Honest Dialogue: A Fond Memory of the Past

Today, many do not relate to, or trust their government — believing strongly it is out of touch with ordinary citizens and has gone rogue. Worldwide, we are faced with ongoing problems in the Middle East, waves of migration which threaten to destabilize European nations, Russia unplugged, China on the march, hacking, terrorism . . . and the sad list goes on and on.

Also today, the House, struggling to find a new Speaker, voted on a bill to repeal the U.S. Oil Exports ban which has been in effect since 1975.

Back to the Future: On July 15, 1979, President Jimmy Carter gave a speech at a time when the country was in the grips of an energy crisis.

Since our very way of life was being challenged by OAPEC (Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries), it is clear the overarching theme was about energy dependence. But Kevin Mattson, author of What the Heck Are You Up To, Mr. President?, explained the intent of the speech as, “He wanted the country to become much more self-inquisitive.”

Mattson further explains, “Carter goes out there and he essentially condemns the American way of life.”

On July 15, 1979, 39th President Jimmy Carter delivered his televised "Crisis in Confidence" speech

So, while Carter’s infamous Crisis in Confidence was initially lauded, it quickly plummeted like a lead balloon — unaffectionately referred to as the Malaise Speech.

I recall the televised event, but upon reading it I discovered Carter coined the phrase, “feels your pain” although it later became synonomous with Bill Clinton’s presidential bid. But, beyond that amusing tidbit, it touched on many of the same sour notes our country faces today:

• All the legislation in the world can’t fix what’s wrong with America
• The Federal government is isolated from the mainstream of our nation’s life
• The gap between our citizens and our government has never been so wide
• Congress is twisted and pulled in every direction by hundreds of well-financed and powerful special interests
• In Congress, every extreme position is defended to the last vote, almost to the last breath by one unyielding group or another
• Government seems incapable of action
• There is paralysis and stagnation and drift

Why is this important? Well, even though we’ve elected so many smart, experienced people to positions of leadership, the same issues from over 40 years ago still languish throughout the dysfunctional halls of The Hill, and citizens still lament. And, while President Carter believed “The people are looking for honest answers, not easy answers; clear leadership, not false claims and evasiveness and politics as usual,” I am as skeptical and unsure today as I was in 1979 with that assessment.

You see, it’s become painfully obvious life in modern societies have abandoned the expectations that leaders should actually accomplish feats they were elected to achieve. Feeling the systemic problems won’t be fixed in another 40 years, or 140 years for that matter, people have recognized the futility of hitting heads against the marble pillars of government. They’ve opted to throw in the towel. Instead of fighting losing battles, it’s easier, perhaps more satisfying, to fight with each other. And, what better way to achieve the sense of superiority than through threading the needle: The art of wordsmithing — censoring open and frank dialogue, curtailing varying views and solutions, advancing and furthering mistrust and divide among ourselves.

Just like Blue Laws which have lapsed into a fond memory, speaking clearly and genuinely also is a thing of the past. Words and phrases are couched in such a way that honest discussions no longer take place; replaced with evasive, legalese, veiled speech. Every word is metered and dissected — whether at school, work, or politics at home or on the world stage. Opponents assign their inner subconscious fears and ideas onto the speaker/author — rummaging through remarks looking for possible errant meanings.

Eerily sounding like the disturbing 1950s to me, it was Senator Joseph P. McCarthy of Wisconsin who quelled free speech, freedom of assembly, ruined careers . . . and  lives. This blight upon our citizens became known as McCarthyism. The dark period in our nation’s history which made it chic, laudable and easy to besmirch, label and unfairly accuse those of varying views as unpatriotic. This tactic handily repressed and restricted dissent and political criticism — a cold blanket of fear covered America. Today, over 60 years later, the cloaked words of choice are bigot, racist, right-winger, socialist, liberal . . . any one of which is hoisted upon an opponent in order to accomplish a McCarthyism end.

But there’s a new phenomenon, a new word which seems to be taking a prominent seat at the editorial board table of newspapers nationwide. I’d like to introduce you to . . . Tone.

• Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took a hawkish tone defending the Iran nuclear deal in a speech
• Clinton strikes populist tone to make case for 2016 campaign
• Hillary Rodham Clinton changes her tone in responding to questions about her email
• Republicans Fear Donald Trump Is Hardening Party’s Tone on Race
• Trump Has Become the Tone-setter for Today’s GOP
• Trump: GOP didn’t tell me to ‘tone it down’

And, also today, as the 2016 out-of-the-box presidential race continues to pick up steam on the home front, I was sickened when a New York Times headline jumped off the page:

• NATO, Tested by Russia in Syria, Raises Its Guard and Its Tone

As the morphing PC one-way train expands their cheeky, feel-good words into critical issues of the day in lieu of honest debate, I’m very concerned the packaged homogenization of thought has paralyzed and desensitized us to the realities of armed conflict. And, while Rules of Engagement are necessary, never more haunting words were foreshadowed and uttered in the Malaise Speech, “When we enter the moral equivalent of war, Mr. President, don’t issue us BB guns.”

I, for one, am not interested in the touchy-feely word craze, or the significant damage it continues to inflict. Nor do I buy into the chic moniker “Tone,” especially at a time when citizens and the world ache for honest answers. The fact is we are in a dangerous place and alliances are being tested. It’s well past the time for all self-appointed PC-Tone Pundits to pack up their damaging wares.

Unfortunately, we’ll continue to experience the stagnation in government-citizen relationships, that just seems to be reality. But, one thing I know — although the Crisis in Confidence speech shared many concerns we continue to struggle with, none could be more critical — I’m in agreement with our 39th president, “for the sake of our nation, it is time for us to join hands in America.”

Wild In The Streets

When swarms of people mobilize and amass in the streets you automatically think their mistrust of the government bodies in authority resulted in revolution, anarchy, or coup d’états. And, when people feel their loss of safety and well-being is so extremely affected, the tumultuous eternal realities of fear nets action. Rarely do we think of happier occasions like ringing in a new year or the end of a war.

Cuba, Mexico, Russia, as well as countries in Africa, Central America, Europe, South America and the Middle East each are under incredible societal strains. In America . . . unemployment, underemployment, failing infrastructures, illegal immigration, taxes, spiraling cost of energy, food and housing, decline in family structures, shattered and bordered up neighborhoods . . . any, or all, could be legitimate causes for taking it to the streets nationwide.

But, the societal strains which reached a fever pitch in the United States — once again — was the result of the questionable death of Freddie Gray after being arrested. While in a police van, Gray, a 25-year-old Baltimore, MD., resident, suffered three crushed vertebrae and a crushed voice box.

On the heels of Sanford, FL., Ferguson, MO., and Staten Island, NY., police found themselves in the crosshairs of citizens’ fury. Gray’s crushed voice box was unleashed, and found its way into the voices of those rioting in Baltimore’s streets — which prompted solidarity marches in cities across America: Alburquerque, Boston, Minneapolis, New York and Philadelphia.

Saigon was immediately renamed Ho Chi Minh City, and decades of war came to an end.

Blazed across television sets worldwide viewers watched the impending uncertainty, fear and angst in the mob’s action as they took it to the streets.

But, it wasn’t from Baltimore, or Philadelphia, or Minneapolis or New York.

It was from Vietnam forty years ago.

On April 30, 1975, the fall of Saigon ended the saga of war-torn Vietnam. South Vietnam President Duong Van Minh asked his forces to lay down their arms and called on the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong to halt all hostilities “in order to avoid bloodshed.”

As hostilities and bloodshed continue to run in American streets, I have to wonder when our decades-long saga will end.

Careful, Mr. Mayor: Slippery Slope When Wet

I’m sure New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio would like Groundhog Day 2015 to go off without a slip up, but I don’t think that’s in the air.

Last year's Groundhog Day festivities indeeed hushed New York's sweet Charlotte. Photo: Marc A. Hermann for New York Daily News

Not to be outdone by the head honcho, Pennsylvania’s groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, New York also has a critter who comes out of its burrow to look for its shadow. In case you’ve forgotten, butterfinger
Bill dropped Charlotte last year. She later succumbed to her internal injuries a week after her plummet to the ground — Charlotte died.

The saying, “Be careful what you wish for” must be resonating through the halls of Gracie Mansion. You see, I think Mayor
de Blasio’s wish came true — much to the delight of New York’s furry weather forecasters — he probably won’t be hosting Groundhog Day 2015. Likely, Mr. Mayor will be relegated to dealing with Snowstorm Linus issues, instead.

Not necessarily the best wish for Mayor de Blasio. He has been severely criticized for putting the city that never sleeps to bed on January 27, 2015. Estimates for shuttering the Big Apple due to Snowstorm Juno run from $200 million to $500 million. The costly abundance of caution decision resulted in closing roadways, bridges, LIRR, and the city’s subway system — the first time in its 110-year history. Stating with haunting “the sky is falling” fervor, Mr. Mayor referred to the impending weather as, “This could be the biggest snowstorm in the history of this city.” To make matters worse, he further added, “My message for New Yorkers is prepare for something worse than we have ever seen before.”

The mayor’s problem was he slipped up, again. No, he didn’t drop a groundhog — this time, but he was all wet . . . the sky didn’t fall.

Groundhog Day folklore dictates if cloudy when the groundhog emerges, then spring will come early. If sunny, the groundhog will see its shadow, and retreat back into its burrow to hunker down for six more weeks of winter.

So, because much of the country is in for another bitterly cold snowstorm on February 2, are we in store for six more weeks of winter? Who really knows . . . the Shadow knows. That is, the groundhog’s shadow . . .

Or should we ask Mayor de Blasio?

Deja-vu Redux

(Please read “It’s Like Deja-vu, All Over Again”, posted June 19, 2014).

On November 7, 2014, we find ourselves on the heels of the midterm results. Nationwide, the electorate rebuked President Obama’s policies and tactics. As a result, you might think a review should take place before upping the ante, but that didn’t seem to occur.

November 7, 2014, President Obama authorizes deployment of 1,500 non-combat advisors to Iraq. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Mission creep seems to have taken hold — regardless of which spokesman goes on the record and rejects that notion. You see, the president has requested $5.6 billion to fight Islamic State militants. The Commander-in-Chief has “authorized Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to deploy up to 1,500 additional troops to Iraq” in non-combat advisory roles. However, this latest number is not to be regarded as the final number. Something tells me we’ll be revisiting our non-combat advisory troop levels in another 5 months.

Lawmakers remain concerned with President Obama’s decision because not too long ago he considered ISIS/ISIL as inconsequential and members of the JV Team.

When his naive description paled to the realities of the situation, the president announced the deployment of 300 advisors on June 19, 2014.

Several beheadings later, the president has slowly come to the conclusion ISIS/ISIL is a gruesome force to be reckoned with; maybe he’s elevated them to All-Star status?

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), House Armed Services Committee chairman said, “I remain concerned that the president’s strategy to defeat ISIL is insufficient. I would urge the president to reconsider his strategy and clearly explain how additional funding supports a new direction.”

Deja-vu redux.

Third Time’s a Charm – AGAIN

On June 6, 2012, I wrote below article about Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker winning his recall election:

I’m not a fan of recall elections, they smack of political sour grapes.

For the record, the first step to recall an elected official requires that a sufficient number of voters must sign a petition. If that is satisfied, a recall ensues –  a direct vote via a new election to determine if the official will be ousted from office before his/her term has ended.

It has been reported that 1 million signatures were submitted in the effort to force a recall election of Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker (R), exceeding the number of required signatures by 460,000.

Walker, barely in office two years, took a hard line on Wisconsin’s public workers collective bargaining rights, and enacted bold moves to close the state’s $3.6 billion deficit.

Opponents viewed Walker’s tactics as draconian and a blatant attempt to “break the unions.” The domino theory took on a country-wide issue: If one state lost collective bargaining rights, etc., then surrounding states would follow – in a domino effect.

Sound familiar, anyone? America lost the Vietnam Conflict, and now opponents of Wisconsin’s governor lost the recall election espousing that same logic.

Walker triumphantly stated, “Tonight we tell Wisconsin, we tell our country, and we tell people all across the globe that voters really do want leaders who stand up and make the tough decisions.”

Scott Walker is the third governor in our nation’s history subjected to a recall election, and is the first to survive. Two other governors faced a recall vote but lost: In 1921, North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier was defeated by Ragnvald A. Nestos; and in 2003, California Gov. Gray Davis was defeated by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Gov. Walker . . . say, “Cheese.”

Fast forward:

Victorious in his third election, Gov. Scott Walker has a lot to smile about. Photo: Darren Hauck/Getty Images

Another political hat-trick.

Widely considered a potential presidential candidate in 2016, Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker won his gubernatorial race in 2010, survived a recall election in 2012 for his controversial policies toward unions, and won the 2014 gubernatorial race on November 4.

Challenger Mary Burke (D) made history as the first female to be nominated for Governor in the state of Wisconsin. A win would have catapulted her into the history books once again — as Wisconsin’s first female governor. It wasn’t meant to be, Burke conceded to Gov. Walker’s 53 percent to 44 percent lead. Early on in the process, Burke was extremely competitive and attack ads from both camps flooded the airwaves. While the blue state Wisconsinites voted for Barack Obama twice, Burke’s strategy included campaigning with Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, and the increasingly unpopular president. Looking in the rear-view mirror, Burke probably regrets that tactic. Twenty-one of the 31 candidates Bill Clinton campaigned for lost their races, and five of the nine candidates the president campaigned for lost their races.

Asked by The Washington Post to define her politics, Burke declined to “put a label on it.” But, she didn’t have any problem defining Walker’s politics, claiming he could have done better, and stumped incessantly on three issues:
– Walker failed to deliver on his promise to add 250,000 new private-sector jobs
– The state budget faced a $1.8 billion shortfall
– Walker was a divisive personality

In his victory speech, Walker hammered home “dignity comes from work” as he referenced and defended his unrealized 2010 campaign goal of creating 250,000 jobs. Speaking with AP Walker said, “We’re going to spend the next couple months putting together our legislative agenda.”

Obtaining political office doesn’t come cheap, and over a four-year period Wisconsin spent $200 million to choose a public servant: 2010 race, $60 million; 2012 recall election, $63 million with an additional $18 million the state had to expend; 2014 race, $60 million.

The 2014 Wisconsin gubernatorial race finally closed, even the $5 million of personal money Mary Burke loaned her campaign couldn’t stave off the Republican tidal wave sweeping the nation.

November 4, a Pivotal Date

“Teheran, Iran, Nov. 4–Moslem students stormed the United States Embassy in Teheran today, seized about 90 Americans and vowed to stay there until the deposed Shah [Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlaviwas] sent back from New York to face trial in Iran.” That was the first paragraph in The New York Times late city edition on November 4, 1979.

Thirty-five years ago, The New York Times delivered two remarkably prophetic headlines to Americans on November 4, 1979

On that day in Iran, students supporting the Iranian Revolution quoted “a statement from Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, head of Iran’s Constitutional Assembly of Experts, ‘America must know it can’t play with the feelings of the Iranian nation.’ ”

From 1951 until 1953, Muhammed Mosaddeq became the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran. He was a leading voice to nationalize Iran’s oil industry and expel Britain, as well as other foreign country influences. Although the Shah of Iran rose to power in 1941, he was exiled in 1953 during Mosaddeq’s rule. Uncomfortable with Mosaddeq, the United States believed the Shah was the only stable leader in the Middle East, so the CIA overthrew Mosaddeq, and one day later the Shah was reinstalled as Iran’s leader. The Shah ultimately put Mossadegh before the courts, and he was sentenced to three years solitary confinement for trying to overthrow the monarchy, followed by house arrest where he remained until his death in 1967.

Ten years later, in 1963, the White Revolution took shape in Iran. It was the Shah’s attempt to westernize and modernize Iran. Land reform and women’s suffrage became important, as well as increased anti-Shah sentiments from those in the clergy. It was from this group the United States first learned of Ayatollah Khomeini, and his message resonated with Iranians to such a degree that he was exiled by the Shah.

During the Shah’s reign, although modernization and untold wealth was realized by his country, he was regarded as a puppet of the United States. In his ongoing attempt to quiet anti-government forces, from 1963 throughout the ’70s, the Shah became more dictatorial, more secular, more violent. At a fever pitch in 1978, demonstrators took control of government buildings, officials were assassinated, and an incessant drumbeat called for death of the Shah.

No longer able to rule, on January 16, 1979, the Shah fled Iran; and exiled clergyman, Khomeini, triumphantly returned as leader of Iran. Students so inflamed with the Shah and foreign influences, The New York Times headline screamed, “Teheran Students Seize U.S. Embassy And Hold Hostages” as their bargaining tool for the return of the Shah to face charges.

So much for exiling political foes in Iran . . . doesn’t seem to work out too well.

And, so began the Iranian Hostage Crisis, a “terrorist act triggered the most profound crisis of the Carter presidency and began a personal ordeal for Jimmy Carter and the American people that lasted 444 days.” The crisis came to an end under a set of agreements, the Algiers Accords, effective minutes after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as the 40th President of the United States on January 20, 1981.

But, there was another remarkable, interesting headline on the left side of that front page, “Republicans Seek to Gain Leverage For 1980 in the Voting Tomorrow.”

It’s been 35 years since that front page delivered those headlines to Americans. Have times really changed? I don’t think so. We’ve elected Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Liberals, Moderates, Conservatives, Tea Party, Libertarians, Green Party, and so on; but none seem to have the answers, solutions, know-how, or stomach to solve the problems our country faces.

Almost four decades later, we’re still at odds with the struggles and unrest in the Moslem world, Iran remains a thorn in our side, terrorism is on steroids, governments throughout the world are untrusted, and America’s political parties try to gain the majority. You see, our political rhetoric continues to revolve around feel-good, cheeky soundbite sloganeering instead of addressing real issues — to our dismay, our country and world remains in turmoil. Saddened with the pettiness of political races, we’re left scratching our heads and numb while our lonely blue orb tumbles toward its race to an unknown destiny.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

All we can do is vote in elections for politicians we hope will represent our concerns, hopes and dreams. But, time after time, we come to the realization our chosen leaders are ultimately rendered inconsequential due to the status quo forces on The Hill.

It’s that time again to cast a ballot, hold on for dear life and buckle up. I don’t know about you, but It’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to hold on. My seat belt has lost it’s luster, and is becoming worn out and frayed. I’m afraid to ask the question I really know the answer to, “How much longer can it keep me safe?”

Over-zealous Law Enforcement and Media, Repeat These Two Words: Eric Rudolph

On August 9, 2014, 18-year-old Michael Brown died as a result of receiving at least six bullet wounds from 28-year-old Police Officer, Darren Wilson. The shooting occurred on Canfield Drive in the city of Ferguson, MO.

James Knowles III, elected Mayor of the city of Ferguson, MO, in April 2011. Knowles, 31, at the time of his election, became the youngest mayor in Ferguson's history.

Michael was an unarmed black male whose path intersected with Darren, an armed white policeman. This deadly encounter united the predominantly black community against the predominantly white police force culminating in protests, demonstrations, rioting, looting, injuries and additional deaths.

Deep-rooted skepticism laid the foundation
for cries of racism and mistrust of law enforcement. As a result, a variety of reassignments and strategies took place. While tear gas and armored tanks failed to quell the insurrection, local police were stripped of their authority by Gov. Jay Nixon, and oversight was transferred to Chief Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol. A curfew was established and revoked one day later, the National Guard were employed, President Obama made an official statement and Attorney General Eric Holder made this comment during his visit to Ferguson, “I am the Attorney General, but I’m also a black man.”

“No Justice, No Peace,” reminiscent of the Rodney King-Los Angeles riots, as well as “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” became the rallying cries drowning out the sorrows of the Brown family. Community organizers, Rev’s Sharpton and Jackson, Black Panther members, outside agitators and instigators, and the media descended upon the tumultuous city. Furthering racial tensions, Baltimore and New York City have hosted solidarity marches, and uneasy feelings simmer in other racially-divided cities nationwide.

Forensic evidence takes time to assemble, sorting through claims takes time, interviewing witnesses takes time, preparing a prosecution takes times, preparing a defense takes time . . . in other words, justice takes time. So, it’s a little dismaying that authorities have succumbed to numerous demands placed on them from the public outcries. But, what does “justice” mean when high-profile circumstances muddy otherwise clear waters? Does it mean placing Immense pressure upon law enforcement to arrest and charge a police officer with murder. Or, demanding Bob McCulloch either recuse himself or be replaced as prosecutor because of his “compromised background.” Or does it mean to quickly assemble a Grand Jury while the governor simultaneously asserts a prosecution will take place. Or perhaps “justice” means assigning a second prosecutor, an African-American woman, according to Missouri’s Attorney General Chris Koster.

So, is justice determined according to the public’s demands, media’s ratings, or politician’s elections – at the expense of the individual – whether that individual is the plaintiff or defendant? Not a road I want to go down.

As you’ll read further, maintaining high standards of accuracy, fairness and balance under pressure is essential for any investigation.

Andrew Young, 55th Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia.

On September 18, 1990, Atlanta, GA was chosen to be the host city for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. It beat out Athens, Belgrade, Manchester, Melbourne, and Toronto. A major win for then-mayor Andrew Young, he wanted to showcase our great American South to the world. Beaming in his success, Young shared with the world his city — they were able to overcome racial tensions which once defined the south during the 1950s and ’60s. And, so the American South was introduced to the world during the July 19 Opening Ceremony for the Games of the XXVI Olympiad, more casually known as the Atlanta Olympics.

As with any Olympics, there is untold pride for the country, state and city. Host cities benefit from city planning, architecture and construction jobs; and residents get to be part of the opening ceremonies, festivities and work in any of the scads of support roles. Atlanta was no different. The city was abuzz to share its historic Southern Charm, and its residents were honored to be part of an esteemed worldwide sporting event.

Along with the sporting-event venues, athletes dorm at the Olympic Village, and there are leisure facilities, shops, restaurants and open spaces. One of the popular open spaces enjoyed at the Atlanta Olympics was known as Centennial Park.

This was one of the most memorable Olympics for a variety of reasons: President Bill Clinton officially opened the event, Muhammed Ali entered the stadium to light the Olympic Torch, Celine Dion sang the official song, “The Power of the Dream” and the Games slogan, “Come Celebrate Our Dream” became security guard Richard Jewell’s nightmare.

On July 27 a terrorist bomb ripped through Centennial Park. The blast killed Alice Hawthorne, 44, of Albany, GA; and Melih Uzunyol, a Turkish cameraman, died of a heart attack as he rushed to film the mayhem; 111 people were injured.

Jewell found the backpack which housed the bomb, stood his ground, and saved countless lives by clearing as many from the park before the explosion. He was a hero . . . for three days. All-too-eager to report the scoop, on July 30, 1996, Jewell was named by newspaper, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, CNN and NBC as the “focus” of the investigation. Richard Jewell, at the right place at the right time, was convicted by the media of the terrorist bombing at Centennial Park.

Believed to be criminally involved, the FBI swept into the apartment he shared with his mother, Barbara. They took his deer-hunting gun, his collection of 22 Walt Disney tapes, and all of his mother’s Tupperware. The media was drooling and tasted the red meat. Entrenched outside in the parking lot of the apartment complex 24/7, they filmed the bags being taken out of the home. He was distraught.

Originally eager to be the first to report the scoop, the media reversed roles. No longer reporting the bombing, they became an integral, willing conspirator in becoming the news. And, it was NBCs Jay Leno who channeled Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber moniker, and mocked Jewell as the “Una-doofus” which further embolded a federal agent to refer to Jewell as the “Una-bubba”and his mother as “Una-Momma.”

Although Richard Jewell was questioned and subjected to numerous search warrants, he was never arrested or charged. Sans media coverage and associated fanfare, the FBI quietly cleared Jewell of all suspicion three long months later in October 1996.

During a televised news conference, Jewell said, “I am not the Olympic Park bomber. I am a man who has lived 88 days afraid of being arrested for a crime I did not commit.” He further added, “I set out to do my job, and do it right.”

Sadly, the media didn’t do its job. They lost their way. They failed to understand the extraordinary burden of responsibility they have to report the news in an unbiased fashion. “Let the headline be based on the facts . . . don’t shape the facts to fit the headline.” No, the editor-in-chief from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution didn’t say that, it was said by the proud security guard who set out to do his job, and he did it right.

Nonetheless, Richard Jewell became a national joke, a joke he never fully recovered. At the mercy of law enforcement and an over-zealous media, Jewell was convicted in the court of public opinion. The once happy-go-lucky hero became a fractured, cynical man who was suspicious of people. Just shy of 12 years ago, on August 29, 2002, Richard Jewell, 44, hampered by diabetes, died of natural causes.

Ferguson, MO, and Atlanta, GA are proud southern cities which have undergone racial tensions. Andrew Young, former aide to Martin Luther King, Jr., became the mayor of Atlanta which overcame its racial past, and proudly hosted the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. James Knowles III, the mayor of Ferguson, defends his city 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It’s mired in violence, protests, UN admonitions, State and Federal Government interference, National Guard involvement, and racial tensions, but insists there is “no racial divide.” Words of advice: “With age, comes wisdom,” and “The first step in fixing a problem is admitting a problem exists in the first place.”

Nine months after Richard Jewell’s death, on May 31, 2003, an anti-government serial bomber was arrested and charged with the 1996 Centennial Park Terrorist Bombing. His name is Eric Rudolph.

“It’s Like Deja-vu, All Over Again”

Sound familiar?

This famous quote, “It’s like deja-vu, all over again,” is attributed to Yogi Berra, a beloved American professional baseball player.

Although Berra’s uncommon-sense approach to communicating is known as Yogi-isms, they should cause you to pause because they have some wisdom:

“I didn’t really say everything I said.”

“You can observe a lot by watching.”

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll wind up somewhere else.”

“We made too many wrong mistakes.”

In 1961, our military was the best in the world – we were unbeatable – after all, we were still basking in our WWII victory. Even so, our country was not willing to have American “boots on the ground” to join the fight in Vietnam’s civil war. However, our president felt compelled to do something to aid South Vietnam since the fear of the spread of communism consumed our country and democracies throughout the world.

President John Kennedy sent 400 of our Green Beret “advisors” to South Vietnam to train South Vietnamese soldiers in the art of counterinsurgency and to mold various native tribes into a credible anti-communist threat.

“We are prepared to send a small number of additional American military advisors – up to 300 – to assess how we can best train, advise and support . . . going forward, we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it.”

June 19, 2014: President Obama announces deployment of 300 advisors to Iraq.

America learned the many hard lessons of meddling in Vietnam’s civil war over a half-century ago. Has President Obama dismissed his oftentimes touted mantra – a teachable moment lesson?

I think so, because that remarkable quote is from his televised announcement before White House reporters on June 19, 2014.

Did President Obama really say what he said?

I couldn’t believe my ears. Certainly he is watching and understands the ramifications the United States faces as the world implodes before his very eyes – I thought. Does he have a solid plan, and know where we are going? I don’t really think so. Sadly, I fear we are going to wind up somewhere else – not foreseen; not part of his plan.

Our country is making another wrong mistake.

A quote which isn’t attributed to Yogi, rather George Bernard Shaw, bears repeating, “If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.”

How incapable must President Obama be of learning from experience.

Scary times – deja-vu minus 100.

Morning Has Broken

Although we all know the reality that life in America wasn’t as portrayed on television’s Ozzie and Harriet, or Leave It To Beaver, there was a part of us which admired and wanted those hierarchy structures and routines in our own lives.

Take breakfast for example: We sat down at the kitchen table with other family members, perhaps a glass of juice, half grapefruit, pancakes, waffles, bacon and eggs, toast, or bowl of cereal . . . simple and sweet.

Imagine . . . people actually sat at a table, used real utensils, glassware and dinnerware.

Serving a breakfast takes time. You have to cook, set the table, sit at the table, talk to others, eat, clear the table, wash the wares, and then leave for school or work. But modern life doesn’t have time for those niceties which helped create proper social beings. We’re too busy, we simply don’t have that luxury.

Okay, things change, I get that, understood.

Are we at risk of loosing the colorful experience of pushing our shopping cart through the cereal aisle?

But . . . Americans no longer have time to sit down (table optional) and chow down a bowl of cereal? Pouring corn flakes into a bowl has become an effort which takes too long to prepare? Are you kidding me?

I kid you not. Kellogg’s released a statement, “Not all consumers choose a bowl of cereal and milk, for them, we’re developing foods that provide the benefits of cereal in portable and convenient formats.”

Cereal was already made portable years ago, and you can’t beat its convenience – I thought. And, let’s not forget, in order to keep up with the growing number of do-gooder’s zeal for healthy food options, cereal manufacturers constantly underwent transformations. Cereal is now more healthy, contains more protein, is less sugary, less caloric, and now consumers have gluten-free choices.

So, we’ve successfully covered two of the check points for all those multi-taskers: Portable and convenient, but how many more formats have yet to be invented?

Let’s see, it’s Taco Bell who knows all about new breakfast formats, notice I didn’t say healthy. Listen up Kellogg’s, Post, and General Mills whose always falling over themselves to be politically correct. Anyway, in Taco Bell’s wisdom they know Americans love quantity and taste, not necessarily quality; and we’re definitely not that into presentation or sitting at a table with our family.

Taco Bell introdues a new format for breakfast consumption – the waffle taco.

Knowing all of that, and knowing what we like to eat, can translate into big bucks and increased revenue for the Bell. Welcome their version of a well-rounded American breakfast: A waffle taco filled with scrambled eggs, sausage and side of syrup.

Taco Bell also knows another thing. They’re a business, and in order to stay in business, they’re interested in offering food – healthy, or not – which people will actually pay for with their hard-earned money. So much for First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move It” and Fresh Food Program, preservatives, trans fats, calorie, carbohydrate, fat content, obesity, and diabetes concerns.

I thought the do-gooders targeted households, schools, cupcake fund-raiser events, vending machines, deli’s, bagel shops, donut franchises – and fast-food restaurants – for contributing to the increasing waist lines of Americans. I hear peeling all right, but it’s not from the Bell, it’s the do-gooders peeling themselves off of ceilings all across America.

Breaking News: Photo editors are frantically retouching all images of June Cleaver’s famous pearls from her neckline. Taco Bell has eclipsed the Beaver’s mom of her long-standing home ec skills.

Hindsight being 20/20: Sitting at a table, talking to one another, and pouring cereal into a bowl wasn’t so bad after all, was it?

Star Sailors Celebrated

The space race between the Soviet Union and the United States ramped up after a forward-thinking President John F. Kennedy threw down the gauntlet.

President Kennedy laid out our “Urgent National Needs” on May 25, 1961 during a joint session of Congress. In that speech the president avowed, “that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”

Fifty-three years ago our country was prodded and motivated by an awe-inspiring, anything is possible dreamer – our president. He created the fervor and foundation needed so the American dream would become the world’s reality.

The nation of dreamers became the nation of doers, and on July 20, 1969 the three-man crew of Apollo 11 realized the president’s challenge. Neil Armstrong, Commander, became the first man on the moon; and Buzz Aldrin, Lunar Module Pilot, was the second. Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot, orbited the moon while his crew members spent over 21 hours on the lunar surface.

President Kennedy had the right dream and NASA delivered – they had the right stuff. That’s when astronauts were admired and revered. That’s when the country – and the world – stopped and took notice. That’s when people on planet Earth believed all things were possible. We were proud.

Apollo 13 brought the world to a standstill . Left to right: Fred Haise, James Lovell and Jack Swigert.

But, there was another time when people throughout the whole planet stopped, took notice and ultimately beamed with pride.

Apollo 13 endured an assortment of smaller, manageable problems; but an on-board explosion, rising carbon monoxide levels, and ampere power limitations were life threatening.

The crew, manned by extraordinary professionals, were able to react to the explosion which resulted in the venting of their oxygen into space with the understatement of the century, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

I’d say the world agreed with their assessment. But we weren’t as calm and cool under pressure as they continued to catapult toward the moon. The eyes and hearts of the turbulent world were in unison – we had to get them home. Their crippled ship was perilously close to a catastrophic end over 200,000 miles from Earth. Did David Bowie’s 1969 song about fictional astronaut Major Tom, “Space Oddity,” foretell their fate?

The mission became an oddity, indeed. Many things went wrong, both before and during the flight, but an incredible number of talented people worked around the clock to get things right . . . enough to get the crew home.

Forty-four years ago today – April 17, 1970 – James Lovell Jr., Commander; Fred Haise Jr., Lunar Module Pilot and John Swigert, Jr., Command Module Pilot, survived four harrowing days in space. Never having landed on the moon, the world held their breath waiting for them to splash down safely in the south Pacific Ocean. Retrieved by the USS Iwo Jima, the Apollo 13 mission is considered a “successful failure.”

Ever since man could walk upright, our quest and thirst for exploration is part of who we are as human beings, and it continues.

In 2013, NASA selected their next crop of eight astronauts: Josh A. Cassada, Lt. Commander, U.S. Navy; Victor J. Glover, Lt. Commander, U.S. Navy; Tyler N. Hague, Lt. Colonel, U.S. Air Force; Nicole Aunapu Mann, Major, U.S. Marine Corps; Anne C. McClain, Major, U.S. Army; Andrew R. Morgan, M.D., Major, U.S. Army; Christina M. Hammock; and Jessica U. Meir.

Welcome the 2013 Astronaut Candidate Class:

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, “These new space explorers asked to join NASA because they know we’re doing big, bold things here – developing missions to go farther into space than ever before. They’re excited about the science we’re doing on the International Space Station . . . and they’re ready to help lead the first human mission to an asteroid and then on to Mars.”

I can only wonder if President Kennedy’s dreams were ever about missions to asteroids, landing a person on Mars, and returning safely to Earth?

This space age stuff gives me, well, goose bumps.

A Funny, Little Intersection Became the Crossroads of the World

Another year is closing, and another year is to unfold.

What lies ahead makes the optimists giddy, while the pessimists are white-knuckled.

If you’re like most of us, you’re somewhere in between.

So, for one night you’ll revel in some small way the opening of the door to 2014 as you help propel this world-wide 110-year-old tradition into the history books.

Massive, state-of-the-art printing presses were placed in specially designed sub-basements which could handle the monster presses in the new headquarters for The New York Times. The 25-story Times Tower was located at the triangular intersection of 7th Avenue, Broadway and 42nd Street – 1 Times Square.

To celebrate, the paper’s owner, Alfred Ochs, put on an all-day party like none before for over 200,000 revelers. At midnight a fireworks display from the base of the Times Tower prompted oohs and aahs so overwhelming that Trinity Church in lower Manhattan was usurped as the traditional gathering place to ring in the new year from that moment – the year was 1904.

The original illuminated ball welcoming the new year.

In 1906, the city forbade the display of fireworks, but that didn’t dissuade Mr. Ochs. Rising to the occasion, “a large, illuminated seven-hundred-pound iron and wood ball lowered from the tower flagpole precisely at midnight to signal the end of 1907 and the beginning of 1908.”

For 36 years the illuminated ball dropped from the Times Tower precisely at midnight to welcome the new year. It was during the wartime years 1942-43 when the illuminated ball succumbed to the dimming of lights throughout New York City. Revelers still gathered at this triangular intersection and welcomed in the new year to the sounds of chimes  . . . some celebrants were giddy, while others were white-knuckled.

In 1928, the Tower introduced an electronic news ticker, more affectionately referred to as the “zipper”. Its first news ticker announced a victorious Herbert Hoover as our new president, followed by countless other headlines of the day as the years marched on. Ironically, the once-dimmed lights at Times Square blazed across the zipper as another crowd packed into that famous intersection – but this time it wasn’t to usher in the new year. It was on August 14, 1945 when the packed crowd at Times Square read the WW-II surrender of Japan.

Made of Waterford Crystal and LEDs, the 2014 12-foot diameter ball weighs nearly 12,000 pounds and is completely computer controlled. Photo Ben Helmer, Untapped Cities

The Times remarkably outgrew the Tower in 1914 but still retained ownership of the building until 1961 when it was sold to developer Douglas Leigh. From then until now, there have been countless owners, but regardless of who owns the building, Alfred Ochs entrenched that little, seemingly inconsequential intersection in New York as “the place” to gather for historic news events . . . and to ring in each new year.

Today, over one billion people watch this simple, hopeful celebration from the Crossroads of the World. I am one of the billions, and I am cautiously optimistic for 2014.

For the first time in the history of the New Year’s Eve Ball, the numbers will be lit in colors and patterns that can be changed and controlled.

Turning Japanese – Are We Done, Yet?

What does WeatherTech® and the Official USA Olympic 2014 Snowboarders’ Uniform have in common?

They both protect the user from weather, other than that – Nada.

Olympic 2014 Snowboarders Uniform: A patchwork quilt of stars and stripes unveiled by manufacturer, Burton.

Guess which one boasts USA in their heart and on their fitted sleeve?

You really don’t have to guess – it’s WeatherTech®. Unfortunately, I’ll just confirm the Official 2014 Olympic Snowboarders’ Uniform were – outsourced. Not again.

Please read, The Emperor Has No Clothes, posted July 19, 2012.

Hmmm . . . sounds like Ralph Lauren’s fall from the bridge wasn’t so bad after all. Sounds like the Olympic 2012 criticisms from the halls of our esteemed Senate and Congress fell on deaf ears as well.

Speaking of deaf ears, I would have to surmise our Olympic Committee has reiterated its lame PR-approved stance which they trotted out during the heated Lauren-China alliance.

How ticky-tacky.

A lot of thought went into the design and manufacture for this Olympic’s snowboarder uniform . . . stars, stripes, quilt work . . . what’s all the fuss? These uniforms weren’t made in China, after all.

“The vintage quilt and flag print of the jacket combined with the corduroy pants give the uniform an `heirloom hippie’ vibe that lines up with snowboarding’s laid-back culture while paying respect to America’s longstanding creative heritage. It will stand out in Sochi for sure,” said Greg Dacyshyn, Burton chief creative officer.

Are you sick, yet?

One is proudly Made in the USA in toto, while the other isn’t – they’re just “paying respect.”

One desires to keep manufacturing here, while the other doesn’t.

One is concerned about maintaining jobs in the United States, while the other isn’t.

I guess it’s okay to outsource to . . . Japan and Vietnam – because these uniforms weren’t outsourced to China, after all.

Really? Read on.

Burton Snowboards released this statement, “The fabric of the competition fleece was woven in Italy, and the technical and waterproof corduroy pant fabric was developed in Taiwan and sewn in Vietnam . . . next, we turned to our longstanding, trusted vendors in China to produce several of the accessories.”

Wait, there’s more, “As such, every piece of the uniform has to perform at the highest level and keep the athletes warm and dry in the unpredictable weather conditions that could come in Sochi.”

Not a single trusted vendor resides on USA soil?

Not so fast Skippy . . . since 1989 MacNeil Automotive has been providing the best in automotive protection and vehicle accessories. So, it doesn’t seem to be such a stretch to protect uniform fabric, does it?

Maybe someone with hippie vibe should have spoken with WeatherTech® to learn how they manage to manufacture in . . .  egads, the United States.

The Wringing Out of Freedom

A very wise person taught me many lessons. One of which was to be resolute – to raise my personal antenna when the powers that be enact something to help your lot in life, under the guise of they know what’s best. Diminishing personal freedom little by little over time nets an end result of the loss of personal freedom in total.

Truer lessons have never been so forewarned. The glorious pealing sound of freedom is smoldering, and has just about been extinguished in my lifetime. Once proudly ringing from sea to shining sea, freedom is wringing alright . . . squeezed and corralled into the new norm of citizens who are being monitored, watched and plugged-in 24/7.

Case in point: In order to help drivers avoid the massive traffic lines at toll booths, especially in the Northeast, the handy E-Z Pass was introduced and heralded. When drivers set up an account and purchase a one-time dollar amount, or refillable dollar amount via credit card, they receive a transponder to place on their vehicle’s dashboard or rear-view mirror. Each time the vehicle passes through a toll area their account is automatically deducted the proper amount.

Sounds convenient, no more waiting in that awful line to hand your money to a toll-taker, and it’s really good for the environment, too; remember, we have to be careful of our carbon footprints. But did anyone raise their personal vehicle’s antenna? After all, those who are in control are doing something to help your lot in life, because they know best. Don’t be such a naysayer . . . don’t be so dramatic do-gooders will say – really?

"Midtown in Motion" should bring us all to a standstill. The program really should be renamed to, "We Know Where You Are."

A segment on this morning’s news program was about E-Z Pass, sort of. You see, the powers that be saw the inch and took the yard. Subscribers are suffering unintended consequences – not only is E-Z Pass monitoring your movement as you cross toll areas, it’s also monitoring your movement as you drive city streets . . . ahem, to help with traffic control. And you thought those devices were cameras trying to catch you going through a red light. Relax, nobody knows who’s driving, “they” just know where your vehicle is – date, day and time. Eerily similar to the NSA debacle – we’re not reading your texts or emails, we’re just compiling metadata . . . just in case.

Aha! so let’s advance the just-in-case metadata ball that insidious inch. Let’s assume you are an E-Z Pass subscriber and did something someone has defined as “wrong.” You never crossed a toll area, and only drove through city streets. Unknowingly – until this morning – your vehicle, not you, is being tracked by the E-Z Pass stations on the traffic lights. But, I thought the transmitters and motion sensors were to aid in traffic flow – well, that’s what we were told . . .

Looks like the metadata ball took that yard . . . your monitored vehicle now stops at a local gas station, convenience store, parking garage, etc. Smile, you’re on creepy camera. That seemingly innocuous metadata has led to your destination, and guess what – a camera has captured a photograph of . . . you, not binary metadata. Oops.

No matter where we bank, shop, dine, visit, or move about “freely” we’re being watched by some computer and eye in the sky. Freedom, in all of its forms, has become a distant, fond memory for me. The 24/7 monitoring of an entire population is not freedom, rather it smacks of being a manipulated, controlled, and indentured population.

In the business environment egos, arrogance, complicity, or fear of termination have motivated workers to don their Superman capes as workdays no longer have time constraints. The personal-professional line has been irrevocably blurred. A mere (w)ring-tone, text or email typically invades personal, off-the-clock downtime – and you thought you were making a decent hourly wage. Silly you . . . but you can download some really awesome apps.

Even if we wanted, we can no longer unplug. Human beings lost control, and little by little our freedom was handed over to technology. In my opinion, the cool factor has morphed into the creepy factor. And, if you people watch, you would see most are unaware that the house has fallen on their heads.

Strangely, many have bought into the Superman notion that they’re so important to the existence of life on Earth. These self-indulgent people must be plugged-in because somebody must have something . . . anything to convey to them. Talk about the air of self-importance . . . I don’t know, maybe they needed more hugs when they were little. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but nobody’s that important – or special – all day, everyday; and we’re no longer free – not by a long shot. I, for one, am glad that I lived in a freer America, and feel my kids have missed out on that experience. I fear the pending consequences that will unfold when the entire connected cloud somehow disconnects. Will those with the Superman schtick acknowledge the house falling on their heads then?

By the way, that very wise person was my very loved dad.

 

You Can Call Me HAL?

HAL, from 2001: A Space Odyssey: Voted as the 13th greatest film villain.

I have officially placed computers in the double-edged sword category.

They’re terrific, and horrific at this critical time of our history. Our lives have become easier / more difficult, quicker / more time-consuming, more responsive / too responsive. Just ask anyone who has become tethered to their devices, or fails to remember their litany of passwords, or ill-advisedly depressed the “Send” button.

Watching television, a once joyful experience, has become another task. Today’s remotes are mini computers, and have become so arduous to deal with that many features remain untapped. TV repairmen . . . who are they? That’s a job on the endangered species list, if not already extinct. Just call your “provider,” a help-center person from another state will read from the trouble-shooting document to work with you to repair your TV via your remote and set-top box. I didn’t know I was on the “providers” payroll . . . when did that happen? If the problem cannot be repaired, you will be charged for a scheduled in-home visit, or you can just throw your old TV in the garbage . . . and buy another bigger, cheaper, better model with even more bells and whistles.

Money? What’s money? Simply use or swipe your Debit / Credit / ATM card when making a purchase or payment. Your transaction is now recorded, time-stamped, confirmation number and all. And if you’re in a brick-and-mortar store, you’re also being photographed – say, “Cheese.”

As if life isn’t busy enough, we find ourselves willingly doing many jobs for which we don’t receive compensation. We are TV repairmen, bankers, check-out counter employees, gas-station attendants, I could go on and on. Every aspect of our lives is now monitored and controlled by computers – somewhere out there – as we have become participants in the petri dish of living on planet Earth.

Ahhh! All under the guise of helping and streamlining . . . you know, modernizing.

Mom-and-pop stores, to fast-food stores, to high-end stores love the technology packed into today’s cash registers since they can react real time. Oops, I said cash registers . . . a descriptive name soon to be replaced by maybe something like transaction data control. Anyway, they know your payment due date, recent purchases, what needs to be replenished, what’s not selling, what is selling, number of sales per hour, average purchase cost per hour, number of visitors to the store – brick-and-mortar or online, etc.

Marketing geeks go berserk for this type of data, and so does our government.

The much feared J. Edgar Hoover would have been in his glory. Just think for a moment: Imagine if his G-Men were able to acquire untold volumes of information on the bad guys by monitoring data. Well, that’s what computers have enabled modern law enforcement to compile. Wounding two birds with a single stone . . . unsavory characters and the underground economy can no longer thrive in the shadows. Maybe Joseph McCarthy would be in his glory, too. And, while we’re at it, let’s not fail to include the glory those Salem Witch Hunters would have experienced. Those chilling thoughts raise an obvious problem: Who defines who the bad guys are, and what makes them bad . . . because are we as a society really okay when the dragnet places regular folk into the bad category?

So, common sense begs the question – when do the powerful good guys become the powerful bad guys?

But what happens when things go wrong? What happens when the computer fails to apply empathy, or common sense, or stop for a nano second because things just don’t seem right?

Well, then we have crossed the sci-fi becomes reality creepy realm of HAL. Listed in AFIs 100 Years . . . 100 Heroes and Villains as the 13th-greatest film villain, maybe just maybe we should sit up and take notice of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece film 2001: A Space Odyssey, based on Arthur C. Clarke’s novel.

I repeat: HAL is regarded as one of the greatest villains of the last 100 years – that’s saying something. HAL was an artificial intelligence computer who was required by specific orders and programming to withhold the true purpose of his mission; leaving the last surviving crew members, David Bowman and Frank Poole, to take matters into their own hands and change the course of the mission.

Sound familiar?

Did our government and NSA honchos read the novel, see the film, and decide, “Aha! That’s what we should do.” Let’s implement a secret, huge, highly-sophisticated computer system whose true purpose of the mission is to . . . fill in the petri dish blank.

Smugly, the NSA never dreamed a crew member would exercise empathy, or common sense, or stop for a nano second because things just didn’t seem right. I say smugly because they never conceived that a lowly person . . . ahem, system administrator, would muck up their mission. Well, one did. Rightly, or wrongly Edward Snowden took matters into his own hands to change the course of the NSA mission.

The NSA is now faced with the unthinkable dilemma that people do indeed have intelligence. One of their over-reaching, reactive “fixes” as a result of the breach in our “security” is to replace 90% of their system administrators with automated systems . . . in other words a world full of HALs who exercise such a level of efficiency that one can easily deem it as evil. Just hearing HALs unemotional, measured voice brings chills to my spine.

No David Bowman, no Frank Poole, and no Edward Snowden to question the mission when told, “I’m afraid I can’t do that.

Have the powerful good guys who operate in the shadows morphed into the powerful bad guys themselves? Has privacy, and by extension freedom, been usurped by sterile computers under the guise of security? And, what happens when the mission – named government – cannot be altered?

Did Arthur C. Clarke write a novel about those horrifying concepts?

Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover

Newspapers across America announce the jury's verdict in the Zimmerman-Martin case.

Headline screams, “. . . In Panic of Fear Shoots Innocent Bystander,” and “. . . Fatal End to Auto Night Riding”.

That about summed it up: George Zimmerman was driving around in his car, saw a person who looked suspicious, got out of his car, pursued the suspicious character and ultimately fatally shot the 19-year-old, unarmed Trayvon Martin.

What can be learned from this no-win situation?

Hopefully look into and change the Stand-Your-Ground law, possibly change self-defense criteria . . . I’m not really sure, because it seems the human condition cannot be legislated. You see, that remarkable headline isn’t attributable to the Zimmerman-Trayvon horror.

It was about Max Annenberg’s shooting of 23-year-old Alexander Belford on July 14, 1913, as reported by Chicago’s “The Day Book” newspaper. Eerily enough, on the same day – 100 years later – newspapers were dealing with the same horror as headlines across America screamed George Zimmerman was found “Not Guilty” of the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin.

Lesson Learned? I don't think so, my mother's advice still rings true: Don't judge a book by its cover.

While Annenberg’s supporters “. . . pulled every wire in the Invisible Government of Chicago for thirty-six hours to save Annenberg from arrest for shooting Belford”, it took 46 days of pressure before George Zimmerman was arrested for the shooting of Martin.

According to reports, “Annenberg never saw Belford before that moment; Belford never had seen Annenberg. Annenberg had no grudge against Belford; Belford had shown no animosity toward him, had not tried in any way to harm him. Annenberg had no reason in the world for shooting Belford. Annenberg shot and perhaps fatally wounded Belford because he was in a panic of white-livered fear brought on by his own guilty conscience, and because he held ready in his hand the revolver . . . the bullet struck Belford just below the heart and pierced the left lung.”

Sounds remarkably similar, and although it’s been 100 years since that event, the same problem raised its ugly head: Assumptions, petty biases, big-shot mentalities and a trigger finger. You see, the collision of fate unfurled as one person had the power of lead behind his jaded thinking, and one person didn’t – armed only with his own jaded thinking.

In a truly horrific case where there are no winners; not the families, community or country, we simply have to do a better job of respecting each other. Unfortunately, we have to teach our kids, and ourselves, to approach all encounters as potential problems. It doesn’t matter the age, size or sex of any person, what matters is when someone has an issue . . . real or imagined . . . it’s smart and brave to just walk away, call the police and make it home alive.

Neither party really knows who you’re dealing with, or what pre-conceived assumptions have been made, and when a concealed weapon is added into the mix, you’ve just heightened the lead-head ingredient.

The situation can only go from bad to worse as borne out by the Annenberg-Belford case, and the Zimmerman-Martin case. Today’s sick fact punctuates the very similar scenario experienced 100 years earlier only supports and proves history continues to repeat itself.

Are we ever going to learn? Sadly, it doesn’t appear anytime soon.

I’m going to hold tight onto my mother’s advice: Don’t judge a book by its cover . . . I don’t need to prove to myself that I’m right, I just need to get home alive.

The Incalcuable Personal Cost of No Man’s Land

A man without a country: Toms Hanks in Steven Spielberg's "The Terminal".

The art imitates life, imitates art scenario has hit once again.

Steven Spielberg’s The Terminal was an okay movie based loosely on a real-life person, Mehran Nasseri, who was relegated to the departure lounge in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport.

While Edward Snowden, the now infamous NSA leaker/whistleblower who is embarassing the United States of America, has been holed up in a Moscow Airport for only three weeks, Nasseri was holed up close to 30 years. Bizarre to say the least.

So, what’s the problem? Well, the United States finally confiscated Snowden’s passport – after he left Hong Kong – which means he cannot legally travel freely from one country to another; because you need a legal passport to enter a country . . . ahem, except if you’re sneaking into this country.

On top of that technicality, if Snowden does travel via plane/train/automobile . . . or boat/ship/yacht, chances are the passage will need to cross land/sea space of countries who maintain treaties with us, and recognize our laws. That’s the problem.

So, Snowden is stuck, snowed in, if you will, in a No Mans Land – in Russia. And the latest news is he’s seeking temporary political asylum in Russia until he can finalize travel arrangements to his new, yet undefined country.

I wonder exactly how many countries are thumbing their collective noses at us and laughing.

Snowden was faced with a moral crisis: Keep quiet, or divulge questionable practices exercised by our Government and stay in the country to face the consequences, or leave the country.

He decided to divulge and run. According to an article in Sky News, Snowden “had given up his family and a ‘home in paradise’ to put an end to what he said was a ‘serious violation of the law.’ ”

Admirable, naive, illegal, stupid – I don’t know, but his decision was quite a trade-off, one which I wouldn’t be able to exercise. Of course, there’s probably more . . . much more to the story, and Snowden’s Benedict Arnoldian ultimate decision will be studied over the passage of time.

But, why would Snowden decide not to keep his misgivings within the NSA family? Why would he choose to make his findings so traitor-ish, so public?

This morning on the television show, The McGlaughlin Group, three prior NSA whistleblowers were named. They are: William Binney, Thomas Drake and J. Kirby Wiebe.

Trying to do things the right way, you know letting your superior know your concerns, and, if necessary, following the chain of command – possibly ending with a congressional committee investigation, only netted these highly-seasoned and respected professionals nothing but mega investigations, trouble and personal ruination.

Perhaps Snowden saw the hopelessness of the situation he found himself. Trying to alert this country’s population of the goings on within the NSA didn’t work out too well for Binney, Drake and Wiebe. Maybe Snowden’s tactic would have to be more draconian. Maybe then somebody would sit up and take notice. Maybe then the secret would be exposed and a well-informed discussion could be had.

Maybe . . . maybe not.

So, here we sit. Bits of information are being dripped one drop at a time, and Snowden cannot budge from his Moscow terminal.

What the heck have I been thinking? I know, maybe he can somehow get to Mexico. It’s there that he can illegally cross the border into the United States, work in the shadows under a stolen social security number, request amnesty, receive social services, and vote . . . all while our politicians fall over themselves to accommodate the status of yet another undocumented resident.

Hello . . . Snowden doesn’t need a passport to thrive and live under the radar in this country. We cannot find over 11 million illegals who have sneaked through our porous border, why would he think the Justice Department will find him?

America: I Don’t Recognize Her Anymore

Throughout my blog you will find editorials about how government (local, state, federal) has gone wild. Nanny-states, ill-formed laws, do-gooders who “know” what is best for you, etc., etc.

I haven’t blogged for a while – not because there wasn’t enough raw red meat to write about, but because the raw red meat just kept on being thrown on me like feeding time at the zoo.

Edward Snowden, former National Security Agency outsourced employee who leaked America's top-secret surveillance program to the world.

So, instead of writing about a particular “scandal,” I’m going to lump everything into one tacky ball: The federal government is creepy.

As we all wade through the onerous Affordable Care Act, which threw the baby out with the bathwater, it dawned on me: The Affordable Care Act seems to be just that – an act. Stay tuned to see slight-of-hand professionals shuck this shell game on the Las Vegas Strip. We haven’t learned our lesson regarding that paper nightmare of passing it in order to know what’s in it, when enter the Immigration Bill – which just passed the Senate on June 28. It also is onerous with scads of things we don’t know about – yet, and has tons o’ pork. You know, the standard, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” fare which is legally used to get a bill through which otherwise would have difficulty passing.

PC-police, or should I say DC-police, are everywhere. Dare any citizen who flies the American Flag in an unauthorized zone, wears the American Flag at work or at anti-American rallies, speaks openly, unencumbered and freely, or believes in American ideals – you better watch out – the feds will come down on you quicker than fast-drying nail polish. Ideals are not perfect, that’s why they’re ideals. They include struggles, successes and failures. The most important guarantee we can hold onto is that we are guaranteed a shot at the American Dream. We are not guaranteed the American Dream.

So, what was the American Dream? Ahhh . . . it was a theory, a dream. It didn’t matter what your socio-economic background was, what faith you were, what political party you most aligned yourself with, what your birth order was, the color of your eyes, or what gender you were. What mattered was having a strong work ethic, a little luck to be in the right place at the right time to recognize when opportunity knocked, and the desire to improve your family’s future through upward mobility.

Fast-forward our collective American Dream. Citizens, or should I say legal in addition to illegal residents, barely maintain the status quo, are burdened with debt, and employment opportunities are abysmal at best; all while the DC runaway train transporting the homogenization of America is on the express track.

Just take a deep breath, real, non-biased look around. I, for one, don’t like what I see.

While the employment opportunities are scarce and becoming scarcer, they abound in the Federal Government, just ask Edward Snowden – the guy who leaked mega top-secret information about what Uncle Sam was engaged in . . . to the world.

I won’t waste anyone’s time in discussing whether Snowden should be revered or feared. What I do want to discuss is the fact that such a top-secret job was outsourced. Are you kidding me? The Federal Government has military at its disposal. Military elite with clearance up the ying-yang, and they decided it was a good idea to hire a civilian with civilian sensibilities for this highly-sensitive position. The same Federal Government who is going to administer health care, levy taxes, hunt down terrorism, and exercise prudent judgement and restraint?

Prudent judgement . . . restraint? I don’t think so.

Snowden, and those millions of other outsourced civilian government employees, didn’t undergo any mental stamina tests that Marines and the SEALs must endure in order to survive the rigors of training to don the life-long status of belonging to a distinguished, elite group. It appears Snowden was just a regular nerd-guy who didn’t like what he saw, didn’t like what he was doing, and couldn’t live with that information; and boy what information he divulged. I almost have to pity him, and feel like the government got what it deserved.

So, the world now knows for a fact that the American Government practices invasive techniques to root out terrorism. This is like the movie, The Star Chamber, where a select group of like-minded vigilante judges frustrated by the wheels of justice collectively decide the fate of some pre-determined “guilty” criminals. Apparently a select group of like-minded vigilante congressmen have decided it was time for a government sequel, The Star Chamber: DC 2013.

So, since this esteemed handful of congressmen “knows” what is best, invasive techniques are being used against everyone – the homogenization of America’s residents, as well as upon foreign governments and – hold onto your hats . . . their residents, too. You see, our government’s view is people might saber-rattle, but at the end of the day we’ll all do what we’re told, we’re all the same, we all possess the same terrorist tendencies, we’re all “guilty” of something – if not now, certainly in the future. And, we must always remember, the American government believes they are of a higher quality, a better grade if you will. . . so they think. They don’t stereotype, target, or profile. And if you, the mere minion does, you’ll be slapped with hate crimes, hate speech, profiling, and on, and on.

We have now experienced the Patriot Act on steroids. Oops, better not let the IRS sink its teeth into this – I mean the name “patriot” will surely raise the red flag . .  you know to stereotype, target and profile these activities. Oh! I’m mistaken, what was I thinking? The Star Chamber: DC 2013 decides who can, and cannot, be messed with, profiled, and ruined . . . ahem, I think it’s more like, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

All of the raw red meat congealed in order for me to write this blog. I turned on my computer last night, and attempted to logon. No luck. My internet provider blocked my ability to “browse the internet due to a breach in my terms of agreement.” What the heck did that mean? Apparently copyrighted material was downloaded by my kid, so my provider “blocked” my internet ability. They knew what was downloaded, what IP address it was downloaded to, etc. etc. – for all intents and purposes they were in my house. Chillingly, it was more than metadata. Of course, the files in question have been summarily trashed from the computer, and a firm lesson learned, but it has brought this entire concept of watching eyes from afar into very real focus: It’s not just big brother who’s watching – Main Street is watching, too.

So, although our country was founded on the idea that government should fear the electorate instead of the electorate fearing their government, we have become too cavalier and eager to relinquish our power and responsibility from future generations.

I fear alright . . . and it’s that the Liberty Bell doesn’t symbolize what I was brought up to believe America was about . . . yikes, are “they” reading this?

You Can Be Anything You Want To Be

When I was growing up, I was told anything was possible. Anyone could become anything they wanted, dreams could become reality with a lot of hard work and a little luck.

Some wanted to run in the Boston Marathon.

I, along with most, was gripped to the television coverage of the Boston Marathon Terrorist Bombing. I then was drawn into the coverage of the unprecedented closure of a proud American city. A tactical decision which allowed the massive manhunt to end somewhat peacefully.

I always liked the store Lord & Taylor’s, and now there’s another reason why. You see, it was their clear video which significantly aided in the unmasking of the terrorists. We were able to see with our own eyes as Suspect 1 in the black hat, and Suspect 2 in the white hat confidently walked among the jubilant spectators made up of children, young adults, parents, spouses and just regular folk . . . all the while knowing the carnage their backpacks were about to so smugly unleash.

Although I can imagine a lone person carrying out such a horrific act, it’s difficult to imagine getting another person to go along with the act – but it was clearly evident on the video footage that’s exactly what occurred.

We live in a new world. Home-grown terrorists, imported terrorists, highly-sophisticated law enforcement, and . . . smile – cameras everywhere.

We are all Johnny-on-the-spot with cellphone cameras which brings out the Cecil B. DeMille in all of us. We post pictures, take videos, upload to YouTube, Facebook . . . and who knows where else the future will continue to lead us as it evolves. Technology has made the world a smaller place, a better place, a worse place.

Carnage at the finish line of the marathon wasn’t enough. Car-jacking and the cold-blooded murder of an MIT security officer was also in the terrorists’ arsenal. Shocked by the gun-wielding car chase and lobbing of explosives from the terrorists’ vehicle was reminiscent of the mind-blowing scene depicted in the movie, Heat. We saw with our own eyes and heard with our own ears the onslaught of gunfire in the streets of an American neighborhood. Suspect 1 was mortally wounded while Suspect 2 escaped.

Escaped? How in the world could that have happened? I’m sure law enforcement around the country will be scouring over what went wrong in order to establish new-and-improved tactics to combat the next act of terror our country will unfortunately experience.

Suspect 1 and Suspect 2's paternal uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, gave an ad-hoc, refreshingly honest interview on the Boston Marathon Bombing, and the involvement of his nephews.

The faces of the suspects were beamed across all media, and their names were quickly ascertained. They were brothers, they immigrated to this country and were given a chance to live in a free society where they could live the American Dream . . . to become anything they wanted.

Their paternal uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, gave an ad-hoc news interview in front of his house. He was angry and ashamed that their family name and an entire race of people were forever stained by his nephews. He showed humility, empathy for all of the victims, and a refreshing honesty. Asked by a reporter what he felt about the United States, Tsarni said, “This is the ideal micro world of the entire world. I respect this country, I love this country. This country which gives chance to everybody else to be treated as a human being, and to just to be human being, to feel yourself human being.”

The terrorists had a dream all right, and it was our nightmare . . . to become cold-blooded murderers and terrorists.

The Clock Has Struck 12

You know it’s bad when The New York Times actually picks up the baton and joins the deafening choir in reporting on your company’s floundering ratings. NBCs “Today” show, once the crown jewel of morning television, has plummeted in ratings since the very public insult and mishandling of the increasingly popular Ann Curry.

You don't need to be an expert in body language to recognize Matt Lauer's uncomfortable posture.

Please read “Today” Will Not Be My Tomorrow (posted June 22, 2012): “Viewers had to know something was going terribly wrong when NBC – yes, NBC, brought Sarah Palin – yes, Sarah Palin – in to boost ratings, and when “Good Morning America” overtook “Today” in ratings the week of April 9th, ending their 16-year top-of-the-pack status.”

NBC News executive, Alex Wallace, broke through the network’s awkward silence and shared his thoughts, “We would like Matt Lauer to be in the chair as long as he would like to be. We hope that’s for many years to come.”

This well-crafted wording was an attempt to address the pink elephant in the room. I simply love the coded statement, and I wonder what chair they’re really talking about.

I can hear the cracks, pops, and flashes from here . . . and so can the network bigwigs reports The Times, “The ratings are scrutinized now by NBC and ABC for signs that “Today” is stronger on the days when Mr. Lauer is on vacation.”

NBCs higher-ups – and Lauer – really behaved as though they were untouchable. Newsflash – viewers always decide who they will back, who they will like, what they will watch – not the ill-fitted suits. It looks as though NBCs haughty laughing has come to crying.

Knock, knock. Is anyone steering the sinking ship? Is it you, Alex Wallace?

I think I still hear the blare of the band playing because word is the network is actually floating the idea of hiring a new employee to boost the show into acceptance once again. It’s beyond odd that the network’s go-to anchor who is paid scads more than anyone else still has his job . . . and a newbie might be hired to help stop the bleeding.

Does Harvard understand the saying, “Don’t throw good money after bad.”?

I thought the awesome benefit of having a go-to anchor who possesses magic means the station, network, business, etc. doesn’t need to be propped up. The anchor is the one who does the propping – hence the adjective, anchor.

A one-hour field trip from Manhattan to Long Island’s Source Mall would do NBC movers and shakers a world of good. Although they’re chalking off the persistent Curry-Lauer chatter as “gossip,” they formed focus groups to get data about what they already know. You see, when the Source Mall lost their anchor, Fortunoff, the mall’s businesses fell like dominoes. That place lost business after business – all who relied on residual traffic from the anchor.

Hello . . . the mall echoes, and is now eerily empty – like the empty suits at NBC.

So, I just saved NBC honchos from taking one hour out of their very busy days of denial and bumping into one another. Hello . . . hello . . . hello . . . when an anchor fails, the traffic dries up.

Outsiders contacted by the peacock network shared this sentiment with The Times, “Even if the person appeared only on the 9 a.m. hour, which Mr. Lauer is not a part of, such an addition would make “Today” more of an ensemble show, seemingly less dependent on his star power.“

Star power?

They STILL don’t get it.

More like a super nova.

Is It Bigger Than a Breadbox?

My head is full of so many little images, it’s a blur on wheels, er cranes.

I remember being told how living conditions in the rest of the world were as compared to where I grew up – the United States.

Those who lived in more remote regions of the world resided in caves or crevices on the side of mountains – alas, adequate shelter. Tents, shacks, sheds and lean-to’s with tin roofs are a notable step up, but again, adequate shelter. Japan was over-crowded and its citizens lived in small, no-fuss shelters. While citizens living in Eastern Block nations had a shortage on available apartments. Your name could be on a decades-long official list which might result in being chosen to live in the next available apartment thanks to a lottery-style selection.

Ted Kaczynski was  a mathematical genius turned dangerous, out-of-touch American terrorist who also believed in a no-fuss, sparce-shelter existence. As out of touch with reality as Kaczynski was, he really embraced the second rung on Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs – shelter. Known as the infamous “Unabomber,” Kaczynski’s goal was to rid society of technology in order to return it to a more primitive existence. Ted clearly crossed the line with his philosophy by sending wrapped packages of homemade bombs to innocent recipients.

Arrested in 1996, we marveled at his meager existence. Most watched in awe as his cabin was uprooted from its Montana homesite and transferred to Sacramento, California to be shown as evidence in his 1998 trial. The Unabomber’s 10 x 12 cabin is now on display in Washington, D.C at the Newseum.

So, what makes Kaczynski’s choice of shelter so different from what is being “marketed” to those who want to seriously downsize but live in high-priced, limited stock regions? In my estimation – not much. Enter the Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. They offer many exterior aesthetics for most tastes, but check out the 8 x 19 “Lusby”  – sans homemade bombs.

Ted’s rustic abode and the structures offered by Tumbleweed are meant to sit on a site by itself. What are millions of other people, ahem city dwellers whose apartments sit atop each other, supposed to do?

Too crowded, too few available apartments, too few affordable apartments – sounds to me like the old Eastern Block nations. Since inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere, cargo crates have long been the blueprint for building self-contained, compartmentalized units for cruise lines, aircraft, and now . . . cityscapes.

Capsules or modules – however you want to refer to them, a small-dwelling unit was once affectionately referred to as a  walk-up, railroad, or studio “closet” apartment by us unsophisticates who like to dwell in nostalgia.

Nostalgia shouldn’t interfere with progress. Pre-fabricated modules are being built at New York’s Brooklyn Navy Yard. Once completed, they will be transported to the city-owned lot at 335 East 27th Street in Manhattan.

I thought wanting to live in a breadbox meant you were seriously deranged and out of touch. I guess not. Maybe it’s green technology, maybe building crates lessen our carbon footprint, maybe Earth’s over-population has made the sci-fi movie “Soylent Green” concept more plausible.

Progress, huh? Progress, nothin’. When will there be a lottery?

Who was the architectural agency responsible for this canard, and where was the zoning committee when this fiasco was being presented? I grew up believing the United States was a great big country, whose citizens yearn for room and freedom. But these modules represent just the opposite. They shoehorn even more people into an already crowded city – you know, something like Calcutta.

In addition to that obvious problem, I think these modules are sickenly akin to life in a prison cell. My bad, prisoners get cable, free meals and medical – will these modules come with those same accoutrements? Not likely . . . so are we really willing to throw our culture and sensibilities to the wind and swallow anything if dazzle accompanies its presentation, while good press and political backing follows? I doubt any of the razzle-dazzlers will even consider living full time, 24/7 in one of those cells. Have we all lost our minds, ala Ted Kaczynski?

Cabin vs. Lusby; Cargo Crate vs. Module. I’m not feelin’ it, and I don’t see much of a difference, do you? What I do see, and I see it clearly, crystal clearly . . . is a great big rouse. Maybe I should be happy there’s something great and big in this country.

Eww: They’re a little bigger than a breadbox – true, but me thinks the better-named reference should be “crane-ups.”

Valentine’s Day is the Cat’s Meow

We just finished the whirlwind of Happy and Merry holidays, and then another Happy holiday appears seemingly on their heels. Lo and behold, along comes February.

I still haven’t caught my breath.

Quite a special month, that February is . . . American Heart Month, American History Month, Black History Month, Presidents’ Day, Ground Hog Day, and for all of us romantics . . . Valentine’s Day.

Oh!, the pressure. What if you loathe how marketing has muddied all our occasions? What if you aren’t a romantic, or aren’t involved in a romantic union? Not to worry, February is also the Affair to Remember month.

For those who practice Valentine’s Day, at least you can count on one day a year when you are treated to a variety of romantic gestures. Confections, a quiet dinner, fragrances, baubles – how I do love baubles, unmentionables, cards and flowers are among the unisex gifts synonomous with Cupid’s day.

But, do we really have to rely upon one manufactured day a year to be loving and kind to one another?

One of the most important gifts doesn’t have a price tag – it’s called time. Time to spend with one another, time to caress one another, time to relax and enjoy the coziness of doing nothing . . . together.

St. Valentine tried to teach us humans a thing or two about love, but all we ever have to do is look to our furry friends – just ask St. Francis of Assisi.

Now Serving – All the News That’s Fit to Print

In 1856, one of America’s oldest saloons was founded – Old Ebbitt Grill.

Over the years, many historic faces have graced this establishment; and through their various incarnations and locations, today’s Old Ebbitt Grill carries on its rich Washington, D.C. tradition.

If you visit Washington, D.C., the trip to the Grill has to be on your must-do list. I personally love the place . . . everything – the look, feel, history, decor, and Oh! yes – the food. Any time I hear of someone visiting the nation’s capital, I always mention a visit to the Grill should be on their itinerary.

Salvaging priceless antiques along the way, Old Ebbitt Grill displays beer steins, animal heads, wooden bears, an antique clock above the revolving door, mahogany bar which is a replica of the one which rotted at the F street location, numerous paintings and water colors, carved glass and mirror panels by Charles B. Shefts which depict the Treasury, the Capitol, and the White House, and a marble staircase with an iron-spindled rail salvaged from the old National Metropolitan Bank.

The Grill’s Victorian interior catapults you back to a more proper time period in American life. You know, when people spoke with one another and actually enjoyed each other’s company. Antique gas chandeliers and fixtures, wooden crossbeams accented by a style of pinstripe stenciling popular at the turn of the century, and chairs which are copies of antique Victorian bentwood chairs from a New York Central Railroad dining car.

All this nostalgia is not lost. Now, in 2013, Old Ebbitt Grill has made another indelible mark.

Diner’s will receive a first-ever breaking news update on their receipt. Called “The Latest News,” the separate receipt will feature the latest headlines from The Associated Press and be passed out with checks, coffee or dessert.

Leland Schwartz, a former journalist and co-founder of Print Signal Corp. says, “We’re great believers in the power of paper, despite the fact that we’re in the middle of iPhone heaven. So the idea behind it is to see if news updates would work in certain venues, particularly upscale restaurants.”

Another believer that the uninvited guests – ahem, smart phones – are taking over our sensibilities, Schwartz believes printed news on receipts will foster conversation.

Imagine that . . . speaking with another person – a conversation.

Historic Home Made History in an Unlikely Manner

It was 150 years ago that a brick home in Union Beach, New Jersey was built.

If walls could talk, I’m sure this home would have shared many stories with our eager ears. But, it was in October 2012 when Hurricane Sandy took a giant bite out of that historic home, known as Princess Cottage.

John Zois owned the yellow brick home for just six short months before it made history – again, in yet another way. You see, a picture is worth a thousand words: Princess Cottage was catapulted into the role of becoming an iconic symbol of the historic storm’s wrath.

Princess Cottage will forever be linked with the largest Atlantic hurricane on record. Although measured as a Cat 1 hurricane, Sandy became the largest storm with winds spanning over 1,000 miles packing damage estimates over $65 billion. It is now considered the second-costliest Atlantic hurricane behind Hurricane Katrina.

Speaking with New Jersey local newspaper, “Asbury Park Press”, John Zois shared his anxiety, “To see my home away from home, which became my home, destroyed like this – it’s hard to take, it’s just hard to take.”

The teetering Princess Cottage was a standing testament to the powers of Mother Nature; but was also a stark reminder of the blessings the Zois family received.

As a wreath graced its front door, the yellow brick home shared one last story. This time it succumbed to another Cat – a Caterpillar Crane finished what Sandy started.

Princess Cottage was demolished and silenced in less than 30 minutes.

See Welcome Page for video of demolition.

Hostess Needed a Twinkie – Defense: No More Cherry Pie

In 1978, Dan White assassinated Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, both of San Francisco, Ca.

During the trial, White’s lawyer introduced America to psychiatrist Martin Blinder who shared his professional opinion regarding White’s mental status.

He noted that White, who was previously considered a fitness fanatic, found himself consuming large amounts of junk food and sugary drinks which diminished his mental capacity; hence his depression and subsequent assassination of two men.

This preposterous explanation was latched onto and coined by a reporter as the “Twinkie Defense,” and is now part of legal language referring to an inconceivable defense.

White’s lawyer was successful dolloping his diminished mental capacity canard to the jury, but sadly the Twinkie hasn’t been as lucky.

Hostess Brands Inc., bakers of confections which include Twinkies, Wonderbread, Ding Dongs, Sno Balls and fruit pies, is slated to liquidate its 80-year-old business.

Say it ain’t so.

You see, striking workers have crippled Hostess’ ability to resume normal operations, and although many workers crossed picket lines, the rank and file allowed the Thursday, November 15 deadline to pass. Over 18,500 employees will be unemployed.

Personally, I never ate a Twinkies – even though they quickly became a staple in kids’ lunch boxes across America as a snack classic.

I liked the Hostess Cherry Pie . . . not the Drakes Cherry Pie whose package houses two square pie-like items.

Hostess . . . the single large, puffy, crescent-shaped pie with oodles of filling.

Ahhh . . . a step down memory lane.

I’m in Florida. I’m hot, pregnant and very uncomfortable.

What does that have to do with Cherry Pie? Let’s just say I had a hankering; an uncontrollable, insatiable craving took over me to such an extent that Linda Blair’s character in “The Exorcist” would have had stiff competition.

No, I didn’t crave the normal ice cream, potato chips or pickles. My out-of-control craving was for a . . . Hostess Cherry Pie.

But the southland didn’t sell Hostess Cherry Pies in a single grocery store – I scoured them all.

Literally obsessed in the quest for my pie, I was running out of petro. At wits’ end, I entered a Circle-K gas-mart, waddled in to pay for my fuel, when all of the sudden I heard a choir in my head, “Tastes so good makes a grown man cry Sweet Cherry Pie.”

No, this is not about the “Cherry Pie” lyrics from the band, Warrant . . . Circle-K had Hostess Cherry Pies!

I bought one. Just one.

Carefully, I unwrapped the ruby package. Each intoxicating bite brought me closer to satisfying my intense crave. Over twenty years have passed, and this grown woman wants to cry – for many reasons. It’s so sad that one by one our iconic businesses are vanishing from the changing American landscape.

Hostess is closing its doors – no more sweet cherry pie.

Election Secession

It looks as though President Obama’s constant comparison of himself to President Lincoln bore fruit. The old saying, “Be careful what you wish for” comes to mind as President Barack Obama was re-elected to the highest office in the land and now resides over a deeply divided country.

Those who vehemently did not support his re-election are speaking loudly and often.

Not content with the results, the old stand-by remarks, “We’ll get them the next time,” or “This election was a warm up” are as empty as residents found their gas tanks in the northeast due to Hurricane Sandy.

You see, half of the electorate is so dissatisfied with the trajectory this nation faces that 30 of our 50 states have signed petitions to secede from the union. Voicing dissatisfaction on the “We the People” White House website, https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petitions, the disgruntled are citing familiar concepts of disenfranchisement, a federal government which has grown too large, and local government being more in tune with the needs and wishes of its local citizenry.

Salmon P. Chase, sixth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court: 1864 until his death in 1873. Administered the Oath of Office to Andrew Johnson following Lincoln's assassination.

But can a state secede?

Chief Justice Salmon Chase of the Supreme Court rendered its decision concerning Texas v White on April 12, 1869: “When, therefore, Texas became one of the United States, she entered into an indissoluble relation. All the obligations of perpetual union, and all the guaranties of republican government in the Union, attached at once to the State. The act which consummated her admission into the Union was something more than a compact; it was the incorporation of a new member into the political body. And it was final. The union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States. There was no place for reconsideration or revocation, except through revolution or through consent of the States.”

So, it appears seceding is illegal . . . and revolution is legal, but if we’re at the point of revolution, does it really matter if it’s legal?

Because revolution makes me a bit queasy, I prefer to explore the Tenth Amendment of The Bill of Rights: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

James Madison shared his viewpoint, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce. … The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives and liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State.” 

Although it’s easy to dismiss the petitions as harmless, useless and futile, the larger point is our Founding Fathers penned the very real dangers of a large, centralized government. That being said, citizens and states are heeding their warnings and are seriously at odds with today’s government – and sadly . . . vice-a-versa.

Sandy Scares Off Halloween, Temporarily

Sandy, the once-in-a-hundred-year storm, hit the east coast of the United States with unrelenting vengeance.

Wait a second, I’ve already experienced several once-in-a-hundred-year storms . . . I must be older than I thought.

New Jersey's Gov. Chris Christie took Halloween back from Frankenstorm Sandy

Anyway, this unforgettable weather event rocked the entire eastern seaboard. Mapmakers will be very busy since Sandy felled countless towns and redefined the coastline.

Although the storm did not land its bulls-eye on New Jersey on Halloween, its horrific remnants loomed over the special childhood holiday.

Loss of life and property, in conjunction with lost business revenue, power outages and gas shortages caused many to believe Halloween should have taken the way-back burner.

But, New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie knows Halloween is just as important to the Garden State goblins as food, electricity, shelter and business are to adults.

It all depends on whose eyes you’re looking out from.

With his state under nature’s siege, Gov. Christie showed the capacity to empathize with the littlest of New Jersey’s citizens, and made a remarkable gesture. Exercising an executive order, Gov. Christie postponed Halloween.

On Monday, November 5, children in New Jersey may still don their outfits, safely go door-to-door trick or treating, and hold onto their childhood amidst the armageddon-like havoc all around.

Gov. Christie has proved the tiniest of actions sometimes are just as important as the large, overwhelming tragedies unfolding in his state.

I think Christie should dress up as Superman on November 5 – because that’s what he is – a super man.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

As you read portions from the two presidential acceptance speeches below, you’ll be mesmerized how issues that divide seemingly haven’t changed.

“My friends, America is a great nation.

And it is time we started to act like a great nation around the world. It is ironic to note when we were a small nation – weak militarily and poor economically – America was respected. And the reason was that America stood for something more powerful than military strength or economic wealth.

The American Revolution was a shining example of freedom in action which caught the imagination of the world.

Today, too often, America is an example to be avoided and not followed.

A nation that can’t keep the peace at home won’t be trusted to keep the peace abroad.

A President who isn’t treated with respect at home will not be treated with respect abroad.

A nation which can’t manage its own economy can’t tell others how to manage theirs.

If we are to restore prestige and respect for America abroad, the place to begin is at home in the United States of America.

My friends, we live in an age of revolution in America and in the world. And to find the answers to our problems, let us turn to a revolution, a revolution that will never grow old. The world’s greatest continuing revolution, the American Revolution. . . .

“We are a great nation. And we must never forget how we became great.

America is a great nation today not because of what government did for people – but because of what people did for themselves over a hundred-ninety years in this country.

So it is time to apply the lessons of the American Revolution to our present problem.

Let us increase the wealth of America so that we can provide more generously for the aged; and for the needy; and for all those who cannot help themselves.

But for those who are able to help themselves – what we need are not more millions on welfare rolls – but more millions on payrolls in the United States of America.

Instead of government jobs, and government housing, and government welfare, let government use its tax and credit policies to enlist in this battle the greatest engine of progress ever developed in the history of man – American private enterprise.

Let us enlist in this great cause the millions of Americans in volunteer organizations who will bring a dedication to this task that no amount of money could ever buy.

And let us build bridges, my friends, build bridges to human dignity across that gulf that separates black America from white America.

Black Americans, no more than white Americans, they do not want more government programs which perpetuate dependency.

They don’t want to be a colony in a nation.

They want the pride, and the self-respect, and the dignity that can only come if they have an equal chance to own their own homes, to own their own businesses, to be managers and executives as well as workers, to have apiece of the action in the exciting ventures of private enterprise.

I pledge to you tonight that we shall have new programs which will provide that equal chance.

We make great history tonight.

We do not fire a shot heard ’round the world but we shall light the lamp of hope in millions of homes across this land in which there is no hope today.

And that great light shining out from America will again become a beacon of hope for all those in the world who seek freedom and opportunity. . . . ”

Richard Nixon / August 8, 1968
Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination
at the Republican National Convention in
Miami Beach, Florida 

 

 

“Let us commit ourselves to rule out every vestige of discrimination in this country of ours. But my fellow Americans, the way to end discrimination against some is not to begin discrimination against others.

Dividing Americans into quotas is totally alien to the American tradition.

Americans don’t want to be part of a quota. They want to be part of America. This Nation proudly calls itself the United States of America. Let us reject any philosophy that would make us the divided people of America.

In that spirit, I address you tonight, my fellow Americans, not as a partisan of party, which would divide us, but as a partisan of principles, which can unite us. . . .

“That is why one of the goals of our next Administration is to reduce the property tax which is such an unfair and heavy burden on the poor, the elderly, the wage earner, the farmer, and those on fixed incomes.

As all of you know, we have cut inflation in half in this Administration, but we have got to cut it further. We must cut it further so that we can continue to expand on the greatest accomplishment of our new economic policy: For the first time in five years wage increases in America are not being eaten up by price increases.

As a result of the millions of new jobs created by our new economic policies, unemployment today in America is less than the peacetime average of the sixties, but we must continue the unparalleled increase in new jobs so that we can achieve the great goal of our new prosperity – a job for every American who wants to work, without war and without inflation. The way to reach this goal is to stay on the new road we have charted to move America forward and not to take a sharp detour to the left, which would lead to a dead end for the hopes of the American people.

This points up one of the clearest choices in this campaign. Our opponents believe in a different philosophy.

Theirs is the politics of paternalism, where master planners in Washington make decisions for people.

Ours is the politics of people – where people make decisions for themselves.

The proposal that they have made to pay $1,000 to every person in America insults the intelligence of the American voters.

Because you know that every politician’s promise has a price – the taxpayer pays the bill.

The American people are not going to be taken in by any scheme where Government gives money with one hand and then takes it away with the other. . . .

“Their platform promises everything to everybody, but at an increased net in the budget of $144 billion, but listen to what it means to you, the taxpayers of the country. That would mean an increase of 50 percent in what the taxpayers of America pay. I oppose any new spending programs which will increase the tax burden on the already overburdened American taxpayer.

And they have proposed legislation which would add 82 million people to the welfare rolls.

I say that instead of providing incentives for millions of more Americans to go on welfare, we need a program which will provide incentives for people to get off of welfare and to get to work.

We believe that it is wrong for anyone to receive more on welfare than for someone who works. Let us be generous to those who can’t work without increasing the tax burden of those who do work.

And while we are talking about welfare, let us quit treating our senior citizens in this country like welfare recipients. They have worked hard all of their lives to build America. And as the builders of America, they have not asked for a handout. What they ask for is what they have earned – and that is retirement in dignity and self-respect. Let’s give that to our senior citizens.

Now, when you add up the cost of all of the programs our opponents have proposed, you reach only one conclusion: They would destroy the system which has made America number one in the world economically.

Listen to these facts: Americans today pay one-third of all of their income in taxes. If their programs were adopted, Americans would pay over one-half of what they earn in taxes. This means that if their programs are adopted, American wage earners would be working more for the Government than they would for themselves.

Once we cross this line, we cannot turn back because the incentive which makes the American economic system the most productive in the world would be destroyed.

Theirs is not a new approach. It has been tried before in countries abroad, and I can tell you that those who have tried it have lived to regret it.

We cannot and we will not let them do this to America.

Let us always be true to the principle that has made America the world’s most prosperous nation – that here in America a person should get what he works for and work for what he gets. . . .

“In areas like the Mideast, which are danger areas, small nations who rely on the friendship and support of the United States would be in deadly jeopardy.

To our friends and allies in Europe, Asia, the Mideast, and Latin America, I say the United States will continue its great bipartisan tradition – to stand by our friends and never to desert them. . . .”

Richard Nixon / August 23, 1972
Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination
at the Republican National Convention in
Miami Beach, Florida 

Watered-down Win For Some Losers

It’s in the air. You feel it. You hear it. Unfortunately, you see it.

IT is not your imagination.

Our country is polarized, so much so that we’ve become stagnant – and that’s being accepted as the “new normal.”

If you’re a die-hard Democrat, there’s nothing a Republican can do, say, or think that you’re willing to listen to – nevermind agree. If you’re a die-hard Republican, there’s nothing a Democrat can do, say, or think that you’re willing to listen to – nevermind agree.

So, here we sit in swill of our own making.

The world is seemingly imploding: the Middle East is – well, the Middle East; our Libyan Ambassador and three others were brutally murdered in another terrorist attack on the 9-11 anniversary; European nations are in financial free falls; nations throughout the world are close to becoming bankrupt – some already are; here at home, some of our states and municipalities are bankrupt; our debt in untenable; our infrastructure is in decay; we’re spending more, much more, in soaring gas, oil, and food costs; our country has sustained, continuing high unemployment and under-employment; we continue to boast stagnant wages; we’re overtaxed and war-weary; service and manufacturing jobs continue to be shifted overseas; environmental issues are still a source of debate; healthcare ramifications and costs loom; our politicians continue to beat the drum regarding Social Security and Medicare scares; families suffer from rising upper-education costs in conjunction with low public school ratings; home values and ownership are decimated; we have porous borders . . . and the hits keep coming. Wow, wow, wow.

jetBlue is offering a soft landing for some disgruntled voters: Election Protection 2012.

The IT, whose name is America, is sick.

Who in their right mind would want to be president . . . really?

I know, I know . . . the current gluten for punishment, President Barack Obama, and the want-to-be gluten for punishment, Gov. Mitt Romney.

There’s been lots of jabs and digs throughout this marathon race culminating in the presidential contest, and the first presidential televised debate was watched in record numbers. They discussed many of the issues cited as best they could given the small amount of time allotted.

With all of our troubles home and abroad, I don’t think Gov. Mitt Romney’s comment about public broadcasting’s Big Bird should eclipse this country’s abysmal future. I know it’s a quick soundbite, and I know it’s cheeky . . . but really, with everything that is falling down around us, is Big Bird worthy of having any press time?

Are we being plucked, I mean punked – have we all lost our minds? Please read The Running of the Bull (posted July 8, 2012): “So, we have to look at ourselves standing naked in front of the mirror and ask: Are we simply caught up in the adrenaline rush that we cannot see what others believe is so blatantly obvious?”

Let’s not address, dare I say solve, the ongoing issues. Let’s make some more swill.

Undoubtedly you’ve heard, “If so-and-so wins, I’m leaving the country. That’s it, this is not the country I want to live in.” Well, jetBlue has heard that same sentiment, and has come up with a sweepstakes, Election Protection 2012. jetBlue will give away certificates to those whose candidate of choice lost – 1,006 round-trip certificates to be exact. What’s the significance of 1,006 – I don’t know.

So, that got me thinking even more about planes . . . and our country, and what they have in common.

A plane needs wings to fly . . . two. It needs a right wing – and it needs a left wing. But . . . it will only take off, stay up in the air, and safely land when the captain (president) and air-traffic controllers (congress) are in tandem with the right and left wing – while the center aisle provides the all-important balance (the electorate).

What do you think . . . maybe jetBlue can teach our country a valuable lessen in the importance of common sense, working together and maintaining balance.

Candy Corn – Nothing; Pieces Reigns Supreme

I have a few posts which talk about the weighty subject of obesity in the United States, see New York’s Hardline on Soft Drinks (posted September 16, 2012), and The Cookie Crumbles (posted May 10, 2012).

 

But, knock-knock, is anyone home? October 31 is a day to put our food issues aside. After all, trick-or-treating is all about the candy. Gooey, sugary, yummy candy . . . not healthy apple slices or pretzels.

Let’s face it, when else do kids get out of the house and actually visit upon their neighbors? Let me rephrase that . . . when do kids actually go out of the house . . . period. But regardless, shouldn’t we be happy with all the exercise the little urchins will be experiencing as they go door-to-door anticipating their newest confection? Sounds like a goodie compromise: In the yearly search for free candy you simultaneously walk off calories. I’m okay with that, but above all: Do-gooders should be happy.

In honor of my gorgeous, perfect cat . . . who always wore the ultimate Halloween costume.

If you’re an average American –aren’t we all – you’ll consume 24 pounds of candy each year. That sounds like a lot – I don’t think I consume that much. But, during
All Hallow’s Eve, Americans collectively spend $1.9 billion in Halloween candy sales – that’s about $44 per household. Unfortunately, that seems about right to me. And, although Americans consume Candy Corn to the tune of 20 million pounds, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups top the list of favorite candy to receive – as a matter of fact, even their wrapper is in orange, brown and black – how Halloweeny.

I don’t know any kid who would opt for candy corn, pretzels or healthy apple slices in lieu of a chocolate candy bar. Don’t fool yourselves – kids have a special, secret language – somehow every trick-or-treater knows which house gives out the “bad stuff.” So, if you don’t want to be “that house” leave the healthy snack approach to others – for one day a year, and watch the kids delight when you drop the perfect candy in their plastic pumpkin or sack.

Hold the pieces, I mean presses.

Increasingly, Halloween isn’t just for the little guys anymore . . . it seems adults want to be kids, too. You see, they’re Snicker-ing and elbowing their way into the domain of children. How gauche . . . Halloween is more than candy that melts in your mouth. Companies are licking their lips as adults spend $2.12 billion for costumes, $350 million for greeting cards (you’re welcome Hallmark), and $1.65 billion in decorations.

Doesn’t sound like kids play to me . . . anymore.

 

Data sources: Nielsen Research, Ibisworld, EirstResearch, Holidays.net

New York’s Hard Line on Soft Drinks

Well, it’s happening . . . our states are soooo concerned about our children.

On May 10, 2012 I wrote a blog, The Cookie Crumbles, “A statewide Massachusetts law was slated to go into effect August 1, which effectively bans bake sales.”

Espousing they knew better how to handle the systemic, epidemic increasing waistline of children in public schools, the nanny-state approach was defeated.

Spearheaded by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City's Board of Health passed the big soda ban which will go into effect March 2013. Bloomberg cites sugary soft drinks as a significant cause of obesity and diabetes in children.

Enter New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg ( I ) who said, “We cannot continue to have our kids come down with diabetes at age 6.”

Well, that public health concern sounds good – truly it does. But is there anyone alive who really believes children at the ripe age of 6 are coming down with diabetes because they are going into food establishments to purchase a soft drink whose size is greater than
16 ounces?

I don’t think so. I think eating habits are a window into the home; you know, the acorn doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Instead, I think all do-gooders should wrap their legal arms around the notion of having a mandatory, solid physical education and nutrition curriculum part of a student’s school life – from kindergarten through 12th Grade.

That would make sense to me. It’s not a quick fix, but having a nation of active, nutritionally-educated kids will ultimately translate into a nation of active, nutritionally-educated adults. Merely instituting a feel-good ban on soft drinks doesn’t come close to addressing what ails our society.

Is obesity a problem? Yes, it is. Is diabetes on the rise? Yes, it is. Will our computer-based world inhibit outdoor activities? Yes, it will. Are we walking and exercising less? Yes, we are. Will banning soft drinks larger than 16 ounces make a dent in decreasing waistlines, obesity and diabetes? No, sadly it won’t.

So, I want to be a do-gooder, too.

I propose banning all-you-can-eat buffets, Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, restaurant eating challenges, donuts, any coffee other than black, ice cream sold in containers larger than a half pint, the Awesome Onion Blossom, fried chicken, mayonnaise, hot wings sold in quantities greater than 12, beer sold in six packs or cartons, bacon and bread.

Then . . . because I know best, I’d like to take my do-gooding duties a step further.

I propose banning taxis, elevators and escalators – that way people will be forced to ride a bicycle (don’t forget the law says you have to wear a helmet), walk and take the stairs. Hearts will benefit, circulation will benefit, and people will become more fit . . . thus a decline in obesity and diabetes.

Pandora’s box is officially open . . . look out Schindler and Otis.

Backpack Economics

Schools have opened up all across the country for the 2012-13 year.

Some kids are excited about going back to school, some are not. Whether it’s the first time in kindergarten or the last year in high school, the costs incurred by families for school supplies has increased.

A majority of families will spend more on school-related supplies this year over last year simply because goods cost more. In addition to that, those families who have older children will spend even more money because they’ll require more expensive items.

Schools are providing less and less supplies each year – the new normal. Instead, families are expected to purchase an increasing list of school goodies – shifting the costs onto already overwhelmed family budgets. Back-to-school costs have increased $80 over last year, to the whopping national average of $688 per child – which is a lot of money.

But we’re not just talking about the time-honored expectation of notebooks, pens and pencils. As you unfurl the “must-have” scroll, youngins are required to have hand sanitizer, tissues, glue sticks, Elmer’s glue, Scotch tape, stapler . . . and crayons. What’s next – are we to supply our child with their own personal roll of toilet paper?

It’s remarkable – aren’t you glad your local school budget continues to pass? Hold on while I rummage through the backpack, I have to find some of those mandated tissues to cry into.

A Serving of Sweet Break-Ups

Way back when, people had a lot to do. You see, technology wasn’t what it is today, and all tasks took a long time to accomplish.

We maintained our own lawns, milk was delivered every morning, and small trucks frequented neighborhoods to sharpen utensils. Since most homes weren’t equipped with washers and dryers, laundry was taken to the local laundromat. Banks, grocery stores and restaurants weren’t open 24 hours like they are today; and bills and packages were brought to the staple of American society – the post office.

When household duties took up too much time of a particular day, cooking was put on the back burner. Local pizza and Chinese restaurants seemed to innately understand very early on of the financial benefit their business realized by delivering to consumers’ homes. Since TV dinners, quick 30-minute meals, and ordering out became accepted, it’s no wonder the slogan, “Don’t cook tonight, call Chicken Delight” struck a chord . . . and it’s a jingle that is still in my head.

These same tasks aren’t taking us equally as long to accomplish – quite the contrary, they’re taking us much shorter to accomplish. The problem: We’ve heaped on so many quick-and-easy tasks in our daily routines that our fractured, soundbite lives have become dependent upon delivery services of all sorts.

Our voids have been filled with these many delivery services to accommodate today’s busy-as-a-bee lifestyles . . . and now there is fierce, overwhelming competition for our dollars. So, how can a food-delivery service, in a sea of food-delivery businesses, separate itself from the crowded pack to make us take notice? Their ad has to be short, memorable, and catchy . . . after all, who has time to concentrate on an ad – a text message just came in and it has to be answered.

We have all indulged in comfort foods to . . . comfort us. And, we have all indulged in sitting on our comfy couches, breaking open that pint of ice cream – drowning our sorrows spoonful by spoonful. And so it seems GrubHub has chosen to tap into that aspect of the human condition to draw attention to their food-delivery service.

You’ve broken up with your main squeeze. You’re miserable, angry and down in the dumps. Let GrubHub.com help you navigate your way through your emotions. Just order Rebound Brownie . . . your main squeeze was “such a jerk” anyway.

It’s an effective ad, but I think I’m missing the softer times of “Father Knows Best.”

National Broadcasting Censorship

It seems NBC doesn’t like any critical press when reporters actually report . . . who knew.

Sadly, in a sick effort to be number one, the news/sports divisions are on the cusp of becoming a reality-type program. My bad: Who cares if the facts aren’t so factual – the personalities are really great.

Since NBC believes they deliver news in such a friendly fashion, they don’t have to pay any attention to those stubborn things . . . the facts.

Reporting the entirety of a story without creative editing would be a start – you know the cornerstone of reporting.

So, here we find ourselves at the London Olympics. Guy Adams, a correspondent for a British newspaper, “The Independent,” did not like the fact that NBC was broadcasting the Opening Ceremonies on tape delay.

What a nerve.

For those whom felt the same as Adams, he included Gary Zenkel’s corporate email address tweeting, ”The man responsible for NBC pretending the Olympics haven’t started yet is Gary Zenkel. Tell him what u think!.”

I guess it’s okay for NBC to omit pertinent information, slant stories to benefit their editorial board, or gloat and preen how social media has forced those in power to pay heed, but for another reporter to tweet a published corporate email address of an NBC big-wig is simply beyond the pale.

Tweeting is admired for toppling governments, don’t you know. But if it’s used for voicing critical opinions to NBC, watch out.

NBC didn’t put their big-boy pants on, instead they chose to complain to Twitter about the tweeting of the corporate email address; shockingly, Twitter suspended Adams’ account.

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press Adams said, “If this Gary Zenkel doesn’t want to hear from the many tens of thousands of customers he upset with his network’s coverage, I think he’s in the wrong job.”

Touché. I think there are many people at NBC who are in the wrong job.

Dictators, take note: All you have to do is complain to Twitter – who knew censoring the masses was so simple.

A Nutter Summer in the Parks

On a rushed Thursday morning I boarded the subway continuing my work commute to Manhattan, New York.

Normally, for me it’s a time to people watch and think – not to text, or read emails, or watch movies or video clips on a small-screen device, not to read books or the pamphlets hoisted upon you as you descend down the subway – just to people watch and think.

Directly in front of me on the interior train wall was yet another poster – but this one made me think.

Hmmm . . . I thought. Gee, that furry animal is awfully cute, but why would I want to be adopted by a squirrel?

A faint smile graced my face. When I realized I was smiling, I had to be careful. I didn’t want the person across from me to become uncomfortable.

Thursday evening, Friday morning and Friday evening I saw many different Squirrel posters throughout the various subway cars and Squirrel posters on bus shelters.

I was experiencing the City Parks Foundation “Get Adopted by a Squirrel” campaign.

The City Parks Foundation is the only independent, nonprofit organization geared toward empowering citizens to visit, frequent and support their parks on a local level through free arts, sports and education programs.

Okay, so what does all of that really mean? Hang onto your hand straps:

A broad range of dance, comedy and music entertainment, including: Jazz, Opera, puppetry, spoken word, summerstage, sports and theater are in the offing. Among the many education programs available this summer are “Seeds to Trees” and “Learning Garden.” All events are free of charge throughout the five borough parks.

“While the adoption process is free, we do encourage a donation. Your contribution will help City Parks Foundation continue its 20 year legacy of enriching and improving parks and communities across all five boroughs of New York City.”

Aha! that’s what the Squirrel was saying – I’m going to donate because the campaign worked on me – and, oh yes,  I do want to wear my Squirrel Adoption T-shirt . . . you get one when you donate.

Wherever you reside, I’m sure your area also sponsors many events – just contact your local park. Go outside, enjoy the park, look and adopt your own woodland creature.

My last check: 495 Successful Adoptions . . . and counting.

The Emperor Has No Clothes

Common sense has been thrown out the window – again.

You might want to read two prior posts: Buy American – Not, posted May 4, 2012; and
If You Live Long Enough, posted May 3, 2012.

I know we live in a global community – I got that. But, did Ralph Lauren really have to manufacture the official U.S. Olympic Outfits in China – just because they have in the past?
Let’s not discuss who manufactures the souvenirs or accessories . . .
I shudder to think.

I mean, wasn’t there a single clothing manufacturer in the United States who could have benefitted from Lauren’s notoriety and produced the garments according to the deadlines and specifications just as well, if not better?

Notice I didn’t say for the same cost, or cheaper . . . I said, as well.

Profits evidently are more important than common sense. Otherwise, somewhere, somebody . . . anybody would have shared their inner uncomfortableness with the decision that manufacturing these special outfits in China probably wouldn’t be a shining gold medal moment for Lauren.

In 1996, our collective consciousness was so concerned over “sweatshop” accusations against Kathie Lee Gifford’s clothing line carried by WalMart. Stressing she did not have a hands-on role in the manufacturing of her garments, Gifford was nonetheless broiled by the media and public opinion. It’s important to understand the outrage was also about manufacturing in foreign companies, which underscored the inability to enforce our rules and standards in those sovereign foreign countries.

Yet, over 15 years later, we find ourselves in the same quandary – the problems associated with manufacturing goods in foreign countries.

So, there we have it. The scrutiny applied to Gifford’s decision to manufacture elsewhere – and all that entailed – was evidently more red meat, more salacious than Lauren’s decision to manufacture the high-profile official Olympic Team’s outfits elsewhere. Go figure.

Most astonishing, citing the fact that the Team is privately funded, the U.S. Olympic Committee said, “We’re proud of our partnership with Ralph Lauren, an iconic American company, and excited to watch America’s finest athletes compete at the upcoming Games in London.”

I’m sure it’s fine for many garments to be manufactured in foreign countries – just not the official U.S. Olympic outfits. Failing to grasp the elephant in the room, and with the lame PR-approved comment the Committee shared, it’s difficult to expect a mea culpa. The Committee simply fails to acknowledge or understand a perception problem exists. Somebody should tell them the emperor has no clothes.

Displaying our athletes standing in front of the American flag is supposed to make us feel better . . . and pride filled. Perhaps it’s time for a public relations refresher course. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel better, and the visual of our athletes standing on winner podiums amidst the nagging, swirling issue of controversial outfits will take my mind away from the pride – even if it’s just momentary.

Truth be told, there’s nothing “wrong” with the outfits. They simply weren’t manufactured in the United States – and that’s what is “wrong.”

In an effort to guide me toward beating my own drum, my mother used to invoke the familiar saying, “I don’t care what everybody else does. If they jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you?”

That has kept me grounded to understand the importance of inner-reflection . . . you know, applying common sense to see the bigger picture.

So, because garments are manufactured outside the United States – leaving the schmatta industry in tatters – Ralph Lauren must have felt justified in following what “everybody else does.”

I thought Ralph Lauren beat his own drum. I guess not, because we all just felt the gigantic splash from the jump off the bridge.

Severe Drought Spreads Across America

Published in 1939, John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” depicts the effects of the Great Depression with a double whammy for farmers – the Dust Bowl.

Unlike sharecropper farming during the Dust Bowl, today’s farmers typically own their own land. Safe from being kicked out of their house and off of the land, they don’t have to subject themselves to traveling across the country in search of work.

But, like the sharecroppers during the Dust Bowl, today’s farmers are faced with severe drought conditions. Covering over half of the United States with one-third of the corn crop affected, farmers haven’t experienced similar drought conditions since the 1950s.

The good news – today’s modern-day farming is drastically improved and different from farming in the ’30s. Back then, years of over-cultivation caused weak soil. When the 1930 drought killed off the crops the topsoil was easily blown away by high winds – the Dust Bowl.

The bad news – today’s conditions are known as a “flash drought,” meaning drought conditions develop over months rather than years. The current rapid deterioration of farm land is continuing to unfold, expand and wreak havoc across the country.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in a one-week period damage to corn crops rose from 30 percent to 38 percent. Although another Dust Bowl is unlikely at this time, the National Climatic Data Center says, “crops, pastures and rangeland have deteriorated at a rate rarely seen in the last 18 years.”

More than just the sky is blue across America’s farmlands.

Pigs Are People, Too

Author E. B. White wrote a timeless children’s book, “Charlotte’s Web.” The book speaks to life, loyalty and death in a manner that children can understand. In the story, Wilbur the pig can read, speak, show emotion and display empathy.

White’s story was written in such a way that the reader bought into the  talking, human qualities of the pig. “When pigs fly” is a saying that denotes an impossibility, and it must have resonated with White because of all the abilities Wilbur possessed, flying couldn’t be one of them. That was simply impossible. Reading, talking, emotions and empathy – possible; but flying – that’s impossible . . . nobody would buy into that – until now, sort of.

The much maligned, often misunderstood pig is a smart, loyal, gentle creature that some choose to enlist as service animals.

And that’s just what Maria Tirotta Andrews did when she boarded an airplane. She brought Charlotte, her 300-pound Vietnamese pot-bellied pig onto a commercial aircraft claiming her as a therapeutic companion pet.

The ADA defines a service animal as any animal specifically trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. This includes service monkeys, cats, dogs, horses . . .
and pigs.

You see, under federal regulations, airlines must permit a service animal to accompany passengers to their seats. FAA spokesman Jim Peters has affirmed, “USAirways and its personnel acted in a reasonable and thoughtful manner, based on a legitimate request to transport a qualified individual with a disability and her service animal.”

The “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel: Draft Technical Assistance Manual” published by the Department of Transportation also states that animals deemed to be service animals are allowed to board planes.

E. B. White surely knew a thing or two about the qualities of a pig: Andrews’ service pig, Charlotte, earned her wings . . . in first class to boot – I mean hoof.

Pouring on the Love

It doesn’t matter what time of the day or night it may be, when I frequent a diner my order is the exact same – regardless of which diner I choose.

This afternoon was no exception: Swiss cheese omelette well done – no goo, fries well done, rye toast and tea. Simple, to the point, can’t go wrong, never disappointed.

On the table next to the salt and pepper shakers was a bottle of Heinz ketchup with an unusual looking label. Although I never use ketchup, I was drawn to pick the bottle up to read the label. I was instantly dumbfounded, not because of the intent of the label which states, “Our Turn to Serve,” but because of the paradox involved.

You see, I remember the Swift boat issue surrounding Senator John Kerry’s presidential campaign. Swift boats are 50-foot aluminum Shallow Water Inshore Fast Tactical crafts that are engaged in coastal patrolling and rely on speed.

If you remember, Senator John Kerry (D) from Massachusetts was accused in a letter by fellow Swift boat veterans of “. . . upon your return from Vietnam, you grossly and knowingly distorted the conduct of the American soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen . . .”

The accusations were so devastating that Kerry’s chances of defeating President George W. Bush in 2004 became overwhelming, and a new word was coined for practicing unfair political attacks – “Swift boating.”

In 1966, Teresa Heinz, aka Simões-Ferreira from Mozambique, married the heir to the
H. J. Heinz Company – Henry John Heinz III. Teresa became a naturalized citizen in 1971, and in 1976 H. J. Heinz III won his senate seat as a moderate Republican. He maintained that seat until his untimely death in a 1991 plane crash.

It was in 1995 when Senator John Kerry and Teresa Heinz wed . . . but she chose to remain registered as a Republican until Kerry’s presidential bid. Although Teresa ultimately dropped her party affiliation, she never dropped Heinz from her name stating, “My legal name is still Teresa Heinz. Teresa Heinz Kerry is my name . . . for politics.”

So what’s the paradox?

Kerry’s conduct off the Vietnam battlefield catapulted him into notoriety. In 1971 – ironically the same year Teresa became a naturalized citizen – he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee describing his fellow soldiers’ demeanor during the Vietnam Conflict as brutal.

His questionable anti-war reputation, along with the Swift boat accusations sunk his presidential bid. Married to a woman who was the wife of a moderate Republican senator, who originally chose to define herself as a Republican and insists on maintaining “Heinz” as her legal name, Kerry finds himself in another awkward position. You see, the Heinz company has taken their noble, up-lifting campaign to tables across America . . . instead of denigrating America’s soldiers at a table during a committee hearing.

The Heinz company is proudly honoring “those who have served our country with a charitable campaign that celebrates veterans while also raising awareness and money for Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that honors and empowers wounded warriors.”

Visit woundedwarriorproject.org if you’re interested in getting more involved, or if you want more information. I wonder if Kerry has decided to get involved  . . . and I wonder if Teresa is a registered Republican, again.

The Running of the Bull

Ernest Hemingway famously depicted the transfer of bulls from Spain’s Santo Domingo corral to the Ring where the bulls will fight that afternoon. Hemingway’s account captured the imagination of people from all over the globe in his 1926 novel, “The Sun Also Rises.”

On July 7th, this annual 8-day festival began – Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls. Each day, six magnificent fighting bulls are interspersed among two herds of tame bulls and thrill-seeking participants as they run the route throughout Pamplona’s historic cobblestone streets.

Four rockets are launched each day of the festival. Each morning, at eight o’clock exactly, a rocket launches which signals to all that the gates of the corral are open. The second indicates Elvis has left the building (I mean the bulls), the third indicates all the bulls have entered the ring enclosure, and the fourth and final launch signals that all the bulls are in the bullpens – the day’s run is over.

Some thrill-seekers pick themselves up and dust off, some escape, and some are gored.

But it’s not over, not by a long shot. That fourth rocket launch signals the beginning . . .
of the end for the beautiful creatures. You see, they will be tortured and then killed in front of teems of admiring fans – winning ugly in the name of tradition, in the Bull Ring.

On the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean, Wall Street is involved in its own winning ugly tradition.

From gavel – to gong – to today’s bell, each morning at 9:30 a.m. exactly a bell rings which signals to all the stock market is open.

Quickly and furiously, participants run and dodge. They move sideways, forward, backward, fall down, or crash and burn – and then at 4 p.m. a closing bell rings signalling the end of the route.

The effects of the Affordable Care Act are in question, double-dip recession talk continues to loom, Europe is in crisis, confidence is down, employment is down, wages are down, factory output is down. The silver lining: Mortgage rates are down (if you can get one), and crude oil prices are down. But it’s confusing that throughout this nail-biting 2012 run, the Nasdaq is up 15% and the S&P 500 remains fairly constant. The market is nonetheless tepid and cautious, but still regarded as a bull market.

So, we have to look at ourselves standing naked in front of the mirror and ask: Are we simply caught up in the adrenaline rush that we cannot see what others believe is so blatantly obvious?

Are we in the middle of what Ernest Hemingway perfectly characterized as the corrida: Death in the afternoon?

15 Seconds of Fame

Big Bay Boom's July 4th fireworks show detonated in San Diego, CA. Photo: Ben Baller/Instagram

Spectators waiting to experience a jaw-dropping July 4th fireworks show that was to last approximately
20 minutes instead dropped their jaws as they witnessed a 15-second explosion in San Diego, California.

Garden State Fireworks offered a makeup show at no cost. The New Jersey-based company contracted for the Big Bay Boom blamed the unplanned blast on a technical glitch.

A glitch? Really? This explosion can be explained away that easily and glibly? No, Garden State Fireworks, it wasn’t a glitch. It was a massive, intense explosion, and you should thank your lucky stars no one was severely injured.

In the consumer world, 98 percent of fireworks purchased in the United States are manufactured in China; three-fourths of which are manufactured in Hunan Province. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission is diligent in making sure those fireworks meet all US regulations.

Although diligent, when everyday people opt to create their own shows problems surface. According to the CPSC, 40 percent of all Injuries happen to children. Those aged 5 to 9 had the highest injury rate, then ages 10 to 14, followed by ages 15 to 19.

Unfortunately, while July 4th is a great celebration when we view spectacular fireworks that light up the nighttime sky, in 2010 an estimated 8,600 fireworks-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms, and 1,200 hospital visits were the result of Sparklers. But, boy do I like Sparklers.

Whether consumer or professional, injuries and accidents will happen. The Big Bay Boom was executed by skilled pyrotechnicians and the fireworks were manufactured according to US standards. This July 4th explosion only underscores the inherent dangers which exist when ‘glitches’ meet gunpowder.

The Heat is On . . . but the Air Conditioning Is Not

The massive storm system that swept across a large swath of the United States has left millions of people without services, namely air conditioning, as scorching temperatures topped 100 degrees in many states.

Power will be reinstated for most by Friday, July 6 after almost a week of oppressive heat.

So, what did people do before
air conditioning became mainstream?

Well, they sat on their porches, or communal shaded areas and actually spoke with one another and helped one another. They paid attention to the pulse of their neighborhood; they knew their neighbors, the kids in the neighborhood, local grocer, the police officers and mail carrier. They were cranky, had poor sleep, were short-tempered and slow. They also suffered, many died and populations were stagnant in the states that were hot, hot, hot during summer months.

By 1911, theaters advertised “air cooled” as a hook to get people into the seats. Ticket sales increased significantly since people flocked to see movies, plays and concerts as a way to stay cool and comfortable. Department stores quickly followed suit and by 1947 window air conditioners were available to homeowners. By 1969 over half of all new automobiles were equipped with air conditioners.

Today, we physically have less tolerance for power outages during peak summer months because we have become reliant on air conditioning – a norm for modern societies. We tend to stay indoors, clueless as to who our next-door neighbor is, or who lives on our block or building. We almost seal ourselves in our homes, businesses or stores. Moving from air-conditioned house, to air-conditioned car, to air-conditioned office building, to air-conditioned business establishment – eyeglasses fogging up between points as a result of coming in contact with natural air.

Wait a second, so why . . . are we still cranky, have poor sleep, are short-tempered and slow – ask anyone about road rage.

Air conditioning has rendered society with a double-edged sword: Heat-related deaths are drastically down, society has greatly improved, and many more people live and thrive in once uninhabitable zones . . . but we know each other much less.

A Quilting Bee’s Unifying Thread Gets Personal

National Tribute Quilt - Close Up / American Folk Art Museum; photo by Karen Griska

The Steel Quilters, of the U.S. Steel Corp., is a group of four selfless women: Kathy S. Crawford,
Amber M. Dalley, Jian X. Li, and Dorothy L. Simback.

As the name implies, they quilt. But in order to make their huge quilt –  8′ high by 30′ wide – they would need help; and help they got, from all over the world.

A total of 3,456 three-inch blocks were received from each of our
50 states; and the countries of Canada, Spain, Australia, and Denmark. In the Steel Quilters final act of tribute, the quilt was completed on July 4, 2002.

But what makes this seemingly routine quilt so powerful?

On a close-up, first glance view, the quilt unveils itself as a mixture of interesting colors and patterns . . . and names. But in order to appreciate its power, you have to step backward. You see, each three-inch square immortalizes the name of an individual who died during the worst act of terrorism on American Soil: September 11, 2011 in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

There are 6 panels in total. The four center panels are dedicated to the victims of the twin towers among the New York City skyline, one end panel is dedicated to the victims of the four airline flights, and the opposite end panel is dedicated to the victims of the Pentagon.

Quilted on a grid system, an accompanying book guides viewers to easily locate the names of those who died on 9/11. The book also contains the names of the quilters, and people who gave their time, effort and materials.

So, let’s take a step backward and appreciate the beauty of this remarkable quilt, the National Tribute Quilt:

National Tribute Quilt / American Folk Art Museum; photo by Karen Griska

 

Open Wide and Say Ahhhhh

The Supreme Court rendered their decision on the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

The opinion came down on Thursday, June 28 upholding the health care overhaul law requiring most Americans get insurance or pay a financial penalty.

Since this country has been struggling with the concept of universal health care for all Americans for almost a century, I thought a little historical perspective was in order:

For the first time in American politics, President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1912 “Square Deal” Platform would provide universal health insurance to all Americans. Defeated by Woodrow Wilson, universal health insurance was defeated as well.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” Platform provided a safety net for the nation’s elderly, sick and disabled: The Social Security Act of 1935. This act opened the government’s door into public welfare since it was the first time the Federal Government took such a far-reaching role – a blueprint for future involvement.

President Harry Truman’s “Fair Deal” made universal health care coverage part of the Democratic Party’s Platform. The portion of his platform dealing with health care was never realized, although it did influence Lyndon Johnson.

President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” model passed legislation implementing Medicare and Medicaid, further expanding the Federal Government’s role as a health care provider.

President Richard Nixon followed his predecessors and believed universal health care for all Americans was vital for the country’s future. In 1974 the Watergate scandal derailed the overwhelming bi-partisan support and likely passage of the Nixon-Kennedy Healthcare Plan.

President Gerald Ford tried to pick up Nixon’s mantle, but the country was in such strife and economic hardship that health reform was tabled.

It wasn’t until 1993 that health care reform regained traction.

President William Clinton’s proposal was to place the requirement of mandatory health insurance on the individual citizen, not business owners. Considered by many as massive government intrusion, the plan shriveled up and went away.

President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act was passed by the Senate in a partisan vote in 2009. Obama said the bill was “. . . the most important piece of social policy since the Social Security Act in the 1930s, and the most important reform of our health care system since Medicare passed in the 1960s.”

On March 23, 2010, the president signed the historic Affordable Care Act.

Minnesota’s Gov. Tim Pawlenty and attorneys general from 12 states declared the mandated requirement that everyone have health insurance as unconstitutional even before the bill’s ink was dry. Additionally, four state legislatures passed laws which blocked the bill. And the hits just kept on coming.

Regardless of where you come down on the subject, for almost 100 years presidents from both parties have realized little disagreement exists: This country needs some type of health reform, but sweeping social changes really require bi-partisan support.

If you agreed with the court’s decision, you’re jumping for joy; if you disagreed with the decision, you’re gagging on your tongue depressor.

Flying the Family Skies

If I said the name Wendy as it relates to business, most would think of the fast-food chain.

But what does the fast-food chain, Wendy’s, have in common with FedEx – other than phenomenal branding?

Wendy, the very first Federal Express plane – a Dassault Falcon 20

Both companies succeeded in businesses dominated by their competitors. In Wendy’s case, they competed head-to-head with the likes of McDonald’s and Burger King; while Federal Express competed with the U.S. Postal Service.

Wendy’s and Federal Express both took a giant bite out of their competition – winning against gargantuan odds.

Seizing upon a glaring void within the USPS, Federal Express was born, along with a tradition born: Each new aircraft is named after the children of employees.

Fred Smith, company founder, had the first plane named . . .  Wendy, in honor of his daughter, a la Dave Thomas.

Now the proud father of the world’s largest cargo airline, Federal Express formalized their name to FedEx in 1994. But, can this well-run organization who values their employees and customers succeed where other businesses in this persistent, ongoing global smackdown failed?

Smith has announced a decline in profit as more customers are opting for slower, less expensive door-to-door delivery. This slower service has affected their cornerstone airport-to-airport business model.

I anticipate FedEx will continue to dominate the family skies by approaching their restructuring in a responsible manner. FedEx is poised, once again, to win against gargantuan odds – no beef here.

Penn(itentiary) State: Sandusky’s New Home

Originally charged with 52 counts, Jerry Sandusky, 68, former assistant football coach at Penn State University has been found guilty on 45 of 48 counts of child sex abuse.

What a speedy fall from grace. Just last year Sandusky was charged with abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. The jury makeup of seven women and five men spent 20 hours of deliberations before reaching their verdict.

Judge John Cleland revoked bail, and Sandusky was remanded to jail immediately while the sound of overwhelming cheers from outside the courthouse were heard.

Facing 442 years behind bars, certainly the remainder of his predatory, stomach-turning deviant lifestyle may be well suited in the Big House.

“Today” Will Not Be My Tomorrow

What the what? Ann Curry will not be co-anchor on the “Today” show?

Viewers had to know something was going terribly wrong when NBC – yes, NBC, brought Sarah Palin – yes, Sarah Palin – in to boost ratings, and when “Good Morning America” overtook “Today” in ratings the week of April 9th, ending their 16-year top-of-the-pack status.

NBC cannot put the blame on Matt Lauer, you see he just received a hefty contract. Since the “Today” show seems to be slipping from its No. 1 perch, money is the issue – isn’t it always?

Reportedly earning $484 million from commercials as No. 1 in the ratings while “GMA” earned a lowly $298 million, a 30-second advertisement on “Today” sells for $50,000 while “GMA” commands $35,000. So, you see, ad revenue’s are what’s needed to make good on Lauer’s contract.

Curry is the problem, according to those who make the decisions. Not Savannah Guthrie who looks like a deer in headlights – always; not Al Roker who has become all-Roker-all-the-time; not the hurried, endless cooking segments nor the Star Jones-Donny Deutsch weirdness. It’s Curry, don’t ya know.

In better times, Ann remarked, “I felt like Cinderella, I did. I felt like all these years cleaning the floor, I just felt suddenly I was getting to be in the bright lights and the pretty dress and I was sitting next to the prince.”

Curry’s prince has turned into a big, giant toad . . . I’m leapfrogging off of this lily pad, Today.

Roger. Over and Out

After nearly five years, seven-time Cy Young Award pitcher, Roger Clemens has been acquitted on all six charges of committing perjury before Congress.

Clemens’ problems began when he testified before Congress on Feb. 13, 2008. He adamantly swore he never took steroids or Human Growth Hormones during his baseball career.

The government’s first attempt ended in a mistrial due to a technicality; but this fiasco, the second attempt, was an embarrassment. The jury categorically dismissed the government’s case and did not believe the severity of Clemens’ alleged lies to Congress deserved a lengthy prison time.

With millions of dollars spent to prosecute and defend this case, should our country be in the business of punishing mega-rich athletes who may stretch the truth about taking substances to enhance their stats.

Roger, it’s over and you are out . . . finally out of the circus atmosphere.

King’s Car Chase Challenged Our Humanity

Rodney King has died at the age
of 47.

King sustained a beating by police officers after a high-speed car chase, and became the symbol of race relations in the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Four police officers were charged
in King’s beating which was videotaped by George Holliday, a local resident. After the release of Holliday’s video to media outlets, the country viewed King’s brutal, ongoing beat down, and he quickly became the poster child for police brutality.

King’s injuries included a fractured skull and damage to internal organs as a result of over 50 baton blows and several severe kicks to his body. He was operated on for five hours by three surgeons.

Three of the police officers were later acquitted by a majority white jury, and the fourth officer’s trial ended in a mistrial after the jurors became deadlocked.

But the acquittals and mistrial quickly outraged thousands. The tinderbox erupted on the corner of Florence and Normandie as out-of-control mobs formed and shouted, “No justice, no peace!”

There were many assaults on innocent people that day, but a news helicopter on the scene captured the infamous attack on Reginald Denny, a white truck driver. Denny, in the wrong place at the wrong time, was dragged from his truck by four angry men. The live broadcast showed the gut-wrenching, barbaric act of Damien “Football” Williams using a brick to bash in Denny’s skull. Williams’ mob mentality has caused life-long issues for Denny.

For several days large sections of Los Angeles were ablaze, 55 people died and well over 2,000 sustained injuries.

King’s legacy will forever be associated with the 1992 Los Angeles race riots which prompted his plea, “Can we all get along?”

Boxing Gets a TKO, Again

The sport of Boxing has been linked to questionable activity for years; such as taking a dive, boxing unworthy opponents, or the subtle throwing of a match.

So, it’s strange the WBO’s welter-weight split-decision victory of Timothy Bradley over favorite Manny Pacquiao has turned into a fiasco.

Let’s face it, boxing has received many deserved black eyes. And, the sport has seemingly morphed into the genre of professional wrestling with the attire, story lines and antics. But nothing has been so obviously tainted, according to so many.

Will there be a Bradley-Pacquiao rematch? Who knows, and who really cares at this point.

The real story lies within the furor of how this controversial decision has resonated with Nevada’s Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D). For those of you who didn’t know: Reid and Arizona’s Senator John McCain (R) worked on a piece of legislation that would regulate the sport more strictly. The caveat: It has been languishing within the walls of Congress for years. What, something in Congress is languishing . . . for years?

The free world doesn’t have to worry. Reid is on the case, and his scrutiny of boxing will surely take center ring. Oh, but our economy continues to plummet, no biggie . . . thank goodness someone in Congress has big-boy pants on and knows how to prioritize.

Clear your calendar for the probable up-and-coming Congressional hearings. Reid wants answers. I hope these “hearings” are televised prime time on pay per view. You know, trotting out the contenders to answer probing questions from up-standing members of Congress, a la the Roger Clemens debacle.

A pay-per-view main event, “Politicians vs. Pugilists: Who Stinks More,” could make a dent in our national debt. I know I wouldn’t want to miss a minute of this show. Politicians falling over each other because they fail to listen, but love “hear”ing themselves talk ad nauseam . . . and solve nothing.

Sign me up for that ultimate reality freak show . . . starring questionable opponents who deserve each other.

Off the Cuff

Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase CEO, appeared before the Senate Banking Committee to answer questions about his company’s recent loss of billions of dollars in bad trades.

I guess his company didn’t learn anything or grasp the gravity facing our globe as a result of the worldwide financial crisis . . . one which they were part of and helped cause.

Anyway, to make matters worse – as if that’s possible – Dimon donned interesting cufflinks. Cufflinks . . . what’s the problem with dressing dapper before the esteemed committee? Well, nothing, except it has been reported his cufflinks apparently were a “gift from a resident of the White House.” A gift that showcased the seal of the President of the United States.

President Teddy Roosevelt would have been chagrined with this use of his motto, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Dimon spoke volumes.

Appropriate?