Friday Night Opinion Returns: Vince McMahon and the XFL, also Returns!

Yesterday we were entertained by a 25 minute, 39 second long remote-conference where Vince McMahon, owner of World Wrestling Entertainment, WWE Studios, and host of other multimedia endeavors, announced that he’s bringing back the XFL, a league that lasted one season in 2001, and was forced out of operation by a media-led backlash by then 50-50 partner, NBC.

Originally, McMahon pitched the XFL to NBC, with a grittier, rougher style of play, more aligned with what fans of the 70’s and 80’s eras were familiar with, along with cheerleaders that were even less clothed than their NFL counterparts, and McMahon provided WWE (WWF at the time) personalities a chance to inter-mingle in roles as commentators, play-by-play, and other personality-oriented roles.

To hear it from NBC, the reason they pulled out of the deal, which was originally structured for two years, was that the league was too closely related to wrestling, which supplies an audience to football, but is not the core audience of football.  They are correct about that analysis, and there was certainly negative discussion around the gimmicky nature of promos, sideline segments, color commentary, and the overall ‘show’ elements of the league.

The first series of games netted a huge margin over and above original ratings projections, but as the league wore on, supposedly the emerging fan base grew tired of the gimmicks, and stopped watching.

While certainly this was an element of the problems the XFL had, one has to wonder why NBC, a 50-50 partner after all, didn’t exercise more control over that part of the product.  After all, this is NBC, a true leader in broadcasting and entertainment.  They know this business, and certainly employ people that know how to fix a failing product.

There could be some behind-the-scenes reasons we’ll never know, but what we do know is that at the time, NBC had taken a beating in negotiations for NFL contracts.  Both the AFC, and NFC schedules of the NFL were up for renegotiation, and the NFL was really looking for new homes.  With the addition of Fox as a candidate, who had just opened up a true Sports Division a few years prior, they were now part of a bigger group of media companies looking to land NFL viewership – think very elevated ad revenue, compared any other weekend programming.

Fox landed the NFC games, ABC landed the AFC games, and in the end, anything that was left, didn’t go to NBC, who prior to this had been home to the NFL for a very long time.  They were, shall I say it, PISSED!

The NBC at that point had crammed dollar after dollar into new technology, meant to derive data that their on-air personalities could then use in-game, to explain nuanced detail, after nuanced detail, to an ever-knowledge-saturated audience, who was becoming enamored with this thing called ‘fantasy football’ (more on that later).

Now, all of that was for nothing, and NBC felt cheated.  So, they wanted to make a point to the NFL, and any other major sports league that they may cross paths with, and thus, McMahon’s league, which he had been pitching since the late 90’s, finally had a partner – and a very big one at that.

The NBC thought that by placing games on their network, in front of nationally-syndicated audiences, that the coverage would bring out every NFL outsider who had something to prove, and players who were possibly forced to retire earlier than they wanted, another crack to prove they are who we knew they were (RIP Dennis Green!).

McMahon knew nothing about football talent, and I would imagine he knows more now, but not enough to gauge players at every position, let alone sifting through players where differences are slight, and finding edges that can be expounded upon are infrequent, and fleeting.  So he accepted NBC’s attempt at luring these ‘cast-offs’ from the NFL.

To a degree, it worked.  For example, Tommy Maddox, who is likely the reason college football players generally must stay for three years in their respective program, got to rejuvenate his NFL career by pleading the Los Angeles Xtreme to the league’s only championship, winning league MVP honors as well.  Maddox, prior to this had staged a comeback in the Arena League, which looked promising, but his dominance of the XFL propelled the Pittsburgh Steelers to sign him as a back-up to Kordell Stewart.  Maddox would ultimately become the starting QB, in 2002 for the Steelers….this was ten years after his last start in the NFL, and seven years after his last time in an NFL uniform.

Suffice to say that for Maddox, the plan worked.  And there were a few never heard of players that re-introduced themselves to NFL scouts, that eventually caught on.  Rod Smart, famous for his “He Hate Me” jersey, went on to become a kick return specialist similar to Clarence Verdin, Brian Mitchell, and others who were swift through special teams formations.  Smart, who couldn’t be taken seriously in the NFL prior to the XFL, put on a complete show under McMahon, that the NFL scouting acumen couldn’t deny.

But, for the most part, the XFL was only able to recruit players that likely didn’t match up to what makes the NFL great – players that have timing, counter-intuition, and the drive to finish a play better than how it started.

And truly, that product was the demise of the XFL, not gimmicks, not cheerleaders, not over-the-top personalities.  It was that the product could not live up to the hype.  The play-by-play was forced, over-indulgent when compared to “what just happened,” and left people wondering if McMahon hadn’t just invented scripted football.

He didn’t.  He just trusted the wrong people.  Because while NBC laid out their game plan to him, their intentions were never to ensure XFL success.  Their goal was to reunite with their long-lost girlfriend, the NFL.  For NBC, the certainty of what the NFL brought to their ratings, and their ad revenue was clear – and NBC, while they could hold the XFL up for years, invest in, and take serious losses on for awhile, to wait for it to grow legs and run on it’s own, knew that it would just be easier to sign with the ‘big boys.’  NBC’s intent was to spook the NFL, and it worked.

After NBC wrote, developed, and pushed the Arena Football League as a major viewing contract from 2003 to 2006, the NFL had enough, and realized that NBC had proven they could truly market the NFL all along, and all was forgiven, forgotten, and NBC got their girlfriend back.

That left McMahon, who we all know doesn’t have the same resources as NBC, or the NFL, fuming mad.  He publicly admitted that the league was a failure, and people seemed to coalesce that the views expressed by NBC over the league, were the same views McMahon held.  And so, McMahon went back to work even harder on his bread and butter, WWF, which he changed the name to WWE the year after the XFL went under, and everyone went back to the NFL, thinking that this story was spoken for.

Well, they’re wrong.  Everything I just told you about the league, is not what many of the so-called sports writing ‘experts’ say.  They drag out the old, tired narrative about the gimmicky XFL.

And consequently, when McMahon held his professional, candid press conference, the peanut galleries of ESPN, FSN, CBS, and yes, NBC, went to work “analyzing” the return of the XFL, as if they aren’t biased.

Frankly, you can choose not to read what I write, but if you use the logic that I don’t know what I’m talking about, then you are in denial if you think that listening to the talking heads on this story is the right move also.  Each one of the above mentioned networks has a horse in the race that is the success of the NFL.  They all hold broadcasting rights to games, elements of games, not to mention numerous programs that lead up to, and review, NFL games.  If the NFL faces competition, their programming has to change with it.  And none of them are comfortable with this, because their most valuable possession is their time.  They have a 24 hour day to broadcast what they feel is the most important news, sports, and entertainment on the day, and right now all of them are doubling down on the NFL, not because of the XFL, but because the NFL ratings are dropping.  They are actively dropping, not just twindling here and there.  People are tired of the politics being expressed, the outright unfairness of referring in the game, the clear indifference the NFL exercises in it’s own concussion protocol, and the general malaise of a sports league that seems hell-bent on doing and speaking to everything that is not football, while still trying to play the game.

McMahon see’s the opportunity.  And I’ll tell you something else…..Wall Street see’s the opportunity.  Every person who flips houses see’s the opportunity.  And not a single one of the networks I mentioned wants to actually address the issue.  Because if they do, they fall out of favor with the NFL, who is grappling with a public relations disaster from one week to the next.  The league, which has been a bastion of military veteran viewership for years, so much so, the NFL routinely broadcasts the playoffs and Super Bowl directly to soldiers in combat zones, and then broadcasts those soldiers’ reactions to those games for their audiences back in North America, and beyond.

Now, personnel from every branch is being alienated.  Perhaps not by NFL players who are kneeling, but by everyone who speaks about the disrespect in the action.  And to be clear, NFL players should protest peacefully, if that’s what they feel gets their message out.  But universally, all should know that the message you send, is not necessarily the message received.  So if the message you are sending is not getting the message you want out there, maybe you should find a different way to get the message you want out there.

But I digress.  If alienation of military personnel was not enough, law enforcement personnel have been taken to task by several out-spoken, and well-respected NFL players.  And still, some NFL players are having run-ins with law enforcement, where they are in fact, the cause of problems experience by anyone in those situations, not the officers they seem intent on vilifying.

If this was a cancer-research non-profit, and the public information officer was a chain-smoker, would that person still have a job?  Would they have a job to begin with?

We know the answer. We KNOW the answer, and yet, the NFL gives a pass to these few players who give a bad name to the rest.

While not all NFL fans feel this way, it is clear that there are enough that are fed up.  Maybe not with the ideas being expressed, and maybe not with individual players themselves.  But people are tired of watching illogical behavior abound.  And the NFL is forgetting a key to all of this:  their product is meant to entertain.

It’s literally been an escape for the entire country for nearly 70 years (based on when the NFL become highly followed, not when it originated).  The reason so many people watched was that it was literally a whole day where the problems of society, perceived or otherwise, went away.  But the NFL is so full of itself now, that it believes that by ingesting what they think fans ‘feel’ into their programming, that it will net an even tighter relationship with said fan, which leads to advertising revenue – there’s that two word phrase again, which is ruling this issue.

That’s not how entertainment works, and if the NFL front office of the 80’s could see what the NFL front office of the ought-10’s is doing now, with huge technology, medical, and scientific advantages that no previous front office had at their disposal, it’s very likely that the ‘old school’ front office would open up all the top-floor windows and doors to patios at 345 Park Avenue, and begin throwing every staff member off the ledges.  They’d have to, to save the league.

Meanwhile, McMahon, who was vilified when it wasn’t necessary, made into a joke over doing something that no single person would ever be willing to do, and had put his money where his mouth is, has done it again.

And this time, he has a 17-year history lesson to go along with his business acumen.

The network personalities, who I know are reading from cue cards, are saying things like “the XFL won’t succeed because he’s taking out the cheerleaders,” the XFL won’t succeed because it’s being political,” and on their narrative goes.  I find it funny really.  These networks, much like the NFL, are too big to get out of their own way.  Only in such a backward-thinking organization could things like standing for the national anthem be considered “political.”

But I’ll tell you this, they all truly have it wrong.  They somehow think that by carrying on the way Americans have seen football for the years 1949 to 2015, that will come out as false for fans, and thus, it’s a bad business model.

I’m glad none of these talking heads own businesses that employ people, because they’d be the first business to fail, handing you a pink slip, and putting you in an unemployment line.

The best businesses, are the ones that are above the fray.  That stay out of the discussions that do not involve their business in any way, shape, or form.

Google had to fire James Damore for what was perceived as a ‘sexist’ memo he wrote about the troubles with gender-focus equality training.  Side note, I read the memo, and with as many scholarly and scientific resources as he cited, he was not only correct in his theory, but not sexist at all.  However, so goes the beating drum of nonsense, and Google, as a business made a decision to get out of the fray, and fire him.  Now he’s suing, and while much of the media reports on it as he was in the wrong, he’s not, as Google openly encourages such essays on their employee servers, and, he used the proper formatting and resources to develop his findings.  He’ll win his lawsuit hands down.

Google made an ill-advised employment decision, but not a bad business decision.  The NFL is making bad employment and business decisions.  But to try and normalize their decisions, they use these networks to get you to buy in that the McMahon’s of the world are ‘crazy,’ and ‘political,’ and try to drum into your head that it will be wrong to honor any football outside of the NFL, with your presence.

They’re wrong.  They don’t understand business, and they don’t understand analysis work.  Political?  And here I thought ESPN stood for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network.

No, every single one of these talking heads has it thoroughly wrong, even the social media spin-off guys like Cam Rogers, who did a terrible piece on the XFL being the perfect place for Brett Favre to revive his career.  Sure, he did it in jest, but his point was that the XFL was a joke, much like his coverage.  In truth, Rogers knows about as much about business as your kindergarten-aged cousin.  One has a valid excuse for not knowing, the other is a clown with a teleprompter.

By not having cheerleaders, McMahon ensures a steady female audience, that is engaged in the game, and not worried about their surroundings, game-wise that is.  By having everyone stand for the anthem, McMahon brings back public safety and military members to a game they truly love.  And yes, there are active boycotts of the NFL by people in these groups, so laugh if you want, but discontent has grown.

By ensuring player safety, and this will be his truest test, he snags families who have kids that are enamored with the game, but their parents are worried about their futures.

Will McMahon take over ratings lead from the NFL?  No, at least not for the first few seasons.

But he will give them a significant scare.  One that is much worse than what happened before.  Because he fully controls the league.

And since 2001, there are a number of markets that have opened up, thanks to the NFL, and there are more available.  Over 20 to be exact, and I won’t write them all here, but I’m sure you know them, if you review a map.

But even more important than that, currently the NFL, when you remove all current roster players, has enough registered free agents to fill 21 teams, according to their roster requirements.  This again is outside of 30 NFL team rosters, and their respective practice squad players.

If you thought the resurgence of Tommy Maddox, and the coming of age of Rod Smart were the biggest stories McMahon was capable of in football, just you wait and see.

And all of these genius “analysts” at the networks, or at their viral video huts, are going to have egg on their face.  I’m going to laugh.  But you’ll be watching the games.

Football games, that are about a novelty: football.

Mass Transit in Seattle: The Greatest Example in Modern Times of Government Corruption

Many transit systems in the US are born out of the same weird “conglomerate” government approach.

Without getting into the same legal drivel they would like to hide behind, the basic idea is as follows:  municipal governments in a concentrated area reach a conclusion that mass transit is something they need to pursue together.  In order do that, they need plans, operations, and administration that is centralized.  But, local governments, when merely sharing a land border, have many different laws and governance between each other, how do they streamline efforts so they are not affected by a litany of differences?  In comes the idea of quasi-government:  Local governments sign agreements to financially support a centralized body that is not governed by them directly, and is not elected by citizens.  Instead, they appoint people to the board of this organization, and their job is to formulate the organization.

Now, the idea of centralizing such an effort makes sense.  It’s most efficient, makes the mission specific, and of course, unburdens their government  bodies from more layers of bureaucracy.

There is a couple of serious problems with this:  the main point is that this is an organization that acts like a government, by proposing and lobbying for taxes, and because they are the chosen experts in their field, it’s hard for the governments they lobby for tax funding to argue with their logic.  But even beyond this simple conundrum, there’s the issue of taxpayers not being able to scrutinize those that are controlling their tax dollars, their infrastructure, and their potentially their lifestyle.

This is wrong.  Our Constitution says it’s wrong (Taxation without Representation), all State’s have laws, or their own constitutions that outlaw the practice, and yet this idea of public mass transit becoming a sort-of/kind-of government agency, with no real oversight is being born around the country, because it fixes jurisdictional issues, centralizes services, and makes the project actually ‘work,’ when evaluating results.

Washington, DC, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the State of Maryland have done this with Metro.  The entire Dallas Metroplex has done it with DART.  San Francisco, Oakland, Alameda, San Jose, and every other city in the Bay Area did it with BART.

These highly regional models work in areas where they answer highly regional problems.  Congestion, a lack of land to re-work to efficiency, and layers of planning, that complicate land use.

But where sea and air ports are controlled by State agencies, somehow no one thought that public transit on a mass scale should also be a State issue.

Some would say that the highly concentrated areas of population represent a certain set of problems the rest of the State doesn’t have, and that they shouldn’t be laying the same burden down.  Logically it makes sense.  If the ranch land doesn’t need a train, why should pay for one?

However, what is happening with Sound Transit hits on a whole new level.  They are arguing for State taxes, and city taxes, and county taxes, and on it goes.  They can’t get what they want in this jurisdiction, so they find it somewhere else.  Cost overruns, meh the tax payers will bank roll it.  If that’s not enough, they absolutely do not take no for an answer.

Recently, it came to light that Sound Transit willingly misled the Washington State Senate, on a tax bill that authorized $15 billion to be earmarked for Sound Transit.  What they didn’t discuss in the bill, and what was not clear, was that Sound Transit had not put an expiration date on the tax bill.  So, when time came to close down the funding, they argued there was no expiration, and ended up collecting $54 billion.

This would literally be criminal, for any other entity to deceive government in this manner, and yet, no charges have been filed.  Why is the State government being taken to task by a regional government?  This would literally not happen in any other relationship, and yet, when we look at history, public transportation organizations, like Sound Transit, use language as a weapon when going after tax funding.  They are their own maker, and thus, have a duty to protect themselves.  If they appropriately positioned in State government, we know this wouldn’t happen, because they would have a chain of command to explain themselves, or their funding could be halted immediately.

The fact is that quasi-government doesn’t work, and that’s why our forefathers outlawed it.  They faced similar groups in their day, but they were known as something else, “tax collectors.”

That’s not to say that tax collection is wrong, because it’s not.  However, the tax collectors they dealt with were people empowered to extort money out of common people, keeping a percentage for themselves, and passing the rest on to the King.

This is the problem with quasi-government.  No matter how it’s structured, no matter how it’s “monitored,” it will always find a way around, for it’s own version of survival.

Mass transit is a needed function in our society – it should be housed directly in State government.

Friday Night Opinion: Gun Control is Not as Easy as You’re Being Told

The absolute terrible events that occurred in Las Vegas have perpetuated a very touchy, and stale, argument that carries on in the halls of Congress.  They also carry on in the halls of State and local governments, particularly government regulatory agencies .

Last year, Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, of King County Public Health made an impassioned argument that local government should add their own gun controls since Congress has been less enforcement-oriented then the numbers he deals with in the Greater Seattle area suggest; he claimed that the numbers of gun deaths surpass those deaths attributed to traffic collisions in King County, and then argued that nationally and locally lots was done to curb traffic deaths, which is still the in the top five of causes of death nationally, still surpassing gun-related deaths on that scale.

From a local perspective, it would make sense that this argument would come forth; in that we look at the biggest causes of death locally, and act to limit, or hopefully eliminate those causes.

Here is the major problem to this ‘local’ argument: Dr. Duchin highlight, but failed to go into detail, that those gun deaths he was talking about, included suicide, which attributed two-thirds of that total.  If you remove suicide from this gun death total, the number of gun deaths in King County are far below those caused by traffic collisions.  Here is why that matters:  No one in King County, as of today, has killed themselves in a traffic collision as a means to commit suicide.

Yes, suicide is terrible.  We know that suicide is in someway related to crisis, acute, or even long-term mental illness suffered by the person committing it.  Mental illness remains to be a serious problem in our society, from local to national levels, that needs to be addressed.

However, enacting public health ordinances, regulation, or similar structures ‘to combat gun deaths’ is a rather sophomoric response to the all too serious state of mental illness in our country, and speaks to agenda, rather than real solution building.

Believe it or not, the NRA has requested democrats to get serious about mental health checks being tied to background checks for firearms purchases.  The problem is that democrats routinely won’t agree, because the proposed legislation would also loosen restrictions on what sane people can buy.  The NRA is not asking for citizens to have the right to buy automatic firearms, or more serious military-grade weaponry.  Instead, the NRA has been since this issue of mental illness and firearms first came up nationally in the mid-90’s, that those that pass the instant background checks provided by the FBI needs to be given greater latitude to access rights through ATF regulated firearms rights, and to remove antiquated bans from legislative efforts permanently, especially those involving media-induced fabrications about certain firearms and accessories.

Gun control measures are not as easy as you’re told they will be, because those that are proposed are rarely based on logic and thought of the problem.  Democrats would rather placate the mentally ill, and allow them to interact in life unchecked by professionals, than actually tackle neurosis that threaten neighbors, families, and innocent bystanders.  Mental illness treatment however, even in it’s smallest form, can have a much greater impact than any gun control effort ever could.  And yet, efforts to address mental illness are continually thumbed down, not just by Congress, but local leaders who continue to claim they don’t have enough resources to enact them.

Democrats, including Dr. Duchin, don’t want to give up the “tool” of gun control tactics for their efforts.  They would rather work citizens into a hot lather about how this one accessory, or this one gun is the problem, and that banning it can save the day.  One need look no further than Chicago to see that bans don’t work.

And whether we like it or not, people like Dontray Mills, who admitted to perpetrating gang violence through illegal gun purchases, who get a reduced plea agreement that leads to no jail time, make it clear that those who actually perpetrate gun violence visited upon others are not getting the justice they so rightly deserve.  Instead, we have democrats who make a mockery of mental illness, cloaked in their government and medical credentials as some sort of expert, but then use the pain of those who don’t receive resources they actually need as a reason to stop everyone else from owning a firearm.  We don’t call it political grandstanding because in our eyes, they’re an appointed “expert,” but they are simply a politician who isn’t subject to election.  A local-level cabinet members expanding an agenda through a filtering of statistics and data.  It’s not a service to the citizens, it’s a weak attempt at shaping discussion and outcomes.  You should be outraged at the level of patronizing that goes on from offices such as those occupied by Dr. Duchin.

To sum it up: it’s a disgusting, dystopian take on life and pursuit of liberty.  It’s unfortunate that this particular issue does split along party lines, because I’ve yet to run into anyone who denies the need for mental health treatment to be expanded when needs are identified, but no one with temporary power will accept that, and in turn accept that law abiding citizens can own firearms without incident.

And if we look a smaller community, like Grays Harbor County, also in Washington State, we see that causes of death attributed to gun violence in Table C1 and C2 are well below the top ten threshold.  It stands to reason how a county with a more isolated  population with less resources is able to report these numbers, and King County sees an increase.  Guns aren’t the problem.  The high-stress that comes with trying to sustain a life in Seattle and King County are to blame.  More people in King County find the need to escape their reality through drug and alcohol abuse, sex addictions, and number of other behaviors that increase mortality risk.  To be fair, these are behaviors we see everywhere in the country, it’s not exclusive to King County.  However, they are increasing in King County, and the reason is that the government in place is making it tougher and tougher for ‘regular joe’ citizens to succeed personally.  Surely, they are not intending this, but it is a consequence of overreach and draconian thinking that was originally banned from the US-lexicon.

Whether Dr. Duchin and people like him realize it, regulations aren’t going to stop people from committing suicide: help is.  Actual help for those people in those situations.  The type of help that defrays stress and pressure on individuals, so they can dream, and work, and fail, and succeed.

One last thing to consider:  Washington State has legalized assisted suicide, making it possible for terminally ill people to seek help in ending their own lives, when they feel they can no longer take the pain of living in their condition.  If this is the ideal that Washington State wants to live by, why attempt to criminalize suicide by other means?  Has no one considered that those who are suffering mental crisis are too in pain?

For such a “progressive” outlook, it certainly seems short-sighted.  If you live in King County, you need to be asking that if such a high tax rate is necessary, why are those funds not being directed towards true mental health resources that provide results.  Because if you visit King County Public Health’s website, you’ll find they are thick on studies and research, and thin on direct efforts.  Maybe if Dr. Duchin spent more time in the field, working to expand mental treatment for the wide array of people in need, and empowering County Designated Mental Health Practitioners with multiple methods of addressing mental crisis, rather than solely three day involuntary hospital stays, instead of writing position papers, we’d have a government that was achieving an end to some problems, rather than tracking increases, with little to show for the effort.

If you know of someone contemplating suicide, please give them the following: 1-800-273-8255.  And continue to check in with them, you make actually be the difference in their world.

OKC Memorial: Did We Learn Anything?

I recently spent a long weekend in Oklahoma City to promote my recent project, an anthology of veteran’s which encompasses many veterans, from many walks of life, and many experiences.  With the exception of career, there is nothing any of us have in common.  Not in interests, culture, upbringing, style, attire, absolutely nothing.

As we all know, Oklahoma City has the displeasure of being the location of one of the saddest parts of US history.  On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh parked a U-Haul truck full of fertilizer and explosives, rigged to explode, targeting the Alfred P. Murrah federal building, found between North Harvey and North Robinson Avenues.

The bomb killed 168 people inside the building, and injured 680, and effectively destroyed half of the building, not to mention causing serious damage for 16 blocks.

McVeigh’s plot, which was assisted by Terry Nichols, came about because of their ideological views, and their disagreement with the actions taken by government at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas.  In both instances, federal agents began investigations into firearms and other weapons acquired by the groups at each location, and whether it was legal to possess them.  In both instances, there has been wide disagreement about the volume of illegal weapons that each group had, but in the end, what was factually reported by our federal agencies was a small amount of truly illegal weapons, that on their own, may not have garnered the aggressive investigative efforts that the groups initially garnered.

However, while the motivation of these two men is still subject of some debate, what I want to talk about is their actions.  McVeigh had said publicly that he was not aware of a daycare being located in the building, making that discovery over the course of his “canvassing” or scouting of the building.

He passed over another federal building he targeted, because it had a florist shop.  But yet, when actually walking inside the Murrah Building, he managed to miss the fully-windowed day care, in the hall lobby.  He was asked about this on the stand, and said had he known there were children present, it might have given him pause.

Regardless, I can’t imagine the disillusionment McVeigh had to visit daily to carry out this plan.  And the fact is that he left the area, and if not for a traffic violation 90 minutes later, he might still be out in the wind today.

During my trip, I spoke to many long-time OKC locals, who spoke about the tremendous healing affect that this incident had on the entire city.  At the time, OKC was an unsafe place to be.  There were strong-arm robberies at will, muggings, break-ins, and wide spread violent crime that seemed to target strangers to the actors at an elevated rate.

But the sheer violence of McVeigh’s act brought the entire city together.  By and large, the citizens realized that life in OKC could not continue down the path it was, and maintain a place that people would want to live in, let alone spend any time in.

Since that ever tragic day, OKC has rebuilt much of it’s downtown, has worked hard to bringing relevant artistic elements to the area, to celebrate the many communities that make up the city, and to embrace the uniqueness and charm that only can be identified as being that of OKC.

Today we see a very similar scenario playing out at the national level.  We have extremists on the left and right scales of political ideology battling one another on city streets, throughout our entire country.  We no longer have room to speak with others, especially others that are determined to talk in rhetoric and circular logic.  There may be true value in ignoring such tactics, but it does not mean it’s wise to ignore the person.

It doesn’t mean you need to treat them differently either.  It does mean we need to decide individually what it is that we hold dear, truly.  I for one want an immigration system that will be followed and respected.  That doesn’t mean I want immigrants to be shunned, or foresaken, or to have previous agreements ripped away.  None of that holds to American values, and we would be foolish to engage in such third world politicking.

At the same time, there are people that want to vilify those like me who stand for a rule of law that is pragmatic, and sound.  They are extremists, just as those who chanted over and over again that building a wall is a solution.  We should not be so ignorant to identify that both these views are extreme, and truly have no business guiding our country.

At the same time, I respect that there are those that view my words as some sort of threat.  Technically they might be.  But there is no intention of threatening anyone, and having sound, pragmatic law is not a threat to anyone, except to those that break the law.  Perhaps that sounds circular.  But consider our past.  If we did not have sound laws that respected a true view of right and wrong, would we have made it as far as we have?  Would the US still be what it is, after nearly 250 years of existence?

I appreciate ideology, it’s a great place to start from.  But ideology can’t be the only thing guiding rules, law, how we think, or what we fight for.  When you do, you produce extremism.

And quite honestly, one need to go no further than 620 North Harvey Avenue in Oklahoma City to see what raw ideology produces.  The aftermath of which is something too hard to stare at.  Admittedly, I cry so much when I visit the Memorial that I can’t even make it to the museum.  This time I got in the door, and 45 seconds later bolted back out.  I don’t want to live in the aftermath of the Memorial every second in this country, everywhere I go, and I don’t believe anyone else here wants to either.

It’s going to take everyone who’s shouting for their cause to sit down, truly consider what it is they are saying.  If all you are doing is spouting ideology, you are not helping, and it would be best for all of us if you stopped and found a quiet place to park yourself.  You are adding only vitriol, in both what you say, and who you say it to.  It’s not going to produce anything positive.

Be honest with yourself, no matter where you sit on the spectrum, because more than ever we need both sides to accept that there are some very wrong things they are promoting, and there are some very right things they are promoting.

If you are idolizing people within your spectrum, that’s not helping us either.  No matter who’s President, they are only as effective as Congress, and we haven’t had an effective Congress in many years.  You can’t blame that on any President.

Don’t think of this as a call to centrism, because it’s not.  True functioning ideas to fix problems need to prevail, no matter where they come from.  Fabrications, “full-court presses,” and ideology are not going to help us get any of the solutions that we truly need.

In the beginning I mentioned how the group of veterans that I worked with on this project, Walk with Warriors, came from very different backgrounds, and very different places in life.  But somehow, we came together, vividly.  We didn’t know each other before, and it may be difficult for us to stay in touch after, but we came together as one and continued in that vain as we worked to promote our project, and reach an audience we didn’t define.  Time will tell if we were successful, but we tried, and never fought with each other over ideology.  It may seem a small, mild example, but it’s people working together.  I’d like to think if we can do this, then the rest of us can do this too.  We can be big boys and big girls, who sacrifice our ideology, for what it is truly fair and beneficial for all.

For my part, I think after visiting the Memorial, I’m going to search my own ideas and see what really matters, because it’s only fair that if I issue this call to action that I embody it.

Perhaps the future will find me in an even better place.  Until next time!

Charlottesville: When Apathy and Confusion Collide

It’s moments like these that seem to be our toughest.  We can’t see straight, or want to see straight, or care.  We don’t find ourselves attached to carnage on television.  And it’s with that apathy that the media finds a way into our minds, perhaps even our hearts.  And their version of the events becomes facts, ultimately undisputed.

In this case, it appears that Governor Terry McAuliffe is using a media pulpit to try and shout down far right conservative organizations, who he has a personal ax to grind with.

The media has climbed onto to the narrative from the governor, and are accepting it without asking questions.  And it turns out that the media itself had no reporters on the ground, instead relying on some questionable sources for the information they using to prop up their coverage.

But as we reach the 48 hour period after the incident that claimed the life of one and the eventual injuries of 19, as well as two law enforcement officers killed while responding by air, it turns out that McAuliffe’s version is not accurate.  Not even close.

More first hand accounts are coming forward of BLM, Antifa, and KKK members causing property destruction and violence, which was left unchecked by local police, for what reasons we don’t know yet.

However, there was a large group of Constitutionalists who were attempting to facilitate free speech, rather than allow violence.  And it has been verified that they were attempting to intervene with whoever the violent instigators were, no matter what their views were, to try and keep the protest peaceful, and about each group’s message, rather than violence.  Their efforts failed.  And they became the target of McAuliffe, because the only thing he can do is turn this political, because that’s all McAuliffe ever does.

It’s time we as Americans got serious about a problem we have in our country, that we are contributing to:  apathy.  Because we refuse to be truly engaged in events like these, we give people like McAuliffe a platform to lie, and accept his ideas as legitimate because of title, rather than actual work.  There are hundreds of politicians like him, and we legitimize their lack of true work by accepting them verbatim.  We have to stop this.

We have to get engaged on these issues, and we have to use our pursuit of information to demand that news organizations actually do the job of reporting fact, rather than revisions of history as it occurs.

One stance we should all have, is that Antifa has no business being anywhere in our country.  Antifa is an armed wing of the Anarchists in the US.  Antifa is their “dark ops” group, renamed.  And their entire effort is cause violent outbursts to further their efforts, of unraveling our Constitution and our form of government.  All of us should unite in not accepting them or their stance.

The KKK is another group we should roundly rebuke.  We should not have a problem uniting and not accept their ideas at all, and scare them out of existence.  I don’t see how either of these stances can’t be universal, but yet if you listen to the media right now, they’re tell you that you have to accept one or other.  Aren’t you getting tired of these massive organizations telling you to accept one pill or the other?

The BLM is yet another group we should not accept.  As much as they’ve had people come forward who speak and articulate points, the results have been nothing but violent events, businesses being torched, innocent people being hurt, and key witnesses in criminal and civil cases being assassinated.  BLM, for all it’s legitimized grievances, has nothing but violence attached to their activities.  It’s a very short history, but it’s been substantiated enough that none of us should accept the existence of this group either.  Their efforts are no better than the previous two I’ve talked about.

If we truly want to expunge hate, then we have to expunge all of it, you can’t pick sides, and you can’t choose which one has interesting points.  These three groups caused the problems in Charlottesville, no one else.  As I write this, the driver of the vehicle, James Fields, has been identified as member of an unidentified democrat party, and a possible member of the KKK.  It stands to reason that regardless of his affiliations, violence can’t be accepted, and the groups that are inevitably involved violence need to be removed from our way of life.

But more so, we all need to get engaged, and we need to unify in not letting these groups cause these problems.  We all have to rebuke their existence together.  That’s how America comes together, right now.

Update:  Since I wrote about this incident, the reporting of Mr. Fields’ party affiliation has changed again, and the sources reporting on this detail now are not what I would consider reliable.  Good thing that detail has nothing to do with refuting violence.

Friday Night Opinion: Seattle Mayor Ed Murray Must Resign

I know most people are living in or near Seattle.  Mathematics and statistical distribution says it’s not possible.

But I must comment on one of the worst scandal-not scandal’s I’ve seen in some time.

Ed Murray is the embattled Mayor of Seattle.  The reason he is embattled is because it has come to light that his adult past may not be as “clean” as we’d all expect of a mayor.

First, some men that are younger than Mr. Murray came forward alleging that when they were teens, he paid to have sex with them by offering them drugs as well as cash.  Allegations like these never look good in public, but I would agree that these allegations alone are not a reason to resign.

But, those allegations started gaining traction in the form of court hearings.  Murray, continuing to run for re-election, boldly said that these allegations were part of a “right-wing conspiracy” aimed to take him down.

And that’s the point that I had to raise an eyebrow about his involvement in these alleged past discretions.

If you know anything about Seattle politics, they haven’t had a conservative, or “right-wing” anything in the city since James Braman, who last served as mayor in 1969.  Since then it’s been an onslaught of progressively aggressive left-wing ideologues, with Murray being the most recent iteration of that group.

Murray, along with support of the majority of current Seattle City Council, has ushered in the left’s economic scourge of raising minimum wage to $15.00 an hour.  They’ve made a mess (yet again) of both the drug and homeless problems in the city, they’ve gone after property owners in Seattle, who in their opinion, are charging too much for rent for certain apartments – going so far as naming a law after a landlord which is prompting a legitimate lawsuit, and the final piece of Murray’s tenure, instilling an income tax against what his council has defined as the “wealthy” of Seattle.  In case you’re not catching the theme, these are all examples of major pillars of the far left argument concerning their version of economics, which is suppose to place the common person first, ahead of those that are high earners and innovators.

And for those that are further perplexed, here’s the straight dope:  These kinds of moves within any government, can’t be accomplished by the first group in support of them that has achieved a majority of office.  It takes years, upon years, upon years to get the right kind of momentum going.  Usually, somewhere between 40 and 50, and we’re at 48 years of progressive liberalism in Seattle.

There certainly are conservatives in Seattle and Washington State, but to think that they could organize such an effort to take down an openly gay mayor is comic relief at it’s finest.

The fact that Murray uses that reasoning for these allegations only helps solidify them.  Though it will take a court to sort the mess out.

But, if that wasn’t enough, more problems with Murray’s past came to light, to include a very damning report from his life in Oregon, where he had adopted a child.  In the report, the investigator who was looking into accusations of child abuse, made clear statements that the adopted child Murray had should have been removed from the home by the State of Oregon, and there was a strong likelihood of both physical and sexual abuse occurring in the home.

It’s this revelation of fact that causes me to put my foot down and state loudly that Ed Murray must resign.  He’s argued that he won’t leave office, because it would cause more problems, with a power vacuum occurring within the council.

The main problem with this, whether the media mentions it or not, is that Murray is failing to respect the desires of the citizens of Seattle.  Despite politics, despite ideals, no citizen in any citizen wants a child abuser as a mayor, nor should they have to accept that.  Murray effectively makes the argument that citizens don’t care enough about their own city to work to remove him, which is essentially the only option, since it is clear the council is not going to take action to remove him.  These issues with Murray started to break publicly around February of this year.  It’s August now, and the council has verbally said they’d like him to leave, but they’ve done nothing to remove him, which they have some power in.  But more to the point, if they truly stood for children’s rights, which they’ve invoked about four dozen times over the last five months, you’d think the first thing to do is begin removal proceedings.  There’s no legal grounds for Murray to sue, he serves at the pleasure of citizens, and there’s nothing in law that stops council members from energizing the cause.

And considering that Kshama Sawant, who is the biggest liability on the council, if you read the link news story, you would think this is a no-brainer for them to get started, since she stuck her nose in the business of the City of Seatac, which also had a push for a $15.00 an hour minimum wage.

But of course, while the council has strict rules on their members getting involved in other municipalities politics, they didn’t enforce it with Sawant then, which then allowed the politcally-motivated Seatac judge to dismiss the criminal charges on the worst legal grounds ever uttered in a court of law. 

And since it’s clear they’ll let a council member act criminally, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they’ll let a mayor, whether or not the statute of limitations has been reached.  But this is why the citizens of Seattle need to take this effort on.  Because until they do signal their supreme interest in having ethical leadership, this kind of terrible circumstance is going to continue to visit this fair city multiple times.

On a side note, this might be the reason that voting down party lines is a bad idea.  It gives people the chance to fast-track themselves, despite their inability to maintain a proper life.  Of course, that idea can be used subjectively, but I think this example states it very well.  While there is no question that no one helped Murray do any of the despicable things he’s been accused of, or been found to have done, it is clear that due to a liberal-friendly media, a liberal-friendly citizenry, and delegates, advisers, business leaders, really a whole apparatus of political “clergy” who were friendly to a politician like Murray that has allowed him to serve as long as he has without anyone digging into his background.

It ought to be concerning to citizens that it took until May 2017 for the child abuse investigation to be made known, seeing as Murray has served in as a State Representative in Washington State for several terms before becoming mayor.  Those findings were made in the 80’s.  How was the press not capable of finding this out?

All the more reason for citizens to take over their own cause, which is the city, and forced Murray to resign, or face recall.

Military Nude Picture Scandal: Where are we today?

It’s been several months since we first heard of the disgusting military nude picture situation.  I know a lot of people call it a scandal, but that word is overused in my opinion.

The last known status on this investigation was that a joint task force of FBI and NCIS agents have a small office a Quantico, where they sit eight to ten hours a day, scouring through photos on several sites, trying to capture the roots of photos, identify victims, and locate where the people distributing them are.

At the same time that update went out, several self-identified victims came forward, some who had nude photos shared, others who did not, stating they were upset by the photos being sent, rightfully so.

As a veteran, I find the whole thing appalling.  It has ruined unit and branch cohesion in a way that only the service would ever be capable of doing to itself – implosion.

That’s not to say that the leadership of our armed services caused this problem, because they didn’t.  That’s not to say they contributed to this problem, because they didn’t.

The problem has been the acts of about four dozen members of various branches of service, who have since disseminated all of these photos and videos to tens of thousands of others, who in turn have re-posted them to tens of thousands, and so on.

I have always said that our military, and the things service members do while not in combat, are a direct reflection of ourselves.

While these photos were being hung around the internet, many of these female victims were serving bravely overseas, some were preparing for overseas assignments, some where in the States, getting equipment and personnel ready for war-fighting.  And yet, they were being victimized, over and over and over again.

If you are a veteran, or actively serving, be it on active duty, reserves, or national guard, and you support the dissemination of this material, you should do yourself and everyone else who does or has served a favor, and ask your unit command for discharge right now.  We don’t have room for people like you in the service.

When I served, masculinity abounded in the service, as it should, and certainly there was varying degrees of womanizing.  The most terrible thing I can gather from this is that it’s that casual pervalence of looking at women as a conquest is what was used by these few bad apples to support the actions they took.

I can tell you that nothing could be further from the truth.  It’s understandable that people would link these two things together, because it appears quite easy.  But in reality, in order to turn your interest in the opposite sex into victimization speaks to a entirely different reality that the perpetrators are working from.  It’s called narcissism.

True, we all experience levels of narcissistic behavior within ourselves, but the level this group of criminals are at is sociopathic.   Their actions show that not only do they think they are superior, but that their idea of women is that they are merely here for their convenient delight.  That the only purpose they serve is when they themselves have an itch to scratch.  And that’s why guys like them post this content.  They have a momentary need, they solve for it, and then they don’t think about it ever again.

The idea that you can take whatever you want from a woman, is not an idea that ever come up in the passive womanizing I was aware of in my time of service, nor was it something I ever explored.  Did I find certain women “hot?”  Absolutely!  And I don’t feel bad for having my own opinion of what is attractive and what isn’t, and I never will feel bad for that.  But what I do know, is regardless of how I may have felt about a particular woman in my dating past, is that I never decided to embarrass her for being who she is with me, and no one else.  I always took that as my experience with her, and no one else will learn of it from me.

You can call it what you like, but I think the difference between civility and barbarianism is when you experience something raw and potentially filled with emotion, you shouldn’t be looking to exploit that experience, or any person involved.

Heck, even barbarians have a level of civility when it comes to this, so maybe that comparison is insulting.

But more to the issue at hand, is the male role as protector.  Too often, we as men avoid that role.  I say too often, and don’t misunderstand the use.  When I say that, I don’t mean by and large, men all over are devoid of responsibility.  I’m saying that sometimes in the most crucial moments of decision making, collectively, we as men miss the mark of what we should be doing.  If we considered our role as protectors in every decision we made, I think our society would be a lot safer in general, and we wouldn’t have as much fodder for news and blogs to cover, because risk taking behavior would be cut by third overall, and literally all deviant behavior would be cut in half or more.  As I’m getting older, I know this is becoming a larger part of my process, and I can only hope it would be installed by many other men.

Before the investigation opened, I was sent a link on a certain social media site (which I won’t reveal), to view photos that were undoubtedly part of this investigation.  I didn’t think twice, and didn’t click the link.  I knew something was wrong, because it’s a social media site I’m on, but I have no activity, so I figured it was spam anyway, and that the title was some attempt at click bait.

When I heard of the problem being exposed, and the speech given by General Robert Neller, I instantly thought of that link.  I looked at it, and even clicked on it, and it confirmed my suspicions.  The people sending it were looking for anyone with a military background.  For whatever reason, they thought we were all interested.  I guess we might all be interested, but we all have a very different take on this.

What I saw really brought this issue through my front door and right in my face, where I had to sit and think about my past as a man, and how I’ve related to women over the years.  I can’t say I’ve been perfect in my relationships.  I can’t say that in my relationships that I would do it all the same again.  I know I have misstepped, I know I have done things wrong.  But I can be sure that I’ve never done anything remotely like this to any woman, and wouldn’t dream of it.  But I do wonder what it takes for someone to reach their level of depravity.

Prior to writing this, I looked to see if that link was still active, and it sadly is.  But it has been receiving far less traffic than before, and I’ve noticed most of the users who posted the material are now deactivated, probably either by their own doing, or maybe a sign that these accounts are slowly being dealt with, and so are the things they’ve done.

There’s been no updates that I can find on this investigation since May of this year, and that’s most likely because law enforcement agencies have taken the correct stance in not discussing active investigations.

In one sense, it can’t be done fast enough.  But on the other hand, having investigations experience myself, I would hope it goes as slow as investigators need to make as many defense-proof cases as possible.  Because I don’t want a single one of these perverts getting to claim honorable discharge and reap benefits of service they betrayed.

What Global Aid is Really Telling the US

I’ve been thinking a lot about global aid efforts we in the US put on, both through out taxes, and through our own checkbooks.

In the course of reading about the issue, I also watched the documentary, Poverty, Inc. which was released in 2015.

The recent data, results, and of course responses by people in South America, the Caribbean, and Africa has been astounding to say the least:  they don’t want our help anymore.

The documentary has shed light on the personal experience of those “helped,” or rather, hindered, by aid work and it’s fruits, which further hamper locals from establishing commerce, which in turn helps them sustain their own lifestyle, homes, and families.

It’s quite a bizarre situation.  Since the late 60’s, when television news began corresponding from world locations other than where US military efforts were commencing, when the people in Biafra succeeded from Nigeria, US citizens pounded down the doors of the Nixon administration, demanding we send aid to children and parents, visibly dying of starvation on camera.

Ever since then, the global aid effort has turned into industry, says the documentary, and numerous other experts in the field of economics, who are showing that global aid’s only interest is itself…..sound familiar?

But the personal stories in the film are what expresses it in unfiltered, uninterrupted truth.

There are people in Haiti, who place their children in orphanages, not out of necessity, but because they can’t support children – with the inability to seek work, which is destroyed by all the subsidized food currently in the country.  In 2010, President Bill Clinton brought in tons of rice, and to this date, there are still bags of subsidized rice in country, which decimated the rice farming industry in Haiti, which was fragile to begin with, but sustainable on it’s own.

There’s examples from Rwanda, where people were re-building their own farming community, but in the aftermath of genocidal war, a well-meaning church in the US began sending bulk eggs to the community, circumventing the efforts of one young man, who had long since invested in coups, chickens, and feed to start his own egg business.  Instead, he had to sell everything, and once that happened, they church decided to lay their eggs elsewhere in Africa, which then meant the community would have to buy eggs, from another community down the road.

The examples given provide an overwhelming theme:  Aid organizations, intentionally or not, are eliminating poor people’s ability to start their own business, from relying upon themselves, from becoming self-sufficient.  Does that sound familiar?

The film, along with all the recent data suggests that our best effort, if we are to continue providing aid, is do so in short bursts, when disaster strikes, but that once the people, not their less than representative governments, say it’s time to go, we need to take all our toys, people, and resources, and get out of dodge.

Many reviews of Poverty, Inc. suggest that it’s tone is lighter, and not as critical.  I admit, towards the end, the people being interviewed do try to soften the blow.  But their tone is consistent.  They believe US citizens, along with their aid organizations, are misinformed, misguided, and rooted in colonialism.  They even identify the owner of Toms Shoes as being one of the most colonial-oriented people of the 21st century.  To be blunt, all of these people affected by Global Aid efforts couldn’t be more blunt themselves: Please stop helping us.

Sadly, much of this effort is paid for by taxes raised in the US.  That money is sent directly by our government, or re-directed to non-profits, that in turn spend that money on their efforts.  The film exposes organizations spending much of their money on top of the line vehicles for the country they operate in, paying absorbent salaries to staff, and hiring……house staff!  And here’s the kicker in that situation, they don’t pay at US rates for labor, they pay at the local rate….typically a fraction of a dollar per hour.  Talk about aid!

The help they do need comes from a strong need for the laws in their country to change, so that people can go into business for themselves easily.  And these people believe we could help that effort, espeically these aid groups.  But no one does.  There are countless examples of these people being asked over and over to help in that effort, and what do they do?  Avoid answering, waffle, cower, anything besides help, which is the whole reason they are there to begin with.

Not surprising, the biggest defenders of what is now a multi-billion dollar industry, liberal academics, and celebrities, who try to explain away the data, and most of all the voices of those affected, as scuttle.

For me, that’s the nail in the coffin.  If the US wants to return to it’s powerhouse status, without all the bloat, it’s time we turned off the faucet overseas.  Because the help we give is not wanted, and the help that is needed, we still refuse to offer.

Friday Night Opinion: When City Councils Run Amok – It Costs Tax Payers

Earlier in the week a small town in North Georgia called Varnell made headlines throughout various communities in the country.  The reason so many newspapers and blogs wrote about this town of just under 1,800 are for two reasons.  One, their city leadership did something unprecedented, and to here the recollection of the vent, a major decision in less than 30 minutes.  The second reason this made waves in news circle I’ll discuss at the end.

But first, let’s recap what happened.  And fair warning, I’m not going to do it like the news papers, I’m going to do it using the established facts, to paint as a complete story as can be told at this time.  Keep in mind, the news papers have an agenda, and this is also an on-going, current event.  So, there’s the expectation that as time moves forward, more details will emerge, so there’s the chance that those details may collide with what I know of this situation.

To start, the Varnell Police Department is responsible for a small community, when considering land mass, physically, it is officially reported in the US Census to be 2.5 square miles.

However, their town doesn’t sit in a square.  It’s a zig-zag pattern, that most US cities don’t contend with.  A layman’s query of the town’s shape using Google Maps tells you this is a town with a challenging spatial pattern for any law enforcement agency to patrol.

As it stands, the police department in this community is responsible for 22.5 miles of State Highways and roads that come in and out of their community, all heading to larger towns.

Chattanooga is northwest of them, and surely this means Varnell receives some “run-off” traffic, that being traffic trying to use the small community as an alternative to road stoppages, accidents, and so on.

But more importantly, it’s a town that has a very bizarre shape, because for some reason, which we’ll get to explore a little, their town limits have been scattered, literally all over the major roads in the area.  While the town has a core area which one would expect, everything else is a jigsaw puzzle of city limits, and unincorporated county.  It looks very weird.

In looking at their outline, I counted no less than 37 spaces of unincorporated area, big and small, that the city limits appear to surround…..what is this madness?  Well, I had difficulty finding solid sources, but this appears to be something similar to what happens in Oklahoma, where actual land owners have to petition for incorporation into the city limits, even if they are surrounded.  And I love Oklahoma, but it’s one law I don’t agree with.  However, what I saw with the Varnell map, I’ve not ever seen play out quite as extreme in Oklahoma.  The layout of Varnell is in need of serious fixing, and it starts with an overhaul of State law concerning annexation and incorporation of land.

Now that we’ve laid that part of this situation out, let’s talk about the one factual issue that the city laid out that led to this rapid-pace decision.  Civil liability.

City governments, County governments, and State Governments are typically some of the biggest insurance customers out there.  The federal government isn’t, because they put our collective taxes into everything they do, and if they get sued, they just cut a check on the promissory of those taxes, whether they have it actually or not, because in the end, we just keep paying taxes, that fund those issues for them.  Again, I digress.  At any rate, the governments closer to the ground don’t have that luxury.  They have to balance their checkbooks in fiscal cycles, on an annual basis, the exception being that some States have adopted a system whereby an unexpected negative may be eventually covered over the course of the following year or two.  We won’t discuss those instances, their not germane here.

City of Varnell has an annual budget, like most cities, and because they are small, everything that hits them stings.  It’s not totally their fault.  They don’t have a crystal ball, they predict everything that’s going to happen.  Life is tough, you got to have a helmet.  So, like the responsible city that they are, they purchase insurance bonds.  But those bonds have steep payments they make out of their city budget, and those bonds go up based on their level of activity, meaning, claims.

The Varnell Police Department, allegedly has had two liability claims, paid out by council vote, because most likely, their city attorney said it would be cheaper.  Government, unlike us, can’t fight for principle anymore, because it’s too costly, that’s what everyone tells them.  The two claims were the result of traffic collisions.  Those details have been lightly reported, and the information is conflicting.  And the City of Varnell’s own website presents no information concerning those claims, even though they have been awarded as a “Certified City of Ethics,” which one of the tenets is to be an environment of honesty and openness.

I did manage to find a council agenda dated April 19, 2016, at a cached site that has one sentence in that reads:  “The city’s liability insurance premium has increased for this year due to processing of 4 claims Within the 4 years.”

So if we’re going to go off the statements of the city council members, who were the other two claims against?  And are those departments facing disbandment because of the claims faced by the city?  As of now, no one is commenting on that.

There is a rather charismatic character in all of this, Sheldon Fowler.  Recently, Fowler had to resign from the city council.  He was a ‘mover and shaker’ type, so I’ve been told, and he apparently had plans to run for a bigger office.  That is until his personal behavior caught up to him.  On June 27, 2017, Fowler’s wife called 911 complaining of her own husband, being drunk and loud.  Side note, it sounds like a wonderful home they have.

When Chief Lyle Grant and Lieutenant Greg Fowler (no relation) responded, Sheldon decided that poking both officers in the chest, yelling (about his position and standing I’m sure) was a good idea.  Both officers documented the situation, and applied for an arrest warrant, rather than taking Sheldon into custody on the scene.

Now, you might be asking yourself, why did these two lawmen decide to take this route, rather than one we’ve seen on television over and over again:  Drunk and disorderly, loud, rude, and placing hands where they don’t belong, usually ends in handcuffs, right?  Yes, but these two officers knew what was coming.  And the process of getting an arrest warrant means that a County Prosecutor or State’s Attorney has to evaluate the evidence, qualify the facts in an affidavit of probable cause, and then have the arresting officers swear to the statement.

These two officers were smart.  Very smart.  Extremely smart.  They covered themselves.  Because the arrest warrant was granted, and nine days later, they arrested him on the charges.  For Sheldon, that was the nail in the coffin, and the following meeting, he had to resign, after the city council was forced to motion for it.  And here’s why I say they were forced:  It is clear by the timeline of events, that while the police department must not be highly regarded by the city council prior to this incident, that this incident caused a major headache for the other city council members.

Additionally, the 911 call that Sheldon’s wife made was more disturbing than a mere drunk spouse being belligerent.  A direct quote from the audio was “My husband is drunk, half naked, and won’t leave my two daughters alone.”  His wife also stated that she has to lock her two daughters in their bedrooms, because at night Sheldon wanders……disgusting!

I’m going to opine this:  they themselves saw the writing on the wall.  If these two very smart lawmen could do this to “Good Ol’ Boy” Sheldon, what were they going to do to them?  Considering the statement made in that old city council agenda I found, the rift between police and city council has been simmering for awhile, if we are to believe the city council about their issues with claims, then it would seem they mitigated that for quite some time.  To all of sudden bring that up as their primary concern now doesn’t make sense.

It even makes less sense when you look at the January, February, and March 2017 meeting minutes where the same council members were adjusting their city budget for payments necessary to make that police department State Certified!

That’s right, this same city council was actually taking proactive steps to remedy the claims issue.  For those that don’t know, while insurance bonds have markers for claims, like the meeting minutes claim (4 claims in 4 years), there is also a way to mitigate increases.

Think of it this way, you get auto insurance, there are certain things you can do to reduce your costs:  Have two cars for one person, both insured on the same plan; don’t have tickets, accidents (claims), have an anti-theft system installed, and so on.  Well, the Varnell Police Department was actively trying to achieve State Certification in Georgia, which would be a symbol of excellence, acknowledge by among others, insurance companies, which would mean VPD could potentially keep their bond amounts down for the city.

But, Chief Grant can’t go out and do all that on his own, he needs the city to accept the payments needed for the evaluations, for the additional infrastructure that may be needed, etc.

So if there is such an urgent need to disband the police department, why is the city council writing checks for State Certification?  Isn’t that irresponsible use of municipal funds?  Someone may want to look into that, because that’s surely waste and abuse of funds, and it certainly borders on fraud, in the sense of lying to citizens.

Getting back to Sheldon’s arrest.  After he was arrested, forced to resign his council seat, and overall publicly outed as a drunk, abusive spouse, and likely a predatory sex offender waiting to act, Chief Grant was suspended, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was contacted to investigate the matter of how Chief Grant went about his arrest.

GBI never got that message apparently, because first, the city never actually requested it.  Second, GBI stated they were not aware of anything criminal that happened on the part of Chief Grant during the incident, and the only thing GBI stated was that if Chief Grant acted “inappropriately,” that would be between him and his employer (City of Varnell).  And that’s the issue at hand it seems for this clown of a city council.  They just don’t like the fact that Chief Grant made Sheldon Fowler responsible for his reprehensible behavior.  This city council isn’t interested in justice, they’re interested in saving their own skin, and keeping their ‘Good Ol’ Boy’ system intact.  It’s foolish to allow city councils like this to carry on.  A word of advice for the citizens in Varnell: recall these people immediately, because letting them stick around means you empower their foolish behavior, and that means it only gets worse from here.

The council members claim that their city budget is $954,000, and that the Police Department costs over $300,000 to operate.  Those numbers could very well be accurate.  However, what they also point to is a line item in their budget, that they have to pay every year, regardless of whether they have a police force or not.  And that’s $50,000 a year to the County Sheriff.

Here’s a quick breakdown:  Every incorporated city has to pay a fee for “service’ from the County Sheriff that is assigned to their county.  The fee can vary from community to community, and it comes directly out of property taxes, usually.  So it’s really a “paper” item on the city budget.  The city budget is a lengthy report, and it shows literally every dollar raised through taxes and services.  Property taxes is one of those items raised.  However, if you look at the breakdowns, a chunk of that money doesn’t stay with the city, it goes to the county offices.  Things like the Assessor, Sheriff, Public Works, etc.  Why?  Because your city is within that county, and even if you don’t realize it, there are things the county provides your city, directly or indirectly, that do benefit your city.

In the case of the money going to the Sheriff, that $50,000 is for basic 911 emergency response within the city, if needed.  The phrase “if needed” is important.  Because if your city department is in the midst of a call, and the officers on duty are tied up, your citizens can continue to call 911, and a deputy can be dispatched to cover that call.  If you do away with that payment, that service goes away.  There are some communities that may not necessarily need that basic service, but that is also only one part of that fee.  That fee also goes towards covering things like evictions, on the front end.  See, if you’re a landlord, you pay fees to get a tenant evicted, but most of those fees go to the courts for their time, labor, and paperwork — that they had you fill out.

Meanwhile, the Sheriff is required to exercise the eviction, but gets next to nothing from the actual fees charged the landlord.  So instead, the Sheriff is given an upfront payment within that annual fee charged the city, typically based on the level of activity derived from civil functions the Sheriff services, mainly evictions, but also some other smaller tasks, like serving papers, etc.

To be quite honest, I’d be surprised if these city council members in Varnell knew that, because they seem to think that by relying on that $50,000, they’ll get the same level of service that their city police department provides.

Well here’s the facts, that money only covers 911 calls, like the one made to Sheldon Fowler’s residence.  What it doesn’t cover is non-emergency calls made by residents, or 911 calls determined to be non-emergency (like a burglary discovered after the fact – people are scared out of their wits, and expect service on such calls)  The Sheriff has stated he doesn’t foresee any problems with service…..SURE he doesn’t!  Because the first time the council demands his deputies start to respond to non-emergency calls, he’s going to have the meter running!

In order to get full law enforcement service, Varnell will have to contract with the Sheriff’s Office, and their council has already advised City Manager Mike Brown to look into contracting.  But then the council members keep citing the $50,000 number as the only cost.

How can you “look” into contracting, if you’re already sure of the pricing?  The statements made to direct questions by this entire group do not line up, and it speaks to the very unethical behavior occurring.  It speaks to them not being truthful about what is really motivating them, and what their actual intent is.

And back to that savings figure of $250,000.  That would never be realized.  For one, they have to pay out severances to the officers involved, and that can exceed 12 months of unemployment.  They obviously are not aware of public employee law, but when you have an established government office, you staff it, you are making career appointments.  Baring poor behavior or performance on the part of the employee, they can expect to be there for a career.  Now, it would be unrealistic if a city had been talking about disbanding their police department for five years prior to an officer’s arrival, that once it happened, that officer would be entitled to 25 years of severance.  But, they would likely have to be compensated up to an additional five years, and more likely somewhere between two to three.  Second, the city would ultimately have to chip in additional funds to the Sheriff’s Office the minute a major investigation hit in city limits, like a narcotics bust, or a stolen property ring, and so on.  That wouldn’t be covered by $50,000 dollars.  And investigations can get expensive, especially when there’s evidence to collect and store.

The council has said they intend to pass the tax savings to citizens, but also cite park improvements, and many other civic projects.  Well, it’s going to be one or the other, and if it’s a savings, it’s not going to be much.  If we were able to actually take that money every year, dollar for dollar (which will never happen), and put it back in the pockets of the tax payers in Varnell, that’s approximately 142 per person.  If we broke that down over households, it’s more like 215 dollars on the actual property tax bills within the city limits.  But that’s a year.  It’s less than 18 dollars a month.  So what the city council has actually proved, is that for 24/7 coverage, with full law enforcement service afford the police force in Varnell,  is that the city is going to be cheaper than anything the Sheriff’s Office can produce.  Varnell currently keeps two officers on duty around the clock.  The Sheriff’s Office says they have one deputy in the area at all times, and intends to patrol the city with just that one deputy.  Even if the deputies work four 12 hour shifts, that is half coverage.  We could argue that $100,000 to the Sheriff’s Office would produce 24/7 coverage…but again, that’s 911  call service only.  The level of service does not match what Varnell currently receives on it’s own, and an analysis of the numbers would bear out that the Sheriff’s Office will ultimately exceed VPD’s budget by a factor of 1.5, if we were to mirror the level of service.

There is one article that suggests the city council was upset at the length of time between the incident, and the arrest.  As stated, it took nine days for VPD to receive warrants for Sheldon Fowler’s arrest.  That could be the cost of doing business, that could be that Chief Grant wanted to take time, before taking action, because he wanted the charges to stick, if they were going to.  And it appears if he made this move intentionally or not, in terms of criminal justice, he picked the best path.  Chief Grant has had a full career in law enforcement, and I have no doubt he’s seen council members in the past do things off the municipal clock that were less than stellar.  It may be that those past incidents influenced how he handled this one, because the charges are solid, and the case is going to be hard for Fowler to fight.  His best chance is seeking a plea deal.  He’s civic career is done irregardless.   What is clear is that Chief Fowler, may not be the city council lackey that they thought he was.  But the truth is, that isn’t his job.  City councils can tell Chiefs they are fired, but they can’t tell them how to do the job.  Nor should they.  All they’ve managed to do is stick their proverbial keisters on front street for everyone to see.  And that’s nasty.

I talked about the second reason this made headlines, and here’s what that reason is: the current anti-government sentiment being pushed in the media.  There’s no argument that our various media agencies have focused on law enforcement’s use of force as a way to deride the concept of government.  Any time they hear of a use of force incident leading to a death, they are there uniformly, unless that death is of an officer.  However, no media organization can keep that kind of narrative up without adding other stories here and there, to give the proposed theme context.  And so, a small town in North Georgia becomes a lightning rod, even though the story is inaccurately covered, and relies heavily on city council members who are clearly quoted in less than truthful statements.  As much as I enjoy news stories, and as much as I appreciate journalists, this on-going “war” they want to wage on traditional government roles is unquestionably the dumbest strategy to sell advertising that they have ever collectively been involved in.  This is a huge gamble, and whether they are cognizant of it or not, they are staking their entire claim on such a narrative.  And the longer it goes on, without an actual pay off, as in they finally get the truth out there on one of these stories, the sooner their readerships are going to dwindle, their advertising dollars are going to shrink, and the more of them are going to die off.  Narrative reporting has been one of the worst experiments ever conducted by journalism, and it needs to end.  The fact that I can search a city website, and connect fact to false statements made by the sources in these stories quicker than NBC says a whole lot about what is happening with modern day journalism.

Back to Varnell, we look at these situations and say “well that’s small town politics,” but that’s an unacceptable answer.  Again, recalls should be the next move by citizens.  No debate, no “well he/she is my friend otherwise” none of that.  Just recall them, and set the tone that citizens want true, unabashed representation.  Sorry your friend is a degenerate scumbag who wants to touch children, but that’s not our problem as citizens, that’s your own personal problem to contemplate.  If it’s too much for you, resign.  Otherwise, we’re going to make you leave.

Small towns are painted this way, because this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this kind of knee-jerk, nonsensical, decision made by people who are either unqualified, or criminal in their thinking, and the longer these sorts of displays are allowed to continue, the longer this stigma is attached to small towns, that could attract outsiders by hundreds, if not for the appearance of toxic scenes such as this.  Small towns can uncoil much of the perception around them, if they treated their small towns the same they regard them, worth protecting.

Let’s hope the citizens in Varnell step up and do something memorable.