Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Book Review: THE THING WITH FEATHERS

I love books like Noah Strycker's The Thing With Feathers. I'm not, in real life, a fan of birds, at all. I think they're completely alien in the flesh, what's left of dinosaurs. But this book looks at aspects of different birds of the world and relates those characteristics to very human traits, and these little essays make for an incredibly interesting book--and perhaps a new appraisal of birds. A few tidbits from this volume: the homing abilities of pigeons, the incredible flocking abilities of starlings, the ferocity of hummingbirds, penguins and their fears, the incredible memorization abilities of nutcrackers, and the ability of magpies to recognize themselves in a mirror. There are also a bunch of human-related bits of information that are fascinating; I had no idea that there was a Memory Contest every year that pays the winner thousands of dollars, did you?
And all interesting information aside, I think the ultimate conclusion of this book is that, for better or worse, it is impossible to read this book without thinking that it is a complete, total vindication of the evolution of species. Not that the essential truth of evolution is questioned by anyone with a functional front cortex, but these are the kinds of arguments that those fighting yahoo nitwits on school boards across the nations should be marshaling and challenging the creationists to explain with any sort of reasoning other than "I choose to believe otherwise." The fact that a life form as different from us as birds exhibits some basic similarities to us on emotional, not just cognitive, levels in some ways is a profound argument that evolution from a distant common ancestor is absolute truth. The fear shown by penguins to get in the water is a perfect example. If a group of human beings were perched on the edge of an ice shelf ready to go in the water, and there was a good chance a great white shark or a crocodile was lurking just below the surface or under the ice--would anyone want to go in first? As often happens with penguins, would someone jostle someone else into the water? Penguins do this because of leopard seals, seals whose primary food is penguins; it is a perfectly obvious example of emotion, and emotions are supposed to be an nearly exclusively human province. Certainly, birds aren't often thought to have any.
This is one of those excellent books that one will never see at Barnes and Noble but will pick up every time at a library. It's one of the more interesting reads I've had this year.

Monday, September 29, 2014

How Hard Can This Be?

The Minnesota Vikings, during the time frame when Mike Tice and Brad Childress were their head coaches, had a pretty good team. But until 2009, they never won more than nine games in a season, and never got out of the wild-card round, for one reason and one reason only; they could not identify and/or develop a quarterback that was actually deserving to be a starter in the National Football League. In 2009, the Vikings rolled the dice and signed the ancient Brett Favre to play the position. Favre was not as good as he was in the glory years at Green Bay, but for one season, he had enough left to make the team the best team in the league, losing the NFC Championship game in excruciating fashion. The following year, he played like a 40YO, the team around him got old, and the Vikings descended to the basement of the league. They then wasted the last three years of Adrian Peterson's career playing Joe Webb, Christian Ponder, and Matt Cassel at quarterback, and even though Teddy Bridgewater looked good playing yesterday, the team still has not truly turned the corner or played up to the potential of its parts for well over a decade now, wasting the careers of Peterson, (the prime of) Randy Moss, Jared Allen, and Matt Birk, perennial All-Pros all  because they could not get even adequate play under center on a consistent basis.
But the quarterback carousel in Minnesota looks positively golden compared to what the last fifteen years have looked like in Buffalo. The last Buffalo Bill playoff game was the Music City Miracle; the Bills have not made the playoffs in the 21st century. The quarterback in that game for the Bills was Doug Flutie, who is six months older than I am. Since that game, the following men have started games for the Bills under center: Rob Johnson, Alex Van Pelt, Drew Bledsoe, J.P. Losman, Kelly Holcomb, Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Brohm, E.J. Manuel, Thad Lewis, and Jeff Tuel. If you've never heard of most of these guys, there's a reason why: with the exception of Bledsoe, a borderline Hall of Fame player that came to Buffalo because Tom Brady pushed him out of a job in New England and gave the Bills three years of reasonably competent play, few of these guys could even stick around as backups on other teams. The second best player on this list is probably Fitzpatrick, who has shown enough to at least start games for three other terminally bedraggled franchises, and, of course, Fitzpatrick was the starting quarterback yesterday in the Bills game--for the Texans, who won the game.
The Bills starting quarterback at the moment is Manuel, who is in his second season. Manuel showed a few--not a lot, but a few--flashes of competence as a rookie, but looks absolutely lost this year, and seriously afraid to throw the ball more than a few yards down the field. Opposing teams are starting to pick up on this, and yesterday's game turned when JJ Watt jumped into a passing lane for a quick out and gave the Texans a Pick Six. The Bills were in the red zone at the time, after Fitzpatrick had been intercepted on the second half's first play; instead of reestablishing a ten-point lead or at least getting a field goal, they were suddenly losing, and the game got worse from there. This is about the sixtieth time this particular scenario has happened in the last fifteen years, by the way.
The Bills have talented players all over the field. They have wide receivers that can play down the field. They have not one, but two excellent running backs (it's fair to wonder just how good Fred Jackson's career would have been on a good team). They have one of the best defensive lines in football, a competent secondary, and a couple of good linebackers. The offensive line isn't half-bad. If this team had a good quarterback, it's a playoff team, especially in the division it plays in. But the offal they keep putting under center is killing them. I mean, Geno Smith and Ryan Tannehill are better than Manuel. If Michael Vick was quarterbacking this team, they would win eleven games. If any reasonably competent quarterback was playing they would at least break .500.
But this is a full decade and a half of startling incompetence in the front office;the failure to identify a professional quarterback prospect kills this team year after year after sickening year. For God's sake, if the Bills had picked up Tim Tebow three years ago, they'd be in better shape than they are now. Manuel's pro prospects look no brighter than the guy that he replaced at Florida State, Christian Ponder, who went from last year's starter to third string in Minnesota this season (and who, in a cruel twist of fate for Viking fans, is likely to be starting when the Vikings play Thursday night; Bridgewater got hurt at the end of the game yesterday, and Cassel is out for the season after an injury, too).
The Bills don't win games because they consistently cannot get the ball in the air more than ten yards down the field. A team with Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, and Scott Chandler as its primary receivers should not have this problem. Between those three, and the combination of CJ Spiller (does it mean anything that the Bills seem to lead the league in players whose first names are initials?) and the Infredible Hulk, this ought to be a good offense. The Vikings in 2009 were the best team in the league with a decent quarterback playing for them. It's not unreasonable to think that the Bills could be, too, if only someone competent could be found under center. Shit, Flutie would do better than the last few guys that have played there, and he's nearly 52 years old.
The Bills signed Kyle Orton to a contract at the end of training camp. Orton is no great shakes, and is not going to take the Bills to a Super Bowl. But Orton has been reasonably competent--not great, but competent--for three other teams over his career. At least he can throw the ball twenty yards down the field more than once a game. Yes, Manuel's career is only twenty games old, but he has shown zero this year that would indicate that he is going to be anything more than he is right now.
And what he is right now is the latest in a series of awful Bills quarterbacks. This team is torture to root for. Trent Edwards, come home; all is forgiven.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Nation of Debt Slaves

My generation has born the brunt, thus far, of the seismic redistribution upward of income in this country since the beginning of the Reagan Administration thirty-four years ago. But while few of us have bettered the station we started from, and few of us are able to look forward to a retirement where we are financially secure, most of us have been able to live adult lives without a gigantic, crushing burden of spiraling debt afflicting us for the entire span. That luxury, sadly, is not going to be available to our children's generation. Just in the last few days, I have come across:

  • My own daughter, valedictorian of her graduating class, attending one of the best universities in the nation, winner of nearly forty thousand dollars in scholarship money as a high school senior, already struggling with mountains of student debt incurred in the last year, and with veterinary school coming after her (early) graduation, there is a very real possibility that she will owe several hundred thousand dollars in student loans before she ever starts practicing. 
  • My friend's son, also a very high academic achiever, is now a senior in college and has accumulated nearly six figures in student loan debt despite a work study placement for nearly a calendar year in Greene, which meant he could live at his parent's home instead of on campus.
  • My daughter's aunt's son, who delayed going to college for a year because of lack of funds, and had to transfer to the local community college after a year at a SUNY school because he was already swimming in loan debt. 
  • A former client from my job that is already, three semesters from graduation, on the hook for nearly a hundred grand in student loans.
  • Another kid of an acquaintance of mine, who took my money when I was at Price Chopper the other day, working 24 hours a week in addition to going to community college because the loan spigot was already overflowing.
  • An adult friend of mine, making it to college for the first time in her early thirties, with an amount of debt more than her income in any one year in her life up to this point accrued in her second semester of school. 
I am sure that there are more; these are just those that have crossed my radar in the last couple of weeks. 
I am almost embarrassed to talk about my own college experience to those trying to go today. Between TAP, Pell Grants, Regents, and a couple of other scholarships, I actually took in more money in aid than I spent to go to college until I was a first semester senior. I went to a state school, Geneseo, which obviously cost less than someplace like the University of Scranton or the University of Rochester like some of the people outlined above. But when I was deciding where to attend college and Cornell was one of the places that was possible, I don't remember the sums being bandied about being anywhere near half what some of these numbers today are. To be sure, I would have needed whatever aid Cornell gives football players, or gave, to have attended there (and they decided not to), but I would not have left college after four years with a debt load of two or even three hundred thousand dollars. Not even close. 
What we are actually doing to ourselves, as a society, is returning to the societal composition of the pre-New Deal years--when only the already-wealthy will be able to afford to go to college, regardless of ability, and those that struggle to put themselves through it that have a surplus of talent and ability will be few and far between--and a huge minority in any places that matter. And that's a best-case scenario; the worst-case is that ten or twenty years down the road, there is a mass default of those owing much more than they can ever pay back. And I'm not sure what's going to happen then, because those that are owed the money have never, in the history of mankind, just forgot and forgave the debt. A big part of nearly every cataclysmic civil war in every society that ever has been, clear back to classical Athens, has been over the issue of massive debt, with one faction advocating widespread cancellation of debt and the forces holding the debt determined to maintain control and leverage at all costs--all costs. 
We are already at a place where this is distinctly possible. Most of my generation is much more in debt to credit card companies, mortgage companies, child support obligations, etc. than our parents' generation ever was. Our children are going to be even more indebted, and we're still going to owe. If the housing bubble experience taught us anything, it's that those owed the debt will not hesitate to do whatever it takes to collect, and laws, never mind common decency, are flimsy inconveniences ignored without consequence to get what they are owed and then some on top of it. At some point, there will be a tipping point regardless of other factors. But with a looming catastrophe due to the steadfast refusal to adapt to climate change also coming into play--in thirty to fifty years, large sections of this country are going to be too hot, too dry, or both to support the populations that they currently support; those people have to move somewhere, and there aren't any great reserves of unoccupied land anywhere--, this is going to get ugly. 
I've thought for a long time that my daughter is unlikely to live as long as my mother has. I tend to be a little more sanguine about the prospect of long-term debt for my children, because I really think that we cannot maintain the course we are on for a whole lot longer. I accepted a long time ago that there is no viable retirement plan for me; I have enough debt that I cannot realistically hope to stop working voluntarily pretty much until I die. I do not intend to be a burden to my children; I have intellectually already decided that I will either take my own life when I am not able to support myself, or I will go down swinging--I have ideas but I have no wish to become acquainted with the security apparatus of this country just yet. Emotionally, I'm not quite in total acceptance of that, and spiritually, faith in God and that things will work out if I do the right thing consistently has gotten me further than I thought possible when I was starting at a debris field of Hiroshima proportions in late 1998. But that I am even thinking along these lines is a damning indictment of just how far down the slope we have slid during my lifetime. It was unthinkable in 1981, when I graduated high school, that the widespread affluence of society at that time would not continue to be the norm. 
Part of the foundation of the widespread affluence was higher education for a substantial portion of the population. It was the ticket, at that time, to a better place, a better station in life. Today, it as become as much a ball and chain tying the graduate to a lifetime of debt and ultimate servitude to the financial parasite class as a ticket to a better life. What a sad and tragic turn of events. 
And what a national disgrace.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Poor Night's Sleep

I'm not a deep sleeper most of the time. I'm usually asleep by eleven at night and awake at 4:30 most of the time. I've started to readjust my weekend patterns a little so that I can sleep in somewhat, to at least 6:30 or so, and the last few weekends I actually didn't get up until the sun was already up, which is kind of unusual for me. I haven't been quite as tired recently as I have been in the past, and it's been helping in a bunch of areas of my life.
But today, I had a really weird and not-so-good dream (or maybe it was two, because there were two distinct theaters of action that I can recall), and I woke up at 4:15 and didn't really get back to anything other than a little drowsy. The dreams were unsettling, involved people that I don't necessarily want to write about doing things I definitely don't want to write about, and were vivid enough that I am remembering detail when wide awake, which is a very unusual occurrence for me. Some people believe that dreams are Messages From The Other Side or God talking to you, but except in the very rare cases of foreshadowing (of which I've had a couple over the course of my life--I had very detailed dreams of one uncle's death and something that happened to MOTY at times when I was not around either, and weeks later both happened exactly like I had dreamed), I've come to believe that dreams are simply our subconscious minds trying to sort through the currents of emotions and feelings that we are going through in our waking lives. I did have a conversation last night after the meeting that kicked up some stuff for me, and Sabrina was with her aunt last night out of town and not here when I went to bed or woke up. Even though neither dream involved my daughter or my better-than-friend directly, it's not hard for me to connect the dots what I was dreaming about to both.
I was just commenting to someone yesterday that the monkey cage has been quiet recently. They're not screaming or flinging shit at each other today, but they're awake. There are times when I have to take a deep breath, say a prayer for guidance and strength, and have faith that moving forward in the right direction, in the right way, is going to work out. I didn't hear anything bad yesterday, or have any reason to be really disturbed. But listening to someone else talk about some of the ghosts that inhabit their minds made me realize that I've got a few haunting mine, too. Ghosts can't do you any harm, but they can make you harm yourself if you let them. I'm trying not to do that. I've got a day ahead of me that I've been looking forward to for many days, and I'm not going to let some bizarre phantasm of a dream ruin it.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Book Review: THE FRACKING WAR

I was disappointed in Michael Fitzgerald's The Fracking War. I was hoping for something like The Army of the Republic, a really good novel I read several years ago that brilliantly explored the tension between peaceful and violent environmental activism. This novel set out to explore the same ground, with the added bonus of being set in a place that is very familiar to me--the region of the country where I live. The protagonist of the novel lives in Horseheads, about sixty miles from the chair I am sitting in, and the fracking operations that are the focus of the book are taking place not far from here, just across the Pennsylvania border.
Some of the problems identified in the book are problems that I am keenly aware of. My brother is an attorney, and his practice has grown considerably in recent years as he has taken on clients that are negotiating land leases to the gas companies--who are notorious for writing one-sided, exploitative contracts unless the lessee pays close attention to the fine print. The one resource, the one advantage, that this economically depressed area of the country has that is going to be increasingly important in years to come is not natural gas, but water--plenty of fresh water readily available because this part of the country has not had severe drought in hundreds of years. Fracking, as the book details, poisons groundwater and also is a major problem to dispose of, and that has been very much an issue in the Southern Tier in recent years, even though New York still has a fracking ban in place. The issues surrounding "gasbags," the workers for the gas companies themselves, are something I see up close and personal; many of them are housed in the hotel that our agency has its offices located in, and the drinking and drug issues that they bring to the table during their down time is something we've all become rather too familiar with in recent years.
I am personally extremely opposed to fracking, and also am no fan of any fossil-fuel company; their willingness to put the eventual actual extinction of the human race on the table in their pursuit of short-term profit is so morally repugnant that, if I was younger and did not have children, would probably lead me to deeply involved in the anti-fracking movement. I am aware of how the game has been rigged politically, and I am disgusted by what the gas companies do to both the land and the people that own it. In other words, this could have been a really good book. And the basic action in it--the fight against fracking companies--does have its moments. But as a book, this novel has several major flaws that compromise the enjoyment level. The hero writes for a daily newspaper, whose influence on the world is dwindling and isn't going to ever approach the levels that this guy in the book is given credit for. The gas company guys are cartoonish in their villainy; you never get the sense that real human beings are being depicted. The love story subplot has possibilities, but ultimately becomes a distracting sideshow dead end. And the hinge on which the plot turns--that the public turns on the fracking companies in a sort of new Vietnam-level protest movement, and law enforcement around the company do not suppress or even join the protests--has been shown by recent events in places like Ferguson to be a complete fantasy.
I am sure that there is a really good novel to be written out there on this subject. This book, while not horrible, isn't it.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Juvenile Swine

My daughter, despite what she thinks on some days, is a very attractive young women that draws a fair amount of attention from boys in the high school. Attention that isn't all that welcome, in many cases, but that comes with the territory. She has been asked out, flattered, paid attention to, flirted with, and a few other things, I'm sure, in the last couple of years. She's not terribly boy-crazy--depends on the boy, I guess, but in general she's not starved for attention, needy, or in nascent co-dependence. On occasion, she will mention to me that some boy, usually but not always a grade or (in a couple of cases last year) three ahead of her showed some interest in her, but when she headed them off and told them that she did not wish to either go out with them or continue to be bothered with them, they left her alone.
Except for one kid. She told me last spring about a kid two grades ahead of her (three years older than her) that asked her to some dance/junior prom/whatever it was, and had a bit of a hard time taking "no" for an answer. And after school yesterday, she told me the same kid had approached her and asked her to go to the prom with him. This year's prom. The one held in June every year. Sabrina said she didn't answer him directly, just said that the prom was nine months away, but was clearly upset about it, enough so that she posted on Facebook about it. And my dad antennae are very much twitching at the moment; this kid seems to be a bit obsessed, especially since Sabrina mentioned to me that she has blocked him on Facebook and blocked his number from her phone (I guess with iPhones, you can do that).
When she told me that, a serious discussion was held. She said she was thinking about going to one of the principals (Binghamton has one for each grade, which 1) doesn't seem to be resulting in any less manageability among the student population and 2) sure seems like an overkill of administrators getting administrator salaries in a school district that, large as it is, has a few hundred less kids attending it than the high school I graduated from that did just fine with a principal and three vice-principals) and asking her to intervene. I told her that, although in her mind the kid is firmly established as a creepy pain in the ass, she needs to do a few things first. For starters, she needs to tell the kid that she is not going to the prom with him, and then she needs to tell the kid that she's not going to change her mind, and that if he asks her again, or if in fact he continues to engage her in any way (they do not, thankfully, have any classes together this year; they did last year) she is going to consider that to be harassment and that she is going to take the matter to authority should he do so. Once she has done that and made it explicitly clear where the boundary lies and that the kid's behavior pattern crosses them , then she should go to the principal and tell her what she's felt necessary to do, and that she will be returning to the principal if the kid can't abide by her wishes. As much as my hackles are up because it is my daughter, I am aware that I am hearing only one side of the story, and that, creep or no, the other kid has to be given a chance to do the right thing before he can be called to account.
I have my doubts that's going to happen, but I've spent twelve years in an agency where due process is taken seriously, and I've spent just as long working with school administrators and know what is effective and what isn't. In view of other factors in play, too--the kid is African-American, and any conflict, real or potential, in Binghamton High School that involves kids of different races is treated like dynamite because the perception of unfair treatment of minority students is established enough so that new disciplinary procedures were put in place last year--I want to make sure that Sabrina, uncomfortable as she has been regarding this kid, knows the difference between just reacting on feelings and making sure that when she does respond, her actions don't become the focus of what authority is looking at. I've played enough hockey in my life to know that too often, the guy that retaliates is the one that ends up in the penalty box.
Sabrina doesn't exaggerate, so I am sure that her account of how this kid is is accurate. I can't say I'm happy about the development, but given how young males are in this day and age, it was a pipe dream to believe that my kid was only going to be paid attention to by healthy, respectful young men. I hope that this nips the budding little stalker in the bud. If it doesn't, at least we're playing by the rules and we've done everything we can do to give the kid a chance to do the right thing before bringing in authority. But boys need to learn, preferably before the eleventh grade but whenever the opportunity comes into play, that no means no, and that continuing to ask and make a nuisance of yourself is not behavior that makes you more endearing to the person you are trying to get to say yes. And that persisting in such behavior does constitute behavior that is going to bring consequences. It's not flirting, it's not wooing, it's not healthy.
And males of a certain age--here's some advice. Is there a gray area? A small one. But if you need a handy little pocket guide as to where it might be--if you've been blocked from Facebook and her phone, you crossed it a while ago. It's extremely unlikely that you have met the love of your life when you are 18 years old and she is taking the same class you are when she is a freshman. And because she makes your little pecker go "Schwing" when you are laying in your room at night instead of doing your homework does not mean you have any "right" to even try to make those little fantasies come to life. And you might want to thank whatever you pray to that you live in this day and age, because if some kid thirty-five years ago was doing what you do to my daughter to one of my sisters, you would have gotten accosted as soon as you stepped off school property by several large, muscular men that my father was well acquainted with who would have told you that if you didn't want several plaster casts to be your fashion accessories for the next several months, you needed to stop what you are doing immediately and stay stopped.
There are times when I think the old ways were better. They were certainly more effective.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Quiet Milestone

The daily meditation in one of my recovery literature books yesterday was about gossiping, which predictably led to some (cough, cough) "interesting" sharing at a meeting I attended yesterday. The meditations don't change from year to year, and there have been years in the past where I very keenly felt that people in the room were focusing on me, because I have been known to have strong opinions and have been very open about expressing them, with results that didn't exactly lead to greater harmony among us. I've made a real commitment in recent months to not talking as much and being more kind and principled when I do, and it's been a seriously positive change. As people were talking yesterday, it actually felt good to just sit and listen, knowing that no one in the room was referring to anything I have been doing.
And the gossip mills have been churning a lot recently because there's been a lot of grist for the mills. I was talking with a couple of guys yesterday, and someone mentioned that there has been a near-feverish pace of activity in our fellowship--just a lot of people getting into and out of relationships, some predatory, some silly, some head-scratching, hardly any of it seemingly destined to be here for the long term. I'm not sure if I agree with him totally, but yes, I've been noticing that there's been more going on socially than is normally the case in our small society--it's been hard to miss.
After the chaos of my own last eighteen months, it was a kind of relief to step back for a few months and not be involved with anyone on any level. It allowed me the space to collect myself and to regain a sense of myself that I had been losing, again, chasing a chimera that wasn't going to be caught. And once a bit of calm returned, so did sanity, and a quiet belief that God has this, that if I put principles first, other parts of my life would fall into place when the time was right. And it didn't really take all that long for a few pieces of the jigsaw puzzle to be put together. One of the cliches with a lot of truth behind it in our fellowship is that you never know who is paying attention.
Well, someone was. I'm still a little reluctant to say a lot about it, both because I'm a bit superstitious and don't want to mess up what's been working, and because we are still going very slow and things are still very much evolving. But I bought a rose yesterday for someone because it had been one month since our first date. I haven't done that in many, many years, and I can't tell you at this time where this might be headed. I don't want to get ahead of myself. I do know that this feels different, for a number of reasons.
One is that she is an active, involved parent: her kids come first with her. She doesn't ignore her kids, she doesn't view them as an impediment to her "real"life, and her life revolves around their needs, not her desires. If this sounds like standard operating procedure for most of the rest of the world--well, in the circles we both move in, it really isn't. One of the reasons I've felt really isolated and different over the years is that while many pay lip service to that ideal, few walk the walk. She does. And more importantly, my own obligations as a parent are not viewed as a threat by her; indeed, one of the things she first found attractive about me is the fact that I have raised my daughter and done a good job doing so. I had begun to despair that any woman would ever find that part of me attractive. She And in practical terms, this has meant that we have taken matters very slowly. I remember reading somewhere long ago that "a tree grows a couple of feet a year; if something grows twelve feet in a summer, it's a weed." I am seeing the essential truth of that adage with every passing day.
The second is that while she isn't an old-timer, she has over a couple years clean under her belt. The specter of relapse does not flit about like a dive-bombing bat on the edges of the relationship. She is committed to, not just vaguely wishing for, a new, clean way of living, and is making her own way through the recovery process. It is so much easier to be around with someone that you don't feel like you have to convince to want to live this way, that you don't get a nagging feeling that she's just marking time until she's off paper or some legal consequence is satisfied. And this is not a case of someone desperately hoping that Steve can restore her sanity, or that recovery can be a sexually transmitted condition. She's got her own recovery; she's not looking for someone to recover for her. If it sounds obvious--well, I can give you dozens of examples, including several from my own life, where it wasn't, and the relationship eventually foundered because only one person was actually working a program.
And third, related to one and two, is that the ultimate point of being in recovery is developing and nurturing a functional relationship with God. I'm not religious, but my belief in a loving, caring God is the axis my life revolves around. And her belief in God is front and center in her life, and it's allowed her to come as far as she has. It's something that I truly find very attractive about her, even if our beliefs differ in some areas. I don't feel like I need to tiptoe around the subject, and it provides a great background for further growth, for both of us. Of all the unique things about her, I think this is the most important and the most edifying. It took about three days of being around her to realize that in every single relationship I have had since I've been clean, I have had to shove this aspect of myself into a box because the other party wasn't interested in finding and nurturing their own spiritual growth. She's already done the heavy lifting in this area, and again, the fact that I have done so, too is one aspect of  me she actually finds attractive. Yes, it's a welcome change.
She is resolutely honest, which is another difference from what I've dealt with for years. I don't have to spend hours in my mind poring over tea leaves trying to figure out what's going on in her head. She tells me. And you have no idea of what a welcome change that is.
And yet another thing about her that I finding attractive is that she is doing what I had to do a long time ago; learning to live within her means and be satisfied, if not necessarily happy, with it. She is the first to admit that materialism was an issue for her, even in early recovery, and that she is coming to terms with the problems it caused. The letting go of materialism is ultimately a mark of a belief in God, that our needs will be taken care of if we do the right things consistently. I've seen her take a lot of steps in this direction, and her at-first tentative faith growing with every passing day. I see it because I traveled that path years ago, too. It's another point of commonality, something we share, and if there is one thing I've learned over fifty-one years, it's that while opposites may attract, they do not truly bond. Some basic similarities are necessary if a relationship is going to last.
And I've written about nine paragraphs without mentioning that, oh yeah, she's extremely attractive physically--beautiful, to be truthful. And Sabrina, whose instincts in these matters have proven over the years to be eerily prescient, absolutely loves her.
I don't know if this is going to last for a long time. But I know that this one, whatever happens in the long run, feels different. I've learned over the years that "in God's time rather than mine" is much more than a cliche. I would not have appreciated her virtues as much as I do now at virtually any other time in my life. I have felt increasingly blessed, more so with every passing day, that she is now a part of my life; I honestly feel like God hit me off, finally. I don't know the future, I don't what's going to happen. But I do know I'm not stressing it, and that, amazingly, the insecurity that has always burned, either in flame or as a glowing coal fire under the surface, with every single woman that I've been with for the last dozen years simply is not present right now. And that is a wonderful thing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Review: THE CAMERA NEVER BLINKS TWICE

In keeping with my new effort to be more open-minded to views and people I have never really cared for, I found Dan Rather's second memoir, The Camera Never Blinks Twice, in the library one day and decided to check it out. It was a big deal for me because if there is one person in the media that I never could stand, dating back to the time I was a kid, it was, and actually still is, Dan Rather. I found him to be pompous and awkward when he was on the air, and what I knew of him off the air grated on me. I grew up in a household where everyone watched Walter Cronkite, and so his role in pushing Cronkite to the sidelines was acidly commented on for years. I also, after getting into the Kennedy assassination literature, found his insistence that the Warren Commission was right at first annoying and then infuriating; it seriously colored my perception of him as a news reporter and journalist. If he could miss something that obvious and big, how could he be trusted to interpret anything he was reporting on?
And this book, written twenty years ago, only confirms those thoughts. It was amusing to read Rather's pontificating about how two sources being necessary to go on the air with something, given how his career ended (unsubstantiated crap about the easiest of targets, W, back in 2004). His predictions for what was going to happen in the future were laughably wrong. To hear him tell it, no one at CBS ever had a bad word to say about him or his tenure, which is another joke, and at the time the book was written, he was sharing air time with Connie Chung, whom he damned by mentioning in one paragraph in the entire book, which pretty much summed up what a disaster that turned out to be. His version of the famous incident when the network went black for six minutes is self-serving and recalled by no one else (everyone else says he threw a hissy fit when he was preempted by a sports event and couldn't be found for several minutes; he laid it off on some technical issue). In short, when it comes to Dan Rather's actions, he seems to be dissembling and shifty, just like he was reputed to be by everyone else he came into contact with.
I will admit, though, that most of the vignettes related to his actual reporting in the book are very interesting, and in some cases really informative. I never knew what actually happened in Tiaenneman Square, for instance, before reading this (the Chinese authorities imposed a pretty blanket blackout at the time, but Rather was already on the ground there; hard to believe that was 25 years ago now), and the first chapters in the book, about his famous "Gunga Dan" excursion into Afghanistan a few months after the Soviet invasion, are painful to read now, because the American experience in that hellhole was accurately foreshadowed and chronicled twenty years before our armed forces got involved in that country (by the way, bin Laden's been dead for three years. WE NEED TO GET OUT YESTERDAY!). The famous sandbagging of Rather by George Bush I is also recounted here, and Bush I, I had tended to forget after seeing what's come after him, was a despicable twit and a lying sack of shit in his own right.
And the biggest point I took out of reading this is once again realizing when we lost our national sense of direction. All the stuff that's ailed us as a nation in the last fifteen to twenty years had its genesis in the 1980's. Ronald Reagan and his minions, to make a long story short, should have taken to the wall over Iran-Contra, as blatant a case of both official malfeasance and contempt for the rule of law as we ever suffered from in the United States; but we let them get away with it. And the national disdain for actually following the law and the will of the people has only intensified, to the point where our "democracy" is more sham than not. The bastards do what they want to do now, because when the chance to nip it in the bud was there, we didn't do it. And for all Rather's faults, he was one of the few at the time that tried to bring them down. For that, he probably should be given more credit than he has been.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Two Thousand Posts

This is the two thousandth post I've written to this miserable little blog. Well, I've actually written more than that, but I've taken some down over the years, for various reasons. But the last couple of years have seen a pretty steady progression, as I've gotten more proficient and professional about what I do here, of post accumulating.
The problem is that sometimes you feel like you've run out of things to say. More often, I realize halfway through writing something that I have written similar sentiments before. It's hard to be totally fresh and breaking new ground every time I sit at a keyboard. And there are times when this is more of a chore than a job, just a part of the daily routine.
But for the most part, this is still fun for me. And most mornings, I feel like expressing myself, or want to put something out there, or hope to make a reader think harder about a particular issue. I've given up on reaching massive audiences; I'm not willing to do the footwork, at least while I have a regular job, to solicit ads and to generally do what people that do this for a living do. I've thought about upgrading to Word Press or another domain, but considering that I'm averaging about 80 hits a day, it hardly seems worth the hassle. That may change if I end up needing to change my vocation, but that shouldn't be an issue for at least another year and hopefully four.
I've learned a few things along the way here--what can be safely written about and what is sure to cause static, how to say what I want to say without flaming people, and how to stay on point better than I used to. I still enjoy doing this many more days than I don't. And I am going to keep doing it for at least a while longer. I know I have a small core of dedicated readers, a larger core who check out pieces that they think they might be interested in, and a few that drop in once in a great while just to see if I'm saying something they can get upset about. It's all good today. This is one of the few things in my life that I've stayed committed to for a long period of time, that has stayed relatively fresh for me and that has remained largely pleasurable, mainly because I do it more for my own edification than for that of others. It's provided a transcript, a record of sorts, for my life for the last five years, and its becoming a legacy of sorts, a record more detailed and intimate than any photo album ever could be. And as such, I'm happy to continue doing this. Will there be two thousand more? I have no idea. My gut tells me no, but my gut would have said a few years ago that I wouldn't have reached two thousand posts, either.
And although my basic narcissism has been in remission for some time, I am proud of the accomplishment. I think what I am going to do to mark the milestone is put up a series of retrospectives, a number of "Best of" posts, for the next couple of weeks or so, in the evenings. I've already started working on what is going to be my annual December year-end countdown on a subject that matters to me; this year is going to be something that will start in November. I won't be posting retrospectives that long, to be certain; I'm thinking ten or maybe fifteen. But who knows? I may get yet another reminder that more people read this blog than I think do.
Anyway, this seems like a good way to start the autumn of 2014 off.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Corporal Punishment Debate

This arrest of NFL star Adrian Peterson recently for child abuse after he "disciplined" his 4YO son has brought an issue that every parent that raises their children deals with--how to effectively discipline those children, and more specifically whether corporal punishment--spanking and other forms of physical contact--is a valid and effective approach to take.
Reading through the indictment paperwork of Peterson, it seems very clear that wherever the line is, Peterson crossed it. He is accused of taking the twigs off a tree branch, and striking his son enough times and hard enough on the buttocks and back of his thighs to draw blood and leave welts visible days afterward. Feelings and thoughts on corporal punishment aside, I think almost everybody would agree that this is going too far. But where is that line? Is it acceptable in any circumstances? Or is there a legitimate place for physical punishment?
Since I'm looking at what I just wrote and seeing some loaded words with specific connotations, I'll get my views out of the way immediately. I personally don't believe that corporal punishment is acceptable in any circumstances, for a couple of reasons. One is that it allows the parent an easy, even lazy, way out of what ought to be and needs to be a process that takes a lot of time and effort. Instilling values and attitudes and modeling the behavior that we want our children to emulate is the primary job of a parent. I will grant you that there are times when deeply involved parents that take their roles very seriously get to the end of their rope with disciplining a child--but much, much often, parents that spank, strike, and otherwise use physical force in their efforts to discipline their children are not at their wits end, but rather have been distracted/absent/not paying attention and don't want to put significantly more effort into their parenting.
Let's take a common scenario, one that I experienced more than a few times. You are in a store with more than one kid--let's say for the sake of argument that there is an 8YO boy, a 5YO girl, and a baby in a stroller. Parent is pushing the stroller, yakking away on the cell phone. 5YO is at the hip, repeatedly asking questions and in general engaging in attention-seeking behavior from the parent. 8YO is occasionally interacting with 5YO, more often wandering away a few feet and checking out the merchandise...and within a couple of minutes, parent on the phone, without putting the phone down, has threatened to are actually physically handled or even struck one or both of the ambulatory children after the parent has repeatedly told the children to either/both be quiet or not pick things off the shelves, and to leave each other alone as well. Is the parent justified in doing so? Some would say yes. I would say "Why are you on the phone?" If it is a job or a repair shop or something that can't be delayed, then perhaps being on the phone for a long time is justified. But if it isn't...we all talk about how our children are the most important things in our lives, how we would do anything for them, etc. ad nauseum--and our kids hear us say this, too. Yet in practice, almost everything takes precedence over them, and most of those things, to be charitable, are not life-and-death, deeply important matters that require immediate, undivided attention for forty minutes to three hours at a time. If you have children and you talk constantly about how important they are to you, then act like it. And if I can tell you don't, then those that share living quarters with you surely can, too. The ultimate price paid by parents that repeatedly put almost everything else in front of their children's needs and desires is that they lose their credibility with their children. Since parental attention is a necessary part of child development, of course the child is going to engage in attention-seeking behavior, and most of the time, a confrontation and collision of wills is going to ensue.
While they are still grade-school children, these remain manageable. After the fifth grade or so--not so much. This scenario outlined above--and there are literally hundreds of other things I see parents do besides talk on the cell phone incessantly that they put in front of interacting with and, to call it what it is, caring for their children--is the single biggest reason for adolescent rebellion. Some rebellion, some conflict, is a necessary and healthy part of a teen's establishing their own identity. But it is possible for this to happen in ways and fashions that do not tear the family structure apart, or do not result in the adolescent being completely uncommunicative and unwilling to be home any more than necessary--or at all. Especially if their dominant experience of what happens when there is conflict or a battle of wills is that physical force was resorted to as a solution.
Which leads to the second big reason why I think corporal punishment is wrong and ineffective. The message we send to our kids when we resort to spanking or hitting or (as is alleged in the Peterson case) ritualized violence is that violence is an acceptable resolution to feelings of frustration, and that it is all right to physically impose your will on someone else should other methods of conflict resolution fail. In the adult world, this is decidedly not true--so why are we employing this strategy not only with our children, but with our children, the people we say we love the most, above and beyond all else in this world? There are a lot of people in this world that have major psychological baggage in this world because they were imprinted with the notion when they were children that it is acceptable to resolve a conflict with force--and then they can't do so when they get older. They don't know a Plan B, or C. They don't play well with others as adults, and really have no way of dealing with other human beings other than through the lens of a conflict of wills. Few people would openly subscribe to agreeing with the statement "Might makes right", and yet this is exactly how we raise our children. When we hit, when we spank--even when we curse and yell, to be truthful--we undermine our own standing, our own authority, our own credibility with our children. We are deviating from what we say we believe, from what we say we feel about them, and they certainly notice and incorporate it all into their own memory banks.
Very few of us are able to maintain a perfect record in these areas, to be sure. I don't believe in corporal punishment, but there was one time when I was so frustrated by Sabrina's acting out for hours on a day when her two older sisters were on a visit, that I did spank her--once--after Rachel and Jessica left. Sabrina freaked out, fell asleep within minutes--but I felt like a failure for days afterward, and although I don't believe there was lasting damage, Sabrina hasn't forgotten that day, not at all. I just had to accept that the strategy I normally employed when I had the three of them at one time was the right one--telling Sabrina that I loved the other two as much as I did her, and that I wasn't able to see them often, and so I was going to divide my attention when they were here, and that it didn't mean I cared less about her or more about them, and saying this hundreds of times from the time she was 2 until the time they were all teens. I don't have my A-game every day, and it's silly and stupid, frankly, to expect a 5YO child to display a level of consistency and maturity that I can't maintain. And there were days even after that when she was a pain in the ass when they were around, and when they weren't around, too, in other situations.
But I didn't cow her into submission, or beat her into compliance. I talked to her all the time about not only what I wanted her to do, but why I wanted her to do it. And I found that even with little kids, the explanation is appreciated and downloaded. No, they don't instantly take it to heart and follow the directive for the rest of their life without question or deviation--but with consistent application, the value gets instilled and the desired behavior becomes the norm. And there are plenty of alternative ways to discipline children other than physical means that will set limits and prove to be deterrents. For myself, I decided early on that for my own sanity, I couldn't enforce--or even remember--a whole bunch of little rules, and instead made it very clear what was and wasn't acceptable behavior. The consequences were in line with the offenses--another thing that drives me nuts with parents that do employ corporal punishment is that there doesn't seem to be much differentiation between major and minor offenses, that almost every transgression is a reason to beat the kid's butt, repeatedly. Television time was a reward/punishment chip, as was the swimming pool (I lived across the street from the South Side pool, which lent itself to that, but there are leisure activities in every kid's life that can serve as levers). The consequences were usually, especially for mid-level offenses, given only after clear warnings to cease, and they were uniformly applied if cessation didn't occur. In the nearly sixteen years of Sabrina's life, I don't think I've ever made an empty threat--and because I didn't "forget" or otherwise not follow through when she was younger, it isn't an issue now that she's older. There were other strategies commonly employed that I never engaged in. Working with runaway/homeless youth for a living colored my views, but I have never once sent a child of mine to their room as a punishment--if you want your child to live at home when they are adolescents, then make home a place they want to be, not a prison, and the time to instill that feeling is ten years before adolescence, not ten minutes or ten months or ten days. I did use timeouts liberally, and making them sit in the corner--actually, on the couch with no distractions; we didn't have open corners. I also used rewards liberally, too--Sabrina had a sticker chart from the time she was three until she was in middle school, and she would get a quarter for a certain number of stickers per day, and ice cream or a slushie for a good week, and etc. And the good thing about giving rewards is that they provide another chip, another lever, to use as disciplinary tool should it be needed.
And the entire incentive/reward question is one that too often intrudes into the adult world. I've been going through this at my job, as a matter of fact; my outfit is a pretty good one to work for, but one major problem we are having as an agency trying to change the culture is the lack of incentives for employees to do a better job. This isn't the time or place to get into that discussion, but the part that translates into parenting is that you have to give your kids a reason to behave the way you want them to other than "not getting their ass beaten." It's about making what you want from them attractive, that there is something in it for them other than the absence of pain, and it's about showing them that there is more to being an adult than inflicting pain. It really is that simple, in many ways.
And again, most of us have succumbed to temptation once or twice in our lives, and it does not mean that we are failures as parents. But I will say this much: those of us that did not use corporal punishment as a regular disciplinary method--and that did put a lot of attention and effort into parenting--end up with better adjusted, nicer, and more accomplished and healthier children than those that do. I work with teenagers for a living, and I know what I'm talking about, and I honestly don't care if it irritates you or pisses you off that I'm saying so.
Because you know what? I'm irritated and pissed off when I have to deal with a damaged, disturbed, and in some cases psychologically broken child for a living because you didn't want to put in the effort when your kid was little. And frankly, that's what my job is. If there is one thing I have learned over the past fifteen years, it is that there is no  nature-vs.-nurture "debate." It's all nurture.
And there is no reason at all for a grown adult to treat their own children in a fashion that they cannot treat adults. None at all.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Let Them Eat A Football-Shaped Cake

It's been quite a couple of weeks for the NFL. I'm assuming that everyone reading this knows the particulars of the Ray Rice incident, the Adrian Peterson incident, and has at least a dim idea that several other players are in varying degrees of legal limbo regarding domestic violence incidents. This is on top of the locker-room bullying crap that dominated last season, when at least one team in the league was shown to be populated with grown men with the sensibilities and attitudes of a bad B-movie group of villains. I know that there are portions of the fan base out there that simply don't care about any of this, that are going to watch the games and buy the hideously overpriced merchandise and play their fantasy football leagues if the entire NFL becomes the Longest Yard League with everyone on the field serving a term in prison.
But that's not the fan base the league should be worried about. The not-quite-rabid fan, the one that is very interested in their favorite team without necessarily knowing who the best players in the league are, the ones that watch without necessarily knowing all the rules of the game, the ones that never heard of the players on the "Ring of Honor" of the stadium where the televised game is being played that week--those are the fans that the league needs to keep interested, that the league needs to keep them tuning in, that the league needs them to buy Giants coffee cups and Fred Jackson jerseys and Steeler beach towels and Eagles jackets and to shell out a thousand bucks once every two years for a trip to a game in mid-November. Most of these fans are fans--but they are fans not so much for inherent love of the game, but because it is socially acceptable and almost necessary to be so. But most of these "fans" are pretty rational human beings, that are not going to keep watching a bunch of people play a game and drop all sorts of money on associated merchandise if they know that the guys on the field are out-of-control felons, that engage in behavior that the fan would never tolerate or dream of doing in their own lives. I've talked to a few people and seen a few other things people have written in the last couple of weeks about what's been in the news, and I've been surprised by what I've heard. There are men, not to say women, who are absolutely appalled that Ray Rice did what he did, actually sickened by the elevator video; this is something they would never do. Most of the fans have children, and hearing the horrific details of what Peterson did to his son in the name of "discipline" makes them want to vomit. It's hard to get jazzed for watching ten hours of football knowing that the game is being played by awful human beings; it's very likely, if decisive action is not taken now, that interest will fall off.
Which is why it is imperative that the Roger Goddell issue gets addressed immediately. There is a considerable and growing body of evidence that Goddell, the commissioner of the NFL, lied when he claimed that the first time he saw the video of Rice beating his fiance in the elevator was a couple of weeks ago. Even if he isn't lying--and to be sure, I'm almost sure he is--but even if he didn't. the fact is that he has been lax and giving the impression (the Greg Hardy, Ray McDonald, and others with similar dossiers) that the league doesn't really give a crap what its players do off the field, and that what little discipline was taken was designed to get the player back on the field as soon as possible. And it isn't like Goddell has been doing a stalwart job in every other facet of his job--the lockout a few years ago of the officials; the ongoing mess on concussions and the league's unwillingness to address player safety; the problems putting together a coherent policy on player drug use; the controversy over trying to make the season longer; and a number of other things, too--all mishandled or wrong-headed.
The only thing Goddell has done well, in fact, is bring money into the coffers of the league. Lots and lots and lots of it. The money being made by NFL owners is absolutely mind-boggling. And since it is the owners that determine whether or not Goddell remains employed, this ability to keep the revenue coming in is why he is still employed, and why he is likely to still be employed at the end of this season. And that is because as a group, it would be hard to find a more loathsome group of human beings that those that own NFL teams.
This country has, not to pull punches, gone to hell in the last thirty-five years or so; we have allowed the wealthy to take over, to loot the vast majority of our citizens and wreck a society that was functioning very well, to redistribute wealth and prosperity upwards in a fashion usually associated with barbarian hordes on the rampage. And a look at whom Roger Goddell works for confirms this.
Arizona: owned by the Bidwell family for almost a century. Original source of wealth: lawyer to Al Capone.
Atlanta: owned by Arthur Blank. Source of wealth: founded Home Depot, the hardware chain that has pulled a Walmart on the neighborhood hardware store.
Baltimore: owned by Steve Bisciotti. Source of wealth: running a series of temp agencies--the development in American work culture that has made the full-time job with benefits an unattainable pipe dream for most of us now.
Buffalo: just sold for $1.4 billion to Terry Pegula. Source of wealth: fracking, which is a hugely exploitative and environmentally harmful way of fossil fuel extraction that has virtually ensured that climate change is irreversible.
Carolina: owned by Jerry Richardson. Source of wealth: founded fast-food chain Hardee's. Fast food chains have been in the news recently as perhaps the most callous and unfriendly work environment in a country full of them.
Chicago: owned by Virginia McCaskey, daughter of team founder George Halas. Source of wealth: the Bears and the NFL.
Cincinnati: owned by Mike Brown, son of team founder Paul Brown. Source of wealth: the Bengals and the NFL.
Cleveland: owned by Jimmy Haslam. Source of wealth: owns Pilot Oil Company. Currently under indictment for swindling customers on rebates.
Dallas: owned by Jerry Jones. Source of wealth: oil and gas exploration. Like Pegula, he left a record of very destructive environmental damage in his wake before selling out.
Denver: owned by Pat Bowlen. Source of wealth: oil and gas exploration, in Canada. See above; his company was the first one to start the tar sands extracting in Alberta.
Detroit: owned by Martha Ford. Source of wealth: Ford Motor Company, whose employee relations record is middling, better than most companies.
Green Bay: publicly owned corporation. Source of wealth: the Packers and the NFL.
Houston: owned by Robert McNair. Source of wealth: built and owns power plants. Partnered with and eventually sold most of his interests to Enron before buying the Texans.
Indianapolis: owned by Jimmy Irsay. Inherited the team from his father Robert, who made his money as a legitimate businessman in the 1960's. Irsay is currently facing trial for felony DUI and drug possession and is in long-term rehab at present.
Jacksonville: owned by Shahid Khan. Source of wealth: owned a car-part business that made most of its money by breaking its unions.
Kansas City: owned by the Hunt family for nearly sixty years. Original source of wealth: oil companies.
Miami: owned by Stephen Ross. Source of wealth: tax lawyer specializing in finding ways for clients to shelter wealth off-shore to avoid paying taxes.
Minnesota: owned by Zygi Wilf. Source of wealth: developer and owner of large shopping malls. Recently convicted of fraud and racketeering, fleecing his business partners, and fined $54 million dollars.
New England: owned by Robert Kraft. Source of wealth: paper-making company and holding group that owns pieces of a lot of other companies. Gave one of his Super Bowl rings to Vladimir Putin because he "admires" him.
New Orleans: owned by Tom Benson. Source of wealth: financial services industry.
NY Giants: co-owned by John Mara (grandson of original Giants owner Tim Mara. Source of wealth: the Giants and the NFL) and Steve Tisch (son of Giant co-owner Bob Tisch. Tisch family made their money founding Loews movie theaters, which drove the local neighborhood theater into obsolescence)
NY Jets: owned by Woody Johnson. Source of wealth: great grandson of the founder of Johnson & Johnson.
Oakland: owned by Mark Davis. son of former owner Al Davis. Source of wealth: the Raiders and the NFL.
Philadelphia: owned by Jeffry Lurie. Source of wealth: inherited. Did have a good career as a movie/television producer.
Pittsburgh: owned by Dan Rooney. Son of team founder Art Rooney. Source of wealth: the Steelers and the NFL.
San Diego: owned by Alex Spanos. Source of wealth: either the biggest or second-biggest slumlord in the United States (competition is Donald Sterling, former owner of the NBA Los Angeles Clippers).
San Francisco: owned by Jed York. Nephew of former owner Edward DeBartolo, Jr, who inherited the team from his father. Senior was another shopping mall developer; Junior was convicted of corruption charges in the case surrounding former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards two decades ago.
Seattle: owned by Paul Allen. Source of wealth: co-founded Microsoft.
St. Louis: owned by Stan Kroenke. Source of wealth: married to a Walton, of Walmart fame.
Tampa Bay: owned by the Glazer family. Source of wealth: another slumlord of massive proportions. Local connection here: family patriarch Malcolm used to own a trailer park in Johnson City where Shafer Bus and Mom's House are now located. Lost lawsuits in the early 1990's for truly heinous treatment of the residents of said park.
Tennessee: owned by descendants of the Adams family. Original source of wealth: another oil family.
Washington: owned by Daniel Snyder. Source of wealth: telemarketing company owner.

Wow.
Even I, when started doing this list, didn't realize what a collection of sterling human beings this was. The best ones here are those born into money. Several are corporate criminals on a colossal scale. Most made their money in very exploitative and predatory ways. This people are the worst of the worst. These are the people that have ruined America, that have raped and pillaged all of us, that have made their fortunes out of squeezing and swindling everyone they came into contact with, and have left their messes for others to clean up.
Wow.
Are we surprised that they are morally blind and tone-deaf? Are we surprised that their only concern with Roger Goddell seems to be that he makes them gobs and oodles of money?
They don't give a shit about whether their players are morally reprehensible or not. Because they are, too. Only in a group like this could people like Robert Kraft and Paul Allen seem benign.
The point is, these are the people that are providing the circuses that are part of the "bread and circuses" that seem to be the credo of modern American society. Robber barons and spoiled rich kids. This is the National....Football....League. And as long as you keep cheering, and buying your Eli jerseys, and paying exorbitant amounts for cable TV packages, and even more exorbitant amounts for tickets to the games, and spending twenty hours a week on your fantasy leagues--well, why are they going to change anything? Let them eat cake.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Book Review: WALKING PREY

Walking Prey is not some suspense thriller or sci-fi novel. Written by Holly Austin Smith, a survivor of the commercial sex industry, it is a rather disturbing study, fueled by first-hand experience, at how the youth of this country are vulnerable to sex trafficking. Smith tells her story of how she ended up tricking in Atlantic City at the age of 14, and some of her struggles since then, as well, after her "rescue," and has clearly done her research as to what resources are currently available to help traumatized youth who have been exploited and trafficked in the United States at present. Even though some of the therapeutic sections of the book are not the most interesting prose I've ever read, every parent with a teenager, and especially teenage girls, should read this book. And the teenage girls, too; I'm not returning this book to the library because Sabrina saw it and wants to read it before I take it back.
Not a whole lot in this book, to be honest, was new to me personally. I have worked with homeless youth for over a decade professionally, and I have been part of the recovery community for over a decade and a half, and have been exposed to and gotten to know quite well scores of girls and women that have been sexually exploited and abused. All of the risk factors for sex trafficking, for example, are things already known to me; I noticed before I even got clean that the vast majority of women that prostituted as part of their drug addiction were sexually abused, raped, or molested before the age of sixteen. I've been quite aware of, even have done presentations on, the effect that media messaging has on young girls and its repercussions as children get older. There were a few passages in this book that I read and immediately assigned the face of a youth I've worked with or a member of my fellowship to. Smith's inability to communicate her feelings in any effective way at a time in her life, and her writing of why that was so, in particular, hit me hard, because one of the women I've spent time with in the last couple of years also has had a great deal of trouble articulating any feelings, and the elements of Smith's story that she wrote about are elements that I have long suspected were present in the woman I know's story, as well, There was a lot of material in here that was familiar to me because they were part of MOTY's story, as well. I could also clearly see many of my former clients in particular passages, too--behaviors and attitudes that I was aware of when I was working with these kids with only a dim grasp at the time of why they were being exhibited. Some of the material presented here was illuminating for me, if only because of some of the characteristics that I found inexplicable about Nightmeredith apparently aren't completely uncommon. And the material in here about trafficking as the result of gang affiliations is something that has become relevant to my own life recently, and that I believe that I am going to find very insightful and helpful moving forward.
The million dollar question for parents is "Are my kids at risk?" I have three daughters, and females are much more at risk than males, and so this was a major concern of mine, the biggest reason I picked up the book. And while no kid is completely safe, I appear, whether by design or accident, to have done most of the things as a parent that are recommended to keep your children at low risk. The parent(s) not being substance abusers is big, not only because it is good modeling behavior but also because the parent can pay better attention to the children. The parents being in relatively healthy relationships is another, or getting out of unhealthy relationships when it becomes clear that they are not healthy. Paying attention to what children tell you about the other adults and kids they are exposed to, especially those you are related to, is key; a majority of abuse and sexual misconduct takes place in a family setting. But the biggest one surprised me, even though I've been well aware of it and have acted on it for most of Sabrina's life.
Limit exposure to or shut off the fucking television.
Media messaging to children is so insidious, so wrong, so inherently evil. I am far from the only one that has felt that this problem (trafficking and sexual exploitation of children) has exploded in the last thirty years or so; I simply do not remember there being this sort of pervasive problem during my own teen years. I've written extensively about the cultural changes that have been partially responsible, but the author pointed out something that I completely missed at the time (because I was in college and didn't pay attention to the news as much as I should have at the time) that has had a huge effect ever since the change was made: the deregulation in the early 1980's of statutes and limits to advertising aimed at children. I do remember, when I was in high school, that one of the regulatory agencies proposed banning ads for sugared cereal a la the ban on cigarette advertising--and companies like Kellogg going apeshit and defeating the measure. But under Saint Ronnie, just about every limit on what could be aimed at children was removed--and the imaging that girls needed all sorts of "pretty things" and the message that girls needed boys to be complete and to look to a man to take care of them became nauseatingly familiar. MTV became popular in the late 1980's, and the portrayal of women as slutty and good for little else became deeply rooted in pop culture at that time, too. Even the more "wholesome" youth programming is geared toward instilling a consumerist attitude and designed to sculpt a self-image for girls that is based almost entirely on their appeal to men. I figured this out many years ago when Sabrina was watching every Disney movie and the Disney channel all the time; I ended up, after several months of watching this crap--and its effect on a kid that was six or seven years old--banning the channel and limiting the watching of movies in the house. I took out cable years ago, and it might have been the smartest and best thing I've ever done for my children.
Sabrina said to me just the other night, when we were discussing some of the things going on in the world today, that other kids are amazed that she isn't all that interested in television--"What do you do all night?" is a common reaction. She explores the world of media on her own terms, is the answer. Yes, she's deeply influenced by media and the Internet and music and all that--but she has not been "groomed" or imprinted so much. Thinking about what she sees has been encouraged for many years. Communication lines have always been open. She has seen the effects of drug use, consumerism, and the aftermath of sex exploitation first hand for her entire life, between her exposure to recovery and what goes on at her mother's house. She has other interests--music and softball--that take up much of her free time. She has been encouraged since her life began not to let others define her sense of self, and as a result she is much more confident than most teenage girls... I haven't had as big a role with
my two older girls, but they exhibit many of the same characteristics.
It's not easy, and it isn't all that simple, and it certainly requires a great deal of effort on the part of the parent(s). But it can be done. I cannot say for certain that Sabrina is totally immune to sexual exploitation; every parent lives in fear of the "knucklehead" factor, that some slick POS is going to enter their child's head and take up residency and create chaos. It can still happen. But I done what I can do to raise a healthier child, and up to this point succeeded. And an interesting and healthy by-product is that my own life has been better and more manageable, as well.. That's the message, ultimately, of this book. You can't guarantee that your kid will not become prey--but you can do a lot to make them less vulnerable.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Moving Beyond Denial

It doesn't happen with everybody. But few of us end up in lasting relationships or deep, enduring friendships. Sometimes it is a gradual ebbing away of care and concern, until, almost with shock, you find yourself thinking one day, "Hey, I haven't thought of so-and-so in a while." Or sometimes, you or the other party gets involved with someone else, and almost imperceptibly, the bonds ebb away piece by piece, and you end up in a position where you are aware of the other person without deeply caring, anymore, what they are up to.
And sometimes it is a rather dramatic moment in time, a flash freezing of the heart, a line crossed that cannot returned from, an instantaneous realization that denial, not hope, has been the reality for some time. I've had a few of those in my life, and while I can't say they necessarily feel good, I can say that they are not necessarily painful, either, and once they happen, they make it infinitely easier to get on with life without longing for the past or regrets or reservations. I can remember a few of them before getting clean nearly sixteen years ago, but the ones that have happened since I stopped drinking or indulging in pharmaceuticals to deal with feelings are more vivid and more lasting in my mind.
Before recently, there were two in particular that were absolutely etched in stone into my mind. The first was a few weeks before Christmas 1999, when I showed MOTY the (small) diamond engagement ring I had gotten for her as a symbol of the commitment I was making to trying to build a clean life together, and her first response was "It looks fake." There was a part of my heart that instantly froze and has never thawed toward her; it was another several months before the end became official, but there was never a time after that moment where I truly believed that we were destined to stay together. The second was on my four-year anniversary; Lila and I had been not living together for a long time, but we were still rather wrapped up in each other to a large degree, and I remember thinking when the phone rang that morning and her name popped up on the ID that she was calling to commemorate my clean date. As she droned on and on, lost in the self-centered dreck that she was (and no doubt is) always lost in, it dawned on me that she had no idea of what day it was--which was another of those instafreeze moments. I remember thinking to myself, "This is the third year she's been around for my clean date, and she really just doesn't know or care enough to know. So what am I hanging onto here?" That moment was a moment when some true closure took place, when I just understood that she was not going to ever be what I hoped she would be, and that the gulf between us, the things that separated us, were never going to be bridged. And while I still occasionally think of her, the attraction, which had blazed brightly internally for two and a half years, died that day and will not ever be rekindled.
And recently another flash freeze took place... There had been one central figure in my heart for the better part of two years. Even when we stopped hanging out two springs ago, and she got with another guy for a long time, my ostensible moving on was a sort of emotional Suboxone, a replacement therapy for what I was still longing for. There was a rekindling this spring, followed by another withdrawal without warning, and yet the embers still had a faint glow to them. Until she relapsed recently, then returned to a couple of meetings with the guy she lived with for a year in tow. Even then, I was more relieved than anything else that she had returned to recovery--until they came to my home group a few weeks ago, and she spent a half-hour exchanging smirks with the guy and studiously avoiding eye contact with me and several others who had been a big part of her life for nearly two years. And sometime in that thirty minutes, the flash freeze took place; I just knew that the manipulative and terminally self-centered person she had been most of her life was the reality of who she is, that her entire "recovery process" had been a mask to escape her legal consequences, and now that she was free of legal obligations, this was who she was. And suddenly there was nothing there anymore, that I realized that I had been seeing what I wanted to see for a long time and was now seeing clearly perhaps for the first time what a fundamentally unattractive soul she really is. And I really haven't thought more than a couple of seconds about her since.
We can call it "closure", or we can call it a "reality check", or we can call it "acceptance", or "moments of clarity", or any other term we wish. But ultimately, what they are are "blessings." They give us the ability not only to move on, but also to examine our own role and part in what went on and to learn from the experience. That process, that growth, is not linear, but takes place in fits and starts--but it does take place. And I feel like I have moved further in the last couple of months than I had in two years. And the entire experience has gained me enough perspective and knowledge that, whatever happens in the future, that I will not repeat the same mistakes. And that's what we should strive for in our life--not to not make mistakes, but rather not to repeat them over and over again.
I know better than to say "oh, this was a life-changing moment." I didn't know in June of 2000 that I was permanently done with MOTY; I thought I was, but only time has proved that the thought/feeling was accurate. I've been quite sure that I've learned some lessons over the years that, when the time came to apply them again, I found I had not learned as well as I thought I had. But I've also learned over the years to trust some of my feelings--and this flash-freezing of the heart, this sense of "I've had enough, I'm done", is one of them. I'm pretty sure that whatever path I take from here on out will not lead back around to the same place. That earth has been scorched; there's nothing left. And when that realization takes root, it opens the door for all sorts of new avenues to explore, in all areas of my life.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Book Review: VILLAINS, SCOUNDRELS, AND ROGUES

I was kind of disappointed in Paul Martin's Villains, Scoundrels, and Rogues. I was expecting some sort of consistency, for one thing--but instead, mass murderers are included with hucksters and slave traders, politicians with skinflints, with no real defining structure. What is in here is somewhat interesting, but it's hard to talk about a book where the average chapter is a five or six page thumbnail without listing everyone the book talks about--and to be honest, I hadn't heard of most of the people in this book, so it would mean nothing to the reader if I did so. It was an interesting little diversion, to be sure, the kind of book that's perfect to take on a plane trip or if you're stuck in a waiting room all day. But it's like eating a light snack; you'll be hungry again without a few hours of putting it down.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ferguson's Still There

The national media spent about a week in Ferguson, Missouri, in the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown, but has since moved on to other, more immediate concerns. I suppose that is the nature of the news business; the rest of the world has not stood still, and there are not riots and marches happening every night like there were a month ago. But that doesn't mean that the issue has gone dormant, or that everything is back to "normal," whatever that may be.
Ferguson is a sickening, on-going reminder that racism is alive and virulent in American society. This isn't news to me, but then I spend, between my job and being part of a small society I belong to, much more time around African-Americans than most people do. What has surprised me is how many people (white people, needless to say) who appear to have truly believed that race was no longer a major factor in American life. I was talking with a guy yesterday that I've known my entire life yesterday. This guy is a professional, has had a lot of contact with the poorer sides of society over the course of his career, and is reasonably intelligent and sensitive to community needs. And he passed a remark to the effect that he "can't believe" that racism is still such a large part of American life. He was serious; he really thought that since it's been sixty years since Brown vs. Board of Education, and fifty years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act, that the country and the population in it have had more than enough time for attitudes to change and for institutional and societal racism to "disappear forever."
He is a lawyer, and I suppose he can be excused, to a degree, for his myopia, assuming that everyone views the letter of the law with the same veneration and respect that he does. But few if any people allow what is legal to deeply affect what is held in their hearts, and what is the American heart and soul has been present, in one form or another, since the beginning of time: the tendency of one group of human beings to find reasons to treat other groups of human beings shabbily or worse. American racism has its roots in human tribalism, in the clan structure that is probably a carryover from the distant times when packs of homo sapiens were competing with Neanderthals and other now-extinct subspecies of hominids for land and food. The best way to tell ally from competitor in those long-ago times was noticing the physical differences, and in some ways the tendency human beings have always exhibited to focus on the differences between different groups rather than our similarities are rooted in the very distant past, in those Darwinian struggles...Ultimately, legal systems exist to provide a counterbalance to the human heart; they are a tool in the never-ending battle between intellect and emotion. Because left to their own devices, if emotions and "heart" are given primacy and are the basis for human decision-making, we will act on the basis of our fears and our innate desire to make sure that it is our gene pool that gets to reproduce. That's Biology 101; human beings are, when all the outer layers are stripped away, just another animal.
We obviously don't act like wild animals all the time, and more to the point, we have evolved to the point where we always pay lip service to higher standards, and in almost all cases, we make some attempt to live up to those ideals. But some of us try a lot harder than others, and get further than others do in their progress to transcend their basic nature. And human beings are what they are; those that fall short tend to make all sorts of excuses why they do. The reaction to what happened in Ferguson has not been edifying in many quarters. The comment/troll section of most media outlets revealed just how emotionally and intellectually deformed many people are; some of these clowns seemed like grotesque parodies of people, voicing sentiments that seem lifted from the diary of some Mississippi resident of the 1850's. It's easy to dismiss those people as nitwits and nutjobs, but there sure seem to be a disturbing number of them around; it's certain that only a small percentage of them are misanthropes that work at a dead-end job during the day and go home to their mother's basement at night. And it's the ones that clearly are not stereotypical losers that worry me.
And there's one reaction, one point of view, that I've heard several times that makes me despair, that makes me believe that there will never be any substantial improvement in race relations here. I heard people in the media say this, and I also heard four or five people in this community voice a variant of these argument, too, one that is so intellectually indefensible that one wonders how they can say it with a straight face. All of them referred to the events in Ferguson as something that the media made too much of, and pointed out, as their intellectual trump card, that rates of black-on-black violent crime are higher than rates of white-on-black violent crime but "no one ever talks about that. You don't see CNN reporters talking about that, or people marching in the streets about that."
This is a classic example of setting up a straw man to defend the indefensible. The outrage, the problem, the issue, whatever you want to call it, in the Michael Brown shooting was not primarily that the cop that shot him was white. The problems were that the cop was a white police officer, that Brown had done nothing that would justify getting shot at, and that by all accounts Brown had his hands in the air when he was shot with the secondary bullets that killed him, including at least one when he was already on the ground bleeding out. This was not a random crime that resulted in the chance encounter of two individuals. This was an interaction between the forces of law and order, of authority that we, as a society, give access and ability to potentially use deadly force in the service of protecting us from anarchy, and the community--and the problem is that that authority grossly broke the terms of that contract, and all over the nation, time and again, breaks that contract over the head of one group of this society far, far more often than it does other segments of this society. That's the issue. The issue is not so much that deadly force was used against a black teen. If Michael Brown had been armed, if he had been actively resisting or confronting the police, than the media wouldn't be present and there would be little if any community outrage. The only relevant facts here were that Michael Brown was unarmed and not acting in a dangerous fashion; that he was killed anyway; and that this sort of thing happens to black people at the hands of white authority far more often that it happens to people of other races and colors. To attempt to justify it by pointing out that gang violence and street crime happen, too, is irrelevant, a complete and total dodge of responsibility and a glaring, searing example of cognitive dissonance at worst.
Or to call it what it is, a lame and reprehensible justification for deeply held racist beliefs that can no longer be openly expressed. The racism has been present for so long and is so deeply ingrained in this country, and has expressed itself so openly and with such deadly and inhuman results, that there is a deep and not-usually-expressed fear in play here. It is not fear of blacks as such--it is the fear that there is a price to be paid for what has happened in the past, and that the current generation is the one that is going to have to pay it. The expressions of racism today that are still permeating our society at least in part reflect the very deep fear that there is going to be a day of reckoning for all the injustices perpetrated over the centuries, and the not-unnatural desire to not be the ones that face it.
The problem is that the few advances in race relations in the last generation or two have been like pouring cold water into a pot that has been simmering and boiling on the stove. The coming explosion has been delayed, yes--but only delayed. The only way to prevent the boiling over is to turn down the heat, and there is no sign, no indication, that that is ever going to happen here. And it's going to be some mess when the pot finally gets full enough that pouring more water in has no effect.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Review: THE FURIES

The Furies has a very interesting premise: what if there is a genetic mutation that allows people to live for hundreds of years without aging? Mark Alpert takes that idea and runs with it, positing that the stories and periodic massacres of witches throughout history are the result of a single family of women possessing a gene that allows repair of cells so that they age very, very slowly--and also of males in the family being sterile, which necessitates bringing in outside males for propagation. The plot here is rather ingenious; modern research and genetics has reached its way into this secret society and caused a rebellion among the male members of the family, who want the gene mutation made available to them. The plot loses steam in the second half of the book, as the outsider that is the male protagonist of the story begins to resemble one of the these takes-a-beating-with-no-lasting-effects secret agents that dominate the suspense genre these days, and both sides in the internecine struggle are revealed to have connections reminiscent of a paranoid conspiracy theory. The promise of the first half of the book bogs down in total implausibility at the end, which leaves a huge sense of disappointment for the reader as the book ties up its loose ends. Still... there are worse ways to spend an evening than reading a book like this.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Book Review: PETER PAN MUST DIE

I've been on a roll with whodunits recently, reading several that held my interest from the first page to the last. But John Verdon's Peter Pan Must Die is the best one I've read this year, and in quite a number of years. A small factor is that the book is set in the Catskills, and a lot of the localities are either real or familiar enough so that I have an idea of what town is meant. The two main characters are two retired cops; one drags the other into a case where he is convinced that a rich woman was wrongly convicted of murdering her rich husband. It doesn't take long to figure out that the conviction was wrong, and the first half of the book centers around the tension between the two men--one knows he has enough to have the woman sprung on appeal, while the other wants to find out who actually committed the crime.
And once the decision is made to find out what really happened, the action picks up speed like a Ferris wheel starting to turn. It becomes clear that, rather than a crime of passion, the murder was a professional job, given to perhaps the most psychopathic contract killer in the world, whose pseudonym is Peter Pan (hence the title of the book). And as the pursuit of Pan progresses, so does the instability of the cop that handled the original investigation that wrongly convicted the woman. As the net tightens, and it becomes clear that the killer has snapped and a whole lot of people are going to die, the race to find him and neutralize him goes critical. The climactic scene is taut and tense (and honestly, is going to make a great scene should this ever make it to film; it is worthy of a good Hitchcock movie), and while the killer is stopped before he kills the investigator, a lot of other people are not so lucky. And the very end of the book, where the actual perpetrator of the original murder is pieced together, was fantastic. I read a lot of these books, and I never saw this one coming, but it is perfectly logical and a re-reading of the book would likely make it obvious.
The only down note, I suppose, is that in the author's note at the end, I found out that this book is part of a series about one of the ex-cops, and I really am beginning to dislike the trend in publishing these days of serial storytelling--it seems like nothing else gets published these days. But this book is so well constructed and so gripping that I am going to have to track down the earlier books. I've had few sedentary pleasures like reading this book provided in the last couple of days (it's also nearly 450 pages, considerably longer than most whodunits).

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Biggest Jerk In Politics

We had a primary here in New York this week, in which Governor Andrew Cuomo, nominally of the Democratic Party, won that party's nomination for governor and his hand-packed running mate was chosen for lieutenant (that is the hardest word in the English language to spell) governor. In a year when it is entirely possible that both houses of Congress will be controlled by Republicans, with all the attendant nonsense that is going to bring, one would think that an unabashed liberal (I have very mixed feelings about the word "progressive;" there should be nothing wrong with being liberal, especially since being "conservative" in this country means you are usually ignorant at best and a Fascist asshole at worst) would be happy that a Democrat is likely to be governor in his state for the next four years.
Think again. Cuomo is the worst human being, bar none, holding major elective office in the United States today. Not necessarily policy-wise or in the views that he holds, although I disagree with far  more of those than I should with someone of my own party. But as a person, there is no more arrogant, self-serving person in office, and his sense of (undeserved) entitlement is truly historic, something that hasn't been seen since people were taking "divine right of kings" seriously. This is someone who took a helicopter to high school when he was younger (his father was a three-term governor of this state). This is someone that held a cabinet position in the Clinton Administration when he was 28 years old, largely because he had married a Kennedy the year before, and Clinton was trying to settle political debts arising from some questionable policies of his own and to have his back watched during the Lewinsky affair. He tried to run for governor in 2002 and got his head handed to him. This is someone that was handed the state attorney general's position even though he has shown absolutely no legal acumen in his life, never once trying a case in court after getting a law degree. He benefited from Elliot Spitzer's implosion and was elected governor in a landslide in 2010.
Even before his election, the historic hubris we were going to get treated to was already on display. Cuomo is divorced from the Kennedy scion (as soon as it was no longer politically expedient to be married to her, needless to say) and now has lived with another woman for nearly a decade. Not so unusual in his generation, and not an issue for me. Except that Cuomo makes a show of attending Mass every week, and takes Communion every week, even though divorced Catholics are still not supposed to take Communion. Whether this ought to be the case is immaterial; it's still Catholic canon law. And when Cuomo was questioned about it, he basically said he didn't care what the church thought, he was going to do what he wanted to do.
Which is Andrew Cuomo in a nutshell; there is a reason he is habitually referred to in this blog as the Spoiled Little Bastard. Cuomo thinks he is entitled to be President of the United States some day, simply because he was born into the corridors of power. He has not been notably successful at any office he's held. He was a disaster when he was HUD secretary; he was one of the secret villains of the subprime loan crisis because he vigorously prodded Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to loosen their lending guidelines during his tenure. He also showed an obsession with his own and HUD's image, and in a scenario that has become very familiar, he went nuclear on anyone that disagreed with him or thwarted his ideas. He was a disaster as Attorney General; he did nothing that did not position him as a candidate for higher office. He didn't prosecute any financial institutions for wrongdoing, even though he was in the office during the crash of 2008. He banned three Internet servers, though, from operation because of alleged links to child pornography.
After becoming governor, his record is, simply, appalling. He has been more conservative than the Tea Party on some issues, going so far as to encourage some state senators to switch parties to allow Republicans to maintain control of the Senate. He has gutted many of the social service programs that made New York one of the better places to live in this country if you're not rich and white. He fucked over the public employees union while cutting taxes on the rich. He spent $140 million of the federal money for Hurricane Sandy relief on TV ads touting what a great job he was doing with hurricane relief. He rammed through a horribly constructed gun control act in the wake of the Newtown massacre that even someone as anti-gun as me thinks is a sham. And he chose a dimwitted Tea Party wannabe as his lieutenant governor, someone that is somehow Democrat but completely out of touch with Democratic values.
And his arrogance continues unchecked, as does his abuse of power and vindictiveness. He made a big deal out of appointing a commission to investigate corruption in the New York State government--then shut it down when it began to discover that the governor's office was responsible for some serious financial irregularities. He has become surly with the press, and is hardly bothering to disguise his desire to position himself for 2016 and the Presidential run, even though Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren would both destroy him in any primary election. He barely won 60% in the primary; I am far from the only Democrat in this state that is thoroughly disgusted with him and his use of elective office as a means to indulge his ego.
So much so, that I am going to do the unthinkable in November, should I actually vote (more on that in a minute). The Republican candidate is some Tea Party nitwit, and I may just fill in his circle in November. Cuomo is that bad. But I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that the Carlin Solution is necessary. The Carlin Solution is what George Carlin, when he was alive, seriously advocated doing: registering our distaste for the awful "choices" we are presented by our political system by boycotting the voting booth. I can count the number of candidates for elective office that I have actually been enthused about on one hand in nearly 35 years of being eligible to vote. And by continuing to trudge off to the voting booth every year and participating, I am giving my implied, tacit consent that I am OK with the choices I am being given.
Well, I'm not. I'm beyond sick of the human flotsam and self-aggrandizing bozos and the lying sacks of poo that inundate my television, enact policies that benefit those that already have money and security, pander to prejudice and humanity's worst elements to win votes, and in general are people I wouldn't have anything to do with in my day-to-day life, much less trust them to govern the city/county/state/nation. If we don't participate in the charade, the system won't change for the better, most likely. But if I continue to participate in it, it sure as hell isn't going to change... Andrew Cuomo is a human tumor, a boil on the ass of humanity. That this man has held as many public offices as he has, with ambitions of holding more, while having naked and obvious contempt for the public he allegedly serves is New York's best example of just how broken and ineffective our alleged "democracy" has turned out to be. We always tell the world how great it is to be "free" here in America--but if our freedom means in practice that we have to choose between Andrew Cuomo and some mental defective that parrots failed policies that haven't worked ever and never will as "solutions", well...It ain't what it's cracked up to be.
A pox on all of them.