Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Handcuffing A 6-Year Old? Absolutely...and Here's Why.

I sometimes live for these kinds of stories as I know how polarizing they can be.  I like to hear the opinions of others as I simply point out what's been written or reported, then add my own take on the situation.  This is a great story simply because of the many facets involved.  Here, in a not-so-abridged version, is the story: Police in Milledgeville, GA were called to an elementary school on Friday for an unruly juvenile, 6-year-old Salecia Johnson, who was, "throwing a tantrum."  According to the responding officer's report, he found young Salecia lying on the principal's floor screaming and crying.  The officer also noted that, upon arriving at the school, he noticed damage to school property.  After trying several times to calm the girl, she, "pulled away and began actively resisting and fighting with me."  The Chief of Police later stated that, "The child was then placed in handcuffs for her safety and the officer proceeded to bring her down to the police station."  Now, before I leave you under the false impression that this child was lying on the floor crying and screaming because finger-painting wasn't going well, let me share the rest of her actions as noted by school personnel and the responding officer.  His report goes on to add that the child's behavior included throwing furniture, including a shelf which struck the principal.  She was biting the doorknob of the office and jumping on the paper shredder, as well as attempting to break a glass frame above the shredder.  Okay, I think it's safe to say this kindergartener was doing more than simply throwing a tantrum.  She was in full-blown 'tear it up' mode.  Here, in my opinion, is where the story gets polarizing.

Regardless of how this girl acted, her family said the police should NOT have been involved.  I know, I know....I'm getting there.  Wait for it?  So anyway, the child's aunt, Candace Ruff, told the CNN affiliate station that, "I don't think she misbehaved to the point where she should have been handcuffed and taken down to the police department."  Here comes another KEY POINT - the child was released to her aunt after numerous attempts to reach her parents failed.  The police department has still not heard from her parents, however (here it comes) the parents have found time to speak to reporters.  Her mother's questions to WMAZ were, "Call the police?  Is that the first step?"  She also wondered if there was any other knd of intervention the school could have attempted with her daughter.  The father, on the other hand, was quick with comments, not questions.  "They don't have no business calling the police and handcuffing my child."  The child, when taken to the police station, was never placed in a holding cell or jail cell, and her safety was the most important thing.  After being initially charged with simple battery of a school teacher and criminal damage to property, the Chief said today that the child would NOT be charged because of her age.  End of basic story - let's move on to my take on this.  Below is the link of the television interview.


Are you kidding me???  Before you ask, "Which part?" please know that I am talking about the child's behavior and the parents reaction.  This is why we have fewer and fewer people going into education.  We have removed corporal punishment from the schools, allowed children that are not being disciplined at home to act out at school, then blame the school for not being able to handle these juvenile delinquents.  Okay, this girl is six.  Does anyone think, especially with the reactions of her parents, that it will get better? I will be amazed if there isn't legal action taken against the school.  I will also be highly irritated if a judge does not slap the parents and throw out the suit.  In this case, I think the principal should sue THE PARENTS for the abuse by their child.  Yes....seriously.  We have teachers that cannot do their job and it affects MY child if they are in the classroom.  How these parents can justify the actions of their child or not see the severity of it still amazes me.  They could not be reached by the school, couldn't find time to call the police, yet spoke loudly and quickly to a television camera.  I wonder if the parents might have put the child yup to these actions.  Far-fetched?  I'm not so sure anymore.  It's time we either hold the parents accountable or change the laws.  If we don't want anyone touching their precious children when they are unruly and dangerous, fine.  The courts must hold them accountable.  If you won't discipline them at home, however, someone better.  This is why our children act this way in 2012.  No discipline at home, blame everyone else for the problems, then bitch when someone takes the initiative to fix it.  I think you all get my point.

Dear Mr & Mrs Ruff...and Aunt Candace,
It's time to take this girl home and whack her bottom a few times, put her in time out, take away the goodies you've given her all her life...ANYTHING that will make her understand her actions were horribly unacceptable.  This is the real world and there are real consequences for your actions.  My guess, though, is that the two (or three) of you had little or no consequence to your actions growing up.  You were raised in a time when you, too, could not be spanked because it's child abuse.  You grew up in a tie when you can swear at your parents...and they can do nothing.  You grew up in a time when you can threaten a teacher...and no one did anything to change it.  Please, for the sake of all of us (including your sweet little daughter), discipline her now so that we don't wind up on the wrong end of her toting an AK-47 through the suburbs OR she doesn't wind up in a dumpster because she acted this way to the wrong people.

Yeah, this is one of those situations that infuriates me.  Society is bearing the brunt of those that should not be parents in the first place.  This needs to stop.  Now.  Right now.

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

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Secret Service, GSA, Mitt Romney...and Tornadoes

Typically, I pick one topic and begin my.....rant?  Is that fair?  I suppose tonight is no different, though.  The one topic is the evening news...and the horrendous reports coming at us simultaneously.  If I didn't know better, I'd swear someone was sitting inside the studios at Rockefeller Center feeding fake stories into Brian Williams' teleprompter.  So many 'fun' things to discuss - where do I begin?  Maybe we'll just take them in the same order as Brian.

The Secret Service, a branch of the Treasury Department, has removed the security clearances of 11 of their agents because they are accused, along with five military personnel, of bringing prostitutes back to their rooms during a trip to Cartagena, Colombia.  This was the President's advance team and, ironically, this was all brought into the open because, on the morning after the alleged incident one of the men refused to pay one of the prostitutes.  As I pause for a moment, let's ponder that together - a Secret Service agent, after bringing a prostitute back to his room, decided NOT to pay her.  I feel like this is one of those 'pictures' where I now ask, "Which of these things doesn't fit?"  None of it fits!  We could start with, "How could you be so monumentally stupid?" as the initial question for these men, but that seems rhetorical to me.  This isn't like an insurance salesman going to a convention and picking up a woman in the bar.  They're the Secret Service...and at a time like this, with actions like these, I have to wonder if they thought they were in a Saturday Night Live skit - "Sshhh...we're in the Secret Service.  It's a secret.  Don't worry - no one will tell."  The worst part is the shame and embarrassment these few agents brought to what has, and always will be, a proud group of individuals who are willing to put themselves between a bullet and their protectee.  As one former agent said tonight, "No one is asking for a pass nor are they making any excuses, but any of us that have ever served are deeply embarrassed by these actions."  Mark my words - the fallout will be swift and broad.  If there is any doubt about anyone in particular, I believe they'll be gone.  Okay, again I ask, "He refused to pay her?"  How bloody stupid can you be???  Okay, moving on....

Mitt Romney.  I'm not really sure what else to day.  Based on everything I'm seeing, though, I can only ask, "When is the Great White Hope going to arrive in the form of a real Republican candidate?"  Every time I watch this man, I can only think one thing - he can't get out of his own way fast enough.  Seriously.  Every four years or so, we're treated to a politician opening their mouths when a microphone is 'hot' and they are unaware.  Here's a tip - don't say stupid things.  Ever.  It'll help.  You might even appear to be, well, in touch with the rest of the world and the plight of the American people in general.  Again, moving on.....

The GSA.  I expounded on this subject a few weeks ago, however they deserve a bit more public scorn, don't you agree?  As I watched the local news this evening, they broadcast the story of a 62-year old black man that goes to a job fair every week, dressed in coat and tie, trying to find a job.  He appeared to be a proud man and one that will not let the current state of the economy get him down.  He wants to be an earner.  He wants to work, though he can find nothing.  Yet while the economy continues to languish at the basement door, our tax dollars are being put to good use.  They're helping fund the 'training classes' for the GSA.  Yes, our friends in the General Services Administration spent in excess of $800,000.00 for a conference in Las Vegas.  The commissioner that presided over that conference appeared before Congress today, as lawmakers showed their bipartisan disdain for his actions.  The incredible part of this story, though, is that Jeff Neely was testifying and asserted his Fifth Amendment rights......SIX times!  I'm sorry.  I understand (and love) our Constitution, believe me.  I cannot, however, abide by a public servant in this position, squandering our tax dollars, then pleading the fifth.  Where will this end?  When are we, as a society, send an irrefutable message to the politicians that enough is enough?  He should, in my opinion, be held criminally liable.  In a time where we can give someone $1 Million for spilling hot coffee on themselves, why can we not find a way to hold people liable for stealing from us, the American public in general?  Sweating....and moving on.......

It was almost one year ago that tornadoes ripped violently through Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  Last night, after having a terrific advance warning, more than 100 tornadoes touched down again in the Midwest.  Violently, they tore houses apart and left people homeless.  One woman remarked that on this, her birthday, she was happy that her husband and children were alive.  "It's a house.  I can rebuild it.  I can't rebuild them," she said referring to her family.  When asked if she would stay, she said, "I'm not leaving if that's what you mean.  This is my home."  There is nothing more enduring than the American spirit.  At this age, I have seen many disasters tear apart certain locales.  What always strikes me as motivational and amazing is that, no matter what the situation or amount of loss, the American people pull together, stand side by side, and carry on.  We endure.  We survive.  We rebuild.  God bless the people of the midwest tonight...and everyone touched by last night's storms.  They are, and always will be, the embodiment of what 'American' means.

Until next time.....

Friday, April 6, 2012

Why the Texas Rangers Exemplify 'Class'...and Have My Endless Admiration

Baseball was a sport I loved while growing up.  It was one of the very few sports where kids of all sizes could compete somewhat equally.  Unlike basketball, you don't have to be over 6' tall to play.  Unlike football, being under 5'10" and weighing less than 240 pounds doesn't hamper your ability.  No, the only thing limiting you here is your speed and agility.  Basically, it was a sport I could play so, yeah, I enjoyed it.  I grew up in a small town in PA about an hour from Baltimore, MD.  We lived and died with the Orioles, though there was more 'living' then than 'dying'.  In the late 60's through the early 80's, the Birds were great.  I can still, without googling it, recite the starting lineup for the team that won the World Series back in 1970 starting with their Manager, Earl Weaver.  No, I'm not going to name them - this was just as a matter of fact and illustration.  I remember, too, living in Philadelphia after graduating from college when the Orioles played the Phillies.  My heart was torn because I had, dare I say it, dared to love another.  Actually, it was a win-win - I got to celebrate no matter who won a game during that Series.

I realize, too, that baseball can, at times, be as exciting to watch as, well, watching the grass grow or paint dry.  The thing is, this is OUR sport.  America's pastime.  The baseball diamond is, and always will be, our collective 'Field of Dreams'.  I think it's because, especially with a father and son, it's where we've formed The Bond.  I remember so many evenings, after having dinner and just as the sun was headed toward the horizon, I would head outside with my father, carrying both gloves and a ball, begging for him to follow me.  He did.  A lot.  We'd stand in the yard beside the house, all of about 40 feet long, and throw until the sky glowed its' burnt orange color the sun dipped below the trees.  I remember, too, when they had, "Father-Son Night," at the local Elks Lodge.  A few of the Orioles would come to town and join us for an evening of dinner followed by a question-answer session.  They'd autograph a few items then head home, maybe not even aware of the lasting impact they had on those of us that considered them 'larger than life'.  The last year my father and I went, I was still playing ball as a catcher.  The local newspaper asked to take a few photographs and I got to have mine snapped with Elrod Hendricks.  Yes, you'd have to be an O's fan from way back to remember the name, but the man was huge...and a catcher.  The man had a dynamic personality and, again, made an impression.  Baseball was THE sport that made an impact on me as a kid and the 'Boys of Summer' are welcomed every year at this time.

All of this, until now, has been a preamble (or pre-ramble!) and has nothing to do with the Rangers.  It has to do with the sport and how it impacts men and their boys.  I'm sure that, if you think back to last summer, most of you (men and women alike) will remember this story.  July 7, 2011 was a night that the Texas Rangers would play the Oakland Athletics in Texas.  Shannon Stone, a 39-year old firefighter was taking his son, 6-year old Cooper Stone, to the game.  Shannon had just bought his son a new glove the previous evening and Cooper wore it that evening hoping to catch a foul ball.  His father had even gotten seats in left field so Cooper would be near his hero, Josh Hamilton.  Maybe, just maybe, Hamilton would toss a foul ball their direction.  In the second inning, Hamilton, the Most Valuable Player in the American League at the time, took a ball that had ricocheted off the stands and onto the field, and tossed it toward them.  Shannon caught the ball as he leaned over the 33"-high railing...and went over.  He fell about 20 feet between two walls and landed face-first on concrete.  Emergency crews rushed to him and, as they prepared him for the trip to the hospital, he was suddenly alert enough to say to a paramedic, "Please check on my son.  My son was up there by himself."  The paramedics assured him his son would be fine and proceeded to place Shannon in the ambulance and head for the hospital.  He died a short time later, all of this having played out in front of young Cooper.  Now, we fast-forward to the opening of the 2012 season.

In a time when professional sports stories are filled with owners at odds with players, franchises moving from one city to another, horrendous salaries and contracts, hideous and unseemly behavior by many of said athletes, and a general lack of appreciation for the fans that support these athletes and teams, one organization did not only the right thing, but a great thing.  A situation that many would simply left as an indelible 'black mark' on their history, the Texas Rangers chose to make a lasting tribute.  Today, by the Home Plate entrance to their stadium, they unveiled a beautiful statue titled,"Rangers Fans."  More than just a statue and memorial to Shannon Stone, it celebrates that baseball is, and always will be, a family sport.  It shows father and son, walking from the game hand in hand, as they talk and share what they've seen.  What an incredible tribute to a father that loved his son, the game, and others.  It was classy and the entire team was there for the unveiling.  Josh Hamilton was there and, after having pictures taken with Cooper and the Stone family, spent some time with him.  In a time when many pro athletes are taking us, their fans, for granted, it is reassuring to see an organization invoke memories of the 'good ol' days' by getting close to the fans and being appreciative.  This is why the Texas Rangers have earned my admiration.  Though it's sad to say they are admired for doing the right thing and something nice, they are.  What they have done exceeded expectations and should restore our faith, not only in the game, but in people in general.  I salute the Texas Rangers, their players, their staff, and their entire organization.  What an incredibly classy move.

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

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Augusta National and Female Members...and Activists

First, let me go on record as saying I have a daughter.  I believe my daughter, as I know many of you agree concerning your own children, should have the chance to grow up to become whatever they choose regardless of their sex.  Period.  I do not want her to experience discrimination based on the fact that she is a female.  Now, with that said...I also think it's important to note that I have tried to impart a sense of history and tradition regarding certain things in this world, especially sports.  I've said it before - she wants to be the next Erin Andrews and watches ESPN constantly (which, of course, endears her to daddy even more).  Yet again, however, the debate over women and their membership (or lack thereof) at Augusta National is making headlines and being covered on the evening news.  It's an election year, too, so the candidates and President feel compelled to join the debate.  My comment is as it always has been - "Here we go again."

 Since 1932, Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, GA has been a male-only club.  The Masters Golf Tournament, made famous by one of the sport's best, Bobby Jones, is being held this weekend and the controversy has emerged anew.  Should women be allowed to become members?  Should the club offer this?  Why is this being debated again this year?  The latter question, more than the other two, is more easily answered.  IBM, one of the premier sponsors of The Masters, has a female as their top executive, Ginni Rometty.  This sponsorship of the tournament guarantees membership for its officers.  Hence, the dilemma.  IBM will not comment on the controversy.  Billy Payne, Chairman of Augusta National, made this comment at the annual media session - "Well, as has been the case, whenever that question is asked, all issues of membership are now, and have historically been, subject to the private deliberation of members.  That statement remains accurate; it remains my statement."

Who, you might ask, made this an issue other than the 'glaringly obvious' IBM situation?  Well, it seems that back in 2002, women's rights activist Martha Burk showed up at the gates to the club and led protests against the policy of men-only to no avail.  Unfortunately, ol' Martha has access to much press.  Apparently, she wrote a column for CNN where she stated that, "the woman problem is back."  She more than suggests, at this juncture, that there are, "only two options that are viable that are going to wash with the public - Augusta can open its doors to women, OR IBM can yank its money and force its male executives to resign from the club."  It should be noted that IBM Spokesperson, Chris Andrews, commented, "Augusta National is a private club, and their personal membership is an internal matter."  Well said, even if it was a politically-correct statement on behalf of the company. 

Okay, at this point, a bit of commentary from me on the whole 'activism' thing and how I feel about people using the argument of, "It's the only thing the public will stand for."  Honestly, has the public been asked, or is this your personal opinion and you're using it to further YOUR cause?  Again, don't get me wrong - everyone that knows me understands I, too, believe in equal rights for both men and women.  I am also a big fan of tradition.  The tradition of this golf club and its tournament is rich and filled with the history of the sport.  The membership policies themselves are part of that history.  When this situation, and other like it arise, I often find myself asking how these same activists might feel if I decided I might want to join NOW, their National Organization for Women.  No, I'm not really going to...I don't think, but...maybe, though....no, no...I won't.  Point being, isn't it the same thing?  Okay, there has to be a club like Augusta that, though not filled with as much tradition, has a women-only policy.  I can't think of one at the moment, but that certainly doesn't mean it doesn't exist.  What if men wanted to join?  Would these same activists truly fight for equality...or is this a one-sided fight?

There has been further speculation that Chairman Payne, someone who is more progressive than his predecessor, might offer a membership to Rometty after all, though only after the tournament has ended and the gender debate calms.  Burk, ever the activist, commented upon hearing this news that, "Sorry, but that dog won't hunt.  Telling Rometty to wait a little longer and be a good girl with IBM's collusion would be a disaster - not only for the company's image, but for Rometty's credibility as its leader."  Okay, again, I have to disagree.  This, in my opinion, would be a win-win situation and this argument by Burk further proves my point.  What is the real goal?  If it is to have Augusta National admit women as members, does it really matter WHEN it happens?  Or, as I am more inclined to believe, is it about the headlines and being able to thump her chest to show that she 'beat them good ol' boys, damn it.'  Let's face it - it's about a good fight.  If it isn't about women's rights, it's about racial discrimination.  If not about race, it's made to be about religious background.  Activists are in it for the fight, not the result.  THAT is my issue with their so-called activism.  If Rometty is NOT granted membership, please tell me how that diminishes her credibility as a leader?  Are we missing the big picture here?  She is the top executive at IBM for goodness sake!  Can you imagine saying that 30 years ago??  Now that she is in that position, though, we have to find more to fight about...and believe me when I tell you, Ginni Rometty has plenty of credibility, ability, and clout within the walls of IBM whether she is a member of Augusta National or not.

By the way, now that I am WAY up on my personal soapbox, I want to note, too, that women spectators at Augusta National were, in fact, asked the question about membership.  The majority of them, even if they said, yes, women should be admitted, went on to say that they are also understanding of the tradition of the club.  They aren't as eager as the 'activists' to actually 'fight' for this.  They'd rather walk the lush, gorgeous grounds among the magnolias, sit around the picture-perfect greens, and watch some of the finest golf in the world this weekend.  Here's to you, ladies.  We'll be sitting where we should be - not in front of you, not behind you, but, rather, right beside you.

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

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Time To Call Them Out...Again.

I was looking for an interesting topic today and, yet again, the government does not disappoint.  Just when you thought it could not get much worse with our elected officials, and just when you thought they might have developed some sense of doing the right thing, they jump in and prove us wrong.  I'm merely pointing this out because, well, it's an election year.  I know, I know...it's only April.  Hasn't anyone else received the toll-free calls begging your support of one candidate or another.  Right.  We get another seven months of this, too.  Yeah...can't wait.  This year, however, maybe it's time we did something drastic.  This year, let's make sure we send a message that is heard from coast-to-coast and across the.....who am I kidding?  Even if we elect none of the incumbents, we're going to have people in office that are romanced by their own ability to dig deep into our pockets and spend freely the tax dollars we've worked so hard for.  Don't believe me?  Let me cite two small examples:

First, let's talk about the GSA (General Services Administration).  Their Administrator resigned, as most of you probably know, yesterday after a report on their regional training conference surfaced.  The conference was held in Las Vegas in 2010.  Seriously, LAS VEGAS???  Okay, it was a 'regional' meeting, so I'll give them that one.  I'm sure this agency needs to train their employees, don't get me wrong, but they should use a bit of discretion when spending our money, don't you think?  So, here it is (if you have not yet heard) - 300 attendees and the cost of the meeting was in excess of $822,000.00.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I can even provide a little 'breakdown' for you.  $6,000 for keychains, canteens, and t-shirts.  Another $6,000 for commemorative coins.  $75,000 for 'team-building' exercises.  That little project (or one of them, anyway) was putting a bicycle together.  Hey, I (along with many of my friends) are dads.  That exercise takes place every Christmas eve in one home or another.  "Here's your bike.  Give me $75,000."  Don't we wish?  So let me continue sharing this joyous news.  They paid an outside company a $12,000 finder's-fee to book the resort for the convention.  Well, yeah, the GSA does have people on their staff that have that as part of their job...but it's apparently easier and less stressful if you pay someone to do it.  To justify a catered event, the GSA listed it as an "Awards Dinner."  In reality, the Inspector General found that this was nothing more than a talent show of the meeting attendees.  Shocking?  Yes.  Surprising?  I think most of us will say, "Note really, no."

Another little story that arose today was that of pork-barrel spending or, in this case, the gift that keeps on hurting.  For this little nugget, I turn to my place of birth, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  We all remember Congressman John Murtha, right?  A Marine war veteran that came home to become the first Viet Nam veteran elected to Congress where he remained for 36 years.  Well, at one point, Rep Murtha was able to steer $150 million (yes, with an "M") to an airport in Johnstown, PA.  it has a $7million air-traffic control tower.  Certainly something an airport needs, right?  It also has a $14 million hangar and a $18 million runway on which any plane in North America can land.  Yes, that would be critical to an airport, too, I agree.  The only thing this gleaming airport does not have?  Airplanes.  Flights in and out, to be exact.  There are three daily flights that arrive here, all from Washington, DC.  Better still (that was sarcastic, obviously) is the fact that about half of the cost of each ticket is subsidized by...you guessed it...US!  yes, the American taxpayer is subsidizing the cost of tickets to this airport.  Don't ask for specifics, please.  NONE of this make sense to me.  The problem is, the money continues to roll in.  The government voted to renew this subsidy only two months ago.  Shocked yet?  We should be.

All of this stems from the fact that our elected officials are too worrying about keeping their jobs rather than what is best for their constituents.  I have yet to have anyone ask me in one of them there fancy-schmancy town hall meetings what I would like to see done in our area and how they should vote.  To allow the GSA to get away with their convention scam would have been disturbing, however I wonder what we DON'T know about.  What agencies are doing these things and keeping them secret?  Had it not been for one concerned citizen employed by the GSA, this story might never have been told.  I applaud them.  The airport is another story entirely.  Our lawmakers apparently do not read the bills on which they vote, are absent, or allow so many other line items to be added to good legislation that it costs all of us.  None of this is new, granted.  Still, that does not make it right.  This is the time when every government employee, regardless of which agency or branch they work for, should be asking if they really need to spend certain monies and, more importantly, how they can save it.  Yes, we need to send a message in November.  It's time we truly get involved and hold those in office accountable.  I always remember the saying, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."  Right now, our government is certainly not part of any solution I see helping us.  I think many, if not all, of us could have found a better, more effective way of spending that cash.  Drinks anyone?

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