Monday, July 29, 2013

Cohorts, Colleagues, and Champions

I think I’m sick of politics for the moment. It’s been a high bullshit week and I’ve about had it with the pundits and the critics and the talking heads. I am bored with the spin and even boreder with manipulative cockabarley that seem to populate the airwaves. I need a break. I need to think about something else for a few minutes.

In a stroke of unbelievable luck right outside the Cub where I’d gone to get some bananas and milk, I saw a most familiar face, one I’d not seen in the flesh for, oh, I don’t know, maybe 20 years or so. We live less than three miles apart (2.9 if you go via Delaware instead of Dodd) but time and kids and lives seems to have made crossing Hwy 110 a veritable chasm...not that we hadn’t talked about meeting for coffee. That said, Facebook is a  wonderful thing and we have managed to stay in touch and up to date. So when I saw Lisa standing outside the Cub, I couldn’t believe my eyes!

“Lisa!?!?!?!!!” I cried.

“Good Lord!” came the response. There were hugs of disbelief. I actually met her husband who seemed genuinely pleased to finally meet the WP.

Lisa and I have a long history, dating all the way back to 1978 when I worked at Finn’s Cameras and she worked for our ad agency. When I went to run Centre Stage, I hired her to do our group sales and marketing. Steve and I danced at her original wedding, we four went to see Judy Tenuta in a tiny, smoky comedy club...a life altering event..., we had our boys around the same time...and like Steve and Lisa and her brother Randy, they all went to Henry Sibley High School....but somehow we never managed to have that long promised cup of coffee.

Birthday twins, we started 
in kindergarten
My playpen
Friendships are funny things. Some of them last a lifetime even when the miles are as multitudinous as the hours apart; others are so close that they implode and dissipate into the ether. Often we don’t recognize the ones who are the truest of friends until a disaster crashes down upon everyone’s heads. And there are friends who are out there orbiting, perigee to apogee to perigee again. These are often the ones who know you best of all, the ones with whom you share the dance as much as the space between encounters knowing that the strings between you are forever.

In the course of 61 years, there have been good friends, friends who turned out not to be so good. There have been only two friendships I came to regret; those lessons are indelibly burned into me. In both cases I trusted where I should not have trusted and, as Steve would tell you, I got my head squashed in a duck press. I was young; I’m a little more discerning now...but not much. Still, I never cease to marvel at how, with the touch of a dial, years melt away, jokes are still funny, and futures are still entwined.

So instead of writing a scathingly brilliant blog entry about the ongoing stupidity of American politics, I am taking a moment to appreciate how I got here from there. My life hasn’t turned out the way I planned, but who’s life ever does? Instead, I’d rather celebrate the twists and turns of fate. I want to laugh about the seriously strange things I’ve done with my cohorts in crime, colleagues in chaos, and champions of change.
Still hangin' out.

Meanwhile, Andy and I are meeting Lisa and Frank for dinner on Wednesday night. Instead of coffee, we’ll have sake and I am perfectly fine with the change.

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
No one's life turns out as one planned  but it's okay.
If you're still breathing, it's  win.

Monday, July 22, 2013

If The Doors Of Perception Were Cleansed...

... everything would appear to man as it is - infinite.” 
William Blake                                       

My intent was not to write about Trayvon Martin again. I thought the discussion needed to taking place between people, and there was no point in writing anything further on the subject. President Obama changed that when, on Friday, he spoke so eloquently on this reality of being black in America. 

In response to a NY Times editorial, President Obama's Anguish, I wrote:

The truth of the matter is all We, the People, whether black or white, red or yellow, green or purple with pink polka dots, profile. We do it in our heads every time we see a kid in a hoodie, or with baggy-saggy pants, or even with cap turned backwards. We have been programmed by the media to fear those images. Watch enough LAW AND ORDER or CSI: Whatever, and, most of all, the news...and those are the images we are taught to fear.

If you say, "Oh, no, I don't do that," you're lying through your teeth. It's human nature.

I am one of those white women who, in downtown parking ramps, clutches her purse a little tighter when a couple of black teenagers get on the elevator with her. But then again…a black teenager tried to mug me…in Chicago. (He didn’t realize he was trying to mug a New Yorker, okay?) The truth is, whether or not you’ve been mugged, you profile. We all do it.  We do it to black kids. We do it to people who look Arab or Asian. We do it to our neighbors, and even to our co-workers. 

It’s human nature to make snap judgments. Grok that concept first. 

The President was spot on when he talked about his own experiences as a young black man. He talked about the reality of it:

And the fact that a lot of African American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuse is given, well, there are these statistics out there that show that African American boys are more violent -- using that as an excuse to then see sons treated differently causes pain.

I think the African American community is also not naïve in understanding that, statistically, somebody like Trayvon Martin was statistically more likely to be shot by a peer than he was by somebody else.  So folks understand the challenges that exist for African American boys. 
President Obama’s remarks
July 19th, 2013

Just imagine this kid
in a hoodie
It’s about packaging. It’s about what we see with our eyes and in our brains. It’s how we process the information. It’s how we learn to protect ourselves. But…are We, the People, in danger of condemning an entire population based on appearance? 

If you pay attention to the George Zimmermans of the country, the answer is very much yes. Had we been there, peering out our window and seeing a black kid wearing a hoodie pulled over his head, can you say you wouldn’t have immediately wondered what he was doing there? What if he was wearing a khakis and crisp button-down shirt? Is the response any different?

The other question must be asked: how much of this reaction is owned by young black men who dress, sign, and present themselves in an intentionally dangerous manner even when they’re not gang-bangers? How much of the package is for show, and how much is real? And how is the casual observer supposed interpret the message? And how should one respond?

Used to be people wore "colors" to identify with their school. I still have and occasionally wear a Pirate sweatshirt in Minnesota …and people have stopped me, incredulous that they’re seeing someone who actually went to Wellington C. Mepham High School. Gangs are no different. It's a club. There are colors and symbols. Kids think this is cool and emulate the look.  But how do you tell the real gangbangers from the wannabes?

We all train our kids to be street-aware, to be alert in parking ramps, and not to walk alone in areas that are known for criminal activity. Here in the Twin Cities, we know not to run along certain paths because in recent weeks random groups of young men have been attacking single runners and beating them senseless before robbing them. How do you not be suspicious in those situations? How do you not profile when descriptions of the antagonists are all over the media?

This is where the conversation begins. It’s not easy to talk to yourself about this stuff, but you have to. If you’re white, the examination must bluntly address perceptional prejudice. If you’re black, that conversation has to include the scary factor and the concept of perception. How we each read the message that is sent is very much at the center of the internal...and ultimately the external conversation. 

It’s time to have those internal conversations, folks. In fact, it’s past time We, ALL the People, had ‘em.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Shopping for alarm systems> There are people who actively want your business and 
then there's ADT who, after 24 years, is not interested in keeping mine. 

The Wifely Person's Bonus Observation o'the Week
First the freezer...and now the house security system.
Considering this week's blog, that's just a touch .....weird.

PostScript: So I went upstairs to the lady's room and lo! the float valve in the toilet snapped. No problem; I had a spare fill-valve thingee on hand, so no sweat. Changed it right out. Toilet works great.....but now, freakin' water shut off valve is leaking. Spartacus is NOT happy.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Justice, Justice, Ye Shall Pursue

Welcome to Season 4, Episode #1 

Let me begin by saying my birthday last week was a dandy one, commencing with a delightful little surprise of a party and ending with a wonderful evening at La Belle Vie with Handy and my in-town kids. The cocktails were lovely, the dinner astounding, and the company was great fun.  Perhaps we be will lucky enough to have senior son and significant other in town for the next adventure…which would be wonderful. Official thanks must go to Pajama Guy and his lady for the gift certificate to what is ostensibly the best restaurant in Minneapolis.

The news, however, is less delightful.

I cannot say I was surprised by the verdict Trayvon Martin murder trial; disgusted maybe, disappointed definitely. But not surprised.

When Judge Debra S. Nelson instructed the jury that they might consider manslaughter as an alternative charge, I was momentarily hopeful that they jury would have a viable path to conviction. Unfortunately, the 6 ladies of the jury did not see it that way. I don’t pretend to understand how they decided George Zimmerman shot a kid at point blank range in self-defense. But.....

I know why Mr. Zimmerman did not take the stand in his own defense -  he didn't need to. There were moments during the defense's presentation when I thought I was listening to a modern version of "We Both Reached For The Gun."   As that silver tongued Prince of the Courtroom Billy Flinn would say,

Understandable, understandable
Yes it's perfectly understandable
Comprehensible, Comprehensible
Not a bit reprehensible
It's so defensible.

Actually, according to Florida law, it's totally defensible, and the jury agreed

By the letter of the law, it does not matter who provoked the event. Nor does it matter that George Zimmerman had a gun. By opting for a self-defense trial, the burden of proof was on the prosecution. It was their job to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that George Zimmerman did not believe his life was in danger. If at any moment during the fight he believed Trayvon Martin was trying to kill him, then the gun was fired in self-defense. To separate the self-defense contention from the vigilante/stand-your-ground version of events, Judge Nelson issued a ruling early on which disallowed the use of the term "racial profiling" but would not prevent phrases like "wanna-be cop." She effectively limited the idea of race being presented as a motivating factor. The judge (rightfully so) guided the trial based on the position of self-defense only. 

Since racial profiling could not be introduced as a factor in Mr. Zimmerman's following the kid, the jury never really got to hear how many time Mr. Zimmerman had called the local cops in the past to report suspicious black teenagers in the neighborhood. Apparently he did that quite a lot. Did he report white teenagers? Apparently not. Were the black kids he called in arrested and successfully prosecuted for property crimes in that neighborhood? Since no one mentioned his success rate, I'm guessing the answer is no. But none of that was admissible in Judge Nelson's court, so it has no bearing on the case. 

Truth is Mr. Zimmerman's trial was done very precisely and as close to constitutionally rigid as possible. Judge Nelson was very clear and precise in all her instructions to to jury to keep their process as free from passion possible. By defining the absolute letter of the law, the only thing the jury had to decide is whether or not Mr. Zimmerman believed his life was in imminent danger. 

However, was justice truly served?

Not really. What we know from the inadmissible evidence is that even if Mr. Zimmerman was not known as a racist, he was a profiler. He went after a kid armed with a bag of Skittles. The kid acted in self-defense, but Mr. Martin was not the one left standing, therefore he doesn't get a vote. Would the outcome have been different if the colors were reversed or Mr. Martin had been the one with the gun? Probably. And that is scant comfort to the parents who have buried a child. 

Mr. Zimmerman's troubles are far from over. There will be a civil wrongful death suit, and while highly unlikely, the DoJ will investigate to see if there is a chargeable violation of Trayvon Martin's civil rights. So sit back, relax, and wait for Act II.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch in Texas, the war on women's health continues. News levels of astounding included the confiscation of tampons and maxi-pads at the state house because security was concerned that women were going to hurl those at legislators. Loaded guns, however, are still permitted. Just how scared are those guys are of women? Honestly, I don't get how any woman can vote for guys who want them to be nothing more than incubators. How do you look in the mirror and say, "I'm okay with being a second class citizen with minimal control over my own body functions?

Bah humbug; I hold  by my original thought: let 'em secede. Let 'em go back to bein' their very own rootin' tootin' republic. That way they can teach whatever they want in their classrooms and not get one silver dime from the US to support it. They can chain and shackle the wimmin'  that wanna stay there any ol' way they want. Offer the rest of the womenfolk amnesty to cross the border into the 21st century. That should do it. 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Having a spare freezer in the basement or the garage is not the worst idea on the planet.
You never know when the ol' reliable SubZero is gonna decide to stop freezing. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Episode #156 - The End of Year Three

This is WP Episode #156. Yep. 3 X 52 blog entries personally designed by moi to illustrate, illuminate, and entertain. This thing started as a stream of consciousness and has turned into a left-wing-nut-ball-fest…at least if you ask the junior son who thinks his mother is a fruit loop. This may actually be the case, but if it is, there’s a whole lotta people seem to like fruit loops.

So it stands to reason that, when asked by two different very reliable sources, if I would be interested in The Good Judgment Project, I was curious. I submitted my name and promptly forgot all about it. Then, about a week and a half ago, I got an email telling me I had been accepted to the project and I would be receiving instructions for a survey which would have to be completed before I could be assigned to a team. 

Survey, my ass. That was an IQ test! Being a news junkie and all, my expectations for the survey was that it would be challenging but nothing could’ve prepared me for the depth and dimension of what I got! Everything from obscure Malaysian politics to language to (spare me now) a string of what-comes-next-in-the-series questions….enough to make me wonder why I was volunteering for this. But I got into it. 

In some sections, you even had to rate how sure you were of your answer.  Jeez Louise, I felt like Yul Brynner in the King and I singing A Puzzlement: 

Rodgers and Hammerstein's
The King and I
There are times I almost think 
Nobody sure of what he absolutely know. 
Everybody find confusion 

In conclusion he concluded long ago.
And it puzzle me to learn
That tho' a man may be in doubt
of what he know
Very quickly he will fight...
He'll fight to prove that 
what he does not know is so

By the time I finished, and it was a long, long time, I thought my head was going to explode…but I felt pretty smug about the whole thing. Clearly the people who were egging me on must think I’m pretty smart….that, or a congenital idiot. Not sure which one yet. Now, I’m awaiting my team assignment and my password. We all get time to work on sample projects before we begin in earnest later this summer.

I’m nervous and excited, and I promise to keep everyone posted as it goes along.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, summer has arrived with a vengeance and it seems that the media is busy bringing us up to date on all manner of leftover things since both Congress and SCOTUS are on hiatus at the moment. Loosely translated, this means while neither of those august bodies can do anything egregiously stupid for a few weeks, life as we know it continues. 

Fer instance, down in Florida, the George Zimmerman trial is underway. This is turning out to be a far more interesting a piece of courtroom theatre than expected. By referencing the 911 call, you guess race is a huge issue, but we’re not going to hear that in the courtroom. The judge has already ruled statements about racial profiling will be severely limited. This may not necessarily be a bad thing in the broader sense. So far, the case hasn’t been prosecuted as a hate crime; it’s really about the validity of stand-your-ground laws, and if one is serious about removing criminally dangerous laws from the books, race is not the right way to go. You have to approach it as a very level playing field in order to have the greatest impact. It's gotta be bad for everyone. 

Florida State District Attorney's Office
There are huge holes in Mr. Zimmerman’s version of events. The medical examiner said his wounds were not consistent with the repeated beating he said he was given by Mr. Martin. How did Mr. Martin grab is head?  His hair is buzz short; did he grab him by the ears? Why doesn't Mr. Zimmerman's DNA show up under Mr. Marti's fingernails? 

And speaking about things less credible: let’s have a round of applause for the State Department and their astounding bungling of John Kerry’s vacation. The guy comes home for a few days of R&R over a national holiday weekend…and the State Department can’t seem to say the guy is in constant touch while he’s in Nantucket or on his boat.

What century are they living in over by Foggy Bottom? The Afghan 21st…which looks remarkably like the US 19th or are they in the American 21st century?  This administration has enough problems with transparency, honesty and nitpicky stuff like that. Could the DoS possibly do anything less smart with all their technology than what they just did? Can they possibly undermine themselves even further? Apparently so.

Mr. Kerry deserves a break from the madness. Really, folks; one can be in the jungles of Peru and be in constant touch. And before you start jumping up and down, I would've said the same thing about Condoleeza Rice. 

There are times I think this administration is either too naïve and too devious to exist. I don’t know which, but the end result is the same. The support staff is too stupid to be in positions of responsibility. That is so disappointing.

Hey! I just had a thought. If you have to pass a stupid test to work there, I might qualify after that GJ intelligence survey. Can anyone say "career change?"

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
comes from Big Brother Bruce
Tired of e-tailers barraging you with ads they think you want to see?
Check out DuckDuckGo - a non-tracking search engine. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

That Was The Week.....

No matter how you want to take the news, this past week was a remarkable week….a week that, in the truest sense of the word, WAS.

Between the decimation of the voting rights act and the striking down of DOMA, Supreme  Court sounded more like the Supremes singing’ their broken hearts out: 

·You Keep Me Hangin' On by sending affirmative action back to the lower courts
·Everybody's Got the Right to Love – and now we might even have the right to federal benefits
·Stop! In the Name of Love – Prop 8 is an unconstitutional challenge.
·Your Heart Belongs to Me …but your DNA belongs to you.

In the end, it’s all about class. Is this a class…and does it warrant equal protection under the law? When the LGBT community began to exert its influence as a class rather than a movement, the wheels on the GOP Hate Bus started to fall off.  The discrimination was so blatant that even Justice Roberts had to side with them…but don’t let that fool you. Neither the striking down of DOMA or the refusal to  overturn Prop 8 contained an opinion that members of the gay and lesbian community have a constitutionally guaranteed right to marry. Scalia was apoplectic:

All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence— indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race.

All SCOTUS did with Prop 8 was to state that they would not overturn the Californian courts nor the 9th Circuit because the challengers had insufficient standing to bring the suit…not that the class is experiencing discrimination. In fact, the fight to prevent it has already started up again. As for DOMA, the only thing the court ruled on was the extension of federal benefits to a same-sex spouse. SCOTUS did not to touch on whether or not a same-sex couple can be legally bound in the United States.On Friday, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) has introduced a federal amendment to the Constitution that would ban same-sex marriage across the country. The scope of both decisions is extremely narrow and still leaves the door open to banning same sex marriage no matter what Justice Scalia intimted
in that unique piece of street theatre. These decisions are less about letting people find partners and share legal responsibility than they are about setting up a chain of events in which personal freedoms will continue to come under attack. This is but the tip of an iceberg liable to for a couple of decades since the chief justice is only 58 and this is a lifetime appointment. Given that people live and work longer, it’s not inconceivable that he will still be heading the court in 2033 when he is 78 years old. Chief Justice Roberts is cagy…and crazy like a fox. 

Sit back, relax....and wait for it. 

Aunty Bonny & Uncle Mike
Meanwhile, all this talk has turned my thoughts to marriage markers. This past weekend, I was at a 50th Anniversary party. Bonny and Mike aren’t just friends; they were our family here when we didn’t know we had any family here. They are godparents to our kids. They’ve been at every simcha….and they stood with me and the boys at the saddest time. Aunty Bonny and Uncle Mike are part of the skeletal structure of this family and I was rather overwhelmed at the party. I saw people I’d not seen in many years (including one who asked, “Hey! Where’s Steve? Is he out parking the car?” I laughed. What else could I do? It was a surreal experience, but I would not have missed being there...even though it was held across the river. It was reassuring to see Bonny and Mike with the kids and grandkids. I listened more than I talked…it was hard to say anything that didn’t include Steve…and that was just  a tad harder than I anticipated. But no matter. I was just glad to be there and boy, did I laugh a lot!

We don’t always view anniversaries with the same awe as we do birthdays. I think anniversaries are even more august because it means two people have survived living together and not killing each other. My folks, come November, will have been doing this for 70 years. Talk about astounding!

This week would have been 36 for me and my old man. We had our moments, our highs, and certainly our share of lows….no marriage is ever perfect….but I guess the one I had worked out okay. 

Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Week

Just because it hasn't rained for a couple of days, it does not mean your lawn is dry.