September 7th, 2016

To Stand or Not To Stand

to-stand-or-not-stand_where-excuses-go-to-dieIn high school I stitched an American flag to the seat of my pants and marched onto campus. Just before 3rd period a friend said, “You’ve gotta get out of here: the whole football team’s looking for you!”

I was beaming as I headed down the hallway, but the Vice Principal caught me on my way out. He calmly escorted me to his office, then locked the door, shoved me against his desk, and threatened my life. The pain and anger in his eyes as he described guys my age who’d died in his arms in Vietnam showed me far better than any lecture that I’d bitten off more than I could chew.

That began a lifelong need to understand the American flag. All these years later I can’t say I have any real answers, but I do have a relationship with the Stars & Stripes that’s filled with regrets, worry, and growth. The last one is what I’m most proud of. 
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May 30th, 2016

The “Terror” of Gender-Neutral Toilets

All Gender Splendor_Where Excuses Go to Die

Not since the Satanic Panic of the 1980s have we seen as much moral alarmism and fear mongering as we’re now enduring, with today’s terror over gender-neutral toilets.

Texas and 10 other states filed suit last week challenging the U.S. Justice and Education Departments’ issuance of an Obama directive instructing public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity.

Supporters of the lawsuit, filed in a Texas federal court, say the move is designed to protect women and children (presumably from “unemployed homosexuals, deviants, rapists, transgenders, and other sodomites from every state”). Though the actual threat from these jobless homo-nazis is practically nonexistent, according to the Justice Department and others, Texas says it will forfeit $10 billion in federal funding for education rather than carry out the so-called “bathroom law.” BTW, asked if he knows of any instances in which a child’s safety has been threatened by transgender bathroom rights, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has replied, “there’s not a lot of research.”

But foot-stomping is so much more fun (and vote-garnering!) than adaptive social functioning, isn’t it?
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April 15th, 2016

Control Issues My Ass

HELPFUL PARKING INSTRUCTIONS_Where Excuses Go to DieYours, mine, or theirs: citing “control issues” to justify bad behavior is just another excuse. It’s nonsense, too, because we don’t have control issues; we have irritation reflexes, entitlements, and a need for instant gratification. These form a perfect storm in our compulsion to influence the world around us – an Achilles’ heel like no other. And where do go with it?
Behind the wheel. 

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March 29th, 2016

Life in a Prison Classroom

Pre-Release Classrooms are the Future of Prison Reform_Where Excuses Go to DieI know life in a prison classroom, and the learning environment you may or may not find once you’ve taken a seat.

A brief click-through of “5 Projects to Watch in 2016” from Correctional News leaves me wondering how much prison officials really know about the obstacles inmates face just getting through a detention facility’s classroom door. What does it matter, you ask? Well, in an era where words like “reform,” “rehabilitation,” and “recidivism” are on everyone’s lips, it’s important to know when a component as critical as education is simply being given lip service.

Correctional News covers prison operations, design, and construction. It celebrates grand openings and groundbreakings because imminent completion dates tend to matter to rubber mattress merchants, vendors of detection products, and shower flooring suppliers.

Currently showcased are the East County Detention Center near Palm Springs, for example, which is set to open in 2017, the Kern County justice facility in Bakersfield, and the new Utah State Prison, among others. California being where I paid my debt to society, I tend to monitor its prison system more closely than I do others. But all of these entries have something in common, and that’s my point: they feature anemic descriptions of the education facilities also under construction. Rehabilitation-as-footnote here, will eventually make corrections administrators and state officials look as though they’re simply hanging wreaths of rehabilitation on freshly painted classroom doors and leaving it at that. Read the rest of this entry »

February 29th, 2016

Apple’s Grapple

UNMAC_NELSON_WHERE EXCUSES GO TO DIECreation of Homeland Security not enough?

Office of Total Information Awareness left for the day?

Is the heart-shaped flower of police militarization wilting?

Did D.A.R.P.A. go dark?

Has the Patriot Act pooped out?

Nope. Nor have the corporations and power brokers of the surveillance state yet tapped out American taxpayers. 

In other words, the FBI does not need the Genius Bar. 

From Feds to street-corner cops and home security companies, law enforcement has more than enough control, technology, and boots-on-the-ground for continued counterterrorism success. And probably lots of fun civil liberties secrets, too.

The FBI has all the tools it needs and plenty more to keep American citizens safe. And when I say “safe,” I mean relatively safe, just as we’ve been since September, 2001. Stuff will happen; that’s just the trajectory of history, especially when we’ve been messing around with it as much as we have. But in trying to force Apple to write new software that will help them unlock an iPhone belonging to the perpetrator of the San Bernardino terrorist attacks, the Bureau is overstepping its constitutional bounds. Apple worries that, if they comply, anyone who can grab or mimic their software will have access to every confidence Americans hope to keep electronically secure. Read the rest of this entry »

February 13th, 2016

A Felon, Just Like Me

Former LASD Sheriff Baca_Where Excuses Go to Die__Photo ABC NewsHaving written fundraiser remarks for disgraced LA County Sheriff Lee Baca, and having been big-bro bear-hugged by him after confessing to teleprompter typos, it’s hard to hate the man who ran a law enforcement mafia.

He hugged me because he was relieved to be offstage. Fifty-cent words weren’t easy for Baca, I’d been warned, and this was a big night. Just before he’d taken the podium, I realized I’d failed to yank one word in particular, and sure enough he flubbed it. Regardless of how I felt about his Men’s Central Jail deputies — or anything else related to that American flag-wrapped night at the Beverly Hilton — I was the show writer. I had to tell him it was my mistake, not his. Read the rest of this entry »

January 29th, 2016

Prison Escape Powerball

MANHUNT HOTLINE_Where Excuses Go to DieWelcome to Apocalypse Hoosegow 10, the Lotto jackpot of potential prison escape movies (and the impossibly straight faces of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department).

Man, this story has got it alland it ends in the parking lot of novelty grocery store, Whole Foods.

Killer convicts chipping their way through steel and concrete – check! Laughably low estimates of escaped prisoner capabilities – check! Brutal cellblock battle to distract guards – check! Cougar-teacher helping misunderstood love interest – check! Tied together bed sheets and socks and stuff – check! Months in the making, mistake-free master plan – check! Violent terror-inmates on the loose in conservative county – check! FBI dudes elbowing local badge bumblers outta the way – check! Adam-12-era hoosegow gettin’ last laugh on OC budget dorks – check! Incredibly straight-faced cop brass asking for public help in catching penis-severing Muslim blowtorch monster – check! check! check!

Apocalypse Hoosegow 10_Where Excuses Go to DieOoh, and don’t forget: District Attorney’s office infighting – check! Unauthorized D.A. office statements made public – check! Open criticism – check! Gorilla-goons scratching their heads at escape hole – check! Magic gnats flying out of inmates mouths like in The Green Mile – ok, not that, but Range Rover-driving, Islamophobic blondes blessed with new hero – checkity check!  Read the rest of this entry »

January 16th, 2016

De-institutionalization (and your Tax Dollars)

Mizuo Shinonome_Where Excuses Go to DieSome see de-institutionalization as prison reform’s black hole. We neither think about nor understand it much, until we see how much it can swallow.

Yet redirecting, rather than just recycling, offenders begins and ends with the most common form of second chance behavioral therapy of all: showing individuals the potential in themselves they can’t yet see. I’m certainly a product of it, and there are countless other second chance cases even more deserving of the right mentor than I was.

In such an inexcusably crowded prison system as California’s, wringing Yard life from offenders can devour solar systems of resources, and profoundly institutionalized individuals are difficult people to be around on a good day. So for both plucky and grizzled corrections professionals working with offenders and parolees, resolve and past re-entry successes are crucial. So, too, are faith and funding – or at least the delivery of funds previously promised. Read the rest of this entry »

December 31st, 2015

2015 EXCUSE OF THE YEAR

2015 Where Excuses Go to Die_EXCUSE OF THE YEAR2015 was a rough year, especially for those who believe in the absolutism of beat cops and badges, or that the bootstraps of hardworking Americans can’t possibly snap. This was a difficult year for innocent bystanders, or anyone thinking they were safe. But it was, and remains, the most challenging yet for those convinced that guns are God-given.

At first I thought I’d go with the excuse offered by Subway Jared and his lawyers who, prior to his prison sentence for child-ruining, blamed his Subway diet for his pervert crimes. Essentially, these morally challenged morons claimed that, had Jared “received help,” he wouldn’t have “traded a horrible food addiction for a horrible sex addiction.” Subway Jared is about to find out Where Excuses Go to Die. Read the rest of this entry »

December 9th, 2015

The High of Handling Guns

Lola Medina conducting a product demo at the offices of Centre Firearms movie prop gun manufacturer_circa 1955There’s a bit of a rush when you get around guns, isn’t there?

You can feel an energy shift when someone brings out some newly purchased rifle or revolver. Yet we rarely talk about just what that shift means or how it affects us. Is it intimidation? The thrill of being in the presence of potential danger? Maybe it’s simply human nature to keep such things to ourselves.

Whatever it is, some people –women as much as men– just plain enjoy handling, learning about, and shooting firearms. Doing so can be cathartic and spirit stirring, an exhilarating hobby to enjoy at gun ranges. For others, often regionally influenced, gun ownership is a rite of passage. Still others like the kick of ownership without the hassles of usage, and many of us don’t even own guns but get into their lore, power, and mythology. Read the rest of this entry »