Sunday, December 29, 2013

I'll always remember Charlie Moore

This morning on CBS Sunday Morning, one of the last vestiges of "good television," the usual end-of-the-year feature to honor those who have died in 2013 was shown.

I generally get a little choked up during this kind of presentation. To lose anyone who has touched us in some way, even if it is just through an infinitesimal connection, I always feel a sense of loss.

As I watched, I had a moment, where I almost expected to hear the name Charles Moore, a man whose loss touched me much more deeply.

Of course, Charlie wasn't a national figure, and he wasn't well-known by a huge television audience, but perhaps he should have been. The world would be a better place if he had been known beyond his rural Grant Park home. It would have been better if folks had listened to him and the common sense he uttered.

I know those of us that knew him were better because we knew him. His sense of humor reminded me much of my own dear father. He liked to make people laugh. I don't know anyone that wasn't fond of him. Most who knew him adored him.

I met Charlie and his late wife Arlene on a fall night in a parking lot outside the Beecher Community Hall, a small town gathering place that served as a venue for weddings, birthday parties, and as a polling place. We, along with several other families  lingered there, talking about what we witnessed at an FAA meeting about the State of Illinois' plan to build a new mega-airport less than a few miles from where we stood. We were drawn together by our opposition to the huge 23,000-acre airport that simply made no sense. That was in 1987, the day RURAL, (Residents United to Retain Agricultural Land) was born. RURAL still endures, in the organization STAND, (Shut This Airport Nightmare Down). In nearly 30 years, the state has still been unable to sell their idea, despite millions of dollars and a huge succession of politicians who have tried and failed.

Charlie and Arlene knew instinctively that building such a huge airport would change the face of their rural homestead and all they held dear. For a long time, they were fierce competitors. Together we attended meetings, held picket signs, and spoke out against the airport. Arlene was more vocal, but she spoke for Charlie too. They were always together, usually hand-in-hand or walking with her arm tucked into his. I'll never forget one day when at a public meeting, she sat in the front row.

She raised her fist as she scolded, “This is about dollar signs in the eyes instead of dirt in the hands!”

The first time I visited them at their farm, I was greeted by a couple of guard geese. When we finally went inside, they apologized for the disorganization. They were remodeling their kitchen. I didn't notice. There was a warmth about the place. Along the far wall was the kitchen table. It was completely clear except for a bouquet of wild flowers. Behind it were huge plant-filled windows that overlooked a blue sky that seemed to go on forever. The foreground was golden with rows of stubble from last year's corn crop. At that instant, I knew what they were fighting for.

I retired and moved away several years later, but the images of the people I cared so much about were never far from my mind despite no longer being in contact. When I learned that Arlene had died, it was like a jolt. Since I was still writing for the local newspaper, I wrote about her. I was surprised when Charlie called to thank me for writing it. We had a lovely talk. It was just like old times. That was the last time I spoke to him, though he had been in my thoughts.

About a year ago, their daughter Colleen and I became friends on Facebook. I was so happy to hear from her, anxious to hear about her dad. Then, almost a year later, on Dec. 10 of this year, I was stung by the news of his death.

It is hard saying goodbye to Charlie. Both he and Arlene tried to never say goodbye, because it was so final. Instead, they insisted on saying, "see ya." That was always our parting phrase. In March 2006 I said goodbye to Arlene. It is with such sad regret that I must also say goodbye to Charlie.

Obituary: Charles Moore

Charles Moore

Charles W. Moore Sr., 84, of Grant Park, passed away Tuesday (Dec. 10, 2013) at Riverside Medical Center in Kankakee.
Visitation will be from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday at Hub Funeral Chapel in Grant Park and again from 9:30 a.m. Monday until the 10:30 a.m. funeral services at St. Peter's United Church of Christ in Grant Park. Burial will follow in Heusing Cemetery, Grant Park.

Memorials may be made to the family's wishes.

Charles, known to many as Charlie, was born April 17, 1929, in Afton, Iowa, the son of Mable and Joseph Moore.

He was a Korean War veteran, having served his country proudly in the U.S. Navy from 1951-1954 as a gunner and ship baker. Returning from the Korean War, Charlie moved to Illinois, where he met his wife, Arlene "Maggie." They were married in Blue Island, where they started their family. Shortly after their marriage, Charlie began his career with Nicor Gas and became a systems operating supervisor, the position from which he retired in 1989 after 34 loyal years. Maggie and Charlie developed lifelong friendships through Nicor Gas. Maggie and Luke (the nickname Maggie gave her sweetheart) took their family to live the country life in 1970.

Charlie remained in the home Maggie and he created until his passing. Veggie and flower gardening were a passion for Charlie, as well as reading about his fellow shipmates in the military literature he received. Charlie loved the country living, the peaceful evenings with the coyotes "singing," and had a big heart for animals. He also enjoyed taking pictures of nature and attending the activities and events of his grandchildren, which kept him busy. Charlie was the beloved videographer at St. Peter's United Church of Christ, where he and his family attended for many years. After the love of Charlie's life and partner of 52 years, Maggie, passed away, he struggled to see joy in life and lost the twinkle in his eyes.

Charlie received a second chance at joy with Judy Lange. They brought laughter and companionship into each other's lives.
He was a past member of the Grant Park School Board, lifelong member of the Korean War Veteran's Association, active member of the American Legion and the U.S. LST Association. Charlie enjoyed playing on the dartball team at St. Peter's and serving on the memorial and pastoral relations committees. He was a proud participant in the annual Memorial Day Ceremony at the Community Park in Grant Park.

Surviving are two sons and daughters-in-law, Chuck and Elissa Moore, of Mazon, and Steve and Judy Moore, of Joliet; one daughter, Colleen Martin, of Grant Park; grandchildren, Jessie and Gina Martin, Adam Zickuhr, Andrew (Shelbi), Matt, Nick, Kayla, Anna, Kendra, Angela and Taylor Moore; special friend, Judy Lange; sister-in-law, Marcella Moore; many nieces, nephews, cousins and dear friends.

In addition to his wife and parents, Charlie was preceded in death by an infant daughter, Marie; a sister, Bessie June; and a brother, Joseph.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Kudos to CBS Sunday Morning

On Air Force One, 22 November 1963, Lyndon B. ...
On Air Force One, 22 November 1963, Lyndon B. Johnson takes the oath of office as President of the United States following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy earlier in the day. Press Secretary Malcolm Kilduff at bottom left holds a dictaphone to record the event. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
CBS News may have bungled the Benghazi story, but as usual, CBS Sunday Morning did the network proud. It always does. This show is television at its finest.

The topic this week, Nov. 17, 2013, was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States.

There is something about this news show. I can't help but note what a superb job they do in their news magazine-style coverage.

It is not specifically entertaining as is most of television news these days; instead its real news value is gripping and engaging. After all, there is so much more to the Kennedy story than its sad ending.

It would have been easy to simply cover the horrific, sensational events in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. That day is one in which thousands of words have been written. It is a story in and of itself. But CBS News did so much more. They always do.

In their coverage, they painted a picture of the time. They covered Kennedy's Presidency, including the Cuban missile crisis and the cold war with Soviet Union, and the enormous appeal and presence of Jacqueline Kennedy. They even touched on the huge, though slightly lessening number of Americans that don't believe the official Warren Commission Report identifying Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone gunmen that killed the President. They spoke to the niece of Jack Ruby, the man who assassinated Oswald while America watched. They even talked about the late Vaughn Meader, the hilarious comedian who impersonated Kennedy, whose rapid rise to comedic fame died the day Kennedy was killed.

I was just a child, and our family was not very political, but I remember Meader's comedy album. In those days making fun of a President was done with good humor. Even Kennedy joked about it. What a contrast with today when making fun of the President is done in the name of hatred and malice.

The day Kennedy died was the day America lost its innocence. There remains a glimmer of it now and then, but so much more than a President died that day in Dallas. One of the country's greatest losses has been trust.

But every Sunday morning, I am reminded of the sustaining quality of the kind of television I grew up with. CBS Sunday Morning does a good job. This is a good journalism that I think is still worthy of my trust, with much credit to Charles Osgood who is a quality, old-school journalist. So in these dark days of television, may this shining light continue.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Farewell iGoogle, my longtime friend

my sunflower pic
One of my favorite flowers from my own backyard
I signed onto my computer this morning just as I always do. After Windows sang its Good Morning song to me, in the form of its single-note repertoire, I watched as all my applications loaded. I thought to myself, as is customary, that I really must streamline my start menu. Finally, my day was about to begin. I clicked on my browser icon—Chrome--in the task bar. I saw the familiar Google search box. BAAAAAAHHH! I pressed the home button on my toolbar. There it was again. My old friend was gone!

Then I remembered what day it was—November 1, 2013.

Today is the day I’ve dreaded—the day my iGoogle was to be killed and buried, in one fell swoop. It is never to be seen again. Gone are my three separate pages filled with links I loved. Granted, I didn’t use all of them all of the time, but I liked having them around. Like comfortable shoes, these were some of the bookmarks I’ve had since I first created my iGoogle page in 2005. I’ve lost an old friend.

I fondly recall there was no better day than one when Google would announce it had added new features to upgrade iGoogle. I loved the themes, the many ways to customize my start page. It always made me feel like I had brand new software.

You know that feeling. It is almost euphoria. The very first thing I do when I get new software is change the colors. iGoogle was highly customizable, and I liked that a lot. My desktop often displays one of my favorite photographs. I used to coordinate my iGoogle to match. I like matching color schemes in all things, but especially on my computer where I devote so much of my day. That’s just me!

For the last several years I have had a sunflower photo on my computer, one that I took in my own back yard. There is a little ant on one of the petals. The yellow petals stood out from the background that was a blur of green tones. The only iGoogle theme I could find that matched was one that displayed greenery with water droplets. The combination was beautiful. The most important part of picking a theme was not so much the picture, but the overall color of the page. In my case, it had to be yellow. The yellow and green tones matched my sunflower well.

The only thing that ever bothered me about iGoogle was that I couldn’t change the color of the links. They were always that ugly bright blue color. The ideal would have been to make them dark green, but I could never figure out how.

Months ago, because Google gave us iGoogle aficionados fair warning of the death of our favorite start page, I began to look around for a replacement. I settled on Startific, which came highly recommended. It is a different concept entirely, but is also highly customizable. I created my page to include the same sunflower picture that is on my desktop. It is really quite lovely.

This morning I changed the link on my home button to the Startific page. Such finality!

If I have to be completely honest, it is really a more attractive page than iGoogle was, and is even more customizable. I haven’t really played with all the icons and widgets, although I had already put the ones I use everyday onto the page. I have a Facebook button, a Twitter button and buttons for all of my blogs and web page.

There is one button though, that was the most important to me. It was the one I used on iGoogle the most. It was the first one I put onto my new page. It is the Intellicast weather page. By inserting the correct URL, one click and it opens right to a radar loop in my home state. As far as I’m concerned, Intellicast has the best weather info. I’ve used it for years.

Startific still has a few kinks that need to be ironed out. The worst is the Amazon ad that shows whenever the browser opens. It takes up a large chunk of real estate on the right side of the application, but it can be clicked off. I keep telling myself, change is good. It will keep me young. The older I get though, the harder I have to work to convince myself.
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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Isn't it time to get real about racism

Is it possible that people are simply too easily offended these days? Haven’t we taken politically correct to a dangerous extreme?

When we start crying racism over Julianne Hough wearing dark makeup on her face as part of a Halloween costume portraying a character from a television show, haven’t we crossed a line? I refer to the outrage over Hough trying to make her Halloween costume authentic. How is her applying bronze-toned makeup any different the apparently acceptible practice of sunbathing or using a tanning bed to darken the skin?

I’ve heard black people who have complained say that why she did it didn’t matter. The fact that she did it makes her guilty of racism. I disagree.

Motive is key. There is no evidence to point out that Hough’s intention was to demean or demoralize. In fact, her intention was to flatter. She meant no harm. And, she is an actress. Portraying a character is what she does. She shouldn’t be chastized for doing what she so well. Personally, I’ve never seen the show “Orange is the New Black” nor do I know anything about the character Crazy Eyes, that Hough portrayed.

In total contrast, there was another Halloween costume was highlighted this week. It is one that actually deserved outrage and charges of racism. It was not only not politically incorrect, but it glorified hatred. The costume portrayed Trayvon Martin wearing a hoodie with a simulated gunshot wound in the chest, accompanied by another guy that was supposed to be George Zimmerman, identified by a shirt that bore the words “Neighborhood Watch.”

There is absolutely no kind of excuse for such a hideous display.

There is no comparison between the two, in my view. I think there is a real danger in labeling both of these as “racism.”

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but isn’t our goal as a society to obliterate racism?

Interestingly, these two costumes evokes different reactions from white people and people of color. Based on the comments posted on social media, anything to do with black face, which is what has been charged in Hough’s costume, is very offensive to black people. White people don’t necessarily see it that way. Yet, I the other example, the Trayvon Martin costume which portrayed a murdered child evoked anger by both black and white audiences.

Interestingly the outrage was equal for both both blacks and whites. Yet, Hough’s costume with her darkened face elicited comments generally along racial lines.

Perhaps this illustrates a path to real correctness. Perhaps we all need to be more considerate of other people’s feelings. Perhaps we need to understand and recognize that actions can cause hurt feelings. Perhaps we also need to recognize that sometimes, even though we take something to heart, that it may not be intentional. Therefore, we need to all become more tolerant of one another. Isn’t it possible that tolerance is the prescription for stamping out racism and curing hateful behavior?

Racism is an ugly part of the history of this nation. It is outrageous to think that at one time, it was accepted for one person to be able to buy and sell or own another human being. The outrage isn’t unique to black people. From the first time I heard about slavery I found it to be appalling. While I have not experienced slavery, that doesn’t mean I don’t understand it; it doesn’t mean I’m not empathetic to those who experienced it. I know what it is like to be bullied, teased, verbally abused, made to feel worthless, but I refuse to let that define me.

American history, which is fraught with ugly, hideous events, have served to teach us and to make us better in the long run. As much as we want to denounce the negative parts of our past, we can’t. They happened. We can only turn them on their heads and make them a positive.

If we want to learn how to deal with racism, we are fortunate to have one of the best examples among us. All his life, U.S. Congressman John Lewis, (D-GA) has already demonstrated over and over again how to turn racism and hatred on its head.

John Lewis spent his life as a Civil Rights advocate. He was victimized by some of the most bloody, ugly, hateful moments of this country’s history, yet he was also there to see the changes.

He was inspired by the hopeful words of the Rev. Martin Luther King and moved by actions of Rosa Parks, a black seamstress who refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white man. Lewis was a young man when he volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides. It was 1961, when he and a group of black activists rode interstate buses all through the south in an effort to desegregate public transportation. The south was as divided then as it had been 100 years before, during the Civil War.

English: This is a picture of SNCC leader John...
English: This is a picture of SNCC leader John Lewis and Jim Zwerg after being beaten during the Freedom Rides (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
During one of the rides, Lewis was beaten by a hateful man dressed in the white cape of the Ku Klux Klan—Elwin Wilson. Wilson had been involved in cross burnings and violence against black men, including Lewis. Yet in 2009, Wilson, moved by the election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first black President, wanted to make things right after carrying the guilt of his past for so many years. He wanted to apologize publicly to the man he had beaten bloody nearly 40 years earlier. 

What was the most remarkable about the meeting of the two men was not just the way Wilson turned around the racism that had embittered him years before, but the grace at which Lewis forgave him.

John Lewis is an example for all Americans. His turn-the-other-cheek attitude is, in my view, the right way to deal with racism. If we all follow his example, maybe one day we can retire the word and the hateful concept behind it.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Even from jail Jesse Jackson, Jr. still feeds at the public trough

Former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. is now serving time in prison. The $750,000 judgement against him remains unpaid, but he will still be paid public money.

Jackson, who pleaded guilty in federal court in the District of Columbia, begun serving 30 months in prison Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit false statements, mail fraud and wire fraud earlier this year. He was convicted last February for pilfering cash from his own campaign fund to support an overly lavish lifestyle, Jackson, 48, had a penchant for expensive vacations, night clubs, furs, a Rolex watch, and pricey collectibles once owned by the late Michael Jackson and other celebrities. He also spent campaign cash to remodel his house.

Despite Jackson’s fall from grace, the ex-congressman remains eligible for $8,700 per month in disability due to his mental state. He has been diagnosed with a bi-polar disorder as well as suffering from depression. 

Last year, coincidentally, around the time his political star was losing its luster, Jackson disappeared from public view. When he resurfaced again in August, he announced that he had been at Mayo Clinic where he had undergone treatment for a bi-polar disorder coupled with severe depression.

As a former congressman, Jackson will also remain eligible for a partial federal pension of $45,000 annually.

Some $200,000 of the judgment against Jackson has been paid from a liquidated securities account. The remaining $550,000 must be paid before next June because according to court documents, Jackson has been “unsuccessful in his attempts to satisfy his forfeiture money judgment.”

The U.S. Marshals Service auction, of some of Jackson’s seized assets was canceled two months ago, when the authenticity of some of the items was questioned.

The remaining funds will come from the sale or refinance of the Jacksons Washington, D.C. town home. The property was on the market for a short time last year. It was listed at $2.5 million.

Jackson’s wife Sandi, a former Chicago alderman who ran her husband’s campaign office, pleaded guilty to tax fraud. She received a 12-month sentence in prison as well, but the two will not serve at the same time.

A judge granted the Jacksons’ request to allow them to serve consecutive terms in prison. Sandi Jackson will remain free until after her husband’s release from prison, so she can take care of the couple’s two children: Jessica, 13 and Jesse III, 9.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Breaking news:

From Rayburn House to the Big House 
Jesse Jackson, Jr. Now Inmate #32451-016

A smug Jesse Jackson, Jr. (Photo credit: studio08denver)
Ex-Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. is finally in prison—at Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina—where he will serve a 2 ½-year sentence for fraud.  Read more:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Monarchs may need help; I want to do my part

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)
Monarch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When I was a little girl I lived in the city--in a south side Chicago neighborhood. During the summers, my brother and I played in the vacant lots where I can remember seeing an abundance of  those familiar orange, black, and white of the monarch butterflies as they flitted from one flower to another. Everywhere you turned your eyes, the view was filled with their delicate wisps of color.

There were always dozens of monarchs, fritillaries, swallowtails, and skippers along with bumble bees, dragonflies, bluebirds, to name a few. 

But times have changed. Even though I live in the woods now, I rarely see monarchs. In fact I haven’t seen one in two years.

I’m not alone.

The scientific community is concerned with the number of monarchs, the only North American butterfly known to migrate. Monarchs are rapidly dwindling in numbers. According to the NY Times, the number of monarchs over the past 15 years has lost as many as 81 percent between 1999 and 2010. Recovery has been slow. The spring of 2013 reported Mexican forests contained the fewest number of monarchs in 20 years. Some are concerned for the future of the species.

Several factors have contributed to the decline of these amazing insects, on both ends of their migratory path which ranges which takes these cold-blooded insects from northern Minnesota and Canada to Mexico.

In Mexico, the monarch’s winter habitat is being decimated by Illegal logging and climate change. “Earth Sky,” a daily radio series and blog about science and nature, reports that nine hibernating colonies occupied three acres during the 2012-2013 winter. But that isn’t the worst of it.

The life cycle of the monarch is reliant on milkweed, the plant on which the adult female lays her eggs. Milkweed is the only plant a monarch caterpillar can eat.

Milkweeds have long been considered a pest by both farmers and homeowners alike, resulting in record numbers of them being killed with herbicides. Glyphosate, the chemical contained in Roundup made by Monsanto, has effectively sterilized farm fields. Roundup Ready corn, soybeans, and other genetically-engineered crops have been modified to resist glyphosate. The result is that only the crop survives while everything else, including the only plant monarchs rely upon for survival, does not.

According to the NY Times, “there is a direct parallel between the demise of milkweeds--killed by the herbicide glyphosate, which is sprayed by the millions of gallons on fields where genetically modified crops are growing--and the steady drop in monarch numbers.

Some people interested in preserving the future of these amazing insects are trying to reverse this trend.

Monarch Watch, an educational outreach program based at the University of Kansas, engages citizen scientists in large-scale research projects. Since 1992, Monarch Watch involves 2,000 schools, nature centers, and other organizations across the United States and Canada. Monarchs are tagged and counted each fall.

“To assure a future for monarchs, conservation and restoration of milkweeds needs to become a national priority,” the group says on its website. They encourage the creation of Monarch Way stations in backyards all across the country.
English: Migrating Monarch butterflies (Danaus...
Migrating Monarch butterflies  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They hope to preserve the species and continue the spectacular monarch migration phenomenon.

I have ordered my own milkweed seeds. I really am anxious to do my part to help. I have a few milkweeds on our property, but obviously not nearly enough to attract monarchs. I hope to change that in the coming years.
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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sens. Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell deal could avert crisis

Official portrait of United States Senator (R-KY)
Official portrait of United States Senator (R-KY) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Harry Reid (D-NV), United States Sena...
English: Harry Reid (D-NV), United States Senator from Nevada and Majority Leader of the United States Senate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Doomsday predictions; the possibility of the United States failing to pay its bills for the first time in history, may be averted. At least that is the hope of Senate Leaders Harry Reid, (D-Nevada) and Mitch McConnell, (R-Kentucky) who have been working on a bi-partisan compromise they hope to sell to their own members as well as the  deeply divided U.S. House.

According to the New York Times and several other sources this morning, the two worked into the night Monday to craft a plan that would pass a resolution to finance the government through Jan. 15, putting the U.S. government back in business and raise the debt limit through February.

The deal would also establish a budget committee by Dec. 13 to replace the automatic budget cuts that were put in place by the sequester. Sequestration--unappealing across the board cuts—were the result last March from failed budget talks between Republicans and Democrats.

The upcoming Senate deal, as reported includes no real changes to the Affordable Care Act, though there may be some minor ones.

House Speaker John Boehner, (R-Ohio) was alerted by McConnell. Boehner failed to react one way or the other.

His position is at least consistent, since Boehner has failed to react to much of anything the Senate has done to keep the government open. Boehner’s lack of reaction to the Senate’s Continuing Resolution (CR) is what sparked the government to furlough federal workers and close its doors to offices, landmarks, and parks all across the country—now in Day 15 of a government shutdown.

It is believed by both Republicans and Democrats that the entire shutdown could have been avoided, had Boehner simply allowed a clean CR to be brought to the House floor for a vote. Instead, the Republicans in the House tied numerous measures to the resolution that had no chance of bi-partisan support.

With more than 40 attempts by House Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, the House attempted unsuccessfully to pass a CR with strings attached. At first, it was tied to gutting the Affordable Care Act through several varied measures.

Their efforts failed.

On Oct. 1, the Affordable Care Act went on line and millions of people attempted to sign up for health insurance, some for the first time in their lives.

With the law fully implemented, there was no longer any point to tying the law to the CR so Republicans tied other provisions to it with efforts to reopen government programs in a piecemeal fashion. It was no coincidence that amendments House Republicans offered were similar to news events and photo ops, such as the World War II Veterans Memorial or the National Institute of Health where ailing children were prevented from receiving cancer treatments. That photo-op included several House members dressed in medical garb.

Democrats stood firm, refusing to give in to House demands to have it their way. Boehner and other House Republicans continued their attempt to send the message that Democrats were to blame for the government shutting down because Democrats refused to compromise.

Boehner never bothered to mention the months since March that he refused to appoint a conference committee to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the funding bill. He also failed to mention that the Senate’s CR set the spending limit at $967 billion, a figure derived by House members. Senate Democrats wanted the limit to be $1.058 trillion, but they compromised.

What is different this time? Why would Boehner take the Senate deal now when he wouldn’t do it for the last 15 days?

Boehner has said in the past that he has no intention of letting the government default on its debt. The stakes are high. House Republicans have gotten messages from their pals with the purse strings.

Wall Street has issued warnings that a government default would have dire consequences. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew testified before the Senate, painting a grim picture with world consequences of a default. Koch Industries, ironically, has written a letter to senators urging action to avert a debt ceiling crisis.

Republicans approval rating has plummeted, with Americans largely blaming them for the government shutdown.

Mitch McConnell, who is facing an election in 2014 knows that. While he has largely been silent during this debacle, he has stepped into the fray to work with Reid on a deal. If it is successful, his political star could rise once again. If not, well, it could be meteoric calamity.

Boehner is at a crossroads.

With his speakership in jeopardy, he is going to have to make a decision. He has been trying to appease the tea party caucus, with its anti-government rhetoric. On the other side are more reasonable Republicans, some of which have seemingly broken ranks with the speaker. They have been prevented from acting on their own due to an amendment to the House Standing Rules by Pete Sessions, (R-Texas) Republican-heavy rules committee that prevents anyone but the speaker or his designee from introducing the CR to the floor.

We are close to the eleventh hour when deals are made. The stakes are high, not just for the American people, but for the individual members of congress. Next year, the House members will face re-election. Their reputations are at stake.

It may not be pretty, but they probably will get it done.

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Just do it Boehner

John Boehner - Caricature
John Boehner - Caricature (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)
It is so galling to watch members of the U.S. Congress behave like bullies on a playground.

This is day 3 of the government's failure to operate, thanks to House Speaker John Boehner. If there is one person that could end this right now, and could have prevented it from ever happening in the first place, it is John Boehner.

What is his problem? Granted, he fears losing his position as House Speaker if he doesn't make everyone happy. Is he fool enough to think anyone could do that? Politics 101 teaches that it is impossible to make all the people happy all the time. Is the title worth it? Is the perceived power that goes with the title worth losing face, losing sleep, and losing the respect of the majority of Americans? Is it worth future history books writing that you shrugged off your obligation?

Boehner should never have been elected to a leadership position because he is clearly not a leader. He isn't even a good follower.

The responsible thing for John Boehner to do is bring the Senate's continuing resolution to fund the government in the short term, to the House floor to put the government back in business before further demands from Senate Democrats complicate his already untenable position. Clearly, this stopgap measure which largely contains Republican fingerprints, is just a stopgap measure, but would at least allow the government to operate. This is Boehner's only option. He should take it before his boots sink further into the muck. Democrats are in a position to make further demands. They have nothing to lose.

On Oct. 17, the House and Senate will be required to raise the debt ceiling. If they fail to act, I'm sure the President will evoke executive privilege to pay the country's bills. The way I see it, Boehner has no option to get what he wants, if he even knows what he wants. So, he ought to do the right thing. Bring the Senate resolution to the floor and let the chips fall where they may.

Boehner may be irresponsible but some of his cohorts are despicable

It was painful to watch photo-ops yesterday at the World War II war memorial and to see footage of congressmen harassing park rangers that are just trying to do their jobs.

After a group of World War II veterans traveled to Washington, D.C. only to find the memorial to their distinguished service closed, they brazenly removed the gates and visited the memorial anyway, as reported by ABC News.

Good for them, by the way. I find it totally offensive that the public can be kept out of places that are in essence ours. We pay for them; we should be able to use them, but that is another story for another time.

GOP Congresswoman and tea party darling Michelle Bachmann, greeted veterans on that first day, just so she could get her face on the news. Bachmann is gleeful about the shutdown of the government, saying it is what she wanted. So she thought she would take advantage of it for a little photo-op. You can never have your face on camera too often, eh Michelle?

While Michelle was posing in front of cameras, in another area near the memorial, U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, a GOP congressman from Texas was making his own statement. It didn't go over very well with those in attendance.

Yesterday Reince Priebus, the GOP National Committee Chairman made a grand gesture in front of the news media, of funding guards for the veterans memorial so it could remain open. Oh please! It was open anyway because the veterans took matters into their own hands to open it; and well they should because it is theirs!

This kind of stunt is so obvious to anyone with a critical eye. This behavior is shallow, self-serving, and pretty pathetic. Perhaps someone should tell Priebus and his cohorts that it was his own party that is responsible for the shut down of the veteran's memorial and the rest of the government offices, parks, and programs.

Once again, c'mon John Boehner, do the right thing. Bring a clean continuing resolution to re-open the government to the floor and let the entire House vote on it. Act like the Speaker of the House and not just the Speaker of the Republicans.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Government shutdown prohibits picnic at the lake

Lake Norfork
A calm and serene Lake Norfork
I'm really upset that I'm unable to go to the lake today for a picnic. There will be no yummy sandwiches, no homemade potato salad, and no tasty iced tea to wash it down. There will be no watching the Great Blue Herons along the shore or diving just below the surface of the water; no ducks swimming lazily in formation. I won't be able to watch the parade of squirrels chasing each other as they fight for their stash of acorns high in the oak trees whose leaves are starting to fall. I won't be able to watch boats zip across the water.

Truthfully, I had no plans to visit the lake today. I only want to because I know I can't. I am barred from the park by the lake because it is run by the Army Corps of Engineers and they were told not to report to work today. I'm no different than anyone else that is unable to enjoy my day. All federal parks, museums, the national zoo, and every other government facility is closed up tight; it is closed because the United States government is shut down due to inaction by the U.S. Congress to fund our government. 

If I was John Boehner, Speaker of the House, I would pack my picnic basket, get in my car, drive to the park, and ram it right through the gate. 

That is in essence what he did when he refused to call a clean CR (continuing resolution) to the floor that had already been passed by the U.S. Senate. It would have passed by members on both sides of the aisle. Instead, he and his merry madmen took the country hostage over his insistence that there be changes in the Affordable Care Act. There were three attempts to pass the CR with amendments related to gutting the ACA or better known as Obamacare. One of the provisions in the amendments was to allow employers to opt out of providing women's reproductive rights. Do you want your employer to decide what is best for you or your wife? 

Boehner also tried additional amendments, all related to Obamacare. Senate leaders were clear that any CR related to Obamacare would not pass. They stood their ground.

Instead of doing the right thing, Boehner refused to allow the clean CR to come to the floor, something he could have done yesterday and could still do today. 

The parade of Republicans speaking for the various amendments, each one designed to harm President Obama's signature accomplishment. One of the amendments would delay the implementation of Obamacare for a year. It was scheduled to begin today. Indeed, masses of Americans signed up for health care through the ACA today. The government shutdown had no effect because the funding was already ensured.

Another House Republican amendment, which came out of the 'rules' committee, made up of 9 Republicans and 4 Democrats, would exempt congressional members' own employees from eligibility of the Affordable Care Act. Their final attempt, just minutes before the government deadline prior to the shutdown, was to establish a conference committee to iron out the differences between the two houses. That is customary when both houses pass two differing versions of the same bill. That was something members of the senate tried to do since March when both houses passed spending bills. It didn't happen because Boehner refused to appoint members to the conference committee. Instead, Boehner's House was busy trying to repeal Obamacare -- 42 times. 

The part that annoyed me the most, during my six-hour marathon session with C-Span and C-Span 2, as I watched all the action take place live, was how Republicans tried to act as innocents as they blamed everyone but themselves. 

Make no mistake about this, Speaker John Boehner must take responsibility for shutting down the government. He and his tea party members took the country hostage, refusing to do the people's business. His actions were reprehensible! 

My desire to enjoy a day at the lake will just have to wait until the government comes to its senses, if that ever happens. My disappointment pales in comparison to the millions of workers that were told not to come to work today, will not get paid, and who knows for how long? 

I certainly hope the American people remember this day on Nov. 14, 2014 when House members want you to trust them to do the public's business for another two years. 
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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Convicted Jesse Jackson, Jr. finally going to jail

English: Sandi Jackson and Jesse Jackson
Jesse Jackson and his wife Sandi
are both going to jail
Today, a judge sentenced ex-Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. to 30 months in prison for his misuse of campaign funds. His wife, a former Chicago alderman was also sentenced to 12 months, also for misuse of funds. The couple has been convicted of squandering $750,000.

While many saw Jackson as a rising political star, others of us have seen him doing far more than ripping off campaign funds. Yet, his other deeds have not even been broached in a courtroom, nor will they likely ever be.

Jackson's behavior is systemic. His biggest failing is that he would stop at nothing to make himself look good. It is a shame too, because he is bright, well-read, articulate, and could have become an influential congressman. He chose otherwise.

I once had respect for the Jackson family until I learned how they would use anyone or anything to advance themselves. I believe Jackson's father began his Civil Rights work for the right reason, but quickly learned to scam the system. Apparently, so did his children.

The deed that is particularly close to me began when Jesse Jackson, Jr. teamed up with an unlikely partner, the late Congressman Henry Hyde, (R-Wood Dale) to reignite the state's dead effort to build a new airport south of Chicago in the cornfields of eastern Will County. The South Suburban Airport (Peotone Airport) had been advanced by the State of Illinois for 45 years in its latest quest. In actuality a new airport was first proposed in the 1960's. It is amazing that the wrong-headed effort continues today, perpetuated by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.

Prior to Jackson's involvement, the airport was dead; it was killed in the early 1990's after Illinois Republicans' vigorous last-ditch effort failed to garner enough political support. In 1992 a bi-state panel voted against building an airport in a rural area. In particular, they opposed building a new airport near Peotone. The effort was revived by former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar, (R-IL) two years later, despite a growing lack of interest.

Then along came Jackson, a new up-and-coming black leader who was enthusiastic, well-spoken, and charismatic. His well-known last name didn't hurt at all. Jackson's enthusiasm brought new vitality to the effort. He didn't flinch as he used his own constituents' reputation as some of the poorest communities in Illinois, as he offered them false hope for economic vitality and the jobs they so desperately needed, even after the project was downsized from three times the size of O'Hare International to a mere one runway facility.

When Illinois elected former Secretary of State George Ryan as governor, now a convicted felon recently released from prison, Ryan urged IDOT to buy land in the vicinity of the airport, though not in the airport footprint. It began a groundswell of fear resulting in long time farmers and landowners selling their land to the state. They feared they had no other choice. The state bought up as much as it could.

Jackson was able to light a spark that finally caught fire when the unlikely team began to have an effect. He and Hyde drew upon their mutual dislike and distrust for Chicago's aviation prowess. Soon the effort to push an unnecessary airport was revived by Jackson and his unlikely friends.

Using some of the same histrionics that caused Jackson to spend campaign cash and become a convicted felon, Jackson convinced some of those poor communities to contribute to what had become his obsession--the Peotone Airport. Those poor communities ponied up dollars for billboards, marketing efforts, and whatever else that might convince Ryan's successor, then Gov. Rod Blagojevich, another Illinois governor whose above-the-law behavior landed him behind bars, to support the project. Much to Blagojevich's credit however, he didn't give in to Jackson who continued to promise jobs and economic development to the beleaguered communities in Chicago's southern suburbs.

Once Ryan was in jail, the Peotone Airport became a Democrat-led undertaking, with Jackson taking the lead. Even after Hyde died in 2007, Jackson persisted, by working with Hyde cronies in the western suburbs. They were united in their disdain for Chicago and its hold on O'Hare. The many efforts by O'Hare-area mayors over the years to wrest control of O'Hare failed. Chicago's opposition to another new airport 40 miles south of downtown was the Peotone Airport's biggest roadblock. Thus it was likely the biggest incentive for Jackson to make it happen.

Then, Jackson let his ego and lust for power guide his actions. There was nothing he couldn't accomplish, so he thought. Apparently that included his personal life. He set up his wife Sandi, the ex-Chicago alderman who was also sentenced today, in a well-funded campaign office. He continued fundraising.

Jackson apparently thought he could do better as a U.S. Senator. So when Illinois Sen. Barack Obama was elected President, Jackson tried to get Blagojevich to appoint him to Obama's vacant senate seat. Jackson allegedly tried to buy the position by offering Blagojevich favors and campaign cash. Apparently it was Jackson that went to the feds about Blagojevich's activities. But his own dealings, particularly in buying Obama's senate seat became fodder for investigation as well. He was named one of the most corrupt members in congress. He faced ethics violations. His house of cards began to tumble.

Yet none of that was covered in Jackson's recent conviction. When sentenced, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson indicated that Jackson, as a U.S. Congressman, should have been held to a higher standard. She said he violated the public trust.

Everything I have seen about Jackson, violated the public trust. From his teaming up with Hyde to participate in Illinois' pay-to-play system, to lying to his colleagues about the location of the proposed airport that was not even in his congressional district at the time, to completely misleading his own constituents for which he provided false hope that an airport miles and miles from their communities would be a benefit to them.

It is just too bad the charges against Jesse Jackson, Jr. couldn't be all inclusive of all of his misdeeds. Only then would justice really be served.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Food Network owes Paula Deen an apology

English: The logo of Food Network.
English: The logo of Food Network. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As a Food Network viewer for almost as many years as it has been on the air, I am appalled that it would fire Paula Deen over her so-called racist remarks. This is not the same Food Network that taught me how to slice onions and dice tomatoes with my butcher knife or demonstrate the ease of preparing fresh, whole food. I'm grateful to the early days of the Food Network that introduced me to cooks like Sara Moulton, Emeril Lagassee, Tyler Florence, Bobby Flay, and of course Paula Deen.

I was moved by Deen's story. She is beyond a doubt, a likable character who has always had an infectious charm about her. But beyond that, she epitomized the strong, successful women whose first priority was to raise her children and to make a living. Paula Deen had to have a little luck on her side too along with a savvy business sense, because she not only achieved her goals, but turned her ideas into a virtual empire. Now, it is coming crashing down for no good reason.                                                                                                       The Paula Deen story, that has unfolded on the pages of network news, in social media, and across the tabloids is not about the woman I have watched for years on television. The woman I've come to know is not at all hateful, yet she is accused of being a racist. The motive behind such an accusation would require hatred. Paula Deen just doesn't seem to fit the bill.
Now, I will admit; I don't personally know the woman. I simply know her image. I know the personality she projects. She could be one way on camera and another way in real life. But, I don't think that is the case. 

This isn't even a credible news story

What I have heard and read about this case which has focused on Paula Deen, is not a complete story and should have never gone beyond tabloid status. While on that subject, something should be done to regulate tabloids that print whatever they feel like, whether it is credible or not. It does a terrible disservice to the subjects of its rants and to the gullible reading public. What was even far worst was how mainstream media grabbed onto this story to further sensationalize a non-story story much the way it grabs all things these days. Mainstream media isn't much better than the tabloids. Sadly, our society is paying the price. 

As a reader, I'd like to know more about Lisa Jackson, the plaintiff in this case. What is her motive? Is it just money? Was she really wronged? I read some of her deposition. She might have a case, but I doubt it. This reads more like a story of two kids getting into some battle on the playground; one goes to tattle to the teacher; the other enlists mommy for help. There are real problems that must be solved in the courts. This kind of foolishness isn't one of them. It wastes time and tax dollars and is frivolous at best.

It appears to me that Jackson has little legal leg to stand on. And, she has hired a bully of a lawyer. Paula Deen Enterprises is a lucrative business and has plenty of money. The thing is, Paula Deen isn't even the principle in the complaint. This is about her brother, for whom she is very loyal. He owns a restaurant  which she financed. He owes her thousands of dollars. Lisa Jackson worked for him. 

If I had to categorize this case, I would say that Deen's brother drinks a little too much; when he does he has a big mouth. I don't believe him to be a criminal. If he has a problem, perhaps a few Alcoholics Anonymous meetings would be in order. Or, perhaps seeing how much this has harmed his big sister may be enough to shake him into sobriety.

Is racism defined by name-calling now?

Deen may be living the life of a sophisticate, but I doubt that is who she really is. She was likely intimidated by the legal process for which she found herself entangled. Knowing she must tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, that is probably why she admitted freely that she had used the term 'nigger' in the past. She is right in asking, who hasn't? Since when did speaking a mere word signify a criminal behavior? 

That is one more thing that this case should highlight. Using the word 'nigger' isn't nice. But in itself, it is not a crime. IT IS A WORD! That is all it is. What is most important in determining whether or not a crime was committed is the motive behind it. If it is used in a hate crime, that has a very different connotation. That is probably why RAP artists are not arrested every time they use the word 'nigger' in a song. 

Perhaps we can all take a lesson here. Name-calling is not high on the priority list of things wrong with the world. If you know who you are, why do you care what others think of you? Why worry about what someone calls you? Chances are they are the one with the problem; not you. In my day, we called that developing a thick skin. If you just worry about yourself; don't let yourself be affected by someone that wants to demean or discredit you. You must know better. Be confident in who you are. Chances are if someone wants to call you names, they are just trying to bring you down to their level. Just don't let them get away with it. Be better than that. We need to solve our petty problems among ourselves. Things like this do not belong in the courts.

Food Network, you have done yourself a disservice. At the very least, you owe Paula Deen an apology.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Jesse and Sandi Jackson blew it

English: Sandi Jackson and Jesse Jackson
Jesse and Sandi Jackson in happier times. The two now await sentencing when they pleaded guilty for misusing campaign funds. (Photo: Wikipedia)
Finally, it appears as though Jesse Jackson, Jr. will be headed to prison. Such a shame! This kid had it all; everything was in his favor. He was smart, capable, had a familial lineage to fall back on. He could really have done some good as a U.S. Congressman. But instead of working for his constituents, he used the office to feather his own nest. Like so many, he just got too big for his britches. It is that simple. He got lazy and started believing all the hype. He thought he was a celebrity. It all went to his head.

Amazingly, even though he is now a convicted felon, he is still trying to call the shots. First he wanted to keep his records sealed. The man suffers from the delusion that he is still a congressman, where anything goes and the public is merely in the way of doing business. A judge ruled against him.

Then he decided he wanted to serve his sentence before that of his wife Sandi, who was also convicted of improper campaign cash spending. Doesn't Jesse get it? He is a convicted felon. He doesn't get to call the shots. This is jail; not the country club, even though in his case, his incarceration will more closely resemble a country club than solitary confinement.

The thing that bothers me about this and all other cases like it, ahem, ex-Illinois Gov. George Ryan. The conviction is a mere sampling of the wrongdoing that has actually taken place. It never includes all the dastardly deeds committed. If it did, the investigation would take much longer, but the perpetrators would likely be locked up for good. Instead, we have finite sentences, probably resulting in early release for good behavior, yada, yada, yada.

In Jesse's case, his self-over-all-others lifestyle harmed people along the way, deprived them of their livelihoods, and in some cases, destroyed lives. Why is he not paying for that? Why is a little $750,000 in campaign cash more important than that?

Perhaps we should be grateful that he is no longer in congress; no longer making decisions to benefit himself; making decisions for which we all must pay. My only hope is that he spends lots of time thinking about what good he could have done. Perhaps a different man will emerge on the other side. At least that is my hope.
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Friday, June 7, 2013

Letter to the editor and response--Peotone Airport legislation

Letter to the Editor: by Herbert Brooks, Jr. Will County Board Speaker

Herbert Brooks, Jr., Will County
June 7, 2013

To the Editor:

At the end of the legislative session, Springfield lawmakers quickly and quietly passed Senate Bill 20, giving governance to the South Suburban Airport to the Illinois Department of Transportation.

This legislation runs contrary to the established positions of the Will County Board. Furthermore, the legislation was moved forward without the opportunity for a comprehensive review and discussion of its merits.

Nevertheless, I believe it is vitally important for Will County to remain fully engaged in the development process to ensure that it is transparent, responsible, and respectful of our county’s residents. If managed effectively, the airport can be an economic engine for Will County and the whole state of Illinois. However, if the process is mismanaged, those of us that call this county home will suffer the most. Therefore, the Board is moving forward with a full and thorough analysis of the bill and will schedule public meetings to reveal our findings and make recommendations. We are hopeful the Governor, IDOT, and our elected officials will listen and strongly consider our concerns.


Herbert Brooks, Jr.
Speaker of the Will County Board


I appreciate Herbert Brooks, Jr. taking the time to comment on SB20 with regard to the Peotone Airport.
I have never agreed with the Will County Board's position on the proposed Peotone Airport. Will County officials have, since the inception of the project in 1985, to play both sides against the middle, seeking whatever potential economic impact possible at the expense of so many voices of opposition. It isn't just the people of eastern Will County that oppose the airport. Surveys have indicated that a majority of residents of Will County oppose it. The airline industry opposes it. Only those that stand to benefit monetarily by it favor its development.
That said, I agree with the speaker's desire to ensure transparency, responsibility, and respect for the residents of Will County. However, I must caution him that such behavior has never been associated with this project. 
I applaud his call for a full analysis of the bill as well as public hearings, which voting members of the State of Illinois have foregone. I too hope state officials will listen to what Will County has to say.
It must be made clear that Brooks, Jr. has been a member of the county board only since 2008, so my comments are not directed at him. But prior to his time on the board, the Will County Board has done none of those things he suggested. In fact, the Will County Board has done just the opposite, with just a few board member exceptions. 
After devoting so many years to my own study of the proposed Peotone Airport, I wish the speaker good luck in trying to do the right thing. However, I urge caution, since IDOT has a very long history of not listening to anyone that disagrees with its views.
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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Illinois government rejoices over its 'duh' moment

News reports now indicate that a major hurdle has been cleared to make way for the Peotone Airport. The House and Senate have approved legislation, as part of a whole package of pork, to pave the way for a public/private partnership to build the once-named third airport at Peotone. IDOT (Illinois Dept. of Transportation) will be the governing body. IDOT will hire a developer to build the new airport some 40 miles south of Chicago. All that is needed is the signature from Gov. Pat Quinn. That is pretty much a given since he seems positively elated about it all. This is so much for fun for Quinn than paying the state's bills and honoring promises made to state workers. 

This is just another chess move by the state that can't even capture the queen, let alone checkmate the king. It really isn't much of a revelation. In fact it is little more than a "duh" moment. IDOT has been pushing, sometimes all by itself, the Peotone Airport idea since the latest round of talks first began, twenty-eight years ago. The notion of a third Chicago-area airport has been on the table far longer, since the late 1960's. IDOT has tried to get the airport to become a reality through every means possible, but always to no avail. The thing is, it is not a very smart idea, and does not have widespread support. Even the airlines are against it. 

So now, we are to believe giving IDOT control is clearing a major hurdle? 

No Airport at Peotone
Farmland speaks to the sentiment of eastern Will County
residents who for years have said NO AIRPORT!
While it is true, this is the first time legislation has actually been approved to build the project, it hasn't even been cleared for takeoff by the FAA, (Federal Aviation Administration). That approval is up to two years away, if it comes at all. 

IDOT has used all of its dirty tricks, including taking private property through eminent domain. A Will County Court claims there is nothing wrong with taking some of the best farmland in the state, decimating a once thriving farming community, and making big plans for an airport that has never been deemed doable or desirable. It would have been interesting to see an unbiased verdict in a courtroom not in Will County where deals have been made for years on behalf of this project and the political figures involved. 

This new round of legislation awaiting Quinn's ready hand, is making the taking even more of a nightmare for property and farm advocates. The legislation authorizes quick take--the state's buy now, pay later plan. 

There is no revelation here. Giving IDOT authority over airport governance is akin to hitting someone in the head with a two-by-four. They can only fight for so long. Do it long enough and they will eventually crumple into a pile of dead flesh and simply taken away. 

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Friday, May 31, 2013

Anonymous comments no more; Anonymous protester encouraged!

anonymous (Photo credit: the|G|™)
Anonymous comments have never held much weight with me. I have long believed that if you care enough to formulate an opinion, you should be proud enough of it to put your name to it.

Therefore, I am no longer allowing anonymous comments on my blogs. You don't want to identify who you are, you no longer exist in my world, no matter how much you compliment my superb writing skills and excellent points. Besides, I'd like to thank you if you really mean it.

Most times though, posts that sound too good to be true usually are. Flattery will not get your link out there, especially when it has to do with selling pharmaceuticals, enhancing your penis, or inviting views of your ample breasts. I'm pretty tired of all you people.

That said, I would be honored to receive a visit from Anonymous, the guy wearing the above mask, the internet version of Robin Hood. I like that guy! He can comment on my blog anytime. When it comes to protesting evil for the sake of good, I'm all in!

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Peace must be built on truth nurtured by reality

Boston Marathon Bombing Memorial
Boston Marathon Bombing Memorial (Photo credit: AnubisAbyss)
Once again, life in our seemingly peaceful nation has been shattered. This has to stop. Perhaps it would if we could just start being honest with ourselves. Perhaps we aren't living in a peaceful nation after all. Perhaps life in 2013 America simply isn't what we perceive it to be. Just like the alcoholic, we must first recognize that we have a problem before we can ever begin to solve it.

One thing is for sure--our problems will not be solved by censorship--not by the media and certainly not by our elected officials. The notion that a few have the authority to 'protect' the rest of us is just, plain wrong. We are all in this together. Give us the information and we will make our own sense of things. 

People should have choices. If some want to live in a bubble where life is beautiful all the time, so be it. They have that option to simply turn off their television sets, not read newspapers, and not contribute anything to the life we all share on this planet. Personally, I think that is irresponsible, but that's just me.

It has been nearly two full weeks since the Boston Marathon bombing and I am still trying to sort out how I feel about it. I know I want my psyche to forget the images I've seen. I don't want to revisit them  uninvited in my sleep or during quiet moments. I don't want to close my eyes and see a person grimacing in pain, dazed by the horror of seeing his own legs ripped apart from a bomb blast. I don't want to see a bloody sidewalk where lives were lost on what began as a pleasant spring day. I don't want to witness the face of an attractive young man only to learn that his is the face of a terrorist bent on killing innocent people. I don't want to hear the deafening explosion that changed lives forever or the cries of the wounded. I don't want to hear the hail of gunfire on a suburban street in a seemingly civilized country. But that was the reality of April 15, 2013 in Boston. 

What I want is for these kinds of things to never happen again; I want no one to ever have to suffer. Reality has been much too ugly of late, but it doesn't have to stay that way if we all work together to change it.

As much as I deplore the raw scenes I hate seeing, I know they were necessary to convey the story--a story that must be told. If we are ever going to change today's reality, we have to be inspired to change. There is no denying that we were inspired to catch and punish the perpetrators. Like darkness brings light; our pain must bring about our peace. 

News isn't always pretty, but it is reflective of life, which isn't always pretty either. So just what kind of responsibility does the news media have to present information to the public? That question has been made much more difficult with the advent of cell phone cameras and social media where everyone thinks they are a journalist. The phenomenon has even been given a name--citizen journalism. I'm here to tell you that everybody isn't a journalist. Everybody isn't a photographer. Most of the people driven to play Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen are more akin to the National Inquirer than the New York Times. Don't quit your day job folks--even good journalists are out of work these days.

How to handle graphic images are just one more topic for the staff in newsrooms across the media spectrum. Their decisions are compounded by knowing the images will be caught on somebody's cell phone and posted on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere. Raw footage is hard to compete with, so some professionals don't bother trying. 

Some get around it by completely doctoring images to make them appear less violent. Isn't that dishonest? In my view, that is a cowardly and untrustworthy manipulation. It shows a complete lack responsibility and shows no respect for its audience.   

Other more professional journalists might consider cropping such images, artfully, while not taking away from the story that needs to be told. I believe that is honest. Even knowing that images are available, if I ran a newsroom, I would never try to compete with on-the-scene photographs. If professional journalism is ever going to stand above the online picture-takers, there is going to have to be an adherence to trust, accuracy, and all the other tenets of journalism that have earned credibility. 

I think we need to have it both ways. I believe the truth can be conveyed without quite so much shock value, yet this incident took place in full view of thousands of people who were horrified by them. Telling a news story is to convey that horror to viewers and readers. Often times the words can be just as telling as the pictures, as was evident during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Dec. 14, 2012 when 20 first graders and six adults who worked at the school were assassinated by a crazed gunman. Pictures of the tiny bodies were not seen, but the horror was just as palpable. 

For me, the bottom line is that news must never be censored, even if photographs depicting the reality of a scene are considered offensive by some. 

The same is true for suggestive images or specific words. Network television is the worst. I am here to tell you there is no need to protect us from the things that we see and hear everyday. 

One thing that comes to my mind about censorship and the lengths the media will go, is the time delay on live television ever since Janet Jackson's 'wardrobe malfunction' during the half-time show at the Super Bowl a few years ago. The network went half crazy because Janet Jackson's boob was seen on television. Everybody has boobs. We've all seen them. What is the big deal? 

Then there are those seven dirty words the late, great George Carlin talked about. Have you heard what kids say on the playground lately? We now use the term 'f-bomb.' Oh please, can we grow up now? 

I'm not sure just what it says about a society that will accept seeing a man's extremities blown to bits, but Janet Jackson's boob better not be out there for public consumption. Except that it is! Just google it. We cannot say 'fuck' on television, but we can sing it in songs? 

Our society needs to grow up. If we cannot solve these little things, how are we supposed to be able to keep ourselves safe from people who want to do us harm? 

I think our first task is to recognize there is indeed a problem. Before we start worrying about other people, we need to look to ourselves. The very least we can do is attempt to be honest with ourselves. And by all means, let's keep it real.
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