Monday, December 22, 2014


            Isn't it amazing how succinctly some of us can sum up a worrisome problem?  A quick scan through the updates posted on Facebook (motto: "A banal time-suck you and your 'friends' can use to display your own level of insensitivity and ignorance daily!") reveals that one must either support officers of the law, or side with those who would ambush and murder them in their squad cars.  No gray area.  No nuance to the two options.  You're either with the cops, or you're against them.

            Those options were spelled out to us clearly even before the outrageous events in Ferguson, Missouri and in the chokehold case in New York led to protests in the streets of America.  In the case of Eric Garner, even the evidence provided by a video of the murder wasn't enough to persuade those who think the police can do no wrong.  The law and order crowd sees nothing wrong with the way that situation was handled, and thinks the grand jury acted properly in not returning an indictment for the officers involved.  And anyone who disagrees must therefore hate the police and be happy a lone, crazed lunatic has murdered two officers as they sat in their patrol car.  No middle ground.  

              Those of us who spoke up to demand more accountability by the people paid to serve and protect the public were ridiculed as having caused the looting and riots in Ferguson.  Now there are talking heads on conservative radio and television assigning blame to Al Sharpton and even the President for the murders of the two officers in New York.  It's all their fault, we're told, because they spoke up in defense of the nation's criminal element.

              What horseshit.

               Here's a concept a lot of people aren't familiar with:  it's possible to demand professionalism by our law enforcement personnel while still admiring and respecting the tough jobs they have to do on a daily basis.  A person can support the police and demand ethical conduct by them in the same breath.  Nothing anyone has said justifies the murder of police officers, and nothing anyone has said caused those murders.

                Supporting the police and demanding more accountability for their training and actions are not mutually exclusive concepts.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

NORMALIZING RELATIONS WITH CUBA? (that's the last straw in the mojito...)

          Lemme see if I've got this straight...  President Nixon secretly negotiated an end to America's ban on official relations with Communist China during the height of the Cold War, visited that country, and led a move to normalize relations for the purposes of trade and tourism.  No one forgot, forgave, or ignored China's abysmal human rights record.  Now China is one of America's largest trading partners in both imports and exports to our country.

          And tonight conservatives are outraged because Obama is making incremental moves to end five decades of a futile trade and tourism embargo against Cuba.  All over America, rightwing hardliners are poking buttons their Chinese-made iPhones to complain about Obama's actions.  

           About fifteen years ago I made my second trip to the island of Jamaica. While at a resort there I was offered a chance to buy a one day cruise package to visit Cuba. Knowing we had a trade and tourism embargo legally barring us from visiting that country, I asked how it was possible for Jamaican resorts to offer tourism packages to Americans for trips to Cuba.  They explained that if we paid a flat fee in advance to Jamaican tour guides, we would be allowed to bring back "gratuities" from Cuba to Jamaica, items I knew we were forbidden to purchase.

            "No problem, mon" was how they shrugged off my concerns.  Of course, "No problem, mon" was how Jamaicans shrug off ANYONE'S concerns, other than their own.  

            If you want to know why we still have this ridiculous embargo against Cuban trade and tourism in place, look no further than this family's influence on American policies concerning Cuba:


Monday, December 15, 2014

TRYING TO HIT THE CURVE BALL OF THE GODS (life can take some unexpected turns...)

           The lucky ones among us often find themselves at a place of relative comfort and ease in life, with few pressing concerns and even fewer unpleasant responsibilities.  It might be written off as a just reward for a life well spent; karma's way of letting what went around-come around.  
           I used to think if I lived without malice toward anyone who didn't desperately deserve it and didn't go out of my way to screw anyone over, that things would work out well in the end. However, we all know people who qualify for that calm, peaceful existence, but are tormented with undeserved disease, or financial ruin, or an endless stream of shitty luck.  Bad things often happen to good people, while undeserved blessings often fall into the laps of assholes... We never know how life is going to work out.

           My lovely (and dangerous) wife and I circled each other like satellites for almost nineteen years before making it official with a marriage license in 2008.  My youngest of two children from a previous marriage is 31 years old, and my wife's daughter is in her late 20's.  We've done the parenthood thing. We've raised our kids, seen them leave to start their own lives, and remodeled the empty nest to suit our current lifestyle.  

            And now, somehow, we find ourselves standing at the doorway of a completely unexpected change, and we're more than a little bit unsure of what the future holds.

            Three weeks ago, the biggest concern we had was making sure we could fit a vacation trip to a mountain chalet into our work schedules in the spring.  We weren't stressing about Christmas, because neither of us likes the elaborate holiday hassles so many folks put themselves through every year as they deal with kids, and functions, and relatives.  We weren't worried about the local school system's holiday schedule.  We had our cocktails in the evening, played our Scrabble wars to settle the King of the Yard challenges, and had red-hot monkey sex whenever the urge hit us.  We tuned in to get news updates from Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart.  In short, we were adults living an unencumbered life, posing as respectable neighbors.  Not too many concerns that couldn't be handled or ignored.

             And then someone died and left us a nine year-old to raise as our own.

             Suddenly we find ourselves clearing out closets to make space for a little person's belongings.  We're making school lunches in the morning, dealing with elementary school drop-off and pick-up rules, meeting with teachers and counselors, checking over and signing off on 4th grade math homework, reading through essays and book reports and themes.  We've got school clothes to launder and maintain.  We're juggling the logistics of getting a kid to and from dance and piano lessons every week.  Out of nowhere we find ourselves reading the warning labels on pediatric cough syrup bottles in the middle of the night, wondering if there are any allergies or medical issues we might not be aware of... and wishing we had asked more questions or been given a handbook for remedial child rearing.

              Instead of snuggling up with one another on the couch at night to watch our favorite shows, we're listening to whatever The Disney Channel is pumping out for the evening.  Instead of cooking our usual spicy, onion and pepper laced dishes, we're scaling things back to a more kid-friendly menu, and dealing with a child who's been allowed to refuse to eat vegetables for her entire life.  

             In short, we didn't think our normal routine of a margarita and Person of Interest would morph into Spongebob and an ongoing debate about the necessity of eating carrots and green beans.  I never thought I'd hear myself once again saying to a child, "No, we're not stopping at McDonald's for a 'Crappy Meal.'  Their food sucks, and it's bad for you."

              Life can take some funny turns.  Ten years ago I was living in an apartment, listening to Pink Floyd, slamming shots and playing video games with other divorced dads while we waited for Monday Night Football to kick off.  Now I'm trying to help a nine year-old divide by fractions and arguing the merits of asparagus.  

              Life's thrown us a curve ball, and the count's three and two in the bottom of the ninth.