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Archive for August, 2013

Becoming a member of a high school, college, or professional athletic team does not mean that one must get sodomized by other members of the team. Having a pine cone, a pencil, a broken flagpole, or a baseball bat or hockey stick stuffed up your butt is not “what everyone else goes through,” nor is it an appropriate rite of passage. Having to drink urine or actually get raped by a teammate’s penis, or in the case of women, a dildo, does not contribute to one’s maturation process. Drowning while attempting to walk across a swollen river does not prove you are a man; it proves you’re an idiot.

These are a sampling of the hazing procedures that have taken place…in 2013. These aren’t historic cases from eons ago. These are now. In a number of cases, police have become involved and some of the more senior team members are facing sexual battery charges. In a case at Virginia State University, charges of manslaughter are being sought against several students after two freshmen were swept away attempting to cross a river that had been engorged by unusually heavy rainfall.

It appears that hazing, rather than losing its luster after the death of a marching band member at Florida A & M, has actually been gaining in popularity. At Towson University (MD), the entire girls cheerleading team has been suspended from competition for a year after discovery of a hazing incident. “Hazing in any form will not be tolerated at Towson University. We hold high expectations for all of our students and their conduct as leaders, both on and off campus,” Deb Moriarty, Towson University’s vice president for student affairs, said in the statement. “Out of concern for students’ privacy and their rights to due process that includes their right to appeal the suspension, it would be inappropriate for the university to comment further.” Meanwhile, the executive director of the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators appears to feel that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Since the school is in ‘no comment’ mode, as it should be, perhaps the head of the cheerleading association should have no comment at all.

Sodomy with their fingers seems to be a favorite hazing technique for this academic year. Five Plano (IL) high school students are facing criminal charges, including criminal sexual assault, aggravated battery and unlawful restraint after finger-fucking a younger basketball player. What I really don’t understand is the attitude of Eric Weis, Kendall County State’s attorney…”It wouldn’t meet the legal definition of what we consider hazing but it’s as close as you can come.” What do you want, Mr. State’s attorney, to have the kid butt-fucked by the entire team as halftime entertainment?

More and more institutions have adopted a zero tolerance policy when it comes to hazing during initiation for any kind of club, athletic or not. The problem comes when hazing is reported and the reporter becomes the victim. Such was the case at Milford, MA when a football coach saw what he considered to be hazing and blew his top. He was fired for yelling at the boys doing the hazing. The superintendent of schools – who was not in the locker room, by the way – has described the incident as “inappropriate rough-housing.” Can you say “cover my ass?”

There is no place for physical assault of any kind on any individual for any reason…ever. When I pledged a fraternity many moons ago, sure, I got my pant-covered butt slapped with “the paddle,” but my pants were never down to my knees nor was my butt ever exposed…and ours was one considered to have a pretty tough initiation process.

Today, it appears that there is no regard for a person’s dignity during the initiation process. The New England Patriots have a tradition of cutting the hair of the new players after they’ve made the team. It’s looked on as a part of the welcoming process…and some of the haircuts are pretty weird. This is a far cry from holding a younger high school football player down while an upperclassman rubs the younger one’s face with his genetalia. That is just plain sick.

Hazing has become humiliation. It has no place in high school or college. It’s about time that more colleges and universities joined places like Towson and say, “We will have zero tolerance for any form of hazing and will suspend or expel anyone so charged with that offense.” In other words, grow a pair Mr., Ms., Dean, and Doctor; grow a pair and stand your ground. You may lose your popularity, but you just might prevent a suicide or a murder.

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Wynton Marsalis made an excellent point recently. He was talking about the civil rights march on Washington 50 years ago. It wasn’t billed as such; it was supposed to be a jobs march. Marsalis noted that while as many as 25 of the speakers were White, the march is remembered mainly for Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech. He said that while that is the quotation that most remembered, he remembered how King tied the races together when he said “…they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”

His comment made me realize that in at least one way, America is little different from some of the countries in the Middle East. I have spoken on more than one occasion how we might as well leave Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq alone because they will merely return to tribal warfare when we leave. That may be true enough, but doesn’t that also hold true for Americans. We talk about the “haves” and the “have not’s;” We talk about the Black gangs, the Latino gangs, the Russian and Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Haitian, Dominican, and God only knows how many other “gangs” in the United States. Aren’t they behaving in the same kind of tribal warfare that takes place in parts of the world that we would like to call “uncivilized?” Yet, there are the same trades and professions in those Middle Eastern countries that we have in the United States. Lawyers practice law; doctors see patients; there are nurses and sales clerks, and all sorts of other skills. Perhaps we should stop interfering with what is one of their national problems and begin concentrating on ridding our nation of some of those same idiots who prevent our economy from growing; who kill cities like Detroit, East St. Louis, and so many others. Maybe we shouldn’t be closing our doors to immigrants. Instead we should open a door that leads only one way…out! Let’s use our Homeland Security, FBI, NSA, and all of the other acronymic agencies at our disposal to identify and ship back the assholes that create so many problems. Pareto’s principle, a.k.a., the 80/20 rule, apples beautifully in this situation…it is twenty percent of our population that creates eighty percent of our problems. Let’s determine where that twenty percent came from and ship them back. Oh, wait a minute, you say they were born right here in America? No, no, no, not the people I’m talking about. These are the people who parade their nationalities as badges of honor in their gangs. These are the people we should hunt down and dispatch…oops, I mean export to their native lands. If they brand themselves as African-American, that is unacceptable. African-Americans are Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Sidney Poitier, Rahm Emmanuel, Berry Gordon, Leo Kennedy, Jimmy Proctor, Pat Blackman, Amos Andrews, and millions of others. You don’t know all those names? Well, the last four are people I know and there are plenty more where they came from…good people who want just what you and I want – to be recognized for our skills; to be able to get a good job; to pursue with all of our heart the American Dream, however each one dream.

I don’t know about you, but I never dreamed of becoming a multi-millionaire.  I just wanted to make a comfortable living, get married, have kids who I could send to college – if that was what they wanted – a house that I could pay off some day, a new car every few years, and maybe, just maybe, a place at the beach in my later years, possibly one where I could retire. Pretty high aspirations, eh? Isn’t that basically what all of us are or were seeking? Did you want more? Did you want to be the richest man or woman in the world? Good for you; hope you make it; I sure as hell am not going to get in your way…at least, not until you begin to infringe on my rights. You see, your rights end where mine begin, just as mine end where yours begin. What it means is that you achieve your goals with due regard to everyone else. Berry Gordy, founder of Motown, told an audience at Babson College, “Remember, you meet the same people going down the ladder that you stepped on to reach the top.” Is this Pollyanna speaking? Of course not: Life is simple if you let it be. There are struggles of all kinds. How would you like to be Black and face the potential for sickle cell anemia? How would you like to come from a family where every male has died of a heart attack before the age of 50? How would you like to be a woman whose mother and sisters died of breast cancer? Sure as hell makes you feel pretty lucky to have your own life, doesn’t it?

We have come a long way since 1963. Whites and Blacks, Latinos and Asians, Europeans and Middle Easterners who have come to this country to pursue their dreams have, for the vast majority, been able to pursue and sometimes even achieve their dreams. I’m not quoting anyone in particular but I agree with those who say we have a long way to go, and it’s not just the races; we have a long way to go to meet equality among the sexes. Will we ever find or create a Utopian society? No, we won’t. There will always be those who are dissatisfied with their own lot or who want what the other guy has. There will always be jealousy among nations or countries that wish to expand their borders. That’s life on this little blue marble.

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White people have to understand something that has not yet been made clear to them. Racism is a term that may only be used by Black people when referring to whites. After all, every white person who ever lived in America is or has been responsible for “keeping down” every Black person who has ever lived in America. Therefore, while the killing of Black Trayvon Martin by White George Zimmerman, a.k.a., neighborhood watch chairman, must be considered as the worst form racism. However, the shooting of White Australian student athlete by three Black teenagers who were either bored or undergoing a gang initiation rite is not racism, but is “frowned upon.”

Who-the-hell-is-trying-to-kid-whom? In my 78 years on this earth, I have known more Black people who pure racists than I most certainly have White people who are racist. Let me repeat: 78 years on this earth, I have known more Black people who pure racists than I most certainly have White people who are racist. Bill Russell, former Boston Celtic standout and for whom Boston is erecting a statue…major league racist. I say that from personal interaction with Mr. Russell.  I would call every Black person who spoke out against Zimmerman but who kept his or her mouth closed after this latest incident a bigot and a racist. That includes you Jesse and you Al and you Barack. It even includes you Mr. and Mrs. Martin.

I felt that George Zimmerman should be convicted of first degree murder, not because he killed a Black teenager. From what I could see, Trayvon Martin was a target of opportunity. Neighborhood watch does not mean that you should go out in your car, with a weapon, and instead of listening to a 911 dispatcher, you go ahead and kill. The fact that Trayvon happened to be Black has no bearing on this, and the fact that the prosecution phoned in their case is, in my humble opinion reason for them to turn in their licenses to practice. However, don’t get me started on that one.

There is no question that slavery was a terrible thing. Of course, few people mention that it was Africans selling their Black brethren into chains when it first got started. Oh, that’s just a horrible thing to say. And yes, on perhaps too large a percentage of plantations, Blacks were treated horribly. That was the eighteenth, nineteenth, and yes, even the twentieth Century’s. Lincoln freed the slaves, which didn’t make a hell of a lot of difference because White ignorance and ignorant Whites had trouble with the words ‘equal’ and ‘equality.’  Brown versus The Board of Education took baby steps in declaring that separate schools for Blacks and Whites were unconstitutional. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed by President Lyndon Johnson, was the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction, and prohibited racial discrimination in employment and education, and outlawed segregation in public facilities.

I worked at Northeastern University in Boston for nearly 20 years. The University is located on the edge of Roxbury, long a Black neighborhood in Boston. For me to cite the number of times Whites were attacked by groups of Blacks would take many more words that I want to write or you want to read. Three Black kids demanding an NU student’s bomber jacket and then killing him because he didn’t get it off fast enough; four Black kids trying to rob a White faculty member as he was returning to his office from lunch…these are just two cases. Unfortunately, in the latter case, the faculty member’s former career was as a professional boxer; he knocked out three of the kids and the other ran away.

There are many colleges and universities in this country where White students are warned not to walk off campus at night. Temple, Yale, Providence College, Penn, and Trinity College in Hartford, CT are but a few that are considered on the edge of “dangerous neighborhoods.”

Racism is wrong. It’s wrong when it’s committed by Whites and it’s wrong when it’s committed by Blacks, but please, please do not try to tell me that only Whites can be racist. We should all be outraged by arrogance and ignorance, race, religion, gender preference, or whatever other phobia you may think of…we are people. There are enough people in the rest of the world who hate us. Why should we hate one another?

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I’m going broke! No, this isn’t an appeal for funds, just a statement of fact. The reason for this is squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, hummingbirds, gold finches, doves, and turkeys…yes, turkeys! Allow me to explain…

…Juli, my partner and lady love, is an avid gardener. She does not want garden pests such as the above have been known to be, to chomp on her vegetables or her flowers…her many, many flowers. Therefore, her solution to this potential problem is to feed the critters outside of the fenced yard to ensure that they will not become the ‘munch bunch’ on the inside of the fenced yard. Since a good part of the fenced yard is four foot high chain link, and since squirrels, rabbits, etc., can easily stretch their bods through this chain link, it makes some kind of sense to feed them outside…it says here.

You, dear reader, should be aware that we have two patios…sorta makes it sound ritzy, doesn’t it…it’s not. The patio leading to the back door is about twelve feet long and eight feet wide. This leads to a Florida room – I have no idea why the hell they call it that – and a door on the other side leads out to a larger patio that is the main entrance to the garden. Okay, got that?

For three years, everything worked wonderfully. Juli would toss out some feed for the critters and they stayed out of the garden…except for the occasional blue jay who would steal a raspberry or two and the occasional woodchuck who enjoyed plucking a few strawberries and leaving evidence of his deeds by dropping a load near the berries…nice.

Last fall, a couple of wild turkeys showed up on the patio. Wasn’t this just wonderful; we could sit in the family room and gaze out the window not only at the birds and the rabbits and…well, you get the picture, but now we even had a couple of wild turkeys; how marvelous.

This spring, as the birds returned, something else happened. The turkeys reappeared. This time, it was not one or two, but the whole damned family. At first, it was two mothers with their brood of nine. Up went the grain bill. Next, it was another couple of moms [hens if you prefer], this time with a gang of twelve. These were a bit older…and hungrier than the first family. My grain bill increased. Next came the five members of the turkey mafia; these are five of the meanest sum bitches you would ever want to meet. If there isn’t enough food on the patio, one or more of them will peck on the window until Juli tosses their preferred food onto the patio. Smaller birds, squir…you get the picture…they disappear faster than they do when a hawk swoops down for his periodic buffet – have you ever heard a blue jay scream when its being slaughtered by a hawk; not a pretty sound.

Anyway, this is why I’m going broke. You know the expression, “You’re eating me out of house and home?” It’s generally reserved for teenagers shortly after they’ve gone through that growth spurt that all teenagers seem to go through. This is nothing like that. Okay, two or three, even four teenagers can do a number on your budget, but try feed more than 30 turkeys day in and day out. Those suckers can really put it away, and they don’t even leave an egg in repayment. Well, they do leave something but now we’re back to the woodchuck deposit.

“Why not just stop feeding them?” you ask. Sure, that would work, but then we’d be denied the joy of watching the youngsters grow up; of watching the baby fuzz disappear from all of the chicks, to be replaced by the beautiful feathers that shimmer in the sunlight. We’d miss the anxiousness that comes with counting the babies [and the teenagers] in fear that one or two of them may somehow have not made it through the night.

Do I really begrudge feeding the turkeys and the…ah, forget it. Of course not; I’m just kvetching. Are they truly breaking the bank? Don’t be ridiculous. Yes, it does cost close to a hundred bucks a month, but I know of nowhere else where I can sit on the couch, watch TV, and as a pleasant distraction, look out the floor-to-ceiling windows at nature at its finest. We’ve had deer in the back yard, and we’re only 15 miles from Boston. We even had a fox once, but we couldn’t allow him to stay. I just hope that the turkeys continue to return day-in-day-out. They may be wild but we feed them good grain. After all, Thanksgiving is just around the corner…heh, heh, heh!

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What must the people of many other countries think of Americans? I guess we can now add Australia and its citizens to the list of nations’ citizenry who believe we still ride around with six guns in holsters strapped to our leg and ready to be pulled at the least provocation or just for shits and giggles. Last year I met a massage therapist whose husband was a post-doctoral student at MIT. They had a couple of school-age children, and she was terrified whenever the kids left for school. These people were from Prague in the Czech Republic. She thought that America was beautiful when they first arrived. She told me before they left that she thought it had to be one of the most frightening countries on earth. Gee, that made me feel really proud…NOT!

We have a court system in this country that is completely out of touch with reality. It’s little wonder that police are hesitant about going into domestic violence situations when the judges treat the crime and the criminals in such a cavalier fashion. Getting a restraining order is just about the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of. Restraining orders will not stop a knife or a bullet or a baseball bat.

“You’re disobeying this restraining order so get out!”

“Here’s what I think of your restraining order, bitch!” Bang, bang, bang.

There’s another side to that coin and it goes something like this…

“…Oh, don’t arrest him; it was my fault.” Real meaning equals “If you arrest him, there goes my meal ticket. He may kick the crap out of me, but he pays for the food for my kids…and our booze and drugs.

My solution is that the first time there is a domestic violence situation, the perpetrator or both get a week in jail and the kids go to social services. If booze or drugs are found, it’s a month in jail for both parties. The second time around is a year in jail and the kids are removed from the home permanently. If there is a third time, it’s a ten-year stretch for both. This is all explained the first time the parties go to court.

Is there another solution? Of course there is. There are many solutions, each of them with their own set of pros and cons. However, the worst solution of all is that piece of paper called a restraining order. It means absolutely nothing. Just ask the thousands of women who have been killed while their restraining order sits on the night stand or the kitchen table. Oh, that’s right; you can’t ask them because they are dead! The cops did their job; the courts failed the complainant.

Years ago, I was going to Nantucket to give a workshop to the police department. The chief picked me up at the airport and as we were sitting outside my hotel chatting, He noticed a couple coming out of the hotel’s lounge. The chief excused himself, saying that both the man and the woman had restraining orders against the other, and he’d better get them straightened out…again…before things went south.

Judges say that the prisons are overcrowded so they have to be careful with the sentences they pass down. Meanwhile, there are over 3,000 people on death row in American prisons. My own state, Massachusetts has abolished the death penalty. Isn’t that rather like giving a license to kill? “Hey, you’ll get three squares and a bed; what’s wrong with that?” Other than the fact that you’ll probably become someone’s bitch inside a month and get the crap kicked out of you regularly, sounds like a sweet deal. Yeah, right.

Are any of these 3,000 plus inmates innocent of the crimes of which they have been convicted? It’s a possibility, depending with whom you speak. The ACLU will tell you that many of them are. The police who caught them will tell you that none of them are. The courts will say that they have received a fair trial and been found guilty and sentenced by a jury of their peers. Who can say with 100 percent certainty who is correct. There are times when democracy just doesn’t seem to be able to make up its mind. In our efforts to be fair, we have become to quote the Spanish, “Que sera, sera,” what will be will be.

If our prisons are too crowded now, what will happen in 50 years, a hundred, pick a number? Will we just keep building more and more prisons? Will we continue to spend billions upon billions to keep our criminal class incarcerated? When will we wake up to the fact that it’s not nice to be nice all of the time? There comes a time when examples have to be made that will scare the crap out of the rest of the criminal population in this country. You may not get the death penalty for jaywalking, but you spit on the sidewalk…bye bye!

I can hear the screams of outrage already, “You can’t do that!” “It’s not right.” Prisoners have rights too.” Oh really; what about the rights of their victims or don’t they count? Perhaps they shouldn’t have been walking to school when the drunk driver plowed into them and killed two or three. Perhaps they shouldn’t have been home when the burglar broke in. Perhaps they should have been making deposits in a different bank when the robbers came in with AK47’s. The job of the police is to preserve and protect the citizenry of their area from people like those above, and for the most part, they do a hell of a job. The job of the courts is to put the criminals away where they can do no more harm. The job of the prisons is to keep the real assholes separated from those who might have a chance of never doing it again…probably the toughest job of all. Oh, and don’t kid yourself, many of the correctional officers in these prisons are just a very thin line from being on the other side of the bars. In sum, our entire judicial system, from the cop on the beat to the justices of the Supreme Court, have not moved into the 21st Century as quickly as those on the other side of the law.

The American State Department issues warnings to its citizens on a regular basis: “Don’t travel to this country or that.” Is that where America is headed? Will we become a nation that is called too dangerous for foreign visitors, scholars, or athletes? Truth to tell, incidents of foreign nationals being killed in this country becomes a huge news story (a) because it’s quite infrequent, and (b) the manner in which these murders happen are usually spectacular in some way. Several years ago, Florida was being called a place of slaughter by some foreign newspapers. That was when nine tourists were killed in one year. I don’t know about you, but I don’t hear of that happening any more. The case of Australian Chris Lane is just another murder, horrible as it may be. The fact of his citizenship has little to do with what these three kids were out to do. Lane just happened to be the unfortunate recipient of their diabolical idiocy.

Will white people come out and demand the death penalty for these three Black teenagers. Will Jesse and the Reverend Al appear on the steps of Congress and call for justice. Will Chris Lane’s parents come to America and hit all the talk shows? Probably none of those things will happen. I’ll leave you to figure the answer to that one.

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According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “Polls further confirm that Americans are deeply concerned with the unconstitutional NSA spying programs. In a July 10 poll by Quinnipiac University, voters were asked whether the government’s efforts “go too far in restricting the average person’s civil liberties” or “not far enough to adequately protect the country.” The poll revealed that Americans largely believe that the government has gone too far by a margin of 45% to 40%. This is a clear reversal from a January 2010 survey in which the same question found that 63% of voters believed the government didn’t “go far enough to adequately protect the country.”

How come no one asked my opinion? Did they ask yours? Who do they poll? Is it the people in their office? How are these figures collected? What are their polling techniques? What statistical analyses are used in calculating these figures? Oops, I’m sorry; is that too many questions to be answered? In my time on this earth, I have received a call from a polling organization. I can’t tell you exactly how old I was, but it was long before I was married – 50 years – and long before I went off to college – add another 10 – and I think we still had a four-person party line on our telephone. Suffice it to say, it was a long, long time ago. Hell, I’ve been called for jury duty more than anyone has ever polled me.

If anyone had ever asked me if the NSA overstepped its bounds on spying on American citizens, I would have replied, “Sure they did, but I would rather have them overstep their bounds by 2,800 people than allow one call to go unchecked that might just lead to another 911.” You and I are probably reasonably private people. I’ve had my life snooped and I didn’t like it one bit. When you are being investigated for a security clearance, your life becomes an open book. They investigate everything from the type of pen you prefer to your sexual preferences; they are harsh in their investigation…and with damned good reason. Of course, that was back in the sixties when WWIII was close to starting just 90 miles off the coast of the Keys. It was a frightening time. It appears that such aggressive vetting doesn’t take place in the 21st Century.

Has Wikileaks done damage around the world? Of course it has. Did Edward Snowden blow the whistle on some programs that the country wanted kept under wraps? Yep, that happened too. Do we have the right to be pissed off at the NSA? Aha, there’s the rub. Who is ‘we’ and under what circumstances should we call the NSA to task? The name is National Security Agency. Their mission Is “…to help protect national security by providing policy makers and military commanders with the intelligence information they need to do their jobs. NSA’s priorities are driven by externally developed and validated intelligence requirements provided to NSA by the President, his national security team, and their staffs through the National Intelligence Priorities Framework.” Let me say it another way: These are the people who are one of our primary lines of defense against the United States going ‘boom’ and you and me, our kids and our grandkids, our aunts and uncles, etc, etc. no longer being alive.

In doing their job the NSA fucks up. Unfortunately, when they make a mistake, it becomes national and international news. “Oh, my God, the NSA could have been listening when I told my brother I was having an affair!” Oh, how awful. There are millions of examples that could be given, but why bother? Don’t kid yourself that you’re so important that the NSA is going to monitor your phone 24/7. You probably have a Facebook page on which you post most of your life anyway. “It’s the principle of the thing,” you say. This is one time when I have to disagree with Benjamin Franklin. He said, “Those who would give up an essential freedom to obtain a temporary liberty deserve neither liberty nor freedom.” I cannot regard a telephone as the essential freedom that so many people appear to do. Freedom is what the NSA, the FBI, the CIA, DIA, Homeland Security, and all of these others are trying to protect. The fact that they are contracting out what they should be doing is what scares the daylights out of me. I would like intelligence to be gathered by the people whose mission is clearly defined to do so. Screw these private contractors who submit bloated proposals and are granted overpriced contracts to do what our own intelligence agencies are supposed to be doing. That’s the part of this entire expose that bothers the daylights out of me. If an intelligence analyst at a government agency is caught making unauthorized use of his position, there are penalties in place to remedy the situation. What happens at some place like Booze, Allen Hamilton when someone abuses their authority? Oh, that’s right; they flee to Hong Kong and receive asylum in the new Soviet Union…whoops, Russia, with old KGB Commander, Valerie Putin.

Let us all think about our personal priorities as opposed to the priorities of our nation. There are too many people living here who believe that they are so important the world revolves around them. They are wrong; it revolves around me [just kidding]. Should our conversations be private? Of course they should, but given the choice, hey, listen all you want. Sometime ago, I wrote a piece for this blog which must have touched a nerve somewhere. It was political in nature and undoubtedly castigated the leadership of the nation, the members of Congress, or a particular politician somewhere along the way. It spiked my readership over ten times its normal level. I’ve never had readership like it before or since. It was no big deal, but I’m betting it was read by some poor analyst in a backroom somewhere. Having worked in the intelligence community that seems about the way things work.

If monitoring keeps us safe, I’m all for it. If you think it’s terrible, you can feel free to speak out against it. That’s one of the great things about this country; we have this thing call the Constitution, and the First Amendment to it guarantees that you and I have the freedom of speech. Isn’t America grand?

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“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” Marc Antony’s soliloquy at Caesar’s funeral demonstrates clearly how words can be used to inflict meaning other than that which is so obvious. Brutus had already told the gathered crowd that Caesar was ambitious and therefore had to die, and Caesar’s other killers were also gathered. For Marc Antony to disagree with Brutus would certainly have caused his immediate and painful death. Antony turned the crowd against the killers with his subtle choice of words. Today we call it, “damning with faint praise.” If you had read Julius Caesar in junior high or high school, I can well imagine that (a) you were pissed because you hated Shakespeare; (b) you founded it impossible to make sense of what the characters were saying, and; (c) so they killed the guy, so what? If it went something like that, you were probably not alone in your thinking. Today, as an adult, you probably are still not too crazy about “Wild Bill,” as I used to call him, but I encourage you to read that one speech to see how clever Marc Antony was in his rebuttal of Brutus’ speech.

If you watch television, and if you watch reporters attempt to get politicians to give straight answers to straight questions, you can well understand what I’m saying. Just as Brutus demanded that Marc Antony not make any reference to the killers, and as Antony did so without ever blaming them openly, he cleverly made his position clear and turned the crowd against Brutus and the others.

Antony may be justifiably compared with any politician in America. They never seem to answer a question directly. Watching a newscast the other day and a reporter finally had the courage to address his interviewee by saying, “I’m not going to ask you that question again because I’ve asked it twice and you seem determined not to give me a direct answer. This then concludes the interview.” Damn, but I wish more questioners had that kind of chutzpah.  If I ask a question that requires a yes or no answer, I really don’t expect anything other than yes or no. If I want follow up, I’ll ask for follow up. The minute someone begins to give a long, drawn out response, you can pretty well be assured that they don’t wish to answer the question. There’s an old joke that asks, “How do you know when a politician’s lying?” The response is, “His lips are moving.” What I really like is that there is a new word in this bullshit lexicon. They call it, “spin.”

Democrats spin; Republicans spin; all God’s ‘chillin’ gotta spin, spin, spin! It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. Democrats talk about the Affordable Health Care Act; Republicans talk about Obamacare. People in the Tea Party insist that we reduce the federal deficit immediately but increase spending on defense, education, infrastructure, and pork that benefits their constituents.  Oh, and closing tax loopholes or increasing taxes on the wealthy is not an option. It’s laughable to hear the answers when one asks how reducing the budget can be accomplished, largely because no one seems to have an answer…but they sure want to spend.

There was a time when I enjoyed watching Sunday morning talk shows. Face the Nation, Meet the Press, et. al,  were great fodder for making decisions. Today, it is impossible to listen because people don’t answer questions directly.  It’s a sad state of affairs when one cannot say with certainty who they trust to deliver unbiased news. The days of Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, and David Brinkley are gone forever, I guess. The closest thing we have today to unbiased reporting is Charlie Rose and I’m not all that certain about him…just kidding Charlie.

Adrian Vrettos is a writer who lives in Greece. We have in common our love of Diogenes, the Greek cynic and philosopher who spent nearly his entire life wandering around Greece searching for an honest man. Let me share with you Vrettos’ commentary and why I enjoy his writing so much…

“…ONE of my all-time heroes is Diogenes the Cynic, who spent most of his life chilling in his barrel outside the city-state of Corinth. He was the original Cynic because he believed that men and women lived a life dictated by rules and taboos and therefore no one was really truthful or honest. Actually Diogenes is my hero because he was witty, rude, and had little respect for authority. For example, when Alexander the Great rode down to visit Diogenes in his barrel, he offered Diogenes any gift of his choice. With a scowl, Diogenes snapped back his response: “What you’ve taken away, you can never give me.”
“Huh?” said Alex.
“You’re standing in my sun.”

 

I could easily put my own “spin” on this exchange and bring it into the modern day. It’s difficult, if not impossible, for me to find one honest person in America’s political history. What they have taken away from me, they can never give back. My answer is that they have taken away my trust in humankind, and that, my friends is a terrible loss.

 

Let me offer one other quotation which I believe fits in this little essay. It’s attributed to Lao Tzu who lived in the Sixth Century. Believe it or not, I wasn’t around then, therefore I cannot verify the accuracy of either the quote or the authorship:

 

“Watch your thoughts for they become words.
Watch your words for they become actions.
Watch your actions for they become habits.
Watch your habits for they become your character.
And watch your character for it becomes your destiny.

What more need be said?

 

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