The Real Slippery Slope

Social conservatives call gay marriage the “slippery slope” that endangers our freedoms. I never understood that argument, even when I was trying to make it. Yes, it may endanger your version of morality, but your freedoms? No, it doesn’t do that. However, what CAN happen really will endanger your freedoms – in fact, it already is.

Last year, Jack Phillips – owner of Lakewood’s Masterpiece Cakeshop – refused to make a cake for a gay couple’s private wedding. As a private citizen, he exercised his First Amendment rights to religious expression and free speech. He immediately found himself at the center of a discrimination firestorm, complete with protests outside his shop and a writeup in The Advocate. What he probably wasn’t expecting was what has recently been announced.

The District Attorney filed a discrimination complaint on behalf of the gay couple he refused to serve. Now Phillips faces the very real possibility of prosecution and a year in jail for his refusal. The slippery slope here was the discrimination laws that made this sort of thing possible – the Constitution, including the Civil Rights Act and all similar Amendments, were meant to stop discrimination on the part of the government. Schools, voting places, and other government institutions were supposed to be affected. Thanks to liberals, though, those laws are being expanded to be used as weapons against those they dislike: private citizens and business owners trying to stand up for their faith.

To some degree, I can understand wanting to change the mindset of some people. The law is not the way to do it, though – not in a free society. Discrimination against black people was a serious problem in the early 1960’s when the Civil Rights Act was passed. The government needed to come up with a way to end discrimination by government officials, and in order to do that they had to change the minds of those people. Does discrimination still exist? Is racism still an issue? Of course it is. When I was a teenager I was refused a job at a store near my home by a black manager who openly told me and several others that she would only hire black people. I went to school with white kids whose fathers were still members of the KKK. The big difference today is that such ideas are not acceptable in mainstream society.

Thanks to the power of public opinion, most companies want to protect everyone’s rights. Especially in the age of the internet, when a story of discrimination can be spread to the entire world at the speed of thought, businesses don’t want to ruffle feathers and most won’t refuse to serve a person unless they’re a danger to all of their other customers. The idea with discrimination laws now is that businesses that want to have licenses have to abide by the city, county, and state laws where they operate – if that means they are never allowed to turn someone down because of race, religion, or sexual orientation, they have to agree to the terms or they can’t stay in business.

This is NOT the way to use anti-discrimination laws.

The Constitution was never meant to dictate our personal dealings. It was never meant to allow laws to be written restricting what people believe or who they will serve in their private businesses. Discrimination laws may have been needed, but our Constitution was meant to protect us from the GOVERNMENT. It was meant to limit what the government could do or stop us from doing.

You see, in the legal world, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. That means that if a known anti-gay religious leader wants to eat in a restaurant owned by a gay couple, they will be required to serve him. Even if he’s having a conversation that they don’t like, they MUST serve him. If they don’t, they can now be brought up on the very same charges that Mr. Phillips is now facing. If they do not provide the same service to the people they don’t like as they do to the customers who are gay, they will be in violation of the same law.

Somehow I don’t think the gay community wants to be held to that standard. If you don’t want to have to do that, don’t try to use the law to do it to others. We live in a free country. If you don’t like Mr. Phillips, don’t take your business to him – protest calmly, get out the word, but stop trying to force people beyond tolerance and into acceptance with legal brute force.

This is exactly the kind of thing I have tried to warn social conservatives about for a long time. Tolerate gay marriage, give it direction – otherwise you will lose both your belief-based morality laws AND your basic freedoms all at once.

Stop Bullying!

A few months ago, I knocked back eight fingers of good scotch while writing quite possibly the most difficult post I have ever published. I described the hell that I live with every day, a perfect memory of having been bullied mercilessly as a kid. I remember all the things that everyone else gets to forget: being laughed at, spit on, beat up, and being used as fodder for everyone’s crude jokes. I didn’t mention the teachers who sometimes took part in the humiliation, but they certainly existed. I didn’t mention the difficult home life I had, either, that made it impossible to cope with everything. I originally wrote that post to make a point about a subject that continues to gain traction:

Despite what I’ve survived, I am completely against anti-bullying legislation.

Whenever some tragic event occurs, particularly a young teenager (or even younger) committing suicide because they’ve been bullied, everyone thinks that the only way to deal with it is to pass some kind of legislation to stop it from ever happening again. The anti-gun crowd (led mostly by the Brady Center Against Gun Violence) frequently quotes twisted statistics to prove that guns shouldn’t ever be in the hands of regular citizens; many would argue that making guns illegal will only make the problem worse by making the good guys in society sitting ducks for the ones who didn’t care to follow the law to begin with. When four people died in the space of three years (not exactly an extreme number in a nation of a few hundred million souls) after abusing ephedrine as a diet supplement, the FDA banned all OTC use of ephedrine.

Similarly, the parents of a handful of kids who have committed suicide after being bullied have attempted to convince their state legislatures that anti-bullying legislation is the best way to curb bullying in schools. I argue that it will only make things worse.

The law passed just one year ago in New Jersey actually makes it a crime for “innocent bystanders” to fail to report incidents of bullying to police whether on or off campus. I’m a highly-trained public safety professional. There are multiple mandatory reporting laws that apply to me, and there are times when even I have trouble sorting them out. How on Earth can the people of New Jersey expect children to understand that it’s a crime to fail to call the police when they see someone being bullied? There are kids who don’t realize that an incident may be bullying, so how can you hold them to that standard?

This year, Ohio passed a strong piece of anti-bullying legislation that goes so far as to label the types of bullying. In all the time I was bullied, I never held much difference between the guy hollering that idiotic question at me in the cafeteria (“are you a lesbian?”) day after day and the group of girls who made fun of me when I practiced the clarinet. It was all the same to me: other people being cruel because they wanted a laugh at my expense, something that was cheap. Why do we need laws to identify what kind of bullying a kid is experiencing? Could we make this just a little more complicated?

In July, just a few months ago, New York enacted the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA). The NYSED’s web page says that DASA “seeks to provide the State’s public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus and/or at a school function.” The name of the bill and the description sound not only sanctimonious, but completely unfair.

You cannot ever promise a kid that they’ll never be bullied, taunted or harassed. It’s unfair because you can never stop other kids from exhibiting that kind of behavior. You’d first have to teach their parents how to raise those kids to respect other people. Considering how many child abuse cases I’ve seen while working in public safety, I’d wager that will be nigh impossible. Is it wrong to dismiss acts of bullying by simply saying “kids will be kids”? Yes, it is. It’s absolutely wrong. It is equally wrong to expect that kids are developed enough to understand advanced concepts such as “awareness and sensitivity in the relations of people.” I’ve met adults who don’t understand that kind of thing, and we want to pass laws that require teaching kids about it?

Pretty much all these laws do is make less sense of what bullying really is. One incident of a kid shoving another kid isn’t bullying, but it seems like these laws aim to teach that it is. The problem with it is that kids who haven’t developed enough mentally to understand advanced emotional concepts DO learn very quickly how to do the wrong thing in a way that won’t get them in trouble. It was the same problem I had when I was a kid. The bullies knew that if they left serious marks on me, taunted me in view of certain adults, or left some kind of trail, they were caught – they knew how to get around that. I knew that if I tattled they’d find a way to get revenge. Those people carry such self-taught lessons well into adulthood.

I think it’s great that people want to do something to address bullying. When your reaction to a sad story is, “we’ve gotta do something – quick, someone pass a law!”, you’re setting the whole thing up for failure. If you want to do something about bullying, then reform the education system first. Put serious emphasis on teachers who actually teach – take away the power of unions that protect teachers who don’t care. Stop the idea that harsh grading practices and criticism of any kind are unfair and actually focus on teaching the kids rather than helping them along. Stop zero-tolerance policies that hamstring kids who need to defend themselves from bullies.

Sometimes the simplest answers to our problems are the last ones we’d even consider because those solutions would make us uncomfortable. If we want to do something, we must first look at ourselves and see what we can change about us and the message that our actions send.

Why Does God Allow Capital Punishment?

The title of this post was a question posed by documentarian Werner Herzog. In the opening of his documentary film Into The Abyss, Herzog is talking to one of the chaplains from Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice’s infamous Walls Unit – the death house. After allowing the chaplain to explain his role during an execution, Herzog asks this question.

Throughout the entire documentary, he never once asks, “why does God allow evil people to live and commit murder?”

I remember going home to Houston for Thanksgiving in 2001 and seeing news that the body of a woman had been found in a lake. That woman turned out to be 50-year-old Sandra Stotler. In her home several days after she had actually been killed, police found a grisly scene. Lights and the TV were still on, having never been turned off by the killer. Stotler had been baking cookies; a bowl of raw cookie dough and a half-finished sheet of unbaked cookies still sat out where she’d left them. Blood had been splattered all over the door frame and wall. Blood on the floor showed that after she’d been shot once, she had hit the floor and tried to scoot away, but the gunman shot her a second time where she lay. A red Camaro convertible was missing and a blood trail showed that the body had been dragged out through the garage on the side of the big ranch-style house in the upscale Highlands Ranch subdivision of Conroe, Texas.

Conroe isn’t far from where I grew up. About an hour and a half due North of Houston, right on I-45, sits this quiet little town that I remember driving through during the summer when my youth group would go up to Huntsville for camp. That a murder like this would happen in such a quiet, well-guarded neighborhood was very rattling to a lot of people I know. What’s most chilling of all is that the crime that turned into a triple homicide later on was all over a car.

Michael James Perry and Jason Aaron Burkett were best friends. They had lived together for a stretch in a camper, then later in an apartment in Conroe. For a time they had a racket going with Burkett’s girlfriend where one would steal checks, one would forge them, and the girlfriend would then cash them. As children, they both had serious issues. Burkett’s father was a raging alcoholic and drug addict, and as of this year is on his fifth prison sentence (back in 1973 Dennis Burkett was a high school football star and landed a full scholarship to the University of Texas to play college ball but he dropped out and went his own way – which is why I sincerely disliked the turn of events in the final season of Friday Night Lights). Burkett’s older brother is also in prison for a dangerous felony, making criminal behavior a family profession. Burkett has issues; Perry is worse.

As a child, Perry was diagnosed with “oppositional defiant disorder”, which is the childhood diagnosis of sociopathy. Perry grew up to be a psychopath (for those who never took psych classes in college, a literal psychopath is a person diagnosed as a sociopath – basically a person who views people as objects and has absolutely no conscience). He ran away from home frequently, pawned his parent’s valuables, stole their van and wrecked it, and broke into a neighbor’s home for the sole purpose of doing damage. His parents sent him to “Outward Bound”, an outdoors rough-it camp for troubled kids; he quit after a few days. His parents filed charges against him and had him sent to Boys Town in Nebraska, where he promptly told one of the “house parents” that he was one of the people “trying to rape and murder your kids.” He ended up being locked in the secure section of Boys Town for four months, later being sent to a “secure school” in Mexico. As soon as he turned 18 he went homeless; he refused to hold down a job and tried to forge prescriptions to get pills to sell for dope money. Somewhere in the midst of that was when he fell in with Jason Burkett.

Two days after the murder, Perry was pulled over in the red Camaro and presented an ID bearing the name and info of Adam Stotler – the 16-year-old son of Sandra Stotler. He was arrested, booked and released. Three days after his arrest, he and Jason Burkett were spotted in Adam Stotler’s stolen Isuzu Rodeo. They ran over a deputy and had a shoot-out with police; officers later testified that Perry was shouting, “balls to the wall!” They were arrested, and almost immediately Jason Burkett told them where to find two additional bodies. Police discovered the bodies of Adam Stotler and his best friend Jeremy Richardson next to another home in Highlands Ranch. Evidence included cigarette butts with Perry’s DNA on them. The shotgun used in the murders was stolen from a relative of Burkett. On top of all of this, the pair went to a bar in the two vehicles they’d stolen and claimed to everyone in the bar that they’d won the lottery, cashed the tickets at a gas station and went out to buy two supposedly brand-new vehicles. They took several people for a spin in the cars and even showed off the shotgun they’d used – and Perry later pointed the shotgun at Burkett’s girlfriend and threatened to kill her.

Perry confessed, and during the confession he gave facts that only the perpetrators would have known. He later claimed that a detective pointed a gun at him and forced him to confess, then even later claimed that evidence had somehow proven that the murders had happened on the 27th. The problem with that? Stotler’s body was found on October 27th, three days after the murders – and she had been there for some time, wrapped in the comforter and top sheet from her bed. Some of the crime scene footage is shown in the documentary, and I can tell just by the video footage that the blood on the floor was OLD.

Perry had an excuse for everything. During the interviews, he never referred to the victims as the true victims; he only talked about how he’s been wronged. It didn’t help that, as soon as he sat down and started talking, Herzog said, “I respect you and I believe that what’s been done to you is wrong.” Not once does Perry ever acknowledge that several people’s lives were irrevocably changed by what happened. In fact, it’s revealed that in his final statement before his execution, Perry said, “Yes, I want to start off by saying to everyone know that’s involved in this atrocity that they are all forgiven by me.”

Never does Herzog ever question Perry to his face on his claims that he, the convict, has been wronged. He never asks Perry about his long, storied history of sociopathic behavior. All he does is try to present the case against executions.

I’m tired of hearing people ask why God allows capital punishment. Life is precious, but when the person in question has made the choice to live their life in such a way that they have done nothing but victimize people for their own gain, justice must be done. Perry is guilty as hell, as is Burkett. Just once I’d like to hear one of these foreigners who bag on us for using the death penalty ask why God allows violent sociopaths to continually victimize innocent souls – and stop defending the killers.

Take It Off

I was 23 years old when I took my first job as a juvenile corrections officer. I’ve since worked with adults, males, females, low-security, high-security, and been on SRT (what some call SORT in other agencies, or Special [Operations] Response Team, sometimes referred to by inmates as “the ninjas”). I spent just enough time in it to become slightly jaded, and other life experiences have made me downright cynical. I learned a lot during my time there. Other corrections officers would know terms that the general public rarely, if ever, knows – duck, keistering, fish, hooch, cellie, dog, SHU, soldier, PC, shank, etc. Oh, I almost forgot every officer’s favorite – gassing! Ask your local CO what that one means. None of those words mean what you might think they do “on the outs”.

One of the most important things I learned was that you want to be very, very careful who gets in and what they bring with them.

Inmates have all day to come up with amazing ways to smuggle contraband into a facility. In the past year or so, it hit the news that even Charles Manson was able to get a cell phone and call a reporter. Cell phones are a huge no-no in prisons. No staff are ever allowed to bring cell phones into a facility. If an inmate gets his hands on one, he can do unbelievable damage. He can take pictures of weaknesses in security, run his black market deals, and stalk his victims. I’ll never forget being out on the perimeter in a truck with the 12-gauge at 0200 one VERY cold morning in 2007 when, all of a sudden, I slammed on the brakes at what I heard. I was listening to the only hard rock/heavy metal station in Southern Arizona when the DJ played a caller who said, “yeah, I’m an inmate at such-and-such facility in Florence…”

A cell phone will be kept hidden in pieces by several inmates, who will reassemble it and pass it around. Each inmate pays to use it – they trade whatever they have of value, sometimes commissary items (food), most often contraband or favors. If even one piece is discovered, the whole operation goes down and they have to find an inventive way to get another one. If a guy is actually caught using it and the phone itself is confiscated, everyone involved goes down for it, and the guy who gets caught – which, in this case, was a new guy looking to show off on his favorite radio station – will catch hell for a very long time. That morning, we shut down the facility, and another officer took the truck while I marched into the housing unit where the inmate who owned the familiar voice was housed. You wouldn’t believe the look on that inmate’s face when he refused to rat his accomplices out and Sarge announced to the entire block, “gentlemen, one of your neighbors has just gotten himself caught using a cell phone to call a radio station. Officer Maguire was good enough to listen to that station and catch the call tonight! Until that phone appears in my hand, you will ALL be locked down!”

And wouldn’t you know it? The very next thing we heard was, “hey, Maguire! You listen to the heavy shit! You’re alright!”

It took two days to find the few pieces that remained of the phone. One inmate admitted breaking his part into tiny pieces and flushing them. No evidence of who was contacted would ever be retrieved.

The Supreme Court finally ruled today on Florence v. Burlington. Albert Florence was arrested on a warrant during a traffic stop by a New Jersey state trooper in 2005. Back in 1998, he fled a traffic stop; by 2003, he fell behind on his payments and skipped a parole hearing. A warrant was issued for his arrest. Within days he appeared, paid the fines and worked everything out, but a clerical error left the warrant sitting open – two years later he was taken to jail. He didn’t have bail money. He was strip-searched twice – once at the initial holding facility, a second time at the transferring facility.

Florence sued, claiming his Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure had been violated. The National Constitution Center took on his case. Their entire argument revolved around the fact that he shouldn’t have been arrested, and once he was, jail officials had no reason to be suspicious of contraband – thus they were wrong, according to the suit, for strip-searching him.

I never liked doing strip searches, even on females (I simply cannot refer to inmates as “women” – it’s not a dehumanizing thing, it’s just my professional way of mentally separating inmates from people I might mingle with in my personal life). If you had to strip search an inmate who hadn’t showered or you could tell felt awkward, it was just an unpleasant experience, particularly if your subject actually did have something hidden in a body cavity. Women can hide some pretty unbelievable objects. You just kinda went robotic when you pulled that duty.

Officers don’t enjoy it, but we’d do it because it could have a serious impact on our own safety if we didn’t. Inmates considered low-risk have been caught with razor blades taped under their testicles and all manner of objects you wouldn’t believe stashed in a place that God never intended for that particular purpose. Every inmate, no matter what their risk, has to be searched. Thankfully, SCOTUS agreed on a vote of 5-4.

I find Florence’s argument patently ridiculous. He says, “I was no danger, they didn’t have any reasonable suspicion, so they had no right!” Five justices disagreed, thank God. Yes, it was wrong that Florence was arrested. He absolutely had a right to sue the court. To claim that he shouldn’t have been strip-searched is dangerous at best. Every inmate is treated the same, lest a mistake be made and the wrong person manage to smuggle a very deadly weapon into the facility and wreak havoc. For instance, low-risk inmates are allowed to work as “trustees” – they are loosely supervised workers who do various jobs throughout a facility, including collecting trash. Those trustees also collect trash from outside the gates, where visitors dispose of their garbage – and more frequently attempt to disguise dangerous contraband as trash for trustees to collect and deliver to high-risk inmates.

Yes, there’s a litany of very good reasons why every single inmate is strip-searched when entering any facility. Even seemingly innocuous items such as bobby pins, toothpicks, bubble gum, and ball-point pens (all of which are contraband) can pose a serious security and safety risk. I’ve seen nunchaku (lesser-educated people might spell it “num-chucks”) constructed of tightly rolled magazines, masking tape and less than one foot of bungee cord. I’ve seen inmates hollow out the soles of their shoes to sneak narcotics in with. Shredded sheets and t-shirts could be used to wrap the handles of carefully-sharpened pieces of glass and metal, making very impressive knives.

What I find humorous is the dissenting opinion – not surprisingly written by Justice Breyer and joined by Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor, four of the most embarrasingly liberal justices to hold seats in the Court. The very first thing Breyer does is cry about strip searches being an invasion of privacy; the next thing he does is prattle about what constitutes a reasonable search. The entire dissenting opinion completely ignores the fact that we’re talking about jail and prison inmates. These are people who have broken the law. When you go to jail, quite a few liberties are taken away. Jails routinely restrict inmate access to newspapers and news programming on TV to avoid bragging rights among inmates when their case hits the news. Inmates are required to wear jail uniforms, adhere to wake-up and lights-out calls, follow strict meal times and court schedules, and keep their cells clean. Breyer wails that strip searching is degrading to inmates; if that’s going to be your argument, the next thing you’ll hear is, “they can’t search our cells! That’s our private property!”

And, really, if this is going to be their argument, then they’re setting the stage for convicted violent felons to sue for the right to own firearms once they’re freed from prison. Hey, if there’s no reason to be suspicious, why would anyone have a right to tell them they can’t have a weapon? Background checks are degrading! I should never have to disclose to anyone that I’ve been incarcerated!

Bottom line, the safety of officers and other inmates is vastly more important than the comfort of someone who is in jail for a reason. Police and corrections officers are not there to determine the legitimacy of a warrant; those are issued by judges, and it is the courts that have to answer for mistakes on warrants. I feel for Florence because he shouldn’t have had a warrant out for his arrest, and yes, the county and courts should have been sued for their error. If the liberal four really want a reason why they’re wrong, they can talk to the families of corrections officers who have been killed in the line of duty by inmates who managed to obtain or make weapons despite these searches.

You know what the hilarious part about this is? The same liberals who would side with Florence have no problem at all with TSA agents groping us in airports. That is a regular laugh riot, I tell you.

It’s My Life

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. ~ C.S. Lewis

Very few people outside the gay community know the truth behind the famous Supreme Court case Bowers v. Hardwick. I dare say that very few inside the gay community know what really happened – in fact, I’d guess most don’t even know what the case was about at all. Way back in 1982, homosexuality was still very taboo, and when an Atlanta police officer saw Michael Hardwick throw a beer bottle away in a trash can outside a gay bar he got involved. Drinking in public (meaning outside of a bar or home) is still illegal in many places; the cop who saw him throw the bottle away immediately cited him for drinking in public. He originally wrote “Wednesday” as the court date but later scratched it out and wrote “Tuesday” – so when Tuesday rolled around and Hardwick hadn’t appeared, the cop immediately went to serve an arrest warrant at his home. He wasn’t there, and when he found out there was a warrant out for his arrest he instantly went to the court to pay the ticket and quash the warrant. The court clerk claimed that the warrant hadn’t even been processed yet. The cop, however, went again the very next day to arrest him (with no warrant) and saw a guest sleeping off a hangover on his couch. He was arrested for sodomy.

What resulted was Bowers v. Hardwick. The decision was that homosexual sex between consenting adults was considered a morally bankrupt act and could not be protected by any law governing privacy rights. 21 years later, it was overturned.

In September of 1998, after my family had moved to Phoenix, a Harris County Sheriff’s deputy entered an apartment in Houston with his gun drawn and arrested John Lawrence and Tyron Garner. A neighbor who had a previous relationship with Garner, Robert Eubanks, had called in a false report that there was a man with a gun “going crazy” in the apartment. The deputy entered an unlocked door to find the two engaged in sex. The pair were charged with sodomy. Eubanks, when the lie was discovered, served a pittance – 15 days in jail. Lawrence and Garner ended up more than $1000 out of pocket for bail and fines. After substantive disappointments in Texas courts, the case went to the US Supreme Court, where in 2003 it was decided in a 6-3 decision to overturn Bowers – they determined that sodomy laws flew in the face of equal rights protections in the Constitution. It’s worth noting that Sandra Day-O’Connor wrote an opinion for the majority; she had also voted with the majority in Bowers. She reversed her own decision.

I told you that story to tell you this one.

The Democrats today under President Obama would have us all believe that bigger government and limited individual liberties are the only thing that will make this country stable. They tell us that they know better – we just need to quietly agree and do what they say. You can’t make your own decisions. You can’t determine whether to buy incandescent light bulbs or CFL’s; we’ll make that decision for you. You don’t get a choice in which appliances you have in your home; there are laws that say your refrigerator, washer/dryer, microwave and toilet must all meet certain energy and water standards. You are required to purchase health insurance now, regardless of the cost, and if you don’t you’ll pay a hefty tax penalty that you couldn’t afford in the first place (and when you don’t pay it, you’ll find your wages being garnished).

Congress is supposed to serve the people, yet the people have no say in whether they get a raise. There are term limits for the presidency but not for the Senate or House of Representatives, leaving the door open for politicians to make a career out of their “service”. The same lawmakers who continually vote themselves raises tell us that we have no right to make sure that those who are voting are legally eligible. We shouldn’t have to show ID at a polling place to put a person in office who might not be honest. We don’t get a say in whether the laws of this nation are upheld, and if we try to assert one, we are branded racists.

The reality is that this is still America, and we still have a say whether the liberals want us to or not. They are currently pushing Ron Paul and Mitt Romney through their puppets in the MSM in an effort to fracture the conservative movement. Obama has set up an administration full of radicals who want to see this country give up its freedom and embrace communism so that the ruling class – wealthy liberals who use their own brand of morality as a weapon – can take over power once and for all. Then we really won’t have a say.

I will stop breathing before I allow that to happen to my country. I will die on my feet before I live on my knees. Our founding fathers would have been the first to admit that they weren’t perfect. There were some things they didn’t get right, but many others that they understood perfectly, and were they to see the liberties that we have given up they would rouse a new revolution on the spot.

The quote I opened this missive with was added to an article written by Kelly Grayson, a man well-known to the EMS community all over the world. Grayson wrote an article about three paramedics in Florida who have recently been fired for something they did at home, on their own time. The medics had, for years, been employed by a private EMS company called EVAC, who had no rules about smoking at all. Volutia County decided to take over EMS services, however, and their rules were now in effect: all uniformed public safety employees – including police, fire and EMS – were barred from smoking of any kind, including tobacco. Those employees (only uniformed employees are affected, everyone else is allowed) are held to a different standard and are now required to pass a nicotine blood test. Three veteran paramedics failed the test and lost their jobs.

So this is for those in power who think I can’t make my own choices. If you’re itching for a fight, shut up and bring it – I will not slowly boil to death like a frog in a pan. I am officially pissed. You will not take my freedoms one at a time, because I have long noticed it and now the pendulum is about to swing the other way. (I’m sure that uber-liberal Jon Bon Jovi would be mortified that I would use his anthem to raise my middle finger to the ruling class, but I think it’s appropriate.)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-oL8PzM_XE]

The Forgotten Principle

This Sunday, we’ll mark ten years since 9/11. Ten years since 2,977 innocent souls, including 343 firefighters and 60 police officers, lost their lives in a breathtaking terrorist attack that we still haven’t recovered from. 13 more later succumbed to their injuries, bringing the total death toll to 2,998 – a number that should be raised as more first responders die of various cancers they’ve developed after breathing the toxic ash at Ground Zero. Ten years since even the hardest of us openly wept at the incredible loss of life. Ten years since 19 animals used their ultimate faith in jihad to prove that America is not untouchable.

In the weeks following the attacks, people rallied to prove we were better than the terrorists. We gave blood, donated water and food, posted pictures of those who were unaccounted for, and mourned for every set of remains carried out of the burning pit draped with Old Glory. Incredibly, we were nicer. We were nicer to our families and friends, nicer to the people who serve us, even nicer to other people on the road.

How quickly we forget.

About six months after the attacks – we’d already invaded Afghanistan by that time – I read a blog post that broke my heart. An Army wife, pregnant, crying child in tow, was writing about an unbelievable experience at a grocery store. Her husband was among those deployed to Afghanistan. She badly needed a few items, so she gathered what she needed quickly and ran to the express lane. During checkout she discovered she was one item over the limit. According to the post, the people behind her immediately lost their patience and began complaining loudly. The cashier offered no solution, only telling her she needed to go to another lane. At the end of her rope, the poor woman ran from the store, leaving her groceries unchecked. She wondered how we could have all gone to caring about our fellow man right after 9/11 to scolding a woman in a grocery store over something as simple as an item limit.

It never ceases to amaze me the way people will treat others sometimes. Those who consider themselves middle- or even upper-class can be outrageously mean. I cannot say who I work for, but in my main job I investigate fraud for a major financial institution. I talk to people all day long. Occasionally, a customer encounters difficulty using their account because of our attempts to stop fraud before it starts, and I’d say at least 75% of the time they’re typically civil. Today, however, I had people screaming epithets, insults and profanities at me over being stopped.

I left work feeling completely defeated. I didn’t do anything wrong, but people occasionally hear what they want to hear (as opposed to what’s actually being said), misinterpret what’s being said, and demand the impossible. When that happens and someone finds out that they’re not going to get what they want, they will revert to pitching a fit like a two-year-old (one with a far more extensive vocabulary). Today I was called names that I wouldn’t call another person myself even if I were enraged. They don’t understand that I can’t tell them why we might be suspicious of a charge being made; if we give that information out, the bad guys will use it to improve on how they get away with fraud. Yes, we will protect ourselves – your interest rates and annual fees are all part of the fraud prevention system, and the more the financial industry loses, the higher your rates will go. Fraud drives up the cost of all goods and services. So screaming that you’ve been inconvenienced and it’s not fair is actually self-defeating because that very system protects you in ways you will never understand.

As we come up to the ten-year anniversary of the defining moment of my generation, I hear these people losing their cool over things that aren’t worth it and mistreating me and my colleagues and I wonder what must go through their minds. I also wonder if they’d still behave that way if they knew who they were talking to.

If you knew the young woman you were talking to was a military widow, would you still call her a bitch?

If you knew that the young man you were talking to had a titanium leg in place of the one he lost while serving in the Marines in Iraq, would you still tell him to go to hell?

If you knew that the older gentleman you were talking to was a WWII veteran who’d been awarded the Navy Cross and two purple hearts, would you still tell him he was incompetent?

If you knew that the young woman you were talking to had lost an eye to a roadside bomb in Iraq, would you still call her a f—ing c–t?

If you knew that the young man you were talking to was in the US Army Reserves and had just come back to work after his third tour of duty in the Big Sandbox and he came home this time with shrapnel in his hip, would you still call him a pu–y and a dumb MF’er? Is a single moment of inconvenience and perceived embarrassment really worth abusing a man who fought so hard for you?

I’m not making any of that up. It makes my adrenaline surge and my hands shake when someone talks to me that way because when a person gets that way with me in my other job, it means they’re about to get violent; it’s a response that I can’t turn off. When I hear the people I know and deeply respect being abused by people who are angry about not getting their way, knowing what those friends have survived, it makes me absolutely furious.

This year, don’t just volunteer. Think long and hard about the way you treat your fellow man. Convenience is not a right – it is something that countless men and women have fought to give America the ability to provide. Don’t let respect become the forgotten principle. If you can’t imagine someone else talking to you that way, don’t do it to someone else – regardless of how inconvenient the situation is.

NYC Mayor Harasses AZ Over Gun Laws Despite Layoffs

On January 23, the Crossroads of the West gun show in Phoenix, Arizona became the target of an investigation. Neither Arizona authorities nor federal authorities carried it out. It wasn’t a journalist, either. Private investigators, hired by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg at a price tag just over six figures, entered the popular gun show with the intent of trying to buy guns and making it appear illegal. Hidden cameras caught the PI’s telling gun sellers point-blank that they couldn’t pass a background check. We don’t know if any sellers told the hired hands to take a hike, but we do know that at least two guns were sold to them.

All of this is going down in the face of the biggest layoffs in the city’s history.

600 NYC firefighters are about to get their walking papers and 21,000 teachers are slated for the same fate thanks to the city’s budget shortfalls, yet Bloomberg is paying top dollar for what amounts to little more than political posturing. Bloomberg already runs a city that bans handgun ownership, but he’s been pushing for more stringent gun laws in the state for some time. The Tucson shooting provided the backdrop he had hoped for and, like any good liberal refusing to let a good crisis go to waste, Bloomberg joined the rest of the harpies in doing the gun control rain dance. The stunt he pulled right here in my city was his swan song.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ORGlpb_HfE&feature=player_embedded]

Here’s the kicker: in Arizona, private sellers can be prosecuted for knowingly selling guns to those who cannot pass background checks. In this case, however, they can NEVER be prosecuted. Bloomberg didn’t notify Arizona officials that the investigation would be going down. So, because he has no jurisdiction, none of the illegal sellers will be held accountable. They can keep selling just as they did on January 23. The law is in place for a reason – breaking the law is supposed to result in penalties designed to deter people from selling guns illegally. Bloomberg wasn’t interested in bringing those sellers to justice. He wanted to accent his point, and in political terms, it is perfectly acceptable to ignore the law if it helps you win an argument.

I’m curious…how many teacher or firefighter jobs could have been spared by the money blown on this peacockery? Since we know that more layoffs will come because of governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget cuts, how many police jobs could have been spared the chopping block before those layoffs were even considered? How many officers need equipment that money could have purchased? How many bait cars could have been bought? How many investigations, rape kits, overtime hours could have been paid for with the money he flushed on this excursion?

What amazes me is that Bloomberg’s spokesman said, “The background check system failed in Arizona, it failed in Virginia and it fails in states around the country. If we don’t fix it now, the question is not whether another massacre will occur, but when.” In the video above, Bloomberg makes much of the fact that the gun purchased – a Glock 17 with two high-capacity clips – is the same weapon used in Tucson. The myth is busted, however. Most people have been led to believe by Bloomberg and most of the press that Jared Loughner, the Tucson shooter, was only stopped when he ran out of ammunition in one high-capacity clip. That is a patent lie. His weapon actually jammed precisely because of the clip he was using. All clips feed rounds into a gun chamber with a simple spring-loaded mechanism; the shorter the clip, the better the spring works. With a little practice and several smaller clips, Loughner could have held off every unarmed person for some time. The larger clip had a spring that was longer and had less loading power, resulting in a mis-chambered round and an opportunity for two unarmed people to wrestle him to the ground. The loading problem is an issue I have experienced when testing larger clips, so I have never bought one.

The background check system would not have stopped Loughner from getting a gun, even in New York. He had no criminal past and had not been determined legally mentally unfit. The only thing that would have stopped him before he killed five people would have been a law-abiding citizen carrying a gun and shooting him. In a day and age where people freak out at the sight of a person carrying a gun on their hip, though, why should anybody in a liberal bastion like Tucson actually have the balls to fight back and defend themselves?

God knows we don’t want to make anybody uncomfortable.

The Difficulties of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

The military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy (DADT) is taking a serious beating this week. First, federal court judge Virginia Phillips determined that DADT was Unconstitutional. Then she issued a moratorium on enforcement of the policy. Then the Obama administration challenged the ruling in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals – and the justices issued a stay of the moratorium, so I guess now DADT is enforceable again. I’ve been reading around some of the comments and there are two common running themes among those who believe that DADT should remain in effect.

First are those who have served and don’t have a religious undertone. After one commenter remarked that DADT should be stricken down, one former soldier replied, “this coming from someone who has never served nor understands the culture or code of the UCMJ.”

To those who fit that profile, I would say this: culture isn’t always right. I wonder what the culture was during WWII, when our country was still segregated and black soldiers were segregated from white soldiers as they were in civilian life. An awful lot of white folks actually believed that they were still superior to black folks – that was, at the time, the culture. What is the culture you’re talking about? Is it one that bans fraternization in the UCMJ, yet ignores it when it does happen? Is it one that forbids sexual assault in the UCMJ, yet gives little more than a slap on the wrist when a soldier is caught doing exactly that? Is it a culture that dislikes open homosexuals because you’re afraid we’re all nymphomaniacs who want to screw everything that walks?

If the latter is the case, then you’re wrong, and your opinion and attitude are based on pure ignorance. Most lesbians – myself included – aren’t interested in straight women. I have cute little crushes on a couple of celebrities, but last I checked Kate Beckinsale isn’t a US soldier and doesn’t plan to become one. Even still, if she walked into the room I wouldn’t be staring at her boobs and dreaming of motorboating. Why? She’s straight. There’s something about women who have slept with men that is more unappealing to me than the idea of shagging a relative. The fact that you straight men are always imagining women stripping down and sitting on your faces does not mean that lesbians do. I can’t speak for gay men, but those I know feel the exact same way. We are no more sexual than straight people are and we’re not out to have sex with everyone on two legs. Do us all a favor and dispell that from your culture.

The second running theme is entirely religious. One commenter wrote, “it is a taught perversion, not a born one. This is why the aggressive homosexual community is pursuing the school systems to try to indoctrinate the next generation of children. For the short term, it will work for a while, however, most know the difference of right from wrong, and it will backfire. You can see this happening now. As most people grow older, they will find the Lord and repent their sins and try to lead a sinless lifestyle. When they do, they will find peace in their lives. We have to pray for those in the homosexual community to find the Lord and repent their sinful lifestyle, and walk with Jesus. Only this way, will they truly inherit Heaven and find peace. If you love your fellow man, you will do the same.”

Okay…I am conservative politically. I am a lesbian. I am also a believing Christian. I do not find my faith at odds with my sexual orientation. If it were a choice, as you say it is, I would absolutely choose to be straight. Do you have any idea how much easier my life would be? If it were a choice, I wouldn’t have had crushes on other girls in class when I was in second grade! Do you really think it was a choice back then? I didn’t know what it was. All I knew was that if I told the girls I liked that I thought they were pretty, I’d be severely beaten (and, in fact, I was on several occasions). As an adult, I don’t sleep around. I won’t sleep with someone on the first or even the second date. I have a relative, though, who is as straight as straight can be, and she has done sick and twisted things in bed that I never wanted to know – she’s also lost count of the number of men she’s slept with. Tell me, whose “lifestyle” is really sinful?

Next up? Your Christian-ese. It is lost on most people. Non-believers, such as my roommate, don’t understand “finding the Lord”, “repentance”, and “inheriting Heaven”. You are speaking a different language to them, one that turns them completely off to our faith. The best way to help people understand Christianity is to live your life so that others want whatever is giving you peace. My gay and lesbian friends are far more interested in my faith BECAUSE I don’t say those things.

Your accusation that all gay people are infiltrating the schools to indoctrinate and recruit kids? Bullshit. Pardon my Japanese, but it’s pure bullshit. I will agree that there are gays and lesbians who are entirely inappropriate in teaching positions. The kindergarten teacher who made her class sign GLSEN pledge cards irritated me beyond belief. The high school teacher who took her class to her lesbian wedding without parental consent also irritated me. Recruitment, though? Please! If you are that paranoid about it, then take your kids out of public school. Nobody is trying to recruit any kids to choose the homosexual lifestyle. All we want is for kids who are attracted to the same sex to feel safe enough that they’re not going to have to survive what I did.

Finally, I will quote the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Read all of that one more time. Do you understand it? That means that if your entire hang-up about homosexuals like me is based entirely on your religious belief, then according to the Constitution – that document I would give my last breath to defend – you cannot pass nor enforce laws written from that perspective. You are entitled to your belief, but I am also entitled to mine. Neither you nor I are allowed to enact any law that forces other people to live according to our faith. I have always, always, ALWAYS been against hate speech laws because it would infringe on your rights to believe that my lifestyle is wrong. I have ALWAYS insisted that gay marriage should NEVER include a requirement that all churches submit to marrying gay couples. I expect you to pay the same level of respect.

I don’t want to make a political statement by serving; I just want to serve. Why is that so difficult? I will tell those of you who fit those two categories the exact same thing I tell my liberal gay friends: grow up. It’s not all about you and what you want. Challenge yourselves and you might just learn something.

Mob Rule

I probably shouldn’t write about this, but I’m going to anyway. I feel this incident has spun almost out of control and people need to get a grip and think before they react any further.

This week, Danny Rodriguez’s mother called police when Danny became angry and violent. Phoenix police officer Sergio Vergillo was the first to arrive on scene and called for backup; officer Richard Chrisman responded. Verifiable information is scarce at best, but this is what has been claimed: Rodriguez told officers they couldn’t come in without a warrant, Chrisman put his gun to Rodriguez’s head and said “I don’t need no warrant, motherf***er,” they went inside, and at some point Vergillo tazed Rodriguez, Chrisman deployed OC (pepper) spray, shot the dog, got into a physical struggle with Rodriguez, then shot him.

Naturally, not all of the information coming from the media is accurate. Most outlets aren’t even relying on the police report (they rarely, if ever, give a full accounting of events as they actually happened, usually relying on hyper-emotional witnesses or people who claim to have seen it because they just want to be on TV). Before you go any further, though, click here and watch the news video.

What’s the first thing you see?

I see a stream of Latino protesters, the leader carrying a pole with three flags on it. Is the American flag on top? Nope. It’s at the bottom, below the Mexican flag and one other that I can’t quite place (if anyone else can tell, by all means, share). The very first thing we see in this protest is a protester basically declaring that the United States is inferior to Latino nations. That’s hilarious, considering the fact that law and order in most Latino countries – to include Mexico – is a joke.

Then you see signs, some of them in Spanish, some in English, and small children carrying graphic signs declaring the police are murderers. Then, they talk to protester Manuel Martinez. His first words are, “let’s set aside the fact that he’s Latino.”

Really? You want us to set that aside? I don’t think you really do want it to be “set aside”, because a few things are quite evident: first of all, you’re only protesting with fellow Latinos. Second, you’re holding up signs in Spanish decrying “la policia” as murderers. Third, you are openly and brazenly disrespecting the US flag by flying it underneath the Mexican flag. You don’t want us to set aside the fact that he’s Latino. You want everyone to believe this was a racially-motivated crime so you have ammunition at your next SB 1070 rally.

They say that this incident is driving a bigger wedge between Latinos and law enforcement. Actually, the only one driving a wedge between Latinos and law enforcement are the Latinos crying racism over everything that happens. Where is the outrage over Latino gang members deliberately targeting black people in Los Angeles? When you’re willing to call out the racism in your own ranks, your outrage will be a little more believable.

Then we see Carlos Galindo, wearing a Vietnam Veteran cap, railing about how unfair it is that Chrisman is out on bail. “He is getting special treatment,” Galindo yells. “And the Latin community, we are not – I repeat, we are NOT – gonna let up until the officer is back in jail, among other prisoners!” This statement galls me. What he is suggesting is that because the Latino community is outraged about this incident, more charges should immediately be brought and Chrisman should be held behind bars without bail. Mr. Galindo, thank you for your service, but what you are suggesting is mob rule. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, sir, but here in the United States we don’t work that way. You can get pissed all you want, but our justice system has certain requirements that must be met. Until the investigation is complete and enough evidence is found, he’s not going to be re-arrested. He is not getting any special treatment. Any person not charged with murder because of an unknown amount of evidence or an ongoing investigation would be treated the same way. My friend, Tony Holly, was murdered in 2007; if his killer, Bryan Wayne Hulsey, had the $1 million available to post bail, he’d have been released, too.

Martinez then says, “this was a US citizen that was killed in cold blood by an officer who took an oath and wore a badge and walked in and killed someone.” Okay, so that precipitates a protest? Where the hell were you when Nick Erfle was murdered by an illegal alien gang member? Where was the outrage when Marc Atkinson was ambushed and murdered by Mexicans who had come here looking for work and turned to drug running when they couldn’t get jobs legally? You hardly lifted a finger when those two incidents happened. Being angry is perfectly normal. Calling for law enforcement to dump a person back in jail simply because you don’t like the circumstances is a little ridiculous. We don’t work the way Mexico does. Sorry.

The most incredible scene in the entire protest, I think, was the protester carrying a sign that said, “Eye for an Eye.”

Really?

If you want that, then why are you protesting against SB 1070 by calling it inhumane? If you are going to claim that an enforcement of federal law is somehow against human decency, then don’t you dare stand on American soil and demand an eye for an eye. That is an outrage we will not abide. The actions of our justice system are not dictated by mob rule. If they were, a lot of innocent people would have gone down for crimes they didn’t commit. We don’t know all of the facts in this case yet, too – so take a step back and breathe. Think before you react.

Equality

“The drive for same-sex marriage is, in effect, an effort to make a sneak attack on society by encoding this aberrant behavior in legal form before society itself has decided it should be legal … Let us defend the oldest institution, the institution of marriage between male and female as set forth in the Holy Bible.” -the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV)

Yesterday, a landmark ruling was announced that many gay and lesbian Americans have prayed for since 2008. Judge Vaughn Walker made the decision that didn’t really surprise anybody: he ruled California’s Proposition 8 Unconstitutional. Proposition 8 overturned a California State Supreme Court ruling that declared gay marriage legal within the borders of the state.

I say it wasn’t a surprise because Judge Walker is one of exactly three openly gay federal justices across America. I don’t think anyone doubted that he would rule the way he did. What pleased me wasn’t so much his ruling as it was his opinion.

It is no secret that I have long opposed same-sex marriage. My reasoning was that marriage is one of the last moral bastions in American culture; the benefits, financial and otherwise, were primarily meant to foster a positive atmosphere for raising children (and make it less expensive). I have argued that civil unions should be our fight, something that doesn’t infringe on what began as, and has ever been, a religious institution – whether those who partake in it see it that way or not.

Judge Walker has made a believer out of me, though. He brought up points that I had not considered. He also made me think of a few of my own.

At its heart, marriage has always been firmly rooted in religion. For the first two hundred years of American history, having a child out of wedlock was a taboo that could result in losing one’s entire life, career and all. It was the same way in most of the Western world until the 1960’s. That was largely due to religious sensibilities. It has long been seen as the responsibility of a pastor, rabbi or priest to oversee marriage ceremonies. It remains, to this day, the only legal institution in the United States that is presided over by both the church and the government at the sanction of the law.

Judge Walker disagrees with this, as do I. Married couples are not required to have children, nor are those who wish to have children required to marry. Marriage in today’s culture is supposed to be about love (or the benefits that come with it, particularly if you’re in the military). American culture does not support betrothing girls, nor is dowry paid any longer. Women have equal rights and equal footing with men, and interracial marriage was legalized decades ago. Plus, it is easy to dissolve a marriage nowadays.

The place of gay people in our culture has changed, too. Once seen as sick, twisted individuals in need of a cure, popular opinion (while not always bright and rosy) is far better than it once was. It’s no longer taboo to be gay or lesbian, unless your entire life is wrapped up in religion. We are portrayed as normal, productive members of society on TV and in the movies. We no longer have to fear losing jobs or housing because someone doesn’t like our sexual orientation. We no longer have to hide from public view or lie about who sleeps with us in our own homes.

Having pointed out that the current incarnation of marriage, as supported by the government, is heavily religious, I have to bring up another point. Judge Walker pointed out that marriage is now a civil matter. The establishment clause of the First Amendment says this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Walker also opined that of all of the testimony offered by the organization defending Proposition 8, all of it was personal opinion based almost entirely on Judeo-Christian beliefs. According to the First Amendment, Christians are allowed to believe as they like and express it peacefully. Congress, however, while unable to prohibit them from expressing their views, is also not allowed to write said views into law. It is up to the people to decide.

The final argument that has been made regards voters’ rights. Our process is in place for a reason. The biggest gripe is that the voters decided to enact this legislation, and by overturning it, Judge Walker is supposedly engaging in judicial activism. Not so. As long as he can truthfully argue his decision and prove that it has sound basis in law, including the Constitution, he isn’t writing the law – he is interpreting it, which is his job. Yes, the voters can enact any law they wish to enact. On the same token, another group can challenge the Constitutionality of that law. Our system does not begin and end with the popular vote. If it did, segregation might still be in place today. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law, 12 Democrats and one Republican filibustered to stop its passage. They nearly managed to stop the bill dead in its tracks. Until the Supreme Court of the United States rules one way or another, the fate of marriage rights in this country will remain in a semblance of limbo.

I posted Robert Byrd’s comments at the beginning of this post for a reason. Byrd was a Democrat. He opposed the Civil Rights Act, managing to block it at least once before it finally passed. Despite those comments, made in 1996 in support of the Defense of Marriage Act (signed into law by Bill Clinton and defended by Barack Obama), our GLBT counterparts call us traitors for being politically conservative. They tell us we’re deviants for not all being registered Democrats. What has the current uber-majority of Democrats done for us? Nothing, so far.

Here’s something I bet you didn’t know about Walker. He was already openly gay when President Ronald Reagan first nominated him for the federal bench in 1986. Citing his representation of the US Olympic Committee against the Gay Olympics (a case where the USOC sued to stop the group from calling their event Olympic), Nancy Pelosi led the Democratic charge to block his appointment. It was George H.W. Bush who succeeded in appointing him to the bench he now holds. Fellow gay conservative Drew Sweetwater pointed out a few more facts. It was a Republican from Florida who first introduced legislation that would repeal DADT, Ileans Ros-Letinen; Democrats refused to allow her bill to move to a vote. Republican Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice appointed an openly gay man as the country’s AIDS czar. President George W. Bush approved the highest funding in history for AIDS research. Sarah Palin’s first veto as the governor of Alaska was amazing: the Alaskan people voted to end benefits for the same-sex partners of state employees. Palin vetoed the bill.

I fail to see how Republicans have been the ones fighting against our equality in society.

In the end, the government must do one of two things in order to be in line with the true meaning of the First Amendment. They either need to make marriage legal for any couple comprised of two consenting adults, or they need to get out of marriage altogether, leave it to the church to define, and issue civil unions for all couples, whether gay or straight.