So here we are on Cinco de Mayo. In Mexico the 5th is officially known as, "Dia de la Batalla de Puebla," which translates into American as, "Another Excuse to Drink a Lot of Beer Day."
Most Anglos assume May 5th is the Mexican equivalent of the 4th of July, which it isn't. That celebration is in September and it is almost uniformly ignored north of the Rio Grande. No, today commemorates a Mexican military victory over invading French troops in the year 1862. It was, in fact, the battle which began a French losing streak in wars which lasted right through both Vietnam and Algeria nearly a century later.
But enough of history. There are things happening right here and now.
A French news agency secured a video of Mr. Abubakar Shekau. He is the head of Boko Haram, another in the seemingly endless list of radical Islamic groups. They operate in the northern outback of Nigeria and love to burn down schools with the children and teachers in them--most of the time anyway. In mid April members of the group raided a girl's school and kidnapped around 200 female students.
In the video Shekau made these terse statements, "I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market." He added that, Allah had told him to do so. Hey, it beats having to feed them and as the late science fiction author, Mike McQuay said, "Once you have God on your side, you're capable of anything." The Nigerian president claims his government will secure the girls' release, but so far, if any actual attempts have been made, they've failed. People in Nigeria and across the globe are outraged. The United States, as usual, has promised to support the Nigerian government's efforts, although what support that might be remains a tad fuzzy.
Reports say, "Boko Haram" means, "western education is sinful." In the grainy video Shekau admonished girls, presumably everywhere, not to go to school, because they should get married instead.
Yesterday, here is the states, Mr. Porfiro Hernandez showed up at a home in Jonesboro, Arkansas carrying a .357 magnum handgun. Before he left two were dead and four were wounded, three of them critically. He then drove about three miles down the road where he shot and killed a third person. Police found his car and body parked on a rural road a little while later. The evidence available is, after the deadly rampage, Hernandez used the weapon on himself.
In an email, a Jonesboro police officer told the Associated Press that Porfiro Hernandez had recently been released from a "mental health facility." Why should anyone be surprised? There was no mention of who owned the weapon, or how Hernandez got his hands on it, although this being America if it hadn't been that one, he would have certainly found another.
Locally, Mr. Al Gerhart, head of the "Sooner Tea Party" went on trial this morning. The charges are blackmail and violating the state's computer crimes act.
A year ago, Gerhart was all hot to trot about a bill in the Oklahoma senate. The measure would have banned the state and local communities from dealing with any entity which participated in a voluntary U.N. program, because--well--it is a U.N. thing and therefore a terrible threat to the sovereignty of these United States.
In March, 2013, he sent an email to state Senator, Cliff Branan, a fellow republican. In it he told Branan that unless he moved the bill out of committee there would be hell to pay. The communication read, "Branan, get that bill heard or I will make sure you regret not doing it. I will make you the laughing stock of the senate if I don't hear this bill will he heard and passed. We will dig into your past, your family, your associates, and once we start on you there will be no end to it. This is a promise."
Later Gerhart held a press conference and claimed Branan had taken the email to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, because the "scuttlebutt" in the senate was he'd had some sort of sexual dalliance with a staffer. Branan denied it and Gerhart, who promised he'd make sure the Senator's church knew what he was really like, has never provided any proof of the accusation.
That hogwash wasn't what got him charged though. The line about, "I will make you the laughing stock of the senate," is what landed Brother Al in the dock. As The Oklahoman's Nolan Clay reported today, Oklahoma law, in part, states blackmail can involve any communication which attempts to compel someone to do something against his, or her will by threatening to expose information about that person, which would in any way subject such a person to the ridicule or contempt of society..."
The defendant is claiming the email was free speech and his attorney is howling the case is pure, "political prosecution." He maintains Oklahoma legislators do this sort of shit all the time when they're trying to get a bill passed. If true, it would make the Oklahoma house and senate two of the most ruthless places in America, outside of a few "social clubs" catering to mob types.
Gerhart was, for the most part, unknown outside of the world of conservative politics before this slimy affair hit the news. However, among fellow travelers on those dark seas he has quite the reputation as a bellicose bully. When the conservative on-line news letter, "The McCarville Report," first began covering the controversy last year it's comments sections were full of horror stories written by conservative activists regarding the man.
Clay notes the trial should last three, or four days. He also says the defense has subpoenaed a number of legislators as "expert witnesses" on the legislative process.
In the end, the bill's sponsor in the senate withdrew it from consideration after he found out about the threats to Branan and his family. It hasn't been heard of since.
There we have it. And just think, it is only Monday.