Friday, December 28, 2012

What's the real motive behind the New York Journal News publishing names and addresses of gun owners?

A newspaper in New York is releasing the names and addresses of individuals in Westchester and Putnam who have registered handguns. I have to ask myself why they're doing this. There can only be two reasons:

1) Let people know who has guns in their neighborhood so they can decide whether or not they want to remain living there or move there if they're thinking of moving.

2) Encourage residents to harass gun owners into giving up their firearms.

Now, if number one is the case, then the newspaper publisher could have done this by simply publishing the number of registered firearms in each area, even broken down by neighborhood, and names/addresses would not be necessary. Individuals could look at those numbers and decide for themselves if they want to live there.

Given that, the only logical reason becomes number two. Without directly stating that people should harass gun owners, basically, the publisher of the New York Journal is encouraging people to go after the gun owners. How long until gun owners become targets of violence in an effort to force them to get rid of their guns?

Think this can't happen?

When people in any given neighborhood find out convicted child molesters live in their neighborhood, what do they do? They don't relocate, they harass the pedophile, sometimes committing violent acts upon him or her until said person leaves the neighborhood.

When right-to-lifers publish names of abortion doctors, what happens? Radical whackjobs go after said abortion doctors, often committing violent acts until the doctors give up performing abortions or wind up dead.

We all know what happens when you put information like this into the hands of radical nutjobs. I'm just waiting for the fallout from this really stupid decision.  This my friends, is why I would avoid, at all costs, registering a firearm, even if it meant I was violating the law. Am I encouraging you to break the law? No. You do what your conscience tells you.

And before you label me, no I'm not a Conservative, nor a Republican, nor am I a member of the NRA. I'm just an American with common sense. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

I saw spaceships, lots of 'em

Had a dream last night. Yes, another strange dream.

I was at my parents house, I was standing in the backyard facing the southern sky when I saw what appeared to be some sort of aircraft in the skyy, lined up. Suddenly, the spaceships, of different shapes and sizes, many of them looked like the Starship Enterprise. The ships were lined up. As they began to take their places in the sky, one went left, another went right and so on until the sky filled up. The sky was filled with bright lights and starships. They were all Coast Guard too. A couple fewl low so I'd hoped that I could wave at them and they'd see me. I went into the house looking for my Coast Guard hat so i could wear it and they would see I was one of them. :It was an amazing sky, filled with bright starships, as if protecting us from something, but what?

I also remember my aunt came over to the house and she had this helium balloon with a heavy cable attached to it and a hook and then my uncle had one too. I kept trying to attach the hook to something but I don't remember what.

I went into my parents house and told them what was going on.

Somehow the spaceships came down, they were friendly. They set up these booths and they were trying to get us to live healthier, better lives. They wanted us to participate in our communities and sign oup for things. I can't remember what I signed up for.

Sometime during the dream, I think certain people disappeared, they just exploded into dust in thin air. I don't remember why. I do recall that the people who visited us were pretty nice, though I can't recall meeting any of them.

I do look back on that dream thinking how beautiful it was looking up at the night sky and seeing those Coast Guard spaceships lined up and then going out of formation and spreading out over the sky. It was friggin amazing.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Institutions of higher education take a cue from government when it comes to incompetent employees.

Generally, private employers can fire someone fairly easily if that person isn't doing his or her job unless there's a contract with a clause that somehow prevents this. If private employers can dismiss incompetent and dishonest employees, why can't it be done on the state level?  I'm referring to institutions of higher education, specifically those public institutions of higher education which may or may not be run by the state government but are still affiliated with it. Much of the management practices of these institutions stems from those used at the state government level.  

It's common knowledge at many institutions of higher education that you can't fire incompetent employees. You heard me right, common knowledge. Anyone who has enough years at the institution knows this and while they don't accept it, there's nothing they can do about it.  We've all come face-to-face with people who should have been canned long ago and we ask ourselves "why are they still here?" and that's because the system in place at the institution and within the state government, allows it to happen.

At a particular institution I know well, an employee may be terminated with just cause which includes incompetence, misconduct on or off the job, and unsatisfactory attendance. Depending on the offense, disciplinary actions include oral and written reprimands, suspension and dismissal. Despite this, everyone knows it takes an Act of Congress to dismiss an employee from the institution. Just ask how hard it is to get rid of a faculty member who is incompetent or commits an act of misconduct like sexual harassment or a person of minority status who is incompetent at his or her duties and commits an act of misconduct. It takes forever to get rid of them, if you get rid of them at all. I've seen cases where units are afraid to do anything and said individuals are allowed to resign, rather than be fired, if of course they are required to leave at all. Of course I suppose some would consider it being generous to allow a longtime employee to resign rather than have to endure the stigma of being fired but really,what message does it send? It screams that because one is a tenured professor or falls within a "protected class" or because you're related to someone in a high position, you're exempt from the rules."



What perpetuates this? Government. Who doesn't know that it's hard as hell to fire a government employee? Everyone knows when you get a job with the government it's pretty much for life. This extends to state0-run institutions, even those which are not state-governed but are still affiliated with the state (for example in Florida, the state universities are now known as public corporations but their payroll, benefits, and such are still handled by the state). 

There are,  in my opinion, two things that muck up the ability to fire incompetence. First, employee evaluations. One of the reasons it's nearly impossible to fire a long-term employee for incompetence is well...because their employee evaluations are generally good. Sure, good employees go bad, but more often than not, certain supervisors on campus give good evaluations on shitty employees because A) they don't want to be the the reason someone might get laid off, B) they like said person and want to protect them, or C) they just don't give a damn. (What other excuses could there be?) Not only does the intentional inflation of employee marks on a shitty employee's evaluation devalue the entire evaluation process but it goes against one of the reasons for evaluations in the first place---to rid the establishment of incompetence.  I've had people in positions of authority at an institution tell me it's common knowledge and yet there's nothing they can do to remedy it. Without a documented history of incompetence, how do you expect to get rid of someone for incompetence?

Second, is the problem of fear of being sued. Some supervisors fear terminating an employee for just cause but then being sued for racism. I recall a department where, for years, employees complained and yet nothing was done. The scuttlebutt among employees was the department was afraid of being sued.Whether this is the real reason certain individuals weren't let go is only speculation. Now, if it were one or two employees speculating, that's one thing, but when it's common knowledge throughout the institution then it's something different, then it's just...I don't know...negligence? Stupidity? Bullshit?

In addition, employees who witness incompetence, misappropriation of resources, bad behavior or anything else they find inappropriate, there's supposed to be a system set up where they can complain about it, however most don't use it because they fear repercussion and in the end, nothing will be done.  I'm sure at the top, they'll claim that this simply isn't true, that the system is set up to reward the productive employees and get rid of the incompetents, blah blah blah. These people sit in their ivory towers and the have absolutely no clue. They'll also say that it's not true that those who report this kind of thing will face retaliation. Sure they dispute that...they're not the ones blowing the whistle and in fear of losing their jobs. I'm sure they believe that and I'm sure the system wasn't intended to protect the wrong people, but let's face it...they're wrong and it does. I mean, really, when you can't find a single employee (one with brains and common sense that is) who can dispute this behavior goes on, then what else is there to be said? 

With any luck, sometime in the future, someone in a position of power is going to just have to have the balls to say "enough is enough" and do the right thing.  Until then, the only thing we can do is continue to bitch about it until someone finally pays attention.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Had a dream I was a General leading my troops in battle

Last night's dream. This is one of the most unusual yet!

I was somehow elected to serve in the position in the army, in what I think was a different time period, perhaps a past era (almost seemed ancient), where I sat in this wooden chair and it elevated and I'd have this old piece of paper in my hand and have to hold on to the arms of the chair and lift up a bit and it would engage us in battle. As long as I had the paper and held it during the battle I was good. I can't remember how I was put in charge of this army. We didn't fight with guns we used arrows as did our enemies. We'd know it was time to engage the enemy when we'd hear this noise, it was almost like music or something, I can't remember. I just knew that when it was time to go into battle, I had to get into this wooden chair and have the paper with me.

In the same dream, I dreamed that I was in a German prison camp with friends including Anne and Katie. There were at least seven of us and somehow we escaped and when we got out we had papers and new cars. The cars we drove were VW bugs, the new style and they were different colors. I think eventually we all traded the in so we wouldn't be spotted. BTW this took place back in WWII.

I remember running through the woods to get away from the Germans as far as I could. I thought I'd reached the end of the woods, and couldn't fo any farther when I found I could crawl behind these trees and then there was an opening, a place I could hide.

I remember finding this house I could hide in, it was abandoned. But I also somehow found out that a few Germans had escaped the Army...fleeing from ??? and then I had to make sure they didn't see me. Either they were hiding or they were just looking to move into that house. It was a huge mansion. I looked for a place to hide. I can't remember.

I know that at some point, the seven of us were separated and we had to find out way back to America. At tome point in the dream, I realized we were going to get caught and then realized I'd had the dream before and we were caught and returned to the camp but since the war was over then, the head of the camp was a little nicer and treated us better. this wasn't a concentration camp though, it was a prison during the war.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The real numbers of who does and doesn't have federal income tax liability

I did some time consuming research. According to the Tax Policy Center, in 2009, households with a positive cash flow, here are the numbers for those who did and did not have any federal income tax liability.   

Numbers showing who had federal income tax liability (total 46.9%, here's the breakdown)
 
99.8% (18.6 million) earning less than 10K
83.6% (20.6 million) earning between $10-20K
61.8% (
12.5 million) earning between $20-30K
47.5% (7.3 million) earning between $30-40K
35.5% (4.3 million) earning between $40-50K
21.1% (4.4 million) earning between $50-75K
9.1% (1.3 million) earning between $75-100K
3.5% (628,000) earning between $100-200K
1.9% (97,000) earning between $200-500K
1.9% (16,000) earning between $500K-1 million
1.5% (6,000) earning more than $1 million

Now, in that same chart, here are those who had tax liability

0.2% (30 mill) earning less than 10K
16.4% (4.04 mill) earning between $10-20K
93.2% (7.7 mill) earning between $20-30K
53% (8.08 mill) earning between $30-40K
64.5% (7.9 mill) earning between $40-50K
78.9% (16.2 mill) earning between $50-75K
91%% (12.9 mil) earning between $75-100K
96.5% (17.4 mill) earning between $100-200K
98.1% (4.9 mill) earning between $200-500K
98.1% (850,000) earning between $500K-1 million
99% (384,000) earning more than $1 million
 

So, according to these numbers, 6,134,000 positive income tax units, as they are called (those at 200K and up) had tax liability.

Now if you add in the 119,000 in the first table who earned 200,000 or higher, who had no tax liability, but should have....we now have a total of 6,253,000 at $200,000 per year and up who will have their taxes increased. (Don't forget though that we have to subtract a few from this number because Obama wants those at $250K and higher not $200K and higher. I don't know the number of those earning between $200 and 250K)

In the end, according to this table, out of 151,485,000 with a positive cash income: \

 
145,232,000 (earning $0-199,000K) will not have their taxes increased.

6,253,000 (earning $200,000+) will have their taxes increased

The numbers don't lie. So...what gives?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Everyone knows that cutting spending means reducing tax breaks...

Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson is part of the problem. Recently she was on Neil Cavuto's show and he asked her what she would cut if the decision was hers, she insisted that this crisis was about revenue generation. Again, he asked her what she would cut and she replied again, this was about revenue generation, then she added that the budget is already down to its bare bones. (Yeah right!) Finally she answered the question....sort of...she said that she would cut the tax breaks for the wealthy. To his credit Cavuto informed her that that's not cutting spending and she proceeded to ramble on about the nation's budget being down to the bare bones (again!).

Now...I don't know what she's smoking but we are far from bare bones. There's still fat to trim when we're still spending billions on pork. We need to decide what's important and what isn't and then we have to make cuts. A lot of those cuts won't be pretty but something has to go. 

Anyway, getting back to Eddie Bernice Johnson, she needs to be reminded that lower taxes stimulate the economy by promoting spending and investing both of which directly contribute to the recovery of the economy. No government can successfully end a fiscal crisis permanently by raising taxes. Spending cuts must be part of the solution in order for it to even be a solution at all.

If you think for a moment that raising taxes on one percent of this nation's wage earners and not cutting spending is going to solve the crisis, then we are already doomed.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Homeless guy wants a piece of the pie...

Remember that homeless guy in NYC? Officer Larry DePrimo bought him a pair of warm socks and boots when he found him barefoot outside on a cold night. The homeless guy now identified as Jeffrey Hillman is once again in the news. Here's an excerpt from the new story:
"His name is Jeffrey Hillman, and on Sunday night, he was once again wandering the streets — this time on the Upper West Side — with no shoes. The $100 pair of boots that Officer DePrimo had bought for him at a Sketchers store on Nov. 14 were nowhere to be seen. 

“Those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money,” Mr. Hillman said in an interview on Broadway in the 70s. “I could lose my life.”
Mr. Hillman, 54, was by turns aggrieved, grateful and taken aback by all the attention that had come his way — even as he struggled to figure out what to do about it.
“I was put on YouTube, I was put on everything without permission. What do I get?” he said. “This went around the world, and I want a piece of the pie.” 

So my guess is he either hid them or sold them. What homeless person couldn't use $100 in his or her pocket? After some thinking, I'm starting to believe Hillman would have been better off just being directed to a homeless shelter for the night instead of getting a new pair of boots. What Officer DiPrimo did was a great thing but really, did any of us expect Hillman would be walking around in those boots the next day? He wouldn't...if he was hungry...or valued his life. Just think too, if he hadn't received those boots, he wouldn't have gotten all this unwanted attention that he's struggling with. 

Now, Hillman wants, as he says, "a piece of the pie".  Geez, just another person who wants something for doing nothing. If that's the case, maybe he should get his own reality show.

Anyway, if Hillman gets his "piece of the pie" what do you think he's going to do with it? 

For starters, I think he should reimburse Officer DiPrimo for those boots.


Saturday, December 01, 2012

Putting the good back in news...

I decided to embark on a project which entails collecting stories about people doing good things and publishing those stories in my blog. Every time I flip on the news it's about Benghazi, the fiscal cliff, Syria, Israel vs. the Palestinians, Republicans vs Democrats, unemployment, etc. I thought it was time we had some good news. The news media outlets tend to only report the negative and I suppose that's because negative gets the viewers attention. Oh, occasionally we hear and read about people doing nice things for others and the stories go viral and then you don't hear anything else for while. Meanwhile every day in this world, people are taking time out of their busy lives to just do something nice for other people and even animals.

Those stories deserve to be told. I think in the current state of affairs of our world at this given moment in time, we could do with being reminded on a constant basis that there are a lot of great people and that good really does prevail over evil.

Please help me spread the word about my project. I've created an email address just for this and it's GoodDeedStories@hotmail.com.  If you know a story about someone doing good, please email it to me.

Jess

Friday, November 23, 2012

What kids are learning: Making bad choices is someone else's fault.

Just when I thought I'd heard it all, another story pops up in the news which has me shaking my head both in shame and disgust.

In 2008, Debra Davis and Alexa Latteo were killed in a car accident after a day of drinking in the parking lot at a Country music festival held at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Debra Davis' mother Maryann blames New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft, owner of the stadium and is suing him for $2.5 million. However, Bob Kraft didn't drive the car that crashed. He didn't provide them with the alcohol. In fact, he wasn't even present that day. So why is he responsible?

Simple.

Maryann Davis needs someone to blame for her daughter's death. Even though Debra Davis and her friend brought the alcohol to the venue and drank all day long, Maryann Davis says security at Gillette Stadium didn't do enough to prevent this kind of behavior at the event.

Huh? You ask? Exactly. I was thinking the same thing. Where is Debra Davis's culpability in this crime? Apparently she has none because she's a victim. If she's a victim here it is of her own stupidity. Yes, it's harsh but it's the truth. If she hadn't been drinking and driving she'd likely be alive today. If I was on the jury it would be that simple.

Nina Houlihan, a friend of the two dead girls, was also drinking that day and in the car when it crashed into a tree. She admits she is "partly" to blame but that the venue shares responsibility because no one checked her for tickets to get into the parking lot. She is suing Kraft for half a million dollars. Again, huh? You read it right.  Houlihan is injured because she drank and got in the car with her drunk friends and she's only partly to blame? Wow. Did someone hold her down and make her drink? No. She did so of her own free will. And yet oddly enough, someone else is to blame.

This story pisses me off.  It should piss you off too. We live in a society where people make bad choices and do stupid things and others are blamed for their actions. The only person responsible for the deaths of these girls is the girl who was driving drunk and the girls who let her get in the car drunk. If anything, maybe Davis's family should be suing Houlihan's since Houlihan was the only one to make it out alive. I mean hell, if Houlihan hadn't been drunk SHE could have driven the car! 

Davis blames security but with that many people at such a large event, how can security be in every location at every moment? It's not possible. What would have happened if the girls would have been checked at the parking lot as Houlihan mentioned? With no ticket, it's possible they would not have been admitted, thus they would have gone drinking elsewhere. However, they were not checked and as such they drank on the premises, and died afterwards. What I don't understand though is how the venue should be held responsible for the illegal behavior of these three girls.They chose to thwart the rules, they paid the ultimate price, two paid with their lives. It's a tough lesson to learn and it comes too late.


I'm sorry for the families, it's a terrible thing they've had to deal with, but laying the responsibility for two deaths and one injury on another party is wrong. These girls had choices, they made the wrong choices and in life there are consequences for that. The parents need to accept their children are the only ones responsible for their deaths and instead of suing a party who had nothing to do with it, the parents could better spend their time using the lesson learned from their children's bad choices to help ensure other young people don't make the same mistake.


Thursday, November 01, 2012

A dream about a funeral

I had a dream last night that I attended a funeral with my dad, mom, sister, brother and grams. The funeral was for my gramps (mom's dad). In the dream we went to the church to wait for the funeral director and his people to bring my gramps out in his coffin. We were kept waiting a long time and we all started to get impatient. I remember standing outside the church waiting a long time and in the dream I recalled I'd been to another funeral for my other grandfather and we were kept waiting. We could not figure out what in hell was taking them so long to get things going.

One of my grad students was in the dream too. He apparently knew my dad. He pulled up to the church in a truck and dad was pissed off over the delay of the funeral and he had words with my grad student. He either said something or he hit him, I can't remember. Next thing I know, my grad student took off in his truck and ran over someone, that person got caught in his engine, it was awful and very bloody. My grad student, who shall remain nameless, was horrified and I think he tried to run.

As in all of my dreams, when I close my eyes and recall it, it just feels so real. I wish I could figure out what it means, if it means anything at all. 

I should have written this down this morning when it was fresh. It was a very disturbing dream as you can imagine. The fact that my now-deceased father was in the dream is even more perplexing.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Turning little girls into mini-whores...





Exploitation of children comes in all forms, most are illegal, some are not. Beauty pageants are, in my opinion, a form of legal exploitation of young girls. I just find it reprehensible that any parent would parade their child around, showing skin and having them dance provocatively, for the sake of fame. Have you seen these girls? They're made up to look like mini-whores. It's not the fault of the kids, it's their---and I use the term loosely---mothers---attempting to live vicariously through their little girls. It's a disgrace---the persons most responsible for protecting their children, are in fact, the ones exploiting them.

I'm going to be bold here and say no good mother would do this to her child. No good mother would parade her daughter around made-up and dressed like a mini-whore, feeding her pixie sticks and mixtures of Red Bull & Mountain Dew to get her to perform better. No, no, no! What the hell kind of example are they setting for those little girls?

By the way, while we're at it, where in the hell are the fathers? Because really, what kind of dad would sit by and let this happen to his little girl?

It's the little things...

I often wonder why people who have so much to offer don't see the same value in themselves that others see in them. What makes people so hard on themselves? There are a lot of people out there who are kind, compassionate, smart, funny and have a lot to offer to the world and yet they see themselves as so much less. Everybody has value, everybody has the potential to contribute great things to the world. The smallest most insignificant gesture can snowball into something so incredibly huge it takes on a life of its own.

So when you hear someone talk about how insignificant they feel just remind them that big things come in small packages.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

If you're a Catholic in Germany, better pay to pray or get the hell out...

I don't even know what to say...

Posted on September 26, 2012 at 6:30 AM

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's top administrative court has ruled that Catholics who opt out of paying religious taxes must automatically leave the church as well.

The court's verdict Wednesday is a victory for the Catholic Church in Germany, which receives more than €4 billion ($5.14 billion) annually from a surcharge of up to nine percent on income tax bills of registered Catholics.

The judges at the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig ruled against retired German theologian Hartmut Zapp, who wanted to leave the church as an institution but remain a member of the Catholic community.

Germany's bishops announced last week that believers who refuse to pay the tax are committing a "grave lapse" and as a result won't be able to receive the sacrament, become godparents or have a religious funeral.

http://www.azfamily.com/news/world/171330421.html



Some of my best friends are Catholic so this isn't about them, it's about the church!

This is all about greed. The Catholic Church isn't the only one that's greedy but this....this is disgraceful. I have a problem with taxing people because of their religion and a much bigger problem with a religious institution turning its back on its members, banishing them from worship and sacriments just because they either can't or won't give nine percent of their income to the church. I can't imagine how anything like this got passed in Germany but then again I don't live there so I can't say.

This is why so many people despise organized religion. Religion is supposed to be about God, faith, and community. It's not supposed to be about money. Yes it takes money for a church to run but guess what...you can run a church out of a plain block building or a thatched roof hut with mud walls if you had to. You don't need fancy churches and cathedrals, you just need a place for people to come together and worship.

I can only imagine what's going on in the heads of the powers that be at the Vatican. Happy their coffers will continue to overflow? Hmm...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Nicole Di Rocco's "PastPort to Cuba: The search for Nicolita"

I screened the documentary recently and all I can say is that it is absolutely amazing.

Growing up in Miami, Florida in the 1970s, a great number of my friends were Cuban. Our best friends across the street from us, the Guillen family, were from Cuba. Most of my childhood friends had either fled Cuba themselves or descended from others who did.  As a child I’d hear horror stories about the things Castro’s police would do to people who disagreed with his policies. Whether or not those stories were children’s exaggerations of the truth (as is common when we’re kids) or whether they were actually true, I never forgot them. As I got older I learned more about Castro’s atrocities when I served in the US Coast Guard and our boat crews rescued Cuban refugees stranded out on the ocean, at least once a week. These people fled their homes with nothing but the clothes on their back. They tied inner tubes or homemade wooden rafts together to brave the journey from Cuba to the United States. For these reasons and more, I hold a special affection in my heart for the Cuban people.

This journey was as much about Nicole’s need to find herself--a journey of self-exploration as it was to find the face of "Nicolita" her swimwear line. It was also very important for her parents too as they received a once-in-a-lifetime gift to return to their homeland and recapture old memories and the joy of their youth. (Isn't that something we all want?)

When their plane descended into Havana, I could feel the tension and relief felt by Nicole’s mother, Thais. Imagine having to flee your home, the place of your birth, your parents and grandparents birth, and then returning half a century later?  Nobody wants to leave their home, but they had no choice, it was the only way to have a better life. I felt the same as the family strolled down the street to the house where Thais grew up. I’ve been there, felt that moment, when I reappeared on the doorstep of my childhood home and all at once it looked both the same and different and evoked incredible emotions in me. Of course, my experience doesn’t compare to Thais returning to the country of her birth fifty years after fleeing it, but nevertheless it reminded me of that ever-present need, as I get older, to reconnect to my childhood, just as she did. 

Another emotional moment was when Xavier returned to his family farm. It was a very touching moment when Xavier and his cousin reconnected.  Growing up on that farm, riding the horses, working the plantation, swimming in the lake, playing ball were an important part of his life and it made him who he is today. Returning to that farm, Xavier, no doubt felt that all his sacrifices for a better life were not in vain. I just felt it was important to him, as the man, the head of the family, to be able to go back to the place where he began his journey into manhood and reflect how far he'd come since then.

Interesting to note (and not at all surprising) is the great humility of the Cuban people. They are so willing to share what little they have with family, friends and even strangers. We saw this many times as Nicole and her family paid visits to Thais and Xavier’s childhood homes, meeting people they hadn’t seen in half a century and these people fed them huge feasts and welcomed them into their homes. I’ve always said that in the Hispanic culture, family is the most important thing and that is very evident here. It just made me feel good to see Thais and Xavier’s cousins welcome Nicole and her sister into the family as if they’d known them all their lives.

Especially interesting was Nicole’s search for “Nicolita”. She said she wanted the face of Nicolita to look like her—Cuban. However, when she arrived in Cuba, it was apparent that Cuban women come in all “colors”. Especially interesting was the contrast between the final three competitors for the title of "Nicolita": a black-skinned beautiful young woman with an afro, the dark-skinned beauty with the long straight hair and  the blondish lighter-skinned model. All three were completely different in skin and hair color and facial structure and yet they were all most definitely Cuban. I am reminded again of Cuba’s diversity. Cubans come in all colors and they are proud of it.  It is not their skin color that defines them, it is their heritage.

I particularly enjoyed Nicole's idea to show the vintage Cuba in all its glory in the photo shoots.  It seems a country stuck in time while American cities and towns have long moved forward. Despite all the political and economic turmoil, Cuba is still a beautiful country populated by equally beautiful people. Many people, me included, romanticize Cuba, enjoying the stories of the heyday of Cuba in the 1930’s through 1950’s which were decades full of prosperity and wealth.  During that time, Cuba was extremely well off with hundreds of thousands of tourists visiting every year—enjoying its beaches, nightclubs, hotels, and casinos. My mom traveled to Cuba with her parents in 1957 and many things on that island have barely changed since then.  

I love how Nicole pays homage to her ancestry by utilizing photos from the family album to help recreate the authentic backdrops for the photo shoots. I also loved the way she integrated the image of “Nicolita” into everyday life, with the old antique cars, the guys on the street playing dominoes, the baseball bat and hat, and with the cigars, all of those things being important parts of Cuban culture.  The way the backgrounds were staged, the model’s makeup and hair, were absolutely perfect and reflect the nostalgia and love Nicole feels for the people and her heritage  I’ll also add that I thought the photo shoots were sexy and tasteful. Very respectful!

This film is so amazing; it makes me more appreciative of what I have, the country I was born in, and my own family history. More than that, it has given me a renewed love and appreciation for my Cuban friends for all the hardships their families and fellow countrymen have endured over the years. They have been through so much but they are a truly remarkable and resilient people whose spirit and culture will forever be strong.

Finally, on a personal note, I can completely relate to Nicole’s search for her roots. There comes a time in our lives when we need to know more about ourselves, when who we are is defined by more than our education, our friends, and our job and the everyday life we lead. Sometimes we need more; we seek to reconnect with our past, our heritage to find out who we truly are and how we came to be. I understand and admire Nicole’s desire to find her past and reconnect with her roots. Being Cuban is an important part of who she is and there is no doubt that her journey has changed her life forever.

To Nicole, who is an absolutely lovely woman and amazing person, I say a heartfelt thank you for sharing your story with us.  ¡Gracias Nicole, es una mujer asombrosa!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

US response to Embassy attacks is a crock...

The US Embassy released this statement about the attack on the US consulate in Libya:

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

Notice...not one single peep about the Americans who died during the attack on the embassy.Why is the US government apologizing for individuals exercising their free speech (even if we disagree with what's being said) while in the meantime, Americans were murdered by radicals. Why is the US government NOT condoning this?

It's about appeasement.

The Embassy's statement "We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others" is a crock of political shit.

Why? I'll tell you why. YOU CANNOT HURT SOMEONE'S RELIGIOUS BELIEFS! A religious belief, faith, is in the HEART. It is not something you can see, hear, smell, or touch. It is something you feel from within and no words or actions can take those beliefs away from you.

Now...as always, Terry Jones' name comes up every time something like this happens. He may not be directly involved, but he incites it, he's like a cancer. I don't like Terry Jones, I don't like what he stands for but I also don't like murder in the name of religion....any religion. Can't we all just agree Terry Jones is an asshole and move on? Why do Muslims out there feel like they need to retaliate by killing people? What anyone thinks of Islam or the Prophet Muhammad should not take away from Muslim beliefs. Nobody can ever take away one's faith or values, and using religion as an excuse to commit murder in order to stand up for one's beliefs is just wrong. It should not and cannot be condoned, no matter what the reason for it.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cohen v. California still has importance today


"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Today we studied the case of Cohen v. California 403 US 15 (1971).  In 1971 Paul Robert Cohen wore a leather jacket with the words "Fuck the Draft" on the back of it inside the Los Angeles County Courthouse. He was a witness in a case and while he wore the jacket before going into the courtroom, once in, he removed it and folded it over his arm. A police officer had seen the jacket and told the judge the man should be arrested for contempt, the judge dismissed the idea. When Cohen left the courtroom he was arrested by the same officer, charged and eventually convicted of violating section 415 of the California Penal code which prohibited "maliciously and willfully disturbing the peace or quiet of any neighborhood or person by offensive conduct."

Cohen admitted that he wore the jacket intentionally in an effort to convey his deep feelings and thoughts about the Vietnam war and the draft. Cohen was sentenced to thirty days in jail and appealed the sentence but the California Court of Appeal upheld it stating that "offensive conduct" is defined as "behavior which has a tendency to provoke others to acts of violence or to in turn disturb the peace." It went to the State Supreme Court which declined to take the case, and finally ended up in the US Supreme Court.

The justices ruled what the case was not. It was not an obscenity case. For it to be obscene the vulgarity used would have to provoke erotic thoughts. Obviously "Fuck the Draft" doesn't imply anything sexual. Next they ruled out a "fighting words" case. Not only did Cohen not intend for his message to be insulting but no individuals in the courthouse were insulted or provoked into an act of physical violence because of it. 

The key word in this case, where we draw the line, is the word "offensive". Who decides what is and isn't offensive?  The issue at the heart of the case was "whether California can excise, as 'offensive conduct,' one particular scurrilous epithet from the public discourse, either upon the theory ... that its use is inherently likely to cause violent reaction or upon a more general assertion that the States, acting as guardians of public morality, may properly remove this offensive word from the public vocabulary."

The word "offensive" meets the requirements of the "void for vagueness" doctrine which simply implies that a law is unenforceable if it is too vague for the average person to comprehend. It is impossible for individuals to clearly determine what is and isn't offensive, as this is completely subjective. Expressions such as "Fuck the Draft" may appear vulgar  but the use of the word "Fuck" in the message conveys a very strong emotion and as the court stated, "In fact, words are often chosen as much for their emotive as their cognitive force."  The court recognized that at times the emotive function "may often be more important element of the overall message" than the message itself. Unpopular as Cohen's use of words or the message itself may have been, at that time, it is that kind of speech, that which is unpopular, which must be protected.

The California law was used to subvert unpopular political speech and this case serves as a milestone and an example for us even today when political speech is the target of individuals of all political persuasions who would stop at nothing to see that it is prohibited by any and all legal means. Individuals who want to get a good idea of the lengths the government (be it local, state, or federal) might go to in an effort to silence certain types of speech, should feel good reading this precedent setting first amendment case.

Friday, August 24, 2012

"Law of Mass Comm" and "Cuba & Puerto Rico" will make for a fascinating semester

Well, it's fall semester and it means two significant things: First, the students are back, all 50,000 of them and second, my classes begin. I'll skip the first one since it's boring and head right to the second.

I'm taking two courses this semester. The first is Law of Mass Communications. The instructor, Clay Calvert, is a Professor and Brechner Eminent Scholar in Mass Communicationis and an expert on First Amendment law. He is the Director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project. As a writer, I am very interested in First Amendment Issues. The course specifically deals with the First Amendment as it relates to free speech and freedom of the press.  The professor is intelligent, fun and quite animated, the students love him. It's going to be a great semester. Having perused the textbook, I can see we'll be covering things I've blogged about in the past so I'm really looking forward to it. 

The second course I'm taking is Cuba and Puerto Rico: 14th Century to Present. The professor of this course, Dr. Lillian Guerra has a specialty in Cuban and Caribbean History and previously taught at Harvard. She and I emailed prior to the beginning of classes and became acquainted. She's very knowledgeable in her field and it's going to be a great class. It's very interesting comparing Cuba to Puerto Rico. It's also interesting looking at the impact the United States had on both nations. Most people don't stop to think about the fact that America was founded on its stance against imperialism while once we gained our freedom, we imposed imperialist policies on others. Just a thought. Having grown up in South Miami, I had a lot of Cuban and Puerto Rican friends and so learning about the development of these two nations interests me greatly. Don't even get me started on my feelings about the embargo against Cuba.

Anyway, this should be a great semester for these are two outstanding courses I'm really looking forward to. I'm going to blog often about them and use the tag lines I've created. I hope you'll stick around.

Friday, August 03, 2012

When it comes to Chik-Fil-A and gay rights, I'm on the side of...

Chik-Fil-A claims it was founded on what they call "biblical principles". Its founders S. Truett Cathy and his wife Jeannette are devout Christians and believe in preservation of traditional marriage--that between a man and a woman.  The WinShape organization which is the charitable arm of CFA donates heavily to certain causes. You can check them out here at http://equalitymatters.org/factcheck/201207020001

Also, here are a few excerpts of the interview which you can find at http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=38271
"...as an organization we can operate on biblical principles. So that is what we claim to be. [We are] based on biblical principles, asking God and pleading with God to give us wisdom on decisions we make about people and the programs and partnerships we have. And He has blessed us."

Cathy believes strongly that Christians are missionaries in the workplace. "Jesus had a lot of things to say about people who work and live in the business community," he said. His goal in the workplace is "to take biblical truth and put skin on it. ... We're talking about how our performance in the workplace should be the focus of how we build respect, rapport and relationships with others that opens the gateway to interest people in knowing God.

Some have opposed the company's support of the traditional family. "Well, guilty as charged," said Cathy when asked about the company's position.

"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.

"We operate as a family business ... our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that," Cathy emphasized.

Here are my thoughts on this mess.

We live in a nation where we are free to express our opinions without fear of punishment from the government, therefore, I strongly support the right of CFA and its President to vocalize their opinions on this issue. As a staunch supporter of free speech and free expression, I also support boycotts of CFA by consumers and I support individuals picketing their restaurants. 

Some cities are trying to prevent Chik-Fil-A from opening its franchise there. In other cities, Universities are fighting to prevent the business from opening on campus or trying to get rid of those which currently exist on their campus.  I do not believe the Universities should be taking the stance on religion nor do I think they should ban any legitimate business so long as it does not practice discrimination and if they do practice discrimination in the form of hiring and serving, then they should be subject to the law. If the business is a legitimate business which serves all individuals they should be free to open on the campus. If it does well and makes money, it stays but if it doesn't make money, it goes. It's just that simple.  In regards to city government getting involved in banning the franchise, I feel that no government entity should have the power to deny a legitimate business the opportunity to set up shop, nor do I think they should have the power to force out an existing legitimate business, simply based on the religious beliefs of those who own or are employed at that business.

Think about this example...would we stop a Muslim family from opening a business in our community because we might disagree with their strict religious beliefs? If we did, what do you think would be the backlash? You could argue it's different but really it's not. Many would disagree with Muslim beliefs regarding women. Should we ban the Muslim-owned business because the owners have strict beliefs that infringe upon the rights of women? No, unless of course they are doing something which violates the law (that's just common sense).

Most of the world's major religions are opposed to gay marriage and homosexuality as a way of life.  If we start allowing government to ban businesses with certain religious beliefs then we might as well say goodbye to free enterprise.  I don't want to live in a country where government shuts down/bans businesses based on their religious principles, even if I don't agree with those principles. This is where the power of the consumer becomes important. If you want to support the business, then by all means do it. If you don't want to do business there, then shop elsewhere. Let the consumer, not the government, decide if the business stays or goes.

Also I should add in at this point that at least twelve lawsuits claiming discrimination have been filed against Chik-Fil-A in the past and that discrimination is one of the reasons cities are considering banning them. I checked this out and yes, suits were filed and settled out of court but from what I read so far I could find none that had anything to do with sexual orientation. I'd also like to add that if we're going to ban businesses because they have been accused of discrimination, why is there a Wal Mart in every town in America? Wal Mart has been sued and is currently being sued for discrimination against women and minorities and still Americans shop there. Just a little something I thought I'd add in.

Christians believe marriage is a religious institution between a man and woman according to the Bible and that appears to be the basis of their logic for their opposition to same-sex "marriage". They strive to save traditional marriage but does anyone really believe that traditional marriage between a man and a woman is in jeopardy?  Marriage between individuals of the same sex does not devalue marriage between a man and woman. Why are Christians so opposed to something that is really...none of their business and does not affect them?

Recently,  I read posts by friends and others on Facebook which proudly proclaimed their support for Chik-Fil-A. On CFA appreciation day they prayed for America and prayed for a return to moral values in this country. Do they really think people who are in same-sex relationships are the cause of moral decline in this nation? When is the last time you heard or read about people in same-sex relationships committing rape, robbery, murder, or any other major crimes in mass numbers? The people who commit crimes and contribute to the moral decline of America are from all walks of life.  I can find no evidence that gay people nor same-sex marriage has contributed to the decline of morality in this country.

Government has no business defining marriage. Some people believe marriage is a religious thing, others believe it's simply a commitment/covenant between two people, with nothing to do with religion. Who really has the authority to define it? Marriage means many things to many cultures. What right do our politicians have to declare what marriage is and isn't? Government needs to stay out of the business of religion and morality. This of course means that perhaps government should be out of the business of marriage and in the business of civil unions for legal purposes only.

I don't care if someone is gay. I don't care if two people of the same sex want to get married. Why don't I care? Because it's none of my business. In my opinion...any person can live their life any way they want to so long as they do not infringe upon the civil rights of others. That said, you might ask me how I can support Chik-Fil-A's right to free speech. Easy. I don't think CFA is infringing upon the civil rights of gay individuals. Yes, they donate money to organizations that support traditional marriage and some of these organizations have been identified as being anti-gay, however donating money to an organization that promotes certain beliefs does not infringe upon civil rights. Actions, not words, violate civil rights. These organizations that receive donations from Chik-Fil-A have no power to act in a manner that infringes upon civil rights. They can, however, lobby and push politicians and others in positions of power to act and ultimately if those actions infringe upon our civil rights that is when we take action. 

So, in a nutshell, I am all for freedom for everyone and completely against government involvement in defining marriage and enacting laws related to it, as well as banning businesses based on religious beliefs. If you disagree with my stance on this issue and you think I'm wrong, so be it, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. What I do know is that I am pro-freedom and in my opinion that puts me on the side of right every time.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Games of the XXX Olympiad: NBC's epic fail...

The opening ceremony of the Olympics is something I look forward to every four years, it's a tradition, which is why I'm pissed off at NBC for messing with it. While the rest of the world enjoyed the live broadcast of the Opening Ceremony of the XXX Olympiad, Americans were forced to wait ill 7:30 p.m. in their respective time zones to watch the festivities, which were already over by then.  My friends around the world were tweeting the live events while I sat there for hours waiting to watch the taped version. I couldn't even livestream it because NBC blacked it out on their website.  It's all about the almighty dollar. NBC, who paid $1.3 billion for exclusive rights (and stated they would lose at least $100 million) decided to broadcast during primetime for revenue purposes, most likely because they needed to appease their sponsors.

The program began at 7:30 but instead of opening ceremony festivities, we were instead treated to boring commentary and interviews featuring Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira, Bob Costas and Tom Brokaw. For thirty minutes we had to sit through first Costas interviewing Brokaw about security conditions, followed by Seacrest interviewing athletes. Finally around 8 pm EST, the actual program began and we were ultimately subjected to five hours of some of the worst commentary I've ever heard.  During the most interesting parts of the first portion of the ceremony I had to listen to Lauer and Vieira run their mouths. It really pissed me off when during the Frankie & June segment which featured some pretty awesome music, I couldn't actually hear the music because they wouldn't shut up.

Prior to the parade of nations, US viewers were robbed of six minutes of an important part of the opening ceremony: the six minute tribute to the 52 people killed in the July 2005 terrorist attacks in London which took place the day after London was selected to host the Olympics. The crowd and the audience worldwide were asked to observe a moment of silence to honor the victims. In the meantime in the taped version, US viewers were subject instead to Ryan Seacrest's rather boring interview with Michael Phelps. NBC reports that the reason they chose not to broadcast it because it's their policy to "shorten for both broadcast constraints and for the sensibilities of the local audience." The network states: "Our program is tailored for the U.S. television audience."

Seriously? Guess I should be thanking NBC for being sensitive to my sensibilities eh? Not!

Anyway, once the parade of nations began, Costas subbed for Vieira and things only got worse. Costas and Lauer inundated us with useless crap and annoying comments that never stopped. Some of their comments about the nations, and their dress, were downright ignorant and insulting.  I wanted to mute the sound but then I'd miss out on the crowd and the music. To top that, during the parade of nations, NBC cut to a commercial about once in every five nations and when they resumed,  they gave us a fifteen-second rundown of the nations we'd missed entering the stadium. I can't get over the massive numbers of commercials during the five hour spectacle. Every few minutes we were hit with another one and to be honest I don't remember a single one. So much for marketing eh?

Three-quarters of the way through the ceremony I was yelling at my TV and tweeting STFU to NBC. I couldn't take it. What kept me going was a friend promising me that the lighting of the torch (which he'd seen hours earlier!) would be worth sticking around. Of course when the moment of truth came, when the torch was to be lit, we were still bombarded with idiocy from Lauer and Costas. 

This experience, which for me has always been amazing and a tradition, was suddenly tarnished. I was pissed. I wasn't the only one either. Americans slammed NBC on both Twitter and Facebook. Interestingly enough, individuals from around the world who had already seen the ceremony live but who also chose to watch the NBC version with commentary tweeted that what they had seen earlier was a far more superior broadcast than that which we watched in the US.  

In addition to all of this, NBC is only offering internet livestream of the Olympics to individuals with subscriptions to pay-television service providers. This means a large number of Americans who have access to NBC's network, but not through a cable service provider, cannot watch the Olympics online.

What kind of crap is this? 

By the way, if you're hoping to catch the closing ceremony live in the US, don't count on it. NBC is doing a blackout, opting to offer the taped version in the primetime hours. Another major fail.

The Olympics is such an extraordinary event where people from over two hundred nations, from all walks of life, have the opportunity to set aside their nation's differences and participate in peaceful competition and sportsmanship, and it is very sad that our enjoyment of it is tarnished by the need to turn a profit. I know this isn't just limited to NBC, it's all networks. However, NBC didn't have to do it this way, they made the choice and so, I can guarantee you that if they get the contract in 2016, I sure as hell won't be tuning in.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Last night's dream...

I had this dream last night that I was living at mom and dad's house again and dad was still alive in this dream. I was getting ready for work, in my old room and going through the closet trying to find something to wear. Took me what appeared to be hours just to find the right outfit. I wasn't happy so I kept changing my clothes. Finally, mom came into my room and told me she had some of my jeans in the dryer so she brought them to me along with one of her pullover shirts. I put the outfit on but didn't like the shirt because it had a birdshit stain on it! I changed into a red top with shortsleeves and it kept pulling near the shoulders but I kept it on anyway.

I remember going outside to get in the car then going back inside the house to change again. My dad was getting really annoyed too that I couldn't make up my mind. I kept worrying about being late for work. Finally I decided on an outfit, then went outside to get in my car and realized it was at the place that changes my oil and does routine maintenance on my car. The car I was looking for though was a '91 Pontiac Grand Am (in reality, my former vehicle), not the 2004 Corolla I'm driving now. When I got out there there were several other cars, and I noticed one that I thought was mine ( I wondered what it was doing there considering it was supposed to be in the shop), but when I got closer I realized my brother was under the hood an some guy was on the passenger's side. When I got right next to it I realized it was a junk car, something that had no top on it and they had pulled out of a junkyard to mess around with.

I asked someone that was there, a woman I didn't recognize, if I could drive her car but instead of the nice one she had, she directed me to this old clunker that was the length of an old Cadillac but had the body style of a Buick. It was an old piece of shit and I asked her, "Does this run?" and she replied, "Oh yeah!" so I got in the car and proceeded to go to work.

I got into the car and proceeded down this dirt road, with her behind me. I needed to get off this dirt road to merge left onto the regular street. She was in her car behind me then wound up on the paved road I was trying to merge on, heading in the same direction. I can't remember anything after that.

There were some recurring themes here, things that occur in most of my other dreams:

  • can't find my car
  • late for work 
  • living at my parents house
  • no car for me to drive
  •  
    Sometimes the dreams have just one of the above, sometimes all three.

By the way if you want to read my other strange dreams, just click on the tag under this post titled "Strange Dreams".


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My thoughts on Jason Alexander's twitter piece on gun ownership, assault weapons and then some...

First let me say I wouldn't own an assault weapon. Why? No need for it. I also am not sure I'd mind if assault weapons were banned. That said, I really loathe the continued assumptions that everyone who owns guns, including assault weapons are a danger to society, and that people who own guns are right wing nuts. It's just as ludicrous as saying people who don't own guns are flaming liberals. It's.Just.Not.True!

I'm prompted to write this in response to actor Jason Alexander's second tweet in response to the shootings in Aurora at http://www.twitlonger.com/show/if2nht where he talks about his stance on gun ownership, particularly assault weapons, the definition of a well-regulated militia and also the responses he received about his statements.  I think Jason Alexander wrote a very well-thought out piece, on a subject he feels very strongly about. I simply disagree with him on a few points.

First, his statement:  "I'll say it plainly - if someone wants these weapons, they intend to use them. And if they are willing to force others to "pry it from my cold, dead hand", then they are probably planning on using them on people."   

He makes a pretty bold statement. If this were indeed true, that every person who owned or had access to an assault weapon were planning to use them on people, we would see a lot more mass murders going on in this nation. In reality, when it comes to gun ownership, there are many more law abiding than not. In my lifetime I've known a lot of people who own guns (I know just as many non-owners!), and I've known a few who had assault weapons and they were owned legally and for a variety of reasons, none of which included mass murder, self-defense or hunting. They openly admitted they liked to shoot them and enjoyed collecting them. Their hobby of collecting guns was no different than someone's hobby of collecting glass frogs. It's just a matter of appeal. I would not associate with anyone who is violent or who would use guns to intentionally murder people. I can say completely and without reservation that the motives of the people I knew, who owned them, were never in question, by me or anyone else. They were law-abiding, hardworking, decent people. I'd also like to add that they were from a variety of racial, religious, political and socio-economic backgrounds.

Second, his statements:  "Then there are the tweets from the extreme right - these are the folk who believe our government has been corrupted and stolen and that the forces of evil are at play, planning to take over this nation and these folk are going to fight back and take a stand....And amazingly, I have some minor agreement with these folks. I believe there are evil forces at play in our government. But I call them corporatists. I call them absolutists. I call them the kind of ideologues from both sides, but mostly from the far right who swear allegiance to unelected officials that regardless of national need or global conditions, are never to levy a tax. That they are never to compromise or seek solutions with the other side. That are to obstruct every possible act of governance, even the ones they support or initiate. Whose political and social goal is to marginalize the other side, vilify and isolate them with the hope that they will surrender, go away or die out. "

"These people believe that the US government is eventually going to go street by street and enslave our citizens. Now as long as that is only happening to liberals, homosexuals and democrats - no problem. But if they try it with anyone else - it's going to be arms-ageddon and these committed, God-fearing, brave souls will then use their military-esque arsenal to show the forces of our corrupt government whats-what. These people think they meet the definition of a "militia". They don't. At least not the constitutional one. And, if it should actually come to such an unthinkable reality, these people believe they would win. That's why they have to "take our country back". From who? From anyone who doesn't think like them or see the world like them. They hold the only truth, everyone else is dangerous. Ever meet a terrorist that doesn't believe that? Just asking."

Alexander makes it appear that this is an issue about politics and sexual orientation. It's not, never has been.  Also, why is it that this has to be a left vs. right issue? Listen, I wrote a piece a few days ago where I discussed the idea that one of the reasons so many Americans want to defend the right to own firearms goes back to the root of who we are as a nation. In my piece, I wrote: "...the deep-rooted belief that owning firearms is an American tradition, something that has been an integral part of who we are, from the moment this nation was founded. America was born out of the struggle to break free from English tyranny and the most basic means of defense since that time has been the use of firearms. The desire to be free and to protect ourselves from the tyranny of government has been ingrained in us for generations. It's just something that's been a part of our culture since our forefathers founded this nation. It's about survival and there's nothing wrong with it but it is important to recognize that it is an vital part of who we are as a people and a nation."

You don't have to be left, right, Democrat or Republican to believe in the possibility of one day having to protect one's self and community from a hostile, tyrannical government entity. True, there are whacked out conspiracy theorists who are constantly running from the invisible "black helicopters" but in reality there are just a lot of average, everyday people out there who believe it is a possibility. Honestly, we really don't know which elected officials truly have our best interest in mind and given the state of the world in this day and age, it's not unreasonable that people would feel this way. When judging this frame of mind, just remember how our nation was founded, what our ancestors endured, and why they fought to separate from England. It's neither right nor wrong to believe it could happen, it's just the survival instinct and the train of thought that has been passed down from generation to generation.  (I'll go one step further, consider this, either one believes the government is capable of turning on the people or one believes it is not. Both views could be considered radical, however neither is right nor wrong, it just depends on the person.) 

Third, his statement, "The advocates of guns who claim patriotism and the rights of the 2nd Amendment - are they in well-regulated militias? For the vast majority - the answer is no." Alexander attempts to define (as we have all done at one time or another) the term "militia" using the dictionary definition. He cites Merriam-Webster's definition which is: a part of the organized armed forces of a country liable to call only in emergency, a body of citizens organized for military service, and the whole body of able-bodied male citizens declared by law as being subject to call to military service.

The Second Amendment reads: A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Scholars, gun advocates, anti-gun advocates and politicians have been attempting to define the meaning of the second amendment for decades. The problem is that not everything in the Constitution has a strict literal meaning and interpretation. If it were so, we wouldn't need a Supreme Court to hash these things out for us. Even the Supreme Court Justices have disagreed on whether or not the Second Amendment protects the individual's right or of that of the "well-regulated militia".  There are various interpretations of it including that the Second Amendment is irrelevant because the United States has no militia, that the individual has the right to bear arms only if associated with a state militia, and that the individual right to bear arms is a basic fundamental right as is the right to free speech. In US v. Miller, 1939, the SCOTUS upheld that the individual had a right to bear arms but only if those arms would actually be useful in a citizen militia.

If you look at the meaning of the Second Amendment from the Founders point of view, which you really have to do considering it was passed during their time and not ours, it is understandable that they would think it necessary that all individuals be allowed to carry arms for the purpose of enabling militias to fight tyrannical government entities and this was not just limited to tyrannical government abroad but at home as well. They feared an all-too powerful government within America's own borders. Now, many would say that more than two hundred years later, and with our current US military, we no longer need militias but one could argue that the all-volunteer military in the United States is not the same as a militia nor is it likely to be used as a militia for the purposes the militia may have originally been intended. Keep in mind that our military serves at the whim of the President and Congress, the very government entity which the Founders were concerned could abuse its power, thus fueling the need for a militia.

While I may disagree with some of the points Jason Alexander made in his tweets, I defend his right to speak his mind. I think that he should speak his mind on this issue as often as he likes because that's what this country was founded on--debate and discourse.  I am disgusted and appalled at the way people have treated him, calling him nasty names and making threats. Now, Alexander thinks many of these people espousing their hatred towards him are right-wing gun owners and gun advocates (and that may be partly or completely true) but I think he would agree with me that ignorance and rudeness know no bounds and are not restricted to political affiliation or beliefs, race, gender, sexual orientation, education, religion or socio-economic background. Ignorance comes in all forms and because we have something called free speech in this country, we must allow even the ignorant to have their say.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I don't know if there is a right answer.

Right now a lot of people are asking the question of whether the Aurora shootings could have been prevented. The only answer I can come up with is I don't know.
 
So far we know the only run in the shooter ever had with police was a traffic ticket. Regardless of why he did it, the big issue that will be debated in the days, weeks, and months to come, will be the guns. We won't be discussing the psychological state of mind of the shooter, the security at the theater, or even violent films.  It will come down to the guns.  It can't be denied that this massacre will spark a political war that we've been through before, one that tears this country apart every time.

In regards to the guns, here are our options:
  • Ban all assault weapons for sale to the public. The problem with this is while it might curb massacres like what happened in Aurora and other cities but it doesn't prevent someone from taking rifles and handguns into a public place and shooting it up. Also, factor in whether or not banning assault weapons to the public would pass muster with the SCOTUS. Take into consideration too that the NRA is a pretty damn powerful organization and will fight to the death arguing that ownership of an assault rifle is every American's God given right.
  • Ban the sale of all weapons to people with criminal histories. Wait, don't we already do this? We do, unless one is disobeying the law and selling to criminals anyway. Also, what happens when the person committing the crime doesn't have a criminal background? There's nothing we can do to prevent a person with no criminal history from obtaining a weapon. While all we hear about are the gun related violent crimes, we don't hear about all the responsible gun ownership that takes place every day in America. We don't hear about it because it isn't news when someone uses their firearms responsibly.
  • Ban all weapons, period. Okay, this could be the one sure fire way to prevent massacres such as this. If we banned all guns, even by police officers, if we melted down every gun in this country, would that solve the problem? Would criminals find a way to obtain their guns? Do we think that it's possible that all gun owners in America would give up their weapons? Would this even pass SCOTUS muster? What would happen to the Constitution? The Second Amendment?
     
    In America, people own firearms for different reasons:

    • Protection of life and property
    • Collecting
    • Recreational shooting
    • Hunting
    • Required for their profession
    • Use in criminal activity

    All of the above with the exception of the last one are perfectly legitimate reasons for owning firearms. What is not listed is the deep-rooted belief that owning firearms is an American tradition, something that has been an integral part of who we are, from the moment this nation was founded. America was born out of the struggle to break free from English tyranny and the most basic means of defense since that time has been the use of firearms. The desire to be free and to protect ourselves from the tyranny of government has been ingrained in us for generations. It's just something that's been a part of our culture since our forefathers founded this nation. It's about survival and there's nothing wrong with it but it is important to recognize that it is an vital part of who we are as a people and a nation.

    In the end, we absolutely cannot predict human behavior with any certainty and the idea that our destiny could be left up to some psycho wielding a gun is incomprehensible to us. Since we cannot control human behavior, we can do the next best thing, we can remove the tools that help put that behavior into action. The desire to do this is not right or wrong, it too is about survival. However, the question I have is:  Is it the answer?

    Once again, the only answer I can come up with is I don't know.
     
Camden, New Jersey 1949
Austin, Texas 1966
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 1982
San Ysidro, California 1984
Killeen, Texas 1991
Littleton, Colorado 1999
Blacksburg, Virginia 2007
Kinston, Alabama 2009
Binghamton, New York 2009
Fort Hood, Texas 2009
Aurora, Colorado 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

"Max the Girl" gives us her take on an Emmy-less House

Hugh Laurie made "House" a household word.  Phrases like "Seriously?", "Everybody Lies", "Oh Snap!" which are also known as "Houseisms"  have become a part of our daily conversations. Some of the funniest one-liners ever heard on television were emanated by Dr. Gregory House over the course of eight years.  House, M.D. is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most watched television show in the world. You just couldn't help but be captivated by the character and his interaction with Wilson, Cuddy, his fellows, and of course, his patients.



 



So...in honor of Hugh's brilliant portrayal of who is by far the most captivating and interesting television character of the modern era, my friend, writer Max Weiss, editor of Baltimore Magazine, and all-around awesome chick, wrote an incredible piece on the fact that despite his brilliant portrayal of the character, and six nominations, Hugh didn't win a single Emmy. We feel he was robbed, maybe not in the final season but certainly in prior seasons. Knowing Hugh, he'll just use this to fuel the self-deprecating humor he's so famous for.

While an Emmy is nice, it's just a statue that sits on a shelf collecting dust. The real prize is that the character and the actor who portrayed him will be remembered by millions of people long after the show is over.

Please, take a moment and read Max's piece here ---> "Hugh've been snubbed." 

Enjoy and let Max how how much you enjoyed it.



Jess

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Government schools confiscation of school supplies for the purpose of "sharing" sends kids the wrong message

When I was in elementary school in South Miami in the 70's, our teachers did not confiscate our school supplies to put in a pot to share with everyone. Parents were responsible for seeing to it their children had the supplies needed for the school year. My parents worked hard to provide for us, their first concern was taking care of their own children first. This didn't mean they didn't help others in need, but their first priority was their own children. 

Now, for those who say the economy was different back then, well it was, but remember while things cost less back back then, people also earned less too. The economy of the 1970's was no picnic, there was a real crisis going on, not just in America but all over the world. I remember long lines at the gas stations, high prices, and inflation. My parents talked about the economy quite a bit when we were kids, we picked up on a lot.

We're told these days that throwing all the school supplies into one big pot teaches children the value of sharing but that is not necessarily the case. Actually, it teaches children that they are not allowed to have anything that belongs solely to them. They are taught they are not allowed to own property.  They are taught that it is wrong to own something if others do not own it as well. They are taught that it is wrong to have more of something than someone else. They are taught that the good of the many outweighs the good of the individual. They are taught that their identity is tied not to individuality but a group. Also, take into consideration that if these children grow up believing that as individuals they have no identity, that what is best for the overall group takes precedence over what is best for the individual, what does that mean in regards to accountability for their actions and behavior? If one is identified according to a group and not as an indiviual, who is accountable? Is anyone?

Despite the fact my school supplies weren't confiscated to be shared with my classmates, I grew up to be a pretty damn fine human being. I am compassionate, understanding, educated, hardworking, and law-abiding. I understand the meaning of sharing, I contribute to charitable causes, I help people and animals, and I do my part to be a productive member of society.

Sure, I started talking about sharing and school supplies but this is just part of a much larger problem with the younger generation. These kids are being raised in the mindset that the individual no longer matters, everyone is rewarded for everything, and everybody is treated exactly the same in every situation regardless of their individual circumstances.  They don't understand the difference between equality and equity.  Guess what happens to them when they grow into adults? They can't make their own decisions, can't balance a checkbook, don't know how to interview for a job, have zero social skills, think exceptions can be made for everything, and believe everyone should be praised even if they don't deserve it.

Perhaps the public school system should quit wasting kids time trying to teach them that they are entitled to everything and that everyone is exactly the same, and go back to the basics, you know things like...uh...this?