Sunday, December 10, 2017

Voting Your Conscience

We are just a couple of days away from the special election being held in Alabama to see who will fill Jeff Sessions' vacated seat, a seat that got that way because we have a new Attorney General. Initially, the Republican vote was split between Luther Strange, the former Attorney General not of the United States but of the state of Alabama. Confused? Well, you don't have to be much longer because Luther Strange lost the Republican primary to former Chief Justice of Alabama's Supreme Court, Roy Moore.
You might be familiar with Mister Moore. He's the one currently undergoing a lot of scrutiny for alleged crimes against women. More (or Moore) to the point, these were teenaged girls who were accosted, molested, groped some years ago. When it became apparent that Judge Moore might become a United States senator, it seemed like the right and imperative thing to do. Five different women have come forward to say that they were assaulted by Judge Moore. A month ago, United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believes the women. At that time, the "President" kept quiet about his allegiances, since his support of Luther Strange hadn't panned out the way he had planned. As the date of the election closed in, Senator Mitch walked back his rhetoric about Moore saying, "I'll let the people of Alabama make the call." That assertion was doubled down by the "President" who found it necessary to endorse Moore because, in his words, "We need Republican Roy Moore to win." Because when all is said and done, pedophilia can be overlooked when it comes to getting that swing vote.
Meanwhile, across the aisle, Senator Al Franken from Minnesota took his apology and penance to the floor of the Senate and did what his party asked of him: he resigned. On the way out he made some excuses and tried to mitigate the reality of the situation, but his sexual misconduct got him pushed out of the Senate, the United States Senate by the Democratic Party.
It is no wonder that Time magazine chose as their Person of the Year the Silence Breakers. The world is changing around us, and even if things have to get worse before they get better, we can't go back to a time when the truth got buried for the sake of someone's career. Or a vote.
By the way, there are still at least sixteen women who allege the "President" assaulted them. It's a new world. I guess we'll have to wait and see just how new it really is.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Order Up

I am happy to be a salaried employee, and as such I feel that I need to work a little on the edges to justify what would be the hourly rate that mathematics would suggest that I am paid. School teachers live on this weird island where the perception of what we do and for how long is often a little skewed. There is an old joke that overs around the teaching profession that our three favorite things about our job is June, July and August. In the interest of full transparency, it should be noted that I am paid for ten months, but I take advantage of my district's willingness to spread that money out over twelve months. This is so I don't have to calculate and save up each month's portion of a check that would be my July and August salary. Just to be clear: during those summer months I am not hanging out poolside at my beach house sipping daiquiris trying to imagine new and fantastic ways to spend the money I am making.
But that's not exactly why I brought you here. That last paragraph was to say this: I am happy that I have a salary that can finally be categorized as a living wage, and I don't have to depend on tips to make ends meet. There are those who don't fully reckon on how this works. Mister Pink, for example. He believes that tipping automatically is "for the birds." Now, it seems that he may have company in this assertion. The Department of Labor is suggesting a change to the way employers deal with tips. Specifically this: as long as the employee is being paid at least minimum wage, the employer can keep their tips. The plan is that then the tips can be dispersed about to those "back room" employees who aren't available to the world of tipping.
Or the employers could simply keep the tips. That doesn't seem likely, does it?
As a recovering dishwasher in a Mexican restaurant, I can say with moderate pride that the place where I worked, there was a code of honor associated with tipping. If a wait person had a particularly good night, it was up to that person to kick a little back to the cooks, the bus boy, the bartender, and yes, even the dishwasher. It is understood in most of the service industry that it is a team game. If you want your orders up in a timely fashion, it's a good idea to grease those wheels. And if you want to have dishes on which to put those greased wheels, the trickle had better be of the down variety. All kinds of Tyler-Durden-ish behavior lives just outside the view of any restaurant. You probably don't know the truth behind the lobster bisque. And probably you don't want to.
So, I'm suggesting to Mister Orange and his cronies over at the Department of Labor that unless they want to find out what happens before your order lands in front of you, consider how many hands have touched that - how many hands have passed by that sign that says "Employees Must Wash Hands." Fifteen percent doesn't seem like a lot to pay for peace of mind.

Friday, December 08, 2017

What Drives You?

I know someone who works for one of those ride-sharing services. Let's call it "Lybber." I noticed the identifying marks on this person's car, so I I took the opportunity to ask a few questions. Specifically, I wanted to know what the deal was with all that double parking. Each and every morning that I ride my bicycle to school, I have to weave my way around at least one if not more sedans pulled over to one side or another, hazard lights flashing, waiting for their rider. Occupying a lane of traffic. I asked this Lybber driver if double parking was part of the program. Was it in the training?
The driver being questioned described the comprehensive training offered by the service: an hour long video watched at Lybber headquarters, along with a mildly thorough inspection of driving records. Then you download an app and you're ready to head out on the street, impeding traffic.
That's when this phrase came to mind: "Chauffeur's License." Why isn't that required? Is this part of some elaborate scam to get around having to take a test?
I get it. You're driving around in that big four-door, with three empty seats. Can't sleep. Can't make ends meet. Why not take money for the aimless wandering you're doing at all hours of the day and night? And if you happen to impede traffic while you're looking up an address or shifting from one app to another, what does it really matter? If getting another star affixed to your rating means you have to park facing the wrong way on a one way street, so be it. It's all about the "likes."
In the meantime, I am trying to remember the last time I saw a cab in my city. I know they are out there. The airport still has a vast lane devoted to their parking, even though it stands empty on the occasions I find myself down there. Maybe I'm just not looking closely enough.
Or maybe I'm distracted by all the other traffic around me, jockeying for that spot by the curb. The holy grail of spots: the one right outside baggage claim. Or maybe it doesn't matter if you've got your hazard lights on and that sticker in your window. Maybe they're searching for a working pay phone.
It's times like these that I really miss Louie DePalma.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Don't Ask, Don't - Wait - What Was The Question Again?

So, here's an interesting thing: The number of waivers granted by the active-duty Army for marijuana use jumped to more than five hundred this year from one hundred ninety-one in 2016. Three years ago, no such waivers were granted. I don't understand statistics very well, but that may be how you get those wacky numbers like "a five hundred percent increase." 
The reason for all of this paperwork centers around the need to fill the ranks of an all-volunteer armed forces.  Head of the Army's recruiting command  Major General Jeff Snow said, "Provided they understand that they cannot do that when they serve in the military, I will waive that all day long." Major General Jeff is under orders to expand the Army's size, and if means looking the other way or filling out a note that says "that was then, this is now," so be it.
As long as you promise not to smoke dope once you are enlisted.
Of course, I saw Platoon, and that was back before weed started becoming legal. Major General Jeff guesses that the number of waivers will only grow as more states decriminalize marijuana. How long will it be before the active military decides that they should enjoy the same rights enjoyed by the civilians they are protecting and serving? 
Tough to say, but seeing as how the Cheeto In Chief wants to ban transgender Americans from serving in the military, we are presented with what we call a "conundrum." Let's say that Recruit X is honest about his or her marijuana use, but still wants to serve their country. That same recruit would not be able to serve if they were as candid about their sexuality. Shouldn't there be a waiver for that? Or is smoking dope easier to excuse than being who you are?
Currently, the "President's" proposed ban on transgender Americans serving in the military has been blocked by the courts. Maybe that will give Major General Jeff a chance to find and process the correct forms. 

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Never On Sunday

Looking for distractions from the news that continues to bear down on all of us, I have sat in front of the television looking for the solace that used to be football. Spectator sports have been a way for me to ignore the stink and furor that surrounds us all. In the past. I waited for the weekend to be entertained by the gladiatorial displays of my favorite teams.
This year, there won't be bowl games. There won't be a Super Bowl. Not for me, anyway. Sure, I'll tune in to watch the commercials because it is part of the American firmament I suspect that I could fall under government surveillance if I didn't.
And yet, it seems as though ignoring the National Football League would be falling in line with the forces of the Evil Empire. Darth Trump would like to think that fewer and fewer Americans are watching on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays because they are fed up with the anti-flag, anti-veteran protests that have ruined the game. I disagree. I don't think it has much to do with the demonstrations taking place before the game. I think it has everything to do with the lack of entertaining games may have had something to do with my lack of interest. To be clear: I was tuning in for the past several weeks just to show the dark side that I wasn't put off by sitting, standing or kneeling. I was there to watch football.
Then came all the injuries. No Arron Rodgers. No J.J. Watt. No Andrew Luck. The stars were sitting not because they didn't want to pledge allegiance to the flag but because of broken bones and torn ligaments. Then there was rookie Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson who donated his first ever game check to hurricane relief in the city for which he played, until he had his knee torn up to put him and his spectacular play on the shelf for the rest of the season.
And then there's the Denver Broncos, who started the year with hopes of battling for first place in what many considered to be the toughest division in football. Maybe there's something about too much orange, what with the tangerine in the White House, but this has been a spectacularly forgettable season in the Mile High City. Each peek into what's happening with the team on any given weekend has brought me nothing but grief.
As a fan. As someone who appreciates some of the finer points of the game. They aren't there. Not now. I find myself ignoring what goes on in spite of myself and all those years of conditioning. Maybe I'm getting old. Maybe I should take a page from the Cubs fan book and start planning for next year. That's where hope lives.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

How Long?

"I am not a crook." Those were the words of Richard Nixon back in 1973. If you're a student of history or maybe just an American over the age of forty, you might remember that  it turned out that Richard Nixon really was a crook, and in spite of his assertions otherwise, he had been for some time before he made that little speech. He left the Oval Office in disgrace just a few months later. He was just a couple years into his second term after being elected in a landslide victory over liberal Democrat, George McGovern.
"I did not have sexual relations with that woman." Those were the words of Bill Clinton back in 1998. If you are a student of history or just an American over the age of twenty, you might remember that it turned out that Bill Clinton had in spite of his assertions otherwise, had sexual relations with that woman and had for some time before he made that  little speech. He left the Oval Office with a curiously high approval rating. He was just a couple years into his second term after being elected in a landslide victory over conservative Republican, Bob Dole.
Welcome to 2017, where we have a "President" who was elected in a landslide victory of the liberal Democrat who happened to be the cuckolded wife Bill Clinton. He doesn't tend to make speeches as much as pronouncements, and tweets. Historians may have had an amusing time dealing with the social media of former presidents Nixon and Clinton, but hindsight allows us to settle into a narrative that becomes history. It's part of a process.
My wife had a button with a picture of Bill Clinton as a hippie, with his hippie wife Hillary that bore the legend, "My President." She does not own a button with a hippie Richard and Pat Nixon that says, "My President." The discussion about to whom the current "President" belongs stops abruptly because "our President" continues to be Barack Obama. Barack Obama was elected in a landslide for his second term, and he managed to maintain an approval rating that dipped below fifty percent just a couple times over the course of eight years. This was the guy who won the Democratic nomination for president over his rival Hillary Clinton, the cuckolded wife of Bill. Who was impeached. Richard Nixon was not. He resigned just ahead of that.
As for the current "President?" Sexual misconduct allegations as well as all manner of political malfeasance swirl around his first term in office, while the rest of the planet seems to stare at us in wonder. How long will this one last? 

Monday, December 04, 2017

Keeping Watch

Anna has just turned five. She is in our Transitional Kindergarten class. For the first month and a half of school, she was overwhelmed by all the sights and sounds of the rolling wave we call elementary school to react with much but a slack jaw. At some point over the last month, she began to awaken to just how busy every day was and out popped her fear. Mostly in transitions, moving from her classroom to the lunchroom to the playground and back. All that shifting about made her extremely anxious.
I know this because she told me.
Through sobs and gasps, she clung to me, holding my hand and pleading with me to make things safe. Every approaching child was a threat. Every potential activity was a trick, designed to move her further away from whatever sense of security she might have. Anna struggled. I might have taken this as mild flattery, being the one adult she had chosen to trust, but I quickly understood that I was just the current link in a chain of grownups upon whom she had latched.
Still, my job of roaming about the playground during recess isn't impeded much by having a little person holding on to my hand, except when I have to stop to tie someone else's shoes, or if there is trouble in the boy's bathroom that needs to be halted. During these sojourns about the yard during lunch recess, I have continued to try and convince Anna that there are far more interesting people and things to do than hanging with Mister Caven. A number of Anna's classmates, starting with Alice, have come up to us and asked Anna if she would like to play. Anna's response has been to cower behind me and shout "Noooo!" We worked on this until we managed to get a wincing "No thank you," so as not to hurt the feelings of the potential friends.
With each new entree, I have asked Anna if she might not reconsider, which had been met with more worry and woe. And so we walked the playground, looking for someone or something that might serve as a distraction for part of the day.
Until this past Thursday. Alice returned, and to her credit she did not rush up and immediately intimidate Anna. Alice asked me if I thought Anna might like to play. I looked at Anna, whose face brightened, and then she said, "Yes. I would like to be her friend." With that, she dropped my hand and went racing off to the play structure, where a world of wonder and potential friendships awaited.