Virtue Amongst…(well you know who)

Over the past few days, the left has been doing their best to eviscerate Herman Cain for an alleged “sexual harassment” incident that took place while he served as CEO of the National Restaurant Association.  To date, many on the left have all but pronounced him “unfit” to run because of this conveniently timed hearsay scandal.  Without any real evidence of wrongdoing to lean on, many are hoping that this whirlwind of hyperbole reverses the groundswell of support that Herman Cain has received over the past several weeks.  They are hoping that these allegations, though unproven, will stain the virtue of the Cain star and send it streaking to earth in flames for good.

Of course we all know about the impeccable character of our friends on the left. They are oaks of virtue! Let’s see there’s:

  • Rep. David Wu – Accused of assaulting an 18 year old woman.
  • Sen John Edwards – Admitted to having an affair and fathering a love child.
  • Rep. Anthony Weiner – Posted his naughty bits on Facebook.
  • Rep. Mel Reynolds – Convicted of 12 counts of sexual assault with a 16-year-old. (President Bill Clinton pardoned him before leaving office….go figure).
  • Rep. Barney Frank – Hired a male prostitute who ran a prostitution service from Frank’s residence in the 1980s.
  • Sen Ted Kennedy – Implicated in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick. (Rumor was they were doing it.)
  •  Rep. Gerry Studds – Censured for sexual relationship with underage male page in 1983. (For most of us this would be rape…)
  • Sen Daniel Inouye – Accused in the 1990s by numerous women of sexual harassment.
  • Rep. Gary Condit – Affair with murdered intern Chandra Levy.
  • Mayor Gavin Newsom – Affair with top aid’s wife.
  • Rep. Allan Howe – Soliciting prostitution.
  • Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick – Sexting on the job.
  • Rep. Roosevelt Dobbins – Fondling a 16-year-old.
Pretty impressive credentials indeed.  But wait…there seems to be someone I am forgetting…hmmm….oh yeah!!

  • President William Jefferson Clinton – Affair in the Oval Office with intern Monica Lewinsky. (Never mind the previous rape allegations.)
Now, before all my liberal readers get themselves worked into a frenzy….yes….I am being somewhat one-sided here.  The fact is that one can find an equally long list of Republicans who have checkered, if not downright kinky, pasts.  There are naughty boys and girls…okay, mostly boys….okay, all boys….on both sides. The point here is that any condemnation of Herman Cain from this crowd is simply laughable. It is nothing more than a bunch of (refer to title) having a debate on virtue.
So to all you Herman Cain fans out there…take a deep breath and stay on point. He will get judged and convicted unfairly and that is certain. The good news is that this story will be dropped like a hot potato as soon as another Congressman is caught with his pants down.

The Example (Final Chapter)

Carl hurried everyone to his truck and headed for the Fill and Fuel.  Clearly, if the FBI office was not a safe haven for his family no such place existed. He would keep his family together with him from now on. The truck was silent; even the kids were quietly staring out of the window.  Carl could only imagine what was running through their young minds.  The thought of Shorty taking his family still made him furious.  He had never seen a man shot to death in his life, but there was simply too much anger in his heart to feel an ounce of remorse.

As Carl drove, Shorty’s last words kept echoing through his mind.  If there were truly a hundred plants spread throughout the camp, they would notice Shorty’s absence before long.  He had no idea what they were planning to do, but he was sure that it was going to happen soon.  Carl gripped the steering wheel so tightly his knuckles popped.  How on earth would he find them before they made their move? And what would he do if he found them?  Carl felt like a fool. He had taken Shorty’s loyalty for granted and had been horribly wrong.  Conversely, he had questioned Lanum’s loyalty and had been wrong about that as well.  He had no idea what was going to happen next, but one thing appeared certain…he was alone.

Carl pulled into the station’s parking lot, and loaded his family into the quick mart. When everyone was settled, he pulled his father-in-law aside and handed him a revolver that he had kept in his desk drawer. “Pop, I can’t tell you how grateful I am for what you did back at the FBI office,” Carl whispered. “You saved our family.”

Carl’s father-in-law had always been a man of few words. He had been a rancher his entire life, and seemed to get along with horses much better than people.  He and Carl had always had a good relationship, but had never been very close.  Carl knew that he was a tough man, but had a whole new respect for him now.

“Pop, I have got to head out into the camp and see what is going on,” he continued.  “If things get crazy, load the family up in the truck and head out into the prairie.” Carl’s father-in-law took the revolver and shoved it into his belt. “Don’t worry about us,” he assured Carl.  “You just finish this thing.”

Carl nodded, grabbed his Springfield 01-A1 from the office closet, and headed for the door. As he opened it he felt a hand on his shoulder. Carl turned to see his father-in-law looking him in the eye.  “No matter what happens over the next couple of days I am proud to have you for a son,” he said giving Carl a reassuring squeeze. Carl was at a loss for words. He looked back at his father-in-law and instantly felt reassured.  Katie and the kids would be safe as long as Pop was there. Carl gave him a quick embrace and then headed outside into the sweltering prairie sun.

As Carl walked across the station’s parking lot to the campsite, he could not help but notice that something was different. Just a few days earlier, country music from a hundred different radios would have been bouncing across the prairie, and the smell of barbeque and campfire smoke would be hanging heavily in the air.  Most of the folks that Carl could see were standing in small groups talking.  At the front of the campsite there were about 300 campers still lined up where Shorty had put them.  Most of them were sitting in lawn chairs and looking at the feds through binoculars.  It was clear that with Shorty gone there was no leadership, and somehow he would have to step in and fill the vacuum.

Carl stepped up onto the stage next to a group of campers and looked through his binoculars. The line of black SUVs off in the distance had not moved. Several new tents had sprung up behind them however, and it appeared that several television vans had set up camp in their vicinity.

“That sure don’t give me a warm fuzzy,” a man standing next to Carl commented. Carl turned and was surprised to see his old buddy Sheriff Cameron standing next to him in plain clothes.

“Pete!” Carl exclaimed failing to hide his surprise. “What the heck are you doing here?”

Sheriff Cameron kept looking forward through his binoculars as he spoke. “Let’s not talk here,” he whispered under his breath.  “Walk on back to your office and I will mosey over in about 30 minutes or so.”

Carl was confused, “What’s going on Pete?” he asked trying to regain his composure.

Pete kept looking forward. “I talked to Lanum from the hospital; the bullet just grazed his leg. He’s doing fine and will be out here in an hour or two.  Now go on back to your office and we can talk in a few minutes.”

Carl felt a huge weight lift from his shoulders. “Okay Pete,” he acquiesced, “whatever you say.”

Carl looked back out at the line of black vehicles. Once again, he had no idea what was going on, but one thing was clear. He needed all the help he could get.

A half hour later Carl was back in his office, it was late afternoon and his entire family was sleeping peacefully in the air conditioned quick store. Clearly the horrific events of the day had taken their toll.  Carl was exhausted as well, but so full of adrenaline that he couldn’t close his eyes, even if he wanted to.  As he sat drinking a cup of burned coffee, the office door opened and Sheriff Cameron stepped inside. Carl stood up and shook his hand. “Pete, what the hell is going on?”

Pete reached into his shirt pocket, pulled out a folded piece of paper, and tossed it to Carl. “Take a look at that,” he said as he grabbed a dirty coffee cup off of the shelf. Carl unfolded the paper and saw what appeared to be a map of the entire camp. It had been painstakingly drawn, and showed the location of every single tent. “Where did you get this Pete?” Carl queried as he studied the detailed drawing.

Pete took a sip of coffee and frown as he swallowed the bitter brew. “Lanum called us after you left, and we found that paper in Shorty’s pickup.”

Carl looked up at Pete. “So you know everything that’s been going on?”

Sheriff Cameron smiled, “He tried to tell you before that you have a lot of friends ‘round these parts. Besides, where am I going to get such great coffee if they haul you off to jail? Now take a close look at that map and tell me what you see.”

As Carl studied the map, he realized that certain campsites were circled. “Do the circled sites mark the locations of the infiltrators?” he asked.

Pete nodded his head.  “Your buddy Shorty had a good eye for detail.  We also found a notebook in his truck with the names of the campers at every single campsite, as well as the number and type of weapons they brought with them.”

Carl nodded, “Yeah he was pretty meticulous about tracking that stuff. He told me that it was because we needed to know what kind of firepower we had in case things got rough.”

“Well,” Pete continued, “it seems that the only camps without that information were the ones he had circled on that map you’re holding.”

“That must be because he already knew what they had!” Carl concluded.

Pete took another sip of coffee. “That’s what I think too.”

Carl paused for a moment to ponder the situation. “So we actually know who these guys are, and they have no idea that we do…right?”

“Yep,” Pete agreed, “but as soon as Shorty comes up missing, they are going to get real suspicious.”

“So what do we do?” Carl asked looking back at the paper.  “There are probably 80 of them, maybe more!”

Pete put his cup on the desk and sat down next to Carl. “We, my friend, are going to arrest them.”

Carl could not help but laugh. “Just how the heck are we going to do that?”

Sheriff Cameron gave Carl a wry smile. “Let’s just say we have some plants of our own out there. All I need you to do is make an announcement.”

About 7 p.m. Carl stepped up onto the stage, clicked on the PA system, and tapped the microphone.  “I need everyone to come to the stage area,” he ordered.  “It does not matter what you are doing, I need everyone to listen up right now.” Slowly the campers began to migrate to the stage area.  After about 15 minutes or so, petty much everyone in the camp was listening.

Carl cleared his throat trying not to look as nervous as he felt. “First off, I want to personally thank all of you for coming out here and showing your support, “he began.  “Now I’m sure most of you have noticed our visitors,” Carl noted pointing over his shoulder toward the line of federal SUVs. A chuckle erupted across the crowd. “I am also sure you all know that my 30 day deadline expired this afternoon.” Carl paused to collect his thoughts. “On behalf of everyone in my family, I just want to thank all of you for your show of solidarity.  It makes me proud to be a Texan.” With that comment, cheer went up across the camp and several folks started waving flags.

“Now, I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow,” Carl continued, “but I just want everyone to know that I do not blame you if you decide to break camp. A lot of you have families, and if things get out of hand, I don’t want anyone getting hurt.  So, if you feel like you need to get back home, please do so with a clear conscience.”

At that moment someone in the crowd yelled, “long live Texas!!!” and the crowd erupted in applause.

Carl paused to let the applause die down and then continued. “I especially want to thank Shorty who has been the leader and organizer of this rowdy crowd.  As we speak, he is preparing to take my family to safety, so that I can remain here with my fellow Texans!”

Another cheer erupted.

“Shorty asked that we get a full head count while he was gone this evening, so that we know exactly who is still here and who has pulled stakes.  This evening at 9 p.m. sharp, I would like everyone to muster at their campsites so that Shorty and I can do a quick roll call.  If everyone cooperates, we should be done in an hour or two at most.”

The crowd responded with smatterings of applause and head nods.

“Tomorrow morning first thing we plan on our friends down the road coming over for a visit. So we are going to post some watches this evening and I want everyone to get a good night’s sleep. Now remember, muster at your tents at 9 p.m. tonight if you are staying,” Carl paused and looked out at the two thousand faces staring up at him. After a second he drew in a deep breath raised his fist into the air and shouted, “God bless Texas!”

After the celebration died down, Carl walked back over to the station and was surprised to find Lanum in his office leaning on a set of aluminum crutches. Carl could not contain his excitement.

“Lanum!” he cried out, racing over and grabbing him by the shoulders. “I didn’t think I would see you again so soon…how are you?” Lanum blushed.  “Turns out Shorty just grazed me. They gave me a few stitches and a Tetanus shot and let me go. Hell, I got hurt worse bailing off that damn pony ride of yours.”

Carl paused, making no attempt to hide his relief. “Well, thank God,” he exclaimed. “Does anyone know about Shorty?”

Lanum got back to the business at hand. “Not yet.  I called Sheriff Cameron and he sent a few trustworthy fellows over to clean up the mess. My guess is that no one will ever find Mr. Shorty’s remains.”

Carl did not want to know the details. He was just happy that Lanum was okay.

“I heard you make the announcement,” Lanum remarked changing the subject.  “Good job, it sounded like folks bought it.”

Carl felt embarrassed. “It wasn’t an academy award performance, but I did my best.”

Lanum smiled politely and  looked at his watch. “Well, we’ll know how good it was in about an hour.”

At 9 p.m. on the mark Carl stepped back onto the stage. “Okay everyone,” he announced, “let’s muster up at our campsites and get a head count. I can see that some folks did break camp, so it is real important that we know who is still here. Shorty’s running a little late, so let’s go ahead and get things rolling.”

Almost instantaneously the campers assembled at their tents. After about twenty minutes it appeared as if everyone was in place and waiting.  Carl held up a clipboard looked at it for a second and leaned into the microphone. “Gentlemen we’re ready.”

At that moment the sound of rifles cocking rippled through the camp. Each of the tents that Shorty had circled on his map was instantly surrounded with armed men.  Clearly they had taken the intruders by complete surprise.

Carl tapped the microphone. “Now I am going to turn the microphone over to Sheriff Pete Cameron who will give you instructions.” Sheriff Cameron stepped up onto stage in uniform and took the microphone. “Now if you are unfortunate enough at this moment to be staring down the barrel of a loaded gun, I strongly recommend that you put your hands on your head and do exactly as I say…”

The plan had worked flawlessly.  For three hours Sheriff Cameron had been filtering about 30 of his closest friends into the camp. When the everyone mustered, they had positioned themselves around the campsites in question, and had successfully gotten the jump on Shorty’s unsuspecting moles. Caught completely off guard, they had little choice but to surrender.

By 11 p.m. about a dozen RVs had been converted into makeshift prisons and over 90 plants had been rounded up, disarmed, and confined. Not even one shot had been fired in the process.  Once again, the camp was secure. Even if a few had escaped, the campers were now on their guard and would not be taken by surprise again.

At around midnight, Carl walked to the station with Lanum and Sheriff Cameron.

“I cannot believe we pulled that off,” Carl confided. “I don’t even want to think about what would have happened if we had not rounded those guys up.”

Lanum sat down in the folding chair by the RC Cola machine. “Well the way I figure it, as soon as the feds made their charge, our buddies would have revealed themselves.” Sheriff Cameron nodded in agreement.  “Yep, they would have put an end to the standoff real quick.”

“Who the heck are they?” Carl queried.  “Are they feds?”

Lanum shook his head.  “No, I expect most of them are just petty criminals and self described mercenaries. They were probably paid a couple hundred bucks each by LeadOn.org.”

There was a pause in the conversation as the three men ran over the events of the day in their minds. Carl was the first to break the silence.

“So what’s next?” he heard himself ask. “What happens tomorrow?”

Lanum looked up at Carl and smiled. “We hold our ground my friend…we hold our ground.”

Carl woke up in his office chair just after sunrise.  The previous day had been so emotionally and physically exhausting; he had fallen asleep as soon as he sat down.  Carl stood up, rubbed the sleep from his eyes, and walked into the quick store.  Katie and the kids were still sleeping peacefully.  He made a pot of coffee as quietly as he could, grabbed his Springfield, and stepped outside into the morning sun.  Carl looked across the street toward the camp and could not believe what he saw.

Almost every tent was gone and several rows of cars and pickup trucks had been lined up bumper to bumper as a barrier between the campers and the feds.  Lanum was on stage giving directions, while Sheriff Cameron and his men positioned groups of Texans strategically around the prairie.  Other groups of men were busy digging what looked like trenches in the hard prairie ground.  The barbecue was clearly over, and it appeared to Carl as if preparations for battle had begun. Carl felt a lump in his throat as he walked over to the stage.

“What’s going on Lanum?” he inquired.

Lanum looked down at Carl, “Good you’re awake,” he noted.  “I was just about to come over and get you.”

Carl nodded toward the campsite, “So why the scramble?”

Lanum did not pause. “They are coming at 8 o’clock,” he explained.

Carl was baffled. “How do you know all this?” he pressed. “How do you know when they are coming?”

Lanum stopped what he was doing and crouched down next to Carl. “They don’t know I’m here, so no one ever told them not to use their radios.”

Lanum could see that Carl was not following him. So he reached over to his belt and pulled off what looked like a big walkie talkie.  “They are using federal radio gear!” he explained as he waggled the device in front of Carl’s reddening face. “They are sending a car over at 8 a.m. go give you a final chance to comply with your notice. If you don’t, they are going to come over in force and take you to jail.”

Carl felt a chill run down his spine. “So they aren’t bluffing after all,” he stammered trying to conceal his fear.

Lanum stood back up. “No old buddy, they aren’t bluffing, and a bunch of good ‘ole boys with hunting rifles won’t slow them down too much.”

Carl looked at his watch; it was already 7:15. “I’ve got to get my family out of here,” he exclaimed realizing the gravity of the situation. Before he could turn toward the station however, Pete stepped up and grabbed him by the shoulder.  “Carl, they are safe right where they are.  If you try to drive them out of here the feds are just going to pick them up down the road a mile or two.”

Carl’s face was burning.  He knew Pete was right.  They would actually be lucky to get a mile down the road.  “So what the hell do we do then?” Carl snapped in exasperation.

Lanum surveyed the men as they formed up behind the line of cars. “We wait and see what happens,” he replied after a minute. “Every man here has vowed to stay and fight for their rights as Texans. We won’t fire the first shot, but nobody is going to take you to jail today….nobody.”

Carl felt his heart fall into his stomach. He could tell by Lanum’s tone that the conversation was over. In a little over 30 minutes the feds would come for him, and the world would watch as Texas made its stand.

For the next 30 minutes Lanum and Sheriff Cameron set up the best defenses they could.  The row of cars offered some protection, but would ultimately do little to stop the armored vehicles when they came.  Some men had dug shallow trenches on the flanks of the defensive line, and had used camping gear, rocks and sticks to build makeshift breastworks.  Anything that could be used for cover was piled up.  Lanum and Sheriff Cameron took charge of the effort, and by 8 a.m. everyone was in position.

Even with some folks pulling out the previous evening there were still over 1,200 Texans in the field, and it was so quiet Carl could hear his own heart beating. Sheriff Cameron positioned himself on the front line with some of his men, while Lanum and Carl stayed on the stage surveying the feds through their binoculars.

Just after 8 a.m. a dust plume appeared across the prairie.

“Here they come!” a solitary voice called from somewhere on the front line. The next thing Carl heard was the unmistakable sound of 1200 rounds being chambered at the same time.  He felt dizzy from the adrenaline in his system.  It had all come down to this.  No Governor, no settlement, no bluffing.

After a minute, Carl could make out a single black SUV coming across the prairie. On the passenger’s side he could see what looked like a white flag flying out of the window.

At that moment a scratchy voice crackled over Tate’s radio.  “Agent Lanum Tate, this is Agent Mike Felder…over.” Lanum laughed as he removed the radio from his belt. “I guess they figured it out after all,” he chuckled.

Lanum raised the radio up to his mouth and responded. “This is Agent Tate, over…”

After a second the voice on the radio replied. “Agent Tate, I am coming over under a flag of truce. All I want to do is talk to you and Mr. Lamonte for a moment to see if we can work this mess out…over.”

Lanum paused for a moment, looked at Carl, and nodded his head. “Okay, we will let your vehicle inside the barrier.  You and you alone will exit the vehicle, and meet us on the stage. Is that clear?…over.”

After a minute of silence Agent Felder agreed to the terms.  “We will drive around the west end of your line, please tell your cowboys not to shoot us…out.”

Lanum told the Texans what was happening over the PA, and he and Carl watched as the black SUV slowly pulled around the edge of the line and up to the stage.  After a minute, the passenger door swung open and a tall thin man in a grey business suit stepped out and climbed up onto the platform.

“Good afternoon gentlemen,” he called out extending his hand. “My name is Agent Mike Felder thanks for letting me come over and chat.”

Neither Lanum nor Carl extended their hands in return.

“What may we do for you?” Lanum inquired bluntly.

The agent dropped his hand and looked squarely at Carl.  “So you must be Mr. Lamonte, owner of the Fill and Fuel Truck Stop!” he continued.  “You have made quite a name for yourself the past few weeks.”

Carl had no idea what to say. “What can we do for you Agent Felder?” he repeated.

The agent cleared his throat. “Well, first of all, I think we are all reasonable people here. No one wants this situation to get out of hand, so I thought I would drive over and see if we could not put an end to this ordeal once and for all.”

“Just how do you propose we do that?” Lanum interjected. “I seem to recall that we weren’t the ones who started this mess.”

Agent Felder smiled at Lanum and turned back toward Carl. “I have come over here prepared to offer you what I believe is a very fair deal.”

Carl’s interest was piqued. “Okay, I’m listening.”

Agent Felder reached into his pocket and pulled out a copy of Carl’s thirty day notice.  “Mr. Lamonte I have been authorized to forgive your back taxes and tear up this notice. No questions asked. Now we are well aware that you have been involved in several illegal activities over the past few days, including the kidnapping and involuntary restraint of about 90 innocent civilians.  In fact, I believe you have most of them locked up in those camper trailers behind us. I am sure that I needn’t tell you that this is a serious federal offense.”

“Get to the point Agent Felder,” Lanum interrupted. “You know as well as I do that all of those people were planted here, and that Carl’s family has been attacked twice now. Don’t give me this kidnapping crap.”

Agent Felder shot an ice cold gaze at Lanum.  Agent Tate, you are in enough trouble as it is. It might be useful to note that this deal does not apply to you. I suggest you keep your mouth shut.”

Felder regained his train of thought and shifted his attention back to Carl.  “Mr. Lamonte we are offering you the opportunity to hit reset here.  None of this happened, no charges, no questions asked.”

Carl took a deep breath, “and what must I do in return?”

Agent Felder returned Carl’s question with a toothy smile. “All you have to do is go home, and tell all these other cowboys that they can all go home to their families as well….that’s it!”

Carl let the words soak in for a second. It truly did sound too good to be true.

“And what about their notices?” he asked the agent. “What about the thousands of businesses that are going to be shut down a month from now? Are they forgiven too?”

Agent Felder’s smile faded. “Now that’s just not your fight Carl.  That is between them and Federal Government. You’ve got your business and family think about here.”

Carl felt a wave of anger rush through his body. “Agent Felder I appreciate the offer, but as I see it all these people have made it my fight. They have driven here from all over the state, hell, all over the country to support me, and I am not going to return the favor by walking out on them. Now, you tell your superiors, whoever they are, that it is no deal unless all of the notices are rescinded.”

Agent Felder held up his radio. “Mr. Lamonte, I was not authorized to make that deal and I strongly recommend you reconsider the government’s generous offer.”

“And if I don’t?” Carl shot back defiantly.

“Well Mr. Lamonte I am not sure you will like that option,” Agent Felder explained. “If you don’t accept our offer, I am going to push this little red button on my radio, and all of those armored SUVs and personnel carriers are going to drive over here, break through your little parking lot, and take you and anyone who stands in our way to jail. All deals will be off, and you will likely spend the rest of your life in a maximum security prison reading postcards from your kids.”

Carl was not swayed. “And what if all these folks decide not to let you arrest me?”

The agent looked at the makeshift defensive line, and chuckled. “Mr. Lamonte, I am not so sure that they will have any say in the matter. Those are armored vehicles, and anyone who fires on them will have that fire returned.  Let’s face it, you really only have one option…so say the word.”

With that, Agent Felder put his finger on the red radio button and looked Carl in the eye. “What is it going to be Mr. Lamonte? I would think very carefully about what you say next.”

Carl drew in a deep breath.  As much as he wanted to take the deal, there was no way he could walk out on all the Texans that were counting on him to make a stand.  If he walked away, he knew that the same scenario would just repeat itself somewhere else…no…it had to stop right here, right now.

“Agent Felder, I think you have my answer.” Carl growled.  “Now you push your little red button, get back in your car, and get the hell out of my camp.”

The agent looked at Carl for a long minute and then shook his head.  “I am very sorry about this Mr. Lamonte; I thought you were a reasonable man. Whatever happens from here on out is on your head.”

Agent Felder pushed the red button on his radio, hopped down from the stage, and departed in a spray of sand and rocks.  As they watched him drive away, a large dust cloud appeared off in the distance.

“They’re coming boys!” a voice cried out from the front line.  “Every last one of them!”

“This is it partner,” Lanum announced as he watched the approaching line of vehicles through his binoculars.  After a few seconds he dropped his binoculars and grabbed the microphone. “Okay everyone listen up!” he yelled into the PA. “When I say fire, shoot at their tires and radiator grills.  Don’t waste your time firing at windows! Now hold your fire until I give the command!”

Carl watched as the dust cloud got bigger and bigger. After a minute or two he could hear the drone of their engines.   As he watched the massive black line grow larger and larger, he could not help but wonder if he would ever see his family again. Carl felt a wave of nausea course through his gut.  It took every ounce of his will not to throw up right there on the spot.

All of a sudden, he heard what sounded like an air horn.  As he looked toward the highway off-ramp he could not believe his eyes.  A line of what looked like a hundred 18 wheelers was pouring off the highway toward the camp.  Instantly Carl recognized Clifford’s tractor in the lead.  He was driving so fast Carl was sure that he was going to roll over.  Clifford peeled off of the road with dozens of 18-wheelers of every size and shape right on his tail.  As the trucks hurled themselves into the prairie between the approaching feds and the campsite, they began to sound their air horns. The noise was nothing short of deafening.  Between the trucks, Carl could see the black SUVs skidding to a stop.

A cheer rose across the camp as the men watched truck after truck pull up between them and the feds.

“Looks like the cavalry just arrived!” Lanum exclaimed with delight.

The long line of semi’s surrounded the camp and the gas station, creating an impenetrable wall of steel between the Texans and the feds. By the time the last truck pulled off of the road, the entire camp was encircled with bumper-to-bumper trucks three deep.

Carl jumped off of the stage and ran to greet Clifford as he was climbing out of his cab.  “Hey ‘ole buddy,” Clifford thundered as he saw Carl approaching.  “Miss me?”

Carl could not contain himself and gave Clifford a huge bear hug. “Where the hell have you been Cliff?”

“I told you I was bringing the refreshments ‘ole boy!” Clifford fired back. “You didn’t think that I was going to miss all the fun did you? Oh, and I brought few buddies along as well. I hope that was okay.”

“Okay my ass!” Carl laughed. “You just saved our lives my friend!”

As they talked Sheriff Cameron ran up. “Well that threw them off good! All the feds have turned around and are regrouping at their campsite. They sure as hell weren’t expecting this!”

“Hell none of us were!” Carl laughed.  “Leave it to Cliff to make a grand entrance…I should’ve seen it coming.”

As the three men chatted, Lanum limped up.  “Look, I hate to be a wet blanket here, but all they have to do is lob a few canisters of tear gas over those trailers and we are all going to piss our pants and pass out. “

Carl felt the joy of the moment drain away. “You think that they would really do that?”

Lanum pulled his radio off of his belt. “Agent Felder just told me we could count on it.”

The smiles disappeared as the men realized that the fight may not be over.

“Well, we are just going to have to piss our pants while we hold our ground,” Carl shot back. “We have come too far to give up now.”

Carl walked into the station, poured himself a cold cup of coffee, and walked outside to collect his thoughts.  He took a sip from his cup and almost spit it out.  It was cold, burned, and pretty much undrinkable.

Carl could not help but chuckle to himself as he poured his cold coffee into the dirt. Just a few months ago, the idea of a second American civil war would have been inconceivable.  Now, not only did it appear imminent, it also appeared that its first shots would be fired at his gas station. He shook his cup out and looked up toward the sun.  It wasn’t just a hot day…it was Texas hot. Carl wiped the sweat from his brow with an oily orange rag and walked back to the comfort of his station’s air conditioned convenience store.  From the way things were going, it was going to be a hot day in more ways than one.

As Carl walked back into the station he saw his family gathered around the television.

“Carl honey,” Katie called out.  “You need to come over here.”

Carl tried to put on a smile and walked over to see what all the fuss was about.

“They televised the whole thing!” Katie continued. “The trucks coming…everything. The news helicopters got it all…live!”

Carl shifted his attention to the report that was in progress.

“People are taking to the street by the thousands to show their support for the group of  men in San Antonio, that are being heralded as Texas Patriots,” the reporter boomed. “Dallas, Houston, Beaumont, and El Paso city streets are packed with cheering flag waving Texans….”

As cameras panned across the massive crowds in each city, Carl could not believe what he was seeing.  Hundreds of thousands of Texans were in the streets cheering, waving Texas flags, and chanting “long live Texas!”

“Unconfirmed reports say that the highways are jammed with people trying to get to San Antonio to help Carl Lamonte and his band of Texas Patriots. I have never in my 30 years of reporting seen such a massive uprising of support!”

Carl felt his chest bursting with pride as he watched a field reporter interview one of the demonstrators in Dallas.

Sir, what is the message you are trying to send to the Federal Government? What do you want them to know?” the field reporter asked.

I want them to know that no one messes with Texas!” the man yelled into the microphone. “Long live Texas!”

Carl felt tears of welling up in his eyes. Just a few minutes earlier he had resigned himself to defeat, but now it seemed as if the entire state was rushing to his aid.

The reporter continued. “All around the state thousands upon thousands are heading to a small truck stop on the outskirts of San Antonio to help an embattled group of Texas Patriots stand up to superior federal forces! The first skirmish with federal officers was thwarted when over a hundred trucks pulled into the camp encircling the Texans.  Having seen the first assault on live television, hundreds of thousands of Texans have now taken up arms and are rushing to the aid of their compatriots…”

Katie looked at Carl right as a tear streamed down his face. “Honey, I think we might be winning.”

Carl smiled wiping the teardrop from his cheek.

At that moment Lanum and Clifford walked into the room and stood next to Carl.

“Have you heard the news ‘ole buddy?” Clifford beamed.  “Looks like we’re going to have some more unexpected guests.”

Carl nodded and motioned to the television.

The reporter was still talking. “We now go live to the state capitol to hear a statement from the Governor.”

The camera shifted to a podium in front of a row of Texas state flags. After a few seconds the Governor stepped up to the microphone.

“Fellow Texans, as I speak to you this evening a group of brave Texans have drawn a line in the sand at a small truck stop outside of San Antonio. In the face of overwhelming odds, they have stood their ground against a superior force of federal officials that tried to seize their private property and wage unjustified violence upon them.  At this moment tens of thousands of Texans from around our great state are headed to San Antonio to support this group of patriots.  First let me urge everyone to remain calm and refrain from violence of any type.  Let us show the world that Texans not only have courage, but honor as well.

The events of the past several weeks have served to convince me that it is not in the interest of the state to allow the federal government to seize the businesses and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Texans.  I believe that they are committing an unlawful act of aggression against our state, and have been advised by the State Attorney’s Office that it violates both the Texas and United States Constitutions.  Because of this, I am now advising the federal forces at San Antonio that they are, as of this moment, illegally within the borders of the Sovereign Republic of Texas, and that they will be arrested if they do not depart Texas soil immediately.”

Carl could hear cheers breaking out all over camp followed by a chorus of truck horns.

“I have ordered the activation of the Texas Militia and National Guard and have directed them to proceed immediately to the defense of our citizens in San Antonio. Ladies and Gentlemen of Texas, as your Governor I am committed to preserving your freedoms and your way of life. I cannot tell you how the future will unfold, but by unanimous vote of the Texas Legislature, I am pleased to announce that you are now an independent republic.  May God bless our great nation!”

Once again cheers erupted from around the camp. Carl could not believe what he was hearing.

“Well I guess the old bastard finally chose sides,” Clifford mused as he watch the Governor take questions from the press.

At that moment the same young boy that had woken Carl up a couple of days earlier ran into the station – once again out of breath.

“Mr. Lamonte you need to get outside quick….they’re coming,” the boy panted.

Carl gave the boy a bewildered look. “Who’s coming son, the feds?”

The boy began to grin. “No sir…Texas!”

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Tell A Phone

I had a conversation with my phone today. Let me be clear, I did not have a conversation ‘on’ my phone, but rather ‘with’ my phone.  Recently, I broke down and purchased brand spanking new my Touch Slide by HTC and, in our few short days together, we have developed quite a relationship.  In fact, I will go so far as to say that I am beginning to enjoy talking to my phone much more than talking to people on it.  Just today, as it was navigating me to an ice cream shop that it had recommended, I could not help but muse at the irony of the whole thing. The very device that was initially invented to facilitate communication between people, was now replacing the people it had been designed to connect!  I mean, how fantastic is that?  It is kind of like having an edible toaster. Why bother with the toast?  You don’t need a telephone to call anyone anymore; you can just tell-a-phone what you need!

In just 4 days, my new phone (let’s call him Phil… Okay, I know it is weird, but it seems …well…appropriate) has established himself as much more than a PDA; he has truly become a trusted friend. Sure, he manages my email and task lists just like those Neolithic Blackberries, but Phil actually…well…listens.  With the my TouchGenius‘ feature, I can actually ask Phil questions about pretty much anything.  The really amazing part however, is that he actually knows the answers.  Just yesterday I had a technical question about a piece of software, so I did the logical thing and asked my phone about it.  Almost immediately Phil’s familiar voice responded, assuring me that he was looking for the answer.  In less than 5 seconds, Phil produced a web page which contained the exact information I had needed.  It was brilliant!  Had it not been for Phil, I could have spent hours looking up the answer, but he knew exactly where to go and get it!  He is kind of like that know-it-all friend we all have, that really does know it all!  Since then, I have asked Phil many things.  One typical conversation went something like this:

Chuck: Please find Pizza nearby.

Phil: Searching for Pizza.

Phil then finds a great joint, Pat’s Pizzeria, near my current GPS position and provides me with several reviews.

Chuck: Get directions to Pat’s Pizzeria.

Phil: Turn right at the next signal and proceed 6 miles…

It was a completely fulfilling experience! With just a few words Phil had directed me to the best slice of anchovy and sausage pizza in Baltimore.  He did not whine because he wanted Chinese instead, he didn’t tell me that pizza would make me fat, and he did not mind that I liked anchovies.  Phil was just content with getting me where I wanted to go and hanging out.  In fact, as I savored my New York-style delicacy, Phil serenaded me with digital streaming music that he had learned I liked.  Now please forgive my exuberance here, but these are just not things that I had ever expected from my phone!  At most, I would have expected a phone to connect me to some grumpy overworked pizza cook who would have put me on hold for 10 minutes, and then given me bad directions.  No…Phil was there for me for as long as I needed him.  He would have even told me how to make a pizza if I had asked.

It is useful at this point to note that I am no stranger to the communications revolution.  For the last seven years or so I have been the proud owner of a number of Blackberries, my latest one being the top end 9700. Not once has it asked me how I was doing or cared about what I wanted to eat. Compared to my new buddy Phil, my 9700 is despondent, detached, and ambivalent.  In fact, now that I think of it, my 9700 is displaying textbook signs of clinical depression.  I am not sure if there is such a thing as Xanax for PDAs; maybe I will ‘ask’ Phil to check it out.

Phil also helped me hang a picture in my office yesterday. He not only told me where the center of wall was, he used a digital level to tell me when the picture was straight. For the record, he also helped me find the picture. I used Phil’s camera to take a photo of the print I wanted from a book, and he told me the artist, where to go buy it, and how much to pay.  How could anyone have ever predicted that a phone would make other people so irrelevant!  I can only presume that, on this present course, our phones will ultimately take us all out of the loop and just start talking to each other. We will be left to golf, travel, and play World of Warcraft for hours on end while our phones run the world. Simply fascinating!

Last night my contentment with Phil was cemented forever when I realized that, at 47, I was hip again.  As Phil and I were sitting in a Starbucks having a coffee and browsing the web, what looked to be a 17 or 18 year old kid stopped at my table and blurted, “nice phone dude, is that the new slide?”  I looked up somewhat surprised and told him that it was.  He then launched into a spontaneous monologue about how fast it was, how many apps it supported, the camera resolution, and its cool display. “Have you named it yet?” he queried.  I paused, blushing a bit, not sure of what to say. “You do that too?” I confided. “Mine’s Daphne,” he continued, “she’s pretty hot, but kind of slow….you know…1G.” I nodded and took a sip of my coffee trying to be polite.  “Phil,” I said, “mine is Phil.” Without blinking he looked at my phone and said, “Sick name man….see ya.” I am not sure, but after watching several episodes of American Chopper, I think ‘sick’ is a good thing.

As the kid walked off, I could not help but note how different life had become since I was his age. This kid and I had just had a conversation about our smartphones that, just a few years back, we would have been having about our cars. I am not sure exactly when ‘the future’ showed up to the party, but one thing is for certain. We are now living in a world that Gene Rodenberry himself could not have envisioned.  Who would have ever dreamed that we would live in an age where our cars parked themselves, our running shoes linked to our IPhones through a satellite, the collective knowledge of the human race was accessible from your Nintendo controller, and smartphones helped us decide on dinner. Heck, even Captain Kirk’s communicator couldn’t tell him where to find anchovy and sausage pizza. Come to think of it, Phil is kind of like C3PO without the pompous British accent. Wondrous….simply wondrous!

It is impossible for one to ponder these marvels however, without also wondering at the society that invented them.  What strange forces could have possibly conspired to build a BIC Lighter application for my phone?  How in the world did someone decide that we needed a digital AK-47? Truth be told, it is the very same force that built the Empire State Building, the Queen Mary, Boeing 747s, and Pet Rocks.  Put simply, it is the ‘mystic Zen’ of free enterprise. No one really knows how it accomplishes these feats….yet it does so with predictable precision.

Think about it for a moment.  No central authority sat down and decided that I needed a little phone friend, or that someone needed to design a Star Wars light saber application for it (I like the Yoda version…).  It just happened! You see, that is the beauty of the whole thing.  You can walk into any shopping mall in America and find the shelves loaded with things from IPods to shoe inserts, and they all flow from the same spring….ingenuity, freedom, and determination! I mean, really, what was the last great technical innovation to come out of North Korea? What great contribution did the USSR make to the world during its short 75 year life? “Not so fast,” some may argue, “look at what an economic powerhouse China has become – and they are Communists.”  Well then, tell me what great advance in civilization they have been responsible for as of late? China is nothing but a massive manufacturing operation that is fueled by slave-grade labor.  What great innovations have they offered the world that were not first conceived, designed, and marketed by….well….us?  Nope, it is free markets fueled by free people that win the day every time….’hands free’ down!

My phone Phil is a perfect embodiment of everything our way of life stands for.  He is the product of thousands of engineers, suppliers, businessmen, investors, marketers, and retailers. They are complete strangers, have never spoken, and would not recognize each other if they passed on the sidewalk. They do not work for the same company, do not share emails or texts, and do not coordinate their schedules or priorities in any fashion. Yet they are a team nonetheless and, through the magic of free enterprise, they have created Phil…for me!

Milton Friedman is famous for noting that no one on earth can build a pencil.  Yet despite this fact paint companies, lumber companies, aluminum manufacturers, rubber fabricators, and graphite miners all conspire to load office supply stores with them. This is the beauty, and mystery, of our economy and the reason that things like my buddy Phil exist.

So, when I get off of work this evening, I am going to ask Phil where to go for some good Thai food. I am also going to ask him to purchase me the latest Rob Thomas CD and stick it in my ITunes library.  I am confident that he will execute both tasks with the precision and fidelity that only a talking phone can provide.  We are then going for a run where Phil will tell me how fast and how far I have gone, and then compare my performance to previous jaunts. If I ask him to, he will even tell me how I stack up among all runners my age in the world.  Then, I am off for a shower (Phil cannot help me there…that would be weird) and then a good night’s sleep.  As I jump into bed I will set Phil on the night stand next to me, plug in his charger, to provide him with the fuel he needs for another day devoted to improving my quality of life.  In the morning Phil will wake me up right on time with a tune I have never heard, but that he knows I will like. Then together, we will head out once again into a tomorrow of endless possibilities.  My Blackberry will be busy as well…keeping the kitchen table from wobbling.

I am thankful for Phil and for the group of strangers that brought him to existence, but I am even more thankful for the socio-economic system that made it all possible.  It is what inspires us, motivates us, and provides us the things we need to enjoy our lives. It is the greatest system on earth, and as long as we let it work, it will continue to elevate us all. Think about that the next time you hear people demanding more government control of our system. Remind me…just how many smartphones has Congress designed?  Our government’s role is simple. It should first protect our constitutional rights, and then ensure that the ‘mystic Zen’ of free enterprise is protected and nurtured. After that, they should get the hell out of the way and enjoy the ride…and revenue. If we do not insist on this however, the current administration will replace the future with an uncomfortable and inconvenient present, cleverly designed to make us all suffer equally. Phil is the product of the former, not the latter, and we must be unwaivering in our support of the system that made him…oh yeah…and flavored chap stick too. Our nation’s future depends on it.  If you don’t agree that is fine, but don’t tell me about it. Instead, I suggest you run to a T-Mobile store near you and tell-a-phone.  It just might change your thinking.

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