Friday, December 19, 2014

Where's a Good Hacker When You Need One?

A writer writes!

So allegedly North Korea is backing "Hackers" who have obtained information from the Sony Corporation.  That information plus threats to do follow up  harm have resulted in cancelling of the release of the Sony sponsored movie "The Interview" which was destined to be one of the top 10 artistic movies of all time right?  No, I don't think it was going to make that category.  So, I ask the question to the "Hackers", where have you been?

As a movie fan, every month I witness the endless release of exceptionally terrible movies.  Horror films galore designed to see who can make the bloodiest and most shocking scenes that will scare people for all of 3-4 seconds.  Movies that appear to have been conceived and written after an all night drinking binge by some deranged screenplay writer who also has the funds to produce their own film. Why can't you hackers threaten those people and save us the agony of having to watch the horror film previews and also save people the $8 - $12 people pay to see these alleged movies? Hackers, please obtain any listing of movies produced and check off the ones unworthy of the money spent to make them.  You would be doing the world a service.  I foresee T shirts being printed, a fan club established, and maybe even a national holiday established in your honor.  "Guardians of Peace" could then become a revered group. A reality show will likely follow showing the exploits of "G.O.P." as they seek out evil companies who offend people with their terrible movies.

What was Sony thinking?  Make a movie about assassinating a living person?  Remember when some company made a board game about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy?  Now that was distasteful wasn't it?  So, why be surprised when there is backlash about a movie featuring a plot to kill the leader of a foreign country?  Duh!

Well now the Guardians have set a precedent of shutting down a release of a movie.  Now we will have thousands of hackers from age 8 to age 79 attempting to do the same thing.  It will become a contest.  Who can beat what the Guardians of Peace did?   But, the U.S. Government is coming to the rescue.  Yeah, the same government that has to shut down agencies because Congress and the President don't get along and compromise on various issues.  It's going to be something like a video game.  The Hackers make a move, then the United States makes a counter cyber attack.  Maybe the United States government will do something that will impact access to Korean television?  Then the Hackers come back and hopefully will block American's access to those terrible offensive American shows on cable and public TV.  Hackers, don't forget the access to streaming!  Hey, we could use many evenings of no TV so we're forced to talk to each other or even read a book.

So what if  movies now have to first be cleared through a hackers group before they are released?  It wouldn't bother me since only about 2-3 films a year feature African American actors in sensible or relevant roles.  I won't miss much.   Especially those stupid horror films.  Give me a break.  How many ways can you devise to depict human mutilation?  Well, before the Hackers come back and end my use of the internet I'd better finish up this last blog item!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Policing Ourselves

A writer writes!

Some of the dialogue revolving around the grand jury verdict on Michael Brown's shooting mentioned that the African American community wanted police in our neighborhoods.  Well, we do want police to respond to calls for help.  What we don't want is a disrespectful occupying army in our neighborhoods.  We want respectful police who don't assume the worst about us when encountering us in person.  Don't come into our neighborhoods thinking that firing your weapon is the only answer to community problems.

What African American neighborhoods also need is a higher degree of self policing.  If you see something illegal going on, report it.  Ban together to let elements that are undesirable know that you don't want illegal behaviors or criminal activity in your neighborhood.  Establish those formal Crime Watch groups as a visual reminder that you don't support crime and will turn in those committing crime at any opportunity you get.

For some reason I would prefer to see more African American police working in African American neighborhoods.  Somehow it just makes me think they would care more and understand more than someone whose only exposure to African American life has either been in a classroom, a bar, a television show, or a movie.

Not all people who live in impoverished areas are criminals.  Some people are there based on factors related to their background.  They have not yet been able to escape the cycle of poverty.  Police of any color should not go into such a neighborhood with an "us" versus them mentality.  That just breeds distrust and conflict.

Give me an African American policeman to work with and I would feel more comfortable than working with a Caucasian policeman.  It's a matter of expectation and trust.  Yes, that African American policeman could have been adopted by a Caucasian couple and lived a lifestyle not typical of African Americans.  But, I would know that African American policeman likely encountered some attitudes in his or her journey that would make them understand more what it is like to be an African American.

Until we're at a point where we are color blind, I think we need to just police ourselves more.  We define what behaviors we want in our communities.  Take charge.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What One Black Man Wants

A writer writes!

How exactly does a Black Man want to be treated?  Well, I'm sure there are many answers to that question.  But, let's focus on the basics.  As a Black man who has walked this planet for over half a century, here are a few basic wants.

1.  Respect.  Talk to me with respectful words.  Within my lifetime I have read about and seen via television how Black men were disrespected verbally and treated as less than a man.  Whether it was the use of the N word or being spoken to as if they were a child.  Verbal abuse is demeaning.  Sometimes all a Black man has is his dignity.  When you attempt to tear the wall of dignity down you demean a person as a basic human being.  Don't talk to me like I am ignorant or not worthy of your time.  Whether this be in stores, or other public places, give me the same respect as you give to others.  For Policemen.....Don't allow yourself to fall prey to the desire to end my life just because you are in a position of authority.  Control that urge to kill me just because you can.  I too am a creation of God.

2.  Acknowledge I exist.  There is no need to fear saying hello to me.  A simple greeting is a simple greeting and does not imply anything else from you.  If you have a choice between acknowledging a Caucasian person who enters a room after I do, or acknowledging me because I entered first, acknowledge me.

3.  Stop labeling me as an animal you fear.  I don't want anything from you.  If you see me walking along a street in your direction, it's not all about you.  Sidewalks go in two directions.  I did not come outside to encounter you.  I have business to attend to.  Go about yours, say hello when we pass, and keep moving.  Is that too hard to do?  But, do make room for me to pass when you are walking in a group. You are not entitled to the whole sidewalk.  Move over!

4.  Deal with your stereotypes.  Stop letting stereotyped television shows and movies be your primary source of understanding me.  Ask me questions.  Engage me in a conversation and find out what are my thoughts, beliefs, and values.  Attend a cultural function in the African American community.

5.  Understand that there is no "one type" of Black Man.  We are different in our experiences, values, and beliefs.  If you choose not to talk to us, that is your choice.  Your biases about us will be based on your failure to reach out and learn by simply treating us as equals.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Denying Ray Rice a Second Chance?

A writer writes!

When the elevator video of Ray Rice and his then fiancee' was "released" to the public, I was among those who felt "he deserves a beat down".  Ray was punished shortly after the video by being released from the Baltimore Ravens.  Ray was quickly without the job that had supported him and his now wife.

There has been some legal litigation since that overturned the NFL Commissioner's punishment of Ray being semi banned from the NFL.  Now NFL teams are faced with the question of whether they should give Ray a chance and sign him to a contract.  The proverbial second chance.  So far no one has made that move.  I can't quote Gospel scriptures, but wasn't there a passage in the bible to the effect of Jesus Christ telling a crowd preparing to stone a woman for a transgression "those of you without sin cast the first stone."  After that statement no stones were thrown.

I'm not sure if NFL teams read that passage.  If Ray's behavior has changed, doesn't he deserve the opportunity to earn a living?  Or have we turned into a society where it is, one strike and you're out?  If that was the case how many of us would be where we are today?  Yes, there is no guarantee that in a moment where good judgment lapses, Ray will not do what he has done in the past.  Even now banished from the NFL we do not know what lapses in judgement Ray has had.  His wife is not making any charges that Ray is still a man who resorts to physical violence when they have disagreements.  Unless there is some overwhelming evidence that Ray is a closet wife beater it seems he should at least be given the opportunity to redeem himself.

It's 3rd down 3 yards to score.  Let's give Ray the football and see what he can do.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Visit to New Orleans

A writer writes!

A 2010 winter storm in the South canceled my first attempt to visit New Orleans, Louisiana.  Four years later, this past weekend my spouse and I visited "the big easy".  We enjoyed the food, walking (in the daytime) through the French Quarter, and visiting the French Market where I found a "man bag" to carry all the stuff that makes my pockets bulge.  We took a tour bus around the tourist areas of the Garden District, French Quarter and the Convention District area.  Those areas had the traditional look of a historic looking New Orleans.

We both agreed to avoid the French Quarter once it turned dark.  Seeing what was going on in the day time was enough!  Talking to other tourists there, we got a general opinion from others that the French Quarter at night time was full of "shocking performances" by people.

The architecture of the buildings and the food was the best part of the trip.  Just seeing a "historical" city that I've always heard about was worth the trip.  Now I can finally cross off "New Orleans" from my list of places to visit.  We really could not tell what areas near downtown had been damaged by the floods caused by the breaking of the levees after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  We saw several high rise buildings that were vacant.  Our tour guides only mentioned the after effects of Katrina when discussing the Mercedes Benz Super Dome and describing how it had been renovated after Katrina.

I would recommend a visit to New Orleans.  One or two days at least to explore the culture of the area.   Thank you New Orleans.  It was worth the wait.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Ferguson Grand Jury Decision

A writer writes!

From Darren Wilson’s public comments, he apparently believes he handled the encounter with Michael Brown perfectly.  According to Wilson he was just doing his job.  That comment in itself is chilling since the result of his “doing his job” was the death of Michael Brown.

In reading Wilson’s description of the initial physical confrontation with Brown, I wondered why didn’t Wilson simply drive his police car several feet away from Brown when the alleged punching began?  Wilson stated that he had called for backup.  If so, why didn’t he wait until backup came before he confronted the two African American men walking in the street?  Why would he initiate a confrontation with two suspects when there was no other physical police presence there with him?  Did Wilson really want to buy time until his back up came?  If so Wilson had the option to use his vehicle to follow the suspects from a safe distance also protecting himself from harm.  Instead after the initial verbal exchange with the two Black males, he backs his car up in reverse to approach two suspects not knowing if they were armed or not.  Was Wilson taught this back up approach maneuver in his “training”?

During his grand jury testimony Wilson was asked wouldn’t he have been more mobile in dealing with the suspects in his car rather than on foot?  Wilson replied he wanted to stay where he could keep Brown in one place while keeping himself safe.  He is also later asked about why he didn’t think about driving away after the confrontation, again until backup came?  His response was he was attempting to deal with the threat.  So, Wilson made a conscious decision to put himself into a situation where he could claim he was fearful which allowed him to use his gun.

Wilson said his training was not to flee.  Was he trained to back up his vehicle in the manner that he did?  Why not turn the car around rather than put it into reverse?  Was he trained to escalate encounters with minorities into a deadly force situation where firing his gun was the best alternative to diffuse the situation?  If you’re afraid of getting beat up in your car, then move the car away from the person while maintaining sight of that person until backup arrives!

Wilson played the “I feared for my life card” and by the grand jury’s decision played it well.  The grand jury apparently believed that a 6’ 4” policeman, driving an SUV police vehicle, and armed with an automatic weapon rightfully felt threatened by and should have been fearful of an unarmed Black male.  A Black male whom Wilson said he feared was going to beat Wilson to death or take his gun away and shoot him.  Hollywood couldn’t write a better science fiction script.  All the protections Wilson had from being harmed and feeling fearful he decided to give up.  Attempting to get out of his vehicle, and not distancing himself from the suspects until help came were decisions made by Wilson.

Did Wilson really believe that someone he already had shot at least 3 times would be able to tackle him?  Did Wilson, a trained policeman, really believe the only option was to shoot Brown?  Did Wilson panic and cover up his panic by claiming he feared for his life from an unarmed person? 

Wilson, why didn’t you distance yourself from Brown in your V6 engine SUV car!  Wilson says he was trying to buy some time until help arrived.  Moving his car away would have bought some time.  Was Wilson afraid that backing off until help arrived would be seen as being cowardly?  After the shots in his car, Wilson inferred that he was fearful that an unarmed Brown would get away and possibly hurt someone else responding to the scene.  How was an unarmed Brown going to hurt others after already having been shot by Wilson?

After the shooting Wilson walked back to his SUV police car and turned the engine off.  Wilson was told to drive back to the station alone in another car.  After killing another human being he was not monitored by the police.  Instead he was given the honor system method to police himself while driving back to the police station.  No one monitored what self inflicted injuries he could have made to himself to prove Michael Brown struck him.  The grand jury transcripts showed that Wilson, a supposedly well trained cop, was on the wrong radio channel when initially reporting “shots fired”.  One witness said that after Brown was shot he staggered toward Wilson.  Another witness said Brown stopped turned around and walked towards Wilson.  That witness wondered why Brown didn’t stop approaching Wilson.  Wilson said he backed away from Brown some but as Brown continued towards him chose to stop his retreat and end the encounter by shooting Brown until he was dead. Wilson made a conscious choice of ending the encounter by killing Michael Brown.  Wilson chose the method of encountering Brown initially.  Wilson chose to approach the two men before backup arrived. Wilson chose to pursue unarmed suspects after they ran away.

So he thinks he did the right thing?  As the civil authority in the situation, his poor judgments are partially why the mother and father of Michael Brown are now without their son. 

The Ferguson community grand jury had their chance to properly address the killing.  Now it’s time to put the case into the category of a civil rights crime and carefully review each decision point of Wilson.

All policemen have the right to fear being injured when you enter an unknown situation.  But you also need to avoid giving away all the protections you have from being harmed.  Wilson gave away his protections and helped to elevate the situation into an execution.  Is that doing your job?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Hunger Over the Holidays

 A writer writes!

This week is the annual reminder that despite being the self proclaimed greatest nation in the world, basic problems still exist in these United States of America.  For whatever reason many people in the United States live in poverty and go hungry every day.  That problem is magnified around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.  All over the country churches, auditoriums etc. open up to feed people who simply need a meal.  Meals are also delivered to those who don't have transportation to get to a facility.

The generosity of the American people is appreciated to help those in need.  The generosity of people fills the gap where other organizations or governments are unable or unwilling to assist.  Locally I donate to an organization called Gleaners.  One of the features of Gleaners is a food pantry where people who need food can come by to get basics such as canned goods, bread, vegetables, etc. I have volunteered to work at Gleaners and saw people of all races, colors, and ages walk in to obtain food.  It is a humbling experience.  It's also a reminder that WE have a long way to go before we can rid these United States of America of the plague of poverty.

Yes, everyone who is able needs to work at a job that can provide them the means to purchase food.  But, in those instances where willing workers are unable to find a job, a mechanism needs to exist that allows people the opportunity to eat.  So as we enter into Thanksgiving week, as you pass that holiday kettle (that seems to be coming out earlier and earlier each year), drop some change in the bucket, or donate what you can to your local food bank.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Bill Cosby Rape Allegations

A writer writes!

The rape allegations against entertainer Bill Cosby are of course surprising.  The thought of Mr. Jello himself drugging and assaulting helpless women is one image you don’t want to dwell on.  Mr. Cosby has responded through a lawyer that he will have no comment on the allegations.  You want to say, “Come on Cliff Huxtable, tell us this isn’t true!  America’s nice sitcom dad a rapist?  Say it’s not so!”

One thing I have learned in my 50 plus years is that people are not perfect.  Who would have imagined that President Kennedy, a Catholic and leader of the United States was having affairs with women in the White House?  The same White House where his wife and children lived with him.  Other U.S. Presidents have also been tied to extra marital affairs, most recently Bill Clinton.

That among other examples is why I have come to not idolize people.  People are not perfect and make mistakes. Many of these mistakes and bad judgments are made out of view of the public eye.  More recently we have seen “public” figures caught in the act of misbehavior due to the prominence of social media capturing and sharing the information.  Remember Ray Rice?

I personally do not have a shrine to Mr. Cosby in our house.  I don’t awake paying homage to any human being.  I know, as you should know, that people do “bad” things.  Hopefully more good than bad!  Instead I put my faith and trust in our Creator.  We should all honor the good things that people accomplish, especially those done to benefit others.  But, always take caution to not put any person on a pedestal as being perfect.  You will be disappointed when negative news comes out.

I am not going to dwell on whether Mr. Cosby is guilty or not.  I have never viewed him as a saint incapable of doing no wrong.  If he assaulted these women, he will be judged when he passes on from this world.  So for the time being applaud the good things he does.  Reject those things that he has done or will do that are not positive.  If he did in fact rape these women, one would hope he would eventually “come clean” offer some type of apology and take some time of action to donate time, money or both to those charities that exist to help rape victims recover.

Lastly, stop being surprised by negative news about your human idols.  You will continually be disappointed.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The New Era of Television Shows-Same Sex Relationships

A writer writes!

Over the past ten years I have substantially decreased my television viewing time.  I first cut back on my TV watching because I tired of paying $100 plus to cable TV companies for the honor of constantly flipping through channels in a hopeless attempt to find something to watch.  So I cancelled my cable and resulted to watching commercial free TV with the assistance of antennae devices.  After a 4 year exile period, I finally went back to cable solely for the purpose of being able to watch sports.

Over the past few years I started to watch a few dramatic television shows with my spouse.  In terms of background I grew up in the 1960s where married couples were depicted on television as sleeping in separate beds.  Fast forward to 2014 and now television depicts same sex relationships to include intimate moments that would never have made it to the screen in the 1960's due to censorship rules.

I recall growing up during the 1960's hearing about parents being warned to monitor what their children are watching on television.  After recently coming across four separate television shows depicting same sex relationships, now I understand why those cautions were expressed way back then.  Television now seems to be promoting same sex relationships as being the new normal.  I do wonder if our youth are watching these shows, what impressions these TV shows are making on them?

As was the response back then, parents were told to simply change the channel if you didn't like a television show.  No one is making you watch it. So, that is what I've chosen to do.  I have chosent to not watch television shows that feature and promote same sex intimate relationships.  It's very easy.  I just push a few buttons and watch something else.  I miss all the commercials of the advertisers for those shows also which is another benefit.

Maybe the "different" lifestyles are what some people want to watch on TV.  People do whatever people want to do.  That is something that has become clear to me over the years.  Whether it runs against biblical teachings, is illegal by man made laws, it doesn't matter.  If people want to do something we simply do it and take the punishment for violation of any rules/laws.

So, I've made my choice.  I have no desire to watch television shows which graphically display the intimate details of same sex relationships.  Send me a note if  you come across a network that presents a variety of dramatic shows depicting the everyday lives of African American families or other diverse programming that isn't related to same sex relationships.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day

Today we pause to pay respect to the veterans of the past and present.  Veteran's day is a reminder of one of the faults of human beings. Ultimately we don't posess the ability to resolve conflicts without turning to acts of violence and destruction of each other. Our final solution is to annihilate each other in as vicious a manner as our minds can conceive.  We've used all forms of weapons from spears,  axes, arrows, cannonballs,  bullets, bombs of various destructive power, atomic bombs, and biological weapons to terminate the lives of our "enemies". 

Our enemies often are those whom we really are not familiar with on a personal basis. Instead our government's leaders have educated us that we have enemies who pose a threat to us. Sometimes our government uses such terms as "weapons of mass destruction" in that education process.

Those who carry out the protection of our country become our veterans.  Our veterans are the ones who pay the ultimate price for our violent ways of resolving conflict.  Lives are lost,  body parts destroyed,  emotional scars created.  All because human beings have decided that war is the ultimate answer to our disagreements or desires.

I am under the view that wars have ended the lives of men and women who would have contributed to improving our world.  People who could have helped find a cure to cancer.  People who could have helped create alternative forms of energy.  The list goes on.

So, we pause to honor the veterans of the past and present. We're sorry that you had to serve in armed conflicts due to the imperfections of human beings.  We still haven't reached our potential.  Maybe we should also utilize veteran's day as a reminder that we owe future generations actions that will make veterans day only a reminder and testament to the past.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Election Day 2014

A writer writes!

Some 30 years ago in a college Political Science class, the instructor made a profound statement.  He said that it doesn't matter if a Republican or Democrat wins an elective office.  In our instructors view, neither "party" had the answers to the problems of the day.  His opinion at the time seemed an outrageous viewpoint.  For years we had been taught that there was a Democratic way and a Republican way of resolving problems.

Time has shown that political parties by themselves do not have the "answers" to human problems.  Yes, there have been some specific approaches taken by the two major parties, but none of those approaches have solved human based problems.

Currently we have a Congress that has been highly touted as being a "do nothing" Congress.  Stuck in gridlock and playing political games where lack of any progress is the only result.  We pay these Congressmen a salary to basically accomplish nothing that makes our overall lives better.  It sounds like an ideal job for those who want to make $100,000 plus and enjoy the perks of a political office while accomplishing little.  There are those who try to make a difference.  Apparently we need more of those type people.

As you vote, look for that candidate who seems to be "different" in a positive way.  Avoid those candidates who are talking the same political chatter that you've heard time and time again.  If we're lucky, maybe half of those who win their election will actually work to effect positive changes.  If not, we will try it again two years from now.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Aging Is Bad Enough?

A writer writes!

I was typically bypassing all the "human interest" stories in the Comcast news home page when I saw one with the subject title, "Aging is Bad Enough".  I didn't read the article as I've found most of the "news" on Comcast's home page isn't news but what I call "gossip literature".  It normally has no redeeming value except to take up space.  It's human chatter because we as humans can say and do whatever we want to.

But a title of "Aging is Bad Enough"?  The topic itself assumes that getting older is the worst thing that can happen to a human being.  It assumes that somehow the years from birth to age 30 are our only reason for living.  If we somehow make the mistake of living beyond 30 we have doomed ourselves to endure a terrifying existence for the remainder of our desolate years.

If getting older and aging is a terrible thing, where are all the euthanasia companies that can help us end our miserable lives after we pass age 30?

Aging is just another part of the human process.  There is nothing "bad" about aging.  Regardless of the media being dominated by images of "youthful" looking people, if you are past age 40 celebrate the fact that you are still living.  The alternative is daunting to think of.

We all want to have bodies that function well, but like old cars, our bodily mechanisms wear out as they get older.  The warranty runs out and then we are on our own.  Don't let that spoil your life.  Next time you see something that says aging is bad, laugh to yourself, order a glass of wine, and slowly sip it as you celebrate being retired and not having to work every day as the "young" folks do.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Playing the "I feared for my life" Card!

A writer writes!

There have been a number of incidents over the past year with deadly results for African American males.  In each case an unarmed African American male was killed because the other person feared for their life.  Some of these incidents involved policemen, authorized to carry deadly weapons which they decided to use when they felt "fearful".

The question that came to my mind regarding those incidents is if the policemen were armed and the person they shot not armed, what were the policemen fearful of?  Were they afraid of being choked to death, beat up, or what?

In another incident a white male, who later was found guilty of manslaughter, claimed the reason he shot a young black male was because the white male was fearful of his life being threatened. Thankfully the court saw that there was an alternative to the man using deadly force.

The rationale that fearing for your life needs to be examined carefully in each individual case.  Yes, if someone has you trapped in a corner and is approaching you in a menacing manner, I would see a person being fearful for their life and taking the appropriate defensive/deadly action.  But if you are a policeman and someone is just approaching you without a weapon, I would question why would there be a need to shoot and kill an unarmed person.

Fear by itself is not the reason that defines that it's okay to kill another person.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Form Letter Responses by Members of Congress

A writer writes!

Members of Congress allow their constituents to contact them regarding issues.  Based on the member of Congress being too busy, the response from the member of Congress is normally compiled by a staff member rather than the Congress member.  That response normally is a compilation of data and statistics and standard political double talk in the form of a form letter response to the inquiry.  That form letter may be signed via a machine rather than the Congress member's personal signature.

For the various category of issues, a staff member of Congress has already compiled a standard letter designed to fit the category that your question falls into.  There are standard responses to letters that cover Health Care, Gun Control, Terrorism, and many other topics you see in the  "choose from" column of your Congress members website.  It's obvious from standard form letter responses, that most Congress Members really don't care to really communicate with a constituent after they have received your vote.

Yes, it may be difficult to compile a personal letter to each letter from a constituent. But I would like to see the member of Congress try to spend more personal time to respond to a constituent.  You owe that person your time, especially if you took their time via a phone call or an in person conversation during your election campaign to then seek their vote.

The form letters I have received in response to a question often are global responses someone just dug out of a file and returned to me.  Then that staff member "checks the block" proudly, and feels good about having responded to the inquiry.  Well guess what, your standard form letter responses are insulting at best and show no real effort to respond to the constituent.

I challenge all Congress members to ensure each letter they received is personally responded to rather than responded to via a standard form letter.  Make sure the constituent's questions and concerns are responded to.  To casually send a standard form letter that is closest to answering the questions or concerns is a disservice to yourself  and your constituent.

Congress already has a bad reputation.  Sending form letters to respond to your constituents only adds to the bad reputation.  Show that you really care.  Send a response that is personal in nature and that really answers the questions raised by your constituents.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Ebola - The Easiest Terrorist Weapon

A writer writes!

To no one's surprise, Ebola has made it the the United States.  A man in Dallas who came to the country from Africa to visit, apparently contracted Ebola while there.  Maybe no one wants to say it publicly, but Ebola is a walking biological weapon available to terrorists.  It would be very easy for someone willing to give their life to interact with those who have Ebola, lie about having any contact with someone who had Ebola, and then catch a plane to a major population center in the United States before displaying Ebola symptoms.  That person then goes to an event that is well attended, football game, etc. and spreads Ebola to to others before getting too sick to walk around further.  You don't have to be a CIA analyst to figure that scenario out.

So, what is our government doing to prevent such an occurrence?  Who knows?  But, I think I will send my Congressman a quick note and ask her for the answer.

In the meantime, drug companies should start going into major production to manufacture the drug that is supposed to be helpful in combating Ebola.  Who knows, a pill that prevents you from contracting Ebola may become the most desired Christmas gift during the upcoming commercial holiday period!

The MCL Crowd

A writer writes!

Famished and fighting off an approaching lack-of-food armada headache, I stopped by my local MCL restaurant for a complete meal.  Having visited MCL for the first time in over 15 years a month ago, I knew that MCL wouldn't let me down.

My image of MCL was always that it was the place where older people went for a decent meal.  I have no idea what "MCL" stands for.  Obviously for those who frequent it, the name stands for good food at reasonable prices.  For anyone who knows the history of the naming of MCL, send me a note and I will send you my coupon for a slice of pie for the cost of 99 cents.

As I entered MCL to first wash my hands, cleanliness is next to Godliness, I saw 4-5 older people sitting in a lounge area.  They looked semi dressed up in sport coats for the men and dresses for the women.  I said to myself, maybe it is their big day out for the week.  Having someone to meet and bond with is always great, at any age,  I surveyed the people inside the restaurant and in line, and quickly surmised that in the event of any conflict breaking out, I could take any of them and even a group of them in one-on-one combat.

The line was slowed by an elderly woman who was having problems moving at a quick rate.  I could have shoved her aside, and feigned food hysteria but better manners prevailed.  MCL does a good job of lining up the food in an orderly fashion.  The food looks all fresh and colorful.  To the point that you may find your mouth drooling while in line, which isn't a pretty sight.  I ordered everything I had not had in the past few weeks, liver and onions, fresh backed rolls so soft they slide down your throat, summer squash, (is there a winter squash?) pumpkin pie for dessert, and several more items along with the classic sweet tea.  At the end of the line I pulled out my trusty coupon for a whole dollar off an entree!

I joined the other "older" people in the eating area.  Although I did see a family and a man who must have been in his late 30s or 40s, I came to the realization that I officially am a senior.  I was eating with the other older people.  I can see myself now putting on a sports coat and tie, and making my way to MCL to join my fellow seniors for a decent meal.  The workers busing the tables are very friendly and must be to handle some of the banter the senior crowd delivers.  I heard one older woman railing about how they should not have let the person who contracted Ebola into the country.  Her recommendation was that no one from Africa should be allowed back into the United States.  Her "visit Africa and stay there policy" might become very popular if an Ebola breakout occurs in Dallas, Texas based on one person so far being found to have contracted Ebola after coming to the city from Africa.

I figure that in future visits to MCL I will gain knowledge from conversations with other seniors or just by overhearing their conversations to others.  Maybe MCL will one day be a recruitment center for those looking to find mature people with definite opinions on a variety of topics.  Until then, save a piece of pecan pie for me!

Monday, September 22, 2014

What Images/Actions Make Others Hate the USA?

A writer writes!

The latest terror threat to the United States apparently is a group labeled, ISIS.  This group apparently has a distinct hatred of anything American.  Well, I assume they do.  Who knows what American consumer products they use in the safety of their homes?  If you hate everything American, I assume that also means you avoid anything made by Americans?

What makes members of these groups hate America and all the citizens that make up these United States of America?  Is it the opulent wealth that is often displayed as being what America is about? Is it political policies of the American government?  What is it?  Even if these groups despise what America stands for in their eyes, why is violence the answer?  Especially violence against people who are powerless to control anything but their own lives.  Beheading people who are not involved in making policies accomplishes what?  It displays the brutality of your group and the inhumane nature of your group.  It displays how evil you are that you have rationalized that your actions are justified.

To those groups who despise others and their way of life,  that does not give you the right to destroy other people's lives.  For you to think so is absurd and just shows how off your thinking is.  For those Americans who are joining these groups...what are you thinking?  What are you fighting for or against?

Here's an idea.  Why don't you clearly explain why you have turned to violence to express yourselves.  What is is that America is doing that makes violence the answer?  Use your own words to explain yourself.  Don't use the doctrine of your "group".  Talk to us in simple common language.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

NBA Owner Worried About Black Crowd Keeping Whites Away

A writer writes!  Although the National Football League had enough embarrassing stories about player misbehavior lately, the NBA not wanting to be left out contributed another owner/GM tale of misspeaking.

The Atlanta Hawks primary owner and GM Danny Ferry put themselves in the bulls eye.  The owner "self reported" his misstatements regarding having a mostly African American fan base.  Ferry read and paraphrased some statements he should have known better not to repeat.  My source tells me that Ferry has gone into the witness protection program, and will likely reappear transformed as an African American himself.  My guess is that his new name will be Dante' Jordan, in honor of you-know-who.

Ironically when I would watch NBA games from Atlanta I marveled at how the fan base there was predominantly African American.  Now we know the Atlanta owner wasn't impressed.

It's nice to get confirmation that people think of us just as we thought they think of us.  We are not paranoid.  We just know who we are dealing with.  Now I'm just waiting for comments and thoughts of the owners of major chain stores and restaurants and their views of African Americans to surface.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Human Annoyances

A writer writes!

I recently ventured out to a mall to purchase a few discretionary items.  Who goes to the mall to buy something you really need?  While driving to the mall I saw one of the more annoying current sights that you see on the streets.  That is the sight of a grown human being waving a sign in a circular gyrating motion to get your attention.  The sign typically is something about buying/selling gold, or an advertisement for some goods you really don't want.

My first thought is to feel sorry for the individual if that is the best job they could get.  Then I wonder is the person a college graduate who took out some $40,000 plus in student loans and this is the best job they could get?  My typical reaction when I see the wave signers is to do my best to ignore them as if they did not exist. The second reaction is to suppress the urge to yell out the window, "really, is this the best job you could find?  You must be desperate for money!"  But, they are making an honest living so I leave them alone, even if the sight of a grown person waving a sign seems demeaning.

Next pet peeve.  Workers in those mall kiosks who aggressively try to get you to try out their product. My deranged thought process is to think, "now these people really think I drove 15 miles so they could get in my face, pushing some product at me."  Today's product, electronic cigarettes.  My thought which I should have said out loud is "Why would you want to sell me something that you have no idea about the side effects?  You really want me to buy cancer??"

Remember, if you're old enough, those vampire movies where a cross could be used to ward off evil blood sucking vampires?  I am now looking for such a cross to wear to the malls around my neck, along with a garlic clove necklace to keep these vampire sales people away from me.  Next time I'm going to just have to respond, "Yeah, I drove 15 miles just to talk to you?  Didn't you get my message?  What's your address and phone number.  I'll come by your house at 9 tonight and we can talk."  In other words "Go away and let me conduct the business I came to the mall for!  Shuddup! Get out of my way!"

Or better maybe I should walk through the mall twirling one of those annoying signs. Mine will say, "No, I don't want to buy anything from you!"

Monday, September 8, 2014

Ray Rice in the Main Event

A writer writes!

Damn!  That was my first reaction today when I saw the "leaked" video of Ray Rice clocking his then fiancee' in an elevator.  I don't know if anyone in the NFL saw the full video before Ray got his 2 game slap on the hand penalty from the NFL commissioner, but the Baltimore Ravens quickly jettisoned Ray's behind off the team once the video became public today.  Then the NFL, trying to save some face, suspended Ray indefinitely (as if they had a choice).

Ray apparently has avoided the justice system by previously plea bargaining for counseling after the incident happened.  Some would say Ray has now gotten the punishment he originally should have been given.   But in addition to the suspension from the NFL, there is another alternative justice that I propose.  A pay-per-view event in the biggest stadium in the United States.  It would feature Ray Rice versus 100,000 of the angriest women on the planet Earth.  I would even allow for import of alien women from Pluto (since Pluto is no longer a planet it needs some other notoriety).  I would give Ray a football, place him on the 1 yard line and tell him he needs to run 99 yards to the other goal and score a touchdown.  In front of Ray I would place at least 500 women, each armed with a bat and a high heeled shoe.  In the stands and on the sidelines, just in case Ray decides to punk out, would be some 99,500 women waiting for Ray to just even think about trying to get out of the stadium.  Those women also would have the bat and high heel in their possession.

This would be a no rules event.  If more women want to come onto the field to help kick Ray's butt, that's okay.  Charge the public $50 a piece for this pay per view event, with all proceeds going to domestic violence charities.  Book the Rose Bowl or the 109,000 capacity Michigan football stadium.  Make it happen on a Saturday evening, around 6 p.m.

What is Ray going to do now?  Well, I can see him being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey.  But Oprah had better watch out.  If she asks Ray the wrong question.....Bam!  Down goes Oprah, Down goes Oprah!  Then you'll have Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer running onto the set to stomp Ray until he taps out.

Ray, you need to man up and commit to this pay-per-view event and take your beating like a man. Go ahead and get knocked out and let the American public see you getting dragged unconscious out of the stadium. It's the only manly thing to do.

Now Ray, you know the video was released on purpose.  Maybe somebody asked you for money to keep it a secret.  Maybe somebody got a hold of it and made a copy.  It could have been someone you thought was a friend.  Either way it looks like the details of your elevator event are out for public consumption.  Ray, you might as well go to the nearest domestic violence organization and volunteer to be an example of what happens to someone who commits domestic violence.  One last word of advice Ray.  Stay out of elevators.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Because I want to, I can and I am

Many years ago, I as Black man  would have been limited in what I could aspire to do, what I could say and where I could go.  Because of racism and prejudice, there would have been barriers keeping me from doing the simple things I wanted to do. In the past there were blatant separate systems established to funnel me in directions and facilities where others had decided (without my vote) I belonged.  I would have had to go to certain restaurants to eat a meal and specific rest rooms (if even available) meant for people like me.

Thanks to the sacrifices and efforts of many, some who will never be recognized, I now have the ability to try to do and go wherever I want.  I don't take that ability lightly.  I try to honor those who came before me through aggressive and confident actions on my part when I interact with those who even now attempt to place barriers before African Americans.  I want them to see, hear and feel the confidence that now exists in African Americans.  The hateful ignorant words of others are just a feather I can blow away. Whatever they can do I can do.  Fear is not an option.

Freedom to do as you want is very refreshing.  The ability to say whatever you want is thrilling.  Not all I say or write is politically correct.  That is on purpose.  Just having the freedom to express a thoughtful view is exhilarating.  Considering that those African Americans who came before me often could not express their true views without fear of some form of retaliation.  That retaliation sometimes would cost them their lives.

So now when I am asked why I express myself verbally, in writing or through actions, my answer is simple.  Because I want to, I can, and I am.  In honor of those whose sacrifices paved the way for me to do so.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Reflections on Ferguson, Missouri Police Shooting

A writer writes.

On August 9th I was in St. Louis, Missouri to attend the college graduation ceremony of a college student I hired to work in Human Resources three years ago.  The ceremony was at 10 a.m. at UMSL, (the University of Missouri Saint Louis).  The college campus is several miles south of Ferguson, Missouri.  I did not watch the local Saint Louis news anytime that evening.  So, it was not until I returned home to Indianapolis, Indiana did I hear about the deadly events in Ferguson.

I've waited to hear all of the facts, but that information may not come out for weeks.  Some information of course has been revealed or leaked on purpose.  Apparently the young man was shot at least six times, with two of those shots being to his head.  Apparently the young man was also unarmed.  There has been some mention of a struggle having occurred in or near the policeman's car.  My thoughts were did this policeman call for backup after any alleged struggle?  What would warrant the policeman to shoot an unarmed person six times?  Who instigated and elevated the encounter into a deadly encounter?  At this point I'm thinking that when the facts are revealed, a series of errors will be revealed to have occurred on both sides.  The incident and death of the young man likely could have been avoided if better on the spot decisions were made on both sides.  Lessons learned the hard way.

I do expect adult police to make decisions that will prevent a loss of life.  I do believe the burden falls on the police, who are carrying weapons that can kill someone, to make decisions that result in peaceful outcomes, not quick decisions to end someone's life because it is the easiest answer and less time consuming.

What this event does do is bring on more lack of trust in police by the African American community.  I for one have never had trust in the police.  That is based on images I saw on television over the past 50 some years of police misconduct against African Americans.  The antics of the Los Angeles, California police force in the 1990s are a prime example.  The misbehavior of police in the southern states of these United States of America in the 1960s is a secondary example.  I still recall on national television news in the 1970s the video of an African American man on a rooftop building being killed by a barrage of gunfire, in an obvious overkill method that seemed to be trying to make a point.

So, I have no trust in local law enforcement to protect me. On the other hand, I believe they would be more inclined to violate my rights as a human being if given the opportunity.  I see any encounter with a a member of the police as being a survival event.  One thing I know is that I will not let someone shoot me just because they think they have the right or authority to do so.  Peaceful resolution is the first recourse, then comes self survival.

We wait for the facts to come out regarding the deadly force killing in Ferguson, Missouri.  We can only hope that the events can clearly be explained.  The errors made.  The lessons learned.  From this event must come a change.  A change in police tactics and techniques.  A change in how "suspects" respond to accusers.  Now we wait.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Movies Reflecting Diversity?

A writer writes!

I recently peaked at what  movies are currently playing at local theaters.  Not surprisingly few featured minorities in starring roles.  As a matter of fact few featured minority actors period.  That is not surprising as those who produce films want to produce films that appeal to non minorities.  The film industry is of course about making money, not about writing stories that show diversity.

I do wonder if a non slave or non civil rights related film would appeal to non minority audiences? Also, if you replaced Caucasian actors and actresses in today's popular films with minority actors and actresses would the films still be popular and make money?  Well, it is the story and the performances that makes the movie correct, not the color of the actors, right?
It is true that minorities long to see movies which feature minority actors.  Speaking from experience it is nice to see that your existence is recognized in the movies.  If you the reader are a Caucasian, how would you feel if you had to watch movies that only featured minority actors?  

In the 1960s prior to blacksploitation films being produced, there were very few films made with prominent roles for Black actors.  Those that were released usually featured the same Black actor. Here we are some 50 years later and not a whole lot has changed.
Movies sometime reflect the image we want to see of the world around us.  You sometimes wonder why some films rarely feature minority actors, especially if the films are supposed to reflect today's diverse society.  I especially feel bad when I see movies made to appeal to families with kids, that do not feature minority actors.  The kids have to notice that there is no one in the movie who looks like them.  Come on a little more diversity in your films.  Even if you don't mean it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

NBA Basketball - Indiana Pacers 180 degrees

A writer writes!

The Indiana Pacers were the surprise story of the early part of the 2013-2014 NBA basketball season.  A record setting winning streak to start the season.  Paul George being touted as a potential MVP candidate.  But, the young squad of starters were not fully prepared to handle the winning environment.  Once Paul George appeared on a late night television show, you could sense things would shortly start unraveling.  The players were being intoxicated by the notoriety they were getting.  They seemed to forget that they had not yet won an NBA championship.  Winning in the regular season doesn't equate automatically to an NBA championship.

And unravel it did.  After the all star break the Pacers were little more than an average team.  GM Larry Bird sent away Danny Granger and a popular sub.  In return he obtained a center with bad knees and Evan Turner who wasn't the player Bird thought he would be in the Indiana system.  Lance Stephenson departed to Charlotte via agency when the Pacers did not want to give Lance the deal he wanted.  Time will tell whether that was a good or bad Pacer decision.

Now Paul George is injured and likely out for the entire 2014-15 season.  Does this open the door for the Pacers to become a lottery team and get an athletic player via the draft to go along with Paul George when he returns?  If George does come back at the same level he was when injured, the horrific injury could turn into a painful way to get the super talented young sidekick needed to replace Lance Stephenson.

I haven't heard anyone openly questioning the player decisions made by Larry Bird over the past year. None of Larry's moves have panned out into improving the team.  Larry spoke about bringing the core of the team back for 2014-2015. Instead the season will start with the top 2 scorers not being on the team.  Yeah, it's possible that Roy Hibbert and George Hill could be working hard this summer.  That hard work in a dream situation could translate to both those players averaging 20 points per game to make up for the loss of Lance Stephenson and Paul George.  Even with that, the Pacers bench still needs to be better than it was last year.

Hey, the NBA has professional players on all the teams right?  There is no need to panic.  The remaining Pacer players will all band together and win enough games to qualify for the playoffs.  Then falter in the first round.  If that's the case, why go through all the effort to miss out on qualifying to draft an impact college player?  Come January 1, 2015 we will have half an answer on what kind of year will the Pacers have while waiting for Paul George to return.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Another Meaning to "I Will Always Get Out of My Car" - Slogan Honors Officer Killed in Line of Duty

A writer writes!

An Indianapolis Police Department officer was killed last month in the line of duty.  Allegedly a family member of the alleged shooter stated that the officer would not have been killed if the police officer had stayed in his police car.  That response prompted a rally cry of "I will always get out of my car" from the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police (FOP).  That slogan was printed on the back of T shirts initially being sold by the FOP honoring the fallen officer.

It is understandable that police would react in the manner they have.  Plus it is understandable for the public at large to rally around a fallen officer.  The public only sees that someone sworn to protect them was slain for no reason.

The public is missing another meaning to the slogan "I will always get our of my car".  It's a meaning that the public at large would not know about, unless they were past victims of police misconduct. African American/Black men have long been recipients of the "I will always get out of my car" mentality when it comes to police at times harassing Black Men for no reason than because they can.   Whether it's a white police officer stopping a Black man for "DWB" driving while black to an instance where a white police officer gets out of their car to apply a choke hold to an unarmed Black man resulting in the Black man's death.  In the book "An Actor and a Gentleman" by academy award winning actor Lou Gossett, Mr. Gossett recalls the day in 1968 when Los Angeles, California policemen stopped him, and left him handcuffed to a tree for three hours.  His crime was driving a fancy convertible car in  an area where it was not typical to see a Black man driving such a car.

Historically, whether it was the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles by police, or the instance in the 1970s where Indianapolis Police were involved in the "suicide" death of a young Black man while he was handcuffed in the back seat of a police car, white police officers have always taken the opportunity to get out of their car.  All those instances of police getting out of their car did not result in honorable behavior towards Black men.  There were instances where white police officers harassed Black men and sometimes falsely arrested Black men, because they could.

The slogan, "I will always get out of my car" therefore has a different meaning to some.  To some who have been harassed, it means police think they have the right to violate, harass, and demean someone based on their authority.  To some it means police have the right to wrongly profile someone as a criminal because of that policeman's personal views of Black people.  To some it means police have the right to shoot a Black man because the police feels threatened based on their personal fears and thoughts.

Police officers have the right to get out of their car and be respectful in the conduct of their duties. Police do not have the right to harass Black men for the sport of it.

Black people understand that police have the right to get out of their car.  We just want you to pause and understand that some police  have not gotten out of their cars and approached us in a respectful manner when all we were doing is driving our car.  We understand your emotional reaction to the loss of your brother in arms.  We just want you to take time to think about the people you are policing and the experiences they have with the police.  Maybe you should print another edition of your shirts.  "I will Always Get out of My car and Be respectful".

Congressional Republicans to Sue the President??

A writer writes!

Just when you think Congress is coming to its senses, they do something stupid.  Recently rather than focus on developing programs and legislation to push the country forward, Republicans gathered together to decide to spend effort and money to sue President Obama for abusing his authority.

Past Presidents have been sued before with the suits dismissed due to lack of standing.  How a law suit will lead to development of options to address various problems is something I have yet to figure out.  Yes, it is harder to engage in discussions with those representing the President to develop compromise solutions to issues.  Apparently House Republicans want to "win,win" and fully impose their views upon the public.

Politics may have once been an honorable institution.  The past decade does not reflect that the political system is improving.  Maybe as the Presidential election years approach we will see more substantive results from Congress.  In the meantime Congress, drop the lawsuit strategy.  You're embarrassing yourselves and the country.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Movie Remakes and Sequels - Don't Reward Mediocrity

A writer writes!

As I get older in life, I notice that movies from my youth are being remade.  The obvious reason is to financially take advantage of those who were not around when the original movie was a financial success.  That seems like lazy movie making. There are plenty of script ideas out there as numerous writers feel they have a story that should be made into a movie.  But instead of risking cash on a new idea, producers and the movie industry would rather remake movies or do numerous sequels to an original movie.  Give the public the mediocre safe movies.

Over the years, some of the remakes have been quite good.  But, more times they are not.  Unfortunately the public at large tends to reward the mediocrity of remakes or sequels by paying unoriginal prices for the same movie or the same story line with a few plot changes.  Among the better remakes was the 1990s remake of "Cape Fear".  The remake featured the artistry of Robert De Niro.  How can you go wrong with De Niro in a remake?  Among the better sequels was "Godfather Part II" and although some didn't like it, I thought "Godfather III" was also good.

Of course some characters such as James Bond 007, seem to fit the sequel quite well.  They tend to be another chapter in the outrageous life of the main character.  Also, I think we are now into the sixth or seventh Batman movie??  Those movies get a pass!  Although I've never watched one all the way through, "Harry Potter" films seem to fall into the area where the audience will keep coming back for more even if the film just has scenes of the main character going back and forth to the bathroom.

After I watch some films, I do wonder "what were they thinking?"  Now I look for movies that contain new or different subject matter.  A new treatment of an idea or a character who really has something meaningful to say.  What happened to all the Great movies that would come out each year?  Movies where the story and the acting, not the special effects was why you went to see it.  How many different ways can you blow up something? I think I've counted 213 so far from movies I've seen in the past years.

Instead of paying your $5 to $12 for regurgitated ideas, hold out for a movie that has something to say about the human condition and experience.  Don't reward mediocrity and a rehashing of what worked before.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Driving in Chicago

A writer writes!

I'm in Chicago amongst the seemingly millions of people who have all decided to converge downtown, all at one time.  I've quickly learned that if you don't drive properly and keep traffic moving you get serenaded by a cascade of car horns beeping at you to comply and keep traffic moving or get out of the way.

I haven't quite deciphered what each type of horn blast means. There is the short horn blast which I think means "go ahead stupid". There's the long horn blast which seems to be a blast of profanity. Then there's the constant horn blowing which just seems to be a letting out of frustration.

Maybe someone has actually done a study of blowing car horns?  If so help me out before the people of Chicago surround me in a circle of cars and rain down upon me a thunderous shower of car horn blasts.

To keep me out of harms way, I've decided to park our car for the duration of the stay in Chicago.  We'll walk to wherever we need to go. A mile, three miles whatever.  No more car horns!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Royalty? - I don't Get it!

A writer writes!

I saw another item featured on television as being "news" which of course to me was not news.  My wife tells me they are human interest stories.  I would characterize the stories as human self adoration stories.

In this instance there was a story about new photos being published of the royal baby in Great Britain.  I think his name is George.  I couldn't but think why is this tradition continued in Great Britain to the point that people are actually financing the lifestyle of the royal family?  Yes, some members of the royal family travel around and do charitable deeds.  If they didn't I would even think less of this royal tradition than I currently do.

What makes the royal family any better than any other family?  We do.  We place upon them adoration and idolization based on a human need to have man made idols.  As with any family I wish the "royal family" all the best in the world.  But, I really don't care what the royal baby is wearing or what he likes to eat for breakfast.  As with all babies, I'm glad he is presumably healthy.  I do wonder what would the royal family do if the baby was disabled or had some illness that prevented him from living what we call a normal life?

I don't know how many social causes or philanthropic activities the royal family devotes time to.  But, it would seem that should be what they dedicate their lives too.  Making the world better than it is.

Until then, every time I hear a news story coming on about the royal family, I quickly turn to another channel.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Reflections on Indiana Black Expo 2014

A writer writes!

The past years image of Black Expo was stained by a few people seeking attention by causing disruptions among youthful crowds.  The local media took advantage of the negative events by attempting to put anything bad that happened under the broad umbrella of Black Expo.  One local station had even labeled one disruptive offender the "Black Expo shooter".

During this year's Expo there were no violent events that could be tied to Black Expo.  Crowds were orderly, polite and best behavior was the norm.  It was a good respite from violence that has periodically dotted the city this year.  One of those recent events was the killing of a policeman several weeks ago.   But this past weekend, everyone seemed to cooperate to give the city a well deserved break from the violence.

I hope the media wasn't too disappointed that they were not able to display on the nightly news, scary scenes of African Americans running wild in the streets as the media attempted several years ago.  Instead the media had to go to plan 2 and show police continuing to attempt to keep beer drinking crowds under control in another part of town where no Black Expo activities existed.

One thing I noticed is that the streets were relatively empty of people on Saturday morning and evening.  It seemed as if some people stayed away likely scared off by images the media displayed from past years.  But, the crowds will return and Black Expo will continue to get better.  Who knows one day we may have an Ethnic Expo in the city that combines all the cultural events that are now spread across the calendar year.  Wouldn't it be nice to see an event that intermingles all that the various cultures have to offer and display?  It could be an event held under one roof with all ethnic food vendors grouped together.  Businesses selling various wares could be grouped together also.  It is the logical evolution and the next step to bringing a more cohesive awareness to the various cultures of this world. Then we would have streets crowded and people learning about other cultures.  Maybe one day....

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Indiana Pacers - Feeding Other NBA Teams Talent?

A writer writes!

The NBA free agent scenario, a distraction from our own daily lives is starting to wind down now. After Lebron James announced his return to Cleveland, other teams and players began to make decisions.  The Indiana Pacers had one "star" in the free agent mix, that being Lance Stephenson. Yesterday, Lance announced that he would be signing a contract with the Charlotte Hornets, ending his three year association with the Pacers.

Ironically Indiana's nemesis the Heat, also gained the talents of former Pacers, Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts.  The Heat and Hornets are in the same conference as the Pacers.  Now in the upcoming season, Pacer fans will be able to see former players giving their all to defeat their former Pacer team and teammates.  As most Hollywood stories go, these players will likely have career nights against the Pacers or score the game winning basket with 1 second to go.  That's how it always seems to happen.

But, that is the new landscape of sports.  Players have more choices on where they will play. Whereas in the old days, "owners" could trade a player away on a whim and disrupt their entire life and the life of their family.  With economic freedom comes fewer player careers with one team.  I don't look forward to Lance Stephenson, Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts coming back to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to put on a show for the fans and to assist in their team beating the Pacers.  But, you can see it coming.  I will be interested in watching Larry Bird's face when those players are having career nights against the Pacers.  Practice your stone face Larry!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Wanting to be a Citizen of the World

A writer writes!

I was wondering.  At one point did it become necessary for countries to develop immigration policies?  From my recollection of high school history lessons, thousands of years ago, people could travel and wander wherever they wanted.  They may not have been welcomed with open arms but they could at least get into the country.

Now you have to show vaccination records, and numerous types of identification just to cross over a country's border.  I understand the need for showing health related documentation.  Ask a Native American what happened to their culture due to chicken pox being delivered on infected blankets by settlers.

One think I know for sure, I can't travel into another country without some identification as to who I am, and a reason for traveling into the country.  So, if I wake up and decide, "I feel like traveling to Brazil today in South America!" I just can't hop on a plane or make a 35 hour drive there without having a passport and a reason for visiting the country.

That means I am not a citizen of the world.  But, that is what I want to be.  God created the world not people.  So, why can't I as a creation of God visit the places that God created for us to enjoy?  Russia, China, Europe.  I likely have to go through Customs in each country before I can get in and wander and explore the country.  It's not like I am from another planet in the solar system.

But, us civilized people on the planet Earth have established all types of barriers, physical, mental, social, economic, political, etc. to prevent us from just being citizens of the World.  We are stuck behind fences, establish laws to keep people out and some in, and pretty much just make being a human being more complicated that it should be.  Especially for those of us who just want to travel around the world neighborhood.

One thing the barriers accomplish is that it keeps us apart.  It keeps us from becoming unified.  It keeps us from having the ability to come to a better understanding of our creator.  It keeps us from reaching our full potential. It keeps us from understanding that we have common problems that need the attention of all the citizens of the world.  We also lose the ability to communicate openly with one another, although the internet is breaking down some of those barriers.

Maybe one day I can just be plain old Arnell Hill, citizen of the planet Earth. Until then, I guess I'd better keep my passport up to date.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Indianapolis Police Department In a No Win Situation - Changing Hiring Strategies

A writer writes!

An Indianapolis policeman was killed in the line of duty last Saturday.  The assailant and the policeman had contrasting lives.  The policeman was a Caucasian 20 year veteran of the Indianapolis police force.  He was married and enjoyed life with his wife through a variety of outdoor activities, some that allowed him to travel various parts of the world.  The assailant, a 25 year old Black man, initially was declared dead but was revived on the way to the hospital.  He had several criminal charges on his record dating back to when he was 16 years old.  There also was some mention that his father was involved with an incident with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD).  The family blamed IMPD for his father’s death.  

The Indianapolis Public Safety Director in an October 2013 interview noted that in a county that is 59 percent white, 84 percent of IMPD’s officers are white. Black residents make up 28 percent of the county’s population but only 13 percent of the police force.  Plus only 2 percent of police officers are Hispanic, a far cry fr om the population and a distressing number considering the unique challenges facing many Indianapolis Hispanic neighborhoods.

When the news displayed a photograph of the slain officer, I wondered if it would have mattered if Black policemen had been sent to the neighborhood where the deadly encounter occurred?  I grew up in the 1960s during a period when Black men were not treated well by White policemen.  I often heard about incidents where Black men were stopped for no reason, and mistreated because they were Black.  Some of that behavior still persists today.  In the 1970s I often heard reports on television news reports detailing statistics about the likelihood that the average Black man would die from violence before they reached the age of 30.  Television displayed the images of Rodney King being surrounded and beaten by several Los Angeles policemen.  Then the policemen were found not guilty of criminal charges regarding the incident.  Black male employment is much higher than that of White unemployment.  Those are some of the experiences and thoughts that Black men deal with.  Some of the images of the past mistreatment may fade away with time.  For now, those images and thoughts are still there.  There are other hurdles and societal barriers that Black men have to overcome to gain access to the same leveled playing field that others enjoy.

This is the background environment White policemen were sent into that Saturday night.  The odds of a conflict situation quickly escalating into violence should not have been surprising.  It was a setting for conflict.  A Black man for whatever reason carrying an armed weapon and White policemen with armed weapons.  Nighttime, a setting where understanding and respect are not at the forefront. There has been discussion that policemen servicing a community should culturally mirror the people whom they protect and serve.  In the case of the IMPD, the police force that responded that night was not in a position to keep peace.  Maybe as a minimum it is better to have predominantly policemen of the same race and culture as those they interact with.  I don’t have any statistics to back up that belief.  It would not hurt to see what would happen if the police responding to calls for help generally looked like those being policed.

I've heard comments on the news that twice the number of policeman hired this year are needed.  If I recall, the percentages of minorities is low among the 50 or so police recruits recently hired and now in training.  Sounds like these recruits will graduate the program and be cycled along with the current staff of police into future no win situations in Black neighborhoods in the heat and darkness of upcoming summers.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Reverse Immigration the wave of the future?

A writer writes!

One of the more ridiculous statements I've read in the past 3 weeks was on a popular news website.  It stated that President Obama's policies on immigration enticed children of immigrants to come to the United States through the southern border.  That means that you had 6 and 9 year old children pouring over volumes of legal statutes and deciding, "Hey, these policies mean I should leave my country and walk over to the United States!"

It's not the immigration policies that enticed their parents to send them to the United States.  It might be the fact that the United States offers material, financial, and social benefits that South American countries are not offering.  It's the same reason why citizens of the United States relocate from one state to another.  The gaining state has conditions (whether it's cheaper housing, warmer climate, no state taxes, etc.) that benefits the citizens moving from one state to another.

I have yet to see residents of other states being turned back at the borders from relocating to a new state.  Maybe that will be the next evolution of immigration policy.  Will immigration between states be banned, especially if you are a minority?  Or if your income is less than $90,000 you may not be allowed to migrate to another state?

It's not Presidential policies that is behind the flight of people to the United States from impoverished countries.  They just want a higher standard of living and want to enjoy the comforts of life they see on television, or other visual media.

It's only a matter of time before we see reverse immigration starting.  Citizens of the United States will maintain their citizenship as Americans, but purchase cheap land in South America.  They will then build nice houses there that would cost big bucks in the United States to build.  They will then have a South American getaway to go to during Winter months.  The homes they leave behind will be rented via time shares to the immigrants who have come to the United States for better living conditions.

To see this theory in action, just drive downtown in any urban city in America.  You will see refurbished homes, new homes, condos, and apartments sprouting up in rapid order.  Gone are the old dilapidated homes formerly held by the poor.  The inner city poor migrate elsewhere and then those with money swoop down to recreate the neighborhood in the image they want.  Reverse immigration is the next evolution.  So, start checking on flights to South America now.  It's time to start searching for where to build your dream home.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Immigration Policy - If Native Americans had Turned Back "The Bus"

A writer writes!

The fourth of July took me to a relaxed family gathering followed by a journey to a minor league baseball game in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana.  Our hometown team is named the “Indians”.  Absent   research, I’m assuming the Indianapolis and Indiana names have a Native American connection. The day before I watched a segment on the news about how residents of a town in California had prevented several buses of immigrants from entering the city.  My thought as I sat inside Victory Field watching the Indians play was that if Native Americans had taken the same stance when Europeans came to the Americas across the Atlantic Ocean maybe the scene before me wouldn’t be the same.  Instead of a stadium full of people with European backgrounds, possibly it would have been a different venue populated by Native Americans participating in some activity Native Americans enjoyed.

Maybe hundreds of years ago there were debates among Native American tribes about allowing European foreigners to enter the country where Native Americans were already established.  I can see Native Americans saying, “let’s send that boat back to where it came from”, and not let Europeans get off the boat to walk on their land.  If there are Native American historians out there I defer to them on the historical reaction that Native Americans had to these settlers.

Although Native Americans apparently chose not to repel the settlers in force, those in the California town who repelled the buses didn’t repeat the same generosity.  Did they foresee a repetition of what happened to Native Americans? Apparently hundreds of years ago the Native Americans did not feel threatened by the coming Europeans, initially.  But the residents of that California community felt threatened by a busload of children and others.  What did they fear?  Seeing their tax money partly go to paying for those immigrating to this country?   Fearing that they would somehow lose their jobs to immigrants?  Or was it just a mean “we don’t want you here” reaction? 

There was one thing that was certain; the welcome sign was not out in this California community.  Self survival, not a Christian spirit of love for the downtrodden drove these Californians to react the way they did.  I guess the United States doesn’t have a lot of resources to go around to others.  I wasn’t aware the resources of the country were dwindling.  Maybe I had better start stockpiling cans of food, and join the ranks of those protecting the border from the poor who want a better way of life.

So, on July 4th I found myself in Victory Field, watching the “Indians” minor league baseball team.  A capacity crowd of 14,000 was there, and I wondered if there was even one Native American among the crowd.  The crowd cheered as they started doing the “wave”.  I didn’t participate, as I didn’t want to join in the festivities as the “Indians” played baseball on the field.  Plus, I’m just not one to do what others are doing because they are doing it.  Later when it came time for the fireworks show, the crowd cheered the red, white, and blue fireworks explosions.  Yes, people have the right to cheer the anniversary of Independence Day as transplanted Europeans long ago celebrated their freedom from being governed by rulers from across the ocean.  But, somehow Independence Day also seems like one of the final events leading to the beginning of the near extinction of the Native American culture in northern America.  I somehow don’t think a large group of Native Americans were cheering and shooting fireworks on some obsolete reservation in the United States.

If only Native Americans had immigration policies in effect as the settlers came from Europe.  Who knows, that might mean I wouldn’t be writing this blog, as possibly I as an African American would not have been forcibly relocated to these United States of America to help the resettled Europeans build the economy.   But that’s another story…

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Just Because You Could

A writer writes!

You forcefully took people away from their homes, their family, their freedom, their lives. You took them for your economic benefit.  You took them not acknowledging that they had the right to live just as you.  You didn't care.  You proclaimed yourself supreme with the right to play God and transform the futures of others into a system of slavery.  You raped African women as you were unable to control your sexual desires and lusts.  You found yourself to not be the Christian you thought you were. Later you railed against inter racial marriages forgetting your rapist actions against African women whom you forced into slavery.  You forget that you are responsible for the same things you railed against.

You annihilated an entire race native to the land you now call home.  You destroyed a culture rich in history, so you could selfishly establish your own domain.  You chose not to share, instead you took what you proclaimed as yours.  You established selfishness, uncaring attitudes and a class society in the new world.  You put materialism over God.  You lied to God every day and told God that the people he created who did not look like you were lesser than you.  You spewed endless hatred from your mouth and through your actions against other people, just because their skin color was different from yours.  You murdered innocent people as if they were evil, when it was you who was possessed with an evil soul.

You did all of these things because you could.  Choices that you knowingly made.  But, you have forgotten all of the negatives of your past.  You now basque in the glow of your materialistic lives.  You hide behind your four walls of "success".  You only look forward, not to the sins of the past.

True greatness is acknowledging your mistakes and committing to actions that set a course to reverse the wrongs of the past.  Humble yourself and acknowledge your Creator who awaits the positive actions that show you care about your fellow human beings.

Just because you can.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Reparations? Too Late for that!

A writer writes!

I read an opinion article the other day that supported reparations being given African American  families.  The idea may have been a good one a hundred years ago, but now it's too late.  A hundred years ago a reparations payment to an African American family to help send children to college, or to fully pay for a home would have been a building block for the future for African American families.  At this point the systematic roadblocks that have prevented African American families from achieving positive events for 200 plus years  can't be overcome through just a one time reparations payment.

In some ways the affirmative action policies of the 1970s and beyond were a form of reparations. In the 1970s Opportunities were made available and doors opened to African Americans which had been bolted shut before.  Those opportunities included admissions to colleges where African Americans had been barred from entering.  Selection of African Americans for jobs and special job programs also provided opportunities for breaking down barriers and walls that had prevented African American children from achieving elements of prosperity in America.

Simply handing a family a reparations check along with an apology no longer is an answer. Opportunity is what African Americans still need.  When those opportunities are presented it is then up to that person to fully take advantage of a door being opened.

I would rather live in a society where opportunities are continually given a person regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or physical limitations.  Opportunities today can help to overcome the crimes of the past committed in this country against minorities, Native Americans and whomever else those people feared and hated, just because they could.

Reparations.  No thank you.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Trade Offs in Life

A writer writes!

Nothing is free in life.  That is a saying you have likely heard in your life's journey.  One other saying I often heard while growing up is "you have to work hard to get ahead."  From my life experiences I can attest to both sayings.

My being able to retire at age 55 was not a given as I grew up.  Studying hard in elementary and high school were the precursors to my being able to attend college.  The hours of time I spent working on school assignments instead of goofing off paid dividends when I entered college and into my adult years.  In college I was blessed in being at a school where recruiters from the federal government came seeking college students for paid internships with government agencies.

Once I began my federal career after college, I spent numerous hours attempting to learn the technical aspects of my job in Human Resources.  My goal was to gain enough knowledge so I would be an asset to the organization.  My goal was that my knowledge, work ethic, and results on the job would lead to promotions leading to more pay.  That is exactly what happened.  You do have to work hard to get ahead.  Even if you have natural skills in a subject area, you still have to develop, refine, or maintain those skills at a high level.

Coasting through life will result in your living a life style that will be far from satisfying.  Giving maximum effort will result in maximum results.  Work Hard to get ahead!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Customer Service - Now a Foreign Term in the United States?

A writer writes!

I encountered another customer service failure in the past week.  This time the property management company servicing our community was the culprit.  I asked a specific question and the company representative, from Kirkpatrick Management, gave me a response saying that the service I requested would be handled by a contractor.  the Kirkpatrick management representative didn't make an effort to find out from the contractor when the service would be provided.

I waited a few days and then sent a follow-up email to the neighborhood board that oversees the provision of services by Kirkpatrick.  So, with a chance to redeem himself, the representative came back with another response after our neighborhood board asked for more specifics.  The response this time identified a potential week when the services might be performed.  The property representative made no attempt to have the contractor provide a specific date.

And we wonder why foreign cars became the first choice of Americans?  Now is the time for all companies to pause and reassess whether their workers are providing the type of quality services desired by the customer.  Patrons need to boycott those companies that do not provide quality customer services.  Companies need to learn through economic losses that they just can't treat customers with disdain.

One of the more graphic current customer service failures is the scandal revolving around the Veterans Administration.  Allegedly lack of quality services may have lead to the deaths of numerous veterans.  When someone's life is at stake the services provided should be the best possible.  It is totally unacceptable for services to veterans being anything less than first rate.

Now is the time for a new customer service standard to be adopted by both private sector and governmental agencies.  It must be a standard that does not accept customer service failure.  It must be a standard that only promises the best effort in all steps of a process.  Finally, companies need to reassess whether current employees in customer service positions should remain in those positions.  New hiring of employees in customer service positions needs to be more stringent to ensure those qualities and personality characteristics needed to excel in a customer service position exists before the person is hired.

How many more failures will American companies and governmental agencies accept before making changes?  We as customers need to say, you've reached your limit of failures.  Change or lose our business.  Or in the case of governmental agencies, we demand changes now.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

It's All About Presentation - TV Coverage of "White Crime" versus "Black Crime"

A writer writes!

A Caucasian teenager was stabbed to death the other day in the upscale community of Fishers, Indiana.  Fishers is a predominantly white community with upper income residents being the norm. The upscale large homes mirrors the wealth of most residents.

The TV news coverage of the Fishers murder seemed softer than the coverage of murders that happen in the African American community.  The TV coverage of this white on white crime featured daytime news coverage versus the murky nighttime coverage afforded crimes in black neighborhoods.  TV coverage in black neighborhoods in Indianapolis features real time night time coverage of police cars with their flashing lights, shadowy silhouetted figures and people crying.  The TV coverage of the Fishers murder featured next day daytime coverage of articulate white teenagers, not crying, but being thoughtful and saying that the person who stabbed the other teen "didn't intend to kill the other person."  The Fishers TV coverage even had one "nice" photo of parents side-by-side with their grieving teenager.

Murder is murder.  So, why should the coverage of the incident be different?  Is there such a thing as a nice murder versus a bad murder?  Does it matter that the murder happened via a knife versus a gun?  A person who uses a knife versus a gun is still using a dangerous instrument.  Is an emotional reaction leading to murder using a knife versus a gun a more acceptable murder?  I hope not.

I'm interested in seeing what punishment will be afforded the teenager who killed the other teen in the nice community of Fishers.  Somehow I sense he will get less than 10 years in jail for the crime. I can hear the attorney's plea that this young man from a "good family environment" has a life that can be salvaged and that one mistake should not be forever held against him.

The contrast in how violence is covered in black communities versus white communities still stands out in my mind.  Do news producers want to portray murder in a white community as being a mistake or an aberration ?  Do news produces want to show a murder in a black community as being typical of our environments?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Pursuing the Writing Career - Screenplay Representationin

A writer writes!

Having written several scripts in the past year, I am now into the phase of attempting to get those finished products out to agents and anyone with connections in the film industry.  This is a difficult step when you are starting from having no contacts and do not live in the geographic area of agents and the film industry.

I have begun by trying to find agents who will accept query letters.  The query letter is where you briefly introduce the material(s) you are seeking representation for.  In my case, it is the last 3 scripts I have written.  A comedy, "Introvert/Extrovert";  a drama,  "Cousin J"; and an animated cartoon "That Special Holiday".

All three of the efforts feature African American characters.  I understand that the public will not see movies featuring African Americans, unless African Americans write them.  Most of my experiences are based on being an African American male.  So that is the foundation I write from.

In the past I have obtained the services of an agent who has long retired.  That was in the late 1990's.  So, I know I have some talent to write if an agent liked my materials back then.  I believe my life experiences has improved my writing.  The best thing about writing is you either have the talent to write or you don't.  I don't judge my success as a writer based on my selling materials.  I first base my skills on whether I like what I have written.  Have I conveyed the story I wanted to tell?  Do I get emotion from the story?  When I watch movies a movie that makes me feel emotion is the litmus test.  The emotion I should not feel is the disgust in seeing that the movie is terrible either in it's concept or acting.

I don't expect instantaneous success in my efforts to find an agent.  Whether I find one or not, I will continue to write the stories that I want to tell.  Having the time, freedom, and resources to write is already a gift for me.