It’s Veterans Day! I tip my hat to you vets of all ages out there! Also, yesterday was the 240th birthday of the Marine Corps.
I was honored last year to sing my song, “Ballad of an Old Soldier,” for the Indy Honor Flight WW2 vets. The song was inspired by veterans in my family and WW2 vets that I used to have on my oxygen route when I was in the home healthcare industry during my early twenties. Several of them would share their memories of the war with me unprompted and I was glad to listen. I even had two men who lived less than a mile from one another who had been in the same battle. One served in the Navy and the other in the Marines. They did not know one another, and due to HIPAA regulations, I could not tell them about one another. Yet, their experiences from WW2 and attitudes toward them were very similar.
I wrote, “Afghanistan,” for younger veterans about seven years ago. I was a driver for a moving company at the time and delivered an international shipment to a Marine who was fresh back from the war. As he shared some of his experiences with me, I said, “You know, you really don’t see a hell of a lot about Afghanistan on TV anymore. It’s all about Iraq.” He replied, “Nope. Afghanistan just isn’t sexy enough for TV.” That conversation inspired me to write this song.
Both songs are available for download on Cdbaby and iTunes:
Also, to any of my fellow Americans who strive to maintain freedom and liberty, help others in this life, and make things a little better for all of us in general, thanks to you as well! Just being a kind person, a good mom or dad, purposing to keep growing as an individual, setting a good example for others, and encouraging others in this life is admirable. Many fight for the cause of freedom and liberty from within our own borders with songs, pens, one-on-one conversations, street actions, and social media. Regardless of how you go about it, keep up the good work! -Luke
I’ll keep this one short and hope you read the link to my other blog. Gay marriage is now legal in ALL states and has been recognized as Constitutional by the Supreme Court. It has been a long, hard road for LGBT couples and it is about damn time.
Many people, gay, straight, and everything in between, are overjoyed. Many others are not. They range in their reactions from being mildly bothered to foaming at the mouth, calling down fire and brimstone upon the ungodly.
I primarily want to address the angry folks. Years ago, I was a homophobe due to my former religious conviction. Last year, I wrote an article about my transition from being against the LGBT community to being a strong supporter and advocate. I ask that you take several minutes to read my story, especially if you don’t like me already. Please click the link below.
To those who are on the side of marriage equality, but know others who are not or are anti-gay, I ask you to please share my story with your family and/or friends who are still on the “other side” of this issue. (I, for example, used to be for the right for gays to marry, yet believed homosexuality to be a “sin”) We are all in this thing called “life” together and are all living this American Experience. Let’s do what we can to encourage togetherness and change rather than division.
Some of my impromptu thrift store art… You can use many tools to make a statement against police brutality and unjustified shootings of citizens in the USA. (I shuffled up the scene after capturing the picture so no children were traumatized 🙂
I don’t even want to write a blog about this… I am sick of this “same story” playing out again and again in the USA: A random, innocent black man shot to death by police.
Thankfully, in this case, a civilian’s camera was running.
The footage speaks for itself:
Here is the Anderson Cooper discussion on the shooting:
The citizens of the USA are weary of unjustified shootings, beating, arrests, and murders of individuals by police. It happens to individuals of all ethnicities. Yet, it happens disproportionately to African Americans. Much of that situation is carried on the back of a failed “Drug War.” Though, as in the shooting at hand, you never know when being pulled over even for a taillight infraction that you will survive the interaction with cops. To the good cops out there, my hats off to you. This isn’t about you. It is about the vicious, malevolent, and inhumane officers among you who take advantage of and hurt those who they have sworn to protect.
What is the answer? I’ll give you my opinion on what is the fastest way to make progress. I assert the the first major step is an immediate Executive Order by President Obama that all officers, unless undercover, must wear a functional body cam while on duty. Also, that a no tolerance clause for “my cam wasn’t working” be added. If an officer’s body cam “isn’t working” during a questionable situation or any situation where a citizen is injured, he/she will be put on appropriate leave and the situation investigated. If a 2nd situation happens, unpaid leave. If a 3rd, termination. Though, if any investigations lead to charges, then the law should run its course in those cases. Of course, in my perfect world scenario, it would still take time for police departments to order body cams and train officers to use them. Due to that, a reasonable time limit would need to be included in the Order.
I am not a huge fan of Executive Orders. But, we are in a position where the red-tape must be sliced through post haste for the protection of the populace at large from its “protectors.” Executive Orders have been used for all kinds of things. Obama might as well use one in the best interest of the American people during their immediate time of need. Are body cams a total, 100% solution? No. Still, mandatory body cams are a hell of a step in the right direction.
I also call for town, county, and state governments to create citizen boards, voted in by the public and who are NOT, nor have EVER BEEN members or law enforcement, for the oversight of law enforcement in said jurisdiction. They must have enough power to handle situations and recommend the dismissal and/or charges brought upon corrupt or abusive officers of the law.
The only positive, and I use that term in the loosest possible way, is that the shooter, North Charleston Officer Michael Slager of South Carolina, has been charged with murder. Unfortunately, a 50-year-old black man, Walter L. Scott, is now dead over a broken tail light.
I have only two more things to say: 1. To the family of Walter L. Scott, I am so deeply sorry for your loss. It is my sincere hope that you are able to get as much justice as is possible for your murdered family member. 2. To the citizen who recorded the video of the shooting, the USA is forever in your debt for bringing the truth of this shooting to light. Thank you for your courage.
“I Saw the Incensed Horde” by Luke Austin Daugherty- A poem dedicated to the memory of Farkhunda of Kabul, Afghanistan and the eradication of the violent, fundamental religious ideology which caused her murder. Copyright 2015- All Rights Reserved, Luke Austin Daugherty
I saw the initial, uncensored videos of Farkhunda’s murder when they hit the internet last month. I wrote this poem laying in bed, unable to sleep, as I thought about her that same night.It is my hope that her story may break up the stony hearts of those who would support or engage in such inhuman atrocities.
To all who read- Your fellow humans must rank higher than your personal ideology. An ideology has no breath, no feelings, and senses no pain. It is an abstract. Your fellow humans do. They need you and you need them.
If you have the time, please visit some of the following links to learn more about this heart-wrenching story and Farkhunda, a woman murdered in public by insane zealots.
It is like something from a movie script… fundamentalist Baptist pastor breaks bad and starts a multi-state, illegal drug ring worth millions of dollars while recruiting workers right out of his own church and little league affiliations. But, this story isn’t fiction.
Pastor Robert Jaynes, and church member, Kirk Parsons, have allegedly been running an illegal “Spice” ring for several years based on government documents. This multi-state Spice ring headquartered in Central Indiana is said to be one of the largest of its kind in U.S. history. On April 21st, twelve alleged members of their drug operation were formally charged with at least five felony counts each in the Circuit Court of Hancock County, In.
Kirk Parsons and Robert Jaynes (photo credit-Facebook)
“Spice” is a street name for synthetic cannabis that is produced by spraying natural herbs or flowers with chemicals, drying the product to process, and then bagging it in small quantities for distribution. The end product is typically smoked and produces psychoactive effects which are said to be similar to the effects of cannabis, though the actual effects are very unpredictable.
The current charges filed against the twelve individuals are all classified as Class C and D felonies and include, “Unlawful Manufacture, Distribution, Possession of Counterfeit Substance,” and, “Dealing in a Synthetic Drug or Synthetic Drug Lookalike Substance.” Included in the twelve people charged with all five felony counts are several members of Pastor Jaynes’ church and family. Pastor Jaynes’ wife, Stacey Jaynes, was charged as well as Kirk Parsons’ wife, Sherry Parsons.
Pastor Jaynes and Kirk Parsons have yet to be charged as the multi-agency investigation is still ongoing confirmed Indiana State Police Detective, Taylor Shafer. When I did a phone interview with Det. Shafer, he was not able to speak as to the details of the ongoing investigation. Yet, he did confirm that there is a sizable amount of public information about the twelve individuals available via the Hancock County Court file online. That file includes over twenty pages of evidence and details regarding the drug operation and conversations officials had with several members of the Spice ring and Pastor Jaynes. See the link just below to read the complete Court documents.
Det. Shafer told me that after the law against Spice was passed in 2012 that closed previous loopholes, a decrease in the availability of Spice in Indiana has been achieved. He also said an information sheet about the law had been provided by the State at that time to all business which may have sold the product while it was legal. Most of the smoke shops and gas stations that sold the product have ceased to do so. Though, Det. Shafer confirmed that some less scrupulous stores may still sell the product “under the counter” to trusted customers. He said that Indiana law enforcement was actively attempting to suss out such retailers to enforce relevant State laws and penalties upon them.
Two of the dangers of Spice (which also goes by other names such as, “K2”) that Det. Shafer mentioned are the issues of inconsistent and dangerous chemical formulas, as well as “hot spots” in the product due to sloppy production. A significant portion of the raw Spice chemical compound is imported illegally from other countries. These powders contain unknown quantities of different potentially dangerous chemicals. Also, when Spice producers are spraying the natural leaves with the solution of Spice compound, Acetone, Alcohol, and flavorings, the leaves are not always sprayed evenly. One bag of the finished product may be considerably more potent than another. Det. Shafer warned that many Spice users do not understand the process by which the drug is created nor the potential dangers. Users can experience temporary or permanent health issues from smoking bad Spice. It is easy to find examples of Spice “freak outs” online.
Here is a prime example- (Warning: disturbing images and language)
Based on the court documents, Jaynes and Parsons had been importing raw product in bulk from China. Their workers then manufactured the finished product at several Central Indiana locations. One of the individuals charged on the 21st said that his team would produce from 5,000-10,000 bags per day weighing 2-5 grams each. “Pirate Booty 3D,” was the primary name for their finished street product.
Before finishing our conversation, I said to Detective Shafer, “Based on the court charges, it appears that Jaynes and Parsons imported raw drug product, then they manufactured it locally, then distributed it locally, and then also distributed it across state lines. I then asked, “Would that not be a legal version of the ‘perfect storm’ to unleash against one’s self?” He confirmed that to be an accurate assessment of such a case. I greatly appreciate Det. Shafer’s timely response to my request for an interview and his informed answers to my questions that he was able to address.
Local station, Wish TV Channel 8, covered the story of the recent charges and the previous bust of some of the ring’s locations back in October of 2013.
What the story did not cover is the fact that one of the individuals charged with participating in the drug ring was also an IPS school teacher. Sources confirm that the now former IPS teacher was employed at James A Garfield/Phoenix Academy, School 31. Sherry Parsons, was a Reading & Literature teacher and did some after-school tutoring as well. These same sources say that the teacher, Sherry Parsons, was fired last week in a closed-door meeting. Students were not told the reason Mrs. Parsons was let go so close to the end of the school year and were left to speculate.
I called School 31 today to enquire about the situation. After being hung up on once by an office person who said, “I am not interested in those things,” I called back and was able to get the employee to confirm that Mrs. Parsons had worked at IPS School 31 and had been fired last week. I was then given the number to the main IPS office and told to call Human Resources for any further questions.
I immediately called the general IPS number and was forwarded to an HR representative for IPS. Unfortunately, the HR employee I spoke with was agitated by my attempts to ask several questions and refused to answer them. I told her that I was doing research for my blog article and that I know Mrs. Parsons had been an IPS teacher until last week and was currently charged with felony illegal drug distribution. She said, “This connection has not been made publicly!” I told her I understood that, which is why I was trying to get some answers before publishing my article. She said that IPS did not answer questions and there were matters of privacy at hand. I let her know that I understood matters of privacy and that specific questions may not be responded to, but that I would appreciate a few general questions being answered. She said that she would not answer any questions of any kind. I reminded the HR employee that the IPS budget was paid by the taxpayers and that the public should be able to ask at least general questions and expect a reasonable and respectful answer. I said that if I was the parent of a child at School 31 and found out that one of my child’s teachers had been charged with five felonies for drug manufacturing and distribution, I would want to be assured that the school system was doing an internal investigation to ensure that said teacher or her associates had not distributed any of those drugs to students. I was again hung up on…
One of the most ironic aspects of this whole case to me is that I personally know several of the individuals involved from a church affiliation about fifteen years ago. I met Pastor Jaynes when I was nineteen. He had been the Assistant Pastor of a church that I attended at the time and would sometimes come back to visit. I never had more than a handful of conversations with him over the years and none more recent than nearly a decade ago. Though I only knew him casually, the news of his alleged drug ring was very surprising to me. Kirk and Sherry Parsons were members of the church I attended back then and I considered them to be friends. They moved their church membership to Irvington Bible Baptist Church about a year later and I have rarely run into them over the last fifteen years. It is very disappointing to me that they were involved in this drug operation.
After getting off the phone with the IPS representative, I called the phone number on the sign for the Irvington Bible Baptist Church. I hoped to get in contact with Pastor Jaynes, but did not expect anyone to be at the church on a Thursday afternoon. To my surprise, he answered. Apparently the church phone number is actually his cell phone number. I told Pastor Jaynes my name and said that he may remember me. He said, “Sure, I remember you.” He asked how my family was doing and I said, “Fine.” I said that I was researching the issue from the news story the previous week for a blog I was writing. As I presumed would be the case, he said that his legal counsel had advised that he not speak about the case publicly. I remarked that the whole story seemed like a “big deal,” to which he replied, “Well… everything is not as it appears.” Having read the court documents extensively, I was aware of the implications of what Jaynes had already told police and what others in his ring had disclosed. Even if things are not as they seem in some ways, there is enough that is obviously wrong to be very troubling about this story as a whole. That said, everyone involved deserves their due process and fair day in court. I said to him, “From my past history in ministry, I know that typically when a pastor is going through similar situations, they tend to step down from the Senior Pastor role, at least temporarily, until things are sorted out.” I then asked, “Have you thought about letting another person assume your senior role in the short term?” He replied, “I have not made any decision to step down.” We then concluded our conversation after he asked me to pray for his family. He must not know that I am now an atheist.
(photo credit- Flickr)
I have known some very sincere and caring pastors in my life and some very selfish and manipulative ones. It is always a bad idea for a pastor to remain in the pulpit leading a church when he (or she) may have seriously compromised the integrity of the position. Unfortunately, for the selfish and manipulative brand of pastor, the elixir of power and praise keeps them in a position of “shepherding the sheep” even when they should vacate the pulpit. So, at present, Pastor Jaynes will be sharing the “good news” at the appointed hour next Sunday. After all, for Robert Jaynes, ministry at Irvington Bible Baptist Church is the “Spice” of life. Though, he may find that this verse will apply to him if and when some of his flock is potentially scattered by the winds of these felony charges and future trials to various prisons…
“Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.” Jeremiah 23:1
The following is a video mash-up of some of Pastor Jaynes’ preaching and singing that is posted publicly online. During the preaching, Kirk Parsons is sitting in the front row wearing a plaid shirt. There is also footage of a church hymn with Stacey Jaynes, Sherry Parsons, and Lillian Bledsoe (all part of the twelve charged) singing shoulder-to-shoulder while Kirk Parsons again sits in the front row, reminding me of Matthew 23:6 regarding Pharisees, “And (they) love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues.” The irony of hearing Pastor Jaynes preach about how, “People don’t have character like they used to have!” during a tent revival at the same time his drug ring was in full swing in the summer of 2013 is nearly more than I can bear. I will say that I 100% support the religious freedom of all American citizens, including those at Irvington Bible Baptist Church. Yet, for those religious leaders who condemn others while secretly acting as a corrupting influence in our communities, there must be accountability. (The video has been edited for the sake of reducing overall length)