Friday, February 26, 2016

Just too weird to be true?





I’ve seen a lot of crazy and odd things in my life, but last Tuesday pretty much took the top spot.  It all started when I saw a frumpy-looking lady walking a pair of bizarre critters at Jenkins Park. There was no sign of David Berkowitz and my first thought was this couldn’t be real.  I’m pretty good at identifying the various breeds, but this pair of canis lupus had me at a total loss – not to mention the woman herself looked, well, like she was from another country or something. Come to find out, this casual meeting turned out to be something straight out of Bizarro magazine.

Her name is Nannie Goss and she’s a dog breeder, but that is kind of a stretch in itself. She’s been in Baytown for about 6 months and moved here from upstate New York “for reasons I won’t disclose”.  I’d call her a “creature” breeder, but I am not an expert in animal husbandry and the word creature was chosen very carefully here.

The first little guy looked like a cross between a Pomeranian and a raccoon and it even put its little hands in mine when I tried to pet it. I watched her give it a fish treat after I came up empty.  It made the cutest little noises which were a mix of gurgling and barking and its little bandit mask really set it apart from other animals. When I inquired, she said it was just one of many mixes she has at her kennel and is a Pomerroon.

Now I want to go on record and say I am an animal lover and I hate to see any animal muzzled, but this other “thing” scared the bejeebers out of me and my bride, who upon seeing it nearly fainted from fright. I have a friend who owns two Great Danes and they’re about 150 pounds each, but this animal weighed probably closer to 400 pounds, if it weighed an ounce.

“Whoa Killer, whoa!” she loudly blared as the beast reared up on its two powerful hind legs and growled at us.  Its weighty coat resembled a cheap filthy brown heavy rug and the beast was so profoundly matted, it’s a wonder it could walk. My first impression was the animal was angry – if that is possible.  Both me and my bride took a few steps backwards on the crushed granite trail and I have to tell you, my hand slid downwards toward my legal firearm for a brief second. 

To be honest, I’m not sure a few .45 caliber rounds would suffice in this case.  Its muzzle was made of leather and barbed wire and she jerked back on it and the beast yelped. “He’s really not a bad doggie. He just gets excited when he’s ravenous,” she said and my trembling bride buried her nose between my shoulder blades as I stood my ground wanting and needing the facts for this column.

I do not curse, but what came out of my mouth was something like, “What &*^%$ of an &^%$#@* is that?” She threw her head back and cackled and then calmly explained that “Killer” was a cross between a rare breed of brown Pyrenees found only in one sector of the Czech Republic and a Manchurian Yak calf…dog. “It’s the only one in the world and I have local orders for ten of them as soon as I can find a suitable female to breed to it.”

“People will buy those?” I asked somewhat incredulously, leaving out the words “repulsive beasts”, as my bride trembled behind me.

“Oh yes indeed, kind sir. A doggie like this will go for thousands of koruna, er, uh, I mean dollars.” Her use of the word “koruna” awoke me to the fact that she is from one of the broken Soviet countries and that explained her peculiar heavy brogan shoes, thick gray nylons, and filthy babushka. About this time, the monstrous beast spied a cat across Cary Bayou and struggle as she did, but it broke away and drug her about 160 feet before she dug in those brogans and brought it to a halt with a loud exclamation. I’ll be honest when I say that I didn’t understand the words, but that was probably some serious cussing right there.

I must admit it was a magnificent cross-fit display of brute strength and I made a mental note to call Scott Johnson later and have them back-fill the trench she dug with her heels. The whole time this was going on, the calm little Pomerroon sat beside us and simply gurgled and was as happy as a possum eating persimmon seeds.  I even petted the little fellar, as did my traumatized bride. 

I guess the woman is no stranger to getting down and dirty and she came back grinning and spitting out dirt and debris like it was no big deal. “I better get Killer home and feed him before he gets violent,” she said and my bride and I watched her walk back to the parking lot and neither of us had a word to say as she loaded them into her beat-up old van.

Once again I wondered if David Berkowitz has seen this woman and chronicled her on his Facebook page.  I guess I’ll have to wait and see, but if she has that thing out there again, I’ll know better than to walk a cat.
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Friday, February 19, 2016

Telemarketers, scammers, and politicians



What do these three have in common? Hang, on. I’ll give you the answer. They make invasive and unwanted phone calls to my house and do it with apparent impunity. The Do Not Call list doesn’t work on the first two and on the third, they voted to exempt themselves from this list because they make the laws. The first two are potentially disastrous to my well being and bank account and the third is just a nuisance.

The phone rings and the caller ID shows it’s some place in Florida. 

Me: “Hello?”
Them: “Hi!  This is Keith Dougherty and I’m calling on behalf of the Policeman’s blah, blah blah.
Me:  “Hey Keith, how’s the wife?”
Them: The Policeman’s blah, blah, blah…”
Me:  So, how’s the wife Keith?  Better?”
Click.

These danged phone calls are every day, sometimes multiple times, but not always someone posing as the Baytown Chief of police. Last week my phone rang and it was me, calling me with the same number I used to answer. That was confusing at first, but humorous when I asked the guy if I could speak to me. Of course he hung up.

You experience this also because you have a landline. However, it is getting more common to have a call in this category come in on a cell phone also. Anyway, it’s only a matter of time and cell phones will be bombarded just like the landlines. I’m sorry to break this bad news. The electronic parasites find it easier to try to scam the unwary populace than go out and get an honest job. They are criminals plain and simple.

Often this is an organized effort with rows and rows of people dressed like they are on spring break, calling number after number and reading from a script. For every fifty people they call, they get a stipend, but if they are successful in getting into your bank account, they hit the jackpot. They win and you lose and lose and lose. When in doubt don’t answer or hang up.

I witnessed one of these establishments right here in Baytown 3 years ago. I was called to get virus’ off their many machines, which were operating independently of each other – as opposed to a network. When the telemarketers weren’t making calls, they were surfing the Internet and playing online games and this is how there happened to be a massive amount of infection.

I thought it was a legitimate business, until I looked at their website. They were supposedly providing Internet services, but were actually a front for about 50 avenues who did who knows what. The website showed rows of professional workers in suits and a beautiful building, but what I witnessed looked like they rounded up their help from a street corner each day. They were no more professional than the labor pool behind what most back street parking lot offers.

I walked away from it disgusted and I’m still repulsed over the idea of scamming people out of their hard earned money.  And like the singer said, “That’s why I wrote this song”.

I often get a friends request on Facebook and it’s a pretty girl (often exotic looking, for extra bait).  The first thing I notice is she has no friends.  Everyone has friends, right, so why does she want it to be me for her first friend?  When this happens DO NOT ACCEPT THE FRIEND REQUEST! If you do, they can grab your photos and friends list, plus your information and imitate YOU.

You can however chat with them through a personal message and I do because I like to have fun.

Them:  Hello!
Me:  High as a kite!
Them: How are you today?
Me:  Not so good.  I had both arms amputated and can’t type except with a straw using my teeth.
Them: That’s nice. Hey! Have you heard the government is giving everyone a hundred thousand dollars simply for filling out a form? I got mine today.
Me: Is that all you got? I got 2 million Kranvacecs and I’m trying to convert them into pesos.
At this time they close the dialogue and I smile, knowing I’ve wasted their time and had a good laugh. Then I paste it on Facebook for extra goodness.

I work and worked for every penny I’ve ever taken home and really resent anyone trying to gyp me, rip me, con me, are forcibly take it away. To give back, I repair peoples PC’s and laptops for little or nothing. I think I have repaired and given away 45 computers and to me this is the way things should be done, not ripping others off for my own gain.

One more item concerning online shenanigans is “Microsoft” offering to repair your computer by you giving them permission to get inside it via the Internet.  STOP!  Microsoft doesn’t give a hoot about your computer once it’s infected. When you get one of these online warnings of infection, stop what you are doing and seek real professional help, not some service on the Internet. Often a local tech can simply tell you to reboot and run your anti-virus software and you are good. If it comes back, then take it to a shop (or call me: PC Repair Done Dirt Cheap on Facebook).

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Monday, February 15, 2016

Substance Abuse Within the Military

This is a contributed article by Helen Young:

 Military troops and veterans are generally regarded to be some of the most disciplined and 'strong' members of our society. So it may come as a surprise to learn that they are just as susceptible, if not more, to substance abuse and addiction as other civilians. Research indicates that tobacco, alcohol and prescription drug abuse are on the rise within the US military forces and factors such as the stressful nature of their job, military culture and trouble integrating back into society following a period of deployment (along with the possibility of PTSD) are thought to be some of the reasons behind these surprising statistics. 

We are all guilty of making judgmental assumptions when it comes to those who are 'most likely' engage in substance abuse, but there are actually several unlikely sections of society that are suffering. Military troops and veterans fall into this category. Here are some of the reasons behind this invisible abuse.

Alcohol culture

People in the military may abuse alcohol for the same reasons that civilians do – because they want to unwind, relax and forget about their problems. It is estimated that 47% - almost half – of servicemen and women binge drink on a monthly basis. This figure is similar to that of college students - perhaps a less surprising section of society to engage in alcohol abuse. Along with drinking as a stress reliever, there is also a certain culture within the military in which servicemen may ritualistically get together over a few drinks to socialize and bond. Indeed, research states that historically alcohol was used as a form of 'man management' to encourage and allow men to let loose and relive stress. But when this stops being an occasional, enjoyable pastime and starts to become a dependency it can have real consequences. Being drunk or hungover can majority impact cognitive function, reducing readiness and making you less equipped to fulfill your duties properly. In the military this can have life endangering consequences for both you and your colleagues.

Tobacco

Like alcohol, tobacco is legal but in vast quantities can be detrimental to the health. It might not present the same sort of immediate performance issues as drinking or drug abuse but over time it can have a serious impact on overall health. Similarly to alcohol, tobacco use tends to begin after joining the military with one study indicating that 30% of smokers within the military began after joining. Again, this could be seen as a coping mechanism or way of fitting in with peers.

Drug dependency

The military issues a strict zero tolerance policy in regards to illicit drugs so rates of this sort of substance abuse are generally quite low. However, it still remains one of the top reasons for military discharge in the United States. Prescription drug abuse, however, is another matter. One study placed the rates of prescription drug use within the military at 11.7% which is two and a half times higher than prescription drug use in civilians. When servicemen are required to monitor and regulate their own intake of anti-depressant medication, opiate painkillers and other prescription drugs it can lead to unintentional misuse and later, addiction. This can have a very detrimental effect on both their personal and professional lives, especially when faced with the possibility of running out of their medication and being forced to go cold turkey.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Integration Issues

During or after a stint in the military, especially after being involved in combat or working within a warzone, many servicemen experience after effects from the traumatic things they have witnessed or been involved in. Many servicemen returning from combat are though to suffer from substance abuse and PTSD with studies revealing a clear link between the two. Once home, integrating back into normal life following a deployment can also be a tough adjustment. Returning servicemen may feel isolated, bored or unable to simply slot back in to their previous life. In this situation they may turn to substance abuse in an attempt to dull the pain and mask their emotions. They miss the support and camaraderie of their fellow troops and feel disconnected from those around them, even if they have a tight knit and loving family and friendship circle. This is why therapy and treatment are so essential to those suffering from mental illness or trauma following (or during) their time in the military.
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Friday, February 12, 2016

Sounding Brass or a Tinkling Cymbal




If you are sick of big politics on both sides of our government, pay attention to this next fact concerning both parties. They do NOT want to back someone they can't control. If the Party itself is pushing one candidate over another it is because they think they can continue business as usual when their candidate is in office.

American voters should take a hard look at their favorite candidate's voting record before jumping on the band wagon. In the case of Donald Trump who has no voting record, the very fact that both parties are SCARED TO DEATH he will get elected tells me he is going to rip apart politics as we know them. They know this and will do anything they can to make him lose or drop out. Some believe Ted Cruz is also a threat, but I’m not so sure. 

If either party can successfully gain the seat with the candidate of their choice, then it really doesn't matter who is elected. It will be the same old same old all over again.

In order to get elected, Obama blamed Bush for everything (and still does occasionally) and vowed to change all of it. Well, did he? Not really. Guantanamo is still open. In fact, last November he signed a bill making it almost impossible to close. We are just as involved in the mess in the Middle East as we were under Bush. “I will end the war in Afghanistan is 2014.” Last October he once again delayed our exit from the war there.

This is a few examples of what they say they will do is not necessarily what they will do. I understand that some legislation has to be compromised and that situations develop that require a change of strategy and this may be the reason he couldn’t follow through with his campaign promises. However, he did promise to do these deeds and that helped him get elected. Chances are his advisers told him in advance that he wouldn’t have the support to follow through, but hey! It got him elected, didn’t it?

Big politics is a big power trip and these law makers are masters at smoke screens. I am no expert on American politics, but I’m not stupid and I read and re-read the news like a fiend. What I see is business as usual no matter which party is in office. The Clinton’s claimed they left the White House on the verge of bankruptcy, but in the 18 months leading up to her presidential bid; she earned over 21 million dollars simply for flapping her jowls to… rich people.

"In the 18 months before launching her second presidential bid, Clinton gave nearly 100 paid speeches at banks, trade associations, charitable groups and private corporations. The appearances netted her $21.7 million — and voters very little information about what she was telling top corporations as she prepared for her 2016 campaign." NY Times

According to CNN, $153 million in Bill and Hillary Clinton speaking fees were paid to the money-strapped couple, yet supposedly they are the voice of the poor. In reality, they are akin to the civil rights activists that leech off the very people they claim to represent.

This is a person who supposedly represents the little man, but has in fact peddled her wares to the rich. The reason for this is she is indeed very rich and wants to keep every single penny she gets – just like those fat cats in the Republican Party and me, the simple man. The only difference in these two parties is what they say they are going to do to get elected, so they can do the same old song and dance once in office and tax me to pay for it.

And we lemmings line up at the polls and punch little chads or buttons, or some such thingy and walk away thinking our vote is going to change things. To prove my point that they are all stinkers and in it together, let’s take a look at Hillary. She has committed so many felonious acts concerning top secret communications that she should be jerked off the street, cuffed, and slammed into Lompoc’s luxurious Federal Correction Institution… yesterday.

How this is continuing to be ignored by the professional politicians makes them complicit in my view. David Petraeus couldn’t get away with one iota of her crimes and it ruined his amazing career. He had one affair with a woman who was a West Point graduate and a world expert in terrorism and shared a bit of classified info with her and was all but tarred and feathered for it. Hillary’s husband had a secret adulterous affair in the Oval office as President and finished out his time and is a much sought after public figure.

Hillary expunged massive amounts of correspondence before handing over her servers, even though she was court ordered to hand them over immediately. Pallet loads of printed email are being brought forward to prove she exposed our country’s security to our enemies, and yet she is still free AND running for commander in chief? Seriously?

I think the woman could admit to eating baby seals or kittens for breakfast and people would ignore it and giddily sing her praises.  How can this happen in our country and it still be okay, let alone allow her to run as the top executive? The reason is all of these politicians are in it together. All they are worried about is their share of the prize. They stand up there and wave their bony arms and make promises, but in the end, it’s simply smoke screen politics as usual. 

Fairly early on in this race, Donald Trump was asked what he would do if he was actually elected and please pay attention to his response. I heard him say it, but it vanished just as quickly from the press. “I will surround myself with the brightest and sharpest people and listen to them.” What? You won’t surround yourself with your cronies and award them for their support? What a novel approach! Has anyone ever done this before? That’s not politics! You are right. It’s not. Its smart business and its time this country was ran like a business, instead of a network of carpet-bagging back-slappers.
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Friday, February 05, 2016

Straight Outta Trashcan



“In 1988, a groundbreaking new group revolutionizes music and pop culture, changing and influencing hip-hop forever. N.W.A's first studio album, "Straight Outta Compton," stirs controversy with its brutally honest depiction of life in Southern Los Angeles.” Wikipedia

I have 18 books in my library on black history which I have read. I probably know more about black history than the people who made the movie “Straight Outta Compton” and I have lived there also. As an 8 year old kid I used to walk down Long Beach Boulevard into Compton and we would buy tacos there. My usual approach to becoming acquainted with a subject is to immerse myself in it until I have a good grasp and this is how my journey into the slave trade began maybe 20 years ago.

Many of the books I own or have read were written by black scholars and depict the truth about the slave trade and the ransacking of Africa by… Africans. It’s not a pleasing picture and it is far easier to simply believe that non-black people raped the country instead of the truth – it was a joint effort. Like the X-file heading, the truth is out there.  We just have to go find it.

Ice Cube (in both photos) wrote the filthiest raunchiest lyrics for N.W.A.
So in search of the facts, I watched the gritty movie, “Straight Outta Compton” and I did find it fascinating. It depicts the struggle of a number of currently popular millionaires who hobnob with the Commander in Chief at White house galas, do commercials for major brands, make kids/family movies, and are quoted by church going folk. They host award shows and everyone there wants to be associated with them and giggle when they talk.

Straight Outta Compton’s group was N.W.A., and in a silly twist of the rules, I can’t spell out in this column what that acronym stands for. Talk about a travesty; that’s one for the books. In fact, I, being a white person could not repeat a large portion of the movie’s dialogue or I would be labeled as racist. All through the movie, the main characters are portrayed as being victims and this message is pushed to the nth degree from front to back.

Today, they are hailed as heroes for breaking down the language barrier in music. Wow, what a legacy. It’s not just the f-word that is now allowed, it is the rankest, raunchiest, filthiest, and violent-laden lyrics that they have propelled into modern mainstream music. Let’s back up to 1967 and The Doors appearing on the vaunted Ed Sullivan Show.
The Ed Sullivan Show was the grandest accomplishment a music group could attain.  After all, 3 years prior, the Beatles were introduced to America on this really big show. A few minutes before the doors were to sing their smash hit, “Light my fire,” they were informed that they had to change the lyrics from, “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher,” to “Girl, we couldn’t get much better.”

The leader of the band, Jim Morrison refused to compromise and the band was banned from the show. This normally would kill the band, but The Doors were just too big and the only thing that stopped them was Morrison’s self-destructive drug and alcohol usage. Straight Outta Compton portrays the victorious struggle of Ice Cube, Easy-E, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, and MC Ren for the most part, but you get to see Snoop Dogg, and Tupac on occasion. Just like most successful rock and roll groups, fame brings lots of drugs, parties, hookers, and strife and I understand how that works and this didn’t affect me as a negative per say. What I mean, is that is pretty common and has nothing to do with the bent of this column. There was also some infighting and I suspect that was fairly accurate.

What I do draw exception to is the line of dialogue early on in the movie where Easy-E, a rich drug dealer, is brought into backing his peeps by using the logic that there is no difference in selling dope, than selling music. This is a monstrous message to young people. It effectively blurs the lines between right and wrong. Do this? You get rich. Do that? You get rich. There is no difference.

There’s a gigantic difference; simply gigantic. The message of this movie is blurry, but some of it advocates getting the lion’s share by hook or crook. You can do whatever you want as long as you succeed and you will get rich. It is another bizarre twist that these thug rappers, who openly advocated doing violence to the police are now respectable citizens who people appear to adore.

Dr. Dre sells uber-expensive headphones and every gym has fifty people inside wearing them.  He’s worth about 550 million bucks.  Ice Cube is not doing too shabby at 140 million, and poor DJ Yella and MC Ren only have a measly 1 million dollars each. They don’t have headphone and movie deals – poor guys. Easy-E, the Godfather of Gangsta Rap died of A.I.D.S. in 1995.

Hey!  I might have this all wrong. They may have actually done a good thing by tearing down the censorship barrier of music and this may be an Oscar worthy movie, but you’ll have to watch it and make that call for yourself, won’t you?
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We don't know our left from our right.

I got my first real lesson on what being out of step means when I in was in Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, in ...