Archive for July, 2016

America is a nation in conflict. It didn’t happen overnight, but it’s upon us now, and I’m not certain the “thinking heads” know how to resolve it. Most assuredly, I am not one of those thinking heads, so really all I have to offer is how it all began, and where I believe it’s going to lead.

On September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked in a cowardly fashion by a group of Middle East radicals. I deem it cowardly because they used innocent civilians and attacked innocent civilians. If they could speak, they would say that America had killed innocent civilians from their countries. However, there is a huge difference between collateral damage and two attacks that openly sought to kill non-military targets. If for no other reason, this differentiates what happened on that day versus what happened on December 7, 1941, the last time America was so attacked, and the last time that America was truly a nation in conflict.

In my mind, we responded to that attack in cowardly fashion. We started a war with a country that had little to do with the 911 incident. We justified it by saying that this was a horrid dictator who had weapons of mass destruction and who was killing his own people. The American public swallowed the lie about the weapons of mass destruction, and since this son-of-a-bitch had been torturing and killing his people for years, along with many other Middle Eastern dictators, what business was it of ours anyway. Thinking heads never bothered to tell us that the real culprits were Saudi Arabians because that country is/was/always had been run by our friends…an outright fabrication since the majority of the killers on 911 were Saudis and Saudi Arabia is/was/ and always will be a major training ground for terrorists as well as a major source of funding for terrorist activities.

When we are foolishly satisfied that we have done everything to remove the hated dictator and his family, we attempt to put into place a democratic form of government which cannot possibly succeed because of the manner in which much of the Middle East has behaved for about 3500 years before Jesus Christ was born. Tribes, tribal government, and tribal warfare worked for the inhabitants then and from what I’ve observed, it appears that it is exactly what many inhabitants prefer in the 21st Century. Other than the Israelis, it either takes a strong dictator with a strong and supportive military to hold the country involved hostage or it takes tribes defending their own small patch of ground without outside interference to keep outsiders out!

So, what happens? America pulls out of Iraq, leaving behind a cadre for training the ‘new’ military – who are from mixed tribes that hate each other by the way. The government that America tried to form is/was/ and always would be corrupt because it wasn’t truly representative – and never could be because of tribal hatred. Into the void steps Al Qaeda, against whom America unleashes its might and “destroys,” it says here. Few talk about the fact that in the 1980s, we loved Al Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden as well as several other terrorist organizations in the Middle East because they were a buffer against the then Soviet Union. In other words, America wanted to have everything its own way, and if we could find a villain, well, what the hell, let’s make use of our military to put things right. There’s only one little problem with that. In putting “things right,” people die…on both sides, and in America’s case, around 7,000 men and women have been killed.

From the ashes of Al Qaeda or just from pure hatred, up comes the head of ISIS, far more organized, far more intellectual, far more tech savvy, and far more dangerous. Why? Because they want to take on the world. They don’t give a damn who you are because if you’re not with them, you have to die. Accept their version of the Quran or die; in fact, even if you accept their version, you still might have to die…ie, they are fanatics. So what does America do? It leads the fight against ISIS. And what does ISIS do? It radicalizes Muslims all over the world to take action…take action in Spain, in England, in France, in America, in wherever they can find someone in whatever country who is willing to go out and kill the citizens of that country even if they have to die doing it. So, whether you’re a spectator at the Boston Marathon or at a club in Orlando; whether you’re a soldier at Fort Hood or a government health worker in San Bernadino, you don’t know when or where some radicalized Muslim who declares loyalty to ISIS is going to attack next. To date, ISIS has launched 143 attacks in 29 countries and have killed 2,043 people. Don’t you believe that is enough to cause America to become a nation in conflict? There are people who become paralyzed by hearing of the attacks by ISIS. There are others who want to carry their weapons and shoot anyone who looks vaguely Middle Eastern.

To further complicate an already complex situation, members of America’s black minority became enraged when a white policeman shot a black man in Ferguson, Missouri. A new slogan sprang up, “Black Lives Matter.” Then a black man was killed in New York when a banned choke-hold was used on him by a white police officer…and the slogan became a movement. Next, it was two white policemen shooting a black man in Baton Rouge that was captured on a cell phone and the video went viral. Not long after, the same thing occurred in Minnesota when a white policeman shot a black man four times…he bled out before help could be called. And you don’t think this doesn’t put America in conflict. It should also be noted, in all fairness, that despite making up just 13% of the population, blacks committed half of homicides in the United States for nearly 30 years. DOJ statistics show that between 1980 and 2008, black people committed 52% of homicides. In 2013, black criminals committed 38% of the murders. Whites accounted for just 31 percent. This beats Pareto’s Principle where 80% of the trouble is caused by 20% of the populace. And are you beginning to get a picture of why America is a nation in conflict?

The straw that has put America completely on edge is the appearance of Donald Trump. In his acceptance speech before the Republican National Convention and god-only-knows-how-many television viewers, he said nothing to allay American’s fears. He preyed on them. He painted a picture of America so dark that one might have wondered if the apocalypse was going to occur right after he spoke or the following morning. He has fed into the conflict that so many Americans are suffering today. He is right, however, in that we do have some problems, but they are solvable. Yes, ISIS is a threat, but lack of vigilance is also a threat. Not every man with a beard and long hair is a terrorist. Not every woman wearing a hijab or an abaya is concealing a weapon in her hair or under her cloak. Yes, we live in a different world, and yes, it is a world more of war than of peace, but I personally believe that Americans are hypocrites. We want peace, but we aren’t willing to take some important steps to get it. England has a CCTV system with some 5.9 million cameras. Many are not government run, but they cover much of the country’s important areas. In America, the ACLU and other anti-big-brother groups would be all over that like a white on rice so it becomes a matter of privacy versus protection.

Where do we go from here? Your guess is as good as mine. Do we and other countries go all out and crush ISIS? To what end? Won’t some other terror group take their place? If America can’t rid itself of its gang problems, how the heck do we believe we can crush terrorism at home? Will the black community and the law enforcement community ever trust one another? My guess is not so that conflict remains. Will we ever prevent guns from falling into the hands of the mentally unstable so that there will never be another Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech? Probably not. It’s a very dim outlook folks and until someone or someones admit our problems and become pissed enough to take action, America will remain…a nation in conflict.

Read Full Post »

Yes, someone should be held accountable for the job he, she, or they did on – not to, but on – Donald Trump’s wife on the first evening of the Republican National Convention. I was glad to see that Scott Brown made a complete fool of himself by calling what Melania had to say a non-issue and that only the media were making a big deal of it. Clue, Scott…it is an issue and it is a big deal.

It’s horn tooting time for a minute…I have run events that while not paralleling the RNC or the DNC, have come reasonably close. I have also written speeches for any number of people along the way. I cannot understand how someone, somewhere in the entire organization didn’t say, “Hey, wait a minute. That sounds vaguely familiar. Will someone please Google a few of those sentences and get back to me on this.” It would have been so simple. If you wanted to get the same thoughts across to the audience, it would have been simple…speak the way Mrs. Trump speaks. Don’t let her speak the way her well-proven-stupid speechwriters think she should speak. I cannot say how strongly I feel for what this woman has been subjected to over this past twelve hours. Perhaps, unlike her husband, she has a skin that is thick enough to absorb what is being said, but if that same group of writers had been asked to write for any other speakers, I for one probably wouldn’t listen to a thing they gave me. At the very least, I would ask the source of their material.

It’s very easy to sit here and criticize what Mrs. Trump did, so let me tell you how I would have advised the speech writer to approach the entire subject:

1. Determine who the speakers are to be on the first night of the convention. This could have been done months ago. Here is where the platform party, the chair of the RNC, and Mr. Trump can be very helpful. In my mind, I would have told everyone the Mrs. Trump should be an early speaker to attempt to calm down some of the ill-will toward her husband. That becomes the theme…what a great person Donald really is. The rest of her remarks should be geared to the “because” of the theme, sort of the “He kisses every baby he sees,” type of thing.
2. If you get buy-in from the rest of the group, perhaps with a few reasonable suggestions…you hope…you go to Mrs. Trump and say, “I have asked all of these people (always mention the spouse first) when they would like you to be a main speaker?” Never use the word “if” unless you want your ass thrown summarily out the door or under the nearest bus. Then follow up with, “Donald feels you should be on stage on the very first night. This is compliment, compliment, compliment time. For all you know, she may not wish to speak at all. She may have had a spat with hubby that afternoon and told him off. You don’t know. Your position here is more difficult than the proverbial egg shell walk.
3. Let us assume, however, that she loves her husband and will do anything to please him, ergo, she agrees to talk and to do so on opening evening. In your back pocket, you have an outline of what the others want her to say…DO NOT LET HER SEE THIS. You then pop the big question: “What do you believe you should tell this gathering of 100,000 people.” It’s okay to inflate the figure a bit just to increase the pressure. She probably has ideas already. This woman is not stupid and knows that she will be speaking…unless Donald wants to see his head on a platter with an apple in his mouth… so listen to her. Take copious notes and have that tape recorder in your pocket turned on with the volume way up. As she makes a point that has been covered by the other groups, insert a few of their (not attributed to them, of course) points, adding to what she has already said.
4. Now it’s time to draft. Combining what she has said with the general theme, put together something that is just a bit too long. Why? Because things will be cut and things will be added, both by Mrs. Trump and by all of the cronies who will demand to look at the speech. Should you take this back to her and she likes it, you now have the difficult task of telling her that it’s too long for the time allotted. This is where the relationship you tried to build in point #3 will tell you just how successful you were. This really is key. You might have met this lady three, four, or five times in both of your lives. She must believe that you have her best interests at heart, and if you don’t get the hell out; you aren’t doing her, the speech, or Mr. Trump any damned good at all. Listen, listen, listen; if you’re any good at all, you will learn (a) if you’re even on the right track, and (b) where cuts can be made and strength added. With all of her suggestions heeded, go back and put together something acceptable.
5. Before taking this draft back, Google every sentence in the draft to learn if something similar has been said before. If it has and it’s by a long-dead statesman or woman of note, put quotes around it and cite the person. This will show that you’ve done your homework and it will raise her IQ by 20 points in the minds of the audience. Caution, don’t do this too often in anyone’s remarks. Once or twice isn’t bad but beyond that, you’re treading on dangerous ground.

Are there other clues to be offered? Sure, but those are for another time, another place. It’s my understanding that Mrs. Trump’s speech writer has admitted that she made mistakes. I have to say that the first mistake made was by the Trump campaign in hiring this person. The occasion and this sub-portion of it, were just too important not to have everything checked again and again and again. I feel badly for Mrs. Trump for this will follow her for the rest of the campaign…and that’s sad.

Read Full Post »

Here we go again. Two black men get shot by police and a black man retaliates by taking the lives of five white policemen. The protesters go out and protest, sometimes peacefully; more often than not with rocks and bottles and taunts of the police. The police then retaliate by arresting protestors, often with little restraint, and the circle of mistrust and hatred goes on. The President of the United States, The Man, The Honcho, The Big Cheese shows up at the memorial service for the white policemen and he says that something must be done to improve race relations in the United States. The black man should not fear the white policeman but he does and he will, and we must change this, he tells us. Then he says that he’s going to bring all sides together to discuss ways in which we can make this change happen.

I sit back in my comfortable recliner in a neighborhood where the only black people are those who are nannies or coming to do housework or take care of the lawn and I think to myself, “What a bunch of bullshit!” Nothing is going to change, period, end of report. Nothing is going to change because as long as we have gangs of black kids and as long as we have white cops, there is going to be mistrust and even hatred. In addition, we will have gangs of black, Latino, Asian, and other gangs just as long as there is a quick buck to be made by selling illegal drugs or performing any other illegal task that will make them money without having to work too hard to get it.

So, will breaking up the gangs and putting all those lawbreakers away make a difference? No, it won’t and for several reasons. The first reason is that the gangs are better organized than the police? Why? Because towns, cities, states, and the federal government won’t fund the law enforcement community to the extent that they need to be funded to eliminate the gangs. Perhaps some of you remember when one of law enforcement’s major complaints was, “We can’t arrest them because we can’t get near them because they are so much better armed than we are.” It was true then and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the same argument held true today.

Another truth is that gangs are allowed to flourish because communities allow ghettos to remain. A manufacturing firm in Detroit moves its production facilities to Mexico, China, or even to somewhere in North Carolina because it’s more cost effective. What happens to that manufacturing plant in Detroit? It’s allowed to turn into a rusty, old mass of concrete and steel; home to drug addicts and homeless people, and then as a hangout for drug dealers and eventually a group of young men and perhaps a few women who move in as part of a gang. Why aren’t these buildings demolished? The communities cannot afford to demolish them and if they do, what do they do with the detritus that’s left behind?

The problem of race relations in America is not a problem of trust or mistrust. It’s not a problem of better training for police. Take a hard look at Dallas. Race relations in that city were probably as good as you’ll find anywhere in the country. One dissident person whose skin happened to be black messed that situation up for probably years to come. That’s another one of the tragedies that happened in Dallas. And the same damned thing is true of Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and wherever in Georgia, Tennessee, and other parts of the country.

No, we cannot solve the problem of race relations in this country with just a couple of proposals or by throwing a few million dollars at the problem. The problem of race relations in America is a problem so complex that you can’t even say “race relations” is the problem. Race relations is a condition that is made up of myriad problems. In order to begin to eliminate the condition, we have to identify the problems that are causing it and eliminate those problems one by one by one.

My next question, and I have a ton of them, is, ”Who are the people who can actually identify the problems that make up this condition we have branded “race relations?” Is a White House conference the answer? Of course it isn’t. It looks pretty. They even flew in the son of Alton Sterling to participate, and his comments about peaceful protesting made all of the major news channels. Tell me, however, what does a 15-year old know about race relations in Oakland, or New York City, or anywhere other than what he has seen in Baton Rouge? I’m not trying to play the hardass here, but problem solving 101 is first identify the problem. It may have to do with any number of things, but one thing is for certain, using the term “race relations” and trying to classify that as the problem makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

So we will have our conference and we will hear all sorts of bullshit recommendations, most of which will lay the blame at the door of white cops. And then it will be back to business as usual except that the cops will get more pissed because of the bullshit recommendations, and the gangs will go back to being gangs, and the ghettos will go back to being ghettos, and America will go on being America…until the next time, and then we’ll begin the process all over again…what a goddamned shame!

Read Full Post »

Choices…What an interesting word. Are you aware that the average adult makes 35,000 choices in a single day? That’s right; you read that correctly…35,000. Heck, we make 226.7 choices just about the food we’re going to eat in a single day. By contrast, children make only about 3,000 choices in a day. Much of the research, particularly about the food, was done at Cornell University, which is appropriate considering they have one of the best schools of hotel management in the country.

But…once more I digress, only to be pulled back to the subject at hand; in this case, “choices.” I’m willing to bet that without half trying, you could list 1,000 choices you make in a day. Consider your clothing, your mode of transportation, your job, your career, the television you may or may not watch, and of course let us not forget about the food you choose…or not. I suppose we could add the choices you make about what to do on the computer or, if you use a smart phone…oy, let’s not get started on those choices

I’d like to consider myself as a pretty average adult. Stop laughing right now! Okay, so I’m a bit older than average. Maybe I’m a bit taller than average even with my age-diminished-height. I could also be thought of as a bit heavier than average – although I have just lost 25 pounds, with 25 more to go. But here are some of the choices I have to make first thing in the morning: Gym clothing or street clothes; water or fruit juice; a protein bar or some fruit; go to the gym or not; if not, what will we be doing today and how do I dress for it; if going to the gym, is the battery charged on my I-pod or should I charge it while I’m getting ready to go. I could go on and on and on and I haven’t even been to the gym yet! Geez, all these choices, most of which we make without even considering that we are doing so. Are you getting my drift here?

If you remember Newton’s Third Law…”For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” then you will, perhaps, understand why we make those 35,000 choices each and every day. Making a single choice influences so many other choices that they quickly add up, and the number doesn’t appear quite as large as it initially did.

Along the line we may make some choices that don’t affect us at the time but that have a huge impact on us later. My decision to smoke for 51 years of my life has now resulted in emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). As a result, my choices of exercise are quite limited. On the other hand, my choice not to get involved in any criminal activities – yes, it was a choice – means that I didn’t have any kind of a record that would have prevented me from getting a security clearance or pursuing any number of professions.

Are there choices that I made that perhaps I should not have? Absolutely. Let me cite college as an example. In my undergraduate years, I never took the classroom all that seriously. That was a choice that, in hindsight, was about as dumb as I had to have been. Don’t get me wrong, I had wonderful collegiate experiences. They just weren’t in the classroom. By the time I got to graduate school I was married, had a full-time job, and truly recognized the value of higher education. To this day, however, I look back at my undergraduate days with some regret.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you for a few moments. What choices did you make today? Were they choices that affected only you or were the effects felt by others? Were the effects on others positive or negative? Did your choices affect the choices made by others? The choices you make as an individual, ie, breakfast, clothing, etcetera, these only affect you. Supposing, however, that you are the head of a small or even large organization. Every choice you make may affect the lives of hundreds or even thousands of others. The choices you make compound over a lifetime and lead to who, what, and where you are. Your choices define you, and they define how others view you. This latter may not concern you at all, but you’d be wise to consider it. Let us return to you as leader, president, CEO, or whatever title you wish to hold. Your choices now become decisions and those decisions always affect the choices and actions of others. So how do you make those decisions? Do you go with the first choice that is offered and to hell with the consequences? Do you make the choice to go with what will please the majority, even though it may have long-term negative consequences? Or do you carefully weigh what is good for the organization, the employees, the community, and a host of others that will be affected by this one decision that is made up of complex choices?

It’s at this point that you begin to think, “Damn, I never looked at my choices this way,” or words to that effect. Our simple choices that only affect us are one thing, but when your choice has a ripple effect (damn, there’s that word again), well, that’s when things become complicated. If you’re on the top rung of the ladder, the choices you make cannot be made impulsively. Every single factor must be weighed. It doesn’t become a breakfast choice or a clothing choice, or the choice of a television program to be watched. Your choice becomes your decision. Can you live with it?

Read Full Post »

Moving forward

I must admit that I’m getting tired of all of these demonstrations protesting “Black lives matter.” If that makes me a racist or a hater, fine, so be it. I would much rather see a group of mixed races carrying banners that proclaim “All lives matter.” I agree one hundred percent that many of the men who have been killed have been black.

You will never convince me that Michael Brown was anything but a thug, and that if it hadn’t happened when it did, he would have died of gunshots elsewhere and in some other fashion. You can’t convince me that Freddie Gray’s death wasn’t preventable or that his family has a wonderful “violation of civil rights” case that I hope they bring against the Baltimore PD and the city. I have stated previously that the Sterling case is just out-and-out murder, and after taking a harder look at the Philando Castile tape and listening to his fiancé, I believe the police officer should be charged with voluntary manslaughter…at the very least.

All of that being said, I have to ask myself, “Why is it only black men I see being shot or strangled to death or clashing with the police? Where are all of the white offenders?” Having taught somewhere over 4,000 cops during my teaching days, I don’t remember any of them expressing a desire to go out and arrest minorities of any color…and I taught plenty of cops of different colors. So, will someone please help me out here? Why is the video I see only of white police killing black people? I’m not going to fall into the trap of saying, “black offenders,” because Alton Sterling had been selling CD’s in front of that store for over a year. Did he wave a gun at someone? That’s what the caller to the police said, but was he waving a gun at the police? Castile, I gather, admitted that he had a gun, but if you pulled him over for a broker tail light, does that mean you automatically unholster your weapon and begin firing?

If you’re old enough to remember the movie, “Cool Hand Luke,” then you remember the line, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate” and that is a very small part of what is going on in America today. Community policing was all the rage several years ago. It took police officers out of cruisers and onto walking beats, in pairs where the communities could afford it. Officers talked with citizens and citizens talked with officers. The example cited today is Camden, New Jersey, where this is still taking place and where murder and crime rates have dropped significantly. I don’t know what the policy is in Baltimore or Falcon Heights, Minnesota, but it seems to me that the training done in Camden should serve as a model for police departments around the country.

We are at a crossroads in American History. Today, black Americans make up 13.3 percent of our population. Whites make up 77.1 percent. Why then do black Americans account for 62.2 percent of the crime in America while whites account for 22.4 percent? And please, please, please, don’t give me that bullshit argument that “the man is holding us down.” That went out with the carpet baggers. There are too many great black Americans to throw that old horseshoe back in my face.

Any number of black leaders have already identified one of the major causes of black crime; black men are shirking the responsibility of staying around to help raise their children…wham, bam, thank you maam, and my ass is outta here. I’m not the first person to say that, although I might well be the first white person to put it in print. Despite that, I can still tell you two stories with which I have had a very close personal relationship with where single mothers have raised their kids, gotten them into somewhat prestigious institutions of higher learning and those children – one boy and one girl – have gone on to do wonderful things with their lives. Their stories will make the hair stand up on your neck, but by God, they made success for themselves and for their children.

This is America. This is the land of opportunity. This is the place where a kid can go from prize fighting to become an entrepreneurial mogul of a huge music organization. This is the place where your skin color doesn’t define you but your ability does. Let me offer a twofold piece of advice: (1) To police departments across the country. Strengthen your training to include community relations, not just as a bullshit subject because you’re required to have an hour or so of it. Make it real. The job of a law enforcement professional is not just to uphold the law but to be a model of the law. Sure, there are some bad apples in your barrels. You know who they are. Get rid of them. The fact that the officers who killed Alton Sterling already had four excessive use of force complaints in their jackets tells me that they should even have been on the street. Community policing really does work. Put it in with your yearly goals and hold your officers’ feet to the fire to find out how they are doing it. (2) To the black mothers out there, I would ask you to be more selective with the partner you choose. You are the strongest force among people of color. You know it and so do I. Take no nonsense from your man or your children. As my dad used to say, “Take no prisoners.” You owe it to yourself, to your children, to your community, and to this nation.

To the white Americans who see television and think, “Just another n_____r getting killed because he must have committed a crime,” I would say, “You don’t really get it, do you?” Walk a mile in that man’s shoes before you start making assumptions. We really are at a crossroads, but we all need to meet there and talk there and understand one another there. Then, and only then, will we be able to move forward together.

Read Full Post »

Had an e-mail in the SPAM folder this morning. The subject line read, “How to increase your quality of life.” Well, hell, you know me, I just jumped on that sucker like there was no tomorrow! That’s not exactly the truth; I deleted it along with the other forty-some-odd that happened to be in that batch. The reason was quite simple…that e-mail was going to tell me how to enlarge my pecker, offer me some new kind of vibrator or dildo, increase my bust size or invest in a sure thing that was going to make my life a living dream…sorta like winning Publisher’s Clearing House or the Power Ball Jackpot.

I don’t mean to sound suspicious or questioning of these “SPAM-ABLES” but as the saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, so that just find their way quickly into the trash bucket to be sent god-only-knows-where out into the ether. The ones that I will sometimes look at are the ones with the subject line, “Hello dear” because I just think they’re priceless.

Increasing our quality of life is not going to be found in some damned e-mail or other. Only we can improve our quality of life, and it certainly won’t happen while we’re waiting for our lottery winnings or PCH to come a’knockin at the door. Nope, it’s our gig, and we have to play it. Recently, Juli downloaded a series of books. Since she’s nice enough to share them with me, I began reading the first. Its title is “Hell’s Super” by Mark Cain. Couldn’t put the damned thing down (note the use of the word “damned” in speaking of a book about Hell), and laughed my ass off through 90 percent of the reading. Now that was an improvement on my quality of life, if only for a few hours.

Looking at improving life’s quality long term is not really something I’m into for to me, long term is this afternoon. For those of you fifty years or younger, sure, go ahead, make those long-term-quality-of-life-plans which you may or may not have the opportunity to pursue. I used to believe that one of those European river cruises would be a fantastic experience, thus improving my quality of life, if only for a brief period. It’s not going to happen, but that doesn’t adversely affect my quality of life so what the hell!

My quality of life…and yours too, happens every morning you open your eyes after a good night’s sleep. You plant your feet on the floor, take a breath, rush pell mell for the bathroom, and another day begins. Remember, some people didn’t open their eyes, didn’t have a good night’s sleep, won’t be putting their feet on the floor…ever again, and wow, doesn’t that put you ahead of the game? Damn right it does.

It’s strange, but at 81, I don’t consider myself old. I am and I know that but there are others a lot older and doing more things…God Bless Them. But I’m very happy with what I can do, things like going to the gym and riding a bike or lifting some weights, or just talking with friends. These are good things, quality of life things. “Increase my quality of life?” The only way my life could be improved…no, for me, I’m not certain what would improve my quality of life. It certainly wouldn’t be money. More money would just make me smug. Then I’d want to go out and buy a new car or a beach house or some crap like that. The new gizmos in the new car would just confuse the hell out of me and I couldn’t travel to a beach house anyway!

The quality of your life is exactly what you make it, no more, no less. It seems to me that it all comes down to a matter of choices. You can choose to have a shitty life or you can choose to make the very best of what you can. My late wife could have prolonged her life by going through chemotherapy and radiation. Her reaction was that the only thing those treatments would have done would be to give her quantity of life, not quality. When the doctors tell you that you have Stage 4 cancer throughout your body and that you aren’t going to get better, why suffer through some bullshit treatments that may prolong your life but keep you miserable for the entire time?

So what do you want to do? Do you want to piss and moan about how tough things are in your life or do you want to celebrate the life that you have? If it’s the former, I guess it’s time to get busy doing things to make changes. If it’s the latter, celebrate more…you deserve it! As for me, I just want to keep opening my eyes, putting my feet on the floor, and running like the devil for the bathroom.

Read Full Post »

Wrongs and rights

There is nothing wrong with being wrong. In fact, one of great advantages of age is being able to say, “I don’t know,” without fear of being called wrong…and not really caring if you are or not. Mark Twain put it this way, “I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn’t know.”
There have been numerous occasions throughout my life when I have been completely wrong. As proof of this, I would offer up my undergraduate collegiate transcript of grades. I would also have given you the opportunity to speak with past employers but most of them are dead.

So there is the introduction, and now we get to the meat of this short essay. I firmly believe that the two police officers who shot Alton Sterling should be tried for second degree murder. Sterling had already been taken to the ground by the officers, one of whom appeared to be straddling him. He was in no position to pose a threat of imminent bodily harm to either of the policemen. Both officers already had four unreasonable force accusations in their jackets and from what I have viewed so far, this fifth accusation went far beyond abuse of power.

I cannot speak to the shooting that took place in Minnesota that left Philando Castile dead. I have seen only the video that was shot by his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds who I have come to admire over the past few days. She was amazingly calm under the direst of circumstances, and her comments to the police officer and to those who interviewed her after the incident were just outstanding. Did Philandro have a weapon? According to the stories I have seen, the answer is “yes,” and he had a permit to carry. Was he reaching for that weapon or for his identification? I don’t know. Did the officer overreact? I cannot answer that question with any degree of confidence because I was not there. However, I believe that four shots seems a bit excessive, but I have no idea of what was going through the officer’s mind. Minnesota Governor, Mark Dayton, has already condemned the police officer and stated that he believed the shooting to be racially motivated, thus proving that even our heads of state can make idiotic claims without having all of the facts in hand, claims that will only exacerbate a bad situation.

Unfortunately, Dallas followed with five dead police officers and another seven wounded by a lone gunman who wanted “to kill white people, particularly police officers.” People will make all sorts of excuses as to why Micah Johnson went on a rampage and killed and wounded those officers. There are no excuses. Somewhere in his life, Johnson became evil; not racist, evil, and he turned that evil on those he found responsible for also being evil.

Now we find our nation at another crossroads, this one as serious as any war we have fought in some time…a war on American soil between people of color and people who are white. There are and always will be white people who, for whatever reason, dislike people of color. Ex-tea party member and former Congressman Joe Walsh of Illinois is a classic example. After the Dallas shootings, he tweeted, “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.” He’s not alone. The scary part is that there are a few mill Joe Walsh’s out there. On the other hand, there are also a few hundred thousand Micah Johnson’s out there. Worse yet, they are all armed, both sides, and they are just looking for an excuse to vent their poison. How do we defeat them? Why, that’s been a question since the first shot was fired in anger at the Red Man back in the early 1600’s.
We think we have all the answers and we are so full of crap it’s a wonder we don’t stink. The only answers are to (a) be more selective in the people who are chosen to bolster our law enforcement efforts, (b) increase the training of police officers so that deadly force truly becomes the last resort, (c) seek out and foster those in the minority communities who will be heard when they say that violence is not the answer, (d) place greater emphasis on breaking up gangs of thugs who promote violence as a way of life, (e) tag violence television programs with a preface that this is fiction and should not be condoned as a way to celebrate real life, (f through z and beyond) bring together people of violence and people of peace to determine how these problems can be, if not solve, then reduced.

Anyone who believes that what has happened in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, Dallas, Georgia, or Tennessee can be solved by a few well-chosen words by anyone, anywhere, has his or her head tucked firmly between their legs and hidden in an orifice. This won’t stop any more than school shootings will stop. America is one of the most violent nations on earth. We have shown that by the number of people in prisons throughout the country. In addition, we are soft on crime. Why we allow those who have killed callously to remain living is far beyond my ken. People far wiser than I say that not removing them from the earth is a far greater punishment. That’s fine; I don’t believe it, but it is fine.

I won’t supposed to lay fault at the door of the NRA for its role in this problem, however, they are a contributing factor. The Second Amendment article cited by them has been so twisted and warped as to be meaningless, but there is a solution to that. Anyone who owns a gun must belong to the state militia and store his or her weapons at the militia armory. They may be checked out at any time for reasons which must be stated when the weapons are removed. The militia will meet weekly to drill and to prove proficiency with the firearms. Those protesting that they need the firearms for home protection will be protected by militia sentries outside their homes 24/7 until such time as the member states that such protection is no longer required. Strange? Weird? Undoable? Sure, but it would also save a lot of problems.

I’m terribly saddened by what has happened…again…and more terrible. I will not be alive to see an end to any of it. I don’t believe my great, great grandchildren will be alive to see the problem end. As long as we have white people who, for whatever reason, dislike people of color; as long as we have people of color who dislike white people; as long as we have those who are unbalanced and have access to guns, we will face this problem. But…as I said at the outset, I have been completely wrong before. This is one time when I can only pray that I will be completely wrong again.

Read Full Post »

Let us suppose for a moment that FBI Director, James Comey, had stood at the lectern recently and stated, “We have found sufficient evidence to indict Hillary Rodham Clinton on the charges of treason and providing aid and comfort to enemies of America. At this very moment, our officers are apprehending Mrs. Clinton, and she will be incarcerated without bail until a trial date is set.” Cut to the stage where Hillary and Barack are holding each other’s arms high in the air. Four burly suits approach the stage with FBI badges showing from the top pocket of their coats. The Secret Service agents of both the President and Mrs. Clinton move forward to halt the approach.

“Federal law gives the FBI authority to investigate all federal crime not assigned exclusively to another federal agency (28, Section 533 of the U.S. Code). Title 28, U.S. Code, Section 533, authorizes the attorney general to appoint officials to detect and prosecute crimes against the United States. Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 3052, specifically authorizes special agents and officials of the FBI to make arrests, carry firearms, and serve warrants. Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 3107, empowers special agents and officials to make seizures under warrant for violation of federal statutes.
“The FBI has authority to investigate threats to national security pursuant to presidential executive orders, attorney general authorities, and various statutory sources. Title II of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, Public Law 108-458, 118 Stat. 3638, outlines FBI intelligence authorities, as does Executive Order 12333; 50 U.S.C. 401 et seq.; 50 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.”
The Secret Service is a division of Homeland Security. Is responsible for the protection of the President and presidential candidates.

Okay, where do we go from here?

There actually is a prescribed procedure for just such a situation. However, before any arrest takes place, the Director of the FBI and the Director of the Secret Service must have a conversation invoking article 1527, Agreement between the FBI and the Secret Service, which says in effect that the agencies will cooperate. As a result, Mrs. Clinton could be placed under arrest and the President could go it alone, extolling the virtues of Mrs. Clinton and telling the audience what a great act she would be to follow him in the office…nah, wouldn’t work all that well…make a helluva image for TV though, wouldn’t it?

In a high profile case such as this, Mrs. Clinton would be given a certain period of time – short of the election, of course – to present herself to FBI officers for a hearing to establish bail. Since she is under indictment, she would be forced to withdraw as the Democratic candidate for President, although she might not; the convention might endorse her and we would have two crooks running for the highest office in the land.

Meanwhile, over on the Republican side, Donald Trump is vindicated after calling Hillary “crooked.” However, FBI investigation shows that Trump (a) received an illegal loan from his father; (b) that his mob ties subject him to prosecution under the RICO Statute; and (c) that he knowingly had a union leader eliminated through his mob ties. The FBI swoops in and arrests him mid-rally, and along with his Secret Service protectors, they haul him in. He is considered a flight risk by the judge and no bail is allowed.

The Republican Convention overwhelmingly endorses Trump and Vice Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich brings the crowd to its feet with a rousing rendition of Dixie as the New England delegations storm out of the hall.

What next, oh mighty seer?

Bernie Sanders agrees to debate Gingrich as Hillary’s proxy. Both are booed off the stage by followers from both parties. The election is canceled. Obama indicates that he will gladly serve another four years, but this is totally unacceptable. As a result, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan are drafted to serve as co-presidents. Six months into their first term, both are so confused that they import David Cameron to run the country. Within a year, and without a single shot being fired, Americans are singing their new National Anthem, God Save the Queen!

Read Full Post »

They are lethal

Okay, that’s it…I am officially declaring war on the highway departments of every town in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts! They have done nothing to fight the growing menace to commuters or pedestrians.

It’s bad enough that potholes from two winters ago have yet to be repaired, but now there is a new terror to face along the highways and byways. This threat possesses methods of lethality such as we have never seen. It is, of course, the manhole cover, and there is nothing humorous about the manner in which it can kill and maim. As an example of this, I cite Jodie S. Lane who was electrocuted after stepping on a metal manhole cover, while walking her dog in New York City.

Originally designed to provide access to electrical, gas, water, and sewer lines, the manhole cover has evolved into a death-dealing weapon for unwary commuters and even for pedestrians. Does this indicate that I am crediting the monstrous 250 pound cast-iron Frisbee with intelligence? Not at all. I’m convinced that the alligators which once were pets and then flushed away but survived to roam the underground are serving as the force of destruction using the manhole cover as an unknowing foil in a form of payback to the human race.

In point of fact, there is no humor when it comes to what is a part of our roadways infrastructure. Not long ago a 35-year old art teacher, Caitlin Clavette, was killed when a dislodged manhole cover flew through the windshield of her Honda.

Are these common occurrences? No, they are not. Prior to the Clavette death, the last reported fatal incident was in New York State over ten years ago. There is, however, another problem with manhole covers that appears to have escaped the eyes of DOT departments, and that is sunken manhole covers. These are a major problem for motorcycles and a pain in the butt for those of us in cars. I really don’t understand why, when repairing roads, collars are not used to raise the covers to the height of the new paving.

Sunken manhole covers may not be a big deal to most of the driving public. “Watch where you’re going,” some will say. “Go around them,” echo others. “Keep your eyes on the road,” another group of drivers will tell you, and all of that is well and good, and I do those things when I know the roads on which I’m traveling. As for other streets, I have had the steering wheel damn near jump out of my hand going over a sunken manhole cover at night.

It seems like a simple matter to raise these distractions to the level of the roadway. It also raises the question of who is supervising the paving of our roads as well as how often are manhole covers checked for stability. In Massachusetts, they are supposedly checked every two years. You’ll have to pardon me if I raise an eyebrow on that one. When I get in my car to go from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’ I already have to face the possibility of drunk or impaired drivers. It would be nice not to have to consider the surface of the road on which I’m driving as another lethal weapon.

Read Full Post »

Hey, let’s hear it for me…I am now officially old!

I know that I am old because I am now using a walker to get around in the house. I-do-not-like-using-a- walker, but my balance is shot to hell. I’m still in the process of finding out what actually happened that I have reached this stage of my life. Be that as it may, I have reached it. I can always hope that it’s just a middle ear infection – ha, ha, ha – but I fear that it’s just one of those things that can happen when one passes 81 or so.

There is one other thing that could be causing my balance problem. I have changed my diet. When my weight hit 261 pounds I decided that enough was enough. My big meal is now lunch. It consists of whatever I wish to consume. Well, that’s not quite true, but I do limit myself to Healthy Choice meals or a sandwich with chips. Breakfast is a container of fruit in its own juices and a bottle of Nantucket Nectar’s Orange Mango. Then it’s off to the gym. Shortly after getting home, I will have a mug of hot chocolate [with whipped cream, of course!]. At night, I eat a bowl of cornflakes with lots of berries, either blue or black. To date, I’ve lost about 18 pounds. Now, the question becomes…am I eating enough to satisfy my bodily requirements? I guess we’ll learn that soon enough.

But enough about me. We all age differently. I know people who are in their fifties who are already old. They complain of this ailment or that ailment and, frankly, I wouldn’t mind being that age again. It is what it is. We can let all of these aches and pains destroy us, or we can get on with our lives. Sure, there will be things we can no longer do…as well…or at all. Kiss what you can’t do goodbye and look forward to what you can do. Let me give you an example. I was with some visitors one day and showing them our athletic facilities. While on the gym floor, kids were playing basketball, just shooting around. One of them tossed a ball at me. “Hey, Mr. B, show us your shot. So I did. The ball never got within three feet of the hoop. I could blame the suit coat I was wearing or a dozen other excuses, but the truth is, I no longer had the hand/eye coordination to put that ball where I wanted it to go…and that’s okay. I’ll find another sport…or not…that will be more closely aligned with the skills I do have. What I’m not going to do is try to relive the “glory days” when I could shoot a basketball from outside the three-point line and, like Stephen Curry, turn around and head back to the other end of the court because I knew it would go in.
Yes, it is true that as we age, newspapers reduce the size of their type…just for us. And yes, the risers on the stairs are a bit higher…just for us. Add to that, that actors are speaking more softly than they used to, and you have every right to state that you have become old. Personally, I just believe it shows that God has a sense of humor.

As I have passed the four score mark in my life, I also find that I’ve become a racist. Yes, you read that correctly, “a racist.” I have zero tolerance for people who complain that they are being held back by this group or that group. You’re wrong. Get off your ass; find a way to get the education you need and go after the American Dream. You may never achieve it, but you’ll at least have given yourself a shot at it. If you are of a different skin color or have a name that smacks of something different, that’s tough, but it’s nothing more than another obstacle to overcome…and you can overcome it. Others have done it. Black, brown, yellow, or red, it doesn’t matter: If you have the guts to persevere and get up every time some son-of-a-bitch knocks you down, you will attain most of your dream…perhaps not all, but most of it. Don’t believe it? I was unjustly fired from a job when I was 40. I was unemployed for three years. The job I finally found required a seven thousand dollar pay cut. However, the next 20 years on that ‘new’ job brought me more than money ever could; it brought me enjoyment and the ability to do things I never thought possible.

You see, I don’t happen to believe that money is everything in our lives. Sure, it enables us to buy whatever toys we think we want, but life’s satisfaction does not come from the almighty dollar. It comes when you realize that you are doing something that brings you joy. Okay, so you can’t buy the big boat or the summer place in the Hampton’s…so what? Are they really all that important in the grand scheme of things? If you answer yes, I feel sorry for you. I pity you. I’ll pray for you…because that’s not what life is all about. Life is about feeling a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day. Life is about offering an “attaboy” to someone with whom you work or receiving the same from a colleague. Life is about planting a small garden in the back yard and watching flowers bloom or picking tomatoes off the vine. Life is finding that one person you cannot live without and who feels the same about you. Life is watching your children grow and because of the manner in which you have brought them up, succeed far beyond what you achieved. Life is just so much more than making money. Yet, that appears to be the criterion upon which we base our illusion of success.

If I sound like Pollyanna, I guess it’s because I have taken the time to reflect on what my own life has been. There have been plenty of ups and downs but in the aggregate, my life has been pretty damned fine. Our three children have certainly surpassed us in terms of their accomplishments. None are in rehab or jail. All are married and raising a trio of their own. Certainly, I wish that my wife was still living but death visits all of us sooner or later. If you’re over 65 – even if you’re not – I invite you to look back and focus on all of the good in your life. Yes, I’m aware that there may be some people who think, in retrospect, that their life really sucked, but for the rest of you…I hope you’ll bring a smile to your face.

Read Full Post »