Archive for May, 2011



Holly used to say that she looked forward to being an old lady because then she would be able to get away with being as eccentric as she wanted to be. Because Holly died at age 44, she never got her chance. So now it’s up to me to live the vision.

Yesterday as I was driving into town, from a high point on the road I could see flashing red and blue lights almost a mile ahead on the highway. It looked like a roadblock or traffic stop and I was curious. Who and why? What are these guys doing to us now?

About an eighth of a mile from the flashing lights I could see it was our local deputies conducting a traffic stop. More surveillance. A sign said I would have to show my license and insurance. But all I could think of was that damned red plane.

I pulled onto the shoulder and came to a dead stop. No way I’m going to submit to a search. Weren’t these stops ruled unconstitutional? I thought I remembered hearing something about that a few years back. So I made a u-turn to return home.

Sure enough, because this happened under the deputies’ noses, one of them came after me with lights flashing. It was Patrick the new deputy, a big beefy and earnest cop straight out of central casting. I could see from his serious demeanor that he probably had visions of bagging a drug smuggler or gun runner and that he did not remember having met me at least a couple times at the Grub Shack.

I gave him my driver’s license and my insurance information when asked.

“Why did you turn around?” he asked me suspiciously.

“I didn’t want to be surveilled,” I said, and told him about the red plane and how its flyovers had pissed me off. “There’s too much official intrusion.”

Being a cop, Patrick was still suspicious and asked if I had any weapons in the car, and I told him no. He asked if he could search the car to see for himself and with a shrug I told him I didn’t care in a tone of voice that said “knock yourself out.”

Now I know I could have demanded that he get a search warrant, but I didn’t want to create an enemy who would remember me as the guy who made him work too hard. I’d already got him to chase after me, and Paul the second deputy just pulled up too, leaving their checkpoint unmanned. These guys really wanted to find something, but I knew all they had was an eccentric old guy with a long beard who was asserting his desire to not be interfered with.

I was careful not to do anything that could be interpreted as fear or defiance. By this time Patrick had me standing outside the car on the side of the road, and I think I made him nervous by wandering off the spot where he told me to stand. I was curious and wanted to observe what the deputies were doing. However this encounter turned out, it was going to make it into the blog.

While waiting for Paul to verify my paperwork, Patrick returned to the car two or three times to poke around for contraband and to ask me questions. All the while I kept telling him about that damned red plane, about the guy whose welding work they’d shut down just days before, and about the inspectors who had shut down the Grub Shack, costing Jerry and Eva lots of grief and money, and just plain meddling in our happy lives. I won’t say he got an earful (because I was pretty laid back and unperturbed in my attitude), but Patrick could not have failed to understand that he and his sidekick were doing the same kind of thing about which I was complaining. Yet my deportment conveyed that nothing personal was intended.

A long time ago I learned that the best way to talk to cops is to be assertive without being oppositional, to stand your ground as if you have nothing to fear or about which to feel guilt. You cannot give them an opening to exploit. You’ve got to be fearless and friendly and keep talking without admitting to anything they can use against you.

Patrick reached the conclusion that he would uncover nothing unlawful and finally drove his truck back to the checkpoint. Paul emerged from his truck and gave me back my license and insurance papers.

“You didn’t have any reason at all not to drive through our checkpoint,” he said quizzically. I could tell he just didn’t get it, and I started telling him about that damned red plane.

“Do you understand why we came after you?” Paul asked. “Do you know how suspicious that looked to us?”

I agreed, and then returned to my riff about the official intrusion. Paul changed the subject and cut me short to send me on my way.

I made another u-turn and passed through the checkpoint. “So you decided to go south after all,” Patrick commented as I crept by.

“Yeah, he said I could,” I answered, gesturing in the direction of Paul’s arriving truck. Patrick waved me through.

As I drove into town I felt sure that those deputies will remember me after this and will not waste their time hassling me. They know I’m just a harmless old crank, an eccentric.

As I drove north through their checkpoint forty-five minutes later, Paul waved me through with an exaggerated flourish.

I didn’t even have to stop.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Ben Folds and Regina Spektor performing “You Don’t Know Me”



I did try to get a post out yesterday, but anything I wrote just seemed so… well…  “lite.” Sometimes the world seems so terminally stupid, one just doesn’t want to add any more empty calories to the fruitcake mix.

Here’s an idea for you to sink your teeth into if you can get past a natural first inclination to dismiss it as nutty…

For the last week or so I’ve been following the stalemate being reported on the radio in Minnesota between the Democratic governor and the Republican legislature as they argue about how to arrive at a balanced budget. The governor, who wants to cut spending and raise taxes on the highest-income Minnesotans, has said he’ll meet the Republicans halfway; the Republicans refuse to compromise and have devoted their time instead to passing an amendment to the state constitution outlawing same-sex marriage. They’ve got their own priorities, I guess.

The same thing is happening in Washington with the national budget.

Last week Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, appeared on The Colbert Report and framed the budget impasse along the same lines as the situation in Minnesota. The Obama Administration wants a combination of spending cuts and tax increases on the top 2% of American income earners, and his red-tie opponents in the Congress want all budget balancing to be achieved through spending cuts alone. Goolsby said many of the proposed cuts would prevent economic recovery and would be pretty stupid.

“Why don’t we take a page from the average American and just walk away from our debts?” Colbert asked.

Goolsbee laughed in a very charming and dismissive way and said that definitely wouldn’t work. He warned that if the government were to default on its obligations, Social Security checks would stop being issued to old people and soldiers would stop being paid. But he significantly did not raise the possibility of the private bankers taking it in the shorts.

Why not?

I read somewhere that an amount equal to all of the money raised through personal income taxes, from rich and poor alike, goes to pay the interest on the national debt—to the bankers, in other words. It is only the amount raised through corporate taxes which goes to pay for any of the real services government provides. (It is thus no wonder that government primarily serves corporate interests while the interests of regular folks are ignored.)

With the passage of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, the federal government entered into a relationship with a private institution (the Federal Reserve Bank, which is owned by a handful of the most powerful banking families in the world) through which the Fed agreed to loan the politicians as much money as they wanted as long as the politicians secured the debt by “direct taxation” on the people. So the personal income tax was born.

Today the national debt has grown to such proportions that there is no possibility of its ever being repaid. So why not walk?

Federal Reserve Notes are worthless anyway. They’re fiat money and backed by nothing tangible. Each Federal Reserve Note represents debt, not wealth. Each FRN is borrowed into existence out of thin air and is backed by only our continuing willingness to repay the debt it represents. The Congress has the authority to issue US currency—an authority long ago outsourced to a cabal of well-dressed thieves.

I say screw the bankers. They’ve been screwing the people for 98 years, which is long enough. They’ve already got all the gold, and they think they own you and your kids too.

Without our crushing debt burden, creating balanced budgets would be easy (or easier) for the politicians to do. There’s enough productive capacity in America to satisfy everyone’s need, but not everyone’s greed.

It’s time to reboot the whole broken system and take back our freedom.


Groove of the Day

Listen to The Talking Heads performing “Burning Down the House”



The Rapture isn’t happening after all.

Harold Camping, radio host and president of the Family Radio Network, had predicted that the Rapture would commence like a rolling blackout today at 6:00 p.m. in each time zone around the world.

Camping said there would be devastating earthquakes, and that up to 200 million people would disappear as they are taken up into heaven.

“Everyone will be weeping and wailing because they’ll know in a few hours it’ll come to their city,” the 89-year-old Camping predicted in an interview. “Saved” individuals will be “glorified spiritual bodies to be forever with God,” while the “unsaved” will be left to exist in a world of unfathomable destruction and chaos, with the world coming to a total end on October 21, 2011.

Early stories today from Christmas Island and New Zealand report that the moment of doom came and went with no noticeable changes or apocalyptic events. Australia and China are still safe, too.

I just checked and apparently the only thing that has been raptured away is the website for Camping’s radio network.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Barry McGuire performing “The Eve of Destruction”



If you just can’t get enough of this story, please visit my friend George Phenix’s blogsite today at for another perspective. I think you’ll love George’s voice and wry sense of humor. Warning: Sarah Palin groupies had best steer clear.


not dead yet

When I was a kid, I never thought I’d live to see this day. Hell, six years ago I was sure I never would. But here I am, alive and kicking, and not feeling old at all.

I’m sixty-three today—officially at 9:20 p.m. tonight—but I’m taking the whole day off. Never did like to work on my birthday.

As a run-up to this milestone I’ve been watching a lot of old TV shows lately—George Burns and Gracie Allen, Winky Dink and You, The Kate Smith Show, Ding Dong School, Queen for a Day, My Little Margie, Jack Benny, What’s My Line, Dobie Gillis, Ozzie and Harriet, December Bride, I Love Lucy, Sergeant Bilko, The Honeymooners, I’ve Got A Secret, Wild Bill Hickock, Spin and Marty, Sky King, The Cisco Kid, The Little Rascals… lots of others, too.

It’s surprising how quickly old memories come back with just the least encouragement. It’s all still there: the smell of my mother’s perfume, the taste of Blackjack Gum, the sound of my great grandmother’s voice, the feel of grass under bare feet, the fun of playing with my best friends’ toys. Seems like only last week, the memories are so fresh.

Here’s the great thing, though. I have no desire to go back because my life right now is in so many ways the best it’s ever been. When I was younger, life seemed to be a mainly unpleasant grind punctuated by happy moments; now it is exactly the opposite. Now there are long sustained periods of happiness punctuated by only a very few challenging moments.

The biggest difference between past and present is that I have grown up and learned to be free. I desire only those things I’m likely to receive, and I am satisfied with what I already have—even if it isn’t much by some folks’ lights. I am surrounded by sublime beauty every minute of each day. My life is chock full of people I love and who love me. I do what I want when I want and am prepared to make whatever effort’s necessary whenever required. I’ve attained a simple existence that I can best describe as being in harmony with the life and energy around me, a heaven on earth.

I am not bragging, mind you. I’m thankful to have discovered that the Universe is a bountiful thing if you only desire what is already within your grasp and you’re prepared to share and give away what it has already bestowed. Then one is ready to receive its greatest gifts when they may come.

I’m thankful to be an “old guy” and not dead yet, thankful to still feel young and alive to the possibilities for renewal in each and every new day, to know that the stars are already in the palms of our hands.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Donald Fagan performing “New Frontier”



Over the last few days I have been seeing a small red single-engine plane flying over the property several times a day. I suspect the pilot has been hired by the county to look for early signs of brushfires—a good purpose admittedly—and yet I resent being submitted to any government’s literal oversight.

I will confess that I have had thoughts of shooting at the aerial intruder, but this would draw unwanted official attention and interference—if the pilot even knew he was being fired at. To get his attention you’d have to actually hit the plane, and that seems a bit over-the-top.

A better way to warn him off might be fireworks—you know, those loud ones they always use at the beginning of a display to get your attention (the ones that leave blossoms of black smoke reminiscent of flak bursts in the path of a B-17). But that would probably, no certainly, start a war with all levels of government. Fireworks fired at aircraft undoubtedly violates not only the county’s burn ban, but federal aviation rules and laws… and I don’t have any fireworks here, anyway.

But it is a delicious thought.

So instead I have taken to stepping outside and flipping the guy the bird. I still have my first amendment rights… I think… for the time being, anyway.

Yesterday when I was in town I visited with a man who had just been busted for welding without a permit. The guy in the red plane called in the deputies, and three of them showed up in two vehicles. They didn’t exactly arrive with guns drawn, but they did slap the welder with a ticket carrying a $500 fine for violating the county’s burn-ban rules. “When they shut down my job site, they’re interfering with my livelihood and my family’s welfare,” he said.

Yeah, tell me about it. Jerry and Eva are still shut down, with costly requirements demanded by inspectors increasing every week. Putting small business people out of business is a stupid way for government to be behaving at a time when economic recovery is needed, and it makes no logical sense until you understand the behavior as government putting the squeeze on citizens in ways that will generate fines and fees to justify the salaries of inspectors, clerks, cops, and other public employees.

One of these days a squeezee (who’s less restrained than I) will take a shot at some government meddler, and maybe even take him out. There will be a predictable blur of television stories showing the grieving widow and kids, bagpipers, and long columns of police cars, lights flashing, assembled from far and wide.

Yet there will be widespread silent delight among viewers who approve of there being one less “public servant” fattening himself at the trough. I have heard a couple people joking about how a group burial of inspectors may be the best solution to the Grub Shack closure.

So who knows? Maybe one of those news stories could originate here—but probably not. There is a lot of anger out there everywhere about parasitical government. So the appearance of at least one such story is inevitable.

But I will restrain myself to flipping that pilot the bird. He’ll probably not notice the gesture but it will make me feel a little better.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Mildred Bailey performing “Don’t Fence Me In”



I woke up this morning in a foul mood. The words of Gretl Plessinger, a Florida Department of Corrections spokesperson, were running through my head: “We did a violation of probation and it will be up to the courts now to decide what happens to Offender King.”

“Offender” King?!

I have been offended by the actions of the Florida Department of Probation (a division of FDOC) ever since February when I spoke to Melissa Cornelius, Alex’s probation officer, who informed me that her supervisor directed that the question of whether Alex had actually violated the terms of his probation would be deferred to the courts rather than her department more rightly and responsibly exercising judgment about whether Alex had actually done anything wrong—or at least something wrong enough to justify what has already resulted in three months of cruel incarceration and derailed his education.

Yesterday Alex told me he is fighting depression and is not getting adequate help from his captors. This is par for the course. In my opinion, the State of Florida has compounded Alex’s misery from the day he was taken into custody as a 12-year-old by callously and continuously inflicting trauma on him which has had—and will continue to have—lifelong effects on his wellbeing.

Alex fled the scene of a fender-bender because in the moments following the accident he did not have the capacity to think about it as any normal person might have. Flight was an involuntary response resulting from nine years of inhumane treatment by the state through Alex’s most formative years. I have visited both of the facilities in Okeechobee where Alex was held, and I know firsthand what awful places they are. I cannot blame Alex for wanting to escape, and I am horrified that the state continues to inflict harm on Alex now, more than six years later, for having spent a night in a classroom rather than in his cell. Florida justice lacks any sense of proportion, understanding, or compassion.

In fleeing, Alex mindlessly did what he was conditioned to do—but of course, the state holds itself blameless for its role in this situation and is proving itself eager to exploit circumstances to continue Alex’s victimization which began, mind you, when a 40-year-old pedophile conceived the murder of Alex’s father and manipulated two troubled and confused boys into commission of the act.

This offensive and perpetual cycle of state-sponsored abuse must be brought to an end. Alex must be allowed to get on with his life and to salvage from it what happiness he can.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Nine Inch Nails performing “Hurt”


back to school

Today I visited three fifth grade classes in San Antonio (by phone) to answer students’ questions about Paul Henry, and learned a good deal in the process.

Their teacher Jamie Hansen contacted the Paul Henry Gingerich Trust last week to tell us that he and his kids had discovered Paul Henry’s website and were engrossed by Paul Henry’s plight. They wanted to know more and I was happy to oblige. I think it is important for kids to understand their world as it truly is, rather than the confection of myths the system serves up.

“I realize that my students are young and also are not able to understand the complete case, but they do know what’s fair and what’s not fair,” Jamie wrote to me afterwards. “We all feel the unfair setting that Paul is going through.”

“This whole story helps my students in other ways to understand: Bullies; Who to run to for help (someone they trust); Caring people are still out there; Make sure your parents are present when police ask you questions; Do your best to make sure that you are not in a situation where you will get in trouble for your friends’ actions; Don’t always trust the media—there is always more to the story,” Jamie said.

For my part, I was surprised by the number of questions that presupposed self-defense is a bigger part of the story than I had assumed. These fifth-graders put themselves in Paul Henry’s place and obviously felt threatened by Danner’s aggression. As an adult, I had not given this enough weight in my own thinking.

Today’s experience with the kids was like running a focus group and gave me a glimpse of what would happen if Paul Henry were judged by a jury of his peers.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Catfish Keith performing “Sign of Judgment”