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College student.

A college student must pass through grade school, middle school, and high school. That’s a whole lot of schools. Then the student must pass some sort of admittance exam before a university of higher learning will accept them.

One would think that a student who makes it through these education gauntlets would have the sense to pour “piss out of a boot.”

But that is not always the case.

There have been a ton of recent stories reported in the media about college openings, mass gatherings, unmasked partying, increased Covid infections, and college closings.

During one of these news reports, a college student (a supporter of mass partying) gave a sound bite to a reporter that the Covid pandemic is a “hoax.”

Nearly 180,000 people dead and more than five million people infected and this moron had the audacity to not only tell the world but the parents paying for his college education that the Covid pandemic is a “hoax.”

I wondered how his parents felt: it cost them somewhere between $20,000 and $40,000 to underwrite his education only to have him embarrass them with a “hoax” sound bite that messaged his idiocy to the entire world.

I feel more than certain that the student’s daddy felt much like Sheriff Buford T. Justice did toward his son in Smokey and the Bandit—that boy “did not come from my loins.”

It doesn’t bother me if a person pursues stupidity as a way of life. I live by the tenet that every person has a right to go to hell in their own way.

But to call a pandemic that has killed nearly 180,000 people and infected more than five million—many of whom will take years to fully recover—a hoax is beyond the pale. It is so offensive that it defies all bounds of social decency.

America has become the “first” nation to express its “greatness” by having a significant portion of its population actually believe that the Covid pandemic is a “hoax.” No other point in history when the world has suffered from a pandemic did people call the plague killing them by the millions a “hoax.”

I’m sure most of these pandemic “hoaxers” also believe in the QAnon Conspiracy.

They also probably believe in the Moon Landing Conspiracy; that NASA is a lie; and that the earth is flat.

Forget politics for a moment.

Think only about the hoaxer college student and the number of people he is likely to infect, and ultimately kill, through his irresponsible and negligent actions. Think about the physical pain before possible death or at the very least the physical pain associated with the slow recovery process from the Covid virus that the individuals he infects will experience because of his “hoax” belief.

The government can legitimately be criticized for its incompetent, delusional, and partisan political response to the Covid pandemic.

But the bottom line is this: most of the nearly 180,000 people who have died are victims of the hoaxer idiocy. Irresponsible people, like the college student, killed these people with negligent, borderline criminal behavior that had absolutely nothing to do with “my rights.”

The tragedy is the hoaxer college student is too amoral and stupid to comprehend the social impact of his behavior.

But there is a real possibility, if you believe in the law of karma, that this same college student, gasping for air and feeling a searing pain eat away at his insides, will hoarsely whisper from his ICU bed, “please help me, doctor … I thought it was a hoax” before he closes his eyes for the last time.

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Masks

They have been used as far back as the 17th century to ward off disease and infection.

The most effective preventive measure against the Covid-19 virus currently ravaging the nation, and Texas in particular is a mask. The mask not only protects the wearer from contracting the virus from public exposure but also prevents an asymptomatic person with the virus from infecting others.

But despite the fact that more than 140,000 people have succumbed to the virus and millions more have been infected, too many people make a personal choice not to wear a mask in public and, in fact, will vehemently assert, even violently express a perceived constitutional right not to be required, either by the government or public businesses, to wear a mask in public.

First, most people who assert “constitutional rights” have never read the U.S. Constitution, much less took the time to understand how its principles are applied. The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, do not mention the word “mask” nor can any of those amendments be remotely interpreted as a “right” not to wear a mask when required to do so to protect public health.

The First Amendment rights of religion, speech and assembly do not mention the word mask, nor do these rights entail any protection from being required to wear masks to protect public health. The Second Amendment right to own and tote a gun has nothing to do with masks. The amendments go on and on without discussing masks. Suffice it to say that the issue of masks was not high on the constitutional agenda of the Framers of the Constitution.

Protecting public health has always taken precedent over perceived individual liberty. For example, when science and medicine informed the public that secondhand cigarette smoke could cause cancer or other debilitating diseases, the government (local, state and federal) imposed cigarette smoking bans in certain businesses and in public except for designated areas.

In effect, the non-smoker’s right to be free of the dangers posed by someone else’s cigarette smoke exceeds the right of the smoker to light up and puff away as they see fit.

Again, the Constitution does not grant to the smoker any imagined right to huff and puff away in public at the expense of public health and the endangerment of others.

The overwhelming need to protect public health extends to the government an absolute legal right to regulate such dangerous human endeavors as vehicle driving, alcohol consumption, animal hunting, fish catching, human killing, and a host of other life-threatening human behaviors.

Personally, I wear a mask and medical gloves each time I leave my vehicle and step into the public arena (and I’m waiting on a face-shield from Amazon). I engage in this public safety behavior to protect myself from the non-mask wearer.

I will not confront or chastise the non-mask wearer for their individual recklessness and socially irresponsible behavior. I subscribe to the notion that every person has the right to go to hell in their own way.

More importantly, however, I do not engage in this challenging behavior because the reality is that a lot of non-mask wearers are certified, bona fide idiots. They welcome any opportunity to spit and slobber their imagined, un-sourced “constitutional right” not to wear a mask to anyone who challenges them. They will yell, curse, and make a genuine, 100 percent fool of themselves in public in support of their imagined “constitutional right” until the ICU doctor tells them that nurses have to stick a ventilator tube up their ass to pump oxygen into their failing lungs being munched on by the little ugly Covid-19 virus.

The issue about mask wearing in public is not about politics, hoaxes, Deep State conspiracies, the Boogaloo Movement, defund the police, Black Lives Matter, or any of the other emotional issues dividing this nation along racial and cultural lines. It’s about protecting you and your family’s lives, the lives of your grandma and grandpa, the lives of your friends and neighbors, and all of our obligations to protect public health and safety.

And if those of you who refuse to wear a mask cannot see that, then continue to clothe yourself in God, Flag, and Country as you watch our society die and collapse—a catastrophe you help create and perpetuate.

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Executions

Each in its own way has a distinct foul smell.

This past Wednesday the State of Texas executed Billy Joe Wardlow. He was 18 years old when he killed a man during a robbery attempt. It took the State 25 years to execute the man—despite a host of state legislators, neuroscientists and two members of his jury urging that he be spared that fate.

U.S. Attorney Bill Barr has been waging a year-long legal effort to have five federal inmates executed—one of whom was scheduled to die Monday but whose execution was postponed by a federal judge after the victim’s family, who do not support the execution, said their personal safety would be put at risk traveling through the Covid virus to attend execution process.

The three remaining federal inmates scheduled to die over the next six weeks probably will not be as fortunate as the federal inmate who just had his execution postponed. Pandemic be damn, the show must go on.

What does it say about the nation’s criminal justice system when state and federal governments find a need to execute people in perhaps the worst pandemic in our history?

It doesn’t say a lot – and that’s why choking, shooting, kicking, and beating innocent or minor offenders to death by the police in full view of the world is accepted by at least 50 million people in this country as “law and order;” and why the scolding, choking, stomping, beating, and actual murder of mentally challenged or otherwise unruly prison inmates is considered by even more people to be “effective disciplinary control” measures.

Though sanitized, lethal injection, the very method by which most condemned inmates are put to death in this country, is the cruelest, most inhumane, and most tortuous method ever devised to carry out state-sanctioned executions in this country.

Botched electrocutions (some of which set the condemned on fire), bungled hangings (some of which left the condemned dangling and kicking for as long as 27 minutes), and cyanide gas chambers (some of which left the condemned slamming their heads back against the metal pole of the death chair) pale in comparison to the methodical and indifferent protocol involved in a lethal injection—the condemned inmate strapped to a gurney as much as an hour before the execution process gets underway, IVs inserted in whatever veins are available, and a mixture of drugs sent coursing through those veins that literally paralyze and slowly suffocates the life out of the condemned inmate.

More than 132,000 people have died as a result of governmental incompetence, mismanagement, lies, and the politicization of the coronavirus pandemic—and governments at both the state and federal level are now effectively forcing the victim families to expose themselves to an execution process that could possibly kill them.

And for what?

Justice? Revenge? Or just plain human population reduction?

That is where we are, folks.

Some saying old folks should just step up to the plate, accept the virus, and get on down the road to death because they are on their last leg of life’s journey anyway. Let the young folks live and party in an open society.

May as well throw a few executions in the social mix just to show how hard, mean and callous we have become as a society.

I guess the government will be lighting the fires for the “witches” next.

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In My Underwear

When I was in prison—a famous prison journalist, published author and statewide renowned jailhouse lawyer—I would tell my wife (and most anyone else who would suffer through the listening) that if I was released from prison in my underwear in the middle of New York City, I would find a way to survive.

As Dierks Bentley’s song says, “what was I thinkin’”?

I was finally released in 2006 after serving more than 40 years (in some pretty dark, dangerous places) and I didn’t have on much more than my underwear when I walked out of the prison into my wife’s arms.

But what I did have was an upscale high rise condo (beautifully decorated) in which to live, a network of middle/upper class friends of my wife that embraced my reentry into the free world, and the financial resources to get the computer and legal skills at a local community college I so desperately needed to secure employment in the legal profession.

In effect, I virtually had every opportunity for a successful reentry into the free community made available to me by my wife. I didn’t have to worry about surviving in New York City in my underwear.

Still, after 40 years in a confined environment, surviving in the free community was no easy task—psychological adjustments had to be made, learning how to work in a professional setting had to be achieved, and developing the personal and social skills necessary to navigate in and about the nation’s fourth largest city had to be honed.

Believe me that free world adjustment was much harder than the ten years I spent in a maximum security cell or the five years I spent in a general prison population in what was called “the bloodiest prison in America.”

That brings me to the heart of this post.

ABC News carried a report on April 10, 2020 about inmates being released from “Locked Up to Locked Out” – inmates walking out of prison into a society in virtual lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic. Some were released just weeks before the Covid virus effectively shut the free world down causing them to lose those initial successful reentry gains—job, place to live, and the prospect of a good, decent, law-abiding future.

Then Covid arrived, and the bottom of their world suddenly, and without much warning, fell out—no job, no place to stay, bills to pay, and a truck load of other concerns staring them in the face. Granted, the average person firmly established in the free world before Covid is now facing the same problems and concerns, but at least they have a network of friends, family and resources that allows them to  face the Covid challenges with some support.

The fresh-out-prison individual does not have these personal and psychological support mechanisms. They are pretty much alone—alone like being in a foxhole in the middle of a war without a gun. They do not even have the “going back to prison” option. Those facilities are now, or will become, human death traps. At least in the free world there are masks, surgical gloves, halfway houses, and the local food bank the help the newly released inmates survive the Covid pandemic.

I feel empathy for these guys. I still pray for those I left behind and will now pray for those who must face the challenges of surviving in a world being ravaged by a deadly pandemic.

Think about being in your underwear in middle of New York City, alone, and you will know what these guys are up against.

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Perspective

The Covid 19 virus claims an American life roughly every 9.5 minutes. Today or tomorrow more than 10,000 will have succumbed to the virus.

That’s a lot of death whose tentacles reach out across a wide spectrum of Americans with grief and other tragic consequences. There’s no way to minimize, much less rationalize, the personal and community harm this deadly virus has inflicted and will continue to inflict upon America.

But with the specter (and fear) of death lingering over the American landscape, there is a need for a world view perspective about the ravages, and, yes, the unfairness of death.

One in four children in Africa will not reach the age of 15 and one in ten will be claimed by death before the age of five.

In 2018, UNICEF reported that an estimate 6.5 million children worldwide died before the age of 15—or roughly 1 child every five seconds. An estimated 5.4 million of these children died before the age of five with newborns representing half of those deaths.

Worse yet, UNICEF reported that 56 million children under the age of five will die before 2030 with half of them being newborns.

80 percent of the 2017 child deaths occurred in two regions of the world: sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.

These children died from lack of access to clean water, sanitation, proper nutrition and basic health services—conditions that are incubators for bacteria, disease, viruses, and a host of other causes of death.

If a child was dying every five seconds in America, would we call it a pandemic?

There is no fair or reasonable answer to this question, especially in a time when a “virus crisis” is crippling the nation.

But it should create a pause for perspective.

Covid 19 is lethal, no doubt about that – but it is the fear the virus produces that is worse than the prospect of death itself. The virus kills in a slow, gripping, crippling sort of way—one can only hope that the supply of morphine is readily available to ease the process of death. “Comfort care,” it is called.

Still, in the back of my mind, there lingers the image of a child—bloated stomach, skin and bones, and worse, eyes that are vacant and lost—to put this “crisis” in perspective. The sub-Saharan African mother will indescribably grieve over the passing of her child, and for all the pre-death misery the child endured. And no one will call it a crisis.

None of us will get out of this world alive.

But, with so many images and stories of death surrounding us as we isolate in the comfort of our homes, a little perspective is in order.

We’re not the only ones suffering from the rigors of death.