BART Changes its Schedule. But, Is it Ethical? Why does it seem Nefarious?

I awoke one morning and trudged to the train.  I had gone early a few days that week for some meetings at the crack of dawn, then had a work at home day.  Thursday September 17, 2015 was the first time I went to work at my normal time.  I plan my commute to catch a train that turns around at the Concord station so I can get a seat.  Standing for 50 minutes in an overcrowded train is not my idea of fun, and half the time no amount of cologne can mask the damage done.

I arrived 5 minutes before my train and see the train signs omits the arrival of that train.  That’s odd. Well there are often problems.  The train was full so I waited for the next one, 15 minutes later and yes, trains that leave Pittsburg after 8am generally have a few seats, but I was annoyed.  I waited close to 30 minutes longer than I should have.

Guess what?  The same thing happened the next day.  Being confused, I posted about this on Facebook and a friend mentioned that BART had really screwed up the schedule.  By now you know I’m a shy wall flower, so I found BART’s twitter address and said “hey what’s up?”  Maybe not in those exact words, but I was polite.  I was a satisfied BART rider after all.

BART, in their infinite wisdom let me know what they had done even though I might have to wait 5 more minutes (just 5 more minutes! No inconvenience there!).  And they were adding cars to the trains I was waiting for.  Well paint my lips red and call me Jezebel!  Here’s what wonderful present BART gave to the riders of at the Concord Station.

  1. Eliminate (at least) 3, 10 car trains (the ones I take) that start in Concord, empty.
  2. Make all the remaining trains 10 car trains.
  3. Make sure that the time between trains in Concord between 7am and 8am is always 15 minutes instead of 8.

In case you missed it let me do the math for you:

  1. Bart eliminates at least 30 empty cars, to add 3 – 6 non-empty cars. That’s -80% at best.  Each car has just under 100 seats, so we see 2700 seats being eliminated in Concord and replaced with roughly 250 seats (larger trains add seats, but also add riders).  Tough to be exact since BART changed the schedule and I don’t have an old record.  But this is close.
  2. Bart increases the time between trains to add waits and overcrowds platforms and trains. People wait for the next train and the platform becomes more and more crowded.

And they were surprised I wasn’t thrilled.  In fact I was pissed.  But here’s why I am very pissed.  VERY, VERY as a matter of fact.  Here’s why:

All the trains eliminated from the Concord Station now turn around in Pleasant Hill.  And Pleasant Hill is a misnomer.  The station is Pleasant Hill adjacent, but it really is located in Walnut Creek.  A few things to consider.  Concord is the largest city in Contra Costa County with a population of over 120k.  Walnut Creek has half as many residents at 60k.  Walnut Creek is one of the more affluent cities with per capita income over almost 50k, while Concord lags at just over 30k.  Do we see some social-economic pandering going on?  It is tough to miss if you open your eyes.

Now I’m not saying BART didn’t have an overcrowding problem in Walnut Creek, they do.  But to solve it by just moving the problem to Concord, is both short sighted and irresponsible.  Could they not have found a better way than reducing the open seats in Concord by more than 2500?  I have to estimate as the schedules have changed and I didn’t take a measurement to what was about to happen in advance.

The worst part is that they KNEW they were dumping the problem on Concord.  Tough words?  Really?  Let me give you another pertinent fact.

When BART shut down lengths of track for a period of time they start announcing it MONTHS in advance.  When they shut down exits at busy stations, they station people there telling people in advance.  When they change fares or charge for parking they have a blitz at the station with people and collaterals.

What did they do at Concord?  Absolutely nothing.  No announcements.  No signage.  No people answering questions.  They hid their disrespect from the patrons.  If we didn’t notice the change in the arriving trains we might not have ever noticed.  Yes, there is a small blurb on their webpage.  It wasn’t on the news.  It wasn’t on flyers. It wasn’t in the major news organizations.  They may have just as well wrote on the inside of the stall at the Concord KFC.  It was not communicated.

So, children here is your lesson in socio-economic bullshit.  Make the wealthier people happy and shit on the lower socio economic classes. I’m guessing that the BART Directors didn’t think we’d notice.  Or they believed we wouldn’t do anything.

In the past I looked at taking BART as a perk of a job.  It was a solid, relatively easy way to commute.  Now?  It really isn’t much better than sitting in the backlog of the bay bridge.  Way to piss off our customers BART.  I am steamed.  I know most of the other people I now stand on a crowded platform with are not happy.

I tweet the BART account most days (@SFBART) to let them see, feel and ultimately ignore my dissatisfaction.    I have also, as you see, posted this for perpetuity on my blog.  This is my public record of displeasure. I may not have my numbers exact, but I am very sure my commute is longer, less comfortable and unhappy.  That much is crystal clear fact.

In closing, let me congratulate you BART.  You have taken a loyal, satisfied 30 year customer and shown such disrespect, you may never get a kind word from me again.  And I hadn’t even started complaining about the mess you’ve made in the Embarcadero station.  Closing exits and not fixing the escalators quickly enough has made it a safety concern.  Are you waiting for a death to really do anything effective?  Why yes, I will be critical from here on out.

Smoked Meatloaf

Lee makes meatloaf.  Thrilling, right?  Well hell, it looks great.


I’m a big fan of Jeff Phillip’s smoking meat newsletter and his cook book. While I can’t give you his rub and sauce recipes, if you spend time on the smoker, the $20 he charges is well worth it.  As is his cook book. He published his revised meatloaf recipe and I ran with it.  I’ll shameless steal his basic recipe and reshape it into something barely recognizable.

Before we start, remember that recipes are frameworks. I am never precise unless I’m baking.  These are approximations of what I did.  When I tell the butcher “about a pound” anything from 1-1.5 pounds is acceptable.  Yes, things like chili’s and bread come in whole units and yes I can count smart ass. J


  • 1.25 lb ground chuck (80/20)
  • 1.25 lb ground pork
  • 1.25 lb ground Italian sausage
  • 1 Pasilla (poblano) Pepper seeded and diced
  • 1 Anaheim Chile seeded and diced
  • 2 Jalapeno Peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 of a very large sweet onion diced (1 large onion)
  • 8 cloves of garlic, smashed and diced fine
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 2 TBS Lee’s Homemade Hot Pepper Sauce
  • 2 TBS Bacon Fat (or olive oil)
  • 4 slices of Multigrain bread
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. herbs de Provence (WHAT?!?)
  • ½ cup+ BBQ Rub
  • 1 cup+ BBQ Sauce
  • 1 TBS butter.
  • Bread crumbs (if needed)

Sauté the onion in the bacon fat over medium high.  Remember, bacon fat makes everything better. (I contemplated chopping up some bacon into the meat, but chose not to.)  Add the salt to help draw out some moisture. When the onions are soft, not yet translucent, add the peppers and chili.  When the Peppers are almost done, add the butter.  Butter is like bacon fat from cows.  I added several grinds of pepper here.  After a minute, add the garlic and stir well.  After 2 minutes remove from the heat.

Rip up the bread and place it in a bowl.  Add the milk and let it soak in to the bread.  Stir this every few moments to break up the bread and let the milk absorb evenly.  Pretty soon you’ll have mush.  When you reach the mush stage, add the eggs and 1 tsp. of the herbs de Provence.  Beat mercilessly and set aside.

I started the smoker at this point.  I used a mix of Oak and Cherry (because Hickory doesn’t grow in California).  It takes about an hour to get to a constant temp. I aimed for 240.  Started cooking at 250 and dropped to 225 at times, because I’m far from perfect.

In a gargantuan bowl (because I like leftovers and this makes fantastic sandwiches), add the meats, the cooled veggies and 1 tsp. of the herbs de Provence.  I like to gently break the meat at this point into small pecan sized chucks, tossing with the veggies.  It is very loose at this point, but very well mixed.

Add ¼ cup of the rub and ¼ cup of the BBQ sauce to the meat.  And the Pepper sauce. Add in the milk, bread and egg delight.  Roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. Mix it good.

I thought mine was too soft (that’s what she said) to hold shape, so I added about ½ cup of really good bread crumbs.  It is much easier to add texture to make it firm than it is to add liquid.  Just saying.

I formed a loaf and put in in a smoker rack.  Cover the loaf with a nice crust of rub.  And it’s off to the smoker for approximately 4 hours.


An instant read thermometer is my best friend.  That, and an accurate temp in the smoker.  When the meat got to 150, I coated the loaf in BBQ sauce to caramelize and moved it to the top rack.  I pulled the meat loaf at 160 and let it rest 15 minutes before cutting.  I served with some smoked beans and roasted garlic potatoes.  Yum.


A Liberal Watches the GOP Debate, Objectively

I watched the GOP debate the other night.  It was every bit as entertaining as I hoped.  I learned a few things that I believe at least a few of you will enjoy.  Let’s get a few things out of the way first.

Yes, I am liberal

No I’m not close minded

Yes I believe Fox News is Bullshit Mountain

No, I do not believe everything they is bullshit, just way more than it should be.  As an example Bill O’Reilly covering the Falklands war is not bullshit.  Any mention of him being in a warzone, seeing a firefight etc. is.

Let’s look at my before and after of the 10 men on stage.

Jeb Bush
Before:  George Bush’s smarter brother.  Too religious for my taste.
After:  George Bush’s WAY smarter brother.  Very centrist.  Nice thought on education.  Every bit as religious as I expected.

Ben Carson
Before:  Smart Neurosurgeon who says odd things with no political savvy
After:  Savvier than I thought.  He is in favor of torture (really, what about the “do no harm oath?) and he later used the word secular as an insult.  (Note:  Seems like all GOP candidates believe they must adopt some sort of “I’m a good Christian” aspect to their platform to think they can win.)  I actually started to like Carson until that.  While I agree with his stance that race should be an issue, it is. I would have liked to see him really address that.  I think he missed a great opportunity to capture an issue that everyone else ignores and pretends is all hot air.

Chis Christie
Before:  He’s from New Jersey. He’s brash.  He hires political thugs.  He’s not Springsteen.  NEXT!
After:  He’s put some of his weight back on.  Seemed like a lightweight candidate to me.  His catfight with Rand Paul was fun, but showed him in a poor light.

Ted Cruz
Before:  A buffoon from Texas.  My Huckleberry.  May have tried to be funny with his machine gun bacon.  Made him look ridiculous to me.  And from Canada!
After:   OMG.  All that was missing was a call to round up the Jews and remove them from this good Christian land. I’m sure he appealed to many voters on the religious right.  I was offended.  When did President become a religious office?

Mike Huckabee
Before:  Former Arkansas governor who plays bass and hosts a TV show.  I hear people like him.
After:  Good sense of humor, smart and savvy.  Way too religious in my view.  Not as offensive in that way as Cruz, but too much for my taste.  And what hair!

John Kasich
Before:  Governor of Ohio.  Who?
After:  Smart, on the ball and a bit nebbish.  I could vote for him.  I wasn’t overly upset with his views and like his views on the economy.

Rand Paul
Before:  Ron Paul’s son. He can filibuster.
After: I liked his views on the NSA and privacy.  A serious senator.  Not a serious presidential candidate in my view.

Marco Rubio
Before:  He likes water and people like him.  Why?
After:  I see the appeal.  He can orate.  Very proud of his blue collar roots (and 100k student loans that I’m sure his PAC or speaking fees paid off).  He made sure that he appealed to the religious right with his very strong anti-abortion views.  Politically savvy and showed he would work with others of similar views (as in Jeb Bush).  Not as bad as George Bush.

Donald Trump
Before:  A horrid blowhard who has adopted the Fox News “Angry Old Man” stance and taken it to a new low.
After:  Seriously, do you want this guy negotiating with Russia or anyone else?  He gladly wore the sash of most likely to start WW3.  I think this is his ego saying I can out do the Koch brothers by buying myself the election.  I can’t imagine he’ll make the convention, let alone the ticket.

Scott Walker
Before:  Hey Kids!  Let’s bust a union.  Whatever.After:  He rides a Harley.  So?  I think he dies his hair and has the 2nd worst comb over in the group.  I guess they needed a 10th warm body.

Yes, I spent over 3 hours watching Fox News.  For the most part I didn’t find many things to call bullshit on.  I was very impressed with the focus group segment on the Megyn Kelly after show. Real people, real opinions and a few dingbats.  Nevertheless it was a clear demonstration that a GOP focus group in Cleveland have almost nothing politically with me.  But it was clear who like Rubio because he was attractive, in a non-political, creepy sort of way.

I really was disappointed to learn that the GOP really is the Evangelical Christian party.  Even Trump jumped on the Pro-life platform.  I took it as code for “I’m Christian Friendly.”  When did abortion become a key point for the GOP?  A plank yes, but a keystone blank? Wow.  Now if only this country thought politicians should tell women what they can and can’t do with their bodies.  Everyone wanted to defund Planned Parenthood.  I guess inexpensive healthcare and education for women is appealing to those with blinders on.  I call bullshit on that.  Especially since we are also funding “abstinence education.”  If you are for abstinence education, then I label you an ostrich as you missed the fact its 2015 keeping the sand out your nose.

And really, Trump thinks it is funny to tell a women she’d look good on her knees. In public. On national television.  A jokes aside, that is not something to say nationally.  What may have been funny in private is insulting in public.  Shouldn’t a president know that?

I decided to check the current rankings on 8/10.  On 8/9 Breitbart posted the results of an NBC poll.

  1. Trump                   23%
  2. Cruz                      13%
  3. Carson                  11%
  4. Fiorina                   8%
  5. Rubio                     8%
  6. Bush                      7%
  7. Walker                   7%

A point of interest is not that Paul, Christie and Kasich fell off, but that Fiorina jumped way up.  Maybe it’s me living near Silicon Valley, but HP’s board firing her does not make me feel like she should running our country. I’m sure she is a smart lady, but I’m concerned.

In the dull roar following the debate, one theme has been heard.  The concept that it was a set up for Trump.  Can I laugh now?  He isn’t a career politician.  He doesn’t want to be. He insults politicians and calls them stupid.  Yet in a political arena, he and his supporters cry “UNFAIR!”  Am I the only one that sees the irony here?  Trump wants the spotlight. He got the spotlight and then decided the heat burned. Maybe he should build a wall around his campaign and keep the barbs out with the “Mexicans.”

I think if he wants to be a politician, he should expect more of this, though I don’t think it’s the hatchet job he and his supporters think it is.  After all, Dan Savage was much more rough, albeit rightfully so, on Rick “don’t google me” Santorum.  Trump gets off easy in my book.

This liberal enjoyed the show.  There was lots of BS after the fact, only a few shovels worth during the actual debate.  I’m open minded, but I don’t think pandering to the religious right will win anyone my vote.  I’m all for religious freedom. I’m happy to vote for a religious person who keeps his religion to his or herself.  I already know 20% of the people in this country believe I am going to a hell I don’t believe in.  Ah the joys of politics.

I’m going to enjoy the next several months as the Trump sets the clown car afire and it burns itself out.

Of Common Sense and Half Truths

I often wonder what has happened to common sense.  I’d like to think my father emphasized common sense as a key foundational element in my upbringing.  Let’s go with that shall we?  I believe I have some because in a previous position, my good friend Dr. Starr used to say, “common sense isn’t.”  And then he followed that up by making me the VP of Common Sense.  I am far from perfect, as several of you can easily attest, but I think I’m pretty solidly filled with common sense.

As I take BART (aka the train) to and from work each day I’ve learned to both read and give visual clues about  needing to disembark.  People often signal their intentions.  Me, I tend to put my tablet away, put my reading glasses in my pocket and shift my murse (my nieces believe my messenger bad is really a murse, not a European carry-all) and glance toward the seatmate that will need to move.

Today, I went through my routine and the person next to me didn’t ask, they just immediately stood up.  I rarely like to stand up prior to the train stopping but I did a few seconds prior to that shake that pushes people uncomfortably together.  I moved into the aisle and she sat back down.  It was crowded, like a mosh pit at an oversold Foo Fighters show.  There was nowhere to go and the doors did not open.  2 seconds into this slight delay, a big guy pushed past me with a terse, “ ’scuse me!”  As I recovered from his shove, another woman pushed by, pushing me backward (like the mosh pit).  I politely said, “I want to get off too.”  And she cast a fearsome scowl my way.  I think whatever common sense there was lay bleeding at my feet.  30 crowded seconds later the doors opened.

Common sense has been heavy on my mind.  Yesterday as I waited for the train I stopped and wondered, “What are they thinking?”  Lines and queues are governed by common sense.  Much like stopping at a traffic light.  There is a 12 inch strip at the platform you need to stand behind while waiting for the train.  The spot the door opens is clearly marked.  But, there is no written rule of how far to stand behind that strip.  I tend to stand 6 to 12 inches behind the strip.  Keep in mind by the time the train comes there will be 20 or more people in line, curving toward the line for the next door.  Oh, and I go to the last door on the last train.

Sometimes people stay 2 or 3 feet back from other people. 12 inches is really the least you can stand back, respecting personal space and helping to make the line efficient.  Sometimes you see people much further apart as if the person in front of them is an Ebola carrier.  Yesterday, the person at the front the line was a solid 12 feet back from the stip.  And the person behind them another 5. This is a lot like the person at the stoplight who stays more than 2 car lengths behind the care in front of them.  5 or 6 feet is good at a stoplight.  35 is not.  If you need that much personal space, you should probably stay home.  It should be a law.

And then there is a new phenomenon I’ve noticed – people who believe that lines serve no purpose.  The hover around the line then push into it as it moves.  This applies to waiting for a train at commute hour, at the escalators and the turnstiles.  For the record, Chaos may be the state everything devolves to, but it is not helpful.  Common sense people:  pretend you have some.

I was debating things with my father the other night.  This was noteworthy because while it was heated and the volume went from 3 to 6, there was no yelling or name calling.  That never happens with us.  I first recall him yelling at me during the Clinton-Lewinski scandal as I had pimped her out.  I consider myself a semi-enlightened liberal, near the center and he is just to the right of Attila the Hun, parroting everything Rush, O’Reilly and Hannity tells him is true.    As you know, I believe as the good professor Jon Stewart has taught us, Fox News is Bullshit Mountain.  Of course most things those three pundits put forth (or more appropriately, spew) have their basis in fact, but they are rarely completely true.

My father and started debating social change in the US.  He pounded me for wanting to see the rate of change increase.  In his mind there is a natural speed of change and I think everything should change now.  No, I just believe that the rate is increasing and it should continue to increase.  He gets so lost in the hype that common sense gets lost.  This is sad, because I’ve always looked to him as fountain of common sense.

The rate of change in technology keeps increasing.  Why should our understanding of societal issues and civil rights not move as well?  Are we a static society content to keep things as they have been?  Using that logic, we might have prevented the auto industry from taking form to protect the buggy whip business.  We might just now be learning to build factories and decreasing our dependence on the manual loom.  As information grows and we our capacity for learning increases with each new baseline, the rate of change speeds up.  I’m not looking to change the world today.  But I am looking to support the good changes that are taking place and help move the needle forward, not back.

As the topic shifted to racism and police killing blacks unnecessarily in this country, he pulled out what I’m sure came from Bill O’Reilly, “More whites are killed by the police, than blacks.”  Of course I researched it.

Well hell, that’s true.  Or should I say half true; it is totally misleading.  Let’s look at the facts:

  • From 1980 to 2012 44% of people killed by police where white.
  • From 1999 -2011 2,151 whites were killed compared to 1,130 blacks.

Washington Times 4/21/2015

So yes, in gross numbers more whites were killed.  Lies, damn lies and statistics, right? But since the black population of the US is less than one fifth that of the white population, Blacks are almost 4 times more likely to be shot and killed  by police than whites.  Think about that.  That is not a nominal statistical fluctuation; that is a trend!  That, gentle reader,  is racism.   An indicator of the institutional racism that Fox News wants us to believe doesn’t exist.  I disagree.

Now, do I believe all police are racists?  Absolutely not.  Do I believe some are?  Without question.  The issue is how many and what do we do?  We’ve seen too many occasions where the police abuse or use unreasonable force with blacks.  Choking a man for selling cigarettes.  Shooting a man in the back for running from a broken tail light citation.  Everything in Fergusson!   Where are the examples of police abusing white people?  I don’t recall seeing those.  I’m sure it happens, but much more rarely than with minorities.  You may not believe there is a larger problem, but I believe there is.

Part of me is beginning to think that perhaps local law enforcement is beacon to the power hungry, to the racists in our society.  We even see horrid examples of racism in the liberal city of San Francisco.  So when my father asks if I think more than 5% of the police nationally are racists, I immediately answer yes. I hope I’m wrong, but I sincerely doubt it.

As a counterpoint, he immediately points to Baltimore and the riots and looting, while the police were told to stay back and let things happen.  We all saw it on TV, but did we see the same thing?  I saw an oppressed group reacting as the only way they felt they could.  I didn’t like it; I didn’t excuse it.  I understood it.  Common sense sometimes means seeing things from someone else’s point of view.  Seeing that racial oppression has not benefitted this country, is this really where we want to make our stand?  I believe most of us see there is problem in this country.  It is uncomfortable to acknowledge, let alone talk about.  We as society, as a loud single voice need to make sure the needle keeps moving, that change keeps taking place.

I say we have a problem in the country.  We are finally ready as a nation to see it for what it is and, as a country, are ready to acknowledge it.  We need to fix it and it will take a strong majority.  You may disagree, but my common sense says this is needed and is coming.  Why don’t you help be part of the solution, rather than perpetuating the problem? It’s only common sense.

Myriad Randomness – Drought Edition

As you may have heard, there is drought in California.  What does this mean to me, specifically?  I’m glad you asked.  Here’s what I’ve changed.

  • I have a bucket in the shower. I catch the “warm up” to water the tomatoes.  That’s new.
  • I reuse my shower towel “many” times. It is 85+ most days and it dries quickly.  That cuts down on washing.  I did this in college and in my younger days.  No longer is my hamper full of towels.  (You know, that subtle status symbol of being economically stable.)
  • I only run my sprinklers 2 days a week. Usually after 9pm when the sun goes down.  My once envied super green lawn looks like every other sad, green lawn in the Nor Cal.  I haven’t decided to kill it yet.

What does this mean?  We are mandated to cut our usage by 25% from 2013.  May I was down about 50%.  No earth shattering changes.  Just lots of little ones.

I know I’ve been a bit outspoken politically lately.  Quite honestly I’m both thrilled and heartened by many (but sadly, not all) of the responses I have gotten.  Don’t go by the comments here, there aren’t many and I delete all the “I want to kill Ashley” or “I want Ashley to host my Bukakke party” comments.  Most are far worse.

But seriously, how can things continue to unravel in our world?  Pope Francis works hard to bring the Catholic Church into the 20th Century and Fox News calls him the most dangerous man in the world?  People I know on Facebook call him “EVIL”.    I guess the world still must be flat, the sun revolves around the earth and Torquemada was misunderstood.  Really?  You know what I think.  I just can’t understand how some conclusion could be reached, held so tightly and preached so violently.  We know the gene pool is flawed, just saying.

I still love my coffee.  Have you had Equator Coffee?  I’ve been buying their stuff on line (their roastery delivers for free for a $50 order and I have it in 2 days) and now they opened a shop next to the Warfield.  We know mid-Market is on the upswing, but this is huge.  Granted it’s a mile walk from the office, but I get exercise, the coffee is great and they have food too.  Check it out.  Only downside is that their bean selection is limited.  No fear here, I don’t mind the online thing.  The sweet spot is the 2 pound bags.  I’ve been drinking the Brazil 45 Espresso (it makes a mean, well rounded regular cup).  $13.25 for 0.75 lbs.  That’s $17.67/lb.  Or $30.05 for 2lbs.  $15.03/lb a savings of 15%.  Compare that the various coffees at Peets’. They are $14.95-$16.95.  So the same price or less and much more complex and delicious.  And honestly, smelling Major Dickasons at home today, it smelled burnt.  Fantastic coffee doesn’t always mean expensive.  But there are expensive options too.  Ping me if you need coffee advice.

Sandra Bland was in jail for 3 days.  She was arrested for an illegal lane change.  Later, she hung herself in her cell (allegedly).  She was college educated.  She was back in her college town for a job interview. And she was black.  I have about 400 questions.  If you don’t, stop reading this now.  You probably shouldn’t ever come back to this page. I’m sure incidents like this have happened far more often than “white” America realized in the past.  It is glaringly obvious now.  Our blinders are off.  They need to stay off.  I’m not going to pontificate on this today.  But I am outraged.  You should be too.  How can you not be?

I’m pondering a long piece on the death of middle management.  Clearly, I’m not in the top 2% and I see so many fixable issues that are allowed to fester.  That’s what 30+ years of working in corporate America will do for you.  Of course I worry about being to self-centered and whiny.  And that you won’t care.

And for those of you that don’t know, R+L=J.  It is known.  It always has been.   Three words: Tower of Joy.

I’ve read a few things lately that you should might enjoy.  I loved the latest James SA Corey Expanse entry Nemesis Games.  It is getting mixed reviews from my friends, but I’m firmly on board and can’t wait for the show on Syfy.  It looks fantastic.

Tex Thompson’s second book Medicine for the Dead builds on her debut, One Night in Sixes and shows vividly what a fantastic writer she is.  Seriously, in 10 years you’ll wonder how you missed this.  She’s going to be huge.   Trust me.

Did you like Flowers in the AtticJR Johansson’s Cut Me Free builds off a similar premise.  It is defiantly YA, but sometimes I act as if I’m 14, so it makes sense.  I really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to reading more of her stuff.  Especially those that are painted in horror tones.

I’ve never given Leigh Bardugo column space here.  Her Grisha Trilogy is fantastic.  Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising are all great reads.  Her next novel, Six of Crows, is set in the same universe with new characters.  It is scheduled to come out later this year and I’m excited for it.

In the kitchen this year I’ve mastered hummus.  Who’d have thought?  But homemade is so much better than store bought, especially when you can spice it to your tastes.  More lemon? Yes.  More harissa? Yes.  More fresh onion, garlic and herbs? Yes.  Hummus it’s not just for hippies anymore.  No need to wear the tie dye today.  Tomorrow you can.

I’ve also kicked up the frequency on my bacon jam. Bourbon Maple Bacon Jam.  It goes well on crackers, bread, grilled cheese sandwiches AND on your burger.  I made a huge batch and my guests inhaled it.  Guess I’ll need to make more soon.

The view from my building

And I love working in SF.

Fear of Change (or You’ve Gotten Your Civil Rights All Over My Bigotry)

You can tell the presidential election is right around the corner.  And by that I mean 16 months away.  Already we are inundated with candidates, especially from the right, that seem intent on grabbing headlines and mind space.  What I’ve noticed, not that it is new, is the hate and fear mongering that is going on.  It seems to have ratcheted up significantly over the last few years.

Perhaps we should blame Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.  After all, they masterminded W’s presidency and campaigns and solidified the country behind him.  This was done by fueling the fear that Iraq was ready to bomb the US and was funding/hiding/helping terrorists.  Turns out that none that was true.  But being scared, we overlooked the “mistakes in intelligence” (or lies as they might be called – Colin Powell might have quit because of them, as you may recall).  And then fear became a heavy political tool.

So what do we have today?  Fear that our religious freedoms are being taken away.  Where?  I don’t see it.  Marriage for all?  Ok, don’t perform weddings in your church for a same sex couple.  Do you really believe a gay couple, who KNOW you hate their lifestyle and biology, want to force you to do their wedding?  I don’t think so either.  Let’s be totally honest, your religious bigotry is fine in your home and probably in your church or shed or garage or wherever.  But let’s be frank:

Marriage is a legal contract accorded with rights under the constitution and laws of this nation.

Stop fighting it.  If you really believe you must get divorced so that you can protest what the 9 smartest legal minds in country decided, perhaps it is more curious why you haven’t joined a cult.  David Koresh anyone?  The Moonies?  The Manson Family?  Maybe Heaven’s Gate was more your speed; feel free to restart that one.

And let’s not throw down “the Bible”.  Men wrote it.  It’s been edited and modified many more times over the last 1500 years  than you are probably willing to admit  Let’s stop looking at this novel as sacrosanct.  You want to follow it? Great.  But recall it also has several men with multiple wives.  It contradicts itself.  It’s a book.  The only thing it doesn’t have a T. Rex and Woolly Mammoths.  Ever wonder why?  Me too.

That all being said, I believe in your right to believe what you want.  And other than a piece here now and again, I won’t disparage you in public.  After all, over 70% of the US practices some form of Christianity and only 2% of are Jews.  You know us, the cheap ass money lenders leading the illuminati, right?

But you don’t have a problem with other religions do you?  You afford them the same respect as you would like?  You know, that vocal minority waging “the war on Christmas”.  That’s code for “They are attacking Christianity”.   One of the most ridiculous causes I’ve ever heard.  The overwhelming majority sets the rules.  And in case you forgot, there are no famous, renowned or even discussed Jewish Founding Fathers in US lore.  And there is no attack on Christianity.  But there is a lack of patience for intolerance and institutionalized ignorance.  The world is changing.  Civilization is, in a sense, growing up.

That’s why Fox will bring up “THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS!” every year.  It resonates.  It helps fuel the fear that “their” religion is under attack.  Clearly, Fox spokestool Bill O’Reilly is onto something.  After all, this religious attack is the worst we’ve seen since the holocaust.  No?  I must have been watching the wrong “news” station.  My bad.

What you fear in the night
comes to call in the day anyway
(Duritz, Bryson 1994)

My friend and author Laura Antoniou put it well, “… if you think someone’s religious beliefs trump my civil rights, then you are cordially invited to fuck off.”  I couldn’t agree more.  It is about civil rights.  Not only are we finally righting the wrongs of the South and their war on civil rights for Blacks (150 years in the making mind you) we are also giving everyone civil rights regardless of sexual orientation.  The amount of progress and growth in the last few weeks has been immense.  Or has it?

My favorite whipping boy, the Genius Ted Cruz, thinks that extending those civil rights will hurt the Christian Churches he loves so much.  The Evil Obama IRS is targeting their tax exempt status.  That’s right.  Genius Ted believes that organizations that deny the civil rights of others are to be glorified and guaranteed their tax exempt status.  He is frightened of potential changes brought about by the evil Obama IRS.

In fact, so much so he is also scared for the Jewish Churches.  Yo! Genius!  Jews don’t go to church.  We don’t have churches.  We go to Synagogues and Temples.  Or we go to Shul (an acceptable secondary answer).  I was appalled at his lack of grace and class.  Of course he was talking to Glenn Beck, so my expectations were already quite low.

Let’s ignore the ridiculously large amount of insensitivity toward the Jewish people.  Let’s focus on the fear mongering.  I know I have been concerned over the Catholic Church’s tax exempt status for years.  How else could they afford to pay hush money and settlements to the victims of pedophile priests?  I’m not saying all priests are bad.  Most aren’t and I’m a HUGE fan of Pope Francis.  But since the number of pedophile priests is more than 1, (and honestly it is WAY more than 1) it is too many.

And other religions have their issues as well.  So is creating a worry about tax exempt status important?  Why yes it is.  It allows people to focus on things other than the fact that many organized religions are more concerned with denying others their civil rights and freedoms than they are anything else.  This distracts the conversation.  It’s the political equivalent of yelling “Squirrel!”  It rallies the religious base to ignore what’s really important and move to build a protective wall around their (religious) treasure.  And nothing generates more votes than fear and hate.

For the record, there has not been any targeting of churches’ tax exempt status for this reason yet.  But when the issue was raised in the Supreme Court discussion, it was noted that the continued denial of civil rights could lead to a review of tax exempt status.  That makes sense to me.  If corporations or people deny anyone their civil rights, there is an action taken against them.  Are we to believe that religious entities are above the law?

Yes Virginia, there is freedom of religion in this country, but there is not freedom to break the law.  If your new religion requires human sacrifice and cannibalism should we permit it? (I’m sorry if that hit too close to your beliefs, Scientology.)  Of course not.  The law wasn’t enacted to circumvent religion.  It was enacted to guarantee that all MEN and WOMEN are created equal and allowed the same rights.  Period.  We should not celebrate anyone or anything that believes otherwise.  Next you will tell me Boko Haram kidnapping and killing girls because they dared be educated is allowable.  Stop using religion to shield your small mindedness.  Embrace the golden rule – treat everyone well.  Don’t make exceptions when you don’t or won’t understand others.

In the Dark Ages and other less advanced times, homosexuality and science (!) were considered Satan’s work.  We know that’s not true now.  You can ignore science.  You can dislike the practice of homosexuality.  But we acknowledge the truth of science and we know homosexuality is not a choice.  We are smarter, more educated and more open to the truth of things than we were.  Let’s stop the fear mongering.  Let’s stop the hate speech.  I think it is time for understanding and acceptance.

And you kill what you fear
And you fear what you don’t understand
(Collins, Banks 1980)

Hey Ted!  Boy Genius!  Do you think you could lay off the fear mongering and hate speech? Do you think could work on understanding?  You did go to college, you do have an education.  Keep in mind I will be proposing a Wonderlic Test for politicians.  And why yes, I do think you would score below Vince Young, another famous Texan.  Maybe you could aspire to more?  I don’t think so either.

Let’s Not Stand by Idly and Allow This to Continue

As a child, my father forbid me to watch Hogan’s Heroes.  I didn’t get it then, but I do now as an adult.  The Nazis were not bumbling clowns.  The horror was real.  The show, in a very subtle way encouraged the belief that the Holocaust wasn’t so bad, perhaps it didn’t happen.  Is that what we want remember?

Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, they say. They are right.  Growing up Jewish in the 60s and 70s, the Holocaust was a key event to learn about – to make sure it never happens again. One key piece by Pastor Martin Niemöller was often referenced

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I’m not black. I’m not in the least bit implying that blacks are being rounded up and murdered.  But then, is that really too far from the church burning we are seeing (or in many cases NOT seeing) in the south?  Have we forgotten the violence of the 60s?  Did we really notice or did we turn aside and pretend not to see?  It is easier to believe that lynching no longer occur.  But isn’t that what effectively happened in a South Carolina church recently?

It is time to speak up.  To be heard.  To say “No! This is not OK.”  More than once I counselled to my son’s friend that the Confederate Flag (I’m sorry – Battle Flag) is symbol of racism and degradation.  I stand by that.  I’ll repeat it as often as necessary.  Bill O’Reilly says (probably for ratings) that there is no systemic racism in the US.  He won’t stand up and speak to our racial problems.  He encourages them.

Today I watched a few good ‘ol Northern boys get upset on Facebook that TV Land pulled Dukes of Hazzard reruns.  (I believe I mentioned that should happen a few posts back.)  They didn’t, or wouldn’t, understand the difference between history and perpetuating systemic racism with subtle and tacit approval.  I’m not saying that the civil war didn’t happen.  I’m just saying that perpetuating the pride in treason and slavery is not acceptable in a civilized society.

Still don’t understand? Well, let me help you.  There are always multiple sides to a story.  (You did see Rashomon, right?)  One side is racist and the other is education.

Here are two well written pieces you might peruse.

The Confederate Flag:  Giving Blacks the Finger (2013)

Why the Confederate Battle Flag is Even More Racist Than You Think (2015)

Educate yourself.  Racism requires our approval.  I’m removing mine.  When I see people whining about how PC and silly the uproar over the flag is, I’ll correct them.  It is time to stop allowing people to not see the damage they are encouraging and approving.  I’m speaking out whenever I see this.   I’ll lose friends.  Real change takes work.  I’m in.  Are you?  Let’s all speak out and make a real difference.  We can be so much greater than we are.

Ted Cruz Reconsidered: How Stupid Does He Think I am?

Ted Cruz recently referred to one day last week as,”… some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history.” I started down a path to find several sets of 24 hours that were almost as dark and bleak.  It was very difficult. Any day on the trail of tears.  The Alamo (ok maybe it wasn’t OUR country yet.) The assassination of President Lincoln.  Pearl Harbor. Black Friday.  The assassination of President Kennedy.  Kent State. Sandy Hook.  Super Storm Sandy. The 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. Any devastating tornado in the Midwest.  What Fox did to Firefly.  The Immaculate Reception. (Yes Virginia, Lee was a Raider’s fan in his Youth.) The Giants choking in the 2002 World Series.   Clearly all of those pale compared to the havoc wreaked by the affirmation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka ObamaCare) and the validation of marriage between any 2 people across the entire US.

As I started down this path, I reread an article, which I’m sure you will find distasteful.  Ted Cruz has some wonderful opinions and I really believe we need to discuss them.  I understand why some people find Cruz delightful and erudite.  He’s well-spoken and Christian.  Both pluses in this wonderful country of ours.  Of course, being one of those “well educated Liberals” that I’m sure he despises (or at best tolerates), I find much of what comes out his mouth pure nonsense.  Let’s review some of the quotes in the aforementioned article.

And from the top:

“This week in response to both of these decisions, I have called for another constitutional amendment — this one that would make members of the Supreme Court subject to periodic judicial retention elections,” said Cruz.

Well golly gee Ted! What a grand idea.  I know the constitution you were so found of had appointees to the Supreme Court given lifetime appointments.  I think that might have had to do something with being able to be fair and balanced and follow their minds, not the whims of voters.  The intent was for them NOT to need, like you, to cow tow to a base to be re-elected.  Is there anything else in the constitution you don’t like?  Why is the Constitution only acceptable when you get your way?

“The court’s views are radically out of step with public opinion,” said Cruz. “The Supreme Court follows the opinions of Manhattan and Washington D.C., but it doesn’t follow the opinions of America.”

Really?  I’m in California and I like many of the court rulings. Even when I disagree, I agree with the fact that they are ruling and it’s the law.  Oh wait, Manhattan is code for liberal.  Yes, I am that.  But do you really believe that taking away the health insurance from 6 million people based on a typo is a good idea?  Do you honestly believe denying people equal protection under the law makes sense based on you (and let’s be honest, your religious beliefs) inability to understand that some people are different?  Who are you to say that two people can’t be in love and share a life because they don’t fit your stereotype of “normal?”  Why is it when the Supreme Court finds the way conservatives want, “it’s the LAW!” but if they rule in a more liberal way conservatives scream “break up the court!”, “Obama is blackmailing Roberts” or other subversive verbiage?

Courts in over 70% of the states found marriage to be civil right (no need to label it).  Is your assertion that the remaining 30% are the only ones that know what is true and legal and we should ignore the other 70%?  Which side of this argument are you on?  Clearly not both.  Why are you set on denying a significant portion of our country their civil rights?  I understand it makes you uncomfortable.  I really get that.  But, do you tell your kids, “when something makes you comfortable, fight, ridicule and hate till it’s changed?”  Nope as adults we deal with uncomfortable situations all the time.  We deal with it.  Grow the fuck up. Please.

The court is not supposed to follow the lead of the country.  It’s the entire point of making them independent.  Next you’ll want to 86 the Electoral College. A key foundation of the constitution is that some people know more.  If a majority of your constitutions want you to vote one way, and a big business donor/lobbyist needs you to vote the other way, I’m sure you follow the money.  Do you take a vote of your state and ALWAYS follow their wishes?  No SIR, you do not.

Perhaps you believe the only good ideas come from you and are based on hate and intolerance.  It appears that way to this humble author.  Perhaps you’d be happier in 14th Century Italy.  The church ruled everything and the decided who could and couldn’t be married.  And taxed their property.  And were the real power behind the rulers. Do you secretly wish your name was Medici?

I think you should put forth a proposal that we eliminate the separation of church and state and allow some Evangelical Minister to make the rules and laws.  I get the sense that is what you really want. Doesn’t it ever bother you how many of them are TV, taking money from the elderly and simple minded so they can live lavishly?  Oh wait, that would be you, wouldn’t it?    If you want silk suits and diamonds a la Oral Roberts, or sexually adventurous secretaries to be more like Jim Bakker, I say you earn them yourself on your simple Senator’s salary of nearly $200k (plus perks from your PAC and SuperPAC).

And then there is beauty of logic

“It’s very easy for Republican politicians to stand up and say they oppose Barack Obama. That’s not hard to do,” he continued. “I think the question Republican primary voters should ask is, ‘When have you stood up against the Washington cartel? When have you stood up against leaders in our own party?'”

Really Rafael? (I think you make a better Theodore or Beaver, but what do I know?)  The Washington Cartel?  Aren’t you part of it?  I get the views on taxes and smaller government, but you’ll have to go a long way to show me that you are not part of the establishment.  Are you now “going rogue” like Sarah “the Alaskan Brain Surgeon” Palin?  Are you forming your own party because the concept of Ketchup as a vegetable doesn’t go far enough?  Are you standing up to say that those that don’t follow your religion should only get 3/5ths of a vote?

What lame ass things are you planning on doing?  Shutting down the government didn’t work. Oh wait, after you did that, you said you didn’t.  Did you (fact) or didn’t you (lie)?  You do have the innate ability to be confusing. That’s political GOLD Beav!   When you were a sad little boy, did you take your ball and go home because the other kids thought you looked funny?  I’m guessing you threw a lot of tantrums.

If the few quotes from this recent interview doesn’t turn your tummy, here is another article detailing some of Cruz’s most ridiculous quotes. Of course that was a few months ago, most of those are now superseded.  You should read those and educate yourself on the Senator who wants to be the most powerful man in the world.  Free speech does not mean you can say anything you want and not be held accountable for saying it.  I’m sure when you go to bed at night you often think, “Did I really say that?  Will people think it is inane?”  Yes, you did and yes, we do.  There are a few clichés in this world.  One is that the most of the people who seek public office are power hungry and totally devoid of the skills needed to hold that office.  Describes you pretty well, don’t you think Ted?

The more I read and the more I learn, the less I like what you stand for.  I’m just one man and this is just my opinion.  I think that’s why my name is on the byline.  I think it is great you are comfortable with your religion.  I think it is wonderful that the citizens of Texas seem to believe in what you stand for.  But to this simple Jew, I see you pandering to the religious right.  It appears that you are following the golden rule to an extreme.  Well, if the golden rule is “treat the people who believe and act like you as you want to be treated; fuck the others and stick them in a deep, dark hole.”  I’m not Christian, but I don’t’ think that’s the golden rule.  I don’t’ study scripture but didn’t Jesus preach tolerance?  What changed?

Let me give you a few more dark blots on our country’s history:

Jim Bakker. Oral Roberts.  Jimmy Swaggart. Bob Larson. Ted Haggard.

See a pattern?  I’m guessing the people they lead astray and effectively stole from are the people you are reaching out to.  Are you just another Charlatan?  Seems like a very valid question to me.

Maybe I’m wrong.  But I think if you ask nicely, Donald Trump will slide over and make room in his clown car for you.  Right, you already yelled shotgun! taking your rightful, appropriate seat.

Politics, Lies and Hate Oh My! Trump that!

A common meme on the Internet this week is that the Confederate Flag has lost its fight with Skittles.  Cute, but in a sense it diminishes the two major sea changes we’ve just seen.  As a nation, we’ve recognized that the Confederate Battle Flag is a demeaning reminder of slavery and treason (Yes Virginia, secession was treason. I’m glad we can cut the “Northern Aggression” bullshit).  Voices have been heard and it has come down.  If you want to fly it, great, it is your right.  But let’s be honest — most people will see your flag in the same vein that they view Swastika tattoos.  It is not good.

And the Supreme Court verified a few key things this past week, all “Jiggery-Pokery” aside.  The affordable care act was not struck down for the umpteenth time.  Turns out that intent is key.  A misused word should not remove the health care of millions of Americans.  I know it does not affect you, but it affects many.  Get over it.  It is the law and it makes sense.

Speaking of making sense, marriage makes sense, if you want to be married.  There is no gay marriage, there is just marriage.  And while my religious friends may be having a heart attack that their religions are being forced to perform weddings for people they find unfit, they have totally missed the boat as usual.  Marriage started as a religious act so that the Catholic Church could access and control wealth and property.  End of Story.  Today, marriage is as much a legal necessity as anything else.  If you are not married, benefits can’t be had.  Want to visit your lover in the hospital?  It’s a crapshoot.  Want to inherit?  That will better be iron clad.  And those of you that are very religious, calling same sex relationships every nasty name in the book?  They don’t want you to marry them.  Please take your fear mongering to the bunker under your house.  That’s where it belongs.

I was struck this past week by the extreme amount of hate speech I saw this week.  A few key item included:

  • OBAMA Comes of the Closet!
  • Obama is Blackmail Judge Roberts!
  • Obama has corrupted the government – all 3 branches are now legislative!
  • Obama Wants to Take Your Guns Away!
  • Churches are now required to perform wedding ceremonies for same sex couples!
  • Obama is a Dictator with more Executive Orders Than any Other President!
  • Mexico Sends Rapists to the US! (Trump says what everyone is thinking)
  • Our Leaders are Stupid! (Thank you again Donald Trump)

I don’t know about you, but I felt like I was reading The Weekly World News at the check stand.  All that was missing is Michelle Obama is Bigfoot’s Love Slave!  Was there ever any better entertainment than the WWN?

Freedom of speech and civil liberties are cornerstones of our country, I’d never deign to suggest otherwise.  But freedom of speech does not allow one to yell FIRE! In a theater or remove the responsibility for not engaging in slander or libel.  You might not be arrested for your words, but they do have consequences.  You might lose your job. You might lose your friends.  There could be other issues.  Freedom of speech is not a silver bullet.  And yes the Holocaust was real, not matter what the deniers say.

That brings us to my friend Donald Trump.  I’m not sure if I’m more appalled at his bombast, his gall or his belief that people will buy into what he says.  He tells us in his presidential announcement that Mexico sends the US its drug dealers and rapists. And then he’s surprised that the largest Latino network wants to cancel its contract with him.  Good for them.  His threats of lawsuits shouldn’t matter.  His behavior crosses well over the line of decency and there must be consequences.  OJ went free.  I’m pretty sure that Univision, may have to go to court, but they’ll win.  Happily.  The good will they will receive from their audience will far out way the threatened $15 million law suit Trump threatens.

Of course I have another idea.  If I ran Univision, I would show Trumps beauty contests.  Of course I would also send interns to film it.  I’d hire catty mean girls (14-16 years old, of course) to announce it.  I would also run it at 3am, with commercials for the Hot Belt (!) running every 5 minutes to add to the drama.  Perhaps allowing viewers to live tweet pictures of Trump with donkeys and tequila to show on the bottom crawl.  I would accentuate the side show it is.   I think creatively fulfilling this contract might be a better statement than the current pullout.  The opportunity for satire is here, by the burro full.

But back to my main point.  Why do we hate?  Why do we tell ourselves that it is ok to twist the truth into pretzels and then get offended when rational minds question and debate the illogic that is so pervasive today?  I’m not trying to be politically correct.  I am far from PC.  I believe giving every kid who participates a trophy has its roots in a good idea, but the results suck.  I’m tired of hearing “but I tried” as an excuse for failure.  Sometimes it is very clear when people don’t try.  Let’s not be PC.  But can we be responsible? Politically Responsible.  I think the current environment allows too many people to believe they don’t need to be responsible. There are no consequences to their words and attitude.

Today the world is both larger and smaller.  The internet is helping to create a new type of isolationism and it is harmful.   Take a good hard look at what you say, what you promote, what you inspire.  Is it good?  Do you still believe there is a black conspiracy to take down police departments everywhere?    Do you still believe, what you are saying is right and justified?  Perhaps you should stop lying to yourself.

I think it is time to rethink our behavior and attitudes.  It is past time.  I believe we need to differentiate between the political and religious hate mongering that is taking place and freedom of speech.  Take Donald Trump’s latest vomit of hate.  How can we in good conscious not label him as racist? Not hold him accountable for his unsubtle call for others be racist?  Maybe it’s a publicity stunt?  I can’t imagine anyone would vote for him for president.    Honestly, I can’t believe anyone does business with him and I hope every Latin owned or themed business chooses not to do business with him, his businesses and his family.  I bet Ivanka loves burritos.  No Burrito For YOU!

This is the land of opportunity, where all men are created equal.  Where we take in immigrants that others reject (you know The New Colossus), “yearning to be free.”  Let’s be free.  But let’s be responsible.  I don’t recall anyone saying that George W. Bush made a deal with devil to gain the White House.  Nor did I ever hear anyone say Dick Cheney is evil – wait strike that, it is hard to argue that one.  If we are to fulfill our potential and truly be a great nation, a great melting pot of various ethnicities, beliefs and skills, we need to differentiate between what we believe, what’s a lie and what’s inflammatory.  I believe we have too long allowed hate to permeate our way of life and that both taints our achievements and impedes our ability to succeed.  If we are to improve and reach new heights, I believe this concept must be considered.

Allowing this behavior and these lies in the name of free speech are hurtful.  It’s a very nebulous line sometime.  For instance, if Bill O’Reilly believes something it must be true.  He was adamant there is not systemic racism in the US.  It depends what your definition of systemic is.  After all, if Fox, the arbiter of news laden with fair and balanced facts, says there is no racism there must not be any.  It is Fox News, not Fox Opinions, right?  Of course perhaps this is their way of hiding the racial divide that many are trying to breach and close.  Or its ratings.  And yes, there is still systemic racism.  I know it can be hard to see with your head in the sand, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Perhaps the noted diplomat and renowned healer of our times, Donald Trump can help us fix these issues.  You are right, I don’t think so either.  But what the fuck is his endgame?  I he really that egotistical that he believes he can win?  Even Marco Rubio’s kids don’t think so.


All three branches of government have a hand in determining, making and validating laws.  It is that whole checks and balances thing.  Civics people, High School Civics.

Everyone wants to take your guns away.  This is not the 18th century.  We don’t need guns in every home.  There are exponentially more murders and crimes with citizen owned guns than there are justifiable shootings.  This isn’t the Wild West, no matter what Texans think.  The NRA and its lobby have way too much power.  But everyone else want’s your guns.  Seriously.  Of course the NRA can have too much power here, but does that mean that every other country has it wrong?  Fucking Europeans and their socialistic gun laws.  No wonder every American hates to vacation in London, Paris, Germany.  Not enough guns and shootings. Wait.  L

Obama not only has made fewer executive orders than almost any president of the 35 years, he has the fewest per year of all.  Bush 41 shouldn’t be ignored because he only got 4 years, not 8.  And let’s be honest, Obama didn’t make torture (I’m sorry – enhanced interrogation techniques) legal.  He didn’t stop medical research to appease the religious right.  (By the way, I fully support avoiding certain activities that are contrary to your religious belief.  But since it doesn’t offend mine, please don’t tell me how to live or act.  Impeding medical research on YOUR religious belief is wrong.  You don’t like abortion? Great, don’t get one. I respect that.  But don’t tell someone she can’t because YOU don’t believe in it.  That’s not too neighborly; it is preachy.  I won’t knock on your door to tell you are wrong.  Don’t impact how I can live or act.  It is my right.  Just as your religion is yours.  I may not agree, but I respect it.  Please respect my beliefs and the beliefs of others.)  Of course Obama did sign an order so that we can prepare for climate change.  How does that effect your ability to say “It’s all LIES!” and impact your life?  That’s right it fucking doesn’t.  Ignore climate change.  Ignore what you want.  But don’t get in my way of making this world better.  I’ll let you stay and share.  Remember when you thought lead in the gasoline was a good idea.  I thought not.

A Flag Over South Carolina: Your Pride, My Outrage

I sit here, feeling doubt creep in.  Who am I to write this?  I am no one.  I’ve not been elected, pushed forward to lead or showered in celebrity.  I might be smarter than the average bear; then again I might not be.  Who am I? I am you.  Not all of you, because if I was, this would be unnecessary.  Yesterday, last year, last century this was necessary. And we did nothing. Today it is necessary to act.  Change is never easy.  And bluntly, it is rarely welcomed.

In the employment sphere, I tend to be tasked with driving change.  Processes, systems and paradigms – the wheels progress rolls upon – have been my tools for years.  People resist it.  Corporations sometimes fight it.  If you look, it won’t be hard to find the company that squashes new ideas that work, because it doesn’t fit it the current ideology.  You think business is about making money? Not really, business is generally about people holding on to what they have, working hard to keep things the same and not rock the boat.  The boat rockers are often tossed to the sea.  It doesn’t matter if they are showing others a better, more productive, more profitable way to do things; there is always someone who wants to resist change and maintain what is the status quo and THEIR happiness.

For the last 25 years, I’ve held on to one key phrase. One tenet that makes sense to me.  No, not “perfection is the enemy of the good.”  That one is the paean to mediocrity, permission to accept less than the possibility of success.  I am referring to the always ignored, “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

You can eat ice cream for every meal.

You can ignore the drought in California and save your lawn.

You can drive drunk, ignoring the consequences.

You can enable increased corporate profits (and your bonus) by outsourcing middle class jobs overseas.

You can ignore the issues and not vote.

And you can continue to believe that racism doesn’t exist because it is not your problem.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

The mind space for racial change has come to a head over the last few years.  I believe we – not just you and me, but everyone – need to do what we can for a positive change.  I don’t to come to this lightly and I am not a sudden Johnny-come-lately bandwagon jumper.

In 1980 I made a conscious decision to move away from a group of friends.  It was made easy because I was away in college and they were still in my hometown.  On my first or second trip home I was appalled at the reactions of my friends when they found I was dating a black girl.  It was uncomfortable and I pulled away from them over the next several months.  Did they over react? Did I?  Being Jewish, I was the minority in my High School. In the 70’s the area of San Jose I grew up in was as white bread as could be.  At least it was to my mind.  Did I say this is “racist!”?  No, but it was not in line with where my mind was and I shifted friendships.

In 1992 we saw several white cops beat Rodney King.  Was this racist? No, it was another criminal being beaten by the police.  He probably deserved it.  If he didn’t, it was probably an isolated incident.  I’m sure many of you thought similarly.

I assumed Oscar Grant in some way put himself in a position to be the victim of a sad accident.

Then George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin.  A horrid mistake.  It couldn’t have been on purpose.

Then came Ferguson.  And Cleveland.  And NYC.  And Baltimore.  And the cop sitting at the teenage girl at the pool party in Texas, ignoring the Caucasian teenagers.   Not accidents, but a pattern

And now Charleston.  He even announced how he wanted to kill African Americans.  He was proud.  How many times must we see the same thing to realize that we have a racial problem in our country? Even if Fox News tells us that shooting a man of the cloth is an attack on Christianity, we know it was not.  It was completely racially motivate.  And the gunman told us so.

We could ignore the evidence and keep our heads in the sand.

Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

My friend Shay writes a fantastic blog Black Girl in Maine.  I don’t always read it, but I am always glad I did. It makes me think.  Her plight is not my fight.  Right? But it is.  She has written on white privilege several times, which used to confuse me.  There is no such thing, right? I don’t’ feel privileged.

I know that last month I was outraged (or worse) because I was given a warning from the water company due to a complaint from a neighbor.  What I had I done?  Nothing.  On deep reflection I realized that MAYBE my sprinklers were on 5 minutes past the 9 am end point for allowable watering.  I can’t describe the rage I felt and I screamed to the water company’s voice mail.

That’s the worst thing that has happened to me in several years.  Let’s compare that to how African Americans fear the police.  We are taught the police are our friends and there to help.  Really?  If you are black, you can get stopped, arrested and hassled because of the color of your skin.  I cried the other day when I read one woman’s twitter feed.  Her 13 year old son was riding his bike in HIS NEIGHBORHOOD when a woman who didn’t recognize him (because he was black) called the police.  The police came and hassled him.  Shook him up.  More than rattled his family.  He was afraid to leave the house. My empathy overflowed.  Sadly, I know this is not uncommon.

That’s white privilege.  I don’t’ have that worry about being stopped and arrested just due to the color of my skin.  People don’t look awkwardly at me when I go into a nice store.  Neither my sons nor I nor most people I know or grew up with worry about this.  You follow the law, be a good person and life is good.  Sadly, this is not the case for everyone.  Wasn’t this country founded on equality?  Words and actions often differ.

I’m not naive.  I know that most stereotypes are rooted in some reality.  I know people that focus on the looting that took place in Ferguson and ignore the underlying issues.  But there is an underlying issue.  There are racial issues that divide this country.  Hundreds of years of abuse (lynching, Jim Crow Laws, segregation, discrimination, elimination of opportunities for starters) have reinforced and increased the racial divide.  While many people speak out and protest others look and destroy. It doesn’t matter what ethnicity you are.

In the 60s the country protested the war.  Protesters didn’t differentiate between soldiers and the leaders that put the US in war we shouldn’t have been in.  Later we protested the Iraq war.  We learned and didn’t blame the soldiers.  We blamed the leaders that lied to us to get the approval to invade a country we should never have been in.  We grew.

It is time to grow again.  This is the United States of America.  A country founded on the premise that “all men are created equal.”  This is not the United States of America, and a few ex Confederate States that believe

“… its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.”

I know in my soul that most of us do not believe these words.  Yes, some people still do.  It is their right to be ignorant and hold on to outdated racial beliefs.  I believe we must stop allowing them to believe it is OK to believe this.  Free speech is a right in this country.  I will defend it.  I believe Nazis can assemble and march.  I defend that right.  I believe racists can believe what they want

But I also fucking believe that it is NOT OK.  .  I believe it is my right to protest and decry all they stand for.  We, as a majority, need to stop cow towing to the few.  Symbols of oppression and discrimination are not acceptable.  They may not be illegal, but they should be not encouraged to be used with impunity.  Of course the Federal Government can’t ban the Confederate flag (or battle flag as the hair splitters want to call it).  But we can.  We can and must take action.

The federal government can and should ban any Confederate items from being flown at national, state, city and municipal locations.  Would we allow any city to fly the Nazi flag with pride?  No, we wouldn’t.  We have power and I don’t mean violence.  Encouraging racism and hate must stop. Now is the time to act, for our outrage to be heard.

Protest. Be vocal.  Post in social media.  It is not OK to be racist, discriminating or hateful.  Stop pretending the symbols of slavery are a source of pride.  You want pride, do something prideful and throw down these symbols. Enable change, and release our shameful past.  We shouldn’t forget, we don’t forget.  But I’m not celebrating the holocaust.  Are you?  Do something worthy of pride.  The fact that you live in the land that fought to keep slaves is should never be a source of pride.  Perhaps consider a move to Qatar.  They encourage modern slavery.

If a store sells Confederate merchandise, I won’t shop there, neither should you.  If a state like South Carolina believes the Confederate Flag is a source of pride, we must remind them constantly that their pride is in discrimination and racial hatred.  That is wrong. There should be protests, Op-Eds and outrage daily, without violence.  We speak with our will, our voice and our spending power.

If I owned a business, I wouldn’t do business with people in Confederate insignia. I won’t spend money where I believe it benefits racists or those that enable racism.  And I’ll protest any network that shows Dukes of Hazzard reruns.  General Lee might have been a great leader, but I will not glorify his war to ensure blacks remained slaves.

Change is never easy. I’m going to offend many people with this.  Good.  Get angry, but fucking think for yourself.  If you really believe there is nothing wrong with flying the Confederate Flag, rethink your values. I’ll defend the right for free speech, but that doesn’t mean I won’t use my right to let you know that I believe, that WE believe you are wrong.  I’m not going to any place that flies swastikas. Why do we allow states to fly the reminders of slavery above African Americans in the South?  It is insulting and increases our national shame. We insult a good portion of country daily with this behavior.  It is unconscionable and we MUST not allow it to continue.

It is 2015.  We shouldn’t hate people for the color of their skin or continue to turn blind eyes to the subtle forms of oppression.  The time to act is now.  I will.  Will you?

This time, just because we can we should. We must.


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