Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sex Offenders - Is It "One Size Fits All"?

I couldn't decide whether this should be written or not.  This could be a very divisive issue.  The question, posed by Matt Lauer on the Today Show and myself, is an important one.  Personally, I think we might have passed this legislation, years ago, with what I like to refer to as the, "Ready, Fire, Aim," mentality.  We passed the laws, however we didn't think about the, "What if?" scenarios.  Today's case in point - the story of 34-year old Frank Rodriguez in Texas.  Here's the short story that you can use to base your initial decision:  Frank had sex with a girl that was 15-years old when he was 19.  The age of consent (as this was consensual) in Texas is 17.  Frank was convicted of statutory rape.  There, as I said, is the short story.  Obviously, Frank was placed on the Sex Offender Registry and has remained there for 15 years.  Now, let's hear the whole story.

Frank was a high school senior when he met Nikki, a high school freshman.  One thing led to another and shortly thereafter (well, not too shortly) their relationship included activities of a sexual nature. (Was that said politely enough?  I worry)  Anyway, Nikki's mother wasn't fond of the relationship progressing as quickly as it had been so she decided to put a scare into him.  She took her daughter to the local police station and reported him for having sexual relations with a minor.  Big mistake.  Huge.  She decided to go back the following day to rescind her complaint, however....yeah, you can guess the rest.  Frank was then arrested for statutory rape and, as part of a plea agreement to avoid jail time, pleaded guilty to the charges.  He got seven years probation and had to register as a sex offender.  Not cool.  Just so we all know what this entailed, Frank was not allowed, during his probation, to go to places like swimming pools or football games - anywhere there might be children present.  In fact (this was unreal), he had to move out of his home because he had a twelve-year old sister.  One size fits all?  Is Frank really a sexual predator?

Here's the best part of the story - in a time when most people cannot keep their marriages together and more than half the married couples get divorced, Frank is Nikki.  As a matter of fact, he and Nikki have four beautiful daughters and a loving marriage.  They showed him out back playing with his girls, something many of us would love to have the opportunity to do, and teaching them soccer.  he is, as you'd assume, unable to coach their soccer teams.  Frank, so the story told, is wearing today's modern version of the Scarlet letter.  This whole situation, so it was pointed out by Robin Sax, a criminal defense attorney and former sex crimes prosecutor, was caused by a parent using the legal system rather than having a conversation and parenting their child.

So the question begging to be asked - is Frank truly a sexual predator?  Is there a danger to children?  he had sex with his girlfriend.  He might not have used the best judgment, however does the punishment fit the 'crime'?  How many of us (seriously, be honest), when thinking of our younger days, can say we weren't close to breaking that law (if we actually didn't)?  Honestly, it's time for making a few adjustments to this law.  We need to use common sense in these cases.  In a time when it's all the rage to pass legislation allowing (or disallowing) gay marriage, shouldn't something like this be important, too?  Shouldn't Frank have the same rights as the rest of us when his only crime was having sex with the mother of his four beautiful, loving children?  In a time when there are people savagely raping others, shouldn't Frank's case be one that is a prime example of using our heads rather than our emotions?  You may think I am truly lost on this one.  I, however, think the guy deserves better.  I wish him the best...and hope that, eventually, someone gets the message that not every case is the same.

Until next time.....

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Change We Voted For?

Enough already.  Enough of the bipartisan shenanigans we've been witness to for...well, several years now.  The President campaigned on a message of change and promised us hope.  I've about had it with the change...because it appears, especially of late, that there is no hope.  I cannot remember anything like this in my lifetime and that's teetering on half a century.  Yeah, for all my friends that have already joined "The Club," it's been that long.  Sounds worse when put that way, huh?  As is typical, though, I digress...and I am NOT letting the Washington insiders off that easily.  So, after 50 years and never having seen a mess quite like this, what do we do?  Well, I realize this is thinking a bit "big picture," but if we re-elect the people that are causing this nightmare, we're fools.  I know I am repeating myself, but this time I DO NOT CARE if someone has skeletons in their closet.  Frankly, I don't care if their lawn is littered with them.  If they know how to govern, do what is best for the majority of the people, believe that wasteful government spending is a crime then they get my vote.  No more will I listen to the person that's best at giving a speech.  I want someone with a proven track record that's worked their way up and keeps getting elected because they did the right thing for their constituents.  Either that, or someone that has NO voting record at all and is not seduced by the 'Sounds of the Siren' emanating from capitol Hill.  In short, I want an honest man that wants to lead.  Period.

I have to admit, I was amazed at what we witnessed last evening.  The President got on prime-time television and threw mud at the Republicans.  Then, not to be outdone, Speaker Boehner did the same thing.  I was, to say the least, embarrassed by the presentation.  These are supposed to be grown men.  These are, technically, our leaders, though I am using the term extremely loosely.  I could not believe what I was seeing.  It was if I had been magically transported back to a time when the voices I heard coming from the back seat of the car said, "He's touching me!  Now, she's touching me!  Stop touching me!"  Quite honestly, I wanted to say to the President last evening that he needed to act his age.  Then it hit me.  It was then that I realized why this is happening...and what we have to look forward to.  Just as with the posts I've written discussing this newest generation we're dealing with, the President displayed an immaturity last night that was astounding.  At first I thought it was the arrogance of Washington on full display, however I firmly believe there is more to it.  It is a generational thing.  Hey, why should politicians be immune to it?  I mean, think about it - there are so many pork-barrel projects because they think they are (magic word)...entitled to them!  Nice, huh?  Here's the catch, though - they're playing these games with OUR money, Social Security, and other programs that need to be remedied not raided!

Yes, the President stood there and said, "They aren't playing fair so I'm going to show them!  Here's what you do, folks - call your Congressman and tell them you're TIRED of this and to fix the problem!" In the meantime, we have Congressional members tweeting pictures of themselves in various states of undress to multitudes of women, lying about it, then arrogantly stating (though it certainly was conduct unbecoming a Senator or representative) they would NOT RESIGN!  Why, just today we had another resignation amidst the coming scandal that an 18-year old had unwanted sexual advances made toward her.  How nice.  You guys on the Hill are rockin' the place.  Seriously.  Maybe, just maybe, we need to explain something to you.  We need to explain that the sounds you were hearing were of Jefferson, Washington, Adams, and Franklin spinning in their graves.  They would be appalled...and you should be, too.

You see, all those years ago when we were fighting for our freedom and trying to gain our independence, those men built our country.  They provided the framework for the incredible nation we live in today.  Yet none of them started campaigning for office 15 months before an election.  None of them, honestly, planned on being politicians.  They helped guide the country because they were the best and the brightest minds.  They were farmers that were also great thinkers.  They had the ability to see well into the future and provide a means by which the country would live and prosper long after they were gone.  They didn't campaign for public office and sling mud at each other.  They had great debates...disagreements...and found a common ground that was best for all.  They weren't trying to push legislation so they could put more money in their individual pockets.  They pushed legislation that would benefit the masses.  You people should be ashamed of yourselves.  If there is a God, I'd like to think he'd deliver some of those men to you in the next few evenings so you could spend time with them just as Ebenezer Scrooge spent time with his Christmas Ghosts.  It would be nice if all of you could look up at a portrait of one of our forefathers and realize how disappointed they would be with you right now.  You took an oath and promised, "To preserve, protect, and defend," our Constitution.  That oath used to mean something.  It meant you dedicated the time you had in office to advancing the lives of your constituents.  You did what was right and just.we're watching.

Until next time.......

Monday, July 25, 2011

40 Days......and I'm Not Talking About an Arc.....

I've been waiting for this...and can't wait any longer.  For the past (almost) seven months, I have been waiting for this time to come and 40 days, to me, makes it close enough to begin the discussion.  Yes, this might be one of the most self-serving entries I've made to this blog, however it's okay.  I'm writing and anyone can comment after the fact.  What happens in 40 days, you ask?  It's that time again.  It's what we wait for from January 7th or 8th or whenever the final gun sounds.  From the time they hand the Waterford to them, The National Champions, the rest of us begin the countdown.  I am, of course, talking about another season of our beloved college football.  That's right, folks - only 40 days!!!!

Many of you, if not most, know that I am an extremely dedicated, dyed-in-the-wool (another funky expression), hardcore, die-hard Alabama Crimson Tide fan.  Yes, I hail from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and no, Penn State is not my favorite team.  They are a very close second, but I went to Temple University and, sadly, remember sitting in the stands several times watching the Blue & White crush my Owls...which, if you think about it, deserved to be beaten.  Seriously - the Owls?  Embarrassing...but (as usual), I digress.  This year, too, the Owls actually might win their conference AND go to a bowl game.  The University of Miami hired their head coach, while they managed to hire Florida's former Offensive coordinator and assistant head coach under Urban, I mean Meyer.  All in all, every team I pull for might have an exceptional year!

So back to our 40 days and Alabama Football.  The hope is springing anew yet again as this year Alabama has their eye on THE prize and hopes to win it all.  I love it when sportscasters say that.  Okay,, Mr "I know sports better than anyone even close to me," which team, exactly, doesn't start the season with the hope of winning it all?  Anyway, 'Bama returns many from last year's team and should have one of, if not the, best defensive units in the country.  They lost Marcel Dareus on the DL, Julio Jones' receiving abilities, and the running of Mark Ingram.  Hey, I'm not slighting any of those guys.  They were a huge part of the 2009 Championship team.  Fortunately, though, we've got Nick Saban and an incredible coaching staff, and they are going to put players in those positions that won't miss a beat.  As a matter of fact, I'll call this one early - IF Trent Richardson can stay healthy and injury-free, I say he will produce more than our beloved Ingram.  Yeah, we will miss Julio, I'll give you that.  This is one player that was always fun to watch and someone that could be counted on to make a clutch play.

So how did a kid from PA come to be such a faithful Alabama Crimson Tide fan?  I remember watching college football when we were kids and there were always certain programs that excelled.  We always heard the names of Nebraska, Oklahoma, Penn State, Notre Dame, Texas, and Alabama.  We're talking programs with tenure.  I suppose I always had respect for the Bear and the Program.  Ah, the program.....I just loved watching them.  Like PSU, Bryant and Paterno had programs with class that could win.  A lot.

Programs that were known even when they weren't having the greatest seasons, too.  They were known and talked about consistently mainly because of their coaches.  Osborne, Paterno, Bowden, Brown, Bryant...and now the Sabans, Stoops, Meyer (retired), and Paternos of this game.  Yeah, Joe is still there.  After eclipsing Bear Bryant's mark for most victories in a career, he kept going...and, like the Energizer Bunny, he keeps going.  Timex watches have stopped ticking...yet, Joe remains.  He is an institution.  One of my favorite pictures is of he and Bryant before a Sugar Bowl game.  I won't post the picture of "The Goal Line Stand." when 'Bama stopped Penn State on 4th and goal to win the National Championship.  can't do it.  Too many friends still in PA.  At least they were friends before I wrote this...and, quite honestly, I don't have to show a picture.  I mentioned a few times - get the idea?

Yes, I am getting wound up and ready for the start of the new season. The picture to the right shows two of the icons of the game, Paterno and Bowden, along with Saban.  This year, September 10th promises to be as fun-filled and action packed as the second week of last year's season.  Alabama at Penn State.  It's a non-conference game, but it marked the renewal of the rivalry.  Oddly, though, it was a great weekend and not a 'rivalry' like others.  It's not on the scale of the Iron Bowl when Alabama plays Auburn.  Make no mistake, there is a rivalry, however it just isn't one of those 'ugly' rivalries.  The best part of this particular match-up is the respect shown by both players and fans for JoePa and the Nittany Lions.  That's what makes it fun.  We can all tailgate together, pull for our team during the game, then discuss it in a civil manner afterward. Somewhat.  We'll probably all be sharing a few adult beverages after...and that will make it okay, too.  It's just a great game and we all appreciate the schools being on each other's schedule.

So there it is - it's only 40 days until we start this season again.  It's 40 days until the journey for an unprecedented 14th national Championship begins anew.  The detractors will complain that all those titles aren't recognized.  yeah, well...whatever.  Who's got more?  Nick Saban can never erase the memory of Bear Bryant...nor should he.  He has, however, already etched his name in the lore that is Alabama Crimson Tide Football.  Yes, at some schools they play football.  At Alabama, we live it.  Saturdays down south, especially in the SEC, are religious experiences....and we all get to be a part of it...and the new a mere 40 days.

Until next time............

Friday, July 22, 2011

So You Kids Know....The 'Green Thing' Really Isn't New To Us.....

I received an e-mail early today from a friend and coworker that had me smiling and nodding as I read it.  I looked like the village idiot because I was walking through a store, but no one noticed.  They thought it was my usual look.  Anyway, I thought this was too good not to share and that we need to let the younger generation bemoaning our need to "Go Green," that we already have.  As a matter of fact, we grew up that way.  As you're throwing the stones (firmly ensconced in your glass house) about our generation ruining the world, let's take a step back and examine this.  When we're done, I want a show of hands as to how many of you are REALLY READY to Go Green.  We can do it...and we know it.  My challenge to you is, "Go Green OUR way for one month."  I'm betting you couldn't do it.  As a matter of fact, I would wager my house, my friend's house and car...and every red cent you can get your hands on that you cannot do this.  It's not that I am doubting your determination or perseverance, it's just that you've become far too accustomed to living life your way that you could NOT do what we did as kids.  What examples do I have, you ask?  Well, for one thing, our milk was delivered in glass bottles that were returned to the dairy to be washed sanitized and refilled.  So were our soda bottles.  Even beer bottles came in returnable cases that, when finished with a beer, you placed the bottles back into said case and returned it to the distributor.  Eww, gross?  No, I don't think so.  We didn't get sick and no one got harmed in the process.

We spent time going places, too...and we did it by walking.  There were no escalators eating energy so we could save our legs - we walked up stairs.  When we went to the store, we walked there, too.  We walked to our friend's houses and to see family.  No one, when going a few blocks, hopped into a 240 horsepower gas-guzzler and wasted energy.  Want a really good one?  We didn't use disposable diapers!  Remember those things?  That's right, they were washed and used again.  It might sound horrific to many of you, but our parents did it, too, and they survived!  Why, when they did laundry, they didn't have an energy-zapping electric dryer for the clothing, either.  They hung the clothing outside on the clothesline.  The clothes air-dried.  No, we didn't have them in an hour...but we knew how to deal with it.  Our parents didn't buy everyone new, fashion-designer clothing, either.  We had (you're going to absolutely FREAK on this one!)...hand-me-downs!  That's right, folks - we had to wear the same clothing an older sibling wore.  If you didn't have an older sibling, mom usually had a friend that brought clothes to the house that, "Mikey outgrew these.  Will they fit Dave?"  Yep...going to the store for a new pair of jeans or three new shirts happened once a year, usually - just in time for the new school year.  THAT was when you got new clothes.

You know what else, Mr & Mrs "Time to go Green"?  We rode our bikes.  Mom and Dad were not taxi drivers for us.  We actually got on our bikes and rode to a friend's house, to baseball practice, to the store.  Again, hard to believe but it didn't kill us.  As a matter of fact, we enjoyed it!!!  When Mom wanted to back cookies, she didn't pull out every electrical gadget in the kitchen.  Her 'gadgets' consisted of whisks, wooden spoons, bowls, baking tins, and cookie sheets.  We helped...and loved it.  We weren't zapping every energy source we could find.

Want to hear a really unbelievable fact?  One TV.  Yes, one.  Better yet, it was black and white.  I remember watching the moon landing in black and white on the only television we had in our house.  My grandparents were the first to 'move up' by getting a color television...years later.  Oh, and we played 'Pong'.  Two 'paddles' - one on each side of the TV screen - and the 'blip' bounced back and forth as in a tennis game.  We were ROCKIN'!!!

No, we knew nothing about Going Green, did we?  How about cutting the grass?  No, we didn't have gas-powered lawnmowers.  Push mower.  Yeah, I know, most of you young 'uns are saying, "We had a push mower."  Again, not the type you pushed after pulling the cord to start the engine.  I'm talking the kind that had blades that needed sharpened routinely.  You'll dig the picture of it below.  Yes, that was, indeed, how we cut the grass.  Ask your parents or grandparents.  I'll guarantee they had one.  it was the biggest pain in the ass, too.  Every time a twig got stuck in the blades, you had to stop, remove it, get a band-aid (I did, anyway), then start again.  It might have been a pain, but we did it.  Ironically, all these things kept us in good shape, too.  There was no need for health clubs and to walk on a treadmill that sucks energy.  We pushed a mower to cut the grass, walked up stairs, picked things up and carried them - we were in great shape and wasted little precious energy.
Listen, we didn't use styrofoam or bubble-wrap to ship things.  We used wadded up newspaper.  Everything arrived just fine.  We didn't drink water out of plastic bottles or styrofoam cups, either.  Everyone remember drinking from fountains or a water hose?  Yes, we lived.  It killed NONE of us!  Our parents refilled their ink pens rather than disposing of the whole plastic stem and they used disposable razor BLADES...not disposable plastic razors.  We didn't have electrical outlets everywhere in the house for all the items that exist today and we could get the phonebook out of a drawer to look up the number of the nearest pizza joint.  Going out to eat was a treat...not an everyday occurrence.

I have to admit, I understand the feelings of today's youth.  As I have said many times, we've given them everything and they DO have more than we had.  Are we satisfied with that?  Are we glad they are sitting indoors playing video games rather than playing baseball or kickball?  Are we glad they are doing nothing but exercising their fingers because they only know how to text each other?  it is killing the art of conversation, not to mention spelling.  "How R U?" they ask.  "I M fine.  Can't W8 2 C U L8R."  Really?  REALLY?  What the hell are we doing and, as I always say lately, "What have we done?"

So, who in today's youth wants to take my challenge?  Who wants to bet they can go 30 days living like this?  Who thinks they can put down the plastic Aquafina bottle and drink tap water or from a hose?  Can you get rid of the energy-sapping gadgets like your curling irons and straighteners?  I'm ready for anyone that wants to challenge me and prove it.  This, I gotta see!

Until next time.............

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Theater, The Mansion...and The Delays.....

I happened to read a note today from some theater owners, shared by a friend on Facebook.  Not just any theater, mind you.  This is THE theater.  The theater in my hometown where we used to watch movies when we were kids.  One screen.  One.  I know, right?  If you're under the age of forty, you're asking, "What did they do with only one screen?"  Showed one movie.  I realize that is the simple answer, but these (dare I say it?) were the good old days.  The movies came to town on a weekly run - usually Wednesday through the following Tuesday.  If it was a blockbuster, they'd hold it over for an additional week...or more depending on ticket sales.  This theater opened as the State Theater in 1928 in our hometown of Hanover, PA and, after a renovation in 1961, was renamed the Hanover Theater.  Just so you have an idea of the 'look' of the theater, take a glance at these two shots:

Here's the real beauty of this landmark - the interior decorator was a man named Arthur Brounet.  Brounet, so the story goes, often worked with one of the most prolific theater architects of their time, Thomas Lamb.  Not a big deal in and of itself, however Brounet also did the Victoria Theater in New York (just down the street from The Apollo), and the Byrd Theater in Richmond, VA.  Having lived in Richmond for many years, I can tell you it is a beautiful theater and considered to be the best-preserved movie theater in the US.  These three theaters are the ONLY Brounet theaters known to exist in the US and, it is feared, the Victoria will be lost to redevelopment.  This theater is important and needs to be saved.  Fortunately, there is a couple trying to do just that, however it was going to be accomplished along with revitalizing the downtown area of our town.  Needless to say, it isn't happening.  The revitalization, as far as I've seen on my return trips home from Alabama, is stalled...if it ever began.  Actually, it did begin, though I believe apathy has taken hold.  One block down sits the Sheppard Mansion, one of two 'mansions' built by the owners of Hanover Shoe - Sheppard, being one and Myers, the other.  These similar mansions are still in use today and, as far as the downtown renovation goes, the Sheppard Mansion was what I considered to be an incredible first step.  The Mansion is now a Bed & Breakfast with a dining room, so I've heard, that is beyond compare.  The Mansion is elegantly appointed and I would be remiss if I didn't say the food there has garnered rave reviews.  The chef, Andrew Little, has been widely recognized and honored.  I promised I would stop in the next time I was in town, however I never seem to have the proper attire, and it's hard for anyone that grew up there to believe this would have ever happened - an incredible chef preparing magnificent food in Hanover.  Wow, who knew?  Andy is a cousin, though he's the famous one.  I'm the notorious one.  Seriously, I have read and heard his food is nothing but stunning and amazing.

The theater MUST survive and be restored.  Why?  Personally, there are WAY too many memories there for me that I relive every time I look at the place.  I had three or four friends that worked there when we were in high school.  I remember showing up and talking to them at the ticket booth, then walking inside as another took tickets.  When you finally walked inside, this was a theater the way it was meant to be.  There was an outer room to the bathrooms, somewhat like a lounge area, where the women could powder their noses.  The lighting is as you'd imagine and the walls were ornate.  When you entered the 3rd lobby, as it is know, the concession stand was directly in front of you and the entrances to the seats were on either side of that.  There was a little curtain behind the concessions where the workers could watch the movies and keep an eye on the crowds.  It was something we took for granted then...and long for now.  I remember other memories, too.  In the winter, after a heavy snow, we'd go through the projection booth that was occupied by two immense projectors.  If we climbed outside, we'd be on the roof overlooking the marquee.  Plenty of snow that packed perfectly, teenagers, traffic driving into town.  Hmm....what do YOU think we did?  Many a good car was pelted with snowballs and drivers, hurriedly opening their doors and yelling, were completely unaware they had been attacked from above.  Our best?  Why, hello, Officer.  Yep, even police cars weren't off the radar.  Memories of youth - ah, how they make us smile.  Take a look check out their site.

This restoration needs to move forward.  The apathetic feelings toward the downtown area need to be replaced with action.  If you build it, they will come.  Seems I've heard that before...and they did.

Until next time......

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Lost Art of a 'Thank You' Note.....

I think the title says it all today.  Sending a 'thank you' note has really become a lost...well, art seems like the wrong word.  It's become a lost tradition, I think, in many households.  Along with the things we need to teach our children early, writing a thank you to people ought to be of paramount importance.  I never truly realized how 'lost' this tradition had become until I began discussing it with friends.  Some have their children send these notes, others don't.  Don't get me wrong - calling a relative or friend when you receive a gift or a check in the mail is outstanding.  It is, however, an educational lesson if we teach them the importance of taking the time to write the thank you note rather than simply picking up the phone.  It seems to mean more, I think.  It shows you have taken the time to sit and put your 'thanks' into words.  Your words...and it is always appreciated.  As a parent, I realize I was remiss in doing this.  I remember fielding phone calls from parents, siblings, and friends asking if a check had been received.  Always, my answer was, "I'm not sure but I'll find out."  When I did inquire about the check or the gift, I was always told that, "Yes, I got it."  When I asked if it had been acknowledged, the answer was always the same, too - "Not yet."  I immediately either dialed the number or asked that the call be made.  Should I have had to?  I don't think so.  I don't think, when a child gets to be a certain age, they should have to be told to say, "Thank you," for accepting a gift, no matter what it was.  I have even gone so far as to buy the notes to be sent, asking only that they add a stamp, a few words, and an address.  It never happened...which is why I had to ask if this has truly become a lost tradition.

Seriously, how long does it take?  The relatives or friends that sent the gift, typically money so you can buy whatever your heart desires, would like to know that it was received and, more importantly, that it was appreciated.  What does it say when you DON'T send a thank you note?  It says, to me at least, that you are almost expecting someone to send you something.  It says you think you are worthy and deserve what they are sending so there is no reason to acknowledge it.  Truly, I had something similar happen when I was younger.  A grandmother, that we saw rarely, used to send my sister and I money in the mail every year for our birthdays.  At one point (guilty as charged), we had not been sending thank you notes and I mentioned to my sister that, as we were now a little older, we should ride our bikes to visit her and thank her personally.  Yeah, umm, that kind of backfired.  It was the last time she ever sent the card and money.  I assume it was because she was paying us to NOT come see her.  probably my sister that she was allergic to or something.  I jest, but the story is real.  She never sent the scratch again.  Bummer.  Not even sure why i told that story, actually.  it goes against everything I've been saying.  Okay, forget you read it.  Thanks.

Honestly, though, can we start a comeback of this glorious, timeless tradition?  Can we teach our kids that this is an important and meaningful thing to do?  Why don't we just go to the store, buy a BOX of these darn things, and keep them in the desk drawer?  Don't have a desk drawer?  Keep them in the junk drawer in the kitchen...and don't even TRY to tell me you don't have one of those.  We all do.  Yeah, I can feel myself digressing, but I'm going with it.  The drawer.  THE drawer.  It really is a good place for the notes because it has Scotch tape, pens, pencils (merely for homework), paper notepads with the "Smith's Heating" on the header, scissors, a few receipts from getting the oil changed, an old pair of glasses that no one knows who owns, and house keys...belonging to someone else's house.  Where the hell did THEY come from?  No matter - here's the point:  Kids need to say "Please," and "Thank you," often.  They need to show the appreciation for the time and thoughtfulness of relatives and friends.  They need to know that Thank You notes never go out of style...even when you're all grown up.

Until next time......

Monday, July 18, 2011

More From The "What Have We Done?" Files

It's happened again.  Our inability to discipline our children has reared its ugly head again and we've got more blood on our collective hands.  This time the headline is from Port St Lucie, FL and talks of the 17-year old that killed his parents with a hammer then held a party at their home.  Tyler Hadley is being charged with two counts of first-degree murder.  It seems that at 1:30 Saturday afternoon, he posted an invitation to a party on Facebook.  A little while later, he took a 22" framing hammer and bludgeoned his parents about the head and torso.  He then pulled their lifeless bodies into their master bedroom where he used books, towels, files - anything he could find - to cover their bodies.  Then, a little after 9:00 p.m., about 40-60 people showed up to party at Tyler's house.  Apparently, there were rumors (both during and after the party) that Tyler might have killed his parents.  The police, acting on an anonymous tip, conducted a 'welfare check' at about 4:20 a.m. Sunday.  The teen first tried to tell the officers his parents were out of town, though they later found them with the murder weapon lying between them.  As anyone can imagine, the police described it as a "senseless, brutal killing."

I harp on this topic constantly and have spoken to a few more friends recently about the topic of disciplining children.  Personally, I have had the same issues as the belief seems to be that any typical, 'expected' actions of a teenager deem it acceptable.  If a teenager wants to talk back, many believe it is okay as they are "just being teenagers".  As long as we continue to view it that way, we will never be able to rectify the problem....and it IS a problem.  As a matter of fact, in my personal 'research', I have spoken to parents of teens that have, and are, raised them.  We speak of the problems they've seen and the issues they've faced because we, as parents, are no longer allowed to physically punish our children.  I have to admit, it would be a rude awakening for many of today's youth if we WERE allowed to discipline them as our parents did.  Today, though, we are given excuses and told why we cannot do anything to make sure our kids show respect.  We are told, especially when the parents are divorced, what we can and cannot do because, "Mom bought that for me so you can't take it away," or, "Dad gave me this and you cannot do anything about it."  Sadly, if we continue to allow behaviors that need to be corrected, we might end up the way the parents of young Hadley did.

What can possess a child to kill his parents in cold blood then, as their bodies lie in the upstairs bedroom, hold a party for 40-60 people?  I know many of you are sitting there reading this thinking, "Must be an isolated, sad incident and thank goodness my kids aren't that way."  I want to point out to you that, with all the influences on kids' lives today, this could happen anywhere.  There need not be any extenuating circumstances.  All there needs to be is a situation where a kid thinks they should be able to do something and the parent says, "No," for this type thing to take place.  Many of you still don't believe me, yet have not had the fun experience of having a kid talk back to you.  I applaud you for that.  Seriously.  Many of you are not divorced (at least half, so the statistics say!) and do not have to co-parent with someone who may or may not have the child's best interests at heart.  They may, as I have seen with some couples, continue to harbor ill will toward the former spouse and use the child to manipulate and hurt the other spouse.  It's a game and, as we've seen here, a potentially deadly one.  We're supposed to be able to teach our kids right from wrong, yet we have to do so with our hands tied.  I'm supposed to abide by the same rules (or lack thereof) as everyone else, however those same rules may need to be modified for each situation and child.  I wrote, just the other evening, about giving trophies to every child for merely participating rather than them having earned it through achievement.  Here we are, years later, realizing that it was a bad, bad idea for the children overall.  We reacted emotionally rather than logically.  We reacted to the moment rather than long-term.  I am telling you now, we reacted emotionally, too, when we decided it was wrong to use corporal punishment to discipline our children.  PLEASE KNOW THIS - I am NOT advocating abuse or hitting your child for everything.  I am saying that, at times, something stronger than a raised voice or time-out, is necessary.  When all you have is the ability to raise your voice, all they do is stop listening.  They also talk back.  They don't react well at all.  They do, however, pay attention when there is even the implication that there might be a stinging sensation on their buttocks.  Anyone remember going out to get their own switch or the sound of a belt clearing all the loops in one pull?  Me, too...and I think I am a better person, with more respect for authority, than many of the youth of today.

Until next time.......

Friday, July 15, 2011

Oh, Those Kids...and The Week In Review

You know, a few nights ago I finally caught on to what many bloggers do and simply led everyone through the day I had.  Sorry - I really didn't want all of you to have to relive it, too.  Yes, I typically catch something on the news that I have to expound on.  Something like the fact that J-Lo and Marc have split.  Trying to blog about that is like watching paint dry.  It's boring.  I do, occasionally, get on my rant about kids and parents these days and how we are allowing them to control any and every situation they are even close to by empowering them with that control.  As a matter of fact, I can do that tonight, too.  It simply amazes me how some people can allow their children to be hurtful, conniving, devious human beings.  Then, when people are shocked and appalled and call them out on said behavior, the parents justify it.  "Oh, that's the same thing any 16-year old would do."  Well, not exactly.  They would not do it if they weren't allowed to do it.  I've said it before (and will continue to do so) - we owe it to our kids to not allow these behaviors.  Sitting with friends the past two evenings (thank you Scott & Sharon, Steph and Mike), we all seem to agree with Tom Brokaw - there has already been "The Greatest Generation"...and not just because of what they did for our country.  It's because of what they did for our parents, too.  They raised our parents to be respectful and obedient, to be appreciative and kind.  To do anything other than that would be met with harsh discipline.  Then, our parents decided there were things they didn't like as kids...and decided, when asked, that they would let us do those very things.  The same with our generation - what we did not like as kids is allowed right now.  We didn't like not being able to speak to our parents as equals or only to, "speak when you are spoken to."  Now, more than ever before, kids are allowed....encouraged, be part of adult conversations.  I was always met with the same comment when I found things unacceptable - "I prefer to choose my battles and this isn't important enough to fight."  Okay, I agree on the whole battle-choosing plan.  I really do.  My question, though, for spouses facing this predicament is, why is it that only one parent gets to decide what is important enough to fix?  If the wife doesn't think it's important, why does the husband have to sit quietly and let the improper behavior continue if it's important to him?  Hey, parents - time to work together and support each other.  If it is important to one, it must be important to both.  Period.  Unless, of course, it's about dating.  Then, the parent of the opposite sex wins.  Just my opinion...and you agree, right?  Okay, enough for this evening.  I need to be chillaxin' a bit before a Saturday morning that involves work.

Yes, it's been a long week on the road.  Heading from Birmingham to West Palm Beach was a nice, relaxing ride.  I had coffee, cold fast food, horrible service and paid about $3.89/gallon for gas.  While in West Palm, I was fortunate enough to spend time with two fun Gator fans.  Yeah, they ARE Gator fans but I love 'em anyway.  I have to admit, too, that I never realized that English really IS a second language around here.  Everywhere I went, I pressed '1' to no avail.  I was close to using sign language when buying coffee at the 7-11.  Matter of fact, I did use sign language twice this trip.  Once was when a guy cut me off in the parking lot and the other was when someone was going 65 in the left lane on the Turnpike.  I'm not sure the sign language I used was proper, though I do know it's universally accepted and understood.  Oh, so kindly, these people let me know I'm #1 in their book, too.  Anyway....where was I?  Oh, yeah, West Palm.  Convention at the Four Seasons.  On the Beach.  We're inside.  Picture problem?  A bit, however it did lead to an evening in Delray.  If you haven't been there, you need to go.  They have a great little downtown area filled with quaint little restaurants, bars, and some neon that welcomes visitors.  They are so welcoming that, on a warm, humid Tuesday evening they offer a mild drink special - $10 for well-whiskey, $20 for top-shelf - and all you can drink.  I'll tell you what I was drinking since, as many have surmised from my Facebook posts (inaccurately, I might add), people think I am imbibing regularly.  Club soda.  That's it - club soda...and I have witnesses.  Admittedly, it might have made the evening better HAD I been drinking, but I doubt it.  The company was great - five of us had a great time and it was one of the highlights of this trip.  Of course, so was the pizza we had for dinner last night.  I forget the name, but think Italian sausage, spinach, olive oil and garlic.  This stuff was damn good and I will go back.  Then, it was home to pack, say goodbye to my southern family, and head on to Orlando where, as I said, I'm working tomorrow.  I give it until about 1:00 before the car is fired up and headed back to Alabama.  Maybe sooner?  Wishful thinking only, I fear.  No worries, we'll talk again soon.

Until next time.......

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Casey Anthony (Yes, a little more) and Caylee's Law

So the new buzz is all over the internet and, not surprisingly, all over Facebook - Casey Anthony stands to profit from either a movie deal, a book deal, or both.  Why this is news astounds me.  Did no one see this coming?  I mean, didn't we know, even before the trial started, that this would be the ultimate outcome?  Now, we're all 'liking' the fact that we are NOT going to let her profit from anything.  We will not buy the book, we won't watch the movie.  All I can say is, "I hear ya' prove it."  Often, when things like this happen, our curiosity gets the better of us and we feel we have to know the inside story.  We have to know, in the person's words, what happened!  Here's my point of why, especially in this case, no one needs to know anything - she's a liar.  I'm not talking your run-of-the-mill, average everyday liar, either.  This wench takes it to a whole new level, don't we agree?  Let's see....Caylee is with a babysitter named Zanny.  The babysitter snatched her and was holding her ransom.  She was spending time with mommy's boyfriend and mommy in Jacksonville.  This was just for starters, too.  This piece of work lied to everyone and, most likely, her parents took part in this amazing scam as it progressed.  So, as I was saying, she's a liar...and there is no way she is going to tell the truth now.  If anyone buys a book about this case and this woman, they are, in my opinion, waiting for an answer that will not come.  Think about this - if Casey Anthony chose, she could write the book (or have someone write it for her - she isn't that well-versed) and tell the story of how she killed her daughter and there is nothing that could be done.  It's called Double Jeopardy and she cannot be tried for this crime again under any circumstances.  If you expect that, however, I think you'll be plunking down at least $24.95 for a fictionalized account of this saga.  If you expect a movie to show her killing her daughter, I think you'll be sadly mistaken.  The answers we expect are not going to be heard.  All that will come of this is a growing bank account in her name.  Quite honestly, if everyone feels she is truly guilty, then the best revenge and way to honor her daughter's memory is to avoid her like the plague.  This woman was acquitted.....for a price.  She has some incredible legal bills, I'm sure.  She might be charged for the investigations that were false and  misleading.  All of these things have put her far in debt and she now has to pay.  Why give her the opportunity?  Why help her pay the defense attorneys with your money?  Let me put this another way - anyone buying the book or watching the movie or, for that matter, advertising during a TV-movie is, in my opinion, complicit in the death of Caylee Anthony.  End of story.  She's had more than her fifteen  minutes of fame and I am tired of allowing her to permeate our lives.  She is a sick, twisted individual that should not ever have held one of the most prized and coveted titles ever - "Mother".

I also wanted to respond to the legislation that is now proposed known as Caylee's Law.  I've read both sides of this decision and have to agree with the opposition, however I need to say something to preface that.  I do not believe this woman was innocent of killing her child.  I am not a believer of hers at all.  I do, however, agree that we do not need to ever propose legislation that is based on emotion.  When we base it on emotion, there are too many variables that might eventually cause innocent people to get arrested, charged, and convicted.  The law, as proposed, needs some serious work and revision.  There are too many "what-ifs" for this to be effective.  Unfortunately, the cooler heads that will prevail will make their thoughts known during the debate phase of passing the legislation.  They will realize that, as written, this is not a good law.  I am not saying, by any means, that there shouldn't be a way to avoid another Casey Anthony mishap.  I agree that there is no way this witch should have gotten away with not reporting her daughter missing for 31 days.  Absolutely none.  The bill, though, does not say we will make it a felony if you don't report your child missing, go partying, go shopping, get a tattoo, etc.  it simply says it's a felony if you don't report your child missing within a specified period of time.  A little broad and vague, don't you agree?  it needs to be reworked, reworded, redesigned.  The concept and thoughts are headed the right direction.  I'd hate to see implementation issues.  That's all.

Again, I need to say this, too - they system did not fail.  I know we want to convict her of something...anything...however the prosecution blew it.  They made a bad call at charging someone with first-degree murder without having a true cause of death.  Absent the cause of death, there is no way to charge someone with first-degree murder.  Actually, the defense attorney that we thought was an idiot is, well, an idiot.  He didn't perform any miracles for his client.  He didn't give us a one-man 'Dream Team' like OJ Simpson had.  He is not the next coming of Gerry Spence, either.  Quite simply, he had this case won before it went to trial.  Actually, he didn't win - the other side lost.  The prosecution simply lost.  Because of their ineptitude, arrogance, and over zealousness, we now have proposed legislation that was conceived out of anger and a heartfelt wish to make Casey Anthony suffer.  Sadly, if this legislation passes anywhere near "as written" the only people suffering will be those that are wrongly accused and convicted of charges that can never accurately be proven.  Yes....I, too, am tired of giving her more than 15 minutes.....and I am guilty.  Ironically, so was she.

Until next time.............

Monday, July 11, 2011

Just A Simple Trip to Florida

I hear most of the time, bloggers write about their daily activites. Got to admit, some people must lead extraordinary lives if they can do it and have people read about it. I could write about mine, but fear many will start dozing mid-sentence. Let's give it a try, though. Rather than picking on a particular topic like kids feeling entitled, marijuana laws, or how the government ought to solve all our problems, let's try my day. Just for grins and giggles, I'll kick in yesterday, too. Actually, as I think about it, I'm going to start dozing mid-typing.

It was a dark and stormy night. Wait...I stole that line. It was a sunny morning that turned INTO a stormy afternoon. Two and a half hours of pouring rain. I mean, this stuff was the kind of rain that kept coming as people pulled their cars under the overpasses and under the shelter of a gas station. I really felt bad for the bikers because, well, many of us have been there and done that. It sucks. A lot. The rain eventually ended as I was cruising into the port of call that is Royal Palm Beach, FL. A second home, actually, and a sweet young lady that is like a daughter was waiting. She even turned me on to Big Brother on CBS. After now watching an episode, I've decided they might want to try a new twist and film it with members of Congress. THAT I'd watch, too. So I made it to Florida and geared up for an exciting week of work here in the Sunshine State. Great commute to work as I cruised past Donnie Trump's place, as well as a few other notable citizens of West Palm Beach. I got to the Four Seasons (yeah, nasty work, but someone has to do it) and sat, transfixed, on a plastic folding chair much of the day. Yes, the beauty of the Atlantic was a mere 200 yards outside the patio doors, yet I sat there. Why? Paycheck.....and I know most of you can relate. Why, I always wonder, do we bother going to these groovy locations when we're inside constantly? I get it - the attendees take their families and then blow off the courses and the exhibit halls so they can go to the beach. We (said exhibitors) then sit and wait for a crowd that will not come. It's okay, though - we're getting awfully good at crossword puzzles.

Tomorrow, you ask? Well, tomorrow will bring more of the same, however we are keeping sharp objects out of reach as a few of us want to open our wrists. I always thought "watching paint dry" was an expression. It is...and one we are living. Ah, the excitement of traveling and sales. S this is why I pick a topic other than my daily travels. This is not something anyone will read unless insomnia kicks in...and I get that, too. Use it tonight when you cannot fall asleep. Use it to punish the kids. Use it for.....sorry, I got nothing else.

Hope everyone had a great day.....and I promise not to do this again. Unless, of course, there's another slow news day. Seriously.

Until next time.....

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Marijuana Laws - Federal, State, or...Seriously?

First, let me say that I am neither advocating the use of, nor criticizing the use of marijuana, and the reason I decided to write about this topic is that, daily (see blog title), I check out various news sites.  USA Today published an article yesterday regarding marijuana laws and a new memo that our beloved Department of Justice sent to their US Attorneys, nationally, on June 29, 2011.  In the memo, it states that no patient or other user is shielded from prosecution under state laws.  All this, it seems, on the heels of Michigan's Attorney General going wild last week and declaring that there is widespread lawbreaking linked to medical marijuana.  Basically, the feds are now going to crack down on medical marijuana growers and distributors and could, potentially, target users.  They are fed up with an industry that tries to shield itself from prosecution under the guise of being 'medically necessary' while raking in millions of dollars.  Whew....I feel the need to throw a few facts in here as this topic seems to be heating up again, especially since I've already advocated legalization, taxation, and cleaning up the economic issues we seem unable to fix.

First, I did a little research to find, what I considered to be, important facts.  There's a fairly big myth out there that the government continues to spread.  Namely, is marijuana addictive?  The answers I found surprised me and, quite honestly, made me shake my head in disbelief.  The answer, simply based on a 'physical addiction' is NO.  The reports that I read, mainly studies done by and for the government, suggest it IS physically addictive, however the eventually hedge their bets.  Mainly, they say that it is psychologically addicting - the more you smoke, the more you want to smoke.  Well, yeah, I get that one.  The best part, however, is the 'Chart' they kept suggesting I refer to.  On the chart, they rated several substances in terms of "social dependency" - the percentage of people who have tried the drug that are now dependent on it in terms of enjoying it on a regular basis.  Interestingly, they rated tobacco, alcohol, heroin, and marijuana.  The statistics were alarming!  Ready for the numbers?  Tobacco - 21%, alcohol - 11%, heroin - 7%, and marijuana - 4%.  Let's see.....if I'm doing my math correctly, marijuana has the lowest level of 'social dependency' at 4%, while alcohol is 2 1/2 times higher!  Just a few numbers so we can determine whether it truly is addicting.  I think not.

Another issue brought up is that marijuana is a 'gateway' drug - it leads to harder substances.  Okay, for this juicy little tidbit, I have to point out that the author says, point blank, that it being a gateway to other, harder substances is due to curiosity.  If that's the case, then we have to label alcohol and tobacco the same way.  Curiously, I've tried both and they made me want to try other things.  Bad tobacco.  Bad alcohol.  Bad, bad, bad.

There are a few other numbers I need to point out, too.  Overdose statistics are a big 'red flag' for this drug.  My findings?  I think you already know.  There has NEVER been one reported case of a marijuana overdose.  You see this, right?  NEVER.  I have not only heard of heroin overdoses but, honestly, recall seeing more than a few stories about alcohol poisoning recently.  Kids on college campuses dying because they drank too much and their friends never got them the help they needed.  Let's face it, anyone  nearing the 'end of the line' while smoking a joint only get hurt when their friends continue top bring them chips and salsa, Oreos, and Fruit Rollups.  The munchies get them, not the weed.  Of the most interesting stats, though, was in regard to traffic accidents.  When mentioning marijuana-related traffic accidents, the studies almost always inferred that this was in conjunction with other drugs.  For the purpose of my writing, I'm going to give them this one and suggest that it was pot, alone, that was the causative factor.  So, in total, there were 400 deaths annually due to pot smoking-related car accidents.  On the flip side (hold on to your hats for this one!), there are 50 alcohol-related deaths DAILY.  That means that it takes eight (8) days to have as many deaths due to alcohol as it does for an entire year of deaths due to pot smoking in a car.  Alcohol is the legal one, right?  Yeah, thought so.

I've made the argument before, and there are staunch adversarial arguments against, about the legalization and taxation of marijuana.  It's time.  For those in a prior generation or two, I understand you do not want to see it, but let's be honest - it's because you never tried it and are relying on the things you've been told or read about it.  These are the same generations that held Christmas parties where employees put lampshades on their heads before crawling into their cars and driving home.  We continue to kill people because alcohol is legal.  I want to know why.  I want to know why a drug that is 2 1/2 times more addicting than marijuana is legal.  I want to know, based on legitimate statistics, why marijuana isn't.  If alcohol is legal, shouldn't this be, too?  We are spending billions of dollars every year to fight a war on drugs and one of the most sought-after is marijuana.  It's the most prevalent, hence it is easy for the government to appear they are waging a battle that is even close to being won.  If we spent the same money going after cocaine, heroin and meth, wouldn't we be taking the harder drugs off the street while utilizing this (a drug less harmful, apparently, than alcohol) to produce revenue to continue the war on drugs while lowering the deficit, too?  Just a thought.  I know it's a subject that will be debated for years - always has been, always will be...but know this - it will eventually be sold legally.  Let's hope we wise up and figure out how to do it soon.  Anyone want to share your thoughts?  I'd like to hear other views.

Until next time.......

Friday, July 8, 2011

Kizzy and Trophies

Interesting title?  I'd like to think so.  Kizzy, my friends, is my new-found heroine.  This is a Milwaukee mother - a black lady with a 13-year old daughter and 15-year old son.  It seems that after Summerfest, which I believe to be a 4th of July festival held along the lake, there was looting and a few robberies in the Riverwest neighborhood in Milwaukee on Sunday evening.  As Kizzy sat watching the news, the surveillance video played and, lo and behold, who should she see but her lovely children taking part in the looting.  Upon arriving home, mom decided to have a little chat with them and told them what she had seen.  She decided to sleep on it that evening and the next day - BAM!  Yes, she placed her kids in the car and took them to the police station.  Mom ratted out the kids.  For that, I say mom gets recognized.  She told the local news that she provides a stable loving environment and how sorely disappointed she was when she saw how her kids acted when she was not around.  Kizzy acknowledges that this is wrong and is telling other parents to do the same.  Is she doing anything out of the ordinary?  Well, not if this was 1975, but this is 2011!  How many times do kids get to publicly show their sense of entitlement until we say, "Enough!"?  This is one parent taking a stand and I, for one, think she deserves a lot of credit.  Way to go, Kizzy - You, my dear, are a rock star!

How did Kizzy go so wrong?  She didn't...and that'why I put 'trophies' in here, too.  Once again, one of my pet peeves made the Today Show.  Glaring and bold, they asked if giving trophies to every kid, merely for participating, is the wrong thing to do.  The question posed to a psychologist this morning was, "Are we helping or hurting our kids by doing this?"  I think the example above is a fine one that points, as they mentioned, to the sense of entitlement kids have nowadays.  Giving kids a trophy, as I have said (loudly) in the past, sends the wrong message.  We are telling our kids if they show up they get rewarded.  It isn't that way in sports, nor in life.  Life is not fair, though many of today's youth seem to think it should be.  Again, I'm really, really sorry that Timmy came home crying because he didn't get a trophy.  Tell Timmy to work harder.  Hey, Dad - go throw the ball with Timmy so he doesn't get smacked in the face with it and expect a trophy.  For what?  "Kid whose face stopped the ball fastest"?  We are hurting our children when we do not discipline or let them get hurt, either emotionally or physically.  Hate to break it to you, Mom and Dad, but you will not be there when your kid experiences some of life's most bitter disappointments.  Stop trying to shield them and stop thinking that they are all going to excel at everything.  Maybe Timmy can save his face if you take him to piano lessons rather than baseball.  Maybe, too, Jack, the ballet dancer, ought to be fielding punts instead of doing a pirouette.  Think about it.  Let's do right by our children and find what they do best...instead of what we WANT them to do best.

Until next time..........

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Our Moral Compass Seems to Point Due South

Wow, what a day.  Technically, what about the last 30 hours or so.  Please understand - I am not speaking solely about Casey Anthony again.  I don't want to give her a moment's effort more than is necessary.  Quite honestly, I read today that there are those that think, myself included, that she will profit greatly from this case.  She already has people eager to speak with her to secure book and movie rights.  It is, in my opinion, pathetic and disgusting.  I said yesterday that I did not agree with the verdict.  If she did not kill her daughter, who did?  Trust me, though I have no experience in the medical examiner's office, I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night and I watch CSI.  All of them.  To this point, I'd like to say, unequivocally, that dead bodies don't wrap themselves in three garbage bags.  Again, accidents are not made to look like murder.  Lastly, a little girl is gone and we have no one searching for the killer.  Face it, they had the killer...they blew the case.  So what does Casey Anthony get?  She gets a guilty charge on 4 misdemeanor counts of lying to investigators.  Maximum sentence for each is one year and she's served three already.  Anyone want to guess what happens tomorrow when she gets sentenced?  Smart money is on 'time served' and she walks away free and clear.  Go online and check - I bet there's a line in Vegas as we speak.

No, the 'Moral Compass' part only partially involves Casey.  You see, at most she gets one more year.  Period.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, however, is an 18-year old student in Rush County, Indiana.  This young black man has been arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, and institutional criminal mischief, a felony that carries a two to eight-year prison sentence.  The Rush County Prosecutor, Philip J Caviness said he does not plan on seeking any jail time but the charges are warranted.  Wait, I forgot to mention what, exactly, the devastating 'Criminal Mischief' pertained to.  What could this kid have done to warrant up to eight years in jail?  Did he set fire to the school?  Maybe a bomb?  Did he take weapons to school?  What DID he do?  Uh, you might be startled to find out he placed a blow-up sex doll in a bathroom stall on the last day of school.  That's right.  There's the criminal mischief.  To be fair, I need to point out that a janitor saw this kid run from the school (and? so?) and, after examining security footage, school officials saw a person entering the school wearing a hooded sweatshirt and gloves while carrying a package.  That person left 5 minutes later without the package.  They then locked down the school and had the bomb squad and K-9 units searching when they found the doll.  See below - should this kid really go to jail at all? 

This case has raised questions about race (go figure), prosecutors who are a tad overzealous (a shock!), and our collective mindset these days.  For the record, the boy's father has denied race had anything to do with this.  Thankfully, he and his wife both seem to agree that it had nothing to do with it.  For a prosecutor to file the charges, though, that will carry a felony conviction is suspect at best.  As a matter of fact, Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University said it best - "The question is what type of society we are creating when our children have to fear that a prank (could) lead them to jail for almost a decade. What type of citizens are we creating who fear the arbitrary use of criminal charges by their government?"

And there it is.  That statement sums it up better than anything I could present.  Our children...better yet, ALL of us...have to fear our actions might, in this day and age, lead to a criminal conviction based purely on a joke or prank.  Who got hurt here?  Who suffered or was injured?  Even the boy's father said he'd understand if they used the school disciplinary code to punish his son.  Jail time?  For a sex doll in a bathroom stall?  I understand the package and the hoodie and the running.  I know how it appears.  I get it.  Can we all, please, take a collective breath and relax for a minute? This kid plays a prank and may get up to eight years in jail.  No, I don't think he'll get it, but that's not the point.  The point, my friends, is that we let Casey Anthony walk yesterday.  The system worked, the prosecutors sucked.  The difference is, that was a life that was lost and this was a high school prank.  Have we lost our minds?

We are a society faced with unbelievable issues these days.  Since 9/11/01, we have been on edge waiting for the next wave of terrorist attacks.  We knew it could not happen here.  We just KNEW it.  Yet it did.  It happened and we have not been the same since.  If you doubt that, then know this - the terrorists have already won.  Witness the reaction to a high school prank.  We are consumed, sometimes rightfully so, about packages left unattended and people running.  Running!  I have figured at least one thing out in all my years, something my dad used to say that I find to be eerily accurate - "Ain't none of us getting out alive."  grammar notwithstanding, it's an accurate statement.  We don't know if tomorrow will come and, quite honestly, there's nothing you can do about it.  I hate to burst anyone's delusional bubble and be the bearer of bad news, but that's why you have to live every day with as much 'life' as you can.  Tomorrow is promised to no one.  We know it to be true, yet we act as if we have some type of control.  We don't.  End of story.  get out and live life, laugh at sex dolls sitting in a bathroom stall, enjoy friends and family.  It's what makes us different from the rest of the world,,,,and why it's so cool to be an American.

Until next time.........

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Is The Justice System Flawed? You Know Where This Is Going...

It's been almost six hours now.  Almost six hours since America sat stunned.  Almost as stunned as we were about fifteen years ago when, "If the gloves don't fit, you must acquit."  That, too, was a particularly gruesome crime, yet it didn't resonate the way this case has.  This one touched us all because it involved a child.  A beautiful, wonderful, loving child that we only ever saw smiling in her pictures.  This one touched us all because we're parents and this verdict doesn't make sense.  We feel as if we've lost someone dear to us because that's how we're supposed to feel about children.  We're supposed to love them and protect them.  We're supposed to make sure no harm comes to them.  Ever.  Sadly, though, 'supposed to' isn't always the way it plays out.

But I digress...and will get to that in a minute.  First things first.  The main question, and one I've seen bantered about everywhere today is, "Did the judicial system fail this child?'  Hold on tight - I'm not sure you'll like the answer.  Breathe deeply for a second, clear your mind...and open it, if only for a few minutes.  Quite simply, the answer is......."No, it didn't."  Before anyone freaks out, kicks their computer, or thinks I ought to be beaten, too, let me explain.  The judicial system is neither a joke nor flawed.  It provided exactly what it was supposed to provide - due process.  Granted, we did not like, nor did we agree with, the verdict.  The fault of this case and the verdict, however, lies not with the system or the jurors but with the prosecution.  They did not prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.  It's really that simple.  Do I think she did it or, at the very least, knows who did it?  You're damn right I do.  I think OJ killed Nicole and Ron Brown, too.  The problem isn't with the system, one that's treated us all the same way for many, many years.  It's with the prosecution and their handling of the case.  Remember, too, that none of us sat on the jury and heard every word or saw every exchange.  We got the case through the media.  Be honest, we didn't see or hear everything the jurors did.  Did the jurors get it wrong?  I think so and, for whatever reason, they voted to acquit.  We were spoon-fed snippets, daily, and we think she is guilty.  Who wouldn't?  Trick question - apparently, 12 men and women in Florida.

We have a very difficult time understanding this verdict because of a few things we all know to be true.  The biggest, most glaring issue is how a parent, any parent, could have a child missing for 31 days...A MONTH... and not report it to the police.  That is, unless they're guilty of foul play.  Face it, if any of us have ever had it happen, you know what your heart and mind do when your child is out of your sight.  I remember once when my daughter was in a store with me and decided a quick game of hide & seek was in order.  I'm quite sure some of you have also had this 'fun-filled, exciting adventure', right?  What did you do?  First, you frantically began calling their name, followed by dropping everything you were carrying, before asking any and every fellow shopper, "Have you seen a little girl?"  Meanwhile, your heart skipped several beats, the pace of your breaths increased, and you, well, panicked.  I did, anyway.  When I found her, it was a mixture of emotions.  I wanted to hug her closer than I ever had, while at the same time wanted to make her bottom as red as I could.  Those were my feelings...but I am guessing many of you are nodding as you read this, huh?  What I can state without hesitation is.....I NEVER (had she truly been lost) would have entertained the notion of keeping it quiet, going shopping, getting a tattoo, partying.  As I mentioned to someone earlier today, I would have been one of those parents (like the rest of you) arguing with the police that, "I don't WANT to wait 24 hours before filing a missing persons report!  Do it NOW!"  Face it - any normal, innocent person would have.

As for the defense theory that this was an accident that "snowballed out of control," I'd like to call bullshit.  Excuse me but, as the prosecution contended, "No one makes an accident appear to be a murder."  Again, it defies any and every law of common sense.  If someone dies accidentally, especially your beautiful two-year old, you are despondent and need to be medicated and sedated.  Heavily.  My goodness, I cannot imagine it happening now, much less when my daughter was two.  It defies explanation.

The smell in the car?  Decomposition.  Plain and simple, it was the smell of a dead body that even her mother noted.  Casey's activities, as I mentioned before, were out of character.  She backed the car into their garage (neighbors said she had never done that), then borrowed a shovel (she never spoke to the neighbors before that).  Hey, if it walks like a dog, barks like a dog, and looks like a dog, you can pretty much guess it ain't gonna meow.  Again, the 'common sense' card has to be played.

She lied to investigators...and got busted for that and that alone.  Did the justice system fail?  Nope.  The prosecution, again in my humble opinion, was so absolutely certain they had a case of first-degree murder, that they over-charged her.  They could have gone for lesser charges and had a burden of proof that was less than the first-degree charge, however they knew they had her.  They KNEW it!  In the end, though, without a cause of death and absent the needed forensic evidence, they blew it.  They couldn't sell it.  That, my friends, is what this boils down to.  They could not sell their theory and there was reasonable doubt.  If it's a first-degree murder charge and the death penalty is on the table, you'd better have it together and have more than a circumstantial case.  There were, quite honestly, too many loose ends they couldn't tie.

Do I agree with the verdict?  Absolutely not.  Do I believe we will see a book by Casey or a family member?  Absolutely.  Do I think it ought to be part of the sentence, if possible, that she NOT be allowed to profit from this?  I do, however that won't happen.  Sadly, the only way to hit this freak where it hurts is to NOT purchase said book when it hits the bookstores.  Guess what?  That won't happen either.  What happened today is unreal, however the real travesty occurred three years ago.  The life of a beautiful, smiling little two-year old was taken forever with no rhyme or reason other than (from what we all believe) her mother wanted to live a single, partying life.  It was obvious from the photos above, don't you think?  What happened today isn't right, it isn't fair, and it makes us lash out.  We want to hate the system and call it a joke.  We want to say the judicial system sucks or is slanted.  We want justice for this little girl.  That burden, however, is on the prosecutors.  They are the ones that had a responsibility to speak for this poor child.  Sadly, they failed...just as surely as if their mouths were covered with duct tape.

Until next time........

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day...and Our Founding Fathers

It's here, once again.  July 4, 2011, the 235th anniversary of our founding fathers signing the quintessential birth certificate.  July 4, 1776 is the day we officially recognize as our place in history - our birth.  The day that we thumbed our noses at rule by the British and King George.  Unfortunately, it's something that, I fear, is not being taught to our children in the most significant terms.  They know the day to be 'Independence Day' but do they really know what was fought and won with the signing of this historic document?  I remember, once, in a scene from the movie, "With Honors," that Joe Pesci played the part of a bum and found himself in a law class.  The exchange between he and the professor caught my attention and was something that I thought explained, in detail, what was so important and brilliant about our forefathers and the documents they authored that we revere to this day.  These great men, the ones we applaud annually for giving us a system of government that has served us well, were nothing more than ordinary citizens.  Ordinary citizens with a foresight that is unparalleled.  The brilliance of this was caught in the exchange in the movie when the professor asked , "What is the particular 'genius' of the Constitution?"  Joe Pesci was playing the part of Simon Wilder, the bum, and this was the exchange:

Simon Wilder:  You asked a question, sir.  Let me answer it.  The genius of the constitution is that it can always be changed. The genius of the constitution is that it makes no permanent rule other than its faith in the wisdom of ordinary people to govern themselves. 

Mr. Picannon:  The faith in the wisdom of ordinary people is exactly what makes the Constitution incomplete and crude. 

Simon Wilder:  Crude? No, sir. Our founding parents were pompous middle-aged white farmers, but they were also great men, because they knew one thing that all great men should know; that they didn't know everything. They knew they were going to make mistakes, but they made sure to leave a way to correct them. They didn't think of themselves as leaders. They wanted a government of citizens, not royalty. A government of listeners, not lecturers. A government that could change, not stand still. The president isn't an elected king, no matter how many bombs he can drop, because the crude Constitution doesn't trust him. He's a servant of the people. He's a bum. Ok, Mr. Picannon? He's just a bum.  The only bliss that he's searching for is freedom and justice.

That exchange has always stuck with me for some reason.  I believe the writer was incredibly insightful and absolutely poetic.  Our Founding Fathers had the wisdom to know that, in this world of ever-changing circumstances, there needed to be 'an escape clause'.  There needed to be a way to correct that which was done in error.  In my humble opinion, it was simply brilliant.  These little pieces of paper, housed in Washington, DC, are the framework for the youngest, yet most civilized, of countries, and were written by farmers.  Men that, over 200 years ago, knew we'd face different issues than they and, in order to keep this most perfect of Unions, would have to have a method of handling those issues.  THAT, in my opinion, is what our kids need to know.  We need to make sure they, too, can think this far into the future and see that their actions must stave off the types of civil wars and unrest in other countries.  We are charging them with keeping these documents, and their ideals, alive long after we are gone.

Along those lines, we need to celebrate these things.  We need to continue to fly our flag, have parades, and set off fireworks every year.  I cannot recall if it was Jefferson or Adams that said, after the document was drafted and they returned home, that we'd have something that would be celebrated every year with fireworks, parades, and festivals.  I know some of you might get irritated that neighbors are setting off fireworks.  I have friends that have heard their neighbors ask, "Are you finished yet??"  My suggestion to everyone, everywhere, is to take a few minutes as you watch these fireworks head toward the sky and give a resounding,"Boom!" before exploding magically into various shapes and colors, and think of this country.  Think of the way we live compared to other countries we see on the news every day.  Imagine what a risk our great-great-great-great grandparents took when they told the ruling body, "Yeah, um, thanks...but we can handle it from here."  The sound of those fireworks?  Yeah, that's the sound of letting freedom ring.  Lighten up...and enjoy it a bit....

Until next time......

Sunday, July 3, 2011

An 'Updated' Conversation Regarding Independence Day

Seriously, don't you wonder what the conversation might have been like among the men that drafted the Declaration of Independence?  Wouldn't it have been nice to hear them debating the whole plot to break free of British rule and King George?  I imagine it would have been quite interesting to hear Jefferson and Adams, Lee, Washington, Franklin and others preparing to give us our 'Brave New World'.  It probably started over a pint of ale, I'm thinking....

JEFFERSON:  You know, John, I'm really getting tired of this damn war.  I think everyone is.  Your thoughts?

ADAMS:  Couldn't agree more, Tommy.  Pass the bread.  So...what are you thinking we ought do about this...frackas?

JEFFERSON:  I was thinking we need to tell ol' King What's-his-name to piss off.  Seriously, I can't take it anymore.  You should see the taxes he's levied on my new wine crops.  No way can I turn a profit this quarter.  It sucks, man.  We don't get any representation in Parliament, but this bonehead thinks he can charge us a tax?
ADAMS:  I'm with you, Tom.  Things haven't been the same since they passed the 'Coercive Act' two years ago.  Man that Tea Party really pissed him off, huh?  You got any more of those little crackers?

JEFFERSON:  Here...and top off my mug.  Where DID this ale come from?  Good stuff.  So anyway, I was thinking...we ought o formally DECLARE our independence from these douches.  Whaddya think?

ADAMS:  Ooh, formal.  I like it.  We probably ought to talk to the guys, though.  What time do they get in?

JEFFERSON:  Franklin will be here first.  Livingston and Sherman are coming in together.  I hope they're bringing their cash, too.  Franklin cleaned me out at our last game.  Tonight's my night.

A few hours later, the 'Committee of Five' were in the same place, ready to debate and author the Declaration over a few beers and a poker game.

FRANKLIN:  Tom, get me an ale while you're up, would you?  So let me get this straight - you guys want to write something to tell King George, formally, that we think he's a being an idiot and there's no way we're putting up with any more of his crap.  That about it in a nutshell?

ADAMS:  Precisely.  You want to raise or call?  It's been raised to fifteen to you.

FRANKLIN:  Check.  So what do we really want to say to him?

LIVINGSTON:  Hey, I'm not sure I'm good with words.  Maybe Tommy J ought to write this.  Call.

SHERMAN:  I feel the same.  TJ always had a way with words.  How do you think he got Martha?  Tom, get me an ale, too?

FRANKLIN: (to the others at the table, quietly) Hey, by the way...NO mention of Sally Hemmings.  Even though Martha died, it's still a touchy subject.

ADAMS:  So we agree - TJ, you're writing this bad boy.  We'll all offer any suggestions and help, but you're the poet of the group.  You're brilliant, man...simply brilliant.

JEFFERSON:  Alright, listen.....I'll do it on one condition.  You guys are taking credit for this, too.  Last thing I need is for King George to send one of his 'death squads'.  Since Witness protection won't be around for another hundred plus years, I got no where to go.  deal?

ADAMS:  Deal.  By the way, you're light in the pot.  Pass the pretzels, too.

JEFFERSON; (pondering, then...) I got it.....Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness.  How does that sound? I can make this work.  I'll have to fit it in somewhere but it has a great ring to it, doesn't it?  Man, this could be big if we do it right.....

Anyway, I think it might have gone something like that.  I'm not certain, but it makes it a little more interesting to read, no?  Here's to hoping everyone has a great 4th of July.....and remembers what our Independence really meant.

Until next time.......