The United States: At the Crossroad

When I was in college, back in the early 1980′s, I had a classmate who posted a cartoon on his door. It depicted a bedraggled couple with two children. They were standing in front of a prison cell with a sign that said, “Police State.” The caption read, “It sure looks safe in there.” Let me just say that I am a member of the Democratic Party and a supporter of President Obama. I look forward to seeing Hillary Clinton become the first woman President of the United States. With that said, I would like to voice some serious concerns that I have about the future of the United States of America.

Ever since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Americans have eagerly surrendered their Fourth Amendment rights against unwarranted search and seizure for the sake of national security. I find it perplexing that the Patriot Act passed the muster of the Supreme Court. The National Security Agency’s gathering of what is called “metadata,” alarms me. The creation of a secret court of law that reviews requests for gathering of this information brings to mind the Star Court of Henry VIII.

As Americans, we must cling to our Constitutional rights that protect us from unwarranted, arbitrary violations to our rights of privacy. There’s an old-fashioned saying, “Every man’s home is his castle.” Taking away the medieval, gender-biased nuances of this statement, I would translate it to say, “Every individual’s home, phone and online communications can not be investigated, or reviewed by legal authorities without a warrant from a public court of law.”

They say that politics makes strange bedfellows. I think Rand Paul is a thug and a cold-hearted opportunist, who seeks to manipulate a minority segment of the Republican Party in order to gain his political party’s nomination for the Presidential elections of 2016. His father is a well-documented racist and hate-monger, and apples don’t fall far from the tree. That being said, I support his class-action lawsuit against the NSA, and by proxy, against the Obama Administration.

Government intrusion into the private lives of its citizens in a thin wedge. We already live in an era, reminiscent of Venice in the 16th Century, when all one had to do was slip a person’s name into conveniently stationed boxes with the denouncement of treason. Do you realize that all you have to do is call the FBI, give a person’s name and address and denounce them as potential terrorists, and the full weight of the Justice Department will fall upon that individual’s head?

The Patriot Act is clearly unconstitutional. It is reminiscent of the Anti-Sedition Act that was passed under President Adams, America’s second President. At that time, the Supreme Court struck it down because it violated the provisions of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.

America is at a crossroad. While there is an upwelling of progressive/liberal views on issues like distribution of wealth, government intervention to create jobs, to provide assistance to the poor for food, housing and healthcare; there is a complacency on the political left to look the other way when it comes to our Constitutional Rights for protection against search and seizure. I have mixed feelings about Edward Snowden. On one hand, he blew the whistle on the extent of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) level of intrusion into the private lives of American citizens. On the other hand, he took an oath of secrecy. To break an oath is a serious moral breach, and it’s hard for me to get passed that. At the same time, I must give him credit for shining a much-needed light on the extent of the NSA’s UNCONSTITUTIONAL intrusion into the private lives of American citizens, and our international allies. I feel much the same way about Bradley/Chelsea Manning. Can an individual be a traitor to their country, but at the same time be a hero to that same country? It’s a complex question, made even murkier by the Constitutional nuances at play in the tug of war between national security and the rights of individuals against unwarranted search and seizure of personal information.

Has the United States already crossed the line from democracy to fascist state? My personal opinion is that we at the crossroads. We can turn to the right and become “safe and secure” under the watchful eye of a state apparatus geared to provide security to communities and individuals who are under the potential threat of terrorism. Or we can adhere to the principles of the Founding Fathers who sought to protect the citizens of this country from unwarranted government intrusion into our homes and private lives.

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NCIS: The Worst Show Ever

Crap television

Crap television

It is with passionate disgust that I just watched a re-run of NCIS on USA Network. The storyline of the show was that a man had faked his own death. It turned out that this “man” was transgendered.  After they found out that “she” was a “he,” one of the characters makes out with the bad guy. After they find out that the person is transgendered, they consistently refer to her as “him.” There is a scene where one of the guys on the NCIS team makes out with the bad guy. At the end of the show, they make a point of saying that the transgendered character was “pre-op;” that is, had not had her genitalia changed. The operation was scheduled for a week before they killed her. There were lines like, “What did it feel like to tongue another man?” One character says, “Having your outsides turned inside is so…” And another character responds, “Hinky?” The character, a girl, replies, “More than that!”

I am disgusted with this kind of intolerance being broadcasted on television to pollute the minds of impressionable kids. Worse yet, to play up to the basest bigotry of an intolerant audience. People who are transgendered are born that way. They are born with a deeply seated hatred for their biological gender and feel a compulsive drive to become the opposite gender. Women who are born transgendered hate even to look at their breasts. Men hate to look at or touch their penises. This isn’t something they choose, anymore than gay/bisexual people choose their orientation. If we’ve come so far that most people supposedly favor gay marriage, why should this kind of intolerance be splashed on the television? I will never ever watch NCIS again. It’s a crappy show, written by the lowest Hollywood hacks with story lines that are about as imaginative as a MacDonald’s Happy Meal. I only watch it when I am extremely bored and there is nothing else on television worth watching. As I said before, I will never watch it again.

Transgendered people should be treated with respect and compassion. They don’t decide one morning, “Hey! I’d like to be the opposite sex. That would be neat!” No. They are born with a burning desire to be the opposite sex. They identify completely with the opposite gender. Little boys want to wear frilly dresses and play with dolls. Girls want to roughhouse and be one of the guys. It starts from toddlerhood, perhaps even from infancy.

Making fun of transgendered people is like making fun of gay people. It can be done with class. Gay people who are normal can appreciate a funny gay joke. Normal people have the ability to laugh at themselves. What I saw on NCIS was not funny. It was ignorant intolerance. It was “hinky.” No, worse.

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Outrage in Florida

It is with disgust that I comment on last night’s verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. I guess the defense won the case by keeping the jury all white, except for one Hispanic. If a Black woman had been on that jury, Zimmerman would not have been acquitted. It probably would have been a hung jury. I followed the trial closely via Nancy (Crazy Woman) Grace, MSNBC and BBC News. It is obvious to me that Zimmerman stalked Trayvon Martin, profiling him as an undesirable Black youth, then confronted him. Trayvon defended himself and got the better of that obese racist. In retaliation, Zimmerman shot him. Have you seen the photo of Trayvon’s dead body, staring blankly into the sky, flat on his back? Anybody with sense or sensibility who saw that photograph would know that Zimmerman is a murderer- a cold blooded murderer. Look for copy-cat murders in the not too distant future. How many White men will get away with it? If the shoe had been on the other foot; that is, if a Black man had shot and killed a White youth in Florida, there wouldn’t even have been a trial. The man’s attorney would have talked him into pleading guilty to manslaughter and he would have been sent away for a decade or more.

Florida, the state that can’t even run an election properly, shows no justice to Black people. Thirty-one point five percent of all inmates in Florida prisons are black. Yet they make up only sixteen point six percent of the population. Does that mean Black’s are more prone to crime than other racial groups? I think not. I think that the system in Florida, as elsewhere in the U.S., is weighted against Blacks because they do not have the economic resources to fight charges in court. They are pressured by their over-burdened public defenders to plead guilty to lesser charges in order to expedite the over-burdened judicial system. My answer is to pour more money into public defenders. Pay them more money and hire more of them. I watched an HBO documentary called Gideon’s Army. It was a real eye-opener. It showed watch public defenders in the South have to contend with: case loads of over a hundred clients at a single time, no economic resources to pay for expert witnesses and minimal pay that barely gives them a living. Most who enter the public defender’s office quit after a couple of years because of burn-out and low pay.

George Zimmerman’s father was a magistrate in Virginia. Obviously his father had the connections to hire him the best attorney’s money could buy. George Zimmerman is a wannabe cop. He was taking a Criminal Justice class at the local community college at the time of the shooting. He obviously knew about Florida’s ridiculous Stand Your Ground law. That means that you don’t have to retreat if you feel your life is in danger. You can just blow somebody’s head off if you feel threatened. Nice work, Florida. I hope an earthquake causes your state to separate from the mainland and that you drift out to sea. I hope that tsunamis devastate your land. I hope the Everglades overtake your entire state. I hope every Floridian gets bitten a million times by mosquitoes. I wish a thousand plagues on Florida.

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Counting Crows aka Adam Duritz Suck!

Adam Duritz

Adam Duritz

As I was walking through the Hollywood and Highland shopping mall, I heard a cover of Joni Mitchell’s song, Big Yellow Taxi. At the end of the song, Joni sang, “Late last night, I heard a screen door slam, and a big yellow taxi took away my old man.” Well, Adam Duritz ended it differently with some stupid line like, “…took away my girl friend.” Or the equivalent. According to Wikipedia, the font of all wisdom and knowledge, their cover of this great song came out in 2000. It must have been a flop. I don’t remember hearing it ever on the radio. Fast forward thirteen years, and I’ve heard it and I’m outraged.

So Mr. Duritz’s masculinity is so insecure that he couldn’t sing the song as it was written. Heaven forbid he show the courage of Mr. White Stripes who did a brilliant cover of Dolly Parton’s song, Jolene. He didn’t change a word. He begged Jolene not to “take away my man, even though you can.” Hats off to Jack White. He’s an artist. He has character and integrity. The album that he did with Loretta Lynn, Van Lear Rose is a masterpiece.

Counting Crows are responsible for such travesties as “Mr. Jones,” and then a bunch of other shitty songs that nobody listens to or cares much about. Adam Duritz is only two years younger than me. That makes him forty eight years old. I hope he snorted up all his profits from that one piece of crap song and dies like Pete Entwistle (a great artist, sorry for the comparison) alone in a Vegas hotel room from heart failure. Am I being extreme? I think not. I’m talking about artistic integrity of which Adam Duritz has none. If he can only butcher a classic song, then he in turn should be butchered.

It doesn’t seem he’s been up to much since 2003. Let’s hope and pray he doesn’t get some kind of comeback album cum tour. The garbage coming out of the radio these days is bad enough: corporate, predictable, and just plain lousy. By the way, will someone tell me the difference between Rap and Hip-Hop? And why should I consider spoken word music?

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On Being an Uncle

It’s nice being an uncle. I have ten nieces and nephews (four beautiful women and six handsome men). I love them so much that if any one of them is pain or sorrow, I feel it deeply, down to my soul. I don’t want to be a father figure to any of them because fathers are responsible for their care and upbringing. Fathers, by their very nature are in turn, stern and brimming with expectations. My experience with a father was to live up to expectations. As an uncle, I am responsible for making them feel safe and to spoil them. I want their love, but on a basis that is more like a friendship.

To see them grow from infancy to adulthood is an experience that is beyond compare. To see these tiny humans blossom into grown ups is a joy. I love them unconditionally and am proud of all of their accomplishments and look at their shortcomings as mere foibles that are part of the process of transitioning from childhood to adulthood. I freely offer them advice, even when it’s not asked for and shower them with praise which I feel is their due. Truly I am blessed.

I never had any children of my own. I transfer a lot of my paternal drives into my pets, all cats, but even my most beloved of cats can’t compete with the love and affection that I feel for all the children of my siblings. I always wanted them to feel free to express their emotions without fear of censorship or correction. The duties of an uncle are small, but the rewards of their love are worth more than all the gold and diamonds of the world. I spoke with one nephew today and he told me that my phone call came at a perfect time. My heart leapt with joy at his words.

Now that they are adults, I feel proud to say that they are people that I feel comfortable to confide in them about my own troubles and worries. Without reservation I can say that they are all, for the most part, wise, intelligent and most importantly, people with character and humanity. I thank the Lord that I have such wonderful adults as part of my life. Like so many things, the relationships have come full circle. I can confide in them my own problems and hopefully guide them gently not to repeat the mistakes that I have made in my life. My dearest wish is that they remember me as someone who was kind to them and non-judgemental.

Sadly there is one nephew with whom I am estranged. I hope that one day he will forgive me for whatever transgressions that I committed in his mind. As his uncle, I asked him serious questions about the direction that he was committing his life to. Perhaps in time he will forgive me, but that is not in my hands. Of the others, I can say without reservation that they are people that I would gladly meet halfway on any issue. I am not financially able to support them in any way, but I want them to know that I am there for them as a sounding board. Someone who will listen to their stories without judgement or parental expectations. God bless you Alison, Kevin, Sarah, Aaron, Katelyn, Stroube III, Ronnie, Sonny, Caroline, and Bryan. I love you all without reservation, unconditionally and I accept you each for the unique, brilliant, beautiful people that you have become.

One of the most remarkable things about these young adults is how unique and special each of them are. At the end of February, we will gather as a family to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday. I hope that all of them will be able to attend, along with their husbands and wives and significant friends. I embrace you all with tenderness  and devotion. Please know that I love you unconditionally and bless the days when each of you were born. When I see you,  I detect a tiny bit of myself reflected back. Sappy as it might sound, when you are happy, I am filled with joy. When you are unhappy, it hurts me as if you were children of my own.

Being an uncle is a responsibility that I take most seriously. You are the joys of my life. Now some of you are becoming parents, and I love your children with the same unconditional love that I feel for you. Being a great-uncle is great indeed. That you are all close to each other is remarkable and fascinating. You have no idea how much joy you have brought into my life. I would not be as contented in life that I am were it not for each and every one of you. Let me reiterate: God bless you all, the cousins, my parents’ grandchildren.

With enduring love, Uncle Russell

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End of the World

It’s hard not to think that it’s the end of the world when “nearly 70 percent of deep sea Arctic creatures are in contact with human trash like plastic bags and beer bottles.” It makes me terribly sad for these poor hapless creatures. Now that they are talking about opening summer shipping lanes through the North Pole. How can one not think of end times after storms like that one in the Nineties that chewed up Oklahoma City, Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Katrina, now Sandy. I was in Pennsylvania visiting my mother when the remnants of Sandy moved through town. I woke up at two in the morning listening to the howling winds, feeling the house shake. What lies in the future? A warmer Earth even than now. And what will that bring? Only greater storms, and other things besides, mass extinction, new emergent diseases, mutations. It’s a ghastly scenario., referenced 11/4/2012.

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I HATE Angelina Jolie

First of all, I can’t believe this woman made it in Hollywood, even if she IS John Voigt’s daughter. I can’t believe she’s an Oscar laureate because she cannot act. I hate her because she stole Brad Pitt from Jennifer Anniston, who is just so cute and did such a great job in the movie Office Space. Watch this video of Jolie plugging a movie she just directed about the Bosnian War. She has so much botox that she can barely move her eyebrows. How does a person act if they can’t move their facial muscles? God! I hate her so much. I don’t care about her adopting a zillion babies. Obviously she’s not around to raise them. They are being raised by Brad Pitt and a bevy of nannies.

If you clicked on the link, and watched for one minute, then you know what I’m talking about. Oh, and I also hate her for having her baby in a distressed, Third World country rather than America. That speaks volumes about what she thinks about the country that afforded her so much wealth and opportunity. Next time she decides to start cutting herself, I suggest she start with her jugular vein.

By the way, I have nothing against someone having botox treatment, but if that person is an actor, then I do have a problem with it. You are supposed to use your whole body to act. She hasn’t starred in one movie that was worth anything and to be so holier than thou about violence when almost all of her movies are violence-laden, well, that takes the cake. Screw you, Angelina Jolie!

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