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What You All Know About Death?

That's Naugle's Back

With all due respect to Mike Mayo, all this hand-wringing over Mayor Jim Naugle's quotes about affordable housing is pretty dull. Anybody who has been paying attention to Naugle for the past decade or two knows that he's a right-wing provocateur. And the mayor's quote about his not wanting to subsidize homes for "schlocks" who sit on the sofa all day and drink beer instead of working is just about Naugle's regular speed. He loves the attention (Naugle probably couldn't contain himself when Rush Limbaugh talked about it on his radio show). Look, listening to Naugle talk is pretty entertaining, especially when it's outrageous. I don't like his elitist two-tier social vision either (though his point that working folk who want to own homes are generally going to have to start with condos is true). But going over and over one of his offensive remarks is nothing but a bore.

Been meaning to link to Babalu's post about the Herald's new comment system. It's a little aged at this point, but I thought the most interesting part was Herald reporter Matt Pinzur's explanation for what he couldn't put on his education blog. Namely, opinion. No doubt, these daily newsppaper folk are walking a fine line between their jobs as fair and balanced reporters and their blogs, a line that even I have to be somewhat cognizant of on some topics. But I'm not going with the "blogs aren't blogs unless they have opinions" line. The content itself conveys an attitude and the best stuff on most blogs is fresh information, a.k.a. news. People don't necessarily want bloviation -- they want raw material on which they can themselves bloviate.

My Haditha Debacle

Speaking of news, I nearly broke a huge story yesterday, but it ended with me damn near getting killed. Worse, I couldn't confirm anything. It had to do with the Haditha massacre, one of the most disturbing things to come out of Iraq. And that's saying a lot. So when I heard one of the platoon leaders involved in the killings was laying low in Florida, I had to track him down.

A group of veterans told me that his name was Barnes and that he was so paranoid about the investigation he was hiding out in the 'Glades. They led me to a wooded area in the swamp, where I first saw Barnes. It was a face I won't soon forget. He was was the scariest -- and scarriest -- looking man I've ever seen. Trenches from unknown battlewounds lined his face like African rivers. He looked ... well, lethal is a word that comes to mind. But that wouldn't stop my mission. I had justice on my mind. So I asked him point-blank why so many innocent women and children were killed at Haditha.

He stared a hole into me before he opened his mouth.

"Talking about killing?" he asked. "Hmm? You an expert? You know about killing? I'd like to hear about it, pothead."

Needless to say, I was taken aback. What could this man know about my personal life? I hadn't smoked any pot prior to the interview. Gotta be on your toes for the job, after all. But he kept pushing the subject.

"You smoking that shit so as to escape from reality? Me, I don't need that shit. I am reality."

His words were chilling, but I kept wondering why he thought I looked stoned.

"There's the way it ought to be, and there's the way it is," he continued. "The Pulp is full of shit. The Pulp is a crusader. Now, I got no fight with any man who does what he's told, but when he don't... the machine breaks down. And when the machine breaks down, we break down. And I ain't gonna allow that from any of you. Not one."

I could feel violence in the air. This man wanted blood. And there was nowhere to run.

"You wanna kick ass?" he asked me, getting up into my face so close I could smell the Jack Daniels on his breath. "Well, here I am, all by my lonesome. And there ain't nobody gonna know. Kill me."

I just stared at him. I'm not ashamed to say that I was scared out of my socks, but I was also mad as hell at the way he was challenging me. I mean, I didn't want to kill him. Slap him around a little? Yeah, maybe.

"I shit on you!" he yelled at me.

That was it. My rage exploded.

"You motherfucker!" I yelled before jumping on him.

Stupidest move of my life. This man was a highly trained killer. Before I knew it he had a knife to my throat. I prepared to kiss the world goodbye. Luckily, one of the veterans who'd brought me there took an interest in my survival.

"Easy, Barnes, don't do it, man," he said, trying to talk him down. "Ten years for killing an enlisted man. Ten years climbing the fucking walls, man. Don't do it!"

Even under duress I wondered why the hell he was calling me an enlisted man. It was sort of irritating, especially after the stuff about me being a pothead. Anyway, Barnes pressed the knife onto my face, right at my lip. I could feel the skin start to come apart. After putting a pretty deep cut into me (I haven't gotten stitches but man is it swollen), he stepped away.

"Death?" he said with deep disgust. "What you all know about death?"

That was the end of the interview. Barnes basically pushed me back across the swamp. When we got to my car, I was bleeding but happy to be alive. I managed to get this poor-quality photograph of him just before I left:

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman