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My Second Cousin, Bradley Manning, Now Named Chelsea Elizabeth Manning

April 23, 2014

Not many are aware of the fact Bradley Manning is my second cousin, but over time I have told more and more about this fact.  Though I did not take a position on my blog for a long time about the events surrounding his life I did take a position on the most relevant aspect of the story.   That being Wikileaks.

“It is imperative that candid assessments of political leaders and political movements in other countries not be open to the general public in this manner”, is how I summed up the umbrella issue.   That is how I still feel about this whole episode.

I have never been a huge fan of Manning’s father, and feel that better parenting in so many ways would have allowed this entire episode to have never occurred had better avenues been presented in lieu of joining the military.  How could any parent not counsel strongly that a military path was not best suited to a small framed guy like Bradley, who also had other issues that were being confronted.

Today came news that a Kansas judge will allow for the legal name change of Bradley Manning to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.

The judicial order in Leavenworth County District Court could be a key step in the transgender quest to get the military to devise a medical treatment plan commonly available to civilians diagnosed with gender identity disorder.

While there is much I do not understand, but in time hope to, I do have one overriding desire and that is for Chelsea to find peace.

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens Has Good Ideas About Big National Problems

April 23, 2014

During the last few days I have been taken with the interviews and news stories regarding retired Supreme Court Justice John Stevens.  (The link takes you to the Newshour interview conducted by Judy Woodruff)

The learned man of law and ideas has weighed into the complexities of modern America with a book designed to address campaign finance rulings, the Second Amendment, and redistricting.  The text looks at six amendments the nation might consider to allow for resolutions of fundamental problems facing the country.

Regarding the gun amendment Stevens would have five words added to it that make it necessary for a person to be serving currently in a state militia in order to be protected under the Second Amendment.   The bottom line for this change, in the opinion of Stevens is to make it so Congress will stop arguing about whether or not the government has the power to regulate gun control and instead do what they think is best for the public.

Boil it down and what Stevens really is saying is that since the government has disbanded state militias, no one is included in the Second Amendment.  In other words the government has unlimited power and ability to place any restrictions it wants on gun ownership or how guns are used.

The book is just as gutsy–and correct in my opinion–on the topic of why we need to adjust how legislative boundaries are constructed.

If you have a few minutes connect the link above and be prepared to ponder some issues.




The New Yorker Cover “The Cart Before The Horses”

April 23, 2014

This is just one more perfect example as to why The New Yorker covers work so well as conversation starters.  I have a thought or two…..




Where Did Dave “Stringbean” Akeman Keep His Money?

April 23, 2014


I felt some background should be offered my readers given the news this week from Tennessee regarding the latest parole attempt of John Brown who murdered Grand Ole Opry star  Dave “Stringbean” Akeman and his wife, Estelle.  I have taken, to no one’s surprise, a sharp line on this topic.

“Stringbean” and his wife, Estelle, were murdered at their Ridgetop, TN, home over 40 years ago.

That November night instantly ushered in a new era of country music star privacy, and four decades later, we’re still learning new information about the infamous crime.

Stringbean was a member of the Opry and had a role on the television comedy show Hee Haw. He and Estelle were not like the music starts of today. They lived in a small cabin on Ridgetop, had outdoor plumbing and lived without any security.

John Brown and his cousin, Doug, had heard Stringbean didn’t trust banks and kept lots of cash at home, so they actually broke into Stringbean’s home and listened to the Opry broadcast on his own radio so they would know when the couple would be coming home.

When they arrived, the Browns killed Stringbean and Estelle but never found the big money.

“Back then, it was one big family, but then we knew we have to be careful,” said singer-songwriter Verlon Thompson.

Thompson has written a song called The Ballad of Stringbean and Estelle, and he actually played it at the cabin one night in front of Opry stars and Stringbean’s family members.

“I actually stood in the doorway of the cabin where the murder took place, and with the full moon over my shoulder, it was chilling,” Thompson said. “It was a special moment.”

Steve Gibson was 13 at the time of the murders, and his father, Curt Gibson, played guitar for Stringbean’s band. After the Opry show the night Stringbean was killed – in a moment so private, Curt Gibson never told the press – Stringbean rehearsed the old hymn Lord, I’m Coming Home in preparation for the next week’s Opry, Steve Gibson said.

“Just about two hours later before he left, met his fate and, in a sense, he fulfilled the words he’d been singing, ‘Lord, I’m Coming Home.’ It wasn’t very long at all before he did,” said Steve Gibson, now a lawyer and preacher.

Stringbean’s cabin is still in use and has been completely remodeled, except for one detail. The new owners left the bullet holes in the floor.

And all that money that Stringbean was supposed to have hidden, well, it was there somewhere. Two decades later, it was found in the chimney of the tiny cabin.

Opry Star Jan Howard Speaks Out Against Parole For John Brown, Killer of David “Stringbean” Akeman And Wife

April 23, 2014

The parole proceedings have started–again–for John Brown who murdered Grand Ole Opry star David “Stringbean” Akeman and his wife, Estelle.

This morning Brown went before the Tennessee Board of Parole by way of closed-circuit television to ask for his release, claiming he has been “reformed” through his more than 40 years in prison.

How many ways can I say BS?

Opry member Jan Howard was there to speak against his release, and there were also letters read from those opposed.

So far, two of seven board members voted differently. One voted to deny parole and hear his case again in three years, while the other voted to continue the hearing until November so a psychological examination could be done on Brown. That is typically a step taken before a prisoner is released.

The other five members will cast their votes in the next one to two weeks, and voting will stop once there have been four concurring votes.

Caffeinated Politics will be monitoring this story as it develops.

A Good Gun Story To Read

April 23, 2014

This is what we need more of in this state, and nation.

Among the slate of events is a gun buyback at Tabernacle Community Baptist Church that received the backing of Milwaukee police, clergy leaders and business owners, including Marty Forman, owner of Midwest Forman Recycling on the city’s north side.

“I always thought it was a good idea. It so fits what we do,” Forman said of the gun buyback. “The world of recycling is taking the things that society no longer needs and remelting them into a form that you do need. It saves resources, and in this particular case, it will save lives.”

About $76,000 already has been pledged in private donations to assist with the cost of the gun buyback, with support from many other scrap metal companies, he said. No city taxpayer money is involved.

The guns will be melted and forged into garden tools “to bring life to the city,” Forman said.

Supreme Court Divided On Race, Once Was United

April 23, 2014

There is much to argue when it comes to Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling regarding affirmative action.  I happen to find the ruling headed in the wrong direction.  I could use this post to stress the points that the majority of the court got wrong when ruling Michigan can forgo using race in deciding who gets admitted to college.

Instead, however, I want to make a point about the process that the Supreme Court failed at when coming to their ruling.   We all should be concerned with the justices not being able to find consensus and work for something that nears a unanimous ruling.

I can no longer recall when I first heard or read how the justices felt during the civil rights era that the issue of race was so important, and the fabric of the nation so torn over the matter that it was imperative they speak with one voice.   It may have been in high school or shortly thereafter, but what I do recall was the feeling of the enormity of the fact that the Court felt it important to speak as one voice when it came to race in this nation.

Without doubt one of the shining examples of this period was the absolutely correct decision in 1954 that ruled racial segregation of public schools was unconstitutional.  Chief Justice Warren’s opinion spoke for a unanimous Court, and the nation is better for it.

But even more powerful, perhaps, was the only time in the history of the court that all nine justices signed an opinion.  That happened in the late 1950′s when the court ruled the states were bound by the Court’s decisions and had to enforce them even if the states disagreed with them.  This took place as the segregationists in Little Rock, Arkansas were making headlines.

Speed forward to yesterday and take note that any attempt at finding agreement when it comes to race on the Court has evaporated.  There were eight justices that took part in the ruling, and five of those justices wrote opinions, none of which enjoyed the support of a majority.

Chief Justice Roberts needs to be evaluated on his leadership abilities when it comes to consensus building.  This week it fell flat.



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