Monday, January 31, 2011

Seems to Be Real...

Check out this verbiage from the National Weather Service's scientifical discussion with regard to the incoming storm system.

One of the strongest and highest impact storms of recent history will begin to move into and through the region tomorrow. By the early morning hours...widespread convective development will occur over the Southern Plains. Through the morning...strong positive vorticity advection combined with the intense development of a coupled jet structure will allow an expansive area of snow to develop in Oklahoma...Kansas and Missouri. This area will rapidly expand NE Tuesday morning. Numerous signals exist as to the potential for convective snow fall across the southeastern County Warning Area...and will expand thunderstorms and rain mention for much of Tuesday. Snowfall rates could exceed 2-4" per hour at times.

I am as skeptical as any one about "big storms" in the Midwest since a slight deviation in anything can change the track and impact of the storm. Then there's this...

An unbelievable amount of cold air will drain down the Front Range in the wake of this system. Feel highs on Wednesday will only reach the single digits to lower teens in the southeast. Lows Wednesday night have full potential to fall below zero. A light 5 to 10 knot surface wind may lead to widespread advisory wind chills and the potential for one of the first wind chill warnings in many years in the northern County Warning Area.

So after the snow, comes a few days of really cold weather. In addition, the scientific types at NWS add this, under the simple word of "Hazards."

The most dangerous aspect of this storm system will come in the form of its very high slr and development of strong pgf winds Tuesday and Tuesday night. Have followed several tools for forecasting blizzards today...and the overwhelming suggestion is that blizzard or near blizzard criteria may be met over a large portion of the County Warning Area Tuesday and Tuesday night. With a 1050 high in the Western Plains and the developing of a 993 mb low in the MO bootheel the resultant surface pressure gradient will approach 50 to as much as 70 microbars/km by Tuesday evening. Whats even more concerning is the suggestion of a channel of 50-55 knot winds at the 850mb level on the backside of the developing upper low. Given potential surface-850 lapse rates approaching 7 to 8 c/km per adjusted NAM/GFS guidance feel mix down potential is elevated to high. Thus...will be issuing a fairly widespread Blizzard Warning for Tuesday and Tuesday night. Winds this strong regardless of the amount of snow will be life threatening...and will lead to severe drifting of heavy snow.

What that means is that it will snow a lot and be wicked windy. With regard to accumulations, the meteorologists say this:

This potentially historic storm has the potential for widespread foot or more snows...especially in areas east of the Interstate 35 corridor. Models and ensembles suggest the heaviest corridor from Nevada to Columbia and into the northestern corner of MO...where I wouldn't be shocked to see totals approach 20 inches or more. Further west and northwest the gradient will relax...but very significant snow totals up to 10 inches will be likely.

The Kansas City metro is not necessarily included in that heavy corridor--that is a bit south and east of us, but 10-15 inches seems to be the forecast du jour. Kansas City, KS and points north and west of KCK may "only" get 8 inches!

So at Casa Observer, we are stocked up for a couple of days, making it not required to leave the house. As I said before, regular blogging and commenting may be disrupted! There will be Facebook activity--perhaps even a photo or two.

If this thing looks like it's pointed at you, you might want to consider some ahead of time preparations. Just in case. Just saying.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Argh! More Snow!

Well the weather folks are forecasting a bit of winter weather for our region starting tomorrow. In fact this impressive storm will affect people in a large swath of the United States. Here is the map of winter weather advisories, storm warnings, etc. etc. as of 2135 or so.

The storm is forecast to take a southern track from California, nip the top of Texas, then really come together over southern Missouri. Then it will move into the Ohio valley. It has everything--some cold/warm contrast, Pacific and Gulf coast moisture, and it will wind itself into a nice deep low pressure storm. That will result in wind, both in the storm affected areas and in areas like northern New England. The only question is the usual one about exact storm track. As long suffering Midwesterners know, 50 miles north or south or east or west can be the difference between snowmaggedon and pfft, nothin'.

The way the weather folks are seeing it now, it will start with freezing drizzle/rain after midnight tonight and mix freezing drizzle/rain/sleet/snow for most of Monday. Then starting later Monday night/early Tuesday morning, snow will start. It will snow all day Tuesday and perhaps into Wednesday. Due to the low pressure storm and a lurking Canada arctic cold high pressure system, the pressure gradient will cause Tuesday afternoon and after to be windy too. Blizzard conditions then are possible.

So, then, travel may get very interesting starting tomorrow morning. Regularly scheduled blogging and commenting could be impacted, just to let you all know. Facebook will be active though--I'll let you know what I see using that social medium.

Yes, more "shovel ready" fun! I do not think this is what the president had in mind.

The shovel is ready...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cats at Play

Sometimes, we can use a break from all the serious stuff. My cats like to play catch and bat. It's fun to try and catch them at their athletic best with the camera. Here are a few shots of cats and round objects in the air.

GirlCat has her eye on the ball here.

BoyCat actually has batted the ball away after trapping it.

GirlCat spears a ball of aluminum foil in this shot.

Cat fun--pretty much available twenty-four hours a day at my house. :)

Friday, January 28, 2011


I usually like to blog every day or close to it. It's been since Monday since I've been able to sit down at the computer for more than just a little bit. Part of it is that the late afternoons and eveningtimes, which is usually when I am at my most creative, I have not been able to carve out computer time of any length. I am learning to write faster but I ain't fast yet!

What looked like a localized rebellion against a corrupt and greedy dictator in Tunisia has spread with rapidity to the less corrupt but still dictatorial government in Egypt tonight. The streets have been full of protests and violence, with calls for President Mubarak to step down. One aspect of this that has been interesting to note is the shut down of the internet in Egypt. The world wide web, which was a spark in Iraq and a definite aid in Tunisia has been muted in Egypt. Here's a pretty good article on that, with a h/t to Drudge. Note the chart showing the amount of internet traffic in and out of Egypt by date. The cut off means no Facebook, no blogs and no Twitter. BlackBerry service (and its encrypted email) has been suspended. Egypt's internet community is muted. They have been able to get some service going old school as this article describes.

The United States' position in this conflict is difficult. Egypt has long been regarded as an ally of the US in the middle east, a bulwark against radical governments. The US has also been in favor of creating more democratic governments--governments that are elected by the people, representing them, and not repressing opposition. Yet, the work of the people in rebellion can set up a country to become like Iran, a radical and repressive government that is a hazard to the entire world.

We will have to wait and watch carefully what happens. There was stuff in the Wikileaks material that indicated that America was involved in cultivating leadership that would overthrow Mubarak--that certainly is interesting.

And to go back to the internet thing, remember that an "Internet Kill Switch" was considered by the United States government at one point. Check this archival news story out for details.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The President and the Birth Certificate

If you have taken any interest in the goings on in our world you have probably run across the term "birther." This term has been applied to people who do not believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States, and therefore is not eligible to be president. It is not a term of endearment.

This issue has waxed and waned over the two plus years since Mr. Obama was elected. It has flared up again after the newly elected governor of Hawaii, Neil Abercrombie, promised to find and display the "long form" birth certificate in order to stop all the questioning. He was stopped in his tracks in this project, first, by the failure to find the document easily, and then by privacy issues and the lack of a signed permission form saying it was OK to release the certificate. Most major conservative pundits have declined to join the fray over Mr. Obama's birth status. Many believe that Mr. Obama was indeed born in Hawaii. Some feel that the issue is a trap, designed to have an outcome that makes conservatives look stupid, that they will look foolish when the documents are released and there is nothing suspicious to report.

I have two opinions on Mr. Obama and his birth certificate. First, is that the media, the same media that demanded that John McCain make his roots known, demanding documentation of his birth status as a child of a traveling military man, has NOT made similar demands of Barack Obama. Furthermore the media has been eerily not interested in the fact that Mr. Obama is one of the least documented presidents since John F. Kennedy. In fact it was the revelation of Mr. Kennedy's Addison's Disease that started the trend of opening up records for public view by presidential wannabes. Gradually, we saw extensive educational and medical records of the people wanting to be POTUS. This tradition was maintained until the candidacy of Barack Obama. Where has the media been? Why haven't they made the same demands of Mr. Obama that they have made in the past of every president since JFK?

Secondly, the reluctance of the president to release records--not just the birth certificate--but many records that other presidents have opened up to public scrutiny without reservation makes it seem like he has something to hide. My favorite theory: He took financial aid as a foreign born student, coming from Indonesia, and is afraid to expose that fraud. The thing is there is no way to disprove this or any other speculation, in the absence of the documentation. So there is all sorts of goofy stuff out there. Absolutely my favorite goofy idea: Mr. Obama is actually the love child of his "mother's" father Stanley Dunham and an unknown Black woman. His daughter agreed to take in the baby as her own...see how nutty this can get?

The pressure to open up Mr. Obama's medical, school and birth records will ratchet up if and when he declares as a candidate for the 2012 presidential election. Some states are making the presentation of a valid long form birth certificate part of the process to get on the ballot in that state. Further, I believe that there are parts of the media that will not sit still for the false "fine-fine" of no school records and a one page health summary that worked for Mr. Obama in 2008.

So here is the punch line: open everything up Mr. President, every jot and tittle. If the worst that is revealed is that you cheated to get financial aid to go to school, I do believe that most Americans will forgive and be understanding of that. It is just that many are frustrated that you have less documentation open to the public then any president in 40 plus years. Give the permission needed to release the information.

The only scary thing to me is what if there is something worse hiding in those records? Something truly deceptive and damaging to the president? I truly hope not. Unlike a "birther", I will be truly happy to see nothing to report on in the president's record.

Then we can move onto more important issues like the economy and world issues.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sacred Trust

I saw the sister of my former neighbors the other day. My former neighbors moved to the Ozarks after he retired. They were not original to our suburbhood, but were the second owners of the house. The reason why I bring them up is that I am stuck for bloggy ideas. I decided in my mind's eye to put myself on the front porch of their house, and ask myself, "What would we be talking about today?"

Well, we would talk about the frigging snow, for sure, and any hideous driving stories and the shoveling and the fact that there is more frigging snow to come. He would sip his beer, she would sip her Martini and I would sip my Pepsi.

I know we would talk about this story, for sure. Snowbound Drivers Robbed at Gunpoint. Sheesh. These three dirt balls--two adults and a 15 year old--were pretending to be good Samaritans then they would show a gun and take belongings from the people they "help". Ironically, they got stuck after one of their robberies in the snow in the 9300 block of Hillcrest. That is where the police found them and arrested their sorry, sorry butts. In the vehicle they were driving was the gun holster, stolen IDs and credit cards to name a few items.

It is kind of a funny news story. I spent some time in my mind trying to create the proper punishment--getting their heads stuffed in several sloppy wet cold snowbanks has a great deal of appeal--but then I became a little bit sad. Are we coming to a place where our default position out in public is going to have to be one of distrust in order to protect ourselves and our possessions? Where everyone approaching is viewed as a "stranger in the yard"? Where we evaluate whether or not we are going to help someone on whether or not they present a possible danger to us?

This story just struck me as very sad, like the breaking of a sacred trust, the idea of we all are in this together so we do not take advantage of each other or step on each other to reach what we want.

There was a spate of dystopian movies and books recently. What struck me as the most "dys" about them was not the struggle from environmental devastation or limited resources but the lost of some of the convents and conventions of civil organization. This of course is not new--the "Mad Max" movies brought this out as long ago as 1979--but seems to hit new distressing levels in movies like "The Road" (Personally, I couldn't see that movie--the pictures presented in my mind's eye by the novel were enough.)

This sort of thing can give me some anxiety. It scares me that the potential for this sort of thing is lurking in my community. Sometimes, I must pray that I not be discouraged or give up hope. That I must keep my faith.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Yeah, We Got Snow

I didn't get out to take pictures today after our snow. Schedule is a little tight on Thursdays sometimes, and today especially as I had an appointment. I did snap this with the cell phone after I returned from my appointment and finished my shoveling chore. Shovel ready indeed!

So pretty! The snow is light and fluffy. It was in the low 20's and high teens most of the time it snowed so it wasn't that wet heavy snow. I like that!

I snapped these two pictures yesterday about an hour, hour and half into the storm. It was already getting dicey. Most schools did early release, and the colleges canceled classes and churches canceled their Wednesday night stuff.

The visibility during this storm was frequently low, due to the intensity of the snow fall. Much of the time, the snow fell at a rate of an inch an hour. That went on until about 10 p.m. The snow fell until about 1 or 2 a.m. That's how we ended up with 7-9 inches of white stuff.

The worst time during the storm was the 5 p.m. rush hour. I did not go far from home, just to the library to do some work I needed to do, and to a place to eat. I was home at 5:30 and did not go out again. People were stuck on the interstates for 2-3 hours trying to get home from work. I listened to KMBZ's storm coverage. They had people calling in telling how the road conditions were. Many called in two or three times as their drives got longer and longer, sitting in traffic that did not move.

This morning, the roads were pretty good in the late rush hour and just after. The sun made a big difference, so it still may have been a little crummy for those who have to go to work early, before our 7 a.m. sunrise. The interstates are clear, the main roads pretty much clear and the neighborhoods--well, still a bit of a mess.

There will probably be some post storm critics of the snow removal effort. However, the snow fell so intensely and and just the wrong time of day to create some real nightmares on the roads. The plows just couldn't keep up, then cars got stuck and there was no help for it then. Real progress was made by the plow jockeys in the overnight and early morning once everyone got home and the stuck cars were towed away.

The weather boys say we may get a bit more snow over the weekend. Uh huh.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

More Snow?

More snow is predicted for late in the day tomorrow, Wednesday. Predictably the numbers are all over the place from just a couple inches to six or more. The mild day we had yesterday cleared the pavement, but the declining temps and a quick precip burst created slippery roads this Tuesday morning.

In many ways I like snow, after the initial problems with travel. It's kind of pretty and makes everything quiet. My neighborhood, never real noisy, seems very tranquil after a snow fall. The photo above was taken after the last four inch snowfall about a week ago.

City Elections Bearing Down

City elections are coming fast, with the primary February 22nd and the final election March 22nd.

The filing deadline for the election is January 25, 2011, one week from today. If you want to be mayor or on the city council of Kansas City, Missouri, you need to bring some signatures to the City Clerk's office by that date.

If you want to be mayor, you need at least 1,000 KCMO registered voters to sign your petition, but no more than 2,500.

If you want to run in-district city council, you need at least 300 KCMO registered voters of the district you want to run in to sign, but no more than 750.

If you want to run at-large city council, you need at least 500 KCMO registered voters to sign, but no more than 1,500.

As of the most recent notation by the City Clerk, January 5th, we have five official mayoral candidates, and at least two for each city council position except for the 1st (both) and 2nd (in-district) which have only one each. Of the five official mayoral candidates, none of them is named Mark Funkhouser. I will assume that there have been changes in the 12 days or so since this list was completed, as candidates who are not on this list have been participating in forums and other events this month.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to get your act together! You have six days! Filing has been open since November 9th, 2010. Should I vote for you if you are struggling with this simple procedure, which checks both your organizational skills and your potential support?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Late MLK Day Musings

I haven't liked anything I've written about Martin Luther King, his day and his dream. Except for some writing elsewhere where I dealt with a FB troll, nothing has really hit the mark. I just deleted four paragraphs I hated, in fact.

We have not fulfilled the dreams or visions of Martin Luther King. Society as a whole has not. White people have not. Black people have not.

Oh, we're better. There are no codified separation laws, no Jim Crow. White folks have discovered that they will not die if they share water fountains with Black folks. Black folks have had opportunity opened up to them in ways that would have been inconceivable back in the 1950s. It is illegal now to deny jobs or housing to people based on the color of their skin. That is all progress and good.

Still, a look at comment boards on sports and news stories will reveal White prejudice and hatred, and Blacks still sometimes struggle against White people judging them due to their being Black, rather than as individuals. Prejudice remains in the hearts of many, sometimes blatant, sometimes latent.

Black people have failed Dr. King. Some have taken up violence, against both Black and White, and making it a culture statement. Some have turned their backs on education, calling it "White", seeing it as selling out. Some Blacks have fallen prey to an entitlement mentality, waiting for a hand out instead of a hand up, or taking initiative.

Dr. King would be dismayed at the number of Black males in prison and dead due to crime and violence. He would rue the lack of firm family structure in America--a problem for both Black and White. He would be perturbed by both the quality of today's integrated public schools and the bad attitudes and laziness of students, especially Black students.

Dr. King, IMHO, would come against the use of race as victimhood. He would stand up against using past injustices as an excuse for failure, or an excuse for bad behavior. During the bus boycott and other protests, he constantly reiterated the need for non-violence. He called for all to be better then those who would commit violence at them during the protests. He pleaded for love and good to meet hate and evil.

We have made progress since the days of protest of the 1950s and 1960s. But we are not there yet. In my simplistic little mind, I would love for skin color to be as meaningful to the judgment of a person as the color of a cat's fur. It is more complicated than that, I know. It's tribe and culture, comfort with the familiar, fear of the unknown. In the end, we are all human. There is little DNA difference between the White and the Black. If we remember that, culture and all that seem less daunting.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

2010 Homicides: December

The final month of 2010. The final month of this list. It could be longer as during the funeral of Mr. Denmon, a gun fight broke out around the church. The only injury was, thankfully, an ankle of a congregant fractured while trying to take cover.

Elijah Nelson, 22--Damen D Washington, 19--Marion Denmon, 20--Jermaine E Rowe, 27--Sujendra Amarasingham, 25--Tyson L Strong, 26

Shot by a police officer--Ken Gurley, 40

A long year in homicide. A long long year.

As If They Haven't Suffered Enough...

Haiti needs immediate prayer!

As if an earthquake, cholera and governmental and bureaucratic bungling isn't enough for this poor country...

...Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier returned to Haiti today.

Some people actually welcomed him--a sure sign of desperation. They should have run him and his girl friend right back up the jet way. Hopefully, his presence will not create more problems for the country. Here's the news from the Miami Herald, from which this screen grab was made.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

2010 Homicides: November

It's been tough to see this little project through, I'll admit. Doing it on MLK's birthday is especially dreary--to be honest it feels as if we have failed--failed Dr. King and the dream. When a young Black boy tells a potential mentor that his goal is to live to the age of twenty--that feels like failure.

Fannie Delia Young, 67--Timothy Martin, 27--Lionel Pierson, 18--Ivan J Miller, 29

Ms. Young and Mr. Miller was found dead under suspicious circumstances, Mr. Martin and Mr. Pierson were killed by gunfire.

Verizon's Days Might Be Numbered

Cell phone service, a point of major consumer gripes...

The last 45 days or so, I've noticed a difference in Verizon's communications with me if I have need to pay my bill. They have gone from a nice personal call by a real person, to robocalls, and today, an SMS message. Yuck!

Today, I notice an item that they will not be giving $100 rebates as they have in the past for phone upgrades when contract time comes--what they called "new every two". Link here for the story. (Hat tip to the Star's business blog.)

My contract is up in June or so, and I was already in evaluation mode as the environment for telecommunications has changed quite a bit since June 2009 and I figured both phones and packages had the potential to be quite different in 2011, what with the liberation of the band width from analog TV and the development of new technologies. Now I have more to consider.

I have not had much of any trouble with Verizon, and the store at 89th and State Line on the Missouri side has excellent customer service, but developments will have to be watched carefully. There may be some changes coming.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

We Lost a Firefighter Last Week

Richard Paul, the FAO (chauffeur) of Pumper 43 passed away last Friday while doing a cardiac stress test during his annual physical. It was an unexpected death for Mr. Paul who was just 54 years old. He is remembered as a solid firefighter, a practical joker, a man of integrity and reliability, someone who was always willing to help out and most importantly a very kind and gentle man.

While he did not die because he was overcome with smoke, or had a floor collapse on him, or fell from a roof, his choice to become a firefighter had a negative effect on his health. The research shows it.

The South Kansas City Observer extends condolences to Mr. Paul's family, coworkers and friends. His funeral was today.

Images:Two screen grabs: Top: WDAF Funeral program. KMBC--Pumper 43 carries Mr. Paul's coffin during the funeral procession.

2010 Homicides: September

September homicides started with a bang and the more normal pace. As the number of people murdered began to approach 100 for the year, a few voices began to be heard speaking out on the number of murders in Kansas City.

Thomas Simmons, 27--Frederick C Jones, 21--Darrel E Wright Jr, 29--Andrew Suttington, 23--Montra Johnson, 36--Keith D Williams, 34--Marquis D Hughes, 23

It was just a few, community leaders, the father of a young 2009 victim, bloggers and commenters on blogs. The political leaders seemed strangely silent at this point. Many of us wondered about that.

In my posts, I have named 66 names. I believe I have missed some along the way. That is still many too many for a city our size.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2010 Homicides: August

The In the Heat of the Night Edition...nine people died of homicide in the heat of August days and nights in Kansas City, Missouri. Of note is the second person with the last name Prewitt, the last name of the very first 2010 homicide victim. Makes you wonder if they are related and the Prewitt family endured its second loss of a member to violence.

Romar Phillips, 16--Lance Rutter, 23--John P Garcia, 23--Otis Pratt, 58--Kenny R Warren, 27--Ephriam R Prewitt, 29--Evangel Douglas, 19--Terence Barkley, 19--Denise Peterson, 50

Deep summer and deep winter are the two seasons that cause people to flee temperate zones such as Kansas City. Right now it is hard to imagine the stultifying and aggravating heat of August, where every move results in a cascade of sweat and a peculiar kind of cabin fever takes hold from spending too much time inside with the air conditioner...

Remarkably, in Kansas City, MO we've just had the two killings since the new year started. Not that there hasn't been violence--some poor guy got shot in the genitals by his so-called girl friend for example (free advice: Dump that b*tch!)--but not so many fatalities.

Darn cold though. The winter cabin fever is not far off if this keeps up.

3000 Messages

The image is from Adbusters, a magazine "concerned about the erosion of our physical and culture environments by commercial forces." The full mission statement can be found here, if you are curious.

This image, while seeming extreme, is a pretty true portrait of the way things frequently are. How hard has it become to ignore/get around/deal with all this stimulation and actually relate to others as human beings? I am not sure we are very good at dealing with this!

The first step is recognition of what is going on...

Image from Adbuster's current magazine issue, dated Jan/Feb 2011. Virtually at Click on image to embiggen--back button to return.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2010 Homicides: July

July was another painful month. I have eleven names to list. The majority of the crimes took place in and around July Fourth. I do not think that is what the holiday is intended for, but it seems that some people do not handle the change of routine, the use of alcohol and the increased exposure to others that occur during the holidays very well.

Wilmer Perez, 17--Michael B.K. Butler, 32--Akeem Y Wilson, 15--Decarlos Henderson, 30 --Craig K Sowell, 26--Exiquio Martinez, 43--Oladimeji Oladipo, 25--Ronnie O Hughes, 23--Stephon J Robinson, 21--Nicholas Dutcher, 30--Keith Q Wilkens, 25

The cases of Dutcher and Oladipo were recently in the news as suspects processed through the court system. Both doers are now incarcerated for lengthy sentences.

We are now over half way through 2010's months--there are five more months of Kansas City, MO homicide victims to list.

Violence and Mental Illness: NOT Automatically Connected

Sometimes, when you are talking over the news of the day with someone, a whole side issue comes to your mind. It was during such chat with a friend that the topic of violence and mental illness came to mind.

Now, I have to remember that being a health care worker in the acute setting means that I see the worst of the worst--people at their most acute and sickest. Even then, while there is violence in the ER and elsewhere in the hospital, most of it is related to illicit drug and alcohol abuse and the inappropriate use of prescriptions. Studies have shown that the majority of the mentally ill are mainly dangerous to themselves, as they engage in self harm behaviors and suicide attempts.

The things that attract news coverage--the man biting the dog that gets eyeballs and internet hits--they are the very worst actions the mentally ill can do. Like the schizophrenic man in New York who pushed a woman to her death in the subway. (Google Andrew Goldstein and/or Kendra Webdale if you are not familiar with the case.) In a way, it is amazing that most people who struggle with mental illness are just trying to cope, trying to get from one day to the next in their lives, do not have violent episodes and most do willingly seek help when things are spinning out of their control. I wish I could tell you about every patient who looked me in the eye and said, "I want help, I'll do whatever you need me to do, I'll wait, I'll get blood drawn, I'll pee in the cup. I know it's the right thing for me to do." Even patients with very distressing symptoms such as hearing voices or feeling paranoid will sit still for the slow hospital machine to move so they can get the help they need.

So here is my message, and hear it please. The majority of people with mental illness, even the mental illnesses considered most acute and severe--schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (manic depression)--are NOT violent and NOT to be feared.

They are just folks, looking to make their way through life as best they can. Most of them can use a friend, someone to talk with, someone who is not afraid to sit by them in public, someone who will greet them at church or at the store. They have a chronic problem that sometimes has acute crises. This does not make them any less human or, to put it theologically, any less of God's loved creation.

Arizona Shooting: Continued Fallout

Every story on the Arizona shooting that allows reader or viewer feedback, every radio show that takes the topic on for discussion has gone over and over the ground of our political discourse and whether or not it was a proximate cause for the shooting rampage. These discussions themselves have gotten rancorous, devolving into personal attacks and value judgments.

In other words, if talk radio, political bloggers, talk TV and bombastic talk by politicians of all stripes were to have suddenly and completely disappeared over the course of the last three to four years (going back to Jared Loughner's first contact with Arizona congressional rep Gabrielle Giffords), would Mr. Loughner still have gone to the Safeway and shot 20 people on Saturday, January 8, 2011?

I am afraid that he very well would have carried out this terrible crime, even in the absence of all political bombast.

The demons lived in his head without much external support. According to news reports, he and his parents had gradually removed themselves from the public commons, one by one cutting off old friends and neighbors over the past three to four years. It seems to me that they became a toxic self sustaining brew of dysfunction. When Jared ventured out into society, he quickly gathered a scary reputation, finding himself banned from a community college campus.

Did his parents react to this? Or did they just continue to form the tight cocoon around their lives? It could have been that political discourse was part of the background noise in the dark, isolated homes that these people lived in, getting more and more crazy, disconnected, delusional.

Then again, they could have just been sitting around playing Grand Theft Auto too.

The proximate cause of Jared Loughner's actions was his untreated and unmonitored dysfunctional, delusional mental state. Oh, we could stand to be nicer to each other in political speech, and our discourse needs to be less partisan in order to solve the difficult problems in our nation--that has been a long standing position of this writer. However, this sad young man is sick.

So Rush Limbaugh, Keith Olbermann, Barack Obama, Sarah Palin and the Daily Kos did not cause this man to take up a gun and shoot 20 people. Neither, for that matter, did Grand Theft Auto.

Monday, January 10, 2011

2010 Homicides: June

Murder did not take a month off in Kansas City, Missouri, even in the late Spring time when our city is having some of its best weather--not too hot and not too cold--and a lot of things are blooming.

Darrell Dancy, 21--Marcel Nelson, 26--Taron T Smith, 28--Miles T Moore, 21--Dandreia L Trent, 51

It is amazing to me that people just are going about their business in their neighborhood and can come across a person who is dead or dying. Mr. Moore was found shot dead in a car. Ms. Trent was found lying in a park. Are they traumatized by their discovery? I would be.

But then, I don't live on the East Side of our fair city, where gun shots are common.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

2010 Homicides: May and a Bit of Thought on the Arizona Shooting

It is sobering to consider the violence in our society after the events in Arizona on Saturday. Unless you were living under a rock, you no doubt heard about the shooting in Tucson that resulted in the death of six people and the wounding of at least 13 others including Arizona Congress member Gabrielle Giffords. The man who did the shooting was captured by bystanders--he appears to be bat shit crazy.

So to our homicide victims for May 2010 in Kansas City. Among them are two brothers left dead in a shopping cart, a man killed in a convenience store, and a man killed by robbers in his own home.

Michael L Rhodes, 20--Sabrina Jones, 19--Rico C Warren, 23--Michael J Tutera, 49--Joseph L Hooker, 18--John L Hooker, 21--Juan C Garcia 16

We live in a world that is often quite difficult and violent. It gives us two tasks: to be careful and to try and make a difference.

Remember the Arizona victims--they include a well regarded Federal judge, a congressional staff member and a talented 9 year old girl, the granddaughter of baseball player and manager Dallas Green--in your prayers, if you are inclined that way. I felt a small connection with the girl--Dallas Green was the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies when they won their World Series championship in 1980--I was living in the Philly metro at that time. It all brings to mind the famous words of John Donne.

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Friday, January 7, 2011

2010 Homicides: April

April was a deadly month in Kansas City, Missouri. Over ten people lost their lives to homicide in April. The stories were the same and different. In a fight with another. Killed by gunfire into the home. Found dead after a fire was extinguished. Shot while in the process of breaking and entering into another's home. A murder suicide--the husband shooting his wife before turning the gun on himself. A tableau of how humans can violently clash. Here are the names:

Martinous Woods, 29--Toni L. Payne, 25--Lakeshia M Ross, 34--Richard Franks, Jr, 41--Billy J Webb, 58--Emmanual Menifield, 21--Michael Wilson, 20--Lorine Greer, 36 (Marvell Greer, 47)--Christopher Harris, 22--Helen Ragan, 38--Charles Henderson, 29--Bernard M Jackson, 23

This group includes three women and ranges in age from 20 to 58. Children, parents, grandparents lost to their families and friends.

The Observer has listed a total of 29 names to this point, covering the first four months of 2010.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

2010 Homicides: March

As I reviewed sources, March turned out to be a comparatively light month. Just four people were murdered in March. One was a store clerk who gave robbers everything they asked for and was still shot and killed. His case is one of the 40% or so that have been solved by the KCPD. The month also gives us our first victims 35 and over.

Joseph L Wilson, 37--Gurpreet Singh, 35--Antonio Foreman, 25--Jamil D. Ragland, 21

Of course, every month of the year there was violence that did not result in death, just as there has been this first week of 2011. Kansas City, Missouri has not yet marked its first homicide in 2011. Kansas City, Kansas, unfortunately, has already scored two deaths by homicide.

Red Bridge Progress

I've been wanting for a while to get some photos of the ongoing work on the new Red Bridge Road bridge. The columns have been rising since last fall. It must be too cool to work the concrete to work this part of the project right now, because there were no workers to be seen. You can now see the route the road is going to take.

Columns rising up and the roadway build up to meet the raised bridge. You can see the rail road tracks below, passing between the columns.

A view looking west shows the rest of the roadway's new path, and the work that needed to be done to raise up the roadbed.

Just as I was walking back to my car, I heard a whistle. Train!! I certainly couldn't miss that chance. So here is a good view of cars waiting at the grade-level crossing for the Union Pacific freight train to pass.

This ground level view shows how the raised bridge will keep the traffic moving in the future.

Meantime, the faithful 80 year old Red Bridge continues to carry traffic east and west on Red Bridge Road while its replacement rises just to the north. The old bridge will not be razed but preserved as part of a pedestrian walkway system in Minor Park.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2010 Homicides: February

Here are the names of the people who lost their lives in February 2010 to homicide in Kansas City, Missouri.

Henry Scott IV, 28--Avion D Williamson, 18--Michael E Baker, Jr, 20--Terrell Parker, 24

In addition to these, two people were killed by Kansas City police officers:

Jessica Jones, 19--Blake Bowman, 18

Our list is up to 13 at this point. It includes two women.

I am trying to be accurate with this project to the best of my abilities. I may have made a typo or not had complete information. When I find mistakes, I'll fix them. If you know of an error, let me know in the comments section.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 Homicides: January

The South Kansas City Observer thinks that it is easy to dismiss the homicide rate when we consider it as a big aggregate--impersonal--106 people killed. It is a lot, but to really take it in, you need to see it in its smaller pieces--the names of the people that were killed. So to help get a perspective on it, The Observer is going to list a month's worth of names each day over the course of the next two weeks or so. This is the list of homicide victims for January, a total of seven for the month.

Latasha Prewitt, 25--Antwan Clark, 22--Cortez Wilson, 17--Randy L Wilson, 21--Winston Hughes, 18--Jamar Nevels, 16--Dion Pettis, 29

Some people here were on the wrong end of violent conflict, some may have been doing illegal things when they were killed, some may have been innocent victims. They may not have looked like you and me, but they were all someone's son or daughter, and all humans bearing God's image.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

MAD Magazine

Some things don't change: Iconic MAD character Alfred E. Neuman still is "What, me worry?"

Sometimes when I use the computer, I grab a magazine to look at while it is "thinking"--it keeps me from getting too impatient and clicking things I shouldn't click. So tonight, WiFi at Borders. I grabbed MAD magazine, something I read regularly as a kid in the mid and late '70s.

MAD seems a lot more grown up now, I think. Or is it the kids that read it are more grown up?

When I was growing up, MAD was a critic of the way we lived. It poked fun at aspects of the American lifestyle. It did also make political commentary, but I don't remember it being as frequent or as pungent as today. It was more about family life. It also took on popular culture--mainly movies, music and television. Poking fun at the pretensions of these media was MAD's stock in trade.

The copy I picked up was a year in review sort of thing, with just one movie satire. The rest was dedicated to the events of the year. Events and people (Glenn Beck?) that most of MAD's 15-22 readership was likely to have heard of and followed in this age. I am not sure we would have been up on all that back in the 1970s.

It just felt different. Much more partisan and political with a clear left/progressive bias. I thought it a bit of a pity. I would like to see MAD mocking things such as the celebrity culture of today, and the pretentiousness of movies like "Avatar." Instead there is a lot of satiric attention to Beck and the Tea Party. There was a funny poke at celebutard Lindsey Lohan, and I LOL'ed at the mock up Car and Driver with tips for enjoying trips with runaway Toyotas. I was saddened though overall at how grown up the magazine seemed--how relentless all the partisan concerns were and how they pressed in on this icon of youthful rebellion, this magazine of pokes-in-the-eye that I remember fondly from my growing up years.

No wonder it seems like kids are older and older these days. No wonder our discourse has gotten more and more divided. The dividing starts early.