the air in the stance a dog adopts when it urinates. Had the tourist hit the car and pushed it straight against the guard rail my Rabbit would probably have bent in the middle and wound up looking like a dog humped for a dump—that’s just speculation, of course, and a bit crude, but you get the picture, right?

I left Texas a few months later, headed for an assignment at Customs headquarters in Washington, D.C., and I passed my Rabbit over to one of my daughters. At the time she was commuting to work between Brownsville and Donna, Texas, a daily round trip of a hundred miles. A couple of years later I donated the Rabbit to the Salvation Army in McAllen, Texas with its lip still turned up in a snarl and its rear leg still lifted in that classic doggie stance.

At the time of our parting the little car had performed beautifully for 186,000 miles—the only maintenance in that time, other than routine oil changes, was the replacement of a broken fan belt that gave up the ghost at 100,000 miles. My little Rabbit did have a strange quirk, however. Its fuel supply had only one small strainer between the tank and the cylinders, and when the strainer became blocked the car would begin to slow down, and would finally come to a stop with the engine starved for fuel.

That is a subject worthy of a future posting, so stay tuned.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2010 in bridge, cars, drivers, Humor, Uncategorized

 

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The Chesapeake Bay ferry . . .

The Chesapeake Bay ferry . . .

This is a story of beagles, a bachelor and a bridge, a Crosely convertible auto, Chesapeake Bay, a ferryboat and deep sand. It’s a story of an overnight business trip my brother and I took to Salisbury, Maryland in 1947—yes, that’s some 63 years ago but I remember many of the details, and I promise to tell the story with no embellishments.

My brother was in the trucking business in the Washington, D.C. area in those years. He returned from overseas duty in World War II, acquired two 1946 two-ton dump trucks—a Ford and a Chevrolet—signed up several other independent truck owners and secured various contracts for hauling. One contract was for hauling coal to federal buildings in DC, buildings that were steam-heated in those days. Other contracts included hauling sand, gravel and asphalt for road construction in the Washington/Baltimore area. I acquired my first traffic ticket at the University of Maryland while driving one of his trucks loaded with ten tons of hot asphalt—I was fourteen years old, and the fine was $17.95, immediately paid in cash to a sharp-eyed Maryland state trooper. I’ll hold the other details for a future posting. Stay tuned!

The trip to Salisbury was to discuss a possible contract, and I went along on the trip from Suitland, Maryland to Salisbury near the tip of the Chesapeake peninsula. There was no Chesapeake Bay bridge then—that bridge was completed in 1952—in 1947 a ferryboat provided access to the peninsula. We made the trip in a 1941 Crosely convertible—yes, an auto made by the same people that made refrigerators and radios, autos that initially were sold through hardware store outlets.

Our Crosely was a two-door, four passenger convertible with an air-cooled two cylinder engine that moved the car 50-60 miles on one gallon of gasoline. It was lightweight, about 1000 pounds. I remember us changing the left front tire by loosening the lug nuts, then my brother holding up the left corner of the car until I could remove and replace the wheel and tighten up the lug nuts.

We were the first in line to board the ferry, and we were the first to debark. We had a problem because the rise from the ferryboat floor was too high for us to climb without making a running start, and we were jammed between the incline and the car behind us. After several tries, the driver behind gave us a not-so-gentle bump and bounced us up onto the dock. Our trusty transportation would face another problem late in the evening that day.

My brother’s business was completed late in the evening and we were traveling through dense fog trying to return to the ferry dock for a return the next morning. We made a couple of wrong turns and wound up in deep sand on an unpaved road out in the boondocks. Our Crosely tried mightily to best the sand but finally gave up the effort. We abandoned the car and trudged through the sand towards lights in the distance.

The lights turned out to be the home of an aged life-long bachelor, one that sported a bald head and a full beard and raised beagles—a bearded bald beagle-raising bachelor—just a little alliteration there. Our host was a gentle and talkative soul that bade us welcome, served sandwiches and milk soon after we knocked on his door and invited us to spend the night, saying that at daylight he would use his tractor to haul our car out of the deep sand and on to a paved road.

Whether the beagles were raised for commercial purposes or show was never made clear, but please know that there were lots and lots—and lots—of beagles there. They seemed to come and go, so a true count was impossible because they all looked alike. They had the run of the house, and shared the dining table with us as we supped—every chair around the large dining table was occupied by at least two beagles, all quiet, well mannered  and evidently well-fed because there was no begging. They simply sat and watched us in silence, obviously and politely acknowledging us as guests.

They also shared our sleeping quarters. The single bedroom had a standard-size bed and a cot—I slept on the cot and my brother shared the bed with our host. I had several beagles at the foot of the cot, and several more shared the bed with the bachelor and my brother.

Our Crosely was extracted from the sand with the tractor without mishap, and we were hauled a short distance to a paved road, with our benefactor of the previous night giving instructions to the ferry landing. I don’t recall whether  my brother offered to compensate him for the food and lodging, but I don’t believe the offer would have been accepted—of course I could be wrong about that.

Just one more memory of our trip:

Have you seen the mud flaps on commercial trucks with the name Fruehauf? I met the man—he was elderly, he drove a 1942 Lincoln Continental with a 12-cylinder inline engine and he wore long-handle underwear, the type with the flap in back. How do I know that? There was snow on the ground and I was in my shirt sleeves and complaining about the cold. He first turned up his sleeve then pulled up his trouser leg to show the underwear and said, “Thon, you thud wear thith, and don’t give a thart about how you look.” Yes, he spoke with a lisp.

And that reminds me of an incident involving a girl with a lisp and a request for Super Suds washing powder—I’ll get back to you later with the details. Stay tuned!

Hey, here’s a boat joke: Have you heard about the little tugboat that was unhappy because his mother was a tramp and his daddy was a ferry? Think about it—the joke is there—it’s politically incorrect but it’s there!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2010 in bridge, bridges, drivers, driving, Travel

 

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An odd thing happened en route to the slaughter house . . .

Long, long ago, across the river from a land where bad things frequently happened and are still happening, I was working the dog watch—12:00 midnight until 8 AM—as the sole United States Customs Service inspector at a small port on the Texas-Mexico border and a strange thing happened during a la madrugada of my eight-hour shift—a la madrugada is Spanish for the wee small hours of the morning.

At that time the midnight shift at the port consisted of three people—one Immigration officer, one Customs inspector and one civilian toll collector for outbound vehicles and pedestrians. When I say a small port, I mean really small—it had a total of one inbound lane and one outbound lane—I don’t believe they get much smaller than that!

A bit of background first—the exportation of live animals to Mexico was legal and authorized provided that certain requirements were met, requirements established by Mexico and the United States. Live animals could be exported to Mexico only if veterinary facilities existed for the examination of such animals and quarantine facilities had to be present in the event that bovine diseases were suspected. Since there were no such facilities opposite my small port, the exportation of live animals was not permitted, a hard and fast rule with no exceptions permitted.

The Immigration officer on duty was manning the entry point for incoming traffic, both pedestrian and vehicles, the toll collector was manning the toll booth and I was in the Customs office studying our fascinating Customs regulations—hey, that was a long time ago and I refuse to say that I may have been snoozing—that wasn’t allowed while on duty, regardless of how sleepy one became and regardless of the absence of incoming traffic—I have a future posting in mind on that subject.

The toll collector sent an outbound citizen, one driving a stake–bed truck with high sideboards, loaded with a half-dozen head of live cattle—bovines if you will—to the Customs office with a question. The driver wanted to know why he could not export cattle to Mexico. He said he was taking the cattle to the slaughter-house at Rio Bravo, a city some fifteen kilometers—about nine miles—into the interior of Mexico and that he had already made the requisite payoff to the Mexican officials and would lose his mordida—his cash bribe—to the Mexican officials if he was not allowed to cross before morning.

I patiently explained the law, stressing the absence of inspection and quarantine facilities on the other side and the requirements established by Mexico’s importation laws and our exportation laws. I told him that no live animals could be exported. He briefly meditated on that information, then thanked me profusely, turned his truck around and headed back into the interior of the United States. A short time later, an hour or so after the driver’s departure, the toll collector called me to come to the toll booth, saying that my attention was warranted.

And so it was—I found a truck loaded with six dead cows, animals that had been alive earlier. The driver had gone to a remote location several miles away from the port of entry, parked the truck, sliced the throats of each animal, waited patiently until most of the blood had drained from the truck and then returned to the port to legally export a half-dozen dead cows—dead as opposed to live.

Yes, I authorized the exportation—there was nothing in the Customs regulations that prohibited the exportation of dead cattle. Those dead animals, regardless of their physical condition, could not possibly contaminate cattle herds in Mexico so they posed no threat to that sovereign nation’s food supply, and given the present circumstances of this particular exportation I felt sure that the Mexican officials would allow the importation of dead cattle into their country.

Hey, before you condemn the three of us that contributed to the demise of those six head of cattle—the driver, the toll collector and I—just remember that the toll collector and I had were unwittingly involved—we were simply the victims of circumstances. Had the cattle been exported alive and frisky they would have died a few hours later anyway because crews at the slaughter house in Rio Bravo were waiting for the load, and would have done the same thing to the cattle that the driver did, perhaps using a more humane way to slaughter them, but I seriously doubt it.

I know it’s a sad story, lamentable and gross, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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19th Street South—a goose for Thanksgiving . . .

The word goose in the above title is not intended to be a verb, one that refers to the application of one’s hand, normally using the middle digit, to the derriere of another person, a motion that can be applied lightly, forcefully, brutally, playfully, laughingly, meaningfully or enjoyably but never accidentally. If one has goosed or has been goosed, both gooses were delivered purposefully and received unwittingly without choice—no, in this usage the plural of goose is not geese.

The word goose in the above title is a noun, the name for a large bird that exists in large numbers in the wild, but a bird that is also domesticated and raised for its food and feathers. In this case the plural of goose is geese—the birds shown on the right are geese.

When I was a child in Columbus, Mississippi we lived some thirty miles from our relatives in Alabama, and on Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays we traveled to Alabama to celebrate the day or they traveled to Columbus for the same reason. I can vividly remember a Thanksgiving that was celebrated at our house. a celebration that featured a large cast-iron wash pot and a large not-cast-iron goose.

On the day before Thanksgiving the men fashioned a tripod using lengths of 2×4 lumber similar to the method used by Indians to erect a tepee (also spelled tipi). A fire was laid in the center of the circle formed by the structure but not immediately lighted, the iron tub was firmly suspended from the apex of the tripod and filled with water and the goose, nicely cleaned of everything deemed not edible, went into the pot along with requisite other items—onions, potatoes, carrots and everything else that goes good with goose, and the fire was lighted and the goose was cooked—in fact, one could say truthfully that the goose’s goose was cooked—-just a bit of humor there!

The fire was tended for the remainder of that day and far into the night while the goose cooked and we children played, but never beyond the light supplied by the fire and by lights mounted on the sides of the house. The women sat and talked about everything and everybody except themselves and sang gospel songs, and the men talked about hunting and farming and fishing—occasionally one of the men would walk away just outside the circle of light and tilt a bottle up toward the moon to take a quick swig of its contents—they seemed to be taking turns at that—I’m unsure whether it was the same bottle, but I imagine there was more than one among the group

I was away from the scene and tucked in for the night long before the contents of the pot were removed and taken to the kitchen to await the next day’s carving and dining, kids playing, women gossiping and singing more church hymns and the men taking frequent short walks behind the house with a not-so-mysterious bulge in their shirt or hip pocket.

That goose—the bird, not the verb—was gifted by one of the visiting Alabama relatives that kept a flock of geese around the house for food purposes and to a lesser extent for watch purposes—yep, geese make good watchdogs and will sound the alarm when necessary—actually sound the alarm when anyone is near, whether friend or foe—it’s in their nature.

We lived next door to one of my mother’s sisters, a family of four—counting that four, our five and the relatives from Alabama there was a real gaggle of people gathered for Thanksgiving dinner, and we needed a lot of goose. To emphasize the number of people, picture a flatbed two-ton truck with no sideboards and its flatbed covered with passengers, folks lined on three sides with legs dangling and with more riders seated in the center plus several standing at the rear of the truck’s cab and several more in the cab. The dangling legs belonged to adults—the children were safely ensconced in the center of the flatbed.

The image above shows the actual gathering on that Thanksgiving day. It’s a painting made from a quick sketch by one of my uncles and later put on canvas—acrylic, I believe. The other image, by the same uncle, is a painting of my mother presenting the cooked goose to the diners—the fellow behind her is her boyfriend.

Hey, I knew I couldn’t fool my readers—you’re right—that image is a painting of the first Thanksgiving created by American artist Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863–1930), and that is not my mother in the other image, nor is that her boy friend. That’s a painting by Norman Rockwell (1894–1978), one of the Four Freedoms series painted by one of America’s best-loved and most-collected artists—this is his conception of Freedom from Want. The others are Freedom of Speech, Freedom from Fear and Freedom of Worship.

The truck was overloaded when it arrived, but somehow when it left late in the afternoon on Thanksgiving day it accommodated all that had arrived on it plus me and my youngest sister and all the leftovers from our Thanksgiving dinner, including a considerable amount of goose and goose dressing—yes, that was one large goose and a monumental amount of goose dressing.

That’s my story of a memorable Thanksgiving day when I was a boy, and I’m sticking to it!


 
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Posted by on June 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Mississippi and its portable electric chair . . .

When I was a young boy in my early teens in the Mississippi town of Columbus, an East Central city located a few miles from the Alabama state line, people knew when an execution was scheduled. Executions were not common events and they were well publicized by our local papers and radio—no television, of course—that was still some years in the future. The news spread far and wide by mouth when the portable electric chair arrived in town from the Mississippi State Penitentiary, located in Sunflower County in the Mississippi delta.

The chair was housed at the penitentiary, the state prison known as Parchman, named after the first warden J. M. Jim Parchman. When the need for an execution arose, the chair was transported in a truck to the county in which the condemned had committed the crime. The citizens of Sunflower County tolerated the convicts in their county but objected to executions being carried out there fearing that it would stigmatize Sunflower as the death county.

Mississippi went from hanging to the electric chair in 1940, then to the gas chamber in 1954 and finally to lethal injection, with the first execution in 2002. For a brief history of Mississippi’s methods of execution over the years, click here to read an overview of capital punishment in Mississippi, written by Donald A. Cabana, superintendent of the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman and author of Death at Midnight: Confessions of an Executioner.

I made my way uptown to the courthouse when I learned that the truck from Parchman had arrived. It was parked on the street in front of the courthouse. The back was open and I could see a huge generator, the source of power for the execution—a long black cable snaked over the sidewalk up to the courthouse and disappeared inside. Apparently the chair had already been taken to the place of execution. I found nothing really remarkable about a truck, a generator and a cable, so after a few minutes I left the throng that had gathered in the area and sought more interesting and beneficial things to do.

Okay, I didn’t see the execution, but I saw the truck that brought it to Columbus, the generator that furnished the electricity and the cable that carried it to the room in which the chair was housed, and that’s getting pretty close to the actual execution—not that I especially wanted to see it, of course.

Mississippi is one of many states that, in search of a more humane method of executing those condemned to die, have progressed from hanging to electrocution to gassing and finally to death by lethal injection, a process in which the condemned person is strapped to a gurney and a lethal cocktail of drugs is administered.

Humane? You make the call—as of this date we have not heard from anyone that was relieved of life by one of the above methods. The late Steve Allen—actor, author and late-night television host—wrote a short story titled The Public Hating, the account of an execution in which a prisoner was placed in the center of a stadium filled with people and was hated to death by the spectators, shriveling and dying from their combined intense hatred focused on the condemned. Click here to read a synopsis of the story, one somewhat biased but still an excellent analysis. Here, as in the various methods of execution, you make the call!

The image at right shows the actual electric chair that was used by the state of Mississippi—the man standing on the left is the executioner, Jimmy Young, and that’s me on the right—I’m the good looking kid with the school books under his arm.

Okay, that’s not really me—that kid looks very much as I looked at the time, but it isn’t me—honest! I never carried school books home, and as a result I was frequently required to submit to corporal punishment, administered because of my failure to submit the homework prescribed by various teachers.

Click here for current information on corporal punishment in the United States—yes, Mississippi is in the forefront of states that still allow application of a paddle to the mid-aft section of the bodies of wayward students. As one that has been there on multiple occasions, please know that I bear no scars from corporal discipline applied to that portion of my anatomy, neither physical nor psychological, at least none of which I am aware.

No, that’s not me in the image at right. In my school, punishment was meted out in the teacher’s lounge—in those years it was called the teacher’s cloakroom—with the aggriever bending over the arm of a stuffed lounge chair with a firm grip on the opposite arm while the aggrieved applied a wooden paddle to the nicely exposed and legally authorized area for retribution—I mean, punishment! Besides, it couldn’t be me—in my school days, bell bottom trousers had not yet been invented.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!


 
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Posted by on June 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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