Friday, March 10, 2017

Today in the News...

Though it doesn’t seem like that long ago, it’s been more than ten years since I was an avid reader of newspapers.  My preferred edition was the Detroit Free Press, a left-leaning daily that had a killer Sunday issue.  It landed with an audible thump on your porch and it would take hours to get through it all, even if you skipped the classifieds and the weekly magazines that were all part of this great big sloppy joe of a paper.  Even the comics took more than a few minutes to read.

The Joint Operating Agreement (approved by Reagan’s Secretary of State Edwin Meese in 1988), was supposed to save both the Free Press and Detroit’s other major daily, the News.  The two powers, along with several smaller news outlets, had brawled for decades for supremacy in print journalism, but ultimately couldn’t compete with the televised 24-hour news cycle being offered by numerous cable outlets.  Both are shadows of their former selves today, having long ago shed the expensive writers and syndicates in favor of reader polls and mommy blogs.  Where I was once able to pick up the Sunday Comment section and revel in the political rumblings of Mike Royko, George Will, Cal Thomas and Molly Ivins, I now see boiler plate sentiments and a desire to avoid offending or informing anyone.

When I quit taking a daily newspaper, I didn’t think I would miss much.  After all, there’s news on-line, right?  I figured, even if Huffington Post is left-leaning, I could still get a balanced slate of contributions on a platform like Yahoo! or MSN...I have been dissuaded from that notion.

 I’m embarrassed it took as long as it did, but they have clearly been feeding me what I wanted to see.  The more I clicked on liberal politics, the more liberal posts they sent me.  If I clicked on stories about an upcoming wrestling pay-per-view, I was rewarded with psychological analyses on the differences between Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior.  I could’ve blame the on-line community if I wanted to, but being a failed Pentecostal, I decided to blame myself.  Can I get an ‘Amen’?

The date is March 10, 2017.  In the first fifteen stories on my Yahoo feed, I have a reminder for daylight savings time (top story!), a political boast about some shit the current administration had NOTHING to do with, and a follow-up on the lurid murder of a child.  The sixteenth story was about how Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has begun riding a bicycle and doesn’t care for the spandex shorts.  In other words, a slow news day.  Right?

I bought a couple of newspapers and read them both.  Even the business sections, which I never did before.  While I was sleeping, this is what happened, what was reported, and what you and I might have missed otherwise…

-N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced a comprehensive $1.4 billion plan to attack the crime, unemployment and obesity in urban Brooklyn.  It is speculated that this is a baby step in the direction of seeking the presidency in 2020.

-A warm February like the one we are experiencing is about four times more likely than it would have been in 1900.

-Dolley Madison saved a portrait of George Washington before the White House was burned down in the War of 1812.

-Career fields with a majority of men pay 21% more than those with mostly women.

-Wild life continues to thrive in the area of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.  Wild boar, a delicacy in Japan, are being slaughtered by the hundreds, but are inedible because of radioactivity.  Though Japan hopes to move people back into Fukushima, the boars have apparently moved into houses and lost their fear of humans.  Chernobyl, in the aftermath of their nuclear accident in 1986, is overrun with moose, deer, brown bears, lynx and wolves.

-31 girls died in a fire at a home for abused children in Guatemala.  An investigation is underway.

-Because of repeated provocations by North Korea, South Korea is amping up their defense with U.S. weaponry.  Because China sees these weapons pointed in their direction, a wave of anti-South Korean sentiment has broken out among its citizenry.

-In Turkey, it is suspected that Fethullah Gulen, currently living in Pennsylvania, was the mastermind behind last July’s failed coup.  Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag,  stated, “I can can clearly say that whatever Osama bin Laden means for American citizens, Fethullah Gulen means for the Turkish people.”

-There is a new movement afoot, started in Texas of all places, against unfair bail for arrested persons.  It appears we are setting bail for people accused of misdemeanors according to an old formula regardless of their ability to pay, keeping them in jail for offenses that likely wouldn’t result in jail time.  Example: A man accused of illegally sleeping under a bridge is assessed a $5,000 bond.  

-Mothers of stillborns are being asked by doctors and scientists to allow their fetus to be autopsied.  Though there are no ‘cures’ per se, they would be able to counsel an expectant mother about tests she may want to take to determine the viability of her pregnancy.

-RE: American Health Care Act                                                                                                         “We’re on the hook this time.  This one counts.”  Dave Brat (R) Virginia

-David Brooks believes that the newly proposed health care act will result in “the end of what’s left of the Reagan-era party” because there are some problems that can’t be fixed by tax cuts.

-Facebook executives, when asked about sexualized images of children on their site, demanded examples from a BBC reporter.  When provided with them, they turned the images over to the police, causing the reporter, Angus Crawford, to be jailed.      

-Between 2008 and 2015, General Electric and Procter Gamble paid no taxes.  In fact, both received rebates.

-Sally Field is on Broadway, playing Amanda in ‘The Glass Menagerie’.  Though she got raves in 2004 playing the same role at the Kennedy Center, the new production is mired with a director that was determined to re-imagine the play and the outlook is poor.

-Researchers at Britain Library have posited the theory that Jane Austen, who died 200 years ago, was killed by arsenic.  It is isn’t necessarily a murder mystery, as arsenic was present during that era in water, medication and even wallpaper.

-The head of Flint’s water pipe project anticipates the work being done in 2019.

-Jesus Acosta, 17, of Tuscon, Arizona has been missing since September 1st.    

I could have just gone with whatever popped up on my screen this morning.  There’s nothing easier than going with the flow, being one of the gang, going along to get along.  I’m not sure today is that time.  I have friends worried about their draft-aged children, others concerned about immigrant relatives.  I know folks concerned about going into ethnic neighborhoods and others worried about who uses their bathrooms.  I’m concerned about all of us marching towards an uncertain goal, not at all clear about what we’re after, or even where we’re headed. If we are searching for the answers in on-line news, I believe we will be disappointed and only half-informed, if that. 

It was a slow news day today…but I’m not sure I’ll sleep tonight.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Shadows On A Starry Night

Have you ever known of someone who is afraid of the dark?
Well, some are afraid of shadows, and one of them was Mark.

Whenever Mark would lay down, to try to sleep at night
He’d close his eyes immediately, and keep them closed up tight.

For he knew if he opened them, he would likely see
A shadow move across his room, and what could THAT THING BE?

He’d lay awake at night and he’d hear every noise
The sun would never set, if Mark had had his choice.

One night Mark was outside, just before bed
He wished on the first star, and this is what he said

“Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight
I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight”

The star awakened then, and without a single sound
It opened up its eyes as stardust hit to the ground

Your wish will be granted, you shall ask and re-ceive
But you must me ask quickly, for very soon I leave

Mark didn’t have to wait, for he already knew
Just exactly what he wished this wishing star to do.

“Get rid of the shadows!” He shouted to the sky
“Get rid of them forever!” But then the star asked Mark, “Why?”

“They scare me at night when I’m lying in bed,
They scare me a lot, so I thought instead…

…Perhaps I could live for the rest of my years
In the brightness of midday and have no more fears!”

The star didn’t answer, least not right away
It struggled to find the correct words to say

But finally, the star’s eyes lit up like sparks
And it asked the young boy, ‘Are you sure ‘bout this, Mark?

Shadows outside your bedroom, that give you knocking knees
Are tree branches carrying, the cool evening breeze

The light through your window that sweeps down the wall
Is a police car that drives by, protecting us all.

That monstrous shadow at the end of your bed
Is only the outline of your Teddy Bear, Fred.

And that giant shadow, outside your bedroom door?
The one that approaches, and makes creaks on the floor?

That shadow that makes you go rigid with fright
Is your Mom or Dad checking if you’re tucked in for the night.

The only reason why you can see me at night
Is because the earth is in shadow, ‘cause I’m not that bright.

I’ll take away shadows, if that is your wish”
But Mark said, “Hold on…I gotta think about this.”

“I don’t guess I want shadows to all go away
So my wish is for you star…I hope you have a nice day.”

When Mark went to bed, the shadows did creep…
Then he smiled and rolled over…and went right to sleep.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Hey, Millennials...Your Parents Would Like To Speak With You

Dear Kids,

It has come to my attention that the ‘Millennials’ are unhappy with their parents, a group that is largely comprised of people born in the last couple of years of the ‘Baby Boomer’ era and the first couple of years of ‘Generation X’ (otherwise known as the mid-sixties).  It seems likely that the recent election brings these emotions to the surface, but the vitriol has been astounding.  To hear some of you kids talk, it is amazing we are even able to get out of bed in the morning while feeding and clothing ourselves.  And to think we taught you how to wipe your butt.

I don’t know where we went wrong.  Some of us were the first kids in the two-income families, seeing less of our parents and more of our television.  Because we didn’t eat dinner at the table when we were young, many of us made an effort to do just that with our own families, by having one parent working part-time or take a sabbatical when you were a preschooler.  Later on, you had to stay in the after-school program until we could come and get you, but you did notice we were on a tight schedule, didn’t you?  We had to get you home, get you fed and bathed and help with homework before we could consider our day over.  Yes, it would have been great if we could have taken off a day when we were exhausted, but a lot of jobs…wait…that’s it, isn’t it?  You think the world was laid at our feet and WE blew it…right?

We were born in a crevasse, at a substantial remove from the Eisenhower fifties and the triumph of World War II (and its rewarding G.I. Bill), while still too young for the Summer of Love at Woodstock and the ‘free love’ of the seventies.  Our childhoods were branded with the scars of political assassinations, the unrest of a country that had yet to come to grips with a racial divide…and endless war.  We were scarcely out of Korea before Kennedy sent advisors into Vietnam.  JFK was killed before the conflict escalated, but escalate it did.  At first, it seemed to be a folly for LBJ, then an albatross.  A brilliant tactician on legislation, Johnson finished the work JFK had started with civil rights and voter’s rights passed through Congress, though he sourly predicted he had lost the South for the Democrats for the next fifty years.  Though we have had twenty years of Democratic Presidents since, with the turn of state houses and governorships, LBJ has been largely proved right.

As for the free love and the sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, yadda-yadda-yadda?…'The Me Generation’ where it was all about the individual?…yeah, not so much.  Remember, we were still in elementary school in 1970.  We graduated high school in the early eighties.  There was NOTHING free about love by that point.  We had moved, in one generation, from ‘the syph’ and ‘the clap’ to Herpes Simplex II and A.I.D.S.  There wasn’t a simple penicillin shot to get rid of THAT shit…there still isn’t. Even calling it ‘The Me Generation’ was a lie…it was only the men that got to do their own thing.  A woman was still under their man’s thumb in most arenas, expected to take care of the children and the house in addition to working outside the home.  Cops looked the other way if Dad cuffed Mom, because she probably ‘egged him on’.  It goes without saying that they were permitted to hit the kids.

The MBAs that made a fortune under Reagan’s Deregulation Fair…that wasn’t us, either.  Again, we were just graduating high school.  If we decided to go to business school, we would have arrived on Wall Street just in time for the crash of ’87, about the time the penny stocks billionaires started being carted off to prison for securities fraud.  We’re sorry we didn’t make a fortune, kids…but at least you didn’t have to address your father as Inmate #3472651.

I guess it’s your right to be disappointed in us…OUR parents certainly are.  Many of them walked out of high school and took high-paying manufacturing jobs with a union and a pension.  Let THAT sink in.  By 1980, they were shuttering those plants and sending the jobs overseas while Americans bought Toyotas.  Some of our parents served in the military for a couple of years and reaped the benefits of a G.I. Bill that helped them buy a house and paid damn near all of their college tuition.  But by 1980, joining the military was not an attractive option, even aside from the changes to the benefits.  We had seen the Vietnam vets come home to, at best, indifference, at worst, downright scorn.  It was as if they were being blamed for the war that was lost…a war that had been lost before a single shot was fired.  It was a misadventure from the beginning and a boondoggle by the end.  

If we can be thanked for anything…other than not smothering you in the crib, little darlings…it might be having held the line on civil rights, moving into neighborhoods that were racially mixed, and talking about our friends of color as simply ‘friends’.  It wasn’t as easy as it seems.  We lived through an era where our dark-skinned acquaintances were called Negro, Colored, Afro-American, Black, African-American…there were no memos distributed.  We had to figure it out on our own and hope no one was deeply offended when we got it wrong.

We made it okay for men to cook and take care of their own kids, as they should have been doing all along.  We got legislation passed against date rape and marital rape.  Even though we didn’t burn the flag, we got it protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution as free speech.  We kept Bork out of the Supreme Court.  We got Mandela out of prison.  I can’t recite the whole resume for you, and no, not everybody my age helped us reach this pivotal point in history.  But we tried.  Honest to God, we tried.

Here’s the problem, kids…research shows that the Millennials have a high percentage of individuals feeling entitled…some even narcissistic.  The only way we got through our youth in one piece was by acknowledging that we weren’t particularly special.  Additionally, we weren’t entitled to anything.  If we didn’t inherit anything or possess some amazing skill, we were going to have to make it on our own.  There was no such thing as a participation trophy when we were young, and if you didn’t practice, you didn’t play.  When we tried out for the spring musical at school, some people didn’t get cast because they weren’t good enough.  Most of us that weren’t good at one thing kept searching until we found something else…if we looked hard enough, we found it.

I’m sure you’re mad at us now, and that’s okay.  You see us the way you see us and we can’t change that.  Let me tell you how I see my own generation.  We are running a marathon, keeping up, taking the occasional peek back at where we have been, proud of what we have accomplished, but then…we look ahead.  What we see is a President who was forward-thinking, moving civil rights into a new era, while continuing to fight an unwinnable war.  We see a President worried about the well-being of the poor and their education and health.  Then we see his successor, a paranoid racist, a first-rate liar who will escalate an unwinnable war and even scores with his enemies while rewarding his supporters.

Maybe now you can see us as the runner that has stepped off of the race route, at least winded, perhaps even nauseous.  Our hands on our knees, we hope for the next gulp of air, a return to some sort of normalcy.  You see, when we look forward, we see our own past with Johnson and Nixon.  This is where we came in.  What we didn’t realize was that this is a relay race.  It’s time for us to metaphorically pass the baton.

We are not leaving the track.  We are still pulling for Team U.S.A.  We will keep sending the checks.  We’d also like to thank you for Bernie Sanders, and yes, we did vote for him, in huge numbers.  We’d always wondered what it felt like when McGovern ran and now we know…dizzying highs and soul-sucking lows.  But I guess you realize that by now.

Regardless, we love you.  Dinner on Christmas Eve is at six.  Grandma is hoping you’re coming to Midnight Mass but we didn’t say whether or not you were available.  The dog is fine and the neighbors moved that junk car off their property.  In a nutshell, I guess, life goes on.

Mom & Dad

P.S. Pull up your pants.