I Have a Gripe

September 30, 2010

The Extreme in Bullying

In a previous post about bullying I spoke about a father standing up for his daughter with cerebral palsy who was being relentlessly bullied. Well, sometimes bullying can have deadly results.

This week it has been reported that two freshmen students at Rutgers University digitally bullied and humiliated a fellow freshman by streaming live two private sexual encounters online with another male. This proved too much for student Tyler Clementi and he took his own life by jumping off the George Washington Bridge. Reports this morning say that his body may have been found. A post on his Facebook page said, “jumping off the gw bridge sorry.”

This is simply sickening to many, including me. As I mentioned before, many of us were bullied as children, however, due to the emergence of the Internet, bullying has now gone global.

Tyler’s roommate, Dharun Ravi and  Ravi’s friend Molly Wei, both of New Jersey, were charged with two counts each of invasion of privacy for secretly using a camera to view and transmit a live sex scene, said Middlesex County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan. Ravi claims he turned on the camera accidentally, however, his Twitter posts prove otherwise.

In my opinion, these charges hardly go far enough. The law has definitely not kept up with the changes to bullying in the digital age. This story reminds me of another digital-bullying case in Massachusetts where a child committed suicide after relentless bullying online.

I am sickened by this two and weep for Tyler. I offer my heartfelt condolences to the Clementi family. I hope law makers work to bring the law up to date and these two are prosecuted to the fullest extent they can.

I implore you, if you know of someone being bullied, or you are being bullied yourself, help them. Stand up for them. Reach out to parents, teachers, administration, police, clergy or whomever else you may feel comfortable with talking.

September 25, 2010

Waiting for Superman? How About the Parents?

“It’s important to support and empower teachers as well as hold them and others accountable for results.” ~Newark Mayor Cory Booker

As many of you know, I use this a mainly a download spot for my brain. I try to be eloquent when I can and always look to make a point. Well today my friends, I am seething. I am angry. I am upset. I can’t even truly put into words how I feel.

In my last post, I spoke of the $100 million donation from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerber to the city of Newark in New Jersey. This is on the heels of a documentary-style movie just released called “Waiting for Superman.”

Now, I will fully admit I have not seen the movie, however, it has been the talk of every news show this weekend. From what I saw on the news, it does not paint teachers and the teacher’s unions in a positive light.

I also mentioned in my previous post that my husband is a 24-year school teacher. When I hear teachers bashed, I take it personally. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I do.

Are there bad teachers? Definitely. Are there even more that are great? Absolutely!

Teachers (like my husband) spend many hours before school, after school, weekends and more preparing lessons, tutoring students and more. And lets not forget the money teachers spend out of their own pocket providing supplies and equipment for their students and their classrooms. I send my husband with a large bags of supplies to school throughout the school year. We do the layouts for his concert programs and have even paid for their photocopying out of our pocket some years, which is not cheap, I can tell you.

Teachers take their job seriously. They do all they can to make their classroom a positive and safe place for their students; or as my husband calls them, “my kids.”

Oh, and let’s not forget how since Columbine, teachers are expected to be ready to protect their students from crazed gunmen. That is all too forgotten in my opinion.

Teachers are educators, ministers, disciplinarians, psychologists…and yes, all to often, parents.

So this is why I get more than steamed when I hear people saying teachers are the problem. I would like to ask, how about the parents? All too often, parents are too busy to check homework, attend parent-teacher conferences, back to school night or other school events. It is not the responsibility of the school system to become the parent. If adults decide to have children, they need to understand the serious commitment it is. I have seen this first-hand. Parents drop their kids at the school door and that’s where the school should take over. And God-forbid a teacher does try to intercede? The parent will quickly file a complaint or sue.

Should teachers be held responsible? Yes. What about the involvement of parents? What about support from the school administration? This should be a collective effort, not a blame game.

Unions have their place, but I am the first to admit they need to become a better partner in the process. In my opinion, unions have not changed with the times. They were great to protect employees from abusive companies, however, they need to better define their role in today’s education system, as well as all other industries they represent.

So, as I said, I am truly angry. Teachers work damn hard and I will not sit idly by and listen to the masses bash them.

September 24, 2010

It Can Be a Palace Again

There was a palace that was a city. It was a palace! It was a palace and it can be a palace again!

That is a line from the movie City Hall. I saw that movie years ago and that line really struck me. Well today, the city of my birth received a major gift that can help make that city a palace again.

There was a palace that was a city. It was a palace! It was a palace and it can be a palace again!

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg today has donated $100 million to the education system of the city of Newark in New Jersey.

Now some cynics say that the only reason he is doing this in an attempt to offset a soon-to-be-released movie that paints him in a very poor light. Is this is true motive? I have absolutely no idea. Do I really care? No, I don’t.

While I am a registered Republican, I really believe that Newark Mayor Corey Booker is truly working hard to turn the city of Newark around. However, as in many places today, his resources are very limited. Through this donation, he now has the financial resources to bring the his failing schools up to success. I certainly wish him all the best and hope that they are able to put it to the best use possible. My only request Mr. Mayor is that you include the arts and music in your plans for the new funds you now have available to you. I completely understand new books, computers, science classroom equipment are needed, I implore you to not forget this important part of curriculum. I am the person I am because of the music department. That is where I found my place and my home.

I will say I was a tad upset with some of the things Geoffrey Canada, president and chief executive of the Harlem Children’s Zone, had to say on Oprah’s show on Friday during the donation ceremony. In full disclosure, I am proud to be married to a 24-year band director. He takes his job as a teacher very seriously. He looks at it not just as teaching, but truly as a ministry. That is why I am extra protective when I hear people bashing teachers. I am the first one to say there are bad teachers in school systems. God knows I had a few that to this day I don’t know what I would say to them if I bumped into them. However, there are many more that are great.  We spend lots of our own money providing to his classroom and I even had my former job donate computers and desks to his school system when we needed to dispose of perfectly good equipment. I truly believe there is plenty of blame to go around, just as there is plenty of success. It needs to be easier to get bad teachers out of the way. Parents need to take more personal responsibility and not just drop their kids off and expect the school system to raise their children. The teacher’s union needs to become more of a partner and less of a hindrance by protecting the good teachers and cutting off the bad.

If everyone plays their part, I truly believe it can be a palace again.

September 22, 2010

James Jones and Bullies: What Would You Do?

For the last few days, there has been coverage about James Jones, the father of a girl with cerebral palsy, and his threatening rants on a school bus directed toward his daughter’s bullies. Ultimately, he was arrested, charged with two misdemeanors and made a very public apology. He felt in his rant, he had actually become the bully.

While he did flip out, in my opinion understandably, I feel there is something important missing to this story. What about his daughter’s bullies? What about them? I have not heard one bit about how their parents or the school will handle this issue.

Let’s face it. Many of us were bullied as children. I know I was. Each day after middle school for several months I would wait across the street for the public bus. There was a girl that would punch me, take my bus ticket and throw it down the sewer. I didn’t know her before, but I’ll never forget her name. I would then walk completely across town, sometimes taking close to an hour to get home. When my mother asked why I was home so late, I would tell her what happened. She actually told me, “just curl up your five little fingers and hit her back. She’ll never bother you again.” I told my mother I didn’t want to get in trouble for fighting and certainly didn’t want her to get involved.

Well, she did. She called the school and spoke with the vice principal. He didn’t know me, but  he knew my bully. He called each of us down to his office separately and that was the last time she ever bothered me. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that my mother told my aunt whose daughter and a friend also helped “take care” of the issue, if you know what I mean.

Now that was a long time ago and I don’t know if I would’ve received the same advice from my mother now. But the lesson was clear – do not to be afraid to stand up for myself.

Now going back to James Jones. His daughter can’t stand up for herself. She has cerebral palsy. She was obviously an easy target for the bullies on her bus. And how spineless are these bullies that they have to pick on a girl with special needs? When she cried that she didn’t want to go on the bus and told her father why, he was understandably enraged. I know I would’ve flipped out too if I had a special needs daughter and boys spat at her and put condoms on her head.

My point is this. Talk to your kids about bullying. Tell them how to respond. Let them know it is OK to stand up for themselves. If they can’t, tell them they need to tell their teacher and you as their parent.

In turn, parents need to make sure if their child is a bully, there will be consequences for their actions. Bullies are ultimately weak because they look for an easy target. Someone weaker than them. Their behavior is unacceptable.

So, I ask again for coverage of the rest of the story. I hope there are repercussions for these boys who bullied this special needs girl, just as the father is facing repercussions.

September 20, 2010

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church: Lost in the Ground Zero Religion Debate

There were many souls lost on 9-11 in Shanksville, Washington D.C. and of course New York City. There was another lost, however, that many have forgotten. Or may not have even known existed. Its soul may not have been lost, but it is definitely in purgatory due to no fault of its own.

As of late, the “religion debate” at Ground Zero has centered around a planned, and incredibly controversial, Mosque just steps from where those once great Towers stood. But, even more importantly, nine years later, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church has still not been rebuilt and isn’t even close to it.

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was founded in 1916 by Greek immigrants, who dedicated the church to the patron saint of sailors. The Church was located at 155 Cedar St. and was completely destroyed when the Twin Towers fell. Now, that location is part of the construction site to rebuild the World Trade Center, the 9-11 Memorial and all the surrounding work. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey promised they would work to rebuild the church. Nine years later? Nothing.

Since that terrible day, there have been multiple changes of the guard in Albany as well as at the Port Authority. Negotiations to move St. Nicholas to nearby location have gone from slow to non-existent. While Governor Paterson has done little to help facilitate the rebuilding of this historic Church, he was willing to quickly step in to “work to resolve” the controversy of the Ground Zero Mosque, even potentially offering up a city-owned location for the Mosque.

There is rightful outrage, in my opinion, about the Ground Zero Mosque, but I ask where is the outrage that this Church has not been rebuilt?

Many in the mainstream press have all but ignored this story. When it has been covered, it has tried to paint those representing the Church in negotiations with the Port Authority as greedy and unreasonable. In all my research and reading, however, I have not found this to be true. If anything, it has been the Port Authority that has all but commandeered the Church’s original location and stalled and stammered at ever turn. In over a year, the Port Authority has not had negotiations with the Church leaders and have even gone as far as reneging on the alternate location.

I ask that you take up the fight of St. Nicholas Church. This should be rebuilt long before any Mosque steps from hallowed ground. St. Nicholas Church needs to be rebuilt. Without it, the open wounds of 9-11 will never begin to heal.

September 19, 2010

The NFL and Loyalty…What Happened?

Filed under: Celebrity,General Annoyances — alvb1227 @ 4:38 pm
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Let’s make one thing clear…I love the NFL. My first memory of watching football is from third grade watching the Steelers playing the Cowboys in the Superbowl. I sat on the floor in my living room glued to the television.

Just like the years when our dads would go to work for one company and stay there until they retired, the same held true with the NFL. Those were the years when a player went to a team and stayed there. Period. Can you imagine Terry Bradshaw playing for anyone but the Steelers? I remember my stomach turning when my beloved Joe Montana went to…Kansas City? I felt betrayed.

Now it is about salary caps, contract negotiations and collective bargaining. I personally felt Darrelle Revis’ ongoing drama with the Jets was shameful. These guys make millions, not counting their endorsements. Now the players are potentially threatening a strike for next year if they extend the season to 18 games and aren’t “fairly compensated.” With all the recent opinions about public unions, like the NEA and the UAW, what about the players union? Where is the public outrage for these mega-millionaires instead of the “average Joe?”

Maybe I am naive, but when did pro football go from team loyalty to a business? I don’t see fans jumping from team to team. Why do players?

Don’t get me wrong. The owners in my opinion are just as much to blame. They want mega-stadiums and expect the local tax payers to pick up the majority of the tab through bond issues, while most of those tax payers can’t afford the new ticket prices. Life-long Jets season-ticket holders with tears in their eyes were forced to give up their tickets for their seat due to a ridiculously high “seat license fee.” And what is a seat license anyway? I NEVER heard of that one. Probably just another way to get money from attendees. And are they serious with the cost of sodas, beer and food at these games?

Like I said, call me a sucker, naive or whatever, but loyalty has always been a major issue with me. If I call you friend, you are my friend. If you light that fuse, which is long mind you, and I am done with you, then I am done. You wrong my family or my friend, you now have an enemy. I have stuck by my beloved Niners through the great years and the lean years. They are still my team. My husband has been a Giants fan for all his life. Period. People spend hundreds for special packages to see their teams if they are not local to them.

The point is, our teams make us crazy, but we stick with them. We believe in loyalty. If you ask me, the players could take a lesson from their fans.

September 18, 2010

OK, I’m Confused…And a Tad Annoyed

Filed under: General Annoyances — alvb1227 @ 3:41 pm
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Today isn’t about taxes, the Obama Administration or even too tight jeans. This is about…e-book readers.

Yes, you read right. E-book readers. This is a personal issue. I’m confused…and a tad annoyed. I have wanted an e-reader for awhile now. I had one of the original RCA REV1100 readers, which was pretty cool. However, you couldn’t get any books for it! Please note, I purchased it as a closeout for $50, so I wasn’t so annoyed about it.

Now, I keep reader about all these tablets and e-book readers; iPad, Kindle, Pandigital, Sony, Nook. The list goes on and on.

I’ve always considered myself a fairly tech-savvy, nerd-like individual, but I have to admit, I can’t decide. The iPad is really cool, but do I really want to spend $500 plus? Not really. Especially not now. Plus, I left the “Apple religion” a long time ago. Do I really want to go back to a company that believes in proprietary hardware so they can attempt to control a market? And then whines when another company (like Adobe) when they don’t want to play in the same sandbox (a.k.a. Flash)? The Kindle’s price is right, but I also want to be able to surf the net. The Nook let’s you both read books and surf the net, but the screen is black and white. I thought the Pandigital Novel would be the answer, but the reviews are terrible. The new Samsung sounds really interesting, but the rumored price for no contract is $1000. Um, what? Why would I pay twice the price of an iPad?

I like the e-book reader as a convenient way to bring lots of books on vacation, the train and so on. My husband likes the idea that he won’t have to move 500 pounds of books each time we move to clean out the basement. Plus, we have the space limitation of a one-bedroom condo. Granted, if I want a crochet book, I’m going to buy the book, not an e-book, but it will drastically cut down on the “hard copies” I purchase.

So, welcome to my annoyance. Any suggestions?

September 15, 2010

The Ground Zero Mosque Location

Filed under: New York,Security,Terrorism — alvb1227 @ 1:21 am
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I want to say up front I am not a racist Islamaphobe. I know Muslims and have no problem with them or their religion. Just like in every religion, there are good people and there are evil people. Everyone has a faith in something – even those who do not have a specific religion. Shockingly, I do, however, have a fairly strong opinion about the location of the Ground Zero Mosque.

This week while speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City, the Imam had challenged the idea that the location should not be considered “sacred ground,” citing OTB and strip locations nearby. He did say he is looking for a way to “diffuse” the situation and that “all options are on the table.”

We all know that the only way to “diffuse” this issue for the majority of Americans (over 70%) is to move the location further away. Period. What I didn’t know until just a few days ago is that body parts from the collapse of the World Trade Center were found just steps away from that location. It was well documented that one of the engines from one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center fell through the roof of the building. To me, that’s the answer right there.

Does that make it “sacred ground?” Honestly, I prefer the term “hallowed ground,” meaning honored, greatly revered and respected, according to its definition. I think that better defines the location.

I also argue to the Imam that yes, there are strip clubs and OTB locations. However, last time I checked strippers and gamblers didn’t kill almost 3,000 people less than 500 feet away from that location. Muslim terrorists did.

The Imam’s wife, Daisy Khan, has also been arguing in favor of that specific location and working hard to dodge the tough questions. I say to her, how wonderful it is that she lives in a country where she can speak her mind, not have to wear a burka, not have to walk behind your husband and even have the ability to walk without her husband altogether. Our heroic United States soldiers and private citizens, and the hated President Bush and his wife Laura, have worked tirelessly to bring rights to women around the world, that is often not the case in many nations in the Middle East.

In my humble opinion, this entire debate has not “built bridges” to steal a line from the Imam. It has been a major detractor. The moment this location was labeled the “Ground Zero Mosque,” it was going to bring a variety of feelings to the surface for many. And the fact that they wanted the official opening of this Mosque to open on the 10th anniversary of 9-11 is nothing short of a sharp stick in the eye.

Everyone who knows me will agree I am pretty much not politically correct. I often suffer from “gumball syndrome.” Thoughts go from my brain to my mouth (or my fingers) like a gumball machine. However, this one, I’m sorry, but I think I am saying what many are thinking. This is insensitive, pure and simple. His comments regarding “the entire world is watching” and his “concerns” over what will happen if the Mosque isn’t built is nothing short of a threat. I truly question this Imam what his true motives are and if he really wants to build bridges. And yes, Imam, me, a woman, is questioning you.

Welcome to America…

September 13, 2010

Ines Sainz and Jets Organization: They are Both Wrong

As the Jets open their season in their new stadium, there is a side issue that has popped up regarding an unprofessional situation between Mexican Reporter Ines Sainz and members of the Jets organization.

According to reports, the “harassment” began while the players were on the field with plays being run near her and the football being thrown over her head. The attention continued while she was trying to do an interview with QB Sanchez in the locker room with commentary and cat calls. In my opinion, both sides are wrong.

My Message to Ines…

First off, look at her. She was wearing a top that she was busting out of and jeans at least one size too small. Her clothing was completely inappropriate. I have worked in male-dominated fields since college. You need to be ready to roll with the punches. Often the men I worked with would push it to the edge to see how I would react. Once they realized I wouldn’t have a fit every time they said something stupid, they settled down. If there was a time they would really push it over the edge, all it took was a look over the top of my glasses and they would dial it down. They would know they took it too far. I didn’t go to HR or hold a press conference. Ines, put your big girl pants on, that are the right size mind you, and recognize that you have dopey men around you and deal. Oh, and by the way, in 2008 when you were interviewing Patriots QB Tom Brady about what it would take for New England to beat the Jets? They were actually playing the Giants.

My Message for the Jets Organization…

OK boys, grow up. Like you have never seen a good looking woman before wearing inappropriate clothing. Instead of acting like a stereotypical idiot pro football player, act like a professional athlete. I know the bar has been set pretty low lately by your colleagues, but try to rise above it and act like adults. OK, she is a knockout. OK, she is dressing in order to get attention. Look beyond it and do your job instead of acting like a 12-year-old.

Like I said, they are both wrong. In the end, both sides want to be treated like professionals. Well how about acting like it. I know I will take some heat about “well, are you saying a rape victim ‘asked for it?'” Absolutely not. What I am saying is have your wits about you. I don’t walk down a dark alley alone. I don’t walk around the mall with my purse open. I don’t walk through a parking lot without my keys out, through my fingers without a clue where I parked. Don’t allow yourself to be in stupid situations and you will lower your chances of something stupid happening. Don’t dress like a tramp and you won’t be treated like one.

September 11, 2010

My Thoughts Today on 9/11

Filed under: New Jersey,New York,Security,Terrorism — alvb1227 @ 1:43 pm
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Today is not about two so-called men of God as many may have you think. Today is about the scar on our great country that will never really heal. Today is about remembering those who lost their lives, those who worked to save so  many and those who have been left behind without parents, children, siblings, spouses and friends.

As I write this, I  am listening to the reading of the names. To everyone now, whether they know someone lost on the day or not, they are more than just names. They are the first lost in the war against terror and those who want to destroy the freedoms we enjoy here in the United States of America.

Years before, there was an attempt on the World Trade Center. On that day in 1993, I was preparing to attend a bridal shower. We had no idea that this event was the beginning of a war against us and our way of life.

I have an interesting story I want to share about the World Trade Center. In the late 1990’s, I went for a job interview at what I grew up calling The Twin Towers. I was told to get there early so I would have time to go through security. That was the only time I was ever there. I immediately fell in love with the grandeur of the buildings and knew it would be great to work there.  During the interview, the gentleman I was meeting with made a point of telling me the job would be located in the building. That there were some individuals who were uncomfortable with that after the 1993 bombing. My quote to him was “I would love to work here and I am not afraid. Lightning doesn’t strike twice.” How wrong I was.

As I watched those buildings burn that day, I thought about the man I met with. I never heard back and didn’t get the job. I don’t remember the name of the company or even which building the job was in. But I remember him and wonder if he still worked there. If he made it out. If he was OK.

Like many, I remember every minute of that day. I remember leaving work and going to the school where my high school friend’s mother worked. Her husband worked in the World Trade Center Complex. I remember her holding a paper plate with a number scribbled on it where he would be that day. That look on her face I can’t describe. The school principal and I tried to get her to leave and come home with me, but she wouldn’t. Thankfully, her husband, who I always called Papa, was OK.

I think Mayor Giuliani said it best this morning. He remembers many terrible moments that took place nine years ago today. But he also remembers many great acts of caring and kindness that took place, both on that day and on the days after.

As I do every year, I pray today for all those who lost their lives, those who were directly affected and all of us as a nation. God Bless the United States of America.

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