Archive for July, 2013

About this time every year for the past several years, I become somewhat emotional as well as pissed off at my body for letting me down. This year I guess I have an excuse because of the torn Achilles, but if it’s not one thing, it seems to be another. I’m speaking of the fact that I am no longer able to volunteer for my favorite charity, The Pan-Massachusetts Challenge (PMC) which will be held this first weekend in August. The PMC raises money for the Jimmy Fund and the Dana Farber Cancer Research Center. Since its beginnings in 1980, the PMC has raised over $375 million.

“What is this PMC?” you ask.

Oh please, don’t get me started. The PMC is a bike ride; it’s not a race; it’s a bike ride! For many, it’s a two-day ride from Sturbridge, Massachusetts to Provincetown, MA. Don’t bother to figure the mileage; it’s 192 miles. Don’t worry, these folks stop at the Mass Maritime Academy in Bourne for a sleepover before crossing the Bourne Bridge which is one of the two entrances to Cape Cod. Over the years, shorter routes have been added to accommodate the number of riders who want to be a part of this great organization. I guess here might be a good time to tell you that every penny raised by riders goes directly to the charity. Administrative costs come from a separate foundation – and the fact that there are overworked and underpaid slaves in the office who are beaten severely on a regular basis [just kidding]. There are now over a dozen routes to ride the PMC, and many are single-day rides.

My commitment to the PMC spanned over 10 years, not as a rider but as a volunteer. It began before my late wife, Joan, was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer, and it lasted after her death in 2008. It is impossible to describe the feeling, the emotions of preparing to volunteer, just as I’m certain it’s impossible to know how the riders must feel as the train, both separately and in groups, for the ride – training includes a one-day century ride; you’ve got it…100 miles in a single day. Obviously, not everyone puts themselves through that kind of a regimen, but there are some 7,000 plus who do.

On the day of the ride, emotions run high. There’s a great deal of hugging and kissing, well-wishing and yes, a great many tears. Many people ride with pictures attached to their jerseys; for others, it’s a list of those for whom they’re riding. Helmets are adorned with animals of all kinds, usually representative of a toy that was someone’s favorite. There have been times I’ve invited friends to “just come over and watch.” Every single one of them has later admitted that he or she has cried tears of joy for what they saw as genuine dedication and commitment on the part of the riders as well as the volunteers.

The year after Joan died, I was asked to be part of the very brief speaking program that precedes the start of the ride. It was tough, one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. As I looked out at that sea of riders, I had trouble holding it together. These people were riding so that there wouldn’t be any more Joan’s or Jimmy’s. There they were…cops and teachers, college students and investment bankers, Red Sox wives and then-Senator John Kerry; there were husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, and just about any profession you can name, including many of the doctors, nurses, and administrators from Dana Farber and the Jimmy Fund…now that I think of it, I wonder who the hell was minding the store?

Now that I can no longer be an active part of this event, I do a bit as a supporter of a couple of riders. I’m proud to support them and I’m proud of my association with the PMC. If you’d like to learn more, please go to http://www.pmc.org and learn more about this wonderful program. Oh, and if you’ve got an extra buck or so, don’t be afraid to become part of the PMC. I guarantee it’ll feel good to give to such a worthy cause.

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I’m a New Englander, born and bred. I’m also …correction…I have been at different points in my life, an ardent Boston sports fan. I remember when Pumpsie Green became the first Black man to play for the Boston Red Sox, and the Sox were the last major league team to have a minority on their roster…I said, “sports fan” not sports fanatic. It had been twelve years since Jackie Robinson had broken baseball’s color barrier, but hey, what can I tell you?

I’m old enough to remember going to a National League game at Braves Field on Commonwealth Avenue to watch Earl Torgeson, Tommy Holmes,  Sam Jethroe, Sibi Sisti, and the whole crowd. Compared to the stadiums of today, that was like a Little League field; no wonder they left Boston. While I never did get to wherever the hell the Boston Patriots were playing at the time, I was wise enough to realize that football is played in weather that is generally fit only for mad dogs and Englishmen. George Pyne, an old friend from the Cape (Cod, that is) played for them; then got traded to San Diego. He hung up his cleats when they wanted to ‘shoot up’ his knees for every game.

The Boston Bruins – pronounced “Broons” if you’re from around here – had the Kraut Line of Bobby Bauer, Woody Dumart and Milt Schmidt and later a couple of hotshots named Bobby Orr and Derek Sanderson. I was never a huge hockey fan, but everyone in Boston became a fan in that 1969-1970 season when Orr took a pass from Sanderson to beat the St. Louis Blues to win Lord Stanley’s cup.

These were all tough people. From Ted Williams and Walt Dropo, of the Sox, Tommy Heinsohn and Jim Lusctucoff of the Celtics, any member of the Pats and Bruins, these were hardened competitors. The thing is that I don’t recall one of them being hauled into court on domestic violence, armed robbery, drunk driving, or murder charges. What has happened? I’m not talking about Boston professional sports teams only; I’m speaking of professional sports teams everywhere. Steroids and drug use, lying to Congress and expecting to get away with it; committing acts of mayhem and violence, are these the heroes we want our kids to emulate? Thankfully, my Little League catcher son had Carlton Fisk as a role model!

There are still plenty of heroes in professional sports. Unfortunately, these are the same people whose names never appear on police reports. These are the people who don’t believe they’re bigger than they truly are. These are the folks who know that they’re not above the law and act accordingly. They go to practice or to a game; they do their job…well or not so well, depending on the game, and then they pack it in and move on.

Then there are “the others;” These are the people who believe they should be allowed to do any damned thing they wish and get away with it. Since the last Super Bowl, 28 players from the NFL have been arrested. Few can rank up there with Aaron Hernandez of the New England Patriots who has been arrested for one murder and may find himself facing additional charges. Ausar Walcott of the Cleveland Browns found himself charged with attempted murder after punching a man in the head outside a club in New Jersey. The Browns, as did the Patriots with Hernandez, released Walcott from their roster immediately.

The list goes on and on. There’s no need to recite the arrests, allegations, or suspensions. What these idiots fail to realize or more likely don’t give a damn about, is that they are – like it or not, Charles Barkley – role models for young kids. It’s just something that goes with the talent and the territory. When hockey players drop the gloves on the ice, everybody cheers. If those same hockey players beat someone to death, the cheers would turn to jeers and questions of why that happened. Fights are a part of hockey. They shouldn’t be, but they are. Do that in college and you’re suspended for one game or more. Basketball players get into fights on the court; emotions run high; there’s big money at stake. Off the court, for the most part, you hear comparatively little about them. The steroid scandal in baseball is bad but the guilty are now being punished. They may never be heard from again, but should we do so, you can bet your boots they’ll behave a bit differently.

It’s time that professional athletes be informed once more what they mean to their fans. David Ortiz’s outburst the other day was totally out of line. By his actions he has given permission for everyone who roots for him and the Red Sox permission to blow off steam by destroying something in the immediate vicinity. I didn’t happen to see where that “called strike” was, but I certainly have never seen the emotional Ortiz lose his cool that way. Remember what you mean to Boston, David.

I suppose it’s easy for professional athletes to believe they’re something special. In point of fact, they are; great talent; great ability; great paychecks…that does not give them the right to humiliate themselves, their teams or their fans. You’re not gods, guys; get over yourselves.

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Anthony Weiner, New York’s peter-tweeter mayoral candidate just doesn’t get it. Why his wife is standing by him is understandable only to Hillary Clinton. Danny Kedem, his campaign manager has quit, and now willy-weiner believes that his scandalous behavior is going to be an advantage to him when he ‘wins’ the New York mayoral contest.

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that sex scandals and winning political contests are somewhat diametrically opposed. In other words you can’t have one and expect to have the other. According to the Staten Island Advance, Weiner said, “I’m going to be a successful mayor because of it, because it’s going to give me a level of independence. I’m not constructing a campaign around the approval of my peers. I’m constructing a campaign around the aspirations of my neighbors.” His neighbors…you mean there’s entire group of weiner-wonkers out there? Perish the thought.

It’s impossible to understand what is running through Mr. Weiner’s mind, such as it might be. He gets thrown out of Congress for texting lewd pictures, and now “Carlos Danger” – gotta love that name – is back at it…or did he ever stop. To say that he doesn’t ‘get it’ has to be one of the biggest understatements ever uttered in any political arena. Is it possible that he thinks because Bill Clinton got away with one that he can pull the same thing?

Political scandals are nothing new. After all, Thomas Jefferson had Sally Hemings. James Garfield kept Lucia Calhoun as his mistress. Nan Britton was the very good ‘friend’ of Warren Harding, and even Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Lyndon Johnson were known to have paramours. None were quite as famous as the tete-a-tete that occurred between JFK and Marilyn Monroe, and these are just the pairs that we know about. Bush 1 may have been a fearless naval aviator, but I find it difficult to see him incurring the wrath of Barbara and Laura’s pruning shears would have been put to a different use had number two decided to diddle.

Without question, Congress has not been immune from its fair share of hanky-panky. The Washington Post’s Ken Rudin compiled a list of the various and more popular political scandals in our nation’s capitol.  Wilbur Mills (D – Ark) , Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, was brought down by his affair with Annabella Battistella, better known as stripper, Fanne Foxe, the “Argentine Firecracker.”

“In its May 23, 1976, editions, The Washington Post quoted Elizabeth Ray as saying that she was a secretary for the House Administration Committee, headed by Hays, despite the fact that ‘I can’t type, I can’t file, I can’t even answer the phone.’ She said the main responsibility of her $14,000-a-year job was to have sex with Wayne Hays, Chairman of the House Administration Committee.”

One of the more hypocritical sex scandals to take place occurred in 1983 when both Representatives Dan Crane (R – Ill) and Gerry Studds (D – Mass)  admitted that they’d had sex with teenage congressional pages…Crane with a 17-year old girl and Studds, who was openly gay, with a 17-year old boy.  Here’s the hypocrisy: “The committee voted to reprimand the two, but a back-bench Georgia Republican named Newt Gingrich argued that they should be expelled.” And yes, it was the same Newt who later was found to have had his fair share of extra-marital affairs. Kind of makes you wonder who the hell is doing what to whom, when, where, and how, doesn’t it?

It’s not my intent to turn this into a political harangue against those politicians whose lives have been touched by scandal. Heaven only knows there are enough of them to go around. My point is that once is quite enough. For Anthony Weiner to pretend that what he continues to do isn’t a bit of a problem causes me to wonder if there aren’t a few other screws that are coming loose in his noggin. In this day and age when family values appear to be whatever some idiot wants to say they are, it’s time those of us who still retain some sense of right and wrong stand up and say, “No, go away, you are an embarrassment to the vast majority of American citizens and we don’t want to hear from you anymore!”

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On November 19th of this year we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s address at Gettysburg.  As Lincoln might have said, “It is altogether fitting and proper that we do so.” It is not so much that we are dedicating a “portion of that field” or any field for that matter to those who have died to protect our freedom so that “government of the people, by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth.” We have monuments that have been dedicated by the score but, unfortunately, we dedicate and only those who died; only those who actually participated; only those who lost a loved one know the pain and sacrifice that it required to continue Lincoln’s pledge.

I, along with too many others, have a short memory of what it has taken since our founding to keep our nation moving forward. Yes, there have been only two world wars in which we were involved, but there have been so many other threats to our freedom, subversion from within and without that I believe we sometimes lose track of how hard we have to fight to keep America free. Over 12 million Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we might go to the church of our choice on Sunday or whenever; so that our young people can go school and study whatever they wish; so that you and I can walk down most streets without fear of getting caught in some kind of riot. All in all, I have to say that those 12 million Americans have not died in vain.

In spite of all of our advances, we still have a long way to go. In fact, it seems to me that in at least one way we are regressing. With the passage of North Carolina’s photo identification law, it seems that we are, once more, attempting to limit who can and who cannot vote. It may be all well and good to cite potential election fraud as the reason for passing this legislation; however, it appears to me that it’s more about ensuring that the elderly and disabled as well as minorities must take additional and unwarranted steps to ensure that they get to vote. If asked, I must provide proof of identification in Massachusetts; however, in some states that form of photo identification is not considered adequate, nor is a photo identification card from a college or university. Call me stupid, but this just doesn’t seem to be a proper way for people to be treated.

Lincoln said that “…our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” We know that hasn’t always been the case. Minorities have had to fight long and hard to become equal and do so to this day. Women are still fighting in many areas to become equal and small-minded people are fighting equally hard to “keep them in their place.’ It seems to me that enough of those little minds have already screwed things up so badly, it’s about time we gave women a shot at fixing many of our problems.

Lincoln’s address was running through my head this morning for no particular reason. I had not recently seen a television special or anything like that. It was just there. I had to re-familiarize myself with it and so I read it online…again and again and again. I tried to picture myself standing on that field where bodies could still be seen not that far away. I tried to understand why I would have been there when the stench must have still been almost unbearable. I tried to determine how I might have felt hearing the President of the United States speak for well under five minutes. Would I; could I as part of that audience possibly have understood all that was said in those 246 words? I rather doubt it.

It’s time for us to stop looking at monuments and listening to the crap that is repeated every Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day. It’s time for us to stop thinking of the Fourth of July as a time for concerts and picnics. It’s time for us to rededicate ourselves to demanding more than platitudes and pap. It’s time to rededicate ourselves to ensure that those 12 million did not die in vain. It’s time to make America the greatest nation on earth once more.

[Just in case you don’t remember…” Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”]

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Is Edward Snowden actually an ‘A’ number one treasonous son-of-a bitch or is he just another whistle blower on the biggest stage of all? Before I received a security clearance – “back in the day;” yeah, I know – I was required to fill out a form called a DD398. About the only thing it didn’t want to know was what time of day I moved my bowels. I kid you not. My parents were getting approached by neighbors asking, “Is Dick in trouble?” They would go on to explain that a “government man” came around asking questions. That led to Mom and Dad asking questions of me, and I had to admit the purpose of the investigation. It was partly embarrassing and partly encouraging to see the lengths to which they would go before giving me any kind of clearance. That clearance, by the way, was for one of the lower types of classified information. Later came the polygraph and other psychological testing before I was given access to some of the “better goodies.”

All of the above is somewhat beside the point when I begin to think about what is being called “the NSA scandal.” What bullshit. There’s no scandal here; what the NSA has been doing is protecting the majority of the population of the United States from potential terrorist planning and/or attacks. Many of those who appear to believe their privacy is sacrosanct are the same people who put things on Facebook and YouTube for the entire world to read or see. Privacy is a fictional state of mind that hasn’t existed in this country for several decades. The bigger question are, “Who is doing the listening,” “How were they vetted in the first place,” “What are they actually listening for,” and “Has this listening proven its effectiveness in foiling terrorist plots?”

It concerns me greatly that someone like Snowden, as conscientious as he might believe he is, was not watch-listed at every airport in the country. When I left the military it was with the understanding that I could not travel outside of the continental US for a period of twelve years. Have we become so lax that any employee of the NSA, CIA, DIA, FBI, NIB, or whatever other screwy acronyms you wish to name can travel anywhere they damn well please or do anything they damn well wish? It sounds to me as though our vetting process and restrictions need a bit of an update.

I’d like to know what is so important to Congress in particular and the anti-listening folks that is so important. In theory, conversations are not being recorded unless key words pop up. Of course, if one is attempting to get some insider information to fatten their wallets or talking with their mistress about the next assignation, I suppose that could be embarrassing. Perhaps I’m a dullard whose conversations would put a listener to sleep – at this age I put myself to sleep – but what the hell is so important?

Getting back to Snowden for a minute…what he did was to violate the principles of his oath to the NSA. Is that a crime? To some it may be treasonous; to others, it is merely misguided. To me, I’m not altogether certain what he hoped to gain by waiting until he got to Hong Kong to blow the whistle. Did he believe he couldn’t do it by talking to a reporter from Fox or CNN? Did he think he’d get squelched or that his story wouldn’t get told? If so, I think he didn’t know just how hungry the networks are to get something juicy about our intelligence community. Was Snowden trying to set himself up as another Julian Assange? Whatever the case, he’s had his 15 minutes of fame Now it’s time to let him find a new home…wait a minute…how about south central LA. I’ll bet they’d just welcome him with open arms!

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Dream with me for a moment or two.

What would you change if you could have come from a different womb? Would you wish to be born to someone other than the parents you have or had…or perhaps never even knew? At this time, when we are enthralled by the birth of George Alexander Louis as the third in line to the British throne, let’s take a look backward at where we might wish we came from and how it might have influenced our lives. I’ll dream with you and insert my own life because I surely don’t know where the hell you came from. If I had been born to parents of great wealth, it would have been a miracle. To the best of my knowledge, there wasn’t one millionaire in the whole damned town. That, of course, could have been deception at its finest, but the people who attempted to pass themselves off as wealthy were not people I would have wished as parents. It’s my understanding that my Dad had come from wealth. That’s why he quit school in the ninth grade. He rather enjoyed the life of a playboy and dabbled in tennis and golf “at the club” until the business went down the toilet in the late 20s and early 30s. By then he was married and had no marketable skills. This meant that he went to work for Bethlehem Steel at the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy. During those depressed years of the early 30s, my sister was born and that had to put more of a strain on the family. A year later, the nation put their faith in Franklin Delano Roosevelt as their new leader. It couldn’t have been an easy time for my folks but during my life I never heard them speak of that period other than to hear them say what a great country this is and what a horror WW II was for so many of their friends. Three years later I came along. On my 5th birthday, Hitler invaded Poland – I really had nothing to do with that, honest – and a couple of years later we were launched into the Second World War. Working in the shipyard and because of his age, Dad was exempt from military service. He never talked about it but in some ways I think he resented that.

The key question here is would I rather have been born to different parents. The answer is that despite some reasonably tough times growing up, my parents were always loving; that to me is the key. Mom and Dad both enjoyed a drink, but neither was a drunk. I never recall any shouting in the house although I do remember their headboard striking a rhythmic beat on their wall a few times. After I was old enough to understand, I don’t remember whether I thought it was gross or just thought…”you go, Pop!” So, no, I can’t think of any other parents for whom I could have wished.

Would things have been better if I had grown up as a Ford, or Carnegie, or the son of a Wall Street baron? Hell, I don’t know. Had I grown up in a palace with parents whom I rarely saw and with tutors who taught me from an early age that I was the be-all and end-all of humanity, would I feel differently? Certainly, but I don’t know anyone like that, not to the extent that I would ever ask them. What I had was great; we had food on the table each night and ice cream on Sunday. Because my great aunts lived in Cohasset, we could get a pass to Sandy Beach – where the water was so cold that walnuts became raisins – and where Mom would do the weirdest damned stroke I’d ever seen. Dad had been some kind of a champion club swimmer and taught us by example until we could almost stay with him on the way to the raft about 50 yards from shore. Those were good times.

I grew up being bullied by older kids and picking on younger ones. It didn’t happen often but it happened. Did that happen to the kids of other parents? Yeah, probably it did unless, of course, you were brought up in a glass bubble and not allowed to associate with “that kind of rabble.” We didn’t consider ourselves rabble of any kind; we were just kids who came from loving homes who didn’t mind getting into a small amount of trouble. Seems to me that despite all of our advances, kids today don’t get into small trouble; unless someone dies, the trouble isn’t trouble at all. It that’s progress, I’m just as happy that I grew up when I did.

So, if I wouldn’t change my parents, is there anything I would have changed? Oh, yeah, you betcha! I certainly would have been more serious about my education. My folks hadn’t finished high school; my sister was satisfied with a high school diploma before she left for a modeling career in New York, and I had no intention of pursuing a college education until Mom pushed me into it. I know they cashed in a life insurance policy to pay for my first year, so I guess I would wish that we might have been a bit wealthier…but we made it. I barely made it through college and it wasn’t until I was married and going back to grad school that education became important to me. Hell, if the graduate school dean wasn’t a friend, I probably wouldn’t have been allowed entrance; not with my record.

I’d like to have made more money in my life but then, “the love of money is the root of all evil,” and we survived. I’d like to have been a more loving husband; I just don’t think I loved my wife enough. I’d like to have been a better father; I don’t believe I loved my kids enough either. Perhaps my memory isn’t as great as it once was, but I believe that we could all always do a better job of loving our spouses and doing more for our kids in terms of affection.

Another change I guess I’d make is that I would have kept in closer touch with some of those people with whom I first work and with whom I’d grown up. We grow; we change; we drift away; we get new jobs and new challenges; we make new friends; we may move far away; we find new loves and build our own families; we lose track and that’s okay, because those same people who might wish they’d stayed in touch have done exactly the same thing. Then one day, you see a name in the obituary column and memories return. As you age, the obituary page becomes mandatory reading. Then you get a call from an old classmate who wants to have lunch. You go and you aren’t certain about the subjects you discuss. Eventually, you end up talking about who’s dead and who’s alive; who has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel; how many kids you each had and what they’re now doing. If the classmate was a real friend, you don’t try to play the “my kid’s better than your kid” game; you just talk. Then one day you look at the Irish Sports Page as you’ve come to call the obituaries and you see your friend’s name. You wonder what you missed in that last conversation; what should have been said but never was. Then one day, your name is in that page…and you really don’t have any reason to be concerned about what it was you might have changed.

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My dear Mr. President…I’m certain that your intentions were wonderful. I know that you spoke from the heart. However, in your attempt to defuse racial tension over the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman verdict, I believe you stepped into an arena where your wise counsel was unwanted, unnecessary, and somewhat inflammatory.

I wish that you could have had Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Sidney Poitier, and a few other Black males there with their spouses of many years. Perhaps you could have had a few nameless Black couples from Caprini Green, Watts, Roxbury, Massachusetts, or Bladensburg and New York Avenues to show that Black folks are just like White folks. It wouldn’t matter because, unfortunately, there are differences between the races. Some of them are good; some are bad. My personal experience is that my Black friends are ‘givers.’ They want nothing from me but would give me the shirt of their back. My only connection to a Black man and his wife who are currently in prison doesn’t change my opinion. This man was as kind to me as anyone I’ve known. Certainly, he might have had no compunctions for harming me if I got in the way of his ‘business,’ but then, who knows? My White friends, on the other hand, are about 70/30 takers. They want something; they want to know what I can do for them. Unfortunately, my sample is small and I am but one.

Life is confusing enough without attempting to say that one race is en masse bad and the other en masse good. Yes, our prisons are filled with more Blacks and Latinos than Whites; so what. Seems to me that Blacks have had fewer opportunities than Whites any way you look at it. Don’t hold yourself up as a shining example of what a Black man can achieve, Mr. President. You weren’t raised in the misery in which many of these other Black 17-year olds were raised. You didn’t grow up in the really bad parts of Detroit or Cleveland. You weren’t raised in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans or on the streets of Harlem “back in the day.”

Who is to say which stories are true? Was it originally a case of Blacks selling their brothers to the Muslims, the Dutch and into the Americas or was it white slavers who went into Africa and kidnapped men, packed them into ships like sardines and brought them to the Caribbean and North America. Oh there are records from here, there, and everywhere that tell one story or another. There is documented evidence in archives everywhere, but my bet is that there was a little bit of everything going on that caused slavery to flourish in Europe, the Middle East, and in the Colonies. We think we know the truth; we are positive we know the truth. We also thought that the earth was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth.

Mr. President, you cannot speak up every time there is a Black/White court decision. If you were not in office, I’d say, “Great,” but you are in office and it’s not something on which you should be expressing an opinion. You may believe me to be narrow-minded by saying that but consider what your opponents will say: “See, he doesn’t recognize that White people can be right, even when they are acquitted in a court of law.” They’ll find some other racist nonsense to throw at you too, so hold onto your opinions about race until you’re out of office. Oh, and just as an aside, I personally believe that George Zimmerman got away with murder and should be serving a minimum of 25 years.

American fought the bloodiest and most costly war in its history in an attempt to gain equal treatment for all ‘men’ [we didn’t give a damn about women yet]; it didn’t work. We tried to integrate schools and colleges, not just in the South, but in America, and it took Federal intervention and armed guards to achieve that. We passed Brown v. The Board of Education and that really didn’t make a difference. Nothing has made a difference. Nothing will make a difference until grandmothers and grandfathers, racists like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and some of these fire-breathing Black pastors stop telling people that they have been “held down” by Whites. If anyone has been held back, it has been the immigrants who have come to our shores and been told, “Get the hell out; go back where you came from!”  Signs reading “No Irish Need Apply” didn’t stop the Irish from rising up and becoming a force in the American saga. Chinese who were worked to death building the railroads across this country have become a powerful influence in the growth of this country. Italians, Jews, Indians, and Lebanese, people of every race and color, including Blacks, have made tremendous contributions. Unfortunately, the riots in South Central, the pre-Halloween shenanigans in Detroit, the murder rate in Chicago, and our own problems in Boston created a stigma that have muddied the contributions of Madame C.J. Walker, George Bonga, and  James Beckwourth. Everyone seems to think of Oprah, Berry Gordy, and John Johnson, but few know of the efforts and giant contributions of earlier Black Americans who faced much greater hardships than the Black Americans of today.

Mr. President, the Black community has an image problem as well as a societal problem. Until both are solved, and I’ll be damned if either of us can answer those two, there will continue to be mistrust among Blacks and Whites in this country. It’s certainly going to be a ‘step-at-a-time’ solution. Why don’t we begin by banning the ugly music, associated largely with the Black community that uses language you don’t want Sasha and Malia to hear? I know and that would be called censorship. In the case of some of that music, censorship might not be such a bad thing.

I’m a nobody trying to tell a somebody to solve the problems he can solve from the position he’s in now. Take care of the big problems like uniting the country and getting our troops back home; like further reducing unemployment; like stopping terrorism on our own soil; like standing up to Congress and telling them to get their act together or find another job. We have a lot of work to do, Mr. President. Don’t let a pissant like George Zimmerman, a couple of prosecutors who probably shouldn’t have law degrees, and six people who tried to follow the law get in the way of what really needs to be done.

P.S. So what do we do now about the Quianna Tompkins’ of this world?

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Despite my advancing years there are still many things that I cannot and probably will never understand. Perhaps this is not unusual for those of us who came of age during the “Father Knows Best Fifties,” or however one wishes to define those times. We did things back then that were perfectly understandable but that are frowned on or, in some cases, easily accepted in today’s society. Let me give you a few examples:

  • We drank from hoses and we all shared the same hose. Today’s parents appear to feel that this is an intolerable sin and that sickness and even death could result;
  • If we were ever to use the word, “fuck” in any kind of conversation, it might not get your mouth washed out with soap, but you can bet that your butt would be sore for weeks to come; today, the lyrics played on pop radio stations are completely off the wall and the word, “fuck” is among the milder of the expletives;
  • Smoking cigarettes was something of a mark of distinction during the fifties; justifiably – and this from a former smoker – it is today seen as a form of slow suicide;
  • “Cracking open a cold one” meant to have a beer or soda/tonic/pop or whatever in the 1950s: Recently on daytime television I heard it referred to as mortuary necrophilia. That’s not only sick; it’s disgusting;
  • It wasn’t until Fred and Wilma Flintstone slept in the same bed that that ban was busted. Lucy and Desi, as well as Rob and Laura Petrie had been denied that marital pleasure by the censors. Today, they don’t seem to sleep in the same bed so much as…well, you know…and they don’t even have to be married!
  • When the final school bell rang in the fifties, we either ran or rode the bus home; changed into our ‘play’ clothes; yelled “Goin’ out” and were gone until we knew enough to come home for supper…we didn’t call it dinner in our house. Today’s children seem so programmed that if they’re not texting and talking on their phones on the way home, they’re lost; Once they get home, they either go immediately to their computer; go off to some practice; or spend the afternoon in their rooms on the phone or texting.
  • In my day, “blow me” was just a figure of speech. Today it would appear that many young people don’t even consider it as being a sexual act.

Yes, our social and moral standards have changed a great deal during the last half century plus. Some of these are advances. Some I fear have already had dangerous consequences. Recently, I read a story about an office manager who was so disliked that his staff rebelled against him and quit en masse. When upper management investigated, it was learned that the manager felt that his people knew their jobs and had no reason to communicate with him. He felt that all communication should be by e-mail because it was much more efficient. One of my great concerns is that we are raising generations who don’t understand what real communication is all about. E-mail, instant messaging, and texting are great in their place, but face to face conversations are critical. Every high school and college graduate should be required to take courses in face-to-face communication. There are so many scenarios that could be brought forth in such courses the value added to the individual would be priceless. I don’t understand the emphasis on technology at the expense of humanism. I had the good fortune to work with seven college presidents during my career. All were different personalities. My philosophy, which I explained to each of them was this: “When I have good news to share with you, I’ll call you or send a memo – it was only with the last one that e-mail was a popular form of communication – but if I have bad news to share, I will come to your office as quickly as possible and deliver it face to face.”  The reasoning behind this was quite simple; I don’t need to be around to see you smile at the good news; I do need to be around to gauge your reaction to bad news in order that I begin to judge what the next steps should be. You don’t see the expression on someone’s face when you don’t look them in the eye. Can it be troubling or have nasty consequences? Of course it can, but if you are prepared in your job, you’re already with possible suggestions.

I don’t understand why everyone has to be a specialist in today’s workplace or why if you approach a sales person who is one aisle away from their ‘area,’ they are so quick to let you know, “I don’t work in this department.”

I can understand why we didn’t wear helmets when we rode our bikes – well, almost understand – but with today’s bicycles capable of speeds of 40 -50 miles per hour, why the hell aren’t helmets a requirement. And why do I see kids out riding with their parents where the kids are wearing helmets as well as knee and elbow pads while mom or dad are riding without a helmet. I just don’t understand.

I don’t understand drivers who think that laws don’t apply to them; who believe that turn signals are optional; who are unable to read speed limit signs on side roads; who view stop signs as a challenge to see if they can beat through traffic in an intersection; who feel persecuted in a work zone that’s marked as 45 m.p.h. when they were only doing 80. These are things I don’t understand.

I have never understood nor will I to my dying day why we can’t get one more person out of a hundred to give blood on a regular basis. Just one more out of a hundred would fill the needs of the hospitals that depend on that blood for saving lives. One of the achievements of which I’m quite proud is the five gallons that I gave. Unfortunately, the medicines that I have to take to this day preclude me from every giving more. It’s such a simple thing to do and yes, that first pinch hurts a bit, but that’s all over in a second or so.

Of course, I don’t understand quantum physics, nor do I have any desire to do so. Although I was married for nearly 51 years, I have never understood the opposite sex, and any man who says he does is either a liar or a fool. I don’t understand how bumblebees can fly or hummingbirds hover. I don’t understand why so many wonderful people die young and some of the rottenest bastards in the world seem to go on forever.

I don’t understand the people who work in my local Walmart. They are some of the nicest, friendliest people in the world. You may not find them in their department, but they’ll damn sure walk you to the person who has the answers and, at least in my experience, will make it a point to locate you in a checkout line and ask if you found the who’samajigits. Juli and I have decided that if we ever win the lottery, we’re going to buy a pile of birthday cards; stick five $100 bills in each one, and hand them to people who have been nice to us in restaurants, supermarkets, garages, and a few other shops. As we leave, we’ll just give them the card and say, “Happy Birthday.” That way, they won’t have to declare it as income nor will they have to share it with others as a tip. Sneaky, but what the hell.

Finally, I haven’t stopped writing about them, but for damned sure, I’ll never understand the politicians in Washington, D.C. Running the nation seems to be a toy for the rich in order that they can make themselves richer without having to work for it.

There’s a lot more I don’t understand, but I’m tired of writing, and you’re probably tired of reading. Take a chance and drop me a line about things you don’t understand. Trust me; if I get enough, they’ll create another addition to the blog.

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The Declaration of Independence was written by a group of wealthy white men. It spoke of equality, yet the author was the owner of more than 200 slaves. There was one Roman Catholic and four members of the Protestant faiths who declared, “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

I would posit that the current Congress of the United States of America, the legislative branch, the group that can control how much money you and I pay to the government to run the nation, have reached the point where you and I, the common people of America should “dissolve the political bands which have connected them” to us. I would further posit that this Congress does not have the best interests of its various constituents or the United States of America at heart but that they are more concerned with increasing their personal wealth and throwing this country into disarray purely on the basis of discriminatory practices. I would strongly recommend that we, the citizens of this country, demand a recall of every member of Congress who is recognized as a millionaire. Nearly 250 of the 535 members of Congress have an average of two and one half million dollars in net worth.  Comparatively, less than one percent of Americans fall into that category of wealth. I find it impossible to believe that they can understand the hardship imposed on average Americans just to put meals on the table and/or pay the monthly rent or mortgage payment. They just don’t get it. Congress, as well as the President is, “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” That’s you and I, and I can’t speak for you, but I certainly am not happy about the manner in which I am being governed.

Are there other similarities between the original Declaration of Independence and what we are facing with today’s government? Given the time and the ability to fully comprehend the innuendos of that original document, I’m certain there are many. Fifty-six men attached their signatures to a document that could and in all probability would bring about their death for treason. I don’t believe there is one man or woman in Congress today who would have the courage to affix their signature to such a document. The sole effort of this Congress seems to be oriented toward disemboweling the executive branch of government, and you cannot convince me that there isn’t a certain degree of racism attached to the manner in which Congress is acting.

Barack Obama was elected by the people of this country. He came to Washington to do something that seven presidents before him were unable to do. He managed to get through both houses of Congress a comprehensive health care package. It was passed; it became law, and no less than thirty times has the House of Representatives attempted to dismantle it. It is not a perfect law; everyone including the President is aware of this, but it is the first comprehensive health care bill that has actually made its way through Congress and back on to the President’s desk for his signature. Why does the House keep attempting to raise issues that have been discussed and resolved? Have they nothing better to do with their time? Is the pharmaceutical lobby that powerful that they can continue to buy Congressmen to keep raising non-issues?

There are issues before Congress right now that need to be moved forward. There are bills in committee that may never see the light of day, not because they aren’t good pieces of legislation, but because, to quote one Republican House member, “We can’t let him have another win.” The ‘him’ in this statement was referring to the President of the United States. Why, why can’t the President be allowed to ‘win,’ have another important bill passed. Republicans in Congress will tell you it’s because he’s a Democrat. The honest truth is that they don’t want the first Black President to leave behind any kind of a legacy to which future generations will refer. There, I’ve finally put it on the table. Now everyone can yell and scream and call me names; say that I’m not right and all that bullshit. However, have you ever in your life heard of a Congress that has been so reticent to go along with its President? I haven’t and I’ve been around this barn for 78 plus years now. Never in my life have I seen such a do-nothing Congress and never before have I heard a Congressman yell out to the President that he’s a liar.

As I said early on, this Congress has to go…every single one of them. I will grant that there are some good people, but the problem is actually finding them. These characters are slick. They shovel shit in your face and will swear on a stack of Holy Bibles that it’s sugar. The guilt lies on both sides of the aisle. These people do not care about us. What is it going to take for Americans to wake up and throw these people out on the street? No more is the devil we know better than the one we don’t. The devil we know continues to be interested only in his or her salvation and they are laughing at us all the way to the bank.

Wake up America.

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Call me stupid…thanks for that…but Jodi Arias shot her boyfriend in the face; she stabbed him 27 times; she slit his throat…and we have to have a lengthy trial? Then, a jury cannot decide whether she lives or dies?  Excuse me, but that really seems like a no brainer to me. She didn’t just take the life of this man; she took it with extreme prejudice. About the only thing she didn’t do was shove a stick of dynamite where the sun don’t shine and light it off. Please don’t use the excuse that he was an abuser. He tried to get rid of her so many times, it was like trying to shake a bug off fly paper; it just couldn’t be done. The facts were the facts; she committed a heinous crime.

Now we come to George Zimmerman and once more, we have to endure a long trial, costing taxpayers who knows how much money and for what. Mr. Zimmerman was advised not to get out of his car. He got out. He shot the Martin kid to death; end of story. He didn’t stay in his car after being advised to do so and he killed someone. Perhaps I’m reducing things to their simplest terms, but maybe it’s about time we began doing just that. Sorry, George, you’re gone for 20. Next time, do as you’re told; don’t get out of the car. If you wish me to further complicate things, why the hell were you carrying a gun in the first place; you’re not a police officer. Neighborhood “watch” means just that. You see something suspicious; you call the guys who carry guns and badges. And then the jury turns around and finds this cop-wannabe innocent; you have to be kidding!

Then we come to the case of James Whitey Bulger, former head of the Winter Hill gang. If this isn’t a waste of taxpayer dollars, I cannot begin to imagine what the hell is. The man runs away and hides because he gets a tip the Feds are closing in. Okay, I can understand that…I know what kind of a person I am and I’d like to spend a few more years outside of the bars rather than behind them; it just makes sense. Then, after 18 years, Whitey gets bagged, arrested, hooked, nailed, whatever. He’s now 83 years old and they bring him back for trial. Why? Does anyone in his or her right mind believe this man is going to be acquitted? There’s only one question to ask Whitey Bulger; “Do you want the needle now or would you like to spend the rest of your days behind bars in Plymouth, Concord, Walpole, or wherever, telling war stories to the young kids. We can rest assured you won’t be telling them to walk the straight and narrow. Hell, you never knew what was straight and narrow in the first place. How your brother Billy broke the mold is beyond me.

Lastly, we have the case of the Boston Strangler. This is a case I remember well. One of the murders was committed not far from Northeastern University in Boston where I was working at the time. The City was in major panic mode. This killer was like a ghost. In addition, there was no question that it was one man doing the deed. I learned of his trademark through a friend on the Boston PD, and I’ve vowed never to tell it; suffice it to say, he did something to prove he was the one. So Desalvo is caught, not for the murders, but for a series of rapes he committed, and he is sent to jail. Before his death, Desalvo confessed that he is the Boston Strangler. Now, over half a century later, police – who have followed Desalvo’s nephew to get a DNA sample – are going to exhume the killer’s body to see if his DNA matches that found on his last victim. I can understand the victim’s family wanting to know; I really can, but the match they got from the nephew’s DNA makes it a 99.9 percent chance that Desalvo was the killer. Why waste the time and dollars for one-tenth of one percent.

It seems to me that we spend a great deal of money in this country on things that are unnecessary. We bitch that the courts are backed up and yet when a crime is sensational and the perpetrator undeniably guilty, we spend months on a trial. Yes, everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but when the question of guilt or innocence is so damned obvious, let’s cut to the chase. When my brother killed a man, his trial lasted about a week. Ah, but there was no star quality to that killing. It wasn’t sensational; it wasn’t racially motivated; it was just a case of road rage that went too far. Hell, there’s no glamour in that. Put him away for life and let him die in prison…which he did.

Our priorities are screwed up beyond belief. Twenty states now have abortion laws that are in direct conflict with Roe v. Wade. What’s going to happen? Millions of dollars will be spent by pro-choice groups attempting to overturn those laws and eventually it will wind up as a class action suit before the US Supreme Court. Just think where else those millions could be spent. However, governors such as Rick Perry of Texas and idiot pro-lifers in the state senates of the other 19 states don’t appear to understand that we are living in the 21st Century, not the 18th.

This nation is nearly $17 trillion in debt. Yet we cannot find people to put in national office who can do something about it. We continue to elect the same ‘farceiful’ figures who cannot write a single piece of legislation without attaching so much pork that it becomes impossible to pass; who tell their constituents that they, the legislators, have their voters best interest at heart when anyone with an ounce of common sense can see that they are only interested in feathering their own nests; that theirs is the only viewpoint and their opponents are idiots. I’d love to see their viewpoint but I can’t get my head that far up my ass! Woodrow Wilson said years ago, “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world. You impoverish yourself if you forget this errand.” It’s too bad he wasn’t addressing Congress at the time.

What’s that you say…that I’m being cynical? Bull feathers! I’m not a cynic; I’m too much of a bloody realist. I don’t recall whether it was Socrates or Diogenes who roamed the night with a lantern, searching for an honest man. If he ever walked the halls of today’s Congress, he’d have one hell of a long walk.  

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