Archive for December, 2014

I really hate to admit this, but I’m not the brightest bulb on Broadway. There are a helluva lot sharper knives in the drawer than I’ll ever hope to be. When it was a choice of college or business curriculum in high school, you don’t have to be a mind reader to know which one I took. If it wasn’t for a good, swift kick in the rear end by my mother, I probably wouldn’t have gone to college. And if it hadn’t been for Louise Gagnon kicking me a few times in high school bookkeeping, I wouldn’t have gotten straight A’s in Accounting while the college course kids struggled with it. Had this been calculus or trig, I wouldn’t have lasted a semester. Truth be told, there were no “laudes” for me at graduation; not summa, nor magna, nor even a cum laude. I think they were just happy to see me gone from the student body. So, what do I do? I go right back into the fray and begin working at the university as an assistant registrar. At 22, my ambition to do something useful and intelligent was damn near nonexistent. It was kind of pathetic.

But things changed for me along the way. I discovered things like setting goals – not so high that I didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of meeting them, and not so low as to be useless – and I began meeting them. I found a thing called time management, to do lists, and job function analysis worksheets, and they were great. I learned a thing called teamwork and how important it was to be part of entire group that accomplished things of importance. In a nutshell, I grew up, and in doing so, I actually became a bit brighter than I had been.

I believe that’s the way things went for most of us. Perhaps in today’s society, with all of the technology and counseling that is available, young men and women graduate from high school with a better understanding of where they’re headed and what their futures will hold, but I’m not certain that’s necessarily true. At a time when a college education can cost more than $200,000, it’s probably wise to have some idea of how you’re going to reap the rewards of such an investment. If that’s not the case, then something is drastically wrong with the thought process that says, “Spend it anyway.” Oh, sure, there are high school graduates who know exactly what they are going to do with their future and off they go to study nursing, medicine, the law, or accounting. That doesn’t mean that they will become nurses or doctors, lawyers or accountants. It merely means that those fields are what they want when they head off to colleges and universities. Life, however, has a funny way of changing our goals and objectives. The student who is studying nursing finds that he or she faints at the sight of blood; the pre-med students finds that inorganic chemistry is just a step too difficult for them and gets shot down; the law student discovers that passing the bar to practice is not really as simple as they made it sound while in school, and; the accountant who finally passes all parts of the CPA exam gets bored to death and finds that he or she wants something different from life.

Now that I’m an old man, it may be that I have something of a warped perception of what life is really like for the 17-18 year old crowd. The technology to which they have access is incredibly advanced. The amount of knowledge available through the various search engines just boggles my mind…and they can study all of this. They certainly can’t learn it all, but it’s out there, in the ether, right at their fingertips. You want to learn the history of civilization? You can call up 95 million references for that subject alone. You can watch videos on just about anything imaginable. There are 336 million references for how to become a pilot. You choose it; the Internet will provide it. If you’re truly goal-oriented and reasonably intelligent, perhaps you can learn whatever is necessary without even leaving your couch, chair, or Starbucks. Oh, wait, that can be right; you have to be credentialed. That means that you have to have that piece of parchment that says you have a “degree;” that you have sat in classrooms for four or more years and are now credentialed to go out into the world and practice your art, science, business, or whatever.  Not only that, but if you have credentials from the ‘right’ college or university, you will fare even better in the world.

There is no doubt in my mind that there are fields in which those degrees are a necessity. I would not wish to have a surgeon who learned his trade on the Internet operating on me. I would prefer to have a structural engineer who has spent time in both the classroom and the field design the bridge I drive over each and every day, and so forth and so on.

I wish that colleges and universities would teach students to carry on an intelligent conversation with others. I wish that college graduates could string two or three intelligent sentences together without a spelling error or incorrect word usage. I wish they could write legibly. Those things don’t seem to matter much anymore, but I can still wish.

Another thing that has changed from “my day” is the concept of ‘family.’ According to the Pew Research Center, “Less than half (46%) of U.S. kids younger than 18 years of age are living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage. This is a marked change from 1960, when 73% of children fit this description, and 1980, when 61% did, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of recently-released American Community Survey (ACS) and Decennial Census data.” Before going any further, I should tell you about Pew. “The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research does not take policy positions.” While my involvement with Pew has been very limited, I have always respected the research that they have published.

Today, according to Pew Research, more children are living in a household where one or both of the parents are remarried. There may be step children concerned. It would be interesting to learn how or if the Cinderella syndrome takes place in these cases. “One of the largest shifts in family structure is this: 34% of children today are living with an unmarried parent—up from just 9% in 1960, and 19% in 1980. In most cases, these unmarried parents are single.”

From some of this, you can see that mine was more of a “Beaver Cleaver” family unit as opposed to today’s traditional non-traditional family group. What have these changes meant? If my own family is any indication, not going to college is just not an option. Learning must be done in an environment that is formal as opposed to self-teaching, and it must provide “credentials” with which young graduates can make their way in the 21st Century market place. As the late, great Maurice Chevalier would have sang, “Oh, I’m so glad I’m not young anymore!”


Read Full Post »

It can be done, one by one

Protesting the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice by white police officers is somewhat akin to pissing into a fifty foot snow bank in order to make it melt. “Black lives matter” is just a convenient sign for the protesters, but it doesn’t mean a damned thing. Of course Black lives matter, just as white, Hispanic, Asia, Native American, Brazilian, and any other life that happens to be, matters. How much good could have been done with the two million dollars that has been spent on overtime and equipment for police to handle the protest demonstrations that have taken place across the country?

I don’t know what has triggered this attitude of hatred in this country, but it sure as hell has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past few months. Quite frankly, too much of it has come out of the black community. “You’re not black so you don’t know what it’s like to be black.” No, you’re damned straight, Skippy, I’m not black but before you take the time to tell me what it’s like, I’d like you to take a hard look at all of the black people who have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and made successes out of their lives. Don’t you go calling them Uncle Toms or Oreos or any of that other bullshit you use when you don’t wish to recognize the achievement of black people in this country, and don’t you go tellin’ me that their achievements have all been because they came from black families with money; that is just so much bullshit and you know it. How many black or white people know about Elijah McCoy, whose parents fled slavery and went to Canada? I love this man; he showed an interest in mechanics at a young age; the parents pretty much apprenticed him to Scotland to learn mechanical engineering. When he came home, of course, he couldn’t get a job because black people weren’t supposed to be professional. He got a job on the railroad and began inventing devices for lubricating engines. This got him noticed and he is, today, recognized for his pioneering work.

You want to talk about a modern-day story – Elijah was back in the late 1800s, early 1900s – but here’s one for you. How about Wally Amos? He was a talent agent for the William Morris Agency; used to bring chocolate chip cookies around to let folks know he’d been in the area.  Helen Reddy, the Canadian singer, and a few other friends told him to start his own cookie business and he did. Had a good thing going until he was bought out by the Bass Brothers. They stole him blind; took everything including his name. Wally didn’t quit or say, “Whitey robbed me;” Wally wrote books, became an inspirational speaker and opened a new cookie factory under a completely new name. You may have heard me say it before but I’ll say it one more time…I am proud to call Wally Amos my friend. When we win the lottery and move to our condo in Hawaii, Wally’s going to be coming for dinner.

You may not have a pot to piss in nor a window to throw it out of but your kid has a smart phone so start looking up some of the stories about black people who have risen from nothing to make a success of their lives. You are no different than any other person. You have the same number of hours in a week to get something done. You just have to figure out what it is you do best and do it.

I look at black students I have known from Babson and Northeastern and I see what they are accomplishing, and I think to myself, “Wait a minute; some of these kids [sorry, but that’s how I think of you] came from pretty rough backgrounds and they’ve made it.” What the hell is wrong with these other ‘kids’ from Mattapan and Dorchester who just want to shoot one another? What the hell is wrong with these ‘killer kids’?”

I hear black mothers on the street, crying their eyes out because their kid got shot and screaming about how good her son was. The kid doesn’t even have the same last name; the shooting took place at three o’clock in the morning, and you’re trying to tell me he was a good kid…I don’t believe you. If you didn’t know he was some kind of a gangbanger, then you had your head up your butt. And black kids killing black kids, what the hell is up with that? Are we all into turf wars or bad drug deals or what? You want a cure for keeping your kid on the straight and narrow? First, keep your legs closed to anyone with whom you do not have a ring and a marriage certificate, and men, keep your pecker in your pants with anyone who is not your wife. Do not have more children than you can afford; sex is great, but condoms are cheap. Before your kid opens his or her mouth to tell you off, give them a backhander and tell them, “That’s for nothing; now you do as I say or expect those on an hourly basis.” Next, go to those parent/teacher conferences and ask questions. You don’t like the way the school is being run? Organize other parents and as a group start asking “Why?” If the satisfactory answers don’t come from the school, go up the line. Fight for the rights of your children. Maybe no one fought for you, but it’s time to change the rules. Be the first; be the fighter for your child’s future.

Yes, I agree with what you’re thinking. I’m white bread living in a white bread community. That does not mean that I cannot tell you what to do. As Wally Amos said to me, “Sure, life gave me some lemons, but I sure did enjoy the lemonade.”

Forget this nonsense that agitators are pulling. “Black lives matter” means nothing. Every life matters but only if we – you, me, your neighbors, my neighbors – all of us understand that getting ahead in life begins with us; with a single person who wants to do better; who is determined to build a better life; and who plows ahead to make life better for him or herself and who shows others what can be done by not looking back but by looking to the future.

Read Full Post »

Love those cars

My Dad purchased a new 1941 Chevrolet from Clark & Taylor just outside of Weymouth Landing. The war hadn’t started yet but the Fore River shipyard was doing a booming business. It was about time, he thought, to get rid of the old four-on-the-floor 1934 Chevy – on which I had learned to drive, by the way; yep, driving at seven – and upgrade to one of those new Hydra-Matic cars…it was, as they say in Boston, “wicked pissa!” There was only one problem with this automatic transmission thingie; it seemed to pop into neutral whenever you went over 35 miles per hour. My sister and I would be sitting in the back seat – without seat belts by the way…I don’t believe anyone had even thought about the need for them back then…and we’d be traveling down the old Route 128, heading north for our vacation and, POP, the engine would begin to race because Dad had gone over 35 mph in the ‘new wheels.’ I’m not certain I ever heard my father curse a car more except when the old Teraplane got two flat tires on the same trip. He’d wait until the engine speed got back to somewhere near where the RPM’s were correct and pull the lever back into driving mode, praying, I’m sure, that he didn’t strip the teeth from one of the gears. It was a hell of a thing, that first automatic transmission.

Dad wasn’t one of those crazy “speed demons.” He was a rather conservative driver. Did I ever tell you about the time he was pulled over on Route 128 for driving too slowly? Well, it happened, and he was pissed beyond belief to thing that some cop would do that to him. Oh, yeah, he was a conservative driver, all right. For those of you not “in the know,” Route 128 is a circumferential highway around the City of Boston. The official speed limit on the road is 55 mph. However, if that’s the speed at which you prefer to drive, I suggest you use the right lane and have your breakdown flashers going continuously. One lane over to your left, others will be doing 65, and 85 is not uncommon in the left lane; my, how things have changed. Had Dad even tried to do 80-85 mph, mother would have peed her pants and the car probably would have shaken apart.

The last car my Dad owned was about a 1960 ought something. It was, as usual, a Chevrolet. I called it “the box.” It had all the sex appeal of a newt. When Dad retired, I thought for certain that he’d break down and get something with a little more pizzazz to it, but not my Pop. He died in 1975 from smoking the cancer sticks all his life. Mom held onto the car for several years after that, until she, too, passed away.

My folks were conservative, unlike their sons and daughter. They were not what one would call risk takers. “If Chevrolet was good enough for my father, it must be the best damned car,” he’d posture, and Mom would say something like, “My son works in the A&P so that’s where we buy all of our groceries,” with an emphasis on the ‘all.’

I really don’t know how my folks would have reacted to some of the television ads for today’s cars. First of all, everyone seems to want you to lease rather than buy. Or else, you can lease the car for however many months with only a certain amount to be paid at the end in order to own the vehicle. When you figure the lease payments plus the finance charges plus all the other little charges that are in the very, very small print, you generally find that you’re getting screwed anyway.

I love watching car ads…because they’re stupid. For instance, why the hell are people chasing that Audi carrier down the street; they’re not going to jump on the truck and drive away in a car. In addition, Santa Claus should have other things on his mind this time of year…and who is that asshole running after him holding onto a reindeer? Hell, he’s too stupid to jump on the beast and make better time. I’d love to see the driver jump out of his truck and unleash a few rounds just in front of the runners. That would damn well slow them down. I want to know why people in Buick ads can’t find the bloody car. The woman standing less than ten feet from her friend…”Where’s the Buick?” Hey, bitch, read what it says on the grille. The same is true for the valet who’s running all over the parking lot. How convenient that the car happens to be right behind me. Some advertising people made big bucks on that commercial. I don’t know why, but they did. The 2014 topper, however, has to go to go to Nissan for their snowboarding vehicles. Yes, in tiny print at the bottom of the screen, overprinting the snow in the half-pipe, and in about a ten percent grey screen, it does say that Nissan’s are incapable of snowboarding. You need really good eyes to see it, but there they are, flying through the air, doing three sixties and one eighties and sliding along the edge of the pipe on their undercarriages while the announcer stands in the middle of the pipe cheerfully touting how great Nissan is and how easy it will be for you to own one. God forbid that ad should ever be the real thing; the announcer would need to be wearing yellow pants so the stains wouldn’t show.

Well, it’s time for me to head to my local Volkswagen dealer. I saw on television where there you can get a car for no money down, zero percent interest, and they make the first payment. I’m told that all I need is a pen. I think I can find one around here, somewhere.

Read Full Post »

Okay, here we go. Let’s get all of the members of the Asia and Hispanic communities across the country to protest the assassinations of Wenjin Lieu and Raphael Romero to get out there and protest. We can smash windows and loot stores and have Lieu’s new wife and Romero’s widow and children appear on television screaming, “Someone has to pay, and it has to be Black people because a Black man killed our husband and our father.” Then the President has to weigh in and say something like, “Wait a minute; these were police officers. They’re expected to go out and die for the city. Then Al Sharpton can get a few more minutes on the boob tube telling the public about what a great big, jolly fellow Ismaaiyl Brinsley really was and then the Blacks in Bed/Sty and other cities, particularly in St. Louis will have a reason to go out and break more windows and loot more stores and…ah, fuck it, this whole thing is just getting completely out of control.

Michael Brown was a thief and robber; Eric Garner was selling cigarettes illegally and resisted arrest; Tamir Rice was waving around a toy gun from which he had removed the orange cover denoting a toy. What the hell was the crime that these two police officers committed? Were they involved in the Garner takedown? I don’t think so. Was it because they were sitting in their patrol car in Bed/Sty trying to keep peace in the streets? Wouldn’t surprise me in the least.  I’m told that Brinsley had a long criminal record so what the hell was he doing with a gun? Answer that one for me NRA. I’m told he had an “undiagnosed mental illness.” What, in the name of God does that mean? If it was undiagnosed, how do we know that he had a mental illness? Behaving like an asshole does not necessarily qualify one as having an undiagnosed mental illness. I have an undiagnosed brain aneurism. Does that mean I have one or not. Well, I get these headaches so that’s what it must be. Now, if you swallow that one, I have a bridge in the Bed/Sty section of Brooklyn that I’m going to sell on the cheap. If you’re interested, drop me a line.

Seriously, the Michael Brown case is over. To Mom, Dad, and Step-Dad, the kid could do no wrong. The video of him shoving the store clerk shows a different side. To the family, he was just a big kid. To Darren Wilson, he was a credible threat. Eric Garner was a big man. He didn’t want to be arrested; wasn’t going to be arrested without a fight. The police jumped him. As I watched the video again, I heard him keep saying that he couldn’t breathe. If he couldn’t breathe, how come he kept saying it? Did the police overreact? Possibly, but why didn’t they just taser the guy and drop him like a sack of flour. “You’re under arrest” means put your hands behind your back after you’re down on your belly. It doesn’t mean, “Fuck you; stay the hell away from me.”

We’ve lost perspective in this country when it comes to law enforcement and how to react when people in law enforcement attempt to do their job to the best of their ability. “Put wings on pigs,” my ass. To me that mean that it was open season on Ismaaiyl Brinsley, and it’s just too damned bad that he got to fire the first shots.

I’ve got news for you Mr. & Mrs. Black America. Too many of you aren’t paying close enough attention to what your kids are doing. Those who are see their kids accomplishing great things. They see that because they are on top of their kids activities from the moment they leave for school in the morning. They pay attention to the report cards; they go to the meetings with their children’s teachers; They encourage their kids to do the right thing. How involved were you Mr. & Mrs. Brown? How involved were you Mrs. Garner? What was Tamir Rice doing out at night playing with his toy gun, waving it around in the park, and where were his parents?

Please, stop trying to excuse the actions of you and your children by telling me I’m white and don’t understand. That has been the bullshit excuse for decades. Just because the color of your skin is different from mine doesn’t mean that you “deserve” greater consideration or that you have “permission” to do things that would get my ass hauled into jail. We are people; you owe me nothing; I owe you nothing. What I do understand is that I know a hell of a lot of Black people who are smarter than I am, and I have great respect for them. I know a hell of a lot of white people who are dumber than I am and I say the same thing to them that I’m saying to many of you…”Get off your ass and do the best with what God gave you. Stop bitchin’ and start thinkin.’ Berry Gordy, Jr. was a prize fighter who was known as “Canvas Back.” He saw the light; borrowed $50 from his mother and if you don’t know the rest, go look it up.

Years ago, after being beaten to a pulp by some true idiots in the Los Angeles Police Department, Rodney King asked, “Why can’t we all just get along?” I don’t care about “getting along” with the Browns or the Garners or the Rice family. They screwed up…and they won’t take responsibility for screwing up. Wake up Black America. There are some fantastic role models out there for you to emulate. Get with the program and start emulating them.

Read Full Post »

What a great holiday season, right? After all, the economy’s growing, unemployment is down, and gas prices have dropped to lows that we haven’t seen in decades. This gives people more disposable income to spend, save, or do with it whatever they wish. Looks like a pretty good Christmas season, eh?

Not quite so fast. Christmas can be one of the most depressing times of the year for a great many people. That’s right, holiday depression is a real problem. I was reminded of this recently when a faculty member at the college where I worked passed away. He was a psychologist and one of his areas of research and expertise was holiday depression. He wrote about it extensively, and I just wish that I had some of his documentation as I sit before this keyboard.

The holidays are tough on many people because it will be the first time they try to celebrate without a loved one who has died during this year. A friend of mine lost his Dad just yesterday. How the heck can he have a Merry Christmas when he and his Dad were so close? It’s tough because, like many holidays, Christmas generally has a number of family traditions attached to it. My late wife and I had some very special ways of celebrating Christmas, both before the kids came along and after our family was increased by one, two, and then the third. Around this time of year I recall those things. It brings a tinge of sadness but what the heck; the kids are now parents themselves. As a consequence, my holiday depression is something that doesn’t linger to the degree that I’m certain it does with others. How am I so certain? Well, that particular faculty member was a friend of mine. We would talk for hours around the holidays about the effects of the period of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I remember him saying that in extreme cases, suicide seems to be the only way out, and that it was important to be aware of how other members of one’s family were reacting to the get-togethers and good times.

Most of us have extra time around the holidays. It gives us time to reflect on what the past year has brought to us. In many cases, it’s brought joy, but also some disappointment. When we begin to focus more on the negative side of the year, it can cause a deepening depression which leads to greater anxiety. Toss in shorter days with more hours of darkness, and you have the perfect recipe for some folks to say, “The holidays suck.”

I really don’t want to get on a pulpit here, but Ben Stein put it very nicely in a You-Tube clip that I saw recently. He said, “I don’t mind when someone wishes me a Merry Christmas, and I’m a Jew. My family has been Jewish for centuries; all except my wife who’s a Presbyterian. The thing we should remember is that the celebration is of the birth of Jesus. Whatever your belief, that’s what the Christians are celebrating, and that’s something for which we can all be happy.” Are the words exactly as Stein put them? Probably not, but I’m not going back to find the You-Tube video. If you’re depressed, check it out and see exactly what he said; it will give you something to do and take your mind off your own troubles.

All I want you to do is to understand that not everyone thinks the holidays are the greatest thing since sliced bread. Well, that’s not entirely true because the young kids get time off from school and wonder what the guy in the red suit is going to drop under the Christmas tree. College kids are on winter break, many heading for warmer climes to do…whatever it is college kids do when they get a break and can make it to where it’s warm and relaxing. Parents, of course, are going nuts looking for the latest ‘in’ toy for the youngest or wondering if what that electronic gadget they bought for the older is “half-fast” as the ad on television would have us believe. It’s a time of stress, and between darker days, uncertainty over this, that, or the other thing, it’s not unusual to see the holiday blues on bold display.

It may not be what my late friend, Professor Charles Rotman, would have counseled, but my recommendation is to find a showing of White Christmas and watch it with a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies in your lap. It may not be the perfect cure for holiday depression, but perhaps it will help you to count your blessings…believe it or not, most of us do have things for which we should be very thankful. Me, I’m thankful that I have a wonderful partner who takes care of me; I’m thankful that I can get up each morning, put my feet on the floor and go to the gym if that’s my desire. I’ve survived three heart attacks, a pulmonary embolism, any number of bouts with skin cancer, operations on knees, back, shoulders, hands, and feet, and although I’m heading down the far side of the mountain, I’m happy as the proverbial…no, no, no, let’s make that happy as a clam at high tide.

I didn’t do it justice, Charles, but thanks for allowing me to discuss one of your favorite topics…and thanks for being my friend.

Merry Christmas everybody.


Read Full Post »

In the last session of Congress, the Democrats proved their inability to govern when the other party had control of one of the houses that comprise the law-making body for our government. Now, knowing that they will lose any ability at all when the next Congress convenes, the Democrats are using the same tactics that were employed by the Republican House. If this isn’t the most scurrilous, contemptible, dysfunctional, and hypocritical bunch of children at play, I honestly don’t know what is. If they were children on a playground, the nuns would be hauling them back by the ear, one in each hand, and rapping their knuckles until the blood flowed.

The photograph on AOL of Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell putting their heads together like a couple of long lost brothers is nothing short of obscene. Some political novice once asked a sitting Senator how he could rail against the actions of another Senator during the day and then go to dinner with the person the same evening. “That’s politics,” the Senator told the confused. I would postulate that it’s not politics; it’s bullshit, and it’s an affront to the voting public…oh, that’s right; I forgot that the American voting public is “stupid.” Oh, Lord, what have we allowed our government to become in this, The 21st Century? In the 224 years since we became independent, wouldn’t you think that somewhere along the way, we would have found the correct way to make our government work without having to go through this deceitfulness that has become an everyday occurrence?

This last minute $1.1 trillion bill that has been passed to keep the government up and running is also loaded with riders that would turn the stomach of a flesh-eating zombie. It’s a win for the trucking industry because it eases the restriction on the number of hours a truck driver could stay on the road; now we’re back to sleepy drivers and higher incidents of truck-related accidents. CitiBank wrote the rider that “…relaxes regulation of high-risk investments known as ‘derivatives’ – rules that were imposed to reduce risk to depositors’ federally insured money and prevent more taxpayer bailouts.”

Another rider on this spending bill, “Allows some pension plans to cut benefits promised to current and future retirees. The change is designed to save some financially strapped plans from going broke. It applies to multiemployer plans, which cover more than 10 million people mostly at small, unionized employers, often in the construction business.” Hey, how did these plans become financially strapped in the first place, and why should the entire burden be placed on current retirees…another smack in the face for the elderly.

Here’s another winner. Under this new spending bill…to keep the government afloat of course…is a rider that allows more money to be given to political parties. The bill will allow each of the “superrich donors” to give nearly $1.6 million per election cycle to political parties and their campaign committees. “The comparable limit for 2014’s elections was $194,400.” Hot damn; as Will Rogers and Mark Twain both said, “We have the best government money can buy.” I can just hear an old-timer telling a first-year Congressman, “Don’t worry son, you may have spent a lot of money on your campaign, but you’re sure to leave here a multi-millionaire!”

To be certain, politics is a game of give and take. “I’ll vote for your bill on this if you vote for my bill on that,” and that’s the way it’s always been and always will be, but for God’s sake, let’s use a bit of common sense. The Republicans get pissed at the IRS so they cut their budget by $350 million? Why, because some of their Tea Party right-wing groups were getting too closely scrutinized? Oh, that’s a great reason. Of course, there isn’t one person on the right side of the aisle who would ever admit that, and the American voting public is too ‘stupid’ to catch on (like hell we are).

We have set term limits for our Chief Executive. It’s about time that the American voting public, this group called ‘stupid’ by some MIT asshole took a stand and demanded that term limits be set for Representatives and Senators. If you can’t do what needs to be done over a period of – and this is an arbitrary figure – ten years, get the hell out of politics and let fresh blood take over, because it’s for damn certain that you have only your best interests at heart; not those of the people who put you into

Read Full Post »

True or not, the accusations being hurled at Bill Cosby do nothing to aid in the perceived concept of what a Black male is like in the United States. At a time when the relations between the minority community and the law enforcement officers is, at best, tenuous, the idea that Cosby, the man who has spoken out and told Black men to become family men, to take responsibility for their actions, can do nothing but denigrate the plight of the Black male in this country.

Perhaps what bothers me most is that I feel let down by Cosby. There are too many women coming forward to make me believe that they are all liars, looking for their 15 minutes of fame at the expense of this man. He was a hero to me, possibly because of his belief in education as a way of advancement, not only for Blacks, but for all people. He earned a doctorate at the University of Massachusetts, and when someone pursues a terminal degree program, they have my admiration. His comedy was, what I would call, practical comedy. He made jokes about everyday life. They were funny with a lesson. He found no necessity in dropping the f-bomb every thirty seconds. His humor was not “Black” humor, but pertained to everyone.

In a 2004 CNN interview with Paula Zahn, Cosby spoke out in a very angry manner, focusing his wrath “…at the African-American community: its rates of juvenile delinquency, its parenting, [and] the coarse language of its youth.

This is about little children … and people not giving them better choices,” he told Zahn for her, show. “Talking. Talking. Parenting. Correctly parenting. That’s what it’s about,” he said, “And you can’t blame other things. You got to — you got to straighten up your house. Straighten up your apartment. Straighten up your child.”

Here is more of the CNN story: “To get the message out, Cosby has organized and continues to organize town hall meetings in inner city communities where community leaders — from police chiefs to district attorneys to parents to schoolteachers — get everyone to talk about how to help give kids better choices.

“Cosby first caused controversy after making a speech at a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court decision that struck down school segregation.

“People marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education, and now we’ve got these knuckleheads walking around. … The lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal. These people are not parenting,” he said, addressing an audience of Washington VIPs.

“Brown versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person’s problem. We have got to take the neighborhood back. … They are standing on the corner and they can’t speak English.”

“A number of commentators have defended Cosby, including NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, who shared the dais with Cosby, and black newspaper columnists Clarence Page and Leonard Pitts Jr.”

This was the Bill Cosby I knew and respected. He was not Jesse Jackson who spouted bullshit and showed up at demonstration after demonstration. He wasn’t the angry ex-football player, Jim Brown who became a Black Power symbol but did little good at smoothing race relations. He was not Al Sharpton or a lackey of the NAACP. He was Bill Cosby, a highly successful, funny parent who had the horrible misfortune of losing a child to a murderer. He wasn’t ‘white bread posing as Black;’ he was a real American Dad who had made it big.

Now, all of this history regarding his sexual appetite is coming out. What are those people he lambasted supposed to belief now? I can just hear some people who took him at his word, saying, “You two-faced son-of-a-bitch; telling me to be responsible and bring my kids up right while you’re off drugging young women and sexually assaulting them? You goddamned lyin’ bastard.”

Bye, bye, role model; bye, bye believability; bye, bye decent human being. After Ferguson, Ney York City, and Cleveland, this is just more ammunition for the right-wing extremists to use in their hate campaigns against the Black community. With this expose, Cosby has driven a spike into the heart of the Black community. More than that, he’s hurt me. I respected his courage to speak out. Now it appears that it was nothing more than words. If I’m wrong I will most assuredly apologize. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that I am. To Jeff, Beshemai, Ernie, Amos, Sy, and all of my other friends, you are my heroes now; I love you all.

Read Full Post »

A citizen of India was visiting the United States. One of the things that astounded him was the fact that this is a country where people of different ethnicities can work together at the same company; in the same building; on the same floor; at desks and in cubicles that are situated right next to each other. When asked what he found surprising about this, he responded that in his country, different groups could never work together because of so many tribal differences. That’s right, it was in India. According to Business Insider, many Chinese people have similar feelings. “…do not understand how America can function so ‘well’ since the people here are all so different. We have Black, Asians, white, Hispanics, Indians just to name of [sic] few and yet we don’t have massive in fighting between races or religions. Go to other countries and the smallest differences in culture, language, and background will almost automatically cause some major issues.”

A German visitor was shocked at the amount of violence that appears in our films and on television and in video games. She could not understand how we tolerate and in some cases celebrate the violent behavior of our “heroes,” yet we are terribly modest when it comes to showing nudity. “It’s pretty infuriating to live somewhere where something as natural and beautiful as the human body is viewed as taboo and ‘corrupts’ our youth, but a guy getting his head cut off or getting beaten to death is perfectly okay for kids to watch.” This is something with which I have had a personal experience. At a beach in Falmouth one day, I happened to be facing the parking lot – early morning; sun shining down on my bronzed body, etc. – when I noticed a woman removing her bathing suit. I mean, she was stripping right out of a black, one-piece suit while standing on a blanket and talking to her friends. There was no sign of embarrassment or concern. She stripped, put on a pair of shorts and a sweatshirt and sat down on the blanket. Later, as we were walking to our car, I overheard her speaking to her friends. It sure sounded like German to me. Nudity, it seems, is not at all associated with sex in other countries. Are we, perhaps, the ones putting the emphasis on the wrong topics.  Violence, blood, guts, and gore versus the beauty of the human body…hmm. The latter just seems to make so much sense. Perhaps our Puritan ethic should be cast aside.

Citizens from many countries have commented on our lack of privacy in toilet stalls. “You have gaps between the door and where it attaches and you have doors that don’t reach the floor. I feel exposed.” What these visitors don’t realize is that these large, open spaces are there so that Congressmen can pass notes to unsuspecting people in other stalls {ooh…not nice].

Some foreign visitors find it difficult to understand how poor people in America are obese while rich people are less so. When told about buffets by his daughter, one Russian father had difficulty with the concept. “You just pay to walk in?” he queried.  Food is often a topic of question by visitors to this country, including the fact that portions, even in the home, are so large…gee, think that has anything to do with our obesity problem.

The cultural differences between America and its international visitors are so vast that it’s no wonder many from other nations find us arrogant and intolerable. “You show your flag everywhere. Why do you believe patriotism is so important?” is a question asked by many. The fact that we go everywhere by car is understood because our country is so large, but driving a few blocks or even a couple of miles to visit a relative or friend is incomprehensible to people who walk everywhere.

I should note here that I am not an international traveler, which is, perhaps, the reason I find this topic so interesting. While my children have been to a number of continents including Europe, South America, Asia, and Australia, old dad has been lucky to make it to Canada and Bermuda, and the former was only in the winter…brrr!

I cannot help but wonder just how the events of the past several weeks might change the opinions of some of our visitors. If they couldn’t understand the violence of our television and film before, what will they think of the violence in our streets? Will their “state departments” warn them that America is too dangerous for them to travel there? Will their citizens be too frightened to visit New York, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Boston, or wherever? Certainly, every country has its share of unrest, but it seems as if ours is getting just a bonnie wee bit out of hand.

Read Full Post »

In my teaching career, more than 4,000 police officers have passed through my classrooms. They have been young and still very wet behind the ears; they have been old, set in their ways and some might even call them grizzled. There have been men and women, black, white, Latino, and Asian. They have been from as far west as Wyoming; as far south as Louisiana, and there was even a group from Haiti. By and large, these were good, dedicated, hard-working men and women. There were a few sour apples along the way, but they were quickly identified and more often than not, were asked to leave before a call was made to their chief. I have to freely admit that I like cops…even the one who pointed his gun at me and those who have pulled me over for this, that, or the other thing.

When people who are not in law enforcement talk about a “Blue line,” they don’t and cannot possibly understand the full meaning of those two words. We don’t hear about it all that often, but every single day that an officer of the law walks out his or her back or front door, the husband, wife, or partner of that “Badge” has no idea if this will be the day they get “the call.” Put bluntly, it’s a bitch of a way to live one’s life.

There are many times when police officers have temptation thrown in their paths. The vast majority are able to resist the temptations they face. There are a few, for whatever reasons they may have, who cross the line and become something less than they are supposed to be. I cannot give you actual numbers of the cops who give in to these temptations, but I’m willing to bet it’s less than five percent across the nation.

Even times when it ‘appears’ that police have trampled on someone’s civil rights, there are processes to determine whether or not, the police were wrong or right. Internal Affairs Bureau is not in place to whitewash a brother officer, believe it or not. Grand juries look at evidence to determine whether or not the party – cop or not – should be indicted. Sometimes they get it right; other times, those of us not serving on those juries wonder exactly what the heck they were thinking.

In the case of Officer Darrin Wilson in Ferguson, I’ve already made my position clear. I believe the grand jury returned the correct verdict. In the case of Officer Daniel Pantaleo, I have great difficulty understanding why an indictment wasn’t issued.  Forget the choke hold; when we hear the suspect clearly yelling, “I can’t breathe” as many times as Eric Garner was heard, it’s time to release or reduce that hold. Was Mr. Garner lying? I cannot find it in my mind to believe that he was trying a ruse to get away. What I don’t understand is why it had to reach the point that a choke hold was necessary, but, and it’s a bold but, I wasn’t there and I don’t know what other words or actions preceded Officer Pantaleo’s jumping up and applying the choke hold. From the video that we have all seen, I believe that the charge in an indictment might have read “Sufficient cause to indict on a charge of involuntary manslaughter.” Am I defending the people who are lying down in the street and otherwise disrupting traffic and God-knows-what-else on Staten Island and in New York City? No, I cannot justify those actions. Calling them “peaceful protests” is erroneous; they are not peaceful because they are disruptive. In addition, we are well aware that they won’t remain peaceful because agitators from all of the country are going to pour into the Big Apple and attempt to make each bite they take bleed red. It’s already happened when the nut from Brooklyn threw fake blood that splattered Police Commissioner William Bratton and nine other law enforcement officers. In addition, an outside agitator from California flew from Ferguson to New York to begin protesting.

We still have one more case of “cop kills Black” to go through, and this one is going to be a beaut. Officer Tim Loehman is going to get hung out to dry for shooting twelve-year old Tamir Rice. The problem is that Loehman should probably never been allowed to carry a gun and a badge, and that is the fault of the Cleveland Police Department. Unfortunately, America has been through three “White cop kills Black man” situations recently. The first two have – so far – allowed the white cop amnesty. The President of the United States has now gotten involved. Does anyone honestly believe that Officer Loehman will not get thrown under the bus? He shot and killed a kid with a “gun” less than two seconds after arriving on the scene. His previous police experience ended in a terrible manner. His supervisor and his chief sent letters to Cleveland that basically said, “If you hire this guy, you’re nuts!” Cleveland authorities admit that the officer was not properly vetted, but you can bet your boots it won’t be the “Cleveland authorities” who will take the fall. Say goodbye to freedom for a while, Tim Loehman. After the grand jury and the trial, you will be able to add, “S.L.C.” to the end of your name for you will now be known as the Sacrificial Lamb of Cleveland. Whereas academics may be proud of putting Ph.D. after their names, I don’t think this one will bring you any pride whatsoever.

Frankly, I can see only one of these cases where proper police procedure was followed, and that was in Ferguson, Missouri. I made my points on that in the post,  ‘Wake up Fergusonians.’ The case of Eric Garner is open to a great deal of interpretation and since I have no intention of reading the grand jury minutes, nor the reason for the lack of an indictment, I’ll just shut my mouth and get on with living.

If everyone is looking to blame someone or something, perhaps we should be asking ourselves, “Why don’t we have more qualified minority police officers?” Why isn’t this a career choice for more minorities? Is our system exclusionary in some way? There are many questions that need to be answered. Officer Pantaleo is 29 years of age. He says that he learned the hold he used in the Academy. If that be the case, did he enter the Academy at the age of 12? After all, in theory, this hold was taken out of the curriculum in 1997. Just sort of makes you scratch your head and wonder, doesn’t it?

Read Full Post »