DrMyers’s Blog

April 30, 2009

Day 101: Bankrupt or A New Lease on Life?

 

 

chrysler_logo1

Yesterday news stations around the country dug through their stock piles, and played everything from Obama’s inauguration speech, to seeing the Commander in Chief running alongside the new family addition.  Conservative stations rallied around many missteps made by the young administration, while more liberal stations cracked open the Champaign, and heralded the President as the “New Deal” of the 21st Century.  Report cards were given in an interactive report between news pundits and watchers.  Finally, the President gave a speech, being very honest about his opinion of the work accomplished by his administration, but far from content or satisfied.  The milestone of 100 days seemed to scoot by, only with the shadow of the flu lingering steadily over head…that was until today!

Day 101 marked a loss of profits for Exxon Mobil, which sent economic advisers into an analytical frenzy, while Wall Street took comfort in a lower jobless claim.  Then, shareholders at Chrysler were offered a deal that they had to refuse.

Shareholders were offered over a 60% loss, which the minority overwhelmingly weighed their distaste, causing Chrysler to file for bankruptcy.  For months, Chrysler maneuvered around bankruptcy, grasping with the fact that as of November 2008, their sales had fallen over 34%.  Speaking with its competitors, Chrysler was included in the “Big 3″ auto bailout, where American Taxpayer Dollars were pumped into the auto makers, with hopes that it would stimulate faith in their product, and faith in their leadership.  

The American Government stepped in even more, and from the White House, newly elected President Barack Obama, obligated the Government to stand behind the warranties given by Chrysler.  A very bold move, but a move that gave the appearance that the recent actions could work, as the long going negotiations with Fiat continued, and a deal seemed to be eminent.  With the President issuing his statement today, how does this bode for GM, Ford and the trust within the American people?  When first mentioned, approval ratings for the Auto Bailout under Former President Bush, waned at best, while Americans who had been forced into bankruptcy within their own lives, were forced to watch the government step in, and as of today, not save Chrysler from going down the same route.  Why did Chrysler not want bankruptcy, and how will this affect our already shaky economy, and our pocket books?

Maybe we should ask, “What is Bankruptcy?”  Bankruptcy is a legally declared inability or impairment of ability of an individual or organization to pay its creditors.  Plain and Simple!  You owe it, you can’t pay it, you now declare to the government that you are unable to meet your obligation.  One would ask, why on earth Chrysler would, or any other of the auto makers, be hesitant to simply tell the truth.  As the “Big Three” sat on Capitol Hill, they asked for tax payer dollars because of their inability to pay their debts, while the tax payers were struggling to pay their own debts.  The only reason, one could imagine that a company would avoid bankruptcy could be found in the following statement.  In Chapter 7, a debtor surrenders his or her non-exempt property to a bankruptcy trustee who then liquidates the property and distributes the proceeds to the debtor’s unsecured creditors. In exchange, the debtor is entitled to a discharge of some debt; however, the debtor will not be granted a discharge if he or she is guilty of certain types of inappropriate behavior(e.g. concealing records relating to financial condition).  In Chapter 11, unless appointed for cause, the debtor acts as trustee of the business.   This means, if within the bankruptcy investigation, Chrysler if found to have varying types of inappropriate behavior, the Federal Government would have been enablers, by using American Taxpayer Dollars, to keep the improprieties of auto leaders covered, by keeping their business running without an outside examination of their practices and books.

One may ask, “Who else will admit their problems were too great for the American Taxpayer to save”, and one may wonder if conservatives were right, if the American Government put taxpayers at risk by interfering within the free market economy.  What is evident is that this decision will likely set the tone for similar discussions with bondholders of General Motors Corp — which is now on the clock to restructure its operations by the end of May, which taxpayers also have a vested interest in.

 

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

 

Today, President Obama ensured that he is confident that his auto taskforce will be able to work with GM in restructuring their operations and making it a more viable company.   The President also reassured America that he agreed with Chrysler’s decision to file for bankruptcy, and that it would reemerge stronger because of it.  

It is unmistakable that the number 100 can mark monumental success in grade and age, but when dealing with the tax payer dollars and a shaky free market society, Barack Obama just took a course in “Challenges in Negations 101″ taught by the American People.  Perhaps Alexander Hamilton said it best:

In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place, oblige it to control itself. 
~Alexander Hamilton


Board Decides Fate: Shuffle – Step – Money – Entertainment!

 

 

 

Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis

Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis

Wednesday night, I had the privilege of meeting with friends I have not seen together since the Inauguration.  After working closely with each other in Southwest Florida, a bond had developed that can be shared with no one else; through our collective experience, we shared something that can only be relived in memories, and we did just that!  Sitting around a small table, we relived our time in Robert E Lee County Florida, and of the many people that we met.  Our time spent together was not by happenstance, but it was destiny.  Where else could people from across the globe meet each other, fall in love with each other’s personality, and keep genuine concern about the each other’s well being.  

Our time together was ended after the country made its decision.  The bond we had built, pushing toward a common goal, was then cemented in posterity, and we then went on our separate ways.  I drove back to Texas, while another boarded a plane for Switzerland.  One decided to stay around an extra week to get some rest, while the last person drove back to the DC Metropolitan Area.  It is a weird feeling when ones future, at times, lye in the hands of a majority vote or when a group decides to go in a different direction.  Many of our lives are dependent upon the consensus of others, and we are not even aware of it.

This realization came abruptly to Kenneth Lewis, CEO at Bank of America, during a board meeting Wednesday.  Mr. Lewis was removed by a majority vote from his position as Chairman of the Board, but was unanimously supported, by the board, in being kept on as CEO.  With the recent downturn in the economy, his steady hand and judgment was examined by the way he handled the acquisition of Merrill Lynch.  Several shareholders stood to their feet, and freely expressed their anger, disappointment, and personal loss due to the banks mismanagement by Lewis.

It appeared that the root of his alleged bad judgment call, came from his willingness to support and push for the acquisition of Merrill Lynch, after becoming aware of its current losses.   Shareholders expressed, with good reason, the disclosure of this information would have weighed heavily against their support of the deal: which cost one shareholder $27,000.  Mr. Lewis defended himself by stating, “It [the acquisition] was “good value” and that abandoning the deal would have caused “serious harm” to Bank of America and other banks.”  According to Lewis, “as a legal matter, there was no duty” to disclose the bank’s talks with the government.”  Undoubtedly, the decision is viewed as a precursor of a similar decision regarding his current position at B of A.  

In this case, one can not overlook the amount of trust placed upon an Executive, System, Administrator, or Liaison to the People/Members/Boards.  Time and time again, history shows that once these players lose faith in their leaders, all that was certain, in respect and protocol, becomes uncertain and shaky at best.  In 1867, congress enacted the Tenure of Office act, because they suspected the President would misuse the power of his office.  As predicted, he (in their eyes) abused that said power, and they proceeded with the Impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.  The same thing happened when TV Evangelist Jim Baker was accused with the mismanagement of funds and infidelity while overseeing the PTL Club.  Jerry Falwell took over as Executive Director of the operations, and publically denounced his fellow brother in the ministry, thus ending the credibility of Jim Baker and his family.

Although the people hold their leaders accountable to certain standards, and when violated, take measures to oust them: What happens when the leaders decide that “They” must go a different direction from their employer?  

You can currently watch this being played out in the interesting merger of William Morris and Endeavor.  These two “Hollywood Rivals” decided on Monday to merge, creating the quintessential Hollywood Powerhouse that is already speculated to dominate the industry, while other smaller agencies cope with the Recession.  With William Morris signing Grammy Award Winner Mary J Blige on Wednesday, one would think this upcoming merger would be viewed positively by all players involved.  Not So!

 

Literary Agent Richard Abate

Literary Agent Richard Abate

 

Representing Endeavor on the other coast, Richard Abate boasts a loyal and faithful clientele, while having a clear track record of scoring his clients healthy deals.  After fighting his way in court to work at Endeavor, it became apparent that the literary focus of these two powerhouse agencies was waning…at best.  But, with a 114 year history, William Morris’s literary department has stronger roots and is much bigger than that of Endeavor, leaving an obvious decision for Mr. Abate to make, which was to not join his employer in the final merge as William Morris Endeavor.

Parting ways, under any circumstance, isn’t a sought after component to any relationship.  When choosing professions, one weighs his options by choosing what he can see himself doing for the rest of his life.  When choosing a place to live, one envisions himself content and happy there until his dying days.  When reciting marriage vows, we end each solemn oath by stating “Till Death Do Us Part”.  Unfortunately, with a bad economy forcing people out of their jobs, homes, and marriages, one can only hope that recovery is sweet and swift.

Perhaps, the great playwright understood all the more when he penned these famous lines:

“Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say good night till it be morrow.” 

~William Shakespear

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

April 29, 2009

Personal or Political: Specter Jumps Ship!

 

Democratic Senator: Arlen Specter

Democratic Senator: Arlen Specter

It was an exciting time as the crowd grew at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago.  A steady stream of loyal followers flowed from the Chicago Coliseum to the Auditorium Theatre, waiting for their leader and former President to take the stage.  Republican Primaries have posed challenges for Republican Candidates since its inception in 1912.  Theodore Roosevelt, feeling like the more qualified candidate and best spokesperson for the party, beat both of his challengers 9-2 out right in the primaries of 1912, and naturally felt as if he would be undergoing the best exercise of his life; Running For Office!

Amazingly Roosevelt’s run for office did not go as he originally planned, and as he dawned the stage to address those delegates he found so faithful, these precious words articulated the true task he felt was forgotten by the Republican Party, “To destroy this invisible Government, to dissolve the unholy alliances between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.”  After this platform was adopted, he went out on the campaign trail, and even after a “would be” assassin’s bullet, struck and lodged in his chest, Teddy Roosevelt stated, “I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.” 

As Arlen Specter stood addressing the cameras, the 29year Senator spoke with the same vigor as a wounded politician of old.   “Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.” Specter stated, and not a moment too soon!  As he left his office to dawn the capitol, constituents met the Republican Senator not with torches and pitchforks outside his office, but with warm greetings, cheers and applause.  Specter had found his audience…the people he was sent to represent!

Changing parties in the United States Senate is not a new phenomenon, nor is it an explainable action.  One must believe, that the Senator who’s made his choice, has spent long hours in deep deliberation with his own being, before jumping off of the Titanic and onto the Carpathia

If you watched any news station today, you would have thought that this was the first time a Senator left the Republican Party.  Playing it down, most Republican Pundits and Strategists stated, “They saw it coming” and that “He was doing this to save his own political career”.  Regardless of his reasoning, the Republican Party has had a strong history of its elected members parting ways.  Below is a list of Senators who have taken the same leap of faith that Arlen Specter took today:

  • Miles Poindexter of Washington. Republican to Progressive in 1913 and back to Republican in 1915.
  • Robert M. La Follette, Sr. of Wisconsin. Republican, ran as Progressive for President in 1924.
  • Robert M. La Follette, Jr. of Wisconsin. Republican to Progressive in 1935.
  • George W. Norris of Nebraska. Republican to Independent in 1937.
  • Henrik Shipstead of Minnesota. Farmer-Labor to Republican in 1941.
  • Wayne Morse of Oregon. Republican to Independent in 1953 and to Democrat in 1955.
  • Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. Independent Democrat to Democrat in 1956 and then to Republican in 1964.
  • Harry F. Byrd, Jr. of Virginia. Democrat to Independent in 1971.
  • Richard Shelby of Alabama. Democrat to Republican in 1994.
  • Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado. Democrat to Republican in 1995.
  • Bob Smith of New Hampshire. Republican to Independent in 1999, and back to Republican in 1999.
  • James Jeffords of Vermont. Republican to Independent in 2001.

Out of 12 Senators that have switched parties within the last 100 years, 7 of them (at some point) left the Republican Party.  This pattern points toward two factors that both Republicans and Democrats should be aware of.  

a. The Republican Party is capable of driving away its members and delegates!

Since 1938, only 10 identifiable years could Republican’s (versus 27 years for Democrats) boast that they controlled a majority of the States Legislatures in the US.  This is a clear reflection of the Republican Party’s inability to articulate its strengths and/or beliefs to the constituents back home in their states and districts.  Because of this weakness, former Representatives (in both the House and the Senate) have had to switch their party affiliations to correlate with the mindset of the people they represent.  One must remember, Washingtonians do not elect Senators, only states and districts have that power; and an elected official is only a reflection of those he represents in those districts and states.  

b. Republicans have a way of bouncing back!

We must remember that the last time Democrats were in a position to have a “Filibuster Proof” Senate; the political atmosphere was very similar to the one we are living in now.  Ford had just lost the election to the Fresh, Un-Tarnished, Governor who had not been corrupted by Washington Politics…Jimmy Carter!  Over those next few years, bipartisan efforts ceased to exist, inflaming the Right!  It was during this period the “Moral Majority” saw its emergence on the scene, and Reagan Democrats were born, costing Democrats the Majority.  

Regardless of whether Specter just wanted to secure, in his mind, a viable race for the Senate seat he’s held for 29 years, or if the Republican party has moved so far right, it pushed Specter off the boat, the fact remains that partisan politics distracted the American people and its leaders from tackling problems such as:  Affordable Health Care, Lowering Poverty Levels, Equal Rights for Women in the Workplace, and lastly…pushing legislation through that would properly fund research to cure AIDS and Cancer.  

Maybe our Founding Father had an accurate foresight of political parties, a warning that we might want to heed:

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

George Washington: No Party Affiliation

George Washington: No Party Affiliation

GEORGE WASHINGTON, Farewell Address, Sep. 17, 1796

April 28, 2009

“This Little Piggie Went to the Market: This Little Piggy Might be in Your Home!

 

 

Will They Catch Me?

Will They Catch Me?

On June 5th 1981, doctors and 5 men in Los Angeles were confused, bewildered, and scared.  A clammy feeling turned into fatigue, which led to respiratory problems and a fever.  All tests were inconclusive, and were pointing to something more than they had ever seen.  One by one, doctors examined books, their patients, and each other; totally unaware that these 5 men would be the first of millions to die with a little known disease called AIDS.  Unaware of where it came from, although it is suspected that it either came from the result of the pursuit of a vaccine for poliomyelitis disease or it arrived here in 1969 from Haiti, 27 years later doctors still examine books and patients,  searching for a cure to this disease before millions of other people die as well.

A true oddity lies in the fact that in 1945 we developed the hydrogen bomb and killed millions.  Consequently, we have been watchful of all countries who have developed this same technology, fighting conflicts just to have more control of an unpleasant outcome from the misuse of this technology; while with faster computers and many advancements in science and medicine, we still have not produced a vaccine or antidote that strongly combats and/or cures AIDS and HIV, leaving millions of children and adults alike across the globe helpless.

Another strange occurrence has developed over the last 72 hours.  A week after President Obama’s visit to Mexico, a combination of swine flu, bird flu, and human flu viruses sprouted in Mexico, and has swept across the America’s, killing 149 people…so far.  While viruses with this genetic makeup had not previously been found circulating in humans or pigs, there is no formal national surveillance system to determine what viruses are circulating in pigs in the U.S.  “The word ‘containment’ is really inappropriate or … unneeded at this time. It’s too late. The swine flu is here,” said Dr. Bonnie Sorensen, chief deputy director of the California Department of Public Health.

I have one simple question:  Is there a formal surveillance system to detect WHERE and HOW this strand of flu developed, or will we be left with as many unanswered questions that we still have with AIDS/HIV?

Some reporters found it very strange that this strain of “Swine Flu” cannot be protected against by the human seasonal H1N1 flu or “Flu Shot” so commonly taken here in America.  Others have found it strange that, as stated by World Health Organization officials, it could take 4-6 months before the first batch of vaccines is available to fight the virus.  When White House Press Secretary Gibbs was questioned by reporters in regards of a possible Bio Terrorism attack that might have targeted the President, Gibbs would only reassure reporters that he had spoken to the doctors who treat the President, and they were confident in the good health and safety of the Commander in Chief. 

Will WHO, World Health Organization, move the current alert from 4 to 6 if more cases are found here in the US and overseas?  If this “Swine Flu” evolves into a pandemic, will America be properly prepared financially to handle the situation?  According to Dave Obbey D-WI, “We have been trying to get adequate funding to prepare the nation for a pandemic outbreak since 2005. We tried again as recently as January in the economic recovery package. Whether or not this influenza strain turns out to have pandemic potential, sooner or later some strain will.”  In January, as the stimulus package and budget was being hashed over party lines, “Pandemic Diseases” were considered “Left-Wing Agenda” and demonized in the media…along with Volcano Monitoring.

Pandemic Diseases were not the only thing halted, and/or ignored as this new administration has been coming together.  Because of suspected funds given to Gov. Sebelius of Kansas by a doctor who has performed abortions, Republicans had stalled her confirmation as the Head of the Department of Health and Human Services.  This agency is also waiting for 20 more positions to be confirmed by the Senate.  In the mean time, DHHS will still be working, although not fully staffed, closely with the CDC in preventing and treating Swine Flu.  It is apparent that partisan politics has again, jeopardized the health and well being of the American Citizens, while nightly news pundits reiterate that, “This may only be the beginning”.

One would think that on Monday, all of our Representatives were in Washington, searching for ways to make sure their states and districts were prepared for this “Swine Flu”.  Amazingly, some congressmen/women found time to focus their attention on other matters:  Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts), Donna Edwards (D-Maryland), Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota), Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), and Lynn Woolsey (D-California) were arrested Monday April 27th.  While each one of them showed their passion about the blocking of aid to victims in Darfur, they were not arrested for that.  The Representatives were arrested for ignoring warnings issued by police maintaining a police line to protect the Sudan Embassy in Washington D.C.  The same orders that are given to anyone protesting in front of any of the congressional office buildings to protect the representatives inside were ignored by these congressmen/women.  The irony of it all is that Cong. Jim McGovern is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Rules and the Organization of the House.  

The priorities of a government will never have unison interpretation.  Healthcare, Homelessness, Economics, and Peace will all be matters argued in the Halls of Congress, and their priorities will be determined by those who hold the majority.  Maybe the statement of a man who served both as President and then died while serving in Congress could sum up the sentiments of the current predicament:

6th President of the United States

6th President of the United States

 

“Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people.”

~John Quincy Adams  

April 27, 2009

Reaching 100 is an Impressive Milestone: Even for a President!

 

 

Leading A Nation

Barack Obama

As the chatter in the room began to settle, all eyes focused on the beautiful birthday

William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison

 cake that came out of the kitchen.  One hundred years is a long time for anything to be around, but this lady sat there with every bit of confidence in knowing…she made it.  Voices sprang up from all corners of the small dining room, as “Happy Birthday” in various harmonies were sang to the small but yet powerful figure sitting at the head of the table.  With anticipation, all the guests wondered the same thing, “Could she do it?  Could she blow out the candles?”  We all know that people drive from miles around to give presents, convey their well wishes, but the high point of the evening is to see all the candles blown out.  The small frame stood grasping the table.  As everyone watched, a beautiful lace fringed fan came into site, and a rapid motion began.  A perfume scented breeze filled the room, and simultaneously blew out the light of every candle.  With a big, beautiful grin she said in a sly but commanding voice, ” With all the love in this room, I’ll conserve the little bit of air I got left in these lungs, and let the air on the outside do all the work”.  The room bursts in to laughter and grins all because she did it!  She blew out 100 candles, and she did it her way.  This confirmed to everyone that she was very much still in control, and that control was not to be underestimated by anybody!

I don’t believe one could compare the wisdom of one hundred years to a mere one hundred days, but some could argue that Barack Obama has seen and experienced more in his one hundred days in office, than most will ever experience in a lifetime.

It seems like a year ago, crowds stood in the cold inside and outside different gates, malls, and subway tunnel; just to experience the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States.  The American people knew that there were many problems that needed to be solved, but for those precious moments, those problems halted their voices long enough to hear that sacred oath be taken at the Capitol.  Those precious moments, would be the last moments Barack Obama would be void of responsibility for the most powerful country on the planet.  Within a moment, meetings were scheduled, and this man went right to work…and he continues to work on his own terms!  With strict direction to “Cut what doesn’t work”, his cabinet members left that meeting knowing that President Obama has a mission, and he intends on seeing this mission through to the end.

On April 8th, President Obama established a White House Office of Healthcare Reform that provides leadership to the executive branch in establishing policies, priorities, and objectives for the Federal Government’s comprehensive effort to improve access to health care, the quality of such care, and the sustainability of the health care system.  Although overshadowed by the budget, Obama’s attention to the need of upgrade within our healthcare system is imperative.  Healthcare in the United States ranks last in the quality of health care among developed countries, with 16% of the population (in 2006) without health insurance.  The argument among pundits, with heavy influence from the economy, is whether a public healthcare system would add to our national debt now, and take away from America’s financial independence in the future, or be a step towards sound investment in America’s future that protects employers and current/future employees.  Nonetheless, within his first 100 days, Obama has begun to address this issue.

On February 6th, President Obama created the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.  As read in the document, this Advisory Board is to: 

(a) solicit information and ideas from across the country and from all sectors of our economy about the functioning of the economy, the condition of the financial and banking system, and the prosperity of the American people and of American industry that can serve to inform the decisionmaking of the President, and, with respect to matters deemed appropriate by the President, provide information and recommendations to any other agency with responsibilities related to the economy or financial markets or to the National Economic Council;

(b) report directly to the President on the design, implementation, and evaluation of policies to promote the growth of the American economy, establish a stable and sound financial and banking system, create jobs, and improve the long-term prosperity of the American people; and

(c) provide analysis and information with respect to the operation, regulation, and healthy functioning of the economy and of the financial and banking system. As deemed appropriate by the President, this analysis and information shall be provided to the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, to any other agency with responsibilities related to the economy or financial markets, or to the National Economic Council. 

This action shows that President Obama is not following the lead of his predecessors by waiting for the financial system to fix its self, or by creating programs that might hinder the sustainability of a future government.  President Obama has had 100 days of a fun fact finding mission, showing that even after the recession ends, the pain is likely to persist and the economy could continue to struggle as it strives to find a firm footing.  Fingers have been pointed on both sides of the isle, with the American public convinced that not only did someone fall asleep at the wheel, but there was no one in the car to nudge and wake the driver.  At this time not many are optimistic about seeing a quick turnaround in conditions.  As late as this week, stress tests were given to United States banks, and with the results being released in May, most sectors central to economic growth is still found languishing.   

What I have mentioned so far is only TWO Presidential Actions, leaving out countless other bills signed into law that positively affect and protect; Equal Pay in the Workplace for women as well as the health and well being of children.  

The mustard of a President isn’t tested within his/her first 100 days in office, but its true test lies in posterity.  The glimpse we have seen within these few months will not accurately or adequately discern the lasting imprint his actions, while in office, will have upon the framework and fabric of this nation.

When asked the secret to a long happy life, Ida simply looked around the room and stated, “The secret I have learned was never up to me, but was put inside of me, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”  Perhaps in regards to the office of president and what we the people can hope the office holder would like to attain while serving, might just be summed up by a man who only spent 45 days there.

 He simply stated, “Sir, I wish to understand the true principles of the Government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more.”

 – William Henry Harrison 9th President of the United States of America

 

 

April 26, 2009

“Hey! We Looked You Over” and were inspired. Thanks Bea!

 

I was 10 years old when I came up with, what I thought at the time, a brilliant idea!  My sister and I had absolutely fallen in love with Lucille Ball, and we decided that if we loved her so much, why not meet her.  Running through the kitchen, I startled my mother; and with much excitement, I expressed my desire to meet Lucille Ball.  As I rambled on and on, mother simply took her seat and uttered those ill fated words that we all hate to hear,” I’m sorry hun, but Lucy has passed away.  She passed away a few years ago!”  What else could she do?  Those words, being so final, dashed the one desire that I had…to simply say thank you for making my day a little brighter.  

The years kept going by, any I began to write T.V. pilots for fun, and I developed a property called “The Good Life”.  Oh what a line up I had:  Shirley McClain married to Jack Lemmon, Ozzie Davis married to Ruby Dee (not too hard to picture), and Betty White married to Walter Mathau.  Three neighbors, who found themselves in many unthinkable situations, the classic “situation comedy” that was mainly character driven.  But, as the years went on, we lost Walter…and then Jack…and finally Ozzie.  Half the cast gone like that, without even a chance to meet them, learn from them, to express to them how they inspired and touched my life.  I simply tucked the pilot away, and soldiered on.  

Today as I went up the escalator at Union Station, a Reuter’s message alerted my phone that another great star had gone on to join the many players that had taken their final bows before…Bea Arthur.  Immediately, stunned & Jarred, I called friends and family alerting them that Bea had passed away.  Several people, who like me had never met Bea in person, stopped in their tracks, displayed their grief, and without much of a choice were forced to face a harsh reality…it’s final, and she’s gone.

Being a little older and more acquainted with death, I found myself earlier thinking of the “Maude” and “Mame”.  The out spoken characters she played that poked fun at the traditionalistic society we lived in and empowered women to speak out, appreciating their voices that had been muted and/or ignored for so long.  I thought…who else would have shaken the barrel, and displayed a character that contemplated abortion, and equal right for women?  Who else would have spoken proudly about divorce, and the insensitivity men of all races shared?  Who else but Bea, could embrace her sexuality, and demand we embrace it as well…and we did.  

She slipped away from us, ending a battle with cancer Saturday morning.  A part of me was upset, because in my mind no disease could lick Bea…no sir; there was no doubt in my mind that she could lick anything that came her way.  I was reminded of the strength her character Dorothy portrayed when being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in “The Golden Girls”.  Relentlessly her character went from doctor to doctor, demanding a diagnosis and not settling for less.  Lighting the fire under her girlfriends, telling them that sexual harassment would not be tolerated, and that just because of their age, life did not nor would it stop.  No, Bea portrayed a character that had strength and spoke up for us in ways we were not yet prepared to articulate.  Thank you dear!

I wish I could have thanked her in person for one thing in particular that touched my heart so dearly.  

When Lucille Ball was honored by the Kennedy Center, Bea got the opportunity to say thank you and pay tribute in person to Lucy, and she did it well.  Although I was too young to understand what was going on, or that it even happened…I like to think, Bea kind of knew that there were many people out there who were speaking, dancing, and singing through her, to say thank you to another great entertainer.  Now, as she joins Lucy, I hope Bea can see just what impact she had on America, The World, and even Me.

See, I would have never persevered with my career, until I saw one of her interviews.  She spoke of how different and how her voice being low, height being tall did not fit the typical blueprint for women in show business at that time…but she kept going.  Having a strong southern accent, a love of more classical styles of music, and playing the piano, left me feeling out of place growing up, but she changed all of that, and for that I want to say thank you.

Thank you Bea, for being a Friend!

She Tugged Our Hearts

She Tugged Our Hearts

April 24, 2009

Torture, Pirates & Beauty: Just Another Week!

Picture it:  A rather cool April in Massachusetts and the town is filled with gossip.  Your neighbor and Pastor have just been convicted of things you would have never imagined, and now you are going to see for yourself if these accusations are true!  Things and people around you have changed drastically in the last month, and a watchful eye is given to the detail of your every action.  For you might be the next accused of the horrible crime that has plagued everything you knew to be right!  

You might ask, what on earth could be happening around me that could cause such suspicion.  Well, if you were living in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, you might wake up to what appeared to be a normal day, and go to bed in shackles, because you are suspected for being a Witch.

Torture is not foreign to the foundation of America.  Even in its Colonial days, if coupled with eye-witnessed accounts, persons would be tortured to death, if the right answer was not forthcoming or if the “truth” was not derived from proper questioning.  In the 18th and 19th century, slaves were tortured to release information regarding other runaways or to reveal the names of those who might have taught them the vile act of reading.  Wives of many men in the 19th, 20th and even 21st centuries have suffered physical and mental torture, as their quests for equal rights and equal pay are still being fought in the workplace.

Even within our schools, torture has been translated in the form of bullying on students and teachers alike.  In the 1970’s, Gay teachers were targeted in many schools across the nation as the cause of pedophilia, leading to the end of many careers and many lives.  The bullying of more effeminate boys and masculine girls have mentally tortured and effected the lives of many students, driving a young man to suicide even as late as this week.  Shepeherd Smith declared that “THIS IS AMERICA AND WE DO NOT TORTURE”, which is what many American’s would like to believe and according to our agreement with the United Nations we have vowed to uphold.

In 1987 the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT) was adopted.  In Article 2, it explicitly outlines torture and/or one’s motivations behind such treatment: 

Article 2
1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

The United States of America have no excuse for torture of any kind, whether intended or implied; not when on behalf of the American Citizens, an agreement with other nations has been signed stating that we will take measures to Prevent acts of torture.  Franklin Pierce stated, “We have nothing in our history or position to invite aggression; we have everything to beckon us to the cultivation of relations of peace and amity with all nations.”  One can see how although time continues pass, the quest for peace an amity with all nations is still present by some in this country.

Now there are those who have been glorified in years past for not honoring agreements, treaties, or promises of humane treatment to prisoners.  Jack Sparrow, a fictional character, has been heroined and even idolized by some.  He had sparked a new interest in Pirates, that took the country and world by storm just has Captain Hook in Peter Pan stole the hearts of children and parents alike.  Unfortunately, the world got a look at a true pirate.  Smiling as he is paraded in front of the cameras, this teenager was a real gun and hostage holding pirate, who lived…unlike many of his colleagues.  

One might wonder, what drives a person to the brink of being a “pirate”?  It could be assumed that a Pirate is a product of one’s environment.  In the 14th and 15th centuries, as most of Europe were expanding their empires by killing natives in foreign lands, tearing down huts, and raising royal flags; many destitute individuals learned from their magistrates, and commanded vessels taking land and gold stolen from empires that stole it from natives, who lived peacefully before their arrivals.  The pirates that made headlines this past week, were not as grand as “Blackbeard” but were simply a reflection of a country that has a large Diaspora community, ravaged by the effects of civil war.  The flash bulbs that captured the image of the “smiling boy pirate”, mirrored the flashes of gunfire that undoubtedly influenced he and his comrades to commandeer vessels and commit the acts of old, which bear no reflection of Peter Pan!

If one were to ask Miss California, she may attest to being tortured on every television show this week for her comments.  When asked her Opinion by Perez Hilton, she stated clearly that in “Her” America marriage was between a Man and a Woman.  This view, although now risqué, at one time was the not so far from normal.  With a Moral Majority still present here in America, one can only conclude, she too is a product of her community.  And with her statements, apparitions appeared before men, and upon the torture block she stood, with the magistrates waiting for the proper answer to be given:  Do you believe in Same Sex Marriage.  

This debate, in my mind, will not be ended within the next 20 years.  Pastors of many faiths have banned the act of same sex relationships and relations within the lives of their parishioners.  Although, many of these same pastors have been demonized by their contemporaries for succumbing to their own “vile” temptations, and being literally “caught” in the act, the view homosexuality for some in America is still “curable”, and it is this view that must be debated!

 Fredrick Douglass stated “I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.”   A statement that has been lived by both Perez Hilton and Miss California within the last week has played out right in front of the American people.  Both seem to be proud of their beliefs, and both have courageously stood before the masses and taken the bitter tongue lashing of ridicule by media pundits and internet rumors alike.  What has not happened is a conversation or a work session between these two people, who could use this opportunity to really find a common ground, or an answer to this growing popular question!

What I do know, is that only in America could torture tactics, smiling pirates, and dueling queens be normality in…just another week!

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