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Posted by on Feb 21, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics, Rants and Raves | 8 comments

A Moral Dilemma — What Would You Do?

 

 

A MORAL DILEMMA:

Something happened today that’s causing me considerable mental anguish.  Perhaps you will help and might offer some advice.

This morning, I went shopping at the local Costco.  While in the parking lot, I noticed a man loading his SUV with several boxes.  He reached into his back pocket and took out his wallet.  Next, he put the wallet on the top of his vehicle, and then proceeded to load remainder of the cargo.

Just as I walked past, the man got into his Hummer, started the engine, and then began to drive away.  The man’s wallet tumbled off the top of his car and landed on the pavement, right at my feet.  I picked the wallet up and tried to flag the man down.  However, he drove away too quickly and I wasn’t able to get his attention.

However, I did notice something quite interesting.  The Hummer had a “TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT” bumper sticker on one side and an NRA decal on the other.  The car sped away as I was yelling for him to stop.

There was only one thing I could do.  I looked inside the wallet and found the man’s ID, along with his home address.  He also had several business cards which listed his phone number.  Also, to my astonishment, I found $870 in cash stuffed inside the wallet.

So, now my dilemma is this.  Perhaps you can advise:

Should I fire the whole wad of cash tonight on LSU +3, or use it to pay some bills?

 

Writer’s Note:  Most of this story is purely fictional.  However, I did shop at Costco today.

 

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Posted by on Feb 20, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 0 comments

America’s Biggest Embarrassment

 

 

A SERIOUS QUESTION:

Admit it — he’s America’s biggest embarrassment.

The rest of the world looks at him in bewilderment and wonders how the hell he made it to such a lofty position.

Everything’s so far that he’s done has been a miserable failure.

Nothing he says makes any sense.

Whatever he puts out gets ridiculed by critics.

They trash him unmercifully in the media.

I must admit, that when I watch him on TV, I want to vomit.

He’s not funny.

He’s not entertaining.

He’s a terrible influence on our culture.

I cringe that children might be watching.

Nobody with a shred of self-respect wants to work with him.

He’s toxic for anyone’s future career plans.

He’s never won an award.

His last few projects lost millions.

So, my question is this……

After so many disasters, how’s it possible later this week, they’re releasing another Adam Sandler movie?

 
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Posted by on Feb 18, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics, Rants and Raves, What's Left | 10 comments

Where’s Your Outrage? Where’s Your Decency?

 

 

You’re looking at one of the last photos ever taken of James Foley.

He was a war correspondent who reported on the Syrian Civil War.

On August 19, 2014, some 44 days after being captured and taken into captivity by ISIS, he was forced to his knees at an undisclosed location in the desert.  An evil man wrapped in a black turban wielded a mighty sword, lifted his instrument of death towards a gorgeous blue sky, and then thrust the blade violently downward, instantly severing off the head of an American.

James Foley was 40 years old.  [READ MORE HERE]

 

 

You’re looking at a picture of Chauncey Bailey.

He was a reporter for The Oakland Post, who regularly covered events within the African-American community.  Bailey was highly-respected by peers and readers alike for his tireless work ethic.  He was particularly adept at uncovering local corruption and was then working on a story that was particularly sensitive to people known for violence.

On August 2, 2007, Bailey was walking from his apartment to work, just as he did every morning.  While strolling up 14th Street, a lone gunman wearing black clothing and a ski mask approached Bailey and blasted three bullets into his body, which killed the journalist instantly.

Chauncey Bailey was 57.  [READ MORE HERE]

 

 

You’re looking at a photo of Cynthia Elbaum.

She was a correspondent with Time magazine assigned to the war in Chechnya.

Elbaum worked as a photojournalist.  She captured the horrors of that terrible failed war for independence in the breakaway state of Chechnya.  Elbaum was particularly remarkable for her courage, not just a willingness to risk her life in one of the world’s most dangerous regions, but also because she was one of the few female journalists daily in the line of fire.

She paid the ultimate price to bring us news, sending back images that most of us barely gave a glance at, perhaps only for a few fleeting seconds while parsing through an old issue of Time while waiting in a doctor’s office.  We don’t think much of the dangers and sacrifices it took to bring us the things we read and see.  We’re oblivious to those risks taken by the brave.

Cynthia Elbaum was 28.  [READ MORE HERE]

 

 

You’re looking at a picture of Michael Kelly.

He wrote from The Washington Post and The New York Times.

On April 3, 2003, Kelly was traveling in a Humvee along with American troops dispatched to a war zone in Iraq.  The vehicle hit a land mine, and exploded into flames, killing everyone trapped inside — including Kelly.  Thus, he became the first journalist who was killed in Iraq.

Michael Kelly was 46.  He left behind a wife and two children.  [READ MORE HERE]

 

 

You’re looking at the wall of the Newseum’s Journalists Memorial, in Washington, DC.  This is just a partial collection of members of the media who have been killed doing their jobs.

Indeed, this could be a much longer article.  In fact, it could stretch on and on with hundreds of thousands of words.  In all, a total of 2,291 writers, journalists, photographers, cameramen, and other members of the media have been killed in the line of duty.

Two-thousand, two-hundred,, ninety-one.  Let that figure sink in.

The 2,291 gave their lives largely out of insatiable curiosities to which we — the readers and viewers — were the ungrateful beneficiaries.  Rarely thanked, but so often criticized, they trekked into zones where others dared not to travel.  They asked questions others dared not to ask.  They took photo and video of events that were not supposed to be seen.

The least one might expect for this work and those who do their best follow in their hollowed footsteps is — a little respect.

 

 

You’re looking at the screen shot of the tweet that was sent out yesterday by the President of the United States.

He called the mainstream news media, “the enemy of the American People!”

I have received a fair amount of criticism lately for my harsh words and many of the brutal things I’ve said about President Trump.  I recognize that my actions and use of language is not suited for all tastes.  However, as a regular consumer of daily news and someone who has known and worked with a great many dedicated members of the media, I can’t help but be profoundly disturbed by the events I’m witnessing.  I can’t help but get emotional about such a grotesque lack of respect and dignity, by the President, no less.

Where’s your outrage?  Where’s your sense of decency?

 

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Posted by on Feb 5, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Politics, What's Left | 1 comment

So, the old miser bailed on the new stadium deal — what’s next Las Vegas Raiders?

 

 

In case you didn’t hear the big news earlier this week — the old miser dropped out of the stadium deal.  That places the NFL’s Oakland Raiders-to-Las Vegas move in serious jeopardy.

So, what’s next?

Sheldon Adelson, the cantankerous fat cat who supposedly pledged $650 million from his vast fortune estimated at worth more than $32 billion — for him, what amounts to an old set of golf clubs sitting out in the garage — backed out of an agreement with Raiders’ owner Mark Davis and the City of Las Vegas, the third partner in the complicated business deal.  Adelson’s involvement (actually, his money — nobody really cared much if he showed at the meetings) was essential to the construction of a new stadium, expected to be built near The Strip and could have been ready just in time for kickoff for the 2020 NFL regular season.  Adelson’s role in the agreement was like the rich family uncle who everyone despises.  But you don’t want to piss him off because there might be something in the will, later on.  Without a new stadium, which required Uncle Adelson’s money to build, the Raiders deal was, and remains, dead.

Adelson cutting and running when his help (money) was needed most reveals a pettiness not even his most vocal critics would have expected.  To be clear, Adelson’s financial contribution could have been a remarkable testament to his appreciation to this city and its people.  For many, even his detractors, it might have transformed his spotty reputation from a casino mogul and political reactionary who’s not particularly well-liked by many in this community into something of a local civic hero.  Yet, when time came to buy into the game and write out the marker, Adelson scootered away from the table faster than a busted gambler at one of his craps tables.

Now, the partnership is $650 million short.  More pressing, the clock on the stadium deal is ticking and could go kaput, as early at March 1st.  Somebody needs to step in and reach deep into their pockets — and fast.  Reportedly, the MGM-Grand folks were open to stepping in and riding to the rescue as our savior.  However, negotiations quickly collapsed.  Unless David Copperfield can magically make a half a billion in cash appear, that deal’s not happening.  Other powerful casino interests could be interested.  But the last time anyone checked, Caesars Entertainment had $17.43 in the bank.

What’s puzzling to me is — why do football stadiums cost so much goddamned money?  Does Las Vegas — or any other city where are schools desperately cry out for renovation and roads and bridges need improvement — really need to squander $2 billion on a mega-sports arena that hosts on the average just ten ball games a year?  Assuming the Raiders were to remain in Las Vegas for the next 30 years, that would come out to about $6.7 million per game, and that doesn’t even include the cost of upkeep and maintenance.

Inexplicably, stadiums have become the new cathedrals of modern civilization.  Sunday worship isn’t much of a church thing anymore.  Now, it’s a football thing.  What the Sistine Chapel and Notre Dame were to the peasantry centuries ago, today the Superdome and Jerry’s World assume that same spiritual and financial ambiance.  Indeed, churches have lots in common with the NFL.  Both cause brain damage and then demand that taxpayers pay for everything.

Here’s my idea:  Screw Adelson.  Screw the MGM.  Let’s slum it and build the stadium for $1.35 billion.  Wouldn’t that work?  Wouldn’t that be enough?  Must every pro football stadium look like a giant UFO?  Can’t we throw down some seeds, water the grass, construct a few grandstands, and enjoy the game?  Didn’t natural-grass stadiums filled with real fans minus all the sky boxes and sponsor-driven hoopla work pretty damn well for six decades?  Didn’t pro football become America’s true national pastime because games were played in authentic arenas like Lambeau Field, the Orange Bowl, and Yankee Stadium?  Sure, no one wants to go back to the olden days of leather helmets.  But can’t we forget about retractable roofs, faux rubber grass, and VIP sections?

How about this.  Let’s offer to build the Raiders a new stadium for $1.35 billion.  Two billion minus $650 million equals $1.35 billion.  That’s the budget.  We can tell Mark Davis — hey, you wanted a Tesla.  We’re offering you a Buick.  Take it or leave it.  Right now, given that they call the Oakland Coliseum home, the Raiders are driving a shitbox.  How to cut down on costs?  Easy.  Since Trump’s border wall with Mexico isn’t up yet, we can use cheap migrant labor.  We’ll cut on the number of stalls in the ladies restrooms.  They’re going to bitch they’re aren’t enough stalls, anyway.  We can remove the escalators because most sports fans are fat and lazy.  They need to exercise more.  We can charge $15 for a beer and $30 for a parking spot.  Oh wait — stadiums are doing that already.

An NFL stadium doesn’t need to resemble the Johnson Space Center.  Yeah, I get that Las Vegas weather is hot as fuck much of the time and perhaps an enclosed facility may be necessary.  But, the weather here isn’t any more uncomfortable than the steam baths of Miami or Jacksonville or Houston or the frigid weather in northern cities.  If Bills and Bears fans can sit in the freezing cold in subzero temperatures and watch those shit teams, Las Vegas football fans should be able to risk a mild case of sunstroke.  250 miles to our south, the Phoenix Cardinals played in an outdoors stadium for nearly 20 years and there weren’t more than a handful of deaths, and pretty much all of those were from eating the nachos.

According to Forbes’ latest figures, the average NFL franchise is worth about $1.5 billion.  For teams who also own their own stadium, the values are considerably higher.  Assuming Mark Davis will own half of the new Las Vegas stadium, it follows that the value of the team would probably double and surpass the $2 billion mark.  That should be anough money to live on for a while, even in the Bay Area.  Besides, he sure as hell isn’t spending much money on haircuts.

If he still short on cash and needs a few bucks, given those figures and that level of collateral, Davis could probably get approved for a bank loan.  If he needs a co-signer, then give me a call.  Unlike Sheldon Adelson, I won’t back out of the deal.  I’ll even throw in my old set of golf clubs.

 

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Posted by on Feb 3, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 5 comments

Student Rioters are Betraying Progressive Principles

 

 

A few days ago, an outspoken media personality who also happens to be an attention-starved right-wing extremist was invited to speak at Cal-Berkeley, one of the most liberal institutions of higher learning in the United States.

Milo Yiannopoulos, an admitted protagonist-agitator, who’s best known for spiking the witch’s brew of noxious deceit oozing out of the sewer pipe called Breitbart.com, was to appear at the university on Wednesday.  Given his toxic background as a provocateur personified by divisive opinions on gays, race, gender, and religion, protests were expected.

However, no one foresaw that a two-day riot would erupt, forcing university officials to capitulate to the angry mob which was comprised almost entirely of students and faculty.  Accordingly, the invitation sent to Yiannopoulos was withdrawn, citing “safety concerns.”  A swarm of media attention ensued to cover the controversy.  Hence, someone who had previously been unknown to most Americans catapulted overnight to near the top of every social media platform.  Largely anonymous aside from a few basement-dwelling gamers and conspiracy kooks, Yiannopoulos couldn’t have asked for more grandiose introduction to national prominence, unless his name popped up in lights on the marquis of “A Star is Born.”

Call this abomination what is was — not a victory for the left, but a counterproductive embarrassment and humiliating defeat for all progressives.

This is the latest sad chapter of a much longer and more troubling trend happening on many college campuses, which is the threat to free speech.  Since the 1960’s, an era of innumerable Vietnam War protests, American colleges and universities have become increasingly liberalized — particularly in the social sciences.  There are valid reasons for various departments to lean left.  While conservatives tend to gravitate to business school, or study law, or medicine, liberals are drawn naturally to the arts and sciences (with exceptions, of course).  I’d even go so far to argue that inquiry is, by design, an inherently liberal pursuit because it invariably calls the status quo and many of our conventional belief systems into question.  And so, leftist activism has fertile traditions deeply rooted in academia.  By extension, it’s easy to understand why youthful idealism would ignite on campuses like Berkeley with a combustible passion for many progressive causes.

Yet somewhere along the way, a long time after liberals won the right to protest and even spout off radical ideas, some of us devolved into what we’d once feared the most.  Now, intimidation doesn’t come from authority figures, such as campus police or university administrators nor the surrounding communities.  Bullying comes from within our own ranks.  Fact is, free speech has been hijacked in recent years and the problem appears to be getting worse.  Liberals in many areas, once arm-to-arm on the front lines of the free-speech and free-thought movement, now demand that dissenting voices be silenced, which is precisely what we’ve witnessed at Berkeley.  By doing this, we are undermining the very foundation on which liberal free thought is based.

Let’s be clear.  Colleges and universities should not be cradles.  Instead, academic institutions should be mental minefields ready to blow up bad ideas in a moment’s notice.  Bad ideas are best exposed by scrutinizing them and exposing them as such, not by heavy-handed censorship.  Indeed, knowledge, skills, and perseverance must be put to the test.  “College in an earlier time was supposed to be an uncomfortable, experience because growth is always a challenge,” Dr. Tom Nichols, professor at the U.S. Naval War College wrote recently.  “Now, attending college involves “the pampering of students like customers.”

Education demands that we constantly push ourselves to new heights.  It’s vital that we place odd people with seemingly strange ideas in front of the classroom and under the microscope so that we can bear witness and potentially learn.  This is especially true for those with whom we disagree.  It’s even more vital to subject ourselves to thoughts we might at first consider to be absurd, objectionable, and even obscene.  All great ideas start out as blasphemy.  Assuming we believe that facts will come out and truth prevails, the very worst thing that can happen to a bad idea or a flawed argument is intense scrutiny.  Hence, assuming we’re convinced Yiannopoulos is something of a crackpot, his ideas should have been given the chance to be voiced  If those ideas don’t stand up to the heat lamp of truth, they melt down.

This is even more profoundly important at a state university, in other words, a school that’s publicly funded.  One might argue that private schools (and particularly religious-based institutions) have every right to limit free speech, if they so wish.  They might even limit speakers and guests to those who conform strictly to the university’s codes and ideals.  Public schools like Cal-Berkeley, however, are obligated to expose students to the widest possible spectrum of people and ideas.  Sure, protesting such an event is fine.  Silencing a speaker is not.

Years ago, my outlook on life changed when I attended a university lecture by writer Raymond Bonner, the famed New York Times foreign correspondent who broke many of the news stories which exposed the dark and dirty things happening in Latin America at the time, largely engineered by the Reagan Administration (illegally, we’d later discover).  I went into that lecture thinking one way about the issues, and came out afterward as a changed person with very different attitudes about the world.  Such is the power of inviting guest speakers and openly exchanging ideas.  This is the purpose of higher education.

Some will argue, at times there are justifiable reasons to limit free speech, even on college campuses.  The hate speech” victim card gets wrongly played.  But these objections ring hollow and make the protesters seem petty.  British author David Irving has written prolifically on World War II, yet is also infamously known as the world’s leading Holocaust denier.  To many, he’d certainly qualify as a proponent of hate speech.  Years ago, Irving toured the United States and spoke to students on several college campuses.  It took some time, but eventually, his “research” was exposed as fallacious and he was openly discredited in a very public trial that took place in London.  Had Irving not been given a university platform, he might have remained hidden on the outer fringes and made quite a nice living at the expense of those who suffered unspeakable horrors.  Hence, subjecting Irving’s words and ideas to scrutiny became truth’s most powerful weapon.

From what I’ve seen of Milo Yiannopoulos, he can easily be dismissed as just another punk.  There’s nothing remotely credible about any of his ideas, particularly on politics and society.  He’s engaged in crude look-at-me tactics.  He written and said outrageous things, purely to gain notoriety.  Yet for all his pernicious pestilence, Yiannopoulos should have just as much right to speak and be heard at a public university as anyone else.  Free speech means exactly what it says — the right to speak freely.  That means without interruption nor intimidation.

Unless we all have it and defend its practice, none of us enjoys free speech.  That’s the reminder we progressives must take away from the Cal-Berkeley embarrassment.

 

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