I hope this becomes a forum for interesting discussions on topics that are compelling, important and even banal. I hope I can post your thoughtful comments and ideas for further discussion. In those early days of newpapers, some editors continued a back and forth with letter writers. If the subject warrants it, I hope we can do that.

I have no grand plans to use this in any way as a commercial venture. I am comfortable where I am and feel it would lessen the passion I have for this if there is a fiduciary interest. I seek truth, transparency and a reminder that we are the people, and those who serve do so at our behest and whim. We must never relinquish the power we have as citizens and cannot take for granted, the rights and responsibilities that are part of the package.

President Obama was able to energize and mobilize a generation to make them part of this republican democracy we have. It is important for the future of our country that they stay informed and energized. Let’s hope we can show them what substance looks like.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Our daughter invited us to celebrate her birthday in her and her husband’s new apartment next weekend. They live in the Bay area, we are in Los Angeles. A few years ago, I would have simply gone to either one of two airports, waited for the next flight and been there with an investment of about two hours.

Today, I would have to leave home about two hours before a flight, which should be booked in advance, making sure we have not inadvertently left a nail clipper or other weapon in an overnight kit. Then, off with the shoes, the belts, the back and forth through the gates, the buzzer going off because you stuck the extra camera battery in your watch pocket and forgot it was there. I really hate that! It feels like I’m in prison and it certainly does not make me feel any safer. It also adds a lot of wasted time to my trip. Time I could use to mellow out, instead of becoming aggravated at the sheer mindlessness of the entire “security” process.

What I really find stupefying, though, is what a gold mine the TSA is missing out on.

Shortly after these more stringent rules went into effect, I went to the airport with my Swiss Army knife in my pocket. It has always been a part of me. I find I use it more than a couple of times a week and it just feels right to have it there. I realized as soon as I emptied my pockets, I wouldn’t be able to take it, but I thought of a way to save it. After all, the very same daughter we want to visit gave me that particular knife for my birthday when she was still in grade school. It was special to me.

“Do you have an envelope?” I asked, “I’ll pay whatever the postage and mail it to myself.”

Giving me a look of utter incomprehension, and pointing to a bin with scores of similar souvenirs of forgetfulness, “Just toss it in there,” the factotum said.

“Is there somewhere I can get an envelope?” I pleaded, to no avail.

The idea still sounds good. The TSA should buy a bunch of padded envelopes in two or three sizes. Then, since they have enough samples, find the average weight of a knife, scissors, corkscrew, add a buck or so and stamp them. How difficult would it be to have a couple of stacks of those pre-paid padded envelopes next too the x-ray machines and seats for tying shoes? Some of those pinking shears, knitting needles or other weapons, I’m sure, have sentimental value, like mine did. I would have paid up to $5 for an envelope already stamped, just to get it back. The TSA could have made $3.50 on the deal.

But that might be too easy. After all, this is the government. It just seems so simple because it is so simple. Buy low, sell high, the basic premise of business. If they don’t know how to get it done, there are about a couple of million unemployed people who could probably show them how. I’ll even bet the government has a supply of those envelopes already on hand. If you don’t want to pre stamp them, put in a postage machine. Like the ones in the post office. They even take credit cards.

There, that’s my free advice on how to increase income for the Postal Service, which is operating at a huge deficit, and for TSA so they can buy some more spiffy uniforms.

It doesn’t have to be done all at once all over the place. But I bet if you test these envelopes and/or machines in places like LAX and JFK, and other major cities, this could be another way for the government to collect money. What would Tush Limpaw say about that?

I don’t care. I’ve heard all I ever need to hear from that blowhard, so, just to make sure we don’t find that’s the only thing other than radio preachers we hear, we’ll be driving to the Bay Area next weekend, listening to audio books checked out of the public library. The few additional hours away from home will be a lot more enjoyable. With or without the envelopes.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


For the second time in six months, the City of Los Angeles was ordered by the court to pay more than $2 million to a female police officer who had been sexually harassed. The first time, a jury awarded $2.35 million to another female cop. This time it was $2.3 million. You could probably buy an entire fleet of new cars, or hire 40 more cops or do more outreach – or something more positive than punishing the department for tacitly condoning behavior that was inappropriate in the 7th grade.

There are some men, it seems, who are so insecure in who they are, that they behave like bullies to prove to the world that they are tough and “manly,” whatever that means. The most recent victim to be awarded the money, had, among other things done to her, had her head forced into a male cop’s crotch, who said, “I thought you’d never ask.”

Would he do that to a male officer?

Some would ask, “why didn’t she just kick him in the nuts?” I don’t know if she tried, but I’m guessing that since she was new, this cretin probably outranked her and that action would result in something less than positive for her. There was also testimony that she and other female officers were ordered to pick up laundry and do other chores for the male officers. When she became pregnant, the harassment picked up with comments about the size of her breasts and requests to be breast fed. Do we really want guys with guns, mace and tasers to act like this? Here child was stillborn. Due to the stress, she said.


What if some men feel so shaky about themselves because in order to create a new one of themselves, they need a woman? Yeah, big tough guy can do everything except reproduce. That’s got to make some guys really pissed. A woman can actually do something they can’t, so they become enraged and take it out on a typically physically inferior person. Women are tough, but men usually are stronger. They tend to do more damage when they hit a person who weighs less than they.

None of this could have happened without someone in authority knowing about it. When none of her immediate superiors would do anything to stop it, she went to Internal Affairs and was then retaliated against. That is part of that awful culture of so many police departments that cover up everything, including what is often criminal behavior. It’s why I never became a cop.

All of the aptitude tests I took when I was younger and again when I was in the USAF, indicated I would make a good police officer. The idea appealed to me then. For awhile, I was even detached for temporary duty as an Air Policeman. But something happened when I was discharged and went back to college.

I was in a couple of classes with some LAPD officers who would tell me how excited they were to go down to the Sunset Strip on the weekend, so they could “smash a few hippie heads.” The Strip wasn’t even in their jurisdiction. It was county territory, under the “protection” of the Sheriff’s department. They just wanted to help out.

“Why?” I wondered, if they weren’t doing anything but congregating? I still wore my hair the way I had when I was in the service. My classmates in blue didn’t think anyone with a buzz cut could feel the way I did. Which was that banging heads because someone had long hair was just plain wrong! And keeping quiet about how much they enjoyed doing it, convinced me that the police were not for me.

But we need them, and I know that most of them are decent, proud and law-abiding. Knowing human nature as I do, there is no way we can do without an effective force to deal with those who would take advantage of others in their community. We just don’t need cops who do not respect others.

We need to make sure that those in charge really mean it when they say they won’t tolerate sexual harassment. I know Chief William Bratton has said plenty of times how the department won’t put up with this kind of behavior, but yet it persists. And as long as it does, it’s going to cost us citizens dearly.

You would think, that here at the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, the “good old boys” would have all gone fishing or moved in with Mark Furman in Idaho.

But here, in the city of Los Angeles, there are still bunches of them that don’t get it. One would think, cops would realize that not only do women make good police officers, but that in many situations, they are better than those testosterone-laden men in blue. The only way this is able to continue, is that those at the top still think they are the Taliban and can make women do their bidding.

Can we all grow up now and act like responsible adults? Or will we be forced to endure more macho posturing and attitude? I don’t think we can afford it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


How ironic that the generation that grew up to themes like Bob Dylan’s “The Times They are A Changing” are so resistant to change. The recipients of those tumultuous times are in the highest echelons of corporate and/or institutional power now and continue to be the biggest obstacle to real change.

At the weekly Los Angeles Unified School District board meeting today (3/31/09) Monica Garcia, president of the board and a real advocate for change, asked the community to “not just say no,” but come together as part of the solution and make real change.

Ms. Garcia acknowledged that change is hard, since she said it four times. She was speaking to all of those who need to come together to effect that change. Although I didn’t hear her say it, I believe she meant all of the unions, community members and all those who are involved with public schools here in Los Angeles. The problems, I’m afraid, are not limited to this city. Entrenched leaders wear blindfolds and for me, at least, despite what they say, do not have the best interest of children at heart.

I became a teacher about 20 years ago, after a career in journalism and advertising, then owning my own successful marketing, mail order and retail businesses. I did it because I wanted to get children to love learning. I was successful at that, too, which I will discuss in later posts. My wife had been a teacher for more than 20 years when I finally joined her. Shortly thereafter, she had an opportunity to leave the classroom in a mentor position. Although it was really not necessary I reminded her that adult decisions should always be made with the impact it will have on the kids. She has always done that, but she tells me on almost a daily basis how so many decisions are made by so many people that do not take that simple aphorism into account.

One culprit resisting change is the teacher’s union. I do believe in the concept of unions. I think, however, when we talk of unions of teachers, we have another “member” to consider. We’re not steamfitters or truckers. We’re college graduates with post graduate work, who are responsible for anywhere from 20 to 200 students or more every day. The union folks will say their job is too look out for the teachers first. Uh Uh. We are all teachers and we all owe it to ourselves, our profession and yes, the cliché, the children, to look out for their best interests first. We’re the adults and if we are entrusted to make decisions then we have to realize we are responsible to them. First. If a teacher is bad (and I have worked with too many) that means an entire class of children has essentially lost an entire year of quality learning. We need to come up with an easier way to remove these ineffectual and potentially harmful people from the classroom. Yes, offer them training, but in the end, some people are not cut out to teach. And it’s not just older teachers who are burnt out. There are a few newer teachers who made it under the radar, made tenure and are still around. That’s a change that needs to be addressed.

The fear of union reprisal also gets in the way of some administrators to be honest in their evaluations of teachers who need to be gone – or at the very least, retrained. I’ve seen administrators, usually new ones, struggle with doing the right thing and doing the easier thing. They do have the power. They’ve just been intimidated.

This district is currently in the midst of what many others around the country are facing, which is a terrible budget crisis. This is forcing the district, under current agreements, to replace half of the faculties consisting of young, enthusiastic, specially-trained teachers who want to be in the schools where they are, with older, been-out-of-the-classroom-for-years people. This is happening in schools with nearly 100% poor, minority enrollment. There are dozens of them. But the schools in the middle class neighborhoods, there will be practically no turnover. Something has to be done about that, too.

Parents have to change, too. They have to show up to conferences with teachers and work with the teacher to make change. They need to understand school does not take place only between 8 and 3. Again, specific suggestions will be addressed in later posts.

Teachers have to change. Administrators have to change. We need better training for both groups. And we also have to consider teaming teachers who are better trained in one area to work with a complimentary colleague. This is change that will cost no one anything, except to accept a new idea.

I have escorted principals into a classroom where the math information being delivered was incorrect. (Somewhere in the same category as two plus two equals three. Just plain wrong.) None of the principals saw this misinformation. They thought it was wonderful how the teacher interacted with the students. A fine trait to be sure, but I would like to think we had standards a little higher than that. Unfortunately, we do not.

This district, as so many others, strives for mediocrity. Lip service is paid to how we are going to institute rigor and demand more, but it isn’t done. What many of these so called educators are calling rigor, is more like their own rigor mortis of the mind. Like so much of the banality in the popular press, administrators focus on the trivial rather than what and how effective a lesson is. This only makes it easier for lazy teachers to get away with the minimum. I found it was easier to have high expectations and teach to the highest kid, while bringing along the lower performing kids who always benefited from this method. There are excellent teachers in nearly every school, but right now, there just aren’t enough of them.

Food. Of course we have to make sure our students are well fed and have the opportunity to get healthy, good tasting meals. But why should a school district have to pay for the food and employees in that area, from its funds? Shouldn’t we think about that as part of this change?

As my contemporary Dylan implored, “don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the halls…” Remember, he was talking to you then, and even if he doesn’t sing it the same way now, it means the same. Whatever you’re doing, it’s not working. Can you not see that?

Fortunately, a few, such as Ms. Garcia, know change has to come. She needs to have more people on her side to make it happen. And everyone gets to have a say.

Now you, readers.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


As a trained journalist, I always have made the attempt to try and present more than one side to a story. If a piece was opinion, it was labeled as such. In today's world of loud 24/7 news cycles, this attempt at objectivity has all but completely disappeared.
No where is this more true than on the network calling itself Fox N.E.W.S., which simply stands for "Never-Ending Weird Stuff" (The final word is a euphemism so this blog is not blocked by 17th Century filters)
During the eight-year nightmare that were the Bush years, I kept asking, "where is the outrage?" as he and his minions chipped away at the fundamental elements of our republic. Of course, the bubbleheads at Fox were only in the lead. The entire mainstream media took a dive, especially after Sept. 11.
When people tell me they get their news from "fair and balanced" Fox, I gag. All that comes to mind is the Nazi propaganda philosophy that proclaimed if you told a lie often enough and big enough, it was soon perceived to be true.
This is another reason why I am so eager to host a forum of considered thought and intelligent discussion. Ranting about fist bumps, flag pins, teleprompters, short-sleeved dresses and the rest of the nonsense spewed from what purport to be minds at Fox and its ilk, do not come under the category of "news." Nor is it worth labeling as opinion.
Our country, our world, our civilization is in the midst of a crisis of unprecedented proportion. We can do nothing and hope for the best. We can do something and know that at least we tried. Or, we can be naysayers and claim that nothing will solve any problem.
I lived through World War II and all of the horror that brought. I marvel at the way most of us came together to make sure good triumphed. I wonder if we have the ability to come together and do it again, when even more is at stake.
I gnash my teeth at the inability of leaders around the world to bring safety and stability to places like Darfur, Burma and at least a score of places where humanity has the worth of a mud puddle.
The economy, the sorry state of education, the need for clean energy and a world we can live in are at the top of my concerns that we can actually change.
I still celebrate the fact that we have made progress by having Barak Obama as our president. That is one change I can say I helped to bring about - but it took me more than 40 years to see it happen.
I hope I do not have to wait another 40 to see the others change.