Maplewood: A Problem with Policing

Maplewood: A Problem with Policing

It is clear that the events of recent months have let loose all the ugly underpinnings of the US. From politics, to foreign policy, to local community awareness, I believe US citizens are being slapped in the face with reality. We are seeing the actual cost of keeping our lives in relative blissful comfort, in no uncertain terms. Many of the events that the majority of US citizens have felt free to ignore for decades are asserting themselves aggressively in the public view.

This past week, in my “idyllic” community – Maplewood, NJ, we have had a recent realization that has shaken many to their core. They have had to face the truth that the ugly specter of police brutality can rear its head in any and all communities.

Over a year ago, after Fourth of July festivities that the township sponsors, a number of young people of color were herded from the event and forced by police officers to cross township lines. Most of these young people were actually residents of South Orange or Maplewood (a combined community that takes pride in being welcoming to all people).

Damningly, these young people were not moved toward Millburn or Short Hills (neighboring, largely white communities), but toward Irvington that is a township with a high population of African-American residents. Irvington also has a curfew regulation that would have immediately put South Orange and Maplewood youth at risk for breaking local ordinances. No surprise, that.

Imagine if you owned a blue car and your local police directed only blue cars to a neighboring town where blue cars were outlawed? Nice. That’s what Maplewood police did, and they got violent with the young people along the way. And they were instructed to do so by the chief of police. Ahead of time.

And when I say “herded” I am not being hyperbolic. The teens were removed from our community using threats of force, and at least one child was pepper sprayed for resisting being removed from his own residential area and another was punched and kicked while being arrested for not complying with an illegal police directive. The last time I checked, asking only children or teenagers of color to leave an area was against the law. I’ll be checking with the ACLU on that, after writing this reaction. I will update this post with the results of my inquiry.

For your information, this was not just a random event. There are recordings of the Maplewood police chief instructing the police to be on the lookout for “invaders” from other townships and to get rid of them. The police were not responding to an event, they were creating one. They were explicitly told to seek outsiders by sight only. If you do not see that as overt racism, perhaps you have been jaded by the other news events of the past year.

The police escalated the situation, instead of de-escalating it (their job), and instead of announcing a requirement for IDs, or curfew related to the event. Even more distressing is that, if the police had announced their intention to take these measures, there would have been an uproar in our community about being required to have IDs to attend a public event. Or even just be out at night in the summer as a young person of color. And that uproar would have been justified.

There is no reason why the police officers could not have asked the young people for numbers of relatives to confirm addresses and, at most, escort the young people to their homes. That’s what police are supposed to do. They are not supposed to handcuff children for being loud.

So, the police chief actively made a preemptive decision to keep this policy quiet to avoid being told that he could not or should not do it. Are those the actions of a person looking out for the welfare of a community? Probably not.

For your personal comfort, even though there are both video and audio recordings of wrongdoing, the Essex County Prosecutor’s office found “insufficient evidence to warrant criminal prosecution.” Of course they didn’t. They rely on local police cooperation to get anything done. What happens when police forces stop helping county prosecutors because police are held to the same standards as every other community member? Well, nothing, I guess. As evidenced all over the country, for decades.

What is more striking to me is that a community group felt that asking for a resignation and a temporary suspension of pay for the police chief is an appropriate response to institutionally-backed police brutality. Really, to hell with state regulations designed to recitivize corrupt policing. Make them take the action to court, if they are willing. The whole process is backward.

It appears to me that picking a group of young people of color and requiring them to leave a township is actually racist and is in direct violation of civil liberties laws. And this event is only getting the traction it is getting because, after a year of waiting, the recorded video and audio recordings have been released to the public, per a formal request. How many more events like this have gone unrecorded?

I worked in management consulting for years, in finance. I have been around for numerous high-level audits. In fact, the company I worked for at the time was seeking an initial public offering (IPO) and had to justify their finances prior to going public. If an auditor catches one grievous error, I can guarantee you that many, if not hundreds, of grievous errors were missed. That’s how audits work – that catching one problem indicates a much higher level of hidden problems.

This is not an isolated incident as evidenced near the bottom of the article in the link below:

https://web.archive.org/web/20170802155430/https://villagegreennj.com/police-and-fire/video-reveals-maplewood-police-kicking-macing-teens-call-cimino-resign/

“We stand in solidarity with all those who were hurt and traumatized by the experience of being mistreated by the Maplewood Police after the July 5, 2016 fireworks and with those now witnessing this event on the released video. Racial disparities in police conduct cannot be tolerated here or anywhere. We intend to be a model integrated community that is welcoming not just to people who live here, but also to the people in our neighboring towns who visit and participate in all that we have to offer—parks, public events, and more. The culture among our police officers should be consistent with the culture of the community: inclusive and anti-racist…”

I have archived this web page simply because it was startling to me that a local paper would produce an article that intimated proof of wrongdoing by a local police force. I’d rather later edits not become a problem when this event is referred to, down the road.

Back on topic, the group The Community Coalition on Race has made it clear that this is not an isolated instance, and that the police chief has been tapped for this sort of behavior in the past. What I am incredibly thankful for is that no young people have had to die to encourage measurable action from the township.

And yes, I am being critical of my local government. New Jersey is possibly one of the most corrupt states in the union, in terms of government paybacks and regulatory inertia. It is so bad that almost all of the state legislators voted against more stringent corruption regulation. Here’s some edification, for you:

https://ivn.us/2017/03/09/new-jersey-elections-lifeblood-states-political-corruption/

That link above, by the way, is rife with links to actual issues in the state.

But, before community feathers get ruffled, it sounds like community members genuinely seek change. Unfortunately, the change they seek is always one step too short. After a conversation on Facebook with one of the members of the Maplewood Town Council with a Maplewood Town Council candidate, I found out that municipalities do not even have control over releasing a local police chief.

In NJ, you have to have the State’s Attorney General take action, in terms of firing a local police chief. Otherwise, you have to pay the chief to do nothing (while also paying an interim chief), and have to wait for the original chief to decide to retire or resign. That’s it. It is astonishing that this sort of regulation made it to state law and completely in character for the State of New Jersey.

I suppose that. in NJ, if your chief is being investigated for murder, with video & audio proof of complicity made public, you’ll have to wait on the State AG or a conviction to fire him. That’s simply incredible. Especially in an “At-will” state where any business can cite any reason at all to fire you as a private citizen.

So, what are we left with? Well, the police chief has been asked to resign. As far as I know, he’s still being paid. We have also hired an interim chief of police. By state regulation, that’s all we can do, other than to seek criminal court recourse, which our county prosecutor refuses to do. I wonder if they require proof in excess of video and audio in marijuana arrest cases? Jaywalking? Who knows?

I suspect that most community members don’t want to use a “nuclear” option and make this a case suitable for investigation by civil liberties groups. Get the ACLU involved? “Oh no, we don’t want to do that.” Maybe that level of action requires an actual child death and national coverage/embarrassment before we can accept that the worst of the US can happen right here in our home town. And yours.

It is my most sincere hope that the Maplewood Town Council address the current problem to the best of their ability, but also become agents for change at the state and local level and make sure that Maplewood becomes a model for police reform that the rest of the nation can follow.

And to my fellow community members? I say, “Stop accepting incrementalism and work toward measurable change.” A young person’s life may depend on your efforts. Don’t get angry, get active.

CORRECTION: I have struck through inaccurate information in my post, above. I was under the impression that  Maplewood Town Council member had engaged me on Facebook. I later exchanged emails with an actual TC member, who was kind enough to correct me.

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The Creeping Racket of United’s “Overbooking”

There once was a time when I could care less about what airline I took. I went to the first online booking site I could find, searched for the lowest price and packed my bags. I was not a frequent traveler by any means, at least not by airplane. I might squeeze in one trip a year when I had the money to do it. Frequently, my only yearly travel was to Bermuda, where I have close family.

And then I married my wife. She’s a travel nut. She’s been arranging international travel for herself and her family since she was around 12 years old. I’d really never met someone so versed in the intricacies of air travel as she was, or anyone who could sit down for a half an hour and find the best travel “deals.” Usually “deal” meant “cheap tickets” instead of “great experience.” In the beginning of our marriage, these flights were arranged using Continental Airlines.

You remember Continental, don’t you? Great service and meals even on short flights. Space for your carry-on, because no one was trying to avoid a checked-baggage fee. Those were the days.

For someone who had possibly traveled by airplane about five times his entire life at age forty, this sudden ramp-up in travel was jarring and anxiety-ridden. Most of my air travel had occurred prior to 9/11, so the additional security was confounding and honestly, frightening. This did nothing to engender me toward air travel. The jostle to get a seat, the crazed rush to get into the plane and shove overly-large baggage into an overly small space was bizarre and frustrating to me.

Well, just as we were getting married, United purchased Continental. Continental was struggling to stay competitive and the merger with United seemed to make sense, in a merger kind-of-way. For Continental’s customers, there was a heavy sigh of sadness as they realized that they would be forced to transfer their miles to possibly the worst airline they could imagine (maybe, just maybe, American Airlines was the definitive “worst”). They would now be nearly forced to continue to use an airline they’d actively avoided for years.

Why did people avoid United? As a premium airline (as compared to JetBlue or Southwest), United pioneered the “nickle-and-dime” approach to customer service. Once they caught wind that people accepted snacks-only flights on JetBlue, United followed suit. After the merger, United started charging for checked baggage. My wife maintained a United credit card account in large part to avoid this charge. United is now charging for the use of overhead bins. They have progressively made luggage an “extra” expense for travel, adding charges over and above their ticket prices for nearly anything you want to bring with you.

Come to think of it, I had never been asked to make a purchase on an airline prior to flying with United. The first time an air hostess approached me to buy food and snacks on a flight was supremely uncomfortable. But that was just the beginning.

I soon became prepared for the inevitable “overbooking” of our return flight home. I saw an article over the past fews days (possibly on Wired.com) where United only claimed less than a single percentage point of “overbooking.” I must be the unluckiest traveler in the world, because fully a third of our return flights home included a request to “volunteer” for a later flight. As a result, I pleaded with my wife to normally make arrangements to return home twenty four hours prior to the end of our time off to avoid arriving home the morning I needed to return to work.

Imagine, cutting your trip short to accommodate the business habits of your airline. That feels backward to me. Doesn’t it to you? And don’t misunderstand, I realize the business acumen behind overbooking. Any airline could lose loads of money averaging a few empty seats per flight. But due to no-shows? That line of reasoning makes no sense. The last time I checked, no-shows didn’t get refunds, so the airlines don’t lose money at all. This is assuming the no-show made no attempt at communication a week prior to travel. So, United still gets something from no-shows, whether its a fee for re-booking or the full price of the ticket. Or both.

And lets define “overbooking,” while we’re here. To be clear, the only definition of “overbooking” that I accept is for customer seats, period. Accommodating on-duty or off-duty employees does not count. An airline cannot call a fully booked flight “overbooked” because they want to transport off-duty employees on that full flight. Honestly, it should be illegal (from a consumer protection standpoint) for any airline to remove a paying customer to accommodate an employee that United wants to transport somewhere. This is simply a cost-saving/time-saving strategy, since United can certainly pay to transport their employees by other means without removing customers from flights. That’s a cost of business expense, not a required inconvenience to a paying customer.

United’s current policy creates an adversarial relationship between employees and customers. It’s evident on nearly every flight I take with them. Air hostesses berating customers for boarding too slowly, antagonistic announcements for overbooked flights and the like.

Most importantly, this policy puts a certain lie you’ve been told to the test. Overbooking is a business strategy used to reduce “losses” from no-shows. The problem is, by and large, United loses no money from no-shows – it’s an invalid argument. Have you ever not shown up for a flight and gotten a refund a week later? I didn’t think so. Not unless there were tragic circumstances involved. What is more likely is that you were given an additional charge for not showing up – a “re-booking fee.” So, to reiterate, no-shows – defined as ticketed customers who do not show up for their flights – actually make United more money. Now you know the real reason for overbooking.

United gets your original ticket price, plus a no-show fee and they get to fill the seat with another paying customer (or an off-duty employee, for whom they do not have to pay transportation costs). This is literally a racket, as in, the definition of “racketeering.” Yet United gets to present no-shows as a business loss to the public. A business loss that requires overbooking. Let me give you an example.

I am currently on a trip to visit Nashville. I chose to drive here and my wife made arrangements to fly here with my daughter a few months ago. The day my wife and daughter were to take their flight, she saw a weather report indicating heavy thunderstorms and tornado activity on her flight path, so she chose to drive with me, instead. A pretty typical no-show. Hers was just one valid reason out of many to not show up for a flight. And since there is no incentive to contact United, we did not contact them.

She was a no-show for a round-trip flight to/from Nashville. Not only will she never get her ticket price back, she will also not get a refund of the ticket for our five year-old. We can fairly assume that those seats were filled. So, United got a minimum of double the ticket price for my wife’s and daughter’s seats. Then they charged my wife a “re-booking fee” for her return flight, which they canceled but for which they gave my wife a credit. So, as a result of a “no-show,” United received the ticket price for two tickets that were never used and and additional fee for a ticket that was used. In addition, United probably filled the seats my wife and daughter didn’t use, with other paying customers or off-duty staff.

No-shows are not a loss. They’re a free-and-clear profit if the seats are filled. There is no justifiable need for “overbooking” based on no-shows. Even if the seats weren’t filled, they were paid for and most likely resulted in additional fee revenue.

Well, ok. There is one justification. More profits. More nickel-and-diming customers to make more profits. No wonder Continental couldn’t compete.

What you may also not understand is that United (and many other airlines) skirt federal law by convincing you to “volunteer” for a later flight if yours is overbooked. By federal law, if you lose your seat due to “overbooking” the airline is required to pay you up to four times your ticket price or roughly $1,400, which ever is the smaller amount. Airlines get around this by making it inconvenient for you to take your refund and book a separate flight (which is also likely to be overbooked). By inconveniencing you, they convince you to sign a waiver for a voucher that you may never use and which has provisos (blackout dates, voucher only good in the continental US, etc.). So, for the trouble of being removed from a pre-paid flight, United gets to offer you something of almost no value in return. By the way, if you do use the voucher, you’ll need to buy a return ticket from wherever you just went. Ooops. More profit.

At this point, it is no wonder that passengers no longer want to accommodate “volunteer” requests from airlines. The airlines, most certainly United, are making revenue at every interaction a passenger has with them. And they frequently yell at you or abuse you for that privilege. If you are not a frequent traveler, it may be fair for you to put this down to “first world problems,” and maybe that’s a fair criticism. But getting appropriate value and customer service is an expectation we should all have, no matter what that service is.

My advice? Just don’t fly United, or any other airline that does this. If these companies only listen to their pocketbooks, then speak the language they will hear. Before ever that poor man was forcibly ejected from a seat he paid for, in a blatant ploy for United to save a few bucks, this kind of abuse was one of the primary reasons I chose to take a twelve hour drive to Nashville, instead of a three hour flight.

Quiet Mutterings In Response to the First Week of Cheeto Prez

dsc_0124As the last week has come and gone, and I have had a little time to digest, many subjects for this next post floated by my mind. Most especially how distracting certain presidential actions can become, and how we as a nation (the US, but I could include many European nations as well) have become aflutter on social media and elsewhere, trying to get a grasp on what’s going on.

For those of you in this mental/emotional state, I can assure you, I have no advice. Neither am I above this kind of reaction. But I do think that I have learned to seek solid ground prior to letting my emotions get ahead of me. If I can take away anything from the recent social media maelstrom, it’s this – restore your faith with little things.

My daughter recently re-posted a message from Jenna Bush Hager on my Facebook feed. And the contents stopped me short. Not because I necessarily agree with the sentiments in George Bush’s post-9/11 address to the US, but because his daughter, who has insisted on being considered “independent” in politics, chose to resubmit this speech to the world.

I think the purpose of my daughter sharing this speech was to give heart to her liberal and left-leaning friends that even conservatives can see the good in Islam and that Muslims, as a group, are not terrorists or evil people.

I guess the problem that I have with this hopeful thinking is that this very same speech ushered in one of the most savagely anti-Muslim periods in our history. And I want to be very clear about that, because the subsequent “wars”, military actions and bombings of Muslim majority countries have continued for more than a decade with no real publicity. They have continued without stringent opposition from the US Congress, and have represented conflicts and vast amounts of human death and suffering in the name of “Regime Change.”

In point of fact, the “Yes we can” president expanded our drone bombing programs to seven countries that, coincidentally, The Cheeto in Chief seeks to further penalize I assume, for the simple fact of previously being bombed for several years. These are all countries that seek their own independence, on their terms, without foreign intervention – the literal definition of American Independence. They also happen to be Muslim majority. And that’s key.

Because George Bush’s speech was just faulted enough to create a solid neo-con and neo-lib opposition. Because, in point of fact, Islam is not a religion of peace. Neo-libs like Bill Maher love to point this out. But, as a Muslim revert in the US, what can I possibly mean with this inflammatory statement?

Well, it’s pretty simple. If you allow yourself a breath and take a moment to think, no religion is a “religion of peace.” No, folks, not even Buddhism. Buddhist monks are persecuting ethnic minority Muslims right now. Persecuting as in, “executing.” And these monks are not a splinter sect. They’ve just taken nationalism to it’s furthest extent. Much like the US is doing now.

Religion is about faith. Not politics. Even in Islam. Of course Bill Maher and others will push the Islamic exceptionalism argument your way, in trite comedic one-liners (a sort of 140 character-based message). But most Muslim majority governments prior to the 20th century were largely secular, possibly more so than the European “post-enlightenment” based governments were. But, I digress.

So Islam is not a religion of peace, any more or less so than any other religion I am aware of, except possibly Quakers. As you may have heard many times, “Islam” is an Arabic word derivative of “salaam” which means “peace.” More importantly, though, is that “Islam” specifically means “peaceful and willing submission to God.” How important is that distinction? It depends on how much understanding you really want to have.

What it has meant to me, for the majority of my life, is that there is no authority above God. That God’s word, as far as we can possibly understand it, as faulted, petty human beings, is the highest authority. How we deal with that understanding is our choice. Some of us (Muslims) try to force our understanding on others. This is what Daesh does. Some of us offer our understanding to others (not as evangelism or “Da’wah” / proselytizing) in the course of our daily actions. In other words, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” To me, that statement is fundamental to Islam, and one of my personally greatest faults – that being a Muslim is really just being a veritable example of the best in Islam to others. An example of Good in the world.

The point is, Islam is not the problem. Islam is foreign enough that I think most “westerners” and even western Muslims can’t really get a solid understanding of what Islam really means. It’s taken me nearly 30 years just to get this tiny modicum of understanding. But the basic message stays the same.

Protect your own, protect and support others in need. Give God his due and recognize the uniqueness of his messenger. Visit the birthplace of your beliefs at least once in your life. Islam literally boils down to “Respect yourself. Respect others equally. Respect the words of God.” There’s really not much foreign about that. But still, we bomb.

One of my friends recently said that there was more outrage against an immigration ban (sparking protests all over the US, Europe and elsewhere) than there has been about unconstitutional bombings of Muslim majority states for more than a decade. And I think this is true.

Don’t complain about refugees’ immigration status. Don’t get upset about refugee bans. No, don’t do either, unless you are willing to make a greater effort to stop creating refugees in the first place. That’s really what George Bush and the US has missed all along. I truly hope we will learn this lesson before Cheeto Prez and his sycophants destroy everything.

Welcome to Trump’s America (Be at Ease, It Was Always This Way)

I’m a liberal progressive with some conservative tendencies. If, in this new America, that offends or frightens you, you should move on. If you’re actually interested in dialog, then welcome.

To me this date – November 8th, 2016 – corresponds to the assassination of Kennedy as my mother described it to me. She even made a scrapbook that I can pull out one day, mouldering in some closet at her house.

In contrast to my mother, I did not lose a beloved President. What was assassinated today was my hope. My hope for my children and my grandchildren. In fact, I think I would actively advise my children not to have children of their own, at this point. Political contraceptive.

How bizarre, you think, “What’s this he’s going on about, then?”

You see, I’ve survived this America before. For years, children in the town where I grew up ganged up and beat me, calling me “nigger.” Does that offend you? The truth of it? How do you think it makes me feel? It felt like all of the children in my town were against me, but in truth it was only a few. Some even took me under their wings in a rather negligent way – “You’re not that kind of nigger”

And while they may not have been hard-core racists (I am here writing this, after all), they taught me all I needed to know about America. That for the most part, as a non-white man, at best I will only be tolerated by the vast majority of Americans. That no matter that I’ve served my country, educated myself and worked hard for nearly 40 years, I’m only just a nigger in America. Or a “damn Muslim.”

I’ve learned that most people will stand by as I am being abused, if they are not actively participating or egging the participants on. If they are particularly tolerant, they may just look on in fear or disgust.

Perhaps even less grace will be afforded my children. Will they have to hide their beliefs as Muslims? Will they disavow culture and upbringing in order to eke out survival as brown people in America? Or will they live a hidden, Anne Frank version of Islam – the kind that comes out from the crawlspace only when the coast is clear and candles are lit?

I watch as my liberal white friends shrug and say “Maybe next time.” Or “That was disappointing.” It’s ok, I’m used to it. Trump’s America is nothing new to me. It is only the horror I have been struggling against my entire life. I went into decades long debt to bankers to raise myself up, studied hard, did the right things. But here I stand today, solidly on square one.

Maybe I and my family will be registered as Muslims. He said that, you know. Yes, he did. And you supported him in it, because both Democrats and Republicans colluded to frighten you to death, so they could make more money and garner more individual power.

You want me to be outraged by Trey Goudy’s laughable and expensive crusade against Hillary? He’s only nearly every (white) man I ever knew for the first 15 years of my life. This is nothing new to me. I learned to laugh at the fear they tried to feed me. “Is that really the best you can do?”

The real problem is that I drank the juice. When Obama was elected president, I thought, “Well now, we’ve finally arrived.” Maybe the country really isn’t mostly racist after all. But now, you and I are faced with the plain truth. That bigoted aggression was only hiding, living and growing – festering under the skin, until Trump popped our collective boil.

And, in treating that festering boil with the worst kind of doctor, my hope has finally been lost. I don’t believe in you anymore, America. Harriet Tubman did. Frederick Douglass did. Susan B. Anthony did. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did. You may not believe it, but Malcolm X did too. How? He never left. He never gave up. He died fighting for what he believed in.

Not so much to believe in, really. Just the possibly – the hope – that there could be an America where lynchings, firebombings, extra-judicial killings, segregation and mass-shootings was not “a thing.” If you think about it, that’s really what America actually stands for – order and fairness for all its citizens, and beyond that, for all the world’s citizens. But hey, America, you can’t criticize other countries for being savage any more. You’re in the dirt with them, now.

Malcolm X is my hero. As is Gandhi. And Lincoln. All men who lost their lives fighting for basic human rights. But you know what? After three centuries of concerted effort, I’m pretty sure it’s ok to say, “Hey guys, this isn’t working.” I mean, my ancestors were slaves. But they were also the first Europeans to settle this land. I wonder which is worse?

So I can tell you, because I have been living this dichotomy for almost fifty years. There is the America we’d like to believe in. And there’s the America that actually exists.

So, what’s the point of all this navel-gazing? Well, America, you’ve forced my hand. Maybe, like Richard Wright, I could find solace in residence in another country. Or maybe I just give up.

I love watching the internets talk about how Trump will bring this country together when he has spent the last two years (and longer) tearing it apart. And he’s not completely to blame. The media never kept the candidates focused on hard questions. I still really have no idea of the specifics of either party’s platform for this election, except for the vigorous wagging of fingers. Literally the only candidates who offered solid policy solutions were hushed and pushed aside.

I can tell you that that I will not wait for my property to be seized, or my far distant family to be purified in nuclear fire, or to be encamped as the Jews and Japanese were (another Nazi Germany/America correlation).

So, all you pundits espousing “hope?” Yeah, not for me. I will not live to see my daughter imprisoned, or my son relegated to camp labor for the “good of America.” Hyperbole? No, it’s what Trump promised. He has the entire Congress and will probably have the Supreme Court as well. Newt Gingrich and Ted Cruz AND Michael Pence will have actual, almost completely unopposed power in this country.

Some of you really don’t see a problem. Here’s what I see. Women who die from septicemia trying to get illegal abortions (no more Roe v. Wade or Planned Parenthood). More police brutality and overreach (Trump promised nationwide stop-and-frisk – almost exclusively enforced on people of color). More black people being killed for no reason. The literal extinction of Native Americans (Trump and his cronies have got to make more money, after all), even more tens of thousands of Muslim lives destroyed all over the world in order to stop a few thousand extremists who pose no imminent danger to the US and nearly always only kill other Muslims.

But feel satisfied, America. You did good. You got what you wanted.

And to the inevitable liberal/progressive voices out there telling me to keep my chin up and keep protesting and being active in the government? I say, “Fuck you.” I’ve been doing that my entire life to laughs and derision. This was my reward.

Refugees and Conflicts Are Our Problem

Said as I wished to say it. I hope you’ll read, and like the original post.

If the US is truly going to stand for “truth” and “right” then we should stop supporting those who don’t.

True Boots

The last week’s news cycle has included crises of breathtaking magnitude: Congress has contended with the influx of tens of thousands of children from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, while the world has watched as Israel has pounded Gaza with missiles, killing Hamas militants, but also dozens of women, children, and other bystanders. Yet the responses I’ve seen in the mass media and on social media has been overwhelmingly about the “rightness” of Israel to destroy sites that have included a mosque, a center for the disabled, and a cafe where people were watching the World Cup; also, about the “illegality” of children fleeing the extreme violence and poverty of their home countries, and how expensive it is to feed, house, and otherwise help children in crisis–and so we talk about rapid deportations, not resolution or care. Hamas isn’t relenting, so people seem to feel that the murder of innocents is somehow justified…

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One Year In

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Time for some navel-gazing. In all honesty, I do a lot of it. Thankfully, I do not write a lot of it down.

I had a lot of big plans for this blog a year ago. Suddenly, a few weeks ago, I received the WordPress notification congratulating me on the first year. Had it really been that long? I guess so.

But I found time to write only nine times during the year. Most of those posts had come during the honeymoon period, where my excitement was high and I found time to write in almost any circumstance.

But life gets in the way. I determined not to start a daddy-blog (how tiresome), but fatherhood experiences overtook my day-to-day life and I rarely had more than fifteen minutes at a time to concentrate. Perhaps some people can write under those circumstances, but I cannot. As a result, many of my ideas were suspended.

I learned that reactionary writing was bad for me. There are many drafts sitting in the hopper, waiting patiently to be finished as I lost track of my points after my passion faded and I had time to think about what I was writing. Cathartic for me. Not much benefit to you.

I learned that I wrote best about the things I care about most. It is incredibly rewarding to know that my efforts are helping some of you. Really. And, if my post didn’t help, I hope I at least let you know that you are not the only one having these frustrations.

I am definitely looking forward to expanding my work in technology and have been negotiating a collaboration with an associate to start a new tech-only blog with a YouTube tie-in. As if there weren’t enough of those. But I am excited about it.

The tech blogs I have written have been far and away the most popular, in terms of viewership. But the other subjects have engendered the most discussion. It puts me in a strange position. I feel that I should isolate my technology writing, for ease of access to my readers. We’ll see how it goes

I learned that I should write when I have the ideas, and then let my writing sit for a while. Coming back to my posts after a year is eye-opening. I am capable of much better writing, and some of my posts almost made me cringe. They feel almost…sophomoric. The sentence structure, the editing, the typos. I am better than that, I can assure you. And I will be better from this point forward.

I will not be rushing my posts any more. But I will be posting more regularly.
I  want to thank all of you. For reading. For valuable input. For your patience with me. I look forward to our next year together.