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Archive for August, 2011

If it is what it is, that must mean that it was what it was but now, could be was what it is or perhaps it is what it was. Is this a conundrum? Is it a Catch-22? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s meant to confuse the hell out of you.

The nonsensical grammatical rule that says sentences can’t end with a preposition, although a proposition would probably be alright, is just the sort of tripe that high school English teachers seem to thrive on (gotcha).  While there is probably no truth to the story, it’s often quoted that an editor attempted to change one of Prime Minister Winston’s sentences because it violated the prepositional ruling. Churchill supposedly replied, “This is exactly the kind of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.” Way to go, Winnie…kick ass and take names!

“Never begin a sentence with a conjunction,” the grammarians tell us. What utter hogwash! That rule, I believe, went out well before high-buttoned shoes. According to The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage, “There is a persistent belief that it is improper to begin a sentence with And, but this prohibition has been cheerfully ignored by standard authors from Anglo-Saxon times onwards. An initial And is a useful aid to writers as the narrative continues.” And I’m quite certain that journalists and authors today pay little attention to it. Nor do I believe that today’s high school teachers attempt to correct the use of a conjunction at the beginning of a sentence. Unfortunately, my senior English faculty member neither “cheerfully ignored” nor “paid little attention to it.” You might get the impression that I didn’t like her when I was her student, and this is true.  But, I learned to like her even less when we became colleagues.

I have to admit that too many people don’t know the difference. Two of my friends are constantly screwing it up…oops, another violation. I have great empathy for an immigrant landing on our shores and wishing to speak English. Hell, Americans don’t speak English; they speak whichever variation of Americanese that happens to suit their area of the country…”Ya’ll hey moor cow fee?” If you are having breakfast in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, I can almost guarantee you will hear those words. You laugh, but come on up, down, or east to New England, you’re likely to hear that same phrase as, “Cha, wan, moah caw fee.” Sometimes, it’s shortened as a tilted pot is held over your cup with the single word, “Moah?”

One really has to look no further than the simple word, “donut,” to see how different Americans view things. There is a wonderful dialect map and explanation on http://robertspage.com/dialects.html. On this wonderful site, you will learn that what may be a donut in Massachusetts and much of New England is a cruller or olycook in the Hudson Valley. In the Rocky Mountains, they call a jelly doughnut a bismark, while in Alaska, they call them “betchas,” as in “you betcha;” just kidding.

We have synonyms and homonyms, heteronyms and antonyms; we have telephones and homophones; homographs, and telegraphs. Our “English” has no possible connection to England, and our Americanese is a hodgepodge of so many languages that no one from the South can possibly understand anyone from the North, and people from the West Coast often have difficulty understanding one another.

Somehow, we have managed to violate every grammatical rule ever invented. Yet (ah, another one), we are capable of communicating one thing very, very clearly: We are all Americans; Black, White, Red, Yellow, and every shade of color in between. Our young men and women have bled the same color red on battlefields at home and in too many countries abroad. It doesn’t matter what we say or how we say it, we are one people “under God,” however we may call our Deity. So have fun with words. Don’t laugh at people who say things differently; tell them why you’re laughing so that they may laugh right back at you. Life will be a lot happier for you both and who knows, you might just be able to learn from one another.

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Colonel Gadhafi’s 42-year dictatorship appears about to crumble. John McCain (R – Arizona) and Phil Gramm (R – Texas) publicly congratulated France, Great Britain, and NATO, and omitted any reference to the part played by their own Commander-in-Chief, Barack Obama. This just shows you have far we have come as a country. Congressmen from the opposing party won’t acknowledge anything good that might have been, in part, due to someone from the opposing party. This is just plain childish, nasty, and hateful. Oh, and by the way, McCain is the same John McCain who warned against undercutting President Obama at what could be a critical time in the push to oust Col. Gadhafi.

In my 77 years on this earth, I have never seen a time when our national political system has been in such flux. The Democratic President holds the Republican-led United States House of Representatives of being uncooperative. The leader of the House of Representatives accuses the President of “political grandstanding” and violating the War Powers Act by being the first of the NATO nations to allow air cover to protect the civilian population of Libya.

No one expects Congress to be a rubber stamp for whatever the President wishes to do. Discourse and discussion, consensus and compromise, argument and agreement are all part of what everything in life is about…even Washington politics. However, what I’m seeing today is so black and white that it’s no wonder little is being accomplished that benefits the American people as a whole.

According to an Associated Press news release, “Top executives from some of France’s most successful companies including L’Oreal, Total and Danone are following the lead of billionaire investor Warren Buffett by offering to pay a one-off tax to help their government tackle its worsening debt load.

“The 16 executives, also including the heads of car maker Peugeot-Citroen and Air France-KLM, said in an open letter that “at a time when the public deficits and the prospect of worsening government debt are threatening the future of France and Europe” they consider it “necessary to contribute.”

It’s unfortunate that Warren Buffett is the only wealthy American who is willing to step up to the plate to help his own nation. Why haven’t we heard from Bill Gates on the subject? After all, he is the richest of Americans. Granted, his foundation does some wonderful things here and abroad, and he’ll never have to worry about his next meal, but why aren’t you backing Buffett on this one Bill?

Four members of the Walton family are among the top ten richest Americans. Every day, their Walmart Stores continue to grow and grow and grow. How many toys do you folks need? How about climbing on board the Buffett bandwagon, or are you party loyalists who believe this financial crisis should be laid at the door of the President whose only fault is that he inherited a mess that began during the Reagan years. Oh, how narrow-minded can you people be?

According to Forbes, Larry Ellison of Oracle is worth $27 billion; Charles Koch of Wichita has $21.5 billion as does David Koch of New York. Rounding out the top ten is Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York, with $18 billion. Mr. Mayor, I know your charitable giving record – all tax deductable by the way, but just think what you and your eight colleagues could do if you joined Mr. Buffett in a one-off tax to help your country.

While you may find it difficult to believe, there are still more than 175 American billionaires, worth anywhere from 15 to 2 billion dollars who I have not named. Despite this, members of the Republican Party absolutely refuse to raise taxes on the super rich while people like multi-millionaire Eric Cantor (R – VA) want the average man on the street to pay more. Is Cantor the only multi-millionaire in Congress? Absolutely not, but there are any number of extremely wealthy men and women who are voting the fate of Mr. Joe Average.  Of the 50 richest people in Congress, the top spot goes to Representative Michael McCaul (R-Texas) at $294.21 million. The bottom slot belongs to poor Representative Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) who is worth a measly $6.21 million. Are there Democrats in the top 50? As Sarah Palin might concede, “You betch!” Eighteen of the top 50 are from the Democratic Party, the leader being Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts whose net worth is listed as $193.07 million and who ranks third. Approximately one-half of the members of the United States Congress are millionaires. How in the hell can you and I ever believe that we will catch a break from people who cannot possibly understand what we go thought on a daily basis? It’s just not going to happen!

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Dementia is no joke

As kids we used to make fun of older people we’d see who might be carrying on conversations with themselves. We thought it both frightening and funny. There was an old man in our neighborhood who used to walk up and down the street talking to himself; winter and summer, he’d always be wearing a pair of khaki pants and several sweaters…always the same side of the street; always the same sweaters. We and I include myself in that category had no idea of dementia, of what it could do; of the many forms it could take.

My grandparents were both clear-headed and sharp as tacks, even after the cancer grabbed hold of them and began to eat away their bodies. When she died at 90, my mother was also very aware and had wonderful recall…sometimes to my embarrassment, but that was my Mom. My father developed lung cancer shortly after he retired. I can remember some of the chats we’d have; a couple of grown up men, one certainly the younger, listening as the older man spread his practical wisdom. The point is that I had no point of reference regarding just how bad dementia.

My wife’s mother never knew that her husband had died. She was upstairs, probably changing her dress (but never her hat). He was downstairs. At some point during the night, his heart had given out. Even if she had come downstairs, she simply would have sat in the chair opposite him and begun to talk. It was during the preceding year that I had started to learn the horrors of Alzheimer’s (AD), that debilitating form of dementia that no one should have to suffer. We had three young children and found it necessary to put my wife’s mom in an institution. It was a tough decision. Matter of fact, the doctor told us that Joan’s dad had tried for too long to keep his wife at home. He added that it was a contributing factor in Mac’s death. On a more humorous note, if there can be one, I’m certain he died wondering exactly where in the name of God Anna had hidden a couple of his retirement checks and about $500 that he’d had in his wallet. The checks and money were never found…and don’t you believe for a minute we didn’t look for them…greedy goddam kids!

Alzheimer’s is only one form of dementia. The husband of a woman who works out at the gym has dementia, but it’s not Alzheimer’s. He still drives, plays golf, and is, for the most part, fine. There are times when he has some problems remembering things, but the disease appears to be progressing very, very slowly. On the other hand, a friend of mine had to institutionalize his wife recently because he could no longer care for her; I could hear his tears as he told me about it. He brought back some pretty dark moments in Joan’s and my own life. Visiting an Alzheimer’s patient isn’t fun. The first time you go, things may be great. Yes, the person may or may not know you or believe you to be someone from his or her younger years. When you leave, you’re not really certain you want to return, but you do. As things become worse, so do the visits. You give up trying to make sense of what is being said and simply agree with the patient. We were not good. We would find excuses not to visit one week and then began seeing Anna once every two weeks, every three, once a month. It was extremely painful to watch a formerly outgoing lady who would sit down at the piano with just a hint of a request. She would regale us with song after song…and now, it was almost like a reverse aging process as she regressed to her childhood. I’m not about to delude you; Alzheimer’s is not a pretty sight.

I didn’t realize that Glen Campbell is currently suffering from AD. A recent article on AOL indicated that the Wichita Lineman is in the early stages of the disease and will be embarking on a farewell tour soon. His wife, Kim, noted that taking care of him “…can be daunting. He repeats himself,” she says, “telling the same joke several times in a row.” “Yeah, well it’s funny,” he’ll say. “He’ll tell a joke, laugh at it and a few minutes later tell the same joke, laugh, and then we laugh at him because he’s just enjoying it so much,” Kim explains. “You just make the best of each day and try not to worry about tomorrow.” That’s about the best advice anyone can give.

Recently, of course, the very tough, very wonderful, very amazing Pat Summit, coach of the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team announced that she has been diagnosed with dementia that may very well lead to Alzheimer’s. I was privileged to meet Coach Summit at one point in my life. She was on a basketball court (where else), talking with Jody Conradt, coach of the University of Texas. We chatted for only a few minutes, but three things stuck in my mind. First, was the fact that I had to look up to her, and I’m six-one.  Second, she was extremely pleasant and totally unaffected by her fame. The third thing was the one could see in the eyes of Coach Summit the warrior spirit that one can note in all great coaches. I regret that I was unable to spend more time with her. Pat Summit is a warrior; she will fight one hell of a fight against her disease. She may not win, but AD will know that it’s been in a battle before it’s over. While you may never read this, Coach, my heart goes out to you and my prayers are with you.

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I suppose that if I were a Native American homeless female veteran with prosthesis, that I should form a caucus that says President Obama isn’t doing enough to help my group.

The Congressional Black Caucus is behaving like a bunch of “ghetto gimmees,” and their using the argument that they are the reason Obama even became President in 2008. It’s sickening. It’s bad enough that a bunch of Republicans are already in opposition to the Obama jobs bill even though it has yet to be proposed, but now black Democrats like Representatives Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Maxine Waters of California are all over Obama’s case because he hasn’t done enough for the black community.

First and foremost, there is no such thing as “community” when you’re speaking about blacks in America. It seems that they want everything but are unwilling to give anything. Go into any urban area where there’s been a shooting and you’ll find that despite the fact that there were a hundred people who witnessed the crime, not one “saw anything.” How much bullshit does it take before we begin to turn that this one-way street of “gimmee, gimmee, gimmee” into a two-way street that says, “In order to get, you also have to give.”

Representative Waters, speaking at a forum in Detroit, questioned Obama’s bus tour of Iowa and wondered why he wasn’t going to any black communities. Obama, Representative Waters, represents the people of America, not just the black people of America. I grant you that your job as well as that of Representative Cummings, John Lewis, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Barbara Lee, Sheila Jackson, and the rest of the caucus is much about helping minority Americans, but if you recall, when Shirley Chisholm founded the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971, the goal was “to help all Americans…to achieve the American Dream.” It would appear that somewhere along the way that has been changed to read, “…all black Americans…”

In the words of a friend of mine, “Obama inherited a pile of shit. No way he’s gonna dig out of that pile in four years.” I would prefer to believe that what the President inherited in 2008 was a series of problems for which there are no ‘real’ solutions. If ever there was a time for Americans to pull together to try and solve problems, this is it. Meanwhile, it seems that the polarization of parties and their followers have created total and complete stagnation. To have a third group, the Congressional Black Caucus weigh in and create further problems is ludicrous. Now is not the time for additional schisms. It’s bad enough that the Republican leadership now has to satisfy two polar opposite groups within its own party. For the Congressional Black Caucus to begin openly criticizing the president shows stupidity and a disregard for how they should actually be operating.

Blacks have no more entitlement than any other group in this country. You want the President to visit a black community where things are tough? Okay, but can he also visit some of the white ghettos where things are equally bad? How about visiting some Native American ghettos where things are really miserable, or some Latino, Vietnamese, Haitian, or even elderly ghettos. I’ll bet the Congressional Black Caucus is not all that interested in them.

Am I being anti-Black here? Yes, I suppose it could be interpreted that way, but it’s not meant in any prejudicial manner. I believe that the race card gets played much too often by blacks in America. To find now that it’s also being played by people who should know better is a bit disgusting. Let’s forget race. Let’s forget political party loyalties. Let’s get America, which is currently crawling on its belly through a pile of economic and political filth, back on her feet and restore her pride in her ability to “get ‘er done!”

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Recently, in Massachusetts, the Governor who had been accused of being soft on crime was criticized for being too tough on crime. If this isn’t a situation of being “damned if you do; damned if you don’t,” then I’m not certain what is.

This past year, a convicted felon who was sentenced to three life terms was released on parole by the Massachusetts Parole Board. Before he was shot and killed during the commission of a robbery he killed a policeman. Once again, the cry went up that the Governor, Deval Patrick, was soft on crime. Patrick turned around and replaced five members of the parole board…not dissimilar to locking the barn door after the horses had all gone.

What I’m not certain I understand is why this should all be laid at the door of Governor Patrick. To quote General George S. Patton, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” Yes, and sometimes they will disappoint you with their lack of ingenuity; it’s at that point that you relieve them of their responsibility.

Should Patrick have waited as long as he did to get rid of the incompetence within the parole board? I have no idea. The Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is no different than any other governor of any other state. He has a prioritized list of what needs to be done, probably on an hourly rather than daily basis. Locally, state-wide, and nationally, political leaders – except those in Washington, of course – see that their number one priority is growing the economy; getting people back to work. Admittedly, Massachusetts has been a leader in this area, with an economic growth rate that is a bit above the national average. Does that mean that the Governor should immediately turn his attention to the doings of the parole board? Absolutely not; for that he or she has department heads for that. In this state it’s under the Executive Department of Public Safety under the direction of Mary Elizabeth Heffernan. She, too, has undersecretaries for various functions. For example, Sandra M.McCroom is the undersecretary who “supervises the functions and provides strategic leadership for the Department of Correction, the Parole Board and the Sex Offender Registry Board.”

I neither know nor care what the reporting structure is for these various state agencies and departments. I do care that the media is laying the blame for anything dealing with this at the doorstep of the Governor. After the incident where the officer was killed, the Governor moved in immediately and named a new head of the parole board. What he didn’t do was to replace McCroom. If you’re going to kill the monster, cut off its head. The person who now heads the parole board has reduced the percentage of parolees from state prisons from 58 percent last year to 39 percent this year. In county jails, the percentage is down from 64 percent to 48 percent. “Oh, but the prisons are overcrowded,” cry several members of the Governor’s Council. Okay, we’ll release that other 19 percent from state prisons and the 16 percent from county jails into your community and see how you like it.

Folks, you cannot have it both ways. You cannot have a liberal parole policy merely to reduce the overcrowding in prisons. It doesn’t work that way. Personally, I would rather have overcrowded prisons than felons released back into society. Recidivism rates are just too damned high. Four out of ten adults released from prison are back in jail within three years. That does not speak well for our corrections system. Either we aren’t “rehabilitating” prisoners or they are beyond rehabilitation. It’s no wonder our prisons are overcrowded.

There was a time when I agreed that, “Vengeance is mine,” sayeth the Lord. However, when people who have been in jail demonstrate, upon their release, that they still have no regard for human life, it is time to put them down. I have adopted the philosophy that it is perfectly acceptable to kill these people because we are merely sending them on a bit early so that God may extract his vengeance. No, actually, I’m not trying to be funny. That was your question, wasn’t it? In my life, I have taught more than 4,000 men and women from law enforcement. Until you have listened to these courageous people at length, you have no understanding of their job. My own understanding is at perhaps a ten percent level.

Governor, I commend you for your appointment, Keeping parolees limited to those who can prove that they have truly “seen the light” is a good thing. It appears that the Massachusetts Parole Board is finally doing their job.

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This is not a topic that I would have chosen. When you put up a new post, WordPress makes suggestions for topics about which you might wish to write. This is one of those topics. Heck, I couldn’t even choose the caption!

Having said the above, and having thought at great length (’bout an hour or so), I have decided that there is not one situation that I would call more dangerous than others. Have I ever been shot? Yeah, but it was a BB gun and I was a teenager. Kid got me with a shot in the ass; stung like the devil, but that was hardly dangerous. I’ve had friends who have been shot in war and survived – they didn’t care for it a whole hell of a lot, and I really can’t say as I blame them. I believe that if someone is pointing a loaded gun at you, that probably qualifies as a reasonably dangerous situation…that one I’ve had happen to me on three occasions.

The first time I ever faced a loaded gun, it was in the hands of a Boston Police Officer. Three of us, Tommy McHugh, Johnny Richardson, and I had gotten a six-pack – I don’t even remember how. I was the oldest at 17 and I sure as hell don’t recall buying it. Anyway, we decided that a good place to have our two cans apiece – whoopee – was in the parking lot beside the old South Boston High School; probably an unwise choice of spots but what did we know; we were kids. As we were sitting there, pretending to be adults, along came a BPD cruiser. I’m not certain any of us even gave it a thought. An officer climbed out and walked up to the driver’s side window. To recall the exact dialog of something that happened sixty years ago is asking a great deal, so please allow me to take a few liberties here. The officer asked what we were doing and we told him we were just talking, that McHugh had lived in Southie for much of his life and was telling us what it was like. Even today, the story sounds rather lame. The next thing I know, he has his gun drawn, has stepped back, and demands that we get out of the car. Since I was driving and he was on my side, I emerged pretty quickly. McHugh, sitting in the front passenger’s seat also exited by on the other side. You have to understand that the car was a two-door, 1941, Chevy coupe. In order to exit from the back, one had to lift a lever and push the front seat forward. Evidently, Richardson, who was rather vertically challenged – “no taller ‘n a pile of steamin’ rat shit,” as my grandfather might have said. But anyway, John seemed to be having trouble. The police officer said, and this I remember to this day, “C’mon get moving; get moving.” I figured he was talking to all of us so I started walking toward his cruiser. “Stop; you; stop or I’ll shoot.” Now, I figured that my back was toward him; I was walking; it probably would be wise for me to just stop and turn around to see to whom he was directing his comments. You got it…moi! And there was the barrel of his gun pointing right at my crotch. That’s probably a tough place to shoot, but at least it wasn’t center mass where he just plain couldn’t miss. Did I wet my pants? Hell, no; at 17, you’re immortal, invincable, and inviolable. By the time we got a ride back to the Southie station, the mess and misunderstanding had been pretty much cleared up. They told us to get the hell out of Dodge; we walked back to the car and headed home. Was it a lesson? Sure; it taught us to drink elsewhere!

After graduating from college, I went into the Army. It was December, 1956. Fort Dix, New Jersey, is probably not the most beautiful place in the world any time of year, but when you’re a 22-year old married basic trainee, December is particularly unpleasant. There was a great deal of illness during our eight-week training. Since our platoon leader, Sgt. Love – I kid you not – was sent to the hospital because of a skin fungus he’d picked up in Korea, it fell to the platoon guide, a trainee, to fill out the paperwork, ensure that the barracks was consistently ready for inspections, and a whole pile of other (Pick your own expletive here). On the first day, Love had selected several people to be squad leaders, i.e., they were first in line whenever we marched anywhere. He also selected a platoon leader, the basis for his selection totally baffling the other 44 people in our platoon. You guessed it. Once again moi drew the short straw. The singular advantage was that I got to sleep on a single cot while everyone else had bunk beds. Big deal and a whoopee-do, I still had to go through the same kind of training as everyone else. The dangerous situation occurred one exceptionally cold day in January. Platoon guids and squad leaders were to accompany those trainees who had not yet qualified with the M1 rifle. We all marched out to the range and each of us was assigned to coach his trainee. My young man happened to be a Puerto Rican kid fron New York. His English was poor and my Spanish was non-existent. He had been firing at the target, me standing a bit behind and to his right. Quite suddenly, the kid turned around with the rifle pointing at me and tried to pull the trigger. “The gun is jammed,” he kept saying as he was yanking on the trigger. I can’t tell you what went through my mind but as I recall, it had something to do with a copper-jacketed slug entering and leaving my body very rapidly. I grabbed the gun out of his hands and slammed the butt on the ground. That was all it took to break the jam and the damned thing went off, firing a bullet down range. Didn’t wet my pants then, either. However, I do remember sitting on my bunk when we got back, hands shaking and wishing to hell that I could leave the post for a few stiff drinks.

I have never been able to confirm, in the third episode, whether the gun was actually loaded. Here was the situation. A group of administrators at Northeastern University were debating the future of ROTC on campus. This was during the Vietnam War when protesters were everywhere. I’m not certain there was a college or university campus anywhere in the country that offered ROTC or military training – the military academies excepted – where there wasn’t also a chapter of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). These protesters wanted an immediate end to the war and for all ROTC units to be thrown off “their” campus. In our case, ROTC was strong. Protesters had already firebombed the building in which they were housed, and there was a great deal of debated regarding the future of ROTC on campus. This small group was discussing what recommendations we as a constituted group would make to the president of the university. It was about 9:30 in the evening; we were all exhausted; the discussion had been somewhat tempestuous. Suddenly, the doors burst open and six masked students, all armed, burst into the room and told us to put our hands on the table. One of them then read a “manifesto” or list of their demands which were to be met immediately. One of them walked over to me, put his shotgun to my head, and said, “Bishop, I’m gonna blow your fucking head off!” With that, that all turned around and marched out of the room…I guess he meant he’d do it a bit later. All things being equal, I probably thought that was rather considerate of him. The recommendation to the president which, before the interruption, was still up in the air, was cemented by the outburst. No way in hell would we be dictated to by these little bastards who didn’t even have the courage to show their faces.

So, when WordPress asks me to “describe the most dangerous situation you’ve ever been in,” I can’t select one. Skidding through an intersection sideways late on a rainy night doesn’t make the list; neither does slipping and nearly falling from a 40-foot tower. As I think about it, I don’t even qualify to write a piece like this. I should be written by the veterans who saw action in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, or the Gulf, police men and women, the fire fighters and the EMT”s, the folks in Joplin, Missouri, Ward 9 in New Orleans, or someone from Japan who survived the earthquake and tsunami. Those are the folks from whom we should all hear. Perhaps then we’d realize we have no concept of the word, ‘danger.’ Looking back on my three situations, all of which occurred more than a half century ago, I have to say that I’ve been extremely fortunate. It is my hope that you have been just as lucky as I!

 

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“If it happens west of the Mississippi,” you don’t hear about it.

The speaker was Juli, my partner, and she is absolutely correct. Boston newscasters and even those who purport to be reporting on news of a wider sort rarely discuss news making events in other parts of our own country. Oh, sure, we see the running of the bulls in Pamplona or catastrophes in other parts of the globe, but we are totally dependent on network news to cover other stories. Lately, however, the networks appear to be focusing solely on the debt ceiling crisis and the economic downturn in America’s fortunes. Why this wasn’t considered a crisis when Reagan raised it 18 times or George II raised it five times I can’t quite understand. One of my morning tasks – assigned to me by me – is to watch BBC from 7:30 – 8:00. It’s fascinating to gain another perspective of what’s taking place worldwide. There are times when they cover stories in the United States that aren’t being covered by local or national stations in our own country. Isn’t that a strange situation?

It’s unfortunate that New Englanders, in particular, are so parochial in their thinking. I find, for example, that NBC’s Boston affiliate, WHDH, Channel 7, when it runs a one-hour newscast, repeats its first half hour nearly verbatim. The same can be said for New England Cable News which, I’m convinced, loops much of their news based on the earliest news broadcast. For example, I would have like to see John Blank’s interview in Los Angeles over why Europe is to blame for the U.S. market drop yesterday. It looks like it would have been a good story, and it appeared on an LA NBC affiliate. It wouldn’t bother me in the least to know that I’m not alone in suffering through a couple of summer heat waves. My local station, if it’s going to do an hour of “news,” should not repeat the same old stuff, but rather let me know what’s happening in a wider area of the country. “Local news” may be a poor choice of words for stations today.

Just as our world has shrunk with the advent of innovative technology, so our country has also shrunk. What was defined as news a decade or two ago, is no longer the definition we should be applying to today’s “news.” I have to admit that I don’t need to hear – morning, noon, night, and the next morning – about mothers and fathers beating their children. Okay, you got the story; don’t milk it to death. You want to tell me something? Tell me how this compares with behavior in other parts of the United States. Tell me that this is an increasing problem nationwide. Show me and tell me. Give me a broader perspective on this story, but don’t show me, over and over and over again the same damned footage. That’s when I start switching channels.

Admittedly, I do not know the first thing about the economics of media. I am not a part of the Nielsen crew who show what attracts advertisers for the local channels. I’ve been told that ‘reality shows’ are big money-makers because they require very little expense. Whether this is true or not, I can’t say. My own thought would be that if one did “local” newscasts to appeal to a broader viewing audience, they, too, might become economic assets.

Do I want to watch CNN, Bloomberg, or FOX all day? No, of course not; however, by recognizing there is a new definition of what constitutes “local,” perhaps we could gain a new perspective of what’s taking place locally and how it applies on a more far reaching basis.

Allow me, if you will, to give one example of what I would like to hear about: How does Boston compare with similar size cities regarding crime rates? Is this a “special report?” Yes, possibly it is, but why don’t some of these channels do more of this special reporting. Are they dependent on the national network to do this type of thing? Every station seems to have, as do our two local papers, a “special investigative team,” but what they investigate is so local that we have nothing by which to judge the reporting. We are totally dependent on “our” investigators. Their reports could be so slanted as to appear vengeful. I’m not certain what level of intelligence or grade level to which channels are appealing, but I often have the feeling of being treated like a child. Hopefully, the stations are vastly underestimating the intelligence of the viewing public.

Perhaps it’s time for “local” news to actually become national in scope and “national” news to become more worldwide in their approach. Who knows, it might create more interest in Americans, most of whom are so caught up in their own small lives that they don’t give a damn about the rest of the world or how we are affected by it.

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