Monday, October 9, 2017

Caption Contest

First thoughts went to John Prine

"Blow up your t.v. throw away your paper
Go to the country, build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches
Try an find jesus on your own"

Then I thought of Jack Johnson

"Where did all the good people go,
I've been changing channels
I don't see them
On the TV shows
Where did all the good people go,
We got heaps and heaps of what we sow"

Then I thought I am tired and ready for bed, but want to come back to this later. Ideas?

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Modesty Forbids
Over the years I have enjoyed more than one Bob Dyer column, while also cringing every time he writes about race. As I write this today, I am laughing inside because I am pretty sure fewer than ten people might read my blog and hundreds of thousands read Bob’s column.
On those occasions, when Bob writes about race, he seems to return to the same three messages. First, he reminds us that he was part of the ABJ team that won a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting about race. Second, he argues that the racism is a problem today primarily because people refuse to stop mentioning racism. And third, he frames this larger point in storyline designed to suggest that he has no dog in this fight, he is just an average person making an ordinary observation, he is not the Jedi you are looking for.
When a group in any community is overwhelmingly suffering from multi-generational concentrated disadvantage, it is very difficult for me to accept an elite from outside this group blaming individuals in that group for pointing out the (many) ways the system is rigged against them.
Below is Bob Dyer’s column from today, pasted in full. He is, again, highlighting that he won a Pulitzer (message one above), and his central point that there is an industry out there of self-serving actors making a living by enflaming race-hatred—and they are the driving force behind our racism problem (message two above).
After doing that, he steps back and says, of course locals trying to address real problems are not doing this (message three above). He is a good writer, who has made me laugh many times, and likely a fine person, but I disagree with him here. As for his argument about the value of soothers? Modesty forbids.
One final observation, so our disagreement might be as clear as possible. I agree that there are unsavory actors on both sides (all sides) who exploit this (or any) conflict, particularly conflicts where there is a lot at stake and unequal distribution of hurt.
For instance, are there actors on both sides of the Trump nightmare who could care less about Trump winning or losing, but are using this conflict to advance their own interests? Sure. Does observing this absolve us of the obligation to figure out how to evaluate Trump ourselves, so we can contribute to our conversations about how to respond to his presidency? It does not.
Even as we hear many resist Trump in ways we do not support (with violence or with stupid self-serving arguments, for instance), we still have to figure this out for ourselves. We cannot simply observe (accurately) that some are exploiting the situation and conclude, therefore, that there is no fire behind all that smoke.
As a white man, is it hard to be reminded of the privilege that comes with white skin? Yes. Particularly when my everyday experience is one where I feel like sometimes I am just barely able to navigate my everyday challenges. Do I sometimes bristle at the passionate way some point out my privilege and the luxury that comes with that privilege (including the luxury to not notice it and seek refuge in ‘I don’t see race’)? Yes. Particularly as a first-generation college student whose immigrant elders worked hard to give me a good starting point in life.
Yet, I recognize that growing up black in America is many times more difficult than growing up white, with all the usual obstacles we all face plus all the unavoidable and painful explicit and implicit bias associated dark skin. And this recognition does not mean my elders did not work hard. It only means the when elders of my black peers worked as hard or harder without receiving rewards even in the same ballpark in terms of family wealth, political power, and equal protection of the law…their hard work did not result in creating a similarly good starting point for their children.
In the context of the current NFL conflict, former NFL defensive end, Howie Long, had this to say… 
“As a white father having raised three boys, there were a million things to worry about on a daily basis. But it’s impossible for me to understand the challenges that an African-American father faces at every turn while raising his children. But in a league that is comprised of 70% African-American players, if you’re a white player in an NFL locker room, that puts you in a position to try to better understand those struggles, and, subsequently as we have seen, show your support for your teammates in your own way. Understanding starts with a dialogue, and the most important part of dialogue is to listen.
Maybe there is a way for Bob and I to come to an agreement here. Is it possible to see ‘Racism, Inc.,’ as an industry within which there are white and black firms operating? Can we agree on that? If so, can we agree that the firms in that industry from our society’s most powerful group are the low hanging fruit we should try to call out, because constraining them does not ask them to simply accept their power-poor status as second-class citizens? They have options other than race-baiting—they are already in the dominant group.
Anyway, here is Bob’s column. You make the call.
Bob Dyer: Racism, Inc.
October 1, 2017 in Akron Beacon Journal
Like most of us, Akron resident Mary Deal, a self-proclaimed cynic (you will see why very soon), has been thinking a lot about race relations lately. How could we not, given the events — both national and local — of the past few weeks?
Deal has concluded that racism is “America’s brand new growth industry.”
Clearly referring to the ugly public confrontations between blacks and whites on Akron City Council, and the closed-door attempt at reconciliation that followed, she sent the following email:
Bob: After racism has been stoked by those who claim they’re not “racist,” a professional class of “moderators” offer their services to “bring together” all the discordant parties.
The “brought togethers” sit around a table where each speaks moderately to the others. They share their stories. They emote. They are confined until all reach an accord reminiscent of “the era of good feeling.” Group dynamics prevail. All leave as “a team.”
There’s only one problem with this halcyon result: We’ve been doing this since the late ’60’s or early ’70’s — “encounter groups,” anyone? — with the same dismal outcome.
The professional “soothers,” distantly related to soothsayers, do their exhortations, incantations, etc., but the “problem” never seems to go away. Too many people profit from the disorder.
Consider how the Akron Community Foundation has caught the fever. In cahoots with the library system, both are sponsoring an event called, “On the Table. Greater Akron. Your Voice Matters,” on Oct. 3. By attending, adults grant permission to be videotaped and photographed, doubtlessly by the ACF for future video distribution.
Didn’t the BJ “solve” the problem of racism years ago when it received a Pulitzer [in 1994]?
Just like the weather, “racism” has become something everybody talks about but can’t do a thing about. Except to make a profit and promote themselves.
I told her I thought she was an even bigger cynic than her favorite columnist, and asked for permission to quote her.
Sure. But also look up and quote Booker T. Washington on the race hustlers of his day.
Everything old is new again. And there’s always the quote attributed to Einstein about doing things the same way while expecting different results. 
Last November we had a provincial from Queens against a Methodist Sunday-schooler from Park Ridge, Ill. Oy vey! What a mess! The fewer “encounter groups” we encounter the better off we may be, eventually.
Born a cynic and sarcastic. It’s in the genes.
Dostoevsky on sarcasm: “Sarcasm is the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
The legendary Booker T. Washington, an author whom today we would label “African-American,” did indeed rail against race hustlers — more than a century ago.
“There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs and the hardships of the Negro race before the public,” he wrote in 1911.
“Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.”
To me, that sounds a lot more like the Al Sharptons of the world than the local folks who are genuinely trying to close the enormous racial gap.
More than 5,000 people have signed up for that “On the Table” event, which indicates plenty of folks remain hopeful.
Are we going to fix the race problem by endlessly talking about it? Not likely. As Ms. Deal notes, we’ve been trying that for half a century.
On the other hand … what’s the alternative?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

He Does Impressions
Eugene Robinson is one of my favorite columnists. His most recent piece in the Washington Post is another gem, titled “If President Trump is Not a White Supremacists, He Does a Good Impression.” I have pasted his column in its entirety below. Well worth reading.

I share this because I believe it is worth reading; we need to accept and wrestle with the fact that our president is this kind of person…the kind of person his own words and actions portray…that is, not a picture based on opposition sound bites and not a case of the media not giving him a chance—this is a portrait of a president in his own words.

At the same time, there is a sense in this piece that the president is beginning to falter, his coalition shrinking. I hope this is true. But he surprised the pundits with his election win and Republicans in Congress continue to surprise us all with the depths of depravity to which they are willing to descend to avoid actually governing.

Our president has repeatedly shown himself to be an angry, ignorant and dangerous old man. But he also displays a brilliant huckster’s instincts. He will not go away quietly or without great pain.

We should not assume the hateful and ignorant cultural coalition that gave us Trump is shrinking. I hope it is, but we need to remain steadfast and vigilante in our efforts to strengthen the only alternative in a two-party system: the Democratic Party.

We need to win the House in the midterms. Hopefully we will not find our young men and women fighting & dying on the Korean peninsula just before that election and only because our president wants to boost his poll numbers. 

So, I agree with Robinson here and also caution us all about assuming this man will self-destruct—that assumption is one key factor that got us in the mess we are in right now. But let’s hear from Eugene Robinson….

President Trump’s race-baiting attack on African American athletes is nothing new. During the civil rights movement, blacks in the South who dared to stand up for justice were often punished by being fired from their jobs. Trump is demanding that National Football League team owners act like the white segregationists of old.

It was gratifying to see the overwhelming rejection of Trump’s hideous rabble-rousing by NFL players, owners and fans. But let’s be clear: There is no reason, at this point, to give Trump the benefit of any doubt. We should assume Trump’s words and actions reflect what he truly believes.

His opening salvo, delivered Friday at a campaign rally in Alabama, could not have been clearer, or cruder: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b---- off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’ ”

Trump was referring, of course, to players who take a knee during the singing of the national anthem. The practice was started by quarterback Colin Kaepernick — and adopted by a smattering of players around the league, almost all of them black — as a way of protesting police shootings of unarmed African Americans.

Trump claimed in a Monday tweet that “the issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race,” but that is a lie. Kaepernick’s method of protest had everything to do with race, as its intent was to focus attention on racial injustice.

Trump was speaking to a virtually all-white audience in the Deep South. About 70 percent of players in the NFL are African American. Some political analysts put two and two together and concluded that Trump was playing to the racial anxieties and animosities of his base. If this is true, however, he seems to have miscalculated.

Hundreds of players, black and white, protested during the anthem on Sunday by kneeling, linking arms or, in some cases, declining to take the field until the music was over. Many coaches and owners joined in. Almost all team owners released statements defending the players’ right to protest, including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a friend of Trump’s who contributed $1 million to his inauguration committee and gave him a Super Bowl ring. Kraft said he was “deeply disappointed” by Trump’s remarks.

Perhaps stung by the near-unanimity of the NFL’s reaction, Trump sought refuge by appealing to an audience he might have expected to be friendlier. “So proud of NASCAR and its supporters and fans. They won’t put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag,” he tweeted Monday.

But a half-hour later, NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., responded by tweeting, “All Americans R granted rights 2 peaceful protests.” Maybe next Trump will try his luck with the professional rodeo circuit.

Trump’s intent, I assume, was to create a wedge issue, with patriots on one side — his side — and non-patriots on the other. He did not realize that so many people who might dispute Kaepernick’s position on police violence would nevertheless defend the players’ right to take a stand, or a knee. We have a president who does not understand our fundamental freedoms.

We also have a president who, if he’s not a white supremacist, does a convincing impression of one.

On Saturday, he publicly disinvited the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry — one of pro basketball’s transcendent stars — from the White House. Curry had expressed reluctance to visit, and instead of reaching out, Trump slammed the door. I suppose you could argue that rich and famous athletes can take care of themselves.

But recall that Trump and his father were sued by President Richard Nixon’s Justice Department for illegally refusing to rent apartments to black prospective tenants. Recall that Trump continued to insist that the “Central Park Five” — four black men and one Latino — were guilty of a brutal rape even after DNA evidence had conclusively proved their innocence. Recall that Trump led the “birther” movement, ridiculously claiming that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Recall Trump’s campaign appeal to black voters: “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed — what the hell do you have to lose?”

And recall his reaction to Charlottesville, where he discerned some “very fine people” among the torch-wielding parade of Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis.
I don’t believe this can all be political calculation. I believe Trump is telling us what he really thinks — and who he really is.

Read more from Eugene Robinson’s archivefollow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook. You can also join him Tuesdays at 1 p.m. for a live Q&A.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

All the years of near constant competition have taken a toll. I would not say my body is worn out, but there is no doubt that I feel my body in ways, everyday, that I never imagined possible even at 40, much less at 18. This is the nature of things, of course, and better than the alternative. If I were to do it again, I would likely play more games, more intensively, so this post is not me complaining. I still love games and competition and working up a great sweat. Love it.

But at 57 I also feel it during and afterwards. Growing up I was always outside playing. Usually a sport, though often a made-up game because we did not have enough people or the right equipment for a legit game of whatever. In high school I loved the classroom stuff but looked forward to practice (or game) after school, just about every day. I always slept well, falling asleep immediately.

In college, I substituted a combination of intramurals (softball, flag football, hoops, ultimate) with lots of time spent on spontaneous playing as well. College included two years in China, where I played on the university hoops team--so practice daily, as I like it. This continued at Fletcher and UW as I (shockingly) earned a PhD. My time in Seattle added intensive hiking and camping to my list of things I love to do.

So, when I moved to Akron at age 35 I was still playing some sort of intense competitive game or hike daily. Every day. Without exception. It was my foundation stone. My coping mechanism. Even though I did not construct it that way or think about it that way at the time. For 15 years in Akron I played hoops at least three times a week (lunch game at school), plus volleyball weekly, added golf and continue hiking.

I cannot remember when now, but sometime around when I turned 52 or so, I began to feel lots of pain in my back after hoops. By 54 I had to stop. By 56 I stopped playing volleyball and golf too. Now I play intensive ping pong 3 times a week. Love it. Not the same, but love it. It fits 57.

Anyway, I note all of this because I am noticing it. Prior to stopping hoops my daily decisions were routine, go out and do what you love. It was mostly hoops, but it could have been anything active. Then I had to consider my back. Since then I now have to consider my sugar intake and weight as well. There is no time I am not in pain. Not to the point of distraction, but if I sit down and do inventory I can list lower back as nearly always at a low level of pain. Feet, particularly ball of my right foot, also. Knees. Right elbow. too. Upper back often as well. Neck comes and goes.

This may sound like a complaint list but it is not. I am marveling at how much more I notice at 57, about myself and others and the world. A lot more. It is cool to notice more, but disturbing to recognize how many years I lived in some sort of fog.

More important than all of this, however, at 57 I am seeing and appreciating the people in my life as I never did before. All that matters to me circles the hub that is Julie...Philip and Brian...Mom & Dad, Tom, Ray and Lori...friends. It is a great feeling to be 57 and celebrate life like this, to come to a place where I daily appreciate the simple things and the people I love. It also makes life feel a lot more fragile, in a mostly good way, but still feel vulnerable in ways I never have before. So, 57 is great. Awesome. Real. I never imagined life and love would be like this or could be so amazing.
Presidential Skattershot Amplifies Right-Wing PC?
Why would our president take time out from his busy schedule solving problems for American families to fabricate reasons to be outraged at some of our most beloved athletes?

The president attacked football players who take a knee during the anthem. ESPN reports that the first baseball player took a knee last night.

The president also uninvited the Golden State Warriors to the White House (despite the fact that no invitation had been made yet, but we cannot let factual errors distract us when we are discussing a president with more than a 1000 lies to his credit after only six months in office). ESPN reports a response from Curry, Kerr, and LeBron demonstrating that all three are more thoughtful and better leaders than our president.

Like most stories about being unfit, indecent, and dangerous...all we need is the president's own words and actions to persuade us...but it is worth reading what our athletes have said in response this time. Role models.

Because the president's own words and actions are enough...and because his loudest critics include many leading Republicans...we know that these are not partisan attacks, this is not fake news, and cries calling for 'the media to give him a chance' are just about as clueless as the president himself. Bubble talk.

I am a life-long athlete and sports fan. I have been to countless games. I have seen many, many average American men in these crowds drinking beer, sitting down, facing each other to high five or talk during the anthem. And these guys now see taking a knee as disrespectful?

Taking a knee has never been a sign of disrespect. Quite the opposite. It is well chosen because it is a sign of respect & protest at the same time. Because I love my country, my protest about the ways we fall short of our shared aspirations is best expressed by taking a knee as a sign of loving and respectful protest.

And our president misses all of this to, instead, amplify the stupidest voices in the room. To put the knee-jerk old resentments of an angry and misinformed old man in a place of prominence rather than treating them as the merely cringe-worthy ravings of elders we know have, very sadly, lost their marbles.

It may not happen, but I hope all players in the NFL today take a knee in response to the president's ill-advised attack on the league's players.

Finally, is the odd response here some sort of Right-Wing PC? It is like the outrage about a non-existent war on Christmas. Manufactured outrage, as if we don't have enough things to actually be concerned about already.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Ambush or Alternative Perspective
Yesterday I was feeling ambushed. My younger self would have fought back, likely with passion and self-righteousness. Yesterday, however, I thought 'I trust these folks, so there must be something I am missing here.' Instead of digging in, I simply said 'okay.'

Immediately afterwards, I still felt like I was ambushed. But following some reflection I believe that this was an illustration of two competing perspectives coming into conflict. There was certainly a disagreement. I was not being attacked as much as my perspective was being challenged by an alternative view.

I still think my own approach is the path we should have taken. But I now see that the alternative path also has its merits and, further, those advocating for this alternative path know more about the context and consequences surrounding this decision.

So, it turns out to have been a normal disagreement where a clash led to an agreement, involving some compromise on both sides, on how to move forward. My younger self would have behaved in ways that would have blocked both the better outcome and the insight that results. We can be right or we can be in relationships.

Sometimes, though not in the situation I just described, the competing perspectives can be both miles apart and framed in ways to amplify the chasm. When perspectives clash, this is both an everyday routine occurrence, and a challenge and call to become leaders in our own lives.

My colleagues yesterday were open and honest and loving and candid in bringing their disagreement to my attention. I am happy to say I was more loving and open and honest and candid in my response than my younger self would likely have been. Allowing me to learn from them and to get us to an improved outcome.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Speak up to Support Ohio Families
Contact Senator Portman. Ask him to vote no on Graham-Cassidy.
Call him at (216) 522-7095.
You can also use Resistbot:
Text 'resist' to 504-09, follow the prompts, and quickly compose a short fax that will go to both of your Senators.
"Please support Ohio families by voting no on Graham-Cassidy."
It is easy. I just did it and it took less than one minute. Thanks.