Monday, August 29, 2016

Colin Kaepernik and the National Anthem

Considering what I've seen people doing during the playing of the National Anthem, I can't get that geeked up about what Colin Kaepernick did, or didn't do. It's his right to not stand. No one's going to put him in jail for it. It's also the right of us to dog him and get our panties in a wad over it.

Personally, I think this country has a helluva lot more important things to worry about than who does what during the playing of the National Anthem. Have you seen who's running for President? A egomaniacal con artist and a jaded cynical grandmother nobody trusts.  And don't give me the 'He's disrespecting the flag and the troops and the veterans,' etc. Been There, Done That, 6 years Navy, 25 year active blue cap member of the American Legion. And I have the DD214 to prove it.

You really want to show respect to the flag, the troops and veterans?  Stop getting bent out of shape about rinky-dink stuff like not standing for the Anthem, and over the top patriotic theater that happens at sporting events and advocate for fixing the VA. Or not going over and sticking our noses in every other country's business. Or listening to our generals and admirals and not spending billions of dollars on equipment they say they don't need, just because some politician has to suck up to a defense contractor back home.

I don't know whether Kaepernick is actually making a stand, or whether it's a play to get out of San Francisco. Only he knows the reasons for not standing.

But if he's acting on true, well thought out, convictions, then I respect that. That is something he will have to deal with. I don't have to agree with it.  But my position was stated three paragraphs up.

It's strange, the dichotomy that prominent athletes find themselves in. On the one hand, athletes, especially black athletes, are called upon to use their platform to address the ills of this country, especially as they pertain to black folk or people of color. But when they do so, they are derided and told to stick to their sport.  It takes courage to use that platform to speak out, especially in a world of tweets, retweets, likes, and the immediacy that a misplaced word or an ill-conceived tweet can circle the globe and flame emotions.

But I think it is important for athletes and prominent people to use their elevated platform to say what they feel about what's going on in the world. People are more likely to listen to what their favorite athlete or celebrity has to say than some windbag politician.  Except for the Kardashians. No one should listen to what the Kardashians have to say.

But it's also important that that athlete is saying what he/she is saying in order to effect change, not to just burnish their brand. And not just talk. How's the saying go? 'Money talks, Bulls**t walks.'
If an athlete or celebrity is truly desirous of using their popularity to change the world, they must make sure that actions follow words.

And not just throw the money around in front of the cameras. If Colin Kaepernick truly wants to make his actions stand (see what I did there), then he has to follow through more than just not standing up for the National Anthem. He has a bunch of money and can form a foundation or an organization that can help in his own small way change his corner of the country. If he's already doing it, than I stand corrected.

And don't get me started about my feelings about the Star-Spangled Banner as our National Anthem. Frankly, I think it sucks. Give me America, The Beautiful any day.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Not a Zero Sum Game

     The incidences that occurred this past week where two black men were shot by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and St. Paul Minnesota, and the retaliatory attack on police officers in Dallas, Texas have caused me no end of conflicting emotions. More than the previous spate shootings of black men by police officers.

      And it always seems like when one of these incidents occurs, everybody circles the wagons, takes up sides and starts lobbing bombs. The police claim that there is a war against them by the citizenry. The protestors claim that the police aren't willing to eliminate the rogue elements in their ranks.

     And of course, Facebook and Twitter and other forms of social media erupt with idiotic, racist, and anti police memes, posts, tweets, rushes to judgement, simplistic answers to hard questions, and the usual reactions that make folks believe that if you are part of Black Lives Matter, you must be against the police, or if you are solidly behind the police, think that BLM want to rejoice in the deaths of police officers. 

     Understand folks, this isn't a zero sum game. Being for Black Lives Matter doesn't make you anti-police. Nor is it vice versa. These two entities do not have to work at cross purposes to each other.

     I don't hate cops. In my line of work, I occasionally have to work with cops. I respect what they do. And I know that they have to make split second decisions on when to pull their firearms and make a life-changing decision on both sides. I get that.

     But I'm also black. And I know about the history between black people and the police that has gone down through the life of this country. I've seen the pictures of police beating on protestors trying to get the same rights that white folks have. I have heard the stories. I know about how black folks don't trust the police and clam up when the cops look for witnesses to crimes that happen in our neighborhoods.

     And that is most troubling. We expect the cops to protect us, but we don't trust them enough to protect us from retaliation when we inform them of crimes happening to us by us. What a problem we have.   But it's getting tiresome seeing our black men being killed by police for no apparent reason.

     Being stopped at a traffic stop and in the process of pulling out your license and carry permit for the firearm that you told the cop about and then being shot? You're doing what the cop ordered you to do and you get shot?  You're being held down by two cops, completely immobilized, can't move. One cop says that you have a gun, which you can't get to because there are two cops holding you down. One cop shoots you.  Is that correct police procedure?  Reminds me of the Eric Garner case. Took five cops to bring him down, they choked the man out, he dies. Those cops lives weren't in danger. Five cops to take down one admittedly large man?  Something's wrong here. 

     I don't do the Black Lives Matter thing. But I understand what they are doing. Do some of them hate cops? Yes, and I can understand why if they have either suffered police brutality personally or know of a friend or family member who has suffered police brutality. And there are those who will use Black Lives Matter as a front to justify doing things like what the snipers did in Dallas. 

     But i'm sure that there are members of Black Lives Matter who know cops, are related to cops, who might even BE cops, who just want to see the killing stop. Who want to see the bad guys whether they wear badges or not brought to justice. Who want to see the trust between black folks and police restored, so that the police can do their job of protecting us. And that we, the people can help the police protect us by fingering the bad guys without worrying about retaliation.

     It's not easy to rebuild that trust. And the answers won't be found on Facebook, Twitter or social media. It's gonna require acknowledging the problems of the past that have provided the fertile ground for what is happening today. The police need to be willing to expunge those in their ranks who can't or won't do their jobs with the professionalism required.  The community needs to be willing to help the police to root out crime by being witnesses and coming forward without fear.

    The overwhelming majority of cops are good people who are called on to do what I think is a Sisyphean task. They see humanity at its worst every day.  They go towards trouble when others run away from it. And they don't get paid nearly enough to do it. I do not envy them their jobs. When they do good, nobody remembers, but when they screw up, no one forgets.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Wither Wendy Bell?

Boy, has this whole Wendy Bell situation turned into a dumpster fire. People are getting all sorts of bent out of shape about this situation. FB groups calling for her to be drawn and quartered. An equal number of her supporters demanding that she receive a public apology for her speaking out about the horrible shootings in Wilkinsburg that killed 5 people including an unborn child.  The links below will provide the background.
I'm pretty sure that Wendy was showing her naïveté and her privilege when she posted her reaction to the Wilkinsburg shootings on her company sponsored FB page. Not a smart idea. Is she racist? No, I don't think so. Should she have thought twice before stereotyping the shooters involved in the massacre before they have been arrested, much less identified? Yes. She made the fatal mistake of assuming that the shooters were Black. And she found out the hard way what happens when you make assumptions. Yep, they make an ASS out of U and ME. Chances are the shooters are Black. But Wendy Bell is supposed to be a journalist, and she has stated that she graduated from a top level J-school. Don't remember which one it was, but she obviously was not in class the day they taught the rule that a journalist doesn't report on assumptions, they report on the facts. And if the facts aren't in yet, you keep your yap shut.
I don't know the woman from Adam. I follow her WTAE FB page, and she seems like a pleasant enough person. I don't want her fired, or drawn and quartered, or to suffer whatever the Internet executioners think she should suffer. I'm pretty sure she got a nice ass chewing from her bosses and was suspended for a few days. Hopefully, she learned her lesson. If you gotta rant, don't do it on the company's FB page. And don't assume.  

"But Uncle Pee, you engage in speculation and assumptions on the Scribbler."

 But the difference between me and Wendy Bell is that I'm just a private citizen who's flapping his yap on a blog. I don't claim to be a journalist. I don't have a degree in journalism. I don't have journalistic credentials. I can count the number of people who give two craps about the Scribbler on one hand and still have fingers left over.  Wendy's FB page had thousands of followers and generated hundreds of likes and shares. She's a public figure posting on a Facebook page set up by her employer. When she posted on that page, she was representing her employer.  And if what she posted on that platform provided by her employer causes said employer to catch hell and fall into disrepute, that employer has the right to discipline her. 

If I say something stupid on my personal blog, the worst I'll catch is crickets and indifference. Although a potential  employer could also use anything I write here against me if I post something that causes them to get the heebie-jeebies.  And all the folks who are screaming "Free speech!!" need to revisit their civics lectures from high school.  Free speech does not protect a person from being held up to criticism by the public for what they say, nor does it protect them from an employer launching disciplinary action against them if what that person said violates the employers rules regarding acceptable content on a website or FB page they own.  Free speech protects the person from GOVERNMENT censorship. It does not apply to posts on a message board.  Wendy Bell will not go to jail for what she wrote. 

Since I posted this, Wendy Bell was fired from WTAE. But after stewing on this latest development, I'm starting to wonder whether there are other factors involved. Here we have a news anchor who has been employed at WTAE for 18 years. Pittsburgh is a market that looooves older anchors. We have a lot of old folks in this town and they like their news readers with a certain maturity in their appearance.  Bell also has won a bunch of regional Emmys. She has a certain level of cred in the news business in Pittsburgh. 
You'd think that a miscue of a level that Wendy committed could have been dealt with by a suspension with or without pay, a public mea culpa, or some other alternative to dropping the hammer on her.  But that's exactly what WTAE and their parent company, Hearst Communications did.  

Now I am engaging in speculation off the top of my head, or out of a certain orifice at the other end of my body, but I'm starting to think that this incident on Facebook is merely the last straw of a series of incidents between Bell and WTAE that were settled in-house. She has too much professional cred in Pittsburgh to get blown out for what I consider a gross lack of judgement. A suspension, yes. Termination? No.  I'm pretty sure that an anchor with her rep and cred was getting paid pretty good money at 'TAE.  I wonder whether she was blown out to make way for younger, cheaper talent, and this incident provided a convenient way for station management to let her go?  I'm pretty sure the order to pull the trigger came from above station management.  As we used to say in the Navy, "Shit rolls downhill." 
I don't think it's necessary to hold a bake sale for Wendy Bell. She was making a nice buck at Channel 4, she's married to a prominent cardiologist. If she's smart, she and hubby will pack up the kids, take a nice long vacation, maybe even move out of Pittsburgh, and see what's out there. I wouldn't be surprised if she ends up as one of the talking heads on a cable news channel. She's still fairly young, she's attractive, she's competent. If she plays this right, she could do a good deal better than doing local news in Pittsburgh.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

When Will We Learn

I hesitate to read the FB comments re: the shootings in Wilkinsburg, because invariably, many of them will be snarky, borderline racist posts from white folks in their comfy suburbs calling these people (shooters and victims, alike) thugs and animals. And I earnestly hope they find the shooters and bring them to justice. I have no sympathy for them. And I know all the underlying causes and theories about what drives people to do these things. I grew up poor, my father was a part of my life, but I was mostly raised by my mother.  But I didn't have a need or desire to pick up a gun and take lives to get what I wanted. But I still have no sympathy for the shooters.  Maybe I should, but I don't. Some kind of Christian I am, I guess. 

But I mourn and pray for the victims.  When will the killing stop?  When will the violence stop? I live just a few hundred feet from the Pittsburgh/Wilkinsburg border. I see the poverty. I see the vacant lots, the abandoned houses. I see people trying to get ahead, doing the right thing, trying not to let the streets overcome them. I also see those who succumb to the call of the streets. I hear the same ol' same ol' from all the usual suspects.  But things just don't seem to be getting better.

Is ' the system' to blame? Yes, to an extent. But when does the community start taking a hard look at itself?  When do all parties involved stop pointing fingers and start looking in the mirror? I'm including myself. It's easy to point fingers, and not admit that we all have to start moving in the right direction.

I don't know the answers.  There are no quickie solutions. And many will dismiss these words as just useless venting. And maybe that's just what they are. All I know is, I'm getting tired of it all. Don't worry, I'm not ready to throw myself off a bridge or something, but I'm just tired of all the blame-gaming. On both sides. Just sayin' , I guess.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

The Real Secret Behind Groundhog Day

So Phil didn't see his shadow? Guess the check from the Winter Goods lobby didn't arrive on time. Or it bounced. Oh, yeah. 

You didn't know? Our boy's on the take. Every year he gets a substantial "donation" to his kid's educational fund from the lobbyists representing the folks who make winter necessities like snow shovels, winter coats, hand warmers, gloves, scarves, tossle caps, etc.  Why do you think that overfed rat has not seen his shadow 18 of the last 120 years? That groundhog is getting PAID!!!  Believe that!!!  

And the gravy train has passed down from successor to successor. Ever wonder what happens to the unlucky groundhog who spilled the beans? Remember Gus, the second most famous groundhog in Pennsylvania? He knew stuff. He knew stuff he wasn't supposed to say. Well, he dropped Phil in it, and lost that cushy job at the Lottery. Last I heard, Gus was fighting the river rats for scraps along the Allegheny River under the Clemente Bridge. He tried to get help from the occupiers at Mellon Green back in the day, and half of them wanted to eat him. 

You read it here! A Moonlight Scribbler Exclusive!! It's a conspiracy, I tell you!  My butt could end up in a bad way saying all this stuff. Matter of fact, I hear helicopters hovering over the Little House in the Ghetto!  There are a bunch of old guys wearing top hats, tuxedos and carrying Mossberg tactical shotguns approaching the house as I speak. Oh, s**t!  They're breaking down the door!!!  I'm done for! This might be the last Moonlight Scribbler post you'll read from me!!!  GAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!

Monday, January 04, 2016

Happy New Year from the Moonlight Scribbler

Well, boys and girls. We made it thru another year. Hopefully your 2015 was a damn sight better than your 2014. 

Here at the Little House in the Ghetto, nothing much has changed. The place is still standing. Still being held up by duct tape and baling wire.  The short and sweet of 2015 for me was 'routine.'  I kept it simple in 2015. Didn't really go anywhere or do anything extraordinary. Mostly just home, work, back home with occasional trips to see my best friend's munchkin. Kid will be three in January. And I'd walk thru fire for the little monkey. 

I pray that God continues to bless and protect him as he continues to delight us and let us see the world through his eyes. 

Because I don't know about Yinz, but I'm damn tired of seeing the world through my eyes. Strife, conflict, people with badges and guns behaving badly, knuckleheads with guns behaving badly with innocents caught in the crossfire.  The nastiness of the early Presidential campaign. Mud being slung, paranoia, fear of the other, words as weapons. General batshit craziness all around.  And this is just the appetizer. The next 11 months provides the main course.  

And having had my fill of the hors d'oeurves, I think I'll pass on the entreé, thank you very much. 

Not than anything good didn't happen in 2015, it just seemed overshadowed by such negativity.  

I know a lot of Yinz went to cool places, saw cool things, welcomed new babies or critters, or said final goodbyes to those friends or loved ones, two legged or four, who shook off this life like a heavy overcoat to pass into eternity, whichever form you believe it holds.

  I pray that those loved ones will continue to remain in your hearts and minds, because as long as they remain there, they're never really gone.  The body goes back to the dust from whence it came, but their souls live forever as long as we believe they do. 

And in the meantime, we just keep a 'steppin, because like it or not, this grand play, this performance that we call 'life', still goes on.

 Until we no longer can, we get up, take care of business, work to live, or live to work, hug our kids, critters, spouses, go to cool places, see cool things, meet cool people, or in my case, drink cool beers.  Because, dammit, that's just what we do.  We live life in all its many forms, as best we can, and make the best of it.  And I beseech you, boys and girls, to continue to do so. You owe it to yourselves and the people you give a damn about.  To put your best out there, for the world to see.  

I'll be ushering in 2016, either in the presence of my best friend and her munchkin and a six pack of tasty brews,  or at home in the Little House in the Ghetto, with a six pack of tasty brews, listening to the knuckleheads shooting off all manner of guns into the air.  Either way, my ass ain't going outside to celebrate. I'm too old to party 'til I puke. I hate crowds.  And if I wanted to tie one on tonight, it would be with that fizzy yellow mass-market goat piss that 'Muricans drink, not a mix and match with some nice Porters and Stouts with an IPA thrown in for the hell of it.

Aaaaanyway, for all my Scribbler and Facebok fam, you have provided me with laughs, tears, provoking thoughts. Your prayers for me have been heard and answered. I'm still kicking it and will continue to do so in 2016. I pray that your 2016 will be a damn sight better than your 2015.  And that we can all get back together again in 365 days to do it all over again.

From the Little House in the Ghetto, located in the pastoral, bucolic neighborhood of Homewood-Brushton, in the City of Pittsburgh, Taxsylvania.  This is your 99 and 44/100% pure, Raleigh Pierre Wheaton signing off.  See Yinz on the other side.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Relax Folks, Christianity is just fine in America

I'm probably going to cheese a few folks off, but nobody reads my stuff anyway, so...
Despite being a Christian, albeit one of a more liberal strain, I've never gotten on board with those who think that Christianity is under attack in the US. 

While I would agree that Christianity is persecuted and under attack in countries where Christians are in the minority, I tend to disagree that it's under attack in America: where the majority of the citizens identify at least nominally as Christians; where there are thousands of mega churches each with congregations in the tens of thousands bringing in tens of millions of dollars in weekly tithes and offerings; where there are God knows how many Christian media outlets raking in and spending billions of dollars to get the Word of God out to anyone who wants to hear it. 

There are millions of churches in this country, all operating out in the open. Anyone interested in what they are providing can walk right in. No one will arrest seekers or believers or chop off their heads.  Bibles don't have to be smuggled into America. Hell, you can buy one at the dollar store for a fiver.

Does this sound like a religion under attack and being persecuted?  Maybe the studies coming out that say that fewer and fewer people are attending church regularly and more apt to be spiritual but not religious, but I doubt that it spells the end of Christianity in America. 

What it is, is that there is a certain segment of Christians in this country that want freedom of religion...but only for Christians.  Yes, the first amendment of the Constitution allows for freedom of religion, all religions, not just Christianity.  If the Founding Fathers, whom so many of US Christians with a persecution complex, claim founded this country on Judeo-Christian principles, were so bent on making this country into a Christian nation (which I do not believe), why didn't they add a clause into the Constitution granting Christianity special protections to the exclusion of other faiths? 

I don't see Christianity going away in the US, anytime soon. It's just that there are Christians who don't want other religions to play in what they think is THEIR sandbox, when it ACTUALLY belongs to all religions, as well as those who don't believe at all. Then again, what the hell do I know?