Friday, December 21, 2012


A few days after the Newtown school shooting, I saw a group of elementary students being led by their teacher down a New Orleans street. They walked in a single file line and held hands. They were joyful. The stark and obvious contrast struck me as I thought of the now iconic photo (right) of the 6-year-olds in Newtown being led away from their school after the carnage.  We are told those children had been instructed to close their eyes as they walked through the hallway inside the school building. But you and I both know that the most curious among them managed a glimpse of whatever it was they were not supposed to see.  Six year olds are curious beings. And of course, many of us know how traumatized they will be by what they saw in that clandestine glance at the unthinkable horror.

I believe many of us would agree that we who are way beyond six years old are somewhat responsible for their trauma. We allowed a society that was once more orderly to become anything but. We allowed and even enabled cultural shifts to happen all around us that resulted in a widespread disrespect for life.  We allowed dangerously disturbed human beings like the Newtown shooter to walk freely among us, without any type of therapeutic intervention. It is not our fault that the shooter planned and carried out the executions of young children. But it is incumbent upon all of us to realize that our coveted freedoms all come with a price.
The freedom to commit crimes in our society with uneven judicial consequences has resulted in more people committing violent crimes. 
If we mark mass murder in America starting with Columbine in 1999 (left), there have been 31 mass shootings since.  Thirty-one times one or more deranged Americans has planned and carried out violent shootings sprees. Only one week before Sandy Elementary, another mass shooting took place in a shopping mall near Portland, OR, at the height of Christmas shopping season. Shopping malls, schools, churches, movie theatres – it can, and does, happen anywhere in America at any time. And now it has happened in a kindergarten classroom in a town that seems like Anytown, USA.
Newtown’s population doesn’t even crack 30,000 people. The entire town occupies less than 60 square miles.  It was the hometown of James Thurber. Film director Elia Kazan (Splendor in the Grass, On The Waterfront) also hailed from Newtown. Bruce Jenner went to high school there. The images of the town we have seen on television suggest a sort of Bedford Falls quality from the classic holiday film, It’s a Wonderful Life. Parents of the slain children who have granted television interviews appear articulate, family-centered and noticeably all white. The town is, according to census figures, about 95 percent white.  Additional census figures tell us that the median household income in Newtown is over $100,000. So it would seem the last possible place in America for 20 school children and six adults to be savagely gunned down in an elementary school.

Therein is the possible explanation for the fully unwanted attention the town has received. That attention is doing the residents of Newtown more harm than good, and there is no sign that the national focus on the town will abate anytime soon.  Therefore, the first takeaway from this event is that we who do not live in Newtown need to be more respectful of those who do.  Specifically, media companies need to
back off – way off.  Why are reporters like Anderson Cooper and Katie Couric (right) working so hard to land TV interviews with parents of dead children who have not even been buried yet? Why are the networks and major cable companies not forming a smaller media pool to cover Newtown, rather than sending in hundreds of reporters from multiple companies?
ABC News producer Nadine Shubailat actually tweeted people she thought might be parents or friends of Sandy Hook elementary students, in her misguided efforts to land interviews. FOX News, in its overly-competitive zeal, misidentified the shooter as Ryan Lanza, who, it turns out is actually the brother of the shooter. Multiple news organizations reported that the shooter’s mother worked at Sandy Hook Elementary as a kindergarten teacher.  She did not. None other than the esteemed NY Times reported wrong information about the type of gun used in the shootings. The NY Times also jumped on the above-mentioned claim that the mother worked at the school.  I could go on, but just know that CBS, CNN, NY Times, NPR and Associated Press each reported inaccurate, unverified information about the shootings. Shame on every one of them, and especially on newly installed NY Times executive editor Jill Abramson, who was quoted (in the Times): “I am proud of every aspect of our coverage and beyond thankful to the people who reported and edited this horrific story. Our approach is always accuracy over speed.” Disingenuous?  You be the judge.

The second takeaway from this tragedy is, of course, the national debate about gun laws. Today a new Bloomberg study was released with a startling projection: By 2015, firearm fatalities will probably exceed traffic fatalities for the first time ever.  So here I will employ simple logic,
rather than politics: Gun advocates have been quite vocal since the Sandy Hook shootings about the need for more guns, rather than fewer guns. Many have gone so far as to say teachers and school administrators should be armed while at work.  I have been a teacher for several years and I can tell you that some teachers I have known should definitely not be armed. The argument to arm teachers assumes that teachers will routinely be more responsible gun owners/users than the general public. It should be noted that teachers are simply a microcosm of the public at large, which means the teacher population may include just as many murderous lunatics as the general population. That’s logic, not politics. Here’s some more logic: If the shooter at Sandy Hook had been unable to enter the building, the shootings would not have happened as they did. So, it would seem school building security should be the focus here, not adding more firearms to the general population.

Firearm advocates who have appeared in media interviews in these past several days seem more hell bent on protecting their Second Amendment freedom than they do on protecting 6-year-olds in kindergarten classrooms. What they never acknowledge is that the Second Amendment was written at a time when there were no such things as AR-15 automatic assault rifles (right)
capable of firing 800 rounds per minute, and originally intended for use by the military only. By the way, the Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms that Americans can have and use.  It does not say anything at all about prohibiting restrictions on the types or number of firearms. I do not see how any thinking individual reads that into the Second Amendment. Here are the exact words:  “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The bottom line has everything to do with moderation. No one is proposing taking away all Americans’ guns.  That will not happen, but let’s employ reason and caution. And no one is trying to prohibit the media from covering the Sandy Hook tragedy or any tragedies yet to come. But let’s employ discretion in the way stories are covered, and let’s get the story right before it is put out to the public. And when mistakes are made like the NY Times printed errors, let’s not have editors like Jill Abramson praise their publications’ efforts. And above all, let’s quit giving so much TV time, online exposure and print coverage to the shooters. Let’s ignore them so that potential future assassins will not expect to be lionized in media.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

THE NFL KILLING FIELDS: Too Rich and Too Violent

UPDATE: On Saturday, December 9, 2012, another NFL player died. Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jerry Brown, Jr., 25, died after a car driven Dallas Cowboy defensive tackle Josh Brent, 25, hit a curb and flipped.  Brent was arrested, charged with "intoxicated manslaughter." He was later released from custody after posting $500,000 bond. (Original post follows)
 I humbly admit that before this month I had never heard the name Jovan Belcher. I’m not an avid football fan, I don’t know much about the Kansas City Chiefs, and right now while the U.S. is teetering on the “fiscal cliff,” and while the Middle East is on fire, the last thing on my mind, and on the minds of many others, was Jovan Belcher.

Still, when the headlines shouted “NFL Suicide,” I paid attention. Then the details started to emerge. It is reported that Belcher, 25, spent the night at the home of another woman prior to coming home to murder his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, the mother of their three-month-old daughter, Zoey. It is further reported that before Belcher entered the home of the other woman, police had to wake him up as he was sleeping in his Bentley. Additionally, more recent reports reveal that following a November 18 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Belcher exhibited short term memory loss.

 Let’s review what is relevant: First, Belcher (above) has been playing football for a long time. He played various positions for his West Babylon High School team inWest Babylon, NY. He then played for the University of Maine Black Bears Football Team. Then, in 2009, he was drafted by the Chiefs. So, if we do the math, Jovan Belcher was in football for about 12 years, or roughly half his life. Additionally, it is reported that Belcher, who drove a 2007 Bentley Continental (originally priced at approximately $189,000), was due to earn roughly $2 million in 2013. To break this down, let’s take note of the fact that 12 years of football equals many, many rough plays and knocks in the head. And let’s remember that the man being paid this exorbitant salary was only 25.

This matters for two reasons. First, it is now widely known that the NFL is finally acknowledging it has a concussion problem, league wide. The problem is historic, not new. And it is culturally clear that paying a guy who is only in his 20’s a multi-million salary is a recipe for some kind of disaster. If we dig deeper into Belcher’s past, it has already been reported that he had a history of domestic violence which was first reported in 2006 when he was a college student. Reportedly, Belcher had an argument with a woman and punched out a window. You may say that doesn’t rise to the unfortunate standard of domestic violence, but the fact is that rational, mature individuals do not punch out windows when they get mad at their girlfriends.

 Belcher appears to have been a time bomb. Some say he was experiencing the pressures of having a newborn child, but it should be noted he was not really caring for the child. The child was in the care of his girlfriend, and at the time of his murder/suicide, his mother was also staying with the child. She now has temporary custody. So the newborn child explanation flies out the window. It is more likely that he is the latest in a string of NFL players who were given too much too soon, and who had no frame of reference for being an instant millionaire. It is also possible he is the latest in a string of NFL players who have experienced what is called “chronic traumatic encephalopathy,” (CTE) which is the medical term for a brain injury that has been experienced by many, many football players. It is too early to declare that Belcher had that condition, but the autopsy is likely to reveal the truth. Watch: The same condition was found in Junior Seau, the former San Diego Charger who killed himself in October with a single gunshot to the chest. Another player who killed himself with a single gunshot to the chest was Dave Duerson of the Phoenix Cardinals. Remarkably, Duerson left a note asking that his brain be used for research at the Boston University School of Medicine, which is conducting research into CTE caused by playing professional football. And there have been four other NFL players who committed suicide in the past two years. Coincidence? Not likely.

Professional football is a big part of the American culture, and probably always will be. That’s a good thing. But when the players are given astronomical amounts of money when they are barely out of college, and then subjected to intense violence on the football field with little acknowledgement
of the CTE problem from the league, the sport is no longer just a game. It is instead a countdown to tragedy. All kinds of tragedy. It is a Carolina Panther Rae Carruth,(right) found guilty in 1999 of conspiracy to commit murder after his pregnant girlfriend was shot four times through the window of her car. He is currently serving a sentence of 18 – 24 years in prison. It is a Donte Stallworth, charged with DUI manslaughter in 2009 after killing a pedestrian with his Bentley Coupe in Miami. Or a Seattle Seahawk Jarriel King, who at age 24 was charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct after an incident at his home in in which he and another man allegedly raped a 25-year-old woman. And the list goes on….Koa Misi, Caleb King, Kiante Tripp, Plaxico Burress, and more.

The NFL has become an out-of-control culture of excess. Why isn’t Commissioner Roger Goodell working toward solving these lethal problems, rather than focusing on trivia like the New Orleans Saints “Bountygate?” There are possible solutions. First, as antiquated as it may sound, perhaps NFL contracts need a more stringent morals clause – something like a domestic violence “one strike you’re out” stipulation. According to attorney Brian R. Socolow, in a report titled “What Every Player Should Know About Morals Clauses,” although such clauses are routine in NFL contracts, they are all highly arbitrary and negotiable. Even worse is the fact that sometimes the clause is not enforced if the higher ups determine the player is too valuable to the team.

Second, instead of throwing millions of dollars at a boy barely out of his teens to play football, why not have a graduated salary scale based on job performance? To give you some perspective, just know that there are 169 NFL players who were paid more than $5 million this year, according to Forbes Magazine.

While it is true that players realize greatly reduced income if they are cut, they are still guaranteed astronomical rates.
It is no secret, for example, that Tim Tebow, (left) 25, of the New York Jets is an underperforming player, who now has broken ribs, which make him almost a non-performing player. Still, according to public records, Tebow’s contract calls for him to be paid $2.1 million by the Jets. Just for perspective, know that the average income for a 25-year-old college graduate in the U.S. in 2010 (the most recent year for which figures are available) was $40,000, according to the U.S. Department of Education. There is something very wrong with this picture.

The NFL is dealing primarily with very young boys and men who have often been given a pass through high school and college because of their athletic skills. The passes they have been offered rarely come with any sort of guidance. By the time many of them get to the NFL, they are hit with big money, sometimes with inordinate public adoration and often with a type of freedom they are not prepared to navigate. Meanwhile they are kicked in the head repeatedly and encouraged to just keep on keeping on. In the case of young Jovan Belcher it all added up to one self-inflicted gunshot to his already-battered head. You may chalk that up to Belcher’s lack of personal responsibility. I, for one, place a significant portion of the responsibility for Belcher’s actions squarely in the offices of the National Football League.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

PAULA vs JILL -- And Feminists Cringe Worldwide

Paula Broadwell and Jill Kelley – two women we had never heard of before the current General David Patraeus scandal.  I like to think of Paula and Jill as the Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz of the post-feminist movement. What’s the post-feminist movement, you ask? That depends on who defines it for you, but overall post-feminism is really the next plateau of the feminist movement.  Think of it this way: The iconic cultural feminist of the 1970s expressed herself publicly by burning her bra. The post-feminist of the new century would simply say her bra is not up for discussion and has nothing to do with the socio/political structure of the world.

Whew! Heavy. Or not. You see, in the 1970s, in order for women to advance in politics, the corporate system, in the workplace, in the family and in their chosen disciplines, many often mirrored the traditional (albeit not terribly flattering) behaviors of men, who were already in positions of power in all of the above. I know this because as a young 20-something American new college grad, I had to work for such women. I sometimes looked at some of the women I worked for and wondered, if I hadn’t met them under these occupational circumstances, would they be more inviting as humans than they appeared to be in the workplace? In the workplace, I reported to women who demonstrated inordinate aggressiveness and a certain desperation to succeed (at least according to the traditionally male definition of success).  

By the 1980s we had our first female Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor (left). We also saw the first woman ever to head a major Hollywood studio, Sherry Lansing at 20th Century Fox.
Sally Ride became the first woman in space,serving on two shuttle missions. I could go on, but the point is that by the latter part of the 20th century women were movin’ on up, and some of the goals of the feminist movement were being realized. And while the leaders of the feminist movement were still passionate about their causes by the 1990s, women in America were not quite as demonstrative or emotionally invested in the movement as they had been in mid-20th century years. 

Today, what has become known as the “post-feminist” movement really still incorporates some of the basic tenets of the original movement – socio/political equality, equal pay for equal work, fair opportunity for advancement in various strata of society, and respect based on individuality, rather than gender.  Please understand – I do not claim to be an expert or a student of feminist doctrine.  I’m just an observer who lived through the most active years of the movement, and now observes the fractured state of feminism in America. 

Enter Paula and Jill. In a nutshell, it goes like this:   Paula gets a sweet gig writing a biography of one of the most powerful military men in America, General Patraeus. She spends about five years working on it, with his full cooperation, and reportedly they develop a personal and sexual relationship.  Meanwhile, Jill,
an alleged social climber from Florida, is friends with the General, and seems to like to mix and mingle with other powerful men, including General John Allen,(right) Nato's commander of foreign troops in Afghanistan.  It seems Jill and the General were into exchanging racy emails. Speaking of emails, apparently Paula sent Jill emails that instructed her to keep her mitts off of General Patraeus.  Jill felt so threatened by Paula’s directives that she reported her to the FBI. Oh God, why am I telling you this? If you haven’t been in a coma for the past two weeks you know all about this already, right?

So, why do I call Paula and Jill the Lucy and Ethel of post-feminist America? Because just like two junior high school girls, they evidently got into a verbal sparring match (via email) about the big man on campus, David P.
Never mind that David doesn’t look much like a BMOC. Power trumps pecs and abs in the grown up world.  Here we have two mature (?) 40ish, MARRIED, educated, outwardly refined women rolling in the digital mud over a married military official. Does junior high ever end? Really. And do women of this caliber not understand that their behavior goes against everything their older sisters and mothers fought for in the heat of the mid-20th century? 

Paula Broadwell could live another 50 years and write some of the finest material of her time, but when she dies, her obit will certainly recall the days of her affair with the General and her catfight with a woman she perceived to be a threat to her hold on him. Jill Kelly could live another 50 years and hobnob with whomever she feels can help her climb the much-coveted social ladder, but forever more she will be identified as the married socialite who conducted an ongoing digital flirtathon with General Allen. Each of them can flash their credentials in neon on the side of their homes, if they choose, but their educational and occupational accomplishment will forever be overshadowed  by their public junior highschoolishness. 

I picture Betty Friedan and Bella Abzug rolling over in their graves, as I envision Gloria Steinem (below, right) holed up in her Manhattan townhouse mixing another pitcher of Grey Goose martinis to ease her pain.
The purely feminist idea was to enable women to get to positions like Broadwell’s and use them to honor all women. It wasn’t to sleep with the General so that her ego could roll in the luxury of knowing she slept with the General.  The feminist idea was to enable women like Kelly to make the choice to climb the social ladder if that was their desire, and while doing so to hold their own intellectually and socially with smart  power brokers. The idea was not to exchange emails with a military official that talked about the joy of a secret slap and tickle under the sheets.  Get it? That’s what makes Paula and Jill the modern-day Lucy and Ethel.  They are not modern women – they are 1950s stereotypes of women who use their “wiles” to lure men and manipulate them. 

Expect the Paula/Jill/David/John drama to continue in the media for another few weeks until we all find a new societal psycho-drama to focus on. Maybe other anti-feminists will make headlines.  Maybe Kim will finally get her divorce and marry Kanye.  Maybe Dina Lohan will take some more pills. Maybe Bravo will debut “The Real Housewives of Pentagon City.” Or….maybe Holly Patraeus, the General’s missus, will slap Paula Broadwell into next week. Now that would be worthy of pay per view TV!  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


When I heard that upwards of 30 states have filed papers with the White House, seeking to secede from the United States, I immediately thought of September 11, 2001.  In those days after 9/11 the country was uncharacteristically cohesive.  We were all the country and the country was all of us. I had only felt that once before, and that was when John F. Kennedy was killed in 1963, but I was so young at the time that I did not get the full implications of that nationalistic moment.  Those two times, 2001 and 1963 were what we all really want the country to be about.  But this moment, when 30 states are taking this largely symbolic mega-step to withdraw from the country – well, this moment is unprecedented, and not in a good way.

I am surprised how affected I am by this.  That so many people would cavalierly sign their names to petitions to secede just seems thoughtless to me. Do you trade off your country that swiftly and mindlessly?  Do you deliberately damage the international profile of your country simply because you are angry at the outcome of one presidential election? Do you that easily dishonor your entire civic heritage? I just don’t think so.  It is appalling to me to see this. 

Those who would withdraw from their country are petitioning the government through the We thePeopleprogram at the White House website.  In honor of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees citizens “the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” the web site invites Americans to express their civic desires. Each of the petitions requests to “peacefully grant the state” the right to withdraw from the union.

To those who have signed their names to this, I want to ask you a few questions.  First, let’s take Louisiana, for example, where I live.  As of this writing about 20,000 Louisianans have signed on to this ill-conceived movement to secede.  What happens if the
Port New Orleans, the fifth largest in the nation (right) is attacked by international forces? It’s not beyond the realm of possibility. It’s a highly vulnerable spot on the Southern edge of the country. With no affiliation with the federal government, and as an independent entity, who will protect you? It’s not as if the state is even populated enough to produce a military force.  Has anyone even considered that during their misguided quest to claim independence?

How many of those Louisianans who signed their names are on Medicare, I wonder? Were the states to stand alone, unaffiliated with the U.S. government, Medicare stops. Even if you’re not on Medicare, let’s talk health insurance. Not widely publicized is the fact that in March of this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
intervened on behalf of nine states, including Louisiana, when it found that two health insurance companies had proposed double digit rate increases.  HHS investigated and determined the rate increases were not reasonable. So, without this particular federal entity, those insurance companies may have steamrolled their way into Louisiana and price-gouged thousands of citizens with increase of up to 24 percent. It’s this kind of issue that the secessionists are overlooking. Their lack of patriotism notwithstanding, their ignorance of the consequences of secession is stunning.

About those consequences: Did you know that if your state secedes from the union that your money in the bank is instantly no longer covered by FDIC? Oh, and did you know that your state’s sections of interstate highways will no longer be funded by the US government, and where exactly will the money come from in your state to take care of those roads? You can forget about federal funding for unemployment compensation, and your state clearly cannot afford to take up the slack. So, if you lose your job, there will be no money available for you.  What about those hard-fought laws that protect your civil rights?  Those are federal laws. Without them, you’re on your own. Are your ready for that? I don’t know about your state, but our state legislature in Louisiana moves at a snail’s pace, and little gets accomplished for the people. I can only imagine the chaos that would ensue if Louisiana had to suddenly create its own currency, farm subsidies and disaster relief plans. 

And what about the U.S. Constitution?  If a state secedes from the United States, it no longer falls under the protection and order of the Constitution. So that much beloved freedom of speech
and religion we enjoy as a nation – chances are it gets eighty-sixed. Oh, and that right to bear arms? Maybe, but maybe not. Don’t count on the previous protection of the fourth amendment; you know, the one that prevents unreasonable searches and seizures? It seems apparent that those who have drafted these petitions to secede have never really read the Bill of Rights. If they want to know why the feds are not their natural and forever enemy, I suggest they read it until they get it. 

Social change will never happen without its detractors. Here we have a president who was so bold in his first term that he said on national television that he believes gay people should have the right to be married. That statement was every bit as life affirming and respectful of humanity as the day that President John Kennedy ordered openly racist Governor George Wallace to comply with federal court orders allowing two African-American students to register for the summer session at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Obama’s courage to formally recognize gay citizens and also enable gay military personnel to serve openly, and Kennedy’s desegregation of Alabama were both met with severe resistance from large population segments. It comes with the socio/political territory.

Those detractors live in a culture that supports their right to disagree and express it. But in no way are American people so thin-skinned that they simply quit on their government because they disagree with something it does. So I want to say to those who would secede, you all need your country. And oddly enough,
your country needs you, because it is the ongoing and spirited mix of ideas that makes us what we are here. So I’m baffled why so many tens of thousands of Americans want to walk away from the national conversation at a time when the exchange of ideas is so critical to our well-being. My take on this whole thing? I believe most of the citizens who signed these petitions did so in a knee-jerk reaction to the recent presidential election, and very few have thought through the ramifications of their act. Stay put and fight the good fight that has always defined America. You are, for better or for worse, Americans.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


I love the title of this piece. It does sound like a Woody Allen flick, doesn’t it? It’s not. I spent last weekend in New York, just days after the storm that changed millions of lives on the Eastern seaboard. I stayed in midtown Manhattan, and if I hadn’t seen news reports of Hurricane Sandy, I would never have known there was a storm just days earlier.

Therein is the irony that is New York and surrounding areas right now. In Manhattan it’s life as usual, except for the blocks-long lines at gas stations. Those lines will diminish as power is restored to regional refineries, and reports are that many of them have already been re-energized. So that means that if you happen to be inland from where the storm hit, you can still shop, cocktail, dine, catch a show, pick up groceries and even catch the subway in most locations.

 Meanwhile, if you’re in Staten Island, or New Jersey, your life has effectively come to a halt. You have no home, or if you do have a home, you have no heat or electricity and no real indication when utilities will be restored. For those of us who experienced Hurricane Katrina in 2005, this is déjà vu. Slow governmental response, ineffective FEMA assistance, lack of supplies, ill-equipped shelters, ongoing threats from weather and elements, widespread fire damage, waterlogged furnishings and belongings, shuttered businesses, humiliating living conditions and frustration to the extreme. One woman interviewed on a NYC newscast described her hard hit neighborhood as “Beirut.” A New Jersey man said, “Where’s FEMA? Where’s Obama? Where’s God?” Watch this CNN report from late last week:
While those in outlying areas maneuvered through the sludge that surrounded their decimated homes, in upper Manhattan Lincoln Center was abuzz with the National Chorale’s gala opening concert, the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Turandot, and Jazz at Lincoln Center’s John Coltrane festival. Men in pricey suits and women in fake furs and sky-high Christian Louboutins raced up the avenues to meet their friends for dinner.

At the same time in Staten Island, Borough President James Molinaro is just hoping to get power restored to the former Arthur Kill Correctional Facility, a former detention facility for medium-risk prisoners. If he can do that, several hundred displaced citizens could use it as a shelter, since some of them can’t even get into their cars since their neighbors’ houses are resting on top of them.

So, let’s review: Uptown: furs, heels, fun, concerts and foie gras. Coastal areas: homelessness, depression, freezing cold, hopelessness and fear. It is astounding how polarized life can be among those who live just miles apart from one another.

Heroes emerge: Famously hot-headed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (below, right with President Obama) has maintained a cool, controlled demeanor and worked tirelessly to reassure his constituents
that help is on the way and that they are not alone. He even risked the wrath of his own Republican party by praising President Obama on his response to the catastrophe. In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has maintained a steady, authoritative voice and strong leadership. Not everyone is in his corner: tens of thousands of runners from as far away as Dubai, Japan and Russia were in the city for the annual NYC marathon, when Bloomberg cancelled it at the last minute. Had he done so when the storm’s devastation became evident days earlier, many of them could have saved the time and money they spent to get to the city for the ill-fated race. The citywide anger at his tardiness was palpable.

Those of us who have been through this nature-infused horror can generally predict what
those most affected by the storm will endure in the coming months and years. Celebrities will rally and raise millions of dollars, but most of those who lost homes, cars, belongings and such will never really see any of that money. In fact, many will question where those millions went.

Legislators in Washington will make crude, insensitive comments about how impractical it is to rebuild along coastlines like the Eastern shores. They will question whether it makes any sense for people to consider living there since they are constantly going to be in harm’s way. They have already started. Here is what Rep. Steve King (R-IA)(right)
had to say just days after the storm, about governmental assistance to victims of the storm:  "I want to get them the resources that are necessary. ... But not one big shot to just open up the checkbook because they spent it on Gucci bags and massage parlors and everything you can think of in addition to what was necessary." More reasonable legislators might focus their comments and efforts more on how to immediately relieve those in need. Not Mr. King.

And there’s more: Here is what former FEMA director Michael Brown (“heck of a job Brownie” - below, left) had to say about President Obama’s rapid and immediate response to Hurricane Sandy: “"Why was this so quick? At some point, somebody's going to ask that question. ...
This is like the inverse of Benghazi." He also had this to say: "Hurricane Sandy should teach us to be prepared, willing to live without the modern conveniences of elevators, computers and refrigerators. Hurricane Sandy should teach all of us to chill." Presumably Michael Brown is indeed living with the above-mentioned “conveniences” while storm victims suffer. Since when are communication and food conveniences?

Crackpots will come out of the woodwork and gain media attention with their far-fetched, generally hateful rhetoric. Already Rabbi Noson Leiter from upstate NY publicly stated that hurricane Sandy happened because of New York’s passage of legislation that made gay marriage legal. He truly said that.

The difference between Sandy and Katrina is that Katrina affected the whole city of New Orleans. There was damage everywhere. Not so in New York. It was pretty much life as usual last weekend where I was. The problem with that is that over time it may become easier for citizens of the largest city in America to live in semi-denial about the plight of those
just a borough away. If all is well in Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea and the meatpacking district and upper Manhattan, will it be too easy to forget about those in Staten Island, Hoboken, Atlantic City, Coney Island and Westchester County? I hope not, but I know when the headlines die down, so will much of the country’s attention. I saw that here in New Orleans. We became yesterday’s news much sooner than any of us expected.

Meanwhile, by mid week the highly anticipated nor’easter hit hard, actually knocking out power to many of those whose electricity and heat had just been restored after Sandy. Climate change scientists and others [read: Al Gore] are predictably pointing to this crisis as clear evidence of global warming, and rightfully questioning why this issue never saw the light of day during the entire Presidential campaign. The drama is just beginning. You can help. Click here to make a donation online. It takes less than one minute. Or, you can text to 90999 to automatically donate $10 to Red Cross hurricane relief, which will be added to your wireless bill. Come on. Just do it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Dear Northeasterners,
Right now you are reeling from the most shocking thing that has ever happened to you, and the reeling will probably continue indefinitely. I know, because in 2005 I saw what a hurricane did to my own hometown, New Orleans. We here in New Orleans are watching your soggy nightmare with a mixture of horror and traumatic memory, but there are probably a few things you could gain from our own Hurricane Katrina experience. So, here goes:

Be prepared for insurance hell. You will find out, much to your surprise, that your insurance deductible may be quite a bit higher than you anticipated. In fact, the deductible you thought you had signed up for may not apply to this particular event. Your deductible for damages to your property may be based on a percentage of the value of your home.
Home values in the Northeast are generally higher than they are here in New Orleans, which in many instances is a plus. This time it’s not. Let’s say your home is worth half a million dollars. Prepare your head for a possible deductible of up to $25,000. We found that out the hard way here. Also, be prepared that your policy may cover wind damage, but not water damage. Or, your policy may cover water damage, but not wind damage. Or, the insurance company may simply announce that they are not covering one or the other for this particular storm. If you do not have flood insurance, which many, many Americans do not have, you may not be able to recover damages at all.

Get ready for politicians’ visits. The governmental response (local, state and federal) to Katrina established the gold standard for what not to do in the event of a major catastrophe. In New Orleans, an inept Mayor (C. Ray Nagin, now being investigated by the feds for possible acceptance of gifts [bribes?] from vendors, post-Katrina); a Governor who was in over her head; and a President who left it up to everybody else to respond to the disaster, combined to make all future hurricane responses just the opposite of theirs. In other words, expect to see Obama, Romney, your individual governors, your senators and anybody else who might benefit politically by doing some face time in the streets amid the rubble. There may be an exceptional legislator or candidate who is there for all the right reasons, sans TV cameras. But most of them will be there for their own self-serving reasons. If that sounds cynical, it is not. We lived it.

Try to stay healthy. Hospitals and clinics will be overwhelmed for some time to come. Healthcare may be sketchy. Doctors who lost their own homes may be unavailable, or not even fully present (mentally) when they see you. I tripped in a post-Katrina crumbling French Quarter street after the storm and broke my hand. Hospitals were either closed or over-burdened at the time,
but one hospital set up shop in an old Lord & Taylor department store downtown. I spent nine hours waiting for someone to just look at my hand. Find out right now what hospitals and clinics in your area are operating, just in case you may need one in the near future. Your own New York University Langone Medical Center had to be evacuated during the storm because its backup generators failed to produce any power. Meanwhile, other New York hospitals canceled outpatient appointments and elective surgeries. Believe it or not, it was worse here during Katrina. Patients and hospital workers were trapped in flooded hospitals for days and some died. Even without that horror, you may be in for some limited healthcare services for quite a while.

Watch the best and worst of humanity. Just as you experienced after 9/11, your community is about to come together in an unprecedented fashion. Strangers will actually make eye contact with one another, a general no-no in NYC. People will comfort one another. Humanity will prevail. Days after 9/11 I was in NYC and I was stunned to see the level of human contact and empathy among usually hard core New Yorkers. It was life-affirming. The same thing happened here after Katrina. But life gets in the way, and sometimes
people will react to you in ways you did not expect, simply because they are trying to survive the disaster. Interpersonal friction, physical fights and verbal assaults will happen, born simply out of fear and frustration with the slow pace at which recovery happens. Looting will happen, possibly in your own store or other business. Businesses that are open will run short of supplies and merchandise, and people will struggle with one another over who gets what. It becomes chaotic, sometimes scary and the undercurrent of stress is ever-present. And it lasts for a long time.

   Northeasterners, what we found here in New Orleans in those first couple of years after the storm was that we were much, much tougher than we ever believed we could be. Our new normal was something we never could have foreseen. We did not even have enough grocery stores for years after Katrina. For the first few months, or maybe a year, if you called 911 you might wait for a very long time for help in a crisis. There were a lot of divorces and other breakups simply because people did not know how to work together to survive what had befallen them. It seemed like everybody was on something – Paxil, Lexapro, Xanax, alcohol, pot, whatever. But resilience reigned. We prevailed. We moved forward. You, too, will move forward one way or another. This is the time for you to take a step back and just breathe. Look up, instead of down at the rubble. You’re still here.
You’re nervous and unsure of what even the next day holds for you, but you’re here and you’re still standing. Each step you take will become a minor victory and sooner than you think, life will happen again as it should. It’s about getting in touch with your inner Rocky Balboa and realizing that the giant wave of October, 2012 does not define you.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

ABUSED! - In The Workplace

I was with a friend of mine recently – an attorney – when she received a text from her boss. It seems she had emailed him earlier to let him know some bad news about a case he was working on. Somehow he didn’t see the email until hours later. He was instantly angry that he didn’t know this news earlier. So he texted my friend: “You’re incompetent. You need to leave.” Evidently he believed she should have called him to confirm that he had received the email.

Can you imagine receiving a text message from your boss that says you’re incompetent? In my book, that’s abusive. You can punch a person with your fists, but if you really want to pound somebody – use words like “incompetent.” I could argue the words are more abusive than the fist. What the hell goes on in the mind of a man who sends a text like that? Reasonable human beings know that the fact that he felt he had a right to speak to her
like that is unconscionable. But it happens all the time. All the time in workplaces across America. Maybe you work in such a place. Maybe you’ve been verbally abused by the boss. Or maybe you’ve been mistreated by someone in your organization that is overly ambitious and clawing their way up the company ladder.

Bad behavior in the workplace takes many forms, but they all lead to one place – these days they call it bullying, but I prefer the more accurate term – abuse. I spent a number of years in the corporate system, where workplace abuse runs rampant. The reason it thrives as wildly and continually as it does is simple: Most states have no laws in place against it. Employees who are verbally and psychologically abused have very little recourse in the American justice system.
In the past 10 years, 21 states have introduced bills to protect workers from workplace abuse, but to date, none have been enacted. Each state that has made a legislative proposal has put forth a version of the Healthy Workplace Bill. Right now there is only one state, New Jersey, that has a pending bill before its state legislature. The other 20 states have previous bills that were not acted upon. There are laws on the books under which a person can sue an employer for harassment or discrimination based on gender, sexuality or ethnicity, but nothing protects the American workers from his workplace abuse from fellow workers.

Think about it: In a workplace you are essentially compelled to associate with a group of people not of your choosing. There is absolutely no guarantee that relationships will develop and there is every possibility that clashing egos, incompatibility and conflicting working styles will happen somewhere within the organization. Yet those who fall victim to others’ bad behavior have no legal leg to stand on.

There are occasional exceptions that find their way into the courts. In 2008, for example, Dr. Daniel Raess, an Indiana heart surgeon was sued by perfusionist Joseph Doescher for workplace abuse.
Doescher alleged that in an altercation that took place at St. Francis Hospital, Raess came at him "with clenched fists, piercing eyes, beet-red face, popping veins and screaming and swearing,” saying, “You’re finished. You’re history.” Doescher claimed he felt confident that Raess was about to hit him. The case went all the way to the Indiana Supreme Court, which upheld a lower court’s ruling that ordered Raess to pay Doescher $325,000. The case was a rare legal victory.

As usual, the numbers tell the story. About one-third of workers said they have been bullied in the workplace, according to a 2012 nationwide study by CareerBuilder, a Chicago-based human resources company. Those who felt victimized increased to 35 percent from 27 percent last year. The most common ways workers reported bullying were 42 percent who said they were falsely accused of making mistakes and 39 percent who said they were ignored.

And there’s more: Believe it or not, there is an organization called the Workplace Bullying Institute. with a stated objective “To understand, correct and prevent all abuse at work.” They report that 30 percent of people who said they were bullied have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and an additional 29 percent said they have contemplated suicide because of the abuse. Suicide? Indeed. Watch this:
On September 5, 2012, the Morrissey family filed a lawsuit against the university, blaming the institution for Kevin Morrissey’s 2010 suicide. The suit named Ted Genoways, Kevin’s boss, as well as the university president and two human resources employees. The family seeks $10 million in damages. Like the Raess case, this suit will likely wind its way through the court system in Virginia for many years, but its outcome could portend significant recognition of the issue of workplace abuse. As of this writing, Genoways, the alleged abuser, is still employed in the same position at the university.

The Institute also revealed data that indicates fully one-third of workers between the ages of 50 and 64 have experienced workplace abuse. One could posit that older workers are often targeted because they
are more expensive than younger workers, and in some instances the abuse is the company’s way of pushing them out. Or, it is also possible that younger, less experienced supervisors use bullying as a way to assert their authority, either because of their own cockiness, or because they are still somewhat insecure in their management positions. Whatever the motivation, the behavior is unacceptable -- but entirely legal.

Here’s what is not legal: harassment. So, if a case involves discrimination or harassment based on sexuality, religion, ethnicity, age or some other legally protected worker population, the courts might be able to help you, as they did Doescher. But, if you work for someone who is just a jerk, who undermines you at every turn, who uses you to advance his or her own career, or who plays out all of his or her parent/child historical angst on you – unfortunately, at this moment in America you may be out of luck. If you feel powerless as the one on the receiving end of workplace abuse, you will likely have an uphill battle ahead of you to find justice. Justice, by the way, is why I am writing this. You’ll
notice at the top of this blog, the primary topics listed include “justice.” The woman whose boss called her incompetent is not the only acquaintance of mine who is experiencing workplace abuse. My position is this: Since we Americans take strong positions on other injustices, such as racial profiling, domestic abuse, police brutality and gender inequality, it is now time for us to speak up about the way American workers are mistreated on the job.

Start by learning more about the Healthy Workplace Bill. The campaign to enact this bill, state by state is grassroots, to be sure. But in large numbers with dogged determination, the laws can be introduced and passed. If you are an employer, do the right thing. Visit the Workplace Bullying Institute for solid information on how you can create a more professional, humane environment in your organization. And if you’re being abused at work – hang in there and make the healthiest decisions for yourself. Sometimes that means taking a stand within the organization, but sometimes it means separating yourself from the toxic atmosphere. You deserve better. You know you do.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I can’t say I’ve ever been to La Crosse, Wisconsin, but if I were given an opportunity to shake the hand of WKBT-TV anchorperson Jennifer Livingston, I would find my way there. Livingston, you have probably heard, is the articulate communicator who took on Kenneth Krause, an expressive emailer who had this to say to her about her physical self:

“Surely you don't consider yourself a suitable example for this community's young people, girls in particular. Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain. I leave you this note hoping that you'll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.” Livingston could have ignored Krause, or she could have privately replied to his email. Instead, she boldly faced the live television camera and said this:
Like so many others who watched this video this week, I am blown away by Livingston’s grace in the face of such a personal attack. No tears in her eyes, no crack in her voice, no vindictiveness in her message to her rhetorical predator – just pure dignity. Bravo. But from a media standpoint, I have a further reaction: In today’s mass communication world, four minutes and 21 seconds is an eternity. Yet WTBK saw fit to offer Livingston as much time as she needed to effectively get her message out. And Livingston filled her time with real substance—and heart.

Not surprisingly, people listened. The Twitterverse was abuzz all day and all evening following Livingston’s speech. The running tweet theme is unbridled respect for Livingston. The collective public understanding is that Krause’s words were unacceptably cruel. Words like Krause’s don’t simply sting – they stab. The American public doesn’t take kindly to deliberate meanness. Remember the bus monitor who was bullied  by schoolboys? The public ended up pitching in to the tune of $700,000 which was donated to her. While it is unlikely we’ll be sending our cash to Livingston, we are already contributing mightily to her status as a role model.

What motivates people like Krause? (below, left) What twisted satisfaction does he derive from reducing an entire human being to nothing more than how much physical space she takes up?
How is it that Krause is so blinded by a person’s size that he is unable to see their real worth on the planet? Is Krause not wise enough to understand that Livingston is, as she aptly put it, “much more than a number on a scale”? Why is it that when I look at Jennifer Livingston, I see a thoughtful, self-possessed, highly articulate woman, but when Krause looks at her he just sees 200 pounds?

Many of us are tired of individuals who hide behind their email accounts and use them to unleash their venom on respectable individuals who are making true contributions to society. I highly doubt that Krause would have the balls to appear at Livingston’s office door and say, “I was surprised indeed to see that your physical condition hasn’t improved in many years.” But he was presumptuous enough to say it in an email, from the safety of his own home or office. However, when La Crosse radio personality Brian Simpson invited Krause to appear on air to discuss the whole issue, Krause (predictably) declined.

I work with college students. I see routinely how their self-concepts are not as well-formed or healthy as they could be. I also see how a discouraging or disparaging word from their teachers can undo whatever progress they may have made in bolstering their own self-esteem. I remember the black female student who told me,
“I wanted to be a news anchor, but one of my teachers told me my dialect is too thick and people won’t be able to understand what I’m saying.” I also remember the dyslexic young man whose teacher told him, “Everybody else is keeping up with the reading assignments, so there’s no reason you can’t.” I had a student a few years ago who had taken five years to get through high school because his teachers and even his family members had told him he was “stupid,” although later it was determined he had a learning disability.

The wisest words I ever heard came from a professor of mine who said, “People are often what you invite them to be.” If we invite people to diminish themselves because of their weight or their disabilities or their speech patterns or any other personal challenge they may have, they will usually end up diminished.
It’s not an original thought, I know, but it’s worth repeating here. If we invite people to be their best selves, to rise above the ignorance of those who would demean them and to believe in their untapped potential, everybody wins. To Jennifer Livingston I would simply say, “Nicely done. Your three daughters, your husband, your employer and your viewers are lucky to have you. I hope to shake your hand one day, even if it means traveling to La Crosse, WI.”

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Until a few weeks ago you could probably Google Flagstaff, AZ Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Hatch (above) and very little information would come up. One could say she was flying under the judicial radar, and she probably liked it that way.  That all ended when she was called upon to adjudicate a case involving a police officer who allegedly groped a female customer in a bar.  The woman sued for sexual molestation and won…sort of.  The ruling came back in her favor, but when the judge handed down sentencing to the 43-year-old former Arizona Department of Public Safety Officer Robb Gary Evans, (left)
he was let off relatively lightly with two years’ probation only.  The plaintiff, (identified only as a “Flagstaff area professional) on the other hand was given a severe verbal tongue-lashing in open court.  Let's keep in mind that Evans was convicted for felony sexual abuse. Here is what Judge Hatch had to say to the plaintiff:

“Bad things can happen in bars,” Hatch told the victim, adding that other people might be more intoxicated than she was. “If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you. I hope you look at what you’ve been through and try to take something positive out of it,” Hatch said to the victim in open court. “You learned a lesson about friendship and you learned a lesson about vulnerability.” Hatch said that the victim was not to blame in the case, but that all women must be vigilant against becoming victims.  “When you blame others, you give up your power to change,” Hatch said that her mother used to say.

So let’s review:  The police officer got his hands slapped, and the victim was dressed down for her decision to go out and have a cocktail.  To my way of thinking, something is wrong with this picture. First, the last time I checked, the job of a judge was to hand down legal decisions, not to moralize to victims of crime about their personal lives, and certainly not to condescend to victims of sexual assault and humiliate them in a public courtroom.

Of course what we do not know is how many times Hatch, appointed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (right),
has uttered similar personal judgments in her courtroom.  It is, without question, an abuse of power, and more importantly, such communication from judge to victim is likely to further discourage already embarrassed victims from coming forward to seek justice.   It is pretty much the same thing as telling a rape victim that she wouldn’t have been raped if she hadn’t worn such provocative clothing.

In this case, the plaintiff went public with the judge’s unacceptable behavior and demanded an apology. Caving only to extreme public pressure, Hatch ultimately did apologize.  It rang hollow, since clearly no apology would have been forthcoming had it not been made public that she preached her wholly un-judicial, albeit highly judgmental gospel in the courtroom.

Victims who are blamed by people in authoritative positions are usually women. I somehow cannot envision Judge Hatch telling a male plaintiff that had he just not gone out to watch a football game at the corner bar he would not have been punched by a drunk patron. And as for “bad things” happening in bars, I would just like Hatch to know that bad things happen also in grocery stores, movie theatres (remember Aurora, CO?), airports, schools, hospitals and just about every public place there is.  Should we all just stay home Judge?

Meanwhile, about the same time the uproar was happening in Flagstaff, a much higher profile authority figure was spouting off his own sexist nonsense, except this time it happened on national television.  Once again, evangelistic whack job Pat Robertson made headlines when he answered a query from a viewer who couldn’t figure out what to do about his difficult wife.  Watch:
This time the woman is presumably not a victim (yet), but Robertson would have the husband turn her into one. Remember, this is the same guy who once said, "The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." 

I promise you he truly did say that.

Let’s keep in mind that this is also the man who said that if a man is married to a woman who has Alzheimer’s disease, “I know it sounds cruel, but if he's going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but to make sure she has custodial care, somebody looking after her."

All of this and so much more reminds us that despite years of feminist doctrine, legislative action for equality and institutional recognition of the relevance of equal rights, we are still evidently a paternalistic society that enables people in powerful positions to perpetuate raw sexism. Should Hatch remain on the bench?  Many say no. Petitions are circulating demanding her resignation. Should Robertson continue to spout his nonsense on national television? Maybe, maybe not. He has lost so much credibility over the years with his outlandish views that the thinking public pays little attention to his counsel now.  Still, it begs the question: Who is monitoring state-appointed and self-appointed authority figures, and if no one is on watch, do victims run the risk of being victimized all over again when they seek justice or solutions?

Friday, September 7, 2012


I have to admit I missed most of the Republican National Convention and especially the empty chair speech by Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood. You’ll have to excuse my absence but I’m in New Orleans and Hurricane Isaac cancelled life here for a solid week. Still, I did watch videos of speeches, and I read as much as I could. Most recently, the Democrats had their turn, and like so many others I was somewhat dazzled by the First Lady’s remarks and the sustained power of Bill Clinton’s rhetoric. But if ever we Americans needed convincing that these conventions are nothing more than theater, consider all of the topics not broached by any of the speakers, regardless of party affiliation.

 There are five areas I would dearly love to have heard them address. They are:
HUNGER IN AMERICA: Just this week comes word that a new report from the The Department of Agriculture reveals that about 5.5 percent of Americans, or nearly 18 million households, suffered "very low food security"  [read: hunger] in 2011. I am left to wonder how the partisan debate about healthcare can be waged without reference to a malnourished population that is wide open to disease. The USDA started monitoring food security in 1995, and right now, according to the new report, the food insecurity rate in America is at its highest level ever. Food insecurity ranges from individuals who are forced to skip meals because they cannot afford enough food, to those who simply go hungry most of the time –right here…in America. Why is that not being addressed on a national level during an election year?  

WAR IN AFGHANISTAN: Neither party wants to mention the word “war,” or “Afghanistan.” That has much to do with the fact that we’re still there, allowing our U.S. military members to be killed for essentially nothing. In an Aug. 13 New Yorker Magazine piece, writer Dexter Filkins wisely points out that neither candidate says much about Afghanistan because nobody knows what to do about it.
Shades of LBJ and Vietnam, right? So, rather than destroy a candidacy over a failed war effort that is at least 28 months from troop withdrawal, Romney and Obama simply shelve the topic in favor of winning the election. My money is on Pulitizer Prize winning Filkins, who actually spent time in Afghanistan reporting on the entire debacle there. After all, why would a candidate for President tout anything about a war that has cost us upwards of $400 billion and more than 2,000 American lives, and accomplished nothing in terms of our own national security or advancement as a world power? One could say that both candidates have effectively turned the Afghan situation in to a non-issue.

 HOMELESSNESS: Some perspective: In 2011 more than 600,000 Americans were homeless. That’s about the size of the entire population of Baltimore or Memphis. We remain the wealthiest country in the world despite our floundering economy and shaky world presence. Still, Americans are
homeless in their own country in record numbers. Forget that dated image you may have of homeless people being bums. Today’s homeless include a large contingent of veterans from that not-talked-about war in Afghanistan, as well as previously middle-class citizens who are losing their jobs and their homes in droves. According to a report called “The State of Homelessness in America 2012” from The National Alliance to End Homelessness, fully 40 percent of America’s homeless are not sheltered. They are living on the streets of America. No one in Charlotte or Tampa even mentioned a plan to put a roof over the hundreds of thousands of American heads that have been disenfranchised. Why is that?  

THE RACIAL DIVIDE: It was encouraging to see Latinos like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro prominently speaking at this year’s conventions. It was amazing for people of a certain age to see a Black First Lady garner the accolades she did after her appearance at the DNC. Progress, huh? That is, if you can ignore the fact that the
RNC’s big get was Clint Eastwood, who lives in (and was once mayor of) one of the whites communities in the western hemisphere, Carmel by the Sea. What was disturbing to me is that all of the minority speakers and both presidential candidates focus on increased opportunities for minorities, but not a word about the increasingly racist subtext in our country, and the unprecedented racial divide in our major cities. Residential living in our major cities is still widely segregated. Corporate America is still largely dominated by older white guys. Inner city schools populated by mostly Black children are still providing substandard education. Income disparity among races is still showing huge gaps. Why was none of this front and center at the DNC or RNC?

 VIOLENT CRIME: Why is there no national, strategic plan to conquer the unprecedented wave of violent crime from coast to coast? Why does neither political party construct an approach to securing our cities and protecting the citizenry?
Why was Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel even in Charlotte, rather than at home in one of the most violent cities in the nation, trying to fix his town? In the entire text of his speech at the DNC he never mentioned violent crime in America. That is particularly significant since more than 500 people have been murdered in Chicago this year. In a city of roughly 2.7 million people, 19 of every 100,000 are murdered. What about Detroit, New Orleans, East L.A., Oakland, St. Louis, Memphis and others where the violence is rampant and to date, unstoppable? Why no mention of any of this at the RNC or DNC?

These are real life issues that matter to all of us. Many Americans are a paycheck away from joining the ranks of the homeless. Thousands of families have fallen victim to foreclosures, murder of a loved one, racial discrimination in the workplace and elsewhere, loss of a young son or daughter in Afghanistan, and not enough money to buy food.

 If American citizens are forced to sleep under bridges, to fall prey to illnesses brought on by malnutrition and over exposure to the elements, to never feel safe walking down a city street in broad daylight or to be disenfranchised simply because of their ethnicity, the country is broken. Taking nothing away from the eloquence of the convention speakers,
I am left to wonder if either party will address these issues that directly affect the voters. Or, is the entire aim just to acquire power for the sake of being powerful? Again, the conventions have become nothing more than theater, but theater is where we go to escape the reality of our daily lives. The conventions should have been opportunities to tackle the tough, gritty issues that unreasonably challenge us every day. I don’t know about you, but I did not see that or hear that at the RNC or the DNC.