I Have a Gripe

August 30, 2016

Freedom of Expression vs. Freedom from Consequences

“There’s a place in the world for the angry young man. With his working class ties and his radical plans. He refuses to bend he refuses to crawl. And he’s always at home with his back to the wall. And he’s proud of his scars and the battles he’s lost. And struggles and bleeds as he hangs on his cross. And likes to be known as the angry young man”
~ Billy Joel

So last week Colin Kaepernick turned a hose on the hornet’s nest by choosing to sit during the National Anthem before a pre-season game when the San Francisco 49ers took on the Green Bay Packers. His reason was to protest the treatment of minorities by police and other groups within the United States.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

I have been a fan of the Niners since childhood. I had a SERIOUS crush on Joe Montana. I thought it was terrible when Alex Smith was traded and Kaepernick took over as the first string quarterback. But, I went with it. I thought he was a good player, but I didn’t think it was right that Smith lost his job because he was injured.

Kaepernick’s decision has sparked commentary, debate, and anger from what seems like every side of the ongoing discussion about race in the United States today. Personally, I disagree with his decision to sit down. I feel it is disrespectful to all of the members of the military and their families that sacrifice for our freedom. I love my country and I can’t imagine not standing.

The NFL does not have a policy on making players stand during the National Anthem. I know of people who do not stand during the Pledge of Allegiance or the Anthem and while I disagree with their decision to do so, it is their right to not participate.

Everyone makes their own decisions. That’s what this country is all about. We need to be willing to tolerate decisions made by others, even when we don’t agree. It is when people refuse to listen to each other when we don’t agree that debate turns to hateful vitriol.

Now what?

So Kap stirred up debate across the country. He has everyone’s attention. Now what? I would hope he uses this attention to do something positive. Go into communities where you feel there are issues and start a dialogue. Listen to everyone. Respect flows both ways.

Here’s the rub…

Now here’s where things get rough. Exercising your freedom of expression can come with consequences. There are rumors that Kap may be released from the Niners. He hasn’t been performing well, but it is interesting that this rumor begins to circulate right after he refuses to stand for the National Anthem. The point to remember is that if you are going to go out on a limb you need to be ready for whatever comes your way. Some people will be supportive and understanding, while others will vocally disagree. Still others will reduce to name calling and other nonsense.

“I believe I’ve passed the age of consciousness and righteous rage. I found that just surviving was a noble fight. I once believed in causes too. I had my pointless point of view. And life went on no matter who was wrong or right.”
~ Billy Joel

There have been times over the years where I opened my mouth in the name of what I felt was right. Sometimes the wind was with me and other times I got hit hard. I used to be a pretty serious hot head. Call it getting old (I prefer to call it “wisdom in age”), but maybe I am learning to approach things differently. I try to remember the old “honey vs. vinegar” line. I try to remind myself that I have not walked in someone’s shoes. Yes, I still get angry, but I try to stay calm and hear the other side before I spin like a top. When someone starts yelling, I stop listening, so I assume others will do the same. It doesn’t always work, but I try to remember that we are all works in progress.

February 16, 2011

My Perspective on the Budget

So the President released his budget plan this week and of course the GOP has their own plans. Of course, this lead me to want to jot down my thoughts on how to handle the budget.

Now first and foremost, I am far from a financial genius. I do, however, have a brain and on occasion, have been known to use common sense. To me, this is a common sense approach to spending.

First, can someone explain why the budget is still printed…on paper and ink? Anyone ever hear of a secure sharepoint? They definitely need to look at Congressional/Presidential printing. I would think that could save a nice chunk of change.

Next, look at all the places around the world where we have military bases. Do we really need all these different bases? Close some of those bases and reassign those troops stateside. That would both save money and bring home our wonderful military so we aren’t spread so thin.

Third, address illegal immigration. Now, before you go off the deep end on me, hear me out. Illegal immigration goes beyond an immigration policy or national security. It sucks up valuable resources, such as public education, ER care and other social resources. This all costs money. If we get our act together by resolving our illegal immigration policy, it will solve multiple problems at once.

Now, let’s address Congress. First, they should stop automatic pay increases. Whether or not they vote on the increase, they get it. Additionally, in order for Congress and the President to get what we “common folk” have been dealing with, they should each take a five percent paycut. Additionally, everyone is complaining about public employees, their benefits and other so-called perks. In order for a member of Congress to be vested FOR LIFE, they must serve for five years. New Jersey teachers must teach for 25 consecutive years to be vested. How about some outrage on that? Five years? Seriously? Also, upon retirement, they receive 80 percent of their salary as a pension. For starters, drop it to 70 percent. Finally, they should contribute three percent annually to their healthcare coverage both while in Congress and when they “retire.”

Moving on to the Department of Education. Cut it out completely. It isn’t needed and all it does it use its funding to stick its nose into local affairs. It just makes things more complicated.

Next up, Social Security. Let’s face it, more people my age believe that Area 51 exists than they believe that they will get what they have paid into Social Security. And to be clear, Social Security, like unemployment, is not an entitlement. An entitlement is a gift from the government. Welfare and Medicaid are entitlements. Our taxes go to social security, therefore, it is not an entitlement. The President should follow the recommendation from his debt own commission and raise the retirement age. Additionally, you should be allowed to “opt out” of Social Security. I would rather have that money in my check and decide how to invest it than leave it to the government.

Finally, move to a flat tax system. This way there are no loopholes, everyone pays in, regardless of their income level and has a vested interest in what happens to our nation. Currently, two percent of the wealthiest individuals pay over 40 percent of the taxes and will never use any of the services they support. Everyone, regardless of income level, should pay taxes. Otherwise, it is just a handout, which prevents people from feeling the pride of providing for their well-being. Additionally, just think of how many jobs could be cut. And let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to see a smaller IRS?

Well, that’s where I would start. I think these cuts would provide a solid start in getting federal spending on a real cost-cutting plan.

What would you do?

November 3, 2010

2010 Election Wrap-Up

Well, the 2010 elections are thankfully over. Robo calls will stop invading our homes and those ridiculous commercials will finally go away. However, before everyone starts to look at the 2012 election, I thought I would do a “wrap-up” of the elections that took place yesterday…of course in my own personal opinion.

The Good…
First off, I am thrilled that Nancy Pelosi will no longer be holding the gavel. I’m sorry, when I look in her eyes, you can just hear the Loony Tunes theme. She is seriously a few fries short of a happy meal. I think Ohio Rep. John Boehner will do a good job, as it is presumed he will be the Speaker of the House, but as I am sure all those who were elected last night, he needs to proceed with caution and know that all of America will be watching.

I am personally very pleased that my Representative, Rodney Frelinghuysen defeated his two opponents to claim a ninth consecutive term in the 11th Congressional District. While he is an incumbent, I believe he has done an admirable job representing his constituents. No matter who I have ever asked about his, regardless of party affiliation, they all say the same thing about Rep. Frelinghuysen; he works incredibly hard to represent his district and makes sure he says in touch with everyone who takes the time to write, call or email.

I can’t believe this had to even be a question on the ballot, but only in NJ. New Jersey voters approved a ballot measure to prohibit the state from diverting money from its unemployment-benefits fund, after governors and lawmakers took $4.6 billion from it between 1992 and 2006 to plug budget gaps. So basically, they are now forced to follow the law. Imagine that.

In the governor’s races, I would like to congratulate Rep. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, a Republican, who has become the state’s first female governor as well as Tea Party-backed South Carolina Republican, state Rep. Nikki Haley, who was elected to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, also her state’s first female governor. I am also very pleased that Republican Jon Kasich, a former chairman of the House Budget Committee, defeated Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland. I think these are great choices for their respective states that will help begin to move their states forward.

I am also very happy to see that Marco Rubio won in Florida. In my opinion, he truly represents “the American dream.” He started from meager beginnings, the son of immigrants who fled Cuba. He never forgot his roots, which to me, is incredibly important. I would definitely keep an eye on this guy. He is bound to do great things for our country.

The Bad and the Ugly…

First off, I can’t believe Senator Reid from Nevada, Representative Rangel from Harlem and Rep. Barney Frank of the fourth district of Massachusetts¬† won back their seats. I have to tell you, if those districts and states continue to go down in a giant ball of flames, I have absolutely no sympathy for their constituency. They get what they deserve.

I really don’t see Jerry Brown doing a lot for California to help pull them out of the rut they are in. I hope I am wrong, but I am sadly, not very hopeful. I am equally disappointed that Barbara “Call me Senator” Boxer was re-elected. This woman is incredibly smug and way too liberal for my tastes.

Speaking of California, I have to say I am sorry they voted down Prop 19. Now, for the record, I am not this major pot-head some believe, but let’s face it, one of the real reasons marijuana is illegal is because William Randolph Hearst owned major forests and wanted to make sure they were used for paper manufacturing. For those who use pot, if it is taxed and controlled like a business, it would generate funds for California, which are definitely needed, and the marijuana would be of higher quality because it would be grown in a controlled manner, thus avoiding potential purity issues. I hope they give this another try in the future.

It is About “We the People…”

Ultimately, I hope those who were elected to office last night remember one thing; it is about “we the people,” and not “we the politicians.” I am reminded of a scene in an 80’s Goldie Hawn movie “Protocol.” We will be watching you all…like a hawk.

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 15, 2010

The Ground Zero Mosque Location

Filed under: New York,Security,Terrorism — alvb1227 @ 1:21 am
Tags: , , ,

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 9, 2010

Screaming Children Will Not Be Tolerated: Amen!

We’ve all experienced it. You go out to enjoy a cup of coffee at Starbucks or a nice dinner with your spouse, only to have to deal with a screaming child at the next table. Well, Brenda Armes has heard our cries!

Breanda is the owner of Olde Salty restaurant in Carolina Beach that read “screaming children will not be tolerated.”

Now of course there are parents that will complain, including one mother of an autistic child saying she is discriminating against children with special needs. I completely disagree. I think she is responding to people who have had enough listening to screaming children and parents not handing the issue.

Now whether right or wrong, when I was a child and acted out in public, my mother would say very flatly, “I’ll give you a reason to scream.” That’s all I took, because I knew she was serious. Today, parents are more interested in being their child’s friend and trying to reason with their children. Now, whether my mother’s approach was right or wrong, I knew the behavior that was expected of me. Actually, even my friends that came to my house knew exactly what level of behavior was expected of them as well. In my opinion, teaching manners and good behavior in public is a lost art.

I would like to give you a personal example. My husband and I spent our hard-earned savings a few years ago to go to Cape Cod. I wanted to spend a day on Nantucket. So, we purchased tickets for the ferry and headed out. There was a child screaming bloody murder the entire looooong trip. There was nowhere you could go and not hear this child. What did the parents do? They turned her carriage to the wall and ignored her. I went to the snack bar to see if they sold Tylenol or Advil. The girl apologized but said she was completely sold out and actually gave me two Advils from her purse. Ten minutes before getting off the ferry, the child fell asleep. When we got off the ferry, my husband took me to lunch. When the restaurant employee tried to seat us, they tried to give us a table right next to that family! Well, I flipped out and said there was no way in hell I would sit next to them because they are terrible parents! They looked at me with a dirty look and then employee sat us elsewhere. Once we sat down, he asked me what that was about because he had tried to seat at least five different groups at that table and none of them would sit there. So, I told him the story. He said he completely understood and for the rest of the time that family was sitting there, he sat no one near them.

I have said for years, just like there are “smoking” and “no smoking” sections in restaurants, there should be “children” and “no children” sections as well.

As you can tell, I have a pretty strong opinion on this topic. Nothing makes me more crazy when I go to Starbucks and there are two mothers enjoying their coffee while their children run buck-wild.

Now, do I think all parents are bad parents? Certainly not. I have a friend with an adorable autistic child and every time we have gone out with her children he has always behaved very well. Is that always the case? I’m sure it isn’t, but she is an excellent parent.

So, I ask parents, please stop trying to be your child’s friend and be their parents!

February 7, 2010

The Price of Fame

Filed under: Finances,General Annoyances — alvb1227 @ 9:13 pm
Tags: , , ,

As the majority of the U.S. stops today for an “unofficial holiday” called the Super Bowl, one must stop and wonder what are these players really worth.

Peyton Manning has one year left on his contract and speculation is already starting about what his extension will be worth. A signing bonus of $50 million? A possible $22 million per year? Really? And that doesn’t count any endorsements he may have.

Now I’m not one to say we should limit anyone’s potential to earn a living, however isn’t this a little excessive? This is a big part of why the average fan can’t afford to attend a game. I watched on the news as senior citizens who have had Giants or Jets season tickets for decades are forced to give them up because in addition to the cost of the tickets for the games, there is now a “Personal Seat License” (PSL) with a price tag in the multiple thousands. This is why you see men in suits and ties at games sitting in corporate-owned seats instead of a father taking a son to his first football or baseball game.

And then there is the regularly reported embarrassing behavior of some of these players. Whether they like it or not, they are role models. Yet we hear over and over again about players getting arrested for weapons possession, domestic violence and more. We were all sickened by Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring, yet in his first year of eligibility, he’s snatched up by Philadelphia. Obviously, there are a lot of players who lead decent lives, work to give back something to their communities and stay under the radar of poor personal behavior.

I say the heroes and role models are the people we meet every day. The fire fighters, police officers and teachers. Those that are in the military putting their lives on the line keeping our country safe. The parents who work multiple jobs and sacrifice day after day so their children can have a better life than them.

Sports reporters talk about “the pressure” of the game. What about the pressure of going to a job you hate every day making way less than you should? So I ask while you watch the game today, remember who the real heroes and role models are and what they should be earning versus a guy who throws a ball.

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