Thursday, November 27, 2014

"....Where There's Smoke....There's Still Fire......Ninety Nine Dollar Flat Screen Or Not...."

What follows is a remarkably well intended, thoughtfully considered, very good idea.

That isn't going to work.

First, the what.

Then, the why not.

{Soledad O'Brien, CEO of Starfish Media Group, produced the CNN documentary "Black and Blue,"  Rose Arce is Starfish Media Group's executive producer. }

(CNN) -- Once again, the streets are electric with anger after a white police officer evades charges for fatally shooting a black man. Sirens screech and wood batons push back marchers protesting from Missouri to New York to Los Angeles. This time the cadence of "No Justice, No Peace" has been replaced with "Hand's Up. Don't Shoot."

But there was another sign raised above the crowd in a recent protest in New York: "Doing Nothing with Saying Nothing. Changes Nothing." The mathematics of this one are clear. Something's gotta give.
A loose network led by African Americans in the film and arts world has emerged from the fog of tear gas to call for a quiet riot in response: a boycott of Black Friday shopping.
Ryan Coogler, who directed the 2013 film about police brutality called "Fruitvale Station," told us he was confounded by the eruptions of "human rights violations committed by public servants."
"There are three ways you can express yourself," Coogler said. "You can vote. You can protest. You can choose how you spend your money that goes to America's corporations that hold a lot of power."
"We've got to fight the powers that be!" proclaimed Public Enemy's Chuck D in 1989. With the embers of Ferguson still smoldering, it is clear that the struggle continues. But by taking their purchasing power away on retailers' favorite day of the year, the voice of blacks in America, and their allies, may echo more loudly in its absence from shopping malls and big box stores.
Earning less than whites and unemployed at more than double the national average, African Americans still have $1 trillion in buying power, according to Nielsen. They spend more on media, watch more television, shop more frequently off and online and spend more on beauty products than any other ethnic group in the country. That is serious sway.
People who make movies also have sway -- people such as Ava DuVernay, director of the upcoming film "Selma" and actors Michael B. Jordan ("The Wire") and Nate Parker ("The Secret Life of Bees"). #BlackOutBlackFriday has even produced its own minifilms to fuel this modern version of the bus boycotts.
One of them features an interview with the daughter of Eric Garner, who describes losing her father to police violence. Garner was choked to death by police who suspected he might be selling "loosies" or loose cigarettes. In his grand jury testimony, Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson said the man he shot to death, Michael Brown, might have been suspected of stealing "cigarillos" at a convenience store.
The #BlackOutBlackFriday videos alone make the case for change.
"Social media and the technology, with respect to camera phones, empowers every single person who has access to a device," Parker told us. These are the kind of media people could be watching ahead of Black Friday, rather than falling prey to commercial plugs to shop.
The outcry over police brutality can't end with the Thanksgiving news cycle. President Barack Obama can't just promise to take a look -- yet another look -- at how the police interact with the public. Public frustration over policing didn't boil over only because of Michael Brown's death. It did because of the daily indignities that have become common for black people. These boycott organizers feel that helplessness as they watch the police violence spinning out of control and don't know how to stop it. It's not like you can dial 911.
To Darren Wilson, who shot Michael Brown "the whole thing started over 'will you just walk on the sidewalk.' " Then suddenly the man he called a "demon" was dead, he washed his hands of blood and stowed his gun. He faced no judicial accountability after 25 days of grand jury investigation.
A 2013 Pew Research Center survey showed that 7 of 10 blacks felt they were being treated less fairly than whites by police. A Gallup poll that same year found that nearly 25% of all black males from ages 18 to 34 reported being treated unfairly by police in the past 30 days.
"This is not a one-day thing," DuVernay told us. "What #blackoutblackfriday is trying to do is to create ongoing pressure to change the conversation among conscious people of all colors."
They might achieve more by opting out of the system than by opposing it. Your presence is sometimes felt by your absence.
In the effort to find some solution, any solution, that doesn't involve physical harm, property damage and/or further violence, the idea of an economic boycott is certainly, on its face, worthy of consideration.
The concept itself has, of course, been successful in the past for a number of causes, not the least of which was the public bus boycotts in Alabama in the 1960's that impacted the profitability of the segregated bus lines in such a dramatic matter that it, literally, resulted in the first domino being tipped ending in integration of not only the bus lines but many, and eventually, all things racially segregated in this country.
As a means of putting out the fire this time, though, not so much.
In the 1960's, the civil rights movement was all encompassing with every black person in the country invested in the outcome. Moreover, though, every black person in the country, at that time, was aware that they were invested in the outcome and the degree of endorsement and participation, critical to the success of any group effort, had reached critical mass.
But, as abhorrent as these incidents of racial conflict that result in whites shooting and blacks dying are, the blacks in this country have not yet reached that critical mass.
At least not en masse'.
And the complexion of the American culture, both literally and metaphorically, in the year 2014 is markedly different than it was in 1960's.
Though prejudice and racism have not been extinguished so as to be non-existent, blacks are no longer treated, in a wholesale fashion, as an oppressed people, an enslaved people, even a minority people.
The culture has accepted, if not invited, black contribution and participation on an unprecedented scale.
Black artists sell equal amounts of music, win equal amounts of awards, even fill stadiums with equal amounts of fans as their white counterparts.
Black culture in movies, television and the other arts are prolific and plentiful, their presence such an accepted part of the mainstream that mention is no longer made of their sharing as if it were some kind of anomaly.
The percentages might still rightly be labeled as works in progress, but blacks are routinely elected to, and hold , office at city, state and national levels, head corporations, own and or manage major league sports teams.
And, then, there's that black man who has been elected President of the United States.
Yet, with all of that evolution, hatred between the races continues to raise its ugly head in the forms of whites shooting and blacks dying and towns burning in the aftermath.
Best intentions not withstanding, convincing hundreds, let alone thousands or even millions, of blacks to refuse to shop at Wal Mart on Black Friday isn't going to stop the shooting.
Or the dying.
Or the burning.
This assuming, of course, that you could get hundreds, let alone thousands or even millions, of blacks to refuse to shop at Wal Mart on Black Friday in the first place.
Cold, even callous, as it may seem, those blacks whose children were not shot by a white police officer in the past year and are hoping for a 50" flat screen from Santa, are not going to disappoint their kids in favor of some attempt at the dollars and cents equivalent of "we shall overcome".
What happened in Ferguson was horrific.
And needs to be understood, confronted and prevented in future.
But Ferguson ain't Birmingham.
And this ain't 1961.
Here's a thought.
Maybe it's not about hatred at all.
Maybe it's about fear.
Maybe it's about black people in fear of their lives because of the incidents in the past few years that have given them every reason to fear, if not suspect, that white police officers have decided that the easiest way to deal with blacks who break the law is to simply shoot them.
Maybe it's about white police officers in fear of their lives because of a black culture that seems, even if it's only an incorrect perception, to have so little regard for simple, basic human values, regardless of color. A culture which not only permits but, from appearances, encourages its more militant role models to shove their way into the spot light, those whose anger is palpable, their contempt more than visible, their hostility, evidently and inevitably, bubbling just beneath the surface at all times. The Kanye Wests. The Al Sharptons. The Ray Rices. Pushing out of the spotlight the blacks whose sense of purpose and ambition seems to be about seeking solution as opposed to retribution. Redesign as opposed to revenge. The Julian Bonds. The Tyra Banks. The Condoleeza Rices.
Maybe it's about an atmosphere so poisoned with bad feeling and mistrust and resentment and misunderstanding and miscommunication that our white police officers are beginning to become jaded enough to assume the worst, see the glass as half empty and, because they are human and don't really want to die just to protect and serve, are growing more likely to shoot first and ask questions later.
An atmosphere so full of the smoke of venom and vitriol and hated and stored up passion that our black citizens simply assume that every white police officer is an assassin and that any encounter with a cop that results in them walking away alive should count as having beaten the odds.
Using bio degradable trash bags, however well intended, isn't going to make much of a dent in global warming.
Random, un-organized, essentially minor boycotting of the neighborhood Costco isn't going to do much to clear the air.
And the air is what needs to be cleared.
Not only the atmosphere.
But the atmosfear.

"....R-E-S-P-E-C-T....Actually, Not So Much......"

Lesley McSpadden is absolutely right.

No respect.

(CNN) -- Michael Brown's mother says hearing that a grand jury had decided not to indict the officer who killed her son felt like getting shot.

"We heard this and it was just like, like I had been shot. Like you shoot me now -- just no respect, no sympathy, nothing," Lesley McSpadden told CNN's Sunny Hostin on Wednesday. "This could be your child. This could be anybody's child."
A New York Times video captured the moments after McSpadden heard about the decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the white officer who killed her son, Michael Brown, a black teen. She stood with protesters outside the Ferguson police department, sobbing uncontrollably.
McSpadden's husband, her son's stepfather, wrapped her in his arms before turning to the crowd, screaming: "Burn this bitch down."
"He just spoke out of anger. It's one thing to speak and it's a different thing to act. He did not act. He just spoke out of anger," McSpadden said about her husband, Louis Head.
"When you're that hurt and the system has did you this wrong, you may say some things as well. We've all spoke out of anger before," she told CNN.
Both McSpadden and Brown's father, Michael Brown Sr., sat down with Hostin. Neither believes Wilson's version of events, saying their son would never have taunted the officer, nor reached for his weapon.
They remembered their son as humble, silly and soft spoken. He could fix almost anything and loved animals, his siblings and being a grandson.
"He was different, but he still was like any other teenager -- wanted to explore different things, do different things, be around different people," McSpadden said. "He's young. He's growing up. He's finding himself."
Brown's father didn't mince words when he spoke about Wilson: "He's a murderer."
"He understood his actions. He understood exactly what he was doing. You know, he didn't have a second thought, a pushback thought, or nothing. He was intending to kill someone. That's how I look at it," Brown said. "He was going to kill someone at that point."
Earlier, he'd said the grand jury's decision changed his view of America.
"I was upset. I didn't understand," Brown said in a conversation with the Rev. Al Sharpton on Tuesday on MSNBC. "It just let me know that where we live is not what we thought, or what I thought. It's what people have been saying all the time, for a nice little minute: that this was a racist state."
Sharpton accused Prosecutor Robert McCulloch of trying to disparage Michael Brown Jr. He asked Michael Brown Sr. how he felt about the prosecutor attacking "the character of the victim."
"They crucified his character," Brown said.
Whatever else is true or not true in this case, one thing is irrefutable.
No respect.
A black kid with no respect for the law whose encounter with Darren Wilson began only as a result of his act of theft in a local convenience store and the assault of the store's proprietor while, if not incapacitatingly stoned, then certainly, at least, under the influence .
No respect for the authority of a police officer that, whatever else did or did not take place after that, did NOT begin with the young man's following the directions and instructions given him by that police officer in order to peacefully resolve the confrontation and either be found free to go or to be held accountable for his actions and activity.
No respect for the common sense of anyone being asked, by his mother, to believe that her son was  "....humble, silly and soft spoken. He could fix almost anything and loved animals, his siblings and being a grandson...."  given that, even allowing those were, in fact, some of his qualities, all evidence and information suggests that was not the Michael Brown that Darren Wilson encountered that night.
No respect for a stepfather who, regardless of his personal pain and/or anger, cried out in a crowd already ready to explode his wish that they "burn" the town down.
No respect for the memory of a dead kid, let alone simple, human values, from the hundreds of "protestors" who leapt at the chance to cash in on the atmosphere of anger and hurt and confusion and express their indignation at the legal system by burning, smashing, breaking, injuring and even killing while filling their arms, shopping carts and even their vehicles with the contents, products and property of every local business whose windows were sacrificed first in the "cause of justice and freedom" 
No respect for a situation from a prosecutor and town officials who, inexplicably and tragically, chose to pass on an opportunity to make what was guaranteed to be a violently controversial announcement in the clear light of day as soon as the decision was made and opted, for reasons, defying logic, to announce later that night, allowing light to fade, crowds to gather, emotional momentum to build and darkness to provide cover for the aforementioned guaranteed violence.
No respect for the intelligence of any reasonable person who was, and is still being, asked to believe that a police officer with no record of impropriety would suddenly put six bullets into someone, in full knowledge that accountability would immediately follow, motivated by absolutely nothing more than the color of someone's skin.
No respect from bottom feeders like Sunny Hostin and Al Sharpton, among dozens, even hundreds of other second guessers, commentators and/or "experts", who recognize an opportunity for self aggrandizing and agenda pushing a thousand miles away.
And no respect for the process of law, in this instance in the form of a grand jury, made up of an economically, educationally, sexually and, more critically, racially diverse cross section of citizens whose time spent and efforts put forth give every indication that pain staking care was taken to investigate the incident and come to the fairest conclusion that logic and law provided.
Lesley McSpadden lost her son.
And, regardless of Michael Brown's character, or even his actions on that night, it's understandable that, as a mother, she would be blinded by the tears, anguish and pain of that loss.
But there's one thing she saw with an almost crystal clarity.
No respect.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"...As In ..'It Ain't The School...It's The Principal Of The Thing..."

What difference does it make?
More then you think.
Been a lot of back and forth in recent times about the correct use, or lack, as the case may be, of grammar.
And/or punctuation.
But that's a other topic for an different time.
Judging from some of the pushback on social media, a lot of people take exception to having it pointed out to them that they are guilty of incorrect usage.
The cutesy (and meant to be denigrating) term "Grammar Police" popped up pretty quickly as if those who were inclined to not use correctly were ready to compare those who pointed out said incorrect usage to some Orwellian Big Brother bunch, storm trooping through the streets, torches ablaze, a copy of Mein Kampf under one arm and the Oxford Dictionary under the other, ready to kick your door down and drag you away into the night to some dark, damp dungeon.
Or a seat, front and center, in the closest university level English course.
(They'll probably want to take your guns away from you, two, but that's to be expected from some wild eyed group who thinks it matters a hoot in hell that your not crazy about the fact they don't do things you're way..)
Those who are perfectly okay with there use of there in place of their seem to be pretty sensitive to any enlightenment shined in their direction.
They can't be faulted. After all, nobody likes to have their ignorance pointed out to them.
Sheldon's wise mama Mary explained it best.
"Shelly, I've been telling you since you were five years old that it's okay to be smarter than everybody, you just can't go around telling them."
"Well, why not?"
"Because they don't like it."
Jokes, and irrational, satirical fears of being imprisoned for a spell for failure to spell, aside, the refusal, or inability, of so many to use correct grammar, punctuation, et al, is so much more than just an intellectual burr put under the saddle of those less sophisticated.
But, let's be fair here.
There was a time in this nation's history when "ignorance" did not necessarily equate to a lack of intelligence.
Our first settlers and those who lived in rural areas, those who did not have access to organized schools and good old fashioned book learnin' were probably atrocious spellers, folks who wouldn't know an apostrophe from an antelope, a participle from a plow.
But that didn't prevent those who possessed wisdom from expressing it, those who were savvy from sharing it, those who were, simply, smart from passing it on from elders to youngers in a perpetual circle of the life educational.
That said, we simply do not live that life anymore.
Education, knowledge, information that wasn't available at all to those who plowed those fields and built those houses and essentially laid the foundation for the country as it exists today is now not only available through long established fine institutions of higher learning.....'s available to every and all, at any time, with no more than the click of a button, or mouse as it were, on the very screen where you are reading the words I am typing.
Or the phone that you will almost certainly check at least once before you finishing reading what I have typed.
And while that aforementioned inability, or refusal, to use proper grammar, correct punctuation, etc. is not a disease, it most certainly is a symptom.
Of the more malignant malady.
American Dumb Down.
Spreading like a virus from sea to shining sea, already permeating the culture, our television programming, our movie production, even our popular music.
Rampant and feverish in our political parties and governing bodies.
Each and every day, the energy put into raising our bars higher is replaced by the "anti-energy", a minimum amount of effort resulting in a maximum output of apathy, indifference, casual, even sloppy, attention to quality and/or detail.
A growing population of citizens less inclined to put shoulders to the wheel of progress and advancement than to use said shoulders for nothing more than a lah-dee-dah shrug and a "whatever" when it comes to more traditional values and not only a willingness to settle for less than best, but an almost automatic deference to whatever requires less energy, commitment, devotion, effort.
Not just acting fat and lazy.
But actually becoming more fat and more lazy.
"For want of a nail", the classic tale begins.
Or want of the correct use of a single word.
What difference does it make?
All the difference in the world.
Because knowledge is power.
And power drives the engine.
The engine essential to us ever again getting anywhere.
Unless, of course, your one of those people who could care less.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

"...Try To Imagine Uncle Sam Hanging From A Pole Saying "And, Of Course, Some People Do Go BOTH Ways'..."

Every now and then, no matter how rare a find it might be, one can, if diligent, stumble across a perspective that actually turns out to be both measured and reasonable.
In this age of "pick one side or the other, people" extremism, such a discovery is a little like seeing something genuinely shiny in the bottom of the pan.
Editor's note: Paul Waldman is a senior writer with The American Prospect magazine and a blogger for The Washington Post. He is also the author of "Being Right Is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success." Follow him on his blog and on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
(CNN) -- If you were observing American elections from the outside, you might be asking yourself the following:

Can't these people make up their minds? Four out of the last five elections (2006, 2008, 2010 and now 2014) were "wave" elections in which one party won a sweeping victory. They elect a president of one party, then two years later almost inevitably give the other party a huge victory in the midterm election. Why do they expect things to change?

Good question. It's always dangerous to speak of a country of 319 million as having a singular will, or of an election expressing that will. That's particularly true when only about 40% of eligible voters show up for midterm elections. Like every party that wins, the GOP will claim that "the American people" have endorsed its agenda in full, and therefore if President Barack Obama stands in its way, then he's thwarting the public's desires.
We've established that the public is fed up with a Congress seemingly incapable of getting anything done. The trouble is that the voters -- unanimous in their abhorrence of gridlock -- just delivered a result almost guaranteed to produce more gridlock.
To be fair, there was one party assuring them that their votes would do just the opposite. Republican candidates promised voters that they'd stand in Obama's way, and also promised that they'd "get things done," sometimes in the same sentence. As The Atlantic's Molly Ball reported last week, "these two seemingly contradictory messages are at the heart of Republican Senate campaigns across the country. I've heard them from candidate after candidate.
It's one thing to vote Republican because it's the party that reflects your beliefs. But if you're voting Republican because you want to see Congress become more conciliatory and productive, you really should have been paying closer attention the last six years.
That's because obstructionism hasn't been an accident, or a reaction to moves on Obama's part that Republicans found objectionable. It was a strategy they employed from the outset. Literally on the day Obama was inaugurated, Republican leaders gathered over dinner and made a decision to oppose everything he proposed, to deny him both substantive progress and whatever political benefits might accrue to a president who looks like he's accomplishing things.
In 2010, Mitch McConnell explained to The New York Times how important it was to present a unified front of opposition to the President's proposals, because then the public would dismiss the debate as just partisan bickering. "Mr. McConnell spent hours listening to the worries and ideas of Republicans," the paper reported, "urging them not to be seduced by the attention-grabbing possibilities of cutting a bipartisan deal."
As political strategy, it was extremely astute and executed to near perfection. McConnell understood well that the President gets credit when Washington works and blame when it doesn't -- whether he deserves it in either case. So Republicans could pour sand in the gears of government and watch Obama suffer for it.
And it worked. What was the result of six years of unprecedented filibusters, debt ceiling crises, a government shutdown, 50 futile Affordable Care Act repeal votes, endless conspiracy theorizing and a dramatic increase in general buffoonery? Republicans took back the House in 2010, and have now taken the Senate.
And now politicians in both parties are saying they want to come together to accomplish things for the public. The problem is that they don't agree on the things they'd like to accomplish. The argument isn't over means; it's over ends. That'll be even truer when the new Congress is inaugurated in January than it is now.
The new class of freshman Republicans in both the House and Senate is even more conservative than the existing GOP caucus (if you thought such a thing was possible), and to them, "getting things done" means slashing environmental protections, taking away health coverage from the millions who have obtained it through the Affordable Care Act and cutting taxes on the wealthy.
If those new representatives actually managed to turn those beliefs into law, the public would say, "Hey, we didn't vote for that!" And they didn't, even in this Republican-leaning year.
Voters in four deep-red states -- Arkansas, Alaska, Nebraska and South Dakota -- used ballot initiatives to approve one of the Democratic Party's highest economic priorities, increasing the minimum wage. "Personhood" initiatives that would ban abortion failed, not only in the swing state of Colorado but in conservative North Dakota as well.
In other words, where voters had the chance to decide policy issues, they chose the Democratic position even as they were voting for Republican candidates.
So what do the American people want? They want to have their cake and eat it, too. As political scientists have known for decades, Americans are "symbolic conservatives" but "operational liberals" -- they like things like small government in the abstract, but they also like all the things government does.
They elect Democrats who try to accomplish complex policy goals, then turn around and elect Republicans when things don't work perfectly. They say they hate gridlock, then elect people who will give them more of it.
And two years from now, a whole new crop of candidates will barnstorm the country, saying, "Elect me, and we'll clean up this mess." And the voters (or at least enough of them) will, despite all evidence and experience, actually buy it.
Couple of random impressions......
First.... wow, Paul Waldman, you got some kind of balls and/or nerve, spreading around vicious and obviously outrageously logical common sense like that. I'd lay low for a while if I were you because the snap back is gonna be a bitch.
Second...reminded of a little truism I heard somewhere along the way in the just completed "campaign" I think applies to the logic applied here:
"People hate Congress.....and love their Congressman/woman".
Finally, and certainly qualifying as comic, yet appropriate, irony, I'm reminded of something the comic Gallagher offered a long time ago that I think further underscores Waldman's assessment of the American voter and their "push/pull" proclivities.
"what is the deal with iced tea in this country?.......first we boil it to make it hot, then we put ice in it to make it cold, then we put lemon in it to make it sour and then we put sugar in it to make it sweet...."
One could read either Gallagher's or Waldman's words and, the case could be successfully made, respond with pretty much the same question.
Not to mention that politics, at least in this country at this time in history, seems to be exhibiting at least one of the major symptoms of that wacky, zany personality quirk.....
...shiny thing syndrome.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

"...Sunshine...On His Shoulders...Makes Us Happy...."

Believe it or not, Dan Page has done all of us a solid.

Don't hurt yourself going all up in arms until you've reached the exciting conclusion of our story.

(CNN) -- A Missouri police officer involved in maintaining security in troubled Ferguson was put on administrative leave Friday after a video surfaced showing him railing about the Supreme Court, Muslims, and his past -- and perhaps, he said, his future -- as "a killer."

The officer, Dan Page of the St. Louis County Police Department, became something of a familiar face to many earlier this month when video showed him pushing back CNN's Don Lemon and others in a group in Ferguson. At the time, CNN was reporting on the large-scale and at times violent protests calling for the arrest of a white Ferguson police officer who shot and killed African-American teenager Michael Brown.
But it's another video that led St. Louis County police officials to say they had removed Page from his post and had started a process that will likely include the department's internal affairs unit investigating and a psychological evaluation of the officer.
"(I) apologize to the community and anybody who is offended by these remarks, and understand from me that he ... does not represent the rank-and-file of the St. Louis County Police Department," county Police Chief Jon Belmar told CNN. Belmar called the video "so bizarre."
CNN placed several phone calls Friday to what's believed to be Page's home number seeking comment on the video and disciplinary action against him, but never got a response.
Posted to YouTube and highlighted by, the video shows the military veteran talking for about an hour to an Oath Keepers group. According to its website, Oath Keepers is "a non-partisan association of current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders who pledge to fulfill the oath all military and police take to 'defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.'"
The president of the Oath Keepers' St. Louis/St. Charles chapter, Duane Weed, told CNN that Page was a guest speaker and is not a member of his group. A link to the video of his speech was posted to the local chapter's Facebook page on April 23 -- a day after it happened -- along with text that highlighted what Page had to say about the dangers of private contractors in war zones.
That was just one of many topics Page touched on, sometimes jokingly and at other times very seriously
In his rambling remarks on the video, he talks about what he describes as a draft replacement for the U.S. Constitution, the "four sodomites on the Supreme Court," and a visit to Kenya "to our undocumented President's home." He refers to Barack Obama as "that illegal alien who claims to be our President."
Page frequently references violence, including nine combat tours in the Army, during which he did "my fair share of killing."
Speaking about Muslims, he says pointedly: "They will kill you."
On domestic disputes, he opines: "You don't like each other that much, just kill each other and get it over with. Problem solved. Get it done."
On urban violence, he predicts that "when the inner cities start to ignite, people are going to start killing people they don't like."
And lastly, Page says, "I personally believe the Lord Jesus Christ is my savior, but I'm also a killer. I've killed a lot and, if I need to, I will kill a whole bunch more."
"If you don't want to get killed, don't show up in front of me."
Belmar, the head of the St. Louis County police department, said all the talk about killing was especially disturbing to him.
"As a police chief, that's something I'm not going to be able to endure," Belmar said.
The first reaction most reasonable people have to this kind of "sharing" is something along the lines of abhorrence, astonishment, even aghastness.
Well, okay, aghastness isn't actually a word.
But if it was, you can bet the bank that said reasonable people would experience it..
Meanwhile, most reasonable people who have, for one reason or another, done their homework re' the history of mankind, will almost always find, sprinkled amongst their feelings of outrage, offense, even horrifiedness (okay, truth be told, I'm shooting for some additions to the Scrabble dictionary cause the point totals have been pretty impotent lately), a sense of satisfaction in the wide spread attention that this kind of lunacy gets.
For a couple of reasons.
First, because while, ostensibly, what we don't know can't hurt us (next to "check's in the mail" and/or "ladies and gentlemen, the family friendly dance stylings of Miley Cyrus", one of the great true lies of this life), what we don't know is broken cant be fixed, either.
Second, to put the same point in a more relatable everyday sort of way, ain't no gettin' rid of the cockroaches in the kitchen if'n the cockroaches don't come crawlin' right out on ta' the sink, there.
Regardless of what sensationalism driven media would probably like to have us believe, psychotic, neurotic, despotic, hell, all the "otic" behaviors are absolutely nothing new.
This bounces back to the earlier reference to those who have done their history of mankind homework.
Dan Page is clearly a lot of things.
At the very least, I think it not unfair to call him, by literal definition, a zealot.
noun: zealot; plural noun: zealots
  1. a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their religious, political, or other ideals.
    synonyms:fanatic, enthusiast, extremist, radical, young Turk, diehard, true believer, activist, militant;
And those of us who have a soft spot for Bugs, Daffy, Yosemite and/or Road Runner would likely suggest another moniker for the man.
Looney Tune.
But he really is doing us a favor.
Because his fanaticism isn't being spewed in some unknown out of the way tavern, bar or honky tonk.
No beer hall putsch going on here, kids.
There he is in all his Huey P. Long meets Adolf Shicklgruber meets Rush Limbaugh glory,  a 35 year veteran of a highly populated county police department, a supposed trusted member of the community and, theoretically, a role model/influence on generations of citizens, right there in plain cinder block adorned sight on the trusty You Tube allowing everyone, convert, supporter and/or reasonable person overcome with aghastness, to see and hear who he is, where he is, what he is, exposing his venom and vitriol and viciousosity (now that ought to be good for a Triple Word Score) in the clear light of day.
A cockroach scurrying out from under the sink and walking ever so brazenly across the Formica topped counters of our psyches.
By now, to any of the aforementioned reasonable homework doers, the moral of our story will, of course, be obvious.
Dan Page has done us a service.
By putting his zealotry right out here in plain sight.
Where it can be bathed in the blinding light of what reporters like to call "the best antiseptic".
Not to mention bug killer.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

"...Listen, I'm Willing To Reach Out To You As Long As You Don't Touch Me In Any Way...."

Selfies are the thing these days.
Pictures we take of ourselves at any given moment almost inevitably posted to one social media site or another, a running photographic "commentary" on our lives, delightfully, if not just a little narcissistically, shared with any and all who come across said snaps.
From driving to eating to chatting to mugging for the camera, these little tiles of our respective life mosaic offer little glimpses of the minutiae as if it were essential that everyone we know have the opportunity to see "behind the scenes" of our daily adventures.
There's one thing these little exercises in personal promotion don't show, though.
Our amazing sports skill.
In a manner of speaking.
And there's one thing even the most sophisticated smartphone camera still can't do.
More on those in a moment.
Atlanta (CNN) -- A medical plane whisked an American infected with Ebola from Liberia to Georgia on Saturday, the latest leg of a race to save the first known patient with the deadly virus to be treated on U.S. soil.

Shortly after the plane landed, an ambulance rushed Dr. Kent Brantly from Dobbins Air Reserve Base to Atlanta's Emory University Hospital. He's one of two Americans sickened by the deadly viral hemorrhagic fever last month while on the front lines of a major outbreak in West Africa.
Video from Emory showed someone in a white, full-body protective suit helping a similarly clad person emerge from the ambulance and walk into the hospital.
Emory has said it will treat Brantly, 33, and fellow missionary Nancy Writebol in an isolation unit
The plane equipped with an isolation unit can only transport one patient at a time. It will now pick up Writebol in Liberia and bring her to Georgia early next week, said Todd Shearer, spokesman for Christian charity Samaritan's Purse, with which both Americans were affiliated.
Brantly's wife, parents and sister cried when they saw him on CNN walking from the ambulance into the hospital, a family representative said on condition of anonymity. His wife, Amber, later said she was relieved that her husband was back in the United States.
"I spoke with him, and he is glad to be back in the U.S.," she said in statement. "I am thankful to God for his safe transport and for giving him the strength to walk into the hospital."
Brantly's wife visited with him from behind a glass wall for about 45 minutes, the family representative said. Kent Brantly was described as "in great spirits and so grateful."
Brantly, who has ties to Texas and Indiana, and Writebol, of North Carolina, became sick while caring for Ebola patients in Liberia, one of three West African nations hit by an outbreak.
This will be the first human Ebola test for a U.S. medical facility. The patients will be treated at an isolated unit where precautions are in place to keep such deadly diseases from spreading, unit supervisor Dr. Bruce Ribner said.
Everything that comes in and out of the unit will be controlled, Ribner said, and it will have windows and an intercom for staff to interact with patients without being in the room.
Ebola is not airborne or waterborne, and spreads through contact with organs and bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, urine and other secretions of infected people.
There is no FDA-approved treatment for Ebola, and Emory will use what Ribner calls "supportive care." That means carefully tracking a patient's symptoms, vital signs and organ function and taking measures, such as blood transfusions and dialysis, to keep patients stable.
"We just have to keep the patient alive long enough in order for the body to control this infection," Ribner said.
Writebol was given an experimental serum this week, Samaritan's Purse said, though its purpose and effects weren't immediately publicized.
The Ebola virus causes viral hemorrhagic fever, which refers to a group of viruses that affect multiple organ systems in the body and are often accompanied by bleeding.
Early symptoms include sudden onset of fever, weakness, muscle pain, headaches and a sore throat. They later progress to vomiting, diarrhea, impaired kidney and liver function -- and sometimes internal and external bleeding.
Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA, a Christian mission organization with which Writebol also is linked, said Saturday that both were seriously ill but stable.
"My last report (on Brantly) was yesterday. ... He was ambulatory, being able to talk, converse, and get up. So that was encouraging," Johnson said Saturday morning
On Writebol, Johnson said: "She's responsive, and we're encouraged at how she's doing."
Emory's isolation unit was created with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based down the road. It aims to optimize care for those with highly infectious diseases and is one of four U.S. institutions capable of providing such treatment.
The World Health Organization reports that the outbreak in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea is believed to have infected 1,323 people and killed more than 729 this year, as of July 27.
As officials worked to bring the two Americans home, the idea of intentionally bringing Ebola into the United States has rattled many nerves.
"The road to hell was paved with good intentions," wrote one person, using the hashtag #EbolaOutbreak. "What do we say to our kids When they get sick& die?"
On the website of conspiracy talker Alex Jones, who has long purported the CDC could unleash a pandemic and the government would react by instituting authoritarian rule, the news was a feast of fodder.
"Feds would exercise draconian emergency powers if Ebola hits U.S.," a headline read on
Ribner repeatedly downplayed the risk for anyone who will be in contact with Brantly or Writebol.
"We have two individuals who are critically ill, and we feel that we owe them the right to receive the best medical care," Ribner said.
All concerns about the United States pale in comparison to the harsh reality in the hardest-hit areas.
Even in the best-case scenario, it could take three to six months to stem the epidemic in West Africa, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC.
There's no vaccine, though one is in the works.
There's no standardized treatment for the disease, either; the most common approach is to support organ functions and keep up bodily fluids such as blood and water long enough for the body to fight off the infection.
The National Institutes of Health plans to begin testing an experimental Ebola vaccine in people as early as September. Tests on primates have been successful.
So far, the outbreak is confined to West Africa. Although infections are dropping in Guinea, they are on the rise in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
In the 1990s, an Ebola strain tied to monkeys -- Ebola-Reston -- was found in the United States, but no humans got sick from it, according to the CDC
To any reasonable observer, the "big story" here should be the revolutionary measures being taken to try and save two lives and, ideally, in the process, find a cure and/or prevention for this latest viral assault on mankind, the latest arrival in a long line of lethal potentials, from smallpox to polio, malaria to leukemia, influenza to HIV.
That story, sadly, obviously gets trumped by the more "human" angle.
As officials worked to bring the two Americans home, the idea of intentionally bringing Ebola into the United States has rattled many nerves.
"The road to hell was paved with good intentions," wrote one person, using the hashtag #EbolaOutbreak. "What do we say to our kids When they get sick& die?"
Ask any one, in the course of passing conversation, if they believe they would be willing to die for someone.
With apologies for speaking for you and/or anyone else, I'm willing to bet that we would all like to think that we have that capacity for sacrifice in our natures.
Fact is, though, our willingness to give our all is, at best, conditional.
Because, judging from the majority of comments being made in public, in print, online, on TV, on radio talk, we might be prepared to affirm our willingness to die for God and/or country and/or family.
But for a couple of doctors who screwed up and got themselves infected with some incurable, contagious disease?
Fuck em, man.
Shit happens.
Not a very pleasant representation of our supposedly better angels, huh?
Not to mention a pretty unflattering portrait of our true natures.
Something that we always manage to magically leave out of frame when snapping the selfies.
Along with that aforementioned sports skill we all seem to possess.
The ability to talk a good game.
While patiently waiting for the next and newest smartphone, the one whose camera will finally allow  us to photograph that which, to date, we have not been able to photograph.
The selfie that shows us turning our backs.
An image not yet available to our own eyes.
But one that is, come to think of it, currently visible to, at least, a few people.
The families of Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol.
Not at all a pretty picture.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

"The Fault, Dear Brutus......."

We used to be explorers.

Somewhere along the way, it became more important to look inward than outward, to be self absorbed, self interested, self aggrandizing, self serving, to fixate on building newer and bigger and more grandiose stadiums to watch grown men play games instead of fixing our eyes on the next star and the one after that and the one after that , to bail out greedy and/or incompetent corporations and banks and other businesses instead of sailing out to places and spaces yet to be discovered, to give up looking up with imaginations filled with possibilities and take up keeping up with Kardashians.

To turn our backs on our better angels, as our vision became, and becomes, ever more myopic with each passing day.

Rather than seek out the next horizon, because that's what we do.

Or used to.

We used to be explorers.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"...A Long Time Ago, On Some Memorial Steps Far, Far Away....."

Had a train of thought that went a little off course.

Earlier today, I wrote a piece that ended up over on my media blog, Phelpsounds.

The gist of that essay was my enjoyment of the CNN Original Program, "The Sixties", produced by Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman and Mark Herzog.

One episode in particular, though, flipped my "talkback" button and had me logging on to lay it down.

Somewhere along the way, said train took a different track and ended up being an opine as regards "critics" and the presentations of their profession.

Here's a link to that piece.

Feel free to ride that particular club car to its conclusion.

Meanwhile, back to the original point of departure.

The fifth installment of the 10 part documentary is entitled, "A Long March To Freedom" and is, in my humble o, one of the best video/audio histories of the civil rights movement I've seen.

Crafted in a viewer friendly style, but compelling enough to take what, after fifty plus years. could rightly be described as somewhat dusty history and make it all worth the time to watch and listen and, in my case, re-visit.

The segment of the program dealing with the period from 63 to 65, especially, including the iconic I Have A Dream speech at the Lincoln Memorial and the brutal, venomous hatred that resulted in the death of the three young civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1964, found me both moved again by the power and poignancy of those difficult days, but, now, today, by a feeling of irony, even a little sadness.

And thinking a little about legacy.

No sermon, no preaching, no long peroration in the spirit of Dr. King or any of his contemporaries.

Simply an observation from a now sixty-ish, middle class white guy who lived through those years and has both the benefit, and disadvantage, of hindsight.

And thinking a little about legacy.

The courage and sacrifice it took to walk streets and highways knowing that insult was certain, injury was likely, death was easily possible.

The bones and hearts and lives broken in the effort to simply afford one race of people the same respect as other races of people.

The sweat, tears and blood shed in that cause.

And now, fifty plus years later, I find myself moved again in an older, hopefully wiser, way by those sacrifices and that courage.

And thinking a little about legacy.

From Rosa Parks to Martin Luther King to Vivian Malone to James Hood to Medgar Evers to  James Meredith to Malcolm X to Coretta Scott King to Myrlie Evers to three little girls in a Birmingham church on a Sunday morning..........


Nicki Minaj.

Kanye West.

Chris Brown.

Thinking a little about legacy.

Very little.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

"...We're Looking For Someone With A Winning Smile, A Way With People...And Very Limber and Flexible Shoulder Muscles..."

There's a new dance sensation sweeping the nation.

And, as the kids like to offer, it's going viral, baby.

In it's more playful moments, it can actually appear to be cute, charming even a little coquettish.

But in it's more often than not usage these days it's simply, at best, annoying and, at worst, infuriating.

So listen everybody /  there's a brand new drug
makin' people apathetic/ till they do the shrug /
do the shrug

Ah, the shrug.

Not familiar with this latest massively manifested move?

Sure you are.

Think back, pilgrim.

You walked up to the hilariously, obviously satirically named customer service desk at your local big box store and spoke thusly....

"Hi, I want to return these __________"

"Uh, do you have a receipt?"

"Sure do. Here it is."

"Oh, okay. Oh, uh, I can't take these back."

"Oh, really. And why not?"

"Says right here on the bottom of the receipt that all returns must be made within three working minutes of one working day after purchase."

"Well, surely a bright, engaging young hilariously, obviously satirically named customer service representative can see that that policy is, well, just silly."

Then comes the shrug / she's doin the shrug.

This buoyant little be-bop even works when you can't actually see it.

"Hi, I'm trying to find out why my cable bill has me charged with fourteen viewings of  "John Carpenter's Hamlet starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, Rob Kardashian and Nancy Allen" when I know better than to EVER get near a button that might even accidentally have me ordering "John Carpenter's Hamlet starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, Rob Kardashian and Nancy Allen". Could you help me?"

"I'm sorry you've having a problem with that and I can help you today. Could I get the last four numbers of your Social?"

"- - - - "

"Thank you for that information. Could I ask you to please hold for a moment while I bring up your account and verify that you are not a member of any subversive organization, do not subscribe to the teachings of Buddah, Islam or Dr. Oz and that you are, in fact, who you say you are?"

"Uh, sure."

"Thank you for that permission."

A period of time now begins, usually running anywhere from three to eleven minutes, depending on vendor, product and/or your truthfulness about your membership in any subversive organization."

"Thank you for holding. According to our information, you actually ordered this particular movie thirty six times but since you are a loyal customer, we discounted you twenty two times and only charged you for the fourteen on your bill. Is there anything else I can help you with today?"

"Seriously, you're going to charge me for fourteen viewings of something I didn't order at all?"

then comes the shrug/ he's doin the shrug.

I honestly haven't been able to figure out if this insidious little response reflex is about incompetence on the part of those who engage in it or simply some kind of tragic neurological manifestation of the overload they, personally, suffer given the volume of customers they must deal with on a daily basis because of the rise in crappy products and/or service in the first place.

Either way, it's a total buzzkill for those of us who stop by the counter or jump on the line, each time filled with a fresh optimism that whoever greets on the other end of either venue will wash our problem away with a zeal and zing that makes OxyClean look like a waste of time.

And, frankly, underneath it all, I really think there's something else going on here.

The shrug is more than just a sloughing off of intention to actually affect any assistance, restitution and/or repair.

It's really becoming the internationally recognized symbol for "I can't really be bothered."

A non verbal edition of the time honored "look, just get off my ass and suck it up, okay?"

Because great customer service is perilously close to becoming a sixty two point Scrabble score oxymoron.

And while there's really no excuse for their behavior, I can totally see a reason why these shruggers shrug in the direction of us shruggees.

In large measure, because so often even those well meaning CSR's who valiantly lift our problem up to their own higher power are often stymied with the shake and shimmy of the supervisor shrug.

Somewhere, sooner or later, up the line, far too often, any potential solution is stymied by the shrug.

Ah, the shrug.

What's next in the evolution of consumer assistance?

Who can say?

Except to note that just as the foxtrot gave way to the twist that gave way to the jerk that gave way to the hully gully......

...the "happy to help" gave way to the "hmm, not sure" that has given way to.....the shrug.

Annoying, frustrating, even infuriating.

But, in all fairness, not as bad as what lurks just beneath the surface of that shrug.

The middle finger.