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Ted Talks

Innocent Black Shot By a Cop. Again!

Allow me to rant about this latest shooting of an innocent black woman, 28 year old Atatiana Jefferson, in her OWN apartment, once again in Texas.

When I was a kid growing up in NYC I knew a lot of NYPD cops. My cousin was one of them. They mostly carried Smith and Wesson Model 10, 6 shot revolvers. Cops in those days used to brag that they “never fired their weapon in 20 years on the job.” Many would boast that they never had to PULL their weapon in the line of duty. Ever!

When did it suddenly become in vogue not only to pull one’s weapon, but to fire it almost instantly in any situation that might be the least bit dangerous?

Breaking news to cops! Your job is dangerous. You will face crazy people, violent people and also some very nice, normal people everyday. If you feel that the only way to manage dangerous situations is to pull and fire your weapon, quit now and find another line of work.

Police have at their disposal a veritable arsenal of tools to use long BEFORE they use deadly force. Let’s start with hands and fists, the nightstick, then mace, then the Taser. The LAST thing that should be pulled is a firearm. I watch Live PD and these cops pull their 9mm service weapons at the drop of a hat. I understand the job is dangerous but you are not supposed to be making life more dangerous for civilians while you protect yourselves.

I get it that bad guys want to get away from you and will often do what they need to do to make that escape. I also understand that you have a wife, a husband, kids, a family, a future that you would like to protect. BUT if you indiscriminately fire your weapon and shoot people who should not be shot, YOU will end up unemployed and in prison like Amber Guyger.

If you cannot stand the risks of policing, and that is totally understandable, and if pulling and firing your weapons is your first line of defense, then get out before you kill someone else who did nothing other than be black and in their own apartment when YOU came in and shit your pants.

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Opioids? Blame the Doctors!

If you saw 60 Minutes Sunday night, you saw an excellent piece by Bill bunch of white oval medication tablets and white medication capsulesWhittaker on the opioid crisis. He featured a drug maker who himself is willing to admit that his own industry is at fault along with the FDA for changing the labeling on many of the opioid based medications that have now become an American scourge. The original labeling called for short-term use of these meds. But around 2001, things began to change and drugs that are clearly very addictive, after very short periods of use, were suddenly green lighted for longterm use. Yes, you can blame the FDA, but I’ll tell you who I really blame, doctors!
IN THE END, the true gatekeepers of these meds are doctors, dentists, physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners. No one can legally get these drugs without a prescription. As long as these people with the ability to write the scripts write them for longer than the barest minimum, then they are the ones to blame for the addictions.

 

Terminal cancer patients need pain relief at any cost. Immediate post op patients need a few days of pain relief. Patients in the throes of rehabbing after orthopaedic surgery need pain relief to get the most out of their PT sessions. And people who have just had four teeth extracted, or other major oral surgery, need a day’s worth of pain meds. They do NOT NEED days and day of pills and more pills! And if they get them, they got them because someone wrote a prescription for it!

You can clutch your pearls over the drug companies and the FDA, but in the end the final gate-keeper is the prescriber. Let’s begin to hold them more responsible for the serious problems we have now. Let’s start holding them accountable by auditing their controlled substance scripts, and let’s make sure they know they are being watched and will be held accountable up to and including license suspension and revocation! Enough!
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Make America Sane Again

SAneIT SEEMS when I am feeling especially crazy from a week of Trumpian lunacy, I feel better when I write. And today I surely must write.

We, all of us, each of us who is not “one of them” has been feeling especially stressed of late because quite honestly, what’s going on in DC is nuts. We have lost our way because our leader has no map, no compass and no clue where he is going. Yet, he is taking a nation of 300+ million people, not to mention the world, along for a ride through a fun house where ugly images appear at every turn and where no one enters or exits laughing.

Putting aside all the legitimate issues at stake here, the economy, our collective health and welfare, science, technology, decency and civility, who has given this man, his vulgar family and his inept administration the right to consume us?

Each morning we awaken to a litany of horrible tweets, nasty comments, snotty sound bites and citations of the disturbed behavior our President has conjured up in the wee hours when his crazed mind cannot rest and when the weakest links of his damaged ego must gather their strength by forging new and more vile behaviors.

Who gave him this right to consume our every waking hour, our every front page, our every lead story, our every magazine cover, our very conscious and subconscious with his nonsense, his bile, his vitriol, his hate, his biased thinking and his sordid life style and ideology?

When did we all sign on to having this corrupt boor, this heathen, this base and repulsive knave, this failed husband, businessman and politician take away our ability to think clearly and freely and actually have a moment of peace of mind?

Donald Trump is not only a sad failure as a president, he is a tragic figure as a human being. Because of his deranged and distorted psyche, one that craves attention and adulation 24/7, our lives and our minds have been hijacked, kidnapped, stolen and sullied.

Daily newscasts, just weeks before Christmas, at any time really,  should not be filled with stories of name calling, race baiting, insults, threats, barbed retorts and ill will from a man who is supposed to be in a position to lead us to things better, more civil, kinder and gentler.

Perhaps worse, members of Congress who would tell you they are God fearing, decent, Americans who love this nation and honor its Constitution, have nonetheless decided that this lunatic-in-chief be allowed to say and do what he likes, common sense, decency and civility be damned. Is there NO moral limit, line, or barrier beyond which they will stop him when he crosses it? Have they no conscience that occasionally decides that what is moral, what is kind, what is fair and what is just for our nation takes precedence over partisan politics that allow a mentally unstable mistake to go unchallenged, unquestioned and unimpeached?

If now is not the time of year for men and women of good will to step up and stop this, then when is it time? Look at your children. Look at yourselves in the mirror. Really process what is going on here and stop the madness.

This cannot be a Merry Christmas, a Happy Chanukah, a joyous Kwanzaa, a Happy New Year or any other magical time until the evil that leads us is purged and punished. It is time. And if America is the great country so many say it is, it will recognize the task ahead, take it on with courage and do the right thing, because in the end, the right thing is what America must do. And Congress must stand up and do it. Enough!

 

 

 

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Friends Until… Trump

friendThe collateral damage of the Trump presidency: Friendships.

While many people note that they will never let politics upset their friendships, indeed pundits Mary Matalin and James Carville are married, though diametrically opposed politically, the fact is, politics and friendship make strange bedfellows.

Let’s be honest. We often make friends with people because they share a common interest, a common occupation, a love of the same art or food or wine. We become friends with people because our kids are friends or because we simply live next door or work in the same industry.

But usually there is something else that binds us to a friend and that is often not seen and not so obvious and it is something called values. We share the same values. We can disagree on political parties but we agree on wanting our nation to be economically strong, to be fair, to be decent, to be innovative, to be well thought of in the international community, to cherish freedom and human rights.

Now Republicans and Democrats might differ on how to get to those goals, but as long as they share those goals there are ways friends of differing political parties work around the differences in how to get to point B from point A.

The waters of friendship become much more treacherous, however, when the ways of getting from point A to point B include methods that fly in the face of our values and our core beliefs.

When others are willing to tread on the rights of the poor, minorities, members of the LGBT community, less fortunate immigrants, and insult, debase and degrade these people in the name of getting to point B, then we need to take a second look at who among our friends is willing to support that.

If we have friends who are Black, Gay, Latino, poor, catastrophically ill or otherwise disadvantaged, how can we in good conscience remain friends with someone who would support a candidate or party or President who would harm these people, our friends?

When you support Donald Trump, when you laud his counselors, assistants and lieutenants, when you praise those among his group who are clearly anti-Semitic, racist and leaning toward Nazism, then we no longer have anything that important in common that makes me want to continue being your friend.

So no, I am not so big as to keep my friends and my political feelings separate. And I consider that to be a badge of honor, even if we never speak again. And yeah,  I guess that lunch is off.

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Take It Off-Line!

COMPUTERS,  the internet, “high-tech.” I have been a fan of them all and from very early on! I had a pager in 1976.

votingmachine

I was on-line in 1983 when my “email address” at CompuServe was just a series of numbers. The whine of modems handshaking at 300 baud still resonates in my head.

In 1983 I had a thermal fax machine when it took 7 minutes to send one letter. And it smelled awful! In the same year I began banking on-line, and have ever since.

Along with several others at ABC Radio, I was typing my newscasts on a Radio Shack Model 100 years before the newsroom itself went on-line.  I was running Windows 3.1 in 1986. I was in chat rooms before most people had heard of them. I had a Prodigy account, an AOL account, I got on MySpace a few days after it went live and later, FaceTime and Twitter. I am on Instagram and have a SnapChat account. I am not one of “those” people who is afraid of technology or who has avoided it. But now, I am ready for us go a little lower tech in some areas, for the safety of us all.

So much of what we do and how we do it involves a keyboard, a screen of some sort and an internet connection. And that is fine for routine matters, but some things are best slowed down, secured more carefully and removed from an arena that is clearly rife with the danger of dishonesty.

Ted Koppel, in his 2015 book “Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath” is clear that with so many aspects of so many power grids on-line, it’s just a matter of time before an attack will render us crippled, for months! There is so much concern about hacking. Everyday, people find their email compromised, their PCs attacked by viruses as fast as their virus protection software can catch and neuter them. Here is a site which lists “The 20 Biggest Hacking Attacks of all Time.”  This will give you some sense of how broad and how expensive these incursions can be. Can we afford worse?

My biggest concern is not only the power grid and other forms of cyber crime, but the sanctity of our elections. We do NOT need to have our elections even remotely handled online. We must keep our precious votes as far away from the internet as possible, Yes, the old voting machines were clumsy and needed to be schleped around by truck, but they were immune to cyber tampering. Paper ballots, unwieldy to count, are still off-line and impervious to attacks from enemies in cyber space.

I don’t know just how much vote tampering, if any, was done in the 2016 election. But we do know that there have been foreign influences on-line among social media in a variety of ways. I am convinced that threats to our democracy have and will continue to come from overseas, via the internet.

It is imperative that local government, in concert with local Boards of Elections, make sure that as many people as possible can and do vote, that those votes count, and that they are protected from any and all attempts to tamper with them. If that means taking a few steps back to a simpler, safer time, when a not-so-automated method of voting assured the outcome of our elections was as the voters intended them, then take it off-line!

 

In the Face of Storms, Be Gentle

I WOKE UP THIS MORNING with an especially strong sense of foreboding. Sure there’s a major storm coming, I have a vested interest in not losing property in Florida, and I have many OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfriends and some family there. But this feeling was over the top. I wondered why.

Then I did some thinking and recalled something an old psych professor once told me. The human psyche can deal with just so much stress. It’s like a flood wall. As long as the water stays below the wall, there’s no flood or manifestation of anxiety. Once the water rises above the level of the wall, that “flood” becomes stress that is often somatized. That is, your body reacts with increased cortisol levels, sleep becomes difficult, etc.

There are ways to raise the wall so that the “flood” doesn’t get you. Meditation, exercise, deep breathing etc. But surely a simple hurricane should not have sent the “flood waters” over the wall, right?

Then it struck me. Our walls, all of our walls, have been lowered for 2 years now. The on-going assault of stupidity, ignorance and hatred from Trump people and from him, has worn away at that wall. It’s become lower and lower. And so even the smallest ripple can send water over the top.

So if you find yourself especially uptight, short tempered, jittery, nervous and feeling a general ennui, think about the last two years, and how we’ve all been worn down. And oh yes, there are those who call us “snowflakes” and who offer “tears cups.” But the fact is, people with intellect and compassion, with a sense of justice and who know right from wrong, will likely be more fragile than others. Part of being concerned, compassionate and loving includes being sensitive.

Bottom line: these last few weeks of bad weather are not all that’s bothering us. They are just part of an overarching assault on us from people who are missing the “compassion”gene. That leads to ugly politics, ugly behavior and a harshness that reduces the humanity in us all. They win if we too, become them. Be especially gentle in the next few weeks, with yourselves and with others.

Had Enough Trump Yet?

 

I woke up this morning to hear that Donald Trump tweeted a picture of a train running over an eScreen Shot 2017-08-15 at 12.06.21 PMffigy of CNN. It was later taken down. An anonymous White House official tells CNN the retweet was “inadvertently posted.”

Excuse me, who has control of that account? I want to know! Who actually tweeted that tasteless, immature, rude image? I want to know!

The Washington Post reported “late Monday, Trump also retweeted a post of the Twitter account linked to right-wing provocateur Jack Posobiec, a Trump supporter known for fanning conspiracy theories, including the infamous “Pizzagate” rumors of child trafficking.”

Trump has said tweeting is his way of communicating with the public. But the fact is he does not use Twitter as a form of information dissemination. He uses Twitter to throw bombs. He uses Twitter as a ten-year-old bully would yell nasty things out his window at passersby, knowing full well no one can get in to retaliate. He uses Twitter to take cheap shots, insult, demean, degrade, brag, bully and humiliate.

What other POTUS would have sunk to this level of immature, mean spirited, divisive communication? The answer is none! Not one! Zip. Zero. Nada.

Not to get hysterical here, but if Trump did “inadvertently” tweet this Trump train nonsense, what else might he do “inadvertently?” Just who really does have control of the nuclear codes? Who can stop an “inadvertent” presidential fit of pique? One of those cannot be “taken down” once it is released.

With each day of this abomination called the “Trump Administration” we see our nation, our values and our morals dragged through the mud by its very own leader. We see the dregs of humanity encouraged to come out of the holes in the walls in which they live to bring hate and violence to our streets. We see a severe erosion of the progress we have made in civil rights, religious freedom and LGBT rights.

This reminds me of the third grade, when one disruptive child proceeded to interfere with all forms of education and decorum the teacher tried to maintain and he eventually had to be expelled and sent to a “special school.”

This presidency cannot be allowed to continue. And our Congress, on both sides of the aisle, likely knows it. All that’s needed here is the courage and the willingness to say “we are better than this” and “we will not suffer this mistake any longer.”

In their wisdom the framers provided for just such a situation. It is time Congress worried more about the future of this nation, than its own petty concerns about reelection and irking a small portion of its constituency. We depend on it. The state of our Union depends on it. Please share.

 

It’s Not All United’s Fault!

Much has been said since the dramatic video was released last weekend of a United Airlines passenger being dragged off a plane after he refused to be “bumped.” All I have heard is how Uualpaxnited is horrible, how people will boycott United and how the whole thing was “disgusting.”

Breaking news! And I am certain this will be a very unpopular point of view, but here goes. While United may have some blame here, the real blame rests with this “doctor” who was asked to get off the plane. His conduct was shameful, immature, hysterical, unprofessional, undignified and possibly even a bit disturbed.

Let me stipulate that United should not be bumping revenue generating passengers from its flights to accommodate deadheading crew. Let me stipulate that United needs to figure out a better way to handle this kind of thing in the future such that crew gets where it needs to get and paying passengers get to where they need to get.

But the issue I have is a larger one and it transcends the immediate issue of bumping people off commercial airliners. Rather, it has to do with following lawful instructions given by a member of a flight crew. This country is awash in eroding respect for law and order, rules and regulations and quality and standards. And one need only look to the White House to see just how low our standards have sunk. But I digress.

If one is in Wal-Mart and is given “orders” by a sales clerk, they likely need not be followed. If one is in Chili’s and the host tells you to get off the line, perhaps that likely needs to be argued on the spot. But when a person is on a commercial aircraft and a crew member issues a lawful order, you follow it. Even if you think it is stupid or wrong or even discriminatory, you follow it because you don’t know why it is being issued. In this case it was clear they needed the extra seats. I would again stipulate that this is a stupid reason. BUT, just suppose the REAL reason was they needed room for a pair of sky marshals? Must they tell you that? Of course not. The fact is we cannot and likely should not know all the things that the cockpit crew knows or that the flight attendants know. I have several pilot friends and flight attendant friends. I trust them and their skills. I trust that they are good at what they do and likely know what’s best for me while aboard their aircraft.

Here’s my greater worry. If you refuse an order to leave the plane and go limp and need to be dragged off, this sets up a very dangerous precedent. Next time a flight attendant might ask three passengers in a row to get up and move aft … they might not tell the passengers why, but have a very good reason. Is there a bomb near them? Is there a leak or imminent fire? Is that the time for the passengers to lay down and throw a temper tantrum and refuse? Hardly! I never want to see the institutionalizing of bad behavior on aircraft. Ever!

Bottom line, when on an airplane and told to do something, do it! Assume they know more than what you know. There will always be time to gripe and complain and to Tweet and call the media and to sue. There might not be time to avoid a danger known only to the crew. Instructions from a flight crew are not suggestions. They are orders. Follow them!

As for this case?

  • United was wrong to bump revenue passengers to allow room for a dead heading crew.
  • This passenger was wrong not to follow instructions. He was worse still for his absurd, histrionic behavior that bordered on disturbed and it is THAT which led to his being dragged off the plane. He should have left in a dignified manner and raised holy hell at the gate.
  • When you fly you agree to the rules of carriage. Don’t like them, seek to have them changed. In the meantime, don’t fly.

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Trump: Knowing When To Leave

leaveBurt Bacharach and Hal David (no relation to this writer) wrote a song called “Knowing When to Leave” back in the 60s. One of the lines was, “knowing when to leave can be the smartest thing that anyone can learn.” In the case of Donald Trump, learning and smart do not apply. And it is time for him to leave.

It’s been just about two months now since America was forced to inaugurate to the highest office in the land, arguably one of the dumbest, sleaziest, most dishonest and least capable people ever. We did this because the voters, in their zeal to get rid of any vestige of a successful, elegant, occasionally flawed and compassionate black president, and in their zeal to elect someone who would promise them the moon and deliver not even green cheese, ignored all the hand writing on the wall.

So where are we now, two months in? We have a health care bill that is nothing like what was promised and will deprive truly needy people of what they need. We have an administration that will increase military spending to the detriment of the environment, the nutritional needs of our nation’s elderly, the education of our children and our general well being. But, much of that, indeed, most of that, is negotiable in Congress.

What is not negotiable is that we have elected a man who is clearly unbalanced. We have seen this before in Toronto with former mayor, the late Rob Ford. Maine has a governor, Paul LePage, who some say is certifiable. He says it routinely with his racist pronouncements.  We are seeing it in North Korea with Kim Jong-Un. And I have a question or two about the sanity of the Philippines’ president Rodrigo Duterte. Oh and Bashar al-Assad in Syria is another one of questionable sanity. Actually, no. He is nuts.

So what about Donald Trump? He is clearly a pathological liar incapable of civil discourse and separating his own pathological needs from those of the nation. In a petulant display of pique during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on March 17th, Trump made it obvious he is not just uncomfortable on the world stage, but he is an amateur, coated in flop sweat and self-doubt.

WE THE PEOPLE cannot have this. And thus it is time for him to leave. BUT, who knows this? I fear many, many people know this. Not just Democrats. I suspect many Republicans know this too. But it seems not many in positions that matter, have the guts to step up, speak out and be heard.

So let me encourage you all to contact your members of Congress. Call your Representives. Call your Senators. Tell them it is time for him to leave. And since Trump does not know it is time to leave, it is time to tell him to leave. It is time to impeach.

I don’t think Mike Pence is anyone most of us want to see in the Oval Office. And if he was complicit in Trump’s chicanery, then he too must leave. But if not, then at least it will remove this colossal mistake from the Oval Office and the World Stage.

Think about it. Haven’t you seen enough? Do you require any more craziness before you too decide it is time for him to leave?  This noble experiment of putting a sleazy, failed businessman and TV host into the White House might have worked had Donald Trump risen to the occasion. But hey. Donald Trump cannot. Like Popeye, he is what he is and that’s all that he is. And what he needs is to go.

Knowing when to leave? It’s time. Congress. Over to you!

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