Inhumane Humanity

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed. --Herman Melville

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

SEX IN DAVEY JONES' LOCKER: or IS MY SUSHI STILL ALIVE?

A full moon casts its pale blue light upon the surface of the water, painting a perfect self portrait on the near black surface of the water during slack tide in the harbor as I stare in contemplation, well perhaps even deeper thought than mere contemplation, more like deep meditation, so relaxing it’s almost painful to move when the time is right.  

The fish aren’t hungry, it’s one of those nights offering this fisherman hours of quiet introspection interrupted only by the occasional seagull squawking in the distance, even my fishing buddy is quiet; highly unusual for the bear-sized man with a booming voice. Even his nickname is fittingly “Bear.” The only activity I’ve seen tonight is reeling in the line to see if the ever-present, yet invisible thieves of the ocean have absconded with my bait, again. Reel it in, rebate the hook and drop it back into the water only to repeat several minutes later. Clever little shits, those denizens of the deep. I’ll not be convinced for a moment that the “lesser” creatures of this world have no reasoning power and I know of no other fisherman who will ever accept that theory either.
11:00 PM; still no activity. 

“Hey Bear! Watchya say we give it up for the night, finish off the beer and head home? The in-coming tide must’ve fed them too well tonight.”
“Yep, let’s crank’em up and give it up, we’ve got a big day on the boat Friday anyway. Maybe we’ll make up for it then.”

I begin hauling in my line, it feels heavier than an empty line, but the line is dead weight so it’s certainly not a fish, probably some seabed trash or kelp, hell probably both, it weighs maybe five pounds, it isn’t kelp alone, that’s for sure. I reel it towards me from our perch on the bridge twenty feet or so from the water’s surface. It’s taking a couple minutes to get the clump of “stuff” from the bottom of the channel to the bridge where I can cut the line and toss the kelp back into the water or the trash into the back of the pickup. A quick gulp to finish off the can of beer and I resume reeling in the line.

The end of the line has arrived, but it’s too dark to see any details of the mass hanging off the end, a pretty sizable blob of seaweed alright.

Teeth are meant for far more than simply chewing; like Bubba’s shrimp recipes in Forrest Gump, the list of uses for a fisherman’s incisors can be endless and are often used for cutting fishing line rather than taking the time to locate the cutters stored somewhere deep in the tackle box, besides tackle boxes in the dark can be a painful place for bare fingers. The dark, shapeless “clump” of seaweed is two feet from my face so I grab the line, pull it towards me to sever the line with my pearly whites, planning to let the entire mess fall back into the water below and head for home. As I pull the line towards my face, suddenly the seaweed comes to life and I see dark fingers reaching out for me in a flash, it happens so rapidly in fact that I have no time to make any assessment as to what it is and it is but a fraction of an inch from grabbing my face.

Startling the hell out of me, I jump several feet in reverse and scream out “FUCKING HELL! I look at Bear and scream; “GODDAM!! DID YOU SEE THAT SHIT?” My fishing pole is lying on the ground with the tip hanging over bridge’s rail, the clump of stuff now hanging in the air over the water from edge of the bridge.

All I can hear in reply is Bear’s roaring laughter. Even in the pale light of the moon, I can see that he’s literally crying he’s laughing so hard. And I really can’t blame him as he was watching something few fishermen ever get to see – a five pound octopus attacking a man’s head in self defense.
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That wasn’t enough excitement so we went fishing again a few days later, the day after Thanksgiving, taking a boat fishermen euphemistically refer to as a “cattle boat”,” a boat that takes large groups of fishermen out to fish in the open sea. The boat is scheduled to take us to a reef about half way between Davey’s Locker in Newport Beach Harbor to Catalina Island. It is a year of a hellish El Nino that wreaks havoc on the coastal areas of Southern California and for many miles inland. Landslides, flooding and several very large piers with restaurants and other businesses on them are swept off of their pilings and into the ocean. It is the wettest, most destructive storm season I had encountered the entire twenty years I lived in California.

The boat normally leaves around midnight in order to get to the reef by early morning. We board the 65 foot steel-hull boat about 10:00 PM. from the waiting room in Davey’s Locker, the boat owner. I recall seeing one girl in her early twenties in the crowd as we board. A female fishing on a cattle boat is certainly not unheard of, but not terribly common either, so it kind of causes one to pause for a brief second. I suppose it could be analogous to seeing a cat running in a pack of wild dogs. 

It’s raining so hard that the water in the harbor, less than four feet away from where I’m standing next to the boat’s gunnel is not visible.

As we normally do, Bear and I go to the galley have a couple beers and play cards with some of the other fishermen. In retrospect, I now wonder what in hell we thought we were going to do when we arrived at the fishing point.
We feel the customary lurch as the boat leaves its moorings and heads out to sea. The weather is so bad it’s even a bit rough in the harbor, but when we pass the breakwater hell is unleashed by Poseidon himself. That huge, steel-hulled boat is tossed around like a toy in a pool full of rambunctious children. Bear and I sit in the galley, holding onto the sides of the chairs and the table, glancing at one another to see if there’s fear in one or the other’s eyes as the boat encounters massive wave after massive wave.

With each wave, the boat shudders like an earthquake as it climbs up the mountain to the crest only to shoot to the bottom of the trough like a high-speed rollercoaster gone off its tracks. I’m certain the propeller leaves the water as it crests the wave as the ship literally rattles like marbles in a tin can. After the second or third wave, the boat hits the trough so hard, all the latches intended to keep kitchen tools; plates, bowls, pans, KNIVES, spoons, glasses, etc. in the cabinets break and the contents begin flying around the galley like missiles, canister bombs and steel Frisbees.

We hear the boat’s captain on the speakers; “attention all passengers! To avoid injury, please go below to the bunks. Please go below to the bunks! All deck hands to the bridge.”
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“Now that’s a good idea” I think to myself and by the look in Bear’s eyes, he’s in full agreement. But an idea and the execution of an idea can be miles apart at times. MILES.

Traversing a very narrow passageway, down very steep steps into a large dark room filled with bunks while the boat is jostling around like a car tumbling down a hillside sounds pretty damned difficult you say? DIFFICULT? Hell it’s damned near impossible! 

Had it not been so worrisome, it would surely have been hilarious to watch. Everyone is slamming their heads on the bulkhead, against the walls and against other heads. We’re falling down the steps, running onto each other and each and every one of us are swearing like truckers, I swear I can even hear the voice of the loan female in the swearing fest.

After poking one in the eye, waking some others and receiving the resulting choice words from those who’d been in the bunks while Bear and I were in the galley, I finally feel my way to one of the top bunks, climb in, cover up and hold on for one hell of a ride.

The damned lights finally come on (one 60 watt bulb at each end of the big room full of double bunks) and when they do, I realize that my face is but a foot or so from the top of the room. Claustrophobic as hell, I begin hyperventilating and sweating like mad in a room where the temperature was probably around 35-40 degrees F. Hoping to alleviate the crushing feeling of having something that close to my face, I reach up and touch the clammy, hard, steel surface and it suddenly occurs to me that this scow of a boat may be my casket, buried under hundreds of feet of water, but even that didn’t bother me as much as the closeness of the surface.

Hoping to stop the panic, I turn sideways and pull the blanket over my head with just enough of an opening to breathe freely and for my eyes to see across the room. I can feel my heart rate slow as I scan the dimly lit room where there are three rows of bunks, one on each side and one down the middle.

Directly across the very narrow aisle (I could have easily reached out and touched the bunk adjacent to mine) I see movement under the blankets, it catches my attention and takes my mind off of the looming steel above my head. The occupants (yes, plural) of the bunk stop moving, they must have sensed my gaze and the lone female peaks out from under the blanket for a few seconds, unknowingly staring right at me. She resumes her activity after satisfying her concern that “no one was watching.” I can’t believe my eyes; they’re having sex! One girl among what was likely 40 or 45 men and she’s having sex right in the middle of them all! WHILE THE BOAT IS DAMNED NEAR SINKING!

What a surreal night. What a strange damned sight!

After about 4 hours of trying to get to the reef, the captain announces that he’s turning around because, get this, “it is too rough.” He calmly says “Davey’s Locker,” (the company that owns the fleet of fishing boats) will provide all with rain checks so we could come back when the when the weather isn’t so bad.”
My first thoughts are of the irony in the name "Davey’s Locker" and our impending doom. I wonder if we’ll even make it back.

It takes us 45 minutes to return to the harbor from the point it took us 4 hours to get to. We learn later that we had encountered not 1,not 2, but 3 water spouts (tornadoes over the ocean) during our joyride.

When the hoard of faces, devoid of blood and pale white, leave the boat and walk into the waiting room to receive our rain checks, I glance to the side and sure as hell, the girl who was having sex with her bunkmate is standing right next to me. I avoid looking at her for very long, fearing she’d sense that it was I who was across from her, below deck in the bunks.

We cash in our rain checks two weeks later, using the same boat to the same destination, calm seas though. That was a night I’ve never forgotten and likely never will.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Stand Your Ground Doesn't Mean Shoot To Kill

As it always does after a particularly bothersome incident, the gun debate is once again being debated with fevered pitch in the U.S. and just as prevalently as the debate, many people across the country become severely confused when the concept of gun control is broached, somehow correlating it with ending gun ownership completely, thereby prompting ad nauseum repetition of the moronic, audacious and half-witted attempt at bravado made popular by our friends at the NRA; “I'll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands!” 

Let me say first of all, to dissuade any instantaneous preconception that I am, a gun antagonist or a gun nut; I am neither.  I own several guns and have done so for 52 years now, since I was presented with my first - my grandfather’s Remington Model 34 .22 ca bolt-action rifle at the age of 8 years old.  I love to shoot guns (I deplore killing anything with them other than tin cans and glass bottles, however).  

Owning guns and shooting them is very enjoyable for me, perhaps somewhat akin to standing next to an idling locomotive, but those guns are locked in a gun safe, to which only I have the combination, when not in use at the range or in the desert and while in transport they’re locked in the tool box in the back of my pickup for, just as those locomotives, they DEMAND a very high degree of respect.  Learning to shoot well is indeed an art, but it is also a massive responsibility. I do not, nor will I ever carry a weapon in a public arena and this is precisely why: 

On July 10, 2010 a man with whom I was acquainted entered a Costco in a suburban area of Las Vegas, Nevada known as Summerlin, a mildly upscale master-planned community of upper-middle income residents.   The man, Erik Scott, was a sales representative for a company (Boston Scientific) which produces high-end medical devices including the implantable pacemakers and defibrillators he sold.  He and I met regularly to coordinate acquisition of those devices for implant into patients within the hospital system for which I was responsible. 
He was a congenial, intelligent young man and was certainly not an ordinary slouch of a guy; a West Point Graduate with a master’s degree from Duke who had served as an M1A1 Tank Platoon Leader in the U.S. Army.  Erik was in Costco to purchase items for a trip of some kind that involved a backpack such as hiking or camping; it’s unclear to me which. 

While in Costco, he began opening a package of items to see if those items would fit into his pack and predictably, this behavior caught the attention of some Costco employees, some of which were concerned and some of which were not, even trying to assist him; different accounts from different perspectives, as always. 

Erik paid for the products he had opened along with other items he and his girlfriend purchased and exited the store.  For those of you who have exited a Costco store, you know what kind of crowd is typically coming and going; estimates are that there were at least 20 to 30 people in and around the immediate area of the entry/exit where he encountered several Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Officers screaming different and by most accounts, contradicting commands. 

It seems that during the process of checking the items for proper fit, one of the “concerned” Costco employees noticed Erik’s weapon and, from all accounts I’ve read, either panicked or simply became agitated when he told Erik that he was not allowed to carry weapons, to which Erik simply replied “I have a permit to do so.”  The employee reported to his supervisors that “there was a very suspicious man with a gun ripping open packages in the store.”  The store began to quietly evacuate the customers and employees, all unbeknownst to Erik. 

As Erik exited the store, commands ranging from “get on the ground” to “drop your weapon” were thrown at him from the PD officers awaiting him and apparently, he attempted to do what he heard and began to remove the weapon from where he had it concealed and in the process of doing so was shot seven times, killing him. 

His profession was not such that it was required, of this much I am certain, but Erik was carrying, not one, but two concealed weapons, a Kimber .45 caliber semi-automatic and yet another .380 semi-automatic in his pocket and his blood-soaked concealed weapons permit was stark and ironic testament that he was legally entitled to do so.

If one reads the various accounts of the incident, here, here, here and here, it’s vividly apparent that confusion was thick in the air, not only with the Costco employee and the LVMPD, but within Erik as well.  There are questions that will NEVER be answered such as; why did the Costco employee find it necessary to pursue the actions he took?  Why were the LVMPD officers issuing conflicting directions? And in my mind, the most important questions; why was he carrying not one, but two concealed weapons?  Why did he feel the need, especially in the community in which he lived?  He was also taking fairly high doses of morphine, for what I don’t know, but; why was anyone who was taking such a powerful drug allowed to carry concealed weapons to begin with? 

So many questions; so few answers, but here is one answer I can be absolutely certain of without even a preceding question; there is absolutely no doubt had Erik not been carrying a gun, he would still be alive today. 

There were coroner’s inquests, civil suits, internal investigations by the PD, yet not one time did anyone wonder why the man was carrying two weapons, for there was no need to ask; HE HAD A PERMIT! 

Well what a very impressive privilege; an utterly unnecessary privilege for which he paid with his life on that day! 

I do not believe that the PD acted in error, nor the Costco employee and to some degree, even Erik was not to blame.  But the lax laws in this country are most definitely erroneous and need review and overhaul NOW.  No matter how you want to view it, whether you’re pro or con on this issue, guns on the streets equals bodies in the morgue. 

“The right to have and bear arms” is an irrefutable right in this country according to the Constitution of the United States, but that “right to bear” them needs to be tempered drastically.  As with all governing instruments, the Constitution needs to be constantly reexamined to fit the needs of the society it’s intended to govern (amendments).   The Constitution was developed when guns were both necessary for survival and when the U.S. had just ended the American Revolution, so the right to bear arms carried far different ramifications then than it does now. 

We’ve all seen the statistics related to the issue and as with ALL statistics, they can show what the originator wants them to show, but here’s one that simply cannot be manipulated and that is, guns will and do result in a violent scenario, either purposely or accidentally and a death such as the one above or Trayvon’s or any other of the thousands upon thousands who are killed due to foolish, irresponsible laws and/or gun owners can be neither ignored nor manipulated. 

Victims are dead either way and guns have no business in a public arena where misunderstanding is going to be present; always, 100% of the time.

Monday, April 02, 2012

THE PATRIOT ACT IS FULLFILLING ITS PROMISES

Why I should be surprised about THIS, I don’t know after the direction in which we’ve been heading since the advent of the Patriot Act, but this is alarming.

I have to say here, that I've never been arrested before so I may be completely na├»ve.   Am I? Am I missing something here, or have we stepped over the edge on the tails of Homeland Security?

So! If I am arrested for something as simple as forgetting to pay a speeding ticket, I am now subject to strip search and even BODY CAVITY INSPECTION!!
I've been writing in opposition to the Patriot Act and the future of abusive powers since this intrusive act reared its face in Congressional debates. We ignored it!

In the ever-present apathy of the American psyche, we ignored an act that PROMISED – not “had the potential,” or “could be abused,” this act literally PROMISED to impede our freedom; to violate individual rights to privacy and we stood by, watching as Homeland Security began to fulfill that promise one step at a time; in airport inspections, making light of the circumstances in which people are searched at airports and even laughing at what appeared to be humor while a lady dressed in a biking under a heavy coat stripped down to the barest of clothing to be gawked at and shamed; in utterly shameful and terrifying abilities for states to stop persons based simply on a hunch that they are illegal aliens.

Now, we’ve made it one step closer to a totalitarian society in which individual rights are of no concern.

“The Supreme Court on Monday ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that officials may strip-search people arrested for any offense, however minor, before admitting them to jails even if the officials have no reason to suspect the presence of contraband.”

“Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, joined by the court’s conservative wing, wrote that courts are in no position to second-guess the judgments of correctional officials who must consider not only the possibility of smuggled weapons and drugs but also public health and information about gang affiliations."

What in the name of hell does Kennedy mean “we are in no position to second-guess the judgments of correction officials? That’s PRECISELY what they are there for!  That’s the very purpose of the U.S. Supreme Court – to guarantee civil rights and to prevail over state laws that are abusive in the nature of their powers.

“Article VI, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution is known as the Supremacy Clause because it provides that the "Constitution, and the Laws of the United States … shall be the supreme Law of the Land." It means that the federal government, in exercising any of the powers enumerated in the Constitution, must prevail over any conflicting or inconsistent state exercise of power.”

“The Supremacy Clause also requires state legislatures to take into account policies adopted by the federal government. Two issues arise when State Action is in apparent conflict with federal law.”

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects personal privacy, and every citizen's right to be free from unreasonable government intrusion into their persons, homes, businesses, and property -- whether through police stops of citizens on the street, arrests, or searches of homes and businesses.
I ask: Is this not unreasonable government intrusion into their persons? Is this not unreasonable and degrading in virtually every way possible???
We sat in the comfort and protection of our homes (domiciles soon to be at risk of illegal intrusion as well), fearing some propagandized, ubiquitous, sinister “terrorist” plot to, at any moment, pop out from under an airline or bus seat, spread terrorism via the Internet, or attack us while we drove to MacFattys.

We scoffed and laughed at the laws that allow TSA “agents” to search at will our bodies while unclothed. We stood by and watched as Arizona passed unimaginable “illegal alien” laws that allows any “officer of the law” to stop virtually any person simply upon a “suspicion” that the person may be illegal.

Now, we are subject to unimaginable searches “for any offense, however minor, before admitting them to jails even if the officials have no reason to suspect the presence of contraband.”

The Supreme Court of the United States is following, not the laws that made this country what it is suppose to be, but the wishes of those very same people who wish to destroy our rights, our dignity, our economy and our freedom.

Totalitarianism (or totalitarian rule) is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible. Totalitarian regimes stay in political power through an all-encompassing propaganda campaign, which is disseminated through the state-controlled mass media, a single party that is often marked by political repression, personality cultism, control over the economy, regulation and restriction of speech, mass surveillance, and widespread use of terror.

This happening every time Congress, with the blind support of The United States Supreme Court, passes laws that takes us to the next square towards Fascism. We are one more square, one more roll of the dice, towards losing everything and we had better stop replacing what should be boistrous objection with humor at women removing their coats to reveal a bikini at airport “security stops;” stop allowing states such as Arizona and Utah to pass intrusive and illegal search and seizure laws without regards to personal liberties; AND NOW, we can expect horrendous, embarrassing, humiliating, illegal search and seizure laws if we’re arrested for simply forgetting to pay a fine or for participating in peaceful and lawful protests. And don’t forget, a speeding ticket “is in lieu of arrest.” When will we begin to be arrested for speeding rather than ticketed, which of course would result in strip-search and body cavity inspections?

A strange paradox exists in this country, where it's perfectly legal to carry weapons and gun down children, yet our personal rights guranteed as human beings are on the verge of collapse.
As a man, I am deeply worried if, for some reason, my wife or daughter are arrested for some trivial bullshit.  As a human, I am worried shitless about the direction this country is taking.

We are too close my friends. Too close to the abyss and I don’t like what I see down there.