Take This Job & Shove It; Or Words To That Effect

It’s time to Break It Down!

If you are a regular reader, you know the range of topics I cover in this space runs the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous. Be forewarned, today’s post is closer to the latter than the former.

The post itself will be relatively short. There really is not much to say, but I wanted to say it anyway.

On this past Sunday evening, Charlene Egby, A.K.A. Charlo Greene, either quit, or was fired by her employer, KTVA TV News, in Anchorage, Alaska. In the event you have neither seen, nor heard about the pyrotechnics that ensued regarding Ms. Egby/Greene, this is how it went down. At the end of her Sunday evening news segment, she uttered an expletive, and strode off camera. But not before she revealed that she was a principal in the Cannabis story on which she had just reported.

Her actions, apparently, were tied to her role as the owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club, and as an advocate for passing a pot initiative that appears on the upcoming November ballot in Alaska. She has since made her own videos, explaining why she quit on camera, as she did. Interestingly, KTVA released a statement after her dramatic exit indicating they terminated her.

The Alaska Marijuana Legalization, Ballot Measure 2 (2014) is on the November 4, 2014 ballot in Alaska as an initiated state statute. If the voters of Alaska approve the measure, people age 21 and older would be allowed to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and up to six plants. The approved measure would also make the manufacture, sale and possession of marijuana paraphernalia legal. While these changes would be implemented at the state level, as in other states with approved marijuana laws, all these acts and items would still remain illegal under federal law.

Alaska is often thought of as the last frontier. The issue of marijuana has had an interesting and circuitous history in the state. In 1975, the state legislature approved a bill to decriminalize private possession of up to one ounce of marijuana in public, as a result replacing the possibility of jail time with a civil fine of up to $100. In response, the State Supreme Court eliminated all penalties for possessing up to four ounces of marijuana and up to 24 plants in one’s home, ruling that the prohibition of marijuana possession violated the right to privacy guaranteed by the state constitution. This ruling led to dropping the $100 fine for possessing up to four ounces in 1982.

Fast-forward to 1990, and all this was undone by the approval of the Alaska Marijuana Criminalization Initiative, which made all marijuana possession in Alaska illegal and punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or up to a $1000 fine. But hold on; the Alaska Court of Appeals overturned the law established by the Initiative, and upheld the previous law.

Again in 2006, legislators attempted to overturn the law, but were unsuccessful. Medical marijuana was legalized in the state in 1998 with the approval of Measure 8.

This is the third attempt in 15 years to decriminalize marijuana in Alaska. Voters defeated Measure 5 in 2000. That initiative sought to eliminate civil and criminal penalties for persons 18 years or older, who use marijuana or other hemp products. The legalization of recreational marijuana was defeated again in 2004 when Measure 2, which would have removed civil and criminal penalties under state law for persons 21 years old or older who grow, use sell, or give away marijuana or hemp products, failed.

Supporters of marijuana use in Alaska viewed 2012 marijuana ballot measures as an emerging trend that boosted hopes for future initiatives. The 2012 elections yielded a number of successes by legalization support groups. In the state of Washington, voters approved Initiative 502, legalizing recreational marijuana use. Coloradans approved Amendment 64 in the same election. While a similar measure failed in Oregon, Alaska supporters believe the trend line is favorable.

If you have seen or hear about the segment, you already know. But, if you haven’t, Ms. Greene (her news reporter name) said:

“Now everything you heard is why I, the actual owner of the Alaska Cannabis Club, will be dedicating all of my energy toward fighting for freedom and fairness which begins with legalizing marijuana here in Alaska.

And as for this job, well, not that I have a choice but, f**k it, I quit.”

To that end, she issued the quintessential resignation statement.  “Take This Job A Shove It; Or Words To That Effect!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

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Sergeant Major Bennie Adkins: A Real American Hero

It’s time to Break It Down!

Created in 1861, the Medal of Honor is the United States of America’s highest military honor, awarded by the President of the United States in the name of the U.S. Congress to U.S. military personnel for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty. There are versions of the medal designed uniquely for the Army, for the Navy, and for the Air Force. Members of the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard receive the Navy version.

Put in short descriptive terms, the Medal of Honor is established to recognize American service men and women who distinguish themselves through their heroic service. Let us posit from the outset that in no uncertain terms, Sgt. Maj. Bennie Adkins is the epitome of an American military hero. On Monday of this week, President Obama conferred the award upon Adkins.

I’m reminded that when the President of the United States is introduced, it is a simple and direct matter. “Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States. The thought behind that is at least in part, after having reached the pinnacle of global power and national acclaim, at least politically, an extensive introductory preamble is redundant. Everyone knows and understands “he or she is all that.”

To that end, I should be able to write, “Ladies and gentleman, Medal of Honor Recipient, Sgt. Maj. Bennie Adkins,” and the rest would be imputed. Alas, for most that is not the case, so I will take a moment to provide the background that will help you appreciate the incredible exploits of Sgt. Maj. Adkins, and the conditions under which he undertook his valorous deeds.

First, let’s set the time and place:

The then Sergeant First Class Adkins was working with the troops of the South Vietnamese Civilian Irregular Defense Group at Camp A Shau when the camp was attacked by a large North Vietnamese and Viet Cong force on March 9, 1966.

What he did:

  • He rushed through intense enemy fire and manned a mortar position defending the camp
  • He continued to mount a defense even while incurring wounds from several direct hits from enemy mortars
  • Upon learning that several soldiers were wounded near the center of the camp, he temporarily turned the mortar over to another soldier while he ran through exploding mortar rounds and dragged several comrades to safety
  • When the hostile fire subsided, he exposed himself to sporadic sniper fire and carried his wounded comrades to a more secure position
  • Under enemy fire, some coming from South Vietnamese allies who defected to the North during the battle, Adkins took wounded troops to an airstrip outside the camp for evacuation and drew enemy fire away from the evacuation aircraft
  • He went outside the camp again to retrieve supplies from an airdrop that fell into a minefield…all on day one of what would become an 86-hour ordeal.
  • The fighting, and Adkin’s heroism continued on the morning of March 10th when the North Vietnamese hit the camp with their main attack.
  • Within two hours, SFC Adkins was the only defender firing a mortar weapon.
  • When all mortar rounds were expended, Adkins began placing effective rifle fire upon the enemy as they infiltrated the amp perimeter and assaulted his position.
  • Despite receiving additional wounds from enemy rounds exploding on his position, Adkins fought off relentless waves of attacks by the North Vietnamese soldiers.
  • After falling back to a smaller bunker in Camp A Shau, Adkins killed more enemy troops with small arms fire, destroyed equipment and classified documents to prevent them from getting into North Vietnamese hands.
  • He led a group of soldiers in digging their way out of the rear of the bunker and escaping the besieged camp.
  • Carrying a wounded comrade and unable to get to the evacuation helicopters, he and the band faded into the jungle, avoiding their North Vietnamese pursuers for 48 hours.

Helicopters finally rescued Adkins and the rest of his group on March 12th. According to the Army, Adkins killed 135 to 175 enemy soldiers during the Camp A Shau battle. He suffered 18 wounds during the 86-hour ordeal. After 48 years, those are not the numbers Adkins cites. Instead, he views the metrics this way:

“I’m just a keeper of the medal for those other 16 (U.S. troops) who were in the battle, especially the five who didn’t make it. I can tell you every man who was there and the five who lost their lives. I can tell you how that happened. It diminishes, but it does not go away.”

He also remembers the South Vietnamese who stuck by him:

“There were about 410 indigenous Civilian Irregular Defense Group soldiers there with us, and of those, only about 122 survived, and most of those were wounded. It was a horrible, horrible battle. There was valor on all sides, not only Americans, but from the CIDG soldiers also.”

In summary, when discussing his experience at Camp A Shau, Adkins stated, “The bottom line is that it was just not my day to go.”

With the foregoing prologue, I can now write, “Ladies and gentleman, Medal of Honor Recipient, Sgt. Maj. Bennie Adkins.” Now, you may be better able to appreciate the exploits of “Sergeant Major Bennie Adkins: A Real American Hero!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

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Free At Last: Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied

It’s time to Break It Down!

In three decades, there are thirty years, 360 months, 1565 weeks, 10,957 days, 262,992 hours, 15,724,800 minutes, and 946,707,779 seconds. No matter how you slice it, that’s a long time. Especially when looked at in the context of a lifetime. The median age of African Americans in the United States is thirty-one.

A week ago, two men were released from prison. Henry McCollum, 50, had spent more than thirty years in Central Prison in Raleigh, NC. His half brother, Leon Brown, 46, was in Maury Correctional Institution, in Maury, NC. Both men were initially convicted for the September 1983 murder and rape of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie, and sentenced to death. They were re-tried in 1991. At that time, Brown’s murder charge was dropped, but he was re-convicted for the rape and sentenced to life in prison. Charges against McCollum were sustained.

McCollum was 19 at the time of the conviction; Brown was 15. They were exonerated and NC Superior Court Judge Douglas Sasser vacated their sentences after DNA evidence linked the crime to another man, Roscoe Artis, 74, already serving time in a NC prison. An investigation by the NC Innocence Inquiry Commission found no evidence tracing the crime back to the brothers.

Recent events have resulted in a great deal of attention being drawn to America’s legal system. Much of that attention has centered upon the propensity for white police officers to kill unarmed black men. This case unleashes an entirely different kettle of fish, as it were. Both McCollum and Brown are intellectually disabled. Moreover, there were a number of key and obvious inconsistencies with the process that led to their convictions, including:

  • The Red Springs Police Department consistently denied having any evidence in its possession related to the convictions of McCollum and Brown. Yet, just last month the Innocence Inquiry Commission found a box of physical evidence being held by the police that had been in the department’s possession since the early 1990’s.
  • The Red Springs Police Department failed to disclose to lawyers for the two men or to the local District Attorney’s office that detectives had requested a critical fingerprint test just days before the 1984 McCollum-Brown trial. Neither the request for the test, nor the fact that it was cancelled before being completed was ever revealed. The test would have compared a fingerprint on a beer can with those of Roscoe Artis, a convicted sex offender who lived just a few feet away from the field where Sabrina Buie’s body was found.
  • The crime scene investigator, who knew all the details of the crime scene and of the autopsy, was involved in the investigation, thereby risking the possibility that the investigation would be contaminated.
  • The detectives wrote out confessions for both McCollum and Brown and asked them to sign them, knowing that their confessions were incriminating, and that both boys were intellectually disabled, and interrogated in the absence of legal representation.
  • The police continued to pursue McCollum and Brown; even their stories were inconsistent with each other.

Thirty years is a long time. These young men were separated from their family and friends for three decades and counting. McCollum and Brown recanted their confessions numerous times. McCollum did so at least 226 times.

Priscilla McCollum, Henry’s stepmother, noted, “We have not touched our son Henry in over 30 years. We are so grateful that it’s over.” Mrs. McCollum recalled putting her hands against the glass that separated them when they visited.

Both men endured a grave injustice; both had 30 years of their life stolen. McCollum, who was on Death Row, spent three decades watching other inmates being carried off to the execution chamber. He became so distraught during executions that he had to be placed in isolation so he wouldn’t hurt himself.

That the confessions of both men were obtained through dubious means is shameful. That evidence was suppressed, and a number of law enforcement representatives conspired to deprive two innocent men of their freedom, and possibly their lives is a travesty of the highest order.

Thanks to the work of a dedicated team of lawyers, Henry McCollum and Leon Brown regained their freedom. However, they will never get justice. “Free At Last: Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied.”

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

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Labor Day – Three Years Later

It’s time to Break It Down!

(This post appeared originally in this space on August 31, 2011. It has been edited to reflect the most recent unemployment data.)

Monday was Labor Day.  At its core, According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Labor Day in the United States was designed to commemorate the creation of the labor movement; dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.  The holiday focuses on contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well being of our country.

First observed in September 1882, the event has always been observed on the first Monday of the month.  Initiated by the Central Labor Union of New York, the celebration became a federal holiday in 1894.

In addition to its formal structure and purpose, Labor Day has a number of symbolic associations.  It is considered:

  • The unofficialEnd of Summer
  • The last 3-Day warm weather weekend for vacationers
  • By High Society standards, the last day for which it is appropriate for women to wear white
  • The beginning of the College Football Season (the preceding Saturday)
  • The start of the NFL Season (typically the following Thursday; this year, the previous)
  • The conventional kick-off of hard core political campaign season
  • Backto-School shopping

On the formal side, while the Labor Department’s blurb omits any reference to it, Labor Day also validates and recognizes an often controversial mechanism that frequently divides American opinion; the labor union.  Scorned by many who fancy themselves as Free Enterprise Capitalists, unions and their members have not only been actively involved historically, in debates that framed public policy for American workers, they have won or forced hard-earned concessions that in the shimmering glow of reflective perspective, must be considered to have fundamentally altered the playing field (known as the workplace), including: 

  • Pensions
  • Health Care Benefits
  • Paid Vacations
  • Equal Pay to women
  • The Development of Child Labor Laws
  • The 5-Day Work Week
  • The 40-Hour Work Week
  • The 8-Hour Work Day
  • Worker’s Compensation benefits
  • Female Flight Attendants permitted to marry

These and many other important cherished and effective employee rights are attributable to the efforts of the American Labor Movement.  But, this is not an ode to Labor UnionsUnions also have downsides.  They create or contribute to: 

  • The potential for strikes
  • Additional costs to all employees (membership dues; whether a member or not)
  • Loss of individuality (ability to represent one’s self in a grievance)
  • Subject to fines & discipline by the Union
  • Disincentives to productivity and competition
  • Lack of promotions
  • Burdensome salary demands (relative to the market)
  • Loss of profits (and/or pay) due to strike
  • Inefficient & ineffective contracts
  • Increased unemployment due to failure to reach agreement w/management

The first Labor Day celebration was led by a Labor Union.  The history of the Day has been linked, inextricably, with Labor organizations, ever since.  But if it is the American Worker the Day was intended to commemorate, Labor Day 2011 was set in an auspicious and trenchant backdrop: 

  • The Unemployment Rate in the U.S. was reported to be 9.1% in July 2011
  • The economy added only 117,000 jobs in July (154,000 in the private sector, -37,000 government jobs lost); better than expected, but still a dismally low number
  • Businesses are stockpiling $2 trillion in cash

 Three years hence, the picture, thankfully, was much improved:

  • The Unemployment Rate in the U.S. was reported to be 6.2% in July 2014
  • The economy added 209,000 jobs in July 2014
  • (August 2014 employment data will be released Friday of this week)

In 2011, President Obama, announced after the Debt Ceiling Deal on August 2nd, that he would present a jobs proposal for Congress to consider, and was set to do so after Labor Day (September 8th).  The proposal included a combination of tax cuts, spending on infrastructure, and measures designed to assist the long-term unemployed, while bolstering certain sectors of the economy.  This potion sounds eerily similar to the ideas Democrats proposed when negotiating the Debt Deal

Republicans were lined up to oppose the plan, suggesting instead, among other things, a Balanced Budget Amendment; a balm the GOP/Tea Party also suggested during the Debt Deal negotiation.  In short, there was little expectation for significant movement, or the adoption of sweeping legislation to address the lack of jobs in America…and there wasn’t.  What we had instead was, déjà vu…all over, again!  Then, I was compelled to ask, “Labor Day: Where Is The Celebration?” Fast forward three years, and the truth is the labor dynamics in this country have improved appreciably. However, our country is still beset by challenges.

Each day we are faced with a series of old, and it seems developing challenges abroad. Syrian, Iraq, the Ukraine, Russia, North Korea, China, Somalia, are all global hot spots, just to name a few. Then of course, there is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the burgeoning by ISIS/ISIL, also known as the Islamic State. And oh yeah, we are still winding down in Afghanistan.

Unlike in 2011, Monday did, in my opinion, bring a day of respite and reflection in honor of our country’s Labor Movement. On top of all that don’t forget, as the sixth bullet from the top advises, the conventional kick-off of the hard-core political campaign season is upon us. Primaries are right around the corner and the General Election is just 62 days away. By all means be sure to exercise your franchise; vote.

But, it’s “Labor day – Three Years Later,” and we’ve got plenty of issues to temper our celebration. I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post: