Wondering Whatever Happened To…For November 3

Wondering whatever happened to California Congressman Gary Condit while pondering…

What If There Wasn’t Any Grits? – Pointing out the ignorance of some when it comes to the issue of the Confederate Battle Flag, a Tupelo, MS man is in jail facing a potential life sentence for using an explosive device against the retail outlet Walmart.

According to reports from local papers, Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre said that 61-year old Marshall Leonard threatened the megastore a few days ago when he wrote on the local paper’s Facebook page, “Journal corporate, you are on final warning. You are part of the problem. As a result of this, y’all (sic) are going down, along with Walmart, WTVA (a local television station), Reed’s department store and all the rest of the anti-American crooks. I’m not kidding. No messing around anymore!”

While some might have thought this to be the ravings of a lunatic, this was a lunatic who decided to take action. On Sunday morning at about 1:30AM, Leonard allegedly drove his car to the local Walmart in question, lit a package on fire and threw it in the entryway of the store. An employee standing nearby was told by Leonard, “You better run,” and, as the employee did, a small explosion went off that didn’t cause much damage to the store.

So what was Leonard’s problem with Walmart? The factor that the superstore had quit selling the Confederate Battle Flag. Leonard is an outspoken opponent of current legislation, Initiative 55, which would remove the Battle Flag from the current Mississippi state flag permanently. Leonard doesn’t believe the flag to have any racial or slavery overtones (despite the statement in the documents of secession by the state of Mississippi in 1861 stating, “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world.”) and has been tossed out of a city council hearing on the subject (while draped in a Battle Flag).

The police didn’t have to investigate too deep to find Leonard either. Leonard’s vehicle, with a flagpole sticking through the roof that displays the Battle Flag while he drives, ran a red light at 2AM after allegedly tossing the explosive device into the Walmart. Police stopped Leonard and, as their radios crackled with news of the bombing, Chief Aguirre said, “We quickly figured out we needed to hang on to this suspect.”

Why Should I Be Educated If I’m In Heaven? – In another entry into the idiocy of the South, parents of nine Texas children are suing the state over their home-schooling techniques. Texas laws are quite permissive regarding what home-schooled students have to learn and one family, the McIntyre family of El Paso, TX, decided they didn’t need to have a curriculum, any oversight from local officials and didn’t have to take any of the tests that children in public and private schools had to take. Why? Why waste time on education when the Second Coming is upon us.

The situation came to light after the 17-year old daughter of the family ran away from home and, upon being placed in the foster system and in a real school, couldn’t keep up with her peers (seniors). She was placed in a ninth-grade class and was even struggling to keep up at that pace. Further investigation by authorities through other family members found that not only was there any “home schooling” going on, but the parents were flaunting the results.

According to Tracy McIntyre, the twin brother of Michael, the other children were “never reading, working on math problems, using computers or doing much of anything educational.” The reason that Tracy gave for this was Michael telling him that the children’s learning was unnecessary because “they were going to be raptured.”

The El Paso school district began to investigate further, at which time the McIntyre’s sued them for “oppressing their right to not educate their children.” In a deeply Republican state, the family called the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court “anti-Christian” and claimed that the oversight by the El Paso school system is “a startling assertion of sweeping governmental power.” While these claims may sound as ludicrous as they look, there is a chance that they might have some effect; the current head of the Texas Board of Education is a Christian homeschooler and Governor Greg Abbott is staunchly behind the homeschooling system, which in many conservative homeschooling cases lacks any knowledge of sciences, technology or mathematics and instead delves into Bible-based explanations of subjects.

But The Slurpee Machine Is Always Spotless! – We already know that there is a great deal of waste in the U. S. government and, in particular, in military spending. But a $43 million gas station?

In a recent report from John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the building of a compressed natural gas station cost an alleged $43 million, including $30 million in overhead costs (operational expenses) in a country where few vehicles exist and those that do don’t run on natural gas. Not only was this station highly expensive (a similar station in Pakistan was built for $500,000), but there was no examinations of whether building the station was feasible or not ever performed or ever deemed necessary.

“One of the most troubling aspects of this project is that the Department of Defense claims that it is unable to provide an explanation for the high cost of the project or to answer any other questions concerning its planning, implementation or outcome,” Sopko stated to the Washington Post. The reason? The department that was in charge of building the station, the Task Force for Stability and Business Operations (with an $800 million budget), was closed six months ago and the Pentagon has no comment on its activities.

Simple investigation by Sopko questioned the legitimacy of building the station. With a non-viable market for natural gas vehicles, Afghanis would have to convert their vehicles to the fuel. The cost of such a conversion is around $700. The problem there is that the average Afghani wages for a year are $690.

Sopko says he will continue to investigate the situation but, without cooperation from the Pentagon, it is unlikely he will find any reasons for the wasteful spending.

The Inmates Running the Asylum, Part 420 – The candidates for President on the Republican Party ticket have been loudly complaining about how the three debates they have taken part in (especially the last one on cable station CNBC) have been conducted, despite the first debate being conducted on their home ground of Fox News and a second debate on CNN considered fairly decent. Now, instead of allowing for a central group to set the standards for debates – say, perhaps, their own Republican National Committee – the candidates want to set the rules that future debates will be held under until the party’s convention next summer.

GOP candidates have floated such ideas as keeping the room at 67 degrees, splitting the 14 remaining candidates into two randomly picked groups of seven and asking them the same questions and setting strict time limits on the proceedings. It is expected that some of the candidates have already coalesced behind some framework of demands for the forthcoming debates (probably those after their November 10 scheduled debate), but one candidate thinks he can get more through his negotiations (take a wild guess).

Representatives for billionaire Donald Trump, who has seen his numbers of late slide as Dr. Ben Carson has slowly gained traction, are currently refusing to sign any letter of demands alongside the other candidates, believing that through his own force of will he can get more. According to the New York Times, however, Trump is actually hurting the cause because the candidates only have power if they are united. If they are fragmented or are asking for far too much from debate organizers, then the possibility of the networks, the RNC or even the candidates canceling a debate comes into play.

First they couldn’t find a Speaker for the House of Representatives, now they can’t determine a debate format – it truly is the inmates running the asylum.

Now to answer the question…what happened to California Congressman Gary Condit?

Through the 1990s, Gary Condit was a rising star in the Democratic Party. A congressman from California, Condit looked the part of the perfect representative from the Golden State, with a pearly smile and ambitions of even bigger things in his future. The discovery that he was having an affair in 2001 with an intern by the name of Chandra Levy effectively derailed his burgeoning political career.

The discovery of the affair only came about after Levy disappeared in May 2001 and Condit, who vehemently accused then-President Bill Clinton of illicit activities with intern Monica Lewinsky in the 1990s, for some time was considered a suspect in her disappearance (in 2010, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador was convicted in Levy’s disappearance and murder). It was enough to derail his career; in 2002, Condit was defeated for reelection in the 18th District in California and, instead of going back home, moved to Arizona.

In Arizona, Condit opened up an ice cream store franchise that failed and in which he is currently embroiled in litigation over. His son, Chad, is attempting to follow in his father’s footsteps (hopefully not literally) in running for Congress in California’s 10th District. Condit, at 67, has called it a career in politics, now serving as the president of the Phoenix Institute of Desert Agriculture, a non-profit group created in 2011 with offices strangely located in San Diego, CA, that doesn’t list any responsible owners or operators.

When All Else Fails, Attack the Messenger: Thoughts on the Third GOP Debate

After I took a week off last week, the third debate for the Republican Party snuck up on me. That week spent away from a computer left me with little debate preparation that would have given me some insight into what might be the major themes of Wednesday night’s soiree in Colorado, but that sometimes isn’t a bad thing. The ability to go in fresh sometimes will allow you to view things in a different light and present some new insights that you might not have previously considered. Unfortunately, the overall performance of the GOP in last night’s debate – and at the same time the presenter of the debate, the cable network CNBC – left me feeling nothing.

I should have known from the start of the debate that it was going to be a massive train wreck (and an apology to comedian Amy Schumer for using the title of her movie in that manner). Lead moderator Carl Quintanilla, a respected investigative reporter who has traversed the world (and an alumni of where the debate was held, the University of Colorado at Boulder, for trivia’s sake), opened the proceedings with one of those “eye roll” questions that occur far too often. Likening the debates to a “job interview,” Quintanilla asked the GOP candidates what was their biggest weakness (one of those bullshit psychological questions that come up sometimes in employment interviews). After getting several milquetoast responses from pretty much the entirety of the ten-person stage, the debate careened off the tracks.

At no point in the debate did it seem that Quintanilla had any control over what was going on in the event. Quintanilla allowed the candidates – ALL of them, not just a couple – to run roughshod over his direction of the event. I lost count of the number of times that there was little to no response to a question from the candidates and he often let the candidates interject at times when, according to the rules of the debate, they didn’t have a horse in the race (Carly Fiorina was particularly irritating in this account). His co-moderators – fellow CNBC journalists Becky Quick and John Harwood – weren’t much better with their questions and also were ridden like Grand Canyon mules over the span of the debate.

There was also no reason to have more than these three people asking questions of the candidates. I could have done without watching snake oil salesman Jim Cramer pushing his mug across the screen – even if it only was a couple of questions – and Sharon Epperson’s appearance wasn’t necessary either. In fact, if Cramer and Epperson’s raison d’etre was to give some more prep time to the triumvirate of Quintanilla, Quick and Harwood (who all seemed very unprepared for the event), they failed miserably.

With this said, there was no reason for the reaction from the GOP candidates to some legitimate questions that came up during the debate on Wednesday. It was a case of those under questioning shooting the messenger rather than answering the questions – regardless of their difficulty – presented to them.

One of the most popular methods of anyone under fire – whether they are in politics, entertainment or even the media itself – is to attack the person who is presenting the challenge to them. This is well-known in the debate world as an ad hominem attack and is recognized as a logical fallacy that allows for those under fire to sometimes escape the flames by turning the attack back on the questioner (the “messenger”). It is a tactic that has been well practiced by those in the GOP, railing against the “mainstream media” while at the same time avoiding queries about questions surrounding their past and/or their policies.

Give it to the men and Fiorina on the stage, they were quick learners during the debate last night. After the crowd expressed their displeasure with a line of questioning put towards former Governor Mike Huckabee about Donald Trump’s “moral purity” (a completely correct displeasure, by the way), the others seemed to grasp onto the “red meat” of attacking the media for the line of questioning would give them the desired response from the Republicans in attendance.

Dr. Ben Carson grasped onto that tactic next when questioned over his involvement with a nutritional supplement company called Mannatech. After stating that he had no connection with the company, Carson was challenged by Quintanilla regarding the usage of his image on their website, among other things. After Carson shot a shit-eating grin over his face following the umbrage of the audience to Quintanilla’s questions, he deftly was able to avoid the question.

The problem? The line of questioning was a viable one. The company in question, Mannatech, and Carson have had a relationship for the past decade. Carson shot many videos promoting the company and gave several paid speeches. The company has previously been sued by the state of Texas, resulting in a settlement with then-Attorney General (and current Governor) Greg Abbott for $5 million and the banishment of founder Samuel Caster from having any job with the company. The company has also settled a lawsuit with the Securities and Exchange Commission and still faces issues regarding the claims of cures their “dietary supplements” provide.

A similar situation arose in what many recognized as a “big” moment during the night’s debate. Senator Ted Cruz fed the lions of the right by rattling off the list of “insulting questions” asked by the CNBC panel. “This is not a cage match,” Cruz began (and you got the feeling this is one of those prepped answers he had been waiting to use). “Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen? How about talking about the substantive issues?”

The problem was is that Cruz’s attack on the moderators was in response to, once again, legitimate questions from the panel. The Trump question was why his policies – including deporting 11 million people, building a nearly 2000 mile long wall along our border with Mexico and forcing them to pay for it and his handling of Russia and the Middle East – “sound like a comic book version of a presidential campaign?” Needless to say, Trump did not answer the question, instead replying to the Mexico situation by saying, “A politician cannot get them to pay…I can,” a non-answer if there is one.

Carson’s question was on how his flat tax plan – similar to that of tithing to a church (someone has to remind the GOP there is a SEPARATION between church and state) – wouldn’t leave the U. S. with a huge budget deficit. Instead of pointing out what cuts would be made or other tactics necessary, Carson instead responded by saying, “That’s not true,” and never answered the question.

Cruz himself dodged a legitimate question. When asked about why he opposed the recent deal in the U. S. Congress that would set the U. S. budget for the next two years, Cruz instead railed about how the moderators wouldn’t ask anything substantive and didn’t actually get around to answering the question presented to him.

And let’s not even get into Trump’s convoluted stance regarding guns…

When you have no defense for the positions you’ve taken, when you have no knowledge beyond the bare-boned rhetoric that has been presented, the only other course of action is to attack the messenger. The GOP seems to have done that pretty well – and not without some truly atrocious questioning by the CNBC moderators to bring it on – in avoiding being held responsible for their proposals and actions.

With this situation taken care of, there were some takeaways from last night’s debate. The one thing I consistently kept wondering about was what the candidates meant when they complained about how government doesn’t do anything. My knowledge of history looks at things like FDR’s “New Deal,” which helped to get the U. S. out of the Great Depression (along with World War II), how government investment in medical research found cures for major diseases such as polio and smallpox, investment in education (especially college educations) has allowed for the baby boomers to be the most educated generation in history and investment in sciences that led to NASA and our exploration of space (and this is just a small sampling). Instead of consistently railing about the “evils” of government, try to admit that sometimes things wouldn’t get done unless there was government intervention.

Secondly, I saw a bunch of candidates complain about Washington seven ways to Sunday as if it were a bastard stepchild. The takeaway I had with was “Why do any of these people want to do something that A) they aren’t going to invest in (in reply to my above thoughts) and B) they despise to the point that they do?” Out-and-out hatred of an institution isn’t exactly going to be something that makes those there welcome you to the table and it isn’t going to inspire confidence in how you will “change” it. Instead of “making America great again” (which is about as asinine a statement there is; our country is already great and it hasn’t gone anywhere except for those nimrods who see boogeymen around every corner), how about we “improve on the United States we have?”

As to the candidates, it was Rubio’s best debate to date and sets himself up well for a future run (perhaps 2020) for the nomination (I don’t see him getting it this year really, but it wouldn’t be a surprise). Chris Christie found his groove (too little, too late) and Kasich was pretty good about presenting a moderate Republican stance. I don’t like to say someone was a “loser” in the debate, but the “Fat Lady” is warming up in the wings for Bush. Rubio flicked aside Bush’s attack on his Senatorial attendance and voting record without breaking a sweat and Bush spent the remainder of the night awkwardly trying to regain his footing.

There’s less than two weeks to the next GOP debate (November 10), so some of the things I’d like to see done won’t come true. I’d like to see the “kiddie table” debate dropped (hey, if you haven’t dug yourself over the 2% mark by this point, you don’t have any viability in the race) and perhaps see a couple of those candidates that were on the “main stage” step aside. Perhaps a little contraction in the GOP race – say eight candidates instead of 14 – would allow some people to truly put their support behind someone with a realistic shot at winning the nomination. It won’t stop, however, the “red meat” rhetoric out of the GOP regarding their “persecution” by the “mainstream media.”

Jade Helm 15 a Conspiracy Theory With No Basis in Fact

When Hollywood puts together a movie or television show, the better ones always have some basis in fact or reality. No matter the genre – horror, suspense, action, romcom, etc. – the closer to reality it is, the more impact it has on the viewing audience. In many cases, it is because it MIGHT have a chance of happening or it is factually feasible to someone or something that makes the thrills, scares or emotional investment viscerally important to people. The same thing can be said books; although some (alongside their acting brethren) do like to be removed to a fantasyland that allows the brain to take a pause, the more realistic a book is in the mind of the reader, the more of an impact it will have.

In many ways – possibly because they are works of fiction created by someone’s mind – the multitude of conspiracy theories that abound in today’s world fall into the same category that Hollywood’s best cinematic, theatric and episodic efforts reside in that they sometimes need just a flake of truth to them to be believable. Without the slimmest of possibilities that it could actually happen, conspiracy theories often die an ignoble death or, at best, find a life in the alternate history genre.

Before we dive into the latest example of the conspiracy theory concept, we have to look at why conspiracy theories abound. What is it about conspiracy theories that draw people in? Why do conspiracy theories continually pop up in society? What should be done if they’re false claims? These are all good questions and we’ll start at the beginning.

The thing about conspiracy theories that draw people in is the desire by humanity to understand their conditions for existence. For humans it is highly desirable to know that the sun comes up in the morning, sets in the evening and it will do the same thing tomorrow. It can be highly desirable to believe that good always vanquishes evil, right triumphs over wrong and all is copacetic with the world when they lay their head on the pillow at night. These desires, if not met, can cause otherwise normal people to concoct an alternate reality that fits into their desired existence.

For example, let’s take a look at one of the greatest conspiracy theories of all-time, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. People who saw the accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, couldn’t believe that such a “small” person could be responsible for taking down the most powerful leader on Earth. To help their minds cope with this, many dredged up scenarios that helped their minds to make sense of the situation:  the Cubans were involved because of the Bay of Pigs fiasco; the Chicago and Miami arms of La Cosa Nostra joined forces with the Central Intelligence Agency to do the deed; the Russians (for being shown up in the Cuban Missile Crisis)…the list goes on. For many, believing that these powerful and mysterious bodies killed the President of the United States made more sense than a single man who was allegedly an awful shooter picking off the President from the window of a building as he drove by in a limousine.

As the world draws closer together, it also becomes much more difficult to explain; this causes an increase in conspiracy theories in society. Whereas 30-40 years ago it would have been unheard of for some of the actions that, for example, the twenty 9/11 terrorists took – training for over two to three years and immersing yourself in a foreign culture for what would eventually be a suicide mission – today those jihadists have the spiritual, emotional and “obligation to duty” wherewithal to pull off these horrendous acts. It would be easier for some to force up a story that the attacks of 14 years ago were the work of a “shadow world government” or even our own political leadership (to push us closer to a military state and allow for those in power to take more of it) rather than to believe a group of people could even get close to the destruction that occurred on 9/11.

Recently one of those “conspiracy theories” came to a close and it gives us an opportunity to look at how we should handle those that promote them when they are proven to be untrue. On Tuesday, the military exercises known as Jade Helm 15 came to a close after eight weeks of operations across the Southwestern United States. Troops from every branch of the U. S. Armed Forces spread across several states, including Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Colorado (if I left you out, don’t feel bad), to train in terrain, temperatures and combat situations that they would be facing in the Middle East. This training is much like what U. S. Marines do with their amphibious landings off the coast of North Carolina or Virginia or the U. S. Navy or Air Force does with bombing runs or aerial combat in the deserts of Death Valley or Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

This time, however, a preconceived “conspiracy theory” was developed, by which jackass nobody knows. The “conspiracy theory” promoted by these brain-dead individuals was that the federal government, under the auspices of the Muslim king Barack Obama, was going to take over Texas and put it under government martial law. To achieve this goal, the training exercise “Jade Helm” was the cover to allow armed troops to move freely across the Southwest, picking up “true patriots” and putting them into “internment camps.” These “internment camps” were linked by underground tunnels between closed Wal-Mart stores, which the Walton Family (a dastardly part of the conspiracy due to their complicit involvement in the New World Order) had donated to the government for this exact purpose. Once martial law was in place, King Barack would “eliminate” any opposition through mass executions or reeducation programs.

Hopefully you were able to read through that mass of crazy…

The first inklings of this story worthy of Hollywood bubbled up in meetings of the County Commissioners of Bastrop, TX, where “concerned citizens” forced their way to the front of the meetings demanding answers from their elected officials. Were they a part of the conspiracy to enslave their constituents? Were they letting the feds “take over?” Even after bringing in a highly decorated Army officer to explain the situation, people still believed the “conspiracy theory” rather than the logical explanations provided by some in government and the military men who met with them.

The story took on a life of its own when other idiots began to pump it ad nauseam. In the media, conspiracy wacko Alan Jones was the major driver of the short bus, pushing the gruel of misinformation to the point where there was no tinfoil left in the H-E-B’s located around the Lone Star State. Then former actor Chuck Norris – yes, Walker, Texas Ranger himself – fanned the ignorance flames by saying that the exercises could be related to an attack by the Islamic terrorist group ISIS. Most special about Norris is that, to mainstream media, he tried to say he had been misquoted, but to other members of the Insanity Posse he repeated his beliefs.

While these two men made some extremely idiotic statements regarding the federal government and our U. S. troops and their exercises, they have to be cut a little slack. Both are preening celebrity members of society, not news correspondents, reporters or respected anchors that are expected to be held to a high standard (Brian Williams, anybody?). While both Jones and Norris have sizeable followings, they often have to carve up some red meat for them to nosh on to keep them around, listening and contributing millions to their bank accounts for bullshit “survival” items or trying to maintain their relevance that disappeared 25 years ago.

The problem comes when the adults in the room – the elected officials who run the governments – fail to meet their responsibilities. First on the list is now-Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who ordered the Texas Guard (not the Texas National Guard, a branch of the U. S. Armed Forces, but a special militia under the auspices of the Governor of the state) to “monitor the Jade Helm exercises.” Eventually outrage – including the statement “Why are you pandering to idiots?” uttered to his face – forced Abbott to reexamine his stance and the Texas Guard didn’t head out into the field.

Not one but THREE members of our current Presidential campaign also bought into the conspiracy. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry stated that Obama was going to allow IS terrorists into the U. S. during the exercises to allow for more upheaval, being sure to express that nothing like this would happen under “President” Perry’s watch (he dropped out last week, ending that dream for the second time in four years). Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Texas Senator Ted Cruz both opined on the subject, with Cruz saying he thought that the exercises weren’t nefarious but that the President wasn’t “trustworthy” and could pull something along the invasion line and Paul saying he “wasn’t sure” what was going on with the exercises. Finally, another member of Congress, current Texas Representative Louie Gomert, said the exercises were meant to be the vehicle for Obama to target “right wing conservatives” by declaring certain states “enemies” of his administration.

You can give hucksters and entertainers such as Jones and Norris leeway, but you cannot give sitting elected officials, members of Congress or people who wish to be the leader of this nation carte blanche to say whatever they want and inspire the imbecilic minds of some people to take action (there were three men arrested in North Carolina who were looking to stop the “Jade Helm” exercises by attacking a military base in the state and, in Mississippi, don’t forget about the disturbed man who drove by bases firing a rifle at them). At the minimum, these elected officials should be forced to apologize to the elected officials that they’ve slandered with their words. In particular, they need to apologize to those troops that they supposedly love so much that they thought they would take over their state. At the maximum – and I am looking at Abbott, Paul, Cruz and Gomert here – they should be officially sanctioned by their appropriate legislative bodies (but that isn’t going to happen because their party controls both houses). All should look in a fucking mirror and wonder how far that they’ve sunk that they would fall for what was an extremely easy “conspiracy theory” to decipher rather than fall into.

Part of intelligent dialogue – whether in debate or other discussion about particular subjects – is being able to sift the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. In this case, it means garnering the useful kernels of information (military exercises are necessary for a well-prepared armed forces, the government has to have some place to train, etc.) from the brainless meanderings of those that are the product of a lobotomy class. Once that is done, then a lucid conclusion can be reached. The “Jade Helm” exercises were a perfect example of a segment of society that has been left to run amok and, rather than use rational thought and reason to figure out what is happening, latch onto something that only serves to exacerbate their fears and not aid in any way reaching a logical conclusion.

Will the advent of “conspiracy theories” go away? Hell, no! There are those out there that see the boogeyman behind every tree, under every doorstep and in the halls of governments around the world. There is also no way to alleviate these unfortunate individuals pain, either; it just has to rot them from the inside until maintaining the many “conspiracy theories” leave them but a former shell of themselves rather than a functioning member of society.