Friday, December 27, 2013

Being Cruel in the Name of Fighting Cruelty: The Case of Justine Sacco

I felt strongly enough about this issue that I felt I had to say something. Check out my new article published over at It's titled, "Was Justine Sacco the Victim of Bullying?". Check it out!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Oh, just remove the "Christ" from Christmas and be done with it!

...though "Merry Mas" doesn't quite have the same ring to it and I'm sure someone will be offended even by that.

It appears that in an effort to prevent non-Christians from being offended, officials at the Ralph J. Osgood Intermediate School in Kings Park, Long Island wanted to be sure everyone enjoyed a Merry Christmas by removing the words “Holy Infant,” “Round yon virgin” and “Christ the Savior”  from the "Silent Night" Christmas carol.


And oh yeah, in other news, the State of Florida has denied the group identifying themselves as the "Satanic Temple" the opportunity to feature, at the Capitol, a display of an angel falling from heaven into an open fire. Officials called it "grossly offensive."

Ya think?

And the idiocy continues...

Saturday, December 07, 2013

The most important lesson of Pearl Harbor may surprise you.

On December 7, 1991, a few of the 765 Japanese fighter pilots who attacked Pearl Harbor returned to Pearl by invitation, to visit the Arizona Memorial.  The hope was that both the Americans and the Japanese who were present that day at Pearl could find some sort of peace and closure to the horrific events that happened that day. Some American sailors extended hugs and hands in friendship to their former enemies while others simply could not.

One of those present at the Memorial that day was Master Sergeant Richard Fiske, who served aboard the U.S.S. West Virginia. The trauma of December 7, 1941 weighed upon him heavily all his life. In 1965 he was hospitalized for ulcers. Looking back, he said,

"You have no idea of the hate that I had. And I'm sorry about that because that's not my way. But I had so much hate, I saw so many of my friends get killed, that I was in the hospital for 3 ½ months with bleeding ulcers."

After his surgery in 1965, his surgeon had a talk with him about how his memory of the event would affect his long-term recovery. Fisk said, 

"He closed the door and said 'Let's talk.' We talked for about an hour and when the doctor left, I was crying. It seemed like a tremendous weight was lifted off of me. And I think at that particular time, I became a human. That was the day I became a human. All of that hate, I realized, was not hurting the person you hate. You're just hurting yourself."

Years later Fiske would meet and become friend with a former adversary, Zenji Abe, one of the pilots who dropped bombs on Pearl Harbor. The men remained good friends until Fiske's death in 2004. Abe and 45 of his former comrades would later return for the 60th anniversary memorial in 2001.

It begs the question: How is this possible? How can two men who were once sworn enemies, whose people killed one another by the thousands, in brutal combat, become such good friends?  The answer is simple: it was time. Time to move on, to forgive, to heal. In order to regain some sense of who they were, to take control of their lives, they had to find peace.

Both men acknowledged one of the truths of war, that it's not personal, it's just...war. Unfortunately in the battle of ideologies between governments, men who have nothing to do with those differences, are killed trying to defend them. The Japanese pilots were doing a job, as military men, following the orders of their commander-in-chief. The Americans were doing the same when they fought back. It's the lot of war...that men are forced to do things they would not do under normal circumstances. When you take that oath to preserve and defend, you have to go all the way, even if it is at odds with your personal beliefs. You have to believe in the greater good. You just hope to hell what you're fighting for is worth it.

It must have taken great strength for the former adversaries to meet for the first time at that memorial and make amends. Those who were able to do so must have felt a great burden lifted, perhaps even that peace that for so long, evaded them. I can only imagine the level of hate that Richard Fiske and all who served with him, who survived that ordeal, must have felt that day and years after. I can only imagine how that hate affected their daily lives, their relationships, and their own personal well-being. It is not a simple task to forgive and make amends and put the past where it belongs. If it were easy everyone would do it. Men like Richard Fiske who found the strength within themselves to forgive their former adversaries must have felt a great burden lifted. To find friendship in the midst the ruins of hate is truly a wonderful gift.

I believe the most important lesson of Pearl Harbor is about forgiveness. As cliche as it sounds, I do believe out of everything bad comes something good. We have been given the opportunity to extract the good from this horrible event in our history. In addition to loss of life, the biggest casualty of war is the loss of humanity. The good thing is that men like Richard Fiske and Zenji Abe have shown us it can be restored.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Mandela reminds us all we are masters of our own fate.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Monday, November 18, 2013

College students: be part of the solution, not part of the problem!

I sat with a student the other day who complained incessantly about everything wrong with the program and with the institution. When it came to his dissatisfaction with courses,  I asked if he had ever once filled out any of the course evaluations and he said he had not. I asked if he'd ever talked to his instructors, the department chair and he said he had not. His excuses were that he didn't want to get anyone in trouble and he didn't think anyone would do anything about it anyway. My response:

"How in the hell can you sit there and complain if you're helping to perpetuate the problem?"

Can you imagine where we'd be today if everyone kept their mouths shut because they didn't want to get anyone in trouble or because they thought nobody would do anything?

Students at all colleges and universities have a Bill of Rights and along with that comes responsibilities. Whether written or unwritten it is implied. College is one of the first places young people learn about leadership and responsibility. Of all places, the institutions of higher ed should be where we hear the loudest voices for change. As a student, you pay your hard-earned dollars in exchange for a high quality education and if you're not getting it, then you need to tell someone and you need to keep telling someone until something is done about it. There are mechanisms in place to protect students from retaliation so there is no reason to be afraid. The institutions of higher ed make it very clear upon arrival that the students are important to the success of the institution. They want you to tell them when something isn't right. How can they improve if they don't know what's wrong?

So...stop complaining about the same problems over and over to those who can't do anything about it and start complaining to those who can! Don't just sit back and wait for someone else to do it either because chances are nothing will ever be done at all. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Special feature: Compilation of perspectives & photos from the Hugh Laurie and the Copper Bottom Band, North American tour.

Around the time of the Nashville show, I decided to compile perspectives and photos taken by people who attended the sixteen Copper Bottom Band shows here in the US & Canada.  My motivation is twofold: first, it gives people unable to attend the shows an opportunity to see what it was like for the rest of us and second, it gives the band, who is reading this blog, a perspective they love--the audience perspective. The band loves knowing how much joy they've brought to their fans and this is a great way to do that.

As to photos, I'm not publishing every photo, just select ones. Variety is key here when it comes to both pictures and stories.  If you have photos you'd like to contribute, if you recognize any uncredited photos or have personal stories to add, please email me at  As to updates, I do it as often as I can. Between work and home responsibilities, blogging, writing a book, research, and trying plan out a script for a TV pilot, this project will take some time but the stories and photos are trickling in and I believe it is well worth it. It's really been no work at all, just plain fun and a nice detour from the usual. 

Finally....don't be shy! Share your story with us. How did you react to the music? How did it touch you? What were your favorite moments? What was the experience of seeing the show like for you? How has Hugh & The Copper Bottom Band changed your view of the Blues? CBB fans and the band would love to read your perspective. They put a lot into it and they want us all to get as much if not more out of it.

Enjoy!    Jess

Nashville, Tennessee  10/11/2013
updated 10-25-13 

Kent, Ohio  10/19/2013
updated 10-24-13

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"Somebody needs to pay for all my children. Somebody needs to be held accountable and they need to pay."

In late 2011, Angel Adams of Tampa found herself evicted from her apartment. She and twelve of her fiteen children, aged six months to eleven years, fathered by three different men, one of whom was in jail, were in a one-bedroom hotel room when the owner of the hotel called WFLA Channel 8 to come in and investigate.

Watch the video. Your heart will break for those kids and you will want to choke that mother. Her landlord and other agencies tried to help her. They paid her rent, bought her furniture, paid for her food but she claims that when her fiance, the father of ten of her kids went to jail, everything went to shit. Eventually DCF got involved and rightly so though her sister said before DCF came along she was doing fine on her own. Really? I don't think so. And never once did she acknowledge everything that had been done for her and those kids.

Below WFLA Channel 8 Tampa's compilation of video about her. You really need to watch the video. Oh but gets better. In this story from 2013 (see link), WFLA Channel 8 revisits the situation in the story that follows.

Here's this story update from January 2013.  Excerpt:

"After the online comments were posted, Adams became defensive in a later interview saying "Well, I tell those people, I do pay for them, I have been paying for them and that's why I'm where I'm at today." Adams claimed she and Gary Brown Sr. were working to pay for the children's care until Brown was arrested. Adams told WFLA, "I worked at numerous jobs. I worked at National Linen Company and I worked at daycares and I worked at different places so I work just like anybody else."

Over the next several months the Florida Department of Children and Families worked to find Adams and her children a home. Two years after she first made the news, Adams called WFLA reporter Jeff Patterson to say she needed help again. Adams claimed police kicked in the door of her home to arrest one of her sons, and used a taser on her during the confrontation. Adams was upset because she was pregnant again and she was worried about her unborn child.

Adams brought WFLA into her home to talk about her confrontation with police. She explained, "The officers were like yelling and cursing." Inside the multi-room home, every bedroom was filled with furniture and bunk beds. Some of Adams' small children were asleep in the beds. Adams explained how officers confronted one of her sons, accusing him of throwing rocks at a home in the neighborhood. Adams showed WFLA a broken door on the front of her home and said that officers had kicked it in. "He kicked this one, pushed this one open, the lady behind him and then he pushed me out the way over here like this." Adams claimed a male and female police officer forced their way into her home, threw her onto her bed face down and then used a taser when she could not put her hands behind her back.

Tampa Police told a much different story. A police spokesperson explained that when officers went to the Adams home, she reacted violently and that Adams and at least one of her adult children jumped on an officer and fought them violently. The police spokesperson says Adams then closed and locked her door, trapping one officer on the inside of her home and shutting the other officer outside.

Adams and a daughter were charged with battery on a law enforcement officer, but later avoided jail by agreeing to enter a pre-trial intervention program."

And so she was pregnant AGAIN! Number 16. Now, we have two problems here: 1) We have thirteen children under the age of 18 who are growing up in a very fucked up environment and 2) We have a woman who continues to get pregnant and rely on the taxpayers to bail her out.

Screw politics...of course the right thing to do is help the kids but at the same time we CANNOT enable the deadbeat parents, which is what we're doing. So long as this woman continues to pop out kids, you and I are paying for them. What are we doing to do about that? While we have to help the kids, how do we refrain from rewarding shitty choices and lack of personal responsibility?  Just because she's poor and black does not mean Angel Adams can't make rational choices. If she knows how to get pregnant, she sure as hell knows how not to get pregnant!

It pisses me off that people like Angel Adams claim they have a right to this and a right to that but at the same time they refuse to acknowledge that they have any responsibilities for making the right choices.

Monday, September 30, 2013

In this government shutdown showdown, we're just pawns in the political game.

What we have right now is a few asshats in Congress holding this country hostage by using the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare as a bargaining chip when it isn't even tired directly to this government funding. The Affordable Care Act is not affected because key parts of it rely on mandatory funding that is not tied to a shutdown. (Not to mention the law itself can only be repealed by legislation!)

And as Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post explains:

"That includes the new online marketplaces, known as exchanges, where uninsured people will be able to shop for coverage. The Medicaid expansion is funded with mandatory funding, as are the billions in federal tax credits to help with purchasing coverage."

"This largely has to do with how the big pieces of Obamacare are funded. The law uses mandatory funds for its really big programs. That includes the new online marketplaces, known as exchanges, where uninsured people will be able to shop for coverage. The Medicaid expansion is funded with mandatory funding, as are the billions in federal tax credits to help with purchasing coverage.

"Those mandatory funds were appropriated in the Affordable Care Act and, without repealing Obamacare, legislators cannot touch them. Even in the face of a government shutdown, this is the spending that sticks around."

So really, what we have here is political grandstanding by a few guys who want to run for the Presidency in 2016. It's time to put their political ambitions aside and get their collective heads out of their asses and do their jobs. If they don't, then on November 8, 2016, we'll do ours.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Enhancing our lives through the people we meet.

I was sitting in the local automotive shop the other day and as I waited for my car, I took notice of my surroundings, which included the only other person sitting near me, who was engaged some serious reading. He looked to be in his sixties, tall and tanned, with medium length gray hair covered by biker-style bandanna with an American flag design. He wore shorts and a tee shirt, earrings, a few colored bracelets and and a silver necklace with a skull on it, and he had a few tattoos.

I was bored to pieces watching the Chicago White Sox game on WGN and welcomed the change of pace when the stranger turned to me with a friendly smile and asked about my car. And that's how I started talking to a guy I would later find was named Barry, a die-hard Conservative in his sixties, who is of Italian descent, served in Vietnam, has a wife nine years younger who loves muscle cars, owns a house on a nearby island, and once drove a truck for the M&M/Mars company.

I sat there talking to him about all kinds of things from the interesting to the mundane, all the while mindful that at any moment, the mechanic would step into the room and tell one of us our car was ready, which would be followed by that awkward parting that comes when two complete strangers who have been conversing like old friends for hours, are suddenly reminded they really are complete strangers. Fortunately, we had a good thirty minutes of conversation before that happened.

We talked politics, education, social justice, the Civil War, and classic cars. I'll admit I was fascinated by the many directions our conversations had taken.  I was hit with an "it's a small world" moment when we were discussing heritage, I mentioned that my mother is from Brooklyn and my father from Kennesaw, Georgia. That's when he told me he knew Kennesaw very well, which surprised me, because even though it's no longer a just a small town outside Atlanta, I still don't meet many people who know anything about it other than the fact it passed a law years back requiring all citizens to carry firearms! Of course he knew quite a bit about the town, including its heritage, the Kennesaw Civil War Museum, the old Big Shanty Museum and Kennesaw's own legend "Wildman" Dent Myers. (You can look that last one up on your own!) 

After the manager let him know his car was ready, we talked for a few minutes more and then he put out his hand to shake and I reciprocated the gesture. We exchanged the usual "it was nice meeting you" and then that's when we learned each other's names for the first time. I told Barry that maybe we'd run in to one another again in the future. He said that would be nice.

Though we didn't have the opportunity to talk for very long, I felt like it was a very worthwhile experience. In fact, after he left the shop, I jotted down my thoughts our discussion. I think the main reason I did this is because I was still in awe that he struck up a conversation with me. In this day and age, so many people are hesitant to just say hello to a stranger and chat them up a bit. It's really too bad because there's so much to be learned from meeting new people!

My motto is "everybody has a story" and it's a fact that no two stories are the same so every time I talk to someone new, it's a fascinating experience for me. I'm very fortunate to know a lot of people, from many walks of life, from all over the US and the world. I have learned a great deal from them and hopefully they have from me too.  Meeting people, talking to them, and sharing experiences enhances our lives, it makes us richer and more fulfilled.

So the next time you find yourself sitting in public, checking your email, facebook and twitter, make the decision to put the phone down and try engaging the stranger next to you in conversation. You just never know what you might learn and how it might add to the quality of your life!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Small steps can be mighty empowering...

Society can be painfully cruel, especially to women. There's this image we've been subjected to all our lives, an image of how we're supposed to look and how we're supposed to act. The media puts such a hype on this especially in the world of entertainment. They focus so much on female celebrities...what they eat, how they dress, and how they live their lives, in an attempt to make us believe that's what we should be doing too. The pressure is overwhelming. When will it end?

It doesn't end and we have to be strong enough to fight it. Fortunately I've been inspired by women who have fought this pressure by deciding to do things their own way.  Instead of letting others dictate how they should live life, they decided how and when they would do it...on their own terms. They don't care what anyone thinks of them. They're happy and healthy both physically and mentally because of it. I'm thrilled to have been inspired by these women. Their strength has become mine and I am empowered.

Taking charge of your life might be about getting a better job or finishing your education. It might be about wanting to lose weight or changing your personal style to better suit the real you. It might be about becoming a more outgoing person or being less afraid of change and more embracing of it. Whatever it is you want to change, that change has to start somewhere. You have to take that step and once you do, you will never be the same. The first step may seem as if it is a small step but really it could be the largest, most significant step you will ever take in your life.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Big corporations are not the only dirty rotten bastards...

A woman has been employed by a small company in the south (less than fifty employees) for about eighteen months. She has health insurance benefits, a good paycheck and enjoys working there. As a matter of fact, not long ago she was given an award for Best Employee. It's a damn pretty damn good place to work.

Or so she thought.

A few weeks ago, she walked into her employer's office and requested time off (without pay) because she has a very large and dangerous tumor that must be removed. The surgeon will have to cut her open from her breastbone to her pelvic bone, that's how large that tumor is. It's a very serious and dangerous surgery and will take six weeks recovery time.

Last night, just four weeks before the scheduled surgery, she was called into her employer's office and told she was fired. The reason? "We can't afford to leave your position open for six weeks." There was no talk of working from home, hiring a temp, or any other options.

Now she's four weeks from life-saving surgery and has no job, no income, no insurance. And that means no surgery.

Without the surgery, the woman will eventually die.

Because of its small size, the company is not subject to FMLA laws and was within its legal rights to fire her. So while the firing was not illegal l it was...a pretty shitty thing to do. She would not have been paid for the six weeks recovery time so the company would've been saved her full-time salary right there. They could've hired a temporary person to do her job and paid that person half the cost! So they fired her because they couldn't afford for her to be gone six weeks but now they are going to have to replace her anyway. How does that make any sense? They might as well just kept her on and told her she couldn't have the time off. Either way, the end result is the same.

She may die.

But hey, at least management will sleep better at night knowing that they saved the company a few lousy $$, right?

Some of you might be sitting there saying, "It's a private company, they can do what they want" and you would be right in your assessment. But seriously, this was a a pretty rotten thing to do. It's just wrong. Since when does profit come before people? When we put profit first, we better ask ourselves what the hell we've become. A good company with good management would've sat down and tried working out the alternatives so that this employee could take her six weeks off without pay and recover and the company would've had someone working in her place. It's not impossible, this could've been done. 

I made a promise to the person who told me this story that upon her request, if things did not reverse and if the woman did not get her job back, I was going to go public with the name and location of this company. And you better believe that's exactly what I'm going to do if it comes down to it.